29th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. G. G. D. Scholes) took the chair at 10 a.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the plan to obliterate the traditional weights and measures of this country is causing and will cause widespread inconvenience, confusion, expense and distress.
That there is no certainty that any significant benefits or indeed any benefits at all will follow the use of the new weights and measures.
That the traditional weights and measures are eminently satisfactory.
Your petitioners therefore pray:
That the Metric Conversion Act be repealed, and that the Government take urgent steps to cause the traditional and familiar units to be restored to those areas where the greatest inconvenience and distress are occurring, that is to say, in meteorology, in road distances, in sport, in the building and allied trades, in the printing trade, and in retail trade.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Dr Everingham, Mr Ellicott, Mr Erwin, Mr Keogh, Mr King, Mr Lamb, Mr Mathews, Mr Nixon, Mr Peacock and Mr Street.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that the establishment of an Australian Government Insurance Office will:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives rejects completely the Australian Government Insurance Office Bill 1975.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr McMahon and Mr Garland.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled: The humble Petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that the establishment of an Australian Government Insurance Office will:
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives rejects completely the Australian Government Insurance Office Bill 1975.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Donald Cameron.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled: The humble Petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that the establishment of an Australian Government Insurance Office will:
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives rejects completely the Australian Government Insurance Office Bill 1975.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Mathews.
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 1973, which acknowledges the importance of the family unit, mirrors community requirements, secures justice for innocent people and establishes a realistic definition of irretrievable breakdown, and call for similar legislation to be provided in Australia.
Your petitioners, therefore, humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will make provision accordingly. byMrDrury.
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 notbe 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 wille’ver pray. byMrWallis.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Membersofthe House of Representatives in Parliament Assemblyandthe humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australiarespectfully showeth that the establishment of an Australian Government Insurance Office as presently proposedin conjunction with the Australian Government’s proposalfor National Superannuation, National Compensation andthe National Investment Plan, will:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives amends the AGIO Bill 1975 to make the AGIO:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Lamb.
-I address a question to the Minister for Education. Has the Minister seen reports of the demands for a sharp reduction in Australian Government expenditure on education? Can he say what is the source of these demands and the likely effect of their being met?
– I suppose the most systematic campaign on this matter has been in the ‘Australian Financial Review’ which has published articles over a period of time declaring that the Priorities Review Staff has been looking at this matter and continuing to declare that in spite of denials. I draw the attention of the honourable member to the fact that in the biennium 1974 and 1975 this Parliament has committed funds to the Australian Schools Commission. It has legislated for $780m to be spent up to 31 December. Last December we indexed that sum upwards by $79m to maintain its purchasing power. Until 31 December 1975 that schools program will continue.
This is also the case with the triennial programs of the universities and the colleges of advanced education. We have enacted legislation to provide funds for technical education for the 2 years 1975 and 1976. This program is continuing. There is a provision for indexing to maintain the purchasing power of these triennial funds. After question time and the discussion of a matter of public importance today I will be introducing 2 Bills which are designed to maintain the purchasing power of the expenditure on colleges of advanced education and universities.
The demands to cut this expenditure interest me. It seems to me that the comments, for instance, of the spokesman on ‘Federal File’ were completely superficial. There were vague statements that money was not getting through. All I can say is that all the weekends for the rest of my life could be occupied in going to Catholic schools alone to open libraries and extensions that are already being financed. If honourable members look at the terms of the Bills that I will introduce later today they will notice the number of teaching hospitals, residences for students, the general facilities in all educational establishments that are actually being created.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that the rate of inflation is falling this year in 7 of the 10 major trading nations? When does he expect to begin importing that deflation? The countries concerned are the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands and Switzerland.
– I do not propose to go into the statistical comparisons. I have in front of me the comparative figures of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development on consumer prices, unemployment, growth in real terms and balance of payments. I suppose I could put up questions on any of these subjects and get a favourable assessment by particular comparisons.
-I ask the Minister for Labor and Immigration whether he has received a request from the Australian Chamber of Commerce for the Government to cease all activities which interfere with complete freedom of private enterprise. Has he given consideration to the effect on employment opportunities of removing Government intervention in opposition to this freedom, such as tariffs, subsidies and tax concessions? Will the Minister assure the House that he will not comply with such a request as that of the Australian Chamber of Commerce that the Government should act to increase the present unemployment level by 100 percent?
– There was some conversation but I understand the honourable member was talking about a proposition put forward by the Australian Chamber of Commerce that the correct way to cure inflation is to double the number of unemployed and to have an army of about 500 000 people unemployed all the time. This is the traditional policy of conservative economists. Of course this is the policy which the Liberal Party and the National Country Party of Australia believe in. My information is that the policy announcement was made by this gentleman in the presence of people who were financial members of the Liberal Party and that it was received with approval not only by everyone present who listened to the statement but also by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition who was also present and who did not indicate any objection to the proposition put on that occasion. He sat silent. One assumes that that means that he acquiesces in the proposal put by the Chamber of Commerce. If he does not, I think the honourable gentleman ought to indicate that now. If he did not have the courage to do that in the presence of the people at the gathering he should at least indicate to the Parliament that he does not believe, as apparently his colleagues do, in having a standing army of 500 000 unemployed.
– I ask the Minister for Labor and Immigration to advise the House whether a visa has been granted to a member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation whose name is Gamal Omar El-Surani to visit Australia. Is the Minister prepared to reconsider the issuing of the visa to this gentleman?
– I do not know what the honourable member is talking about.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether his attention has been drawn to recent statements by the United States Secretary of State, Dr Kissinger, that American intervention in Vietnam was a mistake. Has he seen any similar comments from former Ministers of the Australian Government which committed our troops to that war?
– I have noticed Press reports of a statement by the Secretary of State in the terms quoted by the honourable gentleman. I cannot say that the Secretary of State used those words in his discussion with me last week. In fact we were not going over the past; we were considering the future and the fruitful way in which Australia and the United States can now work together to make that future more prosperous and more peaceful than has been the case over the last decade or so. Of course, it would be true to say that not only Dr Kissinger but also other members of the United States Administration, and others who have been in preceding Administrations over the last 10 years, have learned from the experience of those years. The contrast can be drawn with the Liberal Party and apparently the National Country Party in this House because, as I pointed out yesterday, this is the only national Parliament in the world where one would find any party or parties continuing to support and express the views which have proved disastrous in our region and particularly in Indo-China. The American Administration and those who have held high office in the American Administration are facing facts and are looking towards the future. I believe that the United States can be very much more effective, as she will certainly be very much more respected, now that the mistake of Indo-China is behind her.
-I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Agriculture: Has expenditure on the national brucellosis and tuberculosis campaign been curtailed? Is the brucellosis and tuberculosis trust account in deficit? Is this caused mainly by the rundown in meat exports? Is the deficit causing a falling off in the effectiveness of the campaign? Will the Federal Government consider further increases in its contribution to the fund to make good the loss of income due to low meat exports, and strengthen this fighting fund in the national interest?
– I have no evidence that the campaign is being curtailed in any way. The honourable member does not have to convince me of the great need to eradicate brucellosis and tuberculosis from the cattle herds of Australia. Since the campaign started on 1 January 1970 approximately $22.5m has been spent by the Australian Government and the States in the eradication programs. In respect of tuberculosis, the honourable member will know that there is compensation for the compulsory slaughter of reactors, principally in northern Australia and in pockets of South Australia. The scheme has been very good in that tuberculosis has been almost eradicated from southern parts of Australia.
The situation in respect of brucellosis is a little more difficult because there is no compensation scheme for the compulsory slaughter of cattle that are affected by brucella- mainly brucella abortus- and there has been a dropping off in the number of testings for brucellosis. This would have relevance to the honourable member’s question. On the other hand, there has been an increase in vaccinations, so cattle producers are well aware of the need to continue to vaccinate against brucellosis. There has been an increase in testings for tuberculosis no doubt due to the fact that there is compensation, and I am pleased to say that the incidence of this disease has been reduced by about 50 per cent. I think I am right in saying- the honourable member will be well aware of this- that the Prime Minister referred to the Industries Assistance Commission the question of compensation for brucellosis and tuberculosis. I expect that that report will be available to the Parliament any day now.
There are certainly very strong grounds for paying compensation for cattle that have been affected or which have a positive reaction to brucellosis and have to be slaughtered. I need not emphasise to the Parliament that the United States has a program to eradicate brucellosis completely by 1983. It would be to Australia’s advantage to have brucellosis eradicated from the Australian herds by that date because if we do not, our export trade runs the grave risk of being stopped due to brucella in our herds. Also, other countries follow the United States regulations in respect of hygiene. I would personally argue, of course, that this scheme should continue. I believe it is the Government’s policy for the scheme to continue for I have seen nothing to the contrary. As to the deficit in the brucellosis and tuberculosis trust account, I will certainly look into the matter for the honourable member. I have no knowledge of such a deficit. In fact, as far as I am aware there has been no diminution in testings except in the brucellosis field. I assume that this has some relevance to the price of beef.
-I ask the Minister for Housing and Construction: Is it true that the Defence Service Homes Division is running at a loss of approximately $2m this financial year? Is it also true that the defence service homes insurance premium rates have been increased 3 times in the last 12 months?
Mr LES JOHNSON It is not appropriate for me to answer the latter part of the honourable member’s question since that matter is the responsibility of the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation. In answer to the first question raised by the honourable member, it is true that the Defence Service Homes Division has exhausted its appropriation. As a result of the delay of the Senate in passing Appropriation Bill (No. 6), which provides for an additional appropriation of $ 15m for defence service homes, it is necessary to defer settlement of existing property purchases and the discharge of mortgage applications until the extra funds become available. I might add that there is nothing unusual about that. The fact of the matter is that in 10 of the years since 1952 there were considerable delays in making funds available for the purchase of new homes. In eighteen of the years since 1952 - during the period our predecessors were in office- there were delays in making funds available for the purchase of old homes. The delays have been considerable. In fact, they have extended as long as 20 months in respect of some of the years involved.
In summary, the present position as a result of the Senate’s delay in passing the Appropriation Bill is, firstly, that the purchases of existing properties and discharge of mortgage applications which would normally have been settled if the Appropriation Bill had been passed during April have been deferred until the additional funds of $ 15m become available; secondly, that all purchases of existing properties and discharge of mortgage cases which would normally be settled in June, and some May cases, have been deferred for settlement until after 30 June 1975; thirdly, that new applicants are being advised that settlement of their applications cannot be effected before July. Of course, in those cases where the vendor is not prepared to agree to a deferment until the defence service homes loan becomes available, the applicant is being authorised to complete the purchase with temporary finance. I regret the inconvenience and, indeed, the hardship that has been caused. I acknowledge the representations which have been expressed on the part of many honourable members. The honourable member for Fraser has brought many cases to my attention. I only hope that the passing of the legislation will minimise this inconvenience and hardship.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Services and Property. Is it a fact that a number of countries have introduced legislation providing for the disclosure of the source of election campaign funds for political candidates and Parties? Is the Minister also aware that in Australia there is a growing demand by people for the information to be made public?
– I can assure the honourable member for Evans that in many progressive democratic countries there is legislation providing for the disclosure of campaign funds notably, of course, Canada, the United States of America and certain European countries. I am also aware that there is a great demand in Australia for the introduction of similar legislation. Recently the Government endeavoured to give effect to legislation whereby political Parties and candidates should reveal the source of their funds. It was vigorously opposed by the Liberal Party and fanatically opposed by the Country Party in this and another place. One is well aware that the Country Party is in the grip of the oil companies and that its campaign machinery is extremely well oiled. The need for this legislation was given further publicity in a statement issued by Senator Wheeldon yesterday which referred to what might be called the plot between the Country Party, or the Australian Country Party -
-The National Country Party of Australia. You are not up to date.
– Between the National Country Party and the Australian Mutual Provident Society. I shall quote and put on the record what Senator Wheeldon had to say yesterday. He said:
I am alarmed to find that there is evidence of a secret alliance between the Australian Mutual Provident Society and the Country Party, and that secret meetings have been held between representatives of the AMP Society and the Country Party.
I shall not read all the statement. Senator Wheeldon then produced a letter written from the Australian Mutual Provident Society, Sydney Cove, on 2 1 April 1975. It was headed:
Co-operation in Electorates between the Country Party and Insurance Industry.
On 16th inst. a number of your Country Party Parliamentary colleagues met in the Party room for a discussion with me and a representative of the general insurance industry. During that discussion they made a suggestion for electorate co-operation which this letter implements.
Present at this discussion were:
S. Fisher (Mallee, Vic.) R. S. King ( Wimmera, Vic.) P. E. Lucock (Lyne, N.S.W.) S. A. Lusher (Hume, N.S. W.) P. C. Millar (Wide Bay, Qld) F. L. O’Keefe (Paterson, N.S.W.) I. L. Robinson (Cowper, N.S. W.) J. W. Sullivan (Riverina, N.S.W.)
Is it not remarkable that they are all borderline seat holders and will not be here after the next election? The final paragraph of the letter states:
I am confident that, given time to put our present plans into operation and with your assistance, the insurance industry will be able to arouse a groundswell of public opinion which will either force the Government to drop its proposal for an AGIO and severely amend its proposed National Compensation Plan or force it from office.
So now we see exposed this sinister plot between the Country Party and the AMP and other insurance companies. The Country Party is entitled to have the plot but the public is entitled to know what funds are being put into its coffers by the AMP and others.
The public is entitled to know electorally what assistance the Country Party is getting and is entitled to know that the next Country Party Treasurer will be one who will be subject to the dictates of those who put these funds in. That is precisely the situation. Our legislation was designed to bring into the open the sinister influences behind the Country Party and the Liberal Party in providing their sinews of war- the money. In order to put the record straight, I seek leave of the House to include these incriminating documents in Hansard for the public to see why those opposite do not want the source of their funds to be revealed.
– Will you give leave to incorporate mine?
– I suggest that the Minister should seek leave to have the documents incorporated after question time.
– I just mention that the Deputy Leader of the Country Party -
-Order! I ask the Minister to round off his answer. He is debating the question.
– I will. The Deputy Leader of the Country Party said that it is a Press release and it should not be incorporated in Hansard. Quite frankly, I think he is wise not to put it in Hansard because he would be convicted.
– If the honourable member is prepared to incorporate mine as well I am prepared to have it incorporated.
-Order! The Deputy Leader of the National Country Party will sit down.
- Mr Speaker, on a point of order; may I seek leave of the House to incorporate in Hansard the letter from the AMP detailing the matters to which I have referred?
-Is leave granted?
– If you incorporate my statement as well.
-Leave is not granted.
-I ask the Minister for Science: Does the Government propose conducting an inquiry into the incidence of misleading advertising as reportedly foreshadowed by his colleague the Minister for the Media during an address in Sydney last Friday? If so, what is the justification for such an inquiry having regard to the existing penalties under the Trade Practices Act and State legislation? If such an inquiry is commissioned will the scope of the inquiry cover an investigation of the mounting incidence of misleading advertising in respect of the Government’s own activities?
-As the honourable member well knows, there have been incidents in which the Trade Practices Commission has taken up cases of misleading advertising and where appropriate action has been taken by the Trade
Practices Commission. I can assure the honourable member that any cases of misleading advertising will be taken up by the Trade Practices Commission.
– I ask a question supplementary to that asked by the honourable member for Bennelong. Has the Prime Minister’s attention been drawn to a series of lying advertisements sponsored by the insurance industry -
-Order! I suggest that the honourable member rephrase that comment.
– Has his attention been drawn to a series of untrue advertisements by the insurance industry that claim, amongst other things, that the Australian Government intends to nationalise the insurance industry? Will the Prime Minister investigate these advertisements to see whether they breach the provisions of the Trade Practices Act that relate to dishonest advertising? If they do, will he see that those responsible are prosecuted?
– I had not considered whether the advertisements both in the newspapers and on radio and television broke the law. I believe that there has been a revulsion by the public against the excess of these advertisements, and the public resents the fact that its premiums are being used for this purpose. The Government has been prepared to consider amendments to its government insurance legislation; as was announced yesterday. The people in the industry have suggested that the Australian Government Insurance Office should be made subject expressly to the provisions of the Life Insurance Act. We have agreed to those representations. The Premier of New South Wales asked me to have the body named the Australian Government Insurance Corporation instead of the Australian Government Insurance Office to avoid any confusion with the Government Insurance Office of New South Wales. The Government has agreed to the suggestion. If there are reasonable suggestions they will be considered. I have cited 2 cases where such suggestions have been adopted.
I believe that every State, with one exception, has for years had a government insurance office. Sixty years and more ago the Australian Government set up the Commonwealth Bank. The Constitution contemplates that there will be such government instrumentalities in the banking and the insurance fields. Anybody looking at the provisions of section 5 1 of the Constitution will see that it is contemplated that the Australian Government will establish an Australian Government bank and an Australian Government insurance office, because the Constitution safeguards the rights of State government banks and State government insurance offices. I am appalled to think that these presumably skilled insurance salesmen should be so distorting the facts which the public ought to know.
To make the position quite clear, the Australian Government is just as entitled to set up an insurance office as it is to set up a bank. The arguments against having an Australian Government Insurance Corporation would be the same as against having a Commonwealth Bank. Once these things come into operation, everybody accepts and applauds them, but it is very difficult to get them established. There were people who knocked the idea of the Commonwealth Bank when it was established. There were people who knocked the idea of the State Government Insurance Office of Queensland, the Government Insurance Office of New South Wales and the other State government insurance offices, yet nobody now, even those on the other side of politics to the present Government, would think of disbanding or restricting the operations of the State government insurance offices. They have served the public very well.
It has been quite plain from recent events that the insurance industry has not been able to give an adequate service to the public in certain fields. The Brisbane floods were a very clear example. The Treasurer of Queensland obtained a loan from an insurance company to build his house. When it was affected by the inundation of the Brisbane River he found that his insurance policy from the same company from which he had obtained the loan for his house did not cover him against loss from flooding. The only people who were covered against damage in those floods were those who had defence service homes. Not only has the defence service homes insurance scheme been a profitable scheme over the years, but also it has provided lower premiums than those provided by any other insurance scheme in Australia. The only one that approaches the economy of that scheme is that conducted by the Commonwealth Savings Bank.
What is it that the private insurance companies, whose funds go to such a large extent overseas, have to fear from some insurance being made available to the public on reasonable conditions? Everyone knows that he has to insure his property in some way or another. He ought to be able to get that insurance on reasonable conditions. The war service homes scheme and the
Commonwealth Savings Bank scheme have both shown that it is possible to get much more comprehensive insurance cover for a house than under any other insurance scheme. They are both Australian Government schemes. In fact in one case- that of the Commonwealth Savings Bank- the scheme was set up by our predecessors. They did the right thing. I applaud their action. But it should not be limited to those people who have obtained loans from the Commonwealth Savings Bank. Insurance should not be limited within the Federal jurisdiction to those who have obtained loans under the defence service homes scheme. The public in general should be able to get the benefits of complete insurance on the cheapest possible conditions. We should not have to rely so greatly on a multiplicity of private companies, so many of them owned overseas. The public will be well served by the Australian Government Insurance Corporation as it has been well served by so many State government insurance offices and as it has been well served for over 2 generations by the Commonwealth Bank.
-Will the Prime Minister put on public display all of the gifts received by himself and his wife on all his overseas trips to date? Will he say whether he regards these gifts as belonging to himself personally or to Australia?
– A great number of these gifts are already on public display. If one likes to look in the National Library or in some of the Government departments, one will see that they are available to any member of Parliament or any member of the public. I know that there is a very great deal of speculation from time to time on this. The last time there was a big fuss about this I had beside me an admirable quotation from Prime Minister Menzies. I am sorry that I have not got it beside me now. He pointed out that the practice of heads of government and heads of state giving and receiving gifts is of almost universal application. The GovernorGeneral, when he receives a head of state, usually receives a gift. When he goes abroad, as he has done increasingly under my Government, acting as head of state, he gives gifts. Similarly, if the head of Government of Australia- the present one or a previous one- has gone overseas, he has given gifts in most cases. When the heads of government of Australia have received in Australia their counterparts from overseas, they have received gifts in most cases.
There are exceptions. Within the circle of Great Britain, the United States of America,
Canada, New Zealand or Australia it is not customary, as I have observed, to give or to receive gifts. But in nearly every other country in the world it is customary. Obviously, if something is inscribed to me, as so many of these people kindly do in respect of their own publications, I keep them and I suppose they will feature in the Whitlam Memorial Library on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin. But, where possible, the gifts that my wife and I receive are given to appropriate institutions or are in our official residence. When we entered into occupation there, there were several gifts which had been given to our predecessors. We are happy for those gifts still to be in the official residence.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. Is it a fact that the most senior member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation in Cairo, Mr Gamal Omar ElSurani, is seeking to visit Australia as part of a propaganda tour of South East Asia, and has been granted a visa to enable him to do so? In view of the fact that the responsible Minister has said that he knows nothing of the matter, will the Prime Minister inform both the Minister and the House whether this visa has been granted and, if so, will the decision be reconsidered?
– I do not know whether a visa has been granted. It is some weeks since I looked at this matter. I expressed the view that a visa should be granted when the applicaton was made. It is about time that honourable members helped the Australian public to hear views in peaceful conditions on any matter where there are differing -views overseas. If and when the gentleman whom the honourable member mentions visits Australia, I will be very happy to see him if my engagements permit at the time. Similarly, I received a visit- I was happy to do sofrom a counterpart from the World Zionist Organisation, a few weeks ago.
I do not want anybody in Australia to believe that I am frightened to be seen with or to be known to have met with a spokesman for the Arab League or for the World Zionist Organisation. They are entitled to put their views. They do in most international forums. They should be entitled to put them in Australia as well. I have no sympathy for those who try to break up meetings where the Zionist point of view or the Palestinian point of view is being put. I know that there are honourable members in this place who believe that there are votes to be gained for supporting, as I understand it, the Zionist point of view. I have said earlier that there are now about equal numbers of Arabs and Jews in this country. I want to see that any Arabs or any Jews who are born in Australia or who come to Australia are able to go about their affairs in harmony, one with each other, and with the rest of the community.
Among the multiplicity of statements issued by the Leader of the Opposition while I was away was one on this subject. He always reacts to the last headline. He states: ‘Come home; face the Parliament’. Three days later he tells me: ‘Go to Washington and put this point of view ‘. In the meantime he tells me ‘say this to the Palestine Organisation’. The fact is that there are differences of view in the Middle East. We have tried to sweep them under the carpet too long. The honourable member for Boothby, who was trying to interject recently, would know about sweeping things under carpets. He would know about the carpetbaggers of this world. The fact is that the different points of view are being heard internationally. They are entitled to be heard in Australia, and we as Australians have to face up to these issues internationally.
Nothing is being served by trying to suppress a point of view or disrupt the meetings where a point of view is being put. I am prepared to spend as much time as I can to acquaint myself with the opposing points of view. I have visited Israel more than any other leader of government or Party in this country. I have visited Lebanon a couple of times. There are very difficult problems to be resolved and Australians have to face up to them, but they should not in the process try to disrupt our community relations in Australia. There are no votes to be gained that way in Australia. I warn our opponents that I am prepared to be seen with both sides and to hear both sides and I believe that any member representing the people ought to be similarly willing to hear both sides.
– I address my question to the Treasurer. It is supplementary to some questions asked earlier. What rights do life assurance policy holders have under the provisions of the Life Insurance Act and the Insurance Acts of 1973 to prevent their premiums from being used to finance the conduct of political campaigns?
Dr J. F. CAIRNS I do not think there is any doubt that a considerable quantity of funds subscribed to insurance companies by policy holders are being used by insurance companies in a political campaign against the Government and against the proposed Australian Government Insurance Corporation. Policy holders have no say whatever in what is happening. These decisions are being made by the management of very large insurance companies who have not consulted their policy holders. One knows that statistically at least half the policy holders must be supporters of the Australian Labor Party, and one can assume that a considerable number of them are opposed to what the managements of the large insurance companies are doing. I do not think there is any provision under the Insurance Act to prevent what the management is doing, although it is possible that some provisions could be interpreted as having relevance. I think it is desirable that these provisions should be looked at to see their relevance to a matter of this kind.
The campaign being conducted with funds of the policy holders is a misleading one. The argument is that the Australian Government Insurance Corporation will mean the nationalisation of the insurance industry. There is no truth whatever in that. The Australian Government Insurance Corporation will be an independent operation which will not involve an attempt to take over or to interfere with the scope of insurance companies. Indeed, the reason for the establishment of this office lies in the deficiencies of the insurance companies. As was revealed by the Prime Minister in an answer a few minutes ago, the insurance companies have failed, and failed rather badly, in a number of areas as was shown in the Brisbane floods. It is not only a question of national interest but also a question of normal insurance provision. The insurance companies have failed. There is great need in Australia today for some real competition in the insurance business. I hope the Australian Government Insurance Corporation will give some real competition in that area. One of the main reasons why there is need for that competition is that the insurance companies do not plan their finances for the purpose -
- Mr Speaker, I take a point of order.
-Order! If the honourable gentleman wants to take a point of order I suggest that he indicates that to me in a manner which I can hear. I can see the gentleman standing up.
- Mr Speaker, I am sorry my voice did not carry but I claimed a point of order. I regret interrupting the Minister but, with all due respect, I felt that the Prime Minister was out of order earlier and the Minister who was just speaking was out of order in that they were both canvassing the subject matter of a debate which is before the House at this present stage?
– The question is relevant to the application of an existing law. That is a question which is in order. A question which sought to canvass a proposed debate would be out of order. Under the standing orders the Minister is entitled to answer the question as he wishes, provided his answer is relevant to the question. I think the Minister’s answer is relevant to the question. I ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he could shorten his answer.
– The reason why the campaign by the insurance companies is misleading and why it is necessary for policy holders all over Australia to take this into account is that competition is necessary in the insurance industry in the interests of the Australian people and in the interests of those people who work for the insurance companies. The Australian Insurance Corporation will increase the opportunities for jobs and the chances for promotion of people in the insurance industry, not reduce them as the insurance companies are now telling their employees when trying to get them out in the streets to demonstrate. The reason why the Australian insurance industry does not give the kind of service to the policy holder that it should is that the industry is not just a service industry providing insurance service to the community; the industry is a great investment operation and its purpose, very largely, is to accumulate funds for investment. Therefore, the charges that are put on the insurance policy holders are far greater than they need be.
-Order! The Minister is now departing from the question.
- Mr Speaker, I ask that further questions be placed on notice.
-For the information of honourable members I present a communique issued at the Twentyfourth Meeting of the ANZUS Council held in Washington on 24 and 25 April 1975, together with a statement by the Minister for Foreign Affairs on that meeting.
– Pursuant to section 18 of the Wheat Research Act 1957 I present the Seventeenth Annual Report on the operation of that Act.
– For the information of honourable members I present a report on the South Pacific Conference on National Parks and Reserves held in Wellington, New Zealand, during 24 to 27 February 1 975.
Mr ENDERBY (CanberraAttorneyGeneral and Minister for Police and Customs)For the information of honourable members I present the Annual Report of the Northern Territory Police for the year ended 30 June 1974.
- Mr Speaker, I ask leave to make a personal explanation as I have been quite seriously misrepresented by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser).
– Order! Is the honourable gentleman seeking the indulgence of the Chair to make a personal explanation or leave?
-I seek the indulgence of the Chair, Mr Speaker.
– I call the Deputy Prime Minister.
– Yesterday the Leader of the Opposition said:
We come now to the next interesting document, a letter from the Deputy Prime Minister dated 13 February to Mr Nien, Charge d Affaires of the Embassy of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam …. He writes that he has received a letter of 10 January 1975, from Mr Nien, setting out the 2 point proposal of the PRG. He said that he had passed it on to the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Willesee) and asked him to give it a sympathetic eye and ear. What does that mean in the words of the Deputy Prime Minister? On any normal diplomatic reading, the North Vietnamese Charge would be entitled to believe that the Australian Government would act upon that request. That is basically what circumstances proved to be the case.
Honourable members might wonder what the 2 points of the PRG program were. Those 2 points involved the resignation of President Thieu and the end of all United States support for the Government of South Vietnam.
That is what the Leader of the Opposition said. It is false. It is misleading. It was done either deliberately or terribly carelessly. I would like to produce copies of the 2 letters in question. One of the letters contains my reply to Mr Nien dated 13 February 1975. It was correctly quoted by the Leader of the Opposition. In it I said:
I have received your letter of 10 January, 1975, setting out the two point proposal of the PRG and I have passed it on to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Willesee and asked him to give a sympathetic eye and ear to your request.
I would like to produce that letter. I would like to have it incorporated in Hansard or I will table the letter if the Opposition refuses me leave to incorporate it in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
The Embassy of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, 39 National Circuit,
Forrest, ACT. 2600
I have received your letter of 10 January 1975, setting out the two point proposal of the PRG and I have passed it on to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Willesee and asked him to give a sympathetic eye and ear to your request.
With best wishes.
Yours sincerely, J. F. CAIRNS
-I produce also the letter from Mr Nien to me, the letter to which the letter I have just incorporated was a reply. The letter, which is dated 10 January 1975, states:
On 3 February 1975, the Diplomatic Conference on the Development of Humanitarian Law will be held in Geneva. The Provisional Revolutionary Government has the right to participate at the Conference but its participation still depends on the support of friendly countries.
We earnestly request Your Excellency and through you to the Government of Australia to support the reasonable twopoint proposal of the PRG as follows:
All governments party to the Four 1949 Geneva Conventions are entitled to participate in the Diplomatic Conference on the Development of Humanitarian Law. As a party to the said Conventions, the PRG has a right to participate in the said Conference as the other governments.
Both administrations in South Vietnam, i.e., the PRG and the Saigon administration are to be treated without any discrimination whatsoever either both will participate in the Conference or neither will.
Please accept, Excellency, the assurances of my highest consideration.
I seek leave to have this letter incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
On February 3 1975, the Diplomatic Conference on the Development of Humanitarian Law will be held in Geneva. The Provisional Revolutionary Government has the right to participate at the Conference but its participation still depends on the support of friendly countries.
We earnestly request Your Excellency and through You to the Government of Australia to support the reasonable twopoint proposal of the PRG as follows:
Please accept, Excellency, the assurances of my highest consideration.
NGUYEN DY NIEN Charge d ‘Affaires a.i.
H.E.DrJ. F. Cairns, Acting Prime Minister, 21 Wattle Road, Hawthorn, Victoria 3122.
– The 2-point proposal of the PRG as shown in this letter from Mr Nien relates not to the withdrawal of the American forces and not to the ending of the Thieu Government but to these 2 proposals about the development of humanitarian law in Geneva. They were the 2 proposals to which I replied to Nien and I wrote to Senator Willesee asking him to give a sympathetic eye and ear to this request about attendance at the Humanitarian Law Conference in Geneva. They were the 2 points of the PRG. I would like the Leader of the Opposition to inform the House whether he misled the House knowingly or carelessly.
-Order! The Deputy Prime Minister cannot canvass the issue or make any requests. He has made his personal explanation. I think that is all he can do with the indulgence of the Chair.
– May I with the indulgence of the Chair respond to what the Deputy Prime Minister said?
-No the Leader of the Opposition can only make a personal explanation with the indulgence of the Chair. He can ask for leave of the House to respond. Is leave granted?
– Is this a personal explanation?
-Is leave granted?
-Leave is granted. I call the Leader of the Opposition.
– The Deputy Prime Minister has said that leave is granted.
-Leave is granted. I call the Leader of the Opposition.
-Mr Speaker -
– The Leader of the Opposition can say whatever he can.
-The Deputy Prime Minister might be surprised. He has given me leave and I thank him for it.
– I rise on a point of order. I would just like to know on what basis approval has been granted to the honourable member to speak. Is it a personal explanation?
-Ask the Deputy Prime Minister.
-The Leader of the Opposition asked for leave. I made it clear that I was asking whether leave was granted. No objection was raised from the Chamber and therefore leave has been granted.
– To make a statement?
-To make a statement on the matters which the Deputy Prime Minister raised.
– I said no, Mr Speaker.
– You did not say no, and I would not accept that you did. I call the Leader of the Opposition.
-The Deputy Prime Minister said yes.
– Well, say what you want to say. I wait to hear.
– I thank the Deputy Prime Minister for granting me leave over the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) who sought, too late, to say no.
-The Deputy Prime Minister did not grant leave.
– I accept what the Deputy Prime Minister has said. I accept the substance of his letter that the letters, as he read them, related to matters different from those to which I have referred. If I have misrepresented the Deputy Prime Minister I appologise to him for that. As he well knows, there were 2 other points in relation to the Provisional Revolutionary Government program. They were announced at a Press conference which the PRG held in Hanoi on 25 January, shortly after the Deputy Prime Minister got the letter of 10 January which I accept referred to different matters. Those 2 points related to the resignation of the Thieu Government and to the end of American aid to South Vietnam. I have accepted what the Deputy Prime Minister has said in relation to the letters and in relation to his letter to
Senator Willesee. I would be grateful if he would inform the House whether, by any other means, he gave support to the other 2 points of the PRG program, namely, the resignation of the Thieu Government and the end of American aid to South Vietnam.
– Not at any time.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate without amendment or request:
Appropriation Bill (No. 5) 1974-75.
Appropriation Bill (No. 6) 1974-75.
-I have received a letter from the honourable member for. Flinders (Mr Lynch) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The failure of the Government to understand that lack of a responsible wages policy will lead to higher prices more unemployment and personal hardship.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places. (More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places)
-The Whitlam Administration has abandoned wage and salary restraint as an instrument of economic policy. In plain terms the Cabinet has been snowed’ by the support of the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) for union wage claims beyond the wage fixation guidelines set down in the recent national wage decision. The Government’s weakness- its failure to take a strong stand in the national interest- has given the green light for the militant trade unions to challenge the authority of the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. It has opened the way for a renewed round of wage and salary demands beyond the current level of price increases. By its own decision- a gutless and cowardly decision- it has placed the Commission’s indexation decision at considerable risk. The Government has said that it will not take sides- who then is on the side of the national interest? The crucial importance of the metal trades case must not be overlooked. The award covers almost 400 000 employees and flows automatically to around 4 million.
The Government’s decision not to oppose the metal trades claims flies in the face of the public statements by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) that Australia’s present inflation and unemployment derive principally from excessive wage and salary increases. It is completely inconsistent with the public statement by the Treasurer (Dr J. F. Cairns) on 8 May that the metal trades claims were outside the wage fixation guidelines set down by the Commission. It follows a series of newspaper headlines foreshadowing a tough Government stand. It is a decision which was blatantly disputed last night by the Minister for Manufacturing Industry (Senator James McClelland) in these terms:
I would have liked the Government to go in quite flat footedly to say that we believe the formula evolved in the national wage case acts to prevent them from giving any increases in the Metal Trades Award.
The Prime Minister, the Treasurer and the Minister for Manufacturing Industry- the 3 senior members of the Cabinet responsible for economic affairs- are each on the public record as opposing the metal trades claims. They are each on the public record as believing that a policy of wage and salary restraint is essential to curb unemployment and inflation. Are we now to believe that these men are so inept or so weak? They have each abrogated their responsibilities in the face of threats by the Minister for Labor and Immigration. The divisions between Ministers have sabotaged an essential element of antiinflation policy. This is not a Cabinet. It is a loose, leaderless and divided collection of individual Ministers whose only common characteristic is their incapacity to work together.
The Minister for Labor and Immigration has scorned his colleagues and the Australian public whose interest he has a direct obligation to protect. He has publicly repudiated the Treasurer’s stand on the metal trades claims. On 10 May the Australian ‘ had this to say:
Mr Cameron, who is privately advocating a wage rise for the metal workers, disagreed with the comments made by Dr Cairns at a press conference on Thursday.
The Minister was reported as saying:
Dr Cairns has not studied the metal trades case in any detail at all.
The irony of the Government’s decision to run away from its national responsibility is that it was the prime advocate for the re-introduction of wage indexation. The Prime Minister, on more than one occasion has told this House that wage indexation was the central element of the Government’s wage restraint policy. Now that the Commission has re-introduced indexation for a trial period the Government is unprepared to support the Commission’s decision.
The Minister for Labor and Immigration in the Commonwealth jurisdiction in this country is the saboteur of the policy of wage and salary restraint. The public will recall that he was the Minister who triggered off Australia’s wage explosion by the deliberate application of the pacesetter principle in respect of public sector salaries and his unrestrained support for each and every major union wage and salary claim. He is the Minister who argued time and time again that the share of the gross domestic product held by wages and salaries at the beginning of 1973 had to be boosted to unprecedented levels. He is the Minister who has given his active support to irresponsible strike activity. He is the Minister who sought to weaken the authority of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission by emasculating its statutory powers of enforcement. He is the Minister who has presided over the worst level of industrial unrest since the depression- $ 128m was lost in wages alone during 1974. He is the Minister who has sought to transfer the blame for Australia’s economic problems onto the socalled multi-national corporations. Finally, it is this Minister who said in Adelaide that Karl Marx’s predictions about the collapse of the capitalist system would be proved correct.
The failure to implement an effective program to hold down excessive incomes claims will, we believe, inevitably lead to an entrenchment of high levels of unemployment and high levels of inflation. This will, in turn, lead to much greater hardship within the community. I remind the House what the Prime Minister said in Adelaide but a few months ago:
As long as wage demands continue to cut profits, then there is going to be unemployment in Australia. Every excessive increase in income for one man takes the job of another man.
The Minister for Labor and Immigration is well aware that excessive wage and salary costs can price labour out of the market and can force up prices. An essential element of the phenomenon which Australia has faced in recent yearsstagflation is a high level of wage and salary increases. The distinguishing feature of the recent economic downturn has been that the price spiral has not been broken.
There is no better illustration of the failure of this Government to hold down excess wage and salary increases than the April employment statistics released last weekend. Seasonally adjusted unemployment increased by 13 000. Actual employment, according to the statistics released by the Minister, in his own words was showing a decline by 5000. The simple fact is that the actual statistics bear no relevance to the real extent of the unemployment problem. I challenge the Minister to be honest with this House and the Australian people for the first time about the real extent of the unemployment problem in this country. If account is taken of the Regional Employment Development Scheme and the special relief grants made to State governments, actual unemployment increased by around 4000. This is not a stabilisation, to use the loose word conjured up by the Minister in that Press release. If account is also taken of the National Employment and Training scheme, the secret donations made to companies to maintain employmentand let the Minister table a complete list of such donations- structural adjustment programs and other artificial mechanisms such as reductions in vehicle sales tax, the real level of unemployment would have increased by far more than 4000 during the period under report. The secret bribes handed out to Associated Pulp and Paper Mills Ltd and Electrolytic Zinc Co. of Australasia Ltd alone have maintained almost 2000 employees at work, all of whom coincidentally live in Australian Labor Party electorates. These grants, I remind the House and the Australian people, were made without public announcement and represent a further element of the conspiracy of silence which has surrounded the Government’s approach to the present unemployment scandal.
The Government is conducting a blatant program to cover up the real extent of the unemployment crisis. The Minister for Labor and Immigration has deliberately, to use his own words uttered but a few years ago, ‘cooked the books’ to deceive and mislead the Australian public. He has been part of a campaign involving the expenditure of vast sums of taxpayers’ money to prevent unemployment registrations being reflected in his Department’s monthly statistical returns. The total funds being used to hide Australia’s unemployment problem today we understand to exceed $650m. I challenge the Minister to deny that figure. The public should be aware that this is the Minister who complained about a level of unemployment of 100 000 in the nostalgic days of 1972. Under his policies and those of his colleagues, the real level of unemployment today is not 100 000 or 200 000 but exceeds 300 000. This is the Minister who expressed concern about the employment of school leavers in 1972, yet under his administration tens of thousands of young Australians, because of his policies and those of his Cabinet colleagues, are being denied direct access to job opportunities. This is the Minister who said that Australian families would be protected from unemployment, yet during his term of office more families have suffered the hardships of unemployment than in any period since the great depression. This is the Minister who called for improvements in the administration of unemployment benefits, but in the last 6 months jobless workers in many areas have been forced to suffer delays of up to 6 weeks in the payment of benefits. This is the Minister who promised to resign if unemployment exceeded 250 000. I remind the House again that he has failed to honour that promise.
I also take the opportunity to remind the Parliament of what the present Minister said on 1 1 October 1972 and ask the House to take note of it. He stated:
A government that deliberately adopts an economic policy that makes it impossible for people to get work ought to be thrown out of work itself.
– Is that the present Minister?
– That was the present Minister speaking in 1972. Let him be the first today to take his own advice. Either the Whitlam Government has deliberately created a massive pool of unemployment to curb employment or it has been grossly incompetent. Let the Minister recall the words of the present President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions in 1972 when he said that because of the then prevailing level of unemployment members of the then Administration were either fools or knaves. I repeat the charge and level it against the present Administration: They are either fools or knaves. They cannot have it both ways. I ask the Minister and the Treasurer: How and when do they intend to curb unemployment? How and when do they intend to bring down the rate of inflation? These are the guilty men; these are the desperate men who have the responsibility to front up with the goods. Their lamentable failure to do this in more than 2Vi years is an indictment of the socalled Cabinet. It is a clear reflection of the continuing failure of the policies which this Government has adopted. I suggest that the Minister and his colleagues stand before this Parliament without any responsible answers.
The Government’s economic policy is a shambles. I quote the remarks of Professor Swan, who is often quoted by the Deputy Prime Minister. He said:
Cabinet’s reported decision to intervene neutrally against nobody and everybody in the metal trades case on the face of it allows Mr Clyde Cameron to pursue his own destructive course. Like a death-watch beetle, he is gnawing away within the roof-tree of the Labor Government’s political economy.
The Government, by its own weakness and by its own ineptitude, is courting national economic disaster. There must be a fundamental redirection of economic policy. The first step must be an immediate re-examination of the Government’s decision on the metal trades case. The Union’s claim, we believe, must be opposed in the national interest.
– The matter before the House at the moment is very important. It concerns one of the most important matters before the nation at the moment. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch), during the whole of the time he was the Minister for Labour, did his best to preside over the dismantling or the misuse of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. He was in a government which presided over the use of the penal powers of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act to imprison trade union leaders and to impose more than half a million dollars worth of fines upon them. The workers of this nation know exactly what kind of responsible wage policy they would get from the Opposition if it were ever the government and they know what kind of responsible wage policy they will get from the former Minister for Labour if he ever became a Minister again. The workers know that they will get a policy which opposes wage increases at all times. The only wage policy the Opposition has is to oppose wage increases. If any honourable member opposite were honest he would say that in public. The record of the Opposition proves that that is the case.
What is a responsible wage policy? I think the first element of a responsible wage policy is that workers should be compensated for increases in cost of living. Indexation is a major element in this. There can be debate about indexation but the scheme is essential. It is a major element in any responsible wages policy but in the speech just made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition not one word was said about indexation, one way or the other. The major element in wages policy today was not even mentioned by the spokesman for the Opposition in his speech calling for a responsible wage policy. In fact, we know that the Opposition is really against indexation. The shadow Minister for Labor and Immigration has said that on a number of occasions.
On this matter, as on every other matter, the Opposition is negative and destructive. The words ‘sabotage’ and ‘gutless’ are not quite the words that one would expect from the social background of the shadow Minister for Labor and Immigration, but nevertheless they are commonly used in the House today by people of a similar social background. This political rhetoric has no place whatever in an attempt to achieve a responsible wages policy. Productivity and production, in addition to indexation, are also crucial matters. There should be increases for productivity and for production. The rate of increase in productivity is 5 per cent or 10 per cent at best and if wage increases go beyond that then they spill over into inflation and cause increased costs and unemployment. Nothing was said about this by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. No attempt was made by him to explain to workers the connection between wage increases which may go beyond indexation and beyond productivity and their effect on inflation, costs and unemployment, but he cannot get away with that. He cannot do this and still talk about a responsible wage policy.
It is responsible wage policy to explain the things that I have just mentioned and to prove them. The Government goes beyond this and says that, if wage increases are greater than increases in the cost of living and productivity, then they can contribute to inflation, to costs and to unemployment. It is a responsible policy to say that but not one word of explanation was given by the Opposition spokesman on this matter. Beyond that, the Government favours wage increases. The Government is not against wage increases as the Opposition is.
It is responsible wage policy to be in favour of wage increases for cost of living, productivity and relativities. The Opposition spokesman did not utter one word on this and did not indicate, on behalf of the Opposition, whether he was for or against it. The Opposition is merely an antiwage Opposition. All workers should and do know this. This is not responsible wage policy. We have had enough of anti-wage attitudes from the Opposition in the past. We know that this attitude is irresponsible and can make no claim whatever to a responsible wage policy. The Government is a wage increase Party. We stand for fair increases and for justifiable increases. Any responsible wage policy must stand for fair increases and for justifiable increases. This is a responsible wage policy.
In addition to cost of living and indexation, in addition to productivity questions, the next most important question is the national wage case. At no time in the 1 5 minutes for which he spoke did the spokesman for the Opposition, who called for a responsible wage policy, seek to refer specifically to the national wage case. How can any spokesman for any political party which claims a right to govern this country speak for 1 5 minutes about a responsible wage policy without mentioning the recent national wage case judgment? On page 10 of that judgment the Commission mentioned that the question of whether indexation should be introduced was inseparably bound up with several other unresolved areas already discussed. On page 1 1 it states:
We have been impressed by the suggestions that indexation could have positively beneficial economic, social and industrial implications but, having regard to what we have said, we are not prepared to add indexation to the available methods of wage fixation.
At no stage did the spokesman for the Opposition go on and consider the relationship between indexation and these other factors in his attempt to get a responsible wage policy. He would not be doing that. He wants to use political rhetoric. He only wants to use words such as ‘gutless’ and ‘sabotage’, which ill become a person of his social background and claims to responsibility. A responsible wage policy, of course, has to go beyond indexation. It has to go beyond the increase of the cost of living and productivity. It requires a careful examination and not an outburst of political rhetoric, such as the one we have just witnessed. Changes in relativity between awards and occupations are most important things in a responsible wage policy. It is important for people to have consideration given to changes, to relations between occupations and awards. It is important for people to do this. We cannot get industrial peace or decent conditions of production unless we give proper regard to this. Responsible wage policy means that fair and reasonable and rational relativities must in fact be maintained. But is there any recognition of this from the spokesman for the Opposition? There was not one mention of the subject in the course of 15 minutes asking for a responsible wage policy. What did the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission say about this in the recent national wage case, which was not referred to at all by the spokesman for the Opposition? On page 18 of the judgment the Commission states:
Mr McGarvie emphasised that under the Government indexation scheme, a mere change of relativity between or within awards would not warrant a wage adjustment. He also suggested that ‘other special circumstances’ will apply in ‘ rare and isolated circumstances ‘.
The Commission then states:
On behalf of the ACTU, Mr Jolly said:
We would add that we consider that wage increases falling under the category of relevant or special considerations are likely to be rare and isolated. The ACTU proposals in this case are in line with the position of the Australian Government. While the ACTU has not attempted to define work value, this is a matter which will be argued before the Commission and ultimately decided by the Commission.
Near the bottom of page 19 of the judgment the Commission states:
We believe that the final submissions made by Mr Jolly on behalf of the ACTU at the last day of the hearing mark a new and positive approach to the issues of wage fixation methods and wage indexation and deserve to be tested in good faith by experience.
That is what we need for a responsible wage policy at this time. We need to be prepared in good faith to test these things by experience, not coming here with an outburst of political rhetoric as though the world were coming to an end. This is responsible wage policy. It has ACTU approval. It has the approval of the Arbitration Commission. Once indexation and productivity are settled the other matters can be settled too. I refer again to the judgment. On page 23 the Commission states:
The Australian Government has not only made a major contribution to the debate on indexation, it has also made a number of positive suggestions as to how it would act to ensure viability of indexation.
The distinguished judges of the Australian Arbitration Commission said that on page 23 of the judgment. But nowhere has the Opposition made positive suggestions. On page 23 of its judgment the Arbitration Commission says that the Government has made a substantial contribution to a responsible wage policy. But nothing has come from the Opposition that one could call anything of that kind.
Another important contribution that the Government has made to a responsible wage policy in Australia is that indexation, very largely as a result of the Government’s submission, has been gained. It has been won. The Commission has granted indexation in principle. Many people throughout this nation have fought for indexation since 1953. It has been gained. Is that a failure to understand a responsible wage policy? Is that a failure to achieve a responsible wage policy? Of course it is not. It is the most important contribution to a responsible wage policy that has been made in Australia for a long time. It was obtained as a result of the action by the Government and it has the approval not only of the Commission but also of the ACTU. Here is where the other factors become important. They cannot be ignored. They were ignored by the Opposition. They cannot be dismissed or destroyed by political rhetoric. Changes in work values are important to people. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition found no opportunity to refer to these matters. On pages 33 and 34 of its judgment the Commission states principle No. 7 which raises these questions and explains them in detail. I shall not have time to go through the full content of principle 7. But on page 34 of the judgment the Commission states:
It will be clear that this catch-up problem is a passing one and should not occur under the orderly system of wage fixation we propose as the basis of indexation.
In the important metal trades case at the moment the important issue is what has been called catching up. Certain metal tradesmen claim that they have fallen behind comparable people in industry. That is an important and vital matter. The relativities and work values are important. They must be looked at. One cannot dismiss them as the Opposition chooses to dismiss them in its continuous policy of opposition to wage increases. They have to be taken into account and they will be taken into account. What did the Opposition say about these things? Nothing at all. But I point out that the Arbitration Commission has made it clear that in its view the catching up problem is a passing problem. The solution of it will not destroy industry, as the Opposition has been saying. The solution of it will not produce an uncontrollable flow-on as the Opposition has been saying in its so-called responsible wage policy.
The only thing the Opposition ever says about wages is that it is against increases, and we know that to be so. The solution will not be found by political rhetoric. The solution requires a responsible wage policy. It will not be found by language destructive of good industrial relations, destructive of good production and productivity conditions. It is good politics for the Opposition to talk this way but it is bad for industry to talk this way. As I understand it, catching up does not apply to the metal trades; it is a concept that comes from the need for other trades to catch up with the metal trades. But if the metal trades have fallen behind they should catch up. Justice and efficient production demand that kind of fair dealing. But it is a matter for the Commission to decide what the position in this case will be. It is a matter for the Commission, guided by whatever information can be put forward to it, by the Government and by the other parties.
But of course the Opposition has nothing to say. Its position is enshrined in the principle of destructive criticism. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has even said: ‘It is not my job to make any suggestions; it is only my job to attack, attack, attack, criticise and destroy’. Is that good for confidence? What good is that doing for industry these days? Is saying nothing positive a contribution to a responsible wage policy? I leave it for the House and the people to decide. What son of contribution does this continuous destructive criticism, these words that ill become the social background of an exMinister ‘gutless’, ‘sabotage’- make to good industrial relations, to the productive conditions, to the confidence in industry that a responsible wage policy can in fact achieve? The Government has a responsible wage policy. The Arbitration Commission, as I quoted from page 33 of its judgment, approves of that and the ACTU approves of that. Give any worker in Australia an opportunity to decide whether he wants the wage policy of the Government or that of the Opposition and I am quite sure what his decision will be.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Berinson)Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes indeed, sir. The Deputy Prime Minister (Dr J. F. Cairns) in the course of his remarks did not confine himself to what had been said previously in the debate, but made remarks in regard to all members of the Opposition. I point out to him that as a member of the Opposition I did go to the length of going before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to support indexation but only subject to certain conditions. This debate is really about the Government’s failure to make indexation work.
-Order! The honourable member cannot canvass the issues.
-No wonder we are in a hopeless position. The Treasurer of Australia (Dr J. F. Cairns) has just said that the productivity increases in the Australian economy normally run at 5 per cent to 10 per cent a year. The point I make is that the Treasurer does not even know the difference between increases in gross domestic product and increases in productivity. In fact productivity increases in Australia over a long term period have risen on an average of about 2 per cent a year. No wonder the economic position is so hopeless and out of control when the Treasurer himself does not even know what he is talking about.
While he did talk about the national wage case, he just skated over the metal trades case. There was no mention of the public division between himself and the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) on this question. That is what is relevant today. That is what is interesting people today. The Treasurer is a great champion of indexation yet his Government is right now in the process of destroying it.
He said before that catch-up provisions did not apply in the metal trades case. Now he says that they do apply. His consistency in this respect is about on a par with the Government’s economic policy as a whole. There is no consistency whatever.
There are about 265 000 people who would dearly like to tell the Government what they think of it but who will not get a chance to speak in this debate. They are the people thrown out of work by this Government which allegedly represents them. There are over 30000 more who have lost their permanent jobs and who are just hanging on in temporary jobs in one of the Government’s hotch-potch of alphabetical schemes such as RED, the Regional Employment Development scheme; NEAT, the National Employment and Training scheme; SANMA, the plan for structural adjustment to non-metropolitan areas; and the rest of them. They would like to speak too. There are thousands of school leavers who will not get a job in this their first year of adult life. They will not be impressed by some academic argument about catch-up provisions and that sort of jargon. What they want is a chance to earn a living. It is the school leavers who are the hidden victims of the unemployment figures. They probably do not know it, but their fate can be found in the seasonally adjusted unemployment figures which showed a rise of over 13 000 last month. These cold hard figures, the significance of which is not widely understood, mean that between 15 000 and 20 000 school leavers will not get a job this year, and this economically illiterate Government is the reason they cannot. The Government’s failure to understand what it is doing is the reason we are in such an economic morass today. Not having understood what it is doing, it is not surprising that the Government’s predictions have been totally wrong. For months the Government has been saying that the economic situation would be picking up and that unemployment would be on the way down. It was wrong, and the actions and decisions of the last 3 days make it certain that it will keep on being wrong. There is no chance of a recovery until business confidence has been restored. What chances there were of this happening have been completely shattered by the Government’s spineless, disgraceful attitude in the metal trades case. The tragedy is that the mess need never have happened. The origin of today’s uncontrolled inflation, unemployment higher than at any time since the depression and prices rising at what can only be described as a frightening rate is directly attributable to the Government’s economic mismanagement. The origin can be traced back to the pacesetter principle.
Who was the author of that disastrous concept? None other than the Minister for Labor and Immigration. We all remember during the early days in office of the Australian Labor Party Government his exhortations to the Public Service to press for higher salaries and wages. Not surprisingly, the Public Service took his advice. They got their increase all right, and very quickly the results flowed through to private industry. Like the sorcerer’s apprentice, the Minister soon found out that he had started something over which he had absolutely no control. By the time he recognised his mistake it was too late. The inflationary horse was off and bolting.
The Government’s ignorance of how to manage the Australian economy soon showed in other areas. Its next target was business profits. We were told that profits were the ogre responsible for high prices and inflation. So the Prices Justification Tribunal was established and specifically given the job of clamping down on profits. Again the Government failed to comprehend what it was doing. Whether the Government likes it or not- obviously it does not like it- 75 per cent of employment in Australia is in the private sector. When the private sector is continually kicked in the teeth, not surprisingly it loses confidence and scales down investment, and with this scaling down go new job opportunities. Add to this situation the impact of huge wage increases, higher company tax, abolition of export incentives, decreased depreciation allowances and a continual stream of anti-private enterprise propaganda from the Government, and confidence disappears altogether- and no wonder.
Then the economic realities of life started to make themselves felt. Suddenly ‘profits’ was not such a dirty word after all. The Prices Justification Tribunal was told to take a different attitude and to recognise the fact that if a company does not make profits it goes broke. If it goes broke people lose their jobs. The staggering thing is that it took this Government so long to face the most elementary facts of economic life. One does not have to be an economic genius to recognise them, but the Australian Labor Party has been so blinded by its socialist ideology that it just refused to believe that the inevitable would happen. But happen it did, and with a vengeance. We are now suffering the consequences of this blind adherence to a discredited economic theory.
One of the great tragedies of the situation which the Government has created is that the first people hurt are those who can afford it least- the lower paid members of the community, who are usually the first to lose their jobs in an economic downturn, and those on fixed incomes, who are hardest hit by rising prices. This Government claims to represent those people. That is nothing but a confidence trick, and more and more people are waking up to it. In its misguided efforts to put into practice its hopelessly impractical policies, the Government is destroying its own base of support. Perhaps the first member of the Government to recognise the problem was the previous Treasurer, the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean), and it is no coincidence that he was sacked. The previous Treasurer put the situation succinctly when he said that the stage had been reached when a rise in one man’s pay packet could cost another man his job. What an admission from a Minister in a Labor Government. I wonder what the Minister for Labor and Immigration thought about this exposure of the results of his own deliberate policy.
Then the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), not noted for his grasp of economic affairs, came to the brilliant conclusion that excessive wage and salary rises were the principal cause of inflation and unemployment in Australia. It seemed that there was some glimmer of hope that understanding was beginning to filter through the ideological fog which still envelops the Labor Government. We started to hear a lot about the word ‘indexation’. The Minister for Labor and Immigration argued that, if only wage indexation were introduced, inflation would be well on the way to being controlled. Indexation would persuade the trade union movement to restrict its wage claims to rises in the consumer price index and national productivity. The Minister, through public statements and in the Parliament, put tremendous pressure on the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to introduce indexation. Despite its grave misgivings, which are so clearly evident in the decision in the national wage case, the Full Bench introduced indexation for a trial period.
But then what did we see? Suddenly the Minister for Labor and Immigration lost all his evangelical fervour for indexation. Faced with the need to defend his new-born child by opposing wage claims of the metal trades going far beyond indexation, the Minister went to water. Not only that, the Government went to water with him. In what must be the most gutless exhibition ever by an Australian Government, the Labor Government has run away from its responsibilities to the Australian people. And there, like the Duke of Plaza Toro, leading his troops from behind, was the brave Minister for Labor and Immigration. The Minister has refused to fire the only shot left in the Government’s anti-inflation locker. Worse than that, he has deliberately sabotaged what was at least an attempt to bring some rationality and sanity to what has become the uncontrolled and frightening wage and price spiral.
The result will inevitably be higher inflation and rising unemployment. This result can be laid fairly and squarely at the feet of the Minister for Labor and Immigration. It was he who persuaded Cabinet against the declared opposition of the Prime Minister, the Treasurer and the Minister for Manufacturing Industry (Senator James McClelland), to back off and abandon the Australian people to inflation. By doing so he has forfeited all right to respect. He has to go. He stands condemned by the economic chaos which surrounds us. It could be said of the Minister for Labor and Immigration, like Sir Christopher Wren, ‘si monumentum requiris, circumspice’. What a monument when the country and all the people in it are in such a mess, and when over 250 000 cannot get a job.
– I want to state positively and without any ambiguity the Government’s wage policy in relation to indexation. To do this I will not have to retrace or take back any of the words I have used over more than the past year. However, I want to begin by asking for leave to table the submissions which are right now being made to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission by counsel representing the Australian Government.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Berinson)Leave is granted.
-As the document will show, the Government through counsel is telling the Commission that it believes that the Commission should totally disregard any elements of the present metal trades claim that are designed to cover price increases for the December quarter, because these have already been compensated for by tax cuts. It will ask the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to disregard totally any elements of the claim now before it that are designed to cover price movements in the March quarter, they having been taken care of already by the decision of the Commission to index the consumer price index for the
March quarter. The Government will say to the Commission that the question of whether there is an existing anomaly that needs to be corrected to meet the transitional period is a matter entirely for the Commission to determine. Obviously that must be the position.
The Commission recognised in its judgment that where a case of catch-up could be established, its formula would not preclude increases that were needed for that purpose. Of course, the Government will accept the principle that any such anomalies should be corrected in the metal trades industry or in any other case in which it is relevant. But it is for the parties in each case to establish to the Commission’s satisfaction whether or not an increase is justified on those grounds. A statement to that effect is contained in a Press release which I issued officially on 9 May this year. There is no doubt in the Government’s mind that wage costs contribute to inflationary pressures. There is no doubt in the Government’s mind that inflationary pressures inhibit business investment and industrial expansion. There is no doubt in the Government’s mind that the inhibition of investment programs results in further unemployment. It must do so in a population that is growing year by year.
Wage costs, inflation and unemployment are interacting factors. That cannot be denied. One does feed off the other. One man’s wage increase can lose another man his job. No one can deny that. We do not want to see some workers getting more and more money while more and more workers find themselves getting no wages at all. In considering applications for price movements that are made to the Prices Justification Tribunal the Government will ask the Tribunal to recognise only those wage costs that have been approved by the Commission and the Commission will be asked to reject all wage demands that seek to double count price movements. There will be no double counting of price movements so far as the Government is concerned. The Prices Justification Tribunal will be asked to reject out of hand any applications for price movements based upon wage costs not approved by the Commission. If employers wish to make wage deals outside of the guidelines of the Government’s wages policy, those employers should be made to pay the cost out of their own pockets and not go traipsing off to the Prices Justification Tribunal for an increase in cost in order to pass it on to the rest of the community, which means on to the other workers. That is the way in which inflation is allowed to feed on itself.
The Government has not abandoned any policy of wage restraint because the Government never had a policy of wage restraint so-called. The term ‘wage restraint’ has been dreamed up by members of the Press as a shorthand term to cover everything that represents both wage increases and wage restraint. It is an emotive term. People could go to Mr John Halfpenny and ask: ‘Mr Halfpenny, do you believe in wage restraint?’ What a shock we would get if Mr Halfpenny said: ‘Yes, I think that it is a good idea’. Somebody might ask Mr Carmichael: ‘Do you believe in absorption?’ What a shock we would all get if he said: ‘Yes, it is a great idea. We tried it in 1967. 1 liked it then and I like it now’. There is a continued use of words like ‘wage restraint’ when dealing with quarterly wage increases. That is what is being talked about with the use of the words ‘wage restraint’. We have never said that we believe in wage restraint which represents a freezing of wages. We have said, on the contrary, that what we are talking about is a wage increase every quarter if it can be shown that there was a price increase in that quarter.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition says that the Government has now abandoned its policy and has opened the way for another round of wage demands. The Government has said nothing of the kind. What we say is that it is for the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to determine whether there is a just claim to remove any anomalies in the transitional period only. If there is, the anomalies ought to be removed but it is for the Commission to determine whether anomalies exist. Once these transitional anomalies have been removed, the Government’s position is that there shall be no further wage increases recognised by the Prices Justification Tribunal that go outside the Government’s wages policy guidelines. That is to say- I am repeating this-that every quarter there will be an automatic adjustment in wages to compensate for price movements. Every year there will be a hearing by the Commission to determine what productivity movements have occurred during the year. The benefits of whatever increases can be established will be distributed to the wage earners according to their just share of them. At any time in between if unions can show that an anomaly exists or has grown up as a consequence of changed circumstances, which will be quite rare, the unions should have the right to go before the Commission and if they are able to establish their case for a work value increase or for a catch-up claim they ought to be given it and they will be given it by the Commission. But unless the Commission approves of such increases, the Prices Justification Tribunal will be asked to reject wage increases based upon factors outside of those guidelines.
Wage indexation is a central element of the Government’s wages policy. I have made that clear. I have been talking about that for months. As far back as 29 June 1974 at the conference of the Industrial Relations Society of Australia held at Surfers Paradise I spelt out the guidelines of the Government and I stand by them now. Mr Deputy Speaker, perhaps I could have leave to have those guidelines contained in my speech at that conference of the Industrial Relations Society of Australia incorporated in Hansard.
– I have not seen them.
-The honourable member has read them. I sent him a copy of the speech.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
Re-introduction of quarterly automatic cost-of-living adjustments based upon an effective price index applied to the Minimum Wage with the resultant sum being added to all wages and salaries.
That a standing Tripartite Commission be established to review the composition and structure of the price index and supervise its compilation.
That unions eliminate the cost-of-living factor from all future wage claims with a reserved right to review possible distortions of relativities in two years’ time.
That future wage demands be confined to such factors as increased productivity, and changed skills, techniques and conditions of work.
That each year, the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission will determine a national -wage increase based upon productivity for the previous year. And, in order to assist the Commission, the Statistician be asked to formulate a productivity index as a matter of urgent priority.
That where parties are unable to reach agreement on wage increases required to compensate for changed skills, work methods and the like, the matter be referred to the appropriate panel for conciliation or arbitration based upon a work value study.
– I thank the House. As soon as the decision on price indexation was announced by the Commission I issued a Press release which stated:
Although the Commission has not adopted all the elements of the Government’s case I applaud the historical decision to reintroduce wage indexation. Real wages will now be protected against inflation. Given the unions’ response asked for by the Commission inflation will no longer be fed by a wage cost spiral based upon expectational demands. Along with last year’s equal pay judgment the introduction of wage indexation ranks with the 1907 Harvester Award as a milestone in the history of wages policy.
I stand by that statement today. The Cabinet decision stands by it. The Cabinet tells the Commission that it believes that the guidelines which the Government set out for its wages policy are good guidelines. The Government is prepared to introduce the mechanism that is needed to back up the guidelines to ensure that inflation is not fed on wage costs and that unemployment is not brought about directly as a result of wage cost caused inflation.
-Order! The discussion has concluded.
Bill presented by Mr Beazley, and read a first time.
– I move:
The primary purpose of this Bill is to make adjustments to the approved triennial programs of universities to take account of cost variations. When the Australian Government assumed full responsibility for the funding of universities and abolished tuition fees, it entered into an arrangement with the universities providing that their forward triennial programs would be adjusted to take account of cost variations. Honourable members will recall that legislation for this purpose was enacted in the Budget sitting of the Parliament last year. The new Bill continues to preserve the original triennial programs of the universities and ensures that they are not prevented from completing these approved programs as a result of variations in costs. The actual variations incorporated in the Bill are based on movements in approved indexes prepared by the Universities Commission relating to variations in non-academic salaries and wages, non-salary costs, equipment and building costs. These cost variations are applied to the various components of the triennial program, namely, grants for general recurrent expenditure, special research, equipment, university buildings, student residences and teaching hospitals. The Government announced earlier its acceptance of the December 1974 report of the Academic Salaries Tribunal which recommended increases in salaries of academic staff at universities. The Bill makes provision for the payment of the necessary funds to universities to enable them to meet these new rates.
During 1974 the Australian and Victorian governments agreed that a new university should be established at Geelong, to incorporate the 2 existing colleges of advanced education in that city in the manner proposed by the Universities
Commission in its ‘Report on the Proposal of the Government of Victoria for a Fourth University in Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo’. In December 1974 the Victorian Parliament passed an Act establishing the Deakin University at Geelong, and an Interim Council for the University was established on 1 January 1975. Deakin University will commence teaching in 1979. The authorities of the new University will be involved over the next few years in the planning and development of the university campus and preparation for the introduction of university programs. The Universities Commission will soon be reporting on the provision to be made for the Deakin University during the 1976-78 triennium. This Bill provides an initial recurrent grant for 1975 for Deakin University to enable it to commence its planning task; it also transfers to the University, for an Arts building, an amount of $720,000 which was previously provided for the State College of Victoria at Geelong.
This measure is one of a regular series of measures which will need to be introduced to take account of variations in the cost of university and college programs. With the assumption of full financial responsibility by the Australian Government, the Bill constitutes the equivalent of a supply measure for the universities to enable them to sustain their operations. In summary, this Bill provides for an additional $104m to be made available in respect to the 1973-75 triennium to universities and affiliated residential colleges. I wish the Bill a speedy passage through the House. I apologise to the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson) for my failure to provide him with a copy of my second reading speech. I do not know how this oversight came about. I hope that it will not happen again.
– Before I move for the adjournment of the debate, I wish to thank the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) for his apology. I accept it.
Debate (on motion by Mr Wilson) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Uren, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill enables the Australian Government to provide financial assistance to a State for flood mitigation and to adjust the terms of loans made under financial agreements with the States. All members are aware of the loss of 1 1 lives and the property damage caused by the Brisbane floods early last year. The Australian Government gave generous help to the victims of this flood, but we want to ensure that such need does not arise again. The Premier of Queensland asked for our help and, in the spirit of co-operative federalism which has been the mark of my ministry, I sought Cabinet approval to amend the Urban and Regional Development (Financial Assistance) Act 1974 so that help could be provided. The Bill makes provision for $450,000 to be spent on flood mitigation works in Brisbane this financial year. Subject to parliamentary approval, further funds will be made available as work proceeds in future years.
I might mention that this is the first major Australian Government contribution to flood mitigation in urban areas. In the main, previous assistance has been limited to rural areas. I have just mentioned co-operative federalism and in this respect I refer the House to clauses 3 and 4 of the Bill. In clause 12 (4) of the Albury-Wodonga Area Development Agreement made between Australia, New South Wales and Victoria in 1973, the Australian Government undertook to defer repayment of loans made to those States, when the growth centre programs had not generated sufficient income to cover the States’ commitments on loans to the growth centre. Clause 3 of the Bill enables this provision to be deemed a condition of loans made for AlburyWodonga. The situation has not arisen but if it does in the future the undertaking will be met. Clause 4 of the Bill will permit the Australian Government to enter into similar arrangements in respect of land commission and other growth centre programs. These provisions will begin operation on the date of the principal Act. Although section 5 (3) of the Act does enable the review and subsequent amendment of the terms of a financial agreement, the amendment set out in clause 4 of the Bill will enable direct provision for such circumstances to be included in a financial agreement with a State. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Wilson) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Uren, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to clear any legal obstacles to the appointment of the Commissioner of the National Capital Development Commission, Mr A. J. W. Powell, as Chairman of the Darwin Reconstruction Commission. The Government’s decision to appoint Mr Powell to the office was announced by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) on 12 March this year. The position of Chairman of the Darwin Reconstruction Commission is a part-time office for which remuneration may be determined by the Remuneration Tribunal. The terms of section 8(2)(a) of the National Capital Development Commission Act 1957-73 do not permit the Commissioner or Associate Commissioner to ‘engage in paid employment outside the duties of his office ‘ without a real threat of disqualification from office. This is so whether or not remuneration is paid in respect of the additional duties.
This Bill amends the National Capital Development Commission Act to remove any doubt concerning Mr Powell’s appointment. It also makes the way clear for the Associate Commissioners to assist Mr Powell with the Darwin Reconstruction Commission. The Bill also includes a number of formal amendments relating to such matters as audit, remuneration and allowances. This updates these provisions in the Act and brings them into line with similar clauses in other legislation. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Wilson) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Enderby, and read a first time.
This Bill contains 3 main proposals concerning the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory. The first makes provision for the Supreme Court to be constituted by a bench of not fewer than 3 judges when dealing with matters relating to the professional behaviour or conduct of a legal practitioner. The second proposal will enable the Court to be similarly constituted where a single judge considers that the proceedings are of sufficient importance to warrant this action. The third proposal makes specific provision for a change of venue in criminal proceedings before the Court.
In 1974 the former Legislative Council of the Northern Territory passed the Legal Practitioners Ordinance of the Northern Territory. Section 5 1 of the Ordinance defines the Supreme Court, when dealing with disciplinary proceedings against a member of the profession, as meaning the Court comprising 3 judges sitting together. Proposed new section 13a of the Northern Territory Supreme Court Act will give effect to this section of the Ordinance. A similar provision exists in the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court Act. New section 13b will enable a judge to order that the jurisdiction of the Court in a particular matter be exercised by not fewer than 3 judges when he considers that such a procedure is desirable. This procedure may be invoked where important points of law are involved or where a question of law has been the subject of differing opinions expressed by two or more judges at different times. Proposed new section 13d of the Act prescribes the means of arriving at the decision of the Court in cases presided over by three or more judges if the judges are equally divided in opinion as to the decision. In such cases the opinion of the senior resident judge is to prevail. Where no resident judge is sitting, the opinion of the senior additional judge is to prevail.
The amendment proposed by clause 9 will ensure an appeal lies to the High Court against sentence where an accused is committed for sentence to the Supreme Court and is sentenced by that Court. A similar provision is contained in section 52 (2) of the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court Act which was inserted following the decision of the High Court in Jackson v. The Queen (1964 Australian Law Journal Reports, page 37). It decided that the expression ‘convicted on indictment before the Supreme Court’ in section 52 of the Act did not cover the case where a person was committed to the Supreme Court for sentence by a lower court. The same words appear in sub-section ( 1 ) of section 47 of the Northern Territory Supreme Court Act and the proposed amendment will rectify a deficiency in the Act. Recently, doubts have been expressed as to the power of the Supreme Court to order a change of venue in criminal proceedings before it. While there are grounds for arguing that the Court has an inherent jurisdiction in this area, proposed new sub-sections (8) and (9) of section 5 1 of the Act will put the position beyond doubt.
The other amendments are of a minor nature or are merely consequential on those I have outlined. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Howard) adjourned.
Bill presented by Dr Cass, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to accept amendments which were proposed by the Opposition in the Senate when the original Bill was being debated late last year. At the time the amendments were acceptable to the Government, but if we had agreed to implement them then the Bill would have had to come back to the House of Representatives early this year. Both sides in the debate agreed that it would be wise to have the Bill agreed to and assented to at that time on the condition that we brought in the amendments at a later stage. This Bill brings in the amendments. One relates to the insertion of the word ‘direct’ before the word ‘financial’ to make it clear what the financial assistance suggested is. The other one relates to the powers of the Commissioners to enter into properties for the purposes of their inquiries. It was thought by the Opposition that the way the original Bill was worded potentially it was too far-reaching. Hence the amendment. I commend the Bill.
Leave granted for debate to continue forthwith.
-What the Minister for Environment (Dr Cass) has said, of course, is quite correct. The Opposition is prepared to accept these amendments as fulfilling the Government’s undertaking. The more significant one is the amendment to section 24. The original section 24 allowed a Commissioner appointed to inquire under the Act to enter property after giving reasonable notice. The Opposition took the view that the Commissioner’s powers in this regard were too wide and that if an occupier did not consent the Commissioner should have to go before a justice of the peace and obtain an order or a warrant of some description to enable him to enter. That requirement is now contained in the proposed new section 24. The Opposition is content to accept it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Or Cass) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 13 May on motion by Mr Lionel Bowen:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-Last evening when this Bill was being discussed I spoke on it for five or six minutes. During that time it was my aim to look at the total philosophy of the Government in relation to this Bill and its philosophy towards families in the community which is being exemplified in this Bill. I range as widely as that because, on the Government’s words, this was its deal with respect to the children of Australia. Obviously that meant it was the Government’s deal with respect to the families of Australia which are raising children. I take as my point of departure a very clear statement of what the Government ought to be looking at, which has been enshrined in a note from the New South Wales Federation of Infant School Clubs, a copy of which several honourable members have received. It had this to say:
The interim committee to set up the Commission must establish a philosophy in relation to ultimate goals incorporating standards innovations needs and priorities in relation to families and the community.
Further on in the note the Federation had this to say:
Examination by the Committee of means of co-ordinating services in accordance with its established philosophy is essential.
So on that basis, and on the basis of the Government’s own words, it was fair and I would think appropriate to look at this Bill at the Minister’s second reading speech and at the ingredients of the clauses and to ask: Does this represent the Government’s total philosophy? On the Government’s own words, it does. But the Government is very seriously in error in a number of cases. Ultimately, when a government intrudes into intimate institutions such as the family and when it intrudes into the responsibilities of families with respect to children, the power of that government will play a very great role in determining ultimately the values of the community. It will determine this basically because it has the power of the purse.
That is why the error in this Bill is that it does not give an adequate balance between home centred help and community centred help. The balance is all in one direction. When I say that I do not defend for one moment, without some comment and reservations, all the provisions of the Child Care Act of 1972. But that legislation is past and is not going to have a great relationship to the future administration of services for children in this nation. The power of the purse constitutes real power and with an interventionist government it is appropriate for us to look where the power of the purse is being directed.
I am concerned at the transfer from home to community of services organised through this Bill and through other measures of assistance to families that have existed in the past. I think it appropriate to consider one or two figures. According to this Bill, $75m is to be spent at the moment on these services. Is that $75m an addition of resources available to children in the community and to the families caring for children in the community? It is not. It is only part of a subtraction from the resources available to families in the community. For example, the one measure of assistance that has not risen with inflation but has been kept absolutely constant are the families assistance programs, all of which are nominated in the national accounts for mothers’ maternity allowances, bonuses, and so on. In fact, over a great number of years, from 1950 to the present day, the amount expended on those programs has declined from 1.7 per cent of gross domestic product to about 0.4 per cent of gross domestic product.
No matter what fashionable ideas people may have, women are still the only ones able to have children. I think it is worthwhile thinking for a moment about the fact that assistance given to mothers has declined quite massively. Some years ago child endowment- which was free spending money- for 2 children was worth an addition of 7 per cent to average weekly earnings which were coming into a home. For 2 children now it is worth an addition of one per cent to average weekly earnings. For 4 children in the early 1950s it was worth an additional 15 per cent of average weekly earnings and today it is worth an additional 5 per cent or 6 per cent of average weekly earnings.
Rather than traversing the figures in great detail, probably they can be best summarised in an example. Some years ago family assistance for 2 children would have bought 18 loaves of bread in a week. Today such assistance would buy31/2 loaves of bread. I believe the Prices Justification Tribunal has been on the job since these figures were calculated, so perhaps the price of bread has decreased since then. But the $75m proposed to be spent according to this Bill does far less than make up the leeway. It does far less than substitute for what is being denied elsewhere. One must take into consideration the amount involved in lost taxation deductions for the education of children which, for many families, represents an extra cost of $2 per week. In all of this, through the power of the purse, the power of an interventionist government, there is a decreasing of the ability of families to make their own decisions concerning their own children.
In fact, ultimately what is involved here is a bureaucratisation of children and a decreasing of the ability of parents to make their own decisions. That has to be stated because, on the basis of the Government program and the Minister ‘s second reading speech, ultimately this Commission will be designed to take care of all children. It will be designed to be quite pervasive and it has the aim of achieving this by 1980. So the philosophy of the Bill has appropriately to be examined with the lack of balance which is evident in all that it proposes at the present time.
Furthermore, I am concerned that this transfer of significant authority becomes evident in the definitions of ‘services for children’ contained in the Bill. In the definitions of the services for children, which are the linchpin of this legislation, 7 types of services for children are listed and in many of them the final words are that they are to be available for children who are not being cared for in their own homes, for children whose parents are engaged in employment, for children who whether are sick or physically disabled, or for children where assistance is needed. It is that philosophy that deserves to be examined. After all, I believe that all children in Australia need assistance and any public authority caring for them must be interested in them. All parents and mothers need assistance, whether they are working or not, whether they are poor or not, whether there is 1 wage earner or 2 wage earners. But I deny the proposition which seems to be ignored in the Bill that poor families somehow or other do not reside in those communities where there are -2 parents, only one of which is working. Some of the poorest families in Australia are families where there are 2 parents and only one of them is working. In the philosophy that has crept into this whole area of activity these people are being ignored, as was the Henderson Poverty Inquiry specifically ignored in this respect. It is not enough for a government to say that, with the birth of every child a family can be driven into pauperism and then to say that that family, having been driven into pauperism by the government’s taxation policy, will have services made available to it outside the home under conditions that the government determines. Frankly, that is a philosophy with respect to families which I do not support. I will be moving a number of appropriate amendments to this Bill and we will determine the fate of those amendments at a later stage.
The final point to be made concerns Australia’s total position in the world. Australia is a very small country in world terms which still has a very small number of people. To become a great nation it will require people. The best exposition of that philosophy was enunciated in 1945 and 1946 in a number of magnificent speeches by the late Ben Chifley, a former Prime Minister of” this country. Today we are living in the most expanding and dynamic part of the globe. At this moment and for the last couple of years this nation has been less than a zero growth nation. If we are concerned about where we will be towards the end of this century we should take into account those 2 points. It is in those circumstances that I say that the philosophy of this Bill of the transfer of the resources involved in the Government’s total approach to this area needs to be examined very closely.
There are 2 factors which no nation can ever escape. In the short term it cannot escape its own productivity performance; in the long term it cannot escape its own demography. This Bill is certainly concerned with the latter. I am concerned that the attitude of the Government ought to change. I believe that it must change not only in respect of national priorities but also in respect of the authority of institutions, the authority of parents and the ultimate destiny of the nation.
The Special Minister of State (Mr Lionel Bowen) in introducing this Bill manifested a great deal of goodwill. I would not for one moment suggest that his own philosophy would be contrary to a great deal of what I have expressed. I know that from his own background that would not be so. I would be surprised if the Minister did not give the proposed amendments, gentle and reasonable as they are, the response that I would expect him to give to them, namely, assent. I believe that anything short of that situation would not do justice to preserving what this Commission should be doing, that is looking after the total balance which is appropriate to the Australian community.
– I welcome the opportunity to speak briefly to this Bill. I refer in the first place to certain points made by the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns), particularly his preoccupation with the Government’s total philosophy in relation to this Bill and what lies behind it. I will try to demonstrate in what I have to say that there is a fairly broad philosophy behind the legislation.
It is of interest to note the second reading speech that was made by the honourable member for Flinders (Mr Lynch) when he was the Minister for Labor and National Service. I want to emphasise that it was he, as the then Minister for Labor and National Service, who brought in the Bill on childcare. Honourable members opposite talk about philosophy. What was the philosophy that existed in relation to child care when the Opposition was in government? The limited philosophy that existed then in relation to child care is apparent from reading what the then Minister had to say in his second reading speech. He said:
The Government’s initiative springs from its concern for the welfare of children of working mothers. The increase of working mothers in the labour force is a phenomenon of modern industrial society.
Further on the then Minister said: … a substantial number of such mothers cannot make satisfactory arrangements for the care of their pre-school aged children is yet another fact. The purpose of this scheme is to meet the existing problem.
I submit that there is very little philosophy in this. It is a case of an ad hoc arrangement whereby one tried to meet a particular problem that existed in the community at the time. I suggest that the decision to establish the Children’s Commission is a thought-out approach and one on which some work has been done before. It is true that committees were set up to examine this matter and they brought forward reports. The Commission which is the subject of this legislation has resulted from those reports.
The Children’s Commission will take its place alongside the Schools Commission, Technical and Further Education Commission, the Australian Universities Commission and the Commission on Advanced Education. What I have said does not mean that I subscribe to the view that the Children’s Commission is to be seen as a body concerned solely with education unless one takes the term ‘education’ in its broadest sense of meaning the total development of the personality of the child. The intent of the Government in creating a Children’s Commission is to provide an imaginative and comprehensive range of services so that not just one group of children, not just the children of working mothers, but all children will have access to those services best designed to promote their wellbeing and to improve the quality of their lives and the lives of their parents.
The temptation, of course, in a measure such as this is to take the simplistic view that bricks and mortar and some well-trained teachers and supervisors can fulfil the needs of all children. This temptation has been studiously avoided. The Government has seen a human need and the necessity for taking a human, flexible approach to it. I would stress that the emphasis is placed in the involvement of the community, whether by way of a community organisation, local government, or whatever form it might take.
Last night the honourable member for Lilley spoke of the unnecessary bureaucratisation of the care of children in Australia. I do not quite know what he means by that term but if I understand the term ‘bureaucracy’ right I would have thought that what we are doing is quite the reverse to what he put forward. Instead it is bringing this activity down to the local level where people will have the opportunity to put forward the schemes that suit them in their situation.
One of the features of the mode of approach by the Government is the recognition that in certain areas there is very little interest in child care. Therefore it is necessary to put into these areas catalysts, people who will arouse interest so that these areas will not be forgotten. It so often happens that it is only people in the more affluent areas who are interested enough to organise. This has been the story so often in regard to preschools. People there are prepared to spend the time but in the areas of greatest need there is the least number of pre-schools. I welcome the appointment of catalysts even for one year appointments as will be the case in this year’s program.
In my electorate of Holt we have been particularly fortunate in the area of child services. An announcement was made a month or so ago that grants were to be made for this project. I was pleased that the Holt electorate certainly had not been forgotten. Grants have been allocated for pre-school centres in the municipalities of Springvale, Dandenong, Cranbourne and Pakenham. Naturally I was delighted to see this boost to pre-schools in the electorate. I was perhaps even more pleased to see that grants had been made to an after school project put forward by the social planner of the City of Berwick. This is a commendable approach to the problem of latch-key children and is part and parcel of the full spectrum of child care services. I am also pleased that money has been set aside for family care services in the Springvale municipality.
I am pleased that this legislation is encouraging the full use of existing facilities. In many areas of Victoria, if not most, we have the remarkable situation of superbly designed preschools and day care centres built to the extremely demanding standards of the Victorian Department of Health, yet those buildings are in use for only about 24 hours a week. Too often the same applies to schools which are used for a maximum of about 35 hours a week. In these circumstances one is moved to comment that public moneys are not being used adequately. On the other hand we see councils, committees and organisations of various kinds renting homes for child care and other activities while schools and pre-school centres are being used for minimum periods.
I cite an example in my electorate which suggests to me the way in which a school should be used. It is the example of the principal of Doveton Technical School, Mr Eric Bawden who has taken the lead in seeing that his school is used as fully as possible. He has a great variety of adult education courses running and the school hall is frequently let. Every facility there is made available to the community. I believe that this approach must be followed in the future. I note that Mr Bawden has also made a submission to the Interim Children’s Commission for a creche to be built at his school for the use of teachers and parents. In a situation like this there is a minimum expenditure of capital with a maximum return in terms of benefits for the community. I believe there have been some technical hold-ups but I hope that they can be overcome.
I think all this points to the need for greater diversity in our approach to school and pre-school buildings. This means designing these buildings for a multi-purpose approach rather than restricting them specifically to the use of students and pre-schoolers. Planners, in addition to considering a multi-purpose approach, should give consideration to matters such as the increasing age of the community and the sharp decline in the birth rate as shown in the figures from the Bureau of Statistics. It may well be that the child care centre or pre-school centre of today has a different use in a generation’s time. We must not ignore the use of homes for family day care where trained personnel could assist mothers of suitable temperament in this situation to look after their children. It is here that a small amount of money can be expended in order to make that home or church hall suitable for some type of child care work.
The other aspect which I want to stress in the few minutes I have available to me is the diversity of approach which is recommended in the work of the Children’s Commission. It should be looked at from the point of view of providing help to all sorts of organisations within the community, including local government. This work ranges through full day care, family day care, pre-school education, emergency care, occasional care and before and after school care. One could go on to mention holiday care, play groups and, in fact, any other child care activity. Where there is a demand the challenge is to meet that demand. There is one other decisively important aspect of the Bill which I think is worthy of comment. I refer to clause 5, sub clause 3 and its paragraphs. These ensure that the Commission will give priority to providing services for children in circumstances where the greatest need exists. It means meeting the needs of children suffering disadvantages because of social, economic, health, ethnic, locational, cultural, lingual or other reasons. It means, in effect, encouraging diversity, flexibility and innovation in the provision of services for children. With these aims in mind it becomes obvious that the need for a Children’s Commission is real and urgent. However, one would concede the need for the closest and most amicable co-operation between the Schools Commission and the Children’s Commission, both of which have an essential but individual role to play in the full development of our children and young people. I commend the Bill to the House.
-The honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson) and the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) have dealt with the philosophical approach to the position of children in our communities. I believe that these contributions are very valuable. The deep thought in them should be examined very closely by all honourable members of this House. This Children’s Commission Bill is one of the most important pieces of legislation to come before the Parliament. I ask honourable members: What could be more important to the well-being of our nation in the future to ensure its stability, progress and enrichment than caring for, properly nourishing and educating, and giving adequate parental affection to our children? Obviously the family unit must reign supreme if we are to breed children with the desired qualities to maintain Australia as a great nation, keeping it abreast of the ever changing world and, indeed, if possible keeping it in the forefront with other great nations. As far back as 400 BC a Greek philosopher called Plato showed his concern for the future of his country and of the world when he expressed himself in these words:
So long as our younger generation is, and continues to be well brought up, then our ship of state will have a fair voyage- otherwise the consequences are better left unsaid.
I believe that Plato’s words are just as true today as they were more than 2300 years ago. Probably they are more relevant today because the peoples on earth, despite the vast changes in technology, science and living standards, and so on, are confronted with stresses and strains of immense proportions. Therefore they need to be well suited and fitted to meet the demands of our modern and rapidly changing world. For these reasons I am convinced that too much emphasis cannot be placed on the careful upbringing of our children. This does not necessarily mean that the mere expenditure of money will provide all or even most of the answers towards achieving our objectives. Of paramount importance must be the giving of love and affection to children until they reach manhood or womanhood. I might be labouring this point but it is so vital to our nation. Certainly it cannot be measured purely in cold terms of making dollars available for projects involving children.
This brings me to my main point of concern. I wonder what motivates the socialist Labor Government when it starts splashing such large quantities of money around so quickly. The state of the economy, the high rate of inflation and the worrying high level of unemployment do not daunt the Government, although of recent days there is a hint of a suggestion that government spending may be cut. I am firmly convinced that no program of this nature should ever reach the stage where the Government takes over completely. There must be some participation, not only physical and mental but also financial by the consumer. What the consumer gets for nothing he will tend to have little regard for, but if he contributes only a nominal amount he has respect for the service. Is it this Government’s intention eventually to gain complete control over all facilities it funds? Is this another step to control and regiment our lives from the cradle to the grave?
The Opposition supports the Bill and therefore, once again, is not being obstructionist as we so frequently hear and as is claimed by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), Ministers and members of the Government. However, the Opposition would have preferred to see a children’s bureau established. It would bring together competent people in advisory role and act as a liaison body rather than have an extension of the bureaucracy by setting up another commission as an executive body. I point out that the Bill has an extremely broad scope. To see this one only has to look at Part 1, the definition of ‘Services for Children’ and then at Part 11, the ‘Functions and Powers of Children’s Commission’. I would prefer the administration of the Act to be under a LiberalNational Country Party Government rather than the present Labor Government. I shall now make a few comments in relation to the second reading speech of the Special Minister of State (Mr Lionel Bowen). He used quite impressive words. He stated that the Government does not want to see a proliferation of white elephant centres which can be used for one purpose only. I ask the Minister: Why must we have white elephant centres anyway? If they are properly planned where needed, after surveys have been carried out and designed so that they can be adapted, built and operated by charities and local authorities there need never be white elephants.
– We have them now. That is the reason.
-I ask the Minister to point out where we have them. They will be the result of very poor planning. If there had been correct planning we would not have white elephants.
– Not by us. We are subsidising Queensland. What is wrong with that?
-The honourable member for Petrie might address his remarks through the Chair.
-The Minister mentions making fuller use of existing facilities- schools, halls and houses- and says that we must get away from the idea that bricks and mortar can provide the answer to caring for children. I do not know how many of these centres he has visited -
– I ask the honourable member for Petrie to address his remarks not to the Minister but through the Chair. Will he kindly take note.
-Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I suggest to the Minister that he might come with me on a conducted tour of one of the best staffed and best equipped pre-school and child care centres in Australia. As a matter of fact his Department, under the Interim Children’s Commission, recently approved funds for the extension of this child care and pre-school centre.
It is run by the Lutheran Church. It is in my electorate and I would point out that it is not institutionalised at all despite the fact that it is quite a large pre-school and child care centre. Many people are of the opinion that all these centres are institutionalised. I can assure them that this one is not. It is well conducted with the warmth of people who really care for children. My experience is that the Lutheran Church is highly qualified in this area. It appears to have specialised in the field and I believe it should be encouraged to continue the establishment of these centres. Another grant has been made by the Interim Commission to the Lutheran Church in another part of my electorate and this establishes the fact that the Commission has a great deal of confidence in this organisation’s ability to conduct these centres. The director is a Mrs Stolz, the wife of Pastor Stolz, the parish pastor. She has visited recently some 28 States in America studying child care and pre-school facilities.
I want to sound a note of warning about family unit care that is being looked at by the Interim Commission and will no doubt be continued by the Children’s Commission. The concept is to have up to 4 children in a private home. This at first glance sounds quite good but there are massive administrative problems associated with it. Obviously rigid controls and frequent checks on families who conduct these family unit care centres will be required. One can imagine the effect if people undertaking this work become unsatisfactory for the conduct of such a centre and the damage mentally that will be done to the children if the atmosphere for some reason or other becomes undesirable. I understand that in Vancouver an Act to provide for family unit care came into effect in 1971 and was discontinued in 1973. I do not know whether the Minister is aware of this but, if he is, I would like him to pass some comment on it. Surveys have shown that children in family or home groups do not receive the same benefit and stimulation as is available in larger group institutions. I would say that the family unit care possibly could have some valuable application in small country centres or perhaps in remote areas.
I commend Part VI of the Bill under which it is proposed to establish Children’s Commission Advisory Boards in the States and Territories. Grass roots or local participation is very desirable and will assist the Commission in many ways. One must accept as a fact of life today that some mothers will want to work. Some out of necessity will have to work and, provided their children are well cared for and loved, one surely could not quarrel with this. However the defining of ‘well cared for and loved ‘ to my mind is extremely difficult. Some mothers will stay at home, some will go to work, but whatever happens we all agree that the children should not be neglected. I support the Bill but sincerely hope that the Commission will take note of some of the points I have raised.
-The previous speaker mentioned that everybody in the community is in favour of giving proper attention to our children which is, in a sense, like supporting motherhood. Everybody in this House supports the view that a great deal needs to be done in providing proper care for children in that there are many children in Australia, particularly where both parents are working or the sole parent is working, who are not getting adequate assistance at the moment and that the community does have a responsibility to provide assistance to them. However, it could also be said that that is about where the consensus on the child care issue finishes because there are strong differences of opinion within the community on the whole philosophy of child care and this really centres on the role of women either as mothers or as members of the work force. One view is that as women have rights equal to men as members of the work force, their childbearing role should not be allowed to prevent them from finding work, job advancement or job satisfaction. The result of this is the belief that the community should provide and pay for the care of children while their mothers work.
A contrary view held equally strongly by other people is that the overriding role of a woman is as a mother and it has to be a full time role. Arising out of this view is the suggestion of a mother’s allowance or a housewife’s wage. The view is that a woman should not be forced by economic necessity to forsake her role as mother and become industrial cannon fodder. These differences are of considerable substance and they are questions which are not resolved in the present Bill. We could say from looking at the Bill that there is no prescribed philosophy in the charter of the Children’s Commission. We must recognise what this means. It means that we have not really solved the problems of child care by the mere act of providing for a Children’s Commission. The formation of the Commission is really only the end of the beginning. In my opinion the Government cannot leave the whole question of child care to a commission. The money outlaid on child care and the distribution of that money is of tremendous social importance because it represents redistribution of income.
This is the important point and we must not lose sight of it. Expenditure under this program will have profound redistributional effects. My plea is that the social and economic implications of the program for the Children’s Commission should be fully examined before money is spent for I believe that it must be redistributional otherwise there is no point in spending money at all. We must ensure also that we are redistributing income to those people who really need it.
Returning to the question of child care being paid for by the Government- that is, if the Government pays for the care of children of working parents- that amounts to a redistribution of income away from single income families towards 2-income families. I do not believe that this redistribution can be justified in principle. It might well be asked: Why should a family with one breadwinner have to pay for the care of children of families who have 2 breadwinners? Whether one agrees with the principle of women in the work force or not, the fact is that many families with modest incomes forgo the second pay packet because of a firm belief that being a full time mother is more important. That being so, why should such a family be penalised by having to pay through taxation for the care of children of families who are receiving that second pay packet? I do not share the ideological view of the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) that the woman’s place is as a full time mother. I do not take a view either way on that question and I do not believe that the Government should. The fact is that some women do take this view and forgo that second income and I would not like to see them penalised because of that. What I am saying is that the Government must ensure that it is aware of the social and economic consequences of all the decisions of the Children’s Commission before financial support is given to them.
I want to make some constructive suggestions. The first is that we have to ensure that there is adequate research before expenditure is carried out. This year we have an expenditure of $75m and I was rather regretful that the Government acceded to pressure from the Opposition last year because when a reduction in expenditure was announced there was some rather cynical political grandstanding by the Opposition and a figure of $75m was selected. Much of this expenditure is needed in my electorate. I can think of some areas, for example, in which after day care is needed. These are areas where there are a lot of so-called latchkey children. A great deal of this expenditure will go to useful purposes. It does appear that some other expenditure has been provided just as if we were saying: ‘What can we do with this money we have decided to appropriate?’. I think we must have a clear idea in advance of what the money will be spent on.
The second point- I have referred to this already- is the redistribution effect. If child care centres, for example, are paid for by the community what we are doing is taxing everybody to pay for the children of the 2-income family to be looked after. This is a penalty on single income families which I do not believe can be justified. I am concerned that money has been outlaid already for child care centres but the charges that are being made on the families will recover only some of the recurrent costs of the organisations which are running them. In my view, the charges made should recover the capital and the recurrent expenditure for the establishment and the running of those centres. Of course, that does not apply to people in special economic circumstancesin the low income range and, particularly, the single parent who is forced to work even though he or she might choose an alternative course. Obviously, assistance must be provided for them. They should not be penalised. In those cases, obviously the child care facilities should be provided free of charge. But that does not say that this should apply to everybody in the community. We must remember that there are other people who choose not to make use of the facilities that are being provided.
Thirdly, I think we must have regard to the availability of resources. It is no use, for instance, having a crash program for the provision of a lot of buildings if the building industry is operating at full capacity. It is not far off that level of activity in my State but in other States the building industry is operating at below capacity. I think, at the moment, we would not have to worry about that factor too much but we will have to remember in the future that a commission simply makes decisions on what is needed. It is up to the Government to decide whether, in the light of the capacity, say, of the building industry or the time to train pre-school teachers, the need can be met in a certain amount of time. If it cannot, it is not worth outlaying the additional expenditure.
The fourth suggestion I should like to make is that we must balance the needs of children against other social priorities of the community. I do not believe that expenditure through the Children ‘s Commission should be sacrosanct just because it is expenditure on the recommendation of a commission. The role of a commission is to examine needs and to recommend expenditure in certain fields. This does not mean that such recommendations should be automatically approved by the Government. This has been the case in the past with the Australian Universities Commission and the Australian Grants Commission. It has been done not only by this Government but also by other governments which have tended to say: ‘This is the Commission’s recommendation; it must be adopted because that is what it has suggested’. I am not blaming a commission for that. It is not a commission’s job to determine priorities. It is the Government’s job to determine priorities. After the Children’s Commission has said what its priorities are, we must consider those needs along with other needs in the Government’s program. I have in mind, particularly, the care of aged people, of geriatric people. I am probably biased in this matter because my electorate has an unusually high proportion of aged persons. Nevertheless, I believe that we should not give a lower priority necessarily to geriatric care just because care of aged people does not come under a commission and other needs do come under the care of a commission. I think also that we will have to have a careful look at the relative priorities of aged people and in this respect we should examine the Borrie report. It is not an easy document to take in at a moment’s glance because a lot of variables are indicated in it. It seemed to suggest that the trend will be for the proportion of children in the community during the next few decades to fall, whereas the proportion of aged people in the community is likely to rise. I believe that we will have to give increasing attention to geriatric care. This is another of the social priorities that the Government will have to keep in mind.
Finally, I want to say a few more words about the expenditure that is to be outlaid by the Government and about how the Government should go about doing this. Unfortunately, the annual line budgeting which has taken place, not just for this program but for other programs of this and previous governments, tends to create the situation where the Budget allocation is announced in August or September, then another 3 or 4 months are taken to decide how the money will be distributed, people have to draw up their programs, call for tenders and so on, and we are left with about 3 months in which the money has to be spent in a great hurry. I believe this situation is not adequate. We must try more and more to move towards a system of program budgeting so that we can perhaps have a 3-year rolling program. This would enable the people responsible for planning these programs to have some idea of continuity and to have some guarantee of continuity of funds so that they can plan in a proper and orderly way and not have to try suddenly to spend large sums of money, say, between April and the end of June. Having made those remarks and expressed my reservations, I support the Bill.
Mr KEVIN CAIRNS (Lilley)-I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
-Yes, Mr Deputy Speaker. The honourable member for Kingston (Dr Gun) stated that my view was- these are almost his words- that a woman’s place is in the home. I never made that statement. I stated that there should be freedom of choice to a woman as to whether she wants to remain in the home or not. She should not necessarily be driven out of the home by being forced into a state of pauperism. That is a very different set of circumstances. My remarks were related to the freedom of choice as to the occupation a woman would desire to undertake.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Clauses 1 and 2- by leave- taken together and agreed to.
Chairman’ means the Chairman of the Commission; child’ means a pre-school aged child, a child who is attending a primary or secondary school or a child who has not attained the age of 18 years and is prevented by reason of a physical or mental disability or handicap from attending a school; services for children ‘ includes-
– I move:
In sub-clause (1), paragraph (e), omit ‘when’, substitute whether or not’.
If my amendment is accepted, under ‘ services for children ‘ paragraph (e) would state: assistance to parents in connection with the care of their sick children in their own homes at a time or times of the day whether or not the parents are engaged in employment;
At present the paragraph states that that assistance will be available when the parents are engaged in employment. I am upholding the principle I have stated previously and consistentlythat freedom of choice ought not to make an exclusion in this respect. There are occasions when such assistance would be appropriate to children and, consequently, to their parents when they are being cared for by a mother who is at home, who is not at work and who is not outside the home. It is an amendment the philosophy of which could have been applied to a number of the other definitions of ‘services for children’. For example, in paragraphs (c), (d) and (e) reference is made to the children not being cared for in their own home or the parents being engaged in employment. I put that amendment to the Special Minister of State (Mr Lionel Bowen) for his consideration.
-The Government does not accept the amendment. The position is that we are endeavouring to provide an extension of assistance to parents when a child is sick and when the parent is not at home because of employment. Of course, when the parent is at home there is obvious assistance to the child. There are a number of other factors, particularly in the social welfare area, to which it is more related. The real issue is to assist a sick child when the parent is not at home. Accordingly, we are not prepared to accept the amendment.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– I should very much like to support this amendment -
Motion (by Mr Nicholls) agreed to:
That the question be now put.
– I should like to take this opportunity to speak as I did not have an opportunity to speak during the second reading debate. I appreciate that the requirements of the Government are that we move on fairly quickly with this debate. Regrettably, speaking in committee I cannot take time to commend the interim childrens commission program. In the western suburbs of Sydney there has been a considerable degree of deprivation and the grants made by the Commission have been admirable and are starting to meet some of the needs that I see as being apparent in that district. I particularly want to address myself to clause 3 of the Bill which deals with services for children. It defines them as including:
I wanted to raise generally a problem that I discussed shortly with the Special Minister of State (Mr Lionel Bowen) in relation to the operation of the Child Care Act 1972. It becomes clear from the terms of this Bill and the definition of services for children that in some respects this Bill and the present Child Care Act will operate in much the same area. I am concerned at the more rigid formulas that have been adopted in relation to the Child Care Act which may have led to a situation in which those centres which are being funded under the Child Care Act may not be in a position to receive the same benefits that are now being made available to institutions that will be established and funded by the Children’s Commission. I should like to have clarified for the purposes of many organisations funded under the Child Care Act the extent of any deprivation that the existing and funded institutions and facilities may suffer, and whether they can achieve or receive benefits similar to those that will be made available to those newer organisations which will subsequently be funded under the provisions contained in clause 3 subparagraph (a) dealing with services for children. I refer particularly to a submission which I showed to the Minister and which the Minister received, as did other members, from a number of organisations that established child care centres under the Child Care Act 1972. The organisations include the St Paul’s Lutheran Child Care Centre, the Ardill Family Centre, the Church of Christ Child Care Centre at Mt Druitt, the Greystanes Child Care Centre and the Telopea Church of Christ Child Care Centre. The last centre I mentioned was one at which I had the privilege of entertaining the Minister, along with others, when he opened it recently. The Minister will be aware that these facilities have been built at considerable expense and, because of the problems that are being faced at the moment with many formerly working mothers unable to gain employment, these facilities are largely under-utilised. I shall quote briefly from that part of the submission which deals with some problems that the organisations are having in relation to their fee structure. The submission mentions the salaries subsidy and states that in relation to the experience that these centres have had in the period of operation- a fairly short period of operation, as it is- it is evident that the fees having to be charged by the child care centres are excessive. The submission states:
Most Centres are charging around $4 per day as a base rate. There is more variation to this as some Centres are applying a means test, which means that some people are paying more than $4 per day and some are paying less.
Inquiries made by these people have indicated that sessional pre-schools, particularly of the Kindergarten Union of New South Wales, are able to charge $1 a session or $2 per day. The submission states:
This is because, due to the interim funding plan initiated by the Australian Government through the Youth Ethnic and Community Services Department, the salaries of all staff at sessional pre-school centres are being subsidised by the Australian Government. It seems quite unfair that Child Care Centres which are basically designed and built to meet the needs of people in working class communities should have to charge more than twice the amount being paid by pre-school centres in predominantly middle class areas. This is because the salary subsidies paid to Child Care Centres are most inadequate, for example, at Telopea, out of a staff of seven (2 trained teachers, 1 nurse, 3 assistants, 1 cook) employed at the Centre only one trained teacher and the nurse are being subsidised. This means that an amount of approximately $30,000 has to be met by the Centre through fees to cover salaries.
The submission proposes that the interim funding program should be broadened now so that the organisations can establish their needs. This seems to me to require some clarification of the way in which those centres under the Child Care Act 1972 are to be dealt with in relation to the more generous funding that seems to have been established by the Interim Commission. The submission went on to deal with the special need subsidy and with some particular cases. I understand that one of the cases cited here in fact dealt with a situation relating to a mother in my own electorate. At the Telopea Child Care Centre it became apparent that certain mother substitute facilities were being provided when there were intellectual and emotional needs of the children when there was a parent in the home. The submission mentions the problem of a number of children in a family in which there is only a mother and no father at home, and deals with the problem that that mother has in paying for child care in this institution out of the pension and other benefits that she receives. It has been found that the mother cannot meet the fees even with the present subsidy. The cost is subsidised to an extent as a special need under the funding that is available now, but out of her pension she cannot actually meet the additional fees that she has to bear under the basis on which these centres are funded.
Originally these centres were not meant to meet the needs of a person like this, but because of the large number of mothers who were formerly in the work force and who are now unemployed, it has been found that centres which would otherwise have been full, and were planned on the basis that they would be full, have to take in other children to remain economic and viable. The centre in Telopea is concerned to meet the needs of the surrounding community and those for whom there is this special need rather than take in the children of parents who are able to afford to send the children to that centre. The centre believes it would be more desirable if the subsidy element were increased and if there were more discretion to meet those sorts of needs. It is worried that under the old arrangements under the Child Care Act it will be restricted in this.
I also indicate that there is a need in this same area for family day care. I have drawn to the Minister’s attention a request for funds under the family day care scheme by the same people whom he met when he came out to open the Telopea Church of Christ Child Care Centre.
– He said some nice things.
– He certainly did. He was most generous in his praise of the work which was done by the former Government and of the facilities that were funded under the Child Care Act. I was very appreciative of his remarks. That is why I am endeavouring to reciprocate today. It seems to me that this program would be well worthy of the Commission’s attention. I believe it would go a long way towards meeting the needs that I see in this community and which I believe ought to be met.
I want to make one final remark on the general comments that have been made in relation to funding under the definition section of the Bill. The needs of both sides- of the children and of the mother who wants to go out to work- have to be met. I believe that the mother ought to have freedom of choice to be able to stay at home if she wishes and, if she feels that because of her vocation or for her own satisfaction she wants to be involved in the work force in a productive way, her children should be able to be cared for in facilities such as are proposed. The matter has to be looked at in this way. The remarks that have been made in the debate have been most pertinent but the matter must be kept in perspective. Freedom of choice ought to be encouraged so that both situations are accommodated.
-I want to reply to the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr Ruddock) who was good enough to mention to me yesterday that he intended to raise this matter. I thank him for the remarks he has made in respect of the Telopea Church of Christ Child Care Centre. He has illustrated in a practical way some of the obvious difficulties under the Child Care Act. I make no criticism of the previous Government for its intention to establish child care centres under that Act, but we have to be critical of the standards and of the general concept of finance that is involved. The capital cost of the Telopea Child Care Centre would be well over $80,000. That is reasonable compared with other submissions which ask for $250,000 for a child care centre.
The honourable member pointed out the difficulty of that particular group to provide the finance for these services. Let us look at the matter fairly. The centre accommodates 40 children. I understand from my officers that the amount of subsidy is $16,000 a year, which is a weekly subsidy of $8 per child. If the centre now feels that it needs another $30,000 to keep going that will mean another $16 per child making a total of $24 per child. The centre is charging the parents $20 per child, so the total is $44 per child per week. Child care in Australia cannot be run on that basis. I am not being critical when I say that there must be a better basis. The Government is saying: Let us look at how we can obtain a community oriented or community based service where parents play a part. The honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) raised these issues, and he is not to be denied everything he says. Parents do play an active part. If we are going to achieve an effective child care program the parents have to be involved with the children. It can be done. It is being done in South Australia, for example, at Mansfield Park. I give that centre the highest praise. With the motivation of the parents the centre is working excellently and at a very low cost. From that centre the family day care concept radiates out.
I am not being critical of people who are dedicated to this issue but according to the Statistician’s figures there are 400 000 children who are the responsibility of employed persons, females or permanently separated, widowed or divorced males. The Government is not saying that it will deal with children only in that category. It wants to help children in all areas. The needs concept particularly is important. It is quite impossible to finance a program involving that capital cost and also to have recurrent costs of the order the centre feels is necessary.
What we must do in the establishment of child care centres is talk to the people involved, get them to have a look at the centres that are working much more efficiently and economically and see how that can be done. I propose if possible to have a film made of the Mansfield Park centre to illustrate how it can be done. But the involvement of parents is necessary. The centres cannot be run without them. I will take on board what the honourable member for Parramatta has said specifically and see what can be done to rationalise the situation. According to the cold hard facts of finance the Government would virtually be compelled to provide a subsidy of $24 a week along with the parent contribution of $20 a week. There are no education costs running at that level in Australia. Something has to be done about the matter. I make no criticism of the efforts of the previous Government when I say that that was the standard set under the Child Care Act. It is important that we now have a look at it on a flexible basis to see how we can finance a proper program that assists all children, particularly in the areas envisaged in this Bill. I thank the honourable member for his remarks.
-Mr Chairman -
– I move:
That the question be put.
-Are you referring to the question: That clause 3 be agreed to?
Question resolved in the negative.
– I move:
In sub-clause (1), paragraph (g), after ‘physical’, insert social’.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 4 agreed to.
1 ) The functions of the Commission are-
the education and training of persons involved, or to be involved, in the provision of services for children;
-I have 2 amendments to clause 5.I hope that the honourable member for Bonython (Mr Nicholls) will be as courteous in respect to them as he has been so far. It is quite obvious that the Government has a certain philosophy and is not willing to contemplate or listen to anything in opposition to it. It is also quite clear that there is no answer in response to the amendments that have been proposed. The Government has proposed no answer except one line. This is the last opportunity the Government has to make the functions of the Commission serve the purpose which its members outside this chamber say it ought to serve. I propose the first amendment to clause 5 to alter the form of words.
– Is the honourable member proposing to move both amendments together?
-Yes, I will move both amendments together. That is accepting the realities of the situation.
– Is leave granted for that purpose? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– At present the clause reads: 5.(1) The functions of the Commission are-
It seems to me that that is a rather odd way to present the proposition. If this is a Bill concerned with children -
– I move:
That the question be put.
– I should point out that the question is not yet before the Committee and the effect of putting the question at this point would be to dispose of all of clause 5. Is that the intention?
– That is the intention.
Question resolved in the negative.
– The amendment I propose will reverse the order of the clause. As it reads now, the needs of the children are not the first consideration in determining what services are needed for children; it is the needs of the Australian community. If the Government intends to assist the Australian community and from there argue what should be the appropriate needs of children it is putting the second requirement before the first one. The needs of the Australian community can be determined by a lot of measures- by the attitudes of legislatures, the attitudes of bureaucrats, the attitudes of those who situate themselves at the centre of affairs. They are not the first ones who ought to be asked what are the needs of children. I move:
In sub-clause (1), paragraph (a), omit ‘the needs of the Australian community for services for children’, substitute the needs of children, parents and guardians of children for assistance in the home and for organised community services’.
That would appear to me to be a much more satisfactory form of judgment and form of question to be asked in determining the needs of children.
I also move
In sub-clause (1), paragraph (a), before sub-paragraph (i) insert the following sub-paragraph: ‘(ai) means of assistance to parents and guardians for assistance to children in their homes;’.
This is the last opportunity the Government has to make it clear to the Australian people and to all those who have the care and responsibility of children that where children are being cared for in their homes, whether they are sick, whether the adults in that home are sick or whether the children are physically or mentally below par, those children are not to be disadvantaged because they are being cared for by their parents in their homes. The philosophy of this Bill at the moment, as put over and over again, is that if parents are caring for those children in their homes they will not receive any of these services for children. I suggest to the Committee that this is a very unjust, a very cruel and very unfair measure.
I will give one example of what is involved in the Bill so far in terms of parents in employment. One family with 2 children may have both parents working. Perhaps those parents are earning $ 1 80 a week between them. If the children of those parents fall sick, because the parents are working assistance will be given to those children in the home. Only one parent may be working in the family next door. That family may have three or four children with the mother at home looking after those three or four sick children. But because she is not working and because she is home caring for the children, this Bill, as presented so far, states that the Government will not allow assistance to be given to her. That is the sense behind the amendments that have been rejected already. That is the situation which I am trying to retrieve and in which I am trying to allow there to be some opportunity for freedom of choice with respect to the parents and those who have the responsibility for children.
No answer has been given to this proposition. It has been dismissed in one word and the gag has been moved repeatedly. Accepting the sense and the balance of these amendments in terms of the functions of the Children’s Commission the Bill should at least do something to retrieve what I think is a very unbalanced and unfair and a very narrow interpretation of what are the needs of parents and children in Australia. The intention of the Government to stamp its own philosophy upon all the institutions of Australia, including the most basic institution of the family, is regrettable and is completely indefensible. I suggest that the Government should accept the sense of these amendments and at least try to retrieve the situation to which at least so far it has been quite blind.
– I am in some difficulty at times in dealing with this Children’s Commission Bill because I do not know who is leading for the Opposition in this debate. It now becomes apparent that the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) wants to take the matter out of the hands of the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson).
– Answer the proposition.
-I am answering the proposition in this sense: When the honourable member was a member of the former Government he did nothing in relation to child care. He was a Minister in that Government. He now comes into the Parliament and makes all these hypocritical accusations about a program which, from the point of view of the people of Queensland, is the most beneficial program of this kind they have ever had. Let us bear in mind that the program we are financing here is the State program. Is the honourable member for Lilley suggesting that those State officials are bureaucrats? Is he suggesting that they are trying to deprive children of a mother’s care? That is what he is doing in his words as an honourable member from Queensland. Is it to be that in the areas that the honourable member represents I need not finance any of the child care centres that the State Government has submitted for financing? Does not the honourable member realise, as a sensible man, that the construction of all these centres is motivated by the fact that there is parent involvement and that the children are better off by having somebody interested in them? Does not he realise that? I say this to the honourable member for Lilley: He should not engage in the hypocrisy of drawing a line and stating that some children will not receive any attention or assistance simply because a parent is at home. It is not true; it is false. I reject this accusation.
Let me deal with the strict legal situation and what the term ‘services’ in clause 3 of the Bill means. If honourable members look at this clause they will find that it covers a wide range of services, not the narrow, confined, restricted range that the honourable member for Lilley suggests. Honourable members should bear in mind that these are services that the Opposition never provided when it was in government. Here we have a complete program to finance all State submissions, with consultation with the State representatives. The honourable member rejects it. I do not know whether the Queensland Government or the people of Queensland know what he is doing. I think that they would be astounded if they knew that the honourable member for Lilley was saying in this Committee that this is not a program that the Queensland people want. It seems to me that the Federal Government should not finance the Queensland Government program if this is the way the Opposition is thinking. But I do not believe that it is. In fairness, I should state that the honourable member for Sturt seems to have a much more balanced approach to the problems than the honourable member for Lilley.
– I accept the amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
The purpose of this amendment is to enable the schemes recommended by the Children’s Commission to be funded through that section of the Constitution which enables State programs to be funded. At the present time, the Committee would be aware that in respect of other legislation there is a challenge before the High Court of Australia as to the circumstances in which grants out of Consolidated Revenue pursuant to section 81 of the Constitution can be made direct to bodies within States and to State bodies. The relevant section of the Constitution deals with those revenues and moneys raised by the Commonwealth and requires that they may be appropriated for the purposes of the Commonwealth in the manner and subject to the charges and liabilities imposed by the Constitution. The Special Minister of State (Mr Lionel Bowen), in his remarks in relation to the amendment moved by the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns), has just asserted strongly that the purpose of this legislation is to finance State programs. If the legislation is to finance State programs, why is section 96 of the Constitution not being used? I remind honourable members that section 96 confers upon this Parliament the power to grant financial assistance to any State on such terms and conditions as the Parliament thinks fit.
The Opposition is of the view that because so many of the programs that will be funded under this legislation are State programs they should more properly be funded pursuant to section 96 of the Constitution. It would then mean that each year and at other times the Minister would be required to come to the Parliament with State grants legislation which would detail the programs that were to be funded on the recommendation of the Children’s Commission. Insofar as there are programs not directly the responsibility of the States but which are programs run by organisations and local government, the relationship of those organisations to their State governments is a very close one. If one looks at the report of the Priorities Review Staff on early childhood services, one can see the deep involvement of the States in child care and pre-school education programs- programs which they directly run and administer and those which they support. This is the reason why the Opposition seeks to urge upon the Government its proposal that this provision of the Bill be deleted so that the financing can be done pursuant to section 96 of the Constitution. I am sure that when the Minister replies he will draw attention once again to the remarks that he made in his second reading speech in which he pointed out that the Opposition parties, when in Government, funded schemes for the provision of finance under the Child Care Act by direct grants. We acknowledge that this was the way in which we chose then to fund the schemes. But with the benefit of hindsight we recognise now that it would have been more appropriate if those funds had been made available by section 96 grants. They would not have been subject to the possibility of challenge. They would have taken account of the States’ deep involvement in child care and preschool education. Even if we did in that pilot arrangement, limited in its scope, fund it by direct grants pursuant to section 81, we now believe that because of the experience gained in the administration of the Child Care Act, whereby the need for a more comprehensive program has been made manifest, in those circumstances the funding should be direct to the States through section 96 grants thereby involving the States and their administrations in the more comprehensive expansion of facilities available in the pre-school care and education area.
-The point that has been made by the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson) is not valid. When I spoke about State programs, I was talking about programs not organised by State governments but organised within the States after consultation with people in the States.
– You are not giving any money to State governments?
-State governments do qualify if they meet the criteria. But so do other organisations which will be funded directly. We do not wish to have a bureaucratic arrangement in which the only programs to which we provide finance are those approved by State governments. Can the honourable member imagine for one moment that we would be satisfied with some of the child care programs that have been started in the States? In some
States such programs do not exist. Let me remind the honourable member that in New South Wales the amount of money spent on child care per head is 26c. There is no program at all in New South Wales.
It is quite wrong to raise the legal issue here that the Child Care Act perhaps is illegal. It has not even been challenged. Does the honourable member for Sturt suggest that the Liberal Party will challenge the Child Care Act? If so, stand up and say so. We will welcome the challenge in the High Court. We feel that, under the Constitution, we have the right to make provision for welfare programs. That has not been challenged, even now. What right does the honourable member have to get up here and to say that this is an illegal act and that the proper thing to do is to make funds available under section 96. As the honourable member predicted, I would say, his Party’s Child Care Act provided for eligible organisations to be funded directly. Is the honourable member to suggest that all that money was illegally granted by the former Government? Of course he is not.
The position is that if there is a community interested in child care, which is prepared to do something about that need, we do not see any reason why funds should be denied. Is the honourable member suggesting that the allocation of these funds must go through some bureaucracy in a State which may not give the funds to those seeking them? If a State government meets the criteria that we establish, certainly it will receive funds. But so will the community. So will everybody in the community who pays taxes. Those people will have some right to some reimbursement when the criteria are met. But let us not be in a situation here in which we must run around hogtied to the State governments which, in the main, have shown no interest at all in child care. Because we have started a program, the Opposition now suggests that we will not have the power to deal with the matter directly ourselves and that we should become a mere cipher or a mere rubber stamp and allocate the money without any idea of how it will be spent or where it will be spent. For that reason, the amendment is rejected.
-I wish to pursue briefly the comments made by the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson) and to refer also to the reply given by the Special Minister of State (Mr Lionel Bowen). I feel that there is a possibility of a bureaucracy being built into this type of program if proper consultation with the States does not take place. Tying the provisions of this legislation to section 96 of the
Constitution will ensure proper consultation. I fear that there may be a possibility of the catalyst making a recommendation to a commissioner, despite what comes from the advisory boards, and then that commissioner carrying on those views with perhaps personal views to the commission, and funding taking place without any proper consideration of the priorities set by the State or indeed by people involved in child care. Within the Bill, I see no provision for specific qualifications for commissioners.
The Federation of Child Care Association members who provide 80 per cent of child care in Australia at the moment, as I understand it, have not been consulted. The members of these associations are people with experience. Surely they should be playing some part in the assessing of priorities and assessing of funding. Also, the area of training enters into State control. I feel that, if it is the Government’s proposal to adopt a program such as this and to go on to television advertising of this program, seeking support for it from the community, one area that has been gravely misjudged and overlooked is the provision of trained personnel. Perhaps if this proposal was to be tied to section 96, State facilities, State training centres and other facilities already existing in the community would be more readily accessible for use under this program.
– I wish to answer the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Cadman) who has just addressed the Committee. It happened that in my first year as Minister I administered the legislation of our predecessors. I found that my predecessors had not under the Child Care Act granted any money. The legislation was enacted just before the McMahon Government fell. Therefore it was on the statute book, and I implemented it. We were then in a direct relationship with all sorts of child organisations that were setting up child care centres and they received direct grants from the Federal Government.
What the honourable gentleman was saying in talking about bureaucracy I do not know. There was a Pre-School Interim Committee, like the Children’s Commission, which consisted of people drawn from all over Australia. When the honourable member goes on to speak of ‘bureaucracy’, who is a bureaucrat? Surely the honourable member is going to say, if he wants to use that term as a term of abuse, that this is a Commonwealth civil servant? These commissions do not consist of Commonwealth civil servants. Their members are not Commonwealth employees.
The statement has been made that the training of the personnel to handle these children is in the hands of the States. It is not. It is in the hands of kindergarten teachers colleges and it is in the hands of commissions of advanced education and other institutions which are funded through the States but with whom we have really a direct relationship. They suggest to the Federal Government the setting up of these kinds of courses in child care. The commissions of advanced education and other bodies, even universities commissions if we go into the question of research into the needs of children including their health needs, are financed directly from the Commonwealth.
What disturbs me is the constant use of jargon about bureaucracy. We are using 5 commissions, some members of which are State employees, but practically none of whom are Commonwealth employees. They enter into a direct relationship with all sorts of organisations, including for instance, the Schools Commission which deals with non-government schools. While the mechanism of section 96 is used in the other commissions, it is not used in this respect because of the legislation of the former government.
The situation about a State is that in fact it is being used as a post box. If we grant money to a Catholic school, the State government is simply being used as a post box. It does not have any administrative relationship in the grants. If the money did come from the application of section 96 in respect of these child care associations the State concerned would simply be being used as a post box except where the Minister has enacted Commonwealth financing of the State ‘s own preschool organisations just as we are enacting now Commonwealth financing for or assistance to State owned schools.
What we have done is to assimilate this commission in its relationship with the States into the other commissions. Some of their grants are going to the State governments as governments and some of their grants are going to private organisations. The previous Government for years in its relationships with State schools and non-government schools worked in this way and this relationship that the Special Minister of State (Mr Lionel Bowen) is developing is nothing that at all involves all these problems of bureaucracy which the honourable member has discussed.
-Briefly, in reply, I would refer the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) to the findings of the Priorities Review Staff which indicated quite forcefully that it considered it inadvisable for the Government to honour its commitment to provide $34m. The Priorities Review Staff felt that a figure less than $20m would suffice in this financial year. In fact, the PRS said:
This means additional momentum to a program which is not consistent with the stated objectives and priorities of the Government is undersirable
Under these present provisions, New South Wales alone is to receive $22m. Surely the Government must be concerned, as I am, to see that these funds are not wasted, do not go astray and are properly used.
– They are drawn as they are spent.
– Yes, they are drawn as they are spent. But the sum of $22m has been granted. I am suggesting to the Minister that, unless careful rein is kept on this program, the bureaucratic system will take over and the basic needs and considerations of the people concerned will be overlooked. We will bury this program in bricks and mortar scattered throughout the country, and the basic needs of the people will not be considered. It is easy to spend money if it is put into bricks and mortar. I am talking about involving the States in training programs of a scale that will meet the needs.
– For reasons I have already indicated, New South Wales is the State with the worst record in child care. I think the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Cadman) would agree that if I gave some money to the New South Wales Government to start a program it should not be wasted. I have received from the New South Wales Government a detailed analysis of all its programs, including every area where it proposes to build centres. These programs meet the criteria the Australian Government has laid down. There is no lump sum grant. In the main the bulk of the money going to New South Wales is for community oriented projects which are quite valid and meet the criteria.
I would be impressed if I thought the honourable member feared that the New South Wales Government might waste money. If I believed that I would be as guarded as he is. By the same token I think I would be criticised if a State government made a submission that appeared to be valid and I said I would not give it any money. It should be borne in mind that the New South Wales Government is getting $6m out of the $22m and the rest is going to a community oriented program. If it does not meet its obligation to achieve a standard of child care on which it has agreed, of course no further funds will be provided.
That the paragraph proposed to be deleted (Mr Wilson’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman- Mr J. M. Berinson)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
In sub-clause (4) after ‘Australia’ insert ‘or of any State or Territory’.
Sub-clause (4) of clause 5 is an important one. It says:
In the performance of its functions, the Commission shall, to the greatest extent practicable, consult and co-operate with Departments of State and with authorities established by or under laws of Australia, being Departments or authorities responsible for aspects of the planning of, the provision of, the training of persons to provide, and the provision of financial assistance for, services for children.
The Opposition wishes to see included here an obligation upon the Commission to the greatest extent practicable to consult and co-operate with departments of the State governments, because it is incorrect to presume that the departments of the Commonwealth Government are the only departments that are responsible for aspects of the planning of, the provision of, the training of persons to provide, and the provision of financial assistance for, services for children. Even the Special Minister of State (Mr Lionel Bowen), in commenting during the debate on an earlier amendment, said that much of the child care program was being carried out in close consultation with the States. I therefore urge him to demonstrate that that statement is genuine by indicating a willingness to accept this amendment. If the Government in Canberra acknowledges that the program can work only if there is close co-operation and consultation with the States, why is he not prepared to agree to the inclusion of a reference to the States, making it obligatory upon the Commission to conduct those consultations?
No suggestion is made in the legislation- and certainly not in the comments of the Minister when he talks about the need for cooperationthat the Commonwealth will assume a monopolistic role in the provision either of care facilities or pre-school education for children. If the Commonwealth is not to be in such a monopolistic position and is still going to involve the States which have fulfilled a very real role in providing pre-school care and education why then does the
Minister not indicate his acceptance of this provision which would impose upon the Commission this obligation? The State role should not be limited in the way in which the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) indicated that it has been limited in some circumstances. It should not be limited to that of a post box. The State governments have a significant role to fulfil in the area of responsibility that is now to be placed on the Children’s Commission. The Children’s Commission will achieve success in providing an adequate and comprehensive care and preschool education program for the children of Australia only if that Commission is willing to consult with the State governments. It would amaze me if the Minister declined to accept this amendment, which seeks to impose upon the Commission that obligation- an obligation to consult and co-operate with State governments and State government departments which already are working in the field of child care and pre-school education.
-This is just another example of the hang-up of the Opposition in relation to the States. It is an example also of the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson), who is leading for the Opposition in this debate, not understanding this Bill properly and not getting as far as clause 31, which is worth reading to him. It states:
For the purpose of assisting the Commission in the performance of its functions by providing, in each State, in the Australian Capital Territory and in the Northern Territory, means by which suggestions, proposals and information relating to those functions can be communicated to the Commission by, and the Commission can consult with, organisations and persons (including parents), -
I hope the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) will note those words ‘including parents’- responsible for, or connected with, the provision of services for children in the State or Territory, the Minister may, in relation to each State and each of those Territories, establish a Children’s Commission Advisory Board, or Children’s Commission Advisory Boards, for the State or Territory.
This, of course, is the means for the consultation which the Minister has already said he will carry out with the States. There is no reason for the Opposition to have these hang-ups and to wish to alter the Bill in the manner indicated in the proposed amendment on which we have just voted and the amendment that has now been moved by the honourable member for Sturt. I am surprised, in particular, that the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton) was in the chamber for the last vote because he, of all people, is trying to bring sense to the Opposition in the matter of these hang-ups. We are already using, in the period of the interim committee, State committees to make recommendations. But why should not the Australian Government have the flexibility which the Bill, as it is now drawn, gives it to pay over the moneys, not only through the States but also in other ways? Such payments are presently being made in other ways under legislation which is already in existence and which was brought into being by the party of which the honourable member for Sturt is a member. I repeat that it is a hang-up of the Opposition members that they feel they have to pay lip service to the principle involved here with every Bill that comes into this place.
I was hoping to say something about the Opposition’s attitudes towards this Children’s Commission Bill during the second reading debate on the Bill but was not able to do so because of the time limitations. I am glad that now I am able to support the Bill as it is, to support this clause as it is and to suggest that the views of the States will be properly considered through the advisory boards provided for in clause 31 of the Bill. I repeat that it is completely beyond me to understand how one can suggest that to adopt this procedure is creating extra bureaucracy when compared with the methods suggested by the Opposition. I believe the States do not want to be used as post boxes. I hope that most of the realistic people in the States recognise that the Government’s approach is a more realistic way than the Opposition’s of going about financing the work of providing these day care and other facilities for children aged between one and five years and their parents.
That the amendment (Mr Wilson’s) be agreed to.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman- Mr J. M. Berinson)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Remainder of Bill- by leave- taken as a whole.
-There are just 2 matters that I would like to raise with regard to the latter part of the Bill. The Special Minister of State (Mr Lionel Bowen), in concluding the debate, may be prepared to give some indication as to his views on these questions. Firstly, there are no guidelines in the Bill as to the appointment of members of the Commission. The Opposition wonders whether the Minister is in a position to indicate the criteria that he will use in selecting members of the Commission. It has been suggested by some that an effort should be made to ensure that the Commission should include people from various areas of particular interest, such as people experienced in teaching. I hope that the Minister will be able to inform the House what he has in mind with regard to the composition of the Commission.
The final matter arises out of what was said by the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) when he drew my attention and the attention of the House to the fact that clause 3 1 of the Bill provides for the setting up of State advisory boards. I was quite aware of that provision. But I would like the Minister to tell me whether or not it is intended that there will be representatives or nominees of the State governments, who have this large responsibility already in matters relating to child care and pre-school education, on the State advisory boards. If the Minister is not prepared to indicate that there will be such representation to ensure that the views and programs of State government departments are put in detail before those advisory boards, the arguments of the honourable member for Adelaide are completely demolished and the concern that I expressed is well justified.
– To answer the last question first, of course advisory boards already exist and State nominees are on the boards in every State.
– And they will continue?
– And they will continue. There is no problem there. The honourable member for Sturt raised the question of who should be on the Commission. We do not accept the position that we want people on the Commission who are beholden to some other organisation. We want them to be independent. Qualified teachers are at present members of the interim Committee. It has been said that the Commission will not be made up of people who are experienced in child care. But the present interim committee includes people who are interested in social welfare work, people from every State who are virtually working in close consultation with the various State departments.
It is interesting that the care of children under 5 years of age in Australia is not the sole prerogative of educationalists. For example, in Victoria this area of care is run by the Victorian Department of Health. Some State governments have asked me virtually to fund their primary school program. I am not prepared to do that. I am interested in the care of children under 5 years of age. One of the dangers we have with State governments is that they slip into programs matters for which they have the sole responsibility.
That is a matter that has upset me no end in Western Australia where it was suggested- in fact the interim committee was convinced at one stage- that we would have to fund the first year of primary school education. But that is another matter which does not come within the ambit of this Bill. This is why we have to have consultative committees to evaluate the propositions that are put up. I can assure the honourable member that there will be no problems in meeting the criteria suggested.
Remainder of Bill agreed to.
Bill, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report- by leave- adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Lionel Bowen)- by leave- read a third time.
Bill presented by Mr Beazley, and read a first time.
– I move:
The main purpose of this Bill-is to provide supplementary grants for increases in costs which were not allowed for when the 1973-75 triennial capital and recurrent programs of colleges of advanced education and non-government teachers colleges were adopted. The supplementary grants are provided in accordance with established Government policy and comprise $33,952,600 to meet 1974 academic salaries increases, $2 1 , 205,400 to cover cost escalation in respect of other segments of the recurrent programs and a $23,605,200 provision for cost increases relating to college building projects.
– Poor Jim Cairns.
-In addition, the Government has approved a supplementary recurrent grant of $3,716,000 for the State College of Victoria’s constituent colleges and central office and colleges of advanced education affiliated with the Victoria Institute of Colleges. Provision is made for this grant in the Bill. I heard that interjection from the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly). I have noted an advocacy for cuts in expenditure from the honourable gentleman’s side of the chamber. I point out that State Premiers of the same political complexion are asking for guarantees that there should be no cuts. Certain new commitments approved by the Government are also provided for in theBill. An amount of $185,000 is included for the establishment, development and conduct of an associate diploma course in welfare studies at North Brisbane College of Advanced Education, Caulfield Institute of Technology and the South Australian Institute of Technology. Also, a grant of $140,000 for recurrent expenditure and $265,000 for capital expenditure is included to provide for the accelerated development of the Albury-Wodonga Study Centre of the Riverina College of Advanced Education in 1 975.
As the foregoing amendments affect the programs detailed in the Schedules of the Act, the opportunity has been taken to include in the revised Schedules the changed names of some colleges and a number of intra and inter program transfers of funds which have been approved in terms of the Act. In summary, this Bill provides for an additional $83m to be made available in respect of the 1973-75 triennium to colleges of advanced education and approved nongovernment teachers colleges. I wish the Bill a speedy passage through the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Wilson) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Uren, and read a first time.
– I move:
I present to the House the Australian Heritage Bill. The Bill gives legislative substance to the National Estate, a noble concept which has been identified by the Australian Government and enshrined in a notable report. I want to look more closely at the the philosophy of the National Estate later in my speech. In these preliminary remarks I want to stress that the Department of Urban and Regional Development and the Department of Environment will jointly administer the great task of preserving and enhancing the National Estate. The Australian Heritage Commission will be the principal tool to achieve this fine aim.
In broad terms the aims of this Bill are these: To set up an Australian Heritage Commission on a broad and representative basis to advise the Government and the Parliament on the condition of the National Estate and how it should be protected; to establish and maintain a register of the things that make up the National Estate; to require that the Australian Government, its departments and agencies, and those acting on its behalf, respect the National Estate and do all that they can to preserve it. Against this broad statement of the aims of the Bill, I want to set out briefly its history. In April 1973, the Australian Government set up a committee of inquiry under Mr Justice Hope. It was given the task of investigating and reporting to the Government on the nature and condition of the National Estate, and the ways in which all bodies in Australia- both Government and non-government- could work together to preserve and enhance it. The other members of the Committee were Reginald Walker, Milo Dunphy, Judith WrightMcKinney, Len Webb, David Yencken, Keith Vallance and Judith Mary Brine.
The committee began its work at the end of May 1973. It was asked to view the National Estate as made up of such things as national parks, nature reserves, historic buildings and structures, buildings and structures of architectural merit, areas of special scientific interest, the coastline and inland waters, and urban parks. The Government sought from the committee for the first time in Australian history an inventory of our natural and man-made heritage. In accounting terms, we set out to list the great assets of our heritage and balance them against the liabilities that had debased their value. As well as this inventory we wanted a report on the present condition of the items listed and recommendations on how they might be protected and enhanced. While this committee was being formed and while it was conducting its inquiries, the Government has embarked on a series of new policies which had an important impact on the National Estate. These included the development of growth centres such as Albury-Wodonga, Geelong, and Bathurst-Orange, building urban public transports within our major cities, the setting up of land commissions, sewerage programs, area improvement programs, and a number of other closely inter-connected programs. It also included programs to ensure that environment protection was the key part of the decisions of the Government, and it started a wide range of programs for the rational management of Australian land, air, water, and biological resources.
All of these programs involved land-use strategies and all had crucial bearing on the National Estate. For this reason the Government accepted that it had to give an early token of its firmness and determination to protect our heritage. Before the Hope Committee had completed its work we had approved grants of more than $2m to organisations including State and local governments to meet urgent needs for the National Estate. In the 1973-74 financial year grants were given for urgent work including the acquisition of land for urban parks, restoring historic buildings, and studies of land use patterns and land ownership in areas under pressure from urban and industrial development. Other grants initiated programs to acquire land for nature conservation purposes, to begin a basic set of studies including an ecological survey of Australia, a study of soil resources, a study of water quality and a project to set up a national air quality program.
The experience we gained reaffirmed our belief that it was urgent for the Australian Government to work with the States, local government and voluntary groups to guard our heritage. In April 1974 the Hope Committee presented its draft report after considering more than 650 submissions and travelling widely throughout Australia to see and assess the National Estate. The findings and recommendations of the draft report were announced by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in April last year and I tabled the final report in this House on 19 September last year. I do not want to go into the content of the report in any detail. Its central theme is well set out in this brief extract:
The Australian Government has inherited a National Estate which has been downgraded, disregarded and neglected. All previous priorities accepted at various levels of Government and authority have been directed by a concept that uncontrolled development, economic growth, and ‘progress’, and the encouragement of private as against pubhe interest in land use, use of waters, and indeed in every part of the National Estate, was paramount.
The report confirmend that this Government was the first to make a commitment to charting the National Estate and conserving it for the Australians of the future. Immediately the draft recommendations were known, the Minister for Environment (Dr Cass) and I set out to give life to the Government’s plans to protect and enhance the National Estate. We appointed an Interim Committee on the National Estate to help with financial assistance programs and to advise on matters arising from the Hope Report. These included the setting up of a permanent body. The Interim Committee made was made up of 17 members, including scientists, architects, and senior public servants. This Interim Committee met for the first time on 18 September 1974. Its work has ensured that the Hope report was not left to gather dust on the shelf, as has been done with so many reports in the past by previous governments. It has worked with enthusiasm to implement the many far-reaching recommendations of the Hope report. We have asked the Interim Committee to supply us with a report of its work which will be tabled for the information of the Parliament.
The main achievement of the Interim Committee has been the setting up of the framework within which the new Heritage Commission will work. I want to acknowledge its assistance in setting down the principles, and administrative arrangements that are included in this BUI. The Committee has also done fine work on the development of a financial assistance program for 1974-75. This gave the Government the encouragement to press on with setting up a permanent body that would ensure a regular flow of assistance from the Australian Government for National Estate projects. Earlier this year we announced a program of grants to all States of approximately $6m. These were based on recommendations of the Interim Committee.
The Committee has also advised the Minister for Environment on the implementation of the States Grants (Nature Conservation) Act under which $9m was spent this financial year. Grants made under the National Estate program must be seen as a supplement to the resources of the States, State bodies such as the National Trust, local government bodies and voluntary organisations. We do not want to supplant private effort or the work of other levels of government; we want to supplement them and assist them in every way.
Grants made on the recommendations of the Interim Committee have been used to acquire land and buildings, to restore historic property and to provide programs of public education. Grants have also been made for a number of individual projects of great merit which come under no broad heading. An example is the recovery of artifacts from the historic ‘Batavia’ shipwreck on the coast of Western Australia. The National Estate program must be seen in the whole context of Government policies for the environment and urban and regional development. Last year Parliament approved the Urban and Regional Development (Financial Assistance) Act which sets out the broad framework into which many of the Government’s programs fit. Under the authority of that Act, my Department has worked to set up work programs in the States, as a fully co-ordinated exercise in urban development within a land use strategy. This strategy recognises the contribution that each of the individual programs makes to better urban amenity and community standards.
The Bill before the House sets out the arrangements proposed by the Government for the permanent organisation to preserve and enhance the National Estate. It also supplements several other Acts of Parliament, including the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act, The National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act, the States Grants (Nature Conservation) Act and proposed legislation to create a Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. It would include the permanent heads of up to 6 Australian Government departments. The aim in setting up a commission of this sort would be to ensure that all interests were represented and given the chance to advise the Government. In making appointments to the Commission, regard will be paid to the role of other governments and the work of voluntary conservation groups. The Commission will advise the Government on all matters relating to the National Estate, including the financial grants which I referred to earlier. It will make reports to the Government and these will be tabled in Parliament. The views of the community on National Estate issues will be channelled to the Government through this Commission which, I cannot stress too often, will work closely with other levels of Government in a co-operative way and with voluntary bodies.
When I tabled the National Estate report in this House, I noted that it suggested a number of new roles for the Australian Government. These included land use planning, conservation and reservation techniques, the impact of mining, forestry and coastal development. The report recommended the setting up of a national register of sites of historic and scientific interest. The Bill places with the Commission the compilation of national registers for the National Estate. The registers will identify items of National Estate quality so the planning of future public works programs can be assessed in terms of impact on the National Estate. The Bill requires that Ministers and Australian Government agencies look at the impact of their activities on the National Estate, and give the Heritage Commission the chance to comment. It provides for ministers and agencies to go ahead only after looking at alternatives, and planning to remove or to minimise any possible harm to a part of the National Estate. The inclusion of items in the National Register is a significant action in terms of future planning of public works programs. The Act will provide for notification of intention to include items in the National Register and for the Commission to consider comments and objections to this intention.
The other provisions of the Bill relate to the machinery aspects of the Commission’s work. I draw particular attention to the authority proposed for the Commission to accept gifts or bequests. Private individuals and organisations may wish to give property or other items of National Estate quality to the Commission, and the Bill provides for this. It is important to note that the Australian Government cannot work effectively in isolation to protect and enhance the National Estate. We need the generous cooperation of State and local governments in pressing on with our National Estate policies. We would hope that the State governments will enact legislation that will supplement our national initiative. This would provide a complete set of laws that would guard against the wilful and mindless pillaging of our National Estate.
Finally, I want to refer briefly to my own personal philosophy and my personal satisfaction in putting this Bill to the House. The National Estate was a concept which I devised and publicised in the days when I was a spokesman on the environment and urban and regional affairs for the Labor Party in Opposition. During the years between 1969 and 1972,I put particular stress on identifying the National Estate and promoting it as a key part of Labor Party policy. The Prime Minister’s policy speech on behalf of the Labor Party in December 1972 promised that a Labor Government would enhance and preserve the National Estate. As a Government we have acted swiftly to discharge the mandate given us to identify, conserve and preserve the National Estate. We set up the Hope Committee, we acted on its recommendations, we started programs of financial assistance for the National Estate, and now we are setting up this Commission. A key part of our attitudes to the National Estate is the rejection of the widelyheld notion that this is a middle class issue, that it has no relevance to most of the people. The forces which threaten the National Estate often bear most heavily on the less affluent groups. Poorer people suffer most intensely from the loss of National Estate features such as the parkland, familiar town and country scapes, even dwellings. They feel in much stronger measure the withering away of the physical environment into ugly and barren patterns. I give as one example the impact of the Blue Mountains Escarpment on the far western suburbs of Sydney. These are not urban areas graced by visual richness. For a number of reasons their development has destroyed the natural features of the Australian landscape without substituting any of the gentler features of urban life.
The main contact the hundreds of thousands of people in these suburbs have with our Australian heritage is the Blue Mountains escarpment. This feature of great natural beauty is clearly visible in much of the western part of Sydney. There is no other feature of natural or manmade beauty of the same quality in this vast part of the Sydney metropolitan area. Yet the escarpment is in constant danger of scarring by poorly planned development from both the public and private sectors. I have no doubt that the previous Government, with its defence establishments at Lapstone, certainly had a great deal to do with the scarring of the escarpment. Imposing this sort of blight on the escarpment would be a tragic loss to a large part of the population of Sydney.
I am sure this example can be multiplied many times from other cities and regions throughout Australia. Deprived community groups have not the same access as the wealthy to other sources of personal enjoyment and fulfilment. This is why it is often the less affluent who are most active in working to protect the best features of our heritage. The pillage and neglect of the National Estate diminishes us all in equal measures.
I also want to stress that we will seek the support of people of goodwill whatever their background to protect the National Estate and beat the bulldozer mentality that has disfigured our environment for so many years and particularly during the last quarter of a century when the Opposition was in Government. It had such negative policies. We will work with all who want to protect those parts of our heritage that have been created by man or nature and are unique or are things of beauty.
For this reason, the Government has been gratified by the support of some Opposition members for the concept of the National Estate and the programs we have begun to preserve and enhance it. I am sure we can work together to preserve things and places of great beauty for all Australians and for the Australians who follow us. I commend the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Mr Wilson) adjourned.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate without amendment:
Social Services Bill 1975
Repatriation Acts Amendment Bill 1975
Debate resumed from 16 April on motion by Mr Les Johnson:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-Before I say anything about this Bill, I should like to place on the record the fact that 9 other members of the Opposition wish to take part in this debate. It appears as though only half of them- if that many- will have the opportunity. This happened the last time we had a debate on a housing Bill. On that occasion when we were debating the Australian Housing Corporation Bill, we were gagged. I understand that it is likely to happen again. I do not criticise the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson) because I think he would like to have more time to debate this Bill, as would members of the Opposition.
In fairness to honourable members on our side of the House who wish to take part in the debate I should like to inform the House that the honourable members for Deakin (Mr Jarman), Darling Downs (Mr Veigh), Bradfield (Mr Connolly), Petrie (Mr Hodges), Parramatta (Mr Ruddock), Mitchell (Mr Cadman), Ballarat (Mr Erwin) and Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron), are prepared to take part in this debate this afternoon. I understand that 4 speakers from the Government side have scratched. For this reason, we are to be denied proper time for debate.
I think I should make the point that during an earlier debate today we were also gagged. Some of the Opposition members I have just mentioned wished to take part in that debate. Later today we will be debating the Parliamentary Counsel Bill 1 975. Four speakers from the Opposition wish to speak in that debate and none from the Government side. Later we also will be debating the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Bill 1975. There are 9 speakers listed on our side and one on the Government side. On behalf of the Opposition I protest at the lack of concern that the Government has for giving us proper time to debate housing matters. I think that this exemplifies the Government’s attitude to housing generally. The Government does not realise how important housing is in our economy. It does not realise how many people are suffering as a result of the lack of government policies.
In relation to this Bill, I suppose we could say that the scheme was virtually terminated in August 1973. That was the occasion on which the then Treasurer (Mr Crean) made the announcement, in his Budget speech on 21 August, that from that moment on savings would no longer be eligible for a homes savings grant. That really was when the decision was taken to terminate the homes savings grant scheme. This means that anyone who has a grant must be prepared either to commence building or to buy a house before the end of 1976, which is 3 years after the 1973 Budget. Such a person will need to make application before the end of 1977. This relates to persons who have commenced building. This is a provision which applies within the legislation. I think it is fair enough that the Government has allowed an extension into 1 978 of 6 months to allow for documentation and such things as marriages to be finalised or documentary evidence to be supplied which could not be done by the end of 1977. June 1978 will see the end of this legislation.
Another element contained in the Bill refers to the savings held in banks in Papua New Guinea. It makes it possible for these savings to be considered eligible for a grant. The Bill refers to the Department of Housing and Construction and drafting amendments are proposed to update references to the former Department of Housing. The last item in the Bill provides that the scheme may be administered, if necessary, by the Australian Housing Corporation.
They are the 7 new elements contained in the Bill. The Minister, in his second reading speech had much to say about the tax deductibility scheme. I think that the Australian public and home seekers ought to be made to realise that the tax deductibility scheme is no substitute for the homes savings grant scheme. The tax deductibility scheme assists only people who already have a house. The homes savings grant scheme assists people who do not have a house. To that extent I think that the Government deserves censure for abolishing this scheme.
– They need to enter into a contract to build or buy a house to be eligible. Do you acknowledge that?
– Of course, but the point I am making is that the Government has in a way tried to mislead the public by suggesting that the tax deductibility scheme replaces the homes savings grants scheme. That is not true. One has to have a home before one can get any benefit out of the tax deductibility scheme. The homes savings grant scheme is to assist a person to buy a home. The Opposition is making the point that the tax deductibility scheme is discriminatory. I do not knock the scheme. I think it is a good one. It is a matter of getting it cleaned up and removing some of the discrimination which exists. The
Government must admit that it does not really assist low income earners, which was its original purpose. It does not help people who do not have an income. It is not much help to the majority of pensioners. It does not help people who are nearing the end of their mortgage repayments. It discriminates against families which have 2 incomes. It discriminates against the selfemployed butchers, hairdressers, doctors and people of this type who have to wait until the end of a financial year to get any benefit. It discriminates against families vis-a-vis single people.
I should like to cite an example of a person on an income of $5,000 a year. Such a person, with a wife and 2 children, under this scheme will save $145 during the year. A single person on $5,000 a year will save $3 1 9 in taxation. It discriminates against people with families. It discriminates in favour of persons who have larger mortgages. To that extent, it encourages people not to pay off their mortgages. It encourages them perhaps to extend themselves and buy a bigger or more expensive home than they would otherwise have bought.
I shall give another example, of a person who earns $12,000 a year, which is approaching the upper limit. If he pays $3,000 in interest he benefits by $312. Someone else on the same income, who pays $2,000 a year in interest on a smaller mortgage benefits by $208. So the tax deductibility scheme which the Minister mentioned in his second reading speech is still fairly hairy and by no means could be described as the panacea for the Australian housing problems. It certainly does not replace the home savings grant. On page 3 of his second reading speech the Minister, referring again to this deductibility scheme, said that the Government had conducted an extensive campaign of publicity to inform interested people about its advantages. I would hope that the Government would conduct an equally extensive campaign to inform people of what is happening to the home savings grant. It is all very well to advertise the good news, but let us advertise some of the bad news. Many people will be disappointed as a result of the termination of this scheme.
In a passing reference may I say how much all members of the Opposition deplore the way in which the Government- not necessarily this Department but certainly most of the Government departments- is spending money on advertising Government initiatives. It has almost reached the stage where it is spending money to advertise the Australian Labor Party. I cite as an example the very large advertisements for Medibank which, as we all know, are costing the taxpayerthat is all of us- nearly $2m.
Mr Les Johnson- But you cannot get into the Queensland newspapers for Bjelke-Petersen’s ads.
-The Minister refers to Queensland. I say, not only is this a disgraceful waste of taxpayers’ funds; it is not even true. The particular advertisement I am holding at the moment says that Medibank will provide free medical insurance. As I am sure the Minister will agree, that is untrue. Nothing in this life is free. Just before the last election a campaign was run, which cost I think $60,000, advertising the advantages of becoming an Australian citizen. Advertisements such as the one I have in my hand appeared in most of the Australian newspapers showing a photograph of the former Minister for Immigration. The Government spent $60,000 of taxpayers’ funds really to promote that Minister. A campaign is being run at the moment about customs declarations which purports to give taxpayers good news about customs changes and regulations which is bad news for those who are interested in this matter. That is a misuse of public funds. The advertisements of the Attorney-General’s Department with its cartoons about the Trade Practices Act are another example. There are dozens of examples. I think the Government and the Minister should see that the Department spends some money in making people aware of the demise of the homes savings grant scheme. I also note that his Department has spent some money in promoting Labor Party policies and has issued a brochure which cost the taxpayer, from memory, up to $600 to distribute. It is entitled ‘Housing under Labor’. If the Government can spend that sort of money distributing that sort of propaganda why can it not advertise what it is doing to the home savings grant? Not only is this a blatant example of political bias but also most of it is untrue.
– Which part of it is untrue?
-We could have a debate on this later on if there is enough time. The advertising is very selective. I am conscious of the fact that there are people on our side of the chamber who wish to take part in the debate. The honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Cadman), who will probably have his head chopped off in this debate, showed me a copy of an advertisement in the ‘Toronto Star’, a Canadian newspaper, in which the Department of Housing and Construction advertised for $2 1 ,000-a-year jobs. Surely to heavens we have enough people in Australia to do this sort of work.
Mr Jarman Enough unemployed, anyway.
– The number of unemployed, I think, is about 308 000. I remember that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) gave that figure in a debate earlier today. On top of the salary and desirable conditions that are advertised in the Canadian newspaper the advertisement states that the successful applicant will be entitled to 4 weeks recreation leave, maternity leave or paternity leave. And we wonder why we are stuck with inflation.
The Opposition believes that the homes savings grant should never have been phased out and should have been retained. In fact we are committed to reintroduce it. I know that there has been quite a significant fall off in applications in the last 12 months. When the scheme was introduced in 1964 by a Liberal-Country Party government there were 24 000 applicants. This figure rose to about 40 000 for the last two or three years. This year it looks as though the number of applicants who will be eligible will not exceed 13 000. So it is pretty obvious that there are many thousands of disappointed Australians around the country. The report of the Department mentions a fall off last year and states that 37 per cent of applications were rejected because the applicants were above the statutory limit
– It does not say that at all. If you read the report carefully you will see that it says: ‘More than 30 per cent of the 37 per cent rejected . . .’
– They were rejected because of the limit. That is what we are talking about. The Government should have increased the statutory limit in accordance with inflation. After all, the Government has caused inflation. It cannot say that we have done that. The reasonable suggestion to have been adopted would have been to lift the limit progressively. In 1972 the limit was $22,500. If one applies the inflation formula, since then that $22,500, which was the price of an average home in the Sydney metropolitan area, would have risen to $39,000 this year. The way that inflation is going, it will be $55,000 before we are able to have a change of government in 1 977. So the price will actually more than double. We believe that the limit should have been related to that increase all the time.
There is no time to go into what we think the formula should have been but certainly the Government could have made the savings formula much more attractive. We believe that the scheme certainly should be amended in many ways. In fact we gave a commitment in our election campaign to do just that. We were going to abolish the age requirement. It seems rediculous that someone should be eliminated or be considered ineligible because he is more than 36 years of age.
– You put the age requirement there.
-Of course. That is what I am saying. As the years have gone by we have found things that should be changed, and this is one of them.
– It took a long time.
– It has taken only 3 years since the honourable members opposite came to office to destroy the scheme completely. But this is what we will do. We said we would do it in our election campaign. Perhaps a bank manager or a person who works in a stock agency or so on comes into the city to buy his first home at the age of 37 years but finds he is eneligible. Experience has shown that that is ridiculous. We would change the residential requirements. I am sure the Minister would agree with this. We would change the requirements dealing with marriage, which are a positive discrimination against single people. We would also change this arbitrary cut off figure. I suppose every honourable member has had examples of people who miss out on the grant because their house has cost in excess of the statutory limit of $22,500. 1 have had applicants come to me who have been a few dollars over because of a kitchen stove or something. We believe there should be a tapering scale, and when we get into office we will see that that is introduced.
We believe that the abolition of the homes savings grants scheme discriminates against those who pay rent and those who do not have a home. The homes savings grant scheme was the only scheme that assisted people to obtain a deposit. So this scheme is damaging those who previously had a chance to bridge the deposit gap. We support completely the philosophy of home ownership. We doubt very much whether the Government seriously does. As I said, we will reintroduce the homes savings grant scheme when we are in government.
I should like to refer to an article of the Minister’s which appeared in the July 1974 edition of ‘Housing Australia’. He will remember writing this article. The headline of the article reads:
Government strategy set for a massive shin from private to public housing.
Does the Minister remember writing that article? He nods. In it he said:
The Federal Government expects that its monetary policy and manipulation of interest rates, deliberately designed to reduce demand . . . will make possible a substantial increase in the Government housing sector.
For a low interest rate Party, the Labor Government has not done too badly; interest rates are higher than they have ever been before. The Government’s aim is failing.
I would like to refer to the editorial in the April edition of ‘The Builder’, which is the official organ of the Master Builders Association. It said:
The aim -
That is, the Government’s aim- of squeezing the private sector to channel building resources into public housing has not worked.
Official statistics confirm this. If we deal with commencements- I think we should always deal with them rather than other figures- we find that, taking the 12 months’ period from March 1974 to March this year, private sector commencements have dropped from nearly 38 000 to just over 25 000 which is a drop of about 13 000 commencements. During that time public sector commencements have risen but only from just over 3000 to a little over 4000. So what has happened is that the Government, in its efforts to build up the public sector, is killing the private sector of the building industry. In fact it is killing the private sector altogether.
In the same article written by the Minister he said:
The Labor Government took urgent action to rectify the position.
He was talking about the crisis in the building industry and about pumping money into State housing authorities for welfare housing. Very modestly I thought, he used the first person and referred to himself as the innovator of the new deal for public housing. He said that the Government is maintaining welfare housing as its top priority. He went on to say that he was pleased because Mr McGinty, the New South Wales Minister for Housing, had told him that the Housing Commission in New South Wales would be constructing 5000 homes. That was last year. The postscript is not quite so healthy because the Master Builders Association of New South Wales, in the article to which I referred, said that there is a shortfall of $ 18m in loan funds for welfare housing by the New South Wales Housing Commission and this has meant that the programmed additional 6000 houses will be reduced to 5000, and that is not quite the same way as the Minister put it.
The honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Cadman), who wishes to take part in this debate but who may not have the opportunity, tells me that in Sydney at the moment there are 150 million bricks stockpiled. That was a 6 months’ supply of bricks when we were in government and when houses were being produced. The brick pits in New South Wales are working at less than half their capacity. As we all know, unemployment in the building and building supply sectors is really very serious. In the article to which I have referred and in many other places and on many other occasions the Minister has referred to the crisis that existed in the building industry when the Australian Labor Party took over the Government. I would like to make it clear that there was no crisis when the Government took over from us, but there is a crisis now.
The Minister talks about approvals but I suggest we should be talking about commencements because surely the nearest thing to demand, statistically, would be commencements. Who knows what is the need? The need must be a great deal more than the demand because many people are entering the area now who need accommodation and who have no hope of securing it. The commencements for 1973- that year for which the previous Government was virtually responsiblewere 176 000. That was the peak year. Last year there were only 138 000 commencements, which meant that there was a shortfall last calendar year of 38 000 dwellings. This year there will be a shortfall of 68 000 dwellings. So by the time we get to the end of 1975 we will be over 100 000 houses short in this country. I believe that that is a crisis situation. By the end of next year, if this Government stays in power, we will have 176 000 houses short, which is one year’s full supply.
What always intrigues me about the Minister is that I have never known anybody who could dress up bad news and sell it as good news as well as he does. Last week in Adelaide he was commenting on the lift in approval figures and he was reported as saying that there was a building uplift. In the article in the Adelaide ‘Advertiser’ he was quoted as saying that the second half of the year ‘should see a return to a buoyant level of activity in the housing industry’. The Opposition is saying that there is no likelihood of any such activity and that this Minister will be the first Minister ever to preside over the demise of the building industry. The shortfall is staggering. The escalation in the cost of building is enormous. The latest figures released by the Bureau of Statistics show that the cost of building an average modest home in Australia is escalating at more than $100 a week. These figures are confirmed. If one divides the number of approvals for dwellings into the value of approvals one will find that this cost escalation is confirmed also. There is no time to go into details, but one will also find that the escalation in cost in the private sector is about 22% per cent whilst the escalation in cost in the public sector is over 30 per cent.
The Opposition believes that the abolition of the homes savings grant further exacerbates the building crisis. According to the annual report of the Secretary of the Department of Housing and Construction for 1973-74, more than 80 per cent of young people or people who were eligible for this grant and claimed it did so more than 3 years after marriage. This would probably indicate that most of them were living in flats and rental accommodation. There is a real crisis in the rental accommodation situation. Rental investment is virtually non-existent in this country now. There is no return on rental investment. The surcharge tax on so-called unearned income further inhibits people from putting their money into building flats. High income tax and lack of confidence in the Government, plus high interest rates, are lulling off investment in flats. This will further add to the crisis situation for young people. The Federal Pesident of the Commonwealth Institute of Valuers said in Hobart last month:
People are frightened at the cost of development . . . The return an investor got on property for new building was now between Vh per cent and 3 per cent compared with up to 12 per cent in the past.
Who is going to build flats under those conditions? While we were in Government and up until last year when this scheme was strangled, 40 000 people every year were helped to bridge the deposit gap with this grant. Those people will receive nothing now. The Opposition believes that the abolition of the grant will only worsen the crisis.
The 2 recent statements by the Minister were ridiculous. In the first one he said that the future looked good. One does not need a crystal ball to see that the future looks bad. In his other statement in Adelaide last week he talked about the home buyers’ service which he was planning. I think that the problem the Minister faces now is that there is no more bad news that he can dress up as good news so he is dreaming up some other ideas to distract us. I quote what he said in regard to a scheme he has come up with now:
It seems absurd that people buying a car or boat can obtain cheap expert advice to avoid a bad buy, yet home seekers do not have ready access to a similar service.
He suggested then that a new department should be set up, thereby increasing Government expenditure, so that for a fee of $50 people buying a house could have that house inspected. I direct the Minister’s attention to a letter which appeared in the Adelaide ‘Advertiser’ yesterday. It was written jointly by the President of the South Australian Chapter of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects and the Chairman of the Architects Advisory Service. They make the point that such a service does apply now, at least in South Australia, and that anybody can arrange for an inspection for $20. There is no need to set up a new Government department with all the added costs this would entail. It can be done, it is being done and has been done for ages, by private enterprise.
We believe that the great problem in this country is inflation. The only way in which to lower building costs and to get people into homes is by reducing inflation; and the only way in which that can be done is by cutting, not expanding, Government spending and by encouraging private enterprise. Who needs an insurance corporation and a housing corporation set up by the Government? An amount of $8m is to be spent on the establishment of a so-called growth development at Monarto in South Australia. I predict that that development will never come to pass, certainly not in its envisaged form. Why waste that money? Why pork barrel all that money down to Tasmania to assist the industries there which the Government has damaged? There is a very good reason, from the Government’s point of view, and that is that the Labor Government holds 5 seats in Tasmania and looks like losing the five of them at the next election.
The Government has established over 100 commissions and boards of inquiry. I know that ten of those commissions will cost $3m this year. Heaven knows what the 1 10 commissions and boards that now exists will cost to operate. Over 90 per cent of building in this country is provided by private enterprise and if the situation is reversed there will be no significant building in this country.
– You keep blaming governments. You do not blame private enterprise for what it has done.
– I certainly do not blame private enterprise. It is governments that have the responsibility. I will conclude my remarks by quoting to the House what an important man in this Parliament believes is the cure of the nation’s ills. This man said:
Inflation is the great economic and social problem. It must be dealt with. The national Government alone in Australia can deal with it. It has the power to do so. An Australian
Labor Party Government will never permit inflation or unemployment to be established in Australia. We have the power to prevent these things. We will use that power.
That was said by Dr Cairns, the Deputy Prime Minister. We endorse those comments. The Labor Party is in Government now and it has the power but it is not using it. As a result of that, Australia’s inflation rate has risen from 4 per cent to 22¥i per cent and perhaps more. Perhaps it will be over 30 per cent by the end of the year. The medicine we would apply to reduce inflation would be to cut back Government spending and to stop murdering the private enterprise sector.
-The title of this Bill is a complete misnomer. One could be forgiven for assuming on reading its title- the Homes Savings Grant Bill- that this Bill was bestowing some type of grant on young couples to assist them obtain a home. But its effect is quite the opposite. In fact it abolishes such a grant. In commencing his second reading speech in this House on 16 April 1975 the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson) said:
The purpose of the Bill is to give effect to the Government’s decision to terminate the home savings grant scheme.
I believe that the operative words in that statement are ‘to terminate’. It was a very bad statement, a statement which sounded the death knell for many young Australian couples engaged in a struggle to obtain the necessary funds to bridge the deposit gap to own or build homes in which to bring up their families. I for one would not argue against the principle of allowing tax deductions for interest paid on a housing loan connected with a taxpayer’s principal residence, although there are a lot of anomalies apparent in the scheme which the Government is bringing forward today. Both schemes have obvious merit, but why abolish the well proven home savings grant scheme which, since its establishment in 1964, has assisted one-third of a million young Australian couples to bridge the deposit gap to buy their own home.
In the last financial year alone over 40 000 applications were made, over 95 per cent of which were approved. There is no doubt that there is a very popular demand by young couples for this sort of assistance yet this Bill abolishes it. For the average Australian the most drastic impact of this Bill will not be the tax deductibility of mortgage interest on housing loans. That is a relatively small and essentially negative taxation issue. What this Bill will really affect is the ability of young married couples, perhaps for ever, to enter into contracts for the purchase or the construction of their matrimonial home. What use is rendering mortgage interest rates tax deductible to couples who may never have a chance to own their own home?
This Bill may assist some income earners who already own a home to meet their interest payments, but it does nothing to help young couples obtain a home in the first place. It helps those with homes, not those endeavouring to obtain them. It does not in any way assist a couple’s ability to collect and put down a deposit for a home in hard cash. Yet the existing home savings grant does exactly that. It assists young couples to accumulate a sufficient sum to make up the necessary deposit on a home with the aid of a pro rata grant from the Government based on the amount of their savings. A grant of $1 was made for every $3 saved.
I have always believed there were unnecessary pettifogging anomalies in the present scheme. Some of these were referred to by my colleague, the honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay). Certainly inflation under this Government has made a laughing stock of the maximum grant of $750 for a saving of $2,250 and the limitation of eligibility to those under 36 years of age always has seemed to me an unnecessary restriction. But surely the Government should be looking to improve the present well proven and popular home savings grant scheme by amendment instead of phasing it out and eventually getting rid of it. As I have said, the present scheme has enabled one-third of a million young married in a little over 10 years to augment their savings to pay a deposit on their home. It has provided young couples with the opportunity to get their feet right into the front door of their matrimonial home. Yet this Government has decided to abolish this assistance.
It should be recognised that both schemes, the home savings grant scheme and the deductibility of interest mortgage scheme, are designed to give financial assistance to home buyers. But they are designed to give assistance to 2 different and distinctive groups of home buyers. They are 2 completely different, and in many ways complementary schemes. Neither one can replace the benefits bestowed by the other. However, the Government apparently regards the 2 schemes as alternatives and is replacing one, the home savings grant scheme, with the other, the deductibility of interest mortgage scheme. Well over 70 per cent of families in Australia are buying or own their own homes. Most Australians aspire to this state. However, most young couples experience great initial difficulty in raising the deposit and the initial finance to purchase a home.
Home ownership confers various external social benefits apart from the personal benefit received by the owner. It bestows also benefits on the community, such as a more stable, hardworking, contented populace and therefore a better Australian. When the home savings grant scheme was introduced by the Menzies Government in 1964, it was introduced because the Liberal-Country Party Government of the day believed it would satisfy a most desirable objective. We still adhere to that view today. We believe that it is the right of all Australians to have the opportunity, indeed the encouragement, to own their own homes if they so desire. We certainly do not believe, as a Minister in a former Labor Government claimed, that owners are ‘little capitalists’. Housing is vital to the welfare and happiness of the individual family. It is essential to the process of marriage and family life. The best homes will be those in which the occupier has a stake. The present state of housing finance in Australia, however, gives cause for serious concern.
Figures supplied by the Department of Housing and Construction late last year show that the cost of an adequate or average type home, whichever that may be, was $22,500 in 1972. At the present rate of inflation under this Government, it has been estimated- and these figures are probably conservative- that the cost of a similar type of home will have risen to $39,000 by mid-1975, $46,000 by mid-1976 and will have reached $55,000 by mid- 1977. My colleague, the honourable member for Boothby, also referred to these figures. In short, this means that home prices in Australia today are rising at the unbelievable rate of $100 every week. It is just not possible for today’s savings to keep up with tomorrow’s price increases, let alone to outpace them. What chance have young couples of coping with these staggering costs?
The Government should be assisting these young people instead of taking away the assistance that they have been given under the homes savings grant scheme in the past by former Liberal-Country Party governments. The same statistical source- that is, the Department of Housing and Construction- indicates that 91 per cent of all new home buyers have an income below $10,000 per annum and that 58 per cent have an income not exceeding $8,000. It is obviously difficult for people in these income brackets to save more than $ 1,500 per annum on average. At present 96 per cent to 98 per cent of all new home purchasers are obliged to resort to finance in order to complete their commitments. Statistics indicate that 80.9 per cent of all finance arrangements are with what may be termed commercial interests, such as banks and building societies. The combination of these main factorsthat is, the cost, purchaser’s income and the necessary resort to commercial finance- results in increasing difficulties facing young couples, especially with regard to their ability to complete payments on their new homes.
The abolition by the Labor Government under this Bill of the vital deposit gap grant will make it increasingly difficult for newly married couples to buy a home either now or in the foreseeable future. Did the Australian people who voted this Government into office in 1 972 in the belief that it was no longer socialist give it a mandate to take away this grant? I do not think so. This Government preens itself on what it terms its dedication to social welfare. Yet in endeavouring to uphold this abstract concept as its first priority, the Government has plainly jettisoned the young married couples of Australia as a group without any legislative priority. These young people have been sold down the drain. For them Labor’s social welfare dream has become a social welfare nightmare.
Due to the high rate of inflation under this Government, and as a result of increased building costs and the general deterioration of economic conditions which have come about since this Government took office, it is clear that the provisions of the homes savings grant scheme need review. This is a review which should extend and increase the size of the grant rather than scrap it altogether as this Government intends to do. Because of the sharp and continuing rises in land and building costs, I would like to see a government, be it Liberal or Labor, increase the homes savings grant to a meaningful sum, that is, a sum of approximately $1,500 or $2,000. Taking into account the rapidly rising costs and accelerating inflation, an increase in the size of the grant to such an amount would enable a potential purchaser to catch the bus at present prices instead of being left at the kerb as he or she most certainly will be if this Bill is passed and the homes savings grant scheme is repealed.
The new tax deductibility of mortgage interest payments will offer potential young home buyers of Australia no assistance whatsoever as, under the Labor Government’s proposal to scrap the homes savings grant, they will not be in a position to enter into a mortgage in the first place. The Government’s scheme benefits only those who have already purchased a home. It ignores the 1 8 to 30 year old group who are not only a large percentage of the population but also are those people who will mould the future of Australia. Further, they are the people who could bring about a change in government at the next election, and I hope that they do.
In addition, the DMI scheme has a regressive impact in the lower ranges of the income scale. It maximises the deduction in respect of an income- and this may be a combined income for a married couple-of approximately $8,000 per annum. The scheme gives less benefit to higher income earners above $8,000 per annum and cuts out on a sliding scale altogether when the combined income of the husband and wife reaches $14,000. A couple does not need to be wealthy, if both are working, to have a combined income of $ 1 4,000 per annum.
Yet this scheme is regressive also in the lower income ranges up to about $7,000 a year. For instance, the tax saving for a taxpayer and his wife, with 3 dependants, on $8,000 per annum is $338.40, compared with a saving for a taxpayer in the same family situation on $5,000 per annum-that is $3,000 less-of only $145.12. This is less than half the amount received by the comparable family on $8,000 per annum. A person in the eligible income range who wishes to buy a more costly house with a larger mortgage receives more benefit than a person with similar income who chooses to buy a cheaper house with a smaller mortgage. Those paying off a house who do not pay tax, such as pensioners, whose mortgages are nearing complete repayment, get no benefit at all. These are some of the anomalies under this scheme which this Government is introducing today.
We on this side of the House believe that the socialistic approach of the present Government to all aspects of the way of life of the citizens of this country violates the fundamental rights and desires of Australians right into the very front door of their home, as this legislation shows. If the Labor Government is successful with this type of legislation, we will find growing up a new generation of Australians, many of whom will be obliged to rent their home for the term of thennatural life. The young people of Australia in future will be denied all the security, freedom of choice and expresson, and stable family life which are a direct product of home ownership, and which most Australians have grown to accept as of right. If this Bill is passed and the present scheme of assistance is brought to an end, there will be no legislation left on the statute books to assist the rapidly increasing numbers of first home buyers seeking home ownership.
The homes savings grant scheme is consistent with the Liberal-National Country Party philosophies of encouraging independence and self-reliance among Australian people. It is the antithesis of the socialist philosophy of dependence and subservience to bureaucracy and to government. If enabling young Australians to own their own homes causes them to become ‘little capitalists’, we as Liberals make no apology for that. On this issue alone I as a Liberal ask the Australian people to decide what they most desire. Do they desire the removal of the existing grant as proposed by the Labor Government under this legislation, or do they desire an - increase in this most vital grant to a realistic sum after a Liberal-Country Party Government is returned to office at the next election? I believe the answer will clearly be the latter.
Mr FitzPATRICK (Darling) (4.35)-The honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay) in opening his speech complained about the Government’s cutting down on the number of speakers on the Opposition side. He then went on to spend a deal of time on Medibank and later on moved to Tasmania and back again, making sure that he used the full 30 minutes of his time. I cannot see how the Government can allow a larger number of speakers if the tactics of the Opposition are to waste the time of the House. He later complained about the Government’s advertising the benefits of the scheme we are now considering. I hope the Government clearly indicates to the people just what are the benefits under this scheme, because one of the failings with the present home savings grant scheme is that a lot of people who did not understand the regulations failed to obtain benefits under the scheme.
I am an enthusiastic supporter of the Homes Savings Grants Bill 1975. 1 believe that anyone who has spent the greater part of his life as a low income earner would know the effort it takes to become a home owner. He would be conscious of the security and the well-being that come with home ownership. Like myself he would have to delay obtaining many luxuries of life or put them aside to reach a position of home ownership. He would welcome the Bill and the generous assistance it gives to home seekers. The Bill, which is aimed at replacing the homes savings grants scheme with a scheme for tax deductibility of mortgage interest on housing loans, would be recognised by low income earners as a milestone in the history of home ownership for those in the lower income bracket. It not only gives them a large amount of assistance but it also covers a wider area of home seekers.
The original Homes Savings Grant Act provided for a total grant of $750 for the few fortunate people who were able to qualify. However the majority seeking assistance in the past missed out on any assistance and some received greatly reduced assistance. Many failed to qualify for any assistance although they had to borrow large amounts and carry crippling mortgages in order to become home owners. Under the homes savings grant scheme being replaced many who were able to plan and save and who actually did plan and save for a home’ failed to gain assistance because they were falsely advised where their money should have been saved.
The Bill before the House will remove the confusion and injustice of the Homes Savings Grant Act 1964-73 and will provide a larger amount of assistance for those most in need of it. The tax deductibility scheme will mean for most home buyers a saving of around $8 per week, and for some it will mean a greater saving according to their income. The benefits of the scheme for a one income family receiving $6,000 a year with a $15,000 loan will be $7.40 a week if the interest on their mortgage is 9Vi per cent. A family paying off a loan of the same amount at 12 per cent interest will gain a saving of $9.90 per week. We admit that high interest rates have been particularly painful for the Government, but as far as home purchasers are concerned we have found a very just solution. The best that 23 years of Liberal-Country Party government could give us was a scheme under which low income earners could not qualify to receive any benefit.
– That is not true.
– It is true. I refer anyone who has any doubts about the sincerity of the effects of the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson) to the Minister’s second reading speech. He said:
I take this opportunity to explain to the House that persons who meet the eligibility tests for tax deductibility of mortgage interest and home savings grants may receive both benefits.
What a windfall this will be for some young Australians. When has this kind of assistance been considered by the House before? No one can say that he has been penalised by the changeover period, as so often happened under the previous Government’s legislation. The actions of the Government prove its sincerity and its concern for young couples seeking to become home owners. The memorandum handed out by the Minister during his second reading speech explains the provisions of the Homes Savings Grant Bill 1975 which, if it passes through this Parliament, will amend the Homes Savings
Grant Act 1964-1973. It will leave no doubt in the minds of young Australian couples making in most cases their biggest lifelong investment to own a home. No government can wave a magic wand and solve the international problems of inflation and high interest rates, but the Government has done all that could be justified. It has taken over the greater part of the burden of the lower income families with a mortgage on their homes by allowing the mortgage interest to be tax deductible.
The honourable member for Deakin (Mr Jarman) said that the Government’s approach was socialistic. It is regretted that when a Labor Government introduces measures such as this that give greater assistance to low income families we hear the cry of the Opposition that it is socialism. Some even go so far as to say that it is communism because it redistributes accessibility to housing finance and gives all Australians a more equal opportunity to become home owners. To anyone who seeks to put a name-tag on me because I support this Bill I say: Do not use Karl Marx’s teaching as a measuring stick but rather St Mark’s interpretation of the sermon on the mount, because I believe that such action is nearer to Christianity than it is to any ‘ism’, which the Opposition wants to tack on to the Labor Party. I believe it is the duty of any worth while government to look at Australian household standards, the standards we really need and the way our dwellings are actually used. We should consider what fair and just action can be taken to discourage people from using more of our housing resources than they need in these times of shortages.
None of these things is easy. They cannot be achieved overnight. We need greater cooperation from industry. Many big companies could do much more to assist their employees to gain home ownership. They provide houses for their top staff but they let their daily paid employees find a house the best way they can. I believe that many companies would do well to study the practice of the Broken Hill mining companies. Not only do they assist the employees to form their own building societies and provide finance but they also provide plans and technical advice to employees building their own homes. Thirty years ago I built my own house under this assistance and today my son owns his home as a result of the same practice. If mining companies can do this, so can other companies.
It appears to me that the ones who fall down most in this regard are the State governments, particularly Liberal-Country Party governments. An article which appeared in last Sunday’s ‘Telegraph’ would give some indication of this. It says: ‘Teachers live in sheds, caravans in country areas’. I took particular notice of this article because it mentioned part of my electorate. It goes on to say how the State Government is not assisting the teachers to obtain houses in the country. Yet there are plenty of houses in the country itself which, with a little bit of repair, would be quite satisfactory to the teachers. They have told me that. The Education Department has carpenters on its staff who go around fixing school desks and so forth. They would need to do only a little more and the opportunity would exist for these teachers to live m a house and to buy it if they wanted to stop there.
The only complaint I have with respect to the newspaper article is that it states that housing assistance is provided for members of the police force. But this assistance is not provided for the police either. Some members of the police force in country areas have told me that they will leave unless they can purchase a satisfactory home. I believe the Australian Government is giving the lead in regard to making homes available to all Australians and it should get the support of the Opposition for these measures. It should also get the support of the State governments and industry. I wholeheartedly support the Bill before the House.
-One does have rather mixed feelings in participating in this debate. One grieves to be present and to be an onlooker and to observe the shattering of the dreams of many Australian people. The home savings scheme was introduced by a great Australian, Sir Robert Menzies, a man in our history without peer and a man who became a legend in his own lifetime. The scheme is being destroyed by another Prime Minister, the honourable E. G. Whitlam who, on account of his actions, stands condemned by people denied housing, as a political cripple suffering from monetary indigestion. We deplore the manoeuvres to destroy the incentive to have one’s own home. But we grasp the opportunity of using this forum to expose the thrust of the Government’s housing policy. I am disappointed to have to speak on a motion such as this but I am very happy to join with my colleagues, the honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay) and the honourable member for Deakin (Mr Jarman), who gave a disciplined approach to solving the housing needs of the Australian people.
The Bill presides over the termination of one of the classic examples of how meaningful help can be given where and when it is most desired and most rewarding. A total of 341 584 grants were made in the period 1964-65 to December 1 974 for a total value of $ 1 74, 1 72,000. This indicates that help was given in a tangible way to people who met the guidelines and who played their part in saving in a specified period the amounts of money required to receive the grants. The proposal contained a two-fold benefit in that it encouraged savings- surely a laudable ideal particularly in this era since December 1972 of a Labor Party’s handout mentality- and it had the additional premium of channelling savings during the prescribed saving period to institutional lenders who were the medium through which more money was made available in the community for housing generally.
It is appropriate in this debate which, in essence, is a rather feeble bleat of apology for socialism- an act of anti-private ownership- to traverse some of the area of housing policy generally. As previous speakers from this side of the House have stated, a desperate shortage of housing exists and every one of us, in his duties as a parliamentarian, becomes acquainted with cases of great personal hardship creating agonising distress. The building industry generally is idling along with resources, manpower and materials but with insufficient building inquiries. People are unemployed and young people cannot obtain apprenticeships. The economy is crying out for an injection of confidence, yet we have the Government, through its Minister, destroying a concept which has captured the enthusiasm of people because it was the stepping stone which allowed them to have a stake in the countrytheir own home. Substituted in its stead is a tax deductibility arrangement which, through its obvious defects and limited applicability, has caused and will continue to cause traumatic experiences in business, tax agents and personal areas.
This type of housing policy does nothing whatsoever to encourage new building and its associated stimulation of the general economy. Statistics show that, in the light of Government policy, there is a strong preference for existing homes. This is delaying recovery in the building industry. We submit that more interest in new homes is needed to restore the balance between existing and new buildings. The home savings grants principle automatically kept this in balance. It was the catalyst which encouraged people to plan and to save for the home of their own choice on their own land and where they wanted it. Instead of destroying this dream I offer this suggestion to the Minister, even at this eleventh hour in a spirit of helpfulness, to ease the burden: Increase the limit under which the grant is given. At present this limit is $22,500 including land, above which the grant is not paid. This ceiling was set in August 1972 and surely it is not necessary for me to canvass the issue that if this was a fair figure in 1972 it is totally inadequate now. There is no need to recite chapter and verse the increases in the cost of land, buildings and materials since then.
The minds of the Australian people are alarmed at the rate of increase in building costs, estimated to be upwards of $100 per week or 3 per cent per month. People need encouragement, not the hostility of the past 2Vi years- encouragement to be home owners by having a deposit to offer on their own home. The Government has the opportunity in this Bill to have a saving grace by increasing the amount up to which this grant applies from $22,500 to, say, $30,000. This would be somewhat in keeping with the cost of present day housing requirements.
This is a question on which the Minister may care to comment in his reply in this debate. The present limit is about as relevant to the current economic position as the Dead Sea scrolls. The Minister in his second reading speech makes comment on the termination of the home grants scheme after the introduction of the scheme for tax deductibility of mortgage interest on housing loans. This proposal, of course, was contained in page 15 of the 1972 publication ‘It’s time for leadership’, so I suppose this scheme is the implementation of that policy. But I ask the Government: Why isolate this one item; why not implement the other policy items? I quote from the publication:
Labor will deliberately plan to reduce interest rates wherever practicable.
I quote further from the document with reference to the prevailing situation at the time when the policy was written:
Home-owners now have to pay much more in interest payments than capital repayments.
I ask the Minister: Why isolate these policies of 1 972 from the present Bill and implement only part of the overall package? Does the Government not believe that it has the responsibility to fill its total mandate which on so many occasions in this Parliament it so vigorously claims it has.
Interest rates have soared to record heights. They are up 3 per cent to 4 per cent on the previous highest levels. In the early years of repaying a home loan the repayment of interest is the main factor in the total repayment structure. But the Minister has not said anything about that part of the mandate which the Government claims that it has. I submit that the Government could have included in its tax deductibility scheme an arrangement which would give great relief in early years. A scheme should operate with repayments lower in the early years, with graduated increases in the middle and later years to allow a loan to be amortised over the allotted period of a loan at the relevant interest rates. This would be a meaningful use of the income tax factor.
Interest costs to be paid by the purchaser of a home over the period of the Labor Government’s stewardship have risen faster than the general level of real incomes. I can give an example. A rise from 8 per cent to 11 per cent in interest rates is a rise of 37Vi per cent, thus making the initial payments more difficult, even allowing for the rapid rise in incomes. As the purchase price and interest costs go up rapidly the deposit required and the initial repayments become more burdensome. The Government has made great play with the repetition of meaningless words which do not have any application. It is all very well to quote figures and tables when the facts have no application. In an era where the average weekly wage according to the last available figures is $146.90, or $7,638.80 a year, the maximum tax allowance will not apply to many people. A person probably will not be able to purchase his own home in these circumstances. No assistance is intended to allow a person a set-off for home rental. We expect the Minister to comment on these things. He should tell us why he wants to destroy a well established scheme. I think that the people renting homes are entitled to consideration in any overall housing policy. But the Minister has not seen fit to consider them.
Additionally, the whole proposal is littered with many anomalies. For example, the tax saving for the taxpayer with 3 dependants who receives $8,000 per annum is $338.40 compared with a saving for a taxpayer in the same family situation on $5,000 of only $145.12. The whole policy has been conceived in undue haste and has not been fully analysed. It is a patchwork quilt. The benefit received by a family is not as great as that received by a single person making the same interest payments because the percentate of interest deductible is not affected by the family size, being based on actual income before personal deductions.
Clause 7 of the Bill deals with the performance and functions of the Australian Housing Corporation. In our opinion the Corporation is another structure which has been set up to ride roughshod over the State rights and it has been debated in this chamber. How does the Minister equate the situation that exists now with the Prime Minister’s statements before the 1972 election? I quote again from the publication ‘It’s Time ‘ which states:
A Labor Government will request each State authority to estimate the funds it will require to reduce the waiting period for houses to twelve months.
Yet the Minister is setting up a monstrosity and a monopoly which will usurp the powers, the rights and the authority of the States. The Labor Party did not say that before the 1972 election. Its promises at that time are indelibly recorded in the publication ‘It’s Time’. The Government cannot erase those promises. They are there for all time. The Government is not living up to its promises. This is the cheapest type of political propaganda in which any government can engage.
I thought that the last line on the page from which I have been reading from the publication ‘ It ‘s Time ‘ was interesting. It states:
We will encourage life assurance funds to re-enter the housing field.
At present we have before this House a Bill which seeks to shatter the general insurance industry of this country. Yet, the Government, before it went to the people at the 1972 election, said: ‘We will encourage life assurance funds to re-enter the housing field’. One must ask, therefore, in the light of history of recent legislation: What type of beast is this Labor Government? It is obviously the victim of its own environment, a creature of its own circumstance. It says one thing and means something different. The Australian people surely will not stand for that type of political activity.
Labor’s whole broad range of policies has several fatal flaws. The Government has lost credibility and it will never recover from the wave of suspicion that it has created in the hearts and minds of the Australian people. Its rumbling rhetoric has been heard with rather sickening clarity. The type of legislation before us is negative legislation which is taking away from established and appreciated procedures. It indicates a groping ahead policy within the broad guidelines of denying our young Australian people the opportunity to be home owners. It wants us to be a nation of home renters- this has been pointed out by previous speakers from this side of the House- rather than what we believe in and what we stand for, namely a nation of home owners.
I want to conclude by referring to a couple of comments made by my esteemed friend, the honourable member for Darling (MrFitzPatrick), in regard to the provision of housing.
The honourable member might be interested to know that the State Government in Queensland recently allocated from its own resources- and I ask him to note this particularly- and not from Commonwealth money, $4.3m for the specific purpose of establishing new housing and up to date amenities for workers. The Queensland Government is establishing new housing for workers in the new coal fields in Queensland and also for the power workers at Gladstone. I know that the honourable member will appreciate my concern and the way in which I am speaking on this matter. The Queensland Government is able to do this because it is unfettered and unharnessed by Commonwealth money.
– The Federal Government does not care about the worker.
– My colleague says that this Government does not care about the worker. The whole tone of my speech has been indicative of this. I have tried to point out to the Australian people that the Government does not care about the low wage earner because it is allowing this man very limited tax deductibility. It does not care about the young fellow to whom the honourable member for Darling referred. It does not care about people like the honourable member’s son or people who are in the same position as was the honourable member himself when he was young and striving earnestly and sincerely to purchase their own home. Let us be practical and recognise that if one does not have the deposit there is no way in the world that one can ever own one’s home.
-The Homes Savings Grant Bill 1975 is designed to phase out the homes savings grant scheme after the introduction of the scheme for the deductibility of mortgage interest payments. It provides for the transition period with adequate overlap safeguards so that those who do qualify under the homes savings grant scheme can enjoy the best of both schemes. It is true that both schemes are designed to give financial assistance to home buyers. I guess, like motherhood, home ownership is unquestioned, although I think it is time that all governments do question the desirability of home ownership. Already this Government, like the previous Government, does accept it as unquestionable. I say it should be questioned because it is not the only form of providing adequate long term shelter for individuals and families. But this Government, like the previous Government, does accept the principle and the objective of home ownership as desirable. Where the 2 parties differ is in the method used in the schemes designed to help ordinary people achieve home ownership.
The social justification for subsidising home buyers is presumably that home ownership confers various external social benefits apart from the personal benefits received by the owner. For example, it may make for a more stable, contented, hard-working, clean and tidy populace, as was mentioned by the honourable member for Deakin (Mr Jarman). Since over 70 per cent of Australian families own or at least are paying off their own home and nearly all Australians aspire to this state, the political advantages of both the Government and the Opposition in helping them out are evident.
There are certain initial problems faced in purchasing a house although once these are overcome the buyer usually goes on to make a considerable gain from the investment, despite the term ‘little capitalist’ jogged into the debate by the honourable member for Deakin. Since many young people experience great initial difficulty in obtaining finance to buy a home, it is necessary to ask why this should be so before deciding on the appropriate form of help. In some periods the main problem making finance difficult to obtain is the Government’s monetary policy, as with the credit squeezes- not a recent invention- which Australia experienced in 1961, 1971 and last year. The appropriate method to be used to avoid such a situation is not to give subsidies to home buyers but to plan for a more regular flow of credit. In past years governments’ stop-go economic policies have brought about excessive fluctuations in the money supply, the brunt of which has usually been borne by the housing industry.
For the first time under the present Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson) the Australian Government has tackled this problem by using the vehicle of the recently established Australian Housing Corporation. A major problem which still remains lies in the effect of inflation. This has been mentioned by several speakers in this debate. Inflation in land and building costs, which was even more rapid in 1973-74 than that in the general price level, and which drives up the cost of the deposit required, erodes the value of the savings which are built up over a number of years for the deposit. Hence, as the purchase price and interest costs go up rapidly, the deposit required and the initial repayments become more burdensome. However, after the initial purchase, inflation usually begins to work in the buyer’s favour. The buyer acquires an asset, whether it be house or land, the value of which often increases faster than the general price level while he repays the loan of a fixed money value from inflated income in later years. This situation will apply as long as a government allows the working people to increase their wages or their incomes so that they do not fall behind the increase in the cost of living. I remind the Opposition that its objective is to keep the ordinary home owner, the wage earner, in a position where he is less able to meet any inflation whether it be 2 per cent or 3 per cent or at the present level.
The imputed income or return from investment which the owner-occupier gets in the form of a saving on rent is not taxable. Then, the purchaser is also permitted a tax deduction for local government rates paid up to a maximum of $300. These considerations seem to indicate that the methods of assistance which best get to the source of the home buyer’s problems would be the ones for redistributing the cost of purchasing a home away from the earlier years towards the later years of the loan period. But it should also be remembered that if, under the various schemes to assist home buyers, total demand for houses is pushed beyond the available supply, some method of rationing will be necessary or inflation in house prices could accelerate. A simple example of cost-push inflation is too much money chasing too few goods. The principal benefit of the homes savings grant would appear to be- according to honourable members opposite- in assisting home buyers to bridge the deposit gap required to buy a home. As I have mentioned, this becomes more difficult when savings are eroded in real terms by inflation while building and land costs rise at least as fast as incomes.
However, in practice, homes savings grants have usually been approved too late to help bridge this deposit gap. Nevertheless, the purchase of a first home always involves additional initial expenses such as fencing, furniture, etc. as the honourable member for Deakin reminded us. A grant could be used if received after the purchase at a propitious time perhaps to pay legal fees, to provide extra amenities for the house, to meet bank charges and so on. I remind the House that what we are talking about when we use the term ‘home’ is a combination of a house, the home environment created by the people in it and the articles of furniture which go to make living accommodation. In this Bill we are really talking about a house. It is a euphemism to talk about a home. So what we are really talking about is assisting house buyers whom we term home buyers. Members of the Liberal Party opposite claim that their meagre $750 helped to close the credit gap. It failed miserably for several reasons to do so.
– It did not.
– It failed to help those who needed it most. It helped only married couples in the first year when they usually do not have children. It contained no compensation against inflation and it left out a large group of people who also needed help. If the honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay) who interjected still has any doubts I will expand on that matter later. The honourable member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh) argues for an increase in the limit. The honourable member for Deakin argues for an increase in the grant. But this is unnecessary. Those eligible are already getting the best out of both schemes in this transition period. The best solution is to phase out the former scheme and to introduce the deductibility of mortgage interest scheme. From the home purchaser’s point of view the DMI scheme is preferable to the homes savings grant scheme as it operated in the past because the value of the DMI scheme in terms of tax dollars saved is considerably higher than the homes savings grant scheme. The benefit received by a typical individual under the DMI scheme could be several thousand dollars over the full period of his mortgage. For example, there could be an average tax saving over 20 years of $250 a year. By comparison, to the same person the maximum homes savings grant given is a miserable $750.
Secondly, the DMI scheme is particularly beneficial in an inflationary situation when interest rates are high. Thirdly, although the benefits of mortgage interest deductions are spread throughout the repayment period, they are concentrated most in the first few years. This is when the outstanding capital debt is greatest so that the interest component of repayments is highest. The former scheme gave no help to unmarried people or to single parents. If you were a single parent, if you were deserted or widowed- I ask honourable members to remember that no widows or widowers without children were assisted- it is just as important to maintain your house and to keep it as it is to get one in the first place. Persons over 35 years of age were excluded from purchasing a house for the first time with assistance. Large families who had difficulty in finding suitable accommodation under $22,500 were excluded. Another group of people who were omitted were migrants who had purchased their home within 3 years of arrival. The scheme gave a greater amount of money to those who had the capacity or the will to save and so, in a sense, exacerbated inequality.
Finally some poorer people would have been unable to save as much as $2,250 to obtain the maximum benefit. The Coombs report, entitled ‘Review of the Continuing Expenditure Policies of the Previous Government ‘ at page 9 1 states: ‘The grant is a gift, paid without regard to the needs of the recipient ‘and ‘The grant … is one which is easily availed of by those with access to funds, whether from relatives, friends or by way of institutional borrowings, which can be invested in the prescribed manner for the relatively short period required under the scheme in order to qualify for the grant. By contrast, families in real need of assistance with housing may not be able to obtain the benefit of the grant because of their inability to accumulate savings. Recipients of the grant are not obliged to spend it on or in connection with the acquisition of a home.’
It seems ridiculous to give taxpayers money for homes savings when it need not be spent on the home. Further on the report stated: ‘. . . it is also open to question whether the subsidy accrues in toto to eligible home purchasers or whether some part of it accrues to suppliers of the product by way of increased profits. Certainly it has been claimed that the scheme has encouraged builders to increase the prices of houses.’
I seems likely that, in any situation of excess demand for a relatively fixed supply of housing or land, any extra money for buyers would simply cause prices to be further inflated. Other criticisms of the scheme pertain to its administration. Because an application for assistance under the scheme is submitted only when a contract is signed for either purchase or construction, processing time for the application prevents the funds actually being used to bridge the deposit gap. I remind the House that this was the original purpose of the Liberal Party scheme. The timing of the payment of the grant therefore becomes important for the recipient. If an application can be processed without any inquiries having to be made, the funds generally can be made available within two to three weeks. If, however, inquiries have to be made- I remind the House that 70 per cent of all applications are such that inquiries have to be made- it may take several months before the grant is made available.
Extreme limitations placed on the forms of savings of the home buyer are further restrictions on people who are eligible to obtain assistance under the homes savings grant scheme. I shall give a few examples. Only savings held in specified forms such as savings bank accounts and with building societies can qualify. Savings held in Austalian Government bonds, superannuation schemes and employers’ savings schemes do not qualify. Savings held by an ineligible spouse, jointly with another person, or as child endowment in a child’s account cannot be taken into account either. Savings held in another block of land that could not be sold within 6 months of the date of home acquisition also cannot be taken into account. To qualify for a grant a person is required to hold acceptable savings for at least 3 years immediately before the date of home acquisition. Many decisions can be made in 3 years, many decisions affecting a person’s life. There could be a decision to marry and to obtain a home for a family. On average 2 children can be born in 3 years. If people had not started they were out of the race. A pro rata amount is not payable where a person narrowly fails to meet all of the conditions including saving for 3 years, the value amount of $22,500 on a home and the age limit of 36 years.
Rather than being assisted to bridge the deposit gap, home owners would seem to face a barrage of exclusions designed to bring about the ineligibility of the needy.
We hear arguments against the deductibility of mortgage interest scheme. Let us take the matter of cost. It is going to mean increased government expenditure. The cost to taxpayers of the DMI scheme is considerably greater than it is for the HSG scheme. The cost of the DMI scheme for a full year is estimated at $130m compared with a mere $20m paid out under the HSG scheme. There seems to be a contradiction in the argument of the Opposition when it asks for a cut in government expenditure to curb inflation and then turns around and says that we should be doing more to assist people in home ownership.
Can the Opposition rationalise its argument and so perhaps see that what we are doing is spending in socially desirable terms an extra $1 10m so that people can become home owners. If anyone has any distinction to make between the objective of the Opposition and of the Government- I kindly said that both our aims are home ownership- then surely we should be complimented more than the Opposition.
It is argued that the DMI scheme benefits only those who have already overcome the hurdle of saving the deposit and have bought a home. It is impossible to talk about this Bill without realising that it is introduced against the background of the establishment of an Australian Housing Commission that will assist those just above the lower income group- the middle income group- to bridge the deposit gap. It is not a perfect scheme. We do not claim it to be but we claim it to be a far better scheme. Let me give an axample perhaps of where it could be improved. Although the benefit is limited to people with incomes above $14,000 a year, the scheme has a regressive impact in the lower ranges of the income scale; that is, the benefit received by lower income earners is less than it is for higher income earners. This can be seen from 2 tables which I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
– Tables 1 and 2 show tax savings of taxpayers at various levels of income who are making identical interest payments of $1,440 a year; for example, if they were paying interest at 12 per cent on an outstanding debt of $12,000. The tables show that due to the phasing out of the percentage of interest deductibility, the scheme gives less benefit to higher income earners above about $8,000 and cuts out at an income of $14,000. 1 point out that the highest rebate is at the level of average weekly earnings. That is surely an important point to make. Nevertheless, due to the highly progressive nature of the basic tax schedule in the lower ranges, the. DMI scheme is still regressive in the lower income ranges up to about $7,000 a year. For example, the tax saving for a taxpayer on $8,000 a year with 3 dependents is $338.40 compared with a saving for a taxpayer on $5,000 a year in the same family situation of only $ 145. 12. That same example was given by the honourable member for Deakin (Mr Jarman) yet he made no suggestion as to how this scheme could be improved. There must be changes. There can either be changes made in the tax scale which I expect will be made in the coming Budget or we can expect a change in this percentage schedule in the tax savings scheme. At the bottom of the range the scheme gives no benefit to those paying off a house who do not pay tax, such as pensioners whose mortgages are nearing complete repayment. With the abolition of the means test another 30 per cent of pensioners could become eligible for assistance.
The benefit received by a family is not as great as that received by a single person making the same interest payments. This is because the percentage of interest deductible is not affected by family size, it being based on actual income before personal deductions; but the effective marginal tax rate and hence the tax saving of a family is in some cases lower since it has more personal deductions. This can be seen by comparing the benefits going to taxpayers at the same income level in tables 1 and 2. 1 ask the Minister and the Government to examine whether or not we can introduce 2 rates, one for married couples and one for single people. If this is unsuitable, for the purposes of deduction perhaps only one taxpayer need claim, in the same way as one taxpayer claims for the municipal rates on a house. I make those suggestions because on balance by far the new DMI scheme is preferable to the scheme being phased out. It is not perfect and there have been pointed out by the Opposition, quite rightly, a few defects but these can be overcome. Very soon one year will have gone by, an experimental year, and I submit a very successful experiment in determining the best way of assisting those wishing to get their own homes. So I give these suggestions to the Minister hoping that he will take them up. I support the Bill.
-Every few months in this chamber we go through the same pathetic charade performed here by a Government of alleged compassion when all the time the situation facing all people in this community, young people in particular, who wish to purchase their own homes is getting more and more desperate. It has already been pointed out by both Government and Opposition members who have spoken in this debate how building costs are increasing at a high rate day by day because of the effect of inflation. For example, in 1972 an average house cost $22,500; in 1975 it has gone up to $39,000, and if the rate of inflation continues as it is, by 1977 it will be something in excess of $55,000. What has the Government offered us within this incredible situation? We are asked to support a new interest subsidy scheme which, to be charitable to it, is nothing more than a drop in the bucket. It represents a few dollars a week and does nothing to bridge an impossible deposit gap, a gap which is increasing year by year. This is a situation which the Government has shown itself incapable of appreciating. The regrettable fact is that in recent months in particular, aware of the failure of his policies, the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson) has taken every opportunity to fill the media with more and more paper thus taking part in an already well established principle his Government directed at producing paper at a rate commensurate with the decline in the value of the currency of Australia. We have a wonderful combination- increasing inflation, increasing Government paper output and fewer houses being built for more Australian people who want housing. It is simply a formula for a crisis in the building industry and that is the situation we are facing today. We have heard semantic arguments as to whether the new DMI scheme has certain merits over the scheme put forward by the previous Government. What has been completely ignored is the very real fact that the scheme which we introduced in 1964 under the Homes Savings Grant Act was instituted specifically to help people to bridge the deposit gap. It is a gap which is now in excess of $6,000 for a house costing about $25,000. A person would be lucky to find a house for that price. Yet, we are being asked to support a scheme which ignores the reality that young people have difficulty in finding that sort of money. It has been proved by the fact that during the last few years on average people who applied for grants under our scheme had to wait for 3 years before they finally had their first house, in other words, before they had the capacity to build up sufficient funds in addition to the $750 given to them to meet the deposit gap.
Today the situation is obviously worse because since 1964 the rate of inflation has increased so much that any comparison which members of the Government have tried to draw is obviously inaccurate. We are not suggesting for one minute that $750 is sufficient today. But what is quite clear is that if we were living in an ideal world it would be nice to be able to say to the Australian people: ‘You can have both schemes. You can have ours to help you bridge the deposit gap and you can have the present Government’s scheme, which will make a small contribution towards paying your high rate of interest’. Yes, it would be wonderful if we could do that. But, gentlemen, we are on the edge of a national crisis. We are not here just to debate the merits of a few dollars and to say how generous it is that the Government has given $130m towards this fund. This is totally ignoring the reality of the times.
We have a building industry which is grossly under-utilised at the present time, with reserves which have been built up for the last 6 months and which are now not being utilised. We have people leaving the industry daily and we have bankruptcies throughout the land because the Australian building industry today is in a greater state of crisis than has ever been known since the great depression. Because of that it is obvious that any government should do whatever it can to take the necessary action to stimulate the industry and the economy. Unfortunately, we have gone past the stage when merely signing cheques or putting out Press releases and advising everybody of how much the Government is going to do- when in fact it does so little- is sufficient.
The situation is too real and the problems, therefore, have to be taken from the base upwards. The policies which have been put forward by the Opposition to overcome the major problems facing the Australian economy are essentially directed at returning confidence to all sectors of” the community. Until incentive and confidence is returned to Australia there is no way any government, merely by spending more money, will overcome the real problems found in the building industry. The other major problem is, of course, high interest rates. One fact has to be faced in the not so distant future and it is this: The amount of funds that at any one time can be made available for housing obviously has to be limited because the national ‘cake’ is only so large. As has been pointed out in another place there is no such thing as a ‘ free lunch ‘.
The people of Australia, and the Australian Government in particular, have to realise therefore that in view of the fact that we have a limited amount of capital available- whether it is through the Government’s finance arrangements or through banks, building societies and so forth- the time probably is not far distant when consideration will have to be given to the proposal put forward by my Party at the last election, namely, that at the beginning of the period of loan repayments more emphasis should be given to the repayment of interest than to pay off capital. Later on as incomes increase the amount of repayments should grow at a commensurate rate to that of the increase in salaries. At the same time, it can be argued that whereas banks state, for example, that 20 per cent of a person’s gross monthly income should be taken up with capital and interest charges, as borrowers’ salaries increase over a period of years- for the period of the loan in particular- there is a case for step by step increases being made in repayments. Perhaps this would not be a very popular concept. But the fact still remains that the amount of funds available in the Australian economy at any one time to meet the very major problem of housing has to be considered m terms of other competing demands and the realities of the times.
Another major problem the industry and house seekers are facing, therefore, in addition to the question of inflation is the fact that most contracts entered into today contain rise and fall clauses. This is a perfectly responsible attitude adopted by builders but it is not something which can be expected to increase confidence, whether they be private builders, individuals or companies, because nobody can possibly say in 6 months time what the cost will be when at present building costs are increasing by in excess of 23 per cent. It has been pointed out by the honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay) that the Government’s building costs have increased by more than 30 per cent. We have a government which is going out of its way to make more and more funds available specifically for government building, allegedly on the grounds that people should prefer living in rented accommodation to living in their own homes. The Opposition specifically moved amendments to Government legislation some months ago directed at this particular point.
There is no doubt that in terms of the need to maintain mobility of labour there will always be a degree of rented accommodation required in Australia. At the same time, however, the trend over the years has been that Australians prefer to own their own homes. Whether they wish to be called little capitalists or anything else, it is something in which most Australians take pride. No government worth its salt should suggest that the right which was passed on to Australia by succeeding generations should, because of alleged changes of emphasis in building demands mean that people today should not be given the right of home ownership. The fact of the matter is that young people have major problems today in purchasing their own homes.
It is necessary for both the Government and the Opposition to come forward with specific proposals which will overcome these problems. Unfortunately, trends in the industry in recent months, despite the incredible amount of legislation on various aspects of housing which have been introduced by the Government has shown quite clearly that none of them has overcome the major problems. Statistics speak for themselves. I only hope that the Government can come forward with a better solution than that which is contained in this bill.
-In his opening remarks the honourable member for Deakin (Mr Jarman) mentioned that the title of this Bill was a misnomer. I agree with him. I would suggest that the Bill would be more appropriately entitled the Death Knell to First Time Home Seekers Bill. That is exactly what it is and what it will achieve. It sounds the death knell to thousands of people- to young married couples and those intending to get married who want to settle down, raise a family and become decent citizens in this country in any one of thousands of suburbs, towns and settlements.
I believe it is a sinister move by the Government and part of its socialist plan to prevent people from owning their own homes. They will then become less self supporting, less self sufficient and more dependent on the Government. Why this Government wants to kill personal achievement, kill personal effort and kill incentive completely baffles me. This Government has done damage to business confidence and private enterprise and has caused high unemployment. It is encouraging Australians to be lazy. Now it does not even want them to own their own homes. But I will give the Government credit for exposing its policy in relation to housing. This is not another measure recently cunningly conceived and now being thrown upon Australians. It is like so many of the other diabolical measures and policies being perpetrated to the Australian people by the Whitlam socialist Government. The Australian people were not aware of the ways and the evils of this Government. I give the average Australian a great deal of credit for having a lot of native cunning. He is now aware of what this Government is about and he is rebelling against it.
The Labor Party in its philosophy of home ownership, as I said earlier, has been quite open. It stated its policy on 21 August 1973 in the Budget Speech of the then Treasurer (Mr Crean). The then Treasurer said there would be a scheme of tax deductibility of mortgage interest on housing loans to have effect from 1 July 1974. 1 want to go back a little further and refer to the housing agreements with the States. I can well remember in 1973 and again in 1974 the minimum limit of 20 per cent and the maximum limit of 30 per cent which was placed on home ownership. In other words, an emphasis was placed on rental homes. These were the agreements, of course, that the States were forced into. I think this applied with one exception, Tasmania, where the figure was as high as 50 per cent. So this is the philosophy, the policy, the thinking of this Government- to place a great deal of emphasis on rental homes. What is the scheme being replaced with? It is being replaced with a scheme for tax deductibility of mortgage interest on housing loans. The next question I ask is: Who will benefit? Obviously, they will be people with homes. As far as they are concerned this is an admirable scheme. But what about those without homes? I suggest that they are completely disadvantaged with little or no chance of obtaining their homes.
The Homes Savings Grant Act, which has been in operation since 1964, in my opinion has served this nation well. It had its problems. No doubt in the last two to three years, with inflation, particularly under this Government, running at up to 20 per cent now, the figure of $750 should have been increased. But the proposed scheme is discriminatory. This is supposed to be the government that deals out justice to everyone. I suggest that perhaps social justice is its strong point, with emphasis on social. Nevertheless the Government is meting out injustice to so many thousands of Australian people by abolishing this useful Act. Of course people in rental homes will be allowed no deduction. What about the person already purchasing his own home? Of course he will have in-built capital gain as well. There has always been a great Australian dream of owning one’s home. I suggest that it will remain just that-a dream.
I turn now to the effects that this will have on the home building industry, one of the most depressed industries in Australia. The Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson), who is sitting at the table, and his Government are directly responsible for the depressed nature of the Australian building industry. I cite as an example home building in 2 areas of my own electorate of Petrie. The city of Redcliffe for about five or six years had a building rate for new homes of about 600 per year. This is now down to 300 homes. The Pine Rivers Shire, one of the most rapidly expanding shires in Queensland, built 1700 homes in 1972-73. The figure is down to approximately 900 in the current financial year. So what am I going to tell the hundreds and hundreds of young intending home owners in my electorate of Petrie? Inflation has been beating them in the last couple of years and now I have to tell them that this Government has abolished the homes savings grant scheme, so their chances of bridging the deposit gap have now vanished altogether.
The honourable member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh) referred to the Labor Government encouraging insurance companies to put funds into housing. I suggest that with the establishment of the Australian Government Insurance Office there will be little general insurance funds to be placed, particularly of course now that there will be very few homes built. I suggest to the Government that it should have retained this Act, that it should have extended the grant from $750 to a more realistic figure of, say, $2,000 and encouraged young people to save to give them some sort of incentive, which is obviously the very important operative ingredient that today in Australia is so lacking. If it wanted to the Government could retain its tax deductibility scheme in some form. I vehemently oppose this Bill.
– in replyThe legislation is in very simple terms. It is basically and primarily a matter of winding up the Homes Savings Grant Act, which has never been regarded as an Act of high principle by the present Government and was not regarded as such over the years that the present Government was in Opposition. The fact of the matter is that homes savings grants will continue to be paid to young people who commence to save in an acceptable form on or before the prescribed date and who contract to buy or build or commence construction of their homes on or before 31 December 1976. The Bill makes provision for the closing down of the scheme. After the end of December 1976 it allows for another 12 months virtually for the winding up of outstanding applications. It otherwise provides some amendments to facilitate the participation in the scheme by people who use banks in the Territory of Papua New Guinea.
So it is a simple proposition and of course it is certainly not the great and momentous matter in housing that honourable members opposite have tried to give the impression it is. In fact it is an infinitesimal matter and one of extremely limited consequence for home ownership in Australia. The Homes Savings Grant Act was introduced in July 1964 by the Menzies Government, and if my memory serves me correctly, by the Honourable Leslie Bury, the then Minister for Housing. At that time it was disparaged by the Press and by almost anybody who was discerning in the housing industry. The most interesting aspect of the whole thing was that although a limited number of people were eligible under the scheme- in fact the more privileged people were eligible under the scheme- the cost of building and the cost of land seemed automatically to open up to accommodate the increased funds made available through the homes savings grant scheme, not just for the people eligible but for all the others, including those who had no capacity to save at the prescribed rate and the prescribed amounts over the 3-year period. So the scheme obviously was benefiting the more affluent and doing nothing at all to assist people with limited or no saving capacity.
We never regarded it as a scheme worth sustaining. We declared our intention in July 1964 to get rid of it at the first opportunity. In fact the scheme was so loaded with glaring anomalies one would almost need a Queen’s Counsel, a lawyer, legal advice to get into it. Honourable members who have been in this place for some little time would know about the incessant deluge of amendments to the legislation which were necessary to try to make it even a little more tolerable but it has still remained intolerable ever since it was introduced. When one looks at the reasons for the 3,000 to 4,000 rejections under the scheme each year one starts to get some sort of insight into the anomalous nature of it. One of the reasons given is that the value of the home is in excess of the statutory limit. Even at the time the scheme was introduced we had a common statutory limit prevailing all over Australia as though the cost of land is the same all over Australia. Of course it is not. It was not any more then than it is today. For example, as the honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay) could tell honourable members, one can buy a quarter acre block of land in very close proximity to the centre of Adelaide for between $5,000 and $6,000.
– And in Canberra.
-And in Canberra. But in my electorate, the Hughes electorate some 20 miles south of Sydney, one would be lucky to get a block of land for less than $20,000. Yet from the time this scheme was introduced the previous Government had the same limitation applying for the house and land. Of course there are great disparities in the standards of houses and the cost of houses in various parts of Australia, let alone the cost of land. Everybody knows that it is a lot dearer to build a house in Darwin, for example. Everybody knows that one can build a house on stilts with a timber frame in parts of Queensland whereas on the other hand one is often required to build a brick house in Melbourne or in Sydney. So ridiculous anomalies of this kind have prevailed right through the period of operation of the scheme. Another principal reason for rejection of application is that acceptable savings have not been held for the minimum period of 3 years. We know the trouble there. Many young people have not been properly informed and there is a break in their saving period. In fact they were required to have the savings in very carefully prescribed forms of saving. Thousands and thousands of applications over the years have been thrown out as a result of that technical provision.
Another reason for rejection is the failure to meet the 3-year residential requirement. When one looks at the needs of the migrant people coming into this country- their housing problems are probably among the most serious of all- one realises that their problem cannot be assisted until they have been here for 3 years, living in what- a Commonwealth hostel, a tent, a garage? This is an unaccountable situation. The fact is that from 1964 to the end of 1972 the Liberal-Country Party Government put up with these incredible anomalies and probably regarded them as being beyond improvement. If they were not beyond improvement, why was . something not done about them in all that time?
There are a number of other reasons why applications have been rejected- ownership of another home; failure to lodge an application within the prescribed period; being over 36 years of age. What the devil has it to do with anything whether someone has turned 36 years of age? I have been inundated with complaints since I have been the Minister, and certainly during the time I was representing these cases as a back bencher, from people who were older than 36 and who explained to me that they had been required to spend years in the Army and had never been able to settle down in one place and . purchase a home, or had spent years away as a school teacher or a clergyman being posted from one place to another. The honourable gentleman has asked why something is not done about that anomaly and the other anomalies to which I have been referring. Why did he and his Government not do something about it between 1964 and 1972?
Other reasons for rejection of applications were that savings were not held in acceptable form and that home finance was being obtained from Commonwealth subsidised sources. If there . . was an element of subsidy through a housing commission, the applicant would not receive any benefit. It seems to me that the scheme is beyond repair in any case. It is based on an inequitable and unprincipled premise that the Government is bound to give more to those who have more and who can save more than to other people who lack that capacity. This Government wants to get rid of that scheme and replace it, not just by the tax deductibility scheme but also by a whole range of initiatives which it is taking in respect of housing. If one compares the homes savings grant with the scheme of tax deductibility on mortgage interest rates one realises that the former is certainly inferior. For example, the homes savings grant scheme has been involving the Government in the expenditure of about $20m a year. Tax deductibility will run to something like $130m a year. So it is a much bigger scheme in terms of expenditure. The Government will be giving the home purchasing public a lot more through the scheme for tax deductibility on mortgage interest rates.
– Once they get in.
-The honourable gentleman says something to the effect: ‘Once they get into a house you assist them with tax deductibility’. Of course that is the case, but it is a similar circumstance to the one that applies under the homes savings grant scheme because the Government does not give people anything under that scheme until they have entered into a contract to build or buy and until they have clearly demonstrated their capacity to purchase their home. The honourable gentleman says that this is at the expense of people who are paying rent. The homes savings grant scheme did nothing for the people who were paying rent. In fact there is nothing that the Liberal-Country Party Government did in the way of extending consideration to people paying rent. Honourable members will be pleased to know that under the recently established Housing Corporation we will have an opportunity to do something very worthwhile in that regard.
When one looks at the number of people who have been assisted by the homes savings grant scheme on an annual basis- in the vicinity of 40 000 families- one can see that here again the benefit is extremely limited compared with the tax deductibility scheme in that close to 1.5 million famines will benefit, not only once but every year. There is a difference between 40 000 families on the one hand, and 1.5 million families on the other hand. Those who benefited most of all under the homes savings grant scheme received $750. Many of those 40 000 who benefited received much smaller proportions of the maximum amount of $750 that could be made available. Under the tax deductibility scheme there will be a yearly recurring benefit. For example, for a taxpayer earning $7,400 a year with an outstanding building society loan of $15,000 the benefit is likely to be approximately $400 each year. So this is clearly advantageous in many ways.
Under the homes savings grant scheme the grant was paid without regard to the needs of the recipient, but under the tax deductibility scheme there will be a sliding scale. Those who receive no more than $4,000 will receive the maximum benefit. Then there is a diminishing benefit until it runs out at $ 1 4,000. There is no age limit under the mortgage tax deductibility scheme as there is under the homes savings grant scheme. Under the new scheme there is no discrimination against single people as there is under the old scheme. There is no limit in respect to the valuation of a home under the new scheme whereas under the old scheme there is a limit of $22,500 on a home. The homes savings grant scheme provisions are such that the funds made available do not have to have any regard for the need to allocate the benefit for the repayment of a loan. Many people have bought motor cars with the homes savings grant. Others have bought furniture, jewellery, fur coats and aU kinds of things. But the deduction given under the tax deductibility scheme will clearly relate to the home situation.
There are many advantages in this scheme which is only one of the schemes being introduced to assist the home seeking public. We know that there are problems affecting the housing industry and that most of them are the direct product and sequel of the fact that our predecessors, including many of those who sit opposite -
-The honourable gentleman laughs. I am not surprised that he laughs because I do not think he has ever studied the figures relating to the money supply in this country. Can he or the honourable member for Boothby challenge me when I say that in the 10 months preceding the 1972 election the LiberalCountry Party Government increased the money supply by something like 26 per cent, thus forcing a great boom in the housing scene, thus providing a level of money that had no relationship to the availability of manpower and material? Does the honourable gentleman not know that that is the kind of factor that gives rise to stop and go in the housing industry? Honourable members opposite bellyache, cringe and go on here with all their concern about home seekers but they ought to understand that they are responsible for the situation on which the present Government has had to act so that it can redress the situation effectively and bring home ownership within the reach of the people. (Quorum formed). Obviously it hurts when we pin down the responsibility. The honourable gentleman was forced to take away from me some of the limited time I had in which to speak.
I will conclude my remarks by saying that there is a very considerable improvement in the housing industry as evidenced by the complete range of statistics that is now available. I will not cite the figures now except to say that building approvals during March increased by 1 9 per cent over those for the month of February. I believe that savings bank approvals for home building in the March quarter were the highest in the country’s history. Certainly, they were 31 per cent higher than those in the December quarter of last year and 79 per cent higher than those in the March quarter of last year. As a result of the very wide range of initiatives taken by this Government in the housing scene, we are seeing an improvement in the housing situation. It is unquestionably the fact that as a result of substituting the tax deductibility scheme on mortgage interest rates for the homes savings grant scheme and as a result of the Australian Housing Corporation innovation, the benefits of which are yet to be seen, the people who are building or buying a home in Australia will be advantaged considerably. They will also be advantaged by the fact that they have an Australian Labor Party Government on the Treasury bench in Canberra which is prepared to take initiatives in a crisis in contrast to those honourable members who sit opposite and who in every desperate downturn when in government failed to be effective in discharging their responsibilities to the home seeking public. I commend the Bill to the House.
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.
Sitting suspended from 6.3 to 8 p.m.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Les Johnson) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 9 April on motion by Mr Enderby:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Parliamentary Counsel Bill is a very short Bill, but it is an important piece of legislation particularly so far as the operation of this Parliament is concerned. Essentially, the Bill seeks to do 2 things. It defines, the role and the functions of parliamentary counsel and brings the legislative provisions up to date with a factual situation which has existed for several years. The second thing that the Bill does is to transfer ministerial control of the Office of Parliamentary Counsel from the Attorney-General to the Prime Minister. The Opposition agrees with the first objective of the BUI. It is unhappy about the transfer of control of the Office of Parliamentary Counsel from the Attorney-General to the Prime Minister. The Opposition will support the second reading of the Bill and, in the Committee stage, will propose an amendment to the Bill which will deal with the facilities of parliamentary counsel which ought to be made available to private members of this Parliament.
The transfer of control of the Office of Parliamentary Counsel from the Attorney-General to the Prime Minister is, in the view of the Opposition, a bad decision by the Government. It will help to erode the position of the AttorneyGeneral and the traditional role of the AttorneyGeneral as the general legal adviser to the Government. The Opposition does not believe that the Government has given any convincing reason why this change should take place. It has long been the practice in our system of government that general legal advisings and the handling of strictly legal matters are the prime responsibility of the Attorney-General. Within the Attorney-General’s Department there has been developed a natural bias towards the legal nature and the legal operations of government. In the view of the Opposition, it seems to be the natural function of the Attorney-General to have control of the mechanics of law making. The mechanics of law making are the drafting of regulations and ordinances and the legislation of this Parliament. We do not believe that the transfer of control of the Office of Parliamentary Counsel to the Prime Minister will assist this process. We believe that it will create room for friction, for lack of co-ordination and generally will lead to a denigration of the traditional role of the Attorney-General in our system of government. It is a decision which the Opposition, on assuming government, would seek to review.
The other aspect of this Bill about which I wish to speak briefly and which will be the subject of an amendment in the Committee stage of the debate is the provision of facilities within the Office of Parliamentary Counsel for the use of private members of the Parliament in preference to Ministers. I do not think that I would be adding a great deal to the subject matter of the debate on this issue if I repeated a complaint which has been made over the years by successive Oppositions, and quite often by backbench members of Government parties, that there ought to be some special provision for parliamentary draftsmen to assist private members. In saying this, I in no way denigrate the efforts of the Office of Parliamentary Counsel to assist private members. In the short period that I have been a member of the Parliament, the assistance that I have received in this direction has certainly not been found wanting. It has been extremely satisfactory.
The principle nonetheless remains that we ought, if we are putting down in statute form and defining the functions of the Office of Parliamentary Counsel, to give some attention to the question of whether we should specifically provide for facilities to be made available to private members in preference to Ministers. There is no suggestion on the part of the Opposition that the first responsibility of the Office of Parliamentary Counsel should not be to the government of the day. Quite obviously, the government of the day is entitled to have first call on that Office and, quite obviously, the business of government in the drafting of government legislation must occupy the first priority. But without any inconsistency with that principle, there is a very strong argument that can be made out that the efficient operation of this Parliament and a meaningful contribution to the deliberations of this Parliament by back bench members of Government and Opposition Parties could be assisted greatly if the services of parliamentary counsel were made available in the manner envisaged in the amendment to be moved by the Opposition in the Committee stage.
It might be useful if I reminded the House of the attitude of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) to this issue, as he put it when speaking as Leader of the Opposition in the second reading debate on the Parliamentary Counsel Bill 1970. That Bill subsequently was enacted and it is that Act that the Bill now before the House seeks to amend. In the course of his remarks, the Prime Minister- the Leader of the Opposition as he then was- drew attention to the need to provide the sorts of facilities of which I have spoken. He drew attention to the right of private members of this Parliament to have access to parliamentary counsel for drafting requirements and general legislative advice of the nature to which I have referred. In the course of his remarks, he said:
I trust that the Attorney-General in his general supervision of the Office of Parliamentary Counsel will accept the fact that there must be a limit to the extent to which the Government can dominate the services of the parliamentary counsel.
What the Prime Minister was saying was that the Office of Parliamentary Counsel, whilst its first responsibility must always be to the government of the day, also had a general responsibility to the Parliament as a whole. That means Goverment Ministers, Government back benchers and Opposition members. So, there is in Hansard a record of commitment by the Prime Minister, when he was Leader of the Opposition, to the principle that we are asking the Government to accept.
The Bill, as I said at the outset of my remarks, relates almost exclusively to the operation of this Parliament. We will not oppose the second reading of the Bill. We are unhappy about the transfer of ministerial control of this office to the surveillance of the Prime Minister. That is a bad decision, and one that we would seek to review at some time in the future. We ask the Government to give most serious consideration to the amendment that we will propose in the Committee stage of the debate.
-This, in a sense, is an extraordinary measure for the Government to be proceeding with. One wonders why it was introduced. One also wonders why it has been pushed ahead. Why does the Government want to transfer the functions of the office of Parliamentary Counsel to the Prime Minister? I can understand that in the time of the previous Attorney-General there might have been some competition in relation to legislation that that Attorney-General may have wished to bring before Cabinet and legislation that other Ministers may have wished to present. I can understand that that may have given rise to some tension or problem and that the only way to solve it was for the Prime Minister perhaps to take it over, but I just cannot imagine that the Prime Minister has such a problem with the present Attorney-General. Therefore I would suggest that the matter ought to be approached, not on the basis of there being a problem about getting Bills through the Parliament because some matter that has arisen in the course of the arrangement of business between the various Ministers, but on the basis of what is the correct and proper way in which to deal with the matter.
Since the beginning of this Parliament the function of Parliamentary Counsel has been under the control of the Attorney-General. As we know, before 1970 the function was that of the Parliamentary Draftsman. We also know that at one stage the first Solicitor-General and Secretary of the Department of the AttorneyGeneral was also the Parliamentary Draftsman. Over the years these functions have separated, but it was rather obvious from the earliest stages that the Parliamentary Draftsman ought to be a person who is subject to the control of the Attorney-General; and for a very good reason. I am glad to see our parliamentary counsel sitting in the House tonight, because they perform a very valuable service and I think we should take this opportunity to thank them for it. We also know the skill and capacity which they and all the draftsmen who work for them have to bring to bear. The skill and capacity that they bring to bear are basically those of a trained, skilled lawyer.
A parliamentary draftsman, if I may say so, is in a sense different from any other lawyer in government. Most lawyers in government find themselvers ending up in some small area of work. They may move about from time to time, but basically they find their work in one particular area. The Parliamentary Draftsman is not that sort of person. He must have knowledge of the law that extends right across the whole field of government, because from day to day he has to consider questions of differing nature. He might, on one occasion, be dealing with taxation; on another with compensation; on yet another with a matter relating to health. So the task of a parliamentary draftsman is one that covers the whole field of governmental and public law.
This is a very important circumstance when one comes to consider where the role of parliamentary counsel should be. We in the Opposition take the view, as expressed by the honourable member for Bennelong (Mr Howard), that it is best that this function should stay with the AttorneyGeneral. As I said earlier, one can understand that in certain circumstances the Prime Minister might wish it to go elsewhere, but one cannot understand why a busy Prime Minister would want yet another function.
Bills obviously are matters of considerable importance to this Parliament. So far as his capacity allows him, the Attorney-General of the
Commonwealth- a trained, gifted lawyerought to be able to consider the Bills before they are presented to this Parliament, to see whether he can give them the necessary authority which they should have before they are produced to the Parliament. I realise that an Attorney-General is to some extent extremely busy and therefore cannot be expected to look at every clause of every Bill, but at the same time somebody has to be responsible. The First and Second Parliamentary Counsel cannot be responsible to this Parliament. Some Minister has to be responsible, and I believe that the only person who is capable of being so is the Attorney-General. It is just unthinkable that the Prime Minister has the time let alone, if I may say with very great respect, the capacity to be able to consider the various problems that arise in the Bills that have to be brought for consideration by us in this and the other House. So common sense, propriety and ministerial responsibility dictate that this matter should be one to rest with the Attorney-General.
Although this amending legislation will go through, of course it does not follow that the function will immediately transfer to the Prime Minister. We are changing the word ‘AttorneyGeneral’ to ‘Minister’. No doubt there has to be an amendment to the Aministrative Arrangements Order. We would press upon the AttorneyGeneral the need to think again about whether what is being done is the right thing to do in terms of appropriate and proper govern.ment it being the case that whatever brought this about, whatever motivated it, is surely past.
The other matter referred to is the amendment that is to be put by the Opposition to ensure that at least 2 parliamentary draftsmen are available to members, as distinct from Ministers, not fulltime but with priority for members. Members will have first priority on 2 members of the Parliamentary Counsel’s staff. At first thought I must say that I doubted whether this was appropriate, but having given much thought I believe it is a very proper thing for the Parliament to do and a very reasonable thing for the back bench on both sides of this House to ask of the Government. Who better can one quote on this occasion than the Prime Minister himself In 1970 he said:
There must be a limit to the extent to which the Government can dominate the services of the Parliamentary Counsel.
The present Prime Minister said that in the debate on the establishment of the Office of Parliamentary Counsel in 1 970. 1 suggest that it is good authority for the amendment that we are proposing to this House. If the recent steps that are being taken in order to attract parliamentary draftsmen to the field are being prosecuted with all the vigour that they deserve through the Legislative Drafting Institute, then one trusts that soon we will be embarrassed by the number of prospective parliamentary draftsmen. But at least they should produce the necessary 2 people whom one hopes will be able to service the back benches of this Parliament. This is therefore a very proper amendment. It is one that should not intrude too much into the needs of government and one that should find applause, we would hope, from the back benches on both sides of this House.
– There are just one or two short points I would make. I support wholeheartedly the amendment which is to be moved by the honourable member for Bennelong (Mr Howard) to which the honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Ellicott) has just referred. I have had little to complain about in this matter because I have had from the parliamentary draftsmen from time to time a very great measure of help and cooperation. I realise that his time is precious and that the demands upon him sometimes have been quite excessive in relation to the sources of value. I remember, from the time we were in government, that there have been bottlenecks in this House because Bills were not ready. The preparation of a Bill, which may have to go through the scrutiny of the Government, the Cabinet and the Parties, is a somewhat lengthy matter sometimes and the process should not be impeded by lack of drafting skills or we might almost call them legislative skills.
If I may say so, I think that the Government has not done badly in regard to this. The Government probably has improved the position. It is not good enough but it has been improved and perhaps we on this side of the House should not take too much pride in our own performance in this particular matter when we were in Government. I support quite wholeheartedly the amendment which has been moved. I hope it will commend itself to the House. I believe it should commend itself to members on both sides of the House. The function of Parliament as a deliberative and amending body- the initiative of Parliament as opposed to the Government- has not always been recognised as well as it should have been.
Having said that, I advert to one somewhat pedestrian and mechanical matter. One of the troubles in obtaining without delay the services one requires is that the skilled people are not necessarily always available. We should be thinking of ways not merely of attracting to the
Government service people with the necessary basic capacity but also of training people who can undertake these functions. I believe that one of the things that should be done is in conformity with sub-clause (c) of clause 3 of the Bill now before the House which relates to ‘functions incidental to any of the preceding functions’. I suggest that one of the functions which should be carried oat and which is not carried out is the immediate consolidation of Acts which have been amended by this Parliament. This does not require the same high degree of skill as the initial drafting of an Act but it does require some skill and experience. Furthermore, the kind of skill and experience which it would involve is such as would provide a very good training ground for those who have the capacity but come into the service without the necessary experience.
I believe it should be a matter of routine that when an Act is amended by the Parliament then within, shall I say, a fortnight the amended consolidated Act should be available as a reprint. I see no mechanical reason why this should not be done. I know there will be talk of how difficult it would be to achieve. I remember very well when we instituted the daily Hansard and I can remember how I was told, when I made the initial moves for this, that this was technically impossible and could not be done. But it was done and I think that honourable members will agree that the daily Hansard is something which adds very much to the proper workings of this House. So I ask the Government to consider that it should be a matter of routine that, when the Parliament has passed an amending Act, the consolidated Act should be available, shall I say, within a fortnight and it should be available regularly for the benefit, not just of members of this House of Parliament who when they have done their work are more or less finished with that Act, but for the benefit of members of the public who sometimes find it difficult to discover the proper text in the Act and the amending Act.
I think that the present position is better than it was. What I am saying is not meant as any criticism of the Government at all because I believe the Government has made some improvements and things are not as bad as they were; but they are still not good enough and it would be of great advantage to members of the public and the legal profession if they could always have available an up to date consolidated Act showing what the law is rather than having to go to an Act, look at its amendments and try to put the thing together in a kind of jigsaw. I know that very often members of this House receive a copy of a Bill which is brought into the House and which refers to a principal Act. Very often that principal Act is consolidated and members have to have only one document on their desk when they are looking at the Act. However, there are many occasions- some of them have occurred quite recently- where a Bill amends an Act which has not been properly consolidated. In such circumstances it is very difficult, even for a member of this House with experience, to find his way through the maze. I repeat that I do not think the situation is as bad as it was and I think that the Government has made some advances in this regard, but the position is still not good enough.
Finally, Sir, I wish to say something which perhaps is not entirely relevant but it will take only a minute and perhaps you will excuse me. When there is before the House a Bill to amend what is known as a principal Act or a consolidated Act it would be of great convenience to members if at the same time copies of the principal Act were available in the attendants’ box. This would mean that when the matter came before the House it would be possible for those members who wanted to follow what was being done to have always before them a convenient consolidated Act to refer to. I know I have transgressed a little in that regard, but I think you will agree, Sir, that it is not a trangression which is inexcusable.
I support the Bill. I have, as my friend the honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Ellicott) has, some doubts as to whether there is any point in having a new Minister responsible rather than the Attorney-General. I certainly shall support- I hope the Government will accept and members will support it- the amendment that has been moved by the honourable member for Bennelong (Mr Howard). In addition I wish to make the constructive suggestionI hope it is constructive- that one part of the Office of Parliamentary Counsel, in accordance with sub-section (c) of section 3, should be devoted to the immediate consolidation of Acts which have been amended by Bills passed by the Parliament and that these consolidated Acts should, as a matter of routine, be available shall I say within a fortnight of the time of their assent by the Governor-General.
– I am indebted to my colleague, the honourable member for McKellar (Mr Wentworth), for coming in to bat third man down and for carrying the bat so well. As my colleagues have quite rightly said, this Bill is an important improvement but still needs some small amendments. The Bill makes some rather drastic changes in the functions of the Office of Parliamentary Counsel. It removes from the Act any authority now the responsibility of the Attorney-General and vests that authority and responsibility by substituting the word ‘Minister’.
Formal and consequential amendments are proposed to alter the schedule of the Principal Act. Clause 4 (2) proposes to amend section 27 of the Legislative Drafting Institute Act 1974 by omitting from sub-section (3) the word ‘AttorneyGeneral’ and substituting the words ‘Minister for the time being ‘. This is a very loose term in my opinion which allows for a great variety of control. I repeat that the Bill proposes that the words ‘Minister for the time being administering the Parliamentary Counsel Act 1970-1975’ be substituted for the word ‘Attorney-General’. Section 3, of course, is in line with that purpose. I acknowledge that for convenience of many members who from time to time desire to have the expertise of draftsmen effectively to word suggested amendments that are required, some authority has to exercise control of how and when these expert draftsmen can be used.
I also acknowledge that every effort is always made to allow our draftsmen to assist wherever possible. I think that the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) made that point very clear. As a long standing member of this House he would be well versed in the service that is given to members by the parliamentary draftsmen at the will of the Attorney-General’s Department.
– Hear, hear. He is a very good member.
-I am pleased to know that he has some friends.
– Put a bit of life into it, Arthur.
-A11 right. It is my own private opinion that the Attorney-General is the right and proper authority. The majority of amendments moved by the Opposition come from back bench members or people who do not have at their fingertips the expertise which is required.
I was a member of the Subordinate Legislation Committee in the Parliament of Victoria. The role of that committee was to vet all the regulations that went through the Parliament which came under the authority of people who were authorised by legislation to make certain regulations. But the big problem that we had was the one raised by the honourable member for Mackellar; that is, the consolidation of Acts after regulations had been thoroughly vetted, approved and gazetted. Perhaps any drafting alteration should be firmly controlled from one authority. That may sound somewhat contradictory but I am concerned- that the draftsmen whose assistance is so essential to back benchers and shadow Ministers should have one permanent head and not a roving one. The amendment refers to the ‘Minister at the time’. Has anyone defined who the Minister at the time is? The person wanting the amendments drafted might have some difficulty in finding the ‘Minister at the time’. Perhaps I can say that this Bill is a little confusing in its actual concept. Of course, we see great merit in some alteration to it to bring it more into line with modern practice.
The Opposition will not oppose the Bill but wonders why the change is being made when in fact it would seem perfectly logical that the Attorney-General should be the legal authority on legal drafting of legislation or amendments. I do not favour having to look up who is the ‘Minister for the time being’. It is hard enough trying to catch up with the permanent Minister at any time, let alone an unknown one who may be responsible for parliamentary draftsmen. The amendment, of course, is one with which I wholeheartedly agree. I had intended to mention the fact that a pool of draftsmen ought to be available at all times without honourable members having to seek full authority for this assistance. They should be available to assist people who need amendments drafted. The amendment moved by the honourable member for Bennelong (Mr Howard) is a very good one.
The Office of Parliamentary Counsel was originally established by the previous LiberalCountry Party Government with the complete approval of members on the opposite side of the House who were then the Opposition. Already, in order to meet the demands, the Office has been relieved of the responsibility for drafting ordinances and regulations and any work associated with the printing of laws, much of which relates to the Australian Capital Territory. It would be reasonable therefore that the amendment should be carried as it would allow a source of expertise to flow from the 2 additional personnel who would be available. I think that sufficient has been said to indicate that the Opposition sees merit in some of the changes and would welcome the opportunity for the inclusion of the amendment in the legislation.
– In the spirit of this rather unusually friendly debate I offer some suggestions that lie behind the action of the Government and also comment in passing, perhaps not taking too much time, on some of the contributions made by the honourable members who have spoken. I thank honourable members on the opposite side who are my newfound friends. I am not quite sure of the reasons for the warmth in their welcome. They are not always so friendly.
The gist of the matter is quite simple. It should not surprise honourable members that in the overall scheme of things the Parliamentary Counsel, as honourable members have said, performs a most important role. There comes at all times a question of priorities. Perhaps the most important question for any government is that of priorities. Priorities are sorted out in any government, of course, in the cut and thrust of debate, the healthy, warm exchange of views that takes place in a parliamentary party, our Caucus, the Opposition’s party room, the committees that make up the parliamentary Party, the Cabinet and the legislation committee and the other committees of Cabinet. But in the overall scheme of things nothing could be more proper, certainly in my view, than that the Prime Minister should be given the role that is proposed under this amendment. No one can argue otherwise. I certainly do not argue otherwise. I have brought the measure forward.
Some other matters were mentioned. The honourable member for McMillan (Mr Hewson) mentioned the question of the ‘Minister for the time being’. There is nothing novel in that. Indeed it is the correct way to do it. It is misleading to word legislation in any other way. In every Act of this Parliament responsibility is placed with a Minister. The Minister draws his responsibility from the administrative arrangements orders. There is nothing novel in that, nothing strange and nothing unusual. If the honourable gentleman has not been aware of this in the past perhaps I may draw it to his attention. It is unusual to write into an Act an identification or reference to a particular Minister by description; for example, the Attorney-General, the Minister for Police and Customs, the Minister for Housing, the Minister for Foreign Affairs or any other Minister. This is a system that probably could be improved upon because having regard to the flexibility that is necessary to be built into any modern system of government it is desirable to have the means whereby changes can from time to time take place. That has always been the case. It is unusual, it is the exception and not the rule, for one to refer to the Attorney-General or the Minister for Foreign Affairs or the Prime Minister in an Act of Parliament. That is the exception. The rule has always been that the Act refers to ‘the Minister’. This amendment seeks to follow the rule. In that sense it is consistent.
I shall say a few other words on the general importance of parliamentary drafting. No one recognises more than this Government the importance that is attached to the very essential and highly skilled profession of parliamentary drafting or parliamentary counsel. The honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) perhaps inadvertently- I know not- seemed to suggest that we had not made very much progress in relation to the consolidation of the statutes. He conceded that we had managed to improve the situation from what it was when we took office after 23 years of Liberal-National Country Party Government, or neglect. I do not want to be political but he made some grudging admissions. I suggest that we have made far greater progress than he is prepared to concede. When the honourable member talks of consolidation he will recall that the Commonwealth statutes were last consolidated in 1950. It is now 1975. I know that the honourable gentleman agrees with me because I see him nodding. I remember being in practice at the Bar as late as 1969 or 1970 and asking people in the Parliament: ‘Why on earth cannot there be a consolidation of the Commonwealth statutes? What is wrong? They are 23 years out of date’. The cost to a litigant in having his lawyer try to find the law so that he can advise the client on the law is enormous and unnecessarily high. But the answer always came back to me: ‘It is more difficult than you think. It is a very difficult problem. It is very hard. It is over there somewhere but you cannot put it right’. The situation was not put right until we came to government. As the honourable gentleman knows, the consolidation has now begun. Four volumes have emerged and the fifth is about to appear. I understand that there will be about 20 volumes.
For the first time in some 25 years Australians will have the statutes of this Parliament in a single set of books, readily available to anyone who cares to go to a law library. So we have made enormous progress. The honourable gentleman also mentioned the desirability of consolidating an Act, when an amendment has been made to it, within, I think, 2 weeks of the amendment being made. I think that he appreciates- I think the honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Ellicott) mentioned it-the parliamentary counsel, distinguished gentlemen as they are, are in the House listening to the debate.
One of them was good enough to send me a note, and I have no hesitation in reading it out. It is in reply to the point raised by the honourable member for Mackellar. It states that as a practical proposition under present printing conditions it is just not possible to do what Mr Wentworth has suggested, but with the introduction of the new computer system which is now in hand it will certainly be possible and it will be one of the objects of that new system- in other words, press button reprints.
I hope that this will be another achievement in that ever-growing list of achievements of this Government. It should please the honourable member for Mackellar because he is quite right- I agree with him- in pointing out that the law has always been too difficult for people to find. But in the past technology and expense have been a problem. We have managed to overcome this in large measure. I yield to the temptation to say to honourable members when they ask ‘Why can you not do this?’, or ‘Why can you not do that?’, that they did not do that for 23 years. I also say to honourable members opposite that the resources which have to be devoted and which we are devoting to improving and putting right the situation are part of the Government’s expenditure which has to be incurred and which honourable members opposite always abuse us for incurring. Honourable members opposite sit there and ask: ‘Why do you not do something?’ They know that it involves the expenditure of money. We do something we spend the money, and then they criticise us for spending the money. We do the very thing that they want done and yet they will not accept the responsibility for the actions which produce the results which they desire.
I shall not take up much more time. I will not deal with the proposed amendment at this stage. I will speak on it at the Committee stage. The Government will not accept the amendment for the reaons which I shall give then. There are no other matters that I wish to put. I welcome the support from the Opposition for the Parliamentary Counsel Bill. We on the Government side believe that it is an improvement for the reasons which I have given. Overall priorities require that responsibility should rest with the Prime Minister. We believe that to be an improvement. Another matter was touched on by the honourable member for Wentworth. He suggested that perhaps there was some difficulty with my predecessor. I say that that is not the case. My predecessor, Mr Justice Murphy as he now is, or Senator Murphy as he was, was probably the greatest law reformer, the most active and ambitious law reformer, with positive results to show for it, whom this country has ever known. Although the criticism was muted and oblique it was there and it required an answer. This measure flows not from any style or way of Mr Justice Murphy in bringing about the magnificent achievements which he brought about in law reform in Australia.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
Section 3 of the Principal Act is repealed and the following section substituted: ‘3. The functions of the Office of Parliamentary Counsel are-
There is very little that I can add at the Committee stage of the debate to what has already been said. The purpose of the amendment is to provide within the Office of Parliamentary Counsel not less than two of the professional staff in that office to be available to meet the requests of members of Parliament in priority to services which they provide for Ministers. I stress again that in no sense is this amendment to be construed as a reflection on services which have been rendered in the past by members of the Office of Parliamentary Counsel. I emphasise that the services of the 2 persons referred to in the amendment are not to be set aside for use by members of Parliament to the total exclusion of anybody else. I mention that in case it should be thought that the time of these persons might not be fully utilised when private members of Parliament do not have work for them. The force of the amendment is to have the officers made available in priority to calls which may be made on their time and services by Ministers. I commend the amendment to the Government.
– The Government cannot 0 accept the amendment although of course it recognises the earnest desire of backbenchers, of whatever party they belong to, to have additional facilities. Indeed, in relation to that point I do not think it can be denied that this Government has given more facilities to backbenchers than has ever been the case in the past. What honourable members opposite seek now is to have written into a Government measure a requirement that a section of not less than two of the professional staff shall be seconded to draft proposed laws, amendments and instruments at the request of members of the Parliament in priority to services for Ministers. The Government recognises that there are problems in this area and it hopes to put them right. The facilities of parliamentary counsel, as has been conceded by the Opposition, are readily available and are always on offer. That has not been denied and I have not heard any real complaint about it. Whenever I am approached by Opposition members from the back bench or the front bench seeking some kind of access to parliamentary counsel or some drafting assistance, insofar as it is humanly possible we make it available. There are difficulties of which we are aware. For example, there is the question of confidentiality which occasionally poses a possible problem, but it is only a possible problem. So far as I know it has never come to any concrete situation which has caused embarrassment.
It is a problem that calls for a solution but the Government argues that this is not the way to solve it. It may be that the way is to provide drafting assistance for back benchers from any Party- Government or Opposition- outside the Office of Parliamentary Counsel. It may be that parliamentary draftsmen should be attached to the Legislative Research Section of the Parliamentary Library where they would be readily available. I have this under study and have been having discussions for some time with officers from the Office of Parliamentary Counsel to determine the best way to do it, but to write it into the Act in this way would in our view be quite wrong. Circumstances change all the time. The Opposition nominates two professional staff but why not four, or ten? Why not one? The need varies and it does not seem appropriate to deal with the matter in the manner suggested. I suppose I could say that one could not but admire the sense of opportunism of the Opposition Parties in seeing this measure come forward and saying: ‘Perhaps we can wring out some little point’. That may have entered their minds. I do not want to be unkind.
– Do not be ungracious.
– It is suggested that I should not be ungracious, but the smile on the face of my friend indicates that perhaps I am closer to the mark than he is prepared to concede. There may be some gamesmanship of that sort. Underlying it there is, of course, a real need. The Government is aware of it and has instructed parliamentary counsel to be available whenever they can. As one honourable member has pointed out, this Government has made more progress in this regard than any previous government. It was touched on by the honourable member for McMillan (Mr Hewson) when he said that we had separated the drafting work that is done on delegated legislation, on ordinances and regulations, with considerable success because the backlog which we inherited has been reduced. The legislative achievement of the Government is enormous. The record shows it and parliamentary counsel deserve as much credit as anyone. I invite honourable members to look at their tired eyes and their features and to consider the hours they work trying to keep up with the Government ‘s legislative program.
– That is from looking at members of the Government.
-Just look at them. They are sitting behind me. They are very hard working group of men. It is not a glamorous occupation but a highly skilled occupation requiring enormous dedication and scholastic ability. The Government cannot accept the amendment in this form although I give the assurance to honourable members that we have the matter under study. We suggest that the solution probably lies in having draftsmen outside the Office of Parliamentary Counsel because a conflict of interest situation could otherwise arise.
– I am utterly amazed at the audacity of the AttorneyGeneral (Mr Enderby). He recognises the problems but will not even try to correct them. He will not accept the amendment for a whole lot of unreasoned reasons, none of which would stand up to good argument. His attitude is totally inconsistent with his boast that the Government has provided everything that is necessary or more than previous governments did in 23 years and this sort of nonsense. Here we are offering him aU the assistance possible and he is not prepared to accept it. I think the amendment is possibly the best part of the Bill.
-The question is that clause 3 be agreed to.
-I will not detain the House but for a moment. I would like to advert to some of the remarks which the Attorney-General (Mr Enderby) was good enough to make in regard to my previous suggestions. I am sorry that he should have thought I was grudging in what I said about the improvements the Government has made in relation to the consolidation of the Acts. It was not grudging at all. It is natural enough for a Minister always to fear something from the Opposition. Time Danaos et dona ferentes, but in this case I assure the Minister that there is no Trojan horse and the citadel is not worth taking. I wish to put some matters to him. The first is in regard to the drafting skills required by the proposal I have made that there should be always a consolidated Act a fortnight or so after the Parliament has passed an amending Bill. The drafting skills are there and the note from the Parliamentary Counsel which the Minister read a moment ago agrees with my assertion that the drafting skills are there.
Let me make some practical remarks. The amount of drafting necessary and the amount of intellectual work necessary are much less in the case of something which is engaging the attention of the Parliamentary Counsel at the time it goes through the Parliament than it would be if the Parliamentary Counsel had to refresh his memory by looking at something which was done many years or months before. Therefore what I am suggesting is not an increase but a diminution of the total work required. I know that perhaps it would be done at a less convenient time because the Bills are passed when the Parliament is sitting. I take that point, but I still say that on the whole the Parliamentary Counsel has agreed that this can be done. Secondly, this could provide a good kind of training ground and an opportunity for the acquirement by experience of those skills which a parliamentary counsel or draftsman requires. That stands by itself as being self-evident.
Thirdly, the Parliamentary Counsel said that it cannot be done by the Government Printer. He does not talk about the difficulties in his office which he knows are surmountable but says that it cannot be done by the Printer under existing conditions. This I take with a grain of salt and I back my position with some practical experience because I can remember very well when I put up the proposal for a daily Hansard being told that the Printer could not do it, it was absolutely impossible. Yet when I went to the Printer and looked at the machinery that was available it was found that there was a way of doing it. It was done and it has operated successfully. So I take with a grain of salt the statement that it cannot be done with the existing resources of the Printer. The work required is not very much extra. I put that example forward as a complete analogy. This is the kind of statement we heard in regard to the daily Hansard. We heard it falsely then and I am afraid that it is false now. However, it is a matter which becomes of minor importance because when the Minister says that computerisation which is to take place at the Printing Office will reduce the labour required it means that what I am suggesting will be able to be done more expeditiously. If this is to occur very soon, then I am not really trying to press a point which will solve itself in the course of the next few weeks or months. I hope it will not be the next few years. It would be of very great convenience not just to members in this House but also to the people outside who have to use and live by the law if they could rely always on having a complete and consolidated text of Bills and, indeed, of ordinances available to them when they come to perform the offices of their daily business life.
I again ask the Minister to accept my assurances that there was nothing grudging in what I said in regard to the Government’s move to consolidate past Acts. It is, I think, quite wrong that we allowed them to remain from 1950 unconsolidated, although of course, as the Minister would know, many of the more important Acts during that time were consolidated.
I am not talking about history. I am not talking about the consolidation of the Acts which were passed last year or the year before. I am talking about the consolidation of those Acts which are most important to people because they involve something new. If they were not the most important and relevant Acts, then the Government would not be bringing forward amendments to them. It is because they are the Acts that the Government is amending now that it is desirable in every way that these Acts being amended now should be the Acts which are available to people who have to live under and by the law.
Clause agreed to.
Remainder of Bill- by leave- take as a whole, and agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill, (on motion by Mr Enderby) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 6 March, on motion by Mr Enderby:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-Unlike the legislation the House has just disposed of, the Bill that we are now debating has ramifications and a significance far beyond the internal operations of this Parliament. This legislation and the companion legislation to establish the office of an Australian ombudsman are both extremely significant phases in the development within Australia not only of our administration law; they are also momentous events in the evolution of our system of government.
The legislation we are debating tonight and the Ombudsman Bill 1975 are the legislative results of a process which was commenced in 1968 by the Gorton Government when, at the initiative of the then Attorney-General, the honourable Nigel Bowen, a committee styled the Commonwealth Administrative Review Committeelater to be known commonly as the Kerr Committee- was established. This body was given the responsibility of carrying out an investigation into the whole question of the procedures which ought to be made available for the review of ministerial and official administrative discretions and to generally report on and suggest methods by which a review procedure might be established.
No doubt many honourable members have read the report of the Kerr Committee. I am sure they would agree with me that it will go down as one of the most outstanding documents covering this particular subject which has been written in the common law world. The provision of an effective system to review the exercise of administrative discretion has the strong support of the Opposition Parties. I should like to make that clear at the outset of this debate. We are strongly in favour of legislation in this area. We have some severe reservations about the legislation presently before the House. There can be no doubt as to our general attitude towards legislation of this nature and the need to provide a more co-ordinated system for the review of administrative discretions and decisions. Perhaps to enforce this, might I read to the House from the policy statement issued by the joint Opposition
Parties at the time of the May 1974 election in which it was stated:
A Liberal-Country Party Government will establish an ombudsman.
Additionally, it will take all necessary steps to provide an effective means of appeal and redress from administrative decisions of officials and tribunals to ensure that citizens have direct and effective protection against bureaucratic decisions.
It is therefore with some sense of disappointment that the Opposition addresses itself to the provisions of the legislation now under debate. We come into this debate as the Parties which initiated the process which has ended in the production of this legislation. The process was commenced by an Attorney-General of Liberal persuasion. It was initiated by a Liberal-Country Party Government.
A further committee, a Bland Committee, was established in 1971, once again at the initiative of a Liberal-Country Party Government. This time it was the McMahon Government. That Committee was set up to investigate in detail the types of discretions and decisions which ought to become the subject of review by the bodies which had been recommended by the Kerr Committee report. So we come to this debate with a very strong record of action taken to initiate the establishment of an effective system of review of administrative decisions and discretions. In no sense have we been found wanting in this particular area. It is therefore with a sense of some disappointment that we examine the legislation. I shall comment later on the reasons we feel that this legislation is severely deficient in a number of important respects.
Before I do that I should like to deal with another matter. I would not want the House to believe that the support the Opposition so freely gives to the establishment of an effective system of review should be misinterpreted or misunderstood. In no way should that support be regarded as a placid acceptance by the Opposition that a government of any political persuasion in this country has a free rein as the extent to which it may intrude into the lives of citizens, their personal and their business affairs.
There are, in fact, 2 issues involved in this. The first issue is the extent to which Government ought to concern itself in the affairs of the citizens of the country. The second issue is that given that a certain amount of intrusion is necessary, there ought to be established an effective system of review of decisions made by Ministers and officials which affect the ordinary citizens of this country in their daily, personal and business lives.
As to the first of those things, the extent to which a government- be it a government of the persuasion of the present Government or a government of our persuasion- should intrude by regulation or in any other manner into the way in which people conduct their own lives either on a personal or a business basis, is a matter of continuing concern to the Opposition. It will be a matter of continuing scrutiny by the Opposition and will be a matter about which there will always be a very strong difference of opinion and a marked difference of approach between those who sit on the Opposition side of this Parliament and those who currently sit on the Government side.
We are concerned tonight with legislation which seeks to establish a method by which decisions of Ministers and officials can be reviewed. I do not think there would be anybody in Australia who is more cognisant of the extent to which the ordinary personal and business lives of citizens of Australia are being intruded upon by regulations, rules, government action, ministerial decisions and departmental discretion than would the members of this Parliament. I say that without passing any comment on whether such intrusion is necessary. I think there would be no body of people in Australia who are more aware of the extent to which in our complex society our daily lives are so regularly subject to decisions by governments and decisions of agencies of governments. It is therefore of immediate concern not only to the people of Australia but also to the orderly operations of our own lives and occupations that we should be concerned. We ought to bring to this debate a more than usual understanding of the sorts of problems that are encompassed in trying to establish an effective tribunal to review the sorts of things about which we are talking tonight. Members of Parliament, perhaps above aU other, are aware of the sorts of problems that people have with ministerial decisions, the frustrations they experience when they approach a department and ask for the exercise of a discretion in their favour and find that the answer is unsatisfactory. Often they have a sense of great injustice that the decision has been given against them and they have a sense of enormous frustration about not being able to do anything about it.
As the Attorney-General (Mr Enderby) pointed out in his second reading speech, there is no doubt that the need for a tribunal as envisaged by this Bill has become more acute in modern times. There is no doubt, that the complexity of our lives and the extent to which governments regulate and intrude into our lives have certainly increased dramatically since the end of the Second World War. The extent to which this intrusion has occurred has increased and the number of areas of our lives which are regulated by government has become a veritable flood since December 1972. But it would be a mistake to imagine that the need to have the sort of tribunal envisaged by this legislation is a phenomenon of the last ten or fifteen years. Concern has been expressed for decades regarding the extent of the rule and law making power, the extent of administrative discretion vested in Ministers and departmental officials and the need to have an effective method by which these decisions should be reviewed.
Those who have done some study of this area no doubt Will have come across what has become a very well known text on this subject, ‘The New Despotism’, which was written by Lord Hewart in 1 929. The question might well be asked why it has taken so long for countries of our tradition and our experience, and in particular why it has taken so long for this country, to reach the conclusion that the sort of tribunal and the sort of general overall review process which is envisaged in this legislation are necessary. I could perhaps advance a number of reasons but I think the most important reason- in the context of this debate it ought to be understood- that it has taken so long for us to reach this point is that in our system of government, the common law system of government, the Westminster system of government, the reputation of the Public Service has been extremely high.
There are other systems of government in the world where the tradition of an essentially incorruptible Public Service is not taken for granted. Generally speaking it has been the happy experience of our system of government that one can take for granted a Public Service that is essentially incorruptible, a Public Service which most citizens regard as basically trying to do the right thing and a Public Service which over the years has developed a reputation for integrity and fair dealing. So it is in no sense of recrimination against the performance of the Public Service in the history of this Commonwealth that we on the Opposition side say quite clearly and categorically that the need for an effective overall system of review of decisions by public servants is necessary. It is certainly no reflection. It is no indictment of their record over the years. It is no indictment of their integrity or of their efficiency.
Neither should it be thought that to introduce an overall comprehensive system of review of administrative discretions and of departmental decisions will create a climate in which there may be greater inefficiency in the Public Service. Some might think: ‘If you provide a procedure whereby they know their decisions can be appealed against that inevitably will create an attitude of lassitude, an attitude of indifference’. This was an argument to which the Kerr Committee addressed itself in compiling its report. That report argued quite clearly that if a proper balance is achieved between the administrative efficiency and the need to provide for the rights of the individual, an effective review process, so far from leading to inefficiency, will in fact increase efficiency. I shall quote from Lord Hewart’s work ‘The New Despotism’ on this subject. I think it is relevant.
– It is not the latest contribution.
– It may not be the latest contribution but it is relevant to the point we make. It states:
What is likely to be the effect, in the long run, upon the mind of that official if he knows beforehand that any decision which he may give, however unreasonable it may be, and however little capable of being co-ordinated with other decisions given in a similar way, cannot in any circumstances be questioned before a Court? Nobody imagines that he approaches the task with the conscious intention of doing injustice. But it is tolerably obvious that in such a case different considerations may apply from those which would naturally lead up to an extremely careful and wellconsidered system where every decision was made with the knowledge that at any moment both it and the rest might have to be explained and defended in public before an impartial investigator.
I think that is precisely the object of this legislation. Even though those words were written in 1929 they are relevant to the issue to which we are addressing ourselves tonight; that the establishment of an overall system of review in this area will not induce inefficiency, rather it will promote efficiency. It is not in any sense an indictment of the performance of the Public Service or any indictment of its essential integrity, rather it is a recognition of the overwhelming need to achieve a balance between administrative efficiency and the protection of the rights of the individual. It is for that reason that the Opposition is strongly in support of an effective system of legislation in this area.
As honourable members are aware, many avenues of review presently exist. All of us who sit here in this Parliament in a sense represent an avenue of administrative review. All of us make representations in respect of ministerial and departmental decisions. All of us ask the Public Service day by day to change its mind, to exercise its discretion in the opposite direction. All of us seek relief on behalf of individuals. Quite plainly, that is simply not enough- not enough in the sense that we are not doing that efficiently.
The sheer volume and sheer complexity of the issues involved in many ministerial and departmental decisions are such that a far more comprehensive system of review is necessary.
We have also the prerogative writs- the ancient writs which provide methods of obtaining redress against adminstrative excesses, compel administrative bodies to exercise their responsibilities and prevent them from exercising their responsibilities in other circumstances. It is perhaps proper for me to quote very briefly from the report of the Commonwealth Administrative Review Committee, known as the Kerr Committee. In paragraph 58 it deals in general terms with existing courts, principles and remedies available in this field, which include the prerogative writs. The very pertinent and salutary comment was made:
The basic fault of the entire structure is, however, that review cannot as a general rule, in the absence of special statutory provisions, be obtained ‘on the merits’- and this is usually what the aggrieved citizen is seeking.
Plainly, what the aggrieved citizen is seeking is a reversal of the decision. He does not feel that the decision has given him, in plain language, a fango and he is interested in obtaining a review on the merits. It is precisely the absence of an effective system of obtaining review on the merits which above all other considerations demands that there should be an effective system of review.
Honourable members will also be aware that elaborate systems of review exist under certain Acts. I refer by way of example to the Repatriation Appeals Tribunal and the Taxation Board of Review. Honourable members will be aware of many others. In their own limited areas these tribunals and bodies are very effective but they suffer from the comment that was made in the Minister’s second reading speech, that they have grown up in an ad hoc manner, that they are unco-ordinated and that there is a need to provide an overall approach to the whole problem. There is an obvious need to provide a more comprehensive system.
I come more specifically to the terms of the Bill. The approach of the Government has been to establish a tribunal with 3 divisions- a general division, a medical division and a valuation and compensation division. The Opposition has no general quarrel with this. It generally follows the suggestion of the Bland Committee report although that particular report recommended the establishment of 3 separate tribunals. The sense of disappointment in the Opposition, of which I spoke earlier, is most acute in respect of clause 26 of the Bill. Clause 26 says in effect that the Government will not confer any jurisdiction on this tribunal which it has just established; it will merely contemplate the circumstances in which jurisdiction may be conferred on it in the future. That is the clause of the Bill which causes the Opposition the greatest sense of disappointment. After a period of 5 years and 3 reports which have been accepted by experts in this field as being quite outstanding contributions to the general issue- the Bland Committee report provided detailed recommendations of those Acts, regulations, ordinances and so forth which ought to be the subject of this particular piece of legislation- what has the Government done? The Government has established this tribunal and given it absolutely no jurisdiction at all. All it has done is to say that in future the tribunal may hear appeals against decisions made by ministers and departmental officials under legislation passed in the future.
If any honourable member minks that this Bill, when it passes into law, will provide an avenue by which an aggrieved citizen can appeal against an administrative discretion under an existing Act of this Parliament which ought to be the subject of appeal if a person is dissatisfied with the exercise of that discretion, he is totally wrong because there is absolutely no jurisdiction conferred by this Bill. Clause 26 merely says that the tribunal may entertain appeals against decisions made under future legislative enactments. There is absolutely nothing in the language of clause 26 or indeed of any other provision of the Bill which makes it obligatory or mandatory for this Government or any government in the future when drafting legislation to provide for a process of appeal against the exercise of administrative discretions. One does not need to have very much imagination to realise that at some time in the future, no matter what may be the present intention of the Government, a zealous minister who is not very keen on having the exercise of his discretion subject to appeal or review, may make sure that the appropriate provision is not inserted in his legislation.
In the Opposition’s view, this is simply not good enough. Whilst we will not oppose the second reading of this legislation because we support effective legislation in this area, during the Committee stage of the debate we will move comprehensive amendments to clause 26 in order to write into the Bill a schedule which reproduces in very large measure the detailed recommendations of the Bland Committee report as to the areas which ought to be the subject of appeal to the tribunal established by this legislation. It is simply not a good enough performance by this Government after a period of 5 years of the most comprehensive review and investigation to present to this Parliament a Bill which is nothing more than an empty gesture to the provision of an effective system of administrative review. To establish a tribunal and to give it no jurisdiction at all is certainly nothing short of an empty gesture.
Other amendments will be moved during the Committee stage of the debate. They Will be dealt with at length at that stage. But one of them is of particular importance, and that is our proposal that there should be established an administrative review council. This was recommended in the Kerr Committee report. The recommendation was made in the light of an examination by that Committee of the experience of a similar body in the United Kingdom. I think it is proper when reviewing the sorts of institutions that should be established in this area to draw not over zealously but discriminately on the experience of countries which have shared a common system of government. The United Kingdom experience with an administrative review council has been a successful one. It was seen to be a successful one in the Kerr Committee report, and the Opposition supports the establishment of such a body. In general terms, the purpose of the administrative review council will be to provide an on-going reiview of how the Administrative Appeals Tribunal is operating, to keep under constant examination areas of legislation which ought to be added to those which come within the purview of the Tribunal’s operations, and genrally to recommend improvements and alterations to the procedures under which the Tribunal operates.
Quite clearly the Tribunal, if it is given the sort of jurisdiction that the Opposition wants to give it, will be an extremely busy body. If citizens use it in the way that we would hope it to be used it will have quite enough day to day work without having the responsibility of trying to review its own operations. There is a very clear need to have as a companion to the Tribunal a council which can take a very much longer view of the operations of the Tribunal and generally make recommendations to improve its performance. It is also the intention of the Opposition during the Committee stage to move a series of amendments to delete reference to the Superior Court and to transfer the jurisdiction which the Government would hope to be exercised by the Superior Court to the Supreme Courts of the various States.
In summary, I state that the Opposition welcomes legislation in this area. We would welcome the proper fruition of the process which was commenced by a Liberal-Country Party Government in 1968. We see a very clear need in Australia in 1975 to have a comprehensive system of review of the exercise of administrative discretions and decisions. We are extremely disappointed that the Government ‘s legislation falls so far short of the aspirations that many honourable members on both sides of the House must have had when the legislation was introduced. There has been built up in the Australian community an expectation that we would have established an effective system of administrative review. I think it is fair to say that it has been the POliCY of all the major political parties in Australia for a number of years to have an ombudsman and to have an effective system of tribunal review of administrative decisions. It is for that reason that the Opposition will not oppose the motion that this Bill be read a second time. We accept the need for legislation. We are very disappointed at the job that the Government has done with this legislation. We think that it is nothing short of an empty gesture. We hope that the Government will give very serious considerations to the amendments that we propose. The purpose of these amendments is to give the Tribunal some jurisdiction, to get the Tribunal operating once it has been established and therefore meet the need that has been perceived for so long by many in the Australian community.
– I am somewhat diffident at entering this debate when I notice the number of legal luminaries from the Opposition who are addressing themselves to the question. I think that the honourable member for Bennelong (Mr Howard) did himself a disservice in rather overstating the case of the influence of the Party of which he is a member- the Liberal Party of Australia- in introducing this sort of reform. One can understand his desire to boost its flagging fortunes. But I think that in honesty he would have to admit that in dating the origins of the Administrative Appeal Tribunal Bin to just 5 years ago and the action of a LiberalCountry Party government he completely ignores the activity in countries with our system of law and our system of government. I refer to the Canadian, United Kingdom and New Zealand experiences. As a member of a Party that talks about State rights, the honourable member completely ignored the activities that have been carried out by individual Australian States in this area of reform. I say that without much heat because I think the honourable member has done himself a disservice.
In some ways I regret that it was not possible for this Bill and the ombudsman Bin to be considered together in cognate debate. The reasons for such Bills have common origin. I think it worth while to examine some of those origins. What we are faced with is the problems that have occurred with the development of our legal system and the development of our parliamentary democratic system. It has become increasingly obvious with the development of modern technology, the changed way and pace of life and the increasing acceptance on all sides of the welfare state that there has been increasing government involvement in the citizens’ daily life and a dramatic expansion of the Executive ‘s power. In our present way of life our community planning, the developing interrelationships between individuals and between the individual and public bodies, the standards we enjoy could not have been achieved without giving powers to certain public bodies or to have certain controls and rights to protect the community but which of necessity affect individuals. People have come to accept that in certain circumstances their private rights may have to be subordinated to the claims of the community at large. However, it is important to ensure that a citizen who believes his rights have been unduly infringed has the opportunity to have his grievance considered.
The delegation of legislation from the legislature by conferring regulation making powers is another factor. I am constantly reassured that we are adequately protected since such regulations may be disallowed by the Parliament. This has always seemed to me to be a fairly negative procedure and in the absence of positive examination and decision unfair regulations may get through. Of course, in saying that I may be underrating the performance of the Senate Regulations and Ordinances Committee. The honourable member for McMillan (Mr Hewson) in a preceding debate referred to the Subordinate Legislation Committee of the Victorian Par.liament in which members of both Houses of Parliament and of aU political parties examine the regulations as is necessary to ensure that they are properly within the relevant power. Histori.cally the protection available to the citizen against administrative procedures really started with the prerogative writs which the honourable member for Bennelong mentioned, those of mandamus, certiorari and prohibition being the significant ones in this administrative field. While our legal system has shown a considerable ability to modify and adapt, a limit is reached with the prerogative writs. The situation has been reached where the argument becomes not so much whether the administrative act or decision was legal but rather whether the method of review by use of the prerogative writ was or is proper.
The honourable member for Bennelong mentioned another alternative, the appeal through the member of Parliament. This I think is becoming an increasingly impossible task for individual members of Parliament. In Australia, the system of administrative courts and tribunals sprang up on a disorganised basis and grew in an ad hoc manner. It did not occur because our procedures and officials were particularly malevolent; it was a human problem of different interpretations being made by different individuals. Many other countries had parallel experiences in which their development arose out of the British legal system. Other countries whose origins lay in Roman law had a different experience. I quote from ‘Ombudsman’ by Geoffrey Sawer when he deals with the French Council of State. He wrote:
But the theory of separation of powers adopted by the French at the time of the Revolution included a view that the ordinary courts should not be concerned with characteristically governmental acts. The Council of State, an institution inherited from the old monarchy, was used by Napoleon mainly as a means of organizing and controlling the whole field of government administration, both central and local -
Then, amongst other things, Professor Sawer goes on to say:
But since citizens could not take grievances against government, even local government, to the ordinary courts, they petitioned the Council of State for redress. . . .
Under that system, there have developed these judicial tribunals to deal with administrative problems. But unfortunately, because of the differences in the development of our systems, their transplantation is rather difficult.
Despite what the honourable member for Bennelong said- he referred to the Kerr Committee and to the Bland Committee; I am not in any way detracting from the excellence and content of those reports- there has been a wide variety of committees of inquiry into this matter. Indeed, my interest in appeals from administrative decisions and in the ombudsman arose from my membership of a committee of the Victorian Parliament which, in the early 1960s, was entrusted with an examination of these areas. Fortunately, with respect to the work of committees that Parliament was more enlightened than is this Parliament. If it was necessary for a committee of the Victorian Parliament to travel outside Australia to assist its deliberations, it was permitted to do so. This allowed us to meet some of those persons who were concerned in their activities on administrative appeals tribunals and indeed as ombudsmen. So, one could see the development that was occurring in other countries long before 5 years ago which, according to the statement by the honourable member for Bennelong, was when this move started in Australia
For years it was said that concepts such as administrative appeals tribunals or ombudsmen were proposals which oppositions advocated and that governments avoided as they provided a means of overseeing the administrative acts of governments. However, now the barrier is broken. Whatever the honourable member for Bennelong might say, the barrier is broken and action with respect to these matters is being implemented, not only here in the Australian Parliament but in the Australian States as well.
That stage having been reached, I express some regret that this Parliament does not have a proper legislative committee system to a committee of which, comprising representatives of all sides of the Parliament, this legislation could be referred for examination. I am not suggesting that this legislation is perfect in its ambit. I think that matters such as these require prolonged and detailed examination by all honourable members.
I recall being rather impressed in the course of the inquiry I mentioned by a draft BUI from the International Commission of Jurists which, amongst other things, provided: … the President and the Court shall act according to equity, good conscience and the substantial merits of the case, without regard to technicalities or legal forms, and shall not be bound by the rules of evidence but, subject to the requirements of justice, may inform his or its mind on any matter in such manner as he or it thinks fit.
In searching the BUI, I find that there is perhaps some parallel to that provision in clause 33 which provides in sub-clause ( 1 ):
I think that those provisions fall somewhat short of the expression by the International Commission of Jurists. Further, if clause 33 is read in conjunction with the remainder of Part IV, it seems to me that the proceedings could be too rigid and, indeed, rather more orthodox and legalistic than one would have hoped.
I suppose that it is only natural that some of the reservations that will be expressed from both sides of the House have common ground as the sources of information are common. There has been some criticism of the requirement that the presidential members shall be appointed only from persons qualified for appointment to the judiciary. I do not share that reservation as I feel that this would seem essential if the presidential member is to be entrusted with the interpretation in matters of law.
A further criticism has been that the Tribunal’s jurisdiction- the honourable member for Bennelong says that it has no jurisdiction- is limited to those administrative decisions which arise from powers derived from a specific enactment. It has been properly pointed out that there is a substantial body of government programs which provide rights and benefits both to organisations and to individuals which do not arise with the backing of specific legislation. In general, they arise from the ‘Other Services’ or ‘Ordinary Services’ appropriations in the relevant appropriation Acts.
Honourable members will recognise that schemes such as the National Employment and Training scheme- the NEAT scheme- grants in aid to child care centres and so on are examples of these. Of course even with respect to these matters, rules are adopted which define or regulate access to the programs and benefits. But these rules are not of a legislative character and so do not fall within the ambit of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. I would hope that, subsequent to this Bill being passed, action may be taken to correct this apparent lack of flexibility in the matters can be examined.
Another problem is that, although the Bill tries to give an applicant access to as much information as possible, a Minister may, by certifying that the disclosure of the contents of a statement of reasons for decisions would be contrary to the public interest, effectively block access by the applicant to the reasons for that decision. This has always been a grey area not only in the legal field but also in the parliamentary field. I will not examine the proposition in depth but will merely express my uneasy feelings and concern about it. I do however recognise that the Bill is quite helpful to the Tribunal itself in the case of such documents as dealt with in clause 36. It seems to me that there is an evenhanded approach here. It seems to be a halfway house between the Privy Council decision in Robinson v. South Australia and also the House of Lords decision in Duncan
The honourable member for Bennelong mentioned the question of jurisdiction. I think quite another view can be put on this aspect. The honourable member mentioned the large number of existing appeal bodies. I have not had time to count the number that are on the chart which is before me and which I now show to the House- it is extracted from another report- but it seems to me that, in setting up this Tribunal, we would be wise to hasten slowly. We would be wise to provide that future enactments will state the avenues and reasons for appeal. We would be wise to bring over the appeals from past enactments in an orderly manner instead of in a flood. Consequently I cannot support the concept the honourable member puts in that regard, although I regret that the jurisdiction does seem such a blank area at the moment. I am sure that will very quickly be corrected.
The Minister has asserted that in the future the ad hoc appeal tribunals will no longer be constituted except in very special circumstances. One can only say how grateful one is as an ordinary citizen that this is going to occur and that one no longer will have to try to find one’s way through the maze of appeal tribunals that exist to have grievances noted and determined. Hopefully, once the Bill becomes an Act and the Tribunal is in existence, we will have the chance to transfer the functions to it and to build up a body of administrative law which in the process will also give the indications that may be needed for modifications of procedures and practice in this area.
I do not think there is any heat in this matter between the parties in the House. I think what is being done is a logical evolutionary process. Many private citizens wish that the legislation had been introduced long ago. I welcome the Bill and hope in the future to see its successful functioning.
-May I first say how much I appreciate the learned and impressive contribution that the honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins) made. To those who have worked for and urged the adoption of an adequate system of administrative review in federal law this Bill is of tremendous significance. It represents the first major step towards the establishment in the Commonwealth of such a system. The Bill itself finds its origins in the report of the Kerr Committee of August 1971 which the previous Government began to implement. It is a Bill which I believe in part satisfies the aspirations of both sides in this House in their desire to see a comprehensive, modern, streamlined and just system of administrative review.
As has already been pointed out, the Bill has significant omissions. It erects a skeleton tribunal but gives it no flesh. Even so, for those of us who have worked for and waited so patiently for something to be done in this area, it represents a welcome and substantial first step. Yet I apprehend that there are still those on both sides of this House and throughout the Public Service who remain sceptical and unconvinced about the necessity for measures such as this. Some even harbour the supinely archaic thought that this Parliament, through its members and question time is and indeed should be the sufficient protector of the public in its dealings with the Executive. Some would even suggest that to create a right of review with respect to the decisions of bureaucrats is unnecessary and a nuisance when we have a Public Service which on the whole has proved itself efficient, fair and above suspicion. That the Public Service has all these characteristics I would readily agree. I only regret, however, that there are still some who have not understood or openly supported a proper system of administrative review, of which this Bill forms part; for there can be no doubt that in a rapidly increasing Public Service the occasion for ignorance, delay, injustice, inefficiency and lack of humanity to trample upon the rights of our people must with certainty increase. Government increasingly intrudes into every aspect of life and the flood of legislation which is passing through this Parliament creating an immense bureaucracy with awesome discretionary powers over the common man should activate our absolute and complete support for such measures.
It is not the purpose of this legislation to promote litigation between subject and government but to establish the fundamental right of the citizen to have the benefit of the measures which this Parliament enacts by giving the citizen in all proper cases the right to challenge the decision of any public servant or Minister which he thinks wrongly deprives him of that benefit. The mere existence of the right is a palliative to justice and efficiency. It will inform the official that he is under public scrutiny and that inefficiency, ignorance, slothfulness and injustice can no longer be hidden in the bowels of the Public Service, and that if he errs he will be subjected to public review. It will enhance the reputation and integrity of our Public Service, which already stands high. But which of us in this House has not in his duties come across the very ignorance, injustice and inefficiency of which I speak? I faced it myself only last week.
Those who cling to the notion that we parliamentarians can cope with the citizens’ problems in the face of the Executive are deluding themselves. Question time in this House has appeared to me as a new member to be a most ineffective instrument. It is a political exercise used by both sides to gain political points. Seldom will it prove itself a weapon to assist the citizenry in its battle with the Executive. At times it is nothing short of a farce, and for other reasons we should be taking urgent measures to improve it. Questions on notice are also an unsatisfactory means. One only has to look at the questions on notice- over 400 of them, I calculate- dating back to July last that still remain unanswered. Likewise the representations which members make to Ministers, although often satisfied and successful, as I find with the learned Attorney-General (Mr Enderby) sitting opposite, are an inefficient and time consuming process. A critical matter is that at no point can the member or the citizen he represents take any step to correct that human propensity to err, though honestly, which Ministers and the officials they purport to control inevitably possess.
– I have always been very kind.
– I am sure you have. Ministerial responsibility in this area is a high sounding phrase, but with the vast increase in departments and the reluctance of any government to proliferate them, the demands on a Minister’s time and energy are such that this aspect of ministerial responsibility inevitably has a hollow ring. It is becoming a tinkling cymbal. It is impossible for a Minister to be looking over the shoulder of the countless officials whom he controls. The power of Parliament as the grand inquisitor of the realm has long gone unchallenged; but likewise has the limitation of the power of the Parliament to exercise power over the executive. Lord Coleridge said in Howard v. Gosset in 1845: … the Commons are, in the words of Lord Coke, the general inquisitors of the realm … it would be difficult to define any limits by which the subject matter of their inquiry can be bounded . . . they may inquire into everything which it concerns the public weal for them to know.
From as early as the time of Edward III the United Kingdom Parliament freely exercised the function of tendering advice to the Crown upon matters the final determination of which lay with the Crown. The Commons, as the ‘Grand Inquest of the Kingdom’ always regarded itself as entitled to approach the Crown with advice or remonstrance upon all affairs of State and in regard to every grievance under which any subjects of the realm might be suffering.
A resolution of the House of 1784 illustrates the view of the Commons as to its function in this regard. It reads as follows:
That it is constitutional and agreeable to usage for the House of Commons to declare their sense and opinions respecting the exercise of every discretionary power which whether by Act of Parliament or otherwise, is vested in any body of men whatsoever for the public service.
However, the constitutional framework within which this function was exercised is explained by May in his ‘Constitutional History of England ‘. It reads as follows:
Parliament has no direct control over any single department of the state. It may order the production of papers for its information; it may investigate the conduct of public officers and may pronounce its opinion upon the manner in which every function of government has been or ought to be discharged; but it cannot convey its orders or directions to the meanest executive officer in relation to the performance of his duty. Its power over the executive is exercised indirectly, but not the less effectively, through the responsible Ministers of the Crown.
The courts, from the earliest days, also attempted to control the Executive and thus developed the prerogative writs of mandamus, prohibition and certiorari. These are writs of which the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron), who is at the table, has had great experience in industrial matters. These, however, are limited in scope and over time have become encrusted with technicalities. One learned commentator has written:
An imaginary system cunningly planned for the evil purpose of thwarting justice and maximising fruitless litigation would copy the major features of these extraordinary remedies.
The Statute Law Revision Committee- the Victorian Committee- in its report of February 1968 described them with equal admiration. The report states:
In terms of the individual seeking a just solution to his problem, the ramifications of judicial review by these methods are at best frustrating. The salient feature of interest to him in these proceedings- the legality of the administrative act or decision at issue- appears to be subordinate to seemingly endless legal argument as to the propriety of the method of review employed. Such exchanges will involve him in substantial costs and may not succeed in supplying him with a firm solution to his problems. In any case, a judicial consideration of the lawfulness of an administrative act or decision may not always satisfy his real need- a means of reviewing the fairness, adequacy, or impartiality of such an act or decision.
Nobody with any real appreciation and experience of the problems of administrative review would fail to recognise the deep need for parliamentary intervention to establish a simplified yet just and comprehensive system. Parliament, of course, on many occasions has provided for the review of administrative decisions on the merits by establishing specialised tribunals, and reference has already been made to these. At no time, however, was any attempt made to confer a general right of review and as a result many citizens were discriminated against- left remediless unless they were prepared to indulge in a prerogative writ or to seek the intervention of their politician. That system, which prevails until now, just is not good enough.
The Kerr Committee, established by the previous Government, made the first recommendations for a comprehensive system of administrative review in relation to decisions under Federal law. The Committee made 5 major recommendations. First; it recommended the adoption of a simplified system of judicial review to avoid the need for recourse to the prerogative writ. Secondly, it reported that in its view there was sufficient justification for the establishment of a general administrative review tribunal of the character that we have in this Bill. Thirdly, it recommended the establishment of an office called a counsel for grievances who, in essence, was an ombudsman. Fourthly, it recommended a large number of simplified review procedures for adoption. Fifthly, it recommended the establishment of a permanent administrative review council for a number of purposes, including the examination of administrative discretions under Commonwealth law to determine those which were appropriate for review on the merits by a general administrative review tribunal or a specialised tribunal.
The previous Government did not establish a permanent administrative review council but, late in 1971, appointed the Bland Committee to do much the same work. That Committee spent considerable time considering Commonwealth laws and in October 1973 presented its final report, setting out in the schedules already mentioned by the honourable member for Bennelong (Mr Howard) the provisions which it thought could be the subject of review by a general administrative review tribunal. This measure, therefore, implements one major recommendation of the Kerr Committee, namely, the establishment of a general administrative review tribunal. However, as has already been pointed out, the Bill fails to give the tribunal any immediate jurisdiction. What is thought to be substance turns out to be form. The citizen is precisely no better off.
It is reprehensible enough for the Government to have delayed so long since the Bland Committee reported, but to do so and to produce this body without implementing the recommendations made by that Committee after substantial work says little for the Government’s enthusiasm for reform in this area. The Government had final recommendations for an ombudsman within 6 weeks of its coming to office. Yet only now, 2 years and 3 months later, do we see a Bill for an ombudsman. In the meantime we have heard much about an abortive Bill for human rights but the establishment of basic rights for the citizen in his dealing with bureaucracy have been neglected. So the Opposition proposes to seek to amend this Bill in order to give the tribunal effective jurisdiction immediately. Over 100 discretions would then be subject to review.
The Attorney-General’s answer is for his Department to consult with other departments about appropriate matters for appeal. Why the delay? The Bland Committee carried out a long, exhaustive investigation involving other Government departments. I have had enough to do with our Public Service to realise that this suggestion of the Attorney-General could be the kiss of death. I cannot share the optimism of the honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins). With the Attorney-General’s co-operation, we shall do most of the work now.
Another basic and far sighted amendment which the Opposition will press is to establish an administrative review council and so implement another recommendation of the Kerr Committee. This council would consist of officials, including the president, the ombudsman, the chairman of the Law Reform Commission, a senior administrative official and a parliamentary draftsman. It would enable a permanent and informed consideration of the process of adrninistrative and judicial review. It would review further discretions to see whether they were appropriate for review by the administrative appeals tribunal. It would have a small staff to assist it.
There are further steps to be taken to implement much needed reform in this field. We have not yet sighted any measure to improve the procedures and grounds for judicial review. As I have already explained, this is a much needed reform when this, together with the Ombudsman Bill and the present Bill are passed, Australia will have one of the most comprehensive and effective systems of administrative review. We will have caught up with some, and surpassed most other, countries in this field of law and no longer will it be possible to say that bureaucracy will be triumphant.
-The establishment of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal brings to my mind the advantages that have been gained by all-party statutory parliamentary committees in the Victorian Parliament. My mind goes back to the Subordinate Legislation Committee which I mentioned earlier and to the Statute Law Revision Committee of which the honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins) was a member. The Subordinate Legislation Committee filled a very important role in the policing and correction of the regulations made by statutory bodies which had powers to make regulations outside of Parliament. The regulations had to be consistent with the powers conferred on the statutory body and at all times the rights of individuals had to be protected. The Committee had power to scrutinise and report upon any discrepancies. In other words, it was its duty to report adversely only to the Parliament and it was the Parliament itself which dealt with adverse reports.
This Bill establishes a tribunal with independence to deal with appeals against administrative decisions and it could be termed as being consistent with the ombudsman legislation. The Bill lays down quite clearly a list of terms under a variety of headings. The honourable member for Bennelong (Mr Howard) has quite rightly voiced a need for caution in the field of intrusion into the privacy of individuals. I believe that anyone who reads his speech will see that the need for the concern that he has expressed for this legislation is quite clearly spelt out. I believe that a review of the exercise of administrative discretions by public servants is in the public interest and in the interests of the rights of individuals.
The selection of the personnel of the Tribunal ought to be made by an all-party committee so that political bias is completely eliminated. I am not suggesting that a public servant cannot be placed in a position of authority by any one party or government. But in order that political capital is not made or inferred, the appointment could be made by an aU-party committee. Of course, it Will be pointed out by the Government that many of the appointees will be judges and that the Tribunal will have full judicial status. I still say that a tribunal should be made up of completely unbiased personnel. I have just set out the way in which this could be done.
I must admit that if an administrative appeals tribunal is to be effective in correcting any faults in administrative acts it must have a measure of independence. The Bill is somewhat vague in setting out the number of personnel who will be required for the Tribunal. Qualifications for members, other than presidential members, are set out in clause 7 (2). These qualifications are reasonable for such an important role that the Tribunal must play in the protection of the public.
For a long time there has been a need to offer protection as a fundamental right to the individual. Protection from decisions of the public servants who can inadvertantly make mistakes is essential. This Bill should eliminate all of the inadequacies of the continued formality of the Houses of Parliament so well espoused by the honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Ellicott), when he referred to the fallacy of questions without notice and questions on notice. Over a long period we have fallen into a habit of political formality which is not giving beneficial results to this Parliament.
I return to the value of all-party statutory committees consisting of members of both Houses. One of the roles that such a committee could effectively carry out is the appointment of the important members of this instrument of administrative review which is the subject of the legislation now before us. The background to this Bill is sound but it could be improved with a closer interpretation of the Bland Committeee report. We in the Opposition welcome this measure, but we will seek to amend it at the Committee stage to give it more immediate effect. However, we need the co-operation of the Attorney-General (Mr Enderby) to achieve this. As one of my colleagues has something to add to this debate I shall let my time lapse in his stead.
– I thank the honourable member for McMillan (Mr Hewson) for those remarks. This Bill, the Administrative Appeals Bill 1975, together with the Ombudsman Bill, which I understand will be debated by this House in the next week, are, I believe, significant and sensible steps for the protection of individuals in an ever encroaching bureaucratic society. Both these Bills have, as their origin, what is technically known as the ‘Final Report of the Committee on Administrative Discretions Act 1973’. It is more commonly known as the Bland report which was commissioned by the McMahon Government to look into the protection of individual rights. I am pleased that the present Governent is acting upon many of the submissions of the Bland report, but I must express regret that this Bill falls short in a number of respects of the recommendations of the Bland Committee.
In the main, the provisions of the Bill will be a substantial step forward in establishing redress to individuals or non-governmental bodies in the area of administrative decisions. When this tribunal is formed, it will stand together with the existing judicial machinery of our legal system and also the facilities provided by a Federal ombudsman, should he be appointed under what is still the undebated Ombudsman Bill 1975. These 3 institutions will then be available to Australians in the protection of their liberty and the enforcement of their rights.
When introducing this Bill to the House, the Attorney-General (Mr Enderby) explained the connection between the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and the ombudsman, and the broad similarities of the 2 bodies’ jurisdictions and functions. In the case of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal we are dealing with an institution of even greater significance than the ombudsman. In many ways, from the very nature of the position of the ombudsman, certain limitations of scope and operation necessarily exist. But with regard to this Tribunal we are faced with a legislative proposal which does not merely aim at supplementing our liberties, but with one which is aimed actually at altering and adding to our judiciary system in a quite substantial manner.
For those of us who are not by profession lawyers, the subject of administrative law may well be a rather nebulous and unqualified area At present, administrative law consists of the review of discretions which have been bestowed on very many officers and offices both throughout the Public Service and other private bodies. It relates to the organisation, powers and duties of these authorities. Broadly speaking, a discretion exists where an officer or office has power to make decisions within a certain area but precise rules as to what decisions must be made in what precise circumstances have not correspondingly been laid down. In these cases, a discretion or certain leeway exists, and it is within that leeway that a whole range of decisions may be possible. But simply because a leeway of choice may exist as to exactly what decision is finally made in a particular matter does not mean that the decisionmaking process is not subject to certain basic rules. For example, a decision is subject to administrative review when it has become beyond the scope of the power of the decisionmaker. Such decisions should be void for want of jurisdiction.
Under present arrangements, claims and redress under administrative law are dispensed by the Supreme Court of the Australian States. For those in this House who are lawyers, it will be known that in practice this area of law is small, the legal implications of each decision are frequently complex and clumsy, and the process as a whole is costly and especially slow. All these matters which are at present decided through the courts may now be transferred to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal as the first major judicial overseer. Naturally there is provision in this Bill for questions of law to be referred back to the courts for decision.
But besides these matters, the Administrative Appeals Tribunal will also deal with a wide range of other administrative matters which have previously not been heard by the courts owing to particular regulations providing for particular appeal tribunals in special matters. There are many and varied boards of appeal and review which already operate and fall within this category. As the Attorney-General explained, it is intended that the departments within which these presently miscellaneous bodies operate shall in the future be approached by his Department with a view to determining the suitability of transferring their particular functions into the one centralised appeals tribunal.
Personally I can see several general advantages to this intended transfer of administrative questions to a single central tribunal: Firstly, it shall consolidate resources, expertise, experience and knowledge all of which at present are scattered throughout the departments under no easily recognisable pattern and most frequently on a part-time basis. Secondly, it should cut down routine and incidental running costs. Thirdly, it would provide a direct and centralised source of redress for all matters of an administrative nature. Fourthly, as a necessary consequence, it would develop and clarify the principles of administrative law and review. The Tribunal would have the power to affirm, modify, reverse, substitute or return for redecision, any matter upon which an appeal was lodged. Clearly, these powers are wide and substantially more comprehensive than those already existing in the hands of the courts.
The new Tribunal which under this Bill will shortly become the principal body of review would in future be able to proceed directly from its decision on the merits of each case to awarding the most appropriate remedy. Previouslyand as is the present situation- the courts have been hamstrung in their operations in administrative review because of the restrictions on their power and ability to provide remedies which do not first require resort back to the original administrative body from which the cause to appeal arose. This streamlining of the administrative process, through a single appeals body which can both hear the entire question and immediately and without undue delay award the appropriate remedy will inevitably increase the facility to obtain effective judicial redress on administrative questions- which at present is far from assured. These advantages lead one to hope that for the first time in Australian legal history the laws and processes of administrative review will become of some real and practical assistance to the community at large. It is also my hope that the operation of administrative review shall become more efficient and speedy and that its capacity as a source of redress shall become more clearly defined and capable of being understood.
Administrative review is a major area in the law. Yet, owing to the lack of facilities and priority given to it under existing arrangements, in the past it has not had any real significant impact on the Australian community other than upon a selective group of academic lawyers. While supporting the Bill the Opposition is critical of its provisions because it does not spell out completely the power of the Tribunal to the extent which the Bland Committee recommended. I believe the Opposition in the Committee stage will move an amendment designed to do just that.
I believe the step taken by the Government today is one which will effectively bring within the reach of the normal Australian citizen the right of redress in administrative matters. In his daily life, the citizen is affected almost unceasingly by one or other kind of administrative decision. Now, for the first time, he shall win the ability to subject these matters to independent and constantly available review; and, I believe, it shall astound the average person just how extensive in its daily implications this facility for effective administrative redress shall ultimately prove to be.
-Very briefly, in the short time left to the House tonight, may I thank honourable members on both sides of the House who have supported the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Bill or, at least, the broad thrust of the measure. I especially welcome the contribution of the honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Ellicott), who certainly said- conceded, if I may put it that way- that Australia would soon have one of the best systems of administrative law in the world. The Government takes some pride in that fact. While I am on this aspect I should also say that one recognises that the honourable member for Wentworth when Solicitor-General played an honourable and active part in relation to the Kerr Committee report which, in some measure, contributed to this legislation. But one can also sympathise with the efforts of the Opposition to somehow claim that they produced the legislation. One knows that merely instituting an inquiry does not mean that legislation will come about. One saw, through 23 years of neglect, what little legislation of this sort came about.
– That is a little unkind.
– Perhaps so, but it is valid. The record proves that. One can trace the ancestors of the legislation right back to the French conseil d’etat. The French have had this for years. For many years English jurists ridiculed the idea that English law needed a system of administrative law. The early jurists said there was no such thing as administrative law in English common law. The great Dicey said that as much, as strongly and as persistently as anyone. Yet today we know that the average citizen is adversely affected by hundreds and perhaps thousands of administrative discretions exercised by public servants and Ministers through a delegated form of legislation throughout Australia.
The Bland Committee report collects many of these together in perhaps 40 or 50 pages at the end of the report. There are thousands of them, at first impression, and often they are unknown to the ordinary citizen. The ordinary citizen is as vitally affected by the operation of this law as he is by the operation of, say, the criminal law, the motor traffic law, the law of negligence or the law of defamation. He comes vitally into contact with this administrative law and yet, in the past, it has been a hotchpotch. It has been a mess and an area of confusion where lawyers rarely went because few of them understood it and only fools entered. We hope that those days are passing because with the enactment of this Bill a system of rational dispensation of justice for the first time will be introduced into this unfortunate- one might use the word chaotic- system which we have had for so long.
Many people have played a part. I recognised and acknowledged the part played by the honourable member for Wentworth who spoke earlier. Amendments will be proposed by the Opposition. We will accept some of them and we will reject others. In the Committee stage I will move amendments myself. The Opposition and honourable members generally will recognise that in the short time this Government has been in office it has introduced a large amount of legislation. This is a continuing process. It goes on even in the course of the introduction of a Bill. I have no doubt that it certainly will continue when this Bill goes to the Senate. But I welcome the support and the tributes which have been paid by the Opposition in relation to the measure. We can look forward in a short time to a rather historic moment being reached in Australian law.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma.
– It being 10.30 p.m., in accordance with the order of the House of 1 1 July 1974, 1 propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
-Various Parliaments throughout Australia in both the State and Federal spheres have done their best over the years to protect the right of people to vote at elections. However, it is felt that the proposal by this Government to eliminate country polling booths which have not averaged over 50 votes per booth for the past 3 years, is a very serious matter for country people throughout Australia because if this proposal is implemented, and I have no doubt that it will be, many people will be disfranchised. I know that many honourable members in this House who represent country electorates have received notification of the elimination of certain polling booths in their areas. The previous regulation provided for an average of 30 voters over a period of 3 years to constitute an area where a polling booth would be established. The great problem is that many voters in inaccessible areas in the country where the polling booths are to be eliminated could be disfranchised.
In my electorate of Paterson it is proposed to eliminate 19 polling booths. Of those 19 polling booths, 15 of them at the last Federal election showed an increase in voters which brought the number to over 50. First on the list is Dalwood at which 51 people voted at the last election. Dalwood is a vineyard area which is growing. It is in a river situation and could be subject to flooding. At the last election 5 1 voters attended that booth, an increase of 10 per cent over previous years. Howes Valley had 43 voters at the last election. Those who know the geography of New South Wales know that Howes Valley is in a very isolated area between Windsor and Singleton, 45 miles from Singleton and 36 miles from the nearest polling booth at Milbrudale. It is dreadful that the elimination of a polling booth at Howes Valley is contemplated. At Laguna 54 people voted at the last Federal election. This polling booth should not be eliminated. At Killoe in the Merriwa area there were 55 votes cast at the last elections. In this area there is a creek called Bow Creek, and if there is a storm there is no possibility of the votes getting from the Killoe area into the neighbouring town of Merriwa. Rouchel Brook in the Muswellbrook area had 38 voters at the last election. It is situated in a mountainous area which is surrounded by high streams and it needs only a cloud burst or something like that to disfranchise the people in that area. Castle Rock near Muswellbrook had 42 voters, and McCullys Gap and Muscle Creek each had 40 voters. In the Paterson sub-division, Stanhope, situated right on the Hunter River, had 37 voters. If the Hunter River floods, the people are cut off so they too could be disfranchised. In the Scone sub-division, the Thomthwaite polling booth had 49 voters and it needs only a similar happening in that area for the people to be disfranchised. At Carrowbrook in the Singleton sub-division there were 33 voters. To eliminate Carrowbrook could mean that 33 good Australian citizens who would have to travel to town over 19 river crossings were disfranchised.
– What happens when it rains?
– I have already covered that. That is a problem with these mountainous areas. The polling booth at Glennies Creek in the Singleton sub-division had 43 voters and this area is in a similar situation. Maison Dieu and Mitchells Flat have similar problems. Some 743 voters are involved and I feel that the Government’s proposal is an attempt to disfranchise National Country Party voters throughout our nation. As a member of the National Country Party of Australia I, along with my colleagues, protest strongly about this action. I heard this afternoon that the Birdsville polling booth, right in the heart of Australia where the real Aus.tralians live, right in the outback, is to be eliminated. That is a shocking indictment of the people who are supposed to be looking after the voting system of this country.
– What about Sydney?
– I am not worried about Sydney. The people there can look after themselves.
I am concerned about the problems which country people have to face in order to exercise their franchise which has been so valued by them over the years and means so much to them. I am asking that the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly), who administers the voting procedure in the Australian political sphere, treat this matter sympathetically because people in country areas Uke to cast their vote in the same way as do those in the city and they should not be prevented from voting by the elimination of polling booths such as those I have mentioned here. My colleagues in the National Country Party are experiencing exactly the same treatment in their electorates. I ask the Minister to be sympathetic towards our objections which we will make to the various divisional returning officers.
-My reason for speaking tonight is to raise a subject in which I think every member of this House, and in fact every Australian would be interested. I refer to the cost of manufacture of lifesaving and ethical drugs used in this country with particular reference to the system of distribution and price structure, and the profits shown by the companies in their Australian operations. I suggest that a special division of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization be established to investigate the possibility of the manufacture of alternative supplies of these drugs in Australia, and to make an examination of the patent laws to see whether it is advisable to reduce the currency of patents on drugs from 1 6 years to 5 years. I mention also the circumstances surrounding the takeover of Drug Houses of Australia by Slater Walker Securities Ltd. I consider it important to ascertain whether foreign drug companies are engaged in a gigantic rip-off at the expense of Australian taxpayers. The cost of the pharmaceutical benefits scheme in 1972-73, the scheme responsible for the supply of most of the drugs Used in Australia, was $225.3m. The cost of the drugs supplied by the Government to public hospitals was $32m. This is the extent of the rip-off.
The majority of the firms operating in Australia are foreign owned multinationals. There are 36 companies owned by American interests, 30 by British interests, 3 1 by European multinationals and only 52 Australian manufacturers are in the trade. The Americans have 60 per cent of the Australian market while Aus.tralians have only 6 per cent of the total market, and that includes the volume of drugs supplied by the Serum Laboratories Commission. It is now necessary to examine how these multinationals operate within Australia. When the drug thalidomide was produced by a West German manufacturer it was decided to hand over the distribution of the drug to a British international whisky combine, Distillers Corporation.
-Is that a drug?
– My word. What happened then is a story known to every honourable member. The firm with which I next propose to deal is Hoffman-Roche which has its headquarters in Basle, Switzerland. This firm has a monopoly on the production of the two most used tranquilUsers, valium and librium. The firm was investigated by the British Monopolies Commission which reported to the Government that the firm was making excessive profits on its products. The British Minister for Trade and Consumer Affairs decided to take action on the report and ordered the firm to reduce the price of librium by 40 per cent and the price of valium by 25 per cent. The Australian Minister for Health, that distinguished Minister Dr Everingham, has reported to this Parliament that the firm is charging the Australian Government twice the price for these products that it charges the British National Health Scheme. The Canadian Health Scheme is also charged a cheaper rate than Australia.
The firm Hoffman-Roche has recently been in trouble with the Common Market and has been charged with violating the Treaty of Rome. Instead of observing the principle of uniformity in prices, it has been playing one member country off against the other with differential price structures. One of the principals of the firm which supplied the Common Market with information about the practices employed has been sent to gaol in Switzerland on a charge of espionage. That is how tough they play the game. I believe the Australian people should know these facts.
One of the largest of the American distributors is the firm of Parke Davis which specialises in ethical drugs and vitamins. As such it is supposed to observe the ethical code of not publicly advertising its products. But it got around that by retaining chemists in the larger cities to hold talk sessions on radio and television recommending the products by name. Lately they have thrown aU discretion to the winds and have now embarked on a $lm television advertising campaign for Myadec and Paladec. Another large American multinational operates in Australia under the name of Nyal Pharmaceuticals, a subsidiary of Sterling Drugs of the United States of America. In a congressional inquiry into the drug industry, it was shown to own a country-wide chain of drug stores under the name of Liggetts and has a close relationship with I. G. Farben Industries, the German dye trust.
A leading British multinational heavily involved in pharmaceutical, industrial and agricultural chemicals is the firm of Fisons Ltd. Its chairman of directors, Lord Netherthorpe, recently made a world tour to inspect his satellites. He visited practically every country in Europe, and Africa, India, Japan, South-East Asia, Australia and New Zealand.
I now come to the story of the takeover of Drug Houses of Australia by the British conglomerate of Slater Walker. Drug Houses of Australia was formed in 1934 by a merger of the leading pharmaceutical firms in Australia. It included Elliott Brothers of Sydney, which had started in business in 1855; Felton, Grimwade and Duerdins which started in Melbourne in 1867; Taylor and Elliott in Brisbane back in 1873; Bickfords in Adelaide, as far back as 1840; and Fairhomes in Tasmania in 1846. Slater Walker was formed in Great Britain by its two principals, J. D. Walker, known as Diamond Jim, a former executive of the Leyland Corporation, and E. Patrick Walker, the shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs in the House of Commons. That shows that the major political parties in Britain have no objection to their leading members engaging in big business.
Slater Walker set out to establish a conglomerate by taking over businesses in financial difficulty and paying for them with shares issued in Slater Walker. Slater Walker opened a branch in Australia headed by a stock broker, J. M. McAlister. It soon made its presence felt by taking over Australian companies. Amongst them were Wallerawang and Lithgow Valley collieries in New South Wales; Thomas Brown and Sons and Beenleigh Rum in Queensland; Bramac Plastalon and Halifax in plastics in Victoria; and later Don Industries, Beau Monde Hosiery, and Herbert Yates. In 1967 Slater Walker decided to go after Drug Houses of Australia and was successful. At the time DHA had assets conservatively valued at $27m. Slater Walker acquired control of the company by issuing 2.5 million Slater Walker shares for the $12-million worth of DHA shares. Once it got its hands on the organisation, it started its re-organisation in line with the basic philosophy that all that the ailing firms needed was good management.
It dismissed the State branch managers and replaced the board directors with Slater Walker nominees. When the takeover took place the firm had a staff of 6000. By the time they were concluded, the staff had been reduced to 600. They closed down the wholesale operations in Western Australia. Slater Walker changed its name to Slater Walker Securities Ltd, and shortly afterwards to Austmin- Australian Mineral and Mining Corporation Ltd. But things did not work out as promised. DHA instead of making steady profit, started making large losses. In 1967-70, this ran into $10.8m. The British conglomerate also suffered from the liquidity crisis and had to realise on its properties around the world. It sold its Hong Kong subsidiary, Parkes Hawkes, which was tied to its Australian firm.
Shortly afterwards, Slater Walker made its fourth change in name, and is now known as Oakbridge. In the process of selling off its assets, Slater Walker sold one third of its Australian assets to Mr Graham Mapp, who became executive director of DHA and described that firm as a jewel in the crown of Austmin. Now I turn to the way in which the drug trade came to be made independent of overseas control. The way was shown in 1914 at the beginning of World War I. The supply of pain killing drugs was completely controlled by the German Dye Trust, I. G. Farben Industries, which sold its product under the name of Bayer Aspirin.
While the supply of the drug was cut off, Aus.tralians still had their headaches, so a St Kilda, Melbourne, chemist, George Nicholas approached the then Prime Minister, W. M. Hughes, and told him he was prepared to manufacture a substitute in Australia. Hughes agreed to back him, and Nicholas produced the tablet known as Aspro. The subsequent story is one of the romances of the Australian business world. All we need now is more manufacturers like George Nicholas. The first step is to reduce the term of protection for the patents of foreign drugs in Australia from 16 years to a maximum of 5 years. We should also authorise the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories to go into production of the substitutes for the most commonly used life saving drugs.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Before I speak about the matter I wish to raise this evening I would Uke to congratulate the honourable member for Paterson (Mr O’Keefe) for bringing to the attention of honourable members the dreadful business of the closing down of polling booths in country areas.
– What about the honourable member for Hunter?
– I will get to you in a minute. I wish to refer to the closing down of polling booths in outback areas which are out of touch and have no possible alternative voting centre. If that principle is not bad enough, I ask honourable members to consider this: One centre, not in my electorate, due to be closed, is 234 miles away from the nearest polling booth. How on earth are people expected to vote?
– How many people are there?
-There are more than fifty, which is the cut-off mark. Whether this is a political ploy of the Government to stop the right of people in outback areas exercising their vote is a matter of extreme doubt in my mind. If that is not SillY enough, in my electorate the other day I was informed of a polling booth which is to be closed. You will never guess what particular polling booth the Government decided to close, Mr Speaker. I can only think that the Government has advance information which I do not have and which the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) probably does not have. In fact, I suggest that the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) get together with the Minister for Urban and Regional Development and inform him of his action. Believe it or not, Mr Speaker, the Minister for Services and Property has decided to close down the polling booth at Monarto. I do not know whether Albury-Wodonga is to be treated in the same fashion. That is how much faith that Minister has in the future regional growth centre at Monarto in South Australia. The Government has decided to close down this polling centre. I suppose that this demonstrates the complete incapacity of the Government to talk with a uniform voice on anything. I wish to refer to the wine industry later.
If the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and the Treasurer (Dr J. F. Cairns) were in the country at the same time when the Parliament is not sitting we would not hear the muddled statements that we do. Before I proceed any further I should like to refer to the remarks made by the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James). The honourable member for Hunter should wake up, as some other Government supporters have woken up today, to the fact that no one wants to purchase businesses in Australia. There is no use appealing to people and saying that Australian businesses should take over foreign owned com- panies if they could. Nobody wants them. Let us ave a look the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd, a name which is thrown around in many debates in this House. From memory, it does not produce 3 per cent on capital investment. It would be better if it could seU such a business and invest the money in a finance company at 17.5 per cent interest. Some honourable members opposite are starting to wake up to the fact that unless they allow firms to make a profit there will be more business gloom, less private investment flow and more unemployment. I thought that some of the Government supporters had woken up to that fact, but evidently the honourable member for Hunter has not woken up to it.
In his quickly read preamble and historical dissertation, which was most interesting in other ways, the honourable member for Hunter also mentioned the firm of Slater Walker Securities Limited. That brings me to the point of my speech tonight. Many businesses in Australia today are suffering from a chronic cash flow position. Quarterly taxation payments, soaring inflation rates and the replenishment of stock at prices which are going up 25 per cent from one year to the next result in a terribly difficult cash flow position. Big and small businesses are feeling the onus in the same way. The businesses that will go to the slaughter house first are the small ones. Amongst all this conglomerate of problems which are facing the business world and which are forcing gloom, unemployment and retrenchment in the community today, no firms are harder hit than those in the wine industry. This has happened because of the Government’s treatment of this industry during the last 2Vi years. Excise went up 178 per cent in 2 Budgets and the mini-Budget. In addition, sales tax has been levied. The firms in the wine industry are in a chronic cash flow position. I know of one winery today that is paying 8 1 per cent- I repeat 8 1 per cent- of taxable income to the Government. No firm can continue under those conditions.
On another occasion, because it is such a big subject I shall touch on stock revaluation and the damage that that has done to the wine industry. But in the few minutes available to me tonight I shall deal with the problem that is facing these firms. Taxation measures and inflation roaring out of control are doing exactly what Mr Grassby, the previous member for Riverina, Mr Foster, the previous member for Sturt and many other members used to accuse our Party of doing when it was in Government. They accused us of forcing wine firms in Australia into the position of accepting takeover by international companies. The firm of Slater Walker was mentioned tonight. There are in Australia more than 300 wineries and more than 60 distilleries producing brandy at one level or another.
We have today’s inflation rate, a taxation rate that is roaring out of control and stock revaluation. I know of one company that this month has to find the first of 20 instalments over a 5-year period in excess of $500,000. The problem that faces these companies quite clearly is that they go along to the Prices Justification Tribunal and say: ‘We want to put up the prices of our commodity. We may price ourselves out of the market but we have no other way of doing it. We have to find $250,000 or $500,000 for extra taxation on stock revaluation, let alone the 178 per cent increase in excise that has been imposed in 13 months, and the inroads made by imported brandies, largely due to the heavy taxation rate levied on distilleries in Australia ‘.
The Prices Justification Tribunal would say, as I think it probably must say under its terms of reference: ‘You cannot come along here and get a price rise. You are not showing us a cost factor. This has no direct relationship to the cost of production on which you should justify a case for an increase in price. There is nothing we can do to help you out of your predicament’. How on earth will those wineries exist under those circumstances? They could go to the banks and borrow. Some firms have to pay $ 1.5m a year for 5 years. But that money has to be serviced. How is it to be serviced if the price of the end product cannot be increased in order to get a better cash flow position? Quite clearly these firms have been given only several alternatives: They can borrow to try to service that cash, which I think is beyond all possible reason. They can sell, which I think some of them will have to do. As I have already explained in referring to the remarks of the honourable member for Hunter, under the terrible economic conditions facing business today there is mighty little chance for Australian private investment to go into this area. So what do we expect? More Slater Walkers? More overseas domination of an industry that has been traditionally a family one and part of the Australian rural scene for a long while.
The third alternative that must occur to these firms is straight retrenchment. I guess this is the argument that would get home to the Government better than anything else, on past performance. The firms may be forced to retrench. Cannot somebody see that this undue weight of taxation- 81 per cent of taxable income in the case of one company- is quite unreal and that those people, those shareholders, those private companies, no matter what they are, cannot be expected to carry this bundle forever? If this sort of thing goes on the Government most certainly, to use a hackneyed phrase, will kill the goose that laid the golden egg. It is quite inconceivable that the productive sector of the Australian economy can continue to pay for what we on this side of the House regard as irresponsible expenditure in many ways. To continue in this way will dry up the very source of the Government ‘s revenue.
Only the other day the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) gave a grant to a small interest group in my area to carry out a study in the question of whether a certain freeway should go through a certain area. The decision on the freeway was made by the Dunstan Government. The inquiry should have been instigated when the decision was made.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I wish to answer a few of the points which have been made by the Opposition speakers tonight in this debate, namely, the honourable member for Patterson (Mr 0’Keefe) and the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles). Firstly, dealing with the question of the small polling booths that are being closed down in some country areas, I interjected on the honourable member for Angas during his speech. I have not the slightest doubt that with his most acute hearing he could not have failed to hear the interjection on a number of occasions but he did not want to acknowledge it because he knew that if he did it would be noted in Hansard. The point I was making, of course, is that there is nothing to stop any of the people in these areas from obtaining a postal vote. They live the necessary distance away from the nearest polling booth, and presumably they are fully capable of obtaining a postal vote legally and in every other possible respect. Of course we must remember that many of these polling booths were established in the horse and buggy days before the advent of motor cars and decent road systems.
– Why do you not -
-Order! The honourable member for Hume will remain silent.
– It is all right, Mr Speaker. He will be put out at the next election. As I have said, these polling booths were established in the days of the horse and buggy, and accordingly it is only common sense that as road systems and motor transport systems improve the necessity for such booths is no longer so great. Furthermore, honourable members opposite are always talking to us about the need to cut expenditure and costs. One would think that one of the ways to reduce expenditure would be to cut some of the excessive costs of our electoral system. Honourable members opposite cannot have their cake and eat it too. They are forever saying that this Government should cut expenditure. They should not be hypocritical. Every time we try to do something along that Une they are the very people who turn around the holler about it and say that it should not have been done.
I emphasise the point once again to the honourable member for Angas and the honourable member for Patterson that if they are concerned that these Country Party voters or National Country Party voters or National Party voters- I am not sure exactly what it is- cannot cast their votes they should apply for postal votes.
-Order! It being 1 1 p.m. the House stands adjourned until 10 a.m. tomorrow.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Media, upon notice:
How much time was made available to broadcast election speeches or political advertisements by each political party in Australia on radio stations 2K.Y, 2HD, 3KZ and 4KQ in each of the last 10 years.
– The Minister for the Media has provided the following answer to the right honourable member’s question:
I refer the right honourable member to the reply to Question No. 1916(21 April 1975, Hansard pages 1917-1937)
asked the Minister for Science, upon notice: . ( 1 ) With reference to his answer to question No. 7 1 7 of 3 1 May 1973 in which he indicated that his Department and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation undertake activities which bear directly or indirectly on consumer protection, which section or sections of his Department and of the CSIRO are involved in such activities.
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
All Divisions within CSIRO may contribute at one time or another to work which bears directly or indirectly on consumer protection. Groups particularly involved are the Divisions of Textile Industry, Textile Physics, and Protein Chemistry, which together form the Wool Research Laboratories; the Division of Food Research; the National Measurement Laboratory; and the new division of Human Nutrition.
The Metric Conversion and Standards Section acts as a coordinating centre for co-operation between federal and State bodies and commercial organisations on matters relating to consumer affairs.
The activities of CSIRO I have referred to briefly in ( 1 ) above. Enlarging on these for the Divisions which I have detailed, the National Measurement Laboratory is responsible for the Australian standards of physical and electrical quantities, that is to say, standards of length, mass, volume, time, voltage, current, and so on. As well as maintaining the primary Australian standards, the Laboratory offers a calibration service to industry and the Australian and State Government Departments to ensure that measurements throughout Australia are in agreement. The Division’s officers are heavily involved with the activities of the National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA), a body which registers testing laboratories which meet certain specified requirements in terms of equipment, staff and procedures as being competent in the measurement for which registration has been granted. NATA itself receives a Government subsidy through CSIRO.
The Division of Food Research studies factors which affect the quality, preservation, storage and processing of meat and the quality, fermentation and processing of dairy products; and pursues product and process research relating to fruit, vegetables, poultry and fish.
Recently a new food information service aimed specifically at the consumer was established within the Division. The service will answer consumer inquiries and provide a number of free leaflets giving expert guidance on food subjects. The first two leaflets deal with the safety aspect of buying, storing and handling of food in the home, while other leaflets are planned on the art of bulk buying and storing meat, hints on handling milk and dairy products, and how to take advantage of a market glut of oranges.
The Wool Research Laboratories study all aspects of the use of wool. These include dyeing treatments, moth proofing, permanent press, and fire proofing. The work of the Division of Protein Chemistry in relation to flammability has received world-wide recognition, has formed the basis of four Australian standards, and will certainly affect forthcoming international flammability standards.
On 1 January 1975, the Division of Human Nutrition was established. Currently the Division is engaged in research projects commenced in the former Division of Nutritional Biochemistry, relating to the basic biochemistry of nutritional processes. Final decisions on the research programmes to be undertaken will be arrived at after discussions between the Chief, when appointed, and the CSIRO Executive. However, at this stage, the Executive considers that appropriate areas for study might include trace elements, minerals and vitamins; nutritional status and energy metabolism under varying environmental and socioeconomic conditions; the impact of tehcnological and social developments on dietary patterns and nutrient intakes; nutrient values of foods; and biochemical aspects of nutrition in relation to growth and development.
Reference to the reply to pan 1 of the right honourable member’s question will make it clear that because of the varying commitments of CSIRO Divisions to consumer protection activities it is difficult to provide a valid estimate of CSIRO personnel either directly or indirectly involved at any one time.
asked the Minister for the Capital Territory, upon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows: (1), (2) and (3) I refer the right honourable member to the Prime Minister’s answer to Question No. 964 (Hansard, 27 September 1973, pages 1714-1715) in which he drew attention to the impracticalities of attempting to list all the consultations in which departments are engaged with other departments. My Department keeps me properly informed of all important developments- this is a satisfactory procedure for the purposes of my Ministry.
Aboriginals: Accommodation in Townsville (Question No. 437)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice:
What action did the Minister take in reply to the telegram he received from the Mayor of Townsville seeking discussions on the accommodation problems of Aboriginals in Townsville.
– The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has provided the following reply to the right honourable member’s question:
Early last year I visited Townsville and discussed problems of Aboriginal accommodation with the Mayor and other local officials. As a result of these discussions Aboriginal Hostels Ltd purchased ‘Nevitt House’ in Sturt Street to accommodate 40 Aboriginals. The premises are undergoing alteration and renovation and are expected to be fully operational by May 1975. Additional accommodation for Aboriginal people in Townsville is under consideration by Aboriginal Hostels Ltd for inclusion in its 1 975-76 program.
Department of the Capital Territory: Grants for Specific Programs (Question No. 1567)
asked the Minister for the Capital Territory, upon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
1 ) to ( 1 8) The Department of the Capital Territory administers several programs which enable individual groups or people in the community to apply for grants from the Australian Government for a specific purpose. These programs fall into three distinct groups:
Below is a detailed summary relating to each group.
Social Welfare Activities
The Department of the Capital Territory provides financial grants to certain A.C.T. voluntary welfare organisations to enable necessary and adequate welfare services not supplied by the Australian Government to be available to the A.C.T. community.
Grams may be made for capital purposes, for example, to assist with the construction of children’s homes. Such capital grants are on a dollar-for-dollar basis and are provided under the terms decided by Cabinet.
Other grants may be for specific purposes such as the salaries of key personnel in welfare establishments; or they may be for operational assistance for organisations. Grants are frequently recurrent on an annual basis.
All grants require the approval of the Minister after examination by the Department, and are made only to established and effective welfare organisations with a proven need for financial help. The requirement for continuing assistance is assessed on the basis of annual reports, audited financial statements and other information provided by the benefitting organisations.
In assessing applications for grants, account is taken of the self-help efforts by the organisations concerned, and whether help has been sought or is available from other Government Departments and authorities. Liaison with other helping Departments ensures that no duplication of assistance occurs.
Welfare organisations assisted include Canberra Marriage Guidance Council, Civil Rehabilitation Committee, Council of Social Service of the A.C.T, Dr Barnardo’s Homes, Emergency Housekeeping Service, Goodwin Homes Association, Handicapped Citizen’s Association, Marymead Children’s Centre and St Vincent de Paul Society.
During the past three years assistance to such organisations has totalled:
The Department of the Capital Territory receives each year appropriations for making grants to community organisations active in the community recreation field. The grants are made on the basis that the organisation either (a) renders a service of social value which the Department cannot give or (b) renders a service of social value at appreciably less cost than the Department would be faced with. No grants are made to individuals under this scheme.
Grants are made to a variety of organisations including Girl Guides, Boy Scouts, Senior Citizens, Y.M.C.A. etc. These tend to be recurrent and are made each year on specific approval by the Minister after examination by the Department. Grants of this kind have been made for many years past and during the last three years grants have totalled:
No record is kept of organisations or individuals that may have been refused grants in this category.
Grants are also made for the purpose of assisting and encouraging specific cultural activities in the A.C.T. The Minister approves these grants acting on the advice of the Committee on Cultural Development (A.C.T.). This Committee was established in 1949 and one of its chief functions has been to recommend the disbursement of funds amongst applicant organisations; it encourages applications from groups which aim to (i) develop the standard of cultural activity in the A.C.T. (ii) present their work to the public and (iii) increase community interest in and participation in cultural activities.
Application are invited annually through the Press. In addition direct approaches are made to new organisations which may need support and be eligible for grants.
Each application is assessed by the Committee and full financial statements are required together with details of the way in which the applicants propose to spend the funds sought. Audited financial statements are required to account for the use of the funds provided.
During the past three years the following sums have been allocated:
The percentage of successful applicants has been:
Applicants under all categories are required to indicate in writing whether they have applied or intend to apply for financial assistance from other sources, including other Government Departments and Authorities. Information is exchanged with other agencies to preclude duplication of assistance.
asked the Minister for Science upon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
The answer to both parts of this question can be found in my reply to Question No. 264, which also relates to consumer activities.
asked the Minister for .Science, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The following Members of Parliament have enquired about research on this species:
Mr B. Lloyd, M.P., Member for Murray
The Hon. R. McN. Holten, M.P., Member for Indi
Mr A. R. L. Gordon, M.L.A., Member for Murrumbid- gee, on behalf of the Murrumbidgee Valley Water
Users ‘ Association.
There has also been an inquiry from the Murray Valley Development League.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice:
– The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has provided the following reply to the honourable member’s question:
Aboriginals: Housing in Nowra Area (Question No. 1911)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice:
What progress has been made with respect to the provision of housing for Aboriginals in the Nowra area.
– The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has provided the following reply to the honourable member’s question:
In May 1 974 the Company submitted its housing proposal which involved the construction of 74 houses between Batemans Bay and Cobargo at a total cost of $1.8m, the houses to built in stages using Aboriginal labour and programmed for completion in December 1975. In October 1974 the Company sought an immediate grant of $136,656 to construct five houses. My Department, in liaison with the Department of Housing and Construction, is currently examining this proposal.
On 26 September 1974 I approved a further grant of $23,500 for the purchase of plant and equipment, surveyors and architects fees and insurance. Payment was made on 22 October 1974.
The Company has recently submitted to my Department a request for funds to pay progress claims received from its architects and surveyor.
Proposals for stage 1 of its building project house have also been submitted to my Department and the Company is now ready to submit final cost estimates for this stage.
I shall consider each of these submissions in due course.
At present 11 approved applicants are awaiting houses and 6 nouses are under construction.
The 1975-76 Housing Program allows for the construction of a further 2 houses.
asked the Special Minister of State and Minister assisting the Prime Minister in matters relating to the Public Service, upon notice:
Further to question No. 1673, is it the aim of the Government to increase mobility between the Australian Public Service, private industry and State Public Services, particularly mobility in the sense of short term transfers between these areas of employment; if so, what measures have been taken to increase this mobility, and to record the success of efforts to increase the mobility.
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Australian Government believes that it is in Australia’s interest and in the interest of the Australian Public Service itself that there should be greater mobility between the Australian Public Service, private industry and State Public Services.
The Australian Public Service Board has advised me that it is currently examining the general issue of mobility with a view to providing Permanent Heads with more flexibility to arrange short term transfers, secondments and exchanges of staff with private industry and State Public Services.
asked the Special Minister of State and Minister assisting the Prime Minister in matters relating to the Public Service, upon notice:
Further to question No. 1681 concerning the number of positions abolished in Government departments, will he discuss with the Chairman of the Public Service Board a revision of the statistics that are recorded so that information along the lines sought by me might be more readily available.
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Chairman of the Public Service Board has informed me that a review of the nature and extent of the Board’s records on departmental establishment matters is planned in connection with improvements that have been taking place in the processes for providing and using departmental establishments. He has assured me that the practicality of recording the type of information sought by the right honourable member will be examined. If it is not possible to cater for analyses of the type raised in Question 1681 within the limits of a manual recording system, the matter will be given further consideration in the context of planning for the automated MANDATA system the Board is preparing for the Public Service.
asked the Minister for the Capital Territory, upon notice:
What were the administrative costs, including salaries and all related expenses and the rental value of the office space, incurred by the Office of the Commissioner of Housing in the A.C.T., in the most recent year for which statistics are available.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The administrative costs for the financial year 1973-74 for all operations of the Housing Branch, including the Commissioner for Housing operations, are calculated at $1,668,000. This includes office rent, electricity and cleaning costs paid for by the Department of Services and Property but does not include unknown costs of other Departments providing administrative support, e.g. staff recruitment by the Public Service Board and legal services provided by the Attorney-General ‘s Department.
It may be of interest to the honourable member to have some information about the extent of the Government’s contribution to housing in the A.C.T. through the Commissioner for Housing. In 1973-74 the Commissioner for Housing approved more than 2000 loan applications and advanced $24.6m in first mortgage loans to borrowers for the purpose of buying or building houses in the A.C.T. As at 30 June 1974 the Commissioner had 10 793 current mortgages, the outstanding balances of which amounted to $74.5m.
In the same year the Commissioner sold 93 1 houses to tenants for an aggregate amount of $ 17.1m bringing the total number of tenant purchasers to more than 12 000. The amount outstanding on these mortgages at June 1974 was $88.7m.
In addition the Housing Operations Branch had a total of 9688 tenancies at 30 June 1974 and during 1973-74 allocated dwellings to 2083 applicants including priority and emergency allocations.
It is confidently expected that on the basis of current trends the amount to be advanced in 1974-75 by the Commissioner for Housing for loans to buy or to build houses will be even higher than for 1 973-74 and also that the number of new dwellings handed over by NCDC for allocation to tenants will be much higher. At present there are 2997 applicants waiting for family rented accommodation in the A.C.T. The current waiting time is 38 months for a three bedroom house.
As a result of action by the present Government to increase the house building programme in the A.C.T. the waiting time is expected to reduce considerably during the next year or so.
In 1973-74 the Government established a Conveyancing Office to handle conveyancing transactions on behalf of borrowers purchasing dwellings with the aid of Commissioner for Housing loans. The cost of operating this service is included in the overall cost of the services provided by the Commissioner for Housing.
Fees are charged in respect of the conveyancing and loans services and there is an administrative charge included in the rentals of all dwellings so that the cost of the services provided are largely recovered.
asked the Minister for the Capital Territory, upon notice:
What action does he propose to take to overcome the critical shortage of accommodation for tertiary students in Canberra?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Traditionally it has been accepted that the responsibility for accommodating students rests with the tertiary institutions.
Greater forward planning is needed to cope with the demand for student housing and I have asked the Department of the Capital Territory to initiate discussions on development of a future program and future management arrangements.
asked the Minister for the Capital Territory, upon notice:
Will he refer to the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory the issues involved in the development of Sections 7, 8 and 9, Reid, Australian Capital Territory.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
No. There appears to be no reason to refer the development of Sections 7, 8 and 9, Reid, Australian Capital Territory to the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory.
The issues involved such as population density and street closures will be considered in relation to the overall planning for the suburb of Reid, in an effort to ensure consistency with medium density development elsewhere in Canberra.
The National Capital Development Commission and the Department of the Capital Territory have met with representative committees and individual residents of Reid, and also representatives of the Trades and Labour Council and the Low Cost accommodation Committee. Constructive discussion has now reached a stage of agreement where the National Capital Development Commission will soon present a draft brief and subsequently sketch plans to the representative bodies concerned with the development of Reid.
asked the Minister for Science, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
State Departments. Approaches have been made by the following private organisations: North Rockhampton Branch of the Australian Labor Party, Grafton Branch of the Aus.tralian Country Party, Capricornia National Park and Wildlife Preservation Association, and Capricorn Conservation Council.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 14 May 1975, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1975/19750514_reps_29_hor94/>.