29th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. J. F. Cope) took the chair at 10 a.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives of Australia in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth respectfully showeth:
That we support the concept of no fault divorce in the Family Law Bill because:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Family Law Bill be debated and passed as soon as possible.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Erwin and Mr Jarman.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled: The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
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 Kevin Cairns.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled: The Humble
Petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That 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 Malcolm Fraser.
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 plan to obliterate the traditional weights and measures of this country is causing and will cause widespread inconvenience, confusion, expense and distress.
That there is no certainty that any significant benefits or indeed any benefits at all will follow the use of the new weights and measures.
That the traditional weights and measures are eminently satisfactory.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Metric Conversion Act be repealed, and that the Government take urgent steps to cause the traditional and familiar units to be restored in those areas where the greatest inconveniences and distress are occurring, that is to say, in meteorology, in road distances, in sport, in the building and allied trades, in the printing trade, and in retail trade.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Gorton.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in the Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth respectfully showeth:
That the decision of the Australian Government to recognize de jure the incorporation of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania does not in any way benefit Australia or the Australian people;
That the occupation of these mentioned Baltic States by the Soviet Union was and remains illegal under international law;
That the citizens of the Baltic States in their homelands are brutally deprived of personal, civil and religious freedom by the Soviet Union.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Parliament will speedily revoke the decision of the Australian Government to recognize de jure the incorporation of
Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania into the Soviet Union and place the question of oppression of human rights in the Baltic States before the United Nations.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Jarman.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the reduction of the allowable deduction of education expenses under Section 82 J of the Income Tax Assessment Act from $400 to $ 150 is $30 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 school 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 over crowded 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 and 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 the proposed reduction and to help meet escalating educational costs faced by all families your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled should take immediate steps to restore educational benefits to parents, at least at the 1973/1974 level either by increasing taxation deductions or through taxation rebates. by Mr Jarman.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Australian Government will forthwith do all things nescessary to return to the States of the Commonwealth all moneys raised by way of taxes and excise on petroleum products.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Lucock.
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 that the present scheme.
That the proposed scheme is discriminatory and a further erosion of the civil liberties of Australian citizens, particu- larly 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 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 citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
We the undersigned do humbly request that the Australian Government commission an inquiry into the provision and funding of State and Municipal Public Libraries throughout Australia. Public Libraries are an essential pan of the nation’s facilities for education and information, and the cultural life of the people. Organisation and financing methods to date have manifestly failed to develop Public Libraries to the standard that Australia needs, therefore it is imperative that a thorough national inquiry be conducted.
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the members in Parliament assembled will press for the Inquiry into Public Service Libraries, and your Petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Oldmeadow.
To the Honourable the Members of the House of Representatives, in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of the undersigned electors, members of the Academic Staff of Murray Park College of Advanced Education, showeth:
That whereas the academic staff of Colleges of Advanced Education have suffered a marked loss of relativity with the teaching profession in South Australia over the past eighteen months.
Your petitioners therefore pray that your Honourable House will ensure the immediate granting of an interim salary award to restore this lost relativity and take into account the rate of inflation which has further eroded the real value of salaries.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Wilson.
– I address a question to the Prime Minister who is just coming into the chamber.
– He was already talking in the chamber.
– But he was talking to somebody at the door, which is outside the chamber. I accept- I say this with sincerity to the Prime Minister- and I recognise his anxiety to make a contribution to moderating the interrelated problems of inflation and unemployment but I suggest to him, in sincerity, that anxiety is not a substitute for a total and consistent economic and financial policy effectively administered. Will the Prime Minister now admit that because the estimated increase in Government revenue will rise not by the 3 1 per cent as estimated in the Budget but by 40 per cent and will bring in an extra $ 1,000m in taxes with personal income tax rising by 65 per cent, and in the light of the statement by the Treasurer yesterday that the internal deficit will be of the order of $ 1,300m -
– I rise to take a point of order. I know that, because he is a former Prime Minister, certain privileges are given to the right honourable gentleman. But is he obeying the Standing Orders of this Parliament by making a second reading speech and giving information at question time? Is he to be given that special consideration over all other members?
-I ask the right honourable gentleman to make his question as brief as possible. I would like as many questions as possible to be asked each day, in fairness to all back benchers who wish to ask them. The only way to get as many questions as possible is to make questions brief so that answers may be brief also. I ask the right honourable gentleman to observe that request.
– Thank you, Mr Speaker. Will the Prime Minister now agree that the new mini-budget proposals are totally inadequate, inappropriate and internally inconsistent, and therefore likely to cause great damage to the Australian community? Will he also now reconsider the whole matter, particularly in the light of the rejection of one of the foundations of the new policy by many trade unions of indexation and bring down a new Budget immediately?
– I have informed the Premier of New South Wales that the Australian Government is happy to consider a proposal under the Regional Employment Development Scheme to help in the eradication of this particular form of locust infestation. I had to tell the Premier that the Australian Government did not have at its disposal any of the aircraft which he said would help in this process. Quite clearly, the Air Force and the Department of Transport do not have aircraft with the characteristics which are required for spraying locusts. In Queensland the Australian Government is sharing 50/50 in the cost of a program which the Queensland Premier estimates will cost about $750,000 to counter this particular infestation.
As honourable gentlemen will know, the Australian Government and the State governments in the context of the Agricultural Council have decided to establish an Australian Plague Locust Commission. It ought to be possible within Australiaa nation occupying a single land mass, with a very large cordon of seas around it- to make a concerted and successful effort to eradicate locusts. There has been some reluctance hitherto by State governments to join in a concerted effort because locusts affect some parts of Australia more than other parts, and some varieties of locusts affect some of the States which are affected by locusts in general but do not affect the other States which are affected by locusts in general. But, between us all, we ought at least to. see that this historic plague does not persist in Australia.
- Mr Speaker, could I thank the Prime Minister for having caught up on this at last?
– Order! I would remind the honourable member for Mackellar that he is not entitled to get up and to break out into a speech unless he gets the call. He is not entitled to ask a question unless he gets the call.
-The Minister for Labor and Immigration will recall that, when, recently, he opened the annual conference of the South Australian Good Neighbour Council he stated that the Government had now imposed quotas on migrant source countries. Can the Minister inform die House in percentage and numerical terms of the distribution of the overall migrant quota among the countries from which we have received migrants in the past? What percentage of the total migrant quota will come from countries such as the United Kingdom and Italy?
– I think that I could do that off the cuff, but as I do not want to make an error in regard to one country about which I am not sure I ask the honourable member to treat his question as being on notice and I shall write him a letter.
– Did the Prime Minister make it clear in his statement last Tuesday that the Government recognises industry’s need for an adequate level of earnings to finance reinvestment? Will he confirm that his letter to the Prices Justification Tribunal on this matter represents an expression of on-going Government policy?
-I am very happy to confirm the proposition which the honourable gentleman puts to me. This is the second time mat I have made a submission by letter to the Chairman of the Prices Justification Tribunal. The first time was on 24 July in terms of the Treasurer’s speech on the previous night. The second time was in the terms which I gave to the House 2 nights ago. We believe it is helpful for the Tribunal to have general submissions of this character to guide it in its important work, particularly in the initial stages in which- I would like to say here again, as I have on many occasions previously- the Tribunal has developed so admirably and effectively. The Tribunal has had a very great impact in restraining price increases. Inflation in Australia would have been very much worse if the Tribunal had not been established and if it had not so effectively set out to carry out its statutory duties.
On this occasion, as I said 2 nights ago, the Government wants to make it plain to the Tribunal that in its view there should be no restriction of price rises which are necessary to ensure that companies are able to make as substantial provision for investment as they have made in the past. It is quite obviously important for employment in the community that companies should be able to carry out their investment programs. I am sure that the Tribunal would not wish to -
– Speak up. We cannot hear.
– The Prime Minister should stop mumbling.
-He is talking to his left wing.
-Order! I ask the Prime Minister please to speak into the microphone.
-The courteous thing in answering a question is to address the Speaker or the questioner, and I will pursue that courteous practice. If the Opposition did not behave at question time as it did 2 nights ago in the words of one leading newspaper as ‘a collection of aging school boys’ everybody would be able to hear quite clearly what I am saying. Mr Speaker, I am sure- in answer to the honourable member for Chifley- that the Prices Justification Tribunal will play its part in seeing that employment is maintained or encouraged in Australia through the necessary investment programs of companies which come within its jurisdiction.
-I ask the Prime Minister, who is Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs, the following question. The Prime Minister will be aware of the precedent he has established in taking with him a large entourage when travelling abroad. I ask the Prime Minister initially: Are guidelines issued to members of that entourage setting out the parameters of the responsibilities of those who accompany him? The Prime Minister will also be aware that the Deputy Prime Minister is presently in the United States of America with a large party, having recently attended the Australian Trade Fair in the
Peoples’ Republic of China. Is the Prime Minister aware of reports emanating from China that during the Fair and within the Australian Embassy in Peking, following a dinner, a member of the Australian party attached to the Deputy Prime Minister punched an Australian exhibitor, drawing blood, assaulted the Australian Ambassador to China and scuffled with a United States diplomat resulting in that diplomat’s clothing being ripped? Have diplomatic protests been received either from the United States of America or from the Peoples’ Republic of China? Has the Minister for Foreign Affairs or the Prime Minister taken any action on this incident? Have apologies been extended to Chinese officials who saw this reported unfortunate incident?
– I have heard nothing of the kind. I would be surprised if there was any truth in the honourable member’s allegations because as Prime Minister and Acting Foreign Minister, and being in frequent contact with the Minister for Overseas Trade during and since his visit to China, I have heard nothing of these matters. It is quite clear that if there had been a diplomatic protest I would have heard of it. I have not heard of any such protest. Since the allegations come from the Deputy Leader of one of the Parties in the Parliament, I will certainly have inquiries made. But the allegations come as a complete surprise to me.
By way of preamble the honourable member asks about those who accompany me overseas. There is no need for me to lay down guidelines for the persons at the level who accompany me because the heads and deputy heads of government departments in my experience are extraordinarily competent and correct persons. Those who will be accompanying me on my visit to Europe next month and in the early part of January will be the Secretary of the Department of Overseas Trade, the Secretary of the Department of Minerals and Energy, a deputy secretary of the Prime Minister’s Department and a deputy secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs. I have no doubt that they will carry out their duties with credit to the Australian Public Service and to Australia.
-Can the Minister for Housing and Construction indicate what effect an 8 per cent across the board cut in Government spending would have? As details of what this large cut in public spending would mean are of vital interest to the electors, can the
Minister state what an 8 per cent reduction in spending would mean if applied to funds made available by his Department for housing in the State of Queensland? Is the Minister aware that this procedure has been advocated strongly by both the Leader and Deputy Leader of the Opposition?
-I have asked my Department to look at this question. The effect of the proposal made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition recently on a television program in connection with my Department would be along these lines: There would be a staff reduction in my Department ranging from 600 to 800 employees. The “works staff would be reduced by 1,800 employees. In addition to that, there would be a curtailment of the consultancies involving the dismissal of some 60 personnel. Of course, there would be a subsequent flow-on of these staff reductions to a number of industries that are related to the Department of Housing and Construction. There would also be a reduction in the number of defence service homes loans made. This reduction would be in the vicinity of 800 loans. That is to say, some 800 ex-servicemen would be deprived of the opportunity to take their defence service homes loans.
So far as the Commonwealth-State housing agreement is concerned, there would be a reduction in the vicinity of $25m in the allocation of funds to the States. Of course, this could represent a reduction in the order of 1,250 in the number of homes provided. So far as Queensland is concerned, the net effect of the honourable gentleman’s proposals that, firstly, there should not have been Budget increases in Government spending and, secondly, over and above that, there should be an 8 per cent across the board curtailment in Government spending, would be that funds made available to Queensland for housing commission purposes would have been $20.6m as against the $30. 9m already made available for this purpose. So honourable gentlemen can see that if the Liberal and Country Parties had been in office at this time and the undertakings of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition had been given effect there would have been a massive reduction in the public works program in Australia and highly deleterious effects on the prospects of fulfilling the aspirations of the home-seeking public.
– I ask the Prime Minister to state unequivocally his confidence in the Minister for Housing and Construction.
-The right honourable gentleman has already asked this question a couple of days ago about one of my colleagues. He is now asking it about a second. There are 24 others. Therefore, I suppose, this game can go on well into next year, the year after and in fact until the middle of 1977. It is sufficient for me to say that all my Ministers act collectively and express the collective decisions of the Government. I am sorry that the Standing Orders do not give me the right to ask the right honourable gentleman which of his supporters- those behind him- have confidence in him. It is well known that despite all this extraordinary combination of pomposity and pettifoggery which he displays day after day he neither leads nor inspires.
-Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to reports of high praise for Tuesday’s economic statement from the Presidents of the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research and many business leaders? Does he welcome these statements as a positive contribution to the establishment of a social contract on which national prosperity can be securely based? Does he regret statements throwing doubt on the effectiveness of Tuesday’s measures from people who call repeatedly for a restoration of business confidence?
– I have observed and I have been pleased to observe that there have been expressions of support for the statement I made on Tuesday night from the gentlemen whom the honourable member mentioned and from very many other persons in positions of responsibility and leadership among employers and employees. I have no doubt whatever that the community in general will respond to these timely actions which have been taken in the Parliament and which of course we can put into effect as early as legislative and administrative procedures allow. Since the honourable gentleman has given me the opportunity perhaps I should quote what I think is a very succinct and effective statement of one aspect, die principal aspect, of what I said last Tuesday. It appears in today’s ‘Australian Financial Review’ and reads:
The main anti-inflationary aspect of the Government’s economic policy, as enunciated by Mr Whitlam on Tuesday night____ is to be sought in a deal which the Government is asking the Arbitration Commission to acquiesce in: the income tax cut has been offered not in the somewhat naive terms in which the Opposition has proposed it, as a way of persuading wage earners to moderate their demands, but as a way of persuading the Arbitration Commission to moderate its awards.
I might add that it is clear that as a result of the programs which I further developed in my statement on Tuesday night employees- that is, the vast bulk of men and women who work in Australiawill be more secure in their jobs and their plans, and private employers, who provide three-quarters of the employment in Australia, will be able with confidence to pursue programs which will enable them to keep and put men and women on their payrolls.
– Has the Minister for Manufacturing Industry received the report known as the task force report covering the textile industry in Tasmania and elsewhere? Is it a fact that the report recommends particular special assistance to the textile industry in Launceston and Wangaratta? Will the Minister tell the House what special assistance was recommended for Launceston and what steps the Government proposes to take in relation to that recommendation?
-An interdepartmental committee has been considering the situation in Launceston, and its report has been received. It is true that it deals with the employment situation in Launceston, in particular as it relates to the textile industry. I can tell the honourable gentleman and the other members of the House that a very important measure was announced two or three weeks ago which will give considerable assistance to firms in Launceston. That scheme of assistance is designed to give selective forms of subsidy assistance to firms in non-metropolitan areas. The essence of the scheme is that if a firm is having difficulties of various categories and it brings itself within the entitlement that will be spelt out in the scheme then a sum of money, a grant, will be given to the firm to enable it to carry on and avoid retrenchments. The scheme has considerable significance not only as a means of giving assistance to firms which might be undergoing temporary difficulty but also as an instrument of policy designed to advance structural change in industry generally. It is a very major new initiative of this Government. I hope that at the end of this week, or at the latest early next week, a series of advertisements will appear in newspapers around the country informing people of the facilities being made available in this way.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. Like the honourable member for Batman, I refer to reports and comments in reaction to the Prime Minister’s statement on the economy. In this statement the Prime Minister referred to the proposal of the Government to compensate wage and salary earners for price increases during the December quarter by means of a cut in taxation. Although I believe the statement on this issue was perfectly clear, I ask the Prime Minister to give further information on this proposal so that the House and also Australian wage and salary earners may confirm the exact nature of the concept contained in the statement.
– I have seen comment in one of the newspapers this morning, no doubt an accidentally inaccurate comment, which misrepresents the proposal which I put forward on behalf of the Government on Tuesday night. The Government is saying basically that the tax reduction will compensate employees for cost of living changes in the present quarter, the December quarter. A system of automatic indexation could therefore only logically begin at the earliest with the next quarterly figures to be announced, namely, those for the March quarter of 1975. A wage indexation increase could therefore only be given by the Conciliation and Arbitration Commision after the March quarter figure is announced. While the Government has already stated the view it will put before the Commission, I point out that this is a matter for decision not by the Government but by the Arbitration Commission. In any event, I point out that the national case now proceeding before the Commission which will deal with the question of wage indexation and related issues is most unlikely on all reasonable indications to produce an arbitrated decision before the New Year, in other words, during the March quarter. This is an obvious further reason why the first wage increase arising out of an indexation system could only begin with the figures announced at the end of the March quarter. The Government welcomes the statement of the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions reported yesterday that the Government proposal was a very genuine and dinkum attempt to begin a system of effective cost of living adjustments by means of the tax reduction for the December quarter of 1 974 and by means of automatic wage indexation in the immediate following quarter.
-My question is addressed to the Minister for Transport. Is the Minister aware of the drastic effect on arterial road development of the substantial reduction in finance available for urban and rural arterial roads? Is he also aware that large numbers of employees of local authorities have been dismissed or face dismissal because local authorities have received much less work as constructing authorities for main roads departments? If he is aware of this position and its tragic effect on our towns, will the Minister and the Government take steps to rectify it by allocating more finance for rural and urban arterial roads and so reduce unemployment in this area?
-This is a typical loaded Country Party question which is not based on facts. The real blame should be attributed to Mr Bjelke-Peterson, the Premier of Queensland, because of his failure to meet the requirements of local government in Queensland. Let us first of all deal with the Acts as they stand. The Australian Government has increased the allocation for the construction and maintenance of roads in Australia by 30 per cent over the amount in the last 3 years of the Commonwealth Aid Roads Agreement which expired on 30 June of this year. Queensland has done better than any other State in Australia; it does not matter how you work it out, it has done better than any other State. As far as rural communities are concerned, let us examine the real facts of the matter. Queensland rural communities will receive 75 per cent of the allocation to Queensland and urban communities will get 25 per cent of the allocation. When that is compared with the 59 per cent that rural communites got as against 41 per cent for urban areas under LiberalCountry Party Commonwealth Aid Roads legislation the rural sections of Queensland have done particularly well out of this Government. They have got a much better deal from the Whitlam Labor Government than they are getting from the Bjelke-Petersen National Party-Liberal Government. (Opposition members interjecting)
-Order! The Minister is being provocative.
-Mr Speaker, that is not in my make-up. As far as Australia is concerned, as at the end of October $103m had already been paid out to all of the States, and it would appear that in Queensland the State Government has not been passing the money on to local government authorities. Let us be quite clear on what the position is. As far as national roads are concerned, the Government has asked all of the States to make available to it their programs to commence on 1 January 1975. Those programs should be lodged with the Department of Transport by tomorrow; they have until tomorrow to put their programs in. The same thing applies as far as urban arterial roads are concerned. As far as rural arterial roads, urban local roads and rural local roads are concerned, it is completely and totally in the hands of the State governments where and when they spend their money in this year’s program. The Australian Government does not require programs for them for the 1 974-75 year. So if any of the Queensland local government councils are not getting a fair go, the honourable member had better have a talk to the Minister for Highways in Queensland, Mr Camm, because if there is any bungling he is the one who is doing it. He has already had money from us. He has received the money he is entitled to by means of pro rata payments on a monthly basis. One thing that should not be forgotten is that the money which the Queensland Government has already spent on national highways will be completely and totally refunded by the Australian Government. This in turn will allow the Queensland Government to spend the money that it would normally spend on national highways on any other category of works that it likes to nominate. So I suggest that the Queensland people who are complaining- I believe they are complaining justifiably- about the raw deal that they are getting should not lay the blame at our door. Mr Camm, the Minister for Highways in Queensland, is the fellow who is sitting on the money which we have already paid to Queensland.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to the statement by the Liberal Party’s banking spokesman, Mr Russell Prowse, calling for cuts m government expenditure of $700m in education, $395m in urban development, and $50m in cultural and recreational programs? In view of Mr Prowse ‘s long history of association with the Liberal Party, dating back to 1949, and the Leader of the Opposition’s stated desire to slash Labor’s new initiatives, can the Prime Minister indicate what effect that would have on Australia and Australians?
-At least Mr Prowse ‘s statement has the virtue of being specific and direct. There are constant suggestions from Liberal and Country Party spokesmen, acknowledged in most cases in this Parliament and in the State parliaments, for a slash in Australian Government expenditures. We have found as a government that where we have cut any inherited Australian Government expenditures there has been the most sustained outcry. Where we have introduced expenditure, the expenditure has not been resisted. The fact is, of course, that the new expenditures which we have undertaken have been ones which the Australian public has come to expect and which the public in comparable countries has for many years already enjoyed. The State governments even have the ill-grace to suggest that the Australian Government should cut its expenditures. They are very anxious, of course, for the Australian Government to subsidise increased expenditures by them. To take Mr Prowse ‘s quite overt, blatant suggestions, the Australian Government will not sponsor any cuts in its education program, in its urban and regional programs or in its cultural and recreational programs. Australia is well behind other countries- it is certainly behind comparable countries with similar economies- in its provision of urban and regional programs and cultural and recreational programs. In regard to education and, one might add, in regard to health services, Australia has some provisions of great excellence; they are of world quality. But they are not available generally either to people in all income groups or in all places of residence. The Australian Government is determined to reduce those inequalities by upgrading and spreading these services in education and health. The public has come to expect this.
My Party has taken some part in alerting the public of Australia to what could be done in Australia if the Federal Government would only take some initiatives. But the public came to accept also that such initiatives would be taken by any Federal government of Australia only if it was a Federal Labor government. The Australian public now knows that other countries, including those with federal systems, provide services of these characters, and they are not abating or abandoning those systems. The United States, Canada and West Germany all have inflation; all have unemployment. But none of them are abandoning their programs in education, health, urban and regional development, or culture and recreation. The public would not stand it in those countries. It will not stand it in this country. At least what Mr Prowse said has the virtue of being direct and specific. I wish the whingers of the Liberal and Country Parties would be similarly open in saying what Australian Government expenditures of its own or through the States and local government they wish to be abandoned or truncated.
– I move:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Leader of the Opposition from moving General Business Notice of Motion No. 10 forthwith.
That notice of motionMr Mathews- I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is in order for the Leader of the Op- position to ride roughshod over the rights of back bench members of this Parliament by moving such a motion during question time?
– Order! No point of order is involved.
-Mr Speaker, that notice of motion reads:
That the Treasurer no longer possesses the confidence of the House because the Prime Minister has allowed his position to be eroded and his authority to be compromised at a time when Australia’s economy is in its most critical condition for generations, with record and rising unemployment and inflation, and a disastrous fall in housing construction, capital investment, and confidence.
I gave notice of that motion on Tuesday for 2 major reasons. Firstly, because of the persistent, strong and, I believe, well informed public speculation over several weeks that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has decided to make the Treasurer (Mr Crean) the scapegoat for the Government’s economic failure- a situation which is contributing to the very great uncertainty and confusion today about economic policy. If there is conflict between the Prime Minister and the Treasurer, how can there be confidence in the Government’s economic policies? I gave notice of that motion, secondly, because of the Prime Minister’s deliberate refusal on 2 occasions during question time on Tuesday to state there and then his confidence in the Treasurer, so as to bring an end to this damaging uncertainty. There had been an attempted assassination. Blood is oozing from the stab wounds in the back, but the body is still breathing.
– I rise to a point of order, Mr Speaker. Whether there has been an attempted political assassination, to use the right honourable gentleman’s term, has nothing to do with whether the Standing Orders of this House should be suspended to allow him to move his motion.
– Order! The motion before the Chair is for the suspension of the Standing Orders. I ask the right honourable gentleman to confine his remarks to why the Standing Orders should be suspended.
– I will, Mr Speaker. Those are the reasons why I gave notice of the motion of no confidence. The reason why I have now moved this motion for the suspension of the Standing
Orders is because the Government yesterday adopted the cowardly course of attempting to dodge the motion of no confidence in the third most senior Minister in the Government, that is, the Treasurer. Because of that cowardly action by the Prime Minister and the Government the Opposition has no alternative today but to use this procedure now to force the Government to state its attitude.
The vote on this motion will be the clearest indication of where the Treasurer stands. The Australian Labor Party will finally have to make up its mind on whether to back him or sack him. The vote on this motion will also provide the answer to the question whether the Prime Minister has been misleading the House in his evasive and ambiguous answers to questions about the Treasurer both in the House and in the Press over the past few weeks.
– I raise another point of order, Mr Speaker. The Leader of the Opposition is deliberately flouting the Standing Orders. He is not speaking to the motion before the Chair.
-Order! I know that it is very difficult in a speech of 10 minutes duration to keep to the subject matter before the Chair, but I ask the right honourable gentleman to do so.
– I will, Mr Speaker. For example, to explain why this motion is necessary let me quote a question and answer from the Prime Minister’s Press conference in Canberra on 22 October. The Prime Minister was asked:
Is there any possibility of changes to your Ministry in the light of the present economic problems and, in particular, have you given any consideration to using Mr Crean ‘s considerable talents in another portfolio?
The Prime Minister answered:
I’d want to discuss this with the Governor-General before I mention this in a wider circumstance.
Later, during the same Press conference, the Prime Minister tried to recover from this indiscretion by pretending that his answer had been facetious. What an extraordinary thing to be facetious about. As the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) has put it so aptly on a previous occasion, the Prime Minister’s Achilles heel is in his mouth. As a result of this revealing slip of the tongue, the Prime Minister that same afternoon is reported to have telephoned the Treasurer to reassure him that no changes were contemplated. Whether that telephone call was made we will find out, presumably. Despite that, it is clear the Press Gallery has been deliberately led to believe from Ministers’ offices and from the Prime Minister’s office that a definite decision has already been made to remove the
Treasurer and appoint him to another post. The specific post mentioned is that of Chairman of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation.
To judge the Government’s behaviour in dodging this most serious motion of no confidence, which is the reason why I am pressing this motion to suspend Standing Orders, one has only to look at the record of such motions in this House. Since 1964 motions of want of confidence in individual Ministers or in Mr Speaker have been moved on 4 occasions- three times when a Liberal-Country Party government was in office and the other occasion under this Labor Government On each of those occasions the Government promptly gave priority to the debate on such a serious motion. Such motions arose on 20 May 1964 when a very ill-founded attack was made on the Attorney-General of the day. It was brought on immediately and disposed of without any trouble at all. That Attorney-General was myself. . There was a motion of censure of the Leader of the House on 9 April 1970. That was immediately brought on and disposed of because the whole Government had the utmost confidence in the Leader of the House. That Leader of the House was myself. On a later occasion there was a motion of want of confidence in you, Mr Speaker, and as you will well recall that matter was brought on forthwith because you wanted it dealt with. It was the proper course of parliamentary procedure to bring it on and dispose of it. On that occasion, Mr Speaker, you successfully resisted the motion of want of confidence. Then there was a motion of censure of the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor). On each of those occasions the traditions of the Westminster parliamentary system were honoured, as they ought to have been, and the matter were brought on for discussion the very next day.
The proper rule is to give that priority. It is wrong for a Minister, sworn to serve the Crown in accordance with the Constitution, to have such a motion hanging over his head. It is bad enough when he has hanging over his head the lack of loyalty of his own leader.
-And the axe.
– And the axe, although it probably would be a scimitar. Yesterday this Government deliberately broke that tradition to save the Prime Minister’s face. The fact is that the Prime Minister is stonewalling. The fact is that he does not begin to understand the elementary requirements of the parliamentary system, of the Cabinet system, and of the loyalty of a colleague to a colleague. He seems to be spinning out time until the Deputy Prime Minister (Dr J. F. Cairns) returns to Australia on Monday. The Prime Minister then, so he has let it be understood, will be able to announce the demise of the Tresurer and allow the swearing in of the Deputy Prime Minister as the new Treasurer. If that is not the case, the Prime Minister must say so now. This is his opportunity to show some courage and some loyalty for a change. If it is not the case, the Opposition is not prepared to go along with such a miserable subterfuge. The Opposition is not prepared to look the other way while the Prime Minister completes the ritual slaughter of the Treasurer according to his own excruciating and callous time-table.
Accordingly I have moved this motion to suspend the Standing Orders so that the House may debate this whole matter fully and openly. I have moved this motion so that those members on the Government side who have been attempting a last minute rescue operation on behalf of the Treasurer will have the opportunity to vote in the way they have been speaking inside their own Party. They know- but the Prime Minister has still to learn- that if you expect loyalty you have to give loyalty. If the Prime Minister is allowed to get away with slipping out from under the motion of no confidence and this motion which seeks the suspension of the Standing Orders, he will have done lasting damage to the principle of Cabinet responsibility. That principle states that every member of the Government is collectively responsible for the decisions of the Government. That means the bad ones as well as the good ones.
-Order! The right honourable gentleman’s time has expired. Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion, Mr Speaker. I wish to support the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) in asking that the Standing Orders be suspended to allow General Business Notice No. 10 to come forward for debate. That motion seeks a vote of no confidence in the Treasurer (Mr Crean) because of the compromised position in which the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has placed the Treasurer. I support this motion for 2 reasons. One is the national and international uncertainty that the present situation has created in the fiscal and monetary policies of this Government at a time when we desperately need confidence and some sort of cohesive policy from the Government.
I do so also because I think this is an appalling way to treat a colleague who has been absolutely loyal to his Leader and to his Party. I know of nothing more shameful than to allow a motion of no confidence to remain on the notice paper. In my long experience in this Parliament whenever a motion of no confidence has been proposed in a colleague that motion has been dealt with immediately; otherwise it allows rumours to spread and it places the name of the man concerned immediately under a cloud. If there is one thing that every member of this Parliament will say, it is that the Treasurer, the honourable member for Melbourne Ports, is an honourable and decent man. He is a trustworthy person.
What manner of man is the Prime Minister to allow this sort of thing to happen? We all know that he has not even talked to the Treasurer about changing his portfolio. What he has done is to allow him to stew and to carry all the shame and all the discredit for the mismanagement of the economy by this Government. Who was responsible for the devaluation decisions which threw hundreds of people out of employment? I suppose technically the Treasurer has to take the responsibility. This is one of the reasons that we have moved this motion. But it was the Prime Minister who did it. -
– Order! I have an inkling that the right honourable member is now debating the subject matter of the motion.
– This is related to the man and the blame that is being put on him. Technically he should accept it. But the fault lies with the Prime Minister. Who is the man who said that there ought to be a tariff cut of 25 per cent across the board. The Prime Minister. Yet the Treasurer is bearing the shame of all these decisions. There has been a complete reversal of every economic policy. Why? The Treasurer was never allowed in the first place to put his point of view forward. It is wrong for the nation to allow this situation to continue in a state of uncertainty when the one thing that we want is confidence. Yet the Prime Minister has not the courage, he has not the guts, to come to grips with the matter and to deal with it immediately. If he feels this way, why does he not walk straight into the Treasurer’s office and tell him straight out that he wants to change his position? But he will not do it If there is to be any respect for a leader it will be respect for a leader who deals with the personal attitudes and problems of bis membersthose from whom he expects loyalty. The Treasurer certainly is entitled to expect loyalty parallelling the loyalty which he has shown to the Prime Minister.
I think this is one of the worst performances I have seen. A leader who expects to rally a tight group around him so that he is competent to manage and capable of managing the affairs of this country has allowed this situation to continue. I say that the motion of no confidence should be brought on immediately. We all know that the Prime Minister is going to axe the Treasurer at the weekend and that there is to be a change of ministry. Why? It will be to cover up for bis own mismanagement and his own errors. We know he thinks it is intellectually dirty to deal with economic affairs. But now he is trying to cover up- to use the Treasurer as a scapegoat for all of his bad decisions, the decisions that are causing the highest rate of inflation, the highest interest rates and highest unemployment that we have seen in this country. It is about time that he came to grips with the situation and stopped pouring the blame on to the Treasurer who does not deserve it.
The Treasurer is a decent fellow who does not deserve to be left under shadow or cloud of uncertainty under which the Prime Minister is at present leaving him. I hope that the Prime Minister will bring the debate on immediately and if his Party wants to support the Treasurer to the hilt, let it do so. At least the Prime Minister should give the Treasurer the dignity of an expression of the confidence of this House. Then, if the Prime Minister wants to change him at the weekend he can do so.
-Order! The right honourable member’s time has expired.
– Honourable members might wonder why the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) did not move suspension of Standing Orders yesterday, the first day when the matter appeared on the notice paper. The answer is, of course, that we were not on the air and he had not yet prepared his speech. But honourable members may wonder why he moved the motion today 10 minutes before questions were to end. The answer is that there is a plane waiting to take him to Queensland. But he still made such heavy weather of it that he could only get through 5 out of the 10 pages of his speech which he has prepared since yesterday and has distributed this morning.
The right honourable gentleman says something about the practices of the House. The practices of the House are laid down in the Standing Orders. Standing order 1 10 states:
A motion of which notice has been given or an amendment which expresses a censure of or want of confidence in the Government and is accepted by a Minister as a censure or want of confidence motion or amendment shall, until it is disposed of by the House, take precedence of all other business.
The motion does not express a censure of or want of confidence in the Government- just of a single Minister. As I stated at question time this morning - (Opposition members interjecting)-
– Order! Both of the previous speakers spoke uninterrupted. I ask the Opposition to treat the Prime Minister’s speech in the same way.
– I thank you, Sir, for your protection. The Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) were heard in silence. They were able to be heard. I believe that the Leader of the Government is entitled to the same courtesy. It would be well for members of the Opposition to realise what the reaction has been to this Liberal larrikinism this Country Party caterwauling, on Tuesday night because one newspaper editorial which I quoted this morning stated:
The Opposition has concentrated too much on petty point scoring. Its performance on Tuesday night was pathetic. The Opposition behaved like a collection of ageing schoolboys when the moment and the issues demanded seriousness.
I assume that if the Leader of the Opposition, supported by the Leader of the Australian Country Party, moved suspension of standing orders to the displacement of questions without notice and the shortening of General Business, which my Government has always maintained on Thursday mornings, one would expect that they were being serious and that they expected to have a serious and firm reply.
The fact is, as I stated in answer to a question without notice from the Leader of the Opposition this morning, the Treasurer and the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson), who is the next Minister he is picking on, as well as all other Ministers are members of a Cabinet. They contribute to the Cabinet decisions. They support those Cabinet decisions and within their portfolios they express those Cabinet decisions. If I succumb to this sort of motion the Leader of the Opposition will pick on all of my other colleagues day by day until the next elections in the middle of 1977 in the same way as he has picked on two of my Ministers this week. Then we will always have this fomenting of speculation. I will have no part of it.
If the right honourable gentleman wanted the procedures of the House to be followed, he would move a motion of censure or no confidence in the Government. He did not do so. Everthing that the Treasurer has said and done has expressed the decisions of the Government. The Treasurer has participated in all those decisions. In all the decisions which have been made in the last few weeks, there has been no occasion upon which he has not participated beside me in the making of those decisions. Where things, because of their confidentiality or their urgency, have been done by a smaller group than the full Government, the Treasurer has participated in such actions. The Treasurer, I and another Minister or two participated in the making of the decision which was announced by the Treasurer on Sunday night. For instance, the Treasurer participated in the decisions that were made a couple of months ago in relation to uranium.
I said in answer to the first question on this subject asked by the Leader of the Opposition when the Parliament resumed on Tuesday of this week that there was nothing that I had said or done that would encourage any belief that the Treasurer was going. I have spoken to no member of the media on this subject. I will not have Ministers taken off one by one in this fashion. It is not so long ago that there was a concerted campaign to suggest that I was getting rid of the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor). Everybody knows what garbage that was because everybody now sees how closely I was associated with him and how totally I supported him. Then, about 3 months ago, it was suggested that the Treasurer was going to be the Australian High Commissioner in London. It was never on. It is part of the constant speculation in relation to these people. The fact is that in this matter, as in everything that he touches or inspires, the Leader of the Opposition has bungled.
Of course, he could have put me terribly on the spot on Tuesday morning when the House first met after all this speculation had been running for a week or so by giving notice that he would move a motion of no confidence or a motion of censure of the Government or, if he liked, of the Treasurer. Then, of course, I would have been caught terribly by surprise. I would have had to respond, ignore it or state that the Government would suspend Standing Orders immediately. Of course, the only way a motion for the suspension of Standing Orders can ever be carried is for it to be proposed by somebody with Government support. I would then have had to make up my mind whether to move for the suspension of Standing Orders or to allow Standing Orders to be suspended for the matter to come on. But the Leader of the Opposition did not have the presence of mind to take this course then. He was not even able to collect his wits after a week’s recess to write out a notice of motion of censure or of no confidence in a single Minister.
Then, of course, later in the day he got around to realising what is the formula. One would have thought that somebody who is so prone to moving motions of censure or of no confidence would at least know the formula for doing this. As I say, he got around to doing this later in the day. He did not state it openly. He gave it to the Clerk. So yesterday the motion appeared as No. 1 on the notice paper under the heading of General Business. The right honourable gentleman could have moved for the suspension of Standing Orders at any time yesterday. He could have moved for the same suspension of Standing Orders at any time yesterday when his motion was listed as Item No. 1 under General Business. But he did not do that. It is now at the bottom of the list of items under the heading of General Business. Of course, there is on the notice paper another motion of no confidence, in one of my Ministers, a senior Minister, the Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Willesee). I suppose that we could have a motion for the suspension of Standing Orders to bring on the debate on that matter. There are 10 matters listed under the heading of General Business. A motion for the suspension of Standing Orders could be moved to bring on the debate on any of those matters. But the right honourable gentleman has moved to bring on for debate the item at the bottom of the list. It is at the bottom because he was too slow-witted and slow-footed yesterday. He bungled it- he bungled it again. He has wasted enough of the time of the House.
-Order! The question is: ‘That Standing Orders be suspended ‘.
- Mr Speaker -
-Order! It being 1 1.5 a.m., the time for the discussion of the motion has expired.
That the Standing Orders be suspended.
The House divided (Mr Speaker-Hon. J. F. Cope)
-The honourable member should not be in the chamber. He has my permission to leave the chamber.
Question so resolved in the negative.
- Mr Speaker, I ask that further questions be placed on notice.
-We shall proceed to the presentation of papers.
- Mr Speaker, I ask the Prime Minister to stay in the House for a moment as I propose to raise a matter connected with his veracity. I do not want him to leave the chamber. Will you so advise him, please?
– I have called for the presentation of papers. Has the Minister for Transport a paper to present?
– For the information of honourable members I present the annual report of Qantas Airways Ltd for the year ended 31 March 1974, together with financial statements and the report of the Auditor-General on those statements.
– I call the honourable member for Mackellar.
-Thank you for the call, Mr Speaker. I am sorry that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has left the chamber because I want to raise a matter now which touches upon his veracity and I was anxious that he should be here while it is raised. It is not my fault that he is not here. This is a matter of privilege. You, Mr Speaker, are the guardian, as you know, of the privileges of members in this House. It is very important that members in this House should be able to test the veracity of the replies made to them by Ministers, particularly by the Prime Minister. Yesterday, the Prime Minister, in answer to a question of mine, gave an account of his own speech which was untrue.
The Prime Minister said something in this House which was untrue. I had proof that it was untrue. I had, Sir, as you very well know, a tape recording of the actual words uttered by the Prime Minister. A tape has entangled and tripped up a man even more important in the affairs of this world than the Prime Minister, and a tape recording does seem to have achieved some kind of international standing in a matter like this.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Speaker. The honourable member is raising a question of privilege which depends on a tape recording. I raise the question as to whether a matter of privilege can be raised on this material as courts of law will not accept tape recordings as evidence because they are subject to alteration.
– I should like to point out that in regard to a matter of privilege- I think that is what the honourable gentleman is bringing before me- standing order 96, supported by May’s ‘Parliamentary Practice’ and also the Standing
Orders of the United Kingdom, states that this matter should have been brought before me yesterday or after prayers this morning at the earliest possible moment. Therefore the matter cannot be brought before me now.
– Oh, no.
-Order! I will not have anybody interjecting while I am addressing the chamber. I am telling honourable members the general practices and procedures of the Housethat this matter should have been brought before me yesterday. It was not brought before me yesterday. If there is a slight infringement of the Standing Orders-I may extend latitude to the House- it is brought before me immediately. If I uphold any standing orders rigidly, that is right to the letter, somebody says: ‘Why don’t you do this?’ or ‘Why don’t you do that?’ This matter should have been brought before me yesterday or last night. Therefore it is out of order and is not to be brought before me as a matter of privilege now.
-Mr Speaker, let me just correct you if I may, respectfully, in this matter.
-Order! It is not a matter of correcting me at all. It is a decision of the Chair and it cannot be corrected.
-You have not heard me on this and I am entitled to be heard, because there is one material fact which you have not yet -
-Sir, there are facts which should be brought before -
– The fact is that the Hansard did not come into my hands until 10 minutes to eleven.
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. If a breach had occurred this morning the honourable member would be quite in order in raising it now, but if a breach occurred yesterday or last night it should have been brought before the Chair last night. The fact is that a breach did not occur this morning. The matter the honourable member now wishes to raise should have been brought to the notice of the Chair yesterday or last night. It was not.
– How could the honourable member have done it last night?
– Apparently the breach occurred last night. The honourable member for Mackellar had the tape recording in the House last night He was playing it, or wanted to play it Apparently he had the information last night but did not bring it before me.
- Mr Speaker, a few moments ago you said from the chair that the matter should have been brought before you last night or before prayers this morning. I did go to your office and before prayers this morning I brought the matter to your notice through your officer, but materially the Hansard which verifies the matter came into my hands only at 10 minutes to eleven this morning. I would think that the matter should not be put aside on a mere technicality like this.
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat The honourable member for Mackellar is the most adept member in the House at raising points of order on technicalities and advocating that the House should adhere strictly to the Standing Orders. This is one time when I will see that the honourable member adheres strictly to the Standing Orders.
- Mr Speaker, therefore, within the Standing Orders, I give notice- I am entitled to do this- that the matter of the use of a tape recording in the House where necessary to refute the veracity of a statement made in the House by the Prime Minister be referred to the Committee of Privileges.
-Order! The honourable member cannot give notice.
– I can give notice, but the matter cannot be debated immediately. I now give notice.
-The honourable member will have to give it to the Clerk.
– I am entitled to give verbal notice.
– The honourable member can do it only by giving notice to the Clerk.
– I have given verbal notice.
- Mr Speaker, may I take a point of order. The honourable member for Mackellar said that he received verification of a breach of privilege only at 10 minutes to eleven this morning. At that stage a motion for the suspension of Standing Orders that had been moved by the Leader of the Opposition was before the House. Would it not be correct to say that because the verification came into the hands of the honourable member only at 10 minutes to eleven the matter was raised at the earliest opportunity?
– No. The Prime Minister made his statement yesterday. As I have said, if the honourable member for Mackellar so desired he could have listened to the Hansard tape recording at lunch time yesterday to verify the matter.
– I take your point, Sir. I will not be caught again.
Australian Economy -Textile IndustryRegional Employment Development SchemeQueensland: Political Situation- Western Suburbs of Sydney: Commonwealth OfficesRented Accommodation- Meat -Housing -Soft Drink Industry- Sydney Stock ExchangeWestern Australia: Development
That grievances be noted.
– In rising to speak in this grievance debate I must say how much it grieved me on Tuesday night to sit in the House and watch the sad faces of the socialist members opposite as the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) did a complete somersault and
Drought forward the policies he did bring forward. All the proposals that the Prime Minister put forward were really part of the Liberal and Country Party proposals. I say that they were part because he only adopted those policies that affect incomes and not those that affect expenditure. The proposals he introduced were the ones that really griped the poor members of the socialist Party opposite.
It grieves me also that we should have seen in recent days the spectacle of the Prime Minister of this country going cap in hand to the leader of the trade union organisation, seeking his advice and reporting for further duty. Further, it grieves me that the Prime Minister should take from the Opposition platform policies that were put to the people during the May elections to overcome the increasing unemployment which we could see would occur and which has occurred. The Opposition also presented proposals to stop inflation and to help industry. We put forward proposals not only to cut income tax but also to cut government expenditure. But unfortunately the Prime Minister, in his lack of wisdom, adopted only part of these proposals. He ignored the ones that really matter, the ones that would really take effect against unemployment.
The textile industry has been very seriously affected by the actions of this Government since it has been in office. Some months ago the Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns) at a few minutes notice came into the House and quickly and shortly pointed out that tariffs had been cut by 25 per cent. That was the news that was supposed to upset the people or do great things for industry. The part of the statement by the Minister for Overseas Trade that really upset the people and industry in this country was the announcement of the cutting of import quotas. By reducing quotas and allowing a large flow of imports into the country he expected at the time that, because of a state of virtually full employment, those who would be put out of work- he freely admitted that people would be put out of . work- would be able to find other jobs readily. He showed no concern for the people who were running the industries, the people who were providing employment for Australian citizens. We now have a back-flip on that with the Prime Minister sadly admitting that this socialist Government has awakened from the bad dream and realised that private industry and profit making concerns are needed to ensure a viable country.
The real effect of the decision to cut import quotas was that our textile industries suffered dramatically. Many of them have closed and others are in the process of closing. Unfortunately the Deputy Prime Minister and his team overlooked the very important factor that many of the textile industries are located in country areas. When they close down it is not easy for those people retrenched to find alternative employment. Unemployment in country areas is beaming drastic. If there is an uplift in the economy and a downturn in unemployment, in other words if jobs start to become available, those people will be forced to move away from their homes in the country and go to the metropolitan areas to work, because it is very unlikely that the factories that this Government has successfully closed in country areas will ever be able to open again. It is one thing to close a factory down quickly but it is a much different thing to encourage the shareholders of the company running the factory to take the risk under this Government and open up a factory again, because they have suffered so much in the loss of capital, loss of profit and loss of incentive that I doubt very much whether anyone in his right mind would be prepared to take such a risk. This will be one of the big problems. Where will they go from here? What happens to the industry?
The Government has introduced a Regional Employment Development scheme known as the RED scheme. Of course it was very well titled. One only has to look at the Ministers involved in it. The RED scheme was designed to provide unemployment relief in country areas by assisting local government authorities to undertake works programs with a 60 per cent labour content. Many local government authorities in my area have put in for this so-called assistance through the RED scheme. Like its sister system of grants none of the money has been forthcoming. One council in the Bendigo area has been advised that its projects have been accepted in part. The Eaglehawk area is very much m need of assistance and the Castlemaine area is desperate financially, both in local government and as a city. Those areas have as yet received neither Grants Commission money nor any assistance under the Regional Employment Development scheme. I am hopeful that the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Cameron) in his wisdom will finally get around to doing something for these areas but I am somewhat doubtful. There is also the 6 months payment of unemployment relief to anybody who is retrenched in the textile industry. It is all very nice to put people out of work and say: ‘Don’t worry, you are going to get 6 months pay at your average weekly wage over the past 6 months and therefore you needn’t worry’. That is very good for them and I am pleased for those people only because they have an income for the next 6 months. But then one asks: What happens after 6 months?
It was said in this House only yesterday and the day before that there is no way the unemployment situation is going to alter except that it is going to get worse in the next 6 months. That indicates to me that there is no hope of these people getting other employment at the end of that 6 months period. As I have already mentioned, the industries in which they worked in the country areas are no longer there. Surely the people involved in those industries- the owners and the shareholders- are not going to sit around and wait for 6 months and then suddenly put their money back in and lose more money in the hope that this Government might keep on a sane and sensible track for a short period of time.
Then one has to look at the other side. What about the management and expert personnel in these companies? Surely those people are not expected to sit around and twiddle their thumbs without any income? They have gone; they have left. They have gone to where they can get a job because there are no alternative positions in country areas offering for men of this calibre. As I said earlier, there are not even positions offering for the ordinary factory hand who has been stood down. So at the end of six months we are going to be faced with an increase in the number of people in the straight unemployment situation, and there are quite a few thousands of them. I wonder whether in fact they are being counted at the moment as unemployed because, after all, they are being paid a full wage. I daresay that in fact the Minister for Labor and Immigration with his usual cunning has managed to exclude their numbers from the list of actual unemployed.
As I see it, we are faced with a situation in country areas where, because of the inability to provide work due to the lack of companies or factories operating there, there is going to be an exodus of people from the country areas to Melbourne. In other words, typical of socialist government, there will be a move away from decentralisation in any shape or form. It is time the Government realised that it is just not a matter of supplementing money; it is time for action. When the Prime Minister introduced his extra proposals on Tuesday night he mentioned tariff cuts. Why did he not bring in immediate quota restrictions on imports? Even then, it would be some months before they had a real effect on unemployment. But until this Government reintroduces a quota system on textiles the textile industry in this country is going to suffer continuously and there will be unemployment.
-This morning I want to refer particularly to a matter of considerable concern to the people of Queensland and I am sure to all fairminded Australians. This matter is associated with the political situation in Queensland and has particular significance at this stage because of the elections that are to be held in Queensland on 7 December. Often we have heard honourable members on this side of the House speak of the 19 per cent Premier of Queensland. Despite the fact that the Country Party rejects this percentage description as being a true indication of the support for the Party in Queensland, if it is examined on a seat by seat basis it will be seen that the coalition parties in Queensland with 42 per cent of the votes in the last State election got 47 seats in the Legislative Assembly, compared with the Labor Party which polled 48 per cent of the votes and got only 33 seats. This is a pretty fair indication of the style of democracy that is supported by the Premier of Queensland.
It is as well at this time to impress on the people of Queensland that in this election, despite what the Premier wants them to believe, they will not be passing judgment on the Australian Government, they will simply be doing as people do in every State election- determining which political party will have responsibility for and authority over the State for the next 3 years. Clearly Queenslanders should be made aware of the sections of the community from which the major political parties draw their financial and even in recent times their physical support- a matter to which I want to refer this morning. It is sufficient for me to say that in respect of the Liberal Party and the Labor Party, their complexion, their power base, their area of support have changed very little; so little, in fact, that it does not warrant attention in the remarks that I intend to make this morning.
However, the same does not apply to the Country Party, or the National Party as it is known in Queensland. That Party has in recent times undergone a significant and somewhat sinister change, a change not only in name but, more importantly, in the basic structural support of the Party. I want to give honourable members a few brief facts in explanation and proof of this claim and I want to remind Queenslanders to look behind the facade, to look behind the false front of respectability, of interest and concern for Queensland people put forward by the Premier, and see what the real facts are, because if they return a National Party-led coalition government in the Queensland elections on 7 December they will in fact have elected the political front for that sinister, subversive, insidious organisation, the League of Rights. Carefully and deliberately the League has forged inseparable links with the Country Party in Queensland. Indeed, to all intents and purposes it has taken over that Party in Queensland, taken it over to the extent that it has forced the renaming of the Party. It is now known as the National Party, to be more in keeping with the Nazi or nationalist socialist philosophies of the League of Rights, and I invite all honourable members to examine these facts.
As long ago as 1971 the well-known leader of the League of Rights in Australia, Mr Eric Butler, made a claim which was reported in the ‘Telegraph’ in Queensland of 24 September 1971 as follows:
Thousands of Country Party members support the Australian League of Rights, Mr Eric Butler said yesterday. Mr Butler, the League’s national director, claimed that the Queensland branch of the Party had officially dissociated itself from criticism of the League.
That was in 1971. In 1972, so much was the concern of the Country Party organisation in Queensland that the State secretary, Mr M. J. Evans, was sent on a 4-day tour of southern Queensland to assess and counteract the growing influence of the League, which was reported to be strongest in that region. It is a well known fact that the central power base of the League in those times existed in Dalby, and this was accepted by the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett). At about the same time the Melbourne ‘Age’ reported Mr Anthony as saying that he wanted to warn country people of the dangers of becoming involved with this movement, which was trying to capitalise on the serious difficulties in which country people found themselves. He declared that he did not want the Country Party name to be associated with the League’s rather sinister radical beliefs. Hence it can be seen that in Queensland the League found it necessary to force on the Country Party a change in name so that the people of Queensland could be tricked into believing that it meant a change of attitude, a change of concern by that Party. It was suggested at the time, of course, that this new name- the National Party- indicated that it was going to be interested not only in the country areas from which they drew their support but would also be looking to the interests of people in the city areas. Time will not permit me this morning to make anything but a very short reference -
– Thank goodness for that.
-Of course the members of the Country Party here say “Thank goodness for that’ because they do not want to hear the truth. They do not want the people of Australia to know what they have been up to in Queensland, and also down in the Riverina area. We well know what happened in that area during the last election campaign. We well know the sinister practices that were linked with the Country Party during that campaign which led to the defeat of the well known and popular member for Riverina in the last Parliament, Mr Grassby.
I want to concentrate this morning on what has happened in Queensland to the National Party, as it is now known. It has been taken over by the Australian League of Rights, and proudly the League of Rights has acclaimed this. Some months ago a newspaper called ‘Queensland Calling’ was published m the Queensland Premier’s own electorate. It was suggested that this publication was the spontaneous reaction of the citizens of that area to support the Premier. The first issue of the newspaper said that ‘Queensland Calling’ had been issued by the Save Our State campaign, a spontaneous movement in Queensland which consisted of people from many walks of life. The newspaper went on to say that its distribution was going to be effectively organised. It was proud to announce that it would be carried out by this method:
The Save Our State campaign called on assistance in this regard from the Australian League of Rights, which has built up a nationwide network of contacts and supporters through the years.
Let me refer also to the lack of concern, as I indicated earlier, at the infiltration which caused Mr Evans to carry out a tour of Queensland some couple of years ago. I refer also to a publication called ‘Rhodesian Commentary’ of February 1974 which came into my hands some time ago. It acclaimed the meeting of the south eastern zone of the Young Australian Country Party being held at Gympie on 9 and 10 February at which the Minister for Police and Public Works in Queensland, Mr Hodges, spoke. Another speaker was the Director of the Rhodesian Information Centre, Mr van der Spuy. Of course, we had the spectacle of a former member of this House, the former right honourable member for Fisher, supporting Mr Eric Butler on a platform during the recent Federal election campaign in Queensland. Let me list some of the people involved with the League of Rights. Their names are well known. They include Sir Raphael Cilento and Mr C. H. Griffiths of Southern Cross Pty Ltd who is a great anti-Labor stalwart and supporter of the National Party.
In the limited time left to me this morning I would challenge the Premier of Queensland to deny all association with this infamous, fascist organisation. I challenge him to dissociate himself and his Party from the League of Rights’ backing through its monthly journal which is published in his electorate. I challenge the Premier to produce irrefutable evidence that his Cabinet and he in particular are in no way whatsoever receiving help from or being influenced by the League. I know that he will not do this because he cannot. He accepts its support and his silence will serve only to prove the truth of the certain but sinister union which exists between the National Party in Queensland and the national socialist front organisation, the League of Rights. It is important that the Queensland people be made aware of just what goes on in this particular political Party in Queensland.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Luchetti)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I am sorry that my important time in this debate will have to be taken up in replying to some of the malicious remarks that we have just heard from the honourable member for Bowman (Mr Keogh). Those sorts of remarks have been made on other occasions in this House by the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) whom I note has just come into the House to support the honourable member for Bowman. These honourable members have used quite unrelated events and quite unsubstantiated allegations to malign other honourable members in the House. They are quite unjustified in doing so, and it is not in keeping with the dignity of this House or the way in which honourable members ought to conduct themselves. I think that every honourable member in this House would be well aware, having listened to the honourable member for Prospect on the occasion on which he personally maligned me and failed to apologise for the remarks that he made in linking me with the Australian League of Rights as a result of completely unsubstantiated and unchecked allegations -
Br Klugman- That is not true.
-It is perfectly true, and you only have to look at Hansard to see those remarks. On that occasion you referred specifically to papers that you alleged said what an infamous organisation this League of Rights is. You referred specifically to papers produced by the Australian Country Party. You relied upon those papers to prove your point when you attempted to malign me.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Luchetti)Order! I would ask the honourable member to speak through the Chair and I ask honourable members to cease interjecting.
-Most certainly, Mr Deputy Speaker. I do wish to make clear in the limited time that I have available to me that this sort of attempt to malign members of this House in this way is quite unjustified, and I am disappointed that I have to come into this House and defend other honourable members from these types of unsubstantiated remarks.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. The alleged maligning of the honourable member for Parramatta by me consisted of my pointing out that this organisation in Parramatta, the Young Liberals, had featured Mr Eric Butler as a speaker and that it was very proud of having Mr Eric Butler there. It was the Young Liberals of Parramatta.
-There is no point of order. I ask the honourable member for Prospect to resume his seat.
– I will deal with those matters by way of personal explanation after I have concluded my remarks. I do not wish my time to be wasted.
I wish to deal specifically with the Government’s performance in the western suburbs. I am glad that the honourable member for Prospect is here to hear these remarks. The Government has alleged in all its remarks that it has dealt well with the western suburbs, and consistently it has tried to portray itself as the one group of people which is concerned about people living in those areas. I wish to point out to honourable members how untrue that is. Specifically I wish to draw attention to a question which I asked yesterday and which the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) refused to answer. He referred it to the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) for an answer. Specifically I asked the Prime Minister whether his Ministers were differing in the aproach to be taken to the development of the Meggitt’s site in Parramatta for a Commonwealth office block. That site, as honourable members know, was acquired in 1973 following negotiations that were commenced during the time of my predecessor, the former honourable member for Parramatta, Mr Nigel Bowen. That site was acquired for the building of a Commonwealth office block in that district.
Statements have been made from time to time which have indicated the importance of this office block in the alleviation of the extreme shortage of Commonwealth-owned accommodation, thus resulting in a saving of rent for the Commonwealth, and its importance in the longterm planning for Parramatta. My question pointed out that 7 floors of IAC House, Parramatta, had been leased by this Government and that another 5 floors in Macarthur House were being taken to accommodate 500 employees of the Taxation Office. This is at a time when no attempt has been made by the Government in its Budget to provide for expenditure on this valuable site acquired by the Commonwealth. My question pointed out that no private developer could afford to hold a valuable piece of land suitable for office accommodation in a centre such as Parramatta for the time that this Government has held this piece of land without attempting in some way to utilise the site and make it available for the use of the community. At the moment it is a large, vacant piece of land, covered with rubble, on which people try to park their cars in order at least to overcome the acute shortage of available parking space in the district. Even the simple technique of levelling the land and making it available for parking, perhaps even at a small fee, has not been thought of by the Government. No attempt has even been made at least to relieve the problems of the people in this district by undertaking this shortterm solution until the property can be utilised.
I wish to refer specifically to the speech of the Minister for Urban and Regional Development which was made on 18 December 1973 following a report presented by a joint interdepartmental committee. The committee found that public service space needs in the major cities, at present 14.5 million square feet, could rise to more than 49 million square feet in 20 years. It was expected that the demand for Government office space would grow. It was pointed out that unless a substantial building and purchasing program was begun the annual rent could rise steeply from $31m to possibly $200m in 20 years. We have seen from the questions which have been asked by the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt) that that expenditure has grown substantially, even in the 12 months since that speech was made. We can see from the expenditure proposals of the Department of Urban and Regional Development in the recent Budget that no money has been allocated for planning or for building on this site; yet the Minister for Urban and Regional Development had the audacity to stand up in this House yesterday and suggest that it would be only a matter of time before this development took place. To quote the specific words he used, he said:
The plans are under way. We are working on them now.
He said that, despite the fact that no money has been allocated for expenditure this year on this important site. I refer to the civil works program of the Department of Services and Property, which is the only other Department which alleges that it has some responsibility in this area. I refer in particular to page 37 of the document entitled ‘Civil Works Program 1974-75’, which relates to the civil works program for the Department of Services and Property and which indicates that no major office block accommodation work is to be commenced in the city of Sydney this financial year. It is pertinent to note that the sort of expenditure which has been proposed includes expenditure on partitioning of the Australian Government Centre, the provision of accommodation for parliamentarians- I do not deny that there is a need for that- the installation of a computer on the seventh floor of the Grace Building, modernisation of lifts and so on.
The Government is only fiddling with the problem. It can be seen from the civil works program that nothing will be done this financial year. In fact, it is fair to say that the only office accommodation which has been completed by the present Government in the time in which it has been in office was commenced by the LiberalCountry Party administration is an office block in
Hobart, and that the only expansion of office accommodation Which has been undertaken, I hazard a guess, has been in relation to the building of the Australian Labor Party’s offices in Canberra, which is to be financed partly by the Commonwealth Bank, and perhaps the purchase of the old Canberra Hotel, which has been converted into office space for the staff of members of this House and of the Parliamentary Library.
I wish to point out that although it has been stated that the major office block in Parramatta is likely to take 3 years to complete and that it will be built within 3 years of the announcement of the decision to proceed- that was stated by the Minister for Urban and Regional Development -even as late as yesterday no announcement had been made and no indication had been given by the Government that this project would be proceeding, although everyone has acknowledged that it is urgently required.
This program of deceit has been so successful that in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald ‘ of last Monday even the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the New South Wales Parliament attempted to criticise the New South Wales Government for its alleged failure to decentralise offices, despite the fact that that Government has less funds than the Commonwealth Government to enable it to do this sort of work and less access than the Commonwealth Government to loan moneys for such an important project. The spokesman for the Opposition in the New South Wales Parliament said this of the project:
The Federal Government had realised that offices needed to be built in the western and southern suburbs, and on the central and south coast. It now was building an office complex at Parramatta.
The people have been deceived into believing that this Government is doing something about the western suburbs of Sydney. The reason why I have called it an urban mirage is because nothing has been done and the people of Australia ought to know it.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Luchetti)Order! I call the honourable member for Casey.
– I wish to make a personal explanation, Mr Deputy Speaker.
– I have called the honourable member for Casey.
-The fact that Australia is overwhelmingly a nation of owner-occupiers should not blind this Parliament or this community as a whole to the increasing incidence of rackets involving landlords who let accommodation and tenants who occupy it. There has been very clear evidence in recent weeks and recent months of people who are obliged to rent accommodation m our community becoming victims of exploitation to a quite extraordinary extent and of the trading associations to which agents belong in this country falling down very badly indeed in the pretence they make of policing the practices carried on by a minority of their members.
A couple of weeks ago I had occasion to raise at this stage of proceedings instances in which tenants had received requests from landlords and managing agents for quite substantial increases in rents which were attributed to the property income surtax which was introduced by the Government in its recent Budget. I was able to demonstrate through quite specific figures that those increases represented up to 10 times the amount of the surtax for which the landlords would be liable.
I was interested to see that in the aftermath of that speech the General Secretary of the Real Estate and Stock Institute of Victoria, Mr Evans, who surely should be aware of what goes on in the housing sector of the economy and who surely should take some elementary responsiblity for the activities of members of his Institute, claimed that the Institute had no evidence of the practices I had mentioned. I had quoted in the House specific letters from agents bearing out my point, but Mr Evans said that there was no evidence of the practices.
He went on to make the extraordinary statement that members of the Institute were only raising rents to the extent necessary to cover rising costs and that, in any case, rent increases reflected the demand for rental housing arising from the shortage of finance for home purchase. There is only one interpretation possible for that quite contradictory statement, and for the logical inconsistency in Mr Evans’ remarks which honourable members will have discerned, and that is that landlords are charging the traffic all it will bear. There is an increasing number of people in our community- some from necessity and some from choice- who are seeking rental accommodation, and the cost is being pushed up accordingly. Let us clear our minds of cant. It is not a matter of rising costs; it is a matter of what can be extracted from people who are desperate for accommodation. Until we strip away some of the public relations angles which are trotted out to camouflage the practices which are going on, we are not going to get very far towards overcoming them.
I want to make the point this morning, that if organisations such as the real estate and stock institutes in the various States will not do something more about self discipline for their members, somebody else is going to have to do it for them. I think it is deplorable that fair rents tribunals and the similar State authorities which have been established seem to be quite impotent in protecting the tenants who appeal to them. I know that my colleague the honourable member for Henry (Mrs Child) will be saying something this morning about some of the fringe abuses which have been given publicity in recent weeks. I think that she will say something about the landlords who encourage tenants who do not have leases to carry out costly repairs and renovations to rented accommodation and thereafter take action which forces the tenants out of the houses which have been improved, or alternatively increases the rents on the grounds that the houses have become much more attractive propositions than they were before the renovations were carried out. I think that probably she will be saying something about the pernicious practice of bonding associated with rented accommodation and about all the abuses that arise from it.
It is very clear that at present there is no effective protection for tenants who are hit by these practices. It is clear that the fair rents tribunals cannot cope with them and that bodies like the Real Estate and Stock Institute will not do so. I say again to those bodies that if they are unable to look after these matters and if they are unable to discipline the people who are their responsibility, surely somebody else must step in. I am glad to see that the Opposition spokesman for social welfare and related matters is at the table because I believe he would agree wholeheartedly with this view.
In the last 3 weeks, since I spoke on the quite narrow issue of the so-called passing on of the property income surtax to tenants, I have been staggered by the volume of mail which has come into my office from people not in my electorate alone or even in my State alone but throughout Australia bringing to my attention abuses which have occurred mainly in the form of grossly exorbitant rent increases imposed on people of very slender means. Very frequently such increases have been imposed in respect of premises where little or no repair or maintenance work has been undertaken by the landlord for many years; indeed, in one instance, for 37 years. This is a quite extraordinary state of affairs. I should like to give the House the benefit of some of the information that has been passed on to me by these unfortunate people. The first letter from which I quote is from a family in New South Wales. It states:
With reference to rent rises, our house which we are renting is valued at $ 1 1 ,500 and we have just had a rent rise of $10.70 a week which makes our rent now $23.95. These houses are in bad condition and we have been in this place 37 years and the only repairs they have ever done is a new hot water service. We have put in a new stove, new bath, bath heater, tubs, plus painting and other jobs and have never been allowed one penny against the rent-
Another letter, in this instance from Victoria, states:
I am a supportive mother (separated) with 2 young children. I was paying $32 per week- now $38. 1 would not like my name mentioned for fear of reprisal from the landlord. It is very important for me to retain tenancy of this home, but feel this increase which has been imposed is most unfair.
Another letter, from a suburb of Melbourne, states:
I am on a widows pension with one child to support. I receive $84 per fortnight plus one son working from whom I receive $20 a week board. My rent increased $8 per week from $27 to $35.
I could go on in this vein for a considerable time citing letters I have received but the point I make is simple: I appeal to organisations like the RES] to be less sensitive to criticism and more ready to crack down on what is going on in their own backyards. The need for action is urgent. A great body of our fellow Australians are being victimised and they desperately need help.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Luchetti)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-In recent months this House has, with increasing frequency and great urgency, listened to pleas from spokesmen from the Opposition benches drawing attention to the very serious condition in which some of the primary producers of Australia find themselves. I refer specifically to those persons who are engaged directly and indirectly in meat production and in the export of that product from this country. I am a tittle aggrieved because in recent days we have heard the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) supported by the Minister for Northern Development (Dr Patterson) infer that the Government was currently considering some measure of assistance for a section of the industry. They seem preoccupied with those peculiar problems that beset the primary producers in the northern reaches of this country who are engaged in the production of store cattle. I do not, for one moment, suggest that these people are not very much in need of the most worthwhile determined interest and sympathy of the Government but I draw to the attention of the House the parlous condition of many more modest primary producers.
This week we had evidence that the market is declining even further. One wonders just how far the market can decline. My information is that at Woolooga in Queensland this week at a cattle sale of some substance 2-year-old dairy cross heifers sold for the princely sum of $8. This is a shocking state of affairs. We have become so accustomed to terms of disaster in Australia in recent times that possibly we are becoming a Little blase as to their full import. But $8 is not the price of a shirt- not even the price of a tie- and yet we can shrug this whole tragedy off as an inevitable phase in the process of economic decline. Hereford breeders with calves brought $39; Angus cows and calves, $30.50; and steers, which 12 months ago would have brought $175, were sold for $43.50. These people are tragically disposed.
From time to time we hear well motivated protests from spokesmen on the Government benches who plead with some eloquence the need for society to assume responsibility for those who are depressed and distressed. I put it to honourable members that in this situation there are few people in Australia who, in terms of loss of employment, are more distressed than the people to whom I refer. There is nothing more final than being without income. These people have suffered a total loss of net income and, in the end, this is all that establishes one ‘s economic viability. These people are in a situation where they must meet rate payments to local authorities which are not in the least well situated to sustain the non-payment. Money is urgently needed by both parties and yet these people are faced with the prospect of endeavouring to pay their rates by the disposal of stock at give away prices- the stock being so terribly essential to their future well being and continued viability in their industry and also to the well-being of this society and the world at large since we have heard statements of recent days emanating from Government benches how important it is to maintain our productive capacity because unquestionably within 18 months to 2 years there will be an urgent demand for our beef products. Therefore these people are faced with the grim prospect of disposing of their stock to try to achieve some temporary liquidity so they may discharge their debts to local authorities.
I have received a number of personal and written requests for some help. How does one help these people who are faced with the grim prospect of paying their rates and starving or of not paying their rates, eking out their meagre liquidity and transferring their problem to the local authorities and the tradesmen who have so far succoured them in their distress? There is only one cure for this problem in the short term and that is for the Government to make a strenuous effort to make available some finance, but not in the nature of a grant The industry does not ask for it It has been proud of the independence it has demonstrated over the years but in this situation where it has fallen victim to circumstances far beyond its control it has a moral entitlement to look to the Government to provide financial means to bridge this period of disaster. I would suggest that the terms be sympathetic and that the Government look to recoup these moneys in due time by imposing the minimum burden on the people involved. The interest rate applying thereto should reflect the seriousness of the situation.
It is not sufficient to say that if a business does not pay it will be shut down. It cannot be shut down in the best interests of the nation. It does not bear contemplation that there should be any depletion in the activities of beef production in this country. Much the same can be said in respect of all primary activities. Therefore, these producers cannot abandon all the obligations in maintaining their properties. They simply cannot go out and engage in the NEAT or unemployment schemes once eligibility to such an entitlement is established. It is desperately important that they be kept on their properties. If this requires the Government to introduce supplementary schemes to take off the meat surplus at the moment, perhaps process it, can it and involve it in its foreign aid programs, so much the better.
The Minister for Agriculture, Senator Wriedt, of recent times indicated that the Government was going to assume responsibility for a further $ 17m in foreign aid. We see this as providing a wonderful vehicle for the Government to be quite realistic in its approach to aid and to solving the problem of the beef industry in this country to some flight extent, bearing in mind that this action will not produce profit for the primary producer but it will enable him to stay in the game so that, in due course, he can draw his fair share of Australia’s wealth and prosperity and make a massive contribution to our own personal well being and to our balance of payments. This action will meet the very urgent need of sustaining the ever-increasing world population.
It is not possible to turn around and say to these producers: ‘Diversify your activities’. In some instances, with respect to modest mixed properties there is latitude, given time. Of course, time is the very essence of this matter, and it has never been so short. Such producers have an ability to diversify into other industries including cropping and pig raising. But this takes time. It also imposes stresses on the industry into which these producers move. Axiomatically, if everybody gets on to the bandwagon, this is quite likely to break the axle.
So, the situation is very, very serious. I would say to those members of the Government who have demonstrated, or at least expressed, their serious concern for the relief of the distress and suffering of those less fortunate members of our society that they address themselves most purposefully to this matter because in the end, as is emphasised time after time, it is people who are involved and there is no greater distress than utter despair in any strata at all of society. It is ultimate. It is finite.
Government members say: ‘Perhaps you can get rid of some of your assets. Realise on them.’ This presupposes, first, that this can be done and, secondly, that this should be done. It is not generally recognised that a number of people who find themselves beneficiaries of the Government’s sympathy and generosity in relief schemes are possibly the title holders of house and property worth in some cases between $40,000 and $50,000. I do not begrudge them those assets. But then we find a primary producer with total assets, of which he cannot dispose, of little more, if more. Yet his position is totally finite. He is disenfranchised from being able to take advantage of many of these schemes simply because he is regarded, quite mischieviously, as one of the landed gentry and not to be considered as vulnerable to human distress such as wage earners and salary earners are in general terms. Thankfully, the Government does not exclude him on the basis that he is not a worker. This certainly would be the last straw.
– I am following on the remarks of my colleague, the honourable member for Casey (Mr Mathews). I draw the attention of the House to a problem that must be shared by all members of the Parliament and particularly by those who live in metropolitan city areas and specifically inner suburban areas, the ones which are usually Labor areas. I am referring to the housing problem and specifically to homes for rental at a rent that people can afford. Every second person who comes into my electorate office is trying to find a home to rent with an option to buy perhaps but they cannot afford to buy a home now. They do not want a flat, even if flats were freely available, which they certainly are not in Melbourne.
The rents which are being asked in the Melbourne area are between $35 and $40 a week. A man with a wife, 2 children and perhaps one on the way, with a take home pay of $102 a week obviously cannot pay $25 to $40 weekly, even for a modest home. No one can live on his or her pay if one-third of it goes in rent. Such a person would have $67 left for clothes, food, light gas, fares, school books, medical benefits and the host of other things for which families have to pay. So, to pay one-third of one’s take home pay in rent is a real killer.
There is no other single issue in life today that is causing more heartache and tension than inadequate housing. The situation of the family that is cooped up in a small flat, with no play area for the children and no way in which the parents can have some privacy from the rest of the family, breeds a dangerous condition of frustration. Children who are constantly ‘shushshushed’ because of thin walls and close neighbours lose their spontaneity. Those families who are living in bungalows behind parents’ homes are in a similar and frustrated position. Leaking bungalows, caravans, .mildewed bed clothing, and overcrowded accommodation are everyday problems in my electorate. Those who have always been comfortably housed do not even begin to understand the problem.
Even if a person has $40 a week to spare for rent, just try to rent a house when mentioning that one has children One will find that landlords just are not interested. I cannot imagine where they expect people with children to live. Perhaps they are all dedicated to zero population growth. I rang around real estate agents last week, when the Parliament was not sitting, offering $40 a week in rent, promising to pay the bond money asked, and each time when I said: ‘Oh, yes, they have 3 children’, I received the same answer ‘The owners will not have children’. They do not seem to mind cats and dogs, but children are taboo.
The plight of the single, elderly person on a fixed income, or on a pension, is desperate. The only accommodation open to them seems to be the one bedroom gerry-built flat at a rent of $22 to $25 a week. I invite honourable members to try living on what they would have left after paying that rent out of a pension; even after the heavy increases that this Government has made available by way of pensions and rent subsidies, it just cannot be done. In addition, every time the pension rate is increased, the landlord puts the rent up. These pensioners could not win any way.
I might add that, because of the desperation of married couples and elderly people in trying to find a roof over their heads, quite a few new rackets are springing up. It is strange how one person’s adversity always becomes a springboard for someone else to make a profit. The racket that I am meeting most often goes something like this: ‘Oh, yes, I will rent the house to you. Of course, it is in need of some repair. It needs reblocking and painting, etc. But how about I give you a reduced rent in return for you doing the repairs, the odd bits and pieces needed, and, yes, I will draw up a lease to protect you.’ Peter Fitzgerald is writing an article on this matter in the Melbourne ‘Herald’. I will refer to it later.
All goes well while the tenant paints the house, reblocks it and perhaps replaces the hot water system. He is usually just about finished when the owner comes along and the tenant has the choice of getting out or paying a greatly increased rent because the house is now in such good repair. In one of his articles, Peter Fitzgerald writes:
The Victorian Section Leader of the State Government’s Rental Investigation Bureau, Mr Frederickson, said: ‘This practice is prevalent now in Melbourne as it is whenever there is a housing shortage and people are desperate to have a roof over their heads ‘.
That is the key to the situation. Once a shortage exists and people are desperate, the rackets will follow.
The honourable member for Casey mentioned the bonding racket. This is a really good one. If a landlord has 2 blocks of flats with 10 flats in each block, he has $20,000 in deposits and that money is invested. If a landlord has 2 blocks of flats, usually he has 10, so he probably has closer to $100,000 for investment. He is obtaining interest from that money. But let any tenant try to get his or her bond money back. The tenant could clean the house from ceiling to floor, have it spotless, but the tenant will not get a penny, of that bond money back. As well as the landlord having the advantage of the interest on the investment of the bond money, he has the bond money too. This is a real racket. I have tried to get bond money back for people in my electorate, and I have never been successful.
When the Opposition is berating the Government for its insistence on subsidising the building of homes for rent, why does it not give some constructive thought to the problem? If all the State housing commissions had a look at the housing problem in all the States and went hell for leather to catch up on the backlog in housing, we would have a whole new situation. If sufficient low rent houses were available, we could bring down the price of rented private houses. If sufficient low rent houses were available, we could stamp out the rackets in renting. If people were not desperate for a roof over their heads all of the sub-standard homes that are being rented at large rates would soon be vacated. People do not live in houses with leaking roofs and rotted floors by choice. If sufficient low rent homes were available, those one bedroom jerry-built flats would soon be empty or rented for what they were worth rather than what the market will bear. If the housing problems could be overcome, rent racketeers and landlord predators could be harnessed.
Those people who are at present opposing the Family Law Bill could well put some of their energy into looking into the housing problem because fewer marriages would be in danger of breaking down if more people had homes, if more people had room to move in their homes and if more people could rent a home at a price they could afford. This is the start of half of the arguments of married couples. There is no other single problem that causes more misery than inadequate housing. Victoria has a 4-year waiting list for a Housing Commission home. I gather that other States are in much the same position. This problem can be overcome, it should be overcome and it has to be overcome if people are to live ordinary lives. The home is basic to the security of just about every one of us. If one does not have or cannot afford a home everything else just falls to pieces.
– I am pleased to see that the Government is now coming around to the Opposition’s way of thinking by recognising the problems of the housing industry and the problems that people have in finding a home. Having successfully downgraded the whole of the building industry and the ability of people to buy homes the Government is now becoming aware of the rent problem.
We are now reaching the time of the year, as summer approaches, when the weather is getting hotter. At this time of the year the soft drink vending machines are rattling and cafe and milk bar proprietors are doing a roaring trade in soft drinks and fruit drinks. The soft drink industry is a multi-million dollar industry with the annual turnover of $203.5m. I am told that the annual growth rate of this industry is something like 12 per cent. There have been times over the last few years when it has even been necessary to import soft drinks and fruit drinks to sustain production in the local industry. I wish to emphasise the size of the industry and the demand that the public has for this beverage. However, the public and the consumer have no way of assessing what they are buying. They have no indication from the packaging or from the containers exactly what is inside the bottle, can or plastic jar. The National Health and Medical Research Council was approached 4 years ago with a view to rationalising labelling and giving the consumer some concept of the true value of the nutrients, if in fact there are any, contained in soft drinks and fruit drinks. The approach was made with a view to encouraging producers of soft drinks to label their products so that the consumer could properly assess the purchase.
There are a number of soft drink and fruit drink products on the market at the moment. Probably the most rapidly expanding one is the single strength fruit drink which comes in half gallon or 2-litre plastic jars. A number of varieties of this type of drink can be found on the shelves. The housewife consumer on looking at these products would naturally think that they were all comparable, that they were all interchangeable and that they were all the same product. However, if the consumer looked along these shelves he or she would find that there is a price variation between the products. Under the labelling regulations as they exist at the moment there can be variations of between 20 per cent and 95 per cent in the fruit content of these containers. A consumer cannot possibly assess the fruit content of these different products unless he or she is well aware of the labelling regulations that exist at the moment. One has to look for a single word on the label to ascertain whether the product is a drink or a juice.
It seems to me that we are jeopardising the right of choice of people who really need to make a proper decision on what product they buy. We are jeopardising the right of choice of mothers, of invalids and also of people who are becoming conscious of their health in times of stress and high cholesterol levels. People are aware of what they are drinking and eating. It would seem to be a reasonable proposition that people should be able to know whether the product they are buying is indeed as it appears to be or whether it is something different. It is not my intention to advocate the restriction of choice in this matter. I think that while people need to know what they are buying they need not be restricted in any way as to what they decide to buy. If they decide to buy the real thing, so much the better. If they decide to consume something in their home that is not health giving, that is their decision.
Carbonated drinks- the normal fizzy soft drinks- also come within this category. Again there is no way of assessing the composition of the contents of soft drink cans. No doubt many of us have seen soft drink advertisements depicting people dancing through orchards laden with fruit. In fact the fruit content of some of these products has been as low as .01 per cent skin oil of the fruit depicted on the label. The Minister for Health (Dr Everingham) is nodding agreement and no doubt he is aware of the circumstances. I realise that this matter may not be in his jurisdiction. However, I would urge him to bring this matter to the notice of his colleague, the Minister for Science (Mr Morrison). When I rang the National Health and Medical Research Council this morning I was advised that there was no one there to answer my questions.
– They are having a conference.
– Yes, I realise that. The conference is to last until Friday. But there was no one who could readily give information to me in regard to the latest regulations. I would like to know what proposals the Council has to establish some sort of guidelines to the States in the labelling of products.
The Minister for Health will no doubt be aware too that the States almost automatically follow directly the recommendations of the Council. New South Wales and Victoria have acted in some directions; they have moved to alter regulations concerning the labelling of these products so that people can make a better assessment. However, the Council has done nothing in regard to this matter for 4 years. I think that the cry at times tends to be: ‘We will wait and implement a codex alimentarius of our own here in Australia.’ This is a fine objective. It is something with which all Australians would agree. But despite the comments that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has made about initiatives that the Government is taking, there seems to have been no constructive contribution to ongoing and vital matters that have been raised over a long period.
It is interesting to note that synthetic drinks, which are pure chemical and which may be mixed with water and which were advertised in a most misleading manner when they were first brought on to the market, are being denied the consumer. Perhaps this is a good thing. But I would not suggest that the consumer should not be allowed to make a choice. The fact that a product does not contain any basic nutrient or fruit should be clearly stated on its label so that people will know what they are buying. Certainly the label should show whether the nutrient or fruit content of a drink is nil or .0 1 per cent.
– It is my intention in rising in this grievance debate to conclude some of the remarks that time did not permit me to have included in the record of the Parliament last night. I refer to the racketeering taking place in regard to the Sydney Stock Exchange and the further shocking disclosure which must shake the confidence of people throughout Australia and overseas in the character and integrity of the Sydney Stock Exchange. It has been under criticism from the media and parliamentarians for some time now. I think that if an Australian travelled overseas and the question of the Sydney Stock Exchange was raised, that person would have to hide his head in shame. I pointed out yesterday that three of the major newspapers in Australia- the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’, the Australian ‘Financial Review’ and the ‘Australian’ reported that a 10-man syndicate of highly disciplined and skilled share traders has made almost $5m in profits from insider trading. I believe that these types of rackets or scandals should win the attention of every decent member of Parliament, both State and Federal, irrespective of the political flag which that member carries.
I think it is a pity that it could be said that the actions of the Premier of New South Wales leave him open to criticism of either a lack of integrity or of being involved. I pointed out last night just before my time expired that the New South Wales State Police Department is paying $930,000 a year for the lease of police headquarters in College St, Sydney, from the Parkes Developments Pty Ltd, one of the new big developers that has come to the fore in Sydney in recent times. My information from Sydney this morning is that the Parkes Developments Company, of which Sir Paul Strasser is chairman of directors, raised a considerable amount of money from the State Government. An amount in the vicinity of $ 15m was raised from the parliamentary superannuation fund in New South Wales. Also on the board of directors are Mr and Mrs Ryko and a Mr John Charody. These people are the mainstays of the Parkes Developments Company to which the New South Wales Police Department is paying a fabulous amount for the rental of these premises. I understand that the Premier of New South Wales signed a lease for the premises. I believe that he acted improperly and probably somewhat in a shady way in allowing Mr John Charody, one of the directors of the Parkes Developments Company, to accompany him overseas on one of his recent trips. Apparently, they were in Hungary together. As honourable members will know, Hungary is the country from which have come some of the shady company directors who have hit the headlines in Australia in recent times. Our Federal Government has had great difficulty in having these people extradited from Latin America. I believe that there is no legislation -
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise to take a point of order. I have taken a similar point of order before in relation to the same honourable member. I do not believe that he is entitled to bring into the debate by innuendo in the way that he has the names of people who cannot defend themselves and to smear people such as Sir Paul Strasser. I do not defend the gentleman in any way. But to make a reference to a gentleman who is of the same race as another man who is avoiding the police in another country casts a smear that cannot be answered. I submit that the honourable member is not entitled to make such a reference in the House.
-The honourable member would not be entitled to refer to the name of any person against whom litigation has commenced or against whom proceedings of any kind are pending, even to the extent of an extradition order. But it would be within the right of the honourable member for Hunter to deal with any other matters outside of that scope dealing with political and social questions within Australia. I ask the honourable member to be careful to make sure that he does not refer to any matter in regard to which action has been taken already by the Attorney-General, as reported in the Senate Hansard.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise to order. Is the honourable member for Hunter entitled to refer to the Premier of a State as a shady character?
– I did not say that he was a shady character; I did not.
– No, I did not hear that. No point of order arises.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, the point of order I was raising refers to standing order 153. Perhaps I am not in order in this. It appears that the standing order relates to questions which reflect on or are critical of the character of persons who may be challenged only by a substantive motion. However, I see that that standing order relates only to Question Time.
-Yes. I call the honourable member for Hunter.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I will endeavour to conform to your ruling. I believe that it should be the objective of every parliamentarian, whether State or Federal, whether Liberal Party, Country Party or Labor Party, to try to preserve our democratic system which the Prime Minister has stated is under challenge at this time throughout the world. If the democratic system is not preserved, it will crumble to dust. I can assure every honourable member that my objective in raising these matters from time to time is to preserve the democratic system.
Before I came into this Parliament I had it in my mind that anything that is evil to the system should be exposed and expanded upon and that anything that is for good and for the benefit of the people should be applauded and advertised. That is my overall objective. I only wish that it was the objective of the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr Ruddock) and other honourable members on his side of the House. When one rises in the House, as I frequently do, to speak on these matters with the sole objective of preserving our cherished democratic system, one finds opposition from members opposite, such as the opposition which has been raised by the honourable member for Parramatta. Parliamentary privilege is given to members of Parliament to disclose these things. There should be more of us disclosing the things which ultimately, if they are not disclosed and not acted upon, will bring about the downfall of the democratic system. If this ever happens in my lifetime, I will attribute it to the actions taken by members of the Opposition when I have risen to disclose the very things that will bring about the downfall of government of the people, by the people, for the people.
When I raise these matters I receive many letters from people who are interested in such things asking why more politicians do not take the same action. Last night, when endeavouring to expose these things, strong opposition came from and points of order were taken by members of the Opposition. Now, when I try again to disclose these rackets, points of order have been taken by the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) and the honourable member for Parramatta. I do not know how those honourable members would answer their electors if they asked them: ‘Why do you not allow the honourable member for Hunter to speak?’, because society is vitally interested in these things. The shareholders of these companies who were robbed of $21m are vitally interested in what action the politicians are taking.
In the short time available to me, I state that I hope that the New South Wales Government will cleanse itself by having the Federal Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) take over the prosecutions of these arch spivs and racketeers in Latin America. The New South Wales Government should let the Federal AttorneyGeneral institute the prosecutions. They should take place in the Australian Capital Territory before an Australian Capital Territory jury, an Australian Capital Territory judge and, if necessary, a crown prosecutor of the calibre of Mr Vince Wallace, Q.C., the Deputy Senior Crown Prosecutor from the New South Wales criminal courts. Then the public would be satisfied not only that justice was done but also that justice appeared to be done. I regret that the honourable member for Parramatta endeavoured to stifle my remarks. To a degree, he has succeeded in stifling me from disclosing more facts which I intended to disclose because my time has expired and I cannot do so.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Luchetti)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I see that in this Grievance Day debate I have only 5 minutes in which to say what I would normally have 10 minutes to say; so I must of necessity cover only a very narrow part of the subject that I wish to raise. I want to speak about development in Western Australia. I do grieve for my State, the people of Perth, and my people of Stirling about what this Government is doing to development of the great national resources of Western Australia. I want today to raise particularly what is happening with regard to ou and gas exploration in Western Australia, particularly offshore and in the North- West Shelf area. I noticed in the ‘West Australian’ of Wednesday, 3 November, a report of a data firm quitting Western Australia. Western Geophysical Co. of America, seismic data processors, will close down its Western Australian office on Friday.
To some people that may not be significant They may not know what a seismic data processor is or in what field of activity its services are used. Such a firm is directly involved in oil exploration. This firm was engaged by oil companies. It engaged a marine crew involved in seismic work off-shore. The manager of the company is reported as saying that it was closing down its Perth operations because oil companies were not undertaking any new exploration at present. The closure will mean that from a peak of employing 55 people on its seismic data processing operation and about thirty in its marine crew; all of those experts in this vital field of oil exploration will be lost to Western Australia and to Australia. The computer staff, 12 key personnel, are going to Singapore. What a tragedy it is for Australia that at a time when this country is starved technologically in fields like this we are losing this kind of key people to other countries.
The manager of the company said: ‘We will come back.’ I would add that he will certainly come back with these key personnel when we have a return to sensible Liberal-Country Party government. We on this side appreciate the importance of development of our natural resources. Tragically we have had a 2-year hiatus in development of these resources since the Labor Government came to power in 1972 and we have had the administration of the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor). What needs to be recognised by the people of Western Australia is that the future dependence, if not the destiny, of Australia is locked up in the remote farms, mines and processing plants of places like the Pilbara. The eastern seaboard of Australia is heavily dependent upon its manufacturing industry. States like mine are heavily dependent upon the development of natural resources in remote areas like the Pilbara. Therefore, it is of imperative importance that decisions be made now to unlock those resources for the future benefit of Australia.
In the mini-Budget of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) on Tuesday night there were cuts in income and company tax and a new direction was given to the Prices Justification Tribunal to allow companies to receive that degree of profit which is necessary for sound investment and future expansion. We have seen at last a recognition that the credit squeeze must be taken off to relieve the liquidity crisis that was facing banks and industry. But to me, that is only half the ledger. The Government is looking at only half of the problem affecting inflation in Australia. The real answer to inflation in this country will in the end come from a return to a policy of economic growth. When the Government is prepared to acknowledge that it will see that the greatest economic growth in the shortest time will come from the rapid development of the natural resources with which Western Australia is so well endowed.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Luchetti)Order! It is now 15 minutes to 1 o’clock. In accordance with standing order 106 the debate is interrupted and I put the question: That grievances be noted.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. In the debate that has just concluded the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) suggested that it was my objective to prevent him from raising in this House matters which needed inquiry and which were important to him. I make it clear that it was certainly not my objective to do that, but I believe that the privilege that the honourable member has, and which every other member in this House has, is required to be exercised responsibly. It ought to be exercised responsibly. My objective in raising the point of order that I raised and which the honourable member claimed prevented him from speaking about the matters that he wished to raise, was to prevent persons named being maligned without substantive allegations being made. I believed that in the remarks that were made they were maligned by innuendo. I would certainly not in any way wish to prevent the honourable member from making substantive allegations from time to time which quite properly he and every other member should hopefully become aware of.
Bill presented by Mr Crean, and read a first time.
This Bill declares the rates of income tax payable for the 1974-75 financial year. The main features of the Bill are a new personal tax scale, reduced rates of company tax and a surcharge on property income. The new personal tax scale will result in lower tax for all persons except those with quite large incomes- the greatest reductions will be at the lower and middle income levels. For example, the tax payable on a taxable income of $4,000 will be reduced by $188.30 or 3 1 per cent from the tax at last year’s rates and at a taxable income of $6,000 the reduction will be $259.90 or 20.6 per cent. The combined effect of the new rates and the rebate for low income earners with dependants will be to reduce very substantially, and in some cases extinguish, the tax otherwise payable by these persons. For example, a taxpayer with a wife and 2 children with a taxable income of $2,732 after allowance of dependants’ and other deductions will be freed from tax. For 1973-74 his tax would have been $302.17. The tax payable by a taxpayer with a taxable income of $4,000, after deductions for a wife and 2 children, will be $303.52 for 1974-75, compared with $608.30 for 1973- 74- a reduction of over 50 per cent. Revised tax instalment deductions taking into account the changed rates of tax announced in my Budget Speech have applied since 1 November. These will be further changed, as from January 1975, so that from January pay packets will, in addition, reflect broadly double the cuts that are being made in the rates announced in the Budget. The new rate scale will also be reflected in provisional tax in respect of 1974-75 incomes.
The Bill also proposes a tax surcharge on property income included in the 1974-75 taxable income of an individual or the net income of a trust estate. The surcharge will not apply, however, where the taxable or net income is $5,000 or less. The surcharge will be based on the amount of tax on property income calculated by reference to the average rate of tax applicable to the whole of the taxable income. The rate will be 10 per cent where the taxable income is $5,500 or more and there will be ‘shading-in’ rates applying in the range $5,001 to $5,499. The effect of the surcharge will be quite moderate. In the case of a person with taxable income of $10,000, one-quarter of which is from property, it will add only $69.50 to ordinary tax of $2,780. Despite the surcharge this person will pay less tax for 1974- 75 than would have been payable on the same taxable income for 1973-74.
For the 1974-75 financial year the special rebate of tax for aged persons is to be a basic amount of $130. It will be recalled that the rebate was introduced as a transitional measure last year, as part of the package of measures associated with the commencement of phasing out of the age pension means test. It has now served its transitional role, but it is to be phased out gradually. While less than that allowed last year it will, when coupled with the reduced rates of tax applying to lower incomes, result in aged persons entitled to it paying less tax in 1974-75 than on equivalent 1973-74 incomes. The rebate will free from tax persons of age pension age for the whole of 1974-75 whose taxable incomes are $2,358 or less. For 1973-74 the corresponding amount was $1,921.
The Bill proposes that for the 1974-75 financial year the general rebate of tax payable by public and private companies in respect of 1973- 74 incomes will be 45 per cent. The proposed rate for public companies is 2Vi per cent less than for the 1973-74 financial year, and the Budget proposal to increase the rate for private companies to 47.5 per cent is not being proceeded with. The rate of tax payable by cooperative companies and non-profit companies other than friendly society dispensaries on tax income in excess of $10,000 will also be reduced from 47.5 per cent to 45 per cent. Other company tax rates will be the same as those that applied last year. The rate of tax payable in respect of the 1974- 75 investment income of a superannuation fund that does not invest a specified proportion of its assets in public securities will be reduced from 47.5 per cent to 45 per cent, thus preserving the link between the rate of tax payable in these cases and that payable by mutual life assurance companies.
Explanations of technical aspects of the Bill are contained in the memorandum I have circulated. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Dr Forbes) adjourned.
– For the information of honourable members I present a document entitled ‘Proposed Requirements for the Advertising of Therapeutic Goods recommended by the National Theraputic Goods Committee’ which the Australian Health Ministers at their August 1974 conference agreed to take back to their respective governments.
Sitting suspended from 12.56 to 2.15 p.m.
Bill presented by Mr Crean, and read a first time.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill will give effect to taxation proposals announced in the Budget Speech and one or two other such proposals. The rebate of tax for low income earners entitled to concessional deductions for dependants is one feature of the Bill. It is proposed that where, because of the lower rates of tax payable by these people, their tax saving from deductions for dependants is less than 40 per cent of the amount of the deductions, a rebate will be allowed to bring the saving up to 40 per cent, or to the tax otherwise payable if that is less. By way of illustration, a man supporting a wife and two children is entitled to maintenance deductions of $832. If his taxable income were $5,000 his tax saving from these deductions would ordinarily be $266.24. The rebate will increase the saving by $66.56 to $332.80. His tax for 1974-75 will be $6 13.44, i.e., $303.86, nearly $6 a week less than the 1973-74 tax of $9 17.30.
The Bill also proposes amendments to the depreciation provisions to make it clear that expenditure on facilities used in child care centres provided by employers for children of their employees are to qualify for depreciation deductions on the same basis as facilities provided for employees. The concessional deductions available for the maintenance of dependants are to be widened by the Bill so that, for 1974-75 and subsequent years, deductions will be available for the maintenance of dependants who are not residents of Australia.
A major purpose of this Bill is to give legislative effect to the Government’s undertaking to introduce a scheme of income tax deductions for interest paid on home loans. The scheme will provide worthwhile relief from interest charges for low and medium income borrowers. The new scheme will apply to housing loan interest due and payable on and after 1 July 1974. Its basic features have already been outlined on a number of occasions and are explained in detail in the memorandum I am circulating on these and other provisions of the Bill. The Bill also gives effect to an announcement I made last March that the income tax law would be amended to exempt from tax interest derived by a credit union from loans to its members. Credit unions will continue to be taxed on income other than interest on loans to members, e.g., from rents and ‘outside’ investment of funds not immediately required for their normal lending operations. A futher amendment in the concessional deduction area to be made by the Bill will reduce the maximum deductions for education and selfeducation expenses from $400 to $150. 1 do not have to stress the substantially increased direct expenditures that the Government is making on education.
I refer now to an amendment proposed as part of the Budget which affects life assurance companies. A Life assurance company is allowed a deduction based on a proportion of ‘calculated liabilities’. This deduction, which is in the nature of a concession, in effect frees from tax a basic 2 per cent return on policy holders’ funds, and this ultimately goes to policy holders in tax free form.
If a company’s holdings of public securities rise above or fall below the 30/20 investment ratio the deduction is varied upwards or downwards. The basic allowable proportion of calculated liabilities was reduced from 3 per cent to 2 per cent in the 1973-74 Budget, and will be reduced to 1 per cent by this amendment as a further step towards ensuring that life assurance transactions, viewed as a whole, bear a fairer share of overall taxation.
New provisions are to be inserted by the Bill to reduce the difficulties I mentioned in the Budget Speech regarding taxation of the value of certain fringe benefits. Following a concept applied in Canada, one of the new provisions will, in effect, place on a fringe benefit provided by way of private use of a motor vehicle a minimum annual value equal to 12 per cent of the first $6,000 and 24 per cent of the balance of the original cost of the vehicle. Another new provision will require the value of benefits received under a stock option or share purchase scheme to be measured at the time of the exercise of the option or on the transfer of the shares rather than, as at present, when the rights are acquired. The third of the new provisions will disallow deductions for fees paid for membership of a sporting or social club. This provision will also disallow deductions for expenditure relating to leisure facilities such as boats, ski lodges, holiday cottages unless a genuine and substantial business need for the facility is established.
The Bill also proposes some technical amendments concerned with the allowance in tax assessments of our residents of a credit for Papua New Guinea tax on income derived there. The amendments, which I foreshadowed in an announcement I made last year, are consequential upon the introduction of a dividend withholding tax by Papua New Guinea in August 1972 and will ensure that appropriate credit is allowed for that tax. Minor amendments are proposed to the relief provisions of the income tax law. One will increase from $ 100 to $200 the amount in respect of which applications for relief can be dealt with by the Commissioner of Taxation. The other will empower the relief board to determine, without prior reference to a member of a Board of Review or the Chairman of a Land Valuation Board, applications for relief where the liability is $2,000 or less, instead of $1,000 or less as at present.
Several important amendments to the special provisions of the income tax laws relating to capital expenditures of mining enterprises are contained m the Bill. As I indicated in my Budget Speech, these provisions have resulted in many highly profitable companies paying relatively little tax over an extended period. The Bill will withdraw- for 1974-75 and subsequent yearsthe 20 per cent tax exemption on income from the production of certain minerals, including copper, bauxite, nickel and beach sands. Deductions will not in future be allowable for capital expenditure incurred on company formation and capital raising. Capital expenditure on the development of a mine or oil field, on the provision of community facilities adjacent to a mine or field, or on the purchase of mining rights or information will be deductible henceforth over the estimated life of the mine or field. Where the estimated life is longer than 25 years the allowance will be one twenty-fifth of the undeducted capital expenditure. Capital expenditure on facilities for the transport of minerals will be deductible for income tax purposes over 20 years instead of 10 years. However, in relation to any of those expenditures to be made by 30 June 1976 under contracts for the supply of goods or services already entered into, deductions will continue to be allowable under the present provisions of the law.
Exploration expenditure incurred by general mining companies in 1974-75 and subsequent income years will be allowable as immediate deductions up to the level of income derived in any year from general mining and associated activities in the same way as petroleum prospecting and mining companies are allowed immediate deductions against income from petroleum for similar expenses. Prospecting and other activities carried out by general mining companies on the continental shelf will be regarded as having been carried out in Australia, consistent with the taxation treatment of petroleum operations carried on at off-shore locations. As I mentioned earlier I am circulating a comprehensive explanatory memorandum on the Bill to honourable members. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Dr Edwards) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Crean, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to increase the basic rate of tax payable by a company under section 126 of the Income Tax Assessment Act on interest paid on bearer debentures where the company does not disclose the names and addresses of the debenture holders to the commissioner. The rate at present is that applying to a taxable income of $16,786, which is about 39 per cent. Designed as it is as a sanction against a practice which involves tax avoidance this rate is now inadequate. The opportunity is being taken to increase it. For interest paid or credited on or after the date of commencement of this Act, the rate of tax will be 55 per cent. It will thus be the same as will in future apply in respect of property income of certain trusts to which special rates are applied because they are regarded as instruments of tax avoidance. The technical aspects of the Bill are explained in the memorandum that I have had circulated. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Dr Edwards) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Crean, and read a first time.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill will amend the Income Tax (International Agreements) Act in 2 respects, one minor and the other substantial. The minor amendment is quite technical and is necessary because of the proposed surcharge on property income for 1974-75. It will provide a means of taking the surcharge into account in calculating the amount of Australian tax on particular income. This calculation has to be made in order to determine a limit for double taxation credits for foreign tax so that they do not exceed Australian tax on foreign income, and to establish the rebate to be allowed where the Australian tax payable by a non-resident on Australian income is limited under an agreement.
The substantial amendment will give the force of law to a comprehensive double taxation agreement with the Federal Republic of Germany which was signed in 1972. The agreement will not, however, become actually operative until 30 days after it has been ratified by both countries and instruments of ratification exchanged. The agreement is comprehensive and, by and large, it accords in practical effects with other such agreements to which Australia is a party. I should, however, refer to a particular matter that is dealt with somewhat differently in this agreement.
Under the agreement with the Federal Republic, withholding tax on dividends will generally be limited by each country to 15 per cent. The Federal Republic has, however, a system of taxing company profits which involves much lower rates on distributed profits than on undistributed profits. If, in a case of direct investmentthat is, where foreign holding is 25 per cent or more- the Federal Republic limited its tax on dividends to 15 per cent, the situation would be wide open to exploitation. As in other agreements to which it is a party therefore, there is in our agreement with the Federal Republic provision for that country to impose its withholding tax in direct investment cases at a higher rate. The rate agreed is 25.75 per cent. This means that under the agreement, the combined company and withholding tax rate on profits leaving the Federal Republic as dividends in direct investment cases will be 43.98 per cent. The corresponding Australian rate based on the proposed company tax rate of 45 per cent will be 53.25 per cent.
As I have said, other provisions of the agreement are largely conventional in nature. Explanations of them are spelt out in some detail in the explanatory memorandum which I am circulating with the Bill. There are 2 things I should add. One is that, due to the delay that has unavoidably occurred in giving force to it, the agreement will have retrospective effect to the 1971-72 income year in Australia and the 1971 calendar year in the Federal Republic. The other is that I am sure all honourable members would regard the new agreement as further evidence of the harmonious relations that exist between the Federal Republic and Australia. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Dr Edwards) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Crean, and read a first time.
This Bill will amend the estate duty law in two substantial respects. It will provide for a deduction of up to $35,000 in the assessment of duty payable on an estate where an interest in a matrimonial home passes to a surviving spouse. It will also provide for the establishment of a board with power to release a person wholly or partly from estate duty where its exaction would cause serious hardship for a beneficiary. These 2 measures give effect to undertakings in the policy speech delivered by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) on 29 April 1974.
For the proposed deduction to be available it will be necessary for the deceased person to have been domiciled in Australia immediately before his or her death and for property comprising an interest in a matrimonial home to pass to the surviving spouse. In addition to the more usual situations, shares conferring rights of occupancy of a flat or home unit used as a matrimonial home will be treated as such property. The amount of the deduction will be determined by reference to the gross value of the property disregarding any mortgage or other encumbrance on it. A deduction up to the full gross value may be allowed where the value does not exceed $35,000. Where it exceeds that amount the deduction will be $35,000 less $7 for every $ 10 of the excess so that there will be no deduction at all where the gross value is $85,000 or more. The deduction is to be allowed in assessments of estates of persons who died on or after 30 April 1974.
Special provisions have been included in the Bill to deal with situations in which the matrimonial home was not used exclusively for that purpose and where something less than the whole of the property passes to the surviving spouse. There are also provisions to deal appropriately with such situations as where an interest in the matrimonial home has been gifted to a spouse within 3 years before death and is brought back into the estate for duty purposes as notional property. The special provisions are discussed in detail in the explanatory memorandum being made available to honourable members and I will not elaborate on them in this introductory speech.
Like the Income Tax Relief Board, the board to be established to relieve a person from a liability to pay estate duty is to comprise the Commissioner of Taxation, the Secretary to the Treasury and the Comptroller-General of Customs or their substitutes. It will be able to grant relief only where the benefit will accrue to a beneficiary who would suffer hardship if the full amount of duty were collected. In cases involving applications for relief from duty of $2,000 or more the Board will be required to refer the application to a taxation board of review or to the Chairman of the Valuation Board so that the appropriate persons can be examined regarding statements in support of the application. The
Commissioner of Taxation will be authorised to deal with applications involving small, amounts of $200 or less.
Other amendments contained in the Bill ensure that, where appropriate, the new deduction for the matrimonial home and any amounts for which relief has been granted are taken into account in calculating quick succession and primary producer rebates in estate duty assessments. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Dr Edwards) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Crean, and read a first time.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Banking Bill has four main purposes.The first purpose is to take full advantage of the constitutional powers of the Australian Government in relation to exchange control regulation of the financial aspects of overseas transactions. Secondly, the Bill provides for the extra-territorial application of the Banking (Foreign Exchange) Regulations. Thirdly, the Bill includes provisions that validate, for the purpose of any civil proceedings, acts or transactions already entered into, or which might be entered into in future, without the proper exchange control authority. The right of the Government to prosecute persons for breaches of the Banking (Foreign Exchange) Regulations will not be affected.
The fourth purpose of the Bill is to provide a more comprehensive legislative basis for tax screening arrangements enabling exchange control approval to be withheld to proposed transactions with overseas tax havens that involve evasion or avoidance of Australian tax. Amendments to the Taxation Administration Act 1953-1973 will also be introduced into the House for this purpose.
The present section 39 of the Banking Bill has been on the statute books for about 30 years and only minor amendments have been made to it during that time. Since the section was drafted, it has been recognised that, in order to be able to give full effect to economic and financial management policies which it may be desirable to pursue in the national interest, governments need to have full legal powers to control financial aspects of all the various types of transaction which may be entered into between residents of Australia and residents of overseas countries.
Under the present section 39 exchange control regulations may be made for the purposes of the protection of the currency or of the public credit of Australia or to conserve, in the national interest, Australia’s foreign exchange resources. The wording of this section, and the way it is drafted, has given rise to some uncertainty as to whether the section gives power to make regulations with respect to all types of overseas transactions. The proposed amendments to section 39 should ensure that regulations may be made to control the financial aspects of all overseas transactions entered into in modern economies.
The absence of a specific power over extraterritorial transactions in the existing legislation could enable avoidance of the requirement to seek exchange control approval in respect of contracts, etc., with non-residents entered into outside Australia. Such contracts could be concluded contrary to Government policies. The proposed new section 39a specifically provides for financial acts and transactions of Australian residents which take place overseas to be brought within the ambit of exchange control regulations.
The present Banking Act contains no provision for the granting of retrospective exchange control authorisations. In the absence of the proper exchange control authority, not only could a transaction between a resident of Australia and an overseas resident be illegal and subject to penalty under the Banking Act, it could also be null and void. In most cases where exchange control authority is not obtained the persons involved would be unaware of the need to obtain approval and, in many cases, the absence of exchange control approval would not present a problem to the parties concerned. However the fact that such contracts could be invalid could lead to people using the alleged invalidity of such transactions to renege on their debts or other obligations. This would clearly be undesirable.
Clause 5 of the Bill contains provisions which will validate, for civil purposes, acts or transactions which have been entered into without exchange control approval prior to the commencement of the Act. Section 39 (6) makes provision for regulations to be made to validate transactions, etc., which will be entered into in future without the appropriate approval. Validation would, however, in no way prevent a person being convicted of an offence against the
Banking (Foreign Exchange) Regulations because the person failed to obtain exchange control approval.
Honourable members will recall that last December the Parliament approved amendments to the Banking Act 1959-1973 which were intended to provide a firm legal basis for arrangements which I had earlier announced in October 1973 for the screening of exchange control applications in relation to transactions with tax havens. The amendment made at that time was drafted to deal with the situation in a short form, but experience indicates that it is necessary to set out the relevant rules in a more comprehensive way. It is also necessary to make clear in the legislation, as had been intended since the tax screening procedures were put into operation, that the effective work of considering whether there are tax avoidance or evasion implications in proposed transactions with tax havens falls on the Commissioner of Taxation, not on the Reserve Bank.
Under existing section 39 (3) and (4) the Reserve Bank, which is responsible for the administration of exchange control, has the power to reject applications for exchange control approval on the ground that the transaction involves, assists in, or is associated with the avoidance or evasion of Australian tax. The Bank is, however, not authorised to refuse exchange control approval on tax grounds if the applicant produces to the Bank a statement by the Commissioner of Taxation to the effect that, in the opinion of the Commissioner, no tax avoidance or evasion is involved.
The proposed new section 39b in the Banking Bill allows or, in certain cases, requires the Bank to refuse applications for exchange control approval unless the applicant produces a tax clearance certificate from the Commissioner of Taxation to the effect that the transaction is not associated with tax avoidance or evasion. In other words, the formal power in relation to tax implications of proposed transactions is to be transferred from the Reserve Bank to the Commissioner. The Taxation Administration Bill provides, inter aha, rules associated with the giving of these tax clearance certificates.
Honourable members will be aware from comments that I have made to this House on more than one occasion how the Government feels about tax havens and the resort that people and companies make to them. This type of activity is clearly inequitable and strikes at the foundation of the society that this Government is building in Australia. There are indications that the tax screening procedures, so far as they extend, are making a significant contribution to countering tax haven resort by Australians in the New Hebrides and other places. I ask the House to give a rapid passage to these measures and I commend this Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Br Edwards) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Crean, and read a first time.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
In my speech on the Banking Bill I have spoken of the reasons for introducing this legislation. The explanatory memorandum that will be circulated to honourable members explains quite fully the scheme of the legislation and outlines some formal amendments that are also proposed by the Bill. Accordingly, and because the legislation is designed to give fresh sanction to screening procedures that have had the approval of the Parliament, I think I can be brief in mentioning the main features of this Bill.
As I indicated when speaking to the Banking Bill, a section proposed by that Bill requires the reserve Bank, in appropriate cases, to refuse an exchange control application unless there is produced to it a tax clearance certificate issued by the Commissioner of Taxation. The Taxation Administration Bill provides rules for the giving by the Commissioner of such certificates. Under the banking legislation the Treasurer is given authority to declare that classes of transactions with persons in tax havens are to be subjected to tax screening. If a proposed transaction falls within such a class, or if the Reserve Bank considers that an exchange control application should be subjected to screening, the Bank is to require the applicant to obtain from the Commissioner, under the taxation Administration Act, a tax clearance certificate before it grants exchange control approval.
The Commissioner will be entitled to refuse to issue a clearance certificate if the applicant does not satisfy him that the proposed transaction will not involve, assist in or be associated with the avoidance or evasion of Australian tax. For this purpose, the Bill in effect declares that transactions motivated by an aim of securing a tax benefit or advantage fall into the category of tax avoidance or evasion. However, the Bill authorises the issue of a clearance certificate where it is judged that the need to protect the revenue against avoidance and evasion does not warrant refusal of a certificate. Should the Commissioner decline to issue a tax clearance certificate he is to advise the applicant accordingly and the applicant will have rights of formal objection against this refusal. If the Commissioner does not then issue a certificate the applicant may have the matter referred to a Taxation Board of Review set up under the income tax law. There will be a right of appeal to the High Court on any question of law involved in a decision of a Board of Review. In short, there will be rights to independent review of the Commissioner’s decisions under this Bill, as is the case under other legislation administered by the Commissioner. Other parts of the Bill contain necessary provisions for the maintenance of secrecy by taxation officers in their handling of applications for tax clearance certificates and for obtaining relevant information. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Dr Edwards) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Uren, and read a first time.
Suspension of Standing Orders
Motion (by Mr Les Johnson)- by leaveagreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Minister for Urban and Regional Development when moving the second reading of the Bill speaking for a period not exceeding 43 minutes.
- Mr Speaker, I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This is a short and uncomplicated Bill which sets out to do three things. One, it provides that as Minister for Urban and Regional Development, I may, in consultation with a State Minister, approve programs of urban and regional development for that State. Two, it provides that the Australian Government may agree with a State government upon the financial assistance to be provided for expenditure by the State or an approved body in the State for approved programs. Three, it provides that all agreements made with the States under this legislation be tabled before Parliament. Although this is a simple and concise
Bill, it will have a momentous impact upon the day to day lives of the people of Australia. For the first time it sets the seal on the concept and function of co-operative federalism in Australia. It allows the Australian and State Governments to get together in co-operative measures to improve the quality of life in Australian cities.
For far too long laissez-faire attitudes have dominated the thinking of Australian governments in the area of urban and regional development. The great merit of this Bill is that for the first time the resources of Australia are marshalled to provide national strategies and national programs. It is the first attempt by an Australian Government to recognise the national character of the problems of the cities. In particular it allows the Australian Government to join State and local authorities in planning and implementing programs with a broad national perspective.
– I rise to take a point of order. Do I understand, Mr Speaker, that the Minister has obtained permission from the House to speak for 45 minutes?
-No point of order arises. A motion was put to the House seeking to enable the Minister to speak for 45 minutes. The Minister is entitled to speak for 45 minutes by resolution of the House.
– That breaks every understanding made with the Government Whip’s office. I want the Minister to know that
-The Chair is not concerned with any arrangements. The fact is that this was a resolution of the House.
– A real smartie!
– Order! The Chair is concerned only with the resolution of the House. I call the Minister.
– Ad hoc programs based on limited funds will never achieve the wishes of this Government and the States to give a reasonable standard of urban environment to aU Aus.tralians. When I spoke to the House in support of the Budget on 15 October, I outlined in broad terms the Government’s strategies for urban and regional development. I said that the main thrust of our programs was to improve the way of life of our city dwellers. During 23 years of Government by the coalition parties, the non-urban population of Australia fell from 31 per cent to 14.7 per cent Now when we speak of the cities we speak of the home of 85 per cent of Aus.tralians. I do not want to turn debate on this Bill into a sectional wrangle based on cities against the country. Our programs have strong regional elements as shown by the recent grants given to rural shires and councils throughout Australia. We intend to improve and extend our regional development programs. Having made this clear, I must stress that the main thrust of this Bill is to reduce the problems of the cities and other urban areas. This will help the millions of people who have always lived in the cities. It will also help the million or so country dwellers who moved into the cities during the 23 years of LiberalCountry Party Government.
Before outlining the major aims of this Bill in more detail, I want to stress that all of the programs I describe will be undertaken jointly with the States. The Bill provides for consultation with the appropriate State Ministers. This sort of consultation has been a continuing theme of my Ministry. I have always consulted with State Ministers and officers of my Department and the Cities Commission have been in constant dialogue with their counterparts in the States. Together we have worked out strategies and the States have suggested programs which they can implement. It is important to remember that with only a handful of exceptions all of our programs are carried out by the States and bodies within the States’.
Mr Speaker, with this Bill the Government will make a three-pronged drive to improve the quality of life of our Australian people. Firstly, we will work together with the States to change the growth patterns of Australian cities. We will work together to cut back the growth of the larger capitals and build alternative population centres of a very high quality. In achieving these aims we will give the highest possible priority to dialogue with the people who live in centres and the organisations that represent them. Changing urban growth patterns will allow us to keep the severe problems we now face in existing urban areas to a level which can be managed by our programs. It will also provide the opportunity to show greater foresight in the development of new centres of population. Despite these initiatives, existing cities will continue to expand though at a slower rate. The second prong of our programs is to ensure that the major cities grow in a way which avoids the problems of the past. To do this we must provide an urban environment which includes all of the facilities and life style demanded by the Australian people and provides them at a reasonable cost. The third part of our program is designed to arrest and to reverse the decline in the urban environment of our great cities, and to improve the services within them. All of these programs are interconnected. It is impossible to sift out the separate elements of an urban and regional development program and put each into its own compartment. The State governments and their agencies understand this only too well. For these reasons, this Bill is devised as an important step towards a more efficient and economic approach to urban and regional development.
The origin of this Bill, in one respect, was a meeting held on 22 October last year between representative State Ministers and myself. We agreed that we were united in our support of the following basic objections: to contribute to the orderly and pleasant development of urban areas and in their broad planning and the assembly of land for urban purposes; to assist decentralisation through the development of attractive growth centres; to ensure that the rise in values from governmental announcements of growth centres and similar projects accrues to the community rather than to individuals; and to ensure the lowest possible prices for urban land: And to achieve all this for the benefit of people with the assistance of Australian Government funds. At that meeting the State Ministers agreed that the Australian Government should remove the artificial and detailed categories under which funds for urban and allied purposes were currently being offered by the Australian Government. This Bill is the first step in that direction.
I turn now to the respective roles of the Australian and State governments. As I said earlier, this Bill enables the Australian Government Minister in consultation with a State Minister to approve programs. Further, it provides for the Australian Government to decide on the terms and conditions of financial assistance to be given. Quite clearly our course is consultation and cooperation with the State governments. I stress here that in most cases this willingness to consult and co-operate has been returned in full measure by the State governments.
The co-operative arrangements made over the last 12 months are very impressive. I list them for the benefit of honourable members:
Agreement with every State on financial assistance for sewerage works.
Agreement with every State on financial assistance for the National Estate.
Agreement with New South Wales and Victoria on the development of AlburyWodonga.
Agreement with South Australia on the development of Monarto.
Agreement with Victoria on the establishment of an Urban Land Council.
Agreement with South Australia on the establishment of a State Land Commission.
Agreement with New South Wales and Victoria on area improvement programs.
Agreement with Victoria on Emerald Hill.
Agreement with Victoria on the south-east sector of Melbourne.
Agreement in principle with Victoria on the establishment of an interim steering committee for the development of Geelong.
Establishment of a joint steering committee to plan for the redevelopment of Woolloomooloo.
Agreement with the Tasmanian Government on a development strategy study of Tasmania and on open space acquisition in the Tamar region.
In the past 12 months I have met with State Ministers on all aspects of Australian Government policy on urban and regional development. I have been greatly encouraged by the widespread acceptance between us on the need for urgent action. These State Ministers have made a very significant contribution in the application of our programs. It is clear from these examples that the State governments welcome our initiatives. In all cases the State planning and construction authorities have a major say in the use of financial assistance made available. For example, the urban improvement projects begun in the last financial year in the western sectors of Sydney and Melbourne were approved and endorsed by the relevant planning authority in each State. We are not imposing a grand design on the States. We do recognise that the efforts of very able and very dedicated people in the States have been frustrated for too long by lack of finance and the lack of national direction and cooperation. As a national Government we must apply ourselves to defining national priorities and evaluating projects. This has to be done by the use of economic, social and environmental criteria applied at the national level rather than the State or regional level. This Bill will be a step towards creating an even better atmosphere for decisions on urban and regional development to be made on the basis of national interest.
For the benefit of honourable members I would like to make 2 explanatory comments on the Bill. Firstly, the Bill contemplates financial assistance to the States by the amounts specified in the schedule for each of the programs covered by the Bill. I will refer in greater detail to the schedule when I talk on the individual programs. Secondly, as I have already explained, the Bill authorises agreements between Australia and the various State governments. During the discussions on the terms and conditions of finance for our programs of development on the urban fringe and in growth centres the States sought assurance from us that terms and conditions of finance could be reviewed after an initial period. We agree with this. The long-term nature of these programs is such that flexibility will be required in the initial stages. To achieve this flexibility and to satisfy the States we have included in clause 5 subclause 3 a provision to review the operation of these agreements. Against this broad background of our philosophy and objectives I turn now to look in some detail at our programs.
Land Commission Program
This is basically a program to operate in existing urban areas. Through Land Commissions we seek to organise a supply of high standard serviced land to meet an existing demand. The Australian Government has proposed that each State establish a Land Commission or some other body with powers to acquire and develop, land. These bodies will operate within the existing administrative framework of the different States. Their activities will be mainly the acquisition and release of large areas of land ready to be put to urban use. The South Australian Parliament passed legislation setting up a Land Commission in October 1973. An amount of $8m was made available by the Australian Government last year and was used to acquire 1220 hectares of land. Negotiations are proceeding on an acquisition and development program for this financial year.
The Victorian Government agreed in May this year to establish an Urban Land Council. It is expected that $16m will be made available to Victoria this financial year of which $3.5m will be used to purchase open space on the Mornington Peninsula to preserve an area which is of conservational and recreational significance for the whole of Melbourne and Victoria. The balance of the funds available will be sufficient to purchase some 850 hectares of land for urban residential development in Melbourne and Victoria.
Agreements in principle have been reached with New South Wales and Tasmania. Amounts of $ 10.4m and $2m respectively will be made available once suitable acquisition and development programs have been formulated and approved. My officers are discussing with New South Wales officers possible areas for purchase and development, and I am hopeful that a program will get under way early in 1975. 1 expect that the requirements for funds for this activity in New South Wales will be much greater once the program is operating through a full year. Substantial agreement has been reached in negotiations with the Queensland Government on the establishment of a State Land Commission. Few matters remain to be resolved. Australian Government and State government officials have also reached an advanced stage in negotiations and setting a program in Western Australia.
Our program for growth centres aims to encourage the rapid development of a small number of regional growth centres as desirable alternatives to existing cities. This involves the operation of a development corporation with the following functions: to acquire and develop land; to provide service headworks; and to carry out both strategic and detailed planning for green fields urban developments. Development corporations are also responsible for attracting population and industry to the centres they manage. The role of a development corporation involves much more construction work than a Land Commission. A development corporation should also generate demand by making the particular growth centre an attractive alternative to other urban areas.
Our major growth centre program is AlburyWodonga. In partnership with the New South Wales and Victorian Governments we set up last year the Albury-Wodonga Development Corporation. Both States have passed necessary enabling legislation and this year we intend to make available $40m for this program. The Albury-Wodonga Development Corporation was set up by the Australian Government. The Victorian and New South Wales Governments have set up their own State Corporation to assemble and manage land in areas designated for development, and to provide municipal services to new urban areas. A Consultative Council representing community interests and local government has been set up to bring public participation into the development. We will assist other growth centres in co-operation with the States, including Bathurst-Orange, the Holsworthy-Campbelltown corridor into Sydney, the Gosford-Wyong corridor north of Sydney and Geelong in Victoria and Monarto in South Australia. We will be carrying out major studies under the growth centres program in Western Australia, Queensland and Tasmania.
New South Wales
The Australian Government is committed to Bathurst/Orange and negotiations are continuing with the New South Wales Government on this region. Given a successful outcome to current negotiations, a major impact on the future growth of Sydney will be made through the Holsworthy/Campbelltown/Camden/Appin corridor and the Gosford/Wyong area. The Cities Commission is undertaking the planning, development and servicing of approximately 500 residential sites in the Holsworthy area. It will then report to the Government on the results of new social and physical planning and development arrangements. An amount of $6m has been allocated to the Cities Commission for this program in 1974-75.
On 4 October this year I met the Victorian Minister for Decentralisation and Development, Mr Murray Byrne, and the Minister for Local Government, Mr Alan Hunt. It was agreed that a new development authority for the Geelong region would be established by legislation in the Victorian Parliament early next year. In the meantime interim planning tasks and a program for development would be supervised by a steering committee. This steering committee is made up of representatives of the Victorian Town and Country Planning Board, the Geelong Regional Planning Authority, the Department of State Development and Decentralisation, and the Cities Commission. Geelong as a growth centre will play an important part in the redistribution of jobs and people in south east Australia. At least $ 10m has been allocated for this area in 1 974-75.
The Monarto growth centre had already been started by the State Government when we came to power. My Department and the Cities Commission have worked closely with the Monarto Development Commission and other agencies of the South Australian Government to plan the new city. We have agreed to provide financial assistance to Monarto on the basis of agreed development programs.
Western Australia and Tasmania
We do not expect to fund actual growth centre projects in these States in 1974-75. We will be providing financial assistance under the growth centres program for major studies. In Tasmania we will provide funds for the strategic development study which is being made for the whole State but with a focus on regional planning. We will also provide funds for the acquisition of open space in the Tamar region.
As with Western Australia and Tasmania, Queensland is not receiving any financial assistance for actual growth centre projects. The Cities Commission has got the co-operation from Queensland Government officials for a study of the Moreton Region. This includes Brisbane and its environs. This study is for the most part financed on a joint 50-50 basis with the Co-Ordinator General’s Department of Queensland. The contribution of the Australian Government comes from the Cities Commission’s study work.
National Sewerage Program
The National Sewerage Program has 3 objectives: To remove existing backlogs of unsewered premises; to improve sewerage treatment; and to ensure by 1982 that all new homes can be connected to sewerage systems. The 1973-74 financial year was a gearing up year for the State authorities in which $37.65m worth of approved works were carried out. The Treasurer (Mr Crean) said in his Budget Speech that $105m would be made available this financial year. Of this amount $10m is for works started last year and approved elsewhere. The States and in particular New South Wales and Victoria have asked for more funds to maintain full employment by the sewerage authorities. The Government has responded by approving an extra $ 1 5m for this purpose. I announced this new allocation in a Press statement yesterday.
This Bill appropriates a total of $1 10m to be made available for works started this financial year. It includes at least $5m for cities in a population range of 20,000 to 60,000 and $2m to assist supporting activities. Officers of my Department have held initial discussions with State officers on allocating these funds within each State and on the terms and conditions to be included in the agreement between this Government and each State.
The allocation of funds to each State is made basically on the relative shortfall of funds in each State and on the following principles: The relative degree of self-help; the rate of progress towards eliminating the backlog; the ability to spend the funds within the financial year; the degree to which the capability will carry over into future years; the degree of consistency between the local sewerage program and the priorities of the relevant State planning authority; the importance of the program from a ‘regional ‘ point of view; and the relative population growth of the area concerned.
There are 1,500,000 people in major Australian cities living in houses and flats which are not connected to a sewerage reticulation system. This is the record. This is what we inherited as an Australian Government after 23 years of mismanagement by the former Government. There are also 100,000 people deprived of sewerage living in smaller centres of population in the 20,000 to 60,000 range. The funds announced in the first place for works this financial year were estimated by my Department and their State counterparts to be enough only to continue the activity at the level reached at the end of last year.
I stress that during 1973-74 we spent $37.65m. But this money was spent on the basis of gathering momentum, that is, we reached the peak of our gearing up program only in the last few weeks of the last financial year. To sustain the level reached in the full year 1974-75 we sought a much higher rate of spending. For this reason, the Budget provided $93m for sewerage works. This would have allowed around 30,000 backlog dwellings to be served this year as well as works carried out on head works and treatment plants. The provision of an extra $15m which I announced yesterday will allow activity to be increased and speed up the reduction of the sewerage backlog. The initial allocation was to be distributed in approximately this way: New South Wales, $34m; Victoria, $34m; Queensland, $14m; South Australia, $3m; West Australia, $15m; Tasmania, $3m; and support activities, $2m. No firm commitment has been made on the distribution of the extra $15m but I will announce details as soon as possible. Thirty per cent of all moneys for sewerage will be made available by interest free non-repayable grants. As I explained in the Budget Paper on Urban and Regional Development, the best estimate of the total cost of our objectives is about $3, 800m at June 1974 prices.
The contribution of the Australian Government is expected to be around $ 1,500m. As you can see, Mr Speaker, if the Commonwealth continues to make a 30 per cent grant, it will mean that on current prices this Federal Government in Canberra will be assisting local government and semi-government authorities throughout Australia by nearly one-third of the amount required- nearly $500m.
Area Improvement Programs
Area improvement programs are directed to specific regions where we have decided to concentrate assistance for social and economic reasons, and because major deficiencies exist. We aim to give these regions a better living environment and to improve forward planning. The programs are developed in co-operation with regional organisations of councils and the respective State governments. They aim at linking all 3 levels of government and community groups together in a co-operative venture. The programs also seek to tie in with established sources of grants or subsidies available through other Federal Government programs. In some cases the specific funds made available under the program help to complement funds committed by State and local governments and other Australian Government departments.
My Department will work to ensure that the activities of all Australian Government departments involved in area improvement program regions take place within the framework of an overall regional development strategy. Grants are earmarked for designated projects or for a designated group of activities. Projects to receive these grants are agreed upon from time to time by a Minister representing the State Government and myself. In 1973-74 the program operated in 2 regions, one in the western suburbs of Sydney, and another in the western suburbs of Melbourne. These were regions with particular deficiencies in community services and a living environment which compared unfavourably with other parts of Sydney and Melbourne. Subject to States’ agreement, the program will be extended in 1974-75 to 11 more regions. These regions may be undergoing severe growth pressures or are victims of imbalances in social make-up. For a variety of other reasons the living environment in these regions might not have realised its full potential.
In 1974-75 the Australian Government proposes to spend $ 14.1m on area improvement programs. Of this amount $ 13.5m is covered by this Bill. The balance relates to programs begun last year and appropriated elsewhere. An area improvement program is intended to encourage co-operative involvement of citizens and governments in regional planning and advancement. For this reason it involves an element of public education in urban and planning issues. Area improvement program funds will also help to rectify defects in parklands and open space, in drainage and waterways, in efficient garbage disposal systems, in community faculties such as halls and libraries. The programs represent one element of the Australian Government’s commitment to increasing the status of local government As part of its overall concern with the problems of cities the Australian Government is also concerned about the burdens carried by local government. It accepts the need for some reshaping of the way in which local government operates. The Government has already begun at a number of points to remedy these problems.
Programs now helping local government include direct financial assistance to local government through the Grants Commissionthrough which we granted, again in interest free non-repayable grants, this year $56.3m- growth centres, urban and regional budget programs, local government information file, regional programs and the area improvement program. With the permission of the House I shall conclude my remarks on the area improvement program by having incorporated in Hansard a list of the 13 regions to benefit from the program and the help each will get.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
Southern Region of Sydney (Region 16) encompassing the local government areas of Bankstown, Botany, Canterbury, Hurtsville, Kogarah, Rockdale and Sutherland, $ 1 m.
South Eastern Region of New South Wales (Region 8) encompassing the local government areas of Bega, Bibbenluke, Bombala, Boorowa, Burrangong, Cooma, Crookwell, Demondrille, Eurobodalla, Goodradigbee, Goulburn, Gunning, Imlay, Monaro, Mulwaree, Mumbulla, Murrumburrah, Queanbeyan, Snowy River, Tallaganda, Yarrowlumla, Yass and Young, $0.75m.
Hunter Region (Region 9) encompassing the local government areas of Denman, Dungog, Gloucester, Great Lakes, Greater Cessnock, Lake Macquarie, Maitland, Merriwa, Murrurundi, Muswellbrook, Newcastle, Patrick Plains, Port Stephens, Scone, Singleton, $ lm.
Illawarra Region (Region 11) encompassing the local government areas of Bowral, Kiama, Mittagong, Shellharbour, Shoalhaven, Win.gecarribee, and Wollongong, $0.75m.
Western Region of Sydney (Region 14) encompassing the local government areas of Auburn, Baulkham Hills, Blacktown, Blue Mountains, Colo, Fairfield, Holroyd, Parramatta, Penrith, and Windsor, $2m.
North Western Region of Melbourne (Region 13) encompassing the local government areas of Broadmeadows, Brunswick, Bulla Coburg and Gisborne, $0.75m.
Northern Region of Melbourne (Region 14) encompassing the local government areas of Diamond Valley, Eltham, Heidelberg, Northcote, Preston, Whittlesea, $0.75m.
Outer Eastern Region of Melbourne (Region 16) encompassing the local government areas of Croydon, Healesville, Knox, Lillydale Nunawading, Ringwood, Sherbrooke, Upper Yarra, Waverley, $0.75m.
Western Region of Melbourne (Region 12) encompassing the local government areas of Altona, Bacchus Marsh, Essendon, Footscray, Keilor, Melton, Sunshine, Werribee, Williamstown, $2m.
Queensland ‘ Moreton Region (Region 1 ) encompassing the local government areas of Albert, Beaudesert, Boonah, Brisbane, Caboolture, Esk, Gatton, Gold Coast, Ipswich, Kilcoy, Laidley, Landsborough, Maroochy, Moreton, Pine Rivers, Redcliffe, Redland, $2m.
Fitzroy Region (Region 3) encompassing the local government areas of Banana, Bauhinia, Calliope, Duaringa, Emerald, Fitzroy, Gladstone, Jericho, Livingstone, Mount Morgan, Peak Downs, Rockhampton, $0.5 m.
Northern Spencer Gulf Region (Region 7) encompassing the local government areas of Carrieton, Crystal Brook, Georgetown, Gladstone, Hallet, Hawker, Jamestown (DC), Jamestown (M), Kanyaka-Quorn, Laura, Orroroo, Peterborough (DC), Peterborough (M), Pirie, Port Augusta, Port Germein, Port Pirie, Red Hill, Spalding, Whyalla, Wilmington, $0.5m.
South Metropolitan Region of Perth (Region 12) encompassing the local government areas of Belmont, Canning, Cockburn, East Fremantle, Fremantle, Kwinana, Mandurah, Melville, Rockingham, South Perth, $0.75m.
-I thank the House. I shall now deal with the national estate
The objectives of this program are to preserve and enhance land and buildings of beauty and of historic, environmental or scientific interest as a heritage for the Australian people. Last financial year 10 1 programs were approved totalling more than $2.2m. This year $8m will be made available for the national estate program. Of that amount $5,748,000 is provided by this Bill. The balance is for programs begun last year, grants in aid, and national estate projects in the 2 Territories. An Interim Advisory Committee on the National Estate has been set up on the recommendation of the Hope Inquiry, pending a Bill to create an Australian Heritage Commission. My officers together with officers of the Interim Committee of the Australian Heritage Commission have started discussions with each State on the projects to be included in this year’s program. Submissions have also been sought by advertisement and personal representation from nongovernment bodies and private individuals. For too long we have permitted the bulldozer mentality to prevail. Our Government will seek to preserve for posterity things that were created by man or nature that are unique and beautiful. I regard this program as a key part of the Government’s urban and regional development policies.
Water is a significant input in overall urban services. The role of my ministry in this program is twofold: Firstly, to promote improved water management; secondly, to integrate the provision of water with overall urban and regional planning against the background of the Government’s national water policy. Assistance for Adelaide’s treatment scheme and the north-west Tasmanian regional water supply scheme are important parts of this approach. Both are cost effective solutions to pressing problems. Adelaide’s water comes from local catchments and the River Murray. Both are contaminated and the city’s water supply falls far short of international standards for bacteriological and chemical quality. An amount of $4.4m will be made available this financial year on the same basis as for the national sewerage program- that is, 30 per cent interest-free, non-repayable, grants and the rest a loan at the long term bond rate. The allocations for sewerage in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia are approximately $34m, $34m, $14m and $15m, respectively, while South Australia will receive approximately $3m. This points up the efforts of the South Australian Government in adequately sewering its own urban areas, at the expense of earlier improvement of water supplies.
Priority in the program of treatment works will be given to Hope Valley and Chandler where severe decline in the quality of water has been encountered. Hope Valley also services the second largest number of consumers and it will be possible to secure substantial benefits in a short time. The program will be extended in the years ahead to remove the blight of poor quality for Adelaide consumers. The North West Tasmania regional water supply scheme is designed to integrate the present activities of 8 local governments and 10 separate water supply schemes. At present the water is contaminated and insufficiently treated. There is no transfer capacity between the different schemes and rationing has been needed in the past. The total cost is currently $ 10.5m over the next 6 years. We have given the Tasmanian Government an agreement in principle to support the work. I anticipate that funds Will be allocated early in 1975 or 1975-76 financial year following the planning and design stage to be completed this year.
This completes my outline of the programs which come within the scope of this Bill. The Bill is an historic one. It is a major tribute to the growth of co-operation and consensus between the 3 levels of government in Australia. Above all, the Bill is a striking example of the spirit of progressive federalism in action. I believe the Bill gives a new richness and meaning to the practice of federalism in this country and I commend it to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Adermann) adjourned.
– I move:
That in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1 969- 1 974, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and on which the Committee has duly reported to Parliament: Construction of an Australian radiation laboratory at Yallambie, Victoria.
The proposal is to provide a faculty to house the Australian Radiation Laboratory, which has the functions of maintaining standards for the precise measurement of ionising radiation and of radioactive substances; procuring and distributing radio-pharmaceuticals; maintaining a surveillance of the levels of radioactivity in the environment; and providing a consultancy service on the protection of people against various radiations. The Laboratory also provides an advisory service on the physical aspects of medical radiology. The building will be a precast reinforced concrete frame structure with external precast infill panels. Windows will be PVC coated steel with double glazing. Roofing will be insulated metal decking supported ‘ on steel beams and purlins. The building will be air conditioned, with supporting engineering services, road works and car parks. Special attention will be paid to landscaping of the site. The estimated cost of the proposed work when referred to the Committee was $3.6m at July 1 974 prices.
The Committee concluded that the present accommodation of the Australian Radiation Laboratory was unsatisfactory and that it should be relocated in premises specifically designed to meet its particular requirements, that the site selected was suitable, that the building design would specifically cater for the particular requirements of the laboratory and would be capable of future expansion if necessary, that the proposed landscaping would more than compensate for the small number of trees to be removed during construction, that the disposal of low level radioactive liquid waste will follow recognised practices, that the radiation protection standards provided will ensure that the level of any radiation emissions will not be greater than 1 / 100 of the acceptable dose level, and that the work should proceed to construction.
Upon the concurrence of the House in this resolution, detailed planning can proceed in accordance with the recommendations of the Committee.
– As the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson) has said, the Australian Radiation Laboratory which is to be constructed in my electorate under the motion which is before the House is to maintain standards for the precise measurement of radiation, to procure and distribute radio-pharmaceuticals and to maintain a surveillance of the levels of radio activity in the Australian environment. When the proposal was first mooted various organisations and people in my electorate were concerned, first of all, about the possibility of radiation leaks and, secondly, about the aesthetics and planning of the area. I have had an opportunity to study the evidence which was given to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works. I attended meetings of the Committee and heard the answers which were given by, among other people, Mr Stevens, who is the Director of the Australian Radiation Laboratory, and I am satisfied in my own mind that the levels of radiation from the proposed establishment are such that there is no measurable danger to people from radioactivity In fact, the resiting of the laboratory from the present buildings is to the advantage of the community insofar as the new building will be of such a design and character that, if there was any concern about the existing facilities, there would be no concern about the new buildings.
I have some reservations about the planning aspects of the building. Perhaps honourable members would not be aware that in the area of my electorate where it is proposed to construct the Laboratory, and in fact over most of the electorate, there is very little industry of any character. The site of the proposed bunding is in an area under the control of the Army in the Watsonia army camp. It is presently headquarters of the Royal Australian Corps of Signals for the whole of Australia. There are a number of buildings which can roughly be regarded as buildings of an industrial or commercial character. These are set well back on the site. One of the objections which I have personally to the actual site which has been chosen from the area available is that I feel that more thought could have been given, if we were to use that area of land for such an establishment, to siting the building further away from existing residential development and in fact away from the boundaries of the area. The buildings which are occupied by the Army, some of which are of considerable extent, are well away from residential establishments and give no offence. In fact I take the opportunity of congratulating the Army for the way in which it has developed the site.
I believe that this area needs to be considered by the relevant authorities, perhaps the Department of Defence, and an overall plan drawn up for its eventual development. At one end of the site houses were recently constructed for Army personnel. I am somewhat concerned that over a period of time areas of this land may be used for all sorts of government purposes until such time as it is eaten up entirely without leaving any breathing space, which I think is needed in that part of the Melbourne metropolitan area. I would ask the relevant departments and the relevant Ministers to look at this aspect.
I have made representations to the Minister for Health (Dr Everingham), whose Department has made the necessary recommendations on the establishment of this Laboratory, asking that other sites which I felt were not considered by either the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works or the Department itself be looked at. The Minister has obtained a report from the Department as to the possibility of siting the proposed buildings north of the Tullamarine Airport In answer to the question which I asked in the House on Tuesday morning the Minister said that the matter had been looked at and that it was felt that the disadvantages of the site north of Tullamarine outweighed the advantages. I am not altogether convinced about this. I feel that because of the proximity to the freeway of the area north of Tullamarine Airport perhaps that site would have been better. I seek the permission of the House to have incorporated in Hansard the question I asked and the answer given.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
-I address a question to the Minister for Health. The Minister will be aware of the report tabled in the House recently of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works concerning the proposed radiation laboratory. He will be aware also of [he concern felt by some of my constituents about the project. Can he inform the House whether there has been an evaluation of the suggestions which I have made regarding the siting of the laboratory? If so, what has been the outcome of that consideration?
– The honourable member for Diamond Valley has made representations to me concerning this matter. He will be aware of a Press release on the subject which pointed out that the siting was discussed by an allParty committee of this House-the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works. That Committee conducted extensive investigations of the proposal, including public hearings on 1 2 and 1 3 September last. The departments concerned gave evidence, as did other interested parties- for example, the Heidelberg City Council and the Yallambie Progress Association. It has been proposed, for example, that it could be sited on a less settled, less inhabited side of Tullamarine Airport, but the Committee had to consider things such as public road access, public transport and the distance from tertiary education institutions and also from the hospitals in Melbourne which use the products of the laboratory. I can assure those who have expressed concern about this siting that the danger will be even less than it is with the present siting of the laboratories in several different buildings situated around Melbourne. There will be no risk of any significant level. In fact, the risk will be of the order of thousands of times less than that recommended as permissible by world organisations, even to a person who stood continuously, at the boundary fence of the new site day and night.
-I thank the House. Through the Department of the Environment and Conservation the Government made available to the Yallambie Progress Association, which was acting for residents in that area, a grant of $ 1 ,000 to acquire the services of a consultant to examine the project. Consultants from the Preston Institute of Technology were approached and a report was prepared and presented at the hearings of the Public Works Committee. One of the points that I should stress about the radiation situation is that the radiation at this site, even if it could be shown that the background radiation from nuclear tests, say, was of much the same intensity, is not entirely relevant. I would point out to the House that nuclear fallout from atomic tests is of a different character to the sort of radiation that you get from other sources. For example, strontium-90 and various other agents that come from atomic bomb testings are ingested into the system and remain in the body for a long time. The sort of background radiation to which we are all subjected is, generally speaking, of a different character, although the body itself contains naturally occurring radiation. Mr Stevens, the Director of the laboratory, in his evidence pointed out that somebody who travelled in an aircraft for 25 hours a year would receive more radiation than would otherwise be received in a lifetime. I think this evidence needs to be looked at, because in making a decision on this matter we should examine it clearly and in the right atmosphere. I recognise that the Committee has looked at it in this way.
I return to the point that I made before about the siting. I believe that consideration could still be given to it. If evidence can be produced to the Minister about the re-siting of the laboratory, even at this late stage, then it ought to be looked at. I thank both the Minister for Health and the Minister for Housing and Construction, who moved the motion, for their consideration in delaying the moving of it until such time as the other matters which I brought forward have been properly considered.
Finally, I would ask permission of the House to incorporate in Hansard paragraphs 55, 56 and 57, the section of the report relating to the proposed construction of an Australian radiation laboratory at Yallambie, Victoria, dealing with radiation, and also the recommendations and conclusions 1 to 8.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
Research Council having regard to the standards of the International Commission on Radiological Protection.
-I thank the House.
-As the Chairman of the Committee which examined this matter, I think it is very important that some points be made. Two days were spent by the Committee investigating this matter and the tenor of the questions that were asked during the investigation was along the lines of protection of the health and well-being of people who already live in the area. The honourable member for Diamond Valley (Mr McKenzie) is to be commended for the way in which he has raised the matter before the House. The proposed laboratory will be constructed in his electorate, and I know from having been present at the hearings and also from other sources since that time that there is some concern felt by people in that area about the effect of the construction of the proposed radiation laboratory at Yallambie. The honourable member mentioned 2 matters, radiation leaks and landscaping, and he went on to elaborate on both of those. On the question of radiation leaks, the Director, Mr Stevens, was very clearly asked about what sort of dangers existed for the people in the area and the Committee was very conscious of this aspect of the hearing. In terms of radiation as such it was agreed- and I think the Chairman of the Yallambie Progress Association agreed at the hearing- that it was not radiation as such that they were talking about; they were talking about the effects of fall-out or radioactive emissions from the laboratory. It was shown in the course of the evidence that most stringent precautions would be taken at the laboratory at Yallambie, far more stringent precautions than exist at the present location of the laboratory in the busy bustling centre of the city of Melbourne. It was found during the course of the inquiry that the emissions into the atmosphere came from chemical cabinets that were not in fact dealing with radioactive materials. It was also found that the other source of escape of emissions was by liquid waste and there was ample evidence to show that this liquid waste would be treated in a manner that was far more than satisfactory to the various environmental authorities throughout Australia. In fact, the liquid waste would be treated and finally pumped into the sewerage system of Melbourne, a system which it is expected should operate at some time in the future. At the moment the liquid waste is pumped into a treatment plant at Martins Lane and then pumped into the Plenty River.
I think it is very important to say that the whole function of the laboratory is to protect the community from radiation effects, not to create such effects, and the laboratory spends most of its time measuring the effects of radiation. For example, it takes, daily, samples of milk from around Australia and samples of radioactive fallout in the community from around Australia and it measures the radioactivity of both of those products in the laboratory. So the laboratory is not there to extend radiation in the community, but is there to shield the community against background radiation and to measure accurately the amount of radiation present in the things that it measures. Radiation leaks can happen only through either air or water emissions; there is no other way in which these leaks can occur. The air emissions come from an area other than the area being used for activities which produce radioactivity, and the radioactivity in the liquid or water emissions is down to an extent where it is far lower than the level acceptable to all authorities in Australia, and indeed by authorities around the world. There is absolutely no fear of there being any effect whatsoever on the surrounding populace from the establishment of the laboratory at Yallambie- or should I say the location of the laboratory, because it is not an establishment. The laboratory already exists in a very densely populated part of Melbourne. There has been no evidence and there have been no reports that anybody in Melbourne has suffered any effect whatsoever from the present activities of the laboratory. It is inconceivable that a person of the standing of Mr Stevens could be challenged on his qualifications in this area of protecting the community from the effects of radiation. His qualifications cannot be challenged by anybody. This person gave the Committee unequivocal evidence on oath that there was absolutely no danger to the surrounding community from the activities of the laboratory. This was put very clearly before the Committee in evidence. So those people in the community who wish to peddle or hawk information that is not actually correct are in danger of doing the community a great disservice because none of the evidence that we received- there are pages and pages of it- gave an indication to anybody that there is any danger. I assure this House that the Public Works Committee, which I chair, is not an irresponsible Committee. It sees itself in the role of being a watchdog of the rights of the community. It seems to me, reading through the reports of that Committee, that this has always been its role. I only hope that I can fulfil the role of being the champion of that sort of watchdog concept, because I believe that is the role of the Public Works Committee.
Everybody had the opportunity to give evidence. We speak of landscaping in our report. The land is owned by the Australian Government and, according to aU the planning schemes that we saw, is set aside for military purposes. I do not know that the fact that it is set aside for military purposes necessarily means that it will be used as a rifle range. I would rather think that on occasions the military would choose to use part of this land to construct buildings.
This reference came to the attention of the community because the project will exceed in cost $2m. Had the cost been less than that, the
Department of Defence could have erected a row of nissen huts made of galvanised iron. It could have erected them on its own land which is for its own use, as all of the planning schemes tell us. In that case the local residents would have had no opportunity to object. It is said in the evidence that those who live adjacent to this land were satisfied that the Australian Government and the Defence Department had shown a great deal of concern for their neighbours and had constructed buildings that their neighbours had found to be satisfactory. There is no indication anywhere in the evidence that the proposed building will be abhorrent. Great play was made of the fact that 40 trees would have to be removed to allow for the construction of the building. Nothing was said about the 1,000 native trees that would be planted to replace them. If people are going to talk about destroying the environment they had better start talking in terms of the truth and the facts. Instead of talking about 40 trees being destroyed they should talk about the 1,000 trees that will replace them.
On the question of landscaping, the Australian Government, through its departments, has gone to great expense to employ professional landscapes to ensure that the area will not be incompatible with the neighbouring areas. In fact, the landscaping will commence at about the same time as the construction of the building. So as the foundations for the building are being laid, trees shall be planted. If there are 40 trees to be removed, there will be a 1,000 trees planted in their place at the same time. A great deal of attention has been given to separating the perhaps inhospitable paved areas used for car parking from the rather natural, bushlike area surrounding the site at the moment. This will all go hand in hand. In fact, banks of the order of, I think, 3 metres in height are to be built around the car parking areas to hide them from the view of those people who live in the adjacent area.
Every attention has been given by every department that gave evidence to the dangers that might exist for the people who live nearby. The Committee determined, on all of the information which was available to it, that these dangers would be negligible. The Committee came to this conclusion not on the hysterical, emotional information given by people who were not quite sure of their facts but on the advice of people such as the director of the laboratory and other scientists acknowledged not only in Australia but also internationally. On their advice the Committee found that there was no danger to the surrounding residents. The Committee decided that what was said by all those people who live nearby was said on an emotional and not on an entirely factual basis. The Committee found for a variety of reasons that the site is desirable. As the honourable member for Diamond Valley (Mr McKenzie) says, these reasons have been outlined. In reply to a question asked by the honourable member the Minister for Health (Dr Everingham) has said why he believes the site is desirable. The Committee came to the same conclusion, namely, that of all of the sites which were proposed this is the most desirable. The overall plan for the development of the Army land is something, I suppose, for the Defence Department. In all honesty, I must say that the Department of Defence did not give evidence to the Committee, but a plan was made available to the Committee. This plan is dealt with in the transcript of evidence. The plan which was made available to the Committee showed the future development of that land. I believe that those who were present at the Committee hearings on those 2 days when the plan was before the Committee did take note of the planned development by the Department of Defence.
As in all matters, an owner of land can do what he likes with that land provided he abides with all of the ordinances and regulations prescribed by the local authorities. The evidence shows that the Commonwealth departments did abide by such ordinances and regulations even though there is no statutory requirement for Australian Government departments to do so. However, they went out of their way to ensure that their proposals did come within the scope of such ordinances and regulations and they planned within the confines of those ordinances and regulations. But it is true that anybody who owns land can do what he likes with that land and build how he likes on that land. He is not required to consult his neighbours as to the sort of building that he wants to erect, provided, as I said, that he does not breach any of the local building ordinances. Surely the Australian Government is in no worse position than any private citizen who owns land anywhere at all.
Those people who live adjacent to the land in question and who are now complaining bought the land knowing that the Watsonia military camp was there and that the land was set aside for defence or military purposes. It seems to me incongruous that those people who bought this land knowing that the land adjacent to them was set aside for defence or army or military purposesone of the witnesses said that his land backed on to the land about which we are talking- should now raise a complaint that the development for which it was set aside should not go ahead. This seems to me to be most incongruous. I just cannot understand it. In fact, anybody who reads the evidence will see that these people were asked: ‘Were this land which is adjacent to you owned by an industrial company - ‘
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– in reply- The proposed construction of an Australian radiation laboratory at Yallambie, Victoria, has been the subject of continued interest by the honourable member for Diamond Valley (Mr McKenzie). I have studied very carefully the papers associated with this matter, including the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, and I think I am able to say in answer to the honourable member for Diamond Valley that any cause for anxiety which he may have had in respect of environmental matters and things of that sort, including danger from radiation, can be removed from his mind and the minds of the people in that region. I believe that every possible consideration has been extended to the welfare of the residents there. I know that the views of progress associations, the local council, the Centre for Environmental Studies and the Institute of Technology have been taken properly into account. I have in front of me a perspective of the proposed project. It is extremely aesthetic. It is a very modern, contemporary style building which has a fine break-up of contours. As the honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson) has said, there are to be 1,000 native shrubs and 1,000 trees planted around it. It seems to me that it is going to represent a desirable development.
I thought I should mention the other sites that were taken into account, since this question was raised by the honourable member for Diamond Valley. The report I have in front of me says that, in particular, consideration was given to sites at Broadmeadows, Bundoora and Keilor and the Tullamarine and Essendon airport areas as well as to sites at the Watsonia Army Camp. Certain criteria were laid down which had to be met. These concerned the fact that the laboratory needed ready access to Tullamarine airport for the receipt and dispatch of radiopharmaceuticals for medical diagnosis and treatment throughout Australia and that it was also essential to consider its location with respect to the hospitals in Melbourne, which at present are using and which in future will be using the important scientific services that this facility provides. The disadvantages of the other sites mentioned included vibration, high noise levels due to aircraft, remoteness from the hospitals which use the scientific services of the laboratory and the lack of road access and of public transport. Taking all those criteria into account the site at Yallambie proved to be by far the most suitable one. I wanted to say that because it was not just a matter of picking this site because it was owned by the Commonwealth but because in so many respects it had a very significant advantage over the other locations.
As a final remark I would like to offer this comment: I know that some concern was felt by the residents about possible radioactive effects. I have in front of me the following comment which I think came from the report of the Public Works Committee:
The Committee noted with satisfaction that the design of the proposed laboratory incorporated radiation protection facilities such that an additional safety factor of 100 will be applicable to the dose limits laid down by the NH and MRC and the International Commission on Radiological Protection. The effect of this safety factor is that a person would need to live at the boundary fence 24 hours a day 365 days of the year to receive one-hundredth of the above dose limits.
So one can say that the possibility of anybody being adversely affected is infinitesimal. This project represents a very great development for Australia. It is a $3.6m project. It is long overdue. I think that in time to come the honourable member for Diamond Valley will be able to establish that there have been no adverse effects suffered by the people whom he so effectively represents in this Parliament
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1 969- 1 974, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and on which the Committee has duly reported to Parliament: Construction of an animal health laboratory at Geelong, Victoria.
The facility is required to provide a complete integrated diagnostic service and as a vaccine testing and production facility in the event of a major exotic disease- for example, foot and mouth disease or other highly virulent virusespenetrating Australia’s quarantine barriers. Construction of the major elements will be of reinforced concrete, partly poured in situ and partly pre-cast panels. Other elements will be of brick construction. An insulated pre-cast concrete panel sun screen will be provided over the main building. Epoxy finishes will be employed on internal walls. Highly specialised and sophisticated engineering systems- for example, mechanical, electrical and hydraulic services- will be installed to cope with the stringent design criteria of microbiological security to specified areas. Conventional air conditioning and engineering services will be used in non-hazardous areas. The site will be fully landscaped with an internal road system and car parks.
The estimated cost of the proposed work when referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works was $56m at March 1974 prices. The updated and reappraised estimate presented to the Committee was $67m. The Committee concluded that there was a need for the faculty, that the proposal was economically justified, that the ‘box within a box’ principle of design of the laboratory will ensure microbiological security, that the proposed functions of the laboratory are appropriate, that the precautions taken to prevent the escape of infectious disease viruses have been based on and are an improvement on measures which have been successful in a number of similar laboratories overseas, that after a suitable period the laboratory should be authorised to handle the foot and mouth disease virus prior to an outbreak of the disease in this country, that the site is suitable and that the work should proceed to construction. The Committee also concluded that the construction and establishment of the laboratory should proceed as a matter of urgency. This will be done. Upon the concurrence of the House in this motion, detailed planning can proceed in accordance with the recommendations of the Committee.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
Customs TariffProposals No. 1 6 ( 1 974).
Customs TariffProposals No. 16 ( 1974), which I have just tabled, give effect to the Government’s decisions on recommendations made by the Tariff Board in its report on photographic and cinematographic apparatus and by the Industries Assistance Commission in its report on food processing machinery. The report on photographic and cinematographic apparatus was received prior to 19 July 1973 and the duties adopted by the Government are those recommended by the Tariff Board less the 25 per cent tariff cut. This will mean that a rate of 1 5 per cent will apply to the majority of goods of the type made in Australia.
The Government has accepted the recommendations of the Industries Assistance Commission in its report on food processing machinery and as a result rninimum rates of duty will apply to machinery for working bread grains, cereals or dried leguminous vegetables or for the production of pasta products; a general rate of 15 per cent will apply to machinery for sugar manufacture, brewing and confectionery and chocolate manufacture; and a general rate of 25 per cent will apply to other food processing machinery covered by the report. The Proposals also provide for the elimination of duties on certain items of imitation jewellery which are included in Schedule ‘A’ of the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement, together with several minor changes of an administrative nature. The new duties will operate from tomorrow. A comprehensive summary of the changes and the duty rates is being circulated to honourable members. I commend the proposals.
Debate (on motion by Mr Lynch) adjourned.
– For the information of* honourable members, I present 2 reports prepared by the Industries Assistance Commission entitled ‘Food Processing Machinery, etc.’, dated 12 June 1974, and ‘Thermoplastic Moulding Compounds’, dated 2 August 1974.
Debate resumed from 23 October, on motion by Mr Lionel Bowen:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Bill before the House seeks authorisation for the payment of $56,345,000 to local government bodies during 1974-75. The grants proposed by the legislation are identical to those recommended by the Grants Commission in chapter 5 of its first report on financial assistance for local government. The Opposition supports this legislationnot because it represents an adequate response to the financial problems of local government, but because the funds proposed will be of assistance to those municipal bodies which are at a comparative financial disadvantage.
This debate provides an appropriate opportunity to reiterate the Opposition’s firm commitment to the importance of local government in Australia. We believe that the maintenance of a three-tiered structure of government in Australian is essential. There is no doubt that an effective system of local government can play an important part in increasing our standard of living and in achieving substantive changes in the quality of the community environment. Local government has a capacity to achieve local consensus and to provide community based solutions to local problems. It permits increased individual involvement in Australia’s governmental process and encourages diversity and imagination in what is regrettably an increasingly standardised society. Local government provides protection against the bureaucratic forms of over-centralised administration. In short, it represents a practical expression of the decentralised form of democracy which is a fundamental aspect of my Party’s platform.
The economic viability of Australian local government has, of course, been devastated by this Government’s gross economic mismanagement. The Government’s monetary policy has raised the cost of local government borrowings by an unprecedented margin and severely restricted the availability of funds for council programs. These facts were well documented as long ago as June this year by the Leader of the Opposition. Mr Snedden received over 500 replies from councils which demonstrated beyond doubt the serious economic difficulties of local government. As well as the credit squeeze, the general impact of inflation has raised local government administrative costs and led to a massive lift in the cost of local government programs, especially in the area of capital works. No aggregated statistics are available from the Federal Government with respect to the increased costs now being incurred by local government. Nevertheless, major councils such as the Melbourne City Council are facing increases in their wages and salary bills of around 50 per cent.
In my own electorate of Flinders, the Frankston Council has reported to me that its estimated payroll for 1974-75 will be $2.5m compared with $1.4m in 1972-73. This represents an increase of around 79 per cent during a 2-year period. Many councils have reported even larger increases in respect of their capital works programs. This week the Leader of the Opposition met a deputation from the Municipal Association of Victoria which drew his attention to the impact which the Federal pacesetter principle is having in terms of its flow on effect to local government- a problem which has also been emphasised to me by the Frankston City Council.
Unlike the Federal Government, local government is not a beneficiary- in the revenue senseof inflation. Local government in Australia is unable to insulate itself from inflation in the absence of a growing revenue base. It cannot be expected to meet the increase in its financial Liabilities arising from inflation simply by seeking compensatory increases in its rates and charges. But, because of the inadequate level of general revenue assistance provided to the States, State governments are unable to provide an adequate level of funds to local government during 1974-75. Funds made available to local government, either directly or indirectly by way of section 96, will in no way provide adequate compensation. As a consequence, local government rates will increase by varying amounts up to around 35 per cent this financial year. This is an excessive burden on Australia’s ratepayers and it will contribute materially to the cost-push process of inflation. It must be emphasised that local government taxes, such as property rates, are not related to an individual’s capacity to pay. In many instances increases in property values have- and therefore in assessable rates- far outstripped increases in incomes. This is especially true with respect to retired persons on fixed incomes. There is, therefore, no inbuilt system in this area of taxation to provide equity as between taxpayers. Furthermore, a growing proportion of services required of local governments is resident rather than ratepayer oriented. In those circumstances, ratepayers are being asked to contribute a disproportionate degree of local government revenue.
The Opposition believes that there is an urgent need to establish an advisory council of intergovernmental relatioins to examine the problems which arise between the 3 tiers of government in Australia. We also believe that a national inquiry to investigate and report on local government finance should be instigated. Both the inquiry and the on-going advisory council would provide a real basis for action to meet many of the financial difficulties now arising in the area of local government in Australia. The Opposition suports the application of the fiscal need principle to local government This principle, first enunciated by the Grants Commission in 1936 with respect to State governments, is clearly set out in section 6 of the Act. Nevertheless, we do not believe that this principle can be properly applied by the Grants Commission to the 902 local government bodies throughout Australia. In view of this, we believe that there is a need to establish, in cooperation with State governments, Grants Commissions within each State to determine the financial requirements of local councils on a State by State basis. Local government grants commissions already operate in New South Wales and Western Australia for the purpose of distributing funds provided by those State governments. The Queensland Premier announced his Government’s intention to establish a State grants commission during his policy speech on 4 November.
The Federal Grants Commission does not now have, and is unlikely to develop in the future, the capacity to make the type of detailed financial assessment required. Although the Commission was subject to a limitation of time this year, paragraph 2.11 of its report notes that the Commissioners were unable to undertake any systematic inspections of local government areas. With due respect to the Commissioners, it is simply not possible for a Federal instrumentality to fulfil this function satisfactorily. Paragraph 3.9 of the Commission’s report adverted to its decision to base its recommendatiions on an assessment of the relative fiscal needs of individual local governing bodies rather than on the needs of regional groupings. This was contrary to the submissions of the Treasury, the Department of Urban and Regional Development and the States of Tasmania and South Australia.
The Opposition Parties will not support the concept of regionalism imposed on Australian local government simply on the ground that it is conducive to administrative efficiency insofar as the Federal Government is concerned. The issues raised in chapter 3 of the Commission’s report are, in fact, critical to the future financing of local government. It is clear from the Commission’s report that it accepts the need for assessment of individual local government bodies. It is also clear that the Commission, unless vastly expanded, has no real capacity to perform this function on a satisfactory basis. However, I believe that no alteration to the existing method of financing, provided for by this legislation, is warranted without the creation of local government grants commissions such as those now operating in New South Wales and Western Australia, and the commission proposed by Queensland. If funds are to be provided to State governments to achieve the fiscal equalisation of local government there must be State authorities established to assess the relative fiscal needs of local government. Federal funds granted on a needs basis must be treated separately to other forms of financial assistance to local government It is true to say that much of the confusion now surrounding the Grants Commission’s local government responsibilities arises from a misconception of its role. Paragraph 3.4 of the Commission’s report states, inter alia:
In a general sense, the purpose of the financial assistance being recommended for local governments is to enable local governing bodies to functon, by reasonable effort, at a standard not appreciably below the standards of other local bodies.
The funds, therefore, are not a substitute for revenue raised by councils or for assistance provided by Stage governments. While they will assist in achieving a greater degree of fiscal equality as between individual councils, they can in no way be seen as part of a program to deal with the general inadequacy of local government finances.
Australian local government has suffered additional financial problems in the course of the past 12 months. These problems derive principally from the credit squeeze and from the proportionate decline in general revenue, as opposed to specific purpose revenue, provided to State governments. Payments made to local government by the States derive substantially from the general revenue assistance of the Federal Government. Although financial assistance to the States increased by over 38 per cent for 1974-75, the increase in general revenue funds was 22 per cent. Specific purpose funds now represent 44 per cent of Federal advances compared with 22 per cent in 1972-73. Given the present rate of inflation and the high cost of borrowing, this trend has severely depressed the flow of real funds to local government. The Federal Government has not made complementary adjustments with respect to local government by way of section 96 grants or by way of direct grants to local government bodies. Payments made directly to local government for aged persons homes, delivered meals, home nursing, sheltered employment, Aboriginal advancement and local aerodromes amount to $9.1m. Payments made under section 96 for home care, regional organisations, area improvement, sewerage, community facilities, and through the Grants Commission amount to $85. 8m. Including the $2m made to local government in the Northern Territory the Budget Papers indicate that $96.9m is to be provided for local government directly by the Federal Government during 1974-75. This figure does not include payments for such programs as the Regional Employment Development Scheme or the Australian Assistance Plan as the Government was unable to provide expenditure estimates in the Budget Papers.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, during 1972-73 total funds available to local government authorities amounted to $938.8m; 53 per cent of those funds were derived from taxes and fees 1 9 per cent from State grants and 1 8 per cent from borrowings. This illustrates the extent to which local government is dependent on its own revenue and loan raising capacity. It also highlights a further associated problem- that of debt financing and debt redemption. Debt financing charges account for in excess of 10 per cent of local government financing. If total debt redemption is consideredthe repayment of both principal and interest- it amounts to around 20 per cent calculated as a proportion of funds available. These figures differ slightly from the 1 5 per cent quoted by the Grants Commission in respect of debt servicing for 1972-73. The difference arises from the methods of assessment adopted by the Bureau and the Commission.
On the expenditure side, two significant features deserve comment. First, more than 60 per cent of local government expenditure is directed towards capital items. Second, local government is playing an increasing role in the provision of social welfare, recreational and cultural amenities. It has been a common practice in this country to overlook these two significant elements of local government. If local government is to provide an increasing measure of our community’s physical amenities and welfare services, as opposed to the more traditional forms of basic economic assistance clearly it requires greater recourse to the nation’s general revenue resources.
I have already mentioned my Party’s intention, in government, to establish an inquiry into local government finances, an advisory council of inter-governmental relations and grants commissions within each State for the purposes of fiscal equalisation. It is clear, however, that the Federal Government must devise a method to ensure that local government is given access to growth revenue. Our policy already makes provision for this with respect to State governments. In the first instance, I believe that it will be possible to devise an arrangement whereby some proportion of federal funds provided to the States are, in turn, passed on for distribution to local government on a per capita basis. This in no way implies that the States would not maintain the primary responsibility for local government. It is simply a recognition that an adequate level of finance requires Federal involvement.
Our policy intention to devise a more adequate finance base for State and local governments is now being examined by a special committee established by the Federal Council of the Liberal Party during October of this year. This particular matter and a wide number of related questions with respect of local government is being examined in very great detail by a special subcommittee of the Opposition Treasury Committee chaired by my colleague, Senator John Carrick. The detailed consultations which Senator Carrick has undertaken with Australian municipal authorities on behalf of the Opposition and the most extensive research work which he has initiated will provide the basis for the Opposition’s definitive policy determination in this area. I believe that our policies are the first in Australian history to seek genuine improvements in local government. They do not involve a further erosion of our Federal structure. They seek to maintain a high degree of local and State autonomy without at the same time abdicating from a necessary national responsibility.
The alleged commitment of the Whitlam Administration to Australia’s third tier of Government has not been fulfilled by its financial policies. In fact, the Government’s pursuit of centralist financial programs and policies has added to the generation of cost-push pressures as both State and local governments have sought financial compensation by increased taxation. They have caused a massive increase in local government administrative costs by the endless and mindless bureaucratic requirements for paper work. It is clear that the Whitlam design for the Grants Commission is not the achievement of fiscal equality on a council for council basis, but the encouragement of a form of central regionalism. The Federal Government’s policy of regionalism has been made clear by the Prime Minister for a long period of time. It is nothing new. It is relevant to quote but one of the comments of the Prime Minister, the self-styled Lucifer of centralism in this country in relation to this matter. He said:
We would not have a Federal system of overlapping parliaments and a delegated but supervised system of local government. We would have a House of Representatives for nationwide and international matters, an Assembly for each of our dozen largest cities, and a few score regional assemblies for the areas of rural production and resources development outside those cities.
The Prime Minister’s concept of local government is, therefore, a ‘few score regional assemblies ‘. This is the very antithesis of the poh.cies advocated by the Opposition Parties. There can be no doubt that the Grants Commission is a device devised by the Labor Party to accelerate the achievement of political centralism in Australia. This is the Labor Party’s philosophy. It was reflected in the submissions made to the Commission by the States of Tasmania and South Australia-both Labor States. If the trend towards specific purpose grants is maintained and if the Commission is, in fact, directed to make determinations on a regional basis, Australia ‘s federal structure will be substantially changed during the life of this Parliament.
The Bill before the House simply represents an addition to local government funds of some 6 per cent of local government outlays calculated for the year 1972-73. For the year 1973-74, the year on which these funds have been assessed, this percentage is substantially less than 5 per cent. Given the massive increase in the rate of inflation, this legislation does not represent an adequate advance towards an effective system of local government for Australia. The legislation has not met with the unqualified approval of local government. Because of the Government’s intention to limit the time available for this debate, I seek leave to incorporate letters which I have received from the Shire of Hastings and Flinders and the City of Frankston.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The documents read as follows)-
Memo to: The Honourable P. R. Lynch, M.P., Deputy Leader of the Opposition
From: George Pentland, Town Clerk, City of Frankston (Region 18- Victoria)
Subject: Notes re. Grants Commission
Having been deprived in the past of any direct access to taxation moneys, local government obviously must welcome the principle of direct assistance from Canberra through Grants Commission allocations.
Although Frankston ‘s pressing needs are far in excess of the allocation made ($235,000), Frankston Council is hardly in a position to be over critical of the allocation as it compares quite favourably with the treatment of many other Councils.
The criteria used in distributing the grants between Municipalities is somewhat obscured, despite the provisions of Section 6 of the Grants Commission Act.
It appears from the Grants Commission’s First Report (page 34) that the rate of inter censal population growth was the dominating factor in making the allocations.
This is not without some merit, particularly in Frankston ‘s case as our growth rate is high but there are many other factors that should not be overlooked. These include Frankston ‘s regional role as a shopping centre, the popularity of its foreshore for swimming and boating, the parking problems associated with railhead, the youthful population and the disadvantaged Pines Forest area. These factors contribute materially to Frankston Council’s financial burden and they probably do not apply to the majority of other municipalities with a population growth rate similar to Frankston.
In the first year the Regional Organisations were described from Canberra as merely being a post office for the forwarding of submissions of individual Councils to Canberra. Despite this unglamorous role, it was fairly important for a Municipality to be part of a region otherwise it didn’t get a grant. The allocations bear this out
The regional organisations of Councils were set up exclusively for the purposes of the Grants Commission Act, but it now appears that the Australian Government favours these organisations accepting at least some degree of responsibility in relation to other programmes in the field of Urban and Regional Development and social welfare (Australian Assistance Plan).
The notion of the Regional Organisations of Councils becoming a sort of regional umbrella in respect to the planning and implementation of a wide range of government programmes has been extemporized by spokesmen of DURD while carefully placing on record that there was no intention of laying the foundation for a fourth level of government.
Quite apart from these extraneous functions, it has been also hinted by DURD spokesmen that with the appointment of a new Chairman of the Grants Commission, the role of the Regional Organisation will in future, be much more meaningful than a mere ‘post office’ for sending on the submissions of individual Councils.
The whole question of the present and future roles of these regional organisations to which Councils have been drafted, needs clarification and a firm policy statement by the Government is required.
According to the preliminary literature produced by DURD and the Prime Minister’s telegram of August 23, the allocations from the Grants Commission are to be unconditional.
On the other hand, the Minister Mr Uren has been reported in the National Press as warning Councils against misuse of grants.
These contradicting statements have caused some dilemna at local level as to the projects or programmes to be financed from the allocation.
Councils should know whether they have complete discretion to spend the allocations on what they regard as the most pressing local need(s), or whether they would be well advised to select projects that will make someone in Canberra happy and in the interests of next year’s allocation.
In discussions by Frankston Council in relation to the spending of the Grants Commission allocation, a number of worthy projects have been considered. Land purchase for recreation, erection of community buildings and several much needed welfare and youth programmes that would involve the appointment of staff. Worthy though these programmes are, Council is naturally reluctant to allocate Grants Commission funds to any project that will involve recurring expenditure when there is no indication whether there will be any grant next year, and if there is, how much.
The idea of allocation commitments over a longer period of say 3 to 5 years with provision for adjustment to allow for inflation and materially changed local conditions is perhaps worthy of some thought.
The saving at both local and Canberra level in the preparation of and processing of annual applications would be enormous, and if there was some guarantee of continuity, Councils would be much more inclined to take on larger projects on recurring programmes.
Applications for assistance under the Grants Commission Act involve-
Regarding item (a)- the Return of Accounting and Other Information-this requires quite lengthy and painstaking extraction of figures from annual accounts. The returns are required to be forwarded to Canberra by November 1 1 and as the books of accounts are balanced to September 30, the timetable is fairly tight. Although the returns this year are somewhat more simple than last year, a number of items are still far from clear, and more precise information from the Grants Commission would be appreciated to facilitate the compilation of the return.
As regards (b)-the Detailed Submissions-it is understood that some Councils are using Public Relations Consultants to produce eye-catching presentations.
A great deal of time is involved in preparing the Submission and it seems a pity if this requirement is to develop into a costly competition between municipalities with prizes being awarded for the best presentation, rather than the greatest need. Whilst not wishing to restrict local initiative more information as to what is really needed in the detailed submissions would be most helpful.
As regards (c)- the Regional Hearings- no problem exists here provided that sufficient notice is given to Councils of any further information required by the Commission.
As mentioned under chapter 5, the saving of time in the application and processing procedures would be enormous if allocation commitments were made for a period of three to five years instead of one year.
The adage that suggests that you should not put new wine in old skins, applies to some extent to local government’s present situation in being called upon for the first time to administer new and much larger programmes at the instigation of the Australian Government.
Having been tightly controlled for so long in respect to spending the meagre handouts from State Governments, the notion of untied grants and exciting new programmes involves quite some readjustment of thought and outlook at Council table level. In many cases considerable gearing up will obviously be required before new programs can be satisfactorily undertaken.
I suggest that local government should not be judged too harshly on its early performances in this field, and that the Australian Government should give it more guidance and a reasonable time to respond to the taste of the new responsibility.
The idea of a partnership between Canberra and local government to provide financial assistance under the Grants Commission Act is basically sound.
The role of the regional organisations, particularly the possible future role is not clear, and accordingly is to some extent suspect. Immediate action should be taken to clarify this position.
The effectiveness of regions in this context is a matter for conjecture. Municipalities are by their constitution and role, parochial in their outlook. Councils of adjoining municipalities engage in friendly competition and constantly vie with one another in a genuine attempt to improve local conditions. Some facets of municipal endeavour can certainly be conveniently administered on a regional basis, e.g., library services, outfall drainage (D.V.A.) and town planning. However, in the main, Councils prefer to ‘go it alone’ and in this respect the compulsory setting up of regions is rather idealistic. The Australian Government should acknowledge this fact and adjust to it.
The question of whether or not allocations are completely unconditional should be clarified.
The criteria for deciding the level of grants should be clearly stated and re-examined.
The idea of grant commitments covering several years rather than one only ought to be investigated.
Application procedures should be simplified and firmer guidelines provided to local government.
Local government should be given a reasonable time to ‘gear up’ and adjust to the new relationship and added responsibility.
Civic Centre, Frankston. November 11, 1974.
8 November 1974
I desire to bring to your attention some serious anomalies which have occurred as a result of the Grants Commission allocations for 1974-73.
As you are well aware this Municipality did not receive one penny from the Commission and in fact were seriously inconvenienced and considerably ‘out of pocket’ as a result of the involved and complicated procedures adopted by the Commission.
The statistical return required to be submitted prior to the lodgement of applications for funds involved considerable research and took almost three weeks to complete. The cost to the Council was amplified as whilst the Accountant, Rate Collector and myself were engaged in the research and preparation of these returns, other important Council works were consequently neglected resulting in the necessity for overtime payments later to catch up on this work. In addition my valuable time was virtually wasted in later preparing a detailed submission in the form of an application for a grant.
When the above is multiplied by approximately 800, representing the Municipalities throughout Australia, the overall cost to Local Government would have represented a staggering figure.
We have been informed that the allocations were assessed on the needs of each Municipality and its ability to raise funds from its taxing sources and that the level of rating was not main criteria. However Commissioner Walls at the hearing of applications indicated that the rate level in the Shire was low, apparently ignoring the fact that the general level of values on which the rate is assessed is some 30 per cent higher than in adjoining Municipalities.
I have read with some interest the statement issued by the Commission headed ‘Revenue and Expenditure Disabilities in the Provision of Local Government Services’, a document of commendable ideals if all factors are thoroughly investigated and assessed in relation to each Municipality making submissions for a grant.
However to include accurate information on all matters suggested by the Commission a Municipality would require much larger administrative and research staff than is presently employed.
It is the firm view of the Council that the Commission should, in the first instance make a per-capita grant on an equal basis to all Municipalities; after all, every ratepayer contributes to the tax pool from which such grants are obtained. Secondly the Commission should make available to those Municipalities having special needs or disabilities grants calculated on an assessment by the Commission after thorough investigation of all such applications.
Whilst we agree that this Municipality may be somewhat more favourably situated than others, we cannot see that the Shires of Flinders and Hastings are so advantageously located to justify a nil grant whilst our three immediate adjoining neighbours received almost one-third of a million dollars.
In view of the fact that this year the Council was forced to increase its rates by 34 per cent to wipe off a deficit of some $130,000 and meet increased costs of services. We hope that the Commission will view our 1975-76 submissions in a more realistic and favourable light. /
The Honourable P. R. Lynch, M.P. 482 Nepean Highway FRANKSTON 3 199.
Please find enclosed a copy of the above submission and also a further submission specifically related to a series of questions posed by the Grants Commission early in 1974.
You will appreciate that there are many areas of great concern to municipalities such as this which might well form the basis of a submission for such ‘topping up’ grants. However, during the last period of assessment by the Grants Commission four major topics were selected. These are main drainage works, private street construction, reconstruction of worn residential streets and tourism.
The level of financial assistance sought in respect of these items relates to a consideration of need on a continuing yearly basis and therefore the one million dollars applied for should be viewed as an amount capable of making a reasonable initial inroad into the major areas of concern rather than a once and for all solution.
However, the lack of adequate guidelines at the time of the first application for fuids did not assist in the formulation of a submission which would necessarily either be consistent with the thinking of other municipalities, or for that matter, with the Grants Commission itself.
A subsequent reconsideration of this submission, particularly in view of the fact that private street construction is financed from loans funds rather than general revenue, has led to a change in emphasis in the forthcoming submission, away from private street construction. However, this does not detract from the problems which these streets pose to the Council. The latter continues to provide substantial assistance funds for temporary maintenance in the interim period prior to their construction in order that access may be provided for essential services. Therefore the particular position of the Shire of Flinders with a legacy of over 160 miles of unmade private streets, many quite densely populated and requiring urgent construction is, nevertheless, a financial burden and a distinct area of disadvantage.
Moreover this problem is exacerbated by the vastly increased traffic volumes utilising older constructed residential streets which were only meant to cater for minor volumes of local traffic.
In addition, in an area as yet unsewered, with a steadily rising urban populace, the problem of adequate stormwater drainage in a pollution conscious society continues to be of major concern.
In the field of tourism it is the feeling of this Council that the unique nature of the southern Mornington Peninsula, highlighted by the Government’s Statement of Planning Policy No. 2, is deserving of special financial assistance in order to ease the burden on ratepayers who currently pay for many tourist oriented facilities. In this respect the allocation of grants for tourist development by the State Ministry of Tourism in the past has in no way adequately compensated fortius burden.
Further submissions to the Grants Commission are now under preparation by the Council in the hope of meeting with more success than hitherto in the obtaining of equalisation grants during 1975. Whilst basically emphasising the topics outlined in the first submission, certain other areas of concern will be introduced, in particular the high cost of environmental protection and the Council’s increasing involvement in welfare.
As has been previously pointed out in the verbal submission at the Grants Commission hearing, this Shire is in a unique position as to resident population. Of the estimated population of some 16,500, a significant proportion are in receipt of superannuation, on a fixed income or in receipt of some sort of social security pension. Of these, the far greater number are in the aged bracket, although there are large numbers of one parent families, especially deserted wives who are moving into the area constantly, seeking cheap rents. This type of population is causing a great social and economic problem. Whilst they are people at most risk, they are also the people with restricted incomes.
When the economic situation was stable, they were able to manage, but with inflation and erosion of any savings, superannuation or other pension, their plight is unenviable and practically insoluble. The Council is most conscious of this problem and, whilst it must raise the rate to give revenue to meet rising costs, it is loath to add a further burden to those whom, in many cases, are unable to meet an increased rate. It must be remembered also, that a large number of these people are beset by many other difficulties and may be in illhealth or other infirmity and this, coupled with money worries, contributes to an early demise. The point has now been reached where a broader look should be taken of the Welfare Scheme.
This Shire is not only unique in the composition of the population, but is also seriously disadvantaged by its topography and geography. Although the Shire is some 125 square miles in area, the bulk of the residential development is in a ribbon strip fronting the shores of Port Phillip Bay with growth centres intermittently spaced along the length of Nepean Highway. Thus a situation is created where a demand for facilities is in each cluster development, instead of in one central focal point. Therefore we find six (6) Elderly Citizens’ Clubs, seven (7) Infant Welfare Centres, six (6)
Pre-school Centres, library service, extensive street lighting and so on through the whole gamut of municipal activity. Although grants are available, it would appear that in the foreseeable future, the Council will be required to provide an estimated $50,000 for another Elderly Citizens’ Club and pressures are mounting for an indoor sporting complex, estimated cost $400,000-grant $150,000. Surely the overburdened ratepayers will not be required to finance projects such as these to their further deprivation. This list could continue to the point of tedium, the matters referred to are only to make the point.
Of recent date, a Welfare Officer was appointed to the Shire and he is undertaking a study of the critical areas. It has already become evident that this municipality, in common with many others, is faced with a major social problem, more particularly severe in this area because of the retired person.
It is vital that in the near future the following projects be undertaken:
In the protection of our unique environment, Flinders Shire Council has long recognised the need for adequate forward planning, as shown for example by our extensive report on the Scenic Area whilst it has always been felt that a creative enhancement of the environment is as critical as protection itself.
Inherent in the State Government’s Statement of Planning Policy No. 2, the continuing efforts of the Western Port Regional Planning Authority and the studies of influential researchers such as Professor George Seddon is the recognition of the scenic individuality of this municipality. However, such recognition represents empty if well meant idealism, Government land purchase notwithstanding, without substantial funds to bring this idealism to reality on a continuing basis. The increasing complexity of planning controls must surely be complemented by well thought out man made provisions if the very uniqueness of this area is to be at the one time preserved yet made available for all those thousands of people who are yearly drawn to the area.
In this respect there can be no better placed authority than the Council to achieve these aims if only an adequate supply of funds were made available. Already this Council is deeply financially involved in measures to protect or enhance the environment often at very high cost.
Since 1962 the development of a highly sophisticated Planning Scheme has aimed at properly channelling the development sector of the local economy without sacrificing the character of the Southern Mornington Peninsular. Indeed, the initiation of the Western Port Regional Planning Authority has not decreased the Council’s financial commitment to town planning but has actually increased it.
Moreover, the cost implicit in this vital area is greatly increased if one considers the high price of legal action in defence of the Planning Scheme to say nothing of the very substantial direct subsidy to the Western Port Regional Planning Authority itself.
At the design and contructional level our environmental awareness has influenced for example a re-thinking of street construction with the initiation of more attractive street design. In an effort to preserve indigenous flora and particular landscape features this municipality has pioneered curvilinear road alignment which in certain cases has even been combined with environmentally selected coloured pavement aggregates and colour tinted roll-over kerbing and channelling.
This re-thinking of traditional ideas has not been confined to road design but involves a wide spectrum of concepts from toilet blocks to public furniture. However, it would be unrealistic to expect that every one of these developments can be achieved for the same price as the more traditional solutions to these problems.
In a more direct sense Council’s commitment to the environment has led to a continuing program for the eradication of noxious weeds from road reserves and parklands which in the case of South African Boneseed has become as urgent as it is costly. Also, massive tree replanting programs have been undertaken throughout the shire, in particular in the enhancement of parkland, road reserves or in special projects such as the Rye reclamation project.
Perhaps such activities are not spectacular but these programs are nevertheless extremely important. The worth of projects such as dune stabilisation, erosion control or beach renourishment, is neither heralded by fanfare nor much helpful public commentary but represents efforts which have been continuing since long before environmentalism became a catch phrase.
This Council is engaged in certain specific projects which bear a direct relationship to our quality of life yet which in themselves have been unrecognised in the environmental field. A prime example is the system of refuse transfer stations now in operation in Dromana, Sorrento and Flinders. Development by the Flinders Shire Council and established at considerable initial cost this system has relieved both ratepayers and visitors of the one-time proliferation of unsightly garbage tips and their degrading effects on the rural environment. The continuing operation of this system is also absorbed by ratepayers who in this context must pay the price of breaking with traditional and inadequate solutions for the benefit of all those who visit the area.
It is perhaps repetitious to continue this catalogue of the costs to the local community of environmental protection, however, in an area held by so many respected voices as one of scenic individuality and so needful of preservation, in which the future Government purchase of land will diminish rate revenue even further, it must surely be recognised that the case for financial assistance in the years to come is clearly very strong indeed.
However, the disappointing results from the first hearing of the Grants Commission naturally surround any future application with an aura of doubt unless precise reasons for the original failure can be obtained. Despite a general explanation by the Grants Commission and an unfulfilled promise of explanation by an officer of the Department of Urban and Regional Development, no detailed and precise reasons for this Council ‘s failure have been forthcoming.
In rather general terms it has been stated that the Council’s revenue raising capacity has not been used to the fullest in comparison with certain other municipalities. But it is argued that a comparison between urban areas and more purely resort areas is not valid in this respect as it seeks to equate taxability with total population.
Clearly where so many blocks of land are vacant taxability relates more appropriately to resident population than total population, even though minimum rates on vacant land steeply rose during the past year and may even rise again this year.
As you will appreciate from the foregoing there are many questions that remain unanswered and which quite reasonably ought to be answered if our latest submissions are to avoid a similar response. Should you be able to throw some light on these questions through your proposed investigations in Canberra I should be most grateful indeed.
– I thank the House. Each of these local government bodies in my electorate of Flinders and the Shire of Phillip Island have submitted their detailed comments to me on this legislation. The purpose of incorporating their submissions into the records of this national Parliament is to illustrate to the Parliament, on a direct basis, the views of three very significant local government organisations in Victoria. I trust that the Special Minister of State (Mr Lionel Bowen), who is at the table, will give his full attention to the matters raised by each of the councils and provide me with a detailed response.
Because of the problems faced by municipal councils to which I have referred during the course of this debate I believe that the funds provided by this Bill should be made payable to the States on or before 3 1 December 1974. It was the intention of the Opposition Parties to move an amendment to that effect. But I have the assurance of the Minister at the table that the funds provided in this Bill will be made available through the States to local government and again I seek the Minister’s assurances that were given in early discussions which I had with him prior to the commencement of this debate.
– Yes, subject to the Supply Bill in the Senate being passed.
-The Minister betrays an unusual sense of the ‘nervous Nellies’ that we have seen. I make no comment about the Supply Bill. The Opposition Parties therefore support the Bill which is before the House but on the basis of very significant reservations to which I have drawn attention during the course of this debate.
Mr FitzPATRICK (Darling) (4.38)- I support the Local Government Grants Bill 1974 because I believe in the principle of reducing the inequalities of the living conditions of Australian citizens regardless of whether they live in Canberra or in an isolated town in my electorate in the far west of New South Wales. Without grants from the Grants Commission local government bodies in my electorate would never and will never have sufficient funds to provide a decent range of municipal services which every Australian citizens by right should receive.
I am honoured to be the first speaker from the Government side in this debate. In my opinion the Grants Commission at long last is fulfilling the very purpose of its existence by making grants to local governments. The stated objective of the Grants Commission is to reduce inequalities between States and thereby inequalities between citizens in various States. But until now the Grants Commission has never been allowed to play its full role. As a result of this Bill introduced by the Labor Government the Grants Commission will be able to make grants to local government The States which complain of starvation from Canberra are insensitive to the needs of local government which is their own creation. They have welcomed many millions of dollars that the Grants Commission has allocated to themselves but they have turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to the needs and the cries of local government.
I cannot understand Opposition members who continually draw attention to the plight of local government bodies but who, when a national Government sets out to do something about the problem, put every obstruction in the way of that Government and even spend campaign finance to confuse people and to try to make them believe that what the Government is doing is not in the best interests of local government. A member of this Parliament would have very poor powers of observation not to realise that many councils have to face crippling financial problems in order to provide a decent range of municipal services. Local government bodies in the Western Division of New South Wales have not been able to collect overdue rates because of long droughts and a lack of markets for primary industries which have resulted from the actions of the previous coalition Government as well as the declining mining operations at Broken Hill due to the policies of the previous Government. As a result they have had to curtail essential municipal services.
I can well remember the period before Labor came to power when every Federal member of Parliament was sick and tired of trying to get financial help for local government. We all remember the old shunting treatment and how the Federal Government at that time would say that the provision of funds to local government authorities was a State matter. When an appeal was made the State government would recognise the need and say it was justified but would then say that the Federal Government would not give it the finance. Let us hope that this sort of attitude is gone forever because it should be obvious to anyone interested in the welfare of local government, which is related to the welfare of disadvantaged citizens and_ areas, that the Liberal-Country Party coalition Government and its counterparts in the State governments had no intention of giving any real assistance to local government.
During the life of the previous coalition Government I and my colleagues fought for finance for local government. We were determined to do something about this matter when Labor came to power. I did this not only within the Party but during the referendum campaign by appearing on television and by using my own personal funds for printing material to support a case for the allocation of loans and grants to local government. During the campaign some shire presidents and mayors supported my efforts and the policy of the Australian Government. Others remained silent. But today it is a different story. Most of the local government bodies in my electorate have written and asked me to express their appreciation to the Australian Government. Others have conveyed the message verbally. One thing we can be sure of is that no future LiberalCountry Party government will have the courage to discontinue these grants. Many of the councils which were afraid to come in by the front door during the referendum campaign are now most vigorous jostlers to queue up to receive this finance. They do not care whether they get it through the front door or the back door.
My electorate has done well out of the Grants Commission. I have been asked by grateful shires and councils to express my appreciation to the Cabinet and the Australian Government. I admit that some local government bodies which received large grants have remained silent. This to me seems a shortsighted attitude and not in the best interests of the citizens of Australia. One must not forget that the Government is also making grants under the RED scheme, grants for sport and recreation and grants for Aboriginal advancement and, of course, we still have to feel the full impact of social development under the Australian Assistance Plan and the National Estate grants that were spoken of this afternoon. The Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) has stated several times in this House that my electorate has one of the highest job vacancy ratios. He has said that I will never let him forget that fact. I am pleased to say that at the first opportunity he has done something about it. I express my thanks to him. My electorate has received a fair share of the grants under the Regional Employment Development scheme.
I ask those councils and shires that have remained silent to come out and support openly my efforts to have the grants continued. After 23 years of Liberal-Country Party Government, our needs are extensive and cannot be met unless these grants continue for a long period. The role that the Labor Government has assigned to local government is the real answer to the charges made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that we are trying to bring in centralist federalism. The grants are spent in any way that local government wishes. This proves that the real danger is not Federal centralism. What the Liberal Party and the Country Party are afraid of is that this new co-operation between the national Government and local government will end State centralism. Our aim is to promote equality not only between the States but also between regions. At long last I can say that the Darling electorate has received something like a fair go. Probably, it is the first time since the last Labor government was in power. I congratulate the Government for reaching out so far in this western division of New South Wales in an effort to provide a better way of life for all Australians.
-One clear and indisputable fact emerges to anyone who looks at the position of local government today. It is that local government is in grave financial difficulties. Inflation and the credit squeeze are the cause of these difficulties. Local government is in the grip of financial starvation. Thus, we are considering this Bill, which endorses grants recommended by the Grants Commission for local government authorities, against a background of local government authorities in critical positions because of uncontrolled wage increases, rapid rises in costs for materials and machinery, repair services and the like, critical shortfalls in the realisation of borrowing programs and effectively reduced grants for roads through Commonwealth Aid Roads funds. This is the dismal background against which local authorities are working at the moment This is the background against which this House is approving these grants to local government authorities.
This bleak outlook is caused by the inability of the Labor Government to exercise sensible economic restraints and sound economic management. We are looking at this Bill against a background in which councils are being forced to consider 3 alternatives. Firstly, to reduce substantially services and new works programs; secondly, to reduce substantially rates or charges; or thirdly, to lay off men. Let me refer to certain local government authorities in Western Australia to illustrate the current dire straits of local government. Western Australia local government authorities are not alone in experiencing such difficulties. No doubt during this debate the same story will emerge in respect of other States. In my electorate of Canning, in which there are 33 local government authorities, the story is one of savage increases in local government rates. These increases are not to expand or upgrade services and facilities; they are merely to keep abreast of the vicious increases in costs incurred by local government authorities because of wage and cost increases.
Let me cite some of the rate increases applied this financial year by some shires in my electorate. The Armadale-Kelmscott Shire Council has increased rates by 52 per cent; the Boddington Shire by 40 per cent; the Brookton Shire Council by 30 per cent; the Corrigin Shire Council by 30 per cent; the Gnowangerup Shire Council by 29.8 per cent; and the Kent Council by 64 per cent. The whole list goes on in this way. These are the rate increases for this year. These shires represent the story right throughout the electorate. I expect also that they would mirror the picture throughout Australia. I understand that rate increases by local government authorities throughout Australia are overall of the order of 30 to 35 per cent this year. These increases have taken place directly as a result of the Government’s inability to manage the economy. Furthermore, many of the shires which I have mentioned are in rural areas and their ability to increase rates are inhibited by the tight liquidity position and the poor situation of the grazing industry for both wool and meat. It would be quite unrealistic and probably irresponsible of local government authorities in grazing areas to increase rates severely when wool prices are being held at below cost of production and beef prices are at their lowest level for many years.
The second alternative open to local government is to reduce the provision of services and facilities. A deal of this is happening on a voluntary basis as shire councils prune their programs and expenditures. It is even clearer that more of this will happen as this financial year progresses, as prices and wages continue to rise and as shire councils attempt to balance their budgets for this financial year. Councils will have no option but to retrench employees. Retrenchments by local government authorities will increase during the rest of this financial year and will become a significant factor in increasing the total of the unemployment pool. Many retrenchments will not be made voluntarily. They will be forced. In this regard, the failure of the local government authorities to satisfy their borrowing programs will add to the number of people thrown out of work.
Let me cite an example from a shire in the electorate of Canning. The shire of Mandurah has in recent years used the full extent of its borrowing powers to provide sewerage for the town. The work is being done by the Western Australian Public Works and County Sewerage Department and is being financed by the shire council’s borrowings. This year the borrowing program is $330,000 and at this late stage in the financial year approximately one third only of this amount has been raised. The position is clear. Unless this money can be borrowed the work must stop. If so, at least 100 people currently employed on the project will be joining the unemployed labour pool. This is an area where the unemployment rate is substantial- and where almost $60,000 has been allocated for the RED scheme.
The same story emerges if we look at the Stirling City Council- a story which will be put by my colleague, the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Viner), much more forcibly if he gets an opportunity to speak and if the debate is not gagged. The Stirling City Council contemplates the dismissal of another 100 employees within the next two or three months if its borrowing program is not realised. It has a loan ceiling of $ 1.7m but to date there is still a shortfall of $lm. The cases of Mandurah and Stirling illustrate the point that I am making, that is, that massive retrenchments of staff by local government authorities are imminent. In a situation of overall unemployment, it is both unnecessary and foolish to force local government authorities into the position that they have to contribute to the ever-growing and ever-increasing pool of unemployment. The Government can come back and say that there is the RED scheme- the Regional Employment Development scheme. This scheme does help local government to do some worthwhile work. But what is needed is not schemes such as the RED scheme and the National Employment and Training Scheme to sop up the unemployed, but action to support those councils which will be forced to retrench staff in the near future because of unparalleled price and wage increases and because of grave deficiencies in borrowing programs.
The position is clear. The Government must act to prevent retrenchments in local government before they take place, not to apply first aid after the retrenchments have been made. The grants made to local government authorities under this Bill will not significantly alleviate the position. Generally, the grants do not cover the increases in costs incurred by the councils because of inflation. Road funds allocated under the Commonwealth Aid Roads legislation passed earlier this year reduced the effective size of local government road programs. Local authorities in Western Australia are receiving grants this year equal in money terms to the grants received last year. In real terms, the grants, eroded by inflation, are smaller. Councils are restricting their road maintenance and extension programs for this very reason. Despite increased ratings, these grants will not even compensate councils for the rate of inflation or the lower grants in real terms for roads. These grants are supposed to be for topping up purposes. In effect, the beaker is leaking at a faster rate than it can be topped up.
There are a number of other carrots being dangled before local government at the moment. These include area improvement schemes, sports and recreation grants, the Australian Assistance Plan, Aboriginal training programs and the like. When one analyses the amounts coming from these schemes, it is easy to realise their limited contribution to the overall contribution of local government. The area improvement scheme is limited in Western Australia to one trial region. The Australian Assistance Plan in the southern region was the greatest blunder imaginable. Many people, leaders in their communities, sacrificed considerable time and expense to formulate proposals. For administrative expenditure of $40,000, total grants received were $22,350. Some eight of 128 schemes were approved, 9 were referred for further information and the remaining 1 1 1 were fobbed off to other departments where no doubt they will be destined for the archives.
These other carrots being offered to local government authorities through regional authorities or otherwise do not add up to much. They certainly do not compensate regions or shire councils or municipal councils for the impact of inflation. They do not compensate for the reduction in services by local government authorities because of inflation or inadequate loan fillings. In total, they are relatively insignificant or no more than mere decoys to persuade local government authorities and the people that they are being adequately catered for.
When the Grants Commission Bill was before the Parliament in 1973, the Opposition attacked the regional concept. We still oppose the regional concept being developed by this Government. We do not condone the by-passing of State governments in the allocating of funds to local government, whether the scheme be administered by the Grants Commission, the Area Assistance Plan or in any other way. The regional concept developed by this Government has proved a failure. In his address to the annual conference of the Australian Council of Local Government Associations at Alice Springs on 1 1 November the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) said:
I believe the new work of the Grants Commission, as it unfolds, will promote another development of profound significance to the shape, importance and effectiveness of local government. I refer to the creation of regions and the development of genuine regional thinking.
The regions as they are now drawn in Western Australia are ludicrous. Councils in regions do not necessarily have common interests. For instance, in my electorate the shire of Boddington is included in the Perth region. Thus a small rural shire dependent on agriculture and forestry some 80 miles from Perth is lumped with the Perth City Council, the Stirling City Council and the Fremantle City Council. What community of interest can there be between a small rural shire so far from the city and radically different shires and municipalities in the metropolitan area? How can such a shire contribute to the ‘genuine regional thinking’ referred to by the Prime Minister?
The Grants Commission reports indicate that grants are determined by deviations from standards and using comparisons both within regions and between regions. What meaningful comparisons could be made between a rural shire such as Boddington, with a population of less than 1,000, and major city councils in the Perth metropolitan area? Yet they aU are part of the same region. The Grants Commission has indicated that it will make inspections in regions. It is hard to envisage how inspections of the Perth City Council area will give the Commission any appreciation of the problems and disabilities of Boddington.
The operation of the Grants Commission in determining the 1973-74 grants left much to be desired. Councils did not know what was wanted. Some presented large shopping lists of projects; others attempted to show disabilities No guidelines existed and so there could be no uniform approach. Since the recommended grants have been announced, shires with inadequate grants or no grants have not been able to obtain meaningful information as to whether their submissions were adequate or were along correct lines. The same old standard reply has been churned out by the office of the Special Minister of State (Mr Lionel Bowen). It says: ‘Read chapter 3 of the Grants Commission report’. It gives a broad and meaningless attachment which is headed ‘Summary of Grants Commission Method of Assessing Equalisation Grants’. It is of extremely limited value to any shire or municipal clerk as a guide to preparing a submission for 1974-75
In my electorate 8 local government authorities were denied grants. They do not know why. Six were small shires. One is forced to ask whether there is discrimination against such shires because of their size. Two other shires, Beverley and York, also did not receive grants. No matter how the figures are analysed- by area, population, length of roads, level of rates, revenue or total loan debt- there is no discernible reason why they missed out in relation to other shires of about the same size in the same region.
If the scheme is to work confusion must be avoided. Clear guidelines should be set for councils. They should know the real reasons that determine the size of their grant or the reason why they did not get a grant. The seminars proposed by the Minister and the promise that questions will be answered by the Commission at the next round of hearings are welcome and will help. But councils are already preparing their submissions for 1974-75 in the dark. So that action should be taken immediately.
I shan cite another area where confusion is being spread. I refer to an article in the publication ‘Community ‘ issued by the Department of Urban and Regional Development. The article is headed ‘$56 Million to Local Government’. The final paragraph reads:
The Grants Commission is using a framework of regional groupings of local councils, and regional organisations are increasingly becoming active around Australia. Although the report -
That is the Grants Commission report - makes no recommendations this year for grants for regional projects, applications for such assistance are expected to increase next year.
Thus we have the Department of Urban and Regional Development publishing its views on how the Grants Commission will operate. On reading this article I checked with the staff of the Special Minister of State to get clarification, to see whether shire councils had been told, to see whether I could tell my councils of a new development. The staff knew nothing of it. The best I could get was a statement that the comment was a kite-flying exercise. This is of scant comfort to shire councils who are now preparing submissions for the next round of Grants Commission hearings.
On the one hand we have the Special Minister of State saying that grants will be judged on an assessment of the revenue disabilities and the expenditure disabilities of the respective local government authorities within a region. We similarly have the Grants Commission in its report stating that this will be the basis of assessment. On the other hand we have the Department of Urban and Regional Development indicating that regions or regional groups should be making up shopping lists for submission and consideration by the Grants Commission. No wonder the local government authorities are confused. Not only are they denied a clear answer on their applications as to how grants were decided, but they are also being given a dual set of standards for the presentation of their submissions for the next round of Grants Commission hearings.
This is a question which the Special Minister of State should answer today. The simple question is this: Should council submissions be made on the basis of the disabilities as the Grants Commission and his views seem to support, or are they also to submit applications for grants for regional projects as recommended by the Department of Urban and Regional Development? The question of disabilities should be looked at afresh by the Grants Commission as that it seems in many areas important factors have been ignored. I refer particularly to areas which are tourist and holiday centres. With a population approaching 20,000 shires such as Mandurah cater during the summer period for populations of up to 50,000. No allowance appears to have been made for the additional burden on the Shire Council of providing facilities and services to provide for this influx.
Other regional centres appear to have been similarly treated. They have expenditure disabilities because of the need to provide facilities for people from well outside their shire or municipal boundaries. Adequate weight does not appear to have been given to this factor. The Commission in its report discounted as a disability factor the rural recession. This clearly needs reassessment, particularly in many grazing areas. I hope that in the 1974-75 round of applictions this will be given further and adequate consideration. In Western Australia a number of shires are required, because of their location and difficulty of acquiring doctors and dentists, to subsidise these services. I see no provision in the report of the Commission to indicate that this has been given sufficient weight.
I support this Bill not because I endorse the principals behind it, but because local government is in such a serious financial position that every bit of money is needed. The money granted by this Bill will not be significant in solving the financial predicament of local government, nor will it substantially reduce the bleak fact that mass retrenchments are likely by local government authorities in the near future.
-Not as reluctantly as the honourable member for Canning (Mr Bungey) but rather joyfully and proudly I support the Bill. I congratulate the Government on taking this forthright stand to honour the election promise of 1972 on which this Government was elected and which was part of its progressive platform at that time. The Government pledged to raise the status of local government, to introduce a new deal for some 900 of these local authorities throughout Australia, to relieve those people of the third tier of Government responsibility in Australia of the burden that for far too long had forced them to the position were their development was restricted by the financial limitations they were very unjustly forced to carry because they were not being looked at on a fair and equitable basis by the various State Governments. As I have said, we espoused that policy in 1973 and again in 1974 when the Government was re-elected. Of course, an indication of the support given by the local authorities in Australia and the confidence that the local authorities generally have in the Australian Government today was the invitation extended to the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) to open the annual conference of the Australian Council of Local Government Associations, which he did at Alice Springs on Monday, 1 1 November.
The honourable member for Canning referred to local authorities in his electorate that missed out. They were not successful in their submissions to the Grants Commission and consequently were not awarded grants in the first allocation by the Commission for 1974. 1 realise that perhaps it is with some concern that he brings this to the attention of the Parliament, but I cannot really say that it is reasonable and fair for him to suggest that the local authorities he mentioned or all of those who did not receive a grant could really be in a position where they do not know why they missed out. The criteria are clearly set out in the Commission’s report, which is available to all honourable members and to all local authorities that are involved in this exercise. They are clearly enunciated in the second reading speech of the Special Minister of State (Mr Lionel Bowen). He said:
The grants are designed to reduce inequalities between local governing bodies in the provision of ordinary services. The grants will be made to the States for payment to these bodies to supplement their general revenues so as to enable them to provide a standard of service comparable with those provided by councils elsewhere.
The overwhelming majority of local authorities have benefited from this decision. Some 92 per cent of those that submitted cases to the Grants Commission were successful. When one considers that only 8 per cent missed out and came into the category to which the honourable member for Canning referred, I do not think it is reasonable to suggest that they do not know why they missed out. As I say, those that missed out must accept the decision of this non-political organisation. No one can point a finger at the Government and say that any political influence was exerted on the Grants Commission or that the Government exerted any influence at all. The criteria were established by the Grants Commission on the same principles as it established for determining the grants that go to the mendicant States. On these principles grants were allocated to local shires.
I support the honourable member for Canning on one point. The Grants Commission, the Minister and anybody else who has the responsibility of seeing that this measure is carried out effectively should, on the next occasion when the local authorities appear before the Grants Commission, spare no effort in seeing that complete and full explanations are given to the local authorities on how to prepare cases and perhaps guidelines should be laid down for them so that they can quite clearly understand how best to present their cases so that they do not miss out. The Redland Shire in my electorate received no grant. The Brisbane City Council, which is responsible for the greater part of my electorate, received $2m. It is explained quite clearly in the Grants Commission’s report why this $2m was granted to the Brisbane City Council. Generally speaking, looking at the Redland area and the development there, I can understand why under the terms of the criteria laid down the Redland Shire would be ineligible for a grant when compared with other shires throughout Queensland. But I must say that I am very heartened by the suggestion in the Minister’s second reading speech that local government authorities should not take the attitude that simply because they missed out on this occasion they will miss out again. He said:
It is in the nature of the Commission’s task that in any year some local authorities will receive lower grants than their neighbouring councils or shires, and some authorities will not receive any grants. Consequently, the fact that a council receives a grant this year does not necessarily mean that the same council will receive a grant next year. This is because the Government has asked the Commission to recommend the amount of financial assistance needed to equalise the fiscal requirements of all local authorities, either individually or as regional groups.
In supporting the attitude put forward by the honourable member for Canning I say that it is important that every effort be made to see that local authorities are properly briefed and are adequately equipped and competent to undertake the task of putting forward their case. I am sure that the Minister’s Department will offer these services and facilities to local authorities. I support the advice given to local authorities earlier by my colleague, the honourable member for Darling (Mr FitzPatrick). He impressed upon the local authorities in his electorate the need to put forward competent cases. Throughout his electorate he has urged them to see that they put forward a case and that they put it forward in a correct fashion to the Grants Commission when the Commission is considering grants for 1 975.
The $2m to which I referred earlier which has been paid to the Brisbane City Council is naturally very welcome. It was appropriate that the Grants Commission looked at the Greater Brisbane area in isolation. Naturally it was impossible for the Commission to compare the Brisbane city area with any of the other capital cities because Brisbane is in the unique situation where the whole of the metropolitan area comes under the responsibility and authority of one council, the Brisbane City Council. To my way of thinking- I think generally speaking this is accepted in local government- this is the blueprint for the ideal form of local authority government in any metropolitan area and an example which could well be copied by other capital cities and major provincial cities throughout Australia. Recently I was amazed beyond belief to discover the situation that exists in the city of Geelong in Victoria, where half a dozen local authorities have responsibility either in the city itself or in close adjoining areas. It is ridiculous in the extreme that a city of that size has such an untidy and antiquated form of local government operating in the area. It is up to the Victorian Government to get cracking to see that the level of organisation in local government is upgraded in that State. Of course this applies in respect of many of the local authorities even in my own State.
There is no doubt about one of the reasons why the State governments try to keep such a tight rein on local authorities and why they always want to remind the Australian Government of the fact that the local authorities are the children of the State government and reiterate that they want it kept that way. This is certainly because local authorities are kept under the control, power and influence of State governments. Many times State governments actively use this situation to their own political advantage. An excellent example is what happened recently in Brisbane. Dissatisfied with the fact that they were unable to defeat the very popular and dynamic Labor team in Brisbane led by Lord Mayor Clem Jones, the State Government changed the rules. Previously there had been 28 wards patterned on the State electorates in the Brisbane metropolitan area. The State government decided to cut the number back to 21 and to change the City of Brisbane Act on the advice of the Minister for Local Government and Electricity Mr McKechnie. To convince the people of Brisbane that his advice was well founded and that he was doing the correct thing by the people of Brisbane he disclosed on a television show that he had consulted taxi drivers, who had told him that the idea was popular. He decided that the Lord Mayor would have to be elected by the people of one particular ward rather than the citizens of Brisbane as a whole. Of course, the outcome of this is well known. It was an overwhelming victory for the Labor Party in the elections, when it won all but one of the seats. Of course, much to the displeasure of the Queensland Government, Clem Jones is still there to carry on the good job that he has been doing for Brisbane since 1961. The honourable member for Petrie (Mr Hodges), whose electorate comes to a large extent within the Greater Brisbane area, smiles his approval. It is good to see that even a Liberal member of Parliament recognises the dynamic task that faces the man in charge of the Greater Brisbane area council and he smiles his congratulations and approval of the job that the Labor Party is doing for the Brisbane City area. I am pleased to see this tribute paid to the Labor Council and to the Lord Mayor, Clem Jones, and I am sure he will appreciate it.
I congratulate the Government for ensuring that this measure was brought into the House before the conclusion of the session this year so that the decisions of the Grants Commission can be put into effect. I am particularly pleased to see that $2m will be made available to the Brisbane
City Council and I know that it will be used to the advantage of the citizens of Brisbane, including those in the electorate of the honourable member opposite. I reiterate I hope that on the next occasion these applications come before the Grants Commission we will see a continuation of this development and that the Government will go on with its very highly principled decision to see that local authorities are at last recognised in their true position of responsibility in the 3 tiers of government in this nation.
-The purpose of this Bill is to authorise payments of $56,345,000 to local governing bodies in Australia in 1974-75. It is noted that 806 local governing bodies throughout the country will benefit by the passing of this Bill and, with the present position of local government, the sooner the money is appropriated the better. During the past few weeks there has not been a local governing body in the Paterson electorate that has not contacted me to express concern about its dire financial position and to ask when the money allocated by the Grants Commission would be made available by the Government. So it is good to know that the Bill which we are debating here today will be passed quickly and should alleviate the problems being experienced by many of these local governing councils. However, many shire councils throughout Australia have been cut down on their Commonwealth Aid Roads grant money and are experiencing financial difficulties, and the grants that are being made to them by the Grants Commission and by the Government will not make up for the loss of funds from the CAR grants, and this is a great pity.
My own association with local government has been over a 31 -year period, so I have been able to see the great change that has taken place in this sphere of government over a long time- one could say from the horse and buggy days, with requirements only for the repair of footpaths and roads and items of that nature, to the present time when local government is required to provide all modern amenities with an outmoded method of financing. There are many instances where local governing bodies have possibly over-stretched their resources and have endeavoured to do too much with too little; but most modern local governing bodies are required to provide services such as libraries and child minding centres and recreational facilities like sporting ovals and swimming baths; in many instances they undertake the operation of meat abbatoirs. They are part and parcel of electricity reticulation authorities, gas reticulation authorities and weed eradication bodies. You name it, local government is expected to play its part in it.
With the increased costs and the greater needs of local governing bodies it is only reasonable that they should receive an adequate part of the country’s finances. I have always been in favour of local governing authorities receiving assistance from the Australian Government of the day, but I have some reservations. With the great experience, expertise and know-how of the various local government departments in the States, it would have been more economical, more efficient and in many ways much better for the Grants Commission to have made this money available to these departments, which have the know-how and expertise, and which could have then made it available to the local governing bodies in their respective States. A big commission has been built up here to deal with these grants when the Government could have made the money available to the States, which already have the set-up which is required to distribute the funds. There have been instances recently where town and shire clerks have again had to supply to the Australian Government further information in regard to the Grants Commission. If this had been handled by the local government departments in the States, which already had this information, the payments could have been expedited and the money made available much more quickly than has been the case under the Grants Commission. The finances of local government authorities have certainly been tested to the full. Local government’s problem has not been one of loan moneys; there has been sufficient loan money available to local government throughout Australia. What has not been available is revenue funds. Loan moneys are very nice when you get them, but they have got to be serviced over the years. The capital has got to be paid back and the interest has to be paid, and this involves local government in increased costs and in problems in repaying loan moneys. What local government wants is to have revenue funds made available to it. As I have said, I feel sure that there would have been a great saving in costs had the money been channelled through the State local government departments.
I am very pleased to see that Mr Justice ElseMitchell has been appointed as Chairman of the Grants Commission. This appointment could result in changes in methodology within the Commission. Mr Justice Else-Mitchell has spent a lifetime of investigation into the finances of local government, particularly in New South Wales. I have discussed this matter with him on quite a few occasions and he was of the opinion that it was essential that Australian Government money should be made available to local government to help it overcome its financial difficulties. After discussion with members of the Commission the view can be expressed that the short time span available for the formulation of grants for 1974-75 resulted in many short cuts being taken, and one can readily see why this was so. However, many lessons have been learnt and these will be taken into account in the future. The operation of the Commission in this field, of course, is regarded as evolutionary and the first attempt has been very much a trial attempt. I think that in fairness we must say that this would be so, because it is the first grant to be made by the Australian Grants Commission. There will be teething problems in this field.
Guidelines, of course, and methodology are developing further and future recommendations may be expected to take this into account. The Commission gives no guarantees that changes in guidelines or in methodology will be reflected in increased grants in the future. I feel that this is a wise precaution. I believe also that the quality of the submissions had no adverse effects on the level of the grants that were recommended, and this should put shire council clerks at ease. The Commission has informed us that it is anxious to continue to receive submissions from councils and that it will undertake to inspect problem areas to correct data deficiencies and supplement information received. The Commission wishes to be informed in writing of any queries or observations in respect of the first grants or lack of grant well in advance of the next hearings which, I understand, are due to commence shortly. Many councils have expressed the view that a base grant should form part of the recommendations so that each council would receive some amount. Unless the Government is prepared to issue such instructions to the Commission this would not be a possibility, and honourable members would readily see this to be so.
Although the Commission makes working papers available to State governments it is not prepared at this stage to make working papers available to local government bodies. In my own electorate of Paterson there are 16 purely local government councils and most of them have received grants from the Grants Commission. Most of them are in extreme financial difficulties. The shire clerk of the Coolah Shire Council, which is in my electorate, was here today and he expressed great concern about the fact that this council will have to lay off employees unless this grant money is made readily available to him.
An amount of $58,000 has been made available to that shire. If this Bill goes through promptly that appropriation should be made by the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) early in December. These amounts which are to be made available to these councils should help them over their problems and difficulties. It is noted that weed eradication authorities, reticulation authorities, abattoir processing plants and gas distributing authorities do not come under the Grants Commission for assistance, and I think that this is a fair thing. They are trading undertakings in the main and no grant should be made to them. They should be endeavouring to put their own houses in order and run then- own undertakings on enonomic lines, which they can do.
I have noted that the Special Minister of State (Mr Lionel Bowen) has said in his second reading speech that the Commission will continue to rely heavily on the co-operation of councils in its work. The Minister continues:
Its methods require that comprehensive and up to date financial and statistical information be submitted by them as a basis for its assessments. There is also the need to have a first-hand appreciation of the problems of Councils and, in the course of its second round of public hearings, which have already commenced, Commissioners will be making direct inspections in all regions. The nature of the program will also provide the Commission with opportunities to keep the needs of Councils under continuing review.
I notice also that in the Minister’s second reading speech great reliance is placed on the formation of regional councils. I would agree with this and also agree with the Minister that the formation of these regional councils in the formulative stages has been quite successful. I was afraid that when they were first formed parochial attitudes of the constituent councils would show themselves very forcibly. But in the main these regional councils have appeared to work extremely well. Those councils which have received grants are, in the main, satisfied with the grants they have received.
I heartily support the Bill. I have condemned it in one aspect, and that is that I feel- I reiterate this- that the money could have been made available to the local government departments in the States which have the expertise and the know-how so that they could allocate it according to the information that they have. But I know that the Grants Commission, having been set up here in Canberra, will continue to function, and as it gains more knowledge of the local governing bodies and their requirements throughout Australia it will be able to handle the grants in a more equitable and more efficient manner. I support the Bill.
– I wish to reply briefly to the remarks of the honourable member for Paterson (Mr O’Keefe). He started out by being critical of the Government’s action to assist local government bodies, but he mellowed towards the end of his speech. The Bill provides the Grants Commission with $56.3m for allocation to local governing bodies by way of grant. Such grants will be interest free and nonrepayable. The honourable member for Paterson went on to criticise the fact that Commonwealth Aid Roads moneys were being cut back. The Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) today clearly stated that the amount of money made available under the Commonwealth Aid Roads Agreement this year was 30 per cent greater than that provided during the last 3 years of administration of the previous Government. He pointed out also that if there was any cutting back of Commonwealth Aid Roads moneys this was being done by the respective State governments which were responsible for its allocation.
Let us just briefly examine the real debt burden of local government bodies under the administration of the previous Government of which the honourable member for Paterson was a supporter. The whole debt burden of the Commonwealth government during the 23 years of reign of the previous Government remained static. The debts of the States increased sevenfold. The debt burden of local government bodies increased by some 2,000 per cent, and in the case of semi-government authorities it increased by 2,800 per cent. That is the record of the previous Government. We know that local government authorities are in a difficult financial situation. What is proposed under this Bill is one of the first steps that we propose to take. It is only one step of the many that we are taking to try to assist local government bodies. Might I say that the region which the honourable member for Paterson represents received a total of $2,719,000. For instance, the Maitland City Council, which is in the area that the honourable member represents, received $228,000. The Muswellbrook City Council received $70,000; the Scone Shire Council received $62,000; and the Singleton Municipal Council received $60,000. All of these moneys were made available from the Australian Government to the respective councils by way of non-repayable grant. It is this type of positive action taken by the Whitlam Labor Government which has been of assistance to these bodies.
During my contribution I shall make further references to other areas in which we are trying to assist local government authorities. I welcome this Bill introduced by my colleague, the Special Minister of State (Mr Lionel Bowen). For the first time the Australian Government is to make assistance directly available to shires and councils. The Bill provides a total of $56,345,000 to local government bodies in accordance with the recommendation of the Grants Commission. Honourable members will recall the pledge made by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) during the debate in June last year on the Grants Commission Bill. The Prime Minister said:
The Government is determined to make the third tier of government a genuine partner in the system and to give local government adequate access to the nation ‘s finance.
We have honoured this commitment with the changes we have made in the functions of the Grants Commission. Grants are now flowing from these changes. The grants to individual local government bodies were announced by the Special Minister of State, Mr Lionel Bowen, and me in August. Since the announcement we have been gratified by the generally favourable response to these grants. Wherever I have travelled in Australia in recent weeks I have found that local government is thankful for the assistance given. There have been some knockers and there has been some ill-informed criticism, but for the most part the response has been heartening to the Government.
It would be impossible to pioneer a new system of assistance to local government without some defects occurring. The application of principles of fiscal equality to about 900 local government bodies is a tremendous task. Undoubtedly there are anomalies in the list of grants; there may have been injustices. It would be impossible to introduce such a sweeping scheme without a few rough edges showing in its first year. If there are cases where it can be shown that the principles have been unfairly applied or there has been a lack of consistency we will certainly have a look at them. I should point out that my Department is entitled to go in and support the application of any local government authority before the Grants Commission if there is any injustice. So far no example of unfairness has been brought to my attention. Some of the State branches of the Opposition Parties, in particular the New South Wales Branch of the Liberal Party of Australia, have had a very close look at the grants and have been unable to uncover any bias or unfairness. There are always complaints about political bias in the application of any broad scheme which brings benefits across the board. There is no doubt in my mind that these grants have been based on a fair and impartial assessment by the Grants Commission. I stress that these grants are completely free of strings. Each local government body is completely free to decide how it will fit its grant into individual spending programs.
Another important point about the grants is the high level of assistance given to rural areas. On a per capita basis the shires and councils in non-metropolitan areas have done better than their urban counterparts. If we were to break down these figures for the whole of Australia we would find that the grants went to metropolitan local government bodies on the basis of $2.92 a head and to non-metropolitan bodies at $6.88 a head. If we were to break down the figures on a State by State basis we would get these results: New South Wales- metropolitan $2.87 a head and rural $7.28 a head; Victoria- Metropolitan $2.96 a head and rural $7.13 a head; Queensland- metropolitan $3.12 a head and rural $6.23 a head; South Australia- metropolitan $3.02 a head and rural $6.36 a head; Western Australia- metropolitan $2.92 a head and rural $8.85 a head; and Tasmania- metropolitan $2.04 a head and rural $5.16 a head. I hope that those figures give the lie once and for all to the claims that the Government’s programs discriminate against the rural areas. The rural areas do as well as or better than the urban areas in the programs of the Australian Government.
I would like to look in a little detail at one of the important principles which is embodied in the Government’s approach to providing assistance to local government, that is, the use of regions in the context of Australian federal government. The subject of regions has aroused considerable public interest and debate in the past few months. The focus of the sort of examination is the development of a system of regions so that the Grants Commission can work effectively in assisting local government. It is a fact that attitudes to regionalism are much more strongly developed in some parts of Australia than in others. Bringing local government bodies together in broader groupings is essential if the rather clumsy structure of federalism in this country is to be made to work. The Australian Government is developing new programs which get right down to the day-to-day working of local government. This is a great step forward in the working of Australian government, but it brings many problems. An obvious difficulty is coordinating the administration of programs involving the Australian Government, the State governments and some 900 local government bodies.
Finding the tools to get this structure to work has been one of the important tasks of the Government in urban and regional development. For this reason we have sought to revive the concept of regionalism to link the shires and councils in a number of loosely based groups. This sort of association is designed to bring together councils which have some common identity. With this aim in mind we defined 68 regions for the purposes of Grants Commission assistance to local government. The Grants Commission was given 3 choices in applying the principles of fiscal equality to local government: It could use comparisons between regions; it could use comparisons between individual local government bodies; it could use comparisons of regions with other regions or with individual local government bodies.
The Commission decided to base its work on comparing individual local government bodies. That meant the exacting task of looking in detail at more than 800 shires and councils. The reasons for that choice are set out in the Grants Commission’s report on financial assistance to local government. Those reasons are sound enough and I do not dispute the course adopted by the Commission. At this early stage it would not be wise to base a strong case for assistance to local government on the regions. But it is encouraging to note that 2 States- Tasmania and South Australia- were prepared to put their applications on a regional basis. As the regional concept is developed it should be possible to shift the whole basis of assistance to local government onto the regions. I know that this will take time to evolve, but it is not the Government’s intention to push too hard. We want it to evolve at a local government level and we want the local government bodies to put their applications on a regional basis. We want to bring the regional concept along gradually and to blend it into the process of transmitting Australian Government money to local government bodies by way of regional organisations. For that reason, the 1974-75 Budget makes special provision for grants to regional organisations set up for Grants Commission purposes.
The regional organisation assistance program has 2 aims. We want to encourage local government to tackle regional problems in co-operation by setting up regional organisations. We want these regional organisations to be active in assessing the needs of their regions and in making submissions on their behalf. The annual application to the Grants Commission is the most important of these submissions. There are other
Australian government programs where an approach on a regional basis would greatly assist the flow of assistance. The whole concept of regional organisations must remain an empty shell if the organisations lack the resources to service their needs. To fill this need we will provide 2 levels of assistance under the program. All regional organisations will qualify for $2,000 to assist them to meet such basic out-of-pocket expenses as travelling and secretarial expenses. Grants up to $8,000 per region may be paid to organisations which spend money on other approved regional purposes. This will assist with costs, such as for the preparation of regional studies and the holding of regional conferences. Not all of the regions will be eligible for this second grant immediately, but we expect that within 3 years most regions will have developed sufficiently to claim it. This represents a modest start to building up the sort of machinery that will be needed to service these regional organisations. Beyond this, we look to the day when there will be a much greater concentration of the resources of local governments on a regional basis.
One of the great flaws of local government at the moment is lack of resources to provide the expertise that is necessary in an increasingly complex era of technology. The single unit of local government has not the resources to employ the engineers, the managers, the environmentalists and the planners. It is so much easier to provide these essential people if the resources of local government are pooled on a regional basis. It is also much easier for government- I include the State governments here- to channel its assistance to local regional organisations. Local government must realise that we live in an environmental age and that it will have to adjust to meet new challenges and demands.
I referred earlier to the scope of the Australian Government’s programs which impinge directly on local government. This involvement has been extended greatly by the measures contained in the Budget. I refer honourable members to Budget Paper No. 7 on payments to or for the State and local government authorities for 1974-75. Table 86, at page 134, gives a broad indication of the range and possible size of the Australian Government payments to or for local government authorities this financial year. This gives an estimate of $96.9m for Australian Government programs this financial year. If we take out $56.3m for the Grants Commission program and $2m for the Northern Territory we get a total of $38m for specific purpose assistance to local government. It should be stressed that this is not a total figure as estimates are not available for some important programs. Allowing for this shortfall, there is no doubt of the scope and generosity of the assistance we are giving to local government programs.
We have extended the national sewerage program to cover cities with a population of between 20,000 and 60,000 people. We have extended the area improvement program from 2 regions this year to 13 regions. Local government will also receive substantial assistance from the urban local roads program which allocates $30m in grants over the next 3 years. A substantial part of this money will go to local government. For the first time direct assistance will be given for upgrading the quality of residential streets. These programs derive from the work of my Department. There are many other Australian Government programs linked to the day to day work of local government. My colleague the Minister for Tourism and Recreation (Mr Stewart) has devised a number of fine programs to give better amenities for recreation in towns and suburbs. The Australian Assistance Plan, directed by the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden), will gather greater momentum in the months ahead. It will link all levels of government with local communities in the provision of a greater range of welfare services. Under the scheme the Australian Government is giving the money and the back-up for programs which local communities can identify and fulfil.
These two examples could be multiplied. At the moment there are 34 programs administered by 13 Australian Government departments and 5 Australian Government authorities. More programs are being added all the time. The Government will continue to extend these programs. These programs have teething problems and there needs to be a role of co-ordination. It will be the task of the Department of Urban and Regional Development to iron out these problems and ensure that all programs of assistance to local government are co-ordinated in a proper way. The Australian Government aims to give local government the money and the tools to fill its proper role in the federal structure. The assistance given by the Grants Commission represents a great stride forward in achieving this aim. This grant of $56.3m in the first year is interest free and non-repayable. I support the Bill.
-Firstly I must take to task the honourable member for Darling (Mr FitzPatrick). He made the statement that State governments were not assisting local government. This is totally incorrect. State governments are assisting local government and
I think honourable members should refrain from statements of that nature or, if they are illinformed, should make no statements at all. I was rather flattered by the honourable member for Bowman (Mr Keogh) who tried to get mileage out of me by suggesting that I was agreeing with him during the debate. That shows what sort of tactics Labor Party members will resort to, particularly as the Queensland State election is to be held on 7 December. The honourable member referred to Alderman Jones as having done such a good job as Lord Mayor of Brisbane. I suggest to the honourable member that this was a personal vote. As a matter of fact it was a blackmail vote because during the campaign for the last Brisbane City Council election people were told that if they did not vote for the Australian Labor Party they would not get anything from Alderman Jones, because he is a dictator. So it was a blackmail vote. But it also shows the complete impartiality of the Queensland Government which has been impartial towards the Brisbane City Council. It shows also the success of the State Government which I know will be returned with a resounding majority on 7 December. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), in addressing the Council of the Local Government Associations conference, said that he was the lucifer of centralism. I suggest that, like Alderman Jones, his light is burning rather dimly at the moment.
Yesterday the States Grants (Special Assistance) Bill debate was gagged in this House. The Opposition was denied the right to adequately debate it. I am pleased that the Bill we are now debating has not received the same treatment. Honourable members from Queensland and South Australia were denied the right to debate yesterday and this indicated the interest of the Government in those areas. That was a substantial Bill which involved expenditure totalling about $48m. The present Bill involves an amount of about $56m. However the proceedings are being broadcast at the moment and I guess the Government regards this as a good opportunity to show up the good points of this Bill.
I support the Bill, as the Opposition has done, and I am happy to do so because it relates to an area that has concerned me for about 8 years. In recent times we have heard and have seen reports in the newspapers of the State Opposition Leader in Queensland, Mr Tucker, making statements to the effect that the Commonwealth Government has made greater per capita grants to Queensland than elsewhere- grants of the order of $380 as compared with the Australian average of $360. 1 am surprised that Mr Tucker is so naive that he is not aware of the way the Grants Commission operates. The Grants Commission seeks to bring equality to States that are below the standard States of New South Wales and Victoria. The claimant States, of course, are to function at a standard not appreciably below that of other States without levying extra charges and taxation. Therefore their revenue has to be supplemented, because they have a lower capacity to raise taxes and revenue and because they incur higher costs in order to provide comparable services.
This Bill provides that $56.3m is to be spread among 806 local authorities. When averaged out, although it might sound a lot this is not a great deal of money to each authority. It is approximately $70,000. If it is averaged over 900 local authorities, the amount is reduced to $60,000 to each authority. What amazes me about this move by the Government is this: Why has it applied a ceiling of $56m. We find that $4 1.6m is appropriated this financial year to the Albury-Wodonga concept which I support whereas only $2.4m was spent on that project last year. I would suggest to the Special Minister of State (Mr Lionel Bowen) and to the Government that first things should come first. Why not upgrade the existing facilities we have in our cities and towns? Why are we spending so much money on Albury-Wodonga? Is it because we have a glory-seeking Prime Minister who wants to be known as the first Prime Minister to do so many things? Perhaps the name ‘AlburyWodonga’ is rather cumbersome and he wants it to be renamed ‘ Whitlam City’.
We have seen 3 Budgets presented in 4 months. As far as I can see, in this House a budget seems to have no significance at all. The first Budget proposed a deficit of $570m. Eight weeks later, that deficit is $ 1,300m. As reckless spending seems to be the order of the day I call on the Government to double at least, or perhaps treble, the $56.3m that is provided by this Bill. The sum of $56.3m causes me to claim that the Government’s generosity is really at stake.
Having been present at hearings of the Grants Commission on behalf of one local authority, I feel that I can speak with some authority on this Bill. I played a part in the preparation of the submission for and also appeared on behalf of one authority. One fact is abundantly clear in Australia today. This is that local government is not receiving sufficient revenue. It is required to carry out so many important services including the provision of water supply, sewerage, roads, kerbing, channelling and drainage, parklands and public toilets to mention a few. It is quite obvious that, if we are not to experience stagnation, extra revenue must come to local government.
It is interesting to note that local government’s share of total Government spending in Australia is shrinking steadily. Instead of increasing, unfortunately it is declining to such an extent that in 1969-70 only 7.4 per cent of total government expenditure in Australia was spent in the local government area. A committee of inquiry into local government affairs in New South Wales- it was called the Barnett report- clearly illustrated this figure of 7.4 per cent. This is in stark contrast to the expenditure of 21.6 per cent in Canada, 25.4 per cent in the United States of America and 34.6 per cent in Great Britain.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) stated earlier that a figure of approximately 20 per cent of all revenue coming to local authorities is expended on interest and redemption payments. I can assure the House that there are many local authorities in this country which have interest and redemption payments in excess of 50 per cent of their revenue. Rate increases of between 20 per cent and 50 per cent are rather the order of the day. In the city of Ipswich, which is in the electorate of the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden), complete uproar recently occurred with petitions being presented to the council calling on the council to resign and for rates to be reduced. This is typical of the position throughout Australia and demonstrates the fact that local government obviously must receive more revenue.
The question is: Where is that revenue to come from? Many people in our community today are unable to meet the increased rates which are being levied. The capital cost of services today in new estates is being provided by subdividers. But there is a tremendous backlog which must be caught up. It is not only a question of who provides capital costs; the cost of the maintenance of these services and the replacement of vital equipment is involved.
This Government is able to indulge in a differential taxing system. Unfortunately, that system is not available to local government. When we talk of the average size allotment in a residential street- that is, a 24 perch allotmentwe might find living in that street a pensioner, a low income bracket earner, a middle income bracket earner and perhaps a high income bracket earner. Local government has not at its disposal the means to levy a differential rate on those people in these various income brackets. It does have by the operation of valuations some power to vary rates m certain areas.
Let me return to the reaction of local government to these grants. I make the point that these Grants Commission hearings were held in 1973. We are now towards the end of 1974. The reaction I receive from local government authorities is: ‘When are we to receive the money?’ It is fairly plainly stated in this Bill that the grants are to be paid out before 30 June 1975. 1 would hope for the sake of local government and in view of the number of persons unemployed- this number is increasing all the time- that these grants will be made available almost immediately.
I come again to a point that I made earlier in reply to the honourable member for Darling and refer specifically to the generosity of the Queensland Government. Honourable members will recall that he mentioned that no State government gave assistance to local government. These remarks would indicate to the Australian people that this Australian Government is the only Government that has ever done anything for local government Let me assure honourable members that non-repayable grants are made by State governments and that in Queensland in particular subsidies range from 15 per cent for roadworks and drainage up to non-repayable grants of 40 per cent of cost for sewerage works and up to 50 per cent for new water supply schemes.
– It is a very sensitive Government.
– It is a Government sensitive to the needs of local government authorities. Let us look at a local government whose works program is Sim. On average- a generous average- 20 per cent of that sum comes by way of non-repayable grants. I make the point quite strongly that this Government is not the only government that assists local government in Australia. Local government certainly is deflated and depressed by the approach of this Commonwealth Government to more finance for local authorities. One might say that it is in the doldrums and that all the wind is dropping out of its sails. Local authorities thought that this Government was Santa Claus because it told them so. This was a good selling point. Government members proved that they were good salesmen. But local authorities today- and I wish some Government members would move around in this area- are like disillusioned children for they have learnt who Santa Claus really is.
– Come to Gosford and Wyong and see the position there.
-Never mind about Gosford. It is just as disadvantaged, I would say, as other local government areas in Australia. This Government has not done too much for it. Local government is a little dejected and a little deflated by and a little distrusting of this Government. But the main difference between the child who believes in Santa Claus and the local government child, so to speak, is that the confidence of the child in the first instance returns pretty quickly; let me assure this Government that the confidence of local government will not return.
I make the further point that the Grants Commission, as we know, is non-political. But it operates only within the charter that is given to it. I am most fearful that, in the future, if grants are made to regions- this has been quite clearly stated by the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren)- we will have greater problems on our hands with respect to the distribution of these funds. What will happen if a local authority has not received a grant, as a number have not in these hearings of the Grants Commission, and a grant is made to the region in the future? Who determines where the money is going when it is given to the regional body? I am not decrying regional planning. I am very much in favour of it because there are very great advantages that will accrue to our communities if we pursue regional planning. I might add that regional planning in the State of Queensland, as I have said in this House before, is to the forefront in Australia and many of the ideas that were instituted by the Queensland Government have in actual fact been copied by the Department of Urban and Regional Development
I would like to talk a little about members of the Grants Commission because I believe that they are well qualified and competent people. They are people who did their utmost to do an honest job. The following statement is made at page 40 of the report of the Commission:
The Commission has not been able to compare the extent of assistance provided by the various States to local government in any explicit way. Better information will be sought from States and local government authorities in order to overcome the problem. But for the time being, the Commission has had to resort to broad judgment.
The operative phrase there obviously is ‘broad judgment’. I sympathise with the commissioners in their task. Obviously it was a major one. But the distressing thing, I think, is that there was an admission of these difficulties in the report in that the commissioners, of course, had to use their ‘broad judgment’. I want to make the point that local government grants commissions do operate in New South Wales and Western Australia
These grants commissions provide grants to local authorities. I suggest to the Government that it lays down suggested guidelines for State governments and in consultation with the States sets up State Grants Commissions. The Federal Government should let the State governments assess the needs of local government. After all, they have local knowledge which is important. The various State government departments know the intricacies of their own States. I believe that a greater uniformity of operations of local authorities can be obtained by consultation rather than by confrontation. This Government seems to be making a habit of forcing its views on the States rather than seeking their co-operation.
I now turn to the second reading speech of the Special Minister of State (Mr Lionel Bowen). I want to refer to a couple of points. Firstly the Minister said:
There will be no conditions attached to the expenditure of grants.
It is very nice to see that there are to be no strings attached to grants which will be allocated to local authorities. But what guarantee have local authorities of that in the future? What guarantee is there that this Government will not endeavour to control what happens to their funds in the future? The Minister also said:
The Government believes that these grants will go a long way towards alleviating these deficiencies.
This is utter rubbish. I pointed out earlier that $56m spread over all local authorities in Australia is an exercise in window dressing.
– It is a fleabite.
– It is a fleabite, as my honourable friend reminds me.
The final point is that a number of local authorities missed out on grants. I want to know whether these local authorities were told why they missed out on grants. Was it because their rates were too low and they had the capacity to levy higher rates? Was it because their operations were inefficient? What was the reason? I would suggest to the Special Minister of State that he might look into this matter and provide an explanation either directly or through the Commission to local authorities that were unsuccessful in receiving grants.
I also suggest that the money should be made available immediately. Many local authorities cannot raise this money from loan funds. This problem is widespread throughout Australia today. Of course, the money will help to prevent retrenchments which at this point of time are inevitable. I sum up by saying that the system is too complex and too loose to determine fairly and accurately amounts of grants. I would suggest that the States be allowed to handle the distribution of money provided by way of grants.
– I enter this debate because of the position in which the City of Stirling now finds itself with regard to its finances. The City of Stirling is shared in area by my electorate of Stirling and the electorate of the honourable member for Perth (Mr Berinson). Outside the City of Perth it is the largest local authority in the metropolitan area. It is significantly larger than the City of Perth in area. It has some 160,000 people to cater for and it might properly be regarded as big business in its own right. It has a budget of $15,708,834 for the 1974-75 financial year. It is to receive a grant of $490,000 from the Grants Commission by virtue of this legislation. I think that it is about the eighth largest grant that is to be allocated. The City of Stirling obviously is to receive that grant because of the wide range of social commitments it has within its local authority area.
The City of Stirling is concerned about 2 things, firstly its immediate financial plight and secondly, when it will get the money from the Government. I notice in that regard that clause 4 of the Bill provides that grants are payable in the financial year that commenced on 1 July 1974 and that the payments to the State, being the channel through which these grants will be received by local authorities, shall be made at such times and in such amounts as the Treasurer approves. Implicit in that, as I read it, is that the Treasurer can put out this money in dribs and drabs as he chooses to do so rather than in a single lump sum. Clause 4 goes on to provide that the payments to the States are made on the condition that the State concerned will without undue delay and before I July 1975 make unconditional payments of these grants to the local authorities. Therefore there is a double-edged sword in the provision of this Bill. Firstly, the Treasurer of the Commonwealth has at his discretion the right to pay this money out in bits and pieces, and secondly the State has until 1 July 1975 to make payments to the local authorities. Conceivably, therefore, the Treasurer could wait until 29 June 1975 to make the money available to the State of Western Australia and so the State of Western Australia would have one day in which to make that money available to the local authority.
I do not believe for one moment that that sort of situation would occur. But in pointing out what is permissible under the terms of the Bill, I seek to highlight the urgency with which local authorities within Australia, and in particular my own, the City of Stirling, require this money because of the immediate financial plight with which they are confronted. Let me demonstrate this plight by looking at the budget of the City of Stirling. This large budget of $ 15.5m is to be balanced by rate income which accounts for $5.5m, loan requirements which are $1,700,000, government grants for buildings and reserves which will bring in $250,000, road grants of $1.5m and town planning scheme grants of $1,824,000. The rating income represents 33.3 per cent of the City of Stirling’s budget.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
-Before the suspension of the sitting I was speaking about the financial situation in which the city of Stirling finds itself in view of the current economic situation in Australia and making the point, which I will develop in the course of the time still available to me, that the $490,000 which the city of Stirling will obtain through the Grants Commission will not serve the purposes intended for it because of the financial plight in which the city finds itself. I pointed out that the city has a budget of $15,500,000. 1 was giving a break up of that amount between rate income, loan requirements, Government grants, road grants and town planning schemes. In order to obtain the rate income of $5,500,000 the city was obliged in this financial year to increase its rates by 34.5 per cent. That is a significant increase by any standard and will be an impost that not very many, if any, of the ratepayers of the city of Stirling would like to bear. But I hope that they appreciate that the city is bound to make that increase in rates in the face of the inflationary situation in Australia today if it is to provide those municipal services that ratepayers depend upon.
As I pointed out, of a total loan program of $1,700,000 since March of this year the city has been able to raise only $500,000. This amount > represents less than one-third of what it will require before July 1975. The significance of this is that the loan program supports the engineering work carried out by the city. The engineering section employs 150 men. I have been informed by the city that 96 of those 150 men are directly employed by the use of loan funds. The inevitable is obvious: If the balance, the amount of $ 1.2m, is not raised by way of loans the employment of those 96 men is in jeopardy. I have been further informed by the city that the situation is so acute that unless a substantial amount of loan money is found within 9 weeks, those 96 men may well face redundancy.
It is also important to realise that the loan program must support grants made by the States. For example, the States provide grants for urban local roads. The city is required to match what the Government provides on the basis of $2 for each $1 allocated by the State. An amount of $41 1,080 has been allocated by the State. But the city depends on its loan funding to provide this matching money. Therefore, again, if its loan program fails the city cannot provide the money which entitles it to obtain a grant from the State Government. Therefore it is squeezed in 2 directions. It is unable to raise loan funds itself and therefore it is ineligible to obtain grants from the State Government. I know from inquiries that I have made- we have heard this from other speakers in the debate tonight- that this is not an unusual situation in Australia today. It is a situation which arises directly from the economic measures of this Government and principally from the credit squeeze that the Government implemented from September 1973.
The credit squeeze has put a squeeze on the availability of loan funds from the traditional financial institutions that local government depends upon- the savings banks, trading banks, State banks and other financial institutions where the money can be borrowed. As is well known throughout the financial institutions of Australia. the dire credit squeeze which was imposed upon them by this Government over the last 12 months has meant that local authorities, as well as private business, cannot borrow. To the extent that their spending programs and thenworks programs are so heavily dependent upon loan funds, they are denied the ability to carry out those works that the ratepayers are dependent upon.
In the current situation of rapidly rising unemployment, it is not only private industry which will add to the numbers of unemployed by not being able to afford to continue to employ people; also, great employers such as local authorities will be hit equally as severely and their former employees will add to the growing number of unemployed. This is precisely the situation with which local authorities such as the city of Stirling are faced. The city officers have not lain down quietly and let this situation occur without trying to avoid it. They have explored every possible avenue of raising this money. Indeed, they have sought the assistance of the honourable member for Perth (Mr Berinson) whose electorate, as I have said before, crosses into the city of Stirling, as does my electorate. I know that the honourable member for Perth, who I am glad to see is in the House tonight, has made approaches to the Government on behalf of the city of Stirling to see whether there is any avenue from within the Commonwealth itself or any of its institutions like the Reserve Bank of Australia to provide loan funds to a local authority which is in the kind of economic situation that the city of Stirling is in. Regrettably, the honourable member for Perth was given a definite negative answer. The Government could not help. I would not say that it would not help; it simply said that there was no way in which it could help to support the loan program of the city.
The city has sought funds in every area that the Commonwealth Government has opened up to local authorities. These areas include grants for community and recreation programs through the Minister for Tourism and Recreation (Mr Stewart) and cultural grants for a cultural centre. The city has gone to the extent of seeking an amount of $247,840 for buildings and reserves. Of a whole range of projects which have been put before the appropriate Ministers since about April or May of this year, there is still no answer on any of those projects. There has been neither a yea nor a nay. For all this time the city has waited for an answer because it is in dire need of the funds so that it can maintain its program and continue its employment of its employees, let alone provide all those welfare services for which the people of Stirling are clamouring.
It has sought access to funds through the Regional Employment Development scheme operated by the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron). The city has sought some $300,000 for unemployment relief under that scheme. Rather significantly, it has sought the bulk of that money- some $209,000- for the most labour intensive area, that is, within the engineering department that deals with the construction and reconstruction of footpaths. Yet I was informed yesterday by the Department of Labor in Perth which is handling the applications made by local authorities in Western Australia that that $209,000 for the specific works of construction and reconstruction of footpaths has been refused because the Department considers that it does not come within paramaters of the RED unemployment relief scheme. Yet if funds were provided, it is this very area which would maintain employment for some 100 people. It will go into the engineering department. So we have the absurd situation that before the City of Stirling can get unemployment relief grants it must see these 100 people discharged from employment so that they can then register for unemployment benefits at the local office within the region and, having shown in such a dramatic fashion that there are so many people unemployed, may be the City of Stirling will be able to obtain the funds in the very area which would have prevented the unemployment in the first place.
It is an absurd situation where the RED scheme must operate to create unemployment before a local authority will be given money to alleviate it. It cannot be said that a local authority such as the City of Stirling Council, as I said, lies down idly and lets these events take their course. The City has explored every avenue for obtaining funds which would replace those loan funds which it presently cannot obtain. As I have said before, the reason why these loan funds cannot be obtained in the ordinary finance market where the City has obtained them before is the credit squeeze which has been brought on by this Government over the last 12 months or so. It is a credit squeeze which has affected not only private industry but also the great employers within the community like the local authorities.
If the Prime Minister were true to all that he has said about local government- making it an equal third arm of government and providing it with the resources that it requires- in the miniBudget that he announced last Tuesday he would have made special provision for local authorities. One would expect that from the great interest that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has shown in this area he would at least be aware of what the policies of his own Government have done.
I come back to the point that I made early in this debate about the provisions of the Bill and the discretion that is given to the Treasurer (Mr Crean) to make payments at times and in such amounts as he approves. By the very course of things, in the way in which administration operates, the funds that will be available when this legislation is passed will not go through the pipeline, or even start in the opening to the channel, until about January. But January will be too late for a local authority like the City of Stirling to keep in employment those 100 men that I have spoken about. So I ask the Minister to give an assurance to the House that there will not be any delay in providing these funds to the State Government. I will certainly be approaching the State Government to see that it does not delay in making these moneys available to local authorities in Western Australia.
If local authorities throughout Australia could be given some kind of indication that the
Government is aware of the situation with which local authorities are confronted and that it will not delay the provision of this money, will not leak it out in dribs and drabs, there is some measure of hope for local authorities. Many of them, like the City of Stirling, are faced with the credit squeeze. Money is the thing they require urgently. It simply cannot be obtained quickly by grants from the Department of Tourism and Recreation or the appropriate Minister who handles cultural grants. It cannot be obtained quickly from the Minister in charge of the RED scheme. So where is a local authority to get its money? I ask the Special Minister of State to ensure that the Treasurer makes at least this grant money available quickly to local authorities throughout Australia.
– I call the Special Minister of State -
- Mr Speaker -
– in reply- By arrangement it was agreed that all the speakers on the Opposition side would have completed their remarks -
– Do I understand that this debate is being gagged or what?
– Yes. By arrangement it was agreed that all Opposition speakers would have finished their submissions by 6 o’clock.
-Order! I call the honourable member for Hume.
Motion (by Mr Nicholls) proposed:
That the question be now put.
- Mr Speaker, I rise in this debate this evening because we have a position facing -
-Order! Once the motion is moved that the question be now put there can be no debate on the motion.
- Mr Speaker, may I have your indulgence? I would nope that we do not have to vote on this motion. As I understand it, there was an arrangement to which the honourable member for Hume apparently was not a party. I think it would be unfortunate in the circumstances to have a vote on the motion. An arrangement has been made with the Opposition. If the honourable member for Hume would be prepared to yield in those circumstances, I think the matter could be satisfactorily concluded.
– Yes, Mr Speaker, I would be prepared to yield but I would just place on the record that I am not happy and my Party is not happy about the way in which these debates are being gagged.
– The Chair is unaware of any arrangement that has been made. I can act only in accordance with the Standing Orders. If the honourable member for Hume rises I must give him the call. If he does not rise I must give the call to the Special Minister of State. I call the Special Minister of State.
-Thank you, Mr Speaker. I appreciate the co-operation of the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp). But I do not understand the Opposition. It has a leader who makes arrangements but apparently nobody knows the arrangement. I point out, in some mild castigation of the last 2 speakers from the Opposition, that they gave an assurance that they would talk for 10 minutes each, and they both took 20 minutes. If that is the sort of yardstick which is to be applied in trying to get some reasonableness in the conduct of the business of the House we cannot rely on anybody’s word.
– Do not push your luck too far on that.
-I do not have to be threatened. We just want to get a bit of fairness in the situation.
– Do not push it too hard.
-I will push it as hard as we have to, to indicate clearly to people that when we have arrangements with the Leader of the House -
– I would suggest that we forget all about that and that the Minister should speak to the matter before the Chair.
– Yes, Mr Speaker, but there is a listening audience as well.
– There are 2 sides to that story.
-It is a question of people wanting to get on with the legislation. I want to make this clear, Mr Speaker: When arrangements are made by people appointed by both the Government and the Opposition those arrangements should be adhered to. Dealing with the matters that were mentioned by the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Viner), the big issue in the whole of this debate, as far as the Opposition is concerned, is not to give any item of praise because of the $53.6m which will be given- for the first time I might add- to local government. The members of the Opposition, in government for 23 years, gave nothing to local government and when we asked for a referendum of the people to decide whether local government should be allowed to make an application to the Loan Council, they opposed it. Let us put that on the record from the point of view of the merits and the bona fides of the Opposition’s case.
The next question raised was this: Why has the money not been granted urgently? Until about 6 p.m. this evening the Appropriation Bills had not been passed by the Senate. What is the attitude of the Opposition in delaying them for so long? I give this undertaking now that the Bill is passed by the Senate there is no reason why all these moneys should not be in the hands of the State governments within 14 days. It would then be up to the State governments. Those honourable members who have some influence with the State governments in New South Wales and in Western Australia might encourage those Governments to do something to get the money distributed.
I have an assurance from the honourable member from Perth (Mr Berinson) that he has made special arrangements for the money to go to Stirling. It will be there, subject to the Premier of Western Australia co-operating, by the end of this month. That is the situation. It is quite clear that this could have been dealt with a lot more expeditiously if the Appropriation Bills had been passed a lot earlier. But members of the Opposition have aU complained about how they wanted to talk on the Estimates and how much time they needed. They had 36 hours on the Estimates alone, apart from the Budget itself. And now they talk about the delay on this Bill. The real issue is this: Only for this Government there would be no money going to local government this year- and $56.3m is going.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch), who led for the Opposition on this Bill, raised a number of issues. All of them relate to the fact that he proposed to move an amendment unless there was an assurance that the money would be paid promptly. I reminded him that we were relying on the Appropriation Bills being passed in the Senate. There was no need to move the amendment if the Appropriation Bills were passed. I am happy to say they were passed today. They should have gone through about 3 days ago.
– Would you not breathe a sigh of relief,
-Not at aU. We will take you on any time. The honourable member leading for the Opposition felt that it should be left to the State governments to work out criteria for each State. The whole idea of the Grants
Commission is to establish uniform criteria. That could not be effectively done if the matter was left to the State governments because they would aU have their own criteria. In fact at the moment New South Wales has its own Grants Commission. It gives a little bit to each council. That is good pOlitiCS. It has nothing to do with the needs of the councils, but provided they all get a little bit nobody complains. Because there is not a good State government in Victoria the councils do not get benefits. That is their problem. In Queensland the Government is starting to do something. The amount of $8. 9m which is being given to Queensland councils would be double what the Queensland Government gave them last year.
Let us look at what is happening to the moneys. We might raise, say, $1,079 per head in taxation, but we are giving at least a third back to the States under the reimbursement formula. The amount paid to Queensland is $ 1,020m or $509 per head. Compare that with what is coming directly to Queensland in taxation. Do not let it be said that there is not enough money going into State coffers. The States should have some idea of what they can give to local government. They stand criticised and forever damned because they prevented local government authorities from making applications to the Loan Council. They opposed the referendum that would have allowed that.
The other matters are machinery matters, but I want to refer to the question of regions. They are acceptable because the councils themselves have agreed to form themselves into regions. Evidence of that acceptance is the fact that this year 20 regions have applied in their own right to be considered for grants. It is worthwhile because it was never thought and never intended that this money was to be in lieu of rates or in lieu of existing personnel. If the local authority in Coolah is going to sack 2 men, that has nothing to do with these grants. In fact the amount of money going to Coolah is twice what the State Government is giving to it. The whole idea of the grant is to level the amenities in an area or a region. That is the objective. The proposition that the grant is to be made in lieu of rates or on some other basis is untenable, and that was made clear in an answer to a question.
There are areas that are under-privileged and need assistance other than what they can get by rates. Take the position that exists, for example, in Stirling. It has a big grant of $490,000. I understand that there was some criticism that it was not getting its money under the regional employment development scheme. I am told that it would be the only council that has not qualified. I am told that there must be some problems with its application, because all other councils in Western Australia have been able to get these benefits. I understand that there was some tardiness in Western Australia because the State Government did not make the appropriate appointments to the State committee in the appropriate time. These are matters that have nothing to do with this Bill.
The real issues are these: For the first time money has been given to local government, despite the fact that the Opposition for 23 years had a chance to do something. We have heard criticism to the effect that inflation has taken away the value of all those benefits. We are the Party which went to the people and asked for power to control prices and we were refused. We lost a referendum on the question because the Opposition vigorously fought it on the basis that there was no need to control prices because the States could do it. These are the real fundamentals of why we have problems in the prices and incomes areas. We do not have the power to control the situation.
The spokesman who led for the Opposition in this debate said that the Australian Government was the pacesetter in the wages it was paying to public servants. Let me remind him that as at June last a clerk in the Australian Public Service was receiving $1,600 less than a clerk employed by the Melbourne City Council. An analysis of comparable wages and conditions clearly shows that clerical employees of semi-government authorities in Victoria particularly are $1,000 to $1,600 better off than their counterparts in the Australian Public Service. So that argument has no weight whatsoever. It is a fallacy to say that a pacesetting arrangement has been made by the Australian Government.
I give the assurance, as I have indicated, that the Grants Commission will be looking again at new formats and perhaps new methods of taking evidence. In support of my colleague, the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren), let me say that die regional concept has a good deal of merit. People within regions use each other’s facilities irrespective of the local government area they are in. It is important that those regions be built up. Every region received an allocation from the Grants Commission. Admittedly some councils within the regions did not get a grant but every region got a grant. The sum of $56.3m is a very substantial contribution.
The allocations show that all States got substantial amounts of money that they could not have got otherwise.
If there are problems in other areas of local government they could be due to a number of other matters. In New South Wales they would be due in the main to the loss of status by local government because voting in local government elections is now voluntary. About only 20 per cent of the people bother to vote. It takes about 800 people to elect an alderman. Very few people are interested, and local government has lost its status in New South Wales. It will take compulsory voting and other measures to get people involved and interested. It may take the organisation of councils into groups to overcome the spurious situation that exists in Sydney when the city was hived off so that it could be politically dominated by one Party. If we continue to fragment local government with every council running its own works program with its own engineers, its own steamroller and its own truck, there will be very little chance of getting efficiency. We need to get co-operation and coordination so we can build up a good works and construction program, particularly where there is an opportunity to do massive work. That is why in many areas local government is pleading for some financial support It will be noticed from some of the submissions that the whole of the revenue is taken up in wages. There is no money for other activities, including the purchase of materials. This just could not produce efficient organisation.
The upshot of all this debate is that the Opposition is not opposing the Bill. We welcome that. The guarantee we give now is that the Bill will be passed by this House this evening and should be passed by the Senate next week. The allocation should be made the following week. That satisfies the sole complaint of the Opposition.
Mr VINER (Stirling)-Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Order! Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– I do. I claim to have been misrepresented by the Special Minister of State (Mr Lionel Bowen). Before the suspension of the sitting for dinner I had spoken for two or three minutes. After the House rose for dinner I spoke to the Minister and told him that I would expect to speak for another 10 minutes. I sat down before the clock had run its course. I would have spoken for 12 or 13 minutes. If I went two or three minutes over I apologise, but I had something to say on behalf of the city of Stirling and I wanted to say it. If the Minister is not prepared to grant an indulgence of two or three minutes in the spirit in which I was prepared to cut down my speaking in order to meet the desires of the Government, then I am sorry for him. I do not believe that in any way I breached an agreement that was reached with the Minister.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Lionel Bowen) read a third time.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate without amendment or request:
Appropriation Bill (No. I) 1974-75.
Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 1974-75.
-I wish to inform the House of the following nominations of members to be members of the Select Committee on Specific Learning Difficulties: Mr Innes, Mr Mathews and Mr Oldmeadow have been nominated by the Prime Minister; Mr Cadman and Mr Wilson have been nominated by the Leader of the Opposition; and Mr McVeigh has been nominated by the Leader of the Australian Country Party.
Debate resumed from 2 October, on motion by Mr Hayden:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– May I have the indulgence of the House to raise a point of procedure on this legislation. Before the debate is resumed on this Bill I should like to suggest that it may suit the convenience of the House to have a general debate covering the Bill, the Delivered Meals Subsidy Bill and the Aged or Disabled Persons Homes Bill as they are associated measures. Separate questions will of course be put on each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate. I suggest therefore, Mr Speaker, that you permit the subject matter of the 3 Bills to be discussed in this debate.
-Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering these measures? There being no objection, I will allow that course to be followed.
-Mr Speaker, we are debating 3 Bills- the Delivered Meals Subsidy Bill, the Aged Persons Hostels Bill and the Aged or Disabled Persons Homes Bill. I have music for the Minister’s ears because not only is the Opposition going to support these 3 Bills but it is going to commend the Government and the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) for the reforms that have been included in the Bills. The charge is often made against the Opposition that it is obstructionist, that it opposes for the sake of opposing. I want to go on record as saying quite categorically that these are very commendable amendments that have been made in these 3 areas of social need. The Minister has a passion for quoting me; he has a passion also for speaking loudly while I am talking. The Minister has a passion for quoting me, not only in answer to questions and not only in the House but also in documents printed by his Department. He has an equal passion for misquoting me on occasion, and I do hope that the remarks I have just made at the opening of my speech commending the Government for these reforms are not used out of context, because we in the Opposition still find some areas in the Bills about which to be critical. Indeed, in relation to the Aged Persons Hostels Bill, in Committee I shall be moving an amendment to extend the operation of that Bill for another 2 years.
– Are those the notes I gave you for your speech?
-One thing about the Minister that does not improve is his sense of humour. The first Bill is the Delivered Meals Subsidy Bill, the purpose of which is to give effect to one of the items mentioned in the Budget, that is, to increase the rate of subsidy payable under the Delivered Meals Subsidy Act by 5c a meal. That is an increase from 20c to 25c a meal delivered, or 30c if the meal includes an approved vitamin C supplement. The Minister has not heeded my suggestion that he might include a subsidy for vitamin E. I might add that, as the Minister said, while many very good services are being developed in some States of the Commonwealth to supplement what we are doing, the Australian Government is far from satisfied with the rate of their growth. The Minister said that he hopes to examine ways and means by which a greater coverage of these services can be obtained. I agree with what the Minister said then, and I commend him for saying that he is looking at ways and means of getting greater coverage.
I should also like on behalf of the Opposition to join with the Minister when he congratulates and thanks the hundreds- or is it thousands?- of volunteers around Australia for their continuing assistance in supporting the Meals on Wheels service. It is a selfless, sometimes thankless task of many hundreds or thousands of women who serve in an honorary capacity. The Minister also said that in many cases the social contact with the Meals on Wheels volunteer is as welcome to the aged recipient as is the meal. Both the Government Party and the Opposition Parties agree that it is best to keep aged people in their homes as long as possible, and the Meals on Wheels service allows that to be done. I believe that not only do the meals provide nutritional value for aged people but that the Meals on Wheels contact performs an even more important social function. To many old people living alone it is the only social contact they have for that day or that week. Those of us who live the kind of life we live can never appreciate the loneliness that there must be for an old person who is friendless, quite often without relatives, living alone without any social contact at all. I also commend the Government on the publications that it has issued- the Meals on Wheels Food Guide and the other publications which have been updated.
The Opposition agrees with all this. But we are disappointed that the Government has not implemented that part of the Liberal policy- it is becoming quite tedious now that almost every day the Government is stealing Liberal-Country Party policy- in relation to Meals on Wheels, by which the Liberal Party wants the service extended to 365 days a year for certain elderly people for whom a doctor’s prescription has been obtained. The Opposition believes that this is a service that would not cost very much and it is one part of its policy which it would implement as soon as it returned to office.
The history of the Aged or Disabled Persons Homes Bill is that under the Aged Persons Homes Act the Australian Government makes grants to non-profit organisations and local governing bodies towards the cost of providing homes for aged persons. When the Act was originally introduced by a Liberal Party-Country Party Government in 1954 the subsidy was on a $1 for $1 basis. In 1957 the rate of subsidy was increased to $2 for $1 and has remained at that level ever since. This Bill does 4 things, the first of which is to allegedly- and I say allegedlydouble the rate of the present subsidy from $2 for $1 to $4 for $1. 1 point out that this- I would not dare use a term such as lacking in honesty or deceitful as far as the Minister is concerned, but I would say that the promise of the $4 for $1 subsidy could be quite illusory.
I am not happy with the maximum ceiling limits which are contained in the Minister’s second reading speech on this Bill or the associated Bill. I believe that the maximum limit of $1 1,700 is unrealistic, in terms of today’s building costs, for the building of such a unit. I had in fact drafted an amendment forcing the Minister to have as a floor $ 13,000 as a minimum amount of subsidy, but I withdrew that because I did not believe it was responsible to impact that kind of limitation on the Minister when I had not done the sort of detailed research that I should like to have done. Also, I understand that because of the Government’s catastrophic economic policies there are many motels and the like coming onto the market because they are not economically viable and these are available for the Government to purchase and would make ideal aged persons’ hostels. In those circumstances the cost of the units would be considerably less than $13,000.
Can I illustrate how the $4 for $1 subsidy can be deceptive or illusory? Assuming the actual cost of a unit is $13,000- that seems to be a figure that is a median, according to those from whom I have inquired- the maximum subsidy on that is $9,360, which would mean that on a $4 for $1 basis the organisation would have to contribute $2,340. That makes a total of $1 1,700, which I submit is not enough to build a unit these days. This would mean that another $1,300 would have to be found by the voluntary organisation, which would mean that the relative contributions would be $9,360 from the Government and $3,640 from the voluntary organisation, making a total of $13,000. On that basis the rate of government subsidy is therefore not $4-for-$ 1 ; it is less than $3-for-$ 1 .
-Closer to $2-for-$ 1 .
– In some areas, as my friend reminds me, it goes down as low as $2-for-$l. The second provision of the Bill is that it extends the provisions of the Aged Persons Homes Act to handicapped adults. Again we commend the Government for this enlightened move. Previously anybody under the age of 60 years was forbidden from being accommodated in an aged persons home if it attracted a subsidy. This impacted great hardship on many people. I am thinking of the elderly parent who has had a mongoloid child, for example, and who has nursed that child through to adulthood. When widowed that parent cannot be admitted to an aged persons home because she does not want to leave her mentally retarded child and she cannot take that child into the aged persons home. While we commend the proposition of opening aged persons homes to handicapped adults we would hope that it is not extended to the extent where teenagers are mixed up with elderly people as a matter of course. We are very aware of the multi-purpose institutions established by the Victorian government in the early 1900s. It is only in recent times that they have been slowly converted to special hospitals for the aged. It would be a retrograde step to go back to that era when they were multi-purpose institutions. We think it would be disastrous to make it a matter of course that such institutions take in young people.
– I would agree with that.
-I take the Minister’s interjection and thank him for it. The third thing that the Bill does is to extend the personal care rate from $12 to $15 a week. This is absolutely necessary. As the Minister said, hostels play an important role by providing accommodation for elderly people who, whilst no longer able to look after themselves in independent units, do not need the more expensive medically oriented care provided by a nursing home. We would welcome this proposal but would ask the Minister to review it continually because the rate of inflation would soon erode the additional benefit given.
The fourth measure in the Bill allows local councils to attract the subsidy on moneys borrowed. We welcome this proposal but we wonder what it is worth because, although this now allows a local council to attract the subsidy to build an aged persons home on moneys it obtains from loans, I am informed by many councils with whom I have spoken that they cannot get enough loan funds now to meet their other needs, and one would wonder what the practical benefit of this so-called reform is. However, we would support it on principle.
The Minister also said that he wanted to make an announcement concerning the maximum subsidy limits payable under the Aged Persons Homes Act and the Aged Persons Hostels Act. These announcements were made following a report presented by a working party of officers of the Department of Social Security and the Treasury. It did essentially 5 things. First of all, it increased the maximum subsidy limits payable under the Aged Persons Homes Act to $7,800 for a single unit and $9,100 for a double unit. Secondly, it increased the subsidy limits for aged persons hostels to $11,700 for each person accommodated. We had contemplated, as I say, an amendment to that, but I was dissuaded from it for the reasons that I gave. Thirdly, the Minister announced that it had been decided that the present maximum subsidy limits which took effect from 1 April 1974 shall apply to projects which were in the course of construction at that date and, I presume, beyond that date. I would commend that proposition. Perhaps the most significant thing that the Government has adoptedand this has been largely through Opposition prompting- is that cost increases due to the rise and fall clause in building contracts in respect of work carried out since 1 April 1974 will be subsidised. If the Minister would look carefully at that paragraph and if I am any judge of the meaning of English words, I think he would find that the literal interpretation of it is that the rise and fall clauses would apply to those contracts between 1 April 1974 and the date upon which royal assent is given to this Bill. I would not imagine that that is what the Minister meant. I believe that the Minister meant that the rise and fall clauses in building contracts will now be a permanent feature of this subsidy legislation. I would like an assurance from the Minister on that point when he responds.
The fifth announcement was that the introduction of zone loadings for country areas where building costs are abnormally high should be given further study. I think my friends in the Country Party and those rural members of the Liberal Party would join me when I say that this is one area in which we can be critical of the Government. Surely this proposition has been proved beyond doubt, namely, that to build an aged persons home in Rockhampton is more costly than building one in Brisbane. Why that would need so much further study, I do not know. In fact, the Seaman Committee of the Social Welfare Commission estimated that the cost of building an aged persons home in Rockhampton- my friend from Kennedy (Mr Katter) might support me in this- is 40 per cent higher than the cost of building an aged persons home in Brisbane. For how much longer is the Minister and his Department going to give this matter further study before some relief is given to these people?
Finally on this BUI I would like to say that we believe that Australia needs a complete plan of aged care which includes accommodation as only one of its aspects. The present Aged Persons Homes Act and Aged Persons Hostels Act are isolated programs which, whilst good, should be seen in a complete picture. I would Uke to see the Government give more emphasis to preventive, remedial and rehabilitation programs, because the less emphasis there is given in those areas the more the need for flats, hostels, homes and nursing homes. Surely the whole thrust of a social security program should be to keep people as they are aging out of institutions, whether they be run by the State, whether they be run by the Government, or whether they be run by somebody else. One of the issues implicit in a debate such as this is the aged who cannot care for themselves. There are only 3 groups of people who can care for elderly people. They are the person’s own family, a voluntary organisation or the State. One of the sad things about the 20th century is the nuclear family and the decline of the extended family unit which has left the field of caring for the aged largely in the hands of voluntary organisations or the States. Because of rising building costs the voluntary organisations are finding it more difficult to keep in the running.
The Minister has indicated that the share of capital costs met by voluntary organisations over the last 4 years has fallen from 20 per cent in 1970-71 to 10 per cent in 1973-74. Donations from residents have increased to more than onequarter of the capital cost in the same period. An example of a percentage of total cost of aged persons homes is that in 1973-74 the Government contributed 61 per cent. The residents who were going into the home had to contribute 29 per cent and the voluntary organisations contributed 9.7 per cent. We believe that a voluntary organisation run by a charitable, religious or philanthropic institution is much to be preferred to a government institutionalised set-up. Therefore, if one accepts that, does it not make sense to encourage people to give to voluntary organisations? In a situation in which the proportion given by voluntary organisations is falling because of inflation we now have the position where absolute insanity is being floated by the Government about doing away with taxation deductions for donations to religious, philanthropic and other bodies. The Government has flown a . kite about this matter. It has flown it on more than one occasion. The Government has leaked out its intentions in its normal way awaiting some reaction. If the Government wants a storm around its head from every decent, public minded citizen in the community it should meddle with that because as soon as it starts meddling with the involvement of the citizen in caring for his fellow human being, so much less is the society in which those people five.
– Did you not hear the Treasurer say that that was not under consideration?
-That gives me little comfort. I do not want to be a smart alec in retorting to that, but we do not know for how long the Treasurer (Mr Crean) is going to be Treasurer. We have had countless examples of Ministers making statements in this chamber about matters of policy and of those policies being reversed within days.
There is one other point that I should make about who is paying for what proportion of the cost of homes. I share the Minister’s concern that voluntary organisations, through no fault of their own, are contributing less and less to the capital costs. They are in charge of millions of dollars of buildings and equipment; yet their contributions are diminishing. I hope that from the statements that the Minister is constantly making on this matter he is not foreshadowing a further intrusion of the Government to the extent of running completely institutionalised aged persons homes. I believe that that would be a retrograde step to take in our community.
In speaking of the importance of an aged persons homes scheme, I would like to pay a tribute to one organisation involved in this field, namely, the Italian Community Service Fund. This organisation has acquired 25 acres of land at South Morang in Victoria and wishes to set up a 3-stage complex for elderly Italians. This site has the advantage of being very central to the Italian population and of being large enough to allow for the development of a total care project which could include self-contained flats, hostel units and, ultimately, nursing care. Already one such complex has been funded at Austral in Sydney under the auspices of the Scalabrini Fathers. The problem that the Italian Community Service Fund is having is one which is common to the whole community, that is, of inflation leading to massive increases in building costs. The Italian Community Service Fund estimated in relation to the first stage, which was to be a self-contained units stage, that the cost as at June 1974 would be $13,500 per unit. However, by October 1 974- only 4 months later- the projected cost for each unit had risen to a staggering $16,075. I commend the Italian Community for its selflessness in doing that in the face of the fearful odds which are besetting the community.
The third and final Bill is the Aged Persons Hostels Bill. The Opposition welcomes the amendments to the Aged Persons Hostels Act provided for in this Bill which was introduced by a Liberal-Country Party Government in 1972. But the Opposition fears that the amendments contained in this Bill are too little too late. We estimate that there are 50,000 pensioners who are neither in their own homes nor in some form of subsidised accommodation or paying reasonable rents. The immediate need for aged persons hostels has only to be stated to be proved. The legislation we are now debating is complementary to the Aged Persons Homes Act Eligible organisations receive entitlements on the basis of 2 beds for every unsubsidised bed they currently operate or one bed for every 2 beds subsidised in the first few years of the Aged Persons Homes Act on a$l for $1 basis.
The purpose of this Bill is to give effect to the Government’s announcement of March, which has been referred to on a number of occasions since then, that the capital grant payable under the Aged Persons Hostels Act would be increased from $7,800 to $9,000 per person retrospective to 1 April 1974. In a subsequent statement the Minister has announced that that figure has been increased to $1 1,700. We agree with the Government that there is a need for more hostel accommodation for the aged, particularly for hostels in which personal care services can be provided for those who have become frail but do not need nursing attention. Unfortunately the lack of suitable hostel accommodation in the past has resulted in the less acceptable and more expensive nursing beds being utilised for such purposes. I share the Minister’s concern about that.
This Bill also seeks to do something progressive with which we are entirely in agreement. We know that many organisations which have entitlements under the Aged Persons Hostels Act do not propose to take advantage of them. That is for a variety of reasons. They might want to specialise in some other area of social need, they might not have the funds at that time or they might have some other reason. This Bill will allow a voluntary organisation to transfer its entitlement to another organisation. We thoroughly support that. In the period of the operation of the Act since 27 September 1972 hostel accommodation has been approved for 2,1 1 1 aged people. National entitlements to a total of 14,000 or more free hostel beds exist. In other words, with less than one year of the Act left to run options on 12,000 free hostel beds remain to be taken up by voluntary organisations.
In the Committee stage of the debate on this Bill I will be moving an amendment which seeks to extend the period of operation of this Act for another 2 years. I appeal to the Minister, if I can have his indulgence for just 10 seconds, to contemplate the stupidity of refusing such an amendment. This legislation will cease to be an Act of Parliament at the end of September next year. The Minister has tried to window dress the situation to some extent by saying that these amendments will not operate from 1 January next year but from when the Bill receives royal assent. He has made a big deal of that. It is now mid-November. This Bill has to go through the Senate. It will not receive royal assent until the end of this month. So what is the Minister doing? He is saying to everybody: ‘You have another month’, as if that is some sort of great concession.
Let us contemplate what is going to happen in the 10 months before this legislation ceases to be an Act of Parliament. There are 12,000 entitlements to beds under this legislation. Does the Minister seriously think that a voluntary organisation like the Brotherhood of St Laurence, like the Council for the Aged and like many Catholic, Jewish, Salvation Army and philanthropic societies would do a deal with another voluntary organisation, arrange a swapping of entitlements, call in architects, get plans prepared, obtain estimates, mount a public appeal and obtain the necessary funds by 27 September next year? The Minister must know that the period has to be extended. If he does not accept the Opposition’s amendment he will not be giving any confidence to those voluntary organisations to start planning because those voluntary organisations have to spend real money and devote a whole lot of time to planning.
In the State of Victoria public appeals are organised by the Hospitals and Charities Commission. The Brotherhood of St Laurence, for example, cannot decide to build some aged persons hostels and expect to be able to conduct a public appeal next month to raise $ 100,000 to do so because it is illegal to conduct an appeal in a month other than that which is allotted by the Hospitals and Charities Commission. It might not be until 1976 that an organisation can be allotted a month in which to conduct an appeal. I would like the Minister to contemplate acceptance of the Opposition’s amendment so that these organisations can be given some assurance that they can go ahead and plan and spend money, confident that the Act will be continued. With your indulgence, Mr Speaker, I would like to get some indication from the Minister as to whether he would be prepared to accept such a sensible amendment from the Opposition.
-The honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp) started his speech by saying he had music for the ears of the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) in that he intended not only to accept these Bills but also to commend the Government upon them. I think that the least one can do, reciprocating in the same spirit of friendship and co-operation, is to say to the honourable member for Hotham that I, in turn, agree with him in his commendation of the Government for this legislation. It is a great pleasure to be able to do this if only because on so many occasions he and I seem to follow each other in social security debates under different sets of circumstances.
I propose to deal mainly with questions arising from the Aged Persons Homes Act. This Act has been subject to regular amendment since it was first introduced in 1954. Amendments have come with increasing frequency in the last 5 years. During that recent period I think I would have spoken on most of the debates on this subject but, frankly, I must say that this is a task which is becoming harder as time passes, especially as the Government’s term of office lengthens. This obviously is not because the scheme has become any less important than it was or that the Labor Government is less interested in it than were its predecessors; on the contrary, very close attention has been paid to this scheme by the Government and so many useful changes have already been made over the past 2 years that one starts to run out of hopefully helpful suggestions as to how it might be further improved.
Particularly welcome in the present Bill is the proposed change of title of the Act from the Aged Persons Homes Act to the Aged or Disabled Persons Homes Act, reflecting as this does the extension of the class of eligible residents from aged persons only to disabled persons as well. In previous debates I have had occasion to comment on the peculiar emphasis which crops up in so many areas of our social security legislation based on old age consideration. The fact is that people of 65 years and over have never, as a matter of necessity, had greater need of the special benefits and subsidies of the old persons’ homes provisions than people who are under the age of 65. Indeed, as a means test has never applied under this scheme, the reverse could very well have been the case in a number of situations. In that context I refer in particular to people on the invalid pension, for example. The same could well be said of the personal care subsidy.
The description and background of that scheme may be found on page 58 of the latest annual report of the Department of Social Security. I think the description is worth quoting and I commend it. I reads:
This subsidy is intended to assist organisations conducting hostel accommodation for the aged to meet the cost of providing meals and to employ sufficient staff to assist hostel residents who need help with bathing and dressing, the cleaning of their rooms, their personal laundry and the oversight of their medication, and to be available at all times in case of emergency. Until the earlier part of 1973-74, payment was made on the basis of $10 a week for each hostel resident aged 80 years and over, but as from 4 December 1973 the rate of payment was increased to $12 a week and eligibility extended to also cover residents under 80 years of age -
I interpolate here to say ‘to over 65 years of age’ because that was the lower limit of admissions to these homes -
Who require and receive the specified personal care services.
I think it would be clear, without having to stress the point, that the age of 80 which was originally imposed was a completely arbitrary line to draw. I suppose all honourable members know people of 80 years and more and who are still very spry and completely able to look after themselves. Conversely we know many people well under the age of 80 who are unable to care for themselvesfor that matter we know of many under the age of 65- and, in fact, are in need of help with bathing and dressing, the cleaning of their rooms, their personal laundry, the oversight of their medication and the same sort of availability of assistance in the case of emergency. The point that arises from this is that the original limiting age of 80 was obviously an arbitrary age. After the initial amendment in 1973 we were still left with what is after all an arbitrary age of 65, and it is quite difficult to find any justification for it.
To the extent that both of these age based anomalies are now corrected- that is in respect of both the personal care subsidy and the age of admittance- in what will now be known as the aged or disabled persons homes, this Bill is very welcome. I wonder if I could stretch a point slightly and draw an analogy with another scheme, still old age based, which I think should be subject to the same considerations now applied to the aged persons homes. I refer again, as I have done in previous debates, to the domiciliary nursing care benefit. I again refer to the annual report of the Department of Social Security for a description of this scheme which I think will again make the argument I am trying to present almost self-evident. The description appears on page 87 of the report under the heading ‘Domiciliary Nursing Care Benefit’ and reads:
A domiciliary nursing care benefit is payable to a person providing care for an aged relative who requires professional nursing care to an extent that would otherwise justify admission to a nursing home. The rate of benefit is $ 1 4 a week. This benefit was introduced in March 1 973 as an incentive to people to care for sick and frail aged people who are in need of continual nursing care and supervision in the home environment.
In addition to being an incentive payment, the benefit has enabled families to meet the extra costs involved in caring for the aged. Such costs could include special diets, laundry and visiting nurse payments.
Here again I think the same argument is relevant- there is no problem. In a previous debate the honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd) interjected during my speech at about this point to remind me of the position of quadriplegics or paraplegics. Of course that is a situation which can arise at any age and which needs precisely the sort of services mentioned here. In fact, with respect to the desirability of maintaining disadvantaged people in their own home environment, that could be a matter of even greater concern with younger people than with aged people who are at present the only beneficiaries of this domiciliary nursing care benefit.
I urge the Government- I am sure this would be one of the many continuing proposals under review- to keep under active consideration the extension into field of the domiciliary nursing care benefit of the principle that is involved in this Bill. Apart from other considerations, such a change would fill in the gap which now seems to me to exist between the domiciliary nursing care benefit which provides this assistance for care at home for people over age 65 and the handicapped child allowance which provides a similar sort of benefit for the care of people under age 16. If I understand the position correctly we are left with a rather odd and anomalous gap between those 2 age limits.
I go on to discuss briefly, as the honourable member for Hotham did, this question of allowing shires to use loan funds. With him I agree that this is probably something worth doing while the whole scheme is under review. But for a different reason from his, I doubt whether there is very much in it. If I understood the honourable member for Hotham, he was really arguing that this amendment was not of much use because local governing bodies in any case were short of loan funds for their ordinary purposes. But I would put the limitations on the usefulness of this amendment on the different ground, namely, that for all practical purposes this has never been a limiting factor on any local government body which really wanted to involve itself in the field.
It has always been possible for local government bodies wanting to use loan funds rather than rates to sponsor an organisation into which their loan funds can be channelled. This has been done in many of the cases. Nonetheless, the very fact that such a roundabout procedure is available and that the availability of it was always known- we had the peculiar position of the Department and Ministers always writing to councils who raised this question and saying: ‘Well, you can always get around it’- leads me to say that it seems to me that if there is this roundabout method of achieving this end and if no secret is being made of it, it might as well be made a direct method instead of a roundabout method. That, for what it is worth, is what this amendment will achieve.
I hope that it may have at least some marginal effect in encouraging local government bodies into this field. So far as I am aware- I think I am correct on this point- there is only one aged persons home sponsored by a shire in my electorate. There are many aged persons homes there. But the only one sponsored by a shire is in the shire of Bayswater, Mertome Village. This is a first class development. It is still in the course of expansion and, I think, a model which other local government bodies might well follow. Hopefully, this small amendment will encourage them along that line.
Referring again to this recent annual report from the Department, one finds that in the last financial year, 1973-74, a very significant drop occurred in the amount of money being channelled into the operations of the Aged Persons Homes Act. That sum fell from $22m in 1972-73 to $ 17.4m in 1973-74, using round figures. That is a drop of roughly 20 per cent. It occurred over a period when building costs, I think, would have increased by 20 per cent. So, adding both of those factors together, one can readily appreciate that the development in this field dropped significantly in the past financial year.
The annual report makes the point that this was more than covered in terms of accommodation by expansion in the hostel area. But I think that does not really answer the point of concern as I doubt whether anyone could really question that there exists as much potential demand for this sort of accommodation now as in previous years.
– I rise to take a point of order. Mr Speaker, I draw your attention to the fact that no Minister is present in the House.
-It is the usual practice for a Minister to be at the table. I ask the Government Whip to see that a Minister enters the House to take up that position. In the meantime, I ask the honourable member for Perth to continue his speech.
-I was pointing to what appeared to be a very serious slow down over the past year in this scheme and suggesting that the obvious reason for it was a combination of increased costs of building and also the subsidy limits. These have both been increased. The proportion of subsidies increased from $2 for $1 to $4 for $1 in the legislation. As the Minister for Social Security indicated in his second reading speech, although he did not require the Bill to achieve this, the maximum amounts of subsidy have also been substantially increased.
I intrude into the comments that I wish to make at this point to draw some attention to what I think may have been some sort of misapprehension by the honourable member for Hotham when he was quoting some of the new figures and what he said was still their insufficiency. The. honourable member for Hotham, if I understood him correctly, said in relation to the hostels legislation that only $11,700 a unit was now being allowed, that he estimated that costs would be approximately $13,000 a unit and that he then did a calculation of four-fiths of $1 1,700, assuming that the other fifth would be by way of donor entry, and said that that still left an organisation with a deficit of $1,300 on top of the allowance. If I have understood the honourable member for Hotham correctly I think that he was confusing 2 separate schemes. The legislation relating to hostels is not subject to the $4 for $1 subsidy- the outright grant. That is the first point. The second point is this: I wonder whether the honourable member for Hotham in making his own calculation of about $13,000 a single unit might have been including in that figure some estimate of the cost of land a unit. If so, that would tend to balance out his concern. The position with respect to the hostels legislation is that subsidies of up to $1 1,700 a unit for the building are available but additional grants up to $2,400 a unit for land are also available separately.
The changes which have been brought about by this Bill and by the associated regulations in respect of the increase of the proportion of subsidy to $4 for $ 1 and in particular the increase in the maximum allowable amount of subsidy should quickly reverse the trend which we saw last year of a decline in the growth of units built under this scheme. I wish to make one point about the reversion to rapid growth of this scheme. I personally welcome that at this point. I am aware that a number of people are now coming to question the desirability of the sorts of aged persons homes developments that we have. When these first started with individual units being provided, the argument was developed that this was unbalanced and that what we had to have was a sort of triple layer scheme of independent units, accompanied by hostel units and nursing homes, to complete the requirements. That seemed to be accepted as highly desirable.
In later times questions have arisen with people arguing about the possible undesirability of what they are starting to call aged enclaves or old people’s ghettoes. I am not equipped to enter into that argument very well. What I can say from my own observations of many of these homes is that they have performed a remarkably useful function for people in the age groups for whom they are catering. My own position would be that I like this scheme until somebody can actually come up with something better. It is very easy to talk in terms of keeping people in their own homes, to claim that the environment is better, and that we should concentrate more on domiciliary care. The truth so far as I can observe is that it has been extremely difficult to develop an adequate domiciliary service. If we are to change to emphasis on domiciliary service, let us make absolutely certain that this is available first before we start talking about scrapping or reducing this scheme.
I end with 2 questions to the Minister. These again are matters which I have raised very often but which I feel become more pertinent, given our increased aid. Firstly, I think we should look again at the possibility of reducing donor entries to first entry only, eliminating altogether, and once and for all, ‘resale’ of these units. The second question that I would put to him, also arising from this extended support of the scheme, is: Could we not develop a system by which maintenance charges in these homes come under Commonwealth review.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expored
-The legislation that we are considering this evening is legislation that has developed over a number of years. The germ of the idea inherent in the 3 Bills now under discussion was first identified many years ago when the Liberal-Country Party Government was in office. When the scheme known as the Aged Persons Homes Scheme was first introduced the crying need in the community was to provide self-contained units for aged people. It is useful for us to look at the purpose of the legislation because it is still there and it has remained there unamended. The purpose of the Act is to encourage and to assist in the provision of suitable homes for aged persons, and in particular homes in which aged persons may reside in conditions approaching as nearly as possible normal domestic life, and in the case of married people with proper regard to the companionship of husband and wife.
When the scheme was first introduced it got under way slowly and then it captured the imagination of many charitable, religious and benevolent organisations which could see here that people in need could be assisted if those organisations organised themselves to take advantage of the capital funds that were available from the Government. So the scheme was expanded to a point where it provides accommodation for over 50,000 senior citizens. But in the process of this expansion, as the needs of those who required self-contained accommodation began to be met, other needs rose in priority. Do not we so often find that something which seems urgent today tends to obliterate some underlying need which in later time as we relieve the first pressure then assumes equal proportions. So the LiberalCountry Party Government identified the need for an expansion of hostel units, an expansion of nursing home accommodation and the Aged Persons Homes Act was therefore amended to incorporate those provisions. The Act was also added to so that the personal care subsidy could be paid to organisations providing hostel care. This enabled these organisations to provide conditions for which patients or residents could afford to pay if they had only a pension on which to live.
In addition, of course, the previous Government introduced and expanded the concept of nursing home benefits, the domiciliary nursing care benefit, the delivered meal subsidy and introduced the Aged Persons Hostels Act separate and apart from the Aged Persons Homes Act. All of these initiatives were taken by a LiberalCountry Party Government. What we now find is that the present Labor Government is claiming a lot of credit for the idea of a scheme, the foundations of which were laid before it came to office. We welcome the legislation now before the House, but we welcome it only after a period of time has elapsed during which this imaginative scheme was nearly strangled by the failure of the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) to exercise his administrative authority to lift certain limits, which I will describe in a moment, to realistic levels.
But before I come to that, I would like to touch on a point that the honourable member for Perth (Mr Berinson) raised, namely the question of the personal care subsidy. The legislation before us is designed to increase the personal care subsidy from $12 to $15. The honourable member talked about an age limit as if some great importance was attached to that. He talked about abolition of the age limit making the benefit available to all persons who qualified according to criteria established by the Department of Social Security. When the age limit of 80 years applied it was estimated that 41 per cent of patients in hostels were in receipt of the personal care subsidy. There were wild estimates as to how a reduction in the age limit would increase the percentage of patients receiving this benefit. It was suggested that the percentage would go up to 67 per cent of the residents of hostels. If one looks at the report of the Director of Social Security one finds that a number of residents in hostels who receive this benefit has risen to only 54 per cent. One is therefore left in a quandary as to whether or not the criteria that are being set are too tight. I raise this issue to urge that the Minister and his Department have a look to ensure that the criteria are not too tight and that people who should be receiving the benefit are in fact given it.
It is becoming increasingly important- and much of what the honourable member for Perth had to say underlined this point- that detailed statistics and information as to the needs of the aged in the community be sought. There was a time when it was thought that for each independent living unit built under the Aged Persons Homes Act there should be one hostel unit and one nursing home bed. It is quite clear from the experience of the established organisations approved under the Aged Persons Homes Act that the arbitrary allocation of priorities does not represent the facts of the situation. I think there is a need for a broad and wide-ranging investigation into the needs of aged persons.
As I mentioned at the outset of my remarks this evening, the Aged Persons Homes Act began to identify a problem, a problem of recognition that there was a need for assistance in a wide and comprehensive area. I would therefore urge that such an investigation be set in train so that when we come to allocate funds we are able to identify the order of priorities according to what people want and not what people in authority think they want. I would also raise the point touched on by the honourable member for Perth in regard to the existing anomaly in the domiciliary nursing care benefit. It is quite unreasonable to retain the limit at 65 years of age. I have to my own knowledge come across 2 cases in which an aged person is caring for a sick wife who happens to be aged 60. She is not eligible for the benefit. But if the ages had been reversed the family would have been entitled to the benefit. It seems to me- and I urge that this be done- that the age limit should be reduced to comply with pensionable age and that the benefit should also be expanded so that it is available at least to those sick persons who are being cared for by another person who is himself or herself in receipt of an age pension. I would now like to turn to the building and provision of accommodation for the aged under the Aged Persons Homes Act. There has been a tragic decline in the building program under this Act. The number of units built under the Act declined in 1973-74 by 572. That means that over 600 senior citizens who today could be in this type of accommodation are deprived of it. Why is this the position? When the Labor Government came to office it found that the annual review of subsidy benefits available under the Aged Persons Homes Act was due. In fact, the benefits had last been examined in January 1972. In the past the subsidy benefits had always been adjusted to take account of building costs and changes in the price of land. But the Minister said that he would examine the matter. He told us this very early in 1972. He continued with that process of examination and whenever asked about it indicated that he was still awaiting the report.
Then in November 1973 he received a report and as at that date his own committee of inquiry recommended that the subsidy limits should be increased substantially. The committee recommended that the subsidy for a single unit should be increased to $6,000 from $5,200 with the provision of a new benefit to take account of the cost of land. Similar increases were urged for double units. But in spite of the publication of that report and in spite of the fact that by the report’s recommendations becoming known, raising the expectations not only of those organisations providing accommodation for the aged but also of the many hundreds of thousands of applicants who were waiting for the various organisations to say that they were going ahead with their building programs, this Minister did nothing. He did nothing until April of this year. Even then he only lifted the subsidy in accordance with the recommendations of the Committee that he had asked to investigate the matter. In ordinary circumstances, one would say that that was a good thing, that is, the Minister accepted the recommendations of his Committee. But when a Committee is asked to recommend what subsidy should be made available for an item that is increasing in cost all the time, it is reasonable to expect that the recommended figure would apply to a particular date. I searched this report and I could not find in it anywhere a suggestion that the recommended increases would be the appropriate increases as at April 1974.
The way I read the report is that these recommended increases were appropriate as at the time the report was delivered. So in spite of the rapid escalation of building costs- as you would know, Mr Deputy Speaker, in South Australia in the last 12 relevant months building costs increased by 39 per cent- the effect of the delay by the Minister in announcing the increase in the subsidy was that when it eventually was granted it was all taken up by the increased prices that had occurred since the Committee made its recommendations. Now the Minister announces that by administrative action he will increase the subsidy benefit again. But the amount by which he is increasing the subsidy benefit is not great. Many organisations feel that they will get just one set of programs on the way and then, as has happened in the past, they Will have to put the next lot into the bottom drawer until the Minister again sees that the whole scheme is grinding to a halt. This requirement to increase the subsidy benefits is a result of the pressures that build up and the way in which the building program declines.
The Minister makes a big song and dance about the fact that the rate of subsidy is to be changed from a two to one basis to a one to one basis. He tries to create the impression that this increase represents a doubling of assistance available. I want to dispell that illusion. It is the sort of illusion that we have come to expect this Government to endeavour to create. The history of the Aged Persons Homes Act is that when it was originally introduced a one for one subsidy was announced. The Government indicated that it would pay 50 per cent of the capital costs, within certain limits. Then the subsidy was increased to a two to one basis or 66 per cent of the cost. Now, under the proposed legislation, it is to be increased to a four to one basis or 80 per cent of the cost. So the increased proportion of the total cost that the Federal Government will pay arising out of the proposed legislation now under discussion is a mere 14 per cent or, if we relate it to the increase in the Government’s actual contribution, an actual increase of about 20 per cent. It is not so generous a movement as the Government endeavours to have us believe.
However, the increase in the rate of subsidy will not result in the building of one additional home unit or flat or provide one additional hostel or nursing home bed unless the increasing number of other conditions which must be satisfied are realistic. It needs to be understood that the four to one subsidy is not payable on whatever the cost of the unit may be. There is an upper limit placed on the amount of subsidy available in respect of each unit of accommodation provided. If this limit is fixed without a sensitive regard for current costs of building, it may very easily come about that the subsidy is no greater than a $ 1 for $ 1 subsidy. Let me illustrate my point: By the Minister making no increase in the subsidy when the Labor Government came to office and by not approving that increase for at least 16 months during a period of most rapid increases in building costs, the actual contribution provided by the Government declined from a two to one subsidy to a one for one subsidy. While the subsidy limit is still kept at an intolerably low level, the pretence that it is a four to one subsidy is a delusion. It is a delusion for yet a second reason- that those organisations building accommodation will need to provide so much more over and above the $1 for $4 and will still be providing $1 for $1. Such damage was done to the overall scheme by the Minister’s course of action, that repair work on the part of the Government has now become necessary. The lift in the rate of subsidy is an empty gesture unless the maximum subsidy limit is constantly raised in response to building costs.
There is yet another limitation that the Minister and his Department place upon the organisations which seek to build accommodation under this scheme. They set an unacceptable upper cost limit. By setting a limit that is totally unrealistic they can bring the whole program to a halt or, alternatively, force a lowering of building standards. They are bringing about this reduction in building standards in 2 ways: Firstly, they are refusing to lift the benefits or the upper limit cost under which the subsidy becomes available and, secondly, they are also now beginning to set standards of accommodation. Originally when the scheme was first introduced there were no inflexible standards about what accommodation should be provided. Indeed, at that time the concern of the Department was to ensure that an adequate, proper and minimum standard was reached and that there was no reduction in the standards that could be expected. Let me remind the House that when these organisations build these homes they are there to last for a number of years. Therefore, their standard should be at a level which will adequately provide proper accommodation in the future.
But now we find suggestions coming from the Department that a single unit built under the Aged Persons Homes Act is not to have more than 4 squares and that a double unit is not to be of more than 5 squares. I am told by many organisations operating in this field that they believe that in the mid-1970s any standard of accommodation of less than 6 squares, whether it be for single person accommodation or for a married couple, is a standard which is too low taking into accounts aU the needs of today and those of tomorrow. As for the suggestion that I have heard that hostel units should be built on the basis that the area provided should be 2 squares rather than 2½ or 3 squares, I ask: Who wants to live in a little box? The senior citizens who move into tiny little boxes could well suffer from a mental as well as a physical shock as a consequence of their confinement in accommodation that is provided in hostels which have buildings of a standard that are intolerably low. I would therefore urge the Minister not to lower the standards but rather to seek ways and means whereby the standard of accommodation provided under the Aged Persons Homes Act can be substantially increased so that those units which we are building today do not have to be rejected 5 or 10 years from now because of the shortsighted policy of trying to restrict the standards of accommodation that we provide for people who deserve something better.
-I want to speak briefly on the Delivered Meals Subsidy Bill. The purpose of the Bill is very straightforward. It seeks to increase the rate of subsidy payable under the Delivered Meals Subsidy Act by 5c from 20c to 25c for each meal delivered and to 30c if the meal includes approved vitamin C supplement. This increased subsidy is to apply to all meals delivered after 1 July 1974.
– They will not deliver to the Kurrajong.
-I appreciate the interjection, as I also stay there. In terms of the amount of expenditure to be allocated this could not be regarded as an important Bill. However, I submit that the service provided in the community as a result of this legislation is significant. It is significant in terms of the total number of meals which will be delivered. The provision in the Bill is based on an estimate of 5 million meals. It is interesting to note how this service has grown since 1972-73- the last year for which figures are available- when 3,364,474 meals were provided. It is important also in that it is another example of co-operation between the various levels of government and linked with them the voluntary assistance at the community level. I am aware that the local councils in my own electorate are responsible for organising the Meals on Wheels service. I am also aware that they are dependent very much on a large band of voluntary helpers to deliver the meals. These people of course are prepared to give generously of their time and the use of their cars. I personally thank those volunteers for their continued assistance. I also urge that more people in the community who have the time available take the opportunity to perform this worthwhile community service.
However, I believe this service must be seen as part of a wider and more extensive domiciliary service which aims , where it is possible, for those who are growing old and in many cases increasingly frail to maintain their independent way of life in the dignity of their own homes. This is a principle which is strongly supported by this Government. Of course, as I said before, the scheme is part of a broader scheme. There are many examples of the broader scheme that one could choose and which have been designed to assist where people continue to live on in thenown homes. I take but one example- the States Grants (Home Care) Act, by which this Government accepts the responsibility for two-thirds of the States’ expenses for home care services such as home help, shopping, the handyman in the home to assist aged persons, and even services related to the provision of linen and sitters.
While I would applaud the local councils in my electorate for the home help services that have been organised by them I would urge councils that they explore the possibilities of diversifying these services. I know that it would give the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) and this Government great satisfaction if there were a considerable diversification of the services that are made use of under this Act. Of course in domiciliary care we can speak of the provision of $14 a week. The honourable member for Perth (Mr Berinson) talked of this in relation to the domiciliary nursing care scheme. I agree with him that there is a need to extend this scheme to the stage where any person who is in need of such service should be able to receive the $14 a week. The Meals on Wheels service is important also- this point has been made already by the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp)for the social contact provided by the service.
It is of tremendous importance to the housebound to have this visit 5 times a week. An honourable member opposite suggested that it should be provided 7 days a week for those who are in great need. I can see that this has much to commend it, but I am also aware of the many problems that would be involved in organising it at the local level. I personally am aware of the sort of personal contact involved when the volunteer goes in to meet the aged persons and to bring their meals to them. I have taken the opportunity on several occasions of accompanying my wife in this sort of service and I have seen the look on the faces of aged persons and the joy that comes just from having another person to talk to for a brief time in their desire to spend a little time chatting and telling of their problems or whatever. This to them is important. I suggest that this is a two way process. Not only the person in the home who receives the meal gets great benefit from the social contact; I believe that the volunteer gains greatly in the relationship that is formed with the people being visited.
Of course the economic and nutritional aspect of this service must not be minimised. It is of great importance that the aged person is supplied with an appetising meal which contains the nutrients required for at least a minimal daily intake for this in itself could be the factor which allows the aged person to continue to live in his or her home, and this, I believe, should be the case wherever it is possible. So where it is possible, from the social, humanitarian and economic viewpoints it is obviously preferable for aged people to remain in their homes rather than to move them into institutionalised accommodation.
I conclude by raising a problem related to the Meals on Wheels service in my own area. Three municipalities which utilise this scheme are the city of Springvale, which provides an average of a little over 100 meals a day which it gets from the Southern Memorial Hospital in Caulfield; the city of Dandenong, which provides about 70 plated meals a day which come from the Dandenong and District Hospital; and the city of Berwick, which provides a smaller number of meals. There is a need to provide an increased number of meals. This need is steadily growing. I know that in my own area hospitals are reaching the point where they will be unable to prepare these meals for very much longer because of the tremendous pressures that are being brought to bear on them with the increasing number of beds. There is a logical solution and to my mind that is to establish a regional kitchen to provide plated meals for 3 or 4 municipalities. This is difficult under present legislation.
To attract the $2 for $1 subsidy a kitchen can be part of a senior citizens club. It can be either an extension or the first stage. The point I make is that the kitchen for the preparation of plated meals to be delivered to the elderly and frail in their homes is totally different and separate from the work of senior citizens clubs. These clubs do an excellent job in the community. I am well aware of this, as I visited two of them last week at Dandenong and Noble Park. But in the main they are run by different groups of people from those being served by Meals on Wheels services in the home. I request the Minister to consider amending the existing legislation or bringing down new legislation to allow councils which are prepared to operate regionally- that is something that this Government commends- to build kitchens for this purpose. In my own electorate it would be logical to build a regional kitchen to service Meals on Wheels in the municipalities of Dandenong, Springvale, Berwick and Cranbourne. I commend the Bill to the House.
– I commend the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) for his sensible package of amendments to the 3 Bills. It rather contrasts with the hard line approach he adopted in this area in earlier months. Perhaps the reality of inflation and the need for a private sector have caught up with him. In fact I should commend the Minister for being ahead of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in realising that we need a private sector, in this case the voluntary and religious bodies. Reading the speeches and the Press releases connected with this present package is quite a joy after reading the earlier doctrinaire ones at the beginning of this year. There is still one shadow, though, remaining in this area. Perhaps there are more than one, but there is this particular one. It is the fear that the tax deductibility of donations to voluntary organisations will be removed. The Minister has complained about the drop in contributions compared with the total cost of homes and hostels for the elderly. Perhaps this is something he should remember when he or the Government is thinking about this matter.
While congratulating the Minister for Social Security, I also congratulate the former Minister for Social Services, the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth), and the LiberalCountry Party government of which he was a part, because most of the provisions we are considering tonight are updating now-ons from the 1972 package introduced by the honourable member for Mackellar. He encouraged an extended range of accommodation and assistance for the frail aged, including a nursing home benefit, a hostel and personel care subsidy and a domiciliary care scheme.
The honourable member for Perth (Mr Berinson) in his usual thoughtful way tonight drew attention to the arbitrary age restrictions that still apply to some of the provisions. I would agree particularly with what he said about the domiciliary care benefits scheme. If it is advantageous and cheaper to help people in their own homes rather than put them in some institution this is to be encouraged. Perhaps we should change the criterion for entitlement to benefit under the scheme from age to the degree of nursing required. Several hospitals in my area have also suggested that another restriction on the domiciliary care scheme is that a registered nurse has to be used on all occasions. They have put forward a proposal that perhaps a ratio of registered nurses to nursing aides or people who can provide quite adequately some of the domestic services that are required with this scheme should be allowed. I ask the Minister to bear this in mind when looking at a possible extension to the domiciliary care benefit arrangements.
The maximum subsidy limits were increased on 1 October for aged persons homes and will be increased again on royal assent. The problem of inflation in building costs was dealt with very well by my friend, the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson). Equally important- I do not think mention has been made of this in the debate so far- is the problem of upper cost limits. Unless the upper cost limits are also increased in line with inflation this whole package is completely phoney, because on many occasions the upper cost limit has been just as restrictive as the maximum subsidy limit. Earlier tonight the Minister assured me that the upper cost limits will be increased in a generous way. Perhaps I am saying something more than should be said, but I recommend that they be increased more than proportionately to other increases because this is one of the restricting factors.
I ask the Minister to assure the House tonight that the upper costs limits be increased proportionately at least in line with inflation. For example, the subsidy under the aged persons homes scheme for a double unit has increased from $7,000 as at 1 April to $10,920 as from the royal assent. This is an increase of over 60 per cent in the maximum subsidy unit. If one accepts that the upper cost limit should rise slightly more than in this proportion, then the $10,500 upper cost limit for a low rise building should rise to at least $17,000 and for a high rise building to at least $19,000. Once again I ask the Minister to refer to this problem of upper cost limits. Really what is needed with both the maximum subsidy limit and the upper cost limit is some form of rise and fall index which will move both of these things in line with the inflation in building costs to overcome some of the periodic trauma that voluntary organisations have when inflation in building costs has outstripped the alterations that are made from time to time in these limits.
I now refer to another of the many commendable aspects of the legislation. The Aged Persons Homes Bill is to allow for a rise and fall on contracts made since 1 April 1974. 1 ask the Minister 2 questions. Will this allowance continue after the royal assent with the new arrangements?
– I thank the Minister. Will it override upper cost and maximum subsidy limits? If it is to be a genuine rise and fall provision I think it should. Perhaps when the Minister replies he will clarify the point. I think there are 2 important points connected with this rise and fall situation. As other speakers have mentioned there is a problem with the cost of building in country areas. Building costs in the country are higher than elsewhere. Any architect or builder will tell you this. Until the 1 April arrangement came into being this problem was partly compensated for by the fact that there was a fixed land segment in the total subsidy. If I am right, since 1 April there has been a variable land subsidy segment which has acted against country organisations and has made worse the problem of higher building costs in the country. I ask the Minister to rectify this situation and to acknowledge as quickly as possible the problem of higher building costs in the country.
The Aged Persons Hostels Bill updates the maximum subsidy and amends the Act to allow alteration by regulation, which I believe is a sensible amendment. The most important amendment relates to the transferability of bed entitlements. This has been in the pipeline for a long time. The former Minister for Social Services foreshadowed it when he was still the Minister. I once again commend the present Minister for introducing it in this Bill. I certainly have been a pusher of it and to a certain extent a selfish pusher because the Miller homes organisation, a very large home organisation in Victoria, has a large bed entitlement for hostels, which it cannot use, and it is hoped that in the Murray electorate alone this legislation will put about $750,000 into hostel accommodation.
I turn now to the delivered meals subsidy. I offer my congratulations along with that of previous speakers to all those volunteers connected with the Meals on Wheels service. I agree with the honourable member for Holt (Mr Oldmeadow) about some of the pressures that have developed in this respect. There is the problem of the volunteer capacity to deliver the meals to homes and there is the problem of kitchen capacity. The honourable member mentioned some of the problems and made some suggestions in relation to kitchen capacity, and I will not add to those comments. I support the legislation.
-In rising to support these 3 Bills- the Aged Persons Hostels Bill, the Delivered Meals Subsidy Bill and the Aged and Disabled Persons Homes Bill- I must indicate the tremendous upsurge in the provision of aged persons homes that will take place with the increase of the subsidy from $2 for $1 to $4 for $ 1. It is to be hoped that this will enable more rental units to be made available to the aged and will enable the charging of lower donations for entry if the costs as compared with today’s costs of buildings are taken into consideration by the organisations affected. More importantly, I hope that the increased subsidy will encourage church bodies, local government bodies and other organisations to utilise for this purpose land they now hold near to local amenities. Particularly in my electorate, the waiting lists are far too long for those with money for the entry fee, but for those without the fee for entry the situation is quite hopeless. They are at the mercy of the whims of the more unscrupulous sections of the community and are being forced to pay far too much of their pensions in rents for often substandard accommodation.
The day of retirement of a person should be one of relief from worry. However, this is not so in our community today. It is not a time of relaxation but a time of scrimping and scraping to make ends meet, with a subsequent effect on health and living standards. It is to be hoped that local government organisations will apply themselves immediately to finding an urgent solution in their immediate areas, for it will cost them nothing but their organisational and coordinating skills. For a little bit of planning and for having some consciousness of the problems of the aged in their areas they receive the benefit, totally free to them, of massive capital assets in buildings. Every aged persons centre is a gift from the Australian public to the organisation concerned, the gift comprising the founder tenant donations and the rest of the money, which comes from the Australian Government, with some smaller grants from State governmentsand, in Western Australia, from the Lotteries Commission. I am often amazed at the lack of activity of shire councils in obtaining for their ratepayers what is in fact a 100 per cent donation of assets which not only provides the prestige of assets but, more importantly, provides a facility for the people whom the councils serve, and at no cost to the ratepayer. The slowness of development in this area has been a matter of disappointment to me. It is to be hoped that with the new funding urgent action will be taken.
One suggestion recently put forward by an architect was for the formation of a non-profit building organisation for the construction of aged persons homes, with donations of time by architects and builders. Perhaps with the cooperation of shires this is one way in which they could cut costs to ensure a good standard of structure which is in keeping with their other local facilities and extend into the hostel construction area for handicapped people and aged persons hospitalisation schemes to tie in with the services that shires already maintain, such as autumn centres and Meals on Wheels. There is a need for the local authorities to interest themselves more fully in these areas to ensure that all localities have a planned provision of all of the very necessary facilities. Too often one crosses from one shire to another to find that the neighbouring shire has a different interest and different priorities. If you live in shire A aU the faculties are provided; m shire B not aU of them are provided and in shire C none at all are provided- and I speak from experience within my own electorate. Some of these faculties have been talked of for years but it requires cooperation to ensure that they are actually provided and provided on a co-ordinated basis. The appointment of social welfare workers under the Aus.tralian assistance scheme will no doubt overcome the problem eventually
I am pleased by the increased subsidy for meals, which is now 30c for a meal with a vitimin C content or 25c for a meal without it, which is an increase in the subsidy of 25 per cent. Here again, urgent planning in the development of area kitchens is needed. The very size of some of the areas served by the kitchens could lead only to a situation of an institutional type meal being served as time goes on, and the personal touch that goes with volunteer labour is in danger of disappearing. In some areas with a diminishing number of volunteers as the workload increases, the personal cost to the volunteer worker also increases. At this point of time there is no subsidy or offsetting cost to the volunteer who puts his time and effort into this service, and very often his car and petrol. Due to the expansion of the service these costs will continue to increase and some offsetting of these costs perhaps could be looked at in the future.
I should like to see a study done on a vehicle with a specially designed interior to make meal deliveries and with facilities to ensure the delivery of a really hot meal. I should also like to see the implementation of a 7 day a week service instead of the 5 day a week service which applies in so many areas. I realise this will not be possible with volunteers, but it is to be hoped that there will be a realisation that a need exists to employ people for this purpose, and this is already happening as the scheme itself widens. These specialist facilities must be extended on a planned basis. A natural extension of the service is, of course, the provision of a visiting facility which, whilst providing a pleasant interlude for the house-bound patient, would also provide a home inspection to ensure that all was well in other aspects such as linen washing, personal problems and general home maintenance. Too often aged people have to spend a miserable winter evening due to lack of adequate heating or they have to spend an uncomfortable summer because of the lack of assistance with ventilation in the home; or they have a general worry as they see the grounds which they have tended over the years deteriorating because of their physical inability to cope. All of these aspects need looking at by a trained welfare worker, and here again shires could provide the solution.
The State housing commissions should have means to ensure that tenants who are suffering the disabilities of age should not have to use wood fires for cooking and heating and chip heaters for water heating. Modern electric and gas faculties should be automatically installed for the aged. It is useless for this Government to provide assistance to the voluntary agencies to keep people in homes that are totally unsuitable for them. I wonder how many people occupy rest home beds because of the inadequacies of their own homes which are known to their doctors. This would apply particularly to State housing commission tenants of homes built in the immediate post-war years. It is past time that these problems were looked at and rectified, for while these Bills increase money and social benefits they cannot replace in real terms the human comfort of being able to stay in one’s own home, often with its memories of a lifetime. There is a danger that all people at the age of 60 or 65 will be expected to become institutionalised, and I do not think that the Minister or this Government or anyone in the community would want to see this happen. I support the content of the Bills
– It is unfortunate that time will not allow me to go into the finer details of the Bills before the House, but I commence by saying that, like all other members on this side of the House, I support the Bills.
However, there are a number of things that I should have liked to discuss in this debate. Unfortunately, time will not permit me to do so. But I do want to take up some of the points mentioned by the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp). He referred to the time at which the activities under this Bill will expire, that being late next year. The point that the honourable member raised is a very imprtant one, and I am a little disappointed that the Minister at the table at the time did not give him any indication of whether it would be automatically extended beyond that period. I would again appeal to the Minister to look at this point. Even if he cannot give the House a decision tonight perhaps he could give one before the Bill passes the Senate. I have a rather large home in my electorate known as the Lutheran Home, which is in Horsham in Victoria. It was about to extend its provision of 24 beds by a further 50 beds.
Because this home is run by a State organisation, unfortunately it is not easy for it to make decisions at short notice. This is natural enough in view of the fact that it has to go through various authorities within its own organisation. It has so turned out now that by the time it makes up its mind as to what is required, costs have increased to a degree where it is necessary to increase the amount of money required. Now I have reached the stage where I am not too sure, and up to date no one has been able to give me the answer, as to what the limit is in relation to the erection of these individual homes. It is said around the corridors that there is an upper limit of $15,000. Surely the Minister can tell us what the upper limit is. I would like to know how far I could go if I were in charge of an organisation that wanted to erect some homes. I would want to know whether I could build a home costing more than $15,000.
This brings me to the question of the increase in the subsidy from $2 for $ 1 to $4 for $ 1 . 1 think that when this was first announced some weeks or months ago most people appreciated very much that the Minister was very sympathetic to the situation and that we were moving from a $2 for $1 era to a $4 for $1 era. When they stopped and analysed the situation they realised that there is an upper limit on the grant that is being made available by the Government. In that case, the $4 for $1 subsidy becomes ineffective, as the honourable member for Hotham said earlier in this debate. In actual fact the figures that he presented proved the point that it was much closer to the old $2 for $1 rate than it was to the $4 for $1 rate which the Minister suggested that it would be.
It is unfortunate that we cannot debate in detail one other point, and that is in regard to the various amounts allotted by the Government for the various types of homes that are being built. This becomes terribly confusing. We have an Aged Persons Homes Act and an Aged Persons Hostels Act. Two different rates altogether apply in each case. People outside this place- no doubt one could include people within this place also- do not know what the difference is. The Minister has not been able to explain this in detail. I do not know why.
– He does not know.
– He may be one of the people who does not know. I thank the honourable member for the interjection. However, when he replies to the debate I hope that he can give us an indication as to what the difference is. In his second reading speech on the Aged or Disabled Persons Homes Bill the Minister said:
As from the date of royal assent of this Bill the maximum subsidy limits payable under the new Aged or Disabled Persons Homes Act will automatically become $9,360 for a single unit and $ 10,920 for a double unit.
Why must we wait until the date of royal assent? This proposal was announced on Budget night. We were told then that there would be an increase. Why cannot the Minister automatically say: ‘Well, we will back-date this to the night of the original announcement’. I make this appeal to the Minister and trust that he will give consideration to just two or three of the points that I have raised. I am sorry that I have not got the time to go into a lot of detail because I know that the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr Ruddock) wants to associate himself with this legislation. I am prepared to forego some of my time to give him an opportunity to do so. I trust that the Minister in the last two or three minutes of the debate will be able to answer some of the questions that have been put to him by honourable members from this side of the chamber.
– I thank the honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King) for his courtesy in giving me time to make a few short comments. The time given to me, however, does not enable me to indulge myself in the pleasant pastime of being unduly polite to the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden). However, I do support wholeheartedly the Bills. One must really sift through the politics of the Minister’s second reading speech to get down to the nitty gritty matters which I think are of more importance, particularly to me. I would draw attention particularly to this statement in the Minister’s second reading speech on the Aged Persons Hostels Bill:
The level of construction costs has undoubtedly been a restraint on the development of this program recently.
That statement is a clear indication of the need for this House to support the amendment proposed by the Opposition. Quite clearly many worthwhile organisations are not going to be able to complete urgently required hostel accommodation in the time permitted by this program. This is why the Opposition has sought its extension. The admission in the Minister’s second reading speech is clearly the reason for the amendment to be supported by honourable members from both sides of this House and not, as it appears will be made apparent later on this evening, by only the members of the Opposition.
I wish to draw to the attention of the House the severe cost problems that many organisations are facing. I have been acquainted with the demands of particular organisations in my own electorate. I was very pleased to observe last May from a sheet forwarded to me courteously by the Minister advising that the Willandra Village at Marsfield had received an approval under the Aged Persons Hostel Act to erect a hostel containing 78 units. I am told by the New South Wales Baptist Homes Trust that in fact when this grant was made it was considered that this particular project was one which was worth emulating. The Department was pleased to learn that the Baptist Homes Trust had been able to receive tenders that would enable it to build this hostel within the limits set. Other organisations were referred to this project and they were told: ‘Look, if you do your building in the way in which the New South Wales Baptist Homes Trust has you will be able to build within the limits set. You are not really planning your project properly’.
The Baptist Homes Trust called tenders and found that the contract price in May 1974 was $567,458. With fees it was going to have to pay another $40,000, making a total of $607,000. This figure was well within the maximum subsidy range. As I said, it was cited as a shining example. Their architects subsequently advised that the figure, having regard to the rise and fall clause in the contract, would rise to $809,000. On the basis of the subsidy proposed even in the Minister’s second reading speech in April of $9,000, the Trust would receive only $702,000. The Baptist Homes Trust found, with the funds it had available, and allowing for credit and the moneys it would receive under the subsidy, that it would have to meet the sum of $ 107,000 from its own funds.
It is, I think, a preposterous situation that a well organised institution such as the New South Wales Baptist Homes Trust is not able to provide this hostel from the funds and the credit available to it. At one stage the Trust seriously considered cancelling the proposal. This would have led it to have to find the additional moneys that would be necessary to pay the architect, and this amounted to some $50,000. That was the alternative that the Trust had to get itself out of this situation in which it found itself as a result of the approval that it had received.
I know that this problem which I have mentioned is one which is shared by the Central Methodist Mission in Sydney and other organisations which have found it necessary to cancel proposals to build hostels. In the short moment left to me I wish to make a plea to the Minister to indicate in his speech later this evening when we are considering the legislation in Committee that he will use this discretion that this legislation gives him to increase the level of subsidy from $9,000 to a far greater sum. I think this is necessary, because unless it is done these urgently needed hostels will not be built, and many that have been proposed will fall by the wayside. I ask the Minister whether he will consider this proposition. I hope that an announcement will be made tonight. I hope the Minister will use the discretion that we are giving him tonight to increase the amount of subsidy limit from $9,000 to a sum which will permit organisations such as the New South Wales Baptist Homes Trust to build such hostels without cost so that they will be able to avail themselves of the funds provided by way of subsidy to build other urgently required hostels.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
-On behalf of the honourable member for Hotham, Mr Chipp, I move:
After clause 6, insert the following new clause: ‘6A. Section 10 of the Principal Act is amended by omitting “three years ‘ ‘ and substituting “ five years “. ‘.
– I wish to speak briefly to the amendment, Mr Chairman. Will the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) assure the Committee, if he is not prepared to accept the amendment, that if the Australian Labor Party is still in office and if any cases are still outstanding at the end of this 3-year period, the period will be extended to cover them?
– It is too soon to give those sorts of undertakings or, indeed, to accept the amendment. At the time at which the previous LiberalCountry Party Government introduced this piece of legislation- the Minister for Social Services then being the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth)- it was clear from the comments of the then Minister that 3 years, short as it is, was set as the period which, because of its shortness, would encourage a quick response. I suggest that, consistent with that attitude, if we were at this relatively early stage to extend the period to S years, as has been proposed, we would be defeating the purpose behind the then Minister’s action in introducing the legislation. I think that a more appropriate time at which to review that proposal would be next year. I am not without sympathy for the views which have been expressed and I acknowledge the genuine interests and concern of honourable members on both sides of the chamber who have discussed this and, indeed, many other matters.
Time prevents me from responding to all the matters which have been raised because we want this legislation through the Parliament tonight so that it can be given royal assent and thereby enable the benefits, which I believe have been endorsed wholeheartedly by both sides of the chamber, to flow as quickly as possible. But there are 2 questions which repeatedly arose. One was whether the rise and fall provision extended only from April of this year until the time of royal assent. The answer to that is no. The rise and fall provision will extend indefinitely into the future. Perhaps I should add as an appendix that, insofar as the regional cost variations are concerned, we will move as speedily as we can to build in a formula to allow for such variations, but it will be a complex exercise. The other matter to which I wish to refer is the matter which was raised by the honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd) concerning the upper limits which are set as the maximum expenditure permissible on units. From 1 April to 1 October the limits will be $11,000 for a low rise unit and $12,000 for a high rise unit. From 1 October we will be considering levels of $15,000 for a low rise unit and $17,000 for a high rise unit, but I would prefer to give some further consideration to that before making a final decision. Such a decision, of course, can be made effective by regulation.
Proposed new clause negatived.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Hayden)- by leaveread 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 the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Hayden) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 31 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 the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Hayden) read a third time.
Albury Airport- Queensland: Political SituationsShipping
Motion (by Mr Hayden) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
-Tonight I want to draw the attention of the Government and in particular the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) to an unsatisfactory situation that has developed at Albury because of the failure of the Minister to consult the Albury City Council adequately on plans for the future development of the Albury airport. I warned the Minister this morning of my intention to raise this matter in the hope that he would be able in the meantime to inform himself fully of the latest situation and that he would be able to make a clear and concise statement on what are his future plans for the area.
I commence by saying that the first regular air transport for the Albury district was provided by Trans-Australia Airlines in the early 1950s by DC3 aircraft from Corowa- a town 35 miles distant from Albury. Because of the distance intending travellers had to drive to reach the airport this service never developed into an economic project and never attracted sufficient air travellers. For some time, in conjunction with the then Minister for Civil Aviation, Mr Townley, the officer-in-charge of airport development in his Department, Mr Bradfield, and the Albury Mayor and City Engineer, I helped in the selection of the most suitable site for the airport and in getting the Council to agree to the development of the airport in conjunction with the Department. In spite of some initial misgivings by the Albury City Council the project proved to be an immediate success and the airport now does a greater amount of business than any other inland airport in New South Wales.
Part of the reason for its remarkable success and popularity with air travellers undoubtedly is the close proximity of the airport to the population centre. But, of course, the very success of this project has caused growth problems. The airport terminal facilities became inadequate and recently had to be expanded. The runways, whilst adequate for F27 Friendship aircraft, are inadequate in length, strength and width for regular services by jets. One of the companies operating into Albury- Eastwest Airlines Ltdhas offered to pay the Council, which, of course, owns the land, $200,000 to improve the runway in order to enable it to take F28 Fellowship jets. The parking area is sufficient to park only 2 Friendships. On occasions when more have been at the terminal at the one time great inconvenience has been caused and aircraft have had to be moved by hand, very often with the passengers assisting.
Perhaps worst of all is the lack of an instrument landing system. A directional beacon now directs aircraft over the airport. They can descend safely to 3,000 feet but if they have not broken cloud at 3,000 feet they must proceed through an alternative airport. Last year many flights from both East- West Airlines and TAA were unable to land and had to carry on to either Melbourne or Canberra. Both for improved operating regularity and greater safety an instrument landing system at Albury is an urgent necessity. Before deciding to expend additional money on the runways, parking space and an instrument landing system, the Department wisely decided to consult other authorities, although it did not do so with respect to terminal improvements. But the whole trouble is this: Who has been consulted by the Department?
The Albury City Council, which is the owner in fee simple of the present airport and part operator, is completely in the dark. At its meeting last night it said it was deeply disturbed at the lack of information on the Department’s proposals. It asked what further delays were likely to occur before a decision was made. It questioned how a correct and democratic decision could be made without full consultation with representatives of the Albury ratepayers. I also tried to put my views to the authorities before- I stress the word ‘before’- a decision is made. As the member for the area for 25 years, as a previous Acting Minister for Civil Aviation, and as a person not without some knowledge of airport requirements I asked the Minister whether I could discuss his Department’s proposals with one of his senior officials in the Ground Facilities Division- a not unreasonable request. I was completely fobbed off and told that when the Department had produced its report I could have it explained to me. This proposition I at once totally rejected.
Now apparently- I get my information only from newspapers- the report has been produced. It has not been sent to the Albury City Council but apparently it has been sent- again according to newspaper reports- to the Albury-Wodonga Development Corporation. The only trouble is that the Corporation has not yet received it. Again according to newspaper reports, the Department has carried out feasibility studies of 2 sites at Barnawartha and at sites at Jindera, Howlong and Corowa. I do not doubt that airports could be satisfactorily built on all these sites. One already exists at Corowa. An even better airport could, of course, be built in the Simpson Desert where there would be no obstructions to interfere with any instrument landing system and no major earthmoving problems. Its only problem would be the distance from the population it served.
Here in Canberra we have an admirable airport site close to the city. The same applies to Albury where the airport is ideally situated. Trans-Australia Airlines has stated strongly that the present site is the most convenient. It has expressed the emphatic view that it should remain where it is. The present site can easily be developed to cater for DC9 aircraft which even at maximum all-up weight require only a 6,800 feet runway, as the Minister would know, with a 200 feet overrun and a width of 150 feet. Even with the present annual growth rate of over 10 per cent per annum in air traffic at Albury, one cannot foresee in the distant future where an aircraft taking a long run would be used from the Albury airport. Nor should noise be a problem. This airport will never be used in the middle of the night when it might be likely to disturb residents. Of course, the Development Corporation wants to get its sticky fingers onto this prime piece of real estate, but this attempt should be strongly resisted by the Minister. I hope the Minister will, as a matter of urgency, immediately inform the Albury City Council, myself and the general public what his plans are.
-This morning I had an opportunity to draw to the attention of honourable members the sinister coalition that exists in Queensland between the League of Rights and the Country Party, or National Party as it is known in that State. I gained the distinct impression, despite the conclusive evidence that I was able to put forward, that some members of the Country Party, as it is known in this chambereven the Queensland members- left the chamber not thoroughly convinced that such was the case. I think it is only fitting that I should take a further opportunity this evening to give them some more facts and let them into the secrets of what is happening within their own organisation in Queensland without their being aware of it.
The League of Rights has been referred to in the ‘Current Affairs Bulletin’. That publication describes the 4 divisions or subsidiary specialist organisations of that insidious organisation. Two of them I want to refer to specifically this evening. One is the Lilac League-Lilac’ standing for Ladies in Line Against Communism. It was established in Queensland by Mrs Jean Luscombe, that State’s Assistant Director of the League and an active member of the State Liberal Party. The League has a bit of a finger in the Liberal Party in Queensland, which is not surprising. The fourth and final division of the League is known as the Australian Heritage Society. It was launched in September 1971 at the annual seminar of the League with the well known Sir Raphael Cilento as patron and with a former Supreme Court judge and Consul-General in New York, Sir Reginald Sholl, also associated with it. It is these 2 people to whom I want to refer this evening.
They are linked with the organisation which publishes ‘Queensland Calling’. This, as I said this morning, claims to be a spontaneous organisation of citizens in the South Burnett area. ‘Queensland Calling’ is a monthly publication which is a propaganda sheet for the National Party. In this paper Mrs Luscombe writes a column; the one before me is headed ‘Rising Prices and the Housewife’ and her photograph is prominently displayed to show her link with the Queensland ‘Save Our State’ campaign. This campaign opened last year and listed as speakers for the meeting, according to an advertisement in the ‘South Burnett Times’ of 17 November 1973 under the heading ‘Support Joe Petersen! Save Our State Campaign. A Dynamic Panel of Speakers’- I will let honourable members judge for themselves just who would call those listed dynamic- were the Right Honourable Sir Charles Adermann, former Cabinet Minister and one-time Federal member for Fisher; Mr Eric D. Butler, National Director of the Australian League of Rights, author, journalist and international lecturer who, incidentally, might be described in other ways; and Mr Jim Adams, managing director of the ‘South Burnett Times’. Of course, the old truism still stands today- show me your friends and I will tell you what you are.
Another public meeting, which was a continuation of this campaign, held on 23 August 1974 had billed as speakers the same Sir Charles Adermann and also no less a light than the honourable member for Wide Bay, Mr Millar. ‘Queensland Calling’ is published in the South Burnett area and is distributed by the League of Rights, as I explained this morning, throughout the State. Just the other day through the mail I received a pamphlet from the League of Rights. Let me tell honourable members about that pamphlet. It acclaimed no other than Joh BjelkePetersen Premier Joh- and told everybody of the virtues of the Petersen Plan. Of course we have all heard of this great solution to the economic ills of Australia. The ‘Petersen Plan’ is acclaimed by the League of Rights in this pamphlet. It is headed: ‘The League is Right! ‘ and continued:
A message to Australian primary producers from the Australian League of Rights- ‘Militant Action is not the Answer’.
Of course, this is the same cry as we have heard from some of the front bench spokesmen for the Country Party. They are all the time claiming that they are telling the farmers that this is not the way to overcome their problems. While they are telling them this publicly, we all know full well that the encouragement that they are giving them is only activating their dissension. The results of those efforts will be displayed, I believe, in a few days’ time in a demonstration here in Canberra.
The League of Rights publication goes on to say:
The Petersen Plan is where to start . . .
Dear Australian primary producer,
Yes, there IS a need for organised effective action to protect the family on the land. One crisis after another has crippled Australia’s rural areas. The moment of truth has now been reached.
Let there be no further doubts, Mr Speaker. As I said to honourable members this morning, this insidious organisation, this fascist organisation, led in Australia by Eric Butler, has taken control of the Country Party in Queensland. If the Country Party members in this chamber and the Country Party rank and file people in Queensland are not yet aware of this fact, it will not be long before they are. It will not be long before it becomes crystal clear to them that the control of the Country Party- now called the National Party in Queensland- no longer rests with the power base that at one time controlled that organisation. It now rests with the Cilentos the Griffiths, the Russells, the Birminghams, the Eric Butlers and the League of Rights.
-The sheer desperation of the Queensland Labor Party is exhibited by that pathetic speech which we have just heard tonight from the honourable member for Bowman (Mr Keogh). Here he is, amongst all Labor members, elected by Communist Party funds, and he tries to dredge up some story about the League of Rights and the Country Party in Queensland. What a pathetic performance! The honourable member, elected on Communist Party funds, has the cheek to come into this place and dredge up some scurrilous story about the League of Rights and the Country Party. No wonder the Country Party will win the election up there.
– I rise to take a point of order. The honourable member is reflecting on my integrity by suggesting that I was elected to this House on Communist Party funds. That is untrue and I ask for it to be withdrawn.
– No point of order is involved.
– The honourable member for Bowman is one of those who Likes to dish it out, but he is very weak on the point of his chin.
My point in rising tonight is to seek some information from the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones). I appreciate the fact that he has come into the House tonight. I would like some information about 3 ships. The first is the ‘Leonid Sobinov’ which carried passengers from Fremantle to Melbourne on 2 March 1974, from Fremantle to Melbourne on 4 April 1974, from
Melbourne to Sydney on 9 April 1974 and from Sydney to Brisbane on 12 April 1974. The second vessel is the ‘Taras Schevchonko ‘ which carried passengers from Brisbane to Sydney on 1 7 January 1974 and from Sydney to Brisbane on 6 February 1974. The third ship is the ‘Fedor Shalyapin’ which carried passengers from Brisbane to Sydney on 23 January 1974, from Fremantle to Sydney on 6 July 1974 and from Sydney to Fremantle on 22 July 1974. I am reminded that foreign ships that call at these ports must obtain a clearance before trading on the coast. As I understand it, they are personally cleared by the Minister for Transport; if not, certainly they are cleared by the Department of Transport. I would like some background information about them.
I raise this matter as other foreign ships which have called at our ports have had to pay money to the Seamen’s Union and to the Waterside Workers Federation. I am curious to find out a bit more about these ships. When I look at this matter, I found out that the agent for the ships is the Charter Travel Company. I obtained that information from the ‘Bulletin’. The Minister might confirm that the vessels are British owned, as is stated. According to the ‘Daily Telegraph’ on 20 August 1974, CTC Lines is now owned by Anglo-Soviet Shipping, a Russian shipping company based in London. I draw the attention of the Minister to the fact that these are Russian crewed ships. The rates of pay of these Russian crews are very interesting. A seaman on one of these ships is paid approximately $1,230 per annum in total pay. This is a little over $20 a week. The total pay per annum for an AB seaman on these Russian vessels is $ 1 ,230 as against $10,000 paid to an Australian AB seaman for 30 weeks seagoing duty.
The question that one must ask is whether these Russian ships have had to face the same difficulties when they called at Australian ports as have British ships and other foreign flag ships. I wish to quote from an article which appeared in the ‘London Times’ on 14 January of this year. The article is headed: ‘Russia poised to buy British ships under big expansion program’. The article states:
The Soviet Union is believed to be planning a major expansion of its merchant fleet at a time when western shipping is in a state of uncertainty over the international oil and currency situation. Britain is likely to be heavily involved in a series of deals involving massive purchases of new and second hand tonnage over the next few months, including tankers, bulk carriers, passenger ships and general cargo vessels. The main object of the new Russian policy appears to be increased earnings of foreign exchange and greater commercial and political influence on world trade routes. It probably springs from a sudden realisation that unlimited supplies of cheap domestic labour, substantial domestic supplies of oil and relatively good relations with other oil producers put Russia in a strong competitive position against western snipowners who face increasingly serious crew and bunker problems.
I remind the Minister for Transport that Russian ratings are allowed about $10 a month to spend when they are abroad and that even the captain of a Russian vessel is paid only $2,500 a year.
In putting my questions to the Minister, I have in mind that some period ago he made known certain information to Charlie Fitzgibbon, the Secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation. I wish to quote from the ‘Australian Financial Review’ of 10 September 1974. The article in question is headed ‘Jones Promises Union Immunity on Hold-ups’. My point is that the Minister has given Mr Fitzgibbon and the WWF and other unions the right to hold up ships at the port and to claim indemnity payments. I ask the Minister whether these 3 Russian ships from communist Russia, whose crews are some of the lowest paid seamen in the world, have been subject to similar indemnity payments.
– I ask the honourable gentleman whether he is aware that a royal commission is inquiring at present into indemnity payments? I do not want him to infringe by dealing with anything that may be the subject of inquiry by that royal commission.
– I appreciate that entirely.
– I. am asking the honourable member to be very careful.
– It is certainly not my wish to transgress at all. But I think the information that I have ought to be placed before the royal commission.
– This is not the place through which it should be put before the royal commission.
– No. I am seeking the assistance -
– If the honourable gentleman has any information to place before the royal commission, the royal commission is the place to do it, not this House.
-The Minister for Transport might be able to answer the question and save any further need for me to put this before the royal commission. The Minister gave clearance for these 3 Russian ships and as he made arrangements with the trade unions for the indemnity payments, I think it is fair for the Minister to tell us what arrangements were made about these 3 Russian ships. If he does not know, I will make sure the information is placed before the royal commission so that it may obtain the information within its terms of reference. But those terms of reference are very narrow. It may be difficult for the royal commission to obtain the true information.
The real point is that here are Russian seamen who are paid pitiful rates and whose vessels apparently are not, as far as we know, subject to indemnity payments whereas British or any other foreign flag ships are required to make those payments. It seems to me that there is a fanbit of collusion between the communistcontrolled Waterside Workers Federation, the communistcontrolled maritime unions and the Russians to try to break down efforts by other shipping companies which try to trade on the Australian coast while the Russians are free to do as they will. This is a very serious matter because what it means is that the waterfront of Australia is being used as a tool of the Czars of Russia- not Czar Jones from Newcastle but the Czars of Russia. I think it is time that this whole matter was brought out clearly into the open. Let us see whether the Minister -
-Order! I have asked the honourable gentleman not to go into this matter in detail because if he did he would be infringing Standing Orders by discussing a matter concerning indemnity payments which is before a royal commission. I think that the honourable member is encroaching on that standing order. I ask the honourable member to cease referring to this matter because it is before a royal commission.
– I will leave it to the Minister to give me what answer he can.
– I ask the Minister also not to refer to matters that are before the royal commission. I do not want members of the House to prejudice in any way anything that might be before the royal commission.
-With great respect, Mr Speaker, you are prejudicing my time. I have made the main point I wanted to raise. It seems that Australia and the Australian waterfront are being used as a tool of the Russians. We heard a lot of drivel 5 minutes ago from the honourable member for Bowman (Mr Keogh) about something that was going on in Queensland. But here is a fundamental matter where the Australian maritime unions are being used as a tool of the Russians, the Australian people are being deluded and the Minister at the table is a party to the whole thing. If he is not, let him get up and say so.
– We have heard once again the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) make one of his usual and typical com bogy, sabre rattling speeches for which he has become famous. To the honourable member everyone on the waterfront is a com and the Communist Party finances the affairs of the Labor Party. But why does he not tell us what the multi-nationals and the oil companies and the minerals crowd contribute to Country Party funds? The letters tabled in this place by the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris) and other members and in particular by the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) clearly establish beyond question the amount of money that the mineral companies have poured into Country Party affairs. We know that little Sir Echo Douglas has gone begging cap in hand to them for years for money for the Country Party’s election campaign funds.
Why does not the honourable member give us the facts? The honourable member has challenged the authenticity of the statements made by those fellows. But why does he not disclose the money that his Party has received? Why did not his Party support the propositions put up by this Government to expose and to detail every item of donations that are received by Parties during election campaigns. He does not do so because that in itself would show the Country Party up for what it is- the tool -
– I must rise to order. I am on a committee appointed by the Parliament which is trying to help the Minister get to that very same conclusion.
-As I was saying, that would show that the Country Party and the Liberal Party are the tools and the mouthpieces in this place of foreign capital invested in this country. Why does the honourable member not come clean? Is he prepared to put it on the line? Of course he is not prepared to put the position of his Party which has been the mouthpiece of foreign capital in this place for the last 25 years. His Party has been copping their donations.
The honourable member for Gippsland was complaining and bewailing the fact that you, Mr Speaker, were eating into his time. Yet he had plenty of time to trot out the old com bogy. The honourable member referred to 3 ships. When the honourable member rang me and advised me that he intended to speak tonight on a shipping matter I asked him what he was going to talk about. He said: ‘You will hear about it in due course’. To the best of my knowledge I have never heard of the 3 ships he referred to tonight. I will note what the honourable member has said in this place tonight and if the matter needs any attention I will certainly deal with it. I would like to make the position clear in regard to single voyage permits for passenger ships. I am the person who issues single voyage permits for the carriage of freight. I have not taken over the responsibility of issuing permits for the carriage of passengers from port to port because this involves too many people and the issuing of too many single voyage permits. Therefore I do not issue permits for single voyage permits regarding the carriage of passengers. I have deputised people within the department to issue these permits. I will look at the matter raised by the honourable member to ascertain whether there have been any malpractices and if need be I will take appropriate action.
The honourable member has asked whether the matter he raised should be referred to the royal commission being conducted into indemnity payments. The honourable member is a free citizen and if he wants to he has a right to put a submission to the royal commission. If he considers he has some evidence that is of value and importance to the royal commission he should exercise his right and seek leave to appear before the commission. He has this right irrespective of whether I say yes or no to his request. The honourable member knows that he has that right. He should not try to fool us that he needs my permission to do so. If the honourable member wants to come along here to score points, good luck to him, because that is his right and privilege.
I suggest that the honourable member might have a look at the personal explanation given by the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) when he acknowledged that he had made some incorrect statements about waterside workers. The honourable member for Gippsland talked about the waterside workers being controlled by communists. But let me tell him something: Charlie Fitzgibbon, the Federal Secretary of the Australian Waterside Workers Federation, is a member of the Australian Labor Party. He has been a member for as long as I can recall. We both come from the same town and he has always been a member of the Labor Party.
It is well known in the trade union movement that Charlie Fitzgibbon has never been at any time associated indirectly or directly with the Communist Party. Anyone who makes inferences that that man has at any time been associated with the Communist Party is telling deliberate untruths and misleading this House.
– I did not say that.
-The honourable member talked about communists controlling the Waterside Workers Federation. Charlie Fitzgibbon is the Federal Secretary of that union and any inference that he is under the domination and control of the Communist Party is a complete distortion of the facts.
I now turn to the matters raised tonight by the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn). I can understand his concern about what is to happen with airports in the Albury-Wodonga region, particularly the Corowa airport. I regret that the honourable member was in any way fobbed off as he claims was the case. I will look into the matters raised tonight by him. It will be of interest to the honourable member to know that only yesterday I had a long meeting with members of my Department who are investigating whether there should be a new airport for the Albury-Wodonga area and, if so, where it should be. The question of alternative sites is being investigated in depth. We have come pretty close to making a decision on this matter. However, there are a couple of aspects that we want to investigate still further. The final decision on whether the present airport should be retained or where a new airport should be located has yet to be made. I reaffirm and restate for the benefit of the honourable member that the delay has been caused purely and simply because we want to look at a few other points because we are also interested -
– Will the Albury City Council be consulted?
-The Department, as I understand it, has made inquiries about what is required in the area. We have had numerous discussions with the Department of Urban and Regional Development which is responsible for the planning in the region. We are also interested in the location of the National Road Safety Authority in the area. We are trying to interlock these considerations with the matter of a new airport or retention of the existing airport. The points raised by the honourable member tonight will be taken into consideration.
-Order! It being 1 1 o’clock the House stands adjourned until Tuesday, 19 November, at 10.30 a.m. or until such later time as Mr Speaker takes the chair.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for Housing and Construction, upon notice: ‘
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
Under the 1973 Housing Agreement the Australian Government provides substantial financial assistance to the States for welfare housing and the Agreement specifically provides that the advances may be used for the purpose of providing accommodation for couples of which the main breadwinner is an invalid, and for single invalid persons as well as for families in receipt of low incomes.
Under the Sheltered Employment (Assistance) Act grants, currently on a 12 for S I basis, are made to charitable, benevolent and other non-profit organisations to assist them in providing residential accommodation for handicapped persons who work in sheltered or open employment. In certain circumstances financial assistance is also made available under the Repatriation Act and the Social Service Act towards the cost of installing in a disabled person’s home ramps, handrails or other special aids to daily living.
Provision is made in the Defence Service Homes Act whereby the Director of Defence Service Homes may, in special circumstances, reduce the deposit below the normal minimum deposit of 5 per cent of purchase money. This power is being exercised to assist eligible widows, seriously incapacitated applicants and other whose family obligations make it difficult for them to accumulate the normal minimum deposit, and to purchase a home on a minimal deposit. ‘ (3) As the right honourable member is aware the Government proposes to introduce legislation in the current sittings of Parliament to establish an Australian Housing Corporation which will be empowered to cater for homeseekers within the Australian Government’s constitutional responsibilities. The provision of housing finance to disabled persons will be one of the matters which will be closely examined by the new Australian Housing Corporation when U is established.
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I would point out to the honourable member that the existing requirements in regard to (he keeping of a register of absences were introduced by the Liberal-Country Party Government. Another requirement aimed at providing supervision over periods of accommodation by patients in nursing homes was waived from 1 January 1973. Prior to January 1973 each nursing home patient was required to sign a form each month certifying that he was accommodated for the period or periods for which the nursing borne claimed nursing home benefits.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
What is the estimated (a) capital cost, and (b) date of completion of the Cockburn Sound Naval Base.
– The answer to the right honourables member’s question is as follows:
The causeway between Point Peron and Garden Island $9.5m
Works to be constructed on Garden bland S26.0m
Equipment associated with Works $9.9m
Housing on the mainland for married personnel S 1 .5m
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable members question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: .
Pension Rates’ ‘ (Question No. 1352)
asked the Minister for. Social Security, upon nonce:
When does he expect the pension rate to-be increased to a rate equivalent to 25 percent of average weekly earnings.
– The answer to the honourable member ‘s question is as follows: ‘
The standard (or single) rate of pension represents 24.5 per cent of average weekly earnings per employed male unit (seasonally adjusted) for the June Quarter 1974. As shown in the following table the pension as a percentage of average weekly earnings for the June Quarter is now the highest it has been at any time since 1946.
Pension rates will be reviewed again in Autumn 1 975. The amount of any increases will be determined having regard to the circumstances existing at the time. ~
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
Will he provide a list of committees, task forces and commissions of inquiry that have been established by the Government since 2 December 1972, indicating alongsideeach committee, task force or commission (a) the date of its establishment, (b) the means by which its establishment was announced and the reference source of the announcement, (c) its composition, (d) its purpose, (e) whether it has completed its work, (f) whether it presented a report to the Government and, if so, when the report was received by the Government, when the report was tabled, and the.source or the Government’s decision on its recommendations and (g) the cost of its operation; if not, why not.
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
In accordance with the practice I have established, I propose to bring up to date at the end of the sessional period the list of all committees, commissions of inquiry and task forces that have been established by the government. (Hansard, 3 1 May 1973, page 3002, 13 December 1973, page 4736 and 2 August 1974, page 1053.)
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 14 November 1974, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1974/19741114_reps_29_hor91/>.