29th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. J. F. Cope) took the chair at 12 noon, and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The Humble Petition of 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 on 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 Erwin, Mr Fisher, Mr Macphee, Mr Mathews and Mr Nixon.
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 and Dr Klugman.
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 Hodges and Mr McVeigh.
Aid for the Sahelian Region of Africa
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That up to ten million people are said by the UN Secretary-General, Mr Kurt Waldheim, to face death by starvation in the Sahelian region of Africa and that as a result of this drought, many nomads are being forced to give up their traditional way of life, and
That the resources of the Governments of this region are inadequate to cope with either the immediate or long-term needs of these people.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House urge the Government (1) to grant at least $10 million immediate emergency aid to the Sahelian region of Africa and continue to assist in the long term agricultural and social development of the region and (2) to take a leading pan in initiatives to set up world food and fertilizer funds at the World Food Conference in November.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. byMrCoates.
Australian Relations with Indonesia
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that the undersigned believe that:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House urge the Government ( 1 ) to justify existing relations between Australia and Indonesia, particularly the Australian Government aid program and (2) to examine ways to control Australian private investment and direct official Australian Government aid so as to benefit the economically and politically weaker sections of the Indonesian people.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. byMrDawkins.
The Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled should not admit into the law of this land the principle that marriage is only temporary and the family no longer the fundamental unit of society.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Hodges.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that the Human Rights Bill
Will tend to deprive free Australian citizens of religious liberty and freedom of worship, and parents and guardians of the right to choose the moral and religious education of their children in that:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House not proceed with the Human Rights Bill.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Hodges.
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 fulfill their function of educating Australian children.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byMrJarman.
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 the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth respectfully showeth:
Whilst the Australian Government is granting freedom and independence to Papua and New Guinea, the once free Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are occupied by the Soviet Union and their citizens are continuously and brutally deprived of personal, civil and religious freedoms.
We humbly beg to draw the attention of the House of Representatives to this fact and ask that the matter be raised in the United Nations by the Australian Government. The annexation and incorporation of the Baltic States by the Soviet Union has not been recognised by any Western democracy, including Australia.
We beg the House of Representatives to continue such non-recognition and to disallow any steps by Australian Government which would amount to recognition of aggression.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byMrMacKellar.
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. byMrMcLeay.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned electors of the Commonwealth of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the reduction of the allowable deduction of education expenses under Section 82 J of the Income Tax Assessment Act from $400 to $1 50 is $50 below the 1 956/57 figure.
That this reduction will impose hardships on many parents who have children attending school, whether nongovernment or government; and particularly on parents with more than one child at school.
That this reduction will further restrict the freedom available to parents to make a choice of schools for their children.
That some parents who have chosen to send their children to a non-government school will have to withdraw their children and send them to government schools already overcrowded and understaffed.
That the parents to benefit most relatively from educational income tax deductions, in the past and even more in the future are the parents of children in government schools and this has a divisive effect in the Australian community.
That parents should be encouraged by the Australian government to exercise freedom of choice of the type of school they wish for their children. The proposed reduction means an additional financial penalty is imposed on parents who try to exercise this choice and discourages them from making an important financial contribution to Australian education over an above what they contribute through taxation.
That an alternative system, a tax rebate system, could be adopted as being more equitable for all parents with children at school.
To compensate for the losses that will follow from the proposed reduction and to help meet escalating costs faced by all families your petitioners most humbly pray that the Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled should take immediate steps to restore educational benefits to parents, at least to the 1973-74 level either by increasing taxation deductions or through taxation rebates.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Mathews.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament Assembled. The petition of the undersigned respectively shows:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled should not admit into the law of this land the Family Law Bill in its present form.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Millar.
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 they support the Family Law Bill 1974 which provides for:
Your petitioners humbly pray that the House will pass the Family Law Bill without delay.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Morris.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners humbly pray that Part 1 1, Section 3 of the proposed Bill of Human Rights, which now reads:
No one shall be subject to coercion which will impair his freedom to have or to adopt a belief or religion of his choice, be amended by adding to it the words: and no revenue derived in any way from any Australian citizen shall be appropriated by the Australian Government, or by a State Government, or by a Municipal Government, for the propagation or support of any religion.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Nixon.
-Under the provisions of standing order 140 I withdraw notice of motion No. 3 for the next sitting standing in my name and notice of motion No. 1 for General Business Thursday No. 2 standing in my name. I give notice that on General Business Thursday No. 2I shall move:
That in the opinion of this House some provision should be made for assistance to widowers and deserted husbands with dependent children.
I also give notice that on General Business Thursday No. 4I shall move:
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Minerals and Energy who I notice sits in the chair for the first time. If I may have the indulgence of the House I say to him congratulations on being able to sit there. I would also like to say that he ought to sit there proudly and not call on the Minister for Services and Property to ride shotgun with him. I do not think he will be of much help to him.
– He is the rear gunner.
-He is the rear gunner, is he? The way that the Minister for Services and Property is blushing he looks more like the poison taster. I ask the Minister for Minerals and Energy: Do he and his senior officials regularly consult with the Minister for Foreign Affairs and senior officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs on the development and implementation of the minerals and energy policy? If they do regularly consult, will the Minister specify the arrangements that he has? In particular, was the Department of Foreign Affairs consulted with respect to the international implications of the provisions of the Pipeline Authority Act 1973 and the Seas and Submerged Lands Act 1973? Does the Minister agree that because of the significance of resources policy to Australia’s international relations, the closest possible level of consultation and confidence should be maintained between the Department of Foreign Affairs and his own Department?
-There is whatever consultation may be necessary, as and when and if required. As to the administration of my Department in respect of matters of immediate concern to me, the proper basis of consultation is always as between myself and the Minister for Foreign Affairs who, when interviewed on his return from overseas, in no uncertain terms expressed his appreciation of my administration.
-My question is directed to the Minister for Health. Has the Minister noted a recent report that the new director of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, Dr Neville McCarthy, has suggested that the role of the CSL as a pharmaceutical manufacturer should be strengthened? Further, has the Minister seen that Dr McCarthy allegedly stated, ‘We can do a lot more if we’re asked’, but there appear to be no serious moves at present to diversify CSL activities into production of a large number of prescription drugs? Would the Minister do what he can to assist the CSL to increase its activities to provide community oriented competition in an area where prices are worrying?
– I believe the honourable member for Adelaide will be aware that it is Australian Labor Party policy to enter the field of prescription drug manufacture and, indeed, to widen the charter of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, which has remained for some decades restricted to production of biological products, products of living organisms. He will be further aware that the Government has approved moves to amend the relevant legislation and to bring in new legislation to enable government production of non-biological drugs. I am aware also that one of the major objects of this is to reduce the cost of drugs to the Australian taxpayer. I would point out that the Government has been adopting a much tougher line in negotiations with the drug manufacturers than did our predecessors. Australia had a reputation of being very soft and very easy on multi-national drug manufacturers because our prices in many cases were double the prices in other countries.
– That is a lie.
– Order ! The honourable member for Barker will withdraw that remark.
- Mr Speaker, is the Minister permitted to distort the truth in that way?
– Order! I ask the honourable member for Barker to withdraw that remark.
– I have made my point. I withdraw it.
– In recent negotiations by officers of my Department we have saved the taxpayer something of the order of $4.3m on existing benefits at the present prescription volumes and another $3.6m approximately in negotiations for new listings under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme- almost $8m in a year. We will continue to negotiate on these terms. Honourable members will also realise that there is a major recommendation of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Prices that the National Health Act be amended to allow the Department to obtain as a matter of course all relevant costing and financial information from the companies. I applaud that recommendation and also the new powers that the Government will have through the Trade Practices Commission which will enable it to deal with any unwarranted collusive artificial maintenance of prices.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Labor and Immigration. Is it a fact that a young professional man from an eastern European communist country employed by his embassy in a third country recently travelled to an independent state and sought political asylum in Australia for himself, his wife and young family through Australia’s representatives in that state? Is it also a fact that the Australian head of mission in that state recommended that entry be granted? Did the Minister refuse the request without giving any explanations? Will he now give the reasons?
-The answer to the first part of the question is yes, the answer to the second part is yes and the answer to the third part is no.
-I direct my question to the Minister for Minerals and Energy, the Acting Prime Minister. Can the Minister inform the House of the present proportion of overseas investment in the coal industry? Further, because of the importance of employment, will he indicate production trends in satisfying home and overseas orders?
– The percentage of overseas investment in the black coal industry in New South Wales is of the order of 15 per cent, leaving an Australian ownership and/or control of 85 per cent. In respect of Queensland, the position is much the reverse. There, foreign ownership is approximately 78 per cent and Australian ownership is 22 per cent. It is a matter which has concerned the Government greatly. We are moving actively to ensure that at least there will be no further deterioration of the position. We face further problems in Queensland in relation to foreign companies whose interests have to be sold. I have in mind the case of the Peabody interests in the Thiess-Peabody-Mitsui consortium. The American Anti-Trust Enforcement Agency gave a direction to Kennecott, the copper combine, that it should divest itself of its different mineral interests. In so doing, that combine has chosen to offer on a package basis the whole of its coal interests throughout the world. We take the view- I am supported in this by my colleague, the Treasurer- that in such a situation Kennecott has a 58 per cent interest in TPM- an offer should be made to Australian interests to take over that combine’s interest in TPM. For that reason, my colleague, the Treasurer, has given directions that the matter should go before the Committee on Foreign Takeovers.
With regard to the prospects for the future, we are in close touch with the Japanese coal consuming interests. They have indicated to us clearly what their future requirements will be. We anticipate that by the year 1980 there should be exports of steaming coal of the order of 10 million tons a year, and in respect of metallurgical coking coal we expect that exports will be of the order of at least 40 million tons a year. In addition to that, we are receiving a substantial number of inquiries from countries such as Sweden, West Germany, Italy and Romania. In other words, the prospects for the coal industry in Australia in terms of the export market were never better.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Minerals and Energy. In view of the fact that so far as I am aware and informed every approach without exception made by small Australian mining companies and individual gougers for assistance from the Minister’s Department and the Australian Industry Development Corporation have been rejected totally, will the Minister spell out his policy and his concern for these underprivileged people who have given a lifetime of service to the mining industry, a policy perhaps such as we on this side of the House have presented, that is, to establish a special small miners commission?
-I am afraid that the honourable member has been completely misinformed. One of the major functions of the Petroleum and Minerals Authority will be to give assistance to precisely this type of mining enterprise. As a matter of fact, satisfactory mineralisation has been proved in regard to some 40 smallish enterprises by the Bureau of Mineral Resources. The major part of the $50m that will be allocated to the Petroleum and Minerals Authority will be available for that purpose.
– Well, you give me the list.
– The honourable member can have the list if he wants it. In all these cases something of real mineral value has been discovered. We are interested in helping these people and in keeping them out of the clutches of overseas combines. In the process of doing this, such people can have their choice- either of equity participation by the Petroleum and Minerals Authority alone or on the basis of a guarantee given by an appropriate financial organisation.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Transport. I ask: Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to reports of claims by the New South Wales Minister for Local Government and Highways, Sir Charles Cutler, that the New South Wales Government will be forced to retrench 3,000 road workers because of a lack of funds from the Australian Government for road building? Are those claims factual? If not, what is the true position?
-It is true that I have received a very long telegram from Sir Charles Cutler, the New South Wales Minister for Local Government and Highways, stating that some 3,086 employees would be retrenched unless the Australian Government immediately provided funds to allow work to proceed. If Sir Charles does not know that his government still has not supplied details of the cash it needs, I believe it is about time that he had a look at his own records and talked to his own officials in order to get the facts of the matter. He should know that other States have already received some $53,979,000 in interim financial grants. Despite repeated inquiries from the Department of the Treasury for details we have not yet received an answer from Sir Charles; yet he says that it is a lack of finance, allegedly caused by the actions of the Australian Government, which is causing him to give notice of termination of employment to employees of the Department of Main Roads. I think that what he should be doing is trying to pull the other leg because he is certainly not doing much good with his story at this point as the facts are all against him.
If I may, I will give the real position. This chamber was called together on Friday, 23 August, for a special sitting to consider 3 pieces of legislation. One was the Trade Practices Bill. The others were the 2 roads Bills; we knew that these were important to the States and that we should get on with the job. These 2 Bills were finally passed by the Senate on 17 September and on 20 September they received the royal assent. Three days after that we called a meeting in Canberra between officials of my department and the State roads commissioners at which we explained to them just what was required of them. We outlined to the commissioners the details of the Acts. The payment procedures for interim grants were explained to them in detail. So when we look at the real position we find that the States have had the facts put before them. Other States have availed themselves of the opportunity to obtain finance but New South Wales has not been prepared to do so. We have had discussions with not only the State roads commissioners but also local government authorities throughout Australia and we have explained to them what they have to do and what we are expecting of them.
It is an absolute scandal that the New South Wales Government is still declining to be one of the recipients of the money that is available. It can get it easily by providing limited information to the Department of the Treasury of the balances in its road funds as at 30 June of this year and how much it has spent since then. I have already indicated that $53,979,000 has been made available to other States but New South Wales has elected not to participate. Being concerned about the termination of the employment of so many employees, I have already sent a telegram to Sir Charles offering to explain the legislation to him if he does not understand it. I am even prepared to go to the extent of seeking the approval of the Opposition Whip for a pair tonight so that I may go to Sydney to meet Sir Charles and discuss with him the financial problems so that these people will not be laid off. It is bis fault and he must accept the responsibility for it.
-Can the Minister for Social Security justify the disparaging remarks he made about the Leyland P76 motor vehicle recently on national television when he called it a ‘lemon’? Is he not aware that that public statement by a senior Minister has thrown into jeopardy successful car dealerships throughout the nation and the jobs of their employees, who collectively have had years of experience in assessing what is good in a motor vehicle?
-Consumers vote with their dollars, and they were not voting for the P76. It was as simple as that.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Minerals and Energy. With the establishment of the Petroleum and Minerals Authority can the Minister inform the House how the funds allocated to that Authority are to be utilised, apart from information which he just gave to the honourable member for Kennedy?
– Apart from the assistance that will be given to small mineral enterprises, our funds will not be used, contrary to the furphies which have been spread by our political critics, for off-shore drilling. In respect of off-shore drilling we will be farming out any area which cannot be intensively drilled. We consider that, as we will be providing the national resource, the risk capital and the technology will probably come from the farminee. Accordingly, drilling onshore in respect of petroleum will be conducted by the Petroleum and Minerals Authority. We have 2 spots in mind for that purpose. The honourable member can be certain that in respect of off-shore operations we will be following the practice which prevails in every off-shore country of any substance throughout the world.
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister In view of the significant concern expressed by all sections of the community about the Government’s decision to introduce a surcharge on property income, will he inform the House whether this decision stands as originally announced by the Treasurer? Is the honourable gentleman aware that a future Liberal-Country Party Government will abolish the tax at the earliest opportunity and without qualification?
– Order! The Deputy Leader of the Opposition is entitled to ask only about matters pertaining to the Minister’s portfolio.
– I ask the honourable gentleman: Will he undertake a similar commitment now on behalf of the present Administration to avoid the gross inequities in the proposed tax? If not, will he outline precisely to the House what decision the Government has taken concerning its introduction?
– The Treasurer will answer the question.
-For the benefit of the honourable member and the House, I inform them that I am proposing to change the tax so that it will apply only on taxable incomes in excess of $5,000.
-Can the Minister for Housing and Construction state how many housing loans through terminating building societies will be made available as a result of the additional $50m advanced to the States by the Australian Government for low income earners’ housing at last Friday’s Ministers’ conference? Is it possible for him to give estimates of the number of loans on a national basis and also State by State? Can the Australian Government indicate whether funds can be directed to the Central Coast area of Gosford-Wyong, which is one of the fastest growing areas of Australia and which is heavily dependent on the building industry for its prosperity?
-The additional $50m can involve an extra 3,300 loans to terminating building societies, and this will facilitate the provision of 11,400 loans in total throughout Australia. Previously in the Budget an amount of $77m had been allocated to terminating building societies; now we have this additional $50m, aggregating $127m for the societies. The honourable gentleman has asked for the figures on a State basis. The number of loans that can be made available to each State are: New South Wales 3,600, Victoria 2,800, Queensland 1,200, South Australia 1,850, Western Australia 1,250 and Tasmania 700. As I have said, the total for the year is 11,400.
The honourable gentleman asked me whether more money can be made available to the Central Coast where there is an incidence of unemployment in the building industry of significant proportions. This is principally in the hands of the State Government of New South Wales. We have not sought the prerogative of determining where these funds should be distributed. But I might say that I did suggest to the Housing Ministers at their conference last Friday that they might consider availing themselves of the offer of the Australian Government.
-You have said enough. You have been going on long enough now.
-What are you snivelling about again?
-Order! Interjections will cease.
-I do not mind interjections but I cannot stand snivellers. I suggested to the States that they might use the resources of the Australian Government which are capable of monitoring the building industry so that they can determine the best locations to place this building society money, since the building society process represents the quickest way of stimulating the building industry. If that process were to be used unquestionably the Central Coast would benefit by a substantial injection of funds as a result of New South Wales getting an extra $ 1 7m for its terminating building society purposes.
– Does the Minister for Minerals and Energy recall advising me last year that the mining industry should write its contracts in Australian dollars because ‘it has been common knowledge that the American dollar is on the down grade’? Did he also say: ‘There are only 3 certainties in life today- death, taxes and successive, progressive and evermore frequent devaluations of the United States dollar’? Is he aware that if the people whom he so rudely referred to as ‘mugs and hillbillies’ had taken his advice they would have lost some hundreds of millions of dollars? Is it not he who has turned out to be the mug and hillbilly? Finally, when will the Minister answer the questions which I have had on the notice paper for almost a year?
– In answer to the honourable member for Farrer, there is one fourth certainty, and that is his political demise at the next election. There is a gentleman after his seat. As for the future, I think the Australian currency in the long term will be more than comparable with that of any other currency and it would well behove the Opposition, instead of spreading panic and dissention and endeavouring in every possible way to denigrate the Australian economy to be loyal Australians for a change.
-I ask the Acting Prime Minister. What are the Minister’s proposals for coal hydrogenation in conjunction with Japan? To what extent can he see our bunker fuel needs being met?
-Our proposals have been outlined already. As a matter of fact I met Ambassador Yoshida last Tuesday week at his request and I gave him details of our proposals. Prior to that I had discussed the matter with Mr
Nakasone in Japan. Coal hydrogenation is a matter of the utmost importance, particularly with pricing trends. We have reached a crossover point when the cost of producing motor spirit and other derivatives from coal is on an even keel with the cost of production from imported crude. For hydrogenation one needs a highly volatile fuel. There are 2 distinct areas that I might mention. One is the Hunter Valley and the Greta seam. The other area is the coal deposits on the Darling Downs.
– Hear, Hear! Repeat that.
-For the edification of the honourable member who just interjected I might remind him that he will find there a collection of the choicest multinationals which have been granted excessively large areas of black coal. Today we no longer have major oil companies. They are major energy companies. In the United States they have acquired 65 per cent of the black coal. They are controlling about 50 per cent of their uranium but that is just by the way. There is quite a concatenation of these overseas firms in the areas I have mentioned. We have told them in turn that, whilst the Queensland Goverment may give them leases, they will not be able to export because in the interim, of course, just to improve the shining hour, they all want to export coal. Our main concern is to ensure that we can supplement our limited shortfalls and in addition, that Japan, which is by far our major trading partner, will come into collaboration with us. We propose joint investigations into the latest and most modem methods of coal hydrogenation. Coal is the key to the future and it is the key to the energy of the future. Australia has it in abundance and we will use it accordingly.
– I preface my question to the Acting Prime Minister by saying that about 3 weeks ago the Opposition resources committee had arranged with the Bureau of Mineral Resources to have somebody speak to it about energy sources in Australia. This officer was refused permission to speak. I have written to the Minister asking whether the Opposition might have access to officials of the Bureau of Mineral Resources to give it advice and information. I now ask the Minister when I am to get a reply.
-The Leader of the Australian Country Party can have his reply here and now. The reply is a simple one: In his letter to me the Leader of the Australian Country Party made an apology for the lack of common courtesy in not first asking my consent. I have to spend far too much of my time dealing with the rubbish that is circulated in the Press in relation to myself and the administration of my portfolio and in dealing with foolish and stupid urgency motions that are put forward. In due course the Leader of the Australian Country Party will get his reply. He well knows what the reply will be. With the proper courteous approach to me he will certainly get the services of a suitable officer.
-My question is directed to the Acting Prime Minister. What is the significance of the use of natural gas fluids and their conversion to motor spirit?
– The conversion of the liquids associated with natural gas are of the utmost importance to Australia’s future supplies of motor spirit and other petroleum derivatives. I will quote from an official publication of the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd called ‘BHP Today’ which was issued in January last. It said that in total our resources of liquid hydrocarbons- by that is meant crude oil- and condensated liquid petroleum gas is approximately 4,000 million barrels. For the doubting Thomases on the Opposition side, I suggest that they look at pages 22 and 23 of that document, where they will see it.
– That was convenient, was it not?
– Even more convenient is this: Subsequent to the date of that publication the Esso-Hematite group has announced the upgrading of the reserves available in Bass Strait. It is not convenient. It is not adventitious. It is correct. No one would be better able to inform Australia than the BHP group, because it holds the major share of the reserves. By alkylation, motor spirit can be converted from the liquids. The motor spirit will be one that will gladden the heart of the ecologist because there will be no need for tetraethyl lead to be added to control knocking. In addition, the motor spirit will have a 100 octane rating. The split-up between the two- my official figures are of the order of 3,700 million barrels- is approximately 50/50. When we start production from the north-west shelf in particular there will be a major petrochemical refinery that will be structured for that purpose because we will depend heavily on it for our future needs of automobile fuel and other petroleum derivatives. We can look forward to the future with confidence. I repeat the words of Mr Kruizenga, the head of the Esso company in Australia. He was reported in a very authentic journal, the ‘Petroleum News’, about 6 months ago to have said that Australia was in a very, very comfortable position energy-wise.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Transport. First, if I may, I thank the Minister for making available to me copies of the documents he forwarded to the Royal Commission into Alleged Payments to Maritime Unions. That was an undertaking he had given earlier, I ask the Minister whether he will table in the House details of all payments into and out of the ‘Noongah’ fund.
-I would be happy to, if I had any information on it. To the best of my knowledge I have none. There is no departmental record of this.
– I am asking the Minister to get the information, and I think it is important that he should.
-Let us get on to common ground. When the honourable member refers to die ‘Noongah’ fund, I assume that he is talking about the fund which the Seamen’s Union of Australia was able to establish by collections from its members and money raised by other methods, I understand, from other people. I know of only one instance in which it was able to obtain money from a shipping company. As to what it got from all the shipping companies, I would not have a clue. As to what its members contributed, I have no information. If there is any means by which we can obtain the details, I will examine it. If I have the authority to obtain the information, I will obtain it for the honourable member.
- Mr Speaker, the Minister has been co-operative -
– Order! There is no point of order in regard to this matter.
– I address a question to the Minister for Social Security. I remind him of the large number of nursing homes in the Federal Division of Brisbane. I am sure he shares my concern at the difficulties being experienced by pensioner patients over the past 2 months in paying the fees which have been approved by bis Department. Can the Minister inform the House when the bed day subsidy will be increased for Queensland patients?
-The bed day subsidy is paid to nursing homes and, of course, allows private nursing homes to continue operating. About 90 per cent of their income is coming from Australian Government sources; that is the bed day subsidy and pensions. There has been a series of substantial increases which affect this area. In
July there was an increase in the bed day subsidy rate. There has been a series of increases in pensions. This matter is being considered. We have received absolutely no assistance at all from the Private Hospitals Association of Queensland. There has been a great deal of personal abuse by a Mr Hawkins who is a paid lobbyist for that organisation, but absolutely no input of information or assistance has come to me. When the time is appropriate I will make an announcement.
– Is the Treasurer aware of a strong reaction against his Department’s proposal to increase the tax on lump sum superannuation benefits paid on retirement? When considering this proposal, will the Treasurer bear in mind that the imposition of such a tax would discourage people from saving for their old age and would cause many retired men and women hardship and a further falling off in their standard of living?
– I do not know how many letters I have received on this subject. In this House last year I answered a question asked of me by the then honourable member for Henty. There is no proposal to vary the provisions about lump sum payments. Candidly, I do not know who the lie maker is who keeps circulating every now and again, because he has got nothing else to do, the story that there is an intent to alter the S per cent provision. There is no such intent.
– My question is directed to the Acting Minister for Education. On 7 October last Mr David Hamer, the former member for Isaacs, published an article in the Melbourne ‘Age’ which claimed that the Government’s expenditure on education had resulted in a lesser increase in the proportion of the gross national product devoted to education than had been the case under the McMahon Government. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to this article, and can he inform the House whether the claims made by Mr Hamer are true?
– My attention has been drawn to the claim of the defeated Liberal member for Isaacs, which appeared in an article in the Melbourne ‘Age’ to which the honourable member has referred. A very adequate reply to the false claims made by Mr Hamer was published under Mr Beazley’s name yesterday. But for the information of honourable members I think that it should be said clearly that Mr Hamer has presented a false case by taking the financial year 1973-74 which includes only 6 months of this Government’s new initiatives in education. In 1971 and 1972 the previous Liberal-Country Party Government spent about $112m on education. This Government, the first that has shown real care for the needs of Australian education, will spend about $780m in 1974 and 1975 under the Karmel programs.
As honourable members know, this dramatic increase in the total level of Australian Government involvement in schools is in accordance with the policy of providing resources where they are needed most. Those who have the greatest need have the first call on government funds. The total Australian Government spending on education in the 1974-75 financial year, including the acceptance of the major recommendations of the Kangan Committee, will amount to more than $1.5 billion. It is hardly necessary for me to remind honourable members that the Opposition has no policies for significant increases in education spending. In fact, during the May election campaign the Leader of the Opposition talked about reducing education expenditure by $260m. I am sure that the honourable member for Isaacs will be fortified both by the statement made yesterday by the Minister for Education, Mr Beazley, which appeared in the ‘Age’ and by the figures which I have provided for the information of honourable members today.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Northern Development, who represents the Minister for Agriculture in another place. Is it true that the Government will cease financial assistance for the tuberculosis testing of cattle on 3 1 December this year? Has this valuable program been half completed? If discontinued, will this be a great setback to the eradication of this disease? Will the Minister inform the House of the Government’s intention in this important cattle industry problem?
– I have no knowledge of the discontinuance of the tuberculosis or brucellosis testing program. One of the objectives of this Government in consultation with the States has been to accelerate the eradication of contagious cattle diseases in Australia, particularly those diseases which can be transmitted to humans and which affect our exports of meat. I shall certainly make inquiries into the matter the honourable member has raised.
– Pursuant to section 39 (3) of the Australian Wool Commission Act 1970-71, 1 present the annual report of the Australian Wool Commission for the year ended 30 June 1972 and the concluding report by the Commission for the period 1 July 1972 to 31 December 1972. These reports include financial statements and the Auditor-General’s certification of the Commission’s accounts.
– Pursuant to section 29 of the Wine Overseas Marketing Act 1929-1973, I present for the information of honourable members the interim annual report of the Australian Wine Board for the year ended 30 June 1974.
– For the information of honourable members I present a report prepared for the Australian Department of Tourism and Recreation by Consultation Planning survey Services titled ‘Demand for Recreation Workers ‘.
– Pursuant to section 122 of the Repatriation Act 1920-1974, 1 present for the information of honourable members the annual report of the Repatriation Commission for the year ended 30 June 1974.
- Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the right honourable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented?
-Yes, Mr Speaker. I have been misrepresented by the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard). I did not get the opportunity before he left the chamber to tell him that I was raising the matter. The Minister for Defence as Acting Minister for Education stated during his answer to a question from the honourable member for Isaacs (Mr Clayton) about a statement which was made by Mr David Hamer, the former member for Isaacs, that during the course of the election campaign I had said that a Liberal-Country Party Government would cut spending on education by $260m. That statement was made, and it was made during the election campaign. I then issued a statement pointing out that it was totally false. I am surprised that the Minister for Defence, knowing that it was a false statement and that it was answered at the time, should repeat it today. It is unlike the Minister, who usually would not do such a thing. I notice that the Minister has returned to the chamber. I issued a statement saying:
A Liberal-Country Parry coalition will honour all spending commitments on education next year.
That is, all spending commitments of the Labor Government The statement continued:
Claims that we will cut education spending are totally false. We have consistently said that education is an area of top priority and that we will increase spending in this area. The estimated net cost to the Commonwealth for education spending in 1 974-75 will be of the order of $ 1 , 100m- this is the net cost to the Commonwealth of existing commitments. But if existing commitments amount to more than that, we will honour them. The actual level of spending will be well above this amount because the complete transfer of responsibility for tertiary education to the Commonwealth from the States will involve less spending by the States. That is, extra spending by the Commonwealth over and above the estimated $ 1 , 100m will be offset by an adjustment to general revenue grants to the States, as occurred under the Labor Government last year.
Any attempt to say that a Liberal-Country Party Government will cut education spending is malicious rumourmongering.
-I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. This is the first opportunity I have had to rise since remarks were made about me last night during the adjournment debate by the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman). He made a personal attack on me, crediting me with views of third parties, which views neither represent those held by me nor could they in any way be associated with me either by reference to the only factual matter raised by the honourable member last evening or to any other statements made by me at any other time. The honourable member’s reflections on me by innuendo have brought nothing but discredit upon him. The only factual matter raised by the honourable member was in relation to a statement from the Parramatta ‘Advertiser’ of 9 October. It stated:
Guest speaker at the meeting pf the Parramatta Branch of the Young Liberal Movement on Monday 1 4 October will be National Director of Australia 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.
Firstly, my name did not appear in this article. It did not arise, as was stated by the honourable member on page 2367 of Hansard, from a handout of mine. I made no such statement. By inquiry today from Mr Len Rodney, editor of the Parramatta ‘Advertiser’, I have ascertained that the honourable member for Prospect did not inquire as to the source of the article. Secondly, the honourable member stated that Mr Butler was a friend of mine. I have never met the gentleman and at no time have I supported the views of this gentleman as detailed and alleged by the honourable member for Prospect. Thirdly, the honourable member stated that Mr Butler was invited by me to address the meeting. This is not so. There is no factual evidence alluded to on which this allegation could be based. I consider that the honourable member has abused the forms of the House by associating me with views which I personally abhor. He has done so by innuendo only. I ask him to withdraw the remarks and to apologise to me.
– I call the right honourable member for Lowe on a personal explanation.
– Is not the honourable member for Prospect going to withdraw?
-Order! The honourable gentleman knows that that has nothing to do with the Chair.
– In a speech delivered on 14 October to the Federated Miscellaneous Workers Union the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) read an extract from a leader which had been published in the ‘Financial Review’ of 10 October. In that leader the editor, as he has on many occasions- and has always been contradictedstated: … the McMahon Government … for electoral reasons, promoted a rate of monetary expansion which was totally unjustifiable in its rapidity and which, with the accompanying rate of capital inflow, was mainly responsible for the demand inflation of 1972-73. . . .
This is much the same as the contents of an article which was written in the ‘Financial Review’ of 24 May by the Economics Editor, Mr P. P. McGuinness. I took the opportunity to reply to that article on 3 June. My reply was published in full and no comment was subsequently made by the editor. Nevertheless on 10 October a leader was published to which I wrote a letter in reply on that same day. The editor did not have the courtesy to publish that letter. I said in that letter to the editor that I had just read another repeat of his notion about the ethical and political standards behind the 1971-72 and 1973-74 McMahon Government budgets.
-The 1973-74 Budget? Is that one of your budgets?
– Sorry, 1972-73 Budget. But when I am dealing with this matter I have to argue in respect of what was said about the 1973-74 Budget as well. If the honourable member listens patiently he will get the answer. I told the editor in my letter that I disagreed with him again. I wrote:
You obviously do not understand the trends that were occurring in the economy or the action that should have been taken by the Labor Government in 1973.
I was hoping the interjector would listen to that but obviously he is now engaged on something different. I continued:
The facts and policy decisions that had to be made at the relevant times are set out in an article I wrote for the Review on 3 June 1974. 1 said: ‘Labor can’t have it both ways. We were determined to reduce unemployment and stimulate growth and were prepared to take a risk. ‘
In fact, we did. We had unemployment down to 88,000 and growth at a going rate of 7.5 per cent. My letter continued: ‘Labor’s argument that the Liberal-Country Party Government was responsible for the substantial growth in the money supply in 1 972 amounts to arguing that this risk should not have been taken and that a high level of unemployment was to be preferred. ‘
Later in that letter I said:
Even Mr P. P. McGuinness … in the article to which I replied (3 June), said that at the end of 1972 there was an unwantedly low level of domestic economic activity as evidenced by the high, for Australia, rate of unemployment.
-Order! Will the right honourable gentleman explain where he has been misrepresented? There is a good chap; the soup is getting cold.
– I am explaining where I have been misrepresented and am giving the answer to the misrepresentation. My letter continued:
He clearly implies that at the end of 1972 demand needed a stimulus not a contraction and that it would have been dangerous to have taken action which would have reduced the money supply and increased the high, for Australia, level of unemployment.
Therefore he was contradicting what was said by the editor in the editorial in the ‘Financial Review’. Mr Speaker, I do not want to read out too much of this letter. I did ask the Leader of the House -
- Mr Speaker, I take a point of order. The right honourable member for Lowe claimed to have been misrepresented and is making a personal explanation. He is, in fact, debating a political statement made by the editor of a newspaper but he knows that a decision was taken on political grounds because he was stood over by the Country Party on the devaluation question.
-I have asked the Leader of the House to agree to the letter I wrote on 10 December 1974 being incorporated in Hansard. He has agreed.
-Is leave granted? There being on objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
I have just read another repeat (in the Leader of 10 October 1974) of your notion about the ethical and political standards behind the 1971-72 and 1973-74 McMahon Government Budgets which you allege caused large increases in the money supply and the existing credit squeeze.
I disagree with you again. You obviously do not understand the trends that were occurring in the economy or the action that should have been taken by the Labor Government early in 1973.
The facts and policy decisions that had to be made at the relevant times are set out in an article I wrote for the Review on 3 June 1974.
I said: ‘Labor can’t have it both ways. We were determined to reduce unemployment and stimulate growth and were prepared to take a risk. Labor’s argument that the LiberalCountry Party Government was responsible for the substantial growth in the money supply in 1972 amounts to arguing that this risk should not have been taken and that a high level of unemployment was to be preferred. ‘Demand continued to rise strongly in the JanuaryMarch quarter of 1973 and Labor should have taken action to reduce the money supply then and not wait until six or seven months later. ‘In fact the Liberal-Country Party imposed restraints on capital inflow in 1972 and the Cabinet had already considered imposing additional restraints on foreign capital inflow by special non-interest-bearing variable deposits. ‘
Even Mr P. P. McGuinness, your Economic Editor, in the article to which I replied (3 June), said that at the end of 1972 there was an unwantedly low level of domestic economic activity as evidenced by the high, for Australia, rate of unemployment.
He clearly implies that at the end of 1972 demand needed a stimulus not a contraction and that it would have been dangerous to have taken action which would have reduced the money supply and increased the high, for Australia, level of unemployment.
Labor can ‘t have it both ways, and neither can you.
In any event McGuinness was wrong. The trends were very favourable in the December quarter of 1972 and the facts spoke for themselves in the March quarter of 1973.
We were forecasting a minor boom by June 1973 and so was Treasury. But the forecasts relating to the probable trend did not become clear until the March quarter figures became available.
– I have incorporated this letter because the editor did not have the courtesy to publish it in his paper.
Sitting suspended from 1.3 to 2.15 p.m.
-Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
-Yes. Just before the sitting was suspended the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr Ruddock) said that I had made serious allegations against him last night during the adjournment debate. I forget the exact words that were used. I did not write them down. It is true that last night I made serious allegations against him and against the shadow Minister for Immigration, the honourable member for Warringah (Mr MacKellar). I make the point that I concluded my remarks by saying: . . . 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.
I was referring to Mr Eric Butler in the case of the honourable member for Parramatta, and to the Immigration Control Association in the case of the honourable member for Warringah. I am pleased, and I accept the assurance of the honourable member for Parramatta, that he dissociates himself from Mr Eric Butler and from the Young Liberals in Parramatta. I am sorry that the shadow Minister for Immigration has not seen fit to dissociate himself from the Immigration Control Association and from its support.
-I wish to make a personal explanation, Mr Speaker.
– Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. The implication in the remarks of the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) just now was that he was requiring in his concluding remarks last night that I dissociate myself from Mr Butler. That certainly was not the purport of his remarks. If one reads carefully from Hansard one finds that he was suggesting that if he does not speak for the whole of his Party his Parry dissociates itself from him, the implication being that the Liberal Party ought to dissociate itself from me. The honourable member, in his personal explanation, has not in any way dealt with the very serious matters that I raised. He has called upon me to dissociate myself from a Young Liberals branch yet no serious allegations have been made which can be substantiated against that branch except that it was prepared, with an” open mind, to hear some other person’s views whether I like them or whether I do not. I indicated for my own part that the alleged views of that gentleman certainly do not reflect my views and I would in no way support them. An apology has not yet been forthcoming to me for the very clear statements that were made that those views were mine and which have been shown to be based on serious misstatements of fact. If the matter could be referred to the Privileges Committee I would certainly ask that that be done. I will very carefully look at the matter to see whether the honourable member can be dealt with for having failed to tender an apology after these very serious allegations.
– I have received a letter from the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The indecisiveness of the Government’s Budget decision to reduce the level of taxation deduction for dependent education expenses.
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)-
– I begin on a note of regret, that is, that the language I was obliged to use was uncertain. I have to speak about the indecisiveness of the Government’s decision with respect to the taxation deduction on education. When, with the first flourish of the pen, I was obliged to put together the matter of public importance the decision of the Labor Caucus was not known to me. Now the agony of the Caucus conflict is over and it only remains for those honourable members in seats such as Diamond Valley, La Trobe, Phillip and Casey to stand in contemplation of the political agony which lies ahead of them. Beyond that, it also rests with thousands of parents of families throughout Australia to face up to the financial agony which the Government’s decision represents. That decision, Mr Speaker, as you well know, is to reduce from $400 to $150 the amount of money which may be claimed by parents for taxation purposes.
It is a matter of infinite pity that when the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) returned to Australia from his grand tour he seemed to have succumbed and become a victim to what can only be described as intense Bonapartism because, when it was brought to his ears that there were rumblings of discontent throughout the country regarding the Government’s decision on taxation with respect to education matters and, beyond that, when it was brought to his attention that his own Party was upset, what was his reaction? His reaction to members of his own Party was: Who do they think they are?
– He never said that.
– He said something perilously close to that. I have no doubt that the honourable member for Hunter would have been a conspicuous exception, because we know what he is. The Prime Minister knows perfectly well that the information that he sought to give to the Australian people on this matter on his return was not factual. Beyond that, he knows perfectly well that the Government’s decision on this matter is causing very great distress to thousands of Australian families. To describe this decision as being one which merely hits people of opulence, of power and of position is to take a quite bizarre regard for the facts. I say to the honourable gentleman with the utmost cordiality that it is about high time that he stopped drinking French champagne and tasted Australian beer.
The truth of the matter is that this decision will affect in a grievous fashion families which do not deserve to be affected. The truth of the matter is that the Economic and Education Committees of the Caucus are infinitely closer to public reality than is the Government itself. The Government is out of touch. Those 2 committees to which I have referred are in touch. I excuse myself from any excursion into the matter of offering a judgment as to the curious fashion in which the Labor Parliamentary Party works. For one who has a great respect for Parliament as an institution I content myself with saying that I find it curious in the extreme that governments can be challenged by a body outside in this fashion. In this case there was considerable merit in the move which was made by the Labor Party Caucus. The Prime Minister has now found certainly that he has the numbers but regrettably he has not the virtue of argument.
– What about the members of your Party voting -
– I say to the honourable member for Prospect that if Diogenes ever came by him he would give the honourable member a wide berth. The Prime Minister said that this reduction will affect only people with an income of over $10,000 a year. I describe that as a gross falsity. I invite my friend the Treasurer (Mr Crean) to turn to the 1967-68 report of the Commissioner of Taxation. I confess they are the latest figures available to me. I am indebted to my friend -
-The honourable member -
– Order! The honourable member for Prospect will cease interjecting.
– He is beyond hope, beyond redemption and beyond reason; all three of them. I will be indebted if the Treasurer can rescue the Prime Minister from this charge. I refer to the report of the Taxation Commissioner for 1967-68 where he states that of the 124,000 people in Australia who claimed the maximum deduction 47 per cent had incomes of less than $6,000 a year and only -
– That was the maximum.
– Why do you not take a valium and give us all a break? Dr Klugman- Why do not you -
-Order! The honourable member for Prospect will cease interjecting or I will take action.
-Only 27 per cent of that number had incomes of more than $10,000 a year. I want to read to the House an excerpt from a letter which is typical of literally hundreds of letters that have come into my hands. This is a copy of a letter addressed to my friend the Treasurer. It was written by the president of a parents ‘ association. Not for any sinister reasons, I leave the author of the letter anonymous. It states in part:
It seems that those responsible for making this decision are of the opinion that all parents of children attending nonGovernment schools can be regarded as affluent. This is certainly not the case in this school, or in any other independent school we know. Many parents are making great sacrifices to send their children to the school of their choice, and in so doing are making a considerable contribution to the total cost of Australian education. Already in this school there have been withdrawals as a direct result of the Budget proposal. We are concerned that as a direct result this school will become exclusive on the grounds of parents ‘ income.
That is a fair statement of the position. I invite my friend the Treasurer to accept that that is the case. But even if one takes the Prime Minister’s argument that the proposal affects only those with incomes of more than $ 1 0,000 a year, surely governments are elected for the purpose of governing for the entire country and not for sections of the country. If a valid case is to be made out with respect to the entire community why not respond to it? But in this instance the Government has said: ‘No, we will have no part of it’. There is one other aspect of this melancholy business to which I would refer, and it is this: The Prime Minister, during the election campaign, said that taxation would not be increased. He made that plain declaration at Castlemaine in Victoria. The meeting at which he said that was covered by two of the most experienced journalists in the parliamentary press gallery, Mr Paul Kelly and Mr Mike Steketee. I am prepared to concede that one journalist may make a minor error of judgment, but 2 journalists cannot join together at a public meeting to misrepresent the Prime Minister of the nation. This is what the two of them reported the Prime Minister as having said at this meeting during the election campaign:
I see no reason why taxes, direct or indirect, need to be increased in order to pay for any of our continuing commitments.
I put it to the Treasurer, with all the candour and friendship of 20 years, that this proposal is in effect a tax increase, because for the person who formerly would have been eligible to claim a deduction of $400 the decrease, pro tanto represents an increase in taxation. I do not think that the honourable gentleman can reasonably deny that. Why is it that there is repudiation in this case? If the Government had been brought to the conclusion that the deduction system as such was wrong and had wanted to turn to some other system that it considered more efficacious at least there would have been an argument for the country to consider and for this Parliament to consider. But as things stand at the moment I am inviting the Government to recognise that there have been 2 savage breaches with respect to the Australian people. The first breach is represented in the fact that this proposal will bring a needless injustice to scores of thousands of Australian people; secondly that it will bring injustice to people in that the proposal represents an increase in taxation.
The last question I would ask the Treasurer is this: Does he seriously consider that one can today keep a youngster at a high school- take a State high school-for $150 a year? Does the honourable gentleman really think that it is possible to look after a handicapped kiddy for $ 1 50 a year?
– I am interested at least to get the ribaldry of response from the honourable member for Prospect It is about the only time that he gets close to resembling a gargoyle.
– This is the only time you have shown any interest in handicapped children.
-Indeed! Well, I come now to isolated children, and I have seen thousands of them. Many parents of isolated children are now in the position where an allowance of $150 simply will not enable them to keep a child at a high school. I could, give thousands of illustrations; I take one. The little town of Gunpowder is 50 or 60 miles from Mount Isa. It has no high school and parents must send their youngsters to Mount Isa to be boarded in the Country Women’s Association hostel or with friends.
– On an isolation allowance.
-I am dealing with the $150 deduction. The simple truth of the matter is, putting it in homely language, the amount of that deduction would not cover rations. Beyond that, I invite the House to consider the injustice which this represents to those thousands of people who are not in the position to fend for themselves. To those 26 members of the Australian Labor Party Caucus who found that quality of steel to stand up and to say what they thought, I express my admiration. I express further my regret that thenpowers of proselytisation were not greater, that they were not able to convince the Government. But the Government had made up its mind, and the only thing that will rescue the Governmenta government of repudiation; that is the only description for it- is for it to be obliged to walk through the cleansing fire of an election. If we can get an opportunity to start that fire then let us start it and get the business done with.
– I say to my friend the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) that that speech was scarcely his finest quarter hour. To get this matter into perspective, the education allowance that had been allowed lost to the revenue in the last financial year a sum of $130m. The reduction proposed will reduce that sum from $130m to $100m. The allowance is intended only to cover fees, fares, books and uniforms. My friend made reference to the handicapped children. This Government in this same Budget has acknowledged what no one else has ever acknowledged; it is making a special weekly payment of $10 a week for handicapped children. It introduced the isolated children’s allowance, which could have been introduced by the previous Government. In aggregate on education in Australia the Commonwealth and the States together provide a sum of something like $2,600m, and the honourable member for Moreton has gone into agonies about a variation of $30m.
The taxation system is not the best method by which to try to do some of the things that governments have sought to do in the past by way of the education allowance. If I may say so, I think its introduction was typical of the scrappy sort of way in which the previous Government faced up to social problems. I concede his point that it costs more than $150 to look after a child. But the allowance was never envisaged to cover the looking after of a child. I repeat that it was to cover, first, fees. This Government has gone further than any other government in the abolition of fees generally. The allowance was to cover also fares. In a proper system, there would be no fares for children going to school. Transport would be provided at public expense. In some cases for children in country areas that is now the position. The allowance thirdly was to cover books. I hope again that we will get to the day when books also will be free or nearly so in our education system. The final item it was designed to cover was uniforms. I am pleased to see that in some of the more enlightened schools uniforms are no longer insisted upon. Be that as it may, the magnitude of the reduction is comparatively small.
I take the point that anybody who did get the advantage of the allowance up to $400 no doubt is aggrieved by what has been done. But in any government at any time in any community a choice must be made between the directions in which to go and the resources available to carry out the aims. If the honourable gentleman had looked more carefully at the Budget he would have found that this year it provided for almost a doubling in the Commonwealth’s expenditure on education. The sum is $ 1,534.7m as against $860. lm in the previous financial year. Again, we have provided sums for pre-school and child care centres of a magnitude of some $70m or $80m in this Budget. The inequity, if you like, of providing for the sorts of things that the taxation concession does is ground on which the honourable gentleman scarcely trod at all. With his indulgence, I would like to incorporate in Hansard a table which shows the average reduction for education expenses per child by grade of taxpayer ‘s net income for the financial year 197 1-72. It is a single page table.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
-I thank the House. That shows the various ranges of income and the average amount that was claimed under each head. I accept the point that averages are not always the revealers of the whole truth. They conceal some things, but, nevertheless, the gravamen is there. In terms of what can be claimed for fees, fares, books and uniforms, the majority of Australian taxpayers claimed far less than the proposed allowance of $150. Those who claimed -
– They receive free education.
– Again, this Government has provided more sums of money than any other government for the non-government schools. If honourable gentlemen opposite again look at the Budget they will find that in this area this year it provides $120m as against $70m in the previous financial year. Those who believe that they are foregoing $30m at least should weigh against that an increase of $50m in the same provision and see that it is allocated by need and not by the income of the parent. That is what is wrong with the taxation concession as a means of meeting some of these needs.
I take a further point raised by my friend. Again, I would have liked to have gone further than we did in the restructuring of taxation this year. But I believe that this action must wait until the next Budget. An ossified pattern cannot suddenly be changed in a very short space of time. I commend to every member of the House the interim report of the Asprey Committee and also the series of documents that I have had printed almost each week for the last 5 weeks and which deal with specific technical aspects of tax reform in Australia-
It is not easy suddenly in a single span of time to go from a system that is imperfect to what one would think is a better system. At least we trod along that road on this occasion. We have begun with the provision of relief to low income families. There are many families which will not avail themselves of the education tax allowance because their incomes will be tax free. Surely that was the way that we ought to have risen to this need as the previous Government should have done in the many years that it was in office. The former Government permitted the system under which a person who was in the poverty area in terms of the findings of the poverty inquiry and who had dependants and a non-working wife continued to pay tax when that person ought not to have been paying tax at all. At least this Government and this Budget have allowed me to begin that kind of tax reform. In order to do that, we have introduced a form of rebate.
I do not think that it is easy to make a categorical assertion that a system of rebates is necessarily better than any other system. These are technical problems which require a great deal of examination. At least the Asprey Committee and the documentation associated with it will throw a great deal more light on that aspect in the future. But to have all these tears of woe shed about a sum of $30m in relation to a total advantage of $130m and a total expenditure of $2,600m to my mind shows how narrow still are the perspectives of those who were formerly the Government of Australia and who had 23 years with no impediment in the other place to do the sorts of things which they now pick one by one when they get a few letters from constituents. One cannot bow to every moan that one gets in a letter; nor has one always the time to write and say: ‘Well, there are some blessings that you have not counted as well as the things which you claim you are now missing’. We ought to have better sights than that.
I at least believed that my friend would have aimed far higher than he did in this attack. He framed the matter for discussion as one of public importance originally, I think, on what he called the indecision in the Caucus. The Caucus stuck to what was set out in the Budget. For one who writes so regularly on a weekly basis on a daily newspaper, he should not take for truth every word that he sees in it. I suggest that there is too much of rumour and too much keyhole reporting in this area. I say that to the people who report here in the Press Gallery. What we want, in this House are people who are able to come to the open door. But if they are not going to come to the open door, at least we ought to get a door with a dozen keyholes instead of one so that more people will perhaps have more stories. I would say that reporting in Australia has never been at a lower ebb than it has in the past 12 months. I can never see any justification for someone attempting by illicit means to get in advance what is to become public information.
– It is the job of the Press, though.
– It is not the job of the Press. The Press ought to recognise occasionally that there is such a thing as ethics. I think too infrequently it does and that sometimes scribblers who put thennames to things would be far better anonymous than named.
As far as this taxation allowance is concerned, the Labor Party took the view that the best means to provide more adequately via the public purse for a total expenditure on education was not by the devious and inequitable method of taxation concessions. I believe that we have moved in the right direction. I think that it is far better that a community properly provides an adequate health service, properly provides adequate retirement services or properly provides an adequate education system than allow some of the expenditure via taxation concessions which, however they are worked, can have only the inevitable result of meaning more to the person on the higher income than to the person on the lower income.
– That is not so.
-It is true, and I suggest that if the honourable member read some of the documentation a little more clearly even he may see the light. Be that as it may, I think the honourable member for Moreton ought to have withdrawn his urgency motion when he heard the Caucus decision. He ought not to have heard it, but via the various relays that are available here he did hear it. At least I confirm it now: That the Budget is not being changed, that the decisive action that was taken by the Cabinet is being pursued and the concession is to be reduced from $400 to $150. At least everybody knows that now, and I hope that those who feel aggrieved might count the total situation as far as the provision of education is concerned. There is a higher proportion of the nation’s resources than ever before being devoted to education at all its levels. There are less fees payable now in the system than were ever payable before. We have given an extension in the direction of handicapped and isolated children and given it by making direct payments to those who have the circumstantial need, not relating them by accident to the need in association with the income of the parent. Honourable members, I leave it at that. I do not think the case really needed any defence but I hope I have put on record some of the facts and some of the reasoning behind the Government’s decision.
-Mr Speaker, this motion concerns not only the figure of $30m referred to by the Treasurer (Mr Crean) but also provides an opportunity for this House to look at the quite fundamentally different approaches that the 2 sides of this House have towards the provision of education facilities in this country. Above all, the value of the taxation deduction for education expenses, quite apart from all other revenue assistance given by the Government to education, be it in the Government sector or in the private sector, is that it gives an identifiable cash amount to the parents of children attending either a government or an independent school. It is therefore possible for a parent to choose without any consideration at all, without any dictation or restriction, to some extent the type of school and the particular school to which he will send his children.
If I have criticisms, and I do have a number, of the education policies of this Government, if the Opposition has criticisms of those policies, they are that too much the Government has looked towards the specific physical resource needs of schools rather than the educational needs of the children who attend those schools and the desires and aspirations of the parents of those children. The Treasurer has based his reply to the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) on simply a quantitative defence of what the Government has spent without- with respect to him- a proper recognition of the inflationary pressures of the past 2 years. He has paid too little regard to the fundamentally different approach that we on this side of the House have towards education support by the Government, be it in the private or in the government sector. I say again that the Opposition is totally committed to the effective maintenance of a plural system of education in this society and we will never depart from support of that principle.
I believe that this action by the Government in respect of the education deduction is the result of what still amounts to a very uneasy coalition inside the Government ranks on the existence of independent schools. I think this House should recognise that there are still many members of the Government Party who are philosophically totally opposed to the existence of independent schools. There are many of them who believe in a Government monopoly in the field of education. On the other hand, I acknowledge that there are others in the Government Party- and the honourable member for Moreton conceded this and I join with him in making a similar concessionwho are deeply concerned about what this change in policy represents. This decision by the Government was an exercise in soak-the-rich cosmetics, nothing else. That was the purpose of it. It was meant to placate those Government supporters who believe that the only independent schools in this community are the so-called wealthy schools, that even those schools are the complete bastion of the privileged and the wealthy in this community. That is an outdated, outmoded and completely unreal concept. There are thousands of parents throughout Australia who are prepared to make above average, very real sacrifices to send their children to these socalled privileged schools.
Once again we have the Government looking not towards the aspirations of the parents, not towards the educational needs of the children, but looking to the physical resources, the external appearances, whether a school happens to have large playing fields or not. They are the sorts of things that many on the Government side look at. Those things are only the icing on the cake; they are only on the surface. What matters are the real needs of our children, the learning facilities, that our educational institutions should provide. Perhaps the failure of the Government to understand some of these things is due to the paucity of information provided in the document which was undoubtedly the mainspring of this decision. I refer to pages 257-258 of the recommendations of the Coombs Task Force on the continuing expenditure policies of the previous Government. On page 258 the report says in part: … it has been estimated that the average claim in 1 972-73 will be $ 1 1 3 per student.
That is 2 years ago. If, as is reported, the Government based its decision on that recommendation, surely it ought to have taken some account of the changes in the cost of living that have taken place since fiscal year 1972-73. Surely to take an average is to miss the real point of this concession.
Quite obviously if the concession is available, as it should be- and I do not for a moment suggest it should not be- to parents of children in the public and in the private education systems equally, surely the amount of deductions claimed by parents of children in public schools will be inevitably considerably less than those claimed by parents of children in private schools. One of the things that is going to heighten the sense of discrimination in some parents of children at private schools as a result of the Government’s decision is that whereas $150 might in some cases be sufficient to provide for the cost of excursions and books and extras, if parents have only one or two children at a public school, that $150 is going to go like that even if a child attends the cheapest and most frugal independent school in the outer western suburbs of Sydney. So it is not really an exercise in soaking the rich. If the Government really believes that the only people who would be hurt by this measure are those in the community who are more affluent it has made a very grave mistake. As the honourable member for Moreton has said, the political consequences of this decision will reverberate throughout many marginal seats in Australia.
I return to the position of handicapped children. In doing so I refer not only to those who are handicapped in an obvious physical sense but also to those who have specific learning difficulties, speech defects and so forth. It is necessary for those children to have additional tuition by private teachers outside of school hours. The expense of that tuition will be far greater now to the parents of children placed in such unfortunate positions. I also make special reference to the position of boarding schools in this community. In that respect I do not mean the boarding schools in the traditional sense that many honourable members on the Government side of the chamber immediately think of, but the boarding schools which are of social value to children of broken homes, in particular, and to the children of families who live in country areas. A very real role is played by boarding schools. They provide a facility that is normally only available in the independent school system. It is a faculty that makes a valuable contribution not just to the privileged in our community but also to a large number of people from all income brackets. This decision of the Government is illustrative of the fact that deep down it is not a government which shares a permanent commit-, ment to the maintenance of a real freedom of choice in education. We deplore this decision not only because of the monetary deprivation of many families throughout Australia that will result from its implementation but also and above all because it represents a basic rejection of the principle of maintaining a real freedom of choice in education.
-This motion which has been moved by the Opposition is baseless, inaccurate, hypocritical and fatuous. It is baseless and inaccurate because it relies entirely on conjecture and not on Government opinion. I remind the House that this motion is directed at a government decision. The honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) has made great play in his newspaper column and today in this chamber of the fact that it is the Prime Minister and the members of the Cabinet who form the Government. He is constantly reminding us of that. He rejects the right of backbench members of Parliament- in the Australian Labor Party’s case the Caucus- to have a say. He is a proponent of the rubber stamp principle. The honourable member has undergone fantastic mental and rhetorical gymnastics to fit into his framework of understanding of the political institution his attack on the Government in this chamber today.
The Opposition has produced no evidence of indecisiveness. Where is the evidence of that? There is none. On the other hand, there is evidence of consistency in relation to justice in education and equity in taxation. The Australian Labor Party’s platform and policy are clear on the economic and educational aspects of this matter, this has been debated publicly for the last 5 years. It leaves nothing to conjecture. We believe in the need for a review of the Australian taxation systems, especially in order to reduce the taxation imposed upon the lower and middle incomes. We have done that. We believe that such a review should adjust the system of deductions to avoid inequities. We have done that too. We also believe that the responsibility of the Government towards education is to assist in meeting the requirements of all school-age children on the basis of needs and priorities and that our primary obligation in government is to provide and maintain a government school system of the highest standard that is open to all children. Everbody knows that that has been the subject of debate for the last 5 years.
It was the policy of the Chifley Government -it has been our policy since the Commonwealth in 1942 took over the power to impose income tax- to have rebates rather than taxation deductions. That policy was replaced by the iniquitous taxation concessions system of the LiberalCountry Party Government in 1 950. We cannot isolate this debate on the right to a $30m taxation deduction for education expenses from the full thrust of the Australian Schools Commission. The consequent funding must be considered. We cannot take this aspect out of context of the total education policy. The statement on this matter by the Treasurer in his Budget Speech was direct and unqualified, not indecisive. He said:
The Australian Government’s program involves substantial increases in direct expenditures on education and there is no longer a case for providing substantial indirect assistance through the taxation system. Accordingly the amount deductible . . . will be reduced from $400 to $150 . . .
That is an unqualified, sound, just and certain statement. The outlays on education in this Budget are up by 78 per cent, an increase of $674m. Contrast that with the $30m deduction that has been concentrated on by the Opposition. That is a massive increase on top of the 92 per cent increase in the Budget the year before. Education expenditure now stands at 9.4 per cent of the estimated Budget outlays. We are spending 8 times as much on education as the LiberalCountry Party Government was spending a decade ago, and 7 times as much as it was spending only two or three years ago. Expenditure on schools and pre-schools has increased by 137 per cent over last year’s figure.
The honourable member for Bennelong (Mr Howard) talked about the value of the concession being eroded by inflation, but he gave no instance and put forward no substantive argument to support that statement. Let us take as an example the average of $113 put up by our advisers. Even if that amount suffered an inflation rate of an incredible, fantastic 33 W per cent, it would still be under the $150 deduction that we propose to allow. The suggested average deduction would still be included. The honourable member for Bennelong also talked about discrimination against handicapped children and the boarding schools that are necessary to accommodate isolated children. Let us examine the allowance for isolated children. We spent $9m last financial year on the isolated children’s allowance. In some instances we have awarded up to $400. We have also increased the handicapped children’s allowance. None of those allowances was available under the administration of the previous Liberal-Country Party Government.
The honourable member also talked about an uneasy coalition within the Government. I remind him of the shifting sands of the coalition between the Australian Country Party and the Liberal Party last year when the Country Party had to join my colleagues and me on this side of the House. That action split its coalition understandingto support the funding of the Karmel grants so that the children at all schools in Australia would have money to continue with their education. The Liberal Party section of the Opposition stands indicted for trying to filibuster in relation to the provision of that money, which it was the right of every citizen in this country to have. We also cannot take out of context the rearrangement of our attitude to taxation concessions. Our Budget strategy has been to review the iniquitous taxation concessions and taxation deductions and, hopefully, to bring in some form of rebate next year. We have already done that with respect to our assistance to the low income families. We now award a rebate to them. Education expenses are one of the many concessional deductions now allowed. As I have said, from 1942 to 1950, although they did not include education then, we paid it in the form of a rebate.
The advice tendered by economic experts has been consistent with the advice of academics and the Government’s advisers. Four economists from the University of Melbourne 10 years ago argued that the case for giving tax relief for education expenses in the form of concessional deductions was even weaker than the case for deductions for dependants, which we have changed. We now operate a rebate system on deductions for dependants to assist low income families. We will carry that through after we have received a full report from the Asprey Committee. Any straight out deduction is more valuable to the richer than to the poorer. It means more dollars back in the pockets of those who are more able to afford it and less to those who are least able to afford it. Those conservative economists recommended that concessional deductions be replaced by a system of rebates.
In all of these debates the Government and its supporters have been consistent. Every person who spoke in the debate within the Government on this matter argued for a removal of concessions and for their replacement by rebates which were equitable for every level of income. The report of the Coombs Task Force, which made suggestions on how Government expenditure should be cut, was quoted by the honourable member for Bennelong, but he did not read the lot of it- he took some of it out of context. The Coombs Task Force said: … the concession has been of particular benefit to those taxpayers wishing to educate their children at the more expensive private schools and in so doing it has, no doubt, been of indirect benefit to the financial viability of those schools. As such, the concession appears to be operating in a manner directly counter to the approach embodied in the recent report of the Karmel Committee.
Honourable members have made great play on the thrust of the Karmel Committee ‘s report and the funding on the basis of need. It would be irregular and inconsistent to persevere with a taxation concession that independent economic advisers have told us is inconsistent with the thrust of that report. We are not inconsistent; we are consistent.
The preliminary report of the Taxation Review Committee has suggested that we should revert to some form of rebate rather than persist with taxation concessions. These forms of taxation concessions are publicly denounced by all. You can see, Mr Speaker, that this motion is baseless and inaccurate. The reasons behind the motion are obvious. The Opposition does not believe in equity or justice either in taxation or in the equality of opportunity in education. It wants to preserve inequality and injustice. It is anxious to divide society, to set the haves against the have nots and the needy against the greedy. The Opposition is greedy for power. The uproar and fuss that has been generated by it has been nothing more than a smokescreen to hide the benefits of the Budget in regard to education and other community areas.
This motion is proof of the hypocrisy of the Opposition on education and taxation. Firstly members of the Opposition have conveniently forgotten that a few years ago they changed the Act and reduced taxation deductions. Let me explain. There was a time when both parents could claim tax deductions for the same child as long as their child’s educational expenses exceeded twice the amount of the limit on the taxation deduction. Therefore they are hypocritical when they say that they would not or have not reduced the taxation deduction. Secondly, they argue that this” deduction is necessary to help pay for fares, materials and books. But this surely is the role of State governments. These State-righters in the Opposition should be urging their States to eliminate the costs that force parents to pay extra fees. It is hypocritical to claim State rights and then argue against the States accepting a responsibility in this sphere of education. The Opposition wants 2 bob each way. Thirdly, it is hypocritical because to restore -
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. The discussion has now concluded.
-Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, I do. Last night during the adjournment debate the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) raised a matter in relation to the Immigration Control Association. His speech is reported on page 2367 of Hansard. During his speech he said:
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 the publication the Association expresses its gratitude for that appointment . . .
In other words the appointment by the Leader of the Opposition of me as spokesman on immigration. I would like to point out to the House that to my knowledge the publication from which the honourable member for Prospect was quoting was one from which he quoted some 2 years ago and it bore no relation to the appointment by the Leader of the Opposition of me as spokesman for immigration.
I believe that the honourable member for Prospect said in the House today that it was a pity that I had not repudiated the association with the Immigration Control Association. I would like to make it quite plain to this House and to the people of Australia that I have no association with that body, that I never have had an association with it and that I certainly do not intend to have an association with it.
Bill presented by Mr Hayden, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
In his Budget Speech the Treasurer (Mr Crean) announced the Government’s intention of increasing additional payments for children of pensioners and beneficiaries by 50c a week to $5.50 a week, raising supplementary assistance and supplementary allowance, i.e., rent allowances for pensioners and sickness beneficiaries, by $ 1 a week to $5 a week, and increasing double orphan’s pension by $1 a week to $11 a week. The Treasurer also announced the proposed introduction of a new allowance called handicapped child’s allowance. This allowance will be payable at the rate of $10 a week to parents or guardians of physically or mentally handicapped children who are cared for in a family environment. This initiative will, I am sure, meet with wide acclaim. I will be providing further details of the benefit later in my speech.
The purpose of the Bill, which is the third amending Social Services Bill introduced this year, is to give effect to these measures and to some important amendments which I foreshadowed earlier this year. The latter concern changes in the residence qualifications for invalid pensions, widows’ pensions and supporting mothers’ benefits, payment of additional amounts for children in the care of Class B widow pensioners, the payment of additional benefit for de facto wives of unemployment and sickness beneficiaries and the repeal of the ‘not deserving’ and ‘character’ provisions of the Act. The provisions of this Bill follow the record increases in the basic rates of pensions, benefits and allowances which were outlined to the House on 23 July in my second reading speech on the Social Services Bill (No. 2) 1974.
Honourable members will recall that the standard rate of pension was increased by $5 a week to $3 1 a week and the individual married rate by $3 a week to $25.75 a week. The new rates were paid on 8 August in the case of age and invalid pensions and on 13 August in the case of widows’ pension and supporting mothers’ benefits. The increases in unemployment and sickness benefits operated in respect of the benefit week ending on 31 July 1974 and each benefit week thereafter. Had we waited until the Budget session of Parliament to make these increases, pensioners and beneficiaries would have had to wait longer than usual for payment at the higher rates. This is because the Budget timetable was put back following the May elections which were forced upon us by the Opposition.
With the increases now proposed single age and invalid pensioners eligible for the standard rate of pension plus supplementary assistance will receive a maximum of $36 a week. Couples eligible for the married rate plus supplementary assistance will receive a maximum of $28.25 a week, individually, or $56.50 a week combined. Single or widowed pensioners, including supporting mothers, who are eligible for supplementary assistance and have, say, 2 children, will receive a maximum of $5 1 a week. This takes into account guardian’s or mother’s allowance at the lower rate of $4 a week. The total amount payable is increased to $53 a week if the pensioner or supporting mother has the custody, care and control of a child under 6 or an invalid child. I should explain that, in future, supplementary assistance will be paid subject to the principle that the total rent allowance shall not exceed the actual rent paid. This principle will also extend to supplementary allowance which is paid to sickness beneficiaries who pay rent and who have received sickness benefit for more than 6 weeks. The Government has decided, however, that no existing payments will be reduced as a result of the operation of this principle.
When delivering my second reading speech on the Social Services Bill (No. 4) 1973, which introduced double orphan’s pension, I said that this pension would remove an area of human neglect that should not have been allowed to continue. Double orphan’s pension is paid in respect of a child both of whose parents, or adoptive parents, are dead or where one is dead and the whereabouts of the other are unknown to the claimant. The pension has proved of considerable assistance to people caring for children who, in the circumstances outlined, have permanently lost all contact with their parents. As already indicated it has been decided that it should be increased by $1 a week to $1 1 a week. There is one matter concerning .this pension on which I feel I should comment. State welfare departments make financial assistance available to people caring for children who are under State control. It is my understanding that following the introduction of double orphan’s pension adjustments were made to some of these payments. Double orphan’s pension is akin to child endowment and it was never envisaged by the Australian Government that it should relieve the States of expenditure in this field. Accordingly I hope that the States will see fit to re-examine their practices in this regard.
Mr Speaker, I would now like to give the House some details of the Government’s proposals relating to the handicapped child’s allowance. The rate of the allowance will be $10 a week and it will be paid where, because of the nature and severity of the handicap, the child requires constant care and attention in the family home. It will not be subject to any means test and it will not be treated as income in assessing other social service benefits. The allowance is designed specifically to assist parents and guardians who have a handicapped child under 16 years of age requiring constant attention and who, for reasons that all such persons will understand, prefer to provide this attention at home rather than place the child in an institution.
It is recognised that most persons who have a severely handicapped child in the home incur additional expenditure. The allowance will help them to meet the extra costs involved. It may also be used towards the cost of obtaining services that will afford some relief from the stresses that are experienced, especially by the mother, in these situations. This new allowance should be seen in the context of the broad program of education, training and general welfare for handicapped children being developed by the Government. The $10 a week allowance is intended to be supplementary to what is being done under that program.
Parents or guardians who care for a handicapped child at home will be encouraged to take full advantage of the facilities that are being made available under the general welfare program and the child’s attendance at a day school or training centre will not affect eligibility for payment of the allowance. The allowance will be paid as an addition to child endowment and will therefore be available either by cheque at four weekly intervals, or paid into a bank or similar account each 12 weeks. It is estimated that some 20,000 children will qualify for the allowance and that the annual cost will be approximately $ 10m. I sincerely hope that the States do not take the same attitude in respect of this benefit as they have in respect of double orphan’s pension, that is, to reduce or terminate any payments that they may now be making to people who will qualify for the allowance.
As a further measure to assist the handicapped, the Bill also introduces an incentive allowance for disabled people employed in sheltered workshops. This allowance will be paid to all workshop employees who are receiving sheltered employment allowances as an alternative to invalid pension. For some time the Government has been acutely aware of the disincentives and anomalies that occur when a person who is receiving an invalid pension and supplementary assistance enters a sheltered workshop. As soon as he earns more than $1 a week at the workshop, his supplementary assistance must be reduced by the excess amount until it is cancelled when his earnings reach $5 a week. The implications of this are obvious. A significant number of sheltered workshop employees are paid no more than $1 a week because voluntary organisations conducting sheltered workshops are disinclined to pay more until the person is able to earn in excess of $5 a week and thus derive some monetary advantage from his earnings.
As well as providing handicapped people with the opportunity to augment their social security benefits, sheltered workshops perform what are perhaps the even more important functions of providing a social environment away from their homes or hostels and preparing handicapped people for employment in outside industry. To encourage more people to enter sheltered employment and to eliminate the disincentive effect that supplementary assistance has on earnings, the incentive allowance of $5 a week will be means test free and will be paid in lieu of supplementary assistance to all those who are receiving sheltered employment allowance. This will mean that eligible sheltered workshop employees will continue to receive an incentive allowance, without reduction, for so long as they retain some entitlement to the sheltered employment allowance.
I now turn to the amendments which I foreshadowed earlier this year. At present, to qualify for an invalid pension a person who becomes permanently incapacitated or blind in Australia must have resided in Australia for a continuous period of 5 years at any time. On the other hand the residence qualification for widow’s pension is immediately satisfied if a woman and her husband were residing permanently in Australia when she became a widow. Permanent incapacity or blindness can be just as unforeseen as widowhood.
Accordingly, it is proposed to abolish the residence requirement for invalid pension where permanent incapacity or blindness occurred in Australia. The only persons who Will need to satisfy a period of residence will be those who become permanently incapacitated or blind outside Australia, except during a period of temporary absence. For such persons a period of 10 years continuous residence at any time will continue to be required- as for age pension. As honourable members may know, this period is reduced where a person has lived in Australia for periods aggregating more than 10 years and has had a period of continuous residence of not less than 5 years.
It is also proposed to amend the residence qualifications for widow’s pension and supporting mother’s benefit. Under existing conditions women whose husbands die overseas may qualify for a widow’s pension immediately on their return to Australia if they have resided here for a continuous period of not less than 10 years at any time. However, cases have arisen where Australian women have been widowed on account of desertion or divorce while residing overseas and, upon their return to Australia have had to wait a period of 5 years before becoming eligible for widow’s pension, notwithstanding that they may have lived in Australia for most of their lives. Similarly, unmarried Australian girls who give birth to a child while residing overseas are required to serve a period of 5 years ‘ residence in Australia on their return before qualifying for supporting mother’s benefit. This also applies to married wohen who separate from their husbands while residing overseas.
To be consistent with the residence requirement for de jure widows it is proposed to enable any woman who becomes a widow or a supporting mother as defined in the Social Services Act while residing overseas to be residentially qualified for widow’s pension or supporting mother’s benefit, as appropriate, immediately on her return to Australia provided she has been continuously resident in Australia for not less than 10 years at any time. On passage of this Bill the residence qualification for widow’s pension will be satisfied if a woman and her husband were residing permanently in Australia when she became a widow. In other cases, S years’ continuous residence immediately preceding lodgment of the claim will be required, but this will be waived where the woman became a widow overseas if she had lived in Australia for a continuous period of 10 years at any time. Claimants for supporting mother’s benefit will be required to satisfy similar conditions.
We also propose to correct an anomaly concerning the position of class B widow pensioners. Perhaps I should first explain the basic difference between the classes of widows. A woman with a child of her own or a child who entered her care before she became a widow is a class A widow and attracts payment of a mother’s allowance and additional pension for the children. A class B widow is one who has no child of her own or has no child who entered her care before she became a widow and who is not less than SO years of age. A woman who ceases to be a class A widow because her qualifying child turns 1 6 or ceases to be a full time student, may become a class B widow if she is at least 45 years of age at that time.
Class B widows at present receive the same basic pension as class A widows but they do not receive the mother’s allowance or the additional pension for children. On the other hand an unmarried woman may be granted an age pension at age 60 or an invalid pension and, in addition, receive additional pension for each child in her care, and guardian’s allowance irrespective of whether she is the mother of the children and irrespective of the date the children entered her care. It is therefore proposed to enable a mother’s allowance and additional pension for children to be payable to class B widows who have the custody, care and control of any child.
Mr Speaker, one of the more objectionable forms of discrimination in the Social Services Act is the treatment accorded de facto wives of unemployment and sickness beneficiaries. While de facto wives of pensioners are treated for pension purposes in the same way as legal wives if the relationship has existed for not less than 3 years, de facto wives of beneficiaries only attract additional payments if they are accepted as unpaid housekeepers, that is if they are keeping house for the beneficiary and one or more of his children, provided they are substantially dependent on the beneficiary and not employed by him. In such cases additional benefit equivalent to the amount for a spouse may be paid. It is proposed henceforth that additional benefit be paid in respect of de facto wives of unemployment and sickness beneficiaries on a basis similar to that for de facto wives of pensioners, thus removing an unfair discrimination which now exists. Additional benefit will accordingly be paid if the parties have been living together on a normal domestic basis for not less than 3 years. Where a stable relationship exists, but is of less than 3 years’ standing, consideration will be given to the payment of special benefit to the de facto wife.
One thing which has inhibited the best kind of administration of the Social Services Act has been the remnants of the infamous ‘poor law’ mentality which remain in the Act. The Act still contains provisions which require that a pension shall not be granted to a person unless he or she is of good character or if he or she is classed as not deserving of a pension. These provisions are anachronisms reflecting undesirable moralising attitudes and are contrary to the philosophy of the Government. This Bill repeals them. My Department will continue to review the Social Services Act to see whether there are any other provisions of a similar nature which should be eliminated.
The Bill also varies the provisions relating to training and living away from home allowances which are payable to handicapped persons undergoing vocational training as part of their rehabilitation program. This is necessary in order to bring these allowances into line with those payable to trainees under the national employment and training system which was recently introduced by my colleague the Minister for Labor and Immigration. Under the NEAT system, as it is, called, trainees will receive an amount based1 on the average adult male weekly award wage, and adjusted quarterly. For an adult trainee this is currently $93.44 per week. Proportionate amounts are payable for part-time trainees and persons under 21 years of age. At present rehabilitees receive a rehabilitation allowance equivalent to the invalid pension rate plus an additional allowance of $8 per week for full-time and $4 per week for part-time trainees. Thus single adult trainees have been receiving a maximum of $39 per week, excluding supplementary assistance. In the case of a married person with 2 children the allowance would amount to $69.50 a week. Continuation of these rates is obviously inequitable.
The May 1974 Report of the Committee of Inquiry into Labour Market Training- the Cochrane Committee, as it is generally referred to- on which the NEAT system is largely based, recognises this anomaly and contains a recommendation that the levels . of allowances payable under a labour market training scheme should be applicable to trainees under the Australian Government Rehabilitation Service. The Bill therefore provides for the abolition of rehabilitation and training allowances in their present form and gives authority for the determination of training allowances which can be adjusted quarterly in keeping with those that will be payable under the NEAT scheme. In the few cases where a rehabilitee would be better off by remaining on his pension or benefit during training, that is a married man with a large family, or for other reasons would prefer to do so, provision has been made for him to elect to have his pension or benefit continued during the training period.
Living away from home allowance is currently payable to rehabilitees required to live away from their usual place of residence. The present rates are $ 1 6 a week for persons with dependents and $ 10 in other cases. The rate under the NEAT system is 25 per cent of the adult training allowance, to the nearest half dollar, payable to a fulltime trainee. The Bill gives authority for a similar rate to be paid to rehabilitees who qualify. The annual cost of these increases will be in the vicinity of $350,000 in a full year and $260,000 in 1974-75.
I should say finally that there are some minor consequential amendments to be made to the Social Services Act as a result of the Government’s decision to abolish broadcast listeners’ and television viewers’ licences. These licences have been available at concessional rates to pensioners who were qualified for Australian Government fringe benefits, such as the Pensioner Medical Service, provided they were living alone, or with another eligible person or persons, or with another person whose income did not exceed a specified limit. In future no pensioner, or indeed any other member of the community, will be required to pay for the privilege of using his or her own radio or television sets.
It is estimated that the cost of the social service proposals in this Bill will be $20m in 1974-75 and $3 3m in a full year. In accordance with the usual practice the increases provided for pensioners under this Bill will operate from and including the pay days following royal assent. Increases for unemployment and sickness beneficiaries will, as usual, operate in respect of the benefit week ending on the date of the royal assent and each benefit week thereafter. The provisions relating to the new handicapped child’s allowances will come into operation on 30 December 1974. This will allow time for the completion of administrative arrangements, including the printing of necessary forms. Mr Speaker, I commend the Bill to the House.
– Before the debate is adjourned, may I have the indulgence of the House for 30 seconds to ask the Minister for Social Security 2 questions. Because this Bill has so many and varied amendments to the Act, I would like an assurance from him that the Opposition will have adequate time- I am talking about two or three weeks- to study these amendments in depth before the debate on the Bill is resumed. I appreciate that the Minister may not be able to answer that question, but I ask the Leader of the House whether he will give that indication.
– I have to check this, but I understand this legislation is required to be through by a certain time. I am not definite, but I will check it and I will discuss it with the honourable member later.
– I thank the Minister.
– It has to be through both Houses by 3 1 October.
-By 3 1 October?
– I think so.
– We will have more to say about that at another time. The second point is that in the Minister’s second reading speech he referred to the handicapped children’s allowance and said that the test will be whether the child requires constant care and attention in a family home. If he or his officers have any additional working papers explaining how that test will be applied administratively by the Department, I would be very grateful if they could be supplied to me before I reply to the Bill.
– Of course we will supply them. Broadly, the criteria will be similar to those which apply to the pension, otherwise we would have too many anomalies. If the honourable member wants the papers from the Department I will certainly get them for him.
Debate (on motion by Mr Chipp) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Barnard, and read a first time.
– I move:
The main purpose of the Bill before the House is to amend the States Grants (Schools) Act 1972-1973 and the States Grants (Schools) Act 1973 to increase the level of the Australian Government assistance available to both government and non-government schools in Australia. At the time it introduced the 1974-75 Budget the Government announced its acceptance of the recommendations by the Schools Commission that the programs of capital and recurrent assistance available to both government and nongovernment schools under the States Grants (Schools) Acts 1972-73 and 1973 should be supplemented in recognition of the reduced purchasing power of those grants brought about by cost increases.
The report which was prepared by the Schools Commission following its investigation of the effects of educational cost increases has been made available to this House. The Commission has measured the effects of unexpectedly high cost increases in the provision of educational facilities and services in schools in Australia upon the programs of Australian Government assistance. It has recommended additional sums to be added to grants to States so as to restore the original purchasing power of these programs. The Government has accepted the Schools Commission’s recommendation that the funding principles and procedures set down in the report of the Interim Committee for the Australian Schools Commission, ‘Schools in Australia’ should continue to operate for the period during which the legislation giving effect to the Committee’s recommendations operates. In adopting the Commission’s current recommendation on additional grants, the Government is leaving unaltered the principles and intent incorporated in the States Grants (Schools) legislation passed by this Parliament in December 1 973.
The present legislation makes available a further $64.47m in recurrent grants to schools and $ 14.43m in capital grants up to 31 December 1975. Of these sums government schools will receive $35.6m in recurrent grants and $ 11.83m for capital purposes. Nongovernment schools will receive an additional $23.67m towards recurrent costs and $2.5 lm for capital expenditure. An additional $8.2 9m will be added to programs which apply to both government and non-government schools. This new initiative on the part of the Australian Government will be welcomed by those interested in improving both the quality and availability of education to all Australian children irrespective of their financial circumstances, their parentage, thenreligious beliefs or where they live.
It will be interesting to discover the attitude of the Opposition to this Bill. Honourable members will recall how bitterly the Opposition attacked the States Grants (Schools) Bill 1973. It was not until the Country Party members in another place revolted that the Bill was passed there and the urgently needed funds were allowed to flow to schools throughout Australia. Is the ‘New Deal ‘ for education heralded by the Karmel program too much for the Liberal Party and their friends to support? Earlier today the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden), in a personal explanation to the House, undertook to support the Labor Government’s educational expenditure. This is a welcome change of heart from the parliamentary performance in December last.
The Government is anxious to ensure that there is no erosion in the value of the Karmel initiatives due to increases in capital costs and salaries. What has been commenced must be brought to fruition and this Bill, with its substantial increases in recurrent and capital funds, will do just this. The present legislation will ensure that the qualitative improvements which the Government sought to achieve in schools throughout Australia when it adopted the recommendations of the Karmel report, ‘Schools in Australia’, will still be achieved and as a result every child attending a primary or secondary school in this nation will benefit. I commend this Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Chipp) adjourned.
Bill presented by Dr Patterson, and read a first time.
Although this Bill was originally introduced in this House on 3 April 1974 1 seek the indulgence of honourable members while I repeat the second reading speech I made on that occasion when the aims and intentions of the Government were set out in clear and concise terms. In introducing this new legislation affecting land prices in the vicinity of declared growth centres in the Northern Territory, the Government is seeking to provide some form of control over land prices as a part of an overall planned program of rational urban development which has particular application to Darwin. Speculative increases in land prices on the outskirts of Darwin have been evident in recent years and in the process of expansion of urban leasehold systems in the Northern Territory where the reserve price system applies, it is essential to remove the speculative content from acquisition costs so that the public can secure land eventually at reasonable prices. My colleague, the former Minister for the Northern Territory, Mr Enderby, outlined in a comprehensive Press statement on 15 February 1973 a co-ordinated program of urban development in the Northern Territory, including the provision of this type of legislation. At that stage, South Australia had the Murray New Town Act of 1972 operating and other States have since considered similar legislation. Because the provisions of this new legislation, which will apply only to the Northern Territory, modify some of the provisions of the Lands Acquisition Act which applies throughout Australia, it is not considered appropriate that the modifications should be brought in by way of a Northern Territory ordinance but rather they should be brought in by way of a Federal Act through this Parliament as companion legislation to the Lands Acquisition Act itself.
The purpose of this Bill is to provide legislative authority to stabilise the prices of land in the Northern Territory required, or likely to be required, in connection with urban development. This process is regarded as an important aspect of large scale acquisition by Government for urban development and is designed to prevent speculative rises in the market value of land held in private ownership. The area of greatest interest in the Northern Territory is the general area within a radius of about 96.5 kilometres of Darwin in which there is a fairly large number of undeveloped and unused 64.75 hectare and 129.5 hectare freehold blocks granted about 100 years ago when South Australia had control of the Northern Territory. Some of this freehold is still held in the names of the original grantees, some is held in the name of descendants of the original grantees while some have passed, over the years, through the hands of various purchasers at ever increasing prices. In areas surrounding other towns in the Territory the impact will not be so great in that the areas adjacent to those towns are either Crown Land or are held under rural leasehold tenure such as pastoral or agricultural leases.
The Bm provides for the declaration initially of an investigation area in which persons authorised by the Minister may carry out investigations on private land to determine its suitability for urban development. The period of investigation may be any time up to a maximum of 2 years. When investigations are complete, the Bill provides that the Minister may declare a development area in which all land may be the subject of acquisition under the Lands Acquisition Act within a specified period not exceeding ten years. Provision is made for the Registrar-General for the Northern Territory to note on all tides affected, the declaration of a development area. This will have the effect of drawing to the attention of those purchasing land that the land may be acquired by the Government for urban development. The Bill also contains provisions which restrict development of the land, for example, new buildings or major improvements except where authorised by the Minister, or any major change in the use of the land from that use applying at the date of declaration of the development area. This is designed to curtail attempts for speculative reasons to improve the land or put it to optimum use because of the declared urban development.
In the case of financial hardship occuring, there is a provision which permits the Minister to take appropriate action for the acquisition of the land under the Lands Acquisition Act. In any development area where the Government moves to acquire property under the Lands Acquisition Act, the provisions of that Act will in effect be modified so as to provide for compensation to be paid on a basis which will have regard to (i) the base value or market value of the land as at the date of declaration of the investigation area; (U) a value increase factor determined by the Valuer-General; (iii) any additional improvements approved by the Minister added since the date of declaration of the development area. The value factor or factors which will allow for normal increases or decreases in the value of land will be fixed by the Valuer-General having regard to information available and be set out in the form of a determination and lodged with the Minister. This percentage increase or decrease will be notified to the owner by the Minister and be accepted in a court or arbitration determination as the adjustment to be made to the base value at declaration, by reason of the time lapse until the acquisition date.
The normal provisions of the Lands Acquisnon Act will generally apply, except that the effective date for the base value will be the date of the first declaration of the investigation area and the only increase in value set will be that fixed by the Valuer-General being a normally expected increase rather than a speculative increase resulting from knowledge of the development itself. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Chipp) adjourned.
Bill presented by Dr Patterson, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Livestock Slaughter Levy Act 1964-1973 to provide for the extension, for a further period, of 2 1/2 years from 1 January 1975 to 30 June 1977, of the special levy on live-stock slaughterings imposed initially in January 1969, to provide finance for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation for scientific research in connection with the processing of beef, mutton and lamb. Apart from the extension of the period of the levy, all other provisions will continue unchanged. The initial proposals for this levy were submitted by the Australian Meat Exporters Federal Council and fully supported by the Meat and Allied Trades Federation and the Australian Meatworks’ Federal Council. These organisations suggested a continuation of the levy for a further 7 years, but my Government feels that as the Industries Assistance Commission has been asked to report on the question of rural research and promotion of rural products by 5 July 1 976, the levy should be continued for a further period of 2Vi years only, pending receipt of the Commission’s recommendations.
The service and investigation section of CSIRO has used funds obtained from the levy, together with a matching Australian Government contribution, to assist meatworks in many fields including meat quality control, sanitation and hygiene, preservation and processing and utilisation of meat, schools on ageing of meat, storage and packaging; all of which are of increasing importance in the meat trade. The section has also published reports and information in the form of newsletters on its work and findings. Section 17 of the Meat Research Act 1960-1968 requires that an annual report be made to Parliament on the operations of the Act and the use of the funds. Funds from the levy, on current estimates, provide finance to allow a continuity of operations over the period in question. In accordance with the Government’s wish to use the term ‘Australia’ rather than ‘Commonwealth’, the opportunity has been taken to amend the Act in this respect. Also due to metric conversion minor weight amendments have been made. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Chipp) adjourned.
Bill presented by Dr Patterson, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill, which is complementary to the Live-stock Slaughter Levy Bill 1974, is to amend the Live-stock Slaughter Levy Collection Act 1964-1973 due to the adoption of the metric conversion system and the change in the name of the Department of Primary Industry to the Australian Department of Agriculture. The dressed weight of cattle specified in the Bill remains the same except that the weights are converted to 90 kilograms and 100 kilograms respectively. Representatives of industry have agreed to these changes. I commend the Bill to honourable members as a necessary adjunct to the Live-stock Slaughter Levy Bill 1 974.
Debate (on motion by Mr Chipp) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Clyde Cameron, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill is brief and intended only to clarify an existing definition in the Stevedoring Industry Act 1956-73. Stevedoring operations in Australia are conducted under various Stevedoring Industry Acts. In the Stevedoring Industry Act 1956-73, section 7(1) provides, among other things, a definition of waterside worker and, in paragraphs (i) to (n) of that definition, certain persons are excluded from the definition, and therefore from the requirements of the Act. Paragraph (n), with which we are dealing, currently excludes from the provisions of the Act:
Persons in the regular employment of a person engaged in an industrial undertaking, being persons whose duties include the performance of stevedoring operations in connection with that undertaking.
Paragraph (n) was introduced into the legislation in 1956 and was intended- the Government of the day clearly indicated that it was intended- to cover situations where the employer used his regular employees to unload or load cargo directly from or into ships at wharves associated with the employer’s works and where the cargo was to be used in or in connection with an undertaking of the employer.
It has come to the Government’s attention, as a result of a dispute in Darwin and an associated legal opinion, that the original intention of the legislation could be frustrated by the lack of clarity in the existing wording of paragraph (n). Thus, concern has been expressed by the principal parties in the industry- employers and stevedoring unions- that this paragraph should be clarified at the earliest opportunity. The amendment sought to the Stevedoring Industry Act 1956-73 seeks only to clarify the intention of the original legislation and to ensure that the intention of the Parliament is correctly reflected in the legislation. I might also add that, in moving this Bill, the Government has consulted with the principal parties associated with the industry. They concurred with what has been proposed by the Government. I commend, for those reasons, the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Chipp) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Lionel Bowen, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill will give effect to the Government’s proposals to bring up to date repatriation benefits provided for those for whom this country has a continuing responsibility. This is a combined Bill which will authorize changes to the Repatriation Act, the Interim Forces Benefits Act, the Repatriation (Far East Strategic Reserve) Act, the Repatriation (Special Overseas Service) Act, the Native Members of the Forces Benefits Act, to be retitled as the Papua New Guinea (Members of the Forces Benefits) Act, and the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act. The last two Acts are now administered by the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation (Senator Wheeldon).
During this speech I shall be using the term veterans to describe those ex-servicemen and exservicewomen who are covered by repatriation legislation. Most repatriation pensions and allowances will be increased by this Bill. Free medical and hospital treatment will be made available for all Australian veterans who were interned as prisoners of war.
Last year the Government took a decision to provide free medical and hospital treatment for cancer for those veterans who suffered from that disease, provided they had served in a theatre of war. This year we will extend the provision to cover all veterans no matter where they served. The Bill provides for an increase in the addition to service pension on account of children and an increase in the rate of supplementary assistance, or as it is often referred to, rent allowance. The Bill will place beyond doubt the validity of majority decisions by the various determining authorities appointed under the Repatriation Act and the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act.
Retention of eligibility for repatriation benefits which are available only to residents in Australia and its Territories will be proposed in respect of Australian veterans and their dependants who are resident in Papua New Guinea prior to that country gaining independence, and who continue to reside there. It will be proposed that special appropriation provisions be included in each of the principal Acts to appropriate from the Consolidated Revenue Fund the moneys necessary to meet the liability for pensions, allowances and other payments, the rates of which are specified in the legislation. The opportunity also has been taken to correct some discrepancies in the Repatriation Act. As well as some futher increases in the main pension rates next autumn, it is proposed to introduce some new provisions in the repatriation area at that time. These provisions, which are not included in this Bill, are mentioned at this stage for the information of honourable members.
In the autumn of 1975, the means test on service pensions will be eliminated for all persons aged 70 years or over. A further 25 per cent of disability and dependants’ pensions and allowances, making 50 per cent in all, will be disregarded as income for the means test that will still apply to service pensioners aged 69 years or less. In addition, service pension eligibility will be extended to veterans of other British Commonwealth countries who served during the wars or warlike operations in which Australian forces were engaged. To be eligible to be granted service pension, such persons must have served in a theatre of war and have had at least 10 years residence in Australia at the time of application for the pension. After this proposal has been adopted we will give consideration to the question of whether it would be practicable to extend service pension eligibility, on the same terms, to members of the armed forces of our other wartime allies.
While not included in this Bill, another improvement to be granted by the Government is in the amount available by way of loan for the re-establishment of ex-national servicemen and former members of the regular defence force. The maximum amount available will be increased by $2,000 to $5,000 for business loans and by $4,000 to $10,000 for agricultural loans. All these changes are further tangible proof that this Government is honouring its undertaking to provide a just and adequate compensation system for Australia’s veterans. The major changes introduced by this Government are in marked contrast to the meagre hand-outs made by the Opposition in the twenty-odd years it occupied the benches on this side of the House.
I shall now outline the specific increases proposed in the Bill. Where a rate of payment is referred to it will be for a weekly period unless otherwise stated.
Special Rate (T & PI) Pension
The Bill proposes that this rate, payable to those who, because of service-related incapacity, are incapable of earning other than a negligible percentage of a living wage, will be increased by $4 to $64.10. There will be a further increase of $4 to $68. 10 in the autumn when this rate will again be the equivalent of the present minimum wage. Other veterans who will receive these increases are the service-blinded, certain sufferers from tuberculosis and those temporarily totally incapacitated by service-related incapacity. Altogether about 18,600 will benefit from this proposal.
Let me remove any misunderstandings honourable members may have regarding the amount of this pension compared with the minimum wage. The special rate pension is not subject to income tax and, in real terms, has a higher purchasing value than a similar amount earned by way of salary or wages. Even the current special rate of $60.10 is the equivalent of a taxable income, on the present tax scale, of $69.15 a week if earned by a single man. The proposed rate of $64.10 has a taxable equivalent of $74.10 a week or $6 a week more than the minimum wage. In addition, the special rate pensioner has access to some valuable fringe benefits and his dependents also receive pensions. These also add further actual value to the special rate pension.
Intermediate Rate Pension
This rate of pension is paid to nearly 1,900 veterans who, because of service-related incapacity, are able to work only part-time or intermittently and, consequently, are unable to earn a living wage. The Bill provides that this rate will be increased by $3.50 to $44.55. An increase of a similar amount is proposed in the autumn of 1975.
General Rate Pension
The Bill provides that this rate of pension, at the maximum of 100 per cent level, will be increased by $3 to $25. There will be appropriate increases at other levels based on the degrees of incapacity suffered. This rate also will be increased again by a like amount in the autumn. About 190,000 veterans receive this rate of pension because they suffer, to varying degrees, from service-related incapacity. Although this group of pensioners may be able to engage in employment, and most of them do so, many find that because of their disabilities their earning powers are restricted. The Government has undertaken to raise this rate, at the 100 per cent level, to 50 per cent of the minimum wage. After the autumn increase it will have reached 4 1 per cent of the current minimum wage compared with 27 per cent when the Government took up office. We had a long way to go; we have made appreciable progress towards achieving our goal, and we shall continue until that goal has been reached.
Dependants of Deceased Veterans
All honourable members will be aware that the rate of pension paid to war widows and defence widows was increased by an unprecedented $5 to $31 as from 1 August 1974. No further increase in this pension rate is proposed in the Bill but this rate will, of course, be reviewed in the autumn of 1975. There will be an increase in the rate of domestic allowance paid to 98 per cent of these widows and I will give details of this increase in a moment. Increases are now proposed in the rates of pensions payable to the children of veterans who died from service-related causes. It is proposed to increase by $1.20 to $10.45 the pension payable to each such child who is in the care of its mother. Where the child has neither mother nor father, the rate will be increased by $2.40 to $20.90.
The Bill proposes that the attendant’s allowance, which, as the name signifies, is payable to a veteran who requires an attendant to help him in his normal daily personal activities, will be increased by $2.90 to $24.90 or by $1.70 to $14.70, depending upon the degree of need for an attendant. For any who, due to war or defence service, have suffered the amputation of a limb or limbs and/or the loss of an eye, an amount additional to the pension is payable. The Bill provides for an increase of about 13 per cent in these amounts. Depending upon the degree of incapacity resulting from the amputation, the increases will range from 30 cents to $1.90 and the new rates from $2.55 to $16.60. Other allowances and benefits will be increased but these will not require amendment to the Repatriation Act. In most instances they will be authorised by regulations. For the benefit of honourable members I shall briefly list these improvements. The domestic allowance, payable in addition to pension to about 98 per cent of all war widows and defence widows, will be increased by $2.50 to $12. This allowance is paid to a widow who has a dependent child or children, including fulltime students, a widow who is over the age of 50 years, or one who is unemployable.
The hourly rate of allowance paid to a person who suffers loss of earnings because he is required to attend for authorised purposes, including attendance at an appeal tribunal, will be increased. The allowances paid under the soldiers ‘ children education scheme to students undertaking secondary education, or industrial or agricultural ‘training, will be increased by about 13 per cent. The increases will range from 45c to $2.25 and the new rates from $3.70 to $18.80 depending on the child’s age and whether it is necessary to live away from home to undertake study. Overall, about 4,500 children are involved. Recreation transport allowance, payable to some 3,200 very seriously incapacitated veterans, will be increased by $2 a month to $18 a month or by $4 to $36 a month depending upon the restriction on mobility. Those veterans who have been issued with gift motor cars do not receive this allowance. Instead they receive an annual grant towards the upkeep of their cars. That grant will be increased by $48 to $342 a year. Where the body of a deceased veteran who has died in a hospital to which his admission has been authorised is returned to his home town for burial, the Department will in future meet the full costs involved. At present assistance for this purpose is limited to $30.
The 1974-75 cost of increasing pensions and allowances outlined above is estimated to be $ 15.6m and, in addition, the proposed autumn increases are likely to cost $3. 9m. The cost in a full year of both increases is estimated to be $40.6m.
Medical and hospital treatment for any condition will be extended to all veterans who were prisoners of war. About 13,600 will benefit from this proposal. It may be asked: ‘Why single out prisoners of war?’ The answer is that, during their incarceration, these people suffered abnormal hardships and privations which could affect their general health and well-being as they get on in years and, for this reason, they are obviously deserving of special consideration. The extension of repatriation eligibility for treatment of cancer regardless of the area of service is estimated will benefit a further 2,400 veterans. Both these treatment provisions will be introduced by regulations. The cost of both items is expected to be about $3.158m in 1974-75- and $4.83m in a full year.
Service pensions, which are analogous to social security age and invalid pensions, were increased as from 1 August 1974 and the main rates will not be altered again at this time. However, there will be an increase in the addition to pension payable in respect of children in the custody, care and control of the pensioner. The addition in respect of each child will be increased by the Bill by 50c to $5.50. Supplementary assistance is payable to those service pensioners who are entirely or substantially dependent upon their service pension and who pay rent for accommodation. The Bill proposes that the rate of this allowance be increased by $1 to $5 for a single pensioner or as a combined amount for married couples. The cost of increases in the service pension areas are $270,000 for 1974-75 and $370,000 for a full year. I now turn to some matters of a non-Budgetary nature which are also dealt with in this Bill.
Each of the determining authorities authorised by the legislations is comprised of 3 persons. Obviously, in some cases decisions are not unanimous. To remove any doubt as to whether a majority decision is valid, especially in view of the benefit of the doubt provision in the Repatriation Act- section 47- it is considered desirable that clauses be inserted in the appropriate Acts to put the matter beyond question. The Bill does this.
Australians Resident in Papua New Guinea after Independence
Some benefits provided under repatriation legislation are restricted to persons resident in Australia or its Territories. The main benefits included in this category are service pensions and medical treatment for non-service-related incapacity. Many of these people have spent many years in Papua New Guinea and have established their means of livelihood there, and it would seem unjust to deprive them of benefits because of changed circumstances beyond their control. The Government proposes to allow persons resident in Papua New Guinea prior to that country gaining its Independence, and who continue to reside there after Independence, to be then considered still resident in Australia or its Territories for repatriation purposes. The Bill makes provision accordingly.
Special Appropriation Clause
The Bill makes provision for a special appropriation clause to be inserted in the principal Acts to appropriate automatically from the Consolidated Revenue Fund sufficient moneys to cover the payment of all pensions, allowances and other payments, the rates of which are set by legislation and which are a legally committed liability of the Australian Government. Such an arrangement will remove the need to provide funds necessary to pay repatriation pensions and allowances in Supply Bills before the passage of the annual Appropriation Acts.
Chairman of the Repatriation Commission
The Bill also makes provision for the person who is appointed as Secretary to the Department of Repatriation and Compensation also to be appointed as Chairman of the Repatriation
Commission and to continue as such without contravening certain provisions of the Repatriation Act. A person appointed as Secretary to the Department will not receive additional remuneration for carrying out the duties of Chairman of the Commission.
It is proposed that increased rates and new and improved benefits will be effective from the date on which the Bill receives royal assent. The clause of the Bill which makes provision for the one person to be appointed the Secretary to the Department and the Chairman of the Commission shall come into operation on a date to be fixed by proclamation. This Bill covers a fairly wide field of Repatriation activities and, in order to assist honourable members in their consideration of it, the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation has had prepared explanatory notes dealing with each clause of the Bill. Copies of these notes have been made available to all honourable members. It is my pleasure, Mr Deputy Speaker, to commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Adermann) adjourned.
– I move:
On 26 September the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) announced that the Government had accepted the recommendations of the Tariff Board in its report on fibreboard containers, paper and textile bags. Customs Tariff Proposals No. 14 (1974) which I have just tabled give effect to the tariff changes arising from the Government’s decision. The effect cf the decision is that a general rate of 25 per cent will now apply to boxes, bags and other packing containers or paper or paperboard. The duty on corrugated fibreboard remains unchanged at 30 per cent or, if lower, $48.23 per tonne. The new duties will operate from tomorrow. I commend the Proposals.
Debate (on motion by Mr Adermann) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 1 October (vide page 1971), on motion by Mr Clyde Cameron:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The matter before the House has had a long and an unhappy history. It arose, as I think the House knows, out of problems which occured in New South Wales within the Transport Workers Union. The problems involve dual registration and incorporation of unions in both the Federal field and in the State field, conflicts which may arise between Federal rules and State rules resulting in people being eligible to join one union but not the other union, a conflict of membership, sometimes a conflict of office bearers and the people who might be constituted properly under the State rules taking decisions in matters that ought to involve Federal rules and therefore the decisions in many cases might well be invalid.
When the matter arose in the Transport Workers Union, some years ago now, it occured largely because membership of the union was falling off in New South Wales and the Union wished to enrol owner-drivers for a variety of reasons but also to increase its strength and falling membership. This action happened to be against the Federal rules of the same Union because at that time in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act there was no allowance for enrolling as a member of a union somebody who was not an employee. Owner-drivers and others in that category were therefore excluded. This led to a significant conflict between the Federal TWU and the State branch.
The conflict involved the now famous, or infamous, Moore and Doyle case in which Mr Justice Sweeney, then Mr Sweeney, Q.C., appeared for some part of the Transport Workers Union. There is some irony, I think, in the fact that the judge who has been given in part the problem of overcoming these difficulties was in fact the learned counsel who introduced the arguments into the court, who won the case and who caused the problem. There may be some irony in that situation. As a result of the Moore v. Doyle case there was a view that a good deal of the registration, incorporation and acts of unions in a number of States could well be invalid and if they were challenged there could be some significant difficulty for unions and union officials. I think everyone recognised the seriousness of the problem. The Minister spoke of it in his second reading speech. He spoke of the history; he did not do anything to explain the provisions of the Bill, how the Bill itself might come into operation or how the Bill might provide a solution. He did say that it would solve the problem, without explaining how. That might well prove to be a bold statement, because for the Bill to become law complementary State legislation is required. In addition to this, some voluntary acts by unions are required and I would be surprised if any union would be prepared to take the voluntary acts that are necessary. If the Minister is arguing that they should, he is arguing that they should voluntarily pay State-induced penalties for breaches of State industrial law, and I would have thought that that was contrary to the Australian Council of Trade Unions policy and to Labor Party policy. It is interesting to see that the Australian Labor Party and the Minister are taking that view. It may well be, of course, that rank and file members of the Australian Labor Party in the Parliament are not aware of what the Minister was proposing, because the Minister has assiduously ignored this part of the recommendations.
As a result of the problems that occurred a working party was established, originally between the Commonwealth, the States, the ACTU and employers. A number of proposals came out of that working party but there was no unanimity Partly as a result of that, the Minister I think forsook the proper path that was open to him through negotiation and discussions to reach unanimity between all the parties. Instead he appointed Mr Justice Sweeney, and we have as a result the report of the committee of inquiry into co-ordinated industrial organisations. There was unanimity in the report, of course, because it is basically the report of one man.
The Opposition supports the objective of this legislation, that is, to remove the legal problems that have occurred between unions by removing the confusion that has resulted from the Moore v. Doyle case, but we are by no means sure that this legislation will achieve that objective. It cannot by itself, and the Minister knows that it cannot by itself; Mr Justice Sweeney also knows that. Complementary State action is required, significant State legislation is required, in some States affecting more than one Act, and there are obligations on unions which I will come to a little later on. But the Minister is silent on these 2 issues. He has said that he thought Mr Hewitt in New South Wales would support him and he spoke in optimistic terms as though there were support in other areas. I would like to give some indication of the lack of support that is present and which has been put to me.
I think the Minister wants this legislation passed so that he can say he has done what he can do on this particular matter, and he is therefore passing the ball into somebody else’s court. Again, it is not as simple as that, because the
Minister has an obligation to get agreement between the parties concerned and not to act unilaterally, as I think he is doing at the present time. He ought to be telling the Parliament of the attitudes of the States in precise terms and of the attitude of the unions, but this would involve the kind of consultation which I suspect the Minister does not really like. The last time he called an industrial peace conference he ignored recommendations of the conference, he has not reconvened it in spite of the worst industrial year on record, and he brought in legislation ignoring the recommendations.
What is the hurry in this matter? If the Minister were prepared to take 3, 4 or 5 weeks off to try to get agreement between the States, to get the necessary commitments from his friends in the Builders Labourers Federation and the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union, maybe he would get them to take the necessary voluntary action which Mr Justice Sweeney says they would need to take before effect could be given to these provisions. In terms of the haste which the Minister is exhibiting in pushing this legislation through at the present time, I would suggest that there are few unions that have a real knowledge of the substance of this legislation. The Minister’s second reading speech certainly would not have helped them. There are few unions that would understand that if the proposals are to be brought to fulfilment, to become effective, the unions themselves would have to sign good behaviour bonds and lodge those deeds with the Industrial Registrar saying that they would be prepared to pay any fine or penalty imposed by a State jurisdiction. The Minister is silent on that particular aspect above all. I think there would be very few unions who would understand the nature of the Sweeney report, its complication and its implications, and I think there would be few who have a detailed understanding of the complexities that became apparent as a result of the working party report.
Let me put one example of the problems that are involved as a result of haste and speed. Recent changes in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act have involved a considerable amount of work for many unions in getting their rules up to date so far as the provisions of the Act are concerned. I know that many of them are weeks and months and maybe years behindhand; some have almost given up the task of rewriting their rules under the changes already introduced into the Conciliation and Arbitration Act over the last year or so. They are waiting to see what kind of rules the Registrar will in fact accept, and if the obligations imposed on them under this legislation were also passed into law now, the rules of trade unions and the job of the Registrar would become muddled and difficult indeed. We have also had this year some of the most tumultuous industrial relations in history. Trade unions have been preoccupied with these problems, with these difficulties, and have not had the time they might otherwise have given to the consequences of the Sweeney report.
Whether the legislation is good, whether it is bad or whether it is indifferent is here not necessarily the point. The States and the unions have a right to study the legislation, as the legislation is, to see how it will affect them. Until we know the reactions of the States, until we know whether they are prepared to legislate in the 9 or 10 areas which are going to be important to them, until we know what the unions will do as a result, this Parliament will not know whether the proposals will work. In case the Minister thinks that he has general support, let me provide some evidence to the contrary. I have a telegram from the Minister for Labour and Industries in New South Wales. It reads:
Understand Federal Minister Cameron claiming that States in agreement with Federal legislation reference Moore and Doyle. This statement untrue Queensland adamant in objection New South Wales, Western Australia and Tasmania have advised Federal Minister our legal opinion considers proposed legislation unconstitutional. Therefore would await legal clarification before considering State legislation. Sections concerning union rules and strikes bear no relation Moore and Doyle issues. Believe in the interest of industrial relations generally throughout Australia proposed legislation should be defeated or deferred pending some details investigation.
The telegram is signed by Mr Hewitt, Minister for Labour and Industries. I have telegrams from Mr Munro, Acting General Secretary of the Queensland State Service Union, Mr Grayden, the Minister for Labour and Industry in Western Australia, Mr Forrester and Mr Hauff of the Clerks Union in Queensland, whose telegram I would also like to read:
Clerks Union representing 28,000 members protests ACTU guarantees re examination of Sweeney-based industrial legislation prior to parliamentary presentation not honoured. Union demands opportunity to pre-examine these important proposals . . . Forrester Clerks Union Secretary (Central and Southern Queensland Branch) Hauff Clerks Union Secretary (North Queensland Branch ).
There are other telegrams from the Civil Service Association of Western Australia, the South Australian Public Service Association, the Victorian Public Service Association, the Public Service Association of New South Wales and the Australian Public Service Federation. The Australian Workers Union attitude in most if not all
States is also quite strongly opposed to these particular proposals. In other words, those in a position to know the consequences of this legislation in a good deal of detail object to its being put through at this point in the way in which the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) has intended. In this sense I think it is worth noting that the Sweeney report is misleading because at one point His Honour says:
I reject this. I am fortified in my rejection by the fact that all unions, including a number which have only State registration, were in favour of the scheme and saw no prejudice flowing to them.
That is just not correct. I must point out that the extract I read appeared at page 46 of my copy, which is not the same as the light blue copy. The Minister was good enough to give me an advance copy and I think that the page numberings are different from the later copy.
I would like to examine some of the proposals in a little more detail and to mention a number of problems under different headings. I have mentioned some of the objections which have come from outside. I have mentioned the constitutional difficulties. A constitutional difficulty might be involved at the outset in relation to clause 4, which seeks to amend section 132 of the principal Act. The clause seeks to amend further a section which was amended by the Parliament last year. I have been advised that the wide amendment then- I am referring to the part of this amendment which relates to trade unions and not the extension of that part to employer organisations- which virtually made it possible for anyone to be enrolled as a member of a trade union so long as he was involved in the industry, was so wide that it was clearly unconstitutional. Therefore there is to be a modification of that proposal which indicates that while people who are not employees could be enrolled, and that while an employer cannot be enrolled someone somewhere in the middle of the two could be enrolled. That was a limitation on the amendment moved last year. I suppose that that limitation is in the hope that it will therefore bring the provision within our constitutional power. Clause 7, which seeks to amend section 136, also had had doubts cast upon it by New South Wales. This is, of course, in part critical to the whole scheme. It is a provision that would give to a Federal body, or the State branch of a Federal body that is not incorporated in a State, the power to participate in the industrial affairs and activities of a State under certain circumstances. I just mention that doubt has been thrown over the validity of that point in addition to the other. The judgment of Mr Justice Fullager in the Hursey case some years ago, which is also partly quoted in the Sweeney report, might seem to indicate that clause 8, which seeks to amend section 139, could be of some doubtful constitutional validity. What is sought to be done here, as I understand it, is to give the industrial registrar or officer of a state some influence over the rules of a federal incorporated body. I think that, in a sense, this is a fake provision because the judgment of Mr Justice Fullager would seem to indicate that no State law could modify a law passed properly by this Parliament and in accordance with this Parliament’s constitutional provisions. So at best paragraph (6) of clause 8 of the Bill is a politeness only with no real meaning for the protection of any State right. This has implications, which I will mention in a moment or two, for the complete supremacy of Federal rules in relation to organisations and branches of organisations in the States.
I turn to clause 1 1 , which seeks to insert a new section 142 a in the Act. From the opinions that have been given I should think that there will be very great doubts about whether that provision is constitutional. The Chief Justice is on record as having said that it may be granted that a dispute solely between 2 registered organisations of employees, each of which is able by its own constitution to have members who follow the same trade or calling, as to which of them should be entitled to represent and protect the industrial interests of persons following that trade or calling, would not be an industrial dispute within the statutory definition. That is surely the very circumstance on which proposed section 142a is seeking to touch. It seeks to give to the Commission a power which there is probably no right for this Parliament to give to the Commission. That probably indicates only that there are going to be almost certainly constitutional challenges to this provision if it becomes law, which is all the more reason perhaps for having some agreement between the parties that the proposed law is in the best interests of all the parties concerned. That agreement is just not forthcoming at the moment.
The provisions of the Bill concerning property sound simple, but some difficulties are involved in them. They would be likely to lead to considerable legal friction between an organisation and its State branch as to who, in fact, owns what. How does one determine the ownership of property that might have been shared in pan between a Federal organisation and a State organisation? It is probable that the proposals of the working party as outlined in paragraph 15 on page 18 would have been simpler than the proposals which Mr Justice Sweeney has put forward. It would appear that the Federal body is the only body that can hold property. But who owns what in the determination and working out of the Sweeney proposals, if they were ever to be put into effect, could lead to very substantial argument. The rules of organisations, particularly concerning the eligibility of members to join particular unions, would be determined by the Commonwealth Industrial Registrar. For reasons that I have stated, the provision to consult with a State registrar or officer is really a provision that gives no power or influence to the State registrar. So the provision that the Commonwealth Industrial Registrar ought to consult with the States is largely an ineffective one. Commonwealth rules will prevail. I should think that that would lead to some real problems because on page 43 of the copy of the report I have Mr Justice Sweeney said:
In the first place it is essential for the future functioning of the system that the conditions of eligibility for both the branch and the organisation be the same.
If that is so, and if that means that each State must have identical or roughly equivalent rules, there is obviously going to be great turmoil within the union movement as a result of the application of this power and of the solution to the problems caused by the Moore and Doyle case. There is another element involved here in clause 9, which seeks to amend section 140 of the principal Act. The principal Act is to be amended under this legislation to provide that the rules to be made by the Registrar shall be such as to provide for the autonomy of a branch in matters affecting members of a branch only. How does one judge ‘matters affecting members of a branch only*? So many matters flow through and have an implication beyond the boundaries of a State that to suggest that one can find matters that have an implication for members of a branch only would, I think, be very difficult indeed. It might well be a very limited, if nonexistent, right.
– Would you agree that it would cover all employees of one company in one State? There are plenty of them.
-That might be, but how far does this power go? How limited is it? That ought to be spelled out because I think that the power is so limited that it is virtually meaningless in terms of giving any real autonomy or any real control over its affairs, to a State branch. That is one of the matters which I would suggest that organisations which it is hoped will become State branches would not really be able to understand at the present time. But if the rules must be the same in each State there will certainly be very serious problems in relation to demarcation. Here we come to section 142 A, which I mentioned was also likely to be outside the Constitution, giving the Commission power to demark. This, of course, could be used in a way which would tear the A WU in Western Australia or Queensland to ribbons because in Queensland the AWU represents transport workers, building workers, rubber workers and hotel workers who are not largely represented within the same union in other States. If the demarking power was used in such a way as to deny to this union the right to represent such people in Queensland the demarcation disputes which would result would put any of the problems flowing from the Moore and Doyle case in regard to the Transport Workers Union very much into the pale. This, I think, is one of the central issues.
Another part of the legislation concerns the non-incorporated registration which is proposed for the States. Here Mr Justice Sweeney refersthere was no mention of this by the Minister- to the problems of not being able to sue the nonincorporated State branch of a Federal organisation by naming the secretary as the person to be sued. I don’t think he would like that, because who is going to indemnify him? Mr Justice Sweeney says that this position can be met by the State machinery requiring as a condition of registration of a Federal branch that the organisation enter into a deed undertaking to pay to the industrial registrar- I believe that this would be the Federal industrial registrar- any penalty imposed in respect of a strike or lockout under the State Act and remaining unpaid for a period. What unions are going to sign such a deed? Plainly, none of the unions are going to sign such a deed. If that is the case the whole system of non-incorporated State registration proposed by Mr Justice Sweeney falls absolutely to the ground.
This is the area in which the Minister has an absolute obligation to inform the Parliament of the intentions of the trade union movement. Has he spoken to the trade unions about his proposal that they should sign a deed accepting the State’s ability and right to impose penalties for industrial offences? It is not only in the context of penalties that we are concerned. If a State branch runs up a bill for the washing of the laundry or for obtaining supplies, unless this deed is supplied non-payment of such bills could not be challenged. So this again is the central hinge and if the unions were not prepared to co-operate the proposal would fall to the ground. Then again there are very considerable actions required of the States. Mr Justice Sweeney on page 40 of the report to which I have referred points out 9 areas where substantial State legislation would be involved. But the only indication that I have had is that the States are not prepared to undertake that kind of legislation.
I think it is a pity that this matter has been handled in this way because the issues are important and we would be at one with all of those who really want to overcome the difficulties that are involved. The way to do this is not to legislate, to throw down the gauntlet and to say that the States have to follow and the unions have to sign this kind of deed but to get agreement beforehand. Of course I believe that the Minister is taking this course because he knows full well that he would not get such agreement, and specifically he would not get such agreement from the trade union movement.
I would be delighted to know whether he has had any discussions with the Australian Council of Trade Unions or any of the significant unions about these Sweeney proposals. They are not in this legislation. The Sweeney proposals as they have been recommended involve the Federal bodies of the trade unions signing a deed of this kind and entering into this sort of commitment. If the Minister had had such discussions I would be certain that in the climate created by this Government he would be getting a negative answer. If that is so, what is the use of going on with this proposal? The Minister would be participating in a charade and asking this Parliament to participate in a charade. By agreement and by voluntary act, Federal branches of the unions have to make a commitment to the Commonwealth Industrial Registrar by a deed although there is some doubt whether it is the Commonwealth or State Registrar because the words of the report are certainly ambiguous. But since it is the Federal body that is the registered body in the incorporated sense, presumably the deed has to be lodged with the Federal Registrar and not with the State Registrar. These are matters which are central to the whole business and the Minister has said nothing of them. So the Minister ought to consult with the States and with the unions and tell this Parliament what the position is.
There are 2 interpretations of this legislation and 2 interpretations of the Minister’s motives. I will give honourable members the 2 interpretations and I hope that the first interpretation is the correct one. The first is that the Minister is genuinely concerned to seek a solution to these vexatious and difficult problems and that he is looking at them with an impartial and unjaundiced eye, with none of his past history driving him forward. But if the Minister’s past history in the AWU is in fact driving him forward, if it were proved that the power to demark was a valid power to be given to the Commission once it was established, if that power were then used under ministerial nominees, note the Minister is wanting to limit the terms of appointment to the Commission to get the people there that he wants, and if that power were then used in the wrong way, it could be used to dismantle any Federal union around Australia. In specific terms it could be used to dismantle and destroy his old enemies in the Australian Workers Union. I would hope that that interpretation is not correct. I would hope that theMinister treats this debate seriously and sensibly and in a way that would demonstrate to us that he has had consultations with the union movement to ascertain whether it is prepared to sign a deed of the kind necessary. I hope that the Minister is concerned that the AWU in Queensland, Western Australia and other States as well as other unions in a similar position will be allowed to continue to represent those trades that they have represented up to the present time. This again hinges on whether or not the rules for eligibility have to be the same and identical in each State and that also is open to that interpretation as can be seen from the Justice’s report.
Because of these doubts I move:
-Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment.
-l rise to support the Conciliation and Arbitration (Organisations) Bill with much personal pleasure as this Bill is a milestone in Australian arbitration history. It removes much of the fears that arbitration as we know it will cease to work at an early date. There are different views as to the origin of the Moore v Doyle case. Contrary to the view of the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser), who has just spoken, one union view is that employer interests financed the case to break the drive on piece workers in the form of owner-drivers who it was alleged at the time were being encouraged to break down the standards set quite largely by consent agreements between employer and union.
It amazes me to find suddenly that the Opposition is coming out as a belated champion of the unions after spending almost every sitting day in union bashing. This is an incredible situation. I expect that it will be back to normal tomorrow. Also, I have heard read a telegram from a State Minister from Western Australia who has just been party to some of the most restrictive legislation destroying civil liberties that has taken place in Western Australia. I refer to the recent fuel and energy legislation in that State. This is an absolutely incredible situation. Any arguments which may have been subsequently put forward are completely discredited in my mind by that type of support for this legislation. In fact the whole situation indicates possible continuing legal challenge. One wonders how long employers Will tolerate this continuing creation of false disputes for political ends. With its accompanying ill feeling and loss of money and man hours, it is easy to see why the problem was kept alive for 5 years by the previous Government, even after it was made aware of the true situation. Since the disastrous Moore v. Doyle case the most important arm of arbitration in Aus.tralia the trade union structure- has been in constant jeopardy, exposed to the capricious actions of any employer or any person who wished to cause disruption within the arbitration and trade union system. It has only been because of the high standards of behaviour and sense of responsibility of people acting within this system that it has not in fact been destroyed. Once this Bill becomes law this fear will be minimised.
Among those who support an arbitration system in Australia, this legislation will, we hope, encourage its use. Those who oppose peace within the arbitration system will no doubt oppose this legislation because it takes away from them the opportunity to cause dissension and dissatisfaction amongst the rank and file members of unions. Also it removes some of the anomalies which have existed in the past, such as the need to have a State organisation registered within a State, with the need to hold separate meetings, to have separate books of accounts, separate elections, separate returns to aU authorities and separate minute books, all to be open to challenge on any decision made within an organisation which claims to be a part of a federal organisation.
In some States there has been a history of bodies breaking away from the main body because of some issue of the day, usually taking the form of a State body declaring its individual autonomy with a separate set of officials. The pattern for this frustrating disunity and trade union destructive machinery lies in the requirement to have dual registration and dual independent bodies in a given State. Under this legislation we hope to overcome these problems, although personally I do not doubt that there will always be groups of people within the community who will in pursuance of their political beliefs or for self-advancement continue to challenge such legislation in order to create disruption from which they personally may gain.
I feel that while there is money to be made by using the forms of law to cause disruption, all arbitration legislation will always be open to challenge. Arbitration will only prosper in this country if the barriers, formalities and pomp are removed from the system. If all the money that has been spent on both the employers’ side and unions’ side had been invested in a conciliation of differences of views, the settlement of disputes and the training of industrial representatives on both sides, the arbitration system in Australia would have been enhanced beyond recognition. The non-use of the brain power and the money to finance a system to bring about a solution such as is contained in this Bill is an indictment of a system which has allowed itself to be exposed to attack and has been allowed to continue in this way for a period of 5 years. It has allowed strikes to take place and also lost man-hours to be perpetuated on demarcation disputes during that period. One wonders whether people are in fact sincere when they indicate that they want a solution. I only hope that in their foggy thinking they did not believe that it was to their advantage to maintain a dispute in order to weaken one side or the other.
The Minister is to be commended for the stand he has taken and for his determination to offer a solution. It is to be hoped that this is recognised and appreciated by the States and in particular the authorities in Western Australia who are putting forward complementary legislation. Without the co-operation of the State bodies this legislation will not have the required effect. The indications are that Western Australia will follow the example which has been set by New South Wales. To most organisations the important factor in this legislation is the intention to validate any election or purported election, appointment or purported appointment, and the making or purported making or alteration or purported alteration of a rule. In this sense it could be said that the legislation is retrospective. Most people look askance at retrospective legislation. However, bearing in mind the importance of a stable trade union and arbitration system in this nation there is an urgent need to attempt to find a solution to our problems.
An interesting thought which occurs to me is the actual validity in terms of State registration of State unions where union representatives validly enrolled in a federal organisation and not in a State organisation have participated in State union affairs, such as elections, but have not signed the proper application card in that State. I would question the validity of annual membership figures within the State registration system and also the proper appointment of many of the people who appear on their behalf within the arbitration system. A good deal has had to be taken on trust since the Moore v. Doyle case. Those who were aware of the true basic situation prior to this case- some having taken part in breakaway groups in the States and some having taken part in purported amalgamations between State and Federal bodies- realised the urgent need for all parties to put their house in order or have industrial anarchy. There are many insecure union registrations, both State and Federal. There are many insecurely held union positions. What would be the position in many of the cases involving writs taken out in the past where it was proved that the person charged or the person who had brought on the charge was not a properly elected person, that the organisation named in the charge or dispute was not actually the one so named because of some deficiency in forming, reforming or uniting?
One could go on in this field indefinitely. Suffice to say this is not an exercise to expose past or present malfunctions but to offer a solution to them. I am not saying that there will not be problems of a domestic nature in respect of some bodies. It is to be hoped that any problems which arise can be determined in the overall interest of seeking a solution which will help all in industry to obviate the internal disputation which is constantly being brought about by clashes of personality or the whipping up of disputes by some political interests in order to further their own ends. The quicker this legislation and complementary State legislation is passed the better it will be for industrial peace. I commend the legislation.
– I support the amendment which has been moved by the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) but I also share his belief that legislation on this subject is essential. The Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) described the situation illustrated by the Moore v. Doyle case as ‘notorious’. This is undoubtedly correct. The public interest has suffered repeatedly as a result of the conflict stemming from differing requirements of Federal and State industrial law. It is worth observing that in December 1969 the National Labour Advisory Council recognised this and agreed to appoint a working party to study the subject. The working party included representatives of 4 State Departments of Labour which were involved, the Federal Department of Labour, the Federal Attorney-General’s Department, the Australian Council of Trade Unions and employer organisations. That working party met between 1970 and 1972. It described the basic problem which was facing Australia in these terms:
The basic problem, of which the case of Moore v. Doyle and other cases provide illustrations, arises from the fact that a State branch of a Federal union and a State union are often administered as if they were the same body, with one set of books, one register of members, one membership fee, one set of officers, one election of officers of both bodies and one system of meetings. In some cases the rules of the State union are complied with and the rules of the State branch of the Federal union are ignored and in other cases the position is reversed. In further cases the affairs of the State union and the State branch of the Federal union are conducted under an ‘administrative amalgam’ of the rules of each but not pursuant to the rules of either.
The working party then quoted from the concluding passages of the Industrial Court’s judgment as follows: ‘When factional differences arise in trade unions, or when it suits the interest of some litigant or litigants to do so, the Federal of State body can be attacked and its valid operation, its entitlement to assets, funds and membership, imperilled. “
Furthermore the validity of membership in one body or the other may be difficult to establish in cases in which membership has to be proved as a condition of exercising jurisdiction or to qualify or enable a person to be or to be made a party in legal proceedings. The system as required to exist by State and Federal legislation and as it has evolved under that legislation in practice is technical, productive of artificialities and in urgent need of the attention of the law reformer.
A system of trade union organisation is urgently needed which would enable the one body to represent its relevant members in both the Federal and State arbitration systems and it should be possible for Federal and State authorities to examine the question whether organisations and trade unions can be provided with such a system.
The report then went on:
All representatives on the working party were agreed that an attempt ‘should be made to overcome the difficulties adverted to by the Australian Industrial Court. It was also recognised that the respective legislative authorities could not be restricted as to their approach to a solution to the problems. The State departmental representatives took the view that any State legislation aimed at long-term solutions would complement Australian Government legislation and, therefore, it would be necessary for the States to have firm
Australian Government proposals for consideration before they could determine the form of their legislation.
That is obviously a most important point which the working parry recommended, and the mere fact of the Sweeney report having been circulated to the States is insufficient for the States to have prepared legislation complementary to the Bill which is now before us. That I believe is a most important point. The report then went on with one further paragraph which is again important in the light of the Minister ‘s own statement. It stated:
Subsequent to the working party’s deliberations, the opinion of Mr R. E. McGarvie Q.C. was obtained on the proposals of the Australian Government departmental representatives. He recommended several additional proposals which have been accepted by the Australian Government departmental representatives. For the sake of completeness Mr McGarvie ‘s proposals have been incorporated in this report.
I think the importance of that is obvious. The report of the working party, which was in fact lengthy, was the result of a very thorough examination by all the interested parties- the 4 State governments, the ACTU and the National Employers Policy Committee. Moreover, its report was substantiated by Mr McGarvie, Q.C, the very person to whom the Minister turned when he appointed Mr Justice Sweeney. I was not a member of the last Liberal-Country Party Government. I am not seeking to go over history and therefore score political points, but I do say that in the position which I formerly occupied as an employers’ representative in this field I believe that the report of the working party from which I have just read very relevant extracts would have been adopted and implemented by the Liberal-Country Party Government had it remained in office in 1972. We have actually lost 1 8 months, which need not have occurred.
The amendment which has been moved to the second reading is in fact now asking the Government to take a few more weeks or months, to use the expression of the honourable member for Wannon, to be sure that the legislation being proposed here is in fact acceptable to the States and will be seen to be workable in the eyes of those people who have to make it work. As it happens, His Honour Mr Justice Sweeney came to much the same conclusions as the working party came to, but what is important is that the people who have to make the system work ought to have before them a package of legislation. The honourable member for Wannon has referred to the constitutional problems which may arise, and it is important that those who have to operate the legislation have before them the legislation of the States which must be passed complementary to this Bill. Then it would be possible to see whether this Bill is in fact able to do the job it sets out to do, and if it requires minor modification that can then be made.
It is a matter of record that the Minister for Labor and Immigration meets his State counterparts frequently. What is not a matter of record, however, is the extent to which they have discussed this legislation. Certainly no draft State legislation is available to us, although the Minister said in his second reading speech he believed there would be support from State Ministers. Doubt has now been cast upon this by the honourable member for Wannon.. What is important is that the unions and employers who have to make the complex of State and Federal legislation work should have the chance to study it as a whole. The essence of this current Bill would surely remain, but some amendments may eventually seem desirable to all interested parties when they have a chance of studying all of the legislation.
The Minister in his second reading speech was critical of the High Court of Australia. It is the High Court which may eventually be called upon to interpret this Bill. If this Bill is passed by this Parliament without regard to the legislation which may be passed by the States, the likelihood is greater that the High Court may interpret conflicting legislation of this Parliament and of the State Parliaments in a manner different from that intended by the Minister. In those circumstances it would be most unjust for the Minister to criticise the High Court. If, however, the legislation is agreed upon by the Ministers as a package, there would be less danger of that happening.
Industrial relations in Australia are complicated enough without unilateral legislation on this vexed subject. We cannot afford to have a sequel to the Moore v. Doyle case, or worse, we cannot afford to have a case as traumatic as the infamous Boilermakers’ Case of 1956. On that occasion the nature of the Commonwealth’s judicial and industrial powers was examined and legislation was radically overturned. If Federal and State agreement is not reached on the precise details of State legislation before this Bill is passed, we could have at least misunderstandings and more confusion in industrial relations and, at worst, another High Court case on our hands.
I believe most strongly that the role of both the parliaments and the courts should be minimal in industrial relations. As it is, our Federal system makes industrial law one of the most complex branches of the law. Let us not make it more complex. We have lost 18 months. A little longer will not cause any further harm, whereas undue haste in this Parliament without the package of complementary legislation would cause enormous harm. It would add to the conflict between Federal and State governments. It would irritate Federal and State union officials and confuse the public, which is already finding industrial relations difficult enough to fathom, and accentuate the role of the parliaments and the courts. There is therefore a need for a full review of the interaction of all State legislation with this Bill in order to see whether this Bill should be modified in the interests of those outside the Parliament who are obliged to make it work. There is some doubt about the constitutional validity of the Bill. Although Mr Justice Sweeney is satisfied that his recommendations do not offend the Constitution, we would all feel on safer ground if the 4 States agreed that this was so.
One of the most vexed matters in the legislation relates to section 88e of the New South Wales Industrial Arbitration Act. This section relates to persons not easily categorised as either employers or employees because they are largely self-employed, such as owner-drivers. On page 22 of the report of the working party mention is made of this problem. It stresses the need for conjoint Commonwealth and State legislation. Mr Justice Sweeney, in fact, at page 16 of his report recommended the solution adopted by this Bill, but it is surely relevant that this Parliament be sure that the New South Wales Parliament will pass complementary legislation. On page 2 1 of his report Mr Justice Sweeney said:
Those concerned with operating a system of dual registration and incorporation clamoured for a change.
A change is called for; there is no doubt about that. But that change should be wrought by consensus. Both the ACTU and the NEPC agree that changes are necessary. Agreement between these 2 bodies is all too rare as it is, but it is important that when they agree there should now be agreement between the Federal and State governments as to the precise terms of legislation. We have no evidence of this before the Parliament to date. I think it is important to illustrate that point by reference again to the working party’s report. At page 8 of the working party’s report the ACTU views are recorded as follows:
The ACTU representative was of the view that the basic requirement to overcome the Moore v. Doyle problems was adequate amending legislation to the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration An which it anticipated would be accompanied by complementary State legislation. Provided the problem was overcome it was not concerned as to whether the States maintained separate registration systems or adopted the South Australian concept of recognition ‘.
However, the ACTU representative thought that the provision of a moratorium on challenges for a specified period might be necessary to enable unions to put their affairs in order.
On the following page of the same report the employers ‘ views appear. I quote:
The employers’ representative regarded the rectification of the problem disclosed in Moore v. Doyle as primarily a matter for the Australian Government and the States. No objection was made to any of the approaches outlined above.
What we have in this Bill is the option being exercised by Mr Justice Sweeney without there being any indication from the States that they are prepared to follow the same option. That, I think, is important. On page 28 of his report, Mr Justice Sweeney says:
What is sought is a solution to the problems which will enable federal organisations both to operate as they do at present under the Act -
That is the Federal Act- and which will also enable them to participate in State industrial arbitration systems.
That, of course, is important, and that is the object of this Bill but it does not necessarily follow that what is proposed in the next succeeding paragraphs- and therefore in this Bill- is the best means of solving the problem. I personally see great merit in the proposals of this Bill. But it does not necessarily mean that this is the best way of solving the problem because the best way of solving it is by what can be agreed upon between States and the Federal Government in preparing this package of legislation.
On the same page of Mr Justice Sweeney’s report, at paragraph 4, he highlights the need for more than mere complementary legislation by the States. His Honour has pointed out in different passages of his report that State legislation may need to be updated and modernised in other respects. It was contemplated that in many respects States may want to take the opportunity of updating their legislation at the same time as passing legislation complementary to this Bill. This is all the more reason why we should enable the States to discuss their drafts with the Minister before this Bill passes further through this House.
The major reservation I have with the Bill relates to the uncertainty about who administers branch funds, and clarification from the Minister would assist all parties interested in this matter. Any lack of clarity could aggravate industrial relations because the largest number of fights, or the biggest cause of fights, between Federal and State branches of unions are always over money.
For this reason the situation should be clarified for all concerned. Finally, I must stress again that we must be careful not to create more problems by haste than we would solve by just a little more patience and a little consultation. If this Bill is passed and the States do not pass complementary legislation the industrial relations scene could become even more confused than it is already. I trust therefore that the Minister will convene a special meeting of the State Ministers to ensure that the large measure of consensus already reflected in the Sweeney report is converted into a joint legislative package before the Bill proceeds.
Debate (on motion by Mr Riordan) adjourned.
-For the information of honourable members I table the Royal Commission on Petroleum, First Report- Shortages of Petroleum Products. His Excellency the Governor-General received the report from His Honour the Royal Commissioner, Mr Justice Collins, today. Because of the limited number of copies available at this stage I have arranged for copies to be placed in the Parliamentary Library.
-For more than 20 years the Liberal-Country Party Government allowed the trade union movement and the industrial relations system of Australia to be perched on the edge of a powder keg. They knew what everybody else in industrial relations knew- that there was a grave and serious deficiency in the whole system of industrial regulation in this nation. They knew that there was a web of industrial technicality and of legal entanglement that some day would have to be faced. They knew that, as everybody else knew it, from 1952. In 1968 the fuse was lit in the case of Moore v. Doyle. The barrel exploded shortly thereafter in the case of Steuart v. Oliver.
It is as well that this Parliament should ponder carefully over what is now proposed- that now, in 1974, at least 20 years after the first emergence of this problem on a widespread basis, the Liberal-Country Party Opposition in this Parliament wishes to defer again the solution of a problem which is of critical importance to the economic, industrial and social wellbeing of this nation. At any time another dispute could break out and paralyse industry and commerce in any city of this nation. We have seen it occur before- at least twice in the Sydney petrol-oil tanker driver disputes- and paralysis has followed. The Opposition’s solution still is to defer, but defer for how long? How long does it take State governments, State parliaments, trade union bodies and those employer organisations who still have not made up their minds after 20 years of meditation and consideration? It is unreal and unrealistic to put before this Parliament a suggestion that this matter should be deferred again.
It is as well also to refer to a passage from the case of Moore v. Doyle, which is reported in the Federal Law Reports, volume 15 at page 119, and which is also recorded in the report of His Honour Mr Justice Sweeney. Mr Justice Sweeney set out from that judgment passages to which I will not refer. They referred to there being Federal and State unions operating, as it were, within one entity, legal or otherwise, but in one de facto entity known as a national or Federal union. However within that entity we have an organisation registered under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. There may be 4 separate State organisations registered under the State trade union Acts and industrial arbitration Acts of Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia and perhaps 2 other bodies operating in Tasmania and Victoria. In many cases the conditions of eligibility of the various organisations operating under the one umbrella of a national organisation would be different and it could be that persons who would be eligible for membership of a State organisation would not be eligible for membership of the Federal union to which they owed their allegiance and with which they were affiliated in every sense except the narrow, legal sense. In the Moore v. Doyle judgment appears the following passage:
In the great majority of cases the trade union and the branch of the federal organisation are administered as though they were the same body with one set of assets, one system of banking, one set of books, one register of members, one set of officers, one election of officers for both bodies, and one system of meetings of a committee of management to handle the affairs of the trade union and the State branch of the organisation. Despite differences in the constitution rule of the federal and the corresponding State body, members of one who are not eligible to be members of the other are often treated as members of both and often vote in elections of the body to which they are not entitled to belong.
Generally one application form is filled in and this sometimes satisfies the provisions of rules of the organisation &nd the trade union, but often there are different rules as to applications. Sometimes, as the cases show, the real and effectivelyoperating body is the State branch of the federal organisation with the corresponding trade union existing as a mere fiction and it has occurred that a trade union has been held to be non-existent and liable to be deregistered by the State authorities. In other cases it is the trade union which is the living body and the State branch of the federal organisation may be a shadow or fiction having.no real existence. In yet other cases the affairs of the State branch of a federal organisation and of the corresponding trade union are administered under some practically-evolved set of rules which are an administrative amalgam of the registered rules of the State branch and the trade union but are not the actual rules of either.
The Trade Union and Industrial Arbitration Acts of some of the States appear to proceed upon the basis that the State trade union and/or industrial union is an autonomous body corporate or separate legal entity not under control of bodies outside itself, whereas the State-registered body is usually treated as being part of a federal organisation and is, in fact, subject to control by a federal council or committee of management . . . . . . cases referred to earlier in this judgment are further illustrations of the web of problems and technicalities which have developed in the system of trade union organisation in Australia . . .
That is the very brief explanation of a very complex and involved situation. As the court said, there is a web of problems and technicalities which have developed in the system of trade union organisation in Australia. Such a situation cannot be left there. It is against the public interest for that to be so. The court said in 1968, 1 hasten to add:
A system of trade union organisation is urgently needed which would enable the one body to represent its relevant members in both the federal and State arbitration systems and it should be possible for federal and State authorities to examine the question whether organisations and trade unions can be provided with such a system.
We have heard in this Parliament this afternoon a plea for further delay because some State parliaments, some State governments and some State branches of some unions are not yet satisfied that this is an answer to the problem. I simply ask the question: If not this one, then what? I say to honourable members opposite that they had 20 long years to work out a solution to this problem. We are entitled to assume that they do not have one and that they have not any ideas on how to meet the problem.
We say that the problem is one of urgency because the whole question of settlement of industrial disputes is tied up in this piece of legislation. Failure to pass this legislation will leave a heavy responsibility indeed on those who frustrate its passage. Those who block the passage of this legislation can bear the consequences the next time that a dispute arises over a demarcation on the State and Federal union issue which creates chaos and which cripples industry and commerce. Certainly some further action is required. Certainly it will be necessary for the States to pass some complementary legislation in some respects. For my part I do not believe that if they fail to do so it will result in this legislation being completely non-effective. There will be a heavy responsibility on the State parliaments concerned which refuse to co-operate to overcome this problem of great magnitude, perhaps one of the most complex, most difficult problems and one which has the most consequence in the sense of industrial relations that this country has had to face for many a long year.
The issues raised by the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) I think deserve proper consideration. He referred to the fact that this first arose in the Transport Workers Union of Australia. Of course he is correct. But the case to which he referred first arose in the middle 1950s, not in 1968, when there was an inner faction argument in the New South Wales Branch of the Transport Workers Union as to which candidates had been elected to office, whether they had been elected to office in the branch of the Federal organisation or in the State registered union. I thought that would have been within the honourable member’s knowledge. The real issue which highlighted this situation arose in 1968. It arose because owner-drivers were recruited into the New South Wales Branch of the Transport Workers Union. The honourable member for Wannon, who I thought made a reasonably constructive contribution up to a point, had to spoil it all by a cynical sarcastic remark that this was obviously because the union’s membership was dwindling. That is false. That is not the case at all.
The situation, for the honourable member’s benefit, was this: Certain employers- possibly contributors to Liberal Party funds; that is perhaps why the honourable member wants to protect them- were involved in a very doubtful practice which was, in my view, quite unethical. The employers said to employees who were drivers: ‘We will not employ you any more because we do not want any more drivers. But we are prepared to engage you if you buy a vehicle, which we will sell you at a reasonable price on terms which you may repay by instalments. You can then be working for yourself. They were employees in a de facto sense but not as a matter of law. There was no longer an employer-employee relationship which the Australian Constitution apparently holds sacrosanct. But there was a new relationship of principal and agent. So the New South Wales Parliament not going to allow this device to be used to rob and deny employees of their proper conditions through wage coverage and the basic conditions of protection that employees are entitled to under the State laws, passed the new section to v. Lien the honourable member for Balaclava (Mr Macphee) referred. Section 88E of the Industrial Arbitration Act of New South Wales provided that a person engaged in such activity would be deemed to be an employee for the purposes of the New South Wales Act. So they were eligible and correctly and properly and ethically enrolled- perhaps I should say continued- in membership in the New South Wales Branch of the Transport Workers Union. Of course somebody challenged it several years later on the basis that the persons involved were not employees and could not be members of the national organisation.
The honourable member for Wannon also accused the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) of having an ulterior motive. I do not understand why he did that, but he did it. He said that this may be designed or may have the effect of tearing the Australian Workers Union in Queensland to ribbons. If the present situation continues without correction the Australian Workers Union in Queensland will be shattered. That is the fact of the matter. The Australian Workers Union in Queensland is one of those unions. The Federated Clerks Union of Australia- the honourable member for Wannon referred to telegrams from 2 branch officials of that union- will also suffer a very serious consequence if similar legislation to this is not adopted. I think I know something about the condition of that union. I had some experience over 20 years with the organisation.
This legislation will not destroy any union. It will not and cannot inhibit the rights that any union has now. It will protect those rights. The demarcation function is a device or a mechanism designed to allow a Federal union with a wider constitution or conditions of eligibility in particular States, to continue to incorporate those members within that State or States for State purposes and yet allow another organisation or an employer or the Minister to apply to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to restrict the right in the Federal sphere. That is to say, the Australian Workers Union, to take the case referred to by the honourable member for Wannon, could represent shop assistants north of Rockhampton in the State arbitration system of Queensland, but it could be demarked and prevented from representing shop assistants in, say, Tasmania, where it has never had any interest and never had any members.
That is the purpose of the provision. In any event, if there were no such problem at all, is it not desirable, is it not essential in fact, that this Parliament should clothe the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission with the power to settle demarcation disputes? Surely in this modern, contemporary, turbulent industrial society the day is long past when Parliament could sit on the sideline and say: ‘Industrial disputes are not issues about which we should be vitally concerned’. We must be vitally concerned and we must attempt to give the power to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to resolve these issues.
Of course the honourable member for Wannon raised the old question about the constitutional power. We go back to the question of what is an industrial dispute. The honourable member is relying on some very old cases to say that a dispute between 2 organisations cannot be an industrial dispute within the meaning of the Constitution. That has, I think, been modified to some extent- not all the way, I agree with him, because the matter has not been argued all the way in recent years. But in the container demarcation dispute in which the Transport Workers Union was involved in the High Court seemed to me, at any rate, to modify some of the attitudes it had taken many years ago in this area. I fail to see that it could be held by the High Court that it is not an industrial dispute within the meaning of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act and the Australian Constitution when 2 unions are seeking to represent the interests of employees and bargain with an employer and there is a stoppage of work and there are counter-demands as between 2 organisations and an employer.
I think it is impossible to say at this stage that this legislation is unconstitutional because of the reasoning of forty or fifty years ago. Today there is a different industrial climate. The organisation of industrial relations is different. Industrial society is different. Therefore the facts that pertain to a particular dispute will be different and obviously different issues will arise. It will not be a question of the old classical demarcation style issue where it is a question of a union trying to exclude another; it will be a question arising in contemporary terms where both organisations are making claims on employers and it will be for somebody to decide who shall be entitled to represent those employees.
I believe the Minister for Labor and Immigration is to be commended. The legislation protects the autonomy of State branches of unions. If the honourable member for Wannon would refer to clause 5(3) and clause 9 of the Bill he would see that there is very substantial protection for branch funds, elections and properties and there will not be the over-centralised control about which he has complained in the past and no doubt which is exercising his mind now. I commend him to look at those clauses and particularly to look at the provisions about rules contained in clause 5(4) and also in clause 5(3)(a), particularly where it refers to established practice.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MartinOrder! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I fear that this legislation is a classic case of something intended to solve a situation but which in fact will create more problems than it solves. The situation between Federal and State unions which the case of Moore v. Doyle highlighted has been with the Australian industrial system since before 1952, as the honourable member for Phillip (Mr Riordan) mentioned, and really since the time when the Federal industrial system and the early State industrial systems were established at the turn of the century. Both those systems relied for their organisation within Australia on the registration of voluntary groups of workers or employers into a legal entity described under federal legislation as an organisation and under the State legislation which provides for registration of unions.
It is because under the federal system the Constitution recognises that there ought to be 2 systems of industrial law in Australia that we can have at the one time a Federal legal entity and a State legal entity. So this is something which has been inherent in the industrial system of Australia ever since the foundation of this nation. This is a weakness, some would say; a strength, others would say. It would be a weakness, no doubt, to those who are persuaded to the view that industrial regulation in Australia should be solely the province of the Commonwealth and without any restrictions of interstate disputes such as are inbuilt into the Constitution at present. Such people would have federal unions right across the board without any State legislation to complicate the issue and to permit the creation of separate and distinct legal entities.
On the other hand, there are those who propound the view that because of the regional characteristics of Australia and the regional characteristics of industry and the work force it is proper that there be a system of State unions, that is, a regulation of industrial affairs within a region or State according to the laws of a particular State geared to the particular needs of that region or State. That, very broadly, was the attitude of the founding fathers under the Constitution. They saw a need for a means of settling industrial disputes which are national in character by a system of federally organised unions. So the authority for such a system was included in the Constitution.
It was thought at that time that the most effective way of settling industrial disputes- but more than settling, of preventing them- was a method of conciliation and arbitration. It is often forgotten that the Constitution could have simply given to the Commonwealth the power to make laws to deal with industrial disputes when they were national in character, leaving it to the Parliament of the day, as time moved on, to decide whether a system of compulsory arbitration was the best method of settling industrial disputes, whether a system of collective bargaining was the best method, or whether some other system of industrial regulation would bring the required measure of industrial peace. But the writers of the Constitution thought that in a system of compulsory arbitration they had the answer. So we have this strange provision of the Constitutionthat is, strange by contrast with the other provisions of the Constitution which grant a general power to the Commonwealth- which actually limits the way in which the Parliament of the Commonwealth can legislate to make laws for a system of preventing and settling industrial disputes.
The States, on the other hand, are unlimited in the legislative power that they have to provide a system to settle industrial disputes. Some States have chosen a system of registration of unions, compulsory arbitration to a more or less degree. Other States, Victoria amongst them, do not have a system of registration of unions or a system of arbitration as States like my own of Western Australia, Queensland and New South Wales have. That is because the State of Victoria having the ample legislative power that it has, has decided that some other system would be better for that part of the country. But in those States Uke mine, which have a system of conciliation and arbitration, this system has been provided for by the registration of voluntary groups of workers into legally recognised unions having a separate legal identity, once they become registered.
Since the early days of the Commonwealth, there has been a growth of the Federal union or the Federal organisation. So, gradually, the Federal organisations have become stronger and stronger in the industrial power that they have. They have done this in two ways. The first is by the extent of what is called their constitutional coverage. By that is meant the callings of workers, the vocations of workers that their rules permit them to have as members, or the industry within which the organisation can itself operate. So, under the provisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, if 100 workers get together and desire to form their own union, they may lodge with the Registrar a set of rules having a description of callings or vocations or a description of industry wide enough to comprehend all those workers that they seek to represent. They can throw their net really as wide as they wish, subject to whether or not there already exists a registered organisation to which those members who have sought to be covered can conveniently belong. So, a balance is struck between those organisations which are already registered and the new organisation which seeks to spread its wings and to extend its industrial power.
The second way in which the Federal union can extend its industrial power is by the awards that it obtains from the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. As time has gone on, from the days when an award might simply apply to 2 States in order to give it its interstate character, Federal unions have sought to extend their industrial power by extending the award coverage which they have beyond the original States. So, in Western Australia there is the example over many years of Federal unions seeking to intrude into the industrial system of that State either by applying for a completely new award which takes in Western Australia for the first time or by way of what is called a roping in award, extending an existing award to Western Australia.
Generally speaking, what has happened in this kind of situation is that, when the Federal union seeks to extend its industrial power either by amending its rules and extending the class of worker that it can cover or by extending its award into Western Australia, it inevitably seeks to take away from a State registered union that area of coverage which the State union occupies. So, the situation arises that the umbrella might be thrown over a State union by a Federal organisation extending its membership coverage to workers who are already covered by a State union or by extending its award to workers who are already covered by an award of the State industrial commission.
– It has to get over the provisions of section 41.
– The Minister has mentioned section 41 (1) (d). It is a section with which I am most familiar because I fought many cases on behalf of State unions before the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission seeking to prevent the takeover by a Federal organisation of a State area occupied by a State union. One of the strangest aspects which experience shows to one in this field is that one often finds a Federal organisation which has a State union counterpart in Western Australia fighting another Federal union which wants to take over that area of State industrial coverage. What the Federal organisation which is trying to withstand the takeover bid by another Federal organisation does is to use its State union as the vehicle for preventing a takeover, the reason being that the State union already has constitutional coverage through its membership rules or award coverage by an award issued out of the State jurisdiction.
What my experience in this field has shown me is this: There are significant groups of workers who jealously guard the right to operate within their chosen industrial system. In this case, the chosen industrial system is the State industrial system, that is, the system which is regulated by the law of Western Australia. The same situation can be multiplied in other States which have similar legislation- Queensland, New South Wales and South Australia. To me, what this legislation, which has been brought down in an attempt or in a justification of the desire to overcome the difficulties presented by Moore and Doyle, can do is to concentrate power in Federal unions. I observe from reading the report of Mr Justice Sweeney, starting from page 28, under the chapter heading ‘Solution Proposed to the Present Problems’, that this is precisely the way in which he sees the solution to Moore and Doyle. In his opening paragraph, he says:
What is sought is a solution to the problems which will enable federal organisations both to operate as they do at present under the Act -
That is, the Commonwealth Act- and which will also enable them to participate in State industrial arbitration systems.
Later, in the same paragraph, he goes on to say:
At the same time, the viability of the State systems of industrial arbitration must be preserved.
Certainly, I agree with him wholeheartedly that the viability of the State systems of industrial regulation must be preserved, for the very practical reason that industrial experience in this country shows that significant groups of workers do desire to have their industrial conditions- that is, wages and other conditions of employmentregulated by the laws of their own State. But the underlying assumption in the Sweeney recommendation is that the best method of industrial regulation in Australia is by and through Federal organisations. It is that underlying assumption which I challenge and which I deny.
I rely again on experience. The Minister for Labor and Immigration, who is at the table, is one who has had a great deal of experience in this industrial field. I am sure that he would agree with me when I say that there are these significant groups of workers who desire to have their conditions of employment regulated within the State where they live. So, it does not necessarily follow, as the Sweeney report assumes, that a system of Federal unions in Australia is the best way to bring about industrial peace.
I turn to another aspect. When we look at the pattern of development in the industrial field in Australia particularly post war, we do see a rapidly accelerating concentration of industrial power in federal unions. I think that if anyone recognising that fact asks himself honestly the question whether there has been more or less industrial peace in Australia post war, under a system of that kind with a concentration of power in Federal unions, the answer is ready and at hand. We do not need to turn to a great deal of statistics, looking at it year by year. I think one merely needs to go into the streets and ask the people of Australia. I think they would say very quickly that Australia has not had a time of significant industrial peace. I believe that one of the great challenges for any Commonwealth Government is to see to the diversification of industrial power in Australia back to the workers themselves and not by way of a concentration of power into the hands of a small group of officials at the top of the pyramid which is the federal organisation. I firmly believe that if we allow this Bill to pass without effective checks and balances and controls through State legislation we will inevitably see that concentration of power in federal organisations and the very rapid withering away of State industrial jurisdiction.
The whole of the experience in this field shows that once federal organisations can get control, particularly through the vehicle of an award, there is no need even to think about State jurisdictions; they have gone out the window. With a federal award you simply have the federal organisation to control all the industrial activities of its members, wherever they are in Australia. I cannot think of anything worse than a federal award applying in every instance throughout industry in Australia where, because of a dispute in Sydney, the workers of that union must be pulled out on strike in Perth. We have had many examples of that in recent times when there has been no industrial trouble at all in Western Australia but because of a decision made by a small group of federal officials at the head of a federal organisation to deal with a particular dispute in Sydney or Melbourne they have called a nationwide stoppage which brings the industry in Western Australia to a halt. For my part, I think that whether a person lives in Perth, Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide or Hobart. the guiding principle in the regulation of industrial conditions should be that the local workers should be the ones who can organise themselves into their own union if that is what they desire, under laws of the State within which they live, so that they can thereby be truly autonomous. They will not be autonomous under this legislation in any practical sense, although the legal terminology of the Bill says that they shall be autonomous.
If there is one thing that experience in this field of industrial relations tells us it is that power does not necessarily come from the written word, from the law which is passed, but from control of the workers; and control of the workers is achieved through control of their organisation. That control lies essentially in the hands of the officials of the federal organisation.
I know from inquiries I have made that the Western Australian Government is unhappy with this BUI. It sees dangers in it in the same way as I see dangers. It can see that inbuilt in it could be the annihilation of the State system. The Minister for Labour in Western Australia has made inquiries of unions in that State and I am informed that the overwhelming majority of unions registered with the State Industrial Commission do not want this BUI. Now, the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) purports to represent unionism in Australia. I suggest that he take his inquiries much further and find out whether the union movement in all parts of Australia really does want this legislation. We aU want to solve Moore and Doyle but we do not want legislation of a kind which will see the annihilation of State jurisdiction.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Viner) seems to have misconceived the whole purpose of the Bill. The Bill has nothing whatever to do with altering the Act to make it easier for federal unions to take over State unions or to make it easier for federal unions to get federal awards extended to areas to which they are not at present entitled to extend their awards. The Bill does nothing at all to alter the present position of the law in that regard. It does nothing to affect section 41 (1) (d), which is the section that the honourable member successfully relied upon time and time again in Western Australia. He admitted he had used the section, but he stopped short of saying, and he could have said it truthfully, that he had never once lost a case by invoking section 4 1 ( 1 ) (d) to prevent the extension of a federal award to an area already covered by a State award or capable of being covered by a State award.
It is nonsense to say that this Bill concentrates power in the hands of federal unions. It does nothing of the kind. On the contrary, for the first time ever it makes a requirement for registration of federal rules that the rules shall be such as to provide for the autonomy of the branch in matters affecting members of the branch only and matters concerning the participation of the branch in any State industrial conciliation and arbitration system. That safeguard has never appeared in the law before. There is nothing in the law as it now stands to prevent the federal executive of a union directing its branch in a particular State to withdraw from the State jurisdiction which has previously covered its members by way of a State award. The federal executive could dismiss the branch and its officials if they failed to carry out a federal directive of that kind. This Bill says that local autonomy shall be guaranteed to State branches so that those State branches which have State registration and which enjoy corporate status, which registration in the 4 States we have already talked about confers upon them, shall have the right to continue in that way.
I must admit that I am not only disappointed but I am certainly saddened by the way that the Opposition sees its role as an opposition to be such that it must oppose every single alteration made to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. There can be no other justification and no other explanation for the attitude the Opposition has taken on this Bill, other than to obstruct and to prevent the Government from remedying a serious defect in the law that has been there since it was revealed in 1969 in the case of Moore v. Doyle. The Government has responded to the request from the employers and from the trade unions to try to remedy this defect. I can understand the Opposition feeling it is there to oppose and that it ought to take it on face value that everything the Government does is wrong, but this is not a party political matter. This is a matter that concerns industrial relations, and without it we cannot possibly solve the difficulties that have been thrust upon unions, State and federal alike, as a consequence of the Moore v. Doyle decision.
The honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) suggested that the unions are not supporting this legislation. Let me say to the House that I have sent copies of the Bill and copies of the report of the Sweeney committee to every one of the peak organisations in Australia and not one of them has made a single comment.
– How many copies have you sent out?
– I have sent copies to all the peak organisations because this is the way those organisations prefer to do it. The Australian Council of Trade Unions has asked the Government always to send copies of Bills to it and not to all of the organisations affiliated with it so that the ACTU can then consult with its affiliated organisations. It sees the practice of sending Bills to affiliated unions as being an act of going over its head and the ACTU resents it. The ACTU, the Council of Commonwealth Public Service Organisations and the Australian Council of Salaried and Professional Associations, as the case may be, always ask the Government to supply them with a copy of the Bill. Those organisations then communicate with their affiliates. They usually- it was done in this case- call a meeting of their arbitration committee, as it is called in the case of the ACTU, to examine the proposal and when they have any comments to make they contact the Government and indicate what the criticism might be. I have had nothing from ACSPA, the ACTU or from CCPSO. The honourable member for Wannon, who leads for the Opposition on this matter, knows that the week before last in my office he met with Mr Hawke and me on this matter. I invite him to say now whether Mr Hawke supported his view that introduction of this legislation ought to be delayed or that it ought to be amended. He knows that Mr Hawke did nothing of the kind.
– Will you give me leave to make a one-minute statement?
-No, I will not.
– I will say what Mr Hawke said on this matter, since you invited me to do so.
– I invited the honourable member to say by way of interjection whether Mr Hawke supported the view which the honourable member was putting or whether Mr Hawke supported me. The honourable member knows perfectly well that he supported my contention that this is an urgent matter that needs urgent attention.
– He did not support the bond, the deed, that unions would have to sign and register with the Industrial Registrar. There was no support for that. The Minister tried to suggest that it was not referred to in the Sweeney report and I had to point to where it was in the Sweeney report. That is a critical area which needs much greater discussion with the union movement.
– I dispute that.
– I was invited to give my view of what happened.
– Order! I have been fairly tolerant from the chair. The honourable member for Wannon has had his say. I think that the Minister is entitled to reply.
– I repeat that there is no way in which the legislation forces an organisation to give the undertakings or sign the bonds if it does not wish to do so, but if it does not do so it cannot get State registration. But it cannot get State registration now unless it gives an undertaking because the terms of State registration are that once one registers one has to accept and acquire corporate status, and once one acquires corporate status one immediately puts oneself in peril of the kind of action that a bond would give. There is no difference at all. That does not alter the law. I repeat that the present law requires a State branch to acquire corporate status and put itself in peril of litigation and damages. There is no difference between the present situation and the requiring of a bond in place of the present situation.
I have in front of me a letter from Mr George Polites, who has told me on behalf of the Central Industrial Secretariat of the Australian Council of Employers Federations and the Associated Chambers of Manufactures of Australia that in the view of the employers- I really do not know who the honourable member for Wannon is representing- the provisions of the Bin to amend the Conciliation and Arbitration Act that are designed to implement the report of the Sweeney inquiry into the problems associated with the decision in Moore v. Doyle appear to be generally satisfactory. In the Committee stage of the debate I will read his comments on each clause, which indicate that the employers agree with this legislation. Of course the employers agree with it. The unions agree with it and the employers agree with it. The only people who do not agree with it are the members of the Opposition, whose sole reason for rejecting it is that they do not want to see the Government succeed in solving industrial unrest because they have a vested interest in industrial unrest. They want to see unions go on strike because there remains to them no other way of settling matters constitutionally. The members of the Opposition do not want a constitutional solution to the problems because they feel that they gain some political capital out of having an inadequate law that can produce an industrial situation from which they can obtain some benefit.
– That is nonsense.
– It is not nonsense and the honourable member for Angas knows that it is not nonsense. The employers, who wish to see easier amalgamations of unions so that there will be a reduction in the number of unions in Australia from 303 to a smaller number of more efficient and manageable unions, want it. The unions want it. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Mr Lynch, is on record as saying that he wants it, but for reasons that no one can explain other than wanting to gain political capital out of industrial chaos, the Opposition has set its face against amending the law to give effect to easier amalgamations. Members of the Opposition did the same thing with respect to the amendment I brought down earlier this year seeking to make observance of voluntary agreements more likely to be an established fact purely because they do not want the Government to succeed in settling industrial disputes, as the more strikes members of the Opposition can generate and more settlements they can prevent by stopping essential legislation going through, the happier they are. Yet they have the audacity to get up and talk and shake their heads about industrial unrest when the whole purpose of their opposition to the provisions that are crucial to better industrial relations that the Government has sought to introduce have been rejected by them.
The Opposition seems to be suggesting that this Bill is going to create difficulties that are not there at the present time; that this Bill is going to create a legal position that does not exist at the present time. The BUI does not create any new legal position. What the Bill does is recognise the legal difficulties that already exist- the legal difficulties that were exposed in the Moore v. Doyle and Steuart v. Oliver cases. All the Bd does is recognise what the difficulties are and seek to amend them and to cure them. It is true that a working party was set up by the former Liberal-Country Party Government, but the working party admitted that the cure was beyond its comprehension and that it could not really settle down and find an answer. I do not say that as a criticism or a reflection upon thenlegal knowledge or industrial knowledge. It is the most complex legal question to have been thrown up in the industrial arena since 1904. There had never been a problem which bristled so much with legal difficulties as the Moore v. Doyle case produced because the Moore v. Doyle case showed that the law as it now stands, and as it will continue to stand until altered, until cured by the proposal that we are now putting forward, is that the majority of federal unions are illegally constituted, that their rules are invalid and that their property is in a state of doubtful ownership. Indeed, eminent Queen’s Counsel have argued that in some cases the property of a federal organisation not only does not belong to the federal organisation but also does not belong to the State body either. It belongs to the original trustees of the organisation which was first registered and, since they are dead and gone, nobody other than perhaps, in trusteeship law, their relatives has any right to the property.
The property of the Australian Workers Union in Sydney- Macdonell House, the Worker Building- the property in Pitt Street near the Hotel Morris is the property of the State union for the reason that it was in 1902 that The- with a capital ‘t’- Australian Workers Union was first registered in New South Wales and the first Secretary of the State union, called The Australian Workers Union, was Mr Donald Macdonell and the first President of The Australian Workers Union, the State union registered in New South Wales in 1902, was Mr W. G. Spence, who purported also to be the General Secretary and Federal President respectively of a federal unincorporated union called the- with a small ‘t’- Australian Workers Union. That was three years before the federal union secured registration under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act.
The properties that are owned in New South Wales by The Australian Workers Union are the properties of the State union. The Federal union put into its rules a few years ago a provision saying that these properties- the Worker Building, MacDonell House and the property in Pitt Street- are by virtue of the rules the property of the Federal union but this rule is in itself invalid because some of the people who were present at the rule making body were strangers and therefore were not entitled to be present. The decision to make that rule was an invalid decision. The rule is invalid because once a rule is challenged the person challenging the rule has a perfect right to go behind the certificate of the Registrar to see whether the registration made upon a statutory declaration sworn by the proper officer of the organisation concerned was a decision properly taken.
None of the decisions of the Australian Workers Union since 1913 when the A WA amalgamated with it in Queensland are valid rule alterations. All of those decisions were taken at either convention level or at executive council level at which representatives of a State union then called ‘The Australian Workers Union of Employees, Queensland ‘ were present. They had no right to be there. Moreover, it can be argued that no people from the New South Wales State union had any right to sit on a federal convention or a federal executive council meeting of the AWU. Therefore every rule that was made and every decision of a judicial character that was taken by the Federal executive council of the AWU or at the annual convention of the AWU are. invalid rules and decisions, whether they applied to rules made by them or whether they applied to any other decisions including the obtaining of awards or the purchase of property or whatever one might like to mention of like decision.
This legislation therefore merely seeks to unravel the skein of legal complexities that have been thrown up by the Moore and Doyle case and to give validity to decisions in respect of rule making bodies that would otherwise remain forever in doubt and could always be challenged and be torn down. It is said that the unions have not had a chance to study the legislation. This is sheer nonsense. Of course they have. They have had a chance to study the legislation and they have indicated that they have approved of it. The honourable member says that he has a letter or has had communications from the AWU saying that it opposes the legislation. I do not believe that. I do not believe that the AWU has told the honourable gentleman that it opposes the legislation at all because the one union that has the most to gain by the settlement of the present legal situation is the AWU. If it is not settled that union will be fragmented and nothing that its Federal council or convention can do will ever stick; nothing that it can decide by way of Federal convention or executive council will have any validity because those bodies are improperly constituted and will remain improperly constituted until their present constitution and rules are validated by this legislation.
-The original question was that this Bill be now read a second time. To this the honourable member for Wannon has moved an amendment that all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to substituting other words. The immediate question is that the words proposed to be added stand part of the question. All of that opinion say aye, to the contrary no. I think the ayes have it. Is a division required?
- Mr Deputy Speaker, will you read the ‘other words ‘?
-Is a division required?
Opposition members- Yes.
-Ring the bells. (The bells being rung)-
– Will you read the ‘other words’?
-Order! The honourable member for Mackellar has been here long enough to know that he does not get the call until the Chair recognises him and while the Speaker or Deputy Speaker is on his. feet he is not entitled to interrupt.
– I think that under Standing Orders an honourable member is entitled to ask.
-Order! I call the honourable member for Wannon.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, it was my belief that you put the question in the wrong way. It was my understanding that you said that the words proposed to be added stand part of the question. I think that in the way we are voting that you should have put the question that the words proposed to be omitted stand part of the question.
– I bear correction. I will put the question again. The original question was that this Bill be now read a second time. To this the honourable member for Wannon has moved as an amendment that all words after That’ be omitted with a view to substituting words. The immediate question is that the words proposed to be omitted stand part of the question.
– You had better ring the bells again.
-Yes, I think I should. Ring the bells.
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr Malcolm Fraser’s amendment) stand partof 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.
Sitting suspended from 6.19 to 8 p.m.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 (Registration of Organisations.)
– This is one of the clauses on which I would like an explanation from the Minister for Labor and Immigration. This clause seeks to amend section 1 32 of the principal Act. The Minister will know that this is one of the clauses which the Opposition supported in the amendments put forward last year to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. In the Act as it now is the power of the union to enrol people who can be enrolled in a trade union has been widened to enable people to be enrolled other than as employees. This legislation proposes to modify that power. I refer to the position in the present Act. For the information of the Minister I inform him that I am reading from the consolidated Act which was prepared by his Department. Section 132 contains the words ‘persons engaged in that industrial pursuit or one of those industrial pursuits otherwise than as employees’. It is proposed to modify that provision by adding the words ‘otherwise than as employers’. I would be grateful if the Minister could explain why there is this additional modification of the amendment that was made last year. It is not a question of additional powers also being made available to employer organisations because that would seem to flow quite logically from the amendments which were made last year.
– The position in relation to paragraph ( a) of clause 4 is that the New South Wales industrial arbitration legislation specifically allows State registered unions to include in their membership persons who are not employees but who are engaged in work akin to that of employees, for example, owner drivers. It was really this difference between the New South Wales State union and the federal union which led to the Moore v. Doyle case where the New South Wales branch, or what was thought to be the New South Wales branch, of the Federal Transport Workers Union took into its membership owner drivers who were not entitled to become members of the Federal employee organisation. The Federal body took the view that a branch which was taking into its membership people who could not become members of the Federal organisation was putting in peril the Federal body’s registration because at that time the Act made no provision for a Federal body to accommodate people who were not employees within the strict definition of the term ‘employees’ which the High Court had from time to time placed upon it. So the Federal Executive of the Transport Workers Union sought to direct what it thought was its New South Wales branch, which everybody up until the Moore v. Doyle case believed was the New South Wales branch of that union, to desist from enrolling as members of the organisationbelieving as it did that the organisation was inseverable from its branch and vice versa- not only owner drivers of trucks but also taxi drivers who were owner drivers.
The Moore v. Doyle case made clear that this situation gave rise to the possibility of invalidities in Federal employee organisations where an associated body, that is, the State branch which was also a registered State industrial union, was acting as a branch of the Federal body. In 1973 we introduced an amendment to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act which sought to remedy the defect which up until that point had been a characteristic of the Commonwealth Arbitration Act by allowing a Federal body to take into its membership people who were not employees within the strict sense of the word as so tightly interpreted by the High Court, provided that the organisation remained predominantly an organisation representative of employees who were employees in the true and strict sense of the word. So what we did last year was to permit employee organisations to enrol persons in occupations akin to those of employees, provided that the organisation remained effectively an organisation that was representative of employees in or in connection with the industry for which the organisation was registered and which conformed also with the eligibility rule of the organisation.
A similar problem arises in connection with employer organisations. It was made quite clear to Mr Justice Sweeney in the course of his inquiry that in a number of cases persons who were not employers, for example, persons conducting their own businesses but not having employees, were enrolled as members of employer organisations. The proposed paragraphs (a) and (aa) to amend sub-section 132 (1) of the principal Act differ in substance from the existing paragraph (a) only to the extent necessary to overcome this problem in relation to employer organisations. Honourable members will recall that in his report Mr Justice Sweeney mentioned that there was an urgent need for persons engaged in business, particularly those who were engaged in small businesses but who were not employers, that is, the business was so small that they did not employ people, to have representation and the benefit of representation in matters such as prices, tariffs, customs duties and various other matters. Honourable members will find that this is dealt with at page 16 of the Sweeney Committee’s report.
Paragraph (b) of clause 4 seeks to cure a defect which we found in the 1973 amendments to section 132 of the Act to which the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has made reference. This paragraph ensures that a person engaged in work akin to that of an employee, for example, an owner driver, is not eligible for membership of an employee organisation if he is an employer. That is the difference. The amendment was included in Mr Justice Sweeney’s draft amendment to the Act and reference to it will be seen, if honourable members care to look, at page 50 of the Sweeney report.
Paragraph (c) of clause 4 does the same sort of work as does paragraph (b). I turn now to paragraph (d) of clause 4. There is a view which is stated to flow from the High Court decision in the Tramways case that a rule of an organisation on a matter prescribed by the Act or the regulations as required to be dealt with in the rules is necessarily mandatory. In Friend v. Barnes, 15 Federal Law Reports, page 184, the Australian Industrial Court held that such rules might be mandatory or directory according to the ordinary canons of construction but more recently at least one member of the Court has held to the contrary. Since rules must be certified by the Registrar and the Court has powers of disallowance, all considerations of convenience favour the view that such a rule may be mandatory when strict compliance is necessary or.directory when substantial compliance is sufficient.
Let me give an example of what is meant by what I have said. In the case to which I have referred, the rule of the organisation said several things about nominations. For instance, it said that the nomination paper shall be forwarded to the returning officer in an envelope addressed to the returning officer, and that the envelope must bear the word ‘nomination’. The Court held that if the nomination was valid in every other respect, that is, that it was received before nominations closed, that the person had the required membership, that his nominators had the required membership, and that the nominee had all the qualifications required under the rulesbut if he omitted to write the word ‘nomination’ on the envelope, then, that requirement of the rule being mandatory and the nomination was invalid. Honourable members may recall that in an amendment to the Act which the Parliament passed last year, reference was made to the returning officer’s obligation to return a nomination paper to the nominee if there was a technical defect in the nomination. It could have been that the nominee had merely omitted the word ‘nomination’ from the outside of the envelope. In that case the Act now requires that the returning officer write to the person and inform him that the nomination is technically out of order. He tells him in what respect it is out of order and he gives him 7 days in which to rectify the defect.
Another provision in the Australian Workers Union rule was that a member had to include his union tickets for the last 5 years, his nominators had to include their union tickets for the previous 2 years and they had to include on the nomination paper the number of each ticket and the year of each ticket. A candidate had inadvertently transposed the figures and put a wrong ticket number on the nomination paper. Whereas the ticket number was 15732 he wrote on the nomination 1 5723. His ticket was in order and the number was in order but because he had failed to transfer on to the nomination paper the correct ticket number, the nomination was declared to be invalid. The Court held this. The Court was forced to concede that provisions like this were quite onerous, quite stupid and to the point of taking technicality to an absurdity, but the rules were mandatory and therefore there was no escape from having to declare the nomination invalid.
The Government puts it to the Committee that in general terms, clause 4 is also quite crucial to employer organisations. It rectifies a slight defect in last year’s amendment which, taken literally, could have meant that owner-drivers who were employing people could be members of a union. The clause makes it clear that owner-drivers can be members of a union provided they are not employing people.
– Will that cure the constitutional defect in last year’s amendment?
-We do not know. No one knows that until it is tested. I would not be so bold as to try to pontificate on what the High Court would do with what we are doing. There is every reason to believe that what we did last year would not survive a High Court ruling if the High Court stuck to its decision in the case of Pitfield v. Franki, because it was in that case that the High Court laid down that the question whether a person is an employee is not resolved by testing what work the employee does, but by testing the calling or the industry of the employer. If the employer is engaged in an industry that is not carried on for profit, then it may be that none of the people he employs are employees within the very strict sense of the definition given to the word ‘ employee ‘ by the High Court. So in answer to the interjection I cannot say that the clause will resolve any constitutional defect. There is a real risk that if the Court stuck to its fire fighters decision it would hold this clause invalid, but there is no way of testing these things here in the Parliament. All we can do is apply commonsense to the legislation and make amendments that are sensible and which seek to resolve problems, and be prepared to support the legislation whenever it is challenged in the High Court in the hope that the High Court does move with the times as it did in the Rocla concrete pipes case. As the High Court showed in that case, it is not averse to admitting mistakes and is not averse to moving with the times and to facing the realities of the day.
Before I conclude my remarks on this clause I would like to read what Mr Polites of ACEF has said about clause 4. He said:
This clause amends section 132 to allow persons who are not employers to join employer organisations. It also allows the registration of a single employer. Therefore proposals implement the Sweeney report and follow changes made to conditions of eligibility for membership of employee organisations. These proposals have general employer support.
I do not know whether the honourable member for Wannon has a copy of this report by Mr Polites.
– I might not be as close to Mr Polites as the Minister is.
-Does the honourable gentleman have a copy of the report by Mr Polites? If he does not, I do not mind him looking at this one.
– I have a copy.
-Good. This is what Mr Polites reports on clause 4. So it is a clause that is considered crucial from the employer point of view. Mr Polites, who represents the other side of industry, says that the clause is something that ought to be supported. What I hope the Parliament will do, here and in another place, is forget about party politics, forget about the Government and the Opposition, forget about the political advantages that might be gained from hindering the Government and remember that the people who are the prime actors in this business that we are now talking about are the trade unions on the one hand and the employers on the other. When those 2 sides of industry say that they find themselves in general agreement with an amendment to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, surely it is the height of irresponsibility for the Parliament to say: ‘Oh, no. There is some party political advantage in blocking it. Let us do it’. That is not the way we will get commonsense into the industrial scene. We ought not to look at the political angle but at the industrial position.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 5 (Rules to provide for certain funds).
– I want to take the statement by the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) at its face value and forget party politics completely. So I refer him to clause 5 which sets out the proposed new section 133A (5) dealing with the power of the Registrar. I listened to the Minister’s words during an earlier explanation this evening in which he expressed very great concern that State industrial tribunals would have a modicum of significant power left to them. Taking his offer at its face value- one could do nothing other than that when one looks at that gentle, caressing, Celtic countenance of the Minister for Labor and Immigration- I would suggest that proposed new section 133A (5) gives almost total power to the Registrar of the Federal court. Almost no power is left to the registrars of any of the State tribunals, so I would suggest that the Minister might consider amending the Bill in the other place by altering sub-section (5) of proposed section 133A to read:
The Registrar may grant to an association or organisation exemption from this section or any provision of this section other than the last preceding sub-section on the ground that its rules make adequate and reasonable provision for its funds, including branch funds, having regard to its functioning under this Act and its participation in any State system of industrial conciliation and arbitration.
I know that the Minister would agree that Federal organisations and State branches guard their funds zealously. There are many examples of this in the past, expecially with State branches. While it may appear that some authority is given in this provision for funds to remain where the State organisation might require them to remain, the sub-section as now drafted gives an unequivocal, undiluted and overwhelming power to the Federal Registrar. I ask the Minister to consider my suggestion in the spirit in which it is proposed.
– I understand what the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) is putting. It has not been put to me before and this is the first I have heard of it. I recognise instantly the force of his comments. I am willing to consider such an amendment if it is moved in the other place. Indeed, if it is thought proper to make the exemption to which the honourable member has referred, the Government will move the amendment in the other place. If I understand the honourable gentleman’s intention he is proposing that sub-section (5) should stand but that under it the Registrar be not empowered to grant an exemption from the operations of sub-section (4).
– That is correct.
-I will have the proposal examined.
-The honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) has directed attention to an important aspect of the Bill as drawn. By virtue of sub-section (5) of proposed section 133a the Registrar is given power to exempt an organisation from providing for autonomy of funds to a branch of a Federal organisation. The point he makes is that although the sub-section provides that the rules of an association or organisation may ‘make adequate and reasonable provision for its funds, including branch funds, having regard to its functioning under this Act and its participation in any State system of industrial conciliation and arbitration’ there is no guidance given to the Registrar of the circumstances in which the requirement of autonomy of branch funds can really be exempted by the Registrar. So far as I can recall from the second reading speech of the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) no examples were given of the need for that discretion to be given to the Registrar.
Unless it is well circumscribed it could provide, along with other provisions of this Bill which will be referred to later in the Committee stages, the means by which Federal organisations could deny to groups of workers in particular States the opportunity to have autonomy of their branch within the total Federal organisation because the Federal organisation, through its officials, could put a proposition to the Registrar which is in its interests, as it were, but contrary to the interests of the particular branch. The branch members- that is the workers themselveswould not be given, as I read the Act as amended by this Bill, any opportunity to go to the Registrar and claim the right to autonomy when the Federal officials want to deny that autonomy to them. It is most important that there be either an amendment in the form proposed by the honourable member for Lilley or in a form which gives some right to the branch members to appear before the Registrar in order to enable them to have branch autonomy if they want it. I see it as most important that if this Bill becomes law some protection of the kind proposed should be granted to those workers who, in the end, will be the members of the branch which is to be given autonomy.
– Clause 5 with which we are dealing seeks to bring together the scattered remnants of the trade union movement State and Federal that now exist, because the trade union movement Federal and State right now is in a state of utter chaos in law though it does not recognise it and though few of its officials realise it. The trade union movement, both State and Federal, is in a state of absolute chaos in relation to its property.
– Will the Australian Workers Union thank you for that remark?
-I think it will. I think the officials of the unions realise that the Moore v. Doyle situation has shown the law to be such that the union movement is in a state of utter chaos.
– As a result of the law?
-No. There is nothing wrong with the law. If the honourable member understands the Moore v. Doyle decision he will appreciate that the principles of that decision were perfectly valid and common sense. True, they caused chaos and enormous confusion but anyone with the tiniest knowledge of the law would have to concede that what the Australian Industrial Court did in the Moore v. Doyle case was the only thing a court of law could do when the issues were thrown up to it as they were in that case by Mr Sweeney, Q.C., as he then was. The members of that court had no alternative if they wanted to remain judges of the law than to uphold the points Sweeney put to them. The property situation today as between Federal organisations and associated State unions is, as a consequence of this case, extremely confused. Some property is in the name of the trustees of State unions and some property is in the name of the trustees of Federal unions. These trustees may be and they have been trustees of the Federal union and, at the same time, of the State union. In fact in some cases some of the properties of some of the unions are still held by trustees who have long since departed. The trustees have not been replaced when they passed away.
– They do not need to be, do they?
-They do. If the property is held in the name of trustees and all of the trustees are dead, I do not know who sues or who are the representatives.
– But the trusteeship is still valid.
-The honourable gentleman I know is well noted for his knowledge of the law but I wish he would not show off here because it is not helping me having to compete with a man of his profound knowledge of the law. Often there is no ready way of identifying which property is held in trust or which trustees hold which properties. Unless we have the kind of discretion which is incorporated in this clause residing in the hands of the Registrar or somebody- it cannot be carried out by a judge of the Australian Industrial Court; it is a discretionary thing that cannot be exercised by judicial authority- conceivably we could reach a situation in which there would be no possible way at all of resolving the problems. The unions knew this. It was because the more knowledgeable union officials realised the predicament into which the unions have got themselves that they went along with the idea as indeed did the employers. Where a situation becomes so confused that legal action or resort to rules cannot solve it we ought to allow the registrar the discretion to do so.
The proposed section sets out what appears to be the majority de facto position. It allows in special cases for exemption. It also recognises that there are a minority of unions- very fewwhose position is not clearly covered or encompassed by the section about which we are talking now. Therefore in the case of those particular unions there has to be some sensible way of resolving the problem. The section ensures that there will be some property and funds within each State. This is a requirement that a State tribunal or government would insist on before it would ever give a new non-corporate registration. Otherwise it gives away its right to enforce the decisions of the court and to impose fines where fines can be imposed. Associated bodies could not sue or be sued. If that happened none of their property could be acquired if they were not incorporated. This is the reason the bond has been proposed.
– We will come to that in a minute.
-We come to it now. Does the honourable member wish to skip over it now? This is crucial. It is tied up with the whole question of the bond. Once you give up your corporate status with the State industrial tribunalbecause of that fact- the right to sue is lost. We must have something in its place. That is why the reference to a bond later appears. This is on page 52. Sub-section 5 gives the Registrar power to exempt partially as well as wholly. It uses the words: ‘Exemption from the section or any provision of this section’. In some cases it may well be that there are no branches of an organisation so exemption would then of course apply. I hope the Committee will adopt this sensible provision. It is one that is absolutely crucial to the question of resolving these minority cases of unions whose property position is not fully covered by the section as it is drafted.
– The Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) seems to be becoming sensitive in his second youth. The proposal that was put by the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) has real merit behind it. I think if the Minister, taking him at his face value, really wishes to preserve some rights for State branches he will look at the suggestion very closely indeed. I hope to see the amendment moved when this Bill is being dealt with in the Senate. There is another point I think might well be worth making here. Maybe it is an alternative to the proposal put by the honourable member for Lilley. If the Australian Registrar is to have this power which really allows the protection in the funding proposals of Mr Justice Sweeney to be overridden at the discretion of the Registrar, an alternative approach could well be for an appeal to be allowed to the appropriate tribunal concerning the Registrar’s decision. There is no appeal in this particular matter and property and many things can be involved in the exercise of the Registrar’s power.
– Are you suggesting the appeal should go to the Commission or to the court?
– I would have thought it ought to go to the court. I am suggesting to the Minister an alternative approach to the particular problem that has been brought to light by the honourable member for Lilley.
The Minister mentioned the question of the bond. Whether this is the appropriate time to debate it or whether it should be debated in relation to clause 7 which amends section 136 A, I am not too sure. Let me say here only that there is all the difference in the world between getting the incorporated body, the Federal union, to sign a bond and lodge it with the registrar and have a situation in which -
– What has that got to do with you? That is the business of the unions, surely.
– It happens to be quite critical to the operation of this whole proposal. The procedures of Mr Justice Sweeney for non-incorporated registration would fall down entirely, as the Minister has admitted, if the trade union movement is not prepared to accept this. This is one of the reasons we felt it reasonable to suggest there should be delay until the House could be informed of the decision of the trade ‘union movement and the unions that might be intimately involved in this matter. We would be better able to know whether this legislation would then have effect or whether the House, the Minister and Mr Justice Sweeney have been wasting their time.
The point I was seeking to make before the interjection was that there is all the difference in the world between a bond which a Federal body of the union must voluntarily lodge with the Registrar. It is ambiguous from Mr Justice Sweeney’s statement, whether he was referring to a State registrar or a Federal registrar. I took it to be the Federal Registrar because I thought it would have to be the incorporated body and not the unincorporated State branch which would have to sign the bond. This is a voluntary act and a situation in which registration and all the advantages of registration flow out of registration. As a consequence of registration a State branch as at present is incorporated. The reactions that I have had from a number of unions would indicate that there is all the difference in the world between trade union approach in these particular matters. The Minister himself referred to a conversation which I thought was a private conversation, but he chose to make it not so. Any part of it that touched this question did not give me any cause for confidence that my fears in this area are groundless.
That being so, it is an additional argument for the delay which the Minister has refused. It ought to be noted that while the Minister politicised when summing up the second reading stage of the debate, nobody on this side of the House did. We were trying objectively to debate an intricate and detailed matter. We were trying objectively to help the Minister reach a sensible conclusion. But I would also suggest in relation to clause 5 of the Bill that while the proposals seem reasonably clear the way Mr Justice Sweeney has drafted them, and while in reading the clause it might appear that there will therefore be no problems, it is my understanding that the federally incorporated body is the only one that can in fact own property and that there could well be, as opposed to having a fund under the -
– Well, having the State fund is not the same as owning property.
– Yes, it is.
-The Minister whispers: ‘Yes, it is.’ But I would suggest that there could be a very real difference. But that is a legal question. There is the practical question concerning the division of property or assets that might be owned by a State branch or jointly. How is that to be divided if a State incorporated union and the Federal branch are both occupying the same building? If the rules of unions are in as bad shape as the Minister himself has indicated, I think it might be a very difficult practical problem and a difficult legal problem involving a great deal of friction to determine who actually is the present owner. Thus there will be a situation in which a great deal of friction will be involved in the working out of the funding proposals, determining what should be in the Federal fund and what should be in the State fund. That again is just an argument for letting the unions know what is involved in this particular matter- a quite massive task of rewriting the rules which is beyond anything that has ever touched the union movement since the Conciliation and Arbitration Act was first introduced. It is worth noting that in his remarks on this clause the Minister himself pointed to the ignorance of the union movement in a large number of areas related to these subjects. That would seem to deny the proposition that he was putting earlier, that the trade union movement had been fully consulted.
– The rules are in bad shape, as the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) says. That is why this Bill seeks to remedy many of the problems that he has talked about by allowing for the union rules to be validated subject to the Industrial Registrar being satisfied that they are not undemocratic or contrary to the law or contrary to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act in any other way. That is one of the good things that the legislation provides. It does validate the rules. But the rules are in bad shape now- I want the Committee to accept this fact- and amendments are necessary to be made to existing rules to give effect to the provisions of this Bill. For example, proposed amendment to section 140 of the Act will require union rules to provide for local autonomy of branches. That requires a relatively simple rule alteration. There are some other consequential rule alterations that will need to be made about the establishment of a Federal fund and a State fund and the control of property and these kinds of things. But the amount of work involved in altering rules to comply with this legislation is infinitesimal compared with the work required in rule alterations that will need to be made if this Bill is not passed and someone decides to go behind the registration certificate-
– That is not in dispute.
-No, but a very great amount of work will need to be done if this legislation is not passed, to alter rules that will be invalid if someone goes behind the Registrar’s certificate to see whether the body that made the rule or passed the resolution was a properly constituted body. This legislation remedies all of that problem. The other thing that the Committee must remember is that the unions have a year from the time the Bill receives the royal assent in which to get their rules in order. They can have the assistance of the Registrar in bringing the rules into order. The Registrar has never been backward in giving unions assistance in bringing their rules into line with amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act.
– He has been very helpful.
– The Registrars have been very helpful, as the honourable member for Macquarie points out, and they will continue to be helpful to unions in this regard. If the unions cannot get their rules in order within the year that is allowed under the Bill the Registrar still has power to give a further extension of time to them in order that they might do so.
I want to talk about the right of appeal which the honourable gentleman raised. A right of appeal against decisions of the Registrar is now in the Act. I refer to section 88f of the Act which states: 88f- (1) The Commission may grant leave to appeal to the Commission from an act or decision of the Registrar in relation to a matter and may hear and determine an appeal in respect of which leave is so granted.
This is why I interjected when the honourable gentleman was speaking a moment ago to ask whether he intended that the appeal be to the Commission or to the Court. He answered by saying that an appeal should be to the Court. I very much doubt whether that would be legally possible. The learned and honourable gentleman sitting alongside the honourable member for Wannon, the honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Ellicott), would be able to say instantly whether a judicial body has the right to hear an appeal from what is an administrative act by the Registrar. I would think not. Being a layman I could not be dogmatic about it but I would think that the reason that the Act at the moment provides for an appeal to the Commission against decisions of the Registrar rather than to the industrial court was not an accidental piece of draftsmanship. It was drafted, I think, back in perhaps 1956.
– But in this case a Registrar is- being given powers that a Registrar has not had before. I think that might well alter the character of it. It was put to the Minister only for examination. We do not want instant decisions on this matter.
-Sure. I am not giving instant decisions. I am just saying that no matter what new powers are given to the Registrar, section 88F of the existing Act always takes care of whatever powers the Registrar has because it is so broadly drawn that it is wide enough- it has an omnibus effect- to take in any exercise of power by the Registrar. However, I shall certainly look at the points that the honourable gentleman raises. I shall see that they are examined by our legal people. I will certainly be prepared to look at the point raised by the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns). But if it is the right of appeal with which the honourable member is principally concerned, the right of appeal is already enshrined in section 88F of the present Act.
– The proposal of the honourable member for Lilley, I would have thought, is more important.
-Yes. I agree with the honourable member that it is more important than the right of appeal because the right of appeal is there now, but I will have the matter checked.
-I think we ought immediately to expose one of the statements by the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) which he made in discussing this clause, clause S. He repeatedly said that this clause will validate certain situations within organisations and unions in Australia. He particularly referred to the situation of the Australian Workers Union as a Federal organisation and the Australian Workers Union as a State union in New South Wales. As I understood what he was saying, he was proposing that by virtue of this legislation where there previously had been ownership of property by the State union which had been thought to be the property of the Federal union, this legislation would validate the situation. Of course it will do nothing of the sort. It cannot be done simply by a Bill providing that the rules of an organisation must provide for branch funds of a federal organisation. That does not mean to say, for example, that the Australian Workers Union as a Federal organisation can immediately claim the property of the State Australian Workers Union. Before the property of the State union could become the property of the Federal union, agreement would have to be reached on the part of the State union to transfer the funds to the Federal union. Having some knowledge- perhaps minute compared with that of the Minister for Labor and Immigration who is at the table- of the affairs of the Australian Workers Union and the battle that has gone on over the years between those 2 legal entities, I could not see the State union readily agreeing to transfer its funds to the Federal union; nor would the State union agree to allow itself to be absorbed into the Federal union. The reason for that statement is that regrettably there is some antipathy between the State and Federal bodies, the officials of the State union for some reason having a fight with the officials of the Federal union.
That argument really points up the fallacy behind this whole legislation. It cannot rectify overnight the situation where a group of workers and a group of unions desire to form themselves into a State union and to maintain themselves as an autonomous body, not part of the Federal organisation. Even if this Bill is passed, the Federal organisation could not immediately take over the State union. So, how in that kind of situation is there to be an amelioration of the present position within the AWU in New South Wales? How will there be an amelioration of the situation between the State registered union of the Transport
Workers Union and the Federal Transport Workers Union? That can occur only when both organisations agree that one should be absorbed in the other. Until that agreement is reached, whatever law is passed will mean nothing. It can bring about no result whatsoever. We can still have the 2 organisations fighting each other as much as they fought each other in the past. We can still have demarcation disputes or, as they ought to be referred to in more practical terms, inter-union rivalry between 2 groups of workers following the same calling but not wanting to be part of the same association. I use ‘association’ in the sense in the one term as a union or in the other term as an organisation.
So, please do not try to justify your legislation, Mr Minister, by saying that this Bill will validate a situation which is presently legally uncertain. It will not. Whilst the Minister clouds the issue in that way, he adds nothing to the cause of solving the problem which has been thrown up by the case of Moore and Doyle. This brings me back to the point that I made earlier in my second reading speech: Nothing can be solved except by the workers themselves. Only when they all want to be part of the one organisation can we avoid the kind of situation which was brought to a head by Moore and Doyle. This legislation will not in itself solve that. It may provide a means or a mechanism if the groups of workers separately want to come together. But the point I make is that clause 5 will not by its own force validate an invalid situation as has existed in the past; nor will it cause property which is presently the property of a State union to be automatically the property of a Federal union. Something else must happen.
As I have said, agreement will be required between what are presently 2 separate legal entities and which will continue to be 2 separate legal entities notwithstanding the legislation, to come together one to be absorbed in the other so as to form one organisation. Until that happens, although the registrar might require an organisation to provide for a branch fund or might exempt a Federal organisation from altering its rules so as to establish a branch fund, there will not be a solution to the practical situation which presently exists and will continue to exist notwithstanding the passage of this legislation.
– I agree with everything that the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Viner) has said. Nothing that I have said so far has suggested that this Bill will remedy any property disputes. I have not said that at all. I have said that it will validate rules of the organisation with the exception- and the honourable gentleman was clever enough to seize on this- of the only rule that I know of in any union rule book which sets out or purports to decide who owns property. Whether the rule was carried validly or not- it turns out that in that instance it was not a valid rule because strangers were present when the decision was taken- and even if it could be shown that the body which made that rule was properly constituted, the rule would still have to stand the test of the laws of equity and it would need to go through the fires of common law action to determine the facts. Property just cannot be taken from somebody and given to somebody else by passing a rule, even if that rule is made by a properly constituted body.
The honourable gentleman is perfectly correct in saying that this piece of legislation cannot alter existing property rights, whatever they may be. If in fact it is the State branch of a Federal union which owns a property, nothing that this Bill can do will alter the ownership of that property. Nothing that this Bill can do will alter the ownership of property that is in fact held by the Federal body and of which the States may claim to be the owners.
Mention is made of the Australian Workers Union. It is as good a union as any to take as an example or on which to illustrate’ a point. Let us say that the State AWU as registered in the Queensland industrial system is not defunct. That is by no means certain. That union may be defunct. One could put up a very good case to say that there is no State AWU registered in Queensland at all or that it is not properly registered. What we have in Queensland is a State branch of the Federal union purporting to cover people like hairdressers, truck drivers and liquor trades employees by virtue of what purports to be a still valid registration in the State industrial field. Therefore, what we might have in Queensland is approximately 45,000 members of a State branch of a Federal union and, of that membership, a little more than one’third are validly entitled to belong to the Federal union.
– It is valid and they are entitled to belong to the State union.
– I do not disagree with the honourable gentleman. But I am saying that there may be no State union. My preamble is that if in fact there is no legally registered State union, what we have in Queensland, if we have anything at all, is a Queensland branch of a Federal union which has the right to cover cane cutters, construction workers and shearers, to mention the 3 main groups of members in the union concerned that it has the right to cover federally. But the union does not have a federal award to cover cane cutters or construction workers. It does not have a Federal award in Queensland to cover shearers. So, what we have is’ the State branch of a Federal union, to which some persons have been paying money without any right to union membership. Those from whom the money has been taken have the right to become members of the federal union, but there is no federal award to cover them. Unless the State union is a viable body and is a living thing right now, those people who think that they are covered by a State award of the Queensland industrial court that applies to the Australian Workers Union of Employees, Queensland are not covered at all. They are not members of the State union, because it is defunct. They are members of the Federal union, but there is no Federal award applying to them.
That is the confused situation that we have got into over the Moore v. Doyle matter. I believe that if the Queensland State AWU is in fact a living State organisation now with its properly elected officers and with its membership in accordance with its registered constitution and eligibility rule, then it follows that Bowman Building and Dunstan House and all of the property in Queensland held in the name of the AWU in that State is the property of the State union, not the property of the federal union. This is true equally of the property held in the name of the State branch of the AWU in Western Australia and the State branch of the AWU in South Australia. But nothing we can say and nothing we can do in this place can finally determine who owns what. It can be finally resolved only by the State union and the organisation reaching agreement as to which body owns what, settling it by a form of amalgamation, and the amalgamation terms would have to be laid out and eventually approved by the Registrar upon amalgamation. Unless and until this is done no one will know short of going through expensive litigation, who in fact owns what property, where the lines between -
– This will not solve that problem.
-Of course you are right. It will not solve .the ownership of property and I have never said that it would. All I have said is that this legislation will enable the bodies concerned to reach agreement as to who owns what.
– They can do it without this legislation.
-They cannot, because there is no provision now for a State body to amalgamate with the federal organisation and thus retain the right to use the facilities of the State Industrial Commission for obtaining State awards. This Bill enables that to be done, that is all. It is quite simple, really.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 6 (Incorporation of organisation).
– If I may enter into this fascinating debate, I notice that if one looks at Schedule C to the report of Mr Justice Sweeney this amendment is not suggested. In other words, this is an amendment which has come in, possibly at the suggestion of the Minister or his Department or maybe at the suggestion of the draftsman. Section 136, which this purports to amend, is a very important section because it says that:
Every organisation registered under this Act shall for the purposes of this Act have perpetual succession and a common seal, and may purchase take on lease hold sell lease mortgage exchange and otherwise own possess and deal with any real or personal property.
This is the provision which gives the organisation a corporate character; this is the provision which gives it perpetual succession; this is the provision which enables it to own property.
Harking back to what has just been said, it is not true to say that the federal body would own property under this purported amendment section 133 A, or that the branch would own property. The fact is that the federal organisation, even under the amendment, would own the property. It would remain the property of the federal body. In other words, the fact is that there would be 2 funds set up, or maybe 7 funds- 6 State funds and the federal fund- and they would be managed and controlled in accordance with different rules. They would be kept separately, but the ownership of the property under section 136 would of course remain in the federal organisation. The words ‘for the purposes of this Act’ are very important because, if we go back into the institutional history, we know that in the Jumbunna case, and the Minister will recall that, the High Court said that incidental to the industrial power organisations of employers and employees could be established. Of course, the Act which does this is the Act we are now dealing with and it was for the purposes of conciliation and arbitration under this Act that the High Court said these organisations could be formed. Therefore these words ‘for the purposes of this Act’ are very important. It may be that the only purpose for which an organisation can be formed constitutionally is for the purpose of this Act.
I wonder why these words are being taken out. They may underline the lack of constitutionality in the provisions which the Government is seeking to put into the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. For my own part I would suggest to the Minister, although we have passed by the clause, that he should give further consideration to clause 2, which provides that the Act shall come into operation on the day on which it receives the royal assent. As the debate has just indicated, we know that the provisions of this Act by and large may not be of much importance if they are not underpinned either by the support of the unions or by complementary legislation on the part of the States. If this legislation is to go on to the statute book then I would suggest to the Minister that it is very important that the legislation does not turn out to be of no practical use because it does not get any support. It is very important that these words stay in for the time being so that any doubt as to the constitutionality of section 136 should not be cast on that section. The way to do that, of course, would be to provide that this Act shall come into operation on a day to be proclaimed, the usual sort of alternative provision.
It may be that the Minister has a reason for taking out the words; it may be that he could not press this amendment to the Act, but I do suggest to him that because of the history of the constitutional interpretation of the industrial power those words are tremendously important and to omit them could lead to the invalidity of section 136 and therefore of a very significant section. Naturally, the Minister would not want to do that. I do not want to suggest grave doubts, but there is no reason to put anything in doubt or feed the lawyers any more than they are already fed, and there will be nobody quicker than the Minister to agree with me on that point.
– The proposed amendment to section 136, the proposed section 136A(1) and the proposed amendment to section 146 are designed to make clear that a federal organisation may have as one of its purposes participation in State industrial arbitration systems. This was dealt with at pages 9 to 13 of the Sweeney report, particularly in paragraph 15 at page 12. The Committee will note that in that report the very first recommendation of schedule C, which relates to draft amendments to the Act, says:
Section 136 of the principal Act is amended by omitting the words ‘ for the purposes of this Act ‘.
The honourable and learned gentleman is right in referring to the Jumbunna case in which some mention was made of this- the phrases ‘for the purposes of this Act’ in section 136 and ‘for the purpose of this Act’ in section 146. In that case, Mr Justice O’Connor said of section 58, the predecessor to section 136:
Section 58 adopts a somewhat unusual form of limiting the powers conferred upon the organisation as a corporation but there can be no doubt as to its meaning. It does create a corporation but a power strictly limited to the purposes of the Act.
But on the other hand- this is what we must feel more bound to follow- in the more recent case- of Williams v Hursey- in the judgment of Fullagar J. it was said: … the words ‘for the purposes of the Act’ cannot be given any effect by way of qualification of the personification. The notion of qualified legal capacity is intelligible but the notion of qualified legal personality is not.
I suggest that the reason the learned judge saw fit to recommend the deletion of those words is well based. It is a proposition which has the support of the Australian Council of Employers Federations. Mr Polites believes that those words have been meaningless since the Jumbunna case. The honourable member for Wentworth has rather relied upon that case to say that they are meaningful. The view of the people who are advising Mr Polites is the same as the view which the Government has had given to it. It is the view which His Honour Mr Justice Sweeney holds closely to and which Mr McGarvie Q.C. also subscribes to, that once one envisages the federal organisations becoming involved via their branches in the activities of State industrial procedures, then to say that incorporation is valid only for the purposes of this Act when one may in point of fact find a need for incorporation to apply to the operation of some other Act is, I dunk, more to the point. I am not a lawyer, as is the honourable member for Wentworth. Therefore I take very seriously anything that he says. He is a gentleman who has a very distinguished record in the law, having been Solicitor-General for the Commonwealth for many years, and a very distinguished one at that. I do not lightly brush aside what the honourable gentleman says. We will look at it again and if it is found that there is substance in what the honourable gentleman has said, of course we will be prepared to introduce amendments in the other place. But I am certainly not going to attempt to cross swords with the honourable gentleman on matters of law. I ask the Committee to pass the clause, giving the assurance that we will look at it in the meantime.
– I only want to underline one point made by my colleague the honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Ellicott), that is, that as a result of section 136 it is the federal incorporated body that owns property, and that under the arrangements of Mr Justice Sweeney the State branch would not be able to own property.
– I am sorry to be continually getting up and down in my place but this is a Bill which ought to be understood. That is not true. The State branches can own property. Indeed, the State organisation as registered can in fact enter into the bond in its own right because it can own property.
– It can control property but not own property. I think that we should recognise the distinction.
-Whether it is owned or controlled is only technical. I do not mind who owns it.
– I agree with you that they can control property under the funding proposals but they cannot own property.
– I do not concede that they cannot. In fact, I insist that they could. They have their own funds and they can invest their branch funds in whatever way they choose, whether it is in property or something else. But I am not going to waste the time of the Committee arguing about the highly technical point of whether it is controlled or owned because that is not fundamental or basic to the legislation.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 7 (Participation of organisations in State systems).
-In looking at clause 7, which seeks to add a new section 136A to the principal Act, I am extremely puzzled why the Bill will enable an organisation to exclude from a branch the opportunity to become registered within a State jurisdiction. That is what proposed section 136A will do. It will do that because it says ‘Where it is not contrary to the rules of an organisation to do so’ it may participate in the systems of conciliation and arbitration of the States, whether it be by way of a wages board or a system of conciliation and arbitration through a registered union. So that means that a federal organisation may, by its rules, provide that a branch in a State may not participate in the industrial jurisdiction of that State, and therefore the State branch must participate in a federal award. That seems to me to be the very antithesis of what has been said before is the purpose of this Bill, that is, to allow an unincorporated branch of a federal organisation to obtain registration in a State jurisdiction and thereby a State award. The very purpose of the Bill may be subverted by a federal organisation which does not want a State branch to participate in a State industrial jurisdiction.
Why should this provision be allowed to intrude into this legislation? It can be for one of two reasons, either that the Minister for Labor and Immigration, (Mr Clyde Cameron) does not know what the Bill provides for in its legal implications or it is being deliberately inserted to enable a federal organisation to exclude from its branches the opportunity to participate within a State industrial jurisdiction. If it is the latter, of course it is a very serious matter because the justification that has been given for the Bill is by its very terms denied. It is equally serious if the Minister has not understood the legal implications of the very Bill which he has introduced because the Minister would know very well from his ample knowledge of the legal operation of the rules of an organisation that the rules control everything. They are subject to the law certainly- the Conciliation and Arbitration Act- but the rules control all else because what the rules provide for also permits the organisation to do. It is only what the rules provide that an organisation may do. If the rules deny to a State branch, by thenvery terms, the opportunity to participate in a State system, of course a State branch cannot participate in a State system as the branch of a federal organisation. Therefore the only way in which -
– I understand the point that the honourable member is making. Can I answer it?
-Wait a minute, Mr Minister. Therefore the only way in which the workers who form the State branch of a federal organisation may participate in a State system is by registering themselves as a State union. If that is the consequence- I believe it is and I think the Minister, from the way in which he has acknowledged my point, agrees with what I am saying- then all that this Bill seeks to achieve can be overturned. It will not achieve the very thing that it sets out to achieve.
– You have made your point. Sit down.
-If, as the Minister says, I have made my point, and I see that he agrees with me, what he ought to do is accede to an amendment to exclude from the clause those words which say ‘Where it is not contrary to the rules of an organisation to do so’ and insert in their place the provision that by the rules of an organisation a branch may participate in the system, and so on. Is the Minister prepared to consider an amendment to that effect if he acknowledges the point that I have made that this provision can deny everything that the Bill sets out to achieve?
– I will be brief in my remarks because, as the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) has said, time does pass and I think it would be advisable to debate a number of provisions, even if only briefly, to expose the various points and to get the Minister’s reaction.
– You have had a pretty fair go and done nothing about it.
– It would be a pity for the Leader of the House to spoil it. I hope that he will not break his record. I would like the Minister for Labor and Immigration to respond to two or three points in relation to clause 7. I would have thought that there might be some power for a Federal Act to provide for circumstances in which a body incorporated in the Federal jurisdiction can also act for certain purposes in another jurisdiction and that this might well be an application of Federal power. Again this is a point that might decide whether this legislation can succeed because this clause in effect is the linen pin to the total proposal- the nonincorporated registration in the States.
I would suggest also that the proposal for the secretary to be named as someone to sue or be sued could well pose some difficulties. I repeat the arguments that I put earlier about the assurances that we would have wished to have concerning the trade union movement’s willingness to enter into the necessary bond that would give validity and possibility to this provision. I have very serious doubts as to whether it will have practical effect for those purposes.
– If the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) looks at the rules of any organisation that has branches registered in a State he will see that the rules of unions already provide that the secretary shall be the person who is authorised to sue or to be sued. That is what is in the rules now. The rules of every union say that the Federal secretary is the person who may sue or be sued in the name of the organisation and that the branch secretary is the person who may sue or be sued in the name of the branch. That does not alter anything. That is what happens now.
Clause 7 is necessary because we have to remember that since the branch of an organisation will not be a separate legal entity it cannot be sued in its own name. This provision takes account of the possibility that complementary State legislation may recognise only a State branch of the Federal organisation for the purposes of the State industrial arbitration machinery and may require provision for the taking of legal proceedings by or against the branch as distinct from the organisation.
I invite the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Viner) to turn his attention to clause 9 of the Bin which seeks to give protection against a Federal organisation preventing members exercising their rights within a State industrial system. There are some unions like the Waterside Workers Federation which for reasons that would be obvious to anyone who understands the industry do not operate and would see no point or future in operating in the State systems. In the 1940s the Federation did make an application to the South Australian Industrial Court for a State award to cover waterside workers employed by the Broken Hill Pry Co. Ltd at Whyalla. But apart from that one single occasion when the Waterside Workers Federation sought to enter the State industrial system that union has never sought to take such action. They have kept out of the State systems. I would imagine that they would continue to adopt this attitude. But the fears that the honourable gentleman has are well safeguarded by clause 9 of the Bill. I hope that the Committee will pass the clause.
Clause agreed to.
– The question now is that clause 8 be agreed to.
- Mr Chairman there was a proposal- I think the Minister and the Leader of the House would be involved- that clauses 8 to 14 be taken together and that clauses IS and 16 be taken together. This would give 2 more groupings of clauses on which we could try to expose points.
– Is it the wish of the Committee to take clauses 8 to 14 together? There being no objection, I will allow this course to be followed
Clauses 8 to 14- by leave taken together.
– The proposed sub-sections (5) and (6) in clause 8 are important because they give to the
Commonwealth Registrar power in relation to the rules of organisations. In certain circumstances the proposed sub-sections require the Registrar to consult with the States, but it is only a question of consultation and the State Registrar really would have no power in relation to these matters. An enormous amount would depend on the way in which these things were undertaken and a great deal will depend on whether the rules in each branch of a union have to be identical or whether there can be differing rules between the State branches of the same union to allow for differing membership between the States. If the second alternative cannot be pursued the amount of industrial turmoil that would result from the passage of this BUI and its implementation would be quite enormous. I understand that the Leader of the House may wish to adjourn this debate. Is that correct?
– I have not decided yet. I might.
-Under clause 9, which seeks to amend section 140 of the principal Act, provision is made for the autonomy of a branch in matters affecting the members of a branch only. I referred to this part of the legislation in the second reading debate this afternoon. I believe that we would be helped if we could have from the Minister some indication of the circumstances which would affect the members of a branch only. Many things these days flow across from one State to another. Will the Minister tell us what is the area of autonomy that will be provided? I would have thought that matters which affect only- the critical word is ‘only’- a State branch would be very limited indeed.
The other clause to which I would like to refer is clause 11 which seeks to insert new section 142 A giving the Commission power to demark between unions. This afternoon I referred to an opinion of the Chief Justice which casts some doubt on this clause. I would suggest also that whether or not the States pass complementary legislation there is a high probability that this clause would stand by itself and be effective. If that is so, this is again something which requires consultation with the trade union movement because if it were used in the wong way, if it were used in the spirit that the membership of unions State by State had to be as nearly the same as possible, if not identical in relation to the trades, callings and jobs which they were representing, clearly the exercise of powers under proposed section 142A coupled with the exercise of the additional powers given to the Registrar in relation to the rules of organisations could lead to a situation in which some unions would have their present position completely decimated. I would hope that this is not so. The Minister did show some of his old spirit when he was referring to his old union earlier this afternoon. I think that it would need some reassurance that these powers could not be twisted against it.
The question of whether proposed section 142A prevails and whether there will be complementary State legislation are matters of great importance. I hope that the Minister would not only give an explanation as to their use as he sees it but also that he will have in mind it is the law that counts and not the Minister’s interpretation of it. At the same time I believe that the arguments adduced in these areas reinforce the general arguments for consultation with the trade union movement, with the patient which is the subject of the debate tonight. Quite plainly the fact that consultations were held with the Australian Council of Trade Unions a short while ago is not a substitute for the trade union movement itself understanding what is to happen in relation to this matter. I would wonder how many of the trade unions affiliated with the ACTU have seen a Bill, a copy of the report or know what any part of it is about.
-I refer to clause 14 of the Bill by which it is proposed to amend section 147 of the principal Act. The burden of my interest is related to the previous case which I put to the Minister for Labor and Immigration. Earlier the Minister made it quite clear when he referred to clause 9 of the amending legislation that he was concerned that some authority and some autonomy be retained in a branch of an organisation. Clause 9 reads in part: . . . shall be such as to provide for the autonomy of a branch in matters affecting members of the branch only and matters concerning the participation of the branch in any State industrial conciliation and arbitration system.
That was a flag within the Minister’s concern to ensure that there was some autonomy. When I look at clause 14 1 am concerned in the same way that the State authorities should have some significant power in respect of jurisdiction. Clause 14 (2) of the Bill proposes that the jurisdiction of the Court under sections 140, 141 and 144- the famous sections- and Part IX is exclusive of the jurisdiction, or any similar jurisdiction, of a State industrial authority. That seems to take away almost any significant power which a State industrial authority would have because those sections of the Act which would be excluded from State jurisdiction cover such things as the disallowance of rules, the performance of rules, applications for membership and disputed elections. I merely ask the Minister to consider proposing an amendment to this effect: On the assumption that there is only one organisation involved, if a member has made application to the State authority he should be enabled to go through with the application in the State jurisdiction. In other words, if at the same time an application was made to the Federal court it would not displace the application to the State court.
So the type of amendment which I would hope that the Minister would consider between now and when the debate takes place elsewhere would be an amendment to replace proposed new section 147 (2) with this kind of proposition: Once proceedings in matters in which the court has jurisdiction under sections 140, 141, 144 and Part IX- that is the 4 sections to which the present clause refers- and to which an organisation is a party have been commenced in a State tribunal of competent jurisdiction by a member of that organisation the State tribunal shall have exclusive jurisdiction in these proceedings. In other words, in a sense it may be a case of first in best dressed. This would guarantee that once a member has commenced proceedings in the State tribunal they will not be displaced because there is jurisdiction elsewhere. In other words, to take away from the State authority any competency in those areas is to take almost everything from it. I suggest that the Minister, in those matters where proceedings have been first commenced in a State jurisdiction which has competency, may consider leaving competency in those areas and not permit them to be displaced. I ask the Minister to consider that proposition.
– I refer to clause 1 1 which seeks to include section 142 a in the Act. The Minister will know that that was not one of the provisions which was included in the Sweeney report. Therefore, I ask the Minister why this clause has been included in the Bill. It is a provision which, unlike other provisions, operates of its own force and does not require any pre-conditions to occur for it to come into operation. That is to say, proposed new section 136a, for instance, requires, as has already been pointed out, certain action on the part of unions and certain action on the part of States to give the ground for the implementation of that section. On the other hand, proposed new section 142a, as I say, operates of its own force. I would like to know from the Minister whether it is intended that that provision should operate before the other procedure comes into operation to implement the Sweeney report. If not, might the
Minister not consider that proposed new section 142a and its operation should depend upon the same conditions that bring the other sections into operation. This could be achieved by an amendment to clause 2-1 come back to it- to make the whole of the provisions come into operation on a date to be fixed by proclamation so that after the Bill becomes an Act the consultations can take place with the States, the unions can get thenrules in order and the whole matter can then proceed. We can then have the High Court constitutional challenge after all that is done.
-As we are now dealing collectively with a number of clauses I shall deal quickly with some of those that I think require an explanation by the Minister for Labor and Immigration because they refer not only to serious legal questions but also to serious practical consequences for the unions who must participate within this jurisdiction. I refer firstly to clause 9 which seeks to amend section 140 of the principal Act which has already been referred to by the Minister. In replying to my earlier comments on clause 7 the Minister referred to clause 9 which requires the rules of an organisation to provide for the autonomy of the branch. The point I make to the Minister is this: Either clause 9 is inconsistent with clause 7- because you cannot have the rules of an organisation requiring that a branch may not participate in a State jurisdiction and at the same time have the rules requiring that there be autonomy and providing for matters concerning such participation- or clause 7 overrides clause 9 in the sense that immediately the rules of an organisation do not permit a branch of the organisation to participate in State jurisdiction, the rules, of course, cannot provide for autonomy and participation. So there is either a direct inconsistency or clause 7 overrules clause 9. 1 ask the Minister which of those situations applies. If he does not know, would he please find out?
I also would like to refer to clause 1 1 which proposes new section 142a. The effect of this clause is to enable the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to grant exclusive representation to one organisation over another. This has immediate practical consequences in a situation where 2 federal organisations have concurrent constitutional coverage over the same class of workers thereby enabling each organisation in its own right to apply for an award in respect of those workers. But by virtue of proposed new section 142 a power is to be given to the Commission to say that only one of those 2 organisations may have the right to obtain an award. I ask the Minister Is this the practical consequence that is intended by this provision? I cannot think that that is what he intends. I would not think that any union would agree to such a contention because in a situation where 2 unions have concurrent constitutional coverage over the same calling of workers or within the same industry each is entitled to obtain an award in respect of its own members. But by virtue of this proposed amendment, one of those unions would deny the right to represent its own members.
Thirdly, I would like also to refer to clause 14 of the Bill. The direct purpose of this amendment is to exclude State jurisdictions from exercising any power in the matters presently dealt with by sections 140, 141 and 144 of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. Because of the limitation of time upon us in this Committee debate, I will deal very briefly with those sections. Firstly section 141 deals with directions that may be given by the Australian Industrial Court for the carrying out of rules by the organisation. Secondly, section 140 prescribes the’ rules which must be inserted in the rules of an organisation. Thirdly, section 144 deals with certain entitlements to membership by workers who wish to be members of an organisation.
So the intent of this amendment is to prevent the State jurisdiction, in a case where the branch of a Federal organisation wishes to be registered in the State jurisdiction, from passing judgment in those areas. For example, where a Federal organisation wishes to register the Western Australian branch of that organisation in the Industrial Commission of Western Australia, the Western Australian Commission is denied the opportunity of passing judgment on the rules of the branch within the State where the jurisdiction is to be exercised and where the workers within the State may join the union. This amendment also denies to the State Industrial Commission the opportunity of requiring, for example, democracy to apply to the rules of the branch in that State. It also denies to the State jurisdiction the opportunity of declaring that a particular worker is entitled within Western Australia to join the Western Australian branch of the Federal organisations. I really cannot understand why, if a branch of the Federal organisation is to be given the right to register in the State jurisdiction, a State jurisdiction should be denied the opportunity of acting in these areas.
Neither in the second reading speech of the Minister for Labor and Immigration nor in anything we have heard in this Committee debate has the Minister justified the grant of exclusive jurisdiction to the Federal organisation in these fields. There being such silence from the Minister and having regard to the obvious intention of the legislation, I am rather fortified in the view that I expressed earlier in the second reading debate on this Bill that the intent is to concentrate power in Federal . organisations and in the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to the exclusion of State jurisdictions, and to the prejudice of the opportunity for workers in a State to have that degree of democratic say in their affairs which they presently have under the State jurisdictions by which they now operate. So in the absence of any justification for that exclusive jurisdiction being given to the Commonwealth, I think either we need an answer from the Minister or the Bill needs amending in the way that has been proposed by the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns).
Clauses agreed to.
Remainder of Bill- by leave- taken as a whole.
– I have only 2 points to raise. One concerns the amalgamation of organisations. I think the word ‘amalgamation’ is somewhat misleading, because in the political and industrial relations sense it has come to have a quite different meaning. Of course, in the Bill it means basically the amalgamation of like bodies whose membership is principally the same and whose office bearers in most cases probably are or purport to be the same. If there is certain doubt about the validity of certain organisations how can an invalid organisation, which in fact does not exist, amalgamate with another organisation? I am not putting that to be vexatious but just to ask the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) for an answer to the question. The other question I would like to ask him is in relation to the validation provisions set out in proposed new section 171B. (3) (d). It states: an invalidity . . . ‘ shall not be treated as discovered before the earliest time proved to be a time when the existence of the invalidity was known to a majority of the members of the committee of management of the branch or to a majority of the persons purporting to act as that committee of management;
Iwould have thought that that was quite an impossible thing to prove in a court of law. If this provision is passed as it is it would mean that in technical and legal terms the invalidity could in fact never be discovered. Does the Minister really think this is a wise and sensible way of putting it? I would be grateful if he would answer those 2 questions.
Motion (by Mr Daly) agreed to:
That the question be now put.
Remainder of the Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Motion (by Mr Clyde Cameron) proposed:
That the Bill be now read a third time.
-Mr Speaker, in view of the fact that we were not allowed to speak-
Motion (by Mr Daly) proposed:
That the question be now put.
– This is an outrage.
-Order! There will be no debate on the question.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Debate resumed from 19 September on motion by Mr Crean:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
- Mr Speaker, may I have the indulgence of the House to raise a point of procedure on this legislation. Before the debate is resumed on this Bill I should like to suggest that it may suit the convenience of the House to have a general debate covering this Bill and the Papua New Guinea Loans Guarantee Bill 1974 as they are related matters. 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 debate both Bills together? There being no objection, I shall allow that course to be followed.
-The Opposition Parties support both Bills which are before the House. The Papua New Guinea Loans Guarantee Bill 1974 seeks parliamentary approval for the provision of contractual guarantees by the Australian Government for overseas, foreign currency borrowings of the Papua New Guinea Government, made prior to the date of independence in 1974-1975. The guarantee is to be extended for loans not exceeding a total commitment of $A20m. Under the purposes of the Bill, the loan funds so guaranteed will be used specifically for the financing of public works and services as yet to be determined by the Papua New Guinea Government.
Precedence for this Bill exists under legislation passed in the first instance during the 1972-73 financial year, for a loan of 50 million Deutsche mark. Subsequent loans, amounting to 5 billion yen and 50 million Swiss francs, have also been guaranteed by the Australian Government, in the ensuing period, under legislation similar to that which is now before the House.
The Opposition Parties fully support the Government in the passage of this enabling legislation, which we view to be of particularly high priority, given the imminence of Papua New Guinea independence.
It is appropriate that the Australian Government should assist Papua New Guinea in the task of capital mobilisation, which of course, has been made even more difficult by the highly illiquid state of world capital markets at the present time. The Western world is suffering a crisis of insufficient liquidity unprecedented in modern history. The virtual trebling of oil costs and the intense pressure of cost-push inflation have induced severe monetary control measures, placing great stress on the capacity of major, traditional, capital markets to service loans. It is to be hoped that by underwriting Papua New Guinea’s current loan requirements, Australia can assist that country to achieve the most attractive terms available.
The Opposition Parties fully concur with the Government that this Bill should be suitably framed in general terms in respect of the currencies and the precise forms of the proposed borrowings. This will provide the latitude necessary for the Papua New Guinea Government to negotiate the loans required, in a manner that is consistent with that Government’s own assessment of its capital requirements and development policies. The Papua New Guinea Government has demonstrated a very high level of competence and responsibility in its domestic financial management. The Liberal and Country Parties believe that it is consistent with this high level of performance that the terms of the Bill should be discretionary and therefore not act as a constraint on the execution of the internal development policies of the Papua New Guinea Government.
Clearly that Government can benefit from the support of the Commonwealth Government of Australia in its loan market operations. Australia however is in the grip of a serious credit squeeze, which has significantly diminished the capacity of our capital market to meet existing Australian capital requirements. This shortage of liquidity is due to the massive rundown in the Australian balance of payments position, which has stemmed directly from this Labor Government’s external policies introduced last year. These have resulted in the import bill rising from $4, 120m to $6,085m between 1972-73 and 1973-74. The effect of this substantial capital outflow has been severely exacerbated by the virtual moratorium that the present Government has maintained on overseas borrowing since it assumed office. The continual drain on Australian liquidity has been maintained in the first quarter of the 1974-75 financial year. And despite the fact that it has been tempered, in part, by the impact of the recent devaluation, and the decline in domestic demand, it will continue to exert a heavy dampening influence on Australian capital markets until appropriate and fully effective policy action is taken. The difficulties of capital mobilisation within this country Will of course, influence the capacity of enterprises in the private sector of the Papua New Guinean economy to raise their capital requirements from Australia on favourable terms. Despite this, the Opposition Parties fully support the Papua New Guinea Loans Guarantee BUI 1974 and will assist its rapid passage through this Parliament.
The Papua New Guinea Loan (International Bank) BUI 1974 seeks parliamentary approval for the Australian Government to guarantee a US$1 0.8m borrowing by the Government of Papua New Guinea from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Although borrowings by the Government of Papua New Guinea are automatically guaranteed by Australia under the Papua New Guinea Act 1949-73, the International Bank requires a formal guarantee agreement for loan arrangements of this nature. The proceeds of the loan will assist in financing the operations of the Papua New Guinea Electricity Commission between 1974 and 1979. This legislation, as the Treasurer (Mr Crean) indicated, was preceded by 4 similar guarantees with respect to a telecommunications loan in 1968; a highways loan in 1970; the first hydro-electric project loan in 1971 and a second telecommunications project loan in 1 972.
As Minister Assisting the Treasurer in 1970- might I say here the halcyon years- I introduced a similar Bill on behalf of the former Liberal-Country Party Government. That Bill guaranteed the loan financing of a major highways project in the highlands of New Guinea. The project involved the realignment and construction of the South Wahgi Highway from Kindiawa to Mount Hagen and the Southern Highlands Highway from Mount Hagen to Mendi. The project also involved the detailed engineering for a new road from Madang to Kindiawa to provide a second access from the coast to the highlands.
The central importance of transport systems in the development of Papua New Guinea was clearly established in the recommendations of the 1963 Mission from the International Bank. The highland road development is in fact, as you would be well aware, Mr Speaker, providing a valuable stimulus both to regional and national economic growth. I believe that the development finance guaranteed in 1970 has proved to be a valuable form of assistance to the Government of Papua New Guinea.
The legislation before the House is designed to underwrite the Papua New Guinea Electricity Commission’s expansion of electricity distribution facilities and its in-service training scheme for indigenous staff. It also covers the shortfall of funds available from the 1971 loan for the Upper Ramu River Project. This project in the Eastern Highlands has been undertaken to supply electricity to Lae, Madang, Goroka and Mount Hagen. The recently published Papua New Guinea report indicated that the second stage of the project to supply various centres on the transmission network would be completed in 1975. The Commission’s objective of supplying cheap power to all parts of Papua New Guinea and of utilising the excess capacity of low cost generating plant installed for heavy industry is an important component of Papua New Guinea advancement. This is, of course, the type of financial assistance which is strongly endorsed by the Opposition Parties and, I am sure, this Parliament. I commend both Bills to the attention of the House.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Crean) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 2 October on motion by Mr Hayden:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave grantedfor third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Crean) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 15 October.
Proposed expenditure, $9,952,000.
-Table 22 in the Budget documents shows an estimated expenditure of $5,890,800, an increase of $1,293,623 over the actual expenditure for 1973-74. If one looks through the 29 departmental allocations shown in the table one finds that only four of them show a lower estimate than that of the Parliament. The four lower ones are the Department of the Environment and Conservation, the Department of Northern Development, the Department of Tourism and Recreation and the Department of Urban and Regional Development. Of course most of these are relatively new departments. Parliament, on the other hand, is one of our oldest democratic institutions. It is one of the chief bastions of freedom that the people have and yet, like freedom itself, it is not sufficiently appreciated or valued. No doubt some of the blame for this rests with Parliament itself. By that I mean members of the Parliament because we are all human and we all have our weaknesses. Yet I believe there is great collective strength and dedication among those who sit here as the elected representatives of the people.
A big percentage of the members and senators who comprise this Parliament have professional, academic or other qualifications which would enable them to obtain greater financial rewards in other spheres. Family life has to be sacrificed. We all accept these facts. If it were otherwise, a large number of those members who are here in the Parliament would not be here. I am very pleased that a move has been made to rationalise the committee system in the Parliament including, of course, the Senate. I have felt for a long time, and I am sure many other members of the chamber have felt the same way, that the committee system has got a little out of hand. It needs to be dovetailed and streamlined. Members are busy with an increasing volume of work to contend with both in the Parliament and in their electorates.
It is essential that the committee system which, as we all know, is an important and integral part of the machinery of Parliament should function as efficiently, smoothly and effectively as is possible. A tremendous amount of important work is done by committees. It is a pity that the general public is not more aware of this important aspect of parliamentary work. I believe that it is very desirable that we should avoid becoming too bogged down, if I may use the phrase, in the committee system. While this is a very important aspect of parliamentary work and parliamentary life, it is, after all, only one of many aspects. I believe that the Senate has found that it has developed a committee system which has become too heavy in many respects and I would not like to see the House of Representatives follow a similar pattern. Nevertheless there is much room for improvement.
I refer now to the matter of quorums. About 12 years ago I endeavoured, through the Standing Orders Committee of this House, to have the quorum reduced from 33 $ per cent of the membership to 20 per cent of the membership. Some honourable members will recall that about 3 years ago a Bill was introduced into this chamber. There was much argument about certain aspects of the BUI and, owing to an amendment, it feU by the wayside. I hope that the Government will revive this matter and introduce another Bill aimed at reducing the size of the quorum to a more sensible percentage. I believe that I am right in saying that the only other Parliament with a quorum requirement of 33 Vi per cent of its members is the Lok Sabha of India. I believe our requirement needs to be reduced to what I have calculated to be the average, which is one-fifth or 20 per cent of members. Members of Parliament have many other duties, as I have said before, to attend to other than sitting in the chamber.
With regard to questions without notice, I believe every honourable member in the chamber and most certainly Mr Speaker would agree that there is much room for improvement here. Chapter XI of the Standing Orders under the heading ‘Questions Seeking Information’ deals with questions without notice. I believe that we lose much of the value and significance of question time because of lengthy questions and, in many cases, far too lengthy answers by some Ministers- not all Ministers. In all honesty I must confess that this used to be the case also with some Ministers of the Liberal-Country Party Government. I am not saying that the fault is all on one side. In some cases questions are too lengthy from this side, as they were when the Australian Labor Party was in Opposition. Undoubtedly answers have tended in many cases over recent years to be unnecessarily long. I propose to put a proposition to the House of Representatives Standing Orders Committee aimed at giving Mr Speaker a discretionary power in relation to both the length of questions and the length of answers by Ministers.
A number of recommendations were made during the last Parliament by the Standing Orders Committee which has since been reconstituted in this Parliament. But unfortunately they have not yet been brought before us for debate. I hope that before too long the Standing Orders Committee will meet with a view to streamlining procedures and ironing out some of these problems. As I said, in particular I have in mind at the moment the making of better use of question time. Undoubtedly to the general public question time is the most interesting or certainly one of the most interesting sections of parliamentary procedure. It gives variety. If more questions were asked and better use were made of the time the public would enjoy question time much more than they do.
With regard to the election of the presiding officer of the House I believe that there is some room for improvement. I should like very much in the fullness of time to see the elections treated with the dignity and decorum that befits the high office of the presiding officer. I believe that the party system of election robs the Chair of the atmosphere of impartiality and independence which is so eminently desirable. I believe that the House should endeavour to move towards the consensus method adopted traditionally by the
Parliament at Westminster and followed in more recent years by the Canadian Parliament.
I wish to say a few words about the televising of parliamentary proceedings. I believe that this should be strictly limited except on special occasions. I think it is undesirable to have parliamentary proceedings televised. I do not think it would be in the best interests of Parliament or of the nation to have proceedings televised other than on very strictly limited, very highly selected occasions. Prior to the joint sitting I had an open mind on this subject, but many honourable members I think would agree with me that during those 2 days there was an atmosphere of total artificiality, to say nothing of the acute physical discomfort caused to honourable members by the ultra-bright lights in the ceiling- lights which beat down incessantly upon us hour by hour for the whole period of the sittings. The 2 lecterns, one on either side of the Speaker’s Chair, were unusual and again lent an atmosphere of artificiality. A number of honourable members from both sides were excluded from the list of speakers- members who by reason of their knowledge of the subject matter of the Bills being discussed should have been allowed to speak but were not allowed to do so, presumably because they were not regarded as good television performers. This again supports my point about artificiality.
Finally, I should like to take the opportunity of paying a very sincere tribute to the officers of the Parliament, the library staff, the Joint House staff and the many other employees who serve the Parliament with real dedication. I also ought to place on record my appreciation of the efforts of the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) in providing better facilities for honourable members to assist them in performing their duties more efficiently.
-There are many peculiar things about this Parliament, as I think all of us would acknowledge. But one of the peculiarities that I thought I should raise briefly in this debate is the fact that it struck me, after a number of years here, that just about all honourable members are in favour of reforming the institution. We are even in favour of the same sorts of reforms, by and large. Yet the reforms themselves practically never occur. When I analyse it, the problem is that although we agree on some necessary reforms we never agree at the same time. Specifically what happens is that we all tend to agree that something desirable should be done while we are in Opposition and ineffective to achieve it, and when we come into
Government and have the numbers to do something about it we tend to lose our interest.
The natural question which arises from that set of circumstances is: Why should that happen? I think there is a good reason for it. No, I shall take that back. I do not think there is a good reason for it, but I think there is an understandable reason; namely, that Parliament exists not in any sense to help governments but almost totally to help oppositions. It follows from that, that to the extent that we improve the capacity of Parliament to perform so we improve the relative advantage which the Opposition parties enjoy here. That strikes me as fairly obvious. The truth is that Government Ministers do not need a . forum like this to attract attention. Wherever a Minister is, by virtue of his office, his powers and his ability to make binding and important pronouncements, there is a forum. That does not apply to the Opposition. The leaders and deputy leaders of the Opposition parties have some small chance of being heard wherever they appear. Other members of the Opposition, even front bench members, are almost ignored except in their local and more parochial Press. They are almost totally ignored. I think Opposition backbenchers are totally ignored. Indeed if there is anyone ignored by the media more than an Opposition backbencher I suppose -
– It is a Government backbencher.
– It is the Government backbencher. That is about the end of the line or the bottom of the barrel. I simply throw this in to make this point: Oppositions need Parliament; governments do not need Parliament. When all is said and done that seems to be the reason why we are caught in this odd dilemma whenever we come to consider improvements to the institution. Reforms of Parliament will help the Opposition far more than they will help the Government. Yet it is only the Government which has the capacity to implement the reforms. Therefore governments in this area by and large have tended to do nothing.
The Australian Labor Party Government has been innovative in many areas- in many areas, I might add, not necessarily to its own immediate electoral advantage. I hope that this area of parliamentary reform might be added to those innovative programs. By coincidence just today we had the first meeting of one example of this readiness of the present Government to try to move things along a little. I refer to the fact that this select committee on the parliamentary committee system set up by this Government, advocated by its members when in Opposition, met for the first time today. Hopefully something useful will come out of it. The possibilities are most numerous and go far beyond anything which that Committee might do and can be seen in what might be regarded as both small and large scale potential changes.
My time now is very limited. I propose to refer to only one example of each of these possible changes, namely, the use of question time, in the first place, and, secondly, the provision of additional staff for private members. First, I refer to question time. As an example of Opposition enthusiasm transformed by the move to Government benches, I refer to a speech of my colleague, the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating). He gave a very good speech on 23 August 1971. 1 am sure that he remembers it very well In this speech he said that it was unfair to continue the traditional practice in this place of dividing questions asked without notice evenly between Government and Opposition. At that time, he gave a very persuasive argument. He pointed out for example that, after making allowance for the fact that the occupant of the Speaker’s chair and the Members of the Ministry obviously do not ask questions, at that time there were 38 Government back benchers with the opportunity to ask questions without notice as opposed to 59 Opposition members; if calls from the Chair to ask questions without notice were divided evenly, obviously there was a heavy disproportionate advantage to Government back bench questioners. The only thing that has happened in the meantime is that numbers have slightly altered. Today the imbalance is 44 Government potential questioners as opposed to 61 Opposition potential questioners. With the equal division of questions between us, again we have an imbalance in opportunities to ask questions without notice.
The honourable member for Blaxland is very incisive in these matters. He made the additional point that the question concerned not only an unfair number of opportunities going to one side of the chamber. He said this whole process could result only in a distortion of the function of questions without notice in the Parliament. If this part of the process is to have any real function at all, it is as a probing device and a testing device of the Government. Obviously this will operate in that fashion only in terms of questions coming from the Opposition side and not from the Government side. I do not say that all Government back benchers always ask Dorothy Dixers. They probably ask far fewer than is commonly believed. But they hardly ask probing questions. They are hardly likely to ask embarrassing questions.
They are certainly not going to ask the sorts of testing questions for which, if we are to be honest about it, questions without notice were first introduced into the parliamentary system.
I think that the remedy is very simple. It is in the hands of the Government; more specifically, it is in the hands of the Speaker. I hope that the Speaker will have the opportunity to consider this aspect and perhaps will consult with the parliamentary members of his own Party to see whether the remedy might be acceptable. I know that it will involve a break with precedent. I think it involves a desirable break with precedent. If we are forever to rely only on precedents, in areas like this and in many others we will never get anywhere. In the same way, I want to add my support to some of the comments I heard from the honourable member for Ryan (Mr Drury) about the desirability of more Speakership authority over the nature and length of answers to questions without notice.
I have left myself with much too short a time to discuss the second question that I wish to raise. Let me throw it in very quickly. That is the question of additional assistance by way of personal staff for back bench members. I once used to argue that all back bench members should have some additional supporting professional staff. I acknowledge now that that might be wasteful. I would hope that, at the very least, we could reach the stage of having some shared sort of system by which additional personalised assistance could be available to us all. But whether that happens, it strikes me as absurd that we should be leaving people like the Opposition front benchers, the Opposition shadow Ministers, to their own devices as was the pattern set by the previous Government and continued largely today. The Leader of the Opposition today does have far better facilities than were enjoyed in our time in Opposition.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Giles)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I rise to speak on the estimates for the Parliament. I commence by complimenting the honourable member for Ryan (Mr Drury) on his earlier contribution to this debate. I am sure that those who have been members of this chamber for quite some considerable time fully appreciate that the honourable member for Ryan has a great knowledge of the workings of this Parliament.
Tonight, in the few minutes that remain for this debate, I wish to refer as a member who has served in this place for a considerable time to one aspect that concerns me. No doubt one should be grateful to one’s constituents. They have shown that I have had their confidence on a number of occasions. The problem that I raise in relation to Parliament is that experienced by many members throughout Australia in getting to the Parliament. I do not refer to election day; I mean weekly. I refer to travelling arrangements. I see members on both sides of the Committee who, I fully appreciate, share this problem with me. I do believe that many of these members have great difficulty in maintaining the concentration that is necessary to enable them to represent their various electorates efficiently.
It is an easy and simple matter for those members who reside in the metropolitan areas of Melbourne and Sydney, and perhaps even Adelaide and Brisbane, to travel by aircraft to Canberra and this Parliament. But many other honourable members face the problem of travelling from Perth, outback New South Wales and areas of South Australia and Victoria. My colleague the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Fisher) and I spend many, many hours seeking to secure transport that will get us to Canberra. In my case, I spend a minimum of at least 12 hours a week in travelling for purposes of the meetings of this Parliament. I can recall the days when transport arrangements with respect to many country areas were even better than they are today. I could then come to Canberra in approximately 6 hours. Today I find that this is not so. Naturally this does affect the efficiency of members. They have very little time in their electorates. They must try to do most of their work by use of the telephone and, naturally enough, this creates many problems.
We can compliment the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) who has a full understanding, I believe, of the many problems of these honourable members. But I believe that the workings of the Parliament have now reached the stage where, despite the fact the Minister for Services and Property is doing all that he possibly can, he is not even keeping pace with developments. It is all very well for those members in the capital cities to refer to the additional staff available for members. I am sure that this is appreciated by the members in those areas. But this development is of little assistance to those honourable members who have their electorate offices outside metropolitan areas. I know that my secretary finds great difficulty, as do the secretaries of many other honourable members. They cannot get out of their offices, shoot around the corner and attend to an issue, to make inquiries or to pick up this or that. Rather is it a case of entering into lots of correspondence which again creates more work for the secretary. I know that many suggestions have been put forward that we should have research officers to provide assistance to members-
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Giles)Order! It being 10.30 p.m., in accordance with the order of the House of 1 1 July I shall now report progress.
-Order! It being after 10.30 p.m., in accordance with the order of the House of 1 1 July I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
-Mr Speaker, I want to speak tonight on a matter concerning the increase in unemployment in Australia. Every day one hears of employees being laid off in many diverse industries. This is brought about, of course, by the tight credit squeeze on the one hand and the tariff situation on the other hand. The tariff situation is the one which is really affecting industries in our country. Retrenchments in the Australian textile industry over the past few months have totalled some 15,000, or 10 per cent of the total work force. Since the announcement of those figures there have been further large retrenchments at both the mills in my electorate- Bradmill at Maitland and Courtaulds at Raymond Terrace- and at many textile mills in Victoria and Tasmania, where hundreds of employees have been put off. Textile industry authorities say that factors pointing to further retrenchments in the industry come under 4 headings: Firstly, the import restraints recently announced on the main Asian suppliers apply only to goods affecting about 5 per cent to 10 per cent of the textile markets, mainly knitwear. The import flood is still affecting other sectors. Secondly, the Australian industry is caught heavily in the liquidity squeeze, with slow payments for what it does produce. Thirdly, stocks are high, the result of heavy ordering of imports earlier this year, partly to build up stocks against any return to higher tariff levels and partly a reaction to the shortage apparent in many lines last summer. Fourthly, textiles are also being affected by the general downturn in demand. Preliminary figures of total imports for August have helped maintain gloom in the industry.
It is interesting to see as the months go by the increase of imports coming into this country from overseas. In June the increase was of the order of $578.8m, in July $714.6m and in August $756.3m. There is evidence that many letters of credit have gone from the banks to traders to increase these imports further as the months go by. We are going to experience more unemployment in this industry with a great loss of wages and considerable problems for the people who have earned their living in the industry for many years.
– It is a blow to decentralisation.
– Yes, it is the greatest decentralised industry in Australia, employing some 200,000 people, and it is located in the main country districts of Australia. There has been a dramatic drop in local production of refrigerators, freezers, washing machines and clothes driers and this is threatening the jobs of thousands of Australian workers. Local manufacturers say that the pressures of declining sales and rapidly rising imports are threatening the white goods industry, which employs 10,000 workers. The industry expects to lay off hundreds of workers, indeed thousands, in the immediate future. Imports of refrigerators, driers and freezers coming from countries such as Greece, Yugoslavia, Japan and Brazil are now almost equal to our local production and Australian manufacturers are losing a huge slice of the market. Profits are marginal in this industry and unless the flow of these goods coming into this country is stopped there will be great problems in this sector of industry.
Every day in the newspapers we see that some industry has closed down. It is not in one particular industry, it is in all industries that they are receiving severe competition from goods coming mainly from cheap labour countries. The Berlei company is a decentralised company in the Wollongong area, the area represented by last week’s Acting Prime Minister (Mr Connor). That company has laid off 96 employees at Wollongong because of the lack of orders due to increased imports. The Government is playing down the crisis and the Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns) has not shown great consideration for the position. On 2 October he claimed that the general level of unemployment was not serious because it was not causing undue hardship. Goodness me, this is utter rubbish, because it is causing hardship. The Minister said this at a prices conference. He said that the rise in unemployment had followed a boom period which was unusually high. We must convince men in the Cabinet like the Minister for Overseas
Trade that it is a crisis, that it is a serious situation, and is causing loss of confidence in the business sector right throughout our land and in our country towns. In my own electorate of Paterson, in the city of Maitland we now have something like 1,300 people unemployed and this figure is increasing at the rate of approximately 20 per cent a month. Singleton, Mus.wellbrook, Scone, Quirindi, Denman, Meriwa and Coolah are all experiencing considerable unemployment.
– In Narrabri there are 700 unemployed.
– And in the electorate of the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt). Unemployment is causing local people great concern. Shire councils in New South Wales have had their Commonwealth Aids Roads grants cut down. They have been given grants from the Grants Commission, we know, but it is robbing Peter to pay Paul. There are many shire councils in Australia, particularly in New South Wales, experiencing financial troubles and indeed laying off staff at the present time. They find that the money from the Grants Commission- which by the way has not gone through this Parliament yet- will not fill the gap caused by the loss of the CAR grants. I have received telegrams today from shire councils in my area expressing great concern over this. I know that Mainline Corporation Ltd, Cambridge Credit Corporation Ltd, Leyland Motor Corporation of Australia Pty Ltd and the Northumberland Insurance Co. Ltd have gone to the wall. This has brought about a loss of confidence in the commercial world and it will be interesting in the future to see if some other commercial enterprises go the same way.
I urge the Government to act on this tariff problem immediately. It is no good having quantitative agreements with these overseas countries. We have got to be more positive than that. We have got to reintroduce the tariff and give our manufacturers in Australia some protection. Why the Government ever interfered with an industry which was going along on a sound economic basis employing thousands of Australians in a satisfactory manner one would never know. Whilst it might give some cheap goods to some people in this country, it is giving many families great concern because their breadwinner has been put out of employment and the family unit is going to suffer. It is a serious situation and wants immediate attention.
-I rise to defend the appointment of Mr Justice Else-Mitchell to the Grants Commission. I also rise to partially defend Mr Justice Else-Mitchell himself. I thought it was rather incredible a few nights ago- on 2 October- to hear the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) criticise that appointment. I did not expect that one would have to defend an appointment of this kind. On that date the honourable member for Lilley said:
The new appointment- probably to the most complex economic body in Australia- is of a New South Wales judge.
I emphasise the words ‘a New South Wales judge ‘. He went on to say:
His name I understand is Else-Mitchell- a nicely hyphenated name. Judge Else-Mitchell has been appointed as Chairman of the Commission- as Chairman of a body for which he has had no training. He has exhibited no knowledge as to the principles of operation of this body. His appointment is in stark contrast to other appointments which have been made to the Commission during the last 8 or 9 years. I believe that his appointment has been a simple mistake.
So he went on. I will accept that the honourable member for Lilley was commenting in a genuine fashion and that he was not trying to assassinate the character of this man. I will also accept that the honourable member for Lilley feels that the Grants Commission’s reports are complex economic documents. But if one examines the Grants Commission’s reports I think one will find that they are not so much economic documents as documents involving a lot of consideration and a lot of arithmetic rather than economic calculations.
The honourable member for Lilley said that Mr Justice Else-Mitchell is ‘a New South Wales judge’. I think it needs to be said that Mr Justice Else-Mitchell is one of the most eminent judges in this land. He was a judge at 43 years of age. He was a university medallist. If one reads into some of his background one will find that he has given outstanding service to the law and the community. Before his appointment to the Supreme Court of New South Wales in 1958 he had had an extensive appellate practice before the High Court of Australia and the Privy Council, representing the Australian Government and various State governments in many important constitutional cases, including the uniform tax case in 1957. He was formerly a lecturer in Australian constitutional law at the University of Sydney. Mr Justice Else-Mitchell is the author and editor of many legal works, including a volume of essays on the Australian Constitution. In 1965, 1966 and 1967 he was the Chairman of the Royal Commission on Local Government Finance established by the New South Wales Government, and is presently chairman of the Commission of Inquiry into Land Tenure which presented its first report to the Australian Government late last year.
Apart from holding a wide range of public positions, including presidency of the Council of the Library of New South Wales, membership of the Archives Authority and the Library Board in New South Wales and Deputy Chancellor of Macquarie University, Mr Justice Else-Mitchell is also President of the Royal Australian Historical Society and Vice-Chairman of St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney. He is also a member of the Committee of the Centre for Federal-State Financial Relations at the Australian National University. That is the experience of a man who is supposed to have no particular skill for this body. The Grants Commission is a quasi-judicial body. As I have said, it is not purely an economic body. Sir Leslie Melville was an eminent economist and he served that Commission well. The honourable member for Lilley also said that he thinks that, as a result of the appointment of Mr Justice Else-Mitchell Queensland, as a claimant State to the Grants Commission, is going to suffer. I think that is absolute nonsense. If one examines the reports with which Mr Justice ElseMitchell has been particularly associated- the one on land tenure which was tabled in this House in November 1973 and the one of the royal commission into local government ratingand if one takes into account his other skills and appointments as well as his position on the Federal-State financial relations body, and if one also takes into account that the Grants Commission has had its charter amplified considerably by the Labor Government to incorporate the making of topping-up grants to local government, I think one must come to the conclusion that his appointment is eminently suitable. I for one will not tolerate any criticism of his appointment.
– The amalgamation of trade unions without the consent of the majority of their members has been facilitated by a Bill which passed this House today. I am not going to revise the debate on that Bill. I am not even going to refer to the way in which various clauses of it were gagged through Committee without debate. I intend, however, to point out to the House that the amalgamation of unions without the consent of their members is a mixed blessing. It may well be, as the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) has said in this House, that this will reduce inter-union disputes and legal difficulties. That may be true. But the cost will be heavy. It would not matter if communists had not infiltrated these unions and were not manipulating these unions in the interests of the Communist Party and against the interests of all Aus.tralians.
I want to state chapter and verse of the situation in one union in relation to which amalgamation has already taken place. It is an example of the kind of thing that can happen. I refer to the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union. I intend to read out, firstly, the names of certain people, secondly, the union positions held by those people, thirdly, their party affiliation, and fourthly, pubtic reference to that. They are people to whom public reference as communists has been made. They are by no means all the communists in the union. There are many under cover communists who are not on this list, and there are many people to whom public reference has been made as communists who are not on this list. However, let me read out this incomplete list. Honourable members will be able to learn to some extent from it the degree of penetration by the Communist Party into a particular union. The list is as follows:
Bob Pointer, South Australian organiser, South Australia Executive of SPA, SPA July 1 972.
Lloyd Caldwell, Secretary of the Campbelltown Branch of AMWU, Communist Party of Australia, author of the pamphlet ‘The Harco Work-in . . . The Experiences of Workers ‘ Control ‘, ‘Tribune ‘27 October 1971.
This is by no means a complete list. It refers only to those people who have been publicly identified in the past as communists. It is not even a complete list of them. I ask the House and the country to consider the extent of communist penetration into this one union. I give it as an example of what happens when trade unions are amalgamated and we get these big communist controlled organisations which are not working for their members. They are not working for the advantage of their members at all. The communist officials of these unions are betraying their members in the interests of destroying the Australian economy and producing here a kind of communist-socialist dictatorship.
I think that honourable members will remember that only a few weeks ago the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in this House said that the trade union movement had never been in better hands. I think that he denied that it had any communist affiliations. I have just drawn to the attention of the House a union with which the Prime Minister is well acquainted because on 2 June 1972 he went to the preliminary conference of this union- I have the minutes of” the conference here and they are in Hansard- and begged and got from it $25,000 for his campaign fund. He is well aware surely of the communist penetration into this union. I think that this is perhaps not the biggest but certainly one of the biggest and one of the most influential unions in Australia.
The Prime Minister knows this perfectly well. Yet that man had the effrontery to stand up in this House and deny there was communist penetration and say that the trade union movement had never been in better hands. This is the kind of Prime Minister that we have, a Prime Minister who does not forbear from stooping to deceive this House because he must have known that he was saying something which was not factual. He must have known when he said this the extent of the communist penetration of this union with which he has a personal and intimate association and to which he went down on his hands and knees and crawled to communists in order to get $25,000 for the Labor Party. Yet he got up in this House and he tried to deceive us by telling us: ‘No, there are no communists; the unions have never been in better hands’. I have read out some of the hands that the union is in. If this is what the Prime Minister calls good hands, it tells us something very, very revealing about the Prime Minister of Australia
– I do not think that anybody takes very seriously the Freudian allusions of the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth), who speaks on the adjournment debate night after night on communist penetration. Tonight I want to say something on the subject of inflation. I am prompted to do so by 2 pronouncements which were made today by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden). One was a personal explanation made by the right honourable gentleman after question time on the subject of education and the other was a letter which the right honourable gentleman wrote to the editor of the Melbourne ‘Herald’ and which was published this evening. We have heard frequent criticism from the Opposition of inflation in Australia which this Government is alleged to have caused. In view of the criticism we are receiving I think it behoves everyone in this country to have a look at what are in actual fact the policies of the Opposition.
In particular we are told that the Government must reduce government expenditure. We are told that this would have a very high priority in the policies of a Liberal-Country Party Government. Therefore we must ask ourselves what the Opposition would do if it were in government. If we look at the Opposition’s record we see that every anti-inflationary measure which this Government has taken has been criticised by our political opponents. I suppose it might be pretty good politics to do that and I suppose that we cannot blame the Opposition for making the best out of a political situation. But if we are asked to consider seriously the Opposition Parties as the alternative government of this country I think that we ought to have a good look at how responsibly a Liberal-Country Party government would apply itself in the field of anti-inflationary policy. If we have a look at what this Government has done we find that nearly every anti-inflationary action taken by it has been vigorously opposed by the Opposition. In fact the Opposition has not put forward one constructive anti-inflationary proposal over and above that which has been proposed and espoused by this Government.
Let us look first at education. For all its talk about cutting expenditure the Opposition has now said that it would not cut one red cent in education expenditure, a field in which there has been a very large increase in expenditure- a record increase- by this Government. During question time this morning the Leader of the Opposition said:
Any attempt to say that a Liberal-Country Party government would cut education spending is malicious rumourmongering.
So there would be no cuts in education expenditure by a Liberal-Country Party government. Where would a Liberal-Country Party government cut expenditure? I believe that it would repeal the surtax on unearned income. I suppose that the deduction from taxable income for education expenses would be reinstated to $400 by the next Liberal-Country Party government.
The Opposition would expand defence expenditure on a mighty scale. I suppose that we will have the destroyers built in Australia instead of having the patrol frigates which are being constructed partly overseas for this Government. I would remind honourable members that expenditure on such items overseas is not inflationary whereas domestic expenditure is. We have been chastised by the Opposition for starving the State governments. Presumably a Liberal-Country Party government would give the State governments everything they asked for and more. The superphosphate bounty would immediately be restored. No questions would be asked. The matter would not be referred to the Industries Assistance Commission.
How will all of this expenditure be met? An amendment to the Budget was moved on behalf of the Opposition. Part of it claimed that the Government did not recognise the absudity that one cannot spend money without people paying. But how is the Opposition going to provide all of the money that it would spend- much more than is being spent by this Government? It is to be provided by a taxation reduction of $ 1,000m or, if we believe the right honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon), a cut in income tax of $1,800. A Liberal-Country Party government would have no surtax on property income. It would restore all the taxation deduction perks. We would cut income tax by $ 1,000m. It would reduce sales tax. It looks as though we would not have any taxation at aU. What a marvellous policy. I suppose Opposition members think that everyone in Australia would vote for a policy like that. It just sounds so marvellous. Superficially, I suppose, it does sound very attractive. Why have any taxation at all? Why not pay for everything just by printing more money?
I suggest to the Australian people that they ought to look at the Opposition’s POliCy very hard because, whilst it may be a superficially attractive policy, it is a POliCY of funny money. If the Opposition was allowed to put its policies into operation we would be faced with just a mass of worthless paper. What we are being asked to support is a policy of bringing in whole barrow loads of Snedden funny money. The Opposition has said that wage restraint should be practised. What is the Opposition ‘s policy on restraining wages? The Government has now instigated a policy of holding round table conferences between employers and employees.
-Order! It being 1 1 o’clock the House stands adjourned until 10 a.m. tomorrow.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 16 October 1974, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1974/19741016_reps_29_hor91/>.