House of Representatives
4 June 1975

29th Parliament · 1st Session

Mr SPEAKER (Hon. G. G. D. Scholes) took the chair at 10 a.m., and read prayers.

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– I have to inform the House that I have this day issued the writ in connection with the by-election for the Bass Division and that the dates fixed were those announced in the House yesterday.

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The Clerk:

– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers.

Metric System

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That the Metric Conversion Act be repealed, and that the Government take urgent steps to cause the traditional and familiar units to be restored to those areas where the greatest inconvenience and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 Les Johnson, Mr Lynch, Mr Cohen, Mr Corbett, Mr Drury, Mr Erwin, Mr Garland, Dr Jenkins, Mr Macphee, Mr Nixon, Mr Oldmeadow, Mr Reynolds, Mr Eric Robinson and Mr Street.

Petitions received.

Wool Reserve Price

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 state of the wool industry is such that a stable reserve price scheme is paramount to the survival of the industry.

Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the reserve price be maintained at 250c.

And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Corbett, Mr Hunt, Mr King, Mr Lusher, Mr McVeigh and Mr Sullivan.

Petitions received.

Australian Government Insurance Corporation

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:

  1. 1) Further shrink the flow of funds available for finance for private enterprise in Australia.
  2. Will eventually lead to nationalisation of much of private enterprise in Australia.
  3. Cause serious unemployment in the private insurance industry throughout Australia.

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 Corbett.

Petition received.

Australian Government Insurance Corporation

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:

  1. Lead to the nationalization of the Insurance Industry.
  2. Divert a substantial flow of funds from the private to the public sector.
  3. Depress the private sector still further and create unemployment both within the Insurance Industry and elsewhere.

Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives rejects completely the Australian Government Insurance Office Bill 1 975 .

And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Drury and Mr Killen.

Petitions received.

Australian Government Insurance Corporation

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:

  1. Increase Bureaucracy at the time when Government spending should be curtailed.
  2. Shrink the flow of funds to the private sector.
  3. Eliminate private insurance for Australians.

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 Erwin.

Petition received.

Australian Government Insurance Corporation

To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of the undersigned employees and agents of the Australian insurance industry and citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:

  1. 1 ) That Parliament should reject the Bill currently before it to establish an Australian Government Insurance Office.
  2. 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.
  3. That a plan for such a Fund was submitted to the Treasury in October 1 974.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 6 ) That the insurance industry is already coping with

    1. the effects of inflation,
    2. b ) increased taxation on life assurance offices,
    3. the effects of recent natural disasters,
    4. other legislative measures already in train or in prospect by the Government, e.g. the National Compensation Bill, a National Superannuation Plan and improved Commonwealth Public Service Superannuation.
  7. 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.

Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House will reject the Bill.

And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Snedden and Mr Macphee.

Petitions received.

Solar Energy

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:

  1. That the world’s current major sources of energy are finite and will probably be depleted during the next century.
  2. That atomic energy is currently an unacceptable alternative energy source as it presents problems including radioactive waste, military implications and thermal pollution.
  3. That solar energy is the only acceptable alternative energy source as it is inexhaustible and non-polluting.

Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Australian Government will immediately increase the expenditure on solar energy research to an amount comparable with the current expenditure on atomic energy research and will give assurances to maintain solar energy research expenditure at this level, at least, until the year 2000 A.D. and maintain C.S.I.R.O. control of and responsibility for solar energy research, until an appropriate commission can be established.

And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Erwin, Mr Nixon and Mr Reynolds.

Petitions received.


To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:

  1. That the use of Uranium as an alternative source of energy is currently unacceptable as it presents problems including radioactive waste, military implications and thermal pollution.
  2. That there can, at present, be no assurances that radioactive materials exported for peaceful purposes will not be used in the production of nuclear weapons.
  3. That there is not, as yet, any known safe method of disposal of radioactive wastes, nor ever likely to be.
  4. That the export of Uranium from Australia is internationally irresponsible and is not, in the long term, of benefit to Australia.
  5. That the export of Uranium from Australia only discourages importing countries from investing into research on viable alternatives.
  6. That only the. overdeveloped industrial nations will benefit from Australian Uranium and the gap between these countries and the energy-starved Third World will increase yet further.

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.

And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Les Johnson and Dr Cass.

Petitions received.

Sydney-Newcastle Expressway

To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:

That it is necessary for the Sydney-Newcastle expressway to be constructed on the west side of Lake Macquane for the following reasons:

  1. to protect the environment including Blackbutt reserve,
  2. to prevent the bisection and destruction of urban areas on the east side of Lake Macquarie, and
  3. to by-pass through traffic from urban areas.

Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House ask the Government to arrange for the Sydney-Newcastle expressway to be constructed on the west side of Lake Macquarie.

And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Cohen and Mr Morris.

Petitions received.

Nuclear Power

To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:

That power plants fueled by uranium products produce highly radioactive nuclear wastes for which there is no satisfactory method of disposal;

That the contamination of the environment by these nuclear wastes will lead to an increase in birth defects, leukemia and other malignant diseases;

That we fear the mining, enrichment and selling of uranium by Australia is a way of solving our immediate economic problems at the expense of the future of our children.

Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will suspend all mining, enrichment and selling of uranium until a high-level open enquiry can be made into its effect upon the total environment; and at the same time set in motion meaningful research into alternative sources of energy.

And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Jacobi.

Petition received.


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 an import of Plutonium particles dispersed in the global environment via the circulation of the atmosphere,

And whereas there are no sure safeguards against the military use of nuclear fission, and the nuclear proliferation represents a prime environmental threat to all forms of life on the only earth available to us,

And that it is therefore an act of self-preservation to demand a halt to all exports of uranium except for bio-medical uses,

Your petitioners humbly pray that the members, in the House assembled, will take the most urgent steps to ensure:

  1. That further mining and export of uranium from Australia except for bio-medical purposes be banned,
  2. That the Australian Atomic Energy Commission be transformed by the rewriting of its charter into an Australian Energy Commission to further the understanding of energy flows through our society and to promote national economic independence and self-sufficiency.

And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Dr Jenkins.

Petition received.

Palestine Liberation Organization

To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. This Humble Petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:

That the undersigned expresses its strong opposition to all forms of terrorism, and calls upon the Federal Government to use its full resources to prevent terrorists, or their organizations, from operating in Australia.

We, therefore, call upon the Australian Government to reverse its decision to allow the PRG to set up an Information Office in Australia, to resist efforts being made to set up a PLO Information Office in Australia, refuse any similar request from the IRA or any other terrorist organization to set up an information office in Australia. by Mr Snedden.

Petition received.


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 Medibank should not be forced upon an unwilling Australian people.

That taxpayers money should not be used to mount an unprecedented propaganda campaign to sell Medibank to the people.

That any system of comprehensive health care in Australia should not be based upon salaried general practitioner or specialist services or allocated hospital staff as proposed by Medibank but upon the principle of freedom of choice of doctor at the surgery and in the hospital.

That private hospitals should be supported and maintained as a viable, independent and necessary part of national hospital service.

And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Viner.

Petition received.

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-Does the Treasurer recall that yesterday he said he had not kept secret from the Prime Minister the existence of letters he had written to a certain person in Melbourne on the matter of overseas borrowings? Will the Treasurer tell the House when the Prime Minister first became aware of those letters?

Dr J F Cairns:

– I am not exactly aware when the Prime Minister first became aware of these letters. I think it could have been a week or a fortnight ago; I am not sure. Perhaps you had better ask him.

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-Is the Minister for Housing and Construction aware that over 3000 applicants are registered for accommodation with the Tasmanian Housing Department? Can the Minister say what action the Australian Government is taking to overcome this waiting list?

Mr Les Johnson:

-I am aware of the waiting list in Tasmania. Of course, the Government has taken effective action to meet the needs of the people who have a dependency on the State Housing Department. The allocation of funds under the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement to the State of Tasmania has been increased from $8.8m in 1972-73, when the last Liberal-Country Party Government Budget was presented, to $24.2m in the current financial year. The movement in the housing commencements is to the effect that 596 houses were commenced in Tasmania under that program in 1972-73. This financial year there will be 929 housing commencements. I might add that in terms of per capita assistance Tasmania is doing remarkably well. The Australian average per capita assistance under the Housing Agreement is $28.56 and the Tasmanian average is $60.43. 1 do not think anybody could say that the needs of Tasmania from the standpoint of dependency on the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement are being neglected in any way.

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– Will the Minister for Social Security give the House the latest estimate by his Department of the cost of Medibank? Will he say whether this estimate includes hospital participation in Medibank by all States? Will he also inform the House whether the cost estimate includes the administrative costs of Medibank?

Minister for Social Security · OXLEY, QUEENSLAND · ALP

– The cost estimate which I released a few weeks ago is as up to date as we have available. We do not propose to up-date this estimate week by week. I would point out to honourable members that the cost estimate for Medibank is projected over the next 12 months. Previous Liberal-Country Party Governments absolutely refused to make such a projection for the present system of health insurance on occasions when we sought that type of information.

I repeat that the cost of Medibank in total is no greater than the total cost of the present system of providing health insurance and associated personal benefits such as the pensioner medical service, repatriation medical service and pensioner hospital benefits. The cost estimate does include administration costs. There is one other point. The costing at present covers those States which have indicated that they will probably enter into agreements; that is, South Australia, Tasmania and Queensland. Further costing can be made when we conclude arrangements with the other States, but it would be misleading to try to include those other States at this point because it is highly unlikely that they will have entered into agreements before January; and at the present rate it may be even later than that.

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– Has the Minister for Minerals and Energy examined the Mining Bill currently before the Parliament of Western Australia? Has he examined the operation of clause 1 19 of that Bill in relation to the operation of bodies such as the Petroleum and Minerals Authority and general public participation in the exploitation of the mineral wealth of Western Australia?

Minister for Minerals and Energy · CUNNINGHAM, NEW SOUTH WALES · ALP

-I have had the opportunity of examining the Mining Bill now under consideration by the Legislative Assembly of Western Australia. Whilst I would certainly not presume to interfere in or to comment on the proper exercise of the functions of that body, certain subclauses of clause 119 do give me concern. Implicit in them is a very obvious attempt to prevent the Commonwealth of Australia, through any of its instrumentalities, from obtaining any interest in mining operations in that State. The matter is an elementary one because already under the Constitution- and this is the main thrust of the Petroleum and Minerals Authority legislation- the Commonwealth can, through its overseas trade powers, its interstate trade powers and its defence powers, on appropriate occasions and for appropriate purposes definitely engage in mining and acquire an interest in a mining company. I need scarcely remind honourable members that where there is any conflict between Commonwealth and State legislation, to the extent of any inconsistency Commonwealth legislation prevails.

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-My question is directed to the Prime Minister. He will recall that on 2 1 May last, in answer to a question from the Leader of the Opposition relating to a loan to be raised by the Minister for Minerals and Energy, he replied, and I quote exactly and in full:

The authority has been revoked.

I ask: What was the precise nature of the authority which was revoked and how and when was it given?


-The authority took the form of an Executive Council minute. The revocation took the same form. I do not remember the date of the earlier minute but the date of the second Executive Council minute was the day before the Leader of the Opposition asked his question.

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– I ask the Treasurer: Does he see any increase or upturn in activity in the economy? How does he see the economy at present in relation to the performance of the Australian economy since the Government took office?

Dr J F Cairns:

-There are now signs of a beginning of a recovery. Recent figures for retail sales show a significant increase. There are increases in the rates of private investment in the basic parts of the economy and there is every sign that the fundamental strength of the economy, which is revealed from the figures of the last 2 years, in now beginning to show effect. Incomes of wage and salary earners have grown consistently faster than the cost of living since December 1972. Between the December quarter in 1972 and the December quarter in 1974 the consumer price index increased by 31.6 per cent but average weekly earnings increased by 46.8 per cent. The average minimum weekly award rate for males increased by 53 per cent and the average minimum award rate for females by 75 percent.

Real average weekly earnings, and this is the significant thing, over that 2-year period before tax increased by 11.5 per cent. Real average weekly earnings after tax increased by 7.3 per cent. In no other country during that 2-year period did real average weekly earnings increase by anything like that amount. There was a real increase of 7.3 per cent in 2 years. Whereas in Australia real average weekly earnings before tax increased by 11.5 per cent, in the United States of America there was a decline of 5.8 per cent. I want to emphasise those figures: In Australia there was an increase of 1 1.5 per cent in that 2-year period while in the United States of America there was a decline of 5.8 per cent. In Australia the unemployment figure is now 4.4 per cent and in the United States it is 9.4 per cent.

Dr Edwards:

– A quarter of a million unemployed.

Dr J F Cairns:

– That is the difference in unemployment, if the honourable member for

Berowra wants the figures. In the calendar year 1974 Australia’s gross national product grew by 1.7 per cent in real terms compared with the preceding calendar year 1973. In the same period there was a decline in the United States of 2.2 per cent, in Japan a decline of 3.7 per cent, and in Great Britain a decline of 0.2 per cent. In West Germany there was a marginal increase of 0.4 per cent. In the nations belonging to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development as a whole there was a decline of 0.3 per cent in real domestic product.

I think these things have to be kept in perspective. In that 2-year period, as the figures have indicated, the performance of the Australian economy was better, and significantly better, than that of any comparable country, and it provides the basis for a re-assertion of business confidence. In my opinion there is no justification for any significant decline. The evidence suggests now that investment and demand are on the way up, and there is no reason whatever why the economy should not proceed into a period of expansion.

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– I direct a question to the Treasurer. I have often heard people say that the Treasurer is deliberately getting the economy into a mess so as to bring about what he calls a change in the system. Is this true? If he is not doing it deliberately, can he make an even bigger mess if he puts his mind to it?

Dr J F Cairns:

– I never cease to be impressed by the witticisms that come from the honourable member for Wakefield. The information I have just given to the House in answer to the honourable member for Blaxland is an adequate answer to the honourable member for Wakefield.

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-Has the attention of the Minister for Labor and Immigration been drawn to a statement by the New South Wales State Acting Minister for Local Government, Mr Punch, that the Regional Employment Development scheme was the most disgraceful waste of public money he had seen? Is the scheme centrally controlled as claimed? Has it meant that local government and public works in New South Wales have been denied funds for their ordinary works programs?

Mr Clyde Cameron:

– I have looked at the newspaper report of the matter referred to, and it is true that Mr Punch is reported as having said that the RED scheme is an outstanding condemnation of central control. I will deal with that first. It is not centrally controlled, if control by Canberra is what is envisaged by the term. The scheme is controlled by State committees in each of the 6 States on which State governments are represented by officers of their Public Works Department or Local Government Department. In New South Wales every project of less than $100,000 is vetted and approved by the State committee on which Mr Punch’s own 2 Departments, Local Government and Public Works, are represented. More than 4 000 projects have been approved in New South Wales since the RED scheme was introduced.

Mr Punch has not taken enough interest in his alleged disquiet about the scheme to write to me, ring me or in any way communicate with me to tell me about the alleged maladministration of the scheme. It appears from the newspaper report that he refers to a show society which asked for $90,000 and which eventually got $150,000. He says that applicants get more than they ask for. We were able to identify this project because it was over $150,000, and there are not many over $150,000. We were able to find out that the Glen Innes Show Society on 17 December made an application for $95,000 to the State committee, indicating that it could not. give precise details of the project but that $95,000 would do. The State committee said: ‘You have to give precise details. We want to know where the money will be spent and how the expenditure will be made up. You will have to sit down and prepare proper estimates. When you have done that send in another application’. When it completed these estimates on 6 February it found that the total cost of the project would be $151,000 not $95,000 which was a guesstimate only in the first instance. The State committee on which Mr Punch’s 2 delegates were represented unanimously approved the project for Glen Innes. Because the project was to cost over $150,000 they recommended to the officers’ committee that it be approved. The officers’ committee approved it and it was recommended to the RED Ministers for approval, and it was duly approved.

Mr Punch went on to say that there had been instances of sponsors getting money for which they had not asked. We know of no such instances. I know of no possible way a sponsor could get money for which he had not asked. Applications have to go to the State committee. They have to be examined by the State committee, vetted by the State committee and approved by the State committee. Mr Punch’s complaint really rests upon the fact that under the RED scheme Federal members of Parliament are brought into consultation about the spending of money in their respective districts instead of the matter being handled entirely by State members of Parliament. The other thing that he resents- and this is resented by all State Premiers- is that local government authorities are now able to get money directly from the Australian Government. The State governments want the local government authorities to be be forced to go cap in hand to them. They in turn will come to the Premiers Conference, demand money from the Australian Government and then hand out patronage given to them by the Federal Government to their respective State members of Parliament. So far as we can ascertain there is absolutely no foundation of truth in the charge made by Mr Punch. Mr Punch has not had the decency even to ring me or to write me about the allegations. If they are true and as serious as he says they are, he had a bounden duty as a Minister of the Crown to write to me, the responsible Minister, and tell me about it.

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– My question which is addressed to the Minister for Minerals and Energy concerns the Minister’s interpretation of clause 5 of the agreement dated 30 October 1974 relating to the development of the Ranger uranium deposit. Will the Minister inform the House whether the 72 Vi per cent contribution by the Australian Atomic Energy Commission to the development of a mill is a capital payment which will give the Commission 50 per cent equity in the project, or is it just a loan for which the Commission will obtain 50 per cent of the production?


– The Ranger consortium, Peko-EZ, has been treated very handsomely by the Government. It is being allowed to mine in the Northern Territory uranium which is the property of the Commonwealth of Australia. I repeat that it is the property of the Commonwealth of Australia. The text of the agreement has been well publicised. My answer to the right honourable member’s question is this: The basic feature of the agreement with the Ranger participants was that they would receive the net proceeds from the sale of 50 per cent of the yellow cake produced. The other half would be retained by the Government. Also, 72.5 per cent of the finance is to be provided by the Government and only 27.5 per cent by the Ranger participants. Due consideration had been given and account had been taken of preliminary work that had been done by the consortium. The Ranger participants want this finance to be provided free of interest In other words, they want to gain a further benefit out of 45 per cent of the total financing which the Ranger participants want to be an interest free loan by the Government. This amounts to their saying that they want more than- I stress the words ‘more than’- 50 per cent of the net proceeds.

At no time did I say that the participants sought a loan from the Government in respect of their 27’A per cent share of the financing. Less than 4 weeks after the agreement had been signed they decided to quibble. On 27 November they met the Secretary of my Department and a couple of his officers and negotiated and, in fact, haggled for the whole of an afternoon and into the night. Finally an arrangement was entered into and they were prepared to accept it. A few weeks later along came another letter and there have been 2 further discussions on this matter. The facts are simply these: Both the people from E.Z. Industries Ltd and Peko Wallsend Ltd are having their financial problems. I do not want to diminish their financial standing, but they have financial problems. The Peko people -


– Order! The Minister will stop answering the question until such time as members of the Opposition feel they are prepared to listen.


-The Peko people -

Mr Sinclair:

- Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. The Minister’s inference is likely to cause speculation with respect to the 2 companies concerned. Is it appropriate or correct that he should use unjustified imputations of that sort?


-Order! The honourable member is as well aware as I am that the Minister can answer the question in any manner in which he desires.

Mr Nixon:

– Irresponsible.


-Order! I warn the honourable member for Gippsland. I call the Minister.


– I was interrupted in my attempt to preserve the financial status of both these companies whilst at the same time stating their position. Their position is this: The Peko people have had to dispose of- I will not say flog off- their copper mining interests in the Northern Territory on a sale and lease back arrangement. The people from E.Z. Industries Ltd have had to borrow on the current market at 13% per cent interest. They are both reputable companies but they are both strapped for cash.

Mr Sinclair:

– You are responsible.


– It is not irresponsible. As a matter of fact, only this week I received a deputation from Broken Hill in respect of a small mining company there. It could not obtain cash in payment -

Mr Sinclair:

– It is despicable.


-It is nothing of the sort.


-Order! If the Deputy Leader of the National Country Party interjects again I will deal with him. This question was asked by the Leader of the National Country Party. I suggest to honourable members that they might listen to the answer and I suggest to the honourable member -

Mr Katter:

– It is a shocking manner in which he is replying, Mr Speaker.


-Order! I warn the honourable member for Kennedy. I will not have honourable members answering me back. I suggest to the Minister that he not answer interjections. The answer to the question which was asked is the only matter which is relevant. I suggest that the Minister do that and nothing else.


-Yes, Mr Speaker, but I am entitled to state the motives and the situation to illustrate the reasons for the companies’ attempt to get better than the original deal. That is all that I wish to do. I do not want to impugn the companies otherwise but I do want to state the position. It is a clear one. At the present time they are prepared in respect of quite a number of smaller companies to take their concentrates for treatment only on a toll basis. They are not prepared to purchase. They are not in a position to do so. I do suggest that with people of this standing -

Mr McMahon:

- Mr Speaker, I rise to order. I draw your attention to standing order 144 (c) which states that inferences must not be drawn in respect of such matters as motives. The honourable gentleman who represents himself as the Minister is in fact saying what the motives of these companies are. He could not know this because he does not know what is in the minds of these people and they would not tell him. The second ground upon which I raise my point of order is in respect to standing order 144 (d) which deals with drawing of imputations. The Minister has no right to draw the imputations that he did. Therefore, he is contravening the Standing Orders.

Opposition members- Hear, hear!


-Order! In dealing with the point of order, I am surprised that an honourable member of such experience and other honourable members who called ‘hear, hear’, are not able to read correctly the Standing Orders. I suggest that if the honourable member reads standing order 144 correctly, he will find that questions must not contain these things that he has raised. If he reads standing order 145 he will see that it is the standing order which deals with answers to questions, and that is totally different.

Mr McMahon:

– It says that they must be relevant, Mr Speaker. You will not even insist on that.


– Order! I suggest that the question being answered is relevant although it is becoming inordinately long.


-I wish only to deal with the facts. I believe that I have stated them fairly and succinctly. It would be far better for the various members of the consortium to come along and deal with the Government on a proper basis in the terms of the contract. They are welcome to do so and we are anxious to get ahead with the business of milling uranium.

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– Has the attention of the Minister for Health been drawn to the excessive use of Valium and Librium as tranquillisers? Does he agree that there is excessive use? Can any action be taken to prevent the medical profession from over-prescribing these 2 drugs?

Br EVERINGHAM- It is a matter of judgment as to whether any particular tranquilliser is over-used. I think that responsible medical authorities by and large agree that they are uneasy about the level of consumption of tranquillisers. It is a rapidly increasing level not only in Australia but also in many other countries. Australia seems to be pretty near the lead in this regard. Unfortunately, when a patient comes to a doctor who is hard pressed- there is a worldwide shortage particularly of family doctors at the moment- the doctor often gives in to the patient’s suggestion that he needs some chemical relief from his problems. That is due to the lack of other facilities to handle those problems. This Government has seen the need and has moved to remove the cause, which is that the doctor is, as it were, left out in the community without any other resources to handle these problems. The Government has launched a community health program, incorporating a community mental health program, which will correct this problem to the extent that people such as social workers, lay counsellors, domiciliary nurses and home helps can be brought into the community health team and, increasingly, the community itself can be brought in.

One of the reasons for the increasing stress on people which causes their resort to tranquillisers and sedative is the complexities of modern life and urbanisation. Of course it is always very easy for those mental health experts on the other side to interject and say that this is brought about by the Party in power in Canberra, but what they consistently said when they were in power was that this is primarily a matter for the States. Most of the States, including the two most populous States, are in the hands of their mates. The position is that the Government has shown its concern. It has moved to remove the main cause of over-prescribing of these drugs by giving doctors an alternative. It has moved to educate the profession.

We will shortly be bringing out an Australian version of the Prescribes Journal, which our predecessors circulated as a re-hashed version of the English journal. We are going to make it an active journal in which the profession in Australia will be involved and which will give them information on local prescribing habits and indications. We are doing something about training pharmacologists. There are only about half a dozen in Australia. That is a scandalous situation. We have done something to correct this and to bring pharmacology into the medical course so that doctors will have a far more responsible appreciation of what drugs do. There is a reason why drugs are restricted to prescription only and not sold over the counter. Unfortunately a lot of doctors, once they get their diplomas in their pockets, forget this and just read the glossy literature with which they are bombarded in the mail, without due consideration of the side effects and the contraindications of the drugs they are prescribing.

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– I ask the Treasurer: Did he, in a letter dated on or about 5 March, offer a commission of 2 1/2 per cent on any loan money arranged by the recipient of the letter or his company?

Br J. F. CAIRNS- The answer is no. At no stage did I offer a commission of 2 1/2 per cent or any other amount or give any authority whatever to any person to do anything other than make inquiries.

Mr Malcolm Fraser:

-No brokerage fee?

Br J. F. CAIRNS-No brokerage fee. Would the honourable member like to ask more questions?

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– My question is addressed to the Minister for Urban and Regional Development. Has he received a report of the committee of inquiry into the preservation of Hallett Cove in South Australia? If so, has he decided upon any action pursuant to that report?

Minister for Urban and Regional Development · REID, NEW SOUTH WALES · ALP

– I have received the Rudman report on Hallett Cove and I will be tabling it after question time. I have had discussions with the relevant South Australian Minister, Mr Broomhill The report recommends that further land should be acquired. Both the South Australian Minister and myself have agreed -

Mr Donald Cameron:

– I raise a point of order. The Minister has stated that he will table a report after question time. Why cannot the report be the subject of a statement instead of using question time to make a statement?


-Order! The honourable gentleman might resume his seat. That is not a point of order.


– The South Australian Minister and myself have agreed that $100,000 will be made available through the National Estate fund this year. We are having further discussions with the South Australian Government in regard to whether additional land around the Hallett Cove area should be acquired to protect the scientific value of the area. If agreement is reached between the South Australian Government and the Australian Government under the Land Commission programs the land will be acquired on the basis of a contribution of $2 from the Australian Government for each $1 from the South Australian Government.

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– My question is directed to the Minister for Labor and Immigration. Can he confirm or deny recent reports that the Regional Employment Development scheme is to be wound down? In view of the fact that only onethird or $5.6m of the proposed $17m has been spent in Brisbane under this scheme on a program which was formulated by the Minister and Brisbane’s Lord Mayor, Alderman Jones, in February and agreed to in principle with a measure of urgency by all Brisbane Federal members at a meeting on 23 February 1975, can the Minister advise whether the reason for lack of action lies with his Department or with Brisbane’s Lord Mayor?

Mr Clyde Cameron:

– First of all, it is not proposed to wind down the RED scheme. It would be a stupid act to wind down this scheme. It is the best thing going for Australia at the moment and certainly the best thing going for the Government. So there is no proposal to wind down the RED scheme. Secondly, there is no blame to be laid at the feet of my Department about the alleged failure to spend money in the Brisbane area. The truth of the matter is that the amount that was agreed upon related to the whole period until completion of the project. However, the amount of money that can be paid from the allocation in this year’s Budget can only be taken up to 30 June and any additional amount that has not been spent out of the total amount approved would have to come from the next appropriation. That is all there is to it. There is nothing more to it. It is nobody’s fault. It is not the fault of Alderman Jones. It is not the fault of the Australian Government. I repeat that there is no intention to wind down the RED scheme.

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-My question to the Minister for Minerals and Energy is supplementary to the one I asked him earlier. In view of the fact that the Government is not entering into any equity arrangement with the Ranger consortium but wants to confiscate 50 per cent of the production from the mines on the ground that the Australian Government owns the mining resources of the Northern Territory, I ask: Is it now the policy of the Government to acquire 50 per cent of the production of any new uranium project in the Northern Territory? Is this policy to apply to other mining projects in the Northern Territory?


-Our policy in relation to uranium mining in the Northern Territory was made very clear by a very long statement that I issued at a comprehensive Press conference immediately after the agreement was signed. It was made quite clear there that, in respect of any company or individual which had found uranium up to that date, the rights of that company or individual would be honoured and that companies which still had permits to explore would continue to do so. Under the terms of the mining ordinance of the Northern Territory areas of exploration are progressively reduced from year to year until finally they are phased out. The ultimate situation, of course, is one in which the Australian Atomic Energy Commission itself will be conducting all exploration for and mining of uranium in the Northern Territory. In this particular case, we acknowledge the work that has been done by these people.

As to confiscation, we do not confiscate what we already own, particularly what we already own in terms of the legislation that was introduced in 1 953 with the support of both sides of the House. It is the property of the Australian Government. If and when there is to be joint mining it will be done under the full control of the Australian Government. There is no question of confiscation. In the particular case mentioned by the honourable member, it was arranged that a company would be formed. One of the purposes of the first discussion between the permanent head of my department and these people was to decide on the terms under which a joint operating company would be formed and duly registered. There was no question of acquisition unfairly or unreasonably. To be very frank, we have been more than fair with these people. My suggestion to the honourable member is that he tell his imformants to put there money where their mouths are.

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-The Prime Minister will be aware that I have raised this matter on several occasions in the House: I refer to the need for a more humane and constructive approach to eliminate the existing cruel, harsh and . needless suffering which has been inflicted upon the victims of bus tragedies, particularly those in the last 2 years at Cooma in New South Wales and Inglewood in Queensland. I ask the Prime Minister whether he is aware that the whole question of settlement is completely bogged down in legal machinations involving bus companies, insurance companies, and the State legal authorities. In the case of the Cooma disaster litigation is taking place in South Australia and at least 3 years will elapse before liability is assessed. In an effort to remove the anxiety and financial burden from these unfortunate people, will the Prime Minister take up their plight with the State premiers concerned in order to have the claims settled expeditiously?


– I share the honourable member’s concern at the delays in the cases which he has mentioned and in several other cases in this field which come readily to mind. It is a deplorable feature of our society that if people are injured on the roads, particularly if they are injured in a State other than that in which they live, or if they are injured in some ac- ‘ cident which is difficult to explain, such as one involving faulty buses falling down mountain sides, and so on, it can be years and years before any compensation is paid to the victims if they survive or to their dependants if they do not survive. The people who benefit from this process are principally lawyers and, I imagine, a certain number of doctors and insurance people. It is more than ever necessary that we substitute for this a prompt, automatic and earnings-related system of compensation under the National Compensation Bill which this House passed last October but which is still before a Senate committee.

Under the Bill, claims would be made to the Secretary of the Department of Repatriation and Compensation and if he had not made a decision on a claim within 2 1 days of receiving it it would then be automatically referred within a further 7 days to the Appeals Tribunal for decision. This would mean that the whole question of how the accident happened, whether some other vehicle was involved, whether it was caused by some fault in the vehicle itself, whether it was caused by some fault on the part of the driver and whether there was contributory negligence on the part of the passengers, would be quite immaterial. The only consideration would be: Has the person been injured or killed? There would be automatic compensation in either case. Of course, where people survive there is also provision in the BUI for rehabilitation. The systems of State laws and Territory laws about whose effects the honourable member has complained many times in the House would be completely immaterial. The compensation would be immediate and for the first time there would be provision for rehabilitation. The present forms of third party insurance make no provision for rehabilitation. As a matter of fact, there is every incentive not to seek rehabilitation because if one is rehabilitated it impairs or jeopardises his compensation.

So I hope that before the next parliamentary sessional period is far advanced the Senate will pass the National Compensation Bill. There can scarcely have been a matter more thoroughly investigated by expert committees. Appeal court judges from New Zealand and New South Wales prepared the report on the scheme. The Bill has been before the Parliament for more than a year. It has been very thoroughly canvassed in both Houses of the Parliament. It is about time it was brought into law. In the meantime, I shall contact the Premiers of the States in which the litigation to which the honourable member referred is taking place, and see whether there is anything we can do to assist the victims. If there is I will let the honourable member know.

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Minister for Overseas Trade · Melbourne Ports · ALP

– Pursuant to section 98 of the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation Act 1974, 1 present the final report of the operations of the Export Payments Insurance Corporation for the period 1 July 1974 to 31 January 1975, together with financial statements for that period and the Auditor-General’s report on those statements.

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Special Minister of State · KingsfordSmithSpecial Minister of State · ALP

– For the information of honourable members I present the report on flat glass, table and kitchen glassware by the Temporary Assistance Authority.

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Minister for Urban and Regional Development · Reid · ALP

– For the information of honourable members I present a report on the investigation of the scientific, environmental and social issues relating to urban development in the Hallett Cove area of South Australia as commissioned under the National Estate program. Due to the limited number of copies available, a reference copy of this report has been placed in the Parliamentary Library.


Minister for Tourism and Recreation · Lang · ALP

– For the information of honourable members I present a report on a survey conducted for the Young Women’s Christian Association by Robin Anderson with assistance from Sheryl Ward entitled: ‘Leisure- An Inappropriate Concept for Women’.

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North Sydney

-As ViceChairman of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts, I present the one hundred and fiftyfourth and one hundred and fifty-fifth reports of the Public Accounts Committee.

Ordered that the reports be printed.


– I seek leave to make a short statement.


-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.


– Honourable members will recall that on 4 December 1974 1 tabled the one hundred and fifty-second report which relates to expenditure from the Advance to the Treasurer for the financial year 1973-74. The one hundred and fifty-fourth report which I am tabling today relates to expenditure from the Consolidated Revenue Fund for that year and covers the remaining items included in the Committee’s annual examination of the expenditure results of departments for that year. In examining expenditure from the Consolidated Revenue Fund each year, the Committee seeks to ascertain whether or not the principles relating to the formulation of Estimates have been adopted by the Departments under examination. These principles which are included in Treasury Direction 16/9, have also been set out in chapter 1 of the one hundred and fifty-fourth report.

In recent years the Committee has paid particular attention to the Estimates and related expenditure of departments. As a poor standard of estimating has wide ramifications, the Committee has concerned itself not only with excess expenditure charged to the Advance to the Treasurer but also with the over-provision of funds. The Committee has made it clear that such over-provisions are undesirable, misleading and perhaps unfair to other departments whose financial needs might not have been satisfied. At the same time, the Committee has emphasised that it does not regard the total expenditure of available funds under a particular appropriation item as an objective to be sought without regard to other important considerations. Indeed undue emphasis on the need to match expenditure and available funds can give rise to unnecessary and uneconomic, expenditure and can result in the distortion of administrative practices. In this regard the Committee has on previous occasions criticised departments that have accelerated payments in order to prevent an appropriation from lapsing.

As this and previous reports relating to expenditure from the Consolidated Revenue Fund show, there are explanations for expenditure variations from the Estimates which are acceptable to the Committee. In this report, however, the Committee has also found it necessary to refer to cases of unsatisfactory estimating, inadequate administrative performances that have resulted in shortfalls in expenditure and inaccurate and inadequate submissions to the Committee. Attention has been drawn to these inadequacies where they have arisen. The other report I am tabling today, the one hundred and fifty-fifth report, is a comprehensive index relating to the Committee’s first to the one hundred and forty-second reports. I commend the reports to honourable members.

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Bill presented by Mr Hayden, and read a first time.

Second Reading

Minister for Social Security · Oxley · ALP

– I move:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

The Bill before the House is a Bill to amend the Health Insurance Act to incorporate into that Act provisions to protect the privacy of individuals under the Government’s Medibank program. It is the Government’s policy that there should be, in legislation, firm safeguards to protect the confidentiality of personal information supplied by members of the public in making claims for Medibank payments. During 1973 the Government asked the Committee of Inquiry into the Protection of Privacy, established by the then Attorney-General, to investigate and report on the legislative and other measures that should be adopted to protect the individual privacy of persons under Medibank. The Second Interim Report of the Committee of Inquiry into the Protection of Privacy, which dealt with the matter, was tabled in both Houses of Parliament on 7 March 1974. The Bill before the House gives effect to recommendations in the Committee’s report.

A basic measure necessary to preserve the confidentiality of information is, of course, to restrict access to the information. The Bill provides that it is the duty of the Health Insurance Commission to take all reasonable measures to ensure that access, by any person, to medical records is limited to persons who require that access for a purpose in connection with, or incidental to, the operation of the Health Insurance Act or the Health Insurance Commission Act. In this context I would draw the attention of honourable members to the scope of the term ‘medical record ‘ as defined in new section 126a in clause 5 of the Bill and to the associated interpretative provisions in that section. The effect of the interpretative provisions is to make the Health Insurance Commission responsible for any accesses to a medical record where it is held by the Commission, an agent of the Commission, or a government department. The Commission is also required to keep a record of each access by a person to a medical record except for the accesses specified in new sub-section 126d ( 1 ) in clause 5, which are accesses of a routine nature essential to the day to day operations of the Commission. It will be necessary to maintain the record of accesses manually, at least initially and, as honourable members will appreciate, it would not be practicable to record normal day to day assessment processes by this method.

It has been necessary for the need to protect confidentiality of information to be balanced against the need for an individual to be able to know what information concerning himself is held in the Commission’s medical records. The Bill provides that a person is entitled, upon lodgment of an application and payment of a fee of $5, or such other amount as is prescribed, to be supplied with a statement of all information contained in the medical record relating to a professional service rendered to, or hospital treatment provided for, that person. The person is also entitled to be informed of any recorded accesses to the medical record insofar as they relate to him during the 12 months preceding the request, except for accesses made for the purpose of investigating an offence or suspected offence. Provision is made for the Minister to waive payment of the fee in cases of hardship and for a parent or guardian to obtain the information in respect of a child under 12 years of age. Honourable members will recognise that, in addition to relating to the recipients of the services, information supplied in claiming medical benefits and hospital payments will refer to the providers of the services. The claims processing system that has been developed by the Health Insurance Commission involves the maintenance of information according to the recipient of the service. It will not be practicable therefore, under the existing system, to supply an individual provider of services with the information relating to himself. Where as a result of an application a person is informed by the Commission of information contained in a medical record and the person considers the information to be erroneous, he may inform the Commission of what he claims the true position is in relation to the matter. The Commission is required to alter its records accordingly, unless it believes them not to be erroneous, in which case the person may appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal to have the matter determined.

The Government accepts that medical records identifying a particular person should be retained for no longer than is necessary for the efficient administration of the Medibank program and provision has been made for classes of information in medical records to be destroyed at the expiration of prescribed periods.

In addition to restricting accesses to information another basic requirement is that persons with access to information should observe secrecy in relation to it. The Bill therefore includes a provision requiring persons to observe secrecy in relation to any information with respect to the affairs of another person acquired by reason of access to the Commission’s medical records. The Bill also limits the circumstances in which a person may be required to divulge or communicate such information to, or produce a medical record in, a court.

Provision is made in the Bill for information in a medical record to be released in specified circumstances. A magistrate is empowered to issue a warrant in very restricted and special circumstances for information to be made available to a police officer. The Minister is also empowered, where he is satisfied that it is necessary in the public interest, to direct that information contained in a medical record be made available to a particular person. A statement concerning any such directions by the Minister is to be included in the annual report of the Health Insurance Commission.

The Government recognises, as did the Committee of Inquiry into the Protection of Privacy, that the measures to be taken to limit accesses to information identifying individuals are so important that they should not be left to the Health Insurance Commission alone. The Bill provides for an office of Privacy Inspector and such offices of Deputy Privacy Inspector as are required. The functions of the Privacy Inspector will be to investigate, and report to the Minister on, the adequacy of the privacy measures taken by the Commission. Where the Privacy Inspector considers the measures are inadequate or could be improved he is empowered to recommend to the Minister the changes which he considers should be made. The reports of the Privacy Inspector are to be tabled in each House of the Parliament and the Minister is empowered to direct the Commission to comply with the recommendations of the Privacy Inspector.

The Bill also contains provisions relating to the issuing and use of health insurance cards. Honourable members will be aware that separate cards are not being issued for each child in a family. It was considered to be more convenient for parents for their children’s names and numbers to be on a single family card. However, to achieve the objective of recommendation 2 of the Privacy Committee that each child in a family should have his or her own card, the Bill requires in clause 3 that the Commission issue a card to an eligible person upon the request of the person who, of course, may be a child. Where the person is under 12 years of age such a request may be made on that person’s behalf by a parent or guardian. In so far as the use of the cards is concerned the provisions in the Bill are designed to ensure that the cards are used for the purpose intended, that is, to facilitate the claiming of payments under the Health Insurance Act, and for no other purpose.

New section 126G provides that it is an offence for a person to make it a condition of the provision of a medical service or hospital treatment by him, or on his behalf, that a person produce a health insurance card or quote a health insurance number. It is further provided, in new section 126H, that it is an offence to request a person to produce a health insurance card or quote a health insurance number except for a purpose in connection with, or incidental to, the operation of the Health Insurance Act or the provision of a medical service in Schedule 1 to that Act or hospital treatment. A person is free to refuse a request permitted to be made under the provision to which I have just referred.

The Privacy Committee in recommendation 3 proposed that where a health insurance card shows the name of a person the following wording relating to the use of the card should be printed on the back of the card:

This card is to help you to remember your Health Insurance number. You need not produce it to obtain health services. If you give this number when making a claim, benefit payment can be made more quickly. It is illegal for anyone to require you to produce this card for personal identification or for any other purpose.

This wording has not been included on the cards. The objective of this recommendation will be achieved in the Medibank publicity and, as I have just mentioned, provisions to make it an offence for a person to require production of the card for personal identification are included in this Bill.

I would like to turn briefly to certain other recommendations that either have not been covered, or have not been covered specifically, in the Bill. Four recommendations in this category are 6, 12, 33 and 34 which state:

Recommendation 6

If issued through the post, the card should be so enclosed in an envelope that the number is not visible through the envelope.

Recommendation 12

The file retained by the Commission on each patient’s claims should be called Benefit Claims File, rather than Patient’s History File which has a recognised medical connotation.

Recommendation 33

Source claim documents should be filed by processing batches and not in dossier form under the individuals to which they relate.

Recommendation 34

The computer processing systems should embody the basic security features specified in Section F of this report.

While these recommendations vary widely in their scope, honourable members will appreciate that they are directed at matters that can be achieved only through administrative measures. The first three of the above recommendations have been adopted. Recommendation 34 refers to areas of fine administrative detail. The objectives of the recommendation have been largely achieved in developing systems associated with the administration of the Medibank program.

Recommendations 8, 10 and 11 relate to the prescribing of claim forms for medical benefits and hospital payments and the information to be included on those claim forms. The Health Insurance Act at present provides that such claim forms, other than for public hospitals, are to be prescribed and, further, section 133 of the Health Insurance Act provides a general power to make regulations. The claim forms and forms to be submitted by hospitals in association with claims are being designed to comply with the intention of the privacy committee as expressed in recommendations 10 and 1 1. It is anticipated that these forms may need to be revised in the light of practical experience. The regulation-making powers to which I have just referred will enable forms, not at present required to be prescribed, to be prescribed when suitably revised.

The Privacy Committee, in recommendation 9, proposed that the claim forms should not require a claimant to specify the nature of illness for which the service was given and the claim forms which will be used by the Health Insurance Commission do not require this information to be given. The Privacy Committee further stated that information on the nature of illness should not be sought by the Commission under any circumstances. However, I believe this provision would unduly restrict the Commission in 2 respects. Firstly, there are cases where the correct assessment of the claim may necessitate the patient or doctor providing the nature of illness to clarify the nature of treatment rendered and this information is already sought by private health insurance funds. In the absence of this information relating to the nature of illness, and in the event of a dispute arising as to benefit entitlement, a claimant may well receive lower benefits than he would have received had the information been provided. Secondly, there is a need for reliable statistical information in relation to illness patterns, and the use of hospitals and other health service facilities, particularly by regions, which could be most conveniently obtained through the Medibank program. This sort of information would be invaluable for medical research and undoubtedly the medical colleges and institutes of research would like to draw on the statistical resources, as would planners of health services. The statistics would be particularly valuable as they would be capable of being regularly updated in a continuous series. Of course, anonymity and confidentiality would be preserved in providing the statistics.

Honourable members would be aware of the great social benefits that could flow from research and planning utilising the statistics to which I am referring. This is not a matter on which any proposals are currently being developed but I believe the potential benefits to be so great that incorporation of the Committee’s recommendation into the Bill could deny the Australian community many of the social benefits that could flow from the program. I believe that the other provisions in this Bill concerning access to records and secrecy are adequate to ensure the protection of the privacy of information identifying individuals.

The Bill does not specifically provide for it to be an offence for a person to have access to Medibank records except for the purposes of the Act as proposed in recommendation 1 8. It is considered that this recommendation is adequately covered by existing offence provisions under the Health Insurance Act and other legislation and by the duty imposed upon the Commission, by new section 126B, to limit access to medical records. Recommendation 39, which proposes that the establishment of any linkages between health-related data bases should be deferred, has not been covered by a specific provision in the Bill. However, I am sure honourable members will agree that there are ample safeguards in the Bill to ensure that information identifying individuals collected for Medibank purposes is used only for the purposes of the Health Insurance Act. The Bill before the House provides for the protection of the privacy of individuals under the Medibank program.

Because of the importance of this Bill and because I expect a considerable number of people, including honourable members, will want to consider it carefully and make suggestions about its application, I would propose that the debate on the Bill be adjourned until the House resumes for the Budget session.

The Government believes that it is equally important that the privacy of contributors to private health insurance funds should also be protected. An examination is therefore being made of the principles contained in the Second Interim

Report of the Committee of Inquiry into the Protection of Privacy with a view to including appro-‘ priate privacy provisions in future legislation to supervise the operations of private health insurance funds. Until this Bill is passed by the Parliament in the Budget session, I can assure honourable members that the Medibank program will proceed according to the spirit which is incorporated in this Bill. I commend the Bill to the House.

Mr Chipp:

- Mr Deputy Speaker, may I have the indulgence of the House for 30 seconds to support the Minister. I would just like to join with the Minister and make a joint statement with him in an appeal to citizens, interested organisations and councils of civil liberties to study this legislation very carefully over the recess, and to make representations to the Minister and to me on any suggested improvements that might be made.

Debate (on motion by Mr Chipp) adjourned.

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Bill presented by Mr Crean, and read a first time.

Second Reading

Minister for Overseas Trade · Melbourne Ports · ALP

– I move:

The purpose of this Bill is to seek approval of the Parliament for the establishment of an Australian Overseas Trading Corporation to engage in overseas trade subject to prescribed conditions. The economic growth and well-being of the Australian economy are directly linked to its ability to sustain continued development of its overseas trade- two-way trade, both imports and exports. This financial year, 1974-75, the total value of Australia’s trade- imports and exports- should exceed $ 16,000m. The international trade scene, however, undergoes a continual process of evolution, a process which was accelerated late in 1973 by the four-fold increase in oil prices. This has radically altered the economic and trading situation of the northern hemisphere industrialised countries and the oil producing nations. Industrialised countries are now experiencing reduced or even negative rates of growth, and the world is witnessing an unprecedented shift of monetary reserves to the oilproducing nations. Meanwhile the centrally planned economies, comprising one-third of the world ‘s population, and the world ‘s largest economic area outside of the European Economic

Community and the United States, have been largely unaffected by such events.

The growing complexities of international trade in such an evolutionary environment have either demanded or resulted in more and more government involvement. All major world trading nations now have a large degree of government involvement- both direct and indirect- in their overseas trade. The time is most opportune to re-appraise what now appear to be gaps in Australia’s overseas trading machinery. Clearly, we must be better equipped to expand our trade with areas where we have never traded before. Our 3 largest markets- Japan, the United States of America and the European Economic Communityremain of the utmost significance. Together they account for about 65 per cent of our trade, but they no longer represent the predictable, expanding and buoyant markets for our exports that they did in the 1960s and early 1970s. Without in any way detracting from the predominant importance to Australia’s overseas trade of these 3 key markets, there is both a scope and a need for the development of other markets and for the further diversification of our trade.

The significant areas for such development and diversification are the centrally planned economies and the Middle East oil exporting countries. In the conduct of trade with these areas demands for government-to-government involvement in commercial transactions are becoming much more prevalent. Against this background the lack of an effective central and co-ordinating instrument of trading activity seems to represent a clear gap in Australia’s overseas trading machinery. It would also seem that this gap extends to a majority of Australian manufacturing establishments which are too small to benefit from the economies of scale derived from engaging in overseas trade. What seems necessary is a clearing-house type organisation which could act as a principal to aggregate small lots for export and bulk purchase import requirements on behalf of the small manufacturers. These seemingly obvious gaps in our existing trading machinery could be filled by the proposed new Trading Corporation. This Corporation could assist two-way trading development in 3 important areas, firstly, trade with the centrally planned economies; secondly, trade arrangements with the Middle East oil-exporting countries; and thirdly, assisting small Australian manufacturers and processors into overseas trade.

Trade with the Centrally Planned Economies

The centrally planned economies conduct a very substantial volume of world trade estimated to be worth around $ 100,000m annually. Australia’s trade with them in 1973-74 was less than $530m. That is about 4 per cent of our total trade. Furthermore, almost 80 per cent or fourfifths of our exports to this area in 1973-74 was confined to wool and wheat. The different economic systems of the centrally planned economies and their lack of understanding of free enterprise market structures make it difficult for trade growth to occur and difficult for trade to be developed or promoted in the same way as with the Western countries. These countries also have evolved special methods of trading such as barter and switch trading which, though unsuited to Western trading methods, have sometimes to be employed if trading opportunities with the centrally planned economies are to be developed seriously. Australian traders generally are inexperienced in dealing with the centrally planned economies and have difficulty with their trading methods and thus, understandably, have been reluctant to seek to tackle and exploit the opportunities offered in trading with them. The proposed Trading Corporation could help overcome this problem by providing a selling-purchasing agency with direct contact between the Australian trading community and the state trading corporations of the centrally planned economies.

Trade with Middle East Oil Exporting Countries

One clear consequence of the energy crisis has been the growing trend of the now enormously affluent Middle East oil exporting countries to seek comprehensive, long-term, government to government arrangements on agricultural development, foodstuffs, capital equipment and technology. At the moment there is no central government agency equipped or empowered to undertake this role. A government trading corporation by acting as a central prime contractor, sub-contracting to private enterprise, could act as a catalyst and provide a co-ordinating instrument for the consumation of diverse multimillion dollar trade arrangements and projects which seem to be well beyond the capacity of individual Australian private firms.

Assisting Small Australian Manufacturers and Processors into Overseas Trade

It is intended that the Corporation would encourage and assist the smaller and lesser experienced Australian manufacturers and processors into overseas trading. Some 93 per cent of Australian manufacturing establishments have fewer than 100 employees but they produce 34 per cent, or slightly more than one third, of the value added by the manufacturing sector. However, their contribution to Australian export earnings, though potentially large, is very limited proportionally. This is mainly attributable to such factors as an insufficient volume of production to export as single units and an inability to afford expenditure on export expertise and overseas market research.

An Australian Overseas Trading Corporation could tender for small lots, with quality and standards specifications, and aggregate them into viable export orders backed with the necessary marketing research and skills. It could also act as an import agent to assist small firms with their requirements of imported materials and components. Small firms cannot order small lots direct from overseas and therefore are subject to higher cost inputs and suffer shortages to a greater degree than larger firms when essential items are in short supply. An Australian Overseas Trading Corporation could aggregate small import lots into viable orders to purchase in bulk, and after a commercial commission, pass on the savings to the small firm concerned.

Consultations with State Governments and Business Organisations

Prior to the detailed formulation of the Bill consultations were held with most State Ministers responsible for development and all relevant State government departments. Their reaction was one of general support of the need for and objectives of a trading corporation. Some, however, stressed the need for effective safeguards to ensure the private trading sector was in fact no way disadvantaged.

The proposal was also discussed with the Trade Development Council, major trading houses, the Australian Manufacturers Export Council, the Australian Chambers of Commerce and the Heavy Engineering Manufacturers Association. In these consultations it was emphasised that the Trading Corporation would seek fully to co-operate with and complement the activities of the private sector. It would seek to generate new business- business that might otherwise be lost to Australia. It would not impinge in any way on the functions of the statutory marketing boards. Its facilities would be available to them only if the board in question required them. It would be excluded from retailing and would have to market its goods through existing distributive channels. The Corporation would be operated on commercial lines and be subject to the same taxes and benefits as private trading houses.


The safeguards written into the Bill for the private sector are quite explicit. The Corporation would not be empowered to export goods to a market where commercial trading houses had an established and continuing trade in those goods to that market. It is not intended that the Australian Overseas Trading Corporation would enjoy, as a government agency, any exclusive or preferred position in trading nor would it seek to cut across or interfere with existing trade patterns or associations developed by Australian trading houses. It would concentrate on the generation of new business. Traders concerned in these matters have the right of appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. These safeguards are a guarantee that no one in Australia will be deprived of any business in which he is engaged at present or need fear that his activities will be curtailed by the advent of the Overseas Trading Corporation.

The Corporation is to be conducted as a commercial undertaking, aiming at making a reasonable return on its capital, which will be $ lm advanced by the Government. It will not be subject to the direction of the Minister in its ordinary business dealings, in its day to day activities. If it considers a transaction to be in the national interest by reason of its size or potential, but not commercially attractive, it may request the government to permit it to undertake the deal. If the government agrees, it will reimburse the Corporation for any losses that may be sustained.

The BUI provides for a corporate body with 10 directors, two of whom will be full time. The 2 full time directors, the Managing Director and the Deputy Managing Director, will run the day to day business of the Corporation. They will be paid salaries commensurate with the importance of the position, as determined by the Remuneration Tribunal. As public money is being provided for the capital of the Corporation, the Government will be represented on the Board, but otherwise the members Will be drawn from outside the government sector.

The Australian Overseas Trading Corporation Will use the administrative faculties of the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation- now COlloquially known as EFIC, replacing the Export Payments Insurance Corporation which was known as EPIC- which would include office space, accounting and communications. Otherwise the businesses will be entirely separate. This will enable a quick and inexpensive start to be made to the Trading Corporation’s operations.

The Corporation will appoint its own staff to meet its requirements. It is expected that only a small number of marketing specialists will be required initially, but this number could be increased, if the expansion of business justified this. Persons with special qualifications may also be appointed to undertake specified projects, for example for helping to open up a market about which they had specialist knowledge. Salaries will be laid down by the Public Service Board in consultation with the Corporation, to ensure that specialists of the required qualifications will be obtained.

The Corporation will be able to borrow money from banks or other lenders, with the approval of the Treasurer, who may also make advances to it from moneys appropriated by Parliament. The Treasurer may guarantee any amounts borrowed. The Corporation may not enter into a contract involving the payment or receipt of an amount exceeding $500,000 without the approval of the Minister. In addition, it is not permitted at any time to have outstanding trading commitments in excess of $50m. The Corporation is required to keep accounts in accordance with commercial practice and to have them audited by the Auditor-General. It will also present an annual report to Parliament containing an audited financial statement and an account of operations.

In these times of rapid change and evolution in overseas trade it is imperative that Australia have the machinery necessary to adapt to changed circumstances and continue to expand and diversify our export outlets. I believe that the proposed Trading Corporation, with the support of Australian producers, manufacturers and traders, can be an effective catalyst and coordinator in enabling Australia to do this.

Before I conclude my remarks I would make the same appeal as was made in regard to the Health Insurance Bill (No. 2). This Bill will be before the Parliament for at least 2 months before it is considered. This will give those who have displayed enthusiasm for the Bill, and those who have displayed anything but enthusiasm, an opportunity to consider it. I hope it will be acknowledged that there is a very large part of the world with which we do not trade. Whatever opportunities there may have been in the past to do this, they certainly have not been very successfully availed of. It is our belief that this Corporation will assist trade in areas where we have not traded before, perhaps because we have not been imaginative enough to believe that we could sell our goods. I hope that interested parties will peruse the legislation carefully in the next 2 months and make any representations to me they wish to make. Having said that, I commend the Bill to honourable members.

Debate (on motion by Mr MacKellar) adjourned.

page 3304


Approval of Work-Public Works Committee Act

Mr Les Johnson:
Minister for Housing and Construction · HUGHES, NEW SOUTH WALES · ALP

– I move:

That in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969-1 974, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and on which the Committee has duly reported to Parliament:

Construction of a telephone exchange at Edgecliff, New South Wales.

The proposal is for the construction of a new building to cope with the growth and demand for telecommunication facilities in the Edgecliff area. Construction will be of reinforced concrete, founded on rock, with a basement, ground floor and 3 upper floors. The building will be air conditioned. The estimated cost of the proposed work when referred to the committee was $3.4m. The Committee concluded that there was a need for the facility, that the facilities proposed by the Australian Post Office were satisfactory, that the site selected was suitable, that the facility will not adversely affect the local environment, and that the work should proceed to construction. It is recommended that the House concur with the Committee ‘s report thus allowing planning to proceed in accordance with the recommendations of the Committee.


– I rise to speak as the member for Wentworth. Edgecliff is right in the heart of my electorate. I rise to support the motion. I am sure that a new telephone exchange will be greatly welcomed by my electorate. The matter in queston was even the subject of an environment impact inquiry, which took place in the Woollahra Municipal Council chambers recently The report was favourable in all respects. I have no hesitation in supporting the motion.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

page 3304


Second Reading

Debate resumed from 3 June on motion by Mr Enderby:

That the Bill be now read a second time.


-When the debate was adjourned last evening I was referring to various aspects of Chapter III of the Constitution. Indeed, they were various unsatisfactory aspects of Chapter III of the Constitution. I was referring to the fact that section 72 of the Constitution requires justices and others who exercise Federal jurisdiction to be appointed for life. I instanced the case of a magistrate who was exercising what we call Federal judicial power. He has to be appointed for life. In making this criticism, I am not being critical of justices who are over the age of 70 years, 72 years or whatever it may be. I am simply drawing attention to the fact that there are occasions when the judicial power of the Commonwealth ought to be exercised by judges who have a limited tenure as judges.

The next aspect of Chapter III to which I wanted to refer is that it retains a dual court system. That is to say, it retains a Federal and State jurisdiction system- 2 courts. So in the Federal courts of this country the only justice that can be administered is Federal justice and not State justice or justice in every sense of the word. That is a fault in our judicial system. It is not possible to enforce all the law in Federal courts. It is a defect that we ought to be prepared to face up to and to get rid of. We can do it only by constitutional amendment. As interpreted, Chapter III of the Constitution confines the courts to the exercise of judicial power. That is to say that they cannot exercise what is called administrative power.

Honourable members are well familiar with the boilermakers case and with the weaknesses and problems that that case has created. They may not be so familiar, however, with cases such as Kotsis v. Kotsis in which it was held that the prothonotaries and masters of State courts and, indeed, the prothonotary and Registrar or master of the High Court cannot exercise any part of the judicial power because they are not appointed for life. They are not judges or justices and therefore those ancillary matters such as dealing with particulars cannot be dealt with other than by judges or justices under Chapter in of the Constitution. This is a matter of great inconvenience. It means, for instance, that in a State court when the question of particulars in relation to a case against the Commonwealth comes up it has to be dealt with by a judge and not by the master of the court. This is another instance of a defect in Chapter III of our Constitution.

Again, it inhibits the development of a satisfactory appellate system. The workload in the High Court will inevitably lead to its being a court whose jurisdiction can be invoked largely only by leave. The High Court consists of 7 justices. Some people have talked about increasing the number of justices in our High Court. I believe that this is not a satisfactory answer. The High Court cannot sit in divisions and it is not desirable for it to sit in divisions. It is therefore of no assistance to have more than 7 justices. It is difficult enough to find 7 competent, able justices in our population as it is. The High Court should have the primary function of dealing with constitutional matters. I believe that ultimately there will be a need for another general appellate court in Australia. Already in the United States of America they are starting to think of a remanent court to the United States Supreme Court because that court is unable to deal with the volume of business that it has. To have a case heard before the United States Supreme Court it must be by leave. A great sieving operation occurs between the court from which the appeal goes and the United States Supreme Court. In that country the Solicitor-General himself can file a document which causes an appeal not to go on. But I believe that in this country ultimately there may well be a need for a general appellate court standing between the High Court and the State courts. This can be achieved only by an amendment to Chapter III of the Constitution.

It is possible to vest, as this Bill does, appellate jurisdiction in a Federal court, but that can be vested in that court only in Federal matters. Under Chapter III of the Constitution a general appellate court cannot be created for the country. Again, Chapter III prevents the exercise of an advisory jurisdiction. Because of the interpretation which has been given to judicial power since the early 1920s, the fact is that the High Court has restricted its judgments to matters, that is, to matters involving the decision about rights, duties, liabilities or the obligations of the parties. So again, in my view, Chapter III is defective because I believe the High Court ought to have an advisory jurisdiction available not only to the Australian Government but also to the State governments. (Quorum formed)

Now that all the Labor members have come into listen to the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), who will shortly follow me in this debate, I hope that they will stay, because we are talking about the Superior Court and they have been thinking about the Superior Court for many years. I am suggesting to honourable members that it is time they abandoned the Superior Court project and gave consideration to seeking an amendment of the Constitution to make sure that we have one set of courts in this country- one national set of courts. I am in the course of dealing with that proposal.

The matter was first raised by that very eminent jurist, Sir Owen Dixon, as far back as 1935. He said this:

The basis of the system is the supremacy of the law. The Courts administering the law should all derive an independent existence and authority from the Constitution. Some practical difficulties would occur in carrying such a principle beyond the superior Courts, but it is not easy to see why the entire system of superior Courts should not have been organised and erected under the Constitution to administer the total content of the law. No doubt, some financial provisions would be required for levying upon the various Governments contributions to the cost of administering justice.

That was a statement by Sir Owen Dixon in 1935. I believe that the Government should abandon its plans for the Superior Court. I indicated last night that the Superior Court Bill is now defective in very serious respects, and for that reason it ought to be abandoned as a double dissolution measure, as it is undoubtedly intended to be. But a greater reason than that is that it is introducing into our system another set of courts- another divisive set of courts. There are obvious steps that can be taken in order to amend chapter III with the goodwill of this Parliament and of the parliaments of the States. I hope that the Prime Minister will go back to the Constitutional Convention. There we could move an amendment to chapter III of the Constitution to establish one hierarchy of courts in Aus.tralia one system- and not two or three systems of courts.

We could abolish the differences between State, Federal and Territory jurisdiction which have bedevilled our courts since Federation. We could amend the Constitution to enable justices, judges and magistrates to be appointed to a limited age, to enable specialist judges to be appointed, for instance for a family court, to a specific age. We could provide and retain the system of appointments. There is no need to alter the system whereby State judges are appointed by State governments and High Court judges or Federal judges are appointed by the Federal Government. There would be no need to do that. On the other hand, there may be something to be said for a system which would establish a judicial commission to recommend appointments to governments in relation to the judiciary. This is another amendment of chapter III of the Constitution that ought to be considered. In that context, I believe that the States would readily abandon appeals to the Privy Council, so we would achieve the object of a national courts system.

Another matter that needs careful consideration is the establishment of a separate judicial administration in this country. For many years consideration has been given to enabling the High Court and other Federal courts to administer themselves. There is absolutely no reason why the judges should not have their own judicial administration. Within that administration all judges should be able to take part in a conference system. I believe that the judges ought to be able to make their own contribution to law reform. Judges ought to be able to indicate amendments of the law which they think appropriate where they are administering the law and enforcing it in the courts. They are in a fit and proper situation to do that very thing. Provision ought to be made within the constitutional framework for the establishment of a judicial administration- a judicial conference- that would enable judges to participate in law reform in this country. Within this system there could be courts to deal with special matters- for instance, family law, patents and the like- which may require the activities of specialist judges, but all in a courts system which gets rid of this bedevilling situation of a division between State and Federal jurisdiction and between State and Federal courts.

Then we ought to have an amendment to the Constitution that would enable a flexible appellate structure to be created- indeed a new appellate court of the type I mentioned earlier. I believe that a unified system of courts if much better for this country. I stand on that principle. That is why I oppose the proposal for a Superior Court. That is why the Opposition opposes it and that is why I personally will continue to oppose it. It would be a most divisive addition to the system of government in this country.

Prime Minister · Werriwa · ALP

-This Bill to establish the Superior Court of Australia affords an outstanding example of Liberal ineptitude in Government and obstruction in Opposition. The arguments in favour of establishing the Court were espoused for a decade by the Liberals in Government. Those arguments are still valid. They have not been refuted. But in Opposition the Liberals then find arguments for opposing, for frustrating, for delaying the legislation on which they worked for a decade. What the honourable and learned member for Wentworth (Mr Ellicott) has said this morning about the Australian judicial system was interesting to my mind, and also to my mind generally unexceptionable. What he has had to say about this Bill was specious and pettifogging. He made one point this morning about this Bill: He said that it would create an additional court. In fact it will result in there being fewer courts than at the moment. If it is desired- I myself think it desirable- to have fewer courts of appeal in Australia through which litigants have to traipse one does not have to alter the Constitution by referendum to do that. It is perfectly open for any of the States to amend their laws in that respect to reduce the number of courts through which people can be dragged on appeal.

The points which the honourable member made last night were specious, superficially attractive, maybe effective. He made 2 points in saying that this Bill was now antiquated. He said that it was referring to the Matrimonial Causes Act. He also said that it set salaries for judges, and that the Matrimonial Causes Act and the judges’ salaries have been overtaken by events. Of course they have. Most pieces of legislation which were introduced, as this was, 18 months ago and which have had to be introduced 5 times, as this has had to be introduced, may be overtaken by some intervening legislation, but it is not our fault that the Bill did not go through 1 8 months ago. It is not our fault that the Bill has had to be introduced 5 times. What the honourable gentleman is wanting to do is to incite senators to reject this Bill or to fail to pass this Bill. If the only objections he has to this Bill are that it still refers to the Matrimonial Causes Act which will be replaced by the Family Law Act, or the fact that the salaries are now inadequate, appropriate amendments could be moved in the Senate which the Government would accept, but he is not wanting amendments to be made to the Bill. He wants the Bill to be rejected.

Mr Ellicott:

-Of course I do.


– Thanks. Now you have come clean. All that you said last night and all that you said this morning are revealed by your frank interjection as so much humbug. You know perfectly well that if we were to make amendments, to this Bill now, then it would not be put up the second time in the same form and you would then use what influence you may have in the Senate to have the amended Bill rejected also.

Let me go through the history of this matter in which the honourable gentleman played a somewhat belated and, I now suspect, secretive part. A paper entitled ‘The Necessity for a New Federal Court’ was delivered at the 13th Legal Convention in Hobart in January 1963 by Mr Maurice Byers, Q.C., and Mr Paul Toose, Q.C., now respectively the Solicitor-General of Australia and judge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales. In the discussions on the paper the Solicitor-General Sir Kenneth Bailey, Q.C., announced on behalf of the AttorneyGeneral, Sir Garfield Barwick, that the Cabinet had authorised him to design a new federal superior court. Sir Kenneth went on to say that the paper would be of material assistance to Sir Garfield whose congratulations he extended to the learned authors.

In 1964, just before he became Chief Justice, Sir Garfield wrote a 21 -page article on the proposed new federal superior court for the initial issue of the ‘Federal Law Review’, the journal of the Law School of the Australian National University. On 15 March 1967, in answer to a question by the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen), Attorney-General Bowen, now Chief Judge in Equity in the Supreme Court of New South Wales, said that an enormous amount of work had been done on the proposal for the new court by Sir Garfield Barwick and by his own immediate predecessor, Mr Snedden. He promised a ministerial statement. He made the statement on 18 May. He delivered a paper on the proposal for the 15th Legal Convention on 17 July. In March 1968, opening a new session, the Governor-General stated:

My Government will prepare legislation for creation of a Commonwealth Superior Court to relieve pressure on the High Court.

On 29 October the same year Attorney-General Bowen asked a committee under Mr Justice Kerr, later Chief Justice of New South Wales and now the Governor-General, to consider the jurisdiction to be given to the proposed Commonwealth superior court to review administrative decisions. The other members were SolicitorGeneral Mason, later a judge of appeal of the Supreme Court of New South Wales and now a Justice of the High Court, Professor Whitmore and later Solicitor-General Ellicott, now the honourable member for Wentworth. The Committee’s report was tabled on 14 October 1971. Meantime, Attorney-General Bowen and in the 1969 Parliament the new Attorney-General Hughes, and under the McMahon Government the restored Attorney-General Bowen, were engaged in preparing some 68 complementary

Bills which it was desired to introduce before resuming the debate on the Commonwealth Superior Court BUI.

Thus work on this Bill proceeded through the Parliaments elected in 1961, 1963, 1966 and 1969 under Liberal Prime Ministers Menzies, Holt, Gorton and McMahon, Liberal AttorneysGeneral Barwick, Snedden, Bowen, Hughes and Bowen again and, in one capacity or another, Solicitors-General Bailey, Mason, Ellicott and Byers. And at last on 27 October 1972, the day after the House of Representatives rose for the memorable election of that year, the last Liberal Attorney-General, Senator Greenwood, announced that the McMahon Government had reached the conclusion that the proposal to establish a Commonwealth superior court should not be proceeded with. On the Labor side the proposal had been supported and promoted consistently. I urged it at the 10th Legal Convention in Perth in 1957 and in the debate on the estimates for the Attorney-General’s Department in 1958, and in dozens of speeches and questions in the House throughout the 1960s. I included the proposal in the policy speeches I delivered on behalf of the Australian Labor Party at the elections in 1972 and 1974. There can scarcely have been a proposal which both sides of politics have worked on for so long, but what has been the history of the Bill under my Government?

The Bill to establish the Superior Court of Australia was introduced into the Senate in December 1973 by Attorney-General Murphy. That Bill lapsed when Parliament was prorogued to enable the Queen to open the Parliament on the occasion of her visit to Australia in February 1 974. The Bill was again introduced into the Senate on 14 March last year, but the motion for the second reading of the Bill was defeated in the Senate on 2 April 1974. The Bill was reintroduced into this House after the double dissolution of May last year and was passed on 24 July. The Opposition again opposed the Bill in the Senate and the motion for the second reading of the Bill resulted in a tied vote on 26 February this year. So now the Bill has been introduced for a second time in this House.

The proposals for the establishment of the Superior Court were welcomed from the outset by leaders of the legal profession in Australia. A committee appointed by the Law Council of Australia reported in favour of the proposals in August 1963. So did the New South Wales Bar Association. Attorney-General Bowen told the Legal Convention in July 1967 that there was a broad consensus that such a court should be established. He stated categorically that ‘a decision has been taken to establish the court’ and that arguments advanced against the idea are now ‘academic’, but a more conservative view was taken in the twilight years of the Liberal Government and the concept came to be opposed when it was appreciated that the Bill described by AttorneyGeneral Bowen 8 years ago would enable the Superior Court to enter upon jurisdiction now exercised by the Supreme Courts of the States. There has in fact been much lobbying by State Supreme Court judges.

Their arguments, however, lose sight of the fact that there is already a large body of federal legislation which would fall to be interpreted and administered by a federal superior court in which the legal problems of a jurisdictional nature that have been urged as objections against the Superior Court would have no place. For more than 70 years industrial matters arising under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act have been dealt with by a federal court. How much more complex those matters would have been under the Federal Conciliation and Arbitration Act if the interpretation had rested in the hands of State courts. Of course we had to establish a federal court. Successive governments have extended the jurisdiction of that federal court. To adopt the argument of the honourable member for Wentworth, we would abandon the Industrial Court. We would have abandoned the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court long before jurisdictional vices were found in its composition.

For almost 50 years there has been a Federal Court of Bankruptcy which has sat in Sydney, Melbourne and in other places in the eastern States. These are two examples of long-standing jurisdictions exercised by federal courts. To these have been added, in recent years, substantial additional areas of federal law. From the very first Trade Practices Act in 1965, exclusive jurisdiction in federal trade practices law has been vested in the Industrial Court. That was a matter initiated by our predecessors. The Trade Practices Act 1974, adopted by this Parliament, continues to recognise the principle that the proper court to interpret and apply the federal law on trade practices is a federal court. The Trade Practices Act 1974 vests jurisdiction in the Superior Court and, until that court is established, in the Australian Industrial Court.

Would anyone suggest that the interpretation of the Trade Practices Act 1965 should have been, or that the interpretation of the Trade Practices Act 1974 should now be, left to State courts in first instance? Of course our predecessors and we ourselves have thought that the interpretation, the application, of this new federal law should be in the hands of a federal court. There is before the Parliament a National Compensation Bill and the Corporations and Securities Industry Bill. The drafting of a National Companies Bill is well advanced. This House has passed the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Bill, the first of a series of measures intended to bring about a substantial reform of administrative law at the federal level.

This Government has established the Law Reform Commission to approach the task of reforming the law in Australia on a national scale. The Law Reform Commission is charged with the duty of considering not only matters within the jurisdiction of this Parliament but also proposals for uniformity between the laws of the States and of the Territories. The establishment of the Law Reform Commission is a recognition of the absurdity of having so many differences in law across State and Territory boundaries. It highlights the need to have a court that has jurisdiction throughout Australia and that can interpret and apply the laws enacted by this Parliament on a uniform basis throughout the whole of Australia. On these matters it is always open to the States to confer on the enactment of a common code. They have never done it. For more than 15 years we have been trying to get a uniform companies law. For many years we tried to get a uniform trade practices law. It was impossible to do it. The 1 1 Houses of the State Parliaments were unable to do it. We could get such a code only at the whim of the most lethargic or most conservative of 1 1 houses of the State Parliaments. In these circumstances, if there is to be a uniform law on any subject in Australia, the initiative has to come from the Australian Parliament.

The States have always had the authority. They have been urged by successive AttorneysGeneral, from Attorney-General Barwick on, and they did not respond. If there is to be uniformity of law, clearly the initiative must come from the Australian Parliament. The public does not benefit from a diversity of laws in these matters. It is quite absurd that we should have to pass from one system of law to another according to the side of a State boundary on which one resides or on which a company is domiciled. This just makes for expense and delay. The legal system in federal systems is always difficult enough, but the common law system- the statutory systemis not enhanced in public opinion by the difficulties of federal and State jurisdictions being protracted as they have been in Australia, the United States or Canada.

The public is as likely to be jack of lawyers as it has become jack of doctors. This multiplicity of laws in Australia and the fact that there are so many different courts interpreting the same federal laws and that there are so many parliaments of States passing different laws on the same subject, exasperates and penalises the public and inhibits Australia’s rational social and economic development.

The great development in federal law to which I have referred makes the need to establish the Superior Court much more pressing. While the interpretation of the law remains with the Supreme Courts of the States, no matter can be regarded as being settled throughout Australia until a decision has been given on it by the High Court. It is true that a decision of, say, the Full Court of the Supreme Court of Victoria on, say, federal tax laws is treated with the greatest respect by the Court of Appeal of New South Wales. But the Victorian decision has no binding force on the New South Wales court, even though the two courts may be dealing with the same section of an Act of this Parliament

A decision of the Full Court of the Superior Court would be binding on the judges of that court throughout Australia so in those important areas of federal law in which the Superior Court would be exercising exclusive jurisdiction, the establishment of the court would substantially contribute towards certainty in the law. The case for the Superior Court is now even further strengthened by the establishment of the Family Court of Australia under the Family Law Act. This decision by the Parliament is clear recognition that, in this most important area of law, with its own special problems and a need for special procedures, there is great merit in having a court that has jurisdiction throughout Australia and that can interpret and apply that law on a uniform basis.

The Superior Court of Australia will enable a consolidation of jurisdiction that is now exercised by federal and territory courts. It will bring together in the one court the Australian Industrial Court, the Federal Court of Bankruptcy, the Supreme Courts of the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory and, in due course, the Family Court of Australia. It will enable the jurisdiction of these courts to be exercised on a more rational and comprehensive basis. Mr Speaker, it is 8 years since the first BUI to establish the Superior Court was described and detailed in this House. Can anyone doubt that it is time we moved on this matter? Is it not time the Opposition stopped prevaricating and allowed a government of action to consummate the legislation on which successive Liberal Attorneys-General worked for so long? Should we not now put the interests of all Australians ahead of State rights and Party considerations?

Mr ELLICOTT (Wentworth)-Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.


– Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?


– Yes. The Prime Minister said that I had taken a belated and secretive part in relation to this measure. I do not know what the Prime Minister meant but, so far as the Concise Oxford Dictionary is concerned, the word ‘secretive ‘means:

Given to making secrets; intentionally uncommunicative; needlessly reserved.

If the Prime Minister means that whilst I was in the office of Solicitor-General I was secretive in that sense in relation to the Superior Court measure, I absolutely deny it, and I just do not understand what he means by the word. The Prime Minister knows that from the very beginning I have been opposed to this measure. I gave that advice to the McMahon Government, the Gorton Government and to his Government. I have been against it from the very moment I became Solicitor-General and became acquainted with it. I resent the suggestion- if that is the suggestionthat I have been secretive in relation to the matter. If the term means anything else I will want to say something about that as well.

Mr WHITLAM (Werriwa-Prime Minister) -Perhaps I can help the honourable gentleman. I believe that the explanation for the use of the word ‘secretive’ comes from a later passage in my speech, where I said:

On 29 October 1968 Attorney-General Bowen asked a committee under Mr Justice Kerr, later Chief Justice of New South Wales and now the Governor-General, to consider the jurisdiction to be given to the proposed Commonwealth Superior Court to review administrative decisions. The other members were Solicitor-General Mason, later a judge of appeal of the Supreme Court of New South Wales and now a justice of the High Court and Professor Whitmore and later Solicitor-General Ellicott now the honourable member for Wentworth. The committee’s report was tabled on 14 October 1971.

It would appear that it was from that time, in a manner which he had hitherto kept quiet, that the honourable gentleman had commenced his opposition to this legislation.


-On the front page of the Melbourne ‘Herald ‘ last night was an article headed ‘Canberra Shadow’. I should like briefly to read it to the House. It states:

The shadow of Canberra falls across almost everything the Australian States do.

More and more, decisions on how the States spend their money are being taken by the Federal Government.

This intrusion into State affairs in the most minute detail by the Federal Government, is worrying the men who run the States.

Peter Game has been talking to Victoria’s Premier, Mr Hamer, and some of the State’s top public servants.

He reports his findings in a series of three articles beginning in the Herald tomorrow.

That, of course, is today. The report continues:

The series makes disturbing reading.

I think it is rather significant that that article appeared just at this stage. As the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) said, this is not the first time that the Superior Court of Australia Bill has been brought before this Parliament Most speakers for and against this legislation almost without exception have been lawyers. Consequently, much of the debate has centred on legal technicalities. As one with only a limited knowledge of the law I should like to put forward a layman ‘s point of view on this Bill because it is the average Australian citizen such as myself who will be affected by the provisions of this legislation. Too many important principles are at stake to leave the arguments for or against this legislation purely to members of the legal profession. This remark is made in no way as a reflection on colleagues who have been trained as practitioners in this profession.

My opposition to this Bill as a layman arises from my sense of unease at its implications. This is a major piece of legislation in the judicial field. It proposes the establishment of a completely new and separate court within federal jurisdiction. The Superior Court would have all the extensive powers and sanctions necessary for a senior court- life tenure of its bench, the contempt powers, the ability to impose the penalty of imprisonment and the capacity to hear appeals. No one would deny that this Bill is indeed a comprehensive and wide-ranging document. My sense of unease arises precisely from this very degree of comprehensiveness and detail. The question which immediately springs to one’s mind is: Why is this new court necessary? That is not an unreasonable query for a layman and a taxpayer, especially when one considers the immense cost involved in establishing a new and nation-wide court network. Not once in all the preceding debates on this Bill has the Government effectively shown that this new court is necessary because of the inadequacies of the existing system, a system in which State supreme courts administer the large bulk of federal matters. Under this Bill it is planned to transfer these matters to the Superior Court.

In his second reading speech the AttorneyGeneral (Mr Enderby) explained that it was the ‘growing body of federal law in the new areas’- I stress his words- that in part at least precipitated a need for this new federal court. He cited the existing areas of federal jurisdiction- industrial matters, trade practice matters, certain administrative appeals, bankruptcy and income tax. He then proceeded to the new areas of consumer protection and the regulation of the securities and exchange industry. With such a collection of matters falling within federal jurisdiction one could argue that it might indeed be desirable that a system should be devised to clarify and to unify the operation of the courts.

However, this would not be the true effect of this legislation. The true effect of the Bill would be to remove from the State supreme courts all those matters which they presently administer under section 77 (iii) of the Constitution and to re-direct them to the Superior Court. It would redirect the bulk of matters within the original jurisdiction of the High Court into the Superior Court, leaving the High Court principally a constitutional and appellate tribunal. Many matters presently subject to appeal to the High Court would, under this Bill, be re-directed to the Superior Court and any matters deserving appeal from this massive Superior Court would be able to proceed to the High Court only by the leave of that court or of the Superior Court itself.

Not only will this court seize unto itself a vast body of matters of federal jurisdiction, but it shall also hoard and swallow them finally without resort to the High Court. Clause 38 of this Bill denies the automatic right of appeal to the High Court as such. This is a most significant and important feature of the legislation. When this proposal is seen in this light- even if we disregard for immediate purposes all other equally important questions such as necessity, cost and the complexity this court would create within our judicial system, if we focus solely on the aspect of the massive re-direction of jurisdiction into this Court, together with the denial of the right of appeal to the High Court- it must become clear that the result of this Bill will not be to streamline our judicial process, increase its efficiency or even to clarify it.

The result of the passage of this legislation will be surreptitiously to abduct numerous matters from the jurisdiction of the States and place them under the centralised Superior Court in Canberra. It may well be argued that it is desirable to unify the operation of our judicial systems and our courts but this legislation is not the move of a unifier. This attempt to remove matters from the

High Court and from the State supreme courts is just another example of the centralist thinking of this present Government. In his second reading speech the Attorney-General dealt in terms of existing federal matters and of new federal matters and he admitted that the jurisdiction of the Superior Court can and will be expanded by particular subsequent enactments. He cited consumer protection and trade practices as examples.

The implications of this Superior Court Bill do not depend on whether it is really necessary or even desirable, neither of which I as a layman believe it is. The real issue under debate in this Bill is: Should the Australian Government threaten and undermine the powers of the States in the judicial field? It is not possible in this debate to argue for or against our present bilateral system of government and its accompanying system of justice. There may well be some difficulties in the Federal-State system under which we have lived for three-quarters of a century, but there are also many advantages. The Liberal Party has always believed in the protection of State rights because we believe they are essential in the best administration of government and the promotion of the rights of individuals. One cannot deny that technically the power to establish a federal court additional to the High Court is within the Constitution. That is beyond dispute. What I and others like me are concerned about is that ultimately this Government intends to use the Superior Court to rule on all manner of matters such as discrimination, environment, children, women, motor accidents, the stock exchange, corporations and trade unions. One could go on and on.

The establishment of this additional federal court could well provide an unending incentive for backdoor attempts by a centralist government, such as the present one, to bypass constitutional heads of power and to expand its influence throughout the nation. If this legislation becomes law and the Superior Court is established there will be no end to the ultimate erosion of the States’ powers in the hands of this Government. We will be told: ‘We have the court. It is there to use. Let us use it’. We shall witness more and more power being transferred to the Commonwealth as it steadily expands the causes of action and the jurisdiction of its Superior Court.

Only a few moments ago the Prime Minister admitted in this House that the aim of the Bill is to have fewer courts. He went on to say that the State courts had been ‘lobbying’- I think that was the word he used- against this legislation. If that is so the reasons speak for themselves. The Attorney-General claims that one of the reasons for the establishment of this court is to relieve the strain of litigation on the State supreme courts. If the Attorney-General really desires to relieve the burdens of existing supreme court judges, he could quite simply correct the situation without resort to a most Costly, complex and elaborate scheme such as is proposed under this Bill.

As the honourable gentleman well knows it would be far more simple just to splash a grant or two towards the States under section 96 of the Constitution for the expansion of their courts. This Government has a certain expertise in handing tied grants to the States. It has done so subtly often, and to its own political advantage. The State courts already exist and they operate effectively. It would prove a relatively small expense to expand them when compared to this proposal to create a new, separate and costly Commonwealth Court. The only viable reason which exists for the establishment of this court is based on the premise that Canberra, like father, knows best. I and my Liberal colleagues believe that Canberra is not the repository of all wisdom. I urge the House to reject this legislation.

Question put:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Hon. G. G. D. Scholes)

AYES: 59

NOES: 56

Majority……. 3



Question so resolved in the affirmative. Bill read a second time.

Third Reading

Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.

Bill (on motion by Mr Enderby) read a third time.

page 3312


Second Reading

Debate resumed from 22 May on motion by Mr Stewart:

That the Bill be now read a second time.


-The Income Tax Assessment Bill seeks to amend the Income Tax Assessment Act to permit Papua New Guinea to be treated for tax purposes as a separate country on its independence. In essence, the legislation removes the special provisions which have applied in respect of Papua New Guinea. The Opposition agrees with the transitional arrangements which have been made to facilitate the application of the legislation. We also agree that the special exceptions relating to the Papua New Guinea income of Australian residents and the Australian income of Papua New Guinea residents should be continued as provided for by the Bill. Nevertheless, I take this opportunity to place on record the Opposition’s view that it would be desirable for the Government to have as an objective the negotiation of a comprehensive double taxation agreement with the post- independence Government of Papua New Guinea. Such an agreement could be in line with the taxation arrangements now applying in respect of a number of other countries where reciprocal measures have been introduced for mutual advantage. They would also recognise the special relationship which Australia has and should continue to maintain with Papua New Guinea.

The legislation introduces a new tax exemption for the Australian Industry Development Corporation. It seeks to provide an exemption from withholding tax in respect of loan interest paid by the Corporation to overseas residents. Dividends paid by Australian resident companies to non-residents are, in general, subject to Australian taxation in the form of a withholding tax at 30 per cent. The rate is 15 per cent where the non-resident receiving the dividend resides in a country with which Australia has a double taxation agreement. Withholding tax now applies in respect of both dividends and interest payments and revenue derived from this source amounted to $79m in 1973-74 and is expected to amount to $86m during the current financial year.

There is already a number of specific exemptions to the withholding tax provisions of the Income Tax Assessment Act. A number of these exemptions relate to such organisations as religious, charitable and hospital groups, trade union and employer organisations and friendly societies. There are 2 principal exemptions of a commercial nature already contained in the Act. By way of sections 128(h) and 128 (j), companies owned more than 60 per cent by Australian interests and less than 20 per cent by a single overseas interest, can seek a complete exemption from the withholding tax provisions by making application to the Commissioner of Taxation. In addition, section 128 (0 provides an exemption from withholding tax where debentures are issued by a company outside Australia for loan raising purposes. In practice only major companies are able to use this method of financing due to the costs associated with it.

The AIDC is already entitled to the exemptions which exist under the Act. The effect of the Bill is to permit the AIDC to receive an exemption in respect of overseas loan funds used by it in connection with companies which do not meet the 60/20 rule or, in other words, with nonAustralian entities. It should be emphasised that the Act as it now stands makes provision for partial exemption on a sliding scale for such cases under section 128 (k). The Opposition believes that the complete exemption sought by the Bill is not inconsistent with the general aims of the AIDC as determined by the former Government. In spite of the amendment to the Australian Industry Development Corporation Act made by the Government which no longer requires the Corporation to borrow principally from external sources, the Opposition believes that borrowings should be sought in the main from overseas. Clearly, it is not in the national interest for the AIDC to be seeking funds on the domestic capital markets at the present time. The measure before the House Will facilitate the Corporation’s overseas borrowings and it is in this context that the Opposition parties raise no objection. I take the opportunity, however, to point out that the Treasurer (Dr J. F. Cairns), in his second reading speech, in no way sought to justify the Bill ‘s provisions in respect of the AIDC.

The Bill gives effect to the Government’s decision to repeal the change in the basis on which the use of a company car is assessed for income tax purposes. The House will recall the former Treasurer’s Budget Speech in which he announced a new formula designed to determine the minimum value to the taxpayer of the use of a motor vehicle provided by an employer. During my speech on the Income Tax Assessment Bill (No. 2) on 26 November I outlined the Opposition’s basic objections to that proposal. I pointed out that it would add substantially to taxation, to costs within the corporate sector and would in fact be a major disincentive to the business community. The proposal introduced by the Government was one of a series of deliberate and sustained attacks on the private sector contained in last year’s Budget. The Opposition pressed for its abolition and the Government’s decision to abandon the new car tax formula represents one of the many post-Budget reversals made by the Government.

The Bill before the House also seeks to remove any possibility of allowances paid under the National Employment and Training system being exempt from taxation. This matter was raised by the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in October of last year. At that time the Opposition was advised of a directive sent to every Commonwealth Employment Service office in Victoria stating that allowances paid under NEAT would not be subject to taxation. This was a fact which had apparently completely escaped the attention of the responsible Minister, the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron). I refer in this context to a report in the Melbourne ‘Age’ which stated, in part:

The Federal Government has been embarrassed by the way the Minister for Labor (Mr Cameron) is handling the controversy over the NEAT scheme. Mr Cameron told Parliament yesterday the $93.44 a week allowance under the scheme was taxable … Mr Cameron said: ‘It is not possible for a person to enter the scheme and to get a tax-free allowance’. However, later in the day, senior Government sources admitted that at present the allowance was not taxed.

This Bill clarifies any confusion which may still exist and makes it quite clear that the allowances are subject to taxation.

The aspect of the legislation which gives cause for very serious concern is that relating to accelerated depreciation allowances. The accelerated tax allowance was announced on 9 December 1974 as a measure to stimulate investment in manufacturing and primary production plant. The allowance was then, as it is now, a completely inadequate response to the dramatic down-turn in private sector investment which has taken place under the present administration. During a period of 2 years the Whitlam Government has systematically withdrawn every major incentive for productive investment. It has created a crisis of confidence in which long-term investment- especially risk investment- is no longer prudent or warranted. It has so reduced corporate profits that investment by way of internal financing is virtually impossible. In the 1973-74 Budget a wide range of investment incentives for manufacturing, primary and mining industry production was removed; private company taxation rates were increased; and additional tax burdens were placed on the insurance industry. In the 1974-75 Budget further tax burdens were placed on insurance and mining companies; the second stage of the increase in private company tax rates was foreshadowed; and a capital gains tax and a surcharge on property income were announced. In each of Labor’s first 2 Budgets deliberate action was taken to reduce corporate profits and to slow down the overall rate of investment. For well over 18 months evidence of the investment crisis has been building up. Evidence of the investment slump has at the same time been consistently ignored by the Government as in fact it is ignoring that crisis at present.

During 1974 private fixed gross capital expenditure, seasonally adjusted and at constant prices, fell by 13 per cent. Investment in plant and equipment, in real terms, declined by almost 10 per cent during the same period. Statistics released by the Government only 2 weeks ago indicate that actual investment, seasonally adjusted, fell by 1.6 per cent during the first quarter of 1975. In all likelihood this reflects a fall, in real terms, of around 5 per cent for the latest 3-month period. Corporate profits have declined in line with the general run down in investment. Profits amount to little over 10 per cent of the gross domestic product compared with previous levels of around 15 per cent. All of these facts are available to the Government and particularly to the current temporary Treasurer of this country. They are published by his own Department and by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. But only 2 weeks ago, on 14 May, the current Treasurer said that an investment downturn was, and I quote his own words, ‘a myth’. That comment was the height of complete irresponsibility. It demonstrated the present Treasurer’s fundamental misunderstanding about the vital role of investment in the private sector’s resource creating process.

In this regard I would draw the attention of the present and future Treasurer to the June edition of the ‘Survey of Manufacturing Activity’ published by the Department of Manufacturing Industry. The Department reported in the following terms:

As announced in the previous survey bulletin, collection of statistics on new capital expenditure in this survey has been discontinued. In qualitative terms however respondents again commented that new capital expenditure was at very depressed levels and deferral of investment plans was widely reported. Moreover, respondents indicated that expenditure being undertaken was largely of a replacement nature. Uncertainty, lack of confidence in the medium term outlook, liquidity restraints, and low expected levels of profitability were the main contributing factors.

Is the present Treasurer prepared to call the findings of the Department of Manufacturing Industry a myth? Is the Government prepared to ignore the statistical evidence produced by the Treasurer’s own Department? The answer to both questions is apparently yes. Why else would the Bill now before the House provide for the termination of the accelerated depreciation allowance in less than 4 weeks time. The Government has demonstrated beyond doubt that it has no conception of the way in which business investment decisions are determined. The accelerated depreciation allowance was announced in December, the legislation before the House provides for its complete removal after less than 7 months.

No major investment decisions can be induced by a measure which has a currency of less than 7 months. Large scale investment programs can take up to 5 years from their initial consideration to the point of their implementation. In no sense do the accelerated depreciation provisions provide the incentive or the continuity required to boost the level of long-term investment in Australian industry. In fact, because the accelerated allowance is so deficient as an investment stimulus, it has in all probability weakened rather than strengthened the level of business confidence. The fact is that even the present depressed level of capital expenditure is substantially a result of capital raisings and spending plans set more than 18 months ago. The failure of the Government to maintain the growth in the productive capacity of the economy- particularly the installation of modern plant and equipment- will be felt for many years to come. The Opposition parties have consistently called for measures to lift capital expenditure. It was a major feature of our economic program released in February and it was the subject of a specific matter of public importance debated in this House on 18 February. The Government has chosen to ignore the positive initiatives which have been advocated by the Opposition parties. In fact, the general thrust of its policies quite clearly seeks to structure an economic upturn on the basis of consumer spending rather than investment spending. This, of course, is a misconceived and short run approach. It is an approach which will jeopardise the long run growth potential of the economy.

Therefore, I take the opportunity during the debate on this Income Tax Assessment Bill to place on record the Opposition’s very serious reservations about the downturn in investment and the total inadequacy of the approach which the Government has taken. The Opposition Parties do not oppose the Bill, but what a classic irony it is that the debate on this Bill, which raises so many matters of fundamental economic importance, is taking place at a time in the history of Australia when the present Administration is subject to complete confusion, uncertainty and indecision about who will constitute the Ministry of this country during the short days ahead. I see that the Minister Assisting the Treasurer (Mr Stewart), who is in charge of this Bill, looks across at me with a sense of very real concern. He is a man for whom I have the highest regard, but who knows whether he will be the Minister Assisting the Treasurer next week? The Minister smiles, indicating that he is in the know about these matters. If that is the case, he is privy to the knowledge that the Treasurer, probably the only Treasurer in the history of Australia never to have the capacity to bring down a single Budget, has been sacked. Of course, that announcement has been held over while certain other moves are being made.

The whole country views with alarm the incohesive nature of the Administration which is running this country. Its economic policy is in a shambles and a state of complete uncertainty. The country is facing the most significant Budget in its history, and apparently the third Treasurer in 2Vi years is to have the responsibility of bringing down that major economic document. If there is one man in this country who must accept the ultimate responsibility, it is the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) who is back in Australia on one of his rare visits. If there is any concept of leadership which I hope is accepted by this House, it is his incapacity to resolve problems, and the incapacity of the Prime Minister to resolve the present economic problems facing Australia must surely be a classic indictment of his leadership. The Government stands indicted on that count.

Mr Eric Robinson:

-This Bill contains a number of important matters. It is concerned, first of aU, with Papua New Guinea and sets in legislative form the taxation arrangements which are to apply as Papua New Guinea moves towards independence. The Bill lists some special exceptions which are different from those which normally apply to separate countries. The Opposition agrees with the exceptions, particularly with regard to the arrangements for pensions and the exemption of employment security scheme payments. With regard to the National Employment and Training scheme, which has not been the tidiest piece of administration seen in this country, the BUI makes it perfectly clear, for the first time, that allowances under the NEAT scheme will attract taxation. There has been considerable doubt for some time about this and it is this doubt that has caused distress to a number of people.

The Bill also removes the tax liability on the use of company cars for private purposes. This was introduced by the former Treasurer, the present Minister for Overseas Trade (Mr Crean), in the last Budget and, as stated by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch), was part of the business bashing which was then and still is fashionable to a degree with the Government. It was an improper piece of tax law. I understand it was an idea that came out of the personal staff of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). Well, it was an improper one. People will recall that its purpose was to add an additional tax liability for those people using company vehicles. If one had a vehicle with a stand-by value of $6,000 it attracted tax on the basis of 12 per cent of that value. If its value was over $6,000 the basis of tax was 24 per cent of that value. I do not think that the Government is removing this because of its concern for the private sector. This was one of those half-baked tax policies. I really think, in fact I am sure, that it was the trade union officials- I suspect Mr Hawke and I know Mr Egerton- who had something to say about this because they appreciated the significance of it to trade union officials using the vehicles of their organisations.

As to company tax collection, the Bill deletes the payment which was due in February, the second instalment of company income tax for the 1973-74 year. This gets back to the old problem of inflation. Whilst this measure will help and whilst it will alleviate some of the problem, it will not solve the liquidity problem that companies have. This problem applies to the whole range of business, from the smallest business to the largest company. The tremendous problem that any business of any size has in financing normal day to day, month to month transactions is becoming extremely difficult. The measure before us provides no allowance, no possibility and no initiative for substantial growth. I hope that in this context the Government will look very closely at the Mathews report, a report which it instigated itself and which has some very valuable recommendations with regard to assisting companies with liquidity problems.

I want to make some reference to the special accelerating income tax deductions by manufacturing and primary industries for depreciation of plant. As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) said, these were announced on 9 December 1974, far too late and for far too short a period. They do not provide sufficient incentive and insufficient time is allowed for them to work. It is ironic that they should come just about 2 years after the Australian Labor Party came into office, after we had the tariff cuts, the currency realignments the tremendous increase in costs, the tremendous increase in tax burdens and the substantial increase in interest rates. All these things created a substantial lack of confidence. Profits are down and capital investment is substantially down. So Dr Cairns, who is now apparently the retiring Treasurer, decided that the private sector needed some sort of incentive. This is welcome enough except, as we said, it does not go far enough.

I take this opportunity to put to the Government that legislation in itself will not restore confidence. I would invite members of the Labor Government to put themselves in the position of a board of directors or an owner-manager of a company or business. I recognise that few honourable members opposite have had any business experience at all. Imagine a board of directors or an owner considering whether to take advantage of this investment allowance. The owner, for example, has problems of inflation, as has the whole nation, and flowing on from that a substantial tax liability on unreal paper profits. He has substantial liquidity problems, and in some cases problems so big that he cannot survive. It has been indicated in the last few days how many small businesses have gone to the wall in recent months. The owner is faced with the highest interest rates for years. He is considering whether or not he should make some use of this incentive.

Day by day, month by month he learns through the Press and through the other media about problems within the Government. Tariffs are important to any businessman. He reads that there is a difference between what the Treasurer has said about tariffs and what the new Minister for Manufacturing Industry (Senator James McClelland) has to say about them. The Prime Minister, in his comments of the last few days, substantially agrees with the new Minister for Manufacturing Industry. The man considering whether he will take advantage of this initiative finds that the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) only a few weeks ago tried to convince Cabinet that it ought to support or at least not oppose an application before the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission for an increased wage for metal trades workers. The company director and the firm owner are concerned with costs. They are affected by the Government’s announced attitude towards the metal trades case. Any decision in this case would be very significant because we all know that the metal trades award flows on so influentially throughout Australia. The company director or the firm owner reads that the Government has realised that it has to do something about curtailing the growth of public expenditure. He says: ‘ Perhaps that is a glimmer of light ‘. But then the Government decides to go ahead with the Australian Government Insurance Corporation, a new superannuation scheme for public servants and new compensation legislation. All these problems add up to a further erosion of the confidence of the business community.

If that is not sufficient, almost daily there are reports of disputes between Ministers. The Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) is in dispute with the Minister for Environment (Dr Cass). We see constantly reports that the man who is to be Australia’s Treasurer in a few days time, Mr Hayden, is apparently in disagreement with the present Treasurer. On top of all this we hear the Prime Minister- and in the end result it is the Prime Minister who has to take the responsibility for the actions of his Government, his Ministers and the members of his Party- on national television saying: ‘I think a Cabinet spill would be a very good idea because I have a number of Ministers who are not terribly competent and I would really like the Party to throw them out so I can get some new ones ‘.

Boards of directors and the owners of companies and business wonder whether under this sort of climate and this sort of disunity they are prepared to invest. Of course everybody knows what the answer is going to be. Just to make sure that this depressed attitude continues the president of the Australian Labor Party spoke in an expansive mood , from London the other night accusing the Prime Minister of lunatic decisions. What sort of a climate is that? We have had fragmentation of policies and fragmentation of personnel.

I simply say to the Government that this initiative is useful, but it does not go far enough. As the Government moves towards the Budget which it will have to deliver in a few short months, if it wants to see businessmen invest it must put some stability back into the Government and put some unity back into the Labor Party. If it wants to revive the private sector it should try to demonstrate that it has this capacity, that it is serious about tackling inflation and that it is serious about tackling the enormous burden of taxation upon the business community. The Opposition does not oppose the Bill. It only hopes that should this Government survive we will not be faced after the coming Budget with the position we faced many months after the last Budget.


– I am glad to see the Minister Assisting the Treasurer (Mr Stewart) opposite me at the table. I congratulate him on having endured so long. It must be confusing for him to know these days just whom he is assisting. If ever we needed any further evidence of a confused government with absolutely no idea of what it is about or where it is going, we have it in this Income Tax Assessment Bill. If we needed any other illustration of the Government’s unparalleled ad hockery and its complete inability to formulate forward plans rather than resorting again and again commenced, panic and spite, it is here in this Bill. If we required one more example of a Budget being presented, radically altered even before debate has commenced, and dismantled, demolished and reversed continually thereafter until it becomes entirely unrecognisable, this Bill is it. No longer are we operating under any responsible system of budgeting. No longer are there any recognisable guidelines. Money is printed and poured out whenever the whim of the moment takes the Government. It creates a crisis today, and tomorrow there is a panic. It announces a course today and departs from it tomorrow. The tragedy of it all is that the Government sits in piles of money, the value of which is deteriorating, while inflation soars and unemployment multiplies, and it wonders why its credibility has been shot to pieces.

The parts of this Bill which I particularly wish to discuss are not those which are ostensibly the purpose for the Bill, namely, those alterations which become necessary to our taxation law because of Papua New Guinea’s projected independence. The parts to which I would refer are those which are so disarmingly referred to in the explanatory memorandum as being amendments ‘in certain other important respects’. As we look at the Bill, the explanatory memorandum and the second reading speech of the Minister Assisting the Treasurer, which seeks to focus our attention on the provisions concerning Papua New Guinea, we find tucked away, hidden here and there, what these other important respects really constitute.

Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.


– Before the suspension of the sitting we were talking about other important matters that are tucked away in this Bill. Even the terminology in the second reading speech of the Minister is fascinating. We well remember how urgent, important and vital it was for the Treasurer in 1973 to abolish investment allowances and accelerated depreciation. Now we find that it is described as important temporarily to reinstate an anaemic imitation of accelerated depreciation. We remember how vital and important it was in 1974 to bring in legislation to curtail what were called fringe benefits, to attack by taxation legislation such items as the use of a company car. Now the Minister says it is important to remove that same legislation. What a comedy it would be if it was not so desperately tragic. Honourable members sitting opposite have not the remotest justification to claim the tide ‘Government’ because there is a complete absence of any semblance of responsible government in the hands of a bewildered, incompetent group of lost legislators. Is it any wonder that Australia is, in the words of the old song, ‘in the middle of a muddle’ with people like that holding the reins?

Let us have a brief look at clause 10 which is headed ‘Company Cars’. We well remember how member after member of the Government, from the Treasurer down, told us how massively and dishonestly these fringe benefits were being manipulated to defraud the revenue. We well remember how they waved their hands and beat their breasts, breathed out fire and slaughter, and thundered that their legislation would thwart this roguery once and for all. They would listen then to no reasoned argument. They belittled anyone who tried to advise caution. They denigrated them as puppets and stooges of the alleged villains flashing around in company RoUs Royces, or perhaps they were white Mercedes. They introduced the legislation in a flourish of words. Now, in a brief flash of sanity they are going to remove it again. Naturally there is no flourish this time. In the Minister’s speech there is an understandable sheepish economy of words, hopefully uttered in the expectation that no one will notice. An economy of words it is, but I wish that the Government could practice some other economies that we so desperately need.

AU that the Minister so modestly and demurely mutters is that the legislation is ‘designed to give relief in the private sector of the economy’ and that ‘it is one of a package of measures that the Treasurer announced on 28 January to assist the motor vehicle industry’. It has taken the Government almost 9 months to wake up. Almost 9 months ago we told the Government clearly and plainly what its proposals would do to the private sector and to the motor vehicle industry. Supporters of the Government laughed and crowed. They hee-hawed and ridiculed. But now the Government seeks to remove the legislation which we criticised and it then lauded because the private sector needs relief as does the motor vehicle industry. The mind fairly boggles at the mental processes involved in such a manoeuvre. What an astounding, almost unbelievable, performance it is. The Government enacted legislation against all advice and now seeks to remove it giving the very reasons which we clearly enunciated as to why it should never have been enacted in the first place.

Similarly, with the portion of this BUI which dispenses with company tax instalments for

February, the Government, with its usual muddled thinking, decided to introduce quarterly tax instalments for companies at a time and in a climate when liquidity was low and credit was tight. The Government would not listen when it was pointed out that this could have disastrous consequences, that it would cause company failures. Then, like Rip Van Winkle, the Government wakes, rubs it sleepy eyes and has to reverse its decision and defer the February instalments. The Government is not even sheepish, not even chastened, not in any way repentant. It blunders on, introduces legislation, listens to no one, creates an unholy mess and then takes the legislation off the book again. I suppose that the Government expects applause and commendation. If there were any award for monumental stupidity this Government would have cornered the market.

Let us look at the Government’s tremendous perception in regard to accelerated depreciation. We well remember when the Government abolished section 57AA relating particularly to primary producer accelerated depreciation. We recall how the Government removed investment allowances and deductions for certain developmental projects in the year in which the expense was incurred. We remember the Government’s righteousness, its talk of pork barrelling and its solemn denunciations. Now it wants to give incentive to development. It wants to stimulate the corpses that it brutally murdered. Now the Government is a fervent evangelist of accelerated depreciation which it condemned out of hand and it has not even the decency to look sheepish about it.

Let us look at what is proposed in this Bill. Let not anyone think for one moment that the provisions of the Bill are anywhere near as generous, effective, constructive or incentive-providing as the deductions they removed. Do not let anyone for a moment be deluded into believing, for instance, that investment allowance is restored in this Bill because what we have here is an anaemic measure designed to delude rather than to assist. It will be quite ineffective. The Treasurer tells us that plant which would have qualified for the now abolished investment allowances and is installed between 1 July 1974 and 30 June 1975 will qualify for depreciation rates at twice the existing rate. Let us just see what this means. This is the month of June; less than one month of the year remains. Surely no one would be stupid enough to have purchased plant until legislation is enacted merely on an announcement made some months ago. The people of Australia have long since learned that one cannot rely on today’s Press announcement because it will be reversed tomorrow.

Section 57AA allowed depreciation over 5 equal instalments. In the first year the date of purchase was quite immaterial. But this is not the case in this Bill. True, if the prime cost method is used at the most usual rate of 10 per cent, this is increased to 20 per cent; but this does not mean one-fifth of the purchase price in the year of purchase. Let me explain what has been confirmed to me by a senior officer of the Queensland Taxation Office. Formerly under section 57AA, if new plant was purchased for, say, $5,000, in the first year a claim of $1,000 for depreciation and $1,000 for investment allowance could be made and a further $1,000 could be claimed as depreciation each year for the 4 subsequent years. This was an incentive to productivity and the stimulus which the Government says is now needed. But under this scheme, if plant is bought now at a cost of $5,000- and it has to be purchased before the 30th of this month to qualifyunder the prime cost method as one month’s depreciation can be claimed there is no investment allowance and the depreciation which can be claimed for this financial year is not $1,000 but one-twelfth of $1,000, namely $83. What a remarkable stimulus that is. What a confidence trick!

Even under the diminishing value method, where the rate to be doubled is 15 per cent, at 30 per cent for one month the magnificent depreciation claim for this year, the incentive, is $125. Even if for once the buyer had been willing to punt on a Government announcement and had taken the precarious course of buying plant in January in anticipation that this legislation would be enacted, depreciation for this year under the prime cost method of 10 per cent would be about $500 and under the diminishing value method only $750. As I said, these figures were confirmed for me by an officer of the Queensland Taxation Office. This proposal is a far cry from accelerated depreciation as we knew and understood it and which was introduced by the Liberal-Country Party Government as an incentive. Thus as an urgent stimulus it is not comparable with the incentives that were removed. It is too little and it is far too late.

Again the Government, having belatedly realised the disaster arising from its first Budget, the consequent run-down of industry both primary and secondary, the massive unemployment and the destruction of all confidence, has fumbled about in panic and looked for a band-aid to apply to a mortal wound. Even with this more sensible system of depreciation, because it will have little or no effect this year, industry and primary producers will not have any real relief in taxation when they need it. Indeed they will not have any relief until they pay their income tax assessments in about May 1977. The way we are going under this Government, by that date we will be fortunate to have an industry or a primary producer left. What this clause means is that, if industry has the stamina to survive, this accelerated depreciation allowance will have a beneficial effect in March 1977. How is that for a stimulus that is urgently needed now? It will not be experienced until about 2 years from now.

We do not oppose the Bill. It would not have been necessary if the Government in the first place had shown one atom of common sense. The Government would not now have to revoke legislation which should never have been implemented and it would not have to panic about restoring some of what it had so stupidly taken away. There is always forgiveness for the repentant sinner. But I guess that it is too much to hope that these Bills illustrate any sort of repentence. They are born of disaster, a disaster caused by 2Vi years of maladministration and economic lunacy. I am not the only man who has used that term in the last few days. I hope that the Bill will repair at least a small part of the tremendous damage which has been the hallmark of this Government. But I am afraid that it is not much good closing the stable door after the horse has bolted when industry and primary producers are still in the mess that this Government has placed them in. After all, we had more than 3 Budgets last year and it appears that we will have 3 Treasurers this year. So we will probably have to endure this same procession of somersaults many more times if this Government survives.


-I am prompted by the previous speaker, the honourable member for Fisher (Mr Adermann), who mentioned the phrase ‘after the horse has bolted’ to refer to something that may initially seem somewhat apart from this Bill. That is the method of stock valuation for animals based on natural increase that is curently applied. For instance, the valuation applied at the end of a year is 40c for sheep, 50c for pigs, $1 for cattle and $2 for horses. This has been a well accepted principle for some time. But I remind the House that because of the implications of the financial policies of this Government- I refer now to section 31a of the Income Tax Act which was withdrawn in the August 1973 Budget- it has put the whole of the process of the valuation of livestock very much in the melting pot. I will explain this in relation to the Bill as I go along, but this seemed a convenient spot from which to start my form of logic. What happened to the wine industry following the withdrawal of section 31a of the Income Tax Act is that now valuations have been put on a totally different basis. Honourable members will have heard my comments in relation to this on other occasions.

Let me start my comments on what the Government’s economic policies have done to the wine industry by pointing out what it has done to business generally. Those policies have caused a vast run down of liquidity. Some of this is due to the heavier incidence of taxation, some of it is due to inflation and some of it is due to an intermix of the 2 theories. Businesses all over Australia today, particularly small businesses such as much of the wine industry have been brought under some degree of threat. These remarks apply to all businesses but particularly to small and medium sized ones and I have in mind the small family businesses which have been the very basis of the tourist industry in South Australia and the very basis of the production of quality wines emanating from that area. I will not go too far into that issue today. But such Government action is hitting small private companies in the wine industry far more than other industries. This is because they not only have the same problems of cash flow and of quarterly payment of taxation which, for instance, this BUI mentions specifically, but they also have the added problem of a 178 per cent increase in taxation over a 13-month period. Not the least part of this is due to the withdrawal of section 3 1 a of the Income Tax Act. So I make the point that of all the businesses and industries which has been heavily hit by Government action, there are probably no businesses which have been more heavily hit than some involved in the wine and brandy producing areas of this country and their ancillary firms of this country.

One reason I rose to speak in the debate on this BUI today is that there appears to be nobody on the Government side at this stage who is prepared to comment on the fact that the Government’s specifically made certain concessions to the motor vehicle industry. I will not go into the matter any further than to make that point. Mr Speaker, you will forgive me if I talk like a senator, but I make a point that the motor vehicle industry is very vital to South Australia. I will leave aside for the time being the fact that planning at the industrial and manufacturing levels is quite impossible under a bits and pieces policy with no economic criteria guiding the industry into the future and with no basis on which those firms can plan production, except for one of deep gloom. These conditions apply very generally.

I also want to point out to the House that the wine and brandy industry is perhaps even more than the motor vehicle industry a peculiarly South Australian industry. Let me make this point very thoroughly in passing: By hitting at these 2 industries in particular the Government is presumed, for reasons of logic rather than bias, to be peculiarly hitting at South Australia. I think that it is fair comment to say that it has discriminated against that State. The whole economy of South Australia is very largely involved in the automotive industry and in the wine and brandy industry. This sort of dependence is far more evident in South Australia than it is in any other State in the Commonwealth. Therefore, I think that it is apposite at this point of time to warn primary production generally of the dangers involved when the horse has bolted I use the phrase in relation to the Governmentin respect to valuations and of what should occur next in all logic. Speaking quite privately as the member for Angas, representing the Barossa Valley and the riverland areas of South Australia, I want to say this: The Government’s economic policies have been so onerous for the industry that, to a major degree, the industry is rapidly reaching the stage of bankruptcy.

I believe that we must reinstate section 3 1 A of the Income Tax Act. I am talking now as an individual. But if we were to say as an Opposition that we would reinstate that section of the Act when we are returned to government, we would not undo all the damage that has been done. So I must beseech the Minister for Tourism and Recreation (Mr Stewart) who is also Minister Assisting the Treasurer (Dr J. F. Cairns) and is sitting at the table now, to do what he can to remedy this situation. Section 3 1 A of the Income Tax Act must be reintroduced. The days have gone already, principally due to the action of this Government, when Australians can buy cheap good quality wine. But for Heaven’s sake let us trunk a little of the consumer and think of the small vineyard producer and the small irrigated areas. Let us think of the integration of the industry which is a closely interwoven and correlated industry from the grape grower level right through to the top and do something about this before it is too late.

In justice, let me repeat that all businesses in Australia today have been hit. All businesses must suffer until such forms of inflationary accountancy are accepted by the Government. All businesses must be hit while the economic climate is not suitable for investment. But above all these generalisations stand industries such as one with which I am acquainted- the wine producing industry- in which I believe one company is paying out 8 1 per cent of its taxable income in tax in one form or another during this year. I cannot keep repeating these things. Somebody on the Government side must take over the matter and do something about it or the Government will send to the wall a major industry in this country, which happens to be a South Australian industry, and will send to the wall while it is about it all the ecological factors, the charm and the tourist attraction of that industry in South Australia.

I mentioned a while ago that, due to 18 months of careful consultation between- not the past Treasurer- the present Treasurer and the industry, companies bought a very high volume of grapes from a big harvest this year. I will not go over, as I did in another debate some time ago, the steps one by one that amounted to a final no from the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). However I will point out the effect that this has had. I have here a letter from the Chairman of the Brandy Committee of the Australian Wine and Brandy Producers’ Association sent to growers who supply grapes to his firm. I will not read it all but it refers to broken promises and vicious taxation measures with their twopronged effect on sales, liquidity and even the ultimate viability of the industry. It goes on to say that the company feels that growers should be alerted now to the fact that the company might not be in a position to continue purchasing grapes from them during 1976. Senator Laucke has told me that he knows of one small vineyard that for 2 generations has supplied one firm. It has received a copy of this letter suggesting that it had better look for accommodation elsewhere in the next year.

The liquidity situation of the whole industry is causing grave concern and it is not by any means yet certain just how many companies may be forced to make only part payment for the 1975 grape season. A second letter has been sent to a different group of growers. It spells out specifically that the company may be able to make a 50 per cent payment to growers by 30 June and that the company hopes to be in a position to pay the balance by instalments of 25 per cent each on 1 October and 1 December. This is something new. Growers have always been paid out in full when their grapes have been purchased by these firms.

As I understand it, unless governments have very big chips on their shoulders, there should be no difference between an ordinary man who perhaps after World War I decided to gamble and to borrow money to buy his own small grape producing block of land, and another man who decided to work for Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd, in the private sector, the public sector or anywhere else. These average men I have mentioned took a gamble and borrowed money in order to own their own bit of soil. They are now having a major portion of their income deferred, and I can assure the House that it is not the fault of the companies. The companies have been encouraged, as this Bill encourages them over a very limited slot of time, to replenish stock, plant and equipment and to upgrade their activity. They are up to their necks in this sort of expenditure in most cases in South Australia. Due to the direct action of this Government, they have a very heavy taxation onus. The picture that is now emerging is of huge plantings of grapes in the Hunter Valley, the Riverina, the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area! South Australia, Riverland and even in the Barossa Valley that will come into production in future years and the firms which purchase those grapes from the small grower who has planted them are unable to meet their commitments for immediate payment. This is not good enough. All I can do on behalf of these people- there are a great many of them- is, as I have tried to do repeatedly, to bring this very dire situation to the notice of the House.

I finish my speech where I started by saying that it is absolutely essential to reinstate section 31a of the Income Tax Act. If that cannot be achieved by this Government, let us see an alteration of the situation such as happened when several well-known Queen’s Counsel and Sir Norman Young came over to this Parliament in 1953 and set up standard valuations which wine makers could write into their stock valuations, bearing in mind that the maturation period for quality production of wines is a lengthy one. I believe that the Government put undue weight on the Coombs report, which was, to say the least, hastily compiled. The Government acted on it. The Government acted on the assumption that the wine industry was internationally owned, which was a false assumption as can be readily shown. The Government acted on the basis that the maturation period of wine using modern winemaking techniques could be lowered. It can be lowered for bulk wines; it cannot for quality wines. If next week we are to have a new Treasurer and if the Minister for Tourism and Recreation is still the Minister Assisting the Treasurer, I hope that this matter will be taken up once again before irreparable damage is done to these industries.


-Mr Speaker -

Motion ( by Mr Nicholls) agreed to:

That the question be now put.

Original question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

Third Reading

Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.

Bill (on motion by Mr Stewart) read a third time.

page 3321


Second Reading

Debate resumed from 14 May on motion by Mr Enderby

That the Bill be now read a second time.


-The Opposition will not oppose this Bill. We will give the Bill a very speedy passage. As the AttorneyGeneral (Mr Enderby) outlined in his second reading speech, the Bill contains 3 main proposals concerning the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory. The first of these proposals is that in future the Supreme Court is to be constituted by a bench of not fewer than 3 judges when dealing with matters relating to the professional behaviour or conduct of a legal practitioner. Secondly, the Bill will enable the court to be constituted in a like manner where a single judge considers that the proceedings before the court are sufficient to warrant the bench being constituted of 3 judges. The final proposal in the Bill is that specific provision should be made for a change of venue in criminal proceedings before the court.

During the course of his second reading speech the Attorney-General rightly drew attention to the fact that doubt had recently been expressed as to the power of the Supreme Court to order a change in venue in criminal proceedings before it. Whilst, as the Attorney-General acknowledged in his second reading speech, there could be grounds for believing that the inherent jurisdiction of the court was sufficient to resolve the doubt, the passage of this legislation will put that matter beyond all doubt. The amendments dealing with the first 2 matters canvassed in the Attorney-General’s speech are in like nature to similar provisions dealing with the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory. One of those provisions in clause 9 of the Bill will ensure that an appeal lies to the High Court against a sentence when an accused is committed for sentence to the Supreme Court and is sentenced by that court. Such an amendment is necessary following the decision of the High Court in Jackson against The Queen in 1964 when it was decided that the expression ‘convicted on indictment before the Supreme Court’ did not cover the situation in which a person was not arraigned before that court but was committed to the Supreme Court for sentence by a lower court.

The changes to the Northern Territory Supreme Court Act 1961 which this Bill seeks to make are, in the view of the Opposition, necessary and desirable. They recognise the increased status of the Northern Territory Supreme Court. They remove certain areas of doubt where they previously existed, particularly in relation to the constitution of the bench of the court in providing that there shall be not less than 3 judges in dealing with matters of professional behaviour or conduct of a legal practitioner, which certainly brings the provisions relating to the Northern Territory Supreme Court into line with similar provisions concerning State courts in Australia. There disciplinary matters dealing with the behaviour of members of the legal profession are dealt with not by a single judge but by the Supreme Court sitting either as a court of appeal in respect of some States such as New South Wales or as a full court in those States in which there is not a separate court of appeal. The Opposition welcomes the legislation and will give it its full support.


-I - join with my colleague the honourable member for Bennelong (Mr Howard) in saying that we do not oppose this measure because the provisions in the Bill appear to be satisfactory. In speaking on this Bill briefly I would like to say that it should have been one of several matters to go through the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. It appears to me and to most territorians at the moment that the Labor Government is systematically endeavouring to bypass that Assembly and in so doing virtually is going against the wishes of the people. The Assembly should have had an opportunity to debate this Bill. The Assembly has not up to this time had any executive power given to it by the Labor Government despite 2 reports which have been brought up by the Joint Committee on the Northern Territory. The other Bills which should have been put to the Assembly related to the appointment of an ombudsman, rent control, land acquisition and entry permits to Darwin.

We in the Territory are dismayed at the Labor Government’s attitude towards the elected members of the Assembly. That is briefly the message which I wish to bring to the notice of the House. While we do not object to this Bill we say that it should have been passed through the Assembly along with other legislation including the National Parks and Wildlife Bill. Another illustration of this bypassing of the Assembly is the proposal to have control in Canberra over Northern Territory police which is directly contrary to the report of the Joint Committee on the Northern Territory. With those few words I support the Bill but I condemn the Government for putting through this place another piece of legislation which should have gone through the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory.

Attorney-General · CanberraAttorneyGeneral · ALP

– in reply- I did not intend to rise to my feet but I have been provoked by the remarks of the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder).

Mr Calder:

– You always seem to be, strangely enough.


-And predictably too, by the honourable member. I rise because of this sense of provocation. I confine myself to saying that it is a great pity in my view that he continues to regard the Northern Territory as though it is a foreign country.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

Third Reading

Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.

Bill (on motion by Mr Enderby) read a third time.

page 3322


Second Reading

Debate resumed from 2 1 May on motion by Dr Patterson:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

Darling Downs

-This Bill deals with the allocation of Commonwealth finance to assist the beef industry. It is to be regretted that due to a series of unfortunate circumstances the beef industry has fallen on rather perilous times. It is good to see that the various State governments have responded to the requests of the industry and are making funds available to enable producers who have been savagely hit to carry on. I am not one of those people who subscribe to the proposition that we can blame the governments for everything that has gone wrong in any particular industry, but I believe that the present Australian Labor Government has a very serious question mark against its credibility as far as the beef industry in particular and primary industry in general are concerned. It is to be regretted that it has withdrawn from primary industry all the major incentives to produce. The Government has done nothing concrete whatsoever to assist the industry to overcome the cost factor. The industry is faced with a 2-pronged problem- falling overseas prices and continually escalating costs on the home front. I believe that it was the significant reaction of the honourable Joh BjelkePeterson the Premier of Queensland, which acted as a catalyst and inspired, although far too tardily, the present Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wriedt) to endeavour to follow that marvellous example that was given by the Premier of Queensland. As honourable members will know, he made available $10m at the very low interest rate of Vh per cent per annum.

Dr Patterson:

– You cannot get it.


– The Minister would be a lot better off listening and learning and paying a tribute to that great man because when he endeavoured to follow the Premier’s example he did not match the 2V4 per cent; he made government money available at 4 per cent. The Minister would be a lot better occupied in endeavouring to equal his exploits rather than following him in the manner in which the Minister did. I congratulate the Minister for following that man’s magnificent example and realising that the Queensland Premier was the pathfinder and the trail blazer. He was the man who inspired the Minister to get off his seat and do something about the problem. My comments are somewhat brief. However, it is good to see that there is recognition of the problem. I know that the areas that are causing us some concern will be itemised in a most certain and positive manner by the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair) and the honourable member for Paterson (Mr 0’Keefe)

New England

– I must apologise to the House for not being in the chamber when the debate on the Bill began, but the conclusion of debate on the earlier legislation was a little earlier than I expected. This Bill, the States Grants (Beef Industry) Bill, is the second such Bill to be introduced by the Government in recognition of the plight of the beef cattle industry. It is a plight which dates back now nearly 1 8 months. I think it is a condemnation of the Government that it is only now that this matter is being considered by the Parliament and it is only because the States took the initiative that the legislation has been introduced. This is equally regrettable because of the failure of the first measure which the Government introduced. As there are so many other factors which need to be taken into account in looking at the plight of the beef industry, I think that it is necessary that in this House we should canvass some of those areas in a hope that perhaps the Government might, even though belatedly, take action to correct some of those things which lie within its embrace.

There are a number of positive measures which the Government should have taken. Tragically it has not done so. The only 2 things which the Government has done have been in the financial field, first through the Commonwealth Bank and now through supplemental loans to be made in conjunction with the States through the various rural assistance agencies. While we are delighted that at least some further recognition is being given, let there be no mistake in the ranks of the Government or in the ranks of those who are beef producers or in the minds of Australians generally, that the Opposition regards the measures taken by the Government as totally inadequate to meet what is an increasingly difficult position for one of Australia ‘s major industries.

First of all, I should like to set out in brief form the current position of the beef industry. The plight of the individual producer is deteriorating. Fortunately, seasonal conditions generally are good although there are dry patches and of course it is now winter. The conjunction of those 2 forces is putting pressures on producers to realise their herds. In many instances their financial plight is such that they have no choice but are forced to sell stock on a market which regrettably is very low. But if it were not for the seasonal conditions generally being favourable, I believe that the whole of the cattle producing industry in Australia would now be in a far more critical position than it is.

Let me illustrate my concern by reference to average saleyard prices of cattle in Newmarket, the principal marketing centre in Victoria. In November 1974, the price for ox beef was 14c a pound; by February 1975 it had dropped to 12.5c- a 10.7 per cent reduction. For vealers the price dropped from 19c to 16c over the same period- a drop of 15.8 per cent. For cow beef it dropped from 12c to 10c- a drop of 16.7 per cent. If one looks at the February to February figures, one realises just how dramatic this situation is. From November to February, there was a drop of about 10 per cent to 16 per cent in prices. But if those prices are compared with prices 12 months before, that is, February 1974 to February 1975, one sees that in February 1974 for ox beef the price was 37c; in February 1975 it was 12.5c- a drop of 66.2 per cent; for vealers the price dropped from 41c a pound to 1 6c a pound- a drop of 6 1 per cent; for cow beef the price dropped from 34c to 10c a pound- a 70.6 per cent fall.

In other words, over 12 months the fall in prices has amounted to anything up to 70 per cent. Taking this over a period when costs have risen for rural production, and taking the Bureau of Agriculture Economics figures at about 25 per cent for the year, there has been a drop in prices of 70 per cent and an increase in costs of about 25 per cent. So the whole of the financial position of those in the beef industry has certainly changed dramatically. The result is that the number of station hands employed on beef properties has been significantly reduced. There is no doubt that while it is hard to assess what percentage of those who are unemployed in Australia have come from beef properties, overall there has been a significant reduction of those employed. Of course, there is little alternative employment and no assistance has been given by the Government to those who are unemployed in the beef industry. So for all that the Government makes a great song and dance about its concern for the unemployed, nothing has been done for employees in the beef industry.

Disease and parasite control programs are certainly being curtailed and will be further curtailed. This is particularly significant at a time when the Government is making a great song and dance about increasing the quantitative allocation for bovine tuberculosis and brucellosis eradication. We accept that nominally there has been an increase in allocation, but in practically every State including my own State of New South Wales each one of the beef producing areas has less money available for eradication programs. As a result there has been a reduction m eradication.

All this of course is nonsense at a time when the Government, if it only had enough foresight, could have introduced a compensation scheme which would have cost it less than at any other time. The Government could have introduced some type of regional employment development assistance for the mustering of herds in bigger properties to ensure that in those places there could have been an acceleration of tuberculosis and brucellosis eradication. This is another one of the consequences: Disease and control programs are being curtailed and nothing is being done adequately by the Government to reverse that trend.

Overstocking is common. Australia is now experiencing a higher grazing pressure generally than at any time in its history. Of course that is occurring at a time when fertiliser is costing more. As a result of the Government’s decision on superphosphate, it is assessed that over the southern States, there will be at least a 20 per cent reduction in the use of superphosphate this year. I regard that assessment as being extraordinarily conservative. In my own area last year there were over 100 000 tons of superphosphate for which forward orders for aerial spreading had been committed. This year there are no forward orders for aerial spreading of superphosphate. While it is true that the interim report of the Industries Assistance Commission is scheduled for the end of July, and some may be waiting for that date, there is no doubt that there will be a very significant reduction in the application of superphosphate. So with over-stocking high and with a reduction in the use of fertiliser, there is another very real cause for concern in the industry. Again, the Government is doing nothing about superphosphate and it is doing nothing to look at this problem.

Abattoir operators and meat processors are experiencing difficulty in finding skilled labour and in meeting the costs of operation. Many have indicated that they may not be able to achieve their maximum kill this year because of the degree to which costs have increased. The whole forward position is being prejudiced. Again this is a serious consequence for an industry on which the Government is just turning its back and for which it is doing very little. Late last year it was estimated that the total slaughtering in Australia for 1975 would be about 8.5 million head, producing about 1.5 million tons of beef. Of course cattle available for slaughter are well in excess of that estimate, possibly by about 2 million head. More recent estimates indicate that total slaughterings may not even reach the original estimate. What was previously a marketing problem for the industry now seems to be both a marketing and a live cattle problem.

Doubt still exists over the total export of beef from Australia to the United States in the current year. Doubt certainly exists about the future of our trade with Japan. The Government made Little protest about the beef stabilisation scheme in Japan, yet it is a scheme which obviously must prejudice our ability to sell beef to the Japanese housewife. There are problems in knowing where we stand with the European Economic Community. The Government makes some claim to having achieved some market opportunities in the Middle East. Those opportunities certainly are there, but they are more for mutton, particularly mutton from Western Australia than for beef. But those opportunities are still inadequate to provide adequate outlets for the large herds of cattle and beef generally which are available in our country. Of course another factor which has to be taken into account is the tremendous cost in services in inputs for all those in the cattle industry. I have mentioned in this House before my concern at the increase in rates as they affect the beef producer. In various shires around Australia rates have increased, both as a result of revaluation and because of cost pressures on local government as an outcome of the inadequate financial policies of this Government, by from 30 per cent to 60 per cent, and those rate increases are a further very great burden on an industry whose prices received have fallen by up to 70 per cent over the past 12 months.

Much has been done by the Meat Board to find new markets, but in our view the whole industry is prejudiced because the Government has not been prepared to adopt, either on international markets or in domestic management, the positive measures that are necessary. There is no doubt that the first proposal the Government introduced, the making available of $20m to specialist beef producers through the Commonwealth Development Bank last December, perhaps was better than nothing. The Government indicated that it would review the situation in 3 months time.

The Government has faded to realise that even now 11 1/2 per cent, in the current circumstances of beef production, is far too high an interest rate to be paying for a product that faces aU the problems of the beef industry. Although the Government claims credit for it and although it speaks about moneys not having been advanced to the full extent of that $20m, there is no doubt that the amount is inadequate because of the cost of the money and the manner in which it is being lent. There are many way by which the beef industry could have been helped other than by making available $20m at 1 1 1/2 per cent through the Commonwealth Bank.

Mr O’Keefe:

– And a number of rural producers require help to survive.


– As my colleague has said, rural producers are requiring more money in order to merely survive, but the Government is not providing the money, certainly not on a basis that will help these producers. Of course, it is not just a matter of the interest rate or the inadequacy of the Development Bank procedure; it is also a question of the restriction of eligibility. The first advance was made only to those producers who received 85 per cent or more of their incomes from beef cattle enterprises. I believe that that is unreasonably restricted. There is no doubt that many in Australia at present are significantly dependent on a range of products, but for many of those in the pastoral areas of Australia beef has significantly replaced wool, and I believe that it would have been far more sensible if there had been some basis upon which the eligibility could have been considered instead of leaving it at just the 85 per cent. Indeed, to my mind, 50 per cent of their income would be a far more adequate assessment for a person who was seeking help. So I seriously criticise the eligibility criteria in that original plan.

The Government could have done many tilings. It has now come forward with this particular proposal, but perhaps I should look first at other things that it could do, for until now all it has done has been to provide that $20m at 11 1/2 per cent. We have spoken repeatedly on the matter in this House and have made representations to the Prime Minister and to the responsible Minister, but they just do not seem to realise, understand or comprehend. I must say that I am extraordinarily disappointed that the Minister for Northern Development, who knows the industry, has not done something about it.

There has been a proposal to suspend the beef export charge. It is said that that charge is not going to return an increased price directly to the producer. Certainly that is true, but the beef producer is the man who pays it. Does the Government not realise the chain of prices in the market? Does it not realise that, if a charge is paid at some stage along the chain particularly in the beef export instance, it is a levy that ultimately is paid by the producer himself? If that charge is removed, there will be competition within the industry which will ensure that at least a significant part of that sum, if not the total of the 1.6c, will be returned to the producer. So we see every reason for the suspension of that beef export charge.

It is of no use the Government saying that it might not be returned. That is utter nonsense. If the Government does not believe that it will be returned, let it try it. Why can it not try it? Is the Government so keen on getting its hot greasy hands on to the hard-pressed fingers of the beef industry? Goodness me, as if applying that charge was not bad enough, apparently the Government now is saying that, in respect of that $3m that apparently it is lending to the Meat Board to offset freight costs for that rather unfortunate sale to the Soviet Union, it will place a levy on the beef producer to pay for that as well. Goodness gracious me, the Government really has no comprehension of the problems of the industry in the present climate.

Let me deal with export incentives. There used to be reasonable export incentives available to the beef industry and to meat exporters, but they have been curtailed seriously. As a result of the changed policies of this Government because of its failure to recognise the role of exports, the export incentives that used to be available to exporters have been reduced significantly. Of course, it is not only a matter of incentives being reduced. Transport charges have increased very significantly as a result of the general increase in fuel costs around the world. Bunkering charges and freight charges have increased, and reefer cargo rates are now at a point where it will make it more and more difficult for us to compete in overseas markets. So the conjunction of cost increases at home in each of these different sectors is making the marketing of our product more and more prohibitive.

The Government needs to recognise this as part of the consequences of its policies. It is not just something that has happened. It is the product of economic policies, of mismanagement, and of the failure to recognise the chain connection between the producer and the consumer. It is the failure to try to take positive steps to contain the impact of those charges that is leading the beef producer to his present serious position. I could talk about many other factors and things that could be done.

If time was available I should like to do so, but I have said on other occasions in this House that on our side of the House there are 2 things to which we will give urgent priority, and I would again recommend to the Minister that he turn his attention to those. The first is the immediate suspension of that beef export charge, and the second is an acceleration of the tuberculosis and brucellosis eradication campaign with the introduction of a compensation scheme and, perhaps, the application of some Regional Employment Development scheme money to enable the mustering of herds and the accelerating of the eradication of these diseases. Those 2 things ai _’ of immediate importance. We support the introduction of this money and the application of this Bill, because after all it is a recognition of the need for initiative, as my colleague the honourable member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh) has said. It is a scheme that ensures that the States ‘initiative is spread more broadly.

However there are some criticisms that I must make. Each of the non-Labor States has said to me, through its Minister, that it believes that it is not being given an allocation of money equal to that which the Labor States are receiving, particularly South Australia. Of course, South Australia did not have a scheme for its beef producers. We are told that the Federal Government went along to that State and said: ‘If you provide some money, we will give you $ 1 for $ 1 on it’. The position seems to be that in at least Victoria and Western Australia additional money has certainly been allocated to the beef producers but on which $1 for $1 moneys, it is said, are not being provided by the Federal Government. I am disappointed that that should be so, for beef producers in those States are affected as surely as are those anywhere else in this country. I believe that it is necessary that, if money is to be advanced, it should be advanced on an equitable basis State by State.

The second thing I would say about this legislation is that, again, I am not sure whether the Government knows what it is at. I think it is most commendable that additional money be made available through the rural assistance agencies, but several factors need to be considered. First, the present restraints on lending by the rural assistance agencies, designed for an entirely different purpose in the circumstances of a market-induced collapse, not a Governmentinduced collapse, are such that people who are seeking money through the rural reconstruction boards have to be just about at the end of their tether before they will be successful. I do not believe that that is necessarily a criterion to be considered in an industry where, we are told, there is a reasonable prospect of market recovery within a period of about 12 months. For that reason, I think we need to see whether or not the rural reconstruction agencies are at the moment able to advance funds to people who might reasonably be expected to recover. In other words, are the conditions of lending too tight? I am quite sure that in some instances they are, and I think it might have been far more commendable if the Government had made some report to us on the circumstances of the applications being made to it so that we could know whether the conditions were too tight and whether or not they should be broadened to reasonably advance moneys to rural producers who could benefit from some additional liquidity.

The second thing is that there has been a problem about the necessity to repay funds that are being recycled through the agencies. Each of the agencies is now in a position where money is flowing back in. From funds that have been advanced, they are now getting the return from producers who, in some areas, are able to repay them. I think those moneys might reasonably be allowed to be recycled through the rural assistance boards rather than to be repaid to the Consolidated Revenue Fund through the Federal agency. I know that that was the original term and condition of the loan, but I think in the present climate it would be justifiable for those additional moneys to be made available to the agencies.

Thirdly, it also concerns me that there still seems to be within the terms and conditions of this Bill a restraint on the general nature of the lending which I do not think is necessarily in the overall best interests of the industry. When a government advances money there are problems of determining how to best cover the advances and whether there is sufficient flexibility available. The variations between States of course are not a product of anything that this Government has done; they are the result of the things the States have done. The second reading speech of the Minister for Northern Development (Dr Patterson) shows that the interest rate in Queensland is lower because the Queensland Government has been more sympathetic. It is not because the Federal Government has been more sympathetic. The Federal Government has provided its money at the standard rate. Of course it has to do so. But the provisions of the money at the Federal Government’s standard rate means that producers in States other than Queensland will pay a significantly higher rate of interest than those in Queensland. I believe that this Government should have had enough understanding of the national significance of the beef industry to have done more about the industry than just to sit back and say: ‘We have been extraordinarily generous. We are giving you this sum of money and you ought to be jolly thankful for it.’

The limit of $10,000 on each loan I regard as being a little too low. It is hard to say what the upper limit should be. I believe that it is far preferable to allow the setting of an upper limit within an arrangement entered into by each of the rural reconstruction agencies after discussion at administrative levels. If it proves to be too low it can be adjusted. Once it is written into a second reading speech and the whole nature of the grant is formalised it makes it far more difficult for those who are administering the money to change that basis.

This industry has critical problems and the Government should not be unduly restrictive. It should help. But unfortunately of course that is not the motivation of this Government. The Government could have helped and could have been more positive in its help. It could have extended its form of assistance. Of course the very fact that Government supporters are not interested regrettably is demonstrated again in relation to this legislation as it is with almost every other piece of legislation we have before the chamber at the moment in the paucity of speakers from the Government side. It is tragic. Government supporters just do not seem to be interested in legislation. They are not interested in the problems of individuals. While the beef producer is in a position -

Mr Morrison:

– You are still talking.


– How many speakers has the Government had on legislation this afternoon? Would the Minister like to have a look through the list? This week the Government has had hardly any speakers on any Bills. That is the point that I wish to make. Government supporters are not interested in people. They are not interested any longer. I think it is only too true to say that the Government presently is more and more isolated from those whom it seeks to govern. If that position remains unchanged the Government certainly will get the soundest thrashing a government has ever had, not only in the by-election that is shortly to come but also at the next election. I cannot think of a government that more deserves it. The Opposition supports this legislation but regrets that more positive initiatives have not been taken by the Government. It regards this measure as too little, too late.

Mr FitzPATRICK (Darling) (3.19)- I support the States Grants (Beef Industry) Bill 1975. I point out that although it is a very difficult time for the beef industry at present, under normal market conditions the beef industry is very important to the Australian economy. It is so important that it would justify the support being given to it by the Government even in this period when we are continually told by the Opposition that the Government should cut back on its spending. It must be remembered that the gross value of cattle slaughtered in Australia in 1973-74 amounted to $1,1 76m and the beef and veal export, in that year amounted to $6 1 9m.

The Government is well aware of the gravity of the situation in the beef cattle industry. It has already taken prompt action to ensure the survival of producers who will be viable when the conditions return to normal. I think it must be remembered that although Australians are eating 50 per cent more beef now than they did 2 years ago, the industry has had to suffer greatly reduced export markets due, no doubt, to selfprotective decisions made by our trading partners such as Japan, the United States of America and the European Economic Community countries. These have been brought about, no doubt, by the downturn in their own economies and the effect these have had on beef consumption, on feed prices and on sales.

When representatives of the Australian National Cattlemen’s Council met the Government’s Resources Committee they pointed out that in their opinion this slump was only temporary and that if the industry were given Commonwealth assistance it would be able to ride out the slump. It is important that frank and open discussions take place between the Government and representatives of the industry. Much as some people would like to claim that the supply and demand factors of the free market will return a reasonable income to the producer, in both the wool and the beef industries it is quite obvious that this does not apply. The regulations adopted by the purchasing companies and the buying cartels make the demand and supply theory unrealistic. I believe the floor price of wool has highlighted this fact, not in a time of crisis but in a time of normal supply and demand. There is no doubt that without the floor price the wool industry would collapse. But it appears that the same conditions are starting to show up in the beef industry. The future of both the wool and the beef industries depends on honest and frank discussions between the industry and the Government at all levels. Timely and adequate action should be taken to meet the short term problem and of course some planning should be commenced so that we can handle the problems of the future.

As I said before, in discussion with the representatives of the cattlemen they pointed out that they were not looking for any handouts; all they required was carry on finance. The Australian Government at that time provided the $20m for which the beef producers asked under the terms that they required it. (Quorum formed) The Government took the action that was requested by the industry. But I want to make it clear that the industry indicated that if similar circumstances continued further assistance would be required. We were informed that approaches were being made to the State governments at the same time. Of course the

State governments had the opportunity to examine the problem in the light of their own situations and they decided on various measures of assistance. It is a credit to this Government that in spite of the action it has already taken, it has decided to match the grants made by State governments and has provided another $ 19.6m to assist the beef industry. This shows real concern. This assistance comes so soon after the guarantee to provide finance for the floor price of wool and to maintain that price at 250c a kilo.

I am surprised at some of the claims made by members of the National Country Party in discussion of this matter. They have mentioned canning facilities, the export of dried meats and so forth. There is no doubt that greater provision should have been made for the export of our meats but this blame should be placed on 23 years of Liberal-Country Party Government. No one could expect this Government to correct all of these things in the time it has been in power. We should have stabilisation schemes and we should have markets. We should all work together to bring about an orderly marketing system in the beef industry as we have done in the wool industry. There is no doubt now the Opposition certainly showed its concern for the wool industry- when in Government it failed to introduce a floor price. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has pointed out that out of an amount of $950m for assistance to industry, the rural industries got $670m. I think that shows the real concern which this Government has for the rural industries.

The honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair) said that the Government turned its back and did nothing for rural employees. I point out what took place in 1 97 1 just before this Government came to power. What did the Opposition, which was then in government, do for employees in the rural industries? I refer to the Rural Reconstruction Employment Training scheme which was introduced by the honourable member for Flinders (Mr Lynch) who was then the Minister for Labour and National Service. He introduced a training scheme which provided $46.20 a week for a man, but if he had any other income that amount was cut back. He had to go somewhere else to receive this training. If his wife earned money that amount was also deducted from the $46.20. Honourable members will find that information in the second reading speech of the then Minister if they want to look it up. But the performance of the honourable member for New England was much worse than that. If we look at the rural reconstruction scheme of 1971 and if we turn to Part IV, Rehabilitation, we find the Government was prepared to provide limited assistance for those obliged to leave the industry where, in the opinion of the authority administering the scheme, that assistance was necessary to alleviate conditions of personal hardship. That Pan goes on to state that such people may get a loan of $1,000. What great assistance the Government of that time gave to people forced to leave the industry. I point out that at the same time there was a notice in the ‘Maritime Worker’ stating that 120 redundant wharf labourers would share $400,000. What a great difference that is from the lack of concern the Opposition has for the rural industries. I believe this Government is providing very good and genuine assistance to our rural industries. I congratulate it on the move it is making in relation to the beef industry. I ask the House to pass this Bill.


-The States Grants (Beef Industry) Bill which is before the House will provide assistance to an industry which is in sore trouble, but it will not provide prompt action, as the previous speaker the honourable member for Darling (Mr FitzPatrick) suggested. The honourable member speaks of difficulties starting to show up. I wonder when he expects to see difficulties that have really shown up. The beef industry faces prices it has not seen in a very long time. In real terms those prices are lower than any in memory. In Western Australia the price has halved in the last 12 months. In every other State the situation is worse than that. I telephoned a number of the major markets and received the following answers to my requests for going prices: Newmarket, 38c a kilo; Homebush, 31c; Cannon Hill, 29c; Gepps Cross, 33c; and so on. Store beef prices are even worse. The price for good store cows are: Clermont, $26; Wagga, $25; Wangaratta, $31; and so on. There is no profit in those prices; and the Government should not need to be told that there is no profit in those prices.

Many producers are in extreme difficulty. Those who have the bulk of their income coming from beef- they are beef specialists- are in so much difficulty that under the present circumstances they will not survive. In the eastern States prices are one-third of what they were in 1973. A Bureau of Agricultural Economics occasional paper gives us an index of the money which is left to a beef producer to pay for his family to live, to service his debt, to replace capital equipment which is worn out and for any expansion. In 1973-74 in New South Wales, if the index were 229 it would now be 94. The position is similar in every other State except in the Northern Territory where the index would be negative. A Northern Territory beef producer would have dropped from 139 to the point of where he is showing a loss. Those are average figures. That is not the extreme case. That is not even the beef specialist. They are the average figures for the residual spending power of people who own beef cattle. The figures take into account the money those people earn from other sources. The paper demonstrates that beef cattle are not only not providing their owners with a going living, but they are as well undermining the other resources of various rural enterprises.

These people are not crying wolf. I have mentioned all this to demonstrate that the industry is in extraordinary difficulties. Quite often we have had thrown at us the suggestion: ‘You people recommend acceptance of the market forces. Why do you now support a measure for assistance to an industry which has been affected by market forces?’ The answer is that the industry has been affected by market forces and bad government. I make the point that these circumstances are in no way ordinary. There is very good reason for this assistance to this industry in this measure, and for other assistance in greater measure. For that matter, there is good reason for this assistance in greater measure. Of course, the Government has some obligation to any people anywhere in Australia on welfare grounds to see that they and those who depend on them do not suffer too greatly because of market crises or through circumstances which are no fault of their own. The people directly involved in this industry are not assisted by the National Employment and Training Scheme, the Regional Employment Development scheme or by unemployment benefits although some of the people who are out of work because of the decline in this industry are so assisted. A great many people are out of work because of the decline in this industry.

Australia will need the beef industry again. We are given to understand by such expert advice as we can get that we can expect a lift in world market prices within 2 years, but I am well aware that these predictions are of doubtful reliability. On the other hand, they are the very best that we have to go on. We need this industry to continue. We need the herds to be available when we are able to develop a market for Australian beef overseas.

The beef industry receives very little assistance from the Australian taxpayer or from the Australian consumer. It contributes a great deal through its added costs to the assistance of other

Australian industries and to Australians outside the industry. I am speaking in the main of the cost that it bears because of the burden of the tariff and the way in which that has forced up the costs of this industry. One calculation- and it gives a rough measure of the order of the burden that this industry bears- would suggest that the meat industry overall contributes some $192m annually to the support of other industries through these added costs and receives approximately $27m in government and public support. I have not been able to obtain figures that are specific to the beef section of the meat industry. The figures that I have just cited were calculated before the superphosphate bounty was removed and a levy of lc a pound was imposed on export meats. People in the industry are not receiving much and they are providing a great deal.

The Green Paper spoke of the benefits of counter-cyclic assistance to the industry and how this had an advantage in that it allocated resources more efficiently than they are now allocated. This proposal before the House is an example of counter-cyclic assistance. This industry can put forward an exceptionally strong case for succour. During the term of this Government it has lost the benefit of the superphosphate bounty and an additional lc a pound charge has been, put on export killings. The 1.6c a pound imposed as a charge on meat slaughter, incidentally, amounts roughly to 10 per cent of gross receipts. But consider the effect that this can have on net receipts for the producer who is now breaking even with his cattle. If this 1.6c a pound levy were to be removed, he would make a substantial profit; that is, a 10 per cent profit. If he were showing a loss, the removal of this levy could bring his operations to an even balance. The levy makes an enormous difference to his profit or loss situation and this is one area where the Government ought to act to assist the industry in the short term.

Inflation has driven producers’ costs up in a way that no one imagined would be possible a short 2 years ago. Not a great deal of time is left to me as I have agreed to cut my speech to 10 minutes so that other speakers may participate in the debate. Finally, I would give one example of the cost burden that the Australian beef producer carries, which is not carried in other countries of the world. A Mr Robert Murray writing in the ‘Australian Financial Review’ compared the $23 a head that it costs to slaughter beef cattle in Australia with the cost of a mere $3.50 a head to slaughter beef cattle in Japan. It is very difficult for Australian beef producers to compete on world markets.


-In common with the honourable member for Moore (Mr Hyde) I have agreed to limit the time on which I will speak to this Bill. There are many things that I would like to say about the beef industry but with the pressure imposed on the House today by the amount of business to be considered, I will deal with only a very small section of those aspects. My colleagues who preceded me have canvassed the broad areas of the trouble experienced by the beef industry and so I will limit myself to a few remarks on this legislation.

I doubt very much that $ 19.6m is a sufficient amount of finance to relieve the extreme difficulties in which the beef industry finds itself today. The Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wriedt) obviously recognised this when he placed before Cabinet a submission for $30m. Further funding for this purpose may be discussed at the proposed review meeting early in 1976. I trust that the Government will keep a close watch on the industry to gauge its needs in the future.

While we agree with the legislation- and I commend the Government for at last following the initiatives of the States- I do quarrel with the unfair allocation to individual States. There would appear to have been a misunderstanding between the Government of Western Australia, in particular, and the Commonwealth Government. I believe that the governments of Western Australia, Victoria and New South Wales have certainly not had a fair deal in comparison with South Australia and Tasmania. I believe also that the Northern Territory was prepared to match the Commonwealth with $1.5m, but the Commonwealth was prepared to meet the Northern Territory only to the tune of $ 1 m.

In this respect, let us look quickly first at the State and Commonwealth contributions and compare them with the cattle numbers in each State. Of the $ 19.6m, Queensland is to receive $10m. It has a cattle population of 5 876 000. New South Wales with cattle number of 8 457 000 will receive $5m. Victoria will receive $2m for its 10 297 000 cattle. South Australia will receive $1.5m. Its cattle population is 1 692 000. With a cattle population of 2 330 000, Western Australia is to receive $800,000. Tasmania will receive $300,000 in respect of its 884 000 cattle.

Mr King:

– It is penalising Victoria.


-Yes. These amounts of money match the contributions of each State.

The misunderstanding to which I referred earlier must have started back at an Agricultural Council meeting in late January. It is apparent that the Commonwealth Minister for Agriculture thought he had reached agreement with the States that the beef industry was in serious trouble, that the problem was of a magnitude too large for the Commonwealth to tackle alone, and that the States would have to be part of any rescue operation. As I understand the then situation, no organisation was set up to implement the decisions made at that meeting. I am not in a position to know where the breakdown occurred. The States probably thought the Commonwealth should take the initiative and put proposals to the States. The Commonwealth probably was waiting for the States to come up with initiatives and proposals to the Commonwealth. To my mind, the whole situation indicates in fact not only the inefficiency but also the lack of concern that this Labor Government has for the rural areas of Australia

Time went by until the problem of the beef producers in Queensland became of such magnitude that the Queensland Government was forced to go it alone. It announced on 27 February that $10m would be made available in loans to its producers at an interest rate of 2Vi per cent. This action was followed by an announcement by the Victorian Government on 14 March that $2m would be made available as carry-on finance for beef producers. The Western Aus.tralian Government, still hopeful of a CommonwealthState arrangement, waited until 14 April before announcing that it would make $800,000 available to its producers as carry-on finance. Not having had consultation with the Federal Government- and I hold the Federal Government responsible for this breakdown, it being the senior partner and having reached agreement back in January- Western Australia allocated this amount as an interim measure. As it has endeavoured to point out at subsequent meetings with the Australian Government, it related this $800,000 to the 1974-75 financial year and the period immediately following 30 June. It argued that the level of funding would have to be reconsidered in relation to demand established when the scheme got under way. The Western Australian Government submitted that, since the Australian Government was now thinking in terms of a scheme running for the next 12 months without any flexibility, it wished to increase its contribution to $ 1.6m.

The South Australian and Tasmanian governments would not commit themselves to a contribution until they knew that the Australian

Government would match it dollar for dollar and until they were aware that the scheme was intended to run for 12 months. They submitted amounts which were in excess of those for Western Australia on the basis of cattle numbers and industry problems. Western Australia has 2.33. million cattle and South Australia has 1.692 million. Western Australia covers a third of the continent and much of our cattle population is in the north of the State. In 1971-72 there were 1.044 million cattle in the south-west and 756 000 in the Kimberleys and if it is recognised that Queensland has a special problem it should also be recognised that we in Western Australia have one, with nearly half of our cattle in the north of the State. I do not begrudge South Australia its $1.5m. I am pointing out that we in Western Australia have a greater problem. We were prepared, when it was realised that it was a 12-month scheme, to double our commitment on the same day and at the same meeting at which South Australia and Tasmania made their initial commitment.

This is the right type of scheme. There is a great need now for low interest finance for the survival of this essential industry but I protest at the hard line the Government has taken with the States, particularly Victoria and Western Australia in the division of this money. I would also have liked the States to be left in the position of handling the allocation of this finance through their chosen agencies. The Western Australian Government, realising the desperate situation of many of its producers, was proceeding to allocate this money as quickly as possible and with the smallest amount of red tape possible through the Rural and Industries Bank of Western Australia. Now the money is directed through the Rural Reconstruction Authority and, while I recognise that this is a very worthy organisation, it necessarily means a form of lending which involves a degree of bureaucracy and that certaintly takes time. I am concerned also that the terms of lending by the Rural Reconstruction Authority will be applicable to this money and that therefore it Will be necessary to prove long term viability which is impossible at present beef prices, especially for the very low echelon of beef producers to whom this money is directed and who the State governments initially visualised would be receiving sustenance money almost immediately.

On the broader issues, I would hate anybody to think that this is a welfare program. Much criticism is directed by the Government at rural industries and the amount of assistance given by the Government to them is repeatedly mentioned, but the bulk of that money is loan money. This also is loan money which will eventually come back to the Government and the taxpayers.


-Mr Deputy Speaker-

Motion (by Mr Nicholls) put:

That the question be now put.

The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Hon. G. G. D. Scholes)

AYES: 60

NOES: 53

Majority……. 7



Question so resolved in the affirmative.

Original question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

Message from the Administrator recommending appropriation announced.

Third Reading

Minister for Northern Development and Minister for the Northern Territory · Dawson · ALP

– by leave- I move:

Some very serious allegations were made against the Government regarding the distribution -

Motion (by Mr Nicholls) put:

That the question be now put.

The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Hon. G. G. D. Scholes)

AYES: 59

NOES: 53

Majority……. 6



Question so resolved in the affirmative. Original question resolved in the affirmative. Bill read a third time.

WOOL TAX BILLS (Nos 1 to 5) 1975

Second Readings

Debate resumed from 28 May on motion by Mr Hayden

That the Bills be now read a second time.

New England

-These 5 Bills are all considered in a context of our having learnt only through the second reading speech of the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) that the Government had finally resolved its difficulties as to the level of wool price support for the next wool-selling season. The first thing I want to say to the Parliament is that it is about time the Government, its Ministers and particularly the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), started to remember that major policy decisions taken by the Government should be announced in this place so that the members of this Parliament are given an opportunity to consider those policy decisions. The wool tax price support decision is a notable example of decisions being announced outside this place. For too long we have had Ministers tabling statements, tabling reports and issuing statements announcing major policy issues on which the Parliament is denied any chance of expressing an attitude. I regard it as absolutely deplorable that after a protracted delay from the Friday Cabinet to the following Tuesday Caucus when the level of the wool price support was finally resolved, it was only per chance that members of this Parliament learned that a decision had been taken. It was only when we read in the Press that such a decision had been taken by Caucus that we knew anything of it.

Reference was made in the Minister’s second reading speech to the fact that the Minister for Agriculture (SenatorWreidt) had issued a Press statement that a decision had been taken. What a deplorable way to carry on the business of Government. It is essential that if major policy decisions are taken while the Parliament is in session, they be presented to the Parliament. We on this side of the House take strong exception to the practice of this Government of denying the Parliament any opportunity to discuss such matters.

The second matter I wish to raise concerns the legislation itself. Every member of the Australian community needs to recognise that the reason for the introduction of this legislation is that the funds so collected will insulate the taxpayer against the cost of the wool price support scheme. The honourable member for Kingston (Dr Gun) and others have said that the cost of the scheme will be a charge on the Australian taxpayer. These Bills demonstrate that not to be so. This group of Bills provides for a levy on the wool grower which is designed to ensure that the interest payable on funds borrowed and the charges paid on wool stored will be covered by these funds.

The moneys approved by legislation previously considered by this House and used by the Australian Wool Corporation for the purchase of wool together with those other moneys- the money borrowed from the private trading banks; the $ 1 3m of original capital, and the $42m which was earned as profit by the Australian Wool Board and the Australian Wool Commission before their incorporation and finally by the Aus.tralian Wool Corporation, all moneys earned as a result of Government policies when the Liberal and Country Parties were in office- are only loan funds, other than with respect to profit. The profit earned, of course, reflects distinctly the sounder and wiser policies pursued by LiberalCountry Party governments. All the other funds are loan funds advanced by the Government at commercial rates of interest which I think at the moment is 1 1 per cent. This is being paid by the levy. The wool growers of Australia are not being dependent on the Australian community. They are standing on their own feet. The levy will ensure that the wool growers will not be in a position of being in any way subservient to the rest of the community.

The legislation, of course, has the support of the Opposition. However, members of the Opposition are concerned about what will be the position in 1976-77. 1 have said before, and I would like to reassert it this afternoon, that it is necessary that legislation of this character, having been introduced, is not looked at only on a short term context. We accept that the levy is necessary to cover the charges for 12 months. But we believe that the price support level should be set after the close of the season’s market and announced in such a way that there is no speculation as to what price support will be applicable for the next 12 months. We have said on this side of the House that we believe there is a necessity for a wool price support scheme and that in government we will maintain such a scheme, so that every member of the wool and textile industry- producer, topmaker processer- can be assured that in government we will maintain a wool price support scheme. That means that if there is an election between now and next year and the government then changes there will be a wool price support scheme. But we believe that the level of the price support should be announced after the close of the current year’s market. In other words, the decision should be made at such a time that there will not be speculation as to what the level should be.

The legislation before us relates to the wool price support level for 1975-76. The level is at the same rate as it was last year. In other words, the $42m collected last year will be duplicated subject to the availability of wool and the prices commanded for it over the next wool selling season.

It is important in considering that aspect that we look at the implications of what is happening to the money. There are some aspects of this that concern the Opposition. We are told that of the $42m about 1 12m has been spent. Therefore about $30m of the levy collected for 1974-75 is still held by the Treasurer (Dr. J. F. Cairns) on behalf of the Australian wool growing community in accordance with the requirements of last year’s legislation. That $30m, together with the $42m provided for under this legislation, will give us somewhere about $70m for the next wool selling season.

We acknowledge that there is a big stockpile of wool. We know that there will be interest and storage charges on that wool. But at the same time we believe that the Government has a responsibility to account to the wool growing community for these funds. We would expect at the end of the year that the Australian Wool Corporation will report not only on its activities but also on how much of the wool tax money has in fact been used. If the Corporation does not have figures entirely within its responsibilities, we will be asking the Government how much of the money is left over, what is being done with it and if there is, as we suspect there Will be, a significant amount of the money left over, why that money is not attracting the same commercial rate of interest as we are being charged for the money that is being lent by the Government. If $30m of the wool growers money is being held by the Government, surely that money should attract the same 11 per cent interest as we are being charged on money being borrowed from the Government. I believe that the Australian wool grower deserves exactly the same treatment as the Australian taxpayer. Neither the taxpayer nor the wool grower is being penalised by legislation of this type. But it is necessary that the wool grower be recognised for the support that he has given for the wool marketing support scheme. Many people in the community believe that the taxpayer is carrying the wool grower. This legislation demonstrates that that is not so.

Let me repeat that the money used to support the wool industry is loan money, with the exception of profits earned. That loan money is being lent at commercial rates of interest. The levy is designed to cover the cost of the interest rates plus storage charges. I think that every Australian needs to recognise that for that reason all of the nonsense that emanated from the Treasurer and members of the Labor Government needs to be seen in its correct perspective when one is considering whether the wool price support scheme should continue. We ask the Government to come out now, not next year, and say that the price support scheme will continue indefinitely and that the announcement on the level of price support will be made by the Government in the Parliament. If the Parliament is not sitting it wit be announced after the close of the wool selling season. We must not again be subjected to that deplorable exercise when for 5 days the markets of the world were prejudiced because of the indecision of the Government. I know that the Prime Minister has already passed a vote of no confidence in his Ministry, but the wool growing community and the Australian taxpayers cannot be subjected in considerable financial transactions to this type of speculative endeavour. There is no reason for it to exist. I suspect that even the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Whan), who is in so many areas is critical of his electorate and who in so many areas is ignorant of the agricultural needs of this community, might agree that speculation of that sort does no good either to the producer or to any other sector of the textile industry.

The wool tax in time will pay the Government back with interest. It will pay back at no cost to the Government the charges on the wool growing community. This legislation is designed to cover the whole of the circumstances of the marketing scheme. I think it is important that we recognise that this scheme is not only to the advantage of the wool grower but also to the advantage of the taxpayer. I believe that it is tragic that we should have had the trauma and the indecisiveness of the Labor Government and the arguments that went on between the Caucus and the Cabinet. It is bad enough for this to happen but it is worse when a sector of the community has to be penalised as a result of it. We have debated that matter in the Parliament. I do not wish to canvass it again. I think it is appropriate that every member of the Australian community recognises that in that indecision and in that inability to reach decisions the Labor Government has, as it has in other actions it has taken, demonstrated once again to the Australian community its inability to guide this country in the changing and difficult times of the 1970s.

For the wool industry, with market uncertainty, seasonal unpredictability and the cost increases induced by Labor caused inflation, the crisis ahead is such that we certainly cannot bear that sort of practice once more. This is positive legislation. It is part of what we see as a good program. We regret that Labor has not in its mind to maintain a program which has been seen and accepted by the industry. Certainly it has introduced this legislation now. If the legislation had been introduced as a result of the original Cabinet decision, it would have been strongly opposed by the wool community and it would have been opposed by the Opposition. It is supported now by us because wool price support is continuing at a reasonable and rational level. We support the wool price support level at 250c a kilo. We support the whole of the concept of that type of bulwark to the market and we equally support the concept of the grower financing it. It is the wool grower who will be financing it and this legislation shows that it is so. The Opposition supports the legislation.


– I am pleased to learn of the reformist attitude of the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair) on this matter. This sort of spirit of reform is matched by the attitude of the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) who is at the table. For a long time he has been one of the champions of the wool industry. It is good to see him in the chamber today guiding these Bills through the House. His actions today stem from his long experience at Currabubula, up in the bush. We understand that he is one of the greatest fighters for the wool industry that this Cabinet has ever seen. I say that the honourable member for New England has a reformist attitude because it seems that the Labor Government has shown the Opposition what should be the policies for the wool industry and he agrees with them. They certainly were not policies that the National Country Party, when in a coalition government with the Liberal Party, could carry out or did carry out. The sort of measures they offered to the wool industry were rather half-hearted. In fact, they never did any of the things for which they now profess so much support.

The Opposition went to great lengths to point out some of the problems we have had over the last few days in respect to some aspects of the legislation. But, of course, this does not match in any way the sort of hassles we used to have with the previous Government. Firstly, the National Country Party used to have a hassle with the Liberal Party. Then it had to square off the position with the Democratic Labor Party. When any crunch issue arose we had a situation exemplified by the position that arose in 197 1 when there was a 3-day lock in the Cabinet because the 2 parties really could not trust each other. That is the sort of policy formation that went on in the good old days, as the honourable member for New England would have us believe they were.

These Bills do have a minor relationship to events that took place in Caucus last week but I was rather aghast to see so much misinterpretation of what these measures are all about. First of all there was the misinterpretation by the city Press that still continues because it simply does not understand the mechanism of the price scheme we have in the wool market and it will not be educated. The city Press likes to portray this scheme to the urban voters as some vast means whereby the taxpayers are supporting the wool industry. There is another version of the story in the Press which I was aghast to see. It said that Caucus had collapsed before the pressure of the mob of 500 or 600 people who had a great interest in this matter and who demonstrated outside Parliament House. This was absolute nonsense. The reverse was the case. There are other people who want no guaranteed price for wool at all. They do not want any intervention in the market. This is the sort of line adopted by the right honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon). I was quite fascinated to see him on a television interview last night more or less saying that he definitely would not have a bar of any government intervention in the wool market.

The city Press may not understand the situation because it has not really gone into what the wool industry is all about but the Leader of the National Country (Mr Anthony) does understand the position. Yet last week we had a surprising situation. He was speaking to the mob in front of Parliament House and waving his arms. He said that somehow or other the Government collapsed under the pressure of the National Country Party or that all the credit for the reversal of the decision was due to him. This would be something like the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) racing out to address a mob of trade unionists and telling them, for instance, that the opposition of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser) to the insertion of penal clauses in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act had collapsed because of the demonstration by those trade unionists. There was another matter at which I was aghast- the leak in regard to the deliberations of the Cabinet. I thought that this was a particularly bad matter. It must concern all people in the Public Service and in the Parliament that leaks of such an important nature can occur. This leak was preceded by just as important a leak and one that may have had some impact on the thinking of some of the Cabinet Ministers. I refer to the leak in respect to the inter-departmental report on the Australian Wool Corporation’s report on wool marketing. Some have said that this leak had all the hallmarks of a Treasury inspired leak but I would not Uke to make any accusations about any particular area on this matter.

I want to state again that I deplore some of the reporting surrounding this leak on the interdepartmental committee. The fact is with respect to this matter that the Corporation is already committed to a capital expenditure of over $400m in the coming season and will certainly not get by with less expenditure in the season ahead. So there is no need to express great horror at a figure of $600m. The inference that was drawn that worried me was that the cost of the support will not be recovered. This is also misleading and is a downright untruth. The suggestion that the matter should be referred to another Industries Assistance Commission hearing is a red herring. The industry is not asking for assistance. It is merely requesting a guarantee that will help it minimise the risk to wool growers, the industry and the Government in the event of potential but unrealised losses. The interdepartmental report which I have not had the privilege of seeing but which was reported in the Press seems to be full of doubts about the Corporation’s ability to make accurate judgments and to reduce price fluctuations. It is reported that it is wary of the concept of acquisition and that it has other doubts. I think that when the contents of such reports are leaked so thoroughly to the Press, which seems to be able to see such reports, we should be given the benefit of seeing the report concerned or of being given some sort of counter statement. I think that this action is deplorable. I thank honourable members opposite for also expressing their disgust at these sorts of things that are going on.

I was even more worried last week to see some of the claims being made by the Leader of the National Country Party in a television interview. During a television debate with Senator Wriedt, the Minister for Agriculture, the Leader of the National Country Party seemed to imply that the wool scheme was something that he had initiated. He implied that the wool scheme was something that the Country Party had set up and for which the Country Party had been fighting all along. Quite the reverse is true. The genesis of the events surrounding the establishment of the Australian Wool Commission, leading on to the Australian Wool Corporation and the present pOliCy, needs to be put on the record. The previous Wool Commission was established on 4 November 1970. It began operating a flexible reserve price scheme on 16 November 1970. Until the Christmas recess in wool auctions that year the Commission operated a flexible reserve price structure set somewhat below the ruling market prices. After an initial rise in what was a very depressed market at that time, prices again began to slide downwards immediately before Christmas. Prior to the resumption of auctions on 11 January 1971 the Commission announced that it would ‘adopt a firmer policy’ in its reserve price operations. Although the level was not announced, the Commission pegged its reserves at closing pre-Christman market level- about 29c a lb or 64c a kilogram greasy- and held them for the remainder of the season at that level. I think that over the season it worked out to exactly 29.6c per lb.

In effect the Commission at that time put a floor in the market. The former Minister for Primary Industry, now the Leader of the National Country Party, subsequently announced that he fully supported the Commission’s decision but did not say that it had the Government ‘s support. I touched on the reason for this a while ago when I said that it was impossible to get support from the Liberal Party. The Government did allow the Commission to operate this firm floor price until the end of the season in June 1971 and subsequently in the new season. However, explicit public expression of Government approval does not appear to have been issued. A while ago the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair) was saying that the Government should make statements in the House and should have debates on this matter. He said that it was not proper for Government announcements to be made outside this place. His Government did not do that except on rare occasions, because the Government could not reach agreement in many of the instances under question. In a public statement on 30 July 1971 the honourable member for New England stated only that when the new season opened in August the Commission would continue to be supported by the Government in its market operations on the same basis as in the past season, subject to regular reports and review by the Government on its purchases and buying limits. That statement was not made in the House. When marketing resumed after the December 1971 Christmas break, the process of strong recovery started, which led to the Commission’s being able almost immediately to commence disposal of stocks on a rising market.

Let me refer to some of the funds that have been available to the Commission. This Government has been criticised because it has given out so much money, yet the Country Party seems to be claiming that it stood by the Commission and gave it massive funds. There was an initial loan from the banks of $34m and a subsequent stand-by loan of $30m. The moneys advanced by the Government were as follows: There was a new loan of $ 12m to the Commission for working capital. The 1971-72 Budget provided for a further $10rh. In November 1971 the Government announced that an additional $30m would be provided by the Government ‘if necessary to enable the Commission to continue its present reserve price policies’. In the event, the Commission did not need to draw on this loan. Very happily, the stocks were cleared.

So the previous Government committed about $22m. The rest was arranged through the banks. This Government has been prepared to put $350m on the line, plus other moneys, with a proper guarantee to the wool market. That is the big difference. This Government does not have a deficiency payments scheme. It does not have a half-hearted scheme. It has a proper scheme that will give continuing support to this most important market. It seems nonsense to me that a $ 1,000m industry should be subjected to misinterpretation of the Government’s policies and that it should be subjected to some of the Press leaks that have occurred in the last few weeks surrounding the wool industry. As I said, I am thankful that the Opposition expresses the same sort of horror as I do on these sorts of matters.

What I should point out is that this Government’s policies are working and that the wool market has been recovering in recent times. The Corporation bought about 42.5 per cent of wool during the first week in February. This rose to about 50 per cent for the week ended 28 February. It reached its lowest point- 1.7 per cent- in the week ended 16 May. As the market has been picking up and as the Corporation has shown over that time, with up to 50 per cent purchases, both the ability and the willingness to enter the market we concede that this policy has been working. We can surely state that nowhere near that commitment of funds will be needed in the coming year. This is exactly the thing the Government wants to see happen. It is exactly the thing the wool industry wants to see happen.

When the plan was introduced by this Government it had to overcome a lot of scepticism from growers, brokers, buyers and producers- even from the textile and garment producers. But we now see that acceptance and confidence in the Wool Corporation has been established. Textile producers know that they can rely on the Corporation to provide types at certain times when they are not available immediately for auction. They know that the Corporation will step in and that they have something firm to go on. So that is why I feel that these measureswhich relate only to the special levy of 5 per cent on the sale value of shorn wool- show that the growers have guaranteed to the Government and to the Wool Corporation that they are prepared to play their part and to meet losses. It is expected that this year they will contribute $45 m. I think that we all should stress again to the taxpayers that their funds are not at risk in this matter, that the growers are taking most of the risk out of this operation and that this is an operation that is giving stability to the wool market. It does not represent any great problem for taxpayers funds other than in terms of giving stability to the wool market.


-The Opposition supports the 5 Wool Tax Bills now being discussed. The Deputy Leader of the National Country Party (Mr Sinclair) has indicated that the Opposition will not be opposing them. In effect what these Bills do is to carry forward for one more year the temporary arrangements which have applied for the bulk of the 1974-75 wool selling season- at least from September 1974. The Opposition supports the floor price scheme at a level no lower than 250c per kilogram clean. We support the grower levy of 5 per cent on wool realisations, to be placed in a special Market Support Fund to support the wool market and to finance any losses occasioned by the floor price maintenance operations of the Australian Wool Corporation.

However, the Opposition deplores the decision making processes of the Australian Labor Party Government and the frightening way in which the floor price level for the 1975-76 season was determined over the past few weeks. The whole decision malting process of the parliamentary Labor Party on the wool support price emphasises the scant importance it attaches to the primary producers and to the whole of the rural economy. If we look back we see that it is always issues affecting the rural areas that are used as excuses for votes of confidence in the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). Similarly, if the Cabinet and Caucus are spoiling for a showdown the subject on which the showdown occurs is always a matter affecting rural industries or country people. This shows the relative unimportance that the Labor Party places on all things rural.

Two major decisions for the rural industries and all people living in country areas were made subjects of votes of confidence in the Prime Minister. I refer specifically to the taxation concessions for education- a vital matter for people in country areas aiming to provide adequate education for their children- and also to the petrol price equalisation scheme, which similarly was of great importance to rural industries and to people living away from the capital cities. Both were used as issues on which to test the Prime Minister’s popularity. So far as the Labor Party was concerned, the decision itself was unimportant. It was merely a by-product of the internal power struggle within the Party. Similarly, the wool decision for a floor price of 250c per kilogram clean was a by-product of the infighting of the Government. For the Labor Party the fight between the Cabinet and Caucus and its implications on the power base of the Party far outweighed the real issues of ensuring stability, progress and prosperity of the wool industry.

Yet decisions on the wool industry are not purely concerned with the 80 000 to 100 000 wool growers. The decision made in relation to the wool floor price level has implications and directly effects thousands of people in country towns and also in the capital cities. Every attack on the wool industry similarly threatens the livelihood of thousands of other workers in transport, storage, commerce and so on. Thus whilst the Opposition supports the level of 250c finally decided, it deplores the methods by which that decision was reached. It deplores the uncertainty created through the whole industry and the shock which this uncertainty had throughout the entire wool using section of the international textile trade.

This legislation, together with the events of the past 2 weeks, has highlighted most effectively 2 major points which wool growers need to appreciate. Firstly it has highlighted the temporary nature of the whole wool marketing structure now in existence. It has emphasised the brittle nature of the current arrangements. It has pointed out quite clearly that the wool support levels are on an annual basis and can be changed at the whim of the Australian Government at any stage. It has pointed out quite clearly that the continuance of the scheme may be judged on issues not pertinent to the wool industry and on factors not necessarily relevant to the situation of the wool market or the wool industry at a particular time.

The main thing which I feel has been clearly indicated to all wool growers both by this legislation and by the fracas of the past fortnight is that these floor price arrangements are temporary and brittle and cannot be counted on to give long term stability to the industry when they are subject to the whim of any government fad or fancy. It has clearly pointed up the fact that the wool industry still needs more permanent marketing arrangements. In December 1973 the Australian Wool Corporation presented its marketing recommendations. These were widespread, forward looking recommendations aimed at enabling wool to compete effectively as a significant textile fibre within the world textile industry. The appendices supporting those recommendations were received in June 1974. The wool industry policy committee on behalf of the Australian Wool Industry Conference accepted the recommendations on 17 January 1974 subject to certain assurances concerning the commercial autonomy of the Wool Corporation and the freedom with which it could make commercial decisions free of Government direction or intervention. The decision was subsequently supported by the Executive of the Wool Industry Conference and by the Wool Industry Conference itself. In February 1974 and in April 1974 submissions were forwarded by the Executive of the Wool Industry Conference to the Minister for Agriculture advising of the acceptance of the recommendations and requesting that action be taken. What happened? The matter was fobbed off onto an interdepartmental committee. This is purely a delaying tactic and I doubt the sincerity of the Government to proceed with any longterm solution to the problems of the marketing of the Australian wool clip.

The action of this Government is in direct contrast to its screams and promises of October 1972 when the Australian Wool Board and the Australian Wool Commission were amalgamated to form the Australian Wool Corporation. At that time the Corporation was given the task of preparing a wool marketing scheme which was subsequently produced in December 1973. The Labor Party, then in Opposition, attempted to blame the Liberal-Country Party Government of the day of procrastination and attempted to get a time limit of 6 months on the time the Corporation could have to produce its marketing recommendations. The honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson), now the Minister for Northern Development and Minister for the Northern Territory said:

So the Opposition will move in Committee its amendment which refers specifically to acquisition and also stipulates that an acquisition plan should be brought before the Parliament within 6 months.

That is what the honourable member- now a Minister- said in October 1972. What action has been taken to fulfil this requirement which the Labor Party in Opposition attempted to force on the Government of the day? Nothing. This Government has sat on the report of the Wool Corporation now for 18 months without making any decision. Speaking again the honourable member for Dawson said:

We know what will happen. The infamous interdepartmental committee will then meet and examine the Corporation’s report. So the circle goes around and around. By the time the inter-departmental committee meets and considers the plan it will probably be shelved or it will be so out of date that another committee will have to be established to examine the matter … If this Government really wanted marketing reforms and if it really wanted an acquisition scheme, within or without the auction system or combining both, it would have put such a proposal to the Australian Agricultural Council for examination months or years ago.

These statements were made immediately before the 1972 election. What exactly has the present Government done to sustain the promises in or the implications of those statements? It has dithered, delayed and referred the matter to an interdepartmental committee without the urgency it saw as Opposition in October 1972. 1 feel that it is also relevant to quote a section of a speech in the same debate by the then honourable member for Riverina, Mr Grassby, who said:

The amendments propose that this new authority should formulate a detailed plan for the operation by the Corporation of a scheme to acquire and /or market the Australian clip and to report this plan to the Parliament within 6 months of the commencement of this Act. This is our policy. This is our dedication to fundamental reform. We stand by it and we put it forward today.

It was put forward then- 12 October 1972 -but it has subsequently been forgotten by the Labor Party since it came into power.

It is no excuse to trumpet that the Labor Party has done much for the wool industry. I am the first to concede that it has. But it has not done anything significant to attack the basic problem of the industry- that is, the lack of satisfactory long-term marketing arrangements. The current marketing arrangements are temporary and this is made very obvious by the need to discuss this legislation today. No real action has meen taken towards finding a solution to the problem of long-term marketing arrangements. The temporary solution has been good and apt in the circumstances, but it has to be clearly understood that these arrangements are temporary and do not attack a number of the basic long-term marketing problems such as the overall marketing of wool as a textile fibre, sale rosterings problems of private selling and reduction of costs associated with improvements in handling, shipping, insurance and the like.

The second main lesson that the past few weeks has emphasised is that growers must be prepared to contribute funds to the market support and marketing schemes. Under this legislation there is a readiness on the part of the growers to build up their equity. Last year some $42m was contributed in this way. This has been contributed in the form of a second mortgage and will be the first part to bear the brunt of any losses incurred by the Corporation. If growers are to get a satisfactory marketing organisation free from Government direction then they must expect to contribute. They have indicated that they are prepared and willing to do so. Together with the accumulated profits of the Corporation the grower contribution at this time next year will be substantial.

Monaro · Eden

-The honourable member for Canning (Mr Bungey) has quite correctly summarised this Government’s attitude towards wool. He quoted the statement from our policy platform in which we claim- and we have pursued this line- that we should acquire and/or market the clip. It was clear when that policy was drawn up that the proposition of acquisition needed a good deal more examination and did not deserve a very strong commitment and the words ‘and /or’ obviously provided the way out. It was not a strong commitment to acquisition. On the other hand, we have introduced a streamlined Wool Industry Act which gives the Australian Wool Corporation the most powerful marketing and trading relationships in the wool market that any trade organisation in wool has ever had. Before I finish referring to the remarks of the honourable member for Canning, it is interesting that the honourable member should here today commit himself so completely to a wool industry report which in essence says: ‘You give the wool away when the price is high’. I wonder how the wool growers of Australia will feel about that commitmentthat they give the wool way when the price gets high. That is in essence what the wool industry report recommended. Let nobody lose sight of that fact at this time of low prices.

It is also interesting to note that a Liberal should stand up here today and defend a floor price. The Liberal Party vigorously opposed the floor price in 1965 with its colleagues in the Australian Country Party who refused to go on to the political hustings and left the whole political effort to the Australian Wool Board. The muddled thinking comes through very loud and clear if we read from the script of an interview with the Leader of the National Country Party (Mr Anthony) and the Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wriedt) on the television program This Day Tonight’ of 27 May 1975. The Leader of the National Country Party, Mr Anthony, said:

Who put in the floor price of 36c a pound? Who brought that in?

Senator Wriedt Not your Government.

Mr Anthony: It was our Government.

Senator Wriedt: It was not a floor price.

I put this on record for the students of wool history. Mr Anthony then said:

It was a floor price. It was a floor price of 30 cents a pound with a guarantee to the wool growers of 36 cents a pound, and that cost the Australian Government 50 million in subsidy to the wool grower and a $1 10 million to support the floor price scheme, and don’t try to distort that fact.

Mr Anthony’s facts are so far from the truth it is not funny. The Liberal and Country Parties were not committed to a floor price. In fact, at that stage Mr Anthony made statements along those lines justifying the reason the then Government would not accept a fixed floor price. What in fact happened then was that a flexible reserve price was introduced into the market. Is it any wonder that a man who purports to speak for the wool industry, who has such a superficial grasp of the facts should act as he did on Tuesday 27 May, in Kings Hall, as though his greatest aspiration in life was to become the spokesman for the Labor Caucus? He stood out in King’s Hall with bated breath waiting for the decision to come from Caucus. He could hardly restrain his enthusiasm as he dashed across King’s Hall, down the steps and out to the crowd to act as the messenger boy for the Labor Caucus. We have better messenger boys. But on that occasion nobody could have doubted his enthusiasm when he finally took on this job- apparently his great political aspirationthat of becoming a spokesman for the Labor Caucus. Much to his surprise, when he got out there, he discovered that he was beaten to the punch by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser) who apparently shares the same aspirations. To prove this, there was a photograph of them in the ‘Australian’ newspaper the next morning, very proudly acting in this role in the front of Parliament House.

We have a very important issue before us, and I shall not canvass that point very strongly at the moment. It relates to the whole proposition of the reserve price for wool and in the Bills we are considering here today, we have a tax which in a way represents the premium that is being paid by woolgrowers for the insurance that they are getting from the reserve price. I believe that we have run into a fundamental problem in this discussion which has been overcome in Government thinking by the Export Payments Insurance Corporation. Here we have an organisation which is geared to take care of risk. In the case of the reserve price, we run up against a fundamental block in Treasury thinking in Australia. I do not blame the Treasury. It has a traditional approach to these problems. It likes to see the books balanced at the end of each year- on 3 1 July. Of course when we are covering risks like fluctuations in wool prices, the forces involved in the market or in the environmental situation do not allow people to tidy up their books on 3 1 July.

If we are to have a sensible insurance scheme to protect against fluctuating incomes in the wool market- in Australia there is a whole range of industries subject to these variations- clearly we cannot have our books cleaned up on 31 July. We cannot really go along with the normal Treasury approach to these issues. It is clear that particularly in Australia we need to develop new approaches to these problems of fluctuating incomes. I believe that the Industries Assistance Commission may be in a position to give us some advice on this matter because this problem of fluctuating farm income is one which has been referred to the LAC. I hope that in generalising the point that is made here, this problem of compensating for fluctuating farm income will not be restricted to the farming community. There are other sectors of our economy which are also subject to these problems.

I believe that the Government, on a national basis, can perform a very useful function here because in many cases the risks involved command more capital than any private enterprise group can provide. This sort of risk can be taken only by a national organisation, backed, as is the case here in the wool corporation, by $380m- the sort of money that individual risk-taking organisations in the private enterprise field cannot muster. I think that if the recent debate about the fixed floor price in the wool market serves any useful purpose, it will have served its greatest purpose in directing the attention of the Government and the community at large to the restraint that exists in the normal approach to this problem by government- not just this Government, but by all the governments that preceded it.


-Needless to say, the Opposition supports this legislation. I think it is worth looking at the Bill which provides for a 5 per cent levy on the sale of shorn wool which was imposed for the current marketing season as part of the wool marketing arrangements agreed upon last year between the Government and the Australian wool industry. I wish to emphasise once again that the Australian woolgrower is not receiving a handout in a real sense under this scheme. The Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) in his second reading speech quite rightly said that the special levy of 5 per cent was originally introduced last September to apply for a period from 2 September 1974 to 30 June 1975. It was additional to the tax of 2.75 per cent being collected as woolgrowers’ contributions towards the financing of programs of wool research and promotion and the administration of marketing functions of the Australian Wool Corporation. The Minister went on to say:

The proceeds of the special levy are channelled to the Market Support Fund established under the Wool Industry Act (No. 2) of 1974. The purpose of that Fund is to meet any losses incurred in the operation of the approved wool marketing arrangements.

So I join with my colleague, the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair) in refuting, I hope once and for all, the allegation that one reads so often in the metropolitan Press and elsewhere that this industry is in fact receiving a great handout. The industry has worked with this Government, as it worked with the former government, to try to develop a scheme whereby, with a guarantee of the Government, it could raise funds to try to arrive at a stable floor price.

The Australian wool industry remains as one of Australia’s most important export industries. It is an industry which until recently has remained largely unprotected. It is an industry which exports nearly 90 per cent of its product to overseas markets. It has to sell on a world market that bears no relationship to internal cost of production. It is an industry that is concentrated on efficient production. It is an industry that has had to survive against the pressures of inflation, seasonal fluctuations, fluctuating incomes and fluctuating world market prices. The industry has a proud record. In spite of the difficulties that the growers have faced, they have shown a resilience that few producers in other industries have displayed. It is little wonder that so many wool growers are critical of the tariff and protection policies that have evolved in this country. Here was a body of men and women who were prepared to stand on their own feet, while others sought protection and handouts from the governments of the day. Events have overtaken this commendable attitude amongst woolgrowers. With inflation now raging at its present level- probably 17 per cent, and possibly more- when one takes into account the higher prices of inputs, the cost of inflation to the industry could well exceed 20 per cent.

The honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Kerin) is properly concerned by the Cabinet leak of the crazy decision to reduce the floor price of wool to 200c a kilo. While such a leak should not have occurred, it was probably in the best interests of the Government, the wool industry, the national economy and certainly in the best interests of those in the Labor Party who could see it as a crazy decision. If the Government had not responded to public pressure it would have pulled the rug from under the feet of its own undertaking to the Australian Wool Corporation. At present, the Corporation has a stockpile of 1.7 million bales of wool bought in at a price of no less than 250c a kilo. The value of this stockpile could have been depressed by an amount of $ 115m or more had the Caucus supported the Cabinet decision to reduce the floor price to 200c a kilo. The honourable member for Macarthur gave some history of the development of the Australian Wool Corporation. He said quite rightly in legislative terms, that it had its genesis on 4 November 1970. But the Australian Wool Corporation owes its origin to the great struggles that took place within the industry over a long period of years. The struggle was due to 2 differing philosophies within the industrythose who sought a free trade economy without government involvement, and those who gave up the fight against tariff reform and sought some protection or government involvement.

It was in March 1971 that the turning point in the industry attitudes surfaced. The now historic Moree wool meeting on 27 March- Moree happens to be my home town- attracted 2700 wool growers. I had the honour of playing some part in that meeting. Indeed, I was chairman of it. It was at this meeting that 2700 wool growers overwhelmingly voted for a single marketing authority to handle the sale of the Australian wool cUp. Several of us had worked to achieve this objective, and I want to place on record the name of one, Mr Ronald Hunter, of Moree, almost a legendary figure in wool pOlitiCS, because he was the prime mover for this meeting and one who played such a big role in bringing the people to that meeting. He also played a very big part in obtaining a common front among woolgrower organisations. As a member of the Australian Wool Industry Conference, he played a big part in achieving a consensus amongst those people.

Then, of course, it was the Minister for Primary Industry of the day, the right honourable J. D. Anthony, who swiftly responded to this new attitude within the industry, and so the Aus.tralian Wool Commission was established in November 1971. The BUI was supported by the Labor Party in this House at that time. Since then hundreds of thousands of man hours have been devoted to refining a modern marketing corporation, and hundreds of people have played their part in developing a marketing corporation that is quite unique in marketing such a product.

I want to refer briefly to one incident that I think was crucial to the Australian wool industry. It occurred in November 1971 when the McMahon Government resolved to underwrite a loan for $30m to the Australian Wool Corporation to enable it to continue to maintain a basic floor price. At that time the Australian Wool Commission had bought in a stockpile of almost one million bales of wool, and there was not an editorial or a national newspaper in this country at that time which was not opposed to that decision. They saw this monster wool stockpile as being a threat to the Australian economy, and the pressures that were brought upon the Government of that day were absolutely unbelievable. We had the International Wool Textile Organisation- IWTO- sending deputations and delegations to this country to try to persuade the Government not to underwrite this industry for another cent.

However, as the honourable member for Macarthur has said, from the day the McMahon Government gave that guarantee to the Australian Wool Commission, as it was then known, the Australian wool market and the world wool market began to rise, and the Commission did not call upon one cent of that guarantee until the more recent collapse in the wool market. So it has been a commendable scheme. It was a commendable idea. Let everyone understand that the taxpayers of Australia are not paying the price in sustaining this market price for the Aus.tralian wool cUp.

The Australian wool industry still is one of the most important industries to the economy of Australia. It is an industry that generates great wealth and provides overseas revenue that is necessary for the internal growth of this economy. It is an industry that has not depended upon handouts and subsidies to the extent that many industries have. It is an essential industry and one that should be honoured rather than denigrated in its times of need. I would hope that the Australian people would at last see the importance of this arrangement and recognise that the undertaking that is given to the industry in accordance with the present marketing plan is not being paid for out of the taxpayer’s pocket.


-The legislation that we are considering at present relates to the continuation of the 5 per cent levy on sales of wool for the next season. It is all tied up with the fiasco over the floor price which was decided upon by Cabinet only about 10 days ago and which was overturned a week ago by the Caucus. I think last week’s fiasco over the wool price showed the Australian rural community just how much consideration they are being given by the Government. If it had not been for the economic sense that was apparently argued in the Caucus and which resulted in a defeat for the Ministry, wool growers would have been left with 200c as the wool price support level.

Since the election of this Labor Government in December 1972, the primary industries have borne the brunt of the change in priorities and the redistribution of the nation’s wealth. A long list of hard-won incentives and productivity policies have been withdrawn. The currency was revalued to such an extent that our export commodities are extremely difficult to sell on overseas markets. The Government’s wages policy has been a prime reason for the rise in farm costs of over 35 per cent in the last 12 months. It has long been apparent that there is little sympathy within the Government towards the primary producing sector, but the decision to cut the wool floor price by 20 per cent to 200c a clean kilogram came as a complete shock.

Over recent months the wool market had shown healthy signs of improvement. The price had risen to above 275c, well above the floor price, and the Australian Wool Corporation had not been required to buy more than a few per cent of offerings at these recent auctions. For the first time since the early 1970s, the prospects for wool looked reasonable. Regardless of the reversal of the Cabinet decision to drop the floor price, a great deal of damage has been done. Australia ‘s credibility as a stable supplier of wool has been damaged. The world’s buyers of wool now know that the Australian Government is in two minds over the support that should be made available to this industry.

It is trite perhaps to say that stability of price is the key to the future success of the wool industry, and as a result of the decision by the Cabinet and the subsequent reversal by the Caucus, the wool sold at the next sale fell by 8c a clean kilogram. The fact that it did not fall further was an indication of the underlying strength that exists in the market, but it has certainly given the confidence of the buyers of the Australian wool clip a severe shake. It was not more than a couple of weeks ago that the Minister for Agriculture (SenatorWreidt) was saying that he was concerned that the price of wool was going to go through the roof again, that this would be a bad thing for the industry, and that what was important was stability. Yet, within days he was confronted with a Cabinet decision which was going to drop the support price for wool overnight by 20 per cent.

I believe that it will take some time to overcome the Government’s expressed lack of confidence in the wool industry. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has refused on 2 occasions to make an unequivocal statement that his Government will continue to support wool at 250c. The only conclusion that can be drawn from this refusal by the Prime Minister is that next year we will experience a similar argument and more lack of decision when the support level for the following season is to be set. Last season the Government agreed to provide $150m to enable the Australian Wool Corporation to support the price of wool at 250c.

This money was made available to finance the stockpile- that is, the Corporation’s purchasesthat was necessary to stop wool falling below 250c. At the same time the Government legislated for a levy of 5 per cent of the gross value of wool sold to be paid into a market support fund. In the financial year 1974-75 this levy amounts to about $40m. As the market continued to be depressed during the year a further $200m was allocated by the Government to the Corporation to continue to support wool at 250c a kilo. This brought the Government’s commitment to $350m. The significant points are that the $3 50m provided by the Government is a loan to the Wool Corporation. Interest is charged on that loan at 1 1 per cent per annum and in a full year the interest bill would amount to $38.5m.

I refer honourable members to the fact that the 5 per cent levy is expected to raise only $40m. So the bulk of that money will go in interest in any case. It is good to see the Minister for Northern Development (Dr Patterson), who represents the Minister for Agriculture, come back into the chamber to participate in this debate, a debate which is of vital importance to the wool industry and a debate which he has totally boycotted to date.

Mr King:

– He was gagged before.


– He was gagged by his own Party. The losses, if there are any, plus the interest and storage charges are met by the growers themselves out of the 5 per cent levy on wool sales. The Government is not at risk with any of its money. It is secured by the stockpile and all losses and charges are paid for by the growers. These are the facts. The Government is not making a grant to the industry; it is involved in a normal business transaction and it is being paid interest at commercial rates with full security for its loan. In fact, the Corporation would have preferred to borrow the money from the banks but the Government would not agree to that. The industry owns the stock-pile; the Government does not own it. The industry will bear any losses incurred or benefit from any profit that might be made. It is important that these facts be understood.

At present about 1.6 million bales are in the stockpile. The cost of acquisition of that stockpile is of the order of $360m. If the price of wool had been allowed to fall to 200c a kilo the industry would have suffered a loss of about $75m arising from the reduction of the value of the stockpile. This Government should realise that it is dealing with Australia’s largest industry, one which is still one of our largest exporters. Such an industry deserves better treatment than that shown by the irresponsible attitude taken by the Cabinet last week. The effects, not only on the industry itself but also on the country towns that depend directly or indirectly on a profitable wool industry, would have been disastrous if the Cabinet’s proposal were agreed to. The Opposition is not opposing these Bills that are before the House, but we take this opportunity to draw to the attention of the Government the implications of the irresponsible actions that were taken a week ago and to impress upon the Government the importance of maintaining stability in the price of wool. This great industry should not be allowed to go to the wall.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bills together read a second time.

Third Readings

Leave granted for third readings to be moved forthwith.

Bills (on motion by Dr J. F. Cairns) together read a third time.

page 3344


Message received from the Senate acquainting the House that the Senate does not insist on the amendments disagreed to by the House of Representatives.

page 3344


Second Reading

Debate resumed from 28 May on motion by Dr Patterson:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

Minister for Northern Development and Minister for the Northern Territory · Dawson · ALP

- Mr Deputy 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 and the Dairy Produce Sales Promotion Bill 1975 as they are related measures. Separate questions will, of course, be put on each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate. I suggest, therefore, Mr Deputy Speaker, that you permit the subject matter of both Bills to be discussed in this debate.


-Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering both measures? There being no objection, I shall allow that course to be followed.

New England

– These 2 Bills are the product of discussions that began during the Liberal-Country Party government’s time. It was our belief that there was a need to combine the existing organisations representing the dairy industry. The whole of the concept of the Dairy Corporation, the product of this legislation, is the ultimate result of those discussions There are problems and we are disappointed that this legislation does not go further. It seems to us, for example, that in the maintenance of equalisation, on which I want to say a few things directly, the present role of the Australian Dairy Industry Council and the committee that recommends the level of equalisation might have been included within the functions of the Corporation.

Equally, we are concerned that within the industry are divisive forces related to each of the State responsibilities which may not yet have unified sufficiently to enable the Dairy Corporation adequately to represent each one of them. This industry, perhaps more than most others, is plagued by the divisions between States and between groups within States. It is an industry which has served the nation well, consisting to a far greater degree perhaps than other sectors of agriculture of the family farmers. It is an industry which has suffered in that in some areas production unfortunately, through seasonal adversity and market opportunities, has been not as buoyant as it has been elsewhere in Australia. I do not believe it is sufficient just to say that because Victoria and Tasmania are our principal dairy export States they are therefore the most efficient dairying States. I. think the industry increasingly needs to accommodate the variances between States, to recognise that producers, wherever they are, have a right to continue to produce but that there needs to be maximum equalisation of the opportunities of selling of their produce. As a result, there will certainly be some problems in some of the less fortunate climatic areas of Australia. So much of the returns will depend on the prices that will be paid, be it through whole milk outlets or specialty milk product outlets.

One obvious area of concern is that within the dairy industry there is still a concentration on butter as the principal manufactured milk product. Indeed, the Opposition is concerned that in the maintenance of equalisation there is still an emphasis on butter fat content instead of milk solids. We feel there is reason to have a look at a changed structure of equalisation and at a changed structure within the industry because tremendous financial and personal problems emerge in trying to resolve the industry’s difficulties. For all these reasons we support the legislation. But there are some aspects on which I shall say a few words.

The legislation comes at rather a strange time. It reconstitutes the Australian Dairy Produce Board which has only just celebrated its 50th anniversary. I note that the Board’s chairman, Mr A. P. Beatty, in a speech at the 50th anniversary dinner held at the Hilton Hotel in Melbourne set out in fairly long and detailed form an analysis of the achievements of the Australian Dairy Produce Board since its formation in 1922. It is a speech which identifies the achievements of the industry. It is unfortunate that on the 50th anniversary of a board which has served the industry so well it should now be set aside and replaced by the Australian Dairy Corporation. This is not because the Board has failed in its task but rather that there are inadequacies in the present system. We recognise those inadequacies but we still compliment the Australian Dairy Produce Board on its achievements. Many people might not realise that it is through the Australian Dairy Produce Board that many of the milk reconstitution plants have been established around the world.

One of my concerns during the recent visit which the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock), the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Sullivan), Mr Adrian Lynch and myself made to Phnom Penh was that we found a circumstance where obviously there had been a breakdown of communications between the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and the industry. This had resulted in significant quantities of skim milk powder being left on Melbourne wharves waiting for delivery to Phnom Penh while in Phnom Penh many thousands of refugees were waiting to receive the product of the milk reconstitution plant. There was an inability to provide the product simply because the Government had not been able to help the Australian Dairy Produce Board or the Sokilait plant to shift that milk powder to Phnom Penh.

I believe the Australian Dairy Produce Board needs to be complimented on the work it has done. It is a tragedy that the Department of Foreign Affairs does not realise the implications in countries such as Cambodia and in other areas where Asian plants have been established. I believe that had the Government done so this deplorable lack of care for the people of Phnom

Penh would not have taken place. I pay a personal tribute to Michael Bosworth, the Australian representative of a joint venture which he operated, along with his Danish partners, in Phnom Penh until its fall. One of the highlights of our visit to that war beseiged city was when Michael Bosworth arrived in a flak jacket at the airport to greet us as we disembarked from the aircraft. He said: ‘Although there is no representative of the Australian Government here I, as an Australian, am delighted to be able to greet you. ‘ The situation was even more anomalous as representatives of the Department of Foreign Affairs had told us that the plant had been closed down 6 months before.

Perhaps this is not the occasion or the circumstance to comment peculiarly on the Department of Foreign Affairs. But I regard as quite deplorable this breakdown in communications and the fact that there was that significant quantity of milk powder still on the Melbourne wharves when people were dying in Phnom Penh and Cambodia for want of the product which this plant could have helped to provide. There is no doubt, in spite of the inadequacies of our Department of Foreign Affairs, that this man, the Australian Dairy Produce Board and its reconstitution plants have rendered outstanding service in the communities where they have operated. However, there are problems. I do not think anyone will accept that these Asian plants have necessarily always been a good investment. The objective of the investment was to try to ensure that there was another outlet for Australian dairy products. That is a worthwhile objective. After all, one of the difficulties of the dairy industry has been to maintain profitable markets. The milk reconstitution plants were a way by which another manufactured milk product could be sold and another way by which a newly developed market could provide a reasonable return. As I say, all that is a very worthwhile objective.

Perhaps there were inadequacies in general administration between the milk reconstitution plants, the Dairy Produce Board and those of us in government who tried to keep some supervision over the overall function of those enterprises. I have criticised the Department of Foreign Affairs but perhaps the fault really lies with the Australian Dairy Produce Board or with the Sokilait people. I know from my own experience that there have been occasions when we really knew too little of just what was happening in the field.

This Bill provides for the replacement of the Australian Dairy Produce Board. The purpose of the proposed Corporation is to take up all those things which the Dairy Produce Board did and to embark on other fields of activity. I think it is worth saying on the 50th anniversary year of the Australian Dairy Produce Board that many comments have been made about the circumstances of the dairy industry this year. It is in this climate that the Corporation is to be formed. I refer to Mr J. V. Bermingham, the chairman of the Queensland Dairymen’s Organisation, Eastern Downs District, who in his annual report stated:

I feel the year under review has been most difficult and a disheartening period in the life of our industry. Our problems well known to most of you are too numerous to report in any detail.

Perhaps the most significant problem would be the Federal Government’s lack of appreciation and understanding of the plight of the farmers and the effect they are having on the country’s economy.

This contention is borne out by the loss of practically all incentives that were a part of our industry prior to the change of Government in 1972.

He spoke about the collapse of the beef market, the unsympathetic attitude of this Government in increasing margarine quotas, the refusal of the Prices Justification Tribunal to grant a worthwhile price for commercial butter and the confusion and loss of confidence in the future of the dairy industry. He spoke too of the overall change in government sponsored assistance to enable the industry to survive. AU in aU the Government, having introduced this legislation, can take little consolation from the fact that it has helped the industry, for that it has not done.

I refer to a few other figures showing just how bad the plight of the industry has become since the Government took this action. The Minister for Agriculture, (Senator Wriedt) deserves to be condemned because of the manner in which he removed stabilisation assistance and took 12 months before deciding that the reconstruction proposals which we first advocated during the election campaign of December 1972 should be applied. That statistics have changed in the dairy industry, emerges in the reference in another article by the general secretary of the Queensland Dairymen’s Organisation. He spoke of the change of circumstances in Queensland and stated:

The number of dairy farmers dropping out of the industry has slowed down in the 12 months to the end of January as compared with the corresponding period of the previous year. The decrease was 10.7 percent . . . The 10.7 per cent decline represents a drop from 5300 to 4735.

That is the drop in the number of dairy farmers in Queensland. Of course Queensland is not the whole of Australia but there are peculiar problems relating to the dairy industry there. There are other economic problems which face dairy farmers wherever they live Mr C. B. Gardiner, who is the chairman of the Victorian Equalisation Committee and president of the Victorian Dairy Farmers’ Association, in a recent edition of the Queensland ‘Dairy Farmer’ commented on what seemed to be the near failure of the equalisation scheme, again because of the indecision of this Government. He said that according to the Bureau of Agricultural Economics a breakdown which seemed imminent, thanks to government action, would cost dairy farmers $40m in one year in the case of butter and, in the case of butter and cheese, $64m. So the industry is in a grievous plight. It faces very real problems. I think I should identify these problems a little bit further. They are problems of change which affect not only the Queensland dairy industry but dairy farmers everywhere. First of all the cost of production at the farm level has outstripped income increases significantly over recent years. As from 1 July, dairy farmers’ incomes will be reduced by approximately 2c per lb butter fat through the loss of the final phase of Government bounty. The 3.55c per lb butter fat differential in the 1974-75 modified equalisation scheme will be replaced by a scheme providing the equivalent of only 1.78c per lb differential. Then, the beef crisis, of course, also has seriously affected farmers’ incomes as the sale of calves and cull cows is now returning significantly less money than it did before.

Mr Bob Sample, the President of the Australian Dairy Farmers Federation, similarly made reference to this later problem. He mentioned that the sale of cull cows, dairy beef steers and bobby calves makes up a significant proportion of dairy farmers’ income. Many of these cattle are marketed, he said, in the autumn and early winter, and consequently they will be placed on the market over the next two or three months. When considering the frightening costs of inflation confronting the farmers, the result of the fall in income from cattle sales is critical to the dairying industry. It may well be necessary for the Government to expand greatly present assistance so as to relieve the grim situation facing many dairy farmers who are unable to obtain reasonable prices for their cattle. All in all, the future for the dairy farmer is bleak. One hopes that the Australian Dairy Corporation, forming ‘as it is something of a combine from the old Australian Dairy Produce Board, might adequately be able to meet the needs of dairy farmers as well as of Australian taxpayers and the community at large.

Within the legislation, there is a number of aspects to which I wish to refer. The first is in the. function of the Board itself. We accept that the expansion of powers has taken the function of this Corporation a little beyond that of the old Australian Dairy Produce Board. I have mentioned our concern that perhaps this should also have taken in a responsibility for equalisation. I have suggested that equalisation should be based on solid fats rather than on butter fat content. We are concerned that consideration should be given to other aspects of amalgamation of the functions of the different dairying authorities State by State so that the industry might better function at a national level instead of in its individual several parts.

When we have a look at the constitution of the Corporation we must wonder at its ability to do just that. The Corporation, I see, now has 3 members to represent the dairy farmers of Australia. The Government was asked to increase that proposed membership to four, as the number of members on the Corporation includes a different balance from those who were on the former Australian Dairy Produce Board. I am told that, although the Government was asked to increase the membership from three to four, the Minister for Agriculture has still not replied to that request. Whether or not that is so, I still think that the industry has a valid basis on which to ask for a 4 member representation. Those 4 members, I note, are to be selected by reference to the Minister of a panel of names. I, frankly, do not think much of the democratic system when the Minister finds it necessary to make his own selection. Of course this is not an unusual practice. With many agricultural commodity boards this is the basis on which these appointments are made. This Minister seems to be extending the practice further than we believe is necessary. But it is my concern that there should be adequate members to represent the dairy farmers of Australia.

I have spent some time identifying the differences State by State. From the Opposition’s point of view we are concerned that 3 members, from wherever they come, can adequately represent the dairy farmers. There are differences between Queensland and Victoria, New South Wales and Western Australia and Tasmania and the other States. These 3 members need to represent effectively the whole of the country. I am disappointed that an explanation has not been given, at least in the second reading speech by the Minister for Northern Development and the Minister for the Northern Territory (Dr Patterson), as to why there are not 4 members. I would hope that the representations of the industry might be considered if it does emerge that 3 members cannot adequately represent the industry. We had given some consideration to moving an amendment to the Bill in this respect. We decided that, as the whole concept of” the Corporation is worth while, we would not do so. But I believe there is reason to consider whether or not 3 members can adequately represent the dairy farmers of Australia. If it proves in practice that they cannot do so, the Government should be prepared to extend that representation.

There is of course a significant change in the representation of proprietary companies and cooperatives. In this legislation in comparison with the old, there are only 3 members to represent all manufacturers. The industry seems to be content with that representation. I therefore offer no comment. However, I trust, again, that those 3 members can adequately represent the breadth of view of those to whom it is necessary to give a voice in that sector of the industry.

The industry has expressed some concern about the 2 other members to be appointed. These appointees are referred to in clause 5 of the Bill which provides that these members: . . . shall be . . . persons . . . who … are specially qualified for appointment by reason or experience in the marketing of dairy produce or other goods or in the production of dairy produce or by reason of other experience in commerce, finance economics, science or industrial matters.

We do not share that concern of industry. We believe that this character of appointment is good. However, again we trust that the Minister will exercise a judgment as to the people who are appointed and will maintain a high calibre of appointee, for if that category of person is to be accepted, it is necessary that the .persons so selected are able to make a positive contribution in meeting this very responsible charge that is upon them. So, the 2 other members need to be people who are genuinely within the specifications required in clause S. The Opposition will be looking quite critically at the appointees of the Minister to ensure that that should be so.

Sub-clause (12) of clause 5 of the Bill represents, for the first time to my knowledge, an interesting extension of the disclosure of interest provisions which are contained in the Australian Constitution. It is an extension which the Opposition supports. It is necessary that people charged with responsibilities to an industry as a whole should disclose any particular interest which might in any way prejudice their ability to take an independent judgment on a matter before them. We see the qualifications and the exceptions that are provided as no more than reasonable. Of course, I might stress that it has always been our attitude that we would expect a man of honour to discharge that type of obligation of disclosure, whether or not there is a legal requirement to do so. We would be very disappointed if on any of those boards where such a requirement does not exist there was no such disclosure, if in any way a member of any marketing board should feel his decisions prejudiced because of outside interests or of any interests in any particular matter that might be before that board for the time being.

Some concern has been expressed with respect to the powers of the Corporation included in clause 6 which seeks to substitute a new heading and sections for section 13A of the principal Act. Proposed new section 13a provides for an extension of the trading powers of the Corporation which will enable it:

  1. subject to the approval of the Minister, on its own behalf or in collaboration with any other person, authority or association of persons, take or arrange for the taking of, any action in Australia or elsewhere that, in the opinion of the Corporation is likely-

    1. to lead to the improvementof the quality of dairy produce or the prevention of deterioration,, before or during transport from Australia, of dairy produce; or
    2. to expand existing markets or secure new markets for dairy produce.

It is said that this power might be used by the Corporation to interfere unjustifiably in normal trade transactions, interstate or intrastate. We do not believe that to be so. We think that such powers of the Corporation are necessary in that it has a function to operate with respect to exports and we think that if it is so to operate, it needs to have powers of this character. Again, the responsibility must be on the Corporation and those who are its members to ensure that the Corporation does so. Powers of this sort surely must be necessary if the Corporation is to function at all in a truly efficient way.

The legislation then has the support of the Opposition. We are concerned that it is introduced at a time when the industry is in such a difficult strait. The breakdown of any of the moves that are now being taken for the benefit of the industry could lead to a critical plight for those few dairy farmers who survive in Queensland and New South Wales. In Victoria and Tasmania the plight does seem to be somewhat different. Even there the straits in which those dairy farmers find themselves through the removal of the stabilisation assistance and the difficulties which might have flowed from the possible breakdown of equalisation, all might well have prejudiced the survival of the family farmer.

In this industry there is yet another illustration of the Government’s failure to recognise how the individual can be prejudiced through economic measures taken in another context. The Coombs report was one of those reports which ignored the role of the family farmer and the capability of a man, such as a dairy farmer, who has for so long made a worthwhile contribution to export and a worthwhile contribution to regional settlement and regional development. The Opposition Parties believe quite strongly that the dairy industry deserves to survive. It is an efficient industry in national terms. The dairy farmer is a man who has worked hard, and still does work hard, 7 days a week going twice a day down to the milking shed. There is no doubt that that labour is such that he deserves to be rewarded, but he cannot be rewarded unless there are markets for his products. I hope the honourable member for Sydney (Mr Cope), who is interjecting, some day when he sits down under the cow might reflect on the prospects that lie ahead for most of those who are in a similar position twice a day, 7 days a week.

Mr Cope:

– I said that the dairy farmers will not pull together, that is their problem.


– If you pull together you do not seem to get quite as much as if you pull alternately, as the honourable member might know. Then again, perhaps the honourable member for Sydney might know what it is like to pull alternately because that seems to be the current problem of the Government. It really pulls alternately far more than it pulls together. I think it would be worthwhile if the Government recognised the problems of the dairy industry. In terms of the future, it is an industry with real difficulties and, while we support this legislation, let no honourable member in the House be complacent that all is well in the dairy industry. It really is in an extraordinarily difficult position.

The dairy farmer is one of the more aggrieved in the farming community and his future is uncertain. We hope that this Corporation might be able to give the industry a slightly better prospect than it has had. But the future of the industry will depend on positive and continuing government support. We expect even this Government to provide that. Finally, the Dairy Produce Sales Promotion Bill, being dealt with in conjunction with the Bill which sets up the Dairy Corporation, extends the functions of the Aus.tralian Dairy Corporation into the promotional field and is consequential on the replacement of the Australian Dairy Produce Board. It is no more than a consequential amendment. We therefore have no opposition to it. The Opposition supports both Bills and hopes that as a result the future of the dairy industry will be brighter than we on this side of the House and most dairy farmers think that the Government would wish it to be.

Monaro · Eden

-The amendments to the Dairy Produce Export Control Act that we are now considering not only increase the powers available to the new Aus.tralian Dairy Corporation but also change its name. I believe it is worth while reviewing the situation in the dairy industry as a result of this Government’s efforts. The Australian Dairy Produce Board has performed its task very well in the past, but it has been clear for some time now that the market in which it had to operate was changing and that it was necessary to produce a stronger trading organisation if the overseas interests of the dairy industry were to be protected. This Bill does just that. It increases the trading powers of the new Corporation and streamlines the nature of the personnel on the Corporation. The two new appointments, people with special knowledge, are clearly required in this sort of operation where we have to contend with world marketing. We have to determine where the best outlets will be for a product which is not, as in the past, a single product. The historic associations we had with Britain produced for the dairy industry a strong outlet for butter but now our outlets are multifaceted with powdered milk and a whole range of milk products which from time to time are in demand or out of demand. We have a unique and specialised marketing operation and it is necessary to acknowledge that the people who make the decisions ought to have a specialised knowledge.

The Bill allows for 3 dairy farm members on the Corporation. There were three on the old Australian Dairy Produce Board but that Board consisted of 13 members. The new Corporation will consist of eleven, so the proportionate influence of dairy farmers on the new Corporation is that much stronger. I believe that the dairy farm interests will certainly be protected under the new proposal. We have not only protected them but also, as I have mentioned, introduced a new specialist influence in the decision making area. It is important to see this Corporation in the context of the activity that has taken place in the dairy industry while this Government has been in office. Twenty years of declining dairy farm numbers, major upheavals in the industry, a generally low level of capitalisation, resulted in an inheritance for this Government which was very difficult. We found the dairy industry in dire need of restructuring and the Australian Dairy Corporation is one facet of that restructuring process.

The initiatives taken by this Government represent a significant change in the pattern of assistance to the dairy industry. Finance for adjustment has been directed far more precisely than was possible with the bounty on butter which was geared to production and did not necessarily- in fact, the history of the dairy industry demonstrates that it did not- lead to a major reorganisation in the dairy industry. The bounty did not direct the industry to the changes that were taking place in international markets. The Government’s policy is that any expenditure to assist the industry ought to be carefully thought through. It ought to have a purpose and a clear objective. This program has been formulated after extensive consultation with the industry and the States and, in essence, consists of 3 elements. Firstly. there is a broadening of the marginal dairy farms reconstruction scheme into a more comprehensive dairy adjustment scheme; secondly, interest-free loans will be provided to help suppliers change over to refrigerated bulk milk deliveries with concurrent assistance, as necessary, to factories, and thirdly, relocation assistance will be provided to assist displaced dairy farmers and dairy farm workers. Each of these elements is a clear acknowledgment of the trends taking place in the dairy industry.

Clearly it is necessary to have a rationalisation of factories so that they are able to meet the multi-facet demand that the international market presents to dairy products in 1975. Overall, the program is estimated to cost $28m and therein lies the answer to the charge of the Deputy Leader of the National Country Party (Mr Sinclair) that this Government has not been conscious of its responsibilities to the dairy industry of Australia. The Government is prepared to consider the provision of further funds if they are necessary to make sure that the dairy industry is properly organised. Interim legislation brought down in July 1974 enabled a major part of the program at farm level to be initiated by amending the Marginal Dairy Farms Agreements Act. The whole program was consolidated in the Budget session into the Dairy Adjustment Act 1974. Since the agreements were signed, even in the initial stages, the farmer response has been extremely favourable to the overall parcel that the Government has presented to the dairy industry. This program will operate until 30 June 1976 when the Industries Assistance Commission will report on the type of Government assistance that ought to be provided to the dairy industry after that date.

So the Bills to which we are now addressing ourselves form part of an overall pattern of events which have been designed to assist the dairy industry and bring it up to date, to give it the muscle to meet the international market and to provide increased efficiency in the production and manufacture of dairy products in Australia. In particular, I would like to mention that the Dairy Produce Bill extends the present borrowing powers to permit advances to be used to finance winter stocks in factories by allowing products subject to Corporation advances to be withdrawn from the local market. The necessity for factories to carry through stocks of cheese and other products has been a major problem in financing for the individual firms involved. I welcome this particular addition to the legislation. In addition the Corporation may borrow with the approval of the Treasurer from commercial lending institutions against secured assets. This will enable the Corporation to finance sales or stockholdings beyond the seasonal limit applied to the advances made by the Corporation from Reserve Bank funds. I believe these are necessary alterations to the powers of the new Corporation to provide an efficient financing operation for dairy factories.

In my electorate we have seen a major consolidation of the dairy industry. . It has advanced from being a very small fragmented industry with individual producers each supplying unique and specialised factories. Although these factories are historical and charming and their produce has been unique and of an extremely high quality, by modern day standards they have not been very efficient. We have seen a change from small factories and small farm units to a consolidation both on the farm and in the factory resulting in a very efficient dairy industry which has city milk outlets as well as outlets for cheese production, butter production and dried milk products.

I believe that the dairy industry is turning the corner. I do not share the pessimism of the honourable member for New England in regard to the dairy industry. There is no doubt that it has been through hard times, some of which have lasted from 20 to 25 years, but now we see a resurgence of interest in the products of the dairy industry, and more encouragingly, this interest is spread over products other than butter. We have seen too the flexibility of the dairy industry enhanced so that it is able to respond to changes in demand, so that it is able to move away from areas of over-supply and direct its milk into areas of low supply. One of the things I would like to see the Corporation develop is a more systematic approach to the question of production and supply so that it could give in more specific terms an indication to factories of which products will be in demand and in roughly what quantities in the forthcoming year. I believe that such guidance is absolutely essential if we are to see the maximum profitability introduced into the dairy industry. It is not good enough to allow individual factories that cannot command world market intelligence to make decisions in a vacuum. It is essential to provide an overall guide to factories in determining their production for the next year, in gearing themselves to meet the demand where the demand is most profitable for them as individual factories and for the dairy industry as a whole.

To take the pessimistic approach that the honourable member for New England has taken is to encourage instability and uncertainty in the dairy industry. It is far better to encourage the dairy industry to concentrate on those areas of opportunity which are opening up for it and to move into those areas with some faith in the industry. The attitude of the honourable member for New England has directly the opposite effect, a tactic that is frequently adopted by his Party in Opposition. The National Country Party of Australia is concerned to create uncertainty, fear and an attitude of antagonism towards sensible reform, and I believe it does the industry no good at all to take such a pessimistic approach to its prospects.

The dairy industry, by virtue of the policies adopted by this Government, has now reached the stage where it is on firm foundations. It is a flexible industry, and with the Corporation which is the subject of the Bill now under consideration it will become increasingly able to capitalise on the opportunities in the varying world markets with which it has to contend. I commend this Bill to the House.


-Tonight I want to acknowledge the importance of Australia’s dairy industry. I do so with a proprietary interest in its past activities and a real concern for its future. The problems facing dairy farmers are common to any primary producer. Many of these problems are accentuated and reflected in the farmer’s income. I do not want to take a pessimistic attitude, but I want to emphasise my real concern for the manner in which this Government has treated primary producers generally over the past Vh years. The Government’s unsympathetic and discriminatory treatment of primary producers has created an unprecedented lack of enthusiasm for production throughout the farming community.

Mr Duthie:

– You are generalising.


-I am not generalising. Many farmers are leaving the industry. Something like 1150 farmers left- one area last year. This Government has stifled initiative, slashed incomes and threatened traditional means of livelihood. It has affected not only producers but also business people and the general community in all the country areas because of its attitude. In the broader view it has disadvantaged all Australians and the millions in the less fortunate countries who suffer malnutrition or starvation. I think that point was highlighted tonight when the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair) referred to the fact that the Australian

Dairy Produce Board in its activities overseas has been endeavouring to introduce into the less fortunate countries some of the dairy products which can be produced quite efficiently in Australia. The result of 2Vi years of Labor Government is a recession rivalling, if not surpassing, the severity of the depression of the 1930s.

Mr Duthie:

– Have you never heard of a world crisis?


– I have heard of a world crisis. The inability of this socialist Government to govern Australia is manifest in the highest inflation and the worst unemployment in Australia’s history. This is having a damaging effect on the dairy farmers of this country. It is a record of government of which not only the Australian Labor Party but also Australia and its people should be thoroughly ashamed.

This BUI amends the Dairy Produce Export Control Act 1 924- 1 973 to change the powers and membership of the Australian Dairy Produce Board in a program to provide progressively more effective regulatory and marketing services to the Australian dairy farmers. The Australian Dairy Produce Board has been renamed the Australian Dairy Corporation. This has been accepted by the organisations, producers and manufacturers who were consulted at many stages during the preparation of this Bill. Changes have been agreed to at meetings with major dairy industry organisations. I pay a tribute, as did the honourable member for New England, to the efficiency of the Victorian Dairyfarmers Association,’ the Commonwealth Dairy Produce Equalisation Committee Limited and those bodies which have so assiduously contributed their efforts in the interests of dairy farmers throughout Australia

Of course there has been a long history of problems. Some of the problems stem from the manufacture of dairy products in areas where it is not economical. Over the years this has caused big problems. Inefficiency cannot be tolerated in any industry. The dairy farm, because of its nature, has become one of the most important single unit operations in the whole of the primary industry makeup. It is a family farm. Of course many such farmers would never be liable to pay income tax for the simple reason that thenincome would be insufficient. . I hope that the report of the Industries Assistance Commission which will be brought down at the end of July Will make recommendations in favour of the restoration of some of the price support schemes. They should be re-implemented.

The Government proposes to strengthen the capability of the Australian Dairy Produce Board by restructuring it and by giving it a new name, the Australian Dairy Corporation, to identify it more closely with circumstances in 1975 and beyond. The circumstances facing the Australian dairy industry are very different since the entry of the United Kingdom into the European Economic Community. Prior to that the United Kingdom was the principal market for the disposal of Australia’s dairy products. The Australian dairy farmers suffered a big blow when the EEC took away from us one of our traditional markets. The entry of the United Kingdom into the EEC upset the whole structure of our marketing.

It is now very important that we look, in a more businesslike manner, at the situation in which the industry finds itself. The new Corporation Will have the responsibility of going out to find new markets. The industry will have to operate under the new techniques which many of the butter factories today are developing with the expertise of experienced operators. In order to gain greater efficiency and to make better use of the technical expertise many dairy factories have been amalgamating. The level of efficiency that has been attained can be gauged by the volume of throughput of the factories

The renaming of the Australian Dairy Produce Board as the Australian Dairy Corporation involves some rather curious decisions. I note that the Corporation is to consist of 11 members. Firstly, there is to be an independent chairman. I would raise no objection at any stage to the appointment of an independent chairman. Secondly, 3 members representing the dairy farmers Will also be appointed to the Corporation. It is proper that representatives of the dairy farmers should be on the Corporation because after all the Corporation is a dairy farmer’s organisation and it will handle their products.

One of the greatest problems that faces the dairy farmer today is the hazards that he must put up with, ranging from climatic and animal health hazards to the adverse effect that overseas markets have on the sale of his product. The man at the end of the line is the dairy farmer. I think that the man who is directing operations should have a fair say. I think that a representation of 3 dairy farmers on a board of 1 1 members is quite inadequate. I think that at least a representative from each manufacturing State with additional representatives from States such as Victoria, which produces about 60 per cent of the total butter manufacture, should be on the Corporation.

The Bill also provides that 3 members representing manufacturers and 2 members with special qualifications shall be appointed to the Corporation. I understand that the special qualifications will be determined by reference to industry committees. I think that is reasonable in itself. However, I think that a dairy farmer with special qualifications would be someone who has had considerable business experience in both the manufacturing and producing sides of the industry. . The Bill also makes provision for the appointment of one employee representative and one Government representative. Here we are getting into a difficult situation. Is the employee representative to be an employee of a dairy farmer, such as a very good and well versed share farmer who has considerable experience in the industry, or will it be someone who washes vats at a factory or has something to do with the manufacturing side? Representatives from this section of the industry already are to be represented on the Corporation. I think that if an employee representative is to be a member of the Corporation probably we should have a representative from both sides of the industry.

Sitting suspended from 5.59 to 8 p.m.


-Prior to the suspension of the sitting for dinner I was discussing the composition of the Australian Dairy Corporation and the appointments to it. I was making a point with regard to the employee representative. Whilst I do not decry the value of an employee representative I would like to think that he had the interests of the producer at heart. Who would be more useful in pointing out the value of marketing procedures than the share farmer, the person whose livelihood depends on the monetary results? I make this as a point to consider seriously. Then, we come to the one Government representative. It seems to me that the Government will have one hell of a big say in this Corporation. After all, the Minister for Agriculture will appoint all the representatives. I venture to say that if any dairy farmer showed real concern for the result of that procedure, he would have every reason to do so. I am afraid that I have lost faith in the Minister for Agriculture. He does nothing, says nothing and gives nothing away. Let me highlight his performance by reading to the House extracts from the speech he made to the Farm Writers and Broadcasters Society of Victoria in 1973. This illustrates his failure. He said:

Recently I said that we do not want the rural sector to become one vast sheltered region soaking up scarce public funds that could be better spent upgrading vital community services that benefit both country and city dwellers. This statement has been wrongly interpreted by some people as meaning that a big axe is about to be wielded to lop off all subsidies and other concessions to the rural sector.

He then said:

This is just not so.

Later on the Minister went on to say:

While the axe will not be wielded with gay abandon on existing rural subsidies it will be my aim to have them critically examined as they fall due for renewal or even earlier, to see where modifications and indeed improvements are desirable.

In the same speech the Minister said:

All Ministers are in Cabinet with an equal voice. If primary industry gets downgraded, it will be because I failed to do my homework or exercise a proper role in Cabinet when presenting my submissions. I have no intention of letting this happen.

When interviewed on the Australian Broadcasting Commission television program ‘This Day Tonight’ in June 1974, Senator Wriedt said this:

I have initiated most of the moves which have been taken by the Government.

Of course, he was talking in relation to the withdrawal of assistance to primary industry.

Let us look at the list of assistance that has been withdrawn. The dollar revaluation of Vh per cent, a further revaluation in 1973 and an effective appreciation of our currency when the Japanese yen was devalued in January 1974 brought the total change in the value of our dollar to about 25 per cent. It is impossible to calculate the effect of this change. On 22 July 1 973 the Government phased out the butter and cheese bounties over 2 years. What effect did that have? Then a little later, we had the discontinuation of immediate taxation deductibility of certain capital expenditure. How many farmers would not have capital expenditure? We also had the discontinuation of the double deduction of expenditure on clearing and development of land. There was a discontinuation of the investment allowance and of annual taxation deductibility for a wide range of capital expenditures including internal fencing, the provision of water and storage for feed and all those sorts of things. There was a reduction in the distance for the free wiring of telephone lines. We also saw the introduction of the meat export levy. We heard about that tonight when we were debating the States Grants (Beef Industry) Bill. We have seen the introduction of the levy of 0.6c per lb on shipped weights of exports of meat to recoup expenditure on research. There have been increases in petrol prices in non- metropolitan areas from 3.3c a gallon to 5c a gallon.

Mr McVeigh:

– That is hurting the workers in the country towns.


-Of course it is. Then, we come to one very important matter, the withdrawal of the free milk for school children. The Government would take lollies from a baby. There has been an increase of interest rates charged by trading banks. There are quite a number of other things that I could mention that the Labor Government has done to hurt primary production. But the estimated cost to the rural sector for the withdrawal of such benefits is close to $500m. This figure does not include the imposition of unearned income and capital gains taxes and the reduced education allowance for taxation purposes. The devaluation of the Australian dollar by 12 per cent in December 1974 compensates little for the earlier upward revaluations. Time has caught up with me. There are many other things I could say to show how rural producers, particularly the dairy farmers, have been caught up in a poor economic situation. They have had to weather all sorts of storms. I hope the Corporation does do a job of real value to the dairy farmers within the community of Australia.


-The honourable member for McMillan (Mr Hewson) said that time had caught up with him. For a moment I thought that the honourable member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh) that well known larrikin from the bush, had caught up with him. I listened to his cataloguing of all the woes that the Government had visited upon the dairy industry. I do appreciate one thing about the honourable member for McMillan. I understand that he represents a dairying area, as I do, and I am always happy to hear of the problems of other people in other areas. Tonight we are debating the Dairy Produce Bill. It is related more directly to the structure of a board. I do not want to talk in any great detail on this matter, but I would like to point out that in some ways this Bill reflects some of the overall philosophy of the Government with respect to farming generally. It is an indication of the Government’s approach in the overall context.

One of the big problems in framing rural policies in Australia has always been that it tends to get transfixed into an industry by industry analysis. Too rarely do we see governments approaching the rural sector as a whole. What this Bill is trying to do in one small way is to indicate what the Government is trying to get at in terms of reform, restructuring or reorganisations to make some very fundamental adjustment. The problems of the dairy industry have been of a very long duration. It has been well comprehended by all those in the industry that readjustment was needed.

Mr Duthie:

– And the others did nothing about it.


– As my colleague, the honourable member for Wilmot points out, nothing was done about it. I would like to congratulate some of the people who have recently got together to try to come up with some sort of self-help plan for the dairy industry’s future. The Australian Dairy Industry Council and the Australian Dairy Farmers Federation have got together to try to map out some sort of plan with respect to the future of the dairy industry and the bind it is in at present with respect to equalisation. An even more complicating factor in the dairy industry is that the States tend to play each other off. We have States rights exemplified to an unreal degree to the disadvantage of nearly all in the industry. State governments are starting to realise the problems that exist and are trying to grapple with them. Most State Ministers in charge of agriculture are at present engaged in quite a bit of discussion and analysis. They are setting up committees to report on the problems of the industry. At the national level the powers that we have are quite limited.

What worries me is that the National Country Party when in office never really looked hard at the problems of readjustment. It never looked hard at the problems of the dairy industry in the context of the rural sector overall. In fact, if honourable members cast their minds back to some of these long standing problems, they will remember that in 1958 the members of that Party stopped plans for reconstruction of the industry. All they did was virtually to subsidise the British housewife’s buying of Australian butter for about 15 years longer than they should have. Of course, if this had not been done they would have saved the Australian taxpayers $500m. There have been various moves over the years to restructure the dairy industry, to implement a few very simple basic reforms, for example, the McCarthy Report of 1961. All we could ever get out of the past Government were a few more patch up bandaid measures and a little more subsidy in a few other areas. It is true that this Government has removed some of these subsidies but by and large what we are after are efficient industries, not industries that have to be patched up with a series of bandaids which come from measures implemented at election time just to save a few more votes in a few more seats.

The dairy farmers would have been better off now if plans for readjustment and reconstruction had been carried out earlier when the problems were clearly seen. New Zealand set out to restructure its dairy industry early in the piece. That country now has one of the most efficient dairy industries in the world. The farmers are better off, resources are better allocated in that country and there is a better situation overall. It really takes only a bit of guts on behalf of the Government and a bit of explanation, and the industry and the general public in Australia can see the wisdom in the moves. I have been alarmed at other times when we have set out to restructure boards engaged in commodity marketing of primary products in this country, to find that the Opposition, in keeping with its usual bleats of woe, misery and impending doom, has made all sorts of allegations about the sorts of people we are going to put on the boards. The Opposition has said that we are going to stack each board with various fellows who are supposedly of our Party affiliation.

The last time there was a great hue and cry was when the Opposition was alleging that the Government was going to appoint one of its friends to the Australian Wool Corporation. What happened then was that an eminent businessman was appointed. He was appointed for his ability. The Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wriedt) has handled appointments to these industry boards with a great deal of wisdom. We are getting very good people on the boards. We are getting very good industry people on the boards and we are consulting with the industry itself. There is a lot more consultation with industry. The honourable member for Darling (Mr FitzPatrick) commented this morning on this subject in the debate on the Wool Tax Bills.

The farmers are better off in terms of representation on this Board. They will now have 3 members out of eleven whereas before they had 3 members out of thirteen. The problem to which farmers used to point before was that there were 8 manufacturers representatives on the Board, and they felt that their voice was outweighed. But that really is not the problem. That really is not the basis of the argument. It does not really matter how many people are on the boards; what is important is the strength and the ideas of the people. We should not think that any board that we set up will simply divide itself along a certain line between farmers, manufacturers and Government representatives or in some way become factions. What boards are about is to get together on some sort of consensus to pool the wisdom of all who are there and to come up with a better policy which is accepted by the industry.

That is the Government’s motive in trying to restructure boards equitably and in the interests of the industry.

I do not have much more to add. I think that this is a good move. There is nothing in this measure that one could criticise. The honourable member for McMillan (Mr Hewson) raised some problems with respect to his own electorate and I would like to raise one with respect to mine- that is, the prices farmers receive for their stock when they sell them. As we know, the slump in beef prices has had the most adverse effect on the dairy farmers trying to sell off their store cattle and cattle no longer suitable for their own enterprise. I have one meatworks in my electorate. The biggest problem it faces today is in respect to workers compensation. I would like to point out to the House the way in which this impost on the industry has risen dramatically in the last few years. In 1974 the main abattoir in my electorate was paying a premium of $25,000 for workers compensation. Since then there have been 2 rises and the premium went up $5 1,000. However they found on May 9 that their 30 per cent discount had been removed and they will have to pay another 50 per cent, bringing it up to $61,000. By applying the same factors, next year it will be $130,000.

There is a review in the pipeline, and it looks as though the abattoirs will have to pay $3 1 in compensation for every $ 100 in wages. The dairy farmers themselves face this enormous impost but for the abattoir, with 135 men, the workers compensation bill next year will be about $200,000. This is going to be an enormous impost on the whole rural sector. It is going to kill the abattoir concerned. I commend the Bill to the House.


-The purpose of this Bill is to change the powers and membership of the Australian Dairy Produce Board and to change its name to the Australian Dairy Corporation. As the leader for this side, the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair), said, the Opposition supports the legislation. The changes to the powers of the Board or Corporation, what ever one likes to call it, were first considered before the Liberal-Country Party Government lost office. They were well under way. It surprises me that it has taken so long for this matter to surface; nevertheless it has surfaced. In the time it has taken to surface it is quite evident that the membership of the proposed Corporation has been altered on a number of occasions.

When one looks at the original intention, one is concerned at the way in which the Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wriedt) wanted to set himself up basically as the czar over the whole industry, so that he, through his powers in 2 ways, with this new Corporation, would be able to control the industry. The first proposal was for a corporation of 10 members- 3 farmers, 2 manufacturers, but five members appointed by the Government, with the chairman having a casting vote. That meant that the nominees of the Minister would have had control over the whole Corporation. That was a most disturbing attempt by the Minister. The second proposal related to the method of appointment. None of these men is actually elected to the Corporation. All are appointed by the Minister. Hence this feeling of concern that the Minister wanted to control the whole show. In some cases he appoints them direct; in others he appoints them from a panel. I believe that the Minister’s attitude shows that he has had little regard for the industry. When one hears some of the criticism of the industry from the Government side of the House one realises that honourable members opposite have little knowledge of or regard for the industry either.

The dairy industry in Australia is the second most efficient dairy industry in the world. I think it would be conceded that on average New Zealand would be more efficient. Victorians would argue this because they consider that they would be at least as efficient as New Zealand. New Zealand has certain natural advantages and certain government advantages that we do not have here. It is also sometimes argued that the dairy industry has received a lot of government assistance. The amount of assistance it is receiving now is nil. When one looks at the level of assistance even at the time of government subsidy in other measures one sees that there is still less assistance for the dairy industry in this country than there is for the dairy industry in any other country, and that includes New Zealand.

Mr Duthie:

– But you were not going to restore that subsidy either.


– If we were the Government it would never have been taken off, so do not let us talk about those silly things. Also from the Government side one hears about adjustment, as though adjustment in the dairy industry magically started after December 1972. This does less than credit to the dairy industry. When one reads the statistics of the dairy industry in Australia over the last 25 years one sees the tremendous flexibility within the industry in numbers of dairy farmers, in types of products, in rationalisation of factories and in the movement of the whole industry itself. One sees what a very flexible and efficient industry it has been, and the power that it has within itself for adjustment.

Let me come back to the point at issue herethe membership of the Corporation and how the Minister wanted to dominate the Corporation at the initial stage. Due to pressure from within the industry, the membership of the Corporation was increased to eleven. This was done by giving the manufacturers a third representative, and this made it impossible then for those directly appointed by the Minister to have the majority. It would be incorrect to say that at the present time the composition of the Corporation is what the industry actually wants. The industry is giving a grudging acceptance because the Minister has pronounced that it either gets this or nothing. The industry itself actually wants 4 dairy farmer representatives. This point was made by the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair). The industry is also unhappy about the method of the appointment of the chairman of the Corporation.

Dr Patterson:

– It agreed.


– It agreed to 3 dairy farmer representatives under pressure because it was told it was either that or nothing. In the past the chairman of the Board, as it then was, was appointed from within the industry after the industry had put forward a panel of names, and the industry would Uke this procedure to continue. Under the provisions of this Bill the Minister will have so much direct control over who will be the members of the Corporation that a great responsibility lies with him to ensure that the best members are chosen. This means not only the best people as such but also that the diverse interests of the industry throughout Australia are adequately represented.

The dairy industry does face certain problems at the present time. These are due partly to the vagaries of the world market and partly to action by the Labor Government. One of the points that Labor has made from time to time about what it will do for farming is that it will increase income stability The Green Paper makes reference to this aspect and I understand there is a commitee supposedly looking into it. This is one of the big things that Labor is doing or is supposed to be doing, but when one looks at the action taken by the Labor Government in the dairy industry the picture is seen to be the reverse. Action taken by the Labor Government has actually reduced the income stability in the dairy industry. When talking about income stability in the dairy industry there are 2 key words- stabilisation and equalisation. Equalisation was to a certain extent buttressed by the stabilisation arrangements through payments of the dairy bounty. Under this legislation dairy payments made from 1 July will be reduced by at least 2Vic per lb because the final withdrawal of the subsidy takes place on that date and with it the pressures on equalisation will increase. Equalisation is the only buttress for income stability in the industry.

With the present fall in world prices there has been a dramatic build-up in skim milk powder stocks around the world. The recent United Kingdom Budget, by significantly reducing consumer subsidies, particularly for dairy products from f 600m to f 450m- in Australia these would be called producer subsidies- will increase these pressures because one of the things that the subsidy system did in the United Kingdom was to increase the uptake of dairy products, particularly butter and cheese. Through the European Economic Community this meant that any surplus situation was less likely to develop. These pressures will now increase. Equalisation certainly must remain as the cornerstone of any form of income stability in the dairy industry, but that does not mean that there should not be flexibility within the equalisation arrangements. In the past there has not been adequate flexibility within the equalisation arrangements to allow incentives for people producing a different type of product within Australia to be able to produce that product and to market it. In my electorate is probably the most diverse cheese manufacturing plant in Australia, the Girgarre cheese factory, which is substantially reducing the variety of cheese it makes because under the equalisation arrangements the return for the butter skim milk mix is greater than for the cheese mix. I think this is an absurd situation to have in this country.

The honourable member for Eden-Monaro made some rather interesting remarks. He said that he thought there should be more power in the legislation to enable the responsible Minister to guide factories as to what they should produce. That statement is fairly interesting, if not absurd, when one thinks of what has happened in the past in respect of all those people, whether they were in the Government resource section or in the private sector or the dairy industry, who have made predictions about what would happen in future markets. I think one can confidently say that everybody has been wrong and everybody will continue to be wrong because of the complex arrangements of international marketing, weather conditions and so on. The honourable member also said that he thought the Minister could guide the factory managers because they do not know about future markets. From my knowledge of the dairy industry, which I think is considerably greater than the honourable member’s knowledge, the dairy factory managers probably know more than anybody else about what is likely to happen in terms of future markets. This suggestion also raises the interesting question that if the Minister has the power or is given the power to guide factories or to dictate to factories what they should produce and that guidance or dictation is wrong, will the Government then support the industry when there is an excessive build-up of stocks?

The honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Kerin) referred to resource allocation as if the dairy industry in Australia had used available resources less efficiently than had industries in other countries. He referred to the New Zealand dairy industry but he did not say that that industrywhich is cited in this country quite frequently as being without subsidy and as being somehow or other the acme of all dairy industriesreceives about $60m a year in subsidies at the present time. The dairy industry in Australia has never received half that amount. Taking account of the heavy usage of superphosphate which occurs in the dairy industries in both Australia and New Zealand, the subsidy provided by a Labor Government for superphosphate used in New Zealand becomes far more significant. The Labor Government in this country should look to what the Labor Government in New Zealand is doing for the agricultural sector there so as to take a lesson as to what is possible under a Labor Government with sensible allocation of assistance to various agricultural industries. It is held on the Government side that if you are government employee or if you work in a critical electoral area, like some of those in Adelaide with a good deal of motor vehicle employment, you can receive all the assistance in the world; but if you happen to live outside those areas in the great rural sectors of Australia you are not worth considering. Nevertheless, I support the legislation.

Minister for Northern Development and Minister for the Northern Territory · Dawson · ALP

– in reply- I want to comment briefly on only one point that has been raised by, I think, every speaker on the Opposition side, and that is the composition of the Australian Dairy Corporation. It has been alleged that the Minister for Agriculture (Senator

Wriedt) did not want to agree with the industry’s proposals relating to the membership of the Corporation. First of all, I think it is necessary to state a few facts on this matter. As to the composition of the Australian Dairy Produce Board, out of a total of 13 members there are 3 producer representatives. Under this legislation the new Corporation will have out of a total of 1 1 members 3 producer representatives. So in fact the proportion of producer representation is much higher under this legislation. It is true that the Minister’s initial proposal was that there should be 3 producer representatives and 2 representatives from the manufacturing side of the industry. It is a fact that late last year the Australian Dairy Farmers Federation proposed that there should be 4 producer representatives and 2 representatives from the manufacturing side of the industry. The industry representatives met the Minister on 1 1 March. At that meeting the Federation did not question the Minister’s proposal to have 3 producer representatives on the Corporation, but it did strongly support an increase in the number of representatives from the manufacturing side. There was a subsequent meeting with the industries representatives. On 3 April, Federation representatives advised the Minister that the Federation was now seeking a minimum of 4 producer representatives on the Board. So it went on backward and forwardsfour to three, three to two, three to three, four to three, four to two, or take your pick. Various arguments were put forward.

The important thing was that in subsequent discussions on the number of manufacturers representatives, the Dairy Federation representatives advised that they would be happy with 3 producer representatives, providing that there were also 3 manufacturers representatives, that is, they wanted the number restricted to three. So in actual fact they wanted equal representation with the manufacturing side of the industrythree to three. Industry representatives unanimously accepted the addition of one manufacturers representative to the Minister’s initial proposal. The matter was straightened out. This representation was accepted after various discussions and consideration of everyone’s viewsthe Minister’s views and the industry’s views. The Federation came to the unanimous decision that it would accept three and three.

Following that meeting, the Minister received representations from the State Council of the Queensland Dairymen’s Organisation, the Victorian Farmers’ Union and the Federation again requesting 4 producer representatives to ensure an adequate and effective representation on the

Board. So they went back to 4 representatives, after the Federation had unanimously agreed to three. The Minister for Agriculture, in his reply, told the Federation that in his considered view, representation by 3 producers in a total membership of eleven was reasonable compared with the present situation in the Produce Board of three out of thirteen. He also said that there was no disagreement on the need for adequate representation in numbers, although there was always room for difference of opinion as to how many constituted an adequate number.

Although I was not present at the discussion, there seems to me to be some sort of dissension within the industry. The Federation, on the one hand, agreed unanimously to the number of manufacturers representatives being increased to three and that there would be equal representation of three to three- in other words there would be 6 representatives. The Federation agreed with that. But apparently State organisations had different views. This may be a wrong interpretation on my part, but it would appear that something has happened since the Federation accepted the proposal.

The honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd), I think it was, said that the Federation was forced into this position. I do not know whether that is correct or not. I very much doubt it from the advice that I have received. But I believe that the industry has received a fair deal because the Minister has assured the main industry bodies of the dairy industry that he will consult them before the final appointments are made, including the appointment of the chairman. In other words, there will be full consultation by the Minister for Agriculture. I wanted to clear that point up because I think it is necessary to state on behalf of the Minister for Agriculture the facts relating to the various meetings between the Minister and the Dairy Federation. It seems to me that agreement was reached on this very important matter but that within the industry itself there was some dissatisfaction.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.

Third Reading

Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.

Bill (on motion by Dr Patterson) read a third time.

page 3358


Second Reading

Debate resumed from 28 May on motion by Or Patterson:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

Question resolved in the affirmative. Bill read a second time.

Third Reading

Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.

Bill (on motion by Dr Patterson) read a third time.

page 3358


Second Reading

Debate resumed from 3 June on motion by Mr Enderby: . That the Bill be now read a second time.


-The purpose of the Customs Tariff Validation Bill is to validate until 3 1 December next the collection of customs duties in accordance with a variety of proposals for tariff changes introduced over the period since September 1974. last. Some 19 reports of the Industries Assistance Commission are involved as listed in the second reading speech of the Attorney-General and Minister for Police and Customs (Mr Enderby) and 6 reports of the Temporary Assistance Authority. One of the 19 reports- I concede it is an exceptional one- runs to over 400 pages. It is the report on the motor car industry. I have said that there are 6 reports of the Temporary Assistance Authority mentioned in the Minister’s second reading speech but since late last year to date there have been a dozen inquiries by the Temporary Assistance Authority. Many have resulted in quota restrictions on imports, for example, footwear, steel sheets, sun glasses, refrigerators, washing machines, and steel ball bearings, not to mention the quotas applying to textiles.

The issues are vast and the welfare and prosperity of most of the Australian people one way or another is involved. Yet very little time of the Parliament is assigned to debate these measures. I suspect my colleague, the honourable member ‘or Wakefield, Mr Kelly, may have something to say about this matter. But what is certain is the range of reports to which I have referred and the Government’s response to them bring under scrutiny the whole course of the Government’s tariff policy- or rather its lack of it- since it took office.

The beginning of the Government’s policy is clear enough. One may refer to it as the Whitlarn I AC ‘cut-tariffs policy’. The thrust was to win votes by reducing tariffs, that is, import taxes, thus ensuring lower prices for Australians as consumersas buyers of goods.

In seeking this easy road to lower prices what the Government failed to realise was that the consumers were also employees and were very concerned about their jobs. Late last yearrather too late- the Prime Minister talked of the need for a careful balance to ensure that employment opportunities were not disrupted. I suggest that he should have thought of that earlier. In 1973 and into 1974, to specific reductions in tariffs in the electronic, white goods, printing and other industries were added the ill-advised 25 per cent across the board tariff cut of July 1973. Also, and I want to stress this because it is of enormous importance, in respect of the protectionor rather non-protection of Australian industry- was the large and unduly prolonged revaluation of the Australian dollar. That revaluation exceeded 20 per cent for a considerable period. Indeed, it reached 30 per cent visavis some currencies such as sterling. It will be appreciated that that would completely negate a protective tariff of 30 per cent. The effect of such a revaluation would be that a product landed previously at $10 could be landed for $7. So I repeat, the effect of a 30 per cent tariff would be completely negated.

This perhaps is not the time to debate the 25 per cent across the board tariff cut. I have stressed on a number of occasions that that is not the sort of treatment that a Liberal-National Country Party Government would mete out to industry. In saying that, I am also bound to add that the Opposition does not suggest that changes in tariffs and some restructuring of industry should not be made. In office, the Liberal-Country Party Government did not rest content at the level of tariffs and, indeed, that Government instituted the Systematic Review of the tariffs, which is still continuing. That is a very important procedure, to ensure that the interdependence between industries is taken into account. But the 25 per cent across-the-board cut was something different. It flew in the face of long established tariff making procedures in Australia, namely, the determination of tariff rates on a long-term basis after open public inquiry and report by the Tariff Board, now the Industries Assistance Commission. Of course, most important of all was the damaging effect of the cut on business confidence, and I suggest that the impact of that measure is still felt to some extent in the widespread lack of confidence in the business community at the present time.

The position now is that the Minister for Manufacturing Industry (Senator James McClelland) in the other place has, on several occasions, conceded the lack of wisdom in that move- albeit that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), judging by his performance on ‘Monday Conference’ the other night, does not. One might ask, how could he know? Of greater practical importance is the fact that in virtually all the areas where the measure hurt, the Government has now reversed it, and more. That would be reflected in some five of the measures with which we are concerned in this validation procedure tonight. As I recall, about 19 November last year the measures that the Government has taken were announced. Of course, the most notable case would be the motor industry, where the tariff before the 25 per cent tariff cut was about 45 per cent. The tariff cut reduced it to 33% per cent, or something like that. It was then brought up to 35 per cent and a primage duty of 10 per cent was added. So it reverted to 45 per cent, together with import restrictions as well.

Why was this the case? It was because, in combination with the other policies of the Government, that tariff cut and that revaluation have brought on the highest level of unemployment since the Depression, with upwards of 250 000 people unemployed, along with very high inflation and investment stagnant. Perhaps only now, a consumer-led upturn in the economy is beginning.

If it is true that the Government would disown the 25 per cent tariff slash, has it backed off from the cut-tariff stance generally? If we look at the increased tariffs and the plethora of direct import restrictions in respect of textiles, footwear, sunglasses, steel sheeting, motor cars, and so on, we might well judge ‘No’. However, if we had listened to the Minister for Manufacturing Industry in the other place- I am assuming he is still the Minister- speaking to the Harvard Club last Friday week, we would think otherwise. The report of the Minister’s speech, as contained in the ‘Australian’, stated:

The Government would continue to reduce tariffs.

What is the Government’s policy on tariffs? I would interpret it to mean a continuation, save where electoral considerations conflict, of what one may call the Whitlam-IAC approach. This amounts to an approach that, as quickly as possible the rate of protection for as many industries as possible should be brought to more or less one level, namely, 25 per cent or thereabouts. We have only to look at the reports before us in this debate. Remember that they were preceded by the electronics industry report in November 1973, which recommended protection of 30 per cent for television sets and 25 per cent for components and other products, and the domestic appliances report recommending protection of 25 per cent. We have on this list, in the Minister’s second reading speech, Fibreboard Containers, Paper and Textile Bags, 25 per cent, and Photographic and Cinematrographic Apparatus, 20 per cent, which subsequently was reduced to 15 per cent. This sort of rate did not apply in the case of Apparel or Textile Floorcoverings. But for Food Processing Machinery the figure was 1 5 per cent to 25 per cent. For Foundation Garments the figure was 25 percent. Subsequently, it was increased to 42V4 per cent, and 57Vi per cent. The figure for Glass and Glassware is 15 per cent, and for Gloves, Mittens and Mits it is 25 per cent. For Mushrooms- and I see that my colleague the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Cadman) will confirm this- the figure is 25 per cent. For Passenger Motor Vehicles, as I have said, the figure is 25 per cent. And so it goes on. The figure for Woven Man-made Fibre Fabrics is 22’A per cent for polyolefin fabrics, which would be the largest volume now being produced. Therefore, I suggest that the thrust of this policy is, as I have said, that as quickly as possible the rate of protection for as many industries as possible should be reduced more or less to this one level, this magical 25 per cent. It even applies to mushrooms, and the mushroom industry is a small industry that the Government has thrown to the wolves.

Mr Cadman:

– A simplistic approach.


– It was a very simplistic approach, particularly in that case, where the Commissioner and the Government would not recognise that imported canned mushrooms compete with Australian fresh mushrooms, the principal product of the Australian industry. As I have said several times, this is not a valid, feasible or realistic approach- it was described a moment ago by my colleague the honourable member for Mitchell as being simplistic- yet the adherence of the Industries Assistance Commission to this approach has created a quite basic communication barrier between the Commission and Aus.tralian industry, which simply does not accept the narrow Industries Assistance Commission approach. That narrow approach ignores the social and human problems of changing tariffs. The expedients and bandaids- Uke the payment made under the Associated Pulp and Paper Mills legislation that passed through this House yesterday, the Regional Employment Development scheme, the abuse, in effect, of the National Employment and Training scheme, the Special Assistance to Non-metropolitan Areas scheme, known as the SANMA scheme- all these are eloquent testimony to the fact that, if the Industries Assistance Commission can ignore these matters, governments cannot

The LAC approach, in any case, is no substitute for a positive national industry policy, which is precisely what the Government lacks. The main justification that has been advanced for moving towards this more or less uniform tariff rate is that it will promote an ‘optimum’ allocation of the nation’s resources. However, this theoretical argument is built upon sand since we have nothing like an optimum allocation of resources to begin with. The existing structure of Australian industry and the present pattern of tariff rates reflect, among other factors, the history of Australia’s industrial development, national aspirations over the years, and in particular our situation as a ‘small, rich country’ remote from the main industrial centres of the world. There is no getting away from that history. It means that we do not start from the theoretical ‘ideal’ from which one would deduce the desirability of the approach to which I have referred.

That approach almost automatically would rule out a significant textile industry in Australia. A textile industry could not survive in any advanced country in the world with the protection of a 25 per cent tariff rate. I believe that it was after the trauma of arriving at the decision in relation to the car industry that the Government faced up to the LAC report on Foundation Garments. I am sure there is no Freudian overtone in this! When the Government faced up to a 25 per cent tariff in that area the crunch was really on. That that sort of rate should apply to the clothing industry is totally unrealistic and perhaps contributed more than any other recommendation, except that on the car industry, towards the Commission’s recommendations being discredited. I think one ought to recognise that in the United States- fundamentally the most productive country in the world- its textile industry could not survive at that sort of rate. In the United States there are import quotas or their equivalent. In fact the Unites States has the equivalent in terms of voluntary restraints, so called, in respect of about 70 different goods ranging from beef, steel and mushrooms to textiles and apparels. I suggest that this sort of practice should be borne in mind when it is taken for granted that the level of tariffs in Australia is exceptionally high. In the sphere of industry I referred to, some form of restriction, voluntary restraint or otherwise, is virtually inevitable.

No one is suggesting that changes in tariffs and some restructuring of industries should not be made. But what changes would result in an improvement in the allocation of the nation’s resources in accordance with our national objectives is a complex issue not to be determined by reference to a theoretical uniform standard. There is, for example, the question of the importance of supporting essential know-how and technology. The technical economist would refer to this as ‘external effects’. I mean, for example, the importance of an industry for Australian research and development and Australian knowhow. Speaking to the previous custom tariff proposals I stressed that in this technological age the importance to the future of Australia of a viable electronics industry is strongly supported by the Opposition Parties. I raised the question- the Opposition would have few doubts as to the answer- of the viability of the electronics industry, including its capacity to maintain a nationally independent program of research and development, being dependent on an integrated operation combining a thriving consumer product division with production for the so-called professional market. So in looking to a balanced and sound industrial base, the electronics industry should have a key place in the Australian industrial structure. But that is just the sort of industry, especially at the consumer end, which is most vulnerable to overseas competition, and vulnerable in a way in which industries such as the brick, beer and bottle industries- which which are good candidates for absorbing resources, according to the Commission’s latest report- are not. Those industries do not need to supplicate, to seek or to cry out for adequate protection. What has to be considered however is what is important for Australia’s long-term future.

But in any event ‘economic efficiency’, the socalled optimum allocation of resources, is not, never has been, or can be, the only goal of policy. There is, for example, defence. There is also, from many points of view, the overriding question of economic growth. The doctrinaire pursuit of the ‘efficiency’ criterion and of a changed industry structure will blunt, and already has done so, the growth performance of the economy. In particular, uncertainty as to future levels of protection has had a major inhibiting effect on new investment and capital expansion plans. It is one among a variety of factors contributing to the stagnation of private investment which is at the core of the present malaise of the Australian economy. Growth lost in this way and the dislocation of too rapid restructuring can very soon outweigh any potential gains, and keep them potential, from increased ‘efficiency’.

There can be no escaping the need for an explicit decision as to what sort of industrial structure we want for Australia and for the establishing of machinery for the Government to determine ongoing national industry policy- not for an independent advisory body to do the job, in effect, by default. That involves an effective, indeed a strong, Industries Assistance Commission. Let me make that clear. I am arguing against the policy and the mode of operation of the -

Mr Enderby:

– I wish you would make something clear.


– The Minister interjected that he wishes I would make something clear. To whom does he want me to make it clear? I give up on the job of trying to make it clear to him. As I have previously said and I repeat, I am arguing against the policy and the mode of operation of the Industries Assistance Commission, as at present, not the institution of a strong, well informed advisory body as such. Indeed, the approach of the Commission at present in some respects alarms one. I would hesitate to generalise, but certainly in those cases among this mass of industries the duties in respect of which we are validating tonight, where I am close enough to have a good idea of the situation, the decisions and recommendations of the Commission often seem to have little relation to all the evidence and aU the talk that has taken place at public inquiries.

It almost seems that the public inquiry is held, the evidence is gathered, but the decision is ordained beforehand. The concept of the Tariff Board, as it was, or the Commission as it now is, as I have always understood it should be, is that of a group of wise men of diverse backgrounds and experience, independent of the industry under examination and essentially independent of each other, achieving a meeting of minds as to the issue before it.

There seems to be no such concept. So far as one can judge, one does not see that happening. Further, the issue before it should be a reference from the Government stemming from the Government’s broad industrial development policy specifying various alternatives in respect of which the Commission would assess the arguments for and against. In the light of that and other considerations, the Government would make its decision. That is broadly the approach one would like to see. Perhaps to some extent and in some ways the Government came close to that sort of approach in the recent motor industry case, but the procedure at present still leaves a great deal to be desired.

Tariffs are a complex and difficult issue. Many factors, including our responsibility as a major world trading nation, must be weighed. But, as an underlying philosophy, Australians are committed to a big Australia a diversified Australia, with a broadly based dynamic manufacturing sector, complementary to our great rural and mining industries. As categorically as I can, I aver that the Liberal Party and the National Country Party in this Parliament are unequivocally so committed. That commitment requires that adequate and consistent protection be afforded those Australian industries which the Government decides should be supported. The alternative, to which I suspect the Industries Assistance Commission would direct us, is an Australia with perhaps a somewhat higher income per head but less industrialised, and more heavily dependent on its rural and mining export industries and on imports for most of its manufactures. I repeat that that is not the sort of Australia that Australians have traditionally opted for, and is not what the majority of Australians want today.

The issue, and the issue of a national industrial policy which is bound up with it, is a key one for Australia’s development. As I have said on previous occasions in considering this matter, the Government has put the cart before the horse. It has proceeded to knock down Australian industry without any clear view of what Will take its place. As I said on a previous occasion, we witness the Exodus before the Genesis, that is, widespread and increasing unemployment with no clear view of where the unemployed are to go. Hopefully, the Government assisted by the deliberations of the Jackson Committee, which I trust is soon to report, will shortly begin to determine a clearer course.


-Firstly, I wish to protest- not so much to the Attorney-General (Mr Enderby) but to the Parliament- about the way in which this tariff debate is being handled today. We are discussing a tariff validation Bill. No opportunity is available in this debate to examine the actual proposal and details. Twenty Tariff Board or Industries Assistance Commission reports lie behind the proposals that we are now to validate. There has been no opportunity for any discussion of those reports. The way in which we handle these reports is not the fault of the Attorney-General; it is the fault of the machine. Really, this practice has gone much too far.

Look at the kinds of figures involved in this. We are validating without any reasonable discussion a decision of the Government that has given a consumer subsidy to the car industry of $300m a year. This is the kind of matter that Parliament ought to be considering. I do not say that it is wrong, but I think it is wrong of Parliament not to examine it. We are reaching the stage at which these very important decisions- boring they may be- are being made without any parliamentary examination. It is not good enough that the system should be allowed to continue to work in this way.

The system used to work with infinite labour and with considerable boredom. We used to follow a system in which there was a second reading tariff debate in which we would examine the principles by which the protection system operated. Then the House would go into Committee where we could take apart each of the proposals, if we so desired. I remember taking 1 7 such proposals apart, to the infinite boredom of the Committee. But this is the kind of thing which has to be done. For the present system to continue is not good enough.

Many of these reports award great advantage to some industries; other industries suffer great disadvantage. That this examination is not being carried out by the House is a grave reflection on the procedures of the House. Since this Government has been in office, there has not been a proper debate on tariffs in which we have had time to examine the proposals in detail. Since the advent of this Government, 43 reports from the Tariff Board, the Temporary Assistance Authority or the Special Advisory Authority have been presented. Only one of those has been mentioned in some detail. This was done last year by the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles). These has not, however, been any proper discussion.

I can understand why this has not occurred. We are under too great a pressure. There is no time for this to be done properly, but for it not to be done is a grave reflection on our procedures. I have on many occasions, and I will do so again, made the plea that a standing committee of this House should be appointed to look at each report of the Tariff Board, as it was, or the Industries Assistance Commission, as it now is. That committee should not examine the policies relating to protection; they rest with the Government.

That committee should go through the leg work of looking at the various reports and making some examination of them.

Yesterday a debate involving a considerable amount of time and a large amount of eloquence took place in which the House discussed the advantage of a grant of $650,000 to Associated Pulp and Paper Mills. Yet, a subsidy of $300m is going each year to the car industry and is not being debated. Our failure to consider these reports is a grave reflection on the Parliament.

We are entering a field that is complex beyond belief. I know how difficult it is. I know how boring it can be. But the work must be done. The Government, God bless its soul, has just brought out a Green Paper on the valuation for duty procedures. Just this week we have been informed that the system of by-law administration is under examination. I pay tribute to the Government for putting that information out in public documents. But I draw attention to the difficulty for any person to take those 2 reports properly apart and to examine them so that the great advantages which are given under the by-law system may be understood and so that we may know what we are doing. This is a duty which ought to be laid on the Parliament. If it cannot be done by the Parliament, I beg the Attorney-General to use his influence to see that this is done by a standing committee of this House which could have a look at each proposal in detail.

Our Party has a committee on tariffs. It is under the brilliant chairmanship of the honourable member for Berowra (Dr Edwards). I guess that the Labor Party has the same kind of instrumentality. But I do not pretend- 1 am certain that the honourable member for Berowra would support me- that we are giving the intimate and careful examination that we ought to give to each proposal. That is one thing. I think it is an absolute scandal that the Parliament- not the Government- should allow this to go on, should allow these great benefits, and sometimes costs, to be given to particular industries and not to be examined in this House at all. The way in which I hope it would work would be for a committee to agree on proposals and then they would not need to come into the House; but if there was disagreement and they did come into the House at least there would be informed discussion instead of this waffling around and jumping from one proposal to the other, as we are inclined to do with these reports. I beg the Minister and the Parliament to take this position in hand because it should not continue as it is.

I want briefly to come back to some of the points of principle that I would hope to raise in a proper tariff proposals debate, which we have not had in this House since November last year. I want to refer to this 25 per cent tariff cut. I know I am out on the end of a limb but I have been there before and it is not as uncomfortable as people seem to think it is. The 25 per cent tariff cut is blamed far too much for the ills that are afflicting the economy. It is easy to pick this out as the cause but the figures show that a 25 per cent tariff cut is equivalent to a 4 per cent to 5 per cent currency alteration. Since the Government has been in power we have had a 20 per cent currency appreciation and this has had far more impact- at least three and probably four times as muchthan the 25 per cent tariff cut that has got all the blame. Coming to the fundamental guts of th, problem, we have to face up to the question of a more flexible exchange rate.

The decisions that are made to alter the exchange rate are far more influential than the tariff cuts about which we are so eloquent. I do not say that we ought to have a flexible exchange rate which is not controlled to some extent with capital inflow, but on trade balance matters it ought to be something which corrects itself. The Government gets the blame every time there is an alteration to the exchange rate but, God bless my soul, it would have to be done every now and again. I am hoping that we will have a system whereby it is done in gradual steps, little steps each few days or each week, so that we get a gradual adjustment of the economy to the changing circumstances of the trade balance problem. For far too long we have been backing away from this question. It is said that we put ourselves in the hands of the gnomes of Zurich, but that is just nonsense. If New Zealand can do it, why cannot we? What is wrong with us that we will not bite on this bullet and get away from this nonsense, this trauma we go through every now and again when we have to alter the exchange rate? Anybody who says that we do not have to alter it is out of his mind. It has to be altered in big steps if we want to continue with our present system. What I want is a more flexible and gradual system. That puts the 25 per cent tariff cut in focus with the alteration of the exchange rate. An exchange rate alteration is far more important, yet we never hear much eloquence wasted on it. This 25 per cent tariff cut is something that is easy to see and we can pick on that.

The alteration of wage rates has been far more important than the effect of the 25 per cent tariff cut. Knitting is one of the problem industries. A 25 per cent tariff cut is equivalent to an increase in wages that ranges, depending on what basis of calculation one uses, between 6 per cent and 13 per cent; yet between December 1972 and September 1974 there has been an increase in wages averaging about 60 per cent- 56 per cent for men and 73 per cent for women. That is the kind of thing that it is much more difficult for the industry to adjust to than the 25 per cent tariff cut but it is the kind of thing we never talk about on either side of the Parliament. The Prime Minister brought it into focus and said, quite rightly, that the increase in wages, particularly female wages, is far more important than the tariff cut. We want to bring the disease into focus and I put it no less than that, which is affecting our thinking on these problems. I have used this quotation before and I will spell it out again. It is from the old CoplandGiblin report of 1929 which spelt out the basic philosophy which led our tariff policy along pretty wise roads for a long while. It deals with the problem of tariff protection and I quote directly from the report:

The most disquieting effect of the tariff has been the stimulus it has given to demands for government assistance of all kinds with consequent demoralising effect upon self reliant efficiency throughout all forms of production.

We are getting this in Australia in an acute form and we see it exemplified in our discussion on the 25 per cent tariff cut. There is a tendency to lean which comes with government assistance through the tariff and in many other ways and is one of the things that is eating into the efficiency of this country. We are becoming a country of leaners

The other matter I want to raise is of some principle, and there are no votes in it for me. It is the question of tariff compensation. This is put forward as the solution to the problems of the rural sector which has to carry the costs of tariff protection. I refer to the Green Paper of the 4 wise men- Crawford, Honan Harris and Gruen, the latter being not an unknown name- which contains an admission of what tariff protection really means. The report states:

The prices of virtually all the inputs, including labour, used by export producers reflect the costs of the tariff, the rural exporter- and to a considerable degree the mineral and manufacturing exporter- is generally unable to pass them on any further.

I have been saying that again and again in this House until I am almost hoarse. Then they go on to spell out the second best solution, and I quote from the report:

The preferred course, replacing the tariff with an exchange rate devaluation and leaving the tariff to be used for special situations, such as infant industries, would therefore provide difficulties for these industries.

They would be mainly political difficulties probably, but they did not say that. The report continues:

Given the practical difficulties, such a course is likely to be followed at best, only slowly. There is then a case on economic grounds for a second best course of action, for providing some compensating protection that is of assistance to the export sector.

This has become a very fashionable policy and we would not be surprised to learn that it is supported by people of that quality, but no one seems to look at what it really means. For instance, Professor Keith Campbell, a man with the acid kind of logic that would not go down too well in Parliament, does clarify people’s thinking. In a report in the ‘Agricultural Economist’ journal of December last he spelt out, as one would expect him to do with this kind of awful logic, the fact that tariffs were instituted to redistribute income from the exporting sector to the manufacturing sector. Now there is a system of tariff compensation to redistribute income back again. When one starts to think about it clearly, one realises that it is a policy of utter despair. We have a policy under which income is redistributed away from the export sector and then redistributed back again. Only Professor Campbell could spell it out in the way that he has.

Let me take the matter further. Which industries are to be compensated for loss of income due to tariff measures- all of them? If compensation is not given across the whole export sector, resources will be pushed into the industries that need them. That is a good and an attractive political argument, but we must realise what that means. It means that when industries are getting into trouble because supply is outrunning demand, resources will be channelled back to them. If care is not exercised the position of these industries will be worsened. The main problem is that the existence of a tariff compensation system destroys the incentive for the exporting sector to try to press for lower levels of tariff compensation. That is pretty logical and equitable. But what kind of picture do we end up with? We tend to have a system of continually rising tariffs and continually rising levels of tariff compensation. The Government tends to foster a community in which people take in one another’s washing, with representatives of the Government standing at the corner of the street saying: ‘A bit more here and a bit more there ‘.

Dr Edwards:

– What do you advocate?


– The honourable member knows very well what I have advocated. I have had a great deal of trouble getting it into his nut. We hope that the Jackson Committee can lead us by the hand through this difficult area. It bears a dreadful responsibility, because we are ending up as a community in which people are looking towards taking in one another’s washing. We hear the captains of industry thunder eloquently about the virtues of private industry, but having done that they say: ‘Yes, but now we would like another handout of tariff assistance’. I think that the Jackson Committee has a terrible responsibility to lead us away from that kind of wishywashy thinking. If we believe in private enterprise, we should adhere to that belief and not drift along and say to the Government: Although we believe in private enterprise, we would like another handout, please’. We, as a Parliament, have a responsibility, and the Jackson Committee has a particular responsibility, to tackle the problems that the country faces. We do not face them in this House, but I would hope that the Government will do what it can to see that we have an opportunity to face them better.


-Mr Deputy Speaker-

Motion (by Mr Nicholls) agreed to:

That the question be now put.

Original question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

Third Reading

Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.

Bill (on motion by Mr Enderby) read a third time.

page 3364


Second Reading

Debate resumed from 6 March, on motion by Mr Enderby:

That the Bill be now read a second time.


-The House is now debating the second reading of the Ombudsman Bill 1975. The Opposition gives its enthusiastic support to this legislation and commends the Government for bringing it forward. When this Bill, with a few amendments which the Opposition hopes the Government will accept and also a few amendments that the Government has indicated its intention of moving, with which there is general but not total agreement by the Opposition, passes into an Act there will then bein existence in all the Australian States, with the exception of Tasmania, and on a Federal and territorial level provision for the office of an ombudsman. It will remain for the Australian Labor Party Government of Tasmania to legislate for an ombudsman in that State.

The word ‘ombudsman’, as many honourable members will know, has its origins in the legal order of decentralised German tribes. In that legal order 2 options were available for the handing out of justice. Firstly, the culprit on being convicted could be declared an outlaw and then become fair game for everybody or, secondly, a fine could be imposed on the culprit’s family to be paid to the victim’s family. To prevent violence between the families a neutral person was needed to collect the fine from the culprit’s family and give it to the victim’s family This person became the ombudsman, meaning the person or the messenger collecting the fine.

The first legislative recognition in modern times of the concept of an ombudsman, of course, occurred in Scandinavian countries. Those countries are commonly and quite properly credited with having given birth to the modern concept of an ombudsman. The concept of an ombudsman must have appeared to those brought up according to the common law system as a strange Scandinavian concept which was unsuited to common law conditions. In fact, for many years the notion lingered that having an ombudsman was in effect denying the traditional role of parliament in the Westminster system as a place where grievances should be aired. The experience of parliamentary life in the 20th century, a recognition that the role of members of Parliament cannot be entirely devoted to the airing of grievances, although substantially they must continue to do so, and the sheer weight of administrative decision making and the sheer volume of administrative intervention in the ordinary affairs of the citizens have meant that the concept of an ombudsman, so far from being alien to the Westminster system of government and the common law system of government, can be properly grafted on to those systems of government and can aid the process of those systems.

New Zealand was the first common law, Westminster system country to legislate for an ombudsman. It did so in 1962. The office has gradually spread throughout the common law world. The United Kingdom legislated for an ombudsman in 1967. Successive Australian States have legislated for an ombudsman, the most recent legislation being that passed by the Liberal-Country Party Government in New South Wales. The ombudsman in that State took office in the past 2 months.

To be effective the Ombudsman in my opinion should meet 5 criteria. Firstly, he should be independent. Secondly, he should be impartial. Thirdly, he should have a thorough understanding of government. Fourthly, he should be accessible. Fifthly, the powers that the Ombudsman should have should be powers to recommend and to publicise; they should not be powers to overrule and to change. In the Opposition’s view the provisions of this legislation broadly meet those 5 criteria. The Opposition does not envy the job of the Minister responsible and the Cabinet in choosing a person to fill the role of the first Australian Ombudsman. It will be a very difficult role to fill The person who is to fill it will need to meet the 5 criteria which, in the view of the Opposition, are essential in order for the Ombudsman to be effective.

In case it should be thought that the Opposition is a latecomer so far as enthusiasm for the establishment of the Ombudsman is concerned, I would remind honourable gentlemen that the establishment of an ombudsman was part of the joint Opposition policy for the 1974 election. Ombudsmen have been established in the various States by State Liberal governments. Perhaps above all, the process commenced in 1968 by the Gorton Government through the establishment of the Kerr Committee which ultimately led to the presentation of the interim report of the Bland Committee in 1973 is really the mainspring of this legislation. As the Attorney-General (Mr Enderby) acknowledged in his second reading speech, the provisions of this BUI largely follow the recommendations of the interim report of the Bland Committee which was presented early in 1973.

As honourable members will be aware, this legislation is very much a companion to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal which was dealt with in another place today and which I understand has been subject to a certain level of common ground so far as amendments in that place were concerned and it is likely to pass into law very soon. The Ombudsman BUI and the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Bill deal with the same general area. Although they are complementary Bills there is a clear delineation of functions between the Ombudsman and the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. The role of the Ombudsman will be to investigate, to conciliate, at times to cajole, to report and publicise but not to overrule or reverse administrative decisions. That Will be the proper function of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. If the whole area of review of administrative decisions is to be effectively covered it is essential that Parliament legislate both for a review tribunal and for the office of an ombudsman. The role of investigating, conciliating and cajoling is to be reserved for the Ombudsman.

In detailed terms this Bill does, as I mentioned earlier, effectively meet the requirements of 1975 for an effective Ombudsman. The Bill does give the Ombudsman extremely wide powers. In the process of investigating a complaint the Ombudsman has the right to obtain information from a department, to call for files, obviously to interview departmental officers and generally to obtain all information necessary for a proper investigation of the complaint submitted to him by an aggrieved citizen. It will be only in special cases that the Ombudsman will be denied access to the information required to investigate the complaint properly. Only on rare occasions will the Ombudsman be denied that access. The Bill, as it presently stands, will permit a Minister to deny the Ombudsman access to files and information only where the disclosure of such information and the furnishing of such files would, in the opinion of the Minister, prejudice the defence, security or international relations of Australia or might lead to a disclosure of Cabinet deliberations or Cabinet secrets or might preju-dice relations between the Federal Government and the State governments.

The Bill provides that such access can be denied on the certificate of the Minister whose department, or the action of whose department, is being investigated by the Ombudsman. A similar provision originally appeared in the Administraive Appeals Tribunal Bill. Honourable members will recall that when that legislation was debated the Opposition moved an amendment to delete the proviso that the certificate should be given by the relevant Minister and to provide that the certificate should be given by the Attorney-General. In the Opposition’s view the same procedure should be followed with the Ombudsman Bill and it is our intention during the Committee stage to move an amendment to that effect. No doubt the Attorney-General will again blush at the ringing vote of confidence that we have in his discretion in these matters. Under the Bill as it stands a Minister, the action of whose department is under investigation, has the authority to decide whether or not the matter under investigation falls within any of the excluding criteria of the Bill. The Opposition takes the view that it would be far better so far as the justice of the situation is concerned, for the final decision as to whether or not the matter involved fell within those excluding criteria to be given to the Attorney-General who is the principal legal adviser of the Government, the principal law officer of the Crown.

I know it may be argued that in practical terms this arrangement might present problems, that it is unreal to think that the Attorney-General would perhaps rely other than on the advice of his ministerial colleagues. That may well be true in certain cases, but the principle nonetheless remains that if the action of a particular department is under investigation, a Minister who potentially might be embarrassed by the processes of that investigation should not have the right in his sole discretion to decide that the facts of the matter fall within the excluding criteria and thereby terminate the process of investigation commenced by the Ombudsman. So the Opposition will most certainly persist with its amendment and we hope that the Government will give consideration to its acceptance during the Committee stage.

The passage of this Bill will not, in the Opposition’s view, diminish the historic role of Parliament as a place where grievances should be aired. Rather, that role will be enhanced by the Bill. Under the terms of the legislation the Ombudsman is empowered, after investigation of a complaint, if he feels that a decision of a department or an officer of a department should be reversed or should be mitigated in some way, to so advise the department. If he feels that the department has not paid proper attention to the advice given to it he may inform the Prime Minister of the results of his investigation and he may also inform the Parliament. The final proviso that he may also inform the Parliament in respect of specific investigations carried out ultimately means that if any further action is to be taken it is a matter for Parliament to decide. Far from the establishment of the office of Ombudsman taking the grievances of individual citizens out of the concern of Parliament. This Bill will create a situation where outstanding instances of citizens having suffered from administrative errors will be brought to the attention of the Government. In addition to the power of the Ombudsman to report to Parliament in respect of specific investigations there is provision in the legislation for an annual report to be furnished to Parliament. This is a most valuable proviso in the legislation. It will mean that the activities of this person, who I think all honourable members will admit will be given enormous privileges and powers, will come under consideration. While it is true that specifically the ombudsman has no power to change a decision, the mere fact that one man, given the independence and the statutory protection of a special Act of Parliament, will be given power to go behind the exterior of government to investigate complaints and to talk to Ministers and to departmental heads, indicates that he will be a very significant person in the Administrative processes of our nation.

Obviously, Parliament is the body to which that person should report. The whole concept of an effective ombudsman would be negated if his report were to go to the Executive. The whole purpose of there being some impartial independent person to investigate the administrative activities of government would be negated if the ultimate recipient of the ombudsman’s investigation is not to be the Parliament. During the course of the Opposition’s consideration of this legislation very careful attention was given to the question of whether an ombudsman would be given power to investigate decisions of Ministers. This, of course, is an extremely complex area. It is an area that the Opposition believes should be the subject of continual review. Certainly for the time being the Opposition accepts the view of the Government that certain acts of certain people should not be the subject of investigation by an ombudsman, and it certainly agrees with the conclusions reached by the Government that one category of persons which should not be subject to such investigations is Ministers of the Crown.

During the course of the debate in this House on the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Bill, many speakers drew attention to the historic nature of that legislation so far as the administrative processes of the government of this country were concerned. When that Bill, in whatever final form it may be when it emerges from this Parliament, and the Bill we are presently debating both pass into law, this country will have an extremely modern and comprehensive legislative framework for dealing with persons who are unhappy about the way in which they are treated by government. Here we are dealing with an area that touches everybody in the country. We spend a great deal of time in this Parliament arguing and talking about the provisions of legislation which may affect only a small number of people. We have just had a lengthy debate about tariffs. That is a very important issue but it deals in the main with a limited number of people. But the area that this sort of legislation covers and that the Administrative Appeals Tribunal covers, embraces everybody in the community.

It is not necessary for any honourable member to remind the House that the ordinary citizen day by day is confronted with administrative decisions. The ordinary citizen day by day is the recipient of the exercise of adminstrative discretion. As a result in 1975 with such a complex system of government and such an increasing existence of administrative . decisions, departmental officials and the like intruding into our everyday lives, it is essential that we have an effective framework to deal with them. The Administrative Appeals Tribunal will provide such a framework where a person wishes a formal review to be undertaken of an administrative decision. But it is necessary in order to complement that procedure to have a procedure whereby on an informal, ad hoc basis it will be possible for the ordinary citizen to have his complaint or irritation at an adminstrative decision investigated. The Ombudsman Bill will provide that advice.

The Opposition welcomes the legislation. We pay tribute to those persons who from 1968 onwards were responsible for the various reports which finally produced this legislation and the Administrative Appeals Tribunal legislation. Those documents- the report of the Kerr Committee and the 2 reports of the Bland Committee and also the companion report prepared by the honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Ellicott) on prerogative writs- collectively constitute one of the best appraisals of the whole area of reviewing administrative decisions that can be found anywhere in the common law world.


-I have quite a deal of agreement with most of the remarks that have been made by the honourable member for Bennelong (Mr Howard). I welcome the introduction of the Ombudsman Bill. I think it is a Bill that is long overdue. I regret that it is being debated in what are almost the closing hours of this parliamentary session because I feel it is a matter that should be fully debated by members of the Parliament. Members of Parliament as a whole have been one of the greatest delaying forces in the introduction of legislation of this type. I think we can illustrate the thinking by quoting a dissenting paragraph of the report from the Statute Law Revision Committee of 1968. One member of that Committee wanted the following paragraph inserted: . . . the Committee maintains that one of the best guarantees that Parliament and people are in effective contact is the continuing of the expression of grievances through a Member of Parliament.

The links between Members and their constituents arc strong and the ways they deal with the affairs of their constituents are closer, more intimate, and very much greater in volume than can be achieved by an Ombudsman.

The Committee believes that it would increase the power of the Executive and reduce the power of Parliament, if grievances were to be put in the hands of yet another department, with the Member simply being a person to transfer grievances to it.

I am happy that honourable members have now rejected that attitude and have accepted the situation that because of increasing administrative acts, while the member of Parliament will still be able to use his grievance procedure, there is need for something more. I think we all realise that the success of the Ombudsman will in many ways depend on the type of person who is appointed to the position. The honourable member for Bennelong cited the case of New Zealand which has Sir Guy Powles a man of wide administrative experience, legal experience and diplomatic experience, who was ideally suited to the role he had to play. In fact, he was consulted by both Canada and the United Kingdom with regard to the role of ombudsman. One hopes that we will be just as lucky in Australia in getting somebody of that stature.

Another factor that has delayed the setting up of the office of ombudsman is the attitude of the Public Service to the position. In all countries that have our system of government and have our type of Public Service, there has always been a fear in those public services that the ombudsman would disadvantage them, that he would reveal their deficiencies and their human mistakes. Of course, experience in those countries that have an ombudsman of this naure has shown that the reverse is the case. The ombudsman plays a protective role, a clarifying role, for the Public Service against many unfair complaints that are made against it. However, to be seen to do that one feels that the ombudsman should be seen to be entirely separate from the Public Service. I think it is unfortunate and a matter that should receive further consideration that under this legislation the ombudsman has the status of a permanent head and his staff are employed under the Public Service Act. Presumably their promotions will depend on the normal Public Service procedures. If they are engaged in investigations in certain areas where they have to point out defects one wonders whether their future may not be somewhat tarnished and jeopardised by the investigations they make. With experience it may be as well to have some reconsideration of this attitude and to give the ombudsman a much more separate identity from the Public Service with which he will need to have so many dealings.

The next thing that concerns me is the appointment of an ombudsman and 2 deputy ombudsmen in respect of the wide number of problems covered by this legislation. Let me quote from a rather old text on ombudsmen by Sawer in 1 964. He said:

In the federal case, however, the extreme centralisation of some parts of the administration and extreme decentralisation of other parts creates considerable difficulties for maintenance of the regular personal contact between Ombudsman and administration which is essential to his success; probably more travelling would be needed, perhaps a division of functions between a head Ombudsman who stayed in Canberra and a deputy who travelled extensively. Assuming that eventually there were a number of these officers, federal and State, it would be easy for them to establish informal contacts and to refer to each other cases which fell within the other’s sphere of administration, or to make joint inquiries where administration was joint.

In the 11 years that have passed since that was written the administrative structure has changed even more. I think that these problems pointed out by Sawer are aggravated even further.

I question whether the set-up of an ombudsman with his 2 deputies will be effective on the present scene. Most States have now appointed or are in the process of appointing ombudsmen. We may require deputies in each of the States. It seems to me that the legislation does not necessarily give an avenue for co-operation and for joint consideration of matters in that hazy area between Federal and State administration. I do not believe that either State or Federal bodies give any consideration to the many problems of local government where the citizen feels aggrieved and has no real redress. I accept the Bill as it is. I hope that in these sorts of areas there will be a rethinking I hope that if we get an ombudsman of the stature one would like to see as the first Australian ombudsman he will make a number of these recommendations so that changes are made.

I have some doubts also whether administrative acts of Ministers should necessarily be exempted in this case. One can appreciate that where they are policy decisions there is reason for exemption, but with straight administrative acts I would expect that it is not impossible for Ministers of the Crown to make mistakes that disadvantage the citizen. Then of course he has the reserve power of certification. I think that the Bill gives the Minister a great deal of latitude

With the certification. It is not only a matter of defence or security but also matters which would otherwise be contrary to the public interest. And ‘otherwise contrary to the public interest’ is an all-embracing expression. I hope that the AttorneyGeneral (Mr Enderby) will have something to say on this matter when he moves some amendments in the Committee stage.

A further matter of concern is the ability of the Ombudsman to report to the House. In the original Bill this is restricted. I understand that amendments will be moved which will give the Ombudsman increased opportunity to make reports at such intervals as seem appropriate and fit. I think that this is wise when we realise that that is the power to publicise and report reveals the issue. I am not certain that this Parliament should not give some consideration to the procedure that is adopted in the United Kingdom where the House has ordered that there be a select committee to examine the reports of the parliamentary commissioner for administration. Members of Parliament who handle grievances, who have agreed to the setting up of the office of an ombudsman to look into acts that they feel should be looked into, also have a right to examine the reports that that ombudsman makes. I commend that as a thought in the gradual, natural evolution of this legislation.

I am also concerned that under the legislation a person, department or head of a department complained against may be required by the Ombudsman to appear before him in order that he may obtain information about certain acts. I am rather worried that under these circumstances the complainant does not have some right in this matter and although the examination is a private one the complainant should have some opportunity of hearing the version that is placed before the ombudsman. As I say, I mink that this is a piece of legislation that probably warranted discussion by a lot more honourable members than those who are taking part in this debate. Improvements can be made to the legislation, but thank goodness it has started. The Administrative Appeals Tribunal Bill was passed only recently. We now have the Ombudsman Bill to deal with. I am prepared to accept the good faith with which it has been brought forward. Obviously the Opposition has accepted this good faith also. I think we all should realise that this is part of an evolutionary process which will show up some of the defects, or what appear to be defects, in the ability of the ordinary individual in the community to obtain his proper rights or at least to have his rights and role examined. I welcome the Bill. I look forward to its operation in the future.


-I am very pleased that the Government has introduced this measure. I should like to compliment the AttorneyGeneral (Mr Enderby) on his interest in this field. Quite some time ago I remember that I asked the Minister before he was AttorneyGeneral and when he was the Minister in this place representing the Attorney-General, one or two questions about this matter, and from the replies that he gave me at that time it was quite obvious to me that the Minister, who of course is now the Attorney-General, was genuinely interested in the appointment of an Australian ombudsman to protect the rights of private citizens. Although most, if not all, of the States have appointed ombudsmen or parliamentary commissioners of administrative investigation, according to what the title may by, their powers are confined to State spheres and therefore are limited. They have no jurisdiction in relation to matters pertaining to the wider field of the Commonwealth Parliament of Australia.

I am glad that the Government has moved to fill this gap and to implement, at least partially, the recommendations of the committee chaired by Sir Henry Bland, a very distinguished Aus.tralian as we all know. An administrative review committee under the chairmanship of another noted Australian Sir John Kerr- now GovernorGeneral but then a member of the Commonwealth Industrial Court- presented an earlier report which was tabled in this House on 14 October 1971, nearly 4 years ago. That was tabled by the right honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon) who at that time was the Prime Minister. The Kerr Committee recommended the appointment of a senior barrister as a general counsel for grievances or ombudsman, the establishment of a Commonwealth administrative court and an administrative review tribunal.

The BUI now before the House has its origin in the Kerr report, referred to a short time ago by my colleague the honourable member for Bennelong (Mr Howard) and also by the honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins), and more specifically in the subsequent recommendations of the Bland Committee. An ombudsman is essentially an officer of the Parliament, a point I suggest that we must constantly bear in mind, and he must report to the Parliament regularly. He and, preferably in my judgment, his staff should be free from Public Service control. The notion of an official to investigate the workings of government is, of course, not new. The old Roman Republic had the Office of Censor which examined complaints about the performance of officials. The Chancellor in earlier English days reviewed petitions from citizens about the workings of government. Other similar examples are to be found in medieval Europe. The first modern example is, of course, to be seen in Sweden The occupant of the offie of ombudsman- a

Scandinavian word meaning agent or attorneyis an impartial person independent of the government of the day, appointed by and acting on behalf of the Parliament. The Swedish ombudsman was appointed as far back as 1809, and his formal powers have remained unaltered since that time. He has access to all files and minutes of courts and agencies and he is entitled to be present during their deliberations and decision making. Although he cannot change any decision already delivered he may petition the Government, Parliament and agencies to rectify deficiencies in the laws or otherwise to further the public interest. The office has always derived its importance from the fact that it represents the Parliament and that its holder enjoys the confidence of the Parliament although he is not in any way instructed by the Parliament regarding his investigations.

Finland established a similar office in 1919. Denmark established one in 1953-54 and Norway established one in 196 1 . Other countries that have adopted the ombudsman system include New Zealand in 1962 and the United Kingdom in 1967, both countries having been mentioned in the Attorney-General’s second reading speech. West Germany has a similar system for military affairs alone. If I may make just a passing reference, I welcome the fact that the Government has decided to introduce a Bill to establish a defence force ombudsman in Australia. The Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration in the United Kingdom, generally referred to by the British public and the Press as the ombudsman, differs from his counterparts in New Zealand and elsewhere in that he investigates only complaints referred to him by members of the House of Commons, whereas all other ombudsmen deal directly with complaints. I believe that the latter process is by far the better.

An ombudsman is not, and should not be, in my judgment, a public servant in the accepted sense of the term. I first became very interested in the appointment of an ombudsman for the Commonwealth of Australia when I attended a Commonwealth Parliamentary Association conference in Wellington along with my colleague on the other side of the House, the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Collard), early in 1971 when we had the privilege of meeting and hearing the New Zealand ombudsman, Sir Guy Powles already referred to in the debate tonight. We all were tremendously impressed with him. He is a most distinguished officer and obviously is a very great success in his job.

The report of the adminstrative review committee referred to earlier dealt in chapter 7 with overseas systems of administrative law with particular reference to the United Kingdom and New Zealand. It stressed the fundamental importance of choosing a person with suitable background, experience and personality and pointed out that the success of the New Zealand experiment was no doubt due to Sir Guy’s prior experience as a lawyer, soldier, diplomat and administrator. Professor Walter Gellhorn an eminent American adminstrative lawyer, said after a very thorough examination of the ombudsman’s work in practice in New Zealand:

New Zealand’s ombudsman has been a striking personal success.

Sir Guy has described his role as providing a ‘safety valve’ and has said that under the powers vested in him by the New Zealand Parliament he has been able to assist many frustrated citizens who did not know where to go with their complaints. I am pleased to learn from the AttorneyGeneral that in preparing this legislation now before the House advantage has been taken of the experience of ombudsmen in other countries.

In establishing the office of an Australian ombudsman the Government has wisely provided for 2 deputy ombudsmen, one for the Australian Capital Territory and the other for the Northern Territory. The Federal structure of government in Australia, together with the geographical vastness of the continent, have very properly been taken into account by the Government. To me this Bill is an important step in the right direction. It is true, as the honourable member for Bennelong pointed out earlier, in certain respects the proposals fall short of what we consider desirable. The exercise of administrative powers has inevitably grown over the years with the increasing complexity of modern government. Consequently there is an increasing likelihood of injustice to individual citizens, and of course injustice even in a minor way is wrong. I sincerely trust that the appointment of an Australian ombudsman and the 2 deputy ombudsmen and the establishment of an Australian Appeals Tribunal will ensure not only that justice is done and is seen to be done but also that what has been described as the delicate path between the rights of individual citizens and harmony in the machinery of government will be clearly and effectively protected.

The ombudsman Bill which we are now considering gives a certain amount of protection to Ministers and to Government departments. Its private citizens find that the ombudsman is hedged around with too many restrictions on his powers, then they may begin to become disillusioned. This is something which I think we should try to guard against. I think that he cannot be expected to do his job effectively and well if he is not given a reasonably free rein to proceed objectively. I am willing to accept that there is justification for some limitation on his powers, particularly in relation to highly confidential matters which, in the opinion of Ministers, just cannot be disclosed for one good reason or another. If necessary, I believe he should be able to tread heavily on the toes of public servants, including the most senior of them, and even on the toes of Ministers, particularly on administrative matters. The Victorian ombudsman has clearly been doing just this.

I do not think that anyone would seriously suggest that an ombudsman should be able to probe highly confidential Cabinet decisions on matters of high policy affecting the security of the nation. Under the Bill as it stands, a Minister may withhold certain information from the Ombudsman. This has been pointed out by my colleague the honourable member for Bennelong. I feel that it is important that the Ombudsman should not be hamstrung in his appointed task of redressing grievances and protecting the rights of the ordinary citizen against bureaucratic processes or decisions. This to me is of the essence of the whole exercise. Along with the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, the Ombudsman Bill I believe, represents a major step in the right direction. I hope that the amendments foreshadowed by my colleague, the honourable member for Bennelong, will be accepted during the Committee stage.


– I am a little reticent to rise on this matter, because I have not given it as much attention as I should have liked. Therefore the comments I shall make will be rather modest. I think in many ways that the ombudsman will have to proceed on a trial and error basis. It is not just a question of the structure we are setting up in the Bill tonight; it will be a question of the individual concerned as the ombudsman. It will be a question to which we should give more attention as the processes of the ombudsman are carried out and various cases come before our attention and reports are made to the Parliament. I think more and more that the task we will face in government is somehow or other to protect the rights of the individual in a society where the ordinary people- the little people if I could use that phrase- tend to become submerged. There are now parts of my electorate which are almost entirely city. The people there feel themselves to be almost totally submerged by the society they live in and are gradually becoming alienated from the processes of government that surround their every day life.

I am always concerned about this concept of bigness. The concept of bigness is reflected in our politics in Australia. We do not really have political parties with ideas. We have political parties that represent interests. The various parties wear labels, the Labor Party being the Party of big unions, the Liberal Party the Party of big business, and the National Country Party representing big farmers. Too often I think that this is a reasonably accurate description of the way in which we act. Too often, I do not think any political party realises that much of this country’s economy is based on small enterprise, small farms and a myriad of small unions and that all these people are not sufficiently represented politically.

I think that with a very big Public Service- one that is getting bigger, particularly in the Statesagain we have the same problem. The rights of the smaller people, people with very specific problems such as the migrants are submerged. I am pleased to see some reference to the problems in respect to migrants in the explanatory memorandum to the Bill. I think that often people do get submerged by these concepts of bigness and that we need more and more to give scrutiny to these concepts. There are many areas in the Public Service that, with all the will in the world, do not understand other areas of enterprise in our society. They do not understand as well as people in business how to make a dollar. More and more there are elements in the Public Service getting themselves concerned with the nature of making dollars.

Then there is another problem: That people, when they approach public servants or administrators, really cannot ask the right questions. I am very much aware that the questions I place on notice sometimes seeking information do not go to the right target It is not that the Public Service evades the question, but simply that the question is not framed properly enough to go directly to the correct person somewhere who can handle that item. The people in the community face this very problem. If we have concepts of more and more open government, it seems to me that there may be an inherent danger inasmuch as most administration becomes committed to files, because it may be embarrassing to some people. So we need this constant sort of checking on these systems as we develop them and as they get bigger and bigger. I think that there are areas in any administration where there are levels of incompetence. Certainly some individuals are incompetent, whether they see it or not. I think this is a problem of the Peter principle under which people are promoted beyond the level of their ability. Of course there are some people in this situation who can really act with less than proper concern for the rights of the people to whom their administration is directed.

We are setting up these review procedures. Of course it is very difficult when it comes to the final arbitration. Here again I agree with the honourable member for Bennelong (Mr Howard) and with the honourable member for Ryan (Mr Drury) who say that the Parliament must keep on asserting its right to be one of the last arbitrators and that we should use our influence on the responsible Ministers. This concept of bigness, this concept of getting the public involved in administrative procedures is an exceptionally difficult business. That is the main thrust of the point that I should like to make. I am simply concerned at the concept of bigness, at the rights of the individual, and that we need to be constantly on our guard. We need to give this Bill time and we need to scrutinise the various reports that arise from it.

The honourable member for Ryan traced the history of the whole concept of ombudsmen. It is not a very revolutionary principle. There is one account of the Conseil du Roi in France which started in the thirteenth century, was overthrown in the 1789 revolution and replaced by the Conseil d ‘Etat. It continues in a different form today. Perhaps Sweden and the Scandinavian countries were the modern creators of the whole concept. New Zealand has had an ombudsman since 1962. A report was recently brought down in the New Zealand Parliament when I was there a couple of months ago. It would seem that about 20 per cent of the cases referred to it are still shown to be justified. The Department of Social Welfare there is the one which seems to be given the most attention. This is probably just a simple result of the number of representations that are made to it.

The parliamentary committees in the New Zealand Parliament may refer matters to the New Zealand ombudsman. I think this is quite a good system. The same parliament is able to refer petitions to various parliamentary committees. There seems to be more development in many ways of dealing with public complaints. In Denmark which has had an ombudsman since 1954, I believe that the ombudsman publishes daily details of some of the complaints which he has received. With regard to clause 5 of the Bill which deals with the functions of an ombudsman, I raise the same sort of doubts and concerns that the honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins) raised. It states: 5.(1) Subject to this Act, the Ombudsman-

  1. Shall investigate action, being action that relates to a matter of administration, taken by a Department, or by a prescribed authority, and in respect of which a complaint has been made to the Ombudsman . . .

These provisions are generally similar to those in other ombudsman legislation. The Bill deliberately does not define the phrase ‘matter of administration’. This is because no definition has yet been formulated that would not unduly limit the ombudsman’s flexibility in identifying a particular complaint as properly relating to a matter of administration and so open to his investigation. I think that that is fair enough. I think we do need to tread carefully in the early days of this legislation. At the same time, there is always the doubt that we will have a situation where Caesar is sitting in judgment on Caesar. I think this is one to which we, as members of the Parliament, must give particular attention. For the life of me, I do not see why we cannot be a little more revolutionary in this area, try to define the matter of administration and try to be in a position to pass more direct judgments on some administrative acts by Ministers. I would commend this line of thinking to the Attorney-General (Mr Enderby). Perhaps he would like to comment on it.

I would like to raise only one other matter in the few minutes that I have available. We do have a Royal Commission into Australian Government Administration conducting hearings at present, and there is the possibility of many other reforms. We need not think that, because we have a Royal Commission, an ombudsman and an Administrative Appeals Tribunal, we have solved these problems. Other motions for reform are possible. For example, there could be a more extensive provision for appeals, both within a department concerned with various problems and to independent tribunals. We also could have the provision of more extensive appeals to the courts and we could create a special court or special division of the Supreme Court to handle some of these complaints. We also could have greater supervision and uniformity in the procedures of departments and administrative tribunals to be affected by legislative code and by a permanent supervisory body. Perhaps these are 3 areas to which we could give much more attention. As yet, no significant progress has been made in these areas in Australia, and there can be no doubt that the

Australian system of administrative justice, if I can put it that way, is probably that much worse than the system in comparable countries such as New Zealand, Britain, France, the United States of America and Canada. All the States except Tasmania now have an ombudsman. Although I think that there are some deficiencies in the legislation in the various States, I consider that it is high time we had this sort of thing for the Australian Parliament, and I commend the Bill to the House.

CanberraAttorneyGeneral · ALP

– in reply- I intend to speak very briefly in the few minutes left this evening. I understand that there have been discussions with some honourable gentlemen on the opposite side and that there is an understanding that many of the remarks that they would like to make will be made in Committee when we continue the Committee stage tomorrow. May I just say that it warms my heart to hear the unanimous approval that has been given to this measure tonight. When I first entered politics, almost 5 years ago, I represented the Division of the Australia Capital Territory, that part of Australia which includes the city of Canberra, which consisted heavily of public servants and people affected by the decisions of public servants. Rapidly I became aware, if indeed I had not been aware already, of the great need for an ombudsman. I remember the deliberations of the Australian Capital Territory Branch of the Australian Labor Party that led to the formulation of the POliCY by that branch that we should have an ombudsman, at least for the Australian Capital Territory. This measure not only does that but it provides for an Australia-wide ombudsman and also for an ombudsman for the Northern Territory.

Perhaps many citizens are not aware of the influence on their lives of decisions made by anonymous public servants. Those decisions affect the citizens to a very great degree. When one looks through the Bland Committee report, one sees a list that refers to what must be hundreds and perhaps thousands of discretionary decisions made by one tribunal and one body after another which affect the lives of citizens. Of course, it goes beyond that and extends to the allocation of houses of one kind or another, and the ombudsman, in company with the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, will give a measure of administrative justice that this country has not had before. As the honourable member for Bennelong (Mr Howard) has said, the matter goes back a long time in history to the Kerr Committee report, the Bland Committee report and extends to the speeches that have been made, and now we have near finality the 2 measures. The Government takes considerable pleasure in being able to bring these Bills forward and it also takes considerable pleasure from the support that they have received from the Opposition.

I understand that in the Committee stage, which we will enter briefly tonight and deal with at greater length tomorrow, the Opposition will be moving certain amendments. The Government certainly will be moving a number of amendments, and I understand that the Government amendments have the general support of the Opposition. These amendments are designed largely to increase the scope and the capacity of the Ombudsman. I can say to the honourable gentlemen opposite at this stage that perhaps we can accept some Opposition amendments. I will not be specific tonight; we can be more specific tomorrow. However, we will not be able to accept one or two of the Opposition’s amendments, and tomorrow I will be giving the reasons for that. On that note, I take considerable pleasure from the support that has been given to the measure by the Opposition.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

BUI read a second time.

In Committee

Clause 1.

Progress reported.

page 3373


Tax Concessions: Wine Industry-Life Insurance Policy- Textile Industry- After-hours Pharmacies

Motion (by Mr Enderby) proposed:

That the House do now adjourn.


-Tonight I wish to raise a serious problem that is being experienced by our winemakers and grape producers throughout Australia as a result of the Australian Government’s insisting on collecting extra tax following the removal of a longstanding tax incentive contained in section 31A of the Income Tax Act. My colleagues the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) and the honourable member for Paterson (Mr 0’Keefe) also have raised this matter on numerous occasions, and even today the viciousness of this tax and the disastrous liquidity problems being created by the collection of this tax were emphasised.

The tax incentive was in the form of a special valuation being allowed on stock of maturing wine and was introduced by the former LiberalCountry Party Government. The incentive has encouraged the growth of the industry from a cottage stage to one making and marketing wines that are now respected throughout the world. The wine industry is responsible for the promotion of decentralisation in many regions of the nation. In my electorate of Mallee, in particular, the development of this industry is allowing a diversification of production which, if supported, will greatly assist income stabilisation for the grape grower. The wine industry has become a great industry. It is of significant value to our total economy and its viability is imperative for balanced development. The implications of this Labor Government’s action will have drastic social effects if initiatives are not taken in the Budget to correct an ill-conceived proposal. The impact of the deferred tax resulting from the repeal of section 31A is now assessable. Studies have indicated that it will cost the industry between $28m and $36m. In fact, a study of 15 companies has revealed that the impact of this deferred tax liability, in addition to the normal taxation, will be between 60 per cent and 81 per cent of the predicted profit. This is of crippling magnitude when compared with the 45 per cent to 47% per cent tax paid by normal companies.

The magnitude of this problem makes an extension of the time to pay inadequate for several reasons. Fristly cash flows from operations, possible capital raising and borrowings, would fall short of requirements by between $80m and $110m, of which an estimated $75m will be incurred as income tax. Secondly, this continued major set-back for a 5-year period will seriously distort the structure of the industry through liquidations, amalgamations and takeovers and the ability of some with financial resources to dominate the market. I can cite 3 examples of this. Firstly, proprietary companies facing difficulties raising borrowed funds which cannot be used to generate income will be increasingly limited in their ability to expand and will be forced ultimately to amalgamate or to sell out In addition, the Division 7 tax on suddenly emerging dividends from the transition period taxable income will absorb further company funds. Public listed companies face difficulties with sustaining dividend pay-out and the consequent drop in share market confidence will increase the difficulty in raising equity for borrowed funds. Some amalgamations or restructuring seem likely. Of course small family companies, firms and sole traders with limited credit lines face the greatest difficulties. Borrowings are based mainly on the security available and are not, as a rule, available for payment of income tax. The major effect is the crushing impact on proprietors’ confidence and willingness to continue under such oppression. This will result in a large reduction in the number of family vintage wineries as they are presently known.

This taxation concession was removed in such a way that the industry is faced with repaying in 5 years the benefits received over a period of 20 years. The Government must realise that the wine industry is unique. In what other industry or in what salary or wage earning capacities do taxes have to be paid before the receipt of income? But this is exactly what this Government is demanding in this case. To aggravate the position, the Government has introduced retrospectivity into the amended tax law. The circumstances within the industry have changed dramatically since the decision by the Government to remove this taxation incentive. For example, grape prices for the 1975 vintage have increased to the order of 40 per cent. This price increase has been necessary to give the grower a fair return for his labour and investment. In comparison to a 30 per cent rise in most cost structures throughout the industry this is not unreasonable. It must be recognised that these cost increases have to be recovered in an industry that already could be described as being only marginally profitable. If there is an attempt to recover sufficient extra cash from within the price structure for the additional tax, this will undoubtedly raise prices to prohibitive levels and have a substantial effect on demand. This vicious tax means that a source of cash has to be found and these considerable increases in wine prices must be expected. Should these prices meet with consumer resistance the outlook for the Australian wine industry and also for the grape growers is not a happy one.

During the last vintage many grape growers throughout Australia received notices of delayed payments for 1975. Some wineries, most unwillingly, have had to discontinue long term purchasing arrangements with producers. Cuts in employment in wineries, in the vineyards and in the sales staff in many cases, are foreshadowed. In some instances they have already been carried out. The Government must appreciate that grape production will dramatically increase due to additional plantings in the late 1960s and early 1970s. A greatly increased production will clash with the extreme lack of liquidity. This position will be cumulative as the 5-year higher tax period continues. The impact of this will mean that our grape growers’ ability to be paid will decrease. There must be an increase in the failure of wineries and there must be an increase in the takeover of our family owned enterprises. This is a disaster of the greatest magnitude. It has been the small family owned firms and companies that have given the Australian wine industry a distinctive character and recognition. No Australian Government must allow this situation to continue. It would be a national scandal and totally unforgivable.

The Coombs report which recommended these changes in stock valuations was based on the false premise that there was a high degree of foreign ownership in the Australian wine and brandy industry. This was not so, and in fact the removal of these tax concessions is producing a marked decrease in Australian ownership. The Coombs report also assumed that there was a marked reduction in wine maturing times, which is also largely untrue. I should Uke to refer to a question by Senator Laucke in the Senate on 14 May which was answered by the Minister for Agriculture. Senator Wriedt answered:

The Prime Minister has already advised the President of the Federal Wine and Brandy Producers Council that the Government is not prepared to accede to the Council’s request that the amount of deferred taxation owing by wine makers which accumulated as a result of the previous concessional basis for valuing wine stocks be waived. The question as to whether any concession in this matter may be possible in other ways is still being considered.

As regards the question of the brandy excise differential, the matter has been kept under close review by the Government and I expect that a decision will be taken on the subject in the pre-Budget deliberations. I understand that there is evidence of a significant decline in the level of imports of brandy in recent months. I should mention also that, apart from one or two localised problems which I understand have been resolved, there is no evidence of a surplus of grapes this season.

As a member representing a large wine producing area and an area whose economic viability is closely linked to grapes, wine making and brandy production, I ask the Treasurer, whoever he may be within the next week, the Prime Minister, and in particular the Minister for Agriculture, to look at this industry in their Budget discussions, to assess carefully the submissions from the industry, the representations from myself and other Federal and State members, many of whom are from the Government benches. This is a long term decision and not something that can be looked at in isolation in the short term. I make this request tonight not with any suggestion of gaining political advantage or initiative but with the knowledge that the future of a viable Aus.tralian industry is at stake.


– I bring to the attention of the House this evening a grievous complaint of one of my constituents whose husband died. An insurance company has refused to pay a benefit which she claims should be paid. The husband of the lady in question- a doctor, a man of repute- was known favourably in the community. His life was insured with the Occidental Life Insurance Company of California. The insurance company accepted premiums from the lady’s late husband. Some time ago he left for Queensland on sabbatical leave but before going he left premiums to be paid to the insurance company. During his period of leave he was in Brisbane, was caught in the disastrous floods which so damaged the city of Brisbane, and suffered some ill effects. He found on returning to his home that his premiums had not been paid and he was advised by the company that his policy had lapsed. On 20 February last year he applied for the reinstatement of his policy. This application was acknowledged by the company which asked that blood pressure readings be given. These were provided. On 8 August 1 974 the man was advised by the insurance company that his policy had been reinstated arid that, to quote the letter that was received, ‘full protection is again in operation’. The company returned to him the sum of $219.83 which had been overpaid on the premium.

The policy holder unfortunately died from a rare disease. The insurance company has refused to make payment. The widow has put forward her case quite clearly, pointing out the facts that payments were made and the company itself had accepted the reinstatement of the policy. Despite that, and the pleading letters of the widow who is a mother of 4 school-age children the company has continued to refuse to make payment. The company is the Occidental Life Insurance Company of California. The company claims that it did not make the payment because it did not receive the reports of the blood pressure tests in time. But the company had acknowledged the receipt of these readings and also had acknowledged the reinstatement of the policy. This was clear and unmistakeable.

I regard this matter to be of such importance that I have written to the Attorney-General (Mr Enderby) to bring it to his attention. I believe that the matter is of such gravity that the Parliament, this House, should know of the conduct of the people who run this insurance company. 1 believe that this action does not represent the standard set by all life insurance companies. I do know of some insurance companies that have behaved in quite a different manner indeed. I know of a company which, in one case, paid the benefit on the death of the policy holder because that POliCy holder had made his intention clear and had signed a document which had provided that payments would be made through group insurance; and although not one payment was made, upon the death of the policy holder the company paid the benefit in full. Yet the company which is the subject of my speech tonight, after all the pleadings from the widow, had denied its responsibility and has spoken about the ‘niceties’ of the law.

The widow of this policy holder wrote to the company. These are some of the points that she made:

The premium was paid in good faith several months before my husband ‘s death and was retained by you.

On 16 July my husband had the requested blood pressure readings and these were acceptable to your company as evidenced in the letter of 6 August. I suggested that on 16 July my husband had in fact completed to your satisfaction the reinstatement of his policy, his premium was paid and satisfactory medical evidence was documented.

On 16 July, incidentally, my husband was fit and well and participated in his full time psychiatry course normally. When Dr Ho took his blood pressure there was no reason to consider my husband was anything but fit and well.

On 17 July my husband contracted a rare and fatal disease, the details of which, no doubt, Dr Davis has explained to you.

This letter clearly documents the position of this woman. I bring this matter to the attention of honourable members this evening because I think that the facts should be known. As I have pointed out, I have written to the AttorneyGeneral. I have written also to Senator Wheeldon, the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation and the Minister who is in charge of the Australian Government Insurance Corporation legislation which was recently before this chamber so that he, too, might understand the conduct of some insurance offices and just how they operate in our country.

I make this plea this evening in the hope that perhaps the insurance company will, even belatedly, retreat from the type of letter which it has written to the widow of the policy holder. The letter to which I refer reads:

Dear Mrs. .

I acknowledge your letter of January 30 1 975 .

Involved in this difficult situation are not legal niceties, but hard legal facts. Your claim simply is not legally payable. We must comply with the law even when it is against our policyowners, just as we must when it is for them.

Please believe us, Mrs . . . , We very much wish there could have been a happier ending. Repeated correspondence won ‘t change it.

This is a blunt refusal. It is a blunt denial by the insurance company to the widow of the policy holder. May I express the hope that the people of this country will have the opportunity to become insured by companies that will meet their obligations. This is a shocking and a disgraceful episode. I wish to dissociate myself utterly and completely from the conduct of this insurance office and to assure the lady in question that I can only hope that the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation and the Attorney-General will have the papers carefully examined.


-In the time available to me tonight I wish to bring up the plight of the textile industry in this country. In the past 10 months, the Australian Government has taken some kind of action to stem the crippling flow of imports of textiles, including apparel. Nevertheless, the industry has still a long way to go before it can look forward with any certainty to profitable operation. In many cases, the high level of imports will still be possible despite quota arrangements approved by the Government. Consequently many sectors of the industry are faced with uncertainty as to the future demand by the retail trade for Australian made goods.

The industry is one of Australia’s largest in terms of employment and capital investment. It is Australia’s largest decentralised industry. Along with the apparel section, it employs upwards of 200 000 persons. It has an important influence on many other industries. It is a vital factor in the employment of women. There is a very high percentage of women employed in the textile and clothing industries in this country. In some sectors it is highly capital intensive; in others, it is labour intensive but labour intensity is rapidly declining because of the fall in demand for textiles of Australian manufacture.

I wish to speak about broad woven textile fabrics. Most countries right throughout the world import about 10 per cent of their consumption of fabrics whereas Australia imported 79 per cent of its consumption of broad woven fabrics in 1973-74. 1 have some figures here which I will site for that year which demonstrates the effect that imported textiles are having on this great industry in our country. Of the total market supplies of broad woven fabrics, 79 per cent were imported, 69 per cent were imported duty free, 10 per cent of imports were dutiable and 2 1 per cent were Australian made. Of total imports last year, 87 per cent were duty free. I turn to the total market supplies of broad woven fabrics, Australian made as against imported, identified by fibre type and origin of supply.

In respect of wool fabrics, 20.49 million square metres were Australian made and 2.26 million square metres were imported. In respect of cotton fabrics, 49.43 million square metres was Australian made and 463.13 million square metres were imported. In respect of man-made fibre fabrics, 62.61 million square metres were Australian made and 95.54 million were imported. Those figures are certainly alarming. The duty free imports of these fabrics were as follows: Wool fabrics, 210 000 square metres; cotton fabrics, 392.63 million square metres; man-made fibre fabrics, 53.31 million square metres. The total quantity of duty free fibres imported into Australia was 446.15 million square metres. Total supplies of fabrics were: Duty free, 446.15 million square metres: Duty paid, 65.2 1 million square metres; Australian made, 132.53 million square metres. That gives a grant total of 643.89 million square metres.

So honourable members can see from these figures that the textile industry in this country is having a very difficult time in competing with imported fabrics which often are made by a labour force earning $A12 a month. We have 300 000 people unemployed in Australia and more than 120 000 of that number are from the textile industry. In other words, one-third of the unemployed people in this country have been made unemployed by the action of this Government in reducing tariffs across-the-board and in allowing these cheap imports into Australia. This has affected our own manufacturers. In my electorate of Paterson, the great Bradmill factory at Rutherford which, 18 months ago employed 1350 people, today employs under 600 people. The employment figures for the Courtauld factory at Raymond Terrace are also down. A similar situation applies to the Bond’s factory at Cessnock in the electorate of Hunter. The employment figures of many other manufacturers are down. In the city of Maitland, 2 clothing manufacturers have recently closed down altogether, adding to the unemployment situation in the textile industry and creating great problems not only for those who are unemployed but also for the Government in keeping up the schemes which provide sustenance payments. When these sustenance payments run out there will be a very serious financial situation in any area where textiles are manufactured and where textile industry employees have been put off.

These schemes which are operated by the Government are quite all right, but they would be totally unnecessary if this particular industry had been investigated, if homework had been done on it, before the 25 per cent acrosstheboard tariff reduction was introduced. I know that these quotas that have been agreed to by the importing countries have assisted in a small way, but the only way to stop this flood of textiles into Australia from cheap labour countries is to reimpose tariffs. From looking at newspaper articles and from listening to the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in this chamber, it would appear to me that the textile industry can expect very little assistance from this Government. The industry will be allowed to wither on the vine. I heard it reliably stated tonight by an eminent person in the textile industry that one of the reasons why the honourable member for Bass (Mr Barnard) resigned from this Parliament was because of the great problems that he was experiencing with unemployment in the textile mills in the Bass electorate. Let us have some sane approach by the Government towards assisting this great industry in this country, which has been built up by pioneers over decades, to provide Australians with good quality textiles. We were prepared to pay the prices asked for these textiles. The employees in -these mills were quite happy. They were drawing decent wages and working under decent conditions, but someone in the Government did not do his homework. If he had, surely the Government would never have introduced this 25 per cent across-the-board tariff cut and put thousands of decent Australian men and women out of work.


– I wish to raise what I consider to be the unfortunate, if not desperate, situation of people seeking medical goods and medicine after hours in Perth suburbs. I refer to the blackmail of desperate people who have to pay additional charges. I ask the Minister for Health (Dr Everingham) to investigate the possibility of giving sympathetic consideration to the establishment of community or Governmentadministered health resource centres in Perth suburbs. The particular case to which I refer, although there are others which have been brought to my attention, relate to a constituent of mine, a Mr Passfield who arrived at a pharmacy at Bentleigh, a Perth suburb, at 12.2 a.m. on 7 February 1975 and saw on the door of the pharmacy a notice which stated that if he rang the bell twice and paid a surcharge of $3 after 10.45 p.m. he would be admitted and the prescription would be filled.

Mr Passfield rang the bell twice and the chemist came to the door and asked what he wanted. When he stated what he wanted, he was refused entry and service on the grounds that the chemist could not charge the surcharge on a prescription. He made Mr Passfield realise that if he purchased some other item he would have to pay the surcharge on that item and he would be able to have the prescription filled. Mr Passfield was left with no other alternative than to purchase another item. So he asked whether a bar of soap would be sufficient. The chemist says ‘yes’ and let Mr Passfield in. While the chemist was attending to the prescription, Mr Passfield asked him how this situation had come about. The chemist stated that the Whitlam Government was to blame. He also stated that when the national medical scheme was launched he and many others in his profession would not be joining it. When the prescription was completed the chemist suggested that a bag of jellybeans would not be as dear as the soap, so Mr Passfield bought a 6 oz. bag of jellybeans which had a base price of 30c. So the bill listed the price of the prescription at $1.25 and the price of the jellybeans at $3.30. That was for 6 oz. of jellybeans- an absolutely blackmail situation. The total trading amounted to $4.55. All this occurred between 12.2 and 12.7 a.m. It took 5 minutes for that ridiculous situation to occur. If someone called there seeking something for himself that was not essential and was told the price he would walk away.

Honourable members might wonder why I ask the Minister for Health to give some sympathetic consideration to this problem. Mr Passfield has a son who had a haemorrhage on the brain soon after birth and has what is called a shunt, which is a tube which runs under the skin from behind his ear to his abdomen. The specialist has always stressed the need for any infection to be cleared up as quickly as possible as it could block the tube, which could lead to dire consequenceseven death. Therefore, when Mr Passfield suspected an infection he sought medical attention for his son as soon as possible and was successful in getting it, but he visited 7 chemists before he went to this place to which I have referred. When he went there he was desperate, and who would not be for the sake of one’s child? I suppose that if that chemist had increased the surcharge from $3 to $6 or to any other amount Mr Passfield would probably have paid it. I feel that there should be some place in the Perth suburbs to which people can go without being blackmailed and without having the fear of not knowing whether they will be served.

Mr Passfield went to a branch of the same chemist in another suburb which was supposed to be open after hours, but it was closed. There was a notice advising people to go across to this other branch. Mr Passfield found this chemist only after being advised by doctors to go to that address. I dare say that the doctors would not have told him to go there if they had known the true situation. I personally have called at this pharmacy and have seen the notice. I knocked on the door and, quite frankly, the conversation which ensued showed that the chemist was not entirely sympathetic. This situation is true. Everybody is treated the same. This was not an isolated instance. I ask the Minister to look into the question of finding someone who is sympathetic and of funding an after-hours service so that this type of situation will not occur.


-Order! It being 1 1 p.m., the House stands adjourned until 10 a.m. tomorrow.

The House adjourned at 1 1 p.m.

page 3378


The following paper was deemed to have been presented on 4 June 1975, by command of His Excellency the Governor-General:

A Treaty which has not yet entered into force and which Australia has signed subject to ratification:

International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships signed for Australia subject to ratification on 24 December 1974.

page 3379


The following answers to questions were circulaMedibank

Bills of Exchange and Cheques (Question No. 1986)

Mr Garland:

asked the Attorney-General, upon notice:

  1. 1 ) With reference to the answers given by his predecessor in April 1973 and on 22 March 1974 in reply to questions asking whether he had carried out any examination of the recommendations of the Manning Report into the operations of the Bills of Exchange Act and, in particular, recommendations that the law relating to cheques be covered in a separate Cheques Act, what has been the result of the further consideration which has been given to this and other recommendations.
  2. If the consideration is not yet concluded, when will it be.
  3. Will he ensure that full determination of these long outstanding matters is made shortly as they were not determined in 1974.
Mr Enderby:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. to (3) The further discussions which my predecessor indicated in his answer of 22 March 1974 were to be held between my Department and the banks have recently been concluded. To the extent that the discussions have resulted in conclusions which provide for significant departures from the recommendations of the Manning Committee there will now be appropriate consultations with other interested bodies. The honourable member may rest assured that the preparation of this legislation is proceeding as expeditiously as possible having regard to its far reaching commercial significance.

Superannuation Benefits (Question No. 1996)

Mr Snedden:

asked the Treasurer, upon notice:

When will he answer my question No. 1705 which first appeared on the Notice Paper on 13 November 1974.

Dr J F Cairns:

– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:

I refer the right honourable member to my answer to question No. 1705 (Hansard, 28 May 1975, page 2986).

Department of Minerals and Energy: Staff Duties (Question No. 2000)

Mr Snedden:

asked the Minister for Minerals and Energy, upon notice:

When will he answer my question No. 862 which first appeared on the Notice Paper on 2 August 1974.

Mr Connor:

– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:

The answer to question No. 862 is given in Hansard of 27 May 1975 (page2889).

Consumer Protection (Question No. 2136)

Mr Snedden:

– asked the Minister for Science, upon notice:

When will be answer my question No. 264 which first appeared on the Notice Paper on 16 July, 1974.

Mr Morrison:

– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:

I refer the right honourable member to my answer to question on notice No. 264 (Hansard, 14 May 1975, page 2296).

Consumer Activities (Question No. 2139)

Mr Snedden:

– asked the Minister for Science, upon notice:

When will he answer my question No. 1763 which first appeared on the Notice Paper on 1 3 November, 1 974.

Mr Morrison:

– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:

I refer the right honourable member to my answer to question on notice No. 1763 (Hansard, 14 May, 1975, page 2298).

Migrants (Question No. 2168)

Mr Snedden:

asked the Minister for Labor and Immigration, upon notice:

  1. 1 ) Further to Question No. 763, which personnel are on the standing interdepartmental committee established to ensure an integrated approach to all matters affecting migrants.
  2. How many times has the committee met and on what dates.
  3. Has it prepared any reports; if so will they be made public.
Mr Clyde Cameron:

– I am informed that the answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. The Interdepartmental Committee consists of representatives of:

Department of Labor and Immigration Department of Social Security Department of Foreign Affairs Department of Education Department of Police and Customs Department of the Media Department of Housing and Construction Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

Membership of the Interdepartmental Committee is not fixed. For each meeting Departments are represented by those senior officers who are responsible for or most familiar with items listed for discussion at that meeting. In general, Departmental representation is at the level of First Assistant Secretary or equivalent.

  1. On 1 April 1975 there was a meeting of the Permanent Heads (or their representatives) of participating Departments to lay down guidelines for the future operation of the Interdepartmental Committee. On 13 May the first meeting of the Interdepartmental Committee was held.
  2. The principal functions of the Interdepartmental Committee are to exchange information and to promote coordination and co-operation between Departments involved in aspects of immigration or migrant settlement, rather than to examine and recommend on substantive matters of policy. Therefore, it is not expected that formal reports (other than meeting notes) will be prepared.

Handicapped Children (Question No. 2269)

Mr Ruddock:

asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:

  1. With reference to the Prime Minister’s answer to my question No. 1779 (Hansard, 5 December 1974, page 4763), has his attention been drawn to the book of Mr J. J. Spigelman entitled ‘Secrecy- Political Censorship in Australia’ and, in particular, ‘An Inside Dopester’s Index of 100 Examples of Secrecy ‘, on pages 1 77 to 1 80.
  2. Has his attention also been drawn to indexed item 35- ‘Interdepartmental Committee Survey of Facilities for Handicapped Children’.
  3. ) In respect of that item, has it been made publicly available since 1972; if so, when, and in what manner, and by whom was the disclosure made.
  4. If the item has not been made publicly available, what is the reason for the continuing secrecy.
Mr Hayden:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. Yes.
  2. Yes.
  3. and (4) An Interdepartmental Committee was established by the previous Government to examine the recommendations of the Senate Standing Committee on Health and Welfare in its report on Mentally and Physically Handicapped Persons in Australia. The Interdepartmental Committee did not complete its examination and report on the ‘Survey of Handicapped Children’ and therefore it was never presented to the Senate Standing Committee on Health and Welfare.

The report of the separate survey of Invalid Pensioners aged 16 to 20 years m New South Wales and Victoria headed (‘Handicapped Children in Australia’) was submitted to the Senate Standing Committee on Health and Welfare and was incorporated in its Hansard of 1 970-7 1 .

This report has been sent to several other outside bodies and was incorporated in the August 1971 ‘Morbidity Survey of Invalid Pensioners, New South Wales and Victoria, November 1970’, which appears as Item No. 37 on the list of reports announced in my press release of 1 March 1973 as being available to the public.

Electra Aircraft: Noise Level (Question No. 2317)

Mr Ruddock:

asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice:

  1. With reference to the Prime Minister’s answer to my qeustion No. 1779 (Hansard, 5 December 1974, page 4763), has his attention been drawn to the book by Mr J. J. Spigelman entitled ‘Secrecy- Political Censorship in Australia’ and, in particular, ‘An Inside Dopester’s Index of 100 Exampless of Secrecy’, on pages 177 to 180.
  2. ) Has his attention also been drawn to indexed item 66- Department of Civil Aviation study on noise level of Electra aircraft.
  3. 3 ) In respect of that item, has it been made publicly available since 1972; if so, when, and in what manner, and by whom was the disclosure made.
  4. If the item has not been made publicly available, what is the reason for the continuing secrecy.
Mr Charles Jones:
Minister for Transport · NEWCASTLE, VICTORIA · ALP

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. Yes, and 1 refer you to the general comments made recently by the Prime Minister on your series of questions.
  2. Yes.
  3. No.
  4. These specific noise considerations were not reproduced in report form but were only recorded on various internal minutes and as such the data were not in a form suitable for public release. However, there is no question of secrecy involved and I am quite willing, if the honourable member so desires, to provide whatever information we have on this matter to him or, for that matter, to any other person who requests it.

Sydney’s Second Airport (Question No. 2318)

Mr Ruddock:

asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice: (.1) With reference to the Prime Minister’s answer to my question No. 1 779 (Hansard, 5 December 1 974, page 4763 ), has his attention been drawn to the book of Mr J. J. Spigelman entitled ‘SecrecyPolitical Censorship in Australia’ and, in particular, ‘An Inside Dopester’s Index of 100 Exampless of Secrecy’ on pages 177 to 180.

  1. Has his attention been drawn to indexed item 67- Report on Sydney’s second airport.
  2. ) In respect of that item, has it been made publicly available since 1972; if so, when, and in what manner, and by whom was the disclosure made.
  3. If the item has not been made publicly available, what is the reason for the continuing secrecy.
Mr Charles Jones:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. 1 ) Yes, and I refer you to the general comments made recently by the Prime Minister on your series of questions.
  2. Yes. I presume the report was one made in August/ September 1970, by an interdepartmental committee exploring the need for and possible sites of a second airport for Sydney. The then Liberal/Country Party Government belatedly acted on the interdepartmental committee’s recommendation to establish a joint committee of Australian and N.S.W. Government officials to look at the question.
  3. No. .(4) When, in 1973, 1 reviewed the situation with the outdated report of the interdepartmental committee, I saw no point in publishing it, as the Australian/N.S.W. Joint Committee was by then undertaking a completely new and more extensive study of potential sites for a second airport for Sydney.

Pathology Laboratories (Question No. 2402)

Mr Ruddock:

asked the Minister for Science, upon notice:

  1. 1 ) Has he had discussions with the Minister for Health or his officers on proposals for the accreditation for pathology laboratories in Australia.
  2. Will he make representations to the Minister for Health on behalf of the National Association of Testing Authorities so that this body might be responsible for accreditation of pathology services.
  3. Will he outline the role NATA will play in ensuring quality control for consumer services and goods within Australia.
Mr Morrison:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. Yes.
  2. I will be prepared to discuss further with the Minister for Health the possibility that the National Association of Testing Authorities might be responsible for accreditation of pathology services.
  3. The Commission for Consumer Affairs which the Australian Government has decided to establish will no doubt wish to make use of NATA laboratories in appropriate cases for testing of consumer goods. I recently proposed that firms should regard NATA registration of then- laboratories as a recognition of having reached a standard of quality control acceptable to the Association; such use of NATA registration would assist the public to identify those firms that have established adequate quality control.

Woodchip Industry (Question No. 2433)

Mr Hunt:

asked the Minister for Environment, upon notice:

  1. Will he make available the details of the inquiry and assessments made prior to the decision to allow the Manjimup Woodchip Industry in Western Australia to proceed.
  2. Were he and his Department completely satisfied with the procedures adopted and the way in which the inquiry was carried out.
  3. Is he satisfied that sufficient consideration was given to environmental aspects before the decision was made.
Dr Cass:
Minister for Environment · MARIBYRNONG, VICTORIA · ALP

– The reply to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. 1 based my assessment of this proposal on the environmental impact statement prepared by the Forests Department of Western Australia and on answers to supplementary questions which I asked the W. A. Minister for Forests. Both the impact statement and the answers to the questions have been available to the public for more than 1 8 months.
  2. In the circumstances, having regard to the fact that no environmental impact statement procedures had been finalised at the time this matter was considered by the Government and having regard to the fact that the Government had decided not to insist on public comment on impact statements prior to January 1974, 1 was prepared to accept the Western Australian approach.
  3. I am satisfied that the major areas of environmental concern were identified prior to any Australian Government decision being made, but it was recognised at the time that many of the details associated with the proposal, such as potential salinity effects and the adequacy of reserves of representative ecosystems, could only be determined by research and monitoring programs. There has been some dialogue on these more detailed aspects since the basic decision was taken. I would expect this to continue and to take cognisance of the report arising from the interdepartmental working group on the economic and environmental implications of the export woodchip industry established by the Minister for Agriculture and myself in 1973.

Charitable Organisations in Colac Area: Grants (Question No. 2497)

Mr Street:

asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:

  1. 1 ) What charitable organisations in the Shire of Colac and the City of Colac have received financial assistance from the Government.
  2. What charitable organisations in these areas who have applied for assistance have had their applications rejected.
Mr Hayden:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. The following organisations have received financial assistance from the Government under the Acts mentioned below and which are within my area of Ministerial responsibility:

    1. Handicapped Persons Assistance Act- The Lions Club Day Training Centre for the Mentally Handicapped, 101 Queen Street, Colac.
    2. Aged or Disabled Persons Homes Act- The Colac and District Eventide Hostel, Church Street, Colac.
    3. Delivered Meals Subsidy Act- City of Colac Meals on Wheels Service.
    4. States Grants (Home Care) Act- Senior Citizens Centre, Colac.
  2. There have been no applications by organisations for assistance under the Acts mentioned above that have been rejected.

Sand Mining on Fraser Island (Question No. 2569)

Mr Hunt:

asked the Minister for Minerals and Energy, upon notice:

  1. When did Dillingham-Murphyores Minerals begin negotiating with him and his Department to secure approval to negotiate overseas sales for the minerals which were to be mined on Fraser Island.
  2. Did the Department observe the environmental impact procedures that were laid down by the Government during January 1973.
Mr Connor:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. 1 ) D.M. Minerals began consultations with the Department of Minerals and Energy on 6 March 1974.
  2. The Department acted correctly. As I said on 20 May 1975 (Hansard page 2480), I saw no valid reason to refuse the application by D.M. Minerals.

Coal and Crude Oil Consumption (Question No. 2483)

Mr Berinson:

asked the Minister for Minerals and Energy, upon notice:

  1. What quantity of (a) coal and (b) crude oil was used in Australia in each of the last 5 years, and what was the percentage increase in usage of each product in each year.
  2. Are any projections available for anticipated future usage of coal and crude oil respectively.
  3. Does the Government provide any incentive or assistance for changeover from oil to coal usage; if so, what forms does this assistance take, and what results have been achieved.
Mr Connor:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. My Department published forecasts in August 1973. More recent forecasts of the Australian requirements of petroleum fuels are given in Annexure ‘D’ to the Second Report of the Royal Commission on Petroleum, dated 20 December 1974.
  2. No. With the large financial advantage in using coal, no additional incentive is considered necessary.

Shipbuilding (Question No. 1743)

Mr Snedden:

asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice:

  1. How many ships have been built in Australia since 2 December 1972.
  2. Where were they built.
  3. ) What is their tonnage.
  4. For what purpose have the ships been built, and where are they operating at the present time.
  5. How many ships are under construction in Australia at the present time.
  6. What is the tonnage of each.
  7. Where are they being built.
  8. Where will the ships operate and for what purpose.
  9. What are the comparative figures for the corresponding preceding period.
Mr Charles Jones:

– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows: ( 1 ), (2), (3) and (4) Details of vessels completed in Australian yards between 2 December 1972 and 14 April 1975 for which Australian Government subsidy assistance was g ranted, or for which construction was arranged through the S hipbuilding Division of the Australian Department of Transport, are provided in Table A. Details are also provided of completions of ship conversion projects for which subsidy assistance has been given. All vessels were constructed for use in Australian coastal and inland waters. Reliable data on other vessels constructed in Australian shipyards is not available. (5), (6), (7) and (8) Details of the vessels on order or under construction at Australian shipyards as at 14 April 1975 for which subsidy assistance has been sought, and vessels whose construction has been arranged through the Shipbuilding Division of the Australian Department of Transport are provided in Table B. Reliable data on other vessels on order or under construction in Australia shipyards is not available.

  1. Details of vessels completed in Australian yards during the comparable proceeding period to that shown in Table A for which Australian Government subsidy assistance was granted, or for which construction was arranged through the Shipbuilding Division of the Australian Department of Transport, are provided in Table C. Details of vessels on order or under construction in Australian shipyards as at 2 December 1972 are provided in Table D and may be compared with information in Table B.

Mandurah Girl Guides (Question No. 1040)

Mr Bungey:

asked the Minister for Tourism and Recreation, upon notice:

  1. 1 ) Has a decision been made on assistance for building extensions and purchase of equipment for the Mandurah Girl Guides Association submitted by the Mandurah Community Committee to the Southern Region Social Development Board under the Australian Assistance Plan, and subsequently referred by the Social Welfare Commissioner to his Department.
  2. If so, what is the decision.
  3. If not, when will a decision be made.
Mr Stewart:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. A grant of $1,200 has been approved for the Mandurah Girl Guides Association for building extensions and purchase of equipment, under the Australian Assistance Plan.
  2. Not applicable.
  3. Not applicable.

Dwellingup Hills Youth Centre (Question No. 1041)

Mr Bungey:

asked the Minister for Tourism and Recreation, upon notice:

  1. Has a decision been made on assistance for the purchase of equipment for the Dwellingup Hills Youth Centre submitted by the Murray Community Committee to the Southern Region Social Development Board under the Australian Assistance Plan, and subsequently referred by the Social Welfare Commission to his Department.
  2. If so, what is the decision.
  3. If not, when will a decision be made.
Mr Stewart:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. 1 ) Applications involving the purchase of equipment are not eligible for consideration under the terms of the Australian Government’s capital assistance program for recreation facilities. The application by the Dwellingup Hills Youth Centre has therefore not been considered for assistance under my Department’s program.
  2. Not applicable.
  3. Not applicable.

Lake Grace Community Committee (Question No. 1042)

Mr Bungey:

asked the Minister for Tourism and Recreation, upon notice:

  1. 1 ) Has a decision been made on assistance for the purchase of a projector for use at Lake King, Western Australia, submitted by the Lake Grace Community Committee to the Southern Region Social Development Board under the Australian Assistance Plan, and subsequently referred by the Social Welfare Commission to his Department.
  2. If so, what is the decision.
  3. If not, when will a decision be made.
Mr Stewart:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. 1 ) A grant of $ 1 ,500 has been approved for the purchase of a projector for use at Lake King by the Lake Grace Community Committee, under the Australian Assistance Plan.
  2. Not applicable.
  3. Not applicable.

Pinjarra Methodist Youth Club (Question No. 1043)

Mr Bungey:

asked the Minister for Tourism and Recreation, upon notice:

  1. 1 ) Has a decision been made on assistance for establishing facilities at the Pinjarra Methodist Youth Club submitted by the Murray Community Committee to the Southern Region Social Development Board under the Australian Assistance Plan, and subsequently referred by the Social Welfare Commission to his Department.
  2. If so, what is the decision.
  3. If not, when will a decision be made.
Mr Stewart:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. 1 ) A grant of $ 1 ,000 has been approved for the Pinjarra Methodist Youth Club for establishment of facilities, under the Australian Assistance Plan.
  2. Not applicable.
  3. Not applicable.

Nyabing Girl Guides Association (Question No. 1044)

Mr Bungey:

asked the Minister for Tourism and Recreation, upon notice:

  1. Has a decision been made on assistance for the purchase of equipment for the Nyabing Girl Guides Association submitted by the Kent Community Committee to the Southern Region Social Development Board under the Australian Assistance Plan, and subsequently referred by the Social Welfare Commission to his Department.
  2. If so, what is the decision.
  3. If not, when will a decision be made.
Mr Stewart:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. Applications involving the purchase of equipment are not eligible for consideration under the terms of the Australian Government’s capital assistance program for recreation facilities. The application by the Nyabing Girl Guides Association submitted by the Kent Community Committee has therefore not been considered for assistance under this program.
  2. Not applicable.
  3. Not applicable.

Sporting Bodies: Grants (Question No.1335)

Mr Snedden:

asked the Minister for Tourism and Recreation the following question, upon notice:

  1. 1) Is there an approved set of guidelines by which his Department examines requests from sporting organisations to attend national and international sporting events.
  2. If so, will he incorporate a copy in Hansard with this reply.
Mr Stewart:

– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows: (l)Yes.


  1. Each applicant must be an approved national sporting or competitive recreation association.

    1. The travel assistance scheme covers:

Fares subsidies for approved Australian competitors and officials to attend bona fide national and international events.

Fares subsidies, under certain circumstances, to assist eminent overseas competitors and coaches who visit Australia for approved purposes.

A scheme to subsidise fares of approved competitors and officials to attend inter-regional events where State/Territory teams have not attained national championship standard.

Fares assistance for up to three national executive members and one delegate from each State association to attend the annual general meeting of the national association.

Fares assistance for one Australian delegate to attend the meeting of the international association with which it is affiliated. Assistance will be provided once only in each year.

Assistance with costs of transporting equipment to and from approved national and international championships. The maximum amount in any one year to any approved national organisation will be $2500.

  1. Assistance will be considered for up to 4 national championships for each sport: 1 open event 2 under-age events 1 schools event.

Where the numbers above are exceeded preference will be given to the older age groupings.

For internatioal events, assistance will be considered for up to 1 junior and 1 senior nationally representative team for each sport.

  1. Levels of assistance with fares are based on the numbers of participants in the sport and the distance involved in travelling to the event.

Community Groups: Grants (Question No. 1571)

Mr Snedden:

asked the Minister for Tourism and Recreation, upon notice:

  1. What programs does his Department or statutory authorities under his control administer which enable individual groups or people in the community to apply for grants from the Australian Government for a specific purpose.
  2. What is the name of each program.
  3. What is the purpose of each program.
  4. What are the conditions surrounding eligibility for a grant under each program.
  5. 5 ) When did each program commence.
  6. What is the legal authority for the existence of each program.
  7. How is the community informed of the existence of each program, and its entitlement to apply for a grant.
  8. How many applications for grants under each program have been received in each of the last 3 years or for the period of operation of the program if it has been in operation less than 3 years.
  9. Who decides which applications for grants should be accepted.
  10. What percentage of applications for grants under each program have been successful in each of the last 3 years or in each of the years in which the program has been operating if it has been in operation for less than 3 years.
  11. What proportion of total funds allocated under each program in each of the last 3 years, or in each year the program has been operating where it has been in operation for less than 3 years, have been allocated to individuals as against groups.
  12. Are any attempts made to assess the extent to which the widest cross-section of the community is aware of the existence of the program, and the means by which applications can be submitted; if so, what attempts.
  13. What checks are made once applications are received for each program to determine if the attempts to widen access to the funds have been successful.
  14. Is he confident that the widest cross-section of the community is aware of the existence of the programs, and is aware of the application process.
  15. What procedures exist to assess the use to which the grants are being put, and to attempt some accountability for the money granted.
  16. What is the total amount that has been paid out under each program in each of the last 3 years or in each year of the operation of the program if it has been operating for less than 3 years.
  17. What is the total amount of money paid out for all such programs administered by his Department or authorities under his control.
  18. What attempts are made to ensure that the same individual organisations or persons do not receive several grants under different programs which he or other Ministers are responsible for and which, when added together, may be unwarranted.
Mr Stewart:

– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. to (18) The information which the right honourable member seeks in respect of 1973-74 is contained in my Department’s Review of Activities to 30 June 1974 which was tabled on 24 September of last year and distributed to all honourable members.

Information in respect of 1974-75 will be available in this year’s Review of Activities which I hope to table early in September.

As the right honourable member would realise to supply the information he has requested would be extremely time consuming. Given that the manpower resource of my Department is small, and that the information is, or soon will be, available from other sources, I am reluctant to authorise the collection of the information as a separate exercise.

Recreation Officers (Question No. 1766)

Mr Snedden:

asked the Minister for Tourism and Recreation, upon notice:

  1. With reference to the answer to question No. 457 (Hansard, 1 August 1974, page 1040) concerning the employment of recreation officers by the Government, how many (a) youth workers, (b) social workers, (c) sport coaches, (d) drama instructors, (e) physical education instructors and (f) other categories of people that he would describe as recreation officers or recreation workers does the Commonwealth employ.

    1. When will the Government implement a scheme to have recreation officers working within industry.
Mr Stewart:

– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. My Department does not employ officers as youth workers, social workers, sport coaches, drama instructors, physical education instructors or other categories that I would describe as recreation officers or recreation workers.
  2. Among the programs implemented by my Department there is one under which we intend to assist pilot projects designed to encourage people to participate in some form of physical recreation. Part of this program will be directed toward recreation in the work environment and I hope to undertake some initiatives in this field in 1975-76. I am anxious that these pilot projects be evaluated before attempting to implement any overall scheme for the greater involvement by industry in the provision of recreation facilities and services, including recreation officers, for their employees.

Sporting Bodies: Grants (Question No. 1933)

Mr Bungey:

asked the Minister for Tourism and Recreation the following question, upon notice:

  1. 1 ) What decisions have been made on assistance for projects submitted to the Southern Regional Social Development Board under the Australian Assistance Plan, and subsequently referred by the Social Welfare Commission to his Department, in respect of (a) Boddington Tennis Club, (b) Mandurah Soccer Club, (c) Broome Hill Cricket Club, (d). Kukerin Tennis Club, (e) Flat Rocks Tennis Club, (0 Pingaring Badminton and Social Club, (g) Woodanilling Tennis Club, (h) Woodanilling Cricket Club, (i) Wagin Tennis Club and ( j ) Pingrup Cricket Club.
  2. If decisions have not been made, why, and when are decisions anticipated.
  3. What procedures have been adopted to ensure that, if no assistance is granted, these cases are presented to the Community Recreation Council of Western Australia for consideration for capital assistance grants from his Department in the 1975-76 program.
Mr Stewart:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. 1 ) A grant of S350 has been approved for the Pingaring Badminton and Social Club under the Australian Assistance Plan. The other projects were received too late to be considered within the 1974-75 capital assistance program for recreation facilities but have been referred by the Social Welfare Commission to the Community Recreation Council of Western Australia and will be considered for assistance in the context of the 1975-76 program.
  2. Grants are allocated on an annual basis. The 1975-76 grants will be announced later this year.
  3. See(l).

Department of Tourism and Recreation: Staffing Position (Question No. 2141)

Mr Snedden:

asked the Minister for Tourism and Recreation, upon notice:

When will he answer my question No. 267 which first appeared on the Notice Paper on 1 6 July 1 974.

Mr Stewart:

– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:

My answer to Question No. 267 appeared in Hansard (page 1310) on 8 April 1975.

Department of Tourism and Recreation: Interdepartmental Committees (Question No. 2142)

Mr Snedden:

asked the Minister for Tourism and Recreation, upon notice:

When will he answer my question No. 310 which first appeared on the Notice Paper on 1 6 July 1 974.

Mr Stewart:

– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:

My answer to Question No. 310 appeared in Hansard (page 2179) on 13 May 1975.

Department of Tourism and Recreation: Interdepartmental Committees (Question No. 2143)

Mr Snedden:

asked the Minister for Tourism and Recreation, upon notice:

When will he answer my Question No. 311 which first appeared on the Notice Paper on 16 July 1974.

Mr Stewart:

– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:

My answer to Question No. 3 1 1 appeared in Hansard (page 2180)on 13 May 1975.

Sporting Associations: Grants ‘ (Question No. 2145)

Mr Snedden:

asked the Minister for Tourism and Recreation, upon notice:

When will he answer my question No. 591 which first appeared on the Notice Paper on 24 July 1 974.

Mr Stewart:

– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:

My answer to Question No. 591 appeared in Hansard (page 2747) on 22 May 1975.

Fitness Programs and Recreational Facilities (Question No. 2146)

Mr Snedden:

asked the Minister for Tourism and Recreation, upon notice:

When will he answer my question No. 592 which first appeared on the Notice Paper on 24 July 1 974.

Mr Stewart:

– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:

My answer to Question No. 592 appeared in Hansard (page 1026) on 4 March 1975

Department of Tourism and Recreation: Fire Fighting Procedures (Question No. 2148) Mr Snedden asked the Minister for Tourism and Recreation, upon notice:

When will he answer my question No. 1158 which first appeared on the Notice Paper on 26 September 1974.

Mr Stewart:

– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:

My answer to Question No. 1158 appeared in Hansard (page 2180) on 13 May 1975.

Ministerial Press Releases (Question No. 2152)

Mr Snedden:

asked the Minister for Tourism and Recreation, upon notice:

When will he answer my question No. 1656 which first appeared on the Notice Paper on 13 November 1974.

Mr Stewart:

– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:

My answer to Question No. 1656 appeared in Hansard (page 2748) on 22 May 1975.

Holiday Centres (Question No. 2154)

Mr Snedden:

asked the Minister for Tourism and Recreation, upon notice:

When will he answer my question No. 1767 which first appeared on the Notice Paper on 13 November 1974.

Mr Stewart:

– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:

My answer to Question No. 1767 appeared in Hansard (page 2748) on 22 May 1975.

Department of Tourism and Recreation: Research Projects (Question No. 2372)

Mr Snedden:

asked the Minister for Tourism and Recreation the following question, upon notice:

  1. Further to the answer to question Nb. 96 in which he provided a list of grants to organisations to undertake research, what are the conclusions drawn from each project mentioned in his reply.
  2. Have the results of each project been published; if so, where.
  3. What impact has each project had on policy decisions taken by him or his Department.
  4. Who decided the purpose of each project, and who approved each grant.
Mr Stewart:

– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. 1 ) to ( 3 ) Each research project has contributed to my Department ‘s understanding of the complex issues in planning to meet the demands of Australians in the fields of tourism and recreation. The policy implications to be drawn from the results of this research have been carefully studied. Some of the research project reports are published as specific volumes and are available from my Department or through Australian Government Publishing Service outlets. Other reports were prepared to assist in the development of my Department s approach to the leisure environment and, as such, are not available for wide distribution.
  2. The purpose of each study was determined by consultation between officers of my Department and recipients of grants specifically outlined by me or my Department left to the discretion of the recipient, within carefully controlled guidelines.

The grants were approved either by Cabinet, by me or by the Permanent Head of my Department.

Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 4 June 1975, viewed 22 October 2017, <>.