29th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. G. G. D. Scholes) took the chair at 10 a.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honouable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectively showeth:
That we wish to protest most vigorously at the proposed increases in postal and telephone charges.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will take immediate steps to:
Diminish the size of the increase or, if possible, leave charges as they are.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Dr Cass, Mr Malcolm Fraser, Mr Sinclair, Mr Bourchier, Mr Bungey, Mr Drummond, Mr Garland, Mr Nixon, Mr Staley and Mr Wilson.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the Insurance industry is already coping with
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House will reject the Bill.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Bungey and Mr Macphee.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that the establishment of an Australian Government Insurance Office will:
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives rejects completely the Australian Government Insurance Office Bill 1975.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Connolly.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
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 Hyde.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament Assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth respectfully showeth:-
That we, the undersigned do hereby express our right of “freedom of choice” and regret the possibility of losing the benefits of private enterprise, which would be the result, we feel, if the Australian Government should nationalise our insurance system.
We, citizens of the Commonwealth, earnestly request our Government to keep the private enterprise system of Insurance in Australia and not introduce an Australian Government Insurance Office.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Kelly.
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:
Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives reject completely the Australian Government Insurance Office Bill 1975.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr McLeay.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representative in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned employees and agents of the Australian insurance industry respectfully showeth:
That the insurance industry is already coping with
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House will reject the Bill.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byMrMacphee.
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 Holten and Mr McKenzie.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens and foreign students respectfully showeth:
That the undersigned most strongly agree with the changes proposed to the tertiary education scheme in the submission to the Committee to review the scheme presented by the Australian Union of Students, and see the following specific changes as being immediately necessary:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Beazley.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House request the Postal Commission not to downgrade the Nullawil Post Office, Victoria.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Fisher.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned Australian Government Employees respectfully showeth:
That-(l) We believe (a) the Superannuation Bill 1975 is intended to provide a long awaited solution to the many anomalies which plague the present superannuation and (b) the Oppostion amendments are a direct attack on the living standards of Australian Government employees and their families and
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House pass the Superannuation Bill 1975 without amendment or delay.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byMrHolten.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled: The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That there is an obligation resting upon the Government, under the present very commendable laws and regulations, viz:
To ensure that all cultural and educational media unite to uphold the Christian belief in God and in His code of moral behaviour (which is our heritage under the Constitution).
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray, that the members in Parliament assembled will do all in their power to
engender greater respect for the nuclear family and to frustrate the present trend towards its fragmentation as the basic unit of society, and
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byMrHolten.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the Scouting Movement is unfairly situated in relation to other similar groups and organisations, in the matter of sales tax exemption on purchases of equipment for furtherance of its youth work.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will investigate, and grant relief, by giving sales tax exemption to the Scouting Movement.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr James.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of the undersigned electors of the Division of Kennedy respectfully showeth-
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House will take action which will require the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to take immediate steps to provide the electorate of Kennedy with a television service, where it is not now provided.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byMrKatter.
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 the natural environment of Fraser Island is so outstanding that it should be identified as part of the World Natural Heritage, and whereas the Island should be conserved for the enjoyment of this and future generations.
Your petitioners humble pray that the members, in the House assembled, will take the most urgent steps to ensure:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr McKenzie.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House take steps to-
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Nixon.
-Is the Minister for Health satisfied that his announcement on medical research of Tuesday evening will end the crisis in medical research caused by the 50 per cent Budget cut for this year? Or is the truth that no additional finance is being provided- only a reallocation of finance for the 1976-78 triennium to increase the amount available for the latter part of 1976 after the next Budget- and that in the critical first 6-month period of 1 976 there is a completely inadequate amount for the continuation of projects and employment of research personnel after December this year?
– The matter is under discussion with the Acting Treasurer and the Prime Minister. I intend to take it up further with the Treasurer on his return. The National Health and Medical Research Council will be meeting on the 20th of this month and I hope that we will have a firm decision before that time as to any adjustments that can be made. In the meantime the honourable member will be aware that, for the coming calendar year, we have guaranteed expenditure of $6.3m which is approximately a 20 per cent reduction on the expenditure for the present calendar year.
– I ask the Minister for Services and Property whether there is any impediment under the Electoral Act to a new senator from Queensland taking his place in the Senate immediately.
– The election of senators to fill casual vacancies is covered by section 15 of the Constitution, as was explained in the House yesterday. Technically speaking, he would be eligible to take his place in the Senate immediately or as soon as he was sworn in. However, I think that the honourable member may have been referring in a round about way to the election yesterday in the Queensland Parliament of a person to fill a vacancy of the kind he mentioned. It is traditional for a representative of the same party to be elected to fill casual vacancies.
– I take a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is a mischievous answer and it is entirely irrelevant. It is out of order. I know that the clown at the table is accustomed to acting in this way. It is entirely out of order and should be ruled out of order.
– Order! I warn the honourable member for Mackellar that if he takes another point of order in that tone I will deal with him. It was most discourteous. The answer to the question, as I have heard it so far, is relevant to the question and that is the only criterion on which answers to questions can be dealt with.
- Mr Speaker, I am surprised that the honourable member does not support his Leader at the table and the Liberal Leader in Queensland who objected to Mr Field’s election yesterday. It is shocking to see such public disloyalty. The gentleman elected yesterday in Queensland under the weird and wonderful methods of the Liberal and National Country Parties in that State is a Mr Field who is no more Labor than Bjelke-Petersen or the Leader of the National Country Party in this House. I might say that the Leader of the Country Party in this Parliament supported his election and Mr Bjelke-Petersen ‘s statement After the execution had taken place the Leader of the Opposition decided that he would oppose what Mr BjelkePetersen had done. In Queensland all the National Country Party members voted contrary to usual procedures for that gentleman who is opposed to the Labor Party. Sir Gordon Chalk gave a great lead to his Party in the Parliament- he held his head up if he did not uphold his leadership for that particular section of the Parliament- and voted for the Labor nominee.
I think that I should mention to honourable members what some of the newspapers think about how the Constitution has been contravened in this round about method. For instance, an editorial in the Melbourne Age today- it is a journal which has a good reputation and one which broadly supports the Oppositionsaid:
Mr Bjelke-Petersen is the worst kind of political fraud. He stands convicted by his peers, by his colleagues and by everyone with faith in the system that Mr Bjelke-Petersen has so sordidly corrupted.
Let those Country Party members over there in the corner who support his methods stand up and be counted. The Courier-Mail, that well known organ of support of the misguided democracy in Queensland, had this to say today:
What a shameful spectacle State Parliament presented yesterday with its election of a new Senator for Queensland -an election without conscience, without honour.
Then it went on to say:
The new Senator, the politically unknown Mr Albert Patrick Field -
In broad Labor language he would be described as a rat and a scab- will not sit as an Australian Labor Party Senator, as the Premier well knew when he nominated him.
He represents no party in Parliament. He is there because the Premier and the National Party members and half the Liberals voted for him. State Parliament yesterday made Queensland the laughing stock of Australia and it is a very sick joke.
In answer to the honourable member, technically the provision has been correctly interpreted and the vacancy filled, but every tradition in the nation has been defied by this action. Let this be said: The basis has been laid for State parliaments with the numbers in future to change the complexion and the majority in the Senate. As these newspapers have said, those who have sowed this way may well reap the resultant harvest. Ultimately we may see at a vital time in the Senate a majority changed by votes brought about by the actions of the Leader of the National Country Party in this place and the Leader of the National Country Party in Queensland, and a docile Liberal Party leadership which will not stand up and be counted on a great moral and democratic issue such as this.
– I ask the Minister for Minerals and Energy a question concerning a matter of financial fraud. Is the Minister aware that in evidence before the Royal Commission into the petroleum industry on 2 September ACTU-Solo Enterprises Pty Ltd made it plain that the contract for the sale of crude and the second commercial contract had been brought to the notice of the Minister? This appears on page 4273 of the evidence. Does the Minister still claim that ACTU-Solo misled him and that he was not aware of these matters? If so, can he again explain why there were not adequate investigations since he knew that Allied Petrochemical Pty Ltd had been seeking an unauthorised price for crude over at least 6 months?
– We were misled. We were misinformed.
– Was this evidence false then?
-We were misled. We were misinformed. We have acted with complete integrity at all times despite the insinuations and imputations of the, shall I say honourable, Leader of the Opposition. Sir, I -
-Order! I suggest that the Minister might remove that imputation.
– I await the special report which will be submitted to the Government. If the Leader of the Opposition would pay me the courtesy of listening to my answer, if he is interested, I repeat that I await the report of the presiding judge of the Royal Commission. I have noted with great interest the comment of counsel representing the Commission. We will act in accordance with the advice of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department.
– I am well aware of the position outlined by the honourable member for Darling, and fully sympathise with it. He has shown commendable concern on behalf of the town and the mining interests. The problem is one that is common to a large number of copper producers in the world today. May I instance the case of the world ‘s possibly largest and most profitable producer of copper, Mount Isa Mines Ltd. Broken Hill South is a reputable and competent company which acquired an area that had already been the subject of considerable mining. Its undertaking is an efficient one but it, together with other copper producers, is subject to the vagaries of the world copper market. Copper is notoriously a volatile metal in pricing terms. We in the Labor administration have done the best that we could, in consultation with CIPEC- the Inter-governmental Council of Copper Exporting Countries- with which I have had recent talks to ensure that we can get to a more stable pricing system.
The particular problem at Cobar relates to the pay-off of a number of men. My department has just completed an analysis of the problems facing the mine and I have asked for an interdepartmental committee to examine as a matter of urgency the possibility of a reference to the Industries Assistance Commission. It is also a matter for regret that, thanks to the machinations of the Opposition, we are not in a position temporarily to have the assistance of the Petroleum and Minerals Authority in a problem of this nature.
-My question is directed to the Minister for the Media. Is the Minister aware of allegations that the guidelines for the operation of the access radio station 3ZZ which prevent the use of the station by political parties have been violated by representatives of the Italian organisation FILEF, the Federation of Italian Labourers, Emigrants and Families, and by an official of the Communist Party of Australia who has been a political candidate for that Party? Is he aware of reports that the latter person during the course of his regular program Union News and Commentary has urged people to reject decisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, and to disregard attempts to check inflation and has alleged that the Industrial Court was stacked? So that these allegations can be proved or disproved, will the Minister give immediate instructions to the Australian Broadcasting Commission to give me access to the tapes or texts of the relevant access broadcasts which the ABC, despite repeated requests, has so far failed to provider
– In view of all the allegations made by the honourable member I shall take the matter up with the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I have no knowledge of any of the details he has mentioned. I will give him an answer in writing.
– I ask the Minister for Education: Has the pattern of grants for education by the Australian Government produced the crisis in education in New South Wales alleged by the New South Wales Minister for Education, Sir Eric Willis, or is this another attempt by a State Minister to blame the inadequacies of his administration upon the Australian Government?
– The certainties upon which the States are entitled to proceed are what this Parliament enacts. There have been no promises given to any of the States beyond the Karmel funding which was for $784m in the 2 academic years 1974 and 1975. That promise will be fulfilled to the letter up to 31 December 1975. Because the triennia have been deferred in the case of all 4 commissions, at the moment the only other definite matter upon which the States can proceed is what is contained in the Budget. As compared with the last financial year, in this Budget the recurrent grants to New South Wales for education rise from $84m to $122m. It is on recurrent grants that teachers might be paid and that most of the other activities apart from actual school building are conducted. I am flattered by the statements of Sir Eric Willis. Repeatedly he has said that Commonwealth grants represent no more than 10 per cent of New South Wales educational expenditure, that they represent merely the icing sugar on the cake. Now he is suggesting that although the icing sugar has got thicker it has caused a crisis down in the cake.
New South Wales has a sovereign government and can decide how it spends its reimbursement, but its ‘as of right’ reimbursement has increased from a record $737m to a record $980m and it is perfectly clear from that State’s utterances that the State Government does not intend to spend any of that extra $243m on education. The grants from the Commonwealth for technical and further education have seen a 44 per cent increase in capital grants and a 77 per cent increase in recurrent grants. I referred a while ago to the $784m of Karmel funds over 2 years. I draw to the attention of the House that the funds of the Schools Commission on this financial year are $47 lm. If that were projected at a biennial rate it would be $942m, which shows that the tempo of grants on top of the Karmel fund grants has increased. The New South Wales Government as a sovereign government need not spend any of its extra $243m on education, but that is its decision. If it likes to cling to its railway deficit of $170m that is its decision. If it likes to defer Medibank so that it has to meet greatly increased expenditure on health, that is its decision.
When it projects all these decisions and alleges Federal cuts, clearly in the field of recurring grants the statements are quite untruthful. The Commonwealth Government has never been responsible for New South Wales teacher scholarships. We never have financed them. In the field of advanced education, in the last 6 months of this year recurring grants to New South Wales are much less than they will be in the first 6 months of next year. We realise that the States need to know what they are going to get beyond 30 June next year for the full academic year. Cabinet has given the instruction that they are to be informed as early as possible, and that will be very soon after the Treasurer returns from abroad. So they will have complete security of knowledge of what they are going to get through the academic year 1976.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Science and Consumer Affairs. I preface my question by reminding the House of the great contribution that the Minister for Science and Consumer Affairs made in drawing up and introducing the Regional Employment Development scheme when he was Minister for Labor and Immigration. As the Government has now decided to phase out any further projects under the RED scheme, with which the Minister was so proud to be associated, I ask: Is it a fact that, as has been reported, the Minister has been approached to draw up a replacement scheme to cover the interests of consumers which comes within the jurisdiction of the Minister for Science and Consumer Affairs in this House?
– I did not hear the honourable member’s last words. Did he mention a replacement scheme? (Honourable members interjecting)
- Mr Speaker, I have asked what the honourable member means and I have had 5 different explanations from his own side. Could the honourable member repeat the question?
– I ask the honourable member to repeat the actual question.
– Is it a fact that, as has been reported, the Minister has been approached to draw up a replacement scheme to cover the interests of consumers which comes within his jurisdiction as Minister for Science and Consumer Affairs?
– I still do not understand the question. If the honourable member would rephrase the question so that I can understand it and put it on the notice paper, I shall answer it.
-I ask the Minister for Urban and Regional Development: Has the Area Improvement Program been accepted by many hundreds of local government authorities and community groups in urban and country areas throughout Australia? Has this program brought benefits to deprived regions and local government areas? Has the level of spending been geared to what can be done without a strain on resources? What effect would the scrapping of the AIP have on the provision of community facilities?
– The Area Improvement Program is a regionally based program. I understand from a recent letter from the Leader of the Opposition to local government in South Australia that he supports regionally based organisations. The Area Improvement Program was the first pilot program started in the deprived areas of the western sector of Sydney and the western sector of Melbourne. Those 2 pilot projects were extended to 13 regions. This year $ 18m is being spent in 13 regions which cover local government. This amount is a modest amount to try to catch up the backlog in a deprived area of local government. As we know, local government and semi-government authorities were the most deprived levels of government in Australia. During the 23 years that the present Opposition was in government the internal national debt remained at about the same level, while the debt of local authorities increased by 2000 per cent and the debt of semi-government authorities increased by 2800 per cent.
The Australian Government has adopted many broad programs to try to assist local government. The 2 major ones are access for local authorities to the Grants Commission, and the area improvement programs. The area improvement programs are being undertaken in co-operation between the 3 levels of government -Australian, State and local- and community groups. It is a co-operative effort. Those concerned with the programs have 3 principles in mind. They are seeking to identify regional problems, to work out regional development strategies and to devise appropriate ways of implementing them. In other words, they are trying to give authority to the people at the grass roots level. The area improvement programs work in that way.
Honourable members opposite know that these area improvement programs cover areas represented in this Parliament by members of all political parties. For instance, the honourable member for Mitchell has been a strong supporter of the area improvement programs in his electorate, as has the honourable member for Parramatta. The situation is the same in rural areas such as the Hunter Valley. The honourable member for Paterson has been a strong supporter of the programs. The Leader of the Opposition has made a decision off the top of his head to abolish these progressive programs which have been undertaken to alleviate the problems of local government, particularly those local authorities that are trying to build up a strong regional base to try to counteract the so-called centralism that the Leader of the Opposition accuses the Government of practising. No policy of the Australian Government is based more at the grass roots level than are the area improvement programs, but again the negative policies that are put forward by the Leader of the Opposition can be perfectly understood.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question. Is it a fact that the Chairman and Managing Director of ACTU-Solo Enterprises Pty Ltd has claimed that he is innocent of any impropriety on the part of any other director of the company? Is it not a fact that the Government would hold the company and all its directors responsible for any improper breach of Government policy? Has the Prime Minister yet concerned himself in the negotiations between the ACTU-Solo company and the Minister for Minerals and Energy? Will he examine the situation and take the responsibility for seeing that the matter is resolved to the satisfaction of this Parliament?
-The Minister for Minerals and Energy has taken the prompt, proper action required in this case. He has sought the advice of the Crown Law authorities. He has asked the royal commission inquiring into the petroleum industry to make a report promptly on it. Counsel have been putting the Government’s view to the royal commission and I notice that counsel assisting the royal commission has also asked that the matter be determined promptly. This seems to be the proper, effective way of finding the facts and making a report. The GovernorGeneral will get the report. The Government, as soon as it gets it, will release it.
– Is the Minister representing the Special Minister of State aware of a report that the proposed acquisition of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands at this stage would represent an affront to the Senate Standing. Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, which has yet to report on its inquiry into the administration of the island? Is this a fact?
-There would be no affront to the Senate Committee. I read a report in the Canberra Times which suggests that the honourable member for Kooyong thought that would be the situation. As honourable members will appreciate the Australian Government is concerned that there must be changes on Cocos Island. There are day to day negotiations in respect of what should be done immediately. Already a United Nations investigation committee has been to the islands and reported to the United Nations. In addition I think that in May last we in turn made a report as to the changes we had in mind. The Senate Committee is fully entitled to investigate the facts and to take whatever evidence it can. No doubt it will bring down its report in due course. It is interesting to learn that in the course of the evidence given to the Senate Committee Mr Clunies Ross suggested that his manager would be interviewing the Minister in Sydney in June. So irrespective of what the Senate Committee might be doing it had evidence that the manager would come across to meet the Minister in June last. That he did. Following that discussion there were negotiations with a view to finding a solution. Accordingly that is what has now encouraged the Minister to indicate that he must take some action. The Minister has had very little co-operation.
When there is talk about an affront to the Senate Committee, let me place this on record: The previous Government had a report, known as the Kerr report, from an assistant secretary or an under-secretary of the then Department of External Territories. The report was given to the then Minister for External Territories in, I think, February 1972. It must astound members of the Parliament to realise that the report has never been released. The Senate Committee earlier this year asked for that report to be made available to it. Under the Westminster Convention it is appropriate that the Government seek the consent of the Leader of the Opposition to the release of that report. I am unhappy. Regrettably I have to advise that, despite repeated requests to the Leader of the Opposition for the release of the Kerr report to the Senate Committee, the request was refused.
– That is open Opposition.
-Yes, it is open Opposition at its worst. It is also an affront to the Senate Committee. Surely it can be trusted with the contents of a report. If there is any affront to the Committee it has come from the Opposition. The people of Australia make very substantial contributions from taxpayers’ money to Cocos Island. Some $500,000 a year goes there to maintain the Island ‘s services.
The most unsatisfactory aspect of the whole matter is that the report can be clouded in secrecy in some mysterious suggestion that it is confidential and could not be disclosed even to a Senate committee. I would think that the report should have been made available to the public because it would have clearly indicated, not only to people in Australia but also to the people in the United Nations who have an interest in the matter, the conditions which applied in 1972 and the changes which were then envisaged. It is ridiculous for the Leader of the Opposition to suggest that that report should not be made available. His Party must have something to hide. The only thing it would have to hide is its inaction over a period of 23 years. Let me also place on record the fact that last October Mr Clunies Ross saw me and agreed that he would vest in the islanders free of cost the section of the land that they now possess. There has been no change in government policy. The fact is he went back on the agreement. Let that be made known to the people.
-Is the Minister for Science and Consumer Affairs aware of the statement issued by the Australian Research Grants Committee expressing dismay over substantial reductions in research funds allocated by the Government? Does the Minister agree that research in many fields will be disastrously retarded? Is it correct that 400 researchers will be retrenched? Is he concerned that inadequate research could result in Australia’s becoming a third rate intellectual and technological community? If he does will he strive for a reallocation of Government spending to achieve better funding? Will more fight be shown on this occasion than when the Prime Minister and the Minister fro Minerals and Energy tried to fragment the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation?
– I have written to the Prime Minister about this matter. The contents of my letter of course are confidential at the moment. So I do not intend to enlarge upon the quite lengthy letter that I wrote to the Prime Minister about this matter some 4 or 5 days ago. It would be quite rude of me to do so and I know the honourable members would not want me to do so.
-Has the Prime Minister yet been given the courtesy of formal notification of the new Senate appointment for Queensland? Will he see that Dr Colston is given full protection against any employment discrimination arising out of his recent ordeal?
– I am not sure what the Government could do with respect to any discrimination which is shown against Dr Malcolm Colston when he seeks re-employment in the Queensland Public Service. I have, of course, learnt- I suppose that everybody in Australia has- that allegations were made against Dr Colston in the Queensland Parliament, such as it is, under privilege a week ago and again yesterday. Dr Colston has answered those allegations in public through the media, including television. Nobody has ventured to repeat the allegations against him outside Parliament. They seem on their face to be quite absurd. He was employed, by the Queensland Education Department and later by the Queensland Police Department. I believe that he has a commission in the Australian Army Reserve. He is a man who not only has considerable academic attainments but also has been in a position of authority, responsibility and confidentiality for very many years.
I would not assume that the Queensland Public Service would not re-employ him. I believe that the Queensland legislation is the same as the Federal legislation under which people who have nominated for public office and who have not been elected to it are allowed to go back to the Public Service positions from which they resigned in order to stand for public office. I would certainly expect that the Queensland Public Service Board or the Police Commissionerwhoever has the responsibility- would see that the fair thing is done in relation to this man in the employment for which Dr Colston is eminently well qualified. He is having to seek that employment again only because in breach of all convention, decency and honour he did not get the job for which he was nominated by the persons entitled to nominate him.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Agriculture. The Minister will be aware of the near disastrous conditions that are affecting cattle producers generally, particularly those in northern Australia and places where people are entirely dependent upon beef cattle for a livelihood. These conditions have been highlighted by a series of articles in the Australian newspaper over recent weeks. In view of the failure of the Budget to alleviate the circumstances of cattle producers and people living in these areas and the fact that the Government has not acted on 3 Industries Assistance Commission reports that have been published and which affect cattle producers, will the Minister undertake to negotiate with his colleagues responsible for the Industries Assistance Commission to have the report of the IAC on the crisis in the beef industry completed and published as soon as possible? Will he further undertake to ensure that the Government acts on whatever recommendations are made by the IAC instead of sitting on them as it has in regard to the 3 previous reports?
-Nobody will deny that the cattle industry in the Northern Territory, the Kimberleys, Queensland and other parts of
Australia is in a very serious financial position due, of course, to the collapse of the world markets. However, there is a glimmer of hope on the horizon which we can only hope will become brighter. In the last 48 hours there has been an increase in the United States demand for Australian meat as a result of the lifting of the ‘quota’ for Australia because of short-falls in the supply of meat to the United States of America from other markets. The Government has acted with respect to the Northern Territory in 2 ways. First, it has given a special loan to the Katherine meatworks to enable that meatworks to open, otherwise there would have been no export meatworks operating in the Northern Territory this season. It has enabled that meatworks to kill record numbers of cattle being turned off.
The Government has also made available to the cattle industry special loans, as they are being made available in other parts of Australia. I am aware that in some areas of the Northern Territory the cost of getting cattle to market is such that it will not pay the producers to market those cattle. I am aware that in the Alice Springs area there are something like 400 000 cattle. In terms of carrying capacity this is considered most dangerous. The Australian Agricultural Council is meeting, I understand, tomorrow to consider various types of incentives or a floor price scheme. As regards the Industries Assistance Commission reports, this is a matter for the Government to act and to make decisions upon. I have written to the Prime Minister with respect to one aspect of the problem with a suggestion which has been put forward by the cattle industry and other industries in the north; that is, averaging provisions with respect to the income tax ceiling of $16,000. At this time that proposal would not affect the cattle industry but it has done so in the past.
– What about tuberculosis and brucellosis?
-As to tuberculosis and brucellosis, the Government is more than doing its part and has provided increased funds in this Budget.
– Can the Prime Minister explain if and how the Public Service Act could be suspended for a week to enable the dismissal of permanent Public Service employees?
– Hear, hear.
– What a rort.
– Honourable members will have noticed that when the honourable member was asking his question the honourable member for Griffith, the Deputy Opposition Whip, said ‘Hear, hear’, and the honourable member for Gippsland interjected ‘Mrs Gail Wilenski’. The subject of the question by the honourable member for Eden-Monaro, of course, was raised by the honourable member for Griffith in the Budget debate. It was he who advocated that if there were a change of government there would have to be a suspension of the Public Service Act for a week or so to weed out certain appointments. Yesterday I noticed that the Opposition’s spokesman on the Public Service, the honourable member for Curtin, made statements about Mrs Gail Wilenski ‘s appointment. I hesitate to mention individuals like this but the name has been mentioned; it was mentioned while this question was being asked and by earlier interjectors during question time today. I think I therefore should quote a statement which has been given to me by the Chairman of the Public Service Board on this subject. It is:
The new position of Director, Equal Employment Opportunities Section, on the staff of the Office of the Public Service Board, was advertised, as open to persons inside and outside the Service.
This is a Third Division Public Service position and a decision on appointment was one for the Board.
In accordance with normal practice for such advertisements for the Board’s office an interviewing committee of two senior Board officers and one senior officer from another Department,
A senior female officer of the Department of Labor and Immigration in Melbourne, chosen to sit on the committee solely because of her own standing and background - was convened. It interviewed 12 of the 41 applicants, and recommended Mrs Gail Wilenski.
– Surprise, surprise.
-The honourable gentleman who interjects was ungallant enough to vouchsafe Mrs Wilenski ‘s name in an earlier interjection which passed unnoticed. The statement continues:
Following further interviews of shortlisted applicants by a further committee of two other more senior Board officers, the appointment of Mrs Wilenski was approved.
In making appointments, the Board decides solely in accordance with the merit principle within which its policy of equal employment opportunity is administered.
Mrs Wilenski will take up the appointment in October 1975.
– There are equal employment opportunities for the unemployed.
– I did not hear the honourable gentleman’s interjection.
– I suggested that those who are unemployed have equal employment opportunities.
– Order! I suggest we have one question at a time.
– Everybody in Australia was entitled to apply for this position. We would expect that the best person would be appointed to it. The Board acted on the advice of those whom I have indicated and said that the best person was Mrs Gail Wilenski. The Board appointed her. I am astonished that in this International Women ‘s Year, and in particular during this week when there is a largely attended conference in Canberra to mark that Year, there should be so many protests at the appointment of a person to the Public Service to a new position, an overdue position, of Director of the Equal Employment Opportunities Section. No governmentneither this Government nor any other government- can appoint persons to such positions. No government- neither this Government nor any other government- can prevent persons from being appointed- to such positions. These appointments are entrusted to the Public Service Board. The Board is bound to act in accordance with the law. The only way by which this position could be changed would be to adopt the suggestion of the Deputy Opposition Whip to suspend the Public Service Act.
The fact is that Mrs Wilenski is an extraordinarily well qualified person. Nobody disputes her qualifications. She is a person of very considerable experience and achievement in the field of women’s rights. It is not surprising that she should have the qualifications which the Board said were necessary. The Board wanted me to say, if any inferences should be made that any extraneous consideration or influence was involved that it would be totally contrary to the principles and practice of the Board’s recruitment policies and insulting to the integrity of members of the Board which is totally independent in such matters. Two members of the Public Service Board have been appointed by this Government. Nobody, outside the Parliament or under privilege in the Parliament, has doubted at any time the qualifications of those 2 appointees. If any persons believe that members of the Public Service Board have acted contrary to the law or contrary to proper professional and ethical principles, they should say so. It is open to them to say so in the Parliament without fearing any consequences of their statements.
It is true that my Government has made many appointments of women where it is open to a government to make such appointments. For instance, we were the first government in Australia ever to appoint women to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. We have appointed four such women. Where other appointments have been available- such as in the Industries Assistance Commission, formerly the Tariff Board, the National Health and Medical Research Council and the Australian Wool Corporation- we have appointed women for the first time. Where new bodies have been established, such as education commissions, the Hospitals and Health Services Commission, the Children’s Commission and the Australia Council, from the very outset my Government has appointed women to them. My Government has appointed a woman as the Chief Judge of the new Family Court of Australia. My Government is going to appoint another woman as chairman of the consumer protection authority which is about to be established.
Members interject that there is also Commonwealth Hostels Ltd. My Government appointed, for the first time, a woman to the Board of Commonwealth Hostels Ltd- a very well qualified woman indeed. She happens to be my wife. I do not believe that a well qualified woman should be denied an appointment appropriate to her talents because she is the wife of the head of a government department, as Mrs Wilenski is, or because she is the wife of the Prime Minister. If I were to drop dead, if I had dropped dead 10 years ago, my wife - (Honourable members interjecting)
– It is the only way members of the Opposition think I will ever be removed from my position. A few months ago the honourable member for Gippsland was photographed outside the House, looking at a gun which has been presented to a government instrumentality, and was reported as saying: ‘This is the only way we will get rid of Gough ‘. As I was saying when I was so rudely interrupted by the male chauvinists, if I had dropped dead 10 years ago, or if I were to drop dead now, my wife could look after herself very well in her own right. I suppose that nobody in Australia, in fact, had been associated more closely in school and sporting bodies with the migrant families which have to start their lives in Australia in migrant hostels.
I return to the subject of the original question, and I am sorry that I am taking up some of the time set aside for general business. The last Labor Government made the only provision in Australian legislation for a woman to be appointed to a position which is open to governments to fill, namely, the position on the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The Chifley Government amended the law to say that at least one member had to be a woman. Also administratively Dr Evatt as Foreign Minister said that one-third of the people recruited to the diplomatic service had to be women. When the Liberals came in they abandoned that requirement. Accordingly, Australia’s diplomatic service is short or women of senior level. But for the first time my Government appointed a career woman to a diplomatic post.
– What about Dame Annabelle Rankin?
-She was not a career appointment but a fine appointment and she served the right honourable member’s Government and my Government very well and she knows my appreciation of it. But there were no career women appointed until my Government appointed one. Governments can make appointments to some positions and my Government has been the first Australian government to appoint women to them. Only the Public Service Board can appoint women other than to statutory boards or as heads of government departments. There is very great opposition to Mrs Wilenski because she is the wife of Dr Wilenski. The opposition to Dr Wilenski stems not from his qualifications, which are outstanding- there is no head of a government department with better academic qualifications than Dr Wilenski- but from the fact that he is not Anglo-Saxon, he is not Protestant and he is not Australian born. People take it out on Dr Wilenski and now they take it out on Dr Gail Wilenski as well.
– I rise on a point of order. In accordance with standing orders -
– I take it that the honourable member wishes to ask for a document to be tabled.
– It seems a pity to deny the House the advantage of the Public Service Board’s advice to the Prime Minister. In accordance with Standing Orders I ask that the Prime Minister table the statement from which he read.
– I will table it, but I would like it to be incorporated in Hansard so that there can be no suggestion that I have not faithfully and fully quoted it.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
In anticipation of possible questions following media comments, the Chairman of the Public Service Board has provided me with the following statement:
Extract from PSB Memorandum No. 2 to the Royal Attachment Commission on Australian Government Administration, January 1975 entitled ‘Lateral Appointments’
For these reasons the Board said in its First Submission to the Royal Commission (paragraphs E. 42 and E. 43):
The Board strongly supports retention of the principle of open, merit competition in recruitment, with necessary safeguards. The use oflateral recruitment is comprehended by this principle and contributes to the efficiency of the Service. The Board therefore favours continuation of lateral recruitment and, particularly in periods of relatively high demand for skilled staff of various kinds, sees scope for its increased use. The Board regards it as imperative that, in competitions between officers and outside applicants, merit be the sole criterion as at present.’ . . In harmony with the views already expressed on lateral recruitment the Board would expect that, on merit, a large proportion of vacancies will in practice continue to be filled from within even where they have been advertised outside the Service.’
– Pursuant to section 16 of the Social Welfare Commission Act 1973 I present the annual report of the Social Welfare Commission. This report is the first by the Commission since its members were appointed in April 1974 and covers the period from appointment up to 30 June 1975.
-Order! I would suggest that honourable members might take their seats or leave the chamber quietly. Are there any further papers? I call the Leader of the Opposition.
– I ask leave to table a paper -
-Order! The Leader of the Opposition is asking for leave to table a paper. I think it might be in order if the House heard him. I ask the Leader of the Opposition to start again.
– It is the Kerr Report.
-Is the Leader of the Opposition asking for leave to table the statement?
– I am sorry, but I cannot hear what you are saying with all the -
-Order! There is a degree of discourtesy on both sides of the chamber. 1 ask honourable members to remain silent. I call the Leader of the Opposition.
-Mr Speaker, I ask for leave to table the Kerr report and make a short statement in relation to it.
-Is leave granted?
-No. Table it, but not the statement.
-Leave is not granted.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
-Yes. I refer to an editorial in the Sydney Morning Herald of Thursday, 4 September, headed ‘Why not talk?’ The editorial is a malicious, dishonest statement by that newspaper on a matter concerning the public transport system of Sydney. I shall quote part of the editorial. If the Opposition wants the whole of it included in Hansard I will be happy to do so.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
- Mr Speaker, it is common courtesy -
-I was not anticipating incorporating the article. I thought of it on the spur of the moment.
-Order! I have already said that leave is granted. No one spoke in opposition, and that is the means by which leave is granted.
– It is common courtesy for the matter to be handed across to the Opposition.
– That has nothing to do with the Chair. I asked whether leave was granted and no one objected. Leave has been granted. The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
– Leave has not been granted.
-Yesterday honourable gentlemen were very careful about the technicalities of the Standing Orders. When the Chair asks whether leave is granted, if no one objects leave is granted. Leave was granted.
– Leave has been refused.
– Leave has not been refused.
– I rose to my feet to make the explanation.
-The honourable gentleman rose to his feet -
– Leave is not granted until I have said so, and leave is not granted.
-The honourable gentleman has no comprehension of the Standing Orders and appears to think that he can run the House in accordance with some set of standing orders that he has made up himself. I had informed the Minister that leave is granted. There is no giving of leave in this chamber other than by the Chair. I suggest that the honourable gentleman takes the trouble to read the Standing Orders.
– I raise a point of order. The normal procedure in this House is that if leave is sought for a statement to be incorporated in Hansard that statement is generally shown to the shadow Minister beforehand. In this case that courtesy was not followed. The shadow Minister asked whether he could see the statement prior to giving leave for the statement to be incorporated.
-There is no Standing Order to that effect. I suggest that if honourable gentlemen want to make technical points on the Standing Orders as they did yesterday they should carry them out at all times.
-I apologise to the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon). I have always been a stickler for showing my opposite number in the Parliament anything that I wanted to incorporate in Hansard and I have likewise received the same courtesy from him. It was only on the spur of the moment that I thought that, rather than reading the whole of this editorial, the Opposition might feel disposed to give me leave to incorporate it in Hansard so that the paragraph I wish to quote will not be taken out of its true context. I apologise to the honourable member for not showing it to him prior to seeking leave. Under those circumstances he might withdraw his opposition to my request.
– I withdraw it. (The document read as follows)-
Why not talk?
The Federal Minister for Transport, Mr Jones, said yesterday that negotiations could start tomorrow on a Federal takeover of N.S.W.’s railway system. He made his comment after the announcement that sweeping economy measures would soon affect Sydney metropolitan rail and bus services. As, even now, these services are unreliable and of poor quality, public reaction to the prospect of ‘worse to come’ (Mr Lewis’s phrase) has been predictably hostile. Mr Jones could hardly conceal his glee at this further embarrassment for the N.S.W. Premier, but rail and bus commuters could not care less about which politicians are gleeful and which are embarrassed. What’s in it for them?
Nothing, apparently. All those shining new railway carriages, those comfortable new buses, will not be forthcoming. Manufacturers of railway rolling stock will have to dismiss nearly 300 workers because the Federal Government will not make money available for its promised upgrading of the urban transport system. Mr Jones’s suppressed amusement at this situation- expressed in the context of N.S.W.’s failure to negotiate on transferring its railway system to the
Commonwealth- could hardly have been in worse taste or more ineptly timed. The rapid deterioration of a major metropolitan public transport system should not be a matter for mirth or the scoring of miserable political points.
Yet on his main concern Mr Jones was right. N.S.W. would indeed agree to negotiate. It can lose absolutely nothing by doing so. It should insist on discovering the precise terms available. If, for example, they turn out to be on the same lines as Mr Dunstan secured from Mr Whitlam for the Federal takeover of South Australia’s non-metropolitan services, they would be very difficult to resist. And why should they not be on the same fines? A Prime Minister representing an N.S.W. seat and with his power base in this State would find it singularly embarrassing to be accused of offering his own State less favourable terms than he gave South Australia.
Mr Lewis is very vulnerable to Opposition nagging about N.S.W.’s huge prospective Budget deficit of more than $200 million. Time and again Mr Wran has said that this could be virtually wiped out if N.S.W. joined the hospital side of Medibank and disposed of the running sore of its railways. In his Budget, due to be presented towards the end of this month, Mr Lewis will have to find excellent arguments to brush aside this Opposition proposition. Otherwise- and especially if he resorts to further increases in State taxes and charges- he will find himself being edged out on to a political limb.
He is getting perilously close to it already. Last December, just before he became Premier, N.S.W. won the dubious distinction of imposing its own petrol tax- something motorists have not forgotten. (It would seem, too, that they will be the State’s milch-cow once again this year if, as expected, motor registration fees are increased.) Now Mr Lewis is imposing his own tobacco tax, following the example of other States; another unpopular move, considering what Mr Hayden has already done in this field. He is under pressure to ease landtax, and a continued stubborn refusal even to talk to Canberra about railways will not give him the elbow-room he badly needs- or the reputation of being a reasonable man concerned to get the best for his State.
-The paragraph of the editorial that I wish to quote is as follows:
Nothing, apparently. All those shining new railway carriages, those comfortable new buses, will not be forthcoming. Manufacturers of railway rolling-stock will have to dismiss nearly 300 workers because the Federal Government will not make money available for its promised upgrading of the urban transport system. Mr Jones’s suppressed amusement -
That is the part that got my back up- at this situation- expressed in the context of N.S.W.’s failure to negotiate on transferring its railway system to the Commonwealthcould hardly have been in worse taste or more ineptly timed. The rapid deterioration of a major metropolitan public transport system should not be a matter for mirth or the scoring of miserable political points.
There was no mirth on my part in answering questions by the honourable member for Grey (Mr Wallis) in this House yesterday. I stated the facts. I assure honourable members that I get no delight out of people playing politics which could result in workers in manufacturing industries being dismissed due to the actions which have been taken by other governments.
In my reply yesterday to the question asked by the honourable member for Grey, I pointed out that last Friday at a meeting between State Transport Ministers and myself I offered to sit down, to talk to them and to draw up an alternative program which I was prepared to bring back to Cabinet with a view to assisting them should they have any difficulties in meeting any of their commitments. As far as I am concerned, there is no mirth in that. This leading article by the Sydney Morning Herald is typical of the distortion and dishonesty of that newspaper.
– I rise to take a point of order. I think that the Minister is going far beyond the bounds of a personal explanation.
– I do, too.
– He is entering into a debate on the matter.
-Order! I would suggest to the Minister that he -
-I have concluded.
-I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
-Yes, during the reply by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) to the question asked by the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Whan) as to the point that I made in the course of my speech in the Budget debate that we should suspend the Public Service Act and clear out some of the recent Labor appointments. I point out that this speech was made prior to the publicity given to the appointment of Mrs Gail Wilenski. I assure the House that I have no opposition to the appointment of females to positions throughout Australia as long as it is not a case of simply providing jobs for ‘persons’. We have seen for too long now the Government flout the system. That was what motivated my comment in my earlier speech.
-Order! The honourable member cannot debate the matter in that way.
– I have received advice from the Prime Minister that he has nominated Mr Fry to be a member of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation in place of Dr Jenkins, resigned.
-In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969-1974, 1 present the reports relating to the following proposed works:
Ordered that the reports be printed.
Report by Public Servant on Visit to Cocos (Keeling) Islands- Casual Senate Vacancy in
Queensland-Great North East Channel, Northern Australia- Medibank-Coolangatta Airport -Palace Hotel, Perth-GMH Vehicles: Steering Lock -Aged Blind-Unemployment and Sickness Benefits for Self-employed- Beef Industry -Public Service AppointmentsEconomic Philosophy of Louis KelsoHomeless Persons
That grievances be noted.
- Mr Speaker, I will not detain the House long. Earlier this winter, the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) wrote to me concerning the Kerr report which was to the Secretary of the then Department of External Territories, concerning a visit that Mr Kerr had made to the Cocos (Keeling) Islands from 14 to 19 November 1971. From the letter that the Prime Minister wrote to me it was not clear that there was any good reason why the report ought to be published, especially as Mr Kerr was a member of the Public Service and in a position to give oral evidence to the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, which he has done. There was nothing in his report that needed to be kept secret.
There is a principle involved in these matters. This visit was not an inquiry constituted in any formal sense; Mr Kerr had been acting as a normal member of the Public Service and, in our view, public servants ought to be able to carry out their business in advisings to permanent heads and the Ministers without having the subject of those advisings made public on occasions just because the Government wants them to do so. The question was not one of keeping any evidence that Mr Kerr might give from the Senate inquiry into the Cocos (Keeling) Islands as Mr Kerr was there, in the Public Service, well aware of what he had put in his report and well capable of repeating everything that he had said in that report, if he had wished to do so. I do not doubt that in giving evidence on the relevant aspects, he would have done just that.
I wrote to the Prime Minister and asked what good reason there was for publishing the report in view of the fact that Mr Kerr was a member of the Public Service. In his reply, the Prime Minister said:
AH I can say is that when the Committee requested the report’s release it stated that in the course of its inquiry a number of witnesses had made reference to it.
That is not a very powerful or overriding reason for publication of the report. Now, having made this explanation, I seek leave to table the paper, because of the quite unfounded and false allegations which came from the Minister for Manufacturing Industry (Mr Lionel Bowen) this morning during question time. We are getting used to this tactic by this Government, from the Prime Minister to the Minister who is concerned in this matter, of misleading the House, thus giving a quite wrong and improper view of what has occurred on a number of occasions. When the Prime Minister spoke this morning on another matter concerning the Public Service, he behaved in a manner that I believe is quite unbecoming of the Prime Minister and utterly disgraceful for the records of this Parliament. The Prime Minister ought to be completely and utterly ashamed of the words that he used. I seek leave to table the document.
-Is leave granted?
– It was given earlier.
-Is leave granted?
-Leave is not granted.
-The honourable gentleman cannot table the document unless leave is granted. I will ask once more: Is leave granted?
-This is the Kerr report?
-Yes. That is right.
-But somebody back there said no. Are you overriding that?
– Yes, I am. My people take notice of me, but yours do not take any notice of you.
-Order! The Prime Minister cannot override a refusal.
– I am not too sure that he did.
– I seek leave to make a personal explanation.
-Order! At the moment I want to resolve the question concerning leave. As far as I am concerned, leave has been refused.
– Perhaps you might ask again.
– If leave is asked for again, I will put the question. Will you ask for leave again? It has been refused as far as I am concerned.
– Leave to table the paper?
– I seek leave to table the paper.
-Is leave granted?
-Leave is granted.
– I seek leave to make a personal explanation.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has deliberately misrepresented me -
-Order! The Minister sought leave to make a personal explanation. Leave was refused.
– I seek leave to make a personal explanation.
-Order! The Minister cannot seek leave to make a personal explanation.
Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the Prime Minister claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, I have been misrepresented. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser) quoted a letter of mine, but he did not quote it all.
-I will table the letter if you like.
-Right. May I have leave to incorporate in Hansard the correspondence on this matter; that is, my letter of 6 June to the
Leader of the Opposition, his reply of 1 1 July, and my reply to him of 1 8 July?
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The documents read as follows)- 6 June 1975
The government has received a request from the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence to make the ‘Kerr report’ available to the Committee on a confidential basis for the purposes of its inquiry into the United Nations’ involvement in the affairs of Australia ‘s Territories.
Mr Kerr was an Assistant Secretary in the former Department of External Territories. I understand that he made his report following a visit to the Cocos (Keeling) Islands in November 1971. I further understand that the report was submitted to the then Secretary of the Department of External Territories and that subsequently, in February 1972, it was submitted to Mr Peacock, the then Minister for External Territories. I am advised that the report was classified as Confidential’ within the Department of External Territories and that it has retained that classification while held within the present Department of the Special Minister of State.
As this report was prepared for our predecessors in office, I write now in accordance with convention to ask if I may have your consent, as Leader of the Opposition, to it being made available to the Committee on the basis requested.
I understand that the Committee plans to take in camera evidence from Mr Kerr on 1 7 June 1 975 in Perth. I would be grateful therefore for an early indication of your views. To assist in your consideration, I enclose a copy of the report.
Leader of the Opposition,
My dear Prime Minister,
Thank you for your letter of 6 June in which you request my approval for the release of the Kerr Report on the 197 1 visit to the Cocos (Keeling) Islands. I am sorry that I received your letter too late to reply to you by 17 June, the date on which Mr Kerr planned to give evidence to the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence.
As Mr Kerr is a member of the Public Service and in a position to give oral evidence to the Committee, I would be interested to know why a written report in needed.
The Hon. E. G. Whitlam, Q.C., M.P.,
Canberra A.C.T. 2600 18 July 1975
Dear Mr Fraser,
I refer to your letter of 1 1 July 1975 in reply to my request that you consent to the release of the ‘Kerr report’ on a confidential basis to the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence.
You have asked why a written report is needed. All I can say is that when the Committee requested the report’s release it stated that in the course of its inquiry a number of witnesses had made reference to it. It seemed and still seems reasonable to me that in the circumstances it should have access to a copy.
The Hon. Malcolm Fraser, M.P.,
Leader of the Opposition,
Canberra A.C.T. 2600
-Mr Speaker, I rise this morning in this debate to raise some questions which have become relevant as a result of actions, firstly, by the Senate, according to my own reading of events which took place in this Parliament years ago, and culrninating, secondly, in the events in the Queensland Parliament in the last couple of weeks which resulted in both the character assassination of Dr Malcolm Colston and the election to the Senate of a Mr Field, a person who was selected supposedly as a Labor Party member to represent the Labor Party in the Senate.
As one of those members who came here in the group elected to the House of Representatives in 1974, it seems appropriate to look at some of the responsibilities that we have if we believe in upholding the role of Parliament and if we believe in selling ourselves and selling our system continuously to the community as being the best system that yet has been devised as a parliamentary democracy, observing the ways in which we are carrying out those duties, whether we are doing those duties successfully and whether the criticisms of parliaments and the inadequacies of our parliaments are the legitimate aim of people outside the Parliament who criticise the actions that we take.
I do not think anybody in either of the 2 Houses of Parliament here would have the gall to stand up to defend the actions which have been taken by the Queensland Parliament in respect of the 2 specific actions which have been taken by it. I refer first to the use of parliamentary privilege to assassinate the character of Mal Colston, a person who has worked extremely hard in the political field as it operates in Australia as a member of the Australian Labor Party, who has stood for the national Parliament on no fewer than 2 occasions, and who has accepted the ups and downs of political life in this country. He had to withstand being defeated by a few votes at the last Senate election and now he has to withstand the complete might of the privileges of the Queensland Parliament and to try to defend himself against it outside the Parliament- - something that is very difficult and perhaps impossible to do. So, we in Canberra can look upon the way in which the Queensland Parliament has been used and perhaps relate it to what might happen in Canberra if the Queensland Premier happened to be the Prime Minister. Perhaps then we would see the privileges of the national Parliament of Australia being used in much the same way.
I relate this directly to what is happening, with the encouragement of the Opposition Parties, to the role of the States and the use of those privileges, and to the character assassination not only of Dr Colston but also of Mrs Gail Wilenski, whose name was added to the list yesterday and earlier today. I relate it also to what will happen in the future. I must say that, as one of those people who have paid some attention to the privileges which this Parliament and the other Parliaments of Australia have and the responsibilities which they have, as a citizen and a representative of the citizens in my electorate, it becomes increasingly important to me that more people in this Parliament pay attention to the manner in which those privileges are used. If the Parliaments are to have spokesman after spokesman, day after day and month after month, use the privileges of the Parliaments around Australia to assassinate the characters of people outside who have committed no offence that can be tried in the civil courts by people trained injudicial matters, then we have only ourselves to blame if the Parliaments and the system of Parliament are condemned by people outside the Parliaments and we will have to find another system in which those sorts of privileges do not exist.
I also relate these remarks to the calling of Mr Gerry Karidis before the Senate as part of the investigations that took place some months ago into what is now commonly called the loans affair. In looking back at the manner in which Parliaments have used their privileges, I join a group of people who consider that something ought to be done to define those privileges. I am one person who would not be happy- I know that there are many others, both here and in the Senate- to put my hand up to support the calling of a person before the Bar of the Parliament to enable the Parliament to carry out some sort of trial at which at the moment even that person’s right to be represented by counsel has not been determined. Looking back into the 1950s at the Browne and Fitzpatrick case, it might be relevant to see what Browne had to say. Perhaps from this honourable members will see that they ought to consider what they are doing to the Parliaments of the country by the carrying out of yesterday’s decision of the Queensland Parliament, by the calling of Mr Karidis before the Senate on the loans affair and by their attempted character assassination of Mrs Gail Wilenski, in terms of what respect Parliaments or parliamentarians can expect from people and organisations outside. I quote the following from the words of Frank Courtney Browne when he was called before this House on 10 June 1955:
It is considered the right of every Australian citizen charged with an offence that he, first, must be charged; and secondly, he must have legal representation. That is denied to me even here. He must have the case against him proved, and he need not answer incriminating questions. Then there is the fact that he must have the right to cross-examine his accuser. And lastly, he must have the right to appeal. There is also another inherent right which is always observed in every court in this Commonwealth, and every court where there is any reasonable conception of justice- that he shall present his case in an atmosphere which shall not have had the effect of prejudging him before he comes in.
The words of Browne could well have been the words of Karidis. For how much longer will the Parliaments continue to allow their privileges to be used in a way that eventually must be detrimental to the role of Parliament? Parliament has privilege accepted only because it is used so rarely, but if that privilege were used to call people before the Parliament daily it is the sort of privilege that would not stand up and it is the sort of privilege which people in Australia would not tolerate. It is the sort of privilege which can be defined. Only the good will of members of Parliament serving at any given time to interpret the privileges of Parliament is required in order to define what should happen. Perhaps a person who at some time may be called before the Parliament should judge whether he should be represented by counsel and should judge who should answer the questions. The way the Liberal and National Country Parties are operating in this country today, they are condemning the parliamentary system to failure; they are asking the people of Australia to condemn Parliament, parliamentarians and the role they play. Honourable members opposite should not point the finger at the Australian Labor Party if people outside the Parliament say: ‘We are going to settle our industrial, political and social questions outside the Parliaments because we do not hold you in the respect in which you think Parliament should be held ‘.
Honourable members opposite are dragging the Parliament down into the mud. It is no good the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser) saying: ‘I tried to influence Mr BjelkePetersen; I tried to influence the Queensland Liberal Party’. What they did in the last week was absolutely disgraceful, not only because they did not replace the late Senator Bert Milliner with a Labor senator but also because firstly they tried to assassinate the character of the Labor nominee and then they put up a supposedly
Labor nominee of their own choice. That person will not come to this national Parliament as a Labor nominee. He will come here covered by a term which is used traditionally in the Labor Party of which all honourable members are aware. He will vote, according to the interviews he has given, to bring about the destruction of this Government. In letting this be done honourable members opposite will be bringing about the destruction of the Parliament itself, because the people cannot hold respect for traditions which parliamentarians themselves do not respect. All these questions ought to be looked at. Honourable Senators ought to tell their own Parties, instead of trying to influence them. They should lay down the law in their own Parties as to those traditions that have to be followed without choice and without question, so that people outside the Parliaments know exactly in which way the Parliaments will operate.
-About 2 years ago much prominence was given by the media to the Government’s proposal to grant jurisdiction over all waters and islands north of 10 degrees south latitude to an independent Papua New Guinea. Apart from the rights and wishes of the island people involved, a strong objection to the proposal was that Australia would lose control of the great north-east channel which connects the Indian and Pacific Oceans. The matter remains unresolved. As Independence Day for Papua New Guinea is scheduled for 16 September, I feel that it is appropriate to produce to the House some important and relevant information which has been furnished to me by a constituent of mine who is very well qualified to speak of activities and possibilities in our coastal waters.
I refer to what is known as a scheme of hydrographic surveys, a program scheduled to be undertaken by the hydrographic service of the Royal Australian Navy between January 1975 and December 1979. 1 understand that is called ‘Hydroscheme 75’ for short. My constituent has a copy of a publication of the scheme. The survey is to be made from Adolphus Channel to Rain Island Entrance, the preferred season for the work being September to November. It is estimated that 2 seasons will be required to complete the work. My constituent feels, as I do, that it is significant that ‘Hydroscheme 75 ‘ was drawn up in consultation with the Department of Transport in Canberra and not, as was formerly the case, in open forum and with all interested parties attending. Raine Island Entrance is an opening to the Coral Sea through the Great Barrier Reef. I am informed that it has not been used in living memory except perhaps by a few fishing craft. The 90 miles between Adolphus Channel and Raine Island Entrance has, I am told, never been surveyed in detail. This would be necessary if it is intended for use by commercial vessels up to 39 feet draught- the current maximum draught possible in the area. Apart from the cost of the survey itself, the further cost of providing sea marks and lights to indicate a channel would be very high. The existing marked and lit Great North East Channel adequately provides for shipping in the area and is used extensively. The distance from Booby Island to Port Moresby, using this channel, is 355 miles. The distance if the Raine Island Entrance channel is proved and activated would be 372 miles.
It is very difficult to understand why all this expense is being incurred in surveying and possibly marking a new channel which offers no advantage over the one currently in use and which would, indeed, be 17 miles longer. So far as can be ascertained, neither local nor overseas shipping interests have requested that an alternative to the Great North East Channel be found. I am assured that no representations have been made by the Torres Strait Pilot Service and that the Service is perfectly content with the present situation. It may be, of course, that the survey is being done as a Department of Defence exercise to provide an alternative in case use by Australia of the Great North East Channel becomes impossible in an emergency situation. If, however, a deep draught Raine Island EntranceAdolphus Channel waterway is proved and put into commercial use, considerable political advantage could be taken of it. The extra 17 miles which would have to be steamed is not considered enough in itself to raise objections from ship-owning interests and the national government could, with truth, claim that an alternative channel from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific Ocean around the north of Australia now existsall of it lying in waters south of latitude 10 degrees south. That would then allow the Government in Canberra to hand over jurisdiction north of 10 degrees south to Papua New Guinea without risking any accusation that Australia’s defence capacity was thereby being jeopardised.
I share my constituent’s insistence that control of the waterways and islands of the Torres Strait area must never be relinquished to any foreign country, however friendly. There are many uncertainties in our region in the years ahead. I raise these matters publicly and deliberately at this time and would like very much to have a full explanation of the Government’s intentions and actions. The safety and security of Australia and of the waterways around it are necessarily of deep concern to all in this country who seek its maximum protection.
– I rise to air my grievance about the disgraceful situation which is developing in some areas and which is being spurred on by certain members of the medical profession. The situation concerns the opposition of a few doctors to Medibank and the holding to ransom of pensioner patients. These doctors are using pensioner patients as political pawns. I stress that only some doctors are involved; most are reasonable, but some act in a way to give their profession a bad name. We have all heard about or have seen signs on surgery walls offering a discount from the doctor for cash for a consultation. This indicates the cost to doctors of collecting patients’ payments, yet some still oppose bulk billing under Medibank. Now we have doctors telling pensioner patients that they must pay cash for every consultation, then claim from Medibank.
In 1973 a group of doctors tried to use the shortcomings of the Pensioner Medical Service system against the Labor Government. They said that they were opting out of the PMS because it did not give pensioners sufficient coverage, even though the scheme was identical to that instituted by the previous Liberal governments. In a letter published in my local Press at the time and signed by 15 local doctors, the doctors claimed that they would treat pensioners free of charge. What an insult to the pensioners that they should have to rely on such charity. The letter said that the signatories were resigning from the PMS- resigning, the good doctors explained, did not mean that they were refusing to treat pensioner patients; resigning meant that they were refusing to accept any money from the Government for this service. The doctors assured the readers that their action was taken for a number of reasons, the main one being that the pensioners had been entitled only to the most meagre medical attention. Here I think the Government would agree that the previous PMS system had shortcomings. The medical fraternity had repeatedly requested governments to upgrade the PMS to the level of that enjoyed by privately insured members of the general public. I think again that Government supporters would say ‘Hear, hear’ to such a suggestion. But under Medibank the facilities have been expanded and improved. Indeed, it is the Government’s intention that they should be improved and that pensioners should get exactly the same treatment and opportunities as people who can afford private health insurance.
Yet some doctors are now refusing to bulk bill for pensioners and are demanding cash for service even though the deficiencies in services provided under PMS about which those doctors were complaining are being made good under Medibank if the doctors agree to bulk bill. They are refusing to bulk bill even though they will receive 85 per cent of the agreed fee instead of the 60 per cent they received under the PMS. In March this year the Minister for Social Security wrote to doctors requesting that they continue bulk billing for pensioner patients and undertake to give pensioners the option of having benefits assigned to doctors. That some doctors, and many of those who 2 years ago were critical of the shortcomings of the PMS, have decided not to accept the Government’s proposals for pensioners can be interpreted only as a political act. I do not wish to restrict the right of anyone to voice opposition to Medibank, but the form of action taken by some doctors is particularly immoral. It attacks one of the weakest groups in our society, namely the aged, the invalid, the deserted wife and the widow- people who do not have the financial or industrial muscle to retaliate. The only difference between bulk billing under Medibank for pensioners and participating in the PMS scheme is that the pensioners can be given a much wider range of services for no payment, and the doctor gets 85 per cent instead of 60 per cent of the agreed fee. The only possible reason for doctors who previously participated in the PMS scheme and who are not now bulk billing is political opportunism.
I should like also to express my disgust at 2 other practices which have been adopted by some doctors. Before the introduction of Medibank a circular from the Belvedere Park Medical Centre, signed by Dr W. Brickell and Dr P. J. Barry, stated that bulk billing would be used on a trial basis. The circular stated: by using this system we are extending to you a discount of 15 per cent, and consequently you will not be required to pay anything directly for surgery visits.
That is good, though of course their administrative costs will be cut, so they will not be losing out. But the circular went on to say that there would be a charge made for home and hospital casualty visits- an illegal charge of $ 1 for a home visit or a hospital visit and $2 for an after-hours hospital casualty visit. I say ‘illegal’ because the assignment of benefit forms required to be signed for bulk billing states that the money received under bulk billing from Medibank is accepted as full settlement of the account. The circular stated:
This amount will be payable at the time of consultation.
In other words, it is cash before you get the service. A further charge will also be made for ‘appliances, dressings, bandages, plaster etc.’. It states that these items ‘are not supplied free under the Medibank scheme, and an appropriate amount will be charged ‘. My experience was that these items were included in the charge for consultations before Medibank and I understood that practice would continue. There is a further attempt by this practice to squeeze more out of patients than the recognised fee would permit. If these doctors or any others are making these charges, I hope they are aware of their illegality.
The other practice I have come across is that of the Aspendale Clinic, although I believe it is not the only one. It has on its accounts these words:
On payment of this account, a fully itemised receipt will be issued immediately to enable you to obtain your medical benefit rebate.
This is done so that people will have to pay the account first, then send the account to Medibank. This type of account is being issued to all patients, pensioners included.
– Will you table that form?
– I am quite willing to table the document if the honourable gentleman so wishes. I have a copy of an account sent from a doctor to a patient. The patient’s name and address have been obliterated to protect that individual’s confidentiality, but I can assure honourable members that it is an authentic copy of an original document. I seek leave to have it incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
-How can a patient check whether a bill is correct if it is not itemised?
– What was not itemised?
-The bill does not itemise exactly the consultation or service which the doctor had provided and for which he was charging. The document I have incorporated shows a date, a name and a sum of money. As doctors and as honourable members opposite will be all too well aware, the practice prior to Medibank had always been that patients were given an account which itemised whether is was a home or surgery visit or gave the item number of the service for which patients were being charged. The whole purpose of this change is so that people will have to pay their accounts first.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I rise this morning to talk about an electorate matter, but one that does affect a substantial number of Australians. 1 refer to the inadequate facilities at the Coolangatta airport, the one that services the Gold Coast tourist resort. The Coolangatta terminal is the second busiest in Queensland. In the year ended 31 December 1973 273 874 passengers used it. In the year ended 31 December 1974 287 380 used it. I am informed by both the carriers that this year there will be a further increase of 25 per cent. There will be a substantial number of honourable members who would have visited the area themselves and would know firsthand of the inadequate facilities- the building, the floor space and the impossible seating arrangements. The catering conditions are completely unacceptable in Australia today. The cargo handling facilities are only about the size of a normal backyard.
I often wonder what must be the first impression of the Gold Coast of people who leave the first class airports at Tullamarine and to a lesser extent Mascot and then move on to what could only be described as a glorified barn. After all the airport is a front door. Their first impression must not be terribly satisfactory. It is about time that action was taken to bring this airport up to date. I do not think I have to convince the House of the importance of the tourist industry. It is growing in world terms and it is growing in domestic terms. Bearing in mind the number of Australians and particularly overseas travellers who use that airport, we should have a good image to present to them.
The argument goes back more than 10 years. It started in the days when Senator Henty was Minister for Civil Aviation, continued through the administration of Sir Reginald Swartz and Senator Cotton, and it has been the subject of substantial discussion and voluminous correspondence with the present Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones). At times it appeared that the government of the day would be able to provide the necessary funds. The amount needed may be up towards $ lm. I do not think the requirement is for a luxury terminal but for an adequate terminal. It did appear likely on occasions that the Government would be able to fund this expenditure.
What we have come down to now is a polarisation of views between the Minister and the Department, and the Gold Coast City Council and the Tweed Shire. The Minister wants to see a shared arrangement under the local ownership scheme. That was considered but it appeared that there were real legal problems because the airport straddles the Queensland-New South Wales border, and it was therefore necessary to have the Tweed Shire and the New South Wales Government involved. After lengthy correspondence over a number of years the latest proposition now is that there ought to be a joint board comprising representatives of the Tweed Shire and the Gold Coast City Council accepting under a local ownership arrangement a 50 per cent sharing of the cost.
It has developed into a very real issue. The Minister says on one hand quite clearly in his letters that this Labor Government has not got the funds and cannot see the likelihood of funds being made available to provide an adequate terminal building. He wants a local ownership plan. The Gold Coast City Council has set itself completely against acceptance of the local ownership plan because this would involve substantial expenditure for that local authority. It does not have the funds available, and it is not tremendously impressed with the suggestion that it should charge some per capita tax in order to recover whatever expenditure it is involved in. I want to read the recent letter I got from the Gold Coast City Council. It is addressed to myself and states:
It has been mentioned to you on a number of occasions previously that the Council view this Airport as a Commonwealth responsibility, the Council having previously rejected the Local Ownership Plan. There have been suggestions made that the financial problems can be readily solved by the levying of a passenger charge for use of the Airport and that if a Local Ownership Authority took over and did this, capital improvements required at the Airport could be proceeded with without delay.
All this, of course, leaves the Council asking the question, why this City Airport can only be developed through financing requiring a local tax levy when all the other major airports in Australia have been provided with modern facilities without need for such tax? It further would respectfully enquire why the Government if so convinced about the dependence on the tax, does not take steps to initiate such a taxing system rather than leave it to a Local Body to impose and collect?
I have tried, in my correspondence with the Minister, in my discussions with the Gold Coast City Council and in any Press statements I have made, to avoid a party political attitude regarding this problem. Indeed, I have consulted and discussed it with Senator McAuliflfe, a Labor senator who maintains an office in Southport, on a number of occasions, and I know that Senator McAuliffe has made representations to the Minister as well. What I am concerned about is that we have now got ourselves into a situation where the Minister says: ‘This is all that is acceptable to the Government’ and the local authorities say: ‘What the Minister has suggested is completely unacceptable to us’. Of course the whole matter is completely polarised and no progress is being made at all. Australia’s top tourist resort- and that is what the Gold Coast is- deserves better treatment than this.
I make an appeal to the Minister. In my view the time for letter writing is over. I have had a look at the correspondence which has flowed from him and from previous Ministers. There is an enormous file. While this has been going on for 10 years the facilities have remained inadequate and travellers have been and are inconvenienced. I do not use the Coolangatta airport all the time. I very often travel through Brisbane, but I use Coolangatta airport often enough to see hundreds of people inconvenienced when arriving at and leaving the airport.
It is no good the Minister just saying that the Gold Coast receives benefit from the airport and therefore should pay a substantial share of the expenditure. I accept that the Gold Coast receives a substantial benefit. A quarter of a million Australians annually use that airport. As travellers in a jet age they are entitled to adequate facilities. The Minister responsible, in my view, is very much concerned with providing those facilities. I informed the Minister’s office that I would be mentioning this matter today. I hope that we will see now some concerted effort by Mr Charles Jones to visit the Gold Coast. To my knowledge he has not visited the area to discuss this matter since he has been the Minister. He may have been there in a personal capacity. I do not know that. I am quite sure that no conference has been held with him on this matter. I have been in conference with some of his departmental officers regarding the development of the airport generally.
To me what is needed is an acceptance by the Minister that there is a real degree of responsibility here that has to be shouldered by the Australian Government. The responsibility has been shouldered by previous governments and by this Government in many other major areas of Australia. It is no good the Government maintaining the attitude that it is inflexible and that it will not move unless the Gold Coast City Council accepts its terms. I hope that the Minister will see fit to come to the airport himself in the foreseeable future- I would hope in the next few weeks or few months- so that we can convene a conference to try to arrive at some sort of solution to a problem that is obviously tremendously disadvantaging so many thousands of Australians.
– I raise a question which concerns a lot of Western Australians and I feel would concern the Minister for Environment (Mr Berinson) who is at the table. I refer to the way in which the historic Palace Hotel in Perth, which was opened on 18 March 1897, is being allowed to deteriorate. The current licensee is attempting to sell -his licence, having lost some $60,000 in his operations with a new modified tavern licence. Many thousands of people petitioned this Parliament on this matter. Their petitions were successful and stopped the immediate demolition of the Hotel and encouraged the Australian Government to buy furnishings and fittings, for which we are most thankful. The suspicion is in everybody’s mind that the building is not having any money allocated for its restoration and that no effort is being made to restore the building in the hope that finally it will become so shabby and so unprofitable that perhaps it will be demolished by its owners, the Commonwealth Bank.
We feel that it is time the State authorities took some interest and just did not leave it to the Australian Government to finally decide the hotel’s fate. The Perth City Council should take a stand, be quite clear in its statements and, if need be, allocate money to restore the building. The State Government should also bear its share of responsibility. I feel, as has been put to me by people who for some years now have fought to retain the hotel as an historic monument, that some sort of management should be established within the State for the restoration of the building. It is no good saying that we will leave the matter to Canberra. It is no good saying that we will leave the decisions in the hands of people other than Western Australians. Decisions of this nature should be made by Western Australians. This building is one of the last historic hotels in
Perth. Others have been retained, with public support. However, the campaign to save the Palace Hotel has so far been unsuccessful. The suspicion is in the minds of people- and I sincerely hope that it is unfounded- that the Hotel will be left to deteriorate to such a state that everyone will say: ‘It is not much. We should allow it to be demolished and perhaps we will retain the furnishings or part of the building somewhere else in another setting as an historic monument’. This was not the intention of the people who petitioned this Parliament for the intervention which they did obtain.
I feel the question should be kept alive. I am asking the State Government, the Perth City Council and other interested parties to stand off and take a look at what the future of the historic Hotel will be. It is quite obvious that it will not be a viable proposition under the existing licensing laws. Other uses have to be found for it, otherwise it will become just another white elephant. A decision needs to be made soon, because as time goes on and it is allowed to deteriorate further it will become too big a problem to solve. I appreciate the work and the money which the current licensee has put into the hotel. Having visited the hotel the other night I satisfied myself that the comments being made were well founded. Large sums of money have to be set aside for a program to restore the building. I make this plea on behalf of not only the people of Perth but also people right throughout the State who have shown a very keen interest in the building. I hope that it receives the support for which I ask. . The other matter I wish to raise is one that I referred to last week in a speech in the adjournment debate and previously in a speech in the grievance debate. I dealt with the steering lock on the HQ Holden and LJ Torana models. At the time I said that the company had not replied to me and that it probably had not had the opportunity to do so. I have received that reply arid I want to clarify the situation for all those people who have written to me and have shown a keen interest in whether the company will accept responsibility in this matter. The company is not going to accept responsibility and I will quote its viewpoint. To recall the circumstances, I indicated that I considered the steering lock was unsafe. The letter reads:
The Company denies that the lock is in any way defective or unsafe, and is completely satisfied that there is no justification for recall of our vehicles on this account. I understand, moreover, that the Department of Transport agrees with this position.
The lock is so designed that two distinct motions of the ignition key are required to reach the ‘Lock’ position. The key must first be rotated to the ‘Off position and then pushed inward before further rotation to the ‘Lock’ position.
The modification introduced to coincide with production of the ‘LH’ Torana series simply makes it more difficult to over-ride the stop between ‘Off’ and ‘Lock’.
I referred to this particular modification as having been made in 1973. In fact it was not made clear in Press reports that the modification had taken place. It appears that when the company changed the series of the car, it did, in fact, modify the lock. I should like to make it quite clear that my argument is with the models produced between 1971 and 1973. The letter goes on to state:
The lock mechanism, with and without the modification, operates as designed and in compliance with Australian Design Rule 25.
If this mechanism was accepted under the design rule, be that as it may, but the evidence has been produced that a number of people have been killed by accidents in that series of motor vehicle. People can turn off the ignition while the vehicle is in motion and there have been reports of this happening. I cited one case in the House recently which involved a gentleman from Matraville. He was fined $20 for his trouble in wrecking his motor vehicle by turning off the ignition because the engine boiled. I would say that that was a normal reaction.
I have received many other letters on the subject from people right round Australia. I feel that it is a problem that has to be resolved. It may be that in the estimation of the company this steering, lock complies with Australian Design Rule 25 and that there are similar locks fitted to other motor vehicles. But the correspondence and comments I have received from other honourable members indicate to me that there are similar situations in other motor vehicles. It may well be that the design rule itself is not stringent enough. I am not saying that once a design rule is made all wisdom on the matter ceases. There can still be faults within that area. But if this situation exists, not only do I ask the industry to modify it but also to make the owners of the motor vehicles aware of the problem because of the position of innocent people who buy such motor vehicles and who are subsequently caught out.
It is far too late to do anything about it after somebody has plunged into a river and drowned or has run over his young child on a driveway or lawn or something of this nature simply because he turned off the ignition and locked the steering. I feel that there is a responsibility with the industry, a responsibility with this firm and a responsibility with the Department of Transport. It is no good saying that accidents will not happen. Accidents have happened because of it. It is not a question of blaming anyone. It is a question of rectifying a situation which is known to exist.
– I wish to draw 2 grievances to the attention of the House and the Government. The first grievance concerns the position of the aged blind and the second one concerns unemployment and sickness benefits for the self-employed of Australia. The aged blind, that is, those 65 years and over, are not a large group of people but it is one of the most disadvantaged and defenceless groups in our community. Therefore, the broken promise of this Labor Government on their behalf has largely gone unnoticed. Since 1954, every blind person in Australia has received a means test free and tax free pension, pensioner medical entitlements and ancillary State and local government benefits which flow from the grant- ing of those entitlements. This concession was greatly appreciated by the blind community. In the lead-up to the 1972 election, one aged blind person wrote to Mr McMahon and to Mr Hayden. He wrote in September 1972 asking what each political party would do with this concession if it became the new Government. Mr McMahon replied that the benefits already granted would continue. Mr Hayden replied by telegram on 26 September 1972.I seek leave to have this telegram incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
Mr J W KENNY 579 Victoria Rd
Labour would not take any benefits already enjoyed by blind people regards
BILL HAYDEN, MP
– I wish honourable members to pay particular attention to that telegram. In September 1973 when the means test was abolished by this Government for those people 75 years and over, all age pensions in Australia were taxed. Not only was the means test free groupthat is, those people 75 years and over- taxed but also all people between the ages of 65 years and 75 years were taxed if they were in receipt of a pension. This in itself is discrimination against pensioners in the 65 years to 75 years group because they were already means tested and taxed as well. Many suffered a real drop in income because of it. But in recognition of the problem that this would create for the aged blind, the Government introduced a transitional benefit of $3 a week for those aged blind 65 years and over. In May 1975 the transitional benefit of S3 a week was abolished.
We now have an absurd situation. Blind people up to the age of 65 years receive a means test free and tax free pension. Blind people over the age of 65 years receive a means test free pension but are taxed. In other words, at the time of their lives- that is, 65 years and over- when their financial burdens, including medical costs, would increase they receive less income than those blind people under 65 years. This is discrimination and differential treatment and it is a betrayal of a promise by a senior spokesman for the then Labor Party Opposition that Labor would not take away any benefits already enjoyed by the blind people of Australia.
It is not as if the Government is not aware of this problem because repeated representations have been made to Mr Hayden and others by associations for the blind. Dr Cairns, the former Treasurer, in reply to a question that I placed on the notice paper, justified the abolition of the transitional benefits by stating that increased pensions were coming and that the blind aged pensioners are, of course, also eligible for the age tax rebate. Let us have a look at this Budget. The age tax rebate has been abolished. So any sort of argument that the Government might have had has also been abolished, particularly when one looks at the level of pensions now. The real message contained in this Budget in regard to pensions is that they will be reduced. The basis of allocating pensions has been changed from a system of basing them on average male weekly earnings to basing them on the consumer price index which is a lower figure.
One can remember now Mr Whitlam ‘s promises for the 1972 election. He said that age pensions would never be allowed to fall below the level of 25 per cent of average male weekly earnings. Since 1972, pensioners have never received pensions at this level. Of course, now they have no hope because the Government is not even sticking to its promise in regard to keeping pensions at that level of average male weekly earnings. I call on the Government to honour its promise to the aged blind. It will not cost much. I ask it either to restore the tax free arrangement which existed prior to September 1973 or, if that is difficult, to provide adequate compensation arrangements- $3 a week or whatever is required now- to compensate for that loss. I also ask it to clarify and confirm the fringe benefit entitlements for these people.
I also want to complain about the bad practice of Senator Wheeldon, the Minister for Social Security and Minister for Repatriation and Compensation, of not replying himself to letters written to him. I have had number of examples. One of them concerns a blind person who wrote to Mr Hayden and to Senator Wheeldon on this matter to which I have referred. Senator Wheeldon referred the letter to Mr Daniels, the DirectorGeneral of the Department of Social Security, for his reply. I believe that this is unfair to the Director-General of Social Security because he is forced to reply to letters which, let us say, may have a political content, when he is a senior civil servant. It is also unfair to the writer of the letter not to receive the courtesy of a reply signed by the Minister to whom the letter was addressed. I hope that that practice ceases.
The second grievance I wish to raise today concerns unemployment and sickness benefits for the self-employed. I believe that this is an injustice and an inequity in our social service system. This is about the sixth or eighth time I have mentioned this matter in Parliament since I entered it. Quite frankly, I hope that it is the last because there now appears to be a greater general recognition of this injustice and more people are speaking up about it. At long last, farmer organisations, which were fairly tardy about this matter, are also protesting. The need for action here is urgent because of the very bad condition of the self-employed- mainly farmers but also the small business people throughout Australia, particularly those in country areas. The means test calculation at the present time is based on income and assets. Both of these are taken into account. On the asset side for calculation purposes provision is made for a notional 10 per cent return on capital.
Let me take the example of a farmer. He has assets, theoretically, in his farm, but he has a very low or minus return on capital. Nobody in the small business world, whether he be a farmer or a small business man, would get a return of anywhere near 10 per cent. The farmer is probably on a minus return at the moment. He is disqualified from receiving a sickness or age pension or the unemployment benefit because of this provision, but he cannot sell his property because his business is depressed. Even if he could, why should he have his life ruined for the sake of a few months, one bad season, a downturn in prices or an illness? I believe that unemployment benefits are right and just for a worker who is put out of work for a period of time because of a downturn in business. Because I believe that, I believe that it is also right and just that a small self-employed businessman should not be disadvantaged and should be able to receive some income to tide him over until the future prospects are brighter; he should not have his life ruined.
The logical means of assisting such people is through the income only assessment method. This method is used in New Zealand and possibly in other countries. I know that this would not necessarily solve the problem, particularly for the farmer and the businessman, because quite often in the operation of such a scheme one would have to use historic records- in other words, the previous year’s tax return- and the income could be declining further. I believe that allowances could be made for this by using the person’s tax return for the last year, calculating his current income and, if necessary, making adjustments later. Another advantage that city people have is that quite often the wife can go out to work when the husband cannot. In the rural areas the wife cannot do this, either because the couple live too many miles away from employment or because there is too much unemployment in the country areas. This applies to business people in the small towns, too. I therefore call on the Government to correct what I consider are 2 legitimate grievances.
– I should like to make a few observations about the beef industry in Australia. I think it goes without saying that no responsible person in Australia today should be insensitive to the serious plight of the industry. The present situation has followed the boom in exports of beef in the early 1970s, the subsequent fall in the world demand and the subsequent increase in the domestic supplies. This, of course, has resulted in disastrously low prices over an extended period. These conditions have imposed great hardship on beef producers. The oversupply situation, unfortunately, has been made worse by the ill advised entry into the industry of people who bought in at high prices and people who traditionally were not beef producers but who thought that they were on a good thing in coming into the industry. Many of these producers are in the category commonly called the Pitt Street farmers. Quite often they have used their losses in the beef industry as an offset against profits in other commercial activities and to avoid tax payments. This intrusion into the industry has only exacerbated the situation for the genuine beef producers.
Fortunately, recently there have been some indications that the market may have reached the bottom and there are at least tentative prospects for some improvement. These indications have not helped the producers in the short term; they have been reflected more in the processing side of the beef industry. But in the long term they should lead to improvement for producers. I refer to 2 particular indications of improvement. The first is the recent call on Australian meat export sources to fill the shortfall in supplies from people exporting0 to North America from Mexico, Central America and Ireland, which may reach as much as 20 000 tonnes and which is expected to be filled from northern meatworks in Australia. The second indication of interest is the official figures, which show that the calf or veal slaughterings in the early months of this year are up ay about 75 per cent on those of last year. I refer, of course, to trade slaughterings and not to on-farm slaughterings about which there have been many exaggerated reports. The long term effect of these higher calf and vealer killings will tend to reduce the over-supply situation in time.
A further indication of the improvement is the very interesting recent half-yearly report of the well known company, Andersons Meat Industries Ltd. The figures in the report indicate that that company has done extremely well out of the plight of the beef producers. It showed a profit increase from $6,006 in the first half of 1974 to $431,835 in the first half of 1975. This is a quite remarkable improvement. The interesting point is that the company was able to turn over 40 per cent more stock with 33 per cent less cash turnover. The report refers to the company being able to develop new markets in South-East Asia, the Pacific region and Scandinavia. This company is to be commended for getting out and taking the initiative in seeking new markets and not sitting down and crying to the Government about the plight of the industry.
The other most revealing set of figures indicates how the meat wholesalers, whom we generally see as supporters of the Liberal Party, have been profiteering at the expense of the beef producers, who traditionally support the National Country Party. These official figures of how the consumer’s dollar spent on beef is shared between the farmer, the wholesaler and the retailer have been released by the New South Wales Agriculture Department. They are very interesting indeed. In 1971 the farmer received 61c in the $1, the wholesaler 7c and the retailer 32c. Just note the remarkable change in the first 6 months of 1975: The farmer received 30c; so his share is down by more than 50 per cent. The retailer received 46c- up approximately 40 per cent, for which there would have been some justification because of increased handling charges since this is a very labour intensive sector of the industry. But when one looks at the figure for the wholesaler one finds that his share is up to 24c. He is the man who turns over hundreds of thousands of head. There has been an increase of 350 per cent in the share of the consumer’s dollar going to the wholesaler.
– Could you repeat the first set of figures?
-Yes. In 1971 the farmer’s share was 61c, the wholesaler’s 7c and the retailer’s 32c. In the first 6 months of 1975 the farmer’s share was 30c, the wholesaler’s 24c and the retailer’s 46c. These are official figures of the New South Wales Agriculture Department. So it is quite apparent that, while the situation has been disastrous for the National Country Party farmers, the meat barons, who traditionally support their colleagues in the Liberal Party, have been having a field day by increasing their share of the consumer’s dollar by 350 per cent. It is no wonder that the minimum floor price plan put forward by the New South Wales Minister for Agriculture is not receiving the support of some of the Ministers for Agriculture in the Liberal governments in other States. I refer particularly to the Victorian Minister. Of course, Victoria is the home of the Angliss meat empire. It is apparent that a minimum floor price plan obviously is not in the interests of the meat barons of Australia.
Apart from making loan funds available to the beef industry, our Government has taken several other positive initiatives to help the industry. In addition to the matters referred to this morning by the Minister for Northern Australia (Dr Patterson), I shall refer just briefly to the following: The Minister for Agriculture, Senator Wriedt, recently announced that in 1975 there is to be no restriction on the export of stud cattle, no restriction whatever on the export of breeding cattle and no restriction on the export of feeder steers to Japan. In addition, each State and the Northern Territory can export 8000 head of cattle to various regions in South East Asia and the Pacific islands. I am confident that the indications for improvement will continue, that the initiatives taken by our Government will continue and that better times are ahead for the beef producers in Australia.
-I wish I could share the confidence in the future that the honourable member for Fraser (Mr Fry) holds. While the Australian Labor Party continues in Government I do not think any Australian, or thinking Australian, could share his views. During this Grievance Day debate I want to refer to a reply by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) to a question asked this morning by the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Whan). The Prime Minister alluded to remarks I made in this chamber last Tuesday evening when I said that I believed the Public Service Act should be suspended after the Opposition is returned to power so that it could cleanse and remove from the Public Service some of the appointments that had been made since the Labor Government came to office. Unfortunately the Prime Minister seized on the appointment of Mrs Gail Wilenski, referred to nothing else and made his reply appear as though I had been motivated by her appointment. That was not the case, as I explained later after I had claimed to have been misrepresented. I referred to the reason that motivated me to make the claim.
Often in this House we have heard the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) claim that during the previous Administration we made many jobs for the boys. In fact, the Prime Minister, on 9 April 1974, provided a list in response to a question from the honourable member for Barton (Mr Reynolds) of all those persons that the Liberal-Country Party governments from 1949 to 1972 had appointed. I seek leave to have that list incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
– I thank the House. Briefly stated, 34 persons were appointed to various positions in those 23 years. This is an average of slightly more than one a year. I want also to incorporate in Hansard a list which, as far as one can understand, has been compiled on the same basis. It relates to the appointments of prominent Labor Party supporters.
- Mrs Wilenski was not a member of the Labor Party.
-Her name is not on the list, my friend. I seek leave to have this list incorporated in Hansard. I have had approval to have it incorporated.
-Is the honourable member seeking leave?
– I have had approval from the -
-Order! The honourable member is seeking leave to have a list incorporated in Hansard. Is Leave granted?
– No. Nobody has seen the list or checked it.
-Leave is not granted.
-What a regrettable response from the Minister for Services and Property. The Minister for Environment (Mr Berinson), who has left the chamber, examined both lists and gave me approval for their incorporation. However, if this is the way the Minister for Services and Property wants it, I will read out the list. It contains the following names: Mr Bill Armstrong; Mr Ashley-Brown; Mr Lance Barnard; Noel Beaton; Colin Bednall; Niall Brennan; Cairns; Des Cavanagh; Joan Child; Pat Clancy; Barry Lotteral; Professor Crisp; W. Curran; C. Dolan; Professor Downing; Frank Doyle; John Ducker; Jack Egerton; C. FitzGibbson; Stephen Fitzgerald; Norm Foster; Vince Gair; Norm Gallagher; F. Gardiner; Bruce Grant; Al Grassby; B. Hansen; R. Hawke; J. Ilbery; D. Kennedy; F. Kirwan; H. Lashwood; J. Menadue; J. Mundey; Lionel Murphy, to the High Court; J. Nelson; F. Olley; P. Redlich; A. Renouf; W. Rigby; T. Roper; Mr Spigelman; H. Souter, ha, ha; H. Webb; P. Westerway; Margaret Whitlam, and do not tell me that she does not belong to any political party; Peter Wilenski and M. Young. The point I am making is that the Labor Party in 3 years has appointed 48 persons. In presenting this list, I am using the same basis as the Prime Minister used for his list.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I take a point of order. The honourable member mentioned the names of Mr Wilenski and Mr Westerway and a number of other persons he claimed had been promoted and appointed by the Labor Party. Some of those he mentioned won their positions in open competition and were appointed by persons authorised to make the selections. Renouf was appointed by his Party.
– There is no point of order.
-To enable a fair comparison to be made I had to use the same basis as that used by the Prime Minister when he supplied a list in response to a question by the honourable member for Barton. Personally I consider Jack Egerton ‘s appointment to the Board of Qantas Airways Ltd one of the more enlightened things the Labor Government has done. But in all fairness to the case I am presenting, all the names on this second list had to be recorded. An article in today’s Canberra Times states that public servants in Canberra who are nominating for elected office in political parties have brought so much pressure to bear within those political parties that the parties have decided that their names will not be made public unless they are successful candidates. Apparently this situation has come about because public servants have become fearful of reprisals from this Government if they nail their political beliefs to the top of the mast. This is a deplorable situation which has developed in this country. Before concluding this part of my speech I make a point about the refusal of the Minister for Services and Property to allow me to incorporate in Hansard the list of names I quoted. The list contained the names of persons appointed to positions by the Government. The Minister’s refusal is an example of the Government’s attitude to open government which it promised in 1972. There has been no open government. This is a government of suppression. It is a government which seeks to hide facts from the Australian people. I must admit that having had approval from the Minister for the Environment to incorporate both lists I was disappointed and disgusted that the Minister for Services and Property was prepared suddenly to revoke an undertaking given shortly before midday.
Finally I refer to Evans-Deakin Industries Ltd shipyards in Brisbane. This matter has been brought before the House on many occasions not only by myself but also by Government supporters. Some weeks ago the Chairman of the Board of Directors announced that all shipbuilding at the Evans Deakin shipyards would conclude in the very near future. Since this Government came to power we have seen half the Australian shipbuilding yards closed, including those of the Adelaide Ship Construction Co., Walkers Ltd in Maryborough and now Evans Deakin in Queensland. Time and again the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) had endeavoured to blame the management of Evans Deakin. According to a report in the Brisbane Courier Mail of 26 October 1974 the organiser of the Amalgamated Workers Union said that ‘Evans Deakin workers were not satisfied with the Federal Government’s shipbuilding policies’. The Government carries the blame for having been responsible for so much destruction of the shipbuilding industry. My speaking time has almost expired so I conclude by referring to promises made by the Prime Minister when, as Leader of the Opposition, he visited the Evans Deakin shipyard prior to the 1972 elections. He said:
I thank you very much for turning out in such numbers and being so attentive . . .
I do ask you, not only to yourselves, but if people know you work for Evans Deakin, they know that a great deal of the future of this city, of secondary industry in this city, for apprentices and skills, the future of people interested in industry in Queensland, in Brisbane, depends on the future of this the largest employer in Queensland except Mt Isa Mines themselves..
He then went on to say:
Only the Australian Labor Party offers a future to you.
Now the shipyard is closed.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Martin)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I glory in the opportunity of making some reply to the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) on the subject he raised of the ‘jobs for the boys’ policy, which he accused members of the Labor Party of pursuing. If the Labor Party is pursuing a policy along that line it has adopted it from the practices of the Liberal Party over the years it was in office. Obviously one honourable member on the Opposition side, namely the honourable member for Curtin (Mr Garland), who is the shadow minister for the Public Service, has chickened out of this debate this morning because of an article which appeared on the front page of this morning’s Australian. The article which appeared under the heading: ‘Liberals pledge to sack friends of Labor’ states:
The Opposition yesterday decided to remove all public service appointments made by the Labor Government which they consider political.
The shadow minister for the Public Service, Mr R. Garland, . . .
Obviously the honourable member chickened out because he knew that he could not make such an argument stick, having regard to the historical facts. He left it to the second grade body puncher, the honourable member for Griffith, to make allegations.
I want to remind the House of the fervent and practised policy of the Liberal Party during the years when it was in office of appointing its party hacks and ex-members and senators to high executive positions inside and outside Australia. I would like to quote from a question on notice asked by the honourable member for Barton (Mr Reynolds) and the reply to that question by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). The question and answer appear on pages 1304 and 1305 of Hansard of 9 April 1974. The honourable member for Barton asked:
The Prime Minister in his usual forthright, truthful and frank manner, which all Australians applaud, answered that question. He said that Mr A. I. Allan, who is well known to many members who have been in this House for as long as I and who was a former member for Gwydir, was appointed Secretary-General and Director of the Anzac Agency, Commonwealth War Graves Commission, on 1 May 1969 to the age of 65 at a salary of $9,598 a year.
Mr Bill Arthur, a party hack and a former member for Barton, whose smiling face we see frequently around this House, relishes the privileges that his Party has extended to him. Immediately after his defeat by the sitting member for Barton he was appointed Research Assistant to Prime Minister John Gorton at a salary of $7,000 a year at that time. Then we have the Right Honourable Sir Garfield Barwick who was appointed Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia. This was an appointment for life at a salary of £ 1 0,000 per year. The next person mentioned in the Prime Minister’s answer is the Honourable Sir Howard Beale. I remember that in my father’s time he was the member for Parramatta. Sir Howard was appointed on 25 November 1957 as Ambassador to the United States of America on a salary of £3,700 per annum. His smiling face is seen from time to time at official functions at Parliament House. He is still enjoying some privileges. Then there was the Honourable D. A. Cameron, a former Minister for Health who was appointed High Commissioner to New Zealand.
The honourable member for Griffith is foolish enough to walk in here like an amateur boxer to get slaughtered over something he cannot justify. If he took up the fight game he would be walking on his heels. The Minister for Health (Dr Everingham), would immediately outlaw boxing, which he proposes to do in future legislation, because of the tragic state in which the honourable member would be seen walking around this place. Then we have my old friend on the Public Works Committee, Mr Fred Chaney, who was defeated for his Western Australian seat and who was immediately appointed as Administrator of the Northern Territory. This was a pretty popular appointment and he did not do a bad job despite the fact that he belonged to the Liberal Party. Mr Chaney was appointed on a salary of $16,438 per annum. Mr J. F. Davis, who was a member of this place when I first came here in 1960, was appointed by the Liberal tory Government as Chairman of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories on a salary of $4,000 per annum. He is still Chairman of that organisation.
The next person mentioned in the Prime Minister’s answer is Mr Roger Dean, a former member of this place whose electorate of Robertson adjoins my electorate of Hunter. He could see the writing on the wall and the decline of the Liberals and he got out of the political arena. He was appointed by the Liberal Government as Administrator of the Northern Territory. I believe that he was in Canberra recently lobbying to get an extension of his appointment as ConsulGeneral to San Francisco which the previous Government gave him.
– Did they appoint any Labor people?
– No, they did not. Then we have the very dignified and, I understand, one of the most wealthy men who has ever pulled on a political boot, who was in this House for many years and who always saw that his tie was correctly adjusted. I refer to Sir Alex Downer, the man who had a deer park on his property. Sir Alex was the former member for Angas who was followed in this place by the present honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles). Sir Alex was appointed High Commissioner to the United Kingdom on a salary of £7,209 per annum. He served five or seven years in this capacity, and did not do a bad job. He has now come back and is lobbying and talking about re-entering politics in Australia. Then there was Sir Josiah Francis, who was appointed as Consul-General to New York on a salary of £2,850. Gordon Freeth, a former Minister of the Crown in the tory Liberal Government, was defeated for. his electorate in Perth and was immediately appointed by the tories to the senior diplomatic post of Ambassador to Japan.
– What job are you lobbying for?
-If I thought that you would be entering a mental hospital I would not mind taking an appointment as attendant at the hospital to see that you did not get out. There has been a mental deterioration since you came here.
The next person mentioned in the Prime Minister’s answer is Mr Gullett, who I understand passed away recently. He was appointed Trustee, Australian War Memorial, and later he was appointed by the tories as Ambassador to Greece. The late Right Honourable Sir Eric Harrison, commonly referred to in his time here as the Bondi miner, was appointed High Commissioner to the United Kingdom. Sir Eric was a prominent red hot tory. That dignified gentleman, Sir Paul Hasluck, was appointed GovernorGeneral of Australia by the tories at a salary of $20,000 a year. The answer also mentions John Howse, another Liberal hack; Percy Joske who was appointed to the Australian Industrial Court; the late Dame Enid Lyons who was appointed to the Australian Broadcasting Commission; and that dignified old scholar Dan MacKinnon, who was in the Parliament when I came here and who was appointed Ambassador to Argentina, Uruguay and Peru. The list on page 1305 of Hansard mentions many more names.
I am assured that there are certain members of the Liberal Party who are only hanging on in anticipation that their Party may get into power at the next election. I understand that the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) is an aspirant for the Governor-Generalship of Disneyland because of his long and unswerving loyalty to United States imperialism. Then I understand that the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns), due to the swinging nature of his seat, is an aspirant if the Liberals get into power to be one of the Olympic commissioners and a special adviser on short and long distance running because of his special talents in this regard. I understand that when the Liberals get into power again the right honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon) aspires to be appointed to the International Bank. I understand that the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) is ready, on a change of government, to get out of Parliament to become the Administrator of the Northern Territory. The honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn) has already indicated his intention to resign. He is an aspirant for a job on the Wheat Board. I understand that the right honourable member for Bruce (Mr Snedden), due to his disappointment over losing the leadership, is first cab off the rank for the first judicial post that becomes vacant should the Liberals get into power.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MartinOrder! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I want to introduce to this Parliament the policies of Louis Kelso, who is an American economist and philosopher. He will be in Australia in September and October and I hope that all Australians will pay very close attention to what he says. His writings and his thoughts have had tremendous impact in the United States of America. Much of what he has been saying for many years is now being adopted in legislation in the United States Congress. Senator Russell Long, the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, has taken Louis Kelso’s economic philosophy into Congress and is pursuing it there. In Canada Winnett Boyd has for many years adopted the economic philosophy of Louis Kelso. He has written a book, which I hope that all members of Parliament will read, called The National Dilemma and the Way Out. In particular I hope that all Liberals will read it because it gives the complete answer to the socialist economic policies of the present Government and all Labor parties.
The impact of this philosophy in political terms can be judged from the experience of Winnett Boyd in Canada when in 1972 he stood as a Conservative Party candidate and increased the vote of the Conservative Party in the constituency from 15 458 to 37 181- reducing the Liberal majority of the Government of Pierre Trudeau by approximately 20 000 votes to only 1847. Obviously the people of Canada of his particular constituency felt the impact of what is proposed in the philosophy of Louis Kelso. Shortly put, the Kelso plan is for a second income for wage earners so that people do not have to rely simply on their wages. They can rely on an income from sharing the ownership of the productive assets of the country, and in particular by having a share in the capital of the company which employs them. As has been said by President de Gaulle, ‘to stick to wages alone is to maintain a permanent class struggle’, whereas if the philosophies of Louis Kelso were adopted we could avoid that result by giving to the men and women who work in Australia the opportunity to have an income apart from the wages they earn.
What it does is to provide what I would like to term worker participation in wealth. We hear so much today about worker participation. We hear it from the Australian Labor Party, from the unions and from the socialists. I think that they are so far behind the times it does not matter. What we ought to be talking about in Australia and what we ought to be looking to do in Australia is to provide a system of worker participation in wealth. The Kelso plan has been termed as turning the working class into capitalists, and that is certainly what it can do. In postwar years one of the great achievements of government in Australia has been to distribute wealth through a much wider ownership of housing- of private property. What I think we all need to do in Australia today is to extend the idea of making all Australians little capitalists by owning their own homes beyond that to the kind of plan that Louis Kelso proposes. What we would then have would be a true partnership between labour and capital. We would avoid the conflict of class hatred. We would avoid the conflict which seems to be inevitable in so much of the union attitudes of today where all that they are doing is seeking to get more and more for the work force by way of wages.
The Louis Kelso plan is the antithesis of the socialist idea of redistributing income. Of course, what the people of Australia need to realise is that when the Treasurer speaks of redistributing income through taxation, what he is doing is taking income earned by people away from them and giving it to someone else according to the Treasurer’s idea of where it ought to go. It is not the old idea of robbing the rich capitalist of his wealth- that is, the property that he owns- and distributing some of it amongst the people; the redistribution principle of the socialists is to take the income that is earned by people and distribute it to others. There are 2 modern fallacies in this redistribution principle. The first is that it is no longer the rich who suffer according to this principle, but every working man and woman in Australia through the impact of taxation. In other words, taxation robs the people of their hard-earned income. The socialists force the people to work more and more for less and less. So the men and women who work see that the harder they work the more the Government takes out of” their pay packet. The Kelso plan is precisely the reverse.
The other modern fallacy of the socialists is that they concentrate ownership and control of the nation’s income and wealth in the hands of government- the greatest monopoly of all kinds. The Kelso plan is totally anti-monopolistic. What the modern socialist theory does is to make each one of us ever more dependent on public welfare handed out by the government. The Kelso plan is completely the reverse because it enables individuals to rely on private welfare; that is, welfare which they can provide for themselves during their working life, and after that in retirement, from the second income they may earn by sharing the ownership of the productive enterprises of Australia. In other words, the Kelso plan is aimed at spreading the wealth of Australia amongst individuals and not concentrating it in the hands of a monopolistic government. It does it by sharing the ownership of private property, which is simply understood as the productive assets of the community.
The result of this economic philosophy of providing people with more income- an income beyond what they earn by way of wages- is less welfare required from government and therefore less welfare costs by government. It will lead to less government and a shrinking bureaucracy. It will lead to less tax. Let me quote something that was said recently by President Gerald Ford of the United States. He said:
Any government that gets so big that it can give you everything you want, will also be so big that it can take everything you Ve got.
That was said by President Ford in his first address to Congress on 12 August 1974. 1 think that it is something of which all Australians need to be aware, having regard to their experience under the present Government.
In a time of lessening economic activity the Kelso plan and the financing techniques which are involved in it can give a fillip to private enterprise, expand business activity and lead to increased productivity which is the only real and lasting answer to inflation and unemployment. It can do this because all workers through thenownership of shares in the company employing them would have a stake in increased productivity beyond their pay packets and a direct involvement in the productive enterprise which employs them.
I have only 10 minutes in this grievance debate. That does not give me any opportunity at all to spell out the details of the Kelso plan and the economic philosophy and financing techniques involved in it. I hope that I will have another opportunity to do that in this Parliament. But, when Louis Kelso comes to Australia later this month, I hope that all members of this Parliament will listen to what he has to say. He has had a tremendous impact in America. His ideas now are being picked up by unions and business in the United States, and are being adopted in the financing of the ownership of the capital of the company by employees. His plan is being supported by legislation in the United States Congress. I do not expect the present Government, being a socialist one, to accept the economic philosophy of Louis Kelso; but I would expect that the Liberal Party would adopt it.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MartinOrder! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-In the short time at my disposal I wish to make a couple of references to the type of hypocrisy which we have just heard from a once parasite on the trade union movement, who made a lot of money in living off the unions and who now talks glibly about private welfare. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser) referred in a recent Press statement to the report of the Henderson inquiry and to the dreadful things which the present Government allegedly is perpetrating on the Australian people. Looking at 23 years of Liberal-Country Party rule, we see clearly the lack of interest of that Government in the people who really are deserving of assistance.
Let me point to one very pleasing aspect of the Budget recently brought down by the Treasurer (Mr Hayden) which ought to be noted but which has passed quite unnoticed. This fact is not surprising as the people whom this proposal affects are used to being unnoticed. I refer specifically to the homeless men and women of Australia, the casualties of our society, whom governments in the past have been happy to ignore. In drawing attention to this aspect of the Budget, I return to my original tribute to the Treasurer’s skill and ability which I mentioned in my speech in the Budget debate. By his skill, the Treasurer has managed to combine economic necessity and social justice. I refer also to his ability to introduce restraint without abandoning the social philosophy which distinguishes our Party from the tools of the rich and the powerful who sit on the Opposition benches. I refer also to the many policy areas in which there are no votes to be won. I cannot think of any group with less electoral muscle and less political influence than the homeless.
In an address at the Wesley Church Sunday Forum in June, I drew attention to the situation of the homeless- the stiffs, the bums, the cast-offs, the people whom we would rather ignore and with whom the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Sullivan), who is trying to interject, ought to be. I drew attention to 2 articles which had been published some time previously in the Melbourne Age. One article referred to the fact that a street cleaning machine had swept up the corpse of a homeless individual. The other article referred to a lost dogs’ home. I commend those people who have feelings for animals. Only one letter arrived in relation to the person who had been swept up by the street cleaning machine; but countless hundreds of letters referring to the lost dogs’ home were received and a number of them were published in the Melbourne Age. That illustrates the basis on which those who sit on the other side of the House are content to form their judgments when considering their priorities and values in relation to these matters.
The honourable member for Stirling spoke today about private welfare. My illustration demonstrates the view of the Liberal Party about private welfare. It is to make workers into little capitalists. What a lot of bunkum! If the people opposite were in office- I refer, for example, to the honourable member for Riverina- half of our young fellows would be in the Army and the rest of the people would be living in poverty, and the homeless men would still be being swept up by street cleaning machines. But if the Leader of the Opposition’s colleagues desert him as speedily and as thoroughly as they deserted his predecessor, one day he may be grateful for the assistance that is provided in this Budget for homeless people in the major capital cities of this country.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Martin)Order! As it is now 1 5 minutes to 1 o ‘clock, in accordance with standing order 106 the debate is interrupted. I put the question:
That grievances be noted.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– My Deputy Speaker, may I suggest, by leave of the House, that this debate be continued to 1 p.m.?
-Is leave granted?
Government members- No.
-Leave is not granted. I call the Clerk to call on the next business.
– I thought the Minister for Education said that leave would be granted.
– I am prepared to grant leave.
-Leave for what?
– For a continuation of the debate to 1 p.m.
-The Standing Orders are clear. The grievance debate is to finish at 15 minutes to 1 o’clock.
– But by leave they can be suspended.
– I understand that the honourable member would have to move for the suspension of Standing Orders.
-Order! I have called the Clerk.
Debate resumed from 3 September on motion by Mr Hayden.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Mr Fraser had moved by way of amendment-
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: ‘the House condemns the Budget because it does not provide an adequate program to defeat inflation and relieve unemployment nor does it restore confidence in the private sector of the economy ‘.
-When this debate was adjourned last evening, I was elucidating for the benefit of the House the important differences between the policies enunciated by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser) last week to solve Australia’s present economic difficulties and the proposals enunciated in this Budget. I made the point that the Government had not accepted the fundamental recommendations of the Mathews Committee relating to indexation. I think it is worth pointing out that the previous Minister for Labor and Immigration, the present Minister for Science and Consumer Affairs (Mr Clyde Cameron), espoused the principle of indexation but he also insisted on including a plateau principle which, if implemented, would have totally destroyed all wage relativities presently in use. Naturally, the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, when considering this rejected that principle. By contrast, the Opposition has accepted the recommendations in the Mathews report on personal tax and wage indexation because we believe that it is essential. It is worth noting also that this is the policy of the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the trade union movement. Consequently, we believe that the Mathews recommendations could form the basis of an agreement between labor, capital and government which would mobilise a national consensus to defeat the related evils of unemployment and inflation. It is with profound regret that we have seen this Government, with its fanatical belief in outmoded socialist shibboleths, refuse to give the necessary national leadership on this most vital issue.
I shall now elucidate further the economic policy of the Opposition. We would introduce a 3-year budgetary program to reduce inflation and unemployment and to restore economic prosperity, with firm action commencing this year. In addition to that, we would propose income tax reductions of $500m in 1975-76 which would boost demand, productivity and employment. Again I must refer to the Mathews report which emphasised the need to reduce taxation on individuals as a means of increasing incentive within the economy. For that reason, we would propose that the taxation scales should be restructured to assist families, especially single income families. As the Leader of the Opposition pointed out to the House, we believe that the proposals contained in this Budget relative to the restructuring of the income tax scales are simply a fraud. Anyone who examines those proposals in depth and who relates the proposed reductions in direct taxation to the fact that the Government also has introduced indirect taxation increases on a mammoth scale on fuel, spirits, beer and coal exports. This will have the result not only of increasing inflation throughout the economy but also of affecting mainly those very sections of the community which this Government espouses a real humanitarian desire to assist.
The other major aspect of our policy is that government expenditure must be resolutely controlled. The House should appreciate that government spending has risen by more than $9,405m or by 80 per cent in the last 2 years alone. In this context I wish to quote from the section of the Budget Papers relating to outlays and receipts. It states that in the year 1972-73 total outlays were $10,192m. For 1975-76 this is increased in the Estimates to $2 1,915m. If we can judge on last year’s experience and that of the previous year, there is no reason for us to accept that the estimates of Government expenditure for 1975-76 will be accurate. If the economy continues its downward trend, there is every expectation that unemployment will increase and, therefore, the requirement for social welfare payments in particular will increase.
We must also anticipate that there will be a further lowering of productivity and sales in various sectors of the economy and that therefore receipts from taxation will undoubtedly be lower this financial year than the Treasury has anticipated. I think the House should also realise that in the 10-year period from 1965-66 to 1975-76 total government outlays increased from $5,029m to $21,915m, an increase of over 400 per cent in a mere 10 years. Regrettably the fact is that Australia’s gross domestic product in that same period of time has not increased to a commensurate level. It is also worth pointing out that in terms of deficit financing, in 1970-71, which was certainly a very effective budgetary year for the then Liberal-Country Party Government, we went to the people with a deficit of only $10m compared with an estimated deficit on 1975-76 of $2,798m. Those facts speak for themselves.
The income policy of the Liberal and National Country Parties will be designed to control inflation, provide greater equity between taxpayers and restore incentive to work and save. In addition to that we propose procedures to be followed by the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to determine wages and that these determinations must be supported by the Government. Again the sad fact is that the last 3 years have shown quite conclusively that the key which opened the Pandora’s Box of our present problems was the decision taken early in 1973 by the then Minister for Labor and Immigration, supported by Cabinet, to intervene in the national wage case. In that intervention the Government asked the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to consider re-opening the case and to agree that the pacesetter principle using the Public Service as a pacesetter should be introduced.
That was the crucial take-off point for the massive wage demands which have dedevilled the Australian economy ever since and will lead this Government to the premature political grave to which it is undoubtedly destined. The difficulties we are facing are therefore historic. They are not simply the result of decisions taken overseas. Indeed there is inflation overseas but, as has been pointed out by the International Monetary Fund, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and other international organisations whose judgment is accepted by this Government when it happens to suit it, the decisions taken by the present Australian Government are directly responsible for the present situation facing this country.
I turn now to the Opposition’s policy relative to investment and productivity because it is in this area specifically where we must expect the first improvement to take place to get us out of the present decline. We propose major reform of the company taxation system based on the implementation of the recommendations of the Mathews Committee. For example, stock valuation adjustment proposals in the Mathews report will be introduced for company tax payable in 1975-76 at 50 per cent of the rate for stock valuation, with company tax at 45 per cent, which was also recommended by the Committee. The company tax rate during this period will be held at least at last year’s level of 45 per cent. This again was recommended by the Mathews Committee. The company taxation reforms will be introduced to provide a solid basis for the restoration of business confidence. The second and third stages of the Mathews reforms will be implemented within the 3-year budgetary period which we regard as the essential basis upon which restoration of economic viability must be planned and attained. In addition, a 40 per cent investment allowance will be introduced to supersede the accelerated depreciation allowance and will be available for plant and equipment installed before June 1977. This allowance will be continued at 20 per cent for a further 5-year period; and quarterly company tax payments will be suspended. Of specific relevance to small business is the need to make adjustments for private companies and small businesses to the system of taxation of retained earnings. Let us now examine what is the Government’s policy towards restoration of confidence in this sector of the economy which is so vital. The Treasurer (Mr Hayden) in his Budget Speech said:
The Government has decided to adopt this alternative and proposes to reduce the general rate of company tax by 2.S per cent to 42.5 per cent. The new rate will apply to 1 974-75 income and will cost an estimated $120m in 1975-76.
In addition to that, and as an example of the Government’s great generosity to the private sector, which, incidentally, is employing over three quarters of all wage earners in Australia, and to the small business sector in particular which is responsible for employing 40 per cent of the Australian work force, all the Government was prepared to do was to continue the system of double rates of depreciation beyond 30 June 1975 and extend it to all sectors of commerce and industry. What more proof do we need to see this Government’s lack of appreciation of the real difficulties which the business sector is facing in Australia today.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Martin)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Sitting suspended from 12.57 to 2.1 5 p.m.
– It gives’ me great pleasure, and it is my privilege, to speak to the motion of the Treasurer (Mr Hayden) on Appropriation Bill (No. 1 ). I should like to speak on the new pay as you earn tax system which has been put forward by the Treasurer as a major social reform, and which is probably more important than any other taxation reform in the last 30 years. The new personal taxation system is one of the most sweeping reforms of the taxation system that has ever been undertaken in Australia. It removes serious defects in the old structure and provides positive benefits for the overwhelming bulk of taxpayers. The new system is simpler, fairer, more flexible and more efficient. It is more in keeping with the Government’s social welfare objectives and programs. All taxpayers earning between $5,000 and $10,000 a year would be on a marginal tax rate of 35 per cent. A man on average weekly earnings whose income totals over $7,500 a year would have been on a marginal tax rate between 44 per cent and 48 per cent under the old scheme. Nearly 70 per cent of adult male earners receive average weekly earnings or less. Under the new scheme these people will still be on a marginal tax rate of 35 percent after 12 months, even allowing for wage increases of 20 per cent or more during the year.
The stability of the new tax rates will remove one of the constant sources of complaint about the old scheme which has quickly forced average weekly earners into higher tax brackets. The gross pay as you earn tax collections for this year are estimated to increase by about 40 per cent. This increase would have been about 46 per cent if the old scheme were retained for the full year. If the new pay as you earn rates had been in operation for the full year the increase would have been less than 35 per cent. The new scheme will benefit all taxpayers equally in money terms where the old scheme has given the greatest benefit to the rich and the least benefit to the poor. I should like to compliment the Treasurer on bringing these tax reforms down.
I should like to bring to the attention of the House the amount of money that this Government is spending on education and in particular the money that has been spent in my electorate in the short time that this Government has been in office. At this time of criticism of many of the Government’s policies, perhaps through lack of understanding rather than anything else, I should like to take the opportunity to illustrate the benefits that this Government has brought to my electorate in the 2% years it has been in office. I wish especially to refer to the schools in my electorate. Here we have a tangible display of the Government’s intentions and the people’s willingness to respond. Education has always been a very important function of society. Many a platitude has been thrown around about the young of today being the rulers of tomorrow. The educators have always strived, according to their own lights, to have their charges fit and worthy for the task of being tomorrow’s rulers. Education today, as always, is a matter of acquiring skills, although there has been a shift of emphasis away from the drilling of facts into children to making them learn how to ferret things out and how to apply them.
It is becoming increasingly obvious that one of the major factors affecting the quality of the education provided is the quality of the environment in which that education is being given. Money can go some way towards providing this environment, although as we are always aware from the growing concern over the illiteracy rate, it is not the sole answer. The money the Labor Government has provided and still is providing is provided in an attempt to help create opportunities for learning. This is being done by the provision of sound, well made classrooms, whether portable or of a permanent nature, where there were none before, thereby alleviating class sizes and by the building of halls for group activities in which the whole school can participate. This environment is also achieved by the purchase of equipment such as projectors and duplicators and all sorts of material that can be used by teachers to capture their pupils’ interest and for greater personal involvement by the students in their own education.
The Treasurer, in the Budget Speech on 19 August, said that this Government had almost quadrupled the Australian Government’s previous expenditure on education and that the allocation of $ 1,908m in this year’s Budget now stands at 8.7 per cent of the total outlay for the 1975-76 financial year. Schools in my electorate have done substantially better than this. For example, the non-government Catholic schools which pupils from the Evans electorate attend have received approximately 4.8 times more aid since Labor was elected to Government then they received in the preceding 8 years of the Liberal-Country Party Government. What began as a tentative political gesture to catch the Catholic and private school votes was actually giving those schools 19 times less a year than the Labor Government is giving them today. They received 19 times less in this electorate. (Quorum formed) As I was saying, these schools received 19 times less a year under the Liberal-Country Party Government than they do under the Labor Government today.
Let me give a few instances. De La Salle College at Ashfield, which is right in the middle of my electorate, has received grants totalling $386,301 from the Federal Labor Government. This money has been provided for varied purposes such as meeting the cost of new buildings, helping to pay the salaries of teachers and meeting continuing expenditure on science facilities and on the school library which was begun by the former Government. But from 1964, when the science facilities program began, until December 1972, this school received $102,000 or approximately a quarter of what this Government has given in a quarter of the time.
The Holy Innocents school at Croydon has received from Labor $80,330, and there is a building grant of $190,000, of which $125,000 has already been spent on teaching areas, English as a second language, rooms, toilets and administration buildings. The Liberal-Country Party Government’s contribution to this school began in 1970-71. Under the child migrant education program the school was granted $28,000 until the end of 1972. This school since then has received seven times as much from a Labor Government as it did from a Liberal-Country Party Government. One school in my electorate, St Francis Xavier’s at Ashbury, received nothing from the previous Liberal Government. Since December 1972 this school has received over $60,000 for buildings, salaries and equipment.
While I am fortunate, I suppose, to have no non-government schools in my electorate which have been classified as disadvantaged, one school adjacent to the boundary of my electorate which has many pupils from my electorate is St Brigid’s primary school at Marrickville. This school received nothing from the former Liberal Government, while the Labor Government has provided it with over $41,000 for buildings and teachers’ salaries. Other non-government schools near my electorate attended by many pupils from Evans have also received much needed assistance.
I have not yet mentioned government schools. I shall now turn my attention to these. They do not figure so prominently in this account as the non-government schools in my electorate do, if only for the reason that there are only half as many of them as there are non-government schools. It should be stated also, though, that it is a lot more difficult to obtain details of grants to these schools since the grants must be made through the New South Wales State Government. So the itemising of particular grants has been, to put it midly, rather tardy. One must admit that this is very much in line with the State Government’s policy of taking credit for work done with Federal money, a practice very close to Sir Eric Willis’ heart as well as others of his ilk in the New South Wales State Parliament.
One finds Sir Eric Willis, members of the New South Wales Parliament and all the staff taking great political credit for the amount of money that has been spent. In fact at a recent such function I was placed- not that I minded it- with the women in the back row. I am not in disagreement with Women’s Lib, but I sat, as I say, with the women in the back row, while everybody from Sir Eric Willis down made a speech about how good the State Liberal Government was in spending so much money, and yet the Government which granted this money was not mentioned, and that is the Federal Government.
Itemisation of recurrent grants to particular schools is also difficult since these grants cover, among other things, salaries for teachers, and this provision all comes out of the one lot of money. Capital grants are a little harder to disguise. We do know that Ashfield Primary School has had considerable additions costing, I would guess, as much as a quarter of a million dollars, additions which were necessary for the school to cope adequately with its population of students and which it is very unlikely would have been undertaken by the Liberal State Government. It is also very unlikely that such a project would have been undertaken if a Liberal-Country Party Federal government were in power. Despite all the assurances of the Opposition that present education spending would not be decreased, if Labor had not been in government for as long as it has present levels of expenditure would not even have been conceivable.
Out of a total of $57.5m paid to government schools in New South Wales in 1974, my electorate received over $2m. This shows that government as well as non-government schools are doing well in the grants being distributed. Although, as I said before, the recurrent grants were unitemised, the State Government has revealed that these amounted to $418,000 in Evans. The other $1,600,000 was spread widely over a number of schools. Croydon Park primary school received over $200,000 for renovations. I am proud of what has been spent on education in my electorate, and I am told that a lot more will be spent in the electorate.
I refer now to the program of legislation for this spring sitting. In Aboriginal affairs there will be the Aboriginal Councils and Associations Bill and the Aboriginal Affairs (Northern Territory) Bill. We have before us now the Legal Aid Bill, the Corporations and Securities Industry Bill and the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Bill. In this sitting the Environment Protection (Marine) Bill will be introduced to bring together a comprehensive code for the protection of all aspects of the marine environment. In the field of health the States Grants (Hospitals) Bill will be introduced. This Bill will propose a 3-year program for capital assistance to States for the development of public hospital facilities, including nursing homes and mental health faculties. In the area of minerals and energy we will have the Petroleum and Minerals Authority Bill. Under repatriation and compensation we will have the Australian Government Insurance Corporation Bill, and then in science and consumer affairs the Consumer Protection Bill. For transport there will be the Inter-State Commission Bill and then from the Treasury the Foreign Takeovers Bill. Each one of us on the Government side of the chamber is very proud of what the Government has put through this House in the very short time it has been in office. A look at legislation to be introduced shows that this Government is not like previous governments, which stood still for 23 years. We are doing something.
Prior to the presentation of the Budget public hysteria was being whipped up by the Opposition and the newspapers. Like many other honourable members on the Government side of the House I received hundreds of letters protesting against cuts in education expenditure and the bringing back of radio and television licences. I am afraid today that newspapers and other forms of the public media speak with great authority.
– They use scaremongering tactics.
– I agree. They speak with great authority. People who were endeavouring to get from the newspapers, television and radio some news believed that the Budget would contain measures that had been foreshadowed by the media. It made the people panic. It caused hysteria. Only after the Budget was read were the rumours proved to be false. Since the Budget has been brought down we have seen this hysteria repeated time and time again. The old record will be worn out if the Opposition continues with its fear tactics. It can talk only of fear, not of the good legislation that has been passed and not about what is coming up this sitting. It gives me great pleasure to support the Budget. I am sure that this is only the first of many Budgets that will be presented by the Treasurer (Mr Hayden). There are many objectives to be achieved by him.
-The Australian Labor Government recently passed its first 1000 days in office- 1000 days and 1000 nights. There can be little doubt that the 1000 nights were the occasion for 1000 nightmares for the majority of the people of Australia. Having achieved 1000 days I think it is fair and the time is right that we try to put into perspective some of the actions and some of the policies of this Government. This Government came to office in December 1972. It promptly moved to revalue the Australian currency. It promptly moved unilaterally to slice 25 per cent off the tariffs that operate in this country with disastrous effects both internally and externally. This decision was unilaterally taken to the detriment of Australia’s position in organisations such as the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and the multilateral trade negotiations. This Government went to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission supporting large increases in wages in the national wage case. It used the Public Service as a pacesetter. It supported huge wage rises in the Public Service. It introduced 4 weeks leave, a system of maternity and paternity leave, a 17& per cent leave loading and flexitime. It is now putting forward proposals for a new superannuation scheme.
All of these actions have been taken by the Government by using the Public Service as a vehicle. They have added significantly to the cost of Australian industry and of the private sector in this country and have raised the standard beyond that which can reasonably be afforded. The Government introduced the report of the Coombs Task Force shortly after it came to office, and before its first Budget, which deliberately set out to destroy the worthwhile things that had been set up over a generation. It destroyed the incentives which were made available to industries to produce and to improve their productivity and to add to the tax base that the Government has at its disposal to carry out the works that the community needs. The Government changed the administration of the unemployment benefit. It provided a system whereby in many cases it was more profitable not to work than it was to work. The effects of these policies have all been disastrous.
Why did the Government introduce these policies? It did so to reverse 23 years of what it saw as imbalance and 23 years of what it thought was exploitation. It wanted to improve the lot of the working man. It wanted to improve the lot of the people who supported it. What has it done? It wanted to introduce and experiment in social democratic reform, but it had no research and no back-up. It did not think through the effects and implications of what it was doing. It encouraged every vested interest group in this country, except the people who produce the wealth. It raised the expectations of the community. It offered everything. It offered pre-schools. It offered support to authors and artists. It offered support to every community group that it could find- to sporting groups, to local government bodies and to the pensioners. It removed incentive for people to work and to provide for the things that they need and want. It then promptly dashed all those expectations which it had raised because the money had run out. The Government could not afford to introduce those policies. It had to backtrack on the pensioners, on its pre-school policy and in just about all those areas of glamorous reform that it offered to the Australian people.
The tragedy is that this Government has failed to recognise that it is only a healthy, prosperous, thriving and growing economy that can afford to provide these improvements in the standard of living and in the quality of life. It cannot be done when the share of gross domestic product going to profits falls from 16.1 per cent to 9.5 per cent. It cannot be done when the gross domestic product itself is negative. The Government has destroyed the capacity of the community to provide the improvements that the Government sought to provide. The Government encouraged people to acquire a taste for champagne when the people could afford only beer, and now they may think twice about the beer. It is not only irresponsible but also unfair to hold out the promise of the Government’s providing all these improvements and of reducing the need for the individual and the community group to provide for their wants, and then informing the nation that it can no longer be done. Let us not forget that what has been done and what can be continued today is being achieved only at the cost of a deficit of $2.5 billion last year and $2.9 billion this year; that is if we can believe the figures.
I ask the Government how long this massive deficit financing may be expected to continue. I point out that we still have had no economic policy laid down by this Government. There has been no White Paper, no assessment or analysis on where the economy is going and how the Government proposes to handle and to direct it. I can see no possibility of this Government ever achieving a Budget surplus. I can foresee only greater increases in the size of the deficit. How can it be otherwise. Is the Government expecting to be able to achieve a net reduction in expenditure of $3 billion in the next Budget? Does the Government expect profitability and taxation levels to provide another $3 billion? I despair. We are faced with a government with an insatiable desire to spend way beyond the rational limits imposed by income. The continuation of the Government’s programs will of necessity mean growing deficits without taking into account any new policies that are on the drawing board or that may have been deferred for this year’s Budget exercise. Even allowing for desirable improvements in our living standards the Government has failed to discriminate between wants and needs and between desires and necessities.
The Government has failed miserably to allocate the funds available to the areas of real need. What is more important- good roads or the arts, the alleviation of poverty or increasing the bureaucracy, welfare housing or payments of $120 a week to unemployed Regional Employment Development scheme workers? To my mind we can only provide for the arts and the like after we have provided for the needs of the community. The Government’s system of priorities is beyond understanding. It is a sad reflection when a government suspends introduction of a new education triennium system and fails to honour its promises on the means test, but still provides money for a pipeline, for overpaid Regional Employment Development scheme workers, for the arts and for a wide range of obviously less important things.
Let us look back over the record of this Government. The total tax take, the amount of money the Government has raised by taxation, has increased from $8,453m in 1972 to an expected take this year of $ 17,608m, or an increase of over 100 per cent. The income tax take or the net pay as you earn tax take has increased from $3, 161m in 1972-73 to an estimated $8,683m in 1975-76. That is supposed to represent tax relief. There has been an almost 3-fold increase in the amount of tax payable on wages and salaries. In 1972-73 wages and salaries amounted to $22.3 billion. The income tax take on those wages and salaries was $3.1 billion. The Australian Government took in tax 14.1 per cent of the total amount of wages and salaries. What have we seen happen in 1975-76? We have seen wages and salaries increase to almost $44 billion and pay as you earn tax increase to $8.68 billion. What percentage of that income is the Government now taking after the introduction of its so-called tax relief? We find that 19.8 per cent of wages and salaries is being taken in tax. That is 19.8 per cent in this year, as opposed to the 14.1 per cent in 1972-73. The increase in Government outlays in the 3 Labor Budgets has been 115 per cent. The increase in receipts in those 3 Labor Budgets has been 102 per cent. Income tax collected by this Labor Government under the 3 Budgets it has presented has increased by 142 per cent. That is the Government’s record of which it can be proud.
What are the economic statistics? What has the Government done to the economy? We all know about inflation and unemployment. But how many people stop and think about some of the underlying economic statistics that are available? Gross domestic product in the year to March 1975 was down by 3.2 per cent. Gross non-farm product in the year to March 1975 was down by 4.4 per cent. Non-farm employment in the year to March 1975 was down by 0.5 per cent. Non-farm productivity in the year to March 1975 was down by 4 per cent. The figures are unarguable. That is the Government’s record. The percentage share of gross domestic product at factor cost going to wages in 1972 was 59.9 per cent and in March 1975 it had risen to 69.3 per cent. The share going to the gross operating surplus of companies in 1972 was 16.1 per cent and in March 1975 it was 9.5 per cent. The Government cannot expect to bring about a reversal in the amount of profit that is available to industry and expect industry to be able to provide the tax revenue to enable the Government to carry out the schemes it wishes to introduce.
What has the Government done in regard to interest rates? In December 1972 the long term bond rate was 6.0 1 per cent; in June 1 975 it stood at 9.5 per cent; and now it is almost 10 per cent. In December 1972 the interest rate on trading bank overdrafts was 7% per cent. In June 1975 it had increased to 1 1 Vi per cent. Yet the Government talks about costs increasing. The Government went to the people in December 1972 as the friend of the unions. It professed to have a contract with the unions; it professed to be able to deal and negotiate with the unions. It said that it could show the Australian community how we could have fewer strikes. In December 1972, 2 billion man days- a lot of days and representing a lot of production and a lot of wages- were lost due to strikes. In 1974, after a couple of years of the Labor Administration- the friend of the unions- 6.3 billion man days were lost due to strikes. The number of man days lost increased from 2 billion in 1972 to 6.3 billion in 1974.
The Australian Labor Party came into government and destroyed one of the basic Westminister system principles. It destroyed the nonpolitical career Public Service. It did so on an ad hoc basis. It was not prepared to debate the matter and it was not prepared to talk about it in the community. It just did it. It removed permanent heads of departments and put its political puppets in their places. It destroyed the established standard and principle built up over many years, a system of a career Public Service, a nonpolitical Public Service. What are the ramifications of this? What will happen? Will the incoming government do what the Labor Government did, namely, replace its political appointments with career public servants and revert to the traditional and proper system; or will we do what the Labor Government did, namely, replace its political appointments with our political appointments? It is something that has to be thought about seriously by honourable members on both sides of the House. It is something that has to be discussed in the community. We have achieved, on an ad hoc and undiscussed basis, a change from the Westminster system to a system approaching the American system under which when governments change the Public Service leadership changes. If that is what we want and if that is what we are to have in Australia, it should be done deliberately, rationally and in the full knowledge of what we are doing. But, if we want a career Public Service, then the Government stands condemned for the actions it has taken since its election to office.
The effects of this Government’s policies in rural areas are nothing short of disastrous. Two years ago at a sale of 18-month-old, on average, weaner steers at Adelong the average price paid was $140 a steer. Last year, at a similar sale with the same type of stock, the average price paid was $90 a steer. This year, at a similar sale again with the same stock and the same vendors, the average price paid was $38 a steer. Costs have increased by in excess of 36 per cent in the last 12 months. The wool price has been maintained at a floor level of 250c a kilogram clean. Everything is militating against the profitability of the rural sector. The Government now has introduced this Budget which places more imposts upon that important sector of our economy. Transport costs will rise. Any farmer who sows a reasonable amount of wheat will pay in excess of $500 and in many cases $1,000 more for the diesel fuel to run the tractors to sow that wheat. The Government had the opportunity to introduce the recommendations of the Industries Assistance Commission in regard to tuberculosis and brucellosis, the superphosphate bounty and income fluctuations; but the Government squibbed it. I support the amendment which has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition. I recall the comment made by Mr Peter Walker, a former Minister in the Heath Government in England, who said:
What Wilson has done to the British economy took talent.
What Whitlam has done to the Australian economy took genius. The Labor experiment has failed. It is time this Government stepped aside.
-In following the honourable member for Hume (Mr Lusher) I do not intend to intone like an unfrocked prelate.
– Ha, ha, ha.
-We hear the guffaws from the honourable member for Riverina. I am always reminded when I hear from the honourable member for Riverina of the ghost of Hamlet’s father. He keeps on appearing but is totally insubstantial. On Tuesday, 19 August, the Treasurer (Mr Hayden) in introducing the 1975-76 Budget had this to say:
This Government began great programs of change in our society. The achievements are readily measurable. Incomes have risen, not only in terms of real personal disposable incomes but in terms of facilities provided to the whole community in health, in education, in social welfare. The Australian Government’s record in these areas is widely acknowledged.
Our reforms are enduring; they will not be reversed. Now we propose . . . to .take stock of the achievements.
Having quoted that I take up an observation made by the honourable member for Hume in which I think he used a phrase like ‘standards and principles’. I remind the honourable gentleman that when he is dealing with standards and principles he ought to consult the leader of his Party in that radical state of Queensland. As is well known to the public, the Premier of Queensland is a combination of three of the most unpleasant and evil individuals of our time. He is a rare combination of the Rev. Ian Paisley, Dr Goebbels and Sir Oswald Mosley.
– And Eric Butler.
-And Eric Butler, indeed. He joins, I was about to say, a motley triumvirate of unpleasant individuals. And the honourable member for Hume talks about principles and standards. Bjelke-Petersen has broken at will every convention, principle and standard to which this honourable gentleman has the audacity even to refer. In this speech I intend to devote a great deal of my time to what this Budget means for my own State and, in some instances more particularly, my own electorate. But I shall come to that later on. I want to speak first of all about 3 features of the Budget, namely, social welfare, education and the taxation proposals. Firstly, I shall deal with this Government’s record of achievement in the field of education. It is fascinating to hear Opposition members constantly and consistently decrying this Government for public expenditure. Yet at every available opportunity they are asking for more. They are like Oliver Twist; they can never get enough. They ought to be fed on gruel most of the time. What I regard as even more important in the Government’s education program is the decision - (Opposition members interjecting)
– Patience gentlemen, please. I refer to the decision on technical and further education.
– I have been insulted and interrupted by experts and the members of the Opposition who are interjecting will not deter me one iota. Expenditure on technical and further education, which has been the Cinderella of the education field, is estimated to total $10 1.3m in 1975-76 compared with $70.6m in 1974-75. I pose the question to the members of the Opposition: Would you reduce that? Honourable members will recall that in May 1975 the Australian Committee on Technical and Further Education submitted its second report on needs in technical and further education. This report covered the 2lA year period from 1 July 1976 to 31 December 1978.
As the Treasurer has said for the reasons set out in his Budget Speech, the Government has been unable in a sense of responsibility to accept the recommendation on level of expenditure of $494m at this time. But nonetheless what has to be remembered is that for the first time- I reiterate, for the first time- a national government has recognised and responded to the needs in our contemporary society for a reassessment and an acknowledgment of” the great contribution made in the technical field of education. This is a matter of great substance and it is a move in the education area generally of which this Government can be very proud indeed.
I turn now to the social welfare program, so often denigrated by our opponents. They have such a brilliant record in this field that they should be embarrassed even to mention the words ‘social welfare’. I remember one of their more distinguished Prime Ministers uttering the now classic phrase to a meeting of pensioners on the front steps of this Parliament House on the Budget day of 1970. 1 quote what he said to the pensioners who had assembled there in an orderly fashion. He said:
I suppose you are up here to get more dough.
That is a classical example of the humanity and the approach of the Liberal and National Country Parties to these matters. I turn now to the social welfare program in which total direct outlays on social security and welfare are estimated to increase from $3,703m in 1974-75 to $4,772m in 1975-76. Of course there was no mention of this in the remarkable document distributed and made public by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser). (Quorum formed) I thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, and I also thank the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Bourchier) for lowering the curtain on Act I. I was referring to the social welfare program of the Government and the absence of any statement by the Opposition on what its attitude would be. I had mentioned the increase of 28.9 per cent. Therefore direct outlays on social security and welfare in 1975-76 will be equivalent to 21.8 per cent of the estimated total Budget outlays.
The additional pension payments which will come to fruition in November will increase the standard or single rate of pension to $38.75 a week. I invite a comparison with the record of our predecessors. Under the Budget proposals in November the married rate will increase to $32.75. Again I invite a comparison. Also at this stage I should like to deal with the question of the means test. It was and still is the Australian Labor Party’s intention to abolish the means test completely. However, due to the tight economic situation, it was not possible at this stage. I want to emphasise, as has already been said by the Treasurer and reiterated by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), that the final stage in the abolition of the means test will take place on 1 July of next year.
I interpose here the observation that it was somewhat remarkable, and I have no doubt predictable, that the Leader of the Opposition made no mention at all of the means test in his speech. It would be interesting to know what is the attitude of the Opposition to the means test. Honourable members would be fascinated by the attitude of the Leader of the Opposition to pensions and social welfare. I find his observation that this particular Budget is an incentive to spendthrifts quite objectionable. I am sure that the 500 000 people who are to benefit by paying no taxation at all would also be fascinated to learn whether they fall into the category of spendthrifts. I will return to consideration of taxation matters in greater detail in a moment.
My own State of Tasmania will receive from this Budget more, in per capita terms, than any other State in the Commonwealth. In fact the amount allocated for Tasmania is equivalent to $835 per head of population. This, I am certain, will bring great joy to the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) who is on record as saying: ‘New South Wales is getting a little sick and tired of subsidising Tasmania’. I regret that the honourable member is not present in the chamber. It is interesting also to observe that while the increased revenue spending in this Budget has been held at approximately 23 per cent, grants to the States have been increased by 34.2 per cent and, interestingly, grants to local government by 42 per cent. I pose this question: What is the attitude of the Opposition? Is its attitude to local government the same as that displayed during the recent referendun? It can be seen that the oft-quoted phrase of our opponents about centralism can be discarded as political jargon. It is interesting in these times, when centralism is such an unpopular word, to note how often all the States and the various instrumentalities of those States display remarkable energy and speed in rushing to Canberra for money and assistance for every conceivable project. Yet their constant catchcry is the ‘spendthrifts of Canberra’.
I turn now to perhaps the most significant feature of Mr Hayden ‘s Budget. This is in the field of taxation. This is a fundamental reform which was long overdue, because one is reminded that the old taxation system had remained virtually unchanged for more than 2 decades. In essence the new system is simpler and much fairer than the old. Instead of people having to work out a complicated system of concessions every taxpayer will in future be entitled to a minimum rebate of $540. This is in addition to special rebates for dependants. The Opposition has made great play and many comments concerning the proposed taxation restructuring, yet honourable members who have been in this House a lot longer than I have been will realise that for all the years the Opposition was in government it never had the wit, energy or inclination to make any basic change to the taxation system. Suddenly, when in Opposition, its members see their party as a party of reform. It is wonderful what a period in Opposition will do.
I turn now to specific areas of this Budget that will be of enormous benefit to my State of Tasmania and a great part of my electorate which has suffered as a result of the collapse of the Tasman Bridge. I do not want to canvass this matter too widely because I note that later today it is proposed to debate this subject. But it can be said unequivocally that the response of this Government to that disaster is, in terms of money and assistance, without precedent. This Government, this centralist Government, is footing the entire bill for the restoration of the bridge with an additional fifth lane, has committed itself to the construction of a second bridge across the Derwent and is currently building the temporary Bailey bridge at Dowsings Point. It has provided the money and faculties for ferries and ferry services, the construction of terminals and the upgrading of Old Beach Road, all of which will bring this Government’s financial commitment to the restoration of the bridge and the building of all these facilities to somewhere between $60m and $70m in toto. The Liberal campaign of propaganda in my State claimed that Tasmania is the neglected State. Indeed, it has been the neglected State.
The question of increases in freight rates occupied a considerable part of the maiden speech of the honourable member for Bass (Mr Newman). I congratulate the honourable member for that speech but not for the susbstance of it. I quote some of the increases imposed in Tasmanian freight rates by the Liberal-National Country Party coalition when it was in office. I commend this information to the honourable member for Bass. Under the guidance, presidency and imaginative genius of the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon), who was the then Minister for Shipping and Transport, in August 1970 there was a 12V4 per cent increase on all Tasmanian trade.
– The first one in 10 years.
– The honourable member is not in the Anglesea Barracks now. In July 1971 freight rates on the Sydney-Tasmanian run were increased by 12’/2 per cent and on the Melbourne-Tasmania run by 8 per cent. In August 1972 the rate on dense cargo from Sydney to Tasmania increased by 12 per cent and from Melbourne to Tasmania by 25 per cent. The surcharge on hazardous cargo was increased by 20 per cent and on newsprint by 17 per cent. The concession of 18 per cent on industrial machinery was removed. That is the record of the vocal group opposite which includes the honourable member for Bass. It reflects but little credit on the gross misinterpretation and distortion of what this Government has done for the particular problems of Tasmania’s geographical isolation with respect to freight rates. There is no better record with regard to Tasmanian freight rates than the record enjoyed by this Government. In direct contrast to the actions of the former government this Government, for the first time, is subsidising by millions of dollars the Australian National Line’s services to Tasmania.
I make another point. In the 1972 election campaign the Prime Minister gave an assurance that he would set up the Inter-State Commission. All honourable gentlemen will realise what has happened to the Inter-State Commission. Legislation for its establishment lies in the Senate- the States’ House dominated by an additional member from the august and noble State of Queensland.
– And the Democratic Labor Party.
-And the DLP. It is dominated by the Opposition. That Inter-State Commission legislation will remain stillborn in the Senate, although it is the very legislation which can help us in sorting out this complicated and great human problem. I pose the question to Tasmania’s Liberal senators and their colleagues: What is your attitude to the InterState Commission?
Honourable members will recall that this year there has been much comment, particularly from members of the National Country Party, about the assistance this Government provides for the arts. I remind those honourable gentlemen that man does not live by bread alone. Honourable members will recall that this year the Australia Council was set up as a statutory body to administer the wide and broad spectrum of all of the artistic activities of this nation. I know that this will have no appeal at all to honourable members opposite. This has proved enormously successful and I am delighted to see that $23m is included in this Budget so that this creative program can continue. This Budget is a responsible document. It is a responsible document because it has come from the fertile and responsible mind of a responsible Treasurer. I fully support its thrust and direction and totally oppose the amendment moved by the dubious successor to the right honourable member for Bruce (Mr Snedden).
– I would like to reply to the general tenor of the speech just made by the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Sherry) and I pose this question to him: If the record of the Government in Tasmania is so good why was there a swing of over 17 per cent against it in the Bass by-election? The obvious reason is that the Government has been no more successful in pulling the wool over the eyes of the electors of Bass than the honourable member for Franklin has been in trying to pull the wool over the eyes of this Parliament this afternoon. But I do not have any more time to waste on that.
– They were brainwashed.
– The honourable member for Wilmot will have the chance to test his popularity in his electorate at the next election. There will need to be only half the swing that got rid of the Labor candidate in Bass to get rid of the honourable member for Wilmot. My purpose this afternoon in speaking is to examine the Budget from the point of view of employment, a subject which is never very pleasant to the ears of the Government at this stage, and its implications in the Australian economy. I would like to emphasise that the Budget needs to be looked at in the context of last year’s Budget as well. It cannot be considered in isolation as one year’s exercise. Honourable members will remember that last year the Government budgeted for a deficit of $500m. It ended up with a deficit of $2,500m. Added to this year’s budgetary deficit of $2, 800m that would mean that the Government has spent $5,300m more than revenue received over the last 2 years, and that must be considered optimistic in the light of what happened to last year’s deficit. As I have pointed out, the expected deficit last year was $500m but the actual deficit was 5 times higher. Therefore the question must be asked: Is there any prospect of the same thing happening this year? If it does happen, everything the Treasurer (Mr Hayden) has said becomes meaningless; all his talk about restraint becomes just rhetoric, and dangerous rhetoric at that.
So we first have to look at the aims of the Budget and whether they are likely to be achieved. If they are achieved the Treasurer may be able to hold the line that he has taken- not that I agree with it- but he may be able to maintain his strategy, misguided though it is in my opinion. But if the expectations inherent in the Budget are not realised, on last year’s experience the Treasurer has no hope of keeping the deficit to $2, 800m. The consequences of this are difficult to estimate but they will be serious and could be disastrous. It is highly significant that even the Treasurer himself has doubts about his own Budget. In the first place he inherited a mess created by this Government’s hopeless ineptitude. Secondly, there has been absolutely no continuity of economic policy. Treasurer has succeeded Treasurer with bewildering rapidity, all of them sacked by a Prime Minister intent on trying to preserve his own rapidly deteriorating reputation at the expense of his closest colleagues. So the present Treasurer was a long way behind scratch from the start. No doubt he was thinking of past disastrous miscalculations when he said:
The hopeful signs in the economy could prove illusory and inflation could take off again from its already high level to a thoroughly destructive effect. The private sector would find it increasingly difficult to function, with increasing business failures and unemployment could rise to dramatically higher levels.
The Treasurer went on to say that his Budget was designed to avoid this situation but it follows that if it fails the Treasurer himself has described what will happen. I believe that it will fail and that the Treasurer has accurately diagnosed the consequences of that failure. To use his words again: . . . the nation’s productive capacity will run down and job opportunities will diminish.
That is just a nicer way of saying that unemployment, already the highest for 30 years, will get worse. If the Treasurer has some doubts about his own Budget, what about his advisers? What does the Treasury think? Seldom, if ever, has a Budget been hedged around with more qualifications by the Government’s professional advisers. Their attitude is to be found not in the Budget itself but in the Budget statements, particularly Budget statement No. 2. The Treasurer estimated that gross domestic product will increase by about 5 per cent after falling by 2 per cent last year. The Treasury’s comment is as follows:
It would hardly be surprising then if the broad picture outlined here were to prove in retrospect an inaccurate description of 1975-76.
Clearly the Treasury has the gravest reservations about the capacity of the Australian economy, given this Budget, to achieve a growth rate of 5 per cent. Budget statement No. 2 then sets out a further whole range of assumptions, all or any of which could turn out differently. One does not need much imagination, reading between the lines, to come to the conclusion that the Treasury wants to dissociate itself from the Government’s assumption.
Even if the Government is right and gross domestic product does rise by 5 per cent, the Treasury estimates that employment will rise by only 1 per cent. But since there will be an estimated 2 per cent rise in the work force and well over 30 000 more people forced on to the labour market as the Regional Employment Development scheme is phased out in accordance with the Treasurer’s Budget Speech, inherent in the Budget, even accepting its optimistic predictions, is a further increase of about 100 000 in unemployment. When these cold statistics start to appear in human terms, what will be the Treasurer’s chances of maintaining the Budget strategy? My guess is that they will be about nil. The danger then will be that the Government will press the panic button, away will go any thought of holding the Budget deficit to $2,800m and the well known printing presses of the honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns) will start to roll again. We could face a frightening increase in inflation which would soon inevitably be reflected in even higher unemployment.
It has given me no pleasure to reach the conclusion that this Budget will not achieve its objectives, but after seeking information and opinion from a wide cross-section of the community it is the only conclusion that could be reached. That is why I say that the Treasury and the Government are wrong. I would like to give just 2 examples of the sort of investigations which I made. I would like to inform the House of the results of a survey covering 30 major companies in Australia and cross-checked by another rather smaller survey. The results are nothing short of alarming. Prior to the Budget there was a tendency to reduce labour in these companies. As a result of the Budget not one company expected to increase its labour force. As a result of the Budget 48 per cent will reduce their labour force even further. That would indicate to me a substantial rise in unemployment in the next 12 months, with most of the labour force being dropped in the spring quarter of this year. The survey reveals that following the Budget only 17 per cent of companies expect to increase capital expenditure. No less than half of the companies expect to decrease capital expenditure by over 10 per cent in the next 12 months. That is in money terms only and takes no account of inflation.
Things are no better in respect of the profit outlook. The survey reveals that 44 per cent of companies expect their profits to decline as a direct result of the Budget and that only 1 6 per cent expect profits to increase. I would like to refer to another survey which involved 1 1 middle-sized companies each employing between 600 and 700 people. Comparing the 6-month period December 1972 to June 1973 with the 6-month period December 1974 to June 1975- and I remind the House that they are the first and last 6 months respectively of this Labor Governmentwe find that employment in these companies was down by 9.5 per cent, total wages and salaries paid were up 43 per cent despite the fact that 9.5 per cent fewer people were being paid, and total tax paid by this lesser number of wage and salary earners rose by no less than 55 per cent. Nothing could illustrate more clearly the operation of the law of constant shares to which the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly) and I have referred before in this House.
The employment and profit situation I have described is a direct consequence of the share of the gross domestic product represented by company profits declining from about 14 per cent to 9 per cent. This decline has been brought about quite deliberately by the policies of this Government. Indeed, the Government is even inclined to boast about it. Its self-satisfaction has the same sort of crazy logic as was displayed by Mr Gallagher of the Builders Labourers Federation when he claimed that forcing a major construction company into bankruptcy, thus putting thousands of members of his union out of work, was a great victory for the workers. With too many victories like that he will end up with no union at all.
The economic argument is not difficult to follow, even for members of the Australian Labor Party. Companies which make profits employ people. When profits decline or disappear they employ fewer people or they go out of business altogether. That is why we have more than 250 000 people unemployed today and that is why I have come to the conclusion that this Budget will fail. According to all the evidence I have been able to obtain- some of it was quoted a moment ago- the Budget will not restore the confidence which business needs before it invests and creates job opportunities. I emphasise that this is not my opinion; it is the opinion of the people who will be making the business decisions. These decisions are hot off the press, being made after the Treasurer presented his Budget Speech. That is why the Opposition has adopted a completely different approach to Australia’s problems. That is why the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has set out, in greater detail than has ever been done before in this Parliament, an alternative Budget strategy for Australia.
Above all, there must be a wholehearted effort to reduce the rate of inflation in Australia. An essential prerequisite for this is a cutback in government spending. The Opposition has shown where the cuts should be made to achieve an overall reduction in government spending of 5 per cent. Real tax relief must be provided to reduce excessive wage claims. The Opposition has undertaken to phase in over 3 years the recommendations of the Mathews Committee on indexation of personal income tax, a measure which has the complete support of the trade union movement but which was rejected by the Government when it had an opportunity to implement it. That would put another $500m back into people’s pockets. Investment and production must be stimulated, and therefore the Opposition would introduce immediately a 40 per cent investment allowance to apply until June 1977, with a 20 per cent allowance to continue for the next 5 years. There would be a major reform of the company tax and stock valuation system, again based on the recommendations of the Government’s own committee- the Mathews Committee- phased in over 3 years, and quarterly tax payments by companies would be suspended.
Primary industry- the favourite punching bag of the Government- must be recognised as an essential element of our society and our economy. In accordance with the recommendations of the Government’s own body- the Industries Assistance Commission- the Opposition would restore immediately the superphosphate bounty and suspend the levies on the beef industry which is now fighting for survival. These and other initiatives combine to provide a blueprint for economic recovery. Given the incentive, I have no doubt that Australians will accept the challenge. This country has learnt to its bitter cost that the price of Labor government comes high in economic terms but even higher in human terms. We just cannot afford either price much longer. No country can expect to maintain its standard of living with inflation at more than 16 per cent or even higher. No country can hope to maintain employment if sections of the community misuse their industrial power to obtain a larger share of a decreasing national cake at the expense of their fellow citizens.
I remind the House of the survey of the medium sized companies to which I referred a moment ago. Because the wage and salary bill had risen so rapidly, companies employed 9.5 per cent fewer people. Those still in employment were there at the expense of the 9.5 per cent who had been sacked. The ultimate in selfishness surely has been reached when wage claims are pressed to the point where those making them know that other people will be put out of a job if the claims are successful. Let me quote a passage from a recent speech by a national leader which has special relevance to the Australian situation today:
We must keep our industrial costs down, and this means all forms of pay, all incomes. There is no other way. There may be those who, by the use of their own industrial muscle, feel that they could get for themselves such a pay increase as to enable them to escape the rigours of inflation. In the short term, yes- at the expense of more unemployment, at the expense of millions weaker than themselves. In the long term, they delude even themselves, for they and their families have to face the lash-back of inflation they generated by their own actions.
That speech was made only a few days ago by a Labour Prime Minister- Mr Harold Wilson. This Government would do well to heed its message. The fact is that the inflation which we in Australia are now experiencing is in danger of creating a single generation society. When the value of money falls as rapidly as it is doing now, people cease to think of the future or of their children and they cease to look backwards to the problems of the aged; they think only of the present, of themselves. But inflation can be stopped. Other countries have done it and we can do it if only we have the will to take action now.
This alternative Budget- for that is what it ispresented to the people of Australia by the Leader of the Opposition recognises the economic facts of life facing Australia. It spells out how the Opposition would tackle and overcome the tremendous national problems created by this economically illiterate Government. There are 3 things which must be done: Firstly, we cannot go on making people pay through taxation so that the Government can continue to live beyond its means. The Government cannot go on spending as if there were no tomorrow. Secondly, people working for the Government cannot continue to set the pace for wage increases and conditions of employment which the rest of the community cannot match. The Government cannot pay as if there were no tomorrow. Thirdly, we must reduce the taxes which discourage profitable private enterprise. The Government cannot tax as if there were not tomorrow. The Government cannot go on talking as if there were no tomorrow. This alternative Budget and the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition highlight the defects of the Government’s Budget and set out how Australia’s problems can be solved. I have much pleasure in supporting the amendment.
-The honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street) has pointed out that critical to the strategy of this Budget is the psychology or the expectations of the corporate sector. He has claimed that the expectations in certain parts of the corporate sector have not improved as a result of the Budget. If that is the case, I suggest that certain people in the corporate sector do not have a full understanding of what is provided for companies in the 1975-76 Budget. I would like to see all partiesthe Government and the Opposition- try to explain the position because I think that if it were explained it could do a great deal to improve considerably the expectations of the corporate sector and thus to restore economic growth and full employment. I will say something about that in more detail in a moment.
I believe that the Budget deserves the support of every Australian. It has been framed in extraordinarily difficult circumstances, with concurrent inflation and unemployment. We know that the conventional fiscal measures that have been taken in the past to overcome inflation most likely would result in an increase in unemployment. On the other hand, if we take measures primarily to diminish the rate of unemployment by fiscal stimulation, by Budget deficit, we are faced with the threat of hyperinflation. So, with the conjunction of inflation and unemployment, it has been very difficult. The Treasurer (Mr Hayden) has applied himself to the problems objectively, realistically and most conscientiously. He has examined the options and has arrived at a strategy which is the only possible one in the circumstances. I believe that he deserves the congratulations of all people. I believe that he deserves the support of everybody in the community.
There are some signs, notwithstanding the views of members of the Opposition, of recovery in the economy. They are not signs of a strong recovery. Nobody is trying to convince the people that that is so. However, there is evidence. In the last 6 months, there has been an actual increase in gross national product of 5.4 per cent, a very great improvement on the figures for the first 6 months of the financial year 1974-75. There has been a very great run-down in stocks. Therefore, we can expect an increase in production irrespective of whether demand increases. The aim of the Budget is to reinforce these signs of recovery and to try to promote recovery in employment and in production.
Fundamental to these goals, we recognise, is the need to promote confidence in the corporate sector, so that we will be able to control the rate of inflation and to restore some expectation of profitability. The Treasurer has pointed out that the rapid control of inflation, whilst theoretically possible, cannot be done except at a very great social and economic cost to the community. But what can be done is to prevent hyper-inflation and to provide some degree of predictability in the economic climate. I believe that most people probably are not prepared to make investment decisions if they believe that the country will face a hyper-inflationary situation. However, if the economic situation can be reasonably controlled, if we can have some measure of predictability and a modest reduction in the rate of inflation, we will have the type of economic climate which we seek.
To do this, the Government has sought to reduce the Budget deficit below the size it otherwise would have been, and to provide tax relief for companies and individuals. There are those people who say that the size of the Budget deficit does not matter. Some of the principal proponents of this view are members of the so-called Adelaide school of economic thought, of which I am not one. The size of the deficit does matter. Whether it matters on paper is one aspect, but the fact is that many people believe that it is very important.
Inflationary expectations are paramount here and we cannot just consider what might happen on an economic equation; we must consider the psychological impact of it. There had to be a substantial reduction in the deficit. Very great restraint is taking place in the expansion of Government expenditure to achieve that end. A great deal has been done to provide tax relief to individuals and to companies. The rate of company tax has been reduced from 45 per cent to 42 Vi per cent.
Another measure relates to a double depreciation allowance, which has been extended in time and ambit. I believe quite sincerely that these proposals are superior to those contained in the report of the Mathews Committee. It is all very easy for the Leader of the Opposition glibly to assert that he would introduce the Mathews Committee proposals in relation to company tax. But I believe that he has not looked at the very great difficulties involved in this action, that is, the practical difficulties with which companies would be faced plus the fact, that, in certain cases, companies could be worse off.
For instance, the introduction of a system of depreciation on replacement value would mean that those companies which now depreciate on a fixed percentage basis- that is, a diminishing amount in absolute terms- in order to maximise their benefit, would have to change over to a system of straight line depreciation. But, if they do that, it means that their liquidity situation in the early years of operation of the plant would be made worse. This would have precisely the opposite effect to what we are trying to achieve at present. A similar situation applies with respect to stock value adjustment If people are to be able to subtract a certain amount as a result of an up-valuation of stocks as a result of inflation, it should follow logically that in times when the value of stocks declines there would need to be an upward adjustment of the company tax payable. In other words, at a time of slump, companies would be faced with an increased tax liability which would be precisely the opposite of the effect we want to achieve. The Government’s proposals for double depreciation of plant provide a clearly tangible benefit to companies. This is something they can readily understand. This action will have the effect that we want, that is, to encourage investment in and the replacement of equipment. This must have a very great multiplier effect in stimulating employment and production.
I wish to read into the record a quotation from an article by Mr Kenneth Davidson which appeared in the Melbourne Age on 29 August,
Friday last, in which Mr Davidson discussed the alternative Budget proposed by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser). The article reads:
He may have overlooked that corporate cash flows will already be more than $ 1,000m higher than last year. This is because Government company tax revenues will be down $200m this financial year, thanks to the 2.S per cent tax cut and the low level of taxable income last year on which this year’s tax payments are based.
As well, company cash flows will be boosted by a further $ 1,000m from higher incomes if the 5 percent plus growth in the private sector forecast by the Treasury is achieved.
The additional cash flow, plus a continuation of easy monetary policies, should be sufficient to finance a recovery which is prudent in the circumstances.
On the personal tax side, again there has been very substantial and radical tax reform, a matter of very great social importance. On the economic side, it also has very great importance as a basis for the successful continuation of the Government’s proposals for wage indexation. It has been said by spokesmen for the Australian Council of Trade Unions- I would agree with the proposition- that tax indexation is a necessary prerequisite if wage indexation is to be a goer. The fact is that in this Budget the number of steps in the tax schedule has been halved. We see that the marginal rate of tax on a taxable income between $5,000 and $10,000 is now constant at 35c in the $1. Let us not forget that over half of Australia’s taxpayers are in this income bracket. Therefore, the marginal rate of tax paid by a person receiving in excess of $100 a week will not increase until that income exceeds $200 a week. This is a very substantial step forward as it provides de facto tax indexation to more than half of Australia’s taxpayers.
At this stage, I would like to refute completely the ridiculous proposition of the Leader of the Opposition who says that it is not the marginal rate of taxation that matters, but the average rate. Remember we are talking about the effects of the marginal wage increases. We are talking about the marginal propensity of workers to work overtime or to gain additional income from any source, and incentive effect. Obviously when we are making marginal decisions on wages for work it is the marginal rate of tax which is relevant. I believe that the Leader of the Opposition had no grounds for his claim. (Quorum formed). I was saying that the assertion by the Leader of the Opposition that in considering the rate of tax the average rate of tax should be considered rather than the marginal rate of tax is a claim for which there is no substance. He did not try to substantiate it.
As to the increases in charges in indirect taxes, it is true that this could have the effect of raising the consumer price index. However, I put it to the House that the effect of this is more than offset by the introduction of Medibank. It should be realised, although I think a lot of people do not realise it, that public hospitals no longer charge fees and that it is no longer necessary to belong to a private health insurance fund if one goes to a public hospital in the participating States. This means that unless people want to insure specifically for private hospital accommodation, private health insurance is no longer necessary. In my home State of South Australia a person who previously belonged to family rate table 7 will get a saving of $4.53 a week which in most cases would more than offset any increase in the consumer price index arising from increased taxes and charges.
I suggest that there is one area where some saving in the Budget might be made. It is in relation to one aspect of Medibank- it is perhaps the most important aspect of it- and that is doctors’ fees. At the last hearing of the one-man fees tribunal- that is, Mr Macintosh- set up by the previous Minister for Social Security, now the Treasurer, the doctors were awarded a fee increase of 4.2 per cent. Presumably this was to compensate for increases in the cost of living. However, I am sure that Mr Macintosh failed to take into account that as from 1 July, with the introduction of Medibank, doctors treating pensioners would be receiving 85 per cent of the common fee as opposed to 60 per cent which they were receiving under the previous pensioner medical service.
Let us not forget that pensioner medical service patients provided 25 per cent to 30 per cent of doctors’ incomes. The tribunal chose to disregard this and awarded a fee increase of 4.2 per cent, a decision which in my view was absolutely preposterous. In justice the fees should have been reduced. I hope that when the matter comes up again for review on 1 January this aspect will be taken into account. I hope also that the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp), who was sounding off over the weekend about the cost of Medibank, will go along to the tribunal hearing and support the proposal that the increased incomes of doctors as a result of these increased payments in respect of pensions be taken into account. So much for the economic side of the Budget.
As a social document the Budget has tremendous importance particularly in the areas of tax reform by way of the introduction of flat rebates for expenditure at the rate of 40c in the dollar and also the introduction of a minimum rebate of $540 irrespective of expenditure on the deductible items. A lot of attention has been given to the fact that people on high incomes received favourable treatment under the old concessional deduction system because they had a higher marginal rate of tax. For example, under the old system a person earning $10,000 a year and spending $200 a year on chemists’ bills was entitled to a deduction of 48c in the dollar in respect of those bills and would have made a tax saving of $96. A person on $6,000 a year spending the same amount on chemists’ bills was entitled to a deduction of 32c in the dollar because he was on a lower marginal rate of tax. His tax saving would have been $64. So under the old scheme there was a considerable inequity favouring the person on a high income.
There is another aspect of this which is equally important. The person on the lower income is less likely to be able to spend that $200 on chemists’ bills so he would not have been able to take advantage of that limited tax saving because he would not have been able to afford that extra expenditure on deductible items. That matter is referred to in the speech of the Leader of the Opposition who said:
The system of rebates, as it has been implemented, amounts to a cancellation of deductions for health and dental expenses, school fees and so forth for taxpayers who claim less than $1,350. The deductions were originally designed to encourage people to provide for themselves and their children, and that is a proper objective of government. The rebate system, as it has been implemented, is designed to encourage taxpayers to leave it to the State, and that is the objective of the Australian Labor Party.
What the Leader of the Opposition is saying is that people should be allowed to take full advantage of the tax concessions and that if they spend an extra amount they should get the full benefit. I would like to stand that assertion on its head. What the Government is saying is that people should be allowed to get some rebate even if they could not afford to spend the full amount of the rebate. In other words, even if a person could afford to spend only $100 on chemists’ bills he would still be able to attract the minimum rebate. This is a most important provision. Every person with up to a maximum of $1,350 in deductions will be able to take advantage of this provision. People will not be disadvantaged because they cannot afford to spend as much as people on higher incomes on chemists ‘ bills, dentists ‘ bills, council rates and other deductible items. Of course, this means a much more egalitarian system.
No wonder it was so viciously attacked by the Leader of the Opposition who referred to the
Australian Labor Party’s policies as enforced equality. Note the pejorative word ‘enforced’. I would have thought that equality was a very worthy objective. Obviously the Leader of the Opposition does not share that view and tries to cloud the issue by using the expression ‘enforced equality’. Obviously what the Leader of the Opposition favours- and he makes no secret of it- is enforced inequality. I really wonder whether all those honourable members who sit behind him subscribe to that view, but that is the prevailing ethic of the Liberal and National Country Parties at the present time. It is quite obvious that on his recent visit to Australia Professor Milton Friedman did an extremely good con job on Opposition members because they have swallowed his social Darwinist line hook, line and sinker. It is interesting that recently the Leader of the Opposition said he was going to introduce a scheme- (Quorum formed). I have run out of time. It is obvious that the Opposition wants every Government member to have 15 minutes speaking time as against their twenty. They can go to hell.
-The 1975-76 Budget fails in its 2 prime responsibilities, the reduction of inflation and the restoration of full employment. It is a Budget which continues to expand the public sector without setting the conditions in which that expansion can be supported by the Australian economy. The aims and objectives of the Whitlam Government, set down in 1972, were predicated on economic growth, full employment and price stability. None of those basic economic conditions have been met. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) promised an economic growth rate of 6 per cent- but it is declining in real terms. The Prime Minister promised a reduced rate of inflation; prices have spiralled from 4.5 per cent to 16.9 per cent. The Prime Minister promised full employment, yet unemployment has increased from under 1 10 000 to over 300 000. Economic growth and price stability are basic to social reform and progress. The Whitlam experiment has set back community progress, not advanced it. The Whitlam experiment has created social division, not social reform. The Henderson report referred to the impact of inflation in these terms:
In our judgment, no country with a continuing rate of inflation of over 10 per cent has been able to prevent this causing grave hardship to important groups of poor people. We therefore recommend that one element essential in any programme to reduce poverty in Australia, is that the rate of inflation be brought under control. (Quorum formed) The 1975-76 Budget should have been an instrument to reverse the economic slide and to recover from past errors. That opportunity has not been taken. The implications of the Budget cannot be obscured by the rhetoric of the speech of the Treasurer (Mr Hayden). 1 ne present economic crisis is the result of almost 3 years of serious policy errors by this Federal Labor Government. Never in Australia’s history has the course of monetary policy been so erratic and so damaging. Never before has the public sector been expanded so rapidly without regard to its structural consequences. These 2 factorsrapid public sector expansion and violently fluctuating monetary growth- have been principal causes of the present economic dilemma. Both derive from the deliberative decision of this Government. As the July Bulletin of the International Monetary Fund pointed out:
The origins of the Australian recession are . . . to be found in domestic developments.
This year’s Budget has a number of serious contradictions. The Budget implies an increase in unemployment. If the work force grows by 2 per cent and employment by only one per cent the inevitable result will be an increase in the number of Australians unable to find work. In the short run, with the addition of school leavers and the phasing out of unemployment relief programs, even the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions admits, unemployment could reach five hundred thousand. This is far more significant than the ‘fluctuations’ referred to by the Federal Treasurer. The Budget Papers state explicitly that real investment will continue to decline throughout the whole of this financial year. Given the serious erosion of investment spending which has already taken place, this means that Australia’s investment base- the critical element of the economy’s future growth- is to be further eroded. But the most disturbing element of the overall Budget strategy is its own lack of confidence- the hazardous nature of the estimates put down in the Budget Papers. The Budget statements point out what the Opposition has emphasised during the whole of the past 2 years: High rates of inflation and unemployment reduce certainty and confidence to dangerous levels. Budget Statement No. 2 highlights the state of uncertainty in the following terms:
It would hardly be surprising then, if the broad picture outlined here were to prove, in retrospect, an inaccurate description of 1975-76.
There are, therefore, very real doubts about even the most critical assumptions upon which this Federal Budget is based. One of the major causes of doubt is simply the indecisive nature of the Budget itself. For the first time the Treasury has given emphasis to the influence of inflationary expectations and consumer and business confidence. There is no consistent attempt in the Budget to deal with either factor. There is no decisive fiscal action to restore corporate profits or to generate investment spending. There is no decisive action to curb inflationary expectations or to make the Budget consistent with an overall framework and policy of wage and salary restraint. On the contrary, tax indexation- cited by the ACTU as an essential part of incomes restrainthas apparently been rejected by this Labor administration. Rather than a strategy to neutralise tax-induced income claims the Government proposes to increase total income tax receipts by 34 per cent -43 per cent on a pay as you earn basis- in order to achieve a $2.6 billion rise in revenue. In aggregate, the Government will receive more revenue this year than it would have received if all taxes and charges had remained unaltered.
The income tax provisions of this Budget are directed against the objectives of wage and salary restraint. In the same way, the Budget is not conducive to an increase in consumer confidence. There is no certainty about the direction of private consumption spending at the present time. A boost to spending is clearly required now- not in January 1976 when the limited tax concessions are to take effect. But the major element of uncertainty which this Budget ignores is the current level of business confidence. The Vh. per cent reduction in company taxation will in no way lift the level of business confidence. The $120m cut in company taxation must be seen in the context of the vastly increased level of business costs which will be incurred as a result of increased government charges. I refer here to the petroleum and coal levies and the postal and telegraph charges.
The business community will also be required to take account of the cutbacks in overall industry assistance. Both consumers and companies have received similar treatment- limited concessions considerably outweighed by increasing costs. The accelerated depreciation allowance can in no way be represented as an effective stimulus to private sector investment; it is, at best, a very temporary measure. Is the allowance to be removed at the end of this financial year? Is the company tax rate to be reinstated at 45 per cent at the end of this financial year? The Government completely misunderstands the determinants of private investment spending. Once again the private sector has been presented with what can be best described as a temporary policy; there is no long term package of policies on which business planning can reasonably take place.
In essence therefore, this year’s Budget has been framed on the highly dangerous assumption that economic recovery is assured. No government has a right to introduce economic strategy on such a dubious basis. This is the fundamental difference between the strategy put forward by the Government and the alternative set of constructive proposals set down in detail by the Opposition Parties. In spite of some marginal improvement in the June quarter national accounts aggregates for investment, consumption and home building, there remain serious weaknesses in the economy, contrary to what Labor Party speakers have put forward in this debate. These weaknesses are reflected in the statistical trends of unemployment, production of basic commodities and retail sales.
Other factors such as the overall pessimism reflected in business surveys and the degree to which stocks need to be run down must also of course be considered. Finally, the degree to which corporate profits declined during 1974-75 clearly means that the private sector as a whole is in a severely weakened condition. We on the Opposition side of the House believe that an automatic recovery is not necessarily assured. The Australian economy remains in a state of critical balance. Positive measures should have been taken to induce a resurgent private sector.
We believe that the Budget should have been directed to two principal functions: The reduction of inflation, and the revival of investment, output and employment. The Budget should have been, as in fact it was not, a positive and unequivocal agent in achieving these principal objectives. Inflation will not be controlled until the impact of tax-push inflation has been substantially eradicated. The 1975-76 Budget, like its predecessor, has ignored the impact of increased taxation on the wage bargaining process. The Government has chosen to ignore it because of its overriding commitment to the rapid expansion of the public sector. It is an inescapable fact that inflation will not be brought under control until the pressure for excessive wage and salary increases is neutralised. The very marginal reductions in the rate of personal income tax which this Budget provides represent a direct threat to incomes restraint in general and to the policy of wage indexation in particular.
An additional $500m should have been made available for taxation relief, and a firm commitment should have been given to the introduction of taxation indexation. Without the indexation of income tax, the benefits of wage indexation will be substantially eroded. There is no doubt about the widespread acceptance of the need for tax indexation. In this regard I refer to paragraph 26 of the Mathews report, which said:
There is overwhelming support, from all sections of the Australian community, for the principle of personal tax indexation. Among those supporting indexation are trade union organisations, industry associations (representing rural, commercial, manufacturing, mining and service industries), many large and small companies, professional bodies and Australian and State Government departments or agencies.
The Mathews report, an objective, independent report outside of government but widely representative of all of the views throughout the Australian community, went on in paragraph 27 to say:
The view is widely held that failure to adjust the progressive income tax schedule for the effects of inflation will lead to an acceleration in the rate of wage increases.
On Sunday evening the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) issued a statement saying that tax indexation would build inflation into the system. Nothing is further from the truth. Clearly, the Prime Minister is out of step with economic opinions and international evidence. I might say that I recently had discussions with the Canadian Minister of Finance, Mr John Turner, concerning the indexation of income tax. Tax indexation works in Canada. There is no doubt that it will work in Australia.
We believe that immediate negotiations should commence with the Australian Council of Trade Unions and other major industrial groups. Subject to these discussions, tax indexation should be introduced as an element of a 3-year program of economic management. Our 3-year commitment is a commitment to reduce the burden of taxation by a policy of indexation, a policy which is not only economically essential but also of fundamental social importance. The Henderson report emphasised in precise terms the need for poorer groups in the community to be guaranteed sufficient income to spend according to their choice, not at government direction. In short, a revised set of income tax provisions is urgently required to support the restraint of excessive incomes claims, to provide equity and to stimulate the overall demand for goods and services. The Opposition parties believe that the Budget’s failure to provide an immediate impetus to private spending is a serious error of judgment and timing.
In conjunction with the program of incomes restraint, we recognise that this year’s Budget should be accompanied by a responsible program of monetary control. The erratic monetary strategies pursued since the earliest days of the Labor Government have been important elements of the economic breakdown which this country now faces. There was no substantive mention of monetary policy in the Treasury Budget Speech, no indication of how this year’s record deficit is to be financed. These represent serious economic omissions.
We are concerned about the difficulties for monetary management posed by the 1975-76 deficit. The Opposition’s alternative programs are based on no increase in the estimated deficit. Given the other requirements of our strategy, we believe that there should be a progressive reduction of the deficit during a 3-year period. This does not mean that we would accept that the deficit should be financed this year by an expansion in the money supply which would accommodate increases in the rate of overall inflation. A 20 per cent rate of monetary growth this year would not be consistent with a genuine antiinflationary program. Equally, an overly restrictive monetary strategy could lead to an undue reduction in the level of finance available for the private sector, especially during the last half of the financial year. This factor will require careful consideration from the monetary authorities and is, of course, one of the factors which the Opposition Parties are pressing in their quest for more information in the context of the Loan Bill now before the Senate. Two further aspects of our program would protect the corporate sector from the strains associated with financing the overall deficit. We would have suspended the present system under which company tax is paid on a quarterly basis. We would have provided a new form of company tax assessment. I will deal with this separately.
The second major thrust of this year’s Budget should have been to stimulate private sector output and investment, thereby creating conditions for a return to full employment. But the Budget will contribute more to increased business costs in 1975-76 than it offers by way of concessions. There is little doubt that an immediate start should have been made this year to the introduction of the Mathews Committee’s recommendations. As the Parliament is well aware, we proposed that the Committee’s stock valuation proposal should have been implemented at 50 per cent of its recommended rate. Combined with a company tax rate of 45 per cent, the maximum cost of this initiative would amount to $380m during this financial year. Such a decision not only would have been of substantial assistance to the private sector this year, but also would have provided an essential basis for longer term planning and investment spending.
Combined with a 3-year program, including the Mathews recommendations, our policies would have made a full economic recovery a matter of certainty. Quite clearly the Budget will fail to meet the critical tasks of reducing inflation and increasing employment. I trust that the Government will look towards the remedies which have been put forward by the Opposition as constructive, positive and essential alternatives. We believe that the strategies outlined would place Australia firmly on the path to economic recovery. No less a program is urgently required at the present time.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-The Government recognises that the main economic problems of this country, and this goes for most countries, are unemployment and inflation. Part of the Budget objectives is to combat these problems, but other objectives are equally important. They include an equitable distribution of the nation’s wealth, an optimum rate of growth, a healthy balance of payments and a concern with the quality of life or community welfare. The Opposition has concentrated on the Budget as the main economic regulator. Its arguments during the Budget debate show that it has ignored distribution of the nation’s wealth and equality of opportunity and has indicated its fanaticism to the profit goal and its support of the ‘rip-off’ society. The alternative Budget proposals of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser) show that he has a concern neither for accuracy nor for welfare.
However, I must congratulate the members of the Opposition on lifting the standard of the form of debate on the Budget. Their proposals underlying the amendment give the people a clear alternative as to what might have happened if members of the Opposition had been in government. Their proposals would have polarised the people. The proposals show the Opposition’s rejection of community responsibility through government and a promotion of the outdated and outworn concept that what is good for big business is good for Australia.
In promoting himself and his philosophy of elitism, based on Ayn Rand’s economic Darwinismshe calls it ‘Objectivism’- the Leader of the Opposition clearly has rewritten his Party’s economic policy, much to the chagrin of his colleagues for it appears that he did not consult them at any stage. Apart from welfare considerations we must ask which measures- the Government’s Budget or the Opposition’s proposals- are more likely to stimulate the economy. The Treasurer (Mr Hayden) has outlined the Government’s measures. I remind the House that the Budget is only one of several tools of economic management. This Budget reinforces the advances made under other policies in the wage, monetary, tariff and external areas. The Government has planned a deficit of a size that will stimulate the economy without causing competition for resources- the ultimate consequence of which, as honourable members know, is more inflation. Members of the Opposition- if we can accept their figures- are within about $600m of the size of our deficit, but at a greatly reduced level of government activity.
The Leader of the Opposition has indicated where he would make definite cuts in government expenditure but is still $5 60m short of his target, which must increase further the government deficit and inflationary pressures. He still has to explain where the Opposition would cut government expenditure to gain that extra $560m. Would members of the Opposition cut government expenditure on education- incidentally, one of the greatest inputs of productionwhich we have increased by 1 4.2 per cent? This is a follow-up to a quadrupling of education expenditure in only 2 years. Would they cut expenditure on health, which is a basic right of every Australian? Would they cut back on Medibank just for spite, to prove it would be a failure, and so jeopardise the health care of all Australians? The honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp) certainly is a disciple of that point of view. Would members of the Opposition cut back on pensions, which for the first time are in excess of 25 per cent of the average weekly earnings? Would they ask the pensioners, the disadvantaged and the need to bear the brunt of their cut in government expenditure? Would they tell the Returned Services League that repatriation pensions and benefits would be cut? Would they inform State and local governments that there would be a cut in their grants, whereas this Government has increased their funding by 40 per cent?
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch), who has just spoken, talks of poverty and the Henderson inquiry yet will not admit that the roots of that poverty he in the 23 years of Liberal neglect of welfare. It appears from the speeches of members of the Opposition that they wish to return to that state. Some cuts are clear.
The Opposition would dismantle the Prices Justification Tribunal- a body which claimed that in its first year of operation it saved the Australian consumer $253m in unjustifiable profits that would have undermined the real gains won by wage and salary earners. The average employee’s real earnings- that is, after tax- rose 7 per cent in 1974-75, or almost 10 per cent when the unrecorded benefits from education, health and social security are added. The Opposition want to save $2.4m by abolishing the PJT. That move would cost the people $253m- more than 100 times the relief in tax that the people would receive ‘to spend as they like’, so the Leader of the Opposition said.
Mr Speaker, I have heard of con.men, but they were cleanskins compared with the honourable member for Wannon. While the wage and salary earners are compelled to argue and to justify their pay increases, no longer will business have to justify its increases; it will set its own. I say ‘set’ advisedly. It will set them because no longer do normal competitive forces operate in the modern corporate, conglomerate society, despite the work of the Trade Practices Commission. (Quorum formed) The Opposition would dismantle also the Australian Legal Aid Office. By saving $8.7m the Opposition would deprive persons in need, particularly disadvantaged persons, of advice and assistance. The Opposition wants to stimulate the economy, to stimulate business on the backs of those in need in society. Honourable members will note that I said $8.7m- not $ 16.7m, as claimed by the Opposition. The total amount includes $7m to legal practitioners in the private sector and $lm in grants to the States to supplement existing legal aid schemes.
One could go on with many examples, but the people would prefer the Opposition to come clean and to own up to where it would make the cuts in government spending which provides the community welfare. The difference between these 2 Budgets- if I can apply that euphemism to the Opposition’s proposals- is not that we are anti-business and the Opposition is pro-business. The Budget is based on a different approach to stimulating business, a different understanding of business and the consequences of those approaches for the general community. That distinguishes the Government from the Opposition. Both sides accept the concept of a mixed economy, but this Government believes that it should be the elected representatives of the people- not big business, the multinationals and Australia’s own private bureaucracies- that should run this country. We believe that it should be the community as a whole, not the wealthy few, who should determine what is best for Australia.
Contrary to the remarks made by the honourable member for Wide Bay (Mr Millar), I believe that many worthwhile efforts have been made by this Government to stimulate business confidence and investment and to dampen inflationary expectations. In money terms government expenditure has been cut by half. In real growth terms it has been cut from 10 per cent to 3 per cent, leaving more resources for the private sector where there is competition for resources. The property income tax surcharge has been abolished. Company tax has been reduced by 5 percentage points in 12 months. Income tax has been cut, placing more spending power in the hands of those with the highest marginal rate of consumption, that is, the people who are forced by needs and circumstances to spend more per dollar of their income than those on higher incomes. These Budget measures are in addition to other measures, including support for the principle of wage indexation which will keep wage increases within the capacity of industry to pay, sales tax cuts on motor vehicles to stimulate the motor vehicle industry and the establishment of the Small Business Bureau.
To the Opposition, government expenditure is bad; yet in this mixed economy more than twothirds of public expenditure goes into the private sector. Government spending on hospitals, schools and roads, government purchases and welfare payments ends up in the private sector. It is simplistic nonsense to claim that increased government expenditure has caused the problems of the private sector. On the other hand, cutbacks proposed by the Opposition equal to another cut of 3 per cent in government spending would have a dampening effect on the recovery in the private sector. Has the Opposition overlooked the fact that corporate cash flows will increase by $ 1,000m over the amount for last year? I remind the Opposition that Government tax revenue will be down $200m due to the extra 2.5 per cent cut in company tax and due to the low level of taxable income last year on which this year’s payments are based. Further, if incomes are higher, as it is predicted they will be, company cash flows will be boosted by another $ 1 ,000m. Provided monetary policy is in concert, and there is no reason or suggestion to expect restrictions, this should be sufficient to finance expansion and recovery consistent with public sector obligations. This is the important thing that the Opposition has forgotten. -
The Budget program is real and feasible. Already there are signs of an economic recovery at home and overseas. Over the last few months Australia has experienced some growth in personal expenditure, an overall increase in national income and expenditure, a continued run down of non-farm stocks, a stabilising of unemployment and signs- they are only signs but a harbinger of more to come- that inflation is abating. The past measures taken by this Government are definitely working. The Budget measures will reinforce that recovery. At the same time, the Government has continued the community programs demanded by the electorate. The difference between the Government and the Opposition is a recognition of responsibility, the interplay and the division between the public and the private sectors. However, the Opposition has opted for massive- and nowhere has it demonstrated they would be more effectualboosts to big corporate business and restoration of subsidies so as to satisfy their coalition partners and the hidden donors to their election funds. (Quorum formed.) Their cuts in Government expenditure and their handouts to their hidden donors of election funds would cripple the community sector. The people are heaving a sigh of relief that the Opposition is not in power but merely revelling in the fantacies and joys of irresponsibility that is the trademark of the Opposition and that it is not in a position to destroy our mixed economy. That comment bears emphasis. I reject the amendment and support the Budget.
– This Budget has been aptly labelled as a confidence trick. It is a double shuffle accountacy take. Other speakers in the debate have highlighted the fact that tax deductions and pension increases are nothing but a double deal with figures with regard to Australians generally. I wish to speak about the Budget as it affects the Northern Territory. I have already said in the Northern Territory that this Budget is bad news for Territorians. This Government’s attitude towards the Northern Territory is equally bad news. The dreaded Coombs report continues to throw its shadow across the Territory scene. I am sure that report flavours Labor’s every thought towards the Northern Territory.
We have seen a tremendous assault on primary industry, pastoral and mining which has occurred during the past Vh years. We have seen the abolition of fuel equalisation, the abolition of freight assistance and the abolition of building assistance for primary industry. All these moves have hit these great income earning industries to such an extent that the cattle industry is on its knees. Worse, many private family owned cattle stations and farms have gone to the wall all over Australia. More will follow. What has this Government done in the face of this? It has raised fuel prices by at least 6c a gallon. This will multiply freight costs. It will cut down any chance that many businessmen, cattle breeders, miners and others have of remaining viable. The Government is content to spend $60.4m in 1974-75 and $135m in 1975-76 on the Regional Employment Development scheme. In 1974-75 the Government spent $43.6m on structural assistance. It spent $103m in 1974-75 and $142m in 1975-76. This money was spent on give away schemes which were introduced to try to plug the holes caused by Labor’s own incompetence. But what amounts of money have been voted to assist one of Australia’s major export industries? The Government cannot run these great socialist schemes without having viable export industries to bring the wealth back into the country. I deal first with the mining industry. Nothing has been done in respect of that industry. It has been hit by a series of blows in regard to freight, export taxes, nationalisation moves and doubtful behaviour concerning leases.
– The Government hates exporters.
– That is right. Anyone who is engaged in production or especially in the export business appears to be the enemy of this Labor Government. Another major income earner was the beef industry. What has happened to that industry? Last year the Government provided $2 8m for assistance to this industry. This year, it will provide assistance totalling $ 19.6m, making a total. of $47m. Yet we have this tremendous outlay of $245m for the 2 non-productive schemes I have mentioned. I know that the Government was paying the men virtually to give them a feed. But these men were unemployed because of this Government’s incompetence and bungling of the economy.
On top of this, the Government has hammered the Northern Territory beef producers with a 50 per cent rise in rail freights, not to mention the recent rise of 20 per cent to 25 per cent on general freight and passenger carriage charges on Comrail. Those increases took place in only the last few weeks. All these measures have an effect on the Northern Territory economy. It will be a very bad effect. The Territory is really suffering from the effects of this Government being in office. The private individual, industry and the Northern Territory development generally are sagging and will go down to a lower ebb. I accuse this Government of deliberately attacking and discriminating against Territorians in particular and country people in general. That is exactly what it is doing with the implementation of the recommendations of the Coombs report and the taxes and charges which, one after the other, it is heaping on our heads.
– The Government hates farmers.
-Surely it would be of advantage to assist primary producers to carry on rather than to break them and then give them minimal assistance. As the honourable member for Wakefield said, this Government hates farmers. It hates anyone who lives outside the suburbs of the great capital cities. No wonder the economy of the country is in a shambles when the Government has this one-eyed, one-way, nohoper attitude towards the industries which produce the wealth of Australia. I know that the Opposition, when it comes to government, will not and could not treat this section of Australian citizens with such callous disregard.
While speaking on this aspect of the Budget, I ask: What has happened to the Darwin port development scheme, on which I may have time to say more later? What has happened to road construction? I know that the Stuart Highway, the Erlduna to the South Australian border section, is to pick up $3.275m this year for construction. But that was voted last year and nothing was done at all. So there is no new vote in that direction and there is no major road building project in this Budget. Why not use the Regional Employment Development scheme money, which has been poured away with a certain amount of disregard, and the money from all the other assistance schemes on some of these productive and nationally important projects? The amount spent on these unemployment schemes to deal with unemployment mainly caused, as I have said, by government bungling and ineptitude, could be spent on the railway line from Port Augusta to Alice Springs and on the sealing of the dual highway which was promised by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam)- quite a false promise, I am sure, because nothing has happened about it. He promised it in the main street in Alice Springs prior to the last election. Nothing has happened about that. Had the Government apllied itself practically to these projects it could have employed many thousands of people and got some productive jobs done.
Speaking of nationally important projects, I urge the Government, as I have done in this House recently, to hasten the construction of the Tarcoola to Alice Springs railway. I know work is being done on it but there is no telling when it will be finished, considering the way it is going and the money that does not seem to be available. Approval should also be given to commence the survey of the Alice Springs-Larrimah link to Darwin. I have spoken often, as recently as last week, concerning the breakdown in Northern Territory surface communications. One of the last times this occurred, and certainly the most serious north of Alice Springs, was when Darwin urgently needed housing and building materials. A permanent way could have solved the Newcastle Waters crisis, where trucks were held for more than a month on either side of the water, unable to cross.
The Timor refugee situation is currently causing concern and embarrassment to the Government and concern to the people who live in Darwin because of the overcrowding of the damaged city. It could well have been a flood- and it may well still turn out to be a flood and not a trickle of refugees. It could have been a problem again calling for large consignments of freight, foodstuffs, clothing and so on, from the south. I might add that the road south from Alice Springs to Port Augusta was cut only last weekend. So once again this communication problem is rearing its head. It should be obvious to this Government that it should be improving access to Australia’s gateway in the north.
I now turn to another aspect of Labor’s failure to consider seriously the Territory’s problems and general situation. Once again this Budget is an accountancy switch with regard to the Territory. An amount of $97m has been voted for the Darwin Reconstruction Commission. But when one looks at the civil works program planned or in train before cyclone Tracy it must be realised that most of this amount was allocated a long time prior to the evolution of the DRC. Contracts have been let for 1400 houses but not very much building has taken place. I have seen the housing sites. The houses are mainly at the foundation stage and not many have been commenced. Under the normal non-cyclone conditions 600 houses would have been built anyway. So, as I said, the Budget provides a re-hash of what should have been a normal appropriation for the Northern Territory.
Regarding local government, on the Northern Territory summary sheet of housing, before the cyclone there were 1400 houses for which the Government paid ex gratia payments to the Corporation of the City of Darwin in lieu of rates. Now there are only 400 such houses. In fact the Government has now reduced its ex gratia payment by two-thirds for its houses. The Darwin
City Corporation will still have to maintain the streets, the water supply, the electricity supply and so on. So it will have to raise extra rates from the citizens of Darwin who are already sore and hardly pressed trying to reconstruct their dwellings and to live under severe conditions. The Budget provides $100,000 for this financial year for this payment, as against an expenditure last year of $242,000. So these people in the north are being disadvantaged all the time. As I have said, the Budget was a confidence trick. We in our part of the country are certainly getting nothing out of it. The excuse for this was that there are only 410 habitable houses out of 1440 but, as I say again, surely this Government should have realised the responsibilities of the Darwin City Corporation for financing its normal services such as rubbish collection, power and water supply and so on.
Concerning the Northern Territory Housing Commission, I notice that in the Budget $13m has been allocated to the Commission. Admittedly, last year that Commission did not spend $3.2m of its allocation. But let us remember that as from Christmas Day to the day this Budget was brought down there would have been little or no construction in Darwin. There certainly has not been by the DRC. The Housing Commission was unable to use the allocation certainly during the first three or four months of this year. Now, when homes are desperately needed- the Northern Territory Housing Commission has a tremendous capacity to build them, I assure honourable members- the Commission could spend $20m and could fulfil both public and private requirements for houses. To have increased the Commission’s appropriation would have been simple common sense.
Another question I must ask the Government is: What has happened to the promise that Darwin residents could hand back to the Government their housing blocks, the houses on which were damaged in the cyclone, either with or without those damaged houses? This was a direct promise to the people of Darwin. They were told the blocks would be revalued and purchased so that those people would either have the money to go and build somewhere else or to put into an investment for the future.
– But who made the promise?
-‘ Who made the promise?’ asks my friend from Wimmera. It was the Labor Minister for Northern Australia (Dr Patterson) who made the promise. The idea of the proposal was that a large amount of land could again be put to use and serviced properly. After all, despite the houses being blown down and carried away, the electrical, sewerage and water services were still there. Now there is a drastic shortage of cash to pay for such blocks. Last year only $lm was allocated for this purpose and this year $2m is provided. There are 1600 blocks awaiting purchase and $3m would purchase only 180 of them. This Government has caused great hardship, heartache and confusion because of these broken promises either by the Department of Urban and Regional Development or the Minister or both. I point out that there will be tremendous waste of public money if new blocks have to be purchased and serviced. Blocks are there already and all that is needed is some sort of co-operation between the Government departments to get on with this job. It is just another example of the utter confusion and lack of planning which is rife in government departments today. But why, I ask, must a disadvantaged citizen be made to suffer?
When in Opposition Labor made loud noises about a fully elected Legislative Council. The Northern Territory now has a fully elected Legislative Assembly. It was elected by the people on 19 October 1974. Despite 2 reports from the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Northern Territory and much talk of an inter-ministerial or inter-departmental report to Cabinet nothing has happened. In this Budget no provision is made for staff or back-up for the Assembly Executive. This is an oversight which would not have occurred had the Legislative Assembly been consulted on this matter. So far as I can find out, it has not been consulted on anything. Why has there been no move to set up a committee- as recommended twice by the Joint Parliamentary Committee under section 1 18B- comprising the Minister for the Northern Territory and Executive Members of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly to discuss all these vital matters? That Committee should and could have been set up long ago. When is the Government going to match the noise it made about self-government and increased legislative responsibility for the Northern Territory when it was in Opposition? A chaotic situation exists at present in the medical and dental staffs of Northern Territory hospitals and clinics. I urge the Government to take heed of the salary difference between those working in the north and those in the south otherwise positions in the Northern Territory will never be filled.
I turn now to the question of defence. Recently we heard much of the strength, readiness, morale and logistics of Australia’s armed forces. What the Minister for Defence (Mr Morrison) has been saying is aimed at allaying the very real fears of Australians that Australia is virtually undefended. We have heard from those who really know that Australia could not maintain one battalion at full strength in the field. Why does this ‘ Government continue to turn its back on the defence of the nation and close its eyes to the slaughter being organised around the worldnow in East Timor- by its acknowledged friends, the various communist parties and their fronts? Earlier I spoke of Darwin port development, Darwin could once again be in the firing line. Communism has been imported to East Timor. It is now on our front doorstep and it is in the open. Darwin should be Australia’s gateway to and from Asia. It has a first-class harbour which could be developed into a really sound and solid naval station. Until recently it had the longest runway in Australia; actually the longest in South-East Asia. I think its length has since been exceeded by the runway at Kingsford Smith Airport. But Darwin should be developed into a major air defence base. Darwin should be the centre of north Australian surveillance and defence. Logistics and personnel should be moved north. Despite the Prime Minister’s studied insult of the Returned Services League, its saying that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance could never be more relevant and nothing could be further from Labor’s policies. The myths of peace in our time and no threat in the foreseeable future have been exploded. I pray that the negligence of Labor will not bring disaster before the nation becomes prepared with regard to men, material and mentality.
-I am sorry to say that what the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) just said is not the best speech I have heard him make. I appreciate his past commendation of my Government for the manner in which it handled events after cyclone Tracy but I do not believe my Government is deserving of his criticism this evening. My Government is concerned about the rebuilding of the Northern Territory. The honourable member for the Northern Territory is a member of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Northern Territory and, if my memory serves me correctly he with other members of that Committee inspected the tragic devastation of the Northern Territory. Many members of that Committee agreed that there well could have been some hankypanky business in the building of some of the houses that were blown down. They believe that the houses, when built, did not conform to the specifications laid down, otherwise they would have resisted to a greater degree the cyclone.
I agree with my Government that it is better to be patient and have houses properly reconstructed, although there is an unfortunate delay, than to have them jerry built as was the case prior to the cyclone. I believe this is one of the major reasons for the delay in rebuilding. I should like to disclose another reason for the delay. I waited patiently for it to emanate from the lips of the honourable member for the Northern Territory. I thought he would have enlightened the House as to why, if my information is correct, his colleague, Mr Geoff Letts, the Leader of the House in the Northern Territory, has resigned from the Darwin Reconstruction Committee. I would like the Deputy Speaker to give the honourable member for the Northern Territory time to tell the House why this resignation. My investigators in the Northern Territory are working on this matter now. I believe they may well unearth evidence of some hankypanky business going on with certain contractors who are submitting tenders to rebuild Darwin. My investigators believe that certain shady things are going on. I understand, and it could be a fact, that Mr Geoff Letts fears that he could get his fingers burned and he has got out of the Darwin Reconstruction Committee.
– What an absolute lie!
– I hope the honourable member will inform the House as to the reason in the forthright manner he assumes to possess when he speaks in this Parliament from time to time. The Minister for the Northern Territory (Dr Patterson) has already disclosed to this House the shocking exploitation that is going on in the Northern Territory by certain people who are renting houses at exorbitant rates. There is exploitation with respect to food and other commodities essential for the maintenance of life. I think the honourable member for the Northern Territory should be raising his voice about certain people he claims to represent but who are exploiting the unfortunate people of Darwin at this moment. The honourable member is afraid of losing votes. He tries to’ keep on side with everyone. A medical examination of him would show some splinters in the lower part of his anatomy from fence sitting. He wants to watch out that he does not get blood poisoning too.
In my opinion this Budget is a blueprint for the times. It has been referred to by many sections of the media. An editorial in the Sydney Morning Herald states:
In political terms the Budget has been carefully framed to put trie Opposition on its mettle. According to Mr Hayden the Government faced a potential deficit of about $5,000m before it began its program of cuts. It has managed to bring that down to $2, 798m and accommodated tax cuts.
The Melbourne Age, a paper not always on the side of the Whitlam administration, stated:
The Budget brought down by Mr Hayden last night is a model of restraint and balance. No longer is the public sector to be the supreme spender. At last encouragement is being offered to the battered private sector and relief to the burdened taxpayer.
The Budget is unashamedly deflationary in intent, on the unassailable logic that unless the rate of inflation is reduced, Australia’s productive capacity will run down.
Other sections of the media, important sections owned by the newspaper magnates of Australia, have had to succumb to the logic and fairness of this Budget. (Quorum formed). Time will not permit me to read to honourable members what has been said by the Press. It is obvious that members of the Opposition do not want me to have those remarks recorded in Hansard. However, other sections of the Press have paid tribute to my Government for its Budget. Prior to the presentation of the Budget the Opposition had always asked for cuts in Commonwealth Government expenditure. When we asked whether they would slash defence expenditure, members of the Opposition said: ‘Oh, no’. When we asked whether they would slash health expenditure, they said: ‘Oh, no’. When we asked whether they would slash expenditure on housing they said: ‘Oh, no’. When we asked whether they would slash the Regional Employment Development scheme they said: ‘Oh, no ‘.
The honourable member for the Northern Territory, who spoke a few moments ago, said that the people of Darwin had been deprived of the opportunity to invest money. I take advantage of the Budget debate to tell the House and the honourable member that the reason why people are reluctant to invest in the stock exchanges of this country is the corruption which has been going on in the free enterprise section of the society and which, in the main, is causing people to put their savings in banking accounts. The entire field of company law in this country needs a complete overhaul. But in the present situation we cannot expect the Liberal-Country Party controlled States to countenance or to cooperate in introducing uniform legislation, particularly because many of their members are in the share rackets themselves. The House will remember that a few years ago many of them accepted shares at par in Conzinc Riotinto of Australia Ltd and in Comalco Ltd and that the notorious Queensland peanut could see no harm in his Ministers taking free shares in multinational companies.
What is needed is legislation that will protect the investing public, the superannuated teacher, public servant, policeman or soldier and the widow, all of whom are looking for a safe investment for their life ‘s earnings to protect them during their retirement. The present stock exchanges in the States are closed clubs which make their own laws, particularly in New South Wales. .They are a law unto themselves and have encouraged the flotation of spurious companies. Let me give just a few examples: H. G. Palmer (Consolidated) Ltd and the MLC affair, the Shapowloff inquiry, the Barton fiasco, and the Halls Peak, Castlereagh Securities and Latec companies. The Latec company originated in Newcastle and, unfortunately, caught many of my constituents. Patrick Partners and the archLiberal, Mr Baume, and hundreds more in all States have contributed to the destruction of the Australian investors’ confidence in Australian companies.
What is needed- vitally needed in my view- is the establishment of a government controlled and regulated stock exchange operating from Canberra under the Whitlam Administration with agencies in all States. No matter how sound some Australian companies may be they all suffer because of the reputation of a few. Retired school teachers, public servants and defence force personnel will not risk their superannuation because of careless operations in the stock exchanges and loose State laws- laws that have loopholes a pregnant diprotodon could jump through. At present in New South Wales the Corporate Affairs Commission has inspectors investigating the operations of more than 290 companies. The members of the Opposition are always saying that we are a socialist government. They ought to be proud that they are members of free enterprise parties when 290 companies are being investigated because of their activities in New South Wales, at the risk of more than $2 70m of public money going up the spout This represents more than $70 for every man, woman and child in New South Wales. Honourable members should consider even the taxes that have been lost on this money.
The Corporate Affairs Commission has only 48 inspectors handling these difficult and often intricate and entangled investigations. It has fewer investigators than the New South Wales Liberal-Country Party Government has assigned to the investigation of the petty handed crime of shoplifting. When a person is charged with shoplifting a packet of cigarettes he is immediately arrested and prosecuted. These investigators of the Corporate Affairs Commission in New
South Wales have, firstly, to recommend prosecution to the Commissioner for Corporate Affairs and then have to seek the approval of the Crown Law Office. Following approval being granted they have to seek further approval from the Minister for Justice and the AttorneyGeneral in New South Wales. This is even before a prosecution can ensue.
The man who steals a packet of cigarettes is prosecuted immediately and branded for the rest of his life as a criminal if convicted. It reminds us of the way they dug into the murky depths of police records in Brisbane recently to try to besmirch Mr Colston. The man who robs the public of millions of dollars is treated like a gentleman while the investigators wend their way through the red tape of approvals. Many of these master criminals are able to escape justice by skipping the country. The law in New South Wales seems to have been enacted to protect the corporate criminals rather than to protect the investing public. In the Barton case, which one never hears mentioned by members of the Liberal and Country parties, Mr McCaw, the former AttorneyGeneral in New South Wales, was responsible for authorising the prosecution. He has been a senior partner in the firm of solicitors, McCaw, Johnson and Company, who were advising Mr Barton. I produced positive evidential proof of that in this House when I spoke on previous occasions.
Any policeman on his own account can charge a law breaker but a highly skilled investigator of the Corporate Affairs Commission in New South Wales has to get the Minister’s consent to charge these kinds of crooks. That is why most LiberalCountry Party State government company laws provide havens for rogues and spivs of all descriptions. This is why the Liberal-Country Party State government company laws allow these men to fleece the investing public of millions upon millions of dollars. All this was revealed in the Rae Committee’s report, which no one can deny. I have a copy of a speech made by the honourable member for Campbelltown in the State Parliament. It refers to Ralph King and Yuill and Patrick Partners. I ask that it be incorporated in Hansard.
-Is the honourable member seeking leave to have it incorporated?
– We have not seen it yet.
– Is leave granted?
– No, we have not seen it.
-Leave is not granted.
– It explains very clearly how Patricks were running a tipping service- a system which allowed them to cop a profit whether the investor won or lost. Also in the speech the member for Campbelltown in another Parliament mentioned the fact that 6 financial writers were receiving shares at par for tipping good results for shady companies in their reports. One of these so-called journalists was a member of Patrick Partners- none other than the notorious Michael Baume- the mysterious twelfth man who will not disclose his assets to the Stock Exchange but who has been presented with’ the Liberal Party preselection for a Federal seat in New South Wales. How proud the Liberals must be of him.
The other 1 1 partners of Patrick Partners who have been strutting the financial stage, encouraged by the Sydney Stock Exchange, have for years been showing off in their yachts and their flash waterfront homes in the salubrious suburbs, boasting of their millions and of the wonderful private schools in which they received their training, and throwing parties for their Liberal and Country Party friends. These schools seem to make a specialty of turning out these types of financial pirates who seek only to gain the respectability of the old school tie or the titles they have bestowed upon them by munificient and grateful Liberal-Country Party governments. These 12 men and their ilk have tricked and robbed genuine investors in public companies of over $30m, yet when they have been asked to disclose their assets we find that they have only a few thousand dollars between the lot of them. One man who lives in a mansion wants us to believe that his only asset is $4,000 worth of second hand furniture.
The best that can be said of these 12 men is that they are a bunch of supercilious conspiring rogues who should be banned from all stock exchanges for life. Not one of these men or any other company director in New South Wales, or any other State, whose companies are under investigation should be allowed a passport by the Government. The moment their companies are placed under investigation the directors should not be allowed to leave the country. If they hold passports, the passports should be withdrawn. I ask the Attorney-General of my own Party (Mr Enderby) and this national Parliament to give serious consideration to this request. This is the only way in which we can protect the good name of Australia. It is the only way in which we can ensure that these criminals do not escape Australian justice. It is the only way in which we can restore the confidence of the investing public in Australian companies, and therefore it is one way in which we can begin to curb the growth and power of the multinationals
For years Australians have been crying out for honest company laws. The previous AttorneyGeneral tried to get the States together but was unsuccessful. My suggestion is that the Australian Government should go it alone and set up a controlled stock exchange in Canberra, licence dealers in shares and prevent these dealers from being both sellers and buyers, or holding interests in companies.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– It was most illuminating to hear an honourable member from the Government side- the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James)- not trying to turn himself into an economist and do better than his own Treasurer (Mr Hayden). That is what we have heard from so many of them during this Budget debate. Members of Parliament have been turning themselves into economists and trying to give a very close analysis of the Budget papers. No one from the Government side has satisfactorily been able to give an analysis of the Budget which shows that it is the right Budget for Australia today because any analysis, not one of an academic economic kind, will show that it is not a Budget which will defeat the twin evils that are facing Australia at the present time- inflation and unemployment. Not everybody is an economist but the people know that there is something wrong with the economy and they can identify what is wrong very quickly. They can identify that we have inflation and that the rate is too high. They can identify that we have unemployment and that the rate is too high, but nothing that they have heard from the Treasurer or any of the speakers from the Government side in this debate has shown what the Government intends doing about these things. The people have learned over the last couple of years that inflation gives the illusion of prosperity, that it is not real income that they are receiving in their bigger and bigger pay packets.
People today know that unemployment is the product of inflation and they know that both inflation and unemployment hurt the wage and salary earners of Australia, hurt the people on fixed incomes and hurt business which is the biggest employer in Australia. Inflation and unemployment hurt business because it no longer has real profits and it has no savings to reinvest in business enterprises. Business cannot maintain the jobs of the people, let alone increase job opportunities. The people of Australia know that money is still as costly as it ever has been under a Labor government. Housing interest rates are still as high as they have been for the last 2 years and there is no prospect in sight of their being brought down. The high interest is simply the cost of money to young couples who want to build or buy their own homes. Out of all this, never at any time in the last 2 years or so of the life of this Government has inflation been identified as public enemy No. 1. Until the Government identifies it in that way the Government will never have a commitment to defeat inflation. It is recognised throughout the world that it is the will of the people as much as the most careful economic analysis which is required to defeat inflation.
In speaking to this 1 975 Budget I would like to return to 2 themes that I draw from my speeches on the 1973 and 1974 budgets. The first theme is inflation. In the speech on the 1973 Budget I identified inflation as being the product of deliberate policy by the Government because this was a government which was feeding off inflation, financing its welfare out of inflation. Its policy was a policy at the price of inflation and of course not only the Government but also the people have reaped the whirlwind of that policy since the first Labor Budget of 1973. The other theme which I introduced in 1974 in the Budget debate was that we had then reached a watershed in history precipitated by the oil prices brought on by the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries, in October 1973- an event which for a time shattered the international economy to the point where it nearly crumbled but fortunately it did not Fortunately the leadership of people like Henry Kissinger and countries like the United States of America has begun to bring order back into the world economic community. But in 1974 it appeared to me that the present Government had not appreciated that there was a watershed in our history and nothing that has happened since, nothing that has been said by the Treasurer in this Budget leads me to believe that this Government is any wiser today than it was then.
It is important to realise how this Government has used inflation and how it has failed to understand what is happening in the world. The Government has used inflation deliberately as an arm of policy in order to expand Government income and expenditure at the expense of private business.
It is important in this time of political and philosophical confrontation between the Government and the Opposition that the people understand that the economic measures of the 1973 and 1974 Budgets represent a fundamentally different approach to the economy and the role of private enterprise- that is, private capital and private incomes from the investment of capitalfrom that of the present Opposition Parties during their 23 years in government. In retrospect, it is completely clear that the statement by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) before the 1972 election, as Leader of the Opposition as he then was, that the Labor Party’s spending program would be financed out of government revenue without any increase in taxation carried with it the implicit understanding that inflation would be used as the financing measure. That, I believe, is the origin of the present inflationary troubles of this country.
The Government deliberately embarked upon a policy of inflation to finance its social programs. In fundamental terms the socialists- for the present Government is a government of socialists- see inflation as essential. It is simply the modern method of debasing the currency in order to give to the ruler, be he a monarch or be it a democratic government, more of the people ‘s wealth and income to finance the ruler’s expenditure. In other words, times really do not change. History repeats itself. We know of the monarchs of old, the autocrats of old, who debased the currency in order to finance their own personal wealth or their governments’ expenditure. That must always be at the expense of the working men and women of the country. This is what the economic policies of this Government represent in real terms.
What this Government has done on the economic side by way of debasing the currency is paralleled and complemented by the kind of legislation which it has introduced. I refer to legislation like the modifications to the Australian Industry Development Corporation, the National Investment Fund Bill, the National Compensation Bill and the Australian Government Insurance Corporation Bill, all intended to draw away from private business the private capital of the nation, the wealth that is held there, and to place it in the hands of the Government. One of the ironic aspects is that this action simply creates another monopoly, one even bigger than the so-called anti-social monopolies of private business which the socialists always deplore. That great monopoly is the Government, where the socialists seek to concentrate the wealth of the nation. Now, I am sure that the working men and women of Australia- those who are members of unions, those who are notappreciate what is happening to their country through the deliberate policy of inflation of the present Government.
The one place where the people feel the effects of inflation obviously is in their pockets. The reason why they feel inflation there is to be found through the impact of taxation. They know that the more they earn, even more is proportionately taken out by taxation. That is what inflation does. Nothing that has been done by the Treasurer with the tax scale and by providing rebates instead of concessional deductions, alters that fundamental fact. Whilst inflation occurs and progressive tax scales are followed, the proportion of a person’s income which is taken out in tax will always be more than the proportion that is left out of the rise in earnings. So, what the Treasurer has done with taxation is not to reform it but simply to rearrange it- and to rearrange it in a way in which it maintains the insidious task of inflation. (Quorum formed).
No honourable member needs to go very far in the Budget papers to see that inflation is implicit in this Government’s Budget. The Government is relying on a 22 per cent increase in average weekly earnings, and that in itself is a reflection of inflation. That is why, although the Treasurer said that people’s tax had been cut, in truth people will be paying more tax as the year goes by. It might be said unkindly that the first Hayden Budget represents one of the greatest Government rip-offs of all time, a rip-off out of the pockets of the taxpayer; a deficit of $2,798m, which is an increase of $2 32m over last year, which in itself was a record deficit. This Budget was heralded by the Prime Minister as being one of restraint and responsibility, but that has been shown now to have been a hollow claim, intended to lull the people, to pacify the people, but of course it has not done anything of that sort. The biggest rip-ofl” is in pay-as-you-earn income tax, and this Government, as I said, feeds off the inflation represented by that tax. ‘There will be tax cuts of $205m’, said the Treasurer, but in truth the tax rip-off will be by way of an increase of $2,612m. In anybody’s terms, and one does not have to be an academic economist to understand this, the Government will get more and more as the people get less and less and work harder and harder.
The Treasurer spoke of the redistribution of income. Rather proudly he spoke of that as being a distinct feature of his Budget. All that the redistribution of income means is that the Treasurer is taking from the incomes earned by the wage and salary earners of Australia and giving to someone else, be it directly or through the provision of government services. Of course, the old idea of the socialist was that you take from the rich, wealthy capitalists and you distribute some of their capital to other people. But the truth of the modern socialists is that they take from the income earner of today and give to other people. I should not have thought that any right thinking person would believe that this is the right kind of policy for Australia. When one looks at the impact of inflation, coupled with the progressive tax scales, one sees that it is really time we began to look again at whether the progressive tax scales ought to be the basis of income tax in Australia. I wonder whether we ought not look again at a flat rate scale. I believe that Professor Henderson, the Chairman of the Australian Government’s Commission of Inquiry into Poverty, has himself looked at this prospect, because there is no doubt at all that the combination of progressive tax scales and inflation takes more and more out of the pockets of the people and transfers it to the Government.
Our philosophy is a very simple one. The Liberal and National Country parties’ philosophy is one which the people will find thoroughly acceptable when they consider it. Our attitude is that the earnings of a man or a woman from the work that they do is theirs primarily for their own benefit and use. Something must be taken by the Government for the provision of basic services, but our philosophy simply put is that government should take less and leave more with the people. We believe that there is enough good sense in the minds of the people to manage their own affairs well enough.
What we have then is a conversion from dependence on public welfare to individual responsibility for private welfare. In doing that we would be providing to the people, to the working man and woman of Australia an economic freedom which equates with personal freedom. The more government takes from people’s earnings the more it lessens their economic freedom and the more it lessens their personal freedom. However much the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) might protest, he knows the truth of that simple statement. I mentioned earlier that there was in 1973 a watershed in world economic history. Little did I realise when I referred to the irreversible change brought about by oil prices and depicted this as a watershed in history that I was foreshadowing Australia ‘s chase after funny money. The irony is that it was Mr Connor himself, the architect of the nationalist resource policy of the present
Government, who after having condemned overseas money, chased after it as fast as he could.
We do have some national objectives we ought to be pursuing in Australia at present. The greatest challenge to a Liberal Party led government will be to see that the capital required for small and big business is brought back into Australia. into the mining industry, into the manufacturing industries and into the primary industries of Australia. Of all the key industries in Australia the hardest hit is the mining industry. It is the one most starved of capital and the one hardest hit by inflation. This calls for clearly stated policies based on an expression of national objectives. We might sum this up very simply by saying that Australians aspire to a better life based on increasing living standards within a secure nation and a stable economy that contributes to an inter-dependent world, not a world in which we embark upon resource blackmail, as epitomised by the coal levy. To achieve these national objectives the critical components will be capital and skilled manpower.
The provision of capital is, of course, bedevilled by the issues of foreign ownership and control of our natural resources. Unquestionably in the future some part of the capital and of the manpower we require will have to come from overseas. That fact has never been recognised by the Minister for Minerals and Energy and hopefully it will not be too long before we can show him how wrong he is. As well as that, the task which will be ahead of a Liberal-National Country Party government is to look at new mechanisms within the Australian capital market for finding the domestic capital which will be needed also to finance the great resource projects that are waiting to be developed. It is this kind of national objective which we as a LiberalNational Country Party government will be pursuing, because we see within the resource industries of Australia the cornerstone of the future prosperity of our nation and its role in the world economy. Unless those 2 things are grasped no economic policy for growth and prosperity can have any hope of success.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I support the motion moved by the Treasurer (Mr Hayden) on the Budget, and I oppose the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser). The Leader of the Opposition used rather more temperate language in his prepared speech a week after the Budget than he had used in his spontaneous or off the cuff reactions on the night of the Budget. More temperate language, however, cannot disguise the basic intemperance of his approach and his proposals. In what he proposes and in what he would like to dispose of, there is this consistent aim: To enshrine inequality and to retard equality of opportunity in this country. It is the consistency of a confirmed elitist- to him that hath shall be given, and the devil take the hindmost.
The Leader of the Opposition made his most revealing comment on 20 August- that is, revealing as to his attitudes and intentions. He said:
The Budget penalises those families that save, through life or superannuation policies, for their own old age and that want to provide a different kind of education for their children. Thus the Budget reduces the freedom of choice to individuals. It is a massive incentive for people to be spendthrift.
I shall examine later the Budget’s taxation proposals and the Leader of the Opposition’s counter proposals. In essence, however, our proposals put more money in the pay packets of the great majority of taxpayers while removing a socially unjustified and economically costly privilege- an annual subsidy worth about $400m- from a minority of high income earners. This, according to the Leader of the Opposition, is a massive incentive to be spendthrift. Who are the spendthrifts? It is always the people on lower incomes who are spendthrift. Parents who choose the public school system are improvident. Those in retirement who have no income other than what the community provides have been thriftless and shiftless. The Leader of the Opposition attaches a very special meaning to the idea of freedom of choice. It is that the Government should intervene by way of granting subsidies, to encourage saving of a special kind or spending of a special kind, only to those wealthy enough to attract the subsidy. That is the real meaning behind his proposals and his hostility to ours.
The true significance of the Leader of the Opposition ‘s statements is the attitude they reveal. They reveal the priorities he would attempt to impose on any government of which he might be leader. I say ‘attempt to impose’ because his colleagues have given the Opposition’s game away. How long could the flimsy and largely false arithmetic of the Leader of the Opposition stand up against the demands, pressures and promises of his colleagues? In less than a week the rapacity of the National Country Party and the loquacity of his spokesman on Medibank have made nonsense of all his careful sums. The honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp) let the cat out of the bag. Ever since the Leader of the Opposition delivered his speech economic writers, as well as the Government, have been trying to discover, without success, where he would really make the cuts in spending. For instance, Mr Kenneth Davidson, the Age economics editor, wrote on 29 August:
Mr Fraser believes the Government could have cut its spending by a further $ 1,000m without cutting into major functional areas of government . . . some of the areas in which Mr Fraser indicated he could get significant savings are patently absurd . . . of course more than $ 1,000m could have been saved had the Government decided not to continue expenditure in particular areas. The only realistic possibility would have been a decision not to continue with Medibank.
The honourable member for Hotham now has revealed the truth which the Leader of the Opposition tried to conceal. Whom are we to believe? Are we to accept the Leader of the Opposition’s speech or the policies of the coalition? The Leader of the Opposition says, in effect: ‘Do not believe the Leader of the National Country Party (Mr Anthony) when he pledges millions more for farm subsidies or to restore coal and other mining concessions. Do not believe the Deputy Leader of the National Country Party (Mr Sinclair) when he promises a $ 100m assistance plan for the beef industry. Do not believe Senator Cotton when he promises millions more for payments to manufacturing industry. Do not believe the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) when he demands vastly increased defence expenditure. Do not believe the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock) when he demands even more generous assistance to Papua New Guinea. Do not believe the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) in his protests against the excise increases and do not, whatever you do, take any notice of poor old Don Chipp’. The Leader of the Opposition would maintain of course that it is unfair to point up the massive contradictions between his colleagues’ statements and his own Budget speech in the context of a single year. He claimed that his own proposals had to be seen in the context of a 3-year program. Precisely. I am perfectly willing to give that sort of latitude to any Leader of the Opposition- it is the responsible, the right thing to do.
The Leader of the Opposition correctly pointed out that governments and business alike should be able to plan on a long term basis. In our system it means that elected governments should be able to plan on the basis of 3 years. He has correctly pointed to the connection between the ability of government to plan and a business to plan. The Leader of the Opposition quite properly demands for himself a basic requirement which his colleagues have for more than 2 years done their level best to deny this Government. Not the least achievement of this Budget is that despite the gross distortions which the conduct of the Senate imposes upon the political and economic systems in Australia, it charts a responsible long term course. It is predicated on the same assumption that the Leader of the Opposition demands for himself- the assumption that governments must be able to plan ahead for at least the term for which they were elected. The Leader of the Opposition knows the right and responsible course. What remains to be seen is how far he will stick to the principle which he recognises and which he has so often expressed. What remains to be seen is whether or not he is really his own man.
We framed this Budget in the context of longer term planning as the second of the three annual Budgets in the term for which this Parliament and Government were elected. It is conceived as a true mid-term Budget, one which consolidates the programs implemented by its predecessors and one which provides a firm basis on which to plan ahead. Equally it is framed in the context of present economic problems- national and international. The Leader of the Opposition denied the relevance of international difficulties to Australian difficulties. The Australian Financial Review yesterday editorialised:
The present international recession is of a deeper and more profound nature than any that preceded it in the last 30 years . . . nobody would seriously suggest that we are immune from the effects of major shifts beyond our shores.
That journal took the view that just as the recession and inflation shared by all our major trading partners, shared by almost all industrialised countries, shared by all the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development nations had undoubtedly affected Australia so the modest and very uneven signs of recovery led to a guarded hope that, and I quote, ‘the worst is over’. The Government shares that view with this qualification: The Budget must be given a fair chance to work. The Budget, combined with a consistent monetary policy, should make possible a moderation in the rate of monetary growth in Australia which we view to be an essential prerequisite to a slowdown in the rate of inflation. At least equally important is the Government’s wages policy which the Budget was designed to facilitate.
The unambiguous policy of this Government is to improve the real standard of living of the Australian employee; of all Australian families wherever they live. This will not be achieved by excessive increases in money wages at this timenot for the individual employee, not for his family. Each of our Budgets has aimed at raising real standards of living both through what the individual earns and what the community provides. Each has implemented enduring reforms. The unique feature of this Budget is, of course, the new system of personal taxation. Unlike the system it replaces, the reformed system is simple, fair and sensible. In years to come, when the economic problems of 1975 have receded into memory, the reform of the personal tax system will remain as a permanent and outstanding advance.
The Leader of the Opposition was a Minister in a government which used the system of concession deductions to shore up inequalities and to enhance privilege and which maintained the taxation schedules unchanged for 17 years. He describes the proposals of this Government- this Government which has reduced personal taxation for the third time in 12 months- as a hoax. To make his point, the Leader of the Opposition chose an example of a typical taxpayer. We all have, I suppose, our typical examples, and perhaps the Leader of the Opposition imagines this one as the identikit Liberal voter. In any case, he chose as his typical taxpayer a man with 2 children earning $9,000 a year, who paid $1,000 a year in mortgage interest. I am perfectly happy to examine this man’s position by 3 measures- what will happen to him under our reforms, what would have happened to him had the taxation provisions of the last Liberal Budget prevailed, and what would happen to him under the proposals put forward by the Leader of the Opposition himself.
The Leader of the Opposition calculated that under the new system, this man’s tax burden this year will be 12.2 per cent of his income. Let us accept that. But if the taxation provisions of the last Liberal Budget had been retained, that man would pay not 12.2 per cent of his income, but 19 per cent. And further, if that taxation scale had been fully indexed for inflation, in precisely the manner recommended by the Mathews Committee and presumably accepted by the Leader of the Opposition, this taxpayer would have paid 13.9 per cent of his income in taxation this year as compared with the 12.2 per cent he will pay under our system.
That is, if the Leader of the Opposition had his way, his own chosen example of the typical taxpayerthe one for whom he says our reforms are a hoax- would be paying 1.7 per cent more of his income, an additional $155 a year or an additional $3 a week, under the proposals of the
Leader of the Opposition than he will be paying under ours. That is the kind of price the average man- the example of the Leader of the Oppositionwould pay for his proposals to enable people on the very highest incomes to continue to save 67 per cent of their expenditure on life premiums and school fees instead of the 40 per cent they and all other persons are allowed under the new system in this year’s Budget.
This Budget, and other measures taken by this Government, will result in reduced inflationary expectations, certainly of monetary prosperity, and the confidence which goes with these expectations. Clearly, consumer confidence and business confidence are the keys to our economic recovery. Confidence is a self-fulfilling phenomenon. Once Australian consumers and Australian businessmen are convinced that inflation will slow down and that business activity will accelerate, both of these things will happen. This Budget will give confidence, both to the consumer and to the businessman, and as will our wider economic policies. It will take time for the economy to respond to these measures, but we are determined to adhere consistently to these general policy lines, and to give them time to work, to have their effects directly on the economy and indirectly through the build-up of confidence.
If consistency is the basis of confidence and confidence is the basis of recovery, then there is one element which must be added to the Budget if the Budget is to work, if it is to be given a chance to work. The next 10 months are crucial. If our national activities and energies during those critical months- at the political level, at the administrative level, at the business level, at the industrial level- were to be distorted and dissipated by the engineering of a wholly artificial, wholly unnecessary and a wholly irresponsible political crisis, the harm would be great and the guilt immense.
The Leader of the Opposition accepted that there was no easy, simple or quick solution to the world-wide economic problems which Australia is now sharing. No serious commentator has suggested that the Leader of the Opposition has found that solution. It is not in that where the greatest failure of the speech of the Leader of the Opposition lies. He failed to do the one thing really within his power- a simple statement that the basic principle he has again and again acknowledged shall apply, a simple statement that parliamentary democracy will not again be falsified as was attempted in 1 974. We await that simple statement of principle, that same simple word of leadership which could have stopped the scandal perpetrated yesterday in Queensland’s Parliament.
The Budget is a document of resourcefulness and responsibility, but a measure of political responsibility on the part of the Opposition is needed if the benefits it consolidates, the reforms it offers, the economic recovery for which it lays a good ground are to be achieved in full. In referring to these political difficulties, unprecedented in Australia, unparalleled in any comparable democracy, I retreat in no degree from our full responsibilities as the elected, the re-elected Government of Australia. This Budget is further evidence of our determination to fulfil those responsibilities- not just the responsibilities as the elected Australian Government, but our responsibilities as a government elected on a program of reform.
I referred earlier to the international economic problems which Australia shares as a significant member of the international community. Nor is that acknowledgment any retreat from our responsibilities at home. What we can claim is that, despite these worldwide difficulties, this Government has carried through significant and enduring advances in social reform which will be of permanent benefit to all Australians, reforms from which they will all continue to benefit long after the present economic problems have been overcome by this Government. This Budget is a remarkable, resourceful, responsible effort in dealing with the more immediate problems, in consolidating past gains and in achieving enduring reform.
-Mr Speaker -
Motion (by Mr Nicholls) put:
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Hon. G. G. D. Scholes)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr Malcolm Fraser’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Hon. G. G. D. Scholes)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Hon. G. G. D. Scholes)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Sitting suspended from 6.5 to 8p.m. (Quorum formed)
-In accordance with standing order 226 the Committee will first consider the Second Schedule of the Bill.
– May I suggest that it might suit the convenience of the Committee to consider the items of proposed expenditure in the order and grouping shown in the schedule which has been circulated to honourable members. The consideration of the items in groups of departments has met the convenience of the Committee in past years. I also take the opportunity to indicate to the House that the proposed order for consideration of the departmental Estimates has been discussed with the Opposition which has raised no objection to what has been proposed. The Schedule reads as follows:
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Department of the Special Minister of State (together).
Department of the Treasury and Advance to the Treasurer (together).
Attorney-General’s Department, and Department of Police and Customs (together).
Department of Aboriginal Affairs.
Department of the Capital Territory.
Department of Transport.
Department of Agriculture.
Department of Minerals and Energy.
Department of Overseas Trade.
Department of Manufacturing Industry.
Department of Education.
Department of Environment, and Department of Tourism and Recreation (together).
Department of Foreign Affairs.
Department of Health, Department of Repatriation and Compensation, and Department of Social Security (together).
Department of Housing and Construction.
Department of Services and Property.
Department of Labor and Immigration.
Department of Northern Australia.
Department of Science and Consumer Affairs.
Department of the Media.
Department of Defence.
Department of Urban and Regional Development.
– Is it the wish of the Committee to consider the items of proposed expenditure in the order suggested by the Leader of the House? There being no objection, that course will be followed.
Proposed expenditure $1 1,499,000.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate without amendment:
Papua New Guinea Bill 1975
Papua New Guinea Independence Bill 1975
Papua New Guinea Loans Guarantee Bill 1975
Papua New Guinea (Staffing Assistance) Bill 1 975
Social Services Bill (No. 2) 1 975.
Debate resumed from 4 June on motion by Mr Crean:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition is opposed to the establishment of the Australian Overseas Trading Corporation. We will oppose the Australian Overseas Trading Corporation Bill in this House and in the Senate. We believe that the Corporation is unnecessary and would prove positively harmful to Australian trade. The only reason for the Government pursuing this measure is the ideological bent of the former Minister for Overseas Trade and former Deputy Prime Minister, the honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns). Nearly every exporting group in this country is opposed to the Bill. I am told that the Department of Trade is lukewarm in its attitude to the Bill. We all know that this Government does not give any thought at all to the vital role which exports play in the nation’s economic welfare. If it did, surely it must have a greater understanding of and sympathy for many of the problems which exporting industries are experiencing at the moment.
This Bill is an attempt to nationalise indirectly some of Australia’s export industries. It is no surprise that a socialist government should attempt to gain control of Australia’s exports which represent the greatest source of wealth to this nation. Under this Bill the Overseas Trading Corporation is given complete power to trade in all goods produced in Australia. The Commonwealth Government possesses absolute power, through its control over exports, to prevent any Australian producer from selling his goods abroad. This power could be used to force Australian exporters to trade through the Overseas Trading Corporation by making export approval conditional on using the Corporation. By refusing to grant export licences the Government could use its power over export controls to force Australian exporters to sell their products to the Corporation.This may be an extreme point of view; but do we believe that this Government can be trusted with the means to carry such sweeping powers into effect? Already the Government has reduced the economy of this country to a shambles by its irresponsibility and incompetence. Australia is now in the grip of rampant inflation and record unemployment. Giving the Government the potential authority of total control over all exports would reduce the Australian economy to complete chaos.
I shall outline the Opposition’s objections to some of the specific provisions contained in the Bill. The definition of ‘overseas trade’ as contained in clause 3 means, in addition to trade between Australia and another country or Territory, trade that is incidendal to trade between Australia and another country or Territory. This definition provides a very wide interpretation of the meaning of ‘overseas trade’. It would include all the recovery, manufacturing, processing, packaging and marketing activities which are carried out preliminary to overseas trade. Such a definition, despite qualifications contained in the last paragraph, would allow the Corporation to reach back into domestic activities and, if necessary, to take control of them. The functions and powers of the Corporation contained in clauses 7 and 8 of the Bill are extremely wide. I draw particular attention to clause 8 (1) (b) which gives the Corporation power to buy or sell goods including goods exported or imported by it.
Clause 45 ( 1 ) states that the Corporation shall not, without the Minister’s approval, enter into a contract with exceeds $500,000 in value. However, clause 45 (2) states that approval relating to contracts not exceeding $500,000 does not apply to contracts relating to goods entered into in the course of trade. In other words, there is no limit on the Corporation’s power to buy and sell and trade in goods on its own account. I think it would be wrong for this Parliament to create a corporation with unlimited powers to deal in goods within Australia. In the hands of a government which wished to do so, such a corporation could easily become an instrument by which any trade and any industry in Australia could be taken over by a socialist government.
Another provision which is relevant to this is the power contained in clause 40 ( 1 ) (a) for the Corporation to borrow moneys from an approved bank. The definition of an approved bank in clause 3 includes an overseas bank. When one recalls the activities of certain Ministers in relation to overseas borrowings one suspects whether this Corporation, as it was originally proposed, was to be set up as a means of allowing Ministers with access to overseas loan money to assume control of large sections of
Australian industries by gaining control of their products.
To return to the powers of the Corporation, the Opposition objects strongly to the provisions contained in clause 12 (2). I believe the Government proposes to delete clause 12 (2) (c) which permits the Corporation to engage in the production of the manufacture of goods. However, clause 12 (2) (b) still permits the Corporation to engage in the processing and the packaging of goods. I believe that the term ‘processing’ is wide enough to permit the Corporation to undertake any form of preliminary or secondary processing -even manufacturing. This is completely unacceptable to the Opposition. I see no reason for the Corporation engaging in processing or packaging in order to carry out the functions outlined in clauses 7 and 8. Clause 10(1) is also to be amended by the Government in an attempt to remove the blatant provision that would have allowed the Corporation to displace any existing exporter in a foreign market if another importer in that market could be found.
Although the proposed amendment will remove the most blatant example of the Corporation’s power to displace existing Australian exporters from the market they have built up, the qualifications still contained in clause 10(1), paragraphs (a) to (d), represent a grave threat to many Australian exporters. Clause 10 ( 1) (b) provides that the Corporation may take over the market of an Australian exporter if the importer prefers to deal with the Corporation. By this means the Government could, in effect, force an exporter out of his market in many countries. I could well imagine that being the case with many of the centrally planned socialist economies. If the Government chooses to use its diplomatic influence in many foreign countries, especially countries whose governments play a large role in their economies, it could easily persuade a foreign importer to deal with the Corporation.
Two other provisions in the Bill disturb me. Clause 1 1 permits the Corporation to engage in wholesale trade in Australia. This clause is potentially ruinous to many Australian wholesalers. The real implications of its width are contained in clause 11, sub-section (2), paragraph (a), which states that the Corporation may engage in retail trade in Australia by buying goods from ‘outside, or importing goods into, Australia, as the agent of a person in Australia for use or consumption by that person’. A person in Australia may include the Commonwealth Government or Commonwealth statutory corporations. This means the Commonwealth could by-pass existing retail outlets and obtain goods for its own use direct from overseas. Again the theoretical approach of a socialist government is seen where it believes it can import more efficiently than private enterprise. We are yet to see this efficiency demonstrated in any commercial activity.
Clause 13 relates to transactions which are said to be in the national interest- that is, transactions which are in accordance with sound commercial principles, under which the Corporation is directed to operate. The provision in clause 13 makes commercial accountability of the Corporation quite meaningless. The clause is wide enough to permit the Corporation, at the Minister’s direction, to engage in any transaction. This clause makes a mockery of all the other provisions of the Bill which purport to impose qualifications or restrictions on the powers of the Corporation. In effect, it permits the Corporation to import into Australia goods which are already manufactured in Australia.
Apart from these specific objections to the Bill as it presently stands, the Opposition is opposed to the Bill on other grounds. We do not see any justification for the establishment of an overseas trading corporation. The Minister for Overseas Trade (Mr Crean) relied on 2 main arguments in his second reading speech. The first was that the Corporation would assist our trade with centrally planned economies and with Middle East countries. At present Australia ‘s trade with these nations is quite small. Over the past 15 years our trade with centrally planned economies has been in the order of 6 per cent of our exports. This figure has varied from as little as 3.5 per cent in 1971-72 to 1 1.5 per cent in 1963-64. The reason for this great variation is that the great bulk of our trade with the centrally planned economies comprises primary products and raw materials. For instance, in 1973-74 over 85 per cent of our trade with China was in grain, wool, iron and steel. Similarly, in Czechoslovakia, Poland and Russia wool comprised by far the largest single item in our exports to these countries.
The fact is that a comprehensive range of marketing organisations already exist in the area of primary products. The Australian Wheat Board handles all the sales of wheat. The Australian Meat Board oversees all meat exports. A similar situation exists with most other primary products. In the case of wool, the Australian Wool Corporation makes significant sales to overseas buyers. Therefore, the volume and the value of Australia’s trade in primary products with centrally planned economies would not be affected at all by the setting up of an overseas trading corporation. Similarly, our trade with Middle East countries would not be affected. The Wheat Board has been very successful in making sales in this area. It must be remembered also that the marketing of Australia’s primary products is undertaken by statutory marketing boards which are controlled largely by producer representatives and grower organisations. Australia’s primary producers have no wish to see the control that they exercise over the marketing of their own products taken over by a Government corporation which is not responsible to the grower or to the producer. Government control makes markets vulnerable to political compromise. With minerals which comprise 25 per cent of our total exports there is less demand from the centrally planned economies.
-This is 1 975.
– The small markets which do not exist are adequately catered for by a number of trading houses and agents. I heard the Minister for Overseas Trade, who is at the table, say that this is 1 975. 1 guess it is the year of the socialist as far as he is concerned. Instead of having marketing organisations he would rather the Government took over controls so that he could do deals with his commie countries in selling the primary products of Australian farmers.
In one instance, as far as trading in mineral products is concerned, an office has been opened in Moscow by an Australian trading house and this organisation does extensive business in the eastern European countries. The fact is that apart from primary products and raw materials the only other requirement of centrally planned economies is technology. Australia does not possess very much technology which these countries are seeking. As far as our exports of primary products and raw materials go the proposed Corporation would make little or no difference except that it would impose further burdens on the taxpayers of this country having to bolster up yet another bureaucracy.
The second aim of the Corporation would be at assist small Australian manufacturers and processors to enter into overseas markets. The Opposition cannot see how the proposed Corporation would assist that aim. We believe that if the Government wants to help small manufacturers enter the export trade it should restore the export incentive scheme which was introduced by the previous Government. It is incentives which small firms want to enable them to become exporters. The Government has instead held out to them the prospect of this Corporation which could solve all their problems.
There seems to be some confusion as to the role of the Corporation in assisting small exporters of manufactured goods. On the one hand there is the belief that the Corporation could act as a manager or co-ordinator in enabling many small Australian groups to participate in turnkey overseas operations. This is a misconception of the role of the Corporation. It will be too small to operate on the scale required for such undertakings. I am sure that it would be many years before it possesses, within that organisation, the expertise and knowledge required to carry out such functions. Instead the Corporation would have to get private consultants to do the work for it. This function could quite easily be undertaken now by the Department of Overseas Trade without setting up a special bureaucracy in an independent corporation.
Some manufacturers, especially those in the heavy engineering field, see this Corporation as performing a similar role to the Ex-Im Bank in America and the Japanese Export-Import Bank. Nothing could be further from the truth. This Corporation will engage in trading activities whereas those other organisations co-ordinate projects and marshal funds. On the other hand, some believe that the Corporation could open up vast new markets for their products in the Middle East countries. Again this is a misconception. Apart from large projects and large contracts for the supply of food and raw materials which are undertaken at an official level in most Middle East countries, this area of the world generally speaking is the home of the small trader. It is to these individuals that Australian exporters and manufacturers must go. Businessmen from other countries have demonstrated how it is possible to obtain large contracts from individual Middle East merchants and importers. Doing business in that area of the world requires special skills. It will take more than the establishment of an overseas trading corporation for Australian companies to acquire those skills.
It is unrealistic for small firms to rely on a government trading corporation to write their contracts for them. It is equally naive for a government to imagine that it can create a corporation which fulfils that function. In fact this Government has demonstrated that it is not really interested in overseas trading. Eighteen months ago this Government treated exports as a dirty word. It is a joke for this Government to claim that it is trying to promote Australian exports. It is difficult to imagine what action it could have adopted which would have done more damage to our export trade than it has already done. There were successive revaluations of the Australian dollar which appreciated our currency by almost 25 per cent against our competitors and forced many Australian exporters out of business.
One example of this is the export of Australian cars. This trade has fallen from 66 000 vehicles in 1,973 to just 15 000 in the last year, and the figure is still going down. The Government is supposed to represent manufacturing industry and the vehicle workers unions of Australia. Let it produce the figures for the export of motor cars. This Government then cut tariffs by 25 per cent across the board, with the result that many Australian firms have gone out of business completely. The country was swamped with cheap imports in 1974 to the detriment of many Aus.tralian manufacturers. Now we see the Government in its desperation turning to the profitable export industries as a source of extra revenue to enable the bulging deficit to be shored up.
The iniquitous tax on coal exports must rank as one of the most retrograde and destructive measures which this Government has implemented. When speaking yesterday on the Bill to impose a tax on coal exports I pointed out the dangerous situation into which this Government has allowed itself to fall as a result of its deficit financing. I pointed out how deficit financing leads to the perversion of Government policies and in the end undermines all productive industry within the nation because of the desperate need to extract revenue from every profitable enterprise. This Government is now getting itself into a position in which it is turning to export industries in a desperate attempt to find extra revenue. To any export industry that gets into a profitable situation I say: ‘Watch out’. Yet the Government talks about bringing in a new corporation to try to bolster up the export industries. This is surely a POliCY which must lead to disaster if we do not look after our export industries.
Australia is one of the world’s great trading nations and we rely on our income from trading as our main source of wealth. It is the earnings from overseas trade on which this nation has been built. The previous Government realised the vital importance of overseas trade to Australia ‘s economic development and it was one of our highest priorities to foster that trade. We introduced a whole range of incentives to encourage productivity and to give incentives to export. The benefits of nearly 20 years of work have almost been dissipated in 3 short years of mismanagement and extravagant and incompetent government. Now we even see the Government turning on the export section in a vain attempt to extract some revenue from some still profitable industries. This is the policy of a desperate and dangerous government. It is a policy which will destroy our export industries by bringing this country to its ruin. Apart from taxing exporters who are lucky enough to be successful the Government is undermining their capacity even to produce.
Inflation, which has been brought about through economic mismanagement and the pursuit of socialist policies, is fast destroying the ability of many manufacturers and producers to remain in business. Inflation is undermining Australia’s competitiveness in the international markets. As wages and costs within Australia increase at a rapid pace far beyond any inflation in the countries with which we trade, Australian goods are losing ground to goods from other countries. The exporter cannot pass on his increased wages and costs. Beyond our shores there lies a market in which the buyer has a choice of products and prices. Unless inflation within Australia is brought under control all our export industries Will be forced out of their markets.
The establishment of an Overseas Trading Corporation, with its large and costly bureaucracy involving even greater spending of public funds, can only contribute further to inflation. Instead of interfering with exporters who want to get on with their job and instead of embarking on expensive new schemes that Will further worsen the inflation that is destroying our capacity to compete on overseas markets, the Government would be far better occupied in concentrating its efforts on bringing inflation under control.
I would like to refer briefly to some Liberal and National Country Party policies to promote Australian exports. We would restore incentives to exporters to enable them to enter the export trade. We would restructure the existing marketing assistance section in the Trade Promotion Division of the Department of Overseas Trade so that it would become an ‘action group’ employed to promote and co-ordinate deals with the centrally planned and lesser developed countries. This group would possess the flexibility and resources to be able to assess projects, enter into the early stages of planning and bring together interested Australian parties for tendering. This could all be done within the Department rather than by setting up an independent bureaucracy.
A Liberal-National Country Party Government would strengthen the banking facilities available to Australian exporters. There is a real need for existing bankers or for a new organisation to marshal funds for the purpose of promoting and co-ordinating large overseas sales of Australian manufactured products. The most important step which a Liberal-National Country Party Government would take to assist exporters, however, would be to bring inflation under control and to restore a healthy, competitive economic climate in Australia. For those reasons, but primarily because it would add to our present financial problems in Australia and would deter the incentive and the encouragement that many private exporters have to get on with the job and to do it as efficiently as possible, we cannot support the proposal to set up yet another bureaucratic organisation as a burden on the taxpayers of Australia.
-The speeches of the Leader of the National Country Party (Mr Anthony) are always remarkable. They are usually remarkable for their histrionics and distortions. This one was remarkable, for it consisted of nothing but sheer nonsense. Last night and again tonight the Opposition has come in here and abused the Government for not being interested in exports. Last night the accusation was in relation to the export levy which has been imposed on coal producers in an attempt to have the community share in the windfall gains that coal exporters have received in the last couple of years, through no effort on their part but simply as a result of an increase in the world price for coal. So on the one hand the Opposition criticises the Government for not being interested in exports by distorting our motives for introducing an export levy. Then when the Government tries to introduce something which will significantly assist exporters in Australia it is lampooned again and accused of trying to set up some sort of socialist octopus. The Leader of the National Country Party entirely misses the point. He just concentrates on his ideological obsessions about the setting of up more bureaucracies. It might be worth reminding him that many statutory bodies already exist, as he in fact admitted in his speech. They include the Australian Wheat Board, the Australian Wool Corporation, the Australian Meat Board, the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation and so on. How many times have the Opposition Parties, either in government or in Oppostion opposed the establishment of statutory bodies? Why are those bodies not branded socialist octopii? Are they wasteful bureaucracies? Of course they are not, because they play a very important role in the export of Australian products and that is precisely what this new corporation will do when it is established.
It might be suggested that this is an odd time for us to be particularly concerned about expanding Australian exports. It is true that at the moment Australia is in a very healthy position as far as its trade balance is concerned, but that is not to say that we do not suffer from very substantial problems from time to time. There are sectoral problems and we only have to look at the problem the beef industry is facing at the moment to realise that problems do exist from commodity to commodity, from time to time. It is probably worth noting as I recall the plight of the beef industry that the Leader of the National Country Party himself a couple of years ago was encouraging farmers to diversify into beef, to expand beef production so that apparently we could increase the glut on the world markets and so reduce beef producers to the parlous state in which they now find themselves. Nobody can pretend that in Australia there are no problems as far as exports are concerned. We must pay serious attention to the sorts of problems which we do experience.
Another such problem which we encounter is that we tend to concentrate our markets in particular areas. The major proportion of our export trade goes to Japan, the European Economic Community and the United States of America. It is detrimental on some occasions not to diversify in order to rely on the buoyancy of other countries rather than just rely on traditional markets. As well it is important to realise the role that the centrally planned economies and the Middle East countries play as far as Australia’s trade is concerned. It is estimated that in 1973-74 the total trade of the centrally planned economies was something like $ 100,000m and that Australia shared in only $525m or one-half of 1 per cent of that trade. Nobody can imagine that that is a healthy position for a country which prides itself as a major exporter and which in fact is amongst the world’s 12 trading nations.
It is also important to recognise that as far as the centrally planned economies and the Middle East countries are concerned, they deal almost exclusively on a government to government basis. So it is not just simply a matter of encouraging and giving incentives to private traders; rather it is a question of providing a vehicle by which the goods which we produce in Australia can be purchased by the centrally planned economies. It is not simply a question of encouraging private people to do it. It is a question of providing a government agency which is the only sort of authority, the only sort of trading arrangement with which many of these centrally planned economies and Middle East countries will deal.
Those people who are concerned about our exports of primary produce would do well to look at the role that the centrally planned economies and the Middle East countries play in terms of the proportion of our primary products which they in fact take. Our trade with them may not be very big in overall terms but as far as specific commodities are concerned they are very important. For instance, they account for 90 per cent of our trade in live sheep, 1 1 per cent of our trade in mutton and lamb, 1 1 per cent of our butter, 22 per cent of our cheese, 40 per cent of our wheat, 10 per cent of our sorghum, 13 per cent of our hides and skins and 23 per cent of our oil seeds and nuts. Does anybody suggest for one moment that we can do without those sorts of markets? Does anybody suggest that we can do with a cut of 90 per cent in the export of live sheep? The honourable member for Forrest (Mr Drummond) should realise that many of the live sheep that are exported to the Middle East and to the centrally planned economies come not only from his electorate but also from Canning, another Liberal-held electorate in Western Australia. He should be particularly concerned about the future of that trade.
It may be true that there are already some statutory bodies which can operate on a government to government basis or at least on a quasi government to government basis. The fact is that only the Australian Wheat Board, amongst all our statutory marketing corporations, is able to follow negotiations through to finality. Only the Wheat Board is able finally to negotiate contracts, to sign contracts and to undertake to fill those contracts. The Australian Meat Board plays a co-ordinating role; it is up to the Meat Board to obtain the co-operation of the industry in Australia, and that is not always possible. In any event, even if the Overseas Trading Corporation were interested in assisting those boards, it could do so only with the specific consent of the boards. A licence from the Meat Board would be required for the Corporation to negotiate a meat deal with any other country. As has been indicated, the Meat Board is controlled substantially by producers and it would not have to give a licence to the Corporation if it did not want to and if it did not think it was in its interests. But how ridiculous that is. If it was in the interests -of the Meat Board, why would it not give a licence? Why should the Meat Board be prevented from having an alternative outlet, an alternative negotiating body which could bring an overseas deal to finality?
The other point which ought to be borne in mind is that, despite the fact that the centrally planned economies in the Middle East play such an important role in providing markets for our primary products, we need not think that we have it all our own way. In the very recent past the European Economic Community- a bloc of countries that notably tends not to deal on a government to government basis- signed a deal with Egypt for $200m worth of agricultural products over 3 years, namely, one million tons of wheat in 1975-76, 75 000 tons of sugar each year for 3 years, 11 000 tons of beef in 1975-76 and 40 000 tons of butter, milk powder and cheese over 2 years. So, it is not a question of Australia sitting back and thinking that we have these markets sewn up. The countries which are prepared to negotiate on a government to government basis will cut the ground from under our feet. Unless the members of the Opposition, who are supposed to represent the producers of these agricultural commodities, realise that, the producers will have colossal surpluses on their hands, just as they have a surplus of beef on their hands at present.
It has been indicated that the contract signed between the EEC and Egypt may be the beginning of a new approach by the EEC. There are indications already that similar contracts are being studied between the EEC and countries such as Algeria, Iran and Norway. As well as that, there are other countries which traditionally do not deal on a government to government basis but which also are moving towards that position. The United States and Japanese Governments have entered into a 3-year agreement for the supply of 42 million tons of feed grain, soya beans and wheat. So, it is not a question of sitting back and thinking that just because we have a large proportion of our products sold at the moment we will not face very severe competition from people from whom we have not suffered this sort of competition in the past.
As a further indication of the sort of penetration which is being made by our competitors in these markets, it is worth while to look at some other statistics. In 1963 Australia provided 5 per cent of the imports of the centrally planned economies and in 1973 that figure had been halved to 2.4 per cent. In 1963 Australian products represented 10 per cent of the imports of centrally planned economies but in 1973 this figure had fallen to less than 6 per cent.
What has been happening with our competitors in the meantime? Japan’s market penetration has doubled. Between 1963 and 1973 the European Economic Community increased its share of the markets of centrally planned economies from 30 per cent to over 40 per cent while the United States of America increased its share from 3.5 per cent to 1 1.4 per cent. If one turns the figures around and looks at the percentage of exports taken by these markets one gets a similar effect. While our importance to these countries is declining the importance of the countries with whom we compete is expanding. So it is vital to realise that it is not just a question of sitting down, encouraging, cooing and billing to our private traders and thinking they can do the job on their own; it is a matter of the Government getting out and talking to these people in the only way in which they will talk.
The derogatory reference by the Leader of the National Country Party to the centrally planned economies as the ‘Minister’s commie mates’ will not do us any good at all. Does he forget that they take 90 per cent of our live sheep? Does he forget that they take 40 per cent of our wheat? Are they still our commie mates when they buy wheat from his Party’s supporters? Is he prepared to call them ‘commie mates’ across the trade negotiating table? Of course he is not, and he should not be so cowardly and two faced as to do it here. It is not simply a question of our trying to shore up markets for our agricultural products. It is a matter of trying to diversify and expand our export of manufactured products. It is true that in the Middle East countries there is a vast area ready to be opened up, a vast market for manufactured products which Australia can supply. If we do not realise that the way to get into that market is via government agencies we will miss the bus entirely.
The same can be said of the centrally planned economies. Those people who are concerned about employment ought to realise that if Australia is to be able to produce manufactured products cheaply enough for us to compete with other countries it has to be on a sufficiently large scale, and the only way in which we will be able to manufacture products on a large scale is if we can find markets for them. We ought to realise that, unless we establish a government agency and begin to promote our manufactured products in these countries, other countries which are not dissimilar to Australia will get in first. Countries such as those in the European Economic Community, and the United States of America, will move in and make trading arrangements because they are prepared to negotiate on a government to government or quasigovernment to government basis and they will take those markets from us.
It is very amusing to hear the Leader of the National Country Party talking about this socialist octopus. I refer to the 1970 report of the Heavy Engineering Manufacturers Association which said:
HEMA applauds the decision by the Government to establish an Overseas Trading Corporation on the understanding that its main thrust will be towards the development of export business with countries having centralised economies and the Middle East Sheikdoms all of which have expressed a clear desire to trade with other countries on a government to government basis. Beyond those countries, the corporation will also seek to develop business in countries where, up to the present, there has been little or no penetration by Australian exporting companies.
In principle the proposal does not differ widely from similar institutions in other countries, for example the American EXIM Bank and M.I.T.I. in Japan.
The Corporation could have special significance for the heavy engineering industry by providing a vehicle for the formation of consortia of engineering companies to enable them to tender, using the corporation as the prime contractor, on a group basis instead of individually as heretofore. By combining the facilities of EPIC, the Export Bank and the Overseas Trading Corporation it should be possible for heavy engineering companies to enter markets which have been neglected in the past because of the lack of such facilities.
The Heavy Engineering Manufacturers Association is not the only organisation which has applauded the proposal to set up an overseas trading corporation. The Minister for Overseas Trade (Mr Crean) has had negotiations with all the States on this matter. All the States, including Queensland, have supported the proposal to set up an overseas trading corporation to facilitate our export trade with the centrally planned economies and the Middle East. The States are aware of the problems. The States are aware of the benefits that can flow from this corporation. It is only a shame that the Opposition Parties in this place are not similarly enlightened. The reason that the States and the representatives of private industry are not as scared, as frightened, as terrified as the Leader of the National Country Party is that they know there are adequate safeguards which will be further strengthened by amendments which the Minister will introduce. They realise that these safeguards are adequate to preserve the position of existing traders and will not allow the Overseas Trading Corporation to move in compulsorily on those markets which are already adequately serviced. For those people who doubt this, I simply refer them to clause 10 of the Bill which goes into this matter in some detail.
One of the other arguments which the Leader of the National Country Party put forward was that it was quite easy for the Department of Overseas Trade to provide exactly the same sort of function as is intended to be provided by the Overseas Trading Corporation. As a former Minister for Trade and Industry the Leader of the National Country Parry ought to know better; he ought to realise that the Department of Overseas Trade- the Department which succeeded his own old department- is unable to enter into trading operations in the sort of detail and with the sort of flexibility that a statutory corporation could. The Corporation would deal with Australian exporters on a commission basis, on a commercial basis. It is impossible for the Department to undertake that sort of activity. It has to be completely even-handed as far as Australian exporters are concerned in the provision of market intelligence and in terms of facilitating contacts between Australian exporters and overseas buyers. That is not to belittle the role that the Department of Overseas Trade plays; it plays a very important role. This year, something like $90m will be spent by this Government on the Department of Overseas Trade. This amount will include such incentives as the export market development grants and other such services as the Trade Commissioner Service.
All of these activities by the Department are there to help the private trader, the private exporter. The object of the Overseas Trading Corporation is simply to provide another vehicle whereby those people whose businesses are either too small or who are too inexperienced to get involved in exports and in overseas trade will be afforded the opportunity to do so. It is important to remind those people who have become the latter day champions of small business that it will be mainly small businesses that will benefit from this Corporation.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-This is rather a sad occasion, because the propositions that the Minister for Overseas Trade (Mr Crean) has made with respect to the Bill are themselves unexceptionable. They can be summed up in 2 sentences from the Minister’s second reading speech. The Minister dwelt first of aU on the proposition that trade has always been quite crucial to the facts and the development of the Aus.tralian economy. He dwelt on the 3 reasons for which he wanted this Overseas Trading Corporation. I should like to recount them. The Minister said:
The economic growth and well being of the Australian economy are directly linked to its ability to sustain continued development of its overseas trade- 2-way trade, both imports and exports.
Nothing could be truer than that statement. In elaborating on the 3 reasons for which the Aus.tralian Overseas Trading Corporation was to be developed, the Minister said:
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.
Having known the Minister for a long time, we know him to be a very truthful Minister and a very honourable Minister. He has never been known to be a devious one. I look through the substance of his speech and his intentions, and with his speech I can find nothing wrong, but it is a sad set of circumstances because the events of the Government have overtaken him. The Bill exists as a Government Bill, and one can only assess this Bill against the totality of the Government’s attitude towards the development of trade. If there is any fault, it is not that of the Minister for Overseas Trade; it is the fault of the Government. It is the Government which is bringing down this legislation and which will ultimately, I believe. prevent it from being passed.
Why does one say that? Last night in this House there was debated at great length a Bill to impose a levy on coal exports. This was a uniquely new measure aimed at inhibiting or cutting the returns of the coal mining industry or preventing new developments in Australia ‘s most dynamically developing export industry. In terms of efficiency, judged by the acceptability of its product on the world market, it would be the most quickly growing, efficient industry in Australia. That is one of the circumstances which will cause this Bill to be opposed by the Opposition. After all, how can the Government support in this House the Australian Overseas Trading Corporation Bill when a few hours previously it was talking of adopting unique measures which Will disadvantage the most efficient, growing, exporting industry in the country. That is the first set of circumstances that causes the Opposition side of the House to have its doubts.
As the Leader of the National Country Party of Australia (Mr Anthony) intimated a few moments ago, the export incentives for a number of industries which have been removed could have been retained. Once again there has to be a doubt about the circumstances of the Bill which will inhibit its progress. Finally, were the
Government desirous of just proposing a tax on the most efficient exporting industry in Australia today, which is the coal mining industry, and if it did not want to prevent the further development of that industry, it could adopt quite easily the proposal of giving an export tax holiday to any substantial new development and then leave the tax where it is for the present industries. But because no such proposals as this have been adopted, we on the Opposition side of the House have to look askance at this legislation and have to look at it rather suspiciously.
In fact what happens philosophically is this: As soon as one talks about export industries, one has to talk about efficiency. As soon as one talks about efficiency, there springs to mind that most important slogan which was manufactured by a Minister of the Government. It states: ‘What is wanted is for Australia to do most what it can do best’. But that is not the philosophy of this Bill. The philosophy of this Bill and of the Government has been that the Government should do least what Australia can do best or it should do most what Australia can do worst, and that is no sufficient or satisfactory background for a Bill which requires trust in the matter of overseas trade- imports and exports. I say all of that and immediately acknowledge that the amendments that have been circulated by the Minister deal sincerely and honestly with a number of the deficiencies in the Bill. There is no doubt about that. I do not believe it could be argued in any other way. But the reasonable doubt has to be sustained.
I say one further thing concerning the general philosophy on export and import trade. When an error is made in this area it reverberates continually throughout the economy. It cannot be insulated. It is useful to recount a point of history. A book has just been written on the late James Scullin, who was Prime Minister over 40 years ago. One of the most tragic errors that was ever committed in terms of an export industry was his famous plea of 4 March 1930. He said:
We must increase our production of exportable goods. These are necessarily primary products, and the industry which can most readily respond to proposals for increasing production is the wheat growing industry.
The ones who suffered the loss, tragically, as a result of that decision for more than a decade were the wheat growers of Australia, men who carried on one of our great exporting industries. In terms of export trade and its development it is those who participate and who produce directly in the field who have to be considered and who have to be concerned. They are the ones who are affected. One other example is worth bearing in mind, and that is the nature of the Australian economy as it has developed since World War II. There have been 4 significant recessions in the Australian economy since World War II and one half-recession. The first 3 recessions were due to the problems of balance of payments. One occurred in the very early 1950s, one in 1956 and one in 1961. They were all related to a lack of balance with respect to trade. The Minister, in the first sentences of his second reading speech said: . . . two-way trade, both exports and imports.
A smaller recession occurred in the middle 1960s. The only recession which has occurred which has not been due to a balance of payments problem is the one which this country is currently suffering. Nevertheless, without dwelling upon the circumstances of this last recession, the export and import industries cannot be put aside like any other industry. They are vital, ultimately, in a large trading nation, to the increase in standards of living, which cannot be sustained by a small manufacturing sector catering for a small population. It is as significant as that.
Therefore one has to look at the circumstances of the Bill and the philosophy of it. I do not doubt the Minister’s intention for one moment. The position today, in terms of imports and exports, is much more sanguine and much more healthy than it was in any of the earlier situations to which I have referred. We have been blessed with great resources which have been discovered and which the world wants. There is a feedback effect from these industries which causes the Industries Assistance Commission and anybody with common sense to say that Australia must do most what it can do best. I refer now to the development of trade. I have looked at the first proposition of the Minister. He says that the Bill is designed to assist the development of trade with respect to the centrally planned economies. The centrally planned economies at the moment do not have a large proportion of Australian trade. Australia’s share of the total proportion of trade exports in the centrally planned economies in 1963-64 was 11.5 per cent. Today it has declined to 6 per cent. I hesitate to bore the House with the figures, but they are not large. I think that is the point that I want to make. With respect to the Middle East countries, which is the other area to which the Minister has referred, the figures have increased from 1 per cent to 3 per cent. In both cases, the figures are low. I believe they will not remain a large proportion of Australia’s export trade. Similarly with respect to imports the figures again remain low. Because I believe it is an essential question to be asked in relation to this Bill, I ask: In what way is this
Overseas Trading Corporation going to assist further in the development of overseas trade that is not available at the present time? How will it help? How can it provide assistance that is not provided at the present time.
I ask honourable members to look at the relevant clause of the Bill. I believe that the most important clause that needs to be examined deals with national interest. Naturally enough, I am always interested to know in what way national interest will be defined. National interest in this Bill is denned in a very general and a very cursory manner. It is not enough to say that because the present capital of the Corporation is not large or that the present totality of transactions which it can undertake is not large, therefore everything is all right and once something is there it can be expanded. As the only member here who voted against the Bill to establish the Australian Industries Development Corporation, I understand that reasonably well. Sub-clause (5) of clause 13 of the national interest clause states:
Where an approval is given under sub-section (3), the Corporation is, subject to this Part-
This is language for the lawyers - empowered to engage in the transaction in accordance with the approval and, unless the approval- of the Minister - is revoked, shall not decline to do so.
That is a very strong clause. It has great power with respect to national interest. I ask: How is national interest to be defined? It is not sufficient to say that national interest means that something is not of a commercial nature and it is not a transaction that would otherwise occur. Australians have a right to ask: ‘What is the national interest?’ How is it to be defined? Will all the details of the transactions that could occur in respect of national interest be disclosed? This is a very important point, whether the Corporation is small or whether it is large. The last thing in the world I would do would be to introduce politics into this matter.
I should like to diverge for a moment to examine a significant address that was made by Solzhenitsyn to the American trade union movement on 30 June this year- the end of our financial year and not theirs. In that address- I am paraphrasing it- he made it clear that one of the great problems in the United States in terms of trade was that an alliance could be found between what he called American capitalists and leaders of Russia which acts to the disadvantage of the United States. He said that had been occurring for a long time. When one recollects what occurred with respect to the American grain deals- grain deals which deprived the American economy and the American people of that commodity and which worsened, as the Minister knows -
– That is Russia, as you said?
– That is right. It worsened the American recession and it heightened inflation. The definition of national interest has to be considered. It cannot be ignored. A whole host of questions need to be asked about the way in which national interest should be defined. It needs to be defined, not simply in terms of not being a matter of commercial significance. I put this proposition to the Minister, acknowledging all the time his great goodwill in these matters and, as I have always said, his basic and essential honesty. After all, in terms of those grain deals, not only were the American economy and the American people disadvantaged, but also they represented an effective subsidy to the Russians of some hundreds of millions of dollars.
I turn now to introduce the politics of the matter into the debate. This needs to be considered if detente is looked at realistically and is seen not merely as an abolition of conflict but as the ability to persist in conflict by other means. All the theoreticians in centrally planned economies make that statement. I have been to 2 such countries recently and I found that the Russians continue to make those statements. We want to know how the national interest is to be defined in terms of Australia’s best interest and Australia’s best determination. We want to know what would be the nature of the deals and the economic circumstances of the deals that Australia would pursue and how the national interest itself would be defined.
In many ways I believe that it is a sad picture. The Minister has proposed 5 amendments. In looking at them quickly- I hope that one will not be committed to this statement later- I do not believe that many of them are wrong. I believe them to be a sincere attempt to meet and do meet a lot of the inadequate clauses in this Bill but they do not meet the circumstances under which the Minister has to function. The circumstances have to be looked at in this light: What has been the Government’s attitude towards export industries? What has been the Government’s attitude in terms of revaluations, Australia’s great export industries, export incentives and assistance- legitimate assistance- to those industries that are in trouble? Professor Gruin, a Government adviser, delivered a superb lecture several months ago to the Queensland Economic Society which I noticed has been published in a journal. He indicated in that lecture that the great problem with Australian industries that are open to overseas competition is not revaluation but the domestic economy.
-He has been discredited.
– I do not know about that. He is a nice gentleman. He is a friend of mine. However, this is a sad picture and it is sad because the Minister’s intentions cannot be questioned. Unfortunately, those circumstances must render the propositions of this Bill to be barren so far as the Opposition is concerned and so far as those who are engaged directly in the export trade in particular are concerned. They have to be looked at askance and very suspiciously.
– I have quite a deal of respect normally for the socioeconomic theories and beliefs of my friend, the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns), who has just spoken in the debate. But I think I could be excused for saying that I was not quite sure whether he was supporting or opposing the Bill. Perhaps it might be worth mentioning that it is more likely for the real indications of the Opposition’s attitude in this debate to come from the Leader of the National Country Party (Mr Anthony) than from my friend who holds a marginal seat in this Parliament. When matters of trade have ever affected the Opposition Parties, when in government, the National Country Party has had its foot firmly on the overseas trade portfolio.
- Mr Deputy Speaker -
– Why does not the honourable member sit down and grow up instead of calling quorums.
-Is the honourable member for Griffith raising a point of order? I ask the honourable member for Blaxland to resume his seat while the point of order is being raised.
– In view of the fact that we are to be gagged in a few minutes, I wish to draw your attention to the state of the House. (Quorum formed)
– As I was saying, if one wants to get the Opposition attitude on these matters one gets it from the Leader of the National Country Party. I shall deal with a couple of his views. Basically, they boil down to this: The National Country Party, as we on this side of the
House often say, socialises its losses and capitalises its gains. It does not mind government involvement when its supporters want money; but, if there is any government involvement which will benefit anybody else, then the Country Party is not interested.
It is interesting also that the Leader of the National Country Party referred to ‘the Government’s commo mates in Eastern Europe’. Look at the double-speak: The reality is that, while we were fighting in Vietnam and while the same right honourable gentleman was sending Australian boys to their death, his Government was still trading with China. He was still flying to China trying to bring about wheat deals while we were at war with North Vietnam which was being supplied with food from China. So much for the hypocrisy of honourable members opposite. The real crux of his remarks related to our attitude to exports. One of the matters he mentioned was the revaluation of the Australian currency. His proposition was that we discriminated unfairly against exporters because we happened to revalue the Australian dollar. The whole world knew that Australia’s currency was seriously undervalued. When the Liberal and National Country Parties were in government there was a 3-day wrangle between the Leader of the National Country Party and his Deputy and the then Prime Minister, Mr McMahon, and the then Treasurer, Mr Snedden, as to whose will would prevail in relation to the parity of the Australian dollar. While the Treasury, Mr McMahon and Mr Snedden said that the situation was serious, that we had to revalue the currency to stop the speculative inflow into Australia, the National Country Party selfishly opposed revaluation because of the wealthy interests that is represents. The decision of the Labor Government to revalue the currency meant that imports became a little cheaper and that the Australian consumer got some consideration. It did not mitigate against exports. If we look at our export figures for the last 2 years we see that they are starting to rocket again. We have never had any problem of a lack of overseas reserves. Our main problem was that our overseas reserves were too high.
The Leader of the National Country Party also complained that we cut tariffs. We cut tariffs simply because there was not enough domestic produce in Australia and demand was forcing up the prices of Australian commodities without any import competition. That was a welcome decision. The right honourable gentleman then talked again about the export coal tax. We heard him in this House yesterday representing the
American companies which operate in Queensland and which buy him off on a regular basis. (Quorum formed.) It is a pity that the Opposition cannot listen to some reasoned argument. The honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron), who called for the quorum, always gets very testy towards the end of the week. We on this side of the House think that probably he does not have a girl and is a bit frustrated.
There has been constant criticism of the Government’s policies in respect of exports. One of the specific criticisms of late is to the effect that our policies mitigate against exports, particularly in respect of coal. The point which the Opposition fails to make all the time is that it is singularly because of this Government’s efforts that in 2 years coal export prices have moved up 200 per cent for coking coal and 150 per cent for other coals. This was brought about because of the government to government dealing between this Government and the Government of Japan.
When one looks at the concept of this Trading Corporation one finds that it spells out the same principle again. Let the members of the Opposition go to the coal exporting companies in Australia and see where, in their view, the dramatic increase in price has come from. That increase was the prices with Japan. Previous Liberal-Country Party governments left our exporters straggling off to Japan to be picked off one after the other, competing against themselves, Queensland competing against New South Wales, with no order and no planning and of course no reasonable price. Yet because we impose a duty of only $6 a tonne on coking coal we hear the National Country Party bleating.
I shall mention some figures in relation to just a couple of mines in Queensland. Two years ago the Blackwater mine was receiving for its export coking coal a price of $ 1 2.62 a tonne. It is now receiving $48 a tonne. The Goonyella mine was receiving $ 1 3.44 a tonne 2 years ago and is now receiving $38.50. We are asking for $2 and $6 a tonne in respect of these coals so that we may siphon off a sum of $130m to the Australian people who deserve some benefit from the windfall gains of American companies operating in the coal export trade. So much for coal.
No matter where one looks in respect of exports this Government has been serious in its endeavours. In respect of wool, our major export commodity, we set up a floor price scheme to guarantee the existence of the Australian wool industry. That is something the National Country Party would never have set up and something that was never proposed by the Opposition when in government. The scheme was set up by this Government and has been supported by it ever since it came to office. It has guaranteed the existence of the Australian wool industry. The iron ore companies in Australia had almost gone to the economic wall 2 years ago but they were saved through government to government negotiations by the Australian Government with the Government of Japan. The same goes for coal, uranium, and now for wheat.
We have just consummated wheat deals with the Eastern bloc countries. We did not hear any bleating from the National Country Party or its supporters, the wheat growers, about the fact that the honourable member for Lalor, Dr J. F. Cairns, went to the Eastern bloc countries and negotiated that deal or about the sugar deal that we made with China. Those deals were made by the Government of Australia with the governments of other countries. Every government should have some instrumentality to trade with, to make extensive long term trade agreements for special commodities. What we are proposing with the establishment of this Overseas Trading Corporation is not unique. The United States of America has assisted its exporters with the Export-Import Bank. In Japan there is the Ministry of International Trade and Industry which has the final say and puts its imprimatur on all long term export deals. The European Economic Community deals on a government to government basis. It has just finished its negotiations with Egypt and it is now starting to negotiate with Algeria, Israel and Norway. I have a clipping from a newspaper in New Zealand- just across the Tasman. The article is from the New Zealand Herald Financial Review and is headed ‘New trading corporation signing up major firms’. The article states that the controversy and dire forebodings attending the birth of this corporation a little more than a year ago have waned. Of course, major New Zealand companies support this overseas trading corporation.
But the Opposition in Australia, when in government, did very little for exports. From 40 per cent to 50 per cent of the export subsidy went to the 7 largest Australian companies. The money did not go to small companies. The Minister sitting at the table, the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean), when in Opposition constantly made the point on the Exports Payments Insurance Corporation amendments that we should have an export finance facility. When we came into government we set up an export finance facility which was the same as the United States Import-Export Bank which, of course, has been of enormous assistance in guaranteeing finance in high value transactions at low rates of interest over extended periods. That facility did not exist prior to our coming into government. Indeed, even the introduction of the Exports Payments Insurance Corporation was opposed by two-thirds of the Opposition. They were opposed to the concept.
To give John McEwen his due, he was more of an Australian than the crew from the National Country Party that sits in Gun’s Gulley at the moment. He said that it was time that we had some export facility. Previously the British marine insurance companies picked up all the lucrative profits of marine insurance. None of the commercial companies wanted to handle the Exports Payments Insurance Corporation charter so we had to set up a Government facility. The commercial companies thought it would be a risk venture and were happy to let the Government take the risk. But when the Corporation started to operate profitably it was a different matter. It became part of the landscape and one of the accepted norms. Whenever the Labor Party advocates the setting up of an export finance facility there is something wrong. Whenever it advocates the setting up of an overseas trading facility there is something wrong. Whenever the Government advocates dealing on a government to government basis in coal or iron ore it is called creeping socialism. If we set up a wool price plan we do not hear the bleatings from the National Country Party about creeping socialism because we are pumping money into their supporters so they go quietly. It is just double speak all the way.
The point is that Australia needs trade to maintain the prosperity of its economy. We benefit from it. It cannot be all the one way. We have an enormous trading imbalance. We export more than we import. We cannot be dogs in the manger and suggest to people that they buy our exports without our taking some of their manufactures. So if we are to deal with them we should be able to deal with them on a government to government basis. One of the central thrusts of this Bill is that we deal with the Eastern Bloc countries and with the Middle East countries who deal on a government to government basis. The Middle East now has enormous cash flows and it is prepared to do business on a long term basis in capital equipment, food and other commodities of that nature, including secondary manufactures because the Middle East does not have secondary industry. It is foolhardy for us not to have some facility to negotiate.
About 90 per cent of the companies in Australia have fewer than 100 employees. They do not have enough capital or enough economic facilities to make long term agreements with these countries. The proposed Corporation could aggregate the products of these businesses, move into long term deals and syphon off the exportable surplus of small Australian manufacturers. These manufacturers could provide exports under long term agreements between Australia and, say, the Middle East countries or, indeed, the Eastern Bloc countries where it is not possible, because of the fact that a monopoly situation exists in selling and wholesaling, for a company to go and advertise its products, develop a market and keep the market in its own right. Companies just cannot go into these countries and do that. We need a corporation like the one proposed to make that sort of arrangement with one of the Eastern Bloc countries. That is one of the benefits of this Bill. (Quorum formed).
One of the principal points the Minister has made is that the Corporation is not designed to disadvantage private enterprise. It is not there to knock business around. It is not intended to get into markets which have already been developed and where there are good trading facilities and in fact where there are enormous retail outlets for products. That is not its role. Its role is to go into places where markets have not been developed. Its role is to attract and develop new business.
The Minister has had the support of the Heavy Engineering Manufacturers Association of Australia the Australian Manufacturers Export Council and the Australian Chambers of Commerce. He has written into the Bill, explicit safeguards which provide for appeals to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. Any company that feels it is disadvantaged by the Corporation transgressing its territory in a specific trading situation can appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal to have the trading arrangements varied.
In every other respect the Corporation is to operate as a normal commercial operation. It is a statutory corporation, in the same way as Trans.Australia Airlines, the Commonwealth Banking Corporation, Qantas Airways Ltd and other Australian Government instrumentalities are. It will have no favours from the Government except that it will have $lm in capital and it will, of course, show returns. It will report to the Minister and be subject to audit by the AuditorGeneral. Beyond that it will operate as a normal commercial operation.
Perhaps the other tiling we may do one day to supplement the Corporation is to move into a Government warehousing scheme. Mr Duncan White, a good friend of mine in Sydney who is interested in this concept and who has worked in the Department of Overseas Trade developed the concept of a warehousing scheme which would tailor in with the concept that we are discussing today. Warehousing is also mentioned in the Bill. The establishment of the Corporation is a perfectly reasonable proposition. It is not a matter of creeping socialism. Every other comparable country has a similar organisation. It is time that the Liberals and members of the National Country Party stopped talking this ideological rubbish about socialism and accepted the fact that the Bill before us is a positive measure which is in line with other positive measures we have looked at and implemented in the field of export development in which this Government has a first class record. I commend the Australian Overseas Trading Corporation to the House. It deserves the support of all members of the House, and I hope it will be supported in the Senate.
-Mr Deputy Speaker -
Motion (by Mr Nicholls) put:
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Hon. G. G. D. Scholes)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Hon. G. G. D. Scholes)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clauses 2 to 6- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 7 (Function of Corporation).
-Clause 7 states that the function of the Corporation is to act both as principal and as agent and it is to be concerned with trade of a kind that cannot be, or is not being, adequately maintained and developed by ordinary commercial enterprise. One has to ask: Who judges the adequacy of existing trade or potential trade? By what criteria are we examining ordinary commercial enterprise? It ill-becomes this Government which has adopted a number of policies which are opposed to the wellbeing of enterpriselarge, medium and small- to say that it is now going to give out to enterprise a series of handouts by assisting it with some sort of machinery to advance, develop and maintain export trade.
We have heard tonight that small business will benefit greatly from this operation. We have heard reference to economies of scale. The references which we have heard tonight and which were contained in the Minister’s second reading speech indicate again that this Government is talking of commercial matters without the embarrassment of knowing anything about them. If the manufacturer has a product he is already using existing commercial trading houses, both import and export, and he does not require another piece of mechanism. Of course, the Heavy Engineering Manufacturers Association has said that this legislation would enable it to advance consortia. There are some bodies which would be glad to have the Government to do the work for them, to set up the apparatus for them; but the average able manufacturer or trader knows that if he has not the staff, the size and the potential to develop and export his own product to markets there are experts available in the private sector to do it for him. This so-called economies of scale principle is only one aspect of export viability, and when it is applied to a manufacturer who is too small to export the relativity of the economy of scale is correspondingly small and has very little to do with his real contribution to our export growth.
It is well worth noting that, while clause 7 sets out the very estimable general functions of the Corporation, in fact there are only five or six clauses which embellish the thoughts contained in clause 7; the rest of the 20-odd pages of the Bill is concerned largely with the establishment of a large administration to compound the bureaucratic errors of the past. Most of the Australian manufacturing enterprises which would benefit primarily as a result of this legislation- I say ‘primarily’ because most of the rural people already have boards which are able to conduct themselves without interference from the Overseas Trading Corporation- already have begun to utilise the previously existing export incentives, and in their more truncated form the existing export incentives, to find their own markets. They do not require the assistance of an Overseas Trading Corporation. If the Government is establishing a mechanism allegedly to provide some know-how, then the manufacturers will make some use of it; but if private enterprise is worthy of support it does not require this kind of crutch. We in the Opposition believe that private enterprise has the wherewithal to get out and find its own markets.
It has been said in support of the functions set out in clause 7 that the New Zealand experience is something worth following. In the Canberra Times of Wednesday, 13 August of this year, there was a reference to the operation of the corresponding New Zealand body. But what appears from that article is that the New Zealand exporters are relying upon the supply of information which is useful to large and small companies. That supply of information, of course, is available to Australian exporters through the Australian Trade Commissioner Service. One would have thought that if the Australian Government felt that the supply of information for Australian exporters or potential exporters was deficient there could have been an expansion of the Trade Commissioner Service rather than the creation of yet another bureaucracy at a time when we are concerned allegedly with restraining public spending.
Another point that has been made about the New Zealand type of operation is that it can carry overheads and can provide on the spot services in Australia. In the case of overheads, the Minister for Overseas Trade (Mr Crean) has complained about the old form of export incentives on the basis that they were a form of subsidy for exports; yet in fact by this measure he is introducing another form of subsidy. It is a form of subsidy which, like so many other measures of the present Government, is creating a notion of dependency on the part of those who receive it. If Australian manufacturers, large, medium or small, are unable to use the existing private sector trading operations then they are unable to make any substantial contribution to Australia’s export earnings and the functions of the Corporation in relation to imports is in many ways offensive to the operations of Australian industry.
In short, what is required is on the spot services, advice and economic intelligence, but this can be obtained now through the quite adequate services of the Department of Overseas Trade in its Trade Commissioner Service. I understand that there is some battle between the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Overseas Trade over the role, status and function of the Trade Commissioner Service. If that is so it is to be lamented. It certainly is very important that Australian businessmen have the expert advice of trade commissioners when they go to find a market and it is nice to get the introduction. This is important. It is much more important than having another cumbersome mechanism.
Clause 7 (1) states:
The function of the Corporation is to engage in overseas trade, both as principal and as agent, with the object of ensuring the maintenance and expansion of overseas trade and, in particular, overseas trade of a kind that cannot be, oris not being, adequately maintained and developed by ordinary commercial enterprise.
Nowhere in this Bill do we have the criteria on which that is to be judged. Nowhere is there any guide as to the adequacy of the terms of overseas trade, potential or existing.
– I am not quite sure from what the honourable member for Balaclava (Mr Macphee) said whether he is opposed to clause 7 or not, but in case he is I will read out clause 7 ( 1 ). It reads:
The function of the Corporation is to engage in overseas trade both as principal and as agent, with the object of ensuring the maintenance and expansion of overseas trade and, in particular, overseas trade of a kind that cannot be, or is not being, adequately maintained and developed by ordinary commercial enterprise.
One of my friends from the National Country Party came down while his leader was speaking this evening and said: ‘You look worried’. I said: ‘I am not worried; I am disgusted’. I change the word now and say not ‘disgusted’ but ‘disappointed ‘. I say that with all respect to the attitude that has been taken to this Bill. As was pointed out, the main purpose of the Bill is to enable Australia better to engage in trade in areas where we are not doing trade. I therefore ask honourable members opposite to look particularly at the latter part of clause 7. We have cited figures in support of our argument and I have also said that from the speech of the Leader of the National Country Party (Mr Anthony) I thought that we were in 1875 and not 1975.
– How did you work that out?
– The honourable member could not work anything out at the moment. I think he ought to retire to where he has been all night and leave us alone. We would be better without him. At the moment the majority of Australia’s export trade is in primary products and raw materialsabout 80 per cent in aggregate- and a comparatively small amount is in manufactured products. But equally, Australia cannot expect to expand its exports if in turn it does not do something about taking imports from other parts of the world. I should have thought that the honourable member for Balaclava, for whom I have some respect- he and I served on a committeewould have had a better vision of the future of Australia than he seems to have displayed tonight. Australia cannot survive in the next 10 years by taking the same attitude as it took in the last 10 years.
At least the Bill that is before us is in my view a move in the right direction. It acknowledges that we are not doing business with parts of the world that we could do business with. I think it was pointed out that the major part of the trade that we do with the centrally planned economies is in items such as wool and wheat. Nobody is objecting to the trade being done in those commodities. But all those countries are asking, as well they should: ‘How can we take goods from you unless you begin to take goods from us? This is part of the difficulty- that they do trade at a government to government level. Anybody who is following the events in Europe at the moment- I am talking of western Europe, not of eastern Europe; if you like, the so-called private enterprise economy parts of Europe- will be aware of the changing situation there. Those countries are beginning to do more central trading. Basically this is what this Bill is about. We are not interfering with business that is already being done. What we are suggesting is that there are vast areas of business with which we have to begin to deal and which we have not tapped up to date. The existing mechanisms do not provide for that kind of trade. All I would hope is that this Bill will be looked at in that light.
When I made my second reading speech I gave a challenge at the end of it; I said that the Bill would lie on the table for a couple of months to allow representations to be made. In good faith I have listened to representations and I hope, when we deal with clause 10, to move some amendments which I have accepted from bodies that have made representations- bodies such as the Heavy Engineering Manufacturers Association, known as HEMA. and the Associated Chambers of Manufacturers of Australia, known as ACMA; I cannot always think of the initials, they are so prolific these days. The main opponents to this Bill are what are called commerce groups. I do not want to be denigratory of commerce groups, but in my mind commerce groups do not do as much as do manufacturing groups. I say this with all respect. Commerce is trading in commodities and commerce does not much give a damn about whether the commodity is exported or imported as long as it sells it. In my view people in commerce have blinkers on their eyes as far as the future of Australian trade is concerned.
I have hoped that there would be a more objective approach to this Bill than we have heard this evening. I say this with all respect to the Leader of the National Country Party. The speech that he made tonight was not his proudest moment. I am prepared to accept certain amendments that have been put to me and I hope that honourable members on the other side of the chamber will have a little bit more vision. I think it is another example of the Liberal Party being led by the nose by the National Country Party. I simply say to the National Country Party that it survives. In Australia now there is a lot of talk about the beef industry, for example. The beef industry is such at the moment that something like 60 per cent of its productive capacity depends on sales overseas. The principal market for overseas sales is the United States of America which is taking less proportionately, but at the moment taking slightly more than we expected.
– Thank goodness that they are.
– Thank goodness for it; exactly. I have done everything I could do to see it expand. Japan is another area that is taking more. But what you will acknowledge is that in one of the areas where we did sell a lot, Europe, it is going to be very difficult to sell much for several years ahead. We did get orders from Russia.
– At what price?
– It is rather facetiously called by honourable members opposite one of the commie countries.
– Not facetiously.
– As was said by one of my colleagues, you will sell live sheep or dead sheep, or you will sell wheat or you will sell sugar to them, but, when it suits you, you denigrate their politics.
– Come on.
-Order! I have previously asked the honourable member for the Northern Territory to cease interjecting. I suggest that he do so.
– The Minister is speaking directly to me, and I feel I should answer him.
– I am not speaking directly to you. It would be a waste of time.
– Come on, you do not know what you are talking about.
-Mr Chairman, could I be protected from this sort of irrelevance?
-The honourable member for the Northern Territory is inviting me to take action. I would not wish to do so. I warn the honourable member for the Northern Territory.
– I think the honourable member knows that I am not a belligerent character, but I do not like, with all respect, being -
– I resent your insinuations.
– If I made any insinuation, I withdraw it. All I am suggesting is that at this stage the Opposition, particularly the Country Party, has to take a broader view and in my view should be supporting the sort of measure that is before us. I say again that we are one of the few countries still capable of being a food exporting country. I guess- I do not think this is properly acknowledged sometimes- we are probably unique in this respect as far as beef is concerned. We have already got to the point where 60 per cent of our capacity is devoted to exports. I believe that during 1976 there will be a world shortage of beef, and Australia will be one of the few countries capable of supplying it. We have reached the point also where out of every 5 bushels of wheat that we produce four are sold overseas. We have the same sort of situation with sugar. The major part of our production of sugar is not consumed in Australia but is exported.
A classic lesson in economics is that no country exports unless it wants to import. This is the kind of thing that we have to do some thinking upon. International trade is a 2-way process. You cannot export without the prospect of importing. There seems to be an ambivalence, at least from some of the interjections I heard from the National Country Party this morning. Members of the National Country Party wanted to be free traders as far as export trade is concerned and protectionists as far as import trade is concerned. No country can survive in that way. I say as objectively and as dispassionately as I can that there is an honest attempt on the part of the Government to acknowledge that the world of the next 10 years will be very much different from what the world of the last 10 years was. When we talk about the centrally planned economies and add together countries like Russia, China and Eastern Europe, we are talking about one-third to one-half of the world’s population. If honourable members opposite think that in the isolated geographical situation that Australia is in they can take the sort of attitude- if I may say so, the 1875 attitude in 1975-typified by the speech of the Leader of the National Country Party of Australia here tonight, then they are leading Australia on a path to disaster.
I would hope that there will be a little bit of objective assessment about this Bill. I propose bringing forward amendments to the Bill after clause 10. 1 have left this Bill lying on the table for 2 months for consideration by interested groups. I have varied the provisions of it, and I must say that I was astonished tonight by the way in which it was assailed by the National Country Party in particular. I think while the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) was supporting the stand supposedly taken he was trying to be a little critical about the rather extreme form in which the opposition had been posed. I hope that there will be a little thinking on this. If the Opposition intends opposing the Bill here and then intends using its numbers in the Senate we are wasting our time. I hoped that at least the Opposition would have looked objectively at the amendments I had hoped to present earlier this evening and that the Opposition would have been persuaded that to some extent the amendments go towards meeting some of the objections that have been posed to this Bill. I think, with all respect, there ought not to be total opposition to this measure.
-Order! I have to inform the Committee that we have present in the gallery this evening members of the Swedish Parliament’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs (Welfare) led by Mr Goran Karlsson, Chairman of the Committee. On behalf of the Committee I extend a very warm welcome to the members of that Standing Committee.
-The Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Crean) said that he would withdraw the word ‘disgusted’ and use the word ‘disappointed’. I am glad that he has moderated his language; I wish he would moderate the Bill, because it is bad. I intend to show why the Bill is bad. The honourable gentleman asks for an objective assessment. Let us have an objective assessment. The single economic area in which we are succeeding today is that of exports. The whole rationale of this Bill is that exports are failing. Does the honourable gentleman not know the figures? Quite clearly exports have expanded at a far more rapid rate than even inflation has in Australia. That is an achievement indeed. But the rationale all hinges upon the lost opportunities in the centrally planned economies and in the oil-rich Middle East countries. The truth is that in the first 1 1 months of the financial year- they are the only figures I have- the volume of exports to both those recipient areas has climbed quite dramatically. The oil-rich countries of the Middle East and the centrally planned economies have taken more of our exports.”
What, then, is the purpose of the Bill. The Deputy Prime Minister says that it is to improve our trading opportunities in those two areas. I quote what he said in his second reading speech:
The significant areas for such development and diversification are the centrally planned economies and the Middle East oil exporting countries.
I put to the Minister directly: Does he deny that there has been a marked increase in our exports to both these recipient areas?
– To the centrally planned economies, no.
– The Minister should look at his figures and then he will apologise. This Bill establishes a trading corporation. The opening words of clause 7(1) are:
The function of the Corporation is to engage in overseas trade, both as principal and as agent . . .
The rest of the words in the clause do not matter a row of beans in interpreting the power of the Corporation. The function of the Corporation is to engage in overseas trade both as principal and as agent. This means that, as principal, it can acquire the tide to goods; it can become the owner. Sub-clause 2 of clause 7 provides:
The Corporation shall carry on business for the purpose of performing its function.
The Corporation will carry on business for the purpose of performing its function of acquiring title to goods in Australia to export and of acquiring tide to goods overseas to import. That is its purpose. What this Bill proposes to do is to set up the Trading Corporation with all the attributes, powers, privileges, status and capital support that the centrally planned economies set up. In other words, what we are asked to do is to set up a centrally planned economy type organisation in our totally different system in order that we can trade with centrally planned economies. But the centrally planned economies are a small portion, relatively, of our overseas trade. Our biggest trade, as everybody knows, is with Japan, the United States, the United Kingdom, the Common Market countries and New Zealand, which I almost forgot. We do not need such a corporation to trade with all those countries. Are we to change our whole governmental structure and our whole ideological approach of free trade and of free enterprise to establish such a corporation merely so that it can trade with the centrally planned economies, especially when the performance on the board shows that we could trade with centrally planned economies and trade successfully.
It is important, while looking at clause 7, to examine the powers that are contained in clauses 8 to 13. Quite clearly what we have to do is to look at clause 8. 1 will transgress a little here. We are dealing with clause 7. The functions of the Corporation are contained in clause 7. It relates to acquisition of property and tide to goods, whether it be in Australia or overseas. Clause 8(1) contains paragraphs (a) to (f). All of them have the function of acquiring ownership. The whole purpose of the Corporation is to acquire ownership and then, having acquired such ownership, to dispose of it either in Australia or outside Australia. Clause 9 provides that the Corporation shall not limit the activity of marketing authorities. I would hope not. These marketing authorities have built up tremendous expertise in marketing. As the Minister himself said, deprecatingly of course, our trade with the centrally planned economies is only in primary goods. That, of course, would be done through the marketing organisations, if it were true. It is not totally true. But there is no need, therefore, for this Corporation to be set up in those terms.
It states in clause 10 that the Corporation is not to compete against other traders. It can compete against other traders and it is not prohibited from going to other countries. It only provides that it cannot compete as an owner of goods with an exporter from Australia. There is no limitation upon it competing with people within Australia with the goods it acquires title of outside of Australia. Clause 1 1 of the Bill states that the Corporation is not to engage in retail trade. There is no prohibition about the Corporation competing in wholesale trade. Indeed, the very purpose of acquisition of goods from overseas is to sell them within Australia. It will do that with wholesale trade.
Clause 12 provides that the Corporation is not to engage in manufacture except that it can manufacture for the purpose of export the cartoning, presentation and so on. It will be involved in manufacture. Clause 13 is the national interest transaction clause. There is no reason why the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation cannot give the guarantee that can be given by the principal who is in private business. If we take out these functions and realise that they are unsustainable we ask this question: Why set up such a bureaucratic Corporation for these purposes when we do not need it? What we should do is tear the life out of the BUI- take out clause 7- and say that it cannot be a principal, that it can act as an agent only, that it can act with aU the authority of an agent for the principal in Australia who wants to export or to import.
In clause 8 of the Bill we should remove all the references to the acquisition of proprietary rights in goods, of ownership, and let the Corporation be fully confident to act as agent for principals. It could then serve a purpose. Clause 9 must remain in the Bill. In clause 10 we should delete sub-clauses (1) and (2). Sub-clause 3 refers to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. What is the purpose of appealing to the Tribunal unless it is for the purpose of the Australian Overseas Trading Corporation engaging in competition with people already trading in markets and some body is needed to resolve the difficulties? So there is no need for that sub-clause.
Clause 1 1 states that the Corporation is not to engage in retail trade. Of course, it should not. It should be prohibited from engaging in wholesale trade also. It should act only as an agent. So clause 11(1) which prohibits the Corporation from engaging in retail trade is necessary but sub-clause (2), which deals with the qualifications in regard to the prohibition, is not. It subtracts from the prohibition as outlined in subclause 1 . The same can be said in regard to clause (12). We should leave in sub-clause (1) which does not authorise the Corporation to engage in the production and manufacture of goods. Clause 12 (2), which subtracts from the prohibition, should be removed.
I believe that clause 13 is unnecessary because what is proposed in this clause can all be done by the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation in regard to which the Bill proposes that this Corporation should have a close relationship. Then we are left with a corporation that can act as an agent for private enterprise in Australia or for private enterprise that wishes to import into Australia. That would be the proper purpose for which the corporation should be established. That can be done by the Minister’s own Department without creating this new corporation which will be over-staffed before very long. It has a capital of $lm. It has a contingent liability of $500m. Obviously, the Government intends it to acquire title after title. I repeat that the Corporation is permitted to have $500m worth of contingent liability. Quite clearly, the Government has in mind that it will be a major corporation, and it should not be.
-Order! The right honourable member’s time has expired.
– The right honourable member for Bruce (Mr Snedden) was always rather careless with his noughts. The contingent liability of the Australian Overseas Trading Corporation is $50m. The capital is $ 1 m. At least, let us be accurate. I admired the right honourable gentleman more as Leader of the Opposition than as a legal advocate. He has not shown himself at his best in that capacity tonight. The value of Australia’s export and import trade combined is of the order of $ 1 6 billion per annum.
- Mr Chairman, may I interrupt for a moment? I want to apologise. I believe that I did say ‘$500m’. Of course it is $50m.
-The right honourable member will not interrupt at this stage.
– All the right honourable member does is confirm that he is careless with his noughts. But there is a big difference between basing his case on an assumption of $500m and basing it on $50m. I think that he would concede at least the point that $50m does not make the corporation a giant that will overtake Australia’s private enterprise activity.
I come back to the major part of clause 7 (2). We are not talking about trade that has already been attained. We are talking about the potential that is there and has not been availed of. It is my belief that it will be better availed of if we have an institution such as this corporation. Let us try to be objective about the position. New Zealand has such an entity; Canada has one. As I indicated earlier, even the United States of America does a lot more of this kind of trading, government to government, than the Opposition is prepared to concede. Within the European Economic Community arrangements, more and more trade takes place within the EEC as against outside it and is being done on a government to government centralised level. The Opposition might not like this kind of trade. But my belief is that Australia will not survive in the years ahead unless it adapts itself to changing circumstances. I tried to point out that the volume of trade in the centrally planned economies is of the order of $100 billion per annum of which, on the latest figures, Australia’s share at the moment is $530m. It is a lesser proportion, despite what the right honourable gentleman who has just left the chamber said, of our total trade now than it was 10 years ago. Surely this should give us some cause for thought. I am not arguing the point that the major part of the trade which we do in those areas is in commodities such as wool and wheat. We do have adequate mechanisms in those areas. Wheat is sold in a special way. Wool tends to be sold to those areas on a government to government basis. But there are other areas of activity. I have received periodically what we call mixed commissions which have come to Australia from places such as Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia.
– All good countries.
– All good countries. These commissions claim that they are able to supply us with goods and that the customers here do not know of the availability of those goods. At least this mechanism helps to make better communication between us. I hope that this is accepted as a central proposition.
I was in Russia recently. I had never been there before.I am sorry that I was not there 20 years ago, because I would like to have compared what I saw recently with what Russia was like 20 years ago. I must say that in many respects I was surprised by the economic growth in that country, particularly in that thing which I thought was the horror of Western civilisation, the motor car. In Moscow and Leningrad the Russians are succumbing to its blandishments. They believe that they are capable of supplying Australia with sophisticated equipment in areas such as electricity generation. Candidly, I am not quite as optimistic as they are about the prospects. At least I could say to them that Australia traditionally has bought these things from America or the United Kingdom. This has been a traditional arrangement and who am I to say that the Russian equipment is better than the American or British? I think there is some obligation on our part at least to give them the opportunity to come and contact people here. One of the difficulties on their part is to break through. Our trade tends to be on a private basis, not a government basis. Selling at the other end has to be through some sort of government agency.
All we feel about this measure is that it puts Australia and, indirectly, potential exporters and importers- at the moment I am not arguing about the relativity between an exporter and an importer; I say that we have to export and to import- in a better position to trade rationally with what is now getting close to half the world’s population. We are in a better position with this sort of mechanism than without it. I hope that honourable members opposite will strip away a certain amount of ideological obsession and get down to the realities of Australia in 1975. It is all right bellyaching about submarines in the Indian Ocean and things of that kind. I believe that, with what took place recently in Helsinki and with detente- somebody mentioned this earlier tonight- at least as far as Europe is concerned boundaries are reasonably well settled for the years ahead.
– They reckon we have problems here too.
-I think every part of the world has problems. I believe that a country such as Australia has to accommodate itself with places such as China, Russia on its eastern front, Siberia- it will not be divided into two in our lifetimeand the centrally planned economies; that is, those who want to do business in Australia and nearly all of whom are represented here diplomatically. I believe that we are at a disadvantage because of the trading mechanism. It is all right for commercial groups that have done well in the past and may not be doing as well as they would like at present, but we are talking about areas that so far have not been tapped as markets.
-Order! It being half past 10 o’clock p.m. and in accordance with the order of the House of 1 1 July 1974, I shall report progress.
– I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
- Mr Speaker, I ask that the question be put forthwith.
Question put. The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Hon. G. G. D. Scholes)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.37 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for Northern Australia, upon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Department of Northern Australia, Northern Territory Division, administers several programs which enable individual groups of people in the community to apply for grants from the Australian Government for specific purposes. These programs fall into six distinct groups:
. Assistance to Northern Territory Show Societies.
Commercial and Industrial Grants
Cultural and General Welfare Services
Grant to Assist Crocodile Survey
Grants to the Northern Territory Housing Commission.
Outlined below is a detailed summary relating to each group. Assistance to Northern Territory Show Societies:
) and (2) Assistance to Agricultural and Show Societies in the Northern Territory.
Capital assistance is restricted to buildings and facilities on Show Grounds. It is to encourage greater participation by pastoralists and agriculturalists in the annual district shows with a view to encouraging improvements in stock and agriculture productivity generally.
The Societies have to demonstrate an active and progressive role and to have raised funds for show ground improvements through the community and through admission charges.
The program commenced in the 1950s.
Funds are provided by administrative action under existing policy. There is no legislation involved.
The policy of assistance is circulated among all show societies.
Two applications for grants under the assistance scheme have been received each year for the last 3 years. The applications came from the Adelaide River and Katherine show societies. Grants were given in both cases.
Applications for grants are examined by specialist officers who are responsible for encouraging increased agricultural and pastoral productivity in the Northern Territory. The questions of real need and the likely prospects for the district are also taken into account.
10) In the last three years all applications for grants have been met.
) No grants are made to individuals.
12) and (13) Not applicable.
The show societies are required to provide audited statements of the manner in which grants are expended and the facilities built with the grant are physically examined during erection. The facilities built must be for a public purpose.
1973- 74-$ 16,000
1 7) and ( 1 8) Not applicable.
Commercial and Industrial Grants:
Cultural and General Welfare Services:
1 ) Programs enabling individual groups of people in the community to apply for grants for a specific purpose:
(i) General- the organisation must-
Grants for buildings or other permanent improvements on land to be subject to the land:
Applications for a grant should be in respect of a complete project or of a self-contained stage and should show:
Grants to Sporting Bodies:
In this category, grants will generally not be available for expendable equipment, operational expenses, or facilities for public spectators.
(a) Inspection by a qualified person to ascertain that the grant moneys have been expended according to their purpose, i.e. a building inspector, youth and recreation officer,
1 8) To ensure that organisations do not receive grants for the same purpose under other than the Cultural Grants program, the application form contains a clause whereby the organisation must advise funds received from any other source by way of grant or subsidy. The application form must be submitted with a copy of the last audited financial statement, as well as a copy of the constitution, and be signed by at least three office-bearers as true and correct.
Where previously certain organisations applied annually for a grant through the Cultural Grants scheme, for operational expenses, these are now subsidised on a quarterly basis.
The conditions surrounding the subsidy are the same as for cultural grants, i.e. the organisation is obliged to justify application for assistance.
Organisations as specified this year include-
Northern Territory Council of Social Services
Old Timer’s Homes, Alice Springs
Community Creche, Darwin
St Vincent de Paul
Mentally Handicapped Persons Association. Subsidies are paid on documented proof of expenditure with the organisations submitting quarterly statements.
At the present time only one such program is being supported.
St Mary’s Village, Alice Springs, provides accommodation and care for 50-60 children. The Village was established by the Australian Board of Missions prior to 1956. An operational subsidy of 90 per cent has been paid annually, and capital subsidies through general ‘Capital Assistance to Missions Scheme’, now funded by Department of Aboriginal Affairs. Over the years, St Mary ‘s Village has expanded from a small hostel with a farm project, to a hostel/cottage complex with a large area set aside for an orchard and vegetable garden. Three family homes have been built in the town area in Alice Springs also.
The present capital grant of $74,000 was approved by the Minister in 1973-74 financial year for:
During 1973-74 the grant was expended to $39,500, mainly on the erection of the third town cottage, total cost of which is now estimated at $56,000.
During 1974-75 the remainder of the Grant has been fully expended, and further Ministerial approval has been sought for a further grant of money to complete the project.
(a) Payments of capital and operational grants to trustees of Reserves for the Recreation and Amusement of the Public and other Reserves.
In respect of:
Community at large is not advised of assistance available as subsidies and grants are only paid to specific organisations.
Grants to Assist Crocodile Survey:
Grants to Housing Commission:
asked the Minister for Services and Property, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
In addition, staff have also been provided for the Parliamentary Liberal Executive and the Parliamentary Country Party Executive.
The additional staff positions for the last mentioned two persons were discontinued in mid-1973 following the reallocation of staff by the leaders of the Liberal and Country Parties.
The furniture and equipment was supplied for the5th and 19th Floors, Westfield Towers, William Street, Sydney, and 4 Treasury Place, Melbourne.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The effort devoted by the RAAF to aerial surveillance of the Australian coast was more than doubled from the beginning of last year. It has since been supplemented by extensive Naval air patrols in particular areas.
Though some routine coastal surveillance activity is required for specifically defence purposes, the major requirement is oriented to the support of the civil authorities -with particular concern for fisheries, health and customs. Even so, the bulk of the civil surveillance effort is provided by the Services.
Law enforcement activity, like the surveillance that is undertaken for civil purposes, is also not a direct responsibility of the Defence Force. It is Only undertaken by the Services with or on behalf of the responsible civil enforcement agency.
The responsibility for policing the activities of foreign fishermen within three miles of the Queensland coast rests with the State fisheries authorities. Statutory responsibility for fisheries matters beyond the three mile limit rests with my colleague the Minister for Agriculture. Quarantine matters come within the purview of my colleague the Minister for Health. I have received no advice from either the State or the Australian civil authorities which would suggest that they are not satisfied with the Defence Force assistance that is provided in support both of civil oriented surveillance and of civil law enforcement.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Department of the Northern Territory: Reports (Question No. 2597)
asked the Minister for Northern Australia, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Australia’s Participation In SEATO (Question No. 2711)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs:
– The following is the answer to the honourable member’s question:
The honourable member will be aware that the members of SEATO are at present engaged in consultations about the future of the Organisation, which the two regional members have recently said they desire to see phased out It is expected that the method and timing of the phasing out of the Organisation will be discussed at the next meeting of the SEATO Council, which will probably be held in New York towards the end of September. The following details relate to the operations of SEATO as they are at present conducted.
Australia currently participates in the following SEATO activities:
Periodic meetings of subordinate bodies;
c) A program of combined military exercises.
, (3) and (4)-
The Council, composed of the Foreign Ministers of the member countries, meets annually. It last met in New York on 3 October 1974, when Australia was represented by the Minister for Foreign Affairs.
The subordinate bodies meet at regular intervals, usually in Bangkok. Australia contributes 1 7.08 per cent of the annual budget of the SEATO organisation In specific terms we contributed $162,805 in the financial year 1974-75. The SEATO budget includes contributions to a number of developmental projects in the two regional member countries (Philippines and Thailand), which amounted for 1974-75 to about $214,000.
A program of two combined exercises per year is presently scheduled by the SEATO Secretariat. Australian participation is examined on the merits of each exercise and the availability of appropriate units of the armed forces. Australia contributes its share of the pool costs for exercises.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Northern Australia, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
CSIRO Computer Network (Question No. 2836)
asked the Minister for Science and Consumer Affairs, upon notice:
– The answers to the right honourable member’s questions are as follows:
I am advised that-
The total installation cost of the CSIRO ‘s computer network since the Government approved its inception in 1 962 has been approximately $ 10,000,000.
Running and maintenance costs of the network in 1974-75 were $2,587,000 all of which was recovered by charges to CSIRO and other users of the network.
All computer processing is carried out on the CSIRO’s Cyber 76 and CD3600 computers at Canberra. An extensive communications system using Telecom lines permits access to the Canberra facilities from more than thirty batch terminals and more than two hundred and fifty inter-active terminals throughout Australia.
Australian Government Departments and Instrumentalities, State Government Departments and Instrumentalities, Australian Universities and Colleges of Advanced Education, and in extremely rare instances where the work cannot be carried out elsewhere in Australia, commercial users.
Apart from approximately 1500 CSIRO users, about 1000 officers of the Departments and other users referred to in the answer to Question (4).
A complex range of scientific and technical calculations which it is impossible to describe simply since more than 3000 jobs are processed daily. The network’s facilities are also used for some administrative activities of CSIRO, for example, financial control and salaries and wages processing.
asked the Minister for the Capital Territory, upon notice:
What action has he taken as a result of the findings of the Youth Say project.
Mr BRYANT-The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
The findings of the ‘Youth Say’ Report which were based on discussions with some 1300 young people throughout Australia, about 30 of whom were from the A.C.T., were referred to in some detail by the Minister for Tourism and Recreation in his statement to the House on 10 April 1974 (Hansard pages 1346-1348).
As the Minister for Tourism and Recreation said, the Report reveals such things as the diversity of young peoples’ recreation priorities, their preferences, and needs for social experiences and involvement in the community. The Report points out the challenges facing everyone in this area and is not a blueprint or plan of action for governments or authorities.
Although the ‘Youth Say’ Report does not demand action in itself some of its findings do coincide with a number of initiatives which the Department of the Capital Territory has undertaken including:
The Youth Involvement Programme which enabled twenty-five young people to be creatively involved in the Canberra community during the summer school vacation.
The allocation of a temporarily unused sports pavilion to a group of young people so they might pursue the recreation activities of their choice under their own rules.
Provision of several mini bike tracks especially for young people
Support for the construction of a community activity centre directly linked with the Secondary College proposed for Wanniassa- a new neighbourhood in Tuggeranong. This centre which will be completed in 1979 includes a wide range of community facilities and some space that young people can call their own. The Centre will provide for the social and recreational opportunities that youth and the wider community are seeking.
Arrangement and encouragement of holiday programmes for young people to provide them with a wide range of activities from which to choose and participate.
Assistance with the setting up of a magazine to inform young people and the community what’s on in Canberra.
Just as important, however, as these initiatives, are the attitudes adopted by all sectors of the community to young people whether it be in the home, the school or the youth and sporting organisations that work with them. Finally, much rests on the enthusiasm and initiatives of the young people themselves.
I might add that my department is not responsible for planning or capital works projects in the A.C.T. Nor am I responsible for the commissioning of this particular study or for prompting the general thrust of reaction to the Report.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
With reference to his Queensland broadcast No. 1 7 on the loans debate dated 13 July 1975, (a) who said what and (b) when was it said in accusing him or the Government of being too ambitious and/or wanting to do too much for Australia.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Accusations of this kind are a constant theme of those who would seek to denigrate the Government ‘s efforts to improve the quality of life of the Australian people. I have nothing to add to what I said in my broadcast but I take it, in view of the honourable member’s question, that he is not one of those who makes such accusations.
asked the Minister for Education, upon notice.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
to (4) Prices for pharmaceutical benefit items are reached by negotiations which are undertaken by departmental officers nominated by the Director-General of Health with senior executives of individual firms. From time to time there are changes in the personnel undertaking such negotiations.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s questions is as follows:
The proposed course at the Lincoln Institute will provide for the first time in Australia formal structured training and qualifications in orthotics comparable with the best international requirements.
It is understandable that practising splintmakers feel threatened by the commencement of the course at the Lincoln Institute. Graduates of the course will not, however, become available to the workforce until 1979 and it will be some time after that before the number of diplomates employed becomes significant.
During this time I would anticipate that recognition of practising splintmakers and surgical technicians and for that matter diplomates of the Lincoln Institute, would be discussed by the parties concerned. I would stress, however, that the Australian Government is not able to grant national recognition of qualifications, skills or experience in the orthotics/prosthetics sphere. Presumably the employers would ultimately determine whether a particular splintmaker is recognised or not. The involvement of the Australian Government in this process would be limited to the extent that it is an employer of the people concerned. The Government plans to extend progressively the provision of surgical aids and appliances free of charge to all who need them, and have already done so in respect of artificial limbs among other items. Therefore training of practising splintmakers and surgical technicians will probably have to continue, especially as some of these artisans will probably attend the diploma course, and diploma holders will no doubt spend some of their time in work which theretofore splintmakers and others have had to leave to orthopaedic surgeons, other doctors or physiotherapists.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
1 ) At the recent Australian Health Ministers’ Conference the following important decisions were agreed upon in respect of controlling cigarette advertising:
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
What sums have been paid or are payable to what companies, firms or individuals, not in direct Government employment, in respect of advertising, promotion or other services, relating to the Women and Politics Conference.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: $34,000 has so far been paid to Eric White Associates and $1,426 is payable to Mr M. Goot.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 4 September 1975, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1975/19750904_reps_29_hor96/>.