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That the Metric Conversion Act be repealed, and that the Government take urgent steps to cause the traditional and familiar units to be restored to those areas where the greatest inconvenience and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 Mr Barnard, Mr Gorton, Mr Bonnett, Mr Coates, Mr Corbett, Mr Drury, Mr Duthie, Mr Hodges, Mr Keogh, Mr Killen, Mr Macphee, Mr Nixon, and Mr Reynolds.
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:
By the ‘National Interests’ provisions of the Bill provide the opportunity for any government to introduce national schemes which should properly be the subject of separate legislation,
Permit unfair competition against private enterprise with inevitable losses met by the taxpayer.
Permit the ultimate acquisition by the Government of the assets of private insurers which include substantial interest in the private sector of the economy.
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 Gorton.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled: The humble Petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
That the insurance industry is already coping with
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House will reject the Bill.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Connolly.
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 Hodges.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that the establishment of an Australian Government Insurance Office will:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives rejects competely the Australian Government Insurance Office Bill 1975.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byMrMacphee.
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 Street.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of the undersigned employees and agents of the Australian insurance industry respectfully showeth:
That Parliament should reject the Bill currently before it to establish an Australian Government Insurance Office.
That while there is a need to establish in Australia a Natural Disaster Fund to provide compensation for property damage and other losses resulting from disasters such as earthquakes, floods and cyclones, such a Fund can be established, as in other countries, using the medium of the existing private enterprise insurance offices.
That a plan for such a Fund was submitted to the Treasury in October, 1974.
That no sound reasons for the establishment of an Australian Government Insurance Office (other than the desire to provide non-commercial disaster insurance and Australian Government competition with private enterprise) has been given by the Government.
That there is already intense competition between the existing 45 life assurance offices and between over 260 general insurance companies now operating in Australia, and that further competition from a Government Office would only be harmful at this time.
That the insurance industry is already coping with
That as taxpayers your petitioners are greatly concerned at the huge costs (far more than the $2 million initial capital and loan funds which it is proposed will be allocated) of establishing an Australian Government Insurance Office.
That as employees and agents of existing insurance offices your petitioners fear for their jobs and their future prospects if the Parliament proceeds with the legislation.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House will reject the Bill.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Clayton, Mr Drury, Mr Jacobi, Mr Riordan and Mr Ruddock.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives assembled. The’ humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That whereas uranium found in vast quantities in Australia is the raw material for the nuclear fission reaction.
And whereas presently assured reserves of uranium in Australia represent a potential production of over 540,000 kilograms of Plutonium 239 if utilised in Light Water Reactors overseas.
And whereas the Maximum Permissible Inhalation of Plutonium 239 is 0.00000025 gram.
And whereas Plutonium 239 is one of the most dangerous substances human society has ever created, causing mutations and cancers.
And whereas there are no methods of safely and absolutely confining Plutonium from the biosphere for the requisite quarter of a million years.
And whereas Plutonium coming in contact with the air forms an aerosol cloud of micron-sized particles, its most dangerous form.
And whereas the export of uranium may return to us as an import of Plutonium particles dispersed in the global environment via the circulation of the atmosphere.
And whereas there are no sure safeguards against the military use of nuclear fission, and the nuclear proliferation represents a prime environmental threat to all forms of life on the only earth available to us.
And that it is therefore an act of self-preservation to demand a halt to all exports of uranium except for bio-medical uses.
Your petitioners humbly pray that the members, in the House assembled, will take the most urgent steps to ensure:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Coates.
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. by Mr Drury.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Australian Government will immediately cease the mining and exporting of Uranium until perfectly safe disposal methods for the radioactive wastes have been guaranteed; will greatly increase expenditure on research into safe clean and inexhaustible sources of energy; and will aid underdeveloped countries in their plea for a fair share of the world ‘s energy resources, while at the same time honouring its obligations to the future of humanity. by Mr Howard.
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. We, the undersigned, citizens of Australia, by this our humble petition respectfully request that the Australian Government make available, either singularly or in co-operation with the State of New South Wales, finance to allow the purchase and dedication as a fauna and flora sanctuary with part reserved for recreational usage that parcel of land known as ‘Black Neds Bay’ being the estuarine swamp and salt marsh at the entrance to Lake Macquarie, New South Wales, together with the land along the southern shore of the entrance to Lake Macquarie to the east of ‘Black Neds Bay’ up to and including the headland known as ‘Reids Mistake’, and your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Morris.
-I give notice at the next day of sitting I shall move:
That this House requires the Government to implement the principle of indexation of income tax rates in its next Budget.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Defence. Will the Minister inform this House of the actual number of combat-ready Army units and formations which Australia could call upon at the present time in the event of an emergency? By ‘combat ready’ I mean units which are fully manned, staffed and trained as units for war.
-The figures that the honourable member has requested naturally are not available readily, in my mind, but I can assure him that they are available in the last Defence report which I tabled in this Parliament. If the honourable member is not able to check the figures himself, I will do so and let him have an answer today.
– I ask the Minister for Minerals and Energy a question. What steps does the Minister plan to assist coal search and coal research, including liquefaction?
-Briefly, the position is as follows: Australia has imputed black coal reserves of the order of 200 000 million tons. The brown coal reserves have not been fully quantified but, as I said yesterday, they are believed to be the world’s largest. It is of the utmost importance that we fully identify and quantify Australia’s black coal and brown coal resources. For that purpose I have in mind the imposition of an excise duty on coal for the purpose of funding a national exploration scheme and also a national entity for the purpose of dealing with coal hydrogenation and the general question of liquefaction of coal.
I might add that in many respects this will be of the utmost importance. It will be necessary for us to co-ordinate and to get into one group the work that has been done by a number of very important national entities. There is a division of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation which has done excellent work in this field. There is another organisation known as the National Coal Research Advisory Committee and yet another known as ACIRL, the Australian Coal Industries Research Laboratories. There are further organisations in different universities which have done good work, but co-ordination is what is required. I might add that in aggregate excellent work has been done in Australia by those individual but disparate groups. I propose to ensure that for the first time we will have a full national undertaking capable of speaking in the name of Australia. As in other fields, we aspire to lead the world.
-Does the Minister for Defence regard the decision to buy the Orion reconnaissance aircraft as an important one? If the honourable gentleman does hold that opinion, does he offer any explanation to this House as to why the decision was announced outside the House when the Parliament was sitting? Further, does the honourable gentleman take the view that such excessive discourtesy should be treated with agreement?
– The shadow Minister for Defence is most indignant, but he will remember that only a few days ago I offered to him a privilege that I gave to his predecessor but which was never accorded to me when I was shadow Minister for Defence in the Opposition for years. I offered to the honourable gentleman the opportunity to be briefed by officers from my Department on any matter relating to defence at any time he should make a request to them except of course on matters of policy. I hope that the honourable gentleman will have the decency to acknowledge this and that this is a privilege which has been accorded to him but which was never given to me.
Let me deal with his question. So far as the long range maritime patrol aircraft are concerned, I made a statement in the House of Representatives in which I acknowledged that the Government had decided to buy long range maritime patrol aircraft. It was a firm commitment. There was no equivocation about that at that time. I said that we would be examining 2 aircraft- the P3C Orion aircraft and the British Nimrod aircraft. As a result of the evaluation by experts from the Department of Defence over a period of 12 months the decision was finally made to purchase the Orion aircraft. I am sure, since it was the unanimous decision of the Defence Force Development Committee, that the honourable member for Moreton would hardly quarrel with the decision of that Committee. As I say, it was a unanimous decision and, also, it was the unanimous request of the Royal Australian Air Force. This Government has made a suitable purchase to increase the fleet of long range maritime patrol aircraft for this country.
-Has the attention of the Minister for Housing and Construction been drawn to reports that the Reserve Bank of Australia has instructed the savings banks to curb their lending for housing? What effect will this have on the home building industry?
-I have seen such a report. In fact, the one I saw was headed: ‘Curb on Home Loan Spreads’. I regard that heading as quite misleading and well away from the facts of the position. What the Reserve Bank of Australia has called for is a stabilisation of the current lending for housing. It has taken the view, in effect, that there is no need for expansion of bank lending to offset the fall represented by the exhaustion of the $150m which was made available to the banks by the Australian Government. It should be realised by honourable gentlemen that in the March quarter the number of loans approved exceeded 54 000 which was the highest level ever, except for that extremely dangerous level which the policies of our predecessors sparked off in 1972-73. The Government has taken a number of initiatives, including the allocation of that $150m through the banking system and also, of course, the change from the 60-40 ratio to the 50-50 ratio. That is an extremely significant input which has contributed to the renewed buoyancy of the housing industry.
We believe that the policies that are now in train are effectively tailored to restore full activity. There are parts of Australia in which there is very little unemployment in the building industry. To impose further money demands in those areas would have disastrous consequences. We are anxious to avoid a return to the problems which we inherited after the election of the Labor Government in 1972. Honourable gentlemen will realise that between 1971 and 1973 the number of loans made available almost doubled; it rose from 135 000 to 245 000. This was the roller coaster process that put the housing industry in very great difficulty. Our predecessors, with a real irresponsibility, took the industry right up the hill, up to the peak, and sent it down the other side. We have had the job of restoring this equilibrium. We are very anxious now to take proper economic measures which will keep the restoration process effectively and properly under way.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Labor and Immigration. Has there been a resistance by New Zealand authorities to the Australian Government’s proposal to introduce some sort of travel document requirement for travel between Australia and New Zealand by citizens of those 2 countries? Will such documentation be required? If so, when will the requirement be introduced?
-This question was raised with me originally in New Zealand in October last year when the New Zealand Prime Minister expressed concern about what he believed to be a possible exodus of Australians across the Tasman seeking employment in New Zealand, thus creating unemployment in that area. I was able to tell him that it is very difficult to get Australians to go from one State to another to look for employment and that they are not likely to go across the Tasman to look for it. Since then I have had talks with the New Zealand Minister for Immigration. His view was that we ought to consider adopting some method of distinguishing Australians and New Zealanders from non Australians and non New Zealanders so that people who are not entitled to the reciprocal benefits which have existed between our 2 countries since 1920 would not be able to get those benefits. If this were done, we would be able to control people who had no right of entry into New Zealand or Australia.
That is to say, people are able to come into Australia and use it as a staging point for entry into New Zealand or, alternatively, people go to New Zealand and then use New Zealand as a staging point to gain entry into Australia. Neither category would be entitled to entry in the normal course of immigration procedures. I have seen reports in newspapers. My Department has checked and we have not found any confirmation of the resistance to which the honourable member refers. The talks which we had were very satisfactory. I cannot recall whether it was I or my opposite number in New Zealand who proposed the idea in the first instance. To the best of my recollection it was he, not I. But I support the idea and the manpower committee of the Caucus supports the idea unanimously. It discussed the matter fully and we will be reporting to the Parliamentary Labor Party on the matter. I was directed to go to New Zealand by resolution of the Caucus and I am required to report back to it. I shall do so.
– Has the attention of the Attorney-General been drawn to the serious financial difficulties of the State legal aid scheme in Western Australia? Is it a fact that the activities of the office may have to be discontinued within a week in the absence of additional funds? What approaches have been made to the AttorneyGeneral? When can some decision be anticipated?
– I thank the honourable gentleman for the question. It draws attention to a continuing problem which exists in many States. It has arisen in Western Australia in recent times. I received a letter from the President of the Law Society in Western Australia drawing my attention to the need for emergency funds over there. It is appropriate that honourable members be made aware of the problems in giving legal aid in this way because this can and does become a kind of bottomless pit. Probably every legal aid scheme in the world faces financial difficulties of this sort. In the case of Western Australia I am happy to let the honourable member know that I sent a telegram to the President of the Western Australian scheme this morning authorising a grant of $50,000 to give emergency relief of the kind which he seeks. It is a matter for some regret that the Western Australian Government does not provide as much assistance as perhaps it should because the Western Australian scheme is essentially the creature of the Western Australian Government. We have received the request for assistance and we have certainly responded with assistance.
I conclude by informing honourable members that this Government was the first Australian Government to give substantial funds for legal aid schemes being operated in Australia. In the Budget $ 12.4m was provided for legal aid, including $2m for Aboriginal legal aid services. As honourable members know the Australian Legal Aid Office was allocated $8. 8m and it began its operations. Of that $8.8m, $3.7m is normally paid by the Office to the private profession which services the various schemes throughout Australia, and $ 1.3m was set aside to assist the various privately operated law society schemes wherever they might have previously existed and where they continue to exist throughout Australia. In the case of Western Australia, its per capita share of that $1.3m was about $90,000. This grant of $50,000 is in addition to that $90,000.
(Dr Forbes having addressed a question to the Minister for Defence)-
-The question is out of order.
– On a point of order, Mr Speaker, I suggest that the question has innuendoes and all the other -
-Order! The question has been ruled out of order.
– Is the Minister for Urban and Regional Development aware of a report that the Australian Government is not keen to provide funds for private development in the city of Knox, one of the Victorian Government’s newly declared preferred development areas? Will the Minister indicate to the House the Government’s policy of co-operation with the Victorian Government to overcome delays in bringing cheaper residential land on to the market in the city of Knox and in other preferred development areas?
-The city of Knox was part of a preferred area suggested by the Victorian Government in 2 programs. One of the programs was the urban land program which is similar to the land commission programs that have been entered into by the Australian Government with other State governments. The second program was a proposal by the Victorian Government that the Australian Government should make available approximately $90m to assist private developers to service land. We advised the Victorian Government that we were unable to make the money available at this stage because, as honourable members know, we have an internal deficit of about $ 1,700m this financial year. Even though we are receiving criticism from Liberal forces- both State and Federal- about our deficit Budget, they are still seeking more funds to increase that deficit. Unfortunately, the backlog in the servicing of urban land in both Sydney and Melbourne places those cities in a difficult position. It has been the policies of the previous Federal Government and the present Victorian Government which have allowed this situation to develop. We have tried to catch up with the backlog of serviced land. This year we have made available about $34m to the Victorian Government to try to catch up with the sewerage backlog. We made approximately $llm available in our first year in office. This had never been done before by an Australian Government.
On the positive side, added to our sewerage program we have been able to enter into an agreement with the Victorian Government to make $ 12.5m available this year to the Urban Land Council which will be able to acquire land in urban areas. In the coming Budget money will be made available to allow that land to be serviced. Under the same program we have made available to the Victorian Government $3.5m for the purchase of open space land on the Mornington Peninsula. We believe that this is the best approach to solve the urban land problem in Victoria in the long term. It will take time because there are no overnight solutions to the backlog of serviced land which occured under the administration of the previous Government and under the present administration of the Victorian Government. It is only this Australian Government that has been able to move into urban areas. In the past, Australian governments have turned their backs on urban communities. They have permitted cities, particularly Sydney and Melbourne, to get into their present bad condition. It was the voters in the cities of Sydney and Melbourne who helped us win the election in 1972. We also increased our vote in May of 1974. Because of the positive policies that our Government has taken not only in relation to land and sewerage programs but also to land use programs and urban public transport programs in these 2 cities, the Whitlam Government will be returned at the next election.
(Mr Lynch having addressed a question to the Acting Treasurer)
-Order! The question is out of order.
- Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The question implies that Ministers would tell an untruth in answer to a question. I think that is quite out of order.
-I have ruled the question out of order. I call the honourable member for Melbourne.
– My question -
– On what basis was my question out of order, Mr Speaker?
-The honourable gentleman will be aware that questions cannot contain matter which normally would be required to be submitted to the House as a substantive motion.
– I cannot hear you, Mr Speaker.
-I suggest that the honourable gentleman might sit down while I address the House. Questions which contain matter which would be required to be put before the House as a substantive motion cannot be addressed to Ministers. The last part of the honourable gentleman ‘s question was, in my opinion, of that nature. I call the honourable member for Melbourne.
– Is the Attorney-General aware of the direct financial links between certain sections of the community -
– What sort of pussy-footing is this?
-I suggest to the honourable member for Gippsland that he might take the trouble to read the Standing Orders. Then he would not have to continue to interject in this House in a very disorderly manner. I ask the honourable member for Melbourne to start his question again.
– Is the Attorney-General aware of the direct financial links between certain sections of the community and the insurance industry? Can he enlighten the House and the people of Australia as to the extent of these financial links and will he take steps to disclose any collusion that might be used in any future campaign?
-Mr Speaker, I do not have any information -
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Speaker. Did you attend to the content of that last question? Surely it would fit exactly within the ruling that you gave on the question asked by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
-Order! It was not possible for me to hear the last question.
Opposition members- Oh!
-Order! I suggest that honourable members on the Opposition side might stop their ‘Oh-ing’ and take note of what I am saying. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition was raising a matter with me while the question was being asked. I am able to listen to only one thing at a time. I ask the honourable member for Melbourne to repeat his question. The AttorneyGeneral will resume his seat.
– Is the Attorney-General aware of the direct financial links between certain sections of the community and the insurance industry? Can he enlighten the House and the people of Australia as to the extent of those financial links and will he take steps to disclose any collusion that might be used in any future campaign?
- Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order.
-Mr Speaker -
-Order! A point of order has been raised.
- Mr Speaker, recalling the ruling -
-Order! The AttorneyGeneral will resume his seat. I call the Deputy Leader of the Country Party.
- Mr Speaker, your ruling a moment ago suggested that there were innuendoes in the question that was submitted by my colleague the Deputy Leader of the Opposition which would require resolution of this House by substantive motion. It was for that reason that you declared his question out of order. The innuendoes contained in the question asked by the honourable member for Melbourne specifically related to allegations made against the insurance industry. I suggest that they are of exactly the same character and, if the question submitted by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was out of order, then equally that submitted by the honourable member for Melbourne should be ruled out of order.
-I suggest that if the honourable gentleman examines the Standing Orders he will see that there is a standing order which clearly outlines those persons against whom reflections cannot be made in questions in the House other than by substantive motion. It does not include a reference to groups or areas of the community.
– It has to be said at the outset that I have no power to require disclosure that would reveal links such as those referred to in the honourable member’s question. But I have been informed that it is on record in this Parliament that in 1972 Federation Insurance Ltd, a prominent insurance company, paid $30,546.04 to the Victorian branch of the Australian Country Party and that in 1973 the same company paid $47,000 to the Victorian branch of the Australian Country Party -
- Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. I draw your attention to standing order 144 which states that questions should not containI use the word deliberately-imputations’. There is no qualification on the imputations relating to individuals as compared with groups. I ask you to reconsider your decision because it is wrong, although I would not move dissent from your ruling.
-I think the right honourable gentleman should have raised that point of order at the time the question was asked. That does not apply to answers.
– It took me a couple of minutes to look it up.
-Order! It is not my responsibility to direct honourable members on these matters, and if I took that standing order literally I do not think any questions at all would be asked in this House. Other matters are involved. I think the question was in order, and I have ruled that way.
-Such payments surely indicate links of the kind that the honourable member has in mind. I am informed that the parliamentary records also show that in 1974, only last year, there was an expectation to pay from that company’s funds to the Victorian branch of the Australian Country Party a sum estimated to be $60,000. 1 also have received information that in Western Australia alone in 1972 and 1974, both election years, the same company publicly presented at Country Party annual conferences cheques for substantial amounts of money.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security. I preface my question by reminding him that he said in this House this week that adopted children who received Medibank cards in the name given by their natural mother and not their present name did so because of neglect to advise the Department of Social Security of the correct name. I therefore ask him: Why would a child adopted 4 years ago, whose present name was advised to the Department of Social Security 4 years ago, whose endowment has been paid in that name for 4 years- this is verified by checking- and who is recorded by the Department of Social Security in that name, still this week get his Medibank card in the christian names given by his natural mother, causing very considerable distress? Will the Minister who has guaranteed confidentiality and secrecy, now tell us where Medibank does get its information, because in this and other cases it did not and could not have got it from Department of Social Security and child endowment records?
– I can assure the honourable member that there is no conspiracy. I put it to him, as a sensible person, that there could be no reason for any conspiracy in matters such as this. The information is in fact taken from the computer magnetic tapes of the child endowment section of the Department of Social Security and transcribed on to magnetic tapes for Medibank purposes- for the distribution of these cards. The christian names, or the given names as we should say because of the plurality of our society -
– What is wrong with the other ones?
– In our society there are many people who are not Christians by choice. Many of them are migrants from non-Christian communities. I hope that the Opposition is not proposing that there should be compulsion about one’s religious views. The given names are the only ones which are transcribed. They are the names which are on the magnetic tapes. I find it impossible to understand how any names but the given names registered on the magnetic tape for child endowment purposes could be transcribed. If the honourable member cares to give me the details I shall certainly have the matter checked up for him.
– I have checked up already.
– I shall check up officially and not in some sort of unofficial back door way.
– That is a reflection on an honourable member.
-That was not meant as a reflection on the honourable member’s integrity, but I do not think that he would have checked at the top level where I shall check. If there is an error, naturally I should be pleased to find out about it in order to ensure that steps are taken to stop it. But I repeat, I do not see how it is possible to get anything but the given names of the children concerned which are used in paying child endowment, because the cheques for child endowment are printed according to processes which use computer magnetic tapes. There is a transcription of the data on those tapes which is used for the identification and distribution of the Medibank cards. I cannot say any more than that. These cases will crop up from time to time. It is most unfortunate, but our experience so far- we have had a couple of such cases and have checked them- is that it is unavoidable and is not our fault.
– I direct my question to the Acting Treasurer. Has the honourable gentleman now been briefed by senior officers of the Treasury about the $2,000m loan affair? Is he aware of the serious concern expressed by the Treasury about the actions of the Minister for Minerals and Energy? Is he prepared to stand aside to allow the Prime Minister to make the Department of the Treasury the scapegoat for this affair? Will he table the files or the appropriate documentation to enable the truth concerning this affair to be established?
– I have no reason to question the integrity of the officers of the Treasury with whom I have worked from time to time. With regard to questions on this matter, I suggest the honourable member either direct them to the Prime Minister or the Minister for Minerals and Energy or await the return of the Treasurer.
-Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to an article in a recent issue of ‘Reveille’, the journal of the Returned Services League, which alleged that Australia is being caught up in a world-wide communist pincer movement? If so, I ask: Did the article assert that the ANZUS Treaty was not worth the paper it was written on, advocate the acquisition of nuclear weapons and support the creation of private armies? Do the Government’s programs envisage that any such measures or attitudes would contribute to the defence of Australia?
– I must confess that it is quite some years since I made ‘Reveille’, the monthly journal of the N.S.W. Branch of the Returned Services League, part of my regular reading. Nevertheless the last issue, the June 1975 issue, was brought to my attention because it was in exceptionally horrendous and irresponsible terms. The honourable gentleman correctly quotes from the journal as far as I remember the article. It is a matter of very great distress to many people who belong to the RSL. I shall have belonged to it for 30 years come August. It is a matter of distress to many of us, particularly those of us who have held office in the RSL when we had more time available to do so, and to those who belong to institutions based upon it, such as the club movement in New South Wales, that a handful of people exploit it in this way. No sensible person could have honestly written this article. The person who wrote it was either not sensible or not honest. The article, of course, is not signed. It covers the whole of the front page except for the usual column by the current State President.
The RSL is one of the great fraternal organisations of this country. The RSL is one of the great charitable organisations of this country. Nevertheless there is a handful of people who can get into positions to manipulate journals published by any organisation. One hardly ever sees ‘ Reveille ‘ when one goes into an RSL club. I have not noticed ‘Reveille’ in the waiting rooms of doctors or dentists. I have not noticed it in private houses. I would imagine that very few people in fact read it. We all know of the fact that if some particularly inflammatory statement is sought on some public issue there is a natural tendency to go to strategists of a generation ago who now hold senior office in the State branches of the RSL.
The honourable gentleman has mentioned some of the allegations. The Government does not believe that Australia ‘s security would be advanced by acquiring nuclear weapons. I notice that nobody on the Opposition side of the chamber disputes my statement in that respect. I take it that nobody in this House -
– We are all disgusted with your statement.
– I beg your pardon?
– We are all disgusted with your statement. It is a gratuitous insult.
– If any honourable member believes that Australia’s security would be advanced by acquiring nuclear weapons I believe he has the obligation to tell the public that that is his view. Again, the article says that the ANZUS Treaty is not worth the paper it is written on. That is not the attitude that my Government takes. I believe that it is not the attitude that is taken by any member of the House. It is not the attitude that is taken by the present or any earlier
United States Administrations or by the leaders of the United States Congress, both sides, both Houses. It is not the attitude of the present Government or former Governments of New Zealand. Finally the article does say, as the honourable gentleman has recalled, that we might have to have private armies in Australia, as people had in the 1930s- some form of New Guard. I heard an interjection from the National Country Party corner of the House- it might have been made by the honourable member for the Northern Territory -
– For heavens sake, make a statement which is true. Tell the truth.
– . . . that seemed to indicate his support for private armies.
-Order! I suggest to the Prime Minister that he does not answer interjections. One question at a time is sufficient.
- Mr Speaker, somebody in the National Country Party corner of the House interjected.
– I rise to a point of order, Mr Speaker.
-Order! The Prime Minister will resume his seat. A point of order has been taken.
- Mr Speaker, we are delighted to listen to the Prime Minister, but he is taking a long time to answer the question and in doing so is denying the Opposition the opportunity of asking legitimate questions. Can I suggest that he is wandering from the subject matter of the question?
-Order! Your suggestion is noted. The point of order has no substance because the Standing Orders do not provide the Speaker with any authority to take the action you would request. I call the Prime Minister.
- Mr Speaker, I wish honourable members would understand my frustration today. This is the first question I have been asked. I believe I am correct in saying that nobody in this House, except some unidentified voice in the National Country Party corner of the House demurred to my statement that nobody believed that private armies should be established in Australia.
– I rise to a point of order, Mr Speaker. Might I suggest that the Prime Minister extend question time to give himself the opportunity of being asked more questions?
-That is not a point of order and the honourable member is well aware of it.
– I say this on behalf of the RSL: Like many national organisations in Australia, it is organised on a federal basis, and accordingly the views of the RSL on matters of strategy, defence and welfare are appropriately formed and expressed on a federal level. I belong to one or two organisations which are organised on a federal basis. The State branches express views on matters from time to time. If they want those views to become the view of the organisation as a whole, then they use the system of sending agenda items to the national body. The National Secretary of the RSL is a person in whom I have confidence.
-Order! I think the Prime Minister is taking an inordinate time to answer the question. I think he is most likely moving away from the actual question. I ask him whether it would be possible to shorten his answer.
– I am concluding, Sir, because I do not want to trespass on General Business. The National Secretary of the RSL knows that my door is always open to him if he wishes to express the view of the RSL as a national organisation. The former National President of the RSL would see me several times in a year. I usually attend the opening of the National Congress of the RSL. So the aberrations of the New South Wales State branch journal, ‘Reveille’, should not concern us very much. They are not adopted by the National Congress. They were not expressed by the former National President. They are not expressed by the National Secretary.
-Is leave granted?
– What paper is it?
– It is a paper that demonstrates that the communist Australian Metalworkers Union paid to the Australian Labor Party $25,000 on certain conditions.
– Leave is not granted.
-Leave is not granted.
- Mr Speaker, as question time did not permit me to ask a question of the AttorneyGeneral -
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
– I am asking for leave.
– Order! The honourable member will resume his seat, otherwise he will have a 7-day holiday.
– May I ask leave of the House -
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. If honourable gentlemen seek to disrupt the House in the manner that has just occurred I will deal with them.
– For the information of honourable members I present the communique of the Fifth Conference of Asian Labour Ministers held in Melbourne from 8 to 11 April 1975.
– Pursuant to section 6 of the States Grants (Secondary School Libraries) Act 1971,I present a statement of payments made in 1974 relating to this Act.
-Is leave granted?
Government supporters- No.
-Leave is not granted.
-In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969-1974,I present the reports relating to the folowing proposed works:
Ordered that the reports be printed.
Motion (by Mr Daly) agreed to:
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Monday next at 10 o’clock a.m., or such time thereafter as Mr Speaker may take the chair.
That grievances be noted.
-I enter this grievance debate because I am concerned about the welfare of the people of Australia and particularly about the welfare of the people of my electorate of Stirling. The Australian economy is facing one of the most critical times in the history of this nation. It goes without saying that all available evidence demonstrates that fact. There is no light at the end of the tunnel for the people during the life of the present Government. I am sure that, however long or short that life will be, the next Budget will be a harsh one. It will be the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) as much as anyone who will be the cause of that Budget being a harsh Budget. No doubt, as has been the pattern in the past, the Prime Minister will try to make other Ministers the scapegoat but the people of Australia will see, as I am sure they are beginning to understand now, that it is the Prime Minister himself who is the real cause of the economic situation which Australia faces.
First, we know how the present Minister for Overseas Trade, the former Treasurer, Mr Crean, was made the scapegoat of the Prime Minister’s economic policies. We wonder whether the next scapegoat will be the present Treasurer (Dr J. F. Cairns). The treatment which the Prime Minister has meted out to the Acting Treasurer, Mr Hayden, over the last few days during question time has not been lost on honourable members of this House. You will have noted, Mr Deputy Speaker, how on economic questions directed to the Prime Minister he has immediately passed them over to the Acting Treasurer. You will also have noticed how today the Acting Treasurer made it quite clear, in answer to a question from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) about the $2 billion funny money loan of the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor), that he, the Acting Treasurer, would not accept responsibility for what has gone on. It is quite obvious that when the truth comes out there will be scandal within the House.
It is not without significance that we have seen in this morning’s Press talk of a move by a group of Government back benchers for a spill of ministerial positions within the Australian Labor Party. It is not without significance also that the Press reports that the Prime Minister appears to give tacit consent to that spill. One might wonder whether it is something more than tacit consentwhether it is actual connivance in what is to happen. As I have said, I fear for the welfare of the people of my electorate of Stirling because I fear that the coming Budget will be a harsh one. The Prime Minister has said consistently that he will not cut back expenditure on any of his 1972 or 1974 election campaign social programs. That, in economic terms and as plainly as I can put it, can only mean the printing of more money and a higher Budget deficit than the present anticipated deficit of $2.3 billion- a record in Australia by any standards. Alternatively to a deficit of that kind it could mean increasing company and personal tax. There is a further alternative, and that is letting inflation run even higher than it is at the present time- about 20 per cent- in order to bring more tax revenue into the Government. By any standard, by any economic judgment, by any application of common sense, a Budget adopting any of those alternatives is economic nonsense. To avoid economic ruin for this country, the Prime Minister and the Treasurer would have to do a complete turnabout in their economic thinking. But I really wonder whether we are likely to see that. Up to now we have seen no evidence that the Prime Minister understands the economy, let alone that he is prepared to do anything about it.
It is abundantly clear that the key to the forthcoming Budget is a cut in Government expenditure. If there is to be no cut in Government expenditure, then, by what we know of the Government’s spending programs in the past and what they are likely to be in the future, this country is facing a budgetary deficit not of the order of $2,000m but of the order of $4,000m. I do not think that any Australian will accept a Budget of that kind, but it is an example of the lack of understanding by the present Government of the sensibilities and the common sense of the Australian people that that is what it is likely to do- to present the people with a budgetary deficit of somewhere between $2,000mand$4,000m.
The complement of the key to the Budget- a cut in Government expenditure- must be at the same time support for private business and support for private investment. Whatever has been said by the Prime Minister- those soft sounding words that he is so adept at using when he is speaking to business communities- there is no evidence shown by action that the Government is prepared to support private investment. We can look simply at the record of the Prime Minister in this field. I take some of the statements that he has made concerning cuts in Government expenditure. Firstly at the 1974 Premiers Conference the Prime Minister said this:
As part of the battle to contain inflation we will be following a policy of restraint in our own spending.
Can the Government give any examples of cuts in its own spending since the Prime Minister made that statement at the 1974 Premiers Conference? Of course not. There are no such examples. At the same time, the former Treasurer said something the same:
The Government acknowledges that public expenditure must be restrained.
Coming from the former Treasurer, we can see and test the bona fides of the Prime Minister when we recognise that the former Treasurer was shifted fairly quickly to another post. That was the commitment the former Treasurer had, but obviously the Prime Minister had no commitment to his own words.
More recently, until 28 January this year the Prime Minister had sought to accuse the Opposition of economic vandalism when it suggested that there ought to be cuts in Government expenditure. That is a strange statement, coming from the Prime Minister, when one has regard to what he said at the Premiers Conference. Within a few days the Prime Minister let it out to the Press that it ought to be saying that he was going to be instrumental in slashing Government expenditure. So we saw in the Press headlines such as:
The Federal Government will cut the growth rate of its spending. and:
The Federal Government last night announced a tough clamp down on further increases in its spending.
Then, faced with rapidly rising unemployment, the Government had to get out of that in some way. Having said that it was going to slash expenditure, faced with unemployment it then thought that the appropriate thing to do was to tell the Press that it ought to be saying that Labor would slash spending but only job projects would escape the cuts. Of course, that sounds all very nice. But then, at a Press conference early this year, when asked whether he could give the Press some idea of the amount of money involved in the proposed expenditure cuts, the Prime Minister’s answer was a flat ‘No ‘.
When one is faced with public statements of that kind by the Prime Minister, how much credence can be given to them by the people- by the people in Stirling whom I represent- when they know by any standard of everyday housekeeping in their own homes that if they are spending too much money they have to cut back expenditure. When the housekeeping that is being done is the housekeeping of the nation and the Prime Minister makes statements of the kind that I have expressed, what credence can be given to his competence as a good housekeeper for the nation? Absolutely none. It is demonstrably clear- the people know this from the statements of the Prime Minister, measured against his inactionthat he is not a housekeeper for their money.
- (Mr Keith Johnson)- Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I take this opportunity to discuss a current controversy about the admission of Palestine Liberation Organisation members into this country. Every piece of evidence we have- Gallup polls, the contemptuous rejection of pro-PLO resolutions on every campus in the country- shows that the great majority of Australians do not want the PLO here. I believe the majority is right. It follows that I regret the decision to admit PLO members. More than that, I am disturbed at the shallowness of the arguments which have been advanced in support of their entry. The arguments are twofold, free speech and the need to hear both sides of the case. However, to test the weight we should give these factors, consider a visitor coming shortly to Australia, a Mr el Surani.
Mr el Surani is the chief representative of the PLO in Egypt. He must therefore be recognised as a senior- indeed, top ranking- member of the PLO. Put another way, that simply means he must therefore be at least an accessory, perhaps an instigator and possibly even an active participant in some of the most obnoxious acts of international gangsterism which the world has suffered in recent years. In spite of that it has been argued that he should not only be allowed but positively welcomed into Australia in the interests, it is said, of free speech.
Mr Deputy Speaker, I take the principle of free speech seriously. I respect it and I exercise it. In accordance with that principle I not merely concede but positively insist that the right to put the Palestinian case- even the PLO case- in Australia must be recognised. I have said many times that if Mr Hartley, the Australian Union of Students’ Executive, the Friends of Palestine or any other supporter of these causes in Australia wishes to argue for them, their right to do so must be unquestioned. But to tolerate arguments in favour of PLO terror is surely going far enough. It hardly means that we must also import the terrorists themselves for that purpose. That is not a measure in support of free speech. That is a measure against free speech simply because terrorism is itself incompatible with free speech.
What right of free speech did the PLO give to the Olympic athletes in Munich, to the Christian pilgrims they gunned down at Lod or to the schoolchildren slaughtered at Maalot. Yet, while their awful methods are reason enough to reject the PLO here, that is not the only and not even the main reason for doing so. Even more important than their methods is the unacceptability of their aims which call for the destruction, the entire elimination, of Israel as a sovereign independent state. That that is the objective of the PLO is to be found in the clearest words of their own covenant and spokesmen. The PLO covenant states:
The Liberation of Palestine … is a national duty to drive the Zionist, imperialist invasion from the great Arab homeland to pursue the Zionist presence from Palestine.
What the PLO calls Palestine, of course, includes Israel. The people they call Zionists are actually Israelis. Putting the transparent subtleties of language aside, what the PLO is pledging to do is to drive the Israelis out of Israel- such of them as remain alive- and to utterly destroy the state itself. It goes without saying that this is contrary to international law and, specifically, to the United Nations charter. It also goes without saying that the PLO policy is contrary to Australian Government policy and certainly to the policy of the Australian Labor Party. This follows from the ALP platform.
The question is: Given that this is in fact the position, how can we most effectively demonstrate it? Will that best be achieved by admitting PLO members or by saying, in effect, this: We are anxious to assist a settlement of the Palestinian problem. Our platform recognises that as well. But as our Government has put it to the United Nations, the only solution we will assist or even recognise is one in which a Palestinian state is created alongside Israel and not in violent replacement of it. While the PLO persists in its declared objective of destroying Israel its position so far lacks respectability, let alone acceptance, in this country that we must decline to have dealings with it.
So which alternative should be adopted, acceptance or isolation? Perhaps the question can best be answered by this further question: What would we do with an application for entry from an acknowledged member of the Provisional Irish Republican Army, the Rhodesian regime or the Ustashi? There is not the remotest prospect of their acceptance into the country, let alone into our ministerial offices. On what basis of principle the PLO could be regarded as more acceptable than they are is impossible to discern. To attempt to reconcile that inconsistency we have had something of a play on words. Thus Messrs Zananiri and Chaikh who recently toured Australia were not here as PLO members but as members of the General Union of Palestinian Students who just happened to be PLO members and who just happened to discuss nothing other than the PLO line. Similarly, Mr el Surani does not come to Australia as a PLO member but as a representative of the Arab League who also just happens to be a senior PLO officer and will likewise have no other purpose in this country than arguing the PLO view. Unfortunately, the Government’s description of Mr el Surani is really not as relevant as the way he is seen by others.
After the statement of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) on the acceptability of Mr el Surani as an Arab League representative, the media headlined the story in this way: The ‘West Australian’ newspaper carried the headline ‘PM “Happy” to meet PLO man’. The ‘Canberra Times’ newspaper headline stated: ‘PM “Happy” to meet PLO’. The headline of every other newspaper was to exactly the same effect. If the media see the decision this way, the PLO will hardly see it differently and, to that extent Australia’s potential to encourage more restrained policies must be diminished. That is a shame and, unfortunately, not helped at all by the equation offered by the Prime Minister between the acceptability of Mr el Surani and of a representative of the World Zionist Organisation. The latter, one assumes, was here to argue for the right to continued independent existence of a state which we recognise, with which we have friendly relations and to whose continued existence we are in fact pledged. Mr el Surani can be coming only to argue for the destruction by force of that same state. How can the 2 positions be equated?
There is only one other matter which I can raise in my limited time. The last application for an official PLO delegation to Australia was rejected in January on the grounds that it could give rise to undesirable tensions within Australian society. I agreed with the decision, although I was not altogether enamoured of the reason. Frankly, I would have much preferred that the rejection be based on some broader ground of principle. Still, internal tension was the reason given and if there were ever any doubts as to its validity, these must have been dispelled by the circumstances surrounding the tour of the PLO students. For the first time we saw violent attacks on PLO opponents and the intrusion of threats, iron bars and flick knives into what had previously been, at least at our local level, a peaceful disagreement. In other words, the justification for rejecting a PLO visit earlier in the year not only has been vindicated but must apply with even greater force now.
Mr Deputy Speaker, I conclude on this note: I do not say that Australia should never admit the PLO, just as I do not suggest that Israel should never agree to negotiate with that Organisation. But neither course can be reasonably supported until the PLO accepts and acknowledges Israel ‘s right to existence as a sovereign independent state. That must come first. After that, but only after that, most things, above all the great prize of peace, can become possible.
-In passing I want to comment upon the valuable contribution made by the honourable member for Perth (Mr Berinson) who has just drawn a disgusting issue to the attention of the House. What is so disturbing is that certain sections of the Australian community are flirting with an organisation that has a most cruel and murderous record; an organisation that could well bring about great distress, if not a serious war, in the Middle East. The people who are flirting with this organisation are those who began the great flirt with those people who brought on the confrontation in South East Asia. I speak of those terrorists and insurgents who set about to overthrow by force regimes in South Vietnam and elsewhere. The people of Australia need to be aware of the existence of people in the Australian community who will go to any lengths to try to achieve disruption in our community and in the world society. I think we are indebted to the honourable member for Perth for awakening this Parliament, and I hope the Australian people, to what is going on in regard to the Palestine Liberation Organisation at the present time.
I want to devote most of my attention this morning to the disastrous record of the Whitlam Government since coming to power, particularly in the economic field. After less than 3 years of Labor Government the Australian people’s living standards are trailing behind those of other nations with similar economies who are members of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. The poor productive performance of Australians under the Labor
Government should be a cause of serious concern to most people. Australians are already poorer than the more productive Americans, Canadians, Swedes, Danes, Swiss, Germans, Frenchmen and Belgians. The reasons for the relative decline in Australia’s living standards, despite a greater increase in money-wage rates, are not difficult to seek. Government policies have destroyed our productive performance. Let no one assume that production is not the source from which living standards can improve. Real income per head equals real production per head. People will not produce unless they have the incentive to work. What incentive have the Australian people to work? What incentive is there for the average worker to work overtime? What incentive is there for the average producer to produce more when in fact taxation bleeds the rewards of his efforts? Inflation and arbitrary redistribution of incomes destroys the availability of productive capital. The Government’s irresponsible and inflationary policies have eroded the value of people’s retained real earnings and savings. Unless the fiscal and monetary madness of this Government ceases, we will witness the complete breakdown of the economy and our system.
In a little over 2 years the Whitlam Government increased its spending by an enormous 75 per cent. There were some wise people during the election campaign of 1972 who queried where the money would come from to achieve the promises that were made. The Government is financing this expenditure not from earned wealth or production; it is financing its spending splurge by inducing record inflation, by putting incomes up into higher income tax scales and resorting to the printing press. In this financial year the Government will have increased its spending by at least 45 per cent. This spending has placed an intolerable taxation burden on the people and on the private sector and has led to an extraordinary increase in the rate of monetary expansion. The Government has allowed expenditure to race ahead by the simple but irresponsible expedient of deficit financing. I would be surprised if there is a section of the business communitythe productive sector or the industrial sector- that can face the future with confidence that will permit investment and new capital expenditure on plant and equipment.
The figures, of course, show the real truth of the situation. New capital expenditure on plant and equipment by private businesses has fallen from 3.4 per cent in the March quarter of last year to minus 1.6 per cent in the March quarter of this year. The stagnation of investment expenditure is evident when one considers that those figures take no account of rises in prices over the same period. Let us look at some of the statistical facts of the Government’s disastrous administration. In 1972, when this Government came to power, inflation was at a rate of 4.5 per cent. It is now 17.6 per cent or more. In 1973 the rate was 13.2 per cent and in 1974 it was 16.3 per cent. How does this compare with the inflation rates of other comparable countries? The latest statistics show that only the United Kingdom with an inflation rate of 19.8 per cent is ahead of Australia. The inflation rates of some other countries are as follows: New Zealand 12.6 per cent, Canada 11.8 per cent, the United States of America 11.1 per cent, France 13.9 per cent, Germany 5.8 per cent and Japan 13.9 per cent. So Australia is all but one heading the list.
In 1972 when Labor came to power the number of people unemployed represented 1.77 per cent of the work force. It has risen year by year until it now stands at 4.7 per cent of the work force. In 1972 when Labor came to power the overdraft interest rate on borrowings was 7.75 per cent. Today it is 1 1.5 per cent. In 1972 the interest on housing loans was 6.25 per cent. It is now 10 per cent. Yet the Government seeks to blame others for this situation. Honourable members will recall that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) first said that it was inherited. He then said that it was imported, trying to compare Australia with overseas countries whose inflation has been fanned by the fact that they have had to import overseas oil at prices which have quadrupled in the last 1 8 months.
We watched the pathetic attempts by the Deputy Prime Minister (Dr J. F. Cairns) last year to blame our system, the truth being that he is against the system. Indeed a great number of people in this Government do not want the system to work. The No. 1 objective of the platform of the Australian Labor Party- and the Australian people should really know about this- is:
The democratic socialisation of industry, production, distribution and exchange- to the extent necessary to eliminate exploitation and other anti-social features in those fields- in accordance with the principles of action, methods, and progressive reforms set out in this platform.
Therein lies the answer. The Deputy Prime Minister in his book ‘The Quiet Revolution ‘, said:
Private ownership of the means of production and the market are the main causes of inequality of power and wealth in Australia and of the harmful consequences that result.
In his book ‘Living with Asia ‘ he said:
Labor rejected revolution not only as undesirable but as impracticable. Instead it adopted a policy of ‘interference’ with the market which would gradually bring about a ‘transformation ‘ of Society.
The Deputy Prime Minister wrote those words in 1965. In the pursuit of this crazy doctrinaire philosophy, the Whitlam Government has shattered the foundations of the economic system. It has left itself with an impossible task of framing a Budget. If it does not cut Government expenditure it will load a deficit of $6,000m on the shoulders of the Australian people. Australia is in an economic mess. The people are on the brink of great economic and social disarray. Is it little wonder that a government which has created its own disaster, which has sown the seeds of its own destruction, is now displaying inconsistencies and contradictions in trying to deceive the Australian people as to the truth of the real situation.
It does not matter to what field one turns, whether it be the Government’s environmental policy, economic policy or tariff policy, the Government’s record is one of confusion and deceit. The Government’s only problem will be to remain in office long enough to achieve its objectives. I do not believe that it will remain in office for long enough to do this. I believe that the people have had enough of the deceit, double standards and doctrinaire philosophies of those who are out to destroy an economic system that has given the Australian people such a high standard of living. Why would any nation want to destroy a system which has served the people well?
-We have heard from the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt) the standard doctrinaire speech which one has come to expect from the National Country Party of Australia and those opposite. What the honourable member failed to point out was that the Liberal-Country Party Government during its administration of 23 years created the greatest number of socialistic enterprises ever created in one period of continuous government since Federation. Every marketing authority, every producers co-operative, every distributive authority, Trans-Australia Airlines, the rural credits, the Commonwealth Trading Bank of Australia, the Commonwealth Banking Corporation, and the Overseas Telecommunications Commission which this Government wants to include in the Telecommunications Commission but which the Opposition is desperately fighting to retain as a separate entity, are all socialistic enterprises and were created under the hand of the honourable members who now sit opposite.
If the honourable members want to talk about socialism, let them be honest. Their attitude towards economics is to socialise the losses- the taxpayer pays for this- and capitalise the profits. It is as simple as that. If people were here from day to day as we are they would know that the usual routine is that in the morning we are told that we should reduce expenditure or cut back on expenditure and in the afternoon we hear in addresses that we ought to increase expenditure. Let us look at what happened in the last few days in relation to the Australian Wool Corporation and the floor price plan for wool. Immediately there was a suggestion that this was an area in which a major saving could be achieved in the coming financial year, an outcry, which we all heard, occurred.
Of the $3 80m which was made available out of almost $ 1,000m to all industry by way of assistance, almost one-third was to go to the Wool Corporation. There was no suggestion from the previous speaker that we should reduce expenditure in that area. There was no suggestion that we should reduce rural subsidies. Every measure which this Government has taken to reduce expenditure has been opposed by those who sit opposite. They will not come forward and they dare not come forward with any positive or specific proposal for a reduction in expenditure. They want to adopt the luxurious position of calling for reduction in expenditure but not accepting responsibility by indicating where the reductions should occur. I think therein lies the test of their credibility. The fact is that they do not have any credibility. They put forward only those sectional causes in which they are interested.
I rose to refer in this grievance debate to my opposition to the practice of daylight saving. From my colleagues in the corner opposite I might have some support for this matter. I express my opposition to the concept of daylight saving. While I realise that this is a matter which is administered by each State, the effects of the decision taken by each State have an impact on national travel arrangements and national communication. In a few words, I believe that the introduction of summer daylight saving time has meant an increase in the leisure time of adults at the expense of the health of children. Recently we read in the newspapers that school children in New South Wales were seen to be falling asleep in class and were not attentive during class periods. The cause of this was ascribed to watching too many late television programs. I suggest that one of the causes is the long days which young children have to experience as a result of daylight saving and the difficulty which they have in getting to sleep in daylight hours. Adults have difficulty in trying to get children, arbitrarily between one day and the next, to adjust to a whole new time scale in their living habits.
Arguments have been extended in support of daylight saving. Some people say that it extends outdoor leisure time at the end of the day without causing much disruption. It is said that sport, gardening, hobbies and similar activity can be carried out after the normal work day has finished. In addition, some people say they can start for work earlier in the cooler period of the day. Also, some economic benefits have been claimed. These appear to be incidental to the broad leisure, recreational purpose of daylight saving. For instance, it is claimed that in Western Australia daylight saving would result in a reduction in expenditure of $800,000 in the provision of electricity. But no statistics are available and no actual tests of which I know have been carried out to show the results of daylight saving. Reaction to daylight saving varies according to one’s work and one’s recreational activities. Newspapers have given considerable space over the past 4 years to readers expressing their opinions on the impact of daylight saving. These opinions have ranged from enthusiastic support to total rejection, which is my attitude. Family circumstances, young children, sport activities and livelihood, as with a farmer, for instance are the main determinants of these opinions. A number of reasons for opposition to daylight saving include the attitude- this is quite understandable in my opinion- of people who live in country areas and who oppose daylight saving more strongly than do urban dwellers.
The fact is that rural production is often governed by the sun up- sun down cycle, regardless of what the clock says. Dairy production falls if cows are yarded in the hottest part of the day. Dairy farmers may have their milking schedules upset by revised clock times. Market gardeners get best results by planting seedlings in the cool of the early evening. In Queensland cane burning is limited to dusk when on-shore and offshore breezes are in equilibrium. The advent of daylight saving causes these activities to be conducted late at night, this disrupting other activities. Rural school children have to travel by bus to school. Their day is disrupted by having to rise considerably earlier and often by travelling home in the hottest part of the day. In some cases children are required to leave home shortly after the sun rises in times of daylight saving and stay up late, as I have said, at the end of the day. It is a fact which I think any parent of young children knows that it is very difficult to get young children to go to bed when it is still in daylight hours.
The children want to enjoy themselves. They want to play. They want to carry out the normal activities in which they usually participate. It is difficult to expect them to go to sleep during those daylight periods.
Unless daylight saving is uniformly applied in all States it disrupts trade and communications. Western Australia has decided by referendum not to have daylight saving. This has been the only referendum conducted and it is the only actual evidence of the community ‘attitude apart from Gallup polls, which vary. The only community test has been the referendum in Western Australia where opposition to daylight saving was expressed. At this stage I mention a little more about the farmers’ difficulties. I refer to a statement made by the Singleton branch of the United Farmers’ and Woolgrowers’ Association. It states:
Daylight saving in its modern form was good for city people but not for farmers and graziers … the farmer was concerned it affected dairying, hay cutting, vegetable growing and especially the dispatch of school children from the country early each morning.
I think it is a very real problem for the children themselves because of its impact upon them and for the parents. The suggestion has been put forward that there could be an increase in the risk of skin cancer because of the longer exposure to sunlight. This suggestion has been put forward for the Anti-Daylight Saving Association by Mr Tom Clout. It has not been tested. I do not think anything in relation to daylight saving and its effect on people has been tested. I think it needs to be tested. Some industries have claimed economic losses. For instance hoteliers and drive-in theatres have claimed that the later hours of closing have an effect on patronage. Whether one accepts that that is a desirable form of patronage which ought to be increased is an individual matter. But the principle is that there ought to be some supervision or some sort of survey carried out as to effects both economically and biologically. Let us look at the United States. I have an extract from the Toronto ‘Globe Mail’ of 29 January 1974. The headline states:
Florida seeking end to daylight time after 8 children die.
I am not suggesting there is an ideal comparison between daylight saving in Florida and in Australia. But the newspaper article points out that there was an increase in deaths and accidents of children because they had to rise early in the morning and travel around in the dark of the morning hours. Senate Democratic leader Mike Mansfield called for the immediate repeal of winter daylight saving and said that it had failed as an energy conservation measure. Because time is running out I ask the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) to arrange for a survey to be carried out into the impact of daylight saving on the study habits and class attitudes of school children. I ask the Minister for Health (Dr Everingham) to seek information on the impact of daylight saving on the health of school children. Possibly this could be carried out in conjunction with the survey which I have requested from the Minister for Education.
-The people of Australia are justifiably concerned at the direction which their country is taking. The economic crisis in which we find ourselves is not merely the result of fortuitous circumstances; it is primarily the result of the misdirection of policies initiated by the present Government. We have just heard from the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris), who pointed out to us what in many ways is a very specific example of the poor judgment to which this nation has been subject for more than 2Vi years. He mentioned, for example, the wool floor price scheme. He suggested that the Government had made the proposal to reduce the floor price to 200c a kilogram specifically as a means of saving money. No doubt the honourable member, in saying that, believed in what he said; no doubt he wished the Australian wool grower well. Unfortunately, the logic behind that statement totally disregards the realities of the wool marketing process which we have in Australia today.
How can it possibly be suggested that Government funds will be saved in any way if, by reducing the floor price from 250c to 200c the amount written off the value of the wool clip would be about $ 1 1 5m? How can it be suggested that there will be a saving to the producer, the taxpayer or the Government, if it can be shown that the value of the wool stockpile of 1.7 million bales could fall if such a proposal had been accepted by caucus. It is fortunate, indeed, for the wool growers of Australia that at least there were some people in the Caucus who had the courage to make the decision to undo the damage which already had been done by the Cabinet- the Cabinet, which has shown once again a total lack of appreciation of the economic realities of Australia.
In December 1972 and again last May by a very slim majority the present Government was returned to office. It came into office with a new program, a new deal for the Australian people. They were to be given all sorts of gifts. The money tree was going to produce fruit the likes of which had never been seen before. Now, 2y. years later, we stand here in Parliament and we have to survey the economic disaster that has befallen this nation because we have a Government which has shown itself quite conclusively to be incapable of making difficult and rational decisions at times when any government elected by the people to control and manage the economy would expect such decisions to be made. These are difficult times. We all know that. Certainly, the Opposition was the first to appreciate it. For at least the last 12 months we have emphasised to the Government that, unless it is prepared to make a significant attempt to reduce its extravagance and its expenditure, there is no solution to the problems facing the Australian economy.
Let me recall, to the advantage of the House, that on 22 July 1973 the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) announced his decision in relation to the reduction of tariffs by 25 per cent, notwithstanding the fact that the present Treasurer (Dr J. F. Cairns) had made it quite clear on a previous occasion that he did not agree with across the board tariff cuts. At that time he showed a remarkable standard of logical analysis which, regrettably, has not been noted for its brilliance since his accession to the position of Treasurer of this nation. On 22 July 1973 that very fundamental decision was taken to reduce tariffs across the board by 25 per cent. The Prime Minister said on that occasion- his words are very relevant:
Our purpose is simply to allow imported goods to come into Australia more cheaply and in greater quantities.
Yes, on a purely theoretical economic judgment that is what some economists would suggest should happen. But what was the effect of that decision, taken in isolation from the other economic decisions which had been previously taken? The Government had in the previous months, a policy of encouraging unions and the Public Service to be a pacesetter, to set a new standard of determination of wage demands far in excess of the capacity of the economy to accept them. Yet a decision was taken to reduce tariffs across the board by 25 per cent. This ignored, as I said, the effect, for example, in the electrical industry of previous wage determinations, where already the female work force, which is a substantial work force in that industry, had been given complete equality of wages with the male work force. We do not disagree with the concept of equality of wages for equal work. But I emphasise the point that in this industry the margins of profitability were already strained and it had already found itself in a situation in which its wage bill had almost doubled in a very short period of time. In addition to that, it then had to face an incredible degree of overseas competition through a deliberate decision of the government which proposes to protect the worker from unemployment.
That is but one example of the many inane economic decisions that have been taken by this Government. Ad hocery has ruled triumphant in this Parliament for 2Vi years. No serious attempt has been made to relate economic policies over a period of time. No attempt has been made to see the effect of one policy on sectors of the community which are vital if the industrial base of Australia is to progress. Recent statistics have made it clear that this rich country has reached the point of near zero growth. Despite this and despite suggestions by the Government that it intends to reduce Government expenditure and Ministers have been asked to reduce their expenditure by between 10 and 15 per cent, there is every reason to suggest that in the next Budget the Government will come into this House and ask the people of Australia to accept a deficit of at least $4,000m. This is almost double the present deficit. The catastrophe which we will face in the next 12 months begs description. We do not have to look very far. We can look at Great Britain- the once great Britain- and see what has become of that country because of misjudgments in the economic field. I have always believed that the trends in Great Britain quite often are followed in Australia. But, whereas it used to be 2 to 3 years before we saw the same effects in Australia, the time lag now has been cut down to a few weeks or, at the best, a few months. There is before us the evidence of what can happen to a country if wrong decisions are made by governments.
Yet this Government intends to proceed with an extravagant policy of assuming that, regardless of the cost of money, regardless of the fall in the productive capacity of Australia and regardless of the old concept of a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay, suddenly all its dreams can be achieved simply by producing more money, simply by going to the money tree and taking off the rich fruit. But that fruit has now gone bad and the people of Australia at last have woken up to the fact that we cannot buy for example, better education simply by spending more money; we cannot buy all the other social welfare programs, which of course we want to have and which any government would want to give to the people, unless the people, through their taxation, are able to carry the cost and the economy is able to carry the expenses involved in such policies. Since December 1972 the average worker in Australia certainly has had his salary increased; but he also has paid a greater percentage of his salary in taxation than ever before in our national history. We are forced to ask: Where is the incentive for the worker, for the employer, for the industrialist, for the farmer or for any section of the Australian people?
- (Mr Keith Johnson)- Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-We have just listened to another apoplectic sermon from the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Connolly), one which we are getting fairly used to hearing from him and, indeed, from other members of the Opposition who get up in various debates to preach doom and gloom about the future of the economy. I also want to address my remarks in this debate to the state of the economy and to suggest that members of the Opposition are closing their eyes to a number of factors which give reason for some optimism about recovery of the economy in the near future. In fact, a number of indicators have come to light in the last month or so which show that the economy is moving out of the state of slump which it has gone through in the last 9 months or so and is about to move into a period of some substantial recovery.
The first of these indicators is retail sales which, in the September quarter of last year, increased by 3.8 per cent. That increase slumped to 0.2 per cent in the December quarter, but in the March quarter of this year it went up to 6.3 per cent. All these figures are in seasonally adjusted terms, so they are comparable. So we see a strong growth in the first quarter of this year compared with the last half of the last calendar year. In real terms- if we extract price increases- in the December quarter of last year retail sales fell by 2.5 per cent and in the March quarter of this year they increased by 2 per cent. In April of this year- these are the latest figures available- there was a 2.6 per cent increase in the money value of retail sales, which would be an increase in real terms of 1 per cent or more. So there is a strong upward growth in retail sales, which will have a very beneficial effect on the economy if it continues. I shall demonstrate later that it certainly will.
Motor vehicle registrations in the March quarter were 133 000, compared with 1 17 000 in the December quarter of 1974 and only 1 12 000 in the March quarter of 1974. There has been a strong upward growth in motor vehicle registrations following the Government’s actions, particularly in the cutting of sales tax at the end of January. Trade sources tell us that in April the increase in motor vehicle registrations was even stronger than in the March quarter, but that it has dropped back somewhat in the month of May following the restoration of some of the sales tax which was taken away in January. Nevertheless, the picture for motor vehicle sales and registrations this year is far more optimistic than it was in the latter part of last year.
Stocks held by non-farm private enterprise increased rapidly as we went through the slump. I shall give the figures quarter by quarter: In the March quarter of 1974 they increased by 6.2 per cent; by 8.4 per cent in the June quarter; by 10 per cent in the September quarter; by 6.6 per cent in the December quarter; but then, in the March quarter of this year, we have had an increase of only 2.2 per cent. All these figures are in money terms. If we put them in real terms- if we took out the price factor- we would see that there has been an actual drop in stocks held by non-farm private enterprises in the March quarter of this year. Again, this is an important prelude to economic recovery and to an increase in production, that is, getting the stocks down that were built up last year following the slump in demand and the over-ordering of imports which characterised a lot of Australian business last year.
The reason for optimism about the likely continuance of a strong upward growth in retail sales and consumer expenditure generally comes from a survey which was undertaken by the Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research at the University of Melbourne in mid-March. It showed a dramatic upsurge in consumer optimism. I quote from a statement made by the Institute which was reported in the ‘Australian Financial Review’ on 7 May:
The surge in consumer optimism reflected in this March survey is quite dramatic, the rate of change being unprecedented for our surveys.
So honourable members can see that there has been a strong upward trend in consumer optimism about the future- an unprecedentedly dramatic increase, the Institute tells us. The reason for this optimism, as the report makes clear, is that people recognise that they are better off because of action taken by the Government. I quote again from the newpaper report:
Although fewer respondents reported increased income than did so in December, a general feeling that economic recovery is imminent has contributed to a greater feeling of economic well being this quarter.
An apparent slowdown in the rate of inflation, plus the recent reductions in bank interest rates and cuts in personal taxes appear also to have contributed to the brighter outlook this quarter.
Further on in this report, in pursuance of this same point, the Institute states:
The March quarter fall in the proportion of respondents who report making more money has done nothing to quell the favourable impression consumers have of their personal financial situation.
Indeed, a substantial majority now say that at present they are better off financially than at this time last year.
I suggest that these quotations show the wisdom of the Government’s policy in cutting taxes last November. Consumers realise that they are better off; they are more optimistic about the future; they are spending more in retail sales and other consumer expenditures; and they are likely to continue their strong upward expenditures on consumer items. I suppose that also has a relevance to wage policy in that if people realise they are better off because of the Government’s policy on taxes, they may be less pressing for wage increases than they would have been had those tax cuts not occurred.
All this confirms a similar survey which was conducted in February by the Roy Morgan Research Group, which again showed the strong upward trend in consumer optimism. So it is clear that we can look forward to substantial growth in consumer expenditure over the rest of this year. Before leaving the reported statements by the Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, I should like to refer also to one other statement contained in that report, which is:
There is evidence of a greater confidence in the Government’s ability to control the twin problems of inflation and unemployment.
I suggest that that quotation shows that the people of Australia are far wiser and more intelligent than the Opposition gives them credit for being.
Building approvals are also increasing substantially. In the month of March they went up by 20 per cent over the rate for the previous month: They were 10 100 in March, compared with 8400 in February and 8000 in January. This figure is the highest since July 1974. In April there was a slight drop back in the level of approvals, but still they are way above the level of the 8 months prior to March. Of course, all this again follows from strong Government action to stimulate the housing sector- the $ 1 50m which was injected into the savings banks; alterations to housing lending policies for savings banks so they could lend more money; injection of money into terminating building societies; and so on. Building commencements are also starting to pick up. After falling for 5 successive quarters, they increased by 7 per cent, seasonally adjusted, in the March quarter. That is not a dramatic increase but, following the big increase in approvals in March, we can look forward presumably to continued expansion in building commencements. There is certainly strong reason for optimism about a continued revival in the building industry, at least on the housing side.
There is an indicator even now that employment is likely to increase in the near future, that the rate of unemployment will drop. A series of newspaper advertisements for jobs which have been lodged by the Australian and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd during the first and second week of May, indicate that that bank’s estimates of employment for May show a significant increase of 8.4 per cent over April. Again, that figure is seasonally adjusted. This was the third successive monthly increase in that series of advertisements, following 1 1 consecutive monthly declines. The bank, in commenting on that, said that this represented ‘a significant improvement in the demand for labour’. So we are experiencing at last an increase in the demand for labour.
Share prices are moving up. They have gone up every day this week on the Melbourne and Sydney stock exchanges, which shows that the share market recognises that the economy is on the improve and has not been listening too much to the honourable member for Bradfield. I think I should also mention that the latest figures available show a substantial increase in company profits. In the September quarter of 1974 they were 10.4 per cent, that is, the gross operating surplus of companies was 10.4 per cent of the gross non-farm product. Various Opposition spokesmen told us how terrible this was. This figure increased to 12.2 per cent in the December quarter, but I have not heard any Opposition spokesmen mention that factor. That figure is getting much closer to the trend level for gross operating surplus of companies, which is about 14.5 per cent. Investment has not yet picked up and we cannot expect it to pick up until stocks go down further and return to normal levels. Then we can expect that business will feel encouraged enough to -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Keith Johnson) Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I hope that the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) and the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) will come into the chamber during the course of my speech because I have had them both told that I intend to say something reflecting upon the administration of their Departments.
I shall be quite specific in a moment. The House will remember that about 10 days ago I gave notice of a motion asking to have referred to the Public Accounts Committee whether, and if so, to what extent, payments of unemployment benefits have been made during this financial year to persons not entitled under the law to receive them. I did this because from my experience as Minister for Social Services in the past government I knew that something was wrong. I knew this on the basis of departmental published figures and from what the Minister for Labor and Immigration had said in this House in regard to those published figures. The Department of Social Security publishes figures monthly of the persons who are registered as unemployed and it also publishes figures monthly of the persons who are receiving unemployment benefits who are registered as unemployed. From my experience, I have never known this number to be more than 44 per cent of the larger number, and it is usually down to about 30 per cent.
I know that we are in an unusual situation. I know that the Government has made a great mess of the economy and that unusual factors are in operation. Nevertheless, it was obvious that something was wrong because at present whereas 265 000 people are unemployed, 168 000 people are receiving unemployment benefits. That represents 6VA per cent. That figure obviously shows something is wrong, but it is seen to be even more revealing when one considers the statement of the Minister for Labor and immigration, who I see is now at the table. He said that the number of registered unemployed is far too high because it includes a number of people who are not actually unemployed at all. Of course he is right. But on this basis the real percentage would be not in the 60s but in the 80s. So there is obviously something wrong with the published figures.
As it happens, I have in my hand correspondence in regard to a case of this character. I shall put the exact figures and facts before the House. This is a case of a man called Alan L. Dudley, who lives at 162 Penshurst Street, Penshurst. He lost his job because of the closing of the Hadfields Steel Works Ltd, due, I think, to the policy of the Government. However that is irrelevant. He went on unemployment benefits. Subsequently he got a job and came off unemployment benefits. He wrote and so notified the Department of Social Security but the cheques kept coming. He told the Department. He telephoned the Department time and time again. He could not stop the flood of cheques.
He did not cash any of the cheques. I have 36 such cheques now in my hand and they total $1,286.50. 1 do not table them because they are real cheques; they are real money. I would not want them impounded on the table. But they are here. This man never cashed them. He notified the Department that he was not entitled to them and yet they kept coming. I am quite certain that this is not an isolated case. This is due to sheer incompetence in the Department. This is one of the reasons why we have this inordinately high payment for unemployment benefits. I am not trying to say that this is cheating the Government. There may be people cheating the Government. There may be bludgers. I do not know. But I am sure that this is not an isolated case, that there are many cases like this and that the computer is spewing out cheques right, left and centre to people who are not entitled to them.
This may be a much more serious matter for some pensioners and recipients of benefits than may appear at first sight. Mr Dudley was very scrupulous and honest. He did not cash any of the cheques. He knew that he was not entitled to them and he notified the Department and filed the cheques. Here they are.
– May I have a look at them?
– Yes, most certainly, but give me a receipt for them. There are 36 of them. I have let the Minister see them. The Minister obviously cannot believe that this has happened, but it has. The important question is: What is the position of those other pensioners and recipients of benefits- I think there are probably thousands of them- who have received a cheque or two to which they were not entitled? Many of them would not have been as well aware of the position as was Mr Dudley. Perhaps they may have cashed them. Some time perhaps the computer will catch up with them and they will get demands for refunds.
This happened in another case involving this same Mr Dudley. I have in my hand the official letters that set out the details. Mr Dudley was also entitled to a domiciliary nursing care benefit. He became unentitled to it, of course, when he became employed. But he kept on receiving the cheques in spite of his protestations. He filed those cheques also and did not cash them knowing that he was not entitled to them. On 26 September 1974 he received a letter from the Department saying that he had been overpaid by $130. It might be said that the computer caught up with him a little. He sent the cheques back and on 28 February 1975 he got a letter saying:
Thank you for returning the cheques dated 18 July, 1 August, 15 August, 29 August and 12 September to offset the $130 you were previously overpaid. The overpayment has now been finalised. However, I have noted the total amount refunded adds up to $140. Therefore, it appears you over refunded $10’.
But that was not the end of it. On 7 March he received a dunning letter from the Department asking him to return the $130 pronto. I have the letters here. It is obvious that there has been a major muck up in the Department. I believe that there is a great deal of this obvious- it is obvious and the Minister should have picked it up and I do not know why he has not- overpayment of unemployment benefits. The figures show it. I think probably up to $100m is involved. We do not know how much. I have given one specific instance. But I know from the figures that this is not an isolated instance. The Minister had better look at the situation. This overpaid money could really have been put to tremendously good use in his own Department if it were not refunded to Consolidated Revenue. Think of the things he could have done. Think, for example, of the supporting fathers benefit which should have been paid; and he knows it should have been paid. It could have been paid.
- (Mr Keith Johnson) Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I am rather flattered that the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) should have thought that I should have detected this misadventure at an earlier stage. Much as he may overestimate my capacities, the hard facts are that I am very human. Each week we pay out I think nearly 4 million- it is certainly well over 3 million- child endowment cheques, well over one million pension cheques and other forms of payment. At present I regret that we are paying some hundreds of thousands of unemployment benefit cheques. I should like to say first of all so that what I say later will not be misunderstood, that what the honourable member has said is substantially correct. I regret it. I believe that there has been incompetence in the Department of Social Security with regard to this matter; so does the DirectorGeneral of the Department. But so that things can be kept in balance, let me say also, because I think we need this caveat, that by and large the officers of the Department of Social Security are efficient and dedicated and discharge their jobs properly. I think the honourable member for Mackellar, as a former Minister for Social Services, would acknowledge that as a fact. Having said that, I should like to move very quickly to the facts of this case. The benefits mentioned by the honourable member were not unemployment benefits, they were special benefits according to the advice which I received from the Department. Mr Dudley, who has been named by the honourable member, was granted special benefit from 25 June 1974 on the grounds that he was prevented from working by the need to give constant care and attention to his aged invalid mother. On a review form completed on 18 July 1974, Mr Dudley advised that his mother had been admitted to a nursing home and that he would resume work on 22 July 1974. In spite of that clear advice, I am afraid no action was taken to cancel the cheques. A further review was initiated by despatch of the normal questionnaire on 19 September to Mr Dudley. This form was not returned and the matter was not followed up. This is a clear consequence of events which indicate incompetence in the Department of Social Security. But on the other hand, I think it should be borne in mind that Mr Dudley was less than forthcoming in this matter. Although he certainly advised on 18 July in the normal review form which he filed with the Department that he would be resuming work, according to the advice that I have received from the Department of Social Security, at no time did he make any effort to contact the Department and advise that cheques were continuing to arrive at his home. That for me in no way diminishes the apparent incompetence which is associated with this matter.
Similarly, the other matter raised by the honourable member, that of domiciliary nursing care benefit overpayment, also seems to reflect incompetence. Let us keep things in a proper perspective. We do not want to damn the great majority of officers in any Government department, in this case the Department of Social Security. The officers of my Department are loyal, they are dedicated, they are able, and they have very heavy work loads. Unfortunately cases of inefficiency and incompetence do arise. Cases arise where members of the staff are sometimes less than understanding and less than helpful in their dealings with some members of the public who contact them. It is something that constantly worries me. Two cases have come to my attention recently. One was a personal experience that involved a member of my staff. That person had a telephone communication with an employee of the Brisbane office of the Department of Social Security. The employee was rudely indifferent to the plight of a person who had not been receiving unemployment benefit. From inquiries we made it seemed as though that employee was still on probation. I bluntly suggested to the DirectorGeneral that that employee should be sacked. I had no hesitation in saying that. I think that people who have no compassionate understanding of other people’s needs- people who have fallen very heavily and severely through the vicissitudes of life- should not be in the Department of Social Security. My latest advice from the Director-General is that although there is a very large degree of suspicion as to who the officer is who is responsible for this indifferent rudeness- and it was very rude behaviour displayed by that person over the telephone to a senior member of my staff- the evidence is not strong enough to sheet home, without any doubt, the guilt of the person engaging in this sort of behaviour. That is unfortunate. I mention this as an indication of my determination to take the firmest possible action.
I have had another such experience more recently, where a program which I am very keen about and which I want to have under way is not under way because of the incompetence displayed by a reasonably senior officer of my Department, at least that is what my DirectorGeneral advises me. I have asked for firm action to be taken against that officer. The proposition has been put to me that the Public Service regulations give such protection to public servants that it will be very hard to take effective action against that person. I feel particularly distressed about this. I feel quite resentful of the experience I have had with regard to this program, because it is one that I am keen about. To me, it seems to raise questions about the guarantee of security which is associated with Public Service employment. I must qualify again what I am saying with this reservation: Overwhelmingly, I could not criticise the officers of the Department of Social Security. They carry a very heavy load; they carry it with dedication; they are selfless and many of them work well beyond what could normally and reasonably be regarded as the contribution that should be expected of them. But there are still cases such as I have mentioned. I really think that we have to work out ways to stamp such cases out- ways which will not allow an impediment to be put in our path as for instance when the Minister contacts his DirectorGeneral and says: ‘Look, there is a clear case of incompetence here. A Government program has not proceeded because of incompetence. What is going to be done?’ It is not good enough to be told that there are certain protection clauses in the Public Service Act which pretty much prevent action being taken. In the previous case I mentioned with regard to an officer of my staff, I can accept that due processes have to be followed. But I do worry that if we have had one experience like this there may be other such cases.
There is another point which must be kept in mind here too. The people working in the Department of Social Security by and large are the same people who worked in the Department of Social Services. So let us not pretend that this sort of problem was conjured up overnight with the advent of a horrible socialist Labor Government. It was not. The problem of cheques continuing to be sent out to people through some sort of error was a pi ‘Mem that arose under the administration of the honourable member for Mackellar when he was Minister for Social Services. It is a problem which has regularly arisen. In this case I see clear instances of incompetence and I agree with the statement of the Director-General of my Department a few minutes ago when he gave me details of this matter, that it is his belief that there has been incompetence.
Finally, I wish to refer to unemployment benefit generally. It is unfair to say that because this one case has occurred that this is occurring generally. We maintain close checks on the payment of unemployment benefit, and with the new system which we have developed whereby instead of a weekly employment return sheet being sent in for work test purposes a person has only to return that sheet once a month. We have been able to release staff and we have been carrying out checks on people receiving unemployment benefit. As a result, we have been able to process these returns more efficiently. I can assure honourable members that the payment of unemployment benefit is being closely contained and closely supervised.
Having said all that, I must confess that in the light of what the honourable member has said and in the light of what the Director-General has said to me, I regrettably must concur that there seems to have been inexcusable incompetence in this case. We will take all the steps possible to prevent it recurring. We will take proper steps such as can be taken to see who is responsible for this error, and to ensure that the responsibility is sheeted home in a proper way. But let us not lose sight of the fact that most officers do work efficiently. I repeat, cases such as this have happened before. We will do everything we can to minimise their happening again. Sometimes they will occur.
Mr WENTWORTH (Mackellar)-I think that quite innocently the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) has misrepresented what I said. I think it was innocent on his part. I want to put him straight.
- (Mr Keith Johnson) Order! Is the honourable member wishing to make a personal explanation?
-Yes. The Minister said- as I have said, I think that it was an innocent misrepresentation on his part- that I had deduced, because a particular case has arisen, that there were therefore other cases. That is not so. It is from the published figures and the Minister’s statement in regard to the overassessment of the number of registered unemployed that I deduced that there had been a quite considerable over-payment, and I used that case as an instance. I am sure that the Minister was innocent in relation to the misrepresentation, but it is an important point.
-In the 10 minutes available to me my concern is to be directed towards the Premiers Conference that is proposed shall be held in Canberra in the middle of June- in three or four weeks time. My concern is directed to it because it is to be held in quite unusual and rather unique circumstances. The importance of that conference is indicated firstly by the fact that it is to be one of the 5-yearly conferences at which the totality of the arrangements between the Commonwealth and the States in terms of the financial assistance to be granted to those States is to be renegotiated. Those conferences have occurred regularly at almost 5-yearly intervals since 1959- in 1959, 1965 and 1970-and they occurred before 1959 in the first years after World War II.
The uniqueness of the conference is indicated by the fact that it is to be held at a time of record unemployment, record inflation and static productivity- what otherwise has been called euphemistically a state of negflation. But it is also to be held in some other circumstances that have not occurred at any Premiers Conference since World War II. It is to be held at a time during which Australia has led a flight back to very high tariff and quota protectionism. It is the effect of that tariff and quota protectionism that ought to be put on the table as a principal matter of discussion at the conference. The opportunity should be sought this year- it would not be the first time that such an opportunity has been sought- to discuss the effects as between the States of tariff and quota protectionism. Significantly enough, the first report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission in 1933 indicates that it sought to discuss this matter. I wish to quote from 2 passages of that report. On page 68 of the report the Commission had this to say:
It is clear that some States are adversely affected by the tariff, but it is difficult to measure either the gross or net effect on a State. We have not been able, even roughly, to measure this effect and we have not been helped by any of the evidence submitted by claimant States.
The second reference to which I wish to refer in the first report of the Grants Commission is appropriate. It states:
We conclude then that the net adverse effect of Federal trade policy on the finances of the States is considerable for South Australia, still greater for Western Australia, but doubtful for Tasmania; but that we cannot arrive at even a rough direct measure of it.
There has been an alteration in the situation concerning the States that have been affected the most South Australia is now a net beneficiary. Queensland is in net deficit in this respect. But the opportunity is available now to measure the effects as between and among the States of tariff and protection policies. It is crucially important to do so because they affect the totality of the allocation of resources between and among the Australian States. In a few words: If Australia is to do most what it can do best, it cannot put the cards concerning the net subsidy effects of tariff and quota protectionism underneath the table. They ought to be put on the table and, in particular, on the table at that conference.
Let me illustrate the point in this way: At the last Premiers Conference there was a haggle over the fact that $2,500m, or a little more, was to be divided among the States in terms of financial assistance grants. They were the cards that were on the table. What was not even discussed at that very time was the equivalent of well over $2,500m in tariff and quota protectionism among the States. My proposal, therefore, is that the Commonwealth Government and/or State governments should, during this time of a retreat to protectionism, make the matter of that protectionism the principal matter of discussion at the Premiers Conference. To ignore it is to ignore one of the most significant effects on business and living conditions in the various regions and the various States of Australia. I point out that this is a very sensitive issue that could be of crucial significance to those in business and those in employment.
It is significant to note that at this time the least protected States are those that have declined the most in terms of employment and other conditions during the past year. Ought that to be ignored? Can it be ignored, for example, that a maintenance fitter who works at an export meatworks in, say, Western Australia or in my own State of Queensland is subject to the rigours of world competition while his comrade on the same award, which is a very low award, who is working at a protected motor car factory in one of the capital cities of the other States of Australia is in a protected position? It is an equalising of those conditions that deserves to be explored at the conference. A similar position applies with respect to those engaged in business enterprise. Those engaged in a business enterprise whose demand depends upon industries that are unprotected are placed in a far more sensitive position than those whose business enterprise depends upon a demand for thenproduct from industries that are protected. This is a matter that affects us far more than just as a narrow State parochialism. It affects the totality of resources allocation in Australia. That nettle ought to be grasped at this conference. The opportunity that was sought by the Commonwealth Grants Commission in its first report ought to be taken advantage of on this occasion.
Let me illustrate the significance of the matters that have occurred in this area since October of last year. Since October of last year, from which date a spate of special assistance and Temporary Assistance Authority assistance has been given to industry, with which I do not disagree, there has been the equivalent of at least an extra $300m allocated by that means to industries in the various States. That assistance has affected well over 200 000 employees directly. But 3 States of Australia that have 28 per cent of the population of Australia have been the recipients of less than 10 per cent of that assistance to either persons or industries situated within the States. That is the type of matter that ought to be discussed at the Premiers Conference this year because, unlike the first analysis of it over 40 years ago there is now information available to enable it to be discussed. There are now healthy external balances that enable between industries the movements that were not possible in, for example, the days of the late respected Prime Minister Scullin. Every government at a time of very high unemployment has retreated to protectionism. There was the famous statement by Prime Minister Scullin on 3 April 1 930 when he said:
The Government is now taking extraordinary action as an emergency measure.
That action was not incorrect in the circumstances. There was the retreat to protectionism during the 1961-1962 downturn in the Australian economy. But what has happened in the 1974-75 and 1975-76 period is that for the first time one has the information and the data on which to evaluate the allocation of resources in Australia and among Australians, among businesses and among the States as a result of protection policies. I believe that it deserves not to be ignored. It is appropriate to be raised at this conference. I request that the Government raise it at this conference. I request the Government not to ignore it; otherwise one can say, in a very unfortunate sense, that if the Government is not willing to allow it to be aired at that level there have to remain the suspicion that it has become part of the pork barrel type of politics. A pork barrel type of politics is not appropriate to the Australian economy, in which the industries with the least protection provide the greatest increase in employment. Circumstances are quite different from what they have been in the past. The opportunity is there. Work which has been done by the Industries Assistance Commission alone enables the technical expertise to be applied to the problem, which in turn will enable the best allocation of resources and enable all the cards to be put on the table- and to be put on the table with precision so that accurate judgments can be made as to what is happening between and among the various States.
– I wish to speak briefly about the new Austraiian honours system. As honourable members will know, the Government shortly will announce the names of the first Australian citizens who are to be admitted to the Order of Australia- Australia ‘s own honours system and one which, as honourable members will know, has the full approval of Her Majesty the Queen. The introduction of our own independent manner of honouring Australians who have rendered distinguished and unselfish service to their country is just another of the many and timely reforms carried out by this Government. I say that it is a timely reform, but in fact it is more a logical development which has taken place and which has gained ground over a long period of time. Whatever members of the Opposition may think of this innovation, I believe that it is anachronistic and subservient to have to depend on an imperial system of orders of chivalry to honour Australia’s most distinguished sons and daughters.
Now that this timely reform has been effected, it might be appropriate and useful to have a brief look at some of the history of honours and titles in Australia so that this latest development can be seen in its proper perspective. It all began many years ago with the advocacy of titles in order to create an hereditary nobility. Indeed, the whole business goes back to 1821 when that well known pure merino, John Macarthur, advocated the establishment of some kind of local aristocracy whose members would sit in the
New South Wales Legislative Council and help to govern the lesser breeds unrepresented in that Council. This proposal came to nothing. However, the idea did not die away. There were proposals for an Australian peerage in the 1840s. When the new Constitution for New South Wales, which incidentally is the present one, was being discussed and drafted in the early 1850s the matter was revived. John- later Sir JohnDickinson, a judge of the New South Wales Supreme Court, wrote a pamphlet advocating the creation of local inherited baronages, with of course the title of ‘Sir’. This group was to consist of 100 fit and proper persons, 75 of whom would have certain landed property qualifications and the remainder of whom would have no such qualifications. The idea was that the Legislative Council was to be formed from this hereditary college.
Then Mr William Charles Wentworth came on the scene. I refer not to the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) but to his illustrious ancestor, a man of many partsexplorer, author, barrister, wealthy land owner, statesman, Anglophile and, last but not least, patriot. Wentworth proposed to create a colonial nobility whose members would sit in the Legislative Council- a sort of colonial House of Lords. This outrageous proposal led to mass protest meetings in Sydney in 1853, at which the whole idea was ridiculed into oblivion by that brilliant native-born Australian, Daniel Deniehy, in a speech which has become famous in the annals of Australian humour, invective and sarcasm. He poured scorn on what he called the proposed bunyip aristocracy’ and those ‘dukes in blossom and marquises in bud in Macquarie Street’ who aspired to titles such as the Duke of VaucluseWentworth himself- and the Earl of CamdenMacarthur. Daniel Deniehy won the day and certainly struck the right note. However, apart from all his invective, he said one thing which I believe is true and is being acted upon by the Government today. He said: . . there is an aristocracy worthy of our respect and admiration. Wherever human skill and brain are eminent . . . there is an aristocracy that confers eternal honour upon the land that possesses it.
This, I suggest, is what the Government desires to honour with the introduction of its new honours system. The idea of hereditary titles was buried forever by Daniel Deniehy; but from time to time Australians, mainly politicians, continued to be honoured by the British Government with knighthoods and other decorations. This practice was strongly denounced by another native-born Australian, Mr Bruce Nicoll, the member for
Richmond in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly in 1890. On 5 June 1890 he told that House that he was opposed to ‘the flimsy and wretched imperial tides which are distributed every few years through the colonies’. He went on to say:
I think it must be very humiliating to men who have worked hard for their country to be offered the privilege of adding a paltry C.M.G. or even K.C.M.G. to their names; and I trust that in time to come it will be looked upon as a disgrace for an Australian to receive any of these miserable titles.
For good measure he added:
I surprised that they should be accepted by any man with a sense of honour.
That is a view which is generally supported within the Labor Party. I remind honourable members that Nicoll said that 85 years ago. It has taken us a long time to do away with imperial honours. It is also worth mentioning that Bruce Nicoll, who was president of the Australian Natives Association and one of the pioneers of the Northern Rivers District of New South Wales, was so advanced in his views at that. time that he even advocated Australianborn Governors. That was 85 years ago.
Tides and honours for services to charity and the public continued to be distributed not only in New South Wales but also in the other States and, after 1901, by the Commonwealth Government The distribution was an unlucky and unfair lottery, the honours usually going to the wealthy and the influential and often as a payout for political services or as a result of political patronage. However, in 1923 in New South Wales a blow was struck at the whole system when the Fuller Nationalist Government passed a resolution telling King George V that titles were no longer wanted in New South Wales. At that stage the redoubtable Jack Lang came on to the scene. He had just become Leader of the State Labor Party. He pointed out that things had really got out of hand in the awarding of honours; that it was a sort of flow-on from what had been happening in England, where Lloyd George has been selling tides for donations to his political war chest. Regarding New South Wales, Lang said:
Some of the recipients of honours had records which would have better qualified them for admission to one of His Majesty’s cells rather than to a distinguished order of knighthood.
The resolution against tides in New South Wales has never been rescinded. However, it was binding only on the Fuller Government. The conservative Bavin Government resumed the practice of taking imperial honours. So much for the record.
This Government believes that Labor policy on the matter is the only possible stand for a selfrespecting and independent nation. Canada, for many years past, has stood aloof and refused to accept British honours and titles. The former system, as I said, was an unhappy lottery, benefiting mainly the wealthy, the snobbish and the influential. Too often the really worthy ones were passed over. Too often the following words of the Australian poet summed up the situation:
When they pin the stars and garters, when they write the titles rare, The men who earned the honours are the men who won’t be there.
The new honours system will be just and fair. Not only that, it will be our own rightful way of honouring distinguished Australians.
Our civilisation faces three great dangers. The first is destruction by nuclear war, the second is being crippled by overpopulation and the third is the Age of Leisure.
So wrote Gabor in the early 1960s. Advancement in technology has seen the disappearance of much of the manual labour of the past and, more importantly, an increase in leisure time. With the increasing impersonalisation of our daily routine due to increasing incidence of machines, the opportunity for self-realisation and self-fulfilment is to be found in leisure time. We must begin to consider seriously the quality of life in Australia. How best can we as a nation utilise this leisure time? This leisure time, according to the general consensus of writers in this field, is a time set aside for re-creation- recreation of the zest for life which undoubtedly is being slowly destroyed by the constant pressure and humdrum of the every-day routine our way of life has established for us. For some this time may be rest. For others it may be used in the acquisition and application of skills, in work with charitable organisations, in jogging, or in any of the list of pleasurable activities lying dormant in many sectors of society.
We must realise that recreation is a slow process which may or may not be productive. It does not just happen. This increasing time set aside for recreation in today’s society needs careful study. Each man and woman must learn to cope with it and utilise it for its purposes just as we have coped with and learnt to utilise other products of technological advancement. In a time when one’s life is dominated by routine there is a need to develop activities which present the opportunity for rewards of self-achievement. We must encourage people to participate- be it in a team game, man against the elements, a bike ride or simple social interaction- for it is a well known fact that satisfaction derived from voluntary participation is usually greater than that derived from spectatorship. So we are faced with something that has the potential to become an incomprehensible problem which, if allowed to develop, will be impenetrable to any solution. We must consider leisure in Australian society as a matter needing urgent investigation and mammoth forward planning.
I compliment the Government on the help it has given to promoting sport and, to a lesser degree, recreation in Australia through grants to many and varied bodies. I endorse without reservation the statement made by the Minister for Tourism and Recreation (Mr Stewart) in his Press release of 1 5 February 1974 concerning the leisure seminar to be held in Canberra. He said:
Federal, State and local governments as well as industry and commerce must plan now to develop a wide range of leisure opportunities and facilities to meet the demands of the community in the 1970s and 1980s.
However, I feel that although great amounts of money have been allocated to sporting bodies throughout Australia over the past 2 years, this enthusiasm for spending is slightly misdirected. Those motivated to participate and who have the ability to play in teams will always find a way, be it in the very primitive conditions of an open field with self-taught skills or in the most elaborate gymnasium. I grant that it is a great thing to provide these people with better facilities and professional coaching so that they can realise their full potential in their desired sport. I derive great satisfaction from seeing the best facilities provided for competition, be it local, interstate or international. However, we must be realistic.
I submit that there is an area of greater need. I ask: What of those people who do not know how to play, those who do not want to play and those who are unable to play in the average everyday activities? It is with this large sector of our population that the problem lies. There are many who do not want to be institutionalised in their leisure yet who do not know how to find a suitable alternative. These are the people warranting concern. It is these people for whom we must cater and, more importantly, ultimately reduce their number. We must conquer the problem of the leisured society. This can be done only by interdepartmental co-operation. It is a social problem- not one that can be egg-crated and handled by one department alone. The first and foremost solution lies in education. Gone are the days when physical education can be acceptable in the form of a physical activity class alone. This subject should and must be given the status it deserves. It should be a class like other science classes, with physical and practical sessions. Where are the grants to schools to establish well equipped gymnasiums with performance laboratories so that our students can learn from a practical sighting how the body copes with varying situations? The quality of life for Australians lies with the education of our young.
Although much can be done to help the present adult population, many people refuse to acknowledge the problem of creeping overweight through over-indulgence in a poor diet and inactivity, and the problem of drug dependence through stress and social isolation. Whilst there is a great need for the construction of community leisure centres, there is also a great need for public education in this new phenomenonand leisure is a phenomenon. I compliment the Government on its Fitness Australia Campaign. This is one way of creating public awareness of the physical well-being, or lack of it, in the Australian population. But these campaigns should be on-going; they should be part of life. It is interesting to note that, although the campaign was held in all 6 States and the Australian Capital Territory, the news release on it could claim only that ‘more than 4000’ people volunteered for testing. It does not take much to imagine that more than 4000’ does not mean ‘in the vicinity of 20 000’. Even if it were near that figure it is still remarkably few considering the number of people to whom the campaign was open. Surely this was an illustration of the lack of interest and knowledge people have in and of themselves. People must become aware of their physical well-being and how to maintain it. An unhealthy society is expensive. A lethargic work force is expensive. Social unrest is extremely undesirable.
So the root of the problem lies with education. It would be unrealistic to imagine that we could educate for leisure in a single subject. However, we can make it part of every subject, with the physical education lesson acting as a collator of the information and then its application. We must educate our society against obesity which leads to heart disease. We must educate against the effects of stress, boredom and the greatest of all evils- inactivity. But this is for the future. The best we can hope for is that the people in school now can be educated to realise the true meaning of the leisured society. What of now? Surveys show that people move away from regular physical activity as soon as they leave school. What of the housewife with young children? What of the family? We recognise the presence of problems with young house-bound mothers, with a lack of family activity and with the lowering age of death among our male population through heart disease- in many cases the result of overweight and stress. Something must be done.
We cannot afford to have organisations going it alone and building great expensive complexes catering for one or two activities. This is restrictive. It requires a commitment. Usually one must belong to a club to enable utilisation of facilities. Belonging to a club usually involves regular attendance as a memer of a team or just to gain maximum remuneration from fees paid. This in turn encourages only the enthusiast, as the lessmotivated towards physical activity would rather have a dab at everything and not be committed initially to anything. I quote from a paper delivered by Mr Michael Barron at the Seminar on Leisure in Canberra in April 1 974 in which he said:
The North West Leisure survey discovered that large numbers of men claimed that they would like to take up turf sports (chiefly soccer) but could not. These were chiefly manual workers in their twenties and thirties, married with families. Clearly they remain non-players not so much for want of facilities, but because no institutional framework exists to provide for the casual player.
This is why we have a great need for community centres- centres planned with the help of people from many fields, centres catering for every kind of social service, centres where the individual can arrive and have a couple of hours recreation at the activity appealing to him at the time, with no weekly commitments and no fierce competition, just a session of recreation, a time when the rigid structure of his daily routine can be far from his mind.
These centres should cater for family activities. Let us stop the decline of the family unit. Let us reunite our society. We should be aiming at centres where parents can participate in activities of their choice while children are either participating in theirs or, if too young, are being cared for in well-planned, stimulating child care centres. If we are to conquer the increased leisure time we must offer viable options to inactivity and social isolation. The Government is moving far too slowly in this area. There have been many Press releases, many surveys and many great speeches but little has come of them, except perhaps a great deal of disillusionment from enthusiastic recreationists, and many beautifully constructed toilet blocks. The Government must realise that gymnasiums and squash courts, for which I grant much money has been given, will not solve the social problems which increased leisure presents. We must encourage the housewife to venture outside and we must encourage the husband and wife to spend time together in an environment of recreation. I am not satisfied that the Government, in its spending on sport and recreation, is doing it by the most advantageous method. The time has come to attack the problem from the root.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Berinson)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-The Opposition and other vested interests in the community are currently waging a very vigorous campaign designed to convince the present Australian Government that there should be an indiscriminate, across the board, significant reduction in Government spending. Undoubtedly there are some areas in which, whatever the desirability may be, it would be possible to reduce Government spending. Various members of this Parliament would argue for or against individual or particular items which could, should or perhaps should not be reduced on various criteria. I am concerned about a number of these matters. In particular I want to make a plea today on behalf of the surf life-saving movement that there should be no reduction in respect to any grant previously made to that organisation and that the Government should consider increasing the grant to that movement. The present Government has given greater recognition to the Surf Life Saving Association in Australia than has been given by any previous government since Federation.
– Are you allowing for inflation?
-The honourable gentleman who interrupts me has not seen the surf for a long time. He is out with the cows and the trees. If he listens he might learn something. There is no doubt that the present Government has given significant recognition to the work performed by the surf life saving movement. In fact, in the current financial year some $280,000 has been made available for administration, for special purposes, and for the purchase of life saving equipment- rescue equipment of various types. A further sum of $9,000-odd was made available to assist in the funding of the presentation of the national championships, which were held at Dee Why in Sydney earlier this year. Some 29 000 men are members of the Surf Life Saving Association. They give their time in varying degrees to the saving of lives in what is a dangerous sport. But what this Parliament should recognise is that the life saving of today is vastly different from the life saving that the honourable member who interrupted me would have seen the last time he was at the beach in his youth- a long time ago indeed. What has happened is that technology is being used in a far more advanced form than previously. For example, at the present time the surf life saving movement utilises the helicopter service which is made available by way of grant by a private trading bank. It utilises radio communication services and power boats and on the beach it administers oxygen and other advanced first aid and paramedical treatment. It should be recognised also that the surf life saving movement does not confine itself to assistance to people who are injured while participating in the sport of swimming. Other forms of accidents occur on the beach and at sea for which its services are required and utilised at the present time, particularly with the use of the helicopter. Fishermen washed off rocks and people involved in boating accidents have no hesitation in calling for assistance, and that assistance is readily available.
When this matter is being considered in the forthcoming Budget, I hope sincerely that proper attention will be given to it and that the Government will not be stampeded into any acrosstheboard indiscriminate reduction in Government spending which does not pay due regard to the services being provided in particular instances. I hope that surf life saving is kept clearly in mind. There is no other life saving function in our community which is comparable in size or in regularity of service.
– You have forgotten the churches.
– No, I have not forgotten anything. I am saying that there is no other life saving function which is comparable in size or regularity of service, and I believe that to be true. The Surf Life Saving Association performs its tasks without charge. In fact its members pay for the privilege of providing what is a very valuable community service. The complexity of new methods creates a much greater demand for training in methods of administration. For example, there is a much greater need for training and for organising training courses, for training facilities, for putting in time on instruction and examinations. Any member of this Parliament would realise that a person who is administering oxygen cannot be allowed to do it without training and that a person can cause death if oxygen is improperly administered. This training takes time, and it also places a great deal of strain on the limited and meagre administration facilities of the Surf Life Saving Association- an organisation which operates throughout the length and breadth of Australia, all around the coastline of Australia where there are clubs and members performing this function. The Association has only 4 male administrators and 10 female office assistants.
I make this special plea at this time, that not only will the Association’s allocation not be reduced but also that the Government might give favourable consideration in the preparation of the Budget to making a further increase in the funds to be made available for this very worthwhile purpose.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
-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. Last evening when I was speaking in the adjournment debate I referred to the problems of the wool industry and I indicated that as a result of Government decisions, the cost of producing one pound of wool exceeded the price that was actually being received. In my final words on that subject- I admit that I was rushing to finish my speech before my time expired- I concluded by saying:
In other words, the price of wool must be increased by 50 per cent if one wants to come out square.
That figure of 50 per cent should read 10 per cent.
– I move:
The Customs Tariff Proposals I have just tabled relate to proposed alterations to the Customs Tariff 1966-1974. Customs Tariffproposals No. 17 provide for the insertion of a new section 17B to the Customs Tariff. This new section is necessary to correct a deficiency in the customs tariff which arose following implementation, in December last year, of the Government’s decisions on the Industries Assistance Commission’s report on woven man-made fibre fabrics. The new section has been back-dated to 19 December 1974 to coincide with the original tariff change.
Customs Tariffproposals No. 18 provide for the reduction in duties on a further group of commodities which have been added to Schedule A to the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement. The concessions have been backdated to 1 January 1975. Customs Tariff Proposals No. 19 provide for amendment of Item 35 in Schedule 2 to the Customs Tariff. The amendment is designed to facilitate free entry of unsolicited gifts and small commercial consignments on which duty is insubstantial.
A comprehensive summary setting out the nature of the changes in the duty rates and the origin of each alteration contained in the proposals is now being circulated to honourable members. I commend the proposals.
Debate (on motion by Mr Wilson) adjourned.
-On behalf of the Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation, I bring up a report of the Committee on the operation of the Softwood Forestry Agreements Acts 1967 and 1972, and I move that the report be printed.
Ordered that the report be printed.
I ask for leave of the House to make a short statement in connection with the report.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– This report, the sixth of the Committee, is a particularly important one in that it examines the operation of legislation, past and present, and makes recommendations about replacement legislation which is due to come into operation in mid 1976. In brief, the 1967 and 1972 Softwood Forestry Agreements Acts have provided the means by which federal funds have been loaned to the States for the planting of softwoods, mainly pinus radiata, each Act operating over a 5 year period. The loans are interest-free for 10 years after which repayment of both principal and interest continues for 25 years. The planting program which was drawn up for the 1967 Act and which has been reviewed several times since, is aimed at Australia being selfsufficient in timber, or at least being able to reach a net trade balance in timber, by the year 20 10.
The Committee in its report questions this goal, as well as other considerations upon which the legislation is based. The Committee believes that the planting rate is excessive and that because of the environmental disadvantages associated with the program it ought to be reduced.
The main reasons for the Committee recommending a reduction in the planting rate are: (a) Future demand may not be as great as forecast due to a lower rate of population growth and lower consumption rates than those predicted; (b) future supplies may not be as scarce as expected due to the availability of long-term supplies from New Zealand with whom we have a free trade agreement; (c) the planting program has continued with little heed for environmental values especially where the clearfelling of areas of native forest is involved; (d) the financial returns and balance of costs/benefits may not be sufficient for the continuation of the commitment of public funds over such a long period.
The Committee is not satisfied that any of these questions have been adequately examined and until they are it can see no purpose in proceeding with the program on the scale proposed. The Committee hopes that by examining the matter as expeditiously as it has and by making our findings and recommendations known to the Parliament 12 months before the current Act expires, there will be time for the more fundamental issues to be thoroughly analysed. Emerging from the Committee’s examination of this legislation have been some serious environmental shortcomings which the Committee believes require most urgent attention. Primarily, these concern the tragic dearth of knowledge of the effects of clearfelling large areas of Australia ‘s native forests upon the flora and fauna they contain, and upon soil and water quality. The Committee is convinced that until much more is known about these factors, further clearing should not take place. The Committee was appalled to see the blatant disregard with which prime quality forests in some States are being bulldozed. In some cases not the slightest concession is made to environmental values, the only considerations being ease of planting and ease of harvesting.
Mr Deputy Speaker, this leads me to 3 major recommendations of this report which cannot be stressed too strongly. The first is that more funds ought to be made available for biological surveys and wildlife surveys for the whole Australian continent. The great tragedy of softwood planting is that of the native forest being destroyed, so little is known about its flora and fauna content or its relative value. The second is for greater research to be conducted into the side effects of softwood forestry upon all the environmental issues raised in the report. The third- this is a very important factor- is for more funds to be allocated for the purchase of marginal or derelict rural land which has been cleared for its timber and which would be suited to forestry. All three are vital matters and I urge that serious consideration be given to them.
This inquiry has been a particularly valuable one for Australia in that it has enabled the whole range of people interested in a piece of future legislation to make their views known to the Parliament. This, I believe, is one of the great benefits of Parliamentary Committees. Thanks to the hard work and the dedication of its members I firmly believe the Environment and Conservation Committee has made a valuable contribution to the process of the public examination of important topical issues. Since the commencement of the inquiry in October 1974, the Committee has travelled to every State holding public hearings and inspecting the activities of the State forest services. A sub-committee also visited New Zealand on what proved to be a most invaluable trip in that it enabled the Committee to resolve a serious conflict in evidence on a matter absolutely vital to future softwood forestry legislation. In that short period of time the Committee held 12 public hearings, heard 74 witnesses, and took 2400 pages of evidence. Naturally, there were many hours of private deliberation by the Committee. As Chairman of the Committee, I wish also to express on behalf of the Committee members our appreciation of the loyalty, dedication and interest of our Committee staff. They all applied themselves with interest to the task undertaken and, whilst I hesitate to mention individuals, Mr Peter Reece has applied himself with enthusiasm to his allocated responsibilities in this inquiry. Mr Deputy Speaker, I believe that this report is an admirable effort and I commend it to the House.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I seek leave to make a short statement in regard to this matter.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-As a member of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation I want to make a very brief statement endorsing the comments of the Chairman of the Committee in the presentation of the report which has just been tabled in the House. The report is a cautious one in that it views with some concern the commitment of a large amount of money on a particular project, a project of great importance to Australia and to the Australian community. This involves questions of finance and resource management as well as the important environmental considerations. The Committee has found that these effects are quite considerable when we relate them to future development of Australia and the future care of a very important element in terms of resources in Australia.
I fully support the findings and recommendations contained in this report. I suggest that they be given very close attention in the formulation of any legislation relative to the matters that are referred to in the report. I would also like to say how pleased I am to have been a member of the Committee. In my opinion it, more than any other parliamentary committee, is making a very solid contribution to the work of Parliament through the Committee system. I believe that the statistics the Chairman gave in relation to this inquiry are indicative of the activities of the Committee and set the pattern as to what committees of this kind can do in the interests of legislation and in the interests of the work of this Parliament. I wish that other committees might follow the example that this one has set.
In conclusion, I pay a tribute to the staff who have worked so assiduously in this regard and to the other members of the Committee who have worked in a dedicated fashion to bring into this House a very useful report.
- Mr Speaker, I realise that the motion -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Berinson)Order! What is the honourable member seeking to do?
– I am asking a question. I realise that the motion that the report be printed has been passed, but the matter is of such importance -
– Order! The honourable member knows that he cannot ask a question of whatever importance.
– I seek leave to ask a question.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I simply ask, as this is a matter of such importance, that the House at some convenient time be given an opportunity to debate it at some length. I realise that the motion that the report be printed has already been passed.
Bill presented by Mr Barnard, and read a first time.
Sitting suspended from 12.59 to 2.15 p.m. (Quorum formed)
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the defence legislation to give effect to reorganisation of the higher management of the Defence Force and of the Department of Defence. The Bill makes amendments to some 14 Acts, though most of these changes are consequential upon the significant changes introduced into the Defence Act. When the Government took office, I announced- on 19 December 1972- the intention of the Government to move towards integrating defence management, firstly, by providing more effective central military control of operations and related military activities and, secondly, by creating a single Department of Defence comprehending the staff in the 4 existing departments. A study was launched into the best way of achieving this. In December 1973, I announced the abolition of the separate Departments of Navy, Army and Air, and the intention to create by statute the office of Chief of Defence Force Staff with power of command of the Defence Force and located in the Department of Defence as a very senior statutory officer; and to redistribute, by legislation and regulations, the functions performed by the Naval, Military and Air Boards. The legislation now introduced will give effect to these objectives.
The general control and administration of the Defence Force is to be vested in the Minister. A new office of Chief of Defence Force Staff, directly responsible to the Minister for Defence, is created and the present office of Chairman, Chiefs of Staff, provided by administrative means and lacking statutory function or authority, disappears. Subject to the Minister’s directions, the Chief of Defence Force Staff will have command of the whole of the Defence Force and, under him, each Chief of Staff will command the arm of the Defence Force of which he is the Chief. The administration- as distinct from command- of the Defence Force is to be vested jointly in the Secretary and Chief of Defence Force Staff, subject to, and in accordance with, any directions of the Minister and except for matters falling within the command of the Defence Force or other matters that may be specified by the Minister as a further exception. This integrated organisation will then replace the 5 government departments and 3 boards of administration previously responsible for defence administration. The Service Boards are to be abolished. This means a substantial increase in the direct authority of individual Chiefs of
Staff. It also ensures clear definition of the responsibility falling upon individual office holders- the Chief of Defence Force Staff, the individual Chiefs of Staff, the Secretary to the Department- as compared with the anonymity of Service Board decisions.
Under new section 9 (3), as proposed to be inserted in the Defence Act by clause 7 of this Bill, the 4 statutory officers created by this legislation will have right of access to the Minister in respect of their responsibilities- something which they have today only by administrative arrangements. The legislation will make clear that the Chief of Defence Force Staff (CDFS) and the Service Chiefs under him are the advisers on military matters to the Minister. The Secretary, as Permanent Head/Chief Officer of the Department will have legal responsibilities under the Audit Act and Treasury Regulations, will be the link with the Government administration at large, and will be the adviser on policy, on organisation and on financial planning and programming. Ministerial directives establishing the arrangements for the inter-relation of the high level Service and civilian positions in sharing of responsibility in appropriate areas, and stating the responsiveness expected of the departmental structure to the operational priorities of the Chiefs of Staff, have already been drafted, in full consultation among the Chiefs of Staff and Secretary.
Four heads of departments under the old systemleaving aside a fifth, the head of the Department of Supply which administered defence science as well as other matters- will be replaced by one Permanent Head. On 28 January this year, the restructuring of the Department of Defence into the functional groupings approved by the Government was implemented to the extent possible pending the abolition of the Service Boards. There has already been a significant increase in the direct participation by officers from the Navy, Army and Air Force in the Defence Department business of strategic assessment, works and equipment programming, and advising on the use of total manpower. Naturally I accept that further changes to the defence organisation may be required from time to time. Indeed, it will be important to maintain an ongoing analysis of the organisation, the absence of which has been a major deficiency in the past.
Turning from the fundamental matters dealt with in the legislation, I should mention that the opportunity has also been taken to make other amendments to the Acts being amended which are required for administrative purposes. Formal legislation will in future refer to the Australian
Navy, Austraiian Army and the Australian Air Force instead of the Naval Forces of the Commonwealth, the Military Forces of the Commonwealth, and the Air Force of the Commonwealth respectively. I may say that this has nothing to do with the use of the prefix ‘Royal’. That usage derives from the consent of the Sovereign and these changes in legal terminology will have no effect on the use of the prefix which, as the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) stated categorically in a Press conference in London on 20 December last, will continue. References to national service which are no longer necessary are being deleted from the Acts being amended. I would like to now refer to particular amendments being made to the Acts affected.
I have already referred to the main proposals to implement the Government’s decisions contained in amendments to the Defence Act. I should also mention that the Chief of Defence Force Staff will have the command of the Defence Force subject to the command in chief vested in the Governor-General by section 68 of the Constitution. The appointment of an officer of the Defence Force to be Chief of Defence Force Staff will be made by the GovernorGeneral and provision is also made for the Governor-General to appoint an officer of the Navy to be Chief of Naval Staff, an officer of the Army to be Chief of the General Staff and an officer of the Air Force to be Chief of the Air Staff. A Chief of Staff will exercise the command of his service under the Chief of Defence Force Staff. As a basis for binding instructions on matters of administration, including those with financial implications, to be issued by each Chief of Staff to his subordinates, provision is made for the Secretary and the Chief of Defence Force Staff jointly to authorise a Chief of Staff to administer matters relating to his arm of the Defence Force. I would naturally expect that a wide range of matters now being administered by the Service boards will become the responsibility of the individual Chiefs of Staff. The Secretary and the Chief of Defence Force Staff would be concerned principally with important matters of defence policy and administration particularly those affecting the whole of the defence forcethe aggregates and the common policies- which I, as Minister, and the Government look to them to co-ordinate in the interests of consistent application of policy requirements, including financial requirements. I should draw honourable members’ attention to clause 46 of the Bill which amends section 98 of the Defence Act to prohibit the passing of the death sentence by any Service court-martial.
Naval Defence Act
The amendments to this Act include the provisions for the abolition of the Naval Board and for necessary consequential amendments.
Air Force Act
The long title of the Act is being amended to bring it more into line with the Naval Defence Act and the Defence Act, and the Air Force Regulations relating to the Air Board are being repealed.
Supply and Development Act
This Act and the Defence Act are being amended to enable defence research and development activities to be transferred to the Department of Defence and to permit other changes in the responsibilities of the Department of Manufacturing Industry.
Other Acts Amended
The amendments to the remaining Acts are consequential on the abolition of the Service boards and on the changes in the formal designations of the arms of the defence force. The amendment to the Remuneration Tribunals Act substitutes the office of Chief of Defence Force Staff for the office of Chairman, Chiefs of Staff Committee. In my statement to the House on the 4th December last year I stated:
For too long, defence administration has remained entangled in cumbrous procedures, working in an atmosphere which encourages division and contest, because of the fatal error 16 years ago in not abolishing the single Service departments as was recommended even then.
The new organisation will be the basis for more direct participation by officers from the Navy, Army and Air Force in the business of planning capabilities on a defence, rather than a single Service, basis to satisfy the country’s strategic needs. I am confident that the concerns of individual Services will both be fully expressed and fully weighed in this new system. I am also confident that we will have a greater sense of joint endeavour, which is a prime objective. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Killen) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Lionel Bowen, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill provides for the repeal of the Overseas Telecommunications Act 1946-1975 and for the amendment of the Telecommunications Act 1975 to provide for the incorporation of the functions of the Overseas Telecommunications Commission (Australia) in the Australian Telecommunications Commission.
Following the majority recommendation of the Vernon Commission of Inquiry into the Australian Post Office, the Government decided to merge the national and international telecommunications services in one Commission, the Australian Telecommunications Commission. Provision for this was made in the initial Telecommunications Bill 1975 and the Postal and Telecommunications Commissions (Transitional Provisions) Bill 1975. However, amendment to these Bills, in another place, had the effect of preserving an illogical division of control over the common functions of national and international telecommunications services.
The Government is convinced that a comprehensive national approach to telecommunications services is essential as in the United Kingdom, New Zealand, West Germany, Sweden and France where the internal and external telecommunications services are under the control of single Government authorities. Honourable members are aware of the rapid changes in telecommunications technology and the high and growing demand for telecommunications services of all types. Increasingly, services are being operated on a world-wide subscribertosubscriber basis and there is no logical reason for separate control of the international services.
Regarding the statements made by the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) yesterday about the efficiency and profitability of OTC there should be no illusions on this matter. Because of the exclusive area of telecommunications operated by OTC, that is the provision of international links only, the costs of which are reducing as more sophisticated bearer equipment is developed, the overseas telecommunications organisation of every country throughout the world is making a profit.
On the other hand it is equally true that the cost of providing domestic services is increasing in every country in the world and although the national network has to be provided and maintained at a high standard, without which OTC could not operate at all, the costs of doing this are not reflected in the payments made by OTC to the Australian Post Office.
For these reasons, OTC in Australia and its overseas counterparts will continue to appear efficient because they are operating in a narrow profit-making field of communications at the expense of the local telephone user. Currently, the OTC and the Australian Post Office are established to serve the one set of customers with essentially the same service- a telecommunications service. The telephone subscriber makes local, trunk and overseas calls from the one telephone and should not need more than one authority to provide the service. To make an overseas call the subscriber calls Post Office telephonists who operate the switchboards in all capital cities. Post Office telephonists provide assistance with both national and international calls and to that extent the national and overseas telephone services are already merged. On the other hand, OTC operators switch messages into the international telegraph network. It is logical to merge the 2 organisations as this will permit better coordination of total operations, simplified billing arrangements and improved service to customers.
The technical quality of international telephone calls depends to a high degree not only on the external links, but also on the standards and special equipment provided in the national networks. Thus, there are strong technical reasons for merging the OTC in the Australian Telecommunications Commission at this time.
It is expected that international subscriber dialling will commence to Papua and New Guinea this year and will progressively extend to other countries over the next few years. The introduction of this service from Australia to overseas countries depends basically for its technical feasibility on equipment in the national network. This applies also to the planned provision of itemised accounting for international calls and later for national STD calls.
Whilst on the subject of Papua New Guinea, the record of the OTC is very poor in regard to its relations with the Papua New Guinea Department of Posts and Telegraphs. OTC failed to appreciate the policies of the present Government and the former Liberal-Country Party Government that Papua New Guinea should enjoy a special relationship in line with its promised independence.
While the Australian Post Office was helpful and co-operative towards Papua New Guinea and gave considerable help with trained staff, OTC refused any assistance with staffing. OTC always had an excuse for refusing calls for assistance from the Papua New Guinea Department of Posts and Telegraphs and was endeavouring to retain control of Papua New Guinea’s external communications.
OTC, for example, refused to accept Papua New Guinea’s national plan, agreed to by the Australian Post Office, to locate the ARM crossbar exchange at Lae and went ahead and built it at Madang, which is well away from what is deemed the copper centre of the Papua New Guinea network. Papua New Guinea’s imminent takeover of its own external telecommunications network was ignored and thus Papua New Guinea had to inherit a system inferior to what should have been implemented. To illustrate further the seriousness of the problem which has resulted from this decision, the Papua New Guinea Department of Posts and Telegraphs has only recently let a contract for an international ARM cross-bar exchange to be constructed at Lae and this will go into service early next year. It is quite clear that the installation at Madang was not only incorrect but has proved to be costly to the Government of Papua New Guinea.
OTC has continued its wrangle with Papua New Guinea ever since and only last year was involved in a drawn-out issue over the best method to provide relief circuits between Papua New Guinea and Australia, even after an outside consultant had confirmed that relief was best achieved by a broad band cable between Madang and Cairns. Advancing telecommunications technology is rapidly eliminating boundaries between national and international networks. Already many countries are exploiting satellites and modern submarine cables in the national networks and the advanced computer controlled switching systems are being used for automatically switching and charging both international and national calls. Common planning, design and technical development of the national and international systems will become increasingly important for both economic and technical reasons as technology develops further, especially for such services as data, facsimile and, ultimately, television telephony.
The merging of the 2 organisations would avoid continuing and protracted negotiations between two separate managements on technological planning and cost sharing. These negotiations and the diverse aims of the two separate managements required the Postmaster-General of the previous Government, Sir Alan Hulme, to have an APO/OTC Policy Liaison Committee formed in 1969. Nevertheless, negotiations have tended to be time-consuming and difficult.
Reference to a number of difficulties of this type is to be found in the Vernon Report. Even with a number of Commissioners common to both authorities, it would be neither desirable nor practicable to have to co-ordinate activities and resolve differences between two separate Commissions. This can best be done at chief executive level in accordance with policy directives from Commissioners accepting responsibility for total telecommunications requirements.
In moving to merge the services into one Commission, the Government has no intention of dismembering the Overseas Telecommunications Commission organisation and of submerging it in the large national organisation. On the contrary, the Interim Australian Telecommunications Commission proposes the retention of an international unit reporting directly to the Managing Director, who will be the chief executive officer of the Commission and a member of the Commission itself. The Interim Commission has already taken steps to overcome certain problems foreseen by Sir James Vernon. Arrangements were made for a senior OTC officer to be detached to assist in developing an organisation and a relationship between the international unit and the rest of the organisation of the Australian Telecommunications Commission. At its May meeting, the Interim Australian Telecommunications Commission adopted a series of proposals which were the outcome of this work. At the same time arrangements have been made to preserve separate accounting for the international service. For all the reasons that I have stated, merging is in the national interest, and I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Nixon) adjourned.
(2.38)- I move:
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969-1974, the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report: Second three year program for the improvement and maintenance of the Stuart and Barkly Highways in the Northern Territory. (Quorum formed) I do not know why the Deputy Leader of the National Country Party of Australia (Mr Sinclair) wants to obstruct my progress in this matter. The proposal is the second 3-year program for the highways and includes aprroximately 325 kilometres of pavement strengthening and widening, approximately 235 kilometres of road realignment, and the construction of 14 bridges, besides routine maintenance and pavement resealing. The estimated cost of the proposed work is $34.6m.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Suspension of Standing Orders
That, in relation to the proceedings on the following Bills, so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Leader ofthe House making one declaration of urgency and moving one motion for the allotment of time in respect of all the Bills:
Electoral Re-distribution (South Australia) Bill 197S
Electoral Re-distribution (Tasmania) Bill 1975
Electoral Re-distribution (Queensland) Bill 1 97S
Electoral Re-distribution (Victoria) Bill 197S
Electoral Re-distribution (New South Wales) Bill 1975.
This action is necessary because of the urgent nature of these Bills. It is necessary also in order that the people of Australia may, at the earliest possible opportunity, have equality of voting rights throughout all Australian States, irrespective of where they might live. The enrolments in these electorates- if I might make passing reference to them- are so malapportioned as to make the present basis of election undemocratic. Therefore, it is necessary that the proposals enumerated in these Bills should be given effect to and voted upon by this House. It is true that this legislation in another form came before this Parliament and it was passed by this House. It was rejected in another place. Members of the National Country Party of Australia and others have said that at no stage at all will they support the proposals. They are now exercising a delaying tactic to prevent democratic elections throughout the length and breadth of Australia. Therefore, it is felt that we should give legislative form immediately to the redistribution proposals of the Commissioners in respect of all States. These proposals have been described as the fairest set of boundaries ever presented to any Australian parliament.
This legislation will give this House the opportunity to vote on the issue again; it will give those in another place the opportunity to vote on it again; and ultimately it may come back here. If it is again frustrated, rejected and obstructed in another place, the people ultimately will pass judgement on whether or not they should have equitable electoral boundaries. There are honourable members opposite, particularly members of the National Country Party, who will say that these Bills are unnecessary. Their views can be discarded because they said, even before the proposals were announced, that they would not support them. They did not know what the proposals were to be- whether they would make every seat a Country Party seat or not- but they said they would not accept them. The reason they will not accept them is that they do not believe the Joint Sitting of the Parliament passed a law and gave effect to them. That is in keeping with those honourable members’ political attitude.
I have no desire to delay this House in explaining these measures because I would like honourable members opposite to have as much time as possible to adjudicate and speak on these Bills that I am presenting to the Parliament. Therefore, I do not propose to speak at length on why the Standing Orders should be suspended. I merely summarise in this way: These Bills give legislative effect to boundaries for each electorate in Australia which bring equity and justice to the voting system. They represent, in legislative form- in Bill form- the proposals that have already been endorsed by this House. They represent also the boundaries as drawn up by various Commissioners in the various States, giving effect to legislation on redistribution as set out in the Commonwealth Electoral Act. In every way the Bills exemplify what we believe to be urgent legislation. We believe that they should be passed through this House in this session. We believe that they should take effect as urgently as possible. For that reason, with a minimum of delay, I move for the suspension of Standing Orders in order that I may give effect to discussions in this Parliament in the most expeditious way on this far-reaching and important legislation which has the endorsement, I have no doubt, of people of all political persuasions, except the National Country Party members of this Parliament.
-Even the polls are showing that the Australian community expects the Australian Labor Party to abuse the electoral system. In those circumstances it is really quite remarkable that the Labor Party has had the effrontery to introduce not just the legislation but a motion for the suspension of Standing Orders asking this Parliament to give it a licence to introduce legislation in a most unusual form without adequate debate in order that it can ensure that the gerrymander which it is endeavouring to implement will be effected with the minimum opportunity for public scrutiny.
Every Australian who is listening to the Parliament at this moment needs to know that the reason for the motion that we are now considering is that the Labor Party is running scared. It has lost credibility. Its Ministers are in a position where even the members of their own Party are suggesting that it is about time they had a spill. We have been saying that for 2 years. We are delighted that as last the members of the Government Party are recognising that the Opposition is on the right ground. It is unfortunate that a man like the present Leader of the House (Mr Daly) in presenting his argument on this case does not get up in this place and tell the truth. The truth is not that there is an urgent nature to the Bills which requires the suspension of Standing Orders. Equally, the legislation is not urgently required to provide greater equality of voting rights. Demonstrably, neither of those statements is true. The real reason for the motion of course is that the Labor Party knows that if it were to go to the Australian electorate in circumstances in which it were forced to contest the elections on present boundaries, very few members of the Australian electorate who elected it in May 1974 or December 1972 would again give it a licence to abuse the whole of our administrative system.
Of course it is true that the legislation mentioned in the motion will enable 45 per cent of the Australian electorate to determine the next Government of Australia that is, if the Government is a Labor Government. Of course that is a great basis of equality! Unfortunately the mathematics of the Labor Party is not quite right. If one doubles forty-five one finds it comes to only ninety. To take the figure up to 100 per cent it can be seen that 55 per cent is needed, which is what we would require to gain office if this redistribution were allowed to go through. We are not going to be allowed to say these things. That is why the Leader of the House has moved the motion. It is designed to camouflage an abuse of the Australian electoral system. The very fact that the Minister is introducing the legislation in this way instead of passing it in the normal form makes one suspicious. But it is not sufficient that it is done in an unusual form, the Leader of the House finds it necessary that Standing Orders be suspended, that there be no debate. We have yet to hear the proposed time schedule, but if the Minister follows his past pattern, his mania for cutting off adequacy of opportunity for debate is such that I guess we will have about half an hour to pass 5 major Bills affecting the electoral rights of the Australian community.
In moving this motion the Leader of the House has demonstrated once again that the Labor Party in Government is inadequate, incomplete and has no credibility in the community. If it had such it would be prepared to stand up and state the basis on which it puts this motion and state it plausibly and accurately. That it has not done. The Minister has stated 2 premises to explain the urgent nature of the Bills. One reason he considers the Bills urgent is that he knows the Australian community does not believe they are urgent, accurate or necessary. They do not believe that in the form in which they are presented there is any reason for them to go other than through the normal process of scrutiny. His second argument was in regard to equality of voting rights. Demonstrably this has no foundations. What the Labor Party had to do is turn to a parliamentary device, to try to cloak the whole of the proceeds of what it is doing. Its tactic is to ensure that people do not know what the Government is doing. If people knew what Government supporters were doing, and thank goodness most Australians are beginning to recognise what they are doing, there would be no further Labor Government in this place.
Make no mistake. The reason for the suspension of Standing Orders is not to advance the concept of open government; it is to halt it. It is not to accelerate the passage of legislation that is urgent; it is to deny parliamentary scrutiny of legislation which is not urgent. It is to ensure that there is no adequate opportunity for the Australian community at large to know that the electoral redistribution proposals that Labor advances are deliberately intended to distort electoral boundaries to Labor’s advantage. That is the premise upon which this motion is submitted to this Parliament. It is the intention of Labor to deny parliamentary debate, to deny open scrutiny and to conceal the fact that this whole proposed redistribution is deliberately intended to manipulate boundaries to Labor’s advantage. It is for that reason that the Opposition very strongly opposes any suggestion that Standing Orders should be suspended in order that the Labor Party may accelerate the passage of electoral Bills. It is tragic that a party in government is not prepared to stand on its record. It is tragic that the Minister for Services and Property is not prepared to stand up here in this House and state -
-Order! I suggest that the honourable gentleman might get a little closer to the motion.
- Mr Speaker, a motion for the suspension of Standing Orders requires the very deepest consideration of motivation. It is necessary that we recognise that the Labor Government is seeking to suspend Standing Orders to deny votes, to deny scrutiny and to deny adequate understanding of the legislation mentioned in the motion. The Bills which this motion proposes to give easy passage are so important to the Australian community that I think I really must talk about them in speaking to this motion. However, I believe that it is more important that we talk on the substance of the Bills and for that reason I will not speak much further.
Finally, I emphasise that the Minister once again has shown that the Labor Party which he represents is not interested in Parliament. It is not interested in any parliamentary debating measures. It is not interested in trying to deny adequate scrutiny of all those measures which are covered by guillotines. There has been an appalling incidence of the introduction of guillotines in this Parliament. This is just another example. It is no excuse to say that the substance of the Bills came forward in another form only a short while ago. That they are in Bill form demonstrates that there must be something wrong. If the Government were prepared to stand by normally accepted procedures it would not be necessary to introduce the Bills, it would not be necessary to move to suspend Standing Orders. The whole of the device is to try to conceal from the Australian people the substance of the Government’s manipulation of electoral boundaries. That is what this motion is about. We are vehemently opposed to the motion. We are vehemently opposed to the substance of the Bills and we believe the Australian people need to be told and deserve to be told about this. The Parliament should have the opportunity to do just that. We will oppose the motion.
-I speak in support of the motion. The Government does not mind the Opposition being politic, but when it is stupid with its politics it ought to be exposed in the Parliament. Time and again we have seen that the spokesman on this issue has been from the National Country Party of Australia. On the last occasion when matters of this nature were debated the Opposition put up the honourable member for Bennelong (Mr Howard) to try to defend the fort. He would be the greatest lightweight since Vic Patrick. So now the Opposition has thrown its heavyweights back in. The Opposition complains continually about the use of the guillotine. The guillotine was used so much when the Opposition was in Government that some of its members started to speak in French.
Time and again we have heard the accusations of gerrymander and the accusation that we are trying to keep Labor in power forever with such Bills. No honourable member opposite, in all the time that was given to the Opposition to present its point of view in the debates that took place in this House quite recently, presented one positive argument as to why these Bills should not be agreed to. Time and again the National Country Party of Australia spokesman on these matters tried during the debates to defend the National Country Party’s position in having electorates with 45 000 electors while the city electorates grow to 100 000 electors. As the honourable member for Grey (Mr Wallis) said, the National Country Party talking about electoral reform is like a backyard abortionist talking about motherhood.
We do not mind whether it be in this Parliament or outside the Parliament, whether it be in the parks or in halls or in any forum, our position on electoral reform, our position on the rights of voters, our position on the rights of citizens and civil liberties, stand head and shoulders above anything that honourable members opposite have stood for since Federation under whatever given name they took to themselves in that period. Of course the debate ought to be restricted. Honourable members opposite have said all that they have to say. People have been able to hear them. They have limited support only in their own Parties on the views which they have put forward. The Bills ought to be agreed to. The 10 per cent discrepancy, which was part of the terms of reference given to the CommissionersCommissioners who were not appointed from political parties, but from among Australian citizens to bring down a fair and equitable redistributionought to be agreed to by this Parliament. These Bills were never going to be agreed to, according to honourable members opposite. They have been making speeches around this country saying that whatever decisions the Commissioners brought down, they were going to be opposed and thrown out.
The Opposition does not want electoral equality; it does not want any redistribution of the seats because it is happy with what is happening now. Honourable members opposite should ask the honourable member for McPherson (Mr Eric Robinson) whether he is happy being dominated by the views of the National Country Party. In 1977 he will represent 115 000 electors while his next door neighbour, the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) will represent 40 000 electors. That gives some idea of the influence of the National Country Party over the so-called attitudes of the major Party. There can be no doubt that the motion moved by the Minister for Services and
Property (Mr Daly) is correct in Parliamentary procedure.
-I would not intervene in this debate except to say that this action is typical of what the Government has done in the past. It is all in line with the Government’s past performance. Whenever important matters are before this House the Government brings down the guillotine. Many of the most important Bills which affect the whole life of the people of Australia have been guillotined through this House without adequate discussion, sometimes with a very short debate on the second reading and very often without any discussion in Committee. I protest against this. I think that the Government should be ashamed of what it is doing. It is trying to keep from the people of Australia. from the Parliament and from this House, the truth about its policy. This is something which I believe is one of the main charges against the Government. All I can say is, Thank God for the Senate’, because in the Senate at least the tyranny of numbers is not used and cannot be used to stifle debate in the way in which debate has been stifled and is being stifled in this House. The Government should be thoroughly ashamed not only of what it is doing today but of its record in this regard on so many occasions and in so many instances. I need say no more. I put it right on the line. This Government is guilty of concealment; it is trying to stop this House having an adequate chances to debate the very important matters that come before it.
Motion (by Mr Nicholls) proposed:
That the question be now put
-The question is that the question be now put. Those of that opinion say aye, to the contrary no. I think the ayes have it.
-If only one honourable member calls for a division, there can be no division.
– You are gagging the Parliament, Fred.
– You had better watch out, or you will be out for 7 days.
– On a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) has just uttered a threat which is a most improper threat. He knew -
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
– It is a most improper remark. I hope, Mr Speaker, that you will take action against the Minister at the table.
-The question is that the motion be agreed to. I think the ayes have it.
Opposition members- No.
-The House will divide.
Question put The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Hon. G. G. D. Scholes)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Declaration of Urgency
– I declare that the following Bills are urgent Bills:
Electoral Re-distribution (South Australia) Bill 1975
Electoral Re-distribution (Tasmania) Bill 1975
Electoral Re-distribution ( Queensland ) Bill 1 975
Electoral Re-distribution (Victoria) Bill 1975
Electoral Re-distribution (New South Wales) Bill 1975
– The question is: That the Bills be considered urgent Bills.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Allotment of Time
That the time allotted in connection with the Bills be as follows:
1 ) Electoral Re-distribution (South Australia) Bill 1 975-
For the second reading, until 4.30 p.m. this day.
For the committee stage, until 4.40 p.m. this day.
For the remaining stages, until 4.50 p.m. this day.
Electoral Re-distribution (Tasmania) Bill 1975-
For the second reading, until 5.00 p.m. this day.
For the committee stage, until 5.10 p.m. this day.
For the remaining stages, until 5.20 p.m. this day.
Electoral Re-distribution (Queensland) Bill 1975-
a) For the second reading, until 5.30 p.m. this day.
For the committee stage, until 5.40 p.m. this day.
For the remaining stages, until 5.50 p.m. this day.
Electoral Re-distribution (Victoria) Bill 1975-
For the second reading, until 8. 10 p.m. this day.
For the committee stage, until 8.20 p.m. this day.
For the remaining stages, until 8.30 p.m. this day.
Electoral Re-distribution (New South Wales) Bill 1975-
For the second reading, until 8.40 p.m. this day.
For the committee stage, until 8.50 p.m. this day.
c) For the remaining stages, until 9.00 p.m. this day.
It will be seen from what I have outlined that it will be, I think, about 6 hours from now before the debates on these Bills are finished. That does not seem to me to be an unreasonable time limit. Anyone who cares to refer back to the Hansard of Wednesday, 2 1 May, will find that on that day a very extensive debate took place on the South Australian and Tasmanian redistribution proposals. It commenced at 12.15 p.m. and finished at a rather late hour on that day. Therefore, a great deal of debate already has taken place on those 2 measures. Anyone who cares to refer to the Hansard of Thursday, 22 May, will find that on that day an extensive debate also took place on redistribution proposals concerning Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales. It will be seen also that practically every member of this House who wanted to speak on those matters had the opportunity to do so. Many took advantage of it. Except for, I think, 2 honourable members opposite, every honourable member who rose in his place took part in the debate. Consequently, there already has been full and adequate discussion on these measures.
The Government is not prepared to let the National Country Party tail wag the Government dog, even though it wags the Liberal Party dog. If the Liberal Party capitulates to the National Country Party on issues such as this, we will have to do a Charlie Court and stand up to the National Country Party and show the Liberal Party what ought to be done to the National Country Party. It would not matter if we were to debate these measures until doomsday, because the National Country Party would not adopt a different attitude to them. The National Country Party has said that under no circumstances will it support them and under no circumstances will it have anything to do with them. Of course, the little poodle dogs in the Liberal Party have bowwowed along with the National Country Party and followed the same course of action. We heard a lot of ballyhoo today from the Deputy Leader of the National Country Party (Mr Sinclair) about the proposed electoral boundaries being monstrous. He is a member of a Party that would not even put a decent submission to the Distribution Commissioners. It would not even make suggestions to them. It woke up when the boundaries were announced. Its members then ran all over New South Wales chasing up petitions. I will bet that the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Sullivan) never saw so many electors in his life as he saw when he was rushing around trying to save the seat that he would not put in a submission to save in the first place. Everybody who saw him said: ‘Thank God the seat is to be abolished ‘.
Honourable members opposite now are trying to hold up in this Parliament the implementation of the redistribution proposals. The Government will give the colleagues of honourable members opposite who sit in another place, in which frustration de luxe occurs, the chance to stand up and be counted as voting against this legislation. The Opposition in the other place can reject these Bills twice if it likes. They will merely join the long list of things that will bring down honourable members opposite, because at a Joint Sitting of this Parliament these Bills will become the electoral laws of the land. As soon as the principle of one vote one value is implemented, honourable members opposite will disappear. The National Country Party lives on loaded electorates, and no electorate is more loaded in favour of the National Country Party than the electorate of New England, which is represented by the Deputy Leader of the National Country Party. I will now give way to him and let him rant and roar about electoral justice, of which the National Country Party knows nothing. Come what may, ere the night is out these Bills will become the law as far as this House is concerned and the people will know that we as a Government stand for electoral justice and equity, irrespective of what those who sit opposite might say.
– I would like to extend my congratulations to the Leader of the House (Mr Daly). I have just checked through and found that his Government has just beaten the record number of guillotine motions introduced by any government since Australia was federated in 1901- and it has done that in 2 years. The Government has now introduced a guillotine motion to beat all guillotine motions moved previously. It is now l2Vi minutes past 3 in the afternoon. We have until 4.30 p.m. to debate the first of the Bills, which deals with the South Australian redistribution proposals. That means that we have been left with one hour and 15 minutes- if there is a cognate debate on the proposals for the 5 Stateswithin which to canvass all the redistribution proposals. If they are not dealt with in a cognate debate- that is a proposition which is yet to be submitted to the House- only 10 minutes will be permitted for debate on the proposals for each of the major States of the Commonwealth. It is absolutely disgraceful for the Leader of the House to suggest that that in any way indicates a responsible way of dealing with parliamentary business. The motion is a disgrace. The concept of restricting the opportunity to debate electoral redistribution proposals in the Parliament is a disgrace. The Opposition is totally opposed to the proposition submitted by the Leader of the House.
Unlike the Leader of the House, I do not propose to take all the time that I might in talking to this motion. I believe that the whole concept of what is being done needs to be registered not just by the members of this House but also by the Australian electorate. It needs to be seen for its true worth- not in rhetoric across the table, but in the substance of the measures that in this instance we are being denied the opportunity to consider. The Austraiian electorate at large needs to know that what the Australian Labor Party is doing is running scared. It is afraid of the consequences of meeting the Australian community at an election based on ordinary electoral boundaries. It is in a hurry to ensure that there will be a change in those electoral boundaries. There is no other basis upon which it would be prepared to introduce and support a proposal that would reduce the debating time on these measures. It is not talking now about just the proposals; it is talking about adequacy of consideration of the proposals. Finally, I am extremely disappointed that my friend and former colleague, the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton), has found it in himself to support a guillotine of this nature.
– I rise to correct the humbug which was just put forward -
-Order! The honourable member is not allowed to say that.
– Let us say that I wish to correct the extraordinary inaccuracy of the statement of the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair) that this Government has a record for applying the guillotine. No government could beat the record of the previous Government. I shall quote from the House of Representatives Votes and Proceedings, which shows that on one day the previous Government guillotined 17 Bills, allowing a total speaking time of 17 hours 50 minutes. I ask honourable members to look up the Votes and Proceedings of 4 May 1971.
- Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. We did not guillotine 1 7 Bills through.
-Order! There is no substance in the point of order. The honourable member will resume his seat.
– I am quoting from the Votes and Proceedings. I suggest that the honourable member check this. The reference is No. 102 of 4 May 1971, pages 581 and 582. The Bills which were guillotined included the Compensation (Commonwealth Employees) Bill, which was allotted 2 hours, and the United States Naval Communication Station (Civilian Employees) Bill, which was allowed 5 minutes. Only 5 minutes was given to debate that very important issue. The Air Accidents (Commonwealth Liability) Bill was given 5 minutes.
- Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. I submit the honourable member is not relating his remarks to the subject matter under discussion.
-Order! The question before the Chair at the moment is that the allotment of time be agreed to. I think that if I rule that in quoting other allotments of time the honourable member is not being relevant, it would be very difficult for anyone to speak to the question at all.
- Mr Speaker, honourable members opposite are trying to stop me giving very important information to the nation. The Seamen’s Compensation Bill was given 5 minutes, and the Income Tax Assessment Bill (No. 2) one hour 30 minutes. Members of the previous Government were looking after their mates there. The Income Tax (Withholding Tax Recoupment) Bill was given 5 minutes, and the Income Tax (Bearer Debentures) Bill 5 minutes. For the States Grants (Rural Reconstruction) Bill the previous Government allowed 4 hours 5 minutes. Honourable members can see the influence of the National Country Party rump when it comes to rural issues. The Loan (Farmers’ Debt Adjustment) Bill was given 5 minutes, the Papua New Guinea Bill 1971, 35 minutes, the Stevedoring Industry Charge Bill 45 minutes and the Stevedoring Industry Charge Assessment Bill 5 minutes.
– How did the honourable member for New England vote?
– The honourable member for New England voted for the application of the guillotine right through. I remember it very clearly. I remember where he was sitting that day. The Superannuation Bill 1970 was allotted 2 hours 3 minutes, the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Bill 35 minutes, the Trade Practices Bill-one of the most important issues ever to come before this Parliament- 4 hours, and the Wool Industry Bill 1971, 2 hours 30 minutes.
Seventeen Bills were guillotined with the one axe on the one day. Who could ever beat that record? It is the worst record of any government. Naturally the Opposition at that time, which comprised those who now sit on the Government side, objected to it. I think the honourable member for New England should never again rise in this House and object to the guillotine being applied because he, together with so many other honourable members on the other side of the House, was amongst those guilty of the extraordinary action to which I have referred.
-I recall vividly the occasion to which the honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage) has just referred. Whatever assessment may be made of that occasion, I think the honourable gentleman does not do the institution of Parliament any service by seeking to vindicate this tawdry proceeding by advertising it.
– Are you starting to feel guilty?
– No, my conscience is quite clean about that occasion.
– You have never used your conscience.
– Unlike the Minister, I have at least been able to find one. The argument that has been pressed upon us by the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) is that the Bills relating to electoral redistributions are urgent measures. What is the urgency of them? For the first time, I believe, in the history of the nation, redistribution proposals are now projected in the form of legislation. I would have thought it quite proper for the House to consider the implications of that for a start, but the Minister is asking us to be content with 10 minutes for the second reading debate on each of the 5 Bills. It may comfort the honourable gentleman to think that this is a good idea, but what value to the institution of Parliament are the levity of expression to which he resorted and the charges he made about the past? The Parliament is supposed to be a talking shop.
– Oh, yes, and whatever derision that may encourage from wherever it may come in this country, Parliament has a right to talk and a right to discuss its business. That right is not being supported today when the second reading debate on each of the 5 Bills is to take 10 minutes. The Committee stages can only be described- I agree with the moderation used by my friend, the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair)- are an absolute farce. Would any person with any feeling for the institution of Parliament be proud of this proceeding this afternoon? Could the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Bryant), who is sitting opposite me, go out into the country and, with a clear conscience say: ‘Yes, this was a great, lofty proceeding; we put through 5 Bills dealing with the redistribution of electorates in a matter of a few hours’? I put to one side completely the merit of the proposals.
I have objected in the past to the Parliament being regarded and treated as though it were a sausage factory. That is the simple issue which is involved on this occasion. I appeal to the Minister for Services and Property to abandon this device. Of course on some occasions governments are obliged to resort to the guillotine, but this afternoon no case has been made out to justify this miserable, contemptible, demeaning gesture. Even though the Minister may have the numbers today, I warn him that the wheel does turn full circle and the time will come, despite his threats, when he may find himself on the Opposition side of the House, and his arrogance will not avail him in the least. The Minister may win today, but the day will come when the Minister will find himself being afflicted by something that may possibly remind him of this day. This is a shabby, mean, despicable manoeuvre, and I am glad to see that the Minister at least identifies it as such.
-Of course there is a sense of urgency. It is 143 years late. We have just heard the political dinosaur, the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen), explaining why we should retain- and take a long time debating it- a political system which belongs to the past. I ask him to go to the Parliamentary Library and look at the 1 832 redistribution. It is typical of the redistributions that the Australian Country Party brought down. For 143 years we have been attempting to get to the point where, in this Parliament at least, the political issues will be decided by the equal votes of equal and free people. This country was one of the first in the world to give votes to women. It is the country that introduced the secret ballot. It has been a long and proud boast that in Australia we have a free democracy. Yet at this moment in 1975 we still have in the Opposition advocates of unequal redistribution for political gerrymandering and rigging of ballots.
So this afternoon we are debating the issues no longer. The time has come when the majority vote of the members of this House representing the people of Australia says: ‘Get on with the job, straighten it out and let the political prehistorians who inhabit the Opposition benches cry as they may. ‘ Their time has passed. They will go into prehistory, to which their political attitudes belong.
-The attempt by the Government to force these Bills through without adequate debate is something that it will live to rue and regret. I hope that this page will be incorporated in the Australian Labor Party’s platform and remain there as a reminder to a probably more efficient and better Labor Party later on of what has happened in the past. Despite the criticism that is made of the previous redistributions, they were made by people appointed in the same way as the people who made this redistribution were appointed. So every time some Government supporter refers to it as a gerrymander he is criticising the integrity of those people. Let us remember that those redistributions were made under the terms and conditions which have stood the test of time since Federation, until the Labor Party came into power and decided to alter the conditions and the criteria so that it could achieve, from anyone who felt that he could comply with the conditions, a redistribution which would be helpful to the Australian Labor Party. The alteration of the criteria was made with the idea of trying to prevent what is fair and reasonable and what is recognised as fair and reasonable in many countriesthat is, some consideration for area, for sparsity or density of population and for means of communication.
The Australian Labor Party is the Party whose Leader has constantly claimed that he wanted to have a contemporary Senate. That contemporary Senate exists now. I am prepared to let that contemporary Senate register its opinion and its vote on whether these redistributions are fair and reasonable. That is what the Government wanted. That is what the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) asked for all the time.
-Order! The time allotted for this debate has expired.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 28 May on motion by Mr Daly:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
- Mr Speaker, may I have the indulgence of the House to raise a point of procedure on this legislation? Before the debate is resumed on this Bill I would like to suggest that it may suit the convenience of the House to have a general debate covering this Bill, the Electoral Redistribution (Tasmania) Bill, the Electoral Redistribution (Queensland) Bill, the Electoral Redistribution (Victoria) Bill and the Electoral Redistribution (New South Wales) Bill as they are related measures. Separate questions will, of course, be put on each of the Bills at the conclusion of debate. I suggest therefore, Mr Speaker, that you permit the subject matter of the 5 Bills to be discussed in this debate.
-Is it the wish of the House to follow that course? It is so ordered.
-The Opposition will oppose the 5 Bills which are the subject of this cognate debate. I do not think that it would have escaped the attention of any member of this House that the boundaries referred to in each of the 5 Bills are precisely the same boundaries as have been rejected by the Senate during the past 10 days. In many respects the proposal of the Government to incorporate these boundaries into legislation is a waste of the Parliament’s time. The course of action that the Government is taking on this redistribution is without precedent. It flies very much in the face of the spirit of the Commonwealth Electoral Act. Under the Commonwealth Electoral Act a pattern is laid down for redistributions- a pattern which was followed in respect of the redistribution proposals that were debated last week and a pattern which I suggest should have been followed by the Government in respect of the redistribution proposals that have been rejected by the Senate.
Section 24 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act makes quite clear the course of action which the responsible Minister and the Government should follow if redistribution proposals are disapproved by either House of the Parliament. Sub-section (2) of section 24 says:
If either House of the Parliament passes a resolution disapproving of any proposed distribution, or negatives a motion for the approval of any proposed distribution the Minister may direct the Distribution Commissioners to propose a fresh distribution of the State into Divisions.
The section goes on to provide:
The Distribution Commissioners shall thereupon reconsider the matter, and forthwith propose a fresh distribution -
So the first question that Opposition members are entitled to ask in this debate is this: Why has the Government not followed the dictates of the Commonwealth Electoral Act and why is the Government scared to let the Commissioners have another look at these boundaries?
Section 24 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act clearly gives to the Government 2 options: Either it may refer the boundaries back to the Distribution Commissioners or the redistribution can be allowed to lapse. The Government has chosen to disregard those 2 options. The Government has chosen to disregard the spirit and the intent of the Commonwealth Electoral Act. I think it is legitimate for Opposition speakers to ask why this extraordinary procedure has been adopted by the Government. The correct procedure in the event of the whole or any part of the redistribution being disallowed by a House of this Parliament was followed in 1968 when the redistribution proposals for the State of Queensland were rejected by the Senate. They were rejected by the Senate by the combined vote of the Australian Labor Party and the Democratic Labor Party. On that occasion the then Liberal-Country Party Government, rather than following the extraordinary procedure that this Government has chosen to follow with respect to the current redistribution, referred the earlier proposals back to the Distribution Commissioners. Certain changes were made. The boundaries were submitted again to the Senate and were then passed. Why is that procedure not being followed on this occasion? I remind the House again that the action of the Senate in rejecting the redistribution proposals for Queensland came about as a result of an initiative from the Labor Party, supported by the Democratic Labor Party. On that occasion the Labor Party observed both the spirit and the letter of the Commonwealth Electoral Act. On this occasion the Labor Party chooses not to do so. The correct procedure was followed in 1968. The incorrect procedure is being followed at the present time.
It is clear that the Government thinks that by putting these redistribution proposals into the form of legislation it might intimidate the Opposition into changing its mind. These 5 Bills will be opposed both here and in the Senate. If the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) imagines that by putting them into legislative form he will change the attitude of the Opposition or the attitude of either the Liberal Party or the National Country Party, he is quite wrong. Throughout the whole debate last week on the issue of redistribution the Government tried again and again to divide the Liberal Party and the National Country Party. The Minister for Services and Property is quite obsessed about the attitude of the National Country Party on the issue of redistribution. He cannot get on his feet to talk about redistributions or electoral matters without launching an unrestrained attack upon my colleagues in the National Country Party.
I say again what I said during the debate last week on the redistribution proposals: The Liberal Party has examined these proposals independently in the various States. The Liberal Party organisations in the various States have examined the proposals. The members of the Parliamentary Liberal Party have examined these proposals. It is the combined, unanimous opinion of both the Liberal Party and the National Country Party which results in the Opposition’s opposing the redistribution both here and in the Senate. Let there be absolutely no doubt that the Liberal Party in its own right is completely opposed to these proposals. They do a manifest electoral injustice to the Liberal Party, particularly in the major metropolitan centres of Australia such as Sydney and Melbourne, and they are quite unacceptable to the Liberal Party. In no way has our attitude to these electoral redistributions been dictated by the attitude of the National Country Party.
The Minister and his colleagues failed during the debate last week to exploit any differences between the Liberal Party and the National Country Party, and he need not think by putting the redistribution proposals into the form of legislation that the attitude of the Opposition Parties is going to be any different or that the attitude of the Liberal Party is going to change. Quite obviously, there has been a pattern in the Minister’s approach to electoral redistribution to kid the Liberal Party into believing that the redistribution proposals were to its advantage. Of course, the Liberal Party and its various members have had a very careful look at these proposals and they all know that the proposals do great disservice to the Liberal Party .and would be extremely harmful to the Liberal Party if they were accepted. During the debate both here and in the Senate the Opposition has explained the reasons why it opposes the redistribution proposals.
Throughout the debate the Minister for Services and Property quite rightly said that the Distribution Commissioners were men of integrity and high qualifications. I agree with that. Why then is the Minister not prepared to send the boundaries back to those Commissioners, as provided for in the Commonwealth Electoral Act? If they are persons of such great integrity, as I believe they are, why should they not be given the right to re-examine the boundaries, as intended under the Commonwealth Electoral Act? Is the Minister scared that some of the arguments that have been advanced by the Opposition during this debate might be given some heed by the Distribution Commissioners? Is he concerned that if the boundaries were referred back to the Distribution Commissioners some alterations might be made and that therefore they would not be so acceptable to the Government? Why does the Minister not refer them back to these men of admitted integrity and high qualifications? It is very easy to understand why he does not refer them back. The Government is frantic for these boundaries because it is running scared. The Government does not want the boundaries looked at again because it knows that there is an advantage for the Government in these boundaries that it might not get under another redistribution. It does not want the procedure laid down in the Commonwealth Electoral Act followed on this particular occasion because it is scared that a different result might be produced in the future. So the Government has adopted this extraordinary procedure of putting these boundaries into the form of legislation and, in an attempt to intimidate the Opposition into changing its mind, the Bills have been presented to this Parliament.
The Opposition’s objections to the new boundaries were made quite well known during the debate on the proposals last week, when the Opposition set out 3 reasons why it was not prepared to accept the boundaries. I briefly recapitulate those reasons. We regard the redistribution as being premature in the light of the pending census in 1976. Secondly, some of the legislation under which the redistribution is being carried out is still under legal challenge. Thirdly and most importantly, we believe that the boundaries fail the essential test of electoral fairness. They fail that test extremely badly. As pointed out during the debate last week, a swing of 3 per cent against the Government on the existing boundaries would cost the Government 12 seats. On the proposed boundaries, an equivalent swing would cost the Government only 7 seats. It was pointed out during the debate last week that the seats that really matter so far as the test of electoral fairness is concerned are the marginal seats. It is the marginal seats of this country that determine which Party shall govern. It is the marginal seats that must be examined most closely when one is running a test of fairness over any redistribution proposals. If one looks carefully at the impact of these redistribution proposals, particularly the proposals for the State of New South Wales, one finds that they failed very badly the test of electoral fairness.
During the whole of this debate the Minister has sought with almost monotonous regularity to rely upon the statements of Mr Malcolm Mackerras in aid of his arguments in support of the proposed redistribution. On every single occasion on which he has spoken he has referred to Mr Mackerras ‘ view. I do not wish to join issue on the merits or otherwise of Mr Mackerras so far as electoral matters are concerned. However, I should like to point out one very salient thing. The quotation to which the Minister refers so repeatedly, was taken selectively from an article in an issue of ‘The Bulletin’ dated 22 February 1975, and that particular article was written before the publication by the Commissioners of their proposals for the State of New South Wales. How is it possible for any commentator of repute on this particular subject to make an overall assessment of the essential electoral fairness of these proposals without the benefit of the redistribution proposals for the largest State in Australia, without the benefit of those proposals which contain within them the most manifest defects of the whole of these redistribution proposals, is quite beyond me. I think the Minister ought to pay a little more attention to the overall context in which he so selectively quotes Mr Mackerras.
There is no doubt that this Government does have something of a mania for electoral change. These particular Bills, this pattern of legislation, this extraordinary procedure by the Government, are only one item in a long list of measures dealing with electoral matters which have been introduced into this Parliament since the Government took office in December 1974. We have had legislation dealing with optional preferential voting; we have had legislation dealing with simultaneous elections; we have had legislation dealing with territorial senators; we have had legislation dealing with the registration of political parties; and we have had other comprehensive proposals to amend in every conceivable manner imaginable the electoral laws of this country. So this particular act of the Government, while it is without precedent and while I think it is an extraordinary breach of the spirit and letter of the Commonwealth Electoral Act, does fit very much a pattern of legislation that the Government has pursued since it came into office.
One is tempted to the conclusion that it is part of the policy and the strategy of this Government so far as electoral matters are concerned to tamper with the rules of the game. I think the Australian people ought to understand that what is happening today, the course of action that the Government is following today, is yet another instance of a pattern of tampering with the rules of the electoral game which has been pursued by this Government since it took office. (Quorum formed) That pattern of tampering with the electoral rules of the game, of which this latest move by the Government is yet another example, deserves the attention not only of this House but also of the electorate at large. After all, the present Government was elected twice- in 1972 and 1974- under the electoral laws which it is endeavouring so assiduously to change. The Opposition is not prepared to accept the proposition that the device to which the Government has now resorted properly conforms with the spirit or the intention of the Commonwealth Electoral Act. The Opposition is not prepared to allow the procedure laid down in the Commonwealth Electoral Act as the one to be followed in the event of either House of Parliament rejecting redistribution proposals to be disregarded by the Government.
The Leader of the House has made it quite clear that he regards this issue as a matter of confrontation between the Government and the Opposition. I can only repeat what the Deputy Leader of the National Country Party (Mr Sinclair) said during the debate on the question that the Bills be declared urgent Bills and what I said at the commencement of my remarks: The Opposition will oppose this legislation both here and in the Senate. The fact that the redistribution proposals have been put in the form of legislation does not alter in any way the fact that the proposals contained in the legislation are exactly the same as the ones that were rejected by the Senate. They contain within them the same essential electoral injustice of which Opposition speakers spoke during the previous debate. The attempts made by the Government during the course of the debate to divide the Liberal Party and the National Country Party have failed completely. In fact, the device to which the Government has now resorted has done a great deal to cement the unity of attitude between the National Country Party and the Liberal Party on this issue. If the Government imagined that by resorting to this legislative device it would open up some division between the 2 Opposition Parties, it was very much mistaken.
We are more determined than ever that these proposals will be rejected. We are more resolved than ever that the redistribution which the Government now wishes to put through the Parliament is manifestly unfair. We are more determined than ever that when the next election comes it will be fought on the electoral boundaries on which the last election was fought. We are more certain than ever, after what the Government has done today, that it is absolutely frantic to have the boundaries which are contained in these Bills. The Government is running scared. It desperately wants these electoral boundaries. It is not prepared to refer them back to the Distribution Commissioners, as provided for in the Commonwealth Electoral Act. It is afraid that if that occurred there might be some changes that would not be to its liking. So the Opposition will vote against these 5 Bills both in this House and in the Senate.
– The Australian Government is not trying to change the electoral law; it is determined to implement the electoral law. The honourable member for Bennelong (Mr Howard), who has had the heavy burden of leading for the Opposition on this matter, said, in effect: ‘Why not send the proposals for all of the 5 States’- of course, Western Australia was redistributed at the beginning of last year- ‘back to the Distribution Commissioners since the law allows that course to be followed if either House of Parliament rejects any of the proposals?’ But what would be the use of that? We all know that the National Country Party has said that it will vote against any redistribution proposals which carry out the present law. It is stalling for time. We now know that the Liberal Party will follow when the National Country Party calls the tune. I compliment the fledgling honourable member for Bennelong on leading for the Opposition in the debate on these 5 Bills, as he did in the debate on three of the redistribution proposals when they came before the House last week. It is significant that neither the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser) nor the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) appears in this debate. I am not unaccustomed to the Leader of the Opposition failing to lead the Opposition; but it staggers me when the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is silent. There are very good reasons why neither the Leader nor the Deputy Leader of the Opposition speaks in this debate.
At its Joint Sitting on 6 August 1974, the Aus.tralian Parliament passed the Commonwealth Electoral Act which had been one of the Bills on which the double dissolution had been granted in April 1974. The Act provides that in any electorate the number of voters shall not be more than 10 per cent above or below the average number of voters in all the electorates of the State concerned. In passing the Bill, the Parliament therefore decided that the Distribution Commissioners, in establishing the boundaries at a redistribution, should be permitted a variation between electorates within a State of not more than one-tenth instead of the one-fifth variation permitted under legislation previously then existing. By passing the Act, the Parliament intended to ensure that the number of voters in each electorate should be much closer to the ideal of equality. The passing of that legislation expressed something rather more than the will of the Parliament, the will of both Houses sitting jointly. In a very real sense it expressed the decision of the Australian people, because, as I have said, the BDI formed one of the grounds for the double dissolution and was therefore one of the issues put before the people at the elections in May last year.
Speaking at the Joint Sitting, Senator Steele Hall said:
It is quite clear that the Opposition parties in both Houses of the Parliament set up the election as a test for the Government. They said so clearly in so many words, and at various times mentioned specific issues. There is no doubt that this Government has a very fair claim to the Bills which it is presenting to this Joint Sitting . . . There is a very real need to understand that these issues are ones to which the Government now has a very fair claim . . . Any person who studies the history of the generation of this Joint Sitting will know that . . . anyone who stands against extension of the franchise stands against his own political future.
As a result of that Joint Sitting and in accordance with the clearly expressed wishes of the people, the Commonwealth Electoral Act became the law of the land. Last week, the Senate refused to adopt redistribution proposals which implemented that law. The Senate has tried to ensure that the law remains inoperative- a dead letter. In rejecting the proposals the Senate has tried to nullify the law of the land. There was no point in sending the boundaries back to the Commissioners to be redrawn. The National Country Party has made it perfectly clear that it will reject any redistribution at all in any State, by any Commissioners. We therefore propose to embody the proposals in legislation. By so doing, we reassert the inevitable and necessary connection between the law and the proposals, between the Electoral Act passed at the Joint Sitting after the double dissolution and the redistribution without which that Act is a nullity. Further, in the event of continued Senate obstruction to any of the 5 Bills, we shall allow the people of Australia yet another opportunity to endorse, as they did last May, the principle of equality of representation in the Australian Parliament. If the Senate again rejects this principle, that rejection will again be an issue on which the people will be able to pass judgment.
Throughout the debate, in both Houses, no serious objection was made to these proposals on the grounds of unfairness. They are scrupulously fair. Mr Malcolm Mackerras, the noted electoral analyst, has said:
In overall political terms, the 1975 redistribution is the fairest set of proposed boundaries ever to be presented to any Australian Parliament in my lifetime. The Commissioners have bent over backwards to avoid any suggestion of gerrymandering. They have set out to draw boundaries so patently fair that rejection by the Senate would reflect discredit on the Senate not on the Commissioners.
I have heard no objection from any quarter to these proposals on the grounds of unfairness. No reflection has been made on the integrity of the Commissioners as groups or as individuals or the scrupulous impartiality with which they have carried out their work, with which each one of them has carried out his work.
The redistribution is both urgent and necessary. An election held on the present boundaries would be a travesty. I invite honourable members to consider how flagrantly the number of voters varies between the different electorates at present. In Queensland half the electorates, nine of the eighteen, depart by more than 10 per cent from the quota and four depart by more than 20 per cent. Iri New South Wales, twenty of the 45 electorates are more than 10 per cent above or below the average quota. Four of them are more than 20 per cent above the quota and two of them are more than 20 per cent below it. In Victoria there is a variation greater than 10 per cent in fourteen of the 34 electorates and a variation greater than 20 per cent in seven of them. In South Australia four of the 12 electorates depart by more than 10 per cent from the quota and two by more than 20 per cent
In each of these States the quota for an electorate is about 64 000 voters. Yet in Queensland, the enrolment between the largest and smallest electorates varies by 43 000 voters. In New South Wales it varies by 35 000 voters. In Victoria it varies by 38 000. In South Australia it varies by 31 000 voters. Throughout Australia, and within particular States, some seats have more than 70 per cent more people on the rolls than others. Thus some people’s votes are worth 70 per cent more than other people’s. In Queensland one seat has more than twice as many voters as another. This is a denial of the very essence of democracy and a travesty of the electoral process.
Let me give some specific examples for Queensland. As at 25th of last month the seat of McPherson had 94 000 electors on the roll. By contrast, Maranoa had 46 500 electors and Kennedy had 50 900 electors. That is the kind of variation that operated just after the last election. Let us assume, however, that the Parliament runs its full term. The Chief Electoral Officer has provided a projected enrolment as at May 1977 for the 3 existing seats with those highest enrolments. At 25 April this year McPherson had an enrolment of 94 000. By 1977 the Chief Electoral Officer forecasts it will be 104 000. Bowman is projected to increase from 79 000 to 87 000 and Petrie from 77 000 to 84 000. An election held in such circumstances would be a mockery.
The debate on the proposals in both Houses illustrated very clearly the motives behind their rejection in the Senate. It showed how completely the Liberal Party had caved in to the pressure of its coalition partner. In this House, no senior Liberal intervened. Their case, such as it was, was left to the honourable member for Bennelong. Neither the leader of the Opposition nor the Deputy Leader spoke. How could they? Their own seats perfectly illustrate the disparities which the redistribution seeks to remove. The Leader of the Opposition represents 53 360 voters in Wannon. The Deputy Leader represents 79 665 voters in Flinders. How could they reconcile their interests?
The Deputy Leader’s voters are worth only two-thirds those of his Leader. The Leader’s voters are worth half as much again as his Deputy’s. It might be urged that the Leader’s country seat deserves such an advantage over the Deputy Leader’s metropolitan seat. Both of them, however, come from a State where a totally Liberal State Government has just procured a redistribution of electoral districts for the Legislative Assembly, in which enrolment for country districts now will vary between 23 561 and 25 095 and for metropolitan districts between 26 092 and 29 353. Thus a Liberal government free from National Country Party pressure does not tolerate the disparities which even the Leader and Deputy Leader of the Liberals in this Parliament must endure. Moreover, the Victorian division of the Liberal Party on 14 November last wrote to the Electoral Commissioners for the State as follows:
Given the criteria in the Act, we have to agree with the Labor submission of a reduction of one seat from the rural area and an increase of one in the south-eastern area.
The Liberal Party submitted a counter submission which would have produced enrolments for rural divisions varying between 59 406 and 68 923 and for metropolitan divisions between 59 379 and 68 860-practically identical variations within the metropolitan and rural areas. The Liberal Party itself submitted that the Leader of the Opposition should represent 63 464 voters and the Deputy Leader 62 816. Last month they already represented respectively 53 360 and 79 665. The Chief Electoral Officer’s projection for 1977 is 53 000 and 81 000 respectively.
The real running in this debate was made by the National Country Party. Because of the Country Party’s demands, the Liberals even opposed the redistributions for Tasmania and South Australia- States in which the Country Party has neither representation nor organisation. And the rejection of the proposals for those States illustrates perfectly the sheer cussedness of the Country Party’s action. There could be absolutely no objection on the grounds that the redistribution could favour one party as against another. The political balance remains absolutely undisturbed, but the electoral imbalance will be immensely intensified under the existing boundaries. As of 25th of last month the division of Bonython had 83 388 electors. The division of Wakefield had 49 561. Bonython is 30 per cent above the quota and Wakefield 22 per cent below. The Chief Electoral Officer projects that by 1977, the existing Bonython will contain 95 000 electors, the existing Wakefield 45 000 electors.
This illustrates the real consequences of failure to have a redistribution before the next election. There is one simple question for the Opposition, or for the Liberal partner which has surrendered so abjectly to the Country Party: How can they justify to their own supporters a situation where the vote of an elector in Bonython is to be valued at less than half that of an elector in Wakefield? To put it another way, a Labor voter in Wakefield is worth twice as much as a Liberal in Bonython. That is the real issue, for there can be no question of partisanship. The vote of a South Australian is to be valued not by party but by place of residence, not by for whom he votes but by where he votes. And of course the same principle applies to the proposals for the Tasmanian, New South Wales, Queensland and Victorian States.
Who objects to these proposals? Not the Aus.tralian Labor Party, although my Party in fact is weakened electorally by the proposed redistribution in Queensland. Not the Liberal Party, which would benefit. The objection is from the National Country Party, which made only one official submission to the Commissioners. Its submission was not about how the boundaries should be drawn but was simply an objection to any redistribution at all.
Under the proposal, one of the 10 nonmetropolitan seats in Queensland disappears. Yet this change is not a result of the operation of the new electoral Act- not a result of the reduction of the permitted variation of one-tenth. For the fact is that even with a 20 per cent variation which used to apply under the old law, the Commissioners could not have drawn up any set of proposals which would have preserved 10 nonmetropolitan seats in Queensland. It is not the Act which has created this situation; it is the pattern of Queensland’s development. So let us be quite clear about this. The Country Party’s objection is not to the proposals but to the fact of any redistribution at all. It has a vested interest in preserving a status quo which utterly vitiates electoral justice.
In Victoria, the electorate of Wimmera had 49 200 electors last month. The electorate of Diamond Valley had 87 522. The Chief Electoral officer’s projections for 1977 in those electorates is 92 000 and 49 000 respectively. Diamond Valley is of course one of those seats which the Liberal Party must win if it is ever again to form a government. Let the Leader of the Opposition justify to the people of Diamond Valley why their vote is debased to scarcely one half the value of the vote of a person living elsewhere in Victoria.
Why should the Liberal Party cop this sort of situation? It knows that the Country Party will accept no redistribution unless it dictates the terms. Last week the Leader of the Opposition had a sharp lesson on the sort of loyalty he can expect from his coalition partners if they fail to get their way, if they feel their narrow and selfish interests threatened in any way. The Leader of the Opposition should take Sir Charles Court’s plight to heart. In going along with the Country Party, it is damaging itself in 2 ways. First it commits itself to domination by the Country Party but, more important, in the eyes of the Aus.tralian people, it commits itself to the perpetuation of a flagrant breach of electoral justice. In effect it commits itself to a gerrymander by omission, a gerrymander of which the Liberal Party itself is the victim every bit as much as the Labor Party. And above all, it denies to the Australian people- Liberal voters every bit as much as Labor voters- the basic democratic right of equal representation.
I urge the members of the Liberal Party to uphold the principle put forward by the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review established by its founder, Sir Robert Menzies, in 1966. All parties the Labor, Liberal, and Country Parties were represented and unanimously the Committee reported:
The Committee feels constrained to say, however, that the one-fifth margin on either side of the quota for a State which the Act allows may disturb quite seriously a principle which the Committee believes to be beyond question in the election of members of the national Parliament of a Federation, namely, that the votes of the electors should, as far as possible, be accorded equal value. The full application of the margin each way to 2 divisions in a State could result in the number of electors in one division totalling SO per cent more than the number of electors in the other division. Such a possible disparity in the value of votes is inconsistent with the full realisation of democracy.
The Commonwealth Electoral Act passed by the Joint Sitting upheld that principle- the full realisation of democracy. The proposals rejected last week in the Senate upheld that principle. These Bills uphold the principle. Let us ensure that the next election is held according to the law of the land. Let us ensure that the next election represents a full realisation of democracy. By presenting these Bills, the Australian Government is giving the Liberal Party a second chance- a chance to uphold the basic principle of equal representation, a chance to redeem itself in the eyes of its own supporters.
– It is interesting to note that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has entered this debate.
– He has every right to do so.
– Yes, he has every right to do so. It is encouraging to see him enter such a debate. In the 2Vi years during which I have been in the Parliament often I have been surprised that when we have an important debate on the economy- which after all is the most significant issue facing the Australian nation- on labour and employment, or even on foreign affairs, the Prime Minister does not choose to enter the debate. He sees these Bills as being of some importance. Of course they are important to the Labor Party because they are critical to the survival of the Whitiam Government. Nobody recognises this as clearly as the Prime Minister who has to lead a very troubled Labor Government.
What did the Prime Minister have to tell the Parliament and the nation today? In the first place, he related some historical facts of which we were all aware. But he did not really go back to the beginning of this legislation. One of the first acts of Mr Whitlam after becoming Prime Minister was to say to Mr Daly: ‘I am going to appoint you Minister for Services and Property. You will be in charge of electoral affairs. I want you to give your closest attention to arranging a redistribution of electoral boundaries’. The Prime Minister did not bother to remind us that one of the first acts of the Government when it came into office in 1972 was to get this proposed redistribution under way. One of the first decisions of the Labor Government after coming into office- not by a handsome majority but rather by a slender majority- was to try to see whether it could entrench itself in office. The Prime Minister referred to the Joint Sitting of the 2 Houses of Parliament. He then entertained us with many statistics. Unless it escaped my attention I am not aware that the Prime Minister, in his speech, made any reference to the census which has to be held next year. He did not bother to inform the nation that if we had a redistribution of electoral boundaries now, following the census to be held in 1976 there would be a need for yet another redistribution and tremendous costs and inconvenience to the nation would result. The Prime Minister spent a considerable amount of his time talking about the disunity that he believes he sees between the Liberal Party and the National Country Party of Australia. Apparently, he will not face up to the facts of life which are that both the organisationsthe National Country Party and the Liberal Party- looked at the redistribution proposals separately and not only organisationally and discussions were also held by the parliamentary parties. The 2 parties are united in a most unanimous way. We will not have a bar of this proposed redistribution of electoral boundaries.
I suggest to the Prime Minister that rather than be concerned about possible disunity and possible disagreement within the Opposition coalition, he ought to have a look at his own Government. Every morning he wakes up to disputes between Ministers, differences in approach between the left wing section and the right wing section of the Labor Party- whether it is on foreign policy, managing the economy, or on the question of mineral exploitation versus the environment. Morning after morning the Prime Minister of Australia wakes up to this enormous display of disunity within his own Party. I suppose he thinks that if the Government can get an electoral redistribution it will help the Labor Party and it might be elected once again. He is aware that without an electoral redistribution- I believe even with it- the days of the Labor Party in Government are numbered. I suggest to members of the Labor Government that they ought to realise what the whole of Australia realises- that the sense of unity, the sense of purpose, between the National Country Party and the Liberal Party is at an all time high. I have never known- I have been associated with the Liberal Party since 1957- a period in which the sense of unity of purpose, as we move towards accepting the responsibilities of government, has been greater.
I refer again to the Minister for Services and Property who is responsible for this legislation. One can give the Minister first class marks for determination. I can well remember the early days of this Government- we have discussed the matter of electoral redistributions on many occasions- when the Minister said: ‘There will be a redistribution in the life of the Parliament’.
Of course, he keeps on saying it. He keeps on hoping there will be a redistribution but he knows, of course, that there will not be a redistribution based on the proposed boundaries. The Opposition has said to the Government: ‘If you reconsider the criteria and if you reconsider the tolerance, we will not be opposed to considering a fair redistribution of electoral boundaries’. I have made it perfectly clear personally that I believe it is in the interests of the nation for some of these imbalances to be settled. I do not think they should be settled on the basis on which the Labor Government has approached the matter.
The Prime Minister did not say very much about the precedents that his Government is setting. The honourable member for Bennelong (Mr Howard) read the Electoral Act in part. He made it perfectly clear that the usual approach to a matter such as this is that when the Houses of Parliament will not accept an electoral redistribution the legislation lapses or the proposals are referred back to the Commissioners for a second look. What is wrong with that? Criticism has been made of the boundaries in the various States but no one has questioned the integrity of the Commissioners. It is the responsibility of the Parliament to look at the boundaries in detail, not simply talk about them in an academic sense but look at them in detail. I believe, in the last debate, substantially valid criticisms were made. If the Government wanted to send the proposals back to the Commissioners, why did it not do so? It could have approached the Commissioners and said: ‘This is what has been said in the debate on the legislation. Have a look at it and come up with some other proposals’. But no, it does not do that; it does not go back to the Commissioners. We have this new approach; we are going to incorporate the proposals in a Bill.
Why is the Government so determined? Even the Prime Minister said a few minutes ago that in some cases the proposed electorates would be to Labor’s disadvantage. If they would be to Labor’s disadvantage, will somebody please explain to me why the Labor Government is so determined to break precedence, to break the rules and to proceed in this way? It is for one obvious reason: Its own assessment is that it helps the Labor Government substantially, and that would be any reasonable person’s assessment. Forget all those figures which people parade and use to their own advantage and to support thenown arguments. If one looks at the marginal seats where governments are won or lost, that is where the Labor Government has made a substantial improvement of its position in this redistribution of electoral boundaries.
There has been a consistency in the Opposition’s attitude in regard to this. We said from the beginning of 1973, when this matter was first discussed, that we were opposed to the changing of the tolerance from 20 per cent down to 10 per cent. I repeat what I have said many times before: People can put up an argument in respect of some seats that a 20 per cent tolerance is substantially high. Equally with validity, I put forward the view that a 10 per cent tolerance in growth seats is not sufficient to allow for growth. If there is only 10 per cent tolerance in growth seats, regular redistributions will have to be made almost every Parliament. That has never been the intent or the practice. The Government has not considered whether this is something it could look at. I have indicated that a valid argument could be put up for a 15 per cent tolerance, which would allow for growth in a number of growth areas throughout Australia. Of course, the criteriathe rules- under which the Distribution Commissioners have had to work were changed substantially. When we talk about redistributions of years gone by, Australians ought to recognise that there have been changes made in the Electoral Act under the present Labor Government.
I want to make one or two comments about Queensland, my own State. I happen to have the numerically largest electorate in Australia. It will be substantially overbalanced. The Prime Minister said that by the next election, if this Parliament runs its course, the electorate of McPherson will have about 105 000 people. That is probably true enough. The irony of it is that, had we had a progressive private enterprise Government in office, the number of enrolments in the electorate of McPherson would have been substantially higher, because it has been the policies of this Government which have created a diminution in the growth of areas like the Gold Coast. One of the problems I have is trying to explain to people why opportunities are not available to them to come and live in my particular electorate.
It is not a matter of just looking at the situation electorate by electorate. If we are to do that, why was it necessary to abolish the electorate of Griffith? The honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) had plenty to say about that on the last occasion that we debated this matter. If we are to be fair and consider the matter electorate by electorate I would concede that these particular redistribution proposals happen to favour the Liberal Party slightly in the electorate of Lilley. But that does not affect the attitude of the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) who states that, although he has been disadvantaged under previous redistributions and believes he is advantaged marginally under the present redistribution, he still joins with us in rejecting this proposed redistribution because he realises that the overall redistribution in Australia, and within Queensland in particular, is unacceptable. The one big issue as far as Queensland is concerned- we have stated it over and over again- is that we will not accept a redistribution which would mean that a vast area of western Queensland would have only one seat. How is it possible for a member of Parliament to give adequate service to a constituency which runs up from the Queensland-New South Wales border to as far as Mount Isa?
– What about Griffith?
– The honourable member for Griffith has said: ‘What about Griffith?’ I want him to know that I have made mention of Griffith already because I realise it is a significant electorate. But it would not be possible for any member of Parliament, given the proposed new electorate of Kennedy, to do anything like a responsible or acceptable job when representing such a vast electorate.
This is the sort of criticism which could have gone back to the Commissioners. Why did the Minister not give the Commissioners an opportunity to have a look at the very valid comments that people have made about this particular issue? But no, that has been wiped to one side and we now have a Bill incorporating a precedent making decision of the Labor Government incorporating a redistribution which has been rejected by the Senate. No doubt the Senate next week- I presume it will be next week- will reject these particular Bills. No doubt it is in the minds of members of the Government to have them back in this House in September and I suggest that is probably the reason why the Prime Minister saw fit to enter the debate today. Then, as the Minister for Services and Property and Leader of the House (Mr Daly), the Prime Minister and everybody else in the Labor Government will start to say, they will become another basis for a possible double dissolution.
– Let us have one.
– That is what I was about to say. The Opposition chorus is: Let us have a double dissolution if the grounds are there now. The Prime Minister apparently hopes to create a storehouse of Bills and then to establish a record by having a double dissolution, thinking that there is a chance of his remaining in government, and then to have another historical Joint Sitting of the Houses. If it is the will of the Government to have a double dissolution, I do not know why it has to wait for this legislation on electoral boundaries before calling one. If it is the will of the Government in the present climate to go to the electorate and to say that the Liberal Party and the National Country Party are frustrating it, let it do so forthwith. Let the Prime Minister come into the House now.
We have made it perfectly clear that it is not just a matter of our opposing the Government on an electoral redistribution which we find unacceptable; we will oppose any measures which we believe are against the major national interest. We have been pretty selective in our opposition. But I repeat what I have said before: The real issue facing the Labor Government is not the matter of electoral redistribution but the matter of getting the economy back on the rails, of getting the nation moving ahead again, of creating full employment in Australia, of creating confidence in the community generally and of bringing back a spirit of incentive throughout the Australian community. I still hope that the Leader of the House, as determined as he is- I have already paid tribute to that determinationmight yet see the advantage of reconsidering his position because, if it is a matter of getting out into the electorate as a whole and debating this matter, there is not one member of the Opposition who will not be prepared to take up the challenge and take it up with a great deal of enthusiasm.
The electorate will not be fooled. It realises that the maps contained within these Bills are designed to entrench the Labor Government. The rules have been changed. New maps have been drawn. The Australian electorate will recognise that and will not be sidetracked on discussing electoral redistribution. They do not want to know from this Government what it thinks about electoral redistribution. They will ignore the propaganda of the Government about disunity within the Liberal Party and the National Country Party because they see daily in the newspapers and nightly on television the disunity within the Labor Government at so many levels. What the country will wish to debate, what it will wish to arbitrate on and what, indeed, it will arbitrate on, is the state of the economy, the management of the nation’s financial affairs by the Labor Government. I hope the Minister will convey to the Prime Minister the view that it is obvious that the Prime Minister senses this as a double dissolution opportunity. We would welcome that. Any time he wishes to come into the House and to announce a decision to go out to Yarralumla, I am certain he would find sufficient members of the Opposition to carry him out there.
I end simply by saying that the Minister ought to have some regard for the practices of the Parliament. He has been a member of the Parliament for 30 years or so. He is the father of the House. If anybody ought to have respect for what has been the custom and for what is the proper way of conducting affairs, it is the Minister. He really ought to withdraw these Bills. We have given him a substantially valid argument indicating criticisms and indicating where the Commissioners could reconsider the boundaries. He ought to send the proposals back to the Commissioners, and then we would have a second look at them. But, more importantly than that, he really ought to consider whether the reduction of the tolerance, the alteration of the criteria, is in the best interests of the country. We have to have proper representation in this Parliament. It is no good the Government using its numbers to force through Bills to change the criteria, which it knows will assist in producing boundaries to its electoral advantage. It simply will not work. We will continue our opposition, and continue it in a united and forceful way.
Mr FitzPATRICK (Darling) (4.26)-I support the electoral redistribution Bills now before the House. I was very surprised at the behaviour of the Opposition when the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) introduced these Bills. The honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair) said that the members of the House and the people of Australia had not had an opportunity to scrutinise the Bills. The Bill leading to the proposed redistribution was an election issue. It was one of the measures dealt with at the Joint Sitting of the Parliament. It has been before this House on several occasions and has been before the Senate. In addition to that, it has been a debating issue on television. (Quorum formed.) I point out that maps of the proposed redistribution have been on display for several weeks. If any member of this House or any people in a member’s electorate do not know ‘about this Bill, it is the member’s fault, not the fault of the Minister and the way he introduced the Bills into the House.
I take the attention of the House back to last Thursday, when the subject matter of these Bills was debated for %Vi hours in this chamber. On that occasion the matter would have been debated for much longer but for the attitude and method adopted by the Opposition. Honourable members will remember that every time a member of the Government Party rose to speak a member of the Opposition called for a quorum to be formed.
Order! The time allotted for the second reading stage of the Bill has expired.
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.
– One would think from statements made by members of the Opposition that this is the first time that redistribution proposals have not been referred back to the Commissioners. Of course, that is not correct.
– Which clause are you talking on?
– I am talking on the whole Bill. In 1962 redistribution proposals were brought into this Parliament. At the dictates of the then Country Party they were not proceeded with. Those proposals were never referred back to the Commissioners. On that occasion, as now, the Country Party told the Liberal Party what to do. The proposals were never referred back to the Commissioners. They were not proceeded with in this Parliament. Any precedents in that regard have been set by the Liberal Party.
I ask honourable members opposite: ‘What is the good of referring these proposals back to the Commissioners when the National Country Party has said that no matter what Commissioners are appointed in any State, anywhere, any time, while this legislation exists it will not accept the referee ‘s decision? What is the good of referring these proposals back? Even the Commissioners would agree that honourable members opposite would be wasting their time, because there is one Party in this Parliament which is implacably opposed to the legislation passed by the Joint Sitting. That Party has said that under no circumstances will it agree to any proposals no matter how often they might be considered by the Commissioners. All that the Opposition seeks to do is to stop this legislation being given effect to. I ask members of the National Country Party: Is it not a fact that not one of you will accept these proposals no matter how many times they come back to this Parliament from the Distribution Commissioners? Do not members of the National Country Party admit that they are only trying to evade having fair and just electoral boundaries in this country.
- Mr Chairman, I rise on a point of order. Mr Chairman, I ask you, as Chairman of Committees: Is it in order for the leader of the House (Mr Daly) firstly to move a guillotine successfully in this House and then to rise and speak on the second reading, followed by -
-Order! Yes, the Minister is in order. There is no point of order involved.
– Honourable members opposite have made a big point about these proposals being referred back to the Commissioners. I defy the honourable members speaking on behalf of the Opposition to give an assurance to this Parliament that the National Country Party would at any stage accept any proposals brought forward by any set of Commissioners under this legislation anywhere in Australia.
– That is a matter for the National Country Party.
– Ah! The National Country Party has already stated that. The Leader of the National Country Party (Mr Anthony) said before the Commissioners were appointed: ‘We will not accept any redistribution proposals under this legislation at any time. So what is the good -
– It is a wise statement.
-The Deputy Leader of the National Country Party says that it is a wise statement. The honourable member said ‘What is the good of referring them back?’ We are just doing the practical thing. If honourable members opposite will not accept the referee’s decision we will introduce it in legislative form and honourable members opposite may vote on it.
– Order! The time allotted for the Committee stage of the Bill has expired.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr Daly)- by leave- proposed: That the Bill be now read a third time.
-I wish to indicate at this stage that having regard to the time limit that has been imposed on this debate by the action of the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) that it is not the intention of the Opposition to call for divisions during the Committee stage and the third reading stage of each of the 5 pieces of legislation. But I say that in no way to diminish the opposition of the Opposition to the procedure that the Government has adopted in respect of this redistribution or in fact in respect of the substance of the redistribution. Obviously a large numer of honourable members on the Opposition side who wish to make a contribution to the debate will be denied the opportunity to make a contribution. I think sensible members of this House will acknowledge that the attitude of the Opposition to this legislation is clear and can be most effectively registered by calling for divisions on the second reading stage. The Leader of the House has tried again, during his little contribution on the South Australian redistribution proposals in the Committee stage, to use the tactic that he has adopted ever since he was given the responsibility for electoral matters by his Leader after the 1972 election, that is, to create mischief and discord between the 2 Opposition Parties. I can tell the Minister again that he has failed completely in that mission, and the longer debate continues on the subject of redistribution the more obvious it must become to members of the Government that the Minister will not be able to create mischief between the Liberal Party and the National Country Party.
The question of the attitude of either of the Opposition Parties to redistribution is a matter to be determined by those 2 parties. The Liberal Party arrived at an attitude towards this redistribution after examing the proposals. That attitude has been made perfectly clear during debate on this redistribution. It was made perfectly clear by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser). Notwithstanding what the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) said, the Leader of the Opposition was the first person to state the Opposition ‘s attitude on electoral redistribution. The Leader of the Opposition quite sensibly sought a suspension of Standing Orders so that this House could have a cognate debate on the 5 redistribution proposals. But the Leader of the House would not agree to that. During the course of the debate on the motion to suspend Standing Orders, the Leader of the Opposition made perfectly clear the attitude of the Opposition Parties to this these redistribution proposals. So for the Prime Minister or for any member of the Government to say that the Leader of the Opposition has played no part in this debate is completely wrong. It is complete humbug. Of course it belongs to the pattern of behaviour that the Leader of the House has pursued ever since he has been in charge of electoral matters- to create discord and disunity between the 2 Opposition Parties. In plain language, that is just not on. We have arrived at an attitude towards these redistribution proposals. We have stated it again and again.
The contribution to the debate on the first proposal was made by myself and by the honourable member for McPherson (Mr Eric Robinson)- both of us from the Liberal Party, both of us stating a Liberal Party attitude to these redistribution proposals. It so happens that our attitude coincides with the attitude of our coalition partners. We are forming a joint opposition to these proposals. We have jointly voted against the motion for the second reading of the Bill concerning the South Australian proposals. We will jointly vote against the motion for the second reading of the Bills concerning the proposals for Tasmania, Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales. We will jointly vote against the proposals when they go into the Senate. If the Prime Minister and the Leader of the House like to carry forward their intimidation insofar as a double dissolution is concerned we will jointly campaign against the Labor Party and we will jointly defeat it. We will jointly give to this country a government which can restore some of the sanity and some of the economic stability of which the honourable member for McPherson spoke so well during this debate.
I think it was rather extraordinary that not only the Leader of the House but also the Prime Minister himself fell into the trap of relying on a selective quotation regarding the justice of these redistribution proposals. The Prime Minister quoted selectively from the ‘Bulletin’ article of Mr Mackerras when talking about these redistribution proposals. I again remind the House and I remind the Leader of the House in case he has in mind using that quotation in any further speech on these redistribution proposals that that article was written before the New South Wales redistribution proposals came out.
The Leader of the House has criticised the Leader of the National Country Party of Australia (Mr Anthony) for pre-empting his attitude and for making statements before the redistribution proposals came out. The main independent source on which the Government relies in this debate- Mr Mackerras’ article- was published and written before the New South Wales proposals were even published. Those proposals cover 45 out of the 127 seats in this Parliament. They are proposals that meet with the strongest possible objection from the Opposition because it is in the proposals in respect of the State of New South Wales that the most manifest evidence of electoral imbalance is to be found. The New South Wales proposals contain the greatest distortion. The New South Wales proposals on the 1974 figures would give to the Government 28 seats against 17 seats to the Opposition.
Assuming for the purposes of the argument that everybody voted in the same way as they did in May 1974, which I think is highly unlikely, there would be under these proposals a net gain by the Government of 4 seats. So the opinion of the outside expert- the independent expert- on which the Leader of the House relies and has relied repeatedly, and on which the Prime Minister relied during his contribution to the debate on this subject, as to the fairness of the redistribution was given without any knowledge of what was contained in the New South Wales proposals, without any knowledge that those proposals would give to the Labor Party 28 seats out of the 45 seats in New South Wales with no extra votes, and without any knowledge that the New South Wales proposals contained the greatest possible imbalance and the most manifest evidence of how unjust are these proposals.
I suggest to the Leader of the House and to other honourable gentlemen opposite that if they are going to rely on selective quotations from articles written by outside experts they ought to check the context within which those articles were written and they ought to check the dates on which they were written. I suggest that any further reliance on that quotation from the article by Mr Mackerras during the context of this debate is totally irrelevant.
The real substance of the Opposition’s objections to these proposals- the objections of the Liberal Party and the objections of the National Country Party- is that they will give to the Labor Party an advantage that cannot be delivered in the ballot box. Nothing the Leader of the House can say about the attitudes of the Opposition Parties alters that fact. What we are debating here is whether the people of Australia and not the map-makers will determine who governs and whether, if there is a substantial shift of opinion at the next election against the Government, there will be a change of Government. The only way in which to achieve that state of affairs- the electoral justice to which constant tribute is paid by the Prime Minister and his Party- is to preserve equity insofar as the marginal seats are concerned, it is marginal seats that determine what parties shall be in government and not seats like Grayndler or Bradfield.
-Order! The time allotted for the remaining stages of the BUI has expired.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 28 May on motion by Mr Daly:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I rise to express my opposition to this and the other Bills, which I regard as being totally unacceptable, entirely unrealistic and exceptionally inequitable. Let not the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) continue to attempt to suggest that our opposition is an attack against the integrity of the Distribution Commissioners, because in his own words he has indicated that the overall conception is his and his alone. He has even indicated that the role of the Commissioners is secondary to his own designs. When the Minister first talked of redistribution, before a single Commissioner had been appointed, he openly stated that the electoral proposals would ‘give the Country Party a heart attack’. What commendable detachment! What guarantee of fair play is that? Let him deny, if he can, his own words as recorded indelibly in Hansard of 22 May 1975- just last week- at page 2712. Let him, in his own fumbling, boastful way, reconcile those words with the pious pronouncements that he has made that as a Minister he has no influence or control over where boundaries are drawn. With a florid face and a loud voice he said:
Opposition members say these proposals will be rejected in another place. I would like to get a good go at the Senate boundaries, too. I would make a bit of a difference there. We would see some changes from those old gentlemen in that other place if their boundaries were being considered.
That exposes nakedly the utter hypocrisy of all the statements that the Minister has made. That shows how detached he is and how fair he really believes in his own heart these proposals are. His assurances have been shown to be utterly worthless and unreliable. Today he has effectively denied to any member of the National Country
Party of Australia an opportunity to contribute substantially to any of the debates on these Bills. I attack not the Commissioners but the Minister, whose own words have revealed him to be the ruthless, unrepentant architect of these totally undemocratic proposals. It is not electoral justice for which he strives. He has many times- in almost every second sentence- expressed his determination effectively to destroy the rights of non-metropolitan residents to reasonable and acceptable representation.
The Minister talks of numbers and of the principle of one vote one value yet this redistribution stands in stark contrast with all of those pious platitudes that he has expressed because the value of a vote is equally destroyed if many people in vast areas of Australia are effectively denied access to their parliamentary representative. What is the value of their electing a member to represent them, to be their advocate and to be their ombudsman if the electoral system erects impassable barriers that deny them reasonable access or, indeed, any access to their member. That would be the effect of the implementation of these redistribution proposals and the Minister knew that it would be. He engineered that situation by the amendments he initiated to the Electoral Act that are now under challenge in the High Court of Australia.
In his pocket handkerchief under-quota electorate let the Minister consider if he will, as this is a general debate on cognate measures, the proposed over-quota electorate of FlynncumKennedy. It is to cover almost the length of a State. Let him consider the position of Camooweal, and, say, a town on the southern Queensland border. How is there to be access to the office and the person of the member representing that electorate by somebody from that town? Can he go by rail? He would need his long service leave to make a journey like that. Can he go by road? Most of the people in that area are paying more than $ 1 a gallon for petrol, and it is a tremendous journey. The Minister has no conception of distances. He believes that democracy and justice must end at the city limits. Can he ring up? What a cost that would be under this Government and the administration of the Postmaster-General (Senator Bishop). He cannot go by normal air services because the Government has cancelled all the country air services. He cannot go by charter flight because shortly he will not even have a country aerodrome left on which to land. As for the mail, services are discontinued, curtailed or emasculated in countless cases. Country post offices have been closed, and it is quicker to go on foot and deliver the mail by hand.
These people desperately want to see their member: The beef producers, in the grip of a mammoth disaster; the wool growers, who are the pawns in a power struggle in the Cabinet and the Caucus; the producers of minerals, who are confounded by the attitudes of a Minister who will not even spell out the rules of the game and is more interested in off again, on again, secret midnight negotiations for a huge loan, for what purpose nobody has yet been willing to tell us or even give a hint; and the primary producers in desperately serious trouble because they have been sacrificed by the Government on the altar of political expediency.
With an Act under challenge and with the certainty of a census next year entitling at least Queensland to another seat and the necessity for a completely new redistribution, the Minister’s protestations about the need for the present redistribution stand exposed as expensive, unnecessary, unjustifiable and complete political opportunism. He does not attack a Party; he attacks the whole of rural Australia. He does not penalise a feared political foe but people who live outside of the metropolitan area, which is reminiscent of the statement by the man who is now our Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), who not very many years ago viciously described Australians who live outside the urban areas as pagans. We have not forgotten that, nor have the people who live outside of the urban limits. The Minister for Services and Property and the Prime Minister seek to divide Australians into warring classes and they have so clearly shown that their Utopian ideal is that civilisation and justice end when one leaves city limits.
Let us look at what meaning the Government gives to community of interest and economic interdependency. In my electorate, for instance, I represent almost the whole of the Australian pineapple industry, a tobacco industry, a ginger industry, fruit and vegetable growers, timber men and dairy men. What does this redistribution propose? It proposes dividing them completely in two and putting half of them into the metropolitan Division of Petrie. How is that for a community of interest? How is that for sanity or justice? The proposal divides the Sunshine Coast right down the middle. Half of that goes to the metropolitan Division of Petrie. What humbug the Government talks when it talks of community of interests. What humbug it talks when it says these things.
Thank goodness the Minister at least has to stop at the Queensland border. Let me mention another feature of the proposed distribution. There is an area south of Brisbane that is composed of sensible people who vote very solidly for the National and Liberal Parties. They should be attached to Oxley but of course that would be very embarrassing for the present incumbent, the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden), who is battling to hold his seat. Under the redistribution proposals that area will be tacked on to my electorate, which is to the north of Brisbane.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I do not want to interrupt the honourable member, but might I remind him that we are talking about the Tasmanian redistribution proposals.
-The point is upheld.
– My access from the north to the south of the electorate is through the cities of Brisbane and Ipswich. What nonsense, what rationale. What sense is there in a proposal like that? The leader of the National Country Party of Australia (Mr Anthony) described the speeches of the Minister very aptly. As recorded at page 2718 of Hansard, he said that the Minister’s speech reeks of politics and hatred. He cannot, and he knows he cannot, justify something like this. He says it has nothing to do with him.
-Order! The time allotted for the second reading of the Bill has expired.
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.
– I wish first of all to extend my congratulations to the honourable member for Fisher (Mr Aderman) who made a speech on the adoption of the Tasmanian electoral boundaries and did not once mention that State. May I also congratulate him on voting against proposals for Tasmania, in which State his Party not only has no representatives but also has no organisation. That shows the bitter approach of the National Country Party to these proposals. Later on I will deal with some of his submissions. Before I do so I want to put the honourable member for Bennelong (Mr Howard) right. He has become the Charlie McCarthy of the Liberal Party for the National Country Party’s opposition to these proposals. The honourable member for Bennelong claimed that the article in the Bulletin’ in April 1975 by Mr Malcolm Mackerras appeared before the New South Wales proposals were published. The fact is that the New South Wales preliminary proposals were first published in early March 1 975.
- Mr Chairman, I take a point of order. I suggest that the Minister is not speaking to the Bill before the House. It is a Bill relating to Tasmania and he is talking about New South Wales.
– He appears to me to be speaking to the Bill.
– I wish that the honourable member had been here when the honourable member for Fisher spoke. Mr Mackerras’ proposals were virtually identical with the final proposals in practical political terms. But I do not have to go to Malcolm Mackerras for my support for these proposals. The former Liberal Prime Minister, the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr J. Gorton), is voting for them. He said that it is incredible that the Liberal Party should be opposing them. After all, he must know something. He must be a man of some respect. He led a government which those honourable members opposite support. The right honourable member says that it is incredible that the Liberal Party should be voting against the fairest set of electoral boundaries ever presented to an Australian Parliament.
Senator Steele Hall; The only Liberal in the Senate, I understand- said that these boundaries should be supported. He supported them with his vote. So I do not have to rely on Malcolm Mackerras. Dr Eastick, the Leader of the Opposition in South Australia, said that the Liberal Party would win 7 seats out of 12 under the proposals for South Australia. So why should I rest only on Malcolm Mackerras? Every intelligent person in the community -
– Order! The time allotted for the Committee stage of the Bill has expired.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted!
Motion (by Mr Daly) proposed:
That the Bill be now read a third time.
– I would like to reply to some of the statements made by the honourable member for Fisher (Mr Adermann) who had a lot to say about the Queensland redistribution. It is amazing that the National Country Party did not wake up until it saw the boundaries. There has been much complaint about the size of the proposed electorate of Flynn. I do not remember honourable members opposite crying their eyes out about the electorate of Kalgoorlie, which is bigger than Queensland.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) put:
That the Minister for Services and Property be not further heard.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Hon. G. G. D. Scholes)
Question so resolved in the negative.
-Order! The time allotted for the remaining stages of the Bill has expired. The question is: That the Bill be now read a third time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 28 May on motion by Mr Daly:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I am delighted to be able to say a few words about the Queensland redistribution. No doubt the House will note that from time to time in passing I shall throw in the name of a Queensland electorate and that will be because the distribution of the
Queensland electorates has caused the Opposition some concern. There would not be an honourable member in this House who would deny that, in looking at a redistribution, he considers the matter with the purest of motives and with the purest of minds. An electoral redistribution is not one of those things that conjure up all the latent sensibilities or sensitivities in members of Parliament. It might happen to affect their political lives; it might happen to affect them very intimately. It might throw them out of politics altogether or it might entrench them in politics altogether; but that is the last consideration. I know that the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) would acknowledge immediately all of those propositions.
Just to indicate what would happen were one to imagine motives descending to such low levels as have been hinted at this afternoon, let us consider some of the debates on the early redistributions. I go to the first redistribution in 1906. Sir John Forrest- well known to some people from Swan, which electorate he once representedhad this to say:
I do not intend to oppose this motion but I should not like it to go forth that I approve of it.
The attitude of the Opposition Parties is rather more forthright. We do not like the Bill and we are not going to approve of it. Sir John Forrest, whose name has a certain reverence in antiquity, also had this to say:
There is nothing new on the face of the earth concerning these matters. The number of electors in Swan has been reduced. The Commissioners seem to have been imbued with the desire to secure equal electorates irrespective of whether or not community of interest was secured.
He went on:
At the same time, I think he has made an error of judgment in adhering too closely to the quotas and in not taking advantage, as he might have done and as he had a perfect right to do, of the marginal allowance of 20 per cent.
So, in terms of redistributions, there is nothing new and our minds are not completely clean. Our minds are not as a tabula rasa. We look at electorates as they serve and as they serve against the interests of parties and of members, and it is for that reason that the Opposition has decided to oppose the electoral redistribution in Queensland. The Opposition says that it would make it unbearably difficult for the Opposition to win even more seats than it does at the present time. But let me clear myself of any impure motives. I am a member who was defeated at the 1972 election and had the privilege of coming back.
– You were resurrected.
-No, it took more than 3 days, and it was not certain even right at the end. I lost my seat because of the 1968 redistribution, and the present redistribution would marginally improve my seat. As a matter of fact, when I spoke to one very senior Minister in the Governmenta very talented man, a man who is very well respected- he said to me: ‘Kevin, we have been looking at your seat for 2 days. We have looked at all the boundaries of your seat. You have the first seat in Queensland that we could pick up, but we could not make the lines worse for you than they are now. It can only improve’. So I wipe my mind quite clear of any impure motives when I vote against the redistribution Bills.
I find it a little difficult to vote against this redistribution. But then I look at the west of Queensland and the seat of Flynn. I believe that what has happened in regard to this seat gives the overbearing and compelling reason why the legislation deserves to be looked at askance. The seat of Flynn replaces the seat of Kennedy. The seat of Flynn will have an adequate number of voters because it occupies about 19 degrees of longitude and about 18 degrees of latitude. That is an incredible area for an electorate to cover when we consider that almost within every radian there is a pocket or a centre of population. This is an electorate the like of which is not repeated anywhere else in Australia. When one looks, therefore, at a whole State such as my State of Queensland and sees it dominated by the extent of the area which is reserved for one electorate it is almost appropriate to make a judgment in relation to this Bill for the whole State on what happens with respect to that one electorate.
Honourable members- Hear, Hear!
Mr KEVIN CAIRNS I hear the cry of ‘Hear, Hear! ‘ from the members of the National Country Party. I know that they would support me in this. I know that they always desire to reduce the amount of area in redistributions and that it was only an accident when in 1968 the seat of Kennedy happened to get down to that lovely little honeypot at Gayndah. I say good luck to them. I did not vote against that redistribution either. So my motives are there to be seen.
Having indulged in that little bit of history, it is appropriate to go back a little further. No member of Parliament wants to cushion his seat. All members want to live on a knife’s edge. It has been said of the Australian Labor Party that it is wrong or incorrect in accepting this redistribution because as a result of it the position of its marginal seats happens to have been improved a little. I said good luck to the ALP. If the Labor Party has been able to secure a redistribution by advancing propositions which the Distribution Commissioners accepted and which improved the position of its most marginal seats, it is showing a very commendable amount of loyalty to its members holding the most marginal seats. Insofar as a party has an obligation to those members who are in the front line and who have the most marginal seats, if the Labor Party’s propositions resulted in this redistribution I say good luck to it. I support that principle in its entirety. It deserves to be supported.
I turn to deal with motives again. It was Disraeli who said in 1880, from the purest of intentions, having lost an election: There are a lot of reasons for losing an election, but I was badgered with 6 bad seasons one after another and all getting worse. Like Napoleon, the elements overcame me. When one looks at redistributions, one looks at a situation in which the elements shall not overcome. That is the basic proposition on which redistributions will be looked at if they are in a narrow interest, but if they are in the wider interest such as the one which occupies our minds completely we say that we will vote against the redistribution for Queensland. Who would accuse political parties or members of Parliament of partisan views? Who would say that to do otherwise would be cruel, vexatious or frivolous with respect to matters such as this? Not I and certainly not members on this side of the House. We will oppose this redistribution. We oppose it because it deserves to be opposed. I fear that before I say very much more I might indicate that my attitude on this occasion will be one of opposition also.
Mr FitzPATRICK (Darling) (5.29)- I have been trying to speak on this redistribution for 3 weeks. I state that I am disappointed at the tactics of the Opposition which has tried to gag this debate. The first time that I rose to my feet one of the Opposition members called a quorum. I want to draw the attention of the House and of the electorate to the fact that when the Opposition calls for a quorum it stops its members from coming into the House. In comparison, when the Government calls a quorum, we bring our members into the House. I believe that the Opposition’s action in this regard indicates the concern that it has for the normal, ordinary conduct of this House. I want to say that I support the redistribution proposal before the House because I believe that it is consistent with the electoral laws of this country. I also believe that elections should be held on the electoral boundaries determined by the Distribution Commissioners themselves and by no one else.
-Order! The time allotted for the second reading debate has expired. The question is, “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.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Motion (by Mr Daly) proposed:
That the Bill be now read a third time.
-During the course of the second reading debate the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) took issue with my reference to the article written by Mr Malcolm Mackerras which has formed the basis of the Government’s justification for the fairness of these electoral boundaries. The Minister may recall that during my earlier remarks I pointed out that the article had been written prior to the publication of the New South Wales boundaries. The Minister intervened and argued that the article had appeared in April and that the New South Wales boundaries had in fact been published in March. It is true that the New South Wales boundaries were published in March, but the article to which I referred appeared in “The Bulletin’ of 22 February and it contains the paragraph that was used by the Minister, the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young), I think the honourable member for Phillip (Mr Riordan), the honourable member for Bowman (Mr Keogh) and other honourable members. They have referred to these remarks by Mr Malcolm Mackerras.
– That is not right.
– If the honourable member for Phillip feels that I have misrepresented his position I am prepared to withdraw what I said about him. But this article certainly formed the basis of the arguments put by the Minister for Services and Property and by the Prime Minister.
The article in question is dated 22 February and was written 2 weeks before the publication of the New South Wales boundaries. The paragraph that has been used so often states:
In overall political terms the 1975 redistribution is the fairest set of proposed boundaries ever to be presented to any Australian Parliament in my lifetime . . .
As I have said, the paragraph is contained in an article that was published about 14 days before the New South Wales boundaries were published. Mr Deputy Speaker, I seek leave to incorporate the article in Hansard.
– What does it refer to?
-Do I get leave or not?
– No. You have to tell us what it refers to.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I repeat my request for leave to incorporate in Hansard the ‘Bulletin’ article dated 22 February.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
Fair deal will get a rough go
In September last year, following the joint sitting’s approval of the 10 per cent electoral tolerance, the Federal Government appointed commissioners to redistribute Federal boundaries in all States except Western Australia. The commissioners in four States- Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania- have now published their proposals. Electoral analyst Malcolm Mackerras sees a clear pattern to the proposals which he believes will be followed for New South Wales also. The N.S.W. report should be published early in March. He reports . . .
This is the seventh article I have published in The Bulletin on Labor’s electoral proposals since the Whitlam Government was elected.
Readers of earlier articles will have noticed that I have been sympathetic to the Opposition’s fears about Labor’s intentions. For that reason I have regarded the actions of the Opposition as reasonable.
I am still cynical enough to believe that, if Labor had won a Senate majority last year, we would have seen a pro-Labor gerrymander.
In the event, however, the fears of a gerrymander have not been fulfilled.
In overall political terms the 1975 redistribution is the fairest set of proposed boundaries ever to be presented to any Australian Parliament in my lifetime. The commissioners have bent over backwards to avoid any suggestion of gerrymander.
My impression is that they have set out to draw boundaries so patently fair that rejection by the Senate would reflect discredit on the Senate, not on the commissioners.
Taking the four States in order the position is:
Victoria: The Country Party would lose one safe seat by abolition (Wimmera) and the Liberals would gain one safe seat by creation (tentatively named Doncaster and Templestowe). Of Labor’s marginals two are proposed to be strengthened (Diamond Valley and Isaacs) and one weakened (Henty). The others are basically the same in political strength.
For the Liberals Flinders (Lynch) would be strengthened while Hotham (Chipp) would be weakened.
In any redistribution there are always some losers. Don Chipp is the most notable loser in this one. The seat he has represented continuously since 1960 would be highly marginal on the proposed boundaries.
Queensland: The two National Party seats of Kennedy and Maranoa are merged into a new seat tentatively named Flynn. The effect is the abolition of one National Party seat.
The Liberals also lose one metropolitan seat by abolition (Griffith) but there are two new metropolitan seats, named Fadden and Glasgow which are marginally Liberal on 1 974 figures.
Labor would finish up with the same number of seats (six out of 18), two of which have been strengthened, while the Liberals would make a net gain of one seat from the National Party.
Although the redistribution is fair politically there is a case for objection on other grounds.
Flynn is an enormous seat as shown on the accompanying map:
In addition a case can be made for deferring any redistribution until after the 1976 census when Queensland is expected to gain a seat from New South Wales. A redistribution into 19 seats will be necessary in 1978 regardless of whether or not the present one is accepted.
South Australia: The present rural seat of Angas would become part-urban-part-rural and the Liberal safety margin would be reduced from 1 7 per cent to 7 per cent.
All other seats would stay at the same political strength.
The really interesting point is that the commissioners have left the marginal Liberal seat of Stun at the same strength. It would have been very easy to turn it into a Labor seat.
Tasmania: Changes are insignificant.
Notwithstanding the fairness of the redistribution I still expect it to be defeated in the Senate.
The reason is that the Opposition parties can remain united in rejection whereas they would be divided if the Senate agreed to the new boundaries.
How are they going to defend a position which will seem so unreasonable?
I expect them to say four things.
First, they will try to make out that it really is a gerrymander and quote specious facts and figures to prove this.
Second, they will say that, since they have always rejected the 10 per cent principle, they should reject boundaries drawn on that principle.
Third, they will make specific objections to certain proposed seats, especially Flynn and a few other large country seats.
Fourth, they will say that no redistribution should be made until after the 1976 census when entitlements in some States may change.
On this last point I quote what Senator Withers said in the electoral bill debate last year:
The projected 1975 redistribution which the government wants is idiotic. What is the sense in replacing 45 divisions in N.S.W. with 45 other divisions in 1 975 when there will have to be a redistribution in 1978 to replace those 45 divisions by
This will have to occur no matter what happens to this legislation. “That is why the practice of the last 60 years has been so sensible. The two operations- namely correcting disparities and State entitlements should be carried out together in 1978.
No redistribution is necessary before that time. In short, the projected 1 975 redistribution is three years premature. ‘
The Labor reply will be to point to the present disparities. In Queensland McPherson has 93 000 and Maranoa only 46 000. In Victoria Diamond Valley has 86 000 while Wimmera has only 49 000.
Labor will argue that it is absurd to suggest that the present unequal boundaries should be used for the next election rather that the proposed equal ones.
– During the course of this debate supporters of the Government have referred constantly to this authority on electoral matters. During the debate on the redistribution of electoral boundaries in Tasmania the Minister adopted the device of preventing any Opposition member speaking during the Committee and third reading stages. Because that device was adopted I would like to take this opportunity to address a couple of remarks- I think they are remarks of principle- towards the Government’s approach to redistribution. The Minister referred to the size of the electorate of Kalgoorlie. I do not deny that the electorate of Kalgoorlie is the largest electorate in Australia. It is perhaps in some respects, one of the largest electorates in the world. But what I point out to the Minister and to supporters of the Government is that the criteria of dealing with the size of electorates was taken out of the Commonwealth Electoral Act by the Government at the Joint Sitting. It is no good Government speakers coming into this House and saying that it is unfair for the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Collard) to have such a large electorate when by their own act they took out of the Commonwealth Electoral Act those criteria which permitted the Distribution Commissioners to take into account the size of electorates. It was as a result of their actions that the criteria were taken out. We opposed the Government in this respect. It is absolute hypocrisy for the Minister and supporters of the Government to argue along those lines.
It seems extraordinary to me that the Government has chosen to carry out a redistribution in Tasmania where none of the electorates is out of kilter, where none of the electorates is either lower than 10 per cent below or 10 per cent above the quota. Although a redistribution was carried out in Tasmania we have a situation in Western Australia where the number of electors in Kalgoorlie is almost 16 per cent below the quota. So there is a certain amount of double standard in the Government’s approach to electoral redistribution. It is absolute hypocrisy for the Government to talk about the size of the electorate of Kalgoorlie when, by its own act, it took out the criteria which required the Commissioners to pay regard to the size of electorates, to density and sparsity of population and the remoteness of centres of population in particular electorates. I think that this is one illustration of the double standards that have been used by the Government during the course of this debate.
If the Government is really interested in giving some relief to members who happen to represent electorates of the size of Kalgoorlie, it ought to give some reconsideration to the amendments to the Commonwealth Electoral Act that it put through at the Joint Sitting because it was its action- an action which we opposed- which has led to a situation where the Distribution Commissioners cannot pay regard to the size of these huge areas. The constant complaint of many Opposition speakers during this debate has been that the criteria under which the redistribution has been carried out are unacceptable. We opposed these criteria at the Joint Sitting. We argued that some regard ought to be paid to the fact that an electorate is as large as Kalgoorlie.
We agree with the Minister for Services and Property when he speaks of the difficulties of representing such a large electorate. What we say to the Government is: Why does it not change its attitude towards the criteria under which redistributions are carried out? If the Government really wants to help the honourable member for Kalgoorlie it will change the Act. If it is really sincere about helping people who represent large country electorates it will change the Act. But it is perfectly obvious from the attitude taken by the Minister and Government speakers during this debate that they are hell bent on putting through the redistribution under the existing criteria, and no arguments regarding the problems of members who represent large electorates will prevail. Unless the Minister for Services and Property recognises that if the Act prevents Commissioners paying regard to the size of an electorate such as Kalgoorlie there is no way in which those members can be helped. It is absolute hypocrisy and an indication of the double standards of the Minister for him to come into this House and to say: ‘Look at my poor friend Mr Collard who represents the electorate of Kalgoorlie’. By his own act in the introduction of this legislation the Minister has taken out of the Act criteria which would have enabled some assistance to be given to those particular members. I think they are matters that the Minister ought to take into account.
-This must be the most extraordinary debate that has ever taken place in this House. I must say that I am completely and utterly confused. Perhaps, sometimes, that is a reason to sit down, but it is not a reason for me to sit down at the moment. I want to talk about Tasmania, which is very dear to my heart. The Bill dealing with Tasmania has already been passed and has long since gone, but apparently I am entitled to talk about Tasmania now.
I shall talk about the Bill itself which is as confusing as the debate has been. When one reads this Bill one finds that apparently it is intended to be a double dissolution Bill. I imagine that is what the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) has in mind. He thinks this Bill will go into the Senate, that there it will be knocked back and that then he will bring it into this place again in 3 months time. He hopes it will be knocked back again at that stage. What an extraordinary Bill it is. When this Bill comes into operation- that is, after some procedure has taken place in the unlikely event of the Government being returned at the next election- it will be proclaimed, it will come into force and it will govern the House of Representatives elections held after 21 May 1975. That is an extraordinary procedure. Apparently it means that we will have an election as a result of a double dissolution. After that, this over-optimistic Government thinks it will be returned to office, at which time it will proclaim this particular Bill to make the electoral divisions operative in relation to an election which has already taken place. That is as confusing as the debate. In relation to Tasmania of course there are no members from Tasmania in the House at the moment, they are as confused as I am and they have all gone off -
– I rise to a point of order. There is no need for any Tasmanian to be in the House because this is a Bill dealing with the redistribution in Queensland.
-That is not a point of order.
– As I said, the members from Tasmania are as confused as any other honourable member in this House would be with such a debate. I should like to illustrate why, in relation to Tasmania, it is quite clearly absolutely unnecessary to have this redistribution. We know that in Tasmania the proportions are well and truly within the Electoral Act as it now stands. In other words, they are within the 10 per cent limit.
That has been made clear by other honourable members.
In Tasmania the State boundaries are governed by the Federal electoral boundaries. There are 5 State electorates for every Federal electorate. What an extraordinary inconvenience this Bill, if it becomes law, will produce for Tasmania. Not only will there be an unnecessary division but also we will find ourselves in the position that five of the State boundaries also will have to be changed. What do we have in Tasmania? We have 30 members whose seats would be altered by this unnecessary and inequitable redistribution. The honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie) in a speech earlier this month agreed that this redistribution was not necessary. He indicated quite clearly that he felt that it was quite unnecessary.
– Order! The time alloted for the remaining stages of the Bill has expired. The question is ‘That the Bill be read a third time’.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 28 May on motion by Mr Daly:
That the Bill be now read a secod time.
– I rise on behalf of the Opposition to oppose this Bill for a number of reasons, some of which have already been presented to the House during this debate and during previous debates. In Victoria, as in the rest of the Commonwealth, a redistribution is not necessary according to the Constitution. If one examines the overall Commonwealth situation the Australian Labor Party polled 49.3 per cent of the votes in 1974 and won 52 per cent of the seats. So there is no need for a redistribution. It is a national disgrace that this Government is not as assiduous, purposeful and determined about tackling the massive economic problems of this country as it is about taking measures to entrench itself in power.
– What did the Country Party poll?
-You look after Fraser Island and Queensland. If the Government could manage the economy without inflicting such enormous harm and damage on so many Australians, it would not have to resort to every tactic in the book in order to try to force changes in the electoral laws to help the Labor Party. If the Government could put Australians back to work it might not have to use unprecedented means to get its unfair, unjust and undemocratic electoral proposals through this Parliament. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) does not even blush at the impropriety of the Government in bringing electoral proposals before the House on the very day that the High Court began hearing a challenge by 3 States to the Bill on which the proposals are based.
From a constitutional aspect, a redistribution is unnecessary. Redistributions will be required, undoubtedly, after the next census. So one does not have to be very intelligent to see why this whole exercise is taking place. Of course, it is crook. Government members are becoming terribly upset because they do not like the truth. Nothing expresses the Government’s motives more clearly than the way in which the Prime Minister has abandoned his principles on electoral redistributions. A few years ago he was saying that a 20 per cent tolerance enrolment was perfectly reasonable and that this provision should be enshrined in the Constitution so that no one could tamper with it. But today, the Prime Minister, faced with electoral disaster at the hands of a disillusioned and hurt electorate, came into this debate and threw away his belief in a fair and truly democratic electoral system in a desperate effort to hang on in office. That is what it is all about.
No resonable person would claim that the tasks involved in representing very small electorates and very large electorates are the same or that those tasks represent the same degree of effort or difficulty. The Labor Party claims this. I repeat that no reasonable person would claim that this is the case. It is not democratic to have virtually equal numbers of voters in all electorates when electorates vary so much. We are chasing an elusive concept of one vote one value. There would not be a man in this country who thinks about the issue who would not agree with this proposition. If we wanted one vote one value in the strictest sense, we would have a census today, an electoral redistribution tomorrow and an election the next day. We are living in a very mobile society and, of course, there are changes in the distribution of population as between one electorate and another.
It is foolish to ignore the very real problems of the poor people in Bourke and to think that they are as close to attention and to social welfare as the poor people in Bondi are. Where is the humanity of this Government- this allegedly humane Government that came to power in 1972? It is not concerned about the people who live in remote locations or the people who live in isolated communities. It is not concerned with any objective other than to contrive a situation that will keep it in power. The electoral laws which had existed for 70-odd years, since Federation, and which were supported by successive Labor governments- fair Labor governmentshad stood the test of time and trial. But this Government has decided that it is not prepared to trust the system that served all political parties until the present Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and his Party changed their view.
On numerous occasions figures have been given to demonstrate the number of seats won by the Government and the Opposition compared with the number of votes gained. I wish to reiterate them. In 1974 the Labor Party polled 49.3 per cent of the votes and it won about 52 per cent of the seats. What the Government is saying to this Parliament and to the Australian people is: We want a redistribution that will allow us to obtain only 45 per cent of the vote and maintain our present number of seats and our position in power. We want a system that will allow the Liberal Party and the National Country Party to poll between them 54.5 per cent of the vote and yet remain in Opposition’. This is what it is all about. The people of Australia need to know that all the huffing, puffing and bluffing that is going on about a double dissolution and so on will not scare the Liberal Party or the National Country Party or bluff the Australian people.
-Once again we have heard members of the National Country Party huffing and bluffing. For years they have gone on supporting gerrymanders all over Australia. We now have proposals for the fairest redistribution ever carried out in this country. Some of the best political commentators in the country have described this as the best redistribution that has taken place. But once again the National Country Party takes up its old stance. It is using a smokescreen to try to hide the fairness of this redistribution. This smokescreen will not work, because I am sure that the Australian people will see from which side they are getting the fair go.
For quite some time the National Country Party has talked about the poor people in country areas. The largest seats in Australia are held by Labor members. We do not hear the Labor members complaining about the difficulty of their job. They have the same problems as, in fact bigger problems than, the Country Party members have. What about the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Collard)? Do we hear him complaining? Of course we do not. Do we hear the honourable member for Darling (Mr Fitzpatrick) complaining about what he has to do? Do we hear the honourable member for Leichhardt (Mr Fulton) complaining about what he has to do? And I do not complain about what I have to do. If this redistribution does take place, I will have extra burdens placed upon me; but I feel that the extra burdens are more than compensated for by the implementation of my belief in the concept of one vote one value. I will stick by my beliefs and not try to muck around with the Australian electoral system or maintain a system that gives the National Country Party about 17 or 18 per cent of the seats with about 9 per cent of the votes.
This is a system which is completely unalanced and which the National Country Party has been able to perpetuate for quite some time. If members of the Liberal Party had any brains at all, they would not support that project; they would support the Government’s proposals and see that the National Country Party was represented in this House according to the number of votes it received.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Just before the suspension of the sitting for dinner I was talking about the unfair attitude that the National Country Party of Australia is taking to these electoral redistribution Bills. Members of the National Country Party always express their great concern about the people in the country areas, but it is very interesting to have a look at the situation in South Australia, which is represented by 22 members of Federal Parliament- 12 members of the House of Representatives and 10 senators. Out of those 22 members only two live in the country areas. One is myself and the other is Senator Geoff McLaren, a Labor senator. So much for those people in the Opposition who are so concerned about the country areas. When they are elected to Parliament the first thing they do is move to the cities. That has been amply proved by what has happened in South Australia.
From some of the remarks that have been made in this debate one would think that it was the Minister for Services and Property who drew up these electoral boundaries. This is absolutely incorrect. Everybody knows that the boundaries were drawn up by reputable people, reputable public servants in the community. The proposed new boundaries in South Australia were drawn up by the present returning officer for that State, a former returning officer for that State and a third person, the South Australian SurveyorGeneral. Some quite scurrilous remarks have been made in the course of the debate on the proposed redistribution, not only today but also previously when these matters came before the Parliament. One accusation that I thought was rather low key was that the Minister for Services and Property took his holidays to go round Australia to. blow in the ears of the Distribution Commissioners. This is absolutely incorrect. I think it is an insult not only to the people who prepared the redistribution proposals in each State but also to the Minister. I think that the people who made those remarks should hang their heads in shame.
I do not want to speak for too much longer. A lot has been said and accusations have been made against the Australian Labor Party on this issue. But we are following the line laid down. In line with the Constitution, proposals were put to this Parliament that there be a variation of the number of voters in electorates of not more than 10 per cent either way. At the time the Opposition saw fit to reject this proposal. It rejected it twice, giving the Government the basis for raising the issue at a double dissolution. About this time last year the Opposition reckoned that the Government’s stocks were low and threw its hat into the ring. What a blue it made. Back came the Labor Party with the overwhelming majority of the Australian people voting for it. According to the provisions of the Constitution we reduced the variation in electorates to 10 per cent. This measure was approved at a Joint Sitting of this Parliament. The Government is now putting those proposals into operation.
I condemn the attitude that has been taken by the Liberal Party and the National Country Party. As a lot of people have said, including some of the commentators supporting the Opposition side, this is the fairest redistribution that has ever taken place in this country. I defy any South Australian member of the Liberal Party to say that the proposed new boundaries in South Australia do not advantage the Liberal Party. The electorate of the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson) will be made marginally stronger for him and that of the honourable member for Hawker (Mr Jacobi) will be made marginally weaker for him. My own seat is made marginally weaker for me. If anyone from South Australia says that the Labor Party gains out of the redistribution in that State he is talking through the top of his hat.
The Liberal Party should have the guts to get up and say that it stands to gain out of this redistribution. But it is not going to do that. It is going to throw in its lot with the National Country Party. It is going to allow the tail to wag the dog again. The Liberal Party goes through life like this. It has allowed the Country Party to do this and it allowed the Democratic Labor Party to do it. It will not convince the Australian people that it is an alternative government by doing this. The Australian people are waking up to what the Liberal Party is trying to do. The Liberal Party should have the guts to examine the proposal in a fair and proper manner. It has been said by Malcolm Mackerras, who I understand is a supporter of the Liberal Party, that this is a fair distribution. The Liberal Party should support it. Honourable members on my right are trying to interject. I say to them that this is the fairest redistribution that has ever taken place in Australia but the Liberal Party again is going to knuckle down to the National Country Party and let the tail wag the dog.
I conclude by issuing this warning: Last year when the Liberal Party thought it was going to win it took the Australian people to an election. It missed out. It continues on the line it is pursuing at its peril. If this matter becomes a double dissolution issue and goes to the Australian people, the people will make the decision, and the Liberal Party will be the loser. I hope the Liberal Party will stop allowing the Liberal Party dog to be wagged by the National Country Party tail.
– It is now just a little more than a year since I was elected to this House.
– Too long.
-The honourable member might say it is too long, but I will be here for a long time to come, a lot longer than a lot of the honourable members opposite, I can assure him. In the 70 or 80 days that I have been in this House in the 12 months or so that I have been a member I have been appalled at the lack of open government. It never ceases to amaze me that the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) can make so much about open government and free and open debate and yet apply the guillotine to this extremely imporatnt legislation that is before the Parliament tonight. He is not satisfied with that; he has to hog the debating time as well. It is a disgrace that the Minister should spend so much of the Parliament’s time hogging the debate on legislation that he has presented, without giving honourable members a fair chance to debate the issue. I am amazed that he should make out that the Australian Labor Party is so disadvantaged by the proposals. Good heavens- just imagine the Labor Party bearing gifts to the Liberal Party. I would be very wary of them.
– A lot of Greeks live in Marrickville. Beware of Greeks bearing gifts.
– I can assure the honourable member that the Minister is no Santa Claus.
– He would like to get rid of the Senate.
-Yes. But the trouble is there are a lot of senators from his Party. I do not know what they would do with him. I assure you, Mr Speaker, that there is no real goodness in the Minister’s heart. I call him the court jester. I appreciate his wit. It is something to be heard. It is a pity that people throughout the country cannot be here to hear him.
– He is a very timid man.
-He is timid but there is always a barb behind that facade, I can assure the honourable member. I turn to the point that was made today by the honourable member for McPherson (Mr Eric Robinson) in relation to a double dissolution. I think he made the point very succinctly. Quite frankly, if the Prime Minister (Mr Whitiam) and the Labor Government believe that they can pull off an election now and win power in the House of Representatives and in the Senate I say: Let them go ahead. Let the people of Australia judge. They will not be interested in electoral redistribution Bills at all. The real issues before this country at the moment are the economy and the high rate of unemployment.
I want also to make the point that there is no wedge at all between the Liberal Party and the National Country Party in opposition. Let us look at the Labor ship at the moment. It is travelling fairly stormy seas these days. Daily the Caucus and Cabinet have a brawl with variations in votes from one to up to thirty between supporters of Cabinet and Caucus decisions.
-Order! I suggest that the honourable member is not in the process of redistributing the matters he is discussing. It may be that he should return to the Bill before the House.
-With due respect, Mr Speaker, the Prime Minister went very wide of the mark today in his speech and I did not hear any reprimand of him.
-Order! I suggest that the honourable gentleman just obey my ruling and not challenge it.
– Thank you, Mr Speaker. There is no question as far as the Opposition is concerned in relation to electoral legislation that was passed at the Joint Sitting. I accept, although I do not like the margin of 10 per cent, the tolerance that is provided for in that legislation. To me the proposals are unsatisfactory. They are completely unacceptable to the Opposition which says to the Government: ‘Go back to your Commissioners and let them have another look at the problem’.
-Order! The time allotted for the second reading stage of the Bill has expired. The question now is that the Bill be read a second time.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-HOn. G. G. D. Scholes)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Motion (by Mr Daly) proposed:
That the Bill be now read a third time.
– I rise in this debate to oppose the legislation. I am surprised that the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly), who was born and reared at Currabubula in the country- although as a young man he left that country district and went into the 3 square miles of Grayndler alluvial gold- now wants to eliminate from this House members of the National Country Party of Australia. This Electoral Re-distribution (New South Wales) Bill is a gerrymander. Under it the seat of Riverina disappears and the seat of Hume is heavily loaded against the National Country Party. The Paterson electorate also is seriously affected by the proposed redistribution. Honourable members can see that the Government’s proposal seeks retribution for the loss of the seat of Riverina at the last elections and not a redistribution.
Section 19 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act states clearly that community of interest and means of communication should be taken into account when there is a redistribution. In the redistribution of New South Wales these 2 important provisions have been completely neglected by the Distribution Commissioners who have made the redistribution on a population basis only. Since 1968 the number of elec: tors in my electorate of Paterson has increased by 10 000 and that number is increasing at the rate of 200 a month. The electorate as it now stands meets the requirements of the Government’s Electoral Re-distribution Bill which provides for a 10 per cent variation of the quota either way. There are 62 763 voters in the proposed electorate and, given the 10 per cent variation either way, the present Paterson electorate meets the requirements of the redistribution. As long as the electorate of Paterson had over 57 000 electors it would have complied with the present electoral arrangements, which allow for a 10 per cent tolerance either way.
My submission in this instance is that to place the city of Cessnock and Bellbird in my electorate, as is proposed in the redistribution, is not to take into consideration the community of interest and lack of communication provisions of the legislation. Country people are disadvantaged electorally. It is absolutely impossible to understand why the city of Maitland, for instance, has been split in two. It is a city that has been in the electorate of Paterson since its formation. To cut a city like that in half is certainly to make it extremely difficult because there is a community of interest between the people of East Maitland and Maitland itself. The inclusion of the subdivisions of Gunnedah and Coonabarabran in the north-western section of New South Wales with the Hunter Valley indicates that there has been a complete failure to take into account the lack of communication and community of interest provisions.
This redistribution is a gerrymander as far as the Country Party is concerned. There is no doubt that it will certainly disadvantage members of the Country Party. It would appear that it is the desire of the Government to increase the population on the seaboard of this country. At present 75 per cent of the population of Australia is situated in the seaboard cities of Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth. This redistribution certainly will increase the movement of the population towards the seaboard. Only one consideration has been taken into account in this redistribution, that is, the desire to ensure that the population on the seaboard is increased and that industrial or Labor oriented areas are included in rural or country districts. I make no apologies to anyone for making that statement. The Distribution Commissioners in New South Wales were asked to divide the State into 45 electorates with an average population of 62 765 electors each. They have given me more than that number in my electorate of Paterson. I have been given a 0.93 per cent increase. Yet, as I stated earlier in my speech, with a 10 per cent tolerance an electorate of 57 000-odd voters would comply with the Bill.
– What is your worry?
– I am not worried. I have no worries politically. I have none whatsoever. I will stand up and fight and I will win. But the proposition put forward by the Distribution Commissioners through the Government is certainly a gerrymander; there are no two ways about it. Country interests have been completely disregarded, as have the important provisions of the Act concerning the community of interest and the means of communication. So I am against the proposed redistribution of the electorates in New South Wales. I cannot understand why the Minister for Services and Property, who was formerly from a country area, wants to eliminate the Country Party. As a matter of fact the whole attack by honourable members on the Government side of the chamber in the debate on this legislation has been against the Country Party. The Country Party must be a thorn in their side for them to pick it out for such improper treatment.
– They hate country people.
– They hate the Country Party and country people. Together with our Liberal Party colleagues, we are certainly not in favour of the proposed redistributions and we will fight them tooth and nail. I have mentioned the electorates that will be affected by the implementation of the proposed redistribution in New South Wales. It would mean the elimination of the electorate of Riverina, as an act of retribution, and the loading of the electorates of Hume and Paterson. If that is not a gerrymander I would like to know what is. One would have to be very naive politically not to perceive that it is a gerrymander. I am a former member of State Parliament in this country. The seat I held in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly was eliminated 10 months after I was elected to it. I am now faced with a similar proposition. The Commissioners apparently had that in mind.
– Fancy splitting a city and putting it in two different electorates.
– That is what has been done. I am therefore vehemently opposed to this legislation and will fight it tooth and nail.
-It has been interesting to listen to the debate because honourable members on the other side of the chamber have seldom talked about the Bill that has been before the Chair. The reason they have not done so is that they know that the real reason why they are opposing this Bill and the other Bills is indefensible. The real reason why members of the Liberal Party of Australia and the National Country Party of Australia are opposing this Bill and the other Bills is that the Bills seek to prevent from continuing into the future the electoral advantage that they have had. That is the only reason why they are opposing the Bills.
If the Liberal Party had any sense of responsibility towards its own members and the people who vote for it at elections it would not have anything to do with the Country Party on this issue. It is a great shame to see the once great Liberal Party bowing to pressure from the Country Party. There are twice as many members of the Liberal Party who sit in this chamber as there are members of the Country Party; yet the Country Party has put so much pressure on the Liberal Party that it has been prepared to bow down without paying any regard to electoral justice. The concept of one vote one value seems no longer to mean anything to the Liberal Party. We on this side of the chamber may disagree with many of the things for which the Liberal Party stands, but at least we thought it stood for electoral justice.
If members of the Liberal Party, particularly those from the State of Victoria, have been reading the editorials that have been appearing in the newspapers over the past few weeks they would have seen that people who do not agree with the Australian Labor Party on many other issues believe that the virtues of the principle of one vote one value are still important in the sort of democracy in which we live. The Liberal Party has become like a piece of wire solder- ductile and malleable- and has been twisted by the Country Party in the Country Party’s interests. What is more, as I have said in debates in this chamber on similar subjects, the Country Party is like an albatross around the neck of the Liberal Party. If the Liberal Party ever had a chance of getting rid of the bird that hangs around its neck it has it now while it is in Opposition. The Liberal Party will never have such a chance when it is in Government. If that is not done it will be to the great disadvantage of the Australian people.
I do not deny that country people are entitled to representation in this Parliament, but I do say that they are not entitled to representation out of all accord with their numbers, which is the situation at the moment. Of course, there is a rough logic- a very rough logic- in the attitude adopted by the Liberal Party to this matter. The Liberal Party is more interested in staying in power in conduction with the Country Party than in supporting the sort of principles that on the hustings of this country at election time and in other statements in this chamber it says it supports.
What happened in 1965? The honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) was speaking about this matter earlier. I said that the matter to which he was referring took place in 1964, but it was 1965. At the behest of the Country Party, the Liberal-Country Party Government of the day changed the rules to suit itself. What the honourable member for Maranoa said about events until that time was correct, but in 1 965 the coalition changed the rules of the game to suit itself. It is quite incorrect for honourable members on the other side of the chamber to stand up in this chamber and say that the Labor Party is producing some sort of gerrymander. They are the people who stand for a situation which gives them a greater electoral advantage than members on the Government side of the chamber. To say that it is a gerrymander is completely incorrect. If the Liberal Party has an ounce of sense, it will review its stand when these Bills come before the Senate. I point out to the Liberal Party -
-Order! The time allotted for the remaining stages of the Bill has expired. The question is: That the Bill be now read a third time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 28 May on motion by
Mr Daly: That the Bill be now read a second time.
-This Bill is a fraud. It was conjured up by the Government to ensure that it would be returned without any doubt at the next general election. The Government is as well aware as we in the Opposition are that next year a national census will be conducted, and following that census there will be grounds for another redistribution of electorates. Therefore, if this Parliament lives through its full term as the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) has threatened twice in the last 2 days the Government may hold another double dissolution based on these Bills and others. I have never seen a better example of the waste of parliamentary time. I hope that I do not see the likes of it again.
This Government is interested in only one thing- imposing itself upon the Australian electorate for as long as possible. I would like the Minister to know- he should be well aware of this fact- that the Liberal Party in New South Wales is totally committed, along with our colleagues in the National Country Party, to ensuring that this legislation is not passed in its resent form under any circumstances. The logicehind it is, to say the least, imperfect. The allowable variation in the number of electors above and below the quota has been reduced to 10 per cent. Yet the Minister continually says that the raison d’etre of this legislation is the desire to implement the principle of one vote one value. The Minister should be as aware as I am that, although that might sound a worthy objective, in terms of the Australian Constitution as presently formulated it is absolutely impossible to achieve. One day after being carried out, the redistribution would be incorrect because children would be born, people would die and others move, and so the number of people within electorates would change.
Despite that fact, we find the most extraordinary situation in the present proposals. For example, the New South Wales electorate of Gwydir, which covers 40 per cent of New South Wales and which has within it more than 40 significant centres of population, will be changed radically, and other seats such as Riverina are being eliminated. The seat of Eden-Monaro is one of the few in which the margin will be left more or less as it is. In other words, on a statistical basis, every single seat which presently is held by the Australian Labor Party is to be strengthened, particularly in Sydney. If we examine the area from the seat of Cook to the Parramatta River, we will find that every seat is to be made safer for the Government. As has been pointed out so aptly by the honourable member for Bennelong (Mr Howard), the whole substance of democracy is based upon the premise that if the people wish it they may change a government. This point was brought out especially in the last election, when the Australian Labor Party won 52 per cent of the seats with 49.2 per cent of the votes. That result indicated a fair redistribution. The last 2 elections were fair. The results speak for themselves.
Now the marginal seats are being altered in such a way as to make all of them safe seats. At the same time we have been told that concepts such as community of interest as well as population size and variations and communications are among the factors which are to be taken into account by the Distribution Commissioners. Yet anybody who studies the maps of the proposed redistribution will note that in many cases suburbs have been completely split in half, for no logical reason. There is certainly community of interest in a suburb. For example what am I to say to the people of Killarney Heights in my electorate, who live on a peninsula? They are surrounded by water on 3 sides. Under these proposals there will be a division right through the centre, with the result that half of the people may vote for me and the other half may vote for the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth).
– What about a bit of Wahroonga for me?
-I thank the honourable member for his interest but in the wrong State. The situation speaks for itself. If we are to have a redistribution, let it be a fair redistribution. But, as I emphasised at the beginning, this is not the case nor do we need a redistribution until after the next census in 1976.
Mr FitzPATRICK (Darling) (8.35)Opposition members tonight have dragged up every argument they could think of to oppose these redistribution Bills. After they ran out of arguments they switched to talking about the economy, a double dissolution and an imaginary split in the Australian Labor Party- all to no avail. They claim that there is no necessity for a redistribution. We must look at this argument. Surely anyone would know that there has been a substantial movement of electors since the last redistribution in 1968. There has been a marked increase in the population; there has been an alteration to the Commonwealth Electoral Act to provide for 18-year-olds to vote instead of having to wait until they reach 2 1 years of age; and migrants have been given the right to obtain citizenship after 3 years residence in Australia instead of having to wait for 5 years.
– What about Riverina?
-Surely the honourable member would have to admit that the points I have mentioned must cause an imbalance in electorates. If I were concerned about only my own electorate, I would prefer to see the electorates remain as they are; but I do not want to be outside of the law. The Commonwealth Electoral Act states clearly what is required. It would be ridiculous for anyone to claim that there would be no need to increase the number of electors in the Darling electorate to satisfy the statutory requirements of the Act. Of course the number would have to be increased. How can anyone justify leaving Darling with only 47 860 electors when Mitchell has 82 864 electors- 75 per cent more? Surely the real meaning of a democratic election is one in which the value of the vote of one citizen is equivalent to the value of the vote of another citizen. Surely that must be a democratic principle in any election. The Joint Committee on Constitutional Review as far back as 1959 recognised this principle and recommended a 10 per cent margin above and below the quota. We have no right to change this democratic principle. The Opposition has failed to put up a case for changing it.
Members of the National Country Party of Australia are opposed to the proposed size of the Gwydir electorate. It is no bigger than the present Darling electorate and it would be much easier to service. In the Darling electorate, Broken Hill, which contains Broken Hill South and Broken Hill North, has 18 265 electors. In Dubbo and Dubbo West in the electorate of Gwydir there are 12 927 electors. It is an electorate of 134 648 square miles. Within a radius of 100 miles from Dubbo more than 30 000 electors may be reached. Within a 100-mile radius from Broken Hill, only a little over 15 000 electors may be reached. Therefore, the Distribution Commissioners have made it easier to operate under the proposed redistribution than it is at present.
We have heard a lot about the unity of the National Country Party and the Liberal Party on this redistribution. However, the National Country Party wants to make electorates smaller, whereas the map identified as S5 and showing the redistribution proposed by the Liberal Party shows that the Liberals wanted to double the size of the Darling electorate. They wanted to give the bigger electorate to me, not to someone else. I believe that they are forced to admit that in a democratic electoral system there must be some big electorates. The Liberals have revealed that they take little notice of the community interest. Let us have a look at the different community interests. One of the strong points put forward by the National Country Party -
– Order! The time allotted for the second reading of the Bill has expired.
That the Bill be 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.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Motion (by Mr Daly) proposed:
That the Bill be now read a third time.
– Before I give my opposite number, the honourable member for Bennelong (Mr Howard), a few minutes to speak, I hope in a sane, sound and quiet manner to sum up the arguments that have been advanced by honourable members opposite. It has been stated by the Opposition that these redistribution proposals should have been referred back to the Distribution Commissioners for further consideration. There are obvious reasons why that has not been done. Firstly, it is not always done. The Liberal Party did not do it in 1962. The honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Connolly) gave an excellent argument why it should not be done on this occasion when he said that under no circumstances did the Opposition have any intention of ever accepting the boundaries drawn up at this particular time.
National Country Party members also stated that, no matter which Commissioners drew up the boundaries, under the present provisions of the Commonwealth Electoral Act they would not adopt them in any State of Australia in any circumstances. The Liberal Party followed that line. Accordingly, it would have been a waste of time to refer the matter back to the Commissioners. It was also said that a census was to be held and that there must be a redistribution after every census. That, of course, is completely false. It is not necessary. In 1971 the Liberal Party did not take steps to bring about a redistribution after the census on that occasion. Because of its failure to do so it denied Western Australia a seat. I mention that to show the falsity of the argument that the proposals should be referred back. By putting them into legislative form we can have a vote of this Parliament and the people can ultimately judge whether they should be passed.
We heard great criticism, particularly from the National Country Party, in regard to the area of country electorates. Honourable members quoted cases to show that it is much more difficult to represent country electorates than densely populated city electorates. We could debate at great length whether a member representing 130 000 people in an area of five or six square miles has not more to do than a country member who represents a much smaller number spread over a very big area. The answer to that is not loaded electorates, not giving a country man a vote worth 1 Vi to 2 times the value of the vote of a city dweller. The answer is to see that electorates are equal and that the proper facilities are available to the members to represent them. We on this side of the House know all about country seats. We hold the largest electorate in Australia and one of the largest in the world- Kalgoorlie. It has the largest population and the largest number of voters.
– How many towns?
– I understand that the number of towns in it does not matter because the National Country Party says that it wants added voting strength because it represents areas- areas, not people. In addition, the National Country Party never worried about the size of the Kalgoorlie electorate. They talk about the electorate of Flynn and others like it. Those areas can be represented effectively by members who have the proper faculties and also the inclination to do so. Let me remind honourable members opposite that the Labor Party holds almost 20 country seats throughout Australia and represents them very effectively. The honourable member for Paterson (Mr O’Keefe) spoke about his electorate and said that it had been gerrymandered. Why, the Country Party plundered that seat from the Liberal Party by putting candidates in rural areas, and subsequently one of them defeated Allen Fairhall ‘s successor. Everybody knows that the Country Party plundered it from the Liberal Party and that is why for a few brief moments or a few brief months or years we are sharing the pleasure of the delightful company of the honourable member for Paterson (Mr O’Keefe).
– That is not right. It has been 6 years up to date and it probably will be longer.
– As I wandered with the honourable member through Currabubula I was sorry that he would not be there with me again.
– You should have stayed at Currabubula.
-Order! The Minister will resume his seat. I suggest that honourable gentlemen some of whom have spoken in this debate and some of who have not, remain silent.
– We are being provoked, you know.
-Order! I suggest that the honourable member for the Northern Territory also remain silent. The level of conversation in this chamber is far-
– We are being provoked.
-Order! I suggest that the honourable member for the Northern Territory remain silent. Pay me the courtesy of doing so.
– I am paying you the courtesy.
-I suggest that honourable members remain silent. I am prepared to wait, but I point out that there is a limit of time on this debate and I know that one member of the Opposition wishes to address the House.
– I might mention that the National Country Party also plundered Indi and Wimmera from the Liberal Party by the same method. I am protecting the Liberals tonight and they are not even decent about it. The reasons for this redistribution are quite obvious. The electorates are completely out of kilter and the Commissioners, whose integrity has not been challenged, have brought down boundaries which are recognised by that eminent man- a Liberal I am told- Mr Mackerras as the fairest set of boundaries ever produced. I remind my honourable friends opposite that on 12 April, after the proposed New South Wales boundaries were known, he stated:
The redistribution will probably be rejected by the Senate. If this happens, it will be rejecting a fair set of boundaries and preserving a set which gives a marginal advantage to the Liberal Party-Country Party coalition.
Under this Bill the Government has even given the Opposition seats. In addition to that, we have a former Prime Minister, Mr John Gorton, who says that they are fair boundaries and it is incredible that they are being rejected. Senator Steele Hall, the only Liberal in the Senate, also endorses these proposals. The only people against them are the members of the Liberal and Country Parties. At this stage the Country Party is grovelling at the feet of the Liberal Party, but as soon as this is over the knives will be out and it will stab the Liberal Party in the back again. I say to the Australian people: These are the fairest boundaries ever. They will provide for one vote one value, equality of voting capacity and equality of opportunity for people desiring to elect members to Parliament. The boundaries deserve to be endorsed, and I ask this House to do so.
-Mr Speaker, the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) never really gives up on the subject of redistribution. From the beginning of the debate when it started last week to the very end of the speech that he has just concluded he has sought to promote the mischievous lie that in some way the Liberal Party has -
-Order! The honourable gentleman will -
– I withdraw that remark and I apologise to my honourable friend. He has sought to promote the mischievous distortion that in some way the Liberal Party has no heart in opposing these boundaries and that it has been dragged reluctant to the barricades on the subject of electoral redistribution. But I quote the Minister’s own words in the context of his argument that this redistribution has been carried out by Distribution Commissioners over whom he has absolutely no control. He said:
I have even given the Liberal Party seats.
If indeed the Minister has absolutely no control over the situation, if he is the lily white administrator so far as electoral redistribution is concerned, how can he purport to give the Liberal Party any seats? The fact remains that neither the Commissioners nor the Minister for Services and Property, in his undoubted bounty, have given the Liberal Party any seats. All of the remarks made a few moments ago by the Minister for Services and Property were consistent with his absolute obsession about the National Country Party. He spent the whole of his time denigrating the Country Party. He talked about my colleague the honourable member for Paterson (Mr O “Keefe), he talked about the electorate of Flynn and he talked about the Country Party gerrymanders. He did not really direct his mind to what these redistribution proposals have done to the metropolitan area of Sydney where there are no Country Party seats. He did not direct his mind to the argument that has been advanced by many members of the Opposition querying why it was necessary to carry out a redistribution in Tasmania, where none of the electorates were out of kilter. There are no Country Party seats in Tasmania; there is no prospect of there being any Country Party seats in Tasmania. If there is going to be any change, those seats will be won by the Liberal Party.
The fact of the matter is that so obsessed is the Minister for Services and Property with the existence of the National Country Party, so smitten is the Government by the defeat that was delivered to it by the National Country Party in Queensland at the end of last year that, not being able to defeat the National Country Party at the polls, it is running scared about its prospects at the next election. The Labor Party is frantic, absolutely frantic, to have these boundaries. It is not prepared, as the Commonwealth Electoral Act requires- in fact invites- to send these boundaries back to the Commissioners. It is concerned that some of the arguments advanced in this debate by Opposition speakers might be given some weight by the Distribution Commissioners. It is not prepared to send the boundaries back; rather it is trying to enshrine these boundaries in the form of legislation. That is not acceptable to the Opposition. It is not acceptable to the Liberal Party or to the National Country Party. We have voted against these boundaries in this House. We will vote against these boundaries in the Senate. We regard the present redistribution as being essentially unnecessary. The legislation under which it has been carried out is still under legal challenge.
But above all, the Opposition is opposed to this redistribution because it is essentially unfair according to any reasonable test of electoral justice. Nothing that Government speakers have said during this debate- be it the Minister, the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young), the honourable member for Phillip (Mr Riordan), the honourable member for Darling (Mr Fitzpatrick), the honourable member for Bowman (Mr Keogh), or the honourable member for Diamond Valley (Mr McKenzie), and I think his intervention is terribly relevant- disturbs the Opposition argument that what really determines whether a redistribution is fair is the impact of the redistribution on marginal seats. The honourable member for Diamond Valley knows very well that what happens to seats like the one he holds is terribly important to the government of this country. Of course it is no accident that, of all the marginal seats in Victoria only one that is held by the Labor Party has not been improved by this redistribution. That is the seat held by the honourable member for Henty (Mrs Child). Of course, that prompted the remark by my colleague the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) that this is really a sexist redistribution and that in fact the only marginal seat held by the Labor Party that has not been improved is the seat held by the honourable member for Henty. But if one has regard to the whole Australian situation and considers the seats that really count in relation to whether or not the Government is going to change- if one looks at the seats of Diamond Valley, Phillip, Macarthur, Denison -
– That is right. If one looks at all these seats one will see a pattern whereby they have been strengthened for the Government. I invite honourable members to look at the marginal seats held by the Opposition, such as the seat of Paterson held by my colleague. What will happen to that seat? On the 1974 figures, it will give Labor a majority of 4.5 per cent. If one looks at the seat of Parramatta, what will happen to it? It will be turned into a seat with a Labor majority of something like 7 per cent. The seat of Lowe, which by any reasonable assessment is a fairly safe Opposition seat at the moment, will be converted into a highly marginal Opposition seat. If one is honest enough and looks at the seats that really count in a redistribution- the marginal seats- one will see again and again, moving from State to State, but particularly in the metropolitan areas of Sydney and Melbourne, a pattern whereby Labor marginal seats have been strengthened and Opposition marginal seats have been weakened. Certainly on the surface there are a few carrots. It is all part of the pattern. The Government can say to the Liberal Party: ‘There is a nice new seat of Templestowe and Doncaster in Melbourne’. The Minister wants to rename it Menzies- a fine name. There is the new Liberal seat of Eastwood, but if one really looks below the surface, below the tip of the iceberg, one finds that there is a pattern whereby Labor marginal seats have been strengthened and Opposition marginal seats have been weakened. If the Government wants a double dissolution on this issue, it is welcome to have it. We will be happy to fight the Government at any time on any issue. The Opposition Parties are jointly opposed to these redistributions. We will jointly oppose them in the Senate and, if the Government wants to make an issue of it, we will jointly campaign against it. I am certain that jointly we will defeat it.
That the Bill be now read a third time.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Hon. G. G. D. Scholes)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
– For the information of honourable members I present the second report of the Australian Committee on Technical and Further Education on needs in technical and further education in Australia, together with a ministerial statement by me on the report.
-I have the honour to bring up the seventh report from the Publications Committee sitting in conference with the Publications Committee of the Senate. Copies of the report have been circulated to honourable members.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– I understand that the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson) wished to raise a matter in relation to the report presented by the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley).
-Mr Speaker, I wanted to ask the Minister for Education whether he would be prepared to move that the report that he tabled be noted so that this House could be given an opportunity to discuss a report of considerable significance.
– I am not prepared to move that motion in connection with this report. It does not apply to the coming financial year. It has been indicated to me by the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) that, as it will not be in the Budget papers, it can be deferred.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Message received from the Senate intimating that the Senate has agreed to amendments made by the House of Representatives to this Bill.
Consideration of Senate ‘s amendments.
Senate’s amendment No. 1.
In sub-clause ( 1 ), leave out paragraph (d).
Senate ‘s amendment No. 2.
In sub-clause (4), after ‘Australia’, insert ‘or of any State or Territory’.
– I move:
That the amendments of the Senate be disagreed to.
I briefly explain these amendments which, of course, would be well known to the Committee in the sense that they were moved by the Opposition at an earlier time and were disagreed to at that time. In substance, the Children’s Commission Bill provides in clause 5 that the Minister can make grants on such terms and conditions as the Commission determines of any type of financial assistance of the kind referred to in that paragraph. That is the first amendment. The second amendment which also relates to sub-clause (4) of that clause required that the Commission, to the greatest extent practicable, would consult not only with departments of State, as set out in the Bill, but also, as proposed by the amendment, with States or Territories.
I do not want to delay the Committee to any great extent, but the effect of the amendments put forward by the Senate would be to destroy the Children’s Commission. The amendments, if passed, would mean that no moneys at all could be paid under this Bill. They would mean that in order to pay any moneys one would have to utilise the provisions of section 96 of the Constitution. They would mean that all moneys would have to be paid to the States for payment out to the recipients of these funds. They would effectively exclude the Australian Government from the whole of the child care program which is a social welfare program as well as an educational one. The Australian Government has a mandate from the people to establish a Children’s Commission to provide effective child care services for at least 400 000 children or to make an effort to do that. I am astounded to think that any Opposition could be so irresponsible as to say to the Government in regard to a Bill of this type: ‘We will insert amendments which mean that you cannot pay any money at all under this Bill. You will have to come into this Parliament, make grants under section 96 and fund every program in Australia the way this Parliament determines ‘. It is alleged that there are not sufficient provisions in the Bill to enable us to consult with the State governments. Clause 3 1 of the Bill provides that we will establish State consultative committees. As the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson) knows and as I said on the last occasion, they are in fact established. This is the point: Every item of the present program, which is now delayed and in fact in jeopardy because of the amendments, has already been approved by a State consultative committee. I do not know whether the State of Victoria wants to run the whole federation and to say that it is speaking on behalf of all the States. I doubt very much that it is. Let me remind honourable members that under the amendments, if agreed to, we would not be able to pay any money direct to local communities, local government and benevolent organisations which of course in the past have been able to be funded by the Australian Government under the Child Care Act passed by the Liberal Government. Apparently, because we now have a Labor Government with a very good philosophy and program, we now have people venting their political spleen and saying that the Government will not be allowed to operate in this way.
Senator Rae said in the Senate that the Opposition had had a change of heart. He said that it was a mistake to do this the way the previous Government did it. He said that in future grants should be made by way of section 96 grants. I know that Senator Rae does not speak for the State of Tasmania. I know that the Tasmanian Government wants the program of which we have approved. The Tasmanian Government is prepared to accept the funding the way we would do it. I am astounded that Senator Guilfoyle appears to say that she speaks for the State of Victoria and that she knows the position, because I went to Victoria and spoke with Mr Scanlan. I said to Mr Scanlan: The proposition we now have in mind is to fund all your existing recurrent grants to the extent of 75 per cent, which means an additional $2m to you. This is an amount that you do not have to find in the future’. He said to me: ‘Thank you very much. I welcome this program. We will also endorse the program submitted by you. Of course we would also want to endorse the program submitted by the community’. There was no objection to that.
Let us have a look at the State consultative committee which has been appointed in Victoria and which approved of the program. All the members of the committee, except one, were appointed by the Victorian Government. The committee includes Dr Mccloskey, of the Victorian Department of Health; Mr A. McVeigh, of the Victorian Department of Health; Mr E. Ryan, of the Victorian Department of Education; Mr H. McPhee, of the Victorian Department of Social Welfare; Mr D. Neville, of the Victorian Department of Youth, Sport and Recreation; Councillor Portingale, a local government representative; Mrs Mccaughey, a community representative and Mrs Witney King a community representative. All of those people were appointed by the Victorian Government. Also on the committee were Miss B. Stubbs, an adviser-observer from the Victorian Department of Health; Mr J. P. Bradburn, an adviser from the Victorian Department of Health; and Miss E.
Bennett, of the Victorian Department of Social Welfare. The one person who was not appointed by the Victorian Government was Mrs B. Spalding, who was a representative of the Brotherhood of St Laurence.
I might say that the whole Victorian program runs into $7m. The funding of this program is in jeopardy because of the amendment. I do not think it is fair to tell the other people of Victoria whom we propose to fund direct that they are not going to get any money. The only way in which they will be funded, if this amendment is accepted, is for the money to be paid to Victoria. I would like to read to the Committee a list of some of the groups that would be denied this funding. One such group is the Victorian Play Groups Association. Another is the Community Child Care Co-operative of Fitzroy. Another is the Greek Opportunity Youth Club, which we funded to the extent of $4,000 for a Christmas holiday camp project for 160 Greek children. Is it proposed that every time we want to allocate money for a holiday program we should have to trundle a Bill into this Parliament so that this assistance can be provided under section 96? Will we have to allocate these funds for payment to the Victorian Government to act as a post office to pay this money into the Greek community? Why can we not do it direct? What a ridiculous situation this is! We were to buy 12 houses for day care in the city of Fitzroy. This cannot be done. We were to buy 3 houses in the city of Mordialloc. The Fibre Makers Mothers Club May vacation program involved $600. There was also the Nunawading City Family Day Care service. All over Australia we have commitments which every consultative committee agreed with. These commitments are now in jeopardy.
The Senate has said that we cannot carry on funding direct. I exempt the honourable member for Sturt from this, because I do not think he really agrees with the amendment. Apparently the Victorian Government has got hold of some senators. Do they know that we fund the Brotherhood of St Laurence direct to the extent of $29,000? Do they know that we fund the Aus.tralian Pre-schools Association direct to the extent of $45,000? Do they know that we fund the Lady Gowrie centres direct to the extent of $325,000? Are all these payments now to be abandoned? I think the people who should receive these funds would rise up in protest and say: ‘What have you done? For years, including in recent years, we have been funded direct’. Why is it not good enough to continue that now? Why is the Opposition against a welfare program that assists people who are in need? What is the objection to the Australian Government playing its part in accordance with its mandate? What is wrong with the Australian Government saying: We want to run an effective program. We do not mind consulting with the State governments. But we are not going to be excluded from the program?’
Look at the danger of such a proposition. Suppose that there is a very worthwhile community that has a very good project. The State consultative committee might say that it is not a worthwhile project. Are the people concerned with that project to be denied? That has happened already in one State. Are they not to be able to make their case to the Australian Government and can we not fund them direct? Does Mr Scanlan seriously want to place in jeopardy all of his programs, which amount to some $7m? Does he want to place in jeopardy the Queensland program, which amounts to some $5m? This is what will happen, because unless the Bill is passed now no money can be paid. If the money is not paid by 30 June, no money can be paid under the appropriation. Let us make the position clear. There are 165 000 children who will receive the benefit of this program. Is the Opposition to deny them?
– You should have done it properly in the first place.
-Please keep quiet. Do honourable members opposite seriously suggest that we should bring in a Bill to provide section 96 grants every time we want to fund a program? Are honourable members opposite going to ignore the whole expertise of the Australian Government? What about the effort that the Government has made in establishing these consultative committees? We have to look at the programs from the point of view of what is reasonable and intelligent. I am surprised that the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr Ruddock), who is interjecting, is not appreciative of what we have done. We have created catalysts in all States. We have discussed the programs with the community. Why is it that the Opposition hates the community? Why is it that it hates local government? Why is it that it wants the Australian Government just to provide the money to the State governments in lump sums and not to know what will happen to that money?
What a ridiculous situation it is for a government to say that it has a program for child care and for the Senate to say: ‘Oh, these amendments are only minor’. The amendments destroy the whole Bill. The amendments have the effect of saying that the Government cannot make the payments the way it proposes to make them. They say that the Government cannot make the payments that the State Ministers said they wanted. I went and saw every State Minister concerned, except the Queensland Minister who was too busy to see me. In that State I saw the officials. They agreed with the propositions that we put to them. We said to them ‘We will fund your programs. They are good ones. But we will be funding other programs as well’, and they said: “That is all right’. This program is the greatest breakthrough ever in the care of children. There has been nothing better than it. It is a communityorientated program. It is not fixed by any bureaucrat. If a mothers ‘ club wants to run a play group, we will fund it. Does the Opposition mean to say that such groups will have to go to the State government and the State Government will then have to have an Act passed through the Par.liament so that the Australian Government can appropriate, say, $4,000 for some toddlers’ groups? Is this the way we should want the child care programs to be run? No, it is not.
Under the Child Care Act aU these things could be done directly but now, because we are trying to follow the same principle, we are denied that opportunity on the basis that the Victorian Government does not approve of it. I will exempt all other State governments from my comments because none of them has complained. Only one government has complained. I am startled to think that Senator Rae is so ignorant of his own mandate from his own State. I am surprised that he is placing his own position in so much jeopardy. He was not talking for the State of Victoria. I will accept the fact that Senator Guilfoyle will do whatever the State of Victoria wishes and maybe that is her duty, but she should not put the whole child care program in jeopardy, which it is.
The amendments are not acceptable to the Government for those reasons and never will be acceptable. I gave the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson) an undertaking that we would retain the Consultative Committees which are already established. I should Uke this message to get back to Victoria: The Consultative Committee in Victoria was established before the State committee was established. I read the Hansard record in which it was implied that the Victorian Government had established its own advisory committee. It established that committee after we had established the Consultative Committee. The Victorian Government never even had the courtesy to invite the Australian Government to participate in its own Committee.
The Opposition should stop playing politics with the care of children. It should examine the question on the basis of what the community has organised for itself. I would like to see any member who says that he would not Uke to see a program which gave an effective $55m spread over all the electorates throughout Australia. It cannot be done now because under this Bill no payments can be made if the Opposition’s amendments are accepted. That is the ridiculous part of the Opposition’s attitude. I am amazed to think that any lawyer, such as Senator Rae, would promote such an amendment. I did not think the honourable member for Sturt was really serious when he moved these amendments. I thought he was saying to himself: ‘I want to keep on side with some States and therefore I will move the amendments’. But that the whole Bill has now been rejected on the basis that it cannot even function is utterly ridiculous.
I am astounded to think that the Brotherhood of St Laurence has allowed itself to be used in the debate. Honourable members should bear in mind that we have already directly funded the Brotherhood of St Laurence for research programs. Honourable members should bear in mind also that it already has made an appUcation for a further direct grant. It seems if one reads the wording of the circular, that it is very similar to evidence that was given to the Coombs Royal Commission by a certain party which has a vested interest in empire building. The Brotherhood of St Laurence should not let itself be used. Honourable members should bear in mind that Mrs Spalding, our representative on the Interim Commission in Victoria, is a full time organiser for this Government in the Interim Commission and is appointed by the Brotherhood of St Laurence. Any suggestion that the Interim Commission would be full of public servants is outrageous and untrue. It never has been the case and it will not be the case in the future, so why say it in a dreadful circular? I know that the Brotherhood of St Laurence does splendid work but it should not allow itself to be used by professionals. Look at what that Brotherhood could do, when ah it has done has been to allow itself to be sucked into a debate and used in the Senate as though the Brotherhood of St Laurence was against this program.
Will not the Australian Pre-schools Association welcome the continuation of its grant of $45,000? Will not the Lady Gowrie Homes welcome their grants of $325,000? What about all these other grants which were to be made not only in Victoria but also in Tasmania? The grants to the Hobart City Council, the Clarence Municipal Council, the City of Glenorchy, the Tasmanian Centre for Training in Child Care, the Launceston City Council, Tasmanian play groups- they have all been approved by the Consultative Committees and now will be in jeopardy and cannot be funded directly. It is utterly ridiculous. No responsible Opposition and no responsible member of Parliament would ever move such an amendment on the basis of saying: “This Bill could last’. It is finished. The Schools Commission will be finished if the Opposition adopts this attitude.
We will take the Opposition on in any forum it likes on this question. All the Opposition wanted to do was try to appease the Victorian State Government. Let Mr Scanlon come here and say whether he met me. Did he not agree with me on this issue? Is it not a fact that he is at least $2m better off in his recurrent expenditure? Why is it that he put up a program in some cases, particularly in Coburg, but he never even asked the Coburg Council whether it wanted the program. Programs were put up for a number of other municipal areas without consulting the municipal councils. The Coburg Municipal Council was astounded to find that we would fund programs in Coburg. It was delighted, but it had never been consulted. This, apparently, applies to most of the Victorian programs. It is about time the people of Victoria woke up. They have a phobia in Victoria that persuades them that nothing is acceptable from the Australian Government. All they want is money. We spoke to another Minister, a very reasonable man who has an interest in the welfare of children. We said: ‘We might be able to help you too. Submit a program’. Apparently it has upset Mr Scanlon that we went to another Minister and invited him to put up his own program.
What is wrong with the Australian Government funding children who need these facilities and people who need these services? The whole Bill is related to such needs. For these reasons, without further delaying the House but clearly indicating the position, the Government is very firm and unrelenting in its attitude to the Opposition ‘s amendments. The Government is opposed to the amendments. I give the undertaking that the Consultative Committees will remain and programs will be examined by them. As honourable members will be aware, Victoria has about a twelve to one majority and so has every other State. It is a reasonable proposition, but if the Opposition does not accept it it has rejected the whole principle of child care.
-We have just heard an impassioned and blustery speech by a Minister who shortly hopes to be the Minister for Defence. He came in here tonight seeking to prove himself. These amendments were put forward in this House. They were rejected by this House but were reintroduced into the Senate and accepted. It is necessary that we examine the substance of the amendments. For the Minister to suggest that the programs approved are contingent upon the passage of this legislation is utter nonsense. The programs were examined and recommended by an Interim Committee. They could have been funded under legislation or funded under a program that depended upon that Interim Committee.
The legislation that we are now examining is to establish a permanent Children ‘s Commission so that in the years ahead funding of these programs can be ordered under an established piece of legislation. But to suggest that those programs that have been approved during the last several months are contingent upon this Bill is totally incorrect. Having put that part of the record straight, let us look at this legislation in the light of the fact that it is to establish a permanent structure under which child care and pre-school education programs are to be funded. Although one cannot but notice the Minister’s heavy concentration on child care programs- almost to the exclusion of any reference to pre-school education as has been pointed out in the debates both in this House and in the Senate- the Opposition sees the care of the pre-school child in a comprehensive way. We are concerned for the complete well-being of the child in the family context, in the child care centre and in the general care role as well as, importantly, in the area of that child ‘s education.
But the two specific amendments that the Senate asked for were amendments related to the mechanisms to be used. We in the Opposition would, when coming to government, approach this whole problem of the provision of child care and pre-school education in a way significantly different from the way inherent in the Government’s program. We have indicated our attitudes in debates both in this House and in the Senate. We do not, however, wish on this occasion to delay the passage of this legislation. We do, however, point out that we believe that these amendments should have been made but that if the Government is not accepting them we will not oppose the resolution moved by the Minister. We want to point out the reasons why we proposed the amendments and why we believe that those amendments, if not included in the legislation at this stage, should be examined very closely in the future.
First, let us look at the amendment which sought to guarantee the consultative process with State governments. Many Ministers of the present Government talk about co-operative federalism but when it comes to the point, and when there is a piece of legislation into which the Opposition seeks to see written a provision that will ensure that that co-operation takes place, this centralist Government very often does as it has done on this occasion, and refuses to accept an amendment put forward by the Opposition. The Minister gives his assurance that he will continue the consultative process. If he is so sure about his assurance, why is he unprepared to have this provision written into the legislation: That consultation takes place between the Children’s Commission and departments of the Commonwealth Government as well as departments and governments of the States? He says he will do it. Why not write it into the legislation? We sought to write it in- the Senate asked that it be written in- yet the Minister, professing to co-operate on the one hand, and on the other hand is unwilling to include in the formal structure of the Children’s Commission a provision that requires it to consult with the States.
The second aspect of this legislation deals with the method of funding. The Minister spoke as if it were not possible for a program of this type to be funded by means of section 96 of the Constitution. He talked as if each individual proposal would need to come before this Parliament. Of course the Opposition supports the wide-ranging program that the Interim Commission has put forward and wishes to see that program expanded and made more comprehensive. But there is no need to finance that program by means of section 81 of the Constitution. It can equally well be done by section 96. 1 seem to recall, Mr Chairman, that earlier this week the House debated the States Grants (Universities) Bill. Under that Bill, by means of section 96 of the Constitution, a massive universities program is funded. Then we had a similar piece of legislation dealing with the colleges of advanced education.
There are other programs, extensive and wideranging, where the particular proposals in many instances are as small in terms of dollar value as some of those indicated by the Minister where, under a section 96 proposal, those programs can be funded by legislation passed by this Parliament. The Opposition urged that, if the program was to be done in co-operation with the States, their role in the provision of child care and preschool education facilities be recognised. We urged that, by the mechanism of section 96 which ensures that the States would be involved in the process of the funding ofthe programs, a better integration would be achieved between those programs proposed by the Interim Committee and, in the future, by the Children’s Commission itself, than would be the case if the Commonwealth simply funded programs direct and did not involve the States in the way that they would necessarily be involved by the application of grants under section 96 of the Constitution.
Therefore, Mr Chairman, I want to make it clear to honourable members that, whilst we will not hold up this legislation, as we wish to see the Government’s program confirmed in legislation, we want to- point out that, on coming to government, we will review the whole method whereby the Australian Government delivers its child care and pre-school education program. We will seek a means whereby it can be made comprehensive and whereby there can be meaningful cooperation between the Australian Government, the State governments, local government and community groups. We are as much concerned to involve community groups and local government and State governments as the Minister claimed that he was to involve community groups. You can be assured, Mr Chairman, that when we look at the program on coming to government we will devise a mechanism to provide for a more meaningful involvement of the people concerned at all levels and all forms of government.
At this stage in the debate it is not appropriate to canvass the full purposes of the Commission, but it is necessary that we point out the reasons why we put forward the amendments in the original debate; why they were carried in the Senate and now, at this stage, to indicate the reasons why we do not wish to hold up the passage of the legislation.
-in reply- I want to congratulate the Opposition on showing belated wisdom. I think it is due to the political aptitude of Senator Rae, and I congratulate him on the way he is able to look at these situations because, quite frankly, it is amazing to think that, after our having gone to the trouble of establishing all these consultative committees, we should have had to run the gauntlet and the risk of losing the whole Bill on the basis that we were not going to consult. I find that incredible; I find it unbelievable. I should like the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson) at his leisure to write to me and tell me what member of the Victorian group should not be on the Victorian consultative committee. What is wrong with that committee? It approved of the whole program. To think that those opposite put into jeopardy the whole Bill is astounding.
I welcome the fact, however, that the Opposition has now agreed to approve of this legislation because it means, in the case of Victoria, the allocation of $1 lm to fund 1 18 pre-schools. Yet the honourable member suggests that we are not interested. We will be allocating that amount alone to that State, plus the extra $2m in recurrent grants. I applaud the wisdom of the Opposition in ensuring that the pre-schools can now get that money.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr Lionel Bowen) agreed to:
That Mr Mathews, Mr Oldmeadow, and the mover be appointed a Committee to draw up reasons for the House of Representatives disagreeing to the amendments of the Senate.
-On behalf of the Committee appointed to draw up reasons for the House disagreeing to the amendments of the Senate, I bring up such reasons. (Thereupon the Clerk read the reasons as follows):
Because the Senate amendments have the effect of removing from this Bill the opportunity of the Australian Government, on the approval of the Minister, to fund direct local governments, charitable or benevolent organisations, community groups and other organisations, including research, on conditions determined by the Commission.
Motion (by Mr Lionel Bowen) agreed to:
That the Committee’s reasons be adopted.
Debate resumed from 28 May on motion by Mr Lionel Bowen:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: to enable the provisions of the Bill to be more adequately considered, the House is of opinion that further progress of the Bill should be deferred until the Budget sittings 1975’.
I shall go briefly over the points raised in the debate last night. The purpose of this Bill is for the proposed Australian Government Insurance Corporation to absorb the activities and assets of the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation. The Opposition is not in favour of this move. We believe that the board of the HLIC and its staff have been efficient over the years. We can think of no single reason to absorb the Corporation into a proposed new bureaucracy which would probably reduce its efficiency. We believe this is a snide way for the Government to take over the Corporation’s assets.
Briefly, the functions of the HLIC are to underwrite the mortgages of low income borrowers from lending institutions and to encourage lending institutions to grant loans to those people. In introducing the Bill for the establishment of the HLIC in 1964, the Minister for Housing of the Liberal-Country Party Government said that the purpose of the Corporation was to help to bridge the deposit gap. We believe that this Labor Government, presently and temporarily in office, is cynical and in fact has no intention of seeing that young people are able to bridge the deposit gap. This Government has abolished the homes savings grant. The rate of cost increases in the building industry, which we all know are rising by 22.5 per cent a year, means that an average home in Australia worth, say, $25,000 is increasing in price by more than $ 100 every week while wages in the building industry are increasing by 35 per cent a year. This makes it completely impossible for most people in Australia to save enough to bridge the deposit gap. One of the functions of the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation was to bridge this gap. We believe that this Government has destroyed that function.
I mention briefly a comment made by the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson) at question time today when he was referring, I think, to the number of building approvals which have flowed as a result of savings bank loans. I will not know exactly what he said until tomorrow when I read the Hansard record, but he indicated that the number of approvals has increased. I think he mentioned a figure of 30 per cent or 40 per cent. But the position is that overall building approvals are actually decreasing. It is no good considering just what is happening as a result of savings bank building approvals. In fact, we believe that one should not consider approvals in isolation; we should be talking about commencements. However, approximately 1 1 000 approvals will be granted this month; 10 000 were granted last month; 9000 in February and about 7000 in January. This means that the average building approval rate in Australia at the moment is about 10 000 a month. This is at least 40 per cent below what it should be. There should be 14 500 building approvals every month to keep up with Australia ‘s requirements for housing. In 1975 the commencement rate in Australia was 1 76 000 houses. Last year there were only 138 000 commencements, and this year it seems though there will be about 108 000 commencements. This means that at the end of this year Australia will be more than 100 000 houses short of requirements. I do not think any government or any Minister for Housing and Construction could be proud of this non-achievement.
Today the Minister talked about the $150m which the Government put through the savings banks on January or February this year to assist the building industry. As I understand it, between 70 per cent and 80 per cent of that $ 1 50m is being used to purchase lived-in houses, not new houses. It has not helped the building industry at all; it has helped, in the main, people to remortgage. I think that the Minister should be pulled up when he makes these assertions. Last night I criticised the establishment of the AGIC- I will not go through the reasons as I do not have the time- because it is being established for many purposes that we do not support. We do not think there is any need for it. Last night I made the point that we believe there are sufficient insurance companies in Australia to cater for those who need insurance. There are 45 life assurance companies and about 260 general insurance companies in Australia. Of course aU of the States have their own State government insurance offices. In fact the State insurance office in South Australia which is the State from which I come, made a gigantic loss of $4m in its second year of operation.
– It carries all third party insurance too.
– The point is that it is making a loss and the general taxpayer is picking up the tab. There is no need for that because the private insurance companies are prepared to carry the insurance. The Australian Government Insurance Corporation will enjoy many unfair advantages. It will be exempt from the provisions of the Insurance Acts and the Life Insurance Act. It will be exempt from State companies legislation, the provisions of the Restrictive Trade Practices Act, stamp duty and fire brigade charges. I believe that private insurance companies carry 75 per cent of the running costs of fire brigades. We are strongly opposed to the establishment ofthe AGIC. We believe that if it absorbs the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation the operations which were carried on by that Corporation will become typically inefficient in a government bureaucracy and the taxpayer will be forced to pick up the tab.
We do not believe that what the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) said about making this Corporation competitive is a true and honest statement ofthe situation. There is no time to mention fully the question of interest rates as mentioned in the annual report of the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation. The Corporation increased the insurance rate payable to 12 per cent. But I think that it is worth putting on record what the Prime Minister of Australia said when he was the Leader of the Opposition. Speaking to the Bill to establish the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation in 1964 the Leader of the Party that claims to believe in low interest rates said:
This will be the fourth increase in interest rates on housing loans since this Government took office.
He went on to complain about the increase in interest rates when we were in Government. At that time the interest rate was 5 per cent per annum. Today it is up to 12 per cent. In fact the Minister for Housing and Construction, who is at the table, echoed the present Prime Minister’s sentiment’s in an answer to me on 17 October last. By golly he is not too good at predicting the future. He said:
The Government intends to promote a general reduction in interest rates as soon as this is practicable-
I ask the Minister, when he replies, to tell us when that will be. At the moment the Government itself is paying interest of 9.5 per cent to holders of its bonds, the interest rate in the market place is 12 per cent per annum and it is 1 8 per cent per annum for bridging finance. The position today is that any person with an income between $ 1 60 and $200 a week has no hope of buying his own home because he simply cannot finance a mortgage.
I think the comments of the Treasurer (Dr J. F. Cairns) are even more significant. I quote a report of what the Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer had to say on 4 December. After all, that is nearly 6 months ago and it seems to me that there has been time for the Government to introduce its innovations. The report states:
In Canberra the Deputy Prime Minister, Dr Cairns, yesterday
That was on 3 December - predicted that interest rates on housing loans would be cut by a couple of per cent early next year.
We are nearly to the end of May. That is past early next year’ and the interest rates are unchanged. In fact, if I were inclined to bet, I would have a small bet with the Minister for Housing and Construction that interest rates will go up in spite of what the Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer said. In the same report the Prime Minister was reported as saying that there was a very distinct possibility- in fact he said that he would say there was a probability- that general interest rates would fall. I wonder what sort of people are running this country. This is the Prime Minister of the country- the Deputy Prime Minister is also the Treasurer -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Luchetti)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment.
-The original question was that the Bill be now read a second time. To this the honourable member for Boothby moved an amendment that all words after ‘that’ be omitted with a view to substituting other words. The question now is that the words proposed to be omitted stand part of the question. I call the Minister for Housing and Construction.
– I rise on a point of procedure. I take it that if the Minister for Housing and Construction now responds he will be closing the debate. Honourable members on this side of the House wish to take part in this debate and we have an agreement with the Government which gives members of the Opposition an opportunity to take part.
– The honourable member need not be worried. The Bill was introduced by the Special Minister of State. I call the Minister for Housing and Construction.
– I think the point of order raised by the honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay) clearly demonstrates the extreme state of confusion which has characterised his entire approach to this legislation and the whole question of housing policy. The honourable gentleman has not even learnt that the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation is not part of my administration, that it has not been part of it for some time and that I am not responsible for introducing this legislation into the Parliament. I heard him speaking last night in this debate and he was criticising me because I was not sitting at the table and taking charge of the Bill. I think in a fairly embarrassing way he has learnt that this Bill was introduced into this House by the Special Minister of State (Mr Lionel Bowen) on behalf of the Minister for Reptriation and Compensation (Senator Wheeldon). So that clears up the first misapprehension of the honourable gentleman, and a very important one.
His whole speech, divided as it was into 2 parts, was coloured by platitudes and ambiguity. I am not sure where he stands, but I gather he is in favour of the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation. He does not seem to appreciate that this legislation is of an extremely limited character and that under it the Government does not intend to dispose of that Corporation in any way; rather, it seeks to link it with the new Government insurance body. I want to say something about the housing scene because in his speeches the honourable gentleman has linked the future of the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation with the whole question of housing in Australia. Quite frankly, I do not think he has a lot to be proud of, either on his own behalf in respect of the initiation of conceptual attitudes, housing philosophhy or suggestions as to what the government could do, or on behalf of the Party he represents. The fact is that it was an extremely sorry performance from the government which preceded this administration during the 2 3 years it was in office.
It is true that the housing industry in this country is experiencing some difficulties, as it is in almost every comparable country. I do not know whether the honourable gentleman knows the scene in the United States of America, for example, but there people are encountering such problems with housing that about two-thirds of them have to secure some form of assistance from the national government, the type of assistance that we have been setting the stage to provide for some time, something which was never heard of under the Liberal-Country Party government. The scene in the United States of America is such that the number of flats and condominiums has almost doubled in 12 months and the number of single and individual houses has almost halved. That reflects the increasing cost of housing, the cost of land and the cost of money. In this country we are taking initiatives to meet these problems, initiatives which almost invariably are opposed by the honourable member for Boothby.
The Government’s record is a good one. Australia is coming out of a housing trough and, I suppose, most people in the community and certainly most honourable members would be aware by now that the difficulties which people are encountering with respect to housing result from the mismanagement which occurred in 1972. The honourable member for Boothby laughs. I can understand him laughing because he has never learnt that there is a relationship between money, manpower and materials. He has never come to understand that we cannot do everything with money alone. It is the philosophy of his Party and, I think, his own personal philosophy that money speaks all languages. His Party tried that in respect of housing. From 1970-71 to 1972-73 what the previous Government did was provide so much money for housing that the number of loans increased in that period from 135 000 to 245 000. What did that do? That great mass of money descending on materials and manpower simply forced up prices and costs until it was almost impossible to secure tradesmen- bricklayers, carpenters, plumbers, whatever you like- and, of course, the time it took to build houses lengthened. My advisers, who are the same advisers substantially as those who would advise the honourable gentleman if he became the Minister for Housing and Construction, say that any responsible government has to act in such a situation- otherwise the whole problem goes through the roof.
The Government did act. We have had this periodical trough and we are coming out of it faster than we have done before. There is a cyclical trend in the housing scene, but for the first time we have a government which is doing something about preventing those hills and troughs from occurring. On 21 February we launched nationally the Indicative Planning Council and since then we have launched the State working parties of that council in South Australia, Tasmania and Queensland. I am pleased to be able to say that tomorrow I launch the State working party for New South Wales, with the support of the State Government, as has been the case in each of the States I have mentioned, and with the support of industry which is appreciative of the fact that it now has a Government interested in planning these things. We are going on next to Victoria and Western Australia. It is almost incredible that anyone could believe that all the elements essential to the efficient conduct of the housing industry can come together in a spontaneous and desirable way without planning, so we are planning.
There are so many things we have done apart from indicative planning. We have conducted inquiries into modern housing techniques, established the Housing Research Council and the Australian Housing Standards Advisory Council. I am not sure whether the honourable gentleman knows what these bodies are really about. We have established a sociology division and a building technology division within the Department of Housing and Construction and have passed, despite the opposition of honourable members opposite, a Bill to establish the Aus.tralian Housing Corporation so that this Government can effectively get into the business of helping people acquire their own homes. In the very near future honourable members wil be seeing significant developments in that regard. The honourable gentleman drivels and croaks and cavils, as Henry Lawson said, ‘till your voice goes further than college walls, keep out of the tracks we travel’. What the honourable gentleman should know is something of the relative emphasis and priority given to this housing by this Government as against the previous Government.
Let me mention a few figures for the sake of comparison. This Government has lifted advances to the States for public housing from $169m to $375m. We have increased the defence service homes allocation from $74m to $11 5m. In place of the homes savings grant scheme for which $21m was allocated in 1972-73, the Government has substituted the tax deductibility scheme for mortgage interest payments which will involve an expenditure in the vicinity not of $20m but of $ 130m a year. The homes savings grants scheme was available as a one-off thing to a limited number of people. The tax deductibility scheme wil be available to all taxpayers whose income does not exceed $14,000. It is a scheme that effectively reduces interest rates by something like 3 per cent for the average wage earner in Australia with an average loan. The expenditure on housing for Aboriginal people has been increased from $ 14.5m under the LiberalCountry Party Government to $142m under the Labor Government. The same sort of thing has happened in regard to many other schemes that one can think of. I have a long list of schemes in front of me, but I do not have time to go through it. We have doubled the annual allocation in respect of the States Grants (Pensioner Dwellings) Act. We have increased the subsidy under the Aged Persons Homes Act from $2 for every $1 to $4 for every $1. There have been reforms the like of which have never been seen in the history of this country.
The purpose of this Bill is to provide for the affairs of the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation to be administered by the Australian Government Insurance Corporation. We acknowledge that the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation has done outstanding work over the last decade. As one who has administered the Corporation, I naturally have said eulogistic things about it in this House and in many other places. It has provided assistance to 168 000 families and insured loans in excess of $2,000m. It has assets of $ 15.5m. Of course, it has very adequate reserves to meet all eventualities. What we have said- what the Special Minister of State has said and what the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation said in the other place when introducing the Australian Government Insurance Office Bill- is that we intend to preserve this organisation and to make it effective in every possible regard. Of course, we do not want bits of insurance spreadeagled all over the government spectrum. What an absurd proposition that would be.
I have had the privilege of administering not only the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation but also the defence service homes insurance scheme. I am pleased to see that the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation has been sensible enough to understand that that and everything else associated with insurance ought to come under the one umbrella of expertise and competency so that an efficient and competent organisation can be run in the name of the people of this country. The honourable member for Boothby has proposed, by way of moving a delaying amendment, that the Government should not go ahead and consolidate this organisation into the mainstream of governmental insurance activity. He wants that activity spreadeagled. He wants to contribute to its inevitable destruction. We know the value of the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation. It has helped to maintain high ratio loans in this country. It insures lenders against loss. So we are not likely to be very partial to the very dubious proposition that has been put forward by the honourable gentleman
For a couple of minutes at least I want to say something about the Australian Government Insurance Corporation. Firstly, I think that the fight is over. I think that most people have really come to understand that there is a great deal of merit in such a scheme. I remember saying some of the first words spoken in this House about the need for such an organisation, such a government initiative, following the Brisbane floods. At that time a very large number of people had been unable to redeem their insurance policies after having waited a long time and were not being treated in a desirable way. As the Minister responsible for administering the defence service homes scheme, I was able to tell the House after the Brisbane floods that that scheme controlled the policies of 200 000 policy holders and that, because of the Brisbane floods, 900 claims had to be met, and were met almost instantaneously, at a cost of $2m. Here we have a scheme which pays its way in every respect. Contrary to the impression that the honourable member for Boothby and other honourable members opposite try to convey from time to time, it is an organisation that stands on its own in an extremely competitive way and that makes its contributions to the fire organisations and does all kinds of other things.
Do honourable members opposite know what it was able to do? It was able not only to meet those claims in a very responsive way but also to provide premiums at one-eighth to one-quarter of the premium charges made by comparable organisations. The fact of the matter is that the annual premium for policy holders insuring a home for $15,000 was about $20 and the saving on the insurance premium was often in the vicinity of $50 a year. Does the honourable member for Boothby want that kind of consideration to be extended widely to other people, or does he not? Is he more interested in underwriting the foreign owners and controllers of the insurance companies that have the predominant part of the business in this country, or is he concerned about ensuring that people are protected against every eventuality and that they are able to do that at a minimum of cost? That is what we want to know from the honourable gentleman, because that is what this legislation and the principal Bill are all about.
From our point of view, we intend to make certain that those people who have never been encouraged or given the opportunity to insure in a comprehensive way against the cyclones in Townsville, the floods in Brisbane, the disasters in Darwin, the land subsidences and slips and the bush fires will be able to be covered because the premium rates will be down to bedrock. We will not be exploiting them and taking money from them for these things and putting it into other business ventures. So we say to honourable members opposite: We are proposing the establishment of a Government Insurance Corporation that will represent fair competition. It will cover the great range of natural disasters. It will look after the farmers, who for so long have been neglected by honourable members opposite, as livestock and crop losses will be covered by this Corporation in a way in which no private organisation has ever sought to do. Then, of course, we will be engaging in a rationalisation of all the governmental insurance processes. So there is a great deal to be said for what we are putting forward. .
As Minister for Housing and Construction I want to assure all the people who invest in housing and who are encouraged to invest in it by the very existence of the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation that the Government believes in that Corporation. The honourable member for Boothby said in his speech on this matter last night that the Government is going to take over the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation and get it on the cheap. He does not even seem to realise that it is already a government instrumentality. I think he is confused with the Mortgage Guarantee Insurance Corporation, which is the private organisation. This one is the public organisation. We already own it. The present Government has supported it, sustained it and encouraged it. There has been a great increase in the amount of business conducted since the Labor Government was elected. The Labor Government is not going to sap the vitality, sustenance and support from it. We have upheld it. I want the investors of this country to know that it is now going into a more effective arrangement as part of the Government Insurance Corporation. I hope that the fact that additional strength will be derived from that process will cause all the people who invest in housing to feel very confident that their investment is very well secured; in fact it is gilt edged. It will have the great backing of the Australian Government behind it. I hope that further investment will take place in the housing industry and that the home seeking public will receive very great benefit as a result of yet another Labor initiative.
-The Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson) commented on the Australian Government Insurance Corporation. I suppose that in the context of this Bill his comments were relevant. He stressed the efficiency of such an organisation and the goodwill that it will engender among people when they go along to the post office or wherever it is to fill in their personal insurance claims and other documents. I suggest that the Minister look at the Regional Employment Development scheme, the National Employment and Training scheme or even the defence service homes scheme for socalled efficiency. Let him look at some of the delays and the ineffectiveness of those Government instrumentalities
The Minister said that the last decade had seen a very effective operation by the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation; The scheme under which it operates goes back somewhat further than that. It was commenced in 1945 by the Commonwealth Government. It was established by a Bill dealing with housing loans. A private corporationMortgage Guaranty Insurance Corporation of Australia Limited- also commenced operations in 1945. In 1972 a second private insurer, Australian Mortgage Insurance Corporation Limited, also commenced operations. In addition a number of State governments offered indemnities against loss in respect of terminating building and housing societies for loans which exceeded a certain percentage of the value of the home or home unit. Housing loan insurance was introduced by the Commonwealth to assist people to obtain the finance they needed to supplement their own savings to buy or build a home.
– A Liberal-Country Party Government introduced it.
– Yes, it was all the good work of a Liberal-Country Party Government. It is now shot to pieces. I will go back through some of the Minister’s Press releases. I find them most intriguing and interesting. On 1 9 August 1 974 he made a release to all Press which stated:
In the 2 years prior to the present Government taking office the amount of finance for home purchase almost trebled. Although at first sight this might appear desirable the fact is that it caused highly dangerous inflation in the home market.
– Everybody in the industry will tell you that.
– Will they? The Minister told industry people in my presence that we needed to cut away some of the fat from the industry. The industry is now a walking skeleton. We have cut the fat to the bone. Industry representatives warned the Minister in July last year what would occur. He said: ‘But I have to deal with the Treasury. I find the Treasury a problem’. The Treasury is a problem because it fans to recognise the job the Minister is trying to do, but it is unconvincing to the people when the Minister says to the Parliament that the housing industry is fine. It certainly is not fine. I would like to refer by way of example to further Press releases. One dated September 1974 states:
While it is too early to give details, this will involve a continuous dialogue between the Government and the people, who are the ultimate test of the success of our policies.
That was said when announcing the reorganisation of one of the organisations we have heard about- the POliCY Formulations Section of his Department. His final words are: . . and the people, who are the ultimate test of the success of our policies.
The people have been telling the Government and the Minister for more than 12 months that they cannot buy houses, that there is no way in which they can get hold of houses. Another Press release dated 28 November 1974 states:
Figures released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed a 3 per cent increase in dwelling approvals and SO per cent increase in the volume of other buildings approved.
The Minister refers to a 3 per cent increase- a significant increase! Look at what has happened since December.
– Look at the March approvals. They numbered 64000, an all-time record.
– The Minister comes into this House time and again talking about approvals. Approvals in the building industry mean nothing. He knows as well as I do that people make arrangements to establish a dwelling, they arrange their borrowing and they try to service that borrowing. When they find they cannot they do not proceed with the approval. Many people wishing to establish a cottage with local government approval make a drawing of their dream home or have an architect draw it. They take the plans along to their local council, where the council employees look at them and stamp them and the fees are paid. The people have their block. They are ready to proceed if they can arrange a loan, which is extremely doubtful, because on the Minister’s own figures, 88 per cent of people who apply for home loans earn less than $10,000 a year and under today’s conditions are ineligible for a loan unless they come under the very good scheme incorporated in the Bill we are talking about tonight.
The Minister talks about building approvals. Council stamps on plans do not mean a crumpet in the building industry. The Minister is using false figures. I ask him to talk to the brick manufacturers. At the moment in Sydney there are 150 000 million bricks on grass. Where are they going to? Where is the uplift in the home building industry? Where are the young people building their homes? How can they be building homes? Three brick manufacturers in Sydney have folded up over the last 6 months and the remainder are working at half capacity. They have laid off over 500 people in the last 6 months. Where is the upturn in the industry? Where are the orders coming from? Where are the homes being built? I can show the Minister many hundreds of blocks of serviced land that will not be sold or, if sold, will not be built on until there is a drastic reassessment of the whole of the housing industry by the present Government. A graph of building approvals in New South Wales shows a serious decline over almost 2 years from August 1973. There were peaks in late 1973 and early 1974, running down to a low in March of this year. The sale of bricks in New
South Wales dropped from a peak of 64.3 million in February 1974 to the March figure of 47.3 million. At the moment there are 150 million bricks on grass. That is 6 months supply under normal conditions.
– Do not people build weatherboard houses in Sydney?
– You can go around the timber merchants and hear the same story. On 6 November last year the ‘Australian’ newspaper stated:
It is said that a man earning $102 per week at the end of the 1 973 March quarter had sufficient finance to qualify for a $15,000 building society loan but that at today’s soaring interest rates he would need a wage of $159.30 to obtain similar finance, even if the cost of the home building had not soared. It is now estimated that he will need a loan of $20,000 which, to pay back at 12 per cent over 25 years, he would need to earn $26 1 .30 per week.
This is the 88 per cent about which I was talking. These are all the people who earn less than $10,000 a year. Let us look at interest rates. In March 1973 the rate was 7VS per cent, in July 8 per cent, and in October 9 per cent. In 1974 in April it was 9%, in June it was 1 1% per cent, and in November it was 1 2 per cent. There has been a drop of one-half of one per cent since then. That will mean nothing.
– It will be very temporary.
– Yes. The Minister mentioned a sum of $ 150m. It was a splendid but ineffective gesture. I would point out to the Minister that three-quarters of those funds went into existing homes. Only one-quarter was devoted to new homes. Of course these were homes being built basically by people earning more than $ 10,000 a year.
– Refinancing, yes. That compares with the position 12 months ago when onethird of bank approvals was going into new homes. So we have seen a drop from one-third to one-quarter in the percentage of total investment in housing going into new home building. Some of these additional figures are interesting. Building society loan approvals were 1.6 per cent higher in March this year than they were last year. Savings bank loans, due to the $150m, were 2.7 per cent higher in March this year as compared with last year. The cost of building materials has gone up by 22.5 per cent in 12 months. How are people going to build homes? How can the home building industry be improving? Dwelling approvals were 29.4 per cent lower in the March quarter this year as compared with last year. Dwelling commencements were 26.9 per cent lower this March than last March.
Dwelling completions were 7. 1 per cent lower in the March quarter this year. How can the Minister come into this House and say that things are improving in the building industry? How can he say that young people are able to buy homeseither Government homes or their own financed homes? It is a mockery of this House and a mockery of the young people of this nation to say that things are getting better when the Minister knows perfectly well that they are getting worse. I suggest that he reads the figures.
I do not know what the future holds for the young people of this nation under the present administration. The Treasury has been blamed; inflation has been blamed. Committees and organisations have been set up. They are wonderful concepts. I commend the Minister for these ideas because I think that they are valid and they are needed in the building industry. But how is the Minister to cope with the present problem? He was told about it 12 months ago. He said: ‘It is yet too soon. I must wait another 3 months.’ Twelve months have passed and nothing has happened. I fear for the young people of this nation. How are they going to build homes? We are a nation of home owners. People like to buy their blocks of land and build their homes. I forecast that we will see parcel deals in the future where people will select their houses on their blocks of land. That is the way the industry is moving. People like the estate, they like the plans being offered by the project builder and they accept the total deal. I think that this is an economic outlet for the whole industry.
I think too that with proper initiatives a responsible government could make inroads into the costs of land- not by becoming involved in the business itself; there is no way that a government can handle sufficient land at sufficiently low price to be able to deal with the current situation and problems we face. A feasible way for a Government to deal with these problems is to prevent local government passing the buck down the line, to prevent State governments passing the buck down the Une, so that the young home buyer has to pay for the road in front of his property, for the kerbing and guttering, for the water pipes, for the electricity and sometimes the telephone cables. This is aU added on to the price and is a major factor in the purchase of land. Perhaps there is an initiative for a responsible government in this area. I am convinced that there is. The community should deal with these problems. The life of these buildings is about 20 to 30 years. The average turnover of home buyers runs on a pattern of 3 to 6 years. So we see in those buildings 3 or 4 families. The cost of those amenities should be spread across the families who live in that dwelling.
I started to say how concerned I was for the future of young people buying their own properties, buying their own homes, trying to establish a family and trying to establish their dream homes. A lot of thought and heartburn goes into the arrangement of finance, and some ofthe first legal transactions of a person’s life are involved in home buying. It is a time of difficulty, a time of trauma, for some people. I consider that the Government has failed to recognise this problem. It has shown complete ignorance of the facts of the industry. It has shown complete ignorance of a sensible way of dealing with the problems of this industry. I expect that the next Press release we will see from the Minister will be that the sales of indian ink have increased, therefore architects are drawing more plans, therefore the building industry is improving. That is what I would expect to see.
– There are 70 000 houses short.
– Yes. I was corning to that. My honourable friend interjects that there are 70 000 homes short at this minute. I think it will be a good deal more than that by the end of the year. One tends to think of houses as individual homes. One talks about 100 000 homes. It is a great number of homes. But has the Minister thought of what needs to come first- of the types of services, of the type of land that has to be developed? Has he thought about 25 000 acres of serviced land around the major cities of this nation? I wonder whether the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren), even in one of his wildest nightmares, has thought of trying to provide 25 000 acres of serviced land by Christmas next year for the potential home buyer. How is he going to do it? There has been a great lag in this type of development. The development companies and governments have tended to slow down in this area. There has been a complete stoppage for 2 years. When will things start again? No wonder the price of land Will soar. No wonder shortages Will continue. I have indicated that there are 150 million bricks on the grass in Sydney. There are many young people wanting to build their homes- 70 000 of them throughout the country. All that is standing between them and their bricks is this Government.
– I want to associate the National Country Party with the Housing Loans Insurance Bill. I want to come back to the real nature of the problem and the realities of the situation after having been taken on a safari, as it were, by the Special Minister of State (Mr Lionel Bowen). This Bill deals with housing loans insurance, which was introduced by a previous Liberal-Country Party Government for the specific purpose of allowing people to obtain their own housing with a minimum deposit and on terms which would allow repayments to be spread over a factual period, with relatively low interest rates. I think it is pertinent to point out to the Minister that the rock on which his Government will founder will be the rock of credibility.
I want to quote from a few speeches that were made by none other than the honourable member for Werriwa (Mr Whitiam) and the Minister during various debates. The honourable member for Werriwa said that the idea of the Housing Loans Insurance Bill had as a fundamental plank of its platform the availability of loan money and low interest rates. He said:
The Treasurer, Mr Harold Holt, was unable to tell us last week by how much interest rates would go up on loans made by savings banks or trading banks directly to home builders or to co-operative building societies, which in turn lend money to home builders. This will be the fourth increase in interest rates on housing loans since this Government took office. Interest rates were increased first in August 1952 by % per cent, a second time in April 1956 by Vi per cent and a third time in March 1 97 1 by W per cent. Then there was a decrease in April 1 963 of Vi per cent.
I want to expose to the Australian population the hypocrisy and humbug of the honourable member for Werriwa, who now happens to be Prime Minister, because the boast of his Government is that for young Australians and elderly Australian couples it has increased interest rates on finance for housing to record rates. The present Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson) on 18 March 1965 said:
We proposed also that there should be a great public housing authority, set up to provide people with housing loans on a low deposit and low interest basis.
Again, I think that indicates that in opposition the Minister said one thing, but when he is in government he is unable to carry out the policy and platform that he espoused.
-Order! It being 10.30 p.m., in accordance with the order of the House of 1 1 July 1 974, 1 propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
-Mr Speaker, I require the question to be put forthwith without debate.
Question resolved in the negative.
– I realise that the House does have a problem. I want to conclude, with the consent of the Minister and the Opposition members at the table, by asking that some consideration be given to those people who at present are trying to obtain a defence forces homes loan and who, through no fault of their own, have had to obtain bridging finance at a very high rate of interest. These loans are not covered by insurance under the relevant Act. I think it is an eminently feasible request to make of the Minister at the table that he should ascertain whether the funds of the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation can be used for the specific purpose of providing insurance cover for the interim period when people who anticipate getting a defence forces homes loan within a month or 2 months have to take out bridging finance. They also have to take out extra insurance cover on that bridging finance. On behalf of the many people in my electorate and in other electorates in Australia who do have to take out this bridging finance, I ask that they be relieved of the necessity of having to take out insurance cover on that finance, which is often at a cost of $50. Thank you, Mr Speaker, for allowing me to be associated with the BUI.
– I thank the honourable members for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh) for his co-operation. I also express appreciation for his intelligent understanding of the problems. I wil undertake to get an answer on the matter that he mentioned, which is of concern to a number of people.
The Government rejects the amendment that the Bin be postponed. The honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay) suggested that the Government might be taking over the assets of the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation. I am assured that that is not the case. The Corporation will remain separate, it will be a separate corporate entity. It is not going to be absorbed totally because section 6 of the principal Act, which establishes the Corporation as a body corporate, is not touched by this BUI.
-The question is that the Bill be now read a second time. Those of that opinion say aye, to the contrary no. I think the ayes have it. Is a division required?
-Yes (The bells being rung)
– I am advised that a division is not required.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Mr LIONEL BOWEN (Kingsford-Smith-
Special Minister of State) ( 10.35)- I move:
Omit sub-clause (2), substitute the following sub-clause:- “(2) The Housing Loans Insurance Act 1965, as amended and in force immediately before the commencement of this Act,* is in this Act referred to as the Principal Act. “.
The need to amend sub-clause (2) of clause 1 arises from the fact that this Bill will commence to operate from the date the Australian Government Insurance Corporation Act 1975 comes into operation. As this date will be delayed to allow for detailed planning of the Australian Government Insurance Corporation, the amendment is necessary to provide against the possibility of the citation in sub-clause (3) of clause 1 being out-dated by a subsequent amendment to the principal Act operative from a date prior to this Act.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Remainder of Bill- by leave- taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report- by leave- adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Lionel Bowen)- by leave- read a third time.
-Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. In the debate yesterday on the Superannuation Bill the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) stated that he saw me in the House and he then said:
What hypocrisy it is on the part of people like him who strongly support the huge benefits which are paid under the Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits Scheme to officers of the Services who are trained at our expense, resign at the age of 40 to 50 with amounts of about $40,000 and then get on their high horse to complain about public servants.
First of all, the statement that officers of the Services ‘who are trained at our expense, resign at the age of 40 to 50 with amounts of about $40,000 ‘ is completely and utterly wrong. Then to go on and imply that I got on my high horse and complained about public servants is also completely wrong. It is almost becoming a habit with the honourable member for Prospect to make such outlandish statements. The point is that on both occasions the honourable member did misrepresent me and his statements are not substantiated in any way. I believe he should apologise for this misrepresentation.
Motion (by Mr Lionel Bowen) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
-I wish to discuss a serious problem arising from the report of the Temporary Assistance Authority on precision ball-bearings, dated 4 March 1975. I want to highlight the way in which certain countries, particularly Japan, exploit the open and honest tariff protection system in this country. I want to contrast that with the way in which that country acts when its industries are threatened. I want to explain the way in which the Japanese ball-bearing industry has effectively nullified the report of the Temporary Assistance Authority and, after its acceptance by the Government, the quota restrictions for the 12 months from March 1974 to March 1975 for reasonable protection for Echuca type ball-bearings. No criticism is made or implied of the Department of Manufacturing Industry or its Minister, the Department of the Special Minister of State or its Minister, the Temporary Assistance Authority, the Industries Assistance Commission, this Government or the previous Government. I want to thank the Special Minister of State (Mr Lionel Bowen), as the Minister responsible for this area, for coming into the House tonight.
The efficiency of the Australian ball-bearing industry is not at issue in this matter, nor is the question of whether or not there should be a ballbearing industry in Australia. I believe that there should be; others argue the other way, but that is not the point. The Temporary Assistance Authority by its decision has, at least until the Industries Assistance Commission report later this year, stated in effect that there should be an industry in Australia, that it should have reasonable protection and that the employment rights of Australians in this industry should be protected. The factory of the SKF Ball Bearing Co. (Aust.) Pty Ltd at Echuca is the only complete manufacturer of ball-bearings in Australia. It was originally a Department of Supply factory established during the Second World War. It manufactures a limited range of ball-bearings, almost half of which go into original automotive equipment.
Recently, 2 Japanese companies- the NSK company and Australia Koyo Ltd- commenced fabrication but not complete manufacture of bearings in this country. Those companies are also importers and there is a third Japanese company which is a large importer. The total market for ball-bearings in Australia is about 20 million ball-bearings a year. The Echuca type, or the competitive range of 9 mm to 45 mm size bearings, accounts for about 1 1 million of the 20 million total market. SKF produces about twothirds of the local ball-bearings. Local production in this sector of the ball-bearing market has dropped from 71 per cent in 1972-73 to 47 per cent in the first 6 months of this financial year. In 1973 a voluntary restraint agreement was reached with the Japanese. It was actually reached by the previous Government in late 1 972. That was for a voluntary restraint mechanism to be in operation during the calendar year 1973. Basically, this was an arrangement between SKF and the 4 Japanese producers. This was to provide a reasonable balance between imports and Australian produced ball-bearings for 1973.
By late 1973 it was obvious that the Japanese were circumventing the agreement by shipping in bearings from subsidiary companies in Taiwan. So, although technically they were abiding by the voluntary agreement, they were nicely circumventing it. The Japanese were not interested in renewing the agreement at the beginning of 1974 and rapidly increased their exports to Australia in this competitive area. By the end of 1974 imports were at twice the rate at the start of the year, aided by the 25 per cent tariff cut in 1973. So, a combination of double the number of imports with a downturn in local demand resulted in an increase in stocks of Echuca type ball-bearings in this country of 2.7 million bearings in the calendar year 1974. In mid-November 1974 SKF applied to the Department of Manufacturing Industry for protection, after the management several weeks earlier had discussed this matter with the then Minister for Manufacturing Industry. The Department of
Manufacturing Industry immediately notified the Japanese companies concerned and asked for their comment, as is the correct procedure.
After ascertaining that there was a case for protection, the Department recommended to the Department of the Special Minister of State that a case be heard. On 3 February this year this was conducted after instructions had been given by the Special Minister of State (Mr Lionel Bowen) who is at the table. The Temporary Assistance Authority agreed that there was a sound case and quotas for that part of the market in competition were introduced on 1 March for 12 months. Meanwhile, SKF and its staff- I pay credit to both the management and the staff at SKFdecided to start work this year 6 working days later in an attempt to reduce the stock pile and by agreement through the month of May the staff has worked a 4-day week. This has occurred at a time when the employment at the SKF factory has dropped by 25 per cent in 2 years. From the moment the Department of Manufacturing Industry notified the Japanese companies in November, they started to flood the Australian market. This is shown up in the figures for January and February 1975, which are usually 2 slack months for such imports. They have flooded the market to the extent that, even with the restrictions that are now in force, the stock pile of unsold ball-bearings in this country will be greater at the end of 1975 than it was at the beginning of 1975. Mr Speaker, I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard an estimate of the changing position- growing stock pile position of ball-bearings in Australia.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
– One can see from this table that all the bearings and more that the Japanese had any hope of selling in 1 975 will be in this country and that the Japanese would have effectively nullified the temporary assistance and Government action. I want to contrast this situation with the action taken by Japan when its beef industry was threatened by Australian exports. The industry was shut down overnight over 12 months ago and has not reopened. This happened at a time when, for some time previously, the Japanese had said to us that we should provide special types of beef for the Japanese market and that an assured market was there for us.
I believe that 2 important conclusions can be drawn from this case. I request the Special Minister of State to seriously consider them. Firstly, the quota restrictions should be continued beyond February 1975 until the excessive stock position in this country is eliminated, to show the Japanese that they cannot exploit our system with impunity. Secondly- I believe that this is important in the long term for the Temporary Assistance Authority system- the Temporary Assistance Authority arrangements should be altered so that any quota or tariff decided by that Authority should be automatically backdated to the date of notification by the Department of Manufacturing Industry, that is, when the appUcation was first made. By doing that, we will close this loophole which the Japanese have so cleverly exploited not only in this case but also in other cases.
– I take this opportunity this evening to place on record my disgust at the paltry attitude of the Queensland Government in respect of the special grants allocated to it by the Australian Government for health projects in Queensland. I refer particularly to several projects in my electorate of Bowman. The position can be summed up only by saying that the State Government Department of Health is pursuing a policy of complete deceit in relation to the grants it is receiving from the Australian Government.
– That is not true.
-The instances that I can give reflect this deceit in a wide variety of different areas. I know that the honourable member for Griffith does not spend much time in the House; but if he likes to spare a few moments and stay in the House I will give an instance of a community health project which is just on the border between his electorate and my electorate and which is a typical example of this deceit. The grants to which I refer are completely without strings. Consequently, the deceit can be attributed only to the acute embarrassment felt by the Queensland Health Minister, Dr Edwards, who currently is presiding over the expenditure of more than $1 1.5m from Australian Government sources for these projects. Of course, this current embarrassment will be greatly accentuated next financial year when the Medibank scheme will be introduced. This will channel an additional $50m into the Queensland hospital system. There is no doubt, of course, that this money will be made available. Similarly, of course, there is no doubt that the scheme will be introduced in Queensland, despite the reluctance of the paranoid Queensland Premier to accept the fact that something good can come from the Australian Government.
The glaring examples on which I want to touch briefly this evening exists in my electorate and, as I indicated, the electorate adjacent to my electorate which included the community health centre at Cannon Hill. Firstly, I refer to the Mount Gravatt Hospital, which has now reached the planning stage. Tenders will soon be called. I understand that the project is due to commence the construction stage early next year. I was given this information by the Australian Minister for Health (Dr Everingham) some weeks ago in reply to a question I asked him in the House. An amount of $96,000 was allocated by the Australian Government in the 1974 Budget for planning and research for hospitals in Queensland which, of course, includes the planning of the Mount Gravatt Hospital. This followed the allocation of $250,000 in the previous year for acquiring the site and for the preparation of plans for the hospital. Yet the Queensland Government, throughout negotiations with this Government, has said nothing except that it did not want the Australian Government to interfere in its overall hospital development plans for the Brisbane area, long drawn-out though they have been. Since the matter has virtually been settled there has been no statement from the Queensland Government. The only reference that has been made to this very important project and to the health needs of all of the citizens, on the south side of Brisbane particularly, has been the statement made by the Australian Minister for Health (Dr Everingham) in this House in reply to a question I asked. Of course, naturally, this received no publicity in Queensland.
The initial stage of the hospital which will be built on a site along Kessels Road, Mount Gravatt, will provide 200 obstetric beds. Another example of the deceitful attitide of the Queensland Health Department and particularly Dr Edwards, the Minister, is the recent announcement of a site for a community health centre in Clara Street, Wynnum. This centre is due to open within the next few weeks, following the negotiation of a lease of a property owned by the Bank of New South Wales. But when the announcement was made Dr Edwards conveniently made no mention whatsoever of the role that had been played by the Australian Government in the establishment of this community health centre. It is as well for me to remind honourable members and place on record that this project has been made possible only because of the allocation by the Australian Government of $55,650 as the full capital cost needed to establish the centre and a percentage of the running costs in the first 12 months. This project was announced by Dr Everingham on 6 February this year.
The deceit of the Queensland Government goes further as far as community health projects in the Brisbane area are concerned. I can instance one in which the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) has displayed his disinterest this evening by not being prepared to listen to the example that I am now about to mention-
– That is not true.
– His failure to show an interest in this-
– That is not true.
-Order! I warn the honourable member for Griffith. If he ever again addresses the House while walking through the door I will name him. He is very lucky that I have not named him on this occasion. I will not put up with that sort of behaviour. The honourable gentleman will not talk back either.
– The project at Cannon Hill was funded by the Australian Government to the extent of $108,915. The Minister for Health made an announcement in this respect in November last year. But so far, very secretively, very quietly and carefully, whatever has been proceeding in regard to the establishment of this community health centre has just been kept very quiet, absolutely quiet by the Queensland Government. It has been kept so quiet, of course, that the people in the area who have been dependent upon this vital need for their health facilities do not yet know when the centre will commence operation.
When the contract was awarded for the Wynnum Nursing Care Unit, construction of the second stage of which is now proceeding, an announcement was made in the ‘Courier-Mail’ and much publicity appeared in that and other Brisbane daily papers and the various metropolitan give-away papers in my electorate such as the Wynnum Herald’ which is widely sold in a section of my electorate, but again conveniently no mention whatsoever was made of the part that the Australian Government was playing in the development of this aged persons home, which I think is a more correct way to refer to it. The second stage was made possible once again, as has been the case with other projects, by the allocation of funds by the Australian Government. In the case of this project the funds provided by the Australian Government in the last Budget amounted to $1.2m. To add insult to injury, as far as this project is concerned, a very large sign now appears on the street frontage proclaiming that it is being built by the Queensland Government and lauding the great contribution that the Queensland Government is making to the health needs of our elderly citizens. Of course, no mention is made of the assistance given by the Australian Government for this important project.
My complaint is not that the Australian Government should receive approbation for its assistance. It is not that the Australian Government seeks to receive notoriety about the provision of funds it has given for projects for the health care of the people of Brisbane. In fact we readily admit that, as the Queensland Premier so often acclaims, we are simply giving back to Queensland in many instances taxpayers’ money. But I believe that the people of Queensland have a right to know how their money is being spent. I believe it is only fitting and right and just that when Australian Government funds are being expended in these joint projects, particularly in projects where the bulk of the finance is being made available by the Australian Government, the Queensland Government or any other State government should be courteous enough to let people in the area know that funds have been made available by the Australian Government. The recognition of the source of that money is simply common courtesy. We have a situation today in which most of the State governments, particularly the Queensland Government, spend most of thentime telling the people what a terrible government they have in Canberra. Surely the Queensland Government should have a little bit of honesty and decency and throw away the distasteful practices of the past and let the people of Queensland know just how CommonwealthState financial arrangements are working. There is a very happy arrangement in this respect as far as the projects that I have referred to tonight are concerned.
– I Will speak only briefly. The honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd) was kind enough to indicate to me earlier today that he would be raising a matter which concerned a problem associated with large influx of ball bearings by way of imports from Japan, particularly through Japanese companies operating in Australia. I have not had a chance to investigate fully the matters that he raised but I am told that what he has said here this evening is apparently correct. I appreciate the fact that he has made no criticism of anyone. But there does appear to be a weakness whereby an honest worthwhile Australian company could be placed in jeopardy. In the case referred to by the honourable member notification was given ofthe impending temporary assistance inquiry, which accelerated beyond aU reasonableness a heavy importation of ball bearings. I further understand that the Department of Manufacturing Industry suggested to the Australian company that it might be able to negotiate for restraint with the Japanese company. The Australian company said that it would take this action and would try to obtain a restraint. Apparently that in itself triggered notification with the Japanese to expedite and increase their imports. This sort of practice is not fair. It is not reasonable. It is unworthy of anybody to act in this way. I am not too clear ofthe effect of saying that a retrospective quota could be applied because I think the goods might already be here. There certainly seems to be a fair bit of merit in the suggestion that we should continue the quota beyond the period now specified. I Will undertake to give that course of action every serious consideration.
Further, there is an opportunity for us to raise this matter in negotiations with the Japanese as a Government because trade negotiations are at present pending between our 2 countries. Australia’s dealings with the Japanese have always been fair, honest and above board. We would not want it any other way in the international sphere. I think the Japanese themselves at the highest level would agree that trading arrangements should be honoured. We know that there are difficulties in regard to beef and other matters. But no good is done to anyone by the resort to smart manoeuvring which only aggravates a problem, creates much hardship and to some extent friction which could well be avoided. I thank the honourable member for raising the matter. I will undertake to see whether we can have the matter investigated to his satisfaction at the earliest possible date.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.59 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 29 May 1975, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1975/19750529_reps_29_hor95/>.