29th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. J. F. Cope) took the chair at 10 a.m.
Mr SPEAKER-Before reading prayers I shall count the House. (Quorum formed).
Mr SPEAKER 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 assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That whereas uranium found in vast quantities in Australia is the raw material for the nuclear fission reaction.
And whereas presently assured reserves of uranium in Australia represent a potential production of over 540,000 kilograms of plutonium 239 if utilized in light water reactors overseas,
And whereas the maximum permissible inhalation of plutonium 239 is 0.00000025 gram,
And whereas plutonium 239 is one of the most dangerous substances human society has ever created, causing mutations and cancers,
And whereas there are no methods of safely and absolutely confining plutonium from the biosphere for the requisite quarter of a million years,
And whereas plutonium coming in contact with the air forms an aerosol cloud of micron-sized particles, as most dangerous form,
And whereas the export of uranium may return to us an import of plutonium particles dispersed in the global environment via the circulation of the atmosphere,
And whereas there are no sure safeguards against the military use of nuclear fission, and the nuclear proliferation represents a prime environmental threat to all forms of life on the only earth available to us.
And that it is therefore an act of self-preservation to demand a halt to all exports of uranium except for bio-medical uses.
Your petitioners humbly pray that the members, in the House assembled, will take the most urgent steps to ensure: 1 That further mining and export of uranium from Australia except for bio-chemical purposes be banned, 2 That the Australia Atomic Commission be transformed by the rewriting of its charter into an Australian Energy Commission to further the understanding of energy flows through our society and to promote national economic independence and self-sufficiency.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Bryant. Petition received.
Foreign Students in Australia: Rights
To the honourable Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens and foreign students in Australia respectfully showeth:
That many foreign students in Australia, as well as many Australian students are deeply concerned at the political surveillance of foreign students in Australia by the officials of foreign missions from the nations of these students, particularly students from Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, Indonesia, South Korea and South Vietnam.
That the undersigned strongly object to the extension into Australia of the laws of foreign nations in regard to the political activities and or beliefs engaged in by foreign students during their stay in Australia.
That foreign students on their return home have in fact been charged with activities engaged in while in Australia which under Australian law are legal.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will ensure that:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Coates. Petition received.
To the honourable the members of the House of Representatives of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia assembled. The humble petition of residents of Mount Gambier in the State of South Australia showeth as follows:
The Budget Speech of the honourable the Treasurer indicates that he proposes to move to amend the Income Tax Assessment Act by reducing the maximum amount that any taxpayer may claim as a concessional deduction in respect of the education of a child and whereas your petitioners believe that such amendment will bring hardship upon them and upon the parents of all children attending at nonGovernment schools;
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray your honourable House that any Bill to amend the said Act not be allowed to pass into law to the extent that it seeks to reduce the maximum amount which a taxpayer may claim by way of a concessional deduction for education expenses.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Dr Forbes. Petition received.
To the honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled should not admit into the law of this land the principle that marriage is only temporary and the family no longer the fundamental unit of society.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Hodges.
To the honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That we strongly oppose the easing of restrictions on the importation, production in Australia, sale or distribution of pornographic material whether in films, printed matter or any other format.
That any alterations to the television programme standards of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board which permits the exploitation of sex or violence is unacceptable to us.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will take no measures to interfere with the existing television programme standards or to permit easier entry into Australia, or production in Australia, of pornographic material.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Hodges.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that the Human Rights Bill:
Insofar as it attempts to legislate regarding the exercise of religion and religious observances, is in contravention of Section 1 16 of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia, (b.) Will tend to deprive free Australian citizens of religious liberty and freedom of worship, and parents and guardians of the right to choose the moral and religious education of their children in that:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House not proceed with the Human Rights Bill.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Hodges.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the proposed ‘free’ national health scheme is not free at all and will cost four out of five Australians more than the present scheme.
That the proposed scheme is discriminatory and a further erosion of the civil liberties of Australian citizens, particularly working wives and single persons.
That the proposed scheme is in fact a plan for nationalised medicine which will lead to gross waste and inefficiencies in medical services and will ultimately remove an individual’s right to choose his/her own doctor.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will take no measures to interfere with the basic principles of the existing health scheme which functions efficiently and economically.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byMrMcLeay.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the reduction of the allowable deduction of education expenses under Section 82J of the Income Tax Assessment Act from $400 to$150 is $50.00 below the 1956-57 figure.
That this reduction will impose hardships on many parents who have children attending school, whether nongovernment or government; and particularly on parents with more than one child at school.
That this reduction will further restrict the freedom available to parents to make a choice of school for their children.
That some parents who have chosen to send their children to a non-government school will have to withdraw their children and send them to government schools already overcrowded and understaffed.
That the parents to benefit most relatively from educational income tax deductions, in the past and even more in the future, are the parents of children in government schools and this has a divisive effect in the Australian community.
That parents should be encouraged by the Australian government to exercise freedom of choice of the type of school they wish for their children. The proposed reduction means an additional financial penalty is imposed on parents who try to exercise this choice and discourages them from making an important financial contribution to Australian education over and above what they contribute through taxation.
That an alternative system, a tax rebate system, could be adopted as being more equitable for all parents with children at school.
To compensate Tor the losses that will follow from the proposed reduction and to help meet escalating educational costs faced by all families your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate in Parliament assembled should take immediate steps to restore educational benefits to parents, at least at the 1 973- 1 974 level either by increasing taxation deductions or through taxation rebates.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Macphee.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. In view of the now desperate need for confidence in business and investment, will he seriously consider abandoning for the time being- I stress the words ‘for the time being’- his capital gains tax proposal because it is a tax on inflation which acts against investment?
-Perhaps the honourable gentleman will forgive me if I use to him the words that a distinguished colleague used to him a week ago: ‘Oh my God, don’t talk to me about it. I can ‘t bear to think of this. ‘
– I ask the Prime Minister a question about government archives. Is he prepared to release for public scrutiny government records for the first week of March 1971? Will he agree that these records have a bearing on current events?
– I would have to give very serious consideration to any request to release government archives in a shorter period than is customary. It used to be 30 years; it is now coming to be accepted as 20 years. I could not on this notice assure the honourable gentleman that I would release the government archives of that period. My memory has been refreshed concerning those events by events of much more recent date- yesterday, in fact- in various media. As to public records that are already released, I could make some comments. I take it that the honourable gentleman is referring to the newspaper reports of a meeting early in March 1971 by my predecessor as Prime Minister and the Chief of the General Staff who accused the then Minister for Defence of being guilty of disloyalty to the Army.
– He was not your predecessor at all.
-He was not my immediate predecessor.
– That is right. Now correct it. I like accuracy.
– I want it to be clear that he was my predecessor who was displaced by my immediate predecessor. In fact, I think the events which I am asked to recall led up to that displacement. When asked by a journalist to comment on this newspaper report my predecessor but one made no comment. Hansard records at the time that the Minister for Defence concerned said: ‘One sentence would have killed the report. The Prime Minister by his inaction made sure it would cover the front page. As I have indicated in my letter of resignation, I find that disloyalty intolerable and not to be endured.’ As my predecessor but one so effectively pointed out, one sentence would have killed the challenge to the leadership of the Leader of the Opposition. I am wondering whether the former Minister for Defence, the honourable member for Wannon, now finds such disloyalty tolerable or not to be endured.
-My question is directed to the Minister for the Capital Territory. Has the Minister refused to allow the United States Embassy to sell 6 houses in Canberra to a commercial developer for approximately $250,000 and has offered the Embassy between $20,000 and $30,000 for the property concerned? Did he state in relation to this decision that he is not prepared to be a party to land speculation in any form in the Australian Capital Territory? Will the Minister assure this House that he will apply exactly the same principles as he applied to the United States Embassy properties to block 4 section 24 in Kingston which was purchased on 1 April 1965 for £9,000, as it was then, or $18,000, by the Minister for Services and Property which the Minister has had on the market at a price of $80,000 and for which the Minister is reported to have refused an offer of $65,000?
-The American Embassy was granted a number of blocks of land in, I think, the Griffith area in 1948 on the usual terms that applied at that time, that is, for practically no payment whatever. It was proposed to the Government that the Embassy should sell that land to a developer at developmental prices. We thought that, on the whole, that was not the kind of operation to which we should agree.
MrChipp-Who is ‘we’?
-Me. Once again, as is appropriate to my rank and station, we decided that this was not an area for private speculation. I am confident that the officials of the American Embassy also felt that it was not appropriate that a government which had received land in Australia in this way should make a profit of the sort mentioned from its sale. We have made an offer of, I think $140,000 for the area, or $120,000 plus an appropriate area of land in the new suburb of Kambah. I make it quite clear that as far as government land is concerned, and as far as this Government can enforce it, there will be no speculation on its redevelopment value. We will try to recover the ground lost as a result of the decisions of the predecessor but one of the present Prime Minister- decisions which interfered with the land system in Canberra.
With respect to the private property of any person in the city, whether he is a member of this House or not, it is a matter for that person to decide what should happen to it, in accordance with the law. I do not interfere- I speak in this instance on behalf of the Government- neither do those members of the Government who are responsible for this kind of operation. The Minister for Urban and Regional Development is as concerned as I am in the development of Canberra. We do not interfere in private arrangements of this sort. Those people who have private property which falls within the terms of redevelopment orders of any kind will, I have no doubt, take whatever opportunity, if they feel so inclined, to sell it at its market price. One of the great difficulties in this city is that currently there is a market price for land and property, there is a price at which the Government is able to turn off land and property, and there is what might be described as a reasonable and fair price for land and property. We are attempting, to the best of our wit and wisdom, to overcome the disabilities imposed upon us by the decisions made three or four years ago. I reiterate that we will give the Americans a good deal in this matter but we will not permit the land to get into the hands of a private speculator to make hundreds of thousands of dollars from it if he can.
-The Prime Minister will know that during his 5-week junket overseas the Boeing 707 aircraft will be unused in London for 8 days apart from an hour’s return flight to Dublin. Whilst I will say more about this matter during the grievance debate I ask: Will the Prime Minister accede to the commonsense request of Qantas Airways Ltd to allow the plane, which has an earning capacity of $20,000 a day, to be used during this peak Christmas holiday period?
– I know that such cheap expressions as ‘junket’ are always used when Prime Ministers or Leaders of the Opposition make trips or propose to make trips or are urged to cancel trips or decide to cancel trips.
– All you want to do is to have Christmas with your family at Government expense.
-Order! The honourable member for Barker will remain silent.
-No members of my family are in London at this time. The only member of my family who has been living in London for any length of time in recent years is at present in Australia.
-In the Lodge?
-He was last night and the night before. Honourable gentlemen really get too trivial and personal when they expect that because I am the Prime Minister and living in- (Honourable members interjecting)
– There are some members of the Opposition who get stabs in the back, and there are others who have bad backs all the time. Members of the Opposition are really getting too trivial or personal when they suggest that in my position, where I am expected to occupy an official residence, I cannot allow members of my family who are visiting Canberra to stay in that residence.
– Nobody is suggesting that.
-The right honourable gentleman would not suggest it, and he has not suggested it, but one of those in the front bench behind him did suggest it. Honourable gentlemen opposite try to make a farce of question time. There was an honourable gentleman on the front bench behind the Leader of the Opposition who said I was visiting London to see members of my family. I answered that, and I pointed out that the only member of my family who has lived there for any time in recent years is at present in Australia. Then another honourable member- I thought from the Country Party front bench- suggested that he was-
-Well, I find it difficult to interpret where the interjections come from. It was somebody in that quarter who said that my son was staying at the Lodge. Of course he was staying at the Lodge, and naturally and properly he was staying at the Lodge. The honourable gentleman who asks the question muddies the waters, of course, by using a word like junket. It should not be necessary for me to reassert that it is necessary for Australia to have continuing top level relations with Europe. There is no other part of the world where Australians’ hearts are still so much engaged; there is only one other part of the world where Australia could have greater economic links than it still has with Europe, and there has not been an official visit to Europe since the 1950s.
I was asked whether Qantas had made a request about use of the plane. I know of no request for Qantas to use the plane during any of the time that I will not be using it. If Qantas makes such a request I will certainly consider it, but I know of no such request. I should point out that it is on the highest advice that I am using a Qantas plane, a charter plane, a plane chartered from Australia’s own international airline. In all matters of security, as the Leader of the Opposition will concede, I see that he has access to information whenever he requests it. I invite him to look at the advice which I have received on this ground.
-What about the BAC- 111?
– It does not help to expatriate on security aspects, but I can assure honourable gentlemen that it is only because of repeated and earnest advice that I should travel in a charter Qantas plane that I am doing so. An honourable member asks about the BACs. The fact is that the BACs were not bought by Australia for international travel. We do use them occasionally for that; I have used them myself to travel to New Zealand and to Indonesia, journeys for which they are appropriate, but they are not appropriate for a visit to Europe. That was recognised at the time they were bought. Furthermore, there is quite an amount of physical equipment which has to go- various machines of a character that honourable gentlemen can understand- which cannot go in a BAC.
-Is the Minister for Housing and Construction aware of housing rackets in which unscrupulous profiteers have purchased for cash housing commission homes in Doveton in my electorate, then sold them several months later at about 50 per cent profit on vendor’s terms? To what extent are actions such as these feeding the escalation in land and house prices while exploiting the desperation of people to get homes? Is there any action that the Australian Government can take to stop these land sharks?
-The honourable gentleman has raised this matter previously in the House and has instanced 14 cases where housing commission homes have been sold and where the mark-up over a period of about 3 months has been in the vicinity of 50 per cent. Clearly this is a matter about which every honourable member would be very gravely concerned. The circumstances that often apply are that fixed term loans are made available at high, variable interest rates which involve refinancing at impossible terms and often people find that the initial interest rate of 9 per cent rises to about 16 per cent. This, of course, involves foreclosure by the mortgagee.
It is most regrettable that the Australian Government has a limited capacity, it seems, to be effective in situations of this kind. I think that the States have a capacity to be a lot more effective. It is regrettable that they do not examine the opportunities that might be available to them. I have already referred this matter for the consideration of the Attorney-General. There are so many instances these days where people who are anxious to get a home do not take the opportunity to study properly the terms and conditions of the mortgage. Many of them come to understand when it is too late that the conditions that are to apply are onerous and capable of causing them to lose their equity in the property.
I am hoping that the Australian Government will develop a capacity to help such people, particularly through the proposed Housing Advisory and Information Service about which I intend to make an announcement early in the new year. I think it is sufficient to say at this point that in keeping with our election commitment we intend to establish this service regionally throughout Australia. It will have the capacity to advise home owners in respect of matters of the kind that has been outlined and a variety of matters concerning the Landlord and Tenant Act and the availability of home finance. That announcement will no doubt be welcomed by people who realise the extent to which home buyers are being subjected to the kind of exploitation referred to by the honourable member.
– My question which I address to the Prime Minister is supplementary to the question asked of him earlier by the honourable member for Chisholm. The Prime Minister will recall that he avoided the question which was earlier asked. I ask: In view of the now desperate need for confidence in business and investment, will the Prime Minister seriously consider abandoning for the time being his proposed capital gains tax because it is a tax on inflation which acts against investment?
– The Government is proceeding with the capital gains tax legislation. It cannot be introduced during this sessional period- 1 am confident it will be introduced in the next sessional period. The Government is committed to this legislation. The preceding government, of course, on the initiative of the Leader of the Opposition when he was Treasurer, appointed the Asprey Committee which inquired into this and other matters. It was invited to do so and reported upon them. I promised at various times- about a year ago and certainly in the early part of this year- that when the Asprey Committee’s report was received the Government would consider the measures which it proposed. This is one of those measures and the Government will be proceeding with it.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister will no doubt be aware of the latest report of the massive number of deaths due to malnutrition in Bangladesh. Although the Government has already been generous in its assistance to the people of this unfortunate country, will the Government as a matter of urgency give consideration to further aid, financial and /or in kind, to save the lives of many thousands more people in imminent peril?
– The Government is certainly considering the desperate position of many countries in the world. They include countries in 3 continents. I suppose that Bangladesh would be in as parlous a plight as any of themperhaps the worst plight because of its huge population. Australia is a great producer of grains. It is one of the few producers of grains surplus to its own requirements. Many suggestions are made from time to time concerning the particular foodstuffs which Australia could give to countries whose people are facing starvation or malnutrition. It so happens that a great number of those products which are suggested are not ones which the people of those countries have ever become accustomed to or with which we could expect them to become readily familiar. However, grains are products with which the people of these countries are familiar, of which they stand in desperate need and of which Australia has a surplus.
The general situation is that most of Australia’s grain production is fully committed at this stage with traditional customers. It is very difficult to meet the humanitarian demands and at the same time fulfil existing commitments. Fortunately, we have had a bountiful harvest-
-Order! Could the Prime Minister speak into the microphone? It is very difficult to hear him.
-Mr SpeakerMr Chipp- Do not look so petulant. I wanted to hear the answer. I could not hear it.
– I would have thought that anybody in the chamber could have heard what I was saying. At the moment I do not believe that there is anybody in the chamber who cannot hear what I am saying. I was not giving a contentious answer. I insist that the courteous thing to do is to address the Speaker or the questioner. I believe that that is in accordance with Standing Orders.
– Why not have a roving microphone- one hanging around your neck.
-Why not? If a person asks me a civil question, I try to give a civil answer. I am addressing the person who asked the question. As I was saying, Mr Speaker, when you admonished me, the Australian Government is giving earnest consideration to methods of increasing our harvest in the coming season. so that we can honour our contractual, traditional obligations and also make a contribution which Australia would be better situated than most countries to make towards the desperate needs of countries such as Bangladesh. Of course, this is one matter which I would expect to be discussing with the Prime Minister of Bangladesh next month.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Services and Property. I refer to a recent request for a public inquiry into compensation for property in the Darwin 32 square mile acquisition area. The Minister may be aware that serious financial hardship is being incurred- over $250,000 in one case. Will the Minister organise such an inquiry into the lack of progress payments, lack of lease back agreements, refusal to pay losses caused by acquisition and general loss of liquidity caused by the
Government’s poor planning, delays in preparing valuations, lease back breakdowns, confusion and lack of co-ordination between Government departments and lack of communication and liaison? Will he act upon the public notice which appeared in Darwin yesterday demanding such an inquiry? What action will he take to see that these landowners and businessmen are not financially broken by this 32 square mile acquisition? Will he move to prevent similar occurrences following the more recent threat of a 60 mile radius acquisition implicit in the Northern Territory (Stabilization of Prices) Land Bill?
– The honourable member for the Northern Territory was good enough to advise me yesterday that he intended to raise this matter. I think it specifically refers to the question, amongst others, of the Darwin Piggery. A very extensive telegram was sent to me on behalf of the Darwin Piggery. It appeared, I think, in the newspapers in the Northern Territory. I shall not read it but shall seek leave later to incorporate it in my answer to put the record straight. I tell the honourable member this: The Darwin Piggery is obviously not short of money. It took a full page advertisement, in the same terms as the telegram from Mrs Ryall, in the ‘Northern Territory Times ‘of 27 November 1974.
These are the facts of the matter raised by the honourable member: One of the properties acquired in the 32 square mile acquisition in the Territory was formerly owned by Mr H. Bauer and Mrs J. Ryall, and they operate a business there known as the Darwin Piggery. In June 1974, on the advice of the Commonwealth Crown Law authorities, I rejected a claim for compensation submitted by Darwin Piggery on the basis that Darwin Piggery is a business name only and not the name of the registered proprietor, and therefore had no direct claim for compensation. On the advice of the Crown Law authorities all dealings are to be with the former owners. Protracted negotiations have been held with the agents for the former owners but as yet no agreement has been reached and at this stage it appears that agreement will be impossible because of the wide divergence in values, that is, between the valuation and the claim. The former owners claim $700,000 and the taxation valuation is $450,000.
As the honourable member knows, the land on which the Darwin Piggery stands now belongs to the Commonwealth. It has been com.pulsorily acquired and the only interest which the former owners have in law is a claim for compensation. Pan of the land formerly owned by Messrs Bauer and Ryall was leased to a firm,
Wolpers and Law Pry Ltd, and the Department of Services and Property paid the firm an amount of $100,000 compensation in respect of its section of the property on 3 June 1 974. Payment has also been made to Messrs Bauer and Ryall in respect of their adjoining vacant land. No written offer of compensation has been made to the Darwin Piggery because of the long negotiations that have been going on and the ineptitude of the former owners in the matter of the submission and nature of their claim.
Following many meetings a detailed claim concerning the piggery was submitted only in October 1974. The telegram is therefore misleading, intemperate and mischievous. Obviously no written offer of compensation could be made until such a claim was received and a detailed investigation of the claim had been made. Agents for the former owners have been informed verbally of the amount of compensation which this office would be prepared to recommend. If the vendors do not accept the offer of compensation they have their normal rights in law as does every other citizen. Agreement on interim rental has been reached with Darwin Piggery, and the Department of the Northern Territory in September 1974 issued an acknowledgement of Tenure form to the former owners to cover their continued tenure. Because of the restriction on the length of tenancy which could be offered under the Crown Lands Ordinance a more lengthy tenancy than might otherwise be available was offered under the provisions of the Lands Acquisition Act.
Agents of the Piggery have indicated that they are happy with the rental being sought. Agents for the former owners had been informed that any part payment approved by the Minister in respect of their claim would probably not be physically paid until January 1975. There was very good reason for this. But now that the Appropriation Bills have been passed we expect to make a part payment to the former owners before the end of 1975. This criticism therefore is based on ignorance and is mischievous. It can be said categorically that the major delay in settling the claim for compensation has been caused by delays in the submission of the claims by the former owners and by indications from their agents that claims submitted may not be final claims. They had been consistently reluctant to submit a fully detailed final claim until October 1974. In another case, B. B. Brickworks Pty Ltd, a large industrial undertaking with a claim for compensation exceeding that of the Piggery -
– This is an absolute farce. Why do you not write him a letter?
– The question is from one of your colleagues and it is very important. No difficulty has been experienced in achieving settlement in this case because the organisation was efficient, submitted concise claims, and was able to negotiate acceptable terms without delay. The Department rejects the accusations of Mr Bauer and Mrs Ryall. They have shown themselves to be inefficient and the telegram and publication thereof is malicious and obviously done with an ulterior motive. If all industries in the Territory are carried on in the way the Darwin Piggery is, it is no wonder that the latter is a struggling local industry. Mr Bauer and Mrs Ryall, instead of making a public exhibition of their ignorance, should seek some competent advice in order to get the satisfaction which so many others have obtained readily and gracefully. I ask for leave to incorporate the telegram in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)- 17 November 1974
The Honourable F. Daly Minister for Services and Properties Government House, Canberra, A.C.T.
We call for a public enquiry into the 32 square mile acquisition in Darwin. Facts in our case: No progress payment since aquisition 1 7 months ago; no written offer for compensation in 17 months; no agreement on lease back rental amount to date; verbal refusal to pay losses caused by acquisition loss of liquidity ban against building expansion on property; complete restriction on a struggling local industry which but for the acquisition would have provided large quantities of fresh pork, bacon, ham, sausages and 80ifferent lines of smallgoods for the Darwin consumer during last wet season and this wet season. Just informed that no money available for compensation until next year. General areas for investigation: poor planning; delay in preparing valuations; lease back shambles; confusion and lack of coordination in Government departments involved; vague minimal communications and liaison with those affected; final costs and poor financing of the acquisition; cruel effects on those involved; waste of taxpayers’ money by administrative delays; qualifications of some public servants to handle the complex economic decisions involving millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money. Conclusion: This telegram may be advertised in local and national newspapers within days if no immediate response is received. Your servants have had 17 months to think about it already and have shown no mercy in response to our patience.
Darwin Piggery Phone 8 19844 Darwin.
-Is the Minister for Northern Development and Minister for the Northern Territory aware of increasing reports that Australians are sending parcels of sugar in the form of Christmas presents to overseas destinations particularly to Britain where there is a serious shortage of sugar? Because of the substantial difference between the price of sugar in Australia and the price in many overseas countries, what steps are being taken to prevent large amounts of sugar being sent out of Australia to reap profits for dealers or other operators as opposed to the small amounts involved in Christmas presents?
– I am aware of the increasing activity of Australians no doubt for genuine reasons, in sending quantities of sugar overseas, particularly to Britain, in the form of Christmas presents. This sugar apparently is going over in a variety of ways including in tins and in parcels and I understand in some cases it is being put in toys. I would point out that under the Customs (Prohibited Exports) Regulations it is quite illegal to send sugar out of Australia unless the appropriate permit has been given for such movement of sugar. I am quite certain that the honourable member does not expect me or the Department of Customs and Excise to ask the appropriate authority to be opening all sorts of Christmas presents. I think the amount of sugar being sent is relatively small because, after all, the freight costs on such presents if they are going air mail are quite significant.
The domestic price of sugar in Australia is the lowest in the world for which I believe the sugar industry is entitled to a vote of thanks from everybody. At present it is about a quarter of the world price. Australian sugar is the cheapest sugar in the world when compared with prices in any country in the same economic classification as Australia. The problem is that we must watch this matter closely because there is growing illegal activity at some ports with respect to it being taken on as ship’s stores. Ships entering ports, which would normally require a ton or so of sugar, apparently are doubling and trebling orders for the amount of sugar that they take out of Australia. This matter is being watched very carefully. There are rumours of smuggling occurring in some northern Australian ports. In fact, one vessel- a dumb barge- mysteriously disappeared from Darwin some time ago with a quantity of sugar on board. All I can say is that the position is being watched carefully. I would think that if sugar is going out of Australia in the form of Christmas presents, the quantity involved is relatively small. Anyway, it is nevertheless illegal.
– The Prime Minister will recall that yesterday the Leader of the Australian Country Party asked him a question about Commonwealth funds for tick research, eradication and control, and that the Prime Minister asked the Minister for Northern Development and Minister for the Northern Territory to answer the question. The Prime Minister will know that it was clear from the Minister’s answer that he did not know that Commonwealth funds to New South Wales had been discontinued last year and this year. I ask the Prime Minister: Has there been correspondence between himself and the New South Wales Premier on this matter? Has the New South Wales Government been pressing the Commonwealth to continue the provision of funds along the lines that have applied since the 1 920s? Was the decision to cut off this finance made by the Cabinet, or was it a decision made by the Prime Minister alone? Is the Prime Minister aware of the enormous consequences of failure to control cattle ticks- consequences such as redwater outbreaks described very clearly yesterday by the Minister for Northern Development? Finally, I ask the Prime Minister to consider this matter in view of its very great importance to the highly concentrated cattle industry region between Newcastle and the Queensland border which will be so vulnerable if the eradication and control campaign is suspended.
– Yesterday I received a letter from the Premier of New South Wales about this government decision which was taken many months ago. I am, of course, considering the reply to the letter.
– My question is addressed to the Treasurer. Is it correct that the demand for gold for official purposes is declining rather significantly, but on the other hand is steadily increasing for private and industrial reasons? Is it also correct that most major countries of the world today now permit private purchase and sale of gold, some only domestically but others on the international market as well? Would it therefore also be correct that official monopoly of sales of gold is gradually losing its importance with respect to international financial transactions and the total gold market? Finally, if the reply to those queries is in the affirmative, would it not then be in Australia’s interest to permit also private dealing in gold? Would not the beneficial results far outweigh any disadvantages?
– I am sure that the honourable member is aware that currently the question of the disposition of gold in Australia is covered by the provisions of Part IV of the Banking Act. Broadly, the provisions have the effect that dealings in gold are subject to approval by the Reserve Bank, newly won gold must be delivered to the Bank and individual persons may not have gold. That is the situation as it historically applies. However, as honourable members know, the question of the role of gold in the future still has some important international monetary characteristics, although it is true that the monetary role of gold has declined over recent years. Many governments still continue to be very firm holders of gold. Two examples of this, for instance- rather diverse- are Italy and Austria, which hold a fair proportion of their total reserves in the form of gold. This is done despite the fact that in recent years private demand has by and large absorbed virtually the whole of the gold production of the Western economies. The majority of countries continue to maintain restrictions or prohibitions on the private holdings of gold by their citizens. The honourable member may be aware that as from 1 January 1975, America will relax those provisions and allow private citizens to purchase gold objects.
With regard to Australia’s position, I can inform the honourable member that the issues involved, some of which are very complex and require careful consideration, in allowing Australian residents to hold and deal in gold, are currently being examined by the Government. Meanwhile however, I would point out under the existing arrangements Australian gold producers are able to obtain the going world price for the sale of their current production of gold both in overseas markets and for industrial use in Australia. But, as I indicated, we are looking at the situation. I know the honourable member’s interest in this matter and if I am able to advise him further soon I shall do so.
– Will the Prime Minister inform the House what purpose in Australia’s national interest will be served by his visit to the Greek islands which is shown on his itinerary?
– I believe that I am visiting Crete, one Greek island, at a time when no neighbouring countries are working. The days that I am there will not be official working days. I must confess that while I am away from Australia I shall sometimes give up official visits on Saturdays and Sundays.
- Mr Speaker, I raise a point or order. I have here a copy of the Prime Minister’s itinerary which tells him where he will be.
– Order! There is no substance in the point of order.
-Order! This matter does not come within the responsibility of the Minister for Social Security.
– I ask the Minister: What percentage of the average weekly earnings is the present single age pension rate? What are the facts?
– I am pleased that the honourable member has asked me this question because it allows me to put the record in a more reliable perspective than the way in which it was left when the Deputy Leader of the Opposition wrung it through his hands, I think last Tuesday. With rather selective quotations he pointed out that in 1964 the standard rate of pension under a Liberal-Country Party Government was 22. 1 per cent of average weekly earnings. He also pointed out that in June 1974 the standard rate pension was only 20.6 per cent of average weekly earnings. Both those figures are correct. But I point out the significance of what was left out in between. For instance, what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition could have said was that in June 1 974 the standard rate of pension, although only 20.6 per cent of average weekly earnings, was on the way up compared with previous years under a Liberal-Country Party administration.
He could have referred to June 1972 when the figure was only 1 9.2 per cent and when the Prime Minister of that period did not care about pensioners, or the June 1971 period when the figure was down to 1 8. 1 per cent. It was a little higher in 1970 at 19 per cent. It hung around 19 per cent and 20 per cent for most of the 1960’s. In 1964 there seemed to be some sort of an aberration which was probably a mistake rather that a purposeful result.
But let us look quickly at the result in the 23 years that the Liberal-Country Party was in government. I shall use the original figures as distinct from seasonally adjusted figures which are available only from 1962. Even on the original figures the 21.8 per cent of average weekly earnings in 1964 was the second highest level for that period. The only other occasion on which the Liberals managed to get somewhere near that amount was in 1958 when the pension was 21.9 per cent of average weekly earnings. If we revert to the seasonally adjusted figures used by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition we find that in July this year when we increased the standard rate of pension by $5 a week- an unprecedented amount- the standard rate of pension became 24.5 per cent of average weekly earnings which is the highest level for over 23 years. It was much higher than was ever achieved by a Liberal-Country Party administration.
Together with this fact I think we ought to point out that quite a number of other anomalies were removed too. An example is the savage punitive discrimination in unemployment benefits where a man with a wife and children got much less if he was drawing unemployment benefits than he would have obtained if he was receiving a pension of one form or another. The double orphans benefit was never introduced under a Liberal-Country Party administration. Some sort of social stigma applied to the supporting mother or single mother. It was not until this Government came into office that these anomalies were removed and justice was introduced. Finally, there will be another increase in the pension rate in the early new year. Then, we expect to have the pension at around 25 per cent of average weekly earnings.
But what is the policy of the Liberal-Country Party on pensions? It has never really been stated except that the Liberal-Country Party has said that the pension should increase according to cost movements. If we had followed that principle pensioners would be some several dollars a week worse off now than they are under our scheme. Let us remember that the Opposition is proposing an 8 per cent cut in public expenditure at the same time as it is proposing to increase the level of defence expenditure. The increase in defence expenditure which the Opposition is proposing indicates clearly an overall cut of 12 per cent in public expenditure excluding defence. I would like to challenge the Opposition to state exactly what is its pension policy and exactly what areas of social welfare would be savagely cut back under its proposals consistent with its statement.
– I present for the information of honourable members the report on nitrogenous fertilisers, dated 16 July 1974, of the Industries Assistance Commission.
– Pursuant to the provisions of the Coal Industry Act 1946-1973 I present the twenty-seventh annual report of the
Joint Coal Board for the year ended 30 June 1974 together with the Auditor-General’s report on the accounts of the Board.
– Pursuant to section 7 of the Remuneration Trbunals Act 1973-1974 I present the Remuneration Tribunal’s determination of fees and allowances for the chairman of the Interim Committee on the National Estate and the chairman and members of the Committee to Advise on Policies for Manufacturing Industry.
– For the information of honourable members I present a report of a six-city consumer survey prepared by PA Management Consultants Pty Ltd entitled ‘Finance for New Homes’.
– For the information of honourable members I present the report prepared by the Australian Government task force to investigate modern housing techniques. Due to the limited numbers of thus document available I have arranged for reference copies to be placed in the Parliamentary Library. An interim version of this report was tabled in the Parliament on 25 July 1974.
-Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– I would like honourable members wishing to make personal explanations to inform me beforehand that they desire to make a personal explanation. Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
-I have not had much time since 1.30 this morning. I have been grievously misrepresented. Therefore, I seek my right and privilege to make a personal explanation. In yesterday’s Melbourne ‘Herald’ a report on page 1 states:
Mr Killen described the Liberal dissidents as ‘a bunch who could not start a fuss in a fowlyard ‘
The move to oust Mr Snedden, which has been hatching for 10 days, came into the open last night when six dissatisfied Opposition backbenchers called on him in Canberra.
The six led by Mr Staley (Chisholm, Vic.) were Mr Robinson (CP, Cowper, N.S.W.)-
Then there appear the names of other members of this House. I have been grievously misrepresented. I am not a member of the Liberal Party; I did not participate in any meeting with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden), as described in the Melbourne ‘Herald’; and I am not a dissatisfied Opposition backbencher.
-Mr Speaker, I seek the indulgence of the Chair to refer to the acoustics in this chamber. In the course of question time this morning you had occasion to remind the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) to talk into the microphone. It is not the first time you have had to remind him and other Ministers at the table. I ask that, in the summer recess, some effort be made by the Joint House Committee or whoever is responsible to improve the acoustics in the chamber. Since an attempt was made to improve the acoustics by the installation of the apparatus that we see around us, the acoustics on the floor of this chamber have gone from bad to worse.
– That is your opinion.
– It is the opinion of most honourable members more of whom nowadays are using ear phones or ear plugs, but there are not enough points for plugs. It will be noticed that the honourable member for Kennedy and the honourable member for Fisher are using the only 2 plugs available on the front bench where members of the Australian Country Party sit. Insufficient plugs are available for those who wish to hear as accurately as possible answers to questions. I ask, Mr Speaker, that some effort be made to try to improve the acoustics of this chamber during the summer recess. I believe they are appalling.
– I will certainly examine this matter during the coming recess. I believe the acoustics require urgent attention because often from the Chair I cannot hear all that is said when Ministers and members of the Opposition have their backs to me. I think an acoustics expert should look into this matter. It may be necessary to provide additional microphones, particularly on the front table. I believe it is essential that every honourable member should be able to hear everything that is said, particularly by those at the front table.
-Mr Speaker, I seek the indulgence of the House to raise a matter of procedure. This morning, quite rightly according to standing order 43, you ensured that sufficient honourable members were in this chamber before you read prayers. Honourable members may have sincere and indeed religious objections to listening to the words used but their right not to be present is denied by the ringing of the bells calling for a quorum. Will you, as the custodian of the Standing Orders, give consideration to having them changed to allow members to enjoy their constitutional right not to engage in religious activities if they so wish?
-The Chair is not concerned with an honourable member’s religious views or otherwise. The Chair is concerned only with the application of Standing Orders, the form of which is a matter for the House. The House can decide to change Standing Orders but whilst they remain as they are at present the Chair must enforce them. Where a quorum of members is not present at the commencement of the day’s proceedings I intend to see that a quorum is present before I read prayers.
– I asked you to look at changing the Standing Orders.
-That, of course, is a matter for the House to decide. Any honourable member can, if he so desires, seek to have them changed. At present several matters are contained on the notice paper. Any honourable member can put on the notice paper a motion relating to the Standing Orders and when it is before the House the House can decide the matter. It is for the House to determine whether the Standing Orders should be changed, not the Chair.
- Mr Speaker, I ask for leave to make a short statement.
-Does the Minister claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. At question time this morning the honourable member for Corangamite asked a question about a property at Kingston which he said I owned. First, let me inform the House that the property is owned by my wife and myself. Secondly, it is a residence I occupy for a considerable time when I am in Canberra, because it is a private property. As far as I know it is not for sale. The honourable member mentioned great amounts that had been offered for it. If he knows anyone who thinks it is worth the figure he mentioned I hope he will send such people to me because no one has ever bothered to approach me. Apart from that, when I have time to get around to it I will renovate the property because that is the place where I intend to live. I hope that the honourable member will correct his state-, ment that I am endeavouring to exploit that property, because I am not. If I did desire to sell it at any time I would naturally abide by any rules or regulations which are laid down and which affect ordinary members of the public. I quite sincerely believe that the honourable member has made a completely false statement and I hope he will correct it.
-Mr Speaker, I seek indulgence to enable me to answer the Leader of the House.
-Is the honourable member seeking to make a personal explanation?
-No, Mr Speaker, I seek to clarify the matter. The figures I quoted this morning in relation to the property owned by the Minister for Services and Property and his wife I quoted in good faith and I believe that they are correct. If my subsequent inquiries show that they are not correct I shall apologise to the Minister.
Motion (by Mr Daly) agreed to:
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Monday next at 2.15 p.m.
– I move:
That paragraph (3) of the resolution of appointment of the Select Committee on Specific Learning Difficulties be omitted and that the following paragraph be substituted: ‘(3) That the committee consist of 7 members, four to be nominated by the Prime Minister, two to be nominated by the Leader of the Opposition and one to be nominated by the Leader of the Australian Country Party . ‘
The original resolution was adopted by the House and, as it stands, it provides for 6 members, three to be nominated by the Prime Minister, two to be nominated by the Leader of the Opposition and one to be nominated by the Leader of the Australian Country Party. As you can see, it is proposed that the ratio be changed to seven and four. I understand that the resolution was adopted by the House almost unanimously and I make a brief explanation of the reason for the change. It seems that there is good reason to bring this resolution into conformity with the usual precedent for the establishment of a committee. The precedent has been departed from in this case and all my motion seeks to do is to restore the normal ratio in a committee of this nature. I might mention also that the committee members already include 2 teachers, one of whom has worked with children with specific learning difficulties, and the Government is moving to add a doctor of medicine, whose experience will be invaluable. I make that brief explanation and I hope that the House will endorse the change. This is a very valuable committee and this motion, if adopted, will not interfere with the workings of the committee but it might add to any findings that the committee might bring down.
- Mr Speaker, it is unfortunate that this motion has to be moved. The Opposition will not oppose it- let me say that at the outset- but I repeat, it is very unfortunate that it has to be moved. Briefly, the history of this resolution is that it resulted from a concern which I personally have about a great number of children who have word blindness, and beyond that such things as an intellectual capacity which is not matched by the education they actually receive at school, and they are emerging from the school system not properly and fully educated. I wanted this matter to be treated as an issue of national purpose; I did not want any politics in it at all. I approached the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), put my point of view to him and asked for his co-operation in ensuring that it be totally non-political. As I explained in the House at the time, the Prime Minister immediately and without any demur whatever acknowledged the national purpose and acknowledged his willingness to engage in this exercise in a totally non-political way. In accordance with our arrangement, I then sent to the Prime Minister some proposed terms of reference. Included in the proposed terms of reference was a proposal that the chairman of the committee ought to be appointed by the Leader of the Opposition, it having been I who had first raised the matter. In the absence of the Prime Minister, the Prime Minister’s staff asked if I would delete that proposal because they could not agree to the Leader of the Opposition appointing the chairman without the concurrence of the Prime Minister. I therefore withdrew any proposal from the resolution as to who should be the chairman, and the resolution thus went through the House without any specific provision about who should be the chairman.
By the curiosity of the Standing Orders we were in the position where committee members on one side of the House could appoint the chairman, but the chairman would not have a deliberative vote and so committee members from the other side of the House would actually have a majority of the votes. That is, if the Government appointed the chairman, the 2 members of the Liberal Party and the one member of the Country Party would represent 3 votes and there would be only 2 votes from the Government side. To me, that did not matter; I do not think that there will be a vote necessary in the committee. I know from discussions with my 2 colleagues, Mr Wilson and Mr Cadman, and with Mr McVeigh from the Country Party, that they approach this in a truly national purpose way and I should expect that committee members from the Government side would approach it in the same way. Therefore, it was an issue that did not really matter. But then unfortunately it did matter, and it mattered in this way. While I was speaking in the House and raising the issue, the honourable member for Casey (Mr Mathews) interjected in such a way as disclosed that on his part he was politically motivated on the issue. I had to firmly but gently reprimand him, not only for the interjection but for the nature of it. The honourable member for Casey followed me in speaking and reference to the speech that he made discloses that he positively wanted to pursue this in a political way. This disappointed me bitterly because I know that I can believe the Prime Minister’s intention that it should be totally non-political, and there at the outset it was being converted into a political issue.
For that reason, when I learned that the Government proposed that the honourable member for Casey be the chairman of this committee I said that so far as 1 was concerned it was improper for the committee to be set up under the chairmanship of the honourable member for Casey, who so obviously wanted to politicise the committee. As a result of that, my colleague Mr Wilson, whom I had wanted to nominate as chairman, discussed the matter and he told me that pressure was being brought to bear to resolve the matter and I became very unhappy about it. What the Labor Party has now decided is that, come hell or high water, it is going to appoint the chairman and, come hell or high water, it is going to be the honourable member for Casey. I feel that that is a gross adulteration of the national purpose which the Prime Minister and I agreed to on a non-political basis; but the fact is that the Government does have the numbers to carry this. Facing that, the Opposition cannot object on the basis of numbers.
I think it is important to say that the Opposition will not divide on this matter, it will not oppose it. The Opposition trusts that if the honourable member for Casey is to be the chairmanand I must say very frankly that I should prefer any other member from the Government side to be chairman rather than the honourable member for Casey- I implore him to forget his own personal political interests and to pursue this solely on a national purpose basis, totally without politics. My expectation is that the committee ought to be able to proceed without there ever needing to be a single vote on any issue, because the goodwill of all the members of the committee ought to determine a matter.
- Mr Speaker, I was abroad when this matter was resolved, but I do welcome it. It is one of the functions of the Schools Commission to make recommendations in its reports to the Government on all forms of education for the handicapped. Honourable members will recollect that the Karmel Committee recommended $43m for this purpose, which the Government has appropriated, and a further $ 13m came in other forms for such things as the training of teachers of the handicapped, so that the program is about $56m all up. I understand that what the Leader of the Opposition was particularly concerned about were the specific learning difficulties to which his attention had been drawn by the organisation known as SPELD. It will be the duty, I presume, of the Schools Commission to give to the Parliamentary Committee evidence that it has already accumulated on this subject. I think it is not a bad thing that a parliamentary committee is to look at this matter. I hardly think that it will be possible for the Committee to be partisan on a question of specific learning difficulties and I do not think that the honourable member for Casey (Mr Mathews), who as a teacher has been concerned about children with disabilities, would exercise his chairmanship of the Committee with anything other than compassion and objectivity, the clashes in the House notwithstanding.
A number of interesting parliamentary committees have inquired into the field of education. A Senate committee which inquired into the education of the handicapped several years ago produced an extremely valuable report which I think can still be used as a guideline. There are great numbers of parents concerned about the problem of specific learning difficulties. I would regard myself as indebted to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) on this question for one very good reason: I think that the teaching profession in Australia, especially at primary level, very largely flies blind. Teachers do not know whether children coming into their schools come from battered homes, whether they are brain damaged or whether they have various forms of disability. Teachers are very largely in the position that a doctor would be in if he did not have the benefit of X-rays, nurses and ancillary forms of service. This is specifically the case in regard to specific learning difficulties which seem to be at the basis in some cases of the mystery of why so many children cannot learn to read. There may be other explanations of their misfortune in schooling but we do not know enough about this whole subject. If this Parliamentary Committee which has been suggested by the Leader of the Opposition can crystallise around Australia all the strands of information, opinion and expertise that have been suddenly developed in the last four or five years it can be an extremely creative committee. I thank the Leader of the Opposition for having suggested it. As I have said, this is the first chance that I have had to comment on the proposal since returning from a UNESCO conference overseas.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The Prime Minister -Queensland- Australian League of Rights- Prime Minister’s Overseas Visit- Postal Voting in Queensland- Taxation: Rural Industry- Regional Employment Development Scheme- National Estate-Unemployment- Community Health Centre, East Bentleigh- Roads
That grievances be noted.
-As an Australian I have always entertained the thought that a Prime Minister should not only be a leader but should also set an example and standard that we ordinary citizens could aim to emulate. It grieves me therefore in this debate to have to bring to the notice of the national Parliament some examples- the more disturbing because they are continually occurring- either of the Prime Minister’s deliberate distortion of the facts, or ignorance of the truth -
-Order! Personal reflections are out of order.
-Or fiddling with the substance -
-Order! As I have just pointed out, personal reflections are out of order.
-I appreciate that, Mr Speaker. During recent weeks the Prime Minister has spent much of his time in the sovereign State of Queensland where, incidentally, he is neither achieving anything positive nor improving his catastrophic low point of popularity. But those of us who value decency and responsibility in government welcome his intrusions and forays on a regular basis because his very appearance, his utterances, his churning out of false propaganda and statements which clutter up the Press, improve the standing of the great Australian and superb Queenslander, the fighting and resolute Joh Bjelke-Petersen, to such an extent that not only will the Labor Party be completely routed and almost annihilated but also Mr Perce Tucker, the Leader of the Opposition in Queensland, is without a chance of holding his seat of Townsville West. In effect, the Prime Minister’s globe trotting and propaganda can be compared to a heap of dead mullet- they both glisten and smell.
It is time we nailed the vicious untruths the Prime Minister has been uttering about Queensland’s non-co-operation and allowed the Prime Minister to be exposed for what he is- a wrecker of the States; a destroyer of the Constitution; and an aspirer to the status of president of a republic which he is endeavouring to fashion and mould by the harnessing of public opinion and dictation to Cabinet and Caucus. But his greatest opponent, the preserver of our rights and traditions, Joh Bjelke-Petersen, will not allow him to do this. He is a man whom the Prime Minister pursues with fanatical zeal, obstinate purpose and maniacal pride. Notwithstanding the platitudes and sycophantic utterances of this obsequious man we have as a Prime Minister, an analysis of the situation exposes his neat political tricks as being based on jealousy and petulance. He does not like someone who stands up and fights.
There are only four areas dealing with matters prior to the 1974 Budget on which agreement has not been reached between Queensland and the Commonwealth. Two of these have been unilaterally deferred by the Commonwealth, with no pressure from the State of Queenslandnamely, the National Health Scheme and benefits for deserted wives and unmarried mothers. The Queensland Government has rejected the Commonwealth takeover of Aboriginals, because the Aboriginal people do not want intrusion from Canberra. Queensland has also rejected the Lands Acquisition Act because the people of Queensland much prefer freehold title with its associated safeguards to leasehold with its aroma of centralised government control from Canberra. In effect, the answer emerges with stark reality and crystal clarity that when the schemes are sound Queensland will accept and has accepted them; where freedom and dignity are threatened Queensland will resist and defend the rights of sovereignty and privacy. Of course, this latter view is diametrically opposed to the socialist thinking of those opposite who have a mania and thirst for control.
In the 12 months prior to the Budget presented on 17 September, out of 39 proposals 21 were accepted without anger by Queensland and out of the other 18 the only 4 outstanding were as I have described, fourteen having been accepted after further negotiation and debate, realigning of positions, counter proposals and, at all times, logical, forceful and strenuous expression from the Premier of Queensland. To give further proof that it is the Prime Minister who is obstructionist and who is resorting to the lowest practice in politics- blackmail- showing he is without ethics, over 50 per cent of the proposals in the recent Budget have been accepted and the remainder are in the early discussion stage.
I want to detail some of the specific actions to give rebuttal of the Prime Minister’s waffling and his distortions in what were meant to be powerful insults but in effect have caused mere ripples of effect. I would like to deal with Townsville as a growth centre, as reported on 15 November 1974. The Queensland Government has made Townsville grow. It has been involved in the upgrading of Mt Isa-Townsville rail system, the development of the Green Vale nickel deposit which was spurned by the Prime Minister, the building of a copper refinery, the development of the port, and the establishment of Townsville Teachers College and James Cook University. Also, the Queensland Government would welcome any announcement by the Federal Government, which has all the say, of an intention to establish an international airport at Townsville. The State Government is having meaningful consultations with the Cities Commission in regard to a growth centre. Two pilot studies, namely a Townsville economic structure study and a Townsville development program study, have been initiated. Queensland is obviously willing to develop Townsville as a growth centre; the Prime Minister is not. Incidentally, Queensland has given $370,000 to the Townsville City Council and the region to carry out work which has not been done due to a delay in sewerage plans which was not caused by the Queensland Government. The Queensland Government has readily accepted all finance offered last year and this year by the Federal Government for sewerage proposals.
The Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) is in the chamber at the moment. He is a highly respected member of. this Parliament. He has also become engaged in the battle, but it would appear to us that he has been given the wrong information. Will the Minister for Education arrange forthwith for the amount of $12,384,503 to be sent to Queensland in education moneys outstanding from the Commonwealth which were formally requested in a telegram sent by Sir Alan Fletcher, the Queensland Minister for Education, on 20 November. Queensland has applied for 100 per cent of its allocation for education but the Commonwealth has not made the payment.
– Do you want the answer to your question?
– I am making my speech. The Minister can explain afterwards. We want to know where is the mythical $50m on which the Prime Minister says Queensland has missed out as a result of its obstinate tactics? He cannot have it both ways. He wants to exercise political blackmail. Queensland would welcome $20m for hospitals, but allocated as Queensland’s priorities dictate and not at a cost of an extra 1.35 per cent of taxable income for services which the people of Queensland now get free. Similarly, the State is pursuing sound policies in asking what are the real terms for the release of $24m for the Narangba concept. It will not accept a wishy-washy $7m for the first year and no arrangements for the remainder of the loan. The Queensland Government wants the land to be freehold. It wants to know what are the terms and conditions for the remainder of the loan? Mr Bjelke-Petersen is exercising financial responsibility, unlike the Prime Minister who is not renowned for management ability.
Similarly, notwithstanding discussions regarding urban transport programs in Hobart in early 1973, no money was received by Queensland in 1973 and 18 months elapsed before the Bill authorising its payment was passed- that is, early in the financial year 1974-75. This is a delay of 18 months due to the Australian Government’s inactivity in this sphere. The price for the improvement of the Acacia Ridge rail terminalincidentally, this was agreed to by all State Transport Ministers- was for the Commonwealth to take over control and ownership of the railway line and the land on which it was built from Acacia Ridge to the border, a distance of 69 miles. Queensland will not sell its birthright. There is a thread that runs through all the Commonwealth’s moves. The Commonwealth has adopted an obstructionist attitude by deliberately withholding funds and has endeavoured to control and create special control by departments from Canberra.
It is interesting to note that the Prime Minister released a Press statement on 17 November 1974 in which he gave details of an increased Australian Government expenditure in Queensland. It is interesting to note that on the one hand he stated that Queensland is not getting money because it is obstructionist but then, on the other hand said:
Queensland received more than $382 per head of population in 1973-74 compared with $343 per head in average payments to all States.
So in Queensland where we have a decent, honest Premier we have received more money per head of population than the Australian average. Yet the Prime Minister says that the reason Queensland is not getting money is on account of obstruction tactics of the Premier.
– The Prime Minister is two-faced.
– As my colleague, the honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King) says, the Prime Minister is two-faced. I think that the point it is necessary to clarify is that the election to be held in Queensland on 7 December will be an election between two opposing points of view. Do the people of Queensland want as a leader of a sovereign State a man who is determined to stand up and fight to look after the interests of Queensland or do they want as a Premier a man who will be a mere puppet of a socialist machine in Canberra, who will try to negotiate through lounge chair diplomacy over a cup of tea with the end result that Queensland will fail and disintegrate from its position of a once great State?
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
- Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, very seriously. I wondered how quickly the stress of the Queensland elections would lead to a complete misrepresentation of the relationship between myself and Sir Alan Fletcher. But now it has occurred. I got a sense of warning that even Sir Alan Fletcher might become a casualty of the elections when I received a telegram -
- Mr Speaker, I rise to take a point of order -
-Order! If the Minister is making a personal explanation he should show where he has been misrepresented.
– The honourable gentleman has suggested that requests have come from Queensland -
-Order! The Minister has not spoken in the debate. Therefore, he cannot claim to have been misrepresented. I suggest that if the Minister wants to speak he should join in the debate. But he can claim to have been misrepresented at this stage only if he has spoken in the debate. What the Minister should do if he wishes to claim that he has been misrepresented is to wait until next week when he sees the Hansard report of the debate and then claim to have been misrepresented. But unless he has spoken during the debate he cannot claim to have been misrepresented.
– I merely want to make the point that the money was sent at the time he asked for it.
-Order! I call the honourable member for Bowman (Mr Keogh).
-After listening to the previous speaker, the honourable member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh), I can state that unless one was very familiar with the situation in Queensland one could almost believe that the Government of Queensland was democratically elected. One could almost believe that on 7 December when the people of Queensland go to the polls they will have an opportunity to make a choice between the 2 opposing political parties in that State. Of course, I refer to the Australian Labor Party and the linked coalition- the National-Liberal Party coalition. But even the most realistic of the members of the Liberal Party, linked in coalition with the National Party, would agree that that is just not the situation. In fact, democracy in Queensland has been dead since the Liberal Party threw away the opportunity of a reasonable redistribution of electoral boundaries on the last occasion that Jackboots Joh, the Premier, stood over its members and forced through the Parliament a redistribution that guaranteed the preservation of his Party- the Country Party as it then was- as the leading Party in the coalition.
Honourable members opposite cannot run away from the position. The honourable member for McPherson (Mr Eric Robinson) said at that time that it was political injustice at Country Party insistence. I am sure that if the honourable member were in the chamber today he would agree with what I am saying, namely, that democracy just does not exist today in Queensland. Let us face the position: We hope that the Labor Party will win this election on 7 December. But we fully realise that this task is almost impossible for us. We have to gain about 55 per cent to 56 per cent of the votes cast to secure sufficient seats in that Queensland Parliament to become the government of the State. Members of the Liberal Party are suggesting hopefully that their Party may become the major party in the coalition. Of course, even Sir Gordon Chalk, the Leader of the Liberal Party in Queensland, realises that that is impossible. It is impossible because the swing that would be required against the National Party throughout Queensland would need to amount to some 15 per cent- an unprecedented shift in support at the polls- to give Sir Gordon Chalk supremacy over the National Party.
Yet we hear the honourable member for Darling Downs talking in the Parliament today in 1 8th Century terms about the sovereign State of Queensland and showing the hatred that is obviously in him for this national Parliament. It is a wonder that he is even prepared to come here as a representative of the people of the Darling Downs. Perhaps sometimes he should realise that first and foremost since Federation Queensland has been part of the Australian nation, even if the Premier of Queensland will not accept the fact. This is exactly the way in which this Government wants to treat Queensland- as part of the Australian nation. That is exactly the way the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) wants to treat Queensland. He wants to treat it equally with the other States in the nation. He does not wish to see this continuation of bitterness, hatred and rejection of a total national plan for the advancement of Queensland in harness with the rest of the States of the nation.
There is another matter that I want to refer to this morning, limited though my time may be. I was amazed to find when I disclosed recently the inseparable links that exist between the League of Rights, that frightening fascist right-wing organisation, and the National Party in Queensland that it appeared obvious that there were even members of the National Party from Queensland who did not realise that those links existed in their own areas. We had the situation the other evening of the honourable member for Wide Bay (Mr Millar) making a personal explanation and saying that a reflection had been cast on his integrity in suggesting that because he was invited and intended to share a platform with this League of Rights spokesman, Mr Eric
Butler, it might be thought that he was sympathetic to the League of Rights. He said that it was similar to suggesting that he was a widower if he addressed, a meeting of widowers. What a ridiculous situation. What a ridiculous claim for him to make. All I did was disclose to this Parliament that the honourable member for Wide Bay was invited to attend the meeting. He admitted in this Parliament the other night that he intended to attend that public meeting. It was a public meeting called by the fascist right wing organisation League of Rights that publishes the journal ‘Queensland Calling’ for the Save Our State campaign. If the honourable member does not know about it it is about time he awakened to the facts of life in this respect.
This public meeting was called by the Kingaroy branch of the Save Our State campaign. The honourable member was billed to be on the platform with H. J. Redding, State Director of the Save Our State campaign, who is quite openly linked with Sir Raphael Cilento and others who do not deny the fact that they are Eric Butler’s henchmen in Queensland, Eric Butler being the leader of the League of Rights. The honourable member for Wide Bay asked: ‘What was the harm in sharing a platform with these people?’ and stated that if he had been there he would have attended the meeting with these people. I can assure him that I would not share any platform nor join in any public meeting with any factions of the right or left, whether they be fascists- with whom he is associated and by whom his Party is prepared to be controlled in Queensland- or communists or whatever else they might be.
The Australian League of Rights was described by Mr St John, a well respected exmember of this Parliament and a recognised Australian authority on the League of Rights, in a letter he wrote and which was published in the ‘Australian ‘ on 1 6 July 1 97 1 . It states:
But it is, I believe, very real and very dangerous- potentially as dangerous and embarrassing to the Liberal and Country parties, and the nation, as the Communist Party has been at times to the Labor Party. It represents the other extreme.
This morning, in referring again to this link between the National Party and the League of Rights in Queensland, I think I should state that at the moment the greatest proponents in Queensland of what we have come to know of the Petersen plan are members of the League of Rights. They distribute the literature which advocates the initiation of the Petersen plan. They constitute the organisation in the Brisbane area which, during the election campaign for the last election on 18 May, campaigned and distributed on behalf of the National Party candidate in Bowman their own pamphlets together with his throughout my electorate, just as they have claimed in another issue of the publication ‘Queensland Calling’ that they have the organisation in Queensland to distribute this newspaper on behalf of the National Party in Queensland. The National Party, led by the Premier of Queensland, as I have explained to the House and to members of the Australian Country Party who still sit opposite in disbelief is almost certainly assured of victory in the forthcoming election because of the gerrymandered undemocratic electoral system that the Premier has devised and implemented in Queensland. He will truly become known, as I described him at the beginning of my speech, as of same type as the Hitlers and Mussolinis we have known in the pastJackboot Joh of Australia.
-The hypocrisy of the speech by the honourable member for Bowman (Mr Keogh) can easily be shown by 2 simple statements. First, Labor kept itself in power in Queensland for 42 years with the greatest known gerrymander ever in Australia’s history. Secondly, according to the map supplied to the Distribution Commissioners for the proposed Federal redistribution, it is proposed that the Australian Labor Party will get 62 per cent of the seats with 49.6 per cent of the votes, as in the May election. That is what the new proposals from the Labor Party represent Australia-wide. I dismiss the whole speech on these 2 grounds.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. The honourable member for Gippsland is stating a whole heap of rubbish not based on any acknowledged statistics. I ask him to table the statistics from which he was quoting.
-That is not a point of order; it is a matter for debate.
– In this speech I propose to take up the matter I raised with the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) at question time this morning, that is, his proposed trip overseas. He asserted in his answer that I was saying that a Prime Minister should not travel overseas. I assert quite differently. I assert quite positively that it is proper for the Prime Minister of Australia to travel overseas and to undertake those functions that are necessary in the national need and for the national good of Australia. I make this assertion positively. Often the Prime Minister is required to attend crucial meetings, and he should visit places that could mean a lot to
Australia. But I also assert positively that nowhere in the Prime Minister’s itinerary is there a need at this time for such a trip.
Let us put this whole trip into perspective. The Australian economy has never been in such tatters since the depression. The whole of the nation is uncertain. Industry, employers, and employees are uncertain as to where this nation is heading. We have an inflation rate which is the highest ever in our history. It goes up every day but 20 per cent was the last reputable figure I saw. It is probably higher. We have the highest unemployment rate since the depression, and this is under a Labor Government. So I say that the nation is unhappy. This trip of the Prime Minister’s ought to be looked at against that background. The itinerary shows clearly, as I have said, that there is nothing in the trip of national or international significance.
For the trip the Prime Minister will take a Qantas Boeing 707 for 39 days, for 17 days of which the plane will not be used at all but will be standing idle on the tarmac. For 18 days it will be used for fewer than 3 hours per day. The charter rate for a Boeing 707 is about $2,000 per hour in the air. The rate for idle or standing time when the plane is idle in the tarmac is normally $4,000 a day. But on this occasion there has been some strong-arming of Qantas and the plane is to be let to the Prime Minister at the rate of $2,000 a day for its idle days. The total cost of the hire of this plane to the Australian taxpayer- this is for the plane only and not for hotels and everything else that goes with the trip of this magnitude- is $280,000. That is the total charter cost of the plane only. The trip will require the placement of 7 technical crews to fly the plane around the world. They are the cockpit crews of 3 people each, and there have to be changes in London, Amsterdam, Belgrade, Rawalpindi and Kuala Lumpur. The trip also requires 2 cabin crews of 12 people for the flight and there are to be cabin crew changes of 12 people at London, Rome, Rawalpindi and Kuala Lumpur. But not only that, Qantas is being forced to send overseas and station around the world 6 of its executive officers to make sure that everything runs smoothly with the plane.
The minimum earnings a day of a Boeing 707 are $20,000. The Prime Minister is taking the trip at the peak Christmas period, the busiest time of the year for Qantas. The normal earnings of the plane during this period- at 39 times $20,000-would be $780,000. The actual charter cost, as I have said, of $280,000 is dear enough, but the real cost of the Prime Minister’s trip is being hidden because Qantas is being forced to subsidise this trip by half a million dollars which the taxpayer will not know about. It is a loss of revenue to Qantas.
This morning 1 raised the question of the 8 day period in London. During that time the Prime Minister will inject a 1 hour return trip to Dublin. The Prime Minister is staying in Dublin for 5 hours 50 minutes. That is the stopover time in Dublin.
– Is that to meet Vince?
– He is going to see Vince and have a drink with him. That is about the value of the whole trip, I can tell you! That 5 hours 50 minutes is the only occasion when the Qantas 707 aircraft will be used in the London stopover. Qantas asked the Prime Minister whether it could have the use of the plane for that period for its commercial operations. It was refused the plane. The plane is to sit idle for 8 days at London airport when it could be earning a minimum of $20,000 a day.
The Prime Minister said during question time that the reason he was taking the Qantas plane related to security. I know that the Defence Services are run down. That is apparent. But I did not know that they were so badly run down that a Qantas aircraft can more easily be made secure than a BAC1 1 1 aircraft, which is a Royal Australian Air Force plane. This is an admission in itself of the Prime Minister’s position. A statement of that nature from him shows on what shallow ground he stands. He says that he cannot take a BAC1 1 1 aircraft for reasons of security. The Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard) took a BAC111 around the world. It is a most competent plane. I would not mind journeying around the world in a BAC1 1 1 at the expense of the taxpayers. I could think of nothing better over the Christmas period. The Deputy Prime Minister (Dr J. F. Cairns) took a BAC111 to Peking. A BAClll has been to Washington, Sweden and London. BAC Ill’s have travelled around the world. The Prime Minister said that a BAC1 1 1 could not take all the necessary- I think he used the word ‘equipment’. More unkindly, I would use the word ‘baggage’. I think there is a fair bit of baggage on this trip that is unnecessary, which would stay in Australia or which could be taken on commercial nights to the places of most importance on this visit. The cost of a BACH 1 would be $100,000. 1 compare that with the total cost of this trip and the loss of revenue to Qantas which reveals a real cost of $780,000 to the taxpayer.
Let me come to the itinerary. The Prime Minister departs Australia on 14 December. He travels to Colombo and is there for 16’/i hours. He stops at Bahrein for 40 minutes for refuelling purposes. The Prime Minister travels then to Brussels where he stays 88 hours. He next flies to London. The stay there is for 96 hours and is interrupted to fly to Dublin to have drinks with Vince. That takes 5 hours 50 minutes and is followed by a further 86 hours stay in London. The Prime Minister travels then to Catania. This is the first of the so-called weekend breaks which the Prime Minister is taking. He then goes on to Malta and Androvida. He arrives in Androvida on a Tuesday, but this is part of the weekend break, as the Prime Minister described it at question time today. He stays there for 25 hours 10 minutes. He goes then to Athens where he stays for 26 hours 50 minutes. His next stop is Heraklion- that is the Greek Islands- where he is for a weekend. From there, the Prime Minister flies to Amsterdam. He flies on then to Paris. I point out that he has not yet received an invitation to visit Paris. The Prime Minister then goes on to Rome, Belgrade, Dubrovnik, as a holiday of course, Moscow, Leningrad, Cologne, Rawalpindi, Dacca, Kuala Lumpur and home.
Nowhere in that itinerary is there any justification for the Prime Minister to leave Australia at this time. Nowhere in that trip is there any justification for the Prime Minister to use the taxpayer’s funds to travel on the most expensive trip ever undertaken by an Australian Prime Minister. There has been no trip by any previous Australian Prime Minister to go anywhere near the exorbitant and extravagant cost of this junket. I use the word ‘junket’ advisedly. The trip is no more than a junket for the Prime Minister and a few of his chosen friends. Or is it a swan? Honourable members may choose to call it what they will; it is either. There is no justification for the Prime Minister leaving Australia on such an extravagant trip as this time in the nation’s history when there is so much uncertainty in the community.
-In the first part of my fairly short contribution this morning I wish to refer to one matter raised by the honourable member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh) who mentioned the claim made by Sir Alan Fletcher in Queensland that the amount of $12,384,503 outstanding to the Education Department of that State had been applied for by his Department on 11 October 1974. I am informed by the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) that on 11 October 1974 the Queensland Government requested advances in November 1974, January 1975 and April 1975. In a very prompt reply to Sir Alan Fletcher, the
Australian Minister for Education indicated that the Queensland advance would be paid in the next few days in the month of November when it was requested. I repudiate any suggestion that the Australian Government or the Australian Minister for Education has been tardy in this matter.
The honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) raised the question of the electoral gerrymander in Queensland. I make it quite clear as a member of the Labor Party since 1946 that I did not support the gerrymanders in Queensland. I did not support inside the Party the redistribution carried out by the Labor Party in Queensland before the 1950 State election. But 2 wrongs do not make a right. In the many years of Labor government in Queensland, no Labor government ever governed on a vote as small as the vote on which the Country Party occupies the majority position in the Queensland Government at this time. Hopefully, in a few weeks time, it will be the Queensland Opposition. The fact of the matter is that in all of the long years of Labor rule in Queensland the Labor government enjoyed more often than not the majority support of the people of Queensland. Even if the boundaries had been absolutely fair- I concede that they were not- there were 2 elections in that time when the Labor government would have been defeated. One has only to look at the votes attracted by Labor leaders like the late Mr Forgan-Smith, the late honourable E. M. Hanlon and ex-Senator Gair, at whom members of the Opposition were sneering in the course of the contribution made a few minutes ago by the honourable member for Gippsland.
I wish very briefly to speak on the proposed trip overseas by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). I say again that, while some members of my Party did, I never criticised the trips made overseas by the former Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies. He came in for a lot of fire for this sort of thing in the early days of his Government. It is part of the facts of life that when a Government comes into office, its Prime Minister and its Minister for Foreign Affairs must spend a great deal of their time travelling overseas. If we look at the places mentioned on the itineraryAthens and the like- we see that it is easy to say that they are holidays. Malta is another of the places to be visited. In point of fact, these are visits to places from which Australia has drawn many migrants in the past. These are countries with which Australia values its good association and countries where the Prime Minister is keen to meet the heads of State and cement a continuing and good relationship into the future.
It will not surprise honourable members to know that I am now to deal with some Queensland matters. I wish to deal specifically with postal vote malpractices in nursing homes in Brisbane to the advantage to the Liberal Parry, and particularly in my area of experience in the Brisbane Federal Division. I am not attacking the Liberal Party as such. I make the point that I am not attacking all nursing homes. But I am quite deliberately not naming those nursing homes involved at this stage in the knowledge that not to do that might cast a reflection on the nursing homes which are not guilty of malpractices. It is a fact that there are a number of nursing homes in the metropolitan area of Brisbane where the Liberal Party receives privileged access in terms of applying for postal votes or electoral visitor votes in the State election campaign and in distributing how-to-vote cards and pamphlets and in actually placing people on the roll.
I recall the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) talking about postal vote malpractices on many occasions in the past. I make it quite clear that I do not seek on behalf of the Labor Party as well privileged access to any nursing home or institution. But I believe that people who are aged and ill should be just as entitled to cast a vote for the party of their own choice as they were when they formerly occupied their own homes.
We now have the position where in the New Farm area and in particular in the electorate of Merthyr, the Liberal Party, the present State member and his secretary have privileged access to these homes and where Labor Party people are denied access. There is no redress from this situation. There is no practical redress because the nursing homes involved are private ones. There is no breach of the law. If one sends scrutineers with the electoral visitor or the mobile booth system- this is a proposal in the Electoral Laws Amendment Bill 1974 which was passed by this House on Monday of this week- applies we all realise that the scrutineers are not able to distribute how-to-vote cards. A pretty shocking state of affairs results. This situation has existed for some years, and it is getting worse. I would like to put the nursing homes involved on notice that I have looked at this matter very carefully.
I am not referring now to a malpractice in a Federal election campaign, although malpractices existed in the last Federal election, not only in terms of intimidation of people and denying the Labor Party officials access to nursing homes, but also in terms of deliberate intimidation of some of the inmates of those nursing homes. I think that families who have their elderly friends or relations in nursing homes should make sure that those people, whatever their choice of vote might be, are given the opportunity of lodging a vote for the parry of their choice. If they vote for a party other than the Labor Party, then that is their choice and I respect that. But it is a serious situation when many elderly people can have their votes manipulated in the interests of the Liberal Party. Perhaps in other places it happens in the interests of other political parties, but that does not make it right. It is a very serious state of affairs.
The last matter I would like to raise is also an important one. It follows, to some extent, the matters that were raised by my colleague the honourable member for Bowman (Mr Keogh), who from time to time in this House has been exposing the association between the National Party and extreme right wing groups in the League of Rights. He has already canvassed that matter, I think, very ably this morning. I am concerned with the increasing degree of violence coming into the current Queensland campaign by people who are obvious supporters of the National Party, formerly known as the Australian Country Party. I have had some experience of this before; it is not a new thing. I think most of us would agree that the threat of violence usually comes from the right rather than the left. I repudiate violence from whichever quarter it comes.
I have attended meetings with the former right honourable member for Melbourne, Mr Arthur Calwell, at which he was subjected to threats of personal violence. But in the current election campaign in Queensland, everywhere that the Prime Minister goes there are people threatening personal violence and hitting his car with posters depicting the Queensland Premier. It happened at Toombul shopping centre, Southport, Ipswich and last week in Cairns. I understand that this week the Prime Minister is going to central Queensland. Officers of the Country Party have telegrammed him that they cannot guarantee his personal safety. Members of the National Party- I notice there are not many in the House at the moment- might repudiate what I am saying. But if they wish to do so, let them explain how these people from one end of Queensland to the other are threatening physical violence to the Prime Minister and how it is that they are carrying posters with portraits of the Queensland Premier on them. Somebody must have handed them those posters. In the case of the demonstrations in south east Queensland, these people went from one place to another in buses. They carried bogus posters too, because some of the posters indicated that they were from organisations such as the Queensland Housewives’ Association and the Country Women’s Association. Those organisations have since written letters to the Queensland newspapers saying that they have no official connection with the demonstrations because they are non-political organisations. This is a campaign of violence and it is completely alien to the Australian way of life.
If members of the National Party wish to repudiate what I am saying, let them explain how it is that these demonstrators are threatening violence to the Australian Prime Minister and those accompanying him, and why they are carrying banners of the Queensland Premier, referred to by my colleague as Jackboots Joh. Let them reply to what I have just said. Let every man in this Parliament stand up and repudiate any threat of intimidation or violence to the people in this Commonwealth of Australia. We have had, very happily, in this country a freedom from violence with one or two exceptions. It behoves every member of this House to keep it this way. I very much deplore the injection of violence into the Queensland election campaign.
-My grievance is on behalf of a group of people who wrote to me quite recently. I would like to begin my remarks by quoting a letter sent to me by the Southern Bulldozing and Earthmoving Contractors Association in Albany. The letter states:
You are aware of the financial difficulties and hardship suffered by most members of our Contractors Association caused by the rising costs that affect everyone but principally caused by a complete lack of work.
Ninety per cent of our work is for farmers and in the present climate, farmers will not spend money for our work or anywhere else.
Would you please submit to the Federal Government on our behalf, a proposal to:-
Restore taxation incentives to primary producers for:-
Water conservation and storage so necessary in one of the driest continents on earth- a move that will not only benefit the farmer and contractor concerned but the whole Nation for decades to come.
Soil erosion control. It is so obvious to even the city dwellers what can happen to good land if control steps are not taken soon enough.
Clearing. Hundreds of thousands of acres of land have been thrown open for selection in Western Australia in recent years. Many new land farmers who have battled for years to become viable have not yet finished their clearing programs. These pioneers went onto this virgin land in good faith and after the disastrous 69-70 years were just seeing daylight ahead, when not only clearing tax benefits were removed but also concessions for the countryman in the way of water conservation and soil erosion, super, so necessary on this infertile new land, fuel differentials, etc, etc. Two revaluations seriously affected his produce markets and his costs like everyone else’s are sky rocketing except that he cannot pass it on.
We, of course, are not farmers but restoration of these concessions to him will help us.
We depend on him for our livlihood as do many others in this part of Australia and indeed in the Nation itself, as is reflected in the current balance of payments situation.
Further to these proposals we remind the Government of its promise that industries adversely affected by its policies can apply for assistance.
We feel that, in general, our members have not been irresponsible in the way that they have geared up to the needs of this developing area and in fact, very fresh in our minds are the difficulties of ‘69 and ‘70.
The average contractor here has H.P. commitments of $500-55,000 per month. How can we service these repayments when there is no work.
We ask for consideration to be given to providing low interest bridging finance to viable contractors and help to get out for those that are not.
If our first proposal re restoration of rural tax concessions is put into effect, the second one would of course be unnecessary.
Those remarks refer to the bridging finance. The letter continues:
We are hard-working inventive people and all we need to survive is work, not handouts.
We are anxiously awaiting action in regard to this letter.
This matter has been raised many times in this Parliament, but it must be brought up again and again, until the Labor Government is persuaded that tax incentives for food and fibre production and producers are restored. A group of people such as these surely indicates to the Government the damage that has been done to the whole community, not only to the farmers, since the 1973 Budget eliminated these tax incentives. Without these incentives, farmers and graziers cannot conserve water as it should be conserved. They cannot carry out necessary soil conservation, they cannot carry out necessary fodder conservation and they cannot carry out development work which is essential to increase Australia’s production, so that we are better able to supply the world with food and fibre.
The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) recognised this fact again this morning. He spoke of it at the United Nations. He said that Australia has an obligation not only to meet its contractual commitments, but also as a nation with a high standard of living, to assist people who are less fortunate than ourselves. The Prime Minister said this morning that the Government was taking action to see that our grain harvest is maximised. I say again that the restoration of tax incentives would make the greatest contribution of any of the measures that could be taken to increase production. The Labor Government has recently recognised the fact that the private sector is vital to the wealth and prosperity of all Australians. Australia in its short history has accomplished so much. This has been done by private endeavour, personal initiative, hard work, sweat and tears. Now, under this Government, there have been many changes. Unfortunately these acrosstheboard changes have taken away personal initiative. The endeavour to improve oneself by hard work, sweat and tears is denied. A simple example would be that of a humble shearer today. A good shearer perhaps shearing 180 sheep today works for the Government 2 2 ½ days out of 5 days. In effect, that is the amount he pays in tax. Where is the incentive for him to work hard?
We have just finished shearing at home and I assure honourable members that there is no incentive for shearers to work their full 5 days. So these tax incentives do not affect only the farmers and production in rural areas; they effect the whole community. I ask honourable members to imagine how many people rely on the maintenance of the machinery of one of the 40-odd members of the Southern Bulldozing and Earth Moving Contractors Association. Members of this Association support the towns where they live. The townspeople rely on them- not on the farming community. I can clearly see that most of these people will have to leave and find other employment with a loss of finance, and for some of them, their life ‘s endeavour.
The Government is now faced with the prospect of spending millions of dollars on the Regional Employment Development scheme. Because of the position today one can only compliment the Government on that scheme. But how and why have we got to this position? The Government is spending millions of dollars on the RED scheme. It is probably faced with a massive task under the National Employment and Training Scheme. It appears to me that if the Government took a different approach and if it considered whether tax incentives should be given- allowing for the good reasons which I have suggested- it would find that in rural areas there would be no great need for the RED scheme or the NEAT scheme. I venture to say that this situation follows through to the cities. We know that they are all inter-related. If these bulldozer contractors have to find other employment I assure the Government that they will gravitate to the cities. There we will have an unemployment situation in relation to which, in one way or the other, the Government will try to pick up the tab. I point out that these people do not want handouts. They want work. They are inventive, hard working people. They operate by the old spirit that ran throughout the community and nation. They want to get on by their own personal endeavour and hard work. I hope the Government is not foolish enough not to recognise that this is a way we can head back to full employment and to a prosperous situation. My final plea on behalf of these people- as I mentioned in the letter- is that the Government should provide low interest bridging finance to viable contractors, and help those who are not viable to get out of the industry. I believe that the economic climate within the rural sector of Australia will change and that just as quickly as it has turned down, it will turn up again. The expertise of these people in a very short time will be lost to the rural areas of Australia. They will have to go some place else. Their machines will be repossessed. When we have a period where work needs to be done, where water needs to be conserved, where soil conservation measures are needed I am very much afraid that there will not be any people to carry out the work. There will be a deterioration in our way of life and the system which we have had in rural areas of Australia will be something that we will never recover.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MartinOrder! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Yesterday this House agreed to legislation concerning the provision of money for, among other things, National Estate projects. Some time ago I suggested to the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) that assistance could be provided to preserve the Regent Theatre. This matter has been one of great controversy for some considerable time- in fact, ever since the Melbourne City Council decided as part of its city square project, to go ahead with the development of that area. Among other things, it bought the Regent Theatre in Melbourne which has since closed down. A considerable number of citizens of Melbourne have been most concerned that this Theatre could be lost. In the ‘Save the Regent Theatre Campaign’ newsletter of September this year it states: ‘The theatres-
That is the Regent Theatre and the Plaza Theatre- are part of the State’s heritage and should be preserved’‘they are an outstanding example of Hollywood’s boom period’- ‘the Trust considers they should be preserved, restored and re-opened as theatres’ . . .
The Trust referred to is the National Trust. The National Trust was told that the Regent Theatre was a wreck. Among the terms used was the statement that it was in a state of partial demolition. Of course it did not take very long, once the Trust realised that the situation which had been represented to it was quite false, for the Trust to decide to put the Regent Theatre back on its list of 20th Century buildings worthy of preservation. On 2 1 August Mr Rodney Davidson on behalf of the National Trust is reported to have stated:
And the National Trust announced yesterday it had reclassified the theatres as ‘an outstanding example of the grand theatres of Hollywood’s boom period’ . . .
Mr Davidson said that when the proposed redevelopment of the City Square site did not proceed, the Trust reexamined the theatres to see if they were still worthy of preservation. ‘Information available at the time indicated that the theatres were in a dilapidated and extensively damaged condition and they were removed from the register solely because of their condition.’. . . .
However, the Trust’s expert committee had inspected the theatres again last month at the request of the Save the Regent Committee. ‘The inspection, which was carried out in absolute detail, showed that the damage was not substantial, that previous reports were incorrect and that the theatres should be put back on the register’ . . .
That is a statement by Mr Rodney Davidson, the chairman of the National Trust. A smokescreen has been put up about this matter. One hesitates to draw conclusions from what has been done as to the motives of some people involved in the matter or as to why this smokescreen has been put up. But I point out to the House that the cultural centre project, which has my complete support and I believe the support of the Save the Regent Theatre Campaign, is a large complex which will cost a great deal of money. In this case that may run into something like $40m, although people have said that the Regent Theatre will cost $10m to restore whereas the new cultural centre in Melbourne will cost only $10m. I think that both figures are exaggerated from different ends of the scale. But when we talk about a great deal of money people tend to feel worried about what will happen in a situation in which they are personally involved. As I say, I believe that Melbourne needs both the new cultural centre and the Regent Theatre. I will not have time in the 10 minutes which is available to a member of this House on a Grievance Day debate to go in detail through the report from Clarke Gazzard Planners Pty Ltd, but I seek the leave of the House to incorporate the relevant section so that honourable members will have an expert opinion and not just my opinion.
-Is the honourable member seeking leave of the House?
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
THIRD ALTERNATIVE DEVELOPMENT: CITY SQUARE COMBINED WITH RETAIL COMPLEX AND SOME PARKING AND RETENTION OF THE REGENT THEATRE BUILDING
7.01 Part 2 (d) of the Brief requires us ‘to develop a range of feasible alternative combinations of usage and evaluate the relative viability of these alternatives’. One of the alternatives that must be examined is to retain the Regent/Plaza Theatres on the eastern side of the Square (instead of building a new building) combined with a retail development under the Square (as discussed in previous options). If the Regent Theatre building is retained it would also be necessary for the time being to retain and renovate the three small buildings on the Russell Street side of the Regent. Nos 179-189 Collins Street, that are owned by the Council. It would be undesirable to demolish them and leave a gap in the street and the combined sites are too small for a sensible redevelopment. If the Regent Theatre building is retained the future of the 179-189 Collins Street buildings could be re-examined when the balance of the block is redeveloped as they could well be sold at that time by Council for demolition and inclusion in that redevelopment, (see Drawings 1 1 and 12). 7.02 We realise that Council bought the Regent Theatre property four years ago with the clear intention of demolishing it. But circumstances can and have changed both in the law and in public attitudes and we would be remiss in our professional duty to the council if we did not re-examine this option. 7.03 As the retention of the Regent Theatre building is an emotional issue to many we have considered the matter in a logical way as follows:
to establish what theatrical or other uses the Regent and Plaza Theatres are suitable for and whether Melbourne has sufficient theatres to serve these functions;
to establish the likely demand for these types of theatrical uses, and therefore to project an estimated income;
to estimate the realistic cost of renovating these premises. 7.04 To help us in evaluating these points we have sought the assistance of Mr K. H. Southgate. Mr Southgate is presently General Manager of the Old Tote Theatre Company in Sydney and is highly experienced in all technical, management and financial aspects of Theatres. He has previously acted as Technical Theatre Consultant to the Clarke Gazzard office on the design of a new Drama Theatre in Sydney. (See Appendix D for his background). 7.05 Several inspections were made of the Regent building and the other MCC-owned buildings in Collins Street to the east of the Regent building. Although the buildings have been stripped and left to deteriorate and considerable vandalism has occurred the buildings are basically sound and could be renovated. Attached as Appendix E is a report from our engineers, John Connell and Associates on the structural condition of the Regent building. 7.06 Following the inspection of the Regent and Plaza Theatres a detailed examination was made of the plans and a comparison was made between these theatres and many other well-known theatres both in Australia and overseas. (See Appendix F). 7.07 We will discuss the Regent Theatre first as it is the larger and more unique of the two. The question of the potential use of the Regent Theatre has been bedevilled and confused by the suggestion, made last year by various groups in an effort to save the building, that the Regent could be used as a Concert Hall instead of building a new concert hall as part of the Arts Centre complex. As a consequence the Victorian Government asked the consultants for the Arts Centre to report on the suitability of the Regent for conversion into a concert hall. In our opinion Sir Roy Grounds and his consultants answered this question correctly in the negative. The stage of the Regent is not large enough for a full symphony orchestra without widening the proscenium arch and the acoustics would not be adequate unless the balcony were substantially removed and the ceiling reconstructed. The cost of these alterations would be very high and in the process the interior of the Regent as it is would be largely destroyed and the number of seats substantially reduced. It is a pity that the correct answer to the precise and narrow question of the suitability of the Regent as a concert hall has diverted attention from asking the wider question as to the suitability of the Regent for general use of other forms of theatre. 7.08 Although used as a cinema the Regent Theatre was built with a stage, side stages and fly tower similar in size to many well-known theatres. Examination of Appendix F’ shows that the critical dimensions of the Regent Theatre stage (width of proscenium arch, depth of stage from proscenium arch to rear wall and the overall width of stage and side stages from wall to wall) are quite comparable to theatres that are considered adequate and are in constant use for a variety of theatrical performances.
While some of these comparable theatres may have some physical restrictions this does not prevent their use for all types of performances, the entrepreneur selecting from those available on the dates to suit his itinerary. An entrepreneur will design or adapt to the theatre in which he intends to stage his presentation and normally his theatre bookings are made before he ventures into production. For example, the Regent stage might be considered too shallow for traditional Opera by modern standards but Opera is consistently played in theatres with stages no bigger than the Regent and Opera could be quite adequately and successfully staged there. The Regent Theatre would seat 3,200 people and the Plaza Theatre would seat 1,000 people after renovation. The capacity of the Regent and the critical dimensions of its stage compare very favourably with most of the major theatres listed in Appendix F. 7.09 Attached as Appendix G is a Report from our acoustic consultant, Peter knowland, on the suitability of the Regent and Plaza Theatres from an acoustic point of view for various types of performance. 7.10 Considering all the above factors we must concur with Messrs Southgate & Knowlands’ considered opinion that the Regent Theatre is quite suitable for all types of theatre except orchestral concerts, chamber music recitals and intimate drama. Its best uses would be for spectacle theatre (Australian Ballet, State Dance Company of Victoria, Russian Georgian Dancers, Slansk Polish Dance Troupe, Chinese Acrobats, Rock Operas like Hair and Superstar, etc., Traditional Opera, Pop Concerts, the Melbourne Film Festival and individual artists like Barry Humphries and Frank Sinatra).
1 1 A full description of the Entertainment and Recreation Facilities available in Melbourne was set down in The City of Melbourne Strategy Plan: New Data Report (see Appendix H). It is noted in the Conclusion of that report that ‘Festival Hall and the Palais Theatre are the only two places that can seat more than 3,000 people and there is a growing need for bigger auditoriums that can accommodate the large audiences needed to support some major international artists and performers’.
The Palais at St Kilda is 4 miles from the City, it is not well located for public transport, is not airconditioned and its future as part of the Luna Park complex on a Crown lease is uncertain. The Festival Hall was originally a boxing stadium and although used, through lack of any alternative, for pop concerts, is certainly not suitable for theatre. 7.12 The economics of the great proportion of spectacle theatre require large audiences for snort seasons. The same goes for the pop music/concert field where although only minimal staging is required maximum seating capacity is necessary for financial success. Melbourne is lacking in theatres of the size required for these types of entertainment, with the exception of the two inadequate theatres mentioned above. Privately owned theatres- small developments sited on high-priced inner-city real estate- are finding it increasingly difficult to operate without subsidies and must surely show very low returns on investment if the realisable value of the land for more intensive development were taken into account. The long-term future of the Princess Theatre, now under lease to the Elizabethan Theatre Trust, may be in doubt as the Trust intends to move to the Ans Centre when completed and it is reported that attractive offers have been made for the Princess site with a view to redevelopment. If the Princess Theatre is lost, apart from the Regent/Plaza, the two commercial J. C. Williamson Theatres (Her Majesty’s and the Comedy) are the only theatres of any size in the Central city area and they are committed to house shows and are unavailable for lease.
The Regent Theatre would therefore seem to have a role to play in Melbourne’s theatrical life, particularly as Melbourne’s population increases 7.13 The Plaza Theatre is more comparable with other Melbourne theatres and is not as unique as the Regent. Some of the space at Plaza Theatre level would be required to house the provision for the orchestra lift for the Regent Theatre above. The renovated Plaza Theatre would be most suitable for Drama. By providing a new stage and extending it into the auditorium by 24 ft at the same height as the floor of the promenade area, an open end type theatre can be created with linked side stages. Seating would thereby be reduced to approximately 1,000. This type of adaption would also lend itself to further variations, i.e. thrust type stage, theatre in the round or possibly theatre restaurant type operation of the ‘Old Time Music Hall’ variety. Alternately the space could be redeveloped into dine/wine disco/night club type operation which may prove to be a viable subletting proposition for a long term. 7.14 Sydney has experienced great stimulation in theatrical activity since the completion of the Sydney Opera House and no doubt a similar pattern will emerge in Melbourne when the Victorian Arts Centre is completed. It is impossible to obtain bookings in either the Concert Hall, the Drama Theatre or the Opera Theatre in the Sydney Opera House; the Capitol and Regent Cinemas are both being used extensively for live productions and the Elizabethan Theatre at Newtown continues to hold 75 per cent bookings. The new Her Majesty’s Theatre is fully booked with its own J. C. Williamson house attractions. The Hordern Pavilion at the Showground and Randwick Racecourse (both quite unsuitable) are in continued intermittent use as venues for high capacity one-night stand type entertainment. 7.15 A further consideration in future years will be the necessity for the national companies to play in large auditoriums to enable them to cater for their available audiences in shorter seasons otherwise they will be unable to fulfil their touring commitments to all the states. This is already becoming a problem with the Australian Opera as six months of the year is being spent in Sydney. The two national companies could utilise the Regent in this regard, particularly the Australian Ballet for seasons when guest artists such as Fonteyn and Nureyev are only available to them for short periods and maximum capacity is required in the house. 7.16 The new concert hall to be built as part of the Arts complex would be suitable for pop concerts as well as classical music. However, as set out previously, it would be on the small side and Sydney experience shows that the Concert Hall in the Sydney Opera House has been booked so regularly 3 or 4 days every week by the ABC for orchestral concerts that it is rarely available for other uses for any reasonable period. 7.17 Other uses for which the Regent and Plaza Theatres could be. utilised are large scale conventions, trade promotions, etc. They are in the right walking relationship to all the major downtown hotels and could be used effectively in conjunction with the two halls of the Town Hall which could be. linked directly with the adjacent Regent and Plaza Theatres by both sound and closed-circuit television. The theatres could be wired for multilingual translation facilities. The upper and lower Town Halls could also be used for display purposes in conjunction with the conventions and trade promotions. In this respect see Appendix J for usage of Melbourne Town Halls over 73-74 period.
IS The potential users of the Regent apart from the National companies already mentioned would include:
State Dance Company of Victoria (Ballet Victoria) -Victorian Opera Company
The Peter Stuyvesant Trust
Harry M. Miller (Senegal Ballet, Hair, J. C. Superstar) Edgely and Dawe Attractions Pty Ltd (The Stuttgart Bal . let, The Leningrad Kirov Ballet, The Red Army Choir, The Kwangchow Acrobatic Troupe, The Nana . Mouskouri and Kamahl Concerts) Lew Kidd (Concert artists, pop groups) Clytel Pty Ltd (Clyde Packer’s Co- stage and television productions, Barry Humphries) Kym Bonython (Jazz artists) Chequer International (concert artists, pop groups) Paradine Paterson (David Frost) Hector Crawford Productions Col Joye Enterprises Australian Theatre Management Frederick Gibson (just forged new links with U.K. Triumph Theatre entrepreneurs) ‘ Clifford Hocking Concert Management Paul Dainty Corporation Evans, Gudinski and Associates One Act Inc.
Holiday Inns International 7.19 A careful analysis has been made of all live shows in Melbourne last year and their duration. The Palais at St Kilda, as the nearest comparable size theatre to the Regent, played live theatre for twentynine (29) weeks last year (Australian Ballet, Senegal Ballet, Georgian Dancers and others). The Princess Theatre (1,700 seats) played varied types of live theatre (Pantomime, Ballet, Opera, Shakespeare and other Dance Companies and Drama), fortyone (41) weeks last year. Due to lack of a suitable venue only eleven weeks of opera was played in Melbourne last year compared with over twentysix weeks in Sydney- a situation that will no doubt change when the Arts Centre is completed. Assuming that the Regent and Plaza Theatres, if renovated, would not be completed until the Arts Centre is operating, Mr Southgate has, on the basis of his analysis of the figures, estimated at 70 per cent occupancy for both the Regent and Plaza Theatres at that time if they were properly restored. (This means that the theatres would be occupied and in use 70 per cent of the available days in the year after Sundays and certain Public Holidays are excluded). On this basis it is estimated that the Regent and the Plaza .would be occupied for approximately 36.5 six-day weeks every year. 7.20 To enable the gross income to be calculated, Mr Southgate has advised us to assume an average seat occupancy of 70 per cent when the theatre is playing. We have only allowed for six performances per week. This is conservative as there would probably be at least one matinee. The average seat price has been fixed at $5.00 by examination of the current range of seat prices for different types of theatre in Melbourne. In commercial theatres income to the theatre proprietor is usually fixed as a base rent plus a percentage of Box Office receipts, or as a straight percentage of Box Office receipts with a fixed minimum rent. The following examples could be used as a guide:
Elizabethan Theatre, Sydney: 10 per cent of all Box Office receipts (with a minimum rent of $2,000). Comedy Theatre, Melbourne: 10 per cent of all Box Office receipts (with a minimum rent of $2,000). Princess Theatre, Melbourne: 10 per cent of all Box Office receipts (with a minimum rent of $2,000). Her Majesty’s Theatre, Sydney: 12 per cent of all Box
Office receipts (with a minimum rent of $3,750). Canberra Theatre Trust: Large auditorium. Basic rent over 6-day 7-performance week $2,600 per week. Sydney Opera HouseOpera Theatre: Base rent $3,500 per week plus 10 per cent of all Box Office receipts.
Drama Theatre: Base rent $1,250 per week plus 10 per cent of all Box Office receipts.
Festival Theatre, Adelaide: Base rent over a 6-day 7- performance week for theatrical presentations $8,976; for concert performances $ 1 , 100 per night.
Mr Southgate has suggested the Regent Theatre would attract a Base Rent of $3,500 per week plus 10 per cent of all Box Office receipts and the Plaza Theatre a Base Rent of $1,250 per week plus 10 per cent of all Box Office receipts. 7.21 Operating costs vary enormously in relation to the backstage costs for different types of production but this need not concern us as it is normal practice in theatres for the rentals quoted to be for bare walls only. When the theatre is occupied all costs are paid by the incoming management or tenant- these include the cost of box office staff, ushers, backstage staff, cleaning, electrical costs, airconditioning costs, advertising, printing of tickets, stationery used, etc. in great detail. (See Appendix K for typical account sheets). Most of the staff are on a permanent basis and only come when the theatre is in use. Cleaning of course when the theatre is dark. Lighting and airconditioning are not needed when the theatre is dark. The owner of the theatre usually only has to employ three or four permanent staff- Manager, Assistant Manager, Treasurer and Caretaker. The cost of the Manager and Caretaker would not normally be charged out but the Assistant Manager and the Treasurer are charged for when the theatre is occupied. The above conditions can vary slightly from theatre to theatre but they are all basically operated the same way. 7.22 On this basis (see Appendix B for detailed calculations of income from the theatres and other sources) the total nett annual income to be derived from this third Alternative from all sources amounts to $969,000. 7.23 The cost of renovating these buildings and constructing the City Square and associated retail space in accordance with the outline specification set down in Appendix I has been estimated by our Quantity Surveyors, Wolferstan, Trower & Partners, (see Appendix C for detailed breakdown of cost estimates), with supporting estimates by Norman Disney & Young (Mechanical Engineers) for the services and Rank Industries Australia Pty Ltd for theatre lighting, etc. The Total Construction Cost at August 1974 prices is estimated to be $9,202,000. 7.24 As the projected revenue is far too small in relation to costs to show a return which a developer would normally find adequate we have therefore prepared our financial calculations for this Alternative on the basis that the Council would build and manage this development directly. There do not appear to be any legal impediments to Council’s power to renovate and manage the theatres and associated retail development (Pan XXV Clause 799(1) Local Government Act).
If Council could get such a favourable Mortgage and find the equity required of over $6m, total Council return would be $404,775 towards the Debt Charges of $695,000 on the land. 7.26 We have so far refrained from discussing the aesthetic and historical arguments for the preservation of the Regent Theatre and concentrated on the facts, treating the Regent Theatre as a resource which is necessary, which would be expensive to replace and which should therefore be husbanded. The aesthetic/historic argument is naturally subjective without the accolade of time and the nearer we are to a building or period the more subjective are our views. Built in 1929, the Regent has been described as ‘an amazing pleasure dome’ and ‘an outstanding example of a 1930 ‘s picture palace’. Whether jokingly described as ‘classic De Mac Rococco ‘ or ‘ late Goldwyn Spanish ‘ there is no doubt that it is representative of an era. Just as we might wish that we could experience more buildings of earlier periods so no doubt will people be increasingly interested in such a good example of a particular style of the twenties. 7.27 The exterior of the building is in our opinion nothing special- the front forms quite an interesting incident in Collins Street and the back, although plain, is quite handsome. The most unfortunate side is that now facing Regent
Place- and which would face the City Square. It is at present cement rendered and unattractive. We do not think it beyond the skill of a good designer to face this wall with a more attractive material and re-design the window openings in such a way that the building was an interesting backdrop to the Square. Perhaps balconies from some of the theatre lobbies could be installed so that patrons could overlook the Square during intermission. (Estimates of Cost of Renovation include $215,000 for facing this wall). The shops at ground level of course could be easily developed as restaurants and boutiques with colourful canvas awnings. It is the interiors of the buildings that are its special glory and the interior of the Regent is undoubtedly very fine with few peers anywhere. (See Attached Plan Cross Section and Elevation to Regent Place). 7.28 The National Trust of Victoria have only recently considered the Regent Theatre in detail. Attached, as Appendix L, is a letter from the Trust, in response to our enquiry seeking the Trust’s views, informing us of the Trust’s very recent decision to add the Regent Theatre to their Register of 20th Century Buildings and their consequent view that the building should be preserved. The National Trust in N.S.W. has also classified two similar theatres of that period- the State Theatre in Market Street and the Rox at Parramatta. The report on the State Theatre sums up by saying: ‘It is a major building of its type. The Cinema Baroque style found little favour in the U.K. and this cinema forms a direct link with the great Picture Palaces of the U.S.A. It is a monument to the movie culture of the twenties that influenced the life style of millions of Australians, the skill of local artists, craftsmen and engineers of the period and the exuberance of that fabulous and foolish decade . . . John Betjeman has stated that none so splendid, indeed none of its kind, survive in Great Britain ‘.
The writer could well be talking of the Regent Theatre in Melbourne which is an equally good example of the style. 7.29 Classification of the Regent Theatre by the National Trust does not mean that the building will automatically be designated in the terms of the Historic Buildings Act although the Trust’s list of classified buildings has, we understand, been the basis for the initial Register of Designated Buildings. The procedure for designation is set down in the Act. Once a building has been Designated and placed on the Register, Section 16 prevents its demolition without application to and consent from the Historic Buildings Preservation Council formed under the provisions of the Act.
If the Regent Theatre, as a consequence of the National Trust classification, is designated as a Historic Building in the terms of the recent Historic Buildings Act 1974, the amendments to the Town and Country Planning Act 1 96 1 set down in the Act make it possible for the Minister to permit the unused plot ratio or development rights on the site of a designated building to be transferred to another site and sold in order to bring about the preservation of the designated building. This technique, first mooted in the United States to enable ‘landmark’ or historic buildings to be preserved, was suggested in the City of Sydney Strategic Plan in 1971 and although not yet law in N.S. W. has been successfully applied recently. The last two of the Horbury Terrace nos 171-173 Macquarie Street have been preserved with a covenant that requires the owner to restore and maintain the facades and the balance of the development rights have been transferred to an office building in Put Street. This was an easy case as the buildings were in the same ownership and no valuation or money exchange was necessary.
The Historic Buildings Act is described as ‘An Act to make provision with respect to the preservation of buildings, works and objects of historic or architectural importance or interest’. (The Act has been passed through the Victorian
Parliament but has not of this date been proclaimed by the Governor in Council-the Act is not law until this formality is complied with), (see Appendix M). Section 20 of the Act provides power for the Minister to grant special financial assistance of various kinds to the owner of a designated building to help ensure its preservation. The amendments to the Town and Country Planning Act provide for the approval of a building of a greater than normally prescribed height and size where the application for the permit is made with the consent of the owner of other land in the City of Melbourne on which a designated building is situated- that is the unused development rights are transferred from the designated building to another site. The owner of the designated building would then enter into an agreement with the Minister regarding preservation and maintenance of the historic building. The sale of the development rights would compensate the owner of the designated building for his inability to develop his site to the maximum and help make it possible for him to preserve the designated building. The Act does not spell out the details of exactly how the financial details of such a transfer would be effected and all the other details made legally precise. If the Regent Theatre were to be designated as a building of historic or architectural interest in the terms of the Act there would appear to be no reason why Council should not avail itself of the provisions of the Act that were designed for situations like this where Preservation would otherwise be economically impossible. 7.30 Although the principle may be clear and is given the public seal of approval in the Historic Buildings Act there are, however, difficult detail problems not yet solved in this system of transferring and selling development rights.
To start with it is not suddenly a right conferred on all designated buildings but needs the approval of the Minister. The Town Hall is a Classified Building and is on the list of buildings proposed to be designated under the Act but it is not proposed that the unused development rights at a Floor Space Ratio of 10 to 1 on the Town Hall site should be available for sale! The mechanism is only intended to apply to buildings where the clear need is demonstrated that it is the only way that restoration and preservation is economically possible. That need could be easily demonstrated in the case of the Regent Theatre.
The method of valuation is complicated enough if the development rights are transferred to a site with the same square foot value in an area with the same Floor Space Ratio or Plot Ratio. If land values are different and Plot Ratios are different it really becomes a commercial negotiating situation where the purchaser would have to assess the value of the extra space to his development and negotiate with the owner wishing to transfer the space. It is even conceivable that the space could be auctioned like land.
The maximum value that could be assigned to the space to be transferred would be the value of the area of land needed to permit that space to be built at the ruling plot ratio. If, for example, there are 100,000 square feet of unused development space on a site with a Plot Ratio of 10 to 1 the space is equivalent to a site area of 10,000 square feet and the space could be given a maximum or highest value equivalent to the value of land with an area of 10,000 square feet. The value of the land could be determined by comparison of the values revealed by recent sales of equivalent sites. Or a classic feasibility exercise could be calculated assuming maximum development to work back to the residual value of the land, i.e. what could be afforded for the land given a certain set of required returns, borrowing conditions, interest rates, construction costs and rental incomes. This residual value will be higher if the most variable factor in the equation, the rental levels, are increased.
Development rights bought would be cheaper in one sense than land if held over a period as presumably municipal rates and taxes would not be levied on them until used. On the other hand it is doubtful if transferred development rights would ever be worth the maximum equivalent in land value. Land is a real asset which appreciates and increases in value with time. Extra space in a building may increase the income or profitability of the building over the life of the building but the building as an asset depreciates over its life. In a rapidly changing world where planning devices such as Plot Ratios (which largely determine the value of the land they cover) are subject to revision and change in the light of changing circumstances, a prudent owner might not assume that any space transferred to a building was a right assumed by the site in perpetuity but that it would only apply for the life of that particular building and would value the space accordingly.
In addition, building costs rise in proportion to the height of the development and the extra space acquired is less efficient as more space needs to be devoted to lifts, airconditioning ducts, etc All these things would influence an owner in determining the value to him of purchasing extra space left over from a designated building. Any prudent developer would also only purchase such space conditionally until a final planning approval for the increased size building was gained. The Act gives the Minister power to approve developments that are larger and higher than would normally be permitted but the development proposed would still be subject to the provisions of a Report by the Board of Works or the Council and there may be many other planning requirements which may make the maximum development proposed difficult to achieve. Until a satisfactory final approval was obtained a prudent developer would not con.sumate the purchase of the extra space. If the space were being transferred, say, to another part of the City with lower land values and lower plot ratios then the value of the transferred space would be lower and could only be negotiated. It is hard to see any formula for valuation fitting all circumstances.
The informed guess of Jones Lang Wootton is that the value of such transferred space within an area of equivalent land values and plot ratios would be only 20-30 per cent of the equivalent land value. Our feeling is that this estimate may be unduly conservative but as this is a first time situation and as there are so many factors involved any generalised valuation is of doubtful value without reference to a particular development and set of circumstances. 7.31 The total area of Council-owned land on the Civic Square site is 103,728 square feet. At the maximum floor space ratio of 10 to I suggested in the Melbourne Strategy Plan for this area the total potential floor space allowable on the site would be 1,037,280 square feet. The plot ratio of the alternative forms of development proposed, that fit in with the Urban Design Controls thought desirable for this site are approximately 3:1. This underdevelopment when the land was brought at a price that assumed maximum development is the reason why the results revealed by the feasibility studies are poor by commercial standards. Maximum development would undoubtedly be more profitable but would be an urbanistic disaster for the City Square and that part of Melbourne.
The area of the site of the Regent Building alone is approximately 29,780 square feet and the plot ratio of the existing building is approximately 3.85 to 1. If the Regent Theatre becomes a designated building and the transfer provisions are allowed by the Minister the question is whether the unused development space available for transfer and sale flows from the site of the Regent Theatre alone, or should be calculated on the whole site. It is clear that the Act would certainly allow the first alternative instanced above. .The total floor space that would be permitted on the site of the Regent Theatre and the associated Collins Street buildings at 10 to I plot ratio is 395,300 square feet gross. Deducting the floor area of the Regent Theatre and other buildings the balance of the unused space would total approximately 147,700 square feet. The equivalent site area of 14,770 square feet would be worth in that location between $2.65 and $2.95m (at $180-$200 per square foot). The maximum value of the space available to be sold is therefore $2.8m (say) but as discussed earlier this space would probably only be saleable at half of this amount- $ 1 .4m, or less.
It could be argued that the space available to be transferred should be calculated on the area of the whole site. If, for example, a designated building, such as a church, did not cover 100 per cent of its site but were sited in a landscaped area necessary to set it off there would be no doubt that the total potential development space would be calculated on the whole site including the open space, if it were necessary to invoke the transfer provisions of the Act to preserve the building.
In the same way if an open space or plaza is created next to a designated building and is a necessary part of it, it could be argued as that extra site area was expensive that the open area should be included when calculating the transfer space. The argument may be tenuous but there is no doubt the Civic Square is a desirable public amenity and necessary for the full enjoyment of the Town Hall and the Cathedral (both designated buildings) as well as the Regent Theatre.
If the total site area were taken into account the excess floor space available to be transferred is approximately 890,000 square feet. At 50 per cent of the equivalent land value corresponding to this area of space the value of the development rights available for transfer is in the order of $8.5m. 7.33 Even without a developer middleman the above feasibility study (para. 7.25) shows, however, that the amount that Council would be able to borrow in normal commercial circumstances would be insufficient to carry out the development and would require Council to put in an equity of over $6m. If the amount of the Star Insurance Co. settlement of $ 1 ,050,000 and the lower estimated amount of $1.4m from the sale of development rights are both put towards the equity required there would be insufficient equity by the normal standards of the market place to raise a sufficiently large mortgage to carry out the development. Contributions to increase the Council’s equity could be sought by way of interest free grants. Until recently the Australian Government has only given grants through the Council for the Arts to subsidise theatre companies and has not given capital grants for the building of new theatres or the renovation of old theatres. However, the first capital grant was given recently to the Nimrod Theatre in Sydney and if this alternative is adopted it would be open to Council to apply to the relevant Departments of the Australian Government (the National Estate Section of DURD- Department of Urban and Regional Development and the Australian Council for the Arts) for grants to assist in the renovation. Applications could also be made to the Victorian State Government under Section 20 of the Historic Buildings Act for a grant to assist in the renovation. However, the proportion of mortgage to equity is not fixed in heaven but dependent on the investor and could be varied to give the Council a larger mortgage perhaps in return for the sale of the development rights to the investor at a discounted price. 7.34 The most likely and logical purchaser of any space available for transfer, the T & G Mutual Life Society Ltd, raised the question of purchase of development rights during discussion with us and expressed interest but as stated earlier they have no intention of redeveloping their site for 8 or 10 years. One solution that presents itself as a possible way around this dilemma arises from the very fact that the most likely purchaser is a Life Insurance Office. The cost penalties imposed by the Income Tax Assessment Act virtually make it obligatory for all Life Offices to invest a minimum of 30 per cent of all their funds with Government Agencies- twothirds of this 30 per cent, or 20 per cent, must be invested in Commonwealth Stock. (The so-called 30/20 Rule.) The balance, or 10 per cent, of their funds can be placed with either Commonwealth, State or Local Government. Interest rates are fixed by the Loan Council and for publicly subscribed loans the current rates are around 10.2 per cent- for private loans this rate would be increased to 10.5 per cent or 10.75 per cent. It has occurred to us that as the T & G are required to invest 30 per cent of their funds with Government bodies, one-third of this, or 10 per cent, could as well go to a Local Government Body such as the Melbourne City Council, as elsewhere. If the T & G are keen to secure an option to purchase the available developments rights they could be approached to provide all or pan of the finance required for the development in return for such an option. The option could be to purchase any or all of the development rights at a price to be fixed at the time of purchase on a valuation formula to be agreed. The interest rates fixed by the Loan Council are maxima and in return for the option there would be room for negotiation over the precise interest rate to be applied to the loan.
Assuming Council could find an equity of say $2m (the Star settlement plus a Grant from the Victorian Government) and the T & G were willing to lend the balance of the funds required then:
Total cost required to build-$ 1 1 ,775,500 Total net income (see Appendix B) -$1,195,800 Equity invested by Council- $2,000,000 Loan of $9,775,500 @ 10 per cent over 25 years Debt service @ 10.9 per cent constant -$1,065,500 i.e. Council could service the loan required to complete the development and would have $130,000 over to go towards the Debt Service on the land. In return for providing this large loan the T& G would have an option to purchase all or any of the transfer space within 10 years, say, on some basis to be agreed.
Although Council’s return on the Equity invested is very low (6.5 per cent) by the time the above mortgage is discharged in 25 years time the debt on the land would be cleared also and the nett annual income then would be the equivalent of over $ 1 . 1 9m at present-day prices. 7.35 Another possible solution would be for a Developer to lease the site from the Council, carry out the development and renovate the Theatres. The Developer would pay the Council a Ground Rent calculated on the basis that the excess development rights would be transferred to other developments being carried out by the same Developer. Again, this defies simple calculation at this stage as there are too many variables. 7.36 The Premier of Victoria, the Rt Hon. R. J. Hamer. made his position clear on this matter when he wrote to the Lord Mayor on 7 January 1974, advising him of the Government’s intentions to proceed with the new Concert Hall and concluding ‘The future of the Regent Theatre is for the Council to decide although my strong preference would be to see it retained as a live or movie theatre with its western facade developed with restaurants and boutiques as an effective and attractive backdrop to the Square’.
There is no doubt that a decision to retain and renovate the Regent Theatre would also be a popular one with large numbers of the citizens of Melbourne.
9.01 It is recommended that the overall height of any new development on the eastern side of the City Square be limited to a height of 150 feet above Collins Street adjacent to the building, and further that the overall height of any new development on the western side of Swanston Street opposite the Square be similarly limited to a height of ISO feet above the street level. 9.02 It is recommended that the area of the City Square be increased to the present line of Regent Place on the eastern side of the Square. 9.03 It is recommended that Council should use all its powers and endeavours to preserve all buildings on the northern side of Collins Street between Swanston Street and Russell Street. 9.04 It is recommended that the eventual redevelopment of the balance of the block should be co-ordinated by Council if more than one owner is involved and further that any such redevelopment should maintain the scale and retail activity along Collins Street. 9.05 It is recommended that Flinders Lane be closed to vehicular traffic opposite the City Square and that steps be taken to investigate the closing of Collins Street opposite the City Square to all vehicular traffic except trams. 9.06 It is recommended that Council should not proceed with the First Alternative form of Development (Offices) leasing the site to a Developer as the Ground Rent is not considered adequate. 9.07 It is recommended that Council should consider carrying out the office development itself, occupy approximately 100,000 square feet of the space and sell the sites owned by the Council on the northern side of the Town Hall to provide the Equity to carry out the development. 9.08 It is recommended that the Second Alternative form of Development (International Hotel) is not feasible and should not be considered further. 9.09 It is recommended that the Regent Theatre is suitable for a wide range of theatrical activities and has a definite role to play in Melbourne’s theatrical life. 9.10 It is recommended in the light of the evidence presented by various experts and the National Trust’s attitude that the Regent Theatre should be preserved, that Council reconsider its earlier intention to demolish the Regent Theatre.
-I thank the House. I shall mention one or two things in relation to the report. Clarke Gazzard Planners Pty Ltd say in their report:
We realise that Council bought the Regent Theatre property four years ago with the clear intention of demolishing it. But circumstances can and have changed both in the law and in public attitudes and we would be remiss in our professional duty to the Council if we did not re-examine this option.
Later on the report says:
Considering all the above factors we must concur with Messrs Southgate and Knowlands considered opinion that the Regent Theatre is quite suitable for all types of theatre except orchestral concerts, chamber music recitals and intimate drama.
One could hardly hold chamber music concerts or intimate drama in a building that will seat well over 3,000 people. The report continues:
Its best uses would be for spectacle theatre (Australian Ballet, State Dance Company of Victoria, Russian Georgian Dancers, Slansk Polish Dance Troupe, Chinese Acrobats, Rock Operas like Hair and Superstar, etc., Traditional Opera, Pop Concerts, the Melbourne Film Festival -
Some people may not like pop concerts. I never go to them but I recognise that not everybody’s taste in music is the same.
Cultural facilities ought to be looked at in the widest possible way. If anybody has been to the Festival Hall in Melbourne I am sure that they will agree with me that the acoustics there are absolutely terrible. It is only because the music is greatly amplified that people manage to hear anything at all. The report also mentions that in Great Britain there are no theatres of this type left. It says:
The National Trust in New South Wales has also classified 2 similar theatres of that period- the State Theatre in Market Street and the Roxy at Parramatta. The Report on the State Theatre sums up by saying: ‘It is a major building of its type. The Cinema Baroque style found little favour in the UK and this cinema forms a direct link with the great Picture Palaces of the USA. It is a monument to the movie culture of the twenties that influenced the life-style of millions of Australians, the skill of local artists, craftsmen and engineers of the period and the exuberance of that fabulous and foolish decade . . . John Betjeman has stated that none so splendid, indeed none of its kind, survive in Great Britain.’
The writer could well be talking of the Regent Theatre in Melbourne which is an equally good example of the style.
This project has received support from a large number of people. The patrons of the Save the Regent Theatre Campaign include Dame Joan Hammond, Gladys Moncrieff, Anna Russell, Joan Sutherland, Ronald Farren-Price, Sir Bernard Heinz, Sir Robert Helpmann Professor Leon Kellaway and John Williams. Many other organisations and people have pledged their support to preserve the Regent Theatre. I ask leave to have a list of the names of these organisations and persons incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
CELEBRITIES & ORGANISATIONS PLEDGING THEIR SUPPORT
Alicia De Laroche
Willem Van Otterloo
Dame Peggy Van Praagh
The Australian Ballet Co.
The Cleveland Orchestra
Kolobok Dance Co.
The Victorian Opera Co.
– This theatre is important to the people of Melbourne, as I am sure the report will show. The plan will cost about $10m, not just for the preservation of the theatre but for the development of the square and the buildings adjacent to it. The plan is that Wentworth House, which is next door to the theatre and which is in poor condition, will be demolished and a new 6- storey office block, suitably designed, will be attached to it. Then the Melbourne City Council could have offices in that building because it is directly opposite the Town Hall. It is possible that the air space above the Regent Theatre could be sold for the further development up the street. I would like to see this building preserved for all sorts of cultural activities for the people of Melbourne and indeed the people of Victoria. The campaign has widespread support.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) has asked both the Prime Minister and the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) questions about this subject. I believe that the House can proceed to discuss this matter, perhaps at a later date, with a view to preserving this building in the interests of the people of Melbourne. The issue has been greatly clouded by statements which have been ill-considered and which have later been proved by the reports to which I have referred to be quite incorrect. I suggest that the House could well adopt the slogan of the Save the Regent Theatre Campaign which is ‘Keep the Regent Alive in ‘75 ‘.
– I want to raise a subject which not a great number of the Australian Labor Party members of the House have raised, and that is the present rate of unemployment in their electorates. I was reminded of it particularly this morning when we heard about the impending overseas trip of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) to some delightful places during the Christmas period. I wonder how he will feel when he thinks of the hundreds of thousands of people in Australia who are unemployed and whose Christmas will not be nearly as delightful and whose surroundings certainly will not be nearly as delightful. I am reminded very much at this stage of the promises made by the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister (Dr J. F. Cairns) in relation to the 2 subjects of inflation and unemploymentpromises which I believe hoodwinked the Australian public as recently as May of this year when we all remember the Prime Minister saying that he was the only one in the world who could cut inflation by one-third and that inflation and unemployment in Australia did not march hand in hand.
The Deputy Prime Minister has, since that period, been quoted as saying that the Government had unemployment under control and he did not think that it would get out of hand. The fact is that at the moment Australia has the worst inflation in living memory. It certainly has the worst unemployment since those dreadful days of the depression. Today I want to mention firstly the unemployment figures for my own electorate of Warringah because I believe it is of the utmost importance that all Australians should be aware of the very serious nature of this unemployment, not just in the short term, with the short term hardships which many hundreds of thousands of people will be experiencing, but also and perhaps more significantly in the long term prospects of thousands upon thousands of school leavers. I mention this fact in relation to Warringah because I can remember very clearly the enormous hubbub that was made in 1972 by the then Opposition before it came to power about the unemployment statistics that then obtained throughout Australia.
Yesterday I telephoned the local Commonwealth Employment Service agency in Manly to check the relationship between the figures in 1972, when the present Government was in opposition and when it made such a fuss about the unemployment situation, with the position today when the Australian Labor Party in government does not say quite so much about unemployment. In September 1972 in Warringah a total of 172 people were registered as unemployed. In September 1974, under the Labor Government, the figure was 308. In October 1972 the total number of registered unemployed in Warringah was 135. In October 1974, under the Labor Government, the total was 484.. Another aspect, apart from the numbers involved, is that there was a downward trend from September to October 1972 from 172 to 135. The trend in 1974 is upwards. In other words, the number of unemployed is rising. In fact it has risen by nearly two-thirds in that one month between September and October this year. I have no reason not to believe that the figures which will be revealed for November will be significantly higher again and that the December figures will be significantly higher than the November figures.
The other interesting and horrifying thing about the situation at the moment is that in September 1972 in Warringah the number of registered vacancies was 138 and in October 1972 it had risen to 150. So whilst the number of unemployed people was dropping during that period in 1972 the number of vacancies available was rising. What do we find this year? In September 1974 the total vacancies were 89, and in October 1974, 76. Not only have we a rising unemployment rate but also at the same time we have a lowering of the number of vacancies available. As I have said, the position will get worse because many businesses within the peninsular area are keeping staff on until the Christmas period so that people will not be thrown out of work a month or so prior to Christmas. Businesses will retain their employees for as long as they can but they cannot keep them on after the Christmas period. I have spoken to a number of employers in the area. Whilst at present they are losing money by retaining their employees they cannot continue to do so and in the months ahead they will be laying employees off. Consequently we will find that the registered unemployment figure for the Warringah area- I think this will be reflected throughout Australia but today I am concerned about people in my own electorate-will rise dramatically in both November and December. I hope the Prime
Minister (Mr Whitlam) sleeps with an easy conscience as he travels the world at the taxpayers’ expense. I was told today that his trip will cost about $750,000. I hope he realises that a great number of husbands and wives with many commitments to meet- who have many of the necessities of life, such as refrigerators, on hire purchase, the repayments for which they must maintain- will be seriously disadvantaged and will not have a very happy Christmas.
I am greatly concerned also about school leavers, to whom I referred at the commencement of my speech. Many potential school leavers, of course, will return to school for another year. This will have a number of effects. Places will not be available in school for children coming on, additional burdens will be imposed on the teaching staff and additional finance will be necessary to maintain the education system. Also it will deprive a lot of these young people of the opportunity to commence their careers in the adult world at a time which is of enormous significance for them. There is, of course, the Regional Employment Development Scheme operating. I join with other honourable members in saying that it is a good thing that we have the RED scheme but if we had the employment opportunities that we should have in Australia there would be no need for it. I have taken up this issue with the Mayor of Manly with a view to putting forward proposals to cope with the rising tide of unemployment in the Warringah area. Much work, resulting from the battering the electorate took following serious storms which hit it and other areas of Sydney earlier this year, needs to be done. But it is a sad state of affairs in Australia, which is still a lucky country- the only unlucky aspect at present is the Government it has had imposed upon it- that people will be out of work this Christmas and school leavers will not be able to take up the employment they wish to engage in. They will be forced to return to school in many cases and this will throw additional burdens on the education system. As I said earlier, I hope that the Prime Minister, in his swanning around the world, sleeps easily at night when he. considers what is happening in Warringah and throughout Australia- people out of work, finding it hard to maintain their financial commitments, and children being denied opportunities. This is a situation Australia should not be facing.
-This is the first time I have heard an elected government being spoken of as a government imposed upon the people. It is quite a new idea. I should like again to comment on the East Bentleigh community health centre to which I referred last week. Almost a year has elapsed since the announcement by Dr Everingham that a sum of $270,000 had been approved for the establishment of a community health centre in East Bentleigh. A further sum of $173,000 has been allocated for the 1974-75 period. There has been continuing support for the project from the Commonwealth and State governments, leading health planners and administrators at all levels, the Victorian faculty of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, many doctors, both general and specialist, throughout Australia, academics, economists, health evaluators, allied health professionals and almost every member of the local community.
Last week in this House I spoke of the protest organised by doctors in East Bentleigh who arranged a private meeting for which a person required an invitation to attend. I am told that the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp) received an invitation and was present and that two local State Liberal members, Mr Suggett and Mr Reese were also invited and were present. The honourable member for Hotham has gone on record as saying that community health centres do have a place but they should be given a priority and put in areas where there are few doctors and few other health services. East Bentleigh does not agree with him. The doctors who have organised the protest have lodged appeals with the local government about the construction of the centre. They are solidly in opposition to our building this centre. They speak of it as a backdoor attempt to nationalise private doctors. They also say it takes away the freedom of choice from the people of East Bentleigh. At the public meeting called to support this centre it was agreed- not unanimously because some of the protesting doctors were present- that this was widening the choice. It was agreed also that health centres filled a community need. I think it might be to the benefit of the public if some of the protesting doctors and some of the Liberal members who were invited to the doctors’ meeting considered why the community needs a community health centre.
Many people in the local community are desperately in need of the services to be provided by the health centre. Specific documented cases can be produced by local general practitioners, church organisations, community welfare groups, the Royal District Nursing Service and the East Bentleigh police concerning emotional difficulties, suicide, chronic illness, psychiatric disorders, mental retardation, alcoholism, drug abuse, marital disruption, one-parent families, physical handicap, school drop-outs, juvenile delinquency, preventable criminal behaviour and multiple psycho-social economic and family problems associated with many common physical ailments, whose needs are not being met by the existing general practitioner service or by the public or voluntary community agencies. The doctors’ opposition is, I think, based on deeply emotional and mostly irrelevant arguments which, though we can readily refute them, are strongly held because of entrenched attitudes against change.
The community health centre idea is not really a change. One was set up in Victoria more than 100 years ago and it was reasonably successful. But the doctors seem to be extremely resistant to any change that affects them. I think it is time they learned to accept new ideas. Perhaps if they examined the reasons why we want a community health centre they would change their attitude somewhat. We can always learn. There are many reasons why we want this centre. One relates to communication and another is because it is accessible. The combined services put together are more readily accessible in a single building. The functions will be shared. The centre will have 6 doctors. We will get the doctors because there are enough doctors in East Bentleigh who have a concern for and an acceptance of the community health centre. We will get 6 doctors on a feeforservice basis and they will share the functions of family counselling, emergency treatment, immunisation and infant welfare. Preventive activity can be carried on in a community health centre. Such activity has no relation to a general practitioner’s very busy practice. There is a lot of community involvement with a health centre and the centre needs the feedback from the local community about all the aspects of care that it provides. It is also necessary from the point of view of community visibility. At present the community clearly defines the doctor’s surgery as a place where it can seek help or advice if necessary when people are physically sick. But the common facility allows a similar identification of other health workers which is reinforced by their service activities emanating from the one building. It becomes a unit operating for both physical and mental disorders.
Patients who require certain services such as psychiatric services and family planning are stigmatised when they are forced to attend a separate facility from that which serves other members of the local community with other forms of health care. By placing as many forms of health care as is possible in a given community in the one building this stigma is removed. Also, others in the community attending the centre for different reasons come to understand better the problems of those who have mental disorders, the problems of those less fortunate than themselves. They understand by direct contact, by community involvement.
I would ask those doctors who are setting themselves up in opposition to what is the will of the people in East Bentleigh- and it is the will of the people, because the meeting was very well attended and very well publicised- to have another good look at just what we are hoping to do. For instance, we hope to set up a trainee education program in the health centre. The education of trainees- undergraduates and continuingfrom all of the health disciplines is facilitated and made more effective at the one site from which all members of the health team practice. The team concept of health care cannot be demonstrated under other circumstances. Students lose the train of care when they are moved from one site to another and continuity with regard to individual patients or cases is lost.
Our centre will be built opposite a major hospital. We will not be duplicating services, we will be complementing the services of the hospital opposite. We are hoping to have medical students from Monash University training in our hospital and they will also have the advantage of education through the health centre that will be built. The preventive activities of a health centre are important. Personal advice is usually more effective than advice given to a group. Effective preventive activity by health professionals in a one to one relationship remains minimal at present. There are just not enough services available. Sharing of preventive work using support between health professionals is possible in a shared health centre facility. Some preventive activity requires direct supervision by the doctor, and this cannot occur in a split facility. I believe that the people of East Bentleigh are entitled to have a community health centre if they have the need, and I do not agree that only the northern and western suburbs of the city have the need. I think there is a very great need for a new concept of medicine in just about every region. If the communities can get the finance they are entitled to have a health centre, and this community has got the finance. If they want a health centre they are entitled to have one and they will have one. I am pleased to be able to say that the centre will have doctors because the doctors who have come to the committee meetings have expressed a deep and genuine interest in the centre and a willingness to make it work.
-In this grievance debate I want to raise an issue that affects us all, because we all use our road systems. We all drive in motor cars or drive a motor car. We have all been driving a motor car or been in a motor car going along a main road when the flow of traffic on that main road has been interrupted by a car coming from a minor road. Earlier this year the Australian Transport Advisory Council decided that an effort should be made to bring about uniformity between the States in laws relating to the give-way rule. In South Australia, the State from which I come, until recently we have not had much use for the give-way sign. Our system has been one of stop signs. I am pleased to note that, more and more, the giveway sign is being used so that traffic approaching main roads is required to give way, to yield to traffic going in both directions across the mouth of the minor road. But South Australia has used a stop sign system, and the law there has meant that you stop at the stop sign and then, provided the road is clear on your right, you have the right of way to proceed.
Many South Australians, particularly those living in metropolitan Adelaide, will have often experienced the hazardous situation of driving along a main road in free flowing traffic knowing that they are protected from the sudden incursion of traffic from the side streets, to the extent that the side streets have stop signs, only to find that the flow of traffic is interfered with by a car which has, in accordance with the law, stopped, but then proceeded forward in exercise of its right of way. The flow of traffic has then had to be stopped to allow the car coming from one minor road across a main road to another minor road in exercise of its right of way. Very often, but for the lack of courtesy that one occasionally sees on the roads, the car at the stop sign could have allowed that free flowing traffic to continue. Had the driver been patient and waited for the traffic to clear, he could then have gone forward at a time when there was an adequate clearance in the traffic on the main road which would enable him to go forward without interfering with the free flow of the main road traffic. Very often in such situations as I have illustrated dangerous and hazardous cases arise. Cars on the main road have to stop suddenly, or decelerate, and very often accidents arise.
I am very pleased that South Australia, along with New South Wales, has adopted the recommendations of the Australian Transport Advisory Council and is introducing legislation to change the implication of the stop sign, so that instead of the stop sign meaning ‘stop and then go forward, exercising if you want to a right of way over traffic coming from your right ‘, the stop sign will mean ‘stop and give way’. All of us who drive know that a large degree of the art of driving is based upon a sixth sense, an automatic reaction. I express very grave concern about the change in the law. It is an excellent change, but it is one of those cases where to tell the public ‘you are presumed to know the law’ is not sufficient. Nor will it be sufficient to advertise widely throughout South Australia or New South Wales or any other State where a change is made, to tell people of the change. For many of them, the significance of the stop sign, the significance of the old meaning of right of way, is ingrained in their driving habits and they will continue in the future in an emergency situation to act in accordance with their early and, for many, long term experience.
I urge that those concerned on the national scene and those concerned in the States give earnest consideration to how this difficulty can be overcome. I could illustrate how the reaction situation does arise. I know of one tragic case that occurred in South Australia in which the driver was a visitor from overseas and was used to driving on the right hand side of the road, with all his emergency reactions operating in a contrary direction to the way in which they operate in Australia. When an emergency situation occurred he reacted according to his automatic response and a fatal accident occurred. I am concerned that the same sort of tragedy could befall people who, coming to a stop sign, although driving with care, react and respond according to their ingrained experience of the past meaning of the stop sign. My plea would be that consideration be given to placing on all stop signs, where the meaning of the stop sign is being changed, the words or the accepted sign for give-way so that when a person approached the sign he or she would see ‘Stop- give- way’. People would then know that the sign meant not only that the driver had to stop but also that the driver had to yield to the traffic coming in both directions.
– How would minor traffic get into streams of holiday traffic?
-I would hope, too, that studies will be undertaken to ensure that main roads and main traffic routes in cities are made reasonably free flowing traffic courses and that where there are not already stop signs with, hopefully, a giveway sign on them as well, more give way signs will be used to ensure that these main arterial roads in the cities and elsewhere are safer than they are today. It is true that it will be necessary to make a study of the main traffic routes to ensure that traffic coming into and traffic going off main roads has adequate access to do so without being disadvantaged by the greater number of give-way signs. We are moving to a give-way situation in which one will have to give way under all circumstances. The only change which is being introduced is that one must not only stop but also give way when one is confronted with a stop sign. I emphasise again the difficulty that will be experienced in those parts of Australia where the stop sign has not in the past meant that one must give way. I urge that, in the interests of road safety and in the interests of families who will otherwise suffer, careful consideration be given to the desirability of placing a give-way sign on the stop signs in areas where the meaning of the stop sign is in the process of being changed.
– I want to raise briefly a matter this morning which is of great concern to me. During recent weeks some $45,000 was allocated to the Forestry Commission under the RED scheme for use in the Otways for the employment of unemployed persons and $30,000 for use in the You-yangs national park for similar work. The work will have the effect of reducing the bush fire danger and also of employing about 50 persons. Regrettably, after the arrangements had been agreed to and at a time when the district employment officer at Geelong had arranged for employment to commence he was told by the district forestry officer that he was not allowed to put people on because the Premier of Victoria had placed a veto on the use of the funds to employ persons under the RED scheme. This means that 30 people at the moment and possibly 50 people who could be employed are now unemployed. Their families are being penalised by the actions of the Premier of Victoria who is acting for a purely political motive to advance some selfinterest program of his own. I would suggest that this is a cruel way for a State Premier to act. He is denying people the wherewithal to keep their families purely to advance his own political ends. At the same time he is also seriously increasing the bush fire risk. I hope that the Premier will show that he is a person of the type which he so often claims and withdraws this decision which is affecting these unemployed persons.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MartinOrder! It is now 15 minutes to 1 o’clock. In accordance with standing order 106 the debate is interrupted and I put the question:
That grievances be noted.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
-As ViceChairman of the Joint Committee on Public Accounts I present the one hundred and fortyninth and one hundred and fiftieth reports of the Public Accounts Committee and move that they be printed.
Ordered that the reports be printed.
– I ask for leave to make a short statement.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-The 149th report of the Public Accounts Committee comprises 4 Treasury minutes relating to previous reports of the Committee. These reports are the 137th report which dealt with the Auditor-General’s report for 1970-71, the 139th report relating to internal audit, the 140th report relating to expenditure from the Advance to the Treasurer 1971-72 and the 141st report relating to expenditure from the Consolidated Revenue Fund 1971-72. The 150th report concerns the Committee’s inquiry into aspects arising from the report of the Auditor-General for the financial year 1972-73. The Committee would again commend the Auditor-General and his staff for the sustained effort they have made over the years to present his report to Parliament early in the Budget session. As we have indicated on previous occasions the tabling of the report at this time each year has assisted the Committee considerably in this important area of its work.
In its inquiry the Committee took evidence from the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, the Department of the Army, the Department of Defence, the Postmaster-General’s Department, the Department of Supply and the Department of Works. In all, our inquiries related to 7 matters. The Department of Aboriginal Affairs, through its Northern Territory Division, inherited overall responsibility for the self-help housing scheme from the welfare division of the former Northern Territory Administration which as we know was part of the Department of the Interior. The Committee inquired into the arrangements made in 1971-72 by the Northern Territory Administration for the purchase and delivery of 34 demountable houses to be erected for occupation by Aboriginals at 3 Aboriginal settlements. The evidence shows that suitable arrangements had not been made by the Welfare Division of the Northern Territory Administration for the delivery and storage of these houses at the settlements and that damage and deterioration had resulted. The Committee has criticised those responsible and has suggested that delivery and inspection problems in remote areas should be fully considered before delivery to site clauses are written into contracts relating to the Northern Territory.
In the case of the Department of the Army our inquiries were directed towards ascertaining the reasons why a prototype trailer-mounted refrigerator unit was passed by the Department as suitable for production when it was later found that the prototype and the 85 units produced were unsuitable for the purpose for which they were purchased. The Committee has criticised the quality of the tests made on the prototype and has drawn attention to the principle it has previously enunciated that in contracts with a developmental content, the prototype should be subjected to exhaustive testing before authority is given for the rest of the production to proceed.
In connection with the Postmaster-General’s Department the evidence taken related to the developnment of a computer-based message switching and data network, the awarding of the contract to Univac Australia and the resultant delays in the completion and acceptance of the network which the Post Office considers could affect its profits to the extent of $12m.(From the evidence presented, the Committee concluded that a proper evaluation of the tenders was made and that the decision to award the contract to Univac seems to have been the correct one based on the information available to the Post Office at the time. However, the Committee considers that the delays could have been shortened had the Post Office made representations to the contractor’s parent company in New York earlier than it did.
Evidence was taken from the Department of Supply in relation to a payment made to a contractor towards the end of the financial year in what appeared to be an attempt to avoid the lapsing of an appropriation. The Committee was satisfied that the New South Wales District Contract Board acted quite properly in authorising the payment to the contractor.
In connection with the Department of Works the Committee inquired into the circumstances of a payment made by the Department’s regional office in the Australian Capital Territory to a contractor before the supplies had been received and before the payment was required to be made under the contract. In all the circumstances the Committee concluded that the payment should not have been made before the equipment was delivered on site.
Again in connection with the Department of Works, the Committee inquired into a number of instances in the Department’s regional office in the Northern Territory where cheques were drawn towards the end of a financial year and held by departmental officers for subsequent delivery to contractors. The Committee concluded that the rate of payments had been deliberately accelerated in June 1973 in order to expend the appropriation, which was contrary to the directions issued by the Treasury. Action has been taken by the Department to improve the financial procedures at its regional office in Darwin. I commend the reports to honourable members.
– I move:
That in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969-1974, the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report:
Construction of a proposed water resources centreDarwin, Northern Territory.
The proposal is to provide a modern permanent depot as a base of operations for the field force activities of the Water Resources Branch of the Division of Resources Development in the Department of the Northern Territory. The present accommodation is in a motley of unsuitable and sub-standard buildings. Construction will utilise steel framing with insulated shaped asbestos cement panels as an external cladding. Roofing will be galvanised steel decking. Internal partitions will be of a demountable type, with carpeted floors in office areas, acid resistant tiles in laboratories, and ceramic tiles in toilets. Ceilings will be accoustic tiles. The building will be airconditioned, with fire alarm installations throughout the complex and a sprinkler system in the mechanical workshop. Laboratory services, for example compressed air installation, distilled water, liquid petroleum gas reticulation, etc., will be installed, as will a small emergency generating plant to provide stand-by power to certain areas. Other engineering services to be provided include sewerage, water and stormwater drainage connections, with roads, car parks and site landscaping. The estimated cost of the proposed work is $6,200,000 at July 1974 prices. I table plans of the proposed work.
– I move:
That in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee An 1 969- 1 974, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and on which the Committee has duly reported to Parliament:
Construction of a rehabilitation centre at Townsville. Queensland.
The proposal is for the establishment of a regional rehabilitation centre to cater for 25 residential and up to 40 day attendants from the north Queensland area. The centre will provide the following facilities: Administration, amenities, medical centre, occupational therapy, vocational counselling, physiotherapy, central change block, residential patients and staff quarters, services area, and an open recreation area.
Construction will use steel portal frames on reinforced concrete slabs, with steel stud framed internal walls. External cladding will be asbestos cement sheeting to walls and steel deck roofing. The buildings will be partly air conditioned and partly mechanically ventilated. Windows will be aluminium framed with timber shutters for cyclone protection. Internal finishes will suit the requirements of the particular areas. Car parking will be provided and the site will be landscaped to suit the surrounding environment. The estimated cost of the proposed work when referred to the Committee was $2.3m at June 1974 prices.
The Committee concluded that there was a growing and continuing need for a modern centre in the north Queensland region, that the centre should be located at Townsville, that the site selected is suitable, that the proposed design and functions for the centre are appropriate, and that the work should proceed to construction in this instance. The Committee also recommended that every effort should be made to reduce the documentation and tendering period. This will be done and the period will be reduced from 56 weeks to 42 weeks. Upon the concurrence of the House in this motion, detailed planning can proceed in accordance with the recommendations of the Committee.
Sitting suspended from 12.58 to 2.15 p.m.
Bill presented by Dr J. F. Cairns, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to introduce a new export incentive scheme- the Export Market Development Grants Scheme- to replace the export incentive arrangements which expired on 30 June 1974. Shortly after coming to office, the Government announced that the existing export incentive arrangements- the Export Incentive Grants Scheme and the Export Market Development Allowance Scheme- which had operated virtually unchanged since 1961, and were due to expire on 30 June 1973, would be continued for a further 12 months until 30 June 1974. In the meantime, the Government undertook to have a thorough review made of the operations of the incentive arrangements.
In the light of this review, the Government concluded that there was a need for a continued export incentive, but that the schemes which had operated since 1961, and were running at an annual cost of some $ 100m; were unsatisfactory and should be replaced. Furthermore, the Government decided that the emphasis in a new export incentive scheme should be on market development rather than perpetuating payments on exports. Under the previous export incentive arrangements the bulk of the benefits went to a few large companies. Moreover, because the benefits under the schemes took the form of rebates of income tax and payroll tax liability, many small exporting firms and other bodies engaged in export such as statutory marketing authorities and co-operatives were disadvantaged.
Against this background, I announced on 18 December 1973 the details of the Export Market Development Grants Scheme to operate from 1 July 1974. The Scheme was developed on the basis of the following principles and criteria: The scheme should not involve rebates of tax and benefits should be in the form of grants; particular encouragement should be given to small and medium sized firms to become involved in exporting; there should be a ceiling limit on the benefits received by any one firm or group of firms; and there should be a better balance established between the costs of revenue and benefits to the exporting sector.
Following the announcement of 18 December 1973, I requested the Department of Overseas
Trade to conduct seminars in all States to acquaint exporters with the Government’s intentions with regard to the new scheme and to comprehend difficulties that exporters might have with the proposed operation of the scheme. As a result of submissions made at these seminars and in representations from export industry organisations and individual exporters, a number of aspects of the original proposals were modified. The modifications were announced in a detailed statement on 2 July 1974. In order to enable long term planning by exporters, the Export Market Development Grants Scheme will operate for a period of 5 years as from 1 July 1974, but will be reviewed after 3 years to permit any changes considered desirable to be made. The Export Market Development Grants Bill provides that grants will be payable to claimants on eligible export market development expenditure in respect of any goods, services, property rights or know-how which are substantially of Australian origin. The eligibility criteria to be applied to export promotion expenditure will be generally the same as under the previous Export Market Development Allowance Scheme provided for in section 160 AC of the Income Tax Assessment Act. The scheme will be administered by an independent Export Development Grants Board, responsible to the Minister for Overseas Trade.
Any individual, partnership, company or association carrying on business in Australia and incurring eligible expenditure will be entitled to apply for grants. Some statutory marketing authorities, co-operatives and associations previously excluded from export incentive benefits will be eligible under the new scheme. However, in view of the diversity of the functions and powers of the many authorities and associations operating in Australia, and also the need to ensure that the provisions of the scheme are applied equitably to all claimants, the Bill provides that each authority and association will be required to seek approval for claimant status and be prescribed by regulation.
As a general rule, a claimant must be a principal in an export transaction and must not incur promotional expenditure on behalf of or as an agent for someone else for which he is being reimbursed or paid. The grants will be available at 2 rates: A premium rate of 85 per cent for eligible expenditure incurred by new exporters, or by established exporters in trying to develop new markets, and by participants in Australian Government sponsored trade promotions; and a standard rate of 60 per cent for all other eligible expenditure. There will be a ceiling on annual payments to any one claimant of $100,000 or 10 per cent of export earnings, whichever is the lower, plus an additional amount of up to $25,000 in respect of eligible expenditure on Australian Government sponsored trade promotions. Within the $100,000 ceiling, the 10 per cent limitation will not apply to new claimants, certain prescribed marketing authorities or associations, or eligible expenditure incurred on Australian Government sponsored trade promotions. A new claimant will be regarded as one who has not incurred eligible expenditure in the first 5 of the 7 years immediately preceding a grant year.
Wholly owned subsidiaries and their parent corporation will be treated as a group of corporations and considered as a single entity for the purpose of applying the absolute grant ceiling. However, for all other purposes, including the 10 per cent limitation, each individual corporation within a group will be considered separately. For the purpose of the premium rate, a new market will be a market in which the claimant has not incurred more than $5,000 of eligible expenditure over the whole of the 3-year period immediately preceding the year to which the claim relates. Having satisfied this test, the claimant will be entitled to grants at the premium rate for 3 consecutive years in relation to eligible expenditure in that market. A market is defined as a particular country or external territory.
Australian Government sponsored trade promotions will include all overseas trade promotion activities such as trade missions, displays, exhibitions, store promotions, advertising and publicity organised or sponsored by the Department of Overseas Trade. In addition, the Department of Overseas Trade may approve as Australian Government sponsored certain overseas promotional activities organised by State governments, industry groups or firms. The export incentive scheme provided for under this Bill gives clear evidence of the Government’s constructive approach to export policy balanced with its objectives and priorities for the economy as a whole. The cost to revenue of the scheme in its first year of operation is estimated at $27.5m. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
I am sorry that the Opposition spokesman, the honourable member for Fisher (Mr Adermann), has not received a copy of the speech. I notice that he has been without one.
Debate (on motion by Mr Adermann) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 20 November, on motion by Dr Patterson:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Dairy Adjustment Bill 1974 now before the House has in many respects the strong support of the Opposition. However, this support in no way diminishes the criticism by the Opposition of the rural policies of the Government, particularly with respect to the dairying industry, over the past 24 months. These policies have eroded the capacity of the industry to survive and, at the same time, downgraded the opportunities of dairy farmers to maintain a satisfactory standard of living within the industry. Since this Government was elected the dairying industry has been clearly in the sights of the Government with respect to repressive and discriminatory policy actions. The position of the dairying industry would be much worse but for recent movements in export prices.
The Opposition supports the program enunciated in this Bill. It supports a broadening of the marginal dairy farm reconstruction scheme. It supports the provision of interest free loans to suppliers to enable them to change to refrigerated bulk milk delivery. It supports the provision of interest free loans to help dairy factories in this respect. It supports also the relocation assistance to displaced dairy farmers and dairy factory workers. However, before considering this Bill in finer detail, it is most necessary to look at the position of the dairying industry at this moment.
Since the mid 1960s there has been a marked decline in the number of people engaged in the dairying industry. The number of dairy farm managers, both male and female, has declined by about 30 per cent while the number of employees on dairy farms has declined by more than 60 per cent. Associated with this decline has been a marginal retreat in whole milk production. The level of the decline is particularly disturbing. This is because there are large and significantly important areas of Australia which are dependent on the industry not only for income but also as a force for decentralisation. My electorate of Lyne is one that is particularly affected in this regard.
Much of the decline that has occurred in the number of people engaged in the dairying industry at the dairy farm level has taken place in the past 2 years. For instance, in New South Wales alone, in the past year 1,200 dairy farmers have left the industry. They have left the industry mainly because of the policies of the Federal Government which have restricted their ability to survive within the industry.
– The figure is 1 ,900 in Victoria.
– As is pointed out by my colleague, the honourable member for Mallee, the figure in Victoria is 1,900. Consequently, in the current environment of rising unemployment, the opportunities for these people to pursue meaningful employment within the areas in which they formerly resided have been severely restricted. It was because of this problem that I asked the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) by way of question the other day for special and particular attention to be given to this problem facing primary producers. I personally hope that the provision of relocation assistance to the industry for displaced dairy farmers and dairy factory workers within the industry will ensure that these affected people will be able to obtain training suitable to their aspirations and employment opportunities in the area in which they live. This, 1 believe, also is a most important and vital factor. These people have ties and interests in these areas. When consideration is being given to this factor; it is necessary that thought be given to allowing these people to remain within the area in which in so many instances they have spent all of their lives.
We in the Opposition support a positive policy program for the industry. There are many aspects of this Bill which derive from the original policy proposals of the Opposition Parties. For 2 years now we have been advocating assistance to enable a wider level of bulk milk collection from dairy farms and a wider measure of bulk milk handling within dairy factories. The assistance provided by the Government in this respect in this Bill is totally in line with the policy that we enunciated in 1 972 and again in 1 974.
We also fully support the broadening of the marginal dairy farm reconstruction scheme into a more comprehensive dairy adjustment scheme. Let me quote what we said in our policy in. May 1974. The Country Party stated:
We fully support the dairy farm buildup scheme. As well, we will examine means of assisting farmers in the lower profit dairying regions and so allow them to improve the economy of their operations.
We also fully support the extension of relocation assistance to the industry. We recognise this as a vitally important aspect more particularly now because of the Government’s discriminatory policies which have brought the spectre of unemployment to the. dairy producing areas of Australia. ‘ The provision of this assistance under the structural adjustment program of the Government has to be welcomed because of the alarming situation which has developed in terms of the number of people involved in the industry. Many of the problems which have developed in the industry have been compounded by the fact that the industry is facing a critical cost price squeeze. Since 1972 the overall level of prices received by dairy farmers for their products has increased by less than one per cent. In the same time, production costs on dairy farms have risen by 25 per cent to 30 per cent. These figures were disclosed in the Prices Justification Tribunal hearing into the dairying industry, which received evidence that pointed out that the Government’s high inflationary policies were widening poverty within the industry.
Although since that hearing there has been a change by the Tribunal of its attitude towards price increase applications by the dairying industry, it is important to remember that no farm industry can survive in an environment of rising production costs exceeding 25 per cent per year while prices received for its products are increasing by only one per cent per year. This, I think, is something which should cause concern not only to the industry and perhaps to those who are interested in primary production but to all sections of the Australian community. As we have pointed out on so many occasions, prosperity within the dairying industry and the rest of primary industry is of vital interest and importance not only to those industries but also to the whole of the Australian community. The dairying industry is a most basic factor in the economic stability of the land.
Consideration is being given now to the problems of food in the world. Recently a conference was held in Rome at which consideration was given to facing up to the problem of looking after the underdeveloped countries and those other countries which have food problems. This is, as I said, of even greater importance to Australia at this moment. I have said it before and I will reiterate it. We talk about an energy crisis. Might I also point out that we are facing a food crisis which in importance is as vital as the energy crisis not only to Australia but to the world.
– To all nations.
– As my colleague, the honourable member for Calare has said, it is vital to all nations. He has written an extremely good paper on this subject which he presented at a recent annual conference which he attended. I commend his comments to all honourable members.
This Bill has the widespread support of the State governments and of dairy industry organisations. Information I have received from a wide spectrum of the industry indicates that the people involved are most eagerly awaiting the introduction of this Bill. However, I think there are some points that have been made to me by the industry on which the Government should reply. These include the provision of assistance to dairy farmers who have already accomplished the objectives of the Bill and whether they should be permitted to utilise finance made available in this Bill, to complete expansion programs. I believe that this should be the case, and I ask the Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wriedt) to give this area of concern sympathetic consideration in any future discussions he may have with representatives of the dairy industry.
Another point that has been raised with me is that there should be an emphasis on assistance to dairy farmers for the replacement of small vats with larger refrigerated vats. The objective of this would be to save on transport costs and lower capital expenditure involved in transportation to the factories. I am sure that this is a point which we really do not need to emphasise because transport costs, particularly at this time, are one of the greatest contributing factors in the problem facing the primary producer. I would like to point out that many of the farmers who have remained in the industry have survived because they have increased the size of their herds. The trend towards increasing herds, together with the wider use of mechanisation in the industry plus, of course, the demand for the installation of larger vats will increase significantly. In anybody’s language, that is economic sense. Therefore, I believe that there is a need, when assistance is being given to farmers who are installing vats, that the decision be taken bearing in mind the optimum productive capacity of the farm, and the capacity of the vat should be tied to this optimum capacity. In many areas, refrigerated vats have already been installed on many farms. However, those vats are now close to being inadequate to meet the needs of the farmer. I also know of instances where refrigerated vats have been installed, but they do not meet the standards set down by the Standards Association of Australia. Standard ASN 46 details the standards for refrigerated vats of the Association. I believe that in the interests of the people who will have to buy larger vats or, alternatively, replace their existing vats in the near future, under the provisions of this Bill, interest free loans should be made available to allow them to make that change. The Opposition will be moving amendments which I hope will have the support of the Government.
I turn now to assistance for dairy factories. I welcome the provision that interest free loans will be made available for assistance as necessary to factories, stemming from the move towards the installation of refrigerated bulk delivery systems on dairy farms. However, I believe that the Bill needs to go further. Honourable members will be aware that throughout the industry, mainly as a result of increasing farm productivity, mechanisation of delivery and the cost economics which can be achieved from the rationalisation of dairy farm operations, there is a need wherever possible to encourage rationalisation. Much of the total cost structure involved in the dairy industry from the farm to the consumer is tied up at the dairy factory level. A lot of the cost could be overcome by rationalisation of dairy factory operations. Over the past 40 years, Australia has seen a decline in the number of dairy factories. I am sure that we are all aware that in certain areas there are dairy factories which should be amalgamated or phased out of production so as to create more efficient utilisation of factory resources within the industry. This has been happening in many areas as farm management and dairy factory co-operative management get together in an endeavour to overcome some of the problems that are confronting the industry.
People who criticise what they call the lack of efficiency in primary production should take the time to go round some of the dairying areas and see the steps that are being taken and that have been taken by the primary producers themselves and by their management in an endeavour to make their industry even more efficient than it has been in the past and to cope with the rising costs, over many of which the primary producers have no control. Consequently, because of these factors, we intend to amend the Bill to allow for the making of loans by the States or an authority of the State concerned with this Bill, to the owners of dairy factories where those loans can be used to introduce wider economic rationalisation within the industry at the factory level and in the best interests of the industry. I sincerely hope that the Government will support that concept. Whilst in many respects this legislation has the strong support of the Opposition, we recognise the fact that although this legislation is a contribution towards assisting the dairy industry, many of the problems of the dairy industry have been caused by the policy of the present Government. I hope the Government will accept the amendments and the suggestions made by the. Opposition to improve tins Bill to make it of even greater value and assistance to the dairy industry.
- Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Do you consider that if the dairy farmers pulled together they would have a greater chance of surviving?
-No point of order arises.
-First of all, I would like to say that I am very pleased that there is no opposition from honourable members opposite to this measure. All they want is just a little bit more. I would guess that the attitude of the Government on this matter is that with restricted funds of course we have to give first priority to those with the most need. I am sure we are all very interested in the contribution of the honourable member for Lyne (Mr Lucock). I am very appreciative of the fact that before I became a member of this Parliament the honourable member for Lyne maintained an association with dairying people in my electorate, and I trust that he continues to maintain this association. The people in Macarthur who are involved in dairying form the largest primary industry in my electorate. I am very appreciative of the hospitability they extend to me. As a matter of fact, at the last election I doubled my vote at one of their polling booths. For years I had been getting only 2 votes out of eighty-seven, and at the last election I got four.
The Bill indicates the Labor Government ‘s approach to an industry with long term problems. They are not problems that have been caused simply by the Labor Government. They are problems that have been around for a very long time. Dairy industry prospects locally and on the export market have been long recognised, even prior to the mid-1960s. Farmers have been leaving the dairying industry at a rapid rate in common with farmers in other industries. The industry with which I was associated before entering Parliament was losing farmers at the rate of about 1,000 a year over quite a period of the mid-60s and yet production was still rising.
Not enough attention has been given to the long term problems of the dairy industry. This was especially so until the introduction of the original dairy farm reconstruction scheme in relation to which the co-operation of the States has been excellent. The Australian Government is finding no difficulty in gaining the co-operation of the States. We do not hear talk about centralism or about galloping socialism. This is an example of where the Australian Government and the State . governments can work well together in solving an industry problem. Quite clearly the present legislation builds on the previous legislation. I point out that also it extends and eclipses the marginal concept which was inherent in the previous legislation. It does this by introducing a concept which I suppose is best described as giving more attention to the uneconomic aspects of the dairying industry. The previous scheme helped over 600 farmers over a period of 4 years. At the time it was very good. But this Government has seen that not only is it desirable to build on existing legislation but also that in recognising a different situation the Government has needed to come up with wider provisions. That is what this Bill has done.
I suppose that one could say the broad aim is to consolidate at a reasonable income level those farmers in the industry who can certainly be consolidated and to assist those non-viable fellows in the industry in the long term to get out and to establish themselves in other industries. To build on the previous legislation we need to have continued State co-operation. I think it is wise to build on the existing legislation because the farmers understand it and because the procedures have been well established. Of interest to farmers in my electorate is the aspect of widening which will include liquid milk, the provisions allowing stock build-up and of carry-on finance. Under the suppliers change-over provisions in the cream supply legislation, suppliers will be subject to a viability test. They can get refrigeration vats and therefore make themselves eligible for higher prices and get the benefits of the price for solid non-fat. This also is of particular interest to some people in my electorate. I am quite sure that it is of particular interest to people right up the New South Wales coast. I reiterate briefly what the program comprises. As we all know, it is producer oriented. It is to be for another 2 years, during which time we hope to have for the dairying industry further measures of assistance which will be more constructive in terms of the Industry Assistance Commission’s recommendations. At present it is processing various submissions. A part of the Bill deals with interestfree loans. These are available to owners of dairy farms to assist in the change-over to refrigerated bulk milk supplies. The purpose of the loans include the purchase and installation of refrigerated vats, necessary modifications to dairy and power supply and the construction of on-farm access roads. The loans are retrospective to 23 July 1973, which was the date on which the Government announced the phase-out of the dairy bounty. The State administering authority takes over the balance of the outstanding loans and reimburses interest payments. The loans are subject to State authorities being satisfied that the applicant has a reasonable prospect of long term viability with such assistance.
I turn now to loans to dairy factories. These loans are available where alterations to premises are required or where plant and equipment has to be purchased to provide facilities for suppliers to change over to refrigerated bulk milk supply. These loans are generally limited to receival facilities but in special circumstances- for example, King Island- these may be extended to processing equipment. The loans are conditional on finance not being readily available on reasonable terms from normal commercial sources. There are a lot of other measures too. They include a comprehensive range of assistance to enable uneconomic dairy farms to be upgraded to viable, self-sustaining units. This measure provides for re-allocation assistance to displaced dairy farmers and dairy factory workers. In relation to this a sum of $3,000 is talked about as an extra means of assisting people who have decided to leave the industry, who have some equity in their farms and who already have some funds as the result of their decision.
Special measures in this Bill relate to liquid milk suppliers. They include measures of assistance for direct conveyancing in the amalgamation of land. There are measures which will assist the write-off of redundant assets on the home property. This measure was previously confined to acquired property. There is assistance to develop uneconomic dairy farms into economic units, other than by whole farm build-up. An example is by paddock purchases or by finance for clearing land, improving pastures or water supply. There is also provision for diversification of dairy land, 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. There is provision of finance for build-up procedures to develop more readily the full potential of the enlarged property; that is loans for property development, purchase of livestock and equipment. There is also assistance for displaced dairy factory workers. This is being covered by structural adjustment measures which will apply to factory workers generally.
As the honourable member for Lyne has said, we all welcome these measures. The Bill mentions some $43m. This amount includes the $15m which was spent of the $25m which was allocated by the previous Government for the marginal dairy farm reconstruction scheme. For technical reasons the $28m which this Government is now allocating to the dairy adjustment area is also included in this Bill. Hence we have a situation where $28m will be allocated for the next 2 years whereas in the last 4 years $ 1 5 m was spent. So this is almost double the amount of funds which were made available to the dairy industry. As well we are widening the provisions for it. I have spoken of the long term problems of the dairying industry and of the Australian people’s awareness of the problems over a long period. I think that what the coalition did was rather inadequate. What we are now doing really is not too little, too late. I have always been critical of the previous bounty arrangement whereby, as honourable members are well aware, 67 per cent of the available funds went to Victoria. I think approximately 12 per cent went to Tasmania with less than 10 per cent going to the other States. Queensland, with the biggest problem in dairy reconstruction, received the least help. It may be of interest to compare some of the figures with respect to the average amount received in bounty payments from farms in the various States. New South Wales received approximately $538 per farm; Victoria received some $993; Queensland, $424; South Australia, $510; Western Australia, $521; and Tasmania, $800. Even with this sort of bounty assistance the long term trend of farmers getting out of the industry was still continuing.
I have been a little critical of the fact that this Government introduced a 2-year phase-out of the bounty. Seeing that at that stage we were in the first year of a 5-year stabilisation period, I thought that a longer period of phase-out was certainly desirable. Three years would have been better and, perhaps, 4 years would have been most desirable. But, in any event, when we phase out assistance to an industry there needs to be substituted measures of assistance which are immediately available. It has been 17 months since we began to phase out the 2-year bounty period. This Bill now plugs the deficiency. I think restructuring in the industry was long overdue, but I think I am warranted in being a little critical when I say that we should have had these measures a lot quicker. New Zealand has shown what can be done when the Government sets out to restructure the industry in the interests of the New Zealand people, the national interest and the interest of the farmers themselves. The industries assistance reference gives producers a chance to show this body what they really need by way of longer term assistance in the future. I think there is need for the Bureau of Agricultural Economics to give farm bodies, which are putting in submissions, a fair amount of back-up information and some help in compiling submissions.
I was a little concerned recently when I saw that the Prices Justification Tribunal was critical of some of the submissions put forward when the price of butter was being discussed. It seemed to me that some of the criticism implied that the dairy industry was being a little dishonest. I do not go along with that. In dairying the situation changes all the time, particularly in respect of the price being received overseas. The Prices Justification Tribunal is a powerful body but I think it is also remote and bureaucratic. Often it is totally dependent on the strength of the submissions put before it. If we have bodies such as the Prices Justification Tribunal I think it is important that the Government recognises not only the strength and virtues but also the weaknesses of such bodies and that it tries to help a little more people who are coming before it.
In the time available I shall emphasise some of the background figures to the dairying industry which have given me reason to say that the problems have been of a long term nature. That is the reason why this Bill is directed not so much to the marginal aspects of the industry but more to uneconomic aspects of it. I have had some figures prepared by the Department of Agriculture to show the number of farmers who have gone out of the industry over the last 4 years. I seek leave to have the table incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
– In 1970 there were 48,420 licensed dairy farms in Australia. By 1974 the number was estimated to be down to 34,140. If we look at the 10-year figures we see a more dramatic situation. In 1960 it is estimated that there were 1 17,750 dairy farmers of any classification. By 1 97 1 the number was down to 54,860- a drop of about 53 per cent. The figures indicate that farms are becoming bigger- that is, more and more farmers are leaving the industry yet production is remaining the same due to the fact that farms are becoming bigger. We see that the number of farms with 100 cows or more rose from 10,129 in 1960 to about 13,371 in 1971, and that the number of farms with 200 head of cattle or more rose from 903 in 1960 to 2,027 in 1 97 1 . So the trends are very clear.
At the same time, due to the market forces acting on the dairying industry, this year will probably be one of the lowest production years for butter for quite a while. This has been caused mainly by weather factors and also by shifts in the structure of the dairying industry itself. Butter production in 1972-73 was 184,582 tonnes. Last year, 1973-74, it was estimated to be 175,230 tonnes. Other estimates put it as low as 155,000 tonnes. In the year ahead we expect a lowering of that figure.
Let us look at a paper on reorganisation of the industry. Some time ago a group of economists looked at the dairying industry and pointed out that if one-sixth of the smallest dairy farms were removed from the industry there would be only a 2 per cent reduction in production yet there would be a 58 per cent increase in return to the producer, but if the acres and cows were averaged between all the producers in the industry the net income would be reduced by 18 per cent. Admittedly, this was a theoretical exercise, but it indicates the basic logic of the scheme before the House and any primary industry scheme where a proper restructuring is being attempted. It also shows the problems of the brutal principle of ‘get big or get out’. Although this Government does not accept that doctrine, the object of this Bill is mainly to seek ways and means of helping people to restructure themselves at a viable level or to get out humanely. I think this is the logic behind most trends in primary industry, particularly where the capitalisation is not of a very high order.
If we look at market trends overall we see a picture which shows the desirability of reconstruction of the whole industry. There is a fear in the industry, and also in my electorate, that as so many people are leaving the dairying industry city supplies of wholemilk will be threatened. From the figures available to me I do not think this will occur, but some people are concerned that, with the pressure of the cities on land around the cities particularly and with the pressure on farms to change to other more productive avenues of production, in future our whole milk supplies may not be as secure as they are now and the consuming public will not receive the benefit of the pricie of milk that they receive at present. That may be a good thing. I have always believed that farmers should receive the true value of their product.
The way the State authorities fix prices for farmers is somewhat deficient. However, we need to have a balanced picture of the way in which the dairying industry faces the rest of the world. It is more a question of market adjustment than fears about the future of production of any one commodity. We know that the butter market is very sensitive to world trends. It is particularly sensitive to the trading stance of the European Economic Community countries and the United States of America. Many of the influences affecting world demand for manufactured dairy products are very similar to the influences on the Australian market. In Australia the consumption of butter is steadily fading away. It is nowhere near what it used to be. This indicates a change in consumer tastes. For example, in the case of butter there is a world wide movement away from the consumption of yellow fats and a strong competition from substitute products such as margarine. In many areas there is a strong upward trend in the consumption of cheese in response to rising incomes and changing tastes.
In summary, the immediate outlook for dairy products, including butter, appears reasonably favourable. So we have to take a balanced approach to the future of the industry. That is why I feel that this Bill is so good in allowing people within the industry to restructure their form of production to the one that is most apt for their region. There will be a gradual expansion in domestic requirements for market milk, and this can be expected over a long term, while market prospects for cheese, skim milk powder and to a lesser extent casein are also favourable. On the other hand, the long term outlook for the principal manufactured item- butter and butterfat products- is less encouraging. This has implications for butter by-products such as skim milk powder and casein. As recent experience has shown, the situation in the international market, which has a most important influence on the Australian industry, can alter markedly in a relatively short period of time as a result of seasonal conditions and modifications in the policies of major producing and trading countries. With regard to the latter, the future production and trading policies pursued by the enlarged EEC will be especially important to the Australian dairying industry.
What I have tried to say is that there is a need for a balanced approach. There is no reason for fear about the future of the dairying industry. For a very long time there has been a great need for a Bill of this type. I commend it to the House.
– I listened with a great deal of interest to the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Kerin). I take a similar approach to the one he took initially in his speech, that all these problems in this legislation, as was the case in the debate in July, must be viewed against the background of the real need in the dairying industry for structural reform. Any legislation produced by the Government must keep that concept well and truly in mind. I voiced criticisms in July during the last debate on this topic. My belief is that the Government has departed from its early blythe words and good thoughts about a national approach to structural reform in the dairying industry. I for one was not pleased, during the election campaign in May, to find Australian Labor Party supporters running away from this problem and stating that they believed in a State by State approach to the dairying industry.
Let us look at the economics of the industry. I think it is fair that these matters should be raised. There is now either a phasing out or in some cases a complete removal of the dairy subsidythe bounty on cheese, the bounty on butter, the bounty on processed milk and, probably of even greater importance the removal of the superphosphate subsidy which is due to take place at the tail end of this month. One must take these economic factors into account before one can assess whether the majority of dairy farms as they exist in this country today can be economic. I suppose one could add to that the merging problem of the increase in State Government charges for fuel and electricity. I for one on a dairy farm in South Australia will have to look very carefully at the amount of pasture I can afford to irrigate during the coming year. That is due largely to the economic policies of this Government which has forced the State governments to increase charges.
I know of a dairy farmer near me who has 65 acres in the Meadows area who received a land tax bill last month for over $ 1 ,000. It is with that sort of background in mind that we must view Bills of this nature that seek to restructure an industry on the national level.
The third background point I make before dealing with the actual Bill itself is that this legislation got under way in the 1 970-7 1 period under a Liberal-Country Party government. It has had a good effect. I will not repeat figures I used only a few months ago to indicate what has been spent in reconstructing marginal dairy farms but this legislation has had an impact. It had a particular impact when the market place price for meat encouraged farmers to swing from dairy cows to the production of beef. In my concluding remarks in the speech I made last July I besought the Government not to run away with the idea that any reconstruction scheme for the dairying industry was necessarily the only means of inducing people to leave that industry. I said that if economic times became more difficult they would probably try to seep back again. I fear we have reached that stage.
– What do producers get for surplus milk in South Australia? Has South Australia a quota system?
– No, it does not have quotas. The honourable member has asked a difficult question. In South Australia we have a milk supply scheme different from that of any other State. The honourable member may sidetrack me if I take too long in answering his question. However I have outlined the background at which we need to look. Does this Bill encourage uneconomic dairy farmers out of the industry or does it prop up those farmers who under reconstruction should have left the industry? The honourable member of Macarthur (Mr Kerin), who preceded me in this debate, said that we should give first and foremost to dairy farmers who are in need. That is an attractive proposition. He said we should look after such farmers, but can any honourable member tell me what the blazes is the use of trying to remove from the industry farmers who are not viable, through reconstruction measures, and at the same time trying to prop them up? There is a certain amount of economic chicanery and nonsense about this proposal.
The honourable member for Macarthur referred also to the brutality of the ‘Get big or get out’ suggestion. I think one can appreciate that there are cases where that suggestion would be a bit brutal. I have outlined the background to this legislation and have mentioned changing economic circumstances. The only hope of the industry being viable with changing and increasing costs is surely for those within it to get big, and to get pretty big. I personally sold a herd of wellknown pedigreed Jersey cattle 2 months ago because 1 could not afford, while 1 was stuck in
Canberra, to have 3 men employed full time looking after 100 milkers. I am not at all sure that the future viability of the dairying industry is not related to far bigger dairy herds than that. Of course, a dairy farm must have sufficient land to be able to cope with expansion. I suggest we should carefully consider the consequences of adopting such an emotional phrase as ‘look first and foremost after those in need ‘ because I think there is a certain conflict of logicality in this argument which is apt to make nonsense of what the Parliament is trying to do in a Bill which, in many other ways, is worth while.
On, I think 8 April, the Minister for Northern Development (Dr Patterson) announced that $28m would be provided as assistance for the dairying industry. It was difficult for the Minister to introduce a Bill at that time because of the then forthcoming election, but the House should recall that we last debated this matter in July. I do not know whether that Bill, which we spent some time debating, has reached the Senate. It has not been passed. The honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie) is looking somewhat excited but I assure him that Senator Wriedt, in answer to a question by Senator Rae, as reported in Hansard, said that to date no payments have been made to dairy farmers from the assistance announced on 8 April. That question was asked on behalf of dairy farmers in Tasmania, but that was the answer given. 1 can understand the election interrupting a program between 8 April and late July but it is straining the credulity of all when no attempt has been made to put into effect that marginal dairy farm legislation.
-What about the State governments?
-That may well be a valid point. After all, there is a peculiar government in South Australia. I make the point that the Government made an announcement in April and built up the hopes of dairy farmers. It introduced a Bill in July and built up their hopes again. It seems to be rather political that dairy farmers should not have received any physical benefit from applications for assistance they may have lodged months ago. The Minister’s second reading speech attempts to explain the delay and I partially accept what was said but I point out the attitude of those people who have applied for aid. In July Opposition members made several points. The first related to background economic measures or actions that I have already described. The second point concerned the need for a national government to have a national look at the problem and stop worrying about State boundaries. The third point was that in that
Bill there was nothing to rationalise the rash of dairy factories in certain older dairying areas. At that time the Opposition said that the entire cost structure of the dairying industry was affected by having dairy factories every mile or two, as is the situation in some parts of Australia, when none of those factories was economic. The resultant increased costs are borne directly by the dairy farmers but they have a strong rub-off on consumers.
At that time we besought the Government, when it introduced further legislation, to make provision to encourage the cutting back of the number of uneconomic dairy factories in this nation so that we could start to have some proper structural change at a level where it might have more effect than at the grass roots level. To my horror when I examined this Bill I found no such encouragement. I am glad that the Opposition proposes to move an amendment to cover this aspect. I do not know what its final wording will be but it aims to establish arrangements whereby the States or State authorities will be able to make loans to owners of dairy factories to enable the economic rationalisation of those factories. I wholeheartedly support that proposition. It is vital in any restructuring to try to solve the problem.
I imagine that the Minister for Northern Development would probably say that as a believer in free enterprise I would encourage people to set up dairy factories wherever they wished, but I believe we have gone beyond that stage in the dairying industry. Many of these factories are co-operatives and this rather compromises a pure laissez faire attitude to the problem. Perhaps now that I come to think of it, that is why there is no such provision in this Bill. I can imagine a Cabinet meeting of present Ministers with one Minister saying ‘We will take them over and amalgamate and nationalise them’; another Minister saying ‘We cannot do that; they belong to the farmers’, and finally Cabinet saying ‘Perhaps we had better not touch it at all’. The Opposition approach is to give encouragement to rationalising this plethora of factories in some areas of Australia by making funds available to the States for that purpose.
– Have you a few shares in them?
– The honourable member is renowned- I saw it printed somewhere, I think- as being one of the major shareholders in Broken Hill Pty Co. I expect that that is about as true as the contention he made about me. If I might just continue with my comments on the Bill, I do not intend to go over all the clauses with which the Opposition is in agreement. There are many clauses, many of them in extension of the policy and the legislation we ourselves brought down. I have no complaint with the fact that the Government has succeeded in broadening this legislation. I have some little complaint based on the give-to-those-in-need attitude which I have described. I do not really see why those who have used economies in their dairy farms and have already established themselves with refrigerated vats should be disadvantaged against some lax individual who has not used economies on his farm and still needs a refrigerated vat. But that is a rather localised sociological problem, I expect, and people in any one dairy locality will look with some horror from one farm to the next in relation to it. For all I know, there might be big areas of the north coast of New South Wales of which I am not completely aware where this across the board treatment may be necessary. So I am not grinding that point unduly, except in relation to the original point I made that one has to look at the proper overall economies of the situation; that, I am in agreement with.
I listened with great interest to the honourable member for Lyne (Mr Lucock) describe to the House the problem of Australian standards and a definition of what is a properly constituted refrigerated vat and what is not. I gathered from the honourable member that he is also going to add flavour to the product by moving an amendment along these lines. Of course I would support that proposition, no matter what the flavour. Furthermore, there are other aspects of the Bill, which I will not weary the House by reciting, and which have already been mentioned by 2 speakers, to which I give complete support.
I finish on the rather tough note that the Bill carries on the thinking in round terms of the past Liberal-Country Party Government. The imagination in terms of this Bill has been left to the Opposition. I do not believe that the Government has used a lot of imagination at all and, as I have attempted to describe, it has missed out on one of the principal reasons, one of the most important reasons for structural reform in the dairy industry; I have already referred to the rationalisation of an undue number of factories. I do not think it is to the credit of the Government that it has not decided to take any line at all, let alone a tough one, on this matter. I beseech the Government to take a national approach because I do regard this Bill, as I did the last Bill, as being a sort of pettifogging bits and pieces legislation not very greatly to the Government’s credit but legislation that will be easily acceptable to and admired by the dairy industry.
– It is certainly most encouraging to have an Opposition supporting a rural measure introduced by a Labor government. After all the months and months of bashings we have received from it, the criticisms and the misrepresentations of our rural policy, it is good that at last we are on the same railway line and agreeing to a measure of this nature. Both the honourable member for Lyne (Mr Lucock) and the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) have been 95 per cent in support of this measure.
– It is good to see you bringing yourself up to date.
– Yes, we actually are coming up to date. It was the attitude of the dairy farmers at the last election which hit the Government the hardest because the dairy farmers responded very emotionally to the news that the subsidy was to be phased out over 2 years, which would take it to the end of 1975. 1 was against a 2-year phase-out. I thought it should have been a 4-year phase-out, as did most of the members of the Government Members Resources Committee. The’ Minister too wanted a 4-year phase-out but the Cabinet decided on a period of 2 years, and the industry was very upset at the time of the last election. I hope that as a result of this measure we will restore the confidence of the butterfat producers particularly, within the dairy industry, because they are the hardest hit of all.
The honourable member for Angas criticised the early introduction of this measure but the late arrival of it in the House. The reason for that is that this is a consolidation measure consolidating 2 other marginal dairy farm schemes that were operating earlier this year. On 9 May, during the election campaign, the Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wriedt) spelt out the details of the free of interest loan to the dairy industry and it has taken quite a time to get it into legislative form because there is a tremendous amount of detail required in spelling out the principles. Mr Earl Hoffman, of the Australian Department of Agriculture, is the key man administering this scheme at departmental level. He is a wonderful chap, tremendously knowledgeable, easy to talk to, and I have received a lot of help from him in the last 4 months as I have answered questions from dairy farmers in my electorate. I pay a tribute to Earl Hoffman for the tremendous amount of work he has done on this measure, dotting the i’s and crossing the t’S and so on in this legislation.
This Bill embraces the most comprehensive and the most effective assistance to any rural industry in recent times, and with the phase-out of the dairy subsidy at the end of 1975 this level of assistance is wholly warranted. The industry deserves it; the industry needs it.
The butterfat producers are the lowest paid of all primary producers. This segment of the industry is almost completely tied to the dairy factories, and the previous speaker spent quite a lot of time discussing this aspect. Prices paid for butterfat run the gauntlet of the factory cost and profit structure and of the operation of the equalisation system. Butterfat prices have risen only marginally over the last 15 years. In fact, the prices being received in 1974 are very similar to the prices the butterfat producers received 20 years ago in 1954, and this is not good enough when their costs have gone up by 100 per cent in that period. That is why I am very concerned about the butterfat producers. They are the depressed section of the dairy industry. They work probably the hardest too, and they deserve a better go than they have been getting. The dairy assistance plan aims at lifting the butterfat producer out of stagnation and giving him an interest free loan whereby he will be able to purchase a suitable vat to enable him to go into bulk or whole milk production and thus receive a higher price for his product. Ancillary expenditure is also on the interest-free basis. The fact is that the Bill is timed perfectly for this operation. I envisage a very big decline in butterfat production in the next 2 years and a very large increase in bulk milk supplies. One might ask: Is this possible? Can the factory side of the industry, the manufacturing side, handle the big increase in bulk milk that will be pouring into factories? The interesting point about this is that in the last few years there has been a great increase in demand in Asia and in other countries for the by-products of milk. Each year this demand is growing and we need more and more bulk milk to supply the by-products section of our manufacturing industry. I feel that it will be no trouble at all in disposing of the bulk milk production which the dairy farmers will switch to when they accept the industry ‘s free loan system to switch over.
– They are getting a good price for their pigs now.
-Yes, they are getting an excellent price for their pigs at present.
– They are in my area.
– I have had many inquiries about this plan from dairymen anxious to accept the interest free loan system. The dairy industry has suffered bigger setbacks over the past 10 years than any other Australian industry. More than 28,000 dairymen have left this industry in the past 10 years. This is in spite of the dairy subsidy of $27m which the Federal Government has been paying for many, many years.
– How much?
– An amount of $27m a year has been paid by way of subsidy. Yet in spite of that 28,000 men have left the industry. This plan is designed to pour in assistance at the point of greatest need whereas the subsidy system meant that in many cases the dairymen who did not need assistance received the subsidy. Anyway, 67 per cent of it was going to Victoria. The dairymen in that State were lucky in that respect.
– Are you against the subsidy?
– I am not against the subsidy being paid where it is needed most but it should not be paid to men who do not need it. The scheme that is before us in this measure will provide a broadening of the marginal dairy farms reconstruction scheme into a more comprehensive dairy adjustment scheme- a $28m scheme, in fact; Interest free loans will be made available to suppliers to change over to refrigerated bulk milk delivery with concurrent assistance as necessary to factories. It also provides for relocation assistance to displaced dairy farmers and dairy farm workers. Further, it provides for interest free loans to be made available to all of those who have switched over to vats since 23 July 1973.
Some specific measures contained in the program are the inclusion of liquid milk suppliers; direct conveyancing in the amalgamation of land; write-off of redundant assets on home property- this was previously confined to acquired property; and interest free loans for changeover to refrigerated bulk milk delivery with repayment periods being flexible to meet individual circumstances. There is no other industry in Australia receiving interest free loans. I hope that the dairy industry appreciates this point. Each individual dairyman can arrange with the State authority how much he pays back and over what period payments will be made. These arrangements are flexible. Another interesting feature about the program is that a dairy farmer is to be recompensed for any payment which is outstanding on a vat that he has purchased. Also, the interest that he has paid on his vat to his local bank will be met by the Government. This is a very important aspect of the scheme. If a dairyman bought a vat in
January this year for $4,500, which is the average price paid for these very special vats, and he has paid $500 off the capital and $300 in interest to his local bank, under the scheme he will receive back the amount paid in interest and will pay off the remainder of his loan interest free. This part of the program is retrospective to July 1973. It is a most generous scheme and it means that hundreds of men who switched over in the last 16 months will be eligible for assistance.
The program also proposes that assistance be given to develop uneconomic dairy farms into economic units other than by whole-farm build up, that is, by paddock purchases or by finance to clear land, improve pastures, water supply and so on. It provides for 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. It provides for finance for built up producers to develop more readily the full potential of the enlarged property, loans for property development, purchase of livestock and equipment and so on. It also provides for the relocation assistance for displaced dairy farmers and help to dairy farmers to cope with the increase in bulk milk intake.
The local State reconstruction committees will have a big job to do because every individual case, of course, will be dealt with individually. The scheme does not have a means test. As long as the farm is viable and it is going well there will be no question about its being assisted. If it is discovered that the farm might last only 6 months I doubt whether the farm would get assistance. But no strict means test will apply to the interest free loan or even to the other loans that are mentioned in the legislation. It is sufficient that a farm is a going concern. In such a case the dairy farmer will get his loan interest free. The State authority in Tasmania that has been selected to handle the scheme is the Agricultural Bank in Hobart, the manager of which is Mr Peter Rowland who is also in charge of several other rural schemes introduced by the Federal Government. He is an expert in this field and a good man for the job.
– He is a decent man?
– Yes, excellent. Finally, I want to mention some of the positive sides of our rural program of which the program now before us is a part. In the last Budget, for instance, we outlaid $488m-$150m more than the last LiberalCountry Party Government did, and a . net increase of $88m over the 1973-74 Budget provision. An amount of $56m has been allocated for an animal health laboratory in Geelong; $28m is to be made available to the dairy reconstruction scheme outlined in this legislation; $40m is being spent in the first advance on wheat $28m is being spent on rural reconstruction overall; $45 m is being spent on the National Disaster Fund; $ 11.5m is being spent this year on the isolated children’s allowance throughout country districts; $21m is being allocated this year to rural universities- it was only $6m in 1972; $47m is being allocated this year to colleges of advanced education in rural areas- it was only $ 12m in 1972; and $880m or 46 per cent of our expenditure on social security payments goes to rural districts. The 12 per cent devaluation will benefit our primary producers by approximately $200m a year. Our tax cuts for people paying tax on income below $10,000 a year will assist many farmers. Mortgage interest payments as tax deductions will also assist. The guaranteed floor price of 250 cents a kilo on 21 micro wool with the Australian Government underwriting the wool industry by $300m because the private banking system could not do it is another important feature of our rural work. We are also underwriting the wheat industry to the tune of $70m a year, with a first advance going up to $1.50.
– I rise to order.
– It is all right, Stephen; I am just about finished. I commend this scheme to the country and to the dairy farmers of Australia as a genuine attempt by this Government to correct the problems of a very wonderful industry.
– I wish to join in this debate and to give support to the Dairy Adjustment Bill that is before the House. We have listened with a good deal of interest to the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie). He seems to be taking a new lease of life in rural affairs these days. I do not know whether it is the chilly political wind that is blowing in Tasmania or the hot breath of farmers on his neck that has provoked this new sense of keenness about the problems of rural industries, particularly the dairy industry. I have never seen another Bill have such a long gestation period as the Bill before us. There has been huffing and puffing, trumpeting and fanfares about what the Government is going to do to assist dairy farm reconstruction, and the provisions that it will make for dairy farmers who are cream suppliers to enable them to convert to bulk milk. The Government has been talking about this for at least 12 months.
– That is not true. It has been since May.
-The Government certainly has been talking about it for a long time. The official announcement may have been made in May but even then the whole dairy industry in Australia thought that it was to apply from that period. Every member from a dairying electorate would have had representations made to him about how the scheme works and how it applies. People have been trying desperately to make a decision as to whether they should remain in the industry or go out of it. I have written letters to the Minister but I have had no explanation back from him as to how the scheme works. At long last, the Bill has come forward. I welcome it. But I want to put forward the qualification that the presentation of this legislation, which is good, after all the propaganda that has been engaged in to try to camouflage the very destructive decisions that the Government has made, is a poor and pitiful way of giving help to the industry.
Basically, this Bill represents a further refinement and adaptation of legislation that the previous Liberal-Country Party Government brought in. There is nothing new about it. There is an extension of previous ideas. I was responsible for introducing on behalf of the previous Government the dairy farm reconstruction scheme. It took many years to gain acceptance both from the industry and State Governments. I believe that there was unnecessary delay in those days. That scheme was introduced and this Bill, I think through the light of experience, refines the scheme, takes out some of the difficulties and inconsistencies and gives greater advantage in areas where it was found that help was needed. This Bill contains a provision to provide interest free money for those farmers who want to change over to the supply of bulk milk. This was a policy decision of the Liberal-Country Party Government during the 1972 election campaign. We announced that $ 10m would be provided for this purpose. It has taken the present Administration 2 years to implement that idea. There has been a tremendous amount of damage and loss of confidence in the industry in the intervening time when farmers hoped that they might have been given help to undertake the conversion.
It is an expensive operation for people to undertake. A good many of the dairy farmers throughout the country are in receipt of low incomes compared with the incomes received by other people in the community. Dairy farmers work very hard and long hours. There are not many people in the community today who are prepared to work the sorts of hours and under the conditions that dairy farmers work. I think that it is about time -
– There is no indexation for them.
-Yes, as the honourable member for Hume (Mr Lusher) mentions, there is no wage indexation for that group of people. It is a pity that there is not indexation for them in order to give them a more comparable reward for their efforts. This is an important sector of the Australian economy. Over the years, dairy farmers have made a major contribution to decentralisation, to giving employment to people and to rearing good hard working families. If the members of those families have not gone onto the land, they have gone to the cities and elsewhere. But they have learned how to work. They know what standards and working conditions are all about, how to earn a decent and fair living, and how to give a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay. The dairy farmers, along with other primary producers, have been the salt of this nation.
But dairy production is going down in this country. This must not be discounted as something rather trivial. Dairy production in this country totalled 170,000 tons last year, which was a low production year in comparison with previous years. It is expected to be 150,000 tons this year. If this trend continues, it will not be too many years before Australia becomes a importer of dairy products. I do not think that is in the long term interests of this nation. I think that if we have a capacity to do so, we ought to try to be self-sufficient in dairy products so that we can guarantee a supply of milk and the production of all the other products for which the dairy industry is responsible.
I regret to say that the Bill before us seems to have missed one section of the industry which has been asking for assistance. 1 refer to factory funds. The Bill provides for funds to be made available to factories for the collection of bulk deliveries. But if factories are to rationalise their production programs and to replace obsolete machinery they desperately need the assistance which they find their income earning capacitythis applies to all of them- is not sufficient to provide. They have made many requests to the Government. The Government has been giving them encouragement that it will do something. It was expected in the industry that the legislation would come forward this session to help dairy factories. However, such provision is not contained in this legislation. It could have been included. It could have been just another clause in the Bill. For that reason, we in the Opposition are moving an amendment. I hope that the Government will give consideration to this amendment.
This section of the industry represents a pretty important integral part of the whole operation of trying to make dairying more viable. The factories are a composite part of this industry and if they can withstand the challenges of competition and the cost-price squeeze then everybody is in a better position. The dairying industry has been going through a very harsh period in recent years. I think this is demonstrated by the number of people who have left the industry. The previous speaker, the honourable member for Wilmot, said that about 28,000 people have left the rural areas. I know that in the last year alone in Victoria something like 17,000 dairy farms went out of production. That is an enormous number in what is really the dairy producing State of Australia. I would like to see this trend arrested because it is not protecting us or giving us any security for the future in being able to meet our domestic needs.
Of course, this trend is diminishing our capacity to meet our export requirements overseas. What is happening is that people have moved out of the dairying industry into beef production. Naturally, many of these people have been very small farmers.
– They now wish that they had not.
– That is absolutely right. They have gone out into beef production and they find that they are in an impossible economic position now that there has been a complete collapse of cattle prices. Some of these people would like to go back into dairying. Unfortunately, this legislation does not provide for them to do so. I would like to see the Government consider changing the legislation so that people who, within the last couple of years at any rate, have been dairy farmers and who went out of the industry into beef production, thinking that it was a more stable and viable industry, but who now want to come back to dairying can do so. These people who have the basic facilities for dairying- the bales and the farm layout- ought to be allowed to have access to these funds. I think the Bill should contain a provision that anybody who has been dairying within the last two or three years- certainly the last 2 years that the present Administration has been talking about, at any rate- ought to be allowed to return to the industry. But as I understand the legislation, if a person has gone out of dairying, even for a short period, that disqualifies him for benefits under this legislation.
On the north coast of New South Wales in areas such as the electorate of Cowper and my electorate, that of Richmond, there has been tremendous flooding. Those farmers who. had dairies on the flat country have been forced out of production by economic circumstances. Many of these people have come to me and said that they would stay in the business if they could get access to funds to buy a bulk vat, for instance, or to put in an access road to bring their dairies up to the standard required by the milk authority concerned. When I have made inquiries on their behalf I have found that they would be disqualified from the scheme because they had given up dairying- were forced out of it- because of seasonal conditions. I would like to see some compassion shown for these people.
Probably one of the most worrying features of dairying- I speak as one who had had some experience- is the continuation of orderly marketing schemes for dairy products in this country. I refer to the stabilistaion schemes that have operated. When the present administration decided to eliminate the dairy industry subsidy and to phase it out over a 3-year period it removed the linchpin which holds together the whole of orderly marketing of dairy products in this country. Today that scheme is under challenge; it is under question. I have a very great fear that if there were a major disparity between overseas prices and local prices for those dairy products that come under the stabilisation arrangement there would be a complete breakdown because there would be nothing to encourage people to remain part of the orderly marketing arrangements. That would throw the whole industry into absolute chaos. It would be a situation of dog eat dog with producers trying to get the best of the local market.
I have just about had enough of politicians in this House and the media criticising forms of assistance and bounty subsidies to rural industries, because in areas where these forms of assistance have been given there has been a real need for it. It is not right to say that the dairy industry subsidy is merely a handout to dairy farmers. If that accusation is made, it could be similarly claimed that it is a subsidy to the Australian consumers which helps to keep the price down. But I argue neither of these points. I say that this subsidy, which has applied since the Second World War, had developed into an essential ingredient of orderly and stabilised marketing. It is the sweetener that encourages people to remain part of the scheme. Now that it is being taken out any small factory operators who can see the advantage of exploiting section 92 of the Constitution by selling across State borders where there can be no control will do so. That will bring about the collapse of orderly marketing. Those people, mostly uninformed or pseudo-academics, who criticise forms of assistance and orderly and stabilised marketing schemes in Australia ought to look at the facts. Wherever we have orderly marketing schemes today the Australian consumer is getting an enormous advantage.
The relative price of butter and cheese in Australia is much lower than in other comparable countries. In Australia we pay, I think, 70c a pound for butter. In Europe and the United States of America the price ranges from $1 to $ 1.50 a pound. The only reason why the price is kept at that level is that we have had this pricing arrangement. The cost increase of dairy products to the Australian consumer is much lower than in most other areas of consumer goods. The actual percentage increase has been lower because of this orderly marketing arrangement.
Take sugar, for instance. I am sure the Minister for Northern Development (Dr Patterson) will agree that the former Government used to be criticised for establishing the CommonwealthQueensland Sugar Agreement. It was claimed that it was compelling Australians to buy dear sugar. What we did was to guarantee the Australian consumers reliable supplies at a dependable price. The people knew exactly what they would have to pay and everybody could gear up to it. As a result, there has not been an increase in the wholesale price of sugar for the last 7 years. The industry has received the same price for sugar sold on the Australian domestic market for 7 years, because of an orderly marketing arrangement. The price of sugar in Australia today is probably the cheapest anywhere in the world. The same story can be told about the wheat industry, for which we have also had orderly marketing arrangements. But all the pundits, the Press and other people -
– I rise on a point of order. We are debating the Dairy Adjustment Bill. What have sugar and wheat to do with that Bill?
-I think it is very relevant.
-The honourable member’s point is well taken. The debate has ranged very widely over the whole rural economy, but I ask the right honourable gentleman to try to return to the provisions of the Bill.
-Yes, Mr Deputy Speaker. I think what I have been saying is relevant because this Bill is to try to make a more viable industry and it is related to marginal dairy farmers and to the collection and distribution of whole milk. It deals with factories and the need for them to be viable. But none of these things can be viable unless it is an integral part of orderly and stabilised marketing arrangements for the dairy industry. I am answering criticism from those people who do not believe in orderly marketing arrangements. The subsidy ingredient has been necessary to maintain orderly marketing arrangements.
I want to finish the point I was developing in relation to the wheat industry. The Australian consumer is getting his wheat at half the price which most other countries are paying on the world market. If there is no recognition of the importance of a subsidy for the dairy industry the whole of orderly marketing is under threat. We hear so often about New Zealand being an efficient producer of dairy products. How many people know that in New Zealand last year $42.256m was paid in subsidy to the milk producers, who of course represent most of the production of the dairy industry. It is believed that this year the subsidy in New Zealand for milk production will climb as high as $59m. The Australian dairy industry should not be discredited for getting a pittance so that in the long term people would know that they could get regular supplies of dairy products at a reasonable price, as my argument has shown quite conclusively.
This piece of legislation is excellent in helping one area of the dairy industry. It contains proposals that were brought forward by the previous Government. The bulk milk supply provision was a policy commitment that we announced in the 1972 election campaign. There is no new thinking by the present Administration in this legislation that was not displayed by the previous Government, although it provides more refinement. There is extreme disappointment in factories in Australia that no funds are made available for the improvement of factory machinery and equipment.
– It is a great pleasure to hear myself described as the salt of the earth by the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony). I am a dairy farmer’s son who learned to work on a dairy farm. I neatly fit the definition of the said salt of the earth which the Leader of the Australian Country Party gave to the House today. The Opposition has complained about the long gestation period that the Dairy Industry Bill has had to suffer. The reason for it is quite simple. Today the Leader of the Australian Country Party took a double barrelled bet. First, he complained about the delay in this matter and then justified the delay in presenting his own Bill on this subject by advancing the same reasons behind the delay in this Bill. The fact is that the delay has been due to negotiations that have gone on between the State governments. The New South Wales Government is running true to form and is still procrastinating. All States have yet to sign the agreement with this Government. So the answer is quite simple; it is a classic case of State obstruction of legislation which receives the full support of all parties in the Australian Parliament. It is these sorts of things that we find the difficulties that the Opposition is confronted with. As I have mentioned, the Leader of the Australian Country Party admitted that he had the same problem when he originally introduced similar Bills many years ago. Nobody on this side of the House has ever claimed that this Bill is an innovation. It has to be seen as a part of the evolutionary refinement that is going on in the dairy industry today. We are proud to be associated with this next stage in that evolution.
Before I leave the comments of the Leader of the Australian Country Party, let me say that the effect of the subsidy on butter can be demonstrated very startlingly if we look at the effect it had on the number of dairy farmers in Australia. In 1970 there were 48,400 dairy farmers. In 1974 the number had fallen to 34,000. 1 wonder what happened to those people in regard to this subsidy? The situation in New South Wales if we go back to the peak year of 1933 was that there were 23,500 dairy farmers. By 1972 the number had fallen to 7,000. In 1974 the number of dairy farmers was down to 5,623. The greatest wastage in numbers of dairy farmers took place between the years 1 969 and 1 97 1 . Here we have a graphic illustration of the way the subsidy helped these people.
– What government was in power then?
– It was the Government for which the Leader of the Australian Country Party spoke. I am indebted for this clarification. I turn to another point of misrepresentation presented to the House by the Leader of the Australian Country Party. He complained that this Bill contained no provision for factory equipment. Let me read to the House clause 16, subclause ( 1 ) of the Bill. I will read it to enshrine this provision in Hansard. The clause provides:
The arrangements may provide for the making of loans by the State or an authority of the State to the owners of dairy factories, being loans for the purpose of meeting, in the case of a particular factory, the whole or a part of the costs incurred by the owner of the factory after I July 1974 in connexion with any alterations (including structural alterations) made, vehicles purchased and plant and equipment purchased and installed after that date, -being alterations, vehicles, plant and equipment-
1 ) that were required to provide adequate facilities-
for the supply of wholemilk as refrigerated bulk milk to the factory; or
for the receipt, storage or processing of the wholemilk at the factory.
I emphasise the last words in that quotation. What more could one have in a Bill? How much more comprehensive could this assistance be in regard to factories? Yet we have heard the Leader of the Australian Country Party claim that this is a narrow definition and that a factory is not in a position to be able to adjust itself to the evolutionary process which is taking place in the dairying industry.
In my electorate I have a specific problem. This problem, at the southern end of the electorate, brings to stark reality the difficulty to which this Bill will be addressed. There are 2 factories at Cobargo and Pambula which have entered a period of great difficulties. The reason for these difficulties is not necessarily just economic. Sometimes I regard them as almost religious. The suppliers to these factories are the ones who have held away from the Bega Co-operative in its rationalisation program. These people have had some sort of affinity with cream. These suppliers feel that milk is not the production to be engaged in. They have stuck to supplying cream way beyond the economic point. Now we have a problem- I am sure that it will be repeated all around Australia- in which we have this complex of economic and social problems related to the viability of these farm enterprises.
Some of these farmers will be able to qualify under the dairy farm rationalisation aspects of this Bill. Some of them will never be able to do this because they have gone past the point of viability. In denning what it is that we mean by viability, we come up against another most difficult problem in agricultural economics. It is not so much the size of the enterprise that matters, in my view. It is the proposition that it can be run by a single family or not run by a single family. If we address ourselves to this problem along those lines we realise that increasingly the capitalisation required to give a family a satisfactory income will become larger and larger as the years go by.
The latest Bureau of Agricultural Economics survey reveals that average capital for a dairy farm has been set at about $70,000. It is inevitable that this will increase very rapidly in coming years. As the industry becomes more sophisticated and gears itself to real demands which are made in terms of overseas market outlets, the capitalisation will have to increase. What we are faced with is the reality in this industry, as in many other agricultural industries, that the family farm unit is big business. We are dealing with a pretty large enterprise, not that it gives occupations to a lot of people but simply that a large enterprise is needed to provide a sensible standard of living for a single family operating that enterprise.
This business of talking about size for its own sake misses, I believe, the real justification for a Bill of this type, which is that we are establishing a community in country areas which is properly balanced. We cannot justify Bills of this type in terms of pure economic rationale. We must resort to the sociological problems that exist in rural areas. We have to accept the fact that probably the most economic way of producing a certain commodity, whether it be milk or any other agricultural product, is on large integrated properties which by definition at least tend to be masculine in their nature. We need to preserve family units in country areas. This is the sociological justification that we present for this concern about family units rather than a purely economic one.
So it is that I come to what I believe to be one of the important aspects of this program. This is an aspect that cannot be enshrined in this Bill. The Dairy Adjustment Bill that we are now debating brings together all the threads of the farmer problem, the factory problem and most of the other problems that have confronted the dairying industry in economic terms over the years. But, as I said, this type of BUI cannot really define what must be one of the biggest problems in administering this legislation, that is, compassion in its administration and the tendency to understand the social problems which will confront the Department in the administration of the Bill together with a sensitivity to the aspirations and value standards of the individuals concerned.
From the point of view of my own electorate, I am absolutely certain that the 26 suppliers to the Pambula factory and a similar number of suppliers to the Cobargo factory will present many more of these social problems than they do of pure economic problems. I have absolute confidence in the Department of Agriculture in this sense. I am sure that it, first of all, will present this Bill to the dairy farming community in a compassionate and understanding way and, secondly, I am absolutely certain that I will not need to appeal to it for the administration of this Bill to be handled with all possible compassion and understanding.
The delays in the enactment of this legislation have been disturbing to members on this side of the House as they have been to members on the other side of the House. I know for a fact though that the Department has been working very strongly on this legislation. It has been possible, at least for dairy farmers in my electorate, to acquaint themselves with what the Bill represents to them as individuals. They have even been able to obtain pro forma forms that give them some idea of the sort of information which will be needed following the enactment of this legislation. We have been able to make some progress in meeting the natural expectations of the farmers involved. I believe that, as soon as the States have come into line and finally agree to sign the agreements between this Government and their governments, from our side at least we will be ready to go into action straight away.
There is another problem that this Bill presents and, in conclusion, I will deal with it very quickly. With respect to this Bill as happens in respect of many other Bills which introduce reforms into industry, there will be some dairy farmers who feel that the needs of equity have not been satisfied because they have made an investment in a milk vat or into the modifications for which this Bill will provide interest free loans. That is true. There is no way in which we can overcome that problem. It is a problem associated with any reform that a government may introduce. I only say here that I appeal once again to the Department of Agriculture to look at these types of problems with a compassionate view and to consider if possible within the terms of the legislation the position of people who may have made an investment in vats and other associated equipment and who find their equipment perhaps at the moment slightly out of date or in some way need to update their equipment. I commend this Bill to the House. I am pleased that the Opposition supports it so completely, and I look forward to its initiation.
Debate (on motion by Dr Patterson) adjourned.
-I present pursuant to statute the supplementary report of the Auditor-General for the year ended 30 June 1 974.
Motion (by Mr Daly)- by leave- agreed to:
That this House in accordance with the provisions of the Parliamentary Papers Act 1908-1974 authorises the publication of the supplementary report of the Auditor-General for the year ended 30 June 1974.
Ordered that the report be printed.
Consideration resumed. Question resolved in the affirmative. Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Clauses 1 to 3- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
-On behalf of the Deputy Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Sinclair) I move:
This is the amendment I foreshadowed in my speech at the second reading stage. It is associated also with a further amendment which is to be moved by my colleague, the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles). The Bill provides for finance to be made available to dairy factories and in this amendment the definition of a dairy factory is given. As has been explained in the speeches of members of the Opposition, dairy factories play a vital part in the dairy industry. Economic rationalisation is necessary for factories as well as the individual farmer. For these reasons- and I am sure there is no need for me to labour the point- I hope that the Government will accept my amendment.
-I will just take 30 seconds to say that, as the Committee will see, there are 9 definitions already. This amendment would add one more. I say with great modesty that I do not think it would do anything other than improve the Bill, taking into account the alterations that may be made to the Bill today, next week or next year. I support the honourable member for Lyne (Mr Lucock). Perhaps the
Government might accept the simple amendment.
– The Government has considered the amendment. The matter to which the amendment relates is dealt with in clause 16, which is self-explanatory as regards the definition of a dairy factory.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 5 to 14- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
1 ) The arrangements may provide for-
^1 must say that I am disappointed in the attitude of the Minister to the last amendment we moved. It is quite apparent that, if amendments moved here are rejected, they may have a chance of being accepted elsewhere. I rather look on the Minister’s tactics as being somewhat negative, taking into account the long term aim of the Bill. I have pleasure in moving on behalf of the Deputy Leader of the Country Party (Mr Sinclair):
After sub-paragraph ( 1 ) (a) (i) insert the following subparagraphs: ‘(ia) meeting in the case of a particular farm, the cost of the purchase and installation on the farm of a refrigerated vat for the storage of wholemilk intended for use as fluid milk for human consumption or in the manufacture of butter, cheese or other products where a refrigerated vat is already installed on a particular farm where the installed vat is inadequate for the needs of the particular farm or the installed vat does not meet the standards set down by the Standards Association of Australia for refrigerated milk vats; ‘(ib) amounts payable under sub-paragraph (ia) are not appropriated under section 22 but are payable only out of moneys to be appropriated by the Parliament specifically for that purpose; ‘.
The reason for this amendment will be well discernible to all honourable members who have taken part in this debate. The honourable member for Lyne (Mr Lucock) pointed out the problem of the standard of vat prescribed by the Standards Association of Australia. From memory the designation is ASN46. This has the effect of making illegal- that might not be too strong a word- the use of vats that do not conform to this standard. Whether it be illegal or not, there is an obvious advantage in having conformation with standards set down by the Commonwealth for dairy farms as well as other sections of the industry. The honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie) remarked a while ago on farms that are reconstructed. I do not think it takes an awful lot of imagination for the Committee to realise that if one of the principal aims of this Bill is to reconstruct dairy farms, the hope is that there will be a higher degree of productivity. If there is a higher degree of productivity, naturally the resources of the dairy itself can be strained. Farmers may have to put in extra units and if they do they may then have to put in extra plant to operate these units. But certainly if the Government’s plan as put forward in this Bill today has merit, then increased production will result. If increased production does result, then presumably a small refrigerated vat needs to be replaced by a larger, perhaps more efficient refrigerated vat. This seems perfectly logical to us, and I am sure it would seem so to those who have taken part in the debate. I feel quite certain in my own mind that it is purely an administrative oversight by the Government.
– The purpose of clause 15 is to assist dairy farmers to change over to refrigerated bulk milk by the provision of interest free loans for the purchase and installation of refrigerated vats, for any necessary modifications to the dairy or the power supply and for the construction of on-farm access roads. Really, the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) has confined his remarks in this case to 2 things, namely, the installation of larger vats on existing properties and the provision of interest free loans for a change-over to refrigerated bulk milk delivery to producers already on refrigerated supply so that they may upgrade their vats to the ASN46 standard. Under clause 12, if any of these farms which have existing vats are uneconomic in the accepted sense set out in the Bill and if they need to be upgraded to become economic they will be assisted in accordance with the measures provided in the Bill; that is, they will be assisted financially.
In the broader sense, of course, there are compelling arguments such as labour, quality and hygiene for persuading the industry to change over completely to the refrigerated bulk milk supply. The purpose of the Bill is to provide a generous type of financial assistance to enable this to be achieved smoothly. It is desirable that refrigerated vats should be of the highest possible standard. In this respect each State lays down standards to be observed and, generally, has the ASN46 standard for new installations. If farms are economic, as distinct from the provisions under clause 12 of the Bill, it is questionable whether scarce resources should be made available to those properties to upgrade the vats, particularly in relation to the points made by the honourable member for Angas.
First of all, there is no complete uniformity among the States about what standards should be applied and there is no complete uniformity within the industry as to standards. Not all States observe the ASN46 standards. In any case, not all dairying areas can install the ASN46 vats because, as the honourable member will know, these types of vats require the 3-phase electrification circuits. Some areas have only a single phase circuit. Therefore it is not possible to install these vats. The States recognise this problem and, while they insist on new installations meeting the required standards, they do not compel those with vats of the lower standard- which is the purpose of this amendment- to upgrade them. But I repeat that there is provision in clause 12 of the Bill for properties which are considered uneconomic within the definition laid down to secure finance. The Government does not accept that where farms are economic and where, under the conditions which I have mentioned here, there is no standardisation, it is necessary because of our scarce resources to apply the provisions to upgrading these vats. Therefore, the Government does not accept the amendment.
-I thank the Minister for Northern Development (Dr Patterson) for giving me that information in relation to standards of which, frankly, I was not aware at all. I .was interested in his reply. First of all, I would like to know whether he is quite certain that, under clause 12, in dealing with uneconomic dairy propositions, a vat could be replaced by a newer or bigger vat with the help of loans made available from the State or from an authority of that State. I do not quite read that into the clause. But as long as the Minister can assure me that it is correct I am perfectly happy.
Where I am not so perfectly happy is in relation to the State authorities reconstructing, say, two dairy farms, as set out in the Bill. I suppose that one looks on those farms as being potentially viable and economic. Are they to be disadvantaged by not being able to apply for loans for the installation of their first refrigerated vat? If they have a brine cooling device, as I had and as so many people had for many years, because they are economic farms are they to be denied these readjustment funds to put in modern equipment? I add that it might well be equipment installed for the first time to make them whole milk suppliers. They might even be using an old churn or separator and a couple of small cream cans. That is my first point. My second point is in relation to the position if they are using, say, a brine cooling device. The idea we had in moving this amendment was to provide for those farms which are economic. It may be only momentary. It may be through supplying other dairy alternatives. That is the purpose behind our attempt to try to cover that anomaly, if the Minister agrees that it exists.
– As I said before, the Bill makes provision for a farm which has to change over completely to refrigerated bulk milk supply. The specific question asked by the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) relates to clause 12. He asked whether, in fact, clause 12 means that the purchase of a vat would fall within the provisions of financial assistance if the farm were uneconomic. The answer I would give would be yes. Clause 12 provides for uneconomic dairy farmers to be provided with finance for the purchase of livestock and equipment and for the purpose of making their farms economically viable. Certainly I shall have to consult on the matter but there is no doubt in my mind that clause 12 is quite specific. If a farm is uneconomic and if, to make it economic, the farmer has to purchase an item of equipment which includes a vat, he would qualify for that financial assistance.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 16 agreed to.
Proposed new clause 16a
After clause 1 6 insert the following clause: ‘ 1 6a. ( 1 ) The arrangements may provide for the making of loans by the State or an authority of the State to the owners of dairy factories where those loans will be applied for the economic rationalisation of dairy factories, with the approval of the Minister.
Amounts payable under sub-section ( I ) are not appropriated under section 22 but are payable only out of moneys to be appropriated by the Parliament specifically for that purpose.’.
In other words, in sub-clause (1) we give the Minister complete carte blanche to decide when and where. We are hopeful that this will work. With regard to sub-clause (2) there is no question in my mind that this is a most necessary clause for the Committee to accept. I will not attempt to regurgitate a debate on the second reading of the Bill, but one of the most important factors in any structural reform of the dairy industry is to give encouragement and aid for dairy factories to amalgamate, which is not covered by this legislation, despite the remarks made by, I think, the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Whan). It must be covered if the restructuring of the dairying industry in the modern economic climate is to have any chance of success. Not only must it be covered by this sort of amendment- naturally I hope that it will be this particular one which I have moved on behalf of dairy farmers whose entire cost structure is built up by diseconomies of this nature- but, as I said before, it has -a reflection on the price which consumers are sometimes forced to pay for the produce of the dairying industry. I see this amendment as being a very vital adjunct to what is otherwise good legislation. I hope that the Minister for Northern Development (Dr Patterson) may find some generosity in his heart and agree to accept this amendment. I feel quite certain that, if he does not, it will be passed sooner or later some way or other. But it would be to the credit of the Government and of this House if the Minister accepted this amendment this afternoon.
– The amendment to clause 15 (l)(b), which was debated previously, related to the appropriation. The amendment which has now been moved is the same. I neglected to say before that, because this is a money Bill, the Opposition is restricted in the type of amendment it can move because, after all, clause 22 makes the appropriation. Therefore the Opposition is restricted. This is a machinery amendment consequential on the other amendment that has been moved. The Government has not accepted the first amendment. Therefore, it follows that it would not accept the second amendment. Because this is a money Bill the Opposition has to frame its amendment in this way if it is to be effective. The Government did not accept the amendment to clause 15, and it follows that it would not accept the following amendment.
The proposed amendment to clause 16 is basically that assistance to factories should be extended to provide for economic rationalisation. As was pointed out previously, the whole purpose of this Bill is to provide funds to the areas of greatest need. The purpose of the Bill is related directly to the farm itself. In the Bill assistance for factories is related to what is needed to make the assistance at the farm level work effectively.
Once that is extended to take in all sorts of rationalisations which could occur as a result of change in machinery, automation, streamlining of buildings or whatever it might be it becomes distinct from what is essential to the consequence of what is happening on the farm. Although I accept the fact that the idea has merit, it is another matter whether there is a case for government assistance for this purpose. This is a far wider issue which is being injected into this Bill.
In regard to whether a factory or industry needs financial assistance within the criteria argued by the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles), the Government has laid down a policy that this is a matter for the Industries Assistance Commission to determine. For the above reasons the Government rejects the amendment. As regards clause 16(2) I have already stated that because of the constitutional requirements this is a machinery amendment moved by the Opposition. It will not be accepted because clause 22 makes the appropriation.
-I will not take a minute to finalise this matter. I find the argument advanced by the Minister for Northern Development (Dr Patterson) most illogical. He talks of not broadening the Bill, yet, in his own words, clause 16(1) has broadened the Bill to the very degree that the Opposition wished to take it. He dealt with internal structural alterations in dairy factories and the funds available for that purpose. I cannot get through to him that, within that very limitation, all we seek is for a State authority or a State government to allow loans under the provisions of this Act or outside it in terms of appropriation to enable factories to receive help if they decide to get together. This is not an internal structural arrangement. I find it very difficult to understand the Minister’s insistence that the Bill is limited in its field of operation, whilst denying us this amendment primarily because we wish to deal with it in the same ambit as the Minister has mentioned.
Proposed new clause negatived.
Remainder of Bill -by leave- taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Dr Patterson)- by leaveread a third time.
-I have received a message from the Senate acquainting the House that the Senate agrees with the resolution of the House of Representatives varying the resolution of appointment of the Joint Committee on Pecuniary Interests of Members of the Parliament.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate without amendment:
Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits (Pension Increases) Bill 1974.
States Grants (Capital Assistance) Bill 1 974.
States Grants (Special Assistance) Bill 1974.
Bill- by leave- presented by Mr Crean, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill seeks the approval of Parliament to borrowings overseas by the Australian Government, as required for the purpose of assisting the Australian Industry Development Corporation to carry out the functions prescribed in section 6 of the Australian Industry Development Corporation Act 1970-1973. The Bill will enable industry developments approved by the AIDC to be assisted with funds not ordinarily available except through borrowings by the Government itelf. The structure of the Bill is similar to legislation approved by Parliament on numerous occasions for the raising of loans by Australia for the financing of capital expenditures by the government owned airlines, Qantas Airways and Trans-Australia Airlines. The Australian Government will be the borrower and the proceeds of the loans will be made available to the AIDC on terms and conditions to be determined by the Treasurer pursuant to clause 7 of the Bill.
The Australian Industry Development Corporation Act 1970-1973 limits the total amount of borrowings by the Corporation, other than borrowings for temporary purposes, to the equivalent of five times the sum of the paid in capital of the Corporation and the amount set aside by it as reserves. The Act also requires that the Corporation, in exercising its powers to borrow moneys, shall seek to borrow moneys principally outside Australia. The limitation in the Australian Industry Development Corporation Act on the amount the Corporation may borrow would not be affected in any way by the provisions in the present Bill. Insofar as the Government borrowed and on-lent the proceeds to the AIDC the latter transaction would be a borrowing by the AIDC and would reduce the legal scope available to it for undertaking other borrowings. The Bill provides that loans made to the AIDC from the proceeds of borrowings made in currencies other than Australian currency shall, for the purposes of sub-section 7 (4) of the Australian Industry Development Corporation Act 1970-1973, be deemed to be borrowings by the Corporation outside Australia. This is fully consistent with the intention of the 1970 Act that funds for the AIDC’s operations should be obtained principally from abroad. If some of the funds available to the AIDC are obtained by the Government borrowing these funds abroad and on-lending them to the AIDC, this will not alter the proportion of its total borrowings that could be raised from local sources from what it would be if the Corporation itself directly borrowed those funds overseas.
Conditions now facing us in the international capital market are in many ways very different from those that existed when the Australian Industry Development Corporation Act 1970 was enacted. In particular, while there are potentially large amounts of money that will be available for lending, there are not many lenders who are prepared to provide funds other than on a relatively short term basis and the ones who have the most substantial amounts of funds at their disposal have a definite preference for making loans to governments or under government guarantee. There are advantages to be gained by having such overseas borrowings as it is appropriate to have undertaken on public account arranged and undertaken by the Australian Government itself. The Australian Government, with its high credit ratings and prestige in international capital markets, is better placed to tap overseas sources of funds in a way most advantageous for Australia than is any other Australian borrower, be it a public authority or not. On the other hand it would be undesirable if the AIDC, set up to operate independently of Government direction, were to become dependent on borrowings undertaken by the Government and on-lent to the Corporation. There is no requirement or intention, however, that all overseas borrowings for the purposes of the AIDC should be undertaken by the Government. The Corporation was set up to be, and has become established as, a prime borrower in international capital markets for Australian industry.
To illustrate, the AIDC has just announced a United States dollar public issue of 7-year AIDC Notes in the European capital market. The amount is US$25m- approximately $A19mwhich makes it one of the largest United States dollar issues on the market in the conditions of today. The interest coupon of 10.25 per cent is equal to that of international issuers guaranteed by national governments. And the AIDC Notes are the first of any recent United States dollar issue in Europe to be priced at par rather than at a discount. It is not proposed that the AIDC be relieved of the responsibility for arranging its own borrowings in those markets or from those sources that are open to it to approach direct in the ordinary course of its operations. However there are today major and growing sources of overseas funds, particularly sources of a governmental nature, where by reasons of law or established rules or policies it could be difficult if not impossible for the AIDC, acting alone, to gain access. Countries around the world are taking steps to tap these sources for their industries. It is important that Australian industry should also have access to them. The Bill will enable the Government to work with the AIDC by raising funds from such sources and making them available for industry development of importance to Australia.
The proposed legislation includes a limit of $250m to the total amount of borrowings that might be undertaken by the Government under it. It will be noted that no time limit for the borrowings is specified. The timing and magnitude of particular borrowings will, of course, have to be related both to prospective requirements of AIDC in respect of planned programs of investment by it and to the particular borrowing opportunities available from time to time. It is expected that the proposed total borrowing authority of $250m will be only partly utilised in the current financial year, but the existence of this authority will make it possible for the Government to act quickly to take advantage of emergent borrowing opportunities when it judges this appropriate, and will facilitate forward programming by the AIDC for its investments. With legislation for certain borrowings from the United States Export-Import Bank and with guarantees to the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development for borrowings by Papua New Guinea, it has been possible to schedule to the legislation the agreements for the loans. This is because these lending institutions have been prepared to approve the loans and sign the loan agreements prior to the legislation authorising them being introduced into the Parliament, with the loans being drawn when the necessary legislation is enacted. However, with loans in the international capital market, a loan must be drawn as soon as it is negotiated and the agreement signed, so legislation must be enacted prior to the negotiation of the loans, which means that it is not possible to present the text of the agreements to Parliament for approval.
Any borrowings that are undertaken by the Government under the proposed legislation will, of course, require the prior approval of the Australian Loan Council. The Bill contains provisions which would allow the customary undertakings to be given, to lenders that payments under the loans will be free from Australian taxation and from foreign exchange restrictions. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr McLeay) adjourned.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, it has been brought to my attention today that a report appeared in the ‘Canberra Times’ of 14 November suggesting that I supported extravagant trips overseas by the Prime Minister and Ministers.
Order! Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented? . Mr CONNOLLY-I do, indeed. I should like to quote what I said in the House and compare it with what I allegedly said according to this newspaper. The newspaper report stated:
Mr Connolly said he did not quarrel with the Prime Minister making so many trips but he did object to him not making a statement to the Parliament on the results of his trips.
It is quite absurd to expect that I would support the fact that in 2 years the Prime Minister has made more than 12 overseas trips to no fewer than 40 countries. To suggest that I would accept such an incredible extravagance, especially the most recent European tour which will cost the taxpayers about $lm and will include the overseas travel of some 40 other persons, presumably including wives, is a travesty of the fact. The Prime Minister’s effectiveness should be based on the quality of his administration, not on the size of his retinue. In fact what I said was, and I quote from Hansard page 3419:
I do not quarrel with the principle of the rights of a Prime Minister and leaders of a government to travel overseas to ensure that they are up to date with trends and expectations of other nations, but what I do comment on is that on their return it is the right of the Australian people through their Parliament to know what the Prime Minister and the Ministers have learnt by their experiences. It is not good enough just to swan around the world using taxpayers’ money and then returning to ominous silence. We do not want silence from a government. We want to know what its policies are and the people of this country want to know what son of leadership they have both domestically and in a foreign context.
Debate resumed from 26 November, on motion by Mr Crean:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Opposition is in general support of this legislation, which seeks to appropriate an amount of $ 150m to be advanced through the banking system to assist the housing industry. The Opposition has in fact- and I am sure the Treasurer (Mr Crean) will acknowledge this- facilitated the rapid passage of the legislation because it recognises that the home building industry in particular, out of all industries, is at the point of destruction. At the same time, the Opposition believes that this amount of $ 150m has come too late to be of any real use to the industry. We believe that it is too little and too late. Most builders have little or no work on hand and all of them face enormous wage commitments which must be settled before Christmas. Unemployment is currently running at 1 ,000 increase a day in this country, 3 per cent of the workforce, which is the highest in 30 years.
This $150m, if it is all used on new housing, represents the construction of only about 7,500 homes, and that represents a little more than half of one month’s supply in normal times. Figures released only today by the Bureau of Statistics show that building approvals in Australia have declined seriously since last October. It is depressing to note- it must be depressing to all of us- that the approval rate has fallen by almost 50 per cent in the 12 months to the end of October. This confirms what the Opposition has been consistently warning the Government of for months, that the .current shortfall of dwellings of all sorts in this country at this moment is in excess of 50,000. We believe that in the short term there will not be any improvement and we could be stuck with a shortfall of over 100,000 homes by this time next year. In the meantime the building industry will have suffered so much damage as to be incapable of producing Australia’s annual requirements, much less of making up this tremendous shortfall. We believe that this enormous shortfall, combined with the anticipated increase in money supply, will create next year a demand inflation, a gross shortage of living accommodation and galloping inflation. At this stage I should like to mention a couple of policy promises made by the Prime Minister which have been broken. In particular, I go back only 2 years to the policy speech he made in 1972, when he said:
The inability to provide housing for those who need it most threatens to reach crisis proportion.
That is really quite ridiculous. We are talking about the situation 2 years ago. The Prime Minister went on to say:
This is the Labor Party in government - will make a massive attack on housing and land costs.
It has not done too well. The costs of land and housing are escalating at a rate in excess of 25 per cent a year. I was interested to read only a few days ago, on 16 November, that in New South Wales alone more than 35,000 families are now waiting for Housing Commission homes, which is a 25 per cent jump in applications in 4 months. It is believed, and no doubt it is true, that the 7,000 extra families added to the list are casualties of the credit squeeze. So much for the Prime Minister’s policy speech.
At the same time, shortly after the election I was interested to note what the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson) said, which I thought was priceless. The Minister is not in the House at the moment. He said, amongst a lot of other priceless things that he has said:
The Government will not reduce interest rates until inflation is defeated.
When the Liberal-Country Party Government went out of office inflation was running at about 4 per cent annually. We believe it is now 22% per cent and, if we can take any notice of the Minister for Housing and Contruction this means that Australia will have high and perhaps increasing interest rates as long as it has a Labor Government.
I also refer the Treasurer and the House to what I thought was a very interesting report by the Chairman of Simpson Pope Holdings Ltd in South Australia in which he coined a new word’slumpflation’, which he said describes a state of affairs where production falls, unemployment rises and inflation goes on. Once again I should refer to the statement by the Prime Minister in May of this year- not so very long ago. At a Press conference in Hobart on 1 May the Prime Minister had this to say about interest rates:
I am encouraged to say that interest rates will not have to go up because the figures for the consumer price index last
Thursday showed that we have turned the corner. Our policies against inflation have succeeded. There was a third reduction in the rate of inflation for the March quarter.
We all know that the current rate is the highest rate of inflation Australia has ever had.
The Opposition is also critical of the Government’s action in not making at least some of this money available to the co-operative permanent building societies and in not ensuring that every cent, or certainly the greater part of the money, will be spent on new housing. We believe that this is the only way that this relatively small amount of money can do anything to really help the home building industry. We also believe that the Government would have got total cooperation from the co-operative permanent building societies and that the funds could have been distributed quickly and cheaply right throughout this industry, which is Australia-wide. In addition, this would have been a measure of practical government support for building societies. I really commend this suggestion most sincerely to the Treasurer, because it would demonstrate the Government’s confidence in this important home financing industry and therefore its confidence in the Australian investing public. The Opposition makes the point that the permanent building societies have made a major contribution to Australian home ownership over the years. In fact in Western Australia, taking that State as an example, more than 60 per cent of home finance has been provided by the cooperative permanent building societies. I shall quote from a letter that I have received from an officer of one of the societies. I think the letter makes a valid point that the Government seems to have overlooked. The officer refers to his own society’s situation and he states:
Already we have had requests from Trading/Savings Banks for payout figures on loans made by us to various partiesincluding . . . solicitors. The banks concerned have openly said that in anticipation of receipt of these monies they are happy to take over these loans right now with a view to cementing existing and attracting new ‘Trust account’ collections …. Money destined for new housing to alleviate unemployment is obviously not being applied in its policy terms in these cases.
He goes on to say:
Moreover, the Commonwealth Savings Bank has in several cases insisted on relatives -
I have heard of this in other cases too - as remote as aunts and uncles withdrawing money from permanent building societies and transferring it to the Commonwealth Savings Bank as an express condition to granting a loan to a particular party.
This makes me ask the Treasurer- and I am sure that he is paying careful attention: What does the Government have against building societies? I want to give the Treasurer a pretty good example of what has been happening. In Western Australia some building societies have been in existence for more than 100 years; at least one bank has been in existence for only 5 years. So the bunding societies really are the true pioneers in home finance.
We on this side of the House have had considerable concern during the short period of 2 years that the Labor Government has been in office about the behaviour of the Minister for Housing and Construction. We believe that like Nero he has fiddled and fumbled while hundreds of home builders as well as many large Australian owned construction and development companies have gone to the wall. In Victoria alone it is estimated that since January nearly 100 home building companies have left the industry and at least 20 bigger companies- by this I mean companies which construct from ten up to 300 houses a year- are in liquidation voluntarily or else they are bankrupt. When will the Government realise that it should be encouraging investment in the private sector and that it is private investment which creates employment. The present rate of 5,000 a week increase in the unemployed is a direct result of the Government’s squeezing the private sector and at the same time spending money itself as though it is going out of fashion.
I refer again to what has been said by the Prime Minister. When addressing the Perth Press Club in December 1973, when referring to unemployment- this is another one of his broken promises- he said:
There was no need for us to promise that we wouldn’t put people out of work. People expected that the Labor Government would not put people out of work but these methods of putting up taxes and putting people out of work reduce the amount of money that people would have to spend- reducing the amount of money people have to invest. These have been used in the past- they have halted inflation temporarily and then when things have relaxed it has recurred.
There is no doubt about what is happening to employment in the building industry because in the building industry alone in September 4,000 people went on to the employment market.
Young people, particularly those who apply for apprenticeships in the building industry- an area of great concern to the Opposition- are actually being turned away. In Western Australia, and I believe in Queensland, men who have been retrained at Government expense as bricklayers are actually now being put off. Also, 2 training schools for bricklayers in Western Australia have been closed. An estimated 60 per cent of bricklaying teams employed on housing last year have been laid off. The loss of highly trained technical professionals will damage the industry severely in the long term. An estimated 700 supervisors, estimators, architects, draughtsmen and people of that quality have been laid off in Western Australia. The figure must run into thousands on a national basis. Without doubt many of these people will never return to the building industry. Some are even leaving the country, and one can hardly blame them.
I put it to the Treasurer: Why does not the Government ensure that some reasonable percentage of public works is channelled through private architects and engineering partnerships?
– We are quite happy to have that. I wish some of the private undertakings were a little more enterprising in coming to us.
– I am pleased to have that on the record, Mr Speaker, because this is something about which we feel very strongly. Private enterprise is there to help. But there are men and women who have the professional and technical skills who are apparently not being used. I would like to quote for the benefit of the House, particularly the Treasurer, from a survey which was carried out within the private sector of the architectural and engineering professions in Victoria. The survey which was carried out about 2 months ago came to the following conclusions:
The survey has confirmed the seriousness of the position and in addition, the conclusions which can be drawn from it indicate that unless there is an almost immediate easing of the pressures restraining the flow of work, it may be impossible to avoid consequences for the building industry which are far more severe than any effects at present anticipated or previously experienced.
That was conservatively put. I take it that the Treasurer is saying that the associations of these professions should come to him or to the Minister for Housing and Construction and that the Government will be pleased to give people the opportunity to work privately on public works. I trust that that will become well known throughouut the community because all levels of private enterprise are thoroughly sick and tired of Government interference through the agency of the various Government tribunals and commissions -
– They do not mind interference when it is on their side.
– Or through Government taxes or Government criticism. The honourable gentleman who interjects made great play last night- I think I can quote him accurately- about the business capacity of members on this side of the House. The honourable member said that there are very few on our side of the House who know anything about running a business. I could tell him that there are many on this side who know plenty about running a business. One is running a business whether one is a lawyer, doctor or whatever. That is tougher than flogging a few shirts and ties, which is what the honourable gentleman does.
The Opposition, on behalf of private enterprise, objects to these things. There is a deal of Government red tape and endless form filling. Legislation was introduced a couple of days ago to provide for deductibility of interest mortgage payments. This scheme will impose more work on private enterprise, companies, businesses and partnerships. I would think that the problems facing the building industry have never been worse. The Chairman of one of the biggest brick manufacturing companies in Victoria said about a month ago, according to a Press report:
Make no mistake about it. It’s every bit as grim as 1 930.
It is curious too, that on the same day our everoptimistic Minister for Housing and Construction announced that the Government was embarking- and he uses these expressions continuously ‘on a mulitfaceted program to maintain a high level of activity in the building industry’. He has followed this statement with many other announcements about the large money releases. The provisions contained in the Bill we are now discussing were leaked in one of his cheerful Press announcements before the event. In fact, it was leaked inaccurately. In another Press release the Minister said that he had ‘friendly’ talks with the Deputy Prime Minister (Dr J. F. Cairns). He said that he had had ‘friendly’ talks with the Treasurer. I would have liked to have been a fly on the wall. He says he talks to industry and so on. The Minister has now acknowledged that there are problems in the building industry about which industry spokesmen and members of the Opposition have been warning him for months. The Minister irritates us intensely when he now goes on to say that the problems are there but they are not in any way his fault. He claims that he is quoting sources very close to the industry. I say that is utter humbug. The Minister has consistently ignored every item of industry advice. He has even gone so far as to abuse publicly the Housing Industry Association in Western Australia. The Minister says that all of these terrible things are not his fault- it is the Treasurer’s fault; he is the one to blame. I say that is a very poor reflection on his attitude to Party loyalty and Cabinet solidarity. But I am quite sure that after the treatment meted out to the Treasurer in recent times from his colleagues he has become accustomed to this. In New South Wales, the Leader of the State Parliamentary Labor Party, Mr Wran, only last
Monday called for reduced housing interest rates. He said:
The housing construction industry in New South Wales is in a desperate plight.
We believe that Mr Wran is absolutely correct. We also believe that the Government’s policies have all but wrecked the housing industry in every State of the Commonwealth. In real terms, nearly half of the housing industry will be wiped out next year and nearly one-third of the. commercial and industrial section will have disappeared by this time next year. The Government should consider the gigantic shock-waves already spreading throughout the economy following its attack on the building industry.
But the industry is faced with even more urgent problems of maintaining liquidity right now. Next month, the trading banks will need to roll over $1,200 billion of certificates of deposit. Building contractors will be faced with quarterly tax payments and annual leave payments in addition to the 7Vi per cent loading on leave payments. Perhaps the Treasurer will be able to tell us in his reply where the money will come from and what Government initiatives will assist the builders in the December pre-Christmas crunch. We believe that thousands more Australians will be spending an unemployed and unhappy Christmas as a direct result of this Government’s economic mismanagement.
The recent financial arrangement with the States is of little help to low income earners because it does nothing to bridge the gap between the first mortgage and the price of housing. Assuming that a home seeker is able to find the deposit of, say, $2,000 to purchase a modest dwelling costing about $20,000-1 do not think that a dwelling at that price would be availablevery few people at the income level of 80 per cent to 90 per cent of the average weekly wage would be able to bridge the deposit gap which in these circumstances will be $8,000. For example, it is iniquitous that in South Australia where 90 per cent of the average wage is $109.50, one person can borrow money at 5% per cent interest and his neighbour who is earning 50c a week more is not able to borrow at that concessional rate and would have to borrow, in South Australia at any rate, at an interest rate of perhaps 1 1V4 per cent to 12 per cent. As every week goes by the position is exacerbated by the rising cost of building. The cost alone applied to a house valued at, say, $25,000 is still escalating at more than $125 a week. In Victoria, it is escalating at $134 a week, which is $5 over the average weekly wage. The States are raising the means test limit for housing commission applicants to $1 10 a week and the co-operative housing societies are increasing their means test to $130 a week. But it is simply not possible for the States to do more than hold the position.
It is Federal Government action which has inflated building costs and it is Federal Government action which has created the highest interest rates on record. This has most seriously disadvantaged the middle income group, which includes those in receipt of the average weekly wage of, say $160 a week up to $180 a week. This has conveniently been ignored by the Minister for Housing and Construction and by the whole of his Government. Such people could hardly be described as wealthy people. But they are ineligible for Govement subsidised mortgage payments. Let me take the example of a home seeker earning a few dollars over the average weekly wage and seeking to purchase a modest house costing, say, $25,000. Last year that person would have been able to borrow 90 per cent of the value of the home from one of the various lending institutions and, on that salary, he would have been able to service the loan quite comfortably. Today, that same home seeker needs a 20 per cent deposit and because the interest rate established by this Government on a first mortgage is 12 per cent- if it is available- the monthy repayments are now $233. To be able to service such a loan, the general formula is that the borrower’s repayments must not exceed one-quarter of his monthly gross income. So to obtain the necessary finance that person would need an income in excess of $230 a week. His income may be increasing, as the Treasurer suggests, by 22Vi per cent during this year, but his tax will increase by 50 per cent. Therefore, saving is quite impossible and it is equally impossible to bridge the deposit gap.
It is not an over-simplification to say that this Government’s policies are making home ownership of any type, whether it be a home, a home unit, a cluster home or a strata title dwelling, achieveable only for those on high incomes. This Government cares nothing for those it purports to represent, that is, those in receipt of low and middle incomes. What is the good of having large numbers of low income earners with $12,000 mortgages in their pockets and no roof over their heads because they cannot bridge the ever-widening deposit gap the emphasis of the Liberal-Country Party housing policy is to assist all Australians who desire it to own their own living units. We acknowledge that in today’s society an increasing number of people prefer to rent their living accommodation. But the Labor Government’s policy is resulting in a serious shortage of flat accommodation and significantly increased rentals. There is nothing in the Labor Party platform to encourage home ownership.
The Government’s policies are especially discriminatory against young people and first home buyers who have to live somewhere. Such people are now forced to look for rental accommodation. The Minister for Housing and Construction has claimed that all will be well by Christmas. The Opposition believes that unemployment and the crisis situation in the home building industry will be worse by Christmas and that it will deteriorate even further in the New Year, especially in the Australian Capital Territory where conditions are worse than anywhere else in the country and where this inept Government has absolute and total totalitarian style powers. We fear that the Minister for Housing and Construction is incapable of handling his responsibilities. He has demonstrated that when the crunch comes he backs off and blames other Ministers for the bad news. On this occasion he has blamed the Treasurer.
As recently as the fourth of this month he was talking of the buoyant situation in the building industry and the possibility that it could change to one of ‘under-utilisation’ unless corrective action was taken. After his discussions 3 weeks ago with the Treasure he solemnly announced, and I quote him again: ‘This action has now been taken’. Yet, within a fortnight, suddenly there is big trouble. He says that it is not his fault. He said that it was the poor old Treasurer’s fault. The Minister hardly deserves a place in the Government team, even as a trainer. Perhaps the Government should be shifting him aside rather than the Treasurer. We believe that the Government should cut back Government spending, significantly reduce direct and indirect taxes and positively encourage thrift and private investment instead of positively discouraging them in the community. It should take immediate steps to ease the credit squeeze. Summing up for the Opposition I state that we are not opposing the legislation. I believe that one of my colleagues will be moving 2 amendments which the Government, through the Treasurer, has indicated that it will accept. We do not oppose the Bill.
– I take this opportunity to speak for a snort time on the Bank (Housing Loans) Bill because it is a significant Bill. I think that the first point to make is that in the face of a downturn in the housing industry the difference between the Labor Government on the one hand and the previous LiberalCountry Party Government on the other hand in the treatment of a trend of this type is that this Government demonstrates a willingness to do something about the situation. Under previous governments, this characteristic has not been in evidence. A very great number of initiatives have been taken. This initiative is but one of a large variety of important initiatives that have been taken.
One sometimes gets the impression from the Opposition spokesman for housing matters, the honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay), and from some of those who sit behind him that they have a vested interest in discouraging the return to buoyancy in this industry. Obviously, what is desired more than anything else at this stage is a sense of confidence on the part of builders, investors, developers and buyers. But the criers of doom are more interested in scoring politically and not contributing to this requirement in any way. What I want to tell them is that some very great decisions have been taken on the inflationary situation which followed the period in office of our predecessors. The money supply had been greatly expanded. The traditional supply of money, which was running at the level of about 6 per cent, suddenly jumped to about 26 per cent in this period when there was a desperate bid on the part of our predecessors to hold office. Everybody knows the sequel of their administration. It was reflected in the banks and building societies and the various lending institutions associated with the building industry almost trebling the money supply for housing. As a result the price of housing was forced up and the length of time taken to build those houses was greatly extended.
Any responsible government would have faced the facts of life in that situation and seen the necessity to turn down this demand and to moderate the industry so that prices could be brought back to a reasonable level. It is interesting to see that already there are developing signs of a return to equilibrium. The first thing that has happened is that the upward price trend has been arrested to some degree. The next thing that has happened is that there has been an upturn in the number of approvals. Even for the period from September to October, the number of approvals increased from 7,915 to 8,709. That is a gratifying trend which ought to evince a warm response from the Opposition. But members of the Opposition do not look for encouraging signs of this type. If we look at the value of buildings, jobs approved by class of building and ownership in the Statistician’s figures just published for October 1974 it can be observed that whereas the value of these buildings in December was $ 139m it has increased to $ 156.8m. So there are some good trends in evidence.
I do not want to give the impression here that everything that is to be desired in the housing industry is occurring. The fact of the matter is that there will be unused capacity in the industry in the early months of the calendar year 1975. 1 am not pleased about that. I suppose some people here would contend that the provision of this $150m to the deserving section of the community whose income is less than $150 a week might have come with greater benefit a few months ago. But the feeling in the industry generally is that during 1975 a situation could easily be reached in which the industry could come under pressure once again, that the supply of money will be such that there will not be enough tradesmen to meet the demand and that we may see a return to a shortage of building materials. So there has to be some limit. If it is a fact that the rescue, if you like, of the industry is a little later than it should have been it ought not to cause people to feel that any volume of money can now be dumped into the industry to good advantage. As I have said, by the middle of next year or a little after we could reach a situation -
– Demand inflation?
-Yes. We could reach a situation where we could see highly deleterious characteristics in the industry. I doubt whether anybody here would have the information, the understanding and the advice about this industry which would enable him to say authoritatively what could be done at this moment, other than what has been done, to assist the industry. It seems to me that the various initiatives that have been taken, which are very considerable in their aggregation in terms of the supply of money, could well prove to be adequate to bring the industry to maximum utilisation. When I say that, I am talking not only about the fact that the liquidity situation is improving in a general way; I am referring also to the various initiatives which have been taken by the Government through the Treasury and the Reserve Bank, such as the amendment to the savings bank regulation reducing from a 60-40 ratio to a 50-50 ratio the proportion of assets which savings banks are required to hold in prescribed forms of investment. Within this new ratio, the proportion of funds to be held in deposits with the Reserve Bank and in Treasury notes has been reduced from 10 per cent to 7.5 per cent. In the next calendar year this will make available, over a period of time, probably some several hundred million dollars more in housing loans than otherwise would have been available.
As the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) said in his speech some weeks ago, lending by savings banks in this quarter is expected to rise by 50 per cent. That is to say, the volume of lending in the December quarter could be 50 per cent higher than was the case in the preceding quarter. The sum of $150m provided by this legislation in itself is sufficient to finance approximately 8,000 housing loans. So this measure has to be treated seriously. The allocation of at least $3 18m to the States for welfare housing- an increase of $ 1 50m over the amount actually spent in 1973-74- will have a great stimulatory effect. This amount includes some recent additives. I think $8.6m was allocated to Queensland, and an extra $75m was allocated to the States in general. An amount of $50m went to the terminating building societies, which is a process by which we can get money into the industry very quickly for new housing and for used housing.
It must be apparent to everybody that many people who get finance for an existing house go off to buy a new house. This has a stimulatory effect There are so many other things to which one could refer which will have a great benefit, but we cannot disparage the importance of the great initiatives taken in the public housing area. I know that the honourable member for Boothby, who sits opposite, like so many of his colleagues is not very enthusiastic about the concessional interest rate. He has said things about this recently, but we feel that the lower income category of people has been neglected for far too long by our predecessors. So we have gone close to doubling the amount of money made available for housing for them, and it is being made available at 4 per cent per annum interest. It is going out to housing commissions at a very low rate and to the terminating building societies at 5% per cent. Obviously this is a great sociological initiative which most people in the Parliament on both sides, but regrettably not the honourable member for Boothby, show a great deal of enthusiasm about.
Then there is the defence service homes initiative which we talked about last night. There has been an expansion of the volume of money available. There has been a widening of the eligibility of people for admittance to the scheme. Single men and single women, serving members of the forces, ancillary groups of people associated with the Comforts Fund, the Salvation Army, and so on, have been brought into the scheme. That is very important indeed. The Aged Persons Dwellings Bill has been introduced into the Parliament. The effect of that is to double the annual allocation of funds for aged persons homes. We have expanded the range of eligibility in this area to service pensioners, persons suffering from tuberculosis, and class B widows. We have doubled the annual allocation and the rate of expenditure now proposed is $10m for each of the next 3 years. These funds are being made available to the States on a non-repayable grant basis. The money can go out very quickly. In fact the States are acting in anticipation of the supply of that money. They have been advised to do so. This of course is regarded as an effective stimulation of the building industry.
There have been many other initiatives. For example, the Financial Corporations Bill has been introduced. I have already made some announcements about the fact that we have innovated for the first time in Australia’s history a planned approach to the housing industry through the Indicative Planning Council. We have already enlisted the services of one of the country’s leading mathematicians, Professor Nevile. We have communicated with the States, with the various sections of the building industry and with the trade unions and we are in the process of establishing, with the aid of all those people, a national group and a group at the level of every State, and in the Australian Capital Territory and in the Northern Territory. This has been done so that we can get some planning into this industry and prevent the stop-go factors which have characterised it in the past.
I think honourable gentlemen opposite would know that we have had the second meeting of the National Housing Standards Council. We are seeking to have national housing standards accepted Australia wide. That this will result in considerable economic savings is a foregone conclusion. The Housing Corporation is to be established. It will give the Australian Government an effective role, one which can be described as a versatile role, and which will enable us to make inputs through this industry when they are desirable.
There is a tendency to disparage and to play down the importance of the tax deductibility system which will mean a great deal to a large number of people. The income earner who receives $6,500 a year and who has a mortgage of $15,000 will receive a saving of approximately $7 a week. This scheme will help the middle income earner particularly. It will have a stimulating effect on the housing industry. This scheme will benefit not only the people who already have housing loans, through the PayAsYouEarn factor which has been injected into the scheme. It will assist also young people who are applying for loans as the PA YE return will be taken into account when lenders are assessing the capacity of prospective borrowers to service housing loans.
There are so many other aspects with which I could deal. I know that the debate is subject to time limitations because of the number of people who want to speak in it. Therefore, I will not be covering all of those aspects. One thing which can be said is that this allocation of funds, $150m, at very reasonable rates of interest in terms of the circumstances which apply in Australia and around the world today, has arrived at a most fortuitous time. These funds will go through the banking system which has its presence in every part of Australia. I know that there are some who would have liked to see the disbursement of some of these funds through permanent building societies. The terminating societies have been strongly assisted. This Government has virtually underwritten the permanent building societies following the crisis with which they were confronted a short time ago. There is a great deal to indicate that public confidence is being restored to the activities of these organisations. I have little doubt that, in their own right, they will continue to attract the support of the investing public and that they will be able to continue the contribution which they have made over the years to housing in this country.
The total scenario which we see is to this effect: There will be a downturn or the downturn which is in evidence now will continue for a little while to come. This is regrettable. Many factors have come to bear which are affected by the aggregation of capital in the free market which no Government can every effectively control. This is the kind of happening that we see on the world scene. This Government has taken many initiatives. It will not be very long, in my view, before we see the building industry running at full steam. We regret that there will be some casualties, that is, employees in the industry who will become unemployed. I point out though that the RED scheme and the various supportive programs, including the acceleration of public works and activities of that kind, are likely to minimise the adverse effects which could occur from the economic picture.
I congratulate the Treasurer (Mr Crean) on bringing down this Bill which represents probably the first time in the history of the Australian
Government that there has been an appropriation of money for housing, in effect, for ‘Mr and Mrs Everybody’ to go through to people on a large scale. I especially commend the Treasurer for the fact that he is encouraging the banks to make loans available to single women as people in this category have been the subject of neglect for such a long time in respect of housing opportunities. I believe that this initiative will be one of the most effective in restoring the housing industry to the degree of buoyancy which we would all like to see it attain. So, I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Listening to the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson) was entertaining. I understand that, in the southern parts of Sydney, he has a reputation for many things. One of them is a first class cook. The speech which he gave this afternoon was a little bit like an Irish stew. In it he had 10 first class ideas. They came out as a sloppy flaccid mess. Only one simple hard fact must come out of any discussion on housing.
– That is indigestion.
-It was the solidity which the Minister was unable to digest. It is simply that housing cannot be dealt with unless interest rates are dealt with also. High interest rates always make housing and home ownership unattainable. The second factor in terms of housing is the availability of funds. They go together. But they were not in the mess that the Minister put together and they did not come out. Let me remind the Minister of one or two facts. I hesitate to do so because it had not been my intention to spend much time exposing the faults of the Government; enough of that has been done already. I was interested in his quotation of the figures and details released earlier today of housing approvals. The Minister takes credit for the fact that the total value of approvals for housing has risen for the month of October. The first thing I say about housing approvals- and the Minister would know it- is that they are notoriously random. They go everywhere. They are not a good indicator of what is going to happen in the immediate months ahead. But the value of approvals has gone up, and we are delighted that they have risen. Everybody is delighted. We only hope that approvals having risen means that commencements will rise and houses will be built. We all want that. But remember, they have risen from the bottom of the barrel. They are swimming their way out of the barrel.
There has never been a decline in terms of housing ever recorded of the type of decline that has been experienced in recent months. There is no point in taking credit for the fact that they are trying to find their way to the light. I hope that they will. The decline in this area has varied in different parts of Australia. I do not wish to spend a great deal of time on this aspect except to make one further comment. The circumstances of this Bill are quite sad. The Bill accompanies the greatest decline ever recorded in the history of this nation in the field of housing. That fact has to give cause for sadness.
The aims of the legislation are good. The Minister and the Treasurer (Mr Crean) need to be given great credit for the unicity of the measures proposed in terms of this legislation. The fact that $150m is proposed to be allocated directly to savings banks from appropriations for the purpose of housing is a welcome initiative. But the circumstances which require that initiative can give no one here any cause for pleasure.
I am delighted that, in allocating these funds to the banks, the Government proposes that they are to be used in a sense for pump priming in the area of housing and are to be allocated to banks in proportion to the activities of those banks in the rest of Australia. The banks include the savings banks, the Rural Bank of New South Wales, the Bank of Queensland and one or two other banks. The Government deserves to be given credit for the fact that the banks in the administration of these funds will administer and allocate them according to their own practices, their own traditions and the interest rates at which housing loans have been traditionally available from such banks. All of that is on the credit side. We have to be the first to acknowledge it.
There is one other factor that cannot be ignored in this area. Traditionally a situation in which people make deals and propositions for their own homes- the greatest debt that most people will ever undertake in their lives- has always existed in a general market economy. It is a tragedy that usurious interest rates- the highest interest rates ever recorded- destroy the facts of a market economy in this area. Interest rates mean a great deal. A rise of 1 per cent, 2 per cent or 3 per cent in interest rates means for many people the payment of an extra $5, $6 or $10 a week for 30 or 40 years. This is what high interest rates mean. They are one of the most effective means available whereby people have their living standards significantly reduced.
I now turn my attention to the precise details of this Bill. The Bill is a revenue one; it is a Treasury Bill. As the Minister for Housing and Construction will know, I have one or two amendments which it was my intention to propose during the Committee stage of this Bill. I have had discussions with the Treasurer about them. He has accepted the substance of the amendments because savings banks, in the whole area of housing finance, have the most significant funds that are available to the public. The best funds that are available to the public are the ones available from savings banks. In general, funds in this area are available from savings banks, trading banks and permanent building societies, and second loans are available from finance companies. The Minister tabled a report entitled ‘Six City Summary Survey’ which showed that up to 70 per cent of funds available for housing are available through trading banks, permanent building societies or savings banks. But always at the centre of activity- always the most important funds, those that give character to the market- are the savings banks.
I am delighted therefore that the Minister has sought to make these funds available through savings banks and their branches, which have experience and expertise over the length and breadth of this country. I have no argument with that, but in determining the allocation of these funds and in determining the reason why there is such a great credit squeeze in this nation, one or two other things have to be said. Very unhappily they have to be said in relation to the most prominent savings bank in the nation- the Commonwealth Savings Bank. Since July 1973 the Commonwealth Savings Bank has maintained an artificial credit squeeze in the administration of its own funds for housing. That is completely inexcusable. What the bank has shown and said since July 1973 is that it is more interested in buying bonds and in propping up the bond market. It gave the indication that there was a demand for bonds at a certain interest rate when it was not there. The sufferers in the exercise have been borrowers, especially from the Commonwealth Savings Bank.
I will just cite one or two sets of figures and some details to make this fact quite explicit. During the year ended June 1974, the average percentage of the Commonwealth Savings Bank’s funds available in assets for housing was 26 per cent. During the same year the private savings banks, which did not develop under the same historical tradition or the same charter, had an average of 34 per cent of their funds available in assets for housing. A squeeze was kept up in this area, and it was kept up in this area by the people’s bank. That ought to be realised. The latest details available show that as at September the Commonwealth Savings Bank had only 28 per cent of its assets in loans for housing to modest borrowers for housing. Private savings banks had nearly 30 per cent of their assets available in loans for housing.
So it is a legitimate question to ask the Commonwealth Savings Bank, which in many ways is an administrative arm of the Commonwealth Government, what it has been doing over the last 17 or 18 months. It has not been serving the best interests of its own people. This can be demonstrated in a far more explicit way by comparing the situation in the various States of Australia. It is obvious that some States have had this most crucial source of funds- savings bank fundsdenied them to a far greater extent than other States of the Commonwealth. What are the details? The 2 States which have suffered the most in not having savings bank funds available to them have been my own State of Queensland- the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter), I know, is vitally interested in this because he has just come back from a tour throughout the north- and New South Wales. Latest figures available, those for September, show that my own State, which has nearly 1 5 per cent of the people in Australia and which had 18 to 20 per cent of the demand for housing in Australia, obtained less than 8 per cent of the funds available from savings banks for housing. At the same time, New South Wales, which should have received 35 per cent of savings banks funds available to it, received only 25 per cent. Those differences mean tens of millions of dollars. This position has persisted consistently during 1974.
I hesitate to throw figures into the arena, but they have to be thrown in to substantiate a very vital charge which is being made. During most of this year my own State had only 9 per cent of savings banks funds around Australia available to it. New South Wales had only 24 per cent to 25 per cent available to it. During the past year, in terms of dollars, Queensland has been denied nearly $60m in savings bank funds for housing. New South Wales, the Minister’s own State- I hope the Minister is paying attention- has been denied about $80m in funds for housing as compared with the rest of the nation. The result of those facts is simply that people in each of those States have been driven to dearer sources of finance.
The crucial question is this: To what extent is the Commonwealth Savings Bank involved? It is a fact and I believe it is more than a coincidence that Queensland and New South Wales are the 2 States of the Commonwealth in which the Commonwealth Savings Bank dominates the savings bank field. Pushed forward by that reasoning, I have proposed 2 amendments to this legislation that I hope the Minister will consider. They are 2 important amendments. I hope that the note that the Minister has received can answer those charges, but I would doubt it. I would like to hear what he has to say about these 2 amendments during the Committee stages of the Bill. I am delighted that funds are allocated to the banks in proportion to their size or their depositors’ accounts. I hope that the Minister will ensure that where there has been a shortfall of savings banks funds available to people in various States, within the allocation available to each bank extra funds will be made available for the people in those States. On this occasion New South Wales and Queensland are concerned. On other occasions other States will be concerned. That is the first amendment that I propose.
The second amendment in fact follows the first. It simply says that if there is a shortfall of funds expended by March next year then the Minister will be able to direct those funds to the States which have been kept artificially short of savings bank funds in this area. In other words, if one were to make an index of those States which have been penalised most in terms of savings bank funds available for housing one would find that it has been my State of Queensland and New South Wales. I merely ask that within the principles involved in this Bill that the short fall, which I believe has been an artificial squeeze, be rectified. It ought to be rectified. The latest assets of the banks substantiate the proposition which I have put forward to the Minister. So if I were to summarise the aspects of this Bill I would say that they are simply these: It is unique, and it needs to be unique, because the Government has been faced with the situation which has faced no other government before in Australia’s historycertainly not since the time that detailed data have been available in regard to housing.
The Government knows as well as I do that this allocation could have been provided without the necessity of bringing a Bill into this House. That power existed. I am delighted to be able to participate in the public relations exercise, but in joining the Minister in relation to it 1 hope that he will answer a few of the very gentle and what I think are reasonably pertinent questions. After all, in its own way this is a welfare measure.
We want to see that funds are allocated according to market conditions -in which the savings banks have had a lot of experience- in.those areas of Australia which have been deprived the most. When I mention the extent of this deprivation honourable members will see that it is not a small amount. It is a large amount. In relation to each of these areas it runs into tens of millions of dollars. I hope that the Minister is not unaware of what is going on in this field. He ought not to be. He has listed 10 initiatives which he has taken. I return to where I began. No matter what initiatives are followed in housing, no matter what new schemes are proposed, unless there is a reasonable balance in the economy the situation cannot be rectified. But even standing above this, unless interest rates are reasonable they can never be rectified. After all, interest rates are important to all.
It is the cost of money which is important. For a government which says it wants price control, it is worth recalling that one cost which the Government can control throughout Australia and the one cost which it has power to control effectively throughout Australia is the cost of money. There is very little opportunity of taking that control away from the Government. The other day a Bill was presented here concerning exchange powers. It was made clear in that Bill that the Government can control any outside influences on the volume of money in Australia. It has been made clear here in terms of the administration of budgets and of the Reserve Bank of Australia powers that the Government has a wide and very pervasive control over the domestic money supply in Australia. It has a pervasive control and influence on capital markets in Australia. As the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) was fond of saying when he was in Opposition, the Government has more financial powers centrally than most central governments -not Federal governments- in the world.
I ask the Minister that when the administration of these funds are through and when the upturn has occurred in the industry- as I hope it has- that he will turn his mind once again to the matter of interest rates. This is a cost over which he can exert most significant control. Until interest rates come down to reasonable levels without significant rates of inflation there will not be the balance which one would desire in the industry. I give a foretaste of 2 amendments which I will move in Committee. I remind the Minister that the Treasurer has agreed in principle to the substance of the amendments. He has seen them. I shall talk about them at the appropriate stages of the Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
-I have 2 amendments. I ask for leave to move the 2 amendments together.
-ls leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-I have 2 amendments which I propose but will not take to a vote. They relate to clauses 3 and 4. 1 have discussed both proposals and their principles with the Treasurer (Mr Crean) who is elsewhere. He has stated that it is not appropriate and not necessary, in his opinion, that the amendments be incorporated formally in the Bill. But he has agreed to abide by them as Treasurer as has the succeeding Treasurer in the administration of the funds. My first amendment applies to the administration and dissemination of funds which are available. The sum of $ 1 50m has been made available to the various banks which are in the housing business, that is savings banks, the Rural Bank of New South Wales and the Bank of Queenslandthose banks throughout the nation. I move:
That merely says of an amount of money which, for example, is given to the Commonwealth Savings Bank throughout Australia- it is $56.2m- for the dissemination of those funds throughout the States, that regard shall be had to the non-availability of savings bank funds in such States. Of course I am referring in the context of my previous speech to Queensland and New South Wales. This is appropriate because in many cases these are welfare funds and they are designed to go to the area where they are needed most. The Treasurer has agreed to abide by that principle without altering the destination of that money from the head office of the banks. My second amendment refers to sub-clause (2) of clause 4 which reads:
This simply states very sensitively and sensibly that the Government has said that where a bank has been unable to use the funds by March 1975 it will seek to reallocate those funds to other banks according to the requirements of the Schedule. I am asking that in the reallocation of those funds, if there is more of a shortfall in some States than in others and if that has persisted even at that date, extra emphasis be given to those States for these purposes. It is desirable that this be done and it ought to be done.
Finally let me say that one of the factors that needs to be noted in terms of savings bank funds available for housing is the wonderful performance in Victoria which is, I believe, not unrelated to the existence of the State Savings Bank of Victoria. The annual report of the State Savings Bank of Victoria had this to say:
When substantial increases in a range of interest rates were announced in September 1973, it was requested that savings bank should limit increases in housing loan rates to 1 per cent per annum. While realising that such action would adversely affect the profitability of a large segment of its investments the Bank reacted immediately to the social implications of the request and continued to lend strongly for housing at the interest rates suggested.
That action is unfortunately in stark contrast with the activities of the Commonwealth Savings Bank. I ask the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson) to consider those principles. I ask that he publicly accept on behalf of the Treasurer that they be part of the program for the allocation of the funds as between :he banks and the States.
-This afternoon we heard from the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson) a political speech in which he requested that members of the Opposition not cane him and certainly not say or do anything that might in any way undermine public confidence. Yet in his opening remarks he said that the Liberals were to blame for the excessive funds that have been made available in the home building area. Before that the Minister said: ‘The difference between the Liberal Party and the Labor Party is that you Libeals never did anything positive like this’ - meaning this piece of legislation. He made 2 points which were quite inconsistent. If we had never done anything like this, if we had never done anything to stimulate the building industry, how can he suggest that any excessive funds that were available in this area before were available as a result of action taken by this political party? That argument is quite specious and the Australian people know it to be false.
The Minister cannot have it both ways. He suggested that because there had been some improvement- a small improvement at that- in the number of housing approvals, the situation was on the mend. I would point out that in his second reading speech the Treasurer (Mr Crean) mentioned that last year the number of building approvals in Australia reached a record level of 152,700. My calculation on the same rate of building approvals for 12 months as we have seen for the month mentioned by the Minister in his speech would give us some 53,000 homes built this year if these conditions continued. That is, one-third of the number of homes would be built in Australia, if they were proceeded with at this rate of approval, than were built during the preceding year for which we were blamed. It seems quite clear to me and it ought to be quite clear to all thinking people, that if there is a reduction of 100,000 homes that might otherwise have been expected to be built, we would need next year something in the order of 250,000 homes- that is, a 500 per cent increase in the rate of approvals- if we were to achieve the position in terms of completed homes that we have had up to now.
I was speaking to an architect friend of mine the other day. I think it is probably more realistic to look at the number of drawings on his board to assess what the real position will be, because building approvals are only the result of architects’ drawings. This particular architect in Parramatta told me that he had had no new work across his drawing board in 3 months. I suggest that if his situation is indicative of that of other architects, we will see a further fall in the number of approvals and not an increase. As the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) in a most admirable speech made clear, the number of approvals cannot be related per quarter and one must look at a more overall situation.
In my area there is a large number of home builders- some very large companies and some very small companies. I wish to draw the attention of the Committee to a plaintive letter I received from a small builder. Unfortunately a very large builder is likely to go the same way as this gentleman. He wrote me and said:
This firm has been building 1 2 to 1 5 homes per year since its formation in 1 964, at very competitive prices.
This fellow has lived through many squeezes. At that time he had 3 completed homes unsold in the Parramatta region and he could not sell them. He had taken on apprentices at the request of government departments. He said in his concluding remarks:
Thanks to the wisdom and economic management of the present Government this company has ceased to function as from today.
That was on 12 August. He asked me to convey the implications of his letter and that trend to the Government. I did this in letters to the Minister for Housing and Construction and to the Treasurer. The Treasurer replied to me. He did not comment upon the plight of this builder who had gone out of business, but he said this:
The Government’s policies over the past 18 months have been directed towards reducing the excessive availability of housing finance . . . That situation is now being alleviated.
It was only in September that he said this, at a time when the Housing Industry Association warned us that ‘a dangerously low level of housing construction has now resulted from the severely restrictive financial policies of the Australian Government and the industry’s future must be regarded with great concern.’ That Association said in September:
A number of home builders face bankruptcy, while many others are cutting down or drastically reducing their operations.
I can confirm that in my area builders are at the stage where they will be out of business and people will no longer be employed by them unless draconian measures are taken to increase demand and to enable homes to be sold and people to obtain finance.
I submit that the methods we have before us, whilst they go part of the way, will not relieve this situation that resulted from the Government’s own actions, which were designed to bring to fruition in the Treasurer’s words the Government’s aims in the field of welfare housing- that is, by stifling private building in Australia. That is what was intended. Clearly what needs to be done is that the Governmenthaving achieved its end in controlling finance corporations in Australia, controlling as it can the operations of building societies and permanent building societies, and notwithstanding the plaintive words of the Minister for Housing and Construction that the Government has confidence in building societies and his statement that the Government has virtually underwritten building societies- must guarantee the operations of building societies. It must do this so that those societies, in New South Wales in particular, will be in a position to release moneys they are holding in a cash form and will not invest in the housing market through fear that has been generated as a result of this Government’s policies. I would submit that by guaranteeing the debts or possible debts of the building societies very large sums of money would be immediately available to relieve an urgent problem. It is not good enough for the Government supporters to complain, as they have, about rentals, rental accommodation and the high rents people have to pay when we have seen the destruction of private investment and of the willingness of people to invest in buildings for rent. Unless action on the lines proposed by the honourable member for Lilley, or action proposed by me in respect of building societies, is taken I submit that this problem will not be solved.
-This evening we are debating a Bill which does not deserve to be debated for the Government well appreciates that it has quite adequate authority through the Reserve Bank to make additional funds available to the trading and savings banks for the funding of housing and so forth, especially through the control over statutory reserve deposits. There is no question that this could have been done by means other than a Bill. However, for cosmetic reasons it is clear that the Government wishes to make a grand gesture of making additional funds available to show Australia that all of a sudden the whole building industry is to be back on its feet. Why? Because funds are available. The unfortunate fact is that mere money does not build houses and ordinary people today are faced by the sheer weight of interest which makes it very difficult for young couples in particular to seriously enter into the home buying or home building market today.
It is all very well for the Commonwealth Bank to suggest that it is prepared to make available first mortgage funds of up to $25,000 and second mortgage funds to make up the difference. We must remember that the first mortgage bears interest at about 10.5 per cent and the second mortgage at 1 5 per cent and is payable in 5 years. These are, to say the least, onerous terms for any section of the community and to suggest that people at the bottom- young people who are trying to establish for themselves a reasonable home base in this community- can meet such repayments is to deny the realities of the situation.
The Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson), who is well known for the subtlety of his phraseology, has told us:
Recent problems in the housing industry have been caused by the aggregation of capital in the free market.
I am delighted to note that a Minister of the present Government puts such weight on the free market. I would have thought that we have not had for many years a free market, but rather financial controls in Australia. I am well aware, as I am sure the Minister is, that there is sufficient legislative control in this country and through the powers available to the Government to ensure that at no time should there be an inordinate aggregate control of capital by the free market.
The situation is quite clear. When this Government came to power there were indications of an overheating in the economy and for the first 12 months of its administration it did nothing to control that overheating. I remember hearing only too well on television and seeing advertisements put out by the banks in the newspapers: ‘Come to us for money. It is available. We are ready to give it to you in bucketfuls at reasonable interest rates. ‘ I have never in my life seen such a total lack of financial control applied by any administration. Yet now, nearly 2 years later, we hear these baneful tones: ‘The situation is poor, yes, but it will improve, we hope’. And why will it improve? ‘Because we are allowing funds to be made available for housing’.
I hope that the main objective of the Government’s home building incentive policies is to stimulate the building industry but, as I have already pointed out, merely increasing the flow of funds to banks and making more money available to government instrumentalities for house and flat construction does not necessarily solve the problem. Only a few days ago in this chamber we debated a Bill to make more money available for public sector housing. The sad fact is that regardless of the injection of additional funds, into the public sector in particular, the capacity of that sector to increase the supply of new housing is severely limited by its own institutional problems which include those of tendering, approvals, loans and associated matters. All of these take time, and we are talking about a lead time of between 6 and 9 months. For this fundamental reason, regardless of the amount of money which is now suddenly being injected into the economy ostensibly for the construction of houses, it is unlikely there will be a significant increase in public sector or private sector housing within the next 12 months. In my own State it is the wish of the Government to construct 13,000 new home units but, in fact, there could well be a shortfall due to delays within the system as it presently exists.
The housing industry obviously needs a significant increase in commencements and approvals for commencements if, in the next few months, it is going to be able to live out the extraordinary situation in which it has found itself. The unfortunate fact is that the housing industry in Australia has had to bear the brunt of the present Government’s stop-go monetary policies. Because of its position as a leading indicator in the general business cycle it has far reaching ramifications throughout the entire economy. But we cannot forever go on using the housing industry as a means for total control of the economy in times of overheating. It is neither possible nor desirable to insulate housing finance entirely from the rest of the monetary system. On the other hand, there is no reason why we should discriminate against it especially as, as has been pointed out by many of my colleagues, we are dealing with a social welfare question- the right of every Australian citizen, regardless of his income, or whether married or single, to have a decent house and to make decisions which are to their advantage and therefore to the advantage of the community.
At present the loan of $22,500, which is available through the Commonwealth Bank, is only enough to purchase the most modest flat in the southern suburbs of Sydney. That loan requires repayments of $161 a month or a quarter of the average salary. In that formula, in accordance with this legislation and standard bank practice, the wife’s income is not to be considered for purposes of lending criteria. The minimum cost of a home in Sydney- I emphasise a very modest home- is $26,000 and a loan of 75 per cent of that amount would require repayments of approximately $ 1 70 a month or gross earnings of $640 a month or more than $7,500 a year. What is to become of all the people who earn a lot less than that amount? Here I am talking about more than 50 per cent of Australia’s population. The fact is that the Government has allowed an important gap to be created between the minimum income for savings bank loans requiring one quarter of the annual salary in monthly repayments and the maximum income, which at present is $120 a week, allowed for loans from terminating building societies. There is a considerable gap between $120 and $160 a week of gross salary which is not covered at present by any lending institution. The people concerned represent a substantial segment of the wage earning community of Australia.
We know, even if the Minister does not wish to appreciate it, that the building industry is one of high turnover and it is able to keep itself as an economically viable operation only while it can maintain low average costs and eliminate considerable wastage. It is in times like these- with a run down of the entire industry, when labour has to go to other sectors of the economy and when supplies are building up in warehouses, whereas a few months ago they did not even exist- that is an example of the chaos which has been developed in the industry, especially in the last 6 months due to the present Government. It is all very well to say that by putting funds into the hands of the public sector builders can go and build for housing commissions. The fact is that some 15 builders are tendering for each government contract in New South Wales. This causes additional delays and fragmentation within the industry. Above all else, only one builder will win the contract. What about the other fourteen?
– The one chosen gets bigger and bigger.
– Yes, and the others go to the wall. Perhaps it is the object of the Government to make the big bigger and to wipe out the middle man. So will die the incentive of the Australian people.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Les Johnson)- by leave- read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 6.17 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from 19 November on motion by Dr Patterson:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– May I have the indulgence of the House to raise a point of procedure on this legislation. Before the debate is resumed on this Bill I should like to suggest that it might suit the convenience of the House to have a general debate covering this Bill and the Wool Marketing (Loan) Bill (No. 2), as they are associated measures. Separate questions will of course be put on each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate. I suggest therefore, Mr Speaker, that you permit the subject matter of both Bills to be discussed in this debate.
-Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering both measures?
-Yes, Mr Speaker.
– I shall allow that procedure to be adopted.
-The 2 cognate Bills we are discussing tonight involve amendments to the Wool Industry Act. The first Bill, the Wool Industry Bill (No. 2), proposes amendments to the Wool Industry Act to provide increased functions for the Australian Wool Corporation and also provides for changes in the membership of the board of the Australian Wool Corporation, and so on. The second Bill, the Wool Marketing (Loan) Bill (No. 2), deals with the additional $200m to be provided to the Australian Wool Corporation for market support proposals. The Opposition supports this Bill although it has reservations as to how this market support finance should be provided to the Corporation and it feels that, if possible, the Corporation should be free to seek finance on the open market, subject of course to some Government guarantee.
Firstly I want to look at the overall state of the wool industry today. As a member representing a substantial wool growing electorate I appreciate the firm action that the Government has taken through the Australian Wool Corporation to support a minimum price of 250c per kilo clean. Whilst one can quibble about the level of this support, and I think there are very clear indications that the level is below today’s cost of production, the Government’s action in a period of depressed demand for wool has been appropriate, apt and welcome. The Government gave a clear indication that it would not retreat from the reserve of 250c per kilo clean and its firm support of the Corporation has been acknowledged and applauded by all growers.
Along with this we have had the first real contribution by wool growers towards the stability of their own industry when they agreed to pay an additional 5 per cent into the market support fund. Admittedly, wool growers have over many years paid into research and promotion funds but this is the first time that they have fully shouldered a substantial contribution to marketing support and the price support of their own commodity. This surely reflects a growing realisation by wool growers and by grower organisations that marketing stability is vital and necessary and that the industry, both producer and consumer, cannot live with the violent troughs and peaks of a completely open market without adequate insurance from the extreme fluctuations of such a market.
The Australian Wool Corporation marketing recommendations have been released for a long time now; the appendices were released some months ago. It should be very clear that these Bills cannot be regarded as a substitute for action on the marketing report. The Australian Wool Corporation marketing recommendations go very much further than the proposals in these Bills and involve many aspects not included in the Bills. The Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wriedt) in the 1974 election pamphlet ‘This Land- Labor’s Rural Programme’ stated:
I have already stated publicly that I personally accept the main objectives and broad framework of the Corporation’s proposals. These proposals are significant and have important implications for the future of the Australian wool industry.
I can see in the Corporation’s proposals the opportunity for improving the overall efficiency of wool marketing in Australia, a move which will benefit all woolgrowers.
Many details embodied in the Corporation’s report still need to be clarified. Accordingly, consultations will continue between the Corporation, all wool industry sectors and the Government.
Important changes such as these need careful study by all concerned. I would hope that wool growers consider very deeply the importance of making changes to wool marketing and the extent to which wool growers are prepared to invest in the efficient marketing of their product.
This undertaking cannot be forgotten. There is certainly some doubt amongst wool growers and wool grower organisations today as to whether the Minister intends to continue with the marketing recommendations. We understand that an interdepartmental committee is examining the matter, but it will be a broken election promise and a tragedy for the entire wool industry if the progressive and forward looking recommendations of the Australian Wool Corporation are passed over and no action is taken on them.
It has been put to me that the attacks by the Minister for Northern Development (Dr Patterson) and the honourable member for EdenMonaro (Mr Whan) some time ago on the integrity and performance of individual members of the Australian Wool Corporation, together with the proposals in this Bill to amend the membership of the Corporation, are designed to discredit the marketing report and to give the Government an escape hatch. I do not wish to canvass again the groundless accusations then promoted but I do seriously ask the Government whether it intends to go on with its examination of the marketing report with a view to accepting and implementing those recommendations in the report which are acceptable to the wool industry. 1 therefore repeat what I said earlier, that these Bills are not a substitute for action on the wool marketing recommendations of the Australian Wool Corporation and that passage of the Bills does not absolve the Government from a full and thorough examination and subsequent implementation of such recommendations. Cost pressures on the wool industry at all stages from farmer to processor necessitate urgent action in many areas, and some of the recommendations in the marketing report would appear to lead to substantial cost savings through the pipeline.
The Opposition opposes the proposal in this Bill to amend the membership of the Corporation. As will be clearly shown by the amendments which will be proposed later, we regard these changes in the membership as a censure of the Australian Wool Corporation. In my opinion the operations of the Australian Wool Corporation have been courageous and in the best interests of the Australian wool industry in the recent period of depressed demand, and I am sure that all growers throughout Australia would echo such sentiments. No reasons have been given for the proposed changes in membership. Who the new members with special qualifications are to be is still a secret. We know that several people have been approached, but the real purpose of the reorganisation of the board of the Corporation can only be guessed at. There can be only 2 reasons: Vindictiveness, or because the Australian Labor Party wants to stack the Corporation’s board with Party sympathisers, Party hacks or trade union officials. On 23 July 1 974, as reported at pages 476-477 of Hansard, the honourable member for Eden-Monaro said: … I hope to establish a prima facie case for an independent investigation of the structure and activities of the Wool Corporation and its predecessor, the Australian Wool Board.
It would appear fair and pertinent to ask whether these changes are resulting from such an independent investigation and, if so, why the results of this investigation have not been revealed to the Parliament, the Australian Wool Industry Conference and the wool grower organisations. Is the change in membership a result of the charges in this House in July 1974 by the Minister for Northern Development that the Corporation had exceeded its powers? According to an answer to a question on notice, recorded in the House of Representatives Hansard at page 2592, the Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wriedt) did not strongly support these accusations that the Australian Wool Corporation had departed from its charter. He said:
When sales resumed in July last the Corporation continued to test the market at the closing level of the 1973-74 season and in doing so purchased in excess of 60 per cent of auction offerings which had been considerably enlarged because of cancellation of earlier sales. Whether in following such action the corporation departed from the guidelines turns on a judgment as to whether the Corporation should have continued its testing role as long as it did. The Minister for Agriculture had not been formally consulted on the Corporation ‘s policy during the July auctions, but had been advised of the likelihood of a weak market during July. The Minister has stated that whilst in his view the actions of the Corporation could have been regarded formally as outside its guidelines, he accepts that the Corporation did not have the power to cancel or significantly reduce wool supplies at auction without the concurrence of other members of the Joint Wool Selling Organisation.
The departure from the guidelines as seen by the Minister for Agriculture are not grave and do not appear to justify retaliatory action to the extent now proposed in this Bill. The Minister for Agriculture has made great play on the appointment of qualified men to boards, authorities and the like. His performances do not support his words. To illustrate this, I need only refer to the extreme pressure put on the Meat Board Selection Committee to get a defeated Queensland Labor candidate appointed to the Australian Meat Board. It speaks highly of the integrity of the Meat Board Selection Committee that it rejected such pressures and the appointment of a true grower representative was recommended.
I could also point to the selection of a Western Australian farmer to the National Rural Advisory Committee- a person who had played no great part in farmer organisations in Western Australia and who was apparently chosen on the basis of a 5-minute conversation with the Minister at Narrogin prior to an election rally. Perhaps he was the only one in the audience and this was the Minister’s way of thanking him. Grower representation on the board of the Corporation is changed by this Bill, both in the manner of appointment and in the ratio of wool growers to the total board. I am one who advocates grower control of statutory boards marketing primary products and I fiercely oppose the proposition that in an enlarged board as is proposed, the proportion of grower representation be reduced. Adequate grower representation on the board is vital to protect the wool growing side of the industry. After all, it is tile farmers’ product which is being sold and the decisions, both large and small, by the Corporation can have significant effects upon a substantial proportion of the rural sector.
The honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Whan) is recorded at page 477 of Hansard for 23 July 1 974 as having said:
Nobody on the Corporation has a wool technology background and is equipped to grasp the implications of the new developments.
He was particularly referring to the introduction of objective measurement. This reflects an unfortunate view often put in relation to agricultural marketing boards, and that is that all the expertise has to be on the board itself. It completely ignores the ability of a board to buy expertise, from more than one source if necessary, or to use advisory committees of experts to put forward recommendations. Surely the board should be the decision maker in the light of the board’s responsibilities and long term aims. In the case of the Australian Wool Corporation these aims are expressed to be the furtherance of the Australian wool industry, and such aims cannot be divorced from farmers who, no matter how one looks at it, are the single most important sector of that industry.
The Minister wishes to choose the grower representatives from a list prepared by the Australian Wool Industry Conference so that he can cull those he does not want. He does not accept the right of growers to be responsible for their own selections. I also have to protest at the propositions floated at the recent Australian Wool Industry Conference where the Minister’s representative indicated that the Minister would not choose people who were beyond 65 years of age. If this is to be the policy, why is it not included in the Bill? In effect the Minister, through his representative at the AWIC was attempting to influence the selection without having to accept responsibility for the ideas floated on his behalf.
The Opposition rejects the changed membership proposal for the Corporation and rejects the spill which will result. It can be regarded as a vote of censure by the Government of the Corporation and must damage the goodwill, respect and liaison which the Corporation has built up with most sections of the wool industry.
I turn now to proposed new sections 20a (1) and 20a (2) of the Wool Industry Bill (No. 2). Proposed new section 20a ( 1 ) reads:
Before taking any action that could reasonably be expected to affect the conditions of employment, or the demand for labour, in the wool industry, the Corporation shall consult with, and have regard to the views of, the appropriate trade union organizations.
Proposed new section 20a (2) states:
The Minister may give to the Corporation such directions in writing as he thinks necessary in connexion with the performance of the duty of the Corporation under sub-section (1).
The terms ‘conditions of employment’ and ‘demand for labour’ are very wide and in the absence of a narrow definition of the wool industry must include all areas from farm operations to the processor and beyond. Many of these areas cannot be accepted as areas in which the Corporation should be involved. Even less desirable from our point of view is the proposal that the Minister for Agriculture under proposed new section 20a (2) should be empowered to give directions binding on the Corporation in such dealings. We reject the concept that the Minister for Agriculture should be a manpower controller in the wool industry.
In effect ministerial directions under proposed sections 20a (1) and 20a (2) can be operative and effective for up to 1 1 months and kept secret for that time from the public, industry or parliamentary scrutiny. The only time that such directions will be revealed will be at the time of the Corporation’s annual report in accordance with the proposed section 90 (7). The amendment proposed by the Opposition will continue the requirement for the Corporation to consult with trade unions on changes in conditions of employment and the like. It also requires the corporation to consult with appropriate grower organisations. The obnoxious provision for ministerial direction to the Corporation on this aspect is removed altogether by our amendment that the proposed section 20a (2) be deleted.
The other principal amendment which the Opposition will move deals with the handling of the money raised for wool market support by the additional 5 per cent tax levied on all wool sold which operates from 2 September 1974 to 1 July 1975. We wish to see that money clearly identified. We wish to see a full account of the transactions involving that money made to the Parliament and the wool growers. It is for this reason that we support the establishment of a trust fund under section 62a of the Audit Act. In effect, we want the money collected by the additional tax to be treated along the same lines as the money raised by tax for research and promotion purposes. A substantial sum of $45m is involved and this is money the wool growers have agreed to subscribe to help stabilise the market of thenown product. It is therefore important that the money be placed in a trust fund where full accountability will be required on the use of it. I feel that the establishment of a trust fund could well help the establishment in the near future of a market support fund financed by wool growers but operating on the basis of a revolving fund. Once a desired total is reached the earlier grower contributions are repaid as the later grower contributions are collected. Such a scheme will provide a fair basis for grower support of a marketing scheme- one where the Corporation can operate with little financial reliance on and risk of control by governments.
In particular we reject the proposed section 28a (12) which would enable the money standing to the credit of the Market Support Fund to be ‘applied by the Corporation for such purpose in relation to the wool industry as is determined by the Minister after consultation with the Australian Wool Industry Conference’. Having served on the AWIC for a number of years I am aware of what consultation means as interpreted by this Labor Government. It is merely a farcical recitation by the Minister’s representative of what the Minister proposes and there is no opportunity for the AWIC to get its views placed before the Minister or even to be given scant consideration.
The amendment proposed by the Opposition proposed section 28a ( 12) requires that the balance of the moneys: . . . shall be applied by the Corporation Tor such purpose in relation to the wool industry as is determined by the Minister after approval has been given by the Australian Wool Industry Conference in writing to the Minister on recommendations made by the Corporation.
This amendment emphasises that the money truly belongs to the wool growers and that they should have an effective say in its future use. It thus protects the wool grower by requiring that the Australian Wool Industry Conference, as the representative of wool growers, shall approve of the use of the money in the future. It does not allow the Minister to treat the AWIC and through it the wool growers with the disrespect with which they have been treated in the past under the meaningless title of ‘consultation’. I support the amendment which will be moved by the Deputy Leader of the Country Party to this Bill. It will ensure that the Australian Wool Corporation can continue to play its vital role free, so far as possible, from Government dictation and control. I will support the amendment that will be moved.
– I apologise to the House for not having been here at 8 o’clock. There have been a few transport problems in which I have been involved. It seems to me that in considering the Wool Industry Bill there are many facets that we need to consider about the rural industries as a whole. The first of the things that 1 want to say to the House is that a lot of concern is expressed wherever one goes in Australia about the divisiveness that has been pushed upon the Australian community over the last 2 years. The divisiveness has arisen as the result of a feeling by some people in the present Government that there is a fundamental difference in entitlement for a share of community goods as a result of the distribution of the general taxpayer’s wealth which is, of course, the product of Government policy implementations. The product of that is that more and more money seems to be spent in the city and less and less in the country.
I think it is important that Australians as a whole realise that exactly one-third of Australians still live outside the major cities. The precise percentage is 33.07 per cent. Out of a population of 12,995,100 Australians as at 31 December 1973, 4,297,100 people lived in the country. Those 4,297,100 Australians are to a significant degree engaged in industries which are involved in export of one form or another. Even last year when earnings generally were down these people generated from the agricultural sector in excess of 5 1 per cent of the revenue earned by this nation in overseas exports. Of course, another 20 per cent of those earnings came from mining. So honourable members can see that about one-third of Australia’s population earns something like 71 per cent of Australia’s export income. I want to emphasise the inter-relation and interdependence of the people in the cities of Australia with those people who live in the country.
I think that it is important that there should be a common recognition that wherever Australians live they have a common interest in the advancement of this community. If we are to achieve social advancement and if we are to achieve those objectives which all of us in the Parliament express in one form or another towards a better opportunity for the citizens of this country tomorrow, it is necessary that the relationship between those who generate export income and those who largely service Australia’s population is recognised. This Wool Industry Bill deals with one of those sectors which so significantly in the past has generated the major part of Australia’s export income. It is true today -
– It would not be any good unless I could sell the stuff.
-I am glad to hear the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) interject. He is one of those who, in the interrelationship between the man in the city and the man in the country, is dependent on wool as a fibre in its processed form and selling it according to the fashion demands of his clients to his advantage and, I trust, to the advantage of his customers. Of course, the important point is that there is this recognition of mutual interdependence. Any Bill relating to the wool industry emphasises the degree to which the taxpayer has a continuing interest in ensuring that the wool industry survives for those export interests if export earnings are not to be discounted.
We are, in fact, considering 2 Bills. I wish firstly to deal with the Wool Marketing (Loan) Bill (No. 2) 1974. This Bill provides for the purposes of the Australian Wool Corporation an additional $200m, not as a gift or a grant, but as a loan. It is provided as a loan only in circumstances in which the Australian Wool Corporation approaches the Government in accordance with the prescription that has been laid down in order to utilise additional funds for the function of the Corporation. There has been a tendency in some quarters for some people to say that the Australian wool industry is very dependent upon the Australian taxpayer and that if it were not for the Australian taxpayer the wool industry today would not be solvent. It is true that over the last 5 years the wool industry has received more assistance than it has received at any other time in Australia’s history. I would like to revert to the old maxim that Australia for so long has ridden on the sheep’s back. It is important that in the recognition by the taxpayer of the needs in the wool industry there is a continued acceptance of the interdependence of people in the cities and in the country, each upon the other and together as a community, as a whole. The $200m additional that is to be provided through the Wool Marketing (Loan) Bill will be lent to the Corporation according to the prescription which the legislation provides.
I have a reservation about the degree to which this additional $200m will make the Corporation dependent on the Government not only in regard to the policy directives that issue from the government of the day but also in regard to the Corporation’s financing. I would like the Wool Corporation to be significantly dependent either upon advances from the private banking sector or perhaps from a Government approved bond issue. I say this because loans of this nature would need approval of the Treasury. Perhaps debentures or some type of note issue should be made available. Perhaps the Corporation could operate in the manner that the Australian Industry Development Corporation is now operating so that public subscription funds could be used by the Corporation. It is of concern to me that any organisation operating as the Wool Corporation does can feel itself being constricted by the financial relationship that it has with the Government or, being dependent upon the Government for its policy directives, to feel as a result of this that the wool growers- the people who essentially are producing this wealth- are being prejudiced because there is this relationship over which they can have no control. I believe that it is terribly important that the Wool Corporation as soon as possible and to the maximum of its ability should get away from excess dependence upon the Government.
I move now to the Wool Industry Bill (No. 2) 1974. In fact, it is the second Bill that has been submitted to this Parliament during this year with respect to the Wool Corporation. I believe that some aspects of this legislation are commendable. However, there are other aspects of it that 1 believe are not so commendable. The first thing I should say with respect to the Bill is that I hope that in his reply to this second reading debate the Minister for Northern Development and Minister for the Northern Territory (Dr Patterson) who represents the Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wriedt) in this place explains whether this piece of legislation it to be the response to the Australian Wool Corporation’s marketing plan or whether we can expect yet another piece of legislation that may in further detail embrace the prescription that was laid down to the Australian Wool Corporation in that marketing plan. If the Bill is to be the answer to that plan, I am disappointed that there has not been an express statement to that effect. I believe that if the Government by this measure alone is going to implement only those parts of this marketing plan as it sees fit to accept, this House should have been told just that. In fact, we have received no advice in that direction. Of course this Bill contains certain powers relating to the extension of the trading functions of the Corporation and provides for certain additional functions for the Corporation. Presumably they in some way relate to that marketing plan. I believe it is necessary that the Government tells us just what it means in that direction.
The aspect of the Bill that concerns me even more is that to which the honourable member for Canning (Mr Bungey), who preceded me, has already adverted- that is, the degree to which the changes in the membership of the Corporation can be seen by some who heard the Minister for Northern Development and the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Whan) speak in this House on another occasion as being a vote of no confidence in the members of the Wool Corporation. If that were so, it would be totally reprehensible. I believe that the Wool Corporation, acting as it does in circumstances of market unpredictability and variability, has been responsible for ensuring the present market recovery. Perhaps I am speaking a little early in anticipation of what I hope are better things to come. But in the last fortnight there has been marked improvement in the general tone of the market. I hope that as a result there will continue to be wider sales to the normal buying public and a lessening of the demand on the Wool Corporation to act in the market place, with a consequent general improvement in the returns to wool growers. Because we are concerned that these changes to the membership of the Corporation might be seen as a vote of no confidence in the present membership, it is our intention during the Committee stage of this debate to move for the deletion of that part of this legislation which provides for such changes.
There are 2 specific aspects of this. The first is the provision that there should be one additional member with special qualifications. The Minister, as seems to be the wont of this so-called Government proceeding towards opening the doors of government to the people, has failed to tell us why there is a necessity for an additional member. In a belated Press statement, which I do not agree should be a means for a Minister to declare his intentions to the Parliament, it is suggested that this additional member is being provided because of the additional trading functions to be given to the Australian Wool Corporation. There have been no specifics as to just what that additional member might bring. As it is the view of the Opposition Parties that a small, tightly knit, effective board is more likely to be effective than a larger one, it is our intention to move that the membership of the Corporation should remain at its present level. If the Minister has a particular reason for including an additional person, we will be prepared to listen to that reason.
Another part of the clause with which I wish to deal is the suggestion that there might be a rotation of woolgrower members. We accept this principle as being desirable, but any change in the membership of those representing the wool grower community prior to the expiration of their present terms we do not believe to be necessary, desirable or acceptable. Certainly any change in the basis of election of those who are to be the representatives of the wool growers is totally unacceptable. Even the Minister for Agriculture might realise that he, as a member of the Senate, the other chamber of this Parliament, is subject to election. None of us on this side of the House regards him as being an effective Minister. In fact, we regard him as being significantly responsible for the run-down in returns for those in the rural sector.
– He is an ineffective Minister.
– No matter what sympathies he might express in public, his actions speak far louder than the words which he has professed. As a result, we do not believe he is other than, as my colleague suggests, an ineffective Minister. But he is an elected member of the other chamber. As a result of a process which we as parliamentarians endorse, we accept that for the time being he is the Minister for Agriculture in this Parliament. As the Minister for Agriculture he is subject to the same election procedures as is every other member of that other chamber. He then represents the Australian people. On what basis and with what right has one elected Minister a claim to change the basis of election of others who in another area, in this instance the Wool Corporation, are elected by those who own the clip and who produce the clip to represent them within that Corporation? We do not believe that any significant or substantial reason has been advanced for the change in the basis of election of members of the Wool Corporation to represent Australian wool growers. The only reason advanced is the totally reprehensible one that this is a sop to the Minister for Northern Development and the honourable member for Eden-Monaro for their having criticised some of the present members of the Australian Wool Corporation. That is not acceptable to the Opposition and for that reason we shall move the changes which I have intimated.
This legislation provides for some changes in the powers which were initially given to the Australian Wool Corporation. I do not know to what degree the Minister or the Government has genuinely consulted those who are involved in the wool industry at large. Members of the Opposition have tried to the best or our ability to contact all those who have an interest in the wool industry. We do not believe that those who are involved should be necessarily preserved in their present role. In fact, as a former Minister, I have been very keen to ensure that the market innovators should be given a continued opportunity to perform their function. I regret quite sincerely that present economic exigencies have caused significant changes in the role of one of thosethe Economic Wool Producers organisationwhich has been in the forefront of many of those market changes. However, the future of that organisation and where it leads is beyond the control of this Parliament. It is after all a private enterprise body. I am concerned that within this legislation we should hear and consider the views of everybody who is in any way associated with the industry. Whether or not their views be accepted is a matter for this Parliament.
I want to refer to some of those views which obviously have been discounted by the Government and which I think need to be considered if an adequate consideration of the extension of the powers of the Australian Wool Corporation is to be effectively given. Firstly, I refer to the Australian wool buyers. They have presented a submission to us in which they quite strongly express their concern at the degree to which increased Corporation power and supply management might disturb the sensitivities of supply demand in the wool market. They suggest that those in the Wool Corporation who with the very best of intentions are today responsible for this supply demand situation are not necessarily as experienced in the field as those who are wool buyers. I believe this criticism to be understandable, but I believe it is a factor which the members of the Wool Corporation need to take into account when determining the way in which they will use the additional powers for which this legislation provides. The wool buyers have said to me that the trading powers strike at the heart of the market forces present balance and if they were used to influence existing established markets, particularly in terms of the export of processed wools, they could quite seriously prejudice the operations of those in the private sector.
With respect to the additional powers to be included in section 40 of the Act, as amended by clause 13 of this Bill, it is necessary that the Australian Wool Corporation does not abuse particularly the power to buy and sell at auction or otherwise. This additional power means that the Australian Wool Corporation can go quite outside the presently established means of acquiring wool. If it does so, it must be quite conscious of the degree to which, by the tremendous power it can exercise, it can distort the powers of the market place in such a way as to prejudice the long term returns to wool growers and the long term interests of the wool industry itself.
Paragraphs (c) and (d) of proposed section 40 (4) provide for an extension of power with respect to the processing or arranging for the processing of wool and for the buying, selling and exporting of wool products. Again those 2 powers, if abused, might well lead to detrimental and adverse effects for the wool industry. The extent to which the AWC operates in that respect will be the criterion by which the concern expressed by the wool buyers’ association is or is not to be realised. The Opposition does not intend to move amendments to these parts of the Bill. But the Opposition is concerned to see that the Australian Wool Corporation, with the tremendous power that this legislation will give it, does not abuse that power and those who are members of the Corporation continue to act with the very same high measure of responsibility which they have demonstrated to date.
It is true that in one other area there is a problem about which those presently involved in the wool industry have expressed concern to those of us in the Opposition. It is the degree to which privately sold wool is not to be subject to the same form of supervision in lots that are badly prepared for sale as those lots which are offered by auction or by tender. Of course, the constraints applied in the legislation come only through the ability of the Corporation to withdraw the operation of a reserve price on wools that are offered. That is, in auction and by tender there is an ability for the Australian Wool Corporation to withdraw its support from the market. As the AWC gives no support to private sales, it is not possible for it to exercise that same constraint with respect to private sales. All those involved in the industry are aware of the necessary balance between the components of selling. The auction floor still sets fundamentally the price which is seen by the community at large as the current market price of greasy wool. It is true that there is a wool futures market but significantly the market is seen by those who are the collectors of statistics and the operators in the market place as emanating from the auction floor. If there is to be any change in the operation of the market which leads to an even greater proportion of wool being sold privately, the consequences need be seen in relation to the overall level of returns that are generated from greasy wool sales. It is of concern to the Opposition that there has still been no means devised by which the same supervision can be exercised by the Wool Corporation with respect to sales privately of lots from the Australian wool clip as that which is henceforth to be exercised with regard to sales by tender and sales by auction.
The legislation itself embraces a number of areas some of which I have referred to, but there is one other area within which we think a change is essential. That is to be found in clause 9 of the Bill. The degree to which there is a common interest between those who are the employees within the wool industry and those who are the employers is recognised and accepted by those of us on this side of the House. However, the proposed new section 20a has a number of elements which we do not believe acceptable or desirable. It is our intention, accordingly, to move with respect to the first part of proposed new section 20a that appropriate employer organisations also should be consulted in those areas where it is felt that trade union organisations should be consulted.
I say this because the Australian Wool Corporation operates outside the normal employer position within the industry. There are significant employer groups which begin from the wool on the sheep’s back- even from the wool grower himself, represented by those federal bodies which participate in negotiations for shearing rates and for other rates within the Federal Pastoral Award. There are significant areas of employer concern within each of the significant phases of wool handling from the sheep’s back to the waterfront or to the ultimate customer. It is for that reason that we believe it essential that appropriate employer organisations also be consulted by that body which is going to exercise such a significant entrepreneurial role within the wool industry. As to the Minister for Agriculture being given power of direction, which is the conception embodied in proposed new section 20a(2), this is completely repugnant.
Why should the Minister intervene in an area where the corporation is given adequate power? What particular role should the Minister specifically have that he cannot exercise in normal consultation with those who are employers or employees or with those who are within the corporation itself? Again, this is an area involving this openness of government of which this
Government so proudly boasts and yet so rarely demonstrates. It is essential that that clause be deleted. There is no reason for it being there. There is no advantage to the wool industry. There is no obvious benefit that will flow to anybody. Accoringly, it is another one of those changes within the legislation which we propose to implement.
There are a number of other amendments which we propose which I will deal with in the course of the subsequent Committee debate, but I believe it is necessary that in any consideration of this Bill we should recognise finally- this is the one other point that I want to make with respect to the wool industry- the degree to which over the last few years there has been first of all a significant run down in profitability of all those who produce primary products and agricultural products generally and, secondly, the degree to which this Government has failed to produce assistance to offset that run down. This is best demonstrated by a statistical table which comes out of the latest ‘Quarterly Review of Agricultural Economies’, volume 27, No. 3, published in July 1974. 1 seek leave of the House to have the table incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
-I thank the House. This table demonstrates fairly effectively the run down in assistance in the last few years of direct financial help from the Government to the Australian wool grower. The Government will say that this legislation itself provides another $200m. But that is where I began. It is loan money. It is money which is provided not with any risk, taking into account the 5 per cent levy which growers themselves are to contribute, and justifiably, the 5 per cent levy which is to be contributed in order to ensure that there will be no cost to the taxpayer himself.
– I hope that you are right.
-There is an ability through the levy to ensure that there will be no loss to the taxpayer. But with respect to the levy we are concerned that the money should be separately identifiable. If the honourable member for Kingston, who interjects, believes there is any risk he no doubt will accept the amendment which we propose because it is our intention to ensure that the money that is received from the wool growers by way of levy is separately identifiable. Once it goes into the Corporation, it is used and submerged within the Corporation’s activities for those purposes which this legislation permits. But prior to its being passed from the trust account which we intend to set up as a change for the marketing fund which the legislation proposes, it is intended that those contributions made from the wool grower will be separately identifiable and accountable. We on our side of the House believe that it is absolutely essential that those contributions be recognised by those whom this Government seeks to divide, that is, by those who come from the cities who are some of the taxpayers who contribute to these funds which are to be lent to the wool growing community.
As to general assistance, this table to which I have referred demonstrates fairly effectively that this Government’s concern is not for the well being of the small man and it is not for the well being of the long term future of the wool industry. Rather it is in terms which I heard the honourable member for Eden Monaro (Mr Whan) use very clearly in the reign of this Government. These were terms which suggested that after an industry got into trouble of course the Government would come to its aid. The one thing which he failed to tell us was that it was the Government’s intention to put every primary producer and indeed everyone who lives in a country area in a position of significant disadvantage. It was intended that they be hurt and that when they finally are bleeding, many of them almost near the pangs of death, the Government comes along in its great munificence. But, instead of being munificent, what does it do? It imposes a 5 per cent levydesirable, acceptable, but necessarily talcing from the Government the ultimate responsibility, taking from the taxpayer the ultimate liability, ensuring for the wool grower an ability of support, but passing to the wool grower the ultimate responsibility for insuring against any loss which might occur through the function of the schemes which this legislation will facilitate.
We suspect this piece of legislation. We believe that there are elements within the changes which this legislation will implement which are very desirable. However, there are other elements which we see rather as the product of an attempt by this Government for political purposes to change the character of those who have been operating very effectively and very admirably as the present members of the Australian Wool Corporation. We intend to move amendments later on in this debate to those parts of the legislation which we believe are undesirable. While it is true that in this chamber they may be defeated, I invite the attention of those in another place who might consider these amendments to be very desirable elements of the legislation as it will be after the changes have been effected. It is essential that this legislation be beneficial. It is essential that the divisiveness which Labor in office promotes be reduced. It is essential that the wool industry, serving as it has for so long as a major contributor to that 7 1 per cent of the earnings that comes from one-third of Australia’s population, be enabled to continue to play its part. At the Committee stage the Opposition will be moving a significant series of amendments to the Wool Industry Bill (No. 2). We support in total the wool loan bill.
-There are 2 small points that we need to dismiss quickly, so far as the honourable member for Canning (Mr Bungey) is concerned. (Quorum formed). I will leave the question of the honourable member for Canning to my very able colleague, the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Kerin). I shall deal instead with the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair). It might be of interest to the House that tonight we are having an historic debate, the Country Party stands alone. Its amendments, which have been circulated to members of this House and which virtually represent a new Bill, stand as the Country Party’s opinion alone. The Chairman of the Australian Wool Industry Conference, Mr von Bibra, has demonstrated that he is indeed an industry leader, because he has been in touch with the Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wriedt) and has said this to him:
The AWIC has become aware of certain amendments that are being put forward by the Opposition to the Wool Industry Act. We do not support these in principle or in detail with one exception, and that concerns section 28a, clause 12.
The AWIC does not support the Country Party’s amendments.
Indeed, we have reached an historic point. The Country Party no longer speaks for the instrument that it set up to represent wool industry politics. The Country Party stands on its own in this House tonight without the support of the AWIC. We may well ask for whom the Country Party speaks. It is quite simple, it speaks for 2 very narrow vested interest groups. In the debate on the censure motion against the Government on the subject of wool, I predicted that the magazine ‘The Land’ would bucket this Government. I predicted that the editor of that journal had been instructed by the honourable member for New England to bucket this Government. It did so.
- Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order.
– On Thursday, 14 November -
– I ask the honourable member for Eden-Monaro to keep his cool.
- Mr Speaker, on a point of order, I claim that under Standing Orders the honourable member can make no inference against my character as a result of an intervention which he suggests I made but which I did not make.
– I predicted that this would happen.
- Mr Speaker, I ask that the honourable member withdraw that remark.
-Order! The honourable member must not make personal reflections.
- Mr Speaker, I make no personal reflections. I simply draw the attention of the House to the statement I made in speaking to the censure motion in regard to the wool industry, and then to draw the attention of the House to the article in ‘The Land’ on Thursday, 14 November. It states:
Woolgrowers beware! You are likely to lose control of your industry and your heritage.
Whom do we find this article supporting? None other than a unique gentleman in the political scene, the only member of Parliament who holds an office of profit under the Crown. Not only does this gentleman who is a member of the Australian Wool Corporation hold an office of profit under the Crown as a member of Parliament, but- surprise, surprise- he also happens to be a director of ‘The Land’ newspaper. If anyone wants to see an example of personal innuendoes and personal slander, let him read this article by a journalist who used to have a very good reputation. It is a pity he went to work for ‘The Land ‘. Mr Speaker, I seek leave to incorporate this article in Hansard.
-Order! Is leave granted?
– If the honourable member cares to show the article to me so that I may have a look at it first, as is the normal practice, I will consider his request.
-Order! It is the usual practice to pass the article to the honourable member on the Opposition side who is sitting at the table so that he may first read it.
MrWHAN- The answer to this slanderous article was given by the Minister for Agriculture subsequently in the same newspaper on 21 November 1974. Now we turn to those vested interest groups that the Country Party has been reduced to supporting in this House.
– I have no objection to the incorporation.
-Order! Leave is granted for the article to be incorporated in Hansard. (The document read as follows)-
Woolgrowers beware- you are likely to lose control of your industry and your heritage
The Federal Government is about to try to ‘stack’ the Australian Wool Corporation.
In a vicious twist to the old diction ‘ If you can ‘t beat them, join them’ it is preparing to get a majority of ‘friends’ running the corporation’s multi-million dollar business.
And if that means sacrificing a few hard-fighting woolgrowers in the process, too bad.
What is behind this week’s extra-ordinary turn of events in wool politics in Canberra?
Why did the Australian Wool Industry Conference’s trouble-shooters- the chairman, Mr D. D. von Bibra, and members Messrs E. P. S. Roberts (Queensland) and J. S. Silcock (Victoria)- have to seek an urgent audience with the Minister for Agriculture, Senator Ken Wriedt?
Because they heard the Labor Government’s Caucus is about to reconstitute the corporation- in a way that definitely does not favour growers … let alone the wool industry as a whole.
And how did they hear? In a Telex message from Senator Wriedt ‘s office.
The Gilbertian situation that has suddenly burst forth on the wool stage would be a scream- except that it threatens the very foundation of Australia’s most important export industry.
And the scream will soon be coming from growers if they don’t wake up to what the Canberra back-room boys are planning.
Not that growers should consider this week ‘s politicking in Canberra as a sudden bombshell. As early as October 3, The Land ‘ warned that wool was being quietly promoted to the top of Canberra ‘s marketing board reform list.
Jim Hodge, ‘The Land’s’ Canberra man, said then that legislation to reconstitute the corporation was being drawn up for this session of Parliament.
Well, it’s here now. Cabinet is looking at it, and Parliament will have to vote on it before you can say ‘wool ‘s gone ‘.
What is in the new legislation? A mixed bag- some good, some bad . . .
Market support fund: Five per cent wool tax paid by growers in 1974-75 will be available to meet any losses arising from the reserve floor price buying.
Supply management: Authority for the corporation to decide on changes in supply to auction.
Trading powers: The corporation to get wider trading powers.
But No. 4 is, following these beneficial reforms, the one stacked with dynamite. It is called simply, restructuring.
As ‘The Land’ announced in last issue, the corporation will be enlarged from nine to 10 members.
The addition will be in the non-grower membership. A member ‘with special qualifications’ will be appointed.
The method of appointing grower members will change. A list of eight names will be submitted by the Australian Wool Industry Conference.
These names go forward this week. As reported in last week’s issue, they are- from AWMPF: Messrs C. D. Renshaw, NSW; P. D. Moore, WA; E. L. O’Brien, NSW; J. S. Silcock, Victoria. From AWGC: Messrs D. J. Asimus and F. M. Mac Diarmid NSW: J. S. Heussler, Qld; J. A. McGregor, SA.
The Minister will have the option of calling, if he thinks it appropriate, for the Wool Industry Conference to submit extra names.
This means that if he does not like the names, he can call for any number of additional panels- and even go elsewhere to find his growers. It’s been reported that Senator Wriedt intends to get ‘the most suitable ability available, whether on the AW1C or elsewhere’.
Is the Minister likely to use the new selection powers? Bet your bottom dollar he is! ‘The Land ‘ has already said whose heads will roll.
By ALAN GOODALL
Paul Myers, our man in Melbourne, wrote on October 3 1 that three of the four existing members were ‘near certainties’ to go.
One, Mr Roy Sewell, of Western Australia, is now out of the running. He missed nomination by the AWMPF because of an age limitation that has suddenly appeared.
And the way this over-65 age ban was imposed is as mystifyingand frightening- as the reason behind the restructuring legislation.
AWMPF learned only during last week ‘s meeting, according to what Mr Silcock told AWIC, that the Minister would reject any nominees aged 65 or over.
Federation delegates were, to say the least, highly embarrased that they suddenly had to jettison one of their best men.
They learned of the Minister’s order only through a telephone call from the Minister’s private secretary, Mr Brian Norwood, to the corporation ‘s executive officer, Mr Andrew Corummett.
The Minister could not make the phone call because he was in Rome attending an international food conference.
In fact, Senator Wriedt had to depend on his office to send a Telex message to the corporation chairman, Mr von Bibra. telling what widesweeping ‘ reforms ‘ he has in mind.
Being in Rome, he was not close enough to tell Mr von Bibra what else is in store for the wool industry in the way of far-reaching changes.
When Messrs von Bibra, Roberts and Silcock await his pleasure immediately on his return, they will remind him of one particular promise.
On August 29 in Melbourne, Senator Wriedt agreed with Messrs von Bibra, Roberts and Silcock that there would be no change in the total number of corporation members and woolgrower members would be appointed from a panel of eight submitted byAWIC.
Mr Roberts told the Press after last Friday’s AWIC meeting: ‘We have not agreed to additional nominations.’ Mr von Bibra added: ‘The Telex from the Minister’s office is at variance with our understanding of the proposed reconstitution. ‘The wool-growing industry believes it should have a reasonable say in the marketing of its own product. If you carry the Minister’s proposal on and on, you are watering down grower representation. ‘
Exactly. That is evident from the plan to tip the four-four grower-non-grower balance on the corporation to four-five.
And if that does not enable the corporation to do the Minister’s bidding, he will make sure the four grower members are suitably submissive.
How could growers on the corporation, the industry’s toughest most astute leaders, ever become submissive? The very word is contradictory to AWC and AWIC membership.
As remote as it sounds, the Minister could reject all the nominations sent to him until he found some willing to compromise.
Impossible? Wait and see.
Better still, see how well the AWIC can stand up in the lobbying that will proceed in coming weeks before Parliament considers the Wool Industry Act amendments.
Paul Myers has already named the two nominees likely to be rejected. They are Mr F. M. MacDiarmid and Mr C. D. Renshaw, both from NSW.
The Myers’ forecast has raised a furore in political and wool industry circles.
He based it on knowledge of Government thinking and on Messrs Renshaw and MacDiarmid ‘s Country Party leanings.
If political allegiance is the main criterion for the job, it will be a sad day for the wool industry. Consider the calibre of the two’outsiders’ . . .
Mr Claude Renshaw is considered to be the most experienced grower administrator in the wool industry.
A former president of the UFWA in NSW, he first served the industry as a member of the JO Committee after World War II and since that time, has been a long-standing member of the former Australian Wool Board and then the AWC.
He is not being considered for the ‘axe’ because of his age- he is only in his late SO’s, although he has been mixed up with wool administration for nearly 30 years.
Mr Renshaw has often publicly stated that he does not belong to any political party. His sympathies generally are believed to be with the Country Party, even though his brother, Mr Jack Renshaw, is a Labor MLA in NSW.
Mr F. M. (‘Toby’) MacDiarmid former president of the NSW Graziers’ Association, has a close personal and familybackground interest in wool.
Youngish and active, he steered the association’s wool committee through the difficult years after 1967.
A member of the corporation ‘s board of directors since 1972, he has grazing interests in the ACT and Yass district which enable him to keep current with Canberra thinking.
As a Country Party supporter and Member of the Legislative Council since last year, he would not be favoured by the Labor Government.
To lose the qualifications of these two men would be retrograde enough for the woolgrowing industry. But ponder the infinite possibilities of Senator Wriedt rejecting the other nominees and calling for another panel and another and . . .
If he still can’t get growers to his political taste, will he then go outside the recognised grower bodies? All in the cause of getting the ‘most qualified ‘ men.
And after wool, who next? The dairy board was one of the first on Senator Wriedt ‘s ‘reform’ list.
Then meat has its troubles- perhaps producers would not mind some changes there.
The possibilities for reform zealots have yet to be plumbed by the central planners and no primary producer should regard this week ‘s loin-girding only for woolgrowers.
The wool corporation is one of Australia’s best-served primary commodity boards.
If primary producers allow it to be gerrymandered and stacked, heaven help the others.
– No longer does the Country Party speak for the Australian Wool Industry Conference, but instead it speaks for a very narrow vested interest group in the wool marketthe wool buyers. The case for the wool buyers was presented tonight by the honourable member for New England. We again turn to that august journal ‘The Land’, which of course is now about the only country newspaper that will put the Country Party’s point of view. We find the case for this group of people which the Country Party supports in this place now given in an issue of ‘The Land’ on Thursday, 14 November. It may be of interest to the House to know that the wool buyers who signed the open letter to wool growers published in ‘The Land’ belong to the New South Wales and Queensland Woolbuyers’ Association. They are 2-bit wool buyers who account for less than 3 per cent of the direct purchases of wool in Australia. They purchased 144,000 bales in 1973-74, which represented 3 per cent of the total purchases. So we find the Country Party today in this House supporting not really the wool buyers, but a very small, insignificant fraction of the wool buyers in this community. Well we might ask why.
In this Bill, which the Australian Wool Industry Corporation has supported almost in its entirety, we find a reform which is of major significance. This reform brings onto the Wool Corporation people who are familiar with the major technological changes which are taking place in the wool industry. I draw to the attention of the House two significant events as far as the wool market was concerned which needed curing when this Government took office. The first was that we needed to provide some insurance for wool growers against fluctuating incomes. This Government has done a sterling job in providing that insurance. It has introduced a fixed floor price and has backed its judgment in that regard with $350m worth of credit. When the Opposition parties were in Government they would never support that proposal.
So this Government has done a great deal to provide some insurance against fluctuating incomes as far as wool growers are concerned. The second major issue- this is where this Bill will be of major significance- is in regard to the technological changes which are taking place in wool marketing. Who are affected by these technological changes? Members of a narrow group of wool buyers who are among the vested interest group who purchase about 3 per cent of the total clip. These are the people whom the Country Party is defending in the House now. We may indeed ask why they are being supported in this House. In an advertisement in ‘The Land’ of 14 November there is a complete argument against the trends which are taking place in the wool industry. There are statements like:
Not nearly enough research has gone into the system . . .
That is the system of new marketing based on objective measurement. In my case I have had 20 years experience. The people who now support this case and who formed the Government before an Australian Labor Party Government took office spent $1.6m on research into objective measurement. Those people who supported that development now come in here to bat for the people who will be affected by this trend in technology.
– Shame indeed. There is no question about it. What we need on the Corporation, and what the Minister has done in this Bill to ensure it, are people who are sensitive to the great revolution which is taking place in wool marketing and to the fact that we will get economies of the order of $100m to $200m a year for wool growers in this country. What sort of changes do we need? We find that the sorts of people who have signed the document which appears in ‘The Land’ have a vested interest in the status quo. Not one honourable member on this side of the House would be surprised that members of the Country Party would come out to defend status quo. We find in this case people who make money out of the old system, out of the subjective ‘guess or by God’ methods on which the wool industry has lived for centuries.
Now when we find that the march of science and technology is providing answers to all these erroneous approaches to the wool industry, the Country Party is changing stream to support these people who belong to this very narrow interest group. What is involved in this technology? It is very important that we make a distinction between the 3 streams of advice which the Wool Corporation can receive. One stream comes from the trade itself, from those wool buyers who have a lifetime of practice using the traditional methods. Another stream of advice which the Corporation needs to have comes from the scientists who have been intimately involved in the development of this technology and the measurements. Finally, what is vitally needed on the Corporation are those people- they are rare enough- who can stand in both camps and who have some experience as far as the traditional practices are concerned. They are people who have had some experience in the scientific practices.
– The honourable member is sitting on the fence.
– There are not many. The Minister, by presenting this Bill -
-Order! The honourable member for the Northern Territory will cease interjecting. That is the last warning I shall give him.
– We must make exceptions for the honourable member for the Northern Territory. There are not many sheep there.
- Mr Speaker, make the honourable member for Kalgoorlie sit in his seat.
– I shall not warn the honourable member for the Northern Territory again. I will name him if he interjects.
– The case I am making rests on one simple fact. The case against is argued very adequately in this advertisement. One can go through and extract at random statements from this advertisement. Many buyers do not endorse this method of selling. In April 1974 the international wool textile organisation which represents all major consumers of wool around the world at a meeting in Melbourne gave wholehearted endorsement to these technological changes which the Wool Corporation will have a mandate to initiate. Why has the Minister given to us such an important Bill? He has done so for 2 reasons. Firstly, he recognises that in order to innovate and to get these changes into gear it is necessary to have on the Wool Corporation in the decision-making area a level of technological advice which has never been needed before. So the Minister has extended the membership of the Corporation to take on one other member with special qualifications. If ever there were a time in the wool industry for such a move it is now. This Bill incorporates that provision.
The next innovation which is incorporated in this Bill provides for consultation with the trade union movement. There can be no question in anybody’s mind that the march of technology takes its toll so far as workers are concerned. It is very important that if these innovations are to be introduced sensibly into the wool industry the section of the trade union movement which is involved in wool marketing should be brought into harness. Mr Speaker, I put it to you that this never happened before 2 December 1972. Consultation took place with people working in the wool industry so that we might introduce these technological advances which will lead to huge savings from the point of view of wool growers. Again in this Bill we find innovations incorporated which will give the Corporation the opportunity to trade at all levels in the market. How important this is.
I ask honourable members to remember that the buyers whom the Country Party has defended so avidly in this place tonight are agents. They are not processors. They are middle men. They are buying agents. They are merchants who do not process wool. Their interest lies in preserving the system as it stands because their very bread and butter depends on the system as it stands. In the Bill we have given the Corporation trading powers so that it will be able to introduce innovations which will save money and, in the process, affect the income of these buying agents. Under this Bill the Corporation can move around the merchants and have the wool processed. Probably for the first time in the many speeches that I have made in this House I support the honourable member for New England in his support for Economic Wool Producers. I am completely identified with the company. It was my technical advice which set it up. I am only too pleased to give it a plug tonight and to commiserate with the honourable member for New England over the previous plight of the company. I am quite confident that it will pull itself out of its predicament. But the fact is- this must not be forgotten by the honourable member for New England- that Economic Wool Producers launched itself by stepping aside from these buying agents.
In fact, whenever the agents who have a vested interest in the traditional system refused to buy wool from Economic Wool Producers at that stage in its development it was able to process the wool into tops and to sell the wool as tops. Only by that method was it able to establish itself in those early and very trying days. In this Bill we are giving the Corporation exactly that power so that it might be able to process wool and push it along the pipeline closer to the point of consumption. What possible use is there in having a great stack of greasy wool around this country when we could have it well on its way down the pipeline, close to the point of consumption, to capitalise on small movements in demand and have it in Britain, Europe, India or wherever there might be some sort of demand? Giving the Wool Corporation full trading powers allows it to do just that and to trade in wool in any geographic position around the world, in any state of processing towards the final consumer.
It is just plain common sense that this innovation should be brought into the legislation. It is not surprising that the Country Party should oppose it tonight on behalf of this very narrow vested interest group- these buyers who account for 3 per cent of the total purchases in Australiaagainst the wishes of the Australian Wool Industry Conference. In my closing remarks may I pay a fulsome tribute to Mr Von Bibra who now emerges as an industry leader- a man concerned with the industry problem and not the political game that the Country Party has played.
– I am amazed that the honourable member for EdenMonaro (Mr Whan) would think that there is some division between the Liberal and Country Parties in coming to a recommendation on the amendments that we have proposed tonight. I can assure him that they were the result of the work of the joint rural committee of the 2 parties, of which I am pleased to be a member. Those amendments were brought down by that joint party committee. They are Liberal and Country Party amendments. There is no way in the world that honourable members opposite can put divisions between us. Solidarity is what we have. For the honourable member for Eden-Monaro to suggest that the Australian Wool Industry Conference will have nothing to do with the amendments is absolute rubbish. I do not know how he came to the conclusion that that was the case, because in my hand I have a telegram addressed to the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair) dated 28 November 1974. It says:
Wool Industry Bill. Appreciate advice of proposed amendments.
I will read some extracts from it.
– I bet you will.
– If the honourable member would like me to read the lot I will do so. It says:
Confirm Conference viewpoint telephoned you earlier today that whilst it supports generally views expressed in amendments 1, 2, 3, 4 and 8 it does not regard them as principal issues. Amendment S concerning clause 28a. (12) is essential and Conference believes further amendment to sub-section (12) necessary and should now read: ‘If any moneys stand to the credit of the Market Support Fund after the profit or loss certified under sub-section (5) has been dealt with in accordance with sub-section (9) or ( 1 1 ), those moneys shall be applied by the Corporation for such purpose in relation to the wool industry as is determined by the Minister after approval has been given by the Australian Wool Industry Conference in writing to the Minister.
– He has misled the House.
– I suggest in all sincerity that the honourable member for Eden-Monaro has misled the House. The telegram was signed ‘Grummet for chairman D. D. Von Bibra’. Let me return to the amendment. At the end it says: … as determined by the Minister after approval has been given by the Australian Wool Industry Conference in writing to the Minister on recommendation made by the Corporation.
The difference is that the Bill says that these moneys shall be applied by the Corporation for such purpose in relation to the wool industry as is determined by the Minister after consultation with the Australian Wool Industry Conference. The Opposition stands by its conviction that this would lead to a situation whereby the Minister would have full control and the Australian Wool Industry Conference would be nothing more than a rubber stamp for what the Minister wanted to do with those moneys.
– They are grower moneys.
-As has been pointed out, they are grower moneys. So the Opposition is convinced that that amendment is worth while. Our judgment of it has been fully endorsed and backed up by the Australian Wool Industry Conference. In rising to support the amendments let me say that the Bill has been covered very well by the honourable member for Canning (Mr Bungey) and the Deputy Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Sinclair). I would just like to mention the rather sweeping powers that this Bill gives to the Corporation. I would like a number of things explained by the Minister for Northern Development (Dr Patterson), who represents the Minister for Agriculture, when he is replying in this debate. Clause 12 seeks to insert after section 39 of the Act the following: 39a. Without limiting the functions of the Corporation under section 38, the functions of the Corporation include, to such extent as the Minister approves, trading in wool and wool products, acquiring and supplying wool for the purposes of programs of aid by Australia to other countries, and manufacturing, or arranmging for the manufacture, of wool products.
I would like to know how far the Corporation and the Government expect this to go. Section 40 (b) as amended by clause 13 reads:
Clause 13 (b) provides:
I am not criticising that. I think that such power is in order and that the futures market should be used, but there is some concern and some disquiet as to just what effect the futures market has on the wool industry. It could be argued that a heavy buying or selling of wool futures in distant months will have a completely adverse effect upon the wool market. I do not claim to be an authority on this subject, in fact I do not think anyone would claim to be an authority on the wool futures market in Australia. It could be open to manipulation, especially by a big seller or a big buyer, as may have happened in years gone by. I advocate, and would like to see the Government institute, an inquiry into the futures market in an endeavour to gauge their usefulness -in fact, to gauge the role that they actually play in the Australian wool market. I advocate this quite sincerely because I am of the opinion that they could be used to manipulate the market and could have a dampening effect on the market rather than a levelling effect as we are ied to believe. They could have a much more serious dampening effect on the market than we know. So I urge the Minister to see whether some type of inquiry could be instituted.
As I said, the Bill contains many sweeping powers and, as pointed out by the Deputy Leader of the Country Party (Mr Sinclair), it can involve any part of the wool industry. I refer briefly to proposed new section 20a (1), which states:
Before taking any action that could reasonably be expected to affect the conditions of employment, or the demand for labour, in the wool industry, the Corporation shall consult with, and have regard to the view’s of, the appropriate trade union organisations.
I do not refer to this particular section because of the involvement of the trade union organisations but mention it because it covers the whole spectrum of the wool industry, including the demand for labour in the industry. This surely must cover the wool industry from the farm to when the wool has been sold. One of my major fears about the wool industry today is probably concerned not so much with the marketing of the wool but with the actual harvesting of it. I think that the Government, through the Corporation, has the ability to look at this aspect.
In my electorate of Forrest there is an organisation called the Southern Districts Sheep Research Council. It was formed by wool producers and sheep breeders in the Great Southern district of Western Australia. Its primary purpose is to investigate research being carried out all over Australia and in New Zealand into such matters as ewe infertility, lamb mortality, control of internal and external parasites, fleece rot, foot abscess- in fact, all the diseases associated with sheep. However, over the last couple of years this council has become convinced that by far the most urgent problem in the wool industry is to find a more efficient and much less labour intensive method of shearing sheep and handling wool. Over the last 15 months the cost of shearing and wool handling has virtually doubled. The contract price in Western Australia was 70c a head and is now approximately $1.10. The price of wool has approximately halved in the past 8 months. At the present time the cost of shearing a lamb would not equal the market value of its wool and lambs comprise about onethird of the Australian flock. Doubtless, shearing rates will increase still further and all costs are escalating. Already the wool industry has reached a crisis point with costs threatening to swamp the already minute margin between costs and prices. If drastic action is not taken the Australian wool industry could perish, as has happened in countries such as the United States of America, Great Britain and Europe because shearing methods are far too labour intensive for the industry to survive.
In spite of greatly increased shearing rates, there is a growing shortage of shearers and, because it is such hard work and often takes men away from home for long periods, few young men are entering the industry. However, the introduction of a new method of shearing will take years to be adopted universally and should not threaten the livelihood of any of today’s shearers, but they will not last indefinitely. No new shearing method will meet the needs of the industry unless it drastically reduces and ultimately eliminates hard labour in removing the wool from the sheep at a lower cost than at present and without damage to the animal or reducing the market value of the wool. Work on new shearing methods is progressing, for example, chain shearing and chemical defleecing. However, both are labour intensive and will not meet our standards. Wool and sheep handling account for about half the cost of the whole shearing operation. The industry generally has developed very efficient methods of transporting and packaging goods. This knowledge must be adopted and used to move sheep around the shearing shed, to grade and separate wool and to move the wool from the shearing board to the bale with a minimum of hard labour. Wool handling should be reorganised while a new shearing method is being adopted.
Because no one appeared to be working on an automatic sheep shearing machine, the Southern Districts Sheep Research Council in Western Australia decided to seek professional advice and was told that it should be possible to make such a machine but that nothing could be undertaken without a prior feasibility study into all aspects. It was told that this study would be complex but would be completed in 6 months and would cost $50,000. The Director of Wool Production Research of the Australian Wool Corporation was asked to do the feasibility study but the proposal was rejected. Consequently the Council decided on 24 July 1974 to ask wool growers to contribute lea sheep to pay for a professional feasibility study into all research and to make recommendations as to whether automatic or mechanised shearing of sheep is possible and, if so, to what engineering firm the work of producing a prototype should be offered. It would probably take 2 years to produce a prototype and therefore considerably more money would be required. If the feasibility study indicates that an automatic sheep shearing machine can be developed, this must be done without delay in the interests of the survival of a viable Australian wool industry.
In these circumstances, I hope that the Australian Wool Corporation will help with this project and perhaps finance the work from the wool tax. I must congratulate the large group of people who got together, decided that there was a problem and that they as individuals or as a collective group should do something about it. This is a perfect example of people trying to help themselves and I am fully in agreement with them that the wool industry could fail, not because of the way wool is being sold, not because of what may be achieved by this Bill, but because we will not be able to get the wool off the sheep. I urge the Corporation and the Government to pay heed to what I have said about that aspect of the wool industry because I believe this Bill has given the Corporation power to consider this problem.
-Mr Deputy Speaker -
– Before you start, tell us how many sheep you have.
– I do not have many but there are plenty of woolly people in Canberra and they do not vote for the Labor Party. Being the member for the Fraser seat in the Australian Capital Territory means that I can take an objective view of the wool industry. I am not dependent on graziers for my vote. From an objective observer’s point of view the most remarkable thing about this debate so far is that all the Opposition speakers have persisted in talking about amendments which the wool industry does not support. Yet the honourable member for Canning (Mr Bungey), the honourable member for Forrest (Mr Drummond) and the Deputy Leader of the Country Party (Mr Sinclair), all persisted in talking about these amendments which the industry does not support. In case those honourable members have not got the message I think I should read a telegram from the Chairman of the Australian Wool Industry Conference to the Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wriedt). The telegram states:
The AWIC has become aware of certain amendments that are being put forward by the Opposition to the Wool Industry Act. We do not support these in principle or in detail, with one exception, and that concerns section 28a, subclause (12), which is a very minor amendment.
All that this indicates is that there is a serious lack of communication between the industry and the members of the Liberal Party and the Country Party. This is understandable because the members of the industry realise, like the Government does, that the members of the Liberal Party and the Country Party do not represent the best interests of the majority of the people in the wool industry.
This Bill, supports a very historic Bill because it is another step showing the Government’s determination to create more permanent stability in the rural industries. It is particularly important historically because we see the greatest and the largest of our primary industries now turning to the Government for assistance. In doing this it is joining a long list of successful industries which have done this in the past: The wheat industry, the dairying industry, the tobacco industry, the dried fruits industry, the sugar industry, which goes so well that it returns my colleague, the honourable member for Leichhardt (Mr Fulton) every election without fail. It is important historically that this great industry has now joined the list of the stable industries which have been supported by government initiatives over many years, and many of these supporting stabilisation schemes had their birth in the terms of the Curtin and Chifley governments after the last war as a result of the operation of the Rural Reconstruction Commission. This Commission was the basis of these successful stabilisation schemes which have made so many of these industries so successful.
Before I talk about the Bill I would like to make a couple of comments about the Deputy
Leader of the Country Party. He persisted in repeating this old hoary myth that the Labor Party is dividing the city people and the country people. If anybody has successfully divided the city people and the country people it has been the Country Party, and it has done this through the failure of its decentralisation policy. It has refused to accept the historic fact that Australia is an urban society. It has tried to perpetuate the myth that we are a rural society when everybody knows that as early as 1890 two-thirds of Australians lived in urban situations. But the Country Party has perpetuated this myth that there is something particularly moral in living in the country or for some particular reason it is superior to live in the country. Its decentralisation policy has been based on this. What has it done? It has tried to pick up an ailing industry out of a big city, transport it out into a little country town, and time and time again it has failed. And it has failed because they do not have the infrastructure in the country town to support the industry.
I can remember quite well the great Stevens Knitting Mills suddenly appearing in my home town of Bathurst 3 weeks before an election. Great headlines appeared in the local Press: ‘Stevens Knitting Mills comes to Bathurst’. Six weeks after the election they left town with their tail between their legs and the Press did not say a word about it. That is the Country Party’s decentralisation system. In contrast, the Labor Party has acknowledged the fact that the majority of Australians like to live in urban situations, and what is it doing? It is creating the favourable urban conditions in country areas. It is creating good housing, health -
- Mr Speaker, a point of order. We are dealing with the Wool Industry Bill (No. 2) here. The honourable member is going on about urban situations.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Berinson)Order! There is no point of order involved. (Quorum formed).
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I was explaining the difference between the decentralisation policy of the Labor Party and that of the Country Party. The Labor Party is actually trying to marry the urban conditions to the advantages of the rural environment. It is creating good housing, good schooling, education and health facilities in a rural atmosphere. That is what the Labor Party has done in Canberra and it has done it successfully. This is what it will do in the new growth centres if it can get support from the State governments. This is what will happen in Bathurst and Orange and in Albury-Wodonga.
We will create urban conditions in rural areas, and I challenge the members of the Country Party to say whether their rural supporters are disadvantaged by this policy. Of course they are not. The rural people surrounding the city of Canberra have done very nicely. The Country Party’s friends down at Lanyon were offered $1.5m or $2m for their station and they wanted $30m. That is how well they did. Of course we had to refuse it. That is private enterprise. They have done very nicely out of the Labor Government’s decentralisation policies.
Let us get back to the wool industry. The honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair) complains about the enlargement of the Corporation. This is one of the greatest things that the Bill has done, because it has made the wool industry realise that it does not consist entirely of wool growers. There are all sorts of people in the wool industry besides the growers. The growers are in the minority in the industry, but of course they are a very important minority and the whole industry rests on their success. But there are many other elements of the industry and this is a sign that the Government acknowledges that by broadening the scope of the Corporation. There are wool selling organisations, transport organisations, wool classing, storage facilities, and the people who shear the sheep, the members of the great Australian Workers Union, which spawned such great people as the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) and my colleague the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young), all products of the AWU. There are the research and marketing organisations, and of course the trade unions, which are actively engaged in the industry. This is merely a sign that the industry is grown up, it is broadening its vision and it wants to see everybody in the industry represented in the Corporation, and not just a minority of growers.
I mentioned that this is an historic situation because the wool industry has now joined the other industries which have sought government protection of government assistance over the years.. I think it is quite apparent now to everybody that the most successful rural industries are those which have been stabilised by government initiative. The most unstable are those which have not had such support, and include the beef industry, the orcharding industry and the market gardening industry. They will be the next, of course, and the Government is having a close look at the beef industry now. But the Government’s initiative just makes complete rubbish of the constant carping and bleating of the Opposition about socialisation and about the myth of free enterprise in rural industries. What complete rubbish this is when all the great industries are now subject to government support and stabilisation schemes. No group of Australian industries has relied more on Government support than the rural sector. A wide range of support has been given. It includes stabilisation, equalisation schemes, production quotas, licensing, tax concessions and last, but not least, the tariff protection of imported goods which lower the price of machinery to agricultural industries. What nonsense it is to say that these are free enterprise industries. They are the most socialised industries in Australia.
– They are human beings deserving of some recognition.
– Of course they are. This is as I believe rural industries should be conducted. I am not criticising stabilisation. This is how it should be. But why not acknowledge it? Why go on with this nonsense about free enterprise and socialisation? The rural industries have been socialised for years and they have done very nicely out of it.
– The honourable member happens to live in a city which needs nothing.
– I am not out to knock rural workers. I have been associated with the rural industries for years and I know something about them.
– The people of Canberra are the most pampered people in Australia.
– People who make a success in primary industries deserve all the rewards they get. I do not knock them.
– If the people in the country had what you have in Canberra they would not need representation.
Mr DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Berinson)The honourable member for Riverina will cease interjecting.
– I am suggesting that support and stabilisation schemes are necessary and essential to iron out the uncertainty of the elements, of disease problems and instability in rural markets. They need stabilisation and the Labor Government has always supported stabilisation. But do not let us hear this bleating about private enterprise; it is rubbish. Apart from the general stabilising benefits, I believe that one of the major achievements is the broadening of the representation on the Corporation. This is a very good sign within the industry. The wool industry, of course, is closely related to the whole of the economy. It is not just an island in the whole sea of the economy but is closely interrelated with the whole community and therefore it is important that it be successful.
It is also pleasing to hear the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) announce that the Industries Assistance Commission will be conducting an analysis of the overall assistance to rural industries with the object of reducing fluctuations in incomes which is part and parcel of rural industries. It was also rather pleasing to hear the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) express his concern in a speech to the Australian Farmers Federation recently at the emergence of what he termed ‘malcontents’ and ‘demagogues’ to lead disgruntled farmers. Fortunately his fears have not been borne out and the failure of planned demonstrators by primary producers in both Melbourne and Canberra give the lie to the exaggerated Press reports of discontent in rural industries.
I am confident that the large majority of the wool producers recognise this Bill as a means of strengthening this outstanding initiative of the Government to stabilise the marketing of our most important rural industry. I believe that the majority would agree with Mr Roberts, the President of the Australian Woolgrowers Council when he paid tribute to the resolute action by the Minister for Agriculture Senator Wriedt, in initiating the floor price scheme. There is already some revival of the wool industry and I am confident that this Bill will not only benefit all the various elements within the industry but in the long run will benefit the whole of the Australian community. I commend the Bill to the House.
– It is absolutely incredible that one is subjected, when one comes into this, the National Parliament in Canberra, to the words of the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Whan) on the 2 Bills we have before us relating to the wool industry. The honourable member for Eden-Monaro comes in here, opens his mouth and lets words gush forth like a waterfall. The honourable member has obviously been wigged. However, he should have been crutched. Judging by his impotence it looks as if something else might have happened to him when he was still a lamb. He comes in here with a totally academic approach. It is about time his electorate became aware of the fact that it is being represented in this Parliament by a man, if he be a man, who has no idea at all of the practical side of the business of wool. He has absolutely no idea at all. He has written a few books but he has been completely discredited so many times in this place that I am surprised that he is prepared to come back in here and show his face.
The honourable member for Eden-Monaro would not know what foot rot was if he had it himself. He ought to be sent back into his electorate. He ought to be earmarked, branded as a failure and sent round to let his electors see exactly what sort of representation they have in this Parliament. The honourable member is so concerned about his seat and the redistribution, and what his own Government might do to him to get rid of the embarrassment that he is now supporting this legislation in terms of trying to secure for himself a job as the technical expert on the Australian Wool Corporation when the Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wriedt) gets his legislation through this House, if in fact he is successful in doing that.
– You sound like the last of the wallabies.
– That is all right, because the wallabies at least have something Australian about them, and that is a lot more than you can say for yourself, corning in here like that and distracting me from addressing the Chair as I should be doing. I am sorry, Mr Deputy Speaker, but I am being seriously provoked by members on the Government side.
– Get on with it.
-I am dealing with the Wool Industry Bill, because that is the subject of the debate.
I do not want to take too much time because I want to give the honourable member for McArthur (Mr Kerin) a chance to have a go and make a fool of himself amongst his people. We can see the basis on which this money is being given. The Minister for Agriculture on 20 November, after seeing what dire straits the wool industry was in, decided to come out with a statement to the effect that some wool users have wrongly doubted the Government’s willingness to hold a floor price for the entire season. He said that some of the woolgrowers had doubted the Government’s willingness. If that is not the greatest understatement of the year -
– That is right. In fact, all of them have no confidence in the Government. The Government has had the industry’s arm twisted so far up its back that it has been broken. Now this Government has been forced to come out in order to maintain some sort of face and to say to the wool growing community that it is prepared to pay another $200m into this support scheme.
-Only $200m. The point that has to be made in this debate is that this is a haphazard, stop-go, act now, don’t act tomorrow policy of this Government. The Government has no conception of what confidence in an industry means. It has no conception of the importance of long term planning in an industry. The honourable member for Eden-Monaro and the Minister for sugar, who does not know anything more about wool either, have no conception of what it means.
What we are concerned about here is the plight of the Australian wool industry which is still the greatest export earner in Australia today and would have continued to hold that position if this Government had not revalued our currency and made such a mess of the industry that it was not able to take the leaps and bounds that it normally would have been expected to take. By providing $150m this Government effectively undermined the marketing of wool to such an extent that overnight there was a fall in its price from 300c a kilogram clean to 250c a kilogram clean. Overnight, the price of wool fell by 50c a kilogram because of the miserable $150m that the Government was prepared to put into the industry. The Government is now contributing another $200m to the industry. What I put to the honourable members opposite is that if they had the guts to back the industry in the first place and to say that they would make $3 50m available to it, that price fall would never have occurred.
That is the important point. This is what the growers of wool in this country today- those growers in my electorate and in other Country Party electorates-are concerned about. They are interested in their returns from wool. They are not interested in some academic government which is being advised by the honourable member for Eden Monaro who has no conception of what this means. Honourable members opposite have taken all their information from books. This is not socialism; this is an eveningout process that the industry has to go through -
Order! Honourable members were complaining this morning about the acoustics in the House. I informed them that I can hear all the interjections too well. Will the interjectors on my right please take a rest for the remainder of this speech.
-I thank you for your support, Mr Deputy Speaker. Obviously, you understand what I am trying to say, which is far more than honourable members on the Government side appreciate.
– I can hardly even hear what the honourable member is trying to say. Please continue.
– If this Government had been prepared to back the wool industry unequivocally earlier this year wool would now be selling at comfortably above 300c a kilogram clean. Since the decision was made to pump an extra $200m into this wool market, the price of wool has gone up. It rose up to 4 per cent last week. What else has happened? The amounts of wool that the Corporation is purchasing have fallen from about 50 per cent or 55 per cent to about 1 5 per cent. This is because the world and the consumers know that now there is some backing and support for this industry which was not forthcoming before. This proves the mistake which the Government made when it was prepared to put only $150m behind what is a $ 1,000m a year industry. Let us hope that next time this industry needs support, if we have the misfortune of having honourable members opposite in Government, they will at least have learned from this mistake.
Let us look at how serious they are in this debate. Not only did the Government put forward the honourable member for Eden-Monaro as a speaker; it also put forward the honourable member for Fraser (Mr Fry). He was forced upon us tonight as some sort of an expert putting forward the views of the Government and the honourable member for Eden-Monaro on the wool industry. The closest that the honourable member for Fraser has been to a sheep is eating lambs fry. He has been set up by the honourable member for Eden-Monaro. He does not understand the subject. He has sucked in ail that he has been told and he has regurgitated it. He does not understand. It is no time, when there is a lot of serious legislation before the House, to be subjected to the nonsense that has been put forward by the honourable member for Fraser. I notice that the honourable member for Eden-Monaro has fled the scene. Perhaps this is a token of his intestinal fortitude. I will not detain the House much longer.
Government supporters- Hear, hear!
– It is all right; I have dealt with them adequately. I want to make absolutely sure that the House understands what these Bills mean in terms of support for the industry and, in dealing with the Wool Industry Bill, that the House understands the significance of the amendments that have been moved by my colleague, the honourable member for New England. If these are rejected by the House, that is, if the Government is not prepared to take them on board, it will be a very sad day for the wool industry. Despite what the honourable member for Eden-Monaro might say, these amendments have the support of the wool industry. The Country Party is not representing lobby groups or groups that represent 3 per cent of the industry; the Country Party is interested in the people who produce the wool. Do not ever make any mistake about that. That is what we are here for. We are not representing vested interest groups. We are representing producers and we are trying to see that Ausralia as a whole gets a fair deal out of the produce that the people we represent are responsible for producing. That is what we are about and members of the Country Party stand ready at any time to take on board the innovations that might come forward in this industry.
We are not against changes in marketing. We are open-minded about that. But let us be realistic and let us call upon the Government to show some realism in the matter. The Government made one hell of a mistake when it would not put enough money into the scheme in the first place. Now, at least it has seen the error of its ways. Let us hope that the Government does not make the same mistake again in relation to the Wool Industry Bill (No. 2) so that in 6 months time it has to make the amendments that we are moving in the House tonight. Let us not forget that when the original Bill was introduced we wanted to set up a fund to protect the money of these growers. The Government would not wear this. What is it doing tonight? It is presenting a Bill which will set up a wool growers’ fund. I say to the Government: Do the right thing; make it a trust fund and let us do something for this great industry in Australia.
– I find myself in the invidious position of having to follow one of the best acts that we have seen in the House for a long time. The prime, fine wool growing electorate in this country is Hume. The honourable member for Hume (Mr Lusher) has the audacity to come into the Parliament tonight in a dacron suit- a seersucker suit. If that is not bad enough, there is not one item of wool clothing on him. His speech showed woolly thinking, and, even worse than that, it was simply a tirade of personal abuse. This is fair enough. But with the sort of views that he has on the industry and the sort of insights that he has on the industry the mind boggles when one realises that he represents the electorate of Hume. The honourable member could scare a shearer’s dog, but I think that that is about all he could do for the wool industry.
He started his speech by saying that the fall in the price of wool would not have occurred if the Government had backed the wool market. He said that all the Government had to do was to back the market. What does the honourable member think we did but back the market? We have provided $350m to back the market. No one has said that that money was made available as anything but a loan. No one has said that it was anything but what the wool industry has wanted. But the honourable member has said that we have wrecked prices. He said that we have caused the price of wool to drop from 300c a kilogram clean to 250c a kilogram clean. All I say in reply to that is: Go to the Japanese textile companies and tell them that. Let us have the honourable member tell them to pay 300c a kilogram clean for our wool and see how far he gets. We have had quite a few red herrings drawn across the trail during this debate. Unfortunately, there seems to be a conflict in regard to telegrams. The telegram we have received from Mr von Bibra, the chairman of the Australian Wool Industry Conference, states:
The AWIC has become aware of certain amendments that are being put forward by the Opposition to the Wool Industry Act. We do not support these in principle or in detail with one exception and that concerns section 28a. sub-clause 12.
This is exactly what the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Whan) said in the House earlier tonight in this debate. I am not debating that the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair) has not received a telegram as well. But I am pointing out that the information we go on is official because it comes from the Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wriedt) and not from some other person.
– I would not take much note of that.
– The honourable member for New England- the Killara kid as he is known -
– You talk about a telegram but -
– I think that the Minister for Agriculture would be given a lot more credence than some honourable members opposite. The debate was kicked off tonight by the honourable member for Canning (Mr Bungey). He said that the Minister for Agriculture tried to get a Labor Party candidate on to the Australian Meat Board. What the Minister tried to do was to get onto the Meat Board a person who was a successful beef producer, a man who held a bachelor of agricultural science and who has spent 2 years in the United States of America studying the meat industry. He is a most competent person. This is all the Government is trying to do. It is trying to get the 10 best people onto the Board of the Australian Wool Corporation. The honourable member for Canning also said that one of the Western Australian members on the National Rural Advisory Council was chosen because he was a typical, ordinary farmer who happened to have done a farm management course. We chose him for those very attributes. The honourable member made some reference to some meeting. Quite frankly, I did not know what that was all about. Let us get on to some of the debate and forget about theatrics.
This is a very serious measure. I should like to talk a little about some of the claims being made by honourable members opposite. Earlier today we were speaking on the Dairy Adjustment Bill. During that debate there was none of this nonsense about galloping socialism and centralism. This is a scheme in which all levels of government are co-operating and in which we can get some sense of priorities and can get an industry out of its problems. I often wish that honourable members opposite would realise that when this Government has priorities and wants to help in urban areas it is no more wrong than helping other areas that have been traditionally helped.
There has really been no opposition to the guarantee of some $3S0m the Government is to give to the wool industry, even though the honourable member for New England said sneeringly that it was only a loan. We have also seen a statement in the Press that there will be a nationalising of the wool industry. If this is nationalisation, I should like to suggest that maybe we should suggest to the wool industry that we withdraw the $3 50m. It has not been conceded so far by the Opposition that this, for the first time, is a proper reserve price plan; it is not a compromise deficiencypaymentcumwelfare measure. That was the last scheme we had to help the wool industry when it was in the same sort of difficulty. It was a typical Country Party compromise where deals had to be done with the Liberals and the Democratic Labor Party in the Senate. I think it is hypocrisy for honourable members opposite to say that they will do certain things with respect to the measures we have introduced without going all the way. For example, the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) today went on again about the dairy bounty being a linchpin. But he did not say whether or not the Opposition would put it back.
I turn to the main matters in the Bill before the House. I refer to the composition of the Corporation. The speakers opposite have said that with a Corporation of 9 members the status quo is OK, but with 10 members we somehow get to the magic number, it gets too big, it is inflexible and the whole thing will fall apart. This is just absurd nonsense and indicates nothing more or less than the fact that the Country Party is purely and simply a Party of the status quo, even when it comes to being ridiculous. The Government’s intention has been clear to the industry since August and the industry has already put up a panel of 8 for the Minister to select from. There has been far more dialogue between this Government and the wool industry at a proper level. True, we do not go around rural meetings trying to make ourselves popular and agreeing with everything that has been said, but this Government has involved itself in discussions with the industry at the proper level- at the level where we have federations of industry bodies.
I turn to the background of the Bill. The industry was saying to us: ‘Do not let the 1971 situation happen again. Do not destroy the country towns. Do not pull the carpet from underneath the countryside’. The Government accepted this. We said: ‘We will back you with finance’. I must point out that the effects of this go far beyond the wool industry itself. It gives a certain stability to large areas of rural Australia. The Australian Wool Corporation said that it needed more powers and we agreed to this. But the Government sensibly said: ‘If you are to have more powers we think there might be a case for having a bigger Corporation of 10 members instead of 9’. The Country Party stands for the status quo, in this case on the flimsiest grounds.
The extra man is to have a technical background and the Minister will select him. What sensible person in the wool industry could object to this? I had a few years experience with the wool industry. I got to know the technical people, the buyers, the brokers, the unions involved and all the people associated with the industry. I can assure honourable members that I could not name anyone who could have any possible objection to a man of technical background being appointed to the Wool Corporation. I would not say the industry is a closed shop but there has been so much discussion within the wool industry over the last few years that most of the people with the desired technical background are already well known to the key people in the industry. The Australian Wool Industry Conference still nominates people for appointment to the Corporation but the Minister simply has the power to select. With an industry as large as the Australian wool industry it is essential to get the 10 best men.
Let us have a look at the new powers that we are giving to the Australian Wool Corporation. These are indeed persuasive and wide powers. The Bill strengthens the hand of the Australian Wool Corporation in ensuring the regulation of the flow of wool on to the market in keeping with demand. Whilst the Corporation already participates in the determination of wool auction sale rosters and the schedules of offerings, it does not have the power to control the quantity of wool offered for public sale. The new provision explicitly confirms the right of the Corporation to withhold its reserve price protection in situations in which it believes the deferment of all or part of a proposed offering should be made, but contrary to the Corporation’s wishes the offering is not deferred.
The Bill provides for extensions to the trading powers. It proposes to enlarge the specific trading powers of the Corporation. The present powers of the Corporation in this area were originally designed principally to enable it to dispose of the wool purchased under its reserve price operations and, although they extend somewhat beyond this, they include restrictions which hamper the Corporation in some transactions. The new provision will enable the Corporation to be empowered to engage in a wider range of trading activities. The precise extent to which the Corporation will be able to exercise its enlarged trading function will be a matter for approval by the Minister for Agriculture. What sensible person could object to this? The Treasury, of necessity, needs to oversee new areas which the Corporation may wish to get into. Subject to this approval, the Corporation is being authorised to trade not only in wool but also in wool products, to supply wool for Australian foreign aid programs for example, to process wool and to manufacture wool products or to commission such works. Who could object to this? These are very wide powers. Hence there is a necessity for some ministerial control over their use. It is not envisaged that the Corporation will use all these powers immediately but rather as and when circumstances warrant it.
I turn to one of the other powers- that which relates to the preparation of wool for sale. Provision is included in the Bill to enable the Corporation to withhold reserve price protection from any lot of wool that has not been prepared and presented for a sale in accordance with standards approved by the Corporation. This is intended to discourage careless classing and presentation for sale and to ensure that the Corporation is not obliged to support bad preparation of wool. I come now to the terms and conditions of sale of wool. The Corporation is being authorised to restrict its reserve price operations for those sales where the terms and conditions of acceptance, offering and sale have its approval. In this way the Corporation will be able to exert a stronger influence than at present over such matters as selling charges.
Other provisions in the Bill deal with consultation with the unions. We have heard tonight from some honourable members opposite about this magical market support fund which they think, if set up as a trust fund, will be given some new virtues. I think we must state from the outset that the Government rejects the proposed amendments. In accordance with the wishes of the industry the relevant provisions have been so drafted as to ensure that the proceeds of the levy and their use will be separately identified and accounted for. The legislation we propose- I dearly wish some honourable members opposite had read it- is better; it provides for a fund within the Australian Wool Corporation account. Therefore it has more commercial flexibility in its use and benefit. A trust fund, as suggested by the Opposition, would be cumbersome. The proposed amendment would deny the optimum flexibility that is needed by the Australian Wool Corporation. In no way is the fund hidden. It is fully accountable. It has to be reported on at the end of each year, as with all statutory corporations. The accounts will have to be vetted and separately audited. A separation is maintained and identified and therefore they can be debated and scrutinised and all the growers can have confidence in them.
I do not wish to cast aspersions on the Australian Wool Industry Conference, but if we are to have a trust fund and if this fund somehow is to be administered separately in some way I think we must point out that the AWIC is a semipolitical body; it is a wool industry political body. At the same time I think there are good grounds to say that the Conference is not fully representative. I think there are good grounds also to say that we would be doing a disservice to the industry by accepting the proposed amendment. What we are doing is taking the wisest and safest course. It would be a disservice to the community because the suggestion of the Opposition would be too cumbersome.
To finish off, I should like to point out just what we are doing in this Bill. We are establishing a proper reserve price plan. It is not an emergency assistance scheme or whatever it was called in 1971. It does not simply guarantee a miserly level of income- 36c a lb- but it stabilises the market itself. It puts a proper floor under the market. We have been criticised previously for setting the level at 250c a kilo. At present I believe that the indicative price is at 257c a kilo. The level of price we have chosen has proved to be very wise, because the market seems to be backing this level pretty well. We do not have to look only at Australia for evidence of this. But when the Government brought in the fixed reserve price scheme the principal objectives were outlined by one of the authors of the Corporation’s own report. The principal objectives were:
To generate confidence among growers that prices will not decline to unremunerative levels, hence aiding production planning, facilitating security in financing of grower investments, and encouraging more stable long term production.
To increase the confidence of users that prices will not decline further, thus providing a more certain basis on which to price intermediate products and generating greater confidence for each user so that his competitor will not be able to purchase wool more cheaply. The outcome should be to discourage the withholding of purchases in anticipation of further price declines and enhance a more even demand for wool at the greasy market, (c) Flowing from (a) and (b) to reduce the tendency for wool prices to exhibit a cyclic pattern from which much of the industry’s instability stems, and hence, to improve the long term demand for wool.
The reason why the comments of the honourable member for Hume were so inapplicable and simply so wrong is that if this Government has not put the reserve price on the market at the time when we did, the price would have dropped well and truly to below 250c. There is just simply no one who will give one any argument on this matter other than, perhaps the honourable member for Hume did, in his rather deluded speech. I honestly do not think he is impressing anyone in his wool growing electorate. I conclude on that point.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Clauses 1 to 4-by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 5 (Membership of Corporation)
-This Bill, dealing with the Australian wool industry, is of very great importance to the Australian economy and to primary industry in particular because the wool industry is still Australia’s greatest industry. I was a little surprised by some of the remarks by the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Whan) earlier tonight. It is well known to the Opposition and in the industry that the honourable member has been offering the possibility of appointment to the Board of the Australian Wool Corporation if this extra position is created through the passage of this clause in the Bill that we are now discussing. I suggest the action that he has taken could have done a great disservice to the industry and to other people of high reputation whom he has not mentioned amongst those he puts forward as contenders for the position on the Corporation but who may now feel that they have been rejected or are not acceptable to the Government. I think this is a disservice to the industry as well as to individuals.
It is a truism that, when wool is doing well, the Australian rural community is doing well. When wool is doing badly, it puts tremendous pressure on other rural products. I have only to give the example of beef in recent years to make my point. The consequences of putting extra pressure on other industries is now only too apparent, unfortunately. So, this legislation has great significance for a large proportion of the Australian economy. I use that word ‘proportion’ advisedly. I am sick of hearing about this sector, the rural sector, the manufacturing sector, the urban sector, the tertiary sector and so on. It is about time we all grew up and realised that we are all members of one economy. I refer to the remarks of my colleague, the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair) earlier tonight in this debate when he drew attention to the essential inter-dependence of the Australian economy.
This legislation puts 2 concepts into statutory form. They are not new concepts, but they are new in statutory form. I refer to supply management and a floor price for wool. I think it can be said that in combination they have introduced a degree of stability into the rural community- not a very high level of income, but a degree of stability- because the stability which it has introduced into the wool industry, albeit at a reasonably low level, has great influence for the reasons I have just described, in the rural community as a whole. That influence extends beyond wool itself.
We are now about to see whether the supply management provisions- paying out growers rather than holding back wool, the growers consequently not getting paid for it- in fact will work in practice. One of the problems is the pressures that it will put on wool storage space. There will inevitably be a greater quantity of wool in storage in Australia. I am not necessarily critical of that. I am saying that is an inevitable consequence of the legislation we are debating tonight.
Storage costs money through warehouse and interest charges. The estimates which the Australian Wool Corporation gave a couple of months ago show that storage space will cost approximately 40c a bale a month or, if its inventory is the size which they think it may be, between $25m to $35m a year. That is a considerable cost to the industry and that cost must be met by the growers. The current inventory, I am informed, is approximately 820,000 bales. One of the questions to which I would like to know the answer, but I appreciate the reason for the Corporation not wishing to make the figures public, is whether this inventory is truly representative proportionately of the Australian clip. I have here figures of the composition of the Australian clip by micron measurement for the years 1971-72 and 1972-73. These figures are supplied by the Australian Wool Corporation. I ask for leave to incorporate those figures in Hansard.
-Order! Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
– I thank the Committee. The point is that we do not know whether the stockpile reflects accurately the proportion of each type of wool which is set out in this table of the composition of the clip. That is not known. It is extremely important because of the consequences of holding a large proportion of poorer quality wools. It is very important to realise that the cost of storing a low quality bale of woolthat is, a wool which will not make a great deal of money- is just as high because the space taken up by that bale is just as great as the space required for a bale of the top line of wool. Therefore, the proportionate cost of storing a high proportion of low grade wool will be extremely high to the Australian grower.
I think that it can be said that this situation poses a great challenge to the AWC in the present circumstances. It will, be a test of the propositions that it has put forward in respect of marketing proposals. It may be good luck in some ways and bad luck in others. It may be good luck in that it will be a test of the soundness of its theories. If it succeeds in these circumstances it is probable that it can succeed in others less difficult. But it could be considered unlucky because the Corporation walked straight into an almost crisis situation.
One of the quite unnecessary provisions of the new legislation is that for the new member provided for in this clause because it is virtually a vote of no confidence in the present members of the Australian Wool Corporation. The House will well remember the extraordinary attack launched by the member for Eden-Monaro and the Minister for Northern Development (Dr Patterson) on present members of the Corporation not so long ago. I cannot help thinking that it was no coincidence that the market promptly fell after that attack. It was an unprincipled attack for political purposes and it put at risk Australia’s industry. There is no question that the remarks of the honourable member for EdenMonaro and of the Minister for Northern Development in this House were picked up by the wool industry, not only in Australia but throughout the world. No wonder a regrettable lack of confidence on the part of the wool trade began to appear. As a member of this House, and incidentally as a wool grower, I regret that occasion because that was criticism on the basest personal grounds. No wonder the confidence of the wool trade took a nose-dive after that. The wool growers will not soon forget the statements made in the House by those honourable members.
The Opposition stands by the present members of the Corporation and the present method of their appointment. We will not stand by and see unjustified personal attacks and denigration of the present members lead to their replacement on terms dictated by the Government- a government which has already demonstrated its total hostility to primary industry. There are many other major issues which I would like to canvass in the course of the debate on this Bill, such as the establishment of the Market Support Trust Account and the necessity for prior approval in writing from the Australian Wool Industry Conference before the Minister uses wool growers’ money for any purposes. I regret that time will not allow me in canvassing this clause to cover those points as well. Our amendment to clause S will turn this Bill into a sensible piece of legislation of benefit to the wool industry as a whole and wool growers in particular. That above all else is the objective of members on this side of the House. I move:
Delete the clause.
-Mr Chairman, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Order! Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, Mr Chairman, on 2 counts by the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street). First, he claimed that I have been offering the possibilities of selection to fill the fourth position on the Board of the Australian Wool Corporation, which is to be that of a member with special qualifications, to people unnamed. I disclaim that charge. It is true that I have strong views about the qualifications that the individual who is to be appointed should hold and that I have dicussed those qualifications with about 3 people. But I certainly would not presume to make an offer to anybody. That is the Minister’s prerogative and I say that as strongly and as emphatically as I can to honourable members of this House. On the second point of misrepresentation, the honourable member for Corangamite insists that the Minister for Northern Development (Dr Patterson) and I were responsible for a downturn in the market. The facts are that the market had fallen quite considerably when 3 members of the Corporation suggested that they were not above using the Corporation for political purposes.
Bill received from the Senate, and read a first time.
– by leave- I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to replace the existing divorce law contained in the Matrimonial Causes Act with up-to-date provisions, to make uniform provision in areas of family law outside divorce that are at present the subject of State and Territory law, and to provide for the establishment of family courts to administer this jurisdiction. The primary purpose of this Bill, and the one that would be most widely known to honourable members and to the public, is to reform the law of divorce. The provisions to cover other areas of family law and to establish family courts to administer the law flowed from this original purpose. Before proceeding to the Bill itself, I should like to make the point very strongly that this Bill is the response of the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) to an overwhelming demand for reform in this area, and not, as has been suggested by some, to impose an unwanted measure on an unwilling community. I shall refer very briefly to the background to this Bill in order to illustrate this point.
The Family Law Bill was first introduced into the Senate almost a year ago, on 13 December 1 973. Its introduction was preceded by a detailed consideration of the law and administration of divorce, custody and family matters by the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs, to which the topic was referred for consideration as long ago as December 1971. The great weight of evidence and submissions received by that Committee, and by the Attorney-General, indicated substantial dissatisfaction with the high costs, delays and indignities of the existing divorce law, and a desire for a nofault ground of divorce based on a period of separation. This is why this Bill has been brought forward.
Immediately after its introduction into the Senate, the Bill was widely circulated amongst interested persons and bodies in the community for consideration and comment. As a result of first the prorogation and later the dissolution of Parliament this year, the Bill was twice reintroduced into the Senate. After the last reintroduction into the Senate, the Bill was referred to the same Senate Committee, which subsequently brought down a comprehensive report endorsing the principles of the Bill. The report contained some recommendations for amendment, notably the establishment of a separate Family Court, which have largely been incorporated in the Bill. However, the principles contained in the original Bill that was introduced into the Senate remain substantially the same.
I should like to emphasise the point that divorce is an area of the law in which the opinion of the community at large is more than usually relevant. Broken marriages involve persons from every stratum of society. Furthermore, the determination of how best to enable broken marriages to be dissolved is very much a human, as distinct from a technical, legal problem, and as such is readily understandable to most people. I mention this to underline the importance of the indications in public opinion polls conducted on divorce reform. These show that there is an overwhelming support for the kind of reform contained in the Bill. Indeed, the recently published Morgan Poll was conducted on the basis of the proposal in the Bill that there be a no-fault ground of divorce based on 1 year’s separation. The findings showed that 60 per cent of people favoured divorce based on this ground.
This brings me to the Bill which is now before you. The strong demand for taking the element of matrimonial fault out of divorce proceedings led to a ground of divorce based on breakdown of the marriage. The Bill provides that there will be one ground of divorce, irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, and that this may be proved only by showing that the parties to the marriage have separated and lived apart for at least 12 months immediately preceding the application for divorce. The existing grounds of divorce, such as adultery, cruelty and desertion, will all thankfully disappear. It does not need me to say that this is a change of enormous significance.
-Order! It being 10.30 p.m., in accordance with the order of the House I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
– I require that the question be put forthwith without debate.
Question resolved in the negative.
Second Reading Debate resumed.
– It is a change that is, if anything, well overdue, not only in comparison to the reforms in this field in other countries, but in the light of the evidence submitted to the Senate Committee and to the Attorney-General. I am aware, of course, as we all are from the letters and petitions we have all received in such volume, that there is opposition to this change. However, it was the experience and expertise in the areas of social welfare and family law possessed by the persons - and bodies that have expressed support for the proposed ground of divorce, as well as the strength of their numbers, that convinced the Attorney-General of the desirability of this reform. These persons and bodies included marriage counselling organisations, judges, the legal profession, some- I know not all- church representatives, and a wide variety of interested persons.
It has been frequently said in opposition to the proposed ground of divorce that it will change the nature of marriage and encourage persons to move into, and out of, marriage at will. That there has been apprehension about the possible effects of such a substantial change in an area that affects us all, namely the family, is understandable. But Mr Speaker, let me make it clear, and repeat yet again, that this Bill, and this ground in particular, is a response to public demand and is supported by the majority of the real experts in this field- the marriage counselling organisations. If one were to select one general point on which there seems to be a substantial unanimity amongst these experts, in regard to making divorce simpler, it is that people just do not resort to divorce lightly or wantonly. The vast majority of persons whose marriages have failed turn to divorce only as a last resort. What this Bill will do is enable them to have the marriage dissolved without having to be put to the additional distress of making formal, undignified charges against the other party that that party’s cruelty or adultery or wilful desertion was the cause of the breakdown, and because of it that party deserves to be divorced.
Mr Speaker, the necessity under the existing law to prove fault on the part of the other party in divorce proceedings not only promotes indignity, bitterness and hostility in the course of proceedings but also it reduces the chance of the parties being able to have any sort of workable relationship after divorce. It is at last being recognised that parties do not have to go away from the divorce court hating each other, and it is no longer the mark of a successful divorce law that it should achieve this result. I put it strongly to the House that, while the court should be satisfied that a marriage has broken down before granting a divorce, the law should do everything in its power to aviod promoting or continuing hostility between parties after divorce. And why? To protect the welfare of the children, who are the real victims of broken marriages. If there are young children, it is obviously important that they be given every opportunity to have a continuing relationship with their parents after divorce, and this is why there must be encouragement of an on-going relationship between theparents, if at all possible, after divorce.
This brings me to the other most significant provision of the Family Law Bill, the establishment of Family Courts. The essence of the Family Courts is that they will be helping courts. Judges will be specially and carefully selected for their suitability for the work of the court. There will be attached to the court a specialist staff, notably marriage counsellors and welfare officers, to assist the parties at any stage- and even independently of any proceedings. These courts will therefore be very different from the courts that presently exercise family law jurisdiction. The Family Court will, of course, determine legal rights, which it is bound to do as a court, but it will do much more than that Here will be a court, the expressly stated purpose of which is to provide help, encouragement and counselling to parties with marital problems, and to have regard to their human problems, not just their legal rights. Parties will not be driven to the court by their own despair as a last resort; they will be encouraged to come to the welfare and counselling staff of the court whenever they have a matrimonial problem, even if they are not contemplating proceedings of any kind. This help would also be available after divorce proceedings, and this would, as I have already indicated, be of great importance where there were young children.
Let me refer to some relevant provisions of the Bill in this regard. Judges appointed to the Family Court of Australia, which is established by the Bill, are required to be ‘suitable to deal with matters of family law by reason of training, experience and personality’. There is to be a director of counselling and welfare and such other counsellors and welfare officers attached to the court as are necessary. The director of counselling and welfare will be required to make the counselling services of the court available to any persons who request it, whether or not they have instituted any proceedings. Further, he is authorised to advertise the availability of these services.
Apart from the creation of a new Australian Family Court, the Bill also provides the opportunity for the States to establish their own Family Courts. The only State that has so far established a Family Court is South Australia. Subject to agreement with the States, the Australian Government will finance the establishment and administration of State Family Courts. The appointment of the judges would, however, be subject to the Federal Attorney-General’s approval, and their retirement age is fixed by the Bill at 65. The counselling and welfare facilities of the Australian Family Court would be available to State Family Courts thus created. The Family Court of Australia will be a court of appeal for any State Family Court that is set up, and it will exercise original jurisdiction in the Territories and in the States in association with the State Family Courts. Until a Family Court is set up in a State or part of a State, jurisdiction under the Bill will continue to be exercised by the State Supreme Court and by courts of summary jurisdiction.
The Bill contains many directions to all courts exercising jurisdiction under the Bill designed to assist parties to proceedings at all stages. Great emphasis is laid on helping parties to achieve reconciliation wherever possible but generally without involving compulsion. Advice from experts is that marriage counselling is not effective unless it is voluntarily sought. Parties to maintenance or custody proceedings not contemplating divorce proceedings will benefit from this help. Thus the Bill will meet a widely held view that counselling and encouragement of reconciliation are more likely to achieve results if they can be made available to parties in the initial proceedings between them, and before they reach the stage of wanting a divorce.
In any proceedings, including the proceedings I have just referred to, the judge or magistrate is to order an adjournment to offer an opportunity for reconciliation if he feels it is warranted. He can, and normally will, appoint a marriage counsellor to assist the parties. The court will also have the power to advise the parties to attend counselling, not for reconciliation but for the purpose of trying to improve their relationship to each other. In the case of parties married less than 2 years, and these will mostly be young people, the court is not to hear divorce proceedings unless it is satisfied that the parties have in fact considered reconciliation with a counsellorso here there is an element of compulsion. There is provision whereby a party can bring in the helping processes of the court without taking proceedings. He or she will merely file a notice in the Family Court, which will bring in the director of counselling and welfare. Or a party may just walk in off the street to discuss a problem. The director is to make the counselling facilities available to these people.
Thus honourable members can see from this wide range of services that every opportunity is being provided by the Bill to give professional help to parties where there is a chance that the marriage might be saved. Voluntary marriage counselling organisations will continue to play their valuable and important part. The Bill provides for continued subsidising by the Government of these organisations. I would like to turn now to the provisions of the Bill concerning the welfare and custody of children who, as I said before, are the real victims in family disputes. The most significant innovation in the Bill is the provision for a compulsory conference with a welfare officer between the parties to custody or divorce proceedings to discuss the welfare of a child of the marriage, with a view to resolving any points of difference between the parents. Disputes over custody of children are undoubtedly the saddest of all family disputes, and it is hoped that this provision will induce parents to get together and agree on custody arrangements in more cases than they do now.
The Bill will enable the court to order separate legal representation of a child in custody or maintenance proceedings. The court will also have the power to order supersivion of custody and access orders by welfare officers and where necessary, it will have the power to enforce compliance with such orders.
- Mr Speaker, I take a point of order. I would very much like to hear this a bit more clearly, if the Prime Minister could arrange it.
– In proceedings for maintenance, the courts will be assisted by the inclusion of detailed guidelines in the Bill. This is also the case in relation to the settlement of property on divorce. I shall make only passing mention of the more technical matters that are traditionally associated with the exercise of jurisdiction in the family law area. Actions for judicial separation, restitution of conjugal rights, annulment of voidable marriages and damages for adultery are abolished as being anachronistic. The Bill contains desirable improvements in relation to void marriages, registration of maintenance agreements, recognition of foreign divorce decrees, registration of interstate custody and maintenance orders relating to ex-nuptial children, reciprocal enforcement of both maintenance and custody orders between Australia and overseas countries, and restrictions on the publication of evidence or details of divorce proceedings. Injunctions will be available for the personal protection of a party or a child, for the protection of the property of a party or in relation to the use or occupancy of the marital home. The Bill endeavours to minimise costs. It also introduces the general rule that each party is to bear his own costs, but includes a power for the court to make an order for costs where the circumstances warrant it. There is provision for any person to apply for legal aid from the Australian Legal Aid Office, and for the granting of such aid to any applicant in need. The position of wives wholly dependant on their husbands for financial support is therefore covered.
Finally, I should like to make special mention of 2 provisions that have been inserted in the Bill to create a Family Law Council and an Institute of Family Studies. The former body is to consist of a judge of the family court, and such other judges, officers of the Australian and State Public Services, representatives of counselling organisations and other persons as are appointed by the Attorney-General. The Council will make recommendations to the Attorney-General concerning the working of the Bill, family law generally and the working of legal aid in family law proceedings, and will furnish an annual report for tabling in Parliament. The Institute of Family Studies is to conduct research into factors affecting marital and family stability in Australia, with the object of promoting and protecting the family in Australia. There has been little research in this field to date in Australia, and this specialised research is much needed. It will supplement the Royal Commission into Human Relationships in this field.
Mr Speaker, the outline of the Bill I have given will, I hope, indicate that while the Bill offers a simpler, more dignified and less costly form of divorce, it offers more than this. It encompasses an extensive range of help and opportunity for parties to achieve a reconciliation or, if this is not possible, at least to resolve their differences by compromise rather than by combat. I think that the Bill also helps to place divorce in its proper context, and shows it to be a stage, albeit a decisive stage, in a total process of readjustment of human relationships. Whereas the existing legislation devotes little attention to the needs of the parties other than at the divorce stage, the Bill provides the means of helping the parties at all stages, from when marital trouble is first encountered through to the post-divorce stage when the parties are readjusting their relationship to each other and to their children.
Mr Speaker, the Bill has been subjected to prolonged scrutiny, discussion and comment among the public at large, not to mention the long debate in the Senate. I therefore feel sure that honourable members will have ample material in the form of explanation and comment on the Bill to decide their attitudes, and to vote accordingly. In this regard, I am authorised by the Government to announce that members of the
Australian Labor Party have a free vote on this Bill. The Leader of the Opposition has made a similar announcement for the members of the Liberal Party. I made a similar announcement on behalf of my Party when I led for it in resuming the debate on the second reading of Mr Justice Joske’s Matrimonial Bill on 1 May 1957. 1 commend the Bill to honourable members on that basis and, in the interests of the many unhappy people waiting on relief under its provisions, urge early consideration and passage of the Bill through this House.
- Mr Speaker, before I move that the debate be adjourned may I ask the Prime Minister when he expects copies of the Bill and of his second reading speech to be available? I understand that as yet none are available for circulation to honourable members.
– I expect that copies of the Bill will be available tomorrow.
– Why not now?
-The reason is that the Bill passed through the Senate only 24 hours ago. Many amendments were made in the Committee stage. It is only in the last half hour that a text embodying those amendments has become available. I thought it would help honourable gentlemen to have the second reading of the Bill at the earliest stage. I believe that copies of the Bill will be available tomorrow. I can make copies of the second reading speech available forthwith.
Debate (on motion by Mr Sinclair) adjourned.
-The question now is:
That the resumption of the debate be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
– I move:
I believe that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has given substantiation for support of my motion. When the Prime Minister was making his second reading speech and even at the conclusion of that speech copies of the Bill were not available to honourable members. I do not want to canvass the matters referred to in the second reading speech but, as the Prime Minister said, a substantial number of amendments were moved in the Senate. We know that this is so. I believe that, irrespective of anything else, the House should be in control of its own business. With all respect to the Prime Minister, I do not think that the words he uttered in the second reading speech did anything to justify the haste of the presentation of this legislation to the House. He said that this Bill provided a change of enormous significance. That is all the more reason why we in this House tonight should agree to the amendment that I have moved and adjourn the debate until 11 February 1975.
It is all very well to say that there has been time to give thought to what is in this Bill. We have actually only heard about many of the amendments that have been moved in the Senate. I suggest that no member of this House has had a real opportunity to consider this Bill. If serious consideration is to be given to this legislation by honourable members the House should agree to my amendment. I ask the House to give it its support.
-Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment moved by the honourable member for Lyne (Mr Lucock). I do so because I believe that the words uttered by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) this evening about the importance of this Bill, its ramifications and the tremendous social implications involved make it of such tremendous importance that we should not be rushing into a hasty decision. Let us remember that the Senate has dealt with this Bill for 12 months. How can we in the dying hours of this session- which has been packed with legislation, perhaps more than at any other time in the history of Australia- when it would be extremely difficult now for honourable members to recount the measures which have passed through this place, have an appreciation of it and understand it? How can we be expected to follow in any detail discussions and debates which have occurred in another place?
This Bill is of tremendous importance. The Prime Minister came in a few minutes before the adjournment motion was moved to present this Bill- virtually in the last days of the session. I ask therefore that we give to this social measure, this tremendous question of divorce- basically it is a question of divorce, the separation of couples who have been joined in matrimony- the mature consideration that it deserves so that no one outside this place will be able to accuse us of injuring them in any respect. If our minds go back to what has occurred in the past, we will remember that the Barwick divorce Act, when it was presented as a Bill to the Parliament, occasioned considerable debate and we all had an opportunity to consider that Bill in this place. It was not something brought from another place without the words of a speech and without the words of the Bill, with nothing to guide us at all. How can we, therefore, come back into this place next week to determine these subjects of supreme importance unless we have all the information made available to us?
It is not for us tonight to attempt in any way to express our feelings as to the merits of this measure or what amendments should be foreshadowed. Do we believe that, at this time at the end of this wearying and tiring session, we can apply our minds to this matter of conscience in such a way as to produce the right answer for the Parliament and for the people of Australia? If a ground for divorce is to be that people must be separated for only 12 months, even if they are living under the same roof- I do not canvass that matter this evening- and if we are to consider all the various proposals in this Bill surely the opportunity ought to be presented to honourable members to thoroughly investigate every aspect of it before it is debated. We should remember that 1 1 February is only a few months away. A deferral until then will give honourable members an opportunity not only to inform their minds but also to be informed by responsible people in the community at large and by the leaders of the community. Two of the major churches in Australia have suggested that the Bill ought to be stood over for 6 months. The amendment is not seeking such a deferral; it is seeking merely that the Bill be stood over until the commencement of the next session when it can be debated and when no other matters will cloud the issue. I ask honourable members to support the amendment moved by the honourable member for Lyne.
-The question is:
That the words proposed to be omitted stand part of the question.
Motion ( by Mr Daly) proposed:
That the question be now put.
- Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order.
– No point of order is involved. The question must be put.
– I seek your ruling then, Mr Speaker. If this amendment is carried will it mean that the House is obliged to meet on 1 1 February to debate this Bill? My problem is that I am not prepared to say that that is an appropriate time for the House to meet. I want your ruling on the matter.
-To make the position quite clear I indicate that if the amendment is carried it will mean that the debate on this Bill will be deferred until 1 1 February next year.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
-The question now is:
That the words proposed to be omitted stand pan of the question.
Question put. The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Hon. J. F. Cope)
-Order! To assist honourable members I point out that if honourable members want the Family Law Bill to be discussed at the next sitting they will vote for the ayes; if they want it discussed on 1 1 February next they will vote no.
Question so resolved in the negative. Mr SPEAKER-The question now is:
That the date proposed to be inserted be so inserted. Question resolved in the affirmative.
Original question, as amended, resolved in the affirmative.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate without amendment or requests:
Queensland Grant (Bundaberg Irrigation Works) Bill 1974.
Queensland Grant (Clare Weir) Bill 1974.
Queensland Grant (Proserpine Flood Mitigation) Bill 1974.
Delivered Meals Subsidy Bill 1974.
Aged or Disabled Persons Homes Bill 1974. Pay-roll Tax (Territories) Bill 1974. Live-stock Slaughter Levy Bill 1974. Live-stock Slaughter Levy Collection Bill 1 974.
Bill returned from the Senate with amendment.
-I present the Fourth Report of the Publications Committee sitting in conference with the Publications Committee of the Senate.
Report- by leave- adopted.
House adjourned at 11.8 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 28 November 1974, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1974/19741128_reps_29_hor92/>.