29th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. G. G. D. Scholes) took the chair at 2. 1 5 p.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. 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 Bryant and Mr Macphee.
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 1974 be amended
to specify three objective tests for irretrievable breakdown, namely
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Clyde Cameron, Mr Stewart, Mr Anthony, Mr Sinclair, Mr Calder, Mr Connolly, Mr Jacobi, Mr Jarman, Mr Sullivan and Mr Wentworth.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives 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 break-down, 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 1 973, 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. byMrDrury.
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 of its 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 England, Mr Fairbairn, Mr Ian Robinson and Mr Sullivan.
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 it 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 Barnard, Mr Bryant, Mr Kevin Cairns, Mrs Child, Mr Coates, Mr Fairbairn, Mr Malcolm Fraser, Mr Macphee and Mr Staley.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will do everything possible to promote and preserve the permanency of the married state, and not admit into the law of this land any provision for such easy divorce that threatens the stability of family life- for although the present divorce system has weaknesses these will not be righted by an even weaker and more unjust ‘ Family Law Bill ‘.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Bryant, Mr Stewart, Mrs Child, Mr Fisher and Mr Staley.
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. byMrBonnett.
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 Famil 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 England.
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:
We are concerned that the Family Law Bill has been delayed long enough. Its contents represent a consensus view of community feelings towards family breakdown and it should be made law at the earliest possible time.
We support the sole ground of irretrievable breakdown based on 12 months separation, and we ask the Parliament to pass the bill in its present form.
And your Petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
As on the electoral roll. byMrCrean.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives of Australia in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the Family Law Bill be debated and passed as soon as possible.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Barnard.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives of Australia in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth respectfully showeth:
That we support the concept of no-fault divorce in the Family Law Bill because:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Family Law Bill be debated and passed as soon as possible.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mrs Child.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members, House of Representatives in Parliament Assembled. The humble petition of the following persons who are electors of the House of Representatives sheweth:
That your petitioners urges members of both Houses of the Australian Parliament to vote ‘yes’ to the Family Law Bill without significant amendment.
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that Parliament legislate accordingly.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byMrCoates.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That whereas uranium found in vast quantities in Australia is the raw material for the nuclear fission reaction,
And whereas presently assured reserves of uranium in Australia represent a potential production of over540 000 kilograms of Plutonium 239 if utilized in Light Water Reactors overseas,
And whereas the Maximum Permissible Inhalation of Plutonium 239 is 0.00000025 gram,
And whereas Plutonium 239 is one of the most dangerous substances human society has ever created, causing mutations and cancers,
And whereas there are no methods of safely and absolutely confining Plutonium from the biosphere for the requisite quarter of a million years,
And whereas Plutonium coming in contact with the air forms an aerosol cloud of micron-sized particles, its most dangerous form,
And whereas the export of uranium may return to us an import of Plutonium particles dispersed in the global environment via the circulation of the atmosphere,
And whereas there are no sure safeguards against the military use of nuclear fission, and the nuclear proliferation represents a prime environmental threat to all forms of life on the only earth available to us,
And that it is therefore an act of self-preservation to demand a halt to all exports of uranium except for bio-medical uses,
Your petitioners humbly pray that the members, in the House assembled, will take the most urgent steps to ensure:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Barnard.
To the Honourable the Speaker, and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the increased price of the Hansard subscription will place it beyond the financial reach of most people;
That it is basic in a Parliamentary democracy that electors have easy access to records of the debates in their Parliament;
That making Hansard available only to an elite who can afford it is at odds with the concept of open government.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will reduce the cost of the Hansard subscription so that it is still available at a moderate price to any interested citizen.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byMrDrury.
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 Lamb.
Public Libraries in Australia
To the Honourable, the Speaker, and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
We the undersigned do humbly request that the Australian Government commission an inquiry into the provision and funding of State and Municipal Public Libraries throughout Australia. Public Libraries are an essential part of the nation’s facilities for education and information, and the cultural life of the people. Organisation and financing methods to date have manifestly failed to develop Public Libraries to the standard that Australia needs, therefore it is imperative that a thorough national inquiry be conducted.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the members in Parliament assembled will press for the long awaited Inquiry into Public Libraries throughout Australia with the utmost of urgency, and your Petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Oldmeadow.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled: The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That we strongly oppose the easing of restrictions on the importation, production in Australia, sale or distribution of pornographic material whether in films, printed matter or any other format.
That any alterations to the Television Programme Standards of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board which permits the exploitation of sex or violence is unacceptable to us.
Your petitionere therefore humbly pray that the Government will take no measures to interfere with the existing Television Programme Standards or to permit easier entry into Australia, or production in Australia, of pornographic material.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Sinclair.
– I give notice that at the next sitting I shall move:
That this House censures the Prime Minister for his consistent and deliberate contempt of the Parliament.
Motion (by Mr Whitlam)- by leave- agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Leader of the Opposition moving the motion forthwith.
– I move:
That this House censures the Prime Minister for his consistent and deliberate contempt of the Parliament.
Mr Speaker, this censure motion is the strongest action which the Opposition can take arising out of the disgraceful affair of last Thursday. It is quite appropriate that we should move a censure motion. It is quite appropriate that that censure motion should be carried by this House. This censure motion is a defence of the Parliament itself. It is not political in origin. Its purpose is to maintain the dignity and the capacity to continue of this House.
The consequences of last Thursday’s action cannot be overstated. Last Thursday we saw the willingness of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and his cohorts to impose a ruthless autocracy on this Parliament. This is a disintegrating government and there is nothing which it is not prepared to do in order to cling desperately on to office. The reason for the action that was taken last Thursday is quite apparent to everybody who witnessed it, and most of the people in this House did witness it. The public of Australia has had a full description given to it. What comes out of it most predominantly is the disgraceful conduct of the Prime Minister. What comes out of it is his willingness to search for a squalid abuse of power. That is all it was- a squalid abuse of power by the Prime Minister, supported by those members who sit behind him. It was bully boy tactics at their worst. It was tactics of the most degrading level.
Last Thursday Parliament was injured very greatly. The Government majority voted to strike down the conventions of this Parliament, and the conventions and practice of this Parliament will be crippled until that is corrected. In a Parliament we have a government and an opposition, and that has been the position for centuries. Throughout those centuries, it is perfectly obvious, the whole practice, the standing orders of the Parliament, have been built upon the right of the public of Australia or any other country that has the Westminster system of parliamentary democracy to hear not only from the Government but also from the Opposition, for the Parliament is quite separate from the Executive. The Executive is drawn from the majority in the Parliament, it is true, but once the members of the Executive come into this Parliament they come in as members of the Parliament, committed to the upholding of the principles of the Parliament. The Speaker has control of the House and ought to have control, and I quote from the 16th edition of May’s ‘Parliamentary Practice’ at page 223:
The Speaker of the House of Commons is so essential a piece of machinery that without him the House has no constitutional existence.
And that does not mean just a person sitting in the chair and given the name of the Speaker. It means a Speaker who genuinely has the power and the capacity to lead the Parliament into a full discussion of the major national issues of the day that are before it and to examine all the legislation. In our system, therefore, the Speaker must have the support of the majority party. Our House is quite unlike the House of Commons where the Speaker, once appointed, has by common consent full and lasting authority and is not challenged in his electorate. In our system, throughout the entire period of our constitution, the Speaker has been supported without doubt, without hesitation and unqualifiedly by the Government majority. That was an established convention of this Parliament.
Last Thursday that convention was ripped up and thrown away. Mr Cameron, the Minister for Labor and Immigration, said to the then Speaker, Mr Speaker Cope: ‘I don’t’ give a damn what you say’. The Speaker called on 3 occasions for apology and withdrawal. Mr Cameron sat there, and it was perfectly obvious that Mr
Cameron was contemplating that withdrawal and apology. The Prime Minister said ‘No’, answering for him. Poor chap, he cannot speak for himself. The Speaker then named the Minister for Labor and Immigration, and the Leader of the House (Mr Daly), knowing his duty, knowing the convention, started to move towards the despatch box to move the necessary motion for the suspension of the Minister from the service of the House. And the Prime Minister intervened and said ‘No’, and prevented that. The Deputy Leader of the Country Party had to spring to the Table and move the motion which every thinking member of this Parliament wanted to see moved. Four of the members on the Government side did not vote on that question; they absented themselves from the vote. The Parliament bled while that vote was being taken. Four members were not there. Meanwhile supporters of the Government, acting as they are now acting without any regard for the Parliament, with their raucous noises which only disclose that they have not the slightest sense of concern for the Parliament, sat and watched in shame the actions that were taken. If they did not watch in shame they can only be shameful for the rest of their parliamentary careers that they did not do so.
No Speaker in the future can have confidence that he has the right to take action against the Government side. You come to this Chair, Mr Speaker, crippled in your authority. Will you have the courage of your conviction to reprimand, discipline and if necessary name for suspension a supporter of the Government while that convention is broken and has not been corrected? The Whitlam claim to be a parliamentarian has been amputated. No longer can he claim that, until he corrects this situation. Will he doit?
It is only a matter of a couple of weeks ago that the Prime Minister said on national television:
When violence is done to an important convention, a well established custom, then violence is done to democracy itself.
That is what he did last Thursday shamelessly, deliberately and intending this Parliament to be weakened by it, not caring about the Opposition but equally not caring about any member who sits behind him. Quite recklessly uncaring as to whether those men can make their contributions to the Parliament, he deliberately did it. It is not surprising, however, that the Parliament was ashamed to witness this squalid abuse of power. It was degrading bullying tactics and was endorsed by the majority of Labor members of the Parliament. Parliament is the ultimate check on the authority of the Executive and what this man, the Leader of the Government, wants is to have the Executive not checked in any way by the Parliament. He wants the Parliament to become an irrelevancy. He wants to elevate himself into a position of absolute power and it is a direct challenge not merely to the Opposition but to supporters of the Government not in the Executive and, for that matter, a challenge to members of the Executive as to whether they will allow absolute power to be put in that man. The action last Thursday was endorsed by a majority of Labor M.Ps. It was a direct and deliberate threat by the Prime Minister and most Labor members that no Speaker could expect to survive in the Chair if he took the action that Speaker Cope took. Public concern has been highly aroused as it ought properly be aroused. It is aroused by the Prime Minister’s obsession for power. That this is so is expressed in the extracts from newspaper comments in the ‘Canberra Times’, the ‘Sun’, the ‘Australian Financial Review’ and the ‘SunHerald’. There are plenty of these then. I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard extracts from editorial comment over the weekend and on Friday of last week following the affair.
– No, read them out.
-There being objection, leave is not granted.
-Mr Speaker, that is another example of the unwillingness of this Government and of those loud-mouths who refused me leave to incorporate material in Hansard to acknowledge the right of Parliament to have before it all the information it needs. We all wit- nessed last Thursday’s events. We all know the abuse of power that took place. We know of the complete way in which supporters of the Government sat back and watched their old friend and colleague assassinated before their eyes. They did not have the courage, they did not have the conviction, they sit there now leering while the honourable gentleman who acted so honourably- Speaker Cope- sits in his place and must be disgusted about the way not only in which they assassinated him but also in which they were prepared to assassinate the conventions of the Parliament. They sit there knowing that this Parliament can never be the same while it is led by the present Leader of the Government, while it has the present members of the Executive and while it has that facile, weak, crude support given from the back bench of the Labor Party. They are not worthy to represent their electorates; they are not worthy to represent the Labor movement.
Last Thursday was a climax- a climax to what had gone before it. It was a climax to the continuing and deliberate misuse of Parliament by the Whitlam Government. There has been a deliberate abuse of question time. There has been a failure to consult or give notice of parliamentary program. There has been a misuse of the Standing Orders to prevent debate. There has been a ramming of legislation through this House by gags and by guillotines. There has been a deliberate avoidance of the practice of making ministerial statements so that what the Government states to be its policy can be debated in this House by the Opposition on behalf of the people of Australia. There has been a failure to allow debate on important papers that have been tabled in the House. There has been a failure to allow debate on the great national issues of the day. The aim has clearly been the supremacy of the Executive over Parliament. There has been a total disregard, in any way, for the rights of Parliament or of the members of Parliament.
Last Thursday was an issue in itself. It was a self-contained issue, a sheer fact of whether a Minister was able deliberately to defy and insult the then Speaker and whether the then Speaker in reprimanding him would be supported by the Parliament and by the majority of Labor members of that Parliament. It was a separate issue in itself, but it had been preceded by this continual gross abuse of the Parliament. It was a culmination of a series of events. No government has abused the conventions of this Parliament more than the one led by the Prime Minister. Question time and its misuse are apparent from the figures. There was an average of 17 questions without notice during 1972. In 1973 it fell to fifteen. In 1974 it fell to thirteen each question time, and so far this year it has fallen to a mere 1 1 questions without notice. The deliberate misuse of question time is apparent to all. It is being used by Ministers to make policy statements because they do not have the courage or the willingness to make statements on policy by leave after question time because they fear that they will be answered, and they would be answered.
Statements give the opportunity for debate. That has been denied to the Parliament, and by being denied to the Parliament it has been denied to the public of Australia. We have seen in question time a series of Dorothy Dix questions. Dorothy Dix, as everybody knows, has its origin from the fact that the good lady asked her own questions in order to answer them, and that is what the front bench members of the Labor Party are doing- arranging for a series of
Dorothy Dix questions. The members who sit behind the Executive are the people who have been prepared to be manipulated by the Press secretaries of Ministers. They are the ones who receive from the Press secretaries the questions each day. The sort of question the honourable member for Casey (Mr Mathews) will ask is: ‘Will the Minister be good enough to be kind enough to tell the Parliament his very good reasons for taking this course of action?’ And he calls himself a member of the Parliament. He still remains a mere shadow of the breaker of every convention and tradition in this House- the Prime Minister. All of them are hiding behind the Standing Orders.
I have referred to questions without notice. I turn now to questions on notice. Hundreds of questions on the notice paper remain unanswered. So great is the number that the rules had to be changed so that questions on notice which were unanswered would not be printed every parliamentary sitting day. They now are shown only on Tuesdays so that the sheer size of the notice paper would not illustrate the failure of the Government to answer the questions on notice. The number has never been higher. The failure to answer has never been greater.
There has been another abuse of the Parliament in regard to ministerial statements. These have virtually ceased to be made. In 1972 there were 86 statements made by Ministers, by leave, on policy matters. In 1973 the number dropped to 71. In 1974 the number dropped to 28 statements. This year a mere 2 statements on policy matters have been made by leave by members of the Government. In 1 972 there were 44 motions to take notice of a paper. In 1973 the number dropped to 27 and m 1974 it was down to 10. This year only one such motion has been moved. Fewer speakers are allowed before the gag is applied. The guillotine has been moved by the Leader of the House (Mr Daly), supported by the Government. In 1972 there were no guillotines. In 1973 there were 10 guillotines. In 1974 there were 7 guillotines. So far this year there has not been one. The figures in relation to gag motions speak for themselves also. In 1972 there were 68 closure motions. In 1973 the number climbed to 103. In 1974 there were 114 gag motions. This year, after only 3 sitting weeks, there have been so far only nine of them.
What the Government wants is only selfserving statements. This is a manipulation of the Parliament. It shows the Prime Minister’s contempt of the Parliament. The objective is the downgrading and the demise of the Parliament, including the Labor Party. The Executive wants to dominate the Parliament. It wants to suppress the Opposition. It wants to suppress criticism. Examples of that are seen quite clearly. No debate was allowed on the Borrie report. The Government was not willing to have a debate on the Borrie report. Yet the implications of that report will run through the Australian economic, demographic and social scene for the rest of this century. But no debate is to be allowed.
The Prime Minister claims to be the greatest of the Foreign Ministers. In 2lA years that the Labor Party has been in office there has been only one debate on foreign affairs in this Parliament. The Prime Minister is unwilling to bring matters of foreign affairs before the Parliament to have them debated, and this is despite his spending 5 months of his period in office overseas. These tactics reached their meanest expression last Thursday. What emerges from it ali is the Prime Minister’s unparalleled double talk. He says that he is a champion of convention, and he tears it up. He says he is a custodian of tradition, and he obeys it not at all. He is a self-proclaimed statesman, and he shows no statesmanship whatever. He has made speeches ad nauseam- speech after speech- on these issues and, as soon as it suits him to tear up convention or to abandon tradition, he does so. He wants to create a public disregard for the Parliament. It is a deliberate tactic on his part to create in the public mind a disregard for the Parliament. He wants to create public disregard so that he does not need to come near the Parliament, so that he can make the executive decisions, feed them into the Parliament, treat the Parliament just like a conveyor belt of legislation and put through the Parliament by means of the gag and the guillotine without allowing proper consideration legislation dealing with the greatest public issues of the day, having allowed only a few hours debate. But he will have allowed only a few hours debate not only for the Opposition but also for Government supporters; he will have deprived Government supporters also of any right to debate that legislation. If he had control of the Senate one can imagine that all that legislation would just flow through. There would be no opportunity whatever for the public or the members of Parliament, including members of the Opposition who represent 50 per cent of the electorate, to have any say in that legislation. That is what he wants. He has tried to manipulate the Senate so that he would have control of it. Those efforts were defeated.
Let us look at his history in Parliament. I refer, first of all, to the attack on McMahon. (Extension of time granted). If we look at the history of the Leader of the Government in this Parliament we see that there are some very disgraceful acts of which he has been guilty. There was one occasion on 29 September 1965 when he picked up a glass of water and threw it over the then Foreign Minister. On 17 November 1960 his words as recorded in Hansard, referring to the then Attorney-General, now Chief Justice of the High Court, Mr Barwick, as he then was, were a truculent runt’. There is some doubt as to whether the word recorded in Hansard was the actual word used. On 29 September there was the water throwing. On 19 September there was an attack on Mr McMahon, the right honourable member for Lowe. These are only the worst of many incidents in the Parliament. On each of those occasions the honourable member for Werriwa withdrew and apologised. But there has not been a word so far about last Thursday. It remains there forever on his escutcheon as the tearer down of conventions and traditions. Nothing shows that he regrets the deliberate contempt of the House. It was a deliberate breach of privilege. He has a history of manipulating Parliament. He fails to understand that he will destroy Parliament by these actions. But I want him to know that the Opposition Parties will fight the destruction of Parliament. We will fight it and we will win because the parliamentary democracy of Australia is so well entrenched that we will and must win.
We all remember the attempt to appoint then Senator Gair and to have him resign at such a time as would give the Government the opportunity of an unfair advantage in Queensland. Nine days ago the Prime Minister was in Tasmania complaining of thugs and wreckers. I wonder did he remember those words about thugs and wreckers when he leaned on the arm of the Speaker’s chair and intimidated him last Thursday. The Prime Minister has as much respect for the Parliament as he has for his friends. If it suits him convention and colleagues will be supported; if it does not suit him, when it is expedient to him, they can go on the scrap heap, the conventions; and they can become political corpses, his colleagues. His sense of loyalty to his supporters is no stronger than his sense of loyalty to the Parliament. To be a friend of his is to risk becoming a corpse to his tin god. Barnard, the former Deputy Prime Minister, the nervous Nellie, ‘the pedlar of lies’; the former Treasurer, Mr Crean, after the weeks of excruciating agony in this Parliament; and then Speaker Cope were treated in this way. This was the reward for loyalty, the reward for a political association with the Leader of the House, who smiles. He spent many years as the close colleague of the former Speaker, but did not have the courage to take the action he knew he should. He lacked the guts. He is the father of the House. He ought to know better and he does know better but when the test came he did not have the guts. He can stand and make amusing, cynical, sarcastic speeches, but when it came to the issue he lacked the guts.
We have seen the Australian Labor Party’s domino theory of loyalty. We have seen members opposite fall one after the other. And who is the next? What we know is that the greater the loyalty shown to this Prime Minister, the shorter the expectancy of political life. He sacrifices ruthlessly where it suits him. You, Mr Speaker, last week when the vote was taken absented yourself along with 3 Ministers. But I want to know: Where were the Deputy Chairman of Committees, the honourable member for Macquarie (Mr Luchetti), the honourable member for Penh (Mr Berinson), the honourable member for Banks (Mr Martin) and the honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage) who, I think, is also a Deputy Chairman of Committees? Where were they? They came in, and they voted against every practice of this House. Yet they will sit in the chair in the Committee stage or in your place, Mr Speaker, when you vacate it. They know very well that they delivered, by their lack of a vote, a tremendous blow to the conventions of this Parliament.
Who is next? Who is next on the domino theory of loyalty? Who is the next Whitlam political corpse? Whoever suits him. He will do it because he is obsessed with a lust for power. He is obsessed with the abuse of power. He wants to become the only person who can make decisions and force them upon others. His history as a Prime Minister shows his style. It is not surprising, therefore, that he should bring the Parliament into its shameful condition of last Thursday and the shameful condition that built up, to which Thursday last was only a climax. He has engaged in patronage of the worst kind. He has travelled like an ancient prelate, whenever the opportunity occurred. It is interesting reading to go back to the Hansard of 24 October 1 967 to see him complaining about the use of VIP aircraftthe BAC 111.
There has been a gross misuse of public funds. Almost every page of the publications which have been brought out features his photograph for the purpose- it does not do any good for the publication, I can assure honourable members opposite of that- of advancing the political cause of the Labor Party. There has been a vast misuse of public funds in glossy publications and in advertising. How often does one pick up a paper and see the leering face of the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) or the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson) trying to explain that some particular action of the Government is good. It is quite clearly done for the purpose of advancing the political cause of the Labor Party. One can hardly turn on the television at peak viewing periods these days with-, out seeing an advertisement by the Labor Party in its own interests. As for Medibank, $ 1.5 m of public funds are being used for the political purposes of the Labor Party.
Where this all leads to is one-party dominance of this Parliament, of this nation and of the Government. It is a moye away from democracy towards dictatorship. Dictatorship can occur in any country. It is not impossible. If this move to a one-party system continues, if this man’s self built egoism is fed by those spineless supporters behind him, that is the way it will go. It has happened elsewhere. The Opposition will not accept it. We are determined to defend the parliamentary practice and conventions of this Parliament. We will not allow the assassination of Parliament, as we have seen the assassination of his colleagues. We will not allow a massive transfer of funds from the private sector to the public sector so an individual can make his determination as to where public funds will be expended. We will not allow the Executive to be dictatorial. If the Prime Minister wants that, we will fight an election on that- let that be the issue- and the people will decide. The damage done by this Government to Australia is demonstrated by the cold reality of the facts and the figures. I have spelt out the facts. Everybody in this Parliament knows that over the last 2 years it has not been a parliament functioning as it ought to have done. Everybody knows that spineless members of the Labor Party are allowing themselves- to sit back and shamelessly see gags, guillotines and the limitation of debating time, and legislation of the utmost importance being pushed through this House into the Senate.
There can be no confidence whatever in the Prime Minister of this country when he says that he will defend conventions for he is the greatest breaker of them. This Parliament has before it a great challenge, and that challenge is to maintain the parliamentary system of democracy for Australia or just to lie down and be raped like the spineless members of the Labor Party are prepared to do. We will not do that. We will fight with every means at our command, and we will win that fight because our cause is just and the
Parliament will become again what it ought to be, that is, the focal point of democracy in Australia.
-Order! The right honourable gentleman’s time has expired. Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion and reserve my right to speak.
- Mr Speaker, I move:
- Mr Speaker, I would like your direction as to whether the amendment which is directly contrary -
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. If he gets up again without first getting the call from the Chair I will deal with him. I would like to see the terms of the amendment.
– On the point of order, Mr Speaker -
– Until I have decided whether the amendment is in order and ruled on that, I will not take any points of order.
– I cannot hear, I am sorry.
-I would suggest that you should listen. In my opinion the amendment is in order. It is in line with the precedents which have been set by a number of other Speakers on similar motions in this House. Therefore I rule that the amendment is in order.
- Mr Speaker, may I ask for your guidance? Are you suggesting that I cannot speak on the point of order -
– You may take a point of order now if you wish.
– I took a point of order before. Mr Speaker, I believe that the amendment that has been submitted by the Prime Minister is completely contrary to the terms and conditions -
-Order! The honourable gentleman will not debate the question.
– I must raise the point of order, Mr Speaker.
– You raised the point of order that the amendment is out of order.
– I am allowed to speak to it.
– You are allowed only to outline the point of order. You are not allowed to make a speech.
- Mr Speaker, the outline of my concern is that the amendment is completely contrary to the motion which was moved by the Leader of the Opposition. As such it is not an amendment which is acceptable in the terms of the Standing Orders of this Parliament. For that reason, Mr Speaker, I would ask you to rule that the amendment is out of order.
-The amendment is in order on all of the precedents set in this House previously on motions of this nature. On a previous occasion Mr Speaker Aston ruled in order an amendment moved by the then Government which sought to transfer a censure motion against the then Leader of the House to the then Leader of the Opposition. If I may, I shall quote the relevant extract from May’s ‘Parliamentary Practice’:
The object of an amendment may be either to modify a question in such a way as to increase its acceptability, or to present to the House a different proposition as an alternative to the original question.
On those terms and on the precedent which have been set by the 2 previous Speakers on questions of this nature, the amendment is in order, and I so rule. I call the Prime Minister.
-Mr Speaker -
- Mr Speaker, on a point of order -
-Order! I am not going to entertain any further points of order on this question. I have ruled in accordance with the precedents of this House and I do not intend to argue the question from the Chair.
- Mr Speaker -
-If you are not satisfied with the ruling you will have to do the other thing.
- Mr Speaker, I sought to draw your attention to the proceedings and practices of this House which are outlined in a publication entitled ‘Short Description’ of Business and Procedures’ of the House of Representatives. On page 23, under the heading ‘Amendments’, there is the specific phrase -
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. The ruling I have given is in accordance with the practices of the House as they have been carried out by the -
– When did you clear it, early this morning?
-I suggest that the honourable member for Gippsland might stop making quips and just remain silent, if he does not mind. This is a serious matter. I do not intend to depart from the rulings which have been made by previous Speakers on this question. The amendment is in order, and I have so ruled.
- Mr Speaker, a point of order -
-I will not entertain any further points of order on this question.
- Mr Speaker -
-The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
– You cannot deny -
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. I have made a ruling and I will not depart from it. I call the Prime Minister.
– Again I rise to take a point of order.
-Order! If the point of order is on the same subject matter, I will not entertain it. Now, I ask the honourable member -
– My point of order is relative to the content of your ruling. Accordingly, I have my rights and privileges to take a point of order. The point I raise is that you have suggested to this House that the amendment moved by the Prime Minister merely modifies the motion. The wording quite clearly goes beyond that -
– Then -
– . . . you say -
– … on the basis of your -
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. It is not -
- Mr Speaker -
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat.
Government members- Name him!
– Have we reached the stage -
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. The honourable gentleman did not listen fully to the ruling which I gave, which said ‘. . . seeks to modify or present an alternative proposition to the House’. This is an alternative proposition. It is in order -
– It is not. You have not listened to any submission as to the reason why that is not so.
– Order! I call the Prime Minister.
Mr WHITLAM The amendment puts this whole matter in perspective, in the true perspective of the principles involved and the personal responsibility involved. It sheets the responsibility home where it really belongs, with an Opposition which for 2 years or more has done its levelbesttodisruptthisHouseandtodestroyits authority as the House of the people- the House where the will of the people is represented and expressed. It sheets home the responsibility to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) whose inability to control either himself or his followers led directly to the events of last week.
There is nothing isolated and nothing accidental about the Opposition’s conduct last week. It was all part of a pattern. Last Thursday, there was a special element injected by the Leader of the Opposition. An explosion of some sort was inevitable. But the fuse was lit by the Leader of the Opposition. He did it for the same reason that he does everything else: This embattled pigmy has to show his failing followers that he is a big boy after all.
All last week, the Leader of the Opposition had been smarting under the adverse reaction to statements that he had made out in the electorate on his weekend foray. Out there he can roar like a lion; in here he can ‘woof woof like any little poodle. All week he had been trying to wriggle out from the consequences of the statements he had made in Melbourne, some statements reported in the Press, others by the Australian Broadcasting Commission using his own words on tape. Of course, his resentment, his pique, his embarrassment reached a height last Wednesday when the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ very properly took him to task for saying: ‘Almost everything the Labor Party has done, we’ll undo’. Smarting under that rebuke, here on Wednesday he made a personal explanation which to the extent that it was intelligible at all attempted to blame me for quoting his reported and his recorded statements. Of course, he failed miserably to justify himself. So, he simmers and stews in his resentment overnight and we have a fine witches’ brew ready by Thursday. That set the stage for what happened- the Leader of the Opposition’s humiliation, his confusion, his misrepresentation and his daily increasing need to stop the defection and to staunch the despair of his followers.
As the second question of the day , the honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson) asked of the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) a perfectly proper question. Nobody in the Opposition sought to have it ruled out of order. The Minister had barely begun to answer when the Leader of the Opposition again showed his embarrassment. He rose to a point of order and these were his words:
What the Minister is saying is false. It should be known that it is false.
He did this before any of us could know what the Minister intended to say. Then followed the disgraceful scene which set the atmosphere for what ultimately happened. Hansard records 27 interjections and points of order from members of the Opposition requiring 21 interventions by Mr Speaker. The Minister for Social Security gave an answer which took up less than 4 columns of Hansard. The interjections, the points of order, took over9½ columns of Hansard- two and a half times the space. The chief offenders were the Leader of the Opposition, the Deputy Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Sinclair) who moved ‘that the Minister be no longer heard’, and the honourable member for Barker (Dr Forbes). Repeatedly they threw around the allegation of untruth and lies.
This has been the standard practice of the Opposition. When a member of the Government quotes a report which embarrasses a member of the Opposition he- not the newspaper to which objection is taken but the Minister who quotes it- is called a liar. The Leader of the Country Party (Mr Anthony) has tried this on me in regard to his call for higher petrol prices. In the case of last Thursday the Leader of the Opposition has never denied or qualified the accuracy of the reports to which the Minister for Social Security and I have referred. They were reported on the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s news bulletin on the morning of 25 Feburary. He has never denied the report. Under the privileges of this House he accuses me of lying for quoting it. On the previous day- 24 February- the ABC midday bulletin used his own words on tapedoes anyone think that it was a bogus tapewords full of menace, every bit the heavy, ‘Let’s give tough leadership’ tones, ‘Almost everything the Labor Party has done we will undo’, and so on. That was the statement for which the ‘Sydney
Morning Herald’ took him to task. His master’s voice did not like the recording. Because the Leader of the Opposition was found out, and caught out, out of his own mouth, and because we have the temerity to bring to the attention of the Parliament and the public the real implications of a Liberal government we are accused of lying.
On Thursday he himself indulged and encouraged his followers to indulge in wholesale accusations of lying. He repeated the offence and the allegations in a further attempt at personal explanation- his second attempt to explain away his own words. With such an example was it any wonder that the honourable member for Warringah (Mr MacKellar) tried his ‘prentice hand? If his superiors, but not his betters, could get away with it, why should he not have a go, and he did. He accused the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) of misleading the House on a matter where he subsequently admitted he was quite mistaken and that the Minister was quite correct. But the honourable member for Barker intervened and accused the Minister of a monstrous untruth. Honourable members will recall that on 12 February the Speaker had told the honourable member for Barker that if he continued interjecting he would name him without warning him. Immediately the Leader of the Opposition rose, defended him and covered up for him. The Minister refused anything less than an unqualified and total withdrawal, and he was right.
For something like the fifteenth time in the space of an hour this accusation had been made recklessly, wilfully, deliberately and calculatedly. It was calculated to bring about disruption, and it did. It was the culmination of the disruption, the disobedience, the harassment, the flaunting of the Speaker’s authority, the pettiness, the spitefulness, the unruliness of an Opposition which for 2 years had been without any semblance of leadership, self control, self respect or respect for this Parliament.
The Leader of the Opposition may find a certain familiarity about today’s debate and my amendment. He may recall the debate of nearly 5 years ago- of 9 April 1970- when he became the first Minister to have had 2 motions of censure moved against him because of his personal conduct in this House. On 20 May 1964 when he was Attorney-General the then Leader of the Opposition moved to censure him. On that occasion the then Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, forced him to make amends. He had to go to Canossa. Sir Robert knew the proprietiesa sense which I might say he found quite consistent with disagreeing with the Speaker on several occasions. In 1970, when the Leader of the Opposition was Leader of the House, I moved censure on him for his repeated failure to honour agreements that he had made. The Leader ofthe Opposition is a living illustration of the old saying: ‘You can’t teach an old dog new tricks’. I said then:
In the short life of this present Parliament the Leader of the House has twice disrupted Parliament. He has twice reduced this Parliament to a farce and he has twice covered his arrogance by misleading statements.
Only in this way, in his attitude to Parliament, in office or in opposition, does he show a sort of consistency. The Leader of the Opposition changes his policies with his advisers; different advisers, different policies; and he changes his image with his public relations advisers. There has been another change today, I understand. The Leader of the Opposition suffers from that abiding defect of those who feel insecure or inadequate- the desperate need to prove toughness, virility, machismo, the boasting and bravado of the impotent man. That was the weakness that made him an arrogant yet appalling Leader of the House and that is the weakness that characterises his present conduct.
-Order! The honourable gentleman’s time has expired. (Extension of time granted)
– The right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton) yesterday summed up the attitude of the Opposition very well. He said: ‘We have been spending time rejecting everything that has come up. A lot of the things we have rejected are quite good. ‘ Since the Joint Sitting, on 19 occasions the Senate has rejected Bills which have been passed by this House. Twice it has excluded from a National Health Bill provisions which were recommended 6 years ago and which 5 years ago the honourable member for Barker, when Minister for Health, said that the Government of that time, the Gorton Government, would adopt. The Opposition now rejects things which 5 years ago, when in government, it was promising to introduce. Again, it has twice rejected the mineral code which was promised on 16 April 1970 by the Minister for National Development in the Gorton Government, Sir Reginald Swartz, a Bill which was drafted at that time. Twice since the Joint Sitting the Senate has rejected a Bill which the present Opposition drafted and promised to introduce when it was in government 5 years ago. Last week the Senate rejected the Superior Court of Australia Bill, which was foreshadowed by Sir Garfield Barwick when he was Attorney-General in the early 1960s and which 8 years ago this coming May was introduced by the right honourable gentleman’s successor as Attorney-General. Again, last week it rejected the Electoral Bill, which the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt), as the Minister for the Interior, introduced on 3 1 March 1971.
Can there be anything so negative and obstructive as members of the Liberal and Country Parties who now, when we bring in legislation, reject it despite the fact that 1 5 years ago, 8 years ago, 5 years ago, 4 years ago, 3 years ago, they themselves introduced it or promised to introduce it? And then, of course, they reject at the second reading. They did not even allow the Bill to go into Committee, where they could have cut out any additions which we have made which they found unpalatable. They do not even support the provisions which they themselves drafted. One of the newspapers on Friday commented on the poisonous atmosphere of Australian politics, as illustrated by last Thursday’s episode in this Parliament, the New South Wales Parliament and the South Australian Parliament. There is plenty of poison in the smears, the innuendos, the collective slanders. The Leader of the Opposition himself gets his henchmen to do it, like the tragic but honourable member for Mackellar, reckless in his accusations, abject when he is hauled before the courts, a man who for all his bedaubing, besmearing and besmirching has succeeded only in dishonouring the most honoured name in this Parliament and dishonouring his own character and reputation in his final years of public service. But there is a deeper source of poison in our public life, and that again comes directly from the weakness of the Leader of the Opposition’s position and his desperate efforts to shore up that position by any means. He stands up mutely for the honourable member for Mackellar but does not support by word in the House, still less outside, what the honourable member for Mackellar says. He covers up for the honourable member for Barker when he is called to order. He connives at what he does. He condones what he does. He incites him.
The real barometer of the likelihood of an early election is the changing strength of the challenge to the Leader of the Opposition from week to week. It is not a case of this Government’s being forced into an early election but the Leader of the Opposition being forced into it for his own survival. This motion has the same origin as every other political action of the Leader of the Opposition- his desperate need to prop up his own position in his own Party, his desperate insecurity as the Leader of his Parry. This is behind his threat that once again the Senate may set aside the verdict of the Australian people twice recorded in favour of my Government. For the Leader of the Opposition there is no question of the national interest. For the Leader of the Opposition there is no question of democratic principle. For the Leader of the Opposition there is no question of sound constitutional practice. For him it is only a question of what he must do to ward off the challenge to his leadership, not just the direct challenge from the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser), but the continuing challenge that exists throughout his whole Party. And that is the real question behind the Leader of the Opposition’s conduct in this Parliament this session.
For its part, the Government will continue to try to make the system work, to make this Parliament work, to legislate through this Parliament according to the forms of this Parliament and the traditions of this Parliament, to carry out the program, for which it has been already twice elected.
– We have listened to a rather pathetic speech by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). This great, arrogant man of steel today has shown himself to be indeed brittle. His impropriety, his abuses, his contradictions and his lack of loyalty are sapping the man in such a way that there was no vitality or spirit in his speech today, a speech of condemnation of him alone. All he can do is to put up a contrary amendment. If his amendment had any standing at all why did not the Government allow debate on this matter last Thursday? Why did it gag every opportunity for discussion on this despicable matter that was before the Parliament.
What happened here last Thursday was of tremendous significance. In essence we saw a number of things happen. We saw Ministers, especially the Prime Minister, display characteristics which place in most serious doubt their fitness to remain in office. We saw the Speakerand every future Speaker, if this Government remains- stripped of his power and authority to control this House and enforce its Standing Orders, thus destroying the whole basis on which the House operates. We saw the Speaker overthrown and his power and authority violated and usurped by a Prime Minister dictator. We saw the House reduced by this Government to impotence in the most basic and vital of its functionsthe exercise of its powers to protect itself against assault.
For such far-reaching abuses the Government must be censured and the Prime Minister brought to his senses before the process of destruction becomes irreversible. The processes of this Parliament are being crushed under foot by the Government. Last week’s events simply climaxed the situation. We saw every attempt by the Opposition to expose the Government’s shocking attack being immediately gagged. There was no effort to explain or justify its action, just a dictatorial contempt for everybody- this Parliament and the Australian nation. For 2 years we have seen a growing level of abuse of the customs of this House by Ministers. Question time has been subverted by Ministers for their own purposes. The rights of private members have been ignored. Legislation- for example, the recent Darwin legislation and the companies legislation- has been rushed through this House with unnecessary haste and in violation of all the accepted customs of the House. The Government has remained impervious to criticism both inside and outside the Parliament. No longer do Ministers make policy statements in this House which can be debated. Parliament is treated as unnecessarya formal nuisance.
Mr Speaker, few people have done more to subvert the democratic processes of this Parliament than has the Prime Minister. Few men have done as much to demean and besmirch the conventions, customs and traditions of this Parliament as has the Prime Minister. Few men have done so much violence to the important conventions, to the well-established customs and hence to the democracy, as has this Prime Minister. His self-confessed objective is the destruction of the States and the creation of an all-powerful central government- unitary government, as he calls it.
The traditions of Cabinet government were swept aside in late 1972 when this Prime Minister set up his 2-man junta. The tradition of an apolitical Public Service has been swept aside by this Prime Minister and this Government as Ministers’ sons, mates, friends, defeated colleagues and even the political staff ofthe Prime Minister have been appointed even to the highest positions in the Public Service of this country. Who was it who resorted to a shabby, shameful tactic in an effort to rig the numbers in the Senate? It was this Prime Minister. Who was it who knowingly allowed a person to sit and vote in the Senate chamber knowing that that person had resigned? It was the Prime Minister. Who was it who made a most blatantly political appointment to the High Court for his own political purposes? It was this Prime Minister. Who was it urged serving soldiers to mutiny? It was this Prime Minister.
Who was it who publicly rebuked the head of a Government department in a departure from all custom and convention? It was this Prime Minister. Who was it publicly, from a distance of several thousand miles, made an outrageous and improper pre-judgment on the Hobart bridge disaster in breach of all established legal precedent and custom? It was this Prime Minister. Who was it who resorted to the cowardly device of blaming the Treasury for the Government’s mismanagement of the economy? None other than that same Prime Minister. Who was it who, in a most shameful performance in 1970, led the whole of the Opposition in a mass act of defiance of the Speaker until the House had to be adjourned because of gross disorder?
There is a great long list of broken conventions, discrediting the traditions and so on to which one can refer when speaking of our present Prime Minister. What about the tradition that a Minister in whom the Parliament expresses a lack of confidence should immediately resign? Who found himself in this situation and thrust aside all convention and custom surrounding that situation? It was the former Attorney-General of this Government. That is what this Government thinks of convention. Who was it who made an unprecedented and indefensible raid on the office of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation and who supported and defended that action? It was the former Attorney-General and this Prime Minister respectively. Let it not be forgotten that the purposes of the Murphy raids on ASIO, or the nature ofthe documents that he was so desperate to find, have never been revealed. I wonder how long it will be before the full story will come out. Yet this Prime Minister is the man who has the hide to go on national television and preach about the need to uphold tradition, and to protect the customs and conventions of our democratic system. This is the man and this is the Government which claim the right to have charge of the nation’s affairs. No man and no government have ever stood so discredited in the eyes of this House and in the eyes of the people we all represent. No man and no government have ever done so much to destroy and smash the traditions, the conventions and the customs on which this Parliament stand and on which the whole of our national life stands. And when the attack and the destruction extend to the very heart of our democratic institution- this Parliament-then it is time to stop the rot.
The Australian people must be able to look to their national leader for ethics of the highest standard. They should be able to look to the
Prime Minister in particular to uphold the important and vital conventions and rules upon which the strength and stability of our whole society must rest. If that leadership and those ethical standards are absent, as they clearly are today, then the process of decay and destruction will take place at an increasingly rapid rate. If that process occurs and is seen to occur in the supreme institution of the nation, and is led and is seen to be led by the man who claims to be the nation’s leader, then we need feel no surprise at the continuing and accelerating disintegration of the fabric of our society. What the Prime Minister must be made to understand is that the actions I have described are bad enough when they are done by anybody, but when they are perpetrated by the Prime Minister himself, the offence is far worse. It is a national crime.
The Prime Minister is fond of telling us that democracy is under threat. So it is, and nowhere more than in Australia; nowhere in Australia more than in this Parliament itself. The biggest threat to democracy here, and the most dangerous parliamentary predator, has been shown to be the Prime Minister himself. I am not talking about the kind of behaviour that was described in one newspaper last Friday as that of a foulmouthed schoolboy bully. I am talking about the vicious assault by the Prime Minister on the supremacy of Parliament. The Parliament should be supreme. It must be supreme if it is to survive as the paramount manifestation of our democracy and if our democracy itself is to survive. Yet last Thursday we saw in this place a violant assault on this institution- an assault mounted by the Government and led by the Prime Minister. Four members of the Government including yourself, Mr Speaker, displayed a regard for this institution for which I commend you. The four of you did it by walking out of the chamber and refusing to have any part of the sordid plot the Prime Minister was leading- an act of treachery against the then Speaker, an act of treachery against this Parliament and an act of treachery against our democratic system.
The significance of the Prime Minister’s assault on this Parliament goes much deeper than it might at first seem to do. Firstly, the Prime Minister, although he is not given any special recognition in the Standing Orders, does occupy a special place in this Parliament. This special place carries with it special burdens which we all acknowledge, but those burdens are accompanied by special demands for the highest standard of observance of the dignity and the standing of the Parliament and for the protection of the Parliament. Many of us, from time to time, probably are guilty of breaches against the dignity and the traditions of the Parliament. Some of us, myself included, have experienced the power which the Parliament can wield in its own defence, but all of us who have transgressed against the Standing Orders and the dignity and decorum of the House have been dealt with as required by the rules, the customs and the traditions of the Parliament. It is those very powers- the powers of protection and preservation of the Parliament- that have now come under direct challenge and threat from the Prime Minister with nearly everyone of the members of the Government as his accomplices. Whereas the rest of us, over the years, have been subject to the sanctions of the Parliament, today this Prime Minister has placed himself and the Government beyond the- reach of those sanctions. This raises the gravest threat to this Parliament and to everything it represents.
On Thursday 2 things happened which I believe represent the clearest breaches of privilege. Firstly, the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) insulted and defied the Speaker. Secondly, the Prime Minister abused and threatened the Speaker. In making these attacks on the authority of the Speaker, both these men committed serious and clear breaches of privilege. But what happened when, quite properly and indeed inevitably, it was proposed that one of these acts be referred to the Privileges Committee? The Government, led by the Prime Minister, using its weight of numbers prevented that course from being followed. To quote from an editorial in the ‘Canberra Times’ of last Friday, this action by the Government ‘left the Parliament impotent to act in defence of its privilege’. Exactly the same thing happened on another occasion earlier in the life of this Parliament when a gross libel on the House by the Prime Minister and a clear and serious breach of privilege by the Prime Minister was prevented from going to the Privileges Committee of this House.
This Parliament, through the acts of the Prime Minister and the Government, has been made impotent to protect itself against the kind of attacks these predators and violators unleashed last Thursday. This is a matter of the gravest moment because it goes to the very heart of our democratic system. It is true, as the Prime Minister keeps telling us, that democracy and the democratic institutions are under threat. It is also true, as I repeat, that the most serious and direct threat to this country is coming from this Prime Minister and those who sit behind him. The simple answer is that they cannot be trusted, and the sooner they are removed from positions in which they are so demonstrably abusing and dishonouring the forms of this House the better it will be for the Australian people.
We have seen some frightful examples of the Prime Minister’s paucity of leadership in such things as his shabby, shocking treatment of the former Treasurer who was allowed to suffer and agonise for weeks while the Prime Minister tried to summon up the courage finally to stab him in the back. We have seen it in the case of the present Treasurer (Dr J. F. Cairns). A matter involving the Treasurer’s staff cries out for intervention and a display of leadership by the Prime Minister so that this distracting situation can be resolved, but there is little chance of that happening. We have seen, when it came to a choice of disciplining the wild and insubordinate Minister for Labor and Immigration or deserting the Speaker that he chose the latter. When the test of courage was applied he was found wanting.
-Order! The right honourable member ‘s time has expired.
– I rise to support the amendment moved by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). I shall read it for the benefit of the House, for the record, and for those who are listening to the debate. The Prime Minister has very aptly decided that the proper thing to be debated today is the failure of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) and the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) to use their influence on the members of their parties to comply with the Standing Orders and that thereby they have become parties to an attack on the institution of Parliament by members of the Opposition whose disruptive and unruly behaviour made difficult the conduct of the business of the House.
– You are a hypocrite.
– I hear again a voice coming from the Opposition saying that I am a hypocrite, a voice that talks so much about the practices of the Parliament and the parliamentary usage.
We have heard a long, doleful and dreary contribution from the Leader of the Opposition, during which time the only person from the Opposition benches to show any signs of mirth at all was the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser). Is it any wonder that he should have looked so pleased? Is it any wonder that he should have looked so smug and self-satisfied? His humour and mirth were the direct result of the very factors which led to the dreary, yawning and disinterested expressions on the faces of members on the other side of the House. The Leader of the Opposition, as the Prime Minister rightly pointed out, is desperate to try to do everything possible to distract attention from his own failure as Leader of the Opposition. He will resort to anything at all to prevent the Party that he pretends to lead from having an opportunity of deciding whether he is fit to lead. Snap elections, of course, suit him fine because a snap election, he figures, will prevent his side from thrusting the knife into his back before the election takes place in the ordinary course and he hopes, will influence the people to have as Prime Minister the person that his own Party does not trust. The people are not likely to accept as their Prime Minister someone whom his own Party will not accept as a Leader of the Opposition. Is it not odd- perhaps it is not- that when we on this side of the House moved that the right honourable gentleman be granted an extension of time, the only people to say ‘Aye’ were those on the Government benches. Not one single solitary voice from the Opposition joined in the chorus of those from the Government benches who said Aye ‘ to the motion that the Leader of the Opposition be granted an extension of time.
The right honourable gentleman started off by talking about the Prime Minister’s alleged contempt for the Parliament, but then he spent most of his time talking about Medibank, a snap election, the transfer of the economic activity from the private sector to the public sector, and so on and so on, completely ignoring altogether the reason for last week’s disturbance. In other words, he was acting in the manner in which Cassandra saw him on the weekend when he said that Snedden is a weekend lion and a midweek mouse. How well did Cassandra, that very shrewd and knowledgeable student of political people, sum up the situation when he described him in that way.
I want to remind the House of what the Leader of the Opposition said on 27 February 1973 when congratulating Mr Speaker Cope on his election to that office. He said:
We on this side of the House will co-operate. We will not interject while you are speaking, provided that you do not speak for too long.
That was the promise. He said: ‘We will not interject on you, Mr Speaker, so long as you do not talk for too long’. That is how much respect he had for the Speaker’s high office. He went on to say:
We will be courteous at all times, provided that you do not provoke us.
In other words, he was saying: ‘If you do provoke us we will be as discourteous as it pleases us’. The honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) seems to have developed a very highly intelligent form of interjection which is to look natural and yawn, and he is doing it again now. The Leader of the Opposition went on to say:
Further, we will be parliamentarians at all times, no matter what the circumstances.
What a hollow undertaking it was. What a sham for him to give that undertaking, because from the moment he sat down the people he leads did all the things that he said they would not do. They made the parliamentary system a sham. They continually interjected when they were warned not to do so, and they continued to week and month after month the honourable member for Barker (Dr Forbes), the honourable member for Wannon, the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair) who is the Deputy Leader of the Country Party, the Leader of the Country Party, the honourable member for Gippsland, the honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay) and the honourable member for Cowper (Mr Ian Robinson)- all of them- continued to interject when it suited them. The Leader of the Opposition would just get to his feet at any time without waiting for the call and start to talk. When the Speaker would remind him that he had no right to speak until called he would say that he wanted to take a point of order, and then he would proceed to continue to talk without taking a point of order, or he would continue to take frivolous points of order. When the Speaker warned that if he continued to take frivolous points of order he would have no alternative but to name him, he continued to defy and to ignore the Speaker and to treat the Speaker and the Parliament with utter contempt.
How did all this start? It started on 27 February- that is, last month. This is an extract from the Hansard record. Mr Clyde Cameron said:
I wish to make a personal explanation.
In the personal explanation I told the Parliament that it was not true that I had refused to give the Opposition an opportunity to see what was in the Stonehouse file, that the spokesman for the Opposition on immigration could have seen the file, that my personal secretary had indicated to him that the file would be available. When I made that statement Dr Forbes interjected:
You backdated the file.
It was a deliberate untruth to say that I backdated the file. I did not backdate the file, as I was able subsequently to prove. I produced the file in the Parliament. I produce the file again and ask to have it incorporated in Hansard. It makes clear that I gave the instructions to Stonehouse that I mentioned on 1 5 January.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
The Minister informed me yesterday that as soon as he receives advice from the British High Commission that Mr Stonehouse is no longer a Member of the House of Commons, we are to inform Mr Stonehouse through his solicitor that technically he has become a prohibited immigrant and is required to leave Australia.
If he fails to depart within a reasonable period Mr Cameron will order his deportation.
Mr Cameron later told me he would allow Mr Stonehouse three days to depart from the date his resignation has effect. During this period he must report daily to an officer from the Department.
-The Hansard record continues:
-We stopped that practice -
That is of back dating the files- as soon as we took over from you. At my direction my personal secretary last week requested or approached the honourable member for Warringah . . . and offered to allow him to go through the whole of the Stonehouse file. He declined the invitation.
A little later Dr Forbes is recorded as saying:
On a point of order: Is the Minister entitled under the privilege of Parliament to tell a monstrous lie?
This is a person who was once a Minister of the Crown. He went on:
He is always doing this.
He said that I was always telling the Parliament a monstrous he. Mr Speaker said:
Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. There is no point of order involved -
Then I asked Mr Speaker that the statement be withdrawn. Mr Speaker asked the honourable member for Barker to withdraw.
-Read the lot.
– All right. Hansard records that Mr Speaker said:
The honourable member for Barker used the words ‘monstrous lie’. The honourable member will withdraw that unparliamentary phrase ‘ monstrous lie ‘.
– I will withdraw it and substitute the words ‘a monstrous untruth’.
- Mr Speaker, I ask for an unconditional withdrawal.
-Order! The honourable member for Barker will withdraw it.
Does he withdraw it? No. He then said:
He asked a question, instead of withdrawing it as required - is the expression ‘monstrous untruth’ unparliamentary? I ask for your ruling.
And so the whole sorry business went on. I had a note handed to me by my personal secretary, who came to me after Mr Grassby ceased to be a Minister. Mr Wayne Gibbons was Dr Forbes’ private secretary before he worked for Mr Grassby. He had been the personal assistant to the head of the Department of Immigration, Sir Peter Heydon, before that. He is a very senior member ofthe Public Service, a completely professional man whose only fault is that he is as loyal as he has to be and as he is expected to be loyal at all times to the Minister he serves, whether it be Dr. Forbes, Mr Grassby, Sir Peter Heydon or Mr Clyde Cameron. He will be equally loyal to whoever follows me, whatever person that may be. He is a completely professional, dedicated, loyal public servant who has never done anything else but carry out his duty as a public servant should do. He gave me this information:
On Wednesday 19 February I was approached by the Opposition spokesman on Immigration, Mr MacKellar, who said he was thinking of asking your permission to examine the Stonehouse file. I recommended that he do so. In fact I said an examination ofthe file will show that we have acted quite properly in this matter and would also make it clear why it would be inappropriate to require Mr Stonehouse to depart in advance of his resignation or expulsion from the House of Commons on formal charges or an application for extradition. Mr MacKellar commented if that was the case he would not want to see the file.
I again encouraged Mr MacKellar to talk about the Stonehouse case with you.
I later informed the Assistant Secretary, Control Branch about my conversion with Mr MacKellar-
I ask leave to incorporate that document in Hansard.
-Is leave granted?
– Leave is not granted.
-Members of the Opposition are too afraid to have it incorporated because they know what is in it and they do not want to see it in Hansard. The honourable member for Barker is no new chum at breaking the rules and procedures of the Parliament. Let us see what he said on 12 February 1975. This is the man who represents the Opposition’s high regard for the standing of the Parliament and of conventions. Mr Snedden said:
My question is directed to the Prime Minister
Mr Snedden was about to ask the Prime Minister a question. Dr Forbes interjected:
What about sending a crook like Murphy to the High Court?
Fancy this coming from a front bench member of the Opposition, the gentleman who was a dismal failure as Minister for the Army, who was recognised as a dismal failure and who was transferred to become Minister for Health? He was a dismal failure as Minister for Health and was sacked. He became Minister for Immigration, but he was a dismal failure again. He is a dismal failure as a shadow Minister. Proof of the Opposition’s failure is that it cannot find anybody better than the honourable member for Barker to sit on the front bench. The fact that the Leader of the Opposition regards the honourable member for Barker as the best person that he can find to sit alongside him on the front bench does not say very much for the aspirants sitting behind him. It shows only what a low ebb the Leader of the Opposition and his Party have reached when this is the best that they can produce. Fancy the irony of it that the Opposition should have put up the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) to support this motion- the most disreputable of all of them, the one who is the most disorderly of all of them. Only a couple of days ago he was suspended from the service of the Parliament for his gross misbehaviour and for his disorder. Yet the Opposition had the hide to put a man like that up to talk about disorderly behaviour in the Parliament.
-Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
– It is a supreme irony that the Minister who precipitated the disgraceful and vulgar episode of last Thursday should have followed the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in this debate. He is the Minister who has betrayed the Australian working man by presiding over the worst unemployment crisis since the Great Depression, the Minister whose policies and those of his colleagues have directly led to in excess of 300 000 people unemployed in Australia at this time. He is a Minister who owes this House his own resignation and not an apology for the Prime Minister’s abuse of this Parliament. It is a further irony that the 3 saboteurs of the parliamentary system, the Prime Minister, the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) and the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) should be the very people who come before this House in this censure debate to now seek to defend that system.
Whatever in the course of this parliamentary debate be the bluff and bravado of the present Prime Minister of Australia, nothing can hide the simple fact that he has been exposed as a man without honour, a man who is prepared to transgress parliamentary privilege, a man who is prepared to trample upon parliamentary convention and a man who is prepared to leave his most trusted colleagues like Vats in a trap when the going happens to get tough. No Prime Minister of this country in 74 years of Federal parliamentary government has so demeaned his office and this House as did the present Prime Minister last Thursday. In a deliberate and abusive manner he threatened the authority of the Parliament and sought to destroy one of the principal conventionsa long-established convention- of our system of government. The Prime Minister’s conduct in that episode was as unprincipled as it was capricious and destructive. The Prime Minister demands the censure of this House.
On successive occasions throughout Australia’s parliamentary history the Speaker’s authority has been upheld by the Government of the day. Until last Thursday there was no occasion on which the naming of a Government Minister was not followed, in the absence of an apology, by a motion for his suspension, supported by the Government and the House. The precedents are clearly set down in the Hansard record. In 1938 Mr Cameron, a Government Minister, was named, and his suspension was subsequently moved and carried. The same practice was upheld in 1961 in the case of Mr Roberton, a Minister of the Menzies Government of the time. The only proper option available for a government to contest the naming of a Minister is a formal motion of dissent from the Speaker’s ruling. This option was conspicuously disregarded by the Prime Minister last Thursday. Not only did the Prime Minister wilfully and blatantly trample on this vital convention, but also he went on to intimidate and threaten the Speaker himself. That action, I put today, has no precedent in any parliament throughout this country.
No parliament should tolerate the vulgar display of arrogance and anger exhibited by the present Prime Minister. His behaviour should have been accepted as a breach of privilege by this House. The action by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) to raise the Prime Minister’s conduct as a matter of privilege was suppressed on the Prime Minister’s personal instructions. There should be no mistaking the Prime Minister’s principal role in the events of last Thursday. It was, after all, the Prime Minister who prevented the Minister for Labor and Immigration from apologising to the Chair. It was, after all, the Prime Minister who prevented the Leader of the House from moving the suspension of the Minister for Labor and Immigration. It was the Prime Minister alone who intimidated and threatened the former Speaker. Indeed, it was the Prime Minister who instructed that the matter of privilege relating to his own personal conduct in this House should not be raised.
Today, notwithstanding the bluff and the bravado, the Prime Minister offered no apology for these events. These were the actions of a man who, I believe, has no respect for parliamentary democracy and without regard for the conventions of government. These were the actions of a man who was prepared to stab a colleague in the back to satisfy his own personal aspirations and ambitions. These, I believe, were the actions of a man who is incapable of providing calm and deliberative leadership. Only one week previously the present Prime Minister had preached to the nation the importance of conventions to our framework of government in terms which were mentioned earlier by the Leader of the Opposition. The Prime Minister said:
When violence is done to an important convention, a well established custom, then violence is done to democracy itself.
The Prime Minister has been condemned by all Australians for the violence which he personally perpetrated on this Parliament last Thursday. I quote from the ‘Australian’ of 28 February. That national newspaper stated:
The violence Mr Whitlam thus did to democracy was the ultimate sin of this tragic morning. His behaviour showed that, whatever the outraged public thinks, he for one appears to have lost respect for the institutions of parliament.
The ‘Age’ of 28 February stated:
The uproar and incidents that provoked Mr Cope to announce his resignation from the Chair will be remembered as a shameful blot on the record of the Whitlam Government and on the reputation of parliamentary democracy in Aus.tralia … Mr Whitlam has engineered a frightening breach ofthe rules.
The ‘Australian Financial Review’ referred to the Prime Minister’s conduct in the following terms:
When all the mitigating circumstances are taken into account, Mr Whitlam, who has been at pains to defend and promote the Parliament, stands after yesterday as a larrikin saboteur of the system.
The seriousness and revulsion with which all Australians viewed the Prime Minister’s behaviour last week cannot, in this House in this debate, be overstated. The censure motion has not been brought forward lightly or without serious consideration. The Prime Minister has been censured by the public and the media for his actions. Parliament must protect itself. If members of this House do not have the courage and the will to act and to act firmly the parliamentary institution, if then attacked, will not survive. Professor Geoffrey Sawer put it in a calm and dispassionate way when he said:
Contemptuous reference to the Speaker and indication of refusal to accept his authority is the plainest kind of breach of parliamentary privilege. This is not a mere matter of practice or even convention; it’s part of the common law and quite essential to Parliament’s legal structure and functioning.
Last Thursday’s incident was not the first example of the Prime Minister’s contempt for the long accepted processes of government in this country. He was, we recall with shame, the principal architect of the Gair affair- an attempt by manipulation and inducement to gain control of the Australian Senate. He was the instigator of Senator Murphy’s appointment to the High Court- an appointment, some believe, designed to pervert the course of judicial interpretation to the advantage of his Government.
The simple fact is this: The style- in fact, the integrity- of the Whitlam Administration is now open to serious question. It is an Administration which has indulged in an unprecedented program of public appointments of its own supporters. In many cases quite flagrant instances of nepotism have taken place. It is an Administration which has been lavish and wasteful with public funds, much of which has been expended for blatantly political purposes. It is an Administration which has shown its contempt for the legislative function of this Parliament by seeking to use it simply as a rubber stamp for its legislation. It is an Administration which has abused the Parliament by the ruthless use of the gag and the guillotine, by abandoning the practice of ministerial statements, by turning question time into a forum for its own dirty propaganda and by failing to notify the House of its forward legislative program. It is an Administration which has misled this Parliament and the public on numerous occasions by withholding and distorting information.
What are the facts? They speak for themselves. During 1971 and 1972 there was an average of 1 7 questions without notice on each sitting day, 15 in 1973 and 13 in 1974. The average per day this year is eleven. The practice of informing the House on matters of government policy by way of ministerial statement has been well nigh completely abandoned. There were 86 statements by Ministers in 1972, 71 in 1973, 28 in 1974 and only two this year. The same trend is evident so far as debates on important Government papers and reports are concerned. Those debates numbered 44 in 1972, 27 in 1973, 12 in 1974 and one this year. Suffice it to say that this Government has deliberately set out to avoid the scrutiny of this Parliament. All of these practices have been prompted or condoned by the Prime Minister, a man who is intent on the pursuit of power at any cost, a man who is prepared to execute publicly first his Deputy Prime Minister, secondly his Treasurer and now the former Speaker of the House. Is it any wonder that the principle of Cabinet government and ministerial responsibility does not operate under the Whitlam administration? Is it any wonder that individual Ministers and the Cabinet itself are not prepared to offer loyalty to this Prime Minister? If loyalty is to be won, it must first be given. But the present Prime Minister is not prepared to give loyalty to his colleagues or indeed to his Party, much less to the institution of Parliament. He is prepared to abandon any of his colleagues for his own purposes. I would again like to quote the words of the present Prime Minister. He said:
If men in positions of power feel free to breach the rules with impunity, how long will those who feel disadvantaged or deprived or denied power play according to the rules.
That is a question which the Prime Minister must surely ask himself. He has shown to the nation at large a contempt for the system and an arrogant disregard for its obligations. By the actions of the present Prime Minister of Australia last Thursday, I believe that he has forfeited his credibility and his standing. He has chosen authority in favour of respect; he has chosen power instead of leadership, and vindictiveness instead of restraint and moderation. This Parliament must not condone his actions because if it does so, it will in fact weaken the very institution itself. During the history of this Parliament, only 4 motions of censure have been moved against a Prime Minister on a matter relating to his actions in the House. Only two of those motions have referred to an abuse of the House procedures. It is interesting to recall that both of those motions have been moved against the present Prime Minister. This Parliament has a duty to uphold its authority, its rules, its conventions. No Prime Minister, whoever he be and whatever party he may lead, can be afforded special consideration by virtue of his office as Leader of the Government Party. To do so would be to deny the very democratic basis of our government system. The facts upon which this motion of censure is based are, I believe, beyond question. They are recorded in Hansard. The facts are not at issue. What is at issue is the resolve of this, I would hope, great Australian Parliament to reassert its own authority. On that point I rest the case for the Opposition Parties. I support the motion of censure.
- Mr Speaker, if it were not so serious it of the Liberal Party talking about principles and conventions, because ever since that grim day 2 December 1972 when the Liberal Party was turned out of office after 23 years in government, the members of the Liberal Party have not accepted the verdict of the people that they are no longer in government. Since that date their tactics in this Parliament have been to cause disruption, take points of order, make ridicule, create disorder and launch concentrated attacks on the conventions and the Standing Orders of this House. Recently we saw a major conspiracy throughout Australia. In the New South Wales Parliament the New South Wales Liberal Premier broke the longest standing convention in Australia’s history in regard to the replacement of a senator. Members of the Liberal Party put on a great blue in this Parliament. In the South Australian Parliament the Liberal Leader was thrown out, and I think in the Queensland Parliament the members of the Liberal Party put up another rort. The members of the Liberal Party sought to distract from the actions of the New South Wales Premier all the concentrated publicity that would have been given to those actions. Members of the Liberal Party behaved like highly paid larrikins in this great forum of the national Parliament. It is said that the other day I should have moved for the suspension of the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron), and that that caused what followed. I have not always moved for the suspension of members when they have been named by the Speaker. In my generous and good hearted way I have generally given the member concerned the chance to withdraw. Consequently, it is completely wrong to say that on every occasion I have moved for the suspension of the member named by the Speaker. Between 1973 and 1975, 16 Opposition members have been named by the
Speaker. The Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) has been named on 2 occasions. What a great example he is of the dignity of the Parliament and of all that goes with it. The honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) has been expelled only 5 times, and if he had got his desserts he should have been expelled a dozen times. These are the people who tell us that there is no dignity on the Government side of this House. I repeat that 16 Opposition members have been named by the Speaker between 1973 and 1975, and each of them was expelled after, in most instances, I had given the honourable member concerned the opportunity to apologise. I wonder whether the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair) would have jumped up with the speed for suspension if the Leader of the Country Party had been the member concerned. We would not have dragged the motion out of him with a tractor if it had been the Leader of the Country Party who was involved the other day. On every occasion a member has been expelled after having been named by the Speaker, every honourable member opposite has voted against the motion for suspension. Now they talk about how they are always the upholders of the dignity of the Chair and all that goes with it. If honourable members opposite had really thought that the honourable member for Hindmarsh should have been expelled after having been named correctly by the Speaker will they tell me why, on the 16 occasions on which Opposition members have been named by the Speaker during the time of this Government, they are listed as having voted against the motion for the suspension of the honourable members involved? They know that they have one law for themselves and another law for honourable members on the Government side. There are instances of this happening again and again. I ask the honourable member for New England to tell me whether he would have come out and moved the motion for suspension if the Leader of the Country Party had been the member involved the other day.
As I have said, ever since honourable members opposite became the Opposition there has been disruption unlimited in this chamber. Let us look at this business of personal explanations. For instance, on 26 February the last 3 columns of Hansard were taken up by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) in making a personal explanation. On 25 February he took up 2 columns of Hansard in making a personal explanation. On 20 February the ‘new leader’- I use inverted commas- of the Liberal Party, the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) took up only one column of Hansard to make a personal explanation. He does not say much, he says it shortly, and you know that he has come and gone. On 19 February, Mr Snedden again took up 2 columns of Hansard in making a personal explanation. On 10 February Mr Snedden was absent, so Mr Sinclair took up a column of Hansard in making a personal explanation. On 13 February the Leader of the Country Party took up nearly 2 columns of Hansard in making a personal explanation about the price of oil that he wanted to increase by about 40 per cent. On 12 February the Leader of the Country Party took up another Ite columns of Hansard in making a personal explanation. On 1 1 February he took up another column of Hansard in making a personal explanation. As the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has stated, on 27 February, in the course of Mr Hayden ‘s reply, interjections took up 4 columns of Hansard and points of order took up 9% columns of Hansard- 2 te times as long as that taken up by the answer to the question. Is not this organised contempt for the Parliament and all that goes with it? It is no wonder that the members of the public are fed up to the neck with honourable members opposite and realise that they do not appreciate the dignity of the Parliament.
This motion today is not aimed at the Prime Minister; it is a save Snedden motion. Everybody knows that if there had not been the upset in this House last week the Leader of the Opposition would have been voted out of office today. Everybody knows that the most disappointed man in this Parliament is the honourable member for Wannon because today was to be his hour of glory. He finds now that the failing Leader of the Opposition is fighting for survival. That is why honourable members opposite have had to bring forward this motion today. Honourable members opposite have put the Leader of the Opposition on show today, and all the time I could see by the smirk on the face of the honourable member for Wannon that he is saying to himself: ‘Would not I be a lot better? I look better, I stand taller, I talk more intelligently. You have seen what he can do. Give me a go’. In a week or so there may well be a motion brought forward in the party room to remove the Leader of the Opposition. Today, in my generous way, I gave the Leader of the Opposition an extension of time to enable him to complete his speech and, to use his own expression, I think he stuffed it.
In this Parliament the Country Party seeks by motions of this sort to hide the disunity that exists in the ranks of honourable members opposite.
We know that the Country Party is moving into Tasmania and that the Tasmanian people are standing by to repel boarders because it is bad enough having the Country Party on the mainland without having it in that lovely State of Tasmania. We find also that the Country Party is going into South Australia to try to distract attention from the disunity that exists in that State and to take the minds of the people ofl’ the rigging of electoral boundaries and things of that nature for which the Country Party is famous. The members of the Country Party want to take the minds of the people off all those things that the Country Party is doing to undermine the prestige, if you can say that, of the Leader of the Opposition and those who sit opposite. Things are getting desperate on the other side of the House. The Country Party is even forming a branch in the Woden Valley in Canberra, and that is kicking out into the bush a long way, is it not? The Country Party has gone into Tasmania and Western Australia, and I am scared stiff that it will form a branch in Newtown. The Opposition Parties are riddled with dissension. That is why motions of this type come forward again and again in this Parliament endeavouring to discredit the greatest political leader that this country has had, that is, the present Prime Minister who leads the Australian Government.
I mention these matters in this respect: Mr Speaker, was it not a half-hearted attempt at a censure today against the Prime Minister? I was a bit upset. I thought I might have been included in the motion. But the Opposition parties limited it to the Prime Minister only. As honourable members have seen, the Opposition parties failed lamentably to force home their case because they had no case against him. There are precedents, which I will not go into now, in respect of events occurring with respect to Speakers. Precedents show that on occasions it does not necessarily follow that a member is named in response to what has happened or what has been said by the Chair. No doubt exists that these things do occur. On one occasion, the then Leader of the Government was named. But nothing came of it. Consequently, a precedent exists in that respect. What honourable members opposite have claimed with respect to action by the Speaker does not necessarily follow.
In this respect, we are talking about conventions. Conventions are all right for the Liberal Party when they suit it. But when they do not, the Liberal Party throws the book away. I ask those Liberals who sit opposite today whether they will say that they agree with the Leader of the Country Party, Mr Anthony, in his statement that Mr
Lewis should have broken the convention regarding the election of a senator to replace the senator who had left the other place? Do Liberals opposite agree with that statement? Do they agree with the breaking of that convention? To his credit, my distinguished friend the lawyer from Moreton (Mr Killen) does not agree with the breaking of such conventions.
Fancy members of the Country Party talking about conventions. Good heavens above, honourable members know as well as I do that members of the Country Party have broken every convention applying to any aspect of this Parliament. In this country, conventions matter to the Country Party, particularly its Leader, only when they suit the Country Party. Therefore, the amendment moved by the Prime Minister condemning the Leader of the Country Party and the Leader of the Opposition is the only motion which should be passed by the Parliament on this issue.
I will go so far as to say that in the long period that I have been a member of this Parliament I have never seen an Opposition that has sought to disrupt the affairs of the Parliament as have those who sit opposite today. If honourable members want to disrupt the Parliament, which is bad enough, they ought to do so within the Standing Orders and not act like a disorganised rabble trying to hold up the business of the Parliament simply for the sake of political gain.
I believe that this motion is one which should not have been moved. It has no substance. The disruption which occurred last week was caused entirely by those who sit opposite. In every possible way, the full responsibility for any event which has occurred in this Parliament and which the public might not like lies at the feet of those who sit opposite because they are seeking to make certain that this Parliament does not work. They are determined that the Speaker, whoever he might be, will not get a fair go if they have anything to do with it.
The leaders of this band are those who sit in the Country Party corner. Why, on one occasion I saved even the Deputy Leader of the Country Party, the honourable member for New England from being evicted for disorderly conduct. This behaviour is not confined to any one section but is an endeavour to upset the working of this Parliament.
Mr Speaker, I believe that the Prime Minister deserves the confidence of the Australian people. He has given great leadership to this nation. In the face of the tremendous difficulties involved in working on behalf of the Australian people, the
Prime Minister must put up with frivolous motions such as this one introduced into this House to hide the disunity which exists and to try to save the present Leader of the Liberal Party. This Government will have nothing to do with the motion. Having said so much, I believe that the Parliament should vote on this great issue. Therefore, I formally move:
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Hon. G. G. D. Scholes)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr Whitlam’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Hon. G. G. D. Scholes)
Question so resolved in the negative.
That the words proposed to be inserted (Mr Whitlam’s amendment) be so inserted.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Hon. G. G. D. Scholes)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the motion as amended be agreed to .
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Hon. G. G. D. Scholes)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
- Mr Speaker, I ask that questions be put on notice.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the right honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
-Yes. There are a number of allegations to which I do not respond but there is one in particular to which I need to respond. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in relation to a censure motion that was moved against me in 1964 said that the then Prime Minister, Mr Menzies, had forced me to make an apology. Mr Speaker, that is a false statement- absolutely false. In fact, when I learned that I had made a false statement in relation to the then honourable member for Yarra, who is now the Deputy Prime Minister (Dr J. F. Cairns), I took the first opportunity of coming into the House and making an apology for making that statement which was wrong. It might have been argued that the statement could have been justified. I did not choose to do that. I came into the House and made a forthright statement that what I had said as interpreted by the honourable member for Yarra had been wrong and I apologised for it. I was under no pressure from anybody. It was totally and unilaterally a decision of my own to make that apology. In fact, a censure motion was moved against me on the basis of the statement. I do not argue whether that motion should or should not have been moved, but I do not want this false statement, which has been going around for some considerable time, to be left uncorrected. In fairness, I should say that what the Prime Minister said today has been said on a number of other occasions by others. But from here on, if that is repeated it will be a lie.
-For the information of honourable members I present the report of the Australian delegation to the twenty-eighth session of the United Nations General Assembly held in New York from 18 September to 1 8 December 1 973. Due to the limited number available at this time I have arranged for reference copies of this report to be placed in the Parliamentary Library.
– I seek leave to make a statement.
-Is leave granted?
-Leave is not granted.
-For the information of honourable members I present a statement, an exchange of letters and schedules relating to the transfer of defence power to Papua New Guinea.
– Pursuant to section 29 of the Wine Overseas Marketing Act 1929-1973 I present the forty-sixth annual report of the Australian Wine Board for the year ended 30 June 1974.
– Pursuant to section 8 (2) and 8 (3) of the Remuneration Tribunals Act 1973-1974 I present the report of the Tribunal in respect of remuneration payable to members of the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory of Australia and other matters significantly related thereto. On 13 December 1974 the Senate resolved that the Remuneration Tribunal should report again, the Senate having disapproved of determinations contained in the 1974 review on 25 July last. Pursuant to the Senate’s resolution the Remuneration Tribunal decided to re-present the reports and determinations contained in the 1974 review subject to adjustment of certain anomalies. I now table the report as re-presented.
– For the information of honourable members I present a report made to the Hospitals and Health Services Commission entitled: Australian Health Manpower’.
– Pursuant to section 10 of the Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1930-1973 I present a statement of moneys received and expended during the year ended 30 June 1974 in the administration and development of the Australian Capital Territory.
– For the information of honourable members I present a statement and an exchange of letters relating to the transfer to Papua New Guinea of authority over foreign affairs.
- Mr Speaker, I seek leave to make a statement.
-Order! Is leave granted?
-Leave is not granted.
– In that case, I move: ‘That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent -
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. I call the honourable member for Mackellar.
-Last Tuesday -
-Order! Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
-Yes. I draw your attention, Mr Speaker, to page 634 of Hansard and the statements made there by Mr Speaker Cope. Last Tuesday in my absence the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) delivered an attack upon me of such a nature that Mr Speaker Cope said he would accord me the right of reply. The attack by the Prime Minister was wanton and deliberate. It was made in answer to a question and was irrelevant to that question. The Prime Minister mentioned with obvious relish his speculation that this would be my last term in Parliament. Whether I nominate for Liberal preselection is a matter for myself and will not be determined by the Prime Minister. Whether I obtain Liberal preselection is not a matter for the Prime Minister, as I understand he is unlikely to be a member -
– I rise on a point of order. Surely this has nothing to do with the point of personal explanation. The honourable member is giving us details of who decides Liberal Party preselection.
– I would agree with the point oforder.Iwastrying to connect the relevance of what the honourable member was saying to his personal explanation. I ask the honourable member to point out quickly where he has been personally misrepresented.
– I will not be too prolix. Mr Speaker, if you will look at page 634 of Hansard you will see that Mr Speaker Cope suggested I be given some special indulgence by reason of the extraordinary nature of the attack made by -
-Order! The honourable gentleman will receive no indulgence at all if he claims things to which he is not entitled. He is only entitled to explain in what way he has been personally misrepresented. He will not debate the question.
-Very good, Sir. I do not want to go outside the permission given by Mr Speaker Cope. As I have said, the Prime Minister assumes too much when he assumes that this is my last Parliament because it does not depend upon him or the things of which he was talking. He went on to say that I had disgraced my name in Parliament by consistent vilification over a quarter of a century. I have said much in Parliament and I have little to unsay. I understand he was referring to what I have done over a quarter of a century to draw attention to the infiltration of communism into the Labor Party. I stand by that, Mr Speaker.
-Order! The honourable gentleman is now debating the question.
-Mr Speaker, I would hope that in view of the latitude given to the Prime Minister in my absence a similar latitude might be given to me.
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
-Fairness is fairness, Mr Speaker.
-The honourable gentleman is aware that the Prime Minister was answering a question in this House and he is also aware that members of the House do not have the opportunity to speak on answers to questions other than by speaking on the adjournment or at some other similar stage. Personal explanations are certaintly not the occasion.
– I apologise, Mr Speaker. I was misled by what Mr Speaker Cope had said and I had hoped that you would stand by the commitment he gave me.
-Order! I ask the honourable gentleman to resume his seat.
-Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. During debate today the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) mentioned my name and the events of last Thursday. As I understood him, he said that the honourable member for Warringah subsequently admitted that he was completely wrong and the Minister was completely right. I have here the statement I released on the evening of Thursday 27 February, and because this matter was brought up by the Prime Minister and was also alluded to by the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) I just tell the House what I did say. That statement reads:
This morning the Minister for Labor and Immigration alleged that I had been offered access to the fie on Mr John Stonehouse and had refused. He later issued copies of documents received from his private secretary.
The facts are simply these: Last Wednesday, purely by chance, I encountered Mr Cameron’s private secretary in the corridor of Parliament House. We talked of various matters, amongst them the case of Mr Stonehouse. I mentioned Mr. Cameron’s talks with the British High Commissioner and went on to say that I may be requesting access to the Stonehouse file in the future. My recollection is that Mr Cameron ‘s secretary replied that he thought that my request, if made, may be acceded to. I replied that I probably wouldn ‘t ask for it just yet.
No approach was made at the initiative of Mr Cameron. I had a chance conversation with his private secretary. There was no offer to make the file available.
I point out that the private secretary had no right to make that offer.
Mr Cameron has attempted to divert attention from his thoroughly reprehensible action in the chamber this morning. By his defiance of the Speaker’s request to apologize he precipitated one of the most unsavoury incidents in Australian parliamentary history.
Motion (by Mr Daly )-by leave- proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
Debate (on motion by Mr Peacock) adjourned.
-In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969-1974,I present the reports relating to the following proposed works:
Orchestral Studio and Music Centre at Brisbane, Queensland;
Malak Primary and Pre-school at Darwin, Northern Territory.
Ordered that the reports be printed.
– by leave- I move:
That the resolution of the House of Representatives of 21 November 1974 referring the construction of Sanderson High School, Darwin, to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, be rescinded.
I think this matter would be self-evident to honourable members as a result of the cyclone disaster in Darwin. This proposal was referred to the Public Works Committee on 21 November 1 974 and involved the building of a high school at Sanderson in Darwin at a cost of $6.65 m at 1974 prices. The school was to be of very high standard to cater for 1 100 students and was to be almost identical with the Dripstone High School proposal which was recommended by the Public Works Committee in 1973. The proposed school was to draw from the communities of Malak, Karama, Anula and Walagi. Those suburbs have been seriously affected by the cyclone. They were not intensely developed suburbs but they were in the process of development, and the schools and the subdivision will not now be built as scheduled. The rate of growth for Darwin, as is understood, has not properly been determined at this time. There are various studies going on which have been catalogued by the report of the Cities Commission and, of course, public responses are now being taken. My own Department is engaged in a study of building resources and, of course, matters of that kind will determine the rate of growth to be undertaken.
The population of Darwin was in the vicinity of 47 000,I think, at the time of the disaster and it is now down to about 23 000.I am told by the Minister for the Northern Territory (Dr Patterson) that the present school population, both public and independent, is in the vicinity of 3000 which is somewhere near half what it was in pre-cyclone conditions and that the children of Darwin have adequate school accommodation available to meet present needs. I have been given an assurance by the Minister for the Northern Territory- I think it can be taken that it represents the attitude of the Government- that adequate school facilities will be provided to meet the school needs of Darwin as they develop. There is no need to say anything further on the matter. All honourable members have seen for themselves the enthusiasm with which this Government has proceeded in every conceivable way with the development of Darwin up to the unfortunate incident which beset it. There is no departure, of course, from our intention to see Darwin develop as a great city in the north which will meet our defence requirements, and which will represent a port for the agricultural and mineral resources of that region. It can be taken for granted that the restoration will go on as fast as possible. I take the opportunity to say only that with all other honourable members I regret the circumstances in which it is made necessary to rescind the resoultion referring this matter to the Committee. Otherwise, I give the assurance that when it becomes appropriate to proceed with this development there will be another referral to the Public Works Committee in relation to the Sanderson High School.
– Speaking for the people of the Northern Territory and for the Opposition on this motion, I indicate that we can do little but support it. I thank the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson) for his remarks concerning the situation in Darwin following cyclone Tracy. The areas to which he has made reference, of course, were among the most devastated in a devastated city. So it probably is a quite sensible thing to rescind the resolution. I was very pleased to hear the Minister say that the matter will be left virtually on the books, as it were, and that in the future the matter of the Sanderson High School will be reconsidered at an appropriate time. When I was in the northern suburbs of Darwin on the weekend before last not only did I see once again the devastation- that is not the matter about which we are talking- but also I attended a meeting at the Casuarina High School which is to operate as a general school in the northern suburbs. The headmaster of the school and those people concerned with the running of the school are worried because more than 1000 pupils are now listed in the various grades to attend the Casuarina High School.
So while I agree with the Minister that nothing else can be done in regard to the Sanderson High School, I have some reservations because of the rate at which people are flocking back into Darwin. I think that statistics come out once a week in this regard. On the weekend that I was there the number of people who had returned to DarwinI have not heard a later figure- was something like 24 000 or 25 000, with 3500 school children. So I would urge that the Minister consider the possibility that more schooling facilities could be needed in that area. While agreeing with the motion I would ask the Minister to take a very careful look at situations such as this in Darwin because the population there now is far larger than was originally estimated for this time. I think it was estimated originally that there would be about 15 000 people in Darwin at this time, but the number is now 10 000 or more above that figure. So, bearing in mind that it takes some years to build schools such as the one which would have been constructed at Sanderson, I urge the Government to keep an eye on the situation because it is one which could get out of hand very quickly.
-The Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson) may recall that the other day when I rose to speak I was gagged. I would like to ask him now whether the withdrawal of this reference will be accompanied by- maybe it has happened already- the withdrawal of the reference to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works in relation to Forrest Place in Perth. He will recall that that reference was made in rather special circumstances and that there was some protest from honourable members on this side of the chamber. So I wonder whether the withdrawal of the resolution in relation to the Sanderson High School has been preceded or will be followed by a withdrawal of the reference concerning the post office building which was to be built across the northern end of Forrest Place in the heart of Perth.
– in reply- It is not very appropriate, of course, to deal with Forrest Place in any shape or form at this time, but I would say to the honourable member for Curtin (Mr Garland) that the Government likes to strike consistency in relation to these matters. The Forrest Place matter is under consideration and I will be able to determine an attitude in a very short time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
The Customs Tariff Proposals I have just tabled relate to proposed alterations to the Customs Tariff 1966-1974. Customs Tariffproposals No. 9 give effect to the Government’s decision on recommendations made by the Industries Assistance Commission in its report on Apparel- Section 2. The effect of the decision is that tariff quotas will apply to men’s and boy’s suits, coats and shorts, women’s, girls’ and infants’ outer garments, swimwear and babies’ napkins. A penalty rate of duty will apply to imports in excess of quota. The proposals also provide for the withdrawal ofthe developing country preferences on tools for working in the hand with self-contained electric motors, and several minor changes of an administrative nature. The new duties will operate from tomorrow.
Customs Tariff Proposals No. 10 provide for the creation of a duty free quota within the developing country preferences system for certain woodware. The concession is back dated to 1 January 1975. A comprehensive summary of the changes and the duty rates is being circulated to honourable members. I commend the proposals.
Debate (on motion by Mr McLeay) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 27 February on motion by Mr Les Johnson:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– in reply- On 1 1 December last the Australian Housing Corporation Bill 1974 was introduced in the Senate. Drafting of the legislation had been commenced early enough to permit its introduction in the House of Representatives which had concluded its sittings on 5 December. I was anxious that the Bill should be introduced as early as possible to enable the Parliament and the community to evaluate its provisions and to react and respond in such a way as would enable useful suggestions to be made which could be taken into account. The Bill was subsequently withdrawn from the Senate and re-introduced in the House on 13 February. Amendments have been circulated concurrent with the resumption of the second reading debate. The amendments to the Bill will enable the Corporation to make loans or grants for the repayment or discharge of existing loans, make loans or grants for the payment of rent, provide housing accommodation for students, perform its functions by being able to make conditional grants or loans to Australian companies to build or buy dwellings or land for dwellings.
The main objective of the legislation is to equip the Government with a new authority which will develop a capacity to administer effectively those housing activities which are referred to it initially and subsequently. Upon its establishment the Corporation will administer the Defence Service Homes Act. Personnel administering the defence service homes scheme will bring to the Corporation experience and momentum gained over more than a half a century. There are approximately 186 000 homes subject to existing loans under the defence service homes scheme, with loan balances outstanding in the vicinity of $ 1 billion. With an annual budget in excess of $100m the defence service homes scheme will constitute a stable and substantial part of the Corporation’s activities for many years to come. Trie Government is intent on sustaining the consideration now extended to the housing needs of ex-servicemen. This has already been effectively demonstrated by the initiatives we have taken to raise the maximum level of loan and widen the area of eligibility. This scheme will widen immensely the Australian Government’s ability to work helpfully and co-operatively with institutional lenders and with the private sector so as to fulfil the housing aspirations of a significant sector of the Australian community. The time has come to bring that same capacity, that same resourcefulness which has enabled the old war service homes scheme to bring homes to more than 323 000 veterans down the years, to meet the housing needs of a broader range of Australian citizens. In many respects the Australian Housing Corporation Bill is an emulation of the Defence Service Homes Act.
The Bill lays down that the prescribed function of the Corporation is: ‘To lend money for the building or purchase of dwellings and the purchase of land to be used for dwellings’. As is the case with the Defence Service Homes Act, it is necessary to prescribe ancillary powers to enable this primary function to proceed- for example, power to purchase or take on or hire and dispose of plant, machinery, equipment or other goods; to enter into contracts; to erect buildings or to demolish buildings; to set out, construct and maintain roads; to make accessible and transfer land in an area being developed for housing, for use as a park or recreation; to sell or lease land, to charge interest; to take mortgages; to make charges for work and so on. Even in the context of the defence service homes scheme, which principally exercises its function by lending at extremely low rates of interest, these powers are available and utilised.
It is particularly important to clarify the position of the defence service homes scheme because this has been subject to some misunderstanding. The Corporation builds upon the foundation of defence service homes. It will take over their administration. Nothing is taken away from ex-servicemen by the Bill but much else is added. The Government is intent on sustaining the consideration now extended to the housing needs of ex-servicemen. This has already been effectively demonstrated by initiatives we have taken to raise the maximum level of loan and to widen the area of eligibility. I undertake on behalf of the Government that it will continue to assist the housing of ex-servicemen. Indeed, our record shows, both as to amounts lent and as to the persons eligible, that we have widened and strenghtened this scheme. Eligibility now includes serving members of the regular forces who have completed 3 years’ service. National servicemen serving on 2 December 1972 who have completed their service are also eligible. There are many others whom time will not permit me to mention to the House. Since coming into office the Government has amended the Defence Service Homes Act on 2 occasions and has extended the nature and scope of the scheme. In 1973 it increased the loan from $9,000 to $12,000 and last year it increased the maximum loan to $15,000.
As stated in the Bill, the principal function of the Australian Housing Corporation is to lend money for the building or the purchase of dwellings and the purchase of land to be used for dwellings. In effect, therefore, the Corporation will be providing housing assistance to new groups in the community on lines similar in many respects to those under the Defence Service Homes Act for servicemen and ex-servicemen. Under the Defence Service Homes Act the Director is required to pay all money he receives into the Consolidated Revenue Fund. The Bill provides that upon the Corporation taking over the administration of that scheme all such receipts shall form part of the capital of the Corporation and will then become available for relending by the Corporation.
Opposition speakers have queried the need for setting up a corporation for the purposes we have described. The reason the Corporation is necessary is clear. It is the same reason that Government corporations have been set up in many areas of public activity. The powers and functions of the Corporation are designed to allow it, if and when the appropriate regulations are made, to take direct action in a wide field in the implementation of the housing policy of the Aus.tralian Government. It will certainly act as a lending authority, which will require it to have status as a legal person, as a mortgagee, a creditor, an entity which can sue and be sued in the administration of its lending business. It requires the degree of independence for its day to day operations, which would be impossible for a government department. It needs to have continuity in its financial dealings and not to be limited to a system of annual appropriations to which government departments are subject. A circulating fund is essential for a lending authority to plan its future operations.
I invite members of the Opposition who have criticised our decision to look at other cases in which systems of government lending have been established. The various government housing commissions, housing trusts, home finance trusts and housing commissioners all have a separate indentity and a degree of financial independence. They are not part of a government department and were set up in their present form by governments on both sides of politics. In addition to its lending function the Corporation needs, on appropriate occasions, to be a land holder and - to carry out construction and development functions. These functions also require that it should have legal identity. When the National Capital Development Commission was set up by the Liberal-Country Party Government did anyone claim that it should be merely a branch of the Department of the Interior? It would have been greatly handicapped in its functions had it been limited to this form. The Australian Housing Corporation will be the operational arm of the Government in the housing field. It would be a very weak arm if it were compressed within the form of a routine government department.
As to the suggestion of the Opposition spokesman on housing that it will cost $25m merely to set up the Corporation, I suggest he should now have a closer look at the Bill. He will see that apart from the Secretary of the Department of Housing and Construction and a general manager there are to be only six other Corporation members. These are all to be part time members. If this were to cost $25m they would be the highest paid board members in history. The bulk of the staff assisting the Corporation will be working on the operations side. I stress that these staff are already in existence and are attached largely to the Defence Services Homes Division ofthe Department of Housing and Construction. There is already staff for the Corporation and it already occupies adequate accommodation. There are costs but they are costs that have already been incurred for many years and they are costs that will not be increased merely by transferring them from the Department to the Housing Corporation. Naturally there will be a small buildup of staff to assist the Corporation on policy matters, but rather than being a net cost this will be a positive benefit as it will increase the efficiency of operations of the housing scheme currently administered.
I point out that the defence service homes administrative costs have always been carried by the Government as a benefit to ex-servicemen. In future they will be shown as a cost to the Corporation but they will not be a net additional expenditure. The overall cost of establishing the Corporation will be minimal but $25m will be spent on housing the people. The Opposition spokesman on housing in his speech argued that the Australian Housing Corporation will take over the role of State housing authorities. This, of course, is nonsense. We are firmly committed to supporting the State housing authorities and under the 1973 Housing Agreement, which will run through to 1978, we will supply money at 4.5 per cent interest to the home builders’ account, compared to a 1 per cent subsidy offered under the previous administration. We have increased the allocation to the State governments from $163m made by the Liberal-Country Party Government in 1972-73 to $375m in 1974-75. This is an increase far beyond that needed to compensate for inflation. In suggesting that the Australian Housing Corporation will take over the role of the State housing authorities the Opposition has misinterpreted the role which the Corporation will play.
As I said in my second reading speech, there are a number of people outside the scope of the present welfare housing assistance programs run by the States who are unable to make satisfactory financial arrangements to purchase a dwelling. The role of the Corporation will be to overcome this gap, to round out the financial market. Certainly we could fund terminating building societies to enable them to finance a higher income bracket than now is the case. In fact I have already stated that this could be one possibility, but how can State organisations such as the State housing authorities as they are presently structured assist with the second mortgage problem which confronts one in five home buyers or how could State organisations as they are structured provide assistance to private renters? I can reiterate only that the Corporation will complement, not compete, with the State housing authorities and the Australian Government will continue to support the valuable role played by them.
The possibilities open to the Corporation are limited only by the resources which the Government can command. Let me list some of the possibilities which could be implemented when funds and opportunities arise. We could:
To move quickly and flexibly to meet specific and varied housing needs the Australian Government, like most progressive overseas national governments, requires instruments available for its purposes. For example, national governments in Canada, the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Sweden and Germany have found it necessary to become deeply involved in the field of housing. In Great Britain a housing corporation was established in 1964 to assist bridge the gap between the public and the private sectors. The United Kingdom housing corporation provides assistance through subsidies, loans and grants to voluntary housing agencies, societies and so on to widen the range and choice of accommodation. Its funds may be used for cost rent and co-ownership societies, programs involving the acquisition of existing housing or the building of new housing estates and for rehabilitation and renovation. The legislation originally proposed by the then Conservative Government in the United Kingdom sought to increase the powers of the corporation to enable it, among other things, to buy and sell land, to develop land for housing and to acquire, convert and improve existing housing. The legislation was subsequently passed when the Labour Government came to office.
In Canada the federal body is the Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation which was established in 1945. It has a very wide range of powers and responsibilities in both the public and private housing fields. It works in close cooperation with the provincial government bodies. It can do all that is proposed for the Australian Housing Corporation and more. It can, among other things, make mortgage loans on low rental housing projects, make loans and contributions to non-profit and co-operative bodies for housing, make long term loans to the provinces for the acquisition or construction of housing and make loans to assemble land for residential purposes. In 1965 in the United States of America the Department of Housing and Urban Development was set up to ensure that the Federal Government was enabled to be more effectively involved in 2 critical domestic problemsthe provision of decent housing in a wholesome environment and the future of cities and suburbs.
There is a gap caused by the rate of increase in the cost of housing and serviced land that has created a new type of need. The public housing authorities and the private market in many overseas countries have not been able, on their own, to meet this need. Therefore, national government involvement and support have been essential. I suggest that the emergence in Australia of a large group of persons not catered for by either existing public or private agencies justifies our Government in taking notice of all this relevant overseas practice.
The principal weight of the Opposition attack on the Bill related to the allegation that there was an unusual degree of regulation-making power conferred under this Bill, and that the Australian Housing Corporation, unlike other organisations, would be largely free of parliamentary supervision. I can now say that in fact the opposite is the truth. The legislation confers less discretionary power on this Corporation than can be found in most corporations, a large proportion of them introduced by the LiberalCountry Party coalition. The Australian Industry Development Corporation Act, for instance, provides in section 9 that in the exercise of its powers the Corporation is not subject to direction by or on behalf of the Commonwealth. Honourable members will find nothing so derogatory of the power of Parliament in the present Bill. In the Australian Film Development Corporation Act, a piece of legislation introduced by the Gorton Government, there is power to make loans on such terms and conditions as the Corporation thinks fit. This is a very wide discretionary power indeed which is not given to the Australian Housing Corporation.
There are many other examples, but time will not permit me to provide the full list. I could expand the list indefinitely, but if we take one further example, it will be enough. Section 1 6 of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission Act, which constitutes the Commission under that name, enumerates powers falling into 2 categories- those that can be exercised without ministerial approval, and those which need ministerial approval but not Parliament’s approval. What we are proposing in this Bill will be a far more democratic process than the legislative examples I have quoted. We are committed to open government and community participation. In this matter of housing, which goes so closely to the basic living of our people, we have initiated a participatory process which will yield within the next 6 months a depth of understanding of the needs of the ordinary people such as Australia has never had before.
So far as the Housing Corporation is concerned, I propose 2 things: First in order that the Corporation should be fully representative, I have circulated an amendment increasing its size from 6 to 8. Second there is a tendency for even the most representative organisation to become inward-looking and to get out of touch with the people whose welfare it is supposed to serve. I therefore intend to have a committee directly advising me on matters primarily arising from the Australian Housing Corporation, but flowing over the whole field of housing POliCY
I appeal to members of the Opposition to reexamine their expressed attitudes in the light of the precedents and explanations 1 have given. Above all, I appeal to the people of Australia and to the people who could benefit from this great new Corporation to see it in its great potentialityto the ex-servicemen who will be served, to the lesser privileged people, to the young couples who could have their deposit gap removed, to the energetic and innovative entrepreneurs and developers who can join us in productive partnership- to swing in behind the Government in support of this legislation.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Hon. G. G. D. Scholes)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 3 (Interpretation).
– I move:
After sub-clause (2) insert the following sub-clauses: - (2a) A reference in this Act to the lending or granting of money for the building or purchase of a dwelling or for the purchase of land to be used for a dwelling includes a reference to the lending or granting of money for the repayment of a loan to which this sub-section applies. (2b) For the purposes of sub-section (2a)-
a loan to repay moneys lent and applied for the building or purchase of a dwelling or for the purchase of land to be used for a dwelling; or
a loan to repay a loan to which that sub-section applies, are each a loan to which that sub-section applies. ‘
This clause includes reference to the repayment of a loan. The amendment is needed to assist people towards the purchase of land. Unless there is such a clause, the Australian Housing Corporation would be unable to assist people who have obtained bridging finance by way of a second mortgage loan to replace the bridging loan. The new definitive clause is needed therefore to make it clear that any reference in the Bill with respect to loans or grants for the building or purchase of dwellings or for the purchase of land, includes loans or grants to take over or discharge charges, mortgages or encumbrances entered into as security for loans raised for the building or purchase of dwellings or the purchase of land.
I made considerable mention of this objective in the 2 speeches that I made during the second reading debate. If one looks at the whole housing scene at the present time, it can be readily ascertained that many people are in the position where they have had to take second mortgages. For such people it would be a great relief if the Housing Corporation, with the approval of the Parliament, contrived and innovated a scheme which would relieve them of the onerous conditions of such a second mortgage. The clause is specifically designed to accommodate that kind of case.
-The explanatory notes about clause 3 which were just read by the. Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson) claim that this amendment is needed, amongst other things, to assist people towards the purchase of land. We believe that like every other aspect of this legislation, the intentions of the amendment appear entirely praiseworthy and the words used sound attractive to the increasing thousands of Australians who are denied the opportunity to purchase land, a house, or even a flat. If we look behind the words, we find the whole concept is a deception and a fraud. Labor does not want people to own land. Labor wants the Government to own all the land and the people to be its tenants. I would like to read from part of the Australian Labor Party platform. At page 12, under the heading ‘Economic Planning’ it specifically states:
With the abject of achieving Labor’s objectives, establish or extend public enterprise, where appropriate by nationalisation, particularly in the fields of banking, consumer finance, insurance, marketing, housing . . .
The paragraph mentions several other items. The Minister has said as much as this in his early flowery Press releases on the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreements. If he remembers a couple of years ago he said that he was going to force the States to use all the money that this Government provided on rental housing. States, such as my own State of South Australia, have for years under both Liberal and Labor governments built up a most satisfactory and adequate stock of State-owned living accommodation. I shall quote from the South Australian Housing Trust annual report for the year ended 1973. At page 4 it states:
In the period 1970-72 the Housing Trust re-established in South Australia what it considered an appropriate annual level of public housing output at about 2200 units of accommodation. The yearly completions had fallen to nearly 1700 in 1969-70, but in the following 2 years this had increased to just over 2200____
The report goes on to make other points. The Opposition believes that there is no need for a Housing Corporation which in fact would be competing with State housing commissions or State housing trusts for land, finance and building and other scarce resources. This amendment attempts to further gild the lily by implying that home seekers- the Bill describes them as certain classes of people- need the Corporation because it will solve all the problems of bridging finance and high priced second mortgages. Again we believe that this is deceitful. Only the class of person favoured by the Government and selected by the Minister, with the power of regulation to which he has just referred, would obtain finance as a result of this Bill. There is no mention of interest rates, either as to what the Corporation itself might pay or what it might charge. Both the amendment and the clause build up false hopes for the vast majority of Australian home seekers who could never hope to benefit from this legislation. This Labor Government has created serious unemployment and a gross shortage of houses and flats. There is an ever-growing pool of Australians who are desperate for accommodation.
- Mr Chairman, is it in order for the honourable gentleman to engage in what can usually be regarded as a second reading debate? He is not speaking on the clause of the Bill in any shape or form. He is engaging in a diatribe against the Labor Party, with very untrue contentions about its attitude to home ownership.
-I am at something of a disadvantage in that I have been trying to sort out some 30 or more amendments. I must confess that my attention was distracted. I ask the honourable member to keep to the clause under consideration.
– I can assure you, Mr Chairman, that my remarks are within the ambit of this clause; otherwise I would not be saying these things. We are concerned about persons in this category in Australia who are waiting for accommodation. I make the point that this Government is dangling like a carrot in front of these people the vague possibility of obtaining easy finance and easy housing. It does this in return for more and more power at the expense of the individual and his or her freedom of choice. Those remarks, I am sure, are consistent with the provisions of clause 3. Most Australians would be able to acquire land, bridge the deposit gap and service their mortgage debts, as they could when we were in government, if the Labor Party brought interest rates back to the level at which they were when it gained office. That is mentioned in this clause. Nothing is as important as reducing interest rates. That is the view of the Opposition. Interest rates should be reduced not just for the classes of persons mentioned in the clause and favoured by Labor but for everyone in the community. The private banks have just given the Government a lead, as we saw yesterday, by the announcement of slightly reduced rates on home mortgages, although -
- Mr Chairman, I must persist with my earlier point of order. The honourable gentleman again is failing to make any reference to the clause. He is now proceeding to talk about the trend in bank lending. I cannot see that this has any relevance to the matters before the Committee.
– Yes. It appears to me that the clause does refer to the purposes of lending and borrowing. The honourable member for Boothby should restrict his comments to that point.
– I thought it was quite relevant to be talking about interest rates as no worthwhile reduction in interest rates has occurred since this Government has been in office. In fact, interestrateshaveincreased.Webelievethat interest rates must be reduced across the board for Australians to obtain the benefit. We do not propose to divide the Committee on the amendment. Others on this side wish to express views. At this stage, I just indicate our position to the amendment.
– I will not keep the Committee more than a few moments. During his previous comments, the honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay) pointed up one of the great inadequacies of this Bill. That inadequacy has already become apparent as a result of the first amendment which the Government has moved. It ought to be remembered that this Bill hardly lay on the table for any time before the Government proposed a whole series of major amendments to it. In the words of the first amendment, a reference to lending or granting of moneys for the building or purchase of a dwelling or of land to be used for a dwelling: includes a reference to the lending or granting of money for the repayment of a loan to which this sub-section applies.
In a word, this clause is supposed to enable clause 3 to apply in respect of second mortgage loans and ‘buying-out’ second mortgages.
I wish to ask the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson) some questions. To what extent will this occur? What size mortgages will be bought out? What interest rate is to be charged on the money which will be lent for the purpose of buying out these mortgages? To what extent will it occur that money contributed in this way at a certain interest rate, which is undefined, will merely be in substitute for money already lent for the purpose of these mortgages to people who will substitute one form of finance for another? I remind the Minister- he might check with his officers in this respect- that one of the great problems with the War Service Homes Act for many years and in the Defence Services Homes Act has been the desire by many people to obtain a loan or an advance for the purpose of buying out an existing loan or advance. Many years ago governments decided that this was not a valid or a Udt exercise of powers. Under this provision, how does the Minister apply what he proposes in respect of this Bill to the requirements of the Defence Service Homes Act?
I think that he will recognise immediately that this is quite relevant to the clause to which I am referring. To what extent will this provision negative and cut across the provisions of the Defence Service Homes Act which in some respects is in direct contradiction to the provision which he proposed to insert in the Bill. I believe that it is appropriate that we know, as we want to know, above aU, what are the schemes and what are the precisions of the schemes. We do not want vague words like ‘initiatives’ and ‘imagination’. What are the precisions of the schemes which are meant to apply under this clause and other clauses? I will be delighted if the Minister will answer that question rather precisely and without using the words ‘initiative’, ‘imagination’ and ‘new schemes’.
– I support the remarks by the honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay). I bring home to the attention of the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson) that, notwithstanding that this was a Budget proposal, the legislation was introduced into the Senate in December and we had a second reading debate in the House of Representatives. Before the Committee stages of the Bill’s consideration commenced we had advance knowledge of 12 amendments already to the Bill as now circulated in the Committee. Surely this fact indicates that the Minister fully realises that he has not done his homework and that he has not put forward to the Parliament a Bill which offers a concrete solution to the great problems of housing. It does seem to me that the amendment is somewhat misconstrued as the powers of the Bill are contained in clause 6. Yet, we have an amendment to clause 3 which indicates some of the principal functions of the Australian Housing Corporation. It would appear to me that the Minister at least would have tidied up the legislation to deal with areas where the Opposition could attack the problem and bring to his notice the great fallacies that he is pursuing in his legislation.
I must deal first with clause 6 to make my point regarding clause 3. Clause 6 provides:
But in respect of the amendment moved to clause 3, the Minister has stated that the Government wants to broaden the basis on which the Corporation can make loans to allow it to make them to persons needing to discharge bridging finance. I find it extremely difficult to comprehend how the Minister can bring forth this type of legislation. As presently drafted- and the Minister has had months in which to see that the BUI is drafted properly- the Bill refers only to the lending or granting of money for the building or purchase of dwellings or for the purchase of land. This would not permit the Corporation to lend money to a party who needed it to discharge any charge, mortgage or other encumbrance entered into as a security for a loan raised from some private financial institution to buy land or to buy or build a house. Surely the Minister could have covered this requirement originally in his BUI or dealt with it in his second reading speech.
I support also the remarks of the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns). I hope the Minister will give us an explanation of the situation in which a person, who has bought a home but did not take advantage of the war service finance that he could have obtained in the past, because of changing circumstances or pressing exigencies due to health or change of employment desires to obtain a defence force homes loan to pay out his existing home loan. Such an existing home loan would be at a very high rate of interest. This is the result of the financial policies of this Government. We want to know from the Minister whether the type of situation in which that person sought to obtain a defence force homes loan at the cheaper interest rate of 4V4 per cent to repay that original loan is covered in the legislation.
The amendments that have been foreshadowed to the BUI, if we agreed to the BUI in principle, would be very good and would attract our support. We realise that the Minister is obviously somewhat concerned with overcoming the great personal problems of certain people but we cannot accept that the framework of his ideas and his initiative are the best way to attack the problem. We submit that, instead of amending clause 3, it would be eminently suitable for the Minister to adopt the ideas put forward in this debate by the honourable member for Boothby, the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr
Bourchier), the honourable member for Lilley and the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Connolly). They said that we do not want another authority set up- another octopus of centralism; what we want is an updating of the present arrangements with the States to allow them to do these very things that the Minister is wanting to reserve for centralised control in Canberra.
We do not disapprove ofthe principles of the amendment. We agree with its aim and thrust. What we disagree with is the need for the Bill as such. We again make a plea to the Minister, while he still has some grace, to withdraw this type of centralised legislation and to enter into meaningful negotiations with the States so that they will have the finance to overcome these grey areas in the Australian housing situation to which the Minister refers in the first amendment. I know that other people want to speak in this debate so I Will conclude on this note: The aims of the amendment are worthy of support but the Opposition wil not support them because of the framework in which the Minister is placing them.
– I think it is important that honourable members should understand why this amendment is being moved. Obviously honourable members opposite have failed to obtain a copy of the explanatory notes, because if they had done so they would not be arguing in the way in which they are arguing. Furthermore, Opposition members who have spoken so far have not referred to the clause but have dealt with general philosophical matters associated with the BUI. I made my views perfectly clear when I spoke to the second reading of this BUI, but I will explain, for the benefit of those honourable members who have not seen the explanatory notes, that this amendment is needed to assist people in the purchase of land. Unless there is such a clause where people have obtained bridging finance the Corporation could not help them by way of a second mortgage loan replacing the bridging loan. This is one of the machinery amendments which the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson) has inserted to make sure that the BUI operates in the way in which it is intended to operate. I can only describe the objections which I have heard so far as very negative nit picking.
– I wish to address myself to clause 2(a) ofthe Government’s amendments to the BUI. The pot-pourri of wonders proposed by the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson), covers a variety of subjects some of which could best be handled by existing national institutions and policy options which have already been covered by existing State institutions. Various speakers in this debate have already made the point that the State housing authorities will in many ways be in direct competition with the Australian Housing Corporation. Therefore the problems which the Government is trying to solve are so massive in scope that I would like full clarification from the Minister as to precisely how he sees the State authorities working in with the proposed Corporation.
For example, the Minister has suggested that the first undertaking of the Corporation would be a second mortgage scheme to help eliminate the deposit gap for selected newly married couples. This point was recently made by a Government speaker. Apart from being a soft of partial, discriminatory approach- which this Government allegedly abhors but which it has shown to the people of Australia in many ways that it relishes- I venture to suggest that it has failed to go to the crux of the existing problem. The reason why some 20 per cent of Australians require a second mortgage at the present time is that our existing home finance system is obviously inadequate in that it lends at too low a percentage of the total value. There is no good reason of which I am aware why the deposit gap should not be raised to a much higher level as we find, for example, in both the United States of America and Canada. The Government could encourage savings banks and building societies to lend to, say, 90 per cent of valuation rather than around 75 per cent which is the average figure at the moment.
Furthermore, I see no reason why the Government should not arrange for the banks, which it has power to do, to take family income into account when granting loans rather than male income only, which is the system under which banks and financial institutions operate at the moment. If this were done the eligibility for first home borrowers in terms of existing qualifications would obviously be much greater and therefore the area within the existing demand and supply structure of the economy to meet requirements for finance would also be larger. To the extent that this increases lenders’ riskswhich would undoubtedly be one of the arguments brought against it- in my opinion it could be totally met by utilising the existing Housing Loans Insurance Corporation cover which could be well used especially in cases of second mortgages. This is an area which, in my opinion, the Government has not covered in this Bill. It is one which could easily be arranged with a minimum of administrative inconvenience or difficulty. Under the circumstances the HLIC should be incorporated within the Australian Housing Corporation. Again this has not been done in this legislation.
We need hardly look further in terms of the proliferation of government instrumentalities. There are quite enough of them already. I merely want to see a serious attempt by the Government to rationalise its approach to housing. The Minister’s ideas would be very costly in terms of the existing legislation and would simply add another bandage- that is all it is- to an existing system which is creaking under the pressures being brought to bear upon it because of the breakdown in the financial system caused by bis Government’s policies. Finally, we do not need more institutions involved in housing finance but rather greater efficiency on the part of the existing ones to meet the very real demand of the Australian people.
– In general terms I would like to reply to the comments that have been made. The fact of the matter is that the Opposition must make up its mind. Either it is interested in helping people to discharge mortgages or encumbrances that represent security for loans, either it is interested in assisting people towards the purchase of land or it is not. Either it wants the Australian Government to have a facility that will provide second mortgages and enable people to bridge the deposit gap, or it does not. It seems to me that whilst there is obviously some confusion there does not seem to be any enthusiasm for the fundamental idea that this Australian Parliament, like the Parliaments of the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States of America, should move into this area.
There are many problems. The honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Connolly) gave the impression that the Australian Government could be expected to dictate to the banks to whom and on what terms they should make loans. Of course it cannot do that. The Government has never sought to do it and if it did seek to do it it would be faced with very great trouble particularly in times of a shortage of investment funds for housing. So that is not the answer. The remedy, or the panacea, for these problems overseas has been identified in terms of the capacity of a government to provide an input to the activites of the traditional lending institutions. That is precisely what we intend to do- to make it possible for this Corporation to lend money not just for houses but also for land to relieve people of their encumbrance.
I have been asked to spell out precisely the terms and conditions on which this should be do. ie. I have been asked by the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) to give chapter and verse about matters which clearly are going to be the prerogative of the Housing Corporation. I am not going to pre-empt the work of the Corporation. The Government is setting up machinery. There is nothing unusual about this, as I mentioned in my second reading speech. I do not think that the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr Ruddock) was present to hear my reply to the debate when I instanced a number of corporations which have a range of powers that are well in excess of anything proposed in this legislation. One does not set up corporations and provide all the answers to all the problems that they are going to encounter. The Government has never yet done that. It is setting up a corporation to assist it to assail the problems that presently are confronting the people and the problems that are bound to emerge in the future. Even if I gave the honourable member for Lilley the answer to the particular question that he asked in respect of a current problem, he is well aware of the fact that I could not go on to give all the answers about problems which have not yet even been identified and with which the Corporation will become involved.
I doubt if the comments of the honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay) are worth a lot of reply. In fact, Mr Chairman, I think you regarded most of them as inappropriate to the discussion on this clause. As to his diatribe about the Labor Government being opposed to home ownership, one has only to look at the figures, if I could almost say that as an aside. Housing approvals in the last 2 years of Liberal-Country Party government were 307 482; approvals for the first 2 years of Labor Government were 345 234. That is not a bad figure for a government that is said not to believe in home ownership. The same kinds of figures apply to commencements, completions, the whole range. Let me give the completion figures. In the last 2 years of Liberal-Country Party government 287 000 houses were built and in the first 2 years of a Labor administration 302 000 houses were built. If you do not believe in the Labor Government’s enthusiasm for home ownership, have a look at what it has been doing for terminating building societies. I do not think anybody will dispute the fact that terminating building societies’ activities are directed to the provision of homes for relatively low income people. In the last year of office of Liberal-Country Party government the home builders account was $56.1m and this year the
Labor Government is giving $145m in the home builders account for home ownership. So nobody should talk to me about the lack of enthusiasm of this Government. I think we ought to kill that argument right at the start of the Committee debate, because it is apparent that the honourable member for Boothby wants to lead the Opposition in a cliche approach to this debate rather than a factual examination of the matter.
I do not think it is appropriate to say much more, in view ofthe time. However, I have been asked to give an assurance about how this legislation will affect the provisions that at present prevail in regard to the defence service homes scheme. The Defence Service Homes Act remains intact in every shape and form. It is not to be diminished, nor is the enthusiasm of the Government for the provision of houses for servicemen to be diminished in any way. It might be appropriate for me to tell the Committee, as a consolidation of that enthusiastic attitude that I have indicated, that it is my intention to provide on the board of the Corporation a representative of the Returned Services League so that the interests of ex-servicemen can be effectively safeguarded.
-In the few moments that are left I must make one comment. The Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson) made reference to the amount of building created under the Labor Government. The situation is that 92 per cent of that building was carried out by the private sector of the building industry, and that is despite the Labor Government. The honourable member for Diamond Valley (Mr McKenzie) made a comment about reading the explanatory memorandum, but what he forgot to do was turn the page and read the second part, and that is understandable. Page 2 of the explanatory memorandum points out that the Corporation will take over or discharge charges, mortgages or encumbrances. In other words, it is going to take over a mortgage and replace it with a mortgage, and that to me is utterly ridiculous.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
-I will not detain the Committee for any length of time. However, there is just one matter about which I am worried in regard to the Committee debate that has gone on so far, that is, that the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson) does not seem really to be in command of the Bill or to understand it fully. My evidence is based on 2 things. Firstly, the honourable member for
Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) asked the Minister certain specific questions and so far the Minister has found himself unable to reply to those questions. They seem to me to be very pertinent questions and ones which the Minister in charge of the Bill, if he understood it, should be able to answer off the cuff. But we have not yet had an answer. Perhaps the Minister will confute me in a few moments by answering the questions which the honourable member for Lilley addressed to him specifically earlier in this Committee debate.
The second thing, of course, which worries me is that the Government has brought in this large packet of amendments which obviously indicates that its first approach to this matter was ill considered. This is, I am afraid, typical ofthe way in which the Government treats legislation. It is, of course, fortunate that we have “a Senate which will be able to review these things. The first ill considered proposals of the Government which already the Senate has had to amend and which I think would require further amendment will not go through the whole of the Parliament without consideration in another place. This is one of the occasions on which I think we should really be thankful for the existence of the Senate and its power to review hasty, ill considered and ill digested legislation which this Government puts before us from time to time and which it endeavours to railroad through the House. That is all I have to say at the present time.
-The question is: ‘That the amendment be agreed to’. Those of that opinion say ‘aye’, to the contrary no’. The ‘ayes’ have it. Is it the wish of the Committee -
– Is not the Minister going to give us an answer to the specific questions?
– I answered them before the honourable member came in.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 4 and 5- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
The Corporation also has, subject to and in accordance with this Act, the following functions:
The Corporation may perform its functions to the extent only that they relate to matters with respect to which the Parliament has power to make laws and, in particular, may perform its functions-
– I move:
This is a very short amendment which I suggest the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson) might consider. The purpose of the proposed amendment can be expressed in a few words. I hope the Minister will consider it in the light of what I have to say in the next three or four minutes. The Corporation is to have a multitude of very wide functions. As the legislation stands at the moment one of its functions set out in paragraph (b) of sub-clause (2 ) is: to build dwellings or take pan in, or be associated with, the building of dwellings.
That sounds innocent enough. However the Corporation would be able to build dwellings for Commonwealth employees, migrants, students, those who are in receipt of family allowances for these purposes and those who are also in receipt of advances or loans from the Director of Defence Service Homes. Therefore the Corporation would have a far wider capacity to build dwellings than currently exists. This power would enable the Corporation to be set up as a very large construction authority. I do not believe that ought to be so. I do not believe that it is intended to be so. Such a body would be in competition with so many other organisations. It certainly would not function more efficiently than the other organisations.
-I refer the honourable member to the words in the Minister’s second reading speech. The whole character of the speech was rather to disavow that possibility. The words used by the Minister in his second reading speech and in his closure of the second reading debate were designed to indicate that he did not want to have undue government or public authority interference in the building and construction of dwellings. This part of the legislation would allow that to occur. I know that the Director of the Defence Service Homes has that capacity in a number of sections of the Defence Service Homes Act under which he operates, namely, sections 17, 18, and so on. I ask theMinister to consider the amendment. The amendment would have the effect of making an exception which has existed for many decades under the War Service Homes Act- I refer to the old title of the Act- and would effectively exclude the Corporation from engaging in the construction of dwellings for all the other purposes which the Minister hopes the Corporation would exist.
– The amendment moved by the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) is very hard to follow. I strongly doubt whether he has availed himself of the services of the Parliamentary Counsel. The advice that I have taken on the proposition is to the effect that it is hardly coherent and certainly not a useful contribution to the legislation in any shape or form. It seems to me that the honourable gentleman is pervaded by the thought that the proposed Corporation will take unto itself a substantial building function, and he persists with this attitude despite the assurances that I have given, and which he acknowledged, in response to an interjection just made in the Committee, that I have given. It is certainly not the intention of the Corporation to proceed along those lines. The whole emphasis has been on the need to catalyse the private sector and to use, where it is advantageous, the day labour system or the resources of the Department of Housing and Construction.
The honourable gentleman seems to be seeking to draw some distinction between the Defence Service Homes activity in this area and other activities. I certainly hope he is not trying to disparage or discourage the very beneficial work that has been undertaken by the Defence Service Homes Corporation in the provision of project homes and the development of estates which has brought very great benefit to people. Of course, in the process of doing that we have predominantly used the services of the private sector. Contractors have been engaged. Of course, the amendment moved by the honourable member relates to clause 6 (2) (b) which states:
To build dwellings or take pan in . . .
I should imagine that the honourable member would have difficulty in effectively analysing, interpreting and giving a thorough explanation of the terminology ‘take pan in’, because to build a dwelling and to ‘take part in’ it can involve not only the construction but also the planning, the surveying of land and any one of a great variety of processes. So I cannot see that we would be contributing anything worth while by making the excursion into the legislation that he has proposed.
The fact of the matter is that there could well be a need for a day labour operation. We do not have to apologise for that. There are great advantages if such a process is invoked. One can be faced with a problem of building houses on a remote island, for example one of the Torres Strait islands, or in a remote part of Australia for the housing needs of Aboriginal people. It could be that there is a works establishment in these areas. There could be a federal presence and the building resources could be available in the name of the people of this country. Labour, material and equipment could be available. In such cases it would be the height of absurdity not to use these facilities. What I have told the honourable gentleman is that we regard the likelihood of these services being invoked as being exceptional and certainly ancillary. For the reasons that I have mentioned the Government is disinclined to accept the amendment moved by the honourable member for Lilley.
-I accept the Minister’s assurance in respect of this matter, and of course the chamber would have to accept his assurance because the Government has the numbers. I was just trying to ensure that his assurance had legislative backing. The interesting fact is that the assurance is given by him but he will not allow it to have the appropriate backing which would give it substance. There is nothing more absurd than to say that this Housing Corporation must have the power of a building construction authority right throughout Australia because there may be a requirement to build a dwelling in a remote part of the Torres Strait Islands. Dwellings are built in those places now and they are built without the assistance of this Corporation. I am disturbed and amazed that the Minister should come forward with such a trite and foolish explanation for retaining this provision in clause 6. The explanation is nonsense and it has rather, I believe, exposed the ultimate intention of the Minister. With the greatest of goodwill I was willing to believe the words in the second reading speech, but the refusal to consider this type of amendment has caused me to realise that the words are intended to belie the ultimate administration of this Housing Corporation.
– I move:
The explanatory memorandum which I have had circulated is precise, concise and effective. In general terms the purpose of this amendment is to add a new function, a function which was not provided for in any shape or form in the first Bill that was brought into the Senate and subsequently brought into the House of Representatives. This is a matter which reflects the response which emanated from the dissemination of the Government’s objectives. There was a contention to the effect that we should be having regard for the need to lend and grant money for the provision of rental housing.
– For immigrants?
-I am not sure what the honourable gentleman means.
– Clause 6 (3 ) (d) reads in part- for the Aboriginal people of Australia, immigrants to Australia, persons employed in or by Departments or authorities of Australia . . .
-If that is the level of comprehension that the honourable member has about this clause then it is the height of absurdity because the fact of the matter is that there would be no inhibition on the part of the Government in providing support for rental housing because of provisions other than the ones to which the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr Ruddock) has referred. He has referred to constitutionality that is apparent and which is held by the Australian Government. Everybody knows that there is no inhibition at all in respect of the provision of houses for people in the Territories or for Aborigines, migrants, servicemen, ex-servicemen, students and for certain recipients of social security benefits. That happened to be mentioned in my second reading speech, so the honourable member has latched on to that and apparently has the idea that this legislation is to be confined to people in those categories, including public servants, but he has failed to take account of other things which have been mentioned and referred to in the speeches in the second reading debate and especially in my second reading speech which was delivered when the Bill was introduced.
What I instanced was the fact that under section 51 ofthe Constitution, placitum (XXIIIa) there is a power to make allowances for families. That being the case, we are able to invoke that power which we propose to do. The invocation of that power will enable us to provide support for rental housing, not just for the public servants and the other specified categories but for all the people of Australia. To the extent that we like to demonstrate benevolence in regard to the rental needs or the need for rental support we are able to do so under these provisions. So we propose to make loans or to grant money for the payment of rent. We want to make it clear that the Housing Corporation can provide rental subsidies direct to families, on the one hand, or indeed to do in Australia what is done in other parts of the world, that is, to assist even the entrepreneurs because the fact is that this sort of thing is done in Canada, Sweden, the United Kingdom, the United States of America and in Germany.
It is. probably an indictment on all the governments that have prevailed that no Australian Government has yet recognised the apparent need to support the rental requirements of the Australian people, but this has been done effectively in other parts of the world. So in moving this amendment I suppose in a way I am acknowledging for the first time on the part of any Australian Government that there is a recognition that there is a need to assist people in these circumstances. Here again the Opposition has to make up its mind. It can shilly shally around as much as it likes on this legislation but if it rejects it the Opposition wil take away the prospect of supporting families whose income is such that they are unable to afford adequate rental housing. The kind of thing that we want to do under this legislation is to ensure that any family in Australia- not in certain constitutional limits as mentioned by the honourable member for Parramatta; we are not confining this to public servantsunder a certain income limit and which is paying an amount in excess of 25 per cent of average earnings for desirable and reasonably rented premises is assisted because that family is paying too much. The honourable member has such a fixation about home ownership that he believes we should not give any consideration to the people who cannot alford to have it, and as much as we are making efforts to help them have it, efforts which have doubled those of the previous Government, there still are people who are unable to afford rental housing.
If the honourable member listens to what the benevolent organisations such as the Brotherhood of St Laurence and many others which have an orientation towards social welfare matters have to say, he wil come to understand that there is a need to provide this faculty. So we intend to make it possible for the Corporation to give support for rental housing, but we are not going to underwrite developers and builders who could possibly be engaged in unreasonable exploitive processes at all. What is done in Canada, in America and in the other countries to which I have referred is that they say to builders: If you care to build something which is adequate and not overbuilt not in the luxury class, and if you are prepared to build things at reasonable prices then we will give an imprimatur about that particular establishment either for rental or for purchase.’ So the BUI makes it possible not only to assist the person renting but also in some circumstances to assist even the entrepeneur who wants to build. In other words, we would be catalysing the private sector to get on with the job of building up a stock of rental homes in Australia. but not at the expense of our great concern with home ownership which we are facilitating by this legislation and by other means as well.
It is a very desirable amendment and I believe that it wil be greatly welcomed by the people of Australia. It has been called for especially by the welfare oriented bodies. I should imagine that in the short term the Australian Housing Corporation would consider recommending that we should go on with a prototype scheme so that we can open the door for the construction of a greater volume of rental faculties than has been the case in the past.
-I wish to make the point that we are dealing with clause 6 and the amendment moved thereto. Clause 6 covers the whole area ofthe functions of the Corporation. We in the Opposition have been trying to co-operate with the Government in having the debate expedited. There are many people on our side who wish to take pan in the debate, and I want to speak to some of the other clauses and other amendments as well. We are doing what we can to hurry the proceedings but we think that perhaps the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson) could be a little quicker in his replies. We trust that there will not be any arguments when we come to a matter which wil be discussed in 10 or 15 minutes from now, because there are still some forms of the House which we can use.
I shall confine myself strictly to dealing with the amendment before the Committee which, as the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr Ruddock) indicated by interjection a few moments ago, seeks to provide powers for the Corporation to extend to certain classes of persons rental subsidies which will be decided upon by regulation. We believe that here again is highlighted the duplication of activities which have been the function of the State housing commissions for many years. The Government’s intention, in spite of the reassurances of its spokesmen, is to establish branches of the proposed Housing Corporation in each of the States. Those branches will do exactly the same work as the housing commissions in those Stales. The Opposition believes that that would be a gross waste of money and resources and an unnecessary addition to the already huge increase in the Canberra based bureaucracy which has been established since Labor came into office.
The Housing Trust of South Australia, which is the housing authority with which I have most to do, and its work in the provision of accommodation for disadvantaged persons- that is what we are talking about tonight- is clear evidence that there is no need for a competing authority. Nor, indeed, would any other authority be likely to provide that service so well. In 1970 the South Australian Council of Social Services conducted a survey through the various social welfare agencies on what was termed ‘emergency housing’. As a result a priority housing assistance scheme was established and a referral system devised in agreement with social welfare agencies. Where possible the Trust in South Australia and the commissions in the other States assist age and invalid pensioners, deserted wives, widows, and people faced with unemployment, which is one of the categories of persons the Minister has just been describing. I would like to quote briefly from the annual report of the Housing Trust of South Australia for 1973 to point up the duplication that the legislation which the Government is seeking will in fact produce:
At 30 June 1973 2635 tenants occupying standard rental accommodation were in receipt of rent reductions for various reasons as detailed in table 9.
That is what we are talking about- rent reductions:
This represents 7.87 per cent of the total number of rental tenants, and the weekly amount involved in these rent reductions is $5,924.
A breakdown of the way in which that figure was arrived at is then set out on page 30 of the report.
I seek leave to have that table incorporated in Hansard. I have spoken to the Minister about the matter and he has agreed to give me leave to do so.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The table read as follows)-
These figures do not include the large number of tenants in cottage flats and rental grant houses.
– I did intend earlier to incorporate also some quotations from the reports of the other housing commissions in all the States, but because there are other people on our side who wish to take part in the debate I will not do so. I will merely conclude my remarks in talking to the amendment by saying that I certainly believe that the Housing Trust of South Australia and I have no doubt most, if not all, of the other housing commissions, are efficient in their operations and administer their activities with commonsense and compassion, I believe that this could not be achieved, much less improved upon, by a centralised impersonal corporation of the type we are debating tonight.
-Clause 6 is, I believe, the key to the Bill. Sub-clause ( 1 ) reads:
The principal function of the Corporation is, subject to and in accordance with this Act, to lend money for the building or purchase of dwellings and the purchase of land to be used for dwellings.
Sub-clause (2) sets out certain additional functions of the Commission, which include: To grant money for the building of dwellings, to build dwellings, to sell and lease dwellings, and to provide or ensure the provision of facilities and services for persons in dwellings. Now we have the proposed additional function of lending and granting money for the payment of rent in respect of dwellings. Sub-clause (3) reads:
The Corporation may perform its functions to the extent only that they relate to matters with respect to which the Parliament has power to make laws and, in particular, may perform its functions -
The sub-clause then states that the Corporation may perform its functions in a territory; for the purpose of the provision of housing for members and former members of the defence force; by way of, or as incidental to, the provision of family allowances- that is the matter about which the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson) had a small altercation a moment ago- for the purpose of the provision of housing for the Aboriginal people of Australia, immigrants to Australia persons employed in or by departments or authorities of Australia and persons engaged in work for Australia or any authority of Australia.
The fact is that the functions which the Corporation is to exercise are clearly related to those areas in which the Commonwealth has power to make laws. The Minister has tried to imply that by the .use of this rather nebulous placitum of section 5 1 of the Constitution which deals with family allowances a remarkable extension of power is going to be achieved. I very much doubt that that will be the case. I am not a constitutional expert, but I do not believe that a clause that is meant to provide a form of social service can be extended in this way, and I think that it wil cause grave doubts as to the operation of this particular clause. If one looks at the remaining functions that the Commonwealth is entitled to exercise, one can see that it is clearly limited to certain sections of people, even if one includes families. In fact, that is a class of people to which the operation of the functions of the Corporation are limited. This is going to bring about in a manner such as we have never seen before a form of sectionalism in terms of the benefits that can be made available to people. I submit that the only proper basis on which these sorts of functions can be exercised is for the. Commonwealth to enter into appropriate agreements with those States that have the powers and the constitutional competence to legislate in these areas and to develop programs which can give effect to them.
The other matter with which I want to deal shortly is to make it clear that at the moment we have no real programs. The proposal is to establish a Corporation which is to exercise the widest possible functions. The Minister has tried to say: ‘You have doubts as to the extent to which this is going to conflict with the functions of the State housing commissions. We are not really going to extend its operations that far. Accept my assurances that that is not our intention’. All of us know that whilst the Minister’s assurances may be of some value to us here in the niceties of the way in which politics operate within this country, in terms of interpreting the law as it operates they are of no value at all. The courts do not look at the Minister’s speech to find out what sort of operation this BUI was intended to have. They will not go through his speech and say that he said ‘No, we Will not be conflicting with the housing authorities of the various States’ if another Minister wants to exercise it in a different way.
The Minister said to us: ‘Stop shilly-shallying around. The Opposition should come out and tell us that it is in favour of the sorts of things that we want to do. ‘ I am prepared to say that I am quite clearly in favour of the provision of additional housing to meet housing needs. There is no doubt that aU of us on this side are in favour of these sorts of benefits for people in need, but we want the Minister to stop shilly-shallying around. We want him to acknowledge that this Corporation, exercising these functions, will not be able to achieve the benefits that he is suggesting it Will. We want him to acknowledge that he has no programs at the moment to which this Corporation wil give effect.
In fact if one looks at the financing of this Bil at the moment one sees that no funds are available to it other than those funds that are available for defence, service homes. He tries to say: Do not believe that we are cutting down on our defence service homes obligations He tries to say, as he has said in his Press statements, that we must accept that the Corporation Will make second mortgage loans to cover deposit gaps, that it will provide special hardship assistance to home buyers temporarily out of work, that it wil make loans for private enterprise buildings and so on and that it Will lend to co-operative building societies. Nobody disputes these matters might well be matters in which the Commonwealth, in exercising its relations with the States, can well assist, but what we dispute is that the Commonwealth, in endeavouring to lay down as it is a platform of this nature and suggesting that it can be related to this BUI, is in fact being quite deceitful.
It is being deceitful in suggesting that this Bill Will provide these sorts of benefits for people. That is the suggestion that is being made. The people who are in fact shilly-shallying around on this issue are the Government supporters and the Government Ministers who are trying to make it apparent that they are acting when in fact all we will see established is a corporation to fulfil functions that corporations already are fulfilling, and if it is to be extended any further, to duplicate functions that State authorities have, and if it is to be extended any further than that, to exercise them in such a way that it will be sectional and benefiting only some people to the exclusion of others. This clause is the key to the Bill and in that it is the key it demonstrates quite clearly why the totality of the Bill, including this clause, ought to be rejected.
Declaration of Urgency
– I declare that the Australian Housing Commission Bill is an urgent Bill.
-The question is that the Bill be declared an urgent Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Allotment of Time
That the time allotted in connection with the Bill be as follows:
for the remainder of the Committee stage, until 9 p.m. this day;
for the remaining stages, until 9.10 p.m. this day.
This Bill has been already been discussed for a considerable time- from memory, for the best part of 6 hours already. It is obvious tonight that honourable members opposite are determined not to let this important legislation pass but to put on a filibuster. After voting unanimously against the second reading of the Bill they now have the temerity to seek to move amendments in the Committee stage. They are either for it or against it. What is the good of moving amendments in the Committee stages when they are against the Bill lock, stock and barrel? The public of Australia ought to know that members of the Opposition are just trying to hold up important housing legislation that the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson) has endeavoured to have passed through this Parliament.
Tonight members of the Opposition are not only endeavouring to hold up the legislation, they are also delaying important improvements to be provided by this housing legislation- in a Bill with which they said they wanted nothing whatever to do. Every amendment moved tonight would be just a delaying tactic. There is no objective behind them in any shape or form. If members of the Opposition were sincere in their approach they would have passed the second reading of the Bill and sought to move amendments in the Committee stages. But the fact that they have committed themselves as an Opposition shows that they are opposed to decent housing legislation for the Australian people.
That is the way they voted on the second reading. Had they been sincere they would have accepted the second reading and have endeavoured to amend the legislation in the Committee stages.
In view of the Opposition’s approach it would serve no purpose to allow this Parliament to consider the Bill at great length tonight. I mention again- I speak from memory- that the best part of 6 hours has already been spent on the second reading stage of this Bill. Now tonight we are told, under the false pretence of wishing to assist the Australian people with housing, that the Opposition wants to move amendments to the Bill in the Committee stages. Members of the Opposition know as well as I do that no matter whether we carry the amendments they will vote against the third reading. So what is the purpose of taking up the time of the Parliament in connection with these matters when that precisely is the intention of those who sit opposite?
The Government has given the Opposition a very fair go in debating this legislation. Every honourable member who wanted to speak on the second reading was given the opportunity. The debate was not curtailed in any way. The Minister had the right of reply. Now, in the Committee stages, on a measure that members of the Opposition say they are opposed to lock stock and barrel I repeat it again- they are seeking to amend it. Do not tell me the Opposition will not vote against the third reading even if the clauses are amended. The real truth of the matter is that the Opposition does not want the Australian people to have decent housing legislation. It does not want them to have houses. It would like to see them suffering without houses. That is why it is opposing this legislation in the Committee stages.
The Government reluctantly takes this step of declaring the Bill urgent. We think the Australian people are entitled to decent housing and good legislation. No Minister has been more patient with those opposite than the Minister for Housing and Construction. He let members of the Opposition take full time in the course of the second reading debate. He answered all their objections, good or bad as they might have been, and not only answered them but answered them most effectively. No matter what the Minister put up, the Opposition always had some other proposition. I should like someone opposite to tell me why the Opposition voted against this Bill in its entirety in the second reading stage and now seeks to amend it in the Committee stages. Is it that members of the Opposition have had a death bed repentance- they are sorry for what they did?
What if we carry some of the Opposition amendments? Will the Opposition want the second reading recommitted? Why it is a fantasy. Any honourable member opposite who wanted to speak on the second reading could have had his 20 minutes. The debate was not gagged or curtailed. The fact of the matter is that tonight the Opposition is filibustering. It wants to hold up the legislation for no reason at all with a lot of phoney” amendments. The Minister has blown to smithereens the propositions it has put up. They are not practical, they are not factual and cannot be carried out. If I want good housing legislation I will go to the Minister, not to those who sit opposite. In 23 years they had their chance and people were lucky to get an outhouse, let alone a decent house to live in. The Opposition had its chance for 23 years and now in 23 minutes it thinks it can reform society. I regret that it is necessary to propose this allotment of time and to move that the Bill be declared urgent. It is necessary only because of the tactics adopted by the Opposition which are preventing the Minister for Housing and Construction from putting through legislation to give a decent housing scheme to the Australian people.
-The only person in this chamber who is filibustering is the Leader of the House (Mr Daley) who has just completed his speech. We have become used to his continual filibustering every time some situation like this arises. I have some figures here which indicate how many times this has happened to us. I will not spend the time allotted to me just to deal with this. In 1 973 a guillotine was applied 10 times and in 1974, 7 times. The gag was moved 103 times in 1973, and 1 14 times in 1974. Already this year- we have not been sitting for 4 weeks- the Leader of the House has moved the gag’ 9 times. That is what this is all about. We do not want to delay the Bill. We are opposed to the BUI, it is true. Let us face facts. Twelve of these amendments are Government sponsored. Copies of them were distributed yesterday, I think. Copies of two were distributed tonight.
– That is wrong, and you know it.
– One was distributed tonight.
– They were distributed last week during the second reading debate.
– Let us not SPlit hairs about this. The point is that the amendments about which .we are talking are Government amendments. If that does not give us a reasonable ground for debating the BUI in the Committee stage, what has the Parliament come to? Why are we here? We are not opposed to any sort of sensible housing legislation, if we could get it. This is not sensible housing legislation. This is housing legislation which gives the total and complete power to the Government and which pushes aside all the States and their housing commissions.
The Leader of the House said that we have had plenty of time to debate this legislation and that the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson) had introduced it as soon as he possibly could. This is a Budget measure. It was referred to in the 1974 Budget. We had no information about it until the last night of the sitting of the Senate when the BUI was introduced there by Senator Cavanagh. His second reading speech had as much likeness to the second reading speech of the Minister for Housing and Construction as the likeness of a cow to a pig. Neither second reading speech had any relevance to the BUI. I think we are entitled to take part in the debate in the Committee stage. We have just been served, in the typical dictatorial, jackboots fashion of the Leader of the House, notice that there is to be an allotment of time for the remainder of the Committee stage. That will conclude at 9 p.m. That is 19 minutes from now. Six or 7 members on this side wish to take part in the debate and speak to the Government’s amendments. I think it is absolutely outrageous that at 10 past 9 the remaining stages must be passed. That is 30 minutes from now. Is that obstructionism? Is it obstructionism for us to talk about a BUI which Will if it is passed, alter the whole nature of the society in which we live and which will restructure society, as the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) said in his election speech? We have an obligation to pull it to pieces and to examine it. We make no apology for that.
Australia already has a housing shortage which totalled 40 000 at 31 December. By the end of this year there will be another 40 000 houses short. Do not tell me that this Government’s housing policies have been of any assistance to home seekers. It is impossible for a young person to obtain a home now. All that this legislation seeks is to divide the Australian community into those who will be allowed to buy or rent a house and those who will not. Those who wil be allowed wil do so because they are a certain class of people that this Government thinks fit to buy a house or to live in rented accommodation. I will not waste any more time because my colleagues wish to take part in the debate. We will not waste time dividing. We object very strongly to the treatment. We are becoming accustomed to it. We warn the Minister for Housing and Construction that we have long memories. We hope it will not be long before we are able to return the treatment.
– Despite the patience of the Leader of the House (Mr Daly), it has become clearly impossible to tolerate the obstruction, the delaying tactics and the filibustering of honourable gentlemen opposite. It became as plain as a pikestaff as soon as the honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay), who leads for the Opposition in regard to housing, delivered his speech in the second reading debate that the Opposition would not have any part of this Bill. Honourable members opposite have since clouded that fundamental fact with all kinds of obscurity and confusion. It is as clear as can be that they have no intention of approving the establishment of an Australian Housing Corporation which would enable this Government to take real initiatives to resolve the dilemma that people in this country, as well as people in other parts of the world, are experiencing. There are honourable gentlemen opposite who seem to wallow in every development of an adversity so far as housing is concerned. They watch the Statistician’s figures that come out. If there is a decline in commencement, approvals or anything else they rub their hands in glee because they are more concerned about their declining electoral prospects than they are about the welfare of the people of this country.
– I raise a point of order: As I understand it, there is a motion for the curtailment of the debate. I suggest that the Minister confine his remarks to the point that we are discussing rather than engage in a diatribe in defence of his obnoxious legislation. I ask for your ruling on that.
-The honourable gentleman will resume his seat and not make a speech. The Minister is setting out reasons for applying the allotment of time, in the same way as other members have set out reasons for its not being applied.
-It is true, as the honourable member for Boothby has shown, that the Opposition seems to be intent on preventing the expenditure of $2 5 m which is available now for utilisation by a Housing Corporationmoney that could be made available to assist young couples who have a second mortgage. It is very difficult to know why honourable members opposite are opposed to a scheme of that kind. The honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns), a former Minister for Housing, has, I acknowledge, come in here with a preparedness to make a constructive approach to this legislation. He has formulated amendments, but he cannot get any comprehension of them by anybody opposite. The regrettable thing is that, having thrown this legislation out lock, stock and barrel, as the honourable member for Boothby has done in a formal sense on behalf of the Opposition- from the time the debate started he made the Opposition’s intention crystal clear- he is now masquerading as a real deliberator on this legislation. He is prepared to go along with the honourable member for Lilley who is proposing these amendments, but they have no status. The honourable member for Lilley has no guarantee that they will be supported by members of his Party. So it is clear to me that honourable members opposite are wasting time.
We have been treated to debate by cliche and debate by generality. The honourable member for Boothby, who seems to be incapable of assembling a reasonable, reasoned and rational argument, wants to engage in a diatribe against the Government because it is opposed to home ownership. If the level of debate is to sink as low as that, I do not wonder at the patience of the Leader of the House running out. We have heard the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) come into the debate, not knowing a thing about it. The honourable member for Darling Downs -
– I raise a point of order. I submit that the Minister is nowhere near the point of the debate which is the application of the guillotine.
-The Minister is setting out reasons for applying the guillotine.
– He has attacked people on this side.
-The actual words he used were ‘the honourable member for Mackellar coming into the debate’ and some additional words. I call the Minister.
-It is with very great disappointment that we have reached the stage at which the Leader of the House has come to recognise that no useful purpose can be served by allowing the Opposition to continue. My amendments have been formulated as a result of the response that we had from sections of the building industry- from builders, unionists, institutional lenders and people associated with benevolent organisations. The amendments are coherent. They have been drafted by the parliamentary draftsman. Everybody can understand them. Despite all the good intent ofthe honourable member for Lilley, his amendments are not coherent. I am not able to incorporate them -
-Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
– I support the contention that the debate should not be gagged. Housing is a very important item as far as Australia is concerned. It is of fundamental concern to the Liberal Party of Australia and to the Australian Country Party. We are astonished at the attitude of the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) who came in here today like a roaring lion. He was knocked out last Thursday by the wind of a gentle backhander from the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) when he had the opportunity to stand up, be counted and prove that he was a defender of liberty
– Have you the wrong speech?
– The Minister for Housing and Construction had the opportunity of traversing many matters and going on a Cook’s tour. I know that the Speaker Will extend to me exactly the same liberty as he extended to the Minister. We are opposed to the limiting of this debate because the BUI, as drawn up and presented’ by the Minister, is a hotch potch. After a few hours of debate, the Minister already has submitted 12 amendments. This indicates that he has not done his homework and shows his contempt for the housing needs of the Australian people. The honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay), the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr Ruddock) and my colleague the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) advanced quite strong arguments as to why we should debate these issues in Committee. We are opposed to the tactics adopted by the Minister. I cannot understand his reasoning. No doubt the Minister was floored by the argument advanced by the honourable member for Parramatta because in one part of his speech he said: ‘My statements are precise, concise and effective’, yet the explanatory notes to the amendment that he has circulated state:
The way in which, or the extent to which, these powers are used may not become clear for a long time -
– A point of order, Mr Speaker. The question before the chamber relates to the allotment of time. The honourable member is dealing with the various clauses of the Bill. Whilst they are terribly important, they have nothing to do with the question whether the allotment of time is reasonable. I suggest that the honourable member should get back to the matter before us, and that is the allotment of time and whether it is reasonable.
-I would suggest to the honourable member for Darling Downs that he should give reasons why the allocation of time should not be approved.
– I was advancing the reason that the Minister spoke complete nonsense in his argument. We on this side of the House want to use this national parliament as a forum to expose to the Australian people these erroneous thoughts and arguments. We cannot understand how the Minister can say that he believes in home ownership. In this particular clause of the BUI which we want time to debate, he has not extended to home owners the same concessions as he has extended to people who are desirous of renting homes. Nowhere in the Bill has he even suggested, or given one iota of a promise, that he will help the pensioners in our society. He has said that it may become clear after a long time. He wants to help people who want to rent homes. The honourable member for Boothby and other honourable members on this side of the House agree with that principle, but we also want it extended to those pensioners who are paying off their own homes. No allowance or help is given to them to meet their rates and taxes. They do not pay income tax, so they are not eligible to participate in the tax deductibility of mortgage payments scheme. The Minister gets up -
-The honourable member should come back to the motion now.
– I am endeavouring to state the reason we should have a longer time to debate this issue. I am making the point that if members of the Opposition had the time we would expose these points of view that are prickles on the Australian society. The Minister has done nothing to explain these points of view that are of tremendous importance. We cannot accept that the Minister cannot do all the things that he seeks to do -
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
That the motion (Mr Daly’s) be agreed to:
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Hon. G. G. D. Scholes)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
-Order! The time allotted for the Committee stage of the Bill has expired. The question now is that the amendment to clause 6 be agreed to.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– Order! The question now is that clause 6 as amended, the remainder of the Bill and the circulated amendments of the Government be agreed to, and that the Bill be reported with amendments.
In clause 6, after paragraph (c) of sub-clause (3) insert the following paragraph:- (ca) by way of the provision of benefits to students; ‘.
In clause 6, after sub-clause (3) insert the following subclause: (3A) Without limiting the application of sub-section (3), the Corporation may also perform its functions by way of assisting, by the making of grants or loans, Australian companies, being trading or financial corporations formed within the limits of Australia, to build dwellings, to purchase dwellings and to purchase land to be used for dwellings ‘.
1 ) The Corporation shall consist of 6 members, namely-
In sub-clause ( 1 ), omit ‘ 6 ‘, substitute ‘ 8 ‘.
In sub-clause ( 1 ) (c), omit ‘ 4 ‘, substitute ‘ 6 ‘.
In clause 29, after ‘dwelling’ insert ‘, for the payment of rent in respect of a dwelling ‘.
In clause 29, after ‘dwellings ‘ insert ‘or for the payment of rent in respect of dwellings ‘.
In clause 30, omit ‘Subject to sub-section (4), the’ and insert ‘The’.
In clause 30, after ‘dwelling’ insert, ‘for the payment of rent in respect of a dwelling’.
In clause 30, omit sub-clause (4).
In clause 49, sub-clause 2, omit ‘, other than section 66a, ‘.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill reported with amendments; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr Les Johnson) proposed:
That the Bill be now read a third time.
-The minutes tick by. I am most sympathetic personally to the use of this power contained in placitum 23a in respect of housing. I am most sympathetic to the use of the family allowances power in respect of housing. A great deal of flexibility- and surprising flexibility- can apply to the Commonwealth Government in the use of this power. I am not one who believes that because such powers lie within the States, therefore the Commonwealth ought not to avail itself of the fact that they are there.
Adverting to the substance of the Bill- that is all that I can do at the moment- I would suggest that there are 5 clauses which need substantial amendment. It seems to me that, in this Bill, an attempt has been made to go around and to grab every piece of power with respect to housing that it was possible to grab and to incorporate those powers in one piece of legislation. But to grab every piece of power and to put it in one piece of legislation without indicating the purposes for which such powers will be used is beyond common sense and, I believe, is beyond the current mood of the Australian people.
The 5 clauses to which I wish to direct a very few words are clauses 29, 30, 31, 32 and 40.
Clause 29 allows the Corporation to make loans. Clause 30 enables it to make grants. Clause 3 1 permits the Corporation to make sales. Clause 32 permits the Corporation to make leases. Each of these clauses indicates that the Corporation may do all of these things in accordance with regulations. What is proposed is that quite major pieces of social initiative in Australia are to lie in respect of regulations. I believe that they should lie in respect of legislation. It should only be in legislation that these few departures ought to be contemplated. That is said by one who is sympathetic to the purposes of the Bill.
The otherclause is clause 40, which provides that the capital of the Corporation requires that an interest be paid at certain times and on such conditions as the Treasurer would determine. I suggest that as the capital of the Corporation is derived from 2 sources- it is derived in one sense from the surpluses or from an amount contributed to it for the administration of defence service homes or the old war service homes- a rate of interest be chargeable by the Treasurer in accordance with the rate of interest which is charged to borrowers under the old War Service Homes Act and under the Defence Service Homes Act. A characteristic of that legislation since the years just after the First World War is that it has been unique in terms of the interest rate charged. When capital is contributed to the Corporation from such sources, a differential rate of interest ought to be charged on the capital utilised for the purposes of administering defence service homes. I think this proposal is clearly in line with common sense.
The capital which is donated, subvented or funded to the Corporation by the Treasury ought to attract a different rate of interest. I believe that this rate of interest should be one which is presently below savings bank interest but above home builders account interest. By utilising differential interest rate provisions one can ensure that this Corporation will not be used to destroy every competing private organisation in Australia, and it would be enabled to do that were it allowed to have undue advantages and foolish advantages in terms of the interest rates which it would charge to the Treasury.
-Order! The time allotted for the remaining stages of the Bill has expired.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
– Advice has been received from the Prime Minister that he has appointed Dr Klugman to be a member of the Joint Committee on the Parliamentary Committee System to fill the vacancy caused by my resignation from the Committee following my election as Speaker of this House.
Debate resumed from 25 February on motion by Dr J. F. Cairns:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
- Mr Speaker, may I have the indulgence of the House to raise a question of procedure on this legislation? Before the debate is resumed on this Bill I would like to suggest that it may suit the convenience of the House to have a general debate covering this Bill and Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 1974-75 as they are associated measures. Separate questions will, of course, be put on each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate. I suggest therefore, Mr Speaker, that you permit the subject matter of both Bills to be discussed in this debate.
-Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering both measures? There being no objection, I will allow that course to be followed.
-The Bills before the House seek to appropriate an amount of $60 lm for expenditure not estimated in the 1974-75 Budget. The principle purpose of this legislation is to fund the reconstruction of Darwin, the new Commonwealth-State financial arrangement, increased unemployment relief and the rebuilding of the Tasman Bridge. The legislation is not opposed by the Opposition Parties. However, this debate provides an opportunity to register publicly our serious concern at the Government’s continued failure to confront Australia’s economic difficulties in a realistic and effective manner. On any analysis the Australian economy is in a state of crisis. Unemployment is in excess of 300 000, or 5 per cent of the workforce. Inflation is now running at an annuual rate of 16.3 per cent and is forecast by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development to reach 20 per cent during 1975. Company profits have slumped to 10 per cent of the gross domestic product. Investment output and productivity are either declining or stagnant and industrial unrest has been more serious than at any time since the 1920s.
The situation demands national economic leadership of the highest calibre but the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has refused to direct his attention towards the resolution of the serious economic problems which confront him. There is no evidence which would suggest that there is any improvement in Australia’s economic conditions or that the Government’s massive monetary expansion will not lead to even more serious difficulties in the short term ahead. During this session there has not been an opportunity to debate Government economic policy for the single reason that no policy has been presented to this Parliament. The Government has sought princi- pallybycircumventingtheParliamenttogloss over what can only be described as the worst economic crisis in this country since the Second World War. The Government has no apparent conception of what it means to present a coherent economic program to the nation and to the Parliament. Instead of consistent policy making we have been suubjected to a bewildering series of ad hoc economic packages many of which have simply been the correction of previous errors or the withdrawal of announced policies.
We have witnessed a stage-managed public relations exercise at Terrigal. We have read newspaper reports of speeches by the Prime Minister and the Treasurer (Dr J. F. Cairns) on the need for wage and salary restraint. But nowhere is there any coherent of comprehensive program of what the Government’s particular policy remedies happen to be. The Government has apparently decided that a recovery in private sector investment is desirable. But what is its investment policy? Is the accelerated depreciation allowance to be terminated at the end of this financial year? The Government has apparently embarked on a short term panic course to cure unemployment by a massive expansion of the money supply. But what is the planned growth of liquidity? Is the monetary expansion to be continued without regard to its ultimate impact on demand?
There is a series of quite basic and fundamental questions to which this Government has failed to address itself publicly. In this regard I quote from the ‘Canberra Times ‘editorial of 31 January which said: . . two major and not unrelated factors of the present economic situation are a bewildering array of relatively recent policy initiatives and continuing widespread uncertainty about the future course of the economy.
Flexibility is not undesirable, but in the case of economic policy making it skates on the thin ice of confusion. An obvious response from the Government would be an attempt to present its policies in a co-ordinated form, as part of an overall economic program. The proposal seems eminently reasonable, considering the long standing commitment of the Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, and the Deputy Prime Minister, Dr Cairns, to public dissemination of policy making considerations and consultation. The material recently placed before the Cabinet as the basis of an economic review could quite easily be the basis for such a document. Not only would such an appraisal help business and the electorate to understand what is happening, it also would help to inform the Government’s own backbench, force the Government to think through the implications of some of its present vague policies (such as its so-called wages policy, which amounts to passing the wage indexation buck to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission) and help it to see beyond the protectionist blizzard it is blowing up.
If there is one issue which the Government has not had the resolve to face it is that of Federal expenditure. Although the Opposition does not oppose the appropriations before the House, this debate provides a forum in which to register the serious concern of the Opposition Parties at the consequences of the Government’s unrestrained expenditure policies.
During the first 7 months of this financial year federal spending was 42 per cent higher than for the equivalent period last year. Spending is at a full 10 per cent higher than foreshadowed by the Budget estimates. On any analysis, in the view of the Opposition Parties, this is grossly excessive and economically damaging. The Opposition has consistently argued for a limitation to the rate at which Government outlays have been increasing. Until 28 January this year the Prime Minister had sought to accuse the Opposition Parties of ‘economic vandalism’, to use his own words, and had refused to recognise spending limitations as a necessary pre-requisite to the control of inflation and a return to high employment. On 29 January the ‘Australian’ newspaper in a story headlined ‘Whitlam to slash rise in spending’ stated:
The Federal Government will cut the growth rate of its spending.
On the same day the Melbourne ‘Age’ in a front page story entitled ‘Clamp on Canberra spending ‘announced:
The Federal Government last night announced a tough clampdown on further increases in its spending.
The fact is that these announcements have amounted to nothing more than public posturing and a complete charade on the part of the Government. No limitations to spending have been implemented. On the contrary, expenditure has forged ahead at an unprecedented and uncontrolled rate. The Prime Minister has announced recently an expected overall deficit of $2, 500m. Estimates available to the Opposition give rise to the conclusion that the deficit will be at least $2,750m and may well reach $3,000m. In other words, the Prime Minister’s announcement of spending cuts is a further element of the sustained program of public opportunism and dishonesty which he has indulged in for a period of well over 12 months. Three weeks after the initial announcement of Government spending cuts there was a further public announcement. On 19 February the Melbourne ‘Age’ headlined a front page story in the following way:
Labor to slash spending- only job projects will escape cuts.
The transcript of the Prime Minister’s Press conference on the previous day demonstrates the misleading nature of his policy commitment. For example:
Can you give us some idea of the amount of money involved?
Mr Whitlam: No.
But the Prime Minister made it clear that the Cabinet’s Expenditure Review Committee would review spending proposals announced in the 1974-75 Budget. He was asked which programs were involved and he responded, perhaps typically, in these terms:
I am not going to respond. The fact is that if I were naming any of these items I would immediately be swamped with pleas to continue the particular item which is being deferred.
There is now less than 5 months left of this financial year. The Prime Minister apparently has agreed that a limitation of spending should take place, or at least this is what he has been prepared to say publicly. Yet he refuses to say where the cuts will take place or what the overall amount is to be. Such a statement is clearly within the competence of the Government party in power. The reason he refuses to name the areas of limitation is simply that of the political unpopularity which might thereby arise. The Opposition for its part has made it clear that all areas, with the exception of pensions, should be subject to limitation. This is an issue which we believe in the public interest cannot be avoided. The present rate of Government expenditure is contributing directly to the deficit and therefore to the money supply. We believe that a steady and moderate increase in monetary growth is essential to economic stability. On the available evidence, including the recent trading bank deposit statistics, monetary growth is proceeding at a rate which, in our view, can be described only as dangerously excessive.
There are 4 clear options available to the Government if it is to prevent the money supply growing at a rate in excess of 30 per cent in the short term: First, an increase in taxation; second, an increase in government borrowing from the private sector by instructing the Reserve Bank actively to sell government securities; third, an induced balance of payments deficit by a revaluation of the exchange rate and by quantitative restrictions on capital inflow; fourth, a limitation of government spending. Each of the first 3 options would result in either increased taxes, increased interest rates or added unemployment, and we reject them all. The only acceptable alternative is to reduce the impact of the deficit on the money supply by a limitation of government spending. Unless this is achieved the previous record domestic deficit of $2 1 5m will be exceeded in the current year by a deficit 10 times as great. There are further reasons for a reduced level of expenditure. An effective anti-inflation policy must rest on restraint by all groups in the community insofar as their claims on economic resources are concerned. Restraint by the Government is essential to encourage restraint by the community at large. There must be a slower growth rate in the public sector if the private sector is to be allowed to expand and, in the process, to create jobs. Because of the Government ‘s policies the civilian work force declined in December by 32 800, the largest fall for any single month since 1949.
The fact is that the total economy cannot expand at a rate sufficient to accommodate the necessary resurgence in the private sector and the present growth rate in the public sector. The Government must understand that it is the private sector which creates the real resources within the economy and employs the great majority of the Australian work force. The continued relative expansion of the public sector is thereby directly preventing a return to high rates of employment. Finally, both international evidence and, we understand, the Government’s principal advisers, point to the fact that the rates of inflation and public expenditure are limited. For example, the 1974 Australian survey by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development said:
The available evidence suggests that . . . the change in the rate of inflation has been the greatest in those countries where the increase in the share of public expenditure has been most rapid.
The Prime Minister’s record on government expenditure policy is frankly little less than extraordinary. In 9 months he has changed his opinion at least 4 times, if what he has said on the public record can be the subject of credible acceptance. In May 1974 he castigated as irresponsible and economically unnecessary the Opposition’s policy of spending restraint. In June 1974 he announced a new policy in the following terms:
As part of the battle to contain inflation we will be following a policy of restraint in our own spending.
In September 1974 he abandoned expenditure restraint in favour of a Budget designed to lift domestic outlays by an unprecedented 32 per cent. Now, with expenditure running at a rate well in excess of that budgeted the Prime Minister again apparently has reversed or sought to reverse his position. The Prime Minister, of course, is one Government minister who has one policy for today and another policy for tomorrow. How many more times will the Prime Minis- terseektoreversehisposition?Taxcutsare,ac- cording to this Prime Minister, alternatively inflationary and deflationary. Wages and salaries are not responsible for that inflation one day and are the major cause of it the subsequent day. The States have adequate funds one month and require supplementary assistance in the next month. Capital gains tax is essential at the time of the Budget and yet counter-productive only 4 months later.
The need to curb Federal expenditure has now been widely recognised and accepted as an essential course of action for this country. In spite of this, the Government’s commitment remains totally inadequate and unsatisfactory. In this regard I quote from the ‘Canberra Times’ editorial of 3 1 January, which stated:
Restraint at the moment is no more than the creation of yet another Cabinet committee, as far as the Government is concerned. If restraint is to mean anything at all it should be stated as a precise aggregate or percentage to be aimed at and included in a much-needed explanation of what have become, for most of the electorate, the Government’s economic charades.
The Government will avoid this issue only at its own peril. A full statement of the Government’s economic strategy we believe to be essential and required now. It is equally essential for the statement to be made in this House and to be subject to economic debate.
I remind the Treasurer that it is quite some time since the House has been the recipient of a major economic policy document which can reasonably be argued by both sides on what they consider to be the national interest. Realistic economic solutions will not be found by a continuance of the ad hoc and reactive approach which has been so evident since the 1974-75 Budget. Having said this and castigating the Government for its total failure to comprehend and to resolve the serious economic problems facing Australia, I remind the House that the Opposition parties will not be opposing the legislation that is before the House. As I mentioned earlier, this legislation which appropriates $60 lm is designed to fund the reconstruction of Darwin, the new Commonwealth-State financial arrangement, increased unemployment relief and the rebuilding ofthe Tasman Bridge.
-At the outset I point out that I shall be speaking generally in relation to the economy. But before doing so I should perhaps mention that the Bills encompass substantial amounts of money for the reconstruction of Darwin, for various employment creating activities such as the Regional Employment Development scheme and the National Employment and Training scheme and, in particular, for payments to the States. Other speakers on the Government side will, of course, be speaking about particular facets of the Bill but I shall be talking in general economic terms, as indeed did the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch).
No one on this side of the House regards the economic situation at the moment as being very satisfactory. Indeed, with inflation running at 16 per cent over the last 12 months and unemployment at 4 per cent now, no one on this side could be at all happy about the state of economic affairs in this country. But I should say immediately that we do derive some comfort from the fact- and it is relevant to state this; I shall explain the relevance- that other countries in the world which are at a similar level of economic development are in much the same state. The relevance of this is that it shows that there is something which transcends the boundaries of Australia which is affecting the economic behaviour of countries similarly structured to ourselves. This is something which the Opposition continually tries to ignore or distort whenever it refers to it, but it is extremely relevant. It does not mean that the Australian Government can simply say: OK, other countries are in trouble. Therefore we can wash our hands and let things go because other countries are in the same situation. We can blame it on the system’. We can say that it is a relevant factor, but it is not the only factor. Indeed we agree that the Government needs to take particular action to try to overcome the situation which it faces and it has taken much action to try to rectify the situation. I shall refer to this matter later.
I would like to refer in some detail to the fact that other countries are in a similar situation to ourselves. As I have said, the Opposition likes to ignore this factor. In the pale white document which the Opposition produced called the National Economic Program 1975’ which went over like a lead balloon at the opening of Parliament this year, the following comment was made in page 36: the ratio of Australia’s inflation rate relative to its long-term average is more pronounced than for every major OECD economy.
If I may interpolate, OECD stands for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, which is made up of all developed countries of the Western world and includes the countries of Western Europe, North America, Japan, New Zealand and ourselves. That quotation is a distortion of the realities which in fact face this country at the moment. Indeed, it is a distortion of what has occurred in the last few years. The authors of the Opposition’s booklet have taken a long term average which is produced in an OECD table which looks at the period up to 1 97 1 . They ignore the last 2 years of the Liberal Government, that is, 1971 and 1972. If we look at the last 2 years, that is, 1 973 and 1 974, during which this country has been under a Labor Government we find that our efforts in relation to inflation have been no worse and, inded, marginally better as compared with the rest of the world than occurred in the last 2 years of Liberal Government. This is something which has been continually pushed aside and ignored but it is in fact the reality.
I would like to refer to some figures that I have in front of me from a publication of the OECD, dated 10 February 1975, from Paris where the OECD is headquartered. In 1971 the rate of inflation in Australia was 6. 1 per cent, which was higher than the OECD average of 5.3 per cent. The ratio was 1.5 times the OECD average. In the next year, 1972 Australia was 1.21 times the OECD average. Our rate was again higher than the average of the rates of all similar countries in the Western capitalist world.
– But the point is that it was lower at the end of 1972 than at the start. That is what you Will not accept.
– Let the honourable member for Corangamite wait a moment. Australia’s rate of inflation in 1973 was 1.20 times the OECD average. It was less than the rate in 1 972 by’ a very marginal factor. In 1974 it was 1.14 times the OECD average. In other words, we have improved under Labor relative to the rest of the OECD countries. This is a very relevant factor which members of the Opposition hate to hear expressed because they do not like it at all. But it is in fact very relevant. “
– Because we do not import oil. The OECD countries and others do.
– It is in fact a very relevant factor. If the honourable member will be quiet for a moment I will explain why it is so relevant. It is relevant because it shows that under Labor the rate of inflation, although it has gone up substantiallyand no one in the Government likes it -
-It is a fact that it has gone up less than the average of all the similar countries in the Western world. I know that the honourable member does not like the facts.
– The factors are not the same and you know it. It is dishonest.
MrWILLIS-butitisthefact.thesamething relates to unemployment. We hear a tremendous amount about unemployment from the Opposition. No one on this side of the House likes the fact that we have had a substantial increase in unemployment in the last 6 months or so, but it is relevant to note again that this has happened elsewhere. The rate of unemployment has increased dramatically in most other countries of the Western world. I would just like to refer to a few Press releases because it is very hard to get up to date figures on unemployment through regular economic statistics. I shall read a few Press releases relating to unemployment in other developed countries. An article which appeared in the Melbourne ‘Herald’ of 31 January 1975, under the heading, ‘W. German jobless top 1.1 mil. ‘stated:
The number of unemployed rose to more than one million in West Germany this month- the highest for 16 years, the Finance Ministry announced here today.
The total of jobless was 1 150 000-an increase of 200 000 since last month and about 5 per cent of the labour force.
I will not read the rest of that article which shows that in West Germany, which traditionally has had a very low rate of unemployment, there has been a dramatic increase in unemployment in the last few months.
An article which appeared in the Melbourne Herald’ of 16 February 1975 under the heading U.S. expects 9 per cent jobless’ stated:
U.S. unemployment could reach 9 per cent this year, even with massive tax reductions, two economists have warned Congress.
Mr Michael Evans, president of the Chase Manhattan Bank economic affiliate, said the economy would be better off if nothing were done for it rather than adopt President Ford ‘s economic program.
Unemployment stood at 8.2 per cent of the U.S. work force in January.
Mr Evans told a joint Congressional economic committee that the figure could rise to 8.8 per cent this year and 8.6 per cent in 1976 even if Congress rejected the Ford program.
An article appearing in the Melbourne ‘Sun’ of 22 January 1975, headed ‘Jobless leap in France’, stated:
The number of unemployed in France has risen to its highest level since World War II.
At the end of December 723 000 were out of work. This was 34 000 up on November and 263 000 higher than December 1973.
In the ‘Australian’ of 20 January 1975 an article headed ‘Japan’s jobless total reaches 1 mil’ stated:
Unemployment in Japan has reached one million with almost 2 per cent of the work force of about50 million actively seeking jobs, the Government’s Economic Planning
The announcement was a shock to Government officials. The Ministry of Labour earlier had predicted that one million Japanese would be out of work during the JanuaryMarch period but had not expected the figure to be reached so quickly.
I shall skip a paragraph of the article. The next paragraph reads:
The last official unemployment figures were for November 30 when an estimated 700 000 people were out of work.
In other words the figure rose by 300 000 in one month. So it is clear, without going through figures of any of the other countries, that there has been a dramatic increase in unemployment in these other similarly developed countries in the Western world in the last few months, and that is an extraordinarily relevant factor to what is happening in this country today. The problems are clearly world wide. They transcend politics. To describe what is happening in this country as something that is attributable to socialism or some excesses of left wing politics, as some people in this House try to do, is an absurdity in the light of what is happening in other countries where there are anything but left wing governmentssuch places as United States, Japan and France. West Germany does have social democratic government but someone argued about how left wing it was.
How do these factors come about? They are, despite what the Opposition wants to believe, again largely international in their origin. Other factors have come into it since but the origin is largely international. If I may just quote again the Opposition’s pale white paper of earlier this year, on page 38 it says: . . there is no convincing evidence that external conditions have been the primary influence behind either the acceleration in inflation or the deterioration in growth and unemployment.
That competely and utterly contradicts what other much more reputable bodies than the Liberal Party of Australia are saying about the world economic situation. If I may refer to one which I think would be regarded as respectable by the Opposition, I mention the International Monetary Fund which in its annual report for 1974 had a few words to say about inflation. I refer to page 8 of that report. Under the heading Factors in the Current Inflation’- I wish the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street) would listen to this- it says:
While the inflation problem is thus being widely addressed at the national level, as indeed is essential, the origins and continuing dynamics of the present inflation must to a great extent be understood in a global framework.
I stress the words, ‘must to a great extent be understood in a global framework’. It continues:
The rapid inflation of prices now in process is world-wide and appears to differ from most prior experience in several important respects.
I have not the time to go through the whole of what is said there. If I may summarise, it refers to the fact that in 1973 there was the usual coincidence of most of the Western world having an upward phase in the business cycle and that was the first time it had happened in the postwar period. It also refers at the same time to the increase in commodity prices which was utterly dramatic in 1973. If I may quote again from that report at the bottom of page 8:
As described in the next section of this chapter, the upsurge of commodity prices since 1972 has no parallel with earlier peacetime experience- a fact suggesting that to some extent these big increases were independent of the general process of inflation in the world economy.
So it is clear from what is said by the International Monetary Fund, which is surely regarded by the Opposition as a fairly respectable body, that it sees the rapid growth of inflation in the last couple of years as being attributable in large measure to world wide factors and not to the excesses of left wing socialism or anything else. This is again a tremendously relevant factor to what is happening in this country. International factors have been obviously of great importance and they account for the massive growth in world wide inflation which we have experienced. On top of the commodity prices that we had towards the end of 1973 was an increase in oil prices which had less effect here than elsewhere but still had an important effect on Australia. In 1974 the rate of inflation picked up again on top of what had happened in 1973 because of the very understandable factors which happen once inflation gets under way in any economy. It has happened here as elsewhere. Everyone starts to try to protect themselves against the rate of inflation, and this includes wage earners along with everybody else. Even pensioners want higher increases in pensions to cover themselves against inflation, and very understandably so. Wage earners were particularly successful in 1974 in getting wage increases which more than covered themselves against inflation because they were fearful of the continuing rate of inflation and tried to anticipate what was going to occur, and understandably so. I do not blame them in the least. They were doing no more than anyone else in the economy was trying to do to protect themselves against inflation, but the facts are that it did’ have the effect of furthering our rate of inflation in 1 974.
If I may refer again to unemployment for a moment, here as elsewhere its rapid growth rate in 1974 must be attributed to the rapid rate of growth in inflation and at the same time measures which were taken by this Government, along with most other Western governments, to offset it. All of them felt, following the dramatic increase in inflation in 1973, that measures had to be taken to offset inflation and they took those measures with consequent adverse effects on employment. The consequence of this action was a dramatic increase in unemployment, but the point is that we are playing with new rules. No one has really understood what was happening up to this point in time. Up to the last year or so, in most of the Western world we have not envisaged the concurrent happening of substantial inflation and rapid growth of unemployment. It has usually been one or the other, but now we are playing in a new economic ball park and the rules are different. The most sophisticated economists in this country and in most other countries are battling to understand what the new rules are. An obvious example of this is the Treasury of this country which in July last year recommended to the Government a substantial Budget surplus as a means of overcoming the increasing rate of inflation. The Government in its wisdom decided not to go ahead with a Budget surplus. It produced basically a fairly neutral budget- one with a very mild surplusbut if it had gone for the dramatic Budget surplus which the most sophisticated group of economists in the country was recommending that it undertake, it would have produced a much more dramatic growth in unemployment than has in fact occurred because the Treasury- I do not blame it but this is a fact- did not understand what was happening in this country, and it was not Robinson Crusoe.
The economists in most other countries in the Western world did not understand it either because the rules of the game have changed. I suggest that one basic way in which they have changed is this: Employers, no longer in a situation of slack demand, feel reluctant about pushing for increases in prices. What they do now if their costs continue to rise and they are faced with a squeeze on their profit margins, is to go for increases in prices and then apply political pressures for a restimulation of demand. One factor which they have in mind, here as elsewhere and particularly in this country I suggest, is the fact that they know that no government can allow unemployment to exist for any great length of time, and particularly a government which does not have a majority in the Senate. In saying that, I am not trying to say that this Government would allow unemployment to increase anyway but it is a fact of life. You cannot allow unemployment to increase and survive politically. McMahon learned that in 1972. We know it now and I suggest that we are intrinsically much more upset and disgusted by unemployment than the Opposition is, but it is a political fact of life which everyone knows now anyway. So the name of the game has changed somewhat and employers, in the face of rising costs with slack demand, push up their prices and then say to the Government: Now you get us out of this’.
This Government has in fact taken the kind of action which is necessary to restore us to full employment. It has taken a whole series of dramatic action, firstly by rejecting Treasury advice, but since the appearance of the growth of unemployment it has taken dramatic action. It has turned the Budget around from a neutral Budget to a Budget with a deficit of well over $2,000m and in doing so has had in mind the need to get us back to somewhere near full employment. Because of the restrictions of time I will not go through the various measures which have been taken, but I must say that in doing that the Government has not forgotten about the problem of inflation. It has realised that in the last year or so one of the factors which have accelerated the rate of inflation over and above the factors which operated in 1973 which are the basic motivations for the acceleration of inflation, that is, the international factors, has been the substantial jump in wages in 1974. The Government does not blame wage earners for that. It realises the factors which brought that about. It has taken appropriate action to offset it. Those actions are two-fold. One relates to taxaton. In 1973-74 by keeping the tax schedules constant wage earners, despite their dramatic increases in wages, in fact had no increases in their real take-home pay in the way it is normally measured. They in fact did receive various benefits through increased Government spending, but those benefits are not immediately realisable to wage earners, and the process of educating them in respect of the kinds of improvements which can come to their real standards through increased government expenditure is a long term one. They must realise- I believe that they have felt and realised this- that their real standards are not improving. The Government has overcome that factor in relation to the increased tax bite by cutting taxes dramatically. They have been cut to the extent of $ 1,000m in this year.
The second approach is the wage indexation approach. We are saying to the wageearners: We are supporting you in the Arbitration Commission in your claim for a system of indexation to apply to wages so that you will not have to anticipate accelerating rates of inflation’. We will give them a guarantee that their wages will be increased in line with inflation, and therefore their real wages will be maintained. This approach contrasts dramatically with the attitude of the Opposition. The attitude of the Opposition, as expounded recently by the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) who is the Opposition’s spokesman on industrial matters, is one of opposing indexation. It is one of going for the big bash, increasing fines imposed on unions, going back to the halcyon days, as it sees it, of pre- 1969 when it could drag unions up before the Industrial Court, fine them and generally adopt draconian measures to create pessures against wage earners.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Martin)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Appropriation Bill (No. 3), in company with Appropriation Bill (No. 4), seeks the provision of funds to the extent of approximately $600m. Of that amount appropriations totalling approximately $1 10m- that is, $70.6m in Appropriation Bill (No. 3) and $39.7m in Appropriation Bill (No. 4)- are sought to cover expenditure up to 30 June 1975 resulting from the Darwin cyclone. These appropriations herald the first of many which will be necessary to restore Darwin, or at least to bring it to a state at which the obligations of a nation to its distressed may be considered to have been discharged. It is therefore quite imperative that all efforts towards that end should be well co-ordinated and that the result will reflect an awareness by those entrusted with the responsibility of the need to utilise the resources of our country to the best advantage.
Whilst the creation of the Darwin Reconstruct tion Commission provides an instrumentality well situated to pursue its charter, this Parliament must not forget other areas and industries threatened by difficulties and, in some cases, disaster. In short, I wish to draw to the attention of this House the extraordinary failure of the Government to consider properly the position of the Australian umber industry and the 2-way benefits that would flow from its involvement in the reconstruction of Darwin. It would appear to me that the Government not only is permitted to salvage what it can from the Darwin disaster but also is heavily obliged to do so. Estimates of the cost of reconstruction range from $300m to $900m. Regardless of the eventual amount, in the main it will come from the pockets of the Austraiian taxpayer. Therefore one would expect more than a sympathetic approach from the Government to the prospect of involving Australian industries in the restoration program.
On that note I return to the umber industry. Australian timber industry spokesmen were quick to point out to the Government the benefits from timber orders in relieving unemployment problems. In that respect they canvassed the Government quite fully and received replies from the Treasurer (Dr J. F. Cairns) and the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson). Apart from an acknowledgement, they have not yet received a reply from the Minister for Northern Development (Dr Patterson). As well as maintaining viability in the timber industry and retaining the capacity to meet Australia’s future needs, it would appear to be eminently more logical to assist in maintaining employment directly rather than to engage in the more costly practice of paying unemployment social security benefits. However, the Government apparently has made it quite clear to the industry that it has no intention of bringing any influence on the Darwin Reconstruction Commission to give thought to the wider implications of the building program.
To that end, all timber organisations in Australia have been advised by the Government that the Commission is autonomous in its function and that it is the intention of that Commission to continue its practice of calling public tenders. The effect of that practice is to disadvantage immediately Australian suppliers because of the high freight costs paid under Australian award conditions compared with those paid from overseas countries. I refer to those countries not bound by such conditions and which, in some cases, are considerably closer to Darwin. The main alternative regular sources of supply are Malaysia which supplied 26 per cent of Darwin’s former requirements, New Guinea which supplied 41 per cent, and Singapore and the Philippines which supplied a little more than 4 per cent between them. Australia in 1973-74 supplied more than 28 per cent of the timber used in Darwin.
It is noteworthy that Australian hardwood timber prices on the east coast are cheaper than those for imported timbers. This in itself is a tribute to the efficiency of the Australian timber industry. However, when it comes to the transportation of this commodity throughout our vast country, the impact of a high cost transport system is immediately felt. The freight cost to Darwin of south-east Queensland timber by rail to Mt Isa and thence by road transport is $85 per tonne. This works out at $24.38 to $25.80 per 100 superficial feet, which is more than 3 times greater than the freight charges from Malaysia to Fremantle which approximate $7.40 per 100 superficial feet. Of course, Malaysia-Darwin freight costs can be estimated to be even less than that. Australian hardwood at Brisbane is currently priced at $ 1 1 8.20 per cubic metre, compared with the ex wharf price from Brisbane of $146 per cubic metre for selected and better grade meranti timber. The movement of the freight differential relative to Darwin prices disqualifies Australian suppliers from responsible tendering, and the industry in particular and the nation in general are denied the opportunity of fortuitous circumstances arising from the Darwin cyclone. A further attraction of Australian hardwood is to be found in its superior strength rating. Surely that is something to be weighed against the Government’s emphatic assertions that every thought should be given to the quality of new buildings in Darwin.
We have listened to the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) put forward a vigorous argument in which he explained that unemployment is a problem common to all nations and that, lamentable as it may be -
– It is worse in Australia.
– Indeed, it may be argued that it is worse in Australia when one considers all of the conditions that would naturally offset all these problems. Whether the honourable member was successful in persuading attendance to his point of view I leave to the judgment of honourable members. But assuming that unemployment was thrust upon us, can we plead innocence from a charge that we have been derelict in applying ourselves to the solution of the problem. Here in the detail I offer to the House is a classic illustration where out of the heaven-sent misfortune, if the honourable members will accept the contradiction in terms, ofthe Darwin disaster is a first class opportunity to bolster an industry- an Australian industryvery important to our permanent scheme of things, which, in common with many other industries, is feeling the strain of economic stress. If we are going to argue that Darwin must be rebuilt on the cheap or with maximum conservation of resources, both financial and physical, we are not going to get the Darwin which we have been led to believe is our entitlement and the due to those people who suffered very seriously in that tragedy.
If we are going to say that we can buy timber more cheaply overseas, is it not logical that we should extend the argument into every avenue of cost saving? Can we not argue that if we substitute our rather high quality and high cost coastal shipping in Australia, where the seamen and officers are paid at a rate consistent with Australian awards, we can reduce the price of our timber in Darwin? One might even say that we can undercut the price of imported timber into Darwin if we brought the Lascars back into coastal shipping. This would solve the problems but would it be acceptable to our Australian way of life, our thinking on social reform and our thinking on the standards which we consider the due of Australians? Of course it would not be. But how totally ridiculous to lose this golden opportunity of assisting the supply of Australian timber to the Darwin restoration by freight support and keeping Australian industry workers in employment where they would not be in need of unemployment benefits and they would not have their spirits eroded by unemployment. At the same time these industries would be maintained in a condition from which they could immediately spring into full production when, hopefully, the day will arrive when conditions wil become more buoyant in Australia.
What will the Government do about it? Apparently it is not as sensitive to the seriousness of the problem as various other people, among whom is Mr E. Williams of the Australian Workers’ Union who, in a letter to Mr Armstrong, said quite clearly:
I wish to acknowledge your telegrams, and particularly the last one to yourself as AWU representative ACTU, received by me in Melbourne. I note in your telegram the import price advantages against the Australian Timber Industry and the advice of Dr Cairns following your representations.
I further note in your telegram that Mr G. G. Goding, the Queensland Branch President of the Australian Workers’ Union, has advised full Union support for your proposition.
The proposition being that of assisting the Aus.tralian timber industry to compete effectively with overseas concerns in the supply of timber for the reconstruction of Darwin. Mr Williams went on to say:
I have to advise you that this matter was taken up at our Executive Council level and our Executive Council carried a motion that they would make representations to the Whitlam Government over the unfairness of the situation and also, through the ACTU, that consideration should be given to the purchase of Queensland and/or other States timbers in the reconstruction of Darwin.
So you will see that the whole of the State and federal organisation of the AWU are behind your submissions.
That is fairly clear and that would constitute a commonsense approach to the problem. It is not good enough to say that the whole task of rebuilding Darwin is in the hands of the Commission. Clearly the Government has a responsibility to make political decisions, to give some direction, some indication to the Commission how Australia could be served on a much broader base. If we are to ignore the rates of pay that Australian workers get, their 4 weeks paid holiday, their 17 te per cent pay loadings, the high workers compensation premiums, the various shipping awards and all these things, the relevance drops out of my argument. But they are there and we would not undermine them. They are there to stay so it is up to the Government to review its attitude on the matter and to make every genuine effort to get behind this proposition from the timber industry from which only good can flow to the country in general.
Other matters arise from the Appropriation Bills, including the direction of funds to the Regional Employment Development scheme and assistance through the States for roads. All these things are quite worth while in themselves but they are not effective in coming to grips with the real problem. They are in the nature of bandaging a cancer. They are not directed at getting the spirit back into this country and the people back to work. The key to our problem lies in effective production- production on an individual basis- and a new sense of responsibility by aU those concerned. We want RED schemes that Will stand as a monument to the good intentions of this Government, of any government, and the Government’s best endeavours to relieve the unemployment which in part, as the honourable member for Gellibrand pointed out, is related to international conditions. Rather than dissipate our limited resources on matters, in many respects of dubious worth, greater attention could be given to major projects. One which immediately comes to mind is the Monduran-Kolan irrigation scheme in the Bundaberg area of Queensland- a scheme that is much mooted by economists. It has been thoroughly examined and its worth to the nation is beyond dispute.
– It is good country too.
– It is good country, as the honourable member for Darling Downs points out.
– It has a good member.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MartinOrder! I know that there is a mutual admiration society in the Australian Country Party corner but I am certain that the honourable member for Wide Bay can do very well without the assistance he is getting.
-Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, I appreciate the fact that you have an instant recognition of the value of the electorate of Wide Bay. I personally urge the Government to attend seriously to the matter of collaboration in the expenditure of public moneys. From time to time in this House we have seen instances of a lack of liaison and co-ordination even in humble terms in the Budget, such as when the $4 television licence fee for pensioners was waived in line with the removal of television licence fees overall and at the same time pensioners’ telephone rentals and unit call charges were increased. This seems to be a contradiction in this exercise but it illustrates how perhaps in a sense of urgency through eagerness to do things the Government wants to do, it tends to overrun itself. There are lots of opportunities in Australia for the more effective application of public moneys. The projects to which I referred in speaking to these Appropriation Bills give ample latitude for the Government to demonstrate its good faith in the matter.
– I shall address myself to these Bills very briefly because I have given an undertaking to the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) that I will take only a few minutes, but I think very important minutes. I address myself primarily to Appropriation Bill (No. 4), which was introduced by the Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer (Dr J. F. Cairns). It authorises the provision of financial assistance of some $6m for Tasmania in 1974-75 in connection with the Tasman Bridge disaster. As all honourable members will be well aware, the Australian National Line bulk carrier ‘Lake Illawarra’ crashed into the Tasman Bridge on the night of 5 January resulting not only in a loss of life but also in very serious damage to that bridge and a great dislocation to the people of the eastern . shore of the Derwent River in particular.
I was at the scene of this disaster just half an hour after it occurred. I must confess that even then I could not believe what had happened. At this stage in speaking to this Appropriation Bill I pay tribute tq all of those organisations that responded to the gravity of the situation- too many to relate because unfortunately one invariably omits to mention some organisations or individuals.’ But to return to this Appropriation Bill, this is a very clear and tangible expression by this Australian Government of its concern for the welfare of thousands of my own electors, some 45 per cent of them, who have been so severely hit by this bridge disaster and the consequences that followed. This Government has undertaken to meet the full financial cost incurred by the Tasmanian Government, its authorities and various instrumentalities. The Bill also includes assistance to the State for the investigation of a proposal for a further permanent bridge across the Derwent.
I particularly place on record my own appreciation of the response by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and the Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer-the Minister in charge of these Bills. Instantly and actively they responded both to my plea and the pleas of my colleague the honourable member for Denison (Mr Coates) immediately to visit the scene of the disaster to have conversations and consultations with the Tasmanian Premier and his Ministers. Also I place on record my deep appreciation of the Federal Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) and the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard). If there were any indication of the immediate and practical response by this Government to a disaster, it was illustrated by the actions of the 4 Ministers I have mentioned.
This disaster has dislocated many families and brought with it great emotional problems. The physical disaster we can see; the emotional problems are not always so easily discernible. There has been great dislocation of families. Those problems still exist. Those dislocations still exist. I am happy to say that some of these problems are now being dealt with efficiently and effectively. Hopefully we will overcome them.
Under the legislation the Australian Government is committed also to providing funds for the regrading and upgrading of various roads on the eastern shore of the Derwent- an absolutely vital operation. This work is progressing extraordinarily well. All who are involved in it- from both the Tasmanian Department of Public Works and the Hydro-electric Commission- are deserving of congratulations because this work is well ahead of schedule. The establishment by the Department of Social Security and the Department of Labor and Immigration of offices on the eastern shore of the Derwent have assisted thousands of people. This has led to an elimination or an alleviation of a lot of the personal and emotional problems to which I have referred.
This Bill certainly will have a beneficial effect upon the whole of the Tasmanian economy, but in the few moments which I have left I wish to mention particularly the announcement by the Prime Minister of the appointment of a very distinguished Australian and an equally distinguished Tasmanian, Sir Roland Wilson, as the Prime Minister’s personal adviser on the Tasman Bridge reconstruction. I am sure that all honourable members would agree that Sir Roland, with his great experience- he is a former Secretary of the Treasury, Chairman of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation and Chairman of Qantas Airways Ltd- will bring the expertise, the vitality and all the energy necessary in an operation of this kind. This Bill deserves to be supported totally by both sides of the House, and I am optimistic of that support. Finally, I commend the Government for its speed and. its action. Certainly the people in my electorate are immensely gratified by the interest and the humanitarian approach shown by the Government in this disaster.
– I agree with the sentiments expressed by my honourable friend, the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Sherry), concerning the Hobart disaster, but I must tell him- I hope with not offensive candourthat I cannot agree with his wider sentiment that these Bills should be supported with unrestrained enthusiasm. These Bills represent what is happening in this country- the fierce determination by those in charge to sweep the country towards national bankruptcy. It is to no avail for the Parliament or the country to turn their faces against the fact that these 2 Bills involve the further expenditure of $600m. The Treasurer (Dr J. F. Cairns) approaches monetary matters in this country with what I would describe as a metallic calm- the metallic calm of one whose whole being is guided by a dialectical approach. I have conceded publicly my acknowledgment of the honourable gentleman’s dependence upon dialectiveism for his conduct. Each time he takes the public stage he gives yet another admirable performance.
– A splendid performance.
– A splendid performance. I am indebted to my friend for his interjection. The simple fact of life is that the policies over which the Treasurer presides are substantially responsible for taking this country in the general direction of bankruptcy. Today we are experiencing an inflation rate of 17 per cent to 18 per cent. That is taking a very harnessed view of things. Next year it will be within touch of 23 per cent to 24 per cent. We are assured by the honourable gentleman that he and his colleagues are intent upon planning their way out of difficulties. ‘Give me a plan’ is the great cry of the Treasurer. For the last 2 years they have had an unfettered control over the Government. They will seek to beckon us in the direction of the Senate, but for all practical purposes they have had an unfettered control over the Government and over its activities. Step by step the Government is taking the nation down the path towards national bankruptcy. The deficit this year on current account, I suspect, would be within a touch of $ 1,500m. It will be interesting to hear the Treasurer, when replying in this debate, offer some confutation of that assertion. On present indications, if this trend continues, next year the country will face a deficit on current account of $3, 600m to $4,000m.
No nation can afford the luxury of ignoring figures of that character. If the nation is to be invited to contemplate with equanimity a deficit of $3,500m to $4,000m, all I can say is that the nation is determined upon seeing destruction meeting all of its programs, all of its plans and all of the hopes of its people. The Treasurer, with a calm given only to a few Christian martyrs- I do not know whether the honourable gentleman is well cultivated as of yet for fulfilling that rolesits with this engaging equanimity and says: ‘AH is well’.
Let us look at some of the matters that we are invited to approve in these 2 Bills. For a start, there is $130m for the Department of the Treasury. Whenever the term ‘Treasury’ is used, one would expect that members bow with an obeisance which should be used in this place but which is not used. The Treasury is asking the Parliament to vote $130m on this occasion. Three of the items in the division referred to by the honourable member for Franklin deal with employment. One item calls for $60m by way of general revenue grant to assist employment. Another calls for additional capital grants to assist employment, amounting to $ 19.2m. The third is a special employment grant of $40m. In that area alone we face today 3 1 1 000 people out of work. It is the nature of things these days that one seeks to explain those figures away by falling back on the jargon of our dme. They are not really unemployed, if one is to use the technique of our days. One seasonally adjusts the figures and the number of unemployed shrinks to something below 3 1 1 000. I do not propose to be overwhelmed by the humbug pressed upon us by some of the economists in our midst. It matters not. If one is out of a job, one is out of a job. Plain English is done a tremendous disservice by pretending that one is anything else when one is told that one is seasonally adjusted. Of course today this Labor Government- this Government of disaster; this Government with a fierce fondness for plans but with no capacity for accomplishmentsays: ‘Well, if you are not happy about being adjusted we will seasonally adjust you. If you are not happy about being reconstructed, we will seasonally reconstruct you; we will re-locate you’. The Government will do everything to you other than get you a job. Here is this enormous sum of money- $1 19m- being spent one way or another in the cause of unemployment; unemployment which has been caused by the disastrous policies pursued by the Government.
The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) takes the view that he can behave like a Roman emperor of old and that all he has to do is to say: ‘Rome has spoken. The case is finished and nothing else is to be added’. The honourable gentleman indulges himself in a luxury which would have eclipsed that of Byzantine. We are expected to accept almost with grace the expenditure of this enormous sum of money in the field of employment. It is a thundering disgrace that at this time the Government should seek to get from the Parliament by way of further appropriation such an enormous sum of money.
The Treasurer in his public speeches has suggested that what is happening here in Australia has been brought about by 2 matters. The first is that we have imported this distress into Australia. He has never quite explained how that extraordinary thing comes about. For example, if he were to read the observations of the Secretary-General of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Mr Emile Van Lennet, he would see that Mr Van Lennet asserts that member countries of the OECD simply do not go around exporting inflation one to the other. In one paper that gentleman contended it is about high time that this nonsense of supporting the import inflation theory stopped.
But the Treasurer will have nothing of this. He does not say exactly how this comes about. He does not seek to say how much of the Australian economic activity is dependent upon overseas activity in the sense that it is imported into Australia, and how much is dependent upon local activity. He says nothing of the sort. The honourable gentleman simply says: ‘We are importing inflation. This is a phenomenon around the world ‘. All I say to him is this: It is the growing mood, it is the growing conclusion of the Australian people that the financial instability which has been visited upon Australia has been brought about by the incredibly extravagant programs which have been entered upon by the Government of which he is a member. Of course, the honourable gentleman views all this with deep disdain. One can recall the occasion when it was suggested that he would assume the mantle of deputy leadership of his Party. He said: ‘No, I do not want that’. He got it. When it was suggested that he would take over the position of Treasurer, the honourable gentleman was heard to say: ‘I do not want that’. He got it. Now when it is suggested that he wants to take over the Prime Ministership, the honourable gentleman has the same impressive urbanity. He says: ‘I do not want that’. I just observe in passing that for my part the honourable gentleman is deeply intent upon securing the treble.
The second basis on which the Treasurer seeks to defend the instability in Australia, so far as the Government is concerned, is by saying: ‘We inherited the instability’. I must say to the honourable gentleman that I think he has been looking at the wrong will. The fact of life remains that when the last Government, the McMahon Government, was in office, the rate of inflation in Australia was about 4te per cent. Now it is no matter of accident that the rate of inflation has been taken from 4]A per cent to the absolutely ravaging rate that it is today. The Treasurer knows perfectly well, and all those who advise him know perfectly well, that it is absolutely impossible to maintain any democratic society if there is a rate of inflation of more than 20 per cent. Mr Deputy Speaker, that brings me to invite your attention, the House’s attention, and I hope the country’s attention to what precisely the Treasurer is aiming at. Fortunately for us all, the honourable gentleman has been something of a publicist. This is the ‘Quiet Revolutionary’ at work. If anybody wants to know something of the nature of the cerebral processes of James Ford Cairns, the Treasurer of Australia, I invite him to read the ‘Quiet Revolutionary’ because in it is a complete and utter revelation of the honourable gentleman and what he seeks to do. He seeks to destroy and to change completely the whole of the economic society of Australia. If honourable members take the postulate that I press upon them, that no nation can’ sustain a 20 per cent inflation rate with indifference and get away with it, with the declared aim of the Treasurer to destroy the economic structure of Australia, they will find an explanation for the honourable gentleman’s behaviour. I invite the House not to be sucked in by what I would describe as the massive equanimity of the Treasurer. He has a complete indifference to what people say about him or to what people may conclude are his motives with respect to economic policy. The conclusions are there to be drawn- the honourable gentleman seeks to destroy the system. The system can and will be destroyed unless there is a check’ on Government expenditure, on Government extravagance, and unless there is a sense of resolution by the Government to bring inflation under control.
Every policy, every announcement made by any Minister points to one thing, if to nothing else, and that is their determination to spend public money. There was a time when people in public life spent money in the nature of a trustee. They looked upon public money as though it were their own and impacted upon that a care beyond it, but today the members of this Government spend money with a profligacy that defies description. The fact of life is that they have no longer the trustee approach to the expenditure of public money. There was a time when Ministers, before they were called upon to approve appropriations of expenditure, inquired what was involved. Today they sign, they could not care less- that miserable, that contemptible phrase in any form of activity. To put that form of attitude into public life and into the expenditure of money is to invite disaster for this country. I am sorry that because of the exigencies of the House I am required to conclude my remarks in half a minute or so. I seek to recapitulate on this one point: This Government is a Government determined upon leading the country towards national bankruptcy.
Resignation of Mr Speaker Cope-Allegations against Member
-Order! It being half past ten o’clock, in accordance with the order of the House of 1 1 July 1974, 1 propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
-Mr Speaker, some time ago a stirring speech was made by a member of the present Government. He was not in government at the time. I wish, if I may, to quote a phrase or two from that speech. He said:
It is not my custom to comment about candidates for the Speakership. That is a risky game, because one may have to work for the next 12 months or so under a man against whom he has levelled criticism. But it is a calculated risk. I do not think I have much to lose on this occasion because I got such a rough deal in the last Parliament. I could not get a rougher deal in this Parliament. I ask honourable members, particularly the new members of the Parliament, who were referred to compare the jovial dignity of Mr Cope with the cruel and arrogant posture of the gentleman who has been proposed from the other side. Honourable members will observe in Mr Cope a gentleman who has the highest regard for the Parliament and its rights as well as for the rights of honourable members who sit in the Parliament. This is the important thing. We shall have in Mr Cope as Mr Sneaker one who will not be the mere lackey of the Prime Minister, one who will not be the mere servant of some political party but one who will be the servant of the people who have Deen chosen by the electorate of this great Commonwealth of ours to represent it.
– Who said that?
– It was the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron), who now of course is a senior member in the Government ranks.
– When was this?
– The date of this speech was 25 November 1969. The other gentleman referred to was Sir William Aston. Honourable members who served under him will be well aware, I think, that he was certainly one of the greatest Speakers that we have had in this House.
It is not my intention tonight to do anything to denigrate in any way a person whom I have come to regard as a good friend, as many of us have good friends on the other side of the House. I refer to the former Speaker, the honourable member for Sydney, Mr Cope, for whom I have the highest admiration on personal grounds and in other ways. But I thought it was worth bringing to the attention of the House tonight the duplicity and complete insincerity of a man who could almost forecast that he was going to get into trouble as he made a speech and who comments how dangerous it is to make comments on Speakers at all. Of all things, he compared Mr Cope at that time with the person who had been Mr Speaker in the previous Parliament by describing that person as ‘ cruel ‘ and ‘ arrogant ‘.
I do not particularly want to rehash completely what happened the other day. This is not the moment to do so. But I think it is worth placing on record that that speech was made and that, of all people, the man whom Mr Speaker
Cope found referring to him in slighting terms and then refusing to withdraw was the very man who made that speech. I hope that the House will take notice of the fact that perhaps some Ministers should be looked on as being chameleons. Whether senior Ministers must talk with one voice on one occasion and with another voice on another occasion I do not know, but it is worth while reminding the House that those remarks were made greatly to the credit of the Labor Party’s nominee at that time, who was Mr Cope. Yet the same person was vastly disrespectful on another occasion. He was the catalyst which caused the upset in the Parliament the other day. This is what happened after he had made a speech of that type in 1969. 1 regret that I only walked into the House a few minutes ago and that I have not had the time as I usually do to let the Minister for Labor and Immigration know what I was going to say. I do not think, however, that there is any way in which I could have misquoted him. I have taken these few minutes of the time of the House to put those remarks on record.
– I take this opportunity this evening to make some remarks about a matter which was raised by the last speaker, the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles), who was the first speaker in the adjournment debate tonight. Surely his speech is another of the continuing examples of the disgraceful conduct of the Opposition which led to the situation which exists in this House and which we saw displayed here last week. We have the gross hypocrisy this evening of a man who was proposed to us not on one occasion but on two occasions to my memory as the ideal man to fill the speakership of this House. He was proposed to us by his colleagues as late as last week as being the ideal man to become Speaker of this House. An example of his hypocrisy, showing the attitude of this man to the Standing Orders and to the procedures of this House, has been amply and aptly displayed by the speech that he made.
Might I also say that, in the closing stages of his remarks, he was prepared to admit that he had not even bothered to follow the normal courtesies of the House by notifying the honourable member for Hindmarsh, the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron), of his intention to make the remarks that he made here this evening. His excuse was the time factor. I am sure that there is no need for me to recount at any great length what led up to the situation that developed in this House last Thursday. That was done quite forcefully and quite credibly today.
The smiles of approval by members of the Opposition and the smile of embarrassment on the face of the honourable member for Fisher (Mr Adermann) who sits at the table are surely indicative of the guilt that exists among so many honourable members of the Opposition with respect to their conduct in this House over a long period. I refer to conduct not only throughout the life of this Parliament but also throughout the life of the last Parliament.
As far as I am concerned, not one member on the other side of the House can excuse himself in any way from the guilt that should be shared by all of them because of the way in which over a long period they have shown complete and utter disregard for the Standing Orders of this House. They have completely and utterly rejected the authority of the Speaker, elected first following the elections in 1972, without opposition, to take charge of the proceedings of this House. From those days, they embarked on a campaign to destroy the authority of that Speaker. If they have the opportunity, mark my words, Mr Speaker, the same attempt will be made by them to do to you as they did to the previous Speaker. I compliment the previous Speaker for the way in which he exercised his authority to the extent of his ability over such a long period without any semblance of assistance from anyone on the Opposition side of the House. They failed to show any respect at all for his authority in this House. Constantly and consistently actions were taken by leading members of the Opposition day after day in this House at question time.
The corner over there has been described often by the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) as cockies’ corner. From the mixture of National Party and Country Party people who sit there came the chirps and the squawks. They are at it again tonight. Yet I am certain that they must have some little shame at the actions and behaviour of their Leader in this House last week as a result of which he was dealt with by the Speaker for deliberately failing to abide by the rulings of the Speaker. This evening we saw the man whom the Opposition sponsored for the position of Speaker last week endeavouring to belittle the actions of a Minister on this side of the chamber.
Mr Speaker, I am sure that you are well aware that those gentlemen from the National Party, the Country Party or the Liberal Party will once again embark on the same deliberate campaign to destroy the prestige of your position and to destroy the harmony of this House by disrupting the proceedings on every occasion that they have the opportunity. I sound that warning. We will see how long it takes for them to do exactly as I have predicted this evening. I am sure that if it does not happen this week, during the first week of April when the House will again be sitting you will start to see the first examples of it.
-Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
-Yes. The honourable member for Bowman (Mr Keogh) said that the honourable member for Fisher was sitting with a smile of embarrassment on his face. If he implied that I was embarrassed because the Opposition speakers exposed the conduct of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) I was grossly misrepresented, but if he meant that I was embarrassed at the depths to which parliamentary democracy descended in this House last Thursday at the hands of the Prime Minister he was correct, and I was not misrepresented. That would be the truth.
-Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. At no stage during my speech did I say or imply any of the things that the honourable member for Bowman (Mr Keogh) suggested when he accused me of slighting your predecessor. On the contrary, I tried to speak in exactly the opposite way. My only intent was to slight the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) but certainly not the previous Speaker. I regret the sanctimonious attitude of the honourable member for Bowman to the whole business.
- Mr Speaker, I wish to refer to something that occurred in this House during my absence on Tuesday last. It is recorded at pages 633 and 634 of Hansard. A question had been asked of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and the Prime Minister in answering it made an entirely irrelevant and personal attack upon me. It was a deliberate and wanton attack. It was not caused by the question. It was brought in. This was done in my absence. The honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) intervened and said:
The Prime Minister is taking this opportunity in the honourable member’s absence to say things in relation to him that are thoroughly unparliamentary.
He asked Mr Speaker Cope:
Could I suggest …. there is a duty upon you, from the Chair, to protect him using your rights and prerogatives.
Mr Speaker Cope replied:
If the honourable member for Mackellar thinks he has been insulted I will give him the usual opportunity to speak when he returns tomorrow. The Prime Minister may continue to answer the question.
This is what occurred at that time. When I returned I saw Hansard and got in touch with you, Mr Speaker, last week. I said that I was intending to use the privilege which Mr Speaker Cope had suggested I might use and you thought that perhaps it would be inappropriate to do so last Friday because it was a special day and that it would be done today. I was expecting that I would have a fairly full right of reply in the circumstances. When the Prime Minister today reiterated the somewhat unparliamentary expressions he had been using you did not pull him up as you were entitled to do under standing order 77. Under standing order 77 it was your duty to pull him up. I told you, coming to the Chair, that I had not pulled the Prime Minister up because I was intending to make a full reply when you gave me a chance to do so. I rose afterwards to take the opportunity of making a reply to which I thought I was entitled. I found myself very circumscribed and am proposing now just to make one or two remarks in relation to the matter. I reiterate that the precedent seems to have been established by the instance I have outlined to the House that Mr Speaker does not intervene on behalf of honourable members who are absent.
-Order! The honourable gentleman will not refer to the actions of the Chair unless he does so in a substantive motion. The honourable gentleman is reflecting on the Chair and he is fully aware that he is doing so. I suggest that he not do so.
– I am not reflecting on the Chair to the slightest extent. All I am doing is saying what Mr Speaker Cope has done and Mr Speaker Cope has established the precedent that when a member is absent- I am not reflecting, I am just saying what has been done- standing order 77 will not be invoked in his protection. This stands on the record in Hansard. I am not suggesting that it is right or wrong; I am not reflecting on the Chair. I am simply saying what is in Hansard, as I am entitled to do, and the words I have quoted from Hansard are completely explicit because when the honourable member for Wannon said that the Speaker should protect an absent member from unparliamentary remarks Mr Speaker Cope said that he would not do so but would accord an opportunity to the absent member to speak when he returned to the House. I do not reflect on the
Chair; I simply say that this is the precedent which has been established and which is recorded in Hansard. I would expect that the precedent established by Mr Speaker Cope would be followed by you in this regard, and that is not a reflection on the Chair.
Let me come to what the Prime Minister had to say. First, he said with some pleasure that he thought this to be my last term in Parliament. This is not up to him to assume. The question of whether I nominate for Liberal preselection is a matter for me and I will not he influenced by what he says. Whether or not I am preselected by the Liberal Party is not for him to say. I think it is entirely improbable that he would ever be a member of the Liberal Party preselection committee and I do not think it likely that a Liberal Party preselection committee will select its candidate in accordance with the wishes of the present Prime Minister. The question of whether, having been pre-selected, if that should occur, I shall be elected by the electors of Mackellar is again not for the Prime Minister to determine. In point of fact, I should say that by his conduct he makes it extremely unlikely that a Labor member would ever be elected for the seat of Mackellar, and I do not think that he has any say in that regard. So he was saying something which was quite unjustified.
He then went on to make remarks which were not only unjustified but entirely and completely unparliamentary and disgraceful. He remarked that I had dishonoured my name in Parliament by my consistent vilification for a quarter of a century’. In that he was referring, I am certain, to the fact that in this House I have exposed, and shall continue to expose, the communist associations of people in the Labor Party. This is something which has offended members of the Labor Party and the Prime Minister continually over a quarter of a century. I make no apology for what I have done because what I have done has been entirely borne out by the event. What was a matter of shame for the Labor Party earlier on is now almost its boast. It is not ashamed of its associations with the Communist Party. Sir, I think that I have said enough about the activities of the sly and slimy Prime Minister.
-Order! The honourable gentleman will withdraw that last remark.
– This is not in accordance with established precedent but if you require me to do so, of course I must. You are new in the chair -
-Order! The honourable gentleman will withdraw the remark.
-I have done so.
-In the speech that he made. I did not hear a withdrawal. I ask him to withdraw the remark.
-! have done so.
-The honourable gentleman will withdraw the remark.
-I have withdrawn it. I do withdraw it.
- Mr Speaker, I am just about sick and tired of this. The honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) is always taking away the character of people in this Parliament and I think it is nearly time that the people of this country had a bit of an idea of what his ancestors did- behaviour which he is so easily following today. I have here an article from the ‘Daily Mirror’ of Wednesday, 27 March 1974. It states under the heading ‘Bizarre lottery could not save bank from ruin’:
Early in 1849 the citizens of Sydney were intrigued to learn that the colony’s first patriot, William Charles Wentworth, was to dispose of certain of his land by lottery. Twenty-three of his friends, a newspaper announced, had persuaded him to do this so he could devote more time to the welfare of NSW, a task of dedication that was already placing a great strain on him. All who admired William Charles Wentworth were impressed by his decision to sacrifice the land so that he might carry on with his works of public service.
Some revised their opinion however when a rival newspaper pointed out that the lottery would net Wentworth the then enormous sum of $120,000 at a time when land sales were sluggish.
The writer went on to flay Wentworth as a ‘ humbug’ and a breeches pocket patriot,’ trying to ‘pick the pockets of the people.’
Challenged by the law, Wentworth ‘s friends closed the lottery office they had opened and returned the ticket money. They said they only proposed the lottery to test its legality.
The article continues:
Fresh in the people’s minds was his 1839 attempt, when New Zealand was briefly annexed to New South Wales, to persuade seven simple Maori chiefs to sell him and his cronies millions of acres in return for $400 in cash and $400 a year for life.
Actually the Wentworth plan never succeeded for a furiously angry Governor Gipps banned it.
Workers, too, particularly the thousands of immigrant artisans, looked sourly on his demand that more convicts be sent from England.
We are threatened with being deprived of the only stay on which we can prosper- cheap and efficient labour’ Wentworth had shouted when Britain suspended transportation to New South Wales in 1 840.
His ancestors wanted the convicts to keep coming to Australia to give cheap labour. They are the type of ancestors that he had.
– Were they your ancestors?
– Yes, my ancestors were amongst the convicts that he wanted to bring to work for him. That is what annoys me more than anything else. The honourable member stands up as such a righteous individual in this House, but his ancestors wanted the Irish and others to be brought out to Australia- to be transported here for them. The article stated:
We are threatened with being deprived of the only stay on which we can prosper- cheap and efficient labour’ Wentworth had shouted when Britain suspended transportation to New South Wales in 1840.
These are the ancestors of the honourable gentleman. These are the people whom he holds up to us today. The honourable member is following nobly in their steps today. The article continues:
Since then he had campaigned for a resumption of transportation which would bring further distress to the thousands of free migrants already unemployed.
This gives an indication of the ancestry of the honourable member which he is following so proudly today.
He said that he was absent from the Parliament last week. I will tell honourable members why he was absent. He was in court being sued by a Labor member of Parliament for defamation of character, for which he apologised abjectly. He apologised for having defamed a member on this side of the Parliament. He was in court last week, where he ought to be, apologising to one of the members ofthe Government to the people for having defamed a member of this Parliament, irrespective of the effect that that defamation might have on his character. The honourable member, of all people, should be the last to bring to this Parliament any claim of righteousness and dignity and all that goes with it because he is as phoney as he looks. I wish he would run as a candidate for the Senate because senators might then see the kind of people we have to put up with in this chamber.
– Don ‘t you like him?
– I do not mind the honourable member because I can put up with freaks like him. He does not worry me unduly.
-Order! I suggest that the Minister withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw the word ‘freak’. The honourable member constantly stands in this place and tells honourable members how righteous they should be. The actions of his ancestors give him no recommendation. He has followed them right along the line. I am sick and tired of an individual who comes into the Parliament and tells us what we ought to do when in the courts of New South Wales he has had to apologise for his conduct. As was mentioned in the Parliament today, he is a very tame cat when he has to go into court to substantiate the wild allegations he makes constantly against Labor Party members and others in the community. It is all very well to defame people in this House, but when he had to front up to the courts of this country recently he was found in his right colours. The honourable member is untruthful. He had to apologise. He defamed a member -
– I demand a withdrawal of this. The Minister is saying things which are completely untrue. They are offensive to me. I demand an immediate withdrawal.
-Which remark does the honourable gentleman want withdrawn?
– The remark that I am untruthful and that I made an abject apology in court are untrue.
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. The Minister will withdraw the remarks objected to.
– I will, but I will produce the proof in due course. So that might correct the record. I will produce the apology that the honourable member made in public court last week to the honourable member who sued him.
- Mr Speaker, I rise to order. Does it constitute a withdrawal when the Minister says he will withdraw a remark and then says that he will prove something else in relation to the same matter?
-The Minister has withdrawn the remarks as requested.
– I withdraw the remarks, but I say that the House is entitled to see the nature ofthe apology. I think that I can produce it next week. It will make interesting reading in view of what the honourable member said tonight. Honourable members will then know that the honourable member for Mackellar who so constantly defames people did not front up so nicely in the court in New South Wales last week.
-Order! It being 1 1 p.m., in accordance with the resolution of the House, the House stands adjourned until 10 a.m. tomorrow.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Manufacturing Industry, upon notice:
In relation to the reference by the Prime Minister at a Press conference on 30 January 1973 to an interdepartmental committee dealing wim adjustment assistance for secondary industry, what is the committee’s (a) membership, (b) timetable and (c) charter.
– The Minister for Manufacturing Industry has provided the following answer to the right honourable member’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Manufacturing Industry, upon notice:
– The Minister for Manufacturing Industry has provided the following answer to the right honourable member’s question:
On 17 December 1972 this principle for petroleum purchases was extended to all commodities when the Prime Minister directed that Australian Government contracts should be awarded to an Australian-owned company in cases where Australian and overseas-owned firms submit tenders which meet specifications and are equal in respect to price and availability. In the period December 1972 to July 1974 contracts to a value of $ 16.3m have been awarded by the Contract Board in accordance with this policy.
With regard to the total value of orders placed by the Department of Manufacturing Industry over this period, 83 per cent were awarded to Australian manufacturers or suppliers. Those orders were valued at about $288m.
asked the Minister for Tourism and Recreation, upon notice:
Has the Government considered providing taxation deductions to encourage firms to introduce fitness programs and to build recreation facilities for their employees as he indicated in May 1973.
– The answer to the right honourable member ‘s question is as follows:
Employers implementing fitness programs and building recreation facilities for their employees are eligible to apply for deductions under the general taxation provisions. As a general rule items of a capital nature are not allowable as income tax deductions, although such items would be depreciable, at rates up to 3314% if used principally to provide recreational facilities for employees.
To complement the existing provision, my Department plans to inquire into the most appropriate ways of creating an awareness of the need to provide recreational opportunities in industry. It is emphasised that the direction of any programs involved for recreation in industry will come through close consultation with industry groups.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Manufacturing Industry, upon notice:
– The Minister for Manufacturing Industry has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
A sub-committee was formed on 29 May 1 973 to examine certain short term problems in the industry. This subcommittee’s main task was to bring together all the available statistical material on the industry in order to create benchmarks for future studies.
In March-April 1974 the Department of Secondary Industry (now Manufacturing Industry) in association with the Footwear Industry Advisory Panel conducted a survey of the footwear industry. The results of this survey and other information on the industry were published in the Department of Manufacturing Industry Bulletin No. 10 “The Australian Footwear Industry- A Review ‘, on 4 October 1 974.
Recent meetings of the Footwear Industry Advisory Panel have been concerned mainly with the current levels of activity within the industry. At the meeting of 5 June 1974 the Panel passed a resolution that ‘the Minister for Secondary Industry support, as a matter of urgency, an approach by the Footwear Industry for a reference to the Temporary Assistance Authority for holding action pending a proper review of the industry and its needs’.
My response to that resolution was that prompt consideration would be given to a request for a reference to the Temporary Assistance Authority when the industry had provided the necessary data to demonstrate that imports were having adisruptive effect on the industry. The industry provided the Department of Manufacturing Industry with detailed information on its current and prospective levels of activity in late August. A reference was sent to the Temporary Assistance Authority by the Prime Minister on 1 1 September 1974.
On 18 October the Prime Minister announced that the Government had accepted in principle the report of the Temporary Assistance Authority on footwear and that imports of most types of footwear in the twelve months ended 30 September 1975 would be at a level 20 per cent higher than the level of imports in 1972-73. This would mean that imports in the first quota year would be at a level about 30 per cent less than in 1 973-74.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows: (1)to (4) The attached schedule provides information relating to civil defence exercises conducted in premises occupied by the Australian Taxation Office. In the case of Treasury Central staff no comparable exercises were conducted. However as an integral part of their introduction to the Treasury it has been standard practice for new officers to be advised of the actions they should take to prepare themselves for an emergency evacuation should the occasion arise.
asked the Minister for Defence upon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
– The Minister for Foreign Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
The increase currently provided for is directed at meeting increased costs and providing a capability for ACFOA to join with the Australian Development Assistance Agency in administering the grant of $250,000 to support the overseas aid activities of non-Government organisations.
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
(a) The Australian Shipbuilding Industry Assistance Policy which enables shipowners to apply for Australian Government subsidy on ships built in Australian shipyards.
(a) Shipbuilding Industry Assistance Policy.
(a) To ensure the continuing development of a rationalised and efficient shipbuilding industry in Australia.
(a) Ships must exceed 150 tons gross construction tonnage or, if fishing vessels, be over 70 ft long on the load water line. Public tenders must be called for the ship. Approval of the amount of subsidy by the Minister and concurrence in this by the Treasurer depend on a recommendation from the Australian Shipbuilding Board.
(a) 1948 for Shipbuilding Industry Assistance.
(a) Section 47 of the Australian Shipping Commission Act and Cabinet decisions. (Draft legislation is at present being prepared for the Ship Construction Bounty Act.)
(a) By the periodic issue of policy statements.
(a) The Minister with the concurrence of the Treasurer.
Budget, consideration by the Senate Estimates Committee, followed by Parliamentary Budget debates.
1 ) (a) Shipbuilding subsidy is granted to shipowners who may be public or private companies, partnerships or individuals. The latter are a negligible proportion of the total.
12) (a) Community awareness of the Shipbuilding Subsidy Scheme is brought about by periodic issue of policy statements together with placement of advertisements in the national Press in each case of a subsidised shipbuilding proposal.
(a) Ships can be built under the Shipbuilding Subsidy Scheme only by builders registered by the Minister for Transport in conjunction with the Minister for Manufacturing Industry. The Australian Government does not wish the program to widen beyond this.
15) (a) Shipbuilding subsidy payments are made by the Department of Transport in accordance with a financial assistance agreement executed by the Minister for Transport and the owner. Payments are made only upon the evidence of the receipt of a corresponding payment made by the owner to the builder when the specified stage of building has been reached.
The financial assistance agreement, as described in (15) (a) above, contains clauses to ensure that subsidy is received only once.
Aerodrome local ownership development and maintenance grants are on a project-by-project basis, and this does not lend itself to duplicating grants.
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member ‘s question is as follows:
I refer the honourable member’s attention to the answer provided by the Special Minister of State to Parliamentary Question No. 1862 (Hansard, pages 4841 to 4847 of 5 December 1974).
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Manufacturing Industry, upon notice:
– The Minister for Manufacturing Industry has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
asked the Minister for Minerals and Energy, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Teasurer, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Statutory Authorities, Commissions, Panels of Inquiry Appointed by Government since December 1972 (Question No. 2174)
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Aboriginal Land Fund Commission
Aboriginal Loans Commission
Albury-Wodonga Development Corporation
Australian Capital Territory Fire Brigade
Australian Development Assistance Agency
Australian Law Reform Commission
Export Development Grants Board
Export Finance and Insurance Corporation
Film and Television School
Health Insurance Commission
Hospitals and Health Services Commission
Industries Assistance Commission
Office of the Insurance Commissioner
Legislative Drafting Institute
Petroleum and Minerals Authority
Prices Justification Tribunal
Social Welfare Commission
Trade Practices Commission
In addition, legislation is currently before the Parliament for the establishment of the following authorities-
Australian Film Commission
Australian Housing Corporation
Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service
Corporations and Exchange Commission
Darwin Reconstruction Commission
In respect of commissions and panels of inquiry, etc., I refer the honourable member to my statements on 3 1 May 1973 (Hansard, pp. 3002-3), 13 December 1973 (Hansard, pp. 4738-40), 2 August 1974 (Hansard, pp. 1053-4) and 5 December 1974 (Hansard, pp. 4679-80).
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
Will he provide the detailed component costs of all overseas ministerial visits, including his own, for the year ended 31 December 1974.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
In accordance with usual practice the Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 1974-75 included, against the Department of the Special Minister of State, expenditure brought to account for the period 1 January 1974 to 30 June 1974 for overseas travel by Ministers (including personal staff) and Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 1975-76 will include expenditure brought to account for the period 1 July 1974 to 3 1 December 1974.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 4 March 1975, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1975/19750304_reps_29_hor93/>.