29th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. J. F. Cope) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The 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 SO per cent of the cost of educating children in government schools, thus enabling the nongovernment schools to continue to exist and fulfil their function of educating Australian children.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Dr Cairns, Mr Gorton and Mr Jarman.
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 Charles Jones, Dr Klugman and Mr Whan.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Member 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 increase Child Endowment in the September Budget.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Lynch, Mr Keating and Mr Nixon.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of the undersigned residents of the Australian Capital Territory respectfully showeth:
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House urge the Goverment not to proceed with the introduction of self-government for the Australian Capital Territory until the residents of the Australian Capital Territory are consulted, by means of a referendum, on the issue.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byMrEnderby.
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 Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology which has catered for tertiary needs of Melbourne for nearly 100 years is still without any location where students can gather in a social context.
That a properly constituted meeting of students supported the policy of the elected Students’ Representative Council that Union Facilities should be the First priority of the Institute.
That the S.R.C. formulated a Definitive Plan that is an acceptable constructive and reasonable amendment to the present planning schedule at the Institute.
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House ask the Australian Commission on Advanced Education to consider in their 1976-78 Triennium Report an allocation of funds to ensure the provision of Union Facilities at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Gorton.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled: The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That we strongly oppose the easing of restrictions on the importation, production in Australia, sale or distribution of pornographic material whether in films, printed matter or any other format.
That any alterations to the Television Program Standards of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board which permits the exploitation of sex or violence is unacceptable to us.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will take no measures to interfere with the existing Television Program Standards or to permit easier entry into Australia, or production in Australia, of pornographic material.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Keating.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of certain citizens (electors of the Division of Hume) hereby respectfully showeth:
That citizens of this Division place great value on the sanctity of marriage, and are greatly concerned that under the proposed provisions of the Family Law Bill 1974 a woman who has performed her duties of wife, mother and homemaker in a praiseworthy manner, can nevertheless find herself placed in a most unjust and unfair position, even if an innocent party.
Your petitioners therefore humbly request that greater consideration be given to preventing such positions of injustice from occurring.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Lusher.
To the Honourable, the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the proposed ‘ free ‘ national health scheme is not free at all and will cost four out of five Australians more than the present scheme.
That the proposed scheme is discriminatory and a further erosion of the civil liberties of Australian citizens, particularly working wives and single persons.
That the proposed scheme is in fact a plan for nationalised medicine which will lead to gross waste and inefficiencies in medical services and will ultimately remove an individual ‘s right to choose his/her own doctor.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will take no measures to interfere with the basic principles of the existing health scheme which functions efficiently and economically.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr McLeay.
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That whereas it was reported in ‘Newsweek’, 26 August 1974, page 12, that the Australian Government agreed to send $225,000 for ‘humanitarian purposes’ to black guerrilla movements fighting Rhodesians, South Africans and Portuguese in southern Africa;
And whereas these guerrilla movements being members of ZAPU, ZANU, FRELIMO and FROLIZI and other kindred organisations have been guilty of ninety six documented acts of murder, abduction, mutilation, arson, cattle maiming and rape chiefly against other peaceful Africans between 22 December 1972 and 10 May 1974, in Rhodesia alone;
And abducted 295 people, chiefly school children, from the St Alberts Mission in Rhodesia as reported in the newsmedia;
And whereas these abovementioned and kindred organisations have been guilty of many other barbarous acts of brutality as reported in ‘The Silent War’ by Chris Vermaak and Reg Shaay, and the ‘Real Case for Rhodesia’ by Charlton Chesterton, both books widely read in Australia.
So therefore your petitioners most humbly pray that the Australian Government will cease to support by material and other means those organisations in southern Africa which are guilty of their various acts of terrorism, because such material and other assistance would give the impression of agreement of the Australian people and the Australian Government to the various acts of brutality which have been perpetrated by the organisations concerned.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byMrMcLeay.
– I address a question to the Prime Minister. Did the Permanent Head of the Department of Foreign Affairs brief journalists travelling on his aircraft between Honolulu and Suva last week concerning minerals and energy policy and the Prime Minister’s attitude concerning the need for change? If the answer is yes, was such briefing authorised by the Prime Minister? Did he discuss the subject matter of the briefing with Mr Renouf prior to or subsequent to the briefing? Have some 6 journalists at the briefing formed a single conclusion in forecasting a major change direction in resources policy? Will the Prime Minister authorise Mr Renouf to brief all members of the Parliamentary Press Gallery?
-The practice of the House and common good manners would dictate that any questions relating to a named person should go on the notice paper. Nevertheless, since the right honourable gentleman knows no better, I shall say no more than that the Press stories had no basis in any briefing I held or authorised publicly or privately. The distinguished head of the Department of Foreign Affairs naturally had conversations with journalists, as did other people travelling with me and as I had also.
– Has the Minister for Housing and Construction seen or heard reports regarding the Victorian Minister of Housing, Mr Dickie, who allegedly walked out of the FederalState Housing Ministers Conference in Canberra last Friday after a clash with him? Could the Minister state whether this was in fact the case? Could he also explain the differences which are reported to have occurred between Mr Dickie and himself on the issue of the means test applied to applicants for government housing?
-I have seen the reports referred to by the honourable member for Melbourne. The first matter he mentioned is completely without foundation. Mr Dickie made it known to the conference early in the morning that he intended to leave soon after lunch. In fact on page 100 of the transcript of the conference these words are attributed to Mr Dickie:
Unfortunately I have to catch a plane at 2.20 p.m.
Mr Dickie came to lunch and thanked me very much for the hospitality extended and then went off for whatever he had to do. There have been some other claims which represent the only marring of an otherwise very successful conference which had a net result of more than doubling the amount of money for public housing that was made available by the Liberal-Country Party Government.
The other matter concerned Mr Dickie’s contention to the media in Melbourne along the lines that there was a failure to co-operate in adjusting the needs test for Housing Commission applicants. Rather than failing to co-operate, I made it very clear to the conference that the Australian Government was anxious to overcome the problem that was being experienced in Victoria. Regrettably the other Ministers did not share Mr Dickie’s view. In fact, at the Port Hedland conference held some little time ago, Mr Dickie was in isolation so far as his attitude was concerned. Despite that, I acknowledged that he had a problem and was very anxious to do something about it. The conference, acting on my request, agreed that I should talk with the Statistician about introducing a new seasonally adjusted average weekly earnings measuring device. This is now in process. In fact the proposals which I have will lift considerably the eligibility range for Housing Commission homes. The third matter is about Mr Dickie ‘s general contention that he intends to defy the terms of the housing agreement. In fact what he intends to do is to use his own Government’s money for Housing Commission purposes outside of the prescribed means test. This innovation in Victoria has been precedented in a number of other States already. It seems to me that the grandstanding to which we have become accustomed in the last 2 years by Mr Dickie is now in evidence once again.
I inform the House that the Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns), who left Australia on 5 October to open the Australian Trade Exhibition in Peking, will return on 17 October. In his absence the Special Minister of State (Mr Lionel Bowen) acts as Minister for Overseas Trade and represents the Minister for Customs and Excise in this House. I also inform the House that the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley), who left on 9 October to lead the Australian Delegaton to the UNESCO General Conference in Paris, will return on 20 October. In his absence the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard) acts as Minister for Education.
– Have the Prime Minister and his Government prided themselves on their desire to promote adherence to the principles of international law on the part of Australia and other states? Was it this desire that prompted his Government to commence proceedings against France in the International Court of Justice to ban nuclear testing in the atmosphere? Will the Prime Minister agree that the occupation by the Soviet Russian Government of the Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania was illegal under international law and has remained so? Will the Prime Minister also agree that in the Declaration on Principles of International Law Concerning Friendly Relations, co-sponsored by Australia and unanimously adopted by the United Nations in October 1970, it is provided that no territorial acquisition resulting from the threat or use of force shall be recognised as legal? Does the Prime Minister recall that in the Namibia case in 1971 the International Court condemned South Africa’s continued unlawful occupation-
– Order! I understand that this is the honourable member’s maiden question, but I would ask him to finish it briefly.
– If I may just finish that last sentence, Mr Speaker, I will come to the question. Does the Prime Minister recall that the Court condemned the unlawful occupation of Namibia and affirmed that according to general principles of international law every State has the obligation to refuse official recognition to a government illegally in control of territory? Will the Prime Minister now agree that his Government, in recognising the Soviet Government as the government de jure of the 3 Baltic States, may have caused Australia to commit a breach of its international obligations? Will he undertake to take immediate steps to investigate the matter and have the question of recognition reviewed?
– I have very thoroughly reviewed this matter, both before the Government decided to recognise the de jure incorporation of the republics of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and since. There is no question of changing the decision. The decision could be changed by the present Government or any subsequent Australian Government only at the cost of relations with the USSR. The great majority of countries in the world accept the de jure incorporation of these States. Like all Australians at the time, I deplored the way that those countries were incorporated in 1940. I deplored the way that Hitlerite Germany invaded them in turn and I deplored the way that so many people in those States were taken away to Russia and Germany during those years. Nevertheless, the fact is that no good purpose will now be served in pretending that these States will again have, as they did only between the 2 World Wars, a separate international sovereignty. It is deluding and deceiving people from those countries who have settled in Australia to give them the impression that any Australian government would promote the detachment of those countries from the Soviet Union. I know that for their own temporary domestic purposes members of the Opposition have from time to time suggested that Croatia should be detached from Yugoslavia, that Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania should be liberated from the Soviet Union. Such contentions are a cruel deception of the people in those countries and the people from those countries in Australia. I would recall to -
– Shameful, an immoral answer.
-The Leader of the Opposition knows perfectly well that he never raised this matter in the weeks since recognition occurred because he knows perfectly well that when he had to look at the legal situation as AttorneyGeneral he recognised the facts. I would remind honourable gentlemen who purport to be solicitous of people within those countries that it was as a result of propaganda from outside that very many people in Budapest and in Prague engaged in activities in their own countries in the hope that there would be help from the West which was never forthcoming. It had previously happened, I think in Stettin and Warsaw. It is a cruel delusion to give people in those countries any impression that they will get help from the West. They never did in the past and they will not in the future.
Secondly, as I have stated outside the House, there are a great number of people in Australia who have relatives in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania and who want to make inquiries on behalf of those relatives and were unable to do so in relation to matters concerning what we would call state matters. Since we have recognised the de jure incorporation of the 3 republics in the Soviet Union we have been able to make representations on such state matters as we call them on behalf of people in Australia.
- Mr Speaker, the Standing Orders prevent me from pursuing at this moment the gross misrepresentations and shameful statements -
– A point of order, Mr Speaker.
– Order! If the right honourable gentleman wishes to make a personal explanation I suggest that he wait until the termination of question time, otherwise he will encroach on question time. This affects honourable members on both sides of the House.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Attorney-General. Is the Minister aware that businesses have been refused the opportunity to participate in the Bankcard scheme because they refused to sign an agreement that would have prevented them from charging a customer using a bank credit card a surcharge to cover bank charges to the business? Is this action a form of resale price maintenance and is this in contravention of the Trade Practices Act? Is this action by the banks an admission that all customers will face higher prices to cover the costs of these bank charges and therefore be a contributing factor to inflation? What action will be taken by the Government on this matter to see that the public interest is protected?
– I have seen reports of the kind suggested by the honourable member in his question. On another aspect of the overall problem, I had discussions with the Attorney-General as recently as this morning before coming into the House. The question of whether this practice amounts to resale price maintenance is certainly under examination. I think it should also be said that there is a considerable amount of disquiet in the community over this unsolicited offer of credit by the banks, done in the way in which it was done. Whatever view one takes of an unsolicited offer of credit through the post in the form of credit cards, one can be very critical and deplore the bad way, the confused way, the uncontrolled way in which the offer took place. I personally hold the view that a great deal of harm comes from the unsolicited sending of material of many kinds through the post to people who have no wish for it at all. It involves a waste of resources, a waste of energy, a waste of effort and manpower, whatever form it takes, but when it takes the form of an unsolicited offer of credit in inflationary times it can also be potentially extremely dangerous. I have been advised- I have not had time to check it- that the practice is outlawed in the United Kingdom and is also outlawed in the United States of America. It is my understanding that the Attorney-General Will shortly be bringing proposals before the Cabinet for its consideration.
– Is the Prime Minister aware of statements made by the Minister for Minerals and Energy yesterday in an enterview on the Australian Broadcasting Commission program ‘AM’ in which the Minister said that it would be for the Public Service Board to take any necessary disciplinary action against the head of the Department of Foreign Affairs, Mr Renouf, over actions for which the Minister received an apology from Mr Renouf last Friday? Does the Prime Minister agree that an apology was appropriate? Does he intend as ministerial head of the Public Service to follow up the Minister’s reference to disciplinary action? Since the Prime Minister has said that he did not authorise the briefing and knew nothing of it, does it reflect the Prime Minister’s views?
– I am not aware of any interview which my colleague gave yesterday on ‘AM’.
– Nor was I correctly quoted.
-And the right honourable gentleman does not correctly quote what I said in answer to an earlier question. What I said was that no briefing that I held or authorised publicly or privately would justify the stories that appeared in the newspapers. The last statements made by my colleague on this subject that I have noted were made on 2 October during a debate on a matter of public importance that the right honourable gentleman raised. I thought that my colleague massacred him. I am looking forward to the second massacre in an hour’s time.
– I direct my question to the Treasurer. Is there any justification for the view that the introduction of the Bankcard credit system will have an adverse affect on financial liquidity in the community? In particular, will the Bankcard system result in funds being diverted by the banks from housing construction to finance the new credit scheme? Will the Bankcard scheme have any effect on the interest rates charged on loans generally? Is it likely that Bankcards will result in higher prices being charged by retailers who use the scheme?
– In replying to the honourable gentleman’s questions I would like first to say briefly that there seems to me to have been a lot of confusion surrounding the introduction of the system of the credit card. I emphasise that the initial arrangements for the scheme were made as far as back as July 1972 when the previous
Government consented in principle to the utilisation of this service. I indicate that the card is what it says it is. It is a bank credit card, an extension if you like of the use of a cheque account, able to be used only by somebody who already has a bank account. I must suggest that I feel there has been a certain ham-handedness on the part of the banks in the way they have sent the documents to those people who purport to be their clients.
Turning to the specific questions asked by the honourable gentleman, I do not believe there is justification for the view that bank credit cards will have an adverse effect of financial liquidity. The total amount outstanding under the Bankcard credit scheme is expected to grow only very slowly and to account for an insignificant proportion of lending by the trading banks. In answer to the second question, as only a relatively insignificant amount will be involved the scheme will not result in funds being diverted by the banks from housing construction to finance the new credit scheme. Moreover, to some extent it will simply replace other forms of consumer credit. The scheme is not expected to have any effect on interest rates generally. Bank interest rates on loans up to $50,000 are of course already subject to official control.
– Then why bring down a Bill?
– I am not answering you. I am answering my colleague. Participation in the scheme will bring benefits as well as costs to merchants using it. A merchant electing to join the scheme will do so after weighing the benefits, actual and potential, against the service charged. His ability to pass on any net cost in the form of higher prices will depend upon the degree of competition in that sector of business. Overseas studies of relevant schemes do not support the contention that the introduction of such a scheme leads to increased prices.
-I ask the Treasurer: In view of the significant changes, both present and projected, that have been made to the Government’s Budget by its own Caucus before its passage by this House, the devaluation decision which was made subsequent to the presentation of the Budget and the fiscal and monetary policy changes made in his absence at the International Monetary Fund, will he now re-present a current budgetary analysis to the Parliament before the Budget debate is concluded in this House? If not, will he re-present a factual 1974-75 Budget to the Australian people so that they will know just where we are going in the current financial year?
– The answer to the first question is no, and the second question needs no answer.
– I ask the Prime Minister the following question: Is it the Government’s view that the chances of Australia obtaining a proper return for its mineral resources would be enhanced by a declaration of support for the magnificent policies of the Minister for Minerals and Energy to which all parties subscribed? If so, does he welcome the emphatic and comprehensive declaration of support which was given last Sunday on the television program ‘Federal File’ by a former Liberal Prime Minister of Australia’ Has the Prime Minister received any communication from the Leader of the Opposition, even the remotest flicker of one, or indication that the patriotic views expressed by the right honourable member for Higgins are widely held among members of this House that the right honourable gentleman once led?
– I am sure that my colleague the Minister for Minerals and Energy, like me, would pay tribute to the initiatives which the right honourable member for Higgins attempted during his Prime Ministership to conserve Australia’s resources and to secure a proper return for their export and for the processing of them in Australia. The right honourable gentleman has made it plain by his votes in the last Parliament and his abstentions in this Parliament that he still adheres to the patriotic views that he was the first Prime Minister to launch. I did not have the advantage of seeing the right honourable gentleman on television on Sunday night; we had guests. I hope honourable gentlemen will pardon me for not dropping names. So I have to rely on the Press reports. I notice that the Canberra ‘Times’ yesterday reported that Mr Gorton said that it was not true to say that Australia was leaving its minerals in the ground. He went on to say:
Our iron ore has been exported far more this year than last year.
Copper, lead, zinc, anything that you mention in the name of minerals has gone up.
This, of course, is nothing less than the truth. The right honourable gentleman acknowledged it. There would be no doubt that Australia as a whole would benefit much more if members of the Opposition were still to adhere to the policies which the former Prime Minister- not the immediate past one but the one before- sponsored in the Parliament. It always staggers me to find that a Bill like the seas and submerged lands legislation which was introduced in Mr
McMahon’s name when Mr Gorton was Prime Minister -
– Not in my name. I was out of the country at the time.
– It was introduced in the right honourable gentleman’s name. It was introduced on his behalf by Sir Reginald Swartz while the right honourable gentleman was Foreign Minister, that is, before he had a brief elevation to Prime Minister. After the right honourable gentleman did return to Australia the matter was on the notice paper in his name. So for the whole of the second half of 1970 and throughout 1971 and 1972 the Bill was on the notice paper in the name of Mr McMahon. When I was Leader of the Opposition I made valiant efforts to get a debate and a vote on the right honourable gentleman’s Bill. After the change of government in 1972 we introduced a Bill. Mr Gorton voted for it. My memory is that Mr McMahon voted against it and all the surviving members of the Ministry under Mr Gorton voted with Mr McMahon against it. There is no principle in these matters. What they tried to dopresumably as a Cabinet- and what was done in Mr McMahon’s name by Sir Reginald Swartz in the Parliament in April 1 970 was completely correct. We said so in Opposition and we put it to the public in 1972 that we would proceed with the legislation. We did and it is now law. So, having lost out at the ballot box and having lost out in the Parliament honourable gentlemen and right honourable gentlemen opposite are promoting challenges in the courts. The right honourable member for Higgins was not only a patriot in resources matters when he was Prime Minister but also he continues to be a patriot. I admire him on this issue still as I always have.
-I wonder whether the Prime Minister can help me because I wish to address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Agriculture. Would he be the Minister for Services and Property, the Treasurer or has he appointed someone else? Perhaps I should address it to the Prime Minister.
– Order! I learned only a while ago that the Minister representing the Minister for Agriculture has an illness. The Prime Minister was unaware of this and therefore did not make an announcement as to who would represent him.
– I thought he was overseas. I address my question to the Prime Minister in lieu of the Minister representing the Minister for
Agriculture. My question refers to Australian beef exports to European Economic Community countries. Is the Prime Minister aware that the Chairman of the Australian Meat Board has stated that the Board has repeatedly asked the Government to take action through the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade in respect of restrictions placed on the entry of Australian meat into certain countries? Is it true that the Government has threatened to take this action? What is the Government’s current intention? Or is this another example of prevarication on a matter of very great consequence to the important beef industry of this nation?
– I myself raised at the highest level when I was in Washington the question of discrimination against Australian beef exports, which in quantity and quality are the greatest in the world. I shall pursue the matter in Brussels in January if there is still trouble in this regard.
-I ask a question of the Minister for Defence. In view of the fact that Air Tasmania, which is 80 per cent government owned and which was launched without any Australian Government subsidy 12 months ago, is operating with only one DC3 aircraft, and in view of its splendid record in carrying 12,000 passengers and 60,000 lb of freight without incident, will the Minister’s Department double its efforts to find another DC3 for this airline? Is the Minister aware that Air Tasmania has applied for a licence to operate Flinders Island and King Island services now that Ansett Airlines of Australia has pulled out? Finally, in view of the fact, as I understand it, that the Government intends to give 2 DC3 aircraft now at Sale belonging to the Royal Australian Air Force to Mr Somare for Papua New Guinea, as Tasmania’s need is greater will the Minister give special priority to Air Tasmania in its battle to get another aircraft?
– I am aware of the difficulties now being experienced by Air Tasmania. I also, of course, appreciate the service it is providing in Tasmania, an appreciation which I think is shared by the Tasmanian Government and the people who use the airline. I have already asked the Department of Defence to advise me whether there are surplus aircraft available for which Air Tasmania may be able to tender. It will be remembered that on a previous occasion I made it possible for Air Tasmania to tender for a surplus DC3 aircraft. It was not successful in its tender at the time. However, I have asked the Department to investigate the possibility of releasing another surplus DC3 aircraft. If I receive information that an aircraft is available Air Tasmania will be advised accordingly.
-My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. He will recall his speech to the Heavy Engineering Manufacturers Association referring to ‘nervous Nellies’ in the Australian Labor Party and referring to the peddling of lies by people about his tariff policies and saying: ‘My own colleagues are among them’. He will recall saying that a Launceston company claimed that it had been forced to put off 900 people but in fact sacked only 360. Did he see a report, reportedly from Tasmanian members of the Labor Party and reportedly in particular the Minister for Defence, that if the Prime Minister had turned to the next page of the report from which he got his figures he would have found more up to date information showing 780 and possibly 900 sackings? Secondly, will he make himself responsible for releasing the report, which in the event no one has produced?
-No, I did not see any such report. Secondly, the report is not my property. It is not my function to release any such report.
- Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. The Prime Minister is of course the head of the Government. I understand that the document is a Government report. I believe that it is quite incorrect for the Prime Minister to say that he is not responsible.
– Order! There is no substance in the point of order.
-Is the Minister for the Capital Territory aware that at least 45 per cent of those workers who are not employed by the Australian Government in the Australian Capital Territory are not covered by long service leave awards, and that because of this at least 10,000 employees in the Australian Capital Territory are not in receipt of long service leave benefits which are enjoyed by their fellow-workers in the Australian States? Will the Minister indicate what action is being taken to see that workers in the Australian Capital Territory are not discriminated against in this way?
-It is true enough that the workers in the Australian Capital Territory in non-government employment have lagged behind in a number of areas- annual leave, workers compensation and long service leave. We are dealing with all of them. We are up to the long service leave question, which has been discussed with the Trades and Labour Council. It has given us its comments on the matter. We are now preparing the draft instructions to the AttorneyGeneral to have legislation brought forward. When that is brought forward the newly elected Legislative Assembly will be able to examine it along with the Trades and Labour Council, and I hope that before the end of the year we will be able to overcome this discrimination against these workers.
– I direct my question to the Prime Minister. In view of the recent statement by the Minister for Northern Development that any action which led to a reduction in the fertility of soil was irresponsible and the statement by the Deputy Prime Minister that the Government had acted wrongly in removing the superphosphate bounty and his subsequent reported comment that the Government might revise its decision, and in view of the the Prime Minister’s statement at the United Nations that Australia will respond to the world situation, I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government will reconsider its decision on the bounty.
– I did not see a report of any comment by one of my colleagues. I have seen a report of the other of my colleagues, and the right honourable gentleman misquotes it. The position is quite clear, as I have stated it for months past, that is, that if any region or industry believes that it needs assistance, it should make a case for that assistance; it will be promptly considered. There are 2 references on fertilisers to the Industries Assistance Commission. One concerns the new lands in Western Australia and the superphosphate bounty. The other concerns the longer term form of assistance for nitrogenous fertilisers. The Parliament has extended the operations of the Nitrogenous Fertilisers Subsidy Act.
– As a passenger on the TransAustralian Airlines 727 flight which experienced extreme turbulence between Perth and Adelaide yesterday, I ask the Minister for Transport whether he will initiate an inquiry into the incident to see whether the causes can be established so that similar incidents might be avoided in the future.
-I have already had a report from my Department on the incident that occurred in the course of that TAA flight yesterday. I am pleased to see that the honourable member is here with us today and that he apparently had enough sense to do up his seat belt and to leave it done up. I think most air travellers have to realise today that it is essential when travelling in an aeroplane to leave one’s seat belt on. A lot of people think that they are brave and all sort of things by undoing their seat belts. Regularly, when an aeroplane takes off, one hears the click of seat belts being let go. Personally, my seat belt is on from the time I sit down in an aircraft until that aircraft touches down. (Opposition supporters interjecting.)
-I might be a ‘nervous Nellie’, but it is better to be a live coward than a dead hero. At least honourable members will note that on most aeroplanes today, from the time the plane takes off, the pilot does issue the warning to passengers to leave their seat belts done up. The honourable member wants to know what is being done. The Air Safety Investigation Branch of my Department is inquiring into the incident. I will give the honourable member a report as soon as I receive one from my Department.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Housing and Construction. Is it a fact that the Prime Minister has repeatedly stated that the Commonwealth Government stands ready to lend the States more money for housing if the States can demonstrate that they can use it? Is it also a fact that New South Wales has demonstrated that it can immediately lend through terminating building societies the sum of $50m for low income earners but that at the conference of Housing Ministers held last Friday New South Wales was allocated only $17m? Will the Minister reconsider the New South Wales claim which, if satisfied, would not only assist low income earners to obtain homes but also do much to save the home building industry from total collapse?
-The figures referred to by the honourable gentleman appear to me to be consistent with the facts.
– Oh, thank you!
-This is not always the case, of course.
– You tell me when it was not.
-It is at this moment in the overall situation. The honourable gentleman has referred to the home builders account especially, that is the money which goes through to the terminating building societies. He will be pleased to know that five of the six States received everything they asked for with respect to home builders account allocations. New South Wales received an allocation which represented an 80 per cent increase. From that standpoint the distribution of the funds can be regarded only as generous. I might add also that a total of $75 m was allocated. The net effect is that the Labor Government has doubled the allocation for public housing compared with the allocation made in the last year of the Liberal Party-Country Party Government.
-Is the Minister for Urban and Regional Development aware of reports that a firm in Portland was granted Sim by the Victorian Minister for Decentralisation for decentralisation purposes and that this money was not used for such purposes by the firm but was invested in the short term money market? Can the Minister inform me whether any Commonwealth funds were involved in this operation?
– I can state clearly that no Australian Government funds were made available. I will have inquiries made into the matter and will make a full report available to the honourable member. I can say definitely that no Australian funds were involved in the transaction.
– I present the report of the sixth conference of Presiding Officers and Clerks of the Parliaments of Australia, Cook Islands, Fiji, Nauru, Papua New Guinea and Western Samoa.
-For the information of honourable members I table the text of my address to the United Nations General Assembly on 30 September 1974.
– On behalf of the Minister for Education, for the information of honourable members I present a report entitled ‘Technical Education in the Australian Capital Territory’ dated September 1974.
– For the information of honourable members I present a report on the inquiry into quarantine in Western Australia dated March 1 974. Due to the limited number of copies of the report available at this time I have arranged for reference copies to be placed in the Parliamentary Library.
– Pursuant to section 30 of the Australian Insitute of Aboriginal Studies Act 1964-1974 1 present the report of the Council of the Institute for the year ended 30 June 1974 together with the Institute’s financial statements and the report of the Auditor-General on those statements.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the right honourable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. The honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Ellicott) asked the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) about the de jure recognition given by the Australian Government to the incorporation of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania into the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. In the course of his answer the Prime Minister said that I had not raised this matter in the weeks since the Government’s decision because, when Attorney-General, I had looked into the matter and recognised the facts. Mr Speaker, that is a false statement totally misrepresenting the truth.
The fact is that this decision was made, as it turns out, on 3 July. Senator Willesee, in reply to a series of questions I put to him, told me that the de jure recognition decision was taken on 3 July and that it was made by the Prime Minister as Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs. Senator Willesee said it was a unilateral decision by the
Prime Minister and it was not considered necessary to refer the matter to Cabinet and to Caucus. Senator Willesee said there was no special significance in the timing of the decision and that the Australian Ambassador in Moscow, Sir James Plimsoll, was informed of the decision on 16 July, 13 days later. Senator Willesee also said that the Soviet authorities were never formally informed but the matter came up in relation to a proposed visit by the Ambassador to the Baltic States on 28 to 30 July.
In fact, the knowledge of the decision was disclosed by a Reuters report out of Moscow on 3 August. That was the first that anybody other than the Soviet authorities, the Prime Minister and the Australian Ambassador to Moscow knew about it. On 4 August an officer of the Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed that the decision had been made. So the decision was made unilaterally by the Prime Minister on 3 July and there was no public knowledge of it for one month.
As soon as that decision became public there was a great deal of disquiet and I certainly took the first opportunity to condemn the decision that by according de jure recognition to the incorporation the Australian Government was giving the force of law to a de facto act of military domination, invasion and suppression of the freedom of the peoples of those countries. As a matter of fact, I said on 8 September and on many occasions prior to that -
-Order! The right honourable gentleman has asked for leave to make a personal explanation. He should not debate the matter.
-The Prime Minister has said that I knew perfectly well that I never raised this matter in the weeks since recognition occurred because I knew that when I had to look at the legal situation as Attorney-General I recognised the facts. There are 2 misrepresentations. The first is that I never raised the matter. I am entitled -
-You never raised it in the House.
-The right honourable gentleman should state where he has been misrepresented.
– I have been misrepresented because it was alleged that I had not raised the matter since recognition occurred. My point is that, firstly, the Prime Minister did not let anybody know that recognition had occurred until it was leaked out of Moscow 5 or 6 weeks after he had unilaterally decided it. I am saying that I took the first opportunity available to me to say that it was a shameful action by the Government.
I have in front of me a transcript dated 8 September. I think what I said ought to go on public record because of the accusation made. I said:
Obviously the fact is that they are there by force of arms, military strength and occupation. In fact the 3 countries are under the domination of the Soviet Union. That is a matter of fact about which we cannot argue. But what we are concerned about is that the right of law has been given to an act of military domination. That I do not agree with.
It was a shameful decision and it became known only by the Soviet authorities or somebody in collusion with them, revealing to the press in Moscow that this had occurred.
-The right honourable gentleman would appreciate the fact that he is now debating the matter.
– No, I am not debating it.
– A personal explanation allows a person to explain where he has been misrepresented, not to debate the subject matter. I ask die right honourable gentleman to conclude his personal explanation.
-The second misrepresentation in the statement was that I knew perfectly well that when I had to look at the legal situation as Attorney-General I recognised the facts. The implication there is that as Attorney-General I looked at the matter and came to the conclusion that in law, de jure- that is, legal- recognition should be given on the facts. That is a false statement. I have always held the view, and I strongly hold it now, that there is no principle of international law -
-Order! The right honourable gentleman is now debating the subject. He will have to resume his seat unless he concludes as to where the misrepresentation took place, which I think he has just pointed out. The fact is that he is now debating the subject matter wholly. I am now asking him to conclude his personal explanation- otherwise he will have to resume his seat.
– I have identified the misrepresentation. The Prime Minister said that as Attorney-General I looked at the legal situation and recognised the facts. I am stating that that is false.
Mr Speaker, if a misrepresentation is made, are you ruling that I cannot say what is the truth instead of the lie?
– Order! I think the right honourable gentleman has made his case perfectly clear as to where he was misrepresented. I do not think there is any need to debate the merits or demerits of what has been done by the Prime Minister in regard to Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania. There is no doubt that the right honourable gentleman is debating the question.
– I am identifying the misrepresentation. It needs only a couple of sentences to correct it. That is what I propose to do.
– I am asking you to conclude with those couple of sentences.
-The Standing Orders have always permitted an honourable member to correct a misrepresentation. As Attorney-General I looked at the facts and came to the conclusion that there was nothing in the law that would require the giving of de jure recognition to an act of military domination. Recognition de facto, that is a fact of military domination and occupation; but there is nothing in the law to require extension of de jure recognition.
- Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. Constantly and consistently you request the Leader of the Opposition to obey your ruling and constantly and consistently he ignores it. He has no special right and privilege in this House.
– Yes he has. He is the Leader of the Opposition and he has a say.
– I appreciate the fact that a certain amount of latitude always has to be given to the Leader of the Opposition. That has always been the practice since I have been a member of this House, for the last 20 years. I will admit that in his personal explanation on this occasion the Leader of the Opposition occasionally touched on the subject matter. In future I will see that the Standing Orders -
– Make sure that the Prime Minister does the same.
-Order! The honourable member for Gippsland will remain quiet while I am addressing the House. In future I will see that the Standing Orders are adhered to.
Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the Prime Minister claim to have been misrepresented?
-Yes, by the Leader of the Opposition. The right honourable gentleman has mentioned this matter very often outside the House. He has not mentioned it in the House before today. As Attorney-General he did direct attention to this matter. I shall refer to the Hansard passages to establish that. In the Budget session of 1966 1 asked -
– He is debating it.
– He is not debating it all. It is quite obvious that the Prime Minister is making out a case for what he stated during question time. He is entitled to do that to show where he has been misrepresented.
– In the Budget session of 1966 I placed a question on notice for Mr Hasluck, as he then was, the Minister for External Affairs. I asked:
With what countries does Australia have extradition treaties?
Mr Hasluck replied:
Australia has extradition treaties with the following countries
He listed 43 countries and among them were Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Shortly after I received this answer the then Attorney-General, the present Leader of the Opposition, introduced the Extradition (Foreign States) Bill and in his second reading speech stated:
Australia has extradition arrangements at present with 40 foreign countries-
– That is a matter of fact. That does not require de jure recognition.
– I agree. That is, Australia has extradition arrangements with the 43 countries Mr Hasluck listed, less Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. On behalf of the Opposition I resumed the debate on the Bill. I pointed out that the then Attorney-General, the present Leader of the Opposition, clearly accepted the fact that Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania had ceased to exist as separate sovereign states.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
Queensland Grant (Ross River Dam) Bill 1 974.
Julius Dam Agreement Bill 1974.
Sewerage Agreements Bill 1974.
States Grants (Beef Cattle Roads) Bill 1974.
States Grants (Universities) Bill 1974.
Liquefied Gas (Road Vehicle Use) Tax Bill 1974.
Liquefied Gas (Road Vehicle Use) Tax Collection Bill 1974.
Nitrogenous Fertilisers Subsidy Bill 1974.
Universities Commission Bill 1974.
– I wish to inform the House of the following nominations of senators and members to be members of the Joint Committee on the Parliamentary Committee system: Mr Berinson, Dr Jenkins, Mr Scholes and Mr Young have been nominated by the Prime Minister; Dr Forbes and Mr Fairbairn have been nominated by the Leader of the Opposition; Mr I. L. Robinson has been nominated by the Leader of the Australian Country Party; Senators Gietzelt, McAuliffe and Mulvihill have been nominated by the Leader of the Government in the Senate; Senators Sir Magnus Cormack and Rae have been nominated by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate and Senator Drake-Brockman has been nominated by the Leader of the Australian Country Party in that House.
– I have received advice from the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) that he has nominated Mr Morris to be a member of the Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Mr Sherry.
-Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. I claim to have been misrepresented in the ‘West Australian’ of 11 October on page 16 in an article headed ‘Anxiety over job relief where reference is made to an alleged statement by the State Minister for Local Government claiming the hawking to only some local shire councils of offers of assistance by Labor members of Parliament, including myself. I feel this can refer only to regional employment schemes where it is natural that conscientious members, State and Federal, have taken a prompt interest, as I have, in assisting shires with their early applications. I say early because all shires in areas affected by the scheme were informed of this scheme within the same week. Some were able to act in a more expeditious manner than others. In fact, I am given to understand that some shires have been unable to have their applications to hand as yet. I understand also that subsequent to grants being made to shires by the Australian Government the State authority circulated all shires to see what supplementary assistance it could offer. I reiterate that I would expect all federal members, Liberal and Labor, to take an interest in the welfare of councils in their area, as I have done. Co-operation between all parties rather than criticism would help us all. In fact I have spoken to a number of Liberal members in Western Australia, including the member for Moore (Mr Hyde), who have also shown an interest in this matter. I feel the facts should be put before the House.
– I have received a letter from the Leader of the Australian Country Party proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The confusion arising from the lack of publicly-stated minerals and energy policies, and the serious long-term consequences of this confusion for the nation.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places. (More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places)-
- Mr Speaker, it is an indication of the worsening mess into which minerals and energy matters have fallen that the Opposition has risen twice in the last few weeks to bring to the attention of this Parliament the question of a minerals and energy policy of the Government. But the remarkable series of events last week shows one thing quite clearly, that Australia simply does not have any coherent policy on minerals and energy. Last week’s events would not have happened if there were such policies. If the Government knew what its policies were no one would have had anything to say that might have suggested a difference of opinion within the Government. As it is, the very strong impression has been given and remains that there is a serious difference of opinion between the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor). The Opposition wants the Prime Minister himself to speak in this debate. He has been silent on this matter for far too long. He should come now into this debate and tell us where he stands. He should tell us whether the briefing given by Mr Renouf to journalists travelling with the Prime Minister last week was given with his general support and whether Mr Renouf was really reflecting the Prime Minister’s views or comments that the Prime Minister was making to leaders he was speaking with in North America. It is all very well for the Minister for Minerals and Energy to humiliate Mr Renouf publicly and claim that Mr Renouf told him this or told him that. We want to hear the full story from the Prime Minister himself so that Parliament and the people will know whether Mr Renouf ‘s comments to the journalists really reflected the opinions and the thinking of the Prime Minister. If the Prime Minister was not game enough to talk to the journalists himself to try to put the skids under the Minister for Minerals and Energy, but used a very senior and distinguished public servant to do so, he should now be game enough to come into this Parliament and tell us the facts.
We do not expect the Prime Minister to come in and tell us what the Government’s policies are because we know it has not got any. We are told the Minister has some ideas, but nobody has really been told what they are. In January this year the Prime Minister asked the Minister for Minerals and Energy to prepare a White Paper on minerals and energy policies. He gave the Minister a deadline- a deadline until March this year. Where is the White Paper? The Prime Minister ought to tell us. Does the Prime Minister reel back in fear of this man? Where is this selfacclaimed great Prime Minister who is supposed to be giving leadership to the country? We read that the Minister got very excited the week before last when he heard that the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development was going to bring out a report criticising Australia for a lack of policies. He rushed off a 15-page letter to the OECD demanding that it be included in its report. The letter is said to describe our minerals and energy policies. If it does, why has he not told this Parliament? Why have we got to wait in limbo hoping that we might get at least some gem of knowledge from him each time we bring up an urgency motion? Are we expected to read a document that is published in Paris to find out what Australia’s minerals and energy policies are? This is a scandalous situation and the Prime Minister has a responsibility to do something about it. Now we even have the Deputy Prime Minister (Dr J. F. Cairns) telling us from Peking that Australia’s resources policies must be clarified.
Let us look at some of the consequences of the Minister’s failure to define his policies. Two weeks ago I described the serious effects of this Government’s non-policies as far as uranium is concerned. Today we ought to look at oil exploration. On 30 September the Minister issued a statement saying that the petroleum industry had continued to grow in 1973-74 in all phases of its operations. That is just not true. Where do we go if a Minister responsible to an important segment of the industry can make such blatant dishonest statements? In exploration, the very life-blood of the industry, there was a disastrous falloff last year and the situation is getting worse all the time because the industry is completely confused and disheartened by the Minister’s attitudes. The Minister talks of Australia having 15 years’ reserves of fuel. He has said it in this House and he keeps on saying it outside this House, but it is simply not true. The only way one could arrive at such figures would be to divide today’s consumption rate with the total of all discoveries of oil and gas, assuming that the condensates within the gas are converted to liquids. This might be all right academically but in reality it is quite impossible to marshal all those reserves and say that they can be used in this way and within 15 years.
The total amount of oil reserves discovered in Australia to date is 2.1 billion barrels, but half a billion barrels of these reserves- that is a quarter of them- have already been used up. The Minister bases his argument on a deliberately misleading basis when he states that we have 15 years reserves of fuel on the present rate of consumption. The truth is that our consumption rate is rising very fast, so his 15-year estimate is shot to pieces immediately. The Minister’s own Department estimates that our consumption of petroleum products, which was 200 million barrels in 197 1-72 will grow to 250 million barrels in 1975-76 and to more than 300 million barrels in 1980, and so on as time passes. I think the Minister also is trying to convey an impression that we can remain about 70 per cent self sufficient in oil for the next 15 years. Again that is not true. Our production is likely to remain fairly static at its peak level for a few years, with wells like Mackerel and Tuna in Bass Strait coming into production to offset falling output from other wells. But by 1980 the supply-demand equation will show a very substantial change from today’s position. We seem likely to be only 35 per cent to 40 per cent self sufficient in fuel by then, the drop in self sufficiency being brought about largely by increasing consumption. After that date our production rate will drop so that the situation will become very much worse.
We are not finding the big new oil reserves we desperately need because we are not looking for them. We are not looking for them because this Minister has scared the daylights out of the exploration companies and has driven many of them and their expertise and equipment away from Australia. The cost of importing oil demonstrates the extreme seriousness of the situation. The cost of importing fuel into Australia for the year before last was $169m. Last year it was $600m. This year it is expected to be $ 1,000m and by 1980 it is expected to be at least $ 1,500m at present prices. In 10 years time we are likely to be paying about $2,000m a year for imported fuel. What an attitude when our balance of payments is declining so rapidly. These are frightening figures and the implications behind them are frightening. We will be forced to pay these enormous amounts of money for our fuel to an important degree because of the failure of this Government to declare policies on which the exploration industry can plan and which give the industry the incentives it must have to look for oil.
The drilling figures further demonstrate the disastrous drop in exploration under this government. In 1972 some 134 wells were drilled. In 1973 there were 76 and in 1974, despite predictions earlier this year by the Australian Petroleum Exploration Association that 90 wells would be drilled this year, only 35 wells were drilled to the end of June. It is estimated that the year’s total will be 45 wells. How can the Minister get up here and elsewhere and claim that we have enough fuel in Australia for the next 15 years? The tragedy is that if by some miracle people decide that new government policies made oil search worthwhile there are not the rigs available to do the job.
In the vital offshore areas where the bulk of our oil reserves is believed to he drilling activity has fallen drastically since July due to the withdrawal of three of the 6 rigs operating around our coast. If any productive wells are found it will take at least 5 years to bring them into production. The history of natural gas on the northwest shelf is one of frustration and delay caused by the Minister’s inability to come forward with a firm policy. To make matters worse, the recent Budget action to withdraw the accelerated depreciation allowance from the mining industry has caused a complete reappraisal of the northwest shelf gas project. It would not surprise me if the Government’s actions and the rapid rises in costs caused by delays were to force the company concerned to think very seriously about the whole thing. Maybe that is what the Minister wants- delays, hampering and frustration until the company through sheer despair relinquishes the leases on areas it spent between $100m and $250m to discover and to prove.
All the things I have said so far support the view I stated at the beginning of my speech, that is, that the area of minerals and energy in Australia is in a mess. It is in a mess because this Government does not have a minerals and energy policy on which the industry and the nation as a whole can work. Our plea in this debate today is to the Government to state its policies. We have asked for them over and over again. The industries concerned have asked for them over and over again. As the Prime Minister (Mr
Whitlam) discovered in the last 2 weeks when he visited North America, other countries want to know and deserve to know what our policies are. The Opposition parties have already published their policies in the minerals and energy area. No doubt because of the rapid worsening of the situation in recent months there would need to be careful revision of these policies and development of new initiatives if the situation is to be repaired. But we have already stated that when in Government we will immediately act to provide increased incentives for oil exploration. .
We would rely to the greatest possible extent on free enterprise expertise and efficiency to find and produce the fuel the nation so urgently needs. We would seek to encourage the development of our natural resources for the nation’s benefit within the federal framework rather than resorting to the Government’s tactics of trying to destroy that framework. We reject the Minister’s allegation that the Opposition is to blame for delays in development because of the High Court challenges to the Petroleum and Minerals Authority Act and the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act. If the Minister could shake off his socialist thinking he could help to develop the nation’s resources without running into all this trouble. He cannot fairly blame the Opposition when legislation on which there is real legal doubt is being subjected to the proper tests within the courts. The Minister is using these court proceedings as an excuse to prevent further exploration. He has refused both Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd and Wapet new search areas pending resolution of the High Court challenge. He has completely gone back on earlier arrangements and undertakings. He is not honouring earlier commitments. I believe that there are very strong grounds for suspecting that the Minister is deliberately following his present course as part of a master plan to win government control of the minerals and energy industries.
The Minister talks of Australia having 15 years supply of fuel so that he can build up a false sense of security and give himself time to work out his plans for his great dream of a Petroleum and Minerals Authority. Australia and Australians are going to pay dearly for the Minister’s socialist obsession.
-Order! The right honourable gentleman’s time has expired.
– This debate of course is part of Operation Cover-up. It is one more chapter in the confused approach of the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr
Anthony). Last week the Opposition was very busy on an exercise which attempted to discredit me and the Government. It completely failed. It blew up in its face. Today the Opposition is pursuing ‘ Operation cover up ‘.
There is another angle to this. The backers of the Australian Country Party in particular, and they are noted pork barrellers are getting a little toey because the results are not being achieved and no matter what false issue is raised -
– You are a light weight.
-Order! The honourable member for Hotham will remain silent. The Leader of the Australian Country Party spoke in complete silence and I demand that the Minister be heard in complete silence.
– This, of course, is part of a deliberate tactic that always occurs. A matter of public importance is raised and then there are constant interruptions when I rise to reply. It is typical.
Opposition members interjecting -
-Order! I will issue my last warning. I will name the next honourable member who interjects.
– I am not going to be frustrated in this fashion. I am entitled to my full 15 minutes of speaking time. I know, Sir, that you will do your best for me. But if any more interruptions are made during my speech I will move that the question be put. I am entitled to silence. I give courtesy and I expect it, not that I am likely to get it from some of the louts of the Opposition. Their behaviour, Sir, is loutish.
– That remark is offensive.
-Order! The honourable member for Hotham would know that the Minister did not specify any member. I therefore am acting in accordance with the precedent set by my predecessors.
-First, let me answer and debunk the arguments of the Leader of the Country Party. The White Paper was prepared, and prepared in good time. On the question of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, my answer to the unwarranted criticism of the examiners was circulated to all sections of the Australian Press early last week. They chose to ignore it. In respect of oil exploration, I would refer the Leader of the Country Party to a publication issued last January by no less a company than the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd. In it BHP, in revealing its activities over the previous year, gave details of the hydrocarbons available in Australia. BHP gave the figure of 3,700 million barrels of hydrocarbons and stated that at present rates of consumption this represents 15 years supply. The Leader of the Country Party should have a look at this publication. I will make it available to him for his information.
-I would like to see it.
– You are a very confused young man; you choose to be confused. With regard to the Burmah delay, major leaders of the oil industry have told me that they are just about sick of the Opposition frustration. The fundamental issue is the control of the north-west shelf. Here we have a company with a 1 5 per cent Australian equity in possession 142,000 square miles. The company has tested one corner of this area, a remote area up at Scott’s Reef- a matter of about five or six per cent of the total area. Renewals are now being proposed. Our policy right through from the time we took office consistently has been to tell companies which submit farm out applications to us that if they cannot drill an area themselves, they should hand it back to the Australian Government- hand it back to the people of Australia so that they can in turn farm it out on a 50-50 basis. It is 50-50 that we want and 50-50 that we are entitled to get. All of this manoeuvring and successive urgency motions have only one purpose, and that is somehow to persuade the people of Australia that we are holding up oil drilling. We are doing nothing of the sort.
The Opposition has chosen to challenge its own Act, the Seas and Submerged Lands Act, which asserts the principle of Australian sovereignty off-shore, on the surface, in the water and in the air. That is the fundamental issue. We are determined that once and for all the principle of sovereignty off shore will be decided by the High Court. We will win, and the Opposition knows it. The best that the Opposition can put up is a rear guard action. We have already lined up major companies which want to go in and take a share of the farm outs that will arise. We are also determined to ensure that the individual States cannot renew under the present terms what is retained by the respective companies with exploration permits.
We want a more intensive drilling pattern. The former arrangement was too loose. Whatever areas are made available will be those related to geoseismic surveys and an intensified, and properly intensified, drilling pattern. In future we will not give away Australia’s assets but we will see that the principles that operate throughout the world in respect of off-shore oil exploration are applied and operate in Australia. Two major oil companies want to come in and drill for oil at places on the continental plateau where there are prospects of getting it in very deep water. As I have said, we are awaiting a High Court decision in this respect. The Opposition’s attitude of this matter is another example of the humbug and frustration which is its stock in trade and particularly the stock in trade of the Leader of the Country Party.
I would like to give honourable members the latest figures in regard to off-shore drilling. In exploration drilling off-shore, a total of 88,000 metres was drilled for the year ending 30 June 1973. For the year ending 30 June 1974 this figure increased to 90,000 metres. A total of 24 exploration wells were sunk for the year ending 30 June 1973 and 26 wells were sunk for the year ending 30 June 1974. I invite honourable members opposite to answer these facts if they can, but they cannot. They have tried to mislead the House. We do not yet have figures on expenditure, but they will be comparable to the footages drilled. So much for the falsity of the figures that have been advanced by members of the Opposition. The action taken by them in this respect is typical of their behaviour.
I would now like to have a look at the broader aspects of this matter. Progressively with a little pressure we have had greater admissions in respect of the actual position in Bass Strait. The Leader of the Country Party should have a red face after his gaffe during the last election campaign when he wanted the price of crude oil increased. At that time he was talking in terms of another $5 or $6 a barrel for Esso-Hematite group. This is the position, and never forget it: If we subtract US$6.50 royalties and tax from the price of imported heavy crude from the Arab States we find that the residual price is comparable with the price of Australian crude. Again the Opposition always quotes the Australian dollar. Until recently the price of $2.08 a barrel Australian was the equivalent of US$3. 1 would suggest that all members of the Opposition might well have a look at an article which appeared in the ‘Australian ‘on Saturday last. In that article it was clearly stated by no less a person than Mr Kruizenga, who is the head, and respected head, of the Esso corporation in Australia, that Australia was in a very comfortable position in respect of energy resources. He said that in addition to quite substantial reserves of crude oil there were major reserves of natural gas, even greater reserves of coal and of course uranium in abundance. He said that that is not a bad position for any country to be in. Yet we have these wails, these jeremiads and this deliberate and calculated misrepresentation from the Opposition to humbug and mislead the people of Australia. When we win the High Court case there will be a real drilling program on the north west shelf. It will be seen that on a 50/50 basis the people of Australia are in a position to participate equally and in the national interest with competent and proper overseas explorers. As to the people who are entitled to renewals, they will get as much as they are fairly entitled to demand and to exploit. They will get no more and no less. They will get a fair deal, and so will the people of Australia.
Quite apart from the matters over which the Leader of the Australian Country Party skimmed there are others to which I need to draw the attention of the House because the terms for this discussion of a matter of public importance have not been properly advanced. He refers to the confusion which has arisen from a lack of publicly stated minerals and energy policies. But, of course, he would not want to touch on that in the light of what I said on television last Thursday night. Australia is getting a record income from minerals and that will continue. It will offset the export income drops which unfortunately will occur in respect of wool and meat. For the future Australia will not be riding on the sheep’s back; it will be riding in the coal truck. We expect on the basis of negotiated contracts to get $ 1,440m for our coal exports next year. That is an increase of $6 16m on what we got last year. It will be a record for a single individual export item.
Let me refer to iron ore. Mention has been made of the alleged policy of keeping our assets in the ground. In respect of iron ore we will get $1,1 70m, which will be an increase of $2 90m on the previous year. Additionally, beyond 1975 there will be further increases. They will be planned and co-ordinated with the Japanese because they are our best trading partners. We will do what we can to help them. We will keep them in the ring fighting, and they will need all the help that we can give. Mark my words, it will be the yield that we will get from minerals export income which will offset the decline that may occur, through no fault of the rural interests, in those other sectors of our economy on which we have relied so heavily in the past for export income. We have nothing to be ashamed of. We have a lot to be proud of I challenge any member of the Opposition to get up and contradict the figures that I have given.
In respect of non-ferrous metals such as lead, copper, zinc, tin, bauxite and beach minerals, they have all had record exports and they will continue. In order to minimise imports of crude oil we are expediting the construction of the trans-national pipeline system. There, again, what is considered to be a smart business proposition when it is advanced by the Australian Gaslight Company becomes allegedly a pipe dream when it is in the hands of the national Government. Again this is typical of the deliberate obfuscation of certain sectors of the Press. I would recommend that every Australian should look at the paper which I tabled on 1 August last giving the details of the proposals of the Australian Gaslight Company and its manager, Sir William Pettingell, for the export of gas overseas and what they hope to profit by it. As their spokesmen in this House are trying to justify their existence, it is very true to say that the Country Party is a pork-barrelling party. It has always been the party most interested in getting cash subventions on which it exists. It is a minority party which is dependent upon the sale of support in return for funds.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
-That was the most second-rate performance we have heard from the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor), who continually proffers secondrate performances in both administration and debates in this Parliament. He did not answer the terms of the matter of public importance. He has been more concerned over the past week with blitzing bureaucrats and continuing to belt businessmen than in developing Australia and her resources. Listen to what he said yesterday in a speech delivered in Sydney. This follows so clearly from what the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) said about seeking to destroy private enterprise in this country. The Minister said that Labor was closer to achieving nationalisation in the minerals field than it had ever been but this would still take a while to achieve. Are you proud of that?
– Of course I am.
-There we are. Blitzing business; nationalising the field. We have got it from him- smoked out at last. It is about the only thing he has put before us which has any form of a blueprint for the future, but at last he has conceded his aim to nationalise industry in this country. The Minister has gone out of his way to reduce incentives for mineral exploration. He has gone out of his way to smash private enterprise. The former subsidy for oil search has been abolished. The taxation concession for mineral exploration has been withdrawn. The price of locally produced crude oil has been pegged below the world price. You are seeking to destroy enterprise in this country. You know that and your only answer to us is to criticise us for raising this matter today. You are like your Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) who in another of his brief visits to the country criticises the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) for what he has had to say on the economy.
I would remind you of what Lord Denning has said frequently; they are perfectly appropriate words. He said: ‘Silence is not an option when things are ill done’. You have been doing ill things for many months. What do you think is the approach of a resources diplomacy with which you have been endeavouring to stultify investment in this country? What do you think it is? There is a two-fold aspect to your approach. It has an internal concept and it has an external concept. The Leader of the Country Party discussed the ramifications domestically. I want to discuss the ramifications internationally. But before I do so I would have to say that I agree completely with the Leader of the Country Party who said that you have created utter confusion, not merely in Australia but also internationally. Now the Deputy Prime Minister says in Peking that in fact the basis for a resources policy was worked out in Japan last year. It was only the basis of further confusion, and it led to the sort of explosion that occurred between the Minister for Minerals and Energy and the head of the Department of Foreign Affairs last week. We have every evidence to suggest that the Prime Minister was behind that leak and we have every evidence to suggest that the Minister for Minerals and Energy himself thought that for a time. Who was behind Mr Renouf?
– Produce your evidence.
-Just listen to me for a moment. You were not able to state a policy and there has been ever increasing concern in the Department of Foreign Affairs at the way in which you have approached your portfolio. This exists not only in that Department but also elsewhere in this country. The Shah of Iran was here some weeks ago. He said before he came here that he wanted to enter an agreement with you over uranium but he could not do so because you do not have a policy. Sir Christopher Soames was here a fortnight before that. He wanted to talk with you about uranium and start negotiations for member countries of the European Economic Community, but he could not do so because you do not have a policy. Countless businessmen have been here but you do not have a policy. The sole element of your policy is the utter destruction of enterprises engaged in minerals exploration. As to the opportunities that have been lost and the confusion that has been created, you are answerable for all those. You are a second-rate czar presiding over the destruction of one element of secondary and manufacturing industry in this country and you sit there proud of your destruction. You ought to be utterly ashamed of yourself. But you have not even got in mind a concept that you would be accountable for the destruction of industry in this country. It does not matter whether it is the EEC or Japan that wants to talk. Look at a copy of the letter which a businessman wrote to you many months ago and which was published in the magazine ‘New Accent’ about the likely destruction of arrangements -
– Mock heroics.
-Mock heroics! We are not making mock heroics. We are concerned about the future of this country. Unless the minerals industry develops in this country we will see the sort of nationalisation you are aiming for.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order! I suggest that the honourable member for Kooyong address the Chair.
– Address the Chair.
-Order! I suggest that the Minister stop interjecting. He was heard in relative silence.
– If the honourable member wants to address me I am entitled to reply.
– I have asked the honourable member to address the Chair.
-Everybody in this Parliament has thought about and spoken frequently of the dire circumstances facing the world today. We live in an interdependent economic world, and we have a need for co-operation, not confrontation. Why were we not among the 12 nations which drew up a mutual approach in Brussels some weeks ago? Why were we not represented? It was because we did not have a policy, because the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, which organised the conference, knew that we did not have a policy. The OECD administrators and investigators were critical of the Minister, as he conceded in his own speech.
The world is poised on the brink of a return to unrestrained economic nationalism, and the Minister is giving it further rein by not producing policies but by destroying relationships with countries which frankly want to work out well framed intererrelationships themselves. The Minister is not co-operating. His policy of confrontation can only end in disaster. Meeting the world’s needs requires an assessment of the growth and energy requirements throughout the world. We are engaged in the contrary. The Government’s present position can and will contribute to exacerbating the world’s problems, and the Minister does not care. What is required is a spirit of co-operation with other nations and a spirit of co-ordination between Federal departments and State departments. Has the Minister forgotten that the States have a role in this? It is virtually ignored by the Minister and also, of course, by the Department of Foreign Affairs, which the Minister took so much satisfaction in tearing strips off last week.
The policies and principles need to cover, among other things, an analysis of future energy supplies and alternatives under a variety of assumptions; an evaluation of their costs and environmental effects; and analysis of the manpower, financial, material, transportation and other constraints. But we have heard nothing of this from the Minister. The aim is to become selfsufficient. That is fine. But we should aim to become as self-sufficient as possible, not so as to set ourselves apart from the rest of the world but so as to enable us to play a more effective role in the world-wide effort to provide more energy. This will require a redoubling of efforts, not cutting them down. At a time when all nations are facing the impact of the energy crisis the Minister tries to retard the development of industry instead of trying to redouble it. In oil research and exploration our policy should seek to reduce waste through a conservation program and to stimulate the development of domestic energy resources, accelerating the development of oil and natural gas and the boosting of coal production. The Minister should be conducting research into other alternative sources. We therefore need, in other words, a co-ordination of effort and a balanced international bargaining position. We are not getting that.
As I have said publicly before, I am concerned about external implications. The Leader of the Australian Country Party has spoken well of the internal ramifications, but it is the effect externally of the Minister’s approach that worries me so much. As economic interdependence grows so does the vulnerability of nations to the nationalistic acts of others. The Minister is the apotheosis of jingoism in government. His selfish, nationalistic acts show no concern for other nations in the world. He has an opportunity for greater international co-operation or for increased divisions. The exploitation of the disruptive potential of international economic forces for narrow national interests such as he produces could be potentially disastrous. It is not only nationally self-defeating but also destructive of out relations with traditional customers such as Japan. But the Minister has no concept of the damage that can be caused by what he is doing. Others in other departments are aware of it. They are cognisant, and they have tried to change the Minister but he will not even talk with them. He is locked in conflict not only with business in this country and not only with other members of the Caucus and the Cabinet but also with members of the bureaucracy. He cannot run a department efficiently. He cannot enunciate a program. He is destroying business. That is why we say that he has caused utter confusion with his minerals policy, and this will have a long term disastrous consequence for the nation.
– This is a continuance of the serial on minerals and energy that was commenced by the Opposition some months ago. As a matter of fact, this is the eighth occasion on which this matter has been discussed in this Parliament. Since the last Parliament was elected the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) has taken over the leadership for the Opposition on these questions, having deposed the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn). It is interesteing to note that the cast has changed slightly occasionally and that today the punter from Kooyong has come into the field on this important issue. The honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock) is one of the slight changes in the cast, but since the last election the Leader of the Country Party has assumed full command to destroy Australia’s interests in and ownership of minerals and fuel in this country simply because every Country Party member in this Parliament had his campaign expenses paid at the last election by interests who today write the speeches in this Parliament of the Leader of the Australian Country Party.
The Leader of the Country Party said that the Government has no minerals and energy policy. The honourable member for Kooyong, speaking for the Liberal Party, also said we have no policy on this matter. Their former leader, Mr Gorton, was reported in yesterday’s ‘Age’- a reputable newspaper- as follows:
Gorton says Connor’s policy is right.
Do not forget that the Country Party said that he was an ideal leader when he was Prime Minister. It did not have much to choose from, but it said that he was the best. This is what was stated yesterday:
The Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) has received unexpected support for his minerals policy from the former Prime Minister, Mr Gorton.
Do honourable members opposite still say that the former Prime Minister does not know what he is talking about? The report went on:
Mr Gorton endorsed Mr Connor’s stand on the export of minerals saying: ‘He (Mr Connor) is perfectly correct in what he is doing.’
Where does the honourable member for Kooyong stand in the united party opposite on this issue?
Mr Gorton, speaking on a television program, said it was not true to say that Australia was leaving its minerals in the ground.
He said: ‘ Our iron ore has been exported far more this year than last year. Copper, lead, zinc, anything that you mention in the name of minerals, has gone up.
It’s been sold for more money than it has before- so I just don’t understand this claim that he is keeping minerals underground, unless it refers to uranium. ‘
This is the statement of the former leader of this country, a former Liberal Prime Minister. Do those honourable members opposite who spoke on this matter today disown him? Do they disown his statements? If so, let them have the guts to get up and say so. They know one thing that the former Prime Minister was: He was Australian. He believed in Australia’s assets and was prepared to fight for them. Even today he is listed in this Parliament and other places as having abstained on Liberal policy motions designed to sell out Australia’s mineral interests. Honourable members opposite said that the Government wants to nationalise the mining industry. A lot of companies going broke under private enterprise leadership are dying to be nationalised today. Those who control them do not mind a bit of socialist money when they send their companies broke. If the Government takes over a company when it is a going concern, it is supposed to be nationalisation, but when one is going broke its begs for socialisation.
Where does the Country Party stand on this matter? The attitude of the Country Party is to provide drought relief for 6 months and flood relief for the next 6 months as long as the people elect it to power. It does not care as long as it is maintained in government. Today we have had the usual story put forward by the Leader of the Country Party and in unmistakable terms the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) answered him in a way that has received the endorsement of the former Liberal Prime Minister of this country. Honourable members opposite are speaking on hearsay and have no evidence.
Of course the Minister is offending some companies. He is offending those that seek to take over Australia ‘s mineral resources. He has offended, for instance, those people who go to make up that huge consortium, the Australian Mining Industry Council, which is 65 per cent foreign owned. It is offended because it would like to take our assets and resources at give-away prices, and the Country Party and Liberal Party are determined to give them away if those parties ever get into government again.
The Leader of the Country Party has spoken on matters of this kind on 8 occasions in the last 12 months or so. He is the mouthpiece in this Parliament of foreign mining corporations. His speeches are written by the Australian Mining Industry Council, which I said is 65 per cent foreign owned and controlled. There was a fight between members of the Liberal and Country Parties over who could have the privilege of representing the foreign rnining interests in Australia. The owner of Leilani, the honourable member for Kooyong, made a fast run on the rails, and he has nearly taken over from the Country Party today. When the right honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon) was Prime Minister he tried to get the mining companies on side when John McEwen left the Parliament. But the Leader of the Country Party offered these foreign companies the best deal of the two and he has become the permanent subservient lackey in this Parliament for the foreign mining interests. He is prepared to produce a speech at the drop of a hat in return for the money put in at the last election campaign by those foreign interests in an endeavour to defeat the Government party in this country.
He is available at a minutes notice to move any motion or to raise any matter that they propose. This is exemplified by the fact that this is the second matter of public importance proposed for discussion in the last couple of weeks. It looks to me as though he is on a retainer from the foreign interests to represent them in this Parliament. I suppose that it could be said now that his retainer is financial support. Do not forget that I have a letter here, sent out by the Country Party, seeking from mining interests all over the country donations of from $100 to $5,000 or more to be provided so long as Country Party members serve and speak to sell out the interests of Australia in this Parliament. Let there be no doubt that when the Leader of the Country Party speaks in this Parliament he speaks because he must speak in return for the money that was contributed to his Party to try to return it to power. Every Country Party member, I am told, in the last election in Queensland got $25,000 cash from foreign mining interests in order to finance his campaign.
The Liberal Party and the Country Party become hysterical when their members are told that we want them to reveal the sources of their funds. Among those sources will be listed numbers of these huge consortia. These funds come from the foreign mining interests. Everybody knows from the correspondence that I have- it has been said in this Parliament- that nobody would be so consistently wanting to sell Australia’s assets, as the Leader of the Country Party does, if there were not some return in that action for him and his Party. Who will ever forget the proposal that he made to increase the profits of Esso-BHP to above $960m? He did not give a hang for the country people. He wanted to increase the price of crude oil and, at the same time, give to Esso-BHP greater monetary returns. The Leader of the Country Party is on record in the ‘Canberra Times’ of 23 March as defending the profits of the oil companies. He said:
As far as Esso-BHP profits are concerned, of course they are high. This group took big risks and spent big money and is entitled to substantial profits.
The reason why the Leader of the Country Party presents in serial form in this Parliament these speeches, weeping and crying, and getting different Liberals in each time to make it look fair dinkum is that those who sit opposite, as we know, are the spokesmen for the things which are anti-Australian and which are opposed to Australia’s interests in the fields of minerals, fuel and energy.
The honourable member for Kooyong who spoke a moment ago was a Minister in a government which was in office for 23 years. We never heard a babble from him at any stage on these matters. A couple of months in the wilderness, and he is now going to reform the world. He criticises the policy which has the endorsement of the former leader who first picked him for the Ministry and made him a member of it. It was his own policy. I would like the honourable member for Kooyong to tell me today whether the policy announced by the Minister for Minerals and Energy is not one which had the endorsement of the right honourable member for Higgins who led the Liberal Party before and which, if he were in govermnment today, would be implemented now by those who sit opposite us and who oppose that policy now. I say to the people of this country that once again they have seen the spectacle of the Country Party, supported by the Liberal Party, speaking for foreign interests, in return for the funds that they were given. The honourable member for Kooyong and others are singing for their supper because they seek an election in the not far distant future. They must sell Australia’s assets in order to try to get the funds necessary to carry on.
I hope that the time of the Parliament will not be wasted on this matter any longer; it has gone on too long. I am sick and tired of the same old stories and the same old misrepresentations. However, I am delighted to see the Minister for Minerals and Energy consistently throwing completely out of the ring those who put up these false stories which are not in the interests of Australia but which are in the interests of the foreign companies that are here to destroy this Government and to seek to take Australian assets at a give away price, but this Government is determined they will not do that.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I think that the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) should have a look -
– I move:
– At the number of Australian companies which are searching for oil overseas -
-Order! The honourable member for Angas will resume his seat. The question is: That the business of the day be called on.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
- Mr Deputy Speaker -
– I call the Leader of the House.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I have been misrepresented.
-Order! I have called the Leader of the House.
- Mr Deputy Speaker -
-Order! I would suggest that honourable members read the Standing Orders before they start telling the Chair how to run the House. No member is entitled to address the House until he has the call.
– You will not give him the call.
-Order! The Leader of the House has the call.
Motion (by Mr Daly) agreed to:
That notice No. I and orders of the day 1 and 2 be postponed until a later hour this day.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member for Mallee claim to have been misrepresented?
-Yes. The Leader of the House (Mr Daly) in his address to the Parliament told a complete untruth before -
-Order! The honourable member will show where he was personally misrepresented.
-The Leader of the House said that every Country Party member in this Parliament had his election -
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. That is not a personal misrepresentation.
– I rise to take a point of order. Quite clearly, it is improper for the Minister to make such an allegation. It is an untruth, and he knows it, and it is the duty of the Chair to give protection in this place -
– You are acting in the Chair and you should protect the members of the Parliament -
-Order! The honourable member for Gippsland must be well aware that he has voted to uphold rulings of the Chair which were objected to by former Opposition members on exactly the same grounds as he is now raising. I am only following the precedents that have been set in this House by former Speakers.
– The term used by the Minister at the table was ‘every member of the Country Party’. ‘Every member’, he said. He did not just talk about the Country Party. Well, I am a member of the Country Party. I object, because it is not true. He is a liar.
-Order! The honourable member -
– I say to him that he is a liar.
-Order! The honourable member for Gippsland will resume his seat. The honourable member for Gippsland has been in this Parliament long enough to know the Standing Orders. I know that he is now deliberately flouting them for a political purpose.
-He is also aware that -
- Mr Deputy Speaker, on that point -
-Order! I suggest that the honourable gentleman wait until I finish speaking. The honourable member for Gippsland is also aware that, if he claims to be misrepresented or if any remark objectionable to him is made, he should rise and ask for its withdrawal immediately. He cannot rise the next day.
– On the point of order.
-Order! The point of order has been ruled on. I do not intend to extend the debate on the point of order.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I am entitled, I would think -
-Are you taking another point of order?
- Sir, you said a moment ago from the Chair that this was on all fours with what had been done in the House previously. May I respectfully direct your attention to the fact that it is not. What was said by the Leader of the House was that every single member of the Country Party had received something.
-Order! The honourable member for Gippsland will not leave the House.
– I am sitting here in the advisers’ chairs.
-You are still out of the House.
– This is entirely different from saying that the Country Party as a whole has received something or anything of this character. What was said in the House would always in my view have been ruled as unparliamentary by any other Speaker -
-Order! The honourable gentleman is making a speech. I gave him the call to take a point of order.
- Mr Deputy Speaker -
– I ask him to resume his seat and I will rule on that point of order.
– I am trying to take it.
– Remarks made of the Opposition or the Government collectively have consistently been ruled to be not matters on which withdrawal may be required.
– Of course.
-No objection was taken at the time the remarks were made. There is no precedent in this House for the withdrawal retrospectively of remarks. I ask the honourable member for Gippsland to return to the House.
Opposition members- Why?
– If he does not wish to return, I will get the Serjeant-at-Arms to bring him back. I am not fussy.
– But Mr Deputy Speaker -
-Order! The honourable member for Mackellar will resume his seat. The honourable member for Gippsland will withdraw the remark that the Leader of the House is a liar.
– I am forced to withdraw because it is unparliamentary. But he certainly handles the truth carelessly.
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
– I say that quite plainly. The man handles the truth carelessly not only on this occasion but on other occasions -
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
– I rise to take a point of order. You made mention a moment ago that you remembered no precedent in this House -
-Order! I did not say that I remembered no precedent. I said: ‘The precedents of this House are’. It is a different statement.
– What I should like to draw to your attention is a precedent of this House. The Minister for Services and Property made a similar allegation some time ago when he said that no member of the Country Party in this House had ever had an absolute majority. Members of the Country Party were subsequently, by a ruling of the Chair, allowed independently to clear up that misrepresentation. I am saying that that is a direct precedent for the situation we have now.
-The precedents of the House are that collective accusations against members are not misrepresentations.
– This is not a collective accusation.
– It was not a collective misrepresentation before and it is not a collective misrepresentation now.
– I have made my ruling and I intend to stand by it. Similar rulings have been objected to and have been the subject of dissent motions. The honourable gentleman was one of those members who voted against such a precedent in the past.
-The honourable gentleman is aware that that is true. I do not intend to permit further debate on this matter. I have made my ruling and that is all there is to it.
– If you look up the records of this House you will see that individual members -
-Order! There are always departures from precedents. I have taken part in dissent motions in this House when it has been sought to uphold exactly the same ruling as I have given. The Chair has always been upheld on a ruling that collective accusations against a party are not misrepresentations of individual members.
– I am not contesting that point. What I am saying is that on a previous occasion individual members of a party were allowed to clear up a misrepresentation on exactly the same lines as the misrepresentation made by the Minister for Services and Property today.
-Order! I have ruled on what I consider to be the precedents of this House.
– Well you are wrong.
-One thing I can be sure of is that I will never get the honourable member’s agreement on anything I rule.
Debate resumed from 26 September (vide page 1 859), on motion by Mr Charles Jones:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Bill we are debating- the Australian Shipping Commission Bill- appears unexceptional at first glance. For the most part it is welcomed by the Opposition. In his second reading speech the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) set out the purposes of the Bill. Its first purpose is to change the title of the Act from the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission Act to the Australian Shipping Commission Act. With the much wider role undertaken by the Australian National Line following its re-entry into the overseas trade by a policy decision of a previous Liberal-Country Party government, it is proper that this change should be made. It is apparent that the Australian National Line will play a growing and significant role in overseas trade. The Jeremiahs who ridiculed the decision by the
Gorton-McEwen Government to put a container ship into the European trade and roll-on roll-off vessels into the Australia. Japan trade must now eat their words. The success of the ANL in its overseas trade speaks volumes for the foresight of the right honourable John McEwen during his time in this Parliament. Its success and expansion in those trades, and in the United StatesAustralia trade with its partners, are matters of some pride. Therefore it is proper that this Bill, covering the activities of the Australian National Line, should properly reflect the wider functions of the Line.
The second purpose is to increase the number of commissioners from five to seven. Down through the years the commissioners have served the Line well and doubtless have enjoyed oversighting the growth and expansion of the Line. The Minister has not indicated why he has found it necessary to increase the number of part-time commissioners. I hope it is not just a case of jobs for the boys. The Minister has not indicated who will be appointed. I trust that the prejudice of the Minister against the business world and people of real business skill will not be displayed. The Opposition agrees with the appointment of a full-time chairman of the Commission. It has long been thought that some difficulty might occur if a full-time chairman were appointed in that he might well intrude into the functions and role of general manager. However, given the size of the operation of the Australian National Line today, clearly the role of chairman is heavy, requiring more than a part-time chairman could be expected to give. Again the Minister has not indicated who might be appointed to this fulltime position. Obviously the choice is important. Whoever is chosen Will have to follow in the steps of, firstly, Sir John Williams and then Mr Bert Weymouth, both of whom had tremendous knowledge, drive, enthusiasm and interest in the shipping industry. That ANL is operating so successfully today is a matter in which both of them can take some pride. I look forward with interest to the announcement.
Another of the provisions in the Bill is to eliminate an anomaly in the present Act relating to the rights and benefits of the Commission’s officers formerly employed by the Public Service. They will be on the same footing with respect to rights and benefits as if they were still in the Pub.lic Service. They will be regarded as equivalent to officers in other statutory authorities. The Opposition raises no objection to this provision. Before I turn to the other provision in the Bill about which the Opposition has reservations I want to say something about a statement the Minister made in his second reading speech. He said:
The problem of securing suitable tonnage has also been the main difficulty standing in the way of total Australian flag participation in the Christmas Island rock phosphate trade. Early this year I decided not to renew the exemption of this trade from the coasting provisions of the Navigation Act. Such an exemption had been granted by our predecessors in government, the effect of which was to enable the use of foreign flag vessels for carrying phosphate from Christmas Island to Australia. I have asked the Australian National Line to seek suitable tonnage on the world market -
Obviously not in an Australian-built ship- to ensure that sufficient Australian manned tonnage is available to handle the total trade. Negotiations are currently under way for the Line to acquire its first vessel for this trade and I expect to be in a position to make an announcement shortly.
There is no justification, need or call for the banning of foreign-owned ships carrying rock phosphate from Christmas Island. It is a prostitution of section 17 of the Shipping Commission Act to put ANL into this trade simply to satisfy and featherbed Australian seamen. The whole thrust of this Government is extraordinary to say the least. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) talks glibly about the proper use of resources and promptly sacks thousands of people because of imports from cheap labour countries. Then we see the Minister for Transport forcing up the price of superphosphate again by forcing phosphate rock to be carted in Australian bottoms only. There are 2 million tons of rock imported from Christmas Island and it has been estimated that rock carted in Australian manned ships would cost an extra $1.50 to $2 per tonne. In other words the Minister for Transport is going to force up by another $3m to $4m the price of basic phosphate rock. No one can say that this is in the national interest. It is not necessary, nor is it making the best use of resources.
The purpose of section 17 of the Act is to gain for the Minister the right to instruct ANL to enter a trade in the national interest. Forcing up the cost of superphosphate to farmers again is not in the national interest. Superphosphate prices already are being forced up because of increased rock prices and because of the abolition of the bounty paid by the previous Liberal-Country Party Government. This provision can have the effect only of further escalating costs and prices. It is typical of the Government’s attitude to practice double standards because it talks about the proper use of resources but practices it selectively.
The final purpose of the Bill as described in the Minister’s second reading speech is to alter the basis on which the Commission is reimbursed for losses in the operation of a shipping service undertaken at the direction of the Minister for Transport. The present situation is that the Minister can direct the ANL to provide a service in some trade or other believed to be in the national interest. If that trade creates losses for the ANL, those losses must be offset by the profits on other operations. It is now proposed that such losses will be identified separately and then a subvention will be made directly from Consolidated Revenue to offset the losses. There is nothing novel in this approach. There is a similar provision in section 25 of the Australian Airlines Act, in section 28 of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Act and in section 44 of the Commonwealth Railways Act. But there is one difference- Trans-Australia Airlines is subject to the 2 airlines agreement and hardly likely therefore to be called on for some costly initiative. The Commonweath Railways has no comparable competitors running on tracks alongside, and the Serum Laboratories is operating in an entirely different atmosphere and field. ANL is operating in a highly capital intensive and competitive field. It is a field in which private enterprise has given long and distinguished service and has a proper role to perform.
I am concerned that the thrust of this Bill is to give ANL certain advantages over its competitors. Let me example this concern. Under this provision the Minister can, by way of whim, for political reasons, or for spite, instruct ANL to enter a certain trade. This request can in fact have no relation to national interest. If ANL at the request of the Minister then enters what might be a marginal trade the splitting of whatever traffic there is between ANL and the other established shipping line would put them both in a loss situation. The other company either falls out of the trade or goes bankrupt trying to compete. But so far as ANL is concerned, any losses would be met by the taxpayer and its overall position would not be affected. Furthermore there is no requirement for explanation. As I have said, there are other parameters affecting other Government authorities which operate under similar power and which do not apply to ANL Therefore in the Committee stage I will be moving an amendment that will go some way to protect the taxpayer, ANL, other shipping companies and indeed the Minister himself.
One of the great disappointments about the Minister for Transport, who is at the table, is that he thinks of himself only as Minister in charge of ANL and does not realise he has a direct responsibility to protect the interests of other Australian shipping companies. Let me remind the Minister that prior to the 1972 election he promised low interest loans, depreciation allowances, and investment and taxation allowances to shipowners as well as a shipbuilding subsidy for construction in Australian shipyards. That these have been proven to be idle words is seen simply by the fact that those pre-election pledges have been broken. What has happened to the inter-departmental committee set up by this Government for the purpose of helping shipping companies? Representatives came in good faith and gave information as to what was required for them to enter the overseas trades in a competitive and viable capacity, and nothing has happened. It appears that the Minister would prefer to soak the taxpayer for shallow nationalistic reasons than to have a policy based on equity.
The Minister also made promises to effect changes to the Tasmanian problem that have not been honoured. The fact is that since his Government took office the problems of strikes, shortages, delays and rising costs in the Tasmanian trade have been multiplied a thousand times. The Tasmanian economy is in the worst state since the depression of the 1930s and no amount of rhetoric or bluster by the Minister can hide that fact. I doubt that there is any other area of Government activity where the failure of the Government to honour its promises can be so clearly seen. On return to office a LiberalCountry Party Government will fill the gaps in Tasmania’s shipping requirements by the use of section 17 of the Act. We will honour the broken promises of Labor and place Tasmanian industry and the Tasmanian people in a position of equality with the mainland.
– That is rubbish.
– The honourable member for Denison ought not to interject. He, with his other Tasmanian colleagues, sat silent in this place for three or four weeks and did nothing until they were forced to their feet by the actions of the Opposition.
Four further points of concern with the Bill flow out of clauses 16, 17, 18 and 19. In clause 16 the Minister seeks to omit sub-sections 3 and 7. Sub-section 3 provides that ANL will pay interest on any loans, at a rate not less than that paid on Australian Government loans raised from the public. The omission of this sub-clause means that ANL will not automatically pay that rate of interest but will pay an interest rate set at the discretion of the Treasurer (Mr Crean), and it could be nil. Now taken in conjunction with the other changes that the Bill proposes, this could at the whim of the Treasurer give a massive advantage to ANL against other Australian shipping companies. As well as having the power under section 17 of the Act to direct ANL to enter a trade he also has the power under section 19 of the Act to approve the freight rates in such a trade. Let me give an example. The Minister can decide that he has had the Conference system. After all, for the last 10 years in Opposition he gave all the reasons why he believed it to be a failure. He has been stony silent since Labor came to office. Let me take the Australia-United Kingdom Conference as an example. He could instruct ANL to pull out of the Conference, set up its own freight line to the United Kingdom and then set freight rates that would attract business but be totally uneconomic. The loss sustained by ANL would be subsidised by the payer. Similarly, this provision could have devastating effects on coastal shipping. No established Australian shipping company could compete.
I am aware that this proposed change brings ANL into line with other Government authorities and business undertakings but I seek an assurance from the Minister that the Government will not give the Australian Shipping Commission any preferred interest rate and thus give it a hidden subsidy. I had proposed to move an amendment on this matter in the Committee stage but I am told that the Minister is now prepared to seek, by way of amendment, the removal of that sub-clause. Again omission of sub-clause 7 would seem to make loans to the Commission part of the capital of the Commission under section 28 and therefore part of the amount on which interest is not payable whilst any dividend is paid under section 29(1). Again this is at the discretion of the Treasurer and could be nil. I understand that the change is to bring this Act in line with the requirement of the statute law revision committee recommendations but again I seek an assurance from the Minister that there is no cause for my fear.
Clause 1 7 widens the terms on which the Commission can invest monies from fixed deposit Commonwealth securities to ‘any other manner approved by the Treasurer’. Now it would seem on the face of it that, where the Commission receives a loss of any single trade and under this Bill obtains full recompense by an appropriation from this Parliament, the earning profits on its other trades do not pay interest, dividends, income tax, or sales tax which clause 19 provides and charge capital items against revenue that the Commission would have substantial funds to invest Again I seek an assurance from the Minister that the proposal in clause 17 will not be a device to permit the Commission to begin investing in a wide range of business activities that is in effect nationalisation by the back door.
Clause 18 changes the method of accounting. I am informed by the Minister that the changes come about simply because of a request from the Public Accounts Committee which seeks to put the Commission on common accounting methods with other Government business undertakings. So whilst believing this to be desirable the change nevertheless raises a question. Prima facie it would appear that the Commission could now charge items of a capital nature against revenue. If this is the case the Commission could use the provision as a device to increase the apparent loss on services carried on at the direction of the Minister and hence justify an increased subsidy. I seek an explanation and assurance from the Minister that this will not and, indeed, cannot happen.
The next problem relates to clause 1 9, section 36. There is a quite subtle change to the provision. The new subsection ( 1 ) says: ‘The Commission is subject to taxation under the laws of Australia.’
But if we look at the tax law itself, section 23 (d) exempts from income tax, ‘a public authority, constituted under any Act’. By this Bill, section 36 (2) of the present Act is repealed, and it specifically says: ‘The Commission is not a public authority for the purposes of paragraph (d) of section 23 of the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act 1 936- 1 966 ‘.
In plain words this Bill seeks to remove from the Commission an obligation to pay tax and, what is even more significant the necessity to pay sales tax. This provision is in direct contravention of the Australian Coastal Shipping Agreement which provides that the Commonwealth undertakes to ‘levy on the Commission all rates and taxes and charges including income tax’.
Let me sum up my objections to this Bill as it is now presented. The Commission does not have to balance any loss trade with its profit trade if it is directed to enter that loss trade but will now obtain a subsidy from the taxpayer to offset any loss. This means that substantial profits should accrue. They can be invested in any manner desirable, thus allowing the Commission to expand into any business activity like an octopus with its tentacles everywhere. At the same time, unlike its competitors, it may pay no income tax, no sales tax and such charges. Also, it can increase its profits on some trades and increase the subsidy on its loss trade by charging capital items to revenue while the whole time paying interest at a rate which could be nil and dividends which could also be nil.
I have had discussions with the Minister for Transport and he has agreed to certain amendments to the Bill and to give certain assurances that will not only bring the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission into line with other business undertakings and the requirements of the Parliament but will also keep the Commission on the same footing as its competitors in the shipping industry. What I am seeking for the shipping industry is something similar to the 2 airline policy under which neither side gains an unfair advantage through government support because of sheer competition provides the Australian people with the best service possible under given circumstances. For that reason and the following discussions with the Minister I propose to move an amendment to clause 13 of the Bill, and I seek the assurances relating to my concern with the other clauses, 17 and 18. 1 know that the Minister himself proposes to move amendments to clauses 16 and 19 of the Bill.
-Once again we heard from the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) unjustified critcism of what this Government is doing for the island State of Tasmania in respect to shipping. I remind him again, and will continue to go on reminding him, that during the Opposition’s term in government and when he was the Minister for Shipping and Transport, the then Government increased Australian National Line freight rates to Tasmania by some 30 per cent. Despite all the efforts by Tasmanian people from both sides of the political fence the previous Government did nothing at all by way of subsidy to offset Tasmania’s disadvantages.
This Government came to power some 2 years ago. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), during the 1972 and 1974 election campaigns, promised that he would look at the freight disadvantage being experienced by the island State of Tasmania. Shortly after taking office the Government introduced a subsidy of $lm for passenger services provided by the ‘Empress of Australia’. That was provided in the Budget last year and the same sum is provided in the Budget this year. So a subsidy of $ lm towards passenger services is already in existence. Of course, when the ANL wanted to increase its freight rates, for the first time after this Government came to office, by 25 per cent the Prime Minister immediately called for a reassessment and announced a $2m freight subsidy. I just say this to the honourable member for Gippsland: Despite all he says about this
Government at least it is doing more, especially having regard to the Nimmo royal commission, than the previous Government ever did. Certainly the previous Government did not give any material assistance to Tasmania.
The purpose of the Australian Shipping Commission Bill, as outlined by the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones), is to amend certain provisions of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission Act 1956-73 in order to alter the name of the Commission, to increase the number of Commissioners from five to seven, to make specific provision for the appointment of a full time chairman of the Commission- a very worthwhile amendment because of the increasing importance of the Commission- to alter the basis on which the Commission is to be reimbursed for the losses in operation of the shipping services undertaken at the direction of the Minister for Transport, and to eliminate an anomaly in the present Act relating to the rights and benefits of the Commission’s officers formerly employed in the Australian Public Service. At the same time the Minister pointed out that the opportunity will be taken to make several amendments of a machinery nature in relation to the financial provisions of the Act and to effect some largely formal amendments including those arising out of the Statute Law Revision Act 1973.
The proposed amendments are intended to update the Act and to enable the Commission to move more effectively to perform its role as a national shipping line in both coastal and overseas trading. The Commission was established in 1956 and since then the ANL has made remarkable progress. The proposed amendments are necessary in keeping with the rapid growth of the ANL in order to allow it to continue its functions in an efficient, businesslike way. I need only point out that the fixed assets of the ANL have increased in the 16 years by almost 800 per cent and now total $183m. The combined dead weight tonnage carried is now 651,136 tons compared with 250,960 tons 16 years ago. The annual turnover has increased threefold from approximately $30m to more than $100m today. So the ANL has a record of spectacular growth. We certainly commend the Minister for attempting to update the Australian National Line and the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission so that each will fulfil its role in a more effective manner.
I shall specifically refer to that part of the Bill which alters the basis on which the Commission is reimbursed for losses in the operation of a shipping service at the direction of the Minister for Transport. At present the Minister can direct the ANL to establish, to maintain and to operate a shipping service to meet the requirements of a particular area. But as the Minister has pointed out, the Act now provides that if such a shipping service suffers a financial loss and if an overall loss results from the Commission’s whole operations for that year, the ANL is entitled to be reimbursed by the Australian Government to the extent of the lesser of the 2 losses. This means that the ANL is required to cross-subsidise such a service from any other profitable operations.
At page 5 of the Bill which we are now considering, it is provided:
Section 17 of the Principal Act is amended by omitting sub-section (4) and substituting the following sub-section: ‘(4) Where-
the Commission establishes, maintains and operates, or continues to maintain and operate, a shipping service in accordance with a direction given under subsection (1); and
the Commission satisfies the Minister that the shipping service has, while being operated in accordance with the direction, operated at a loss in any financial year, the Commission is entitled to be reimbursed by Australia to the extent of the loss ‘.
This means that the Minister for Transport can direct a subsidy to be paid if he thinks that it is in the public interest. The Australian Government then reimburses the ANL to the extent of the loss. This will mean the ANL will continue to operate as a competitive shipping line and its operations will not be penalised by government action in agreeing to a special subsidy.
We are especially interested in this part of the Bill because, as the Deputy Prime Minister, Dr J. F. Cairns, said in Devonport on 27 September, the $2m freight subsidy for Tasmania will apply as soon as these amendments have passed through the Parliament and have been given assent. The Government and the Minister for Transport have acted very quickly indeed in this matter to assist Tasmania. Again I point out to the honourable member for Gippsland, who has come back into the chamber, that despite what he said- I repeat it because I do not think he heard me- about this Government, when the Opposition was in office for 23 years and freight rates rose by 30 per cent it never raised a finger to assist Tasmania in any way at all. I just mention this to him because he always criticises this Government. I say again that the Minister for Transport and the Prime Minister certainly acted very quickly. Since the Minister has been in office a subsidy of $lm for passenger services and a subsidy of $2m for freight services have been provided.
I have to answer certain claims made in Tasmania and it is important that I point out the history of the situation. The ANL requested a 25 per cent rise in freight rates. Tasmanian members of Parliament for both the Senate and the House of Representatives had long discussions with the Minister for Transport and also with the Prime Minister during the first week after Parliament resumed for the Budget sessionthe parliamentary week ending 19 September. On that day the Prime Minister issued a Press statement saying that there would be an immediate reassessment of Tasmania’s disadvantage. Within a week of his announcement on 19 September- this is the important thing- this reassessment was completed. Again I compliment the Minister for Transport for this. The formula that was put up at the discussion during the week before was costed and the amendment to give effect to this proposal was introduced into this House on 26 September.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
-As I said before, this Government acted quickly and within a week of the Prime Minister’s announcement on 19 September the assessment relating to the freight position was completed, the formula put up was costed and the amendment to the Bill was introduced on 26 September. (Quorum formed). An adjourmnent was sought by the Deputy Leader of the Country Party (Mr Sinclair), as is the established practice, to enable the Opposition to study the legislation at its next weekly party meeting. One week later, on Thursday, 3 October, the Bill was placed on the notice paper in this House but because of unexpected delays during the day we did not get to it on that date. Then, as every member in this House knows, there followed a week’s recess and the Bill is now being debated at the earliest available opportunity. There has been no ‘conning’, as alleged by the Liberal Party spokesman on transport in Tasmania, Mr Bonney. He unjustly accused this Government- and I quote from an article in the ‘Advocate’ of 5 October, 1974- when he said: . . . Dr Cairns had evidently tried to ‘con’ Tasmanians with the Federal Government’s promise to subsidise the ANL freight rate jump.
According to the same article Mr Bonney said:
The Government delayed introducing the required amendment to the ANL Act in the House of Representatives until yesterday.
In saying ‘yesterday’, he means that it was introduced on 3 October. As I have pointed out, there was no ‘conning’ at all and this Government acted as quickly as possible to implement the Prime Minister’s promise to Tasmania. Mr
Bonney, unfortunately for him, relied on an incorrect newspaper report from the ‘Examiner’ of Friday, 4 October. The report stated:
A Bill to amend the ANL Act, under which the subsidy will operate, received its second reading in the House of Representatives yesterday, but did not reach the Senate.
When the report says ‘yesterday’ it is referring to 3 October. In actual fact, as I pointed out, the second reading speech on this Bill was delivered on 26 September. Like the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) in this House, Mr Bonney has now found it unwise to rely on headlines from this northern newspaper. He would be well advised, as would the Leader of the Opposition in this House, to check the facts before making unjust and wrongful accusations based on the headlines of a newspaper. He should not pluck facts out of the air just to suit his own particular case.
There has also been unfounded criticism of the Government because the $2m freight subsidy applies to northbound cargo only and does not cover bulk cargo and imports. In relation to bulk cargo, to get some idea of the position we have to refer to the latest economic report commissioned by the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) in his days as Minister for Shipping and Transport. This is the latest report available until the Government receives the report of the Nimmo Commission. On page 2 of this report of March 1 973, which is not very old, it says in relation to bulk cargoes:
It became clear very early in the investigation that bulk shipping posed no more problems in Tasmania than anywhere else in Australia. Bulk shipping services between mainland ports were similar to the bulk services to Tasmanian ports, the costs were comparable and there was no expression of dissatisfaction about the way Tasmania was treated.
In other words, Tasmania is not disadvantaged in the carrying of bulk cargoes.
In relation to the other criticism of the Government on the matter of imports, I point out that imports are not disadvantaged because of the price equalisation scheme. To substantiate this I refer again to the report of the Bureau of Transport Economics of March 1973. Annex F to that report states:
ANL, in their evidence to the Senate Committee of Inquiry, suggested that Tasmanians were not ‘ disadvantaged in their southbound cargoes’ due principally to the presence of price equalisation schemes.
The report goes on to show the difficulties of subsidising imports because of the existence of this price equalisation scheme. If this is dropped to our disadvantage in Tasmania, then it would be dropped, I point out, if a subsidy were. introduced. So there is a distinct case against putting a subsidy on imports because of the existence of the price equalisation scheme. The report goes on to show how this scheme operates throughout Tasmania and compares prices on the mainland with prices in the main centres in Tasmania.
I maintain that the promises outlined by this Government in 1972 and 1974 have been honoured. I refer again to the first part of the speech I made this morning when I outlined how this Australian Government when it came to office instituted a $lm passenger subsidy for the ‘Empress of Australia’ and continued that subsidy for 1974-75 in this Budget. Despite the fact that there has been an average increase of 35 per cent in rail, road and sea freight between comparable places on the mainland, when for the first time in our term of office the Australian National Line wanted to lift freights by 25 per cent this Government, at the instigation of the Tasmanian members, the Prime Minister and the Minister for Transport (Mr Jones) carried out an immediate reassessment and came up with this proposition of a freight subsidy of $2m. This subsidy is based on the fact that our northbound freight amounts to about one million tons a year and, based on the 1972 freight rate of approximately $8 a ton for a 40 cubic foot ton, if you add the 25 per cent on to that you get the $2 increase. Calculating the one million northbound tons of freight, the $2m will wipe out the 25 per cent increase.
I mention again that in its time in office the Opposition increased freights by about 30 per cent but at no time did the Liberal Party-Country Party Government do anything at all to assist Tasmanians with a freight subsidy in the way this Government is doing. This Government has also instituted the Nimmo Commission and we all look forward with a great deal of interest to the report of that Commission because we feel it could give us a blueprint for the future to remove any disadvantage that we suffer at this time due to the fact that the only avenue we have to send our goods to interstate markets is the sea leg. We do not have the road and rail avenues that are available to our trade competitors on the mainland of Australia. I repeat that this Government has clearly honoured any promises it made in 1972 and in 1974. It now relies on these amendments to the Bill going through this House and into the Senate and receiving royal assent because the Bill will enable the Minister for Transport to start distributing to our manufacturers in Tasmania the freight subsidies of about $175,000 a month, an average of about $2m a year.
I commend the Bill. I also commend the Minister for Transport, who is sitting at the table, for the very sympathetic way in which he received honourable senators and honourable members from Tasmania during the week long discussions that we had with him and with the Prime Minister. I commend the Minister for Transport for the speed with which he moved in order to implement the freight subsidy. I thoroughly reject any criticism that either he, the Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns) or anyone else attempted to con Tasmania into agreeing to a delay in the introduction of a freight subsidy until the report of the Nimmo Commission is received by the Government. I hope that the Bill will have a speedy passage through the Parliament.
-As the honourable member for Braddon (Mr Davies) has so rightly said, Tasmania is in a mess. But it is in a mess not only because of the shipping situation and the freight rates but also because it faces the problem of having in the State sphere as well as in the Federal sphere Labor governments which have shown an inability to tackle the problem of inflation and an inability to get any industrial performance out of the country because of the malaise that has hit Australia
In rising to participate in this debate I want to pay a particular tribute to Sir John Williams, a former Chairman of the Australian National Line. I had the great fortune to travel with him on one occasion on the west coast of Western Australia when he was conducting an examination of the Western Australian State Shipping Service in an attempt to pin point the problems it was experiencing. It was exciting coming into Wyndham harbour to have him point out particular locations to me and tell me of the problems that were faced when a wreck had to be shifted from the Wyndham wharf in the middle of the war. He was indeed a tremendous person. He helped to make the ANL the kind of efficient body that it is today.
Apart from that, I wish to make only two or three points in this debate. Firstly, I protest to the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) about the decision taken to ship Christmas Island phosphate rock in Australian ships whenever possible. As the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) so rightly pointed out, that is going to place an additional burden upon the Australian farmer, who has had to face up to the withdrawal of the superphosphate bounty, who has had to face up to a very great rise in the price of superphosphate rock and who will now have an additional burden placed upon him that will cost him, it has been estimated, between $3m and $4m. That seems to be in keeping with the Government attitude of let the farmer pay. What happens to the farmer does not matter to the Government. He just supplies what the country needs. He does not get a holiday of 20 weeks a year, as the feather-bedding award provides in relation to the shipping industry. Under the 1974 award able seamen are getting $9,770 a year and 20 weeks annual leave. That is what I would call a feather bed of more than usual softness. If those farmers who will have to pay an extra amount for their superphosphate because it is to be shipped in this fashion were to get to hear about the 20 weeks annual leave entitlement being coupled with an annual salary like that, I do not know how we would be able to keep them on the farm.
The second point I make is that I do not know how the Minister would be able to deal with his problems if he did not have the Opposition to help him. In this respect I pay particular tribute to the honourable member for Gippsland. An examination of the Minister’s performance since assuming office will reveal that early in his career he introduced a Bill which sought to give TransAustralia Airlines a particular advantage. It was soon apparent that an error had been made either by the Minister or his Department and he was forced to admit that he had made an unwise move. With typical footwork- I pay tribute to his footwork- the Minister quickly changed his position and did what the Opposition said he ought to do. There was a monstrous provision in the Commonwealth Roads Bill whereby the local councils had to come to the Commonwealth Government cap in hand if they wanted to change a decision that had been made on local grounds. A road may have been washed out by a flood. A local council would quite rightly want some manoeuvrability in relation to the use of money on such roads. After the honourable member for Gippsland and other members of the Opposition had pointed out the position the Minister had the sense to realise that he had made a mistake and quickly rectified the situation.
The Minister has again shown his versatility in relation to this Bill. He introduced the Bill the other day. Everybody- the honourable member for Gippsland and others- pointed out the serious errors that it contained. Firstly, under the legislation as it is before us the Minister has the right to impose a low or a high interest rate as it suits him. That would give a particular advantage to the ANL as against its competitors. He did the same thing in relation to income tax. The legislation we have before us takes away the responsibility for ANL to pay income tax and losses could have been hidden in a way that would have made it very difficult for competitor lines to compete with the ANL. Because of the activities of the honourable member for Gippsland in particular, and the Opposition in general, and because of the fast footwork of the Minister the situation is to be rectified. I will pay him a tribute by saying that when he does find out that he is in the wrong he is amenable to reason. He has had plenty of reasons put to him why some of the provisions that he introduced the other day were wrong. He has realised that now. I pay him a tribute for his generosity in seeing that he does his best to redeem the situation if he does make a mistake. Having paid that very sincere compliment to the Minister, I conclude by saying that I support the Bill.
-This Bill is of special interest to Tasmania because of the provision in it which will enable the Australian Government to subsidise the Australian National Line’s services to Tasmania without it being detrimental to the Line’s overall operations. Sub-section ( 1 ) of section 17 of the principal Act, which will remain in the Act following the passage of this legislation, states:
Where, in the opinion of the Minister, a shipping service of the Commission is necessary to meet the requirements of a particular area and it is desirable in the public interest that the shipping service should be provided, the Minister may . . . direct the Commission to establish, maintain and operate, or to continue to maintain and operate, a shipping service for the purpose of meeting those requirements.
That is an important provision because, if the public interest shows it is desirable, it is essential that there be a means of avoiding the crippling freight rates which may otherwise be justified if purely business economic considerations only were taken into account in relation to that service. The problem with the present Act is that the Commission must first of all make up the loss which may occur from a ministerial direction out of any profits on other services. Sub-section (4) of section 17 states that the Commission is entitled to be reimbursed by the Commonwealth to the extent of the first mentioned loss in the provision, being the loss on an individual service, or to the extent of the second mentioned loss in the provision, being the loss on the overall operation, whichever is the less. That has effectively meant that if a service is to be subsidised it can only be by a bidden cross-subsidy occurring from one user to another rather than by having a subsidy which is visible and without effect on other services which could damage the Line’s overall operations. The amending clause will correct the perpetual dilemma that the ANL has had to suffer because sub-section (4) is to be replaced by a new sub-section which will allow the Government openly and fully to reimburse the line for each public interest direction by the Minister for Transport. The proposed new subsection reads:
That will correct the anomaly which has been in the Act for the time that it has been in existence.
I think I heard the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon), who is the Opposition’s spokesman on transport matters, say that the Opposition, if it got into Government, would use the new section 17 to assist Tasmania. I am not one who always and forever blames the Opposition for what was done when it was in Government. But one does have to ask: If the Opposition is committed to this sort of assistance why did it not do something about it when it was in Government? During the time it was in Government we had a cross-subsidy system where a hidden subsidy was given which was not visible to the Parliament and the people. As the House knows, the Government has announced that it will subsidise the Tasmanian freight operation of the Australian National Line to the extent of about $2m a year until the report of the Nimmo Commission is available. This financial assistance results directly from the strong representations of my colleagues from Tasmania and myself.
The honourable member for Gippsland claimed that I, amongst my colleagues, did nothing for 3 or 4 weeks after the ANL announcement. But nothing could be further from the truth. As the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones), who is at the table, will acknowledge, I was on the telephone to him that very day having tracked him down in, I think, Ipswich. I made the first representation that the Minister received. We all immediately made representations to the Minister. The accusations that we did nothing for 3 or 4 weeks until the Opposition apparently goaded us into it is quite untrue. What did happen was that the announcement by the Government of the subsidy seemed to alert the members of the Opposition to the existence of Tasmania. They had ignored this State while they were in Government. They have ignored it in the last 2 years while we have been in Government. However, on this occasion they thought that they might have been able to make a little bit of political capital. It was only after this announcement that the Opposition members discovered Tasmania. So I think that they have a cheek to criticise the Government’s well received actions.
I think that the Labor Government has a good record in respect of Tasmania. There has been criticism about the lack of cargo space on the coastal shipping trade. But does anyone seriously suggest that we can create cargo space out of the air within a short time, particularly as increased production has caused a need for space? The production of paper by one manufacturer has increased by 40 per cent in one year since we came into Government. It is beyond me how anyone can imagine that sufficient shipping space to take up that sort of increase could be made available immediately in these circumstances. The Minister for Transport has moved as quickly as possible to get new shipping for the Australian National Line. New ships are being brought into the trade as quickly as possible. One is due to come into service in February next year.
Also $lm a year in assistance has been given to the Line to enable the passenger operation to Tasmania to continue without having to increase passenger rates to the level that would otherwise have been necessary and without this operation being detrimental to the freight operation. This level of assistance reappears this year in the Budget. In addition to this assistance is the $2m a year that we have announced and which will come into operation as soon as this Bill becomes law. Also the report of the major royal commission under Mr Nimmo which is examining the whole situation of Tasmania’s transport disabilities will create a real basis for decision making by the Government. The Government is criticised for appointing committees, commissions, task forces and so on. But all of these forms of inquiry are entirely justifiable in that without them one would be making only ad hoc decisions instead of having a real basis from experts on which to make decisions. Also, people have the opportunity to put their points of view forward to these inquiries for consideration by the Government. One indication of this over the last 1 8 months or 2 years has been the number of people from all over the country who have been busy making submissions to the various commissions of inquiry. They are being heard for the first time.
The Opposition has criticised the Bill. This was particularly the case in the speeches made by the honourable members for Gippsland and Wakefield (Mr Kelly). I am sorry that they are no longer in the chamber to listen to the rest of the debate. But the Opposition has criticised the Bill by claiming that it exempts the Australian Shipping Commission from all taxes. Yet the Bill specifically states that the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission, or the Australian Shipping Commission as it will now become known, is subject to taxation under the laws of Australia. Some people argue that the fact that the old subsection, which stated this in another way, is being repealed is an indication that proposed new section 36 (1) does not mean what it says. So as it seems necessary to re-assure these people, the Minister will be putting forward an amendment which will state more unequivocally that the Commission should be subject to tax as has been intended all along in order to make it clear that the ANL is on the same basis as private shipping companies under the coastal shipping agreement.
The Opposition apparently wanted to oppose other sections of the Bill, sections that will be of benefit to Tasmania. I think that members of the Opposition have gone a bit cooler on this now that they have discovered the benefit this legislation will have for Tasmania because of their recent feigning of a slight interest in that State. The amendment that the honourable member for Gippsland has circulated proposes to add subsection (5) to section 17 of the principal Act. I think that this amendment should have the support of the Government; it merely adds a clause which requires that the Minister shall cause a copy of any direction given by him to be laid before both Houses of the Parliament. I think that this proposal ought to be completely within our policy in making sure that any subsidy, beyond being a cross-subsidy, within the Lines operation, should be openly stated and visible to everyone so that it can be calculated and its source specified.
Much of the nit-picking critcism from the Government’s political opponents makes me furious at times, particularly the criticism of the generous financial assistance to be provided to the ANL so that freight charges to Tasmania can be reduced to their former level. I realise that an Opposition Party’s job is to oppose and criticise. But this should be done in a responsible way. Justifiable criticisms made by the Opposition would be much more credible if the occasional praise was given when due without delving for minor matters to pin-prick about. Such criticism only makes it more difficult for those of us who are actually doing something to improve Tasmania’s position to be successful in the future, because it tends to elicit the understandable response from some people that we are never satisfied. Firstly there has been an attack on the $2m subsidy because it is directed at north bound cargoes- that is, Tasmania’s exports. We are told that this is despicable because south bound freight is not covered. But let me explain. Tasmania’s economic disadvantage is primarily caused by the cost of exporting what is produced there. It is that which has an impact on employment in that State and which affects the competitiveness of our goods on the mainland. Last year’s report from the Bureau of Transport Economics showed that there was nowhere near the same disadvantage due to Bass Strait as far as imports were concerned. Many of the goods which are brought to Tasmania from the mainland are the subject of national price equalisation, or are supposed to be. So, if the price of a nationwide grocery item is blamed on freight costs it is because the price equalisation scheme is not being passed on to the consumer. There could be no justification for subsidising freight rates on goods if it just means the taxpayer is providing a bonus to the manufacturer without the price the consumer is asked to pay being reduced.
Some imports, I acknowledge, do cost more because of freight costs, but a subsidy scheme to cover such individual items cannot be worked out in a short time- and we all wanted quick action in this matter. Such a study should be part of the Nimmo inquiry’s more thorough examination of Tasmania’s transport situation. So, for the reasons of justification, speed and simplicity, the Federal assistance to the ANL is to go where it is apparently needed most- the north-bound route. Let me remind the House that the sea-leg component of Tasmania’s transport costs is less than half the total. Yet there is no outcry when there are major increases in port charges or freight-forwarders charges, or even when other shipping lines put up their rates.
The State Liberal Party’s spokesman on transport was reported the weekend before last to have accused the Australian Government of procrastination in making the freight reductions effective. Nothing could be further from the truth, and comes strangely from a member of the same Party who as I said, when in office, took 23 years to give nothing like this new assistance to Tasmania. He is complaining about a period of 2 weeks. Once again, I give the House the facts. The Bill to make it possible for Tasmania’s freight costs to be reduced was introduced in the House of Representatives on 26 September, the day before the announcement of the size of the subsidy- not a week later as claimed by the Liberal Party spokesman. The usual week was then allowed to elapse before the matter was set down to be debated, as a courtesy to the Opposition to give its members a chance to examine the legislation at a Party meeting. Then it turned out that they wanted to oppose parts of the Bill- or so it appeared from what I understand the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) said at his Press conference. In any case, the Senate could not possibly have considered the matter in the last sitting week, because it rose at 5 o’clock on the Thursday.
So I suggest that would-be critics first of all get their facts straight, make sure that any criticism has some basis, and keep in mind that it sometimes helps to temper criticism with occasional congratulations when justifiable, which I believe is the case in this matter. I think that the same comment could be applied to some other current issues as well as the shipping freight rates, where positive, beneficial action has been taken, and taken promptly. I join with my colleague the honourable member for Braddon (Mr Davies) in congratulating the Minister for Transport and the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) on the rapid response that they have given to our representations. I urge the House to give this Bill a speedy passage.
-This legislation is long overdue. It is remarkable that under previous governments from 1956 to 1972 so little was done to provide essential improvements in the Australian National Line. The reason for this is that previous governments reluctantly brought the ANL into being in the first place. It smacked too much of socialism for a Liberal government to have anything to do with the setting up of an Australian owned shipping line. For years and years on the Opposition side of this House my colleagues and I asked the Menzies Government and the Holt Government to bring our shipping line into a compact shipping line in its own right trading around the Australian coast and overseas. Years and years went by before agreement was finally reached. In 1956 the Menzies Government established the ANL and we have supported it 100 per cent. But the Line was like a man with one arm tied behind his back or, in speaking of shipping, a shipping line with one of its anchors tied behind the funnel.
I will outline some of the disadvantages that the ANL had to face in the early years of its operations. It has had only a part time Commissioner in charge of it. In the first instance, that is a downgrading act and it makes him a second class citizen. There was a part time Chairman, if you please, of this Line which even at that time had 42 ships under its flag. Then the Menzies Government decided to clip its wings in another direction. It insisted that the passenger bookings for ANL should be done by private shipping companies. That, of course, was the boner of the entire legislation. What a wonderful way for the Opposition to find out what was going on when the private companies, in effect, were carrying out the bookings for ANL passenger services. That was an outrageous requirement in establishing the Line. The first thing that the ANL had to fight against was the move to send it out into unprofitable shipping routes. Every time an unprofitable shipping route came along the ANL was sent to do the job. In the early years of its operations many of its losses were a direct result of having to operate uneconomic routes. The fourth disadvantage which the Line had under earlier legislation was that its operations were confined to coastal shipping. It was only very recently that the Line went into overseas trade. Yet from the beginning of the operations of the ANL we insisted that it should also be an overseas shipping line.
They are some of the disadvantages that the ANL has had to put up with. Some of them will be corrected under this legislation particularly in relation to the part time Chairman. He will now be a full time officer. I think all the officers and the staff of the ANL have done a fantastic job when one considers all the disadvantages they have had to face and all the impediments that were put in their way by previous Liberal governments to which a socialist enterprise is anathema. I feel that, though they have had difficulties particularly in relation to trade between Tasmania and the mainland, they are to be commended for the way in which they have carried out their duties. I have had a lot to do with them. Whenever there is trouble you only have to raise the matter with them and they will do their best to iron it out as quickly as possible. Operating with one anchor tied behind the funnel I think the ANL has really carried through a magnificent work program for the benefit of this nation since 1956.
I also mention that under this legislation a further improvement will be the provision to reimburse the Australian Shipping Commission for losses by way of subsidy. This is something which the Line has never had in the past. This provision will give the Line greater freedom of operation. It will give it a better chance to balance its budget and to carry out the policy of the Government. I commend the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) who has been active in this matter since he became the Minister at the end of 1972. There have been fantastic improvements in the ANL under the Labor Government. The Labor Government is committed to this type of enterprise and wants it to be the very best that can possibly be developed. In my opinion, the additional ships which the ANL has obtained since the present Minister took over are a credit to him and to his officers. In its shipping services the ANL started with 42 ships with a total dead weight tonnage of 250,960. That represents an investment of $24.5m. The fleet now, all these years later, comprises 31 vessels with a combined dead weight of 651,136 tons. The point is that the number of vessels has decreased but the tonnage has gone up. The vessels used in the early days, the E class vessels, have now completely outgrown their usefulness, and in their place have come much larger vessels. That is why there has been a decrease in the number of vessels, but not in tonnage carried.
The Line has fixed assets valued at $183m. The turnover of the Line has increased from $32m in 1957 to well over $100m today. It was the first to introduce the roll-on roll-off concept of transportation into Australia’s coastal shipping as a fast and economic method of moving passengers, freight and vehicles. The Line has a further 5 ships for the coastal trades on order. It has 4 modern vessels for the overseas trade at the moment. Another two, with a third on order, are planned. Four large bulk carriers for the overseas bulk trade are also on order. That is a remarkable program of modern ships which will put the ANL in the forefront of shipping companies.
On the point of new ships, it is interesting to know that since Australia has gone into the trade with Japan with our vessels our share of the trade has increased, as a result of successful negotiations, from 17.2 per cent to a level which is expected to reach 30 per cent by 1979. The Line has also achieved an increase in the wool trade to Japan from 23 per cent to 28.3 per cent. To carry this increased cargo volume a hybrid roll-on roll-off cellular container vessel, the ‘Australian Emblem’, is being built for use in this trade and was launched on 9 August this year. It is a 22,400 dead weight tonnage vessel with a capacity of 1431 containers of 20 feet length. That is a magnificent vessel. The Line’s Australian partner in the eastern sea road service, the Flinders Shipping Co., has negotiated the purchase of a similar vessel. The 2 vessels already in the trade, ‘Australian Enterprise’ and ‘Matthew Flinders’, are to be converted to the east Asia trade to provide an entirely independent Australian flagship service to Korea, Hong Kong and the Philippines. The Commission has arranged to purchase ‘Matthew Flinders’ from the Flinders Shipping Co. This is in keeping with the transfer or shift of trade from Europe and the United Kingdom to Asia. It is quite a remarkable ship. As a matter of fact, our trade with the United Kingdom at the present time is only about eight or nine per cent of our total trade. Our trade with Japan is nearly 40 per cent of the total, and she has become our greatest trading partner. This will mean that the Asian trade with countries besides Japan- countries like the Philippines, China, Hong Kong, Korea, Singapore and Malaysia- will benefit from the Australian Shipping Commission bringing in an increased number of ships. Two vessels are on order for the Australian-European trade. There are also ships on order for the bulk minerals export trade and two more bulk carriers are on order also. For the coastal trade the Line has been given approval to purchase 2 general cargo vessels, the first of which is scheduled to enter service in February next year and the second a year later. In addition the Line has ordered two 25,000 ton bulk carriers, and these vessels are expected to enter service in November 1976 and May 1977.
The final story of this part of the activities of the Line under this Government is that 1 1 ships are currently on order for the ANL as well as associated seaboard equipment necessary for their operation, involving a total capital expenditure of approximately $235m. Finally I just want to say a big thank you to the Minister for Transport and to the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) for agreeing to the suggestions put to them by the Tasmanian Labor members over a period of one week, with 9 hours of interviews in all, for $2m subsidy to help Tasmania at the present time.
– You fought hard for it yourself.
-I was just one of the team. It is teamwork that counts, as the Richmond football team showed in Adelaide recently. The teamwork that we demonstrated really showed results. We achieved more than we ever did before in combined representations to the Minister for Transport and to the Prime Minister. The 25 per cent increase in the freight rates charged by the ANL was only the first increase for 2 years and was fully justified. The Government has been criticised for it, especially in the Tasmanian Press, but how easy the Press forgets the previous Government’s record in any field. For instance, let me give the complete story of what it did with freights. In August 1970 there was an increase of 12½ per cent in all Tasmania’s general cargo freights. In July 1971 there was a 12Vi per cent increase in freights between Sydney and Tasmania and an 8 per cent increase in freights between Melbourne and Tasmania. These are very substantial increases. There was no attempt to subsidise Tasmania against the impact of those increases which amounted to about 30 per cent in all. Yet under this Government we have achieved a victory, as I said, with a combined approach, a teamwork approach, to the Minister for Transport and the Prime Minister. Tasmania’s situation was so desperate as a result of the 25 per cent increase in freights that we could not wait for the result of the Nimmo committee’s inquiry. We pre-empted its report to a certain extent. I only hope that we give Mr Justice Nimmo some guidance in what we have already done in introducing this $2m subsidy. It means that he will know about it. It may come into his consideration. But anyhow we have done it for better or for worse as far as the Nimmo report is concerned.
Once this Bill has passed through the Parliament the Government will be able to subsidise northbound freight from Tasmania immediately. The effect in Tasmania will be a $2 a ton subsidy. This is a wonderful way to help Tasmania in her shipping difficulties. Bass Strait is the beef road of the south, as it were, and freight carried across Bass Strait by ship deserves to be subsidised. Remember that the beef roads in northern Queensland were built with money from the Federal Government. Tasmania is only asking for what was received in the north when we ask for subsidisation of the Tasmanian freight. The Minister for Transport and the Prime Minister have virtually carried out the promises made at the 1972 and 1974 elections. I hope that when the Nimmo report is filed, presented and studied we may find the answer to Tasmania’s sea road problems for the next twenty or thirty years. I hope that this report will dig out all the anomalies and give the answers to them all. Mr Justice Nimmo has gone overseas to study freight rates on the shipping service from mainland Great Britain to Ireland for the purpose of writing into his report what other countries are doing in this field. I hope that as a result of this measure the Tasmanian shippers sending cargo out of Tasmania, the farmers, the manufacturers, the mineral interests and others will appreciate that something has been done that has not been done before. We have broken new ground, and the Minister earns our praise and thanks for his willingness to consider the proposition Tasmanian Labor members put up to him.
– in reply- The honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) raised 3 points on which he sought assurances which I am quite happy to give. Firstly I would like to correct one miscalculation on the estimated cost of the ‘Baron Cawdor’, which is the ship which will be operating in the Christmas Island trade. We estimate that the extra cost will be about $1.2m and not $3m to $4m as has been suggested. I thank the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly) for his contribution to this debate. I can assure him that as a result of his kind and gentle speech he will get a Christmas card this year. This Bill incorporates amendments dealing with financial provisions to entitle the Commission to be reimbursed for losses on services undertaken at my direction in accordance with section 17 of the principal Act. The proposed amendments are designed to bring the Act into line with legislation concerning other statutory authorities. The Public Accounts Committee, of which you were a member for many years, Mr Speaker, has advocated greater uniformity in the financial provisions for statutory authorities generally. Similar amendments were incorporated, for instance, in the 1971 amendments to the Overseas Telecommunications Act. That is the line being followed now and that is the basis for the amendments.
The honourable member for Gippsland sought some assurances with respect to clause 1 6. In some respect of paragraphs (a) and (b) he wants an. assurance concerning long term bond rates. I am happy to assure him and the Opposition that the Treasurer will lend money to the ANL on the long term bond rate. The Commission will be required to pay interest at not less than the long term bond rate on any money the Treasurer lends it. I shall be moving in the Committee stages to delete paragraph (c) of clause 16. The honourable member for Gippsland also sought an assurance with respect to clause 17 which permits the Commission to invest money not immediately required in any manner approved by the Treasurer. Honourable members will appreciate that in any well run business there are funds temporarily in hand which must be invested to maintain some return. The existing provisions of the Act are very restrictive and relate to fixed deposits, Commonwealth securities or loans upon the security of the Commonwealth. It is desired to put the Commission more on a par with business generally, but still under the Treasurer’s oversight. Honourable members may be assured that the Commission will not be allowed to grow into some sort of business octopus by some backdoor methods. It will be required to observe general business notions on temporary investment of surplus funds and to keep within the functions and powers set out in the Act.
The honourable member for Gippsland referred also to clause 18 which sets out the items properly chargeable against the Commission’s revenue. In bringing this part of the Act into line with legislation relating to other statutory authorities regard has been paid to other provisions in the Act. Expenditure charged against revenue must be properly chargeable. The Commission must keep proper accounts in accordance with accounting principles generally applied in commercial practice. The AuditorGeneral must report on whether the Commission’s accounts fairly show the financial operations of the Commission. The reports of the Commission and of the Auditor-General must be tabled. Honourable members may be assured that the Commission will not charge capital expenditure against revenue other than in accordance with the normal commercial practice of charging depreciation against revenue. I trust that the assurances I have given the Opposition on these proposed amendments are satisfactory and may save debate in the Committee stages.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 12- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 13 (Powers of Minister in relation to shipping services).
-This clause, as I explained during my second reading speech, will enable the Commission when undertaking a trade at the direction of the Minister for Transport, to obtain a subvention from the Treasury to offset any loss directly against that trade. Previously the Commission had to balance a loss in such trade against its profit in other trades. I believe there are inherent dangers in this proposal of a Minister- not necessarily the present Minister but a future Minister- as an act of political spite or because of a whim decided to direct the Australian National Line into a trade, because taxpayers’ money would be involved and the taxpayers, the Parliament and other Australian shipping companies should be protected. Therefore I move:
At the end of the clause add the following sub-section: ‘(5) The Minister shall cause a copy of any direction given by him under sub-section ( 1 ) to be laid before each House of the Parliament within IS sitting days of that House after the direction is made by him. ‘.
This amendment, if accepted, will make the matter public. There will be no way by which any future Minister can direct the Australian National Line to operate in a particular trade without such direction being made public and the reasons for the direction being known to the Parliament. I thank the Minister for indicating that he intends to accept this amendment.
– The Government accepts the amendment moved by the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon). We have no worries about making clear to the Parliament and to the people any direction given to the Australian National Line.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 14 and 15- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
Section 30 of the Principal Act is amended-
– I move:
Omit paragraph (c).
Clause 1 6 amends section 30 of the principal Act. Paragraph (c) proposed the omission of subsection (7) of section 30. This amendment was incorporated in the Bill because it was believed that sub-section (7) of section 30 was redundant. That sub-section provides that moneys borrowed by the Commission do not form part of the capital of the Commission. Section 29 of the principal Act provides that interest is not payable to the Commonwealth on the capital of the Commission. Although section 30 is clear and provides that interest will be paid on moneys which the Treasurer lends to the Commission it might be argued that the deletion of sub-section (7) would enable the Commission to treat borrowings as capital and so avoid payment of interest. In order to put the matter beyond doubt I move this amendment which will retain sub-section (7) of section 30 in the principal Act.
– I thank the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) for moving this amendment which is exactly the same as one I had proposed moving. It puts the matter in proper order. I also accept the Minister’s assurances in respect of paragraphs (a) and (b) of clause 16 which he gave in closing the second reading debate. The Opposition agrees to this amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 17 and 18- by leave- taken together.
-As I said during the second reading debate, clause 17 relates to the capacity of the Australian National Line to invest money ‘in any other manner approved by the Treasurer’ and I raised the possibility of the ANL being able to use large profits made by it as a means of nationalisation. I accept the assurances of the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) in this regard and I withdraw my objections to this clause. Clause 18 also presented a possible problem. I felt it gave the ANL the right to charge capital items against revenue. The Minister has given an assurance that this will not occur and therefore the objection is withdrawn.
Clauses agreed to.
Clause 19 (Proper accounts to be kept).
– I move:
After sub-section (3) of proposed section 36 insert the following sub-sections: “(4) The Commission is not a public authority for the purposes of paragraph (d) of section 23 of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936-1974. “(5) The Commission is not a public transport authority for the purposes of item 77 in the First Schedule to the Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Act 1935-1973”.
Clause 19 of the Bill amends section 36 of the principal Act to bring it more into line with other legislation on statutory authorities. Although the new section 36 in clause 19 says that the Commission is subject to taxation under the laws of Australia there is a loophole. This loophole is in the Income Tax Assessment Act and the Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Act. Unless the Bill is suitably amended the Commission will enjoy public authority exemption under these other 2 Acts. This was never the Government’s intention and results from an administrative oversight. The implications of the separate tax laws were not brought under notice until after the printing of the Bill. In order to rectify this omission from the Bill I have moved the amendment to deny the public authority taxation exemptions to the Commission. The Commission will accordingly continue to be liable for income and sales taxes.
-Again this comes very much to the fundamental complaint that I had and mentioned in my speech at the second reading stage. I am glad that the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) has seen the error that was, now I am told, apparently allowed to creep into the Bill. Part of the total package that gave me some concern was the competitive position in which Australian shipping companies would have found themselves against ANL had all these clauses remained as they were originally stated. It is quite wrong in principle, when there is a coastal shipping agreement, that ANL should be exempted from tax and other Commonwealth charges. I am delighted that the Minister has moved the amendment. The Opposition certainly agrees with it.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 20 to 22- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
Sections 33 (3), 39 (2), 44 (a), 44 (b) and 49 (4).
Sections 13 (4), 33 (3) and 39 (2).
– As a result of the amendments which have been agreed to it is necessary now to amend the Schedule. I move:
In paragraph 1 , before ‘33(3)’, insert ‘30(7),’.
This is only a drafting amendment, as I have already outlined. I also move:
In paragraph 2, after ‘ 1 3 ( 4), ‘, insert ‘ 30 ( 7 ), ‘.
Amendments agreed to.
Schedule, as amended, agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report- by leave- adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Charles Jones)- by leave- read a third time.
Debate resumed from 2 October (vide page 2057), on motion by Mr Charles Jones:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– May I have the indulgence of the House to raise a point of procedure on this legislation? Before the debate is resumed on this Bill I should like to suggest that it might suit the convenience of the House to have a general debate covering this Bill and the Tarcoola to Alice Springs Railway Bill as they are associated measures. Separate questions will, of course, be put on each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate. I suggest therefore, Mr Speaker, that you permit the subject matter of both Bills to be discussed in this debate.
-Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering the 2 Bills? There being no objection I will allow that course to be followed.
-In rising to debate these 2 Bills I should like to say that I appreciate the action of the former Minister for Shipping and Transport, the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon), in allowing me his position to speak in this debate. Had the honourable member spoken I would not have received any time in the debate. These two railway lines had their birth during the time that the honourable member for Gippsland was Minister for Shipping and Transport. We had the support in those days of another former Minister for Shipping and Transport, the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair). The Opposition does not oppose the passage of these Bills. It recommends the final bringing before the House of 2 Bills which relate to 2 very urgently needed railway links. On completion of the construction of these links the mainland State capitals will be connected by a standard gauge line.
I should also like to mention that this matter has now come to fruition after 2 years of hedging by the Labor Party in South Australia. In the 1972 Budget approval was given for the construction of the Tarcoola to Alice Springs section of this line at a cost of $54m. If I remember correctly, $3.2m was allocated for construction to commence at that time. It has taken 2 years for agreement to be reached between the Federal
Labor Party and the South Australian Labor Party. For that I do not think the Labor Party is to be commended. In fact I think that the blame may be laid at the door of Mr Dunstan, the South Australian Premier, who recently has been in the Northern Territory endeavouring to stir up some interest in a somewhat dead horse he was trying to drive up there. We are in favour of these proposals. As the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) said in his second reading speech, it will be a national undertaking. It will bring a tremendous benefit to those people in the north of South Australia and in the Northern Territory generally who rely on this line.
I have kept a note of the occasions on which I have spoken on this matter. It was very much before my notice when I first came into this House as a result of the 1966 election. I spoke on the matter on 9 occasions between 1 March 1967 and 19 September 1969. No doubt I continued speaking about it because it is a vital lifeline to the part of the world in which I live. In those days I was very ably supported by the then honourable member for Grey, Mr Jessop. He is now Senator Jessop. I very strongly contradict the remarks of the Minister for Transport in his second reading speech, when he especially went out of his way to emphasise that it was the Commissioner for Railways who took the initiative and not the Liberal-Country Party. Everyone knows that the Commissioner is a very keen railway man, an able man and a practical man, being able to drive his own engines and so on. Therefore the Commissioner would be interested in putting that railway line through. He had the plan and he saw the photographs of the railway lines twisted like some sort of snake round and round as they were by floods in those days. The lines have been subsequently wrecked by similar floods.
The Minister went out of his way to point out something which was not correct. In those days Mr Jessop and I, and close to 30 members of the Liberal-Country Party Transport Committee put a case very strongly to the then Government for the building of the line. No matter what Commissioner Smith had done in those days, had not the then Government sanctioned it it would not have taken place. We realised how urgent the project was. Although I commend the Minister for bringing this proposal into the House, it is nonsense for him to try to rubbish those people who commenced the planning for the construction of this line. I ask him: Who authorised the money for the survey and who cleared the tracks? An amount of $54m was approved for the construction of this line 2 years ago and $3.2m was voted for this proposal. I see that the project is liable to cost $ 145m and $2m has been voted for it. This does not add up to any money at all. In view of what has happened to the value of the Australian dollar during the past 2 years, if the Government continues spending money at this rate the line will be completed by the turn of the century, if then, but I would very much hope-
– That amount will cover the stamps.
-Yes, it might cover the cost of the stamps. But I hope there will be a vast increase in the spending on this line, otherwise it just will not be completed at all. Some other sort of transport system will be adopted before the railway line is completed between Tarcoola and Alice Springs.
In the days when we were examining this proposal everyone who was interested in railway transport and who relied on it virtually for thensurvival knew that the Finke River bridge had been carried away and there was just an embankment running across the bottom of the Finke River. If as much as 6 inches of water ran across it diesel locomotives could not cross the river. So the line was at a very serious disadvantage even with moderate rainfall. Of course the culverts and such things along the line were deteriorating. There was little or no ballast. Every time the ballast was washed away the railway workers- I am not decrying their efforts because they worked for months repairing the line during those years and are probably still working on it at this moment- just built up the embankment which is virtually just clay, bulldust or gibber soil construction. There is no real ballast on the line at all. So this line has been a must for a long time. That it is finally going to get under way now is a very good thing to hear.
It really hurts me to see the Minister adopting his present attitude. If he had a charitable attitude he would have said: ‘Yes, of course supporters of the previous Government assisted, planned and helped in the start of this line ‘. Back in 1 968 there was an investigation about whether the project should go ahead. In 1970 the surveys were approved and then, as I said, in 1972 money was voted for the construction- not that it ever took place. But the line has been in jeopardy ever since that day. At this moment the line is still out of order. Freight rates were increased from the first of the month and people have been waiting but the train has not arrived. I am talking about the train arriving at its final destination. It may have arrived at Oodnadatta or somewhere else. But what is happening to the perishables and the other goods on that train is anybody’s guess. In fact, I seem to remember the Premier of South Australia only the weekend before last buying a bottle of wine in Alice Springs that had been stored for months and months at the goods shed of the Commonwealth Railways. This very cheap wine which he bought at a very high price had been stored for so long that it was alleged to have matured. No doubt it took years to develop this brew which was then foisted on this person when he arrived in Alice Springs at a charity show.
This is what happens. I have personal experience of perishable goods which have been delayed on the line for so long that they have been completely useless when they have arrived at their destination. Yet the Minister for Transport made very scathing remarks about me being small-minded when I criticised the 40 per cent rise in freight rates for livestock, 33 per cent rise in freight rates for building materials and 10 per cent rise in freight rates for bulk fuel and so on when the railway service is not actually running at all. The people in the area cannot use the alternative of road transport because the roads in the area are under similar pressure and have been washed away, and in any case it is so expensive now to travel these roads, with the fuel subsidy having been taken away, that one begins to wonder about the whole transport situation in the Northern Territory.
I see that the line will take 5 years to complete. I think that is a pretty true estimate but I consider that the work on that line could have been 100 miles on its way now had it not been for the procrastination of the South Australian Premier. I think he should carry a lot of the blame for the fact that Central Australia especially the northern part of it, has been very severely disadvantaged by the railway line being out of order so often for so long, despite the fact that South Australia has such a tremendous commercial attachment to the Northern Territory. I would have thought this man surely would have a broader outlook on the national scene than to hold to ransom the people who do so much business with his State. But, as I said, I do not think the Australian Labor Party really worries about what happens to the people in outback places. I should like to remind the Minister for Transport of the 1971 Australian Labor Party federal conference in Launceston when it was resolved that the construction of this line was to be undertaken as a matter of urgency and that it would provide feeder services to the vast cattle raising resources of the Northern Territory and the western area of Queensland. That was contained in the policy arrived at that conference 3 years ago. I would hope that in conjunction with the building of this line someone would be looking at the survey and the planning of the lines which were mentioned in this Labor Party platform, and looking towards planning for the future. I am certain that the Commissioner for Railways, who as I said is a very keen railway man, will be very pleased to do some work along these lines.
I would say that not only should the railway line be built but the road, construction of which was justified by a survey back in 1970, 1 think, should be built at the same time. After all, the Prime Minister in a very grandiose manner in Alice Springs in the weeks before the last election declared that there would be a dual carriageway from Alice Springs to Port Augusta. We have seen little or no sign of this. I know someone will say: ‘Yes, but we have said that we are going to build a road from Erldunda’, but the road has not reached Erldunda yet. There has been no planning for it, there has been no Works Committee direction to evaluate it. Anyone can say these things in the same way as things were said at the Labor Party Conference in 1971 about building feeder services and all the rest of it. Let us see the hard facts. Let us see the Government allocate more than $2m a year to the construction of the line. As I said, 2 years ago very nearly twice as much money was voted for the construction. So let the Government get on with the line and with the planning for the future line and, since the Minister is at the table.the construction of the road which his Prime Minister promised only a few months ago. The only road construction that has been carried out is construction that was planned and voted for by the previous Government, as was most of the work on this railway line. The Opposition is pleased to have the line but we do not want the ballyhoo about having had nothing to do with the planning and construction of it.
– I should like to make a small contribution to this debate. First, I would like to take up some of the points made by the member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder), who blamed the South Australian Government for the delay of 2 years in the introduction of this Bill or the commencement of this railway. I think the honourable member is forgetting the time that had to elapse while the survey took place. He attacked the South Aus.tralian Premier, Mr Dunstan and blamed him for the delay. The South Australian Premier is responsible for looking after the interests of South Australia. When the Labor Government came to power an impasse existed between the South
Australian Government and the Commonwealth and that impasse was tied up partly with the fact that the Premier of South Australia wanted guarantees concerning the railway line that now runs from Port Augusta to Marree and which brings down the Leigh Creek coal. Leigh Creek coal is very important to South Australia. It fed the power houses in Port Augusta which at one time provided 75 per cent of the State’s power. Since the construction of new power houses in South Australia that percentage has dropped, but Leigh Creek coal is still a very big factor. It was announced recently that the South Australian Electricity Trust will probably build another coal fired power station in Port Augusta, which makes it very important that that line be kept open.
The South Australian Premier was defending his own State and defending one of his lifelines. As I said, when this Government came to power there was an impasse. The present Minister foi Transport (Mr Charles Jones) and Mr Virgo, the South Australian Minister for Transport, got together and were able to thrash out a solution to that impasse- I hope I had a small part to play in that- and as a result we have this Bill before us today. If there have been delays they have been quite genuine delays in that the people who were responsible were ensuring that everyone had a fair go. The member for the Northern Territory also condemns the Government because the line has not started yet. The Opposition was in power for 23 years and the flooding of the northern line did not start when the Labor Government came to power. The line has been flooded at times ever since it was built. The Opposition had every opportunity in those 23 years to do something about starting that line. That is all I wish to say about the speech of the honourable member for the Northern Territory.
In talking about the northern line we are talking about a line that has had a very checkered history. It started in South Australia as a South Australian Government line in the latter part of the last century and crept up bit by bit until it got to Oodnadatta in the 1920s. In 1926 the Commonwealth took over the north railway in South Australia and under the terms of an agreement reached at that time the line was extended to Alice Springs, reaching there in 1929. It was never really a first class line. It was light rail and had a narrow gauge track and was never really suitable, although it certainly played a big part in the development of the Northern Territory. It remained at that stage until the 1950s when, due to pressure from the South Australian Government to bring Leigh Creek coal down to the power houses it was building in Port Augusta, Commonwealth Railways built a broad gauge line from Port Augusta to the Leigh Creek coalfields and then extended that line on to Marree. Further north of Marree the narrow gauge track remains, and it is still that track that causes all the trouble. At the present time transfer facilities are required at Marree. Of course, I am not arguing with the member for the Northern Territory about the state of the track. I think we would all agree that it is not in a very good state and is out more times than it is in. The problem with the track is that it is on the eastern side of the watershed and the rivers when they flood completely cover the track. Over the last 2 years, probably the worst period in the history of the track, the line has been out for periods in excess of a month, 6 weeks and so on. In fact, it has just been out for over a week and I think the first train got through only yesterday.
– I think I saw a statement by the Chief Traffic Manager of Commonwealth Railways that the trains were moving yesterday. I have a particular interest in this new line because the greater part of it runs through my own electorate. I have been through that country on numerous occasions and I know what the conditions there are like. I know that the main reason for this line is the service it is going to give to the Northern Territory. I know it is essential and should have been constructed many years ago. When the South Australian Government handed the Northern Territory to the Commonwealth there was an agreement to put the northsouth Trans-continental Railway through. Unfortunately no time limit was put on the project and so we find ourselves in the position we are in today. I hope that when the line eventually gets to Alice Springs we will be in a position, while we have the material, the equipment and so forth available, to carry on and complete the promise given by the Commonwealth in 1910 to take the line right through to the north. As I said, this line will service mainly the Northern Territory. The Northern Territory has certainly had a bad time, particularly over the last 2 years, not only with railways but with roads being out for long periods of time. This line serves the northern areas of my electorate, such areas as the Coober Pedy opal fields. For engineering reasons I understand the line will not be going through Coober Pedy but will be passing within 20 miles of it and will give the people there at least an all-weather service that should obviate the problems they have had to face in the last 2 years when, like the railway, the road has been out for weeks at a time. The line will also bring the Northern Territory into the railway grid in that we will have a broad gauge line connecting all the capital cities and the Northern Territory. Of course, we hope that in years to come it will carry on to Darwin. Under the Government’s new national roads plan it is intended to seal the road from Port Augusta to the border. I understand that the road on the other side is practically all sealed but I am not quite sure on that point. We know that the line will be of a very high standard. Those who had anything to do with the Whyalla to Port Augusta railway line, which was completed a couple of years ago and which involved the use of the combination of a welded track with concrete sleepers and so forth, would know that a first-class piece of railway line was built. It is probably the best in Australia. With the use of those more modern techniques the railway line from Tarcoola to Alice Springs should be of the same high standard.
I would like to make a few remarks about the Adelaide to Crystal Brook linkup. Its construction will complete the linking of all the capital cities by a standard gauge line. This line is of great importance to South Australia, mainly because South Australia’s industries are predominantly consumer durables. Those industries rely on the eastern States for their markets. The breaks in the gauge have been a bit of a problem to South Australia in relation to the transport of its goods. Possibly it has been more of a problem to South Australia to transport goods to New South Wales than to Victoria, which has a 5 feet 3 inches gauge link-up with Adelaide. South Australia relies on the markets of the eastern States for the sale of its goods. At present the bogie exchanges at Port Pirie and Terowie are causing delays. The construction of this line will obviate the need for such an exchange.
Although the new line from Adelaide to Crystal Brook is going to be of great benefit, it is going to have an adverse effect on the city of Port Pirie. At present Port Pirie is an important railway junction. It has a bogie exchange, South Australian railway facilities, goods sheds and so forth. The construction of this line is certainly going to have some effect on the employment opportunities in the area. That will be unfortunate as the area is already experiencing stagnation as far as employment opportunities are concerned. As a result of the construction of this line Port Pirie will lose to a certain extent the employment opportunities that come with the railways. There have been conferences between the South Australian railway department, the
South Australian Minister for Transport, the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner for Railways and Commonwealth officers on what can be done to assist those people who could be displaced by the completion of this link. I certainly hope that consideration will be given in the future by the States and the Commonwealth to the effect that the completion of this line is going to have on the city of Port Pirie, and that in some way or another Port Pirie will be compensated for the loss in job opportunities that could come about.
I conclude by referring again to the construction of the line from Port Augusta to Marree in the 1950s and the use that was made of the Commonwealth Railways facilities at Port Augusta for the construction of bridges and all the other work that goes along with the building of a railway line. I think that everyone who had anything to do with that project would appreciate the very fine job that was done by the Commonwealth Railways employees in the construction of bridges. I certainly hope that in any construction work that is necessary for the Tarcoola to Alice Springs railway line full use will be made of the facilities at the Commonwealth Railways headquarters at Port Augusta. It can do the work. It has the expertise and it has proved in the past with the Port Augusta-Marree line that it can do the job. I hope that the Minister will take that into account in the allocation of work in relation to this project. That is about all I wish to say on this legislation. I fully support both Bills. I hope that once the Tarcoola to Alice Springs line gets to Alice Springs, conditions will be such that the line will be allowed to continue on to Darwin, which will be in line with the agreement reached between the Commonwealth and the State of South Australia in 1 9 1 0.
-I was sorry to see the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) drag his coat tail in the dirt when he gave credit in his second reading speech only to the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner for initiating the Tarcoola to Alice Springs railway line. I have great regard for the Commissioner, but I do not think it is worthy of the Minister to adopt such a rather cheap political attitude. When it comes to giving credit for doing things, particularly for the standardisation of railway lines, I would like to pay a tribute in this House to the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth). I was with him and other members of a parliamentary group which in the 1960s went along, firstly, the Adelaide to Port Pirie section worrying about the cost of the construction of such a railway line and the opportunities that it offered. We went then from Port Pirie to Broken Hill.
As a result of his splendid enthusiasm and drive- no one could deny those 2 qualities- the Melbourne to Albury railway line was eventually standardised. I remind the honourable member for Grey (Mr Wallis) that when he looks at his greens he should change the words ‘broad gauge’ to ‘standardised’. As a result of the enthusiasm of the honourable member for Mackellar the Albury to Melbourne railway line was standardised and then the Port Pirie to Broken Hill railway line was standardised, which was a tremendous achievement. It is one of the success stories. It has lived up very well to the economic prognostications, but it made inevitable the completion of the other link- that is, the Port Pirie to Adelaide- as a standardised line. Nearly all of this line runs through my electorate. I have been anxiously watching and helping where I can to bring this project to fruition because it is going to make a good deal of difference not so much to the country through which it will run but to the whole railway system. It will make it much more sensible and economic.
I am glad that the decision has been made to divert the present line to Red Hill and Crystal Brook. That seems to be a very sensible decision and I welcome it. I am glad that there is going to be a standardisation of the Snowtown to Wallaroo section. That will enable wheat to be taken to the Wallaroo terminal. I have no complaints about that part of the line. I think it is a splendid idea. The only problem that will arise is that the Gladstone to Wilmington section will be left out on a limb. The peculiar situation will then arise whereby a narrow gauge line will be coming into a standardised line. Anyone going on to Gladstone will have to go on to a broad gauge line. That will be a State government problem. I guess that a lot of planning will be done. How can the problem be overcome? I am afraid that one of the solutions is closure of the Wilmington to Gladstone section. It will probably be necessary eventually to close the Peterborough to Quorn section because it is hardly used- at least the Orroroo to Quorn section. Those are problems that will have to be overcome by the Government. I am not saying that they are going to be easily solved. They are problems, as the honourable member for Grey mentioned, facing particular towns and locations. I hope that both the State and the Federal governments will have these matters in mind- I have no doubt that they will- when they are doing the final planning.
No one should have any complaints about the Tarcoola to Alice Springs railway line. The present line, strangely enough, is nearly all in my electorate. The new line will be in the electorate of the honourable member for Grey. I recognise, however, that it is silly to fight for parochial reasons against the inevitable. It is a wise decision that there should be a change in the location of the line and that it should go to the other side of the watershed, thereby getting away from the very bad river crossings. But it will result in a particular problem arising. . It will leave William Creek-Oodnadatta right out on a limb. That area will not have any rail connection. They are not large towns. If one were to go through William Creek very quickly one would not see it.
The valuable cattle stations in this area have been supplying tremendous amounts of beef and they will be supplying this badly needed product for a long while to come. They are now supplying a great deal of beef to the Australian market. These stations will be isolated in a way that few other areas are isolated. They will not have a railway and there will almost be no road at all. It is inevitable that the line from Marree north to Alice will be closed. However, the line from Marree south, which of course is used by the coal trade from Leigh Creek south and also for the purpose of transporting cattle from the Birdsville Track, will have to be kept open because there is economic justification to do so. But there is no economic justification for keeping the line open north of Marree and so the railway will cease to operate in that direction. When that happens I hope that a real effort will be made to put in a decent sort of road system because, having taken away one of the lifelines of the people in that area, we ought to try to give them some kind of connection with civilisation. They will not have this unless something specific is done.
These are the questions that I want the Minister to have in mind. Again I would like to pay a tribute to the honourable member for Mackellar. Those of us who have travelled with him know that he is even harder on others than he is on himself, and that is saying a good deal. He drove the standard rail gauge committee, as it was then, round Australia relentlessly but to some purpose.
– I thank the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly) very much for what he has just said. It definitely gives me some satisfaction to see the last standard gauge link between the capitals completed and to see Port Pirie which used to be a 3-gauge town coming down to a one gauge town. It will be a better arrangement for the people of Port Pirie even if, as the honourable member for Grey (Mr Wallis) said a moment ago, there is some restriction in employment.
We are talking about 2 lines in the legislation before us- the standardisation from Port Pirie into Adelaide and the new line up from Tarcoola to Alice Springs following generally the headwaters of the creeks rather than the low points as it does now. These lines, taken together, are important links that will give a direct link from Adelaide to Perth without change of gauge. They will also give a link from Broken Hill into Adelaide without change of gauge. This is important because Broken Hill looks to Adelaide a great deal. The scheme will give a direct link without change of gauge from Alice Springs to Adelaide and the main standard gauge system. It will give a link from Marree into Adelaide, and that is important because of the cattle which will come down the Birdsville Track. It will give a direct link from Whyalla to Adelaide and that may be important to some extent, having regard to the steel mills at Whyalla. So the scheme before us- fills one of the missing links and at the same time gives a standard gauge connection from the centre of Australia to the main centres in the south and the east.
But there is still one missing bit, and that is of course the standard gauge between Melbourne and Adelaide. The standardisation of this line may not be a matter of great urgency because of the development of bogie change methods which give a fair efficiency, but not a satisfactory result for bulk goods. It would I think be very difficult to justify the standardisation of this link unless we were at the same time thinking of restructuring on a standard gauge the broad gauge system of Victoria and South Australia. As honourable members will recall those States now use the broad gauge system of 5 feet 3 inches whereas the standard gauge is 4 feet %Vi inches. It looks as if it would be easy to standardise all of the lines. It would not be terribly difficult to standardise the whole system, but if one wanted to do this one would be faced with 2 problems. The first is the problem of the Melbourne suburban system and the second is the problem of changing the gauge on rolling-stock, some of which has been built for a change of gauge but much of which is incapable of quick conversion. So on the whole I would think that, unless one is prepared to look at the whole of the broad gauge systems and at the same time perhaps rationalise them by closing redundant lines and redundant stations, it would not be economic at this stage to think of the standard gauge from Melbourne to Adelaide. As I have said, this is the missing link and it certainly deserves further studies.
We are not interested in the past; we are interested in the future. There are just one or two remarks that I would like to make. I have already spoken about the missing link between Melbourne and Adelaide where there is a case to be made out and further study to be undertaken. But I do not believe that we should be doing this except as part of a major plan to standardise the whole of the broad gauge systems and at the same time close redundancies in them. The honourable member for Wakefield has already mentioned the Wilmington and Gladstone troubles and the troubles from Peterborough to Orroroo and Quorn. If these lines are to remain open, and it may well be that they should remain open- I do not know and I do not express any opinion on that- and if there are to be rail connections with these towns I would think that the right thing to do would be to standardise from Gladstone through Wilmington and into Quorn and then to. close the redundant line from Orroroo into Quorn. I think this might be done quite effectively. It would be a reasonable way of solving the difficulty. However, I do not say that this is necessarily the best way of solving the problem.
Consideration should also be given to the extension of the standard gauge north from Alice Springs to Darwin. At present with the road through from Alice Springs towards Darwin this rail link probably is not justified unless- and I want to underline the word ‘unless’- there be major mineral developments north of Alice Springs. It may well be that minerals that need massive transport might be discovered in the Tennant Creek and adjoining areas. If this happened we would then have a real reason and justification for extending the line north from Alice Springs. This might come at any time. It is country which potentially at any rate is rich in minerals. The big lodes have not turned up in this area as yet but they well may. We could be thinking overnight of a change of strategy in regard to the railway line. The line northwards from Alice Springs either to or towards Darwin might become economically viable overnight. We have a first class line southwards from Marree into Port Augusta. This is an important line particularly because it picks up the southern end of the Birdsville Track. The Birdsville Track has recently been reconstituted but not very successfully I fear in its southern sections where there was a tendency in the early days to minimise the earth works. But the northern sections- the track does not go right through to Birdsville yet; there is still a 100-rrule gap- have been pretty satisfactorily done. There is a major trouble there with the crossing of the Cooper River. The Cooper is a major stream when it floods. It does not flood very often but it is flooding now and it will tend to close the Birdsville Track from time to time. I cannot quite see how bridges could be justified to take the very occasional but major flooding which comes down the Cooper. It would be fairly easy to have the Birdsville Track which would be open perhaps for 95 per cent of the time but which would close every now and again and perhaps for a considerable time when the Cooper came down in flood and as honourable members know, it comes down in very considerable flooding from time to time.
I do not think there is much point in talking about extending the line north from Marree on the eastern side of Lake Eyre unless there be major mineral discoveries in the area. These are sedimentary basins rather than basins with old rocks. Perhaps mineral discoveries are less likely but the possibility of oil and gas in that basin is always there. But even if you went north you would have to have the very considerable trouble of getting across the Cooper. If I remember correctly, Sir Harold Clapp in his report did envisage this being done although a little bit to the east of this position. It can be done. I doubt whether it would be economic to do it even though it would have the attraction of bringing a rail connection through to those lines which come west in Queensland and at the present moment are dead ends. On the whole one does not envisage anything much north of Marree. But one does envisage the Birdsville Track being improved and the cattle yard and transhipment facilities at Marree being very much improved not between narrow gauge and standard gauge rail as they are today but between road and rail standard gauge south particularly to the Adelaide cattle markets.
Finally let me agree with the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly) who said that we should be looking at the question of the roads. The Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) said, and said very rightly, that we have to get a much better road from Alice Springs southwards. On this I would be absolutely in agreement. I am not certain that we should put the road as far to the west as we are putting the railway. With the railway where one needs to have virtually 100 per cent availability and where rail structures crossing rivers are always vulnerable I think there is a very good reason for putting the railway to the west at the headwaters of the creeks. I agree entirely that the right decision has been made. I am not so certain that the road should go as far to the west.
As honourable members will know, the country in this area gets very boggy but if the road were raised only a little above the surface the clay and the loam which is piled up and as it is consolidated will hold its shape very well indeed and will not go boggy. This would not have been practicable until we had heavy earth moving equipment. But today when we have heavy earth moving equipment it is a relatively simple thing to put the road fairly high up above the general level of any flooding. To the west of Lake Eyre as opposed to the east we do not get the long floods coming down like we get down the Cooper. We may get a very considerable flash flood from time to time but that is all and the amount of water moving over the surface is not usually very great. It is sometimes very concentrated but not very great and it does not maintain itself for very long. So if one considers a road on an embankment which is passable all the time and wide concrete dish crossings it may be- I do not say more than ‘may’; I just ask for heavy survey work to be done- that the best way to take the road as opposed to the new railway line would be virtually along the line of the present road and railway. That is to say, use the road from Marree or perhaps from a point not very far to the west of Marree. It is a matter of detailed survey.
I do not think we should make ourselves the victims of old thinking which was good thinking at the time when you did not have heavy earth moving equipment. But now that we have heavy earth moving equipment it seems to me that the best way for the road might well be more or less along the line of the existing road. I say this because the road from Adelaide up to Marree is not a perfect road by any means. It gets a bit muddy and greasy as the honourable member for Wakefield would know. Indeed, I have driven over it myself when it has been at its very worst. But it is a road which would not take a tremendous amount of work to improve it and which would, I think, justify some improvement. It might be most economical to take the highway up in this direction.
I put this to the House not as a tremendously firm view but as something that I believe is very much worth while investigating. Honourable members will know that there is a proposal to come westwards from Broken Hill to Silverton and across the ranges- I think many of them may know the track- directly and to come in near Leigh Creek. If this were done this would give us the best kind of highway system with the minimum expenditure. From a national point of view it may well be that the right road from Adelaide and Melbourne to Alice Springs would pass through Broken Hill and go from there westwards across the range to Leigh Creek and then up via Marree and the line of the existing road. This might well prove to be the most economical way of carrying out the whole roads system and it would give the direct connection from Sydney across to Alice Springs which in itself is a very desirable thing to have. I just ask for a careful examination of the whole position in the light of the changed circumstances which have occurred by reason of the very desirable proposal which I think a past government made and which this Government has adopted of re-routing the railway to the west- Tarcoola to Alice Springs. I thank the House.
– in reply- I will be very brief. I express my appreciation to the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth). When he talks on railways and related transport matters he is always worth listening to. I wish I could say the same for the rest of his speeches.
– Do not be nasty.
-I am not being nasty. Everyone knows that to be a statement of fact. On railways he is particularly good, and I will look at the points he has raised, because like him I am interested in transport and anxious to make sure we have the best form of transport in this country. We have a large country with a small population and long distances to cover. Therefore, when people put forward propositions that are worthy of consideration, I think they should be examined, and that is what I propose to do.
I was interested in the remarks of the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder). He claimed to have made 9 speeches between 1963 and 1969 on this subject. The former Government, which was in office for 23 years, did not take much notice of him, did it, Mr Deputy Speaker? It did not take any notice of him whatsoever on that score. The same thing could probably be said about the former honourable member for Grey. It was when the present honourable member for Grey (Mr Wallis) exerted an influence on what was taking place that things started to happen.
We have heard a lot of talk about what the former Government was going to do. As I have said so often, it was a team of ‘gonna’s’. It was always ‘gonna’ do something but it never got around to it. In 16 months the Minister for Transport in South Australia, Mr Virgo, and I were able to straighten out the problems that existed between the South Australian and Australian Governments in relation to the TarcoolaAlice Springs railway and also the standardisation of the line from Adelaide to Crystal Brook. I give due credit to Geoff Virgo for the manner in which he went about the task. We both set about finding solutions where there were hold-ups, and we found them. The result was that in April of this year we reached agreement on these 2 issues. The result is that today there is a Bill before the House for which we are seeking the approval of the Opposition. It is obvious the Bill will go through without opposition because everyone has spoken in favour of it. The former Government was going to do it. We did it. That is the whole sorry story of the Liberal and Country Parties’ 23 years in government.
The question of the amount of money that has been allocated was raised. The advice given to me was that that is the maximum amount that can be spent in this financial year. That is what will be spent, and if there is any need for any more money to be allocated, we will ask the Treasurer (Mr Crean) for it and I am certain it will be forthcoming. Mention was made of continuing the railway line north of Alice Springs. As the Tarcoola-Alice Springs line is nearing completion a study will be conducted, for which sufficient time will be allowed, to determine the economics of continuing the line north from Alice Springs. That assurance has been given previously by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and by me, and I give it again. When the job has to be done we will determine what shall be done by way of a detailed study by the Bureau of Transport Economics.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Charles Jones) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 2 October (vide page 2058), on motion by Mr Charles Jones:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Charles Jones) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 2 October, 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 crises, 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,
5 ) living standards will be lowered,
private enterprise is stifled,
Government power is further centralised,
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 States 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. ‘
– In order to get this Budget debate into some sort of context it is important to go back to when the Labor Government came into office at the end of 1972. It inherited an economy which was buoyant and healthy, with an inflation rate of less than 5 per cent, which was about the average that had occurred during the 23 years of Liberal-Country Party government. Employment opportunities, after difficulties in 1971 and early 1972, were substantial. National overseas credits were in first class order, productivity was lifting, and national expectations were so high that had the Liberal-Country Party Government continued we could have looked forward to a golden decade. Indeed, the national economy was in a position in which it could insulate the nation against problems that were emerging throughout the world. We are aware that there are inflationary problems in many countries and particularly amongst our trading partners, but we were in a position substantially to insulate ourselves, even though we could not isolate ourselves from those problems.
Of course we saw at the end of 1972 a stage production and a slick campaign, and the Labor Government came into office. A small majority of Australians, but apparently enough, decided to run the risk of accepting a superficial appeal that perhaps it was time for a change. After 23 years of security a small number of Australians apparently forgot that in the Labor platform, with high priority, is the democratic socialisation of industry, production, distribution and exchange. Well they know today that that is very important in Labor’s tenets and platform. We did not have to wait very long to see signs of Labor’s dangerous experiments. First of all we had an upward revaluation of the currency, and that of course led to a decision that occurred only a few weeks ago. We saw an across the board cut in tariffs. Nobody on the Liberal-Country Party side of this House argues that we can isolate ourselves from world trade. Nobody argues that we can take a completely independent line. We are part of the world trading pattern, but the manner in which these tariffs cuts occurred, without any selectivity at all, has caused a tremendous problem in many of the key industries within this nation. If ever a problem emerged, of course Labor’s answer to it was: ‘Let us set up another bureaucratic machine’. So we saw the establishment of a tremendous number of commissions and committees and a substantial increase in the Public Service. The disintegration of the sound economic base of Australia started very early in January 1973.
We move towards the 1973 Budget. We cannot look at the 1974 Budget without recognising the dangerous decisions that were implemented in the 1973 Budget. At a time when restraint ought to have been shown by the Treasurer (Mr Crean) we had a Budget which increased government expenditure by nearly $2,000m. Taxation was increased, particularly for private companies. Investment allowances and incentives diminished and decreased. All industries were affected adversely- the manufacturing, mining and rural industries- and Labor, of course, selected the rural industries for a particularly severe belt. Labor’s obsession with socialisation led to an irresponsible Budget in 1973. Of course when the Government showed no restraint a year or so ago what did it expect the trade union movement to do? We saw wage demands sought by militant trade unions which used their muscle to hold the nation to ransom. Leading Ministers of the Government encouraged militant trade unions in their demands for excess wages without any regard for the nation’s capacity to pay and without any regard for productivity. We saw a tremendous increase in industrial disputes. Can anybody forget during the slick campaign of 1972 the then Opposition saying: ‘We have some industrial disturbance within Australia but put us into government; we understand the trade union movement. It is the base of our Party. We will be able to negotiate and consult with them. There will be a greater degree of industrial peace. ‘
-That is what Mr Cameron said.
– That is what he, Mr Whitlam and a lot of leading members of the then Opposition said. Everybody knows that there has been increasing industrial disputation with great cost to the nation. The system of conciliation and arbitration has been undermined. Is it any wonder that the economy started to slide pretty heavily towards the end of 1973 and even more so as we moved into 1974? Not long after a year in office inflation officially hit a rate of 14 per cent, which was 3 times the rate that occurred when the Government came into office. Any businessman will admit that the actual rate was not 14 per cent but, because of the huge wage demands and increases, was closer to 20 per cent as we moved into 1974. Employment opportunities were fewer. That is the kindest way I can describe the circumstances of earlier this year. Overseas reserves were starting to diminish at an alarming rate and by stealth a credit squeeze was emerging because of this Government’s attitude through the Reserve Bank to the trading banks. Interest rates started to climb. On top of this there was a worsening problem in the Western democracies with regard to the liquidity of the oil crisis. This Government’s policies made sure that exploration for oil had substantially diminished throughout this nation.
From a position of confidence in 1972 we moved to uneasiness in 1973 and a very real need for concern by 1974. It will be remembered only too well that the Opposition at that time consistently warned the Government of the dangers ahead of it. It consistently warned the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), his Treasurer and his leading Ministers that they were heading this nation for economic disaster. Policies which were espoused consistently by the Opposition were ignored and in the end we had to take a vital decision and so an election was forced in May of this year because the nation realised and the Opposition realised the dangerous trends that were occurring. In the May election we again saw false claims- deceitful claims- by the Prime Minister and his Ministers. Will the nation ever forget during the May election the Prime Minister saying: ‘It appears as if we are starting to get on top of our problems. The inflation rate is slowing down. Do not take any notice of the Opposition. Everything is going to be all right. Employment opportunities will grow again and productivity will be up. Let us be confident.’ That is what the Prime Minister said. Regrettably- this time a much smaller number of Australians decided to trust him- the Labor Party scraped home with a very narrow majority. Its majority was substantially reduced in this chamber and it failed to gain a majority in the Senate. I hope the Prime Minister will remember that we now have a contemporary Parliament. He spoke about this matter before the last election. He was then terribly concerned that some members of the Senate had been elected some years before. He wanted a contemporary Parliament. He now has one and I hope he does not complain if that contemporary Parliament arrives at decisions which are not to his liking at some time in the future.
One would have thought that after the May elections a rebuked Government would have sensed and learned something from the electorate warning, but this was not so. We came back after the last elections to find the Government preoccupied with its socialist health Bills- we all know the problems they are creating within the medical and nursing professions- and obsessed with its electoral Bills because what the Government wants to do is get electorate redistributions through so that it can continue its havoc with the Australian economy somewhat less impaired than it is now. Can anybody forget the statements, not just by the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister (Dr J. F. Cairns) and the Treasurer, but right down the line with Minister after Minister as we moved towards the Budget of 1974, starting to give their ideas as to how inflation would be handled? Even the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Bryant) decided to throw in his little prescription for it. Divisive and divided government was so obvious as we moved towards the Budget of this year.
Let us consider the background of the documents which the Treasurer tabled in the House a few weeks ago. Inflation is now moving at 20 per cent and, regrettably, is certain to get worse. Unemployment problems are increasing so much that we now have the highest rate of unemployment for almost 30 years. It is likely to get worse. I have deep concern for the educated young people who will be leaving school later this year. Our overseas reserves are being diminished so substantially that this nation will get back to having a balance of payments problem within 12 to 18 months. Is it not regrettable that after all the problems of the 1940s and 1950s and with the golden 1960s when we were able to build up our overseas credits, through the policies of this Government we should now be facing a balance of payments within 18 months on top of all the internal domestic problems we have? Interest rates are the highest they have been in Australia for decades. There has been a severe impact upon housing. How many people today can afford a house even if finance is available to them? This Government’s policy has ensured that the average Australian on an average income cannot become a home owner in his lifetime. It is an indictment of this Government to have managed to have achieved this situation in le$s than 20 months in office.
– I reckon it is making a mess of the economy.
-One gets that impression. One gets the impression that if the Budget of 1973 was irresponsible, the Budget of 1974 was wicked, and regrettably wilfully wicked from the viewpoint of some members of the Government.
-What about the Budget of 1 975?
-I do not like to think of this Government introducing a Budget next year. One hopes that the 1975 Budget will be introduced by a government different from this one. We have seen an increase of government expenditure- not $2,000m which we saw in 1973- to $4,000m. Government expenditure is getting bigger and better even as our inflationary rate grows. The Budget documents indicate that wages will increase by more than 20 per cent and productivity by only 2 per cent. Is that a prescription for growth? It is a prescription for disaster. The private sector is bashed again but this time not only industry is affected. It is a personal type of bashing. The surcharge on so-called unearned income is one of the unfairest pieces of legislation any government could consider. It is iniquitous. I am pleased that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) and Opposition spokesmen have made it perfectly clear that in government the Opposition would not have a bar of it. It is not unearned income. If the average Australian saves money to invest, the income from that money is earned as much as any income from personal exertion.
Tax deductions for education are being substantially diminished. The Government wants to take away from many parents the right to choose to send their children to private schools. A lot of people- not wealthy people- make sacrifices in order that their children can attend independent schools. This Government is determined to make it difficult for church and independent schools to survive.
I refer also to the capital gains tax. We have yet to hear all about it. There is only one thing for sure and that is that what has been told to us by now will ensure increased penalties for people at death. This is the socialist way. This is, of course, the destructive way. Is it any wonder there was an uneasiness in 1973, concern in 1974 and now just plain fear by the electorate as to what this Government can do next?
– The honourable member for Wilmot may interject. I imagine that at the Caucus meeting tomorrow morning- when the Labor Party members are let loose- there will be more interjectors than are here now. Dangerous experiments have become disastrous policies. Of course Government supporters are sensing it. They go home to their electorates knowing that time is running out. The Caucus has become mutinous and is now trying to take over the Government. Relations are strained so much between the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), the Ministers and the supporters of the Government that indeed the Labor Government is virtually at breaking point. The Prime Minister heads off overseas after insulting his own colleagues; the Treasurer (Mr Crean), who is not of much consequence anyway in economic affairs, goes abroad; the Deputy Prime Minister (Dr J. F. Cairns) goes to see his great friends in China. The nation is left leaderless and confidence is further sapped and eroded. What an achievement in 20 short months. I cannot grasp the lack of commonsense by Labor members.
There are a number of reforms which are desirable and which we would all want to see achieved. But surely Labor Party members can accept that if there are to be reforms they have to be paid for. Why does the Government detract from private enterprise that generates the real wealth of this community and make it impossible for productivity to enable any government to finance sensibly and without inflation desirable reforms? Initiative should be encouraged. Is it any wonder that the Leader of the Opposition moved the amendment that he did?. This Government needs to take action to restrain its own spending, to throw out the iniquitous surcharge on so-called unearned income, to restore the deductions for taxation purposes for education expenses, to show some strength with the trade unions and to uphold the conciliation and arbitration system. For heavens sake, get the productivity of this nation up. A rate of 2 per cent will not see any substantial growth. Encourage industry, encourage private enterprise and learn to live with it. Do not try to kill it. Restore some sort of confidence in government by the community. If the Labor Government does not take the action which will be necessary then in my view- this is a personal view- the amendment does not go far enough. If the economy continues to drift in the way it has for 20 months my view and my wish would be that the Opposition may well find it necessary to take more drastic action to force upon this Government the simple true facts of economic life.
-The honourable member for McPherson (Mr Eric Robinson) has continued in the same theme of doom and gloom that has characterised the Opposition’s attack on this Budget right from the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) at the outset of the debate on the Budget. We are told that somehow or other the people of Australia made a big mistake. What is more they were guilty of making it twice in pretty quick succession. We are told by those people who know everything that we inherited an economy that was the best that could be found probably in the world.
– Look at Leyland.
-Never mind Leyland. The honourable member should look at a publication called ‘Poverty in Australia’ which was published at the beginning of 1973. It refers to the fact that after 23 years of Liberal-Country Party Government about one million people in this country were living in what is called either ‘very poor’ or ‘rather poor’ circumstances. Honourable members can take their choice. Honourable members opposite tell us those were the golden years of Liberal-Country Party rule.
On the other hand we are criticised for being socialists. I do not know to what socialism refers, but if it refers to the injection of a substantial amount of money into the starved education system of this country, we stand guilty of being called socialists. If we are socialists because we are now injecting- honourable members opposite have just approved this- monumental amounts of money into the public transport system of this country, we stand condemned and happily so for doing that. If we are socialists because we are going to do something substantial about the health facilities of this country, I think a lot of people will be darned pleased that we are socialists if this is what socialism means. I wonder whether the honourable member for McPherson and his colleagues also class it as socialism when they plead for the retention of subsidies for affluent groups in the community. Some of those people who did not need help were getting help at the behest of the Country Party particularly while it was in office.
We are supposed to have created inflation. We are the people who are responsible for the shortage of goods and services. I wonder whether members of the Opposition will take the time for a few minutes to look at the current report of the Reserve Bank of Australia. The report is dealing with productivity, to which the honourable member for McPherson referred. The report states: ‘
Business fixed investment provided considerable stimulus to demand early in 1973-74. After falling for the best part of 2 years -
During the regime of Liberal-Country Party governments- . . . business fixed investment had shown positive signs of recovery only towards the end of 1972-73, well after most other forms of spending had turned firmly upwards.
Do members of the Opposition want the community to forget what happened in 1971? Do they want the community to forget what happened in 1961, 1966 and 1971 when we had the cycles of deliberately created downturns in employment, downturns in productivity and instances of industries languishing for orders. These are the kinds of trends in the economy that we inherited and we have set about trying to rectify them. We have invited the States and private enterprise to join with us in co-operative effort to overcome these kinds of things that have upset the economy not only of this country but also of other countries.
It is notable when we are talking about inflation that, according to the same report of the Reserve Bank of Australia food prices rose by 2 1 per cent in Australia in 1973 and were responsible for 47 per cent of the increase in the consumer price index. Why did food prices rise? They rose for a number of reasons. They rose for the one good reason that this Government opened up new markets around the world for our primary produce. Meat prices soared. Do honourable members opposite not remember the high prices? Do they not remember also that wool prices started to recover and that prices for various types of minerals also rose? Food prices- grain products, meat and other commodities rose substantially. I do not blame primary producers who took advantage of the world market position that then occurred. So, as I said, one item causing the increase in the consumer price index in 1973 was a 47 per cent increase in food prices alone. That had a selfgenerating effect. Of course employees, having to meet these increased domestic prices for foodstuffs, wanted their wages increased. Then of course there was the heavy incidence of floods. Those who have served on the Public Accounts Committee with me have listened to evidence of the dislocation that occurred in public works because of the floods. Such dislocations also occurred and did great damage in the primary producer sector of this community. That again aggravated the food price situation.
Then there was the land speculation, the land boom. Is that to be forgotten? There was an indecent land boom in Australia, and even young people bought a block of land not to build a home on it but as a speculative device. They saved $1,000- money was easy to borrow in the last 6 months or so of the McMahon Government in its desperate efforts to try to retain office in 1972, and credit was readily available. So these people, young and old alike, found that the best way of making money was to buy land and then to resell it within a matter of months and make as much as $ 1 ,000 or more in the bargain.
The Rae committee, presided over by a member of one of the Opposition parties, noted what happened on the stock exchange- the indecent speculation- corruption I call it- that went on on the stock exchange. Even the stock exchange itself is now taking measures to penalise some of the people who were responsible for cheating so many people of their life savings. These are some of the reasons why the Opposition was turned out of government and why the economy was not in quite the ship-shape order the previous speaker would have us believe. The money supply rose by 26 per cent in 1972-73. Most of that rise took place in the first 6 months of that financial year, during the last 6 months of the Liberal-Country Party regime. These are some of the symptoms of the economy and the state of affairs that we inherited and why the people turned the previous Government out of office in 1972 and why they repeated their action in support of the Australian Labor Party Government in 1974.
All sorts of accusations are made about this Government. I wonder what about some of the State governments and what they have done, what their contribution has been to helping us in getting over this inflation problem. Not only did the State Liberal and Country Party governments, along with their cohorts in this place, help to defeat the referendum that proposed to give the Australian Government the power to control prices and incomes last year, but they also have now gone further and have levied extravagant charges on goods and services, which in every case will make it even more difficult for whatever government happens to be in power in this Australian Parliament to control inflation.
Just take my own State of New South Wales. The latest Budget introduces a 6c a gallon increase on the price of petrol. Just imagine the contribution that will make towards combating inflation! These are the people who want to teach us how to combat inflation. A lot of other charges have been introduced which I would not have time now to enumerate, but they will all be loaded into the cost structure. These are the people who are supposed to offer us co-operation in combating inflation. I hope they can give us a better example than they have done. These charges have not been introduced because we have starved them of funds as they would have us believe. Statement No. 1 of the Budget papers shows that in 1973-74 the States were provided with $4, 179m, which represented a 2 1.2 per cent increase on the amount of money provided in the previous financial year, during half of which year the Liberal-Country Party Government was in power. If that was not a good contribution, look at what this Budget provides for the States and local government bodies- an increase of almost 40 per cent. This amounts to $5,800m, nearly double the percentage increase.
But the State governments have not always chosen to take up the offers made by this Government any more than they chose always to take up the offers by our predecessors. A lot of money that has been available has not been taken up, notably in New South Wales and in Queensland and to some lesser extent in Victoria. Then they have the hide to say that we are starving them of funds. Look at the amount of money that has been provided to the States for their own purposes by way of grants and Loan Council borrowings. Look at it in terms of per capita grants over the years, not just this year. In 1959-60 the States were given, in round figures, $64 per head of population. In 1964-65 that figure was raised to $85 per head. In 1969-70- getting towards the end of the Liberal-Country Party regime of almost a quarter of a centurythe figure was raised to $127 per head of population. But in 1973-74, the last year for which figures are available in respect of per head grants, the figure had risen from the $127 of 1969-70 to $249 in 1973-74. This is an indication of what this Government has done with money for the States and local government bodies. Yet they cry poor mouth and say they have to put up these extravagant charges while on the other hand we have offered them money for hospitals, education and for transport and they have not taken those offers up. We have offered them money for a variety of social welfare purposes and again some States, particularly New South Wales and Queensland and to a lesser extent, I think, Victoria, have not taken up these offers and the people go without. We have even offered not only to subsidise hospitals in the various States but to build and to maintain a major Commonwealth hospital in each of the three of our most populous cities, Sydney in New South Wales, Melbourne in Victoria and Brisbane in Queensland. Yet these States are still debating whether they will take up our offer. The same applies in respect of public transport and a variety of other services.
What of the formula for grants to the States that we are operating on? Who created this formula by which grants are made to the State governments and to the local government bodies? As the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) answered me in reply to a question on 26 September, the grant formula was designed by the Gorton Government during its term in office. The Treasurer at that time was the right honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon). That formula took account of inflation. So it is no good the Opposition saying: ‘Oh, yes, you give grandiose figures for what you are giving but it is inflated money.’ The formula took account of inflation- a formula designed by our predecessors and not changed, as I was reminded by the present Prime Minister, by Mr McMahon when he was the Prime Minister of Australia. But we have gone beyond that formula. We have made a number of other offers of grants of money many of which were not taken up last year because complementary legislation was not enacted, particularly by the non-Labor State governments.
Further grants have even been made as late as last week when the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson) offered, I think, $75m extra for housing on top of the greatly increased housing grant that was made to the States early in the year, particularly stipulating that the funds should go to the lower and middle income earning groups in the community. These are the people who were and unfortunately still are paying exorbitant rents in many cases and paying high interest rates. My prediction, for what it is worth, is that interest rates are starting to come down and by the first quarter of next year I personally expect that interest rates will come down somewhat. Meanwhile, the Government has provided in this Budget relief measures for home owners or intending home purchasers by way of the rebate scheme it has put into the taxation schedule. It has also made money available in record amounts to the housing commissions of the States. It has made money available in record amounts to the terminating building societies. These measures are all going to help the home owners for whom the previous speaker was so concerned. Apart from that, the Government has set aside $25m for a national authority which it is creating to help in providing homes at reasonable rates, particularly for people in the lower and middle income groups.
Time will not allow me to enumerate all the very good things contained in this Budget. For instance, I could have referred to the amount of $ 1,535m that is provided for all levels of education, an all time record amount. Last year a substantial increase was provided; this year the amount goes up by 78 per cent. I am particularly glad to see that within the context of the education grant the amount for disadvantaged schools, which were so neglected by our predecessors, has increased from last year’s generous grant of $6,650,000 to $18,430,000, a threefold increase. In the case of schools for handicapped children the amount has again almost trebled by similar figures to those to which I have already referred. Reference has been made to what the Government is supposed to have done to the disadvantage of the non-state schools. The grant to non-government schools in the States has gone up this year from $70m, in round figures, to $120m, an increase of $50m. Into the bargain, we have also made provision in the tax scheme to give particular benefit to single income families and with special emphasis on larger sized families. This is a further instalment of the education grant. The grant in 1972 for children in, say, a regional Catholic primary school of $50 per head has gone up to $ 163; it has trebled. Nothing like that ever happened under a Liberal government. Nothing like that has happened under certain State governments. In my view, the New South Wales State Government has earned undeserved praise, disproportionate praise, for what it has done compared with what this Government is doing. As far as secondary schools are concerned, the per capita grant for regional nonGovernment schools has gone up from $68m in 1972 to $260m in 1974-1975.
There is a whole catalogue of benefits in this Budget As far as I am concerned, what has been done for technical education is absolutely tremendous and will contribute greatly to the future productivity of this country. Our future wealth is not to be measured in terms of dollars and cents but in terms of the social, cultural, intellectual and physical needs of this society.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Berinson)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– May I ask the member for Barton (Mr Reynolds) why he is so anti-State? Why does he hate the States so much? Is it because the States are seen to be standing out against the centralist, socialist policies of this Labor Government? Is that why it is? I ask him. We heard a lot of ranting and raving about indecent speculations and profits being made and all that sort of thing. What about the current situation? What about unemployment, which today has reached a 28-year peak? The number of unemployed in Australia today is the highest since World War II. The actual number of unemployed is 124,400 and the seasonally adjusted figure is 159,358. These figures appear in today’s Melbourne ‘Herald’. Today’s figures show that on the new system 2.04 per cent of the labour force is out of work, and here the honourable member for Barton is ranting and raving about figures, not facts. The inflation rate is running from 20 per cent to 22 per cent, and what is this Government doing about it? Nothing. It is prepared to see the inflation rate rise and the unemployment rate rise.
Previous speakers such as the honourable member for Barton and other Labor members who have spoken in this debate have congratulated the Treasurer (Mr Crean) on his Budget. Why? No one in Australia can work out why, because within a week of its being brought down the Budget was considered by most of the experts who study these things, by die Press and by the people to be a complete failure. Within a weekand the Labor men in this House still carry on living in their dream socialist world believing that the Budget was a great success. It did nothing whatsoever to assist Australia with the problems of inflation and unemployment that it has today. We heard the previous speaker berating the petrol companies and virtually saying that they are going to get a 6 per cent rise, and asking how is this going to affect inflation? What did the Treasurer do when he removed the petrol equalisation scheme? He put the price of petrol, diesel fuel and aviation gas- avgas- in any place other than the coastal capital cities up by anything from two or three cents, to six and seven cents, to 30c in some places. That is 30c a gallon. What is this going to do to inflation? What about a 20c per gallon rise in avgas? The Treasurer would not know. He lives in a big city suburb and he would not know that half the people in the outback have to use tremendous quantities of diesoline and petrol and even avgas to get themselves about. It would not matter to the Treasurer; it would not matter to the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), because he is aiming his strategy at the people in the suburbs and the cities and he is hoping against hope, I feel, that they may vote him back at a future election.
These Labor members talk of profits and weekly wages in terms of money. They should be talking about them in terms of actual money value and the goods the money will purchase. Surely their wives when they go shopping know that it is costing them two, three, four times more for their purchases than previously? Yet they come in here saying what a fabulous Budget this is and what a wonderful approach the Government has to Australia and its financial future. I think this Budget was introduced to suit the Labor cause and little else; and what is the Labor cause? It is, as I have just said, to keep Labor in office regardless of expense. This is being done by spending large sums of money, much of it raised by taxing those people who have worked and worked very hard for what they have got and /or who have been successfully running free enterprise businesses, primary and secondary. The Government now envisages paying the money derived from the imposition of those taxes to people who, through their own lack of effort, enterprise or inability, have not been so successful. What the Government is really doing is stifling private enterprise. What the Government is really doing is killing the goose that laid the golden egg. It will not take very long for the whole nation to grind to a halt. The entire nation cannot be run forever on inflation.
This Budget has been very accurately described as a business bashing, farm fleecing and mining undermining Budget. It is aimed at the furtherance of the socialist cause that honourable members opposite have gleefully hailed again and again. The fact that some private enterprise firms in Australia are going broke seems to fill honourable members opposite with joy. They do not take any notice of the fact that the increase in the unemployment figures is partly due to the failure of private enterprise to carry on. They say that all will be well in the future. Private enterprise will be taken over by the government and we will have a government run state. There will be no initiative, no enterprise and, in the end, no Australian nation.
From where does the wealth and strength of the nation come? It comes from the produce of the nation. Whether it be minerals, motor cars and accessories, pastoral products, textile goods, manufactured articles or whatever it all requires hard work, confidence in the ability of industry, enterprise and business to carry on and cooperation between all levels of the community- the working people, the unions, the bosses, the owners of businesses and so on. The Government, by every action it takes, is out to stifle free enterprise and certainly to control the nation’s resources. In a publication I saw only the other day there was a quotation by the late Sir Winston Churchill about socialism, which is what honourable members opposite are bringing upon the nation. I was about to say that they are doing so by stealth, but it is fairly obvious to members of the Opposition- I do not know whether it is obvious to the people of Australia- that there is not so much stealth about it. The late Sir Winston Churchill said:
Socialism is the philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy.
He went on to say:
It is the government of the duds by the duds for the duds.
The British people have again fallen for the trick and they will live to regret it. To my way of dunking, their election of a government of duds for the duds has spelt the end of Britain’s era as a great nation. I am certain that the gallant Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren), who is at the table, would agree with me when I say that the people of Britain could not now produce a Spitfire or Rolls Royce Merlin engine or win a battle in a desert. They just could not do it. Their will has been sapped by socialism.
– They did.
-The honourable member for Batman would not know anything about that. I am just saying that the will of the British people to do these things has been sapped. I only happened to mention a few of the things which one can build to save one ‘s nation on occasions but one can take into consideration any other product that is exported by Britain. Britain’s working hours are down. The will of the people has been sapped. That is exactly what is happening here and I hope that the Australian public will wake up to it. They hear all the time grand words coming from the Government side of the chamber that the economy is in a very sound condition and that the Opposition is just drawing red herrings by talking about inflation, unemployment and so on. For example, the Treasurer (Mr Crean) said recently that we really spend too much time talking about unemployment. Good heavens, who brought about the unemployment situation? Who brought about the inflation situation? The rate of inflation was 4.6 per cent in 1972. Honourable members opposite say that the inflation rate would have increased markedly even if the Liberal-Country Party Coalition had not been voted out of office, but the point is that as soon as the Australian Labor Party took office the rate of inflation started to rise rapidly and it is now in the vicinity of 22 per cent.
– It is too much of a coincidence.
– Yes. One begins to wonder whether the Australian Labor Party is not allowing the rate to increase on purpose. It could be part of its grand scheme of things to prove to the people of Australia that private enterprise and the will of the small man to make his own way, to do his own job and to run his own business or farm is not a practical proposition. It is certainly going about it in that way anyhow. It is trying to prove to the people of Australia that the state must run and operate the whole system. That is what I think this Budget is all about.
The Labor Party’s policy must now be recognised as being aimed at the stifling of private enterprise and individual initiative and the implemention of its communist Australian Labor Party philosophy. It seeks to socialise the means of production, industry, distribution and exchange. I believe that members of the Aus.tralian Labor Party pledge to promote that cause when they sign an application to stand as a member of Parliament for their Party. It is the same cause as the communists have. It is the same cause as the socialists have. From the way in which the Labor Party is running the country into the ground by endeavouring to break up the financial set up and business enterprise one can but think only that it is doing so on purpose. An incredible change for the worse has overcome Australia in the past 18 months. We have moved from a thriving economy that was getting geared to fight inflation.
– Ha, ha!
-The honourable member for Melbourne is well dressed in his red shirt. The situation has changed to such an extent that inflation is now running at unprecedented levels. The honourable member for Barton, who preceded me in the debate, said that interest rates will be coming down shortly. I hope that the Government will bring about a reduction in interest rates. I hope that the Government will steady the rate of inflation. I also hope that the Government will bring about a reduction in the number of unemployed. The Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns) said when he was Acting Prime Minister that the unemployment situation is not serious. I think that the country is heading for a monumental prang, to put it in the vernacular that would be used by those men who know something about Spitfires and things like that.
– A crunch.
-The country is heading for a crunch and none of the gilding of the lily, soft soaping and icing of the cake by Labor Party Ministers and supporters will convince me that the Labor Party will be able to make the country run. It has no idea about running the country. The state of the economy and the poor performance of the Ministry were the main planks of our platform for the election on 18 May but the Australian people were not then allowed to know the facts and they did not wake up to what was happening. But they have woken up now. They know that the Labor Government is running the country onto the rocks. At that time members of the media were fighting desperately to keep their chosen souls in government. They could not admit that they were wrong. But I see that many of them now seem to be changing their opinion. One now sees in the Press fairly substantial criticism of Labor Ministers and the Labor Government ‘s policy. I congratulate that section of the Press on the fact that it is now taking a more realistic view and that it is now presenting the facts that were not allowed to be made known prior to the election on 18 May. They are probably admitting to themselves that they made a ghastly mistake in those days. They fell for the 3-card trick. They fell for the ‘It’s time’ propaganda. I think that even members of the Labor Party now realise that their leadership is very much in question.
– They are questioning it.
– They certainly are questioning it. We have a Government which seems dedicated to a course of splitting the nation. From the way it is orientated it appears to be splitting the city dwellers from those who live in the country areas and the country towns. We have heard many Labor city-orientated members extolling the virtues of the Budget. They always refer to anyone on the land not as an ordinary farmer but as a wealthy farmer. They always associate the word ‘wealthy’ with the word ‘farmer’. To them it is one word. Little do they know that the men in these areas, whether they are farmers or people who live or have businesses in the country, are suffering at the hands of this city-orientated centralist Government.
– They are the wealthy farmers.
-That is exactly what I have said: To members of the Labor Party every farmer is a wealthy farmer. The honourable member should get out into the country some time and do a little work. He should work with his hands in some of these places. He should get his hair cut and then come back here and let us have a look at him.
– You have never done a day’s work in your life. You get the Aborigines to do it.
-We can talk about them too. The policy that has been put up by this Government on the admission of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh), is a disaster, and it still is a disaster. That is what the Minister called it and everybody knows that it is a disaster. Is the honourable member supporting the disastrous policy, called as such by his own Minister? What would the honourable member know?
– Who said that?
- Senator Cavanagh said that. As I was saying, members of the Labor Party bracket all farmers, whether they are sheep men, cattle men, battlers, lessees, private owners, men working on company stations, groups of farmers or dairy farmers, as being wealthy farmers. They have the one gramophone record that keeps it going. They fail to say that half of the wealth of this nation comes from this area. They are blinded by the reports of the London School of Economics advisers such as Coombs and others who have an inbuilt hatred of anyone who seems to live away from the cities and the suburbs. Why is this Government so fanatically opposed to those who do not live in these places? The Labor Party panders to the city dwellers because that is where the votes are. That is exactly what it is all about.
The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) when overseas called this Commonwealth, or whatever name he happens to think of next, a social democracy. He reels off these descriptions as he struts around the world. While he is pirouetting on the stage sounding out a job for himself, no doubt for the near future, Chairman Jim ‘s forces have been acting to overthrow him, and the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr
Uren), who is sitting at the table, would probably know even more about it than I do. Another great pearl dropped from Chairman Jim when he said that China may export oil to Australia He thinks this would be a great thing. Australia has sufficient oil resources to meet its needs if only private enterprise were given the incentive to go and find it. But the number of exploration companies and the companies that back them up with knowhow and so on is running down. The drilling rigs have left Australia. The personnel has left Australia. Yet what is the Government going to do? It does not intend to look for our own minerals and oil but is going to allow oil to be imported from China. We will be getting the oil intended for the lamps of China, although that country does not appear to have enough oil to fill its own needs.
What did the Government do in regard to petrol price equalisation? What was done by the Minister for the Northern Territory (Dr Patterson) and the Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wriedt) who are supposed to be defending the interests of country people? They gave in to the city interests. What did they do about freight rebates? They gave in. What did they do about the rises in transport costs? They gave in. What did they do about the education tax rebate of $400 and the other incentives for rural producers and those people living in the towns who rely on them? They have sold out the country of Australia.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Berinson)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I want to make some general comments about the strategy adopted by the Government in drawing up this Budget. Within this framework I want honourable members to look at the broad philosophy of our policies for urban ?nd regional development. In the mass of words which has been devoted to the Budget, the basic thrust of our strategy has been obscured. But it is worth stating again what the Budget is designed to achieve and to measure this against the alternatives put forward by the Opposition.
The vital point of our strategy is that the Government drew up a Budget the fiscal impact of which was intended to be neutral. This is indicated by the end result of the Budget calculationsa projected domestic surplus of $23m. As far as I am aware, Opposition comment has ignored the intended fiscal impact of the Budget. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) has lashed out wildly at the Budget without giving any hint of the preferred strategy of the Opposition Parties. In particular, the Opposition has claimed that the Budget is both inflationary and likely to increase unemployment. These claims have not been supported by a single shred of logic. Perhaps the Leader of the Opposition and his colleagues favour a tougher Budget designed to cut inflation by using policies of demand management. This would deflate the economy in the most drastic way.
In this case the Opposition would want a much higher domestic surplus- perhaps one of the order of more than $ 1,000m which would certainly produce a massive contraction in economic activity. This would bring in its wake an intolerable increase in the level of unemployment without any certain impact on inflation. Such a result could be achieved only by slashing into existing welfare programs. If the Opposition wanted to cut Government outlays where would it apply the pruning knife? Would it cut down on education, on social welfare, on health and on urban and regional policies? On the evidence of the Opposition’s statements over the past few months this is not the result that its economic strategy is intended to produce. This impression is strongly reinforced if we weigh up the few figures that have appeared in Opposition statements.
As I understand it, the Leader of the Opposition wants a tax cut of about $ 1,000m and a reduction in the growth of Government outlays from around 34 per cent to 25 per cent. In effect he is recommending the raising of less revenue than the Government has budgeted for with his suggestion of bigger tax cuts. The Leader of the Opposition is also suggesting lower expenditure with a reduction in projected outlays on Government programs. The point is that these reductions largely cancel each other out in terms of fiscal impact. The important thing is not the size of the aggregates. What is important is that the relationship of revenue to spending is in much the same balance in the proposed Budget of the Leader of the Opposition as it is in our own actual Budget. His figures on both sides of the ledger are lower but the outcome in terms of Budget strategy is very similar. In other words, the Leader of the Opposition is supporting a neutral Budget, one that has not been devised to contract the economy or to expand it. We maintain this is the correct approach and I am pleased that the Opposition agrees with me in reaching the same end result.
It is nonsense to suggest that there is any great difference in impact on inflation and employment between Government and Opposition policies. The Budget before the Parliament implies a moderate cooling off period in the impact of fiscal policies. In particular it permits some scope for easing monetary policy which is the most important instrument now restraining business expansion. The Government is now taking advantage of this flexibility to release some of the curbs on monetary policy and to give a stimulus to business activity. Neither of these aims would have been possible if we had opted for a more expansionary budget. On the other hand, we ruled out a policy of severe deflation because of the intolerable level of unemployment it would produce. In the circumstances, there is no doubt in my mind that the adoption of a neutral strategy was the most just and humane course. As I have pointed out, the Opposition has accepted this strategy by implication, although its spokesmen are too deceitful and devious to spell it out publicly.
I turn now to the impact of our urban and regional development policies on the Budget strategy. The Budget Paper on urban and regional development indicates a most significant increase in spending on these programs in the Budget. One of the major initiatives and achievements of this Government has been its recognition of a national responsibility for the development of our cities and regions. The Government has made a commitment to putting right the consequences of past neglect, creating new opportunities and enhancing the quality of urban life. The central areas of our cities are a dramatic example of past neglect. We know how badly they have been overcentralised in the past 23 years. The previous speaker, the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) talked about the rural areas that he supposedly represents. We know that in fact during the 23 years of reign by the Government he supported the non-urban population of Australia fell from 31 per cent to 14.7 per cent. We have to overcome that trend and that sort of neglect and try to make our existing major cities reasonable places to live in.
There has been a concentration of wealth which has had the effect of dehumanising what should be a stronghold of the people. These activities have been expressed in a willingness to rip apart the inner city suburbs which have stocks of cheaper housing that cannot be easily replaced. This disrupts the life-style of thousands of people by forcing them to the fringes of the cities in search of cheaper housing. Social disruption on this scale is a terrible blow particularly to elderly people who are denied the consolation of a familiar environment and amenities and are faced with costly and inadequate public transport.
The program which I have outlined on many occasions in the past 20 months is the first attempt by an Australian Government to recognise the national character of the problems of cities and to tackle them with broad policies. We are now talking about 85 per cent of Australia’s population which was neglected for so long by previous governments. We do not claim that we have yet evolved a fully balanced program of action and spending, but we do believe that our urban priorities are right. This explains the sharp rise in the total programs of my Ministry from $167m in 1973-74, to $433.7m in 1974-75. An allocation of $ 140m for Canberra is included in this total amount and it should be noted that Canberra is described in the urban Budget Paper as a growth centre. At the moment, Canberra is a major alternative to living in the State capitals. The Government has inherited huge backlogs in Canberra- backlogs of serviced land, public housing and in particular office accommodation for Commonwealth public servants. We have to pick up these backlogs and pick them up quickly if we are to prepare properly for the future growth of Canberra. Canberra is our real growth centre at this moment because it has reached the stage of self-generating growth. It will be some years before our growth centre programs have advanced sufficiently to take some of the heat off our population and resources pressures in the capital cities.
– I think that is a bit strong.
– It is the only way that growth can be absorbed. We cannot absorb people in places like Albury-Wodonga, Bathurst, Orange or Geelong, which have been nominated as growth centres, because it will take some time to catch up the backlog of services in those areas and to prepare the infrastructure for the growth program. If we are to divert some of these pressures away from Sydney and Melbourne in particular, the major tool we have to do the job is the continued growth of Canberra. In particular, we need to diversify its employment base. This explains why Canberra is included in our total urban program- a factor which should be taken into account when assessing the impact of spending on urban and regional development.
Turning to our major urban programs, the Budget has allocated about $243m for 1974-75. This is a very substantial increase in the comparative figure for the previous year. An obvious reason for this sharp rise is that as a new Department we were not geared last year to embark on our programs at an appropriate level of spending. Our programs are now much more advanced. The guidelines have been set and we can now move on to expand and develop them with the sort of spending foreshadowed in the priority given to urban and regional development by the Labor Party. Inevitably, there has been criticism that these programs are too ambitious and that they are inflationary. I completely reject these lines of argument. Unless there is a diversion of public sector spending to the cities and regions we cannot combat the host of urban and environmental problems which have been created by years of indifference, opportunism and uncoordinated planning by previous governments and in some cases many of the State governments.
The Budget strategy which I outlined earlier is based on increased involvement by the public sector. The false argument is often stated that public sector spending is more inflationary than is private sector spending. This is wrong. A dollar of public spending is no more inflationary than a dollar of private spending. The Opposition seems to argue that by transferring resources back from the :public sector to the private sector and supplementing this with a substantial tax cut an effective attack on inflation could be made. In my view the reverse would happen. The result would be an explosion of demand in the private sector with tremendous pressures on wages and resources. The current employment problems provide scope for expansion of Government programs. It is not inflationary to expand public demand against a backdrop of a shortfall in private demand. In these circumstances it is reasonable for the Government to expand programs in this way, particularly programs with a strong welfare element which are so difficult for those conservative and affluent representatives on the Opposition side to understand. By contrast, the Opposition would cut back sharply on health, education, social welfare and urban and regional development. It wants to reduce the growth of public spending on everything except defence which it wants to increase in complete defiance of the logic of its overall economic policy.
In the Government’s view the increase in spending on these programs will not be inflationary. With specific urban and regional development programs it can be argued most strongly that they are extremely useful in an inflationary context. Our programs can be classified in 2 ways. On the one hand, we have devised programs designed to increase the supply of urban land, particularly residential land, to assist the young people. On the other hand, we have programs designed to provide the infrastructure which supplements an increased supply of urban land. Both these sets of programs are closely interconnected and they form the key elements of our attack on urban land prices. By increasing the supply of urban land and providing the infrastucture whose absence augments land costs, the Government’s policies form a sharp-edged weapon against inflationary pressures. The only other way to bring down land prices is to use Government intervention to suppress the demand for land. I doubt whether free enterprise parties opposite would support this sort of drastic use of Government power.
There is no doubt that land prices make up one of the key components in the inflationary process. Land speculation is the main symptom of inflation and the main running sore once inflationary symptoms are built into the economy. In a climate of high inflation, land speculation is the most attractive form of investment, given the limits on the supply of land. This means that it both underpins and expands the whole dismal psychology of high inflation. Surely there is no better way of tackling this sort of inflation than by striking hard at land inflation by increasing the supply of land. Our policies are also designed to attack inflationary pressures by providing the basic services such as sewerage, drainage, roads, kerbing and guttering and so to make building blocks available at lower prices.
For these reasons the urban and regional development budget has been drawn up to complement the Government’s broad budgetary strategy. The impact of these programs has been carefully weighed in terms of potential strain on resources. I hope that all members opposite understand that. We are satisfied that our programs will not feed inflation- quite the opposite. By attacking speculative pressures on land and housing, they will act to check and contain the surges of inflation. The new involvement of the Australian Government in this area requires an initial build-up of Australian Government funds. I want to make it quite clear to all honourable members that there are no instant solutions to urban and regional develpment problems, to land costs or anything else. The problem cannot be solved by turning off a light switch because the problems have been engendered over long years of inactivity by the former government.
The honourable members who sit opposite are the guilty men.
Urban and regional development policies will be useless unless we can direct more of the nation’s resources to overcoming the problems of the cities and regions. There has been some suggestion that this diversion of resources has been achieved by a level of taxation that is not justified. This sort of argument is based on the fallacy that somehow it is better to leave the bulk of resources in the private sector and not divert any to providing better services and facilities in our cities and regions. It ignores the dependence of individual welfare on the welfare of the whole community. Surely the taxpayer is not worse off if part of his income goes to paying for better public transport, more sewerage, cheaper land for housing, improved amenities for local communities. It is impossible to challenge the need for greater spending in these areas and this is why we have embarked on a firm policy of directing resources to them. Now is an appropriate time to speed up this switch of resources to urban and regional programs and the Government has acted to do this in its Budget.
In my remarks today I have sought to explain the Government’s philosophy in this vital area of policy against the background of total Budget strategy. I will outline our major programs in detail when the Urban and Regional Development Financial Assistance Bill comes before the Parliament. I call on all honourable members to support this Budget.
– I am at a complete loss to understand how the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) can stand up here and say that Government expenditure does not contribute to inflation. In supporting the amendment moved to the Budget by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden), which is virtually the blue print for throwing out the entire Budget, I would suggest that members of the Opposition cannot justifiably be painted by Government members as simply knockers, because we all know on this side of the House that Government members are going through stages of contortions and screaming loudly about certain aspects of the Budget and living in fear of what might happen to them at the next election. I only wish that I could go to the Australian Labor Party’s Caucus meeting tomorrow morning as an observer and watch the performance of members as they try to reverse some of the decisions which have been handed down in this Budget of disaster.
Before I go on to talk about the Budget in general terms I want to make reference to the state of the economy and the manner in which it has affected the largest single industry in my Federal electorate of Griffith on the south side of Brisbane. I refer to the operations of Evans Deakin Industries Pty Ltd, which since 1946 has built some 82 ships. We have reached the stage, after 18 to 20 months of Labor Government, at which Evans Deakin has announced the end of conventional shipbuilding. It will build no more ships. The company built ships from 1946 to 1974. After the Labor Government was returned in the recent election Evans Deakin made the decision that it could no longer carry on. Regrettably it follows in the footsteps of the Adelaide Ship Construction company in South Australia and Walkers Ltd at Maryborough in the electorate of Wide Bay in Queensland. What a shabby performance. How can any honourable member on the Government side stand in this place, bearing in mind that unemployment in this country afflicts well nigh on 200,000 people and that we have seen industry closing down everywhere, and read speeches telling us how well the present Government is doing and that we are simply not understanding what is going on. A lot of people are not understanding what is going on. Regrettably a lot of people in Melbourne and Sydney at the last Federal election on 18 May did not see the writing on the wall. It took the people of Western Australia and Queensland, where a strong anti-Government vote was recorded, to show the way. I feel confident that in the next election the representation of the party which presently forms the Government will virtually be halved as the people of Australia pass judgment on the performance of the present Government.
Let me return to the subject of Evans Deakin. Last Thursday week a Queensland member on the Government side asked a Dorothy Dix question of the Minister for Manufacturing Industry (Mr Enderby) related to Evans Deakin. The Minister in his answer referred to shipbuilding in Australia and said:
For example, 71 vessels are on order or under construction, compared with about 39 in December 1972.
Let us look at the vessels which comprise the figure of 7 1 which the Minister used in an effort to show what a great job the Government is doing. Eight vessels have been ordered from the Whyalla shipyards of Broken Hill Proprietary Co. Ltd, which usually manufactures its own ships. Five have been ordered from the State Dockyard at Newcastle. An oil rig is being built by Transfield (Western Australia) Pty Ltd and an oil rig is being built by Evans Deakin. That is a long way from 7 1. Let us look at the rest. There are 56 fishing boats- fishing boats, mind you- of less than 150 feet. The Minister for Manufacturing Industry had the audacity to stand in this chamber last Thursday week and claim that those fishing boats are vessels which are being built in Australia in an attempt to indicate that the Governing is doing a far greater job than in previous years.
– It is a modern navy.
-The honourable member says that it is a modern navy. I call it our fishing fleet. Of that fifty-six, I remind the House that forty-six are of less than 100 feet. I have friends in Brisbane who have rowing boats of 14 feet. I hope that the Minister does not learn of them because he will start including their little rowing boats in his figures on Australian shipping tonnage. This is what he is doing. He is claiming that fishing boats are in fact big ships, and he is trying to give the Parliament and the people of Australia the impression that the Government is doing a great job. The people of South Australia employed by the Adelaide shipbuilding company, the people employed by Walkers Ltd in the electorate where the previous Federal Labor member lost his seat and the people who work for Evans Deakin in Queensland are not easily fooled.
The Government’s policy on shipbuilding is such that Australia is finding it difficult to compete. If the Government expects Australian workers to compete against nations where workers receive less in 6 weeks than an Aus.tralian receives in one week, it is time the Labor Ministry set an example of competitiveness and started eating a bowl of rice at each meal. The caviar Cabinet would not do that but it expects it of the work force. Regrettably the way this country is going Australian workers could well be working in the paddy fields in the not too distant future. Evans Deakin is a place of particular tragedy. During the last couple of years the workers and the management negotiated agreements and arrangements which completely eliminated the industrial strife which wracks other industries throughout Australia. A viable working relationship was established. Management and the work force were co-operating. This is a situation for which the whole nation yearns but because of the Government’s policies those advances are kaput. It will be the end of Evans Deakin, the end of Walkers and the end of the Adelaide shipbuilding company. We have reached the stage in 20 months where the Labor Government has managed to close half the shipbunding yards of Australia. That is not a bad effort by a party which only 20 months ago was saying: ‘It’s Time’.
In the ‘Australian Financial Review’ of 2 April 1974 was an article tided ‘Shipbuilding policy overturned’. That article reported that one of the results of policy changes was that the Newcastle State Dockyard would now build two 25,000 ton bulk carriers for the Australian National Line at a considerably lower price than originally submitted by the dockyard. Will someone in this Parliament explain to me what is a tender because my understanding is that people are allowed to submit tenders, the tenders are examined and a judgment is made of those tenders? Not always the lowest tenderer is successful. On this occasion the dockyard in the electorate of the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) was given a chance to re-tender. Have we reached the stage in Australia where if a company or an industry in a Labor Minister’s electorate submits a tender price above that of a company outside that electorate, the company in the Minister’s electorate will be given another bite at the cherry? I believe this is completely contrary -
– It is corrupt.
– I do not like using words like ‘corrupt’ but I should like to see the establishment of an inquiry to investigate what happened earlier this year in relation to these 2 ships. An industry is closing in my electorate and several hundreds of workers will be affected. Residents of the city of Maryborough have been affected as have employees of the Adelaide company. It is high time this open Government opened its books so that the people of Australia and Her Majesty’s Opposition can see what is going on.
Many of those people who voted for Labor in the last elections now realise 4½ months later that the situation has grown so bad in Australia that we have had to drastically curtail the immigration program started after the Second World War by a previous Labor Government. I wonder what the former right honourable member for Melbourne, the late Arthur Calwell, would say if he could speak now. Since the commencement of that program about 2.5 million migrants have come to Australia. They were encouraged and helped to come here. They sought opportunities and found them in Australia yet we are now incapable of providing an opportunity for those who will leave our schools in November. There are still among us those honourable members who will assure us that ‘Gough is going great’. Prosperity cannot be maintained by penalising the thrifty; the weak cannot be assisted if the strong are destroyed and the employee cannot be helped if the employer is destroyed.
Only 3 weeks ago in Townsville Mr Whitlam claimed that his Government would continue with the program of what he called a balanced and selective attack on inflation in which the burden falls on those best able to carry the load. He makes it sound like the Melbourne Cup. What he fails to recognise is that we are fast running out of people able to carry the lead bags. This year’s race could be the most disastrous in 4 decades. The Mainline, Leyland and Cambridge Credit companies have gone lame because of the Whitlam - Cairns remedies to chaos they themselves have created. The Australian Labor Party promised a wonderful working relationship with the trade union movement. The marriage is on the rocks. Less than a fortnight ago Mr Hawke conceded that Mainline was a victim of union anarchy. Had I said that 2 weeks and 2 days ago I would have been accused of being a union basher yet Mr Hawke had the courage and the guts to come out and indicate some of the problems that unions are creating for Australia. A situation has been created wherein a glib tongued union official can convince others that wage fixation institutions are unable to keep abreast of the rampant inflation and that strike and anarchy are the only remedies. It is time we examined the reasons for this situation. It has arisen because of the performance of the present Government and its irresponsible attitude to the economy. I freely concede that the ALP Government has done some things that I should have liked to have seen done by the previous Liberal-Country Party coalition. I congratulate it for those things, but on the whole they have been minor matters. The important things which keep a nation going have been destroyed.
Adverting to union problems, we now have such people as Mr Arch Bevis, the boss of the transport workers in Queensland, coming out and saying that bombastic union officials who force strikes on members are irresponsible. We have Mr Hawke with his comments about the Mainline company. We have the Minister for Labor (Mr Clyde Cameron) awakening to the fact that all is not black and white. The arch enemy of the employer has suddenly realised that the roots from whence he came are not all lily-white. He has decried and deplored the actions of the maritime unions in standing over the shipowners and demanding graft and payments which they have no entitlement to receive. He also backed the Queensland ALP President, who is also Federal ALP Vice-President, Mr Jack Egerton, who recently had the courage to condemn the actions of the unions. Even in my own electorate of Griffith, where thousands of meat workers employed at the Brisbane abattoirs have suffered as a result of lost wages, he made it clear that he would not apologise for an attack he made last month on Australian Meat Industry Employees Union officials, and in fact described that particular industrial strike as the greatest tragedy of the trade union movement.
It is time we came to grips with the trade union movement. The Liberals did better than the Labor Party but, granted, our handling of the unions left a lot to be desired. The present Government’s handling of the unions has been a destructive debacle which has been like putting petrol on the fires of inflation in this country. The Government has set out to curtail the activities of business through the Prices Justification Tribunal and the Trade Practices Act. Surely it is time for a display of much needed courage and the implementation of legislation to make legal strike action for certain reasons but to declare it illegal in other areas. A ludicrous situation has existed- I am not sure whether it has been cleared up in the last few days, in which if the P and O company, which has a vessel in Melbourne, does not come good with the money to make up the difference between the payments for people employed on English vessels and those employed on the Australian coast, its vessel will lie in port until its hulk rust away. Action such as that should be forbidden by law. Actions by which trade unions drag into their hands the role of deciding whether Government decisionsLabor or Liberal- are right or wrong are also evil and wrong.
The present Government claims that the Senate is obstructionist. If it was fair it would come out and say that the trade union movement has been its greatest enemy. The Government would unshackle itself from some of this needless harassment which affects every working man and woman in this country and would step in with legislation with the same boldness which the Government has displayed in ‘bringing to heel’- I put those 3 words in inverted commasthe manufacturers, the industrialists, the foreign corporations and so many others in an attempt to bring about orderly marketing. It is time we did something to bring to heel the trade union movement because we have reached a stage where unionists recognise that there are unionists who are disruptive. Dr J. F. Cairns, in his book in 1972 titled ‘The Quiet Revolution’, stated:
Revolution in an advanced capitalist country can become a possibility only if there is a serious economic crisis.
I conclude my contribution to the Budget debate by saying that the Labor Government has created that serious economic crisis and that there are some people in the trade union movement with political beliefs of a communist philosophy who are exploiting it to the utmost to bring about that quiet revolution and to destroy free enterprise in this country so that a climate is created where ALP socialism will be the only alternative because private enterprise will no longer be.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-We have heard so many opinions from the Opposition during this debate about what shape our economy is in and what role this Budget, or any budget, should play in regulating the economy that I believe it is in order to put aside the humbug and look at the facts objectively. The latest ‘Round up of Economic Statistics’ provided by the Treasury gives part of the picture. Demand and activity have continued to weaken although private final consumption expenditure, seasonally adjusted and at constant prices, rose by 0.5 per cent in the June quarter compared with 0.4 per cent in the December quarter last year. The value of retail sales, seasonally adjusted, in the 3 months to August increased by 3.6 per cent. Business is doing very well, on average. There have been failures; there have always been failures. Risk is the rationale for profits in the capital market. The Mainline Corporation went to the wall through bad management and the Cambridge Credit Corporation depended too heavily on land speculation to cover its repayments, but well managed businesses have boomed.
Despite low share market prices, which is only one indicator of business confidence, an independent survey of 213 companies listed on the Stock Exchange showed that 148 recorded higher profits, 45 lower and 20 were steady. Averaged out profits climbed over the last 12 months by 24.4 per cent. Where is the stifling of private enterprise talked about by members of the Opposition? Where are their facts to support their case? They are silent on fact but loud on rhetoric. The ‘Round up of Economic Statistics’ shows that under the influence of previously tight credit conditions lending for housing and other purposes has declined to relatively low levels. The operative words here are ‘relatively low levels’. Unrestricted activity in the housing industry had led to boom conditions under the previous Government, and as demand outstripped resources in the building industry inflation in that sector boomed to unreal levels. Even now the effects are being felt and during the last 2 years the wholesale price index of materials used in house building rose by almost one-third. Despite this a record number of private housing was built during the last 12 months. Measures taken during recent weeks are expected to lead to a marked rise in lending for housing but at a level that is consistent with available resources.
The Opposition has spoken as if the Budget is the only economic weapon available to the Government. This is nonsense. The Budget sets the main economic strategy and additional measures, fiscal and monetary, are employed to adjust the economy through what is called ‘fine tuning’. Major measures taken in the past month but which have yet to exert their influence on the economy include devaluation of the Australian dollar, reductions in the yields on shorter term Australian Government securities, reductions in the statutory reserve deposit ratios of the major trading banks and other steps to increase trading bank liquidity and reductions in the asset requirements of savings banks. All of this will encourage business activity as it is designed to do. Yet members of the Opposition are still apostles of doom. One of the greatest influences on the economy is confidence- confidence in the economy by the people and by business. If business and public confidence is high then the economy is more likely to improve. If confidence is undermined there is a further move towards a recession. For instance, depositors rushed to draw out money from building societies when they were told their money was at risk. They put it all back a few days later when the societies assured depositors that their money was secure.
Confidence is important and all the media, spokesmen and politicians have a great responsibility to echo facts rather than create conjecture and panic. Some newspapers and the Opposition in particular are to be condemned for their wild, inaccurate and unsubstantiated statements which proclaim economic doom. Members of the Opposition have a great responsibility here but they have turned their backs on responsibility and instead have chosen to undermine public and business confidence with wild cat off-the-cuff statements. The Opposition has a great greed for power and would do anything to gain control of this country again in the name of big business. This time it has chosen to spread unrest and uncertainty instead of offering reasonable alternative economic policies. The Opposition is the greatest force in bringing about the recession and the depression it prophesies.
Predict rampant inflation and people will rush to buy goods to beat it. The result is more inflation as demand outstrips supply. Australia’s economy is in good shape compared with that of our main trading partners. We have less inflation than have most comparable Western economies.
– You are joking.
– Listen to this: The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) made great play of a table of figures showing the rates of inflation in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries. He apparently wanted to use this table to back up his case that the Australian economy is in bad shape. But why did that table show only 15 out of the accepted 24 countries that make up the comparable OECD countries? Why did the Leader of the Opposition forget to show that Turkey has an inflation rate of 25.9 per cent, Portugal 25.9 per cent, Spain 15.2 per cent, and so on? It was because he had presented a dishonest case to the Parliament and a dishonest case to the people.
What the figures show beyond doubt is that the current inflation is a world-wide problem and not confined to Australia as he would have us believe. In fact, Australia, with the inflation rate of 14.4 per cent, is eleventh on the table of comparable OECD countries. Of our main trading partners, Japan recorded 25 per cent inflation, Italy 19 per cent, the United Kingdom 17 per cent, Denmark 16 per cent, New Zealand 10.5 per cent and the United States and Canada 1 1.5 per cent. What should be noted from this table is that the rate of increase in Australia’s inflation is less than in the other countries. Our trading position therefore will further improve following devaluation of the currency.
The panic-creating speeches of the Opposition do not finish there. This irresponsible Opposition talks of high levels of unemployment, whereas as well as our level of inflation being lower than in other countries we have far less unemployment. We are not happy with more than 2 per cent out of work, but in the United States of America and Canada the figure is more than 6 per cent and in the United Kingdom stands at 5 per cent. Actual numbers of unemployed are less than when the Liberal Government deliberately put 130,000 out of work 2 years ago to try to defeat inflation. The people know the Opposition would do it again to morrow given half the chance. The Australian Government has not sacked anyone deliberately and those who have lost their jobs through Government decisions are now looked after. There are retraining programs, and unemployment benefits have been lifted to a realistic level. Under the previous Government there was no worthy assistance to the unemployed.
The people do not have short memories about things that leave an imprint on their minds. They will not forget the callous boast by the previous Government in which the present Leader of the Opposition was Treasurer, that they had achieved their target of deliberately creating high levels of unemployment. They will not be fooled by the public relations exercise by the Opposition during last weekend as they limped and lurched out of the 1940s and into the 1960s. They will realise that it is nothing more than plagiarisation of Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’. The image may be superficially modern but the substance is unchanged and heading for decay. There will be no election next May unless the Opposition is more foolish, more ignorant and more irresponsible than I gave it credit for.
The role of opposition is to review and to propose alternatives, not just to offer blind and biased opposition. I have searched through the speeches members of the Opposition have made during this debate. I have listened to them all. Yet I cannot find a consistent strand of alternative policy. I do find, however, a mishmash, a plethora of contradictions and proposals that have not been thought through. Their contribution, if I can call it that, to this debate has been cant, negative, repetitive and unimaginative.
The Leader of the Opposition wants to cut taxation by $900m and later by $ 1,000m. The former Prime Minister, the right honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon), wants to see $2,000m in tax cuts. The honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) wants an injection of $6,000m into the economy. These suggestions are all inflationary. We have cut taxation by a commonsense $430m, consistent with our economic and welfare programs. We might ask: Will the average man in the street be better off through this Budget? The Opposition has concentrated on red herrings and has avoided the answer to this question. It is a sectionalist opposition and points to the minor changes that have been made that affect only a few in the hope of raising a smoke screen that will hide the real impact of this Budget. It points to the 10 per cent property income surcharge and the change in the limit of education expenses allowable as a tax deduction which affect only a few, while even a superficial examination, if honestly taken, would indicate that the vast number of people must benefit.
In fact, 90 per cent of the people will benefit through $430m tax cuts, abolition of television and radio licences and a special tax rebate for low income families. At the same time the whole community will benefit from increased community spending, including amounts for education, sewerage, hospitals, roads, protection of the environment and health. There is no sense in gaining more money in the pocket through higher wages or less tax if the environment, the neighbourhood, suburb or country is not fit to live in. Few individuals can purchase relief from a poor standard of community living. Few can promote themselves above community squalor or provide these benefits for themselves alone. They can be provided only through community spending. This the Government has done responsibly.
The honourable member for Wannon believes that the Government cannot increase its expenditure by one-third as outlined in the Budget while expecting the average Australian to provide the things he needs for his family and his home. This is what he said. It is obvious that he has not read the Budget in any detail or he would not have made such a ridiculous statement. The fact is that nearly all families will benefit in areas of education, health and welfare. These are the basic needs of any family. He talked of competition between the public and private sectors for available resources. He believes this competition is the basic cause of inflation. This is not reasoning, it is not an explanation of reality; this theory of his is nothing but justification for his ignorance on economic matters.
The honourable member believes that the people should have the right to maximise their individual choice and that governments should try to do everything possible to establish the circumstances in which people can choose. He is quite right. Of course he is right. But unfortunately he ignores that one has freedom of individual choice only when one has command of a high income. When 90 per cent of the wage and salary earners earn much less than $10,000 per year it is nonsense to talk about freedom of individual choice. This is available only to those enjoying an income in excess of $ 10,000.
In a joint statement with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch), the Leader of the Opposition on 12 September said that expansion in the Budget on expenditure would set the stage for further inflation because this would add to demand pressures, even if financed by tax receipts. Does he not realise that a dollar spent in the public sector has the same economic impact as a dollar spent in the private sector? Does he not realise that much of the Budget expenditure ends up in the private sector through transfer payments and pensions?
What are the realities of increased Government expenditure? In 1973-74 the expenditure on goods and services was up 17 per cent. Transfers to the States and local government authorities were up 2 1 per cent. Cash benefits to persons were up almost 22 per cent- all this in money terms. At the same time gross national expenditure was up 25.3 per cent in money terms and gross national expenditure was up 1 1.6 per cent in real terms. Obviously inflationary pressures due to expenditure demand exceeding supply and speculation arise in the private sector. The 1974-75 Budget does increase demand, and rightly so. It is necessary to carry out our political commitments which were reaffirmed and accepted by the people in the Federal election earlier this year. We will not dishonour our promises. We will discharge our obligations. Furthermore, the expansion in the public sector is designed to be flexible and to take up any slack in the private sector that might develop.
Labour and other resources that are not employed in the private sector will be put to productive social use in the public sector. Labour and materials that would have gone into erecting city office blocks later to be only half tenanted can be diverted into public programs such as schools, hospitals, welfare housing, local government and regional development, community building and sewerage works. The Opposition, which deliberately caused unemployment in the private sector in 1971-72 did not take up the slack in public employment. The unemployed did not take up employment until the Labor Government took office. This Government will not deliberately bring about unemployment or stand by and not provide the opportunities for the unemployed should unemployment increase. We are confident that the current unemployment will flatten out and subside. That is our intention. So this program outlined in the Budget must be flexible. It is flexible. Already by easing credit in line with lessening demand pressure and by devaluing the Australian dollar unemployment is easing.
There are still honourable members in this House who remain so taken with the virtues of the so-called free market, and who voice paranoid statements about the evils of community spending by governments, that they are blind to the way the free market has been reduced to the rigged market controlled by cartels and other monopolistic forces. There is no need to look beyond the report of the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange to see that public spending in the eyes of the Opposition is heresy, a distortion and an alleged instrument that saps incentives and taxes the ambitious, hard working and innovative into submission. It would rather an economy that produces 45 brands of hair spray -
Sitting suspended from 6.15 p.m. to 8 p.m.
- Mr Speaker, earlier I was saying that some members of the Opposition displayed blind prejudiced faith in the so-called free market and held an abhorence of public spending. For them the mixed economy is almost heresy. They would rather an economy that produced 45 brands of hairspray and countless brands of cigarettes but snowed few signs of adequate transport or sewerage systems, which exhibited an abundance of deprived schools and overcrowded hospitals and boasted a poverty record that affected 20 per cent of the people. Where are their values? The Opposition would rather accept profit for itself without qualification and the power that goes with it rather than question what can be achieved with it and what is the result for the common good. For instance, the Opposition talks of the Budget lowering incentive for private investment but ignores the role that education plays in production. Education is the precursor of technological change and capital inspired increases in productivity have been estimated to provide 27 per cent of all investment inputs.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) says he would cut government expenditure by $ 1,000m, bringing it down to 2 1 per cent of the Budget. A fine proposal, except that it ignores the members of the Public Service who would need to be sacked to accomplish that, especially as the Government has placed a ceiling on staff increases. Has he told the Public Service unions of his intentions? I doubt it. But most importantly, he does not and will not indicate where he will make these cuts. All we know is that he would cut government expenditure across the board. Under a Liberal Treasurer, then, we can expect cuts in defence expenditure, in education, in health, in housing, roads, sewerage programs, in law and order. Pensioners can expect to be cut back to the miserly 50c increases they received before Labor became the Government The Opposition should stand up and tell the people the truth. Will they cut Government expenditure and, if so, where will they cut it back?
Last weekend the Opposition promised the States a fixed percentage of tax revenue. How can the States and local government expect sufficient revenue from a Liberal government when that Party wishes to cut taxes and cut government expenditure. The increase in expenditure in the 1974-75 Budget, through transfers to the States and local government, is 21 per cent. It is up to $3 in every $10. They can expect less than that from a Liberal government. The Opposition should stand up and tell the States and local government the truth. Will their income levels continue or will taxes and Government expenditure be cut back?
I would also like to comment on the first reaction of the Leader of the Country Party (Mr Anthony) to the Budget He said it was socialist; but then anything which is progressive or standing for all the people rather than for his sectional interests alone he calls socialist. Labor was more concerned with milking the cow than feeding it, he said. Here is another member of the Opposition who has not read the Budget fully. Assuming that the honourable member for Richmond does know the difference between a cow and a bull, it is a pity that he does not know which end the feed goes in and which end produces the Country Party policies and statements. Has he not noticed the $49.5m increase in funds for direct industry assistance? He conveniently ignores the allocation for rural reconstruction which stands at $30m. Does he not acknowledge the $ 13.3m for forestry and fishing industries, the $ 102m for the wool industry, and so on?
The 1974-75 Budget is an historic document. It attempts for the first time in Australia what no other nation has successfully achieved- the defeat of inflation without recourse to deliberate widespread unemployment. It is true that the present level of unemployment has worsened slightly, mainly through seasonal downturns and recession in the private sector, but the slack will be taken up as the Government’s community programs begin to bite. Inflation and unemployment are not endemic to Australia. They are world wide phenomena, but we are better off than most other countries where the economy -
-Order! The honourable gentleman’s time has expired.
-Mr Speaker, I wish to support the amendments moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) to the Government’s Budget for 1974-75. Millions of words have been written and spoken in this House and elsewhere about the perils of inflation and unemployment facing Australia. In December 1972 and again last May the Labor Party promised the people so much. A brave new world was to be born, but it never told them what the cost would be, nor did it tell them who had to pay for it- the people of Australia. Last May, faced by this spectre of serious inflation, the Labor Party even offered the people a Prime Minister who could cut inflation by onethird. It assured the people that no Labor Government would tolerate unemployment and that under Labor there would be fewer strikes and less industrial unrest. Today the Government’s tattered record ties at its feet.
Last May its Ministers travelled the length and breadth of Australia stating its policy in the most modest terms, and I would like to quote from the Minister for Manufacturing Industry (Mr Enderby). This is what he said:
A basic principle of our approach to manufacturing industry is that a competitive and viable business sector is a corner stone for our overall policy framework. Without this we could not hope to achieve our program for housing, social welfare, education, health services and the like. It is also necessary if we are to maintain full employment.
They were the words of the Minister for Manufacturing Industry and I applaud such sentiments, but I seek in vain for substance in the Government’s policies. Where is the promised co-operation between Government and industry? Where are the policies essential for a competitive and viable business sector? Where are the productive incentives the Government took away in its first Budget and did not restore in its second? Why did the Deputy Prime Minister (Dr J. F. Cairns) tell us so glibly only a few days ago that incentives were necessary to assure sustained economic growth; yet he refused to take tangible steps in the Budget. Where is the capital so necessary for productive investment? Where is the confidence of the community in Australia’s future? Why have we seen such an alarming fall in the stock exchanges, comparable only with the great depression? Why are there more unemployed today than at any time since the Second World War? These are valid questions and the people of this country have a right to hear sensible and realistic answers from the Government.
The present masters of our national destiny, the purveyors of outdated economic shibboleths, these misguided men, would have us believe that whatever the cause of Australia ‘s economic crisis the blame is not theirs. Of course not! The cause ties in the monetary policies of 1972 and the influence of imported inflation, the multinational corporations or the activities of private business. And of course we must not forget the poor farmers. Who are we to blame? The Treasury, whose advice was not heeded? The plethora of ministerial advisers who prefer to think up new taxes in a search for cheap notoriety? The various treasurers and other selfstyled economic experts with which this Government abounds? No, of course not. Mere men could not possibly be responsible for such an economic mess. It must be the system under which this country has grown and prospered for so long.
Despite the Government’s wishes, our economy is based on personal initiative and corporate enterprise which have given Australia a standard of economic growth that is the envy of many nations. This Government has attacked and derided enterprise, using as evidence subjective criticisms, half truths and outdated case histories. It has used unashamedly every possible means to attack the socio-economic system which in mankind’s long evolutionary history is the only system which is based on an objective theory of values determined by human nature and interpreted by man’s mind, which recognises the intrinsic good and forms from it appropriate value judgments. I make no apologies for my unshakable belief in the right of individuals to determine their destiny in their own way, subject only to the rule of law, and I would defend an economic system based on individual and corporate enterprise which the Australian people know and understand. It is the only system which can safeguard the rights of the individual within society and prevent us all from becoming servants of an omnipotent State ruled by the few and served by the many. It is a system which is capable of constant evolutionary change and which must be prepared to change to meet the requirements of society. To destroy it wilfully is to create a new kind of social exploitation.
Mr Speaker, I have made these general remarks because this Budget which we are debating is essentially a political blueprint for this Government’s ambitions to change the socioeconomic base of Australia. This Budget has no claim to be an all-embracing economic document of any substance. It was derided by virtually every editorial in the land and was subject to significant change almost before the languid tones of the Treasurer had faded from this chamber. This Budget demonstrates the Government ‘s determination to reach new heights of fiscal irresponsibility by increasing outlays by a massive $3,980m- an increase of 32.4 per cent over last financial year- while emphasising the Government’s intention to transfer resources from the private sector to the government sector, using as its alibi a reduction in activity within the private sector that was deliberately caused by its own policies. Mr Speaker, I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a statistical analysis prepared for me by the New South Wales Corporate Affairs Commission on the number of companies wound up in New South Wales between 1970 and September 1974.
-Is leave granted? I think that the honourable member for Bradfield saw the Leader of the House about the incorporation of the table in Hansard and he agreed to it. There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
-This table demonstrates the disastrous effect which the Government’s stop-go policies have had on the private sector in the last 20 months. If this trend continues there will be over 1, 144 failures this financial year.
Once again in this Budget the Australian people have been asked to believe that, provided the Government spends record amounts, in the short term the quality of life must improve, that opportunities for education must be greater and that better social welfare will result, while all the time the potential recipients of this mythical Government generosity are being asked to pay a greater and greater share of their income in taxation. Everyone wants a welfare state provided they do not have to pay for it. By the end of this financial year the wage earner on $160 a week who has 3 dependants will be paying 2 1 per cent of his salary in tax. Three years ago he paid only 16 per cent of it in tax. In 1965 he paid only 10 per cent. The upward trend and the growing personal burden should be clear to all.
I challenge supporters of the Government to go out onto the streets of any city or town in this nation and ask the people whether they think that they are better off in real terms than they were 2 years ago. I have done so. I can assure them that the answer will be a definite no. The people of Australia are sick and tired of being offered the mythical pleasures of some toffee apple society- a sweet taste with a rotten core. This Budget, in its clearest political form, is an outright bid by this so-called social democratic Government, which is the term used by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) at the United
Nations General Assembly, to transfer from the non-government sector of the economy- from the people- to the Government for its exclusive use the productive resources of the economy. The Government intends to apply ruthlessly, no matter what the human and economic costs may be, its avowed aim, as set out in the Australian Labor Party’s platform, of ‘the democratic socialisation of industry, production, distribution and exchange’.
The Government does not care for reform. It does not want to believe that the present economic system is capable of adjusting and accommodating itself to the requirements of the nation. It is determined to apply such policies as it has applied over the last 20 months- for example, the 25 per cent tariff cut, the removal of tax concessions, the Draconian credit controls and the unprecedented interest rates- to cause a general malaise and breakdown of confidence in Australia’s future. The Government has sown the seed for the complete collapse of the Australian economy from which it hopes and believes that a new socialist society can and will be born. How else are we to interpret such bland statements in the Budget as the ones that the Government anticipates a slow down in economic activity and that aggregate demand will be weakened- the effect of its own policies?
How could any responsible government not see that all of that must cause unemployment while it blandly accepts inflation in excess of 20 per cent? What has become of those pious statements that no Labor Government could tolerate high unemployment? What has the Government done to prevent people losing their jobs? It has done nothing but talk. What has it done to encourage the industrial sector of the economy to have confidence in the future while the cloud of nationalisation hangs over it like the sword of Damocles? What is to be gained by the people of Australia if the private sector of which they all form a part and which is the generator of the economy’s wealth- shared by all- is reduced to a state of despair? Why cut off credit at a time when business confidence is essential if unemployment is to be reduced? I ask the Government, which has the experience of 20 months of economic mismanagement behind it, what has it to offer the 160,000 unemployed and the 180,000 school leavers who will enter the employment market early in the New Year. Indeed, what has become of our lucky country? In future years historians will look back in amazement at how a government could in a mere 20 months change an efficient economy and a very egalitarian society into such a shambles.
We have been told that this Budget is a reaffirmation of the Government’s determination to progress with its policies of social reform regardless of the cost to the economy and the very people which its policies are supposed to support. We have been told by supporters of the Government that it is a Budget of understanding and compassion. I regret that at a time of such economic difficulties we look in vain for any sign of the Government’s understanding of the true economic position of this nation. As for compassion, supporters of the Government would do well to realise that their financial liberality at a time of such economic stress would be better directed at setting the nation’s course towards an economic recovery so that there will be no unemployment and thus far less social hardship.
The Government was elected on a grand design for income redistribution combined with social welfare policies to help the low income earners within our community, but it has ignored the fact that inflation is reducing the real purchasing power of income, that there is a rapidly falling value of money, that prices for goods and services are rising and that there is a lower net income as taxes increase. The so-called unearned income tax surcharge, which my Party totally rejects, was directed initially at every Australian, young and old alike, rich and poor, regardless of community status, who has committed the social crime of wanting to save for the future. To the young person saving to buy a block of land or a first home, the middle-aged person saving for his or her retirement and the retired people who saved throughout their working lives so that they would not be dependent upon the charity of the state the Government has shown no compassion.
The Government’s policy is to destroy individual incentive and deliberately try to build a nation of mindless sycophants utterly dependent upon the Government’s capricious benevolence for their survival.
The Government’s decision to reduce the income tax deduction for education expenses strikes not only at the non-government schools, which was its intention, motivated by the desire to restrict freedom of choice, but also at the young mothers and the single parent families who depend on pre-schools and kindergartens, which are often costly, while they make a living to support their families. Who is going to support the children in the far west? Who is going to give them the chance of a reasonable education in this nation? Those people are asking the Government: ‘ Where is your compassion? ‘
I challenge the Government to go to the Australian people on this Budget of understanding and compassion. I wager that it will be thrashed. It is one thing to offer people a better quality of life when there is full employment, confidence and the belief that their future is assured, but it is another thing entirely for the Government to have to show to the people its economic incompetence and the damage it has done to this nation. The Government should realise that Australia is a mixed economy based upon the need for co-operation between government and private enterprise. The growth of our welfare services and community advancement programs are desirable- but they must ultimately depend upon our economic prosperity and upon our willingness and ability to pay for additional services through higher taxation. To achieve that we need Government assistance and guidance to enable the economy to maximise production and productivity. That does not mean that we need government control of the decision making processes at all levels. That would be both inefficient and totally unnecessary. The Government, through its ad hoc decision making, has failed to give any guidance to the Australian people and has thus contributed directly to the deep disillusionment and discontent to be found everywhere.
The Australian people have been nurtured on political scepticism for too long. They have been encouraged to recognise no limits in the demands that they may make on governments. They cannot now be expected to co-operate unless those who are elected to govern are brave enough to make it clear without equivocation that as a nation we can only solve our problems through co-operation and restraint- restraint at all levels of the economy and co-operation among all sections of the community. It is impossible for any government to continue to spend record amounts on welfare and community services and at the same time seriously attempt to restrain rises in costs and prices. The wages explosion of the last 12 months, combined with a less than satisfactory level of productivity as well as pressures from imports- all the result of specific Government policies- have priced out of employment large numbers of people. Now under intensive pressure to reflate the economy to overcome the unemployment the Government, if it persists with its present policies of over-spending and excessive taxation, will be presiding over the birth of a further round of wage demands caused by an inevitably rising hyper-inflationary situation in the New Year.
Despite the obvious dangers facing the nation the Labor Government has persistently ignored the Opposition’s warnings and offers of cooperation. With regret we have seen our deepest forebodings being fulfilled. There is no easy solution to our problems. The road back to stability will be hard and long. Sacrifices must be made by all of us. Then and only then shall we see the solution of our dilemma. It is becoming abundantly clear that the Government should introduce a supplementary Budget if it wishes to hold the last tattered shreds of its economic credibility. This Budget should integrate the Government’s fiscal policies with an overall economic strategy to overcome our 3 major problems- inflation, unemployment and a lack of confidence. Income taxes must be reduced to stimulate savings, investment and productivity. The Government’s control of indirect taxation must be used to stimulate demand and reduce prices especially in those industries which have suffered from specific Government policies. Credit restrictions must continue to be progressively eased but the Government’s monetary policy must be more clearly explained to the electorate and carried through. Within the context of a supplementary Budget a co-ordinated policy to restrain incomes and prices should be announced following negotiations between the Government, the States, industry and the trade union movement. Both Federal and State legislative powers should be co-ordinated to ensure incomes and prices are effectively restrained, at least in the short term. The Government must resolve to maintain a balance in our external account. These are the principles which will dictate whether this nation in the next few months is going to be able to get out of the present situation.
Last May the Labor Party gave an undertaking to the Australian people that it would have no part of stop-go economic policies, that it would not tolerate unemployment, that only Whitlam could reduce inflation to 8 per cent by the end of this year. Now it is going on well towards 20 per cent. Honourable gentlemen opposite should mark well those promises for they shall be written upon your political epitaph. The people of Australia will long remember the incompetence and, in spite of that incompetence, the depths of deceit to which this Government stooped to hold the fruits of power.
-After listening to the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Connolly) it is rather obvious that the Budget was designed for electorates such as Macarthur and not for electorates such as Bradfield. I spent an interesting day in the electorate of Macarthur yesterday, and the day brought into focus many of the problems of the electorate. It also brought into focus the way that the Government through the Budget is coping with the problems in the community. In the morning I attended the opening of the Bradury Community Centre at Campbelltown. The opening was performed by the Honourable John Waddy, the New South Wales Minister for Health. I was able to praise the way in which the 3 levels of government had worked together in this project. It was the first such community centre in the western region of Sydney. The 3 levels of Government involved a local community group that had been working for three or four years to try to get together and work out some home nursing services, to give it a centre and to give it some focus in the western region of Sydney. The allocation in the Budget for this type of service has been increased by some $25. lm to $35m. All that was allocated to this one centre was $51,000. Yet here we have enormous impact on the community around Campbelltown. A need for such a centre has existed and has been known for a long time. If we divide the $51,000 into the $35m we have allocated and if we take into account the involvement of the State and local community groups in this matter we will see the impact of just one policy of the Government.
We have also gone along with the State governments for a long time and with the experts of the various State health departments and health commissions with respect to mental health. Last year we introduced the Mental Health and Related Services Assistance Act 1973. This legislation was aimed at setting up centres and creating the means of helping people with mental illness, alcoholism and drug dependency. Again we have increased the Budget allocation by some $800,000 to $7.5m in the current year in this field. There has been agreement between the 3 levels of government in all these things- the community health centres, the drop-in centres and the various forms of centres that have been created in a flexible manner. There has been no talk about socialism, centralism or any other ‘ism ‘.
Perhaps we still do have a disagreement on the need for a public hospital in Campbelltown with the New South Wales Government sticking to its guns and saying that it will not commence a public hospital in this area even with Australian Government aid before it is ready to do so. Of course, in the Budget there was the first allocation of money in terms of the Hospitals and Health Services Commission report, known as the Sax Committee report, of $28m to start a hospital program, a program to upgrade hospitals over the next 5 years.
In the afternoon I saw a deputation concerned with the problems of homeless men and bashed up women and other personal situations whereby refuge housing is required as a matter of urgency. All social agencies in the centre of Cambelltown were involved and they are preparing hard facts and figures on the matter. Again officers of the State and local government agencies were agreed on the nature of the problem. A meeting under the auspices of the Aus.tralian Assistance Plan was held at Liverpool this afternoon so that the extent of the problem can be properly submitted to the Government. Again in the Budget there was an allocation of $2.2m for assistance to homeless persons. In fact, if honourable members will reflect back on the report on homeless men I think they will acknowledge it was one of the better reports that has come out of the social welfare field in recent .times. In the afternoon I was privileged to open the offices of the Department of Social Security in Campbelltown which is a regionalised and decentralised centre. Again, local, State and Australian Government agencies were present. There was little dissent between all the people there on the way to go about solving the problems of the area and the way to go about solving social security problems and the various needs in a society where there is very little slack and where people when they lose their income are in immediate need. People can be thrown into all sorts of situations. Again I was able to relate the amount of money that the Government is allocating to these needs and the real problems that these were causing for us. Some $3.441m in this Budget, or 21.1 per cent of the total Budget allocation, is involved.
I took the opportunity to remind people that when they actually deal with public servants they find that a lot of this nonsense about anonymous bureaucrats and about kicking public servants because it is pretty easy to kick them, just does not apply. I also was able to tell them of the Woodhouse report on compensation and rehabilitation which will be gradually introduced in this Parliament with a considerable amount of debate, that the final report of the commission of inquiry into poverty will be delivered in 1 974-75, that the final report on national superannuation will be introduced and finalised in this year and also that the independent inquiry into the repatriation system will be finalised.
The role of reports in this Parliament, the role of reports in the way that the policies of the Department of Social Security have been formulated over the past 20 months, has been one very good symptom of open government. Quite frankly, when I hear people in the community say that they are confused about some of the things we are doing I think it is about time they woke up to the fact that they should be prepared to do a little homework and work out what they believe. If we are to have more discussion I think that people should not simply believe every story that is written in the newspapers but that they should do a little homework and work out what they believe in themselves. If we talk about Parliament as an institution, if we talk about Parliament and the role of the member in it, I believe that the Press has been rather irresponsible in giving the public the idea that for the Government ever to accept an amendment or change its mind is a defeat or loss of face. Also too much is made of the fact that the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party has on about 3 occasions reversed decisions of the Executive or the Cabinet.
If we are looking at this matter in a Budget context, as long as the overall strategy or trend of the Budget is not touched, I see nothing wrong with that at all. I accept there can be problems in selling this politically and that it does have weaknesses. But I think it is also a strength. I believe it is about time that all politicians accepted that society is a lot more mature than we think it is. They should accept that there must be a lot more debate in the Parliament and in the parliamentary parties themselves. Perhaps I can philosophise a little on this. I think that Parliament is a forum for debates. Debate implies that there is some recognition that there is a value in the exchange and clash of views. But neither in nor out of the Parliament, in the Press or elsewhere, have I noticed any great toleration of different points of view. The whole emphasis in my Party as much as elsewhere is on unity. It is what the Labor Party calls solidarity and what the Opposition Parties call loyalty. In fact, the opponents of the Labor Party are as conspicuous for their criticism of what they regard as the lack of unity in the Labor Government as for what they consider to be the iron discipline of Caucus. But the Opposition Parties are just as hung-up on matters of unity and solidarity. Their leader, the most important man in the Opposition, seems almost paranoiac about the subject and appears to treat a difference of opinion as a capital political offence.
A country whose culture places this high a value on conformity cannot hope or expect to develop a true parliamentary tradition which is contingent on the encouragement or diversity of opinion and ideas. So much for the philosophising.
Last night I attended the annual dinner of the Dapto Chamber of Commerce, which was addressed by Mr Russell Prowse, Assistant General Manager of the Bank of New South Wales, who made his point with outstanding clarity about the Australian economy and the inappropriateness of the Budget as a means of handling inflation. He convinced me, if I ever needed any convincing, that the next election will be fought on ideology- but more of this in a moment. On the way back to Canberra I travelled up the Macquarie Pass and found it was blocked as usual. Semi-trailers just simply cannot negotiate it if they make one error of judgment. The wheels of a trailer had simply slipped off the edge of the road and I was held up for 1 Vi hours and the pass itself was not unblocked until 1 1 o’clock today. It was a simple accident. This is the Illawarra Highway- one of our great trunk roads. Every day thousands of tons of steel, cement, fertilisers, bulk fuels, heavy and light industrial goods travel over it. It joins on to the notorious Hume Highway. Yet the States and the Opposition have opposed our moves in quite recent times in respect of the identification and the needs of the national highways. Sir Charles Cutler shrugs his shoulders and says that this is a problem that the Federal Government is quite welcome to. Yet what he has said on other occasions has been: ‘Give us the money without strings.’ But this is an example of double think because this is exactly what has happened in the past and this is exactly the reason why the Illawarra Highway and the Hume Highway are in the condition they are in today.
I should like to try to drag together the 4 events I have related to the House in the context of ideology and politics and the people. I have referred to 2 events- the opening of a health centre and the opening of a Social Security office on which there has been agreement largely between the levels of government. There are some areas of disagreement but by and large we have seen the way that the levels of government in society can work together to solve the problems. There is no reference to galloping socialism or centralism. It just simply was not an issue. If we look at the roads situation it will be seen that some people say we are guilty of galloping socialism yet what the Government is trying to do is to provide an infrastructure almost entirely for the benefit of free enterprise. It is the States themselves that impose socialistic legislation to restrain competition between road and rail.
Getting back to ideology, I agreed with much of what Mr Prowse said last night. Perhaps the Budget does misjudge the need to curb inflation to the degree necessary- a degree, I would say, whereby the Government would have had to commit suicide by carrying out dramatically unpopular measures. But it also must be remembered that if we had accepted some of the Treasury advice the cure we would have attempted would have amounted to overcompensation to such an extent that the unemployment created would have made the current problem look small. Even with present levels and trends of unemployment, compiled with projected rates of inflation and interest rates, business uncertainty is rife, whether we like it or not. I do not blame the Treasury for poor advice because the basic problem with inflation, whatever the colour of the government- whether it be the conservative Government in Japan or the Heath Government in England which made a dash for free enterprise and had to bail out RollsRoyce in a liberal democratic society they are all in trouble because they cannot find politically acceptable cures or even palliatives. We do not have all the economic powers to control inflation in this country and there are good arguments to say why we should not have them. There are too many rigidities in our form of society that do not allow any downturn in expectations of rising standards of living. No wage ever drops in a business cycle and no entrepreneur ever wants diminishing sales. New wants can always be created. We may reach a plateau but it is the nature of our society to move on to more and more demands. There is a case at present perhaps for incentives for business by way of tax cuts and cuts in Government spending but these are just as much political as they are economic measures.
The Budget was almost entirely a political document but the true nature of all budgets should be recognised. Budgets more and more are almost entirely political. If people think we can produce something out of the Budget that will cure inflation then I wish they would explain why it is that increased earnings in the private sector do not cause inflation. If people say that unhindered capital inflow will help us now, then I wish they could explain why in the past this was not in fact one of the causes of inflation. If people say at present we can cut personal taxes, for example, by $ 1,000m then I wish they could explain why this will not feed inflation. What I point out is that the traditional conservative answers to the problem kill just as much as cure unless they are accompanied by a lot of other directly political measures. More importantly with a conservative government in the past, spending on education, social welfare and the public infrastructure was inadequate and this was at a time when we were supposed to be able to afford to spend in such areas. These questions at present are all being surrounded by ideology.
Inflation, I believe is fundamentally a political problem. People must be convinced that they cannot have an ever-increasing private standard of living at the same rate if they demand more and more services, if at the same time they wish to work less and if they think business can invest less. But where is the consensus for this realisation in the community today? Where is the responsibility on both sides of this House which would enable the realities of the situation we face to be clearly spelt out? We all shirk much of the responsibility by not spelling out these facts. Indeed, what is the role that the Opposition is playing in this Parliament?
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) now has a new policy. It is supposed to be a bit better than the last one, the one with the phallic symbol cooked up for 18 May. It is better because it has a Utile bit of Labor policy in it. Care.fully reading through the last one one gathers that the Liberals if they were in government would wipe the Department of Urban and Regional Development, restore a few subsidies and throw aU welfare programs into reverse or hold except in those areas where there might be a few votes. In fact the Opposition has been nothing less than recalcitrant in its preference for the unshackled use of its members in the Senate to give effect to its opposition. Its effort to persuade the people of the merits of its policy and the demerits of ours has gone no further than total mobilisation of prejudice. No idea of giving any philosophy or blueprint for the cure of inflation or any other social problem is ever given. All we ever have is pie in the sky contradictions and sloganeering. I believe this might be aU right to perpetrate ideology but it is not particularly responsible.
The Leader of the Opposition is now throwing out leads to see whether divine providence is going to tell him to deny Supply in the Senate to provoke an election before Christmas. I believe the New South Wales Liberal Party wants an election next April or May. We await aU these things with bated breath. In the meantime the Opposition relies on prejudice and the recitation of slogans, socialism or socialisation versus free enterprise. Conservative forces back this tirade without any rigour or attempt at definition. To that extent they too are not analysing the problems. They are simply acting politically. I can understand this but I do not think it is going to advance things very far. One writer recently sent me a speech or an essay on socialism or socialisation. When my colleague the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Whan) asked for his definition he simply replied asking the honourable member for Eden-Monaro for his definition.
Industry wants help and protection. Is this free enterprise? What the Government has done in many industries is to allow the market forces to operate more than they have operated in the past 20 years. If we are going rigorously to define socialism and free enterprise I think we could start by defining free enterprise in the following manner. If free enterprise were closely followed it would be quite reasonable for property speculation firms to slump when a property boom slumps. It follows that if stock exchanges slide then the Government should not intervene. It follows that the exchange rate should be determined by supply and demand of the Australian dollar dependent solely on the balance of payments. In fact it should not be set in favour of exporters but in terms of their competitive position in the international market. It assumes that wage rates should be set almost entirely by collective bargaining. It assumes that unfettered competition between enterprises having equal opportunity should only require an effective Trade Practices Act and not Government interference. It assumes that the size of any manufacturing industry should not be dependent upon State considerations or any factor other than the ability to gain what market share it may. The truth is that no one really wants this sort of definition of free enterprise in Australia. Perhaps we are all nearly socialist now. Government intervention in agriculture and secondary industries has a long history in Australia and will always be there. An amount of Government investment has always occurred in Australia in such matters as transport which goes back to the railways in the 1860s and beyond. What I am simply saying is that if there is to be a debate and if it is not to be entirely without ideology and based on the slogans that are being bandied around the country today, I think we should have some honest, responsible analysis. Otherwise again we will not advance the solution of any of the problems we face. Let us analyse some of the issues themselves. I am rather alarmed to find some Liberal members of the New South Wales
Parliament in my electorate saying that the Australian Government is giving so much money to education at present that they can happily get stuck into the chalkies because everyone has had education as an issue. Perhaps that is an accurate political reading of the situation, but it ignores the issue itself. Let us consider another current topic, the paintings ‘Blue Poles’ and ‘Woman V. Perhaps this is a good one to tout around the country and a good one to embarrass the Government with, but I would point out that when some group can spend $4m sailing off the coast of the United States of America trying to win a cup this seems to be thought to be a good thing, but when the Government sets up the most intelligent group of people it can to buy works of art for the benefit and the appreciation of future generations, this is thought to be a terribly bad thing because people do not exactly understand what they are buying. I do not understand what they are buying, but I will defer to the suggestion that there are some things on which society must place a high value. I think that the empty sloganeering and the failure to define where we are going mean that this Parliament is not honestly analysing the issues we face today, and I think that that applies to both sides of the House.
-We heard 2 excellent speeches earlier tonight from the honourable members for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) and Bradfield (Mr Connolly) and I want to support them. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden)- the next Prime Minister, I might add, in the not too distant future- has moved important amendments to the Appropriation Bill. These are self-explanatory, and I add my weight of support to them. Bill Snedden is gaining steadily in stature, and with the shambles the Government is in I venture to say that many members on the Government side would like to be on the Opposition side of the House, particularly right wing members who have to tolerate the left wing dominated Caucus running the Parry- the socialists with communist tendencies, and the real communists. Communist countries invariably produce defectors. I make particular reference to the word ‘defectors’ because I wonder how many members on the Government side of the House would like to defect to the side on which the Liberal and Country Party Opposition sits. I venture to say that the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Kerin) who
E receded me, would be one of these defectors if e had his chance. For many years I belonged to a service club, Lions International. In keeping with most service clubs Lions International lives by a code of ethics, aims and objects. One of them is: ‘Be careful with your criticism and liberal with your praise. Build up, do not destroy’. I find it very difficult to be liberal with my praise of this Budget, although there are some good features of it and I will point out the good features as I go.
– It will take about 3 seconds.
– Yes, it will probably take only about 3 seconds, as the honourable member for Riverina reminds me, but because they are scarce the bouquets will be scarce as well. Before looking at specific items I want to make some general comments. This Government has been rushing headlong into change. It wants to be the reforming government. It wants to be known as the government that introduced more reform for Australia than any previous government, without stopping to assess whether the country can withstand the changes it wants to make. It has a mandate from the people; I will concede it this. It has a mandate to govern and a mandate to make changes, but it also has a mandate to govern wisely, and it is incumbent on the Government to be flexible, to curb its desires, to dampen its own enthusiasm if the country’s interests are best served in this way. There are better goverments than this one that have had to eat humble pie in the past. Changes in direction must be made as necessary, not in desperation when it is too late.
I do not know who made the statement that to climb steep hills requires a slow pace at first. One must proceed slowly and become accustomed to sudden changes in steep gradients. One must slowly and deliberately tackle steep slopes. Just as an out-of-condition and out-of-training athlete becomes distressed and begins to falter when he is confronted with steep hills in trying to maintain his pace after traversing flat and slightly undulating country, so the wise athlete slows down and conditions himself to change; but not this Government. Oh no, it must clap on speed. It says: ‘Australia is running out of time. We must increase the rapidity with which change is brought about. The nation has been in the doldrums for 23 years. We must set the rusty machine in motion and quickly catch up on our lost past’. If they were the doldrum years then let me assure this Government that countless Australians want to return to the solidarity of those days. This Government has run the country out of energy, out of puff. We are floundering and the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) bolsters himself. We saw him in the House this morning bolstering himself and his tottering Government by statements trying to blame the Opposition for creating an atmosphere of panic, confusion and rumour mongering. I know who is panic stricken, confused and rumour mongering and so do the Australian people. Let me assure honourable members that the idle words from the silver tongued Prime Minister will not be swallowed by the Australian people. In his policy speech on 13 May he said:
For the first time Australia has a government determined to promote Australian ownership . . .
For the first time for a generation Australia has a government dedicated to equal opportunity . . .
For the first time Australia has a government determined to make the conditions of life more equal for all Australians …
For the first time Australia has a government seriously concerned to give equality . . .
For the first time Australia has a national government- and he goes on and on. For the first time, Mr Prime Minister, the big three- inflation, unemployment and economic crisis in combinationare the scourge of this nation. We have a lot of firsts- ones we do not want. I call on the Prime Minister to be realistic. We have an economic crisis. He has to recognise it. We have intolerable unemployment. We are told by the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron), who is at the table at the moment, that the statistics show that 130,000 people are unemployed, but his confrere in Queensland, Mr Jack Egerton, the Queensland President of the Trades and Labour Council, estimates the true figure to be 200,000. That is the opinion of one of the Minister’s own men.
– The Minister likes Jack too.
– He likes Jack. He is in league with him. He obviously agrees with him. We have not been told the real figures, but of course it is only a matter of time before they come out. Inflation is running at somewhere near 20 per cent, and where is our Prime Minister? He is wondering whether he can fit in a visit back to Australia. He told us that he is going overseas again shortly to Europe. He is unashamedly saying this. He is off again.
– I wish he would stay there.
-As the honourable member for Darling Downs says, he wishes he would stay there. I suggest to honourable members of this House that the place for the Prime Minister is in this country. What about the confidence that is so widespread in Australia today? Or should I say the lack of confidence? Throughout the business world we find that there is a lack of confidence that unfortunately is growing. I say ‘unfortunately’ because this is a matter that is beyond politics. Indeed, the people generally lack confidence in the ability of the nation to recover from inflation, high unemployment and the economic crisis. What reasons have they to feel confident? Unless the economy of this country improves and unless confidence is restored in the business and private sectors of the economy Australia is doomed. It will SliP further. Unemployment will continue to rise or will remain at a high figure. Inflation will remain high and the economic crisis will continue. When will the Government learn that this country cannot do without private enterprise based on solid foundations? The actions of the Government are undermining the foundations of private enterprise business and undermining the jobs of countless thousands of workers it purports to represent. What a laugh! The Labor Government is the friend of the worker. I wonder how many thousands of workers long for the return of the Liberal PartyCountry Party coalition government. It is a true saying that the devil you know is better than the one you do not know. Honourable members opposite may laugh but old friends best to meet, old wood best to burn, old wine best to drink and old governments best to trust. I am sure people would like to see a return to the old Liberal Party-Country Party coalition government.
No longer can this Government be relied upon and no longer can it be trusted. Inflation was running at 4.7 per cent in December 1972 when the Labor Government came to power but it took off and it was only a matter of months before it was running at about 1 2 per cent, then 1 3 per cent, 1 4 per cent and so on. In the early stages of the May elections the Prime Minister told the nation that inflation was not an issue but he was quick to change his mind a few days before the elections when he realised he was losing ground. At that stage he recognised that inflation was an issue and he told the Australian people: ‘We can cure inflation’. He failed and failed badly. This is an inflationary Budget with estimated expenditure of $l6,274m, an increase of $3,980m or 32.4 per cent. He produces an inflationary Budget and yet repeatedly says he wants to control inflation. The Prime Minister’s credibility has evaporated into thin air. What about the super tax that has been imposed- 10 per cent on unearned income? It is an iniquitous tax. It will affect the affluent society. It will affect everybody but not to the same extent as it will affect the small man- the lower income earner, the battler the fellow that members opposite represent or supposedly represent.
– Tell us what you did to Marshall Cooke?
– We have some comedians on the Government side of the House. They are terribly easy to handle really. They think they are good, but they are not. Let us consider the Caucus Economic Committee. It flexes its muscles and as a result perhaps income up to $5,000 may be exempt from this super tax. What about the thrifty people who have no desire to be a burden on the country? They do not want to be freeloaders. They are good, honest, hard working people. They constitute the majority of people in this nation today. They are being kicked mercilessly by this Government. What incentives are left for these people? In effect people are being encouraged to become dependent on the Government and this is a sorry state of affairs. With the imposition of this super tax the Government is no better than a thug, mugging people and taking their wallets and handbags or a thief breaking and entering a shop and living the easy life. In its bid to equalise the wealth of Australia this Government will strangle initiative and take away all incentive from people. This nation is built on an aggregation of personal efforts. Is the Government blind to the reality of this situation? This is a wonderful country with wonderful people proud of their achievements but they are being led down the path of socialism. What is more upsetting is that the socialists on the Government side are proud of it They have virtually encouraged the people of this nation to produce less and to contribute less because big brother government will take care of them.
It is time for all Australians to come to their senses, to reject this attitude and approach that plagues us like a malignant growth- a growth that is becoming so extensive that it will not be possible to excise it from our society. I say to Australians: ‘Take a long hard look at yourselves. Do you want a continuation of personal pride in individual achievement? Do you want to remain an individualist not only for yourself but also for your children and your children’s children or do you want a giant welfare state where initiative is taken away from you, incentives are abolished and the people of this nation fade into a murky oblivion?’ The dark and murky waters the people of this nation will struggle through will not be pleasant. They will have a stench that will remain in the nostrils of our people for generations to come. The colour of the waters will stain our society.
– You are a poet and do not know it.
-This brings comments from Government supporters, but the truth hurts and obviously this is hurting. There are many honourable members opposite who would like to get out. They would like to opt out now but they cannot because they are caught up in the web. However, I have faith in the dogged Australian. He will not be pushed. He will not let his independence be whittled away. He will not accept charity from governments unless it is absolutely necessary. He will reject the bureaucracy of this Government and will rise up and stand on his own feet. He will fight for his family’s freedom and independence. He will overwhelmingly resist any radical change perpetrated on the Australian people by any political party that forms the government.
This Budget is in tatters. The Caucus Economic and Education Committees pulled it to pieces. What a farce. A carefully prepared Budget involving $ 1 6 billion- prepared by the Prime Minister and 26 Ministers- is pulled to pieces by the Caucus Economic and Education Committees. What a way to frame a Budget. The Leader of the Opposition has moved an amendment. Perhaps if he had invited the Labor Party’s Caucus Economic and Education Committees to join him, with the expertise on the Opposition side and the extra numbers from those Government Caucus Committees -
– Tell us what he did in 1 97 1.
-At least he did not get the country into an economic crisis with unemployment and inflation as they are today. Government supporters must be proud of their record at the moment. I am surprised that they even open their mouths. If with the superior performance of members from this side of the House we had a few of the numbers from the Caucus Economic and Education Committees we could even reframe the whole Budget. We could rewrite it for Mr Crean, or I am sorry, Dr Cairns who is the man to whom to direct comments. What about obstructionism? We have heard this term so often I am tired of listening to it. Who is obstructing the Government now?
-The Caucus Economic and Education Committees are obstructing the Government so do not let me hear the term obstructionism in this House.
-Order! Interjections will cease and the honourable member will address the Chair.
-I should now like to deal with some specific items. Personal income tax and massive wage increases have resulted in greater taxes to the Government. There has been a slight reduction in income tax for people earning up to approximately $ 10,500 a year. But this will have little or no effect on the wages grab. What will the unions say now that people are getting back a maximum of $1.92 a week? This will be a great incentive to them when they are asking for increases between $10 and $40 a week. So the taxation cuts will be a great help.
It is very nice to see radio listeners ‘ licence fees and television viewers’ licence fees abolished But why does the Government wish to abolish the licence fees on the one hand and then say to the people of Australia that they have to pay extra postage charges? How can it reconcile that sort of action? The Government abolishes one charge and increases another. In education there is record spending. I support the figure. But what about the reduction in the tax deduction for education from $400 a year to $150 a year? Maybe the Caucus education committee will rule supreme. Maybe it will overrule the Prime Minister and the other 26 Ministers. This is obviously a deliberate attack on private schools. I like to see the $75m that is to be spent on the care and education of young children. This is a welcome figure. But it was to be $130m, it was then reduced to $35m and now it is back to $75m. Talk about the stop-go tactics of this Government.
The Government is continuing its efforts to improve the position of patients in nursing homes. Good heavens above, what a farcical situation. The Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) is talking about looking after the patients in the nursing homes. He says he is concerned for patients in the nursing homes. Many of the nursing homes are faced with closure. Pensions have not been increased. We can talk about $5 single and $6 double -
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-We heard much at the weekend about the Liberal Party’s conference and the Liberal Party’s new image. Any person listening tonight to the broadcast of these proceedings would hear what the new image really is. The political troglodytes on the other side of the House have made speeches referring to communists, Caucus power and the trip of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). That is like a trip down the time tunnel. It is like 1949 revisited with all the Opposition’s scandalmongering, its character assassination and all the negatives it is continuing to propose. One of the problems about politics in Australia today is that we have these overt threats now coming from the Opposition to a properly elected government that at any time in the term of a government the Opposition will force it to an election. The evidence has just been supplied again recently by the honourable member for Petrie (Mr Hodges) who has just spoken. He said that Mr Snedden will be Prime Minister soon and that soon we will have another election.
I intend to quote from an editorial in today’s ‘Australian Financial Review’. I do not like to read editorials in speeches but this is worth reading. The editorial is referring to the prospect of a double dissolution or an election and the Senate power to obstruct a duly elected government. It says:
This is a sizeable step for the Senate to take -
To refuse appropriation- but one it is quite capable of doing. Only a few months ago, the political conventions suggested that it was improper for a government to be refused supply by the Upper House. Now, the concept of a double dissolution on these grounds is regarded as being pan of the normal hazards of politics. No matter how you dress up the political system in Australia with fine sounding phrases and meaningless conventions, it ultimately resolves itself into a game of opportunism- or grabbing power when it is going. While it is difficult for any Party leader to concede this publicly, it is suicidal for him to ignore it privately. Clearly, Mr Snedden is testing the temperature at the moment. He is signalling that he has not closed off the option of an election this year . . .
What right has this discredited man to signal calling on an election this year? He was defeated roundly and soundly in only May of this year. He came into this Parliament and said he was not defeated, that it was just that he did not win. He persisted with this ruse for 3 months until, after a couple of months of votes and constant defeat of the Opposition in this Parliament, he finally decided he had actually lost the election. That was just a few months ago and now he is talking about when he will have another election. He has scant regard for the wishes of the people of Australia and scant regard for the political stability of this country.
When the Labor Party had a majority in the Senate and when the Liberal-Country Party Government was in office the Labor Party never refused Supply. It had more respect for the wish of the people. It never forced a properly elected government to the polls prematurely. It respected the role of the Upper House. The Upper House was a concession to induce the colonies to accept federation. It was worked on the basis that it catered for minorities. The small States had an equal number of representatives in the Senate as did the large States. This was to protect the small States against what could be the machinations of the large States in the House of
Representatives and the majorities that they could command in this chamber. So, in the event of discriminatory legislation being introduced to the detriment of any of the small States, the small States having equal numbers with the large States could block the legislation. The fact of the matter is that the Senate does not operate as a States House any more; it operates as a parties House. The Liberal-Country Parties have just demonstrated the opportunism to which the editorial referred. Firstly, in May of this year, the Liberal-Country Parties refused the duly elected Government the money to carry on the operations of the Commonwealth of Australia. Now we have all these veiled threats trotted out every couple of months about when the Opposition will take the Government to poll. This means that any government faced with serious economic problems- which this Government is faced with and which were largely inherited from our predecessors- that takes proper corrective measures, does so at its own political risk if those measures earn it unpopularity. In other words its own survival is threatened by the very lightness or correctiveness of decisions which it may have to take and which may be unpalatable.
The Opposition will continue to use the unpopularity of the Government on economic measures knowing that there is a finely balanced electorate in Australia at the moment and that the Liberal Party and the Country Party can achieve a government at some stage and the Labor Party can achieve a government at some other stage, depending on how the political pendulum is swinging at any one time. The Opposition parties will exploit this balance in the Australian electorate to force any elected government to an election at any time. With this uncertainty which arises from the possibility of an election, a change of power and a change of government in any one year, it is no wonder the business community of Australia does not really know what it is in for. How would it know? In the early part of this year, after 18 months of the Labor Government’s being in office and taking correct economic decisions, revaluing the Australian dollar, cutting tariffs, increasing imports, supplementing our own lagging domestic production, to try to beat prices, holding referendums on price control and on wages control and having them defeated, using every constitutional power available in this Parliament to this Government in the economic arena, introducing legislation for which we were given a mandate in 1972 and religiously carrying out the document that the Prime Minister read in his policy speech, the Opposition parties forced this Government to an election. Shame on them for doing so. They talk about doing it again and they wonder why there is uncertainty in the Australian electorate.
The passing of the Democratic Labor Party, the syphoning off of the right wing vote in Victoria to the Liberal Party and the resurgence of support which the Labor Party has been given, have evened up the stocks of political parties in Australia so that the Australian electorate is very finely balanced. I presume it will remain finely balanced for a long time. The Labor Party has achieved more than 50 per cent of the vote at successive elections and sometimes we have been unable to form a government. We have done it again and we can continue to do it. At some stage in the future the Liberal-Country Parties no doubt will get enough support to form a government. But this balance gives any Opposition with a majority in the Senate the opportunity of forcing the House of Representatives to an election at a time of its choosing without the Senate going to an election itself. This is the threat the Leader of the Opposition uses here constantly. He says that if in his opinion he gets the call he will force an election. Who gives him the call? Are there to be petitions or will the people mass outside the front of Parliament House? It will be only a subjective political judgment based upon political expediency as to when he can force the properly elected Government to the polls. So do not come here talking about the high morality of the Liberal Party. It never had any morals in the past; it will not have any morals in the future. The established parties in any country -
– What would you know about morals?
– You are the most debauched character here. Fancy you speaking about morals.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins)Order! The honourable member will address the Chair.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, the establisment parties, the right wing parties, in any country never had morality. The Opposition has never had morality. It has always used the Communist slur and dropped the can and done anything to survive. It has siphoned off the Catholic minority in Victoria for 20 years to survive. Now the Leader of the Opposition has talked at the weekend in his conference about ‘vibrant individualism’. He sees a basic struggle between socialism and free enterprise. All of this is class talk and yet he states that he will not go back to the class consciousness that the Australian Labor Party tries to propose. Yet the Opposition lived off class division for the 23 years that it was in government.
The Opposition will not take defeat. It will not accept that the people did not vote for it on 2 occasions in the last 2 years. It is waiting for an expedient opportunity now to try to destroy us. The Liberal Party a few years ago used to deride the Labor Party for its program of policy formulation and for its forums of debate. It used to call our Federal Conference the ‘36 Faceless Men’. But when the Liberal Party realised that the Australian electorate appreciated the fact that a major party researched policies, cared about policies and thought about them before they opportunistically offered policies at an election to try to buy votes it realised that it should have federal conferences to try to thrash out policies. Last weekend we had the window dressing of the Liberal Party’s National Convention.
As I said before, the Leader of the Opposition talked about ‘vibrant individualism’. There was a lot of individualism available to the poor children in schools, for instance, in my electorate, who never had the chance of tertiary education and never had anything more than an intermediate certificate standard or school certificate standard of education. That was all that they could ever get. But there was not a word about all the Government has done for underprivileged children, people who are underprivileged, superannuated persons and people on pensions. There was no talk about thenindividualism or their opportunity- the so-called individualism of the Liberal Party. Their individualism was a case of: ‘You are on your own, mate. Do your best’. But this Government takes the view that an individual is not on his own and that the Government of Australia has responsibilities to all Australians to try to see that everyone is treated fairly. The Liberal Party talked about the terrible policies of this Government. Yet in its 23 years in government it initiated no meaningful change in the social pattern of Australia at all. It derides everything this Government does.
In the economic arena, for years the present Opposition had stop-go policies. Look at the recessions that occurred. One can go back over the business cycles of Australia. There was one recession after another. The Government of those times never looked at any economic planning. The reason that Australia at the moment has problems with inflation largely goes back to the previous Government’s neglect of exchange rate policy in 1971 when the Australian dollar was undervalued and there was a flood of speculative money into Australia. People then were expecting a currency revaluation at any moment, a capital gain on any investment that they made here. That massive inflow which was running at about $2,000m per annum was drifting into building societies, credit unions and finance companies. Enormous amounts of credit were available to take the price of goods in Australia to enormous levels. That is where the take-off started. That is where prices jumped in front of wages. As a result unions, quite rightly tried to preserve the purchasing power of the wages of their members. Wages gradually caught up and probably now wages are leading prices. But the phenomenon arose because the Opposition, through the political influence of the Australian Country Party and its effect on rural commodities to try to increase their attractiveness overseas, kept the Australian dollar undervalued and because the foreign mining companies in Australia had contracts for commodities written in terms of U.S. dollars any rise in the value of the Australian dollar meant a diminishing return for any company that had contracts written in U.S. dollars.
The Country Party, being the lackey of the foreign mining companies in this place, forced the Liberal Party- the present Leader of the Opposition was then the Treasurer- to accept a value for the Australian dollar which was too low. The Deputy Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Sinclair) inflicted this upon the nation. That produced the enormous capital inflow which was the take-off point for the high level of inflation that we experienced in 1973. In the first quarter of 1973 inflation was running at an annual rate of 14.6 per cent. Not one policy that the Labor Party had introduced, not one appropriation of Labor Party policy within 4 months of taking office had had time to take effect. Yet within 4 months of this Government taking office inflation was running at an annual rate of 14.6 per cent.
We have done everything within our power as a Government to do something about inflation. We revalued the Australian dollar upwards by 24 per cent. We cut tariffs to make imports cheaper so that there would be competition with the price of domestic products and so that they would be cheaper for people to buy. We increased the quantity of imports so that they could supplement Australia’s domestic production. We set up a Prices Justification Tribunal to make sure that all of the major companies in Australia producing basic commodities like rubber, steel and chemicals went before it to ensure that their prices were justified. We restricted liquidity to stop this enormous demand for housing, goods, cars, refrigerators and all of the other things that were going up in price. We held a referendum on price control and were defeated.
We have used every power available to us to do something about inflation. Now that the liquidity constraints are starting to take effect we have been encouraged to ease them off. We have devalued the dollar by 12% per cent because not enough money was coming to Australia as people realised that if they imported money they would take a capital loss on any devaluation effected after the money arrived here. We have reduced the yield on short term Government securities. We have reduced the statutory reserve deposits of the Reserve Bank by $700m since April to try to stimulate liquidity in certain areas of the economy. We have taken off the 25 per cent deposit rule on the importation of foreign funds. That is the rule where -
– Why did you put it on in the first place?
– To try to stop inflation, you dummy. Can you not understand anything at all?
-Order! The honourable member for Petrie will cease interjecting. I will not warn him again.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, the Liberal Party is not interested in the real issues but wants only to get up and cat call. The Government is worried about the lack of productivity in Australia and the lack of business investment. I am personally worried about it. I noticed in the latest Treasury statistics that gross fixed capital investment in Australia declined by 4.2 per cent in the June quarter, and plant and equipment investment declined by 2.6 per cent, which I think is most concerning to any government. We need to get new investments in new plant to increase productivity. A lot of companies in Australia have very old plant and the plant to a very large degree matches their management. If the management and the plant are improvedand there is a notion that there is a concept of a nation by the work force- maybe we will increase productivity and produce our way out of inflation.
Inflation arises when there are too few products and too many people to buy them. The answer to overcome that situation is to produce more. Perhaps we can produce more by getting new plant into operation. I would like to see introduced in the coming months some incentives for production. I do not mean something like the investment allowance which was open to abuse by companies that never really used it, but other productivity incentives which are available and which could be introduced. I think that such incentives are needed. Although in a way the business community of Australia has inflicted a bit of pain upon itself, I do not believe that it is totally to blame for its feeling of insecurity. I referred earlier to the changeability of Australian politics and the fact that governments can change easily when oppositions refuse supply and force governments to elections. Such political instability does not encourage businessmen to make long term investment decisions. Long term investment decisions will be made only when the business community knows the facts. It is for this reason that I believe, contrary to what many other people say, that there is a good case for the Budget being the only economic document for the year. At least this should be so for a couple of years so that people and companies do know what factors they have to deal with in a 12-month period. In that way they can make sensible investment decisions. If the Government is successful in implementing its planned wage indexation and if the factors in regard to wage movements are known, maybe we can start to overcome the hump of inflation after all. But no amount of cat-calling by the Opposition, by the troglodytes opposite, will cure the problem. Nor will the problem be cured by the Opposition trying to force this Government to an election because it thinks that it can beat us at any one point during our term of office. By this Budget the Government has appropriated $ 1,600m for education and additional sums of money for handicapped children’s pensions, supporting mothers benefits, and many other benefits which the Liberals never thought about. The Labor Party has done all of these things. There can be no real improvement in the quality of Australian life unless there are significant government initiatives in such matters as public housing, urban public transport, the state of our cities and hospitals. These are all things which require government intervention and government initiative. They cannot be carried out by private firms or individuals. That is why a program such as the one implemented by the Government must continue.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-One has only to read today’s newspapers to see just how hollow are the remarks made by the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating). In this morning’s ‘Daily Telegraph’ one sees the heading: ‘Shoe Firms Crash; Jobs to go’. Tonight’s
Melbourne ‘Herald* carries the heading: ‘Calculations Change, but Jobless at 28-year Peak’. Today’s ‘Daily Mirror’ carries the heading: ‘December Election!’. That is a threat by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). Those newspaper headings prove how hollow were the comments of the honourable member for Blaxland this evening. In summing up this Budget debate and having listened to a number of Government supporters, it is pretty obvious that the chief criterion of the Labor Party’s policies is that of finance. If the Labor Party can increase a budget for a department, industry or organisation that, to its mind, spells success. As far as it is concerned, the more money the greater the success. Then, on the other hand, in relation to those areas in which we see a reduction, the argument is a little different. The Government says that those areas are wealthy, greedy and do not need consideration.
To my mind it is a budget aimed at winning as many votes as money can buy, on the one hand, and selling to the highest bidder those votes that mean little for electoral purposes, on the other hand. The Treasurer (Mr Crean), who is a very nice fellow, kind and gentlemanly and liked by many, unfortunately fell to the pressure of power at any price by those who are dominated and known for their leftist extremist views. It took him 1V& hours to deliver the Budget Speech. He laboriously listed all those areas in which support may be forthcoming. This was no accident; it was rather deliberate because both he, his leader and his superiors know only too well that their grasp on the Treasury bench is slipping away because of the policies that have been implemented during the last 20 months or so. It was a most peculiar Budget, because no sooner was it delivered than alterations commenced to be made to it. Maybe the changes started after it was printed but before it was delivered. I mention the wool industry, whereby an extra $150m had to be found to back up a promise made as late as 27 August. The Government would not hold up the premature announcement that funds would be received from the banking system.
Just a week or so after the Budget was delivered we saw a major policy decision in the devaluing of the Australian dollar by some 12 per cent. A few minutes ago the honourable member for Blaxland was criticising the Liberal and Country Parties because they would not support an increase in the value of our dollar when they were in office. I ask, and many others ask: Why must these decisions be taken and announced one week after the Budget is delivered? Let me refer to the change in the tax structure. This is now followed by a decision of Caucus to vary the surcharge or special tax on unearned incomes. The latest move has been to reintroduce the $400 permissible taxation deduction for education purposes. Tonight the Prime Minister said that he has the unanimous support of Cabinet. I wonder what will happen tomorrow when Caucus meets. I wonder who will win. Is it any wonder that people are asking who controls our destiny? Is it the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister (Dr J. F. Cairns), the Cabinet, the Caucus, the unions, or is it public opinion? Is this not the first sign of a lack of confidence and of panic, or is it a realisation that Australia is not a country that is prepared to accept socialisation and all its evils? I agree with the statement which appeared in the Melbourne ‘Age’ of Tuesday, 24 September. I shall read only three lines.
The Treasurer is a puzzled man. Business, he pointed out on Sunday night, is pessimistic, and he found it hard to know why.
He must be the only man in Australia who does not know the reasons why. I refer to another leading article in the ‘Mail Times’ which is a newspaper published in my electorate of Wimmera. I cannot read the whole article but I shall read one paragraph. It is a very good article. It states:
The Budget was a national tragedy. It was aimed, directly and callously, at the destruction of private enterprise. It was the product of socialist theorists who are determined to reduce primary industry to a peasant state and the business world to hopelessness.
Another article which appeared in the ‘Mail Times’ on Monday, 30 September, is very interesting because it is pretty factual. It reads:
The Government may as well tell everyone to waste their money. Why save? There is no merit in thrift or in provision for the future. Booze, gamble, spend any way you like, but make sure you spend- that is the message behind the decision to tax savings.
Apart from anything else which has been said all over Australia and which has appeared in the various media, surely these articles should awaken the Government to the fact that all is not well. Maybe it was articles such as these which made the Government, or the Caucus, make these decisions. I am rather interested to note in tonight’s ‘Daily Mirror’ that the Prime Minister is now starting to come the bluff and referring to calling an election. This follows a statement made by the Minister for Manufacturing Industry (Mr Enderby) some 10 days ago in which he said that the Labor Party is fundamentally democratic. Yet the Prime Minister is threatening to call an election if the Senate rejects any part of the Budget. Mr Deputy Speaker, can you tell me, or can anyone on the Government side tell me, the difference between the Senate, a democratically elected body of people, rejecting something and the Caucus rejecting Cabinet decisions?
– What is the difference?
– What is the difference? Come on, tell us. The honourable member is not game to tell us. Like the honourable member for Petrie (Mr Hodges), I believe that there is a little bit of good in the Budget. It is pretty hard to find. As I think the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Sullivan) interjected, it would take 3 seconds to explain it all. I think he is pretty right The Budget contains a lot of things which will catch the public sympathy. In other words, they will catch public support. I mention such things as the extra funds to be paid in health benefits, to nursing homes, in social security payments and for education. All of these payments are very beneficial to the recipients. But I note, as do many other people, the backing away by the Government from an earlier promise to ease further the means test. This will be a bitter blow to many people who were depending on this promise being carried out Under the heading of Aboriginal Advancement we see a very big increase, and many people will go along with this. While I do not want to discredit this particular cause I query the extra expenditure of some $65m, because we know that all the money allocated in the last Budget was not spent; yet the commitment on this occasion is going to go up by $65m. Perhaps this is the reason we saw a change in the portfolio of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. Perhaps the previous Minister overspent I mention the Defence Service Homes maximum loan, which is to rise from $12,000 to $15,000. Very good, it is keeping pace with inflation. Perhaps I should not say it is keeping pace, but it is coming near to it. Here again there is a discrimination in interest rates. One rate is 3% per cent and for the remainder it is 7 W per cent.
These are some of the issues in the Budget that may be partly favourable. However, there are so many others that will carry the burden of some of these issues that it is not funny. For instance, there is the Post Office, and I think the honourable member for Petrie (Mr Hodges) mentioned this. Why do we expect to see a profit in the Post Office of some $55m? There are 2 reasons. One is that there is an increase in charges. These increased charges have now been implemented and the Government was very much on the ball on that one. Secondly, there is a slowing down in capital expenditure. There has been no increase in the allocation of capital expenditure, which means in theory, and no doubt in practice, that there is going to be a reduction of some 20 per cent in capital expenditure caused by increased costs. It is almost an insult to include in the Budget Papers assistance for agricultural and pastoral industries. The total figure shows a contribution of $3 11m, but a close examination of one item alone proves how this misleads the pub.lic. For the wool industry there is shown an amount well above the actual. The levy placed on growers under the new reserve price plan has been included, as well as the other levy for research and promotion. These levies are both included as Government expenditure. This is not Government expenditure but is a contribution made by the growers themselves. So if this figure is deleted the amount allocated to primary producers, despite inflation and despite lower export returns, is ever so much less than it was last year.
If one examines Table 2, section C, of the Budget Papers one sees that an expenditure of $3 1 lm has been allocated to primary industries, but if one looks at Table 4 under Receipts one finds $163m will be forthcoming from primary industries. So instead of having a total expenditure of $31 lm, which has been quoted by members of the Government, the expenditure is only $148m. If this is compared with expenditure in previous years based on the same formula, and I can go back as far as 1968-69, the amounts were $200m, then $352m, $192m, $3 12m, $204m, $232m and this year $ 148m. I might add that the $148m includes some $46m for a superphosphate bounty that in theory is going to expire on 3 1 December. We do not know what the final decision is going to be. Despite a record low price for wool, despite the fact that we cannot sell beef, mutton and lamb on the export market and that what we do sell is at almost record low prices, the Government has cut expenditure for primary industries to the lowest level since 1968.
– And offered no support anywhere.
– It certainly has not offered any support anywhere. So if one compares the allocations made by the Labor Government of today, plus the estimate for this year, allowing for a 15 per cent inflation, they are equal to only about 50 per cent of the allocations of the previous Government. Primary producers by their actions on 18 May showed their feelings by displacing 4 Labor Party members, including the member for Riverina, and almost displacing two or three more. Given a few extra votes the Opposition would have had another 3 members. The Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wriedt) said recently that farm exports would be only marginally lower than last year. I do not know where he got his figures from, but that was his statement. I would not be permitted to use in this House the words expressed by many primary producers throughout the length and breadth of Australia.
To my mind, this is a shocking Budget; it is a sneaky Budget and a most discriminating one. It tries to win support, irrespective of the long term factors. It belts into any form of incentive. Indisputably it is an inflationary Budget. Any individual who tries to expand, to develop and produce more, which in turn helps to reduce costs, is discouraged. I agree with my Leader (Mr Anthony) when he says that Australia’s standard of living will fall if agricultural production falls. In other words, what he is saying is that an affluent primary industry makes an affluent Australia. Australia is basically a food producing nation. There is no country in the world that exports a higher proportion of its production than Australia does. When I hear members of the Labor Party talking I am absolutely certain they do not appreciate this point. There are few commodities that fluctuate in price more than foodstuffs, because they are subject to. seasonal conditions, not only in Australia but throughout the world. There is certainly a great deal of truth in the old cliche about the swing of the pendulum. A few years ago there was a surplus of grain throughout the world and very low prices as a result; today there is a shortage, hence high prices. Last year there was a shortage of beef, creating high prices; today we have a glut, hence low prices. These principles apply to many items -sugar, dairy products and a host of others.
These are but some of the reasons why, in the broad, primary producers want some form of stabilisation to cover their various commodities. True, stabilisation means a contribution when times are good and assistance when things are not so good. It appears that there are many people who forget this principle. Wheat growers are certainly not very happy with the Government’s new scheme because it is not a true stabilisation scheme, as my colleague the honourable member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh), myself and others pointed out during the recent debate on this issue.
– The farmers give the wheat to the Australian consumer.
– Of course they almost give it to the consumer, at approximately half price, contributing something like $100m per year. What this new scheme does is to cut off the peaks, both up and down, and if we run into a lengthy period of rough times it will do nothing to assist the producers. It follows the price up and it will follow the price down. Primary industries are not alone. They have similar problems to many secondary industries. That is why we see all the leading articles and front page articles about the problems of industry at the present time, all caused by Government decisions on inflation and reduced tariffs and this sort of thing. However, the Government must like primary industries because it has a build up of reserves to counter the weak periods. Little thought is given when a purchaser has to pay more. Sometimes they forget that the retailer has to pay a little extra too. Some of the proposals such as the capital gains tax are going to discourage development, not encourage it. The removal of taxation incentives in the last Budget also helped to cripple the development and expansion of many of our industries, both primary and secondary.
If inflation continues at the present rate or at even half of the present rate for the next 10 or 20 years, I ask what is going to happen to our factories, our farms, our businesses on the death of an owner or on his retirement or even if he just decides to sell or change to another business? The increased capital by virtue of inflation will be such that half of it could be lost. If inflation were to run at 10 per cent a year for the next 10 years then the capital value of the property, everything else being equal, would be something like 250 per cent above the original value. That is at the rate of 10 per cent and not at the rate of 20 per cent or 20 per cent plus, which is the rate at which it is running today. I am taking the rate of 10 per cent. What type of capital tax would this attract over a period of time if 2 farmers or 2 businessmen were to decide to change their farms or businesses, which is not uncommon? They would both finish up actually owning only a portion of the farm or business after the capital tax is applied.
I support wholeheartedly the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden). Some very worthwhile contributions have been made from this side of the chamber on the weaknesses of this Budget. I think it was the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) who made some comment about a cliche that was being bandied around about the Prime Minister. It was: ‘Gough’s going great’. I think one word should be added. I think it ought to read something like this: ‘Gough’s going; that’s great’.
-From all Opposition speakers today we have heard the same record slowly repeating over and over again the words ‘inflation’ and ‘unemployment’. The old communist can was kicked earlier by the honourable member for Petrie (Mr Hodges). We even had the melodramatic performance from the last speaker in the debate, the honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King), who threw newspapers in the air and repeated the same subjects of inflation and unemployment. I think he left out the communist can. Very few alternative proposals, if any, have been presented or even mentioned by the Opposition. The speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) in support of his amendment was so moving and enlightening that the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) had to go around to the Opposition side of the chamber and wake up one of the Opposition members on the front bench. That shows the impact of the speech of the Leader of the Opposition. But no alternatives have been presented to the Budget proposals.
In 1973 the Opposition began to feel the power of its control of the Senate while at the same time experiencing the frustration of the lack of control of the treasury benches in this House. Repeatedly the Opposition threatened to withhold Supply. If I am not mistaken the original threat was made by a member of this chamber, the right honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon). Last week the same honourable member again made the same threat and again it was repeated by other speakers on the Opposition side of the chamber. They are now kicking the can and talking about holding another double dissolution. The Opposition parties firmly believe that they did not lose the 1 972 election. Their Leader is still maintaining that he did not lose the 1974 election. They believe that they were born to lead and that no other party has this God-given right. The Opposition is determined to obstruct the legislation presented to the Parliament by a Government which was elected to office only 4 months ago. The people of Australia elected the Australian Labor Party to office in 1972 because of its promises. They reelected the same Party to office this year because of the positive action it has taken.
– The same promises.
-But the people of Australia saw more action taken in the short term in which the Australian Labor Party was in office than they saw in the 23 years in which the Liberal and Country Parties were in office. The Australian Labor Party was re-elected to office, even though honourable members opposite may not believe that it won the election. I believe that if another election were forced by the Opposition within the term of the present Parliament the people would re-elect the Labor Party to office because, as is obvious from this debate, no alternative proposals have been put forward by the makeshift Opposition. It has avoided putting forward alternative proposals right throughout this debate. Most of the Budgets brought down by the present Opposition when it was in government were given nicknames. I call to mind the ‘mini’ Budget and the wonderful ‘horror’ Budget. Honourable members opposite are proud of the Budgets that they brought down. They remember the Budgets of their days in office when people were put out of work. But in their days in office they never provided the people that they put out of work with a reasonable living allowance or a reasonable opportunity for retraining. They never looked after them. All they wanted to do was to have those people sacked and left out on a limb on the labour market in order to give themselves more power.
With this Budget the Government is continuing along the same lines as the 1973 Budget. The field of education is again to be the main benefactor from this Budget. An amount of $2 40m was spent in 1973-74. It is proposed to spend $275m this financial year. In my electorate class rooms have been added to schools and there has been an upsurge in the spending on private and State schools. Teachers as well as parents can now see the reasons why these large amounts of money are being spent.
– Will children have jobs if they leave school this year?
-At least the children are getting a reasonable education. As a matter of fact those interested in tertiary education can now get more than the Opposition gave them when it was in office. They can get free tertiary education when they leave school. They could not do that when the Opposition was in office.
– They will be all dressed up when they finish with nowhere to go.
– But you never thought about that in 1961, 1965 and 1971.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins)Order! I ask the honourable member for Evans to address his remarks to the Chair and the honourable member for Darling Downs to remain silent.
-What amazes me is that $llm more than the estimate for 1973-74 was spent but the shortfall in the outlays- the actual payments- fell short of the Budget estimates by $24m. That was due to the problems experienced by the States in the carrying through of the construction stages of the new building programs approved on the recommendations of the Interim Committee for the Australian Schools Commission. There was also a shortfall in relation to colleges of advanced education and the technical education program. Let us hear from those States to which this money is going as to why they cannot spend it. They say that they do not want to be directed. Yet we give them the money and they cannot even spend it.
As I have said, this Budget is a continuation of the 1973 Budget. The appropriation for the Department of Health has been increased from approximately $70m to $99m, for the Department of Housing from $130m to $160m, for the Department of Social Security from $89m to $141m, for the Department of Transport from $242m to $260m and for the Department of Urban and Regional Development from $llm to $14m. In the outer western suburbs of Sydney it is proposed to engage in the construction of new hospitals, the provision of new transport facilities and the undertaking of urban and regional development projects. That is where this money is going to be spent and that is where the people who voted for the Australian Labor Party last May see it being spent. That is why I have said that it was the actions of the Government that resulted in it being re-elected to office in May of this year.
The expenditure by the Government must mean work opportunities in and more money for the section of the community in which it is most needed. The building of schools, community centres, transport facilities and so on is a great source of money for that section of private industry which is mainly engaged in such activities. I would rather see a new hospital constructed in my electorate than a multi-storey office block which more than likely would be only half- filled. I would rather see the extra $4 a week which will bring the totally and permanently incapacitated pension rate up to $64.10 a week spent on such pensioners than in the form of subsidies for the group to which the Liberal-Country Party Government would have given it, that is, the primary producers. Money that has been given to support mothers and to all other people receiving welfare benefits and who need that money is money well spent. Money which we are spending on hospitals, homes and transport systems goes to private enterprise to build these faculties. Private enterprise will receive greater stimulus in the future through this action.
Let me put to honourable members the legislation which it is proposed to implement in the coming year. There is a scheme for income tax deductions on house mortgage interest payments. Also, there is a scheme which provides for deductions for the maintenance of dependants who are not residing in Australia. There is also a proposal to change the estate duty law and to set up a board to hear applications for a release from the payment of duty in cases of severe hardship. We have a policy to continue to change these -
– There are only the Minister and yourself in the chamber now.
– Honourable members opposite had 20 minutes in which to speak. We did not interrupt them when they were on their feet. There has been much opposition to the proposed surcharge on property income, that is unearned income which an individual receives from property. I believe that this sort of income should be subject to a higher rate of tax than income derived from personal exertion.
One of my constituents brought 2 documents to me last week and one can see from their contents, to use an old Australian saying, how fair dinkum house or flat owners are. On 19 July an estate agent wrote a letter to my constituent in regard to rental increases. The estate agent said:
We have been instructed to inform you that your rent is to be increased to $33 per week, as from the 1 5th August 1 974.
Would you please contact this office before the 15th August, 1974 to make arrangements to sign the necessary documents.
A fee of $5 will be necessary to cover costs of stamp duty . . .
Less than 3 months later another letter was written to my constituent also in respect of a rental increase. The letter stated:
We have been instructed to inform you that your rent is to be increased by $2 per week.
This is $2 on the other increase. The letter continued:
This rental increase is brought about by the recent taxation surcharge in the Federal Budget, the owners advise that they cannot absorb charges of this type.
A fee of $5 will also be necessary to cover the costs of stamp duty.
The letter pointed out that the new rent would be $35. Many people in my electorate will be affected in this way. The constituent who raised this matter with me is a man of not independent means although he has never received a pension. This increase will affect him. I suppose that a pensioner in these circumstances might get some assistance but here we have a case in which a person who is renting a house in my electorate has been slugged for an additional $2 within 3 months of having his rent increased. The house owner should not put his increased level of tax on the rent bill.
The honourable member for Petrie (Mr Hodges) commenced his speech by again bringing out the old red rag. However, later in his speech I thought he was speaking on the side of the Labor Party.
– Oh, no.
-Yes. He quoted many of the promises of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) which we are fulfilling. Then he came to the doom cries. It was on this point I commenced my speech. We have heard doom cries from every speaker on the Opposition side during this debate. In fact I think that this fear is seeping right through the Liberal Party. A friend of mine received a letter from the Liberal Party the other day which was headed: ‘Re: The Survival of the Liberal Party’. It stated:
The Industrial, Business and Professional Communities are facing mounting financial problems and possible collapseso is the Liberal Party.
When we have this old record being played over and over that we are doomed, and when the threat of a double dissolution is held at the Government’s head, from where will the people find confidence, where is the solidarity, how can the Government continue when it is being faced with the threat of being thrown out of office every 3 months? As the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) said, this could happen. We are so finely divided that we could be in office one week, be thrown out the next and we could throw the Opposition out the week after. From where does the confidence of the people come in these circumstances?
– It is your Prime Minister who is threatening us.
– It is the Opposition. The Leader of the Opposition- your aspiring Prime Minister- got up the other day and I believe he said that he hoped there would be a double dissolution. He was the first to threaten it and many members of the Opposition have followed him with the same threat. This threat was also made by the honourable member for Petrie. The Opposition is sitting on the other side of the House and we are sitting on this side of the House because of the 23 years in which no action was taken by the previous Government. I hope that this situation will continue to remind members of the Opposition why they lost government. Yet the Opposition criticises the Government.
– Where are all your friends? You have cleared the House.
– Well, well. Billy the blackfellow has come in now and starts chirping. The Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly), who represents the electorate adjacent to mine, and I have had the pleasure of opening many social security offices. We have opened two lately. Also more people have been able to obtain legal aid in our electorates as a result of the Government’s actions. A social security office will also be opened in the electorate of the right honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon). I do not know whether he considers that the establishment of these offices is a good or bad thing. But one sees that in every electorate something good is happening for people in these electorates and mostly for disadvantaged people, the people about whom members of the Opposition do not worry.
All that members of the Opposition have said so far is that confidence should be restored and that Government spending and income tax should be reduced. But one knows that income tax is stacked so much against the small man that members of the Opposition are only interested in looking after the bigger man. They are not worried about the small man, the average working man, when they say that the Government should reduce income tax. It is only worried about the big man because the system is stacked against the little man. The big man can make his lurks and perks out of the income tax system. The Opposition says that the Government should reduce Government spending from 35 per cent to 24 per cent. But members of the Opposition have not said where they would reduce this spending. Do they want to cut out the building of new schools and tertiary institutions or reduce expenditure on urban development? Do they want to reduce the level of pensions? They should say what they want cut out. But they will not. All that the Parties on the other side want is new subsidies to be put on to prop them up.
– No, return the concessions- that is what we want.
– That is all you want- concessions or subsidies, it does not matter. I will finish tonight on the point we finished on last week when honourable members spoke about Caucus. Honourable members opposite have endeavoured to make Caucus a dirty word not only in this House but throughout Australia. A Caucus meeting is a democratic meeting of all those who have been elected both to the Senate and to the House of Representatives and each member has an equal say. It is democratic. We hear people such as the honourable member for Petrie (Mr Hodges) talking in this place about the right, the left and communism. It is a pity that we do not open our meeting one day just to let in those who sit opposite. They worry more about our Caucus than they do about their own. What democracy do they have within their Caucus? (Quorum formed)
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-The honourable member for Evans (Mr Mulder) made a boisterous speech in support of the Budget. I am sorry that he was not received with boisterous support. In fact, I think at one stage he reached the point where he was supported by the Minister for Science (Mr Morrison) and nobody else. One could hardly say that Government members were collapsing with excitement. The honourable member made one observation which I am bound to tell you, Mr Speaker, in simple candour having known you for nearly one-fifth of a century, appeals to me immensely. He said: ‘I would like to throw open the doors, the portals of the Caucus meeting so you could all come in’. Mr Speaker, I hope you will forgive and understand my presumption but I present myself as the guest speaker tomorrow.
– I do not think you would get ago.
-Whose feelings would be lacerated is open to some doubt, nevertheless it would be an interesting exchange. I turn immediately to my principal adversary, the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). I welcome him back to Australia. I am delighted that he arrived back in one piece. I pressed upon him before he left the perils of his journey bearing in mind such distinguished people as Milton Obote and Kwame Nkrumah. It was a matter of some vexation to me that his name would be added to that list.
– The honourable members behind you do not know who they are.
– No subtlety has ever escaped the honourable member for Robertson but he is a conspicuous exception as far as the Government benches are concerned. Anyhow, the Prime Minister did arrive back. I am bound to say that I congratulate him upon a massive sense of urbanity.
– Oh, here is Australia’s own Oxford graduate. What would happen if I were to seek to correct the Minister’s solecisms? He is going to say so-lecisms. He has gone that close to flying solo it does not matter. Urbane-ity or urbanity wherever my friend wants to put the emphasis on the consonontal pronunciation. I put the adenoids to one side. I am delighted that the Prime Minister is back. I do congratulate him. He arrived back. We have 160,000 unemployed.
– More than that.
– I am indebted to the right honourable member for Higgins for saying that it is more than that, but my right honourable friend knows that I err constantly on the side of conservatism. The Prime Minister arrived back at a time when we have 170,000 people out of work, seasonally adjusted or any other way adjusted. We have inflation raging at 20 per cent. We have hundreds of thousands of life insurance holders seeing their investment dwindle day by day, month by month. We have industries galore shutting down.
– We have got two anyway.
– I beg your pardon. If you say that in the textile industry only 2 factories are shutting down then I suggest you tell that to the Tasmanians.
– He did not say that.
– I am indebted to you for your correction.
– You said ‘industries’.
– Well, industry after industry.
– Be accurate.
– Since when has the honourable member for Adelaide been concerned with the truth?
– Ever since I came into this place.
-Order! Just being in his seat does not give the honourable member the right to interject. The honourable member for Robertson also will cease interjecting.
– I did not say anything.
– I know you did not then but you did earlier.
-Obviously, Mr Speaker, he had it very much in contemplation. We have thousands of people being flung out of work- the whole edifice of disaster. What does the Prime Minister say? He says: ‘All is well ‘. I must hand it to him. He would put out of business a bishop preaching a sermon wearing a clerical collar, a pair of gaiters and nothing else.
– They do not wear them.
– I am delighted to know that the honourable gentleman at least has some ecclesiastical knowledge. I am sorry I cannot extend the compliment. There is an extraordinary state of affairs. Is this the Labor Party’s attitude towards contemporary Australia- 170,000 or 180,000 people out of work? Let me remind honourable members opposite of the heroic words of their leader when he sat on this side of the House back in 1972. It is not as though I am foraging back into ancient history. This was in 1972. This was before, as a result of some aberration on the part of the Australian people, he became the Prime Minister. Listen to this and then go home and meditate. He said:
There is the enduring task of reducing inflation. My Party’s policies are totally committed to full employment and reducing inflation;
This was said in February 1972. He said: ‘My Party’s policies are totally committed towards reducing inflation and committed to full employment’ Is the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) or any other honourable gentleman who may be minded to interrupt going to say to those who today find themselves out of work, seasonally adjusted, that this is a splendid vindication of the declaration the Prime Minister gave in February 1972? The Prime Minister, just to illustrate what splendid consistency he has, came to the Premiers Conference in June of this year and made another statement. Listen to the dulcet tones. The language is superb. He said:
In order to help break inflationary expectations, we must now slow the rate of increase in Government spending. Some phasing down or deferment of some expenditure plans must occur.
Is there any ambiguity about that? No person at all with 2 wits to rub together- by joves, it would fine down a few honourable members oppositewould have any doubt about that. He said that Government expenditure was to decrease. What is the sorry record? Overall there is to be a total increase in Government expenditure of 32.4 per cent.
-The honourable member for Robertson approves of it. I ask the honourable gentleman, in terms of simple logic, how does he settle the Prime Minister’s declaration to the Premiers Conference that there must be a reduction in Government expenditure with a Government increase in expenditure of 32.4 per cent? You can run through one department after the other in order to see where the increase has taken place. It was left to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) and, if I may say so with respect, to a conspicuously thoughtful speech made by the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) a week or so ago to point to the real earnest of the Government’s intention. It is to be found in one phrase of the Budget Speech by the Treasurer (Mr Crean). The Treasurer talked about the fact that the private sector is now enjoying subdued conditions. ‘Enjoying’ may be a rather ornate description of it, but there are subdued conditions as far as the private sector is concerned. The honourable gentleman then went on to say: ‘This then is the opportune time to transfer emphasis to the public sector. ‘
I only hope that the people of Australia are under no doubt whatsoever as to what is meant by that declaration. Seventy-five per cent of the Australian wage and salary earners owe their livelihood to the private sector. The enjoyment, the integrity and the existence of 75 per cent of families in this country are to be found in the private sector. Here it is, a plain declaration of war by the Government upon the private sector. It says: ‘Let us disturb the private sector. Let us put more emphasis upon the public sector’. The simple truth of life is that nothing in this world can be had for nothing save measles. When people talk about seeking to bring back stability to our economy, is this the sort of nonsense that will encourage them? Are the 170,000 or 180,000 people out of work today, in a virtual depression state, going to be encouraged and roused by the fact that the Government has said: ‘We want to extinguish further the activity of the private sector’? To use the phrase coined by my friend, the honourable member for Lilley: ‘You will be mighty cool in Clyde Cameron’s pool’. Great stuff, is it not? But I fear that we all make a mistake in attributing to the gentlemen who line, decorate, occupy the front bench of this Parliament -
– Where are they? There are not many there.
-They are probably out, if not speculating on the future, hoping for the best. A few of them have wandered into the chamber, albeit by accident. I do not want to resort to any acerbity of language at all to describe them because it upsets me. I reproach myself for the absence of charity in having described their activities as the activities of bunglers because that is not true. The simple truth of the matter is that what this Government has determined upon is not merely to create in Australia a state of bungle by accident; it has set about creating a state of economic crisis by purpose. Let no person be under any misapprehension about this. I wish to say something about the Minister for Overseas
Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns). I regret, and I apologise for it, attacking him in his absence.
– You donot really.
– Yes, I do. Never in my time of nearly 20 years in this Parliament have I attacked any person unless I have given him some notice of it.
– Up till now.
– Up until today. I make an exception. I have in my hand a book entitled The Quiet Revolution’ written by James Ford Cairns, the Minister for Overseas Trade. It should be made compulsory reading for the people of this country. I take at random, believe it or not, a couple of excerpts from my friends book. Listen to this.
-Try page 44.
– Believe it or not, I am inclined to the view that the honourable member for Diamond Valley is an unconscious victim of what is going on.
-How about page 44?
-No. I will go to page 133 for openers. It states:
In a very significant sense Labor cannot gain power at all simply by winning an election.
The honourable gentleman argues, in advance of that proposition, this:
Change is slow and the revolution is quiet. Progress will have to be worked hard for-
I thought the language there was appalling, but put that to one side. It goes on: and within the limits that today’s realities provide.
– He did not learn any grammar.
-Split infinitives do not matter at all. What the Minister for Overseas Trade has determined upon is to seek to change the entire system in Australia. Do honourable members know what the central thesis of that book is? It is that you must destroy the existing free enterprise system in Australia. The Treasurer on the one hand made the declaration that we must, in a state of subdued conditions, transfer emphasis from the private to the public sector. Whether the Treasurer was conscious of the thesis propounded by the Minister for Overseas Trade I cannot vouch for, but there can be no doubting whatsoever what the Minister for Overseas Trade has in mind. By no means is he alone.
-Listen to the ‘hear hear’ from the honourable member for Diamond Valley. Let us put on our next election poster that he agrees with it. The Federal President of the honourable gentleman’s Party, Mr Hawke- at least I am on ringing terms with him- said this:
This capitalist system, this free enterprise, private ownership, profit maximisation system, is not my system, it is not the system of the trade union movement, it’s not the system of the Labor Party.
– Hear, hear.
– I am delighted to find that the flute obbligato- the honourable member for Robertson- agrees with that proposition also. This is the declaration to destroy the system- to seek to destroy it by wrecking it.
– That is an unwarranted analysis of the argument.
– I hope the two of you will get together and try to sort it out because the Minister for Overseas Trade, whom I understand you vote for with a consistency to be admired, has put it plainly on the line that the system must be changed. Instead of declaring to the Australian people that they propose to destroy the system they have gone about it. This book is the ‘Mein Kampf ‘ of Fabius Cunctator- the Minister for Overseas Trade- who seeks to destroy Hannibal, the great emperor. We are faced with that simple realisation. I hope that the House will come to a corporate understanding that whatever may have been done in this Budget, it is a Budget which has been subjected to the final scrutiny of Caucus, an act probably unrivalled in the history of the Anglo Saxon world. The Government has introduced a Budget and a bunch of self-elected, self-appointed committees has rambled around having a look to see where they can fix things up. I say to the Parliament, and I hope to the Australian people, that this Budget is a design, marked by high purpose, to destroy this country. But the people of this country have sufficient command of enterprise, of wit and of courage and if they can be given the opportunity they will sweep the Government to where it deserves to go- to oblivion.
-I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
-During the course of his contribution to this debate- that is about all I can call it- the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) asked the rhetorical question: When was the member for Adelaide ever interested in the truth? I take exception to that remark. I consider it is up to the honourable member to state whenever I have not been interested in the truth. I believe that statement of his was as hollow as the rest of his speech.
– The honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) was not at his best tonight. No doubt his remarks were prompted by the remarkable changes in Liberal policy which were announced last weekend. I notice from a report in the ‘Sun’ of 14 October that the Liberal Party has decided that God’s name is now to be dropped from its policy. This is probably because Mr Snedden is leading the Party. The article said that God has been deleted from the new Liberal Party policy platform. He was mentioned in a preamble to the Party’s former platform, which stated:
The Liberal Party of Australia presents this platform as a program for a people whose highest ideals are inspired by belief in God.
The Press article stated:
A senior Liberal Party spokesman said yesterday that deletion of the preamble did not necessarily mean that Liberal Party members no longer believed in God.
What has happened to the former Prime Minister, the right honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon) who said he prayed to God each night for success? No doubt the results of the last election determined that God should be dropped from the Liberal Party platform. Let us examine other proposed changes in that platform. The Liberal Party is looking for a new anthem. According to a Press report the Liberal Party said that ‘God Save the Queen’ should be used only for regal and vice-regal occasions and that another anthem should be promoted for other times. I wonder what the honourable member of Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) thinks of this matter. He made an inspiring address on an adjournment debate or during a discussion on a matter of public importance arguing for the retention of ‘God Save the Queen’. This was after a census throughout Australia showed that the people wanted their own national anthem. Is it any wonder with the Liberal Party turning away from God and the Queen that the honourable member for Moreton should be moved to say what he said tonight? I noticed in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ of yesterday’s date that an article in respect of the Liberal Party conference last weekend stated:
The council finally laid to rest the ghost of Mr Gorton’s ‘sensualism’.
My heavens, what could we expect from a government comprised of honourable members opposite? I also have a letter dated 1 1 September 1974 addressed to a person living in Stanmore from the Western Metropolitan Region of the Liberal Party of Australia New South Wales Division. It reads:
Re: The Survival of the Liberal Party
The Industrial, Business and Professional Communities are facing mounting financial problems and possible collapse- so is the Liberal Party.
Frankly, the stark position of the Liberal Party is that it must raise $5,000 within the Western Metropolitan Region in conjunction with similar fund raising efforts through N.S.W. or collapse.
We have been given just ten weeks to raise this amount.
Will you help with an immediate donation?
Fancy asking anybody to make a donation to help the Liberal Party. The letter continues:
Cheques should be made payable to the Liberal Party, Metropolitan Region, and forwarded to the Hon. Treasurer, Mr Frank Gumbley. Either complete the enclosed Bankers Order and return it to us, or let us have your commitment for an annual donation so that we can plan our future campaigns in an orderly and efficient manner to the best political effect, knowing in advance the amounts available to us for these purposes. A business-reply envelope is enclosed for your convenience.
– You got -
– The honourable member for Kooyong interjects. He spends all his money backing Leilani. He does not have money for Party funds so wants to make it from punting. I give him the good oil. Leilani has more chance of winning the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups than his Party has of winning the next Federal election. Why should the honourable member for Moreton not be worried? I also have an application form that is to accompany donations to the Liberal Party. Is it any wonder that tonight the honourable member for Moreton plucked figures out of the air? He referred to 160,000 or 170,000 unemployed. A lawyer should not do these things; he should be factual. I advise the honourable member for Moreton to stick to the small debts court because it is much more simple. If he gets into the big time he will realise it takes brains to succeed. Whilst I may increase his small debts customers tonight, he will do better from them than he will do in the wider field. Tonight he used extravagant statements about the Government’s misdoings, but whatever those opposite say, we have won 2 elections in 18 months and they were lucky to win 2 elections in 6 years. This Government stands endorsed on 2 occasions by the people of Australia as the only people fit to govern this nation. Irrespective of what might be said by those opposite we have given to the people of Australia firm and sound government. How can any self-respecting person support a party that gives away God and gives away the national anthem? My godfather, members opposite are supposed to be loyalists. They claim also to have laid the ghost of sensualism. It is frightening to think that they might ever be in office.
Having said so much, perhaps I should conclude by saying that fortunately for the people of Australia the only Party fit to govern Australia is in government. Its policies are sound and just. Irrespective of what might be said by those opposite it cannot be denied that in 23 months we have done more than they did in 23 years. I know that hurts, but it is the truth and I accordingly record it for the people of Australia to know.
-Order! It being half past 10 o’clock p.m. in accordance with the order of the House I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn
– I require that the question be put forthwith and without debate.
Question resolved in the negative.
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr Snedden’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. ( Mr Speaker- Hon. J. F. Cope)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
-In accordance with standing order 226 the Committee will first consider the Second Schedule of the Bill.
– May I suggest that it might suit the convenience of the Committee to consider the items of proposed expenditure in the order and groupings shown in the schedule as follows:
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, and Department of the Special Minister of State (together).
Department of the Treasury, and Advance to the Treasurer (together).
Attorney-General’s Department, and Department of Customs and Excise (together).
Department of Aboriginal Affairs, and Department of the Capital Territory (together).
Department of Transport.
Department of Agriculture.
Department of Minerals and Energy.
Department of Overseas Trade, and Department of Manufacturing Industry (together).
Department of Education.
Department of the Environment and Conservation, and Department of Tourism and Recreation (together).
Department of Foreign Affairs.
Department of Health, Department of Repatriation and Compensation, and Department of Social Security (together).
Department of Housing and Construction, and Department of Services and Property (together).
Department of Labor and Immigration.
Department of Northern Development, and Department of the Northern Territory (together).
Department of Science, and Department of the Media (together).
Postmaster-General ‘s Department.
Department of Defence.
Department of Urban and Regional Development.
Consideration of the items in groups of departments has met the convenience of the Committee in past years. I also take the opportunity to indicate to the House that the proposed order for consideration of department estimates has been discussed with the Opposition which has raised no objection to what has been proposed. The decision is not rigid but is a broad outline of what will be done.
– Is it the wish of the Committee to consider the items of proposed expenditure in the order suggested by the Leader of the House? There being no objection, that course will be followed.
Proposed expenditure, $9,952,000.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate without amendment:
Remuneration Tribunals Bill 1974.
Australian Tourist Commission Bill 1974.
Commonwealth Banks Bill 1974.
Motion (by Mr Daly) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
– I think the House today has been treated for about the fourth time to a reply by the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) on minerals and petroleum matters. We have heard the same speech from the same dear old fellow with the same humour, as corny -
-Order! The honourable member is out of order. In an adjournment debate an honourable member cannot refer to any debate that has taken place during this session.
- Mr Speaker, the facts of the petroleum matter- this has nothing to do with the Bill that was before the House today- are as follows: Beach Petroleum, an Australian owned company, was forced by the policies of this Government to go looking for petroleum in New Zealand and Turkey. Genoa Oil and Hartog Oil were forced by the policies of this Government to go looking for oil in the United States and Canada. Timor Oil Ltd was forced to search, aptly enough, in Timor. Hartog Oil with the Philips company has been forced to search for oil in Indonesia. International Oil Exploration, another Australian company, has been forced to search for oil in Indonesia. Broken Hill Proprietary Co. Ltd has been searching for oil in Malaya and the China Sea. Associated Australian Resources which runs the Roma area natural gas operation has been forced to search for oil in the North Sea in the Penzoil Group. Southern Pacific Petroleum, another Australian company, has been forced to search for oil outside this nation and in the North Sea area. What nonsense it is for this Government from time to time to suggest that our side of the Parliament stands for companies that are not Australian searching for oil.
If that is not bad enough, let us look at some of the statements by members of the Government over the last 6 months. I hope people will find some interest in this. The Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) said: ‘This Government is presiding over the destruction of the Australian economy’. That is good clean stuff. I congratulate him on his statement. If we look a little further we see that on unemployment Mr Hawke said: This Government cannot suffer any unemployment’. The Treasurer, (Mr Crean), said in July this year: ‘There will not be large scale unemployment during the next 6 months’. In any nation other than Australia a Minister would resign having made that statement and found himself so wide of the facts. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) during the last election campaign assured the Press that there would be no unemployment. I ask honourable members just to judge that sort of remark for what it is worth. During the election campaign the Prime Minister also said: ‘We have reduced inflation to 9 per cent and falling’. What credibility does one give a man who made a statement like that only a few months ago? The Deputy Prime Minister (Dr J. F. Cairns) just to make it better, said: ‘The rate of inflation is 8 per cent and falling’. That was at the time of the last election. The honourable member for Casey (Mr Mathews) produced probably the best statement of the lot by saying: ‘Inflation has been reduced by 26 per cent since Christmas ‘. That statement too was made during the last election campaign. What credibility do these people have when they make those sorts of statements? In the Government that we have today, where Caucus exercises control over an executive decision, every member of the Government has to share responsibility for those sorts of remarks and the people of Australia eventually will judge them on the attitude they take in relation to it.
I continue a little further. On 31 May the Treasurer said: ‘Inflation is an unacceptable 13 per cent’. What is it now? Twenty per cent, 25 per cent? Nobody knows; it is raging ahead so well. The Prime Minister said to the Premiers: ‘Prices will remain uniform’. During the last election campaign the Minister for Overseas Trade said: ‘The situation is serious enough to warrant increased taxation on the rich’ and specified a mark of $14,000 a year- a bench mark that is rather familiar to members of Parliament. Mr Hawke said: ‘Any inflation rate is intolerable’. The Prime Minister, in the middle of all this, promised tax reductions. This is the sorry situation that faces the nation at present. I say that this Government has totally lost direction. Government supporters are reacting exactly as one would expect them to react. They are becoming doubtful about their leadership. They are wondering where they are going. In the meantime the people of Australia are left on a rock not knowing quite which way to go, not having enough funds in reserve to replenish, update or modernise plant so that this nation is efficient. Furthermore, there is a disincentive against anybody who wants to work or use his capital to invest in the nation ‘s interests. That is a basic thought running through the community today.
I say that this Government is not doing its job by the nation. I am inspired by the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) who spoke a little while ago. Surely to goodness we must get some realism into governmental thinking. Let us look at another sphere that interests areas such as my own electorate. The Government has said: ‘We will adopt retraining measures where there is unemployment and pay workers $85 a week while they retrain’. Yet on the other hand official government statistics give grape growers as an operator cost, having invested in their own farms, the princely return of $45 a week. How does the Government and how do people equate this sort of silly thinking, these anomalies that this Government has allowed to intrude into the area? On the one hand the Government now is saying that it will restructure farms, and on the other hand it is saying that perhaps it will introduce a superphosphate bounty but at a minimum level to help those in need, the small farmers. What manner of illogical thought is this? Does the Government want viable farms or does it not want viable farms? It just seems to me that nobody in the Government knows where the blazes he is going. There is too much muddled dunking. If we do not watch out, anyone who has a viable industry in the country, tomorrow will be brought down to the doubtful stage of viability. Any body that should be phased out will also be brought up to the stage of doubtful viability. This is the spirit of the similar coloured Budget that this Government has introduced. It is a Budget of mediocrity, a Budget that does not give emphasis to encouraging people to work, a Budget that certainly does not encourage people to invest, which, to give one illustration, is being made quite plain by the state of the share market. Yet, on the other hand, the Government complains that Australians do not have the wish to invest in, shall we say, risk enterprises such as mining.
The Minister for Minerals and Energy has said in the past that the aim of the Government is to nationalise the minerals industry entirely. Has any body stopped to have a look at the Government’s philosophy as spelled out in the booklet on small businesses? I presume that the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) and many other people profess an interest in small businesses. Might I add that many mineral firms in Australia today- I read out the names of some of them a little while ago- are small businesses. Yet in this booklet are set out 2 principles which govern the Government’s policy in relation to small businesses. The first principle is stated as being that they should be helped by modern techniques to become viable, and the second principle is to the effect that it is to the community’s interest that those who wish to innovate, those who wish to use their own expertise and their own energies should be supported. Where do we stand when we see such contradictions? Are there no small businesses by way of Australian mineral companies? Are there no small businesses by way of Australian oil companies? I read out a while ago the names of eight of them which were all forced to search for oil outside this country. Where is the logic of it? There is no question about the fact that this Government’s policies are a fatal muddle working to the detriment of the people of Australia.
-Order! The honourable member’s dme has expired.
– It is a great pity that the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles), as a relatively senior member of the Opposition, did not get a go in the Budget debate. He obviously had prepared a speech on the Budget and was forced to make it tonight during the adjournment debate. Before I get on to the main part of my remarks tonight, I would like to mention one matter. The honourable member for Angas was attacking us about inflation. I would like to give one example of what causes inflation. One of my constituents brought in to me the invoices and accounts that he had received in relation to the purchase of an airconditioner unit. He went to one of the large stores in Parramatta and brought an airconditioner unit which he intended to instal himself. He was charged $475. He ordered a General Electric unit. The General Electric unit was delivered to his place by the General Electric Co. The store had nothing more to do with it. He found inside that General Electric airconditioner an invoice for $236.56, which is less than half the amount he was charged for it. In addition to that, he decided to buy a General Electric unit because he wanted an Australian made air-conditioner which could be fixed readily in the event of a breakdown. When he looked at it he found it was imported from Hong Kong.
The main reason I rise tonight is to draw the attention of the House to some very dangerous tendencies that are developing inside the Liberal Party. I know that that Party has had a lot of publicity during the last weekend for becoming a trendy Party and for being with it, and so on. But 1 would like to draw the attention of the House to 2 things that have come to my notice, one very recently and one not so recently. The honourable member for Warringah (Mr MacKellar) was appointed as spokesman on immigration by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden). I would like to read to the House from the Immigration Control Association’s publication called ‘Viewpoint’. In that publication the Association expresses its gratitude for that appointment and says how keen it is and how pleased it is about the appointment of the honourable member for Warringah. The publication reads:
Hearty congratulations to Michael MacKellar (MHR for Warringah).
Later on the gentleman who writes this vicious, racist publication, one Robert Clark, under the heading ‘An Interesting Morning in Canberra’, states:
On a trip to Canberra with my wife and another member of the Immigration Control Association we dropped in to the House of Representatives to talk to a few of the members.
I am sure they were all members from the other side of the House. The publication continues:
We spoke to a few MPs one of whom invited us to the Speaker’s Gallery the following morning.
While we sat there waiting for question time Mr MacKellar to whom some of our members including myself and our other member who was with me had given solid election support in his fight against St John in the previous election . . .
I think it is important to note that the honourable member for Warringah has been appointed to a position which is particularly sensitive to the propositions of the Immigration Control Association.
I wish to refer also to the Parramatta ‘Advertiser’ of 9 October 1974 which carried an article headed ‘Libs Special Guest’. The article appeared as a result of one of the handouts of the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr Ruddock). The article reads:
Guest speaker at the meeting of the Parramatta branch of the Young Liberal Movement on Monday, 14 October, will be national director of the Australian League of Rights, Mr E. D. Butler.
The meeting will be in Parramatta Business and Professional Men ‘s Club, Marsden Street at 7.30 p.m.
Parramatta Branch of the Young Liberal Movement is active in all matters affecting the welfare of young people in the western area.
– That is Jim Killen’s friend.
-No, with all due respect to the honourable member for Adelaide, I think the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) has dissociated himself from Eric Butler, and so have other members of the Opposition, especially members of the Australian Country Party. I now refer to the Australian Country Party’s report circulated in July 1971 which makes reference to Eric Butler, the friend of the honourable member for Parramatta and the man that the honourable member for Parramatta invited to address the Young Liberals in the area to tell them what it is all about. The report gave a rundown on Eric Butler’s career- his virulent anti-Semitism, his support for the Nazis, his attacks on the Australian war effort and his writing for ‘The New Times’. The honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay), of course, is a close friend of all those people and has always supported them. He is probably the person in this House best known as a close supporter of the sort of views expressed by the League of Rights in Australia
– That is a bitter attack.
-I am sure that the honourable member does not consider it a bitter attack. In its report the Australian Country Party described the League of Rights as having a disreputable and racist basis, which it is now trying to conceal; declared the disciples of social credit, which Butler advocates, as sheer fanatics; quoted some of his writings on the communist conspiracy, which it then categorises as ‘the language of paranoia’; spoke of Butler’s violent opposition to parliamentary government, his long catalogue of hates; and stated that there is something breathtaking about lunacy on this scale. This is what the Country Party said about Mr Eric Butler. It should be compared with what the honourable member for Parramatta says about Mr Eric Butler whom he invited to address the Young Liberal Movement in Parramatta and whom he said would inform it on all matters affecting the welfare of young people in the western area.
The Leader of the Australian Country Party, Mr Douglas Anthony, has condemned the League as disreputable, racist, anti-Semitic and pro-Nazi. I would certainly like to give credit to him and to other members of the Country Party who have had the courage to speak when so many others have long remained silent. At a time of inflation and of economic downturns in the community and of significant unrest in the community, it is up to those of us in this House who should surely be supporting parliamentary democracy to make it quite clear that we dissociate ourselves from those sorts of people. Although it is not my fault, I realise that tonight because the adjournment debate has been reduced to 20 minutes instead of the usual 30 minutes, the honourable members for Warringah and Parramatta will not be able to reply to me.
– I hope you will not take advantage of that.
– No, I will not take advantage of it, but I think it is important, when a sitting member of this Parliament becomes identified with the Immigration Control Association or the National Director of the Australian League of Rights, that it is made clear that he does not speak for the whole of his Party. If he does speak for the whole of his Party, that Party dissociates itself from -
-Order! It being 1 1 p.m., the House stands adjourned until 12 o’clock noon tomorrow.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Media, upon notice:
– The Minister for the Media has provided the following answer to the right honourable member’s question:
asked the Minister for Manufacturing Industry, upon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
I refer the right honourable member’s attention to the answer provided by the Prime Minister to Parliamentary Question No. 97 (Hansard, page625, of 24 July 1974).
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Media, upon notice:
Does the Australian Broadcasting Commission intend to establish a Complaints Commission comparable to that which operates in respect of the British Broadcasting Corporation; if so, when.
– The Minister for the Media has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
The Australian Broadcasting Commission advises me it does not intend establishing a Complaints Commission at this stage. The honourable member will appreciate that the proposal is one that has been raised in proceedings before the Senate Standing Committee which has been inquiring for some time into all aspects of radio and television. I will further consider the matter when any recommendation on the subject is forthcoming from the Committee.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Media, upon notice:
– The Minister for the Media has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
The Commission also appoints specialist committees to advise it on specific program areas such as science, education, music and spoken English. Full details of the Commission’s Advisory Committees and their membership are included in the Commission ‘s Annual Report to Parliament.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Media, upon notice:
– The Minister for the Media has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
Department of External Territories: Inter-departmental Committees (Question No. 281)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
– The Foreign Minister has provided the following answer to the right honourable member’s question 1 and 2. 1 refer the right honourable member to the Prime Minister’s answer to Question No. 964 on the 1973 Notice Paper (Hansard, 27 September 1973, page 1,714-1,715) in which he drew attention to the impracticalities of attempting to list all the consultations in which departments are engaged with other departments. My Department keeps me properly informed of all important developments- this is a satisfactory procedure for the purposes of my Ministry.
Department of Foreign Affairs: Inter-departmental Committees (Question No. 282)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice;
– The Foreign Minister has provided the following answer to the right honourable member’s question: 1., 2. and 3. I refer the right honourable member to the Prime Minister’s answer to Question No. 964 on the 1973 Notice Paper (Hansard, 27 September 1973, page 1714-1715) in which he drew attention to the impracticalities of attempting to list all the consultations in which departments are engaged with other departments. My Department keeps me properly informed of all important developmentsthis is a satisfactory procedure for the purposes of my Ministry.
Department of the Media: Inter-departmental Committees (Question No. 285)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Media, upon notice:
– The Minister for the Media has provided the following answer to the right honourable member’s question:
Inter-departmental Committee on Publicity Co-ordination (Question No. 309)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Media, upon notice:
– The Minister for the Media has provided the following answer to the right honourable member’s question:
Australian Information Service. Other members are the Assistant Director, AIS and representatives of the Departments of Foreign Affairs, Overseas Trade, Education, Labor Immigration, Aboriginal Affairs, Film Australia, QANTAS, Australian Tourist Commission, Australian Government Publishing Service and Radio Australia. The Department of External Territories was represented up to 30 November 1973.
asked the Minister for Labor and Immigration, upon notice:
– I am informed that the answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows
asked the Minister for Education, upon notice:
With reference to his answer to question No. 892 (Hansard, 6 November 1973, page 2875), in which he indicated a figure of $139,000 for a full day care centre for 60 children aged 2 to 5, not including the cost of professional fees, land or equipment, will he provide an estimate of the cost of (a) professional fees, (b) land, (c) equipment and (d) renting cost per annum for this type of centre.
– The answer to the right honourable member’s questions is as follows:
the types of professional people involved, e.g. Architects, Structural Engineers, Surveyors and Quantity Surveyors,
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Media, upon notice:
– The Minister for the Media has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
asked the Minister for Labor and Immigration, upon notice:
– I am informed that the answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Commonwealth-owned Land: Municipal Rates (Question No. 569)
asked the Minister for Services and Property, upon notice:
What is the annual revenue foregone by municipalities in respect of rates on Commonwealth-owned land.
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
It is pointed out for the information of the right honourable member that under Section 1 14 of the Australian Constitution the Australian Government is exempt from any form of municipal rating charges. Therefore, in strict legal terms, the local government authorities have not foregone anything as they are not legally entitled to anything. However successive Australian Governments have, over the years, agreed to pay, as an act of grace, the equivalent of municipal rates on housing erected or purchased by the Government solely for domestic purposes, on other property where an element for rates is recovered in rents charged to tenants and on Defence Service Homes. Payments are also made for any services rendered by a rating authority such as the supply of water, sewerage, electricity or collection of garbage. Australian Government instrumentalities engaged in commercial enterprise in competition with private organisations, and which either own property or lease property from the Government, pay to the local authority the equivalent of rates assessed on the property.
The circumstances in which payments are made by the Australian Government in lieu of rates and whether these circumstances should be extended can only be considered in the overall context of financial relationships between the Australian Government, the State Governments and local government authorities. In that regard, the Australian Government is very much aware of the financial problems being faced by local government authorities. The Government is giving close attention in developing and implementing its policies, to how best achieve its objectives of having the role of local government become a fuller and more effective one and making available to local government resources adequate for its functions.
The Grants Commission Act 1973 incorporates a major new initiative by the Australian Government designed to assist local government. The Act authorises the Grants Commission to inquire into applications for assistance by regional organisations of local government as approved for this purpose by the Minister for Urban and Regional Development. The Commission’s inquiries are being directed towards recommending special assistance for those authorities or regions which are financially disadvantaged compared with other authorities or regions- because, for example, of relatively low rating capacity or special additional expenditure requirements not shared by local government generally. The right, honourable member will be aware that the Government recently announced that it had accepted a recommendation by the Grants Commission that grants of $56,345,000 be paid to local government in 1974-75.
A precise figure such as that sought by the right honourable member is not readily available. To obtain it would be a major task involving much time and effort and this does not seem to be warranted. In the absence of sufficient justification to do so, I am not prepared to divert resources for such a task.
Papua New Guinea: Proposed Purari Hydro-electric Scheme (Question No. 691)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
– The Foreign Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
– The Foreign Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
asked the Minister for Labor and Immigration, upon notice:
Will he make available the Foster Report on the organisation of the waterfront and any other reports he has in his possession on this subject.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Investigations and studies of various aspects of the stevedoring industry have been and are being carried out by staff of my Department, including Mr N. Foster. When this work has advanced to a stage at which it would be appropriate to make its results generally available, I will inform the Parliament and make arrangements accordingly.
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
What was the cost of weekly family subscription to (a) the lowest rate medical benefit funds and (b) hospital funds at (i) public and (ii) intermediate rate, as a percentage of the basic wage and later the minimum weekly wage in New South Wales in (a) 1946, (b) 1949, (c) 1955, (d) 1960, (e) 1965, (0 1970, (g) as at 30 June, 1972 and what is it at present.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Prior to 1 July, 1970, medical benefits organizations operated two or three medical benefits tables which provided varying benefits at varying contribution rates. Since 1 July, 1970, only one medical table has been operated by each organization. These single tables provide more comprehensive insurance cover than was available previously.
Consequently the rates of contribution for the tables providing the lowest benefits for the years 1955, 1960 and 1965 are not directly comparable with the tables providing the high rate of benefits available since 1 July 1970.
However, the following table sets out the lowest rates of medical and hospital contributions charged by the major fund as a percentage of the Federal adult male basic wage and, later, the Federal adult male minimum weekly wage in New South Wales. The Medical and Hospital Benefits Schemes did not commence until 1953 and, therefore, the years 1946 and 1949 have been excluded.
There were no increases in public hospital charges in New South Wales between June 1972 and August 1974. Therefore hospital fund contribution rates remained unchanged and when expressed as percentages of Federal adult male minimum wage levels, they declined between June, 1972 and August 1974 due to hospital fund contribution rates having remained unchanged during that period. However, as a result of the recent substantial increases in hospital accommodation charges, contribution rate increases can be expected. The date of such increases and the size of the increases for individual hospital funds will depend on the size of the free reserves held by the funds. It is the policy of the Government that excess reserves should be used to the advantage of contributors by keeping the size of contribution increases to a minimum.
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice:
– The Attorney-General has provided the following answer to the right honourable member’s question:
In the meantime I am able to disclose that in addition to the protection of privacy, dealt with in parts (4) to (6) of the answer to this question, the following matters were considered at the meetings referred to in part ( 1 ) of this answer 29 and 30 March 1973
It was decided that a draft bill should be prepared to reflect the recommendations of the Molomby Committee.
It was decided that the Australian Government would consider introducing legislation, but in the meantime the States would proceed with their legislation.
It was agreed that the New Zealand Attorney-General would prepare a draft bill to achieve uniform reforms in the law.
The question of reciprocal legislation was considered, aimed at combatting the flaunting of court orders giving custody of a child to one parent by the other parent taking the child out of the jurisdiction.
It was agreed that a study should be undertaken with a view to providing a basis for uniform laws relating to defamation throughout Australia.
It was decided to commission a joint study of ways in which the work of all law reform bodies throughout Australia could be co-ordinated and assisted.
The proposal of the Australian Government to introduce legislation in these fields was discussed.
It was decided that provision should be made in all States and Territories for the registration and enforcement of agreements for maintenance which have been registered in another State or Territory or in New Zealand.
The possible establishment by the Australian Government of an institute for the training of legislative draftsmen was announced. (0 Foreign adoption orders
The recognition of foreign adoption orders was to be examined with a view to obtaining uniformity.
It was decided that the Australian Institute of Criminology should be asked to examine the possibility of achieving uniformity in the method of recording criminal statistics in Australia. 19 and 20 February 1974
It was decided to examine further a draft bill with a view to reforming the law on a uniform basis.
A draft bill on the recognition of foreign adoption orders is to be considered.
A model bill is to be prepared with a view to updating on a uniform basis this branch of the law.
Legislation to remove so far as practicable the legal disabilities of children born out of wedlock was discussed.
In September 1973 the Attorney-General established a Committee of Enquiry into the Protection of Privacy. The purpose of that Committee is to consider and to report to the Attorney-General on what legislative measures are desirable in the fulfilment of the general right to privacy, provided for in article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, with particular reference to:
The Committee has presented a report on what safeguards ought to be adopted to protect the individual’s privacy under the proposed Health Insurance Program. That report was tabled in Parliament in March 1974. The next task of the Committee will be to examine the question of access to personal information recorded by the Department of Social Security and what measures are necessary to protect individual privacy in these circumstances.
An Ordinance to create a general right to privacy in the Australian Capital Territory is being prepared. In addition, clause 19 of the Human Rights Bill 1973 would give effect to article 17 of the International Covenant in Civil and Political Rights, which requires persons to be protected against arbitrary or unlawful interference with their privacy.
asked the Minister for Labor and Immigration, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Labor and Immigration, upon notice:
– I am informed that the answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Labor and Immigration, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: (1)I have adopted the practice that whenever I have to rely upon information from departmental sources for answers to questions, I should indicate to honourable members that I am not basing my answer upon my own personal knowledge.
Australian Capital Territory: Occasional Care Centres (Question No. 991)
asked the Minister for the Capital
Territory, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
– The Foreign Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs upon notice:
– The Foreign Minister has provided the following answer to the right honourable member’s question: 1, 2, 3 and 4. There have been no evacuation exercises in those areas of the Administrative Building occupied by the
Department of Foreign Affairs during the past 18 months. Overseas missions do not normally report on individual exercises which they carry out Detailed procedures for evacuation were reviewed in May 1974. The next evacuation exercise is planned when the current major office re-allocation resulting from this Department taking over space previously occupied by the Department of Overseas Trade in the Administrative Building is complete.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
What action has been taken by the Government to establish, under United Nation’s auspices, a permanent mediation authority to settle (a) border disputes and (b) problems of self-determination since 2 December 1 972.
– The Foreign Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
The Government has initiated consultations at the United Nations with a view to tabling at the current session of the United Nations General Assembly an appropriate resolution in the general area of the peaceful settlement of international disputes. The Government’s intention is to encourage the Assembly to reflect upon the potential “preventive” role of the United Nations in resolving differences and to promote the settlement of international disputes by peaceful measures. There already exist procedures and machinery within the United Nations which can be used to settle differences between members over border disputes and problems of self-determination. Their effective use will depend on the willingness of members to resolve their differences in these ways. Australia’s objective at this assembly and more generally in the United Nations will be to make these procedures more effective and to persuade members to turn to them more often.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
-The Foreign Affairs Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Media, upon notice:
Will the Minister provide a list of the advertising agencies used by each Government department or instrumentality indicating the percentage of foreign ownership of each firm.
– The Minister for the Media has provided the following answer to the right honourable member’s question:
The use of the services of advertising agencies by Government departments and instrumentalities is best classified under the following two headings.
ADVERTISING ARRANGED THROUGH THE AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT ADVERTISING SERVICE
All Advertising arranged for all departments and for some instrumentalities is placed and then charged for through the same range of Sydney-based central placing agencies and other State sub-placing agencies. The firms and the known percentage of foreign-ownership related to them are:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 15 October 1974, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1974/19741015_reps_29_hor91/>.