29th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Mon. J. F. Cope) took the chair at 10 a.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled: The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That marriage is an exclusive lifelong partnership between one woman and one man, which should not be dissolved at the will of one party after 12 months notice nor without a reasonable attempt at reconciliation and
That a husband should normally be responsible for maintaining his wife and children within marriage.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Family Law Bill 1 974 be amended
To specify three objective tests for irretrievable breakdown, namely
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Connor, Mr Clyde Cameron, Mr Adermann, Mr Connolly, Mr Cross, Mr Keating and Mr Killen.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned, all being of or above the age of 18 years as follows:
Your petitioners oppose and seek the deletion of those provisions of the Family Law Bill 1974 which supplant the existing grounds by the introduction of the sole ground of irretrievable breakdown, which remove any consideration of fault, and which will weaken the family unit while causing more widespread injustice because:
Your petitioners commend the divorce legislation introduced in Great Britain in 1973, which acknowledges the importance of the family unit, mirrors community requirements, secures justice for innocent people and establishes a realistic definition of irretrievable breakdown, and call for similar legislation to be provided in Australia.
Your petitioners therefore, humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will make provision accordingly. by Mr Hayden, Mr Adermann, Mr Drury and Mr Killen.
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 there is great urgency to preserve the family as the basic unit in society and therefore the stability of family life requires the urgent attention of Parliament.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Stewart, Mr Luchetti, Mr Lusher and Mr Ruddock.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. We the undersigned Citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia by this our humble Petition respectfully showeth:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Adermann, Mr Bungey, Mr Calder, Mr Connolly, Mr Fry, Mr Garrick, Mr Jacobi and Mr Keith Johnson.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. We the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia by this our humble petition respectfully showeth:
It is granted that the present law respecting divorce is deficient in some provisions, and needs reforming.
Your petitioners consider preservation of the family essential to the healthy function of society, and that every effort should be made to preserve traditional attitudes to marriage and childbearing.
Certain aspects of the Family Law Bill 1974 conflict with these concepts, and endanger the security, welfare, education and development of children.
We request that the Bill be not enacted in its present form, and that consideration be given to our concerns in formulating amendments thereto.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Cadman and Mr Lusher.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the plan to obliterate the traditional weights and measures of this country is causing and will cause widespread inconvenience, confusion, expense and distress.
That there is no certainty that any significant benefits or indeed any benefits at all will follow the use of the new weights and measures.
That the traditional weights and measures are eminently satisfactory.
Your petitioners therefore pray:
That the Metric Conversion Act be repealed, and that the Government take urgent steps to cause the traditional and familiar units to be restored to those areas where the greatest inconvenience and distress are occurring, that is to say, in meteorology, in road distances, in sport, in the building and allied trades, in the printing trade, and in retail trade.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Lynch, Mr Adermann, Mr Bourchier, Mr Jarman and Mr Lamb.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in the Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the Family Law Bill 1974 would be an unjust law if passed since the innocent party could be divorced against his or her will after a year’s separation.
That the Bill does not only facilitate divorces but changes the nature of marriage and the husband-wife relationship. Legislation ought to reflect public opinion, not attempt to condition it Gallup polls indicate 75 per cent of Australians are opposed to the concepts of the Family Law Bill. Therefore Parliament has no mandate from the people to ask such a far reaching change in the nature of our society.
That children need a stable emotional and psychological environment in which to grow up. This stability is upset by divorce. A high proportion of criminals come from broken homes. Consequently any law which makes divorce easier is harmful to society.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Parliament so vote as to defeat the Family Law Bill.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Lynch, Mr Carrick, Mr Jarman and Mr Keith Johnson.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. We the undersigned Citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia by this our humble Petition respectfully showeth:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Bourchier.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. We the undersigned Citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia by this our humble Petition respectfully showeth:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Cross and Mr Eric Robinson.
That we support the Family Law Bill 1974 and urge the House of Representatives to pass the Bill in its present form without delay.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by MrGarrick.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byDr Gun.
Casual Vacancy in the Senate
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 indignation and condemnation at the Premier of N.S.W.’s proposal to appoint to the Senate seat vacated by Mr Murphy, a person not of the same political convictions as Mr Murphy when he was in the Senate.
We the undersigned, together with the people of N.S.W., last May had the opportunity to express priorities on this matter, and despite the almost infinate variety of political and so-called independent candidates, the electors chose to give prominence to the Labor team. For the Premier of N.S.W. to oppose these electors views as he proposes to do, is surely to act in anarchy.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House protect the people of N.S.W.’s basic rights to elect whomsoever they wish to elect in the Senate without fear of mid-term interference of the above described kind. by Mr Armitage.
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 object to the fact that donations made to War and Peace Memorial Funds are no longer allowable taxation deductions.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House amend the taxation laws so as to allow as a taxation deduction donations made to War and Peace Memorial Funds.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byMrCadman.
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:
Child Endowment received by families has declined relative to average earnings so that today it is about 20 per cent of its value in 1949.
The Interim Report of the Australian Government’s Commission Into Poverty recommended a substantial increase in Child Endowment as a way of alleviating poverty.
This report pointed out that increased Child Endowment deserved priority and would be advantageous to the community in the long run.
It specifically recommended increasing child endowment: from50 cents to $1.50 for the first child; from $ 1 . 00 to $2.00 for the second child; from $2.00 to $4.00 for the third child; from $2.50 to $7.00 for the fourth child; and to $8.00 for subsequent children.
Your petitioners humbly request that the Government increase Child Endowment
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Lamb.
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:
Danger exists to the Great Barrier Reef if drilling or mining of this reef is permitted to occur without due investigation of its effect
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government of Australia prevent any drilling for oil until such time as scientific evidence is available to prove that an oil spill would not harm the reef.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Lusher.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. Does he recall that the Budget estimated that average weekly earnings would grow during the financial year by 22½A per cent? Is he aware that average weekly earnings will, on those calculations, reach $157 a week in the June quarter of this year if the Budget estimate is realised? Will pensions accordingly be increased by $8 a week in April, which is the first month of the June quarter, to bring them up to 25 per cent of average weekly earnings so that the election promise of the Labor Party can be fulfilled or has that promise been suspended?
– Pensions will be increased this autumn in accordance with the program which the Government has consistently followed. This will be the fifth increase in pensions since the Government came to office. The Government is committed to the objective of bringing the pension to 25 per cent of average weekly male earnings. It might be useful to point out that the last increase which the Government made to the pension raised the single rate of pension to 55 per cent over what it was when the Government came to office and increased the married rate to 49.3 per cent above what it was when the Government came to office. The increase in average weekly earnings in the respective periods was 40. 1 per cent. So it is quite clear that the Government has made increases in both the single rate of pension and the married rate of pension of a much larger percentage than has been the increase in average weekly earnings in the periods concerned.
– I ask the Minister for Defence: Has the Department of Defence been able to keep a constant check upon the movements and effects of cyclone Trixie? Can the Minister inform the House of its present position and direction? Can he also provide us with information with respect to damage or injury it has already caused or may cause from here on? What steps were taken to ensure that assistance as required would be readily available from his Department? Finally, have any requests been received for assistance from die Western Australian Government or elsewhere? If so, with what result?
– Cyclone Trixie has been one of the most intense cyclones recorded on the north-west coast of Western Australia. This cyclone has been a much larger system than Darwin’s cyclone Tracy. The diameter of its eye was estimated on 18 February as 24 nautical miles compared with Tracy’s 1 nautical miles. The development and movement of the cyclone, however, have been predicted with accuracy by the regional director of the Bureau of Meteorology, Perth, Mr R. Southern, with whom the National Emergency Operations Centre has been in regular contact throughout the period. Onslow has been the most seriously affected of the coastal towns, and there have been difficulties in communicating with the area. Telephone - reports, however, indicate no casualties but some damage, especially to power reticulation systems, and flooding. The condition of the airstrip is not known at this time.
On Monday, 17 February, an offer was made to the Western Australian Government to position Hercules aircraft at Pearce Royal Australian Air Force Base for deployment if and when the State Government required them for evacuation and disaster relief tasks. This offer was accepted by the Western Australian Government. One Hercules aircraft is presently located at Pearce, with a second aircraft on standby at Richmond. Depending on flying conditions in the area and upon the condition of the airstrip at Onslow, it is likely that the Western Australian Government will request the Pearce based aircraft later this morning to fly electricity and other repair teams into Onslow. There is the possibility that other airstrips in the vicinity- for example, that at Learmonth- could be used if necessary. The National Emergency Operations Centre in Canberra has been manned on a 24-hour basis since the first cyclone warning was issued on Sunday night, 16 February, and has remained in operation throughout this period. The NEOC has been in constant contact with the Western Australian State Emergency Service and the regional office of the Bureau of Meteorology in Perth. Naturally, the National Disasters Organisation has been in direct contact with the State Emergency Service centre in Western Australia and the Department of Defence, as in the case of Darwin with cyclone Tracy. The Natural Disasters Organisation has indicated that whatever assistance is required from the defence forces will be made available.
– Is the Treasurer fully aware of the great social hardship which his policy of unemployment has caused throughout the Australian community? Why did he betray the Australian worker- the man his party claims to stand for- by agreeing to slash protection and to conduct the worst credit squeeze in Australian history? What assurances can he give to the hundreds of thousands of men, women and young people living on the dole that their future is not in permanent jeopardy?
-I think questions of this kind, with unsupported and somewhat acrimonious allegations of this nature, are hardly within order. First of all, as I have pointed out to this House on many occasions, what is happening in
Australia today is a decline, a recession, from inflation in an economic system which is operating exactly the same in every other country. The difference is that in other countries the standard of living of the workers has not been nearly as much preserved as it has been in this country. Never before in the history of Australia have the wages of the workers and the pensions and social security benefits of those dependent upon those payments, risen as much in relation to the cost of living as they have done during the term of office of this Government As I pointed out the other day, the measures of wages, averaged in all industry groups, have risen by almost twice the amount of the cost of living. Even when taxation is taken into account the standard of living of the average worker in Australia has increased more in the last 2 years than in any other 2 years of Australian history. During the term of office of the last Government there was a decline in those standards and there was an actual decline in the number of people who joined the work force. In the first 12 months of the term of office of this Government more than 220 000 people joined the work force.
– I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Is the Treasurer entitled to ignore the question and to ignore in particular the 312 000 people unemployed? He has shown an utter contempt.
-Order! No point of order is involved. The honourable member will resume bis seat
- Mr Speaker, the honourable member looks very unhappy today. I wonder whether something has transpired since yesterday which has given him this dark look upon his face. The honourable member was bubbling over with fun yesterday but he is looking far from happy today. I understand his disturbed state of mind. I said that the economic problem that exists in Australia today is the same as in every other country. It comes from the same causes as in every other country. As I have often said: I wonder what the Opposition would have done to try to deal with the high level of inflation that existed in 1972-73, growing continuously all the time, if appropriate policy had not been administered by this Government in 1973 to deal with that situation? Would the Opposition have taken any steps to control the inflow of funds from overseas that had reached a dramatic $3,000m in the first 12 months to which I referred and which obviously was stimulating inflation throughout the country? Would the Opposition have taken any steps to deal with that by an appreciation of the Australian dollar to give it some real value in relation to its international purchasing power? Would it have been at all favourable to any increase in imports to give the Australian consumer an opportunity to have an increase in the supply of goods and services? Imports have been calculated by the statisticians to represent half the available supplies in 1973-74. What would have been the level of inflation if the Opposition’s ideas about dealing with it had in fact prevailed?
The Government has taken a ready response on every occasion when industry has been placed in a situation of difficulty. Recently we had discussions with the automotive industry. We introduced a plan to deal with the possible retrenchment of 10000 people directly and another 10 000 or 20 000 people indirectly. As a result of that there has been complete success. So far there has been no sign of any retrenchments. They have been set aside. The sales of motor cars have been extremely satisfactory and the industry has complete approval for the action taken by the Government in this respect. I assure the Parliament and the nation that the Government will respond actively in every such case.
– I rise to a point of order, Mr Speaker. The honourable members on this side of the House feel that that was a rather morose speech.
-My question is directed to the Prime Minister. Can he give the House any information about the implications of the Victorian Government’s High Court challenge to the Australian Assistance Plan and the Regional Employment Development scheme? Is it a fact that this challenge threatens the constitutional basis of significant legislation enacted by past LiberalCountry Party governments in this Parliament? Is this another example of the way in which the Liberal Party of Australia is heading off in all directions for want of leadership at the federal level?
– If the Victorian Government’s challenge in the High Court, which has been backed by the other Liberal and Country Parry governments in Australia, succeeds then not only the Regional Employment Development scheme and the Australian Assistance Plan but also a great number of other schemes which not only my Government but also previous governments have initiated will be nullified.
– I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This matter is surely now before the High Court and accordingly is not one that is appropriate for canvassing in this Parliament?
-Order! The way in which I see it at the present time is that the matter is not sub judice.
-The schemes which would be in jeopardy have sometimes been enacted in separate pieces of legislation and have sometimes been authorised by Appropriation Acts. Some of the separate pieces of legislation were introduced by earlier governments. For instance, the Medical Research Edowment Fund Act was passed in 1937, the Aged Persons Homes Act was passed in 1954 and the Home Nursing Subsidy Act was passed in 1956. The Victorian Government’s challenge is so wide that those pieces of legislation by the Australian Parliament would be declared invalid and unconstitutional if the challenge succeeded.
- Mr Speaker, the Prime Minister is persisting in canvassing the range of areas which might be affected by a judgment which will be the result of a matter now before the High Court. Surely it is in the normal practice, custom and convention of this Parliament that matters of that order should not be canvassed by any Minister let alone the Prime Minister.
-Order! In regard to this matter of civil cases I have given a ruling which I think is consistent with the United Kingdom Standing Orders. A ruling has been given recently in the United Kingdom that as long as a matter does not infringe upon any decisions which may be given in the High Court the matter is not sub judice.
– I rise to a point of order, Mr Speaker. My point of order is directed to the very precedent you rely upon. The one you have mentionedthe United Kingdom decision- related specifically to a decision concerning the economy, and permitted the Government in the national economic interest to make a statement if it directly affected the economy. You cannot canvass general rulings and the effect of a decision constitutionally when that matter, if not before the court, is one in respect of which proceedings have already been instituted. There is no doubt that if you allow this answer to proceed there is no worth whatsoever in the sub judice provision.
-On the point of order, Mr Speaker -
– I ask you for a ruling, Mr Speaker.
- Mr Speaker, if we allow this situation to prevail, the House can be successfully stopped from discussing any matter. It is just a part of the pattern of obstruction which prevails throughout the political system in Australia.
-I think the answer that the Prime Minister is giving could be prejudicial to a decision in the case, and it would be out of order.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Transport I need not emphasise to him the urgency of rehabilitating industry which will help to strengthen the Darwin economy, and with this in mind I ask: Is he aware that one of Darwin’s major exporters, the Frances Creek Iron Mining Co., is prepared and anxious to get back to exporting its product? Is the Minister aware that the company is prepared to contract out the repair of the iron ore wharf and the stacker-reclaimer so that a much needed business operation may be restarted in the Darwin area? Is it a fact that the Commonwealth Railways is also anxious to get back into this business, as carting Frances Creek ore was one of its main sources of income. Is it the Minister’s approach to the task of rehabilitating this iron ore trade, or is it the Department of the Treasury that is holding up any reconstruction of the Darwin iron ore wharf facility and the go ahead for carrying Frances Creek ore at a freight rate which will enable the company to operate once again?
– The question of repairs for the restoration of the wharf is a matter which my colleague the Minister for Northern Development is in a position to answer; I am not.
– It is the other way round.
-It is his responsibility, not mine. We are prepared to provide facilities and to restore the railway to carry the Frances Creek iron ore at a commercial rate. Up to this point we have been able to carry the ore at a reasonable rate. The honourable member said that this has been one of the main sources of revenue of the Commonwealth Railways; in the past it has been one of its main sources of losses. The Frances Creek Mining Co. has been subsidised because the Commonwealth Railways has carried the company’s ore at a very reduced rate. We are prepared to carry it, but at a commercial rate.
-I am well aware of the comments that were made on that occasion. They are typical of the comments that we can anticipate in a calculated course of conduct from the Leader of the Australian Country Party. As usual, he is a victim of foot in mouth disease. He is one of this Government’s best assets. There could have been no worse time at which he could have raised this issue than this week.
– You are strangling yourself.
– The right honourable member will have his chance later. Only yesterday the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd announced its halfyearly profit. Its profit from oil rose by 30 per cent to $34m for the half-year. From that we might reasonably calculate that the total profit for the full period of 12 months for the 2 members of the consortium would be $ 136m. Despite that, Mr Forty-per-cent still wants an increase in the crude oil pricing of that consortium. It is time this humbug ended. The humbug was not merely in respect of oil prices; it applies today also to Esso-BHP on the export of liquid petroleum gas. In addition to its $ 1 per barrel profit on the handling of Australian crude, Esso-BHP is getting another 50c a barrel for its exports of LPG. Further, as part of the systematic campaign- and a campaign in which, by the way, the Leader of the Country Party has the Leader of the Opposition confused; not that it would take much to confuse this poor gentleman -
-Did he use that word ‘confuse 1
– Yes, he did indeed. He is confused.
– What about Ampol? Did that confuse you?
-We will deal with Ampol later, too. Quite apart from the humbug on crude oil prices, there is the desire to get petrol dollars for a possible election campaign. This is typical of the Country Party which always takes the can around at election time. In addition - (Opposition supporters interjecting)-
-Order! The Minister will address the Chair.
-Keep them quiet, will you?
– I rise to take a point of order. The honourable gentleman seems to be misrepresenting either my Party or myself.
-Order! No point of order arises.
– Will you try to bring the House to order so that we can hear him?
-Order! No point of order is involved. I call the Minister.
- His campaign of misrepresentation continued in respect of the natural gas pipeline. I refer him to a document, which I tabled on 1 August of last year, in which one of New South Wales most astute businessmen, Sir William Pettingel, outlined to an officer of my Department, back in 1972, his proposals which we are carrying out to the letter. The Leader of the Country Party characterises them as a pipe dream. In addition to that, he suggested in some way, as part of his prevarication, in the same address, that we were holding up the production of uranium at Ranger. In respect of Ampol, I am indebted to the honourable member for Gwydir for an interjection. This is the position with Ampol -
– I rise to take a point of order.
-Let it be clearly understood -
– A point of order!
– You cannot take it.
– Listen, chum: I will take anything from you anytime you like.
-Order! A point of order has been taken.
Mr Nixon- My point of order - (Honourable members interjecting) -
-Order! No more business of the House will be conducted until the House comes to order. I remind Ministers that, when they are answering questions, they will answer through the Chair. I remind the House that interjections must cease; otherwise I will stop the business of the House until they do, and 1 will take the appropriate action to see that they cease. Now, the point of order.
– My point of order is simply this: Just as the Prime Minister broke the convention in respect of the High Court, the Minister at the Table is now-
-Order! I do not want a debate. What is your point of order?
-The Minister for Minerals and Energy has mentioned Ampol’s application to the
Prices Justification Tribunal. Surely that matter ought to be sub judice also, and the Minister should not be allowed to prejudge Ampol’s application.
-Order! That is not a point of order.
-It is a point of order.
– It is a point of order.
– Order! I call the Minister.
- Mr Speaker-
– On the point of order As a result of legislation passed through this Parliament, the Prices Justification Tribunal has been put in a position similar to a court in this land. The Ampol company is currently subject to an application before the Prices Justification Tribunal. Mr Speaker, you have ruled correctly that the Government cannot canvass matters before the High Court. The same ruling should pertain to matters before the Prices Justification Tribunal. The matters about which the Minister is now speaking are matters now before the Prices Justification Tribunal.
– No point of order is involved.
-It is notable that it is members of the Country Party-
-Order! The Minister will address the Chair.
-I am doing so, Sir. I am directing my remarks through you and will continue to do so. It is notable that it is members of the Country Party who are rising and trying to take points of order. They have most to cover up. Of course, the rest of the Opposition does not want to touch the matter. Who can touch pitch and remain undefiled? That goes for the oil companies’ money also. In respect of Ampol Petroleum Ltd, the matter has been well publicised in the Press. If there were any validity in the point raised by the Deputy Leader of the Country Party contempt of court proceedings would be taken against most of the major Australian Press at the present time. Of course, such proceedings will not be taken. The point of order is a spurious one.
The position with Ampol is- it is based on a statement made in July 1972 by the present honourable member for Hotham who was at that time the Minister in charge of the particular portfoliothat when there was a surplus of indigenous crude oil which at that time could not be handled by refineries in Australia which were not structured to process it most efficiently, the surplus could be exported. The former Minister, in a well-publisised statement, said that any of these companies which could not handle Australian crude in their refineries would be at liberty to export it if they could not find some other Australian refinery to take it. At that time the Ampol company had a windfall and, in arrangement with another company- a reputable company, although foreign-owned- it was able to get some 5 000 additional barrels per day of indigenous Australian crude which, with the progressive increase in the cost of imported crude, was a very substantial windfall for it. That arrangement was a purely commercial one between Ampol and the particular Australian company. If Mr Leonard has any reason for complaint he can litigate it in the courts. He cannot prove it. The arrangement was terminated about 12 months ago. It is not a matter of concern for me or my Department, and any attempt by him to unload it on us is completely false.
– Ampol can go broke, can it?
-Order! I warn the Leader of the Country Party.
-It will not go broke. The only complaint that Ampol can have is that it cannot make the super profits which attach at the present time to the treatment of Australian oil. At the present time Ampol is cut back to the rest of the field, and correctly so. Under the terms of the policy formulated and implemented by the Liberal Party and which this Government has carried out-
– I take a point of order, Mr Speaker. Are you aware that at question time yesterday only 9 questions were asked in the whole 52 minutes? This was because of the grandstanding of Ministers. We backbenchers want a fair go.
– I am aware of the situation and I ask the Minister to make his answer brief. It is my duty to see that the backbenchers on both sides of the House are able to ask as many questions as possible. I ask the Minister to be as brief as he possibly can with his answer.
-Thank you, Sir. May I make the point that I do not take points of order, but they are systematic and deliberate. I suggest to you, Sir, with due respect for your office, that you might well consider whether there is not systematic interruption by the Opposition taking points of order that are spurious, fallacious and designed to disrupt question time completely.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. In the light of recent publicity, including that in today’s Press, and in the light of the disquiet, publicly and more particularly within the ranks of the Labor Party, what action does he intend to take concerning the Morosi affair?
– If any questions are asked about individuals they should go on notice. I have said that during all the time that I have been Prime Minister. I would expect that in terms of the- (Opposition members interjecting)
-Order! If anybody interjects now I shall warn him and then put him out of the House by resolution of the House.
- Mr Speaker, I believe that that course of conduct is dictated both by the Standing Orders and by ordinary standards of gentlemanly conduct in the Parliament.
– A point of order, Mr Speaker. I refer to your words of a moment ago in which you said that if any honourable member interrupted or interjected you would then, should he do it a second time, put him out of the House by resolution of the House. Are you assuming that in your office you can call on the House to carry a resolution?
-Order! Do not be so technical. Resume your seat
– I ask the Minister for Science: Who names the cyclones that from time to time devastate various parts of the Australian coast, and I refer here of course to cyclones Tracy, Trixie, Flora, etc.
-Order! I warn the honourable member for Griffith. That is the second time this morning. If he intends to make a farce of question time I shall take the appropriate action. If he does it once more I shall name him.
– A point of order, Mr Speaker. If he does what once more?
-Order! That is the second time I have warned him.
– A point of order, Mr Speaker. If you warn a member you must explain what it is you are warning him against
-Order! I am warning him for his interjection.
– A point of order, Mr Speaker. I put it to you that that warning you have given ought to be given equally to every member on the Government side, including the Prime Minister.
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat
- Mr Speaker, a point of order. That was a gratuitous comment I have not interjected all morning.
-I call the honourable member for Chifley.
– I shall repeat my question to the Minister for Science. Who names the cyclones that from time to time devastate various parts of the Australian coast? In view of the unfortunate devastation caused by these cyclones and the reciprocal damage done to Liberalism by its present leader, could not the next cyclone be named cyclone Billie?
– The honourable gentleman may be aware that back in the 1 9th century there was in the State of Queensland a very unfelicitous concept of naming cyclones after politicians. I suggest that the honourable member may be seeking a return to those days. But it is one of the conventions of meteorology that cyclones are named after women. I think that perhaps in this year, International Women’s Year, when so much devastation has taken place through cyclones, just the women of the community should not be so readily identifiable with that devastation, and I believe that the honourable member has made in this particular year a very sensible suggestion. I think that both sexes should bear the odium of the devastation caused by cyclones.
– Does the Prime Minister recall being asked questions shortly after his Government came into office concerning security clearance for the staff of Ministers, ensuring that both international security and confidentiality of Government files were maintained? Does he recall that no clear answer was given as to whether or not he would insist on all Ministers’ staffs being cleared for security? I ask him whether he recalls telling me in answer to a question:
All that I am aware of is that my staff, the staff of my Deputy and the staff of the Ministers who assist us- Senator Willesee and Senator Bishop- have had the full security clearances which apply to our portfolios. I have not inquired as to other Ministers.
Does he recall saying that he had not inquired whether any Minister’s staff had access to departmental papers but that he had no doubt that papers in the hands of his Ministers or anyone else were completely secure? I ask the Prime
Minister whether, in view of his apparent reluctance to insist on security clearance of Ministers’ staffs, he will, as Prime Minister, accept full responsibility for any breach of security or scandal that occurs?
– I would repeat that the Minister for Defence, the Foreign Minister, the Ministers assisting those 2 gentlemen and I myself have had full clearances for all members of our staffs. There can be no question whatever that the Ministers who handle relations with other countries have staffs that have been fully cleared. If there are any instances which the right honourable gentleman is worried about he should put them on notice. The Special Minister of State is responsible for these matters.
-I direct a question to the Deputy Prime Minister. Is it a fact that the article of the double taxation agreement between Australia and the United Kingdom dealing with the taxation of dividends declared by United Kingdom companies expired in April 1973, that is, 22 months ago? Is it also a fact that negotiations to renew this agreement are still under way? Does this mean that for the past 22 months Australian residents receiving dividends from United Kingdom companies pay 30 per cent of those dividends in United Kingdom tax and are then taxed at the full Australian rate on the residue of 70 per cent? Now that all good socialists regard- private enterprise as being a respectable activity could the Treasurer’s Government get together with the socialist government of the United Kingdom and do something about this very unsatisfactory state of affairs?
– The double tax agreement with the United Kingdom has been subject to discussion between officials of the 2 governments, as the honourable member said, for some time. When a final result is reached from those discussions appropriate action will be taken.
-I ask the Minister for the Northern Territory: What has become of the vast amounts of money collected tor the Darwin disaster campaign? Has any of this money been received by the Darwin Trust Fund and, if not, where is the money now and when is it anticipated that it will be received?
-The figure as of yesterday of the amount of money received by the Darwin Cyclone Tracy Relief Trust Fund was $3,246,513. The break-up of that amount is as follows: Victoria $242,000, of which $225,000 came from the ‘Herald and Weekly Times’ appeal; Queensland, $1,468,000 and practically the whole of that came from the one fund- the Premier’s Fund.
-The Joh Petersen fund-hear, hear!
– There is only one Premiers’ fund in Queensland. From New South Wales there was a total of $416,000 of which $87,000 came from the Opera House appeal. $l.lm came from the Channel 9-News Limited appeal and apparently that money was collected not only from New South Wales but also from other States. The only large sum received from South Australia was $1,200. The only large sum received from the Australian Capital Territory was $3,400 from the Cinema Centre, Canberra. It is quite obvious that very large sums of money which have been collected throughout Australia by various organisations for the people of Darwin have not gone to Darwin. The money certainly has not been received by the Darwin Trust Fund. It is possible that some of this money is being used by other organisations to help evacuees in parts of Australia other than Darwin. I think the situation is most unsatisfactory because we seem to be having almost each year natural disasters with hundreds of appeals taking place all over Australia on behalf of the unfortunate victims and it is extremely difficult to find out what happens to the money that is collected. I am not suggesting for one minute that there is anything wrong with what is being done but in terms of the Darwin cyclone Tracy disaster there was so much money collected- estimates have put the figure at around $ 10m- but only $3m has been received by the Darwin Trust Fund. I did not give the figures for Western Australia. The only sum received so far by the Fund was $2,000 and that came from the Kununurra Progress Association on the Ord River.
– A distortion of the facts. A lot of money has been collected in Western Australia and distributed in Western Australia.
– If the honourable member had listened carefully he would have heard me say that it is possible that this is happening. I am giving the official figures of money received by the Darwin Cyclone Tracy Relief Trust Fund. I was in contact with a Cabinet Minister in Western Australia some weeks ago and he did explain to me that a lot of the money collected was being used to benefit evacuees in Western Australia. There is nothing wrong with that. I am giving the official figure of amounts received by the Darwin Trust Fund. What I am suggesting is that State
Governments and even this Government from an Australian Government point of view may have to consider introducing legislation in respect of the collection of money following natural disasters. My office is flooded with inquiries from people about what happened to the money that they and organisations gave. In Queensland we learnt from the experience following the floods that the best way was to have one fund and only one fund. That is to say, all of the money collected in Queensland went into one fund. Practically all of the money collected was therefore be paid into the official fund so that it can be completely accounted for. I will be in contact with State governments because of the inquiries they have made and I would suggest that it may be in their interests to have a good look at this proposal as regards State legislation.
Indulgence of the Chair
-Mr Speaker, may I seek the indulgence of the House on a matter of grave concern to a senior member of the Parliament?
-I think it is always advisable for honourable members to come and see me before they crave the indulgence of the Chair so that I know what they wish to speak about.
– I thought that it was necessary to take this course immediately following question time, Mr Speaker, because the matter I wish to raise arises out of question time and there has been no opportunity to speak to you. On one earlier occasion I was told that if I did not raise such a matter immediately following question time the opportunity to do so would have passed.
-I would like to know what it is all about before I grant the indulgence of the Chair. The usual procedure is for honourable members from both sides of the House to come and see me so that I know what it is all about. I do grant the indulgence of the Chair if I think the request is reasonable.
– If I may briefly explain the matter, it concerns the reasons -
– No, in these circumstances I could not grant the indulgence of the Chair. I have never refused any reasonable request. I think that honourable members on both sides of the House would agree that when they have come to me asking for the indulgence of the Chair after question time I have always granted it if the request has been a reasonable one. In these circumstances I could not possibly grant it because I do not know what the matter is about.
– But, Mr Speaker, you have just asked the honourable member what his intentions were.
-I think it has always been the custom for honourable members to come and see me before the conclusion of question time. As you know -
– I recognise that, but you just asked the honourable member that question. (Mr Malcolm Fraser having approached the Chair)-
– No, the request is refused.
– For the information of honourable members I present the final report of the Committee on Open University to the Universities Commission dated December 1974, together with a statement on that report. I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard a statement which summarises the report.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
For the information of honourable members, I present the final report of the Committee on Open University. This Committee was appointed by the Government in March 1973 as a Committee to advise the Universities Commission on open university type education. It was chaired bv Professor Karmel, Chairman of the Universities Commission. Its draft report, issued in April 1974, invited public discussion and comment, and as a result many suggestions have been incorporated in the report which I now present.
The Committee found evidence that significant barriers to access to tertiary education remain within our society. These barriers involve conditions of entry into institutions, accessibility and range of courses available, types of teaching programs, transferability between courses, information about tertiary education options and student finance. These barriers provide special obstacles for those groups in the community who are educationally disadvantaged because of their cultural, social, geographical or economic position.
The Committee saw its task as expanding opportunities for higher education by removing barriers to access and making available tertiary courses to all Australians who have a reasonable prospect of coping with them, wherever they live and in whatever circumstances they are placed. There has already developed in Australian tertiary institutions a significant service for external students. The Committee recommends the development and extension of this service, based on major institutions and regional study centres. It also proposes the establishment of an agency, the ‘National Institute of Open Tertiary Education’, to encourage and facilitate the lowering of the barriers to access to tertiary education.
What I have come to expect from reports in which Professor Karmel has a hand is a clearly defined statement on the values and aims which have guided the thinking of the
Committee. In this report, that philosophical statement is contained in Chapter 2, and I commend it to honourable members. This, in tact, is a major statement on the concept of lifelong and recurrent education, and the special obligation on a system of open education to respond to the needs, interests, and experiences of students of mature age. The burden of this responsibility will fall squarely on the universities and colleges. No one will doubt the ability of those institutions to recognise the compelling motivation of a mature person granted the opportunity to study. I am confident that universities and colleges will respond in significant and practical ways while at the same time enhancing rather than endangering the academic standards which they are called upon to preserve. Expanded opportunities will involve a greater diversity in courses, modes of learning, types of institutions and their values, and alternative timetables of educational activity. The Committee’s major recommendations are:
The establishment during 1975 of a National Institute of Open Tertiary Education as a statutory body with the general objective of expanding opportunities in tertiary education for all sections of the community.
The development of a network of university and college off-campus courses, study centres and libraries, by existing or new institutions willing to assume a major commitment in such work; the new university at Albury-Wodonga should, from its inception, assume a special responsibility for the provision of open education.
Investigation by the Universities Commission and the Commission on Advanced Education as to whether further assistance may be necessary for the support of educational services to part-time and external students in universities and colleges.
I commend the Committee on its word and express warmest gratitude to Professor Karmel and the other serving members. I consider this report to be a major contribution to educational thought in Australia. It will be a force in opening up additional opportunities for all Australians. I intend to put its proposals to the Government for consideration at the earliest opportunity.
Mr ENDERBY (CanberraAttorneyGeneral) For the information of honourable members I present a report by Mr A. T. Carmody, Comptroller-General of Customs, on a proposed national law enforcement authority.
– by leave- I desire to inform the House that it is proposed that the House sit on Friday week, 28 February 1975, at 9.30 a.m. for the sole purpose of debating the Family Law Bill. I shall move the formal motion to effect the sitting of the House on that day next week. By way of explanation I advise that approximately 40 honourable members are still wishing to speak in the debate on the second reading and that to permit a reasonable time for the conclusion of that stage of the Bill special arrangements need to be made. I am making this brief statement at this time so that honourable members can make their arrangements bearing in mind the fact that the House will probably be sitting for 4 days next week.
– The Minister mentioned to me privately that the vote would not be taken on that day. I wonder whether, for the convenience of honourable members, he might amplify that statement.
– It is not proposed on that day to take any vote, even if the debate should conclude. It is desired- to give every honourable member an opportunity of taking part in the final vote. As far as I am concerned and as far as the Government is concerned, no vote will be taken on that day. If the debate concludes on the Friday- there is no guarantee that it will, of course- I can assure honourable members that no snap vote will be taken. It has been our decision that should something like that occur the vote should be recommitted because every honourable member should have the opportunity on a normal sitting day to participate in the final vote on this measure.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Speaker. Will the Minister explain whether it will be a normal sitting day with question dme?
-No, it will be formally-
– No. The House can debate the matter when I formally move the motion. I am just making an announcement now. Honourable members will appreciate that this legislation is extensive. I think nearly every member of the Parliament wishes to speak to it Without going into the pros and cons of the matter raised by the right honourable member, that can be discussed when I move the formal motion.
-Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. Arising from the debate yesterday in this House, this morning’s Melbourne ‘Sun’ has a report on page 17 under the heading ‘Medibank ads hit’. It is a summary of remarks of the honourable member for Chisholm. I shall read two or three sentences from the article. It states:
The Federal Government’s Medibank advertising was fraudulent’, a Liberal MHR told Parliament yesterday.
Mr Staley said a Government member who spoke before him, Dr Klugman, admitted that the acheme would not be free but would be paid from general revenue.
He then read from an advertisement which said Medibank would give free medical insurance -
And claimed that it did not say anything about being paid for from general revenue.
The article finished by stating:
Mr Staley said he hoped Dr Klugman would persuade the Social Security Minister, Mr Hayden, to change the advertisements.
I did not have the advertisement to which the honourable member referred in the House yesterday but I obtained a copy straight after the honourable member’s speech. I found, of course, that he had quoted it in the usual fashion. I object to the sort of sanctimonious attitude that he takes and to his misquoting the advertisement I should like to read from the advertisement as it appears. It states:
Medibank will be a more simple and efficient health insurance system. You 11 have no contributions to make and therefore no contributions to remember.
The advertisement continues and finishes by stating:
That’s because Medibank, like other social welfare services, will be financed by money from tax revenue.
That appears quite clearly and in large letters in that advertisement. I make it quite clear that the campaign being waged by members of the Opposition at present claiming that Medibank advertising is unfair or misleading, is not true. If people read the advertisements they will know what is happening.
-Order! If honourable members start to abuse standing order 64 I will not give them the opportunity of making personal explanations. A personal explanation is to be made to show where an honourable member has been misrepresented; not to debate an issue.
-Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, Mr Speaker. Yesterday in this House the honourable member for Prospect said that the Government does not claim that Medibank is a free scheme. I pointed out that in the opening paragraphs of Medibank advertisements, and indeed on television advertisements throughout Australia, it is claimed that it is a free scheme, that there is free hospital and free medical insurance. That is the point and it is on that point that I asked the honourable member for Prospect to advise the Minister for Social Security to change the advertisements so that the fraudulent claim that the health insurance would be free would not be made. It is true that in the advertisement -
-Order! I ask the honourable member to explain where he has been misrepresented in a statement.
– I have been misrepresented by a distortion of my remarks by the honourable member for Prospect. In the second or third paragraph of the Medibank advertisement it is claimed that this Medibank scheme is free.
-I have received a letter from the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The propriety, having regard to all the circumstances, of the appointment to Ministerial staffs of Miss Morosi, and the propriety similarly of her continuance on Ministerial staffs.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places. (More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places)
– I rise to a point of order, Mr Speaker. It would seem that under standing order 107 you have a discretion to decide whether or not matters are of public importance. It seems to me that acceptance of the matter put forward by the honourable member for Mackellar is to make a disgraceful misuse of the parliamentary system because I do not think that anyone would consider the matter to be of public importance.
-Order! The honourable member is quite in order in drawing that standing order to my attention. I have had serious discussions with the officers of the Parliament in regard to this matter and we have decided that it is in the public interest to let the matter be ventilated in the Parliament
– It will be seen that the terms of this matter of public importance are not primarily directed to Miss Morosi; they are primarily directed to Ministers. The matter is therefore a matter of public importance and concern. The involvement of Miss Morosi in the matter is quite secondary, but it has to be stated because it is on this that the responsibility of Ministers depends. Some time agoshortly before the House rose for the Christmas recess- things were ventilated in the Press regarding the appointment of Miss Morosi, and the accountant for one of her firms came to see me and made a lot of allegations, which he subsequently incorporated in a statutory declaration which I have in front of me. That was followedabout a week before Christmas, I think- by a signed statement that came into my hands. I now read the statement:
We the undersigned who are ex-employees and company officers and business associates of Miss Junie Morosi and Mr David Ditchburn and their companies make the following statement in the public interest:
Miss Morosi and Mr Ditchburn fraudulently misappropriated the public’s money, paid to them for transmission to overseas hotels as pre-paid accommodation charges. The companies involved were Trans- portation Consultants International (Aust) Pry Ltd, O ffline, Hotel Express, TCI, George R. Smith and TCI Travel Holdings Pty Ltd.
This occurred from July 1971 to December 1973.
During the same period there were numerous valueless cheques passed by Morosi and Ditchburn for payment of rent, wages, purchases of -
– I rise to a point of order, Mr Speaker.
– Use up his time.
Br Klugman- No, I will not do that. My point of order is that I understand that the subject of the charges being made by the honourable member for Mackellar was referred to the New South Wales Corporate Affairs Commission and there was a statement from, I think, the then Premier of New South Wales, Sir Robert Askin, that he had received advice from the New South Wales Corporate Affairs Commission that there was no substance to those charges. Is it fair, then, to raise these charges in this House and to make it possible for -
– Order! No point of order is involved.
– Can he make any sort of allegations?
-Order! No point is involved in that matter.
– I rise to speak to the point of order, Mr Speaker. I suggest that you consider this matter very carefully. Would you have the honourable member for Mackellar sit down?
– The honourable member for Mackellar will resume his seat A point of order has been taken.
– The honourable member is making very serious allegations against a private citizen under the privilege of Parliament. In making these very serious allegations against a private citizen he is now being supported by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) and other members ofthe Opposition. He is making very serious allegations in the form of a statement in the Parliament under privilege and under protection in relation to matters that have been examined by the New South Wales Corporate Affairs Commission and have been found to be of no substance. I think that he must be very careful about the consequences of conduct of this kind, Mr Speaker.
–Order! The Chair is not responsible for any charges made inside this House about private citizens outside the House. There is no provision in the Standing Orders to prevent that.
– I have no reason to believe that all the information in my possession was before the public body mentioned by the Treasurer (Dr J. F. Cairns). Let me go on. I continue to read from the signed declaration:
During the same period there were numerous valueless cheques passed by Morosi and Ditchburn for payment of rent, wages, purchases of business equipment, payment of professional fees and other purposes.
On several occasions Miss Morosi urged an employee of the company to misrepresent the companies’ financial status, the purpose being to obtain loan moneys and investments on false pretences.
Miss Morosi requested some of the abovenamed employees to assist her to evade the various tax liabilities of Morosi-Ditchbum companies.
Miss Morosi sponsored the immigration to Australia of a number of Filipino girls and forced them to work for $25 per week of which $ 10 weekly was paid as keep to Miss Morosi ‘s mother. In addition they were obliged to work as housemaids and Miss Morosi threatened to send them back to the Philippines if they complained about their living and working conditions in Australia.
Our reason for making this statement at this time is that Miss Morosi may assume an influential government position as a result of an offer from the Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer, Dr Cairns.
We regard Miss Morosi as a totally unfit person to fulfil any position of trust and responsibility in any government department.
It is dated 13 December1974 and was signed by Alan F. Felton of 73 Bridge Street, Lane Cove; Lionel B. Hart of 2 Cotswold Close, Belrose; Julia A. Bilbrough of 88 St Georges Parade, Hurstville; and Julia T. Weinstock of 5 Onslow Street, Rose Bay. It was witnessed by a solicitor. I think that his name is D. Marks.
That is a signed statement. Naturally, the first thing I did when it came into my hands was to check the validity of the signatures and I found them to be correct I then started to make some inquiries, believing that the proper thing for me to do was to warn the Treasurer and Deputy Prime Minister that he may have inadvertently employed on his staff somebody who was, if these allegations were true, unfitted to have that position of extreme sensitivity and responsibility.
When I made my inquiries I found that Ministers were involved and the circumstances were such that they must have known about certain of these things. These suspicions were dreadfully confirmed by subsequent events.
We have the various statements of the Treasurer in regard to this matter that were made in the Press. We have the resignations which occurred from his office only yesterday or a few days ago. But, more importantly, we have the misuse of Commonwealth Police and Commonwealth Police authorities by the former Senator Murphy- and that is not the first time that he did it. I was able to trace certain lying propaganda relating to myself back to the office of the former Senator Murphy in Parliament House. There were other things also which confirmed in my mind -
– Explain that charge you have just made.
– I can explain it. Be quiet There were other things which confirmed in my mind the deep and long standing involvement of Ministers in this affair and the fact that they must have known at least some of the things which became known to me. I have in front of me a number of fresh statutory declarations. At the appropriate time- perhaps later today or next week- I shall ask for their incorporation in Hansard. I understand that there is a convention that one does not ask for unseen material to be incorporated in Hansard and I would not want to transgress that very proper rule of the House.
These statutory declarations confirm in my mind the truth of some of the allegations made in the statement which I read to the House a few moments ago. They do not confirm all of them, but my inquiries have disproved none of them. In some cases there is documentary evidence which supports the allegations and the documentary evidence is with me in the House now but it is not possible for me to put it before the House in a few moments. I believe that an inquiry should be conducted and I believe that if the Government has any honesty it will have a proper inquiry set up into this matter. I shall be delighted to make available to that inquiry the material in my possession. As I have said, I hope that sometimeperhaps later today or next week- I shall have the contents of these statutory declarations included in Hansard in the proper manner.
During the course of my inquiries, other things came to my attention. I spoke, for example, to a Mr Wawne who is an accountant at the Post Office in Sydney. Some of these statutory declarations relate to rather peculiar matters, such as the telephone accounts of these companies. I asked Mr Wawne whether there was a file on this matter and he said: ‘For God’s sake, do not ask me about that; you know my position’. This is what he said to me. I have not seen the file, but the statutory declarations are of such a character that they would indicate that the file exists.
I have also been told that Senator Murphythis was before he was a Minister- through Ethiopian Airlines, on Miss Morosi ‘s sponsorship, got numerous trips abroad either free or at discounted rates for himself and his wife. I am told that in the files of both Qantas Airways Ltd and Pan American World Airways there is substantial evidence to support this allegation. I think we should have a look at those files. Of course, it is not within my capacity to look at those files.
One goes back further- I am going back to, I think, 1971 or thereabouts; it might be 1972- to when Senator Murphy was associated with Miss Morosi in relation to financial affairs with a man called Drake. I think his name was Peter Drake. This was rather peculiar in many ways. I have not met Mr Drake, but he has said to other people, who have conveyed the information to me, that he invested $12,000 in these companies and lost it; that he did so at Senator Murphy’s urging. This is a long time ago. They were Morosi companies. There is some confirmatory evidence in regard to this and it is also said that Mr Drake was under some obligation of friendship or otherwise to Senator Murphy when he did this and did not want to be brought into it too much. Mr Drake is alleged to have said- I did not hear it myself- that if he were pressed, he would tell the truth in regard to this matter.
These are matters which require the very heaviest investigation. As I have said, I have some documentary evidence in my desk at the moment which would point to the truth not of all of the matters, but of some of them. I have found nothing which would point to an untruth in regard to that signed statement which I read to the House a moment ago.
I suppose the important thing is really whether Ministers knew about this matter or not. I have in my possession a photostat of a journal called Travel Week’ dated 29 August 1973. It states:
Federal agencies in Sydney are moving to close down an international hotel representation company. The company owes tens of thousands of dollars throughout Australia, and in other parts of the world, particularly Asia. A former employee estimates its total debt at $100,000. The PostmasterGeneral’s Department, Commonwealth Police, Taxation Department and Corporate Affairs Commission in New South Wales all have the company and its principals under surveillance.
This article was signed by a man called Mike Heard. I telephoned him and found from him that the companies referred to were in point of fact the Morosi companies. Here we have a statement made and published on 29 August 1973 that the Postmaster-General’s Department, the Commonwealth Police, the Taxation Office and the Corporate Affairs Commission of New South Wales, all have the company and its principals under surveillance. It may be that nothing criminal has been done; I do not know about this. But there is quite a difference between criminal activities and activities which would disqualify a person from employment in the most sensitive financial post in Australia. I think that until we have had some kind of proper investigation, and some of the files that I have named have been produced and we know the facts, it would be very unwise, indeed improper, for the Treasurer to continue in this sensitive post a woman who at least on such a large number of statutory declarations as I have, and this signed declaration, and on other evidence -
-Order! The honourable gentleman’s time has expired.
– I have not experienced in this House such a remarkable performance as the one I have just listened to. The honourable member for Wentworth-
-The honourable member for Mackellar- the name does not matter- with premeditation and with consideration has come into the House and made unsubstantiated allegations against a private citizen. Nowhere has he produced any evidence. He has talked about files that might be found in Qantas Airways Ltd or in some other place. Nowhere has he produced any evidence at all except reading one alleged statutory declaration from a number of people. The first person he mentioned, Mr Alan Felton, was convicted in a Sydney court this morning of illegally entering Miss Morosi ‘s home. The honourable member chose to use a statutory declaration, the first name of which is a man who was this morning convicted of a criminal offence in a Sydney court. That is the kind of man who stands here today. That is the kind of man who will use a statutory declaration, signed by a man convicted on this very day, in the national Parliament under privilege and under protection against a person who has no chance of dealing with it. The gentlemen on the Opposition front bench have identified themselves with this conduct.
The honourable member tells things that have been ventilated in the Press. His authority is the Press. He goes on and refers to a statement which contains words like ‘fraudulent misappropriation of funds’, ‘numerous valueless cheques have been passed’. He says those things all on the strength of a statutory declaration signed by a man who was today convicted of the criminal offence of breaking into Miss Morosi ‘s home. That is the kind of gentleman that this House now has as its honourable member for Mackellar. He goes on to say that this matter of public importance is not directed at Miss Morosi. Has anyone ever heard such humbug? Has anyone ever heard that kind of humbug, that a private citizen who has these allegations made against her by an honourable member under privilege does not have those allegations directed at her? If this man had his way, Miss Morosi ‘s life would be destroyed and her future would be destroyed. He does not give a damn for Miss Morosi as an individual citizen if he can damage me, the former Senator Murphy and this Government. He will do anything for political advantage and he always has stooped to that.
Let us recall his words. He said: ‘I have investigated the matters in this statutory declaration. Some are confirmed, others are not confirmed, but I have not been able to disprove any’. On the strength of that he demands some kind of proper inquiry. He makes unsubstantiated allegations; he makes allegations on the strength of a man who has been convicted of a criminal offence. On the basis of these allegations he chooses to demand a public inquiry.
I know Miss Morosi and her character. I certify to this House that she is a person of integrity, honour and competence. She is a person who has obtained the highest security clearance that it is possible for anyone to obtain. She has been cleared by security to perform the kind of task to which I have appointed her. I have found from experience that she performs that task with competence, honour and integrity. As long as I am satisfied about that, she will go on performing that task. Nothing said by the honourable member for Mackellar, nothing printed by the tabloid newspapers, will change my mind about that. As long as I am satisfied about the integrity and the competence of Miss Morosi she will remain in the position where she is now. I challenge members of the Opposition, particularly the front bench, to take a different position.
I do not intend to allow a person to be convicted by unsupported innuendo. I do not intend to allow a citizen of this country to be convicted on the strength of a statutory declaration made by a man who, on that day, was convicted of the criminal offence of breaking into the house of the person against whom he makes those allegations. I do not intend to do that for a moment. This is an offence to which he pleaded guilty, an offence about which I have read a long statement by the Commonwealth police, and an offence which points to the involvement of a number of members of this House in that conspiracy to enter Miss Morosi ‘s home illegally. The honourable member for Mackellar himself was asked on television did he know Mr Felton. He said: ‘Yes’. He has admitted today that he does. He told some television channel that Mr Felton had given some information. He was asked to whom. The honourable member for Mackellar, who is so careful about details, said: ‘I have forgotten who told him’.
There is evidence that the honourable member for Mackellar was associated with that attempt to enter Miss Morosi ‘s home illegally. There is evidence, Mr Speaker, that he has raised that matter with the Liberal Party Council in New South Wales. No matter what be his pretence, there is evidence that these inquiries that he has been telling the House about today are inquiries that may extend as far as that. I suggest that the honourable member’s conduct here is consistent with that. The honourable member has shown himself willing to do things here which would extend to what I have just suggested. The honourable member lacks credibility. The honourable member here from time to time has been willing to defame people on the slightest evidence, and sometimes with no evidence at all. But not so far in this House have I heard such a lamentable performance as he was guilty of today. This motion was not directed at Miss Morosi!
-Order! I would remind the honourable gentleman that charges cannot be made against an honourable member unless -
- Mr Speaker, I wish you had reminded the honourable member of some of his obligations a bit earlier. I suggest to you with all seriousness that a man who has exposed himself like this one does not need your protection, nor does he justify getting it.
-No, I am only pointing out that under the Standing Orders that can only be done by a substantive motion.
– I think I need say no more about that. This motion is not directed at Miss Morosi! This motion is directed at Ministers! He says in his allegations against Ministers that Ministers were involved. Let us look at that side of it.
Ministers were involved? What is his evidence of this- statements in the Press, resignations from my office, misuse of Commonwealth Police, lying propaganda from the office of the former Senator Murphy; but there is no evidence of any of these things. There is no suggestion that resignations from my office have anything to do with whether I or anyone else knew of these unsupported and unsubstantiated allegations made by the honourable member. There is no evidence whatever that resignations from my office indicate my knowledge of any of these things- none whatever. The resignation of my former Press secretary, he stated himself, had to do with his disagreement with me about the way a certain Press story might have been handled.
– He said he was sacked.
– He was dismissed from my office. (Opposition supporters interjecting) -
– He was sacked, if you like.
-Order! The previous speaker was heard in complete silence. I am going to demand that the Deputy Prime Minister also be heard in complete silence.
– I am entitled to have work for me whoever I choose.
– A point of order!
– What I am suggesting is that the reason for this dismissal had nothing to do with, nor does it confirm in any way, the allegations made by the honourable member.
-Order! A point of order has been taken, Mr Deputy Prime Minister.
– I ask you, Mr Speaker, to request the Minister to let us know whether he sacked the gentleman concerned or whether -
-Order! No point of order is involved. The honourable gentlemen will resume his seat. A point of order is take on the Standing Orders or the general procedures of the House. No point of order is involved at all.
– What is the evidence of the misuse of Commonwealth Police? The honourable gentleman knows nothing of how the Commonwealth Police came to be involved in the investigation that led to the arrest of Mr Alan Felton, in possession of property taken from Miss Morosi ‘s house in a truck with false number plates on it. The honourable member gives us no evidence to suggest that there was any misuse of the Commonwealth Police. In this matter the Commonwealth Police received information that
Miss Morosi ‘s house would be entered at a certain time on a certain day. They carried out their duty and they went to that scene. Within 10 minutes of the time of which they had been informed that the entry would be made, the entry was made. They saw the offence take place. They arrested Mr Felton at the scene. Mr Felton was charged; Mr Felton pleaded guilty; and Mr Felton was convicted in the Sydney Court this morning. Is that an improper use of the Commonwealth Police? Would the honourable member have chosen to say that the Commonwealth. Police should not have gone to the scene of a suspected offence; that they should not have taken action against Mr Felton; that he should not have been convicted? Does the honourable member suggest that there was any misuse of the Commonwealth Police in that? There has not been one word of evidence of a misuse of the Commonwealth Police. But this allegation is made under privilege over the whole of Australia, irresponsibly and without care for the consequences.
The next accusation was made against the former Senator Murphy, who is at the moment, of course- it may have escaped your notice, Mr Speaker- a High Court judge. Normally matters of this kind are not permitted to be said in this Parliament against a justice of the High Court. But apparently that has not been noticed.
– He forgot about that.
-Order! The honourable member will withdraw that.
-I withdraw it.
-Order! The only references made to Senator Murphy applied to when he was a senator and not a justice of the High Court.
– He happens to be one now, Mr Speaker, and I would think you would require the honourable member for Mackellar to be able to distinguish in that way between the 2 positions of Senator Murphy. But no evidence of any lying propaganda has come back from the office of Senator Murphy. It is an unsupported accusation by the honourable member. There is no evidence whatever of any lying propaganda from Senator Murphy’s office- merely an unsupported allegation, like everything else. Surely the honourable member for Mackellar has a statutory declaration to support that allegation or, if he does not have one, surely he can get one within the next four or five hours.
- Mr Felton could do another couple.
-I should imagine that Mr Felton and the private inquiry agents who have been employed with Mr Felton, and the solicitor who has been employed, I understand full time, to back Mr Felton in this exercise- surely the honourable member for Mackellar will be able to get a statutory declaration to prove the lying propaganda that has come from Senator Murphy’s office. No problem about that, I am sure; no problem at all! If the honourable member were able to do that it would be consistent with the rest of his conduct that he has shown in this most lamentable speech to this House. So now he wants us to have an inquiry- a public inquiry- because he is the kind of man who, under privilege in Parliament, will get up and make unsupported allegations or allegations supported only by a statutory declaration from a man who has been convicted of a criminal offence. He wants us to have an inquiry on the strength of that sort of thing. Does the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) support him in this? Does the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock) support him in this? Does the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) support him in this?
– Why are you asking them these questions?
– I am trying to get an answer and so far I have not got one. Perhaps the Leader of the Country Party (Mr Anthony) would support the honourable member for Mackellar in this.
– Of course he would.
-Perhaps he would. But he does not seem even to be too sure about that. Therefore, Mr Speaker, I am not going to be moved by the kinds of allegations that I have heard in this House today coming from a man who has been convicted on this very day of a criminal offence. I am not going to be moved by allegations made by the honourable member for Mackellar who, for 19 long years, I have heard making unsupported allegations in this House that go fundamentally to a man’s credit and to everything that involves his loyalty to his country. For 19 long years in this House I have heard him making unsupported allegations of that kind and so no more will I take notice of them. As long as I am satisfied about Miss Morosi ‘s competence. and integrity she will remain a member of my staff. I am satisfied about her competence and integrity and nothing that the honourable member has said has caused me to have any doubt in my mind on that matter.
Motion (by Mr Daly) proposed:
That business of the day be called on.
Mr WENTWORTH (Mackellar)-Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Most certainly. The Treasurer (Dr J. F. Cairns) implied, and Indeed I think he said, that he had evidence that I had been involved in a break in into Miss Morosi ‘s house. That is utterly and completely untrue. Not only was I not involved, I had absolutely no knowledge of it. He said that I have no evidence of the lying propaganda which emanated from -
- Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order.
-Order! The honourable member is debating the matter. He has already explained the part where he claimed to have been misrepresented. He may not debate the matter any further than that.
-There were many misrepresentations. His next misrepresentation was that I had no evidence of the lying progaganda -
– I take a point of order.
– Order ! The honourable member for Mackellar has had a very fair go. He has said where he has been misrepresented. What he is trying to do is to reopen the debate. He is out of order.
-There were many misrepresentations.
-Order! I can see what the honourable member for Mackellar is trying to do. He is endeavouring to reopen the debate.
– I was simply going to support you in that, Mr Speaker. My point of order is that the honourable member for Mackellar is again raising the questions that were actually raised in the debate. They were subjects for debate and not matters for personal explanation. Now he is misusing the forms of the House, as usual, in attempting to reopen his diatribes against innocent people.
– The Chair is watching that at the present time. Where is the misrepresentation? If the honourable gentleman endeavours to get around that ruling I will immediately ask him to resume his seat.
-On several occasions the Treasurer said that I had no evidence. Statutory declarations exist. On several occasions he said that the statutory declarations were made by a man who was, I think he said, convicted this morning.
– I did say that.
-He did say that.
- Mr Speaker, the honourable member is debating the subject.
-The point of order taken by the Deputy Prime Minister is valid. The honourable member will resume his seat.
That business of the day be called on.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker- Hon. J. F. Cope)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
- Mr Speaker, I move the motion standing in my name. It reads:
– A point of order, Mr Speaker. The motion is out of order on the ground that the powers of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Privileges cover the matters for which the honourable member is seeking to set up a separate inquiry. Specific charges against members on this matter can be heard by the Privileges Committee.
– Is that the way you would rule if you were in the Chair?
– I would.
-Order! This is a substantive motion. It can be referred to the Privileges Committee by the House at a later stage if necessary.
– I should be delighted to follow the suggestion of my friend the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) and have this matter referred to the Privileges Committee. I hope that when it is referred to that Committee the members of the Committee will, as members of this House, vote without party affiliation. Let me read the motion:
One does meet difficulties in this matter because the evidence that I shall bring before the House will show that all members of the Government Party are involved in this particular crime and they would therefore be ineligible to sit on the committee investigating it or indeed to vote on the motion in regard to it. I should say that there is prima facie evidence of this and it occurs in the constitution of the Australian Labor Party. I want honourable members to realise what this constitution is. It sets up the Party under the control of a Conference which meets bienially, as one met recently at Terrigal, but between those biennial meetings the control lies in the hands of a Federal Executive, which is’ not elected from this House. That Federal Executive makes a claim to be under its constitution, and I refer to clause 7 (c) (i):
The administrative authority carrying out the decisions of Federal Conference and in the interpretation of Conference decisions, the Federal platform and the constitution and the rules of the Party and the direction of Federal members.
This body claims to do something which is entirely contrary to the practices and decencies of this House. It claims, and it claimed it in print, the direction of Federal members. The honourable member for Corio was quite right when he said that this is the kind of thing that the Privileges Committee should investigate, because if the claims of the Federal Executive as set out in the printed constitution of the Party are correct, then every member of the Labor Party who adheres to it and is under discipline is doing an infamous thing.
– A point of order, Mr Speaker. This is a clear case of denigration of Parliament. The honourable member cannot establish one case of any member of this House being directed by any outside body. I take the point of order again, that in a motion where members are being charged by a member and the House is asked to investigate charges against a member, the member making the charges is entitled to specify the members and the occasions on which directions have been given to those individual members. I consider that that is a charge which can go to the Privileges Committee and no other committee to inquire into it is required.
-Order! It is not a matter for the Privileges Committee unless it is referred to that Committee by the House. I remind the honourable member for Corio that this is a substantive motion.
-Again I am thankful for your protection and wise ruling, Mr Speaker.
-It is not a matter of protection, it is a matter of the rulings of the House.
-Of course, and it is the rulings of the House which give protection to its members and I am grateful for your interpretation of those rulings. The honourable member for Corio apparently has not turned his mind to the facts, and he should turn his mind to the facts. There is a body called the Austraiian Labor Party. It has a federal constitution and under that constitution, which is a written constitution, it claims the right to direct members of the Parliament. It claims that right; it is written into its constitution, and I have quoted from the relevant clause of the constitution. The Party claims the right to direct its members. This does not necessarily convict the members of taking direction but it does imply it, because the people sitting on the Government side describe themselves as members of the Australian Labor Party. Indeed, I have often heard them so describe themselves, and if they want to get up and deny that they are members of the Australian Labor Party let them do so. But I have heard them claim to be members of the Australian Labor Party.
Now, we know that at Terrigal recently there was a conference of that Party, and members of this House attended that conference, including the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), and the Prime Minister, as I understand it, is the Leader of the Labor Party in this House. Whilst members are not necessarily committed to everything that the Prime Minister does, there is at least a strong presumption that they are. The Prime Minister was not by any means the only member of this House who attended that conference. There is therefore substantial evidence that members of this House attending that conference under that constitution agree to that constitution and agree that they are under the direction of that conference, and I have heard the Prime Minister admit in this House that he was under the direction of that conference. So perhaps the honourable member for Corio will help me here by helping me to refer this matter to the Privileges Committee, because the evidence that he was asking for -
– If you make a specific charge, I will.
-The evidence is in Hansard. The Prime Minister said, and it is recorded in Hansard, that he was taking directions from that body.
– I take a point of order again, Mr Speaker. The honourable member is making the point that membership of the Austraiian Labor Party is a requirement to be a member of this Parliament. In fact, it is a voluntary association which members can or cannot accept and it is not a pre-requirement of membership of this Parliament.
-I will defer ruling on the point of order because that is a debatable point.
– I am sorry to correct the honourable member for Corio. I have never said that membership of the Australian Labor Party is a requirement for being a member of this Parliament. I believe that I am a member of this Parliament, and I am not a member of the Australian Labor Party. But I hear members on the Government side describe themselves as members of the Australian Labor Party. It may not be a requirement but I have heard them so describe themselves. If they so describe themselves in this House and in Hansard it is reasonable to suppose that they are members of the Australian Labor Party, and being members of the Australian Labor Party they are subject to its constitution.
– It is a voluntary association.
-A voluntary association in a body which claims to be able to direct them in its written constitution and having claimed to be able to direct them does in fact give directions at conferences at which members of this House, including the Prime Minister, are present. I do not think I need press the evidence very much further than this. The evidence is in the written text which I have quoted. It is in the admission of Labor members that they are members of the Austraiian Labor Party.
– And proud to be.
-And proud to be-fine. I do not in any way denigrate their right to be members of the Australian Labor Party. If they want to be proud to be members they are proud of the fact that they are under direction. The honourable member for Corio has his own pride. He is proud, as he said a moment ago, to be under the direction of an outside body.
– Establish the -fact that someone has been directed.
-The Prime Minister has himself in this House- and it is recorded in Hansardagreed that he took the directions. The previous Leader of the Australian Labor Party, the late Mr Arthur Calwell, said the same thing in this House. So there is evidence of that.
There is some other evidence that we might look at more contemporaneously. I refer to the Provisional Revolutionary Government of Vietnam. What has happened in the last few days following the directions of the Terrigal conference? I do not know whether the honourable member for Corio was at the Conference but perhaps he will remember that the Prime Minister endeavoured to get a motion for the recognition of the PRG ignored. The Treasurer (Dr J. F. Cairns) beat him by 25 votes to 24 votes on that one. However, a subsequent patching amendment was made that the PRG should be allowed to be represented in Australia. What are the consequences? The consequences are that yesterday outside the House a PRG tent was illegally established and no protest was made because the Government was doing what the conference had directed it to do and members of this House, who make up this Government, were involved in that.
We saw what happened in this House, I think on Tuesday of this week when the Prime Minister, in answer to a question, virtually dumped the recognised Government of South Vietnam and aligned himself with the North Vietnamese. I would ask honourable members to have a look at the Hansard and the text of the Prime Minister’s answer which was quite different from any answer that the Prime Minister had previously given in this House on that matter. So within a few days of receiving a direction from the Conference at which he was present he came into this House, changed tack and followed that direction. I have been asked by the honourable member for Corio to supply instances. I come up with this instance. Then- I think yesterday; it may have been the day before- the Treasurer in answer to a question which I asked him aligned himself with his communist friends once again. Previously he had sponsored the fabrication that the North Vietnamese were not attacking or committing acts of aggression against South Vietnam. This was the line which the communists were peddling and which the Treasurer sponsored years ago. It was a false line. It was a communist lie and the Treasurer sponsored it.
I am not saying that the Treasurer was inconsistent because he has been a consistent friend and almost agent of the communists for many, many years now in this matter. He aligned himself with the communists of North Vietnam. But what happens today? There is no doubt whatsoever that today the communists of North Vietnam are committing aggression against Cambodia and South Vietnam. Their forces are in those countries. This is admitted. It is a notorious fact. The Treasurer.no longer finds it necessary to sponsor this he. He does not need to cover up any more. He says: ‘Well, they are there and that is all right by me because I am on the communist side’. This is consistent as far as he is concerned.
But I digress, I come back to the main point at issue and repeat the facts. Here we have a body which in its constitution claims the direction of Federal members. Here we have Federal members who in this House say that they are members of that body. One cannot say that they are members of that body but did not know what the constitution was. That is the kind of fabrication which even the honourable member for Corio would not pursue. Honourable members opposite say in this House that they are members of this body. One honourable member said by way of interjection a few moments ago that he was proud to be a member of this body which could give him directions in this House. Both the present leader of the Labor Party, the Prime Minister, and his predecessor, the late Mr Calwell, the former leader of the Party, have said in this House and are reported as saying in Hansard that they took such directions. Next, members of this House, including the Prime Minister, attended the Terrigal Conference and therefore showed themselves to be under the standing orders and rules of its constitution. One cannot attend a meeting of that character as a representative not of this House but of an outside body without admitting that one is under its standing orders and rules.
Then we have the evidence concerning the PRG. The case stands proved and there are honourable members who say it is all right. How is this Conference or this executive constituted? How the members are elected varies from State to State, but let me make it clear that in their election a great deal of communist influence is involved.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. As it is now 2 hours after the. time fixed for the meeting of the House, the debate on the motion is interrupted.
Motion (by Mr Daly) agreed to:
That the time for discussion of notice No. 1, General Business, be extended until 12.45 p.m.
-Is the motion moved by the honourable member for Mackellar seconded?
-I have much pleasure in seconding the motion moved by the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth).
– The honourable member for Curtin does not want it to come on. He is a bit frightened of this motion.
– On a point of order. Everybody heard the interjection by the Minister which, of course, is a complete misrepresentation. What we wish to do is to have 2 speakers to this motion and not get gagged as the Minister has done before.
– I have some advantage in speaking on this matter because for a number of years I was a member of the Australian Labor Party at a time when it was a privilege to be a part of a party which was intensely Australian and whose loyalties were in the right position, adjusted to the betterment of this nation, to the quality of life of this nation but more particularly to democratic principles whereby individual members of that organisation had some say in matters affecting it. This position has been entirely changed. It has been stated here today by interjection that it is a voluntary organisation. Today it is a voluntary organisation up to the point when a person joins the organisation because then if the person steps out of line one of 2 things happens. He is either blackballed or some sort of insidious pressure is brought to bear on him whereby life becomes intolerable. Despite those things it is very difficult to find one ALP branch- I offer this challenge clearly and precisely to members of the Government to find one- in Australia today in which the numbers have not fallen off to a very significant degree. The reason for this is that there are pressures which are being exerted continuously on members of the ALP but they are being exerted by the elite and this elite is a small coterie which is based more particularly in certain unions and more particularly within metropolitan branches. So the rest of the organisation of the once great Austraiian Labor Party is now a pathetic, fragmented agency almost for insidious banana republic type operations.
I would add to what the honourable member for Mackellar said that the pressures brought to bear on the Australian Labor Party are not only from within but also from without the organisation. I would say that never in the history of this nation has the name of Australia been at a lower ebb than it is at this moment. This can be checked out. If what I am saying is thought to be political prejudice then for heaven’s sake check it out. I say to honourable members opposite: Write to individual citizens, write to people in diplomatic positions who are game enough to express their point of view. They will tell you that the name of Australia has never been at a lower ebb than it is today.
The trip abroad by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) achieved precisely nothing. It merely added to the disrepute in which we stand and it is because of the undue influence which has been brought to bear on the other side of this House. I feel terribly sorry for certain people on the other side of the House who had, as I did, the privilege of membership of the old Australian Labor Party and by that I do not mean the old reactionary men. Honourable members opposite must remember the old members of their organisation who were prepared to make real sacrifices to be a member of their organisation. Until about 6 months ago everyone was on the bandwagon. It was very easy to be a member of the Australian Labor Party because it was going places. It is not going places now; it is just going and that is perfectly obvious.
One of the things I resent is the great national operation of deceit which has been carried out on the people who are so naive as to believe that they are still supporting the Australian Labor Party which included many wonderful figures like T. J. Ryan and Ben Chifley. I can remember my predecessor for Kennedy the late Bill Riordan, a man who served this Parliament for 30 years and a member of a family that attracted nothing but a grand reputation for integrity and service to this nation, warning us as members of the Cloncurry branch of the Australian Labor Party that there were certain pressures coming into the Party which were going to fragment and destroy the substance of the Party. I can remember it as though it were happening at this moment. I can remember Ben Chifley in the City Hall in Brisbane telling a packed audience and warning members of the Australian Labor Party that if they had the slightest association with anything even on the fringe of communism, on the fringe of extreme socialism- these insidious unsavoury policies that come from these little banana republics- they were out, expelled. How would he feel if he saw the Deputy Prime Minister (Dr J. F. Cairns) embracing the Vietcong. If a man kisses another man one begins to wonder about that but in this case we did not wonder about it at all; we were not even surprised. What about this smelly little tent that people have put up in front of this building with smelly little characters occupying it and offering definance of this nation? Whether one agrees with the Vietnam war, which is now a thing of the past, or not the people these characters represent shed good Australian blood and did everything in their power to destroy our young men. Those who sit on the other side of this House do not like what I am saying, yet that tent stands occupied by these miserable characters. What would be the reaction of men like Ben Chifley and Bill Riordan, or the great Clarrie Fallon, who could make or break ALP members, who could make Prime Ministers, a man with whom I had the closest association? Certainly he brought pressure to bear. He brought pressure to bear on any member of the ALP who would even rub shoulders with these insidious characters who are out to destroy everyting that is good in this country.
It is almost superfluous for the honourable member for Mackellar to bring this matter forward because the situation is so well known to the people of Australia and it is so unacceptable to them. When they go to cast a vote they imagine that they are going to put into office a particular personality to represent them, a man who by his character and his attributes has the sorts of things to offer that they appreciate. They now know that it would not matter just what the quality of that man is. We saw casualties in the last State election in Queensland. If we are honest we will admit that some good men bit the dust up there. There are now eleven left. Lord knows how many of them will survive the next election. There are now only 1 1 seats held by the Labor Party in Queensland, traditionally a Labor State. It formerly held 33 seats. The ALP was born right in my electorate in the town of Barcaldine. I can name men who went to gaol because they stood for principles of unionism and principles of support for a Party which in those days honestly and sincerely fought for the workers. On the other side of this place there are young aristocrats, bluebloods, people who for some reason are espousing a cause in which they believe for one of 2 reasons- either they are ideological socialists, impressed by some peculiar thing in Chile, Cuba, North Vietnam or one of those countries which have ideologies commensurate with theirs, or, if one goes back into the past, they have a chip on their shoulder. They are the aristocrats. They are the blue bloods. They are members of the elite. Why would they be members of a .workers’ Party? Honourable members should ask themselves that question.
They should compare the 2 leaders, Snedden and Whitlam. I do not want to get down to personalities, but the Prime Minister of this country had the great advantage of having been born into a fine family. He has never had the problems that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) had. He had to come up the hard way. He had to sell papers and deliver milk. I hope he does not mind my mentioning these things. He knew what poverty w/»s. That is Bill Snedden. Who would appreciate more the problems of the working class- a person who has experienced them or one who through pure opportunism has become the leading figure in the Australian Labor Party and who is in the process of fragmenting and wrecking it to the point where anyone who had pride in the history of the Australian Labor Pary now hides his head in shame?
So we see, as the honourable member for Mackellar has pointed out, pressure being brought to bear on individuals so that what may have been their honest intentions when they came into this House have been completely disoriented. We see the regimentation of Caucus, and the individual members in that Caucus being regimented. As I said before, the Labor Party has ways of dealing with members who do not conform. I do not like anyone who kisses and tells, but maybe one day I will write a book, or maybe I will even make a speech about it in this House on the last day I am here, and then I will run for cover, believe me. Some of the things that I could reveal about the activities of this so-called workers’ party might be pf some impact on the people of this nation. That is one form of pressure being brought to bear.
I want to stress again the fact that a far more insidious influence is being brought to bear on honourable members opposite, and that is based on one of two things: It could be based on their dedicated belief, such as that held by the Deputy Prime Minister (Dr J. F. Cairns), in an extreme form of socialism, in an extreme form of centralism, in an extreme form of taking away from the individual his rights and centralising power in Canberra, appointing bureaucratic boards and appointing people who lack entirely any experience. We heard here today a discussion which was brought forward by the honourable member for Mackellar in relation to Miss Morosi, and no doubt we are going to hear a lot more about it. Whatever be the situation in that regard, is it not rather disconcerting to the people of Australia to find that career public servants, people with immense experience, are being ignored completely? A whole series of people- they can be named one after the other- are being brought into not just important positions in the Public Service but also positions of complete responsibility. In many cases they are being made heads of departments. This shows an utter contempt for the career public servants and people who have valuable experience and who have served a particular department for years and years. Such a person would see himself as being slighted by the fact that it has been a case of a job for one of the boys.
Then again there is the pressure brought to bear by the faceless men, to use an old cliche. They are not quite so faceless these days. They show themselves as being the people who run this country. If there is one thing that we are determined on it is that that position will be reversed. I admire the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party who named the casualties. Believe you me, they had better start working out something for the future. They will keep their classification, but they will keep it where we think it fit that they should keep it and not be brought into some juicy, sugar-coated job. When the earlier discussion took place in regard to the possibility of there being a full scale national scandal, the Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer kept on saying that the honourable member for Mackellar was attacking a private citizen. What he did not say was that that private citizen -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MartinOrder! The debate on that subject matter has concluded. We are now debating a different subject matter.
-With due respect, Mr Deputy Speaker, I am trying to make the point that outside pressures are brought to bear on members on this side of the House.
-They are the terms of the motion.
-Yes, within the terms of the motion.
– I raise a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Is it in order for an honourable member, who went into the Senate the other night and offered a senator out and who has been a member of every political party, to speak in this way about members of the Labor Party?
-I do not think that is a point of order.
– I think it is unfortunate that I should have breached the rules in regard to such an outstanding personality as Senator Keeffe. He was sent up to Queensland to get rid of me electorally. When he first came up I had a majority of 1000 votes. I now have a majority of 1 1 500 votes. So, please God, keep Senator Keeffe up there in the north. Mr Deputy Speaker, I have been taken off the tracks a bit. I come back to the point that I was going to make, and you can decide whether it is out of order. The Deputy Prime
Minister kept referring to Miss Morosi as a private citizen. She is a very important private citizen.
-Order! I think reference to the terms of the previous motion before the House would be out of order. The honourable member is restricted in this debate to the terms of the motion presently before the House.
– I am just talking of the undue pressure being brought to bear on various people. I will conclude by saying that the people of Australia cannot be hoaxed any further. They have seen election result after election result. All we ask is that they be given the opportunity- I hope it is in the not far distant future- to decide whether the people who sit opposite are actually their representatives or whether they are people from some odd little banana republics who are bringing international pressure to bear, together with their other odd people -
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– We should not be wasting the time of the Parliament in discussing motions such as the one before the House at the present time. The honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) is a caricature when it comes to using the forms of this House. If we look strictly at the motion which has been moved, it is an unsubstantiated allegation that in votes taken in this House honourable members have been subjected to somebody else’s direction. Of course, no evidence at all was given of any particular vote which was contrary to the manner in which an honourable member wanted to vote. In other words, it is implied that there has been a breach of privilege as regards the freedom of honourable members. Not one tittle of evidence has been produced by the honourable member for Mackellar. The sad thing, as is evidenced by today’s performance by the honourable member, is that it is always a matter of innuendo and of unsubstantiated allegation.
If the Parliament is to have any credibility or any integrity at all- I have said this previouslyany honourable member of the Parliament must be free to stand up and say something specific on the basis that it is in the interests of the Parliament. But there are Standing Orders which provide that an honourable member cannot cast improper motives on any other honourable member and cannot reflect on any honourable member. The motion presently before the House reflects on every honourable member in this
House and on the way in which he might have voted. It may be that in the past people have voted for subsidies from which they would have received pecuniary benefit. If that could be proved such people would be removed from the Parliament pursuant to section 44 of the Constitution. In other words, there is a rule of law in the Constitution in relation to whether a member can forfeit his position. He would forfeit his position in this place if it was clearly indicated that he was doing something which was contrary to his free wishes.
The motion is purely a political allegation that the Australian Labor Party is not a democratic institution. We refute that allegation and we refute the accusations that have been made over a period of years. We say that we are the most democratic of all institutions. Our constitution is there for all to see. It says that we believe in democracy, we believe in freedom of speech and we believe in the democratic institution of Parliament. Those things are contained in our constitution. So then we have to look at the rules of Parliament. They state that there is an obligation on members of Parliament to conduct themselves in a proper way. I submit to the House that the conduct of the honourable member who moved this motion which alleges that members of this House have voted in an improper way is reflecting on those members. May’s ‘Parliamentary Practice’ makes it quite clear that where there is a reflection on a member which is not substantiated and which cannot be proved that is virtually a breach of privilege by the member making that reflection and that he is the one who ought to be dealt with.
The time must come in this Parliament- I would submit it should be very soon- when the conduct of honourable members such as the honourable member for Mackellar must be the subject of a substantive motion to decide whether such conduct should be tolerated any longer, because such people are only bringing this Parliament into disrepute. If it is possible for an honourable member to stand up and make allegations in relation to any honourable member on this side of the House or any honourable member opposite, it is a reflection not only on honourable members in this place but also on the people outside in that this Parliament does not protect those people. Most Parliaments in Australia conduct themselves in a proper fashion, and I would be amazed if anybody in any State Parliament was allowed to get up and cast reflections on other members of that Parliament and not be obliged to withdraw. One cannot get away from that obligation by attempting to move what is deemed to be a substantive motion but which refers solely to an allegation on which no evidence has been given.
I do not think we ought to waste too much time on the honourable member who supported the motion, the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter). Apparently he has been in every party except the Liberal Party. It may be to his credit that he could not fall that low. However, perhaps we should examine his conduct here. His contribution to this debate had nothing to do with the subject matter of the motion of the honourable member for Mackellar. He never mentioned it even once. He spoke of his own associations. As the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) said, he did not talk about his conduct in the Senate the other night where he physically threatened a member of the Senate- ridiculous conduct for a member of this House. I submit that if the Senate sends a message here requiring that we deal with the honourable member for Kennedy he could well be expelled from this Parliament. That is what should be done. His conduct was more appropriate for a bar room brawl. He could well be convicted of threatened violence. He is not entitled to be in the House if that is the situation. If the Senate thinks it ought to send such a message I have no doubt that this House would move the appropriate motion.
We ought to make it clear that when we are discussing matters of importance they should be important. We do not want to hear everybody’s individual views about matters- what they think might have happened or what they feel could have happened. We on this side know that much influence is exerted on the Opposition by certain segments of the banking institutions, the insurance institutions, the ‘Sydney Morning Herald ‘ and their shareholders. We do not ask members of the Opposition to declare their interests, but it is quite clear that most of the direction most of the motivation and most of the political philosophy that comes from the other side is from a few people who are anxious to preserve their established positions. We do not bother to ask about the shareholdings of the honourable member for Mackellar, but it could well be that he has taken part in discussions in this House which could have assisted companies and given him benefits. This House will soon debate legislation relating to compressors. Three companies are concerned and members shareholdings could be involved. Honourable members are on their honour to disclose such circumstances and they are on their honour not to breach their trust to this Parliament by acting under outside direction. The duty is on honourable members, that is the clear position.
Let us give this Parliament some standing and have honourable members say what they mean. Do not let us have accusations and allegations that honourable members have voted here as a result of a direction given by somebody else and that they did not intend to vote the way they did. That is a reflection on everyone in this Parliament. It is out of order. Such a suggestion could well be asked to be withdrawn if it were made in the course of debate. I am fortified by the fact that in the British House of Commons it is the practice, and May’s ‘Parliamentary Practice’ at chapter 10 so states, that if an honourable member casts against honourable members imputations which are not substantiated the honourable member casting the imputations is guilty of a breach of conduct and a breach of his privilege as an honourable member and can be dealt with and punished by the House. That is the appropriate course of action.
The honourable member for Mackellar is leading us to the situation where in the near future we might catalogue his conduct and say: Is it not proper that he be punished by this House because no evidence has been given to support any of the matters that he has raised?’ People should not be smeared, in the Parliament or outside. There is a course of conduct an honourable member must follow. From the Australian Labor Party point of view, we have nothing to fear. As I said, the Party membership is open to everybody in Australia. We poll particularly well in getting democratic support. Anybody can read our platform. Anybody can join the Party. There is no question of some other sinister influence. Even though we might not have done so well in the recent Queensland State election we still polled 36 per cent of the vote as compared with the National Party’s 28 per cent. We do not gerrymander seats to the same extent and we will accept defeats when they are given.
But let us get back to the terms of the motion and the allegation that people vote in this place by a direction of somebody outside. There has been not one tittle of evidence on any particular vote. This suggestion is to be deplored, whether one is on the Opposition side or on the Government side. How can one expect a Parliament to have any credibility if one allows this sort of conduct to carry on. As a result of an earlier debate today 3 people will receive a writ for libel because they were named here. They are not protected. Honourable members are protected but people who are named here are not protected.
What is the excuse of honourable members for doing these things? The law is very severe in this regard. Honourable members have a right and a privilege to say certain things fearlessly but honestly and with evidence in support; they are not entitled to infer that they have been told something by somebody or that they thought something happened or to suggest that there is an allegation, as the motion suggests, that some wrong was done. Honourable members have no justification at all to say such things. They may produce evidence in a proper way, but to come in here and to move a substantive motion on the allegation that somebody voted improperly is sheer humbug. It merely wastes the time of the House.
In the diatribe we heard earlier on this motion people were named. It was the second time today that one person was named, and in all these instances people cannot protect themselves. Not one member of the Australian Labor Party was named as having voted wrongly in this House. I do not know about the Opposition; that is a matter for its members. When we get the report of the Joint Committee on the Pecuniary Interests of Members of Parliament we will at least know how to ascertain some of the shareholdings of those on the other side. If it can be established that in the past some of them voted improperly in this House for subsidies for rural properties, acquisition of properties and on the question of giving assistance to industry in which they had shareholdings, every one of them would forfeit his seat under section 44 of the Constitution.
Let us make it clear that if we want to give this Parliament some honesty and some credibility in the Australian way of life we should show it to be a democratic institution. This is a good country and this is a good democracy. We have said this before. It should not be destroyed by honourable members who are elected to it being mere slanderers and acting like persons one might see on a vaudeville show telling jokes. But such honourable members do not tell jokes; they just smear people and try to convince people that they are making a valuable contribution. They are caricatures and laughing stocks when they do that and they do not help anybody at all.
Nobody here today could look at this substantive motion and find out where, in the name of fortune, has an accusation been made against any one member. Where is the onus of proof? It is not here and never is with the honourable member for Mackellar. The point I am putting to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, is that this House will have to have a close look at the conduct of all honourable members. They should not be allowed to come into this chamber and make imputations and innuendos. The British House of Commons has a clear precedent on this subject. If an honourable member does it he is liable to expulsion, because he is not allowed to carry on in that way. Members of Parliament, certainly, have an obligation to their constituents, but also to this Parliament and particularly to the people of Australia. This House is not to be a forum for free slander of others and for imputation.
While we want to answer this ridiculous allegation, the motion is another misuse of parliamentary procedures. Many important matters could nave been debated here this morning rather than this motion, the subject matter of which has not been proved. We could well say that the Opposition is getting money from the Bank of New South Wales, is conducting a campaign and is anxious to protect interests which are directing it. We could say these things, but we do not have the proof of them. Such allegations do not get us anywhere. We know this could well be the case. We have only to look at the editorials of certain newspapers to know that they virtually pitch the Une that will be followed. They might well suggest that there could be a change of leadership on the other side and do somthing about organising a coup. We do not have proof of that, but plenty of people outside talk about it. We are not going to suggest that those honourable members who wanted to remove the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) were directed by somebody outside, but we know what aeroplanes arrived in Canberra that morning and who were in them. Are we to debate such things as proof that the Opposition is acting in accordance with outside influence? Of course we are not.
The motion we are debating deals with votes in this House. Where are the specific votes in this House in which an honourable member voted against what he wanted to do? There is not one tittle of evidence in support of it. I think the motion is a sheer waste of time and the sooner we get on with the business of the House the better.
-Mr Deputy Speaker -
Motion (by Mr Daly) agreed to:
That the question be now put.
That the motion (Mr Wentworth’s) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Hon. J. F. Cope)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Debate resumed from 5 December 1974 on motion by Mr Wentworth:
That, in the opinion of this House, restrictions upon the granting of supplementary assistance to pensioners are too severe.
-One of the things that should be fixed up is the supplementary assistance provided to pensioners and the means test in regard to it. Perhaps the House will allow me to say something about the history of this matter. The supplementary assistance or rent allowance is given to pensioners who pay rent. It is given to age pensioners and widowed pensioners. It is not given to recipients of unemployment benefit. This was an addition to the pension which was introduced by the Liberal-Country Party in 1958. Prior to that time there was no supplementary assistance provided. This is one of the very many improvements in the field of social services which the Liberal-Country Party Governments introduced. It was introduced, as I have said in 1958 at the rate of $1 a week. In 1965 it was raised to $2 a week. In 1972 the Liberal-Country Party Government- I was the responsible Minister at the time- raised it to $4 a week. In 1974- just recently- this Government raised it to $5 a week and introduced certain limiting conditions. I think honourable members will note that the real value of supplementary assistance in terms of purchasing power is now much less than it was when we went out of office, and this is one of the ways on which pensioners have been short-changed by the present Government. But at this moment I am not trying to concentrate on the supplementary assistance level, although I point out in passing that I hope it will be raised; I think it should be raised. I think that the inadequate way in which the present Government has behaved in this matter is something that requires correction.
The means test is imposed on, I would say, the unhappy recipients of supplementary assistance, and it is in point of fact most inequitable and unfair. The means test is fixed at $1 a week, and anything above that is directly deducted from the supplementary assistance. I think this is completely inequitable. I agree that this position existed under the previous Government, but I remind the House that it was the previous Government that first introduced supplementary assistance. Although I, as the Minister, was hoping to have been able to relax the present means test I was not able to do so. It is a fierce means test because it is a 100 per cent means test. If it was a tapered means test it would not be so bad, but it is not a tapered means test; it is a 100 per cent means test. It has become much fiercer with the rise in prices. The sum of $1 in 1958 would have brought twice as much as $1 does today. There was a slow drift upwards .in prices during the time of the Liberal-Country Party Government, but in the reign of this unhappy Government there has not been just a drift upwards; there has been a surge upwards, and the limit of the free area of $1 a week, inadequate as I believe it was under our Government, has become much less adequate, even more onerous, under the present Government and the economic chaos which this Government has caused through inflation.
I ask the Government to relax this means test, and I do so knowing that in one area there has been some kind of relaxation. That one area is in regard to sheltered workshops. I am glad that the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) has done this. It is something which I think he picked up from my old files when he took over the former Department of Social Services. Do not let us argue about that. It was something good that was done, and I am glad that the Minister has done it. But it is not enough. The present means test is oppressive first on sheltered workshops. In spite of the relaxation it is still oppressive, and it is particularly bad for some handicapped people, particularly mentally handicapped people who do not always understand why they are being penalised. It is hard on aged persons who could hope to improve their position by working. I think particularly of the beehive industry in Sydney which Alderman Joan Pilone instituted. The operation, to some extent, was invalidated by the imposition of this means test.
-Order! The time allotted for precedence of General Business has expired. The honourable member for Mackellar will have leave to continue his speech when the debate is resumed. The resumption of the debate will “be made an order of the day under General Business for the next sitting.
Bill returned from the Senate with amendments.
Motion (by Mr Charles Jones) agreed to:
That the amendments be taken into consideration in the Committee of the whole House at a later hour this day.
Bill presented by Mr Charles Jones, and read a first time.
– I move:
The main purpose of this Bill is to amend certain provisions of the Commonwealth Railways Act 1917-1973 in order to create the Australian National Railways Commission, thus providing for the increasingly wider functions and responsibilities of Commonwealth Railways including the transfer of State railways; to ensure that the powers, duties and functions of the proposed Commission are, where possible, consistent with other statutory authorities with a similar nature; to make amendments to the Act, which will bring it into line with current commercial practices of statutory authorities; and to overcome administrative problems raised by the Auditor-General. At the same time the opportunity will be taken to make several amendments of a machinery nature in relation to financial provisions of the Act and to effect some largely formal amendments. The proposed amendments are intended to update the Act, which has not received a major review since its enactment in 1 9 1 7.
The amendments will also enable the proposed Commission effectively to perforin its role as one of Australia’s major rail systems and provide it with the organisational structure and operational powers necessary for it to consolidate into a single system, the State railways, that may be transferred under the Government ‘s rail transfer program.
Regrettably, these amendments to the Commonwealth Railways Act have been a long time in coming and are long overdue. In fact a previous Cabinet in 1958 directed that a committee be set up to examine the possible reorganisation of Commonwealth Railways but little concrete, action was taken. It was only when the present Government came to office with a commitment to create a modern and efficient rail system for Australia, that legislation emerged. Unfortunately this was the pattern of railway development under our predecessors. The previous Government bogged down nationally important projects such as the Tarcoola-Alice Springs line and Adelaide’s standard gauge connection. It was left for the present Government to have the necessary legislation passed and get the projects off the ground. I would like to draw the attention of honourable members to the development of the Commonwealth Railways and its significant achievements over its 63 years of history.
– That is a joke- getting railways off the ground.
– That is Charlie ‘s joke.
-Never mind Gonnagonna do something but never ever got around to it. Historically, the Trans-Australian railway was one of the principal inducements for Western Australia to join the other Australian colonies in Federation. This railway was the first railway built by an Austraiian government and had as its prime purpose to link Australian States, whereas most State railways had been built with the object of either exploiting individual States’ resources or channelling trade to State capitals.
The building of the Trans-Australia Railway of over 1680 kilometres was a major achievement in itself. It was commenced in 1912 and despite the inhospitable nature of the terrain and wartime supply problems the line was finished in October 1917. A significant factor in this achievement which contributed to the speed of construction of the Une was the use of track laying machines. Innovation and preparedness to accept new technology has marked many Commonwealth Railways achievements. In 1951 it operated the first mainline diesel electric locomotive to be manufactured in Australia and within 6 years Commonwealth Railways were completely dieselised, at a time when some Australian railway systems were still placing steam engines in service. Today the Commonwealth Railways is a leader in railway operating practices, especially in the design of large freight wagons and operation of high horsepower diesel locomotives. However, the achievements of the Commonwealth Railways would not have been possible without the dedication of its staff who, with their families, are required to live in some of the remotest parts of Australia and under some of the harshest climatic conditions this continent has to offer. I would like to put on record the appreciation of this Parliament of the service Commonwealth Railways staff have given the Australian community, I am sure that this tradition of service will be carried forward to the new Australian National Railways Commission.
The importance of Commonwealth Railways to Australia’s total transport system has increased dramatically over the last decade. Over the period 1949 to 1959 freights carried by Commonwealth Railways showed an increase of 10 per cent per year, a figure which went up to 1 1.5 per cent per year for the period 1959 to 1969. In 1973 freight carried between eastern States and Western Australia increased by 16 per cent and freight to the Northern Territory by 20 per cent, and in 1973-74 traffic on the Trans-Australian railway reached new records, although the freight carried on the Central and North Australian railways declined due to severe flooding. The reasons for the overall increase in traffic include growth in the Australian economy; the realisation by many shippers of the advantages of rail, especially forwarding agents, and their consequent diversion of freight from other modes to rail; and the increased operating efficiency of Australie ‘s railways resulting from improved rolling stock and rail standardisation. Passenger traffic on the Commonwealth Railways has also increased due to the high standard of comfort and service offered on trains of world class such as the Indian-Pacific and the TransAustralian.
Commonwealth Railways has recently commenced a railway project of world stature- the Tarcoola-Alice Springs line. This line runs from Tarcoola on the Trans-Australian Railway to Alice Springs, 830 kilometres to the north. This railway presents a modern-day pioneering challenge. By any standard it is a mammoth undertaking; it is in fact the longest new railway built in Australia since the Trans-Australian Railway in 1917 and, when one considers that it will be only 70 kilometres shorter than the rail distance between Melbourne and Sydney, some idea of the size of the project can be gained. The average person has little comprehension of the complexity of a project such as this. It involves a meticulous survey by both air and land over hundreds of kilometres of featureless country, the opening of ballast quarries, the welding of miles of continuous rail, the laying of hundreds of thousands of sleepers, the building of a telecommunication system and the feeding and quartering of men in some of the most inhospitable desert country in Australia. The decision to make Commonwealth Railways the constructing authority for this project is a recognition of the high standard of its engineering and organisational skills. It is estimated that the project will take 5 years to complete, but within 3 years a railhead will be established to enable the road-rail movement of goods. When completed, the new line will provide a vastly improved railway service for Central and Northern Australia.
Yet, despite this progress, Australia’s railways on the whole are in a pitiful condition. For years they have been starved of the capital funds necessary for them to keep abreast of advances in railway technology and meet the transport demands placed upon them by a growing economy. For example, we have the ridiculous situation where State Railway deficits are increasing at an alarming rate, yet the railways have had to turn away business. Railways at present need over 3200 extra wagons for inter-system traffic alone. It has been estimated that the Victorian, South Australian, New South Wales and Commonwealth railways lost over $66m in possible revenue in 1972-73 because they were not able to meet the demands of inter-system traffic.
This Government was quick to react to the problem and in the 1974 Budget the Government announced a continuing rolling stock purchasing program which over the next 2 years will provide some 1300 modern bogie wagons for inter-system use. These wagons will be available for lease to the States. In the period from 1 July to 31 December 1974 1 approved some 16 cargo movements in unlicensed vessels because the freight concerned could not be accommodated either by Australian tonnage or rail transport. In regard to rail movements inquiries established that this mode could not assist with the freight due to a number of reasons including curtailment of services due to fuel shortages, congestion of rail transfer centres and primarily a shortage of rolling stock. As a result some 3700 motor vehicles and over 1 1 000 tonnes of cargo were approved for movement by foreign vessels. This led to hostility and ill feeling among maritime unions. In addition increased quantities of freight were forced onto interstate highways resulting in their rapid deterioration and increased social costs to the community in the form of accidents. I have also directed the Bureau of Transport Ecomonics to carry out an investigation into the investment needs of Australia’s railways. This study will assist in determining priorities for future railway investment.
With the election of the present Government came a new approach to Australia’s railway problems. It was realised that a basic obstacle to the creation of a modern and efficient railway system for Australia was the division of responsibility for railways between 6 States and one Australian authority which in the past had led to inter-system rivalries, duplication of facilities, misallocation of resources, and the lack of a national approach to railway policy. The Prime Minister recognised this in his 1 972 policy speech when he offered to accept the transfer of the railways of any State that was prepared to offer them. I am pleased to say that negotiations on the transfer of South Australian and Tasmanian railways are progressing satisfactorily. Honourable members will be aware that the present Premier of New South Wales recently announced, amongst other things, the withdrawal of his State from the transfer discussions. New South Wales thus joins the other States that have Liberal or Country Party governments, in refusing to discuss meaningfully the Prime Minister’s offer. This shortsighted approach, reflecting their inability to see beyond their own State borders, is hindering the development of Australia. However, I am convinced that good sense will prevail in the long run.
The rail transfer program, coupled with initiatives the Government has taken in relation to rolling stock, and major projects which the Government is undertaking such as the Tarcoola-Alice Springs railway and the standard gauge connection for Adelaide, usher in a new era for Australia’s railways in which the Australian National Railways Commission will have to play a major role. Consequently it is essential that the Commission be established now, and be given the necessary structure, powers and functions for it to operate as an efficient statutory authority charged with making a vital contribution to Australia’s national transport system.
Let me now speak separately to the main provisions of the Bill. I am having circulated an explanatory memorandum to assist honourable members in their consideration of this Bill. Firstly, the name ‘Commonwealth Railways’ will be changed to the ‘Australian National Railways’. The new name is more in keeping with the responsibilities of the new Commission which will have as its task the operation of a national railway, ultimately constituted as a result of the amalgamation of what were previously State railways. In fact I feel the name ‘national ‘ is long overdue as the operation of the Commonwealth Railways has never been confined to any one State, as it has lines in 2 States and 2 Territories.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m. (Quorum formed)
-As I have indicated, Commonwealth Railways is undergoing a period of expansion and growth. This is placing an increasingly heavy burden on a single Commissioner, as the Commonwealth Railways is presently constituted, and in the event of a transfer this burden could become intolerable. It is therefore proposed to create a Commission which will be called the Australian National Railways Commission. It will consist of 7 Commissioners of which one will be a full-time Chairman and the other six part-time Commissioners. Appointments to the Commission will be in accordance with the usual practice, by the GovernorGeneral, and will be for a 5-year period. It is the intention of the Government to recommend to the Governor-General the appointment of a prominent trade unionist as one of the part-time Commissioners. This will be in accordance with the practice which the Government has followed in relation to other statutory authorities such as Qantas Airways Ltd, the Reserve Bank Board and the National Pipe Line Authority. I should also point out that in relation to government transport undertakings this is not only the policy of the Australian Labor Government; the New South Wales Liberal Government appointed Mr Barry Unsworth, an organiser of the New South Wales Labor Council, as a Commissioner of the New South Wales Public Transport Commission.
Sections 5 to 15 of the proposed Act provide for the establishment of the new Commission and contain the normal provisions relating to appointment, salary determination, leave of absence, resignation, termination of appointment and meetings, appropriate to statutory authorities of this type. In my opening remarks I indicated that the proposed Act would make provision for the transfer of a State railway to the Australian Government. This provision can be seen in section 16a of the proposed Act which provides authority for State railway systems acquired by the Australian Government to become the property of the Commission. This is also one of the purposes of the new sections 31a and 3 IB which empower the Commission to provide land transport and engineering services and provide that the Commission is not limited to purely railway services. As honourable members will know, most State railways provide some form of ancillary services, particularly in relation to door-to-door delivery of goods and the provision of road passenger services. Consequently if the Australian National Railways are to provide the same range of services as former State railways it is essential they have the power to operate such ancillary services.
Clause 31c enables the Commission to carry out arrangements with the Australian Shipping Commission and the Australian National Airlines Commission for the transport of goods and passengers. A similar provision is contained in the Australian National Airlines Commission Act. I am certain that honourable members from Tasmania will recognise the importance which this clause could assume in the event of a transfer of the Tasmanian Government Railways and the benefits which would flow to that State from a co-ordinated transport service provided by the Australian National Line and the Australian National Railways. I said also in my opening remarks that one of the purposes of the proposed Bill is to ensure that the powers, duties and functions of the proposed Commission are, where possible, consistent with other statutory authorities with a similar nature. This particularly relates to the new financial provisions contained in sections 55 to 57 of the proposed Act which replace sections 55, 56 and 57 in the principal Act. The purpose of the new financial provisions is also to provide the new Commission with a degree of financial autonomy including the power to open and maintain bank accounts- clause 57d. The only major financial difference between the new Commission and similar statutory authorities, such as the Australian Shipping Commission and the Australian National Airlines Commission, is that it is proposed to continue the exemption of the railway from paying tax. This is provided by clause 57H. The reasons for this decision are that no State railway is subject to taxation, and the Government does not want to put the ANR at a disadvantage vis-a-vis State railways, and that the ANR will not be in competition with private organisations as are the ANL and Trans-Australia Airlines.
It is also the intention of the Bill to amend the principal Act so that it will be brought into line with current commercial practices in statutory authorities. The proposed amendments to section 21 of the principal Act will empower the Commission to lease railway property. Subject to section 23, which requires the approval of the Minister if the lease is to run over 10 years, this amendment will enable the Commission to gain revenue from land which is not immediately required for railway purposes without referring each individual case to the Minister for his approval. Section 23 of the principal Act will be replaced with a new section which increases the value of contracts the Commission may arrange without ministerial approval from $10,000 to $100,000. This is a realistic figure in relation to the responsibilities of the Commission and modern commercial practices. A comparative provision exists in the Australian Shipping Commission Act 1974.
The amendments proposed for sections 27 and 28 are basically operational provisions relating to the carriage of dangerous and bulky goods respectively, so that persons are not permitted to carry or require the Commission to carry such goods. The amendments also extend the provisions of section 27 and 28 to road vehicles owned by the Commission. The replacement of section 33A with a new section will enable the Commission to sell, among other things, liquor to travellers and non-travellers without distinction. The wording of the present Act is such that the Commissioner cannot sell liquor to friends of travellers or to his staff in remote locations. The
Auditor-General’s Report of 1972-73 brought to light administrative difficulties in relation to sections 50 and 51 of the principal Act. The Auditor-General took the view that under section 50 the Commissioner should certify that positions were required before making appointments. Section 51, which was last amended over 21 years ago, provided that the creation of an office with a salary of more than $1,700 per annum was subject to approval by the GovernorGeneral.
The proposed amendments repeal sections 46, 50, 51 and 52 and replace them with new sections 46, 46 A, 50 and 51. The new section 46 A has been included providing for the position of General Manager of the Commission. The net effect of the new sections is to remove the administrative problems which sections 50 and 5 1 presented by providing that the Commission may appoint such staff as it thinks necessary and that the Commission may determine terms and conditions of service subject to approval by the Public Service Board. The Commission may not determine a position at a salary rate exceeding $16,282, which is at present the salary of a Class 1 1 officer in the Public Service, without ministerial approval, unless a higher rate or method of determining the higher rate is provided by regulation. This in effect overcomes the necessity of continually amending the Act with each increase in salary for railway employees.
The new section 50 requires that the Commission furnish a report to the Minister annually of the number of permanent offices in the railway service; while the new section 5 1 is a standard section and provides that the Commission is an approved authority for the purpose of the Superannuation Act, and makes provision for superannuation for the Chairman and the General Manager of the Commission. Clauses 27, 28 and 29 of the amending Bill are transitional provisions enabling the Commission to take over from the Commissioner. There are also some formal amendments and these are detailed in the Schedule to the Bill. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Nixon) adjourned.
– I move:
That, in accordance with section 18 (8) (b) of the Public Works Committee Act 1969-1974, the following proposed work be carried out without having been referred to the committee: South Stuart Highway- Erldunda to South Australian Border section.
The estimated cost of the work is $3.2m. The proposal is to develop the remaining section of the highway south of Alice Springs from Erldunda to the South Australian border, a distance of 96 kilometres or 60 miles, to national highway construction standards. In June 1971 the Public Works Committee examined the section of this highway immediately to the north between Erldunda and Alice Springs, a distance of 126 miles. The Committee took evidence at Alice Springs and at Henbury Station and recommended that the construction of this road should proceed. I might mention that the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly), who is in the House, the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) and I served on that Committee and I vividly recall the very strong approval and support that was given to the proposition at that time. In reporting to Parliament, the Committee’s conclusions were that there was ample evidence of economic justification for the road, that the benefits would include savings of vehicle operating costs, passenger time, road maintenance costs and savings through reduced wastage of cattle; also that the road was required if the full potential of the local pastoral and tourist industries were to be realised, and that it was also important in the general context of national development.
The proposed work is of a similar nature to the previous section except that it will be constructed to the new national highway standards. Basically, the new standards provide for an increase in the sealed road width from 20 feet to 22 feet, for an increase in the width of the shoulders from 6 feet to 8 feet and for a higher standard of flood protection and drainage, compared to the section of road now nearing completion. Discussions have taken place with the South Australian Highways Department and agreement has been reached that the alignment of the proposed road in the vicinity of the Northern Territory-South Australian border will suit the future highway route just south of the border in South Australia. I emphasise that matter because I know that it has been of concern to some South Australian members. Discussions have also been held with the Department of Aboriginal Affairs to ensure that the route of the road is satisfactory to the Aborigines and that there are no areas of special significance to them within 5 miles of the existing road. Where realignment of the existing road occurs it will be within this corridor.
It is proposed to seek exemption of this project from reference to the Public Works Committee for several very particular and important reasons. Firstly, it is an extension of the sealed road from Alice Springs to Erldunda, which the Committee has previously examined and recommended for construction for the reasons which I have already outlined. Secondly, there is a need for the early commencement and completion of the road because of the requirement to facilitate the transport of construction material for the rebuilding of Darwin. Subject to Parliament’s approval to exemption from reference to the Public Works Committee, tenders can be called in March 1975, enabling committal of the project this financial year, with the road being completed in approximately 2 years. The estimated cost of the project is $3. 2m at December 1974 prices, and it should be noted that of this estimate only $600,000 is attributable to the higher national highway standard compared with those standards adopted for the Alice Springs to Erldunda section of the highway.
This particular project has for many years been called for by the people of the Northern Territory and South Australia especially. I believe that all honourable members will be very pleased to see the Government’s preparedness to proceed with the development and to set about it in such a way that it will be completed as quickly as possible. I commend the motion to the House.
– I want to make a few criticisms, and heartfelt criticisms, about the Government’s decision in this matter. It is true that the Public Works Committee inquired into this matter in 197 1. It is true, as the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson) says, that he was a member of that Committee, as I was. I remember distinctly, and I think he will, the hearings that we had in Alice Springs and at Henbury. I think the Minister will remember coming back in the bus from Henbury leading us in what he euphemistically called singing, full of virtue about work well done and full of the hospitality of that generous area. It was a moving time for all of us. I did not know that he had these attributes. It was a bit startling in parts. But we did hold this inquiry, and if the Minister will cast his mind back he will recall that the emphasis of the whole inquiry was firstly on the route and the justification for it, but a large part of the evidence dealt with the width of the road. We had an even more dogged member than the Minister on the Committee in those days, Senator Prowse, who once he latched on to the subject, would never let go. But the Minister was not far behind, and ceaselessly and doggedly they pursued the question of how wide the road should be. The Minister ended the inquiry with typical generosity and graciousness. I, as the Chairman of the Committee, asked the Minister, who was then just the honourable member for Hughes, if he had any questions regarding the question of road width, which was then to be 20 feet. He said:
I must be frank. My anxieties were rapidly placated as the evidence went on and I have no questions.
So he thought that the width of the road ought to be 20 feet. We all thought that the width ought to be 20 feet. It starts off, I think, at 16 feet for the first few miles and then jumps to 20 feet. Now it is going to go to 22 feet. Surely that is a question which should have been referred to the Public Works Committee. It was right in 1971 for the width to be 20 feet, and the Minister was eloquent about it then. Why is it wrong now? Why should it be 22 feet now? That is one question. The second question is the matter of urgency. On 5 December last year the Public Works Committee received a letter from the Minister for the Northern Territory (Dr Patterson) asking it to excuse this matter from inquiry. Obviously there was some error in the footwork, in the way the matter was handled. The Committee replied over the signature of its Chairman that it appreciated the courtesy, but at that stage it was said to be urgent. I had discussions at that time with the Minister and we went over the problems. I said I would accept it and would not raise any real problems in the House because of the urgency, and because the contracting teams were there and the Committee did not want to make a fuss about it. I think a sense of responsibility would have led us to excuse it on the ground of urgency on 5 December.
The Minister will be well aware that there are only 2 justifications for escaping a Public Works Committee inquiry. One is urgency and the other is security. In the case we are considering it obviously was not security so it must be urgency. If the reference was urgent, why was not urgency claimed in December 1974? The Public Works Committee could have heard evidence, if the reference had been referred to it, in December and there would not have been any hold-up. I presume, from the way the Minister spoke, that documentation of this reference must have been proceeding. I think he said in his speech that they could go to tender in March 1975. If that is so, documentation must have been proceeding without prior notification to the Committee. The Minister will be aware that there are occasions when documentation does proceed prior to a Public Works Committee inquiry, but never is it done without the courtesy being paid to the Chairman and members of the Committee of informing them. Documentation must have been proceeding if- and I think I heard the Minister correctly- - tenders were ready to be called in March 1975. Did I hear the Minister correctly on that? This is what was contained in the speech which the Minister just read.
– I would have to check on what you have said in Hansard.
-I simply said that I thought that the Minister pointed out that tenders would be ready to be called in March 1975. The Minister only has to look at the transcript of his speech to see what he said. I am not asking what I said; I know that. What I am saying is that if tenders will be ready to be called in March 1975 documentation must have been proceeding. There is no great sin in that but the Minister, when a member of the Public Works Committee, was very quick to criticise any decision to go ahead with prior documentation before reference to the Committee. So, on the ground of urgency- I speak only for myself but I think that other members of the Committee would agree with me- it would have been proper to excuse it in December. Therefore I believe that the Minister cannot use the ground of urgency as an excuse 2 months later when we could have had an inquiry in December. We did not have to hold the inquiry in the Northern Territory. It could have been held in Canberra.
The real anxiety that I have concerns the extra cost that will result from the increase in width of the road from 20 feet to 22 feet. If it was right to agree that the road from Alice to Erldunda be 20 feet to begin with, why is it wrong now? There may be good reasons. I am not criticising on the basis that there are not good reasons. I am saying that it is a proper function of the Public Works Committee to examine standards. We could have examined this reference. We would have been only too willing to do so, particularly in regard to the question of standards. The route of the road is pretty well decided. This matter could have been referred to us for examination in Canberra. We could have received some backing for a change in the standards, which the Minister when a member of the Committee accepted as correct. The Minister even then had this sonorous manner of speaking which we used to admire so much. In relation to the recommendation that the road width be 20 feet said:
My anxieties were rapidly placated as the evidence went on and I have no questions.
If this decision was right then, it is wrong now. This is the kind of thing that should have been examined by us in December. As I have said, there are only 2 reasons for a reference to escape a Public Works Committee meeting-. One is urgency, and the other is security If this reference was urgent it could have been referred to the Committee. We would have exempted the project with a sense of responsibility in December. I find it very hard to do so 2 months later.
-I feel obliged to make some comment on the matter. The honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly) has put his point of view, and he is entitled to do so. He has raised, as I understand, two very important matters. One was the width of the road from Erldunda to a place called Mount Cavanagh on the South Australian border which is in fact 2 feet wider than the road between Alice Springs and Erldunda. On the face of it I do not suppose one would worry very much whether the shoulders of one section of the road were 12 inches wider than they are in another section. But the decision to increase the width of the road does increase the cost- I say for the information of the honourable member- by some $600,000.
The Public Works Committee “of which the honourable member and the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson) were members recommended most strongly that the road continue to the South Australian border. I think the honourable member for Wakefield used these words: ‘If we were right then we are wrong now. ‘ He argued: ‘If we said that the road from Alice Springs to Erldunda should be 20 feet in width, 22 feet is now the wrong width’. I quarrel with that because there was a change of government in 1972 after the decision had been taken. This fact cannot be overlooked. As a result of the change of government there was a change of attitude towards many things including the construction of roads. Standards have been set by the Minister for Transport ( Mr Charles Jones) and his Department. The standard is now 22 feet instead of 20 feet. I do not think that the honourable member can simply say that if the decision in 1 97 1 was right the decision in 1 974 is wrong or vice versa. Surely these things are subject to changes in circumstances as they arise from time to time. As I have outlined, there has been a change in the standards of road construction.
– That is right. They are higher.
-As my colleague has just pointed out, they are higher and, we trust, better. But that has yet to be tested. It could be said, I suppose, that the road should of necessity be better because it is now 2 feet wider. My honourable friend- he is a friend of mine- from
Wakefield has raised this matter I think principally on the basis of a letter that was sent to me as Chairman of the Public Works Commitee by the Minister for the Northern Territory (Dr Patterson) in December of last year. I am not sure whether I should have regarded that letter as a piece of private correspondence or should have brought it to the attention of the Committee. I chose the latter course and brought it to the attention of the Committee. It was the first advice that the Committee had received that the Stuart Highway was to be sealed and properly constructed from Erldunda to the South Australian border.
Having paid that courtesy to the Committee and made that information available it now seems that the information is to be used for the purpose of saying that the road is no longer urgent. I feel duty bound to explain to the House that at that time it became clear following conversations between me, Ministers of the Crown and the honourable member for Wakefield that there had not been any real settlement on the matter when the Minister for the Northern Territory wrote to me. The letter did not come from the constructing authority of the Department of Housing and Construction; it came from a very dedicated Minister who has a great regard for the area over which he has responsibility- the Northern Territory. In an endeavour to gain as much information as he could he wrote to me and I passed the letter on to the Committee. Now it seems that that letter, and that letter alone, is to be used as some sort of weapon to indicate that the urgency that was alleged to exist at the time does not exist now.
Further inquiries have led me to the information that it was practical to keep the road machinery- and this, was the reason that was given, I think, in the last week of the sitting of this Parliament in December last year- where it was after the sealing and construction of the road from Alice Springs to Erldunda had been completed and to keep it working. I think any practical person would agree with that. I understand that most of that machinery is still on site and still ready for work. I do not think the matter of urgency has changed with the intervention of some two or three months. I think the most salient point that the honourable member for Wakefield was making is that there is a new standard for roads in Australia. My friend the honourable member for Swan (Mr Bennett) has already indicated that that standard is better. I accept prima facie the words that he used. However, being an investigatory committee such as the Public Works Committee is I think it is desirable that we should inquire into the new standard and we should know whether the new standard is better or not. We are now talking about a road 60 miles in length, whatever that is in kilometres, at a cost of $3.2m. It has been approved in principle by a previous Public Works Committee, the only difference being that the pavement width of the road is now 2 feet or 24 inches, whatever that is in centimetres, wider than the original pavement. But the road has been approved.
I also have further information available to me that in May this year it is hoped that the Public Works Committee will get a reference from this Parliament for examination of the Stuart and Barkly highways at a total cost of about $30m. When these matters come forward I would think that would be a far more appropriate time to establish the national standards for roads. I emphasise the word ‘national’ because it is the first time in this country that we will have had a national standard for roads. That standard has been determined by departmental people. It is yet to go to the jump, if I may use that colloquialism- the Public Works Committee, which is a very severe hurdle as most of the departments know. It is yet to be examined by that Committee. My information is that there is every possibility that these 2 matters involving the Stuart and Barkly highways will become available sometime in May, when it is hoped to bring the matter before the Public Works Committee for examination.
Thirty million dollars worth of roads is being designed and constructed to the new standards of roads and no longer does our Government allow ad hoc decisions to be taken. The very delay about which the honourable member for Wakefield complains is because there was consultation not only between the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson) as the constructing authority and the Minister for the Northern Territory (Dr Patterson) as the Minister responsible for the Department that wanted the road, the client department, but also there was consultation with the Minister of the Crown who has responsibility for the roads, the railways, airlines and all other transport systems in this country. That might have caused a delay and perhaps the Minister for the Northern Territory might have been a little premature but no harm has been done. Nothing has changed and I see little justification to agree with the criticism. The important thing is that the Public Works Committee, of which the honourable member of Wakefield is the deputy chairman, will have the opportunity, as I understand it, to examine the standards of construction of national roads in this country when the Stuar. and Barkly highways come before the Public Works Committee.
I commend the motion to the House. There are ample reasons why this project should proceed immediately. So far as the route is concerned there might be some quibbles but there is no real dispute. The standard of the road is no less than the present road between Erldunda and Alice Springs. It could be, again as my friend the honourable member for Swan said, better at an extra cost of $600,000. There was agreement by the Public Works Committee in June 1971 that the road ought to be constructed. To do a little bit of nit picking, to pick people up on something that they might perhaps not have done as well as they should have done is only to delay the project and I do not think the people in Darwin would be served any grand purpose by that being done.
So I commend the motion moved by the Minister and I trust that the House will carry it so that we can get on with the construction of this road and make available a sealed highway from Port Pirie to Darwin so that goods can move into Darwin by road under all weather conditions rather than rely on the method now being used. That is important. It is probably the most important reason for this section of the road because now a person can leave Darwin, travel on the Stuart Highway, get to Erldunda and suddenly finish up in the sand. It is essential that there be a sealed highway from Port Pirie to Darwin and that is all that this reference does. It just fills in that missing link and I do not think that there can be any reasonable objection to it. I commend the motion to the House.
– I rise to support this motion and to say how pleased I am that the Government has taken this urgent action to seal the 96 kilometres of road from Erldunda to the South Australian border. I take the point made by the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly) about matters such as this not being referred to the Public Works Committee but we are assured by the Chairman of that Committee that it will be having a look at national roads and the standards of them later this year. Bearing that in mind, there is an urgent situation which, over and above the ordinary transport requirements of the Northern Territory, calls for the sealing of the Stuart Highway as soon as possible. I ask the Government to impress on the South Australian authorities that a good deal of the road runs through their State. I know that this will probably come within the national roads plan later on, but having driven down this road just before Christmas I found that it can still develop into a horror stretch although at that time it was probably in as good a condition as I have seen it in the last 35 years. However, within the last week or 10 days that road and incidentally the railway line have been out because of the recent rains which have come through to the area from Western Australia. This road from Port Augusta- not Port Pirie- to Alice Springs is essentially to assist with the transport running through to Darwin and carting materials which will be needed to be transported both by road and rail to the stricken city. It is urgent that this work should go ahead. I hope that it will be stepped up rather faster than the work that has been done in this area in the past. I support the motion and hope that the project will proceed with speed.
Motion (by Mr Daly) agreed to:
That the question be now put.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 19 February on motion byDrJ. F. Cairns:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-To conclude my remarks which I commenced last night, the proposal for the enlarged Australian Industry Development Corporation is not opposed by the Opposition. The Liberal and Country Parties, as I stressed, are resolute that Australian initiatives should be in the forefront of the development of Australian industries and resources. There should be Australian management of projects and there should be a maximum of Australian ownership and control. An enlarged and, hopefully, more efficient Australian Industry Development Corporation can undoubtedly contribute importantly to this objective in level competition with other institutions. I point out that competition is not level under this legislation.
With that and other reservations, notably in respect of the proposed national interest division, the Opposition does not oppose the Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill and all that it could mean in the right hands for Australian development and Australian ownership and control of its resources and its destiny. However, the companion National Investment Fund Bill which could lead to a significant distortion of the Australian capital market and which, to boot, is at this time unnecessary, is not acceptable.
– I should make my position clear immediately. As part of the Opposition I oppose completely the Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill. I do not agree with some of the things that have been said in the debate in drawing conclusions from the arguments that were put either by the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) or by my colleague who has just spoken, the honourable member for Berowra (Dr Edwards). I suppose it is accurate to say that no one has had a greater association with this Bill than I have. My first experience occurred shortly after I became the Treasurer. I found in my ‘In’ tray a document which had probablybeen in the gestation period for something like 18 months, and it related to the Australian Resources Development Bank. I was immediately fascinated by the novelty of the idea and by the fact that I thought it could do exactly what this present Bill says is its main objective, although I doubt whether this Bill means what it says
The ARDB was established to mobilise funds in order to ensure that Australian development could take place by Australians. All the trading banks and the Commonwealth Bank of Australia joined together so that they could provide funds in order that that objective could be achieved. I speak now, of course, with some hesitation. Since the ARDB Bill was passed into law it has been magnificently successful and I have not heard any criticism of it, other than on ideological grounds. Shortly after the passage of that legislation I realised that the then Department of Trade and Industry, and particularly its head, would want some sort of an all day sucker to keep it quiet and to keep it from protesting too much about the private organisation bank. After several times being rejected by Cabinet, under the leadership of Mr Gorton, an ARDB Bill was formed. But it was done on the limited basis as set out in the Act. Above all, the AIDC had placed in its charter certain restrictive paragraphs with respect to such matters as borrowings in Australia. These were agreed to by the then Government. On listening to what the honourable member for Berowra has said, I believe that those borrowing powers ought to have been restricted in the way that they were.
So I mention therefore my position in relation to the Bill.I do not like it. I do not think it is necessary. I believe, as the honourable member for Berowra said he believes, that it will divert financial resources, and therefore real resources, from the private sector of the economy to the public sector with probably greater harm than the good that it could potentially do.
Before coming to the text of the Bill now before the House, I would like to make one or two preliminary remarks. First of all, I believe that some of the changes that have been made and agreed to by the present Treasurer (Dr J. F. Cairns) have removed the grotesqueries that were in the old Bill, and I want to mention just a few of them. There was an odd clause in the old Bill which provided that the AIDC could carry out any sort of business whatsoever. That power has been cut down, but I do not think it will restrict to any substantial extent the operation of the AIDC, if the present Bill is passed, other than on a very limited scale. The national interest clause has been cleaned up to some extent because appropriation must be obtained or, if that is not done, there has to be a resolution of both Houses of the Parliament. Those are, I believe, restraints of a kind which are worth while. But they do not go far enough, because we all know what it is like and how little dialogue takes place when an appropriation Bill comes before the House.
The matter of guarantees and the matter of assets are also dealt with. I will speak of those in a few moments, because I do not believe that the AIDC ought to retain the ownership of assets when there is no longer any necessity for a Government agency to own them if a private enterprise can effectively take over and probably do a better job. Also I would like to get rid of some of the old mythology, some of the old political propaganda of the most mean and miserable kind, associated with control and also with the ownership of Australian assets. We led the way so far as ownership and control were concerned. I introduced the ARDB Bill for the purposes that I mentioned. No one can therefore say that we did not take the leadership. We were the Party promoting Australian ownership. This is a Liberal conception.
As regards control, I think that this much has to be said to remove the hypocrisy and the humbug: Australians can always control the assets in their country if they want to. It is within the control of government to do so and therefore, if it cares to exercise that power, it can effectively see that control is maintained either by means of ownership or by executive action under the law or the Parliament itself. I think therefore we have to dismiss this idea of control because it is not really relevant to the task that is in front of us.
Our goal is to have optimum ownership. I have mentioned what was done by us and what is now being attempted by the Labor Party. But I believe it to be propaganda of an offensive kind to try to have people argue here or anywhere else that they are better Australians than their next door neighbour or their colleagues in this Parliament, whether in the House of Representatives or in the Senate. We are all pretty good Australians. But we do not have to come in here or go on the hustings to parade our interest, to try to show that somebody is better than us or to try to get a mean political advantage when the only difference between us can be the timing, the means by which an objective is achieved- and whether by the private or the public sector of the economy- and the conditions under which the change is to take place. We must always keep in mind that since the milling developments that took place during the regime of a Liberal government, the money flow taking place in this country is increasing so rapidly that we are now in a position entirely different from that in which we found ourselves 10 years ago. We are becoming increasingly capable of finding the cash flow in order to be able to carry on development programs by Australians, under Australian conditions. I state again that I am a Liberal and I believe in the private sector of the economy. 1 believe that it is just as capable, and perhaps more capable, of doing good for the country as is the public sector in relation to industrial, commercial and mining interests.
I now want to deal with the 2 Bills themselves in detail. I reject the Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill for the reasons I am about to give. The Labor Government, the Whitlam-Cairns Government- Dr Cairns was not necessarily a part of it for as long as othershas been in office for a short time, and in that very short time it has done more to muck up this country than any government in Australia’s history. In those circumstances -
– Keep politics out of it.
– The honourable member helped to muck it up. As entertaining as he is as a speaker- I always have to laugh even though it causes me pain to do so. But the Labor Government has mucked up this country completely and for the moment it shows very little signs of being able to recover the position. In those circumstances, why give the Labor Party the opportunity to do greater damage? I know that if you were in the back benches, Mr Speaker, you would not permit it to be done. For that reason alone I would give the Government no more power.
Let me move on to some of the ways in which we can look at the damage which the Government has done. There was a credit squeeze, and the way in which it bumped up interest rates and slowed down business. There was the way in which it caused unemployment and the way in which it stimulated inflationary pressures. It has done considerable damage to Australia’s great rural and extractive industries and has taken punitive measures on savings and investment, which are one of the mainstays on which this country must progress and which we must support by incentives and every other means at our disposal if the greatness of Australia is to be fully realised. That is the first point I should like to make so far as specifics are concerned.
I turn now to clause 4 of the Bill which I do not like. This might be called the nationalisation clause. The functions of the Corporation are pretty big- to facilitate and encourage the establishment, development and advancement of any industry connected with manufacture, processing, treatment, transportation and distribution of goods. The provision virtually covers nearly every aspect of industrial and commercial life. That is only one area that we have to look at. But we must look at it in another context and that is the other Bills that have been introduced and passed in this House. I mention, for example, the Bills dealing with minerals and energy and the national airlines Bill. When one looks at these measures in combination one finds that slowly but surely power is being taken over a wide spectrum of Australian industry, including the extractive industries. On the first occasion this legislation was being debated in the House during the regime of the Labor Government when the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) and I handled the Bill on behalf of the Opposition, I cross examined the present Treasurer about it. To his credit- I give him credit for this as I give him credit for a lot of good things- he deleted the most monstrous clauses of the Bill which would have brought it into ridicule. When I spoke about clause 4 of the Bill he said that he did not want it, but Sir Alan Westerman wanted it. That was the answer given to me. I can see no reason why that provision, together with the others, should be retained. I believe it gives the opportunity by stealth increasingly to socialise the Australian economy. I mention that because all these things were well thought out and debated in Cabinet, when we as a LiberalCountry Party Government introduced the original Bill.
I turn now to the borrowing clause. In Cabinet I was able to obtain the approval of Sir John McEwen on this to ensure that borrowing for a government agency should be overseas and not internal. That was agreed to because the kind of savings in Australia and, therefore, investment funds were limited and the best one could hope to do would be to achieve a diversion out of the private sector and into the public sector. We have seen the result and the consequences of that happening in recent months and in recent years, so much so that I believe it was one of the causes of our present difficulties, although that is not completely understood today. But I take it a stage further. I take it now to the stage of asking not the general question of the reason for the total failure of Government economic management of the credit squeeze but in detail what has been the degree of success of the AIDC. Yesterday I heard an argument by the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony). It was the most devastating attack, not upon the new Bill, but upon the total concept of the AIDC. If the figures he quoted are accurate- I think they are- the areas in which it has chosen to invest are in companies like Escor Ltd; but I do not go along with the argument about M. B. Johns Ltd because I believe it will produce either today or tomorrow a pretty good balance sheet.
– John McEwen introduced it.
– Oh keep quiet. You are thinking of police court actions; I am thinking of the nation’s interest. Therefore, looking at what the Leader of the Australian Country Party said, I defy any honourable member with common sense, any honourable member influenced by a national identity and with the interests of the nation at heart, either in logic, or in conscience to vote in favour of this Bill particularly if he believes in private enterprise.
I come back to the actual borrowing programs. I have stated the question relating to the executive activities and the investments of the AIDC. I now turn to internal borrowing. Here is a very clear illustration of what the Australian people think about the AIDC trying to borrow $20m and, if practicable, $40m. No one can find out what has happened. This is not open government. This is secrecy because the AIDC has failed. The Australian people’s understanding, its appreciation, its thinking about the AIDC is settled in that respect. But there is worse. I cannot understand a man like the present Treasurer, with his undoubted knowledge, permitting the Corporation to go ahead with the loan at a period when the Government was staying out of the market itself because it did not want to dry up further the money base- Ml or M3- in Australia and to make the type of credit squeeze that had been pushed upon the country even worse than it was. The Government got out of the market but it left this monstrous agency there to do something which it felt was contrary to the best interests of the country.
I turn now to the important question of our overseas balances which are at this time falling at a rate, since about 12 December, of about $ 100m a month. By this time next year we will be below the level that can be regarded as satisfactory and moving well into the danger level. On that basis the Government would be wise, as the Australian Resources Development Bank has, to go overseas, to borrow money to be able to support the activities of this organisation. That is the position as I see it.
I ^should like to mention the Senate report on the AIDC. I cannot understand why in the case of a man like the Treasurer, who likes facts to be known, he and his colleagues have ensured that the report of the Committee is not to be made available to the Australian people. Another important matter is the fact that the disinvestment clause is not satisfactory because it can be evaded as soon as one wants to evade it. The national investment of Government interest is so bad that no government which believes in the interests of the country and is not ideologically committed, would want to agree to it.
I turn now to the National Investment Fund Bill which, I think rightly, my own Party has decided to reject completely. I reject it, firstly, because of its bonds. It is admitted that its bonds under this Bill will not have an earning capacity of their own, to provide an effective marketable yield, for reasons that were very well given by the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) and by the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating). So the return must be subsidised by the Government. It can-subsidise it to any extent that it feels desirable. Of equal importance, the Government wants to get into the business of superannuation and savings in order to raid the savings of the Australian people and to put them into this objectionable fund which has not yet proved its ability to be both viable and profitable.
In the Australian community we already have savings banks and even a Commonwealth savings bank. But the Government wants to duplicate those services. We have life offices of the finest quality and there is no reason in the world why we should establish other life offices through deceit or subterfuge to be able to work without the knowledge and without the necessity for disclosure of facts. They could work as they want and use the savings of the Australian people in a way that could be disadvantageous for them.
I turn to another aspect which I believe to be totally wrong and one that should be rejected by every thinking and decent member of the Australian community; that is, the threat that has been made, not necessarily by the present Treasurer, but by the former one, that the 30/20 rule could be changed and compulsory methods could be used in order to divert savings from the areas chosen by the life offices- the custodians and the trustees on behalf of the savers themselvesto a government agency. I take this very seriously. I ask the present Treasurer to clear up whether he will use compulsion. I know that he intended not to use it but in a written speech which was delivered and handed out he added a word which created the impression that if he was placed under pressure he would use compulsion in the same way as the degraded former Treasurer saw fit. From all the arguments I have seen advanced, I believe that a royal commission ought to be conducted into the AIDC to see whether it should be sustained. I believe that by market methods- by giving incentives to save and incentives to invest- with.the new cash flows we can do without it. I would not necessarily say that it ought to go. But most emphatically, if I get the chance, I will reject this Bill. I will want to vote against it. If it is practicable, I would like to divide the House on it, even if I have to sit on this side of the House with only three of my colleagues.
– I wholeheartedly support both Bills. I think that the kindest way in which I can possibly describe the speech of the right honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon) is to say that he has been snowed by big business. It is very sad that we are obliged to listen to that sort of speech being made in this House declaring the interests of big business as it relates to these measures. This is the fourth time in 1 8 months in which we have had the Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill before us. This is the second time in which the Bill has come before us in this form. Thank goodness there has been an eleventh hour conversion on the part of most of the members of the Opposition towards the Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill because it is a measure that is in the national interest.
I remind the House that we can thank Sir John McEwen and perhaps colleagues of his in the Australian Country Party that we have the Corporation at all. Certainly, from the speech of the right honourable member for Lowe, it is no credit to him that we have this Corporation. It is probably because of him that we have it in a form in which if not both hands at least one hand of the Corporation is tied behind its back. So it cannot do the job for Australia properly; indeed. so it cannot ensure that so many worthwhile developments which require investment are given the funds that are necessary to carry out that investment. I have a note in front of me to the effect that a major manufacturing venture in Victoria that is over 75 per cent Australian owned was able to proceed only when the AIDC brought together the Australian partners. But there are so many other areas in which ventures such as that have foundered because of the restrictions placed upon the AIDC at the present dme. The arguments against it can all be answered.
Those who listened to the speech of the honourable member for Lowe will know that he again brought up the old clap-trap about nationalisation by stealth and implied that the Government will use the new national interest division of the AIDC as a back door for nationalisation. We have heard that time and time again. We want the AIDC to participate in major new development, especially in the minerals sector, and, through the national interest processes, the Government will be able to help it do just that. But it is simply not true that the.Government can take over an industry or even buy a shareholding under the AIDC Bill. Any investment the Government makes through the national interest mechanism will require a separate Act of Parliament, if only to appropriate the funds for the purpose. So there will always be the opportunity for specific debates on the issue in this House. In addition to that, the national interest machinery provides for a commercial evaluation by the AIDC in every case and for the independent advice of a national interest committee. So I hope that we will not hear that argument brought up against this Bill again.
Then there is the matter of the cost of money that may result from these changes. The argument goes that the National Investment Fund will siphon off funds otherwise going to government and semi-government authorities, thus adding to the cost of government borrowing. I repeat again that the Fund will be offering equity type investments, that is, investments offering potential capital growth in which neither the capital sum nor the income is guaranteed. Such investments are not at all competitive with government or semi-government securities. These things have been said before but it seems that when one is dealing with the right honourable member for Lowe they require repeating time and time again. The Government has been elected on this measure and re-elected on this measure. The fact is that the whole purpose of the AIDC is, firstly, to finance development and growth in the private sector and, secondly, to secure the ownership and control of Australian industries by Australians. But it cannot do that job properly with the present restrictions placed upon it. There are too many of those restrictions. It cannot even help co-operatives in this country. I hope that, in particular, the members of the Australian Country Party or those interested in co-operatives, whether they are co-operatives relating to fruit, fishing, milk or any other agricultural enterprise, will realise that one of the purposes of the changes contained in the Bill now before the Parliament is to enable the Australian Industry Development Corporation to invest funds in those co-operatives to help to make them more valuable to the communities they serve.
Another attack that is made on the AIDC is that it has the effect of taking the place of private enterprise. I will defend that. When we look at the history of where so much of the investment of this country has gone in recent years- into highrise buildings in capital cities when wonderful new projects like the Hamersley iron ore project have fallen to such an enormous extent into the hands of investors overseas- we must defend the fact that the market mechanism of private enterprise, of the private sector, as outlined by the right honourable member for Lowe, does not do the job properly in the interests of Australians. We need a public body such as this. Although it is almost exclusively run by businessmen with experience in the private sector, they have a new criteria. They are not thinking just of their private shareholders and the sorts of dividends those shareholders will receive. They are thinking of the national interest instead. I know that the Treasurer (Dr J. F. Cairns) has paid a tribute to those businessmen on many occasions for the job they have done, but they themselves must realise that they must do so much more because there is so much work to be done to ensure that the industries of this country are owned by Australians and do not require so much investment from abroad.
I repeat that the Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill will remove the restrictions placed upon the AIDC. The National Investment Fund Bill provides the opportunity ibr so many ordinary citizens- the little investors in this country- to have a part of the act, to provide funds for the Australian Industry Development Corporation. Both measures are closely interlinked. Funds are needed. Such a measure as the National Investment Fund Bill is needed so that those funds will be made available. I promised the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) that I would not take any more than a few minutes to speak on these measures. I repeat that I am glad that most of the members of the Liberal Party have been converted and will be supporting at least the Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill. I believe that they are doing so in the interests of the Australian community. I trust that at a future time they will have new heart on the National Investment Fund Bill and ensure that the necessary funds are available from the small investors in this country so that we can get on with the job of developing enterprises in the minerals and manufacturing sector and of securing the ownership of those enterprises by Australians.
-The Opposition accepts that the Australian Industry Development Corporation has a special role to play in helping Australian companies to retain a high degree of ownership against foreign competition. We. also want to ensure that Australian companies are able to protect themselves against overseas takeovers and interests which may not be in Australia’s national interest. However, this House has not analysed to date, what is the Australian national interest. Many people, especially those wedded to the concept of private enterprise, believe that the national interest can best be achieved by ensuring that the majority of the Australian people, whether they be workers, manufacturers, employers, capitalists or anything else one wants to call them, are given every opportunity to develop in the best interests of individuals and therefore of the community of which they must form a part. To a socialist government however, the concept of the national interest is not necessarily the same. Such a goverment could define the national interest on the basis that what is good for the socialisation of the factors of exchange, production and distribution is in the national interest. I put this point as clearly as I can because fundamentally it is a question of philosophy which has been the major problem facing the Opposition in relation to this piece of legislation.
As I said previously, we support the Bill. We support the concept of the need for an Australian Industry Development Corporation to perform a very specific function in the Australian economic climate. However, whether the amendments which have been included in this legislation will achieve that is a matter that we have yet to decide. We believe that much of this legislation will give the AIDC a considerable amount of power which in the future could well be inimical to the individual interests of Australian citizens, although it may well act in the overall interests of a specific Australian government. At the present time the AIDC has a capital of $55m which this Parliament voted from Consolidated Revenue some years ago. In addition to that, following legislation passed in the last parliamentary session, the AIDC can borrow up to $275m. However, to date it has borrowed only $65m. The Opposition therefore does not believe that the Government can seriously argue that an additional $500m fund should be raised for the purpose of investment, where the Government has shown, through its own policies that it has directly contributed towards the position where to date the AIDC has lost an estimated $ 10m on investments. At the present time the AIDC’s return on capital is a miserable 1 .6 per cent.
We are dealing with an instrument of government policy which could have a tremendous impact on the Australia of tomorrow. For that reason, the Opposition believes it is very necessary to examine in detail precisely what the AIDC has done with its funds up to the present time. For example, last year the AIDC made 2 major investments. One related to the ‘Ocean Endeavour’, which is an off-shore oil rig being constructed near Fremantle, and the other related to Kathleen Investments Ltd. The AIDC owns 25 per cent of the ‘Ocean Endeavour’. Another 25 per cent of the project is owned by Ampol Exploration Ltd, while the rest is owned by ODECA Ltd, an American company. This is the largest project which the AIDC participated in last year. The rig is due to be completed within a few months, but because of policies instituted by this Government, and particularly by the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor), there is every reason to believe that the rig will remain on the Western Australian coast where it will rust because the policies put forward by this Government in relation to oil search are so imprecise that at the present time nobody is prepared to make the necessary investments in Australia’s long term energy requirements. There are fewer than 3 rigs, either on-shore or off-shore, operational in or around Australia today, whereas a few years ago we could number them in tens. The international situation is such that the need for oil search must be a paramount aspect of government policy. We have failed to see the Government protect this most important aspect of Australia ‘s future development.
I turn now to the National Investment Fund, which is the Fund from which the AIDC is to draw its capital. The Opposition is implacably opposed to the Government’s intention to establish the NIF. We do not believe that it is necessary or essential as a means of acquiring by
Australians control over our national assets. The Opposition believes that the Fund would seriously depress private industry’s capacity to obtain funds on the domestic or overseas markets by competing with them on a basically unfair basis. The Fund can be seen as an extension of the Government’s desire to extend public ownership and control over a large section of Australian primary and secondary industries and in addition, in view of the recent amendments to the existing legislation, various aspects of national infrastructure. It is appreciated that the Government sees the NIF as a means for marshalling small savings and offering people the attraction of investing in government securities, while at the same time obtaining the benefits of superannuation funds, etc. The fact that such plans would be in open competition with existing unit trusts and superannuation funds controlled by Australian-based life assurance companies and others has been ignored by the Government. We even understand that the Government is proceeding with the intention of establishing a government insurance office, which again is a major aspect of its policy of interference in the private economy of this nation.
Large amounts of Australian corporate investment have traditionally come from Australian owned and controlled life assurance companies, unit trust and superannuation funds, including the Government’s own superannuation fund. As Australia has one of the highest savings rates in the world, and banking legislation which already gives the Government considerable control over liquidity as well as Government loan raising, the Opposition believes that the establishment of the NIF will merely divert existing savings from the well established banking institutions, building societies, unit trusts, credit unions and superannuation funds, and will do nothing to create or develop additional savings from the community. In addition, the legislation to establish the NIF gives the fund unfair advantages over existing savings institutions. I would like to enumerate a few of these. For example, it would appear that” the AIDC intends to link non-superannuation savings plans with temporary life assurance, which brings to investors the deductions permitted by section 82H of the income tax legislation. It must also be appreciated that no savings institutions, with the exception of life assurance companies, are permitted to offer their investors this concession, nor can life assurance companies issue endowment policies equivalent to the NIF’s savings plans.
Furthermore, the proposed Bill does not require the NIF to invest at least 30 per cent of its funds in government and semi-government securities, and 20 per cent in Commonwealth securities, which is presently required of life insurance companies under section 23 (0 of the income tax legislation and self-employed persons establishing their own superannuation funds under section 23 of the same legislation. I believe that the AIDC has declared that it will voluntarily observe the 30/20 rule which I have just mentioned, but there is no evidence in this Bill to suggest that it will be mandatory for the AIDC to do so. Needless to say, the AIDC will have an enormous advantage over private funds, which is unfair under present economic circumstances. The proposed legislation also exempts the NIF from stamp duties charged by the State on investment certificates, insurance policies, etc. Furthermore, the legislation proposes to exempt the AIDC and the NIF from existing State and Territories companies legislation.
On the basis of past experience, this Parliament has no reason to believe that the information made available in the AIDC’s annual report and the failure by relevant Ministers to answer questions on the AIDC’s operations will in any way make the AIDC an enterprise which this Parliament is in any sense able to control. In fact, at the present time, as the Parliament should be aware, even the Auditor-General does not have authority over the AIDC’s expenditure while he will have control over the NIF expenditure. In view of the privileged position that the AIDC has with regard to the need to report to Parliament, I think that this is an aspect which the Government has failed adequately to cover. Under the circumstances it would appear impossible for Parliament to ensure that NIF investors are required to bear the fair share of all costs incurred by the Corporation unless the AuditorGeneral is empowered to conduct an independent inquiry into the total operations of the AIDC. We are dealing with an organisation which, if established, will be given a very privileged position in the economic and financial infrastructure of this nation. It is not an idle threat to say that unless it is a Bill which adequately covers the loopholes I have mentioned, there is no reason why the Government should expect the Opposition to support this legislation.
– in reply- In concluding the debate on these 2 Bills, we have reached quite an important stage in the development of the consideration by Parliament of them. This is the fourth occasion on which these 2 Bills have been before Parliament, and on each of the other occasions the Opposition has rejected in entirety the provisions of the 2 Bills. On the other hand, the Government put it to Parliament and to the nation that it was necessary to develop the scope and powers of the Australian Industry Development Corporation in the interests of developing Australia’s basic resources over a wide field, and strengthening Australian control of those resources. I thought that case was accepted by the great majority of the Australian people and I thought that it was a compelling case. I continued to be surprised when the Opposition rejected it. Now, after 3 parliamentary examinations of this legislation, after the appointment of a Senate committeeand the Senate has full power to make available the report of that committee if it wishes- after that very lengthy process of debate and examinationI suppose one of the most lengthy and intensive on any measure that has ever entered this Parliament- finally the Opposition has agreed to accept the Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill. I am very grateful for that indeed because it does recognise the case put continuously by the Government since these Bills were first debated in 1973.
The strengthening of the AIDC which this Bill represents will be very important. I mention in relation to some of the criticisms which have been made by the right honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon) and others that the AIDC is an independent body. It makes its decisions about what it will invest in, or will not invest in, as it sees fit. That is one of the conditions that has been required by everybody in this Parliament, mostly the Opposition. Continuously the Opposition has said that a body of this kind must be independent; it must not be subject to the dictates of the Government or of the relevant Minister. Now we are told that this independence allows the AIDC to operate without proper control and responsibility. I point out that the Opposition cannot have it both ways. The AIDC needs to have that degree of independence so as to make its own decisions free of what would be called political and other influences. So, the Opposition cannot complain at lack of responsibility.
Also, the AIDC is not run by a group of people with ideological concepts which are even similar to those of the Government. The AIDC has a board of directors who include some most distinguished directors. These are people with long and distinguished experience and achievement in private industry. Decisions made by them are made in the context of their own experience. As in every area, some decisions result in success, some decisions result in profits; others do not.
The AIDC is no different from any other organisation in this respect.
The right honourable member for Lowe said that I had said at one stage something that gave the impression that the Bill relating to the National Investment Fund Bill did not meet my requirements but in some way had been foisted on the Government by, he said, Dr Westerman. He would mean Sir Alan Westerman who is the chairman of the board of the Australian Industry Development Corporation. That claim is not true. I said once in this House that the wording of the legislation was not mine; it had been prepared over a long period by members of the Public Service and had been drafted by the Parliamentary Draftsman, as the right honourable member for Lowe would know. It was not my drafting. It was not my wording. That is what I said on that occasion.
I have always believed that the National Investment Fund is an essential part of the machinery of the AIDC. The AIDC must have access, as any corporation which is attempting to perform this vitally important role in the economy must have access, to Australian funds. But, when it was first designed, the AIDC was deliberately excluded from access to Australian funds- not with the intention of making it more effective or giving it better resources but quite the opposite. It was recognised by us and I think all of those who examined the situation that the AIDC should have access to Australian funds on something like a comparable basis with other organisations. That is what this Bill proposes to do. At no stage was the National Investment Fund Bill designed to give the AIDC any advantage over anybody else. It was designed to provide it with a comparative situation.
I regret that the Opposition has not yet been convinced of the importance of the NIF. It is an important development. It is important to have a national fund to which Australian citizens who want to contribute to the development of their own nation can freely contribute. Nobody is required to do so. It would be a free decision on the part of every contributor. The argument that a nation of this kind should not have a fund of this sort is quite indefensible. I think that almost every comparable nation has something of this kind, that is, a fund to which an individual citizen who wants to contribute to the development of his own country can do so through a body which has public responsibility and public accountability.
– If it were only that we would not be objecting.
– Well, it is that. It is not anything more than that. It is a fund that is designed to give the fund itself the same position as other bodies- insurance companies, superannuation funds and so on- that are already in the business. The Bill does not give the NIF any advantage over them.
– It could be given later on though.
-AU sorts of things could happen later on if one has the numbers in Parliament. The point I have made about this legislation all the way through is that the Government never has attempted to impose anything upon Parliament. It has given Parliament the full opportunity to make decisions. There is no better example of that than there is in the National Interest Division of the Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill which we are discussing. Apart from the fact that the AIDC can make decisions upon its own financial and economic judgment, there may be other matters in which it is in the national interest to provide assistance for groups of people who are performing some national purpose which may not appear to be economic or financial at that point but which, perhaps, has terrific potential.
– Can you give a more specific example?
– Yes. I can give an example of a group of people from whom I received a delegation last night. They were vegetable growers from northern Tasmania and they told me of the facts of their situation. They told me that way back in 1 950 they were receiving a price for their peas and other vegetables which was as high as the price they receive now. It seems to me to be quite astonishing that in 1974-75, 25 years later, with the price of those goods to the retail consumer five or six times what it was in 1 950, those people in Tasmania, growing vegetables in perhaps the best possible place in the world to grow them, where production conditions are favourable, are getting a price today no higher than they were getting in 1950. There is something seriously wrong with that situation. If that situation is looked at it will be seen that what they need is capital. What they need is expert advice about marketing and about processing. What they need is capital to secure this advice.
At the moment, according to the ordinary precepts of free enterprise financing and investment, they are not a good proposition. But there are thousands of them in the north of Tasmania who may not be a good financial proposition according to the precepts of investment at the moment, but who are a good proposition as far as the people of this nation are concerned. This is the kind of thing which I think ought to be brought within the scope of this national interest division. The AIDC should have the power and responsibility of designing some kind of organisation that will bring these needs to those farmers. It may do so in conjunction perhaps with some private enterprise concern that is able to process and sell their products- and with, if necessary, the backing of funds provided by this Parliament.
One of the matters that I would expect to have examined after the passage of this legislation by this House and by the Senate would be a proposition of that kind. Can we design a way of putting the vegetable growers of northern Tasmania into a profitable business? My answer to that question would be: ‘Yes’. I would be prepared to put a proposition to this Parliament and ask members of the Opposition which way they would vote on that. I would be prepared to arrange a feasibility study to see what can be done for these people, to design a structure to allow them to process and market their goods and to back that with funds. I would be prepared to ask the members of this Parliament, here and in the Senate, whether they too would be prepared to back them under the National Interest Division of the AIDC. That is where I believe this measure can best be used.
It has never been the intention of the Government, through this measure, to replace private enterprise. It has been the intention of this Government to assist private enterprise. Those farmers in northern Tasmania are private enterprise. It has been the intention of this Government to use the AIDC to help co-ordinate large projects like, for instance, the petrochemical project in South Australia at Redcliffs. That is an example of where, unless there is some initiative and some leadership by a body which has the backing of government, there will not be the degree of Australian ownership and control that is necessary at the same time as there is availability of funds and resources to develop an industry of that kind.
The AIDC has been seen by the Government and by me as an assistant and a supporter of small free enterprise that needs support in order to compete with big enterprise. Those farmers, like so many other farmers in the rest of Australia, are exploited by big enterprise and they need the backing of the Government if they are to defend themselves against that exploitation. The Government is similarly concerned with big organisations. If the bigger organisations are to hold their own against the multinational corporations which are so powerful and so extensive they will need the support of the Government. It was for those reasons mostly that the Government saw the value of the Australian Industry Development Corporation.
Where the Government wants to proceed more independently, in the case of national ownership, it does so by legislation such as the legislation introduced by the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) in relation to the Pipeline Authority and the Petroleum and Minerals Authority. Those bodies are exclusively government enterprises but the AIDC is not. It was never intended to be that kind of body. I have made that clear since we first debated these Bills in this House. I have said on a number of occasions in the past that the Opposition was taking an exclusively ideological view- an unreal view- of these Bills. The Opposition was not considering them practically or realistically. Now it is doing so. The Opposition has gone half the way and I am grateful for that. The National Investment Fund Bill is essential for the development of the AIDC, and the Government will continuously place before the Parliament the necessity for enacting that legislation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Dr J. F. Cairns) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from11 February on motion by Dr J. F. Cairns:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question put. The House divided. (Mr Speaker- Hon. J. F. Cope)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Dr J. F. Cairns) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 13 February, on motion by Mr Lionel Bowen:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
- Mr Speaker, as I understand it- and I seek some clarification from the Special Minister of State (Mr Lionel Bowen) because I do not think that this matter need hold up the House for more than a few moments- this is a new Bill with some additions to clause 12 and without the amendments that were put into the old Bill concerning the oath and affirmation which were inserted by the Senate on the earlier occasion. Therefore I do not want to debate again the clauses of the Bill which, except for clause 12, are basically identical with those of the earlier Bill. Clause 12 of the Bill and the additional amendments are designed, again if I understand the Minister’s second reading speech correctly, to make it easier to facilitate movement of people who may or may not be permanent public servants into the various commissions of the Government. While the Minister says that this might be necessary for a health commission in Canberra, the amendment is presumably not restricted to that circumstance and would facilitate movement of people in and out of the Public Service under differing circumstances. That is an objective with which the Opposition has no quarrel and indeed I would certainly support it.I do not want to canvass arguments or discussions that were made on an earlier occasion. The Opposition did support the Bill on that occasion but we did at the same time move amendments concerning the oath and affirmation. I should want to move those amendments again and in Committee I will seek to do so. But there is no need for any vote on the matter in relation to the second reading. The Opposition supports the Bill, with the reservation that I have mentioned. We can see no real reason for removing the oath and affirmation from the Public Service Act and we would seek to have them reinstated, but the rest of the Bill we can support.
– in reply- I thank the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser). Just as a matter of clarification, the new clause 12 inserts a new Division into the Act to provide generally for the transfer of staff to Public Service Act employment, that is, following a decision by the Government that a department or other body staffed under the Public Service Act -
- Mr Speaker, could the Minister speak up. We cannot hear a word he is saying.
-Order! There is too much audible conversation to allow honourable members to hear the Minister’s remarks. Would conversation please cease.
-The honourable member for Wannon sought an explanation of what is intended by clause 12. As I was saying, it is inserted on the basis that there is a new Division to provide generally for the transfer of staff to Public Service Act employment, that is, following a decision by the Government that a department or other body staffed under the Public Service Act was to assume a function being carried on by some other body. In the past, transfers of this nature have been effected by some sort of ad hoc legislative scheme. The new provisions are of immediate relevance to the proposed transfer to Public Service Act employment of staff presently employed under the Supply and Development Act and the Naval Defence Act as part of the defence reorganisation. In other words, it is in line with what the honourable member for Wannon understands to be the intention of the proposal. I have nothing further to say.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I seek leave of the Committee to move the amendments standing in my name as one amendment.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Luchetti) -Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. That course will be followed.
– I move:
” ‘SCHEDULE 4 OATH
I, … do swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to the Queen of Australia her heirs and successors according to law and that I will loyally as in duty bound uphold the Constitution and the laws of Australia.
I, … do solemnly and sincerely affirm and declare that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to the Queen of Australia her heirs and successors according to law and that I will loyally as in duty bound uphold the Constitution and laws of Australia.
” ‘SCHEDULE 5 OATH
I, … do swear that I will well and truly serve our Sovereign Lady the Queen as a member of the Appeal Board constituted under the Public Service Act 1922-19 , for the purpose of the appeal made by (here insert name of appellant) (or in the case of the Chairman or elected representative of the Division to which the appellant belongs as a member of any Appeal Board constituted under the Public Service Act 1922-19 , of which I may be a member) and that I will perform the duties and exercise the powers imposed or conferred upon me as such member without fear or favour affection or ill-will.
I, … do solemnly and sincerely affirm and declare that I will well and truly serve our Sovereign Lady the Queen as a member of the Appeal Board constituted under the Public Service Act 1922-19 , for the purpose of the appeal made by (here insert name of appellant) (or in the case of the Chairman or elected representative of the Division to which the appellant belongs as a member of any Appeal Board constituted under the Public Service Act 1922-19 , of which I may be a member) and that I will perform the duties and exercise the powers imposed or conferred upon me as such member without fear or favour affection or illwill.
“SCHEDULE 6 OATH
I, … do swear that I will well and truly serve our Sovereign Lady the Queen as a member of a Promotions Appeal Committee constituted under the Public Service Act 1922-19 , and that I will perform the duties and exercise the powers imposed or conferred upon me as such member without fear or favour affection or ill-will.
I, … do solemnly and sincerely affirm and declare that I will well and truly serve our Sovereign Lady the Queen as a member of a Promotions Appeal Committee constituted under the Public Service Act 1922-19 , and that I will perform the duties and exercise the powers imposed or conferred upon me as such member without fear or favour affection or ill-will.’.”.
These amendments would do no more than reinsert into the Public Service Act the oath and affirmation provision which had been in it for a long while, %nd the Opposition can see no good reason for removing it. In the earlier Bill that was introduced in this House the oath and affirmation was reinserted in the Senate. That Bill has not come back to this House because the Government has chosen the course of introducing a different Bill which is the same as the previous one except for that part of clause 12 that we discussed in the second reading debate. I do not want to repeat the arguments that were advanced last time concerning the oath and affirmation and I suggest that we might be able to have one vote on all of the amendments that stand in my name so that they can be taken as a whole, but we would like to divide on that matter.
– The Government is not prepared to accept the amendments for the reasons previously mentioned. I reiterate those reasons. The oath and affirmation proposed do not have any legal sanction whatsoever. Such an oath or affirmation is not obligatory on any other Australian citizen. There are already provisions in the Public Service Act that guarantee that no treasonable offence or criminal offence is going to be performed. Officers are required to carry out their duties in a competent fashion. There would also be some difficulties in respect of persons with dual nationality. If I might say this for the benefit of the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser), the Opposition’s amendments to the 1974 Bill would have posed significant legal and administrative problems. It would have been necessary for all officers and employees to take the oath again, regardless of how long they had been in the Public Service and regardless of whether they had previously taken the oath. So it is of no relevance to insert this provision and, accordingly, there is no reason why the Government should accept the amendment.
That the amendments (Mr Malcolm Fraser’s) be agreed to.
The Committee divided. (The Deputy ChairmanMr A. S.Luchetti)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Lionel Bowen)- by leave- read a third time.
Debate resumed from 13 February on motion by Mr Morrison:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Minister for Science (Mr Morrison) made a particularly short second reading speech when reintroducing this Bill. But he did at least say that the main differences between this Bill and the one that was previously introduced into the Senate subsequent to corning down to this place are ones which stem from Opposition criticism of the previous Bill. It therefore might be well for people to reflect. The charges that are so frequently made against the Opposition as purely obstructing legislation fall to the ground time and again. This is a classic piece of legislation in which the Opposition put constructive suggestions forward and after analysis, I am pleased to say, the Government has not only taken cognisance of those criticisms but has also amended the Bill as a consequence. When the Bill was here on 20 November both my colleague the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) and I were extremely critical throughout the second reading debate as we were at the commmittee stage when we moved various amendments. I am pleased that note has been taken of those amendments but more particularly of the amendments and suggestions put forward by Senator Margaret Guilfoyle, the Opposition shadow Minister for the Media, when the legislation was in the upper House.
I will quickly designate what has in fact transpired in the legislation before us and the changes that have been made. I will be brief because I do not wish to hold the House as the Opposition will agree to the passage of the Bill. Firstly, scriptwriters, editors, producers and directors have been included in clause 3. (2) (c) (i) at our request. New sub-clause (3) of clause 8 has been included to cover our objection to the Minister’s power to direct the Commission. New sub-clause (6) has been inserted into clause 10 as has new sub-clause (7) which covers some of our objections. Clause 12 in its simplified form overcomes our objections to the power to require information which was contained in the original Bill. Clause 14 has been amended and inserts the Minister’s approval and removes the delegation of the Commission’s powers to a member of the staff.
Those amendments in the main flow from Opposition criticism previously put in this House and in the Senate. I note that the penalty against members of the Commission et cetera who do not observe secrecy, which is contained in ‘Part VII- Miscellaneous- of the Bill has been increased from $200 to $ 1 ,000 which is probably taking account of the hyper-inflation rate under this Government at the moment. Of course, I make no further comment on that.
I will conclude by making a couple of brief points. I regret that the Australian Film Commission does not have the independence that we in the Opposition believe a statutory corporation ought to have. On the last occasion when this legislation was before us I spoke of the need for statutory corporations to operate at arm ‘s length from the Minister; otherwise there is no real purpose served in the flexibility that is engendered by statutory corporations operating at a tangent from the Minister. If they are to be under such tight ministerial and departmental control there is really no purpose in having the corporation or commission established. To some extent this has been taken care of and the Minister does not have quite the same tight control. We appreciate that. But there is still not the independence and flexibility that we would like.
Despite the defects of the Bill and that sort of objection, we are anxious to see the Commission formed. We look forward to a strong commercial film industry. We hope that the activities which the Government may direct through Film Australia will not operate in unfair competition with the commercial industry itself. The Government has retraced its earlier steps. It would also be totally opposed to the spirit of this Bill for it to allow such unfair competition to which I have referred to occur. We wish the Film Commission well. We are anxious to see it commencing and we are pleased that the Government has incorporated suggestions that we have put forward. Let us have no more of alleged obstruction by the Opposition but rather the assistance that oppositions can convey in the formulation of legislation. We welcome the Bill now despite some minor defects, despite the concern we have about an inflexible position of the Commission and a concern that the commercial film industry will be able to thrive and not face governmental interference and competition. We wish the Commission well.
-Following recommendations in a Tariff Board report of 30 June 1973 on ‘Motion Picture Films and TV Programs’, an Australian Film Commission Bill 1974 was first introduced into the Senate in September 1974 by the Minister for the Media, Senator Douglas McClelland. It was passed by the Senate in October with a number of amendments and deletions forced by the Opposition Parties. It was introduced into this House in October, and the Bill was finally read a third time in November with most but not all of the Senate alterations removed. The Bill has now been presented to the House a second time by the Minister for Science (Mr Morrison), a Minister representing the Minister for the Media, in essentially similar form to that passed by the House in November.
The Austraiian Film Commission is intended to administer the principal forms of assistance provided by the Australian Government for the development of the film and television program production industries. The Commission will include firstly, Film Australia, the Australian Government’s film production and distribution arm, which makes films for Australian Government departments and instrumentalities, together with films dealing with matters of national interest. Film Australia, formerly the Commonwealth Film Unit within the Department of the Interior, now lies within the Department of the Media. Its creation as a separate statutory authority had been mooted for some time in order to enhance its creative freedom, remove bureaucratic inhibitions, mainly audit and Treasury, and prevent its use as a mere propaganda medium for the government of the day. Secondly, the Commission will include the Australian Film Development Corporation, established by statute in 1970, which is required to support the production and distribution of Aus.tralian films, both for cinema and television, showing some prospects of commercial success, and able to achieve high technical and artistic standards. The Corporation’s activities are limited by virtual restriction to enterprises of a commercial nature, and exclusion from general promotion and exhibition roles.
The Commission will also include most of the functions of the Film and Television board of the Australian Council for the Arts, excluding the Board’s Experimental Film Fund. The Minister for the Media issued a Press release on 10 December 1973 stating that:
Portions of the Film and Television Development Fund be divided between the Australian Council and the Australian Film Commission on a basis to be agreed between the Prime Minister and the Minister for the Media. ‘
Apart from the Experimental Film Fund, the Tariff Board in its 1973 report specified that assistance was granted through 2 other funds. These are the General Production Fund for Projects- especially from experienced film makers- which are of a high standard but which were not necessarily commercial propositions, and the Script Development Fund for full-time development of a film of television screenplay or treatment by directors and/or writers. Second reading speeches on the Film Commission Bill have failed to explain further the mechanism for this proposed division. This undefined, shared responsibility for assistance to film in Australia between the proposed Commission and the Film and Television Board could well lead to unnecessary overlap and contradiction in future policies and procedures. The previously mentioned Tariff Board report had in fact recommended in essence that all of the Film and Television Board’s funding authority be administered and controlled by the new Commission.
Broadly, the proposed Film Commission’s functions will now include: The encouragement, whether by the provision of financial assistance or otherwise, of the making, promotion, distribution and exhibition of Australian films and television programs; the making, promotion, distribution and exhibition of any film and television programs, or the commission of these activities; assistance to a State or State authority for the purchase of Australian films of an educational nature and of national interest or importance; and the encouragement of proper keeping of films in archives in Australia and provision of financial assistance, if necessary, for this purpose. An interim board for the Australian Film Commission was appointed in February 1974 to advise the Minister for the Media on policy matters associated with the formation of the Commission and to carry out preliminary planning tasks.
Our opposition and criticism of the BUI surrounds the statutory authority autonomy and ministerial control. The Opposition, throughout debate in the Senate and in the House has maintained that a statutory authority such as the Film Commission should enjoy much greater independence from ministerial direction and approvals than the Government has in fact allowed. Commissioners of ‘experience, wisdom and ability’ should be largely responsible (through the Commission) to the Australian Parliament. Clause 5( 1 ) (b) reads as follows:
The functions of the Commission are-
subject to the approval of the Minister, to make, promote, distribute and exhibit any nlms and, in particular-
Alms that serve the purposes of a Department of State or an authority of Australia;
films that deal with matters of national interest to Australia; and
films that are designed to illustrate or interpret aspects of Australia or of the life and activities of the Australian people.
The government has submitted that inclusion of the phrase ‘subject to the approval of the Minister’ in this proposed section is to direct the former Film Australia component of the Commission in continued film production for and on behalf of the Australian Government in what is basically an industrial promotion activity. The Opposition has unsuccessfully argued for the deletion of the phrase on the grounds that, firstly, it is undesirable to so control by ministerial oversight the day to day operations and directions of a statutory authority and, secondly, political censorship could arise, with accompanying power to influence people ‘s minds, especially via the compulsory exhibition directives in clause 10 of the Bill.
Contrary to the major thrust of the government’s argument, ministerial approval in this clause is not restricted to the promotional requirements of departments, but extends to all production, promotion, distribution and exhibition activities of the Commission, without, of course, encompassing its encouragement functions in those areas. Such control must of necessity severely inhibit the creative initiatives of the Film Australia section, depending upon the particular political motivations and social outlook of the incumbent Minister. If the Government remains insistent that it control the Commission for purposes of departmental industrial promotion activities, it could well consider separation of (b) (i) from (b) (ii) and (b) (hi) in clause 5( 1 ), to allow the general production of Australian films to proceed in maximum freedom without the threat of ministerial interference. Ministerial approval might then only apply to paragraph (b) (i) of clause 5(1).
The Opposition has also unsuccessfully moved in the Senate for removal of ministerial approval from clause 7, which allows the Commission to form or participate in companies for certain purposes appropriate to its functions. The Government has pointed to a similar provision in the Act establishing the Australian Film Development Corporation. Clause 8, removed by the Senate and now re-inserted by the House, enables the Minister to direct the Commission in writing on films of a kind referred to clause 5(1) paragraphs (b) (i), (ii) and (iii). The Opposition argued against such an approach on grounds as previously stated, whilst also emphasising that how a film should be made could simply be resolved in normal commercial clientcommission agreements. The Government has acknowledged some inadequacy in the original draft by accepting an amendment which provides that the Minister must table in the Parliament his directions, and reasons, within 1 5 sitting days of their being given.
This Bill does not directly tackle one of the principal areas of recommendation by the Tariff Board report, in which it described the concentration of power that now exists in the hands of a few major exhibition chains, the opportunities for overseas film provided by this concentration and the control exercised over exhibition chains by the owners of these films. The board in fact made two major recommendations:
Firstly, that there be a limitation on the share of the total number of exhibition outlets held by one person or company in certain key areas; and secondly, that there be limitations on the ownership or control of exhibition companies by producers or distributors.
However, clause 10, removed by the Senate and now reinserted by the House, places a requirement upon exhibitors for the showing of numbers of non-sponsored Australian short films. The Opposition thought that this section would militate against commercial viability and allow commercial film makers to suffer unfair competition from government documentary and propaganda films produced under direction and approval of the Minister. This latter category, included under clause 10 because the definition of Australian short films in the Bill encompasses films referred to in clause 5 (1) (b) (i), (ii) and (iii), might swamp films made by small-time producers. The Government has now included amendments to clause 10, sub-clauses (6) and (7), which require regulations to be made for the exercise of powers under the clause. Even with these amendments, however, the clause was unacceptable in its entirety to the Senate Opposition as it was argued that the regulations need not specify the proportions of different categories of shorts which were required to be screened.
The Senate Opposition, as an alternative to elimination of all of clause 10, attempted unsuccessfully to place films of clause 5 ( 1 ) (b) (i), (ii) and (iii), that is, government films, under the sponsored films excluded from the definition of an Australian short film in clause 3(1). The minister rejected this compromise as destroying the film-making capacity of the Film Australia arm of the Commission, although it is clear that exhibitors are nevertheless able to show government films, albeit not compulsorily.
I refer now to pecuniary interests and membership. Clause 21 excludes persons with interests in small companies, that is not less than 25 persons, from full-time membership of the Commission. The Senate Opposition eliminated this clause, now re-inserted, by stressing the limits it placed on skilled people available for selection as Commissioners. Indeed there would appear little need for the restriction, provided that pecuniary interests are declared, and participation in relevant proceedings is avoided, as generally enforced in clause 22. Contrariwise, the Government has insisted that it wishes fulltime members to devote their full time to their Commission employment. It argued that this would not be possible for the excluded category of company people. Potential full-time appointees could always divest themselves of their monetary interests, perhaps by means of a trustee arrangement.
It was considered by the Senate Opposition that clause 41, generally exempting the Commission from taxation, was unnecessary. The provision was thus removed in the Senate but reinserted by the House on the basis that the Commission was not a profit-making body in competition with the private sector and that similar bodies such as the Australian Film Development Corporation and the Australian Tourist Commission were covered by similar provisions.
Other Opposition amendments accepted by the Government were: Clause 6 (4) relating to Commission guarantees; elimination of 12 (2), concerning a compulsory requirement to supply information; elimination from clause 14(1) of delegations to ‘a member of the staff of the Commission’. Another criticism is the comment I have previously made on the shared role of the Australian Film Commission and the Film and Television Board of the Australian Council for the Arts, under the section describing the Board’s functions in 5 (b).
Clauses 15 and 16 specify the membership and duration of membership of the Commission. The Commission’s functions include both financial and artistic judgment components. Failure to specify community groups from which membership is to be drawn, as is done in the Australia Council BUI currently before the House, could lead the Government, for safety’s sake, to make all appointments from the business of Public Service sectors. Such a pokey, plus membership terms of 5 years, rather than 3 years as in the Australia Council Bill, with eligibility for immediate reappointment, might establish a Commission which is essentially creatively and innovatively moribund.
Colin Bennett, the ‘Age’ film critic, on 12 March 1974 wrote about the interim commission as follows
Bankers, businessmen and public servants are essential to any board of the kind, but should they dominate it to this extent- especially those who know little about the state of the cinema, present or even past?
– I do not propose to take very much time of the House. The Opposition supports the Bdi. We think the bringing into existence of the Australian Film Commission and the manner in which the
Government accepted some of the suggestions we made is aU for the good. However, I want to make just one or two comments on the responsibilities of the Commission. I remember speaking to this BUI when it was first introduced. I think I made a comment that it was high time we gave up the double bed for the double barrel and that we had outdoor movies that were of a much more wholesome character than some of the rubbish that was being dished out to the Australian people- a feeble attempt to try to mimic the blue films that are being produced in many countries today.
I think I drew reference to the fact that films like ‘Ryan’s Daughter’ and ‘Sound of Music’ would be preferable. I speak with some authority because most of my business life was spent in the film industry. One can look through ‘Box Office’ or any of the industry periodicals and one Wil find that the big money spinners were not those shabby little films trying, as I said, to mimic the products of some of those countries that are on their way out with their blue films. If one wants to go forward and update on popular films that are about to be released in Australia and are presently being released we can go beyond the Ryan’s Daughter’- and ‘Sound cif Music’ phase to ‘Chinatown’, ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ and ‘Airport ‘75’- films that are making huge amounts of money- wholesome, decent films.
There is a tremendous scope for film making in Australia. I think it is about time someone made a few more films because the people from the outback who are my responsibility not only as a member for Kennedy but also as shadow Minister for Northern Development are a little tired of seeing documentaries on a Sunday afternoon and of constantly seeing the type of film which may be acceptable if one has the opportunity to switch it off. That is a funny sort of statement, I suppose- productions that are acceptable if one has an opportunity to switch off. What I mean is that in our area we have one channelthe most important channel in aU of Australiaand that is the Australian Broadcasting Commission channel. I pay tribute to the Commission. On occasions I have had the opportunity to see some of the documentaries produced abroad and I would say that they are second rate compared with ours.
I think the ABC does a magnificent job, but I think that whoever is responsible for the programming, which is inflicted continuously on people who have no alternative but to sit and look at the ABC, should think again and should provide something with entertainment value. I think of a program I watched one Sunday afternoon. No one respects the Duke of Edinburgh more than I do. I think he is a great bloke. But I am not entranced to the point where I can sit and watch him being received or being given some sort of Order in England where it takes an hour and a half to adorn him with some sort of star thing. There are other things a huie more interesting.
I want to make one point and then I shall sit down. The film industry in Australia can do one of two things: It can go on as it has been going making such things as ‘Alvin Purple’ and ‘Skull’. By the way, I mentioned going from the double bed to the double barrel, but in ‘Alvin Purple’ they did not go from the double bed; they went from some sort of water bed. So my suggestion was apparently half received. Someone went to water. As one who has had an association with the industry, I have of recent months had fairly close contact with some of the top people in the industry in Australia and they all agree that nowhere in the world is there the scope for film making- for great outdoor films- as there is in Australia. Three ingredients are essential for successful film making. Firstly, the producer must be a producer of reputation, he must be a producer who can produce a track record, if the film is going to make an impact.
– Are we talking about films or races?
-What I am doing, Mr Minister, is offering some suggestions that perhaps the new Commission will take into account. At least I have had some experience in the industry. I do not know whether anyone else in this House has had any experience of that nature.
– I have.
-May I go on? I mentioned 3 necessary ingredients. It is necessary to have a producer who has a world wide reputation if the film is to make an impact internationally. I have noticed that it has been stated recently that the film ‘ Skull ‘, which is about drugs and so on, looks as though it might earn $200,000. That is petty cash in the film industry. If one is to make real money out of a film one has to have the likes of David Lean as producer. Bring him to Australia. Spend a million dollars. It would be well worth it because he would produce the first great Australian film.
– With Katter as the main actor.
– Yes. David Lean has not made many outstanding films! He has only made Ryan’s Daughter’, ‘Dr Zhivago’, ‘Bridge Over the River Kwai’ and so on. I think that he has amassed something like perhaps a dozen Academy Awards. If we are going to make an impact that is the number one essential. The other two or perhaps three essentials we have in abundance. We have artists capable, under his direction, of producing excellent films. We have world class talent. I am sure honourable members will agree with me when I say that in its own category Seven Little Australians’ was superb. And who does not look at ‘Bellbird’? I can never persuade anyone to look in my direction when ‘ Bellbird ‘ is on.
– I used to but I cannot stand it any more.
-It is not a matter of being able to stand it as far as I am concerned. I have to work too hard in my electorate of Kennedy, which covers 253 000 square miles and which some people have some queer idea about doubling its size. Anyhow, getting back to the point I was trying to make; we have the three great essentials. We have talent, we have light and we have consistent weather. If ever there are two great enemies in budgeting for a great film they are the uncertainty the insecurity of light and weather. These can delay the making of a film, as Cleopatra’ was held up- I mean the film- for sufficient time to make the film a complete financial disaster. I wish to put on record that we can take our choice of going into the big time or making such things as ‘No. 96 ‘ and the -
-Or ‘The Box’. I am not going to discuss the matter on moral grounds. I am opposed to pictures being made in a stuffy little room with some sort of sordid background when we have the great outback to offer. Let us face it, if a person is honest about the whole thingunless he is a bit of a pervert or something like that and he has to get his kicks out of going to look at a blue movie- he will say that he enjoys a great outdoor movie. I do not precisely mean a western, although I suppose that it would naturally take precedence.
If we are serious about building this industry into something that is worth while we must get a great producer to produce our first film. I do not care what it costs. Whatever it costs it will be worth while. Another advantage in having a man like David Lean is that not only would the film make an impact in international circles but also our own producers I am sure would admit that to serve under a man like him would give them a fantastic experience and would equip them to carry on in a similar manner. We support the Bill.
We are grateful to the Government for accepting some of the suggestions we have made. I am sure that we will see a new era in film making for not only the cinema but also for television.
– in reply- I take it from the perambulations of the last 7J£ minutes that the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) is not opposed to the Bill. We are also delighted that the Opposition has withdrawn or abandoned its more extreme amendments to the Bill and is supporting the Government in the passage of the Bill. I believe that the honourable member for Ballaarat (Mr Erwin), in pointing out the amendments that were made by the Opposition in the Senate, was perhaps a little closer to the truth than the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock) about the manner in which this Bill has had quite a rough passage. It seemed to us, and we were very concerned about it, that the intention of the Opposition in the Senate was to mutilate the Bill. As the honourable member for Ballaarat pointed out, we have re-inserted a number of the clauses that were taken out in the Senate. We are glad that the Opposition has now seen the light and is supporting the Bill in the form in which we have introduced it.
The Government has accepted a number of the observations and amendments made by not only the Opposition but also people in the industry. I sat on the other side of the House for 3 years but I cannot recall one occasion on which the then government accepted very sensible propositions put forward by the then Opposition. One of the curious things about politics is that there is always a tendency to believe that a government which believes in dialogue and discourse on its Bills is showing a sign of weakness when it accepts an amendment. I hope that the honourable member for Kooyong and the other members of the Opposition will accept the observation that we are prepared to accept amendments and advice from those who are specialists in the field. Not only are we prepared to accept them but also to incorporate them in legislation.
The honourable member for Kooyong made the observation that he was concerned about the powers and authority of the Minister. The Australian Film Commission is a statutory organisation. I want to say again that whenever a statutory organisation is set up it is set up under a statute of this Parliament and it draws on funds from the Australian taxpayer. Any organisation set up by this Parliament that operated on the taxpayers funds must be responsible through a Minister, because that is the only way in which it can be responsible, to the Parliament. So we make no apologies for the fact that the relevant Ministerin this case the Minister for the Media- has supervisory authority, not direct administrative authority, over the policies of the Film Commission. That is a proposition that the Opposition accepted when it was in government. There are a number of statutory authorities. They include the Australian Tourist Commission, which was set up in 1967, the Australian Wheat Board and the Australian Apple and Pear Corporation. There is a multitude of them. They have the same requirement for a supervisory authority by the Minister. That is still the position. I think it is a very important part of the democratic process that we do not have any governmental organisation which is dependent upon the taxpayers funds not being responsible to this Parliament as the representative of the people. We are glad that the Opposition has withdrawn its more extreme amendments to this Bill. We have been deLighted to accept the more sensible ones.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Morrison) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 12 February on motion by Dr J. F. Cairns:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-In the run up to the polls in December 1972, a few members of the Australian Labor Party who represented country electorates told us a great deal about what they would do for the rural industries. In particular, they said they would present to this Parliament legislation which would provide money for the long term requirements of primary producers. There is no doubt that the analyses produced by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics and all people involved in primary industry supported the contention that long term money would give a continuity to those who were dependent to a greater degree than in most other businesses on their equity holding in a property, to enable them to carry on their business and that the provision of that type of long term bank finance would be a way to overcome their difficulties. The legislation that we now have before us is the first legislation that we have had in any area which pertains to providing money for the rural sector. The money in no way equates the $500m that we were told previously would be provided.
There is no reference in the legislation, nor in the second reading speech of the Minister for Tourism and Recreation and Minister Assisting the Treasurer (Mr Stewart), to the interest rates that are to be charged. But those who are in any way involved in the banking system will know of the astronomical increase in interest charges that this Government has imposed upon people throughout the Australian community, to the degree that money which is now available from the Development Bank, which formerly to the borrower cost about 6lA per cent per annum, now costs that same borrower about 1 1 lA per cent per annum. The money that we were told would be provided 2 years ago was to be provided at an interest rate of about 4 per cent per annum.
The first thing that I would like to say about this Bill is that it is a demonstrable product of this Government’s total failure to implement significant parts of its policy program. This is not just the first Parliament after the election of the Labor Government, it is the second Parliament. There has been no statement made or no indication given to the rural community that one of those significant parts of the Labor Government’s policy on which it was elected will ever be implemented. So much for the veracity of the man who is the Leader of the Labor Party and who promised that sort of concession to rural producers, and certainly so much for the veracity of those others within his ranks who supported his advocacy. Of course one of them is no longer here, which perhaps is the reason for that event.
This Bill provides only $20m to be made available through the Development Bank, as loans to beef producers. But it does not include all beef producers; it is only those who derive a significant portion of their income from cattle sales. On other occasions in this Parliament in the last few weeks, I have had occasion to mention that there has been a marked increase in the number of small farmers who are significantly dependent upon cattle for a significant part of their income. Unfortunately, many of them are not in a position to benefit from any loans of this order that might be made available through the Development Bank. It is true, that they would come within the category to which the Minister’s second reading speech refers. An amount of $ 1.5 m has been made available to others who cannot meet the requirements of specialist beef producers. The introduction of this legislation is the only thing that this Government has done for the beef industry. I think that all those who are in any way associated with farming and with the rural industry and are concerned about the beef industry need to be made aware that this is what the Australian Government thinks of them. The Government has explained that out of the sum of $20m, only about $2.4m has been distributed in accordance with the legislation. That money has been provided at nearly double the interest rate that was charged when we were in office.
It is a scheme which demonstrably is not arresting the very real social problems emerging in country areas. It had been in my mind to bring into the Parliament some of the letters which I have received from beef cattle producers around Australia. It is quite tragic to read of cases where a man, his wife and his children are unable to see how they will be able to survive. There are cases where a man, his wife and his children doubt whether they will be able to buy next week’s bread. The season has been grim, they have no vegetables in their garden, they have cattle in their paddocks, but they have no money to pay their creditors or to enable them to live. These are human beings who are living in a society in which this Government provides $ 1,000m per annum to people who are unemployed. It has created circumstances so that there are significantly disadvantaged groups of Australian people, many of them in the area which this Bill purports to cover and for whom there has been no positive help. On the contrary, there has been a great deal of hurt and little help. We were told by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics at the Agricultural Outlook Conference that a 27 per cent increase in costs had been imposed on the agricultural sector over the last 6 months. That is 54 per cent a year. We are in a position where this Government has certainly detrimentally affected the livelihood of those people of whom I spoke a moment ago. We have a breed of new poor for whom this Government is significantly responsible.
It is true that market and seasonal conditions affect the profitability of everyone in rural industries. But it is not true that the Government should sit down in Canberra and do nothing about the situation. In my view $20m at 1 1.5 per cent interest is doing nothing. The beef industry is suffering its worst liquidity crisis of this century. Prices are the lowest since the great depression. For those who depend on the various avenues of advance in order to sustain their holdings and their livelihood, there is just no money available. They are receiving notices from their creditors stating that they are no longer credit worthy and that no more funds are available.
They will be forced to walk off their holdings. Goodness only knows what they will do.
Those honourable members who know anything about country areas will know that for many people it is not only a matter of their property. It is die fact that their whole life centres on that rural home which, in many instances is a good many miles away from the nearest centre of population. It is very hard not only on the farmer but also on his wife and children. Some of the children have been taken out of schools. In my electorate I know of innumerable instances of children no longer being able to go to school because of the decline in cattle receipts.
This Government provided $20m, of which $2.4m is being used at 11.5 per cent. This Government claims to be a humanitarian government. I fail to see how any government having any heart whatsoever- one knows how little heart this Government has- could believe that that is a humanitarian policy. I see a real reason for similar financial help being provided to those who are affected at the present time as is being made available to others in the manufacturing sector and elsewhere. Why on earth should someone who is involved in manufacturing industry and who is as adversely affected as those on the land by this Government’s manufacturing tariff, financial and economic policies be entitled to receive help when the man who is a beef grower is not?
Why should they be entitled to receive help not only for those of their employees who would be out of work but also help to get some return on the funds invested? There is a scheme which means that if one has a textile mill, for examplethe textile mill has certainly been affected by what this Government has done- one can get significant loan funds from the Government. One can get those loan funds at a concessional rate of interest which I understand is in the vicinity of 6 per cent. This is certainly far less than the 1 1.5 per cent which is the rate at which this Bill provides money to the beef growers. This ensures that the mill owner can maintain employment. In spite of the fact that he is unable to operate profitably this Government will give him moneygive him, mind you- interest free in order to enable him to continue in business.
What is the Government doing for the beef industry? It is providing $20m at 11.5 per cent interest. There is no doubt that producers are holding back stock because of the disastrously low price in the market. If we sustain pronounced and widespread autumn-winter drought a flood of cattle will come on to the market. The situation is paradoxical. Only 12 months ago we were told that the beef industry was likely to be one of the more profitable continuing industries. Even a month ago we were told that the intermediate and long-term prospect for the beef and meat industry was sound. Yet this Government is not prepared to back those who are its economic advisers. It is not prepared to assist those who are members of Australia’s new poor. The situation is quite paradoxical.
Perhaps the collapse in prices is highlighted most significantly by the fact that Kevin Boyle, a respected agriculturalist, journalist, estimated in the Melbourne ‘Age’ that the average beef producer in Victoria- and I remind the House that this is not in a State which has traditionally been to a major degree dependent on beef production but one where there has been significant diversityin 1975 will have an income level of minus $2 1,000, based on returns that he will get for his cattle and taking into account rising production costs.
The Bureau of Agricultural Economics produced an examination recently on the current situation in the Australian beef cattle industry. The study released in December, entitled Occasional Paper No. 25 ‘, pointed out the sharp turn-around in the market situation in the past year. It said that the unrelated problems which emerged from this collapse could be summed up as a continuing build-up in cattle numbers, depressed producer income, liquidity crisis, and reduced credit availability. The Bureau went on to estimate property net cash income flows. At a later stage I will seek leave of the Minister at the table to incorporate in Hansard some of the relevant figures from that survey so that honourable members may refer to them. The table itself is one to which I would like to advert for a few moments. I do so because of the significance of it.
The estimated property net cash incomes are shown on this table in the years 1971-1972 and indexed forward to last year, 1973-74, and projected to 1974-75. Having said that, I point out that we need to realise that these net cash income figures need to take into account on the one hand the collapse of the beef market and on the other hand the 54 per cent per annum increase in costs to which this Government has significantly contributed.
I will mention first the figures for New South Wales in 1 97 1 -72. Perhaps I might remind members of the Labor Party that that was the last year in which a Liberal-Country Party Government was in office in Canberra. I seem to remember the Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wriedt) or his representative in this place saying how diabolical were those primary producer policies which we implemented; that the LiberalCountry Party Government had no knowledge, sympathy or understanding of the problems of the man on the land and that things in the bush were crook when we were in office. Yet the figures in this beef cattle survey show that in New South Wales in the year 1971-72 net cash income was $8,069. The figures ranged upwards to $9,562 in Queensland, $10,662 in Western Australia $10,237 in Tasmania and down to $7,227 in South Australia and $7,428 in Victoria.
Those net cash income flow figures have changed dramatically from that time to the period when Labor came to office. Running through the figures again, we find that in 1973-74 with 1971-72 as at a base index value of 100 the net cash income index for New South Wales was 229. Honourable members will remember that the figure for that State in 1971-72 was $8,069. Yet the net cash income index last year was 229. The index figure for Victoria for the same year was 214. In Queensland the net cash income when the Liberal-Country Government was in office in Canberra was $9,500 and last year the index figure was 173. In 1971-72 the figure for South Australia was $7,227 and in 1973-74 the index was 217. In Western Australia in 1973-74 net cash income index was 191; in Tasmania in the same period it was 218; and in the Northern Territory it was 139.
If those figures seem good the projection forward is bad. The projected cash income index of beef producers in New South Wales for 1974-75 is 94. It is 60 for Victoria, 43 for Queensland, 67 for South Australia 57 for Western Australia 62 for Tasmania and there is expected to be a negative net cash income index in the Northern Territory. That is the net cash income as distinct from the return on funds invested and the asset position of the producer himself. Those figures are a complete indictment of the Government for producing this sort of legislation and saying: ‘Oh, dear me, we are doing a good job. You know, we really are looking after those people in the country. We understand their problems and things are so much better off with Gough’. What arrant nonsense! Indeed, that table illustrates, in almost every area of cattle production that the producers’ expectations for income this year are moving towards a negative position. In areas where it is identified as being positive today, this will be only the result of supplementary income flows from associated enterprises such as grain production. In spite of this, I should point out that the anticipated income flows will be significantly less in 1974-75 than in last year, in many instances by factors of at least 50 per cent. A close examination of this table in statistical terms alone fully highlights the position of the cattle industry. It is a situation which calls urgently for the Government to do something about it. Unfortunately the position is compounded by the inflationary policy of this Government. The Bureau of Agricultural Economics at the January Agricultural Outlook Conference, of which I have spoken already, illustrated the cost increase for the farming community as being 27 per cent for the last 6 months or at a rate of 54 per cent per year.
Honourable members will be aware that at every stage of the production cycle whether in primary industry, secondary industry or tertiary industry, marketing costs are going up. In the beef industry, they are going up at an extraordinary rate. This Government’s decision to abandon the fuel price equalisation scheme, plus higher taxes and land freights for the movement of cattle, have increased costs further. Of course this Government then comes out and says to the Minister: ‘Oh yes, but we gave $30m for beef cattle road construction in Queensland this year. How much better off they will be’. Has not the Minister even realised that there is a new Commonwealth Aid Roads Agreement? Does the Minister not know that in Queensland, as a result of that Commonwealth Aid Roads Agreement, there is likely to be a significant reduction in overall funds available for country roads and the product of that is that those people who are living in those country areas are likely to have a significantly reduced amount of money available. I would doubt whether this $30m, taking into account inflation, will allow them to do anything but break even. Certainly it is not going to help immediately the men, women and children of whom I spoke a little while ago.
There is no doubt that beyond that the support of excessive wage claims by the trade union movement, the failure of the Government to stand up to the trade union movement and the completely irresponsible attitude that this Government has in providing pace-setting conditions through the terms and conditions awarded to the Public Service, all are being passed on through direct and indirect costs to those who are the producers and to the people who principally should be the recipients of whatever benefits there might be in this legislation.
Of course, this Government goes beyond that. We have just heard of negotiations participated in by the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles
Jones). They are negotiations relating to maritime freight charges. There is a problem in trying to ensure that the Australian National Line, which is Australia’s Government owned shipping company, can operate its shipping services at a level which ensures that they can maintain their operation in international trades. But if it is going to agree, as it would seem this Government wants to agree, to a 22 & per cent increase in freight imports on some of our principal export trades- particularly where they affect the beef industry- what is it going to do about trying to offset that increase in freight charges to the beef industry? Will it lend them only $20m at 11% per cent? How inadequate! How is that going to help the man who is flat broke already? That contributes towards creating a further situation of deteriorating poverty in a community which was once viable and only 2 years ago was the principal contributor to Australia’s export earnings. The principal earner of overseas earnings only 2 years ago was the industry which is being dealt with by this Bill and dealt with in such a marginal and irrelevant fashion. The capacity of the beef industry to export profitably to the world depends really on whether or not those who are the producers can survive.
It is of no use the Government thinking that it can continue loading charges here and there and that the producers will be able to continue to survive. Irrespective of the fact that the industry asked the Government for $50m- not $20m- and asked for an interest rate not of 1 Vi per cent but at reasonable commercial rates, the Government must realise that that representation was made months ago and must realise that a reference to the Australian Industries Assistance Commission is not going to provide any help to those men and women who have no money to buy their bread, butter, milk, meat and other things they need to eat tomorrow. What is going to happen tomorrow? Can they do as the Minister is doing- sleep at the table instead of doing their work? Is the $20m that is being provided to the industry going to give them a will to survive? What utter nonsense. Where will 11½ per cent get them? It is quite obvious to us in the Opposition. At least the Queensland Government has a little bit of get up and go. Not only has the Premier of that State an ability to get up and demonstrably show that he is prepared to back bis hand when it comes to trying to secure markets because of the lack of action of this Government, but in addition the State Government has provided $10m at 2Vi per cent or *2V** per cent to the industry. How does that read- $20m at 1 1% per cent? One State which is scratching to get enough money to balance its own budget has already provided $10m at 2% per cent. So much for the munificence of this Bill. Indeed the whole problem with this Government is that it is like Nero- fiddling while the country is burning.
Let us turn to the report of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics that I mentioned a while ago. I wish that some members of the Government would read some of the reports that their advisers produce. The only one they seem to have read is the one that was produced by Dr Coombs which removed all the concessions available to the industry and which created half the problems that the producers suffer today. This report, like the Green Paper report, has been produced by a responsible group of men, all of whom have suggested positive assistance to the rural industry. As little has been done about this report as has been done about the Green Paper report. Having said that it intended to set out new parameters for assistance to rural industry, the Government does nothing about it.
This report on the Australian beef cattle industryOccasional Paper No. 25, An Examination of the Current Situation, Future Prospects and Possible Policy Options- produced by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics in Canberra sets out a number of policy alternatives. It mentions the need for financial support. I recommend that honourable members turn to page 42-1 do not intend to read it- where they will see that the report sets out the statistics of producers who fall into the category either of having been previously viable or of needing some type of farm adjustment to help them leave the industry. The report then refers to credit availability. It runs through the whole range of traditional lenders, from trading banks to pastoral houses. It speaks of the problems that these people are encountering. It speaks of the degree to which there is a gearing of equity to borrowings. It speaks of the need in the present situation for urgent short term credit facilities. It says:
It would seem that additional finance would have to be made available to the Commonwealth Development Bank for this purpose.
But that is not the whole solution that the report offers. If we read on we see on page 44 that this is only one of the possible policy options to which the BAE refers. It suggests 4 options as follows:
Assist viable producers to remain in the industry.
There are 4 positive proposals that the BAE submitted to the Government. What do we get? We get one proposition which has been a long time in hatching, which provides $20m at 11.5 per cent which regrettably will not be adequate to provide the sort of assistance the industry needs.
At the same time the Government is providing $ 1,000m to assist unemployment. The major earners of export earnings in this country- the people who will sustain the country to enable it to pay unemployment benefits, the people who will sustain this country to enable meaningful social progress to be made- are the people who are going broke while this Government provides them with $20m which they may borrow at a prohibitive rate of interest.
– They asked for that.
– The honourable member says that they asked for commercial rates of interest. If the honourable member thinks that any man who is trying to raise a cow can borrow money at that rate and expect to survive, he surprises me. I think that the honourable member from Tasmania, whom I am delighted to see in the House, is the only honourable member on that side of the House at the moment who has ever seen a beast. If he thinks that a person can borrow at 11.5 per cent and keep his enterprise going in the present climate I recommend that he has a look at the table which I intend to incorporate in Hansard. It is no use looking only at what the industry asks for. The industry asked about 6 months ago and now, in February 1975, the Government is producing a response which is months out of date. The Government does not seem to realise that there is a crisis in the industry. I am afraid that if my friend thinks that the only way to solve the problems of the industry is by providing the answer that is contained in this Bill, he just does not know what difficulties beef producers are presently facing.
I made the point that little is being done by the Government about marketing. The other day the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) told us that the European Economic Community might buy between 400 000 tonnes and 500 000 tonnes of beef in 1976. We are told that that is less than the EEC bought last year. We are told that it may or may not buy it. So much for the trade benefits of the Prime Minister’s European junket. It would have been far more beneficial if he had worried about trying meaningfully to enter into negotiations with countries that would have been prepared to listen to him and, if they were not prepared to listen to him, to show some of the intestinal fortitude that the Premier of Queensland has demonstrated and which has been so notably absent from those who are supposedly the leading lights of the present Australian Government. I think that it is important to realise this is what can be done.
I want to close my remarks on a positive rather than a negative note. I believe that it is important to expand the amount of current carry-on finance and to allow it to be made available at low interest rates. Certainly, for reconstruction purposes beef farmers need at least $ 100m urgently. The present requirement that 50 per cent of such money goes towards farm build-up is not needed at the present time. There needs to be a significant increase in the percentage of money that is available for debt adjustment. That whole ratio needs to be set aside while the current position obtains. Perhaps the percentage should be reduced to at least 35 per cent as the minimum requirement. Significant interest needs to be taken by those who are responsible for unemployment in this country in the financial circumstances of those who are earning nothing. Why cannot the man who is in receipt of a negative income- I am talking about official statisticsand losing money not receive at least the same unemployment benefit as the man who lives in the city and who is put out of work equally by the financial policies of this Government?
The Government should provide financing to allow the refinancing of short term debts over a longer time. It should inject funds into the rural reconstruction scheme and review the whole field of policy decisions adversely affecting the rural sector. That involves a consideration of the 1.6c export levy, the freight surcharge, the fuel price equalisation scheme and the superphosphate subsidy which, it is true, affects only those in southern Australia. But some of those people are operating at a significant loss. I cited the figure already and suggested that in some areas of Victoria there are a significant number of beef producers who are operating at a loss of approximately $2 1 ,000 per annum.
There needs to be an examination of the whole field of company tax burdens and taxation averaging. Why cannot the limit of the taxation averaging scheme be increased from $16,000 to at least $32,000? Why cannot some meaningful action be taken by the Government towards negotiating sales of beef in Japan? The only time we have heard a positive response on this subject in Japan is since the Premier of Queensland decided to do something about it. We hear now from the Minister for Overseas Trade (Mr Crean) that he is trying hard to get something done in Japan and that we might get something out of it. Thank goodness we have the Premier of Queensland. There is no doubt that we need to expand the use of meat as a food aid item. We need to take a range of positive steps in order to ensure that we get somewhere in marketing. We need to ensure that in financial straits the industry is not driven to the wall and we need to realise that the human and social problems that face what was 2 years ago Australia’s principle export earning industry are not helped only by a $20m loan being made available at an interest rate of 11% percent.
The Opposition does not oppose the measure. The Opposition only regrets that the Government knows so little about the problems that are seriously besetting this industry that it provides such minimal help at a time of crisis. We believe that a loan of $20m is inadequate. We believe that is is almost criminal for the money to be made available at an interest rate of 11% per cent. This Government which had members who claimed to be advocates of low interest rates supports an interest rate nearly double that available 2 years ago to men in dire straits. This Government needs to do far more than just provide that $20m from the Development Bank. It is our regret on this side of the House that the Government does not listen to some of those frequent protestations and positive suggestions that we make which I believe would significantly help to improve the financial position of the industry at this time. Mr Deputy Speaker, I ask for leave to incorporate in Hansard a statement which I showed to the Minister entitled: ‘Australian beef cattle industry survey, estimated property net cash income 1971-72: Indexed forward to 1973-74; and projected to 1974-75’.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
– I want to be asociated with this debate as a protest against the treatment that is being handed out to a significant contributor to Australia’s overseas reserves, to an industry which has made a meaningful contribution to improving the quality of life of the Australian people generally over many years. I want to protest at the treatment that has been handed out to that industry by a government centralised here in Canberra. I want to support the immaculate argument of the Deputy Leader of the Country Party (Mr Sinclair), who in his speech hammered home to everyone the seriousness of the situation. He cut through the puffery and the perimeters of the argument and the case of the Government and he got through to the Mediterranean of the subject, that is, that Australian beef producers are going broke. The Government last December came up with a great fanfare of publicity about how it was going to help the beef producers by an injection of $20m through the Commonwealth Development Bank. But that was away back in December. I find it most difficult to accept a situation that a government which has surrounded itself with a host of media correspondents, which has built up a public service in numbers which are unknown in the previous political history of this country, has not, notwithstanding those aids and helps, got either its ear to the ground or its finger on the pulse of thinking in rural areas. Surely it must know that people in rural industries are faced with extreme financial problems, that in many instances people have been warned that their properties will be sold up. We have knowledge of cases where people, in order to pay the monthly grocery and other bills, have to borrow personal loans.
This Government’s publicised intention of what it is about as far as beef producers are concerned is a falsification of the true position. The Deputy Leader of the Country Party detailed the aims and objects of the legislation. They can be summarised as being far too little far too late. That $20m can be made available at an average interest rate of 1 1.5 per cent, but it is interesting to note the total truth, that the money will be made available at rates varying from 11.25 per cent to 1 1.75 per cent, with a usual rate of 1 1.5 per cent. This is totally unacceptable to the industry, both as to amount and as to terms.
– What rubbish! They asked for it. Why do you not catch up with the facts?
– The amateur farmer from Tasmania says by interjection: ‘That is what the industry asked for’, and I notice that he is like the lame dog that yaps and then goes outside. He is not prepared to stand up and take what is coming to him and hear the truth of the situation. It is quite obvious that the Country Party does not adopt that attitude. When it says something it is prepared to stand up and be counted and to take it on the chin, unlike the honourable member for Wilmolt (Mr Duthie), who says something and then runs out because he cannot accept the truth of the proposition. The situation is that many months ago the industry asked for money to be made available on commercial terms, but at the present time what the industry is requesting- and what we on this side of the House submit it is entitled to- in strict justice and in distributive justiceis at least $50m initally, with more to come, depending on the way the situation progresses and on the way the season develops, at a rate of interest consistent with the predicament in which it finds itself.
– At half the commercial rate.
– As the honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King) says, and I appreciate his unwavering interest in the beef producing industry, it is at about half the commercial rate of interest at the present time. That indicates that the honourable member is alive to his responsibilities and does know what is going on in the industry. He does not repeat parrot-like the utterances of the honourable member for Wilmot. There is a necessity to broaden the scope of the legislation before us. One of the yardsticks that the authorities use to assess whether a loan should be granted is this very vexed question of viability. We who are interested in and associated with the industry express the wish that viability should not be the only criterion.
– Hear, hear.
– The honourable member for Cowper (Mr Ian Robinson) by his interjection shows that he appreciates the point that it is not practical to use as the only yardstick whether the industry or a member of that industry is viable in the long term. As the honourable member said, what the industry wants is assistance in the short term as well as assistance in the long term. At the present time a man applies for a loan through his normal trading circles and if he is unable to obtain finance through those recognised authorities he can make application to the Commonwealth Development Bank, but he must derive at least 85 per cent of his income from beef pursuits. I find it extremely difficult to accept that someone shall be judged, for the purpose of getting a loan, on this particular point. Surely it can be considered that if a favourable winter season comes along, someone in extreme difficulty with liquidity problems but with a good herd, plenty of cattle on hand and plenty of feed, would plant some cash crops- as a result of the initiatives of the previous Government with its long term objective of protecting rural industries they are at a very remunerative level today- in an endeavour to alleviate his financial problems. Yet that type of person cannot get a loan because it may be considered that he is not getting at least 85 per cent of his income from beef production.
Additionally we may have the situation where someone, on account of a run of good seasons and good prices, has bought a lot of cattle on a customs basis to fatten and sell only to find that he has built up an increasing overdraft debt to pay for the cattle. When his position is analysed, the number of breeders he has is taken into account and his long term viability is assessed on the number of breeding cattle he will have in succeeding years. That seems to me to be a somewhat critical approach to a desperate situation. A debt has been increased because good husbandry has been exhibited but no account is taken of the reason for the debt being increased. The only consideration the bank has in servicing it is the number of breeders he has on his property at that time.
The industry is in a mess, not through any fault of its own. I am fair enough not to blame the Government for the downturn in overseas prices. That is completely beyond its control, just as it is beyond our control and beyond the control of the beef producers.
– Except for revaluation.
-I am reminded by the honourable member for Wide Bay of the revaluation decision, which was taken unilaterally by the Australian Labor Party and had disastrous effects. The proposition is being advanced- I am not sure whether it is true or false- that America is able to buy meat from Australia and, because of the advantages accruing to it as a result of the Labor Party’s decision to revalue, is in a position to act as a broker, as it were, and to seU that meat to countries such as Japan, as well as other overseas countries, at a profit.
I want to get back to the point I was making before I was intelligently interrupted by the honourable member for Wide Bay. We cannot blame the Government for the fall in overseas prices which has contributed to the mess the meat industry is in. But there is one thing that we can lay fairly and squarely at the feet of the Government; that is the tremendous increases in costs. I do not have time to enumerate these increases. They were tabled by the Deputy Leader of the Australian Country Party who spoke previously in the debate, and I do not want to reiterate his statements. Wages, transport costs, the cost of materials and normal overhead costs are such that even if a butcher were given a beast for nothing he would still have to charge at least 72.5c a kUo before he could recover his costs. We can blame the Government for this rapid escalation in costs which has a most disastrous effect on the consumer of beef.
The Deputy Leader of the Country Party offered positive solutions to help people engaged in the beef industry. I want to add to his list and offer a suggestion to the Minister for Tourism and Recreation (Mr Stewart) who is at the table. I am glad that he is showing such an intelligent interest in the debate. It is a pity that some of the other Cabinet Ministers did not show the concern that he is showing for beef producers. I offer to him the suggestion that money be made available to people associated with servicing the beef industry because service industries do play a vital part in the economics of beef production. We have heard recently of many instances of commission agents, transport operators and people employed in meat works being put off because there is no trading in beef. We suggest that these people be accepted under the terms of the Development Bank charter for carry-on finance. When the beef industry is restored to a good financial standing we want the service industries to be there, ready to carry on as well and as diligently as they have for many years past.
Unemployment benefits should automatically be extended to people engaged in beef production and in primary industry generally. At the present time they find it most difficult to cut through the heap of red tape in order to receive benefits that would allow them to live in some decency but, more importantly, as equal men and women in an equal society. It is very easy for those people whom we call bludgers. We can lay the blame for benefits being paid to bludgers firmly and squarely at the feet of the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) because of the initiatives that he took as soon as he became the Minister- initiatives which had no result other than to encourage the growing-up in our society of a group of people whom I believe do not want to work. Primary producers have to register for employment and be available to work away from their properties, and they find it most difficult to obtain any sort of reimbursement or unemployment benefits. We need to shuttle through all this red tape and government propaganda and allow these people to participate forthwith in the scheme for unemployment benefits.
In the last paragraph of his second reading speech the Minister made some play with words about the series of measures designed to assist the industry. One often hears platitudes and mere repetition of words. I suggest it is time that the Australian Labor Party grasps the nettle -
– It is time all right.
– As the honourable member for Calare has said, it is time all right. I could not agree more with him. It is time that the Government grasped the nettle and followed the example of that great person, the Honourable Joh Bjelke-Petersen.
– Where does he come from?
– He is the man who knocked the Prime Minister so insensible during the last Queensland State election campaign that I understand that if the Australian Labor Party in Queensland wished to field a cricket team it would have to obtain the services of the Prime Minister as the drink waiter. We want positive results in exploring and obtaining overseas markets. We cannot accept the principle that resources diplomacy is a one-sided arrangement. We cannot accept that another country can enter the Australian market, can take what it wants and cannot be expected to have conditions placed on it as to what else it buys as part of an overall package in a mixed bag economy. It is essential therefore that the Premier of Queensland be encouraged in his statesman-like approach to preserve the rights of the Queensland beef producers initially. That is his responsibility and I hope that his enthusiasm, drive, energy, honesty and sincerity of purpose will act as a catylist to the members of the Aus.tralian Labor Party and to the Premiers of the other States to get on with the job of supporting the beef industry. The Premier of Queensland does not talk; he acts. In his second reading speech the Minister said that the Government had the beef situation under scrutiny.
– They are having a look at it.
-It is a pity that members of the Government do not get glasses so that they can see to sort out the facts from the fantasies, because in the final analysis we can improve the situation of the beef producers in the long term only by increasing the markets that are available to them. We must give the Australian Meat Board more muscle and more teeth to get on with its fight of developing markets. I was disappointed to note that in a recent beef symposium in Sydney it was stated that expenditure by the Australian Meat Board on the promoting of Australian meat had declined from $630,000 in 1972-73 to $560,000 in 1973-74. Surely that is a positive area where the Government can make a contribution to help Australian exports.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I do not want to take up the time of the House for long. I wish to add one argument to what has already been said. The position of the beef industry is very serious indeed. The $20m appropriation which is proposed in this Bill will help some beef producers. It will even be a lot of help to some beef producers but the unfortunate truth of the matter is that there are too many beef producers who have no income with which to service any borrowings whatever. Beef cannot be sold at a price that will go anywhere near covering the costs of almost any beef producer anywhere and that is the essence of this problem, particularly when it is coupled with the fact that the nation’s beef properties are already heavily stocked. It will not be possible to carry increasing numbers of beef cattle on the properties around Australia. If we run into bad seasons the beef industry and the nation could face what could only be described as disaster. For that reason, by some means or other we are going to have to sell beef if we are to overcome this problem.
There are things that can be done to sell beef. There is no one panacea but there are things that will assist the sale of beef. For example, the livestock slaughter levy can be removed. This will make our beef just that much more competitive on the world markets. The levy should be removed. The cost of killing beef in Australian slaughter yards has risen astronomically with inflation in recent times. This is something that has come about in part because of Government ineptitude. It is the result of Government action. It is an area that the Government could look at very seriously. It could assist in the slaughter of beef and it could justify this action on the grounds that the cost of slaughtering beef and the loss of beef markets to the Australian beef producers and to the nation generally are the results of Government action.
– In what way? - . Mr HYDE- In 2 ways. The inept handling of the economy has resulted in inflation which has forced up the cost of killing to such an extent that we cannot compete.
– That did not stop the Americans and the Japanese from buying our beef. They just stopped buying it.
-I am tired of answering interjections but that one I will answer. There are 2 ways by which the Americans and the Japanese have been stopped from buying our beef and that is one of them. The second is that we are traditional customers in America and in Japan and we have done a lot to make ourselves popular in those countries- I don’t think. We have gone around insulting the American President. We have referred to the Americans as murderers. It is not just one thing that will deny us access to their market. I concede that. They buy their beef from a number of sources. Those things do not make Australia very popular. That adds strength to the cattlemen’s lobby in the United States. It has made it just that more difficult to sell Australian beef in the United States. The Prime Minister suggested when he was in Japan- or he said he did- that the quotas imposed on Australian beef were not quite proper or not in order, but that did not stop him from slapping quotas on Japanese cars. That argument, if he used it, lost all its strength. Yes, the Government has done a lot to damage Australian beef markets.
I turn now to things that it might do to undo the damage. I have mentioned the 1.6c livestock slaughter levy. In the present circumstances that could well be taken over again by the public purse. I have mentioned the cost of killing. The beef industry is in this extraordinarily difficult position. These are not ordinary circumstances.
These are exceptional times. The beef industry could be given assistance to meet its markets. Sell we must if we are to get out of these difficulties. Cold storage can provide but a limited solution. There is mounting evidence that modern cold storage will store beef, and for that matter any other meat or processed food of any type, for 12 to 24 months at a cost that will be within the predicted price rise for the particular product. That is not a solution to the problem but it is one thing that will help. The Government might look at it. It might assist the financing of freezing works. The Government might encourage sales to those few parts of the world that are buying beef. It might give the Meat Board a lot of assistance if it is dinkum about this problem. Most of all it might assist the industry to meet markets at prices that the markets are prepared to pay.
– The 3 speeches that have just been delivered, one after the other, were completely predictable. They were made by upholders of private enterprise requesting help from the state to get them out of their difficulties and asking for socialistic policies to be applied to the beef industry. It is a typical attitude that is taken by the bovine, bucolic members of the Country Party . When things are going well private enterprise reigns supreme. When the beef producers happen to run into difficulty, which is something the Opposition cannot blame us for, as we did not lower beef prices -
– You revalued the currency.
– That had a very infinitesimal effect.
– It was enough to lose markets.
-No one should adopt the attitude of the Queensland Premier if he wants to seh goods to Japan or any other country. We have to bear in mind that this scheme has been in operation since December. The honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair), the Deputy Leader of the Country Party, made a big song and dance about the $20m. He should have read my second reading speech. In the penultimate paragraph I said:
In addition, as previously announced, the Government has the beef situation under close scrutiny and stands ready to review the need for further assistance and to provide additional funds if necessary.
– That is past. It is over. You will not give the money because you say the producers have to be viable and they are not.
– If the honourable member for Cowper bothers to study the facts he will find that the Commonwealth Development Bank had approved to 12 February a total of $3m for beef producers. The rate of applications is increasing and in the week ending 12 February the amount of $600,000 was granted.
– Is that over all Australia or only in New South Wales?
– It is over all Australia. Members of the Opposition talk about producers being viable who are principally relying on beef. I ask members of the Country Party and members of the Liberal Party who represent rural electorates to deny the fact that a lot of farmers went into beef producing when the price was right. When the price fell they got their fingers burned. They are mixed farmers, and farmers quite often take the attitude of going into the most lucrative field when the price is right. The bottom fell out of the beef market and now members of the Australian Country Party are all complaining and want a socialistic scheme to apply to every farmer in the land. What we have done in this Bill was done fairly swiftly and in accordance with requests from rural industry. It came into operation from the time it was announced and is now beginning to operate quite well. Have no doubt that this Government will protect the interests of the rural people as well as it is trying to protect the interests of the manufacturing industries. We all appreciate that the rural industries must be preserved in Australia.
– Why are you not doing it?
– We are doing it. We have granted $20m and it still has not been used and more will be available if it is required. If one reads the Bill one will see that it is proposed to assist those who can continue to exist in the beef producing industry. The Opposition suggests that we should be propping up inefficient beef producers. It is a suggestion with which we could not possibly agree. If the beef industry is to continue to operate in Australia- we all hope that it does- we must have beef producers who are efficient. There will be fluctuations in prices of rural products all the time, so the man in the rural industry must be able to bear some of those fluctuations.
– Those who are efficient today will not be efficient tomorrow if the Government does not help.
– In which way does the honourable member want us to help- by subsidising every farm, inefficient and otherwise, or by subsidising those farms that are in difficulty now but demonstrate that they can get themselves out of that difficulty with the little assistance we are giving them? This scheme will continue to operate. More money will be made available if necessary and I am certain that if the Country Party and the rural industries- the beef producers- can produce evidence which shows that the beef producer needs greater assistance or needs some amendment to the provisions of this Bill, we will grant it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
BUI (on motion by Mr Stewart) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 23 July 1974 on motion by Mr Whitlam:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-In speaking to the Australia Council Bill I speak on behalf of the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Snedden, and I am making a statement which adds to the Opposition policy on the arts. He, unfortunately, was not able to be here this evening because, as honourable members well know, his wife was taken ill rather suddenly on Tuesday and is in hospital. The Australia Council should be what it purports to be-a body which, by its membership and the membership of its boards, reflects the aspirations of the Australian people. If one breaks the Australian arts community into its component parts- the practitioners, the teachers, the critics, whether these be professional or just the community at large who appreciate the various art forms, whether it be ballet or craft or theatreit emerges as a very heterogeneous body. I believe that within the ambit of the arts, radio and television should be included because these represent major areas of culture. After all, the Australia Council should be a reflection of the cultural attainment and ambitions of the people. If one accepts T. S. Eliot’s definition that culture is in its essence the ‘way of life’ of people, then what the Council stimulates will permeate every sector of Australian life.
Broadly, the Opposition will continue to support the principle of public patronage of the arts and we favour the establishment of a statutory body for its administration. I shall not be moving specific amendments, but will be setting guidelines for what we, the Opposition, would do m government. What we want to see in the Council is a body representative of all groups and guaranteed autonomy for its constituent boards. The accent must be on cultural spread and not on creating monuments for one man. We wish to see the Australia Council not as the appendage of one man’s fancy but clearly identifiable in an area of government devoted to providing co-operative cultural leadership. It should not be attached to a Minister who has not the time to devote to it as is presently the case.
The keynote in all cultural aspirations is community participation. Even the Labor Party, at its recent Terrigal conference, recognised the importance of community cultural activities when it inserted a new clause which stated that Labor would ensure that not less than 25 per cent of moneys expended by the statutory body be spent on these activities. This community requires that we take into account the artist and the consumer in any of the functions of the Australia Council. This is reflected in taste and also in the level of community participation which should be pursued.
We of the Opposition would encourage all who wished to participate in the arts to pursue it to the highest standard to which they are capable- that is, to develop the maximum potential of all who engage in the arts for the maximum benefit of the community. This pursuit of excellence would encourage innovation leading to a variety of styles and practices. We would encourage participation and not cultivate a small group to the exclusion of the community. That is to say that when talking about promoting excellence in the arts, it is not to promote an elite within the artistic community but to ensure that all who wish to can have the opportunity to attain their highest standard. It is then a matter of concern that the present Bill would enable both the Council and the various boards to be set up without a single practitioner of the arts among their members. Loose terms like ‘associated with the arts’ which recur in the Bill when referring to the membership of the Council and the Boards, do little to allay the suspicion repeatedly voiced by members of the artistic community and others that dilettantes may govern the distribution of subsidy.
The words ‘associated with the arts’ could mean any parvenu; anyone with the merest association. Would we want the Council and the boards turned into a vehicle of political patronage? A loose term like ‘associated with the arts’ to designate the qualifications for membership does this. Let us unequivocally state that we would ensure that membership, especially of the boards which are working primarily in specific technical aspects, guarantees those ‘working’ in the field. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), even in his second reading speech given so long ago, mentioned the qualification in terms of artists or those ‘closely involved’ in the arts. Such people would have majority membership on the boards.
It is just too stereotyped to believe that the artistic community cannot run its own affairs and to enshrine that proposition in the legislation is completely wrong and underestimates the artistic community. One has only to see the various performing groups in the community to see that they may often work in hardship on very tight budgets and yet provide their artistic product at low cost. The problem has been that blockbuster purchases like ‘Blue Poles’ and ‘Woman V, and blockbuster subsidies of monolithic groups, tend to distort the whole meaning and thrust of what an arts department should be doing. In fact, art not only must be represented by massive expenditure but also it should reflect essential, democratic government policy through its expert bodies to give a lead in providing the Australian public with a stimulating variety of the performing and other arts suited to all tastes.
I believe that the boards should have guaranteed autonomy. This will ensure diversity and guard against the Council interfering in the minutiae of decision-making processes for which experts are best equipped. We should further note that people presently working on the boards, dispensing vast amounts of public money, are often denied information basic to assessing the need for subsidy of this or that organisation. The secrecy that pervades the operation of the Council has met with widespread criticism. This Government, after all, is the government which promised open access and yet it is so emasculated that it allows its own appointees to be deprived of details such as salary structures, rents, performing fees etc., when determining funding needs. That practice is entirely unsatisfactory and can only exacerbate the distrust evidenced by the resignations of several members of the Council and the boards; members appointed, it is sometimes alleged, by the Prime Minister himself.
Any funding organisation inadequately served with information must necessarily fall prey to the knowledgeable whim of its bureaucracy. The community must not have pressed upon it decisions made by people deprived of vital information. This legislation does nothing to ensure more sensible procedures. Whilst we support the rotation of board and Council membership, we must be continually aware that a permanent bureaucracy will, in such a situation, have more assertive power than should be the case. In these circumstances, everything possible must be done to maximise the decision-making powers of the boards and the Council and the position of administrative figures should be that of enablers, and implementers of democratically arrived at decisions. In these terms, the Opposition strongly advocates that the board chairmen should be elected from and by board members. The present legislation casually fails to mention that these people are to be appointed by the Minister. It does detail, however, and at great length, how acting chairmen shall be appointed and makes it quite clear that this shall be a ministerial prerogative. We believe that the legislation, board autonomy and the free flow of information among members would be greatly enhanced by ensuring that the chairmen are elected. On the boards, the artists must be represented- they must not’ have their decisions given to them cut and dried by people selected from above. Our suggestion will inculcate more sense into the role of the chairmen. Elected, they will have to be responsive to the desires and decisions of their constituents and they should have no more right of access to information, no more right to initiate or promulgate policy, than any other board member.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting I was making some comments on behalf of the Leader of the Opposition about the Australian Council Bill. I was extending those comments to include some of the Opposition’s policy in relation to the arts. I had said that the Opposition’s view as to the election of chairmen would impart more sense to the role of chairmen. Elected, they would have to be more responsive to the desires and decisions of their constituents. They should have no more right of access to information and no more right to initiate or promulgate policy than any other Board member. Their job is to see that meetings are run fairly, that debate is encouraged, that the public is kept informed as to policy formation and that the administration implements these policies speedily and efficiently. Our Prime Minister, if he has time to bother himself with the artistic community, will know by now that his, if they are his, selections of Board chairmen have not in all cases indicated any particular perspicacity on his or his advisers’ part.
Along with a defined degree of Board autonomy- the right to dispense funds within the limits of their own budgets, the right to appoint their own secretariats and to implement policy in their own area- we want to see a Council better equipped to handle the generalities of policy. Both former and present members of the Council have said that its efficiency has suffered, that its ability to deal meaningfully with weighty issues before it is severely compromised by its sheer size. The legislation in clause 9(1) provides for membership of between 18 and 24 persons. We believe that 18, including the Chairman, should be the upper figure. The Council would consist then of the 7 elected Board chairmen and the Chairman of the Council. We see no reason for permanent heads of government departments to be voting members. Their expert advice can always be sought; their departments are always available. We see the Public Service role in this area as advisory- informing but not making decisions.
What kind of Council do we want? What kind of Council would be best for Australia? We want an organisation that has a strong co-ordinating role, an organisation that is free to develop an overall arts policy, an organisation that represents the interests of artists via the democratically elected chairmen and, at the same time, an organisation that has the administrative ability to handle properly its dealings with the boards and negotiate with the States. The House will realise that companies and individuals, the existing Council and various State Government departments working in the same funding area have problems of liaison. There is not a regularised forum where all these responsible people can get together and determine the major budgetary and policy decisions which concern them and all our governments. We propose, therefore, that the Council, as previously described, should be augmented by inviting the Directors of the Arts from each State to sit as voting members on the Australia Council. We want efficiency, we want co-operation with the States and we want strong rapport with the artistic community. This would still allow the Minister to invite 4 other members of specialist ability to join the Council should the Council so wish.
It has previously been noted that the Labor Party at its Terrigal Conference resolved that 25 per cent of monies allocated to the Council be earmarked for community arts activities. Senator Rae, the Opposition shadow Minister for Community Development, drew attention to our interest in fostering such activity in his statement on 16 September last. I have later pointed out that less than 5 per cent of ACA funds have been directed to community arts by the Whitlam Government- a so-called populist crew which rows its fiscal boat to the already well-endowed shores of those few cultural monoliths who have for years fed well on the subsidy cake. To spread available funds widely through the community seems now to be a shared aim of both the Government and the Opposition. A basic requisite then is close consultation with the State directors since these are the people closest in touch with regional local groups. We reject totally the notion that the Council should consist of intinerant and possibly ignorant friends of whatever government happens to be in power.
All parties want our culture peserved and developed. We wish to see diversity of the culture maintained. We wish to see Aboriginal cultural efforts expanded without destroying the intrinsic requirements and tenets of that culture. Within the framework of the Australia Council there should be provision for mobility so that people, whether artists or consumers, are able to travel and broaden their perspective both domestically and internationally. All parties want it to grow in depth and breadth, and our proposal will provide the nation with a council attuned to the problems of the people and the artisan will so enable our traditions and our artistic inventiveness to proliferate and thrive among us all. However, let me issue a caveat on expenditure in this area, especially as it has been surrounded by so much controversy. I believe the annual report should be tabled at the same time as the Auditor-General’s report. To provide for this would be a notable concession to open government.
In conclusion, the importance of diversity of opinion, decentralisation of responsibility with consequent autonomy of the Board has been grossly understated in this Bill. The Bill does not achieve this. We in government would modify it so that this would occur.
– I am delighted to have the opportunity to speak in support of this Bill and make some comments upon it. Later I shall deal with some of the points raised by the honourable member for Curtin (Mr Garland). I do not necessarily disagree with some of the propositions he has put forward, but I think he is unaware of some of the decisions that we have made, particularly that on the question that worries him most and the question that worries the Opposition most- the question of the election of board Chairmen. I shall develop that later on.
The Australian Council Bill 1974 is obviously the culmination of many years of study and application by a great number of people who have a very genuine interest in the arts and a determination to elevate the arts to their proper and rightful role in the contemporary Australian community. The Bill certainly fulfils the promise made by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in his policy speech of 1972. In that speech he said that a Labor government would provide substantially increased support for the arts, and that is in fact what we have done. He said that that support would relate to a twofold objective, that is, the pursuit of excellence, which was touched upon by the honourable member for Curtin, and the spread of participation in the arts by the performers and the audiences. Of course it is a matter of record that the Government took immediate action to give effect to these policies announced by the Prime Minister in 1 972.
In May 1973 the Prime Minister tabled the interim report from the Australian Council for the Arts. That interim report simply meant that there was a time for all sectors of both the artistic community and the public to make certain recommendations and suggestions, and they were forthcoming. Perhaps more importantly, it provided a basis for a rational and searching discussion by individuals and organisations. It certainly must be readily admitted that there were spirited and heated discussions on the interim report. Indeed when one is dealing with the arts, one will always have spirited and interesting discussion. In the arts field, one will never achieve a totality of what artists think is right or what they think is wrong. It must be readily admitted that the proposals concerning the formation of the constituent boards and the chairmen of those boards were subjected to quite fierce criticism. This in itself was not necessarily a very bad thing. In fact, I think it was quite a productive exercise, because at last it indicated a genuine desire and a great interest, perhaps for the first time in this nation, that the arts be given recognition for the immense contribution they make to our society, and indeed to any society.
The Bill provides for the establishment of a statutory authority to be known as the Australia Council. I refer to that portion of the second reading speech of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in which he said:
The Council will be a body corporate consisting of not fewer than 18 and not more than 24 members drawn from a broad range of artistic, community -
I emphasise the word ‘community’- and related government interests. The Council will be responsible to the Minister and to the Parliament for the conduct of its affairs . . . The bulk of the day today work, however, will be carried out by a number of specialised boards -
There will be seven of them- which will be responsible for decisions relating to expenditure within their own budgets and for developing professional services geared to their needs. Subject to the directions of the Minister, the Council will be required to delegate functions and powers to the boards, and each board will be responsible for developing policies in its own area of the arts. Membership of the boards will be broadly based.
I think they ought to be-
They will include a wide range of appropriate interests and a majority -
I emphasise the word ‘majority’- of artists or others closely involved in the arts.
The honourable member for Curtin (Mr Garland) has, I think, rightly drawn attention to paragraph (d) of clause 9 (2) of the Bill. I think that this is where the real fear of the Opposition lies. The paragraph provides:
Such number of other persons as the Governor-General thinks fit of whom the majority shall consist of persons who practise the arts or are otherwise associated with the arts.
I think that the honourable member for Curtin and the Opposition generally are fearful that the boards will be dominated by people who are in fact not practising artists, but who are associated with the arts. As a former member of the Royal Shakespeare Company and an actor of some experience I shall make one or two comments on this point. I have the greatest respect for my former colleagues but I remind the House, and the Opposition in particular, that actors may well be splendid on stage, but they are never the greatest managers of their own affairs, because of the very pursuit of the an of acting, dancing, producing, directing or conducting. In fact, some of the most successful theatre companies in the world are not managed by the artists who are associated with them. The Royal Shakespeare Company, for instance, is not managed by actors, nor do they have any influence on the board which runs the company. Such companies are managed by people with commercial experience. This is vitally necessary. They merely adopt an overall policy. In my view it would be a very great mistake to adopt the suggestion that everyone on the boards and the chairmen of those boards ought to be elected by actors, dancers, producers or directors. If we do this we will create a coterie and a power struggle within these boards. It seems to me to be logical and intelligent that the chairman of each of those autonomous boards ought to be independent and above the performers. Then the chairman is in a position to make a rational decision, which I believe would not be possible in any other way.
It is my belief that this restructuring by the creation of a statutory authority will enable the Government to give assistance to the arts in a far more cohesive and effective fashion than has been done in the past. I do not claim, indeed the Government does not claim, that this is a perfect Bill. But it eliminates the ad hocery, the piecemeal approach which has gone on before. We have attempted to assemble in some sort of rationalisation a combination of artists and people associated with the arts and with a very deep interest in the arts who can come together and provide the best possible advice to the Government. It is a very great mistake to think that we can create an elitist combination of actors, dancers and writers to sort out their own affairs and to create their own policy. They need the guidance of people with business acumen and experience.
All well-known theatres in the world- including the Royal Shakespeare Company, the National Theatre, the Chichester Theatre and the Stratford Company in Ontario, Canada- are managed successfully because the chairmen of those companies are people with wide commercial experience. The actor’s job is to act, not to keep accounts. The writer’s job is to write, not to keep accounts. The dancer’s job is to dance, not to worry about accounts. I suppose it could be said that there is the possibility of difficulty in some areas with the setting up of this statutory authority. I think this is inevitable in such a sensitive area as the arts. Nonetheless, it is my belief that this legislation has the full support of the Council members and of all associated with the arts. As the honourable member for Curtin observed earlier, there has been disputation between the various members of the boards. I well remember attending a meeting with the Prime Minister some time ago. Of course there was disputation. There always will be disputation among these sorts of people. With a collection of writers, actors, producers, directors and dancers around one table we will never acheive total unanimity, because of their temperamental nature. They are not ordinary people. They are creative. We cannot subject them to the normalcy of ordinary business transactions.
In the years 1973 and 1974 Government assistance for the arts was increased dramatically over the assistance provided in previous years. There was a new awareness. There was a new direction which was badly needed. A new vision was clearly identifiable. This Government is determined to end the ad hocery, the uncertaincy and the lack of vision which had existed for far too long. Under the provisions of this Bill these barriers will now be swept aside. In this country Artists- I use the term in the corporate sense- for far too long formed the opinion and were really convinced that they were suspect and secondclass citizens who made no contribution to the contemporary society of Australia. They were lacking in status and felt they were not deserving of assistance in their various artistic pursuits.
I do want to make one comment. I would agree that a substantial part of the Council should be made up of practitioners. But I suggest, as I suggested earlier, this is not possible because actors want to act and do not want to sit around a board room table. Dancers want to dance and do not want to sit around a board room table. I come back to my original proposition: The Chairman of the Australia Council ought to be a non-performing person with business background, business acumen and a sense of responsibility who can give the direction that is so urgently needed. Nonetheless, artists should be free to express their own, desirably, wideranging attitudes and they should be chosen because they have demonstrated dedication to the arts and a tolerance of conflicting views about them.
Many people in our society have no particular artistic talent but, nonetheless, they are devoted in the pursuit of the arts. These people ought to be encouraged. There ought to be a community involvement and I think this is the very basis of this legislation. This legislation certainly gives a new sense of security while allowing people to create and perform with complete freedom. Nothing in this Bill suggests that the Prime Minister, who is the Minister responsible for the arts, will interfere in any way with the autonomy of these boards. They are free to pursue their own objectives and ideals. It is merely this Parliament that approves the allocation of the moneys to be provided.
It must be said, and said with some emphasis, that artistic expression and artistic creativity must at all times be free of strictures and pressures from any form of government or from individuals in government or pressure groups inside the Parliament or outside the Parliament. The Bill, as the Prime Minister quite rightly has observed, is a very historic development. This is a promotion and a participation in the arts by all of the community.
We have seen in the past few years an international acceptance of Australian artistic creativity and performance. I mention as an aside the very recent successful tour of Europe by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, which was acclaimed by the critics in Europe. Believe me, having experienced the critics of Europe, there are none tougher or more perceptive. Yet this tour to Europe by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra was made possible by finance from this Government. If we can project our artistic achievement and artistic ability abroad, in my view the amount of money that has been allocated certainly has been well worth while. One can recall with justifiable pride the visit of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, which I mentioned a moment ago.
The rich reservoir of talent that resides in this country needs all the encouragement that we can give it. But it is not enough to recognise it; we have to encourage it and support it, and support it totally and financially. For far too long we in this country have had some extraordinary attitudes to the performing and creative arts. But there can be no disputing the fact that, whether it has been in the fields of theatre, opera, ballet, composition, literature, painting, conducting or design- I have covered the wide and total spectrum of the arts- Australians have reached the pinnacle of success in a fiercely competitive and demanding career. One of the saddest commentaries on our past attitude has been the effect that it has had on individual Australian performers who, in sheer desperation and frustration, have left this country. I numbered myself among them in the late 1940s. But while not suggesting for one moment that this Bill is going to arrest that exodus of the performing artists, I do suggest with all sincerity that this legislation is a beacon of hope for so many of the creative and performing artists of this country of which we can all be proud.
This legislation will provide the structure, the authority and the will to create a new enthusiasm and purpose that will be the means of providing infinitely more opportunities for our society to assist and participate in the exciting rewards and satisfaction that flow from a very vibrant and creative artistic environment.
-This Bill, the Australia Council Bill 1974, establishes a statutory authority for all purposes connected with the promotion of the arts and provides for the function and powers of that Council. The Opposition is in agreement with the proposals to have a broadly based authority so that the aspirations of our community can be on the widest base possible. The possibility is therefore decreased that any established organisation or powerful elitist group can maintain too solid a grip on the Council ‘s affairs, as this legislation insists on strict limitations of a member’s tenure of office not normally required, I might say, in other Australian statutory authorities.
I dunk we must all agree that there is a growing desire and interest for the enrichment, preservation and development of all aspects of our environment. The demand to participate in the cultural life of our community is increasing and will continue to increase as more leisure time becomes available and as this becomes a major social issue. Governments and man in modern societies must continue to search for ways to integrate the arts into our society and to involve the public closely with the cultural life of our communities. I will not deny that there has been a separation of the arts from the public. The paradox is that it has occurred at a time of rapid world urbanisation, technology and automation, when the machine is greatly changing our human life patterns of work and of play, while on the other hand more time has been created and there are less positions to occupy our energy.
The Australian Council for the Arts must be given an opportunity to do those things set out in this Bill. Its validity, of course, will be able to be judged during its second term when such judgments can be based on performance and good faith. The administration can then be appraised objectively. I do not wish to canvass the functions of the Council but I do wish to mention briefly some points not specifically documented in this Bill but which I feel will be vital to this Council’s success. One of the main obstacles to participation in the arts is a lack of understanding within our general public. The normal practice of simply bringing cultural performances and exhibitions to our communities has left our communities in some cases culturally deprived. These will not in themselves guarantee a wider appreciation of the arts. The actual experience of creativity, that is, active participation in the arts, is a most important step towards fostering a greater understanding and appreciation of them. Therefore, it will be desirable to promote community involvement in the arts and to combine this with visits from opera, ballet, concerts and the like. Art consumers would then be able to identify with a better understanding of performances and of artistic and creative events.
It should be recognised, though, that culture, especially the arts, cannot be imposed on people. People cannot be uplifted culturally unless they so desire and have a sense of our cultural heritage. We have to bring experience into the arts through the schools and by extending the involvement in them to the home and the work situation as well as to leisure periods. Greater emphasis will have to be placed by administrative bodies on more support to smaller- perhaps even experimental- organisations together with our creative individuals. The honourable member for Franklin (Mr Sherry) spent a great deal of time, and rightly so, discussing how the Council could be of tremendous support and assistance to those people connected with the arts in a very intimate way. I believe that the prime purpose of establishing a council such as this is to assist and interest community participation in the arts.
I can think of many small professional bodies in my electorate which are working energetically to promote the arts in the community. I am quite sure that they will feel more confident in the long term if such a co-ordinating body as this can assist them, not only financially but by aiding them in establishing contact with sister galleries or allied institutions. Whilst I cannot claim to have had any acting experience as the honourable member for Franklin can claim, I have seen the dedicated work of these small groups. They must be given the greatest praise not only for bringing art to regions that would otherwise not receive it but also for promoting local participation in and application of the arts in the community. For instance, in Mildura we have a magnificent art gallery which preserves the heritage of the past but combines with a modern and spacious gallery adequate theatre amenities.
I am sure that the honourable member for Franklin has heard of the city of Swan Hill where, by an understanding and enjoyment of the arts by a few people, opportunities have been provided for persons to practise the arts. They have promoted an annual Shakespeare festival for many years, the only one of its kind in Australia. That festival has been a vital and growing part of that community and for many years has played a very important part in the year’s activities. The cultural life of the whole of Victoria, particularly the rural areas which are young in terms of development, has been enriched by these small groups and individuals restoring and promoting the heritage of the past in museums, pioneer settlements and the visual arts. I am very grateful to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) who a fortnight ago made a grant of $2m over the next 5 years to the Robinvale aboriginal people to establish a museum of Aboriginal culture of the Murray Valley.
The final point I would like to canvass is the need to investigate consumer needs and preferences and to enable those people normally unable to afford the cost of attending art performances to do so in the future. The functions of the Council do not expressly include the fostering of the interests of the consumers. The crux of this issue is simply not supply of arts for the masses versus arts for the elite. The trade-off is seen better, I believe, as that of spending money on inducing the uninitiated to start attending and participating in artistic events that are tailored to their untrained tastes as against spending more on educating existing audiences. It is simply not feasible to go on promoting those art events which the vast majority of people refuse to attend. Surveys could well be taken of a wide range of events, concentrating not just on opera, ballet and drama but on fringe theatre, jazz, folk music and poetry readings.
Many criticisms have been made of this Bill, mainly revolving around the concern that the Board will not truly represent the nation’s wide diversity of artistic talent. In his second reading speech the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) said:
It is our intention that Government support for the arts should not become the province of entrenched interests and that it should serve, in the widest possible way, the artistic needs and aspirations of the Australian community.
This should be the ultimate aim of the Council. I am quite sure that, if that aim is advanced and is successful, the Council will have done its work well.
Of course, one could speak in this debate on the Government’s priorities as they have been established since the Austraiian Labor Party attained office. For instance, one could well ask whether the purchase of the paintings ‘Blue Poles’ or ‘Woman V, irrespective of the varying opinions of their artistic value, will do as much for promoting the public appreciation and enjoyment of the arts as would a tour of the Sydney and Melbourne Symphony Orchestras to many of the regions of Australia, similar to the tour which was made by the orchestra to Europe, as mentioned by the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Sherry). Such a tour could not be financed out of a communities own funds. I think that a project such as this is one that could very readily be undertaken by the Council for the Arts in an endeavour to bring such an orchestra to all people, wherever they may live in Australia. If this Council can provide the opportunities for the public to be closely involved in the arts and the cultural life of the country it will be fulfilling its purpose. This is why the Opposition gives its support to the Bill.
– I rise to support this very important Australia Council Bill. I wish perhaps to put a more parochial emphasis on it in part because I want to discuss particularly the aspects of community arts. Nevertheless I support entirely the suggestions of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) as to the manner in which a Liberal-Country Party government would approach the Australia Council. When I learnt that the changed name of the Australian Council for the Arts would be the Australia Council, although there seems to be unanimity on the adoption of that name, I thought that I should record my doubts as to whether that is an appropriate name for this statutory corporation.
-I believe that an organisation that is responsible for the matters that this organisation is being given power to deal withand those objects are stated in the Bill- ought not to be able to live under a name that does not indicate clearly what are its functions, obligations and objects. The name ‘Australia Council’ could mean anything. It could almost be an organisation of local government councils that had come together for some purpose.
– You have the British Council and the Canadian Council; so why not?
-I appreciate that the term will have international precedents. I have heard those before. But I personally believe that in the minds of people an organisation ought to be able to be related clearly by its name to the objectives it has. However, that is incidental. Parties all agree generally on the adoption of the name. I personally do not believe that is a good name for an organisation of this type.
I want to express my regret that it has taken so long for this Bill to come before the House. I believe that it may well have been because the Government was considering amendments. But as it is being adopted in the form in which it was originally presented, I am surprised that it has been delayed for so long. I understand that because of this the present Australian Council for the Arts had considerable difficulty with its staffing arrangements, the hiring of personnel and in being able to get on with the job that is seen as being important and which we all acknowledge is important. I personally support the concept of an Australian Council that is independent of politics and, in effect, politicians.
The area that I wanted to deal with particularly in my short address tonight concerns the role of the community arts. Honourable members will realise that the Australian Council is to have 7 boards. The Minister has power to appoint more boards by notice in the Australian Government Gazette. But it seems that the Council will continue to operate with boards responsible for theatre, music, crafts, visual arts, literature, film and television and Aboriginal arts. Community arts, as set out in the annual report of the Australian Council for the Arts, function under a separate committee made up of members of the various boards. The report states:
The establishment of the Community Aits Fund served two purposes, to service multi arts applications and to make special provisions for the development of broader community participation. The specialist Boards would be dealing largely with applications for assistance from artists and arts organisations, and the funds would tend to flow directly to the ans. The Community Arts Fund would tend to provide money to non arts community groups and organisations, and in this way it could assist in diffusing government funds more widely into the community.
I certainly would not object to those objectives, but I look at the clauses of the Bill which establish the arts boards and I look particularly at clause 22, which has been commented on earlier. It states that a majority of members of a board for the time being shall be persons who practice the arts or are otherwise associated with the arts. That clause gives to the Minister a discretion as to whom he should appoint. I would like to believe that the Prime Minister in making these appointments would give consideration to appointing people to those boards who would have an interest in the community arts because unless members of those boards that are established have that interest there will not be the personnel who will have this understanding of the needs of the community arts in general.
We all acknowledge- other honourable mem-, bers have spoken on this tonight- the importance of the community arts. Reference has been made to a decision made at a recent meeting of an outside organisation which has indicated to the Government that it expects a greater sum of money to be spent on the community arts, and the suggestion was that that would be 25 per cent of the moneys allocated. When one considers that there are 7 boards and there is a Community Arts Fund and 25 per cent of the money allocated is to be spent by a committee made up of representatives of those 7 boards, one might well be concerned at the manner in which the priorities will be established. I am not suggesting, having regard to past experience, that one ought to have those doubts. Personally, in the relationship that I have had to date with officers of the Australian Council for the Arts I would have little doubt. But the possibilities are there, in the very format that we are establishing for these matters to be considered, that the community arts in particular might not be advantaged in the best possible way.
Some of the doubts that people have in relation to the community arts I believe were summed up in a report produced by the Australian Department of Tourism and Recreation. It mentioned the arts in general and it stated:
Increasing attention is being given by all levels of government to fostering public participation in the Arts. The Australian Council for the Arts, through its community Arts Fund, has provided subsidies to local government and similar bodies for the employment of Community Arts Officers. In addition, the Council itself employs field officers who are available to local areas on a short-term basis. In most instances the work of such a field worker has led to the subsequent appointment of a permanent Ans Officer.
At present this remains a relatively small program. Appointment and orientation of staff has been forced to be carried out on a pragmatic but somewhat ad hoc basis. Ap- propriately trained personnel are urgently required for this eve of work and at least some of these may well be drawn from courses in recreation studies. This will, of course, be dependent upon the breadth of focus within recreation schools and upon the extent to which students are able to develop an appropriate orientation of the Arts. This in itself would greatly foster the integration of the Arts into total recreation planning and help to overcome the prevailing false view of the Arts as something separate and perhaps effeminate or eccentric. This is certainly a diminishing prejudice but one still finds many expressions of it in local communities.
My visit to the Australian Council for the Arts convinced me of one thing: In the city of Sydney there is a clear disorientation in the area of community arts and expenditure on the community arts is primarily in the northern and eastern suburbs of Sydney. There is a map on the wall which honourable members ought to see. It indicates that to date the western suburbs of Sydney have received little in the way of benefits even from the community arts program. I am not being critical of the officers involved because I know of the efforts of the officer serving in my area. I have endeavoured where possible to assist him in locating people interested in the arts, in fostering local organisations and in finding the people who are prepared to work in developing arts programs locally.
But my problem and the problem of those people who are working in the western suburbs is exemplified by the very kind letter which I received from the Executive Officer of the Australian Council for the Arts. She kindly informed me that on 2 1 January 1975 that for the calendar year 1974 Parramatta, a major city with a huge population and a huge commercial area- and bear in mind that Parramatta is the major city in the western suburbs of Sydney and is notjust representative of my electorate; the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Cadman), the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) and the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) and their electors look to Parramatta as the major centre of their districts- received a grant of $800 to offset the costs of drama and dance performances at the festival organised by the Parramatta Foundation Week Festival Committee. That function was held during Foundation Week late last year and I had the privilege of attending it in Prince Alfred Park. It was an excellent function. Some$800 was provided towards that festival and the sum of $3,010 was provided to the Children’s Free Embassy, under the care of Mr Gil Weaver of 33 Herring Road, Eastwood, for materials, tutors and expenses for arts, holiday camps for disadvantaged children. I have written to Mr Weaver but until recently I had not come across him.
There are many organisations in the area which are concerned with developing and fostering an interest in the arts in all its forms mentioned in the objectives of this Bill. I can understand the concern of the Labor Party Conference which wanted to change this emphasis in funding. We can see from the grants mentioned by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in his Press statement of 23 August 1974 that the community arts fund and international program had available in all States $52,730, Aboriginal arts had $120,606, the crafts had $5,620, the theatre had $19,910 and the visual arts had $214,151.I have here the annual report of the Australian
Elizabethan Theatre Trust. I am not in any way criticising it as an organisation. I value very much the activities that it runs and those that I as a member for the western suburbs am occasionally able to enjoy in the City of Sydney. The Chairman ‘s address in that report states:
I am glad to advise that the Council -
Speaking of the Australian Council for the Arts- has continued to subsidise the Trust by increased grants for its main activities as shown hereunder:-
These funds are certainly large by comparison with the amount of money made available in 1974 for the community arts fund-$52,730-the sum I mentioned earlier in my speech. This matter does concern me. I believe that it is important for people who are not able to participate in arts programs arranged and held in the principal cities to be able to participate in them in the country and in the areas outside our major metropolises. These are important and the fact that only 5 per cent of the money was made available for community arts expenditure shows that there ought to be changed priorities. There ought to be an emphasis on facilities being made available for these types of programs.
One of the problems of the single community arts officer serving the western suburbs of Sydney is in finding suitable locations for people to enjoy the programs that might be arranged. We have in Parramatta, for instance, very few facilities available for the performing arts. The ‘Q’ theatre has been running workshops which have had to be held in the old Kings School hall that now forms part of the Marsden Rehabilitation Centre. The Special Minister of State (Mr Lionel Bowen), who is sitting at the table, might recall that he addressed a Labor Party meeting there some time ago and he might remember the facilities -
– A lovely hall too.
-Yes, it is a lovely hall with a lovely outlook, but it has very poor facilities for holding major theatrical performances.
– We livened it up.
-I am sure you did.
– Were you talking about the Minister’s performance?
-I know little of his performance. I was not invited on that occasion although I get to most events held in my district. But I think that this hall which has been made available to the ‘Q’ theatre, kindly by the New South Wales State Government which administers the Marsden Rehabilitation Centre, is the only building that is suitable in the district for these sorts of performances. Admittedly the Government, if the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) has his way, might develop community theatre facilities in the proposed Commonwealth office block to be built in the city of Parramatta. Personally, and I propose to express my belief in other places shortly, I do not believe those facilities ought to be developed in an office block complex. There is an urgent need for those types of facilities in this district, not because they would serve the electorate of Parramatta but because they would serve as a centre for the entire western suburbs of Sydney. The fact is that all district transport comes to the city of Parramatta. Yet, the community in that area lacks these sorts of facilities.
There is an urgent need for us all to recognise that if community arts are to be brought into areas like the western suburbs those facilities have/ to be provided. I emphasise the need for these facilities. I want to acknowledge the help and assistance that I have had from the community arts officer in my own district. Admittedly he has been working very hard in the electorates of Chifley, Prospect and Mitchell. But I think perhaps the greater emphasis ought to be placed on Parramatta because of the particular role that I have mentioned the city has in the total district. It is clear that, notwithstanding the excellent efforts that the community arts officer has made in identifying the people who are prepared to form and maintain the Parramatta Symphony Orchestra, the local organisers who have run Foundation Week as a festival without grants to date except for the $800 that I mentioned earlier, the people concerned with the Parramatta Ans Society and the Parramatta Musical Society and his efforts in bringing the ‘Q’ theatre to the district, those efforts have not yet been rewarded with grants.
I want to emphasise that the Australian Council, as it will shortly be called, ought not to forget these areas, It ought to see that personnel are available to expand the role of the community arts and to ensure that funds are available. I want to emphasise once more my own concern that those persons who are appointed by the Minister to the various boards ought to have some interest and some knowledge of community arts and that those persons who are then co-opted into the financial area and who will be responsible for arranging the expenditure of community art funds ought to have a specialised knowledge and interest that will enable them to ensure that areas like the western suburbs of Sydney are not neglected. I mention this not because I want to score any points off the Government but in order to highlight what I believe would be the bipartisan interest of all members in ensuring that districts like this receive the real benefit of the funds that are available through the Council.
– It is rather difficult to follow the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr Ruddock) without mentioning his electorate of Parramatta but also answering some of the matters he raised in regard to his electorate. I hope that we will not continue to look at this Bill and carry on the discussion in quite such a parochial way, although I feel that if we are to consider what this Bill will do for the arts in Australia we must look at it at a local level also. I should like to say also in reply to the criticism of the honourable member for Parramatta concerning the delay in presenting this Bill that some sections of the arts world have criticised the fact that this Bill even now has come on too soon. The fact that the Whitlam Government created arts boards and created positive assistance for the arts so very early in the life of the Government, I think provided first of all the incentive for people to get out and participate and to take a much greater interest in the ans, but also the time interval which has elapsed has enabled people to think about the Bill and give consideration to it. I do not think that we have either moved too quickly or have been too slow in considering the measures which are contained in this Bill, and I think there is general agreement in the House on the need for the Bill and the things that it provides.
One matter that I would like to stress is that the Australian Council is independent from day to day government. When he was speaking earlier the honourable member for Curtin (Mr Garland) said that he felt that his Party would not like to see the Council consist of itinerant and ignorant friends of government. If I can look at it generously, I think that he meant the government of the day and not necessarily this Government. I do not disagree with the honourable member for Curtin, as to that remark, but I would point out to him, as I believe the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Sherry) pointed out in his speech, that under a clause of the Bill at least one-half of those people who are to be appointed to the Council- that is people other than those who are representing particular aspects of the arts- must be people who have some active interest in the arts. After all, most of us are the consumers, the audience, of arts in Australia. I think the ordinary consumer, the ordinary person in society, ought to be represented on such an important body as the Austraiian Council.
But anybody who looks at this Bill objectively must recognise that the various aspects of the arts as such, all the creative expression which embodies arts in Australia, are more than adequately provided for in the Bill. The people who produce, the creative spirits, will have the major say in the direction in which we are going in the arts in Australia; but there will be a leavening of people who are the consumers, who are the audience, people who are not directly associated with the arts. So at least a balanced viewpoint will be given. It has been my experience from being involved with bodies associated with the arts that most of the decisions that are made are not made because people have some particular point of view to put but rather that a consensus is reached after a pretty wide discussion. Therefore it becomes more important that the people who are to be involved should have some wide knowledge.
I think it is important to mention the functions of the Council. I should like to read from clause 5, which sets out the functions of the Council, because I think it is important that we all realise how wide-ranging a body the Australian Council will be. First of all, its functions are:
to promote excellence in the arts;
I think this is very important. The honourable member for Franklin mentioned that at one stage he had to leave Australia to practise his particular branch of the arts. People were not prepared, unless the artist was a world name, to go to see Australians perform. Australians have thought that way for too long, but I think it is much less apparent than it used to be. I believe that this is changing. We ought to give it added emphasis. Clause 5 continues to outline the functions of the Council:
I think the honourable member for Parramatta would agree with me that that at least covers his electorate. Despite my dig at the honourable member for mentioning his particular circumstance so often, I think it is important that we consider this at the local level as well as at the national level. There are many local bodies in need of assistance and if we are going to promote the arts adequately in Australia, then we must give people an opportunity at the local government level and at the local district level to participate, to show their talents and at the same time to give the people around them a chance to appreciate those talents. In this era of television and mass communication there is far too little emphasis on ordinary individual participation.
I think that this Bill will achieve not only one of its purposes which is to assist the arts generally, it also will certainly lift the appreciation of the arts in Australia. The arts covers a very wide field- music, the theatre, ballet, films and all those things in which people can show creative expression. I believe there is a great future for the arts in Australia. Through such bodies as the Arts Board, through the setting up of the Australian Council and by providing the finance to be made available under this Bdi, we can go some of the way towards helping the arts in Australia. Small groups, medium groups, some with commercial interests, right up to the big companies that perform in capital cities will be assisted by this legislation. I am pleased that, despite some criticisms and some suggestions, the BUI has received the general approval of honourable members on both sides of the House.
The honourable member for Curtin mentioned one other matter on which I think I ought to comment. He said that there ought to be a caveat on expenditure. This is adequately provided for in the BUI and if honourable members turn to page 10 I think they, too, will agree that there is adequate control over expenditure. All expenditure is to be approved by this Parliament Where there is a need for day to day expenditure approval must be obtained from the Minister of the day. This Bill, despite the criticism about delay, is a fine piece of legislation and I believe it Wil receive the support of the House. I am sure that it will lift the appreciation of arts in Australia and provide a very firm basis for the growth of active participation in the arts by people who are interested in the arts, and also an active appreciation by the people of Australia of the very fine talent in the community.
-In a sense we are participating in an historic occasion tonight- historic in the sense that at last Australia has come of age. The members of this Parliament have been given the opportunity to discuss in a basically bipartisan manner the development of the arts of this nation and of a culture which we have been fortunate enough to inherit. It is also historic in the sense that those of us who have taken an interest in this subject have been waiting for nearly 4 months for this debate to take place. On numerous occasions, in fact day after day, we all noted with bated breath the fact that the debate was to take place. Usually the Bill was put at the bottom of the notice paper. We all hoped and waited in anticipation for the debate to take place. Usually it dropped out of sight and was replaced by other legislation which the Government no doubt considered to be of more relevance.
Fortunately, the final text of this Bill which we have before us does not have as many errors as there have been in many pieces of badly drafted legislation which this House has been forced to debate, usually at times not satisfactory for a serious consideration of the details of the Bills. As I said, we have had at least 4 months to examine this legislation. I regret to say that at no stage during that time did the Government give the Opposition the opportunity to make criticisms which I think are genuine despite the fact that the text as a whole will have the support of the Opposition. We must remember, however, that the Australian Council for the Arts, which has been the interim organisation which has acted on behalf of the Australia Council more or less for the last 2 years, did not start from scratch. It inherited obligations and functions carried out by a number of advisory boards established by previous Liberal and Country Party Governments. I refer, for example, to the Commonwealth Literary Fund, the Commonwealth Art Advisory Board, the former Council for the Arts, the Film and Television Schools, the Commonwealth Assistance to Australian Composers Fund and various other organisations and funds which have operated in the arts scene but which have not, until now, been coherently planned or co-ordinated in any effective way.
It is our sincere hope that the Australia Council, through its various organisations, will be able to co-ordinate these very important bodies to ensure that every Australian with talent and every Australian with the desire to participate in the cultural heritage of his nation will be given a chance to do so. I think it is only fair to say that whichever party had won the election in 1972 he would be debating a very similar piece of legislation. As I said, I think this is a sign that our nation has indeed come of age. We have passed the stage of the pioneers. We have reached the stage where we can appreciate the benefits of our civilisation. I hope that the people of Australia will be given a real opportunity to develop their culture, their talents, their intellect and their desires to find in humanity and in life a broad experience which can be given only through the arts.
There are a number of areas, however, which we must examine with considerable criticism, not in a sense of criticism of the legislation as such but on the basis that we must be aware of the problems which could arise in the future. I regret to say that at various times in the last few months various sections of the community have taken serious exception to the fact that the budget of the Australian Council for the Arts, as it then was, increased from $ 1 4m in 1 973-74 to $20m in 1974-75. 1 think that people have to appreciate that culture costs money. It is one of those things that we cannot really have on the cheap and expect to have at the end of it something that is worth the effort involved. At the same time the administrators of these funds must be very sure in accounting to this Parliament that the funds they have expended have in fact been spent in areas of the arts and not wasted on administration. Statements such as that are difficult to apply and very easy to make. If the officers of the Australia Council approach expenditure with the specific intention in mind of getting from every dollar the maximum they can, I am sure that we will be able to achieve this most important end.
It is our responsibility as the guardians of the people and it is the responsibility of this Parliament as the ultimate jury of the nation to ensure that the funds spent from the taxes paid give to every Australian a measure of return for his investment. Much has been said tonight about the difficulties of relating the arts specifically in terms of elite. We cannot ignore the fact that some people are born with talents; others are not. If the man who is born with talent is to be regarded as a member of an elite- I hope this is not the case but some people would see it in that light- it is still the responsibility of the Council to ensure that those people who show a desire to expand their knowledge and to advance themselves are given the opportunities to do so. At the same time- perhaps this is even more important -it is the responsibility of the Council to ensure that the other people, the consumers of art, who after all are the vast majority of the population, are able to appreciate the art in an environment and at a cost which is to the best advantage of the majority of the people.
We all know that Australia is a large nation with 90 per cent of its population essentially based on the major capital cities and we know that the people in the middle of this territory will find it very difficult to get their fair share of the arts. These are real problems and real challenges and I am sure that the Council will be able to take them on board, because it must do so. If it is our intention to give every Australian a fair share of his heritage and the advantages open to him, of course the boy from Bourke must ultimately be given at least the opportunity of showing whether he has talent and if he has any, of being able to develop it. It is for this reason that I am pleased that the Australian Council for the Arts up till now has emphasised the need to take culture, drama groups and so forth, out of the cities into the suburbs and elsewhere in Australia. I regard this as being a fundamental aspect of the operation of the Council and as one which must be given high priority.
There is a real problem, especially in Sydney. As an example, consider the Opera House. The fact is that approximately 80 per cent of the people who visit the Opera House come from 2 areas of Sydney- the north shore and the eastern suburbs. I do not think this is satisfactory and I am sure no other honourable member of this House would either. But the fact remains that there is a difficulty when we get to the point where culture is priced out of the market. A very limited section of the Australian community can afford to spend $18, $20 or even $25 for a man and his wife to go to the theatre. If this problem can be overcome in the foreseeable future I am sure we Will all gain from it, but regrettably I do not think it wil be. The trend in the last few years in fact has been that private entrepreneurs in the field of culture have tended to go to the wall. Apart from J. C. Williamson and a small group of others, today in Australia there are very few major entrepreneurial groups in existence.
To bring to Australia Joan Sutherland, for example, with associated expenses, costs anything up to $ 1m. Very few people can afford this sort of expense. Therefore the tendency will be, whether we like it or not, that it will be left to the Council to have to develop in this field. However, the danger which this W111 bring is the possibility that the Government is to be given, through the Council and through authorities such as this, the ultimate decision on what culture people are to be allowed to see and absorb. I am sure honourable members W111 appreciate that in the long term this is a danger which must be faced. Whether we are to price ourselves out of existence in the field of arts remains to be seen. But every attempt must be made to ensure that this is not the case.
I turn now to the BUI to make a series of observations on its specific text. Many speakers tonight have referred in particular to Part IV which relates to the composition of boards. Clause 22 (3) states:
A majority of the members of a Board for the time being shall be persons who practise the arts or are otherwise associated with the arts.
The Opposition is of the view that the term associated with’ is far too narrow and should emphasise above all else the concept of working in the arts. What we are trying to get at is this: It is not sufficient merely to create boards and commissions and so forth made up of actual practitioners; we must also make sure that we have on them the people who will be the purchasers of the arts and above aU those who have had administrative experience in the arts.
– That is the point I made.
-I draw a distinction between my view and that of the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Sherry). He implied, whether he meant it or not, that artists and actors lacked the capacity to administer. I am sure he knows, as I do, that there are many artists and actors in our community who would take great offence at such a view. There are many others who are not in gaol and who have been bailed up as bankrupts who,- 1 am sure, are capable of running their own affairs and I am sure they are capable of running a Council and boards of this nature. It is for that reason that we of the Opposition have suggested that, instead of having a ministerial directive to decide who is going to be the chairman and vice-chairman and so forth of these committees, the committees ultimately should be given the responsibility of deciding their own office holders.
Good heavens, we are dealing with mature people, even if they are artists, if I might say that to the honourable member for Franklin. Therefore I think they have a right, a very basic right, to decide whom they want as their chairmen. Those of us who have served in various capacities and organisations would appreciate, I am sure, that if you start off with a premise that you are not capable, or not considered capable, of deciding who is going to be your chairman, then the attitude you are going to adopt to the operation of the committee or commission will be, to say the least, less than satisfactory. I would like to see the Government accept that point of view. If it is not going to include it in the text of this Bill at least it should advise the Australian Council that it is not going to take a hard line on this question and that in fact committees will be given the choice of whom they want to elect as chairmen and let them get on with the job.
There also is a close relationship between this question and the degree of independence which these committees must be given under their democratically elected chairmen because, as with any large organisation of this nature, we are running a real risk of the octopus syndrome- the heart hes in the middle, the tentacles go out in all directions to the various areas of the arts, but ultimately they are all directed back towards the centre and the administrative section of the centre grows and grows in accordance with the best Parkinsonian principles. Ultimately the very people who are supposed to be gaining from this august body -
– Are gobbled up.
-Are gobbled up. I thank the honourable member for Angas. This is a danger and it has to be faced, as have others, but I think that if the Government is going to put responsible people on these boards they must be given not necessarily the ultimate decision but certainly a very wide range of freedom of movement because it is the people on the ground, the consumers, the artists, who really know ultimately where their problems he. If the Australia Council is to be established with the specific intention of upgrading Australian art and giving the Australian people a better deal and a wider choice of opportunities it is essential that it be above all else down to earth.
– I wish to address myself briefly to the Australia Council Bill. The honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Connolly) made some comment about the delay in this Bill coming before the House for debate. I think that in fairness he would admit that the delay in bringing the Bill forward for debate has not interfered with the function of the interim Australian Council for the Arts. In fact we have received reports from the interim Council and so many of the functions have been going on that the criticism could scarcely be made that this delay would reduce the effectiveness of what will be the Australia Council. I think in many ways the delay has been something of an advantage because we have been journeying into what is rather a new field of endeavour in a rather volatile group. It is volatile because of the very nature of its activities. The delay has given us the opportunity to hear their opinions, their fears, and their hopes as to what might eventuate. For those of us on the Government side who are concerned with legislation dealing with the arts it has been a very fascinating period because of the submissions that have been made to us. I think that even the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Sherry), with his wide experience in this field, has appreciated the opportunity to discuss so many of the matters that have been brought forward. I do not accept the fact that there has been a delay in the passage of this legislation as ground for criticism. I think that it has been an advantage in the case of the Australia Council Bill.
I think that it is very easy to accept that the functions of the Council are to promote excellence, and so on. There are 9 functions of the Council listed in the Bill. I would like to mention three of them that might be overlooked by many of those who are interested more in their application to the arts. The third function postulated in the Bill is the promotion of the appreciation, understanding and enjoyment of the arts. That is a very wide statement of principle. What do we do in that area? Are we going to wait for established artists to go forth and sell their talents in whatever field they are interested, whether it be ballet, theatre or painting, or are we going to use them to get down to those people in their formative years in not only the practising of the arts but also the appreciation of the arts? I believe that this is something that we have been missing in Australia for a long time.
Those honourable members who have spoken on the Bill have agreed that we are entering into a new era with the establishment of the Australia Council. It will be a new era. The Council is going to have very important effects on the practicing of the arts. I think that it is unfortunate that in accepting that we are entering into a new era we may forget that much has been done in the field of arts in Australia in the past and may forget those excellent practitioners who have laid the foundations so that we now have an established community, irrespective of whether the members of it have had to go overseas to get further experience. That community is proud to say that it is representative of various fields of Australian art. So I trust that we will look very thoroughly at how the Australia Council carries out its function of promoting the appreciation, understanding and enjoyment of the arts.
The Council is also required to promote the general application of the arts in the community. I think that it has shown some facility for doing that. In fact, one of the actions in this respect got me into a little bit of trouble in my own area. My own city has been very active in this field, having had a symphony orchestra, a brass band, performing arts groups and play groups established for many years. One thing in which it is lacking is sculpture. So it was announced that an award would be made for a piece of sculpture to be placed outside the library in our community centre. In the announcement it was said that Preston was a culturally deprived area. That was meant in the sense of sculpture. It is very rich in other areas of the performing arts. If we are to promote this application of the arts we must handle it with some care because in that case a modern piece of sculpture was introduced into a community in which the majority of the people are not accustomed to modern sculpture and it was done without proper preparation. I am afraid that I have heard it expressed that the attempt to promote the art form in this way is wasted. So that is another area in which we will have to take care.
I direct the attention of honourable members also to the fact that the Council is required to encourage the support of the arts by the States, local governing bodies and other organisations and persons. Let that not be forgotten. Do not let us see a situation arise in which the Australia Council is expected to be the sole stimulating body in the encouragement of support for the arts. The other bodies must carry out their appropriate functions.
The main criticism of the functioning of the body has been that elitism might arise. I think a lot of members have received from interested groups submissions on this matter. I have some sympathy with this argument. I think that ‘elitism’ is probably the wrong word. When one is not of the establishment it is easy to criticise the establishment. When one is of the establishment it is easy to ignore those who are outside it. The success of the Australia Council will be determined by how its boards function and how the Council functions in bringing in those practitioners of the arts who have to be encouraged and who have to prove themselves. I do not think that raising the criticism of elitism is a very bad thing. It makes us conscious of what we are looking for.
The honourable member for Parramatta (Mr Ruddock) spoke of promotion of community arts. I think he illustrated the problem that one faces at the outset with a body such as this in giving encouragment. He compared the expenditure that went to the established art forms with the small amounts which local groups received. This is only because the Council is in its initial phases. I commend the form of the Council and its boards which will allow that anomaly to be corrected in future and which will allow local groups to receive encouragement and due recognition.
I think one other factor of which honourable members should take note is that the functioning of this Council will be well under the scrutiny of the Parliament. The Council is required to report annually to the Minister as soon as practicable after the end of each financial year, reporting on the operations of the Councils, revealing the financial statement. Following presentation to the Minister, the report shall be laid before each House of the Parliament within 1 5 sitting days of that House after having been received by the Minister. This is always a safeguard in that what has been carried out by a statutory body such as this is capable of examination and interpretation as to effectiveness and the expenditure involved. I am pleased that all honourable members approve, despite some minor criticisms, the principles of the Australia Council BUI and wish it well. I hope that much of the accent of its work will be in educating the community to enjoy the arts and to recognise talent in these fields.
-I wish to congratulate the Government on finally bringing forward for debate in this House the Australia Council BUI. I wish to congratulate the Government for setting up an Australia Council. I am aware of the difficulties which have been encountered in endeavouring to set up this body. I can understand the cause for concern in the Government about many matters associated with formulating a major new policy for the arts in this country. There is no doubt in my mind that one of the things which helped the present Government to win the 1972 election was the massive support it received from practitioners in many fields of the arts who wanted new recognition by government in this country. We understand this fact. Perhaps it is a little late, but I believe we understand it now.
We cannot help noting that many of the high hopes which artists had in all fields of the arts have not been realised or have not been realised as quickly or in quite the way in which so many people expected they would be. Like the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Sherry), I regard this matter as part of the nature of the beast. I am sure that dealing with artists is very like dealing with politicians- prima donnas all. We ought to understand the feelings of hostility which developed in the arts communities about the attempt to set up new organisations to handle their affairs. I believe that the choice of a statutory corporation, while obvious in terms of overseas precedents in this area, has some dangers. I support the proposition that it ought to be a statutory corporation, but I question the idea that we should simply set up new statutory corporations every time anything a bit difficult comes along.
I believe that once it was thought that the way to give people encouragement and flexibility in the field was to set up a statutory corporation, so we have the Australian Broadcasting Commission and many different sorts of statutory corporations; but in these days when there is a need for re-emphasis upon the role of the elected representatives of the people at the various levels of government, there is a need for that area of government to be underlined. We need to stress the significance of the role of the people as expressed through elected bodies. If we set up a statutory corporation which will inevitably enjoy a very significant degree of autonomy, we need to be careful that we do not set up yet another body with an inherent tendency towards conservatism which can result in ideas which were fresh and bright at the outset rapidly becoming encrusted by the bureaucracy, which is so much a feature of organisations, in particular large organisations and organisations which are spending a great deal of money. There is a tendency on the part of those at the head of the organisation to assume an alarming amount of power. I think that we as members of Parliament need to look very carefully at the early years of operation of the Australia Council to see that we are having sufficient say not in our interests or in the interests of government but in the interests of the people and in particular people at the length and breadth of the Commonwealth.
I would agree with the objects of the Australia Council as set out in the Bill. I simply single out what seem to me to be the 2 major aspects of the Council. On one hand the emphasis is upon excellence and on the other hand the need for community participation and development in the arts. I do not believe that it is a question of emphasising one and not the other. Clearly art is elitist in many respects, but we would wish to bring the variety of experience of the arts to more and more Australians. I know that the Government and the Australia Council intend that and I know that many people have been anguished because they have not seen adequate results quickly enough. Therefore I come back to the point that this is part of the problem, part of the nature of the beast.
The Government has become the great patron of the arts. There are great dangers in that, as the honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins) noted. I fully support his remarks about the need to stimulate non-government and indeed the diverse government patronage and stimulation of the arts. I think that the Government could have avoided some of the problems which it encountered in setting up the Australian Council for the Arts, had it consulted more actively earlier in the piece. The Government would probably now recognise that some of its difficulties could have been avoided had it done that. I instance in particular the major question of the nature of the organisation which was to become the Australia Council. The Council for the Arts made a report to the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) which was expected to be the basis of the Australia Council Bill which we are deliberating upon tonight. It was led to believe that it would be consulted fully before the Bill was put into the form necessary to produce it in this House. But in fact the Council for the Arts was not consulted at the early stagethis is a good while ago now- when the Bill was drawn up and first presented to this House. I can understand the real concern which a number of art practitioners felt about the failure of the Government to consult over what I believe are quite crucial features of this Bill. I shall draw attention to some of these crucial features. I will endeavour to keep my remarks brief because I understand that the Darwin Reconstruction Commission Bill is to be considered shortly- I understand after the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) has spoken on this matter. I refer to the question of the term of office of members of the Australia Council. I advance the proposition that where as the paid officials of the Council are by nature to be permanent or reasonably permanent officers- there is a provision under clause 9 (2) (c) for departmental or statutory corporation officers to be permanent members of the Council- the artists in the field, as it were, the part-time artist members of the Council, are not in fact given permanent membership of the Council. Their term of office extends to a maximum of 4 years in any one term. In clause 10 there is an emphasis upon the term of office being set at between one and three years. I fail to see the reason why the artists should have their terms of office so truncated. I believe that they are the people who will ensure that community attitudes and the attitudes of the artists will constantly bear upon decision making in this field.
– The artists wanted it as short as that.
-Some did but others did not. There is a difference about this point.
– That is the nature of the Bill.
– Yes, of course. I simply say that they will face the problem that they no sooner will get into their stride than they will be thrown out of their stride- off the council- and the permanent officials can reign supreme in this sort of context. I am not casting aspersions on anyone in particular, but many artists are highly suspicious of the role of the permanent officials. The only way to do anything about it is to have a significant continuity in the representation of artists on the Council and the boards. I understand the argument that the term of office of artists on the Council boards should be limited to 5, 6, 7 or 8 years, but I do not understand the argument that the term should be basically limited to one to three years, with an absolute upper limit of 4 years.
The other point I make relates to the boards. The Australian Council for the Arts originally recommended to the Government that the powers of the boards, representing the highly diversified approach which is necessary in the arts policy, should be set out in the Bill for all to see. The Bill does not define the powers of the boards, and I believe that this is a failing in the Bill. This definition was certainly sought by the Australian Council for the Arts, but it has now found that the Government, as a fait accompli, failed to take into account the Council’s request to set out the powers of the boards. The Australian Council for the Arts made the following request:
Subject to the Act, the Boards to be responsible for the development and implementation of policies and initiatives within their respective fields, with authority over their budget allocations and with the right to establish their own pattern of professional staff, committees and consultations.
That is what the Australian Council for the Arts was looking for. What it was given by the Government is found in clause 21 of the Bill which states:
A Board shall have such functions and powers as are delegated to it under section 7.
There is no guarantee of autonomy for the boards at all. I hope that the Government will take this matter into consideration and act upon it in due course. I certainly believe that it ought to be looked at by a Liberal government. I have been asked to conclude my remarks so that my colleague the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) might have time to say something.
Finally, I point out that clause 22, sub-clause (3), states:
A majority of the members of a Board for the time being shall be persons who practice the arts or are otherwise associated with the arts.
Already we on this side of the House have drawn attention to this. But my point is that the Australian Council for the Arts originally asked the Government to ensure that the majority of Board members consist of artists and persons working in the arts, not people who were theatre ticket subscribers or something like that. I take it from the reaction of the honourable member for Franklin that he has understood these points. I will be interested in a response in due course.
– I will try to truncate my speech as much as possible. That will be difficult but I promised the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) that I would not exceed 12 minutes and that I would try to stick to 10 minutes. I start off by not repeating anything that has been said before. I acknowledge the speech of my 2 previous colleagues the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Connolly) and the honourable member for Chisholm (Mr Staley) in relation to this Australia Council Bill. It was my intention to try to study some of the underlying philosophy which I think is important when we try to produce a program of acquisition. Throughout my speech I shall be thinking more of the art form of painting than of music or the other sections which are applicable to the Australia Council.
I acknowledge the work of Dr Jean Battersby in relation to committees which several of us have chaired before. I point out how we value her advice as to how our Party should proceed in this matter. I do not think I am taking too much onto myself when I say that she was of great interest to those of us who worked with her over some years. I acknowledge her great work which is fulfilled tonight in the advent of this Bill. I personally accept the ramifications of it almost in their entirety. I think it is quite proper that members of Parliament, contrary to people in other fields, should allow artists in their varying forms to have a major say in the sorts of policies that are implemented and the way in which they expend Government funds which will be properly scrutinised before they are expended. In passing I acknowledge the example given by the honourable member for Bradfield in relation to the octopus. I hope that the head’ never gets too powerful and that the tentacles spread and develop further and further with greater help to the various artistic sections which those tentacles touch.
The major matter that perturbs me- I can see the quandary of the Government and of the future Australia Council- is the history of how people will identify with the art treasures of the nation in the future. I do not think it is wrong to say that historically Dickens’ ‘Pickwick Papers’ struck a chord in the minds and in the hearts of the people of his day. In the same way one could say that Sydney Nolan struck a chord through his ‘Ned Kelly’ series or other series with the people of today. One can look at Nellie Melba, Joan Hammond, George Wallace, Gladys Moncrieff and even ‘Mo’ and see how those people identify in their own art form with the people of their day. The problem that the Australia Council will face is clearly in its purchasing policy.
I’ return to my illustration of Dickens with whose writings the masses of his day identified. A heed was felt for writings of that type and that need has carried forward through history. Should the Australia Council try to make purchases with which Australians will identify? Does the Council seek to identify that need in its purchasing policy or does it, in exercising its purchasing power, take a risk and attempt to buy a world famous art form such as ‘Blue Poles’ or House Under Construction’ with neither of which the Australian people may ever identify? That is the quandary with which, on the one hand, those’ people in positions of power in this matter- I refer to those who have been called the elite’ in this field- will need to cope in due course.
The. other argument goes this way: For years Australia has closed its eyes to any comparison involving outside art expertise. In the field of painting at any rate we have built up artificial values. The work of many of our own artists has been overrated and the monetary return that they have received for their works, meagre though it has been, has been away above the value of those works by any international standard. The problem that immediately arises is, firstly how the people of this society will identify with art purchases and, secondly, the need not to close the gates to international comparisons, for without such comparisons excellence in the art field and related fields cannot improve within this nation.
I should like to propound further on that subject, but I had better not do so as there is another aspect of this question upon which I wish to touch. I lead up to it by saying how terribly disappointed I was about 2 events which occurred recently. The first one I will dismiss as an example of the most parochial and ridiculous thinking that one could wish to see in relation to these important matters. I refer to the artists, to use a generic term, who held a demonstration in Adelaide because the contract for work in connection with the murals for the Adelaide Festival of Arts was let to artists in New South Wales. I go no further than that. I quote that incident as an example of how terribly parochial people can become. The difficulty demonstrated by that example must be overcome in the same fashion as the limitations placed on comparisons of Australian art works by restricting those comparisons to the boundaries of this country must be ignored, if excellence in this field is to be developed.
What concerns me more is an article which appeared in the ‘Australan’ of 1 1 January 1974. Mr Mollison- and I hope he was misquotedpointed out that he had no intention of exhibiting House Under Construction’ throughout Australia because he did not wish it to become the subject of general ridicule, to concoct a phrase, in the manner that ‘Blue Poles’ had been in the course of its exhibition in this country. I was most disappointed to see this point of view. It causes me to ponder whether elitism in this sense- and that is the only way in which I wish to use any form of the word ‘elite’- has not gone a trifle overboard. My personal feelings are that Mr Mollison should realise that one of the most important reasons for purchasing ‘Blue Poles’- at any rate this was the reason given in this House by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) was so that we could use that painting as a catalyst. The mere contentions surrounding that painting was to provide a reason for people to want to go to see this, for want of a better word, curiosity. Any judgment based on the numbers of people who swarmed State art galleries to see Blue Poles’ would at least partially suppose that the purpose had proved to be justified and that this painting had acted as a catalyst and encouraged more people to visit art galleries, even if only to see ‘Blue Poles ‘.
Mr Mollison also launched more than a rugged attack on the Press which, he implied, was trying to play down the purpose for which many of us imagine ‘Blue Poles’ was bought. He felt that this matter would negate any such further purchases. I think that we should understand several points very clearly. The first is that this painting is not owned by Mr Mollison. It is owned by the people of Australia, and the people of Australia have a perfect right to see a painting- contentious or otherwise- that has been purchased on their behalf. I hope that he will retract the point of view that he put forward and will make quite certain that the people of
Australia are allowed to look at ‘House Under Construction’. By the way, I have not yet heard from the Special Minister of State (Mr Lionel Bowen) whether he brought it back with him on the aircraft from Russia. Perhaps he will have the chance to tell me about that when he replies.
The second point is that I hope Mr Mollison ‘s remarks were purely an over-response to the Press statements of the time. Let us face facts. The Press has a job to do and very frequently it reflects accurately thinking of society at large. I do not acknowledge that that means that the attitude of society at large is necessarily right but I think it is quite proper that this matter should be discussed very roundly and at different levels. I make my last point. What clearly emerges at this stage is that the Government has not yet set down a clear policy of acquisition with guidelines within which Mr Mollison or anybody else will be authorised in future to make purchases. Not only should the public have the right to view these paintings, but such an acquisition policy should also be available for the community to debate. Nobody knows what the guidelines are. Nobody in this country knows within what limits- price, quality or anything else- we operate, or even whether there is an acquisition policy. This is an important matter. If the Government sincerely believes in many of the remarks it made when it went to the people in 1972- such as ‘we are an open government’- it will not hesitate to bring forward a clear acquisition policy for the people of Australia to debate and decide whether it is correct.
– in replyThere are many matters to which I could reply but time is short. Let me deal with the last matter raised- the purchasing policy. I have been told by the departmental adviser that the purchasing POliCY to which the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) referred relates to the National Gallery and has nothing to do with the Australia Council BUI. Whilst his remarks were interesting they were really out of order in terms of this BUI. Another matter which was the subject of some comment was the so-called delay. The chronological table shows clearly that the second reading speech on the first occasion was made as far back as 21 March 1974, but because of events in another place there was a double dissolution and so that BUI was not able to proceed. Honourable members Will notice that it was reintroduced rather expeditiously, on 23 July 1974. The Budget debate followed. Honourable members know that it takes an enormous amount of time to deal with the Budget and the ancillary legislation. So there has been no real delay on the part of the Government.
Another matter which ought to be mentioned and which every speaker in this debate applauded is the fact that we have the chance to obtain excellence in art in Australia, the chance to achieve a better understanding by the community of the ability of Australian artists and, most importantly, particularly when looking at Australia internationally the chance to achieve a national identity for Australia. It is about time this happened. This Australia Council is the foundation for this work.
There has been criticism of the various sections of the Council and as to whether the boards to be established under the Council wil function effectively. Honourable members have asked whether the boards Will be surrounded by people who are not artists. I am indebted to my colleague the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Sherry) who has said that this was discussed effectively by the artists themselves. If people are good artists they are usually very busy. They cannot afford the time to be sitting as members of boards when they could be doing something more creative in their minds; that is, performing. From the sheer mercenary point of view, they are not likely to miss a television performance at a cost of $250 to take part in a board discussion. So let me make it clear that, while the legislation gives a quite valuable direction in this matter and says that the majority of the members of the boards shall be persons who practise the arts or who are associated with the arts, there has to be a better spread of representation rather than being merely restrictive.
I think I should say this in dealing with some of the more detailed criticism: It was mentioned that there was a preliminary report and that the BUI virtually encompasses that report. It has been the subject of a fair amount of public debate. Perhaps one could say that while the structure of the BUI is not altogether perfect it is the best starting point that we can get. No council is made any better by the mere words contained in a BUI. This has to be done by the people on the Council or on the boards. They Will make or break the progress to be made. I have no doubt that every consideration wil be given to appointing the best, people, the most representative people. The idea has been advanced that in the structure itself there is some limitation. This is not the suggestion.
I have dealt with clause 9. There was a suggestion in regard to clause 10. The rninimum period of membership mentioned in the Bill was incorporated in the Bill so that advantage could be taken of a potential member whose commitments would not allow him to serve a 3-year term. For example, a prominent artist may visit Australia for a limited period or a member with outside commitments may not be able to undertake a full term. It is intended that the normal appointment will be for 3 years. But it would be a pity to exclude the possibility of appointing people for a shorter term than that if they have some special expertise or something special to contribute. Surely nobody could disagree with that. That is the whole idea of that clause.
The idea of this Bill is to guarantee a coordination across Australia and not to have parochialism from regions or from States. It is an Australian Bill. It stands up for what Australian artists can do. It is the forerunner of great things to come. It is a tribute to the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) to think that he has been so anxious to get if off the ground. It was his policy speeches that emphasised this matter. This Bill represents the practical implementation of that promise to the people. I am pleased to think that honourable members are not opposing it. Their criticisms are noted, but I think they have been looked after effectively in the terms of the Bill. Accordingly, we are very anxious to proceed with the formalities in order to process the Bill through the House.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Lionel Bowen) read a third time.
– I ask leave of the House to move: ‘That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Minister for the Northern Territory moving an amendment to clause 6 1 of the Darwin Reconstruction Bill 1975 during the consideration in Committee of the Whole of the amendments made by the Senate in the Bill.
– If I might ask for your indulgence, Mr Deputy Speaker, I do not quite follow the procedure the Minister seeks to pursue. The normal practice is that the amendments from the other place are tabled and, as I understand it, the
Bill is then dealt with in its entirety and such further amendments or modifications to the recommendations from the Senate as may be sought by the Government are then moved in the course of debate. I wonder whether the Minister could explain why he is moving in a somewhat unusual procedural fashion. I would be quite happy to give him leave to move, but the normal procedure is that the Minister presents the Bill and then the amendments.
-As I understand the situation, an amendment is proposed to clause 61 of the Darwin Reconstruction Bill. This must be considered as it relates to new matter that was not discussed in the Senate during its consideration of the Bill. This procedure is necessary in respect of clause 6 1 .
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
Suspension of Standing Orders
Motion (by Dr Patterson) agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Minister for the Northern Territory moving an amendment to clause61 of the Darwin Reconstruction Bill 1975 during consideration in Committee of the Whole of amendments made by the Senate in the Bill.
Consideration of Senate’s amendments.
The Commission shall comply with any directions given to it by the Minister with respect to the performance of its functions or the exercise of its powers.
Penalty: $ 1 , 000 or imprisonment for 3 months, or both.
The General Manager may resign his office by writing signed by him and delivered to the Governor-General.
Senate’s amendment No. 1-
In clause 3, sub-clause (1), leave out “60”, insert”40”.
Senate ‘s amendment No. 2-
After clause 6, insert the following new clause: “6a. ( 1 ) Where a person suffers loss or damage as a result of a decision or determination of the Commission or of the Minister or of a person acting under the authority of the Commission or of the Minister affecting land or the use of land or the performance of any contract entered into before the commencement of this Act such person may apply to the Court for an award of compensation.
Upon any such application the Court may assess and award compensation for any loss or damage suffered by a person as a result of any such decision or determination and shall determine by whom any compensation so awarded shall be paid.
‘The Court ‘ means the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory.”.
Senate’s amendment No. 3-
After clause 7, insert the following new clause: “7a. ( 1 ) The Commission may, from time to time, prepare proposals with respect to general planning and development schemes in relation to development and construction in the Darwin Area and shall cause those proposals to be made available for inspection by the public at all reasonable times in the Darwin Area, and in such other places as the Commission determines, for a period of one month.
At any time during the period during which any proposals are made available for public inspection under subsection ( 1 ), a person who has an interest in land in the Darwin Area that is affected by those proposals may object to the proposals.
An objection under sub-section (2) shall be in writing, shall set out the reasons for the objection and shall be delivered or sent by post to the Commission.
Where an objection is made under sub-section (2), the Commission may, by notice in writing sent to the person making the objection afford that person an opportunity to make submissions to the Commission, either orally or in writing, in connexion with the objection, within such period as is specified by the Commission.
After the expiration of the period within which a person may make submissions under sub-section (4) in connexion with an objection, the Commission may alter the proposals that are the subject of the objection in such manner as it thinks fit, and may recommend to the Minister that those proposals, or those proposals as so altered, be adopted. ‘ ‘.
Senate ‘s amendment No. 4-
In clause 8, sub-clause (I), leave out “recommendations of the Commission”, insert “any recommendations of the Commission under section 7a”.
Senate’s amendment No. 5-
In clause 9, leave out the clause, insert the following clause: “9(1) The Commission shall keep the Minister informed of the decisions of the Commission with respect to matters of policy in relation to the performance of its functions.
In the event of a difference of opinion between the Minister and the Commission as to the policy which should be followed by the Commission in relation to any matter, the Minister and the Commission shall endeavour to reach agreement
If the Minister and the Commission are unable to reach agreement, the Governor-General may, by order, determine the policy to be adopted by the Commission in relation to the matter.
The Commission shall thereupon give effect to the policy determined by the order and shall, if the order so requires, continue to give effect to that policy while the order remains in operation. “.
Senate’s amendment No. 6-
In clause 13, sub-clause ( 1 ), leave out “Territory”, insert “Darwin Area”.
Senate’s amendment No. 7-
In clause 16, sub-clause ( 1 ), leave out “by oral direction”, insert “by direction in writing specifying the reasons therefor”.
Senate’s amendment No. 8-
In clause 16, sub-clause (1), leave out ‘in the opinion of the Commission or of the authorized person, as the case may be,’.
Senate’s amendment No. 9-
In clause 1 8, sub-clause ( 1 ), paragraph (c), leave out ‘ the General Manger’, insert ‘ 1 member nominated by the Darwin Citizens ‘ Council ‘.
Senate’s amendment No. 10-
In clause 18, sub-clause (2), leave out ‘other than the member referred to in paragraph ( 1 ) (c) ‘.
Senate ‘s amendment No. 1 1 -
In clause 18, sub-clause (3), leave out ‘, the General Manager or an Acting General Manager, ‘.
Senate ‘s amendment No. 1 2-
In clause 1 8, sub-clause ( 3 ), leave out ‘2 ‘, insert ‘ 3 ‘.
Senate ‘s amendment No. 1 3^
In clause 19, sub-clause (1), after ‘(b)’, insert ‘(c),’.
Senate ‘s amendment No. 1 4-
In clause 22, sub-clause (3), leave out the sub-clause.
Senate’s amendment No. 15-
In clause 24, sub-clause ( 1 ), after ‘(b),’, insert ‘(c),’.
Senate’s amendment No. 16-
In clause 24, sub-clause (2), after (b),’ insert ‘(c),’
Senate ‘s amendment No. 17-
In clause 27, after sub-clause (3), insert the following new sub-clause: (3a) Meeting shall be called by reasonable notice to all members of the Commission. ‘.
Senate’s amendment No. 18-
In clause 28, sub-clause (1), leave out ‘GovernorGeneral ‘.insert ‘Commission’.
Senate’s amendment No. 19-
In clause 28, sub-clause (2), leave out ‘shall be the executive member of the Commission and ‘.
Senate ‘s amendment No. 20-
In clause 28, sub-clause (3), leave out ‘GovernorGeneral’, insert ‘Commission’.
Senate ‘s amendment No. 2 1 -
In clause 30, sub-clause (1), leave out ‘is prescribed’, insert ‘ determined by the Commission ‘.
Senate’s amendment No. 22-
In clause 30, sub-clause (2), leave out ‘are prescribed’, insert ‘ determined by the Commission ‘.
Senate’s amendment No. 23-
In clause 3 1 , leave out the clause.
Senate’s amendment No. 24-
In clause 32, leave out ‘Governor-General’, insert ‘Commission’.
Senate’s amendment No. 25-
In clause 33, sub-clause (1), leave out ‘Minister’, insert Commission’.
Senate’s amendment No. 26-
In clause 33, sub-clause (2), leave out ‘Minister’, insert Commission’.
Senate ‘s amendment No. 27-
In clause 33, sub-clause (3), leave out ‘Minister’, insert Commission’.
Senate’s amendment No. 28-
In clause 33, sub-clause (4), leave out ‘Minister’, insert Commission’.
Senate’s amendment No. 29-
In clause 34, sub-clause (1), leave out ‘GovernorGeneral ‘, insert’ Commission ‘.
Senate’s amendment No. 30-
In clause 34, sub-clause (2), paragraph (a), leave out Minister ‘, insert ‘ Commission ‘.
Senate’s amendment No. 31-
In clause 34, sub-clause (2), paragraph (b), leave out Minister’, insert ‘Commission’.
Senate’s amendment No. 32-
In clause 34, sub-clause (2), paragraph (c), leave out the paragraph.
Senate’s amendment No. 33-
In clause 34, sub-clause (2), leave out ‘GovernorGeneral ‘, insert ‘ Commission ‘.
Senate’s amendment No. 34-
In clause 44, sub-clause (2), paragraph (a), after ‘to do so, ‘ insert ‘ or at the request of the Commission, ‘.
– I’ indicate to the Committee that the Government proposes that Senate amendments Nos 1, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 11, 12, 17 and 34 be agreed to; that amendments Nos 2, 9, 13, 15 and 16 be disagreed to and that amendments be made in place thereof; and that the remaining amendments be disagreed to. In addition, the Government proposes to move an amendment to clause 6 1 as a consequence of the House agreeing to suspend so much of the Standing Orders as would prevent my moving an amendment to that clause during consideration of the Senate’s amendments. May I suggest therefore that it may suit the convenience of the Committee to firstly consider together amendments 1, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 1 1, 12, 17 and 34, and then the remaining amendments in the following order 2, 5, 9, 10 and 14; 13, 15 and 16; 18 to 33, followed by the proposed new amendment to clause 61.
-Is this procedure agreed to?
– The procedure is agreed to subject to one reservation, that is, that it is 10 o ‘clock on a Thursday night. The Opposition agrees with the urgency of the Bdi but we regret that it is only now that these amendments have been handed to the Opposition. This obviously is a complex series of amendments and the Government is acting in such a way as to ensure that there is not only inadequate opportunity for debate but also inadequate opportunity for consideration of these measures. This is a Bill which is of extraordinary importance to the people of Darwin, and this Government and this Minister are treating the Parliament with complete contempt in introducing it in this way.
– The procedure is agreed to.
– I move:
That Senate amendments Nos. 1, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 11, 12, 17 and 34 be agreed to.
These amendments were agreed to, principally on the initiative of the Opposition in the Senate. I point out to the Deputy Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Sinclair) that I will stay here all night to get this Bill through. He said that the amendments were complex but if he had read the Bill in the first place and had been following the Senate proceedings he would have had all the subject matter at his disposal. The amendments that the Government Will move are very simple and can be readily understood by him if he understands the BUI.
– Do we get a copy of them?
-The amendments have been distributed. They were passed by the Senate. Does the honourable member not know anything about the proceedings of the Senate? I do not intend to debate the amendments which are the subject of my motion for they have been debated at length in the Senate and most of the matters were referred to in my second reading speech. All these amendments were passed by the Senate. I do not intend to take up any more time. The Government accepts the amendments.
– The Opposition welcomes the Government’s attitude in agreeing with amendments 1, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 1 1, 12, 17 and 34. 1 know that the Government agrees to some of the amendments made by the Senate but I, who did follow the Bill through the Senate in the time that I could spare from this chamber, still find it disconcerting, to say the least, to be presented at this time of night with a list of amendments which are either agreed to or disagreed to. We are trying to get this BUI passed for the people of Darwin but the
Opposition does not appreciate this approach to it. I would like to say on behalf of the people of Darwin that they feel for the victims of cyclone Trixie which has gone down the west coast. This is a chance to get some message to them. The Government’s manner in dealing with this Bill is typical of its attitude towards the people of the Northern Territory. The Government has in other instances -
– Is this an open debate now or are we dealing with the clauses?
-We are dealing with amendments.
– The Opposition agrees to those amendments I have mentioned.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
That Senate Amendment No. 2 be disagreed to, but that, in place thereof, the following amendments be made:
Clause 6 1 , omit paragraph (d ).
Clause 61, after sub-clause 1, insert the following subclause: ( 1A) Without limiting the generality of sub-section ( 1 ), provision shall be made by the regulations for and in relation to the payment of compensation by the Commission or by Australia in respect of matters to which this Act or the regulations relate. ‘
The amendment passed by the Senate is not acceptable to the Government. It is a very wide provision under which any decision or determination by the Commission or Minister or person acting with their authority may give rise to a claim for compensation for loss or damage when such decision or determination affects land, the use of land or the performance of any contract. As do honourable members opposite, the Government accepts the principle that compensation should be paid in appropriate cases where persons suffer damage by reason of the operation of the BUI. This is now acknowledged in clause 6 1(1 A), which is put forward in substitution for the amendment. It is not possible to foresee at this stage the nature and extent of what may be needed by way of compensation. However, the Government accepts that provision should be made for it by regulation, and that it should be mandatory that provision should be made for it by regulation.
The Opposition’s amendment which was passed in the Senate attempts to insert a very wide provision into the BUI which has no apparent limitation and the detail of which has not been clarified. The Government has indicated a sympathetic approach to the Darwin situation. It wil have to identify situations in regard to claims arising out of determinations which affect land and land use and which may give rise to a claim. As honourable gentlemen opposite will know, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh), who represents me in the Senate, has indicated that the Attorney-General’s Department has been asked for advice on some aspects of this matter and has indicated that the Government will examine it. He later stated that the Government accepts the principle of compensation but would need to look at how the subject could be best dealt with in the Bill. It is important that deserving cases could be helped and others prevented from making unjustified profits as has been the case in Darwin in many instances in the past. This has been dealt with in clause 6 1(1 A) which has been put forward as a substitution. We believe that it would be acceptable to the Opposition because it achieves the same thing. It indicates clearly that the Government accepts the principle and that the provisions put an obligation on the Government to make regulations in regard to compensation.
As the eligibility for such claims for compensation has to be established and as the Opposition has not indicated who should pay the compensation, it is obvious that these and many other matters will have to clarified before the regulations proposed are made. There is also under consideration by the Government, as mentioned in the Senate, a proposal by the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation (Senator Wheeldon) to cover those who suffered a loss as a result of the cyclone. These issues may well be related and need to be examined.
The explanation which I have just given sets out the reasons for the rejection. I hope that the Opposition will accept the substitute clause. We believe that it tidies up the legislation, lt accepts the principle of compensation and amends the relevant provisions accordingly.
– The Opposition really does not agree with the motion, but because of the urgency for this legislation we will go along with it. The Government’s amendment would take the matter of compensation out of the hands of the courts. It virtually takes it from the people and puts it under regulation by the Government. This is typical of the whole tenor of the Bill. The Government is seeking, through the Minister for the Northern Territory (Dr Patterson), to control almost every aspect of the reconstruction of Darwin. We believe that these matters should be governed by judicial procedure rather than by regulation. But, as I say, under the circumstances we will have to agree to it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
This matter has been well canvassed in the Senate. It was the subject of a lot of debate in the Senate. I would assume that honourable members opposite would have read the debate in the Senate Hansard and would have seen that the amendment was fully debated. The amendment substitutes for the ministerial power of direction over the Commission- formerly clause 9 of the Bill- an archaic device taken from the National Capital Development Commission Act 1957 whereby disputes between the Commission and the Minister may be determined by order of the Governor-General. The reconstruction of Darwin is a task of enormous magnitude involving tremendous Government expenditure and responsibility. It is only consistent that the Government, through the Minister, has the right to intervene, if necessary, in the exercise of the grave responsibilities vested in the Commission. The amendment is not acceptable to the Government and it is the wish of the Government that clause 9 of the original Bill be restored.
Mr Chairman, before the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) replies, I would say to him that I assume that he has read the extensive debate on this clause that took place in the Senate. I do not know how many senators spoke for or against the amendment, but it was well canvassed in the Senate.
-This is a vital clause in the Bill and it seeks to give to the Minister absolute power over the Commission. The people of Darwin who assisted us with these amendments which were put to the Senate and discussed thoroughly as the Minister for the Northern Territory (Dr Patterson) has said, feel very strongly about this matter. They have already experienced the very heavy hand of this Government and the lack of sympathy towards them and their affairs. The Minister has said that this amendment is based on an archaic device which ws taken from the National Capital Development Commission Act. Yes, that might be so- it might be 18 years oldbut the Minister seeks to inroduce a matter which in my opinion could be 50 years old in that he will have absolute control. We cannot do any more than agree to this motion but I can tell the Minister and the Government here and now that the people of Darwin will not think much of this sort of treatment. Under pressure, we agree to the motion.
– I think it is important for someone on this side of the House to place on record our objections to the way that this matter is being bulldozed through the Committee tonight.
– Did you not read the Senate Hansard?
– We received this amendment 15 minutes ago.
– It is the same amendment.
– It is not. You are cancelling -
-The Minister brought this into the House -
-Order! The honourable member will speak to the clause.
– That is precisely what I am speaking to.
– And other honourable members will not talk at all.
-The Bill was brought into the House last week and we were told that we had to make a decision the next day.
– What has that got to do with the clause?
– It has a great deal to do with the clause because the whole Bill was bulldozed through the House. The Minister for the Northera Territory (Dr Patterson), who is at the table, was at the table on that night and I was on this side of the table. Then the Bill went to the Senate and the Senate considered it yesterday. What chance is there for us in this Parliament to consider all these amendments?
– We are just disagreeing with it. It is being debated.
– We want to get the legislation passed in such a way that it is workable and fair to the people of the Northern Territory. I think we just have not had a fair go tonight and last week when Bill was brought into the House. I think it is intolerable that the Minister can bring into the Committee this number of amendments. How many amendments are there- ten or fifteen?
– They are the amendments that were debated in the Senate. What is wrong with you?
– The Government does not agree with some of the amendments, including the clause which gives to the Minister for the Northern Territory, who is discussng this matter with the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren), who has an interest in the matter also, total and absolute power. The Minister for Urban and Regional Development frowns in disagreement.
– He has never been to the Northern Territory anyhow.
– It so happens that I have been to the Northern Territory and it is my intention to go there again shortly to have a look at the housing situation, which I think needs some close examination. However, I do not want to be distracted. We want to get the Bill through but we want it through on a basis that is fair to the people of the Northern Territory.
– Why do you not sit down?
– I will not sit down because I think it is proper for us on this side of the chamber to make a protest. It occurs to me that the Minister who interjected, as well as those sitting at the table- the Minister for the Northern Territory and the Minister for Urban and Regional Development- have no interest in the people of the Northern Territory simply because those people elected a government of a different colour. If honourable members want to introduce the question of colour that is the extent to which I would go.
- Mr Chairman, I raise a point of order. The honourable member has accused the Government of holding up this legislation for political reasons. We desire to put this Bill through with the minimum of delay. The Liberal-Country Party with a majority in the Senate has held it up only for political reasons.
-I suggest to the Minister that that is not a point of order.
– The Minister is an old friend of mine and I know he does not mean half of what he says. The point is that we are not happy with clause 9 which baldly says that the Commission shall comply with any directions given to it by the Minister in respect of the performance of its functions and so on. If that does not invest in the Minister total and absolute power I would like to know what does. What we on the Opposition side want to see is that the amendment we moved in the other place is carried. We believe that in the other place some degree of common sense, compromise or agreement was exercised. I do not want to take up the time of the chamber by reading our amendment. Except those sitting behind the Minister who probably have not even read the Bill or the amendments, we all know what the amendment is. I do not want to delay the passage of the Bill but I wish to place on record our strongest protest at the way we believe the Government is steamrolling this legislation through this place.
– I .rise to oppose this amendment which was put forward and carried by the Opposition in the Senate. I want to give the details. A similar provision was contained in the National Capital Development Commission Act 1957. The NCDC is under my administration. Since this Government came to power it has set up several development authorities. It is strange that the Opposition did not protest when we introduced this provision into the Albury-Wodonga Development Corporation Bill. Opposition speakers have used terms such as ‘absolute power’ and ‘total power’. It is just utter nonsense for honourable members to use such cliches. They do not really understand what we have evolved. We are drawing on the experience of people of the same political vintage as the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder), who is sitting at the table, or the Liberal member from South Australia.
– The honourable member for Boothby.
– He is such an insignificant member that one does not know what electorate he represents. My Government has included in other legislation ministerial power to give directions appropriate to the development of growth centres and cities. The New South Wales Government, the Victorian Government and the Austraiian Government agreed, as is set out in paragraph 5(16) of the Albury-Wodonga Area Development Agreement that the Minister or Ministers should have the power of direction. That paragraph states:
The Ministerial Council may give directions to the Development Corporation concerning the performance of its functions, the exercise of its powers and its procedure, and the Development Corporation shall comply with those directions.
May I remind honourable members that the representatives on the Ministerial Council of the Albury-Wodonga Development Corporation include the Federal Minister for Urban and Regional Development. I was the Austraiian Government representative. The first New South Wales representative was the Country Party Minister, Sir John Fuller. He has now been replaced by Mr Jim Bruxner. The Victorian representative is Mr Murray Byrne, who is a Liberal Party member. It will be seen that there is representation through Ministers from the major political parties in Australia. They give direction to the Albury-Wodonga Corporation. In this legislation we have included the same powers as those given to the Ministers in respect of the Albury-Wodonga Corporation. Yet members opposite wish to turn back the clock to the autocratic days of the undemocratic procedures.
Honourable members opposite seek to give powers to a corporation that is not elected by the people. The Minister of the day is elected by the people and is answerable to the people. If the Opposition gives extended powers to the Darwin Reconstruction Commission, which is not an elected body, it is being anti-democratic. Of course, that is nothing new. The Opposition has always been autocratic. It is for that reason that I say to honourable members opposite that they should agree to the proposal and that they should not start frustrating the procedures of this House. There are other authorities which the Opposition set up while it was in government and which use the same principle. For instance, the Opposition when in government used a similar clause in the Australian Institute of Marine Science legislation in 1972. Honourable gentlemen opposite gave that statutory authority the same powers as we wish to give to the Commission. There are other authorities which were set up by the Opposition while its members were in government, such as those created by the Broadcasting and Television Act 1956 and the Atomic Energy Act 1953. Do honourable members opposite say that those non-elected bodies should not have some ministerial direction? All we are asking the Parliament to do is to give authority to the elected representative of the people of Australia. That representative in this case is the Minister for the Northern Territory. He is answerable to the Parliament and should have the right to be able to direct the statutory authority in conformity with Government policy.
– I intercede very briefly to say first of all that this particular clause, in respect of which we have just had advocacy from that great champion of democracy, is the one that gives complete autocratic authority to a man who is elected by the Parliament of the Commonwealth- not by the people of the Northern Territory. The purpose of the amendment was to ensure that there were checks and balances on the exercise of absolute power by the man who is Minister for the Northern Territory in the Federal Parliament, so that the Minister’s Cabinet colleagues, acting under the power given to them through the Executive Council and through the application of the Governor-General’s authority, might ensure that if there were differences of opinion between the Commission and the Minister they might be resolved in a reasonable way. We believe that the power given under the clause as it is now and as it is accepted by the Government is completely autocratic in nature. I do not believe there is any similarity whatsoever between bodies such as the Institute of Marine Science or the Australian Atomic Energy Commission and a body constituted to rebuild one of the viable, growing capital cities of this country. It is a quite different consideration to look at the politics of a body created in order to assist the people of a Territory which is growing towards statehood and which has an elected Legislative Assembly, as my colleague the honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay) has said. It is therefore quite different and I do not believe the parallels are applicable As to the reference to the Albury-Wodonga complex, I think it is necessary to point out that there 3 Ministers are involved; not a Minister. The Ministers come from different political persuasion and the check hes in the fact that they are from 3 several governments. There is no parallel. It is only reluctantly that we accept the amendment.
-Order! It being 10.30 p.m., in accordance with the order of the House of 1 1 July, I shall report progress.
-I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
– I allude to a matter which is known from Cooktown to Carnarvon and from Weipa even to Wellington as the Morosi affair. Writs of silence are being issued upon the nation’s Press almost everywhere to stop the reporting of the latest developments. So much for open government. If there is nothing to hide why is there so much fuss? One reason the honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns), the nation’s deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer, has been thrust into the headlines for some 3 months now is that the saga is able to produce a new chapter of controversy and intrigue on a regular basis. It commenced with the proved claim that the then Senator Murphy wrote to the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Bryant) requesting that Miss Morosi be rocketed out of priority to the top of the list of persons qualifying for a Government flat in the Australian Capital Territory. From that time it has been like the story of Peyton Place.
I stand on my feet to say publicly what many Government supporters are saying behind cupped hands; that is, the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) must act. In the last few hours we have had the spectacle of almost half of the Treasurer’s staff resigning or being dismissed as a protest or as a consequence of the activities of Miss Morosi. It is public knowledge that Mr Geoffrey Gleghorn, the Treasurer’s Press secretary for 6 months, has written a 4-page document entitled: ‘Staff Relations in the Treasurer’s Office’. For some strange reason that paper has been suppressed. It has been described as a bombshell. There are stories alive that there exists an avalanche of bitter complaint from the top echelon of the Minister’s Department to the effect that they can no longer gain proper access to the Treasurer. Where there is smoke there is fire. The claim by the Treasurer in early February that he had a ‘kind of love’ for Miss Morosi has not settled the rumblings and it is alleged this story is the cause of the Gleghorn dismissal because it caused a furore.
Today we heard the speech from the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) and the reply to the claims by the Treasurer. On no less than half a dozen occasions the Minister endeavoured to dismiss the claims of the honourable member for Mackellar by claiming that a person who had supplied the honourable member for Mackellar with a statutory declaration had been this day found guilty by the courts and that the person concerned was not a fit and proper person to be an accuser.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order! The honourable gentleman is out of order in referring to debates that have taken place in this chamber today.
– I thought that debate had finished.
-The debate took place today. The honourable member is out of order in reviving it.
-Very well. I will not make reference to the fact that the man was not convicted. This is completely fresh material because the court, considering the circumstances and his character, simply bound him over, to use legal parlance. It is obvious that the judge did not regard him as a criminal.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise to a point of order. I understood you to rule that the matter that was the subject of a debate today could not be raised again tonight, nor the particular aspect of the subject which the honourable member is now seeking to raise.
-This was in the Press, Mr Deputy Speaker.
-Order! The honourable member will remain silent. The subject matter can be debated; the debate cannot be revived. The honourable member cannot reply to or rebut matters which were debated in the House at an earlier time. He cannot refer to things that were said in the debate. He may refer to the subject matter.
– That is the point of order I should like to persist with, that the honourable member is reviving a debate that took place today.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER He was. He is not at the moment.
-Before making this speech this evening I sought out the honourable member for Mackellar and I have seen statutory declarations presented to him by other, persons. The contents of these declarations are such that the business activities of Miss Morosi prior to her coming to this place cause me, for one, grave concern, especially in view of the fact that she is now on the right hand of the nation’s Treasurer.
– I take a point of order. In accordance with the ruling you just made, Mr Deputy Speaker, I submit that the honourable member is now dealing with the subject of a debate in this House this morning, and I would say that he is out of order.
-He has not referred to the debate. He has referred to statutory declarations from other persons, which I think is new matter.
– I am further told that the Treasurer has issued instructions that no honourable member on this side of the House is to be allowed to table documents to substantiate any claims in relation to this present controversy. This, to my mind, is not open government.
– I take a point of order. That statement is not correct. The tabling of documents will be agreed to if those seeking to table them can vouch for the accuracy of the documents, the identity of the signatures and the identity of the justice of peace who witnessed them.
-That is not a point of order.
– Speaking to the point of order, the Leader of the House told me a few moments ago that no further documents were to be tabled, and -
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. There is no way by which the Chair is to know what private conversations take place in this House.
– I will start afresh, sir, and forget all about the debate this morning. I want to talk about a certain case in Sydney recently where the Commonwealth police were called in to surround a house in anticipation of a certain person entering it for documents. This particular matter is purely and wholly within the jursidiction of the State police force and conventionally it has been a State police force job. What I want to know, if you can find out the particular case I am referring to, is who ordered the Commonwealth police in to do a job which is more properly and customarily done by the State police force. I should hate to suggest that there are members of the present Government who would use their position to direct a police force for political reasons. Sir, after lunch today this Parliament was alive with stories of delegations of Australian Labor Party members going to the Prime Minister with a request that he intervene. The Prime Minister, who stood in this House yesterday and posed like a champion matador, less than 24 hours later is reduced to his Deputy’s unheeded mentor. We are told that the ALP back bench delegations today were advised by Mr Whitlam that -
– I take a point of order. That statement is completely false.
-That is not a point of order.
– I am just saying that the place is alive with stories. He also told -
– I take a point of order. Whether the statement is true or not I think it is appropriate to contend that the honourable member is now reviving the debate which took place today. He is in fact referring to the debate which took place today.
-Order! I suggest that he is not reviving the debate that took place today.
Mi DONALD CAMERON-This is what the Prime Minister said: ‘I, Edward Gough
Whitlam, have no power to determine who Jim Cairns appoints, keeps on his staff and those whom he will dismiss’. He went on to say: ‘I have no power under the ALP Constitution, I have no power under the Australian Constitution, I have stated my views clearly, frankly, without fear and without seeking power. That is my view and I maintain it. ‘ Convention decrees that when the confidence of the people is shaken and the heavy clouds of distrust hang over the head or heads of top people in government some action is taken to change the circumstances of that person or persons for the good of the nation. Senator Murphy was moved to the High Court. As I understand it, every Labor man -
– I take a point of order. Mr Deputy Speaker, could you ask the honourable member, who is single, not to get so excited when he is speaking about these things.
-Order! I call the honourable member for Griffith.
-At least I have the power to get excited; it has long left your body. Senator Murphy was moved to the High Court. As I understand it, every Labor man, including the Labor Leader of the House (Mr Daly) and the new Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Wriedt) supports this convention. The honourable gentleman who leads the Government here supports the convention but will do nothing to secure adherence to it. In other words, he is powerless. The same man, to quote someone else, has been loudly and sarcastically vocal this week in attacking the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) for his lack of leadership and guts and for his inability to make a subordinate State Premier toe the line. It is time Mr Whitlam himself showed leadership and pulled his deputy firmly into line by telling him how he must run the second most important office in this country. Others claim that the Prime Minister is happy to see his deputy making a fool of himself. It is more than paper talk that the Prime Minister’s job was and could still be on the line. There is no better way in which to preserve oneself than to allow a competitor to destroy himself. But one of the tragedies is that while the Deputy Prime Minister destroys himself, he is causing great harm to the confidence of the people and the institution of the Treasury.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– As I see it, that contribution is best treated with contempt.
Last night the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Bourchier) made impetuous comments regarding project tenders which have been called for the supply and delivery of a quantity of special pumping equipment for the Googong pumping station. He did not advise me of his intention to speak on the matter, and since he talked until 10.57 p.m. there was no adequate opportunity for me to reply. The recklessness of his remarks can properly be described as sub judice and is probably without parliamentary precedence. While it might demonstrate the fierce parochialism of the honourable gentleman, it says little for his discretion and propriety.
Without resorting to the type of slinging match which characterised the honourable member’s contribution to the debate on this subject, I want to put some of the facts for him to reflect over so that this matter can be put into proper perspective and the record put straight. In an almost hysterical manner the honourable gentleman said:
Do you know where this contract is going, Mr Speaker? it is going to Russia.
He went on with such irrelevancies as:
One wonders why these sorts of things should happen in a country which supposedly is governed by a socialist government which obviously is dictated to by the trade union movement.
Then he blatantly contended:
The point will be reached where a large number of men employed in such foundries will have to face possible retrenchment for the simple reason that a Russian firm is going to get this contract- and I wonder how many more contracts.
In similar style the honourable member for Bendigo went on to assail the veracity of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and suggested that the Prime Minister’s visit overseas had something to do with taking contracts away from Australian industry. Of course, nothing is further from the truth, as the honourable gentleman surely knows. Two other extracts from his speech are worthy of mention to expose the ineffectual and intimidatory nature of his remarks. For example, he said:
It is a shame that large manufacturing concerns have to rely on government contracts to keep them going and then find out that overseas organisations are taking away their export trade.
I only hope that the Minister for Housing and Construction can come down to earth a little and reconsider the letting of the contract to which I have referred.
This whole sorry spectacle is about the honourable member’s desire to tout for a firm in his own electorate, doubtless for the purpose of consolidating the tenuous hold he has over the seat of Bendigo. I do not want to mention the name of the firm in question. I would rather save it from such embarrassment. I am sure it does not seek this kind of treatment. Nor is it proper for me to emulate the honourable gentleman’s indiscretion by mentioning any of the tender prices which have been received.
But I do want to make the following points: My Department is acting as agent for the National Capital Development Commission, and tenders were called which closed on 19 November 1974 for the supply and delivery of 4 sets of pumping equipment for the Googong pumping station. A number of tenders, including one from the company operating in the Bendigo electorate, have been received. It is also true that one company submitted a tender involving the supply of pumps manufactured in the Soviet Union and motors manufactured in Germany. It is quite likely that any tenderer would find it necessary to use some imported equipment as Australia’s present capacity to manufacture some of the electrical requirements could prove inadequate.
The procedure to be taken in such cases is that the Department of Housing and Construction refers the tenders concerned to 4 other advising departments- Treasury, Customs and Excise, Labor and Immigration and Manufacturing Industry- for their views as to whether or not the tender as recommended by the Department should be accepted. This is not a new procedure. The practice was established by the predecessor Government. It was established because the predecessor Government regarded it as a good safeguard. We have faithfully upheld that approach to these matters.
The nature of the departmental consortium is such that it ensures that due regard is given to opportunities for Australian industry, employment opportunities for Austraiian workmen and other important considerations including tariff matters. In this situation, where my Department is acting as an agent for the National Capital Development Commission, our recommendation as to which tender should be accepted, together with the advice from the advising departments, will be sent to the Commission which will decide finally which tender should be accepted. I have little doubt that in the present circumstances the Commission would refer the matter to its Minister before making a final decision. In any case, I do not decide the issue. It is certainly not yet decided. The opposite impression was given by the honourable gentleman. He has a tendency not to spoil a good story by using too many facts. I do not want to confuse him unduly. Contrary to the dogmatic contentions he has made to the effect that the contract has been awarded to the Russians, my expectation is that my Department will refer the tenders and its recommendation to the 4 advising departments within the next day or so. In the normal course of events a recommendation to the NCDC would be sent within the next 2 weeks.
I regard it as completely inappropriate for a member of Parliament to raise in Parliament the question of who will or will not be or who should or should not be identified as the successful tenderer for a particular project, without knowing the relevant merits, the tenders or the tenderers and particularly while the matter is still under consideration in the Government. The question clearly is sub judice until my Department’s recommendations go through the processes and until the NCDC has advised me and my Department of its acceptance or otherwise of our recommendation for the supply and delivery of these pumps. The honourable gentleman can have my personal assurance that his intimidatory tirade will not deter the Government from coming to a conclusion based on equity and the necessity to ensure that the contract is awarded to a firm which can meet the requirements in every desirable way, on terms and conditions appropriate to public interest. The honourable gentleman asked how many more contracts for that project would be let to overseas firms. He is assured that at this point the Department holds no tenders in connection with the Googong Dam which involve letting a contract to overseas interests.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Speaker. I ask for leave of the House -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
– I ask for leave to table certain statutory declarations -
-Order! I will name him if he does not resume his seat. The honourable gentleman has pulled that stunt before in the House. He will resume his seat.
– Could I have leave -
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
– I ask for leave -
-Order! The honourable gentleman will remain silent. The honourable member for Bendigo and the honourable member for Balaclava will resume their seats.
-The Government does not like that stuff you have in your hand, Bill.
-Order! I suggest that the honourable member for Gwydir remain silent, too. I will not tolerate members rising to a point of order and seeking to obtain the call by that means for another purpose. If the honourable member for Mackellar wishes to seek leave to table a document he should rise in the normal manner. The honourable member for Bendigo had already told me that he wanted to make a personal explanation. I intend to call him.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
-I do. A few moments ago the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson) said that I failed to let him know that I intended to speak last night. I point out to him, through you, Mr Deputy Speaker, that I was fourth or fifth on the list of speakers last night. It was not until approximately 2 minutes before I spoke that I knew I was to have a guernsey. I sent the Minister a telegram this morning giving him the Hansard page number of the speech I made and asking him to study it so he would be informed. I felt that was the best I could do in the circumstances. I am also pleased that he is at least going to make sure that an Aus.tralian firm gets the contract. I did not say that a particular firm should get the contract; I said that I hoped that the Minister made sure that an Australian firm got the contract from the Australian Government instead of it going to an overseas firm. I only hope the heck he takes notice of what I said.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I ask leave in the proper form to make a statement.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order! If the honourable member for Mackellar wants to get the call and if the honourable member for Balaclava is prepared to concede to him I will give him the call.
– I do not want the call.
-I am afraid I cannot call a member out of turn on the adjournment.
– I am asking for leave; I am not asking for the call.
-If the honourable member for Balaclava concedes to the honourable member for Mackellar I will give the honourable member for Mackellar the call.
– I do not ask that. I ask leave.
-I call the honourable member for Balaclava.
– I wish to speak on a matter relating to the Grievance Debate of last Thursday, 13 February, to which the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) replied on 18 February. The Minister then expressed concern that I did not consult his Department before making my comments. He also said that I used some ‘pretty strong language about the condition of the people concerned’. Then he resorted to the ploy of a man whose defence is weak and he said that I should check my facts by talking to his Department. Mr Deputy Speaker, you will recall that the matter concerned fatalities arising out of a parachute jump in the Australian parachute championships. The fact that I am a new member is quite irrelevant. I am thorough and I always check my facts. I do not make allegations without having done so. I can assure honourable members that I will not do anything under parliamentary privilege without having verified my facts very carefully. If the Minister showed the same regard for the facts himself he might be less controversial and more effective.
When I used the strong language to which the Minister referred I was quoting from the major incident report of the Australian Parachute Federation, and one cannot get more than factual than that. One can hardly check one’s sources more carefully than that. Moreover the Minister’s own statement, as recorded in Hansard of 18 February on pages 410 to 412, confirms the breaches of regulations alleged by me. The Minister expressly said:
AH 3 parachutists had consumed alcohol shortly before boarding the aircraft to make a descent.
I quote further from page 410. The Minister said:
The facts indicate that the night operation in question was conducted in contravention of both the Air Navigation Regulations and the Air Navigation Orders as well as APF regulations.
The Minister then tried to exonerate the Department by saying that direct supervision of day to day activities of parachutists has been left in the hands of the APF. He then said:
The Department has always found the Federation to be a responsible body, and this is borne out by its actions following this accident.
The record of the APF following the tragedy is interesting. The Minister tabled a letter from the APF to all safety officers of the Federation. The Minister described the letter as hard hitting. That letter confirms the essence of my allegations and the fact that the APF finds it most difficult to enforce the regulations which the Department has delegated to it. To prove my point let me read some paragraphs of that letter. The entire letter appears at page 412 of Hansard of 18 February. It states:
To Safety Officers
Alcohol has surfaced as a real problem on the DZ
The DZ is the drop zone. The letter goes on:
The situation occurred at the Nationals where people were quite prepared to have a few cans when jumping had only been stopped for a few hours. They were quite prepared to jump again had the conditions settled enough for competition jumps to continue.
Drinking and jumping is not a new occurrence, but the scale of drinking and the number of people taking part at this Nationals is. Also the number of supposedly responsible people who took to the can this time gives cause for concern.
I intend to tackle this problem along with the one of smoking’ and jumping.
What I said in my speech in the grievance debate was that that there had been a pattern of conduct, of which jumpers knew, upon which no action was taken until 2 fatalities occurred. The letter continued:
Heavy penalties will be invoked on persons violating the regulatons on mixing drinking and smoking with jumping.
On the smoking subject a word of caution. Police in NSW N.S.W. Queensland believe smoking is established amongst the jumpers. I was surprised we didn’t have a visit from the N.S.W. Police drug squad.
As a result of the Rylestone fatalities, the following people are under suspension of rating and will be ruled on by a N.S.W. Discipline Board on 1 February 1975.
The letter goes on to mention who those persons were, but I see no point in repeating their names now.
It is important to note that the very letter which the Minister quoted shows that what I had said in the grievance debate was quite factual and that the warning of this established pattern of conduct had not been heeded by the Federation until the fatalities occurred. Yet the Minister says that his Department takes comfort from the fact that it acted subsequent to the fatalities. It was really only as a result of the fatalities that action was taken. In fact, the letter speaks for itself. One can see that it is a letter of a conscientious but powerless man pleading for cooperation from the jumpers. Had the fatalities not occurred it is reasonable to assume that no action would have been taken by the Department or the APF.
The Minister’s own statement confirms that the pilot who flew the plane from which the men who were killed jumped had made a similar midnight flight 48 hours prior to the accident. All the persons at the site were able to know, and surely most must have known, that there had been this midnight flight 48 hours before the fatalities occurred, because the pilot was buzzing the camping area in which they were staying. The departmental officer- himself a parachutist- was staying at the camping area but he took no action to ground the pilot, nor did the Federation take any action to ground the pilot. It is important to note that the Department has the power to ground the pilot as a pilot, but the Federation has the power to ground him only as a parachutist. The Minister told us that the pilot’s licence has now been suspended, but apparently the Department took no action and, according to the Minister, the Department did not know about that earlier flight until 3 February. Yet there was a departmental officer at the competition, and other persons at the competition most certainly knew about it. It is hard to see how the departmental officer did not know.
The Minister is condemned by his own statement, and he cannot escape responsibility by casting aspersions against new members of the Parliament. The parachutists who drew the facts to my attention believed that the matter would be covered up if they or I went privately to the Department. The departmental officer has, in my opinion, covered it up. I understand that the Minister has now received letters from parachutists who were at the competition confirming the substance of my allegations. Since making my speech in the grievance debate I have been informed by other persons that the facts which I alleged are in fact correct. The Vice-President of the Federation in the ‘Age’ of 14 February has also confirmed that that is so. The Federation cannot discipline its members and it is necessary to establish regulations by some other machinery for continuous enforcement. During the grievance debate I asked the Minister to examine and remedy this serious defect, and I now ask him again to do this.
-One of the lamentable aspects of a lack of leadership amongst the Federal non-Labor parties is that they have abdicated the responsibility of leading those non-Labor forces to the State non-Labor leaders, and the particularly unfortunate aspect of this matter is that they place that leadership in the hands of 4 men, at least three of whom are quite lunatic in their approach to politics. I do not have to remind the House of the circumstances which have surrounded the Senate vacancy in New South Wales or the blackmail tactics of the
Queensland Premier. I point to the fact that because the leadership of the non-Labor parties has fallen to 4 people -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order! It being 1 1 p.m., the House is now adjourned until 2.15 p.m. on Tuesday next.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Media, upon notice:
– The Minister for the Media has. provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
After the failure of the Senate to pass the Australian Film Commission Bill 1974, the Treasurer agreed to my request that the Corporation should be provided with a further $450,000, and that the position should be further reviewed early in 1975. It is not possible to give any further indication of developments in this area until the fate of the Australian Film Commission Bill 1 97 5 has been determined.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Media, upon notice:
– The Minister for the Media has provided the following answer to the right honourable member’s question:
Ms Jane Blaxland; Senior Project Officer, Clerk Class 9 Central Office, Sydney.
Ms Caroline Jones - Producer Grade 2, Film Australia, Lindfield.
Ms Mary Mullins ; Journalist A2, Liaison Officer, Australian Information Service, Papua New Guinea.
For the purposes of definition, the term ‘senior position’ is based on the salary classification of a class 9, third division officer or equivalent range.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Media, upon notice:
– The Minister for the Media has provided the following answer to the right honourable member’s question:
Adelaide, South Australia Public Service Review (1973, 1974)
Australian Science Teachers Journal (1970, 1971 and 1972) Australian Technical Teachers Journal (1971, 1972 and 1974)
Public Service Review ( 1 97 1 , 1 973 )
Queensland State Service Journal (1970, 1971,1972, 1973 and 1974)
Victorian Teachers Union Journal (1970, 1971, 1972 and 1974)
E.T.U. News (1970, 1971 and 1974)
South Australia Teachers Journal (1970, 1971, 1972, 1973 and 1974)
Amalgamated Metal Trade Union Monthly Journal (1970 and1974)
A.C.O.A. Journal (1970, 1971, 1972, 1973 and 1974)
The Australian Worker (1974)
The Building Worker ( 1 974)
The Clerk (Queensland) (1974)
Education (N.S.W. Teachers Federation) (1970, 1971, 1972, 1973 and 1974)
Engineers Handbook (1973)
The Journalist (1971, 1972, 1973 and 1974)
Labor News (1974)
Maritime Worker ( 1 974)
Australian Public Service Constitution and Rules Book (1974)
Queensland Teachers Journal (1970, 1971, 1972 and 1974)
Red Tape (1970, 1971, 1972, 1973 and 1974)
Secondary Teacher (1971 and 1974)
Victorian Public Service Journal (1970, 1971, 1972, 1973 and 1974)
The Western Teacher ( 1972 and 1974)
The Worker (1974)
Modern Unionist (1971)
W.A. Teachers Journal ( 1970, 197 1 )
Tasmanian Teachers Journal (1970, 1971, 1972 and 1974)
Postal Advocate ( 1 974)
Newsletter: Victorian Association Social Workers (1970, 1971,1972, 1973 and 1974)
Australian Teachers Journal ( 1 974)
Victorian Police Journal ( 1 973 and 1 974)
Taxation Record (1970, 1971, 1972, 1973 and 1974)
Commonwealth Public Service Association Review ( 1970)
WA Civil Service Journal (1970, 1971, 1972 and 1974)
Metal Trades Journal ( 1 970 and 1 97 1 )
U.N.A. (1970, 1971, 1972, 1973 and 1974)
Tasmanian Nurse ( 1 970 and 1971)
W.A. Nurses Journal ( 1 970 and 1 97 1 )
asked the minister for Education, upon notice:
Immigration no longer intends to open in Parramatta an office specialising in migrant affairs.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
When will he answer my question No. 1659 which first appeared on the Notice Paper on 1 3 November 1 974.
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
The right honourable member should be well aware of my record in diligently answering questions addressed to me with the minimum possible delay.
Of more than 200 questions upon notice addressed to me during the last Parliamentary sittings he is now only able to direct my attention to one which has remained unanswered. This question is, in fact, the only question from those sittings still standing on the notice paper in my name, and it has been on notice for a total of only 19 sitting days. It seeks to elicit detailed and comprehensive information of the kind only obtainable, if at all, by dint of a great deal of research and at considerable cost to the taxpayer, and the reply is expected to take up some 90 typewritten pages. It should be available shortly.
As I pointed out in my answer on 5 December 1974 (Hansard p. 478 1 ), questions upon notice addressed to me in the House of Representatives have been answered more promptly during my period of office than those addressed to the Prime Ministers during the last 2 years of the Liberal/Country Party Government. In this connection I draw the right honourable member’s attention to the instructive table which I incorporated in that reply.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
– The Foreign Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
Marine Park restricted area and, in particular, to the text of the Prime Minister’s letter to the Premier of Queensland of 26 June 1974. The discussions with the interested parties to which the Prime Minister referred are now proceeding. The constitutional, defence, shipping and all other relevant aspects are at present under examination, and the interests of all parties concerned with the Torres Strait are being given full consideration in the course of this examination. In view of the foregoing, it would be inappropriate for me to reply in further detail on the specific questions raised by the honourable member.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 20 February 1975, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1975/19750220_reps_29_hor93/>.