29th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. J. F. Cope) took the chair at 12 noon, and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology which has catered for tertiary needs of Melbourne for nearly 100 years is still without any location where students can gather in a social context.
That a properly constituted meeting of students supported the policy of the elected Students’ Representative Council that union facilities should be the first priority of the Institute.
That the SRC formulate a definite 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 Dr Cairns and Mrs Child.
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That the Metric Conversion An be repealed, and that the Government take urgent steps to cause the traditional and familiar units to be restored in those areas where the greatest inconvenience and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 Dr Cairns and Mrs Child.
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 have read the petitions concerning the Family Law Bill and support the Bill as sufficiently protecting the legal and social rights of women and children in the family.
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 Mrs Child and Mr Clayton.
To the honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that action will be taken to remedy this act of discrimination.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mrs Child.
The honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled should not admit into the law of this land the principle that marriage is only temporary and the family no longer the fundamental unit of society.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Hodges.
To the honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That a capital gains tax as another death duty is unjust in its application and catastrophic in its effect.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that a capital gains tax be not levied in addition to death duties.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Kelly.
To the honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled: The petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
That whereas the Australian Government has taken the decision to recognise de jure the forceful incorporation of the Baltic States: Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania into the Soviet Union without consulting the people most concerned viz. the Australian citizens of Baltic descent;
And whereas the occupation of the named Baltic States by the Soviet Union was and is illegal under international law as accepted by the United Nations to wit that no territorial acquisition by the use of force shall be recognised as legal;
Your petitioners therefore most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will take the most urgent steps;
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 undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the proposed ‘free’ national health scheme is not free at all and will cost four out of five Australians more than the present scheme.
That the proposed scheme is discriminatory and a further erosion of the civil liberties of Australian citizens, particularly working wives and single persons.
That the proposed scheme is in fact a plan for nationalised medicine which will lead to gross waste and inefficiencies in medical services and will ultimately remove an individual’s right to choose his/her own doctor.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will take no measures to interfere with the basic principle of the existing health scheme which functions efficiently and economically.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr McLeay.
To the Honourable 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 Federal Government has:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House not allow the present Government to change the status of Australia from that of a monarchy to that of a republic.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr McVeigh.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned respectfully shows:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled should not admit into the law of this land the Family Law Bill in its present form.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr McVeigh.
-I remind the Minister for Housing and Construction that ever since the December 1 972 elections the people of Australia have been promised a tax deductibility scheme in relation to home mortgage interest payments. They have not yet seen the scheme despite all the promises. I have been watching the daily program anxiously to see whether such a Bill is to be introduced. We still have not seen it. This sessional period is to conclude in a little over 2 weeks. Will the Minister advise the House whether enabling legislation will be introduced during these last 3 weeks of this sitting?
– The best answer I can give to this question is to recommend that the honourable gentleman look at an account of the proceedings. If he does that he will establish that the Bill was introduced last Wednesday.
-My question is directed to the Minister for Northern Development who no doubt is aware of the announcement by President Ford of the United States of America that a global quota will be established for imports of sugar into the United States. Will this action futher accentuate the shortage of sugar that is now causing serious concern to many importing countries, including the United States?
Br PATTERSON- It is true that President Ford of the United States of America has made an announcement which in effect establishes a global quota of 7 million short tons of sugar which can be imported into the United States. The decision was made to ensure that the United States is guaranteed supplies of sugar. The President made this decision because of the critical world shortage of sugar. The current United States legislation in regard to sugar is to expire on 3 1 December this year. If the President had not taken this action, tariffs on sugar imported into the United States would have had to increase. By making a proclamation which provides for an import quota- in this case a global quota- the President has been able to ensure that current tariffs or import duties will remain. So in effect the President has taken action to ensure that sugar is imported into the United States at the lowest permissible rates of tariff which can be adopted under the United States laws.
What the action of the United States President again emphasises is the critical shortage of sugar on world markets. President Ford said:
Users of sugar can help ease prices by buying wisely, conserving supplies and consuming less sugar.
He went on to say:
I urge all Americans to reduce the amount of sugar in cooking and to put in half the amount usually used to sweeten coffee or tea.
The very serious situation that applies in regard to the supply of sugar is illustrated by the fact that the President of the world’s most powerful nation is urging Americans to eat less sugar, not because of its qualities but because of the shortage. In view of the free advice that I gave to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition about the qualities of sugar, I am not certain whether I am game enough to advocate that Australians should eat less sugar.
– The Minister for Health says sugar is a third-rate poison.
-Yes, I accept that there is a difference of opinion on sugar between the Minister for Health and me. But I have made very clear to this House the great energy attributes of sugar. I think the Leader of the Australian Country Party is a good consumer of sugar. This shortage is a very serious problem. Australia is now taking steps to increase its production of sugar. This decision has not been taken lightly because as honourable members know 80 per cent of our total production of sugar has to be exported. Also, the growing of sugar is a mono-culture and therefore the sugar industry in northern Australia is at the complete mercy of export markets. As I said, we are taking steps to increase the production of sugar within the existing mill areas. I have said time and time again in this House- I believe all honourable members will agree with me- that before a major expansion of the industry can take place we want to be sure of guaranteed markets through long term agreements with importing countries.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that in order to attract industry to decentralised growth centres such as AlburyWodonga, State governments give concessions to industries which have the effect of increasing their profits? Is he aware that, as a result, half of the concessions granted by States finish up in Commonwealth consolidated revenue? In view of the fact that every week industries are retrenching staff in this so-called growth centre, when will his Government lay down policies which will attract and maintain industries in this area? In particular, when may we expect the implementation of his 1972 election policy promise for local call telephone access from Albury to Melbourne and Sydney?
-The Royal Commission on the Post Office under Sir James Vernon- the second Vernon Royal Commission- made some recommendations upon the matter of concessional telephone and telex charges to designated growth centres. They are being discussed with the State governments.
-My question is directed to the Minister for Labor and Immigration. Has the Minister heard allegations that the Australian Government does not have a realistic and responsible wages policy? Is there any truth in this allegation? Is it not true that the Parliament has no jurisdiction to legislate on incomes? Did not the Liberal and Country Party members actively campaign against this Parliament being given such power during the campaign which preceded the 1973 referendum on prices and incomes?
– I did read in the Press that a gentleman in the Parliament last night made the absurd allegation that the Government does not have a responsible and realistic wages policy. I understand, if the Press can be believed, that that statement came from the person who poses as the alternative Prime Minister of this country. I notice that the honourable member for Wannon is rather amused at that proposition. I can understand the reason for his amusement and I sympathise with him. The Government does have a very positive, realistic and workable wages policy. For the very first time in 25 years we have a government that has a positive policy on wages, a policy which, if adopted by the Arbitration Commission, will bring about the stability in the economy that the whole of the Australian people are craving.
What it will do is to index automatically wages to whatever price movements are revealed in the consumer price index so that workers will know in advance what their wage increases will be. It will not be necessary for workers to make exaggerated wage demands based upon expected movements in prices. They will not have to go on strike two or three times a year to get that which will now come to them automatically each quarter if our proposition is adopted by the Commission. In addition to that, each year there will be a review of productivity. Superimposed upon the quarterly increases that will flow from the automatic indexation of the consumer price index will be a further increase based upon a fiat division of the total productivity. This should go to the whole of the labour force. In between these annual reviews and in between these quarterly automatic indexations of wages there will be opportunities to correct any anomalies arising from exceptional circumstances that may come from changed techniques, changed work values or changed work skills.
The one big question that has agitated the mind of the Government is when indexation will commence. From what date will it operate? I say that because already there are some wage increases that have not been fully dissipated and measured against price movements. Those increases have not yet been fully absorbed. The Government believes that the December quarter ought to be compensated for by giving to wage earners a real tax reduction in lieu of any wage indexation for the December quarter. In this way we will be able to postpone any automatic indexation of the consumer price index until the results of the March quarter are known. That figure would become known to the Government and to the public at large on about 20 April. From the first pay period commencing after 20 April there would be an increase in wages to compensate for price movements. So we would have a substantial reduction in tax to compensate for the price movement in the December quarter, and then there would be the automatic adjustment for the March quarter towards the end of April. This will give employers a breathing space of from today until towards the end of April, with workers being better off in their after tax pay and the employer being required to pay nothing at all in increased wages until about the end of April. This is not only an effective way of guaranteeing that wages retain their value and are preserved from erosion by rising prices; it is also a very effective, common sense and realistic way of dampening down the rate of inflation which would otherwise occur if nothing was done to increase the take home pay after tax, and nothing was done to index wages automatically.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Attorney-General and I refer to the reply given by him to remarks I made concerning the abolition of the Northern Territory Police Special Branch. The Minister then said that the Special Branch was disbanded because it was a political police force. I ask the Minister: Is it a fact that the Attorney-General has ordered a special secret police investigation into the personal, social and political lives of members of the jury which in October 1974 found Mr Syd Anderson of Papunya, via Alice Springs, guilty of the murder of Mr Eric Erlensen. Anderson was duly sentenced to IS years gaol with an 8-year non parole period. Is the legal aid service in any way connected with the request for this inquiry? If not, who is? Does the Minister consider it right that there should be a breach of the privacy of citizens under these circumstances?
– I recall the answer I gave some time ago to the honourable gentleman’s question as to why the Special Branch was disbanded. I repeat that one of the best and earliest actions taken by this Government was to dismantle a political arm of a police force which operated in Australia, because it was iniquitous and went completely against everything for which this Government, and I am sure every Australian, believe in and stand for. I have no knowledge of the allegations made by the honourable gentleman but I am happy to express the opinion that the allegations, if true, would be completely inconsistent with everything that this Government stands for. Naturally I will direct the inquiry to the Attorney-General. May I add that this is typical of the form of question that comes from the honourable gentleman in that he seeks to associate the legal aid scheme- a system designed to assist ordinary citizens of Australia, particularly those on low incomes- with something that is wrong and to smear and slur it in some way. It is quite typical. This is a pattern to be found running through all his questions. Having said that, I add this thought: It is well known that the deliberations of jurors is a matter for them and them alone. The anonymity of discussions in the jury room is something that is essentially basic to the administration of justice in Australia and comes to us through tradition from the United Kingdom.
– I ask the Prime Minister: Is it a fact that the Government’s economic policies require the co-operation of all sections of the community to break the wage-price spiral and reverse the trend in unemployment? What response has the Government received to its appeal?
– I am glad to say that the Government has had a very favourable response from employer and employee organisations to the program I outlined on Tuesday night of last week. Employers feel confident in being able to put men and women on their payrolls and to keep them on their payrolls. Employee organisations in a great number of cases have responded positively by telegram, letter or telephone call supporting the Government’s approach. Apparently it is only, in public life, among people on the opposite side in this Parliament that we find no positive response to these matters. I observed that in his speech last night the Leader of the Opposition did not make any mention at all of wage indexation. One would have thought that the great issue in which all governments will be engaged before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in the next few months would have been something justifying his passing interest. He showed no interest in it at all.
– It is a phoney, that is why.
– I would have thought that the honourable gentleman would have said that it is a phoney. He is capable of using terms like that. It is a term he uses quite often. But his response was utterly negative. He is just a nark and a knocker. One would have thought that in the course of 7 days and 7 nights burning the midnight oil one should have been able to come to some positive view on the proposals. But of course all the financial newspapers have categorised the right honourable gentleman’s own proposals for tax reductions as being naive and woolly, whereas, of course, we have tied them in with the general context of a contract between employees, employers and the governments of Australia. I am satisfied that the Commission will respond to such positive suggestions.
– I ask the Prime Minister: Is the Government going to do nothing about the position of many thousands of young Australians leaving schools and universities who will go straight on to the unemployment register, and the thousands of secondary and university students who will be unable to find the vacation jobs that are so important to many of them? Does he understand that this situation will have an immense economic and social impact upon these young people? How can the Government justify abandoning these young people at this critical point in their lives when they are about to embark on their working careers? Why will the Government not adopt positive policies to stimulate the private sector and end this crazy credit squeeze, reduce interest rates and get the housing industry going again?
-Always at the end of every year- this has been characteristic of our society ever since we have had compulsory schooling- there are many young people who are not able immediately to find work. This has always been the case and always will be. It is true that this year there will be more students than there were last year who will not be able to get work immediately. Last year was a boom year. I have had a look at the figures and they show that there was a total increase in the work force last year of 220,000, which is an all-time record. It was a boom year, and those conditions could not possibly have been repeated indefinitely. This Government has done something of which I feel we on this side are all very proud. We have introduced a career reference centre in every one of the main capital cities which, for the very first time, will give these young people an opportunity to have vocational guidance instead of being required to make their own decisions without the proper information as to future trends and future job opportunities.
The Cabinet, at the instigation of the Prime Minister I am very proud to say, took a positive decision to increase the intake of young people into the Public Service by a total of 1 ,450. A total of 450 graduate clerks and more than 1,000 school leavers will be taken into the Public Service. The Public Service is also offering to increase the number of apprenticeships that it will offer to young people wanting to take up apprenticeships. We have increased the intake from the miserable 50 apprenticeships a year, which I inherited when I became Minister for Labor, to no fewer than 300 apprentices. It will be more this year if my recommendations can be accommodated. We are not happy with the fact that it is not possible any year for everybody leaving school to get a job immediately.
– Why do you not do something about it?
– Order! I warn the honourable member for Barker.
-There is nothing that anybody can do about that. What I want to know from the right honourable gentleman opposite is: Will he try to explain to us how his proposition of reducing Government expenditure by 8 per cent will help this situation? That means that he will reduce the Public Service by 8 per cent. He is going to cut back spending on housing by 8 per cent and on transport by 8 per cent. He is going to clip 8 per cent off the education budget that we have. Presumably he will clip 8 per cent off the unemployment benefit. He is going to clip 8 per cent off social security. He is going to clip 8 per cent off every item of government expenditure. If that is not what he intends to do, he has not yet said so and he has not yet indicated what will be the total saving of the 8 per cent he intends to clip off only various areas of government expenditure. The right honourable gentleman, yesterday, if he is correctly reported, wanted to reduce public expenditure by $ 1,000m. Reducing Government expenditure by $ 1 ,000m is no way to provide more employment; it must provide less. I can only hope that the young people of Australia will never have to face a government that proposes to reduce its expenditure on employment- making projects by $ 1,000m a year.
– I address my question to the Minister for Transport. Is the Minister aware of the heavy demands made by Canberra traffic and in particular gravel and sand trucks on the road connecting Canberra to Bateman’s Bay? Is he aware also of the very serious condition that this road, having been constructed in about 1959 as a 35-mile an hour road, has now reached? The road has now been reduced to a goat track. Can the Minister tell me what action this Government can take to assist in restoring that road to a reasonable condition and perhaps, in the future, realigning the road?
-I am aware of the concern of the honourable member for EdenMonaro as I am aware of the concern of the honourable member for Fraser and the honourable member for Canberra, all of whom have spoken to me about this matter at some time or another. As a result of their representations, I have written to Sir Charles Cutler, the Minister for Highways in New South Wales, seeking his co-operation in doing something about the problem. As honourable members will understand, provision is made in the roads legislation in each year for the construction or reconstruction of rural arterial roads. The Bateman’s Bay road comes in that category. Therefore, I have said to Sir Charles that, as it comes within that category, I would appreciate it if he would use Australian Government money to reconstruct that road or to construct those areas that have to be constructed.
On the matter of maintenance, when Sir Robert Menzies agreed to finance this road back in 1957-58, one of the conditions was that it would be maintained by the New South Wales Department of Main Roads. I have therefore suggested to Sir Charles that he might, if it is not a construction or reconstruction job, use funds to maintain this road immediately, having in mind the thousands of people who will travel on the road in the Christmas period. Reconstruction of the road would be a very expensive job and I understand from councils in the region that the cost is estimated to be approximately $5.7m. So that would make a great hole in the allocation for rural arterial roads. I appreciate the honourable member’s concern. The Government has made the necessary representations in the matter.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he recalls that, as an electoral candidate for the Australian Labor Party from the New South Wales division of his Party, he signed a pledge which concluded with the words:
I also pledge myself to actively support and advocate at all times the Party’s objective-the socialisation of industry, production, distribution and exchange.
Does he recall that on many occasions he has stated that he is proud to be a socialist? I further ask whether he remembers that part of his new budget address last Tuesday week which stated:
The Australian Government fully recognises the crucial importance of the private sector in the development of Australia.
The lack of public response in the last week to the new budget is connected closely to lack of confidence because of the conflict of socialist vows of the Prime Minister and -
– Order! I remind the honourable gentleman that quotations are out of order. I have been very tolerant. Would the honourable gentleman ask his question?
-Will the Prime Minister please honestly explain to the Parliament, for the sake of all, including those 200,000 fellow Australians now unemployed, exactly how he sees the role of the private sector in relation to the pledge to socialism which he renews prior to every election, or has he seen the light and given his vows away as being a dismal failure and unacceptable to Australia?
-Of course I have signed the Australian Labor Party’s Pledge whenever I have sought to be its candidate at very many elections, and I expect to be doing so for many elections to come. To help the honourable gentleman, I might extend his research by pointing out what the Australian Labor Party’s Platform says by way of elaboration of the general objective which he had quoted. It says:
With the object of achieving Labor’s objectives, establish or extend public enterprise, where appropriate by nationalisation, particularly in the fields of banking, consumer finance, insurance, marketing, housing, stevedoring, transport and in areas of anti-social private monopoly.
I am proud to say that my Government has taken initiatives in each one of those matters which I have just quoted. It has established or extended public enterprise in each of those matters. I believe that it has done so with public support. The resources of this continent and the opportunities of our people would be very much less if the Australian Government had not at last decided to extend or establish public enterprise in those fields. The honourable gentleman asks me to elaborate on the attitude of the Government towards private enterprise. In a nutshell, the Government recognises that three-quarters of the men and women in Australia are employed by private enterprise. This is a mixed economy and we therefore want to make it as efficient and as just as we can. Despite a great deal of continued obstruction by the Senate, the Government has been able to pass quite a number of Bills which have made Australia’s mixed economy a more just economy than it was when my Party came into office.
- Mr Speaker, my question is directed to you. Following several telephone calls from people in my electorate of Hunter I ask: Is it a fact that a number of the best speeches made from the other side of the House yesterday were made by the older members of the Liberal Party approaching pensionable age, the early termination of whose parliamentary careers is sought by the young turks of the Liberal Party?
– I am unaware of the telephone calls that the honourable member received but I can assure him that we old fellows must stick together.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. I refer to the announcement made on Tuesday of last week that the Government is to advance $150m through the savings banks rather than through the co-operative permanent building societies in an attempt to assist the home building industry. I ask the Prime Minister- not the Minister for Housing- when this was decided in principle and what Ministers were present.
– This matter was decided by the full Cabinet last Tuesday and the Bill will be introduced, I expect, next Tuesday. I welcome this question from the shadow Minister for Housing. It is significant that the Leader of the Opposition last night in his speech on the economy did not mention housing.
– I ask the Treasurer: In view of recent assertions that the Government’s measures to expand the availability of credit have not been effective, could he inform the House of the extent to which the capacity of the banks to lend money has in fact been improved in recent months? Could he also explain why there has been a recent upsurge in bank holdings of Treasury bills and notes and whether these increased holdings can be taken as reflecting a failure of the Government’s monetary policy or as representing any legitimate basis of criticism of actions by the Reserve Bank?
– The Government has taken a number of measures directly and indirectly through the Reserve Bank with a view to extending the supplies of credit available through the banking system. There have been several releases from the statutory deposit system. We have varied the provisions by which savings bank investment is regulated as between government securities and housing loans. We have reduced the liquidity requirements. This immediately made cash available through that area. Of course Treasury notes are short term securities for the investment of $100,000 or more for periods of less than 13 weeks or less than 26 weeks according to the nature of the Treasury note. I believe that quite a number of holdings of Treasury notes in recent months have been anticipatory of the company taxation that has to be paid. I have been asked quite a number of questions about that area.
I point out that something like half of the companies have already paid their quarterly instalments by the due date and no doubt those transactions will be reflected also in the holding of Treasury notes. We recently reduced the interest rate on Treasury notes to make them a relatively less attractive investment and other areas, like the semi-government loans, relatively more attractive. During the month of September particularly quite a number of semi-government loans were in fact over-subscribed, as I believe the current one for the Melbourne Board of Works will be. I think the honourable member would have noted that there was a record release by the Commonwealth Trading Bank and the Commonwealth Savings Bank of money for housing during the last month. I think what ought to be occasionally stressed is that some of these measures do take time to work through.
I notice that the apostles of gloom for the economy are already trying to forecast what the December consumer price index will reflect. I regard this as a quite unscrupulous exercise. Nobody will know until about 15 January what the December CPI will be. I point out that even the
Statistician himself was wrong last quarter because he originally showed the figure at 5.4 per cent and in the outcome it proved to be 5.1 per cent. I do not think that any service is rendered to an economy by trying to suggest an exaggerated picture as to the rate of inflation. I suggest that it is about time we sensibly got down to analysing what the root causes of inflation, unemployment and flagging investment really are.
-My question is a follow-up question to the one just answered by the Treasurer and it is directed to the Prime Minister. Does the Prime Minister recall his criticism not so long ago of the Opposition for being prophets of doom, saboteurs and so on? Does he agree that what is urgently needed in Australia is confidence, certainty and a sense of direction? Did he say this week that Australia faces the worst economic situation it has faced for some 40 years? Did Mr Hawke say recently that the worst depression in Australia since the great depression of the 1930s will occur next year? Will the Prime Minister stop acting like a prophet of doom and a saboteur of national confidence and begin acting like a national leader, instead of trying to condition the public to his own Government’s mismanagement?
– I did say that conditions economically were more difficult than they had been for over 40 years. However, I also said in the same context- the same interview- that I believed that by the middle of next year we would have turned the corner. Mr Hawke did say about Australia what the right honourable gentleman has quoted; he also said it about the rest of the world. I do not believe that any purpose is served by giving people to understand that in the next few months, the next quarter or even the next 2 quarters there will be any dramatic improvement in the statistics or the indices. It is a fact that no economic measures that any Australian Government takes or probably that any government anywhere takes in an economy like ours can have an immediate or an early effect. It takes a few months for any of these measures to be successful.
I also do not believe that there is any point in giving the impression that Australia is alone or can act alone in these matters. The fact is that Australia is one of the largest trading countries in the world. There is no other mixed economy, there is no other industrialised country which has a greater percentage of its economy dependent upon trade than is the case with Australia. Threequarters of our trade takes place with western
Europe, North America and Japan and they all have the same twin problems as we have, those of inflation and unemployment. In those circumstances we all have to try together internationally and we also have to try domestically to reverse these deplorable trends. It is a fact that conditions are worse in the trading- the industrialised- countries with mixed economies than has been the case for over 40 years. I believe that we are taking steps which will mitigate those effects internationally and domestically. I do not believe that the right honourable gentleman helps things by taking half of what Mr Hawke says or half of what I say. If one takes the whole of what Mr Hawke said and the whole of what I said, I believe that there are good grounds for thinking that by the middle of next year there will be a marked improvement in these 2 problems which beset the Australian economy and society.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Transport. In view of the increases awarded recently to Qantas pilots by the Flight Crew Officers Industrial Tribunal, can the Minister give any information on the actual earnings of Qantas pilots before and after the increases were awarded? Is it a fact, as reported, that only a very small number of pilots can earn up to $47,000 per annum under the Coldham award- a report which received considerable publicity?
-In lieu of dealing with the question in detail I seek the indulgence of the Leader of the Opposition to incorporate in Hansard a substantial table that I have here. It shows the earnings, without naming individuals, of each pilot in the employ of Qantas and has a column which indicates the amount that they will now receive as a result of the Coldham decision. I seek leave to incorporate that table in Hansard.
-Is leave granted?
- Mr Speaker, I would like the granting of leave to be deferred until I have had a chance to examine this long table. I would like to give an answer later.
-As far as the questions asked by the honourable member for Grey are concerned it is perfectly true that statements have been circulated amongst honourable members making all sorts of claims as to the salary received by various airline pilots. It is interesting to note that in the recent Coldham decision it was disclosed that of the pilots who are resident in Australia, 23 will receive in excess of $50,000 a year; 20 will receive from $45,000 to $50,000 a year; 36 will receive between $40,000 and $45,000; 90 will receive between $35,000 and $40,000 a year; 39 will receive between $30,000 and $35,000 a year; 45 will earn between $25,000 and $30,000 a year; 124 will earn between $20,000 and $25,000 a year; 1 12 will receive between $15,000 and $20,000 a year; and 21 will receive between $10,000 and $15,000 a year. That means that there will be no pilot, first officer or second officer who will be receiving less than $10,000 a year. These are all men who are resident in Australia. These are the facts as to the salaries that they will be paid. These figures do not take into account 3 other pilots who will receive an amount greater than the 23 pilots to whom I have referred as receiving in excess of $50,000. If the right honourable Leader of the Opposition does not object to having this table incorporated in Hansard, it will give honourable members the factual information.
– The Opposition has no objection to leave being granted.
– There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
-I thank the right honourable Leader of the Opposition.
-For the information of honourable members I present an exchange of notes between the Australian and United States Governments providing for amendments to the agreement of 9 May 1963 relating to the establishment of a United States Naval Communication Station in Australia, together with a statement by myself on those amendments. Due to the limited numbers available, I have arranged for reference copies of these papers to be placed in the Parliamentary Library. I seek leave to have the text of my statement incorporated in Hansard.
– I rise to order. When is the Government going to stop the business of tabling documents on important matters and deliberately attempting to prevent our debating them? When this practice was first introduced into the House the Government of the day allowed a debate to continue for days and days.
-Order! There is no substance in the point of order. I should like to remind the House that when leave is sought there is no debate. The answer is either yes or no. If the honourable gentleman wants to speak he must seek the indulgence of the Chair.
– I seek the indulgence of the Chair.
-Is leave granted?
Government supporters- No.
-Leave is not granted.
- Mr Speaker-
-Order! That is the finish of the matter.
– I rise to order. Is the Minister for Defence now tabling a document rather than being prepared to make a statement to the House as he ought to if he is proud of the policy he is pursuing?
-Order! That is not a matter for the Chair. The Minister sought leave to make a statement. Leave was refused, so that is the finish of the matter.
- Mr Speaker, he will be given leave to make a statement
– Well, leave is -
– No, Mr Speaker. He will be given leave.
-He asked for leave to incorporate a document in Hansard but it was refused.
– If he has asked for leave to make a statement he will be readily given it.
– Why does he not ask for leave?
-The Chair is not in the position to know what the Minister for Defence wants to do. He has asked for leave to incorporate a document in Hansard. Leave was refused, so the matter is finished as far as the Chair is concerned.
– For the information of honourable members I present schedules showing the position, as at 18 November 1974, for programs under the States Grants (Schools) Act 1972-1973 including amendments proposed by the States Grants (Schools) Bill 1974 which is currently in course of passage through the Parliament.
-(Fremantle-Minister for Education)- For the information of honourable members I present the annual report of the Commonwealth Scholarships Board for 1973.
– For the information of honourable members I present a discussion paper prepared by the Department of the Media entitled ‘The Public and the Media’ dated August 1974. Due to the limited number of copies of this paper available at this time I have arranged for reference copies to be placed in the Parliamentary Library.
-I have received a letter from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The depressed state of manufacturing industry.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places. (More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places)
– The manufacturing industry in Australia is in an extremely depressed state. There is no confidence. There is no investment. There are retrenchments and there is no likelihood of the situation improving for a considerable time. The reasons for this are entirely the decisions of the Government. A political party should state quite explicitly its objectives and policies in respect of manufacturing industry, especially if that political party is in government. Unless a government is prepared to state that its objective is to develop and sustain an efficient, growing and diversified manufacturing industry, an appropriate level of confidence will not be established. A government should adopt clear policies to achieve this objectivepolicies which must include the creation and sustaining of an environment which encourages investment in manufacturing. The policies must be guaranteed to be stable and long term. We must have as a policy a consistent and constructive tariff policy, and that must be followed through. Australian ownership and control should be encouraged but overseas investment should not be discouraged. Incentives should be given to responsible industry in order to assist efficiency and profitability. The Government should state that it favours large, medium and small scale industry- the full range of industryand that adequate export incentives will be given.
The manufacturing industry provides over 25 per cent of the gross domestic product. It provides one-third of capital spending by industry. It employs 1.5 million people. Each manufacturing job supports one tertiary job. Without a strong manufacturing industry we cannot have a growing Australia. Without a strong manufacturing industry we cannot achieve our national objectives- national objectives of growth, improvement in our living standards, the provision of education and health services, the relief of poverty, aid to the poor, the provision of aid to overseas countries less well endowed with resources and people than we are. None of those can be achieved without a strong manufacturing industry. Manufacturing is the great job provider. It can be successful in Australia, and it has proved that it is successful. It has proved that it is efficient. An example of this is the growth in exports. The value of exported manufactured goods in the mid- 1950s was $ 100m. By the financial year 1973-74 this had grown to $ 1,340m. It is efficient. It can compete with any country of the world. It can export.
Note how things have changed now in the outlook for manufacturing industry. The Associated Chambers of Manufactures of Australia, in association with the Bank of New South Wales, undertook a survey for the September quarter. It found that there were falls in employment, falls in overtime, and falls in orders. It found the most widespread ever reported drop in these three essential items in the survey’s history. An unprecedented 78 per cent of the people surveyed expect worse over the next 6 months. They share the view of the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions and of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). Against this background the Minister for Manufacturing Industry (Mr Enderby) has said that the manufacturers and their management are frightened of their own shadows. If they were able to say in this House what they think of the Minister for Manufacturing Industry then it would perhaps explain to him that they are not frightened of their own shadows; they just want to get on with their jobs and have the capacity to do their jobs. The Prime Minister called them nervous Nellies. He called his own parliamentary colleagues the same.
But this is not going to help manufacturing industry. Basically manufacturing industry is the area in which jobs are being lost. This is the area in which retrenchments are occurring. This is the area in which there is no investment, and it is the area in which help needs to be given. It is clear that nothing that the Government has done since that survey was taken has restored confidence in manufacturing industry. Fixed capital spending is down; it is falling on the basis of real prices. In 1973-74 there was actually $50m less spent than in 1969-70 in real terms. Investment in manufacturing industry is not keeping pace with the gross domestic product. The result is that we have ageing plant in our manufacturing industries. We have ageing technology. The capacity for efficiency and competition with overseas competitors for export markets will diminish. Our capacity to have increased productivity will diminish. Our capacity to have a lower unit cost will diminish as plant gets older and as technology gets out of date.
There is gross under-training in the manufacturing industry because there is not the capacity to invest. There is not the cash flow; there is not the incentive. There will be negative productivity this year in the manufacturing industry, and this is a great indictment of this Government and its
Minister for Manufacturing Industry. The causes are lack of confidence by the Government in the manufacturing industry and lack of confidence in the Government by the manufacturing industry. Each has lacked confidence in the other. The lack of confidence by the manufacturing industry in the Government is well placed. There has been immensely bad management on the part of the Government in carrying out its policies. Was the collapse of the Leyland Motor Corporation of Australia, Mainline Corporation Ltd and Cambridge Credit Corporation Ltd sheer coincidence? Of course it was not. The bad management is occurring in Canberra. There is today no coherent economic policy of any kind, and there is. certainly no policy for the manufacturing industry.
The Government has given no positive statement of policy or objections in relation to manufacturing industry. It is prepared to stand by and see the imposition on manufacturing industry of the most intense credit squeeze that has ever been applied in the history of this country. It is perfectly clear that jobs are being lost in the manufacturing industry, and that is where incentive and help needs to be given. The only reason why the Government maintains a credit squeeze is that it is determined to lift government spending. If government spending is going to be lifted in that manner then pressure has to be put on the private sector to stop the private sector from competing for the goods and services supplied to the people. That is why I say: ‘Cut back on government sector spending so that there is no need to have a credit squeeze’. The Government could reduce interest rates. The Government could say tomorrow: ‘We will pull back on government spending. We will then have the capacity to say to the Reserve Bank of Australia: “Go out into the market place and buy, buy, buy bonds so that you put money back into the economy and you reduce the yield and bring down interest rates. You will then stimulate the private sector. We will stop the retrenchments and we will re-employ those people who have been put out of their jobs”.’ The reason why I say government sector spending should be cut down is that we cannot have government sector spending taking all of these things from the private sector and think it is doing some good. When did any honourable member last meet a retrenched public servant? Retrenched public servants do not exist. There is no need to retrench them in any way. All we need to do is to hold back government spending to a reasonable level of 25 per cent instead of the spendthrift level of 33 per cent.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
-Mr Speaker, before the sitting of the House was suspended for lunch I was making the fundamental point that the cause of the loss of jobs is the pressure that has been put on the private sector. The private sector has been put under pressure by a credit squeeze. The reason for the credit squeeze is to prevent the private sector from making use of money, resources, goods and services, and people so that they can all be transferred to the public sector. That is where the error lies. This Government, if it wishes, can give instructions today to the Reserve Bank to buy, buy, buy Government bonds to put money into the private sector, lower the yield and reduce interest rates.
The Government has made some very serious policy errors. It has applied a credit squeeze- the most severe in our history. It has raised interest rates to the highest level in our history and it had done that by insisting upon buying votes through spending in the Government sector. It made a very serious error when it cut tariffs across the board by 25 per cent without any consideration of whether the industries affected were decentralised industries or under competition and without considering the nature of the work force or whether there were women in it. The curious thing is that the Deputy Prime Minister (Dr J. F. Cairns) was not consulted in that tariff cut. Now all of these policy decisions are coming home to rest. Great unemployment has been achieved and I say ‘achieved’ purposely because the Labor Party adopted the option of having unemployment to tackle inflation. The Government adopted the wage setter principle for the Public Service. It encouraged big wage increases and got the wage price spiral going. Now the Government understands its error but it is incapable of doing anything about it.
Rising costs are a threat to the survival of manufacturing industry and indeed to the whole of the private sector. What the Government wants to do is to leave the private sector in disarray so that the Government can offer to take up all the spending in the public sector. This is what the Government said in the Budget Speech. It said that it would take advantage of the downturn in the private sector to advance the public sector. That is wrong and there is no point in the Government now saying it will write a letter to the Prices Justification Tribunal to tell it that profit is honourable. What the Government needs to do is to bring legislation into this House and set out guidelines. There are no guidelines for the Prices Justification Tribunal. The Government has made a judge of the Arbitration
Commission the man to determine prices but it has not given him any guidelines.
Revaluation was said to be the great achievement of the Labor Party but is was not a great achievement; it was a disaster. What the Government achieved was to take out of the private sector the capacity to compete. It took confidence out of the private sector and did nothing about inflation because it was entirely home grown. Devaluation will not help either, while the inflation rate in Australia remains higher than that of our competitors. Devaluation has not achieved anything especially as it is even less than the total of the upward valuation which the Government deliberately set out to make.
There has been unco-ordinated policy. There are more commissions, task forces and inquiries than a person could count, using every finger and toe of every member of this House. All of these bodies are totally unco-ordinated. The Industries Assistance Commission is going in one direction, the Prices Justification Tribunal is going in a different direction and the Trade Practices Commission is going in another direction. All the task forces, advisors- the multiplicity of advisers that Ministers have- have not achieved any coordinated policy. The Industries Assistance Commission as set up by this Government has forgotten what the word ‘assistance’ means. The IAC is now saying to the Government: ‘Will you please have a co-ordinated policy’. Here is an outside independent body saying to the Government: ‘For goodness’ sake, have a co-ordinated policy’. The IAC made a submission to the Royal Commission into the Australian Public Service in exactly those terms. It said that the Government should develop a common and explicit framework of policy objectives. Manufacturing needs confidence; manufacturing needs certainty and the Government should state clearly its objectives and policies. It has totally failed to do so. It is no good the Deputy Prime Minister trying to be all things to all men, all countries and all people. What has he achieved? Absolutely nothing. If he has not the power in Cabinet and Caucus, then he ought to abandon his attempts. What we want is a policy statement now, not after the Jackson report. The Opposition is very concerned that no manufacturer as such is a member of the Jackson Committee. Mr Jackson of the Colonial Sugar Refining Co. Ltd, is a very eminent man, but where is the actual manufacturer who should be a member of the Committee. Where on that Committee is the representative of a small business? He is just not there.
We have positive proposals. I want to make it clear that we are committed to growing efficient manufacturing industry but we first need to get the economy right. No tariff cut should be made without full consideration; there must be consistency of tariff making. There must be certainty for long term investment; there must be investment incentives to manufacturing industry and small businesses must be encouraged. There are 250,000 of them in Australia, 90 per cent of which are manufacturing companies employing half the Australian work force and producing 40 per cent of manufacturing output. What we want is a small business bureau in the department of Manufacturing Industry. This idea too has been stolen by the Labor Party.
– Order! The right honourable gentleman’s time has expired.
-The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) is notorious for his exaggeration but he has become notorious in the last few months for very careless exaggeration. He speaks continuously in this House without giving anyone else any credit at all. He continually sees no good in anyone else but himself and his capacity to see good in himself is astonishing. Continuously his self love exudes itself around this Parliament and around this country, but fortunately it is not shared by very many people, as the public opinion polls show. I would have much more faith in what he has to say if he were prepared to give somebody else just a little bit of credit.
This afternoon we have heard from him a small edition of what we heard last night. Industry is depressed, he said. The truth is that some parts of industry are depressed and some parts are not. Industry is important, he said. Of course industry is important; industry is important for reasons of employment, for reasons of welfare and for reasons of exports. It is important for all the reasons that he said. Anyone from the Government side of the House, concerned as we are for the maintenance of employment and the living standards of the Australian people, will recognise that it is primarily through private industry, where three-quarters of the Australian work force are employed, that employment and living standards are maintained. The Leader of the Opposition says that it is solely because of this Government’s decisions that everything has gone wrong. That is what he says; that is the essence of it.
– That is true.
– That is right.
-The interjections around the House confirm what I have had to say about what the Leader of the Opposition said. But that is a ridiculous, inadequate explanation of what has occurred. What has happened in Australia is the result of an economic process, and that economic process is worldwide. Unemployment is rising in Australia and it is high. Unemployment is high everywhere else. (Opposition members interjecting)
-Order! The Deputy Prime Minister will resume his seat. The Leader of the Opposition was heard in comparative silence and I demand that the Deputy Prime Minister be heard in silence.
-Unemployment in Australia is at an actual figure of 2.5 per cent, adjusted 3.2 per cent. Comparable figures today in other parts of the world are: Canada, 5.3 per cent; United States of America, 6 per cent; the Federal Republic of Germany, 3.8 per cent; the United Kingdom, 4 per cent; Italy, 4.5 per cent; and Japan, where the figure has doubled in the last quarter, 2 per cent. I have been in half a dozen countries where the unemployment rate is more than 15 per cent. I have seen the effects of unemployment. I have seen industries that are in difficulties in Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong- the textile, electronics and building industries. They are in exactly the same situation as they are in here, except that in some of those countries unemployment is more than 10 per cent and people are starving in the streets. Unemployment is serious if only half a dozen people are out of work. But from a national point of view and an international point of view unemployment in Australia is trivial in comparison with unemployment in other countries- absolutely trivial.
We have heard a lot about growth. There are official Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development figures relating to growth. We have been told that industry in Australia is terribly depressed. Some sections of industry are in difficulty; others are not. But the official OECD forecasts of growth for 1975 indicate these rates of growth: Canada 2% per cent; the United States of America, minus Vh per cent; Japan, 2 per cent; France, 3 per cent; the Federal Republic of Germany, 1V4 per cent; Holland, minus Va per cent; United Kingdom, 1 per cent; New Zealand, 3 per cent; and in Australia, 2% per cent. Australia is in a good condition compared with any other country mentioned in that table. In the last month the car industry in the United States has retrenched 102,000 people. The Fiat company has retrenched 70,000, the Audi company in Germany 30,000, and the Volkswagen company in Germany, 14,000.
Retrenchments are far more extensive than in Australia, both absolutely and proportionately.
If one examines these unemployment and growth figures and conditions in those particular industries, one sees that the position that the Leader of the Opposition spoke about as though it was only an Australian condition caused by the Australian Government is actually a world wide situation. It is part of an economic process. The Australian Government is not the cause. I should not think that even the Leader of the Opposition would suggest that the Australian Government is the cause of the retrenchment of 102,000 workers in the American automotive industry or that the Australian Government is the cause of 10 per cent unemployment in Hong Kong, S.3 per cent in Canada, and 6 per cent in the United States of America. The Australian Government is not the cause of that situation. What is happening is a world-wide process and, as everyone in the outside world realises, it is a more serious economic difficulty than the world has experienced for nearly half a century. Unless a person is capable of realising that this is an international problem he will never come up with a policy or action capable of dealing with it.
This is a world-wide problem, but the Australian Government can do something both to moderate inflation and to prevent unemployment. How can we moderate inflation? Although inflation is running at 20 per cent, the Leader of the Opposition never mentioned it in his speech. Is he not concerned about inflation or is he concerned only to exaggerate unemployment and blame the Australian Government for all of it as though it exists only in this country and nowhere else? Inflation has to be understood before it can be dealt with. Inflation is the excess of income demand for goods over the supply of goods. Income demand rose in Australia in 1971-72 because of international factors. There was a great inflow of funds from overseas. Exports rose by $2,000m and capital inflow by $3,000m and on the basis of that situation there was a great credit expansion in Australia which the Leader of the Opposition, at that time the Treasurer, did nothing to restrain. There was an inflationary boom.
Inflation is not an accident; it is understandable. Incomes, demand and money had to be regulated if inflation was to be reduced but for 18 months the previous Government did nothing, desperate as it was to win back the support it had lost under the McMahon-Snedden coalition. It went along with inflation. It allowed the Mainlines to boom. It allowed these pyramids, which are based on very little cash, to inflate land values and put up building costs enormously. It allowed the inflationary boom to be released in Australia and did nothing to deal with it.
Would Mr Snedden have rejected any kind of credit squeeze? Would he have allowed that inflationary boom to continue forever? And what about the professor of economics, the honourable member for Berowra (Dr Edwards), who sits on the front bench? Is he against any kind of credit restriction in an inflationary period like that? Would he have done nothing to restrict credit? I know that some honourable members opposite are interested in another kind of squeeze, but I am talking about monetary policy. Would they not have done anything to increase imports with the great shortage of goods? Would they have done nothing to appreciate the value of the Australian dollar? If these things had not been done by this Government- they were radical policies in Australia’s history- inflation would have been 10 per cent greater than it is now. If inflation is to be checked in circumstances like that- unfortunately it had to be done 18 months or 2 years later than it should have been done- some depression of industry and some unemployment unfortunately must occur. What the Government does about depression in industry and unemployment is to end it here and now. I emphasise that this is a matter of judgment.
– And you have it?
– The honourable member has never shown much judgment. If reflation starts too soon we will get back into inflation and more unemployment. The Australian Government has begun reflation and no other government in comparable countries has gone as far as we have gone. Certainly the reflation can be more precise. I do not say that our policy is perfect. Last night I think the Leader of the Opposition made some useful remarks about monetary policy, but what is he doing? He is refusing or failing to analyse inflation and unemployment because he wants to attribute them to the fault of the Government. He sees no further than that. He is claiming that the Government is solely responsible and therefore he has no adequate analysis of unemployment and inflation. He has no idea of what causes them if he thinks the Government has caused them. If he has no idea of what causes inflation he cannot produce a policy to deal with it. In fact, he is offering a policy that may be inflationary, particularly on the monetary side. Presumably he would reduce taxation by a great deal more than we have done but one does not have to get past the first chapter of any economics text book- the Leader of the Opposition has at least seen the cover of one- to know that if a reduction of taxation goes too far it is a significant inflationary factor. It is a matter of judgment and no one here or elsewhere has any claim that his judgment is perfect.
I think his policy, insofar as it differs from ours, is unacceptable on the expenditure side. He keeps on bleating: ‘Cut government expenditure’. But cut it where? Whenever we ask him he runs for cover. We hear the cry: ‘Cut it by 8 per cent here and 8 per cent there’. We know what would be the consequences of a policy of this kind. Government expenditure cannot be cut significantly without cutting expenditure on education, health and well being. That is no way to deal with the problem of inflation, unemployment or anything else. Labor will not cut the standards of the people in social security, health and welfare because of economic pressures. We have suffered too much from this depression mentality- from this prescription for tragedy- to take it over now.
There was no mention by the Leader of the Opposition of wages or industrial relations. Presumably he does not see this as any kind of factor in the unemployment or inflationary situation. He asks us for a wages policy, but what sort of wages policy does the Leader of the Opposition have? He does not express any opinions one way or the other about indexation. He does not seem to be aware of the fact that in countries where there has been a reasonable kind of relationship between the trade union movement and the government, inflation is less than it is elsewhere. He does not seem to be able to realise the importance of this significant attempt to reach what is called a social contract between the workers and the Government. He does not know that the indices of increases in the cost of living are lower where that has been achieved. I know what would happen if the Leader of the Opposition were the Prime Minister and the government were drawn from the other side of the House; there would be a confrontation with the trade union movement. We are unhappy about any kind of industrial stoppage or any kind of strike. Nobody wants them. Their incidence is too high in Australia today. But if the Government was changed, the incidence of stoppages and strikes would double within a quarter because a government drawn from the Opposition would adopt a policy of wage freeze. It would go back to the penal powers. We would have trade union leaders in goal. We would have a confrontation which would wrack this country from one end to the other. It is already happening in other places.
There is an insurrection in the streets in Italy. People in those countries have grave doubts about the future.
– You would be leading it.
-I would be keeping it in order, and I would not be getting any help from you. My role in insurrections in this country is to make them peaceful, and it always has been. I have never had any help from you to try to make them peaceful.
– You always argued about -
-Order! The honourable member for Kooyong will cease interjecting.
– I can claim without any exaggeration to have done far more to keep order in the streets in this country than all of you combined.
– Who is responsible for the mess?
– You were responsible for the mess by sending young Australians to Vietnam. Almost every young Australian in this country was against the former Government because of that.
– With whom does the blame lie?
– Order! The blame will lie with you if you are not careful.
– We came out of Vietnam and we have peace in that respect in this country. That is why it happened. The Parties opposite were responsible for that- you who were not game to go yourselves but were willing to send everybody else.
I say that if we had any change of government here, the conditions that the Leader of the Opposition has criticised and has the right to criticisewe should take full note of his criticismwould be doubled in their intensity in the space of a quarter. You would not get any reduction in unemployment; you would get an increase in unemployment under a government drawn from the other side of the House. You would not get any less inflation; you would get more inflation because every prescription that honourable members opposite have given to us in their policy is an inflationary prescription likely also to produce unemployment. Conditions in Australia are difficult. But they are easier and better in this country than in any other comparable country. There is not one person in this country who is not considerably better off than he was a year or 2 years ago, of course, with some exceptions.
-Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
Mr SNEDDEN (Bruce-Leader of the Opposition)- Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Order! Does the right honourable gentleman claim to have beeen misrepresented?
– Yes. The Deputy Prime Minister (Dr J. F. Cairns) said that I did not mention inflation last night.
– I said today.
-Oh, today. I did mention inflation today and I did mention it last night. These are the words I used last night:
It cannot be emphasised enough that the overriding need is for policies which tackle both inflation and unemployment. Policies directed at one of these problems which neglect the other will not constitute a long run solution to either. That is why it is so important to give quick relief to the private sector activity to provide early relief to the unemployment situation, but at the same time to attack cost inflation and slow down public sector expansion.
The Deputy Prime Minister said that in government I did nothing to restrain inflation. My record was that I reduced -
– I rise to take a point of order. This is debating. It is not a personal explanation. He has already had an hour and a half to talk.
-Order! The right honourable gentleman is debating the question.
– I am not debating the question. There was a misrepresentation. The honourable gentleman said that I did nothing to restrain inflation.
– As I understood him, the Deputy Prime Minister stated what you said today. You are referring to what you said last night. Now, which is it?
– The honourable gentleman said that when I was in government as Treasurer I did nothing to restrain inflation. That is a misrepresentation.
– I rise on a point of order in this -
– If he did not say it, he should apologise.
– The speaker to follow can correct this matter if he has to correct it. This is the practice in the House. One does not get up and go through a previous speech to correct every point that one thinks might be relevant.
– I think the right honourable gentleman is going into debate as to what he did when he was Treasurer.
-No. It is not a debate -
-Order! These matters can be corrected in another manner. If personal explanations develop this way, we could go on for weeks on these matters.
– If a statement is made by the honourable gentleman that as Treasurer I did nothing to tackle inflation, that is a misrepresentation which, under the Standing Orders of the House, I am entitled to correct.
– Did you do less than nothing?
– He is saying it again. I am entitled to make a personal explanation.
– You are not entitled to debate the matter.
– I am not going to debate it.
– I do not want to go into a long dissertation. Just explain in one sentence where you have been misrepresented.
– All right: One sentence.
-But do not go into a debate.
-The fact is that while I was Treasurer inflation in this country came down from 7 per cent to 4V4 per cent.
– Now you have explained the position.
-The honourable gentleman also misrepresented me by saying that I have refused to say where government expenditure would be cut. That is a misrepresentation. I have said that government sector expenditure would have to be cut right across the board, and that some areas would have priority over others, such as education, health and social welfare. He also said that I have not said anything about wages and their role in the inflationary problem. In fact, it was I who started the process now accepted by the Government and by everybody else that wages beyond productivity in a time of inflation bring economic disaster through inflation.
-Mr Speaker, he will be followed by another speaker who can put these points if they are correct:
-No. You made the misrepresentation.
– There is no misrepresentation. What you mean and what I mean are at least debatable.
-It is a misrepresentation, and I am entitled to answer it.
– These personal explanations are becoming farcical. Debates have been taking place instead of the point of misrepresentation being made quickly in a few sentences. This is a matter for the Chair to decide, not a matter for you to decide. I would think that you could put this matter quickly clearly and succinctly in a few words rather than debating it. I ask you to make your personal explanation as quickly and as clearly as you possibly can without debating it.
– I will do that. The Deputy Prime Minister said that I did not mention wages as an essential part of the inflationary picture. That is a misrepresentation. It was I who, for over a year, pointed out constantly that wages in advance of productivity must lead to inflation. The other misrepresentation- the final one which I want to mention, although there were many of them- is that the honourable gentleman said that I do not see indexation one way or the other. That is a misrepresentation. I have made it perfectly clear that wage indexation will be an inflation builder if it is only an escalator in wage rises.
- Mr Speaker, I think this has gone far enough. How many speeches does he want to make in the same day? If you want to have it corrected, you do it through the Leader of the Country Party who is to follow in the debate.
– That is the sort of thing you did in the streets, as you did earlier -
– I can imagine what it would be like if you were there.
– The last time you and I ever saw each other in such a confrontation, you got the worst vote you ever received. They threw you out of the Executive.
-Order! The honourable member for Kooyong will remain silent.
-Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Order! Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
-Yes. I claim to have been misrepresented by the Deputy Prime Minister (Dr J. F. Cairns) who implied that I supported or should have supported his Government’s credit squeeze. The Government initiated a credit squeeze on 9 September 1973, too late to be effective against the then inflation and to offset its massive government spending -
-Order! The honourable member is now debating the matter.
-Where were you misrepresented?
– I would not -
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. The point at issue is where the honourable gentleman has been misrepresented. Do you not understand what a personal explanation is?
– He misrepresented me. He implied that -
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
-Order! Resume your seat! You cannot break out into a speech in this way. You must speak to the personal explanation if you claim to have been misrepresented.
-Mr Speaker, I crave your indulgence. I have been grievously misrepresented.
-Well, start off where you have been personally misrepresented. Do not break out into a speech.
– I tried to get it in. I said that he implied that I supported his Government’s credit squeeze.
– No, not you.
– Well, is there some other professor of economics on the front bench?
– I wanted to know what your attitude was to the credit squeeze.
– The Minister said that I supported .it. I am making the explanation, Mr Speaker, that that misrepresented me. The credit squeeze was introduced very late. I would not have introduced it so late. It was introduced to offset the massive Government spending program. I would not have introduced it for that reason.
– The Opposition has brought forward this matter of public importance because of its very great concern for secondary industries and the significant pan which they play in employing Australians. About 28 per cent of the Australian work force is associated with the manufacturing industry and 28 per cent of the Gross National Product is produced by this very important segment. So the importance of this industry just cannot be laughed off.
I think that all honourable members- at least those on this side of the House- were rather amazed at the performance of the Deputy Prime Minister (Dr J. F. Cairns) who treated this matter as being very insignificant. In fact he seems to think that an unemployment rate of about 3.2 per cent or 190,000 people is trivial. The Deputy Prime Minister used the words: ‘We have to start to accept that unemployment is necessary’. The Deputy Leader of the Australian Labor Party is accepting now that unemployment has to be pan of anti-inflationary measures. I hope that every Labor man and every unemployed person reads what the Deputy Prime Minister had to say. It was also quite amazing to hear the manner in which the Deputy Prime Minister spoke this afternoon. I have never heard him speak in such a frantic way. He spoke almost as if he were leading some moratorium march. It is obvious that tensions are building up within himself and his own Party at their mismanagement, ineptitude and inability to cope with the situation which the Government itself has produced. It is no use for the Deputy Prime Minister to shelter behind the international situation. He is cowering behind a mass of statistics of other countries. This country should never have suffered the unemployment that is now taking place. We have not been subject to the same circumstances to which other countries have been subject. We have not been involved with the energy crisis to nearly the same degree as other countries because we have been 70 per cent self-sufficient with the cheapest fuel in the world.
– You would soon fix that, wouldn’t you?
– Well, we would at least review it. We would not put ourselves at the mercy of the Arab States, as the Government will do with its negative policies. We have some of the cheapest steel in the world. Our copper and food are cheaper than those of most comparable countries. It is a lot of nonsense to use the international situation as an excuse for the position in which Australia is now placed. I wonder how investors would have reacted if they had heard the darling of Wall Street perform today? I am sure that the distressed way in which the Deputy Prime Minister acted today would never engender any confidence in them to invest in Australia. The Deputy Prime Minister completely ignored the situation in which manufacturing industries find themselves and he completely ignored the consequences of tariff cuts, devaluation and all of these other matters.
Unemployed workers from secondary industries have a lot to be worried and concerned about in what the Deputy Prime Minister said today. I think that those people who have the opportunity of reading what has been said this afternoon will agree that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) put forward a strong and constructive speech outlining the concern that the Opposition has, because there is great concern. The Deputy Prime Minister said that some secondary industries are doing well and some are doing badly. I suppose anyone can make a generalised statement like that. We know from the survey figures that are now being compiled by the Department of Manufacturing Industry that the prospects are the gloomiest since the surveys were first conducted. Other surveys conducted by the Bank of New South Wales and the ANZ bank indicate great concern as to how secondary industries are to cope in future.
I think the difficulties of manufacturing industry can be summed up in this way. There has been a very sharp rise in imports; profits are being squeezed by rising wages and costs, and by the activities of the Prices Justification Tribunal; interest rates are very high, and finance is hard to get; domestic and export demand have slackened; and unchecked inflation is eating the heart out of the economy. The net result of all this is a fall in profitability, a consequent fall in capacity to invest and capacity to employ people. The Government, after producing an extremely serious situation in the manufacturing sector and badly hurting many of Labor’s strongest supportersthe people in the work force- has at last begun to show some faint signs of understanding about what is happening, and why it is happening.
There has been a slight reduction in the rate of company tax, but there needs to be a great deal more to engender any confidence. All companies, in all sectors, should be told that there is no need to comply with the requirement that they pay the quarterly tax instalments which are going to place tremendous strains on liquidity. The Government’s adamant, if not dogmatic, approach to 3 revaluations of the currency last year did enormous harm. The Government must do something about the damage being done to industry as a result of its arbitrary and indiscriminate across-the-board tariff cut of last year. This cut failed to do what it was supposed to do- that is, to keep down prices. All it did was to damage Australian industry and put many thousands out of work. But the Deputy Prime Minister says that this is a trivial matter.
I am not suggesting a blanket reinstatement of the previous tariff levels. What I am suggesting is selective action to repair the damage caused by the Government’s inept handling of this matter. There must be more encouragement of export. There must be encouragement of investment in industry. Industry must be able to get investment finance on better terms. The tragedy is that, whatever the Government does- and there is really no sign that it intends to do anything more than the meagre amount it has done already- the outlook for the immediate future is by no means encouraging. The first quarter of next year seems certain to see inflation at a rate of about 25 per cent.
Unemployment then could be as high as 300,000 in March. I suppose that is going to be trivial too when they have to face up to it.
There is no sign of increasing domestic demand. World demand will remain slack. World commodity prices are unlikely to pick up to any degree. Liquidity will remain a problem, and interest rates are unlikely to fall. All in all, the picture is a depressing one, and the responsibility largely rests with this Government. Of course, when we have tried to draw the attention of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) to these things in the past, he has accused us of being rumourmongers, prophets of doom, and saboteurs of confidence. Yet now we have the Prime Minister himself talking about the worst economic prospects for 40 years. We have the president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions predicting the worst depression in Australia since the thirties. Who now are the saboteurs of confidence, the rumour-mongers, the prophets of doom? How can there be any certainty, and confidence that the Government knows which way it is going, when we are seeing so many somersaults and about-faces and changes of gear?
We have the Deputy Prime Minister, the erstwhile foe of foreign investment, the champion of Australia for Australians, now running around the world, cap in hand, pleading- crawling- for foreign money to try to get the Australian economy out of the mess this Government has got itself into. We have the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron), that former battler against the evil, sinister world of big business, now self-righteously shouting to the world the virtue- the absolute necessity- for business and industry to make profits. How on earth can anyone have the slightest confidence that this Government has the faintest idea of where it is going when you have these backflips going on all the time in the 3-ring circus called the Whitlam Government?
We even have the Prime Minister writing to the Prices Justification Tribunal telling it to stop squeezing companies so hard they cannot find the money to re-invest. What an admission. What an admission now after about 12 months of practically crippling them. What a shambles this Government is in.
After nearly 2 years of industry bashing, the larrikins of the Labor Party are beginning- but only beginning- to come to their senses, and to realise how much damage they have caused. The trouble is that there is no easy way to repair that damage. The government now has to knuckle down to the job of trying to patch up the mess as best it can, and to carry manufacturing industry through the coming tough times to avoid the impact and social fallout that will be the result of its policies. Dressed-up dole schemes, like NEAT and RED, are all very well, and all very necessary.
This Government has a lot to answer for for the ‘trivial amount’ of 190,000 unemployed now and the 300,000 there will be next year. But as far as we on this side of the House are concerned, it is not trivial at all. It concerns the lives of people; it concerns industry. If we have an opportunity we will instil a bit of confidence back into the Australian community. We will encourage savings and the capacity to reinvest. That is what this nation desperately needs. I doubt whether it will ever get it with a Minister for Manufacturing Industry telling industry what it ought to do, giving it little lectures from day to day on an academic approach to these problems.
-Order! The right honourable member’s time has expired.
– It is understandable that speakers in this chamber should engage in debating points, but on a matter as serious as this it is perhaps to be regretted that Opposition spokesmen try to score points all the time. For example, the Deputy Prime Minister (Dr J. F. Cairns) in his speech referred to unemployment in Australia being trivial compared to what it is overseas. That is all he meant. He stressed the seriousness of it generally to any Labor government but the triviality of Australia ‘s unemployment compared to what it is overseas. His words were taken completely out of context and twisted as would cheap schoolboy debaters.
The seriousness with which the Opposition takes the point can be appreciated if one reflects on the fact that since this Parliament resumed in this sessional period on 17 September some 14 matters of public importance have been raised for discussion. As Minister for Manufacturing Industry I have watched each day come and go waiting for some kind of reference to manufacturing industry to indicate that some concern was being felt by Opposition spokesmen about it. Fourteen occasions came and 14 occasions went and today, after a long delay, the Opposition suddenly has got around to it. It suddenly has discovered that there is a thing called manufacturing industry.
As long ago as the last election campaign in April and May of this year, this Government was concerned about what was happening to certain aspects of manufacturing industry and in particular the textile industry. During the election campaign the Government sent a reference to the Textiles Authority on the subject. It was a 30-day reference which was acted upon promptly and which resulted in voluntary restraints being imposed on overseas exporters of certain types of textile articles to Australia, with considerable effect. That was in April of this year but, if one peruses the records of this House and the questions that have come forward from Opposition spokesmen who have now belatedly suddenly discovered a thing called manufacturing industry, one will find a benign indifference and a benign neglect of the importance of the subject.
As the Opposition spokesmen try to single out areas and, without saying what should be done, say: ‘Do something, do something, do something’, directing remarks to this Government which has done more in its short term of office than any other previous government ever did in Australia, they bring disrepute upon themselves. I just remind some of the honourable members who sit opposite of their attitudes to some things. For example, one hears references to the 25 per cent reduction in tariffs that was made as long ago as July 1973- a fine decision made properly and not criticised at the time. I remind the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden), who sits opposite, that he was given the opportunity in July 1 973 in a radio broadcast to make a comment and he did not utter a single word of dissent from that proposal. Today it is fashionable and common and the in thing to say: ‘Ah, you should not have done that’. When he had the opportunity to dissent, there was not a single word of dissent. The Opposition front bench spokesman on these matters, the honourable member for Berowra (Dr Edwards), accepted the across the board tariff reductions at that time as being a useful weapon against inflation. I can direct him to the passage in Hansard if he wishes me to do so. One can find such examples wherever one looks.
I remind honourable members that as this Government took steps and action on economic matters during 1973 they were universally applauded. How often was it said: ‘No one can fault the economics of the Whitlam Labor Government’? But now, because of world-wide trends which are affecting most of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries, and we are only one of twentythree -
– What about New Zealand?
-Yes, including New Zealand. Honourable members opposite argue as though Australia is an island not related to the rest of the world and not sharing the international trading patterns which affect the rest of the world as well. May I put to honourable members some information coming from such an authoritative source as the Secretariat of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development of which Australia is part. It is estimated that there will be little, if any, economic growth- one of the symptoms that affects Australia at the moment- in any of the OECD countries during 1975. We are not Robinson Crusoe; we share this world with a lot of other countries and they all share these problems. According to the same source, consumer prices are rising rapidly in all the OECD countries. In Japan and the United Kingdom, for example, they are rising at the annual rate of 23 per cent and 16 per cent respectively. In those countries unemployment is very widespread. It stood at 6 per cent of the work force of the United States in September; in Canada it was 5 per cent; in West Germany it was more than 3 per cent; and in all 3 countries, as in the other OECD nations, it is expected to rise still further.
I repeat that the situation that the world has now applies in Australia and it is not of any assistance to honourable members in this debate to forget what were the troubles last year. There was a world-wide commodity boom. We all know it. There was excess liquidity throughout the entire world. Money was coming out of the pores of the trading nations in excess quantities and the explanations for it can be put at various doors. Some people say that it was the result of the way in which the Vietnam war was financed. So be it if it was; it may have been caused by other matters. But the symptom was clear. As our Treasurer (Mr Crean) once put it, Australia was left completely defenceless by the previous Government against those developments which were taking place overseas. We had nothing like a variable deposit rule or a proper exchange rate for the Australian dollar, and the foreign money poured into Australia creating such an element of excess demand that inflation took off in the latter pan of 1972 helped- aided and abetted if you like -
– Why is there inflation now?
– I shall come to that. It was aided and abetted by the Budget of the previous Government in 1972 which had a deficit of $660m, as the then Government tried to bribe itself through the 1972 election. This Government has tried successfully to put right the injustices of so many years of neglect in social services, health, hospital benefits, redress for the cities and so forth. The Government has not lost sight of the need to encourage industry. Indeed, one of our first measures, I remind honourable members, was the creation of the Industries Assistance Commission. There could be no finer charter of what this Government stands for than the language we wrote into the Act to establish the Commission, which had the full hearted support of the Liberal Party notwithstanding that the Australian Country Party saw in it the danger to certain interests of privilege that it sometimes in reality represents. But with the support of the Liberal Party this Government, in section 22 of the Industries Assistance Commission Act, said:
The Commission shall have regard to the desire of the Australian Government, in pursuing the general objectives of national economic and social policy and urban and regional development, to improve and promote the well being of the people of Australia, with full employment, stability in the general level of prices, viability in external economic relations, conservation of the natural environment and rising and generally enjoyed standards of living . . .
In that respect we have been largely successful, notwithstanding the obstructionism of the Senate.
– The Minister has not said one word about manufacturing industry.
-Have I not? Just listen to me. We set up the Industries Assistance Commission and we recognised that the form, the structure, of industry in Australia was not at its optimum, as the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) has been heard to say on other occasions in other places but rarely in this House. I have read some of the speeches he has made to bodies like the Manufacturing Industry Advisory Council. We began a program of structural change. The Leader of the Australian Country Party has talked about dole schemes. There is nothing to do with the dole in a scheme like the assistance scheme for country towns, which will assist- I emphasise the word ‘assist’- firms in country towns, in which employment opportunities and investment opportunities are perhaps not as widespread as they might be, to move into more viable areas. There is nothing of a dole mentality about a structural adjustment board which will seek to improve -
-Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
– I wish to make a personal explanation, Mr Speaker.
-Does the honourable member for Berowra claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, Mr Speaker. The Minister -
-Order! The honourable member has not spoken during the debate. Therefore the honourable member cannot have been misrepresented.
- Mr Speaker -
-Order! The honourable member has not spoken during the debate. Therefore he could not have been -
- Mr Speaker -
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat.
– The Minister at the table -
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. The discussion is concluded.
Bill presented by Mr Crean, and read a first time.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Honourable members will recall that my colleague the Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wriedt), on behalf of the Australian Government, announced on 27 August that the Australian Wool Corporation would operate a minimum- floor- price equivalent to 250c per kilo clean for 2 1 micron wool during the 1 974-75 season and that the Government would guarantee sufficient funds for this purpose. Honourable members will also recall that, in addition to the $13m provided in the Budget for advances to the Corporation, Parliament, in September last, made available $150m by way of a special appropriation under the Wool Marketing (Loan) Act. The purpose of this Bill is to amend that Act to enable me, on behlf of the Australian Government, to make further loans of up to an additional $200m to the Corporation. Thus the total provision under the Act would be increased to $350m. Proceeds of loans to the Corporation under the Act are available for financing purchases of wool at auction- including tender- and for the making of advances to growers whose wool is withheld from the market by the Corporation.
Since the 1974-75 wool selling season commenced the Corporation has, under its minimum reserve price operations, purchased on average approximately 50 per cent of the reduced offering at auction. As at 15 November its stockpile had reached some 800,000 bales, and it had committed over S90m of the $150m. Clearly there is the prospect that the $150m could become fully committed while the Parliament is in recess. It is therefore necessary, before Parliament rises, to make provision for further loans to the Corporation.
It is considered that the amount available to the Corporation should be sufficiently large to cover its requirements to the end of the wool selling season. The total amount of funds likely to be required for the Corporation’s purposes is difficult to establish, depending as it does on the extent to which the trade supports the market. But, insofar as it is possible to predict at this stage, we judge that a further amount of $200m should be adequate for this purpose, and the Bill seeks an additional appropriation of that amount. We shall, of course, keep the position under close review. We do not rule out the possibility of the Corporation obtaining further trading bank finance later in the season. In that event the amounts I would need to advance to the Corporation under the Act would of course be correspondingly reduced.
I am sure that honourable members will appreciate the need for expeditious action in this matter, to ensure a continuing provision of funds to the Corporation and to demonstrate beyond all possible doubt the Corporation’s capacity to sustain its floor price operations. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Nixon) adjourned.
Bill presented by Dr Patterson, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to implement in full the dairy adjustment program announced by the Government on 8 April. Following that announcement, action was taken to bring in enabling legislation, to provide authority for so much of the program as could be carried into effect by amendment of the legislation passed in 1970 for dairy reconstruction. Parliamentary action was delayed by the double dissolution in May. Once the Government was returned to office, action was taken during the July sittings on the necessary amendments so that elements of the program at the farm level could be given effect. Simultaneously the Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wriedt) and his Department held discussions with the States regarding their participation in the enhanced range of assistance now becoming available to dairy farmers under the program. All States have signified their cooperation after somewhat protracted negotiation. The measure now presented to Parliament will make possible the operation of the program in its entirety.
Broadly speaking the program provides for a comprehensive range of assistance to enable uneconomic dairy farmers to up-grade their farms to a stage where they can become viable self sustaining enterprises; interest-free loans with flexible repayment periods, to assist the change-over of producers to refrigerated bulk milk supply, with concurrent assistance as necessary to factories; and, finally, relocation assistance for displaced dairy farmers and displaced factory workers. For the convenience of honourable members I have had circulated with the Bill a list of the measures of assistance provided under the program. I seek leave to have this summary incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
DIARY ADJUSTMENT PROGRAM
The Dairy Adjustment Program comprises: a broadening of the Marginal Dairy Farms Reconstruction Scheme into a more comprehensive dairy adjustment scheme; interest-free loans to help suppliers change-over to refrigerated bulk milk delivery with concurrent assistance as necessary to factories; and relocation assistance to displaced dairy farmers and dairy factory workers.
The interest-free loans for supplier change-over are retrospective to 23 July 1973.
Specific measures are: inclusion of liquid milk supplies; direct conveyancing in the amalgamation of land: write-off of redundant assets on the home property ( previously confined to acquired property); interest-free loans for change-over to refrigerated bulk milk delivery with repayment periods being flexible to meet individual circumstances; assistance to develop uneconomic dairy farms into economic units other than by whole-farm build-up e.g. by paddock purchases, or by finance to clear land, improve pastures, water supply etc; diversification out of dairying where appropriate by loans for land purchase, property development, livestock and equipment and by grants for the write-off of redundant dairy bails and plant; finance for built-up producers to develop more readily the full potential of the enlarged property i.e. loans for property development, purchase of livestock and equipment; and relocation assistance for displaced dairy farmers.
Assistance for displaced dairy factory employees is being covered by the structural adjustment measures to apply to factory workers generally.
-The amendment of the Marginal Dairy Farms Agreements Act 1970 in the last session was essentially an intermediate step pending introduction of the present comprehensive legislation. This Bill provides for the repeal of the Marginal Dairy Farms Agreements Act 1970-1974 and incorporates those elements of the program brought into effect by that Act. It contains a savings clause to provide the necessary transitional arrangements between the two pieces of legislation. As in the Marginal Dairy Farms Agreements Act and for reasons again explained in the preamble to the present Bill, the assistance to be provided under the 2-year dairy adjustment program from 1 July 1974 to 30 June 1976 will be exempted from the need for reference to the Industries Assistance Commission. The question of Government assistance to the dairy industry after 30 June 1976 has already been referred for inquiry and report by the Industries Assistance Commission.
I turn now to the new features of the Bill. The title of the Bill reflects the significant broadening of the former marginal dairy farms reconstruction scheme, namely the transition from a scheme providing limited assistance to the lowincome segment of the industry to a program with broad appeal for a significant part of the industry. The expression ‘marginal dairy farm’ in the 1970-1974 Act has been replaced by ‘uneconomic dairy farm’ so as to describe more accurately the wider range of farms whose owners may be eligible for assistance under the program.
There are 2 changes of substance in the Bill. Firstly it will enable any dairy farmer to be assisted to convert to refrigerated bulk milk delivery. Under the Marginal Dairy Farms Agreements Act interest free loans for the purchase and installation of refrigerated vats were restricted to the owners of marginal dairy farms.
The second change relates to assistance to dairy factories. Clause 16 of the Bill provides for the making of loans to dairy factories in cases where alterations are required to be made to the premises or where plant and equipment have to be purchased in order to provide facilities for suppliers to change-over to supplying refrigerated bulk milk to the factory. It is intended that loans will be available for delivery and receival facilities. However, there is provision in the Bill for assistance with the installation of processing equipment in special circumstances and subject to the consent of the Australian and State Ministers or delegates authorised to act on their behalf. Assistance to a dairy factory will be provided where finance is not readily available from banking or other normal commercial sources on reasonable terms.
The State governments have undertaken to administer the dairy adjustment program. Several States are already operating those parts of the program authorised by the Marginal Dairy Farms Agreements Act. The full co-operation of the States is essential for the successful administration of a scheme of this nature and I am pleased to acknowledge their assistance in this matter.
The Bill authorises the implementation of the whole of the dairy adjustment program except in relation to assistance for displaced dairy factory workers. That part of the program is being encompassed by the Government’s general scheme of adjustment assistance for structural change. In the last session the dairy adjustment program received the unanimous support of all members of Parliament. It has been well received by the industry. This Bill will enable the Program to be put into effect at factory level as well as on the farms. I commend the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Mr Nixon) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Les Johnson, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
As honourable members will be aware one of the first steps taken by the Government when it took office in 1972 was to carry out a comprehensive review of the war service homes scheme. The changes which were subsequently made by the Defence Service Homes Act 1973 were the most significant since the enactment of the original War Service Homes Act, which received the royal assent on Christmas day 1918. The Government has carried out a further review of the scheme and this Bill makes provision for a number of additional important changes in the scheme which are designed to improve substantially the borrowing arrangements under the scheme.
Provision is made in the Bill for an increase in the maximum loan to $ 1 5,000. The Government considers that this is necessary in view of the increase in the cost of acquiring a home since the maximum loan was increased to $12,000 in 1973.
The Bill provides also for a liberalisation of the eligibility provisions of the Act which will remove the restrictions which, since the inception of the scheme, have prevented single men and widowers with the necessary qualifying service from receiving assistance. A similar restriction relating to the granting of assistance to single and widowed females was removed last year. This amendment will remove all discrimination in the Defence Service Homes Act against single persons, thus giving full recognition to the principle that defence service homes benefits are granted not only as a measure of repatriation, but also as a reward for service.
The Bill contains limited provisions which will enable the balance of an existing loan to be made available for the acquisition of another property in special circumstances. Since the inception of the scheme in 1919 it has been the intention that an eligible person shall be granted assistance under the scheme in respect of only one home. In conformity with this intention, the Act provides that the Director of Defence Service Homes shall not grant to any one person a loan in respect of more than one property, except with the approval of the Minister.
Under the existing provisions of the Act, when a purchaser or borrower sells his defence service home and discharges his liability, the amount received must be paid into the Consolidated Revenue Fund and is not available for allocation towards the building or purchase of another home. While the Act empowers the Minister to approve the grant of assistance for another property, the loan must be provided from the annual appropriation of funds for defence service homes. As a consequence, where a second loan is approved, the funds available for applicants who have not previously been assisted under the scheme are correspondingly reduced.
Although the policy is being administered more liberally and sympathetically than prior to December 1 972, it has been necessary to be careful and conservative in approving second loans in order not to jeopardise the interests of persons seeking initial loans.
The Government feels there is a need for more flexible arrangements which will enable the balance of a loan to be transferred in special circumstances without adversely affecting the interests of persons seeking assistance for the first time. Accordingly provision has been made in the Bill for a standing appropriation of moneys in the Consolidated Revenue Fund to the extent of the balance of the moneys outstanding under a contract of sale or advance under the Act paid to the Director, where, by virtue of an approval by the Minister under section 19b and 20a of the Act, the Director has entered or enters into a further contract of sale or advance with that person in respect of another dwelling-house.
In conformity with the intention of the scheme, the balance of an existing loan will be made available for the acquisition of another home only in special circumstances. In general, approvals will be limited to cases where the applicant is compelled to move from his present defence service home through circumstances beyond his control. An application for approval must be made before the first home is sold and the amount of assistance will ordinarily not exceed the balance of the existing loan.
The Bill provides for an extension of the definition of ‘holding’ in the Act to include a lease on Norfolk Island from Australia or from the Administration of the Territory granted for a term of not less than 28 years. At present the only leasehold interests on Norfolk Island which can be accepted under the Defence Service Homes Act are leases in perpetuity or leases for a term not less than 99 years. This has caused some difficulty as leases on Norfolk Island are normally limited to 28 years.
The Government has reviewed the interest rate charged on loans made under the Act. The present rate of 3% per cent per annum was fixed in 1946. Since then, the long term bond rate has risen from 3V4 per cent to 9Vi per cent per annum. The Bill provides for an interest rate of 3% per cent per annum to be charged to a purchaser or borrower in respect of a loan not exceeding $12,000. Where the amount of loan exceeds $12,000, the Bill provides for interest to be charged at the prescribed rate in respect of that part of the loan which exceeds $12,000. Provision is also made for interest to be charged at the prescribed rate in respect of any additional loan made to a purchaser or borrower.
It is proposed that the prescribed rate shall be 2 per cent below the most favourable rate charged by the Commonwealth Savings Bank on housing loans. The most favourable rate at present is 9V4 per cent and accordingly the Bill provides that the prescribed rate of interest shall be 7V4 per cent per annum or such other rate as may be prescribed.
In reviewing the interest rate to be charged on defence service homes loans, the Government noted that loans were being made to eligible persons such as widows, totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners, persons living on an age or invalid pension or small superannuation payment who ordinarily could not meet the obligations of home ownership except under the concessional conditions presently provided in the Act. Provision has accordingly been made in the Bill for the granting of a measure of relief in relation to the instalments payable in cases where those instalments include an amount of interest calculated at a rate exceeding 3.7S per cent per annum and the Minister is satisfied it would cause hardship to the purchaser or borrower if he were required to pav the amount of instalments in full.
The Bill includes a number of other amendments to the Act which are either of an administrative nature or are consequential upon the proposed changes in the interest rate provisions and other measures included in the Bill.
The defence service homes scheme has now been in operation for more than 55 years. During that time nearly 350,000 persons have been assisted under the scheme to become home owners. Since it took office in December 1972, the Government has liberalised and extended the scope of the scheme and it can look with pride on what it has done to provide homes for service and ex-service personnel under the scheme. The provisions of this Bill will enable the valuable contribution made in past years by the defence service homes scheme to the housing of the Australian people to be maintained and improved upon. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Peacock) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Morrison, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Papua New Guinea Act 1949-1974 to enable Australia to transfer to Papua New Guinea responsibility for those matters which at present remain reserved to Australia, as soon as their transfer is requested by the Papua New Guinea Government. This is in line with Australia’s policy of ensuring that Papua New Guinea exercises final responsibility in all matters of government before assuming full independence. It is also in line with a recent statement by the Opposition spokesman on Papua New Guinea matters, the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock) who argued that it would be wise ‘To settle all areas prior to independence so that on independence the Papua New Guinea Government would not just be governing in all areas but would be doing so at law.’
Clause 3 of the Papua New Guinea Bill (No. 2), amends section 5(lA) of the Papua New Guinea Act which deals with reserved matters. The matters presently reserved to Australia are defence, foreign relations and certain matters specified by proclamation under the Papua New Guinea Act. These matters are the Supreme Court of Papua New Guinea and all other courts established by Papua New Guinea enactment, authority in relation to legal aid, responsibility for instituting prosecutions, House of Assembly and electoral policy matters. Honourable members will recall that authority over these matters was reserved to Australia at self government at the specific request of the Papua New Guinea Government. These matters will be deproclaimed when Papua New Guinea requests their transfer.
Clause 3 of the BUI provides for the omission of paragraphs (a) and (b) of sub-section 5 ( 1 a) of the Papua New Guinea Act. These paragraphs reserve to Australia the matters of defence and foreign relations. When Papua New Guinea requests the transfer of authority over these matters the repeal of those paragraphs will be proclaimed.
Papua New Guinea has already introduced its defence legislation in the House of Assembly and when this has been enacted Australian defence legislation will need to be amended to enable the completion of the transfer of authority. The exercise of responsibility by the Government of Papua New Guinea in the areas of defence and foreign relations until formal independence must be subject to Australia’s treaty obligations and responsibilities in international law and to the United Nations under the Charter and the Trusteeship Agreement. However the transfer of final control to Papua New Guinea within this framework will allow Papua New Guinea to give effect to its own policies and priorities in these matters, policies and priorities which in fact it is already formulating. As I have said, Australian policy is to enable Papua New Guinea to exercise authority in all matters of government before the formal step to independence, and these amendments are designed to give effect to this.
Clauses 4 to 9 of the Bill relate to Part VI of the Papua New Guinea Act- the judicial system. With the transfer of authority over the Supreme Court of Papua New Guinea, Part VI of the Act will be amended to provide for the functions now assigned to and powers held by the GovernorGeneral under sections 58 to 61 of the Act to be conferred on and exercised by the High Commissioner of Papua New Guinea. The High Commissioner will have responsibility for the appointment of the Chief Justice and such other judges and acting judges as are required and for other decisions relating to the qualifications of judges and to the tenure of judges’ appointments. In line with these amendments the Governor-General’s instructions to the High Commissioner will require him to act on the advice of the Papua New Guinea Government in exercising his functions under Part VI of the Act.
Sub-section 62a (6) of the Papua New Guinea Act at present authorises the Governor-General to disallow rules of court. The Bill in clause 8 makes provision for such rules of court in future to be laid before the House of Assembly within 15 sitting days after their making. Disallowance, if considered necessary, will be by resolution of the House of Assembly.
The Papua New Guinea Government has requested that when the transfer of authority over judicial matters takes place section 64 of the Act should be repealed and clause 9 of the Bill provides for this. Section 64 of the Act provided that the Australian High Court has jurisdiction to hear and determine appeals of all judgments, decrees, orders and sentences of a Full Court of the Supreme Court of Papua New Guinea. Clause 10 of the Bill amends section 73 (2) of the Act to empower the High Commissioner to grant pardons or remissions or commutations of sentence to offenders sentenced to death by a court exercising criminal jurisdiction in Papua New Guinea.
Clause 1 1 of the Bill provides for transitional provisions necessitated by the amendments. Paragraphs (1), (3), (4), (5) and (6) provide that action taken or commenced under the existing provisions of the Act shall not be affected by the proposed amendments. Paragraph (2) provides that persons holding office as judges or acting judges cease to hold office on transfer but are eligible for appointment under the amended Act. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Peacock) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Morrison, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Judges’ Pensions Act 1968-1973 to provide for the payment of pensions to persons who are or have been judges of the Supreme Court of Papua New Guinea (Papua New Guinea judges). This Bill has been prepared after consultation with the Papua New Guinea judges. By arrangement with the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy), I am introducing this Bill so that it can be considered at the same time as the Papua New Guinea Bill (No. 2), which I have just introduced. Amendments of the Papua New Guinea Act to be made by the Papua New Guinea Bill (No. 2), which I have just introduced, will, amongst other things, transfer to the Papua New Guinea Government control over appointments of judges to the Supreme Court of Papua New Guinea.
The Supreme Court will continue to exist by virtue of Part VI of the Act, but appointments of judges made by the Governor-General under section 59 of that Act will cease to have effect on and after the date of transfer of the Supreme Court to Papua New Guinea. At present, pensions are payable to those judges and to former judges and their dependants by virtue of the Judges’ Pensions Act 1969 of Papua New Guinea. These pensions are in fact being paid by the Australian Government.
The effect of the Bill will be to bring those of the present judges who were appointed before 1 December 1973, the date on which Papua New Guinea achieved self-Government, under the Australian Judges’ Pensions Act, so that their pension rights are guaranteed by Australian legislation. Existing pensioners under the Papua New Guinea Judges’ Pensions Act will also be brought under the Australian legislation. Clause 4 provides that a Papua New Guinea judge appointed before 1 December 1973 who has attained the age of 55 years and who retires after serving as a judge for not less than 10 years will be entitled to a full pension at a rate equal to 60 per centum of. the ‘appropriate current judicial salary’. Such a judge who, not being otherwise entitled to a full pension, ceases to hold office as a judge because his services are no longer required by the Papua New Guinea Government will receive a full pension irrespective of his length of service. If a judge leaves voluntarily before completing the qualifying period of service, the judge will receive a pro rata pension based on the total of the years that he has served as a judge and the period of leave due to the judge on his retirement. If special circumstances exist, the Governor-General may determine that a judge who would otherwise be entitled to a pro rata pension is nevertheless to receive a full pension.
Clause 5 ensures that a judge will not receive 2 pensions in respect of the same periods of service. It brings the existing provision in the Judges’ Pensions Act up to date. Clause 6 is a parallel provision to the existing section 18. It applies the Bill to Papua New Guinea judges who may have retired or died before the commencement of the clause, so that they or their dependants will receive pensions under the Bill.
Mr Acting Speaker, the enactment of this Bill and the Papua New Guinea Bill (No. 2) will enable Australia to respond to the wishes of the Government of Papua New Guinea in the transfer of authority to that country. I commend them to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Peacock) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 13 November, on motion by Mr Barnard:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The provisions of this Bill are confined to increasing defence forces retirement benefits and defence forces retirement and death benefits to compensate, I suppose you would call it, for inflation. The method adopted is to apply the 16.2 per cent increase in average weekly earnings for the 12 months ending 31 March this year to a notional consolidated revenue portion of the pension. This is done in lieu of the automatic annual adjustment mechanism which was recommended by the Jess Committee and which the Government is committed to introducing but which it is still studying. The Opposition supports this Bill, but I would like to make a few comments on it.
The first comment I make is that I wonder whether, in the light of a situation which the Government admitted in its Budget of wage increases of over 20 per cent, this 16.2 per cent increase will be sufficient to protect the recipients of these pensions against inflation. In fact, I am sure that it will not be sufficient. The pensioners will get further and further behind. I make this point because it adds force to the next point I want to make, that is, the importance which the Opposition attaches to the introduction of the automatic system of adjustment which presumably will cater more precisely for increases in costs and anticipated increases in costs than the present ad hoc method adopted by the Government.
There are 2 matters in which the Government is dragging its feet in the general area of defence forces retirement benefits. The first is the area that I have just been speaking of, that is, the failure to introduce automatic adjustments to pensions. It is more than Vh years since the Jess Committee recommended that automatic adjustments be made to pensions. I realise that the Government has been looking at new proposals that have been put to it and the effects their possible introduction may have on the future of the pension updating arrangements currently in force. But surely 2 years is a sufficient time to bring this sort of examination to a conclusion. Until such time as automatic adjustments are introduced, the pensioners under this scheme will be dependent on the whims of the Government to make annual adjustments. I ask the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard ) in replying to this debate to give the House a report of when he believes it will be possible to introduce the automatic adjustments.
The second matter on which the Government has been dragging its feet relates to the fact that it is now more than a year since the Minister announced- it was widely circulated in Service circles- that anomalies had been revealed by the application of the new scheme, particularly in relation to officers who froze their contributions under the old scheme. He said then that the anomalies would be removed by the introduction of amending legislation, probably in the autumn session of Parliament. This statement was made last year. The autumn session has passed. He also stated that the benefits would be made retrospective to 1 October 1972. In those circumstances it would have been reasonable to expect that these amendments would be included in legislation introduced in November of 1974. Again, I hope the Minister will inform the House of the position in relation to that undertaking and those amendments when he replies to the debate.
The main point that I wish to raise this afternoon relates to those people to whom, so far as I am aware, the Minister has given no undertaking except that automatic updating of pensions will apply to them. I refer to the 8,000 or 9,000 pensioners who retired prior to October 1972 and who are not included in the new scheme. The very generosity of this new scheme- it is a generous one- highlights the situation of these people. I cite the case of 2 officers whom I know personally. They are of the same rank and retired only a month apart. They retired a month apart purely because of an accident of birth. They both entered the Royal Military College, Duntroon, in the same year. They retired a month apart. But as a result of that month’s difference in retirement dates there is no less than $5,000 a year difference between the pensions that the two of them receive. The reason for that of course is that one retired before 1 October 1972 and the other retired afterwards. I might add that the person who retired first, and who is receiving $5,000 a year less in pension, over the period of his service for various reasons contributed in total more to the scheme than the person on the higher pension.
I am informed- I have not been able to get any accurate assessment of this- that the disparity on the average between the pensions received under the 2 schemes taken overall- of course there will be individual exceptions- may well be of the order of 50 per cent. In other words, the pensions of people under the new scheme- those people in comparable circumstances and people who retired at the same rank- will be 50 per cent higher. Of course every time there is a percentage increase such as the one contained in this Bill the disparity widens. It has widened twice in the last 2 years as a result of these 2 annual adjustments brought in by this Government. It is not as if these people contributed less as a percentage of their pay; in many cases they contributed more. Towards the end of their service some of them contributed much more. Indeed, it was the hardship done to these people, particularly the ones who were subject to payments of very considerable proportions of their salaries as contributions towards the end of their service, which led to much of the pressure to set up the Jess Committee and the introduction of the new scheme. To demonstrate the point I am making about the difficulties suffered by some of these people, perhaps I could read a letter from a retired warrant officer living in Canberra. The letter states:
Analysis of the copies of letters and replies forwarded under cover of my letter-
That is, letters to the Minister for Defence. to you dated 24 June 1974 will prove how specific questions -comments made by me on down to earth dollar and cent issues, do not receive tangible replies; in fact, some infer how lucky I am, or, even more undiplomatic, how lucky those are under the new scheme. I believe that the Minister or his assistant who signs these replies has only a sketchy idea as to what it means in actual pension rate.
Incidentally, I do not believe that this is correct because I believe that the Minister knows a great deal about this scheme, particularly as he was a member of the Joint Select Committee on the Defence Forces Retirements Benefits Legislation. But nevertheless it describes the feelings of this warrant officer after he had been in receipt of communications signed by the Minister for Defence or the Minister assisting the Minister for Defence (Mr Morrison). The letter continues:
I believe also that if he read the replies concurrently with the letter, he would doubt if he was signing the correct paper. It seems a case of the Government being run by the administration.
It has reached a point where trying to get through is difficult. Most of the replies talk percentages, and that proportionately we are not badly off; also they go to great lengths to pad out their letters, amplifying matters on which I have never criticised, complained about, or raised. I purely wanted to get home to him that my residual pension, after commuting one-third, is a taxable $19.43 (repeat $19.43) per week, with correspondingly poor widows pension in the event of my death. Replies that ‘I haven’t been badly done by percentagewise’ doesn’t comfort me or my wife, and doesn’t increase my ability to pay bills. My ex-service friends receive similar replies.
I would add that the increase we are talking about in this legislation will give that person, as I calculate it, an extra $2.49 a week but it will not bring his pension up to a princely sum. The Government’s failure to do anything about the plight of these people contrasts strangely with its generosity to other groups of existing pensioners for whom the Commonwealth has responsibility. I mention particularly the position of existing pensioners when the parliamentary retiring allowances scheme was changed by this Government. I think that was a great step forward. One of the concomitants of a government’s taking a decision to provide a scheme of that nature is its readiness to do the same in relation to other people for whom it has responsibility and who are similarly placed, because I contend that there is no difference between a DFRB pensioner under the pre-October scheme and a parliamentary pensioner who retired, say, 20 years ago and whose pension under new legislation, regardless of the amount contributed, will automatically become 50 per cent or more than 50 per cent higher, depending on his period of service, of the existing parliamentary salary and any increases in parliamentary salary which might be granted in the future. I believe that if a government is ready to take a decision to treat one group of pensioners in a certain way, it should accept the consequence of that decision that it has an obligation to treat other pensioners for which it has responsibility in a similar way.
It is difficult to know precisely what the Jess Committee intended in relation to this group of people. Certainly these people came within the Committee’s terms of reference. But from what I could discover from the odd reference in the report itself and talking to some members of the Committee, the pressure to make recommendations for a new scheme was such that it left the Committee insufficient time to sort out the complexities involved in making recommendations in respect of this particular group, except for the one recommendation that it made, relating to automatic updating. The point I am making is that, if my information is correct, the absence of specific recommendations in respect of this group does not mean that the Jess Committee believed that nothing should be done. Indeed in the comparable debate in May 1973, one member of the Committee, the previous honourable member for Isaacs, Mr Hamer, used words which lead me to the belief that the Committee felt that something more should have been done about this particular group of pensioners. The Minister was a member of that Committee and perhaps when he replies in the debate he can give us his version of where the Committee was placed and what the Committee intended in respect of this group.
The Opposition supports the suggestion which, I believe, has been put to the Minister by the remaining members of the Committee who are members of this Parliament and who are not Ministers- my colleague, the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett), Senator Maunsell, and Senator Devitt who is a member of the Minister’s own Party. We support the suggestion made to the Minister by that group and by the Regular Defence Forces Welfare Association that a new committee be constituted to make recommendations in relation to servicemen who retired prior to October 1972. 1 believe that it should be a select committee of the
Parliament for 2 reasons: First, the original committee was a select committee and this could be looked upon as a continuation of work which that committee did not have time to complete and, secondly and perhaps more importantly, it was this Parliament which took the responsibility for providing the precedent in relation to Commonwealth pensioners when it passed the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Bill. Therefore, it should be a committee of this Parliament which faces up to the responsibility, the equity and the moral obligations that the Parliament has, in the light of that particular decision of the Parliament, to other groups for whom the Commonwealth has responsibility. Irrespective of whether the Minister agrees to set up such a select committee, the Opposition is committed, when it is returned to government, to set up such a committee to make recommendations in relation to equitable treatment for the pre-October 1972 pensioners. The Opposition supports the Bill.
-Like the honourable member for Barker (Dr Forbes), I support this Bill. There are a couple of comments I would like to make about it. This Bill is long overdue and, as far as I am concerned, is most welcome. Why it has taken the Government so long to introduce it I shall never know because to my way of thinking it is a simple, straightforward and, incidentally, important enough matter to warrant earlier action. When the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard) introduced the pension increases for defence force retirement benefit recipients 17 months ago he explained that those increases were an interim measure only and, in keeping with his promise, when he introduced the new Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits (Pension Increases) Bill indicated that the increases would be automatic annual adjustments. Seventeen months later we are still operating under an interim measure and a permanent method of adjustment of ex-servicemen pensions is still being investigated.
I wonder whether the Minister and his Department know that many ex-servicemen depend to a great degree on their pension to meet their living commitments and they have needed this increase. To have kept them waiting for 4 months or more to receive it seems to me to show a definite lack of concern for this section of our community. It is all very well to say that the increases will be backdated to the first pay period in July, welcome though that is, but there was no need to embarrass for so long a period the ex-servicemen who depend on their pensions. I cannot accept the excuse put forward by the
Minister for not introducing permanent adjustment arrangements. He said that all retired government employees should receive comparable treatment and that this is the Government’s aim. I have no quarrel with that suggestion but I do not accept that the matter is so complex that it cannot be implemented without further inquiries. How much more time does the Government need to bring in the required legislation? It has been fiddling around with this matter for approximately 18 months, trying to say that DRFB pensions will be the subject of automatic annual adjustments and not the subject of special legislation introduced each year, and which will be introduced at the Government’s convenience. The Minister informed us that legislation will be introduced next year to provide for the future permanent methods of adjustment but, in view of the messing about that has been going on in regard to this matter since May 1973, I will believe it when I see the Minister introduce it.
The matter of pension increases is not the only one which is vexing me and service personnel who retired prior to 1 October 1972. For instance, there is the surplus of funds mentioned in the fourth quinquennial report. At the last time of asking, the Minister informed me that the actual amount of surplus had not been decided. Yet the report indicates that on the basis of the old Defence Forces Retirement Benefit Fund the surplus of assets over liabilities is $3,065,000 in respect of pre-1959 pensioners, $11,828,000 in respect of pre-1959 contributors and a net deficiency of $544,000 in respect of post-1959 contributors and pensioners combined. If that information is available, surely it would not be too difficult for the actuary to arrive at an exact figure and surely it would not be too difficult for the Government to decide what to do with the surplus. Will the Government distribute the surplus among the contributors, as has been done previously, or will it sock it away in Consolidated Revenue? I remind the Government that this is contributors’ money that it is fiddling around with. If the Government were to repeal the old Act and place every recipients of a DFRB pension under the new benefits scheme I would understand its wanting to put the surplus in Consolidated Revenue. But if it intends to retain the old scheme the surplus should be distributed among those who have contributed. How much more time does the Government need to make up its mind?
Does it need another year or two, if it is still the Government? I can assure the Minister and the
House that when we return to government there will be an end to this procrastination.
As I said previously, many anomalies exist under the old DRFB scheme which are vexing the retired servicemen and of which I know the Minister is conscious. I well remember the Minister when he was in Opposition saying how he had plugged for a joint select committee to be formed to investigate the old scheme and to come up with a new, simple, straightforward scheme. Therefore he must be aware of the anomalies that still exist in the old scheme. But now the boot is on the other foot. Is he content with the old scheme as is, now that the then Opposition is the present Government? An investigation by a joint committee into the anomalies that exist is required just as much as it was necessary previously. In fact, in the light of the new scheme benefits, it is even more necessary now. If the Government is fair dinkum in its expressed concern for the welfare of these exservice pensioners it would have that joint committee on the job now. I mentioned the boot being on the other foot. Now I am plugging for that committee to be formed as the Minister did. The terms of reference for the committee will be on the Minister’s desk this week. I am sure that if the Minister really wanted to do so he could persuade his colleagues that such a committee is warranted, for they too must know that the situation applying to DFRB pensioners warrants investigation. I will go even further and inform the Minister that, when we become the Government, that joint committee to investigate the anomalies existing now in the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act will be formed immediately. We are committed to this; it will be done. I have no desire to delay the passage of this Bill through the House. As I said, I welcome it. I know that pensioners and recipients of ex-service benefits will welcome it also. It has been delayed long enough. Accordingly, I support the Bill.
-I rise to speak in support of the Bill. I think it provides only due and proper recognition of the service given to this country by the men and women concerned. I am certain that the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard) is aware of that just as much as I am. I think I could quote perhaps not from his words but from his intention when he said it was felt that the demands imposed on servicemen and the distinctive nature of their work warranted incorporation of their retirement benefits in a special scheme.
I think this is a most important point which can be overlooked when we speak about the pension rights of servicemen and servicewomen.
They do have distinctive work which is entirely different from that of any other section of the community. Because they do not have the opportunity to complain to seek the conditions of service that they would want in the job they have to do, I believe compensation must be made for those circumstances after retirement. This is why it is necessary that we recognise the work done by these men and women when they give service to this country.
That service is far different from the service given by a public servant in Canberra. I suppose most public servants in this city would never be at their jobs without a collar and tie and would never be expected to work in conditions other than those suitable for the work they have to do. The serviceman is never quite certain what his working conditions will be. I speak now of the bulk of servicemen; I do not speak of those few who are perhaps lucky enough to see some of their service here in Canberra. I speak of the majority who on occasions sleep in the most appalling conditions because they must sleep in those conditions. I speak of those men and women who on occasions work for long hours in excess of any normal hours of work sought from men or women. Because there can be no recognition given to this type of work and to the conditions during their service, I believe it is vital that we recognise these aspects when they retire. Consequently, I support this Bill to the full.
The Minister would be aware that anomalies do exist in the legislation, perhaps now not as far as the old legislation is concerned where the anomalies were felt by the servicemen themselves in their active service life. I think the defects in the previous complex schemes which had been a constant source of grievance and unrest amongst a number of the armed Services, are now passed to the pensioners themselves. This is in respect of pensioners in receipt of pensions prior to October 1972 as it is in relation to these people that the severe anomalies exist today. I ask the Minister to investigate these anomaliesundoubtedly he will- and where necessary take appropriate action to overcome them. If he does reply this afternoon, I would like to hear him give some indication of when these investigations will take place.
I ask him also to see whether he can get some word back from the actuary about the surplus of money in the scheme. I think it was in March of this year that a surplus was revealed. Questions were asked in July. We are now in November. There is still no word as to the amount involved or exactly what will be done with that surplus. I find it just a little difficult to believe that there is no urgency about this matter. I speak on behalf of the people who believe that there is urgency; these are the people who need that money. I would like to hear when we can expect to get some reply on that problem from the actuary.
I think pensioners all seek to have treatment from the scheme provided in exactly the same way. The most serious anomaly existing now is the one referred to by the honourable member for Barker (Dr Forbes) in which pensioners, a month apart in age, receive entirely different pensions. I do not think the civilian community at large would accept this sort of thing with respect to age pensions. It would mean that those who reached the age at which they were entitled to receive the pension at a certain date in 1972 would receive a pension at a given amount and that those who qualified for the pension after that date would receive a pension far in excess of the pension paid to those who reached the eligible age before that date. This anomaly must be looked at immediately. It must be overcome.
The Country Party has much pleasure in supporting this Bill. Apart from those aspects that I have mentioned, the provisions of this legislation are long overdue. The Bill is one which certainly will be received with tremendous thanksgiving and pleasure by all those ex-servicemen and exservice women and by present serving men and women who can look forward in time to something of a better deal.
Motion (by Mr James) agreed to:
That the question be now put.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Motion (by Mr Barnard) proposed:
That the Bill be now read a third time.
-Speaking briefly to the third reading, I point out that I came into the House half way through the debate. I have noted that only Opposition speakers have taken part in the debate. I would like to hear some response from the Government to the points made by the Opposition speakers who have participated in the debate. I do not know whether the Standing Orders make any provision for this request to be met but I trust that the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard) will at least respond by way of letter or in some other way and be courteous to that extent to those honourable members who have taken part in the debate.
– I do not want to detain the House. No one spoke in opposition to the Bill. As a matter of fact the honourable member for Barker (Dr Forbes), the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett), and the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Sullivan) who spoke in this debate all supported the Bill. It is true that they made one or two points about which there is some contention. Indeed I believe that those honourable members, particularly the honourable member for Herbert, know that there are problems that were considered by the Jess Committee of which he and I were members. These matters have been under consideration by my Department and me. Honourable members will also appreciate that it is not an easy matter to arrive at a decision on some of the anomalies that they know exist in the legislation. When I introduced the Bill -
– But you know -
– You know nothing about it, so for goodness sake be quiet.
– I know as much as you do.
– You know nothing about it.
– I know something about common courtesy.
– You know nothing about that either. You have displayed that on many occasions.
– Name one.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order!
– Look, you at least ought to remain silent. I remained silent while you were speaking. Now at least have the courtesy to do the same for me. You invited me to respond. I am doing that. You have no courtesy at all.
-Order! The Chair has been lenient in respect of the 2 speeches which have been made by the honourable member for Boothby and by the Minister on the third reading of this Bill. I have been lenient because of the circumstances relating to the second reading debate. I suggest that the Minister now be allowed to make, his comments without interjections.
-Thank you Mr Deputy Speaker. I Listened in absolute silence. I extended that courtesy to all speakers who have taken part in this debate. I do not want to delay the passage of this Bill because, as I have said, no one opposes it. I am not in disagreement with those who have indicated that there are some anomalies that have to be dealt with.
The legislation which was introduced by me in 1 973 gave immediate effect to the main recommendations of the Jess Committee of which the honourable member for Herbert was a member. If honourable members opposite want me to remind them of the situation that applied before the general elections of 1972 they will remember how the then Government procrastinated and could not make up its mind about the recommendations of the Jess Committee. We had the spectacle of the then Minister for Defence coming into the House and saying: ‘We do not intend to introduce the legislation now to give effect to the recommendations of the Committee, but when we do make a decision- goodness only knows when that will be- we will make it retrospective to 1 October 1972’. I said at the time that the then Government would not introduce the legislation and that I would introduce it. That is exactly what I did. I moved with speed to do so early in 1973. The introduction of this legislation was in keeping with the promise that we made during the 1972 election campaign when we said that we would introduce legislation to give effect to the Jess Committee’s recommendations as soon as possible.
I acknowledged when introducing the legislation that there were bound to be some anomalies and that they would be corrected in the future. I said that it would be better to adopt the main recommendations than to wait until we had thoroughly investigated what honourable members opposite are now referring to as some anomalies. I agree that there are some anomalies. That is why I said when introducing the legislation that if anomalies resulted from the legislation I would move to amend it. I have amended the legislation in one way today, that is, to provide an additional $3.2m, which is not an insignificant increase. I think that this has been acknowledged by honourable members.
The question of those who left the Services before 1 October 1 972 has been raised. Of course, this is a problem. I accepted the statement of the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn) when he was Minister for Defence that the legislation should be made retrospective to 1 October 1972. That is the reason why I chose that date and honourable members opposite will know how difficult it is to set a date. I did not have the prerogative to interpret what the Committee thought about those servicemen who had been discharged before 1 October 1972 because the Committee’s main intention was to provide a new DFRB scheme. Is there any difference in the attitude which we adopted in regard to taking the previous Government’s decision to make legislation retrospective to 1 October 1972 and, for example, its decision to stipulate that 35 years of age was the cut-off point for eligibility for a home savings grant? That is a decision which the previous Government had to make. I did not agree that the age limit should be 35 years. But I do not want to go over that argument. However, the same situation applies -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! Might I say to the Minister that he is making things a little difficult in one sense in that the question has been put and carried on the second reading stage of the debate. As I explained earlier, because of certain circumstances I have allowed the Minister a certain latitude to enable him to answer some comments made by honourable members. However, unfortunately his speech is developing almost into a continuation of a second reading debate which has been gagged. I therefore suggest that the Minister restrict his remarks.
– You have been very generous, Mr Deputy Speaker, and I acknowledge that. I was asked to respond, although I did not think it necessary, in regard to some matters. I shall conclude my remarks on this note: All honourable members support the Bill that is before us. I acknowledge that it contains some anomalies. I will move to correct those anomalies as soon as they have been thoroughly investigated. The question of those who left the Services before the new DFRB scheme was introduced is one that deserves continuing consideration and, I hope, early solution. The Government will have to made a decision on this matter. When a decision is reached it will be announced at the appropriate time.
- Mr Deputy Speaker -
-The Minister closed the debate when he replied to the honourable member for Boothby.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 3 1 October on motion by Mr Morrison:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The purpose of this Bill is to establish the Australian Film Commission. The Opposition is not opposed to the establishment of the Commission and understands the need for the formation of such a body. After all, it was the Gorton Government in 1970 which first recognised the need to re-develop the Australian film industry. It formed the Australian Film Development Corporation and thereby gave encouragement to the commercial film maker in Australia by providing him with assistance. Undoubtedly the driving force behind this move was the then Prime Minister, Mr John Gorton, who sensed the need to develop a more complete sense of national identity for Australia and believed that all aspects of cultural and creative work should reflect this national spirit and identity.
In 1972 Prime Minister McMahon referred the matter of the film industry to the Tariff Board for investigation and report. The formative stage of the industry was perhaps not sufficiently advanced for the normal type of Tariff Board investigation. However, the Board’s report unquestionably contains much valuable information regarding the Australian film industry. The industry has been assisted in a variety of ways. Both the Australian Film and Television School and the Australian Film Development Corporation have been of great assistance.
The aim of this Bill is to establish the Australian Film Commission. Senator Margaret Guilfoyle, the Opposition’s Shadow Minister for the Media, has spoken in the Senate of the Opposition’s desire to see such a Commission established and why we support the broad aims of such a body. However, as she indicated, the Government is being less than honest in the manner in which it is to be established through this Bill as it has been amended by the Senate. The Commission is on the one hand alleged to be a statutory corporation operating at arm’s length from the Department of the Media and its Minister. Nevertheless the Bill contains provisions throughout it allowing ministerial approval and ministerial direction to influence directly the Commission’s work. Consequently the Opposition secured a number of amendments in the Senate and I now understand the Government wishes to re-insert at the Committee stage the provisions deleted by the Senate. If the amendments relate to clauses previously deleted by the Senate, we will oppose such amendments. I give notice now of such opposition and I will await the Committee stage for further elaboration.
I mentioned earlier the Tariff Board report into the film industry. Contained within that report were references to the distribution of films, one of the major difficulties experienced by the Australian film industry. It would appear that in the formation of the Film Commission insufficient regard is being paid to both the distribution and the actual screening of films in this country. Obviously other problems referred to by the Tariff Board have not yet been met in the formation of the Commission but these facets were covered by the Opposition’s shadow Minister in another place. A most important matter referred to by Senator Guilfoyle, however, was the composition of the Commission itself. As she said, the personnel must have the experience, wisdom and ability to recognise the problems and to do whatever is within the power of the Commission to overcome them. Therefore we will be interested in any Government amendments relating to the personnel comprising the Commission. Persons without experience are virtually worthless. Persons with pecuniary interests should not, ipso facto, be excluded. Should they have certain pecuniary interests these obviously ought to be mandatorily disclosed. But such interests ought not to, indeed must not, preclude persons from serving on the Commission.
If one refers to other Government agencies and corporations one will find provisions whereby those drawn from the particular industry over which that statutory authority is to exercise power are allowed to sit on commissions provided they disclose their interests. I can recall when the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission Bill was introduced in the 1950s. I cannot recall reading it then; I was at a mewing and chewing stage. But I can recall reading later the remarks passed at that stage by the present Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). He spoke quite vehemently about persons with pecuniary interests sitting on commissions. Yet I was interested to read a Bill that was introduced by the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) recently which made reference to the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission. It permitted persons to serve on that Commission albeit they may have direct interests in the shipping industry. So in other areas the Prime Minister has seen, over the period since he spoke in the early 1950s, how wrong he has been. Much of the value of the Australian National Line- I dispute some of its operations- has come from drawing into the Commission people thoroughly conversant with the operations of the shipping industry.
In the formation of the Australian Film Commission we should welcome those who work within the film industry, those who have interests in the industry, provided they disclose those interests and do not participate in a discussion or a deliberation in the Commission on something that would further their own interests, provided they opt out on something relating to their own interests. We should not deny them the opportunity to serve simply because they have a financial interest in the industry. That to me is axiomatic, if one is drawing on the best people available. I do not say that that should be the sole criterion, but to me it seems ludicrous to create a situation whereby those with a particular financial interest in the industry should not be able to serve the Government on its commission.
Having said that the persons appointed to the management of the Commission should be able to do just that; they should be able to manage the Commission and not be overridden by either the Minister or his Department. A statutory body is supposed to operate at arm’s length from the Minister and the appropriate department. This is the whole aim of a statutory corporation. It appears that this Government has forgotten that. If this Commission, as foreseen in the legislation introduced in the Senate and in the Bill now before the House, which provides for ministerial direction and authority, is to operate under that sort of ageis it might just as well be administered by the Department of the Media itself and we should not go through the legal fiction of establishing a commission in whose activities the Minister can directly intervene.
As I said, it is one of the fundamental aims, in order to provide necessary flexibility in a statutory authority, that it be at arm’s length from the Minister concerned. If the flexibility and expertise is overridden by a department or by the Minister, the Commission is nothing more than a legal fiction or facade. Its work might just as well be done by the Department itself. That frankly would satisfy nobody, because of the way in which the Department has been carrying out its Goebbels-like function over the past 22 to 23 months. That statement is not injected for a little bit of light relief. When I read the provisions in the Bill that entitled the Minister to give directions for certain films to be shown- to insist that they be shown- in particular cinemas, I can well imagine the sort of propaganda that this Government would insist on cinematograph producers showing to the people of Australia. The most glossy publications have been produced at enormous expense to the taxpayers to conceal what sort of shambles and mal-administration this Government has been constructing during its period in office. Now the Government is to play on the visual scene and thrust its views on persons in the community, through the film industry, I would imagine at great expense to the community and the taxpayer. But the central factor is that the Government, through the Minister, would direct that particular propaganda be shown in cinemas whether the owners or proprietors wanted it or not.
I wanted to be brief in these remarks because my colleague in the shadow Ministry wishes to support me in this matter. We shall comment on the proposed amendments that the Minister for Science (Mr Morrison), representing the Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland), will proffer at the Committee stage. I reiterate that we support the measure to establish the Commission. But the remarks .1 have made are designed to ensure that the Commission not only will function efficiently and properly but also will be the sort of film commission that can properly serve the people of Australia and not simply serve a government of the day through the Minister that is allowed to have control of it.
-I welcome the opportunity to participate in this debate. Most of the points that were mentioned by the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock) I shall deal with later. In relation to his point of specifically excluding from the Commission people involved in the industry I point out that in the Australian Film Development Corporation Bill it was specifically stated that people involved in the industry should be excluded from the Commission. It is this Government ‘s belief that people who are involved in the industry should not occupy the position of full time members, but we would be happy should part time members be involved in the industry. Naturally they would be expected to declare their pecuniary interests at the appropriate time.
We see this Bill, which seeks to establish an Australian Film Commission, as a vital and historic step in the process of further developing a viable Australian film and television program production industry. I emphasise the phrase ‘further developing’. Tremendous progress has already been made. We think that Film Australia, formerly known as the Commonwealth Film Unit, the Australian Film Development Corporation in the brief time it has been established, the Australian Film and Television
School, and not least this Government, have done excellent work.
I mention the maligned points system that has been rubbished on many sides. It has achieved its objective of raising Australian content and giving great encouragement to the industry, which of course is reflected in the greatly increased budget. I believe that both sides of the House are agreed on the need to develop an increased national sentiment, that is, pride in being Australians and a pride in our history. I suggest that film is the most suitable medium for such a purpose. I am aware of the upsurge of interest in schools in film making, where it is seen as yet another mode of communication. I have vivid memories of when I was in the teaching profession and participating in the making of films, of the gold rushes, at the Doveton and Pakenham high schools where the children had the opportunity of actually taking part in history. In this way they captured something of the excitement and the fever of the gold rush era. In similar’ manner, I believe that some of the television films and films of Australian origin have given Australians a much greater awareness of their identity and an understanding of their history.
As I see it, the main aim of the Bill is to take the various forms of government involvement in the film industry handled by the Department of the Media and to place them under the control of a new statutory body, the Australian Film Commission. The idea is that the Australian Film Commission shall take over responsibility for Film Australia, which for the last 32 years has been treated entirely as a section of various government departments, and the functions of the Australian Film Development Corporation, which was established by the Gorton Government as a statutory body with the function of providing financial subsidies for the development of the film industry. I wish to highlight the excellent work of Film Australia. I believe that its production activities fall into 2 categories, namely, the films made for government departments and the national films, be they of a documentary, educational or general information type, aimed at providing a better understanding and knowledge of our country. I believe that the high quality of its work is reflected in the awards that it has received at film festivals all over the world. Similarly I believe that the Australian Film Development Corporation has done an excellent job in its brief history. Assistance in the form of bridging finance has sometimes been sought from the large film companies. One can think of many films which, particularly in the last year or so, have been successful on the international market. There is no doubt that this body has been the very lifeblood of the small film companies.
The work of these 2 bodies, together with the support that has been enthusiastically provided by the Government, I believe has led to a new upsurge of hope in the film industry. I think that is reflected in the feature films which have been produced over recent years. I think something like five feature films were produced several years ago- before we came to office- and that sixteen were produced last year. I think 20 feature films have been produced this year and it is anticipated that twenty-four will be produced next year. Although the Australian Film Development Corporation has done a very fine job, it has been limited in its scope and therefore has not been as effective in developing the industry as it might have been. As I see it, its purpose was to ensure that films were made. The purpose of this legislation is to ensure that films are made and shown in theatres and that they return money to their producers so that those producers will then be in a position to continue their work and to increase their output. I am suggesting that the Government is right in taking a total view of the industry. The Australian Film Development Corporation was Limited to a part view of the industry. We must ensure that Australians have the opportunity to see their own films and that the films have at least a good chance of being shown outside of Australia.
When this Bill was being debated in another place Senator Guilfoyle, who led for the Opposition Parties, said that she wished to stress that the Opposition Parties were delighted that the Government was proposing the formation of the Commission. The Opposition Parties then proceeded, by way of amendment, to remove all the teeth from the Bill. We now have before us an emasculated Bill, one which was severely mauled in the other place. By way of amendments in this House it is hoped to restore the Bill to a form which will enable it to achieve its original worthy objective, that is, a viable and expanding film and television production industry.
It would seem from a perusal of the Senate Hansard that the objections of the Opposition to the original Bill centred on 3 points which are interrelated. One has already been referred to by the honourable member for Kooyong, that is, the matter of ministerial responsibility.
It seems to me that the Opposition has taken an extraordinary stance on this point. I say that because to the best of my knowledge all statutory bodies in this country are subject in some way to ministerial direction or control. The example that is so frequently cited in this respect is the National Film Board of Canada. It is specifically subject to the direction and control of a Minister - in the exercising of any or all of its powers. Surely there must be ministerial responsibility and public accountability when an expenditure of $4m is involved. What appears to me to be at stake is the principle of ministerial responsibility. Surely it is realised by the Opposition that the Minister for the Media is responsible to the Parliament, that there he is subject to questions about the use of his powers, and that he is also responsible to Parliament for his actions. Has the Opposition thought of the alternative of a totally independent statutory body and of how it could abuse its powers by refusing to make films that it thought were unnecessary and make films in the way in which it wanted to and not in the way in which the Government, as the representative of the people, believes they should be made? Does it want a body which has virtually no responsibility to anybody, certainly not to this Parliament? I suggest that the principle of ministerial responsibility, which has been a part of all statutory bodies, should be retained in this Bill.
The second objection is linked to the first. It seems to be feared that through ministerial control the Government will use Film Australia for propaganda purposes. To me that is, frankly, arrant nonsense. Why should the situation change? At this point in time Film Australia is under the control of a Minister. It always has been under the control of one Minister or another in one government department or another. I challenge the Opposition to point to any films that were made either at the time they were in government or in the time that we have been in government that were made for propaganda purposes. The Government must have some say, through the Minister, in the making of films for national purposes. I repeat that, as I see it, this talk of political propaganda being used by Film Australia in the short film industry is absolute nonsense.
The third objection of the Opposition appears to be to the short film quotas. Surely it is obvious that no indigenous film industry can continue to exist for any length of time if the films produced cannot receive a reasonable guarantee of screening. I suggest to honourable members on the other side of the House that they should reflect on the history of the Australian film industry and how it has had its times when it has blossomed and then declined again. What the Government wants to see is a viable industry for the future and not one which is left to chance. I return to what I said earlier. The Commission is to be established to encourage not only the making of Australian films, as has been done through the Australian Film Development Corporation, but also their showing in theatres so that there will be a return to the producers. It is only in this way that we can encourage effectively the production of films in Australia. I do not think I need to say it but I will do so for the benefit of honourable members opposite: Any quotas that will be set will allow for a very wide selection of films by those exhibiting them. In the few visits I make to the theatre I, for one, would be delighted to see Australian short films shown more frequently. How often do we see films produced by the National Film Board of Canada? How seldom do we see Film Australia films? I would commend the Bill to the House and I would commend the amendments.
-The honourable member for Holt (Mr Oldmeadow) takes a most benevolent view of the amendments which are proposed by the Government to the Bill. I fear that he takes a rather unrealistic view of the significance of the amendments. But before I introduce any note of acerbity into this debate can I say how glad I am that the honourable gentleman graciously referred to the efforts of the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton) and his pioneering in this field? I would join with the honourable member for Holt in observing that.
I would go further and say that I think the right honourable member for Higgins pioneered a number of initiatives in this country that are not as yet quite apprehended in their significance by some of his contemporaries- contemporaries spread on both sides of the Parliament. It was in this field that the right honourable member for Higgins was prepared to seek to give deep and genuine expression of national sentiment. This is not said in any chauvinistic fashion. It is said with a quiet pride in the achievement of this country and a willingness to seek to portray to the world something of the character of the country. It is in that sense that the Opposition finds itself in wholehearted agreement with the Government. If honourable members turn to the first function of the Film Commission in clause 5 as it now stands, they will see that it spells out the aim and the objective of the Film Commission. Clause 5 states that the functions of the Commission are:
That is the ultimate objective of the Commission. Our quarrel with the Government is how best to achieve that objective- to achieve it in terms of meeting the objective but also to ensure that there will be no departure either by dint of indifference or by some susceptibility to political bias and to political prejudice.
The area of quarrel was unfolded and expressed in a most temperate, perceptive and reflective speech by my colleague, Senator Guilfoyle, in another place. That area may be shortly stated: We object most strenuously to placing in the hands of a Minister- not the hands of a commission- the right to determine what shall or shall not be done.
It is of no avail whatsoever my honourable friend from Holt saying that the prospect of this being used for propaganda purposes is- to use his felicitous phrase- ‘arrant nonsense’. The honourable member for Holt has not only an immense geniality of nature but also he has always impressed me- I say this without seeking to patronise him- as highly intelligent. Surely the honourable gentleman can see something of the immense Niagara of propaganda which cascades down upon us every day in every week. It is all very well for the Minister for Science (Mr Morrison) to laugh. Obviously he is too preoccupied seeking to hammer out a science policy of sorts to pause even to look at what was referred to by the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock)- glossy publications. One is not overstating the position to say that at the end of a week in this place one almost needs a dray and a draught horse to cart them out. This has been pushed out all over the country. To seek to take this into the field of film production and film distribution fills us with concern.
I will illustrate the proposition very quickly. The bona fides of the Government can be tested very readily. Why not take from the proposed amendments the power given to the Minister? The Minister, at his discretion, may say to the Commission: ‘Go and produce a film of national interest’. Why not leave it to the Film Commission to determine what is something of national interest? If the Film Commission is not doing its job, the Government simply has to change the members of the Commission. Let us consider some of the immense powers proposed to be given. Clause 5 deals with some of the functions of the Commission and then continues:
Cannot honourable members imagine the 27 blushing violets in the Government making a judgment as to what would serve the purposes of a Department of State? Why not leave that -
– Not in colour, I hope.
– I do not know. It may be an improvement because I understand that it can conceal blemishes with great facility. Why not leave this power to the Commission?
Another function contained in clause 5 concerns films that deal with matters of national interest to Australia. Why not leave that to the Commission? But no, the Government comes along and says that these powers- 3 of them in the main- should be under the direction of the Minister. It is stated that the Minister may give a direction to the Commission with respect to a film and then the categories are put. They are the categories of the type I have mentioned- the purposes of a department of State, matters of national interest and matters designed to illustrate or to interpret aspects of Australia or of the life and activities of the Australian people.
Surely the honourable member for Holt would have a preference for leaving those powers to be exercised ultimately by the Commission and not, as is proposed by the Government, ultimately by the Minister? What would be the position if we were to take- probably an extreme case- the case of some paranoiac Minister who took the view that he could find 20 or 30 matters of national interest and he gave, in 30 consecutive weeks, directions to the Film Commission to produce films on matters of national interest or matters dealing, in his judgment, with the purposes of a Department of State? What scope of activity would be available to the Commission to deal with its business? This is the very centre of our complaint about this clause. For the honourable member for Holt to say: ‘Well, this is just some fiddling little problem’, is to take, as I say, a very benevolent but a most unrealistic view of the provision. I hope this House will not let go unnoticed the fact that this provision which is proposed by the Government by way of amendment to this Bill is claimed by the Government to put back what is most inaccurately described as ‘teeth’. But this is not identical with what was contained in the Bill in the first place when it went into the Senate. The Minister has had a change of heart since then.
In the first amendment, dealing with the exercise of this vast power, the Minister, under this proposed section, gives a direction and within 15 sitting days after giving that direction shall lay before each House of the Parliament a copy of the direction together with his reasons for giving the direction. At first blush, that seems an eminently proper provision to make. Why was not it made in the first place? Why did not the Government, when it introduced the Bill, indicate that when such powers were given to the Minister they would be exercised subject to parliamentary scrutiny? The simple fact of the matter is that under this proposal it would be possible for the Minister, even with parliamentary scrutiny imposed upon him, completely to control all of the activities of the Film Commission. I would hope that no person would believe for one moment that the deletion of this immense power is going- to use the in word- emasculate the Bill. Really and truly, this is to indulge in a silly piece of hyperbole. This will not emasculate the Bill at all. It will establish the Commission. It will give to it proper powers for it to exercise, and in general terms we do not complain about those powers. We have raised no quarrel at all about that. But we are concerned with what probably could take place with the Minister interfering all the time.
The other observation I make about the speech of the honourable member for Holt is this: It is quite competent for a statutory body simply to be required to report to Parliament. The honourable gentleman says: ‘Well, if the Minister is exercising a power you can question him’. The fact of life is that we know that in this House of Representatives we can ask a question here now about once every 2 months. One gets tired, almost exhausted, from getting up and down each day trying to ask a question. How unreal is that?
– Then you do not get to ask a question.
– Then one does not get to ask a question. The prospect of exercising parliamentary control by way of a question is a curious one indeed. This brings me to the second great power. The first power is that the Minister will have the ultimate control of saying to the Commission: ‘All right, boys, turn this out’. One cannot say that all Ministers are consumed with vanity. Take the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly). He is the most modest man we know. He has been protected against the ravages of vanity. But not all Ministers are like my honourable friend, the Minister for Services and Property. Some of them take their tasks very seriously indeed- so much so that they take the view that if the whole of the world does not revolve around them it should.
So there is the first power to which I have referred. The film is then produced. The second aspect, which was referred to by the honourable member for Kooyong, is this: The Minister says where the film will be screened. Really and truly! Australian films can stand on their own for excellence. If they are produced they will be shown and they will be screened on their merits. I disagree most vigorously with my friend from Holt when he says that this will mean that they will not be screened. I suggest to the honourable member that the reception which has been accorded Australian-produced films around the world has been quite outstanding. It has been a very warm reception and I am sure all of us have welcomed it. But the Minister under the second power would be able to go to any theatre, to any drive-in, and say: ‘You will screen this film’.
– Yes. The honourable gentleman again takes a most benevolent view of the provisions of the Bill, because under the second amendment proposed by the Minister- in the Senate this provision was removed- a requirement can be issued which specifies the period to which it relates, being a period commencing not earlier than a particular date, to the theatre or theatres to which it relates. Surely the honourable gentleman has no difficulty with that form of words. Take this scenario: A film is produced at the instigation of the Minister whose judgment with respect to the national interest or the purposes of a department of State is a poor one, an indifferent one. A film is made as a consequence and that film, by dint of this provision, has to be screened in every theatre. If the Minister said: ‘I want this film screened in every theatre throughout Australia’, every theatre proprietor would be obliged to screen it. If he does not screen it, he has committed an offence. I hope honourable gentlemen will look at the great lovers of liberty. If the Minister for Services and Property ever gets up again and talks about the onus of proof, about liberty and about the Bill of Rights, I hope he has to reach for a glass of water, because a person can be fined $200 if he does not comply with the requirements of this legislation. Then the onus is on him. It is a defence if the person charged with an offence under the sub-clause proves that he had a reasonable excuse. Why should it not be on the prosecution to prove that he did not have a reasonable excuse. I have heard honourable gentlemen prattle here about the onus of proof and kindred matters for nigh on 20 years and I am getting a little tired of it. Why do we not have some consistency in relation to this matter?
To sum up, our objection to this Bill is the manner in which the Government seeks to implement its objectives. When the right honourable member for Higgins pioneered initiative in this field there was no suggestion of tying that initiative down to ministerial control. There was no suggestion of ensuring that everything had to be met and approved by the Minister, and no power was given to the Minister to intrude in the fashion in which this Bill seeks to give power. Our objections are, with respect, principally to the 2 features I have mentioned: Firstly, that the Minister can determine what is good for us all and, secondly, that the Minister can determine the theatres in which the films shall be screened. If the Minister for Science can be prevailed upon to remove these amendments, to let them waft away into the desert night, he would cheer us up immensely. This Bill is welcomed. The principle of it is welcomed most warmly by us. We are disappointed, and disappointed intensely, that the Government has seen fit to give expression to a philosophy which is quite unacceptable to us.
– It always surprises me to hear the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) express the view, which he seems to hold, that no intelligent person could possibly hold a view which is not consonant with his own.
– There are a few. I am sorry that I cannot number you among them.
– I would like to remind the honourable member that some times I think there are people in his own Party who do not altogether hold views which are totally in agreement with his. I believe that the crux of the matter with which the honourable member was dealing during his speech was that the ministerial powers which the Government had in the Bill which was presented to the Senate and which are sought to be re-inserted with the approval of the House of Representatives should be applied only to those matters relating to Film Australia. These powers have been present for many years under both Labor governments and Liberal governments. I think this is really a most important point and I think it is significant that the honourable gentleman from Moreton did not refer to that fact at all during the whole course of his address to the House.
I believe that this Bill should be supported by every Australian. It will provide a great deal of support in most areas of the film industry. The Film Commission will continue the policies and consolidate the activities of the Australian Film Development Corporation and it will incorporate the activities of Film Australia, which was previously known as the Commonwealth Film Unit. However, the Commission will go beyond the production and promotion of Australian films because, as the Tariff Board pointed out in its report brought down in the Parliament last year, it is not sufficient just to look at the question of promotion and production of Australian films. Other areas must be examined so that the industry is looked at as a whole. In particular, the distribution of films must be examined. One of the findings of the Tariff Board as a result of its very good investigation into the film industry was that there was difficulty in ensuring adequate access to proper distribution outlets for Australian produced films. If the House will bear with me, I would like to read a couple of paragraphs from the Tariff Board’s report because I do think they are fairly important. In its report the Tariff Board said:
There appears to be no independent Australian distributor or overseas distribution company which has both the experience and the finance necessary to provide this service.
That relates to proper distribution of Australian films. The report continues:
A considerable volume of evidence on this subject was presented by both the producers and distributors of Australian films. This showed that in most cases the Australian film has encountered difficulties in securing satisfactory handling in regard to contract terms, publicity and exhibition locations. The distribution arrangements for films such as Stork, Country Town, The Adventures of Barry McKenzie and Nickel Queen were examined in an attempt to assess the suitability of various methods for the marketing of Australian films. It was found that the best returns had been obtained when a producer distributed his own film.
The fundamental requirement on the distribution side is to ensure that Australian films are made available to exhibition houses on terms not less favourable to the local producer than those applying to overseas films. To ensure this, the Board believes that it is necessary to provide a publicly owned organisation to help Australian producers make satisfactory distribution arrangements for their films and, if necessary, to provide them with complete distribution facilities.
That is a very important consideration. The Bill we are now discussing represents the embodiment of the recommendations which came out of the Tariff Board, as it then was, relating to the distribution of Australian films. I have another short quote that I wish to make from the report:
Evidence was presented to the Board by both distributors and producers on the number of local films which have been financed or distributed by overseas companies. In only a very few cases was the production of the local film wholly or partly financed by the overseas distributor. Adam’s Woman, Age of Consent, Squeeze a Flower and They’re a Weird Mob fall into this category.
By the large, in contrast to the activities of film distributors overseas, the overseas distributors operating in Australia have provided very little promotional assistance to the Australian film industry. This is something that will be done by this public authority being established by the Government. I think that the attitude of the Senate conservative Opposition in this case is a very good example of the attitude that has justly attracted criticism of it since the Labor Government has been in office. Its actions smack very much of opposition for the sake of opposition and obstruction for no other reason than that the measures were being introduced by a Labor Government.
We saw the same thing happen last week when the House was debating the Broadcasting and Television Bill. The Opposition in this place sought to take away from the Australian Broadcasting Control Board certain of the powers that it has had for many years. I understand that it will try to do the same thing when the Bill comes before the Senate. They were powers that the previous Government had for many years. They relate particularly to cases in which the Board could direct television stations in the matter of hours of screening certain programs and in relation to advertising powers that the Board has always had. The Opposition wants to take away these powers, even though when it was in government it had these powers for many years. We have exactly the same sort of thing happening now in relation to the Australian Film Commission Bill. The Minister has had a power to direct what sort of films would be produced by Film Australia or by its predecessor, the Commonwealth Film Unit. This is something that has been in the Act for many years. Now, the Senate opposition has taken away this power from the Minister. I uphold very strongly the right, indeed the responsibility of the Minister to direct Film Australia to produce films in the Australian national interest, films of an educational nature.
I have an example with which I have been personally involved. Mr Deputy Speaker, as you probably know I have had a very great and active interest in fostering the school dental service which has been one of the great achievements of the Whitlam Labor Government. One of the means by which the educational side of the school dental service was to be fostered was by the production of films. I have had representations made to the Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland) through the Minister for Health (Dr Everingham) on this matter to try to get some decent educational films made to publicise the school dental service, to educate people and give them an awareness of the need for proper dental hygiene and preventive care of the teeth. Surely in a case like this- it is an absolutely unanswerable case- the Minister should have the power to ensure that these films are produced by Film Australia. If the Opposition’s views on this matter are upheld by the Parliament, the Minister will no longer have those powers which he has had for many years.
We would like to see Film Australia produce good pro-social films for showing in children’s television programs. I think most honourable members would agree that the quality of children’s television programs is not all that it ought to be. Surely, it is necessary to produce good prosocial programs with an Australian content which can be shown during children’s viewing times. I know that it has been asserted that it would be undemocratic for the Minister to have this power to direct Film Australia. Apart from the point I have made already, that the power has been there for many years, the Government wants to provide even additional safeguards. It agreed to an amendment moved in the Senate which provided for parliamentary scrutiny. It provided that any directions given by the Minister could be disallowed within 1 S days after their tabling by either House of the Parliament. Another area in which there seems to be needless obstruction by the Senate is that in which it tried to have Film Australia productions removed from the quota for short Australian films to be shown by exhibitors and cinema operators. I think it is worth pointing out- I do not think this has been made clear in the remarks of the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen)that there was no compulsion on cinema operators to include Film Australia productions in their showings or to meet the Australian quota. All it meant was that they had to meet a certain quota of Australian produced films. They could count Film Australia productions in that selection of films to meet the quota. But the amendment proposed originally by the Liberal-Country Party Opposition in the Senate endeavoured to take this out of the Bill so that Film Australia productions would have the same status as foreign films and there would be no quota requirements applying to them.
Worse still, because the Senate Opposition did not have the numbers to have this pernicious amendment passed, it sulked and would not allow the appropriate clause to be passed at all. So the original clause 10 of the Bill has been deleted and now there are no Australian content quota requirements applying in regard to Film Australia films as short Australian films. I think that the people of Australia ought to know where the Senate Opposition stands on this matter. The
Senate Opposition has a consistent policy of obstruction. It has a strict policy of opposing the development of Australian films. I do not want to apply these criticisms to the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton) who played a large part in the establishment of the Australian Film Commission, but I think that what has happened since the Liberal Party has gone into opposition is quite clear. Members of the Opposition quite often have had a lot to say about the need to do something in regard to permissiveness. In that regard, I think that perhaps something could be said of the degree of violence on children’s television programs. Is this not a good chance to do something about this, to have a public authority which can produce good quality programs for children’s television? But it seems that the question of permissiveness vanishes when the Opposition has to support its private enterprise friends. If a question arose of whether quality or private enterprise profits should come first, it appears that the Opposition would have profits come first. If it is a question of whether we will have Australian content or whether foreign films should continue to dominate completely the film industry in Australia, then the Opposition supports the foreign film industry. I believe that the Australian public ought to be made aware of this.
I wish to express some concern of my own about the legislation. It relates to an area in which I believe the Bill has not gone far enough. I refer to the question of control by a very small monopoly of foreign controlled companies of the film exhibitors and the cinema operators. We have just 3 companies which control a very large share- in fact, most- of the exhibition houses. I quote what the Tariff Board said:
The three main Australian chains between them control 50 of the 77 city locations
Later on the report states:
When the number of cinema seats is taken as a further test of the strength of the major exhibitors, this impression of the dominance of the chains is reinforced.
The report also contains a very illuminating table which appears as table 8 at page 47. 1 ask that this table be incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
– This shows that the 3 major cartels -Village, Hoyts and the Greater Union organisation- very much control the lion’s share of the exhibitors’ facilities in the Australian capital cities. The Tariff Board made specific recommendations about what ought to be done in this area. In general terms it said:
The Board will make 2 main recommendations in regard to exhibitors, namely: that there be a limitation on the share of the total number of exhibition outlets held by one person or company in certain key areas; and that there be limitations on the ownership or control of exhibition companies.
The Tariff Board went on to specify what ground rules ought to be laid down. I know the view has been held that the Australian Government lacks the constitutional power to invoke these recommendations of the Tariff Board. I regard this view with some degree of scepticism. We have the foreign corporations power. I think that is a fairly unequivocal power. We also have the power applying to trading and financial corporations operating within Australia. Admittedly that is something that has not really been fully tested in the High Court of Australia, except I suppose in the concrete pipes case, but certainly I think the foreign corporations power ought to be specific enough.
It is of some regret to me that this additional recommendation by the Tariff Board has not been implemented by the Government. I hope that that is something that can be done in -the near future. I hope that this measure will receive the support of the House and that the amended form proposed by the Government Will receive the approval of the Senate. I believe that with this legislation we will go a very long way towards continuing the great promotion and development of the Australian film industry, which has been a landmark and a great feather in the cap of the Whitlam Labor Government. I have much pleasure in supporting the Bill and the amendment to be moved by the Minister for Science.
-The honourable member for Kingston (Dr Gun) went to some length to try to justify the powers that it is proposed to give the Minister under this Bill. He tried to write them off as being perhaps of not very great importance and necessary to the implementation of the provisions of the Bill. I submit that all the advantages of the Bill can be obtained for the Australian film industry without the Minister’s having the dictatorial powers that it is proposed to give him under the Bill. The honourable member for Kingston said that powers of this kind have existed in a number of areas in the past. Perhaps they have. Perhaps we should have been more careful in this direction but of course we did not anticipate that a government of the character of the present Government would take over from the previous LiberalCountry Party Government Maybe we can all learn a lesson from what has happened in the past.
The Opposition naturally wants to see progress and development in the film and television industry in Australia. We are desirous of that. We want the advantages that can be obtained from this Bill, but we want to see that no dictatorial powers are used in the administration of it. That is the only thing that really concerns us. The major difference between the approach of the Opposition to the film industry and the approach of the Government is that the Opposition wants to see the Australian Film Commission as an independent body as free from Government control as possible. If that can be achieved, we are quite happy to have the Australian Film Commission. We welcome it. A broad answerability to Parliament for the public funds entrusted to the Commission can be arranged. Provision for it is contained in the Bill. The Auditor-General is given full powers of inspecting the accounting records and is required to audit them. The Minister for Science (Mr Morrison) stated this in his second reading speech. I have agreed to limit my speaking time so I will not quote from his speech now.
It is important that the Australian film industry should develop its own character. It does not want to be developed under the restricting direction of a Minister of any government. We need not slavishly follow the standards and types of films that have been developed in other countries, some of which border on the unacceptable. When I say that, I do not want to be told that we are conservative and that we have no intention of trying to produce films in this country depicting real life and the adult conception of what goes on in this country. We do not want to hide the facts of real life; we are prepared to accept them, but we do not want to have the type of film that we sometimes see which is based entirely on violence, sex or crime. We would be better off without them. The Minister in charge of the Commission would want to do better with films than the Government has done with art, with the paint on ‘Blue Poles’ flaking off every day. That gives an indication of what can happen when the Government assumes control over something without regard for the people who should be given a say.
I suggest that full consideration be given to the employment of top directors. If one wanted to spend money, that would be a good way of spending it. It would be better than spending money on ‘Blue Poles’. The employment of top directors would improve the standard of films in this country and expenditure in this area could be very rewarding for the Australian film industry. While it is necessary to give a real life, adult approach to an Australian film industry, it is not necessary to depict violence, crime or sex to provide a film with box office attraction. A good example of this would be the ‘Sound of Music’ and the television serial ‘Bell bird ‘.
-‘Dr Zhivago. ‘
– My friend the honourable member for Gwydir has nominated ‘Dr Zhivago’. Plenty more films could be nominated. My friend the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Sherry) is trying to nominate another. We could all do that. But it shows that we do not have to have films involving violence, crime or sex. I emphasise that I would like to see a higher standard of film, a film which can do without the necessity to introduce extremes in violence, sex and crime. I think that the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp) as a Minister pointed out that extremes in crime and violence apart from sex in films should be cut out or discouraged. I believe that the Australian Film Commission would be well qualified to do that.
On a personal basis I would like to mention that my colleague the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter), who would have been anxious to speak on this Bill, is not here today through no fault of his own. He is presently discussing with a prominent personality in the film industry the possibilities of making outdoor films. I have been invited, and I am very proud of it, to take part in these discussions. It is intended to take advantage of the eminently suitable weather for making outdoor films at selected times of the year in the famous and internationally known sunshine State of Queensland. Apart from the glorious beaches and the particularly attractive aspects of those beaches and the people enjoying the sun and the surf, there is a wonderful opportunity to portray on film more of the many unique attractions of inland Queensland and inland Australia since films about places off the beaten track have such an appeal for metropolitan Australians, if not all Australians, and for people overseas. What we do not want to see happen, if a person making a film is not sympathetic to the Government ‘s policies, is the Minister putting his big foot down and saying: ‘No, you cannot do just what you want with this’. We want only to protect the desires ‘ and the aims of people genuinely anxious to promote the film industry to the best advantage in Australia. I would like to take a few minutes to comment on some passages of the Minister’s second reading speech. He said: … the passage of this Bill through the Senate has seen the real effectiveness of the proposed Commission reduced as an instrument for the regeneration of the Australian film industry.
I challenge those remarks very strongly. It is not necessarily so at all. The aim of the Opposition is to protect the film industry and the broad functions of the Commission that are mentioned in the Minister’s second reading speech would, I am sure, be accepted by the Opposition generally. The Minister continued:
It should be noted unequivocally that the previous Australian Government had been having films made, with the approval of the Minister of the day, by a branch of a Department of State.
Maybe that was so. Maybe the faults have not shown up as clearly as they could have done. That is the point we make. As we mentioned before in connection with the Broadcasting and Television Bill, what we say is that if those powers have not been necessary in the past, why does the Government want them now? Why are the powers needed? If it was operating effectively in the past without having required these powers the film industry should not be jeopardised by their possible use in the future.
The Opposition agrees with much of the Bill and the few other comments I intended to make I will forgo because it is important that the Opposition honours its commitment and limits the debating time. I have limited my remarks to 10 minutes. In his second reading speech the Minister also said:
The enactment of this Bill to establish the Australian Film Commission is now a vital and historic step in the process of further developing a viable Australian film and television program production industry.
That is in accord with what the Opposition wants, but we want to see it done without ministerial dictation. We are not suggesting that there will be ministerial dictation but we do not want to permit the possibility of such action. The Minister and the Government may not intend such dictation but we do not want those powers in this legislation. If such powers have been included where they should not have been included by a previous Government, perhaps it was in error but, as a Minister said, it is a big man who can admit his mistakes. It is not often that I quote from a Government member, but this is one occasion when I can. The Country Party, with its colleagues in the Liberal Party, wants to see a thriving film industry in Australia free from political interference and domination. In conclusion I repeat what I said in this House not long ago when I updated a famous quotation of Thomas Jefferson- it may need some qualification- ‘Our liberty depends on the freedom of the media and that cannot be limited without being lost. ‘
-This afternoon we are considering the text of the Australian Film Commission Bill which has already been the subject of very extensive amendment by the Opposition in another place. We did not make these amendments through any desire to be capricious; we made them because our precise interest is to ensure that we have a piece of legislation passed through both Houses of this Parliament which guarantees that the Australian film industry for the foreseeable future will be based on a sound legislative framework. Unfortunately the legislation as it was introduced in the other place and the amendments which the Government again proposes to move to the same Bill mitigate against that objective. It is in this context, therefore, that we must consider the amendments which were proposed and accepted by the Senate.
The honourable member for Kingston (Dr Gun) and I have both read, I am pleased to note, the Tariff Board report concerning motion picture films and television programs. If those who drafted this legislation had done so, as they should have, within the context of this report they would have found, as I did in reading it with some care, that many of the objectives they are trying to achieve are not contained in the Bill’s text as they should wish it to be. We are trying to build this legislation on a foundation established by the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton) when he was the Prime Minister of Australia. I think it is only fair to the industry, which he realised was of such great importance to the future of Australia, that we should give it legislation which can make everybody appreciate the position of the industry and its relevance within the Australian community. Essentially what we are trying to do is to come up with a Bill under which films produced in Australia in terms of both theatre and television will assist in translating Australia not only to Australians but also to the rest of the world.
It is within this context in particular that we must see the role of the organisation known as Film Australia and the position which has been adopted by the Government in relation to the approval of the Minister. The Opposition has consistently made it clear that it does not accept clause 5 of the Bill primarily because- I point this out once again as other speakers have done- it provides that the functions of the Australian Film Commission are: subject to the approval of the Minister, to make, promote, distribute and exhibit any films . . .
The point we make is that it does not refer to some films- not just films which have been produced by or in future will be produced by Film Australia or other organisations- but films from the entire industry. Within that context it is quite unacceptable that we should leave the industry entirely at the hands of one Minister.
There are people, certainly supporters of the present Government, who will say that we are running red herrings. I remind the House that before the May elections the Minister who is responsible for this legislation spent about $lm in advising the people of Australia of the functions of Parliament. It was extraordinary how that piece of propaganda was distributed only about a month before the elections. It was also interesting that most of the money was spent in the migrant Press. I do not need to make the point any clearer. If the Australian people are to continue to live in a democratic society it is fundamental that all areas of the media, in particular television and films as well as the Press, should be allowed to remain free from ministerial guidance. I have just quoted one example. I have no doubt that if one looked deeper into the files of the present Government there would be many other examples. However, the Opposition is not prepared to pass through this House legislation which leaves any possibility of this type of activity being conducted by future governments, including the present Government.
A point which also has been made by previous Government speakers is that the existing organisation Film Australia, when it is incorporated within the Australian Film Commission, should require the approval of the Minister for its operations on the grounds that Film Australia has always acted within the confines of ministerial direction. That was the position because Film Australia was an arm of an existing government department. But what we are debating now is the establishment of an entirely new commission, and as it will be a statutory authority the criteria which we apply obviously should be different. Since when has it been decided that ministerial control should be exercised over the Australian Broadcasting Commission or the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation? We know the role of the Minister in that regard and I fail to understand how anybody could logically argue that if statutory corporations and commissions are to be established there should be ministerial approval in one field that does not apply in other fields.
I should like to refer again to the Tariff Board report on ‘Motion Picture Films and Television Programs’ because it is relevant to the principles which should apply to this legislation. Dr H. C. Coombs, who is known to all honourable members, when he gave evidence to the inquiry made 4 pertinent points. Me said: . . . The inquiry probably relates to four general aspirations
I am sure that no honourable member in this House would disagree with those basic principles. I hope that the Government, in its wisdom in drafting this legislation, kept those concepts in mind.
Another aspect which we should cover concerns the question of the unfair monopoly position which can be given to productions of the Australian Film Commission in relation to the total industry. Clause 5 of the Bill outlines the criteria which are supposed to apply to the type of films the Commission would like to see produced. In addition the Bill, in clause 3, contains a definition of Australian ‘short film. The Opposition in the Senate made substantial amendments to this definition but I note that it is the Government’s intention to restore the original text. As it stands, the Australian ‘short film’ definition is quite satisfactory. It covers films made by the Commission as well as films which can be defined as being Australian films. The latter are films where at least 80 per cent of the footage has been made in Australia. What I fear, however, is that we have perhaps missed the point. Although it is intended by this legislation to make funds available for the creation of Australian film, it is not necessary for us to cut off foreign investment in the film industry.
As has been pointed out by other speakers, this industry in Australia is still in the development stage. For that reason, we will still need to be prepared to import to Australia a considerable degree of expertise, especially at the director level, if we intend to produce feature length films as distinct from short length films. Within that context, therefore, I would have thought that it was important that in our definition we should not only relate to the question of the percentage of footage which is produced in Australia but also be concerned as to whether a film is substantially produced in Australia. By that I mean whether those who participated- the technicians, the actors, the producers and the directors, to name a few- were Australians. What we are trying to do, I would have thought, is to establish an industry which had not only a sound economic base but also personnel well trained in the activities regarded as essential in that industry. For that reason, if a foreign company wishes to produce a film in Australia, and it is going to employ a substantial percentage of Australian personnel, I would have thought that was a reasonable basis for inclusion in the definition in terms of an Australian film whether it be of short or long duration.
I have one other criticism in relation to the proposed Commission. It is this: At present not only do we have Film Australia which we know is to be incorporated into this Commission but also we have the National Film and Television School, which is attached to the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, and the Film and Television Board of the Australian Council for the Arts which also comes within the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. In addition there is the Australian Film Development Corporation. I would have thought there was reasonable logic in trying to relate these organisations in a more specific manner than has been proposed in this legislation. After all, we are dealing with one industry. We are once again facing the proliferation of bureaucratic organisations established by this (Government in the 23 months and the very real possibility that the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing. I think this is a classic example of how this problem must be kept in mind. The Opposition has accepted this Bill in principle. We have put forward excellent amendments which I would commend to the House. Provided the Government does not intend to force through its other amendments, we shall support the BUI.
-Having been mentioned from time to time in the course of this debate I feel it encumbent upon me to say quite clearly where I stand in this matter. I am in favour of the Film Commission. Let there be no doubt about that. But I do not like the concept of giving a Minister complete control of the Commission. Does this control apply to the whole film, to part of the film or to both? I suggest that it applies to both. So, there is a whole film proposed to be made. Let us say it is a film that presents a Labor point of view. A Liberal Minister says: ‘No, we cannot have that. Keep it out. Put it under wraps. We do not want it’. I wonder whether the Labor Party would be so keen to have a Minister exercising that responsibility under those circumstances. If a part of a film was involved- just some scene in it- I wonder whether the Labor Party would be pleased if the Liberal Minister said: ‘Cut that scene out. We cannot have that sequence. It is bad for public relations’. I put the matter that way because I want the Government to think of it.
Our opposition is not just opposition for opposition’s sake. It is quite clearly a case where no Party should have control in the sense in which this Bill gives control to the Minister. I cannot see why the Government is so firm on insisting on this matter. I want the Government to think what the situation would be if the Minister were a Liberal Minister. One honourable member on the Government side suggested that in putting forward our opposition we were opposing for opposition ‘s sake. He said that the Minister always had these powers in the past; why not continue them in the future? I suggest that we do not continue them in the future because we are setting up a Commission. That is why we do not continue them into the future. Having set up the Commission and having given it the powers then it goes on with the powers whether the Government is as at present constituted or in a few months’ time if we come in as a government. In either case, I suggest that that is a reasonable proposition.
I do not like the provision giving directions for short films to be included in Australian quotas. I do not mind some short films being included in
Australian quotas. But I can foresee a circumstance arising in which a film theatre owner could say: ‘Well, I have a theatre. I have shown so many 20-minute films, 10-minute films and 15-minute films. I have completed my quota. I am not going to show this full length film which you have put up, because I have completed my quota already by the use of short films’. That, I suggest, is not a good proposition for the film industry in this country. If the quota was to be cut down to some percentage of short films, that is fine. But for the whole lot to be included is something that I find very different.
I refer to one other matter which has not been raised at all so far. This is the matter of the definition of a person who is going to be helped by this legislation. In the definition the provision is that the Film Commission must have regard to the nationality and place of residence of the person to be assisted. I think the legislation previously said that regard had to be had to the nationality. Now regard must be had to the nationality and place of residence. If that provision is persisted in, some famous Australian living overseas for some time would not be able to have or would be seriously hampered in having a film made in Australia. Let us say that a famous singer living abroad was to come here for the making of that film, for example. No film could be made of her life.
– Joan Sutherland.
-Joan Sutherland, for example. There are many other examples too.
-Morris West is another. One could go on. Regard must be had to the place of residence of these people. I would like the Government to consider whether it is not enough just to say: ‘We will have regard to nationality’. That is all I wish to say. I do not think there is much politics in this Bill. But I want the Government to understand that our opposition is not opposition for opposition’s sake; it is opposition to try to make a good Bill a better Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 7- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
Proposed new clause 7a.
– I move:
After clause 7 insert the following clause: ‘7a The Minister may, by writing under his hand, give directions to the Commission with respect to the exercise of its powers or the performance of its functions but, except as provided by sub-section (2), shall not give such a direction with respect to a particular project. ‘(2) The Minister may give a direction to the Commission with respect to a film, or proposed film, of a kind referred to in sub-paragraph 5 ( 1 ) (b) (i) (ii) or (iii). ‘(3) Where the Minister gives a direction under this section, he shall, within 15 sitting days after giving that direction, lay before each House of the Parliament a copy of the direction together with his reasons for giving the direction ‘.
The purpose of the amendment is to reinsert into the Bill a clause that was omitted in the other place. The clause relates to the power of the Minister in relation to the functions of the Australian Film Commission. The right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton), who has just finished his remarks on this legislation, sought to make a case of the powers of the Minister. But this is a very simple proposition. The Minister has exercised this authority not only during the 23 years in which the Liberal-Country Party was in office but also prior to and after it was in office. We are not seeking to change the mode of operation in any way whatsoever. Quite clearly some members of the Opposition are guarding a guilty conscience, but fortunately we on this side of the House are not so affected.
I would just like to reiterate the position that was outlined in the second reading speech. Provision is made for the Minister to be able only to give general directions to the Commission in respect of the overall performance of its functionsthe Minister can act only in that sense- except in those functions relating to the making of films for Australian Government purposes out of funds directly appropriated by Parliament for these purposes, where it is proposed he should have a power of specific direction. What is unusual about that? What is unusual about a Minister being responsible to this Parliament for the expenditure of funds voted by this Parliament? Surely any Minister under ministerial responsibility has the right, and in fact the obligation, to report back to this Parliament on what he has done. So what we are seeking here is not unusual. It is exactly the same type of provision as appears in a multitude of Bills.
Parliamentarians and democrats have always been faced with the problem of the power that any government can give to a statutory corporation. They are faced with the problem of how much power they, as the elected representatives of the Australian people, should give to such bodies. Surely it is a power, as I have said, that has been reflected in a large number of Bills and Acts of this Parliament which were passed when the Liberal-Country Party was in power and when the Labor Government was in power. It is a democratic power, and the rights of the Minister who is responsible through this Parliament to the Australian people should be safeguarded. There is nothing unusual about that.
The Opposition certainly seems to be developing an inconsistency in regard to this matter. This legislation was introduced in the other place where concern was expressed about how it was to be interpreted. The Government offered an elaborating or clarifying clause to make sure that the points that had been raised would be met. Sub-clause (3) of the amendment which I have moved states:
Where the Minister gives a direction under this section, he shall, within 15 sitting days after giving that direction, lay before each House of the Parliament a copy of the direction together with his reasons for giving the direction.
The honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) said: ‘That is fair enough, but why was it not done before’. The reason it was not done before was that we did not have the advantage of a precedent that had been set by the honourable member or by any member of his Party. This proposition was not supported by the Opposition in the other place. Therefore I have moved this amendment which intends to bring to this Parliament the power that Parliament must exercise. It is a power that Parliament can exercise through a Minister.
I fail to see the difficulties that are foreseen obviously by the Opposition in regard to ministerial power over prescribed sections. I wish to read part of clause 5 ( 1 ) of the Bill which relates to functions of the Commission. This is the only clause in the Bill which gives a specific direction in regard to what the Minister can do. It states:
Any client in commissioning a film quite obviously has the right to determine the broad parameters of the film, the general methods of treatment and the things that he wants covered. The client would not want to get behind the camera. However, any client who is commissioning a film obviously has that right, and that is all that is involved in this part of the clause. The clause continues:
This part of the clause relates to all films that are being commissioned by the Government. Are honourable members opposite trying to tell me or the Government that anyone who wanted to make a film on Dame Nellie Melba would not have some broad concept of what the film was to be about. Such a person probably would indicate that the film would be shown at a festival of arts overseas. The person drawing up the criteria or requirements of the film would know where it would be shown and would have some idea of what the local audience would be interested in. This comes down as a direction of the client who has commissioned the film. Therefore the amendment which I have moved provides for full parliamentary supervision of a statutory authority. Let us not forget that it is very strange that the Opposition all of a sudden has put forth the proposition that any statutory corporation should have full and ultimate powers. This is not the nature of statutory corporations. If this Parliament loses the control and hands over complete power to any statutory corporation we are denying the democratic rights of this Parliament, and that is why I have moved the amendment.
-The Minister makes a fundamental mistake when he says that the Opposition is being difficult. I want to put it to the Minister that he is making an even more fundamental mistake by trying to gather from the second reading speech relating to this Bill what is in the Bill. This Parliament can bring a statutory corporation into existence and it can extinguish itslife. But the point at issue is simply this: Why should a statutory corporation be so designed that it can indeed become the tool of the dominant government of the day and of the Minister of the day. That is the point at issuenone other. This was explained in simple, blunt and characteristically forthright terms by the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton).
The Minister said in relation to the Government’s proposed clause 7a that the Minister is trammelled in that he can deal only with prescribed matters. I invite the Minister in the name of simple understanding and of certainly relieving me of the prospect of suffering some tension, to come with me on a quiet, gentle little walk back to sub-clause (1) (b) of clause5. The sub-clause reads:
The functions of the Commission are-
subject to the approval of the Minister, to make, promote, distribute and exhibit any films-
Any films- not a particular film- and that covers the field. The sub-clause then goes on to deal with particular matters and the language used is: and, in particular’. So the situation that I invite my friend to agree to is this: We have a Minister who can cover the field, say, with respect to any film.
– Paid by the Commission.
– Paid by the Commission- with respect, that seems to me to be hardly relevant. I am dealing with the powers of the Minister. Under this provision the Minister can direct the Commission with respect to any film. It goes on to specify the particular powers that are there. If the Government wants to establish a statutory corporation of this character- this one stands on its own; it is quite singular, quite different from most other corporations which have come into being- and then say that the Government should have some link in it that is intelligible enough to us. This scrutiny would be quite apart from the parliamentary superintendence in the matter of reporting to Parliament annually or whatever the case may be, the money being made available for its operations by this Parliament.
Why does the Government not content itself with saying: ‘The Minister may request that a particular film be made’? Then the ultimate judgment would be left to the Commission. This is the bone of contention between us. We are quite determined that we would like to see the Commission established, but we are not content in the least with seeing a commission established which could quite blatantly, flagrantly, almost obscenely, become a vehicle for Government propaganda. That is giving it to the Minister in straight language which I am sure he will understand. It would be more becoming the stature of a commission of this nature to have its independence put in a position where it can, on its own judgment, respond to a request from the Minister. That is the simple approach of the Opposition. It disturbs me immensely to find that we are getting such an austere reaction from the Minister for Science.
-Mr Deputy Chairman -
Motion (by Mr Nicholls) agreed to:
That the question be now put.
That proposed new clause 7a be inserted.
The Committee divided. (The Deputy Chairman- Mr Armitage )
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause 8 agreed to.
Proposed new clause 8a and 8b.
– I move:
After clause 8, insert the following clauses: 8a ( 1 ) For the purpose of carrying out its functions of encouraging the making, promotion, distribution and exhibition of Australian films, the Commission or an authorized personmay serve, either personally or by post, on-
any other person who carries on the business of exhibiting films in a theatre or theatres in Australia, a requirement in writing in accordance with this section.
the period to which it relates, being a period commencing not earlier than the date on which the requirement is served; and
At this stage 1 foreshadow further amendments as follows:
After clause 17, page 8 insert the following clause: 17a. A person having a direct or indirect pecuniary interest in a business or other undertaking involving the making, promotion, distribution or exhibition of films is not eligible-
Because of the important role which the production of non-sponsored shorts can play in developing an efficient film industry. the Board has recommended that locally produced short films intended for theatrical release be submitted to the a fa for certification that they are not sponsored and are thus eligible for commercial exhibition under the proposed quota.
The Tariff Board realised, in relation to the development of the film industry in Australia and the training of cameramen, technicians and producers in the short film industry, that there had to be some sponsorship and there had to be some Government intervention in order to ensure that the short film industry was not only developed but also able to get under way and become an important pan of the film industry in Australia. So we, as the Government, have introduced the notion that there should be a film quota for short films.
This part of the legislation was defeated in the Senate. But because we have followed the recommendations of the Tariff Board and because we strongly believe that the short film industry in Australia, which is the cradle of film makers in Australia, has to be assisted we are insisting upon this provision being reinstated in the Bill. The philosophy of the Liberal and Country Parties is: ‘You can go ahead and make films but it is not necessary that you should be able to show them and not only is it not necessary that you should be able to show them but also we will not provide you with any assistance or the conditions under which they can be shown’. It is simply ludicrous to suggest, first of all, that we should just let films be made and not shown. That is why we have put forward the requirement that there should be a quota for them to be shown. It has also been suggested that the films made by Film Australia should not necessarily be shown. That, to my mind, is ludicrous because the amount of money which has been spent over the last few years on films sponsored by the Government for a variety of reasons adds up to some $4m. It seems to us that the use of that money can be displayed in the form of short films that can be seen. So we insist that we should be able to legislate to ensure that the Film Commission, which will be sponsoring short films, will be able to have those films shown and that the quota provisions, which provided the teeth of the Film Commission and which the Opposition has quite deliberately taken out, should be reinstated.
– I am appalled by the information put to the Committee by the Minister for Science (Mr Morrison) in his capacity as the representative in this chamber of the Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland). He talked to us about the Opposition in the other place taking this provision out of the Bill and therefore denying the recommendations of the Tariff Board in its report. It is just as well that members of the Opposition are better informed on matters than supporters of the Government. I have in front of me the report of the Tariff Board to which the Minister referred. He talked about the Tariff Board recommending that for quota purposes films such as those produced by Film Australia as it is now called- it used to be called the Commonwealth Film Unit- should go towards the quota for Australian short films. In fact, the Tariff Board ‘s report says at page 1 6:
Certification (for quota purposes) would only be given to shorts not made -
I emphasise the words ‘not made ‘- by the Commonwealth Film Unit.
In fact, what the Government is seeking to do with the extraordinary piece of drafting in the two proposed new clauses that are being considered together is to try to condemn the independent film industry by forcing it out economically by the production of Film Australia shorts that would drive out the independent film producers in Australia. Within these proposed new clauses it insists, in the dragnet, Goebbels style, of the earlier clauses to which the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) was referring that it will demand that these films be shown, irrespective of whether an operator wishes to show them. It is all very well to insist upon a quota of short films, but not if it is going to drive out another section of the industry. Unquestionably the industry understood- I have this on the best authority- that this provision would be amended by the Government, but not by the reinsertion of the clause that was taken out by the Senate, which would stay out. We would be happy to agree to this insertion if the definition of an Australian short film were to be amended by the deletion of sub-clause (a) of the definition, but that is not going to be done by the Government. We would be happy if the Government were to agree to the deletion of all references to the Minister’s approach, approval and direction in the Bill, but the Government has just reinserted that provision by supporting it in the division that we have just had. The Government has introduced as part of this amendment a provision which says, in proposed sub-clause (5):
It is a defence if a person charged with an offence under sub-section (4) proves that he had a reasonable excuse relating to the availability of Australian short films for not complying with the requirement to which the offence relates.
The onus of proof is being thrown onto the individual charged. The same honourable members opposite who have the hide to come into this chamber on occasions and talk about wanting to introduce a Bill of Rights in the Parliament have thrown aside all conventions and laws relating to the onus of proof. Let me quote proposed clause 8B, which the Government seeks to bring in together with proposed clause 8a. It reads:
The Minister shall give such directions to the Commission -
Again we have the Minister saying what it should do; so much for the independent authority- or an authorised person under section 7a as he thinks necessary for the purpose of ensuring the observance, in the exercise of powers under this section -
Listen to this- of the obligations of Australia under the Code of Liberalisation of Current Invisible Operations of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, and the Commission or the authorised person shall comply with those directions.
I have in front of me a copy of the Code of Liberalisation of Current Invisible Operations.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
-Before the suspension of the sitting I had expressed the Opposition’s grave reservations about the amendments proposed by the Government. Included, of course, is clause 8B which we have been discussing in a cognate debate. I traced through the Opposition’s view that we would accept this amendment if there were changes made in either the definition of the ‘Australian short film’ in clause 3, or if in fact the references to the approval of the Minister and the direction of the Minister throughout the Bill were changed. I indicated, of course, that as the Minister for Science (Mr Morrison) did not seem to be moved by my argument on the Australian short film change in definition and the fact that the previous division had revolved around ministerial direction, I assumed that the Government would not be persuaded by even the most plausible of arguments put by the Opposition on this occasion.
I went through the economic difficulties that would face local film producers and what appeared to me to be- I trust I was not misrepresenting the Minister- a statement which was made in ignorance of the recommendations which had been contained in the Tariff Board report from which I quoted. I also referred to the onus of proof which changed around in relation to sub-clause (5) of this amendment. I was concluding my remarks on the extraordinary clause 8B which the Minister seeks to reinsert in the Bill regarding the Code of Liberalisation of Current Invisible Operations of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. I said that frankly I regarded it in the Australian scene as rather ridiculous to be saddled completely by ministerial direction and the thrust of this Code.
I regard the international obligations of this Parliament and the nation as paramount when we enter into associations such as the OECD. We ought to seek to meet the requirements of the OECD. But there is no need for legislation to make it mandatory through ministerial direction for those requirements to be met by the Australian industry.
– Of course, we aspire as my colleague the honourable member for Moreton agrees, to meet the aspirations of these agreements. But to enshrine this code in an amendment such as this with the Minister again having the power of direction as he thinks fit for the interpretation of that Code is to me not only ludicrous but somewhat dangerous. I have the Code here.
– Has the Minister read it? I doubt whether he has.
-Well, the Minister is not blessed with fluency in French. I could translate it for him. I have the French version of it here if he would wish to see it after the debate concludes. Having established only during the suspension of this sitting that the Minister does not speak French, there was not sufficient time to provide him with a translation during the break. I would add that during that time I have been able to obtain an English translation of it and if we had sufficient time I would read it to him. Time, however, is against me at the present.
– I always read it in Russian.
-That is the trouble. The Minister who is sitting at the table is handling Papua New Guinea. If we could have an exchange in Pidgin in relation to the OECD we might do well. I might be able to persuade the Minister, in the most plausible terms, to accept the argument we are putting in the House tonight against the amendment that is proposed by the Government.
It is on those bases that I have put forward that we strongly oppose the amendment moved by the Government. I refer to the definition; the effect on the local industry; the onus of proof which is the antithesis of what is contained in the Bill of Rights which the Government proclaims before us both here and outside the House so frequently; and, finally, enshrining in the legislation the provisions of this Code of the OECD.
– I am afraid that in any language the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock) could not be sufficiently plausible to persuade the Government not to insert the amendment. But I do believe, becoming more serious, that it ill behoves the shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs to make light of an Australian treaty obligation particularly an Australian treaty obligation that was entered into by the previous Government. We accepted the responsibility, we a government, to ensure that any of the treaty obligations entered into by a previous government will continue to be respected. I must confess that this particular treaty obligation does have a curious title but then many treaty obligations have had curious titles and there have been more curious titles in the international field as the honourable gentleman will be aware. Irrespective of that, the Government firmly believes that any responsible Minister has the responsibility of ensuring that an agency or a statutory authority, in the discharge of its responsibilities, conforms to the international treaties to which Australia is a party.
I would hope that the frivolous attitude of the honourable member for Kooyong is soberly noted. Considering any pretentions he may have to be the voice of Australia in the future, those who have just heard his frivolous comments this afternoon may be able to discount these pretentions. We adhere to the amendment that we have introduced. We believe that it is an essential amendment to ensure the strength and vitality of the Film Commission. I am sure that these arguments put by the Government are arguments that are essential to the effective operation of the Film Commission which, of course, is what we want. But to judge by the amendments that were introduced into the Senate by representatives of the honourable gentlemen opposite, it is not obvious that they have the same intent or purport.
– I protest, Mr Chairman, against the mean minded attitude -
Motion (by Mr Nicholls) agreed to.
That the question be now put.
That the proposed new clauses be inserted in the Bill (Mr Morrison’s amendment).
The Committee divided. (The Chairman-Mr G. G. D. Scholes)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause 9 (Commission to keep itself informed as to film industry).
-Clause 9 is a perfect example of the dilemma in which the Government finds itself, because if the Government were of good faith in the matter of having an independent Commission it would not have insisted upon giving to the Minister overall control with respect to films and film content. Yet in this instance, when it comes to administration, clause 9 states:
For the purposes of performing its functions, the Commission shall keep itself informed …
– I cannot hear him.
– The honourable member does not know how lucky he is. The point, Mr Chairman, as you well know as one who sat watching the debate anxiously during the afternoon, is that the Opposition’s quarrel is that the Government is not prepared to allow this Commission to operate in an independent fashion. Clause 9 of the Bill states:
For the purposes of performing its functions, the Commission shall keep itself informed . . .
The clause then goes on to recite the provisions. Yet when one looks at the Commission’s functions, which are to be found in clause 5, all of those functions are trammelled.
The Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) has just said to the Minister for Science (Mr Morrison): ‘Shall we knock them over?’ I had thought that at long last the Minister for Services and Property would reveal himself as the only genuine left winger in the Labor Party. Here we have the extraordinary position in which the Government finds itself. All of the functions of the Commission are trammelled by ministerial superintendence, intervention, control, direction -call it what you will- and when it comes to the performance of those functions the Bill states that the Commission shall keep itself informed. It is an extraordinary state of affairs. I only regret that the Minister took the opportunity to make what I describe as a regrettable onslaught or assault against the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock). He did this in connection with this matter, or on a matter associated with it. He questioned the bona fides of the honourable member for Kooyong. I think that is a very great pity. To return to the clause before the Committee, what puzzles me is that the Minister, even at this late stage of the debate, cannot concede that what the Government is trying to create is a completely imperfect edifice. It is establishing a Commission which, for all practical purposes, is under the control of the Minister. In this clause the Government’s inconsistency is revealed. I only hope that this evening when the Minister for Science reflects upon what he has done on this dreary day his conscience will strike him and that he will have a sleepless night.
– For the first time in the course of this debate I am inclined to agree with the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen). The reason I agree with the honourable member is that of clause 11 in the old Bill which was debated in another place all we have left after the ravages and devastation of the Opposition in the Senate is the first part of what is now clause 9. If the honourable member means by his observations that he would like to reinstate paragraphs (2) and (3) of old clause 1 1, we would be very happy to accede to the argument that he puts forward. But the reason that clause 9 stands so naked lies with the operations of his worthy colleagues in another place. If the honourable member would like to move for the reinstatement of paragraphs (2) and (3) as originally proposed by the Government we would be happy to accept the Opposition’s amendment.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 10 to 17- by leave- taken together.
– I wish to direct the attention of the Committee to clause 11. Clause 11.(1) reads:
The Commission may, by writing of its seal, delegate to a member of the Commission with the approval of the Minister,-
Once again, we have the intrusion into a statutory authority of this Goebbels type creature who looks after the Department of the Media. I remind Government supporters that the whole purpose of a statutory authority is that it may operate at arms length from the Minister. The central argument that the honourable member for
Moreton (Mr Killen) has been putting throughout this debate in the Committee stage is that the Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland) or his representative in this place, the Minister for Science (Mr Morrison) ought to remove themselves from a position of having control of the statutory authority. We do not want to regurgitate the same arguments time after time. But the central issue is that the Minister is allowing the arguments to be regurgitated as we debate clause after clause. We ask the Minister for Science, who represents the Minister for the Media in this place, to listen to the persuasive arguments that we have been putting about the withdrawal of the authority of the Minister for the Media over a commission such as the Australian Film Commission. As I said, the whole purpose of the Commission operating effectively and efficiently is that it operates with a flexibility that only a statutory authority can have. If it is to operate directly under the authority of the Minister his Department may as well administer the whole thing. So I say in relation to clause 1 1 that although we do not wish to detain the Commission any further, we ask that the words, with the approval of the Minister, be deleted from sub-clause ( 1 ).
Clauses agreed to.
Proposed new clause 1 7a.
– I move:
The purpose of this amendment is to reinsert the provision to ensure that full-time members of the Commission should not be open to the charge of conflict of interests in carrying out their responsibility in the service of the Australian Film Commission. The Government accepts the need to involve in the Commission the talents, skills and knowledge of people with experience in the film industry. I remind honourable members that such a provision was specifically excluded when the Australian Film Development Corporation was established. In Part II of the Australian Film Development Corporation Act, clause 6 (3) states:
A person shall not be appointed as a member if he has a direct or indirect pecuniary interest in a business of making. distributing or exhibiting films or in a corporation carrying on such a business.
This points out the monumental inconsistency of the Opposition. The Bill that it introduced relating to very much the same sort of thing as the Bill we are now considering specifically excludes anybody with a pecuniary interest being appointed as a member of that Corporation. Then, in the other place the Opposition argues that there should be as members of the Australian Film Commission people who have a pecuniary interest in the film industry. We accept this argument. I think that this is one of the major criticisms of the Australian Film Development Corporation which members of the Opposition brought in when in government. We accept the argument that it is necessary to have on the Commission people who have an interest, experience and expertise in the film industry. But what we say- this is the point I must stress- is that a fulltime member cannot have a pecuniary interest. It is a very simple proposition.
We say that a part-time member of the Commission can have a pecuniary interest. If the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) would read the Bill he would find that this was the case. So the clause that we are seeking to reinsert by way of an amendment really contains the sort of philosophy that one assumes the Opposition had in this context. We just make the differentiation that we hope that full-time members would be full-time members and would not be running Hoyts or some other outfit in their spare time, that they would devote themselves entirely to the functions and operations of the Commission. We accept the proposition which was contained in the original Bill, which unfortunately the Opposition in the Senate deleted, namely, that part-time members can have these interests as long as they declare them in the consideration of matters that come before the Commission.
-The argument of the Minister for Science (Mr Morrison) is the most predictably schizophrenic argument that I have heard in this chamber since I have been here. How on earth can the Minister say that the Opposition is inconsistent and then stand up and say that if a person has a pecuniary interest in a matter he cannot serve as a full-time member but he can serve as a part-time member? What the Opposition is trying to ensure is that the Australian Film Commission functions as effectively as possible. That means that we should choose the best qualified people, irrespective of whether they have a pecuniary interest. (Government supporters interjecting) -
-You see, Mr Chairman, the schizophrenia is widespread amongst honourable members on the other side of the chamber. The Government will allow people with a pecuniary interest to serve as part-time commissioners but not as full-time commissioners. It seems to me that once you take that step and permit people with a pecuniary interest to serve on the Commission, whether it be on a full-time or a part-time basis, you have crossed the Rubicon and have conceded that these people have a contribution to make. If positions are to be open to them on the Commission to fill as full-time commissioners, the positions ought to be filled by the best qualified persons. Honourable members opposite in Government have a predeliction for saying time and again: ‘We have representatives of the housewives association, of the employers associations and of trade unions on a certain body. Is that not marvellous? We have almost the whole spectrum of the community represented on this body’. The fact that such people may know nothing about matters to be discussed does not enter into it. What is important in regard to this Commission is that we get the best qualified people. Of course, it should be insisted that they declare their interests. Of course the Government insists that it is mandatory that they declare their interests and that they are not allowed to take decisions or to vote upon matters in which they have a financial interest. The best people qualified to serve on the Commission should be put on that Commission. The Government has taken the step of permitting such people to serve part time on the Commission. Why does the Government have a bob each way, or in this inflationary time, $5 each way? Why does the Government not go the full step and allow the people to serve, provided they declare their interests? To me it is extraordinary that the Government fabricates an argument against those who have such interests but permits them to serve as part-time members and not as full-time members. The Government’s argument falls to the ground because of the lack of logic in it. The Opposition opposes the amendment.
– I protest against the attitude taken by the Minister for Science (Mr Morrison) with respect to this amendment. The logic put by the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock) surely is captivating, if not overwhelming.
Question (by Mr Nicholls) agreed to:
That the question be now put.
That the clause proposed to be inserted (Mr Morrison’s amendment) be inserted.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman-Mr G. G. D. Scholes)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause 18 agreed to.
– I move:
This is a consequential amendment and I commend it to the House.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 20 agreed to.
The validity of an act done by the Commission shall not be questioned in any proceedings on a ground arising from the fact that the occasion for the appointment of a person purporting to have been appointed under section 17 had not arisen or that the appointment under that section had ceased to have effect.
– I move:
This amendment is consequential to the insertion of clause 17 a.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Remainder of Bill- by leave- taken as a whole.
– I move:
After clause 36, insert in Part VII the following clause: 36a. ( 1 ) Subject to sub-section (2 ), the Commission is not subject to taxation under any law of Australia or of a State or Territory. ‘(2) The regulations may provide that sub-section (1) does not apply in relation to taxation under a specified law ‘.
Amendment agreed to.
Remainder of the Bill, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report- by leave- adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Morrison)- by leaveread a third time.
Debate resumed from 19 November on motion by Mr Clyde Cameron:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– This Bill is aimed directly at the barge and small ship operators servicing the north coast of Australia, the Northern Territory in particular. In his second reading speech, the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) said:
It has come to the Government’s attention, as a result of a dispute in Darwin and an associated legal opinion, that the original intention of the legislation could be frustrated by the lack of clarity in the existing wording of paragraph (n). Thus, concern has been expressed by the principle parties in the industry that this paragraph should be clarified at the earliest opportunity.
Paragraph (n) is part of the definition of waterside worker contained in section 7 of the principal Act. I believe the Minister said also that he had had discussions with the principal persons concerned in Darwin. However, I do not think the Minister said that agreement had been reached with them; I am certain he would not have secured their agreement.
I believe this Bill emanated from the time when a barge operator- I will name him since the Minister no doubt will do so- a man named V. B. Perkins, managed to have his barge operation declared an industrial undertaking. By so doing he was not bound, under the Act, to employ Waterside Workers Federation personnel. Had it not been for a legal interpretation of the provisions of the Act barge operators on the north coast would still have been forced to employ WWF labour. The point about this whole situation is that in the past the employees of the barge operators have been able to load and unload these vessels at a rate of 7.2 tons an hour as compared with 0.7 tons an hour by WWF labour.
Perhaps I should explain the operations of these barges. The tide is all-important. A barge must be beached and loaded in time to catch the next high tide. As honourable members and some people know, Darwin has a rise and fall in the tide of up to 28 feet. Many places serviced by this type of vessel also have high rises and falls in the tide and that is why barges operate in the Northern Territory and on the north coast of Australia. Not only is Mr Perkins involved in this type of operation; every barge operator on the north coast of Australia must follow a similar procedure. These barges operate from Port Keats eastwards to the Gulf of Carpentaria.
When mining operations first commenced on Groote Eylandt and when the Nabalco company first developed its operations at Gove there were few signs of civilisation. There were no roads and no sealed airstrips, except for a wartime strip at Gove. Consequently these barge operators alone transported most of the supplies to and from those areas. They have been doing this work for up to 12 years. I have been accused by the Minister of conspiring with these people to try to further their ends. Who would not try to further the ends of people who provide virtually the only means of communication to such places on the north coast? I suggest that the Minister try to service these outlying areas with a number of aeroplanes, footwalkers or motor vehicles, if he can, from now until next April because if this Bill is passed in its present form there will be a complete failure of barge operations on the north coast no matter who owns the barges.
I am quite willing to be in a conspiracy when I am trying to save an essential operation which has functioned for 12 years. I am in conspiracy on behalf of thousands of my constituents. As a quick calculation- it must be quick as I am supposed to make my comments brief- I should estimate, from looking at the townships, settlements and what used to be missions on that north coast, that 4,000 to 5,000 people would be relying directly on barge operations and an additional 7,000 to 8,000 people would be in considerable difficulty if those barge operations ceased. Why then should I not be standing here defending the barge operators and trying to stop a Government move which will put these ships off the north coast?
These operators could easily go elsewhere with their ships. If I owned these vessels I would not be operating on the north coast now. I would not have stood the nonsense perpetrated by the Government on behalf of the people whose interests it is espousing in the stevedoring industry in Darwin. These barges operate from Frances Bay, which is the small ships pan of the Port of Darwin. It has been suggested that WWF labour working these vessels would be loading at the rate of 0.7 tons an hour as compared with a rate of 7.2 tons an hour by company employees who are members of the Transport Workers Union. A barge operation cannot be operated efficiently with a low loading rate. That cannot be done because the cost of keeping a ship in port and the cost of missing a tide will escalate the freight charges involved in conveying cargoes to remote areas which have no other source of freight communication with the exception of aircraft services.
To try to reduce the increased charges resulting from this action, one barge operator in an endeavour to move the backlog of freights introduced what has been commonly referred to as the dumb barge operation. Many humourous points were scored against that operation by the unions opposing this action. The fact is that the dumb barge is only a seaborne trailer. Anyone who believes that trailers should not be drawn at all on the land, on roads in the Northern Territory, Queensland or anywhere else, is out of his mind. The way to cut down on freight costs is to endeavour to have as much as possible drawn by the same power unit. Instead of having a Shell tanker or an overland transport with a couple of ‘dogs’ or semi-trailers attached, a series of trucks would be used to transport the same goods. One may have three or four units doing the same work as one unit. What is involved is economics, pure and simple. Freight charges will escalate terrifically with the new fuel charges.
The move against the dumb barges was tremendous. The Waterside Workers Federation considered that employees would lose their work. One firm actually stated that if it had been able to use the dumb barge operation it would have employed 10 more men in its land operations and would have shifted the backlog of cargoes along that coast. I believe that these cargoes are still banking up as a result of the idiotic suggestion that a ship which costs between $500,000 and $750,000-probably even more now- to construct is required to do the same job as was being done by one ship with a barge attached. The purpose of this service was to try to lower freight costs. It was a service to the people along the north coast. No one was being done out of a job. Extra men would have been employed as a result of the extra business generated.
One of the great problems in that area at the moment results from this backlog of cargo. Those who instituted the complaint about the commercial enterprise also introduced the black ban on dumb badges. So, they are not really interested in the wellbeing of people living along the coast from Port Keats in the west to the Gulf of Carpentaria. The population is found at ports, settlements and landing places along that coastline. If this legislation is passed by both Houses, those people will be at a tremendous disadvantage.
I ask the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) to say what he will do if he is successful in this operation which is aimed at barge operators out of Darwin. On behalf of Aborigines the Government has purchased a 70 per cent share in one of the largest barge operators in the Northern Territory. What will be done in this respect? This share was purchased by the Government with a view to interesting the Aborigines in their own affairs and to involve them in a transport operation. From my knowledge of the men who used to skipper the luggers across the north coast, Aborigines would be hard put to do the work. They will need to be trained to run these operations. It may take years to do that. If this legislation is passed, those barge operations will cease, even though one is now 70 per cent owned by this Government.
If the Waterside Workers Federation takes over from the Transport Workers Union a major demarcation dispute will occur in relation to small ship operations in the Northern Territory. Many of the men in the TWU will refuse to work with the WWF. A complete stoppage in the operations of small ships out of Darwin to service those ports will result. I ask the Minister now as I asked him when originally this affair was triggered off by the industrial undertaking dispute that arose, what he intends to do. He is trying to push this legislation through. I would say that he is the one who is in conspiracy, as he accused me of just that, but with the forces of the left to smash these small ship enterprises on the north coast. He is in conspiracy to prove that private enterprise is incompetent and will not work and cannot operate these ships. I would like to see this Government operate those ships and try to sort out the debacle which will occur if this legislation is passed. The men who are manning these ships will not work under the Waterside Workers Federation.
Indirectly, the Government is imposing a tremendous hardship on more than 10,000 people who live along that northern coastline of Australia. It also will be destroying an Aboriginal enterprise. It is a grand long range scheme. The present operators are prepared to help develop that business on behalf of Aborigines. This disruption will happen because the Minister is in conspiracy with the left wing unions which wish to dominate these activities.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Section 7 of the Stevedoring Industry Act 1956-1973 is amended by omitting paragraph (n) of the definition of waterside worker’ in sub-section (l) and substituting the following paragraph:
As the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) pointed out in the second reading debate, the clause suggested in this Bill goes beyond what was seemingly intended by the Government and the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) in his second reading speech. As was pointed out, the Minister referred to the second reading speech of the late Mr Harold Holt in 1956 when the definition of waterside worker was originally put in the legislation. It was clear that the purpose of this was to cover a case where ships were unloaded at remote places- then, for instance, Bell Bay, and now places like Gove, Groote Eylandt and the like. The purpose of the amendment is to ensure that persons employed in those ventures are able to unload from ships not only the actual machinery, products, or goods that are being used in connection with an industrial undertaking- for instance at Gove in regard to the Nabalco bauxite undertaking-but also those goods which have been transported there by ship for use in hotels, motels and shops- in other words, ordinary stores or perhaps the furniture of people who live in and service the neighbourhood.
If the Bill goes through in its present form all that would be permitted in such a case would be the unloading of products that are used in connection with the Nabalco undertaking. I have taken this undertaking as just one example. Goods for use in the local store would not be permitted to be unloaded from the ship. Products to be sold in any store, perhaps even the Aboriginal store at Yirrkala near Gove, could not be unloaded.
The Opposition cannot believe that the Government really intends that this should happen. Of course, the significance of this is that although Gove is not a port at which there is a register for waterside workers at the moment, once a possible demarcation could arise it would be open to the Waterside Workers Federation to seek the registration, for example, of the port at Melville Bay under the Stevedoring Industry Act. The result would be, of course, that a register could be established and waterside workers would handle that part of a cargo which was for use in the local store and employees of the company would be responsible for the rest of the cargo. This is not a situation, of course, which we would suggest is likely to result in industrial harmony. It is not one which the Government, we respectfully suggest, ought to promote. Therefore, I have moved on behalf of the Opposition an amendment to clause (3) (n) which seeks to omit the word ‘performing’. The clause reads at the moment: persons, being employees in the regular employment of a person carrying on an industrial undertaking . . . performing work in or in connection with stevedoring operations of the employer with respect to a cargo that is the product of, or is for use in or in connection with, that industrial undertaking.
That is construed to mean ‘whilst performing that work’. Whilst they were not performing that work they would not be exempted from the definition of waterside worker, that is to say, whilst they were unloading a ship in so far as the cargo related to goods for use in the local store. Our amendment seeks to delete the word ‘performing’ and to put back the words ‘whose duties include’. Therefore as long as the duties of the persons who were unloading the ship included the unloading of that part of the cargo which was a product of, or for use in or in connection with an industrial undertaking, that would be sufficient. The fact that they took off the rest of the cargo which related to the local store would not require them to be regarded as waterside workers for the purposes of the Stevedoring Industry Act.
It is for that reason that I have moved the amendment. We believe that the amendment would not only preserve industrial peace, and comply with the intention of the Government according to the Minister’s second reading speech but also would be consistent with the original intention of this legislation and with a desire to cover the problem which brought about the amendment. The amendment would enable the legislation to cover the problem. At the same time it would not give rise tofurther problems in the nature of demarcation disputes which could ultimately lead to industrial unrest in areas as remote as Gove, the very idea of which is, of course, unthinkable.
– I support the amendment proposed by the Opposition on the very simple ground that by the amendment the Stevedoring Industry Act will be brought back to the true intention of the exemption provided in the provisions of the Act as introduced by the late Harold Holt as far back as 1956. It is rather significant that the exemption stood the test of time for some 1 7 years before the situation which has prompted our amendment arose at Darwin. In the light of that situation the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) has taken the opportunity to try to extend the language of the exemption, but in a way which will limit the area of the exemption.
The honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Ellicott) has explained the ramifications of the amendment as introduced by the Government and how it would fundamentally alter the basis of the exemption which has hitherto existed. It may be put in very simple terms that the exemption was intended to permit employees whose duties were not limited to stevedoring operations to conduct the loading and unloading of ships carrying goods for use in connection with the industrial undertaking of their employer. This applied in areas such as those which have been mentioned but which generally fall into the area of mining operations which have grown along the coastline of Australian in recent times. This situation arises not only in operations such as Groote Eylandt. In the north-west of Western Australia where mining undertakings and towns to house employees of the undertakings, have been established, naturally enough the companies’ wharves which are used for loading and unloading the products produced by the operations are used also for the handling of general cargo for the domestic services of the people who are employed in the undertakings. So what more sensible and practical consideration could apply than that those employees should be allowed not only to do the ordinary work that they do for their employer but also to handle these domestic commodities that are introduced across the employer’s wharf.
The honourable member for Wentworth has given the example of goods which are brought in for the local stores and which might be only a small part of the total cargo, the other part being cargo for direct use in the undertaking of the employer. The late Harold Holt said that as a matter of working practicality it is to be preferred that persons regularly employed by an industrial concern should load or unload on a wharf that is pan of that concern. That gets away from the weakness of the casual arrangement which is so generally a feature of waterfront employment. It gives the employer much more effective supervision and control of the operation of his own plant.
If the amendment proposed by the Government were allowed to stand in the terms in which it was introduced it would severely limit the flexibility of employment which these operations presently enjoy. The exemption would apply only in respect of persons whose sole or substantial duties are the handling of cargo that is the product of or for use in or in connection with the industrial undertaking, whether it be bauxite, iron ore, manganese or some other material of that kind. It would Limit the exemption to those persons whose sole or substantial employment is to handle that particular product or cargo to be used in connection with the extraction and the shipment of that particular product. So it is quite apparent, when the superficially simple language of this amendment is analysed, that it will make a fundamental change in the exemption which presently exists in favour of employees who are permanently employed by undertakings such as have been described.
It would allow the Waterside Workers Federation generally to come in and to claim the right to have as members the small group of persons who would have to be permanently employed in order to handle that limited amount of general cargo which goes across the employer’s wharf. That may well be what the Minister for Labor and Immigration intends, but he must know the ramifications of it if it is what he intends. If the amendment is allowed to stand in the form in which it is proposed by the Government it would extend the monopoly which the Waterside Workers Federation is seeking right around the coastline of Australia. I know from my own experience of practice in the industrial field how anxious the Federation is to extend that monopoly right around the coast and to intrude into areas such as the one where by statute it presently is excluded and also to intrude into ports where previously it did not have the monopoly power.
For the reasons which have been expounded by the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in this debate and as long ago as 1956 by the late Harold Holt, all that the Opposition seeks to do through the amendment it now proposes is to retain the exemption according to the true intention of that exemption when it was first introduced in 1956. That is a simple proposition on the Opposition’s part. We would be interested to hear from the Minister just why he intends to limit the exemption still further. Nothing that he said in his second reading speech explains why he should limit this exemption in the way in which he now proposes. If the Minister has not understood the language of the Bill as introduced he has an opportunity to overcome that misunderstanding by accepting the amendment that the Opposition now proposes. If the amendment were not inadvertent but deliberate we would welcome in this Committee stage a full and ample explanation of why the Government has done what it has by the limiting language which appears in the Bill. I support the amendment which has been proposed by the Opposition.
– I always treat with a great deal of respect the views expressed by people of eminence at law such as we just heard. Both the honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Ellicott) and the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Viner) make sensible contributions. I do not want to encourage them too much, but they always give a great deal of thought to what they say and I always listen with a great deal of interest to anything they say.
Paragraph (n), together with paragraph (m), was a late addition in 1956 to the legislative overhaul of the Stevedoring Industry Act following the Tait inquiry. Following industrial disputes at its Bell Bay site during 1955-56 the Australian Aluminium Production Commission sought unsuccessfully from the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board, as it then was, permission to employ persons other than waterside workers on its stevedoring operations. The Board indicated that the legislation then existing gave the Waterside Workers Federation a virtually absolute monopoly on stevedoring operations. At this time the Colonial Sugar Refining Co. Limited had mechanised its bulk handling stevedoring operations in Sydney and was not employing Waterside Workers Federation members. It was proposing to mechanise its Queensland operations and was concerned that the WWF would use or might use the Bell Bay case to force the Colonial Sugar Refinery Company to employ WWF members. The Colonial Sugar Refinery Company at the time wrote to the Government of the day- the Menzies Governmentrequesting a very special exemption from the Stevedoring Industry Act. These representations resulted in the insertion of paragraph (m), which exempted companies with shore based loose bulk handling operations.
Having agreed to the request of the CSR organisation the then Government inquired as a matter of urgency as to whether other companies might warrant exemption. It ascertained that various companies had long-standing exemptions from the waterside workers award. It appears that paragraph (n)- the one we are now talking about- was then added to section 7 ( 1 ) to give those companies the increased protection of the legislative exemption. At its simplest, the paragraph appears designed to cover those types of companies which already had exemptions from the waterside workers award. The following quotation is taken from the Cabinet clause notes for the 1956 Bill: . . . shall grant exemptions from the need to use Federation members where the stevedoring operations concerned with the operations of an enterprise loading or unloading at wharves which form part of the enterprise and in relation to which the normal employees of the enterprise will be used.
Since 1956 situations have developed which were not envisaged at the time paragraph (n) was first introduced into legislation.
The preparation of this Bill brought attention to these developments. The situations referred to involve companies, especially mining companies, operating away from the major ports. While the legislation intended that these companies could stevedore at their own wharves any type of cargo provided that it was the product of or for use in or in connection with their undertaking and provided that they were using their regular employees, some companies have been making their facilities available to stevedoring cargoes for other persons. An example of this would be a mining company which used the provisions of paragraph (n) to stevedore equipment and supplies needed in its operations, but also to stevedore food, beer and other supplies on behalf of hotels and stores which operated in the same town.
The 1956 legislation was not intended to cover this latter situation, although it might be possible nonetheless to argue in the case of a company town in a remote locality that these supplies were for use in connection with the undertaking. The companies concerned have naturally expressed anxiety as to the effect of the Bill. However, the Bill is not directed at these situations. It is intended only to clarify the original intention of the Parliament. The Bill carefully and narrowly does only that. The Bill does not extend protection to these new situations nor does it deliberately seek to intefere with any local practice which may have grown up since 1956. The Bill merely seeks to clarify the original intention of the legislation. That intention was that an employer using his regular labour could stevedore at bis company wharf any type of cargo that was the product of or for use in or in connection with that undertaking. The Bill therefore merely confirms the original intention, but does not deliberately do violence to the existing practice.
The wording of the Bill has been the subject of consideration by the Australian Council of Trade Unions, the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia and other unions. It is recognised that the Bill is intended to clarify weaknesses in the legislation which could have serious implications for the stevedoring industry and that it is not intended to disturb relationships outside the stevedoring industry. The wording of the Bill has been the subject of discussion between employers and the Government. Agreement has been reached on all matters of substance and on much of the wording. There were, however, some differences in the preferences given to the words used in some parts of the Bill. Senior legal opinion was to the effect that the words now to be found in the Bill better stated the intention of the legislation but were not in conflict with the phrasing preferred by existing industrial undertakings. The wording of the Bill has been the subject of discussion with the stevedoring industry parties and they are in agreement with its present form.
I do not intend to speak again on this clause or to say anything when we come to the consideration of the next clause. I conclude by saying that if, as suggested, we were to delete the word ‘performing’ and replace it with the words ‘whose duties include’ the situation could work in reverse because if only 1 per cent of the cargo handled by an employer was directly connected with his undertaking or his product, the other 99 per cent of the cargo that had nothing whatever to do with it would then be exempt from the operations of the Act. That would produce the very opposite result from what I am sure the Opposition intends.
– But that is there now.
– I am not so certain about that. The Attorney-General’s Department has said that this is a critical clause. Talks have gone on today between the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and Mr Fitzgibbon, I think it is, of the Waterside Workers Federation. The Waterside Workers Federation had intended its Mr Docker to come to Canberra tomorrow to discuss this matter with the Opposition Parties and with the Government
Party. For that reason we had indicated that we would keep an open mind on the matter. If, as a consequence of the talks we have with the Waterside Workers Federation and of the talks which take place between the Federation and the Opposition parties, it is thought that there ought to be some amendment of the Bill or that the amendments which have been moved or circulated ought to be accepted, the Government will be, of course, willing to do that in the Senate. Unfortunately the airline strike has hit the Waterside Workers Federation and its representative is not now able to come to Canberra tomorrow. But I should think that we would have an opportunity before the debate is resumed in the Senate to hear what it has to say and if, as a consequence of that, the Government feels inclined so to do it will move suitable amendments in the Senate.
That the words proposed to be omitted stand part of the clause.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman-Mr G. G. D. Scholes)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I wish to move a second amendment which has been circulated. It is a matter of regret, of course, that the Government was not prepared to accept the first amendment moved by the Opposition but one is optimistic that the Government may perhaps accept this amendment. The unfortunate effect of the amendment to the Act which has just been passed is that it will prevent certain Aboriginal seamen who are currently operating on vessels which ply between Darwin and various mission settlement stations from unloading the particular barges and ships at Darwin port. The effect of the amendment would be that those particular seamen would be regarded as waterside workers. Unless they register, then, of course, they could not unload the ships.
I do not heed to elaborate on that matter in order to convince honourable members on either side of the House what the effect would be if they could be regarded as waterside workers in a registered port such as the port of Darwin. The Bill appears to be having the effect, when it comes into operation, of preventing Aboriginal seamen employed on mission vessels from unloading ships at Darwin. The existing firm, as was pointed out by the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) which runs the barges between Darwin and the various settlements, is owned- honourable members opposite who are talking might listen to this- 70 per cent by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs.
No doubt the reason why the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and the Government saw fit to acquire a 70 per cent interest in this firm was to enable the training of Aboriginal people on these boats for the purpose of giving them experience in the loading and unloading of ships, the manning of ships and the like.
It is perhaps, at first thought, unthinkable that the Government intended that that position should exist as a result of this legislation, if and when it comes into effect.
The second point is that this has been going on for more than 10 years. That is to say, the barges have been plying between Darwin and mission settlements for more than 10 years. This activity of unloading the ships has been going on during that time. It is only recently that this problem of demarcation has come into existence as a result of division between the Waterside Workers’ Federation and the Transport Workers’ Union in Darwin. Why the Aboriginal seamen should have to be caught up in a demarcation dispute to me defies explanation at this late stage. It has been going on for 10 years. The purpose of this amendment is to ensure that the amendment to the Act will not affect current operations. The only effect of it so far as these barge operations are concerned is to open up old wounds- wounds that exist in the Darwin port between the Transport Workers’ Union on the one hand and the Waterside Workers’ Federation on the other. I move:
The effect of this amendment, as I have said, would be to preserve the existing operations within the terms of the old Act and so enable the particular operations of this company, which is 70 per cent owned by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, from being tainted with the fact that the Aboriginal seamen would suddenly find themselves waterside workers and, therefore, acquiring registration under the Stevedoring Industry Act.
– There is one problem, at least, that is raised by this amendment. The word ‘operations’ in the amendment may mean only a job or a particular operation being undertaken on the day the Bill commenced and will not protect anyone for more than a day. If the Opposition wants to protect the existing companies, this wording will not do so. If the amendment were reworded it could pose a legal nightmare. If a new cargo is handled, is this a new operation? If the employer is taken over, is this a new undertaking? The Opposition can see that there are more problems created by the proposed amendment than would be cured by it. This, however, I understand is one matter about which the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) after talking to Mr Fitzgibbons -
– It is not the impression he gave me.
-Is it not? Well, he is a funny man. He seems to give Mr Fitzgibbons -
– He is a pretty strong man.
-Yes, he is a strong man but he gave Mr Fitzgibbons a different impression from the impression he gave to the honourable member for Wentworth. Perhaps Mr Fitzgibbons is dull- I do not know.
– I do not now Mr Fitzgibbons.
– Maybe the honourable member for Wannon is dull.
-I do not think so.
-Somebody is, if what the honourable member for Wentworth said is true.
That the amendment (Mr Ellicott’s) be agreed to.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman-Mr G. G. D. Scholes)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Clyde Cameron)- by leave- read a third time.
Debate resumed from 16 October, on motion by Dr Patterson:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– May I have the indulgence of the Housed to raise a point of procedure of this legislation? Before the debate on this Bill is resumed I would like to suggest that it may suit the convenience of the House to have a general debate covering this Bill and the Livestock Slaughter Levy Collection Bill 1974 as they are related measures. Separate questions will, of course, be put on each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate. I suggest therefore, Mr Deputy Speaker, that you permit the subject matter of both Bills to be discussed in this debate.
-Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering both measures? There being no objection, I will allow that course to be followed.
-The Livestock Slaughter Levy Bill 1974 and the Livestock Slaughter Levy Collection Bill 1974 have the support of the Opposition. Briefly, the Bills extend the operation of the livestock slaughter levy from 1 June 1975 to 30 June 1977. The funds collected provide finance to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation for scientific research in connection with beef, mutton and lamb processing. It is paradoxical that we are presently debating this legislation when the meat industry is undergoing its greatest crisis since the depression. Honourable members will be aware that prices, particularly for cattle, are at extremely low levels and, in terms of comparative money values, lower than they were during the depression. It is against this background that I think comment should be made.
The present position of the beef industry is extremely disturbing, not only from the viewpoint of the beef industry but also from the viewpoint of the nation. The total collapse of the beef industry would pose a grave economic crisis not only for the rural sector of the national economy but also for the total national economy. Honourable members on this side of the House believe that the industry must not be allowed to collapse. The collection of funds under these Bills could develop interesting avenues of research, results of which could improve significantly the marketability of Australian meat, both domestically and internationally. Most of the funds raised by this levy are expended by the CSIRO at its Cannon Hill research station in Brisbane. The work being undertaken there is developing new areas of knowledge in meat processing which are being passed on to processors and improving the quality of the final product from our abattoirs. Most of us engaged in the abattoir business in Australia have special quality processors at the meat works who, if they have difficulties, can communicate with the people at Cannon Hill who have the final authority in this matter.
From a reference to the annual report of the Australian Meat Research Committee it can be seen that the projects being undertaken with the money raised by these Bills are contributing significantly to improving consumer appeal of meat to consumers. For instance, significant research has recently been undertaken into the effect of feedstuffs on meat quality and taste. An expansion of the findings from this report could lead to better forms of management practice which would ensure that producers could avoid producing for slaughter cattle with undesirable consumer flavours. Other investigations which are taking place include: More effective methods of waste disposals from abattoirs, particularly in relation to boned digestion of gut materials from slaughtered animals to produce high quality fertiliser; studies in reducing bacterial contamination of hot boned beef; studies into the refrigeration technology of freezing carcasses; the best methods of conditioning mutton by hanging after slaughter; and, studies into producing well marbled beef for which premium prices are paid. The CSIRO is to be congratulated on this work which I fully believe will lead to significant and potentially great changes in the industry.
However, it would be remiss of me not to refer again to the present position of the beef industry. From these Bills approximately $90,000 to $100,000 will be raised from the meat processors. Although the processors pay the levy directly, it is really the meat producers who pay for it in terms of the price they receive for their cattle. Thus, it is important to examine their financial position. The present position of the meat industry is parlous. There is an urgent need . for the industry to be provided with carry on finance, particularly in view of the depressed outlook for world trade in beef. The level of finance I am talking about is estimated conservatively to be approximately $50m. An amount of $200m has been mentioned by other people in the industry. But I would say conservatively that an amount of $50m would be required. This finance could be supplied from the Rural Credit Department of the Reserve Bank of Australia. I know that the Government is currently holding talks on the provision of finance. But I understand that it has ruled out the possibility of making funds available from the Reserve Bank. Instead, it appears to pursuing the argument that the finance should be arranged in a basket of funds drawn from the trading banks and the brokers. The shortcomings of this proposal, as opposed to the Reserve Bank avenue of finance, are the high interest rates that would be faced and the fact that the availability of finance from the trading banks and the brokers is severely restricted because of the rising indebtedness of the rural sector caused by the general decline in commodity prices over a wide spectrum of the rural economy.
The recent failure of the talks with the Japanese Prime Minister and the lack of indication that the Americans will reopen their beef markets to us points to an extremely difficult period facing the meat industry in the short term. I have no doubt personally that the medium and long term prospect for the industry is good. However, I believe that in the short term the Government must take action to help the industry meet its current problems. One of the most valuable ways the Government could help the industry would be for it to suspend the other levies on the growers which the Labor Government increased last year. The suspension of such levies would not mean the cancellation of the research programs financed under a different Act. The Government itself could take up the short fall caused by the suspension of growers’ contributions until the industry overcame its problems. The Opposition supports original research into all aspects of the industry. However, it feels that at this point in the meat industry’s history the Government should consider suspending the levy and making up the short fall itself. Such a suspension would allow the industry to have funds which are presently deducted at the time of slaughtering. It would, to put it bluntly, improve to some degree the liquidity of the industry. Such an improvement is urgently needed and I think the Government would see the wisdom of such a step.
The other point I wish to raise with regard to the legislation is that I firmly believe that the results of the research which have flowed from similar Bills in previous years could be used by the Government in the development of a food aid program involving meat products. There is no doubt that if Australia could give an increasing proportion of its food aid in meat and meat products the position of the meat industry would be improved. At the present time, we have a situation in this country in which brisket beef is being rendered down as meat meal. This brisket beef could be frozen and exported to those underprivileged countries in its frozen form. It would provide a valuable protein food for their peoples. The Government should look at this proposition because we could help ourselves and help these underprivileged countries at the same time. The Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wriedt) recently returned from Rome after promising a record amount in food aid to the developing countries. Studies that have been undertaken by the CSIRO into the processing of meat have meant that there is widening knowledge of the best methods of treating meat for a wide range of markets. This knowledge should be used by the Government so as to allow it to incorporate meat in our food aid program. I therefore call for urgent talks between the Government and the CSIRO on what practical forms of food aid involving meat can be undertaken immediately. Such an undertaking would be welcomed by the industry. I heard today in the lobbies that there is a possibility of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and the Minister for Agriculture, Senator Wriedt, getting together on this important subject which will, as I have said, benefit Australia and the underprivileged countries.
I appreciate that there are substantial problems in arguing the case of meat as food aid. However, the research at Cannon Hill could overcome many of these problems. In addition, I would urge the Government during the 214 years of the research program to which these Bills give effect to look at new avenues of processing meat. As you would well know, Mr Deputy Speaker, Cannon Hill is the headquarters of the Queensland Meat Industry Authority on the Brisbane River. Such methods could lead to substantial cost saving within the industry. Much of the production cost problems which have confronted the industry in the past 18 months have been at the processing end where wage rates and slaughtering charges have risen out of hand. I think there is a need to develop methods of cattle slaughtering and meat processing which will reduce these charges wherever possible.
I also recommend that serious study be given to the processing of meat into forms for which there is an untapped consumer potential. For instance, in the United States of America an important market is opening up for biltong style processed meat. It is basically being sold as a candy and American processors are amazed at the consumer acceptance of it. This is something that should be explored, as well as further research into freeze-drying of meat and dehydration of meat. One of the great problems that we are facing with respect to the meat industry is the high cost of storage of meat. Investigations of alternative methods of storage and processing which do not involve expensive refrigeration will significantly reduce this problem and I urge that it be more widely investigated.
In conclusion I reiterate that the Opposition does not oppose the Bill. However, we believe that the Government must take urgent action to reduce the problems facing the meat industry and to improve consumer acceptability of meat and at the same time consider the suspension of levies that growers have to pay in order to improve the liquidity position of the industry, with the Government taking over the growers’ component of the contribution until the situation in the meat industry has improved. The Opposition supports the Bill.
-As we know, the purpose of the Bills is to continue the levy to provide finance for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation for scientific research in connection with the processing of beef, mutton and lamb. The honourable member for Paterson (Mr O’Keefe) ably pointed out the research carried out by the CSIRO which is financed by these levies. He mentioned the projects that the Organisation has in hand at the moment and he also mentioned that perhaps it could do a lot more work. It is imperative that it turn its attention to processing meat that can be incorporated in our food aid program. I was heartened by the comments of the honourable member for Paterson that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and the Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wriedt) have been discussing this matter recently.
I know that the Government has been very concerned over the last few months about the position of the beef industry. Since last April we have been in an unprecedented slide and today the industry is in dire straits. The Minister for Northern Development and Minister for the Northern Territory (Dr Patterson) and the Minister for Agriculture in answers to questions and in speeches that they have made recently have demonstrated their concern for the industry. Naturally the Minister for Northern Development is primarily interested in the top end of the country, but both he and the Minister for Agriculture have demonstrated their interest mainly in the northern part of Australia where beef is primarily produced for export. I suggest to them that the southern States of Australia are today in just as much trouble. In fact, I believe the northern parts of Australia have completed a reasonably successful killing season but are naturally looking forward with some trepidation to the coming killing season. But at the moment cattle men in the southern States are in the process of selling their cattle. The cattle have to be taken off the properties. As we know, prices are going down week by week. We thought a month ago that they must have hit bottom but today the price that breeders are getting for their stock is an absolute tragedy. This also applies to the people who are in the quite legitimate business of fattening stock which were bought last year at very high prices. Today they are facing losses of over 50 per cent of what they paid for their stock. Stock that they bought for, say, $150 a head, is being sold by them for $50.
But let us come back to the point about processing beef and the CSIRO ‘s role in this. I have no doubt that if something could be arranged quickly between the Government and the CSIRO to process meat into dehydrated form or into canned form such meat could be incorporated in our food aid program. Looking back over all rural industries, but in particular the beef industry, we see that we have gone through a period of great troughs and peaks. While we would like to think that this will change in the future and that maybe by our marketing expertise and more long term government to government agreements or long term meat agreements with other countries we will be able to take the peaks out, personally I think that from the way the world is going at the moment it would appear that the peaks and troughs will always be in front of us. They may even become more regular. This is a disappointing future to look forward to, so it is important to be able to produce meat in a processed form that can be used for different markets and can be used for aid.
The Minister for Northern Development and Minister for the Northern Territory has said many times that the Government is giving the beef industry earnest consideration and that it realises the crisis in which the industry is. I trust that the Minister will be able to make sure that his colleagues see the reasons behind the need to do something immediately. I believe that taxes and levies that are placed on the meat industry could be lifted until the industry has returned to a period of prosperity. The estimates of receipts and expenditure for the Department of Agriculture show that the rural industries contributed $260,672,000 to receipts. This is vastly greater than the payments by the Government to the rural industries which in fact total $2 10,879,000, not including the $4m subsidy contained in the Tractor Bounty Act, the nitrogenous fertiliser subsidy of $13m and a phosphate fertiliser bounty. My point is that the Government is not losing by subsidising rural industries. The rural industries very much pay their own way. When one takes into consideration their earning capacities overseas, they are essential to the country. As the honourable member for Paterson pointed out, the beef industry in particular is essential to the country. I have already spoken on this matter in the Appropriation Bill, but I repeat that I believe that we are at a period when the Government must act in haste. It has had time and it has had warning; it must press forward with the schemes, which by now it surely has and help this industry through this very trying period.
-The purpose of this legislation is to allow for the collection from the owner at the point of slaughter the sum of lc per head of cattle over 200 lb dressed weight and 0.1c per head on sheep and lambs to finance the industry section of the operations of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation laboratory at Cannon Hill in Brisbane. This industry section has an annual budget of approximately $150,000 out of a total budget at the centre of $ lm. I think it is pertinent in this debate to point out the magnificent contribution that the CSIRO has made in many areas of research for the mutual benefit of primary producers and others. We pay a tribute to the officers of CSIRO for their dedicated work in many spheres over many years.
This legislation was introduced at the request of the industry- processors and retailers- to look after the day to day problems of consumers and to engage in educational projects, particularly those related to research into hygiene and keeping of meat and meat products. The industry- I should like the Minister to comment on this matterwas perturbed when an extension of only 2 ^ years was granted for this particular legislation because the industry had asked for an indefinite period and had requested that 7 years notice be given to terminate any contributions from a slaughter tax levy. This seems to be an eminently feasible proposition in that it would allow the section to expand its research projects and, more importantly, to become more efficient. We are opposed to the proposition that the reason was that this had to be referred to the Industries Assistance Commission. I subscribe to the view that pollution of human food is of far greater importance and significance than the mere carrying out of a Labor Party platform based on the proposition that matters should be referred to the Industries Assistance Commission. Surely it is better to allow an efficient research unit to operate on a long term basis than to have it operating under the cloud of what amount of public money the Industries Assistance Commission might consider appropriate to be injected into it.
Another matter on which I should like the Minister to comment is the problem of meat works which have overseas shipments rejected because of pesticide residue in carcasses. It seems to me to be appropriate for this research section of the CSIRO complex at Cannon Hill to have the specific responsibility of tracing back the problem of pesticides, be it arsenical chlorates or insecticides such as DDT, which cause the rejection of meat on overseas markets and which compel the meat works associated with the rejection to have to be on a certify and test basis before shipments are allowed to continue. We cannot allow meat to be sold for export or for home consumption if it is contaminated. I am disturbed that the Federal authorities seem unwilling to take initiatives in the matter of tracing back pesticide residues. I submit that where these residues are found every help must be given to the affected meat works because it is no fault of the meat works, no fault of the buyers and no fault of the producers. If we have a trace-back program we can eradicate the cause of these pesticide residues in the carcasses of meat- residues which can have a disastrous effect on the human environment. The research unit at Cannon Hill had a most successful trace-back program with the bacteria salmonella. This bacteria was traced back and we found that no matter how good the hygiene in any meat works the bacteria salmonella must be eliminated before the animal goes to slaughter.
The research unit has also conducted research into polyunsaturated meat. I commend the people concerned for the research they have undertaken into storage properties, particularly the proper temperature for polyunsaturated meats to be conserved. In these years when there is a glut of meat I believe that some research must be undertaken into the drying of meat. At present I understand this process is too expensive for the Department of Defence but there does seem to be an argument which can be advanced that if the drying of meat is the proper way to conserve meat this should be undertaken at this particular centre. The meat industry research unit at Cannon Hill has investigated the flavouring of meat and mutton, the possibility of putting waste to work, hot boning, sterilising carcasses, conditioning mutton, marble beef and byproducts processing and rendering. As I understand that another honourable member wants to participate in this debate, I shall conclude. I assure the Parliament that the Australian Country Party fully supports any research into meat and meat products.
– I am anxious not to cover ground that has already been covered in this debate. I support the Bill. I wish more to discuss the climate in which we must consider this Bill and the position of the meat industry itself. The Bill provides for the collection of levies to finance research that to this date at any rate has dealt with the handling of meat after it leaves the farm gate. The importance of this is probably sufficiently emphasised if we point out that the present price of beef on the hoof is only 34c a kilo whereas the price to the housewife is approximately twice that per pound. There is a lot of room to save costs in handling beef between the farm gate and the housewife’s table. The beef industry could hardly be in worse circumstances. The producer’s gross income is down by 40 per cent or 50 per cent at the same time as his costs have risen by some 25 per centall within the space of 12 months. No industry can cope with this sort of sudden cyclical downturn.
There is a strong case for support for the industry because it is generally believed- it is also believed by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics- that this situation will not last forever and that in one or two years’ time we might expect better prices. If this is the case it is absolutely essential that we have breeders to take advantage of this situation and that the industry has not been allowed to collapse. If we are to save these breeders the people who own these animals will require an income in the meantime. I ask the Government to consider proposals that will give income to the owners of these breeders. I ask it to consider proposals that will maintain the price of beef to the producers of beef in the short-term- to consider something that, in fact, is counter-cyclical support as proposed in the Green Paper on Agriculture. I am thinking of a type of deficiency payment scheme whereby beef as it is sold for slaughter receives a payment that will bring its price up not to levels that would expand the beef industry but to levels that would cushion the inevitable traumas through which it must go- to levels that would cushion the rate of decline that would spell its destruction and ensure that cows were not available to carry this industry, which apparently has a bright longterm future, into that future.
I ask the Government to examine a deficiency payments scheme because I believe it meets the following criteria: It would be simple to administer, the machinery would not be complicated, it could be instituted relatively quickly and it would be equitable. It would boost growers’ returns and it would boost them now while it is needed. It would be paid direct to the producers of the beef and not to the other side of the market. It would be paid to the people who are at present in trouble. It would avoid the prohibitively high cost of storing meat for a long time. I think we have only to look at the experiences of the United Kingdom to make us at least seek an alternative solution to this problem of the high cost of storage. It would preserve the incentive to produce quality in that it would preserve the price differential between the different grades of beef. It would avoid the high risk that would be involved in retaining large numbers of beef cattle on properties during times when they would normally be turned off. This is a very risky exercise. If we pay growers to hold large numbers of cattle back on their properties, and we run into bad seasons, we may regret it. We may come through, but it is very risky.
I see that the time allotted for this debate is almost exhausted. We support this Bill.I emphasise that the beef industry, above all agricultural industries, needs support at this time. I urge upon the Government consideration of a deficiency payments scheme, among other schemes and among other things, because I believe that it might most closely meet the requirements of the industry.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Dr Patterson) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 16 October on motion by Dr Patterson:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Dr Patterson) read a third time.
Travelling Post Office Service- Mr Russell Prowse- Current Immigration Program- Palestine Liberation Organization at United Nations- Airline Pilots Industrial Dispute
Motion (by Mr Daly) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
– I wish to raise tonight rumours concerning the abolition of the Travelling Post Office attached to the rail services in New South Wales. Employees of the TPO have been advised that this service will cease as from February 1975. This service has for more than 70 years given a daily mail delivery to post offices in the Sydney suburban and country areas of New South Wales. The recent fuel shortage experienced by the Public Transport Commission will give some indication as to what delays in mail deliveries can be expected. Delays of up to 14 days were common and that crisis lasted for a few weeks only. If allowed to develop this situation could last for many years and cost the people of Australia a massive amount of taxpayers’ money to find an alternative service.
It would appear that the Public Transport Commission, which has been savagely cutting services in New South Wales in recent months and which has been made by public opinion to restore a number of these services, is responsible to some degree for this situation. But the PostmasterGeneral’s Department is by no means without fault in this matter as it is the authority which is responsible for the renewal of contracts for this service with the New South Wales Railways. It has been found that the Travelling Post Office service is one of the cheapest means of transportation of mails in this country. The provision of an amount of money that will be of advantage to both the Public Transport Commission and the Postmaster-General’s Department should be given the fullest consideration by the highest authorities in both the PTC and the PMG’s Department before this worthwhile service is allowed to become non-existent.
This development is to be deplored as, over the years, it has been found that the TPO is one of the most economic means of transporting mails in this country. It is a most reliable service, providing country people with a most reliable system of having mail delivered in the city the following day. In the outback parts of New South Wales and, I presume in other Australian States, the TPO mail service is the only mail service that many people living on outback properties and along the railway line receive. A daily service is provided by the TPO. It is a great service to them and to our nation. This service should not be allowed to deteriorate and to be dropped, as is indicated by the employees of the Department.
The TPO service is the backbone of efficient delivery of mail from country areas. In times of industrial strife, as I have already mentioned, mails are delivered to and from country areas of
New South Wales and interstate. The withdrawal of such a service would be disastrous. The Public Transport Commission is in favour of its withdrawal and the PMG Department, as has already been mentioned, must make up its mind whether it wants to continue this service. We members of the Australian Country Party on this side of the House wish to see this service maintained. Over the past few years we have seen too many services taken away from country people throughout Australia. Other services to these people have been disrupted. The PMG ‘s Department is the one responsible for the renewal of mail contracts. The elimination of the TPO service would be a retrograde step and a further severe downgrading of postal services in this country. I hope that the Postmaster-General (Senator Bishop) in the other place takes cognisance of this fact and what I have brought forward here tonight. It is presumed that February next is the deadline. It is now 20 November. So, we should muster our forces and impress upon the powers that be just how important this service is to the people of Australia.
– Its loss would be a further setback to decentralisation in Australia.
– Yes, of course.
– I wish to speak tonight about an individual who has been most outspoken in criticism of the Government. His name is Russell Blair Prowse. He has been the Assistant General Manager of the Bank of New South Wales since 1 970. 1 wish to speak of him because there is a very old adage that people who live in glasshouses should not throw stones. Mr Prowse has been particularly critical of this Government’s economic policy. But I would like to draw a comparison between that policy and the policies being followed by his own institution, the Bank of New South Wales, which hardly bear exposure to the light of day when the question of responsibility is concerned.
As I said, Mr Prowse has been Assistant General Manager of the Bank of New South Wales since 1970. In actual fact, his main claim to fame is that he is apparently a fairly good public relations man who received his opportunity when he was seconded by the Bank of New South Wales to organise against the Chifley Labor Government in 1947. At that stage he was a 3 1 year old teller in a Sydney branch of that Bank- rather old to be in such a junior position.
– Not at that time.
– Well, I would have some knowledge.
– So would I.
– At that time I was also a teller in a city branch of a Bank. So, I have some knowledge as to what was an appropriate age. I can assure the House that I was a lot younger than 31 years of age. Furthermore, the Bank was concerned by the then Labor Government and wanted to get it out of power. Mr Prowse wrote some treatises which he sent to the general manager of the Bank. At that stage, the Bank was recruiting people to work as full-time organisers for the Liberal Party to endeavour to put the Chifley Labor Government out of power. We all remember that the Bank of New South Wales was a highly political institution. Yet this man, who received his chance because he was put into political organisation against the then Labor Government and who was so heavily identified with political organisation, denied in the Press on 2 May this year that he was politically motivated in his attacks on the economic policies of this Government. He claims to be, of course, a high pundit of high finance in this country. Yet his bank is more responsible than any other similar institution for the liquidity crisis in this country. As Assistant General Manager he must personally accept considerable responsibility for the mistakes of his institution.
Unlike its main competitor the Commonwealth Banking Corporation, that bank did not read the signs and continued on with its irresponsible lending policies. It broke the rule established in 1 890 at the time of the great bank crash and finance companies associated with unbridled and irresponsible land speculation- a boom, of course which had to crash. Of course, in 1890 the rule was laid down that banks would not finance speculation in land but would finance the purchase of land only to put a dwelling upon it That was done because the major cause of the 1890 crash and the great depression which followed it- which of course was one of the reasons for the formation of the Australian Labor Partywas the very fact that banks at that time did exactly what they have been doing recently. I make this point: Mr Prowse ‘s bank was responsible more than any other for the land price spiral. Of course, it was also one of those banks which financed excessive imports into this country, many of the rates quoted being 1 Vi per cent per month, in other words 18 per cent per annum.
Finally, this bank of which Mr Prowse is the Assistant General Manager, because of the severe liquidity crisis it found itself in and because it did not read the signs- the Commonwealth Bank and the National Bank did and they knew just what was occurring; they had the economic advisers on their staff to advise them and accordingly did not get any problems- had to go into the short term money market and borrow at rates as high as 18 per cent because its own liquidity margin had fallen below the 1 8 per cent traditional margin. In other words it was very fortunate that it could turn to the Reserve Bank, a central bank, an organisation whose original establishment it had opposed and which was, of course, the lender of last resort. If the Bank of New South Wales had not had the Reserve Bank- the bank whose foundation it originally opposed- as a lender of last resort the position would have been very serious indeed. In other words, had the bank been operating in that way in the days before the war the situation would have been very serious.
For these reasons I do not think that Mr Prowse, as Assistant General Manager of the Bank of New South Wales, is in a position to criticise anyone. Basically he is a public relations man. That is how he got his move along in the Bank. He has not progressed because of any financial expertise. In view of the history of his bank in recent times and the very serious mistakes it has made in the management of its own affairs- and Mr Prowse is one of the very, very senior officials of that bank- he is not, as I said, in a position to criticise anyone. Rather, he should look around, have a look in the mirror and see what his own organisation is doing. In other words, he should ensure that he puts his own house in order, a house which has been responsible for a great deal of the liquidity crisis which exists in this country.
The Bank has not been able to respond to the Government’s call for increased lending for housing. Mr Prowse should set to and have a look at his own house, put it in order and then get on with the job of governing his own organisation, if he has that capacity. It is the height of impudence for a person who has shown his own incapacity to handle the affairs of his own organisation to take it upon himself to be a cheap critic of a Government that is trying to handle a very difficult situation, a situation forced upon it by the previous Government. One only has to look at the money flow when this Government took office to realise that we had a situation forced upon us by the previous Goverment and by conditions which exist throughout the world today. Mr Prowse should have a look at a little of the history, particularly the recent history, of his own organisation. Mr Prowse cannot, with this background, be as he claims to be not politically motivated. He is undoubtedly politically motivated in his criticisms and that politcal motivation should be exposed the whole of the Australian public.
-Following the May election of this year the Government decided to abolish the Department of Immigration. At that time there was a great deal of criticism of that decision. That criticism still persists. The criticism came from many quarters, but it was not only from the political opponents of the Government. Severe criticism also came from some people whom the Government claims to be among its friends. For example, a good friend of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), Mr Evasio Costanzo wrote in ‘La Fiamma’ that Labor had killed immigration. Shortly after the decision was announced the Prime Minister gave a number of speeches and we had an opportunity to speak on the question. He tried to justify the decision and to prove that the dismemberment of the Department of Immigration was not a process of killing Australia’s immigration program.
If we look at events that have occurred since we find that the immigration tap as it is sometimes described has been turned off. In October the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) said in a Press statement that he could not responsibly approve the entry of migrants who were likely to experience difficulty in finding and holding employment and who would be competing with Australians and migrants already here in the tight sections of the labour market. He said then that it would be necessary to impose restrictions but that these restrictions would not affect people who had already been approved for entry. But he then said there would be a significant reduction in the approval rate. I call upon the Minister to tell us what the approval rate is, for in telling us that the number of approvals would be considerably reduced the Minister has left the whole question very vague. In fact, in a recent speech that he gave in Adelaide in a throw away remark he announced to the nation that a quota system had been imposed. Honourable members will recall that last week I asked the Minister to inform members of this House of the quotas that had been imposed. He did not deny that quotas had been imposed; he simply said that he did not have all the detailed facts in his head and therefore he could not tell the House of the quotas that had been imposed. It was a side stepping answer, for what I was seeking was a general indication of the Government’s policy and the distribution of the quotas as amongst the migrant source countries.
In abolishing the Department of Immigration it is clear that the Australian Labor Party, despite its earlier protests, believes that migrants should be treated as cannon fodder for industry.
– Utter rubbish!
-It is not utter rubbish. If one looks at the statement to which I referred previously, issued by the Minister for Labour and Immigration on 2 October, one will see that he said that it would be damaging and he would be acting contrary to the Australian Labor Party’s platform if he were to bring migrants here at this time when we cannot ensure that they will find long term employment. That was his only concern. One might look at the wording of his statement and analyse it. He talked about not finding long term employment. That was a confession that he forsees into the future, into the long term, that Australia faces very serious unemployment problems. If he could see that they were short term problems that would face prospective migrants, why did he not say so? But no, he described the problems as long term ones and then announced that he had turned off the migration tap, so much so that he has informed the people that no more nominations for permission to migrate will be accepted.
The decision to turn off the tap is really a decision either to close down the immigration scheme altogether or it is a guise to introduce quotas. The consequence of this will be to convert a net migration gain that Australia has experienced over the last 2½ decades into a net migration loss. In 1973, 43,430 people left Australia permanently. How many have already left in 1974? Will departures exceed arrivals? Let us have the facts. The Minister should give us the facts. From where are the limited numbers of migrants who are now being admitted to come? With an admitted 250,000 applications for migration in hand, what are the qoutas from each of the source countries? What are the quotas now? What will the quotas be when the immigration tap is turned on, if it is to be turned on by this Government, when conditions change? How many migrants will the Minister let in from the United Kingdom over the next 12 months? Will many be allowed in from Italy? What are the qoutas for Pakistan, Malaysia and the Philippines?
If a quota system has been established the Australian people are entitled to have not only the details in terms of numbers but also the policy justification and the exact composition of the migrant quota mix. This is a concern not only of the migrants and the people here in Australia but also of those many thousands of people whose aspirations were raised by this Government in the belief that they could find a new home here in Australia. We merely have to look at the figures which the Minister himself supplied to me in answer to a question on notice to observe that in the first 6 months of this year more than 13,000 people living in India sought to come to Australia, more than 36,500 people living in the Philippines applied to migrate, and the numbers for other countries are significant. As a result of turning off the migration tap all those people from those countries and other migrant source countries face frustration and disappointment. Their hopes and expectations, created and raised by this Labor Government’s policy statements 12 or 18 months ago, have been dashed.
In the remaining few minutes available I should like to turn to another matter. The Labor Party ‘s handling of migration affairs has resulted in a scandalous delay in the processing of applications for citizenship. Since May this year very few settlers who have applied for citizenship in South Australia have been granted it. Why? It appears that from the time the Labor Government decided to dismantle the Department of Immigration it could not decide which department would be responsible for citizenship. Was it to be the Department of Labor or was it to be the Department of Foreign Affairs? After a period of uncertainty, a period of ministerial wrangling, the responsibility for citizenship was left with that section of the old Department of Immigration which had been transferred to the Department of Labor. Six months have now elapsed since the May elections, yet new certificates of citizenship are still not available. With no certificates available, except for use in emergency cases, a backlog of 3,500 applications has built up. Some of these applicants have been prejudiced by the delay. Many more are becoming concerned that their attainment of Australian citizenship has been so long postponed.
How can those who want Australian citizenship so that they can travel overseas on Australian passports be sure that if they use their United Kingdom passports they will be allowed to return to Australia?
It is of no good merely saying that they will have no difficulty. For example, it is an open secret that discussions are being held between Australia and New Zealand on the introduction of visa arrangements. How will Australian settlers holding United Kingdom passports who travel to New Zealand be sure that they can return to Australia after they have done all that they can to obtain Australian citizenship but through departmental bungling, printing bungling and ministerial mismanagement they are not able to obtain the citizenship they desire?
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I have always been one of those who believed that the hope of our society, our universe, was dependent upon a community of nations getting together and wanting, striving for peace for humanity. I believed that that hope lay with the body that initially was known as the League of Nations and which ultimately became, after World War II, the United Nations. Despite its belmishes I believed until recently that the United Nations was the greatest hope for world peace. That dream ended, for me anyhow, about a week ago when the United Nations representatives, almost to a man, stood and applauded a ganster, a thug, a murderer known to the world as Yasser Arafat. I do not think that the body known as the United Nations has ever hit rock bottom as it did last week when a man who has led a bunch of thugs could stand and get the ovation, almost without exception, of the whole of the United Nations. I want to compliment the ‘Daily Mirror’ for its editorial of 14 November 1974. It was headlined: ‘An Ovation for Terrorism’. I want to read the editorial in toto. The editorial reads:
In the past six years Palestinian terrorists, have ruthlessly murdered their way across the world.
They murdered 1 1 athletes at the Munich Olympics.
They mowed down 32 men and women at Rome Airport.
And they coldly slaughtered 20 Israeli schoolchildren in the horrifying Maalot massacre.
And what has happened to the 1 77 guerillas arested?
Practically nothing! Seventy-one were freed without trial; 35 were freed before completing their sentences; 2 1 were released after short sentences.
Only 12 are still in prison- the remaining 38 unaccounted for, but probably free.
Fears of Arab reprisals have forced country after country to release these criminals.
And the United Nations now give a standing ovation to the man behind almost all these barbaric acts- Yasser Arafat!
An ovation to the Chief of the Palestine Liberation Organisation which never worried about housing its people when the land is not demands was in Arab hands.
Arafat stood up in the United Nations yesterday and said: ‘I have come bearing an olive branch in one hand and a freedom fighter’s gun in the other’.
Olive branches have played no part in Arafat’s career. Hand grenades and machineguns are more familiar to his hands.
The UN should be ashamed of itself.
And it is a pity the Australian Governement should be lobbying so hard to have its Foreign Affairs Minister installed as president.
I do not necessarily agree with the final comment. I am just quoting the editorial in toto. Israel’s life is threatened. But let us not forget that this small country of 3 million people, surrounded as it is today by a hostile world of 100 million Arabs, is a creation of the United Nations. In 1947 the United Nations, albeit much smaller than it is today, voted by a twothirds majority to create the state of Israel. Now we have this thug addressing it and saying that the only way in which there can be peace in the Middle East is by the disintegration of Israel.
Unfortunately in my own political Party, the Australian Labor Party, there are a few- a very few- people who are supporting people like Yasser Arafat. I mention the well known Mr Hartley from Victoria. I have a lot of respect for many of the things that Bill Hartley stands for, but I do not happen to agree with him one bit on this issue. I am ashamed that a man who says that he is a social democrat should be supporting these countries of which only one- the Lebanon- is remotely democratic. Perhaps I should also include the small Arab state of Bahrein in that. The rest are autocratic, totalitarian regimes, whichever way one looks at them.
Let us compare them with Israel, which has in its Knesset 14 political parties. Despite the opposition from the communist countries, there are 2 members of the Communist Party in the Knesset. On the day on which Israel was attacked during the October War they stood up and denounced their own country. There was a bit of a punch-up over it. As Bob Hawke said: ‘How bloody democratic can you get?’ There were, at the last count, six to eight Arab members of Parliament sitting in the Knesset. There were 2 Deputy Ministers. There is a totally free Press. No country in the world is more of a trade union country than Israel. The Histadrut runs the health scheme. I forget the exact figure, but I think that SO per cent or 60 per cent of the housing and construction is done by the trade union movement. A democratic socialist party runs the country and has done since 1948- since freedom.
Which of the neighbouring countries- Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan-meet any of those criteria? Mr Hartley and Mr Arafat say: ‘We want a free, democratic, secular state of Palestine.’ That, of course, will bring considerable mirth if one happens to suggest it in Israel. If one says ‘free’ one is asked: ‘Free like which one? Like Egypt? Secular like Algeria or democratic like Iraq?’ Whichever way one looks at it, I do not know how any person who calls himself a democratic socialist could possibly support people who have proven on the one hand that they do not practise any of the principles that we of the democratic socialist movement throughout the world or in a democratic country like Australia profess to support. So my criticism is not simply of Bill Hartley. My greatest shame is for the United Nations that it should drop to this level.
– What the honourable member is saying about the United Nations and Arafat is right, but what does the honourable member feel about the United Nations’ ban on South Africa in the General Assembly this session?
– I can tell the honourable member for Murray about that on another night if he wishes. I do not happen to believe that any country should be expelled from the United Nations.
– I believe that to be consistent the honourable member would have to support both issues.
– I hope to be able to discuss that issue with the honourable member at another time. I believed that the United Nations had a great role to play in world affairs, but I believe that this incident is just a forerunner to what will be ultimately an attempt to expel Israel. Why has the world done this? Is it because suddenly the world has been struck with a conscience about the Palestinian refugees? Do not make me laugh. The Palestinian refugees have been sitting there since 1948. Certainly we know that there was no sympathy for them among their own people because they were left there as a political weapon to be used against the Israelis.
Why did countries like Australia, Britain, Germany and all the other European countries abstain from a vote to prevent this gentleman from speaking? Why did all those European countries give him a standing ovation and vote to allow him to speak? For one reason and one reason only- oil. That is the reason why interest is suddenly being shown in the Palestinian refugees. If they are really concerned about people starving and suffering around the world, why do they not do something about those suffering in Bangladesh, Ethiopia and South Africa? I am one of those who believe that the Palestinian refugee problem is a problem which must be solved by the Israelis together with the Arab countries. They must be accommodated. I believe that the Palestinians have a right. I believe that they have to have a homeland, a State of Palestine which can be called theirs. Again, time does not permit me to canvass that question. My particular point in rising tonight was to express my shame of the United Nations.
-The only comment I want to make just briefly and quickly about what has been said by the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) is that I think we should all realise that if it were not for political expediency within both the United Nations and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the situation in the Middle East- in Palestine in particular- could be solved within a very short space of time. It is, unfortunately, because both of those countries are playing politics that we are in the situation in which we find ourselves today. I do not want to make any other comment on the other matters mentioned by the honourable member for Robertson.
In the remaining moments of this adjournment debate I wish briefly to express my complete and utter disgust at the action of the airline pilots in striking for 24 hours tomorrow. I am not concerned about the reasons for their strike or anything else like that. The inconvenience of such a strike to the public was exemplified on the last occasion they struck. Perhaps the reason why I feel so strongly about this matter at the moment is because I have been visited in Canberra by one of the schools in my electorate- the Williamtown Primary School- and the 34 children and 2 teachers who are making the visit will be stranded in Canberra tomorrow because of the pilots’ strike.
I have been critical previously of the unions and all other organisations that have struck on various occasions. I have said that they have shown a lack of responsibility. At a time when this country is facing many problems, for the complexity of which we of the Opposition have been highly critical of the Government because of certain steps it has taken, this strike action by a supposedly- I use the word ‘supposedly’ advisedly- responsible body of men is, I think, one of the best illustrations of a lack of responsibility by a group of people. Inconvenience will be caused not only to this group of school children which happens to have come to Canberra from my electorate, but also to many members of the travelling public, including businessmen.
The other thing I would like to say is this: What example is this strike action to those youngsters who have come down to Canberra to have a look at Australia’s capital city? They are not able to get back home tomorrow. Their parents will be worrying about what is going to happen and how they are going to get back home and when they are going to get back home. All of this has happened because of the irresponsibility of this group of people who are in a position of so-called responsibility. I want to say that the administrative officers of Trans-Australia Airlines have done everything they can to help. I am most grateful to them for that. As I said earlier, in the brief amount of time left to me I want to express my disgust at the action which has been taken by the pilots which has caused this inconvenience not only to those young people but also to many others in the community.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 20 November 1974, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1974/19741120_reps_29_hor92/>.