29th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. G. G. D. Scholes) took the chair at 10 a.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The 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.
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 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 and Mr Fisher.
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 rejects completely the Australian Government Insurance Office Bill 1975.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byMrMcLeay.
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 sheweth:
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 Mr Cadman, Mr Connolly and Mr Dawkins.
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 recently announced enormous increases in postal and telecommunication charges will have severe repercussions throughout Australia.
Your petitioners consider that all sectors of the Nation’s economy will be seriously handicapped by rising postal charges and further consider that normal communication between Australian citizens will be seriously hindered.
We request that the decisions to increase postal and telecommunication charges be immediately rescinded or the alarming size of the increase moderated.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Newman.
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 undersigned persons believe that-
The $300 limit on Income Tax deductibility in respect of personal residential land and water rates is unrealistic and is a discriminatory Income Tax penalty.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will take steps to see that the aforesaid limitation is removed entirely or substantially increased.
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 the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That we strongly oppose the severe increase in postal charges particularly related to registered publications.
This new rate will threaten the continued existence of those publications used to disseminate information from religious and charitable service bodies, and indirectly strike a blow at the free flow of information.
Additional charges will seriously affect the employment prospects of those printers, artists and journalists employed by Caritas magazine and the other 45-member publications of the Australian Religious Press Association to which it belongs.
For the sake of the free flow of information, the jobs of staff and the viability of this important service industry, we call on the Postmaster General to increase the subsidy of the religious, charitable and trade union press so that these publications which rely heavily on personal subscription by mail can continue to provide a valuable community service.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr McMahon.
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.
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 Snedden.
-Mr Speaker, I give notice that at the next day of sitting I shall move:
That under the provisions of standing order 316, this House orders that there be laid before it the following papers which were compiled with the advice of some of the most distinguished experts in the field, and which were presented to the Australian Defence Conference recently held in Sydney:
Army last year and who has achieved an international reputation as a specialist on tactics and strategy;
A paper entitled In What Way Should Current Defence Allocations be Varied?, presented by ViceAdmiral Sir Alan McNicoll KBE, CB, CBE, GM, formerly Chief of the Australian Naval Staff.
– I ask the Minister for Science and Consumer Affairs: Is it correct that officers of the Bureau of Meteorology in Melbourne recently received unsolicited copies of the Australian Labor Party Platform, Constitution and Rules, sent to them in departmental envelopes using the internal delivery system of that Bureau? Is it also correct, as has been said to me, that a similar distribution was made in the Department of Labor and Immigration when the honourable gentleman was Minister for that Department? Will the Minister institute inquiries to ascertain at whose direction these actions took place and give instructions to officers of his Department that such dissemination of Party political propaganda, using government facilities, does not recur?
– Yes, it is true that I arranged for copies of the Platform to be sent to senior officers in the Department of Labor and Immigration. I did it for the purpose of enabling them to understand the Government’s policy. When the Liberal Party is able to state its policy in a printed platform and if it ever gets into government again I suggest that this would be a very convenient way for it to let officers know its policy. I did not know that the Bureau of Meteorology had received its copies. I am glad that it has. I gave instructions to the Secretary of my Department to see that the Bureau got copies and to ensure that every agency within my ministry received a copy of the Government’s policy.
– They are coming in out of the wet.
– They are coming in out of the wet, as the Prime Minister says. This is the most convenient way in which the Government can tell the Public Service what its policy is.
The Labor Party’s policy is stated clearly in its Platform.
Let me mention something against myself. On one occasion I found myself returning a letter to the central office to be rephrased because I did not like the way it was worded. I was simply told by the Department that the letter complied strictly with another section of the Platform which I had instructed officers to carry out. I think it is very sensible for a Party when in government to tell the Public Service what it stands for and to give its policy to the Public Service in black and white so that while that Party is in office the Public Service, whether it agrees with the policy or not, has a duty to carry it out. By giving copies of the Platform to every senior officer in the Department we put those officers in a position of knowing precisely where they stand while a particular Party is in office, although the officer may not necessarily be in favour of the policy. I intend to keep on doing this. In fact now that the question has been raised- the honourable member refers only to the Bureau of Meteorology- I will check to see whether the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation has its copy and whether the Institute of Marine Science has its copy. I will see whether Mr Norgard of the Metric Conversion Board has his copy. I will find out whether the Australian Science and Technology Council has its copy. I will have a look at all my colonies to find out whether they have been supplied accordingly. If they have not I will want to know why.
– I have to inform the House that we have present in the gallery this morning a Parliamentary Delegation from Canada led by the honourable Louise Marguerite Renaude Lapointe, Speaker of the Canadian Senate. On behalf of the House I extend a very warm welcome to the delegation.
-Is the Prime Minister aware of any suggestion that funds for Medibank or the Regional Employment Development scheme should be withheld?
– The only suggestions of this character that I have heard in the last few days were those made by the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the course of some reference they made yesterday to some purloined draft letter. The weekend before last they disciplined the honourable member for Hotham who is the Opposition spokesman who deals with Medibank. Now they are apparently conniving for Medibank funds to be withheld and are promoting with their colleagues in the Senate the idea that they should reject any funds which might be required for Medibank above those already appropriated by the Parliament. Some of their State colleaguesPremiers have now moved to adopt the benefits of the scheme. Some persons in the gallery might wonder why in the Australian federation we are still struggling to implement free hospitalisation which has been available in our sister federation of Canada for many years.
I would like to conceal our national shame by pointing out that earlier when there was a Labor Federal government- a National Democratic Party Government as they would know it- in the late 1940s, it was able to secure free hospitalisation throughout Australia. When a Liberal government- a Conservative government as they would know it- came to office in the early 1950s, it scuttled the scheme. We are now catching up with what Labor provincial governments first in Saskatchewan achieved 15 years or so ago and what governments of all political persuasions in Canada, federally and provincially, have been able to secure for their citizens now for some years past. The Australian Government, not without difficulty, has been able to get the necessary legislation through the national Parliament. There is only one provincial Premier still waiting to co-operate, the Liberal Premier of New South Wales- our Ontario.
Having chopped up Chipp last week they have decided to kill Medibank in a slightly more subtle way. But even the newspapers will not have it. I am told that the Leader of the Opposition made a visit- by no means the first- to the headquarters of the Sydney Morning Herald last night-off Broadway. But if honourable members look at the editorials this morning, they will see that this off Broadway appearance was a flop.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he is now prepared to answer questions which he was not prepared or able to answer yesterday. Will there be a need for supplementary Supply legislation to meet the Government’s commitments for Medibank, the Regional Employment Development schemes or any other aspects of Supply?
– I would think not. Nevertheless, this is a matter which it would be proper to ask of the Treasurer who is the Minister responsible for Medibank or of the Minister representing the Minister who is responsible for the Regional Employment Development scheme. The honourable gentleman still is not very dexterous in dealing with purloined documents. He asked me about this yesterday, I admit, and on this occasion he was backed up by his Deputy whose loyalty to successive leaders is a matter of notoriety in his organisation. They asked questions yesterday of me about a letter and quite frankly I could not see what they were driving at- what they were trying to identify. Later on the honourable gentleman was good enough to table the document. It was undated. That does not often happen in letters addressed to me. It was unsigned, which happens more rarely in letters addressed to me. Furthermore, it was on a size of paper which the Treasury, in its multitudinous correspondence with me, has never used. There was a line or a few lines left out.
– In pink?
-No, this was a photostat copy. It had about 9 or 10 paragraphs. It was dealing with a matter which was my responsibility and which naturally, in accordance with my usual habit, I settled quite promptly five or six weeks ago. There was a passing reference in one paragraph to the Regional Employment Development scheme and to Medibank commitments about which the Treasurer said he was writing to the Ministers concerned. The Opposition should have learned by now the folly of using purloined documents without obtaining copies of the prospective correspondence mentioned in such documents.
I can see that the Leader of the Opposition was somewhat slow in getting on to this issue. This document was quoted in the Sun News Pictorial in Melbourne at the beginning of last month and in one of the partners in that newspaper chain, the Brisbane Courier-Mail, at the beginning of last month- five or six weeks ago. The Leader of the Opposition apparently heard about it this week.
– That is quick for him.
-No, up until now he has left all the procurement and selling of purloined documents to his deputy. But now he has decided to take it on himself. He is to be the gentleman fence. He could not sell it to one of the other newspaper monopolies yesterday, as I have just recounted. The Sydney Morning Herald thought it might be good news but those who ran the policy, those who back or bucket politicians editorially, said ‘it was not the right time’. The Sydney Morning Herald, at this stage, will not yet endorse the use of stolen documents.
– Can the Treasurer say whether the Government gave careful consideration to ways of achieving a reduction in public spending during the preparation of the Budget? Is he able to say whether there are additional measures through which an extra $ 1 ,000m in savings could have been achieved?
– No. We do not believe there is room for another $ 1,000m in savings. In fact, with the best determination in the world the Opposition still falls short in its sums by some $500m in accounting for the cuts which it proposes to bring about if it were to be a government. The facts are that the sort of cuts which it is proposing if applied would lead to extensive retrenchments. People such as school teachers, community health workers, social workers, draftsmen, engineers, architects, building workers, road workers and a host of other people would be affected by such substantial cuts.
There is no possibility of the private sector being able to absorb such extensive retrenchments immediately or even in a reasonably short period. So what the Opposition is proposing in its Budget strategy, although its budget fits within the general money parameters that we had outlined, in detail is more contractionary. Not only would it lead to substantial retrenchments in the public sector of the economy which could not, I repeat, be absorbed in the private sector, but a significant section of the corporate sector would also be adversely affected because the undeniable fact is that the level of activity in the private sector of the economy at the present time has been sustained very much by the level of expenditure from the public sector. The sudden withdrawal of that expenditure by a LiberalNational Country Party government would have serious consequences for the private sector.
In short the Opposition has not done its sums. The sort of detailed program that it has outlined does not match up to the proposals which it has put forward as its objectives to the Parliament. What we would like the Opposition to do, as we have already forced it to come clean in more detail on its program, is to indicate exactly where that other $500m of cuts which are unaccounted for yet would fall. Would it be school teachers? Would it be the pre-school program? Would it be the end of the community health centre program? Would it be the end of the school dental therapy program whereby every primary school child in Australia would have free dental treatment by the early 1980s? Would it be the end of community welfare services that have been developed? Would it be a cutback in the road development program which we have been generously funding? Would it be a severe excision of expenditure in welfare housing? Let the Opposition come clean and state exactly what its Budget proposals are in detail.
– I ask the Minister for Minerals and Energy: Is the $6 tax per ton on coking coal and $2 per ton on steaming coal particularly severe on coal mines in New South Wales? Is the Minister aware of the narrow margins within which mine proprietors are working even with increased export prices? Will he undertake to review the tax and report the implications to this House and his colleagues with a view to its cancellation if the effects are as disastrous as the industry fears?
– The effects of the proposed tax will not be disastrous. In fact they will be beneficial to Commonwealth consolidated revenue. I have already informed the House that gross profits for the forthcoming year on export coal will be of the order of $544m, of which only a net amount of $69m will be absorbed by the new export tax after due allowance is made for company tax. The tax will represent about oneeighth of their total profit- a not unreasonable amount. The underground coal mines in New South Wales will be in a rather less advantageous position as a result of this tax than their counterparts in Queensland which have the advantage of low cost open cut production. Nevertheless, they are doing remarkably well and were doing remarkably well before we went to Japan at the end of June to renegotiate the pricing structure. There could be problems for certain small steaming coal producers. I have already met representatives of four of those companies and have received details of their cost structure and contracts and they are currently being examined.
-I ask the Minister for Overseas Trade whether he has seen a report which suggests that the beef export industry may have passed through its worst stage. Is the Minister able to provide the House with any more information on the present position of beef exporters?
– This is my maiden question as Minister for Overseas Trade. Everybody must be very happy with the administration of the Department of Overseas Trade. I hope that the beef industry has passed through the worst of its phases but it by no means yet faces a very pleasant prospect. It needs to be borne in mind that we have reached the stage in Australia where something like 60 per cent of the capacity of the beef industry is devoted to sales overseas. The principal markets in the past have been the United States of America, Japan, Europe and the United Kingdom. Due to economic recession all those countries have put restrictions upon the access of Australian beef to their markets. We have been able to negotiate a quota arrangement with the United States which, while not being as satisfactory as we would like, is certainly better than nothing. Recently, because some other countries that were participating in the quota arrangements were not able to fulfil their deliveries, we secured a further quota of 10 000 tonnes. More recently the Japanese market has begun to open up slightly and there are prospects of it being better in the future. I am afraid that the European market for the time being is a very bleak prospect.
However, it seems that some experts believe, and to some extent I support their view, that the likelihood is that by 1976 there could again be a world shortage of beef. This is an unfortunate situation, but Australia cannot be expected to have the beef on hand just in case some other country runs short. We should endeavour as far as possible to get forward orders, at least for particular quantities, and we do work in that direction. We recently opened up a market in Russia for 40 000 tonnes. Unfortunately, due to shipping and other problems, we were able to deliver only 35 000 tonnes. However, I assure the honourable gentleman that the Department of Overseas Trade, the Minister for Agriculture and I are taking all the steps we can to secure freer access and certainty of quantity.
– I ask the Treasurer When did he receive information that unemployment would rise to 400 000 in January? Was this development taken into consideration when formulating the Budget strategy?
– If the honourable member cares to read within the next few weeks, if he has the time, the statements attached to the Budget documents, especially statement No. 2, he will note that there is discussion about the future prospects of the work force and that it is our belief that the Budget strategy provides for an improvement in the level of activity in the labour market. However it is also pointed out that there may well be some unevenness in the rate of recovery generally in the economy and in that section. What has been said there is consistent with the point that has just been raised.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Labor and Immigration inform the House why the unemployment figures compiled by the Department of Labor and Immigration from its Commonwealth Employment Service records are substantially in excess of those produced by the Australian Bureau of Statistics through its quarterly labour force survey? In view of the fact that the Bureau’s unemployment figures are compiled on an internationally accepted basis, what reliance can be placed on the CES figures as an accurate measure of unemployment in this country?
-The former Minister for Labor and Immigration, the Hon. Clyde Cameron, explained on 19 May this year that the Commonwealth Employment Service figures do not purport to show the number of people actually out of work. They show the number of persons who are registered for employment, and there is and can be a significant difference between the 2 figures. There is no reason why a person who is employed cannot register in order to seek another job. He breaks no law. It is no illegal act for him to register in this way. People displaced from one occupation may take a job in another industry. They may register for employment in their old industry in the hope that a vacancy will occur and they will be able to return to their previous employment. Persons looking for a second job or part-time work may register.
If those facts are known to the Commonwealth Employment Service, such people are not included in the figures. However, frequently the facts are not disclosed. The staff limitations imposed on the Commonwealth Employment Service prevent a thorough and complete clearing out of persons who obtain employment and who are not in receipt of unemployment benefit. There are, in fact, some long delays occurring at the moment in some instances between the time people who are registered for employment obtain employment and the time they notify the Commonwealth Employment Service, and some of those people are shown in the Commonwealth Employment Service figures. It therefore follows that people who are no longer available for employment can be and in some cases are still registered under the Commonwealth Employment Service figure.
On the other hand it has to be said that some persons looking for work may not be registered under the Commonwealth Employment Service figures. It is, however, believed by the Department of Labor and Immigration that the introduction of schemes, such as the National Employment and Training scheme and the Regional Employment Development scheme and the general manpower planning schemes which were developed by the previous Minister, have encouraged persons to use the Commonwealth Employment Service more regularly for the purpose of obtaining employment.
The procedures for compiling labour statistics in Australia, to the undying shame of the Opposition when in Government, are simply not adequate for current purposes. They are quite inadequate when compared with those of almost all industrially developed countries overseas. This Government has introduced a Bureau of Labour Economics, and that body will certainly improve the situation once it gets started. As explained last May, the Commonwealth Employment Service figures are at variance with the Bureau of Statistics survey. In May, which is the last month for which figures are available from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the number shown out of work as a result of the scientific survey undertaken was 192 000 persons. The Commonwealth Employment Service figure was 248 000 for persons available for employment. That is a difference of some 56 000 persons. The Department of Labor and Immigration recognises the deficiency in the Commonwealth Employment Service figures, and that Department has strongly urged the Australian Bureau of Statistics to undertake its employment survey on a monthly basis rather than on the present irregular basis.
Without diminishing in any way the seriousness of the unemployment situation, it must be said that the Commonwealth Employment Service figures can and in fact do overstate somewhat the position of unemployed persons. The lack of really sophisticated information opens the way for irresponsible speculation, estimation and mischievous guesswork on what unemployment figures are or are likely to be.
UNEMPLOYMENT Mr MALCOLM FRASER- My question is addressed to the Treasurer. The Treasurer has assured the House that the unemployment rise expected in January was taken into consideration in the Budget strategy. Does he acknowledge that the Budget strategy would have been planned in July? If so, does he agree that there is a wide discrepancy between his answer and the statement made in the House yesterday by the Minister representing the Minister for Labor and Immigration who said that the Government learned only last week that the unemployment figure would reach 400 000 in January? Can he explain the difference?
-The first point to which we should address ourselves is the similarity between the general Budget parameters of the Opposition and the Government. Accordingly, on that basis alone, the Opposition has excluded much ground for criticism of the Government.
– Answer the question.
– I will answer it, but I will take the opportunity in doing so to score a few points. While I was away I noted the comments of the Minister for Overseas Trade and Acting Treasurer in the course of a debate in this House in which he advised the Opposition, post effect, of the undesirability of an Opposition detailing what its Budget would be. I think the Opposition will learn that lesson the hard way. It has practically excluded the grounds for genuine disagreement between the Opposition and this Government because it has adopted the general parameters which were outlined in our Budget. There is an area of some difference, and that is in the detail. If the Opposition is worried about the level of unemployment I ask it to reflect on the level of unemployment which its Budget as detailed would bring about. Who is going to feel the harsh axe of unemployment and severe retrenchment as a result of the substantial cut in the public sector which the Opposition proposes of about $ 1,000m, $500m of which is undefined and undeclared? When can we have the details of those proposals?
– I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Not one word that the Treasurer has said so far has any relevance to the question. The question was about the Government’s own predictions from its own department that unemployment under its policies will reach 400 000.
-Order! The honourable gentleman has made his point. I suggest that the Minister deal with the actual subject matter of the question.
– To continue the point I was making, the Opposition has left itself very little room for criticism of the Government’s budgetary management. To the extent that in detail the Opposition’s Budget represents contractive measures it would be more severe on the economy, on the corporate sector and on the work force. I remind honourable members of the following comment at page 21 of Statement No. 2 attached to the Budget:
Product growth of this order would probably be associated with an increase in employment of about 1 per cent in 1975-76 and a sizable recovery in productivity.
I point out that that is an average rate of increase in employment On a June 1976 basis as against a June 1975 basis it will represent an increase, conservatively stated, of about 2 per cent. We hope that it may be even better than that. The comment continues:
Given the likely growth in the labour force, the picture for unemployment consistent with these developments is one of slow decline from the present high levels. However, the uncertainties involved in the overall picture are such that the possibility of some unevenness in trend cannot be ruled out.
Of course, we anticipate that there will be a higher level of unemployment due to seasonal factors in the period from January to March. That has always been so. We do not expect the inputs from the Budget, or indeed any inputs which a government may undertake at this point, to have much effect before the early New Year. Accordingly I suggest that the Leader of the Opposition and his economic adviser, his Deputy Leader- the survivalist who is an economic specialist in search of an understanding of simple economic principles- ought to go back to thenadvisers and try to understand the sort of advice that they have been receiving.
– Has the attention of the Treasurer been drawn to reports of the theft of a letter which was drafted for his consideration by the Treasury? Can he give the House any information about this letter or the thief?
– The details of this matter were very largely dealt with by the Prime Minister a few minutes ago. But I welcome the opportunity of addressing myself to one aspect of this matter, which was raised in the Parliament yesterday while I was on my way to Australia from overseas. That aspect is the curious economic understanding of the Opposition’s economic specialist in search of an economic policy who seems to think that a special appropriation at this pointand I will not canvass the issue as to whether that will be sought or not sought, because the Prime Minister discussed it with the House a little earlier- indicates that something has been left out of the Budget.
First of all, this is a standard sort of procedure from time to time adopted by previous LiberalCountry Party governments. It was adopted in the financial year 1971-72 by the then Treasurer, Mr Snedden. The fact is that the Budget provides ample expenditure for the commitments that we have outlined for this financial year. But one of the machinery problems is that until the Budget is approved by both Houses of the Parliament the money which is appropriated by that Budget cannot be spent. In the interim period, it may become necessary, except where there is special legislation- I see a shining head nod from side to side on the other side of the House- in certain circumstances to obtain a special appropriation.
The matter was canvassed as a purely machinery matter between the Prime Minister and myself, and some other relevant Ministers, as a result of second thoughts- of seeing the light as it were- in fiscal responsibility by non-Labor State governments, especially the non-Labor State governments of Victoria and Western Australia which suddenly saw the virtues of joining the Medibank hospital plan. When they discovered that there was to be a change in the leadership of the Opposition- honourable members might remember that that happened in May, although with the rapid succession of changes of leadership which have taken place in that organisation in the last couple of years they may not remember who was leading that organisation then- and realised that as a result of this sudden change of leadership there was not going to be a snap election, those 2 non-Labor State governments, and others too, suddenly decided that the virtues of Medibank outweighed the political cussedness which they had been applying up to that point. They literally -
-Order! I suggest to the Minister that while this is very interesting it is not at all relevant to the question which dealt with the removal of a letter from his files.
– They stampeded their way in the front door of the scheme. The result is that there were greater expenditures at that point than were anticipated. But the total expenditure of the Medibank program, for instance, is covered by the Budget, as is expenditure for the Regional Employment Development program and also the other matter mentioned in the letter associated with the Department of Services and Property. They all have been appropriately catered for.
– In view of the importance of the Medibank estimates to the overall Budget deficit, will the Treasurer inform the House what the cost of the hospital part of the Medibank scheme is estimated to be in New South Wales this year and what it is estimated to be in a full year, this provision not having been included in the Budget as the agreement was not signed? Does the Treasurer agree with his colleague, the Deputy Prime- Minister, that the costs of Medibank in Australia could reasonably be expected to rise to approximately the Canadian figure of $300 a head per annum, involving the Australian Government in outlays of about $4 billion in a full year?
– I apologise for the embarrassment of the Parliament caused by such a comment in the presence of the visiting Canadian members of Parliament who are present in the gallery.
– The fact is that Canadians enjoy a far better system of health services than is enjoyed in this country. The Canadian Government spends about the same proportion of gross domestic product on health services as does the United States of America. Yet, Canada covers everyone in that country for medical and hospital care while in the United States it is a matter of notorious concern that such a large proportion of the public is totally outside adequate cover for these sorts of services.
The rate of cost of health services in Canada has certainly escalated rather rapidly in recent years. This cost has escalated rather rapidly in recent years in all advanced economies. It has escalated at a far faster rate in the United States than in Canada. If we can achieve the standards which have been achieved in Canada in the quality of health care and in the containment of medical and hospital costs, it will be a far superior achievement to the standards we had to bear with under the old discredited system of private health insurance. There can be no doubt that Medibank is here, and it is here to stay. The spokesman for the Opposition on health and welfare services, Mr Chipp, has been roundly rebuked and disowned by the Leader of the Opposition for suggesting that Medibank would be dismantled. The Opposition is now committed to Medibank. I will ask the Minister for Social Security to give me the latest figures on hospital services costs in New South Wales and I will post them to the honourable member.
-Has the attention of the Minister for Transport been drawn to reports that
Japanese steel mills have refused to employ 4 bulk carriers now on order by the Australian National Line in the transport of iron ore and coal between Australia and Japan? Are these reports correct? If so, what steps are being taken by the Minister to ensure that these ships are used in our foreign trade to bring about a higher percentage of trade carried in Australian owned and manned ships?
-In April 1974, following discussions which the then Chairman and the General Manager of the Australian National Line had with the steel mills in Japan, the Australian Government decided to place an order in Sweden and in West Germany for the construction of two 120 000 ton bulk ships and two 140 000 ton bulk ships for the carriage of iron ore or coal from Australia to Japan. A clear understanding was arrived at that if we had the ships we would get the work. So we went ahead and placed orders on that clear understanding.
I think that what honourable members have to understand is that in 1973-74 about 65 million tons of iron ore and coal was transported from Australia to Japan and that not one ton of those minerals was carried in Australian ships that were permanently on that trade between Australia and Japan. A small amount of the minerals was carried occasionally by ships which at the time were being positioned in Japan for some particular reason. We think that what we are doing is fair and reasonable, particularly when honourable members realise that freight rates on coal and iron ore carried between Australia and Japan are roughly half the rates that Japan pays for the transport of coal and iron ore from other parts of the world. So the Australia- Japan trade is one of the cheapest transport areas for Japan. In any case, the 4 ships to which I have referred would carry only about 7 per cent of Australia’s total exports of coal and iron ore to Japan. I think it is not unreasonable that we should get into this trade.
The Australia Government is committed to a policy of ensuring that 40 per cent of our exports are carried in Australian bottoms, and that is the way in which we are working on this question. At the moment there is a problem because of a downturn in freight brought about by the world economic situation that exists today. Tankers of total capacity of thousands and thousands of tons are tied up at present. The same thing can be said about bulk ships. The whole system of freight is under strong pressure because of the amount of tonnage that is being tied up throughout the world. There will be continuing discussions between Australia and Japan
-We are informed by the Minister for Northern Australia that we are obstructing the Darwin Reconstruction Commission.
– Is this a question?
– The question will be asked. The honourable member should just be patient. Cyclone Tracy hit Darwin 9 months ago, but as yet there is not an embryo of a house in Darwin. My question to the Minister for Northern Australia is as follows: Is it true that the Minister knew in July of conflicts of interest between consultants to the Darwin Reconstruction Commission who were also consultants to construction companies, tendering for construction contracts to be let by the Darwin Reconstruction Commission? Why is it that up until now the Government, through the Minister, has not launched an investigation into these relationships? Will the Minister table for the information of this place the uncensored minutes of the meetings of the Darwin Reconstruction Commission, and promptly please?
-The expertise of the honourable member for Kennedy about Darwin is amazing. I understand that he went to Darwin on Boxing Day and has not been there since. Now he is an expert on Darwin. As regards the uncensored minutes, I do not know what these uncensored minutes are. I have never heard of such things as uncensored minutes. The only minutes I get are the minutes that are given to me by the Chairman of the Darwin Reconstruction Commission, Commissioner Powell. They can all be tabled if the honourable member wants them. There is nothing wrong with them. But what the honourable member requested was the uncensored minutes. I can assure him that I have never heard of such uncensored minutes. As the honourable member made allegations about no houses being constructed, let me give him some of the facts. It is a great pity that he will not go to Darwin. If he went to Darwin he would find out the facts.
– Go up the week after next and be there with me.
-The honourable member has not been there for 9 months. At present the cleaning up of Darwin is still a continuous process. Over the last few weeks 1 1 000 tons of debris has been collected. That will give honourable members an idea of the severity of the cyclone.
– What about the houses?
– I shall tell the honourable member about them. If he is patient he will learn something. The Reconstruction Commission has been allocated $275m by this Government since the cyclone hit Darwin in terms of work currently in hand. In the recent Budget $100m was provided.
– What are you going to do with that and when?
-Order! I suggest that the honourable member for Kennedy has already asked his question and one question at a time is sufficient.
-Contracts were let last May for 1300 new houses. They will come on stream in November or December. About 4000 houses have now been repaired and re-roofed. Perhaps the honourable member did not hear of those. Some 117 government flats are currently under construction. There are 70 government houses which are being repaired urgently. The Reconstruction Commission’s policy is to ensure that all people in Darwin are adequately housed by the time the wet arrived. During this year 1000 caravans have been ordered and most of these are now on site in Darwin.
– What do they cost?
– I have told the honourable member about cost. Did he not hear me? At the same time action has been taken to repair and rebuild most of the public infrastructure- the schools, the hospitals, the recreation facilities, the transport and communications. In fact most of them have been repaired. I simply conclude by saying this: Allegations such as the honourable member for Kennedy made are causing serious harm to the Darwin Reconstruction Commission because they are unfounded.
– What rot! You ought to resign. That is what you ought to do. You have been a failure.
-The right honourable member interjected on me the other day also about canned beef.
-Order! I suggest that the Minister might take his own advice and conclude. I suggest that other honourable members should remain silent and we may well have a fruitful question time.
-Mr Speaker, I was going to point out that last week the right honourable member who interjected this time interjected then about canned beef. The best thing they could do with him is debone him, put him in a can and export him as Anthony’s delight. I would be interested to find cut how many times the Leader of the National Country Party has been to Darwin since the cyclone.
– A lot. He has been there more times than you have.
– I doubt that he has been there at all.
– Order! The Minister will not answer interjections.
– As a matter of fact he lives in Canberra. He does not live even in his Country Party electorate. Now, Mr Speaker -
-Order! The House will come to order. I think the Minister is making his answer extremely long and he is also answering a number of questions that were not asked.
– I conclude by saying that the honourable member for Kennedy will be most welcome in Darwin to find out the facts. When he does he will realise that the Darwin Reconstruction Commission and its agencies are doing a very good job in Darwin.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Housing and Construction in his capacity as Minister representing the Minister for Labor and Immigration. I ask: Is there strong supp’ort in the community for the concept of wage indexation? Does the Government adhere to the belief that wage indexation will assist in stabilising inflationary pressures? Can he say whether there has been any concerted opposition to the Government’s policy on wage indexation from any particular source or from any combination of interests?
– There is now widespread support for wage indexation since the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission adopted it as a result of the initiative of this Government and the trade union movement. There is, of course, some opposition. Some employers now support the proposal for wage indexation. All State governments, irrespective of political flavour, support wage indexation. Some employers- a diminishing number- are opposed to wage indexation. The Opposition has made it clear from the outset that its members are uncompromisingly opposed to wage indexation. Wage indexation certainly stabilises costs in that it removes the need for employee groups to claim in expectation of higher cost escalation. The strong opposition by the Liberal and National Country Parties has to be read with interest in order to be believed. On 10 December 1974 the Leader of the National Country Party said that wage indexation should not be countenanced for Australia. He said that indexation would tend to stimulate inflation rather than slow it down, contrary to most sensible economic advice. He said it would add to the destruction of initiative and enterprise, but he also found it necessary to advocate at the same time the indexation of interest rates- a remarkable proposition- in order to ensure that interest rates kept rising in accordance with the consumer price index. He saw indexation as part of a plot to achieve a subtle revolution in Australia- a remarkable assertion.
On 14 July the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said that he ruled out any chance that the Opposition would support wage indexation. He said that the Government’s policy was completely unacceptable to the Liberal and National Country Parties. Its introduction would be economic madness, was the way he put it. On 16 January the Leader of the National Country Party, in the Melbourne Age, said that -
– Without guarantees. Why do you not tell the truth about it.
-What I am saying is the absolute truth. On 16 January the Leader of the National Country Party in an article in the Melbourne Age said that wage indexation would be another insidious method by which the most productive people would be penalised and further discouraged from working harder, working overtime or advancing themselves to higher positions. On 20 January the learned scribe, Mr Malcolm Fraser M.P., as he then was, said in an article in the Sydney Morning Herald that the Liberal- Country Party had strong opposition to wage indexation because it believed that it would be just one further ratchet in the process of wage escalation. On 2 1 January in an article in the Adelaide Advertiser the learned scribe also said:
I am certain Australia cannot take the risk of introducing indexation.
Mr Snedden on 27 January said that indexation would further aggravate the inflationary impact of wage claims, displaying an appalling ignorance of the situation. In his Budget speech the Leader of the Opposition said that wage determination procedures chosen by the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission must be supported. He attempts to mislead people. What he means is that if, in spite of his opposition, the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission grants wage indexation, he will say that everybody must support it. I add that in the LiberalNational Country Party manifesto for industrial confrontation- called their industrial relations policy- they are clear in their exclusion of wage indexation as a method of wage fixation. They listen to far too many experts- experts who are hardly qualified on the subject. I remind them of the advice given by a former Prime Minister of France, Mr Pompidou. He said that there are 3 ways for a politician to ruin a career- chasing women, gambling and trusting experts. He said that the first was the most pleasant, the second the quickest and the third, trusting experts, was the surest.
-Mr Speaker, on that note, I ask that further questions be placed on the notice paper.
-I present pursuant to statute a report of the Auditor-General accompanied by the Treasurer’s statement of receipts and expenditure for the year ended 1974-75.
-Mr Speaker, I ask for leave of the House to move a motion to authorise the publication and printing of the report of the Auditor-General.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
Motion (by Mr Hayden) agreed to:
-For the information of honourable members I present reports of the Priorities Review Staff on housing and on assistance for structural adjustment, income maintenance, etc. Due to the limited numbers of the latter report available at this time, reference copies of it have been placed in the Parliamentary Library. Additional copies will be made available later in the day.
– Pursuant to section 8 of the Urban and Regional Development (Financial Assistance) Act 1974, I present 2 agreements in relation to the provision of financial assistance to New South Wales and South Australia made in relation to this Act.
– For the information of honourable members I present a report dated April 1975 by the Bureau of Transport Economics entitled: A Review of Public Transport Investment Proposals for Australian Capital Cities, 1974-75. Due to the limited numbers available, reference copies of this report have been placed in the Par.liamentary Library.
– Pursuant to section 122 of the Repatriation Act 1920-1975, I present the annual report of the Repatriation Commission for the year ended 30 June 1 975.
– Perhaps the Minister for Northern Australia (Dr Patterson) might indicate when he can table the minutes of the Darwin Reconstruction Commission.
– Order! The request is out of order. Question time is over.
-Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation. It arises from the Grievance Day debate last Thursday. As reported at page 1025 of the House of Representatives Hansard of 4 September 1975, 1 named a medical practice and the doctors in it. In the debate I said that the circular which they had sent around prior to the introduction of Medibank stated that they intended to do certain things which I claimed were illegal. I now understand that what they meant to say was not that they would bulk bill and then charge an extra fee for home and hospital visits but that they would in respect of home and hospital visits be acting as agents for the patients to Medibank. That is, they would be getting the patients to fill in the Medibank claim forms as distinct from the assignment of benefit form and would be charging the patients the remainder of the normal fee for those services. This practice, of course, is not illegal. But I do understand that these doctors are in fact bulk billing for ah services that they are rendering. I apologise to them for any embarrassment or inconvenience that my inaccurate representation of their activities has caused them.
-I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the right honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. Two of the metropolitan daily newspapers of Sydney this morningthe Sydney Morning Herald and the Australiansaid that former leaders of the Liberal Party and the National Country Party had not expressed their attitude towards apartheid. That is totally wrong. Over and over again leaders of the Liberal Party or the Country Party have stated their abhorrence of apartheid.
– Order! I would suggest that the right honourable gentleman confine his remarks to his own personal position. Otherwise I will not be able to allow him to continue.
-Well, I have gone very little outside it, Sir. I want to emphasise to you with some resentment, at the way you are pulling me up. If you would like me to sit down after saying that I would be only too happy to sit down.
– But I have expressed, Sir, our abhorrence -
– Can I express this in my own way, then, Sir?
-Order! I am just trying to assist the right honourable gentleman because personal explanations must be of a personal nature.
-Well, there was only one word which expresses our views and which covers my former colleagues. I think it is fair that that should have been done. But, for your sake, Sir, and for the sake of others, I will repeat: Our attitude- these were the words that were usedwas abhorrence of apartheid. It covers not only me but my predecessors as well.
-I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Order! Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– I claim to have been grossly misrepresented by the Minister for Northern Australia (Dr Patterson). I have visited the Northern Territory this year. I was not able to visit Darwin because of the Newcastle Waters situation. I was not able to travel on a piece of road that has been grossly neglected by this Government. I went by car and not in a VIP plane.
-Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Order! Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– I claim to have been misreported in a booklet entitled ‘A Biographical Register of Commonwealth Parliament 1901-1972 ‘ by Joan Ryden. The booklet states that I am an RC. I am not an RC. I am an unfinancial Anglican.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Order! Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. On page 1063 of Hansard of 4 September is reported a reference I made to Mr Goff Letts, the Leader of the majority party in the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly in Darwin. My personal belief is that the words I used could not be interpreted as besmirching the character of Mr Letts. But apparently some people hold the view that I was trying to denigrate his character. I have complete faith in the honesty and integrity of Mr Goff Letts. Should he have interpreted my remarks as being offensive I would like to express my regret as there was no intention in those remarks to cast any aspersions whatsoever on his character.
– I have received a message from the Senate returning the Stevedoring Industry Charges Bill and acquainting the House that the Senate has agreed to modifications made by the House to the requested amendment of the Senate and has agreed to the amendments of the House to clause 3 and has agreed to the Bill.
. Motion (by Mr Daly) agreed to:
That the House at its rising adjourn until Tuesday, 30 September at 15 minutes past 2 o’clock p.m. unless Mr Speaker shall, by telegram or letter addressed to each member of the House, fix an earlier day of meeting.
– I move:
That this House condemns the failure of the Government to provide a white paper on minerals and energy policies while destroying confidence in the industries ‘ future.
The subject which I want to raise is one which is not new to this House. Far from it. Last year the examiners of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development reporting on science policy in Australia criticised the Government in the strongest possible terms for its failure to spell out a satisfactory energy policy. In their report they said:
With regard to its energy resources Australia has a privileged position in the world. The country possesses important domestic resources in coal, petrol, gas and uranium which will probably protect it over a long period from the direct repercussions of the world energy crisis. The situation does not prevent Australia from having to define a coherent policy with respect to the most rational manner of using and exploiting these resources. At the present time, however, there is no energy policy at the national level. While there is no energy policy applicable to Australia as a whole, research in the field of energy on the contrary is placed under Commonwealth responsibility within 3 bodies- the National Coal Research Committee, the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, and for petroleum research the Bureau of Mineral Resources. It is also under Commonwealth initiative that important work on the use of solar energy has been developed placing Australia at the vanguard of world research in this field.
In the period since the report was made public nothing has happened to alter the situation. I challenge the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) who will be speaking in this debate, to indicate if that is not correct. The mining and oil exploration industries are more confused than ever. Who would wonder why? If one looks at the record, the same appalling facts are revealed. When we look at the mining industry throughout the whole of Australia we see stagnation, uncertainty and above all the devastating sense of insecurity. No major mining projects have been developed in the last Vh years, and this is the subject of another challenge I make to you, Mr Minister. The production which is taking place today is from mines which were developed 3, 5 or 8 years ago. We all know the causes of this stagnation in the mining industry. The overriding cause of the problems facing the mining industry is the policies of the present Federal Government, particularly the twisted ideological racial obsession and motivation of the Minister for Minerals and Energy. I know that this Minister deserves most of the blame for bringing the mining industry in Australia to its present state of confusion and crisis. But the Minister is a member of a Government which has approved, even praised, all that he has done. It is that Government and the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) who must accept the ultimate responsibility for the present state of the mining industry.
The Government’s policies towards the mining industry are not simply the result of confusion and misunderstanding. The Government’s policy- note this well- is one of deliberate sabotage of the mining industry. I do not say this lightly I believe that the present Government is bent on socialising this country and to achieve this it must gain control of Australia ‘i greatest source of wealth- our huge mineral resources. By bringing confusion and crisis to the mining industry the Government can more easily gain control of these industries. Inflation is part of the strategy designed to drive the mining companies out of business. If favourable world prices enable the companies to stay in front special taxes will be imposed as in the case of the tax on coal, which was a classical example. The mining industry should not forget that the Government’s plans to borrow $4 billion overseas in back alleys were designed to put them out of business. In the field of mineral development we can be grateful that expansion was well under way before this Government came to office, otherwise the mining scene would resemble the devastation which marks the oil exploration scene in Australia today. The statistics of oil exploration tell the story of the effects of this Government’s policies. Let me refer to them. In 1972 a total of 80 000 miles of seismic line testing was carried out; in 1973 this figure dropped- not to any significant extent, of course-to 8500 miles! In 1974 it dropped to 7000 miles and this year there has been virtually none.
– Those figures are wrong.
-The honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) will have the opportunity to refute them. The last seismic vessel operating off the coast has now left Australian waters, so seismic testing has come to a complete standstillor has some new strategy been evolved, some new technique by which we do not need seismic vessels? A similar position exists with regard to wells drilled. In 1970 121 exploration wells were drilled. In 1973 this fell to 69 wells drilled and to 55 in 1974, and in the first 6 months of this .year only 14 wells were drilled. The most disturbing aspect of Australian oil production is that we can now say with certainty that in 5 years time Australia will face its own oil crisis, and honourable members know what that means. The reason we can say this is obvious; it takes at least 5 years to bring oil into production after it is discovered. If we found more oil tomorrow- I do not know who would find it because nobody is looking for it very much- it would be 5 years before it came on stream to Australian consumers. So we are looking at a minimum of 7 years before we can produce more Australian oil. By 1982 Australia will be producing only approximately 100 million barrels of oil a year. Let that figure be refuted. Measured against an estimated consumption of 300 million barrels a year this means that we will be only 30 per cent self-sufficient in oil and that imports will cost over $2,000m a year- and that is at present prices. This is a frightening picture.
This Government through its inaction and through its disastrous maladministration will leave this country at the mercy of foreign oil producers by 1980. Our whole economy and our national security will be placed at risk because of the necessity to meet a huge bill for the import of foreign oil. The present disastrous state of affairs is the result of the dangerous policies of the Minister for Minerals and Energy designed to gain control of oil production in Australia. That is his absolute obsession. The Minister could obtain control of oil production in Australia only by forcing out those who were exploring for oil and held the most attractive leases. The withdrawal of the search subsidy, the ban on overseas investment and the statements by the Minister that there would be no increase in the price of new oil discovered in Australia were all part of a campaign to prevent further exploration. The Minister thought that he could then step in and take over the whole field himself. This dangerous design has cost Australia 3 years of oil exploration activities and the chance of discovering a major new field. The oil exploration industry has been forced out of Australia and will not return while this Government is in power.
One of the most harmful aspects of the Government’s policy on oil exploration and production is the oil pricing policy. In the next 5 years Australia ‘s oil production will fall dramatically. By 1980 we Will be only 40 per cent selfsufficient, given the continuation of the present expansion in consumption- and consumption will grow, as we aU know, and grow dramatically. This means that we will have to import 170 million barrels of oil a year at a cost of nearly $ 1,500m, again at today’s prices. These figures are based on finding oil immediately but, as we all know, we are not even looking for oil at the moment. The folly of the oil pricing policy of the Government is that the development of fields with known reserves is being discouraged, not to say anything about looking for more oil. There are hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil which we know exist in small fields such as Moonie, Barrow Island and Bass Strait, but the cost of recovery is greater than the price such oil would fetch in Australia. The result is that we have to import Middle East oil at $9 a barrel which has to be paid out of our very valuable overseas exchange. Honourable members should relate that to a deficit of $2,600m, or if they want to work on a deficit of $700m in June they can anticipate that if taken to its extreme the deficit in 1976 will be $8,000m. If that does not terrorise the people of Australia and make them want to rid Australia of this Government I do not know what is needed.
That is the worst proposition we could have- to use Australia’s national earnings to import oil when we have oil in this country but when it is just not profitable to look for it. If, for example, we paid 39 a barrel to Australian producers the Government would obtain revenue from the taxation of profits and the costs involved in recovering that oil would be spent in Australia. If the Government cannot see the advantages of that then it is comprised of bigger dunderheads than I and the people of Australia have deemed them to be. It would also provide jobs for Australians and, my goodness, how badly are they needed. There can be no more shortsighted policy than a general refusal to raise the price of the local product, which we have. Honourable members opposite will go out now and say, as they said about the leader of the National Country Party (Mr Anthony), that we want to raise the price of oil. That hoax is not working any longer because already under this Government people in inland parts of Australia are paying 90c a gallon for petrol, when previously they were paying something like 50c, and people in the cities are paying nearly that amount. The people know the Government’s performance. Its track record is there. The Opposition is presenting a logical proposition.
It is inevitable that the price of oil will rise to Australian consumers. The Government is forcing up the price of oil. There is no choice but to raise it because our own reserves are limited and the only alternative is to import expensive oil at $9 a barrel. The only issue involved is whether the rise occurs now or occurs gradually or occurs in 5 years time with a much greater impact. What has happened to the countries which have had to import oil at something like that price? What are they paying in Italy? In January they were paying $1.75 a gallon for petrol. In Great Britain they were paying $1.85 a gallon. I do not know what they are paying now. A sudden jump in oil prices would lead to severe dislocation in industry and throughout the whole economy. The effect of an unrealistically low domestic price would be to destroy any incentive to explore for oil in Australia.
The Minister similarly attempted to gain control of Australia’s uranium reserves by trying to force the companies which held leases into bankruptcy. He was temporarily outwitted over the Ranger deposits when it became necessary for the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) to come up with a plan to develop the reserves when the Japanese Prime Minister visited Australia last year. I suppose that was the beginning of the downfall of the Minister for Minerals and Energy because, as we know, he is almost a postscript now, or perhaps aU those who are guessing are wrong. However, the one spotlight was taken off the Ranger agreement and the Minister had things in his hands again. The old pattern of frustration and calculated stonewalling surfaced again. This has extremely serious consequences for Australia because there is a real possibility that we will miss the world market for uranium if we do not make contracts soon.
I would like to turn to the policy of the alternative Government, an alternative which I hope will become a reality in the near future for the sake of Australia and for the sake of every worker in Australia. The basic pOliCY of a Liberal-National Country Party government would be to revitalise the minerals industry and encourage the development of Australia’s mineral resources. Two areas which come to mind immediately where development could be given the go-ahead are coal in the Bowen basin and uranium in the Northern Territory. It is about time someone dug a shovel in somewhere in those areas. Several projects are in an advanced stage of planning and only need approval for work to commence almost at once.
An essential part of the Liberal-National Country Party program for recommencing the development of our mineral resources would be to restore the State governments to their proper role in mineral planning and development. The Australian Minerals Council, consisting of the Commonwealth and State Ministers responsible for mining, would be revived, and promptly. The Council has met only once since 1972, and then on the initiative of the New South Wales Minister for Mines.
The most important step necessary to bring about renewed interest in mining development in Australia is to clear away some of the myths which surround the whole subject. If we are to have a strong and healthy minerals industry which is able to contribute to Australia ‘s national development, we must face realities and not live in a dream world, throwing out deceitful and completely misleading concepts based on foreign ideologies. These have to be swept aside.
Let me deal with one or two of these myths. The most important factor which we must realise is that to develop our mineral resources we need the assistance of others- their capital, thenknowledge and their markets. Overseas investment in Australia is the cornerstone of this country ‘s economic development. Like all Aus.tralians let me make this perfectly clear, as I have made it clear from the day I offered myself for election in Kennedy- I want to see as much Australian ownership of our natural resources as possible. But we must recognise that Australia needs the experience of the overseas experts and that the benefits of the overseas investment far outweigh the disadvantages. Overseas investors provide jobs. Their investment leads to the creation of other industries, and they pay taxes. A Liberal-National Country Party government will adopt a case-by-case approach to overseas participation in the exploitation of Australia’s mineral resources. We will aim at the highest practicable level of Australian ownership. Let me repeat that before honourable members opposite start screaming about -
– Yes, if you like, Utah. Let me repeat it before they start screaming about any of the overseas companies. We will aim at the highest practicable level of Australian ownership, but we Will not bring all development to a halt as the Minister for Mineral and Energy has done because Australians are not willing to put up the capital required for a project. The Minister is the greatest dog in a manger that ever existed. He knows it well his Government knows it well. and the Prime Minister knows it well. That is why he has to ease the Minister out. We do not adhere to the policy that if Australia cannot develop a resource no one else can either. That is the myth of all myths.
The second myth that we must get away from is that the Australian people can derive greater benefit from the nation’s mineral resources by the direct participation of the Australian Government in mineral development. The Liberal and National Country Parties believe that the Commonwealth Government must play a major role in encouraging the exploration for and development of Australia’s minerals resources, but the Government’s role is one of creating the climate in which private enterprise will be able to carry out the task of finding and recovering the nation’s mineral resources. The role of the Government is to define national policies and to draw up laws for the orderly development of Australia ‘s natural resources.
Another myth which surrounds the whole issue of mineral development is that we should conserve our mineral resources and leave them in the ground. Nothing could be more shortsighted or disastrous. The Liberal and National Country Parties reject the notion that by leaving the minerals in the ground they will only appreciate in value. Apart from causing severe economic dislocation to our trading partners, this approach also runs the risk of missing the market altogether as the Minister knows he has done in regard to our uranium resources. I stress one point. It is my own particular baby, if I might put it that way. The group which has suffered most from the policies of the present Government is the small producers and the small explorers. The Liberal and National Country Parties will encourage and assist the exploration and mining activities of small producers. Throughout Australia there are numerous mineral deposits which do not attract the interest of major companies but which could be made profitable by the small operator or by a small group of miners. The Liberal and National Country Parties propose to establish a small mine operators advisory panel to provide small mining operators, including those on the gem fields, with direct access to information and advice.
I conclude by drawing the Minister’s attention to an undertaking he gave in this House that he would provide me with a list of approvals which the Australian Industry Development Corporation had given in relation to the applications by small miners to gain assistance to get off the ground. He has never provided me with that. His secretary or whoever is responsible has sent me nebulous letters.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion and I reserve my right to speak at a later time in this debate.
– The first thing that the Labor Government has done in the field of minerals and energy has been to awaken Australia’s national consciousness as to the true position. The question that we have posed and that the people of Australia answered very convincingly last May is: Who owns Australia and who will direct its future? We are determined that the people of Australia will. This is briefly the position that we found when we came to office. Again, of course, minerals is one of the targets of the National Country Party of Australia in what it hopes will be a change of governmentand for the best of reasons, because it is suitable for pork barrelling, it is suitable for party funds, and it is suitable above all for those who belong to the National Country Party. What the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) has said is typical of the attitude of the Party which aspires to govern. The honourable member for Kennedy is a long way down in the queue. There are some very bigger dogs than he who have their paws on this particular bone. What he has said today will not merely endear him to his colleagues in the Opposition but is to his eternal discredit because he is a humbug, he is an imposter and he could not handle the truth.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Is the Minister implying that I am a liar? Let him come out and say just what he means.
– I will say precisely what I mean and I will give my answer to the honourable member.
– I ask for a withdrawal.
– I think the reference was unparliamentary. I think the Minister should withdraw.
-AU right, Sir.
– Do you withdraw it or not?
-I withdraw it for what it is worth to the likes of you. 1 have a very profound personal contempt for you, your methods -
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I again rise on a point of order. This man is being personally abusive.
-Order! I ask the Minister to withdraw the personal allegations and keep to the point of the motion. I also ask honourable members not to interject.
– A measure of his dishonesty and his attempt to mislead the House was his initial quotation.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, he is ignoring you.
-I am not.
– You are ignoring the Deputy Speaker. You are treating him with contempt.
-I want to refer to the very first words you uttered in your address, and they were these -
-Order! I draw the Minister’s attention to standing orders 75 and 76. Standing order 75 states:
No Member may use offensive words against either House of the Parliament or any Member thereof, against any member of the Judiciary , or against any statute unless for the purpose of moving for its repeal.
Standing order 76 states:
All imputations of improper motives and all personal reflections on Members shall be considered highly disorderly.
I wonder whether we can stick specifically to the motion before the Chair. If we do that I think we can proceed in an orderly manner.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I will let the facts speak for themselves. When the honourable member for Kennedy opened his address he referred to an Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development report which suggested that there was no minerals policy in Australia. He has either ignored or is ignorant of the facts, which are these: When the OECD commissioners came to Australia I was not even paid the courtesy of being consulted. When I saw the report there was instantly sent through the Ambassador to the OECD a full statement of Australia ‘s minerals policy, its energy policy in particular. At least they had the good grace to acknowledge it in a subsequent publication. Of course the honourable member for Kennedy chooses to ignore that.
– What did they say?
-They said that there was one, and they made reference to it in a subsequent report. You know nothing of it, or you choose to mislead the House. Let honourable members take their choice of your motivation. This is typical of the Parry for which the honourable member speaks. It is a Party which receives support in return for concessions. Quite recently the Premier of Queensland -
– You were heard in silence. I think that I am entitled to the same thing. The honourable member for Kennedy is notorious in the House for his constant chip, chip, chip. You have had your say. Shut up.
-Order! Interjections will cease.
-Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. For example, this is the concept of the Premier of Queensland of minerals policy: No beef sales, no coal sales. The concept of minerals policy of my National Country Party counterpart in New South Wales is for the Oppenheimer group to acquire the Wambo colliery in preference to the Australian Government and the Australian people. When I went to Japan in late June and early July last I there had a coward ‘s chorus from the Leader of the National Country Party who was there to denigrate and rubbish the Australian Government and to do the best he could to prevent it from getting a proper arrangement in respect of a revision of coal prices. Who but the Country Party would have imposed on Australia the ineffable person it has sent along as a new senator? These are the people who want to get up and tell the Government of Australia how it is to be run.
The truth is this in respect of mineral exports in Australia: They are at a record level. Mineral exports are close on 30 per cent of the total of our exports in value. In volume, of course, they are by far the greatest, and that is thanks to the poli.cies the Government has followed. Australia is today the world’s largest exporter of iron ore. It is today the world ‘s largest exporter of bauxite. It is today the world’s largest exporter of mineral sands. It is today the world’s largest exporter of lead. I could go through the rest of the categories. This, we are told by this contemptible specimen, this alleged spokesman -
- Mr Deputy Speaker, if that is not unparliamentary language, what is? What is more, we initiated aU these projects, not you, you lumbersome humbug. He is a lumbersome humbug, a decadent humbug.
-Order! The honourable member for Kennedy will resume his seat. I ask the Minister to withdraw that statement. It the honourable member for Kennedy does not cease interjecting I will name him.
– Do you expect me to accept that?
– I have indicated the position of the Chair. I Will ask the Minister to withdraw and to direct his attention to the motion before the Chair.
– I accept your ruling.
– Have you withdrawn?
-For what it is worth, yes. Having really been embarrassed, the honourable member for Kennedy comes out with humbug and says that the Australian minerals industry is in a bad way. It was never better off. Let us take the case of coal and let us take the situation we found where importers of minerals from Australia were playing off one company against another among the Australian producers, and they were foolish enough to allow them to cut each other’s throat. Instead of that, for the first time there is co-ordination. We are dealing with Japan on a respectable and a reasonable basis. For the first time we are in a position where we are able to get full world parity. The price of export coal- I am speaking now in Australian dollars- went up. The price of Queensland hard coking coal went up from $11.50 a tonne to $37.50 a tonne- and that is supposed to be part of Labor’s mismanagement. For the first time we can deal with the Japanese in terms of respect. They respect strength, they respect knowledge, they respect integrity and they have been getting it Despite the statements that have appeared in certain sections of the Australian Press, they got their answer last Tuesday from Mr Tanabe Their relations with us are excellent and there is a clear understanding and empathy on both sides. The Country Party in particular would do anything it could to disrupt the situation.
The position in respect of oil exploration is quite ludicrous. On the north west shelf of Western Australia the requirements on renewal of the Western Australian Government are for 36 wells to be drilled over a period of 5 years. As I said in answer to a question in this House the other day, it would not be enough for one drilling rig. In a few days ‘ time there will be an announcement on the new indigenous oil policy, but I can say this much in advance, that 3 of the major oil producers of Australia, together with Lewis Weekes, agree that the prospects for oil on the north west shelf are severely limited. It is a gas prone area. I agree with them in their suggestion that they should look further beyond the north west shelf and in the deeper waters. That matter is under consideration at the present time.
As for the attempt by the honourable member for Kennedy to suggest that the Government is not conscious of the need to assist in the substandard and small pockets of oil that are in certain reservoirs in Bass Strait, he will receive his answer on that too in the policy that will be announced. In respect of his allegations that scores of millions of barrels of oil are available from Moonie, the hard fact is that there are 2.6 million barrels there that can be produced and no more. We will be giving assistance there. We have had nothing but humbug from the State governments. National matters ought to be dealt with by the national Parliament.
As for the future, we are as well aware of the overall position of oil as anyone is. In all the search that has taken place on the north west shelf and around the rest of the coastline of Western Australia 142 wells have been drilled. Only 14 million barrels of crude oil have been discovered. This individual here thinks that because you drill holes oil will pop out. Shell Minerals Exploration (Australia) Pty Ltd, Esso Australia Ltd, the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd and Lewis Weekes all say that it is a gas prone area and the oil is beyond, for good and sound geological reasons. On shore in Australia there is none to be found, other than in the figments of the imagination of the Opposition and of such spokesmen as the honourable member for Kennedy.
In respect of solar energy, Australia already leads the world in the applications of low grade heat. Despite that there was an interjection. Even the last of the colleagues of the honourable member for Kennedy have left him. I do not see a single Country Party member in the House. Research into solar energy Will be carried on through the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. Thanks to the Australian Labor Party Government we have delayed the development of uranium, and for very good reasons. When we took over there were contracts at give-away prices. The average price was US$6.50 per lb. At the present time world parity is at least US$20 per lb.
– Do you want credit for that?
– Yes. We had the foresight to do so. For the same reason in April 1973 I told this House- either you did not know, did not learn or want to understand- what the future would be in terms of an oil crisis. I forecast then that oil in the ground would be worth more than money in the bank. Our prospects for the future are for exploration well off the continental shelf. It has been tested, and aU the specious figures that the honourable member for Kennedy chooses to produce relate to obligations that were fulfilled under the terms of exploration permits that have now expired. Of course, again, he would choose to humbug this House and attempt to mislead. We have nothing of which to be afraid; we have everything of which to be proud. For the first time in Australia there is a distinct portfolio and there is a distinct government policy. It is a policy which is working and which will provide for the future of Australia. Australia today is one of the few countries, together with mainland China, the Soviet Union and the Dominion of Canada, with sufficient reserves of energy to tide it through a period of world economic crisis.
-Order! The honourable gentleman ‘s time has expired.
-Let me put into perspective the crisis that is facing the mineral and energy industries of Australia today. The 1970s in Australia is a lost decade due to 3 years of gross mismanagement of the nation’s natural endowment. Energy policy has been falsely predicated on unlimited availability and profligate use, bringing Australia face to face with a serious energy crisis in the early 1980s. With explorers driven out, with resources untapped -
– You are a humbug.
– You are a destroyer. I have not harmed Australia but you are destroying it.
– You are nothing but a humbug.
– You are also a racist.
-Order! The 2 honourable members at the table will cease interjecting. If they wish to have a conversation, they can have it outside. If the honourable members continue to interrupt -
– Well, he is the trouble. He has just made the comment that indicates he is a racist.
-Order! The honourable member for Kennedy will cease interjecting. I have already warned the honourable member. That will be the last warning.
– Why don’t you warn him?
-Well, I apologise.
– I call the honourable member for Stirling.
-I was saying that, with explorers driven out and with resources untapped, the nation’s dependence on imported oil is growing alarmingly. Minerals exploration has slumped. There has been no major discovery or major development in Australia in the past 3 years. Cost inflation has hit outback mineral developments harsher than city consumers. Regionally important projects like the north-west shelf gas production have been delayed and jeopardised. There has been an exodus of -
– You are a humbug.
– I will let your electorate know that you are a racist.
– You are a humbug. You have been in every political Party in Australia.
– But I am finally in the best one.
-Order! I have repeatedly asked the 2 honourable members at the table to restrain themselves and to cease interjecting. There is this constant conversation across the table. The honourable members are straining the friendship. This is the last time on which I will call their attention to this behaviour. On the next occasion I will act.
– Does that apply to both of us?
– I am putting it to both honourable members that the debate ought to continue, with respect being shown to the Chair. I ask each of the honourable members at the table to restrain himself.
– I am indebted to you for your tolerance.
– And I thank you.
-May I proceed? I was saying that there has been an exodus of skills and capital which could take 5 years to restore. For both energy and minerals the stifling of exploration and the blocking of development have determined now the production of energy and minerals for the early 1980s. The mining and energy industries have been in a survival situation since 1972 and they are really in a holding pattern until the next election. This is all the result of the Government’s policy of confrontation with the industries implemented through the present Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor), who is at the table.
In Western Australia we have seen this only too dramatically in the development that has been stopped in the north-west shelf. The gas and oil fields there, primarily the gas fields, undoubtedly will be the foundation of the future progress of Western Australia. In that progress of Western Australia the whole of the nation will progress. But we have had nothing but 3 years delay and this will mean in developmental terms a decade lost. The answer to this position is that development should proceed now, immediately, as a matter of urgency. In Western Australia also we have seen exploration for minerals drop until it is all but the largest companies which are out of the field.
On a national basis undoubtedly energy sources into the 1980s are the most pressing resource problem, particularly our increasing dependence on imported oil. That will come about sooner than Australians think. Why is it that the Minister has always proposed that Australian. should pay not their own producers of domestic crude oil but foreign producers, and pay the taxes which the foreign producers put on thenown product to be paid by the consuming nations of the world. How much better off would Australia be if it were paying its own producers rather than those foreign producers.
Clearly enough, price and tax mechanisms are the key factors in stimulating exploration. Without exploration, we can never have future development. Over recent years we have had instability because of indecision over price, delay over price and the removal of the tax concessions required in this high risk capital intensive field of resources development. There can be no progress out of a policy of confrontation. At one time there was a bright spot. That was the export of coal. But coal now is blighted by the coal levy. Immediately that levy was announced in the Budget speech, exploration was stopped.
Of course, exploration has to be paid for out of profit and the lower the profit that is available to the developing companies the lower will be the level of exploration to establish new reserves for future development. The Government has put a levy on coal and a levy on domestic crude oil on the basis of taxing windfall profits. But I often wonder if windfall profits are to be taxed who will subsidise windfall losses? This is the other side of the coin which is never mentioned by the Government or by the Minister for Minerals and Energy. We ought to appreciate that the more profits are taxed the less is available for exploration and future development and the more the incentive for people to invest in this high risk field is destroyed.
As the Government imposes a tax on so-called windfall profits, who then does the Government expect will put up the $ 1 ,000m and more needed to develop the new Queensland coal fields and to expand the existing ones? The coal levy puts the Commonwealth in confrontation with the States. The Minister for Education, the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley), a West Australian, quite rightly identified the coal levy as a royalty. The Australian States have the constitutional authority to impose royalties on the extraction of minerals within their boundaries. When the Commonwealth comes in and puts on a levy, it is nothing more than a Commonwealth royalty. Of course this immediately puts the Commonwealth into a situation of confrontation with the States concerned. Where will it end? In another great mineral producing country, Canada, this same problem has arisen of the central Government and the provincial governments competing in the taxing of mineral profits and placing royalties upon production.
The other important aspect of this coal levy which ought not to be forgotten is that it is a tax on a great consuming nation; that is, Japan. In that sense also, it is a policy of confrontation between Australia as a producing nation and Japan as a consumer. This kind of tax on consuming nations is the very antithesis of the developing international economic relations since the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries crisis of October 1973. International relationships today are being built on a policy of interdependence between consuming and producing nations, not on a policy of confrontation or on a policy of resources blackmail.
If coal, why not iron ore, as the Minister for Minerals and Energy has asked. Australia- and that means Western Australia- is the second largest world producer of iron ore. The Soviet Union is the largest. Western Australia with one minion people produces more iron ore than any other western country. How easy would it be for this Government, if it puts a tax on coal produced in Queensland, to put a tax on iron ore produced in Western Australia? Why not a tax on mineral sands, of which, as the Minister has informed the House, Australia is the largest producer in the world? Western Australia again is the largest producer of mineral sands in Australia. Why not an export tax on nickel or on mineral sands? Where will it end? All that the Government needs to do is to identify a margin of profit as a windfall profit.
We in the Opposition are concerned about the mining and energy industries because they are among the great wealth producing industries of Australia. The rural industries are others. The mining and energy industries are part of the foundations of the nation’s prosperity. It is important then that those industries should receive aU the incentives that a national government can give, to allow them to expand production, domestic processing and exports. Minerals are only dirt on our shoes or gravel on our roads until they are mined and processed. The futility of the squirrel mentality of keeping minerals in the ground has been displayed quite dramatically by this Government. We can see it quite dramatically in respect of the natural gas on the north-west shelf of Western Australia. This 3 year’s delay in development has meant that this premium energy fuel is probably no longer competitive with Middle East crude oil. What advantage Australia had in the market in exporting to Japan, for example, has now been lost. Australia, and in particular Western Australia are no longer in the competitive position they would have been in if development and some export had been allowed during the last 3 years.
The undoubted fact, the known fact is that there are ample gas reserves in the north-west shelf and in other parts of Australia to allow an initial export, by way of an LNG project, to Japan. The unique proximity of those natural gas fields to the iron ore fields in Western Australia presents this country with an unequalled opportunity to build a foundation for greater development of my State, Western Australia, and of Australia as a whole through the development of those north-west shelf gas fields.
The uranium industry also has suffered the blight of this Government. We have uranium at Yeelering in Western Australia and whilst there is a great deal of talk of what is being done and what ought to be done about Northern Territory uranium. I should like the Minister, one day, to tell the House and all members of Parliament from Western Australia, what his policy proposals are for development of Western Australian uranium. There is a ready market for it. In no way would Australia’s future energy requirements be jeopardised if export of uranium was allowed. Another great industry would be established in Western Australia producing export earnings for the whole nation. A Liberal-National Country Party government would see as an urgent need the implementation of policies which will resuscitate the mining industry and lead it to greater development than was experienced in the great decade of the 1960s.
Some of the things at which we will be looking are: The need to restructure the mineral industry’s concession and taxation framework to allow established mines to survive and expand and new ones to break in. It is not without significance that this has been central to the industry’s submissions before the Industries Assistance Commission, and it is to be hoped that out of this the mistaken philosophy of the Fitzgerald report will be overcome. We see as a matter of high priority the definition of Australia’s mineral and energy resources, because without that definition there can be no foundation for future development We see an urgent need to restore Federal-State co-operation. We see an urgent need to establish new levels of consultation between industry and government. We will encourage the extension of mining into processingsomething, I mention to this House, that has already been given legislative teeth by the agreements ratified by the State Parliament of Western Australia and introduced by the Brand-Court Government in pioneering the Pilbara.
We will allow exports of minerals where there is a surplus to national requirements and where regionally important projects require it. As I have mentioned, uranium and north-west shelf gas are areas in which we would establish clear guidelines to let the industry know where it stands. We want to establish in contrast to the present Government, a broadly based ownership of the minerals industry, from the small explorer to the major company. We want to stimulate, as I have said, grass roots exploration because explorers must be made welcome again. With this kind of approach, with a true appreciation of the energy crisis which will face Australia in the 1980s -
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I am at a loss to understand why this matter should be raised today under General Business, particularly by the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter). The National Country Party seems to have displayed very little interest at all in the matter. Maybe the honourable member has raised this matter because he believes that in government he would wear the minerals and energy crown. I think that bigger dogs than he have their eyes on that bone. I cannot see that he has advanced his cause at aU. It is true that the National Country Party generally regards the minerals industry as a milch-cow to provide it with election funds. The Party’s primary interest has been in finding sources of election funds. Its main interest is no longer in the primary industry area of Australian life, it is in the minerals area. The members of the National Country Party are the paid lackeys of the mining companies of Australia. I do not think that it is paid principally by the Australian mining companies, either; I think the money is coming from the foreign mining companies.
The constant assertion is made that Australia ‘s mineral policy is in chaos. But our exports are at record levels, both in quantity and in value, in all the categories that the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) mentioned earlier- in iron ore, in bauxite, in lead and in the mineral sands, zircon and rutile. There are enormous exports of these minerals at present, and there is no diminution of the industry in those areas. The Liberal Party and the National Country Party rave about minerals policy. When they were in government there was no policy. What we, as a government, inherited was chaos and pork-barrelling on a grand scale. While the Liberal Party and the National Country Party were in government there was absolutely no coherence in the administration of the minerals policy. I should like to recount what the prestigious journal, the Australian Financial Review, said about the Liberal Party’s administration of minerals and energy in its editorial on Monday of this week. It said:
Australia, on the other hand, has never had an energy policy.
Until the arrival of Mr Connor as a minister we had a succession of ministerial appointments who neither asserted nor sought to assert any strong political guidance over the one area of energy policy where the Government did have a direct in vollvement nuclear energy.
Uranium policy was left to the Department of National Development which regarded it as purely another mining activity and nuclear policy as such was framed and pursued by the scientists of the Atomic Energy Commission.
Wider questions of energy policy were not considered to be anybody’s responsibility.
Mr Connor has his faults but he at least has turned Government attention to future energy policy.
That might be a back-handed compliment, but it makes the point very clearly. The Australian Financial Review in its editorial stated that the Liberal Party never had an energy policy and that it never had any administration over the energy industry.
– We had energy.
– The former Minister for National Development, the honourable member for Farrer, interjects. He is well aware that not so many years ago he presided over the same sham to which I have referred. One hears constant babble about what a Liberal National Country Party government would do for the minerals industry of Australia. Did we hear in the speech of the Leader of the National Country Party (Mr Anthony) recently any reference to the mining industry? Did we hear that a Liberal National Country Party government would take off the coal export tax? Did the honourable member for Kennedy today say in criticism of the Government that the National Country Party in government would remove the coal export tax? Of course not.
-Order! As it is now 2 hours after the time fixed for the meeting of the House debate on the motion is interrupted.
Motion (by Mr Daly) agreed to:
That the time for the discussion of notices, general business, be extended until 12.4S p.m.
– There was not one reference to the removal of this subsidy. Members of the Opposition pour all their vitriol and hate upon it. Yet there was not one undertaking that it would be removed. All the subsidies which the Leader of the National Country Party of Australia has talked about over the last 18 months and attacked the Government for removing did not receive one reference in his speech on the Budget. He did not undertake to restore the section 77 and 78 concessions or the direct search subsidies that were removed by this Government. There was not one reference. Yet the National Country Party spokesman came in here today and tried to make a case and argue a case about the removal of these concessions and the imposition of the coal tax levy Bill. There was not one specific promise from the Opposition about any of them. Of course it all boils down to the fact that it is a lot of hooha and there is no basis to its criticism whatsoever.
If members of the Opposition want to refer to coal let them speak to the coal companies of Australia. Their profits this year collectively from coal will be $544m. Since we came to office the Queensland Coal Mining Co. Ltd has received from the Blackwater mine in Queensland an increase in its coal prices from $12.62 a tonne to the present $48 a tonne. The price of coal from the Peak Downs mine has risen from $12.77 a tonne for coking coal to the present $48.50 a tonne. I could give examples right across the board and they show the same pattern. The increases were achieved singularly by the Minister for Minerals and Energy under the policy of this Government by negotiating with the Government of Japan. Yet the National Country Party seeks to give credence to the lie that the coal export tax levy will be an addition to the amount paid by the Japanese steel producers to Australia, that in fact that coal tax will be passed on. The Minister has said specifically on a number of occasions in the House that it will not be passed on. He has given a clear undertaking to the Japanese Government and to Nippon Steel, which acts as the negotiator for the Japanese steel companies in Japan, that the coal tax levy will not be passed on, that it has to be borne by the Australian coal producers. With that massive windfall gain which the Government has secured for them, why should they not pay some of it back? After the deduction of company tax it works out that they will pay $69m in the new coal tax out of $544m profit for the year.
– About an eighth.
– Yes. That is supposed to be an onerous tax. The Opposition says that we are killing off incentive in the industry. All the time members of the Opposition come in here as lackeys for foreign interests. Australian ownership of the coal industry in Queensland is a miserable 15 per cent. Yet members of the Opposition have the hide to come in here and to back that foreign interest and to keep talking about it. I have suggested in this House- probably unfairly- that the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Viner) is on a retainer from Woodside-Burmah That is probably not right but the line of distinction is very fine. He could well be, listening to his utterances. He and Sir Charles Court are happy to be lackeys for the interests of the off-shore producers in Western Australia, Hamersley Iron Pty Ltd and any of the others. When we came to office the iron ore producers in Australia were almost to the point where they could not operate. Who got the revaluation compensation for them when they had their contracts written exclusively in American dollars? The Minister for Minerals and Energy.
They came to Canberra privately cap in hand and said: ‘Oh thank you Mr Minister, thank you, thank you’. When they go back to Western
Australia they are inside angels and outside devils. They are beating a drum with Court there and are followed around by people like the honourable member for Stirling. But when one gets down to the nitty-gritty, their profitability was established and maintained by this Government. The new contracts were negotiated by this Government and the latest price for iron ore was approved by this Government. The Minister sent the companies back twice to get a reasonable deal for themselves and told them there would be more in it for them if they went back. When they looked at the new economics of Japanese steel production they could see that the Japanese could afford to pay them more and it would be a fairer price if they got more for their ore. The honourable member for Stirling knows that that is a fact. The Opposition referred to uranium. For 14 years before this Government was elected a total embargo on the export of uranium was imposed by the Liberal-Country Party Government in the 14 years to 1972.
– That is not so.
– That is so. Three weeks before the new Parliament was elected in 1972 the former Minister for National Development in the Liberal-Country Party Government, Sir Reginald Swartz, let contracts to Japan to suit the companies that were obviously tipping into Liberal Party funds for that election. That is the murky depth at which uranium policy was administered by the Liberal-Country Party Government. There was no export. That was the policY. Now the Opposition berates us because uranium is not being ripped out of the ground and sold at bargain basement prices. An agreement has been signed between the Australian Government and the Northern Territory producers to produce uranium and to refine it in a process which will be operated by the Australian Atomic Energy Commission. It so happens that there has been an inquiry into the national parks in the Northern Territory and another inquiry into the environmental effects of uranium. Not until those inquiries are completed will the Government be free to approve exports from any new mines in the Northern Territory. But agreements have been made and contracts will be honoured. Of course in the future those mines and the production plants will be operating at peak activity. But all this cannot happen within a year and well the honourable gentlemen on the other side of the House realise it.
It is good to recount the figures which the Minister gave. When we came to office uranium was at SUS6.50 a lb on the world market because there was no marketing. It was a buyers’ market, not a sellers’ market. The whole world knew it. Of course now it is at SUS20 a lb- 3 ‘A times as much. It was not worth our while to wait 2 years for this sort of a windfall gain- 3V4 times as much! If the Minister had his way and were able to effect the pokey immediately we would be enriching the uranium, which would multiply its value by a factor of five. This Government has made every attempt to maximise the returns to Australia and to Australian producers in all of the categories at which honourable members like to look. We again heard criticism from the honourable member for Kennedy about oil exploration with all of the bogus figures about production. I have from the Bureau of Mineral Resources and departmental records the official seismic and drilling statistics. I ask the honourable gentleman, if he is honest about the situation, to approve the inclusion of this table of figures in Hansard.
-Is the honourable member seeking leave to have the table incorporated in Hansard?
-Is leave granted?
– Not until I see it.
-Leave is not granted.
– I thought that would be so, Mr Deputy Speaker. The Opposition does not want to see the truth. It wants to carry on with the hes because the truth shows that in off-shore drilling, where it really matters, there was more activity last year than there was in any of the preceding 5 years. That puts paid to that lie. In relation to off-shore activity, the High Court is sitting on the judgment on the Seas and Submerged Lands Act. Until that judgment is clear and sovereignty is made clear everyone- to use the Minister’s expression- is treading water. As he pointed out, the new agreement, criminally signed by Mensaros in Western Australia, requires the drilling of only 36 wells in Aus.tralia a miserable 36 wells, not enough to keep one drilling vessel going. There is no oil on the coast; it is all gas. The honourable member for Stirling knows that. The oil is at the extension of the continental plateau, at the edge of the continental margin, at a depth of 2000 feet. That is where the oil is. Everyone who is interested in geology in Australia understands and knows that. The companies know it. There is gas only to be found on the coast. The companies are sitting on top of the leases. They were renegotiated without the approval of the Government of Australia to try to get round the fact that we have passed an Act of Parliament and because the validity has not been upheld in the High Court companies are trying to sneak along and renew the leases before the Minister for Minerals and Energy cancels the authority of Mensaros as a designated authority under the Act. That is the sneaky game that Court is up to.
All we are insisting on is that Australia gets at least a fair deal out of it. If Woodside-Burmah wants to stay on the coast and drill for gas and produce gas, well and good. But the areas it cannot decently handle, that is cannot explore to a reasonable ratio of holes to acres should be given to other companies in conjunction with the Government of Australia to let them carry out the exploration. The Opposition policy is working exclusively for Woodside-Burmah and is making sure that that company with a puny drilling program of 5 holes a year, keeps its grip on 70 000 square miles of sea. That is the Party policy, and shame on the Party for it. When the Minister outlined his course of action to get approval of the High Court for the Bill to give this Parliament sovereignty- large elements of the Opposition agree with that- Opposition members berated Mm for it and tried to disparage his policy.
This Government has brought to Australia a decent minerals and energy policy. We have been in office for 32 months, and in 32 months a Party cannot achieve everything. The point is that a good start has been made and the Minister has put the development of these policies on a course which no Liberal-National Country Party government will be able to turn back at any time, because the Australian people will not tolerate the selling out of Australia’s interests to foreigners or to anybody else. It is time that the people of Australia got a fair share of the national wealth and that these projects were developed sensibly under the right auspices and with the right sovereignty.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– This Government has been a -
Motion (by Mr Connor) agreed to:
That the question be now put.
That the motion (Mr Katter’s) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Hon. G. G. D. Scholes)
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I move:
The Federal Labor Government has completely destroyed decentralisation incentives and has turned its back on country towns and cities. In the short space of 2 years there has been wholesale removal of general incentives which encouraged basic decentralisation. Country towns and cities now face the bleakest growth outlook since the ravages of the Great Depression 4 decades ago. Unemployment levels are higher in country towns and cities than anywhere else. Non-metropolitan Australia is facing an economic debacle unprecedented in its severity at the hands of an unprincipled and crazy government.
There is today uncertainty and a lack of confidence never before encountered in country areas. Enormous problems which confront country areas today stem from economic mismanagement brought about by amateurs and intellectuals pursuing their socialist philosophies. The Labor Government attempted to bring about sweeping changes overnight. Much of the destruction of decentralisation incentives was a direct result of these actions and the consequences of the dreaded Coombs report.
In country towns and cities the ravages of the savage actions of the Government in its 2Vi year rampage are now taking a serious toll. The petrol price differential for country areas was removed and transport costs have skyrocketed. Fuel prices have been increased steeply by the Budget impost of $2 a barrel on crude oil, resulting in 6c a gallon increase in petrol prices- another slap at decentralisation. Postal and telephone charges have increased at an explosive pace. The consequences are that decentralised industry has no hope of shouldering the burden, let alone the ordinary country dweller, businessman, local government authority or anyone else who must use these services heavily. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) promised in 1972 lower charges for country industries. So much for his promise.
The 25 per cent ^discriminate tariff cut threw entire industries in country areas into chaos. No relief of an effective nature was given. Successive currency revaluations altered the whole balance of our export and domestic industries, but in particular hit at country based industries and dragged down those associated with primary industry. The credit squeeze was devastating for decentralisation and future prospects for growth and development through decentralisation was throttled. Investment in plant and capital equipment has fallen off dramatically in the past 2 years. Interest rates have been crippling and no concessions have been provided for decentralisation in this regard. It is the country areas of Australia that have been hardest hit by the Government’s cut back and inflationary policies.
There has been great discrimination and this must be corrected.
The confused result of the ministerial committee’s deliberations on the Regional Employment Development scheme only yesterday is typical of the failure to introduce any realistic, effective, practical or workable decentralisation scheme. The RED scheme was full of weaknesses but it was better than paying people not to work at all. What is wrong with a policy of spending some of the massive unemployment benefits payments on productive work projects in country areas through private enterprise and local government?
Nothing of this sort has been attempted or even proposed by the Government. Last year rural costs rose by 35 per cent, double the increase in the consumer price index figure, and income declined by 10 per cent. Is this growth across the nation? Of course it is not and the words of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in presenting his alternative Budget were perfectly correct.
Despite the hugh expenditure incurred in bringing into existence the Department of Urban and Regional Development, no decentralisation POliCY has been forthcoming. No fund for incentives for decentralisation of industry, either through the State governments or direct, was ever established by this socialist Government. Positive proposals have never eventuated from the Prime Minister or the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) in this allimportant area of decentralisation. The previous Liberal-Country Party Government supported the States in an effective decentralisation policy.
In 1972 the previous Government moved to establish a $100m decentralisation assistance fund. This was scrapped by the incoming Labor Government. Even worse has been the failure to produce a policy of decentralisation of industry or for decentralised development for the announced growth centres such as AlburyWodonga, Bathurst-Orange or any other designated area. On the other hand, vast expenditure has been committed for land acquisition and planning but nothing for incentives for industry. During the past couple of weeks the Minister for Urban and Regional Development has made a lamentably weak attempt to attack the Leader of the Opposition on the issue of delaying expenditure on growth centres in order to give priority to the economic recovery of aU Australia
The problem of decentralisation stagnation is much more an economic issue than an academic exercise in planning. This cogent fact seems to have escaped the notice of the Minister for Urban and Regional Development and the Prime Minister. I will bet the Minister replies to my remarks today with the same platitudes, the same cliches and the same well-worn dogma of socialism that he has uttered constantly since he became the Minister. He talks of real growth in growth centres. Yet the States and the corporations have not been directly assisted to build houses. Not one house has been constructed, one family settled or one industry established. Of course, the people of these chosen areas want growth. Of course they favour regional growth centres because they expect some honesty and some purposeful action from the Government which made the rosy promises. So do the honest people who live in hope in all other country towns and cities. They too want a poliCY from this Government now bereft of ideas and of policies.
The Government stands condemned for its failure to make known any decentralisation pOliCY- even a meagre one. It has taken away what the previous Government did by way of incentives and concessions. It has failed to honour even the promise on telephone charges. It has done nothing to assist the States to sponsor and encourage decentralised development, and so the countryside stagnates. The Labor Government has pursued policies which were motivated by ideology and by a blind adherence to socialist myths. The federal system of Government in Australia is more than just a means of dividing up political responsibility between the central and State governments. It is a system which guarantees political freedom and the rights of the individual by decentralised power. The rush towards centralism and the undermining of the power of the States which has been a feature of the Whitlam Government is central to the implementation of socialism in Australia.
In the face of this reckless and irresponsible pOliCY the problems of decentralised development which existed and which past governments recognised and grappled with have been brought to a head. The result has been widespread uncertainty and loss of confidence in the economic considerations of decentralisation, both large and small. It has been estimated by people with a real concern for the quality of life in Australia with a concern for the well being of honest Australians that some 150 000 small businesses are in danger of collapse if the present policies of the Government are allowed to continue. Small business is the backbone of the Australian economy, giving employment to 42 per cent of our work force. Many of these small businesses are the pillars of decentralisation. The present Labor Government is prepared apparently to see them sacrificed. We on this side of the House are not.
A Liberal-National Country Party government would implement the recommendations of the Mathews committee on company tax. It would implement stock valuation adjustment proposals from the Mathews recommendations for company tax payable in 1 975-76 at 50 per cent of the recommended rate for stock valuation. It would also introduce a 40 per cent investment allowance to supersede the accelerated depreciation allowance for plant and equipment installed before June 1977. This would be continued at the rate of 20 per cent for a further 5-year period. It would suspend the quarterly company taxation payments. It would introduce the right of companies to retain a percentage of their earnings untaxed for capital investment. We would regard these measures as a fundamental requirement of restoring decentralised development and taking positive action to encourage productive industry as well as putting funds in the right direction for productive growth. This is a sharp contrast to the Government’s Budget, the Government’s approach and the Minister’s very recent statements.
The Prime Minister has become obsessed with ideas of grandeur in many fields. His Minister for Urban and Regional Development is similarly obsessed. On 18 June last the Prime Minister released a statement on regional policy. It said nothing about decentralised development but much about planning. It said:
The Australian Government has adopted a regional policy in implementing some of its major new initiatives.
Let us consider what they are. The Australian Assistance Plan and the Area Improvement Program are notable examples. Well Mr Deputy Speaker, not many new people can be employed with these phoney instruments for a better way of life and it seems to me that there is negative productivity from the same grand schemes. It is just not good enough!
The objectives of the Government for regionalism were similarly void of economic reality. Not one word about decentralised development of industry, for employment, production or economic growth, productive industry and the like got a mention. Is it any wonder that nonmetropolitan unemployment is so disasterous under this Government? Then, of course, we have the antic of an attack on the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser) when he made a factual and correct statement on growth centre expenditure and the Government’s failure to achieve results. The Minister for Urban and Regional Development fell right into this one, as did the Prime Minister. Last Wednesday the Minister told the House that in the past 3 years Albury-Wodonga had a growth rate of 3.1 per cent, which was 9 times the growth rate of similar rural areas. Well it did. The growth came from development which was not the result of the Government’s actions when it failed to build one house or attract one factory. It came from the confidence that people had in this area before it was selected as a growth centre, a confidence that will not last unless some positive decentralisation move is made. But what about the other areas he mentions as being 9 times below 3.1 per cent?
I do not speak today without some background study of the problem. In recent weeks I visited a number of new towns overseas in Britain and in North America. A most eminent administrator given the responsibility of general managership of the largest projected new town in Britain, the town of Milton Keynes, who has had experience in a similar role in other new towns, gave the best advice I could find. He said:
First get a couple of good industries . . . attract them by giving them concessions and then look for people and encourage a community to build around the industries. To do otherwise is fatal.
The other lesson to be gained from the experience of other countries is to give general incentives to encourage general decentralisation- not just in one or two selected areas. Countries like Scotland, Norway and Canada and many others have proved this beyond doubt. We on this side of the House recognise the need for policies which offer this prospect. We will see that they are implemented.
The selective growth centre concept should not imply the exclusion of other centres and regions from a national program of balanced development. This exclusion must not be allowed. In fact, the acceptance of, and success of, the selective approach could well depend on the extent to which it is possible to assure non-selected areas that their normal needs and their development potential will not be neglected. A complete national program must define the role of these other areas and provide for an equitable share of the resources they help to generate.
The role of small country centres in stemming the metropolitan drift- and they can in total make a worthwhile contribution- should not be ignored. Again, industries should be encouraged to establish themselves wherever they want to go. The major fact, however, must be the provision of incentives to industry and commerce to locate or relocate in regional areas. The incentive of appropriately priced and readily available transport and communication facilities I have already mentioned. It is imperative that this action be taken and it must be taken quickly if decentralised development is to be resuscitated.
We on this side of the House wil not be sidetracked by intellectuals, amateurs and theorists who dominate the thinking and the attitudes of the present Government. It is imperative to restore confidence economically and to restore incentives for decentralised development. Our policies will be practical because we will put first things first. The Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the National Country Party (Mr Anthony) have very clearly stated this. All our efforts will be directed to spending where the investment will yield a return- in productivity, in employment, in growth, and in fundamental development, not in empty space, with no houses, no industries and no results.
After the shakey efforts of the Minister to extract himself from the claim that there is growth in Albury-Wodonga, the Prime Minister announced the transfer of public servants to bolster the poor record of actual development in the growth centres. We have no quarrel with that; we applaud it. But what about the provision of homes and accommodation for the chosen departments? As the editorial in The Canberra Times yesterday so correctly stated:
The impetus for growth in real terms must come from elsewhere, from productive private enterprise, but one wonders whether the Government has framed any of its national policies with the aim of inducing private enterprise to settle in the designated growth centres.
Perhaps the opposite is the real truth. At all events now is hardly the time to be discussing new growth when the burning question is whether there is any growth at all in the national economy and when the reality is that the cost of communications and of road and air travel and transport makes any expansion of commercial activities into the country an unlikely proposition.
Let us get our priorities straight. Accordingly I have moved today that this House condemns the wholesale removal of general decentralisation incentives in the absence of a detailed and publicly stated decentralisation policy. It is up to the Government to face the real issues and not to turn away from them. When we are returned to the Treasury benches real and positive commercial activities will be restored to the countryside and decentralisation will again become a reality.
-Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion and reserve my right to speak.
– One has to examine the record of the Opposition when it was in government for 23 years prior to 1972. During that time the rural population of Australia fell from 31 per cent of Australia ‘s population to 14.7 per cent. That was the sorry record of that Government. It allowed the overcentralisation of Sydney and Melbourne to such an extent that it was left to our Government to fight the issue by determining urban and regional policies to try to stem the centralised growth of those 2 cities. The 2 main protagonists in the then Opposition were the present Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and I. We were both fringe dwellers of Sydney and said that we could not allow this over-centralisation to continue. We sought an alternate policy. Instead of having the scatter-gun decentralisation POliCy which the former government adhered to, putting a little bit of uneconomic industry here and a little bit there, we would, after discussion with the States, seek a selective decentralisation. We determined that the selected growth areas should be on major transport corridors and that the new Australian Government’s first priority would be Albury-Wodonga. Transport cost has been a major energy of decentralisation.
The New South Wales Government had already decided to locate its selected growth centre at Bathurst-Orange and we have given that State Government our support. Together the New South Wales and Victorian State governments and the Australian Government are developing Albury-Wodonga on the major transport corridor between Sydney and Melbourne. We are integrating that development with initiatives to improve the transport infrastructure to make sure that Albury-Wodonga will be economically viable and an answer to the centralisation of Sydney and Melbourne. In its first 3 years the Government has backed that project with financial commitments. We allocated $9m to it in our first Budget, $40m last year and $40m this year. In other words, we have supported that growth centre of AlburyWodonga with nearly $ 100m in our first 3 years.
Honourable members should note the hypocrisy of the Opposition. The new Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has decided to torpedo the growth centre program. He seems to think he could cut off funds just for one year. The spokesman for the National Country Party is confused about the situation. He said: ‘We would cut off funds for one year and we could make funds available again in the next year’. But as the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt), the former Minister responsible for the National Capital Development Commission, is well aware, if we cut off funds for a growth centre or a development corporation for one year it will affect the project in the years ahead. He nods his head in approval. Therefore he must disagree with what the Leader of the Opposition has said and there must be a difference of opinion between the National Country Party and the spokesman for the Liberal Party. Does the Opposition want to cut off the funds to the growth centre at Bathurst-Orange which has a National Country Party State member? Last year we made $5m available to the project for its first year. This year we have made available $8.6m. Does the Country Party support that allocation of funds or does it support the Leader of the Opposition’s view to cut off those funds?
The Opposition says that it wants to cut back capital works. Honourable members should examine at the unemployment situation in nonurban areas and at the potential of growth centres such as Albury-Wodonga and consider the impetus they are giving. Already the AlburyWodonga Development Corporation, which is a joint venture between the State governments of Victoria and New South Wales and the Australian Government, has received 70-odd applications from companies wishing to go to that growth centre. Also the Australian Government has committed itself to the transfer of public servants, to Albury-Wodonga and other growth centres such as Bathurst-Orange and Geelong.
- (Mr Keith Johnson)- Order! The time allotted for general business has expired. The Minister will have leave to resume his speech when the debate is resumed. The resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
-As this will be the last occasion on which this House will be sitting before Papua New Guinea comes to independence, I seek leave of the House to move a motion conveying to the National Parliament of Papua New Guinea the congratulations of this House on the achievement of independence.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion and wish to speak briefly to it. We thought the legislation which was before the House last week was the last opportunity we would have to put our view on Papua New Guinea. However, this is a further opportunity. There will be an official party from Australia at the official celebrations next week. That party will comprise the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), the Minister for Defence (Mr Morrison) in his capacity as Minister concerned with Papua New Guinea matters, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser), the Leader of the National Country Party of Australia (Mr Anthony) and me. I want to say on behalf of the Opposition that we look beyond 16 September when Papua New Guinea becomes independent. We look for a very close association with Papua New Guinea based not merely on the reservoir of good will which exists between the 2 countries, not merely on the geographic tie there is between us, but also on the undertakings we have made to guarantee the aid programs and to retain our close association with Papua New Guinea while it seeks the implementation of its aspirations. We believe that a united Papua New Guinea will be a successful Papua New Guinea and that the relationship between us which is so close now will continue for a long time. I join with the Minister for Defence in offering the Opposition’s warmest congratulations to the National Parliament of Papua New Guinea and also to the people on the achievement of their independence.
– Briefly I would like to associate the members of the National Country Party of Australia with this motion. As the 2 preceding speakers have indicated, it is a formal motion and yet one which in its formal character reflects the sincere concern of all members of this Parliament and of all Australians for the future we see for the independent Papua New Guinea. The motion expresses our aspirations that a united Papua New Guinea will form an integral part of a regional association with Australia which will enable the people of both countries and of the region to live in harmony and in continued progress in the years ahead. The members of the National Country Party of Australia wish Michael Somare as Chief Minister, and members of his Government well in their country’s independence. We congratulate the people of Papua New Guinea on their achievement and trust that they may be able to achieve those aspirations which aU their people must have at this time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr Morrison) agreed to:
That this resolution be conveyed to the Speaker of the National Parliament of Papua New Guinea.
Bill presented by Mr Lionel Bowen, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of the Bill now before the House is to extend the eligibility for book bounty to cover law reports. When the book bounty was amended in March of this year as a result of the Tariff Board inquiry into products of the printing industry, law reports were not made bountiable because evidence given at the inquiry suggested that the printing of such publications was not liable to be lost to local manufacturers. However more recent information demonstrates that this is no longer the case and the Government accepts that the production of these publications in Australia should be assisted. The cost of such assistance in 1975-76 is estimated at about $50,000. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Adermann) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Uren, and read a first time.
– I move:
When the Australian Labor Party Government came to power in 1972 it inherited a statutory authority called the National and Urban Regional Development Authority. It had been created by the McMahon Government in its dying days, in fact the last 2 weeks of that Government, and given the responsibility of reporting to the Parliament on a program of urban and regional development for Australia
We decided to allow its program of consultation, research and feasibility studies to continue. In October 1973 the Cities Commission Act was passed. It had the effect of keeping this Authority in existence with a different name and with a different composition, but with similar functions.
At the time when this legislation was passed by the Parliament the work of the Cities Commission was already under way. As I said, it had been set up in the last couple of weeks of the McMahon Government. It was in the early months of the present Government that the Commission assisted our programs a great deal. I pay tribute to those people who were in the Cities Commission at that time for the work they did.
It had available to it an experienced staff largely drawn from the planning professions. These people were able to make an immediate contribution to the development of this Government’s urban and regional policies. Headed at the time by that distinguished planner, Sir John Overall, in June 1973 it produced the first of a series of significant publications and studies. This was A Report to the Australian Government- A Recommended New Cities Program 1973-1978. It provided the basis for the debate about growth centres, about development corporations and about the virtues of controlled planned growth as opposed to the uncontrolled growth which has created so many problems in our existing cities. As I explained in an earlier debate today, the Menzies Government, the Holt Government, the Gorton Government and the McMahon Government for so long supported a POliCY of laissezfaire and centralisation and in no way sought to achieve planned decentralisation or what we call selected growth centres. It was on this report made by a body under the chairmanship of Sir John Overall in co-operation with the States that our selected growth policies were founded.
The Commission has continued this process of undertaking studies, of publishing the results and of stimulating discussion and debate on urban issues. This is completely contrary to what was said by the Opposition spokesman for decentralisation in this House only a few minutes ago. The composition of the Commission permitted the appointment to it of senior State officers. In other words, we had an inter-relationship between the Australian and State governments and we were drawing on the know-how of the State governments. This contributed significantly to the development of good working relations between State governments and my ministry.
The major fruit of that work was the growth centres program by which we have moved to establish in agreement with the States growth centres at Albury-Wodonga, Bathurst-Orange and the Sydney south-west sector. We were hoping to get an agreement with the Victorian Government on Geelong. We are also working together with the South Australian Government on Monarto. I again mention the laissez-faire approach of the previous Government for 23 years. The Opposition now supposes that it can turn off the tap for this growth program for a year and next year or the year after continue it. It has no real understanding of urban planning at aU.
As this process has developed the workload of the Cities Commission in growth centres has been reduced. Because it was already operating in December 1972, it was possible to pass to the Commission many tasks which normally would have been done by a government department or, as has now been set up, the Department of Urban and Regional Development. This enabled the Government to make a quicker start on its programs than would otherwise have been possible. The Department of Urban and Regional Development has gradually grown in strength and capacity. Now it can undertake all of the policy functions which the Cities Commission had done before.
The Commission now has also completed or relinquished to the Department its responsibilities in the negotiation of agreements with the States. We have now reached the point where the Department can now take over the roles previously performed by the Commission. In the meantime the Department has established more firmly its research and studies program. Inevitably, problems of demarcation have arisen with evidence of duplication of functions. To a degree, these problems could have been sorted out within my ministry. Of greater concern, however, was the confusion created in the minds of people outside my ministry- particularly State Ministers and officials- on where the responsibilities of the Commission ended and where those of the Department of Urban and Regional Development began. In aU of the circumstances it seemed timely at this point to merge the 2 organisations. I would have urged this course solely in the interests of avoiding duplication and cutting out confusion over roles.
It is also fortunate that such a move comes at a time when on aU sides there are pleas for restraint in government expenditure. Certainly the abolition of the Cities Commission and merging it into the Department of Urban and Regional Development will mean a great saving of government expenditure. Merging of the 2 bodies will allow savings in administrative expenses. It will also allow the same objectives to be reached with a significant saving in Second Division manpower. A continuing need exists for my ministry to have access to professional town planning and engineering advice. I feel that this should be provided by establishing a semiautonomous professional group within my Department. I propose to create a group of this sort to provide a professional consultative service for the Australian Government. It will also be available for use by State governments which from time to time have a need for independent advice. It will also be at the disposal of local government and regional authorities. It could also be available to advise on overseas aid programs on occasions when it may not be appropriate to offer foreign governments assistance from private consultants. We propose to call this group the Bureau of the Cities.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting I was explaining that when the Government abolishes the Cities Commission it will incorporate into the Department of Urban and Regional Development a new group to be called the Bureau of the Cities which will be created in a manner similar to the Bureau of Transport Economics in the Department of Transport. The Bureau will have the following functions:
The creation of the Bureau will let me rationalise overlapping functions between DURD and the present Cities Commission. It will let me remove a major source of confusion in the attitudes of the States to our urban programs. It will enable me to make some economies in staff in the existing bodies.
The Commission has done a good job and has seen its major initiatives come to life. I would like to give credit particularly to the work it did at Albury-Wodonga prior to the formation of the Albury-Wodonga Development Corporation. As you know, Mr Speaker, the Commission has certainly done a fine job in the growth centres of Geelong and the south-western sector of Sydney, where a development corporation has been set up with the co-operation of the New South Wales Government and the Australian Government. The joint development corporation there is under the control of the New South Wales Minister for Environment and Planning. The Commission has also carried out important work at
Bathurst-Grange. It has done a great deal of research in the Moreton region in Brisbane and also in Townsville. That is only part of the important work it has carried out in providing assistance for the Government’s programs.
But we must not hesitate to adjust all singlepurpose agencies to meet changing circumstances. One of our prime aims is to give early evidence of our strong support for the AlburyWodonga growth centre. We need to give an early indication of the seriousness of our intentions toward and support for Albury-Wodonga. Because this Bureau would not have a central role in policy formulation, I suggest that we make an early announcement of our intention to locate it in Albury-Wodonga.
Other organisations, which the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has already announced, will be transferred. Even though the Opposition seems to think that we are only pulling these names out of a hat, a committee on the location of government employment has been meeting for the past year. Members of that Committee have come from the Prime Minister’s Department, the Public Service Board and the Department of Urban and Regional Development. They have studied the matter in depth and have made the recommendation to Cabinet. A few matters have been deferred for further investigation. There will soon be further announcements as to the location of public servants. I believe that the Bureau of the Cities will play a very fine role. I strongly favour the early transfer to Albury-Wodonga of one of the bodies which played a key role in selecting and developing it as a growth centre. It will also provide the centre with ready access to a professional body to assist in its planning and development.
The Prime Minister announced the Government’s intention to abolish the Cities Commission on 4 June 1975. Following such an announcement it was inevitable that the staff of the Commission suffered from feelings of insecurity and lowered morale. Because of this, the Public Service Board, on the advice of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department, agreed to transfer the staff from the Commission to the Department of Urban and Regional Development before this repealing legislation was passed. I thank the Public Service Board for its co-operation in this matter. It has reduced disruption to the work program of DURD and more importantly has made the transition for Cities Commission staff as easy as possible.
I conclude with a very high tribute to the value of the work done by the Commission and its staff during its relatively short life. In particular, I single out Sir John Overall and Mr Eric Warrell, his successor as Chairman, for the fine work they have done. I thank the part time members of the Commission and the members of the Cities Commission Advisory Committee- many of them distinguished State public servants and distinguished citizens in their own right- for their help in fulfilling the Government’s urban and regional goals. All of the Cities Commission staff remaining at 27 August 1975 have been offered employment within my Department. Most of them have already accepted the offer. I am sure that they will continue to work with the same commitment and efficiency in a new relationship with their colleagues in the Department of Urban and Regional Development. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Wilson) adjourned.
– I move:
That in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969-1974, the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report:
Construction of a proposed multi-storey ward blockRepatriation General Hospital, Greenslopes, Queensland.
The proposal is for the construction of a 6-storey multi-ward block designed to accommodate the requirements of 288 beds, kitchen and dining facilities, library, duty medical officers’ common rooms, convention room, staff change and amenities rooms, storage room and plant room. A service tunnel is proposed to connect the new works to an enlarged boiler house. The building will be of reinforced concrete frame with external brick sheeting designed to be in harmony with surrounding development. The block will be air conditioned throughout. Three bedpassenger lifts and 2 food lifts are proposed. In accordance with departmental standards for hospitals, an automatic fire detection system is also proposed. The estimated cost of the proposal at May 1975 prices is $11.5m. I table plans of the proposed work.
– May I ask a question, through you, Mr Speaker, of the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Riordan)? How tall will this building be? How many storeys will it have?
-Has the honourable gentleman finished what he has to say?
– No. I was just seeking -
– This is not question time. The honourable gentleman can either ask his question as part of his remarks and sit down or complete his remarks.
-Yes, sir. I asked the question to learn how tall is the building. Obviously the Minister is unable to answer the question at this time.
-Yes, I am.
– He is looking it up, and I will continue to speak thus retaining my right to speak. I would hope that we will not have another building of the type erected at Woolloongabba in Brisbane for the then Aus.tralian Post Office. It towers so high into the sky that it casts shadows over residential blocks. As a resident of the Greenslopes suburb- and I speak on behalf of all the residents of the area- that we would be totally opposed to a high rise building being erected in the suburb of Greenslopes which was of the nature of the Post Office building constructed at Woolloongabba. Is the Minister now able to answer my question?
– I will.
-He still cannot at this stage. I would hope that the Minister would take this on board.
– I will answer when the honourable member has finished.
-Very well. In this age, people care for the environment and for the surrounds where they reside. The people of the suburb of Greenslopes, which is situated in the Federal Division of Griffith, to the last man and woman, would be against any proposal that would result in an extremely high rise building being constructed there, even if it was in the grounds of the Greenslopes Repatriation Hospital. That hospital at present is a very important and vital part of the community life in the suburb of Greenslopes. It blends in well with the low set, well kept homes of that district. If you intend to change that, you will be hearing more from me.
– in reply- There is almost terror in my heart as I hear that threat coming from such a person as the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron). However, I am somewhat relieved, when I understand the ferocity of his attack, to realise that he either does not understand or did not listen to what I said. In outlining this reference, I said:
The proposal is for the construction of a 6-storey multiward block . . .
It has a lower ground floor, a ground floor and 4 other floors. If the honourable gentleman has any criticism of or wishes to make any submission on this reference, as he ought to know the appropriate way to do that is to appear before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works which, I am certain, will give to his submission the weight and attention that it deserves.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill presented by Mr Daly, and read a first time.
– I move: That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill is designed to implement the electoral divisions in South Australia having the names and boundaries approved in respect of that State by this House on 21 May 1975. An identical Bill was introduced into this House on 29 May 1975 and passed the same day. It was introduced into and rejected by the Senate on 10 June 1975. As honourable members are aware, the report by the Distribution Commissioners for the State of South Australia was laid before both Houses of the Parliament on 1 5 April 1 975, pursuant to section 23A of the Commonwealth Electoral Act, together with suggestions, comments and objections lodged with the Distribution Commissioners pursuant to sections 18A and 21 of that Act. The motion for the approval of the redistribution proposed in that report was passed by this House on 21 May 1975, but was negated by the Senate on the following day.
The Electoral Re-distribution (South Australia) Bill is one of 5 Bills designed to implement the Distribution Commissioners’ proposed electoral divisions for South Australia, Tasmania, Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales. These Bills are necessary because of the uncompromising attitude adopted by the Opposition Parties in the Senate towards the redistribution proposals for each of the 5 States concerned. The Government believes that the effecting of these re-distributions has become a matter of urgent necessity in order to provide equality of representation for every elector. The Government is not prepared to wait until 1977 or 1978 to effect a re-distribution, even supposing that future Distribution Commissioners could produce proposals which would please both the National Country Party and the Liberal Party. For the information of honourable members, I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a statement showing the enrolment as at 29 August 1975, for each electoral division in South Australia
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
– I thank the House. This Bill provides a challenge to the Opposition Parties in this House and in another place. We invite them to support the basic democratic principle of one vote one value. That is the basis of this legislationnothing more, nothing less. I commend the Bill to the House.
– I move that the gerrymander be now adjourned.
– I would suggest that the honourable member for Gippsland might show due deference to the House and move the proper motion for the adjournment of the debate.
Debate (on motion by Mr Nixon) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Daly and read a first time.
-I move: That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill is designed to implement the electoral divisions in Tasmania having the names and boundaries approved in respect of that State by this House on 2 1 May 1 975. An identical Bill was introduced into and passed by this House on 29
May 1975, and was introduced into and refused a second reading by the Senate on 10 June 1975. As honourable members are aware, the report by the Distribution Commissioners for the State of Tasmania was laid before both Houses on 17 April 1975, pursuant to section 23 a of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918-1973, together with the suggestions, comments and objections lodged with the Distribution Commissioners in accordance with sections 18a and 21 of that Act. A motion for the approval of the proposed redistribution was passed by this House on 2 1 May 1975, but was negated by the Senate on the following day. For the information of honourable members, I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a statement showing the enrolment as at 29 August 1975 for each electoral division in Tasmania.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
– I thank the House. I have already indicated, in the course of my remarks on the first of the 5 electoral re-distribution Bills, the purpose of these Bills, and I do not propose to reiterate those remarks. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Nixon) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Daly, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This BUI is designed to implement the electoral divisions in Queensland having the names and boundaries approved in respect of that State by this House on 22 May 1975. An identical Bill was introduced into and passed by this House on 29 May 1975. It was introduced into the Senate on 10 June 1975 and denied a second reading on the same day.
As honourable members are aware, the report by the Distribution Commissioners for the State of Queensland was laid before both Houses on 17 April 1975, pursuant to section 23 A of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918-1973, together with suggestions, comments and objections lodged with the Distribution Commissioners in accordance with sections 18A and 21 of that Act. A motion for the approval of the redistribution proposed in that report was passed by this House on 22 May 1975, but was negated by the Senate on 27 May 1975. For the information of honourable members, I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a statement showing the enrolment as at 29 August 1975, for each electoral division in Queensland.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
– In Queensland enrolments as at the end of August ranged from 98 520 in the division of McPherson to 46 735 in the division of Maranoa. Thus, in that State, one seat at present has more than twice as many electors as another. This is a denial of the very essence of democracy and a travesty of the electoral process. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Nixon) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Daly, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill is designed to implement the electoral divisions in Victoria having the names and boundaries approved in respect of that State by this House on 22 May 1975. An identical Bill was introduced into and passed by this House on 29 May 1975. It was introduced into the Senate on 10 June 1975 and refused a second reading by that chamber on the same day.
As honourable members are aware, the report by the Distribution Commissioners for the State of Victoria was laid before this House on 13 May 1975 and before the Senate on the following day, pursuant to section 23A of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918-1973, together with suggestions, comments and objections lodged with the Distribution Commissioners pursuant to sections 18A and 21 of that Act. A motion for the approval of the redistribution proposed in that report was passed by this House on 22 May 1975, but was negated by the Senate on 27 May 1975. For the information of honourable members, I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a statement showing the enrolment as at 29 August 1 975, for each electoral division in Victoria.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
– I have already indicated, in the course of my remarks dealing with the first of these 5 related electoral redistribution Bills, the purpose of these Bills, and there is no need to reiterate those remarks in dealing with this Bill. I commend this Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Nixon) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Daly and read a first time.
This Bill is designed to implement the electoral divisions in New South Wales having the names and boundaries approved in respect of that State by this House on 22 May 1975. An identical Bill was introduced into and passed by this House on 29 May 1975. It was introduced into and refused a second reading by the Senate on 10 June 1975.
As honourable members are aware, the report by the Distribution Commissioners for the State of New South Wales was laid before this House on 13 May 1975 and before the Senate on the following day, pursuant to section 23a of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918-1973, together with suggestions, comments and objections lodged with the Distribution Commissioners pursuant to sections 18a and 21 of that Act. A motion for the approval of the redistribution proposed in that report was passed by this House on 22 May 1975 but was negated by the Senate on 27 May 1975. For the information of honourable members, I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a statement showing the enrolment as at 29 August 1975, for each electoral division in New South Wales.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
– The Government believes that, as with the proposals for South Australia, Tasmania, Queensland and Victoria, the redistribution proposals for the State of New South Wales are the fairest ever laid before this Parliament and merit the unqualified support of this House. I commend the BUI to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Nixon) adjourned.
Consideration resumed from 10 September. Second Schedule.
Department of Transport
Proposed expenditure, $31 1,160,000.
-Mr Chairman, in dealing with the estimates for the Department of Transport there are a number of matters which time will not permit me to mention. However, I shall raise, first, the matter of the level of the air navigation charges proposed in the Budget Speech and set out on page 65 of the statements accompanying the Budget Speech. Air navigation charges affect general aviation, the members of the 2-airlines agreement and international operators whose aircraft come to Australia. The figures show that the actual revenue raised from air navigation charges in 1974-75 amounted to $44.9m. In 1975-76, this Budget year, it is estimated that between 1 December this year and 30 June next year there will be a collection of air navigation charges amounting to $77m, or an increase of $32. lm or 71 per cent over the previous year. That is an extraordinary rate of increase. It is even worse than an increase of 71 per cent when one realises that that extra amount of $32. 1 m has to be collected in 7 months. Unless there is some information on this matter that I have not got- if there is I hope that the Minister will inform me about it- the real collection rate proposed in this Budget Will represent an increase of 122 per cent over the previous year. One can imagine the effect that this will have on the fare structure of the civil airlines. One can imagine the effect that it Will have on general aviation throughout the nation, which is already in a very traumatic state because of previous steep increases in charges of this nature.
– It is staggering under the blows of this Government.
-That is absolutely right. Australia is now in the unique position of having not only the highest postal charges in the world but also the highest air navigation charges in the world. It might soon have the highest rate of inflation for a Western country of comparable size, but I put that matter to one side at the moment. I am concerned that this increase in air navigation charges has not been explained by the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones). I hope that he will take time in this debate to explain it, because the airlines agreement of 1961 provided for a simple increase of 10 per cent in air navigation charges, not for an increase of 122 per cent. In 1973 the Minister himself signed a 2- airlines agreement in which the rate of increase in air navigation charges was lifted to 15 per cent. The Minister’s signature is on that agreement.
I should like to know how it is that now suddenly we are faced with an increase of 122 per cent in air navigation charges for a period of 7 months this financial year, if the Budget figures are accurate. I hope that the Minister will take the opportunity to explain this matter. Does he propose to move outside the 2-airlines agreement and raise that extra revenue from general aviation, or does he propose to break the 2- airlines agreement and force Trans-Australia Airlines and Ansett Airlines of Australia to increase their fares to a much higher figure by forcing them to accept a higher rate than 15 per cent for air navigation charges? Does the Minister propose to force the international airlines to increase their fares because of the increased rate of air navigation charges? This information cannot be found in the Budget Speech. There may be some factor in it that I have not noticed or been able to discover. I hope the Minister will put my mind at rest. Clause 1 1 of the agreement the Minister signed states: … the Commonwealth will increase the rate of air navigation charges to international operators by the same percentage as that applied from time to time in respect of the operations of the Commission and the Operating Company.
It is quite clear, therefore, that if the Minister is to honour the letter of the agreement he is unable to move outside the agreement. So whatever fees he charges under the airlines agreement, which can be increased by only 15 per cent a year, he cannot charge the international aviators fees which increase by more than 15 per cent a year. I ask the Minister how he proposes to raise $32m in 7 months at a rate of 122 per cent under those tight parameters and guidelines. He has a real responsibility to let the Parliament know what is in his mind. While I am on the question of air navigation charges, I should like to congratulate the Cessna Flying Club Inc. of South Australia which prepared a report on the aviation cost recovery program. It made a most definitive case for a review of the decision taken in respect of this whole question; that is, to raise from the industry 80 per cent of the cost of the services by 1978. It makes a case to show that the Government has a heavy responsibility in this area. The report states:
We are faced with a situation whereby our national and intrastate airline movements are peculiarly low and confined to peaks.
This, of course, requires that the system be equipped and staffed on the basis of what is necessary to service those peaks.
The 2 airline policy dictated by the government for Australia has resulted in the essential services being required to cope with short periods of intense activity, interspersed with long periods of spasmodic activity.
Therefore, for the majority of the time, the system is grossly overequipped and overstaffed.
The report continues:
This is nevertheless acceptable if we allow that it is the government’s role to provide essential services for use when needed.
Even though the utilisation factor is probably closer to 25 per cent, the recent Darwin cyclone disaster evidenced that such essential services were indeed essential and quite as important as say, the Defence Forces.
The report states that it is the responsibility of the taxpayer to provide these services; not the airline user. A copy of this report was sent to the Minister, who finally acknowledged it on 26 August. The report contains a series of recommendations and findings. I do not have time to go into them today, but I hope the Minister will take the recommendations on board. I have replied personally to the Cessna Flying Club saying that if we are returned to government I will put a halt to the program and assess the criteria on which this cost recovery program has been established. I will also compare the user pays principle that the Minister is applying to the airlines with the user pays principle applying to railways and roads to see what is the difference. The paradox of the Government’s position is that it is prepared to charge the airlines 80 per cent of the recovery of service costs but is not prepared to charge the users of road and rail this proportion. In the Minister’s reply to the Club he said:
Meanwhile I thank you for sending me the report and you may rest assured that I found your observations of value to me during consideration, with my Cabinet colleagues, of the Budget papers.
That comment led to a 122 per cent increase in air navigation charges in a 7-month period. The other matter I want to raise in the 3 minutes left to me is that of urban transport. The Committee will recall that in 1972 the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) campaigned vigorously on the problems of urban transport, promising some $ 1 , 100m- I think that was the figure- to upgrade urban transport if elected to government. Indeed, he held Press conferences around Australia. I have copies of what was said at them and no doubt the Minister for Transport has them. The Prime Minister promised in the first 3 years of government to spend $3 76m in Sydney and $274m in Melbourne for urban transport- a total of about $650m. I draw to the attention of the Minister for Transport that only $ 140.5m has been committed to this area in the first 3 years of this Government. I want to know why the Prime Minister has not honoured that promise. There is no doubt that he misled the Australian people in the cities.
As a Government we put up a positive proposal that we would have carried through. The Prime Minister came out with some elaborate extravaganza proposal. I said at the time that I felt that he could not honour the promise. He has proven me correct. I ask the Minister for Transport: What has happened to the grandiose schemes of supporting the metropolitan urban transport systems? I have discovered that $ 1 40.5m is the amount that has been made available for this purpose. I have been told by the States that a blanket stop has been put to a number of projects for the ensuing year. No doubt the Minister will tell us that this is because of the economic conditions. Of course he, along with his Cabinet colleagues he mentioned in the letter I quoted, created the economic conditions. The people of Australia ought to know that that great promise in 1972 when the Prime Minister swept into the cities has not been honoured either in spirit or in intent. It is a shame in my view that the people could be so easily deluded on a matter of such fundamental importance.
There are several other matters that require explanation. Unfortunately under the tight limits of debating time in Committee on the EstimatesI think one hour is given to the important portfolio of Transport- with so many honourable members wishing to discuss matters of importance, I shall not be able to raise them. The Minister has not told the Parliament what he proposes to do about oil tankers. No funds are made available in the estimates for the purchase, the lease or anything else in relation to oil tankers. He ought to explain why he let Commonwealth Hostels Ltd in on a late tender for airport concessions, which was quite improper. He ought to tell us about the promise the Prime Minister and he made about the Hume Highway going through Tumut. I said at the time that that was silly. Now Tumut is being disappointed.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-I congratulate the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) on the job he has done, the job that he is doing and the job that he intends to do.
– You mean the shadow Minister.
-I mean the Minister for . Transport. I think my language is quite clearly understood. The honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon), the shadow Minister who has just sat down, criticised the Minister for not providing funds for this phase of transport and that phase of transport. From time to time in the Parliament we hear criticism of the Government for spending too much of government funds on government instrumentalities. We find a great inconsistency with members of the Opposition on the expenditure of Government money. In one breath they say that not sufficient is being spent and in the other breath they say that too much is being spent.
I believe that one of the greatest problems confronting this hardworking and honest Minister is the creation of another international airport in the metropolis of Sydney. I have consulted my constituents in the Wyee region and I have had almost unanimous agreement that if the Government intends to site another international airport due to the overloading of the Sydney Airport the Wyee people would welcome it coming to thenregion. It is pretty flat country in the area of Wyee and it is sparsely settled. Therefore the hazard of complaints from householders of aircraft noise would not arise to the extent that is has arisen in the metropolis of Sydney. One of the reasons that Tullamarine Airport was sited where it is was that it was in a farming area and the problem of noise affecting the householders would not be a major problem to the then Department of Civil Aviation. Wyee is almost within an hour’s driving time of Sydney. When one takes into consideration the distance from the main cities of other airports around the world that is not a big distance. We know that the siting of airports is a difficult problem for any government due to objections from the public to. aircraft noise that flows from the siting. This was a problem for the previous Government. It had to find a site for another airport.
– Not just the previous Government either.
– The previous Government did have the same problem. Do not let us hide it. At the time the electorates of St George and Barton were represented by supporters of the previous Government it had to meet the same objections as we do now in regard to an airport in the southern suburbs of Sydney. The matter was political at that time and it became a hot political football in the electorate which included Galston Gorge. I understand that the Department of Civil Aviation has considered Wyee as the site for an alternative international airport. I sometimes think that the Tullamarine airport will succeed Mascot airport in importance because of the curfew that is imposed at Mascot, but I believe nevertheless that the curfew at Mascot airport should be continued. Unfortunately the Tullamarine airport has an advantage over the Mascot airport. Tullamarine is increasing its air cargo traffic because there is no curfew at the airport. Planes land at all hours of the night. This is not so at Mascot airport because my Government and the previous Government put the considerations of the people before the convenience of international air carriers.
Another thing I should like to mention in these Estimates is the rebuilding of the Wyee-Wyong road. I know the Minister is concerned about this matter. From time to time in the Newcastle Herald which has wide circulation in Newcastle and the Hunter Valley, we read of the frequent serious accidents on the Pacific Highway in the region of Doyalson which are contributed to by inadequate roads for the volume of traffic carried. I travel frequently from my electorate to Parliament. For 50 per cent of the trips I drive and for the other 50 per cent I fly. The volume of traffic is increasing on the back road from Wyee to Wyong. The back road is called the Hue Hue Road. I know that there is a great deal of public agitation for the upgrading of the Hue Hue Road. If the Minister, among his many other major problems, can find his way clear to allocate some funds for the upgrading of this road the users would be grateful. My colleague the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) is also greatly interested in this matter. I think the upgrading of the road would be too costly to be undertaken by the Wyee Shire Council, in whose shire this road is located. A Commonwealth grant from the Minister’s Department is necessary.
As I say, the increasing amount of traffic is over-burdening the road. People prefer to travel on this road despite its very poor condition. It is a gravel road of about 3V£ miles and it is in very poor condition. Motorists prefer to travel it rather than travel the crowded Pacific Highway where there is the possibility of having a smash with one of the many heavy transports that travel the main highway. The Hue Hue Road is a much shorter route for people travelling from Wyong to Toronto, New England and the north coast. I realise the Minister’s problem in having to site another international airport. I hope that the
Minister will, in time, give consideration to the siting of another international airport at Wyee. I believe the people of Wyee would welcome an international airport as it would give a tremendous uplift to this small country town. They are the only submissions that I wish to make on these estimates.
– This is possibly the last year that the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) will sit in the position in which he is sitting today to reply to the debate on the estimates for the Department of Transport. He has been the Minister for 3 years now. One would be failing if one did not look back at just what he has achieved. As the previous speaker the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) described him, he is the Minister for Transport- a portfolio which includes shipping. I do not intend to dwell for long on the shipping aspect because I have spoken frequently on this subject. I recollect once again that when the Minister came into office the shipyards of the Adelaide Construction Co., Walkers Ltd in Queensland and Evans Deakin Industries Ltd were viable and producing. Today they have stopped. No longer are ships being turned out of those three yards. Half of the shipbuilding yards in Australia have been closed. It is a proud record for the Minister. In the years to come he will be able to tell his grandchildren how he set about to destroy that which previously existed.
Another area for which the Minister has considerable responsibility is the area of civil aviation. It is part of his job to ensure that the various airports are adequate to cope with civil aviation. I refer to the Brisbane airport which, because of its siting, in recent times, has become hopelessly inadequate to handle modern day aeroplanes. The honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) and myself have for years and years with the advent of larger and noisier aeroplanes -
– That is right.
– Order! the honourable member for Lilley knows the Standing Orders. He will please observe them.
– I can understand his becoming excited because he has done so much in the past to try to assist in having the airport resited
– The honourable member for Griffith knows that attention is drawn to the Standing Orders to assist members addressing the chamber. I would have thought that he would have continued directly with his speech.
-Mr Deputy Chairman, I appreciate your intervention, timely or untimely. The honourable member for Lilley was absent a while ago for some 18 months. The honourable member, his successor, his predecessor and I have kept up the pressure in this place for the Government to do something about resiting the Brisbane airport. We all recall the report of the Coombs Task Force which was presented in 1973. It suggested that for the Government to save money- when we look back upon that report it is almost laughable- the Brisbane Airport project should be put off to another date. The money has not been saved. Budgets have risen from $9 billion, in 1972, to $12 billion in 1973, to $16 billion in 1974 and to $22 billion in 1975.
In this Budget there is no allocation of money of any note for the resiting of the Brisbane airport. The Minister endeavoured to sell Brisbane a sop some months back when he announced plans for the reconstruction and resiting of the international terminal in Brisbane. I have no disagreement with the Minister on that project, but the drums were banging as if this Government was doing a lot for the resiting of the Brisbane air terminal. The noise could be compared only to the noise made by those huge aircraft which scream across certain parts of my electorate and across the electorate of the honourable member for Lilley when the winds are blowing in a direction which causes aircraft to approach the airport from the opposite direction to Moreton Bay. It is still not too late for the Minister. He could announce in the Parliament in the next few months that the Government will get on with the construction of the Brisbane airport terminal. I would not care if it was named the Jones Terminal in honour of what we hope would be the progressiveness the Minister would display. I would not care what name it was given, as long as we have it. With the increase in the frequency of flights, including the large number of international nights which touch down at Brisbane airport, the life of those people who live under the flight paths over which these huge jet aircraft fly is nothing short of intolerable.
It is not fair to say to these people that if they want to live under the flight path, that is their problem. Until 1965 or 1966 the aircraft were not nearly as noisy as they have become in more recent times. The advent of the big jet has increased the noise factor. When such aircraft land at airports, they affect a much larger area than previously was the case. I am quite certain that the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) will verify my statement that the noise factor is most disturbing for many of the people who live under these flight paths. I am sure that he will refer to this problem in the near future. The previous Liberal-Country Party Government had allocated money for the construction of a new Brisbane airport terminal. This Government cut out that expenditure on the advice of Dr Coombs. Even though we were slow in getting on with the job, at least we had the intention to do it. If, after the next Federal election, we were to have a Liberal government or a Liberal-National Country Party coalition government that is a little tardy in getting on with the job of resiling the airport terminal in Brisbane, I would be equally as strong in my condemnation, as I am sure the honourable member for Lilley will be.
A newspaper article which causes me concern was published in the Brisbane Sunday Sun on 1 7 August 1975. The headline states: ‘Flying Doctor in big trouble’. He has not been hit by a boomerang or anything like that, as was the case in the song. He has been hit by Mr Charles Jones. It is alleged that a submission was made to the Minister by light aircraft operators. It claimed that if the Government persisted with its present policies the light aircraft operators would completely lose their ability to function or to continue flying. This is because of the overheads and the imposts that are getting out of all proportion. Mr Chairman, I wonder whether it is possible to incorporate this article in Hansard.
– It is regrettable that the Minister has refused to allow its incorporation.
– He did not refuse it. The honourable member for Prospect refused it.
-Is leave sought to incorporate a certain document in Hansard?
– Is leave granted for the document to be incorporated in Hansard?
– I have no article before me. I have nothing to approve. The honourable member knows the arrangement in this place.
– Leave is not granted.
-The Manager of the Royal Flying Doctor Service has predicted that with costs going up at the rate of some 300 per cent there is a very real likelihood in the future that he might have to call a halt to its operations. It is rather ironical that the Minister for Health (Dr Everingham) from time to time tells us in this place how the Labor Government is doing this and that for the people in the field of health. At the same time he lets those poor people who live in the far outback continue to be penalised in every way. This is but another area in which they will have to carry the burden by not having easy and quick access to medical attention in the event of some accident or illness in the far flung corners of this nation. I thank the Committee for its consideration of my remarks. I sincerely hope that this will be the last debate on the Estimates in which the present Minister for Transport occupies that portfolio. I look forward to the return of a government with the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) as Minister for Transport, a Minister who I know will care.
-We have heard fond hopes from the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron). What does he think Australia is? We had a double dissolution in May last year, not 2 years after the 1972 Federal election. The Opposition in this place and in the Senate and the Press are building up this story that there will be another election to a great crescendo. I say this to the Opposition: If you take Australia to another election, you deserve to be destroyed as political parties. That would mean that we would have had 3 elections in the space of less than 3 years, in each instance as the result of your machinations and political banditry. We were elected in 1972 for a 3 year term, but the Opposition was not satisfied. It refused Supply, breaking all traditions in the Senate, and forced the Government to go to the people in May last year. Now, the Opposition is talking about doing the same thing again. If the Australian people fall for this 2 card trick, they are mighty simple. That is all I can say. If they are going to fall for all the brain washing that has been pouring out from the other side of the chamber and from the media over the last 6 months, they are more simple than I thought they were. Another election in this year- that is 3 elections in less than 3 years- would be an outrageous misuse of democratic privileges.
– And public money.
– And public money. So I hope that the honourable member for Griffith will not have his wish granted, that is, that the Minister for Transport is now occupying that portfolio in his last Estimates debate. I do not believe this is so. I think that there are enough sensible men in the Senate, like the new honourable senator from Albury Senator Bunton, and Senator Steele Hall, to ensure the Opposition does not have its selfish, arrogant wish to get back into power granted.
That is all it is- a power drunk Opposition. Members of the Opposition have never got over the fact that they are in Opposition. They still think that they are governing the country in Opposition. I hope that the sensible men in the Senate will make sure that there will be no election this year, and that there will be no election before the due time, that is, May 1977. The people elected us into office for a term of 3 years. As far as the state of the economy is concerned, it is also a fabrication of the Opposition and its cohorts in the Press -
- Mr Chairman, I must draw your attention -
-Order! Is the honourable member for Gippsland raising a point of order?
– Yes. I know the Chair is very tolerant, but I think that on this occasion it ought to remind the honourable member for Wilmot that we are discussing the estimates for the Department of Transport.
– The honourable member was siting up in the back of the chamber listening to the honourable member for Griffith talking about the next election and -
– Order ! The honourable member for Wilmot will resume his speech on transport
– I have answered the honourable gentleman as I wanted to answer him. The Minister for Transport has done a fantastic job over 4 fields of transport -
– Will you shut up?
– Order! The Committee will come to order. I invite the honourable member for Wilmot to address his remarks to the Chair and to ignore disorderly interjections.
-I will do so, Mr Chairman, provided it does not get too rowdy to be heard.
– I can assure the honourable member that he will have the protection of the Chair.
– The Minister has done a fantastic job in the field of transport- air, rail, road and sea. They are the 4 great communications systems of the Commonwealth. In the field of rail transport he has helped to negotiate the agreements between 2 States- South. Australia and Tasmania- to take over the debts and costs of their railway systems and during the next five to ten years to upgrade those systems to the most modern systems possible. In Tasmania this will involve about S70m to $80m of Australian Government money over the next 10 years for upgrading etc.
The Minister for Transport has made sure that new ships are on the stocks for the Australian National Line. It will not be long before one of these ships is launched at Newcastle. I hope that this ship will be called the Tasmanian Trader ‘because the only ship that has been named after Tasmania has been the Princess of Tasmania even though the ANL carries 70 per cent to 75 per cent of cargoes between the mainland and the island of Tasmania. I believe that the island of Tasmania should be honoured by having the word ‘Tasmania’ included in the name of the new ship which is to come out of Newcastle shortly.
I also want to mention the national road system. I was the first member of this Parliament to battle for a national road system in Australia in the mid 1950s.
– You have not got it yet.
– We have it well on the way. The Government is taking over and upgrading the national highways of Australia as was done at great cost but with great success in the United States of America. The system in Australia will rival the United States system in terms of efficiency and the modernisation of road communications between capital cities. Tasmania has benefited and will benefit further from the takeover of the State highways under the Commonwealth financial banner. We are grateful for the moneys that have come into our State for this purpose. The new road works that have been undertaken in Tasmania are a credit to the Public Works Department of that State. The actual building of the roads is in the hands of the State authorities. The roads are not being constructed by a Commonwealth building authority; it is a Commonwealth financial authority which is permitting the State public works organisation to undertake this work. As I have said, the work in Tasmania is an absolute credit to our Public Works Department and the engineers, overseers and other men who work in and for that Department. I pay a sincere tribute to what they are doing to upgrade and modernise our main highway system in Tasmania.
I wonder whether at some time or another we should not have a look at the hovercraft as a means of travel between Tasmania and the mainland. Modern hovercraft are being built in Great Britain by the Hovercraft Corporation. I think the time is coming when these fantastic modern vehicular hovercraft could be used on the Bass Strait run. Perhaps it would not be practical to use them during the winter time, but they could be used for 7 or 8 months of the year. Modern hovercraft that I saw being built in Britain 5 years ago are capable of taking well over 100 vehicles and over 300 people.
– They are pretty rough to travel in.
– I rode in them and I found the ride to be perfect. I think they have a future in this country.
– The honourable member was wasting taxpayers ‘ money on overseas trips.
-One day the honourable member may go overseas. I hope that he will not come back.
-I hope that we will give him a single ticket.
– Why does not the honourable member give him a trip? He is retiring.
– Order! The honourable member for Hume will remain silent.
– I took my trip 5 years ago and -
– Order! The honourable member for Wilmot will continue with his speech or he will resume his seat.
-I would like a bit of protection, Mr Chairman.
– You are getting it from the Chair. I remind the honourable member that he should continue his remarks.
– Finally, I hope that Air Tasmania Pty Ltd will soon have a second DC3 aircraft. This airline is the smallest airline in the world with one DC3 aircraft which is operating intrastate services within Tasmania. Tenders are being called at the moment for an aircraft at Nowra- at the instigation of Mr Barnard, the former Minister for Defence, before he resigned from the Parliament. It is the wish of all Tasmanians that this company Will be successful in that tendering. The company was founded 3 years ago by the Tasmanian Government which holds 80 per cent of the shares. The company has carried over 20 000 people from Hobart, Queenstown, Strahan, Wynyard, Devonport and Launceston in the 2Vi years in which it has been operating. It has done so with great success, without an accident and without delays. It is doing a magnificent job within the island. I hope that this company which, as I said, was formed with 80 percent State Government money and 20 per cent west coast finance, Will be successful with the tender. If it is not I will certainly have something to say about it in this Parliament
-Not surprisingly my concern over the next 10 minutes Will be with the state of development of Brisbane Airport. I was delighted once again to hear of the concern- it has been a continuing concern over a long time- of the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron). Both he and I and the whole State of Queensland are concerned with what has not been done in the Queensland’s capital city airport. By way of introduction may I say that this is the only capital city airport in Australia which has been neglected by government over many years. But most tragically it has been neglected by this Government which continually has broken specific promises since the middle of 1972. No doubt the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) in concerning himself with this area would like to echo the words of Sir John Latham, a former Chief Justice of Australia and a former Leader of the Opposition, who when he was asked about the intrusion of the Commonwealth into matters of transport had this to say over 40 years ago:
We have no wish to insert our ringers into a machine with so many sharp knives revolving in so many different directions. That is to say, we have no intention of interfering with the transport problem.
There is not the slightest doubt that, presented with a list of broken promises, substituted promises and forgotten pledges, that ought to be the motto of the present Minister for Transport. Political motivation bears in on us all. All we are trying to do is to see that the promise and the initial action taken by the previous Government at the end of 1971 is carried to fruition and that the promises made in the areas in which both the honourable member for Griffith and myself were interested in 1972 are carried out. They have not been carried out.
Very shortly and very quickly I want to say this: At this stage the capital city airport of Brisbane should, according to the plan adopted by government in late 1971 and authorised by this Government, should now be having fill on the principal new runways. This fill should be being deposited at the moment. It is not being deposited and there has been a litany- a continuous list- of broken pledges made in 1972, 1973, 1974 and 1975. I make it quite clear to the Government that I Will follow this matter as the hound follows the hare. Ultimately, we will catch up with it. We intend to persist and catch up with it.
Why is the Brisbane Airport important to Queensland? It is important to that State because it is the State’s major capital city airport. Promises made to that State have been broken. The airport also is important for some social reasons. These may not impress supporters of the Government but they do exist. People who live in the vicinity of a capital city airport are troubled by pollution particularly noise pollution. I speak particularly of people who have lived in the region for many years before the airport was established. The airport has intruded upon thenlives; they have not intruded upon the life of the airport. If one is concerned with pollution, particularly noise pollution, and the environment this ought to be a matter of very great concern to them.
The airport is almost completely neglected in this year’s Estimates. The allocation this year in real terms- for instance in terms of money appropriated in 1 97 1 -72- is less than it was in those years. The allocation has not only remained stationary but it has also in fact receded; it has regressed; it has gone backwards. Every regression that takes place is a testament to a broken promise.
So I put this proposition to the Minister and I hope that he will bear it in mind. I hope that he will pay some attention to the debate that is taking place in this chamber. The airport question has been referred to the Bureau of Transport Economics. There is a suspicion that it has been transferred to the Bureau of Transport Economics not to find out the best way of implementing the promise that has been made but as a way of postponing the project and finding an excuse for not carrying out that promise. I ask the Minister specifically whether the Bureau of Transport Economics in its charter of investigation can say that the promise made need not be carried out. Do the terms of reference allow the Bureau of Transport Economics to say, as Dr Coombs said: ‘Do not go on with the job ? That is a specific question to the Minister and requires a precise and specific answer.
I have my suspicions in this matter because once I realised towards the end of last year that we were in another depression state of unemployment and that we were going to have the unemployment relief schemes of the 1930s- that is all they are- regurgitated in a form appropriate to the 1970s, I made propositions to the Minister which would have allowed the Regional Employment Development scheme to be applied to the first steps in the development of the airport. The use of the RED scheme for this purpose was put to the Minister quite precisely with detailed evidence of how the mangrove swamps which had to be eliminated to enable runway 02 to be developed could be eliminated. The Minister’s Department has had experience at other airports in this work. It could have done it here without liaison with State authorities. The work could have been done in the Federal jurisdiction without the need to go beyond it. It was a labour intensive project. That proposition was put to the Minister and not acceded to.
I hope that the Minister, when further development occurs and when unemployment grows as the year progresses, will not put that proposition aside. There are tens of thousands of people unemployed, and more will become unemployed in that area of the State. Will the Minister consider utilising that unemployed work force for the purpose of eliminating the mangrove swamps which is necessary as the first stage of development of runway 02. The unemployed resources can also be utilised to develop the floodway to the north of the airport. These are both labour intensive works and can be done with the skill, experience and knowledge which is presently available within the Department. Unlike other unemployment relief schemes there needs to be no acquiesence by or co-operation or involvement of other areas or authorities of government. I hope that the Minister will be able to answer my question.
Besides reminding him of the broken promises, I put one further proposition to him. It is simply this: The plan adopted for the airport requires that there be several new runways. Those runways have to be filled. I have written a letter to the Minister indicating that the fill for the new runways is to be obtained in an area of Moreton Bay known as Middle Banks. The fill will be predominantly coarse and medium grade sand. I am pleased, and this is a plaudit I give to him, that the Minister has acknowledged that when the airport proceeds- and we will be after it as a hound the hare- discussions will be held with the other authorities concerned with development of bayside areas in Australia’s most northerly capital city to enable more of that sand to be made available for depositing on the bayside areas to improve those areas. Discussions can be held at the appropriate time and I am delighted that the Minister has agreed that at that time- though I do not think he will be in his present position when the time comes- the promise will be adhered to. I direct this matter in some sense more to the honourable member for
Gippsland (Mr Nixon) than to the Minister for Transport because the honourable member for Gippsland will be the Minister then. I know that he will not renege on the promise of discussions which the Minister gave on that matter.
One further point that needs to be made in my last 30 seconds, and it should not be forgotten, is that promises made in the early 1970s have been put aside and neglected. Brisbane has been neglected more than any other part of Australia, and the Labor Government, through a series of deceptive measures, has sought to create the impression that there has been no neglect. Very sadly and unfortunately, there has been neglect and the Minister would have been far wiser if he had kept his lingers out of the revolving blades because they have been cut off and we on this side now want to make sure that they are not allowed to heal without our attention.
– I can say only that the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) must be an extremely patient man because he is going to wait until the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) is in office to solve the problems he was speaking about. May I wish him success if he lives long enough to reach that far distant time. I would imagine that the prospective Minister will be in his dotage by then, and what the honourable member for Lilley is asking for today will be long forgotten. And the honourable member for Hume (Mr Lusher), who is interjecting, will have disappeared in the limbo of oncers in this Parliament. I congratulate the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) on the job that he has done in his portfolio, particularly in relation to aircraft, aerodromes and matters associated with the aircraft section of his Department. No Minister has done more in our time in this Parliament than this Minister to relieve the suffering and distress caused to people by the noise of aircraft flying over residential areas.
I put aside the criticism that the honourable member for Lilley offered because evidently he was not raising these complaints during the time of previous transport Ministers, otherwise he would know that they not only did not listen but also gave no thought to the complaints. I deal particularly with the question of KingsfordSmith Airport. It is on the border of my constituency and the people in my electoral division are the ones who suffer from aircraft noise possibly more than any others, with the exception of those in the St George electorate and possibly the Barton electorate. The Minister is responsible for taking the Concorde aircraft away from Sydney and seeing that it lands in other places and does not fly over those residential areas. No Minister has paid more attention to seeing that the curfew at Sydney’s Kingsford-Smith Airport is obeyed so that jets are kept down at night. We know that 3 weeks before each election the previous Liberal-Country Party Government flew planes over safe Labor seats to win borderline voters in seats such as St George. We know also that if the Opposition were in government now it would direct pilots to fly over every borderline Labor seat once again. It has been done again and again in the past.
The Minister for Transport has stopped all this and has regulated the flying of aircraft at late hours of the night so that people would not be kept awake. Mr Lewis has complained about the Minister taking tourism away from New South Wales by directing the Concorde and other international flights to Melbourne. Let me tell the House why the Minister did it. He did it because Mr Lewis did not do what he should have done, that is name the place where the new airport should be. Every person who lives in the electorates of St George, Barton, Grayndler, KingsfordSmith and in electorates around them should realise that if Liberals were elected to both Federal and State Governments they would extend Kingsford-Smith aerodrome and cause the children in schools and the people in homes for the aged to suffer unlimited agony. I warn the people in those electorates that a vote for a Liberal candidate, whether State or Federal, means the extension of Kingsford-Smith Airport and thus the keeping of people awake at night in that area. It will make the aged and the ill suffer, stop churches from conducting their services and interfere with schools. Let honourable members opposite stand up and say that they would not extend Kingsford-Smith Airport.
The Minister for Transport said to Mr Lewis: ‘If you will not name where an airport ought to be then Melbourne, the international airport, can take international aircraft and save Sydney people from suffering’. I pay a tribute to him for doing that. Why does the Liberal Government in New South Wales not tell us where it wants the airport? Why does it not name a site? It will not name a site because it wants to extend Kingsford-Smith Airport. It does not care what happens to the people on the fringe and the borders of those areas. Everybody knows that nothing was done about aircraft noise until the present Minister came to office. I have heard talk about extending runways at Kingsford-Smith Airport. Only over my dead body will runways be extended at Kingsford-Smith Airport. I know that would be the view of the Minister too, because we are committed not to extend them.
– And you are pretty healthy.
– I am reasonably healthy too. Furthermore, there is no intention to extend Kingsford-Smith Airport. That assurance was given some time ago in this Parliament and other places. I challenge honourable members opposite to say that they support its extension. Let them deny that they were responsible for aircraft being flown over electorates represented by Labor members in the last 3 weeks prior to the 1 972 election to save seats held by Liberal candidates in other areas. But the people were intelligent. They elected Labor candidates instead because they said: ‘They will keep down the number of jets at night and will not keep the people awake’.
I rose in order that honourable members might know the job that the Minister has done in respect of aircraft noise and aircraft landings and the efforts he has made to see that the people of the Sydney area do not suffer but that the international airport at Melbourne receives the aircraft it can, in that way avoiding suffering on the part of people in Sydney. I heard the former honourable member for Bradfield say that if an aircraft flies low over a dairy farm all the cockies go crook because the cows give up producing milk and the hens do not lay. Yet people could stay awake at night in the Sydney areas because Liberal governments in the past would not do anything in regard to the extension of airports. For 23 years the Liberal and Country Parties were in office and they never even suggested a new airport. Land could have been bought for a song in many areas. They had not one idea.
The former Minister for Transport never mentioned a new airport anywhere throughout Australia during the time he was Minister. Now honourable members opposite are telling the present Minister for Transport that he has not done a commendable job. This Parliament is fortunate in having such a gifted Minister to look after these matters. It is fortunate in having such a dedicated Minister who feels as though it were over his own home that the aircraft are flying low. He understands the suffering of people around the airports caused by aircraft that have been flown by many international companies merely for profit, irrespective of what happens to the people.
I say to the people, particularly those who live in the State and Federal electorates around Kingsford-Smith Airport, that while ever Jones is Minister for Transport they Will sleep peace.fully at night knowing full well that he Will stand by them and see that the aircraft operators do not manipulate flights to keep people awake and profit at the expense and welfare of the people. I congratulate the Minister. I am not prone to bestowing praise on many people, but I think he is well deserving of it. Not only has he taken a progressive approach to transport generally, but on the land, at sea and in the air he stands out as a beacon of leadership in this field. Therefore today I thank him for what has been done in respect of Kingsford-Smith Airport. I thank him also for directing to other States those aircraft that would interfere with the welfare of people in my electorate and other electorates. I think I can give his assurance as well as mine that whilever he is Minister he Will see that the people’s interests are protected, in contrast to what people like the honourable member for Lilley- a future Minister for Transport in the far distant timemight do, and that is put profits before the welfare of people.
– Before commencing my remarks on the estimates I would like to say something about what the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) has said. He obviously considers that the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) holds an unsafe seat and is going to lose it, because he has been talking such nonsense. I ask the Minister how many times he has broken the curfew coming in to Sydney (Kingsford-Smith Airport) in a VIP aircraft, not necessarily a commercial aircraft. Will he answer that question? I point out to the honourable member for Grayndler that the Minister also had some uncomplimentary remarks to make about the Concorde aircraft. In years to come the people of Sydney will curse him for the remarks he has made, for his backward remarks and backward policies about aircraft. They will be very jealous of the fact that the Concorde can fly in and out of Tullamarine, as it should. I compliment the people who conceived the Tullamarine Airport. It is impossible to run a reasonable international airline system unless there is preparedness to have aircraft landing and taking off 24 hours a day. The honourable member for Grayndler was talking utter nonsense, as he often does.
I come back to the estimates. I notice that an amount of $4.9m is to be paid to the Australian Shipping Commission as a subsidy for Tasmanian shipping services. I want to know why one part of Australia is singled out for assistance with freights to the tune of nearly $5m when another part of Australia- I refer to Northern
Australia, which is much further away from the major population centres than is Tasmaniareceives nothing at all? Northern Australia receives no assistance with regard to freights. In fact, so far as I can see, the Minister has imposed heavy penalties on people who live in northern areas by raising the freights charged by the Commonwealth Railways to the extent of 50 per cent on livestock during the last 12 months and by 20 to 25 per cent on passenger and general cargo in only the last few months. I know he will say that $3.275m is to be spent this year on the Stuart Highway, the north-south road from Alice Springs to Port Augusta, but I point out that nothing was spent on it last year.
I direct his attention to the sealing of roads in the Alice Springs or central Australian area. I refer to such roads as the original gravel beef roads that have been there for a long time. I refer to the road to Hermannsburg and the road to Ayers Rock which are carrying hundreds of thousands of people a year.
I bring to his attention the fact that there is discrimination on the Commonwealth Railways with regard to people who have their goods consigned to Alice Springs for on-forwarding by other than the Government contract carrier. I would like the Minister to listen to this because an injustice is being perpetrated by his Department on the people of northern Australia, whether they be ordinary citizens or the carriers. I want to know why goods consigned on the Commonwealth Railways to a carrier in Alice Springs for on-forwarding to Larrimah and then by train to Darwin attracts a higher freight rate on the rail section from Port Augusta to Alice Springs than do goods which are consigned to Alice Springs to be on-forwarded with the Government contractor.
It has been brought to my attention that the people who use an outside carrier, not the Government carrier, are being utterly victimised, and so are the private carriers themselves. I know that Co-ord Pty Ltd has the Government contract. The freight is taken on the train to Alice Springs, then taken by Co-ord to Larrimah and then by train to Darwin. The freight on the Commrail for goods consigned to Co-ord is different from that on goods consigned to any other carrier. To me this is an absolutely shocking state of affairs. The honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon), a former Minister for Shipping and Transport, brought this matter up, and I think I did too, during the debate on the Australian National Railways Bill. We pointed out that a monopoly situation could arise if the Government had control over road transport.
This is what is happening. Unless carriers happen to win a Government contract they are going to be put out of business and everyone, whether he likes it or not, will be forced to use the Government road carrier. So I ask the Minister to look at that matter.
– They are private carriers.
– They are all private carriers. One has the contract and if the others- this seems most unfair to me- have goods consigned to them the consignor has to pay a higher rate on the railway from Port Augusta to Alice Springs. If it is sent to Darwin via Larrimah they cannot carry it themselves. Co-ord has to carry it. I wish the Minister would have a look at this matter. It seems a grave injustice to me. I am certain the Minister will have a look at it. I would like to know what has happened to the grandiose promise which the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) made when he spoke at Colacag Park at Alice Springs- just prior to an election, strangely enough- when he said that there would be a dual carriageway from Alice Springs to Port Augusta. I know that the Minister for Transport will say that 80 miles of road have been built from Port Augusta- I have driven over it- but there should be continual construction on that road.
As I said earlier, this year just over $3m has been voted for the Erldunda to the South Aus.tralian border section of the Stuart Highway, but I point out that nothing was spent last year. The Government has just picked up the money and said: ‘We will spend it this year.’ Nothing has been done despite the Prime Minister’s great speech in the park, just before an election, when he promised the people that this road would be built and that there would be dual carriageway.
– What about the new Hume Highway and the urban transport plan?
-That is right. The Prime Minister says these things before elections, and what happens afterwards? Nothing. He just makes promises and provides no more money. I ask the Minister for Transport to deal with his South Australian colleagues because after all the business goes to South Australia, whether it goes by rail or by road. I think the Government should be coerced into extending that road north from Port Augusta up through Tarcoola to Alice Springs. All the trumpeting of the Prime Minister is utter nonsense. I would like to emphasise once more that there are many projects to be carried out and these projects would employ a considerable number of men. In these times of high unemployment we should be building our national roads system.
As I mentioned before, 100000 people are visiting Ayers Rock. Most of the roads which lead there from South Australia are wrecking the tourist buses. The main road is being cut, on and off, during the year. In fact only a fortnight ago the road south of Alice Springs was out of action once again. It is a matter of grave importance to look very hard at the planning of these internal roads. Apart from their importance to defence, they are essential for carrying our primary produce and tourists and generally for opening up these parts of Australia. I commend those few points to the attention of the Minister.
-I am very pleased indeed to be able to enter this debate on the estimates for the Department of Transport because it gives me an opportunity to join with the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) in saying how much I appreciate what the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) is doing in the field of transport for Tasmania. I need only refer to the granting of the $2m subsidy- it is now $2.4m- from the end of September last year. I express the appreciation particularly of the people of King Island who were recently faced with some problems with air transport services between King Island and Victoria. After the erosion of the Friendship service operated by Ansett Airlines of Australia the Minister readily made available Mr Peter Langford, the Acting Regional Director (Air Group) VictoriaTasmania Region, Department of Transport, and arranged for him to go with me last week to King Island. From 2 p.m. until 6.45 p.m. last Friday we continually interviewed cross-sections of the community- mining interests, the Waterside Workers Federation, the Chamber of Commerce, the Junior Chamber of Commerce and various other people who said what they thought should be done with the air transport services between King Island and the mainland. We met the council that evening.
The Minister will be visiting King Island next week. He is going down there on Thursday. He now has the expressions of opinion of the people and the council- the elected representatives. He will meet the council next Thursday night at 8. 1 5 and will discuss their problem with them. I appreciate this and the King Islanders appreciate it because it shows the very intense interest that the Minister has for the problems not only of the bigger areas but also of isolated communities. He will stay on King Island. On Friday week he will have a look at the physical setup of the port facilities at Grassy. He will be the guest of the Marine Board and will discuss shipping problems affecting the island. We know of course that the shipping services are conducted by the Transport Commission in Tasmania, but there could be references to King Island in the Nimmo report, and it is important that the Minister should see the physical setup and be aware of the reliance of King Island on shipping services, and discuss this with the Marine Board. The Minister recognises the situation. I join with the Minister for Services and Property in an expression of appreciation for what he is doing, in particular for people in an isolated area like King Island.
I turn now to roads assistance for Tasmania. If time permits I will speak about air and sea transport for the island. For the 3 years 1974-75 to 1976-77 the Australian Government will grant to Tasmania a total of $54m for roads, comprising $23m for national roads and $3 lm for roads grants. This includes an additional $1.5m allocated to Tasmania after the $30m increase in the 1974-75 road grants to the States at last February’s Premiers Conference. It does not include Tasmania’s portion of the extra $64m from the Budget which, based on a pro rata allocation, will provide an additional $1.2m for national highways and $1.8m for roads grants. The total roads assistance to Tasmania represents a significant increase of 54.1 per cent over the $37m which Tasmania received for the last 3 years of the 1969 Commonwealth Aid Roads Act.
A comparison is often made between the allocations to rural roads under the 1969 Act and under the 1974 Roads Grants Act. I point out to honourable members and I draw to the attention of the Minister for Public Works in Tasmania that such a comparison is not valid, as the basis of categorisation of roads has changed. Former class 3 inter-connecting roads have been transferred from the ‘rural roads other than arterial roads’ category of the 1969 Act to the ‘rural arterial road’ category of the 1974 Act. Some roads which were previously rural arterial under the 1969 Act are now declared national highways or export roads. In Tasmania the declared national highway is the HobartLauncestonBurnie road link along the routes of the Midland and Bass Highways, excluding the urban area of Launceston. The declared export road is the road link from Launceston to Bell Bay along the route of the East Tamar Highway.
The only satisfactory comparison that can be made between allocations under the 1969 and 1974 Acts is the division of funds going to urban and rural areas. For the 3 years up until 1976-77 rural areas in Tasmania will receive the benefit of an average of 76 per cent of the total roads assistance to the State. This is compared with 56 per cent for the last 3 years of the 1969 Act. I hope that local municipal councils also will realise that the average has increased from 56 per cent for the last 3 years of the 1 969 Act to 76 per cent for the 3 years from 1976-77. The Aus.tralian Government has decided also to finance fully the construction and maintanance of national highways, export roads and major commercial roads. Most of these roads were formerly rural arterial roads, for which a significant proportion of funds had to be found by the States. Over recent years the Tasmanian Government contributed about 63 per cent of the funds spent on rural arterial roads, including those roads now declared as national highways. I point out that in 1973-74 a total of $2.7m was spent on roads now declared national highways.
The Australian Government is providing $5.77m, $6.6m and $9.4m for the total cost of these roads in the financial years 1974-75, 1975-76 and 1976-77 respectively. It is estimated that the Australian Government’s total financing of these roads wa save the Tasmanian Government some $3.6m in 1974-75, the financial year just completed, for spending on any other road that it considers needs financing. That is a significant contribution made by the Australian Government to the State of Tasmania when we consider that the Tasmanian Government has been saved an expenditure of $3.6m which it can spend anywhere it considers necessary. I point out also that that very sizable saving- $3.6m in 1974- 75- will grow in the financial years 1975- 76 and 1976-77.
I turn now to the National Roads Act. The Bass Highway between Launceston and Burnie was declared the national highway in northern Tasmania. In 1974-75, the financial year just concluded, the Minister for Transport approved of major construction works between Deloraine and Latrobe. Last financial year the estimated expenditure was no small figure; it amounted to $ 1.004m. The construction of a new dual carriageway between Devonport and the Don was started. The estimated expenditure on that project is $700,000. Stage A of development into Burnie was approved also and last year the estimated expenditure was $ 1 . 1 56m.
In this financial year, 1975-76, the Minister has approved of the following projects which are included in the Budget expenditure which we are debating this afternoon. He has provided for and approved of the continuation of the reconstruction work between Deloraine and Latrobe which this financial year will involve an estimated expenditure of $ 1.277m. He has approved also of the continuation of the 5.7 kilometer dual carriageway between Devonport and the Don which, this financial year, is estimated to involve an expenditure of $795,000. Approximately half of this project has recently been opened to traffic to provide partial relief to the commercial centre. We appreciate this very much indeed. Construction is progressing on the remaining section.
We will see also this financial year the commencement of a 7 kilometer dual carriageway bypass of Ulverstone which Will include a new bridge over the Leven River. The expenditure this financial year provided in this Budget is $542,000. The Minister has approved also the continuation of stage A of development into Burnie with an estimated expenditure this financial year of not less than $ 1 .28m.
I would have liked to have dealt with the sea and air transport matters affecting Tasmania, but the time is not available to me to do so. I simply say that the Minister is doing a very worthwhile job. We commend him for his interest in the State of Tasmania.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drury)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– i wish to deal with some matters that have been raised by various speakers in the debate this afternoon. I refer first to the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) who complained very bitterly about a report that was put together by the Cessna Flying Club Incorporated which was critical of the Government. The honourable member quoted from a letter. I had acknowledged that letter. Obviously the Cessna Flying Club had given to the honourable member for Gippsland a copy of my letter to it. I seek leave of the Committee to incorporate in Hansard the letter from the Cessna Flying Club to me, dated 8 September. In that letter, the Cessna Flying Club thanks me for all that I have done and acknowledges that the report that it submitted was not altogether factual.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Is leave granted?
– Has the honourable member for Gippsland seen this?
– Yes, he agreed to its incorporation.
– Very well
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
Cessna Flying Club Inc. Para:eld Airport South Australia 5 106 Telephone 258 22 11
The Hon. Mr C. K. Jones, MHR, Minister for Transport, Parliament House, Canberra, A.C.T. 2600 8th September, 1975.
Dear Mr Jones,
We would like to thank you for your letter dated August 26th, and we have noted your comments therein.
In particular we would like to express our sincere appreciation for the meeting, which followed your letter, between our sub-committee and your Messrs. Smith, Graham, Evans, Barclay and Phelan and which was held at the Civil Aviation Institute on Monday night, 1st September, 1975.
This meeting, minutes of which will be circulated as soon as possible, certainly was a successful move inasmuch as it enabled us to gain a clearer insight into the implications of the Cost Recovery Policy and the understanding which you apparently have of the serious state of general aviation at present
Following information presented to us by Mr Chris Smith, I would like to correct two allegations made in our report which concerned:
We were satisfied by Mr Smith that the various associations have been given a free flow of information by the department and have been consulted by the department on the majority of matters which would affect their operation.
Regrettably our inaccurate assertions indicate that of recent months there may have been a breakdown in the flow of information between these bodies and their members, which we will promptly undertake to rectify, inasmuch as we are able.
As we now understand the Minister and his Department not to be insensitive to the serious predicament which faces general aviation, we as private pilots hold greater hope for fair and lenient treatment under the Minister’s policy.
However, we feel we should reiterate some of the points made in our report and which we still maintain are fundamental to our case.
We believe that the Australian Government has a basic national responsibility to provide an airways system for the purposes of intrastate, interstate and international communication, national defence and national emergency.
We also believe that general aviation is not responsible to pay for the magnitude of systems and personnel required by the above services and partially brought about by the twoairline policy.
If the ‘user pays ‘ philosophy is to be employed then we see no responsibility to meet the cost of services and facilities which we are unequipped and unauthorized to use.
Finally, we would point out that any increase in charges will, in proportion to the magnitude of increase, reduce the number of general aviation users, which will be counterproductive to your aims.
Having made these points I would like to conclude by again expressing appreciation for our recent meeting and extending an invitation to the Minister to meet with us, either on this subject or just socially, when next he is in Adelaide.
Yours faithfully, W.J.MEEKE President
-I thank the Committee. The next point that the honourable member for Gippsland raised concerned the cost of aviation today. I do not know whether the honourable member can live with the losses which are being incurred and the degree of subsidy that is being poured into the aviation industry today by this Government, as those funds were by former governments. If the honourable member can live with that, I am pleased to hear that he can. But I cannot live with it. I do not intend to; neither does this Government. I would like honourable members to realise that in 1973- 74 aviation in Australia was subsidised by the general taxpayer to the tune of $65. 8m. In 1974- 75, notwithstanding the fact that this Government had introduced some new increases in air navigation charges, increased rentals and taken other similar action, the Government still had to subsidise the industry to the extent of $80.5m.
Let me give honourable members the fact of this matter. Without going into all the detail, in 1973-74, costs were $ 140.86m. Revenue in that year was $74.99 lm. In 1974-75, costs were $ 173.605m while revenue was $93.049m. Honourable members can see from those figures the great amount of money that has been poured into the aviation industry by this Governmentthat is, by the taxpayers as a whole. We do not propose to go on putting that sort of money into this industry. There has to be a day of reckoning and the day of reckoning, I believe, has arrived. We are trying to get the industry to be more realistic and more practical in its approach to the problem. There is a great deal of underutilisation of aircraft in general aviation. Everyone wants to be like Ansett Airlines of Australia. I do not blame them for trying to be. But those in general aviation must face up to the facts and to the costs of the industry in which they are engaged; otherwise we wm continue to subsidise and subsidise.
The honourable member for Gippsland asked what we were going to do about the situation and how we would increase the recovery from the industry to 70 per cent of those costs involved? In this respect, the 2 airlines agreement is something to which we have had recourse. When air navigation charges were increased from 10 per cent to 1 5 per cent, it was agreed that that agreement would be reviewed in 1975 to determine how we were going in seeking to reach the point when 80 per cent of the cost of our investment in the aviation industry was recovered. Under that arrangement, this year the agreement is up for review and investigation. Further discussions and consultations on it will occur. These will take place at a later stage- within a month or so- and will be between the Government and the airlines. That is the position as far as we are concerned.
Let me deal now with another point that the honourable member raised when he spoke about terminal rentals. Once again, I cannot understand the attitude of the honourable member for Gippsland. I will deal with the 2 major air terminals in Australia today. I mention first the Sydney international terminal. In 1973-74 in respect of that terminal, the Australian Government received by way of rental $532,551. The direct costs of operating that terminal were $2,16 1,377. Let me repeat those figures: The rental was $532,551 and the direct operating costs were $2,161,377.
– It almost sounds like Medibank.
-Of course. But Medibank is something of value and assistance to every man, woman and child in the community. I exclude from that statement the doctors who instead of making millions out of it are making just a utile bit less than they were. But they are still well and truly doing aU right out of Medibank. Let us return to international air travel. We are speaking of a total number of international air travellers of 3 million, not 13 million. The honourable member for Cowper and the Opposition are more concerned with 3 million people than they are with 13 million people. We know that. The honourable member did not have to interject to tell us that in order to defend his friends. Let me return to the facts of life about the Sydney international air terminal. I said that the rental received amounted to $532,551. The cleaning bill for that year amounted to $525,908, and within 12 months it had risen to more than $750,000. So the amount received in rental was not even paying the costs of cleaning the terminal. Maintenance of the terminal amounted to $442,695, and electricity and gas cost $267,873. The sum of money that was being put into the Sydney international air terminal by the general taxpayers was an amount that no reasonable and sensible government could possibly provide.
Representatives of the airlines came to see me to complain about this proposal to increase rentals. When I drew their attention to the degree of over-capacity of aeroplanes, for example, on the Pacific route and said that they could reduce fares by about $50 or $60 or even more per passenger, they were not interested in that aspect. They came to me to complain about increased air navigation charges and terminal rentals which represented about $9 per passenger. They were more concerned about saving that $9 for themselves than about saving $50 for the passengers. The figure of $50 was the absolute minimum amount that could have been saved by a cutback in aircraft frequency and capacity. But all that the airline representatives were interested in was complaining about what the Government was doing, about the way in which the Government was requiring the airlines to meet a fair and reasonable percentage of the operating costs, so that an air terminal such as the one at Sydney would not be subsidised to the degree that I have just outlined.
The same position applies with the Melbourne airport. In 1973-74 direct operating costs amounted to $2,559,737, whereas the rental received totalled $1,366,846, which was a little more than the rental received at the Sydney air terminal. The same situation exists in Melbourne and Sydney. If honourable members wish to look at the facts and figures I have them here. They clearly set out the degree of subsidy that is being paid in relation to local airline terminals, which benefits the international and domestic airlines. So much for those points raised by the honourable member for Gippsland.
He also raised the matter of urban public transport. I believe that this Government has an excellent record in what we have done in the urban transport area. Already we have approved of programs that will cost $207m, of which the Australian Government’s contribution will be $138m. Let us look at the real facts concerning what has happened in the urban public transport area in the States during the last 3 years. In 1973- 74 we allocated $3 1.09m for urban public transport. Of that amount, the States spent $ 12.52m. I repeat those figures: In 1973-74 we allocated $31m and the States spent $12m. In 1974- 75 we allocated $66. 15m for urban public transport, plus $ lm for urban public transport in the provincial cities of Geelong, Wollongong and Newcastle, making a total of $67. 15m. Of that amount, the States spent $32.49m.
Before the Budget for this year was drawn up we wanted to know from the States what they intended to do in the urban public transport area.
We did not want to get into the situation where, like last year, an amount of $34m remained unspent at the end of the year. We conferred with the States. The answer which they gave us was that this year they could spend $43m on approved programs for urban public transport, and that included an amount of $2.5m for escalation in costs. The States decided that they could spend $43m on approved programs for urban public transport this year. An amount of $43m is provided in the Budget this year for the States to enable them to upgrade urban public transport. These are the facts; they are not the emotional garbage that was churned out by other speakers in this debate.
I refer to our attitude on public transport. We have deferred for one year any further development of the Australian urban passenger train, but I have reached an agreement with the State Transport Ministers. At a meeting which I held with them in Sydney on last Friday week I informed them that I was prepared to continue with this Australian urban passenger train project. I said that we should take it to the stage of completing the design, putting it out for tender and evaluating the tenders so that money could be provided for the project in next year’s Budget. That work has been done. With the Australian urban passenger train, we are trying to produce a carriage that will enable the train to have a rate of acceleration at least double that of trains that are in service in Australia today. It will be comparable with urban passenger trains in service overseas. This is the train that we have set out to develop, and I believe that with the co-operation of the State governments- I emphasise that point- we will be successful. The officers of the railway systems have worked particularly well with the officers of my Department That is why we have reached the present stage in the development of this project.
I turn to rolling stock. Last year the Government approved of a program to build 500 new high speed bogie wagons. That will cost more than $10m. This year we have called tenders for the supply of another 800 wagons, which will cost between $20m and $30m. I am not at liberty to give honourable members any information about what tenders have been received at this point or what the amounts in the tenders are. This is what we have set out to do. This will provide additional rolling stock. The 2 lots of 500 and 800 wagons will be made available to the States under a leasing arrangement which has already been discussed and negotiated with them. That is in hand. In this way we will be able to assist the States.
The honourable member for Gippsland wanted to know what we have done about oil tankers. Sure, I have not changed my view that Australia should be importing at least 40 per cent of its crude oil imports in Australian tankers. Unfortunately, we overlooked one point, and that is that the Trade Practices Act is applicable to Government instrumentalities and Government authorities, such as the Australian National Line. We have to introduce into this place an amendment to the Trade Practices Act so that we can do some of the things that we want to do with oil tankers. That is the situation with tankers.
The honourable member for Gippsland also referred to granting leases to Commonwealth Hostels Ltd. Yes, we did that because we considered that the tenders which had been submitted were not satisfactory and we got a better proposition from Commonwealth Hostels. So much for the points raised by the honourable member for Gippsland. I think that I have dealt with all of them.
The honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) raised a few points concerning shipyards. He referred to the fact that Adelaide Ship Construction Co. Pty Ltd and Walkers Ltd have closed their shipyards, and that Evans Deakin Industries Ltd has made an announcement about closing its shipyard. Why did not the honourable member come up with all the facts? The Adelaide Ship Construction Co. Pty Ltd closed shortly after we came into office. Any problems that it experienced were the fault of the honourable member for Gippsland, the former Minister for Transport. The owner of Adelaide Ship Construction Co. Pty Ltd was also a major shareholder in a shipping company that placed an order with the Broken Hill Pry Co. Ltd at Whyalla which would have kept the shipyard of the Adelaide Ship Construction Co. Pty Ltd going. The honourable member for Griffith can not tell me that if the Adelaide Steamship Co. Ltd had been fair dinkum, that if it had wanted to keep the shipyard of the Adelaide Ship Construction Co. Pty Ltd open, it could not have given the order for the construction of that ship to that shipyard, but it did not do so.
As a result of the efforts of the former honourable member for Bass, Mr Lance Barnard, and my own efforts, Walkers had 3 ships on order when it decided to close down. Those 3 ships were valued at $8.25m. Walkers closed down for a number of reasons. One of those reasons was the continual flooding of the shipyard. Another was the fact that ship building had not been profitable for Walkers and that it could have put its money into other things. We made an offer to
Walkers and to the Bjelke-Petersen Government. We were prepared to enter into a 3-way arrangement with them to keep the shipyard going. Walkers and Bjelke-Petersen were not prepared to be in it. They were not even prepared to lease the shipyard to us until the whole place had been completely wound down and some of the equipment, etc., had been sold. They were prepared to take up our offer some months later.
As far as Evans Deakin Industries Ltd is concerned, let us get the facts. When I became the Minister for Transport after December 1972 Evans Deakin at that stage had one ship under construction, namely, the Robert Miller. We made sure- this Government, with the assistance of the honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns) and myself- that Evans Deakin got the contract for the Santa Fe drilling rig. We bent over backwards. We gave undertakings that in normal circumstances we would not have been prepared to give. We gave assurances. When Evans Deakin did not have the necessary financial backup to guarantee the completion of that rig we gave the guarantee for that. When that firm was not the lowest tenderer we made sure it got contracts. What has happened since then? Evans Deakin could have tendered for 26 projects involving 30 ships. It did not tender for them. Just recently when the firm made the announcement that it was to close down it could have tendered for three or four bulk ships valued at about $70m. Those tenders were put out by the Australian National Line. Evans Deakin did not even bother to tender for the ships. So do not tell me that it is fair dinkum. On top of that, Evans Deakin submitted tenders for 16 ships involving 12 different projects- there were a couple of doubles in the projects- but not on one occasion did it have the lowest tender. Do not tell me that it is fair dinkum. As far as we are concerned it is not.
Both the honourable member for Griffith and the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) raised the matter of Brisbane Airport and what the Liberal-Country Party Government intended to do. It is quite remarkable. For 23 years there was a Liberal-Country Party Government and a Liberal Minister for Civil Aviation who could have done but did not do anything about Brisbane Airport. In aU of those 23 years they did nothing about it. We had the international ‘Igloo’ which the previous Government knew should never have been allowed to stand. Yet it did not do anything to replace it. We have done something. The new terminal will be open before the end of this year at a cost of some $4.75m. We have done something about the road system around the airport- the antiquated road blocks and dead ends that one drives into trying to get out to the air terminal in peak periods. We declared as export roads the access roads to the airport and we have provided the money so that those roads can be upgraded and so that people can gain access to Brisbane Airport.
As far as noise levels are concerned, I am astounded that the honourable member for Griffith talked about aircraft being more noisy today than they were a few years ago when the LiberalCountry Party Government was in office. The facts of the matter are that aircraft are much quieter today than they were even two or three years ago. So there is much less noise from aircraft today. The honourable member for Griffith was concerned about the Flying Doctor Service and suggested that the increased air navigation charges are putting the Flying Doctor Service out of business. They are not. Given average use of an aeroplane- I am talking in terms of general aviation now- air navigation charges at present do not exceed more than 2 per cent to 4 per cent of its running costs. I emphasise that- between 2 per cent and 4 per cent. In some cases where an aircraft is not used to its maximum the percentage could be as high as 6 per cent. But the average percentage would be between 2 per cent and 4 per cent. Fuel costs represent about 20 per cent, engineering costs about 34 per cent, and interest and depreciation as much as 22 per cent of the cost of operating an aircraft. That is the real answer why general aviation and the Flying Doctor Service are in trouble today, not because of air navigation charges.
The honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) made reference to the Australian National Line and asked why the Government did not subsidise ANL services to the Northern Territory as it did the Tasmanian services. It must be interesting for the people in Tasmania to hear what the honourable member for the Northern Territory has to say about that. When the Leader of the National Country Party of Australia (Mr Anthony) went to Tasmania a meeting he held was attended by about 25 people. It is no wonder that Tasmania will not wear the National Country Party in any circumstances. The real fact of the matter is that the honourable member for the Northern Territory is obviously critical of the $4.9m we are providing to subsidise shipping services to Tasmania.
– I am not against that. I just want the same principle applied to the north.
– The honourable member was critical of it and was complaining about it. He asked why this $4.9m was provided in the Estimates. For the honourable member’s information, last year the ANL lost $ 1.32m on the Darwin service plus $500,000 for nonoperational reasons- strikes and other matters such as that. I say to the honourable member that the Darwin services arc being subsidised to the extent of $ 1.82m, so we are doing something about that service. We realise that there is a problem. We could have increased the charges much more than we did. Unfortunately we had to increase the charges because our costs were increased and we had to do something practical about it. Notwithstanding those facts, Northern Territory services are still being subsidised to the extent of $ 1.82m by way of direct subsidy or by way of carrying the losses. I believe I have dealt with the points raised by the various speakers from the Opposition. I thank the honourable members from the Government side who brought out other points concerning their electorates.
-Mr Deputy Chairman-
Motion (by Mr Daly) agreed to:
That the question be now put.
Proposed expenditure agreed to.
Department of Agriculture
Proposed expenditure, $45,288,000.
– There is no area of financial allocation within this Budget which illustrates more the complete failure of the Government to keep in touch with the community at large for at this stage there is generally throughout many rural areas a marked depression either present or in prospect. There could be no better precedent, however, than that given by the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) in leading into the debate on this subject, for one of the significant areas that affects the future viablility of agriculture is the degree to which costs are rising in the freight component. It concerns me greatly that there are so many input costs, particularly between the point of production and the point of sale, that we are rapidly pricing ourselves out of export markets. It is in this climate that we are looking at the Department of Agriculture and its estimates which are down by $308m on those of the last financial year.
Tragically there is a combination of factors which affect present profitability. The first are those covering the general economy and inflation. Inflation has hit the rural sector at twice the rate that it affects the general citizen. The Bureau of Agricultural Economics has assessed the impact of inflation on the agricultural sector at 35 per cent over the last 12 months compared with the 16.9 per cent assessed inflation rate for the community at large. Interest rates are still at a level which altogether precludes production in many areas, particularly in beef, small fruits and in some of those other agricultural crops where the prices are not satisfactory. I speak of crops like potatoes and other occasional crops of that ilk.
I turn to loan funds and the inadequacy of money at reasonable interest rates. Honourable members will recall that one of the former Labor members of the House of Representatives, who fortunately is no longer with us, promised that this problem would be resolved by the establishment of a $500m bank. Of course we now no longer hear anything about that. Neither the Minister for Northern Australia (Dr Patterson) nor his colleague in the other place have told us anything of what happened to that long term loan facility which we all recognised, as I thought at that stage, was essential if there were to be adequacy of money for the rural sector. To that there is no reference. Secondly, among those factors we had the report of the Coombs Task Force which eliminated all those concessions which enabled agriculture generally to overcome some of its disabilities due to isolation, dependence on export markets and the swings of the pendulum from good seasons to bad seasons. Budgets successively acted in a penal form against the rural sector and the rural sector found itself significantly disadvantaged. If one has a look at the impact of costs on the farmer, increased tax, direct and indirect, is one of the most significant components.
I refer now to the Green Paper which recognised the problems of agriculture but which still has not in any way been adopted by the Government. The third general factor is the problem that although there is an allocation within this Budget of some $237m-odd for the rural sector, the Auditor-General’s report of today suggests that of the very significant quantity of money that is raised through trust funds perhaps things are not being administered as they should be. That is absolutely horrifying. The Government is bad enough, but if the trust funds that are contributed by growers are in any way being mishandled the Government well and truly deserves to be censured, as it will be.
– Who said they were?
-Has the honourable member read the Auditor-General’s report of this morning? I suggest he look at it. The second area I want to talk about is the particular bracket. In a 10-minute burst- unlike the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) who spoke for half an hour- I find it hard to embrace all that I would like to say. Immediately prior to the bringing down of the Budget I suggested a range of proposals, certainly some of which would have involved a government contribution but proposals which would have helped the beef industry. The beef industry has had nothing but pious words from this Government. An amount of $ 19.6m has been given to supplement State funds. The Government does not even equate the money it gives with the money the States give. The Government has not even provided some form of transport subsidy for those people in the Northern Territory whose problems the Minister for Northern Australia (Dr Patterson) said he recognised 12 months ago. He said he recognised them but did nothing about them. I have a letter only a week old which echoes that same sentiment, that although things are in a critical state in the Northern Territory and in times of drought some form of freight assistance has been given, none is now to be provided.
There are a range of things in the beef industry that can and should be done. I do not intend to enunciate them all here. Nothing has been done about the 1 .6c per lb meat export levy referred to in these estimates. The poor old producer still pays. Inadequate carry on finance at an excessive interest rate is still provided. An 85 per cent income from beef is still required for a Development Bank advance. That is nonsense in the present climate. The minimal increase of money through the Development Bank will not help the beef industry until some reasonable and rational form of assistance can be devised. The Government has been ineffective and inadequate in government to government discussions on commodity access, particularly in major beef exporting countries. That is certainly true in Japan and it is certainly true of the European Economic Community. It is an absolute damnation of the efforts of this Government. There is still no eligibility for unemployment benefits for people who are unable to meet normal criteria. The Government has talked about it this week but still no action is taken.
There still needs to be consideration of those 3 Industries Assistance Commission reports on which no action has been taken. Great play has been made in these estimates that some increase has been provided for tuberculosis and brucellosis eradication. There has been nearly a 26 per cent increase. That is a great deal of satisfaction to the men in my electorate and throughout Australia who are being laid off because there is inadequate money in the States, particularly in New South Wales and Victoria, to maintain even the present level of eradication. We know there is a tuberculosis and brucellosis report from the IAC. The Government still has not made up its mind on it. If it implemented the compensation scheme and provided a reasonable acceleration to the program help would be given to the beef industry. But, dear me, nothing of that.
I turn now to the superphosphate report. We saw an absolutely ridiculous presentation by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) the other day when he criticised in a most unparliamentary and unprincipled manner members of the Industries Assistance Commission who dared bring down a report that happened to differ from the way he believed it should be. Goodness me, is the IAC really able then to bring down independent reports? The superphosphate bounty is one way in which the beef industry can be helped. We also have the income averaging report. The only substantial move that the Government has taken is a 90-day reference to the IAC for the IAC to resolve for the Government problems that the Government is unable to consider for itself. It is necessary that these IAC reports all be adopted.
There is some reference in the estimates to reconstruction allocations. I do not know how many members in this place have read the absolutely horrifying account on rural poverty that has been produced by the Australian Government Commission of Inquiry into Poverty. Those who have read it would know that 20 per cent of Aus.tralian farmers at the moment are receiving an income of less than $1,000 a year. They would know that there is a need for reconstruction. This Government has provided less money than we did back in wool depression days. We recognised the problems. The Government ignores them. For dairy reconstruction we see the greatest thimble and pea trick that has been committed by any government. It is a thimble and pea trick to say as is stated in the Budget Papers that the scheme will operate to 30 June 1 976. One reads the arithmetic and one listens to the Press statements of the Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wriedt) which say: ‘Terribly sorry. The money has now run out’. What a ridiculous proposition. The dairy industry is in a crisis state with markets dwindling, with nothing being done, dairy stabilisation eliminated and no money is available for the dairy industry.
It is absolutely tragic that the Government in this Budget, albeit 3 years too late, has not recognised the fluctuating markets, the fluctuating seasons, the impact of inflation and the problems that these things create. The division that this government is generating between the customer in the city and the producer in the country is but another illustration of the traumas that the poor old bushie is facing at the moment. Members of the Opposition parties recognise these problems and will be taking action to correct them. This Government has demonstrated its utter incompetence. There is no longer- if there ever wasany reason for any residents in country areas in Australia to support a government that has produced a Budget of this character, a Budget which provides nothing and promises less.
-The Estimates this year demonstrate a real and genuine concern that the Government has for the fundamental problems of the agricultural sector. The deficit of $2 10m compared with the previous year is represented largely by the wool reserve price scheme, a scheme introduced by this Government and a scheme which when the Opposition Parties were in government they refused to introduce. Any wool grower who understands this mechanism would be only too pleased to see the Australian Wool Corporation in the position where it could pay money back into Consolidated Revenue. Knowing the mechanism the wool grower would realise that the market price at that stage would be well above the reserve price. The criticism of the present Budget in that the allocation this year is below the allocation last year is too sweeping in its embrace. The fact is that the wool reserve price scheme is working. It is a mark of confidence that this Government has introduced this mechanism which the previous Government was not prepared to introduce.
In this Budget there is an acknowledgment of a very important principle, and that is the commitment of the Government to the wool reserve price of 250c a kilo clean for 2 1 micron wool is open-ended and would be one of the very few open-ended commitments in a Budget of this Government or any other government. In other words, there is a watertight guarantee for that price in the market. This is a unique phenomenon which has been recognised by wool growers right throughout the country. I turn now to the beef industry. Let us take in objective fashion exactly what the issues have been. First, markets overseas in Japan, the European Economic Community and America closed down for political reasons. They closed down to protect the country parties of those countries and to protect, in the case of Japan particularly, inefficient producers of beef. A political pressure, which is not unknown in this country, was used against our producers on that occasion. Japan was taken by this Government to every international forum that was available. The appropriate complaints were made and the appropriate actions were taken. Not one stone was left unturned in the international forums of the world to bring Japan to account on that issue. Then, as the seriousness of the market situation started to affect the beef industry, it was recognised by this Government, at the request of the beef industry, that special loan assistance was necessary. At the request of the beef industry, that loan assistance was given at bank interest rates. This Budget contains an allocation of $8m for that purpose -
– They may not be able to afford it.
– As the interjector says, they may not be able to afford it. But, in fact, that is the fund the beef producers are drawing on. The next action taken by this Government, in conjunction with the States, was to provide low interest rate loans to beef producers who needed carry-on finance at that rate of interest. The scheme was administered by the Rural Reconstruction Board. That is the fund that is in surplus. That is the one that has surplus cash. In this Budget, an amount of $ 1 9.6m has been allocated to this fund. It is the other fund, the one which makes available loans at bank interest rates, which have been drawn on most heavily.
I turn to the next situation with which we are confronted. It is the welfare problem. There can be no question that a welfare problem exists in the beef industry. It is a matter that is receiving the active consideration of this Government. There has been a three-fold response to the problems of the beef industry: Firstly, at the international level; secondly, in the provision of funds at bank interest rates; thirdly, the provision of carry-on finance at low interest rates through the Rural Reconstruction Board. Certainly, when the Opposition was in Government it never faced up to the problem of rural poverty and rural welfare payments in this situation. We have to pioneer a completely new policy in this area. The Henderson reports are making their contribution in that respect. There can be absolutely no doubt that any policy that is developed in that area, and it will be, will be completely new. It has no precedent in the political experience of this country, especially in the 23 years of the previous Liberal-National Country Party Government.
I turn now to another aspect of the beef industry which has been the subject of criticism. Some people say that we are making no contribution to brucellosis and tuberculosis eradication. At least the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair) had the propriety to acknowledge that we are making a contribution. Let us consider what sort of contribution we are making. In 1971-72, the last full year of the Opposition’s reign in Government, $2,400m was appropriated for the eradication of brucellosis and tuberculosis. This year’s Budget allocates $8,200m- a 400 per cent increase in the time that this Government has been on the treasury bench. Yet the Opposition is telling us it is not enough. How much more does it want? How much more is this than it contributed when it was in Government? We are spending 400 per cent more than its con.tibution to this very important program for the beef industry.
As we look at this whole spectrum of assistance to agriculture, we can see that underlying the whole of the allocations in this Budget is a philosophy which is directed at the fundamental issues affecting agriculture. They are not allocations which are responding to political whims and changes in the political climate. They are certainly not allocations that respond to what the members of National Country Party of Australia think are important political considerations for the agriculture sector. All the time that they were in office, they refused the adoption of the reserve price plan as a long term device to ensure wool producers a minimum income. They did nothing at all about rural poverty or welfare payments to the rural sector when the situation became crucial. These are the issues. They did relatively little about variable incomes in the agricultural sector, the fundamental issues with which agriculture has to live. It is no good if a political crisis has to be generated every time there is need in the agricultural sector. The mechanism must be built in so that it responds automatically to the needs of agriculture.
We find this approach in the Budget in regard to the reserve price for wool, the wheat stabilisation plan and the considerations of rural poverty, not only- I emphasise this- so far as these estimates are concerned, but also recognising the fact that rural poverty is shared by all sectors in the rural areas, not just the farmers. Also, we find in these estimates the dairy adjustment program. Let us put things in perspective. This Government has supposedly rejected the dairy industry. But it is peculiar to hear this when in this Budget we have an allocation of $ 19.5m to be spent on dairy farm adjustment in 1975-76. Last year, an amount of $9m was spent for this purpose. In 1971-72 when the Liberal and National Country parties were in Government $7.6m was spent. This year we are spending more than twice what the Liberal-National Country Party Government allocated for dairy adjustment in its last year in office. In 1970-71- the previous year- that Government allocated only $3.1m for this purpose. We find this criticism of this Government’s contribution to dairy farm adjustment is very shallow indeed when we look at the estimates and see nearly $ 19.2m being allocated for dairy farm adjustment in 1975-76. Is this showing no interest? Is this making no contribution? What it represents, in fact, is an indictment of the Opposition for either ignoring all the facts of life in respect to agriculture or its sheer desire to obtain office at any cost, mutilating the facts as it proceeds on that devastating course.
-The main point that emerges from the examination of the estimates of the Department of Agriculture is that scant regard has been paid to the rural sector by this Labor Government. The Government has not analysed the current situation of agriculture or attempted to aid sections of agriculture which are under severe stress, such as the beef industry. So far as agriculture is concerned, the Government can be described only as having adopted a head in the sand stance. It has refused to implement measures for which there is a real and demonstrated need. It has imposed additional costs on rural industries. It has avoided making decisions on matters which are before it. In effect, it has refused to analyse the rural sector in an objective or meaningful way. It has clearly refused to amend its prejudiced approach to .agricultural matters. ‘ To judge from the Budget, one would have thought that the rural industries were in a period of prosperity and that no help or aid was necessary. Whilst all except the Government recognise the very plight of beef producers, there are also a number of other areas of agriculture which require urgent examination and action. If we look at the overall situation we find that the projections for net farm income for 1975-76, expressed in real terms, will be much lower than at any time in the past 15 years. The Bureau of Agricultural Economics has estimated the gross value of rural production in 1975-76 at $5,503m. This compares with $5,777m in 1974-75 and$6,352m in 1973-74. These figures are actual figures and make no allowances for the fall in real value of the currency. Even in these crude figures the trend of reduced value of production is obvious. There is a fall of $274m on the value of production last year and a fall of $742m on the value of rural production over the year 1 973-74.
No official estimates of total farm costs have yet been published. But unofficial estimates assume that even with severe pruning of farm expenditure, they will increase by a further 5 per cent on costs for 1974-75. This appears to be a very conservative estimate when we see that the Bureau of Agricultural Economics index of prices paid by farmers rose in the 12 months to March 1975 by some 33 per cent. There appears to be no reason, with the increased fuel, freight and other costs resulting directly from this Budget, for us to assume a much lower increase in costs in the year to come. An estimated 5 per cent increase in the total farm cost figures appears therefore to be conservative, especially in view of the fact that these costs rose by 1 1 per cent last year. It would also appear safe to assume that many purchases were deferred last year and that the prospects for indefinite deferral of many farm items is not possible. Assuming a 5 per cent increase in total farm costs which were $3,950m for 1974-75, the resultant net farm income figure for 1975-76 will be $l,356m. This compares with $ 1,827m for last year and $2,993m in 1973-74. When net farm income figures are converted to real terms by deflating by the Consumer Price Index the true situation is exposed. It shows a fall in net real farm income to a figure well below $700m.
Mr David Trebeck of the Australian Woolgrowers and Graziers Council, assuming a 1 5 per cent inflation rate during 1 975-76, obtains a net farm income figure in real terms of $685m. Mr Davidson, a member of the National Rural Advisory Committee, forecasts a level of $625m whilst Mr Bracken, a journalist, estimates a figure of $655m. All these figures indicate that net farm income in real terms will be substantially lower than the $2,042m in 1973-74 and $l,068m in 1974-75. In percentage terms the drop is some 39 per cent over one year or 68 per cent over the 2-year period.
Examination of the figures of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics for net farm income in real terms over the period since 1960-61 indicates that the figure projected for this year is lower than any figure for the previous 1 5 years. It is even lower than the $778m recorded in 1970-71 when the wool industry was at its most critical stage. The overall agricultural situation therefore reveals that some action was necessary by the Government in the agricultural field. With this background one would have expected that the Government would have taken special measures to aid and encourage the rural sector of the economy. This Budget does no such thing. It reveals that the Government is prepared to do nothing to stop the decline in rural earnings. In fact the Budget reduces aid and help to agriculture. The total Budget expenditure on agriculture is reduced from a net Government outlay of $438.9m last year to $199.6m in 1975-76-a fall well in excess of 50 per cent. When the term ‘outlay’ is used it covers loans as well as nonredeemable expenditures. The net Government outlay figures I have quoted differ from those shown on page 73 of Statement No. 1 attached to the Budget Papers. I have added to these figures the interest payments payable to the Government by the Australian Wool Corporation in order to get the true cost to the industry. These amount to $8.2m for 1974-75 and are estimated at $37.5m for 1975-76.
The overall situation of agriculture today does not justify a reduction in Government outlays on agriculture to the extent of 50 per cent over those of last year. The fall in outlays cannot solely be explained by the reduction in loans made available for wool support operations of the Aus.tralian Wool Corporation. Another significant aspect to be examined is the payments which will be withdrawn from the rural sector by way of levies, charges and the like for research, promotion, disease eradication and marketing support or stabilisation. In 1974-75 the total payment by agriculture through such levies and charges was $ 1 63.5m. This year the amount to be extracted from the rural industries is estimated to be $202.6m. Thus on the one hand we have reduced total outlay whilst on the other charges made against agriculture by the Government have increased substantially. Outlay is down by over 50 per cent whereas the rip-offs from the rural sector have increased by 25 per cent.
The contribution by certain agricultural industries is heavy indeed. If we look at wool, we see that the levy to cover market support operations of the Australian Wool Corporation, research, promotion and administrative charges is to rise to 8 per cent of gross wool proceeds. This is estimated to withdraw from the wool industry some $74.5m this year as against $64.7m last year. Additionally as I have previously pointed out, the interest payment to the Government is estimated to be $37.5m this year. The total wool industry pay-out therefore is estimated to be $1 12m this year, a rise of some 60 per cent over the total of $69.9m in 1974-75.
The Bureau of Agricultural Economics estimates the value of wool production this year at $970m. Thus the net return to the wool industry deducting only Government charges will be this year $858m compared to $879m last year and $l,202m in 1973-74. When these figures- they have not been converted to real terms- are looked at in the light of cost increases for shearing, superphosphate, freight, fuel and shire rates the true profitability picture of the wool industry during this year can be seen. The Government appears to be tied to the retention of the current floor price operations and seems to have rejected out of hand the recommendations of the marketing report of the Australian Wool Corporation. In effect the industry is contributing some 1 1 Vi per cent of its gross returns on market support, research and promotion but it has no marketing body which can institute real savings by attacking costs in the freighting, shipping, selling and preparation of wool. The need for market reform in the wool industry has never been more evident. Already we know that freight costs to Europe have risen 25 per cent from 1 September this year with a further 25 per cent increase to operate from September next year.
I have spoken on only 2 aspects of the Budget as it affects agriculture. The whole Budget adds to rural costs by increasing costs for fuel with consequent freight increases. There have been substantial increases in postal and telephone charges. There has been no attempt to control inflation. All of these factors have a disproportionate effect on farmers, country businessmen and country residents.
-Members of the Opposition are not the only people who appreciate the difficulties of rural industries. If they were on this side of the House they would not be able to solve all their problems either. Their problems are varied because agriculture is varied. My brother who is a wheat farmer in the Wimmera is at present watching his wheat die before his eyes. But farmers living about 20 miles from him had an inch of rain last week and thencrops will be saved. The tragedy created by drought and conditions approaching drought can be found in many parts of north western Victoria. Drought is hitting many parts of the country differently. Wheat and sheep farmers in the Darling River area in New South Wales are facing one of their worst droughts for many years. It is easy to talk in general about rural industry. But one has to itemise the details. In some areas things may be going well and in others not so well. Other areas may be in tragic circumstances. Australia is such a vast country that farmers in one area could be having a bumper season and farmers 200 miles further south could be experiencing a drought.
Any government which is trying to solve the problems of the rural industries has the biggest problem of all on its hands. Problems are not so great in secondary industry or in the fields of education or health. Nowhere are problems so widespread, so hard to solve and so all embracing as they are in rural industries. It is a falsehood of the worst kind for the Opposition to charge us with deliberately trying to downgrade rural industry. We realise that 5 1 per cent of our total export income comes from the land. The Australian Government or the State Governments cannot be blamed for the fact that average earnings have dropped by a certain percentage. The price of our product rules that equation. If prices are down overseas for export commodities so will the average earnings of Australians be down. It is no use becoming super-political on this issue. One has to be fair minded about it. The Australian economy is related to overseas earnings and overseas markets. There are so many factors that change the day by day financial status of our primary producers that one is frightened when one looks at those factors sensibly and rationally.
We have tried to help rural industries. In fact, honourable members will find on pages 28 and 29 of the Budget document entitled ‘Estimates of Receipts and Summary of Estimated Expenditure for the Year Ending 30 June 1976’ that the Government is allocating $223,845,000 to many aspects of rural industry through trust funds and through direct grants and other aids. This money will go to the industries outlined on these pages. Last year the total was $184m. So this year we have had quite a substantial increase of nearly $40m in this field alone.
We have also allocated $56m for an animal health laboratory in Geelong. Last year we made available $28m under the dairy industry reconstruction scheme. We gave interest free loans to dairy farmers who wanted to switch from butterfat production to whole milk production. That was not done by any previous government in our history. At this stage the fund has run out and I feel we will probably have to make more money available for this phase of our dairy industry during the next 12 months.
The Government has also spent $40m on the first advance on wheat and, interestingly enough, in respect of the wheat stabilisation plan it is underwriting the wheat industry to the tune of $70m a year, with the first advance payment increasing to $1.50 a bushel compared with $1.10 a bushel under the previous Government. The floating pool has been increased from 20 million bushels to 74 million bushels. The Government also in the last 12 months has given $2 8m under the rural reconstruction scheme to be spread over all phases of rural industry. It has made available nearly $12m this year for the isolated children’s allowance to help rural parents get their children to centres of higher education. This has been of tremendous assistance to our isolated children in lifting the standard of their education and giving them the same chances as children in the cities. The Government also made available last year $21m for rural universities; the figure was only $6m in 1972. Last year we gave $47m to colleges of advanced education in rural areas. In 1972 it was only $12m. In addition 46 per cent of social security payments goes to the rural areas of Australia. The 12 per cent currency devaluation 1 8 months ago was estimated to be worth $200m to our rural industries. Local councils in the coming 12 months will get $80m by way of direct grant from the Loan Council as a result of the implementation of this Government’s policy Last year they received $56m. This will help our rural municipalities considerably in the next 12 months.
As we know, the wool industry has been guaranteed a floor price of 250c a kilo on 2 1 micron wool. The Government is underwriting this industry to the tune of over $100m in the coming year. We are very worried at the moment by the way wool prices have declined. The Aus.tralian Wool Corporation is buying in about 25 per cent of wool at present. This is a serious development and may mean that this Government will have to find more money than is allocated in the Budget in order to buy wool on the declining market and store it for better days. Just prior to June this year the Corporation had sold a quantity of stored wool at a profit of $3m, so this is a splendid scheme. During all the years the previous Government was in office we never had such a guaranteed floor price for wool. So for the Opposition to try to tell the country that we have done nothing for the rural industries is a falsehood of the worst kind.
In connection with the beef industry I asked a question this morning of the Minister for Overseas Trade (Mr Crean) in these terms:
I ask the Minister for Overseas Trade whether he has seen the report which suggests that the beef export industry may have passed through its worst stage. Is the Minister able to provide the House with any more information on the present position of beef exporters?
The information that has been supplied by his Department shows that the Japanese market reopened in June and that a quota of some 37 000 tonnes of beef has been allocated to date since then. Beef prices in Japan have recently strengthened and further quota increases before the end of this year seem certain. Prices in Europe have strengthened in recent weeks and the Greek market reopened last week. From the United States of America, Australia has received an additional beef import entitlement of 10 600 tonnes, over and above our quota of 279 000 tonnes. This the result of shortfalls from other exporters to the United States and another allocation this year is quite possible. The Government has been battling to open these markets again. Our overseas representatives, from the Department of Overseas Trade particularly, have been in touch with their counterparts in other countries, especially in Japan, and we are doing our best at that level to encourage the reintroduction of beef quotas. I believe that the future for beef is bright. We are also providing loan funds totalling $ 19.5m at 4 per cent interest with neither capital nor interest to be repaid for 12 months in co-operation with all the States. This will mean that something like $40m in this 12 months Will be provided to help our stricken beef industry producers. So the States and the Australian Government are combining in a magnificent fashion to help producers in their difficulties.
-In rising to speak on the estimates for the Department of Agriculture I am immediately prompted to reply to the comments that have been made by honourable members opposite in this debate about what has been achieved by this Government for the rural sector. One looks at the postal charges, the telephone charges, petrol costs and the costs of cigarettes and beer which have all been increased. Of course, it can be said that they do not apply only to rural industries. However, increased postal charges and telephone charges and the increased cost of petrol as a result of increased indirect taxes have an effect on rural industries, as we will find that not only agricultural but also secondary industries in country areas will be gravely affected by these added costs. The socialist party claims that it tries to do a lot for the rural sector, but after the State Government in Victoria has provided relief from payroll tax to selected industries in an effort to promote decentralisation and provide assistance to the rural sector, what do we now find? Any benefit gained by industries in rural areas, decentralised industries, from this payroll tax rebate is completely lost in this Government’s attack through taxation. The Government will take that profit back in income tax.
There should be some arrangement between the Victorian and Australian Governments to acknowledge the efforts of the State Government in this area. Perhaps this could be done by providing that the amount of the payroll tax deduction need not be included in the profitability of the industry for taxation purposes. It does not add up that we should give this rebate on the one hand in an attempt to encourage decentralisation and rip it off the recipients on the other. I turn now to the superphosphate bounty. Much has been said about it and I will not go into all the pros and cons but I bring it forward in a particular context. I happened to look at the Australian Labor Party or socialist party platform, the one which the Minister for Science and Consumer Affairs (Mr Clyde Cameron) is sending around to all departments and I notice that under ‘Rural’ clause 15, sub-clause 11 says that the Australian Labor Party will provide for fertiliser subsidies. That is an interesting point because it appears that the Government has departed from its Party’s platform and has taken away those subsidies. Subclause 12 says:
The Australian Government to provide funds where necessary to obviate the disparity between urban and rural areas in the cost of education, medical services, communications and other public utilities.
The honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie) mentioned that there was money granted to assist, I think he said, disadvantaged children.
– For education.
– A grant for education. I acknowledge that that is fair enough, but when one looks at funds allegedly being provided to equalise opportunities in urban and rural areas it is hard to believe that this would be done by a Government which has taken away from the rural sector the petrol equalisation scheme which was designed to assist it. We have a government which has taken away the small difference in telephone rentals which was designed to assist people in the rural sector. One wonders whether the Australian Labor Party, when drawing up its platform, particularly in relation to the rural sector, just put its tongue in its cheek and took pot luck saying: “This Will sound attractive to the outsider. We really do not give a damn for the rural sector’. We are well aware that the socialist Government is not one bit interested in the rural sector. Clause 13 of the ALP rural platform states:
Appropriate measures to adjust the levels of farm production in balance with realistic domestic and overseas market demands, in order to provide satisfactory prices to farmers -
I think the present state of the rural industry as a whole would indicate that that clause is a complete and utter joke, as are the previous two I mentioned. I think the honourable member for Wilmot mentioned that aU sorts of climatic conditions and market conditions affect the beef industry. This is acceptable to a certain extent, but surely to goodness when the platform of the ALP contains the policies to which I have referred the Government should be doing something for the industry. It should provide some assistance, and urgently, before this whole sector folds up. Clause 14 states:
Quotas for primary products to be transferable to achieve the best utilisation of resources.
This I find very difficult to believe because I have been doing a little checking on the egg quota system that has been brought in, particularly in relation to the Australian Capital Territory. I raised with the Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wriedt)- he did answer the question- in relation to quotas being established, but it is a known fact that what is happening is that double quota systems are being organised by producers in New South Wales who are also in the A.C.T. They are flooding the market in other areas. This is an area where quotas perhaps could be looked at and shifted around.
I raised a point with Senator Wriedt some time ago concerning beef. My proposal was not designed to provide a great outlet for beef, but at least I felt it would have been a positive step. Under the auspices of the previous Government there was introduced the Australian Wool Commission to buy surplus wool and store it until a market was available. This of course took the surplus away from the market and enabled the industry to progress and remain viable. I suggested to Senator Wriedt that something along similar lines be introduced in the beef industry. I did not suggest it just off the top of my head. I did quite a lot of examination of the situation. I checked out the cost of freezing meat. I know that there are pros and cons about the freezing of meat as a long-term useful product. I believe that the freezing of meat at the present time would take a tremendous tonnage off the market and assist the market considerably.
I have figures to prove that meat can be kept in cold storage at a cost of less than 5c a lb per annum. Simple inflation of the retail price or the market price of beef would surely cover the cost of freezing the meat. Senator Wriedt just gave me a bland no. He said it could not be done. He claimed the cost was higher than 10c a lb. Obviously he did not even want to look at the scheme in depth, because bis statement that the price was going to be double the figures I had checked out was a ridiculous statement. There is ample cold storage available to take many tonnes of meat. This would take a big load off the market and it would create the energy and demand needed at the moment at the kilting yards. Unfortunately, in my own area of Bendigo the farmers and graziers who took over the former VIMA meatworks had to close down. Surely if there had been some means whereby we could have taken the beef in, had it slaughtered and frozen it would have perhaps helped these people.
I go to another area concerning meat which it might be worth while for the Government to look at. I refer to meat inspection. At present we have a duplication of functions between the State and the Australian Governments. This duplication could be costing up to $lm a year. At the present time, with the Government desperately trying to cut costs, surely it would be a logical time for the State and Federal governments to get together and read some basis of understanding on the standard of meat inspection. We are employing people to inspect meat for export. It obviously has to be of a very high standard. Why can that standard not be accepted for the domestic retail market? Alternatively, there must be a way that the State and Federal systems can be brought together to get a levelling out of standards which is acceptable to both the States and to the Commonwealth. We could cut a tremendous amount of costs by bringing in a system of inspectorates acceptable to all parties. This I believe is something that should be looked at. I know it would not involve a large amount of money in terms of a $2,800m deficit, but I believe it is something that should be looked at.
Just by chance I happened to be looking at a comment by the late Sir Winston Churchill about socialism. I think what he said is very apt when we look at the rural industry. He said:
Socialism is the philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance and the gospel of envy.
-The speeches of Government supporters in this debate reflect a rather infantile optimism that they will have their project of socialising primary industry carried out. Their powerhouse tactics of trying to socialise primary industry might as a first manoeuvre trim the sails of the rural sector but in a final analysis they will not succeed because the people of the rural areas of Australia have an inbuilt strength to resist these great forces that oppose them. The heart of the nation will prevail because people want to remain free men and free women in a free society. One thing permeating the rural sector today is a fever of certainty that the Australian Labor Party will do nothing whatsoever for rural industry. People realise that the Labor Party does not care one iota about them. They have no feeling whatsoever for its murderous policies and consequently they have more confidence in the local garbage boy than they have in the policies of the Government.
I think it is fitting to record in this debate the tremendous contribution that primary industry makes to our export industries. If we include the extractive industries, some 73.5 per cent of the total export income and 6 per cent of the gross national domestic product are attributable to rural industry. It is disappointing to note that farm income in real terms as estimated for 1975-76 will be down to one-third of what it was in 1973-74. Farm income is estimated to be $700m for 1975-76. In 1974-75 it was $1,1 14m and in 1973-74 it was $2,042m. So there WU be an astronomical decrease of 68 per cent in 2 years. At the same time we have the stark figures for rural indebtedness. Rural indebtedness stands at the figure of $276.7m. Costs have gone up 35 per cent in recent times, and indexes of prices with the triennium 1960-61 to 1962-63 as the base show that in 1974-75 incomes had only gone up 46 per cent since that triennium and costs had gone up 120 per cent.
These are rather staggering figures and indicate that the approach of the Government to rural industry is a negative approach. I must state that this approach has been carried on to the extent that any report of the Industries Assistance Commission or any other Government department which suggests that assistance be given to rural industry is immediately pigeonholed and no positive action is taken. I refer to such things as the IAC report recommending a 50 per cent Government contribution for the eradication of tuberculosis and a 75 per cent contribution for the eradication of brucellosis. This is suggested to be a continuing program until 1983. The same applies to tick control and superphosphate. In all instances the Government has not acted positively.
The wheat industry was touched on in a few fleeting, innocuous remarks by the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie). I do not want to devote any of my valuable time to the stupid comments he made. Suffice to say that last year, according to the statements that have been put out concerning this Appropriation Bill, the wheat growers of Australia contributed the sum of $38.7m to a stabilisation scheme. It is estimated that this year the wheat growers of this country will contribute $30m to a stabilisation fund. I cannot understand why Senator Wriedt did not accept the logical and forceful argument of the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation to increase the first advance payment to $1.80 per bushel. When advancing this argument I think it is fitting to state that it is estimated that the final return from next year’s harvest will be about $100 per tonne to the farmer. At the present time prices on the world market ore buoyant- $132 per tonne for Australian standard white. The excellent Queensland prime hard wheat of 14 per cent which is of the highest standard in the world and which is much sought after in the world market place, is being sold readily at $ 1 59.50 per tonne.
I appreciate the remarks made by the Minister for Health (Dr Everingham) who realises the tremendous health benefit one gains by consuming Queensland prime hard wheat. I thank the Minister for the excellent advertising he gave for Queensland prime hard wheat. It is essential to encourage the production of Australian quality wheats at the present time. I am disturbed that Senator Wriedt says one thing and means another. He went to the World Food Convention at Rome and was in agreement with a decision to maximise production of cereals for the rest of this decade, yet when he has the oppurtunity to increase the first advance to $1.80 per bushel he reneges on that promise he gave at Rome. I find his approach very difficult to understand. It was his great oppurtunity to encourage the expansion of the wheat industry.
Inflation has eroded the real value of the dollar in recent times and a loan of $695m from the Rural Credits Department of the Reserve Bank which would be required at the present time to satisfy an estimated crop of 10.2 million tonnes this year at $66.40 per tonne- which is $1.80 per bushel- is less in real money terms than the $477.5m advanced by the previous Government in 1968-69, because at constant prices at the second quarter this year the $477.5m advanced in 1968-69 is worth $ 1,020m. Therefore I find it difficult to understand why the Minister has not agreed to a first advance of $1.80 per bushel. It would have given meaningful relief to beef and sheep producers who combine an agricultural enterprise with that particular operation. There is excellent security in view of world market prices for wheat and estimated returns and world shortages. It would have stimulated business activity in a seasonally slack period in January. Of course, it would have given great impetus to the encouragement of production of a much needed community product. I now want to comment briefly on the dairy industry and on the decision of the Australian Government to phase out the dairy and cheese bounties and to do away with the allocation of any further funds under the dairy farmers amalgamation scheme. This makes a mockery of Senator Wriedt ‘s speech on 13 August 1974 when he clearly indicated that help for the dairy industry would be on a continuing basis.
– He welched on it.
– As the honourable member for McMillan said, Senator Wriedt welshed on it. That would not be the first time he has welshed on giving assistance to the dairy industry. It has been savagely brought to its knees by a Government which does not care about the dairy industry and which has certainly done nothing positive to encourage it. We need long term interest to allow people to change over from the production of cream to the production of milk. Obviously the scheme was meant to run for a further 12 months. On a short term basis sufficient finance was not allocated in the original Bill. It would have been most encouraging to have noted a change of heart in relation to the dairy farmers and that a clear indication had been given to them so that they could plan confidently for the future.
At the present time the meat industry is in desperate straits, yet we find in the various Appropriation statements that a sum of $ 17.372m will be plucked from a suffering industry being further penalised by financial constraints put on it for the purposes of meat inspection services. This, coupled with the $2.632m which will be taken from other producers of meats, could have been used as a catalyst to invigorate an industry which is sadly depressed at the present time. The $20m taken for the purposes of meat and associated inspection services is an intolerable burden to be placed on an industry which is going through the very bottom of the trough as far as its economic activity is concerned. I would like to dwell on a few other points of the BUI in the few minutes left to me. I want to relate chapter and verse some of the things that the Government has done.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I want to take up the last speaker, the honourable member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh), on one point. He stated without bunking an eyelid that the Government had done nothing for the dairy industry. One of the worst features of listening to debates in this chamber -
– I take a point of order, Mr Chairman. Is the honourable member at liberty to speak again or did he claim to have been per.sonally misrepresented?
-If the honourable member for Darling Downs had read the Standing Orders he would know that honourable members are permitted to speak twice.
-I am sorry that the honourable member did not know that. The statement he made was completely and utterly false. Let me illustrate that under the dairy assistance plan the Government has allocated millions of dollars to assist dairymen to change over from butterfat to whole milk production. Just recently $580,000 was made available by the Government to King Island to change the factory over to milk powder production. It was part of the agreement that factories was well as dairymen could be assisted.
– What about the ones who want to change over but there is no money left?
– Honourable members opposite criticise the scheme and now say that the scheme has run out of money. Why are you fellows not consistent?
– We support the scheme.
– It is a funny way to support it when you just said in your speech that the Government has done nothing for the dairy industry -
– You could have done more for them.
– We might have been able to do more. We have done much more than you fellows ever did. For instance, the honourable member spoke also about increased costs in the rural industries. This is true. The farmer is at the end of the line and he cannot pass on his costs as retailers, manufacturers and wholesalers can. One factor in the cost of primary industry is the purchase of machinery. I noticed in The Land of 4 September an article by Brian 0’Donoghue. I think that he is the general marketing manager of Alfarm Industries Pty Ltd at Albury. He said that they are importing a lot of the big klass headers into Australia -
– What do they cost?
– They cost $50,000 to land in Australia and they have $500 Australian content. He pointed out in the article that time and again we are importing cost increases from overseas in new machinery. Of course he is right. But to listen to honourable members opposite one would think that all the cost increases occurred in Australia. That too is utterly false.
– What does the equivalent Aus.tralian machine cost?
– The equivalent Australian machine costs more.
– Of course. What are you talking about?
-I am talking about imported costs.
– The Australian costs are higher.
– Let me deal with another point. Opposition members, particularly those who are or who represent farmers, are always criticising this Government for its socialism. It is marvellous how they want to socialise their losses and to individualise their gains; but that is the absolute truth. I invite the Committee to consider this: Socialism is not such a bad thing after aU. Every time we turn a tap on to get water in any town or city, we are using socialised water. If we switch on a light, turn on a stove or a refrigerator, we are using socialised power. Look out, you fellows on the Opposition side; you might get an electric shock next time, using this dreadful socialised power.
If we pull the chain or press the button in the toilet we are using socialised sewerage. When we travel on the highways or on the city streets we are travelling on socialised streets and socialised roads. When we use port facilities around Australia we are using socialised port facilities. When we walk on footpaths, we are using socialised footpaths. When we travel by train, tram or bus we are using socialised transport. When we join the armed forces we are participating in socialised defence. Did honourable members ever realise that before?
I could quote a whole lot of other examples which illustrate how we are living with this terrible, dreadful spectre of socialism every day and night of our lives. Yet honourable members opposite talk in this Committee as though socialism was a tool of the devil himself. Such a claim is utter rot. All social service payments, education payments, and payments to our State governments are examples of socialised expenditure. If they do not like socialism why do they not refuse to accept the money which comes from this central Government, this Australian Government, for their services.
– Because they live like dung beetles.
-What do they live like?
– Don ‘t you know what they eat?
-Order! The honourable member for Hunter will cease interjecting.
-I do not know what they live like -
-Would the honourable member for Wilmot mind returning to the discussion before the Committee? He has strayed somewhat.
– Thank you very much, Mr Chairman. Yes, I believe I have. I was answering the critics who are saying that we are a socialist Government. The honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Bourchier) who preceded me spent a great deal of his time telling us this. All orderly marketing and stabilisation schemes are examples of socialism. On the matter of assistance to primary industry, recently a report came from the Industries Assistance Commission which was entitled Rural Income Fluctuations- Certain Taxation Measures. It was dated 30 June 1975 and was produced by the Commission at the instance of the Commonwealth Government: This was the result of what we asked the IAC to do.
– What have you done about it?
– The Opposition never thought of this before. It did nothing at all about it in all the years that it was in office.
– Will you table it?
– Yes, and the Labor Party resources committee has dealt with it already. It did so the other night. The recommendations of this report are very brief. The IAC says in its report:
The Commission recommended that:
The Commission gives very cogent reasons why it should be retained. The report continues:
The report continues:
The Commission considered that measures should be taken to inform farmers and their accountants of the use of the provisional tax system particularly the self-assessment provisions, and on the use of Income Equalisation Deposits.
This is a very well thought out report. The day may come when the Government will be accepting it or the bulk of it.
– That is a laugh.
– It will be pigeon-holed.
-Is it a laugh? We have not actually dealt with this in the Caucus yet or even in the Cabinet. It has only just been presented.
– It will go into the pigeon-holes.
– Wouldn’t the honourable member like to see it put in the pigeon-holes?
– It would join its mates.
-Of course he would. Then he would talk to the country about it. Oh, you are a great soul! The scheme of assistance to the beef industry, to which I referred earlier, is known as the Australian State Governments Concessional Loans Agreement. The States Grants (Beef Industry) Act 1975 provided $ 19.6m to match State funds for the provision of carry on loans to beef producers. An additional $600,000 subsidy will be made available for Northern Territory producers.
– More socialism.
– Yes, more socialism. Loans administered by State rural reconstruction authorities will be paid to eligible persons- that is, specialised beef producers- whose incomes traditionally are derived preponderantly from beef, who are judged to be viable on the assumption of market recovery to the long term trend and who are presently unable to obtain carry-on funds free from the normal sources. May I mention here that the first scheme which provided $20m in 1973-74 has had added to it another $ 19.6m from the Australian Government which makes assistance totalling $39.6m towards the beef industry from this Australian Government. In this financial year $40m will be provided to the industry as the States have joined the Commonwealth on a dollar for dollar basis. The interest rate on such loans will be 4 per cent in all States except Queensland where State funds will be provided at 2Vi per cent in the first year, giving an overall average in that State of 3V4 per cent. No capital repayments will be required in the first year and the first year’s interest will be capitalised. The maximum term of each loan will be 7 years. The maximum loan will be $10,000 except in Queensland and the Northern Territory where it will be $15,000 as those are the areas where most of the beef producers are. Loans may be reviewed after 12 months with a view to commencing normal servicing requirements. To say that we have done nothing for the beef industry is a straight out falsehood. We sincerely hope that with the improving marketing conditions overseas and the increase in quotas in Japan and the United States of America by the end of this year this industry will start to come out of its depression.
– Order! the honourable member’s time has expired.
– It is interesting to follow the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie) and to hear his well reasoned version of what this Government has done for the beef producer in particular.
– He was talking about socialised sewerage.
– Yes. It was interesting to hear him explain about socialised sewerage, socialised water supplies and other socialised services. The honourable member concluded by reading from a report which had been brought down by the Industries Assistance Commission. It has presented some great reports. What beef producers and other people living in rural areas are looking for is a Utile bit of action on the reports presented by the IAC. It is not enough for honourable members to rise here and to read out the recommendations in such reports. Those reports should be before Cabinet and before Caucus so that something may be done about the recommendations.
I turn to the Budget which was brought down on the 19 August It has been hailed by the Treasurer (Mr Hayden) as a great Budget of restraint. Let me give some figures in relation to this Budget of restraint. Outlays are estimated to increase in 1975-76 by $4,084m or 22 per cent to $2 1,9 15m. Receipts are estimated to increase by $3,852m or 25.2 per cent to $19,1 17m. The estimated deficit in this great Budget of restraint is $2,798m with a domestic deficit of $2,068m. I submit that it is not a Budget of restraint at aU. I quote those figures to indicate the dramatic increase that there has been in budgeting in the last year. The main area in which we will find restraint in this Budget is where it deals with the rural sector or that section relating to the Department of Agriculture. The estimates for the Department of Agriculture for 1975-76, as has been mentioned before, involve Government outlays of $237m as against Government outlays last financial year of $447. lm, which is a decrease in expenditure of $2 10m. This is a very significant decrease when compared with the increases that are proposed in every other field of Government management. The rural sector of Australia can really wonder whether this Government has its interests at heart as the Government claims it has.
I should like to go briefly through the figures which make up this sum of $237m, which is the estimated outlay on agriculture this year, to see to what extent this outlay is a charge on the taxpayer. We hear much in this place about the greedy farmers, the farmers who always want to take too much out of the system and do not want to put enough back. Running through the figures, I find that an amount of $ 126m is provided for wool marketing assistance. As we all know, that is a loan, it is not a direct charge on the taxpayer. A sum of $49m is provided for research, promotion and other expenditure. That is more than balanced by the contribution of $74.5m which the industry makes by way of a charge of 8 per cent on wool sold.
The wheat industry is actually contributing to its own stabilisation scheme. That is fair enough; after aU, it is a rural producing industry. This year it is contributing $30m to its own stabilisation scheme. So that is not a charge on the taxpayer. In fact, the industry itself is putting in a big amount of money this year.
– A big amount last year, too.
– Yes. The main outlay for the fruit industry is one of $4.4m for the apple and pear stabilisation scheme. We all know that this money will be paid on last season ‘s crop, not on the coming season’s crop. I turn to the cattle, sheep and pig meat industries. An amount of $ 19.6m is provided for beef industry loans. The other amounts of money that are provided for this industry in the Budget are balanced by the $27m which Will be received in charges and repayments. Then there are the amounts of money provided for the Commonwealth Development Bank for rural lending, for rural reconstruction. The amounts of money I have mentioned that are not a charge on the Government roughly total $264m. I have included in that figure the sum of $30m for the wheat industry, because it is a charge against rural industries this year. So we end up with a net figure of $2 7.7m- that is a very rough estimate- to which the farming and rural community, although not actually contributing it, is on the deficit side of the book.
Some rural industries, including the beef industry, the potato industry, the fruit industry and many sections of the dairy industry, are in dire straits. Although these industries are in dire straits, overall the rural industries of Australia certainly are not a drag on the taxpayer. One has to remember the contribution that the rural industries of Australia make to our export income and also the amount of money which flows through the community because rural industries are great export earners.
I should like to refer to another section of the Budget, which has not been mentioned a great deal, to show what rural industries have lost. The Budget Papers, on page 71, state:
Apart from these direct outlays from the Budget, substantial additional assistance, as noted above, has been provided through the Budget by way of special taxation concessions which, as they result in a reduction of Government revenues, are as much a call on the Budget as direct outlays. The amount of revenue forgone in 1974-75 through the main taxation concessions for which data are available is estimated to have been $2 44m.
I know that on many occasions in this place we have argued about the concessions that have been given to the rural sector over the years. Most of those concessions which account for that sum of $244m were withdrawn in 1972-73 but still had an effect last year, while others were withdrawn or modified in 1973-74. 1 am arguing the point that this $2 44m, although not a direct outlay to the rural producer, is something that he has lost during the last 12 months and that he will lose in this Budget. It has been building up over the last couple of years. Under these circumstances one can see that the rural producer is endeavouring to more than pull his weight within the community.
I make the final point that it is not only a matter of lack of concern by this Government in the areas that have been mentioned by my colleagues today; another great concern relates to the rising costs in our community. The Budget hinges around an increase of 22 per cent in wages this year. This will result in the payment of an additional $2, 800m in taxation. If one works that back one finds that it represents a wages increase of about $6, 100m to the private sector. This will get back to the fellow on the end of the line, rural people. It is a massive wages increase. Our costs will escalate more than the rural industries of Australia will be able to stand. This gets back to the question of inflation and of the Government’s complete inability to handle the situation.
- Mr Chairman, I have been listening to debates on the estimates relating to primary industry and agriculture for 10 years now. Always the same argument is put up by the National Country Party, in particular, about socialistic forces and socialism in agriculture. Rarely do honourable members opposite explain what they mean by it. On the one hand they are arguing for the laissez-faire principles of free enterprise. They say: ‘Do not interfere with primary industry. Keep your hands off it. Grow as much as you like, what crop you like, what quantity you like and the market forces of supply and demand will determine the future and the well-being of primary industry’. But I think that every Opposition speaker in this debate has asked for government intervention, for the injection of government finance.
What sort of principles do honourable members opposite have? Do they support socialistic forces in agriculture, which means, of course, government intervention and government control, of marrying production to markets in a realistic way? Or do they in fact mean what they preach in their philosophy of free enterprise, which is to grow any crop you like, grow as much as you like and the forces of supply and demand will determine the price? They do not mean that, and they have never meant it. One of the greatest proponents of control in primary industry was Sir John McEwen. He propounded the philosophy of social forces in agriculture, which honourable members opposite are condemning. Let us have a look at some of the primary industries. I remember in this chamber 2 years ago, when beef prices were very high, putting forward the proposition that that was the time when we should have been looking very closely at fixing a domestic price for meat, an equalisation price or a floor price. What did the leaders of the Liberal Party and the Country Party say then? They condemned me. They told the Government to keep its hands right off the cattle industry. Now when prices are at a bedrock level they want the reverse position to apply. That was the time when they should have been looking very closely at introducing an equalisation scheme for the cattle industry.
– What did you do for the wool industry?
– I am glad that the honourable member for Kennedy has reminded me of the wool industry. In 1965 honourable members opposite turned down flatly a floor price for wool.
– We gave a subsidy which caused the industry to survive.
-The previous Government gave no floor price subsidy; it gave a deficiency payment. It is this Government which gave the 250c a kilo floor price for wool. What did the previous Government give. It turned down the proposal for a floor price for wool. Where would we be in the wheat industry if there were not some controls by quotas on the wheat industry several years ago? Where would we be if we had adopted the philosophy of free enterprise: ‘Grow as much wheat as you can”? Why do honourable members opposite not propose to abolish the Australian Wheat Board or the Australian Wool Corporation which purchase Australia’s wool and wheat? Members of the National Country Party talk about free enterprise. (Opposition members interjecting)
-Order! The level of interjections is reaching a level which I cannot tolerate.
-Mr Chairman, honourable members opposite remind me of a pack of squealing bandicoots, which are waiting to be stuffed and grilled before being eaten.
– Tell us about the Northern Territory galah.
-At least the Northern Territory galah has feathers, which the honourable member does not have. Do not give me any nonsense about socialistic forces. The National Country Party and the Australian Labor Party believe in orderly marketing. Let us take the best practical example that I can think of in Australia today. Compare the most socialised primary industry in Australia, sugar, with the most unsocialised primary industry in Australia today, beef. If the beef industry, the most vulnerable export rural industry in Australia today, had had a floor price scheme, had had a mechanism which would have given it a 2-price scheme such as the sugar industry has, the beef industry would not have got into the bad situation it is in today. Make no mistake about it. I have always supported the beef industry and I shall continue to support it because I think of all the primary industries in Australia the cattle industry, because of its tremendous comparative economic advantage in producing the export product, will come good and in fact will be one of the most prosperous primary industries in the future. But if only it had these so called socialistic forces in it that the wheat industry, the wool industry, the sugar industry, the dried fruits industry and the tobacco industry have we would not have had an industry which today in the northern part of Australia is almost crippled because of its vulnerability in having to rely on the export markets.
I return to the sugar industry. If the National Country Party had its way, if it adopted its free enterprise principles, it would say to the primary producers: ‘Grow as much sugar as you like. Grow any variety you like. Have as many sugar mills as you like. Grow beet sugar in Tasmania and in Victoria. Grow cane sugar in Queensland’. Is the National Country Party saying that? Of course it is not. (Opposition members interjecting)
-Listen to the galahs again, Mr Chairman. The National Country Party is saying the same as I say. The sugar industry is the best organised primary industry in Australia. It is the most efficient primary industry in Australia. It has got that way because it is under efficient control. On the one hand -
– -Controlled by the growers.
-Has the honourable member not heard of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Ltd which is responsible for the marketing of Australian sugar? That is how much he knows about it.
– That company does not grow it; the farmers grow it.
– Order! The honourable member for Darling Downs has already made his contribution to this debate.
– I am simply attempting to explain that if honourable members opposite are honest in their contentions about primary industry they will back any scheme that provides for orderly marketing and controlled production in relation to demand. That is particularly necessary with respect to export industries, especially monocultures. The best examples of major monocultures in Australia today are the beef cattle industry in northern Australia and the sugar industry. Both are highly vulnerable to the export markets. On the one hand we have the sugar industry protected by long-term bilateral agreements and a domestic floor price and on the other hand we have the cattle industry utterly unprotected due to the policies of the previous Government which for 23 years had a ‘hands off the cattle industry ‘ poliCy
Another aspect in relation to the sugar industry with which I wish to deal is price control. All honourable members opposite are opposed to price control. Yet they support it in the wheat industry and in the sugar industry with the domestic price schemes. The most stabilising influence on aU the rural industries is a stable domestic price, and honourable members opposite know it. They deny the benefit of price control. The Premier of Queensland went around Queensland condemning price control. Yet in the sugar industry one cannot sell one cane farm because of- price control. Only a few months ago we had a ridiculous situation when a group of efficient cane farmers apparently paid too much for their land on which to grow more sugar. They were knocked back by the Central Sugar Cane Prices Board because they paid too much for their cane land. This is a policy of the Queensland Government, if one can follow it. I wish to make just a few points with respect to the -
– Do you disagree with that policy :
– I have supported and will continue to support the overall policies of the sugar industry and the honourable member well knows it. The sugar industry is the most efficiently organised primary industry in Australia today.
– Do you support the policies of the Government in Queensland?
– Order! I warn the honourable member for Darling Downs.
-We heard great play about tuberculosis and brucellosis. Of course we did not hear that it was the Liberal-Country Party Government that refused point blank to introduce a compensation scheme for tuberculosis reactors. Honourable members opposite should not deny it. They turned down the proposal point blank. This Government brought it in. Did the previous Government bring in a compensation scheme for brucellosis reactors? If it did, why did it not bring in a scheme for tuberculosis reactors?
We also had criticism of this Government about the income tax averaging provisions in the Budget and of the ceiling of $16,000. Which Government brought in the ceiling of $16,000 for income tax averaging? It was the previous Government. That is the government which is causing the harm and the injustice to the sugar industry in Australia today. The POliCy should be to completely wipe the $16,000 limit. That is the recommendation of the Industries Assistance Commission in condemnation of the previous Government’s POliCY of putting a ceiling of $16,000 with respect to the income tax averaging provisions in primary industry. I hope that I can have some influence in getting the $16,000 provision wiped also.
Of course great play was made about petrol price equalisation. Where in the POliCy speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser) on the Tuesday night following the introduction of the Budget did he state that he would bring back petrol price equalisation? Nowhere did he say he would reduce postal or telephone charges? No. Did he say he would bring in more subsidies for rural industries? Yes. That is the whole basis of the Opposition policy- to spend more and more money and to give subsidies to the big producers. The bigger the producer the larger amount of subsidy he gets. That is the Opposition policy and that has been one of the principal policies that wrecked the stability of primary industry during its 23 years of reign.
– It has been very disappointing to us on this side of the chamber to see so little being given to primary producers who provide the bulk of export income for Australia and who should be assisted and encouraged to keep up production in the various fields. In the Budget very little help was given to the agricultural sector. It is true that a 2Vi per cent reduction in tax has been given to companies. But with the poor returns being received by companies this will be of little assistance indeed to primary producers. An allowance for double depreciation on purchase of new plant and equipment has been continued beyond 30 June 1 975. Of course this is a pOliCY which was adopted and introduced by the Liberal-Country Party government before the advent of the Labor Government.
No superphosphate bounty has been approved despite a favourable report from the Industries Assistance Commission. We believe that in the interests of primary production that assistance by way of a bounty is essential for primary industries. Millions of acres of this country require superphosphate, and the benefit in production from its use is tremendous. This applies to crops and pastures, to vegetable growers at Maitland in the Paterson electorate, to sheep producers, to cattle producers and to the grain producers. The increased production from the superphosphate bounty brings a resultant inflow to the Commonwealth Treasury.
The publication of a list of major superphosphate users has little real relevance to the debate on the restoration of the superphosphate bounty. The published list carries with it the imputation that only large growers benefit from the bounty. This is misleading. The Bureau of Agricultural Economics reveals that in 1973 the average use of superphosphate in the sheep and cattle industries, which also includes most wheat growers, was from 35 to 40 tons per property. Producers named in the document tabled in Parliament comprise less than half of one per cent of all producers in the industry. What a ridiculous situation. In fact the superphosphate bounty has assisted the vast majority of producers in Australia who are organised as family farm units. The year 1973 was typical in that it represented above average levels of income which enabled producers to catch up on fertiliser expenditure deferred from earlier periods of low income. The bounty should be restored as recommended by the Industries Assistance Commission. Why the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) will not agree to its restoration is beyond us. As I stated earlier it will bring greater revenue into the Treasury.
The Government has defrauded the dairy industry of $ 1 9.2m which the Government said it would allocate this year. Meat is being imported while the Australian beef industry struggles. Potatoes worth $6m have been imported at a time when farmers have had marketing problems. These potatoes have been imported from Canada, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom and America. Having a further look at the dairy industry assistance statement we find that the $ 19.2m provided in the Budget for this industry was in fact part of $28m allocated last year. This $ 19.2m is already committed, so in fact the industry will get nothing from the Budget. These instances clearly indicate that the man on the land has received nothing from this Government. Our great cattle industry through lack of Government help is being allowed to wither on the vine.
It is true that the Budget allocated $ 19.6m to match the States dollar for dollar in the 4 per cent interest field through the rural banks and in the various States. The Commonwealth Development Bank provided $20m to primary producers at 1 1 per cent. This is the normal bank rate of interest but the cattle industry is in such a perilous position that it cannot possibly service an interest rate of 1 1 per cent. A further $8m has been made available. The cattle industry in this country wants at least $100m to $150m to assist the producers to get back on their feet. The Minister for Northern Australia (Dr Patterson) has said that he has faith in the cattle industry, so have we, but it must not be allowed to wither on the vine. The industry in the future will become a large export earner and the industry must be helped over a difficult period. Our export problems have been in the European Economic Community and Japan. Our country people have been hit hard in the Budget by increased telephone, postage, petroleum and distillate charges. People living in the country areas of Australia depend entirely on communications and transport. These savage increases which have been applied through the Budget will severely increase the costs and inconvenience people living in the great country areas of Australia. We on this side of the House know what benefit the primary producers are to Australia
Proposed expenditure agreed to.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m. ( Quorum formed)
Department of Minerals and Energy
Proposed expenditure, $5 1,245,000.
- Mr Chairman -
– An appalling performance.
-The Minister for Defence (Mr Morrison) seems to be wandering around in a rather odd and strange manner. He seems to be complaining -
- Mr Speaker, I rise to order. My point of order is that, as everybody knows, this evening a number of the members of the Parliament were entertaining the Canadian Parliamentary Delegation. It is incredible for the -
-Order! No point of order arises.
-This Committee would be better advised to pay no attention to the Minister for Defence who comes into this place not understanding his responsibilities or his duties. He thinks that it is more important to be somewhere else rather than in this Parliament when the duty of the Parliament calls.
– Why do you not get the cane out?
– Why not? These estimates deal with a Minister, the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor), and his Department which has, in its comparatively short life, probably become the most secretive, deceptive and destructive force in this Government. The history of its notoriety still leaves questions unanswered. Yet we see new controversial affairs developing again in this Department. The record of this Minister for Minerals and Energy, who is not present in the chamber, should be laid before the Parliament once again. Ever since the first days of the Minister for Minerals and Energy we have had episodes of destructive policies, secretive dealings, neglect for accepted procedures and attempts to mislead the Parliament and the Australian people.
The achievements of this Minister need only to be compared with those in the mining area under the previous Government. In the 1960s and early 1970s, 34 major mining projects were commenced at a total cost of $6,000m. What have we seen since December 1972? The only significant mine to come into operation is the phosphate project costing $40m. This was discovered in the mid-1960s. To prove that the resources are still available, we need only to look at the projects which have been deferred or lost. They include 5 uranium projects, 3 coal projects, 3 bauxitealumina projects and a number of others. There is a total of nearly 20 projects which have been lost as a result of the policies of this Minister. We have seen a virtual collapse of drilling in the search for and development of oil and natural gas. There were 322 wells drilled in 1969 as against 16 wells so far this year. That is the magnificent achievement of this Minister. In fact, there were no new production wells drilled in the first quarter of this year. The number of oil drilling rigs in operation is down to three whilst fourteen remain inactive. Furthermore, the vast decline in seismic survey miles covered since 1973 paints a gloomy prospect of any reversal of this trend.
The future is filled with uncertainty because the Minister continues to conceal his real plans for the industry. But we all know what they are. He wants to buy out every cent of private ownership. We only have to recall the events of the loans affair to understand this. What an attempt at deception that was, from the very first events of drafting the Executive Council minute which was supposed to authorise this deal. The parties to that minute chose to ignore the Loan Council. They chose to ignore its advisers, including the Reserve Bank of Australia. What of the loan itself, a loan for an amount of $4,000m? If it were left to the Minister, it may have been double that amount. Repeated attempts to have the Minister and his Government divulge the details of that loan were met with a dumb response. What is this Government that preaches open government? When we finally extracted sketchy details of the loan, there were conflicting statements of the purpose for which the money was to be used.
What were the purposes? We had a number of statements on the matter. On 23 April of this year the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) said that the loans would not be used for the Petroleum and Minerals Authority. On 8 May, the then Treasurer, the honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns) said that the Petroleum and Minerals authority would have the highest priority in the allocation of funds. On 20 May of this year when asked, ‘What is the purpose of the loan?’, the Prime Minister said, ‘For matters related to energy’. The Executive Council minute carries a notation, consistent with the Constitution, that the borrowings were to be for temporary purposes. I repeat that they were to be for temporary purposes. Here we find the master stroke of deception. When the details of the purposes to which the loan was to be applied were released only a few days ago, we found that the money was to be spent on a number of projects that the Minister outlined, not one of which could be regarded as temporary. What national development project could be regarded as temporary? The Minister for Minerals and Energy smiles. He deceived this Parliament he deceived the Executive Council and he deceived the GovernorGeneral. He continues to think that this matter is of no account. He is the Minister who should be ashamed -
– Order! The right honourable gentleman is coming very close to transgressing the Standing Orders in imputing improper motives. I invite him to consider the statements that are made.
-Mr Chairman, I only invite you to understand what this Prime Minister has said of other people within the last 2 days. If this Prime Minister can say things of members in this Parliament and of others which members of the Opposition are not allowed to say, then it is a sad day in the history of this Par.liament. How could the moneys raised for temporary purposes be applied to such long term projects as the Minister had in mind? It is abundantly clear that this would be a fraudulent use of funds borrowed under the temporary purposes clause of the Financial Agreement. The Government stands condemned on this fact alone. At one stage the Opposition thought a royal commission was necessary to extract the truth of this matter. A royal commission is no longer necessary because the facts extracted on this matter condemn the Minister, the Prime Minister and this Government for deceit of the Constitution and for a massive illegality which ought not to be forgotten.
Even when this conspiracy became patently obvious to the Parliament and to the people, this Government persisted with the biggest coverup in the history of Australian politics. In the last few weeks we have discovered that the Minister was already at work on another secret deal. On the matter of the ACTU- Solo crude oil deal he has once again sought to deny his own improprieties. For nearly 7 years the sale of indigenous crude oil has been steadfastly held at an agreed price of about $2.10 a barrel. In the last few days we have heard of 3 separate deals in which the Minister was directly and intimately involved. IOC Australia Pty Ltd approached the Minister early in 1974. It wanted to sell an allocation of crude oil for a return well in excess of the Government approved price. This Minister replied:
I do not regard this commercial transaction as a matter for my consideration. However. I observe that the proposed price is in excess of that operating in respect of indigenous crude.
And he approved of that deal. More recently there appears a deal whereby ACTU-Solo was to acquire crude oil. The agreement is fundamentally the same and yet the Minister in this House stated on 2 September 1975:
I have consistently and repeatedly rejected similar proposals which have been put to me by quite a number of other organisations, in respect both of the Allied Petrochemical Pty Ltd entitlement and one of Mr Roach and Independent Oil Company Ltd. ‘I am not a fool’, says this Minister. But that answer denied the response that he had given to AGL-IOC when he had agreed to a similar deal. What a humbug, what a hypocrite is this Minister.
– Order! I think the Leader of the Opposition realises that those remarks are offensive and should be withdrawn.
– I ask for them to be withdrawn.
- Mr Chairman, I withdraw that remark if that is your wish.
– Order! The Minister will resume his seat. The Chair has asked for those remarks to be withdrawn under the Standing Orders.
- Mr Chairman, I withdraw that remark if that is your wish and your command. But I only notice that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) was allowed to use it unchastised by the Speaker on another occasion. Despite the facts I have mentioned, ACTU-Solo were able to conclude a deal which involved a purchase price of 2Vi times the approved price. Evidence which has come to light in the last 2 weeks strongly suggest that a scheme was devised to circumvent the stated Government policy. This Minister was responsible. Mr Souter of the ACTU has indicated this in evidence as has his counsel for the ACTU, namely, that this Minister suggested a deal to circumvent the approved price. This Minister stands condemned. He stands guilty.
Every blunder this Government makes is excused by blaming some other party- whether it is inflation, unemployment or the affairs which I have just mentioned. This Minister blames Mr
Souter, an honest and decent man. When can this Minister stand an answer for his own misdeeds? When, Mr Chairman, will we in the Opposition be allowed to use the same language as the Prime Minister uses with so much impunity in this Parliament.
– Order! Before I call the Minister for Minerals and Energy I think that the Leader of the Opposition will realise that he went close to reflecting on the Chair. My purpose in the Chair is to try to assist members to debate rationally the subjects that are before them. Different Chairmen will make different rulings on what they consider are offensive words. I have my standards; I have applied them.
– I rise to order, Mr Chairman. I express the greatest respect for you, for I understand and respect the standards which you seek to uphold. However, I took a point or order when the Speaker was in the Chair a very short while ago in relation to the Prime Minister who has used words much more severe than the words I used. The Prime Minister was allowed to use those words unchecked by the Speaker at that time.
– I suggest that there should be one standard in this Parliament and not two.
– Order! I have made my explanation to the honourable member and I abide by it.
– We have just heard comment that one would expect from a man who aspires to be the Prime Minister of Australia and who with typical discourtesy walks out of the chamber. He chooses to disregard proceedings that are currently before a judicial tribunal - (Honourable members interjecting)
– Order! The Committee will come to order. The Minister is addressing the Committee. I suggest that honourable members restrain themselves to a reasonable extent.
-Thank you, Mr Chairman. There is at the present time a royal commission functioning. I have said that I would await the verdict and the report of the royal commission and when that comes along that will be the proper time to discuss the whole question of ACTU-SOLO Enterprises Pty Ltd and the IOC Australia Pty Ltd. When it does come along I will be having plenty to say to the humiliation of these individuals.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser) was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. He gets up before this Parliament and with un-Australian accents he chooses to attempt to denigrate everyone in sight. Sir, there is no privilege in this place. I am the son of a worker and proud of it.
– I rise on a point of order. Mr Chairman, I believe that you, Sir, have established a sound rule for the conduct of debates in this chamber. I appreciate what you said. I know that you are right. I hope that those standards will be applied to the Minister in exactly the same way as they are applied to any other person in this House. The Minister is now descending into larrikinism and ought to be stopped.
– Order! I will always endeavour to deal with specific terms that are used as I have indicated. I think that the Minister has some latitude in making some passing references. But I would like him to come back to the matter before the Committee.
– I do not normally take points of order. I normally ignore what is said and do not heckle the Opposition. When I hit I hit hard and I hit fairly. The Leader of the Opposition is beneath contempt in the remarks he made tonight. They are utterly and completely unjustified. If he were left to the limit of his own talents he might be a first class commissionaire. But the Leader of the Opposition is a potential Prime Minister. God help Australia if he gets the opportunity. I reject him with contempt.
-The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser) did us a great service in raising the issue of the somewhat irregular sales that have been made by IOC Australia Pty Ltd and Allied Petrochemicals Pty Ltd to the ACTU-Solo group. This does become a very questionable issue when we see ACTU-Solo being put in rather a preferred position against a company such as the Australian Gas Light Co. which is really a service company with consumers in the Sydney area. The interesting thing about this whole question is that AGL last year made an application to buy at a relatively cheap price the quota that was provided to APC-IOC of 650 000 barrels of oil. This company was prepared to pay above the agreed price of $2.09 a barrel; it was prepared to pay $1.50 above that price. The company made an application to the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) to see whether this would be approved. The Minister wrote back and said that it would not be approved until further notice was given. All this was revealed today in the Press by the General Manager of this very great and distinguished company, the Australian Gas Light Co. which did not get a reply or any notification whatsoever. We find that this quantity of oil was sold very strangely to the ACTU and Solo and involved a cool profit of a couple of million dollars. As a result AGL had to buy oil at the world price. It had to pay approximately $9 a barrel which cost it an extra $6m above the price which it wanted to pay in the first place. As a result this loaded an extra cost on to the consumers in the Sydney area. Who do honourable members think got the advantage of this deal? The ACTU and Solo. Of course the Minister said he knew nothing about this deal. Maybe he did not but there is a good reason for explanation to this Par.liament and to the Australian people why AGL was not told the facts and why ACTU-Solo should have been given this privilege. (Honourable members interjecting.)
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Armitage)Order! I ask honourable members on the left to please maintain some decorum in this House. The uproar on the Opposition side is too outstanding altogether.
– It is no use the Minister sheltering behind personal abuse of the Leader of the Opposition for bringing this question forward. There is need for explanation and it is no use sitting back hoping that the royal commission will find the answers for him. The Aus.tralian people demand to know now why this agreement took place and why such a privilege was conferred on one group as against another group, with the consumers having to pay more as a result.
– He is a crook.
– An honourable member suggested I was a crook. It was a member of the National Country Party sitting in one of the corner seats. I ask that he be identified and asked to withdraw.
– I ask the honourable member for Hume whether he will withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it.
– Will you withdraw the remark unreservedly? To make a remark like that is most unparliamentary and the honourable member should know that. I ask him to withdraw unreservedly.
– I rise to order. With great respect, Mr Deputy Chairman, you are exceeding by many degrees the responsibility and power entrusted to you.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- The point at issue here is that a very serious accusation has been made against the Minister. The making of such an accusion is completely contrary to the Standing Orders of this House. I ask the honourable member for Hume, out of consideration for the principles of this Parliament, to withdraw the remark unreservedly.
– I was asked to withdraw and I withdrew.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Do you withdraw unreservedly? (Opposition members interjecting.)
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- I call the Leader of the National Country Party.
– The real point that I wanted to speak to in the debate on these estimates, which seems to have been taken up by a little distraction, is the deception which the Minister is perpetrating on the Australian people with his excuse for not giving approval to exploration leases for the search for off-shore oU and the search for gas. The point that the Minister keeps making is that he refuses to give approval for any of these leases or farm-ins because there is a case before the High Court involving this matter and, therefore, he is not in a position to make a decision. This is a subterfuge. It is a deception. The Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act clearly provides for circumstances in which the High Court decision is either wholly in favour of a State or of the Commonwealth or partially of both. The legislation foresaw the possibility of a High Court decision and it is nonsense for the Minister to refuse to give approval for permits given by the States because a High Court decision is pending. The Minister has been holding back on this and confusing the whole situation for the last 12 months. This case could continue for another year. The indications are that the High Court will take at least another 6 months, and it could possibly be 12 months, before a decision is made. However, the Minister, sitting here nodding, is quite happy to see no exploration going on and the whole exploration industry wind down, placing Australian consumers in a position where they need to import oU from overseas.
There is no way now by which we can get extra ott production in this country before 1982. If oil was found tomorrow it would take 5 years to develop the resources. However, because so many of the rigs have left the country, together with the expertise, and because seismographic work has wound down to nothing, it would take 2 years for the exploration industry to gear up to start looking for oU. If they were lucky in 2 years time it would take another 5 years before these fields were commercial. This is the tragedy of the situation brought about by the Minister who sits back and says: ‘I will not encourage anybody to look for oU; I will not approve permits given by the State government’. He is quite happy to see thrust upon future generations of Australians a dependence upon overseas oU. By 1982 at the current rate of production we will be only 30 per cent self-supporting; 70 per cent of our oil will be coming from overseas at very high prices. It costs $9 a barrel now; goodness knows what it will cost in 7 years time. Within the next week the Minister will be confronted with the rather difficult question of the new crude oil pricing agreement. He has been abusing and criticising me for years over this matter but at last he is starting to agree that there ought to be a 2 -price system. I am glad that he has hitched on to some ideas that I have been bringing forward. However, I think that next week he probably Will say that it is too difficult and he will adjourn it. He should have been investigating this matter 18 months ago so that the industry would have had some indication as to where they stood. But wait and see; next week he will say: ‘No, we have to adjourn it because we need more information on the question’. I will be very surprised if he comes forward with anything. He is quite happy to see absolute confusion.
The bumbling attitude of the Minister and his doctrinaire approach to more oil exploration, involving multinational companies, are such that he would rather have nothing at all happening and the Australian consumers paying as a result -and, my word, they will pay when we get into the 1980s. They will be lucky if they have any fuel at aU. It is about time that the last of the C’s in the present Cabinet was removed from office so that we could at least get some decent legislation.
Mr FitzPATRICK (Darling) (8.27)-In dealing with these estimates for the Department of Minerals and Energy I want to point out that I do not feel any necessity to hide behind a smokescreen of imaginary or fabricated loans and personal abuse, as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Leader of the National Country Party (Mr Anthony) found it necessary to do. I believe that the facts and figures will support that the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) and his Department have done a wonderful job for Australia and Australians. I hope that this appropriation is large enough for him to continue the great job he is doing in ensuring that our vast and rich mineral resources are developed, mined and exported for the benefit of Australia and Australians. The Minister deserves to be congratulated. Only this morning he informed this House that our mineral exports are at a record level and now represent 30 per cent of our total exports.
– What does that mean?
-Thirty per cent of the total Australian exports. We are the world’s largest exporter of iron ore, bauxite, lead, mineral sands and many other minerals. I think it is a credit to the Minister that he has been able to make this statement at a time of international trade restrictions. This is a time when most trading countries are finding it very difficult to meet their balance of payments. New Zealand, the very country that the Opposition often cites as an example, in order to retain her position in the trading nations has had to devalue her currency. I believe that our situation reflects great credit on the Minister and his Department.
The Minister has repeatedly drawn the attention of the nation to the need for Australia and Australians to have a greater say and greater control over our vast mineral resources. He has repeatedly drawn the attention of the nation to the rape by the multinational mining companies of these vast rich mineral resources when the Opposition was in Government No-one can deny that the Minister has directed and implemented policies to bring about a balanced evaluation of our mineral and energy resources. He has geared this to both the short term and long term best interests of this nation. Naturally, since he has done this, he has been the target of the Opposition because, as the Fitzgerald report showed, for some strange reason better known to the former Government it spent the taxpayer’s money not on buying equity in our mineral resources but on assisting multinational companies to obtain greater control and a higher level of profit from those mineral resources.
If anyone has any doubt about that I refer him to the July report of NUEXCO. This is the world authority on uranium. It shows that in 1975 the July delivery price per lb was US$24.70, that in 1978 it Will be US$30.20, and that in 1980 it will be US$35.55. The point is that since the beginning of 1975 there Will be a general rise of US$9 to US$10 in these delivery years. This is more than the price at which the Opposition, when in government, contracted to sell our uranium.
Surely members of the Opposition ought to hang their heads in shame. If this is not enough, let us have a look at the coal position. Because of the Minister’s ability to negotiate with the purchasing countries he has now been able to lift the price of coal from $1 1.50 to $37.40.
We hear the cry of the Opposition that the Minister will not clearly state guidelines and stick to them so that overseas companies can play a proper role in the development of our mineral resources. But I believe that the Opposition’s attitude to the Petroleum and Minerals Authority Bill shows how sincere it is on that point. That Bill would have vested in the Authority the same functions and powers in regard to other minerals as it would have in regard to petroleum. From personal experience I can assure this Parliament that this is vitally important. If this BUI had been allowed to pass through the Parliament the Minister would have been able to assist small Aus.tralian mining companies such as Broken Hill South Ltd, which is a living example of discredit to the Opposition when it was in government. It walked away and left millions of dollars in the ground, and that operation is now bringing great profits and great returns to this company. The same position exists at the present time at the copper mine in Cobar. The company operating there is finding it very difficult, but the Minister has not got the authority to assist it. Yet we see in the estimates of receipts for the Department of Minerals and Energy that the Treasury is to get back $46, 180,000.
The Opposition talks about how it wants to assist the mining industry. It keeps saying that the removal of tax concessions is crippling the mining industry. But what are the facts? Who takes more out of the mining industry- Labor or Liberal-Country Party governments? I refer to the facts given to the Government Members Resources Committee during its recent visit to Broken Hill. It was told that in 1973-74 the Broken Hill mining companies paid $3,273,000 to the Federal Government in income tax. In the same year the Liberal-Country Party Government of New South Wales collected from them $9,093,000 in royalties. Who is taking all the money away from the mining companies? In 12 years, mostly under Liberal-Country Party Government, the Broken Hill mining companies paid $82,342,000 to the Federal Government, and in royalties to the New South Wales Government they paid $122,053,000. Who is getting the rip off from the mining companies? What a lot of nonsense is spoken about the tax that the Federal Government levies. The facts are clearly available for everyone to see.
What have the Liberal and Country Parties ever done for the great mining town of Broken Hill, probably the greatest mining town in Australia? What town has produced more wealth for Australia than Broken Hill? The Liberal and Country Parties never spent a shilling there. Broken Hill received no Federal assistance until the present Government came to power. The Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) was the first one to say that the historic town hall had to be preserved, and he gave a grant of many thousands of dollars. Many hundreds of thousands of dollars have been given to this town by the Grants Commission. This is the first time that any money has been put back into Broken Hill. The Opposition talks about what interest it has in mining towns. AU the talk I have heard from the Opposition side has always been about multinational companies or mining companies. I have never heard honourable members opposite talk about miners and the people who work in the mines. They are the people we try to help, the people who get the amenities with which the Minister for Urban and Regional Development tries to assist.
– Now they have lost their jobs.
– They have not lost thenjobs. The mine is Still going. A new lode was found. This is no thanks to what the previous Government put back into the town. It was made possible by assistance from this Government. What assistance did the Liberal-Country Party of New South Wales give when its representatives recently visited Cobar? It said: ‘This is a Federal matter. You Will have to go to the Federal Government’. I have given the facts. I have quoted the amount of money that the State Government rips out of the mining industry. Have honourable members opposite got any more interjections I can answer? I like this type of thing. When the truth is really told, when the people examine the facts and the figures they will know who is helping miners and who is helping mining companies.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-There is one thing that is abundantly clear from all the debates in this place concerning minerals and energy, and that is that the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) is living in the past, pursuing an ideology of the 1 930s that is quite inappropriate to the 1970s and the 1980s. He is living in a time where he believes in economic nationalism which, in the way in which he pursues it, is resources blackmail against the consuming nations of this world. If he only followed what is happening in this world instead of his own little corner of Cunningham he would realise that the world is bigger than his little plot of land. I think he ought to have a talk to the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Collard), who came very close to losing his seat in the last election in May 1974. The honourable member for Darling (Mr FitzPatrick) spoke of the men who work and live on the minefields of Australia. Let the Minister speak to the miners at Kalgoorlie. Let him speak to the miners in the iron ore fields. I remind him that these people elected to the State Parliament of Western Australia Liberal members because they know where prosperity lies. It does not lie with the policies of a Labor Minister of the likes of the Minister for Minerals and Energy.
We have had illustrated to us tonight in what has been said by the Leader of the Opoosition (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Leader of the National Country Party of Australia (Mr Anthony) the double standards which this Minister pursues. Compare what he did to Australian Gas Light Co. with what he did for ACTU-Solo Enterprises Pty Ltd in approving the purchase of a quota of domestic crude oil. All that the Minister can do now is try to shield himself by the royal commission. What I would like to know is whether the Minister would be prepared to have a full scale open ended debate, when the report of the royal commission comes down, on the activities of ACTU-Solo Enterprises Pty Ltd and domestic crude oU quotas. There are some people who are prepared to say that the Minister is a crook. I do not say that. Some people do. But all honourable members may wonder what kind of standards the Minister follows when he approves of the agreement of the ACTU-Solo organisation but disapproves of the agreement that was put forward to him by the Australian Gas Light Co. Ltd. We can look also at the oil price POliCY of the Minister. I can remember that prior to the 1974 election he condemned -
– I take a point of order, Mr Deputy Chairman. I object to remarks made by the honourable member. He was referring to the Minister. I ask him to withdraw his implication.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Armitage)Was the honourable member referring to the Minister when he made that remark?
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- The honourable member said, I think, that some people outside the Parliament would say that someone is a crook. Was he referring to the Minister?
-Some people have said that.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Was the honourable member referring to the Minister?
– Yes. I said that some people have said that.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- I ask the honourable member to withdraw the remark.
– If you consider it appropriate then Ida
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- It is most appropriate. That is a remark that is contrary to all the forms of the Parliament
– But the point -
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- I ask the honourable member to withdraw the remark unreservedly.
– Yes, I have done so- if you consider it appropriate. The whole point -
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! It is not a matter of whether I consider it appropriate; it is a matter of the remark being unparliamentary and I ask the honourable member to withdraw it.
-I withdraw it. What must be questioned by honourable members is whether or not a double standard is applied by the Minister in these kinds of dealings which. come before him. We can look also at the oil pricing policy which the Government has pursued. We can recall prior to 1974 when the Minister denounced anyone who suggested that there might well be the need for an increase in the price of domestic crude oil for various reasons- overseas prices, the need to provide incentives to Aus.tralian explorers- but when the Minister condemns anyone who has called for an increase in the oU price what did we find in 1974? His Government increased the price of oil by $2 a barrel, being the levy placed upon aU crude oil producers. What reliance can be placed on the word of the Minister when, having condemned those who proposed a rise in the price of oU, he then does the very same thing himself?
What reliance can be placed on the policies of the Minister when he levies an export tax like the levy upon the export of coal? What reliance can be placed on the policies of the Minister when, rather than giving to the producers of oil in Australia a fair price for their product, he would prefer to see the consumers of Australia- the motorists of Australia- pay a higher price, because as the years go by they must rely more and more on the import of higher priced oil from the Arab oil producers? The alternative that the Minister is offering to the people of Australia is: Pay to your own producers in Australia or pay to producers overseas. Quite clearly this Minister has chosen to require the people of Australia to pay a higher price to producers overseas for the oil that they need within Australia.
It is not only in that respect but it is the people- particularly the rural people of Aus.tralia who rely on liquefied petroleum gas as fuel. The $2 crude oil levy that has been applied to domestic production applies also to the production of LPG. That immediately increases the price of a basic fuel for so many people in Australia. What reliance can the consumers of basic energy in Australia place upon the policies of this Government, as indicated and as pursued by this Minister? I can also remember the Minister having said some months ago that we were to have a new petrochemical complex at Redcliffs in South Australia. But where is that project now? It is a project which has failed. It has failed because of the policies of this Minister.
– No, that is wrong. It was because of me.
-We have no Redcliffs petrochemical complex and there is no prospect of that complex in sight. We have also heard the Minister tell the people of Australia that they have no need to worry about the availability of petrol because when the supplies of domestic crude oil run out he will provide them with petrol through a coal liquefaction plant. We have not heard anything of that recently, for the obvious reason that it is uneconomic. Any economic analysis on the basis of the price of crude oil produced in Australia will show that production of petrol from the liquefaction of coal is totally uneconomic. The Minister speaks also of the provision of petrol to the people of Australia from condensers, but it is uneconomic.
For a man who sets himself up as a technical genius he has certainly displayed economic ignorance of the grossest kind. The more we look at the policies and activities of the Minister responsible for one of the most vital sections of the Australian economy and the Australian way of life the more we see that his ministry has been a ministry of failure. There can be no alternative to that proposition. It has been a ministry of failure because there have been no results. If we look for results we can see only a nil balance. When we look at the estimates for the Department of Minerals and Energy we can see only that in the Minister there has been no progress in the field of minerals and energy, there has been no major discovery within the last 3 years, there has been no major development within that period.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Armitage)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-In rising to speak on the estimates for the Department of Minerals and Energy I wish to introduce a new area of energy pOliCy which has not yet been touched upon, and that is solar energy. In the next 10 minutes I wish to speak about the need to co-ordinate our energy POliCY and the need for co-operation not only between the private and public sectors in Australia but also between various countries. It is probably not difficult to imagine why we need an extensive solar energy research program. It has been pointed out by many people that in solar energy perhaps lies the answer to an alternative and limitless source of energy and one which has the attraction and the advantage of being pollution-free. Very often all we hear from the proponents of solar energy and energy research are the trendy, illustrative hopes of what may be derived. What we do need, of course, is an essential pOliCY grounded in fact and working towards realisation.
I turn, as an example, to a Press statement that was put out by the Opposition spokesman for science and technology, the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street), only 4 weeks after Darwin suffered so badly as a result of Cyclone Tracy. I read it as an example of the trendiness of the Opposition’s understanding of the role and position of solar energy. The honourable member for Corangamite said:
The climate in Darwin would enable existing technology to make major savings in the use of conventional funds, but there is much more to be done in widening the application of solar energy in Australia beyond purely household uses.
From that statement, it is obvious that the honourable member sees a very limited role for solar energy. Yet, suddenly, without further research or development, the honourable member hopes that solar energy will be used for many, many more purposes.
There is nothing thinner than a policy such as this which emanates not from the shadow Minister for minerals and energy but from one who speaks in respect of science and technology. There is no understanding of the necessity to coordinate and program in a logical fashion the different sources of energy and the different uses of energy. Merely to produce a statement of the trendy, thin nature of the one that I have quoted shows the shallowness of the policy. That policy was expounded under the former Leader of the Opposition, the right honourable member for Bruce (Mr Snedden). I wonder what thin, trendy policy we can expect now under the leadership of the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser).
The honourable member for Stirling (Mr Viner) said that the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor), who is the spokesman for our policy, showed that we lived in the past, that our POliCY was not rooted and established in current progress. The facts do not support his case. The examination of the type of statement that we have heard from the Opposition spokesman on science and technology shows that the converse is true. Our pOliCY on which the Minister bases bis statements and his policies, is set out in our Party platform. It states:
Labor will encourage research and development of energy conversion methods which entail minimum pollution of the environment, such as solar energy and tidal power. The results of such research will be disseminated as widely as possible, particularly to under-developed countries.
That statement of policy, now realised through the Minister for Minerals and Energy, sets out how we should investigate a whole range of nonpolluting sources of energy and how the information about the results of that research should be spread to other countries so that we can share and develop these achievements even further. The POliCY of the Labor Party goes on to provide that the Labor Party would: . . . give particular support to areas in which Australia can make a special contribution . . .
Included in those areas is solar energy. In that POliCY we recognise that we should take an initiative in an area where we can make a specific contribution.
A rational, progressive, research and development policy, I would imagine, would have 3 elements that are essential and imperative. Those elements would be sufficient funding, coordinated research and integrated research. The basis of past complaints from scientists often is that sufficient funds are not provided for solar energy research. All that we have heard from the Opposition is a constant barrage of reasons and excuses why this Government should contract and restrict Government expenditure. Opposition members have not the courage to explain where those cuts should be made. Like little Jacks in the boxes, in every debate that takes place in this Parliament, Opposition members accuse us of cutting back Government expenditure too far. Research on solar energy is a case in point. It should be noted that this Government has not cut back expenditure on research into solar energy but has managed in that rather inventive and constructive debate to maintain the expenditure in real terms on solar energy.
There have been reasons for complaints by scientists in the past of a lack of private enterprise and public enterprise- Government interest- in promoting energy research in such areas as solar energy. For instance, Professor Blevin of Flinders University in Adelaide said that sufficient funds and proper direction were lacking in major solar energy research in Australia. It is not surprising that the Minister for Minerals and Energy has not achieved a great amount. What he has been doing is tying up loose ends so that progress can be made on a solid basis. It is because of the lack of interest and the lack of funding on the part of the previous Government that the honourable member for Stirling can say that the Minister for Minerals and Energy had not made any progress. Obviously we must establish a basis or a stage from which we can catapault into the area of energy research.
Opposition members do not have any understanding of the relationship between different sources of energy or any time scale as to the progress which can be made in research into energy uses. One would think that there was only one source of energy, or perhaps two. First of all their minds are dominated by oil. It is their only real interest because they are backed heavily at the times when they need campaign funds by the oil companies and the multinational companies which spread their oily fingers throughout the world.
Brief mention was made by the honourable member for Stirling of hydrogenation or conversion of coal. There seems to be a rift in the Opposition in the attitude of its members to obtaining oil from coal. The honourable member for Stirling said that it was uneconomic. But if we turn to the numerous speeches made in this chamber by the honourable member for McMillan (Mr Hewson)- I notice that the honourable member is now making a few notes, no doubt with the intention of bringing up the subject- we find that he says that this is feasible. He lives in the coal producing area of Morwell and Yallourn. He has seen this process operate in Germany. He says it is feasible as a source of oil. He has been to Johannesburg and seen the operations there. It will be interesting to hear the honourable member for McMillan refute what the honourable member for Stirling has said. Because of his proximity to, his interest in and his devotion to his coal bearing scene, I would prefer to put a bit more money on the words of the honourable member for McMillan.
What is important is to realise that it is only our immediate needs which will be satisfied from oil production. Most spokesmen on and those people who understand matters relating to energy tell us that our oil reserves, even if we were to devote countless millions of dollars to research and to oil exploration, will run out in 10 years. We need to look forward and to start to do more research and more development work on coal conversion. We must realise as well that solar energy will not be with us for the next decade or 2 decades, except in a purely domestic form. It is only when we realise the co-ordination that is needed between the different forms of energy and when we appreciate the time scale involved in obtaining energy from different sources that we can really have a co-ordinated and effective energy policy and program. I compliment the Minister for Minerals and Energy. The occasion of this debate on the estimates gives me the opportunity to say that this Government does have a rational policy. The Opposition has no more than a trendy, thin, wafer-like statement to contribute.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Armitage)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Mr Deputy Chairman, the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Lamb) in speaking on solar energy dealt with a most interesting topic. By all means let us do as I certainly did when I was Minister and as I know my successors did- let us do everything to discover and assess all the means of power and of energy that we have available in this country. They include, of course, solar energy, hydroelectric power, fossil fuel, oil from coal, nuclear energy, tidal power, the lot. Of course, in the near future we have to rely mainly on the conventional fuels that we have at present- coal, natural gas, hydro-electricity and petroleum. Doubtless these will be followed in the very near future by nuclear power. I understand the United Kingdom is already obtaining something like 17 per cent of its power from nuclear sources.
Let us get back to the present. My friend, the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Viner), said that the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) was living in the 1930s. For once I disagree with the honourable member for Stirling; I think the Minister is living in the 1 850s. I can see in the present situation the era of the Eureka Stockade- the idea that profits are bad and the bigger the profit the worse it is. How on earth does any mine develop? How does one drill for oil and spend the enormous amounts of money that are necessary to look for these things unless one occasionally has a chance of making a profit? Who sheds a tear here for the companies that have invested millions of dollars in Australia and discovered nothing? I am informed that about 20 overseas companies have invested something like $233m in Australia and that not one of those 20 companies has one producing mine. Of course we hear of the Utah Development Corporation because it makes a profit- and profits are bad.
This Government has been a disaster. I think that is agreed to by virtually everyone. The polls show that the support for the Labor Party is probably the lowest it has been since Federation. Of course the greatest disaster area in this disaster Government is in the field of minerals and energy. We handed over a prosperous and expanding mining industry in the 1960s and the early 1970s. We were responsible for some 34 major projects throughout Australia at a cost of something like $6,000m. This was the greatest period of expansion of our mining industry. As many as 22 new mining towns were developed. But what has happened to this vast head of expansionary steam? It has been sat upon and stifled by our present Minister, Mr Connor. Let us look at some of his ‘achievements’ because when I look at major new mining projects I discover that not one major mining project has been committed since November 1972. The largest, and possibly the only, project is a new mine at Duchess in Queensland at a cost of about $40m. We all know that our Liberal-Country Party Government discovered this deposit. In fact I was the Minister for National Development at the time it was discovered. It is an extremely interesting story which unfortunately I have not got time to tell at present.
As I say, there has not been one new major project in the term of this Government. But consider the list of major projects that have been deferred or cancelled since December 1972. In the uranium field alone a total of at least 5 projects were deferred or cancelled in that period. At least four of these projects are commercial but the companies are forbidden to negotiate export contracts. What on earth for? One of my friends said today that this is an indication of the squirrel mentality, and it is. We have at least 200 000 tons of uranium known in Australia. Our requirements are presently estimated to be 33 000 tons up to the end of this century. So we have this vast amount of uranium which could be sold for the use of the world and for the profit to . Australia. Yet is is just kept in the ground because of this squirrel mentality. So one can go through the different projects, for coal, bauxite and all the other products that we have heard about tonight, that have been cancelled, delayed or abandoned. I mention Redcliffs and the Agnew nickel project. We have just heard that there is a possibility that the Robe River pellet project will go ahead. If it does it will be the first major project in 3 years under this Government. Of course much of the spade work was done when we were in government. The Gladstone aluminium smelter was abandoned and taken to the Philippines. I mention also Blair Athol coal and the Jumbo steel works.
Look at them all- not one new major contract has been written in either iron ore or uranium. The Italians wanted a 10 per cent interest in one of our uranium fields. This would have been ideal because it would have tied them to us as buyers. But no, the present Government would not allow them to do this. In iron ore we have not written new contracts, although we have expanded on the existing contracts. There is one letter of interest- that is all one can call it- in the last 3 years, but that is all that has happened under this Government.
The situation is even more disastrous when one considers the search for oil and natural gas. These products are among the most urgently needed in Australia to ensure self-sufficiency. As a result of the work that was done by this Government to find oil we are today saving foreign exchange to the extent of $ 1,300m per annum. But all that has been completely wound down and abandoned. Look at the figures. In 1969 322 wells were drilled, either for exploration or development of oil and natural gas. In the first half of this year 16 wells were drilled and the Government thinks there will be 3 1 wells for the full year. That is shocking. Even the last of our seismic vessels has gone overseas because there is no work for it here. I think we have 3 rigs, which is an improvement; at one stage we had only one rig on shore that was active. I believe that we now have three, although there is some doubt about this. I think one of them may be in New Zealand. But we have a total of 14 rigs idle.
Yet we are told- where the Minister gets this information from I am at a complete loss to understand- that we have not got any oil, that it is no good looking for it in Australia because there is not any on-shore and there is not any on the north-west shelf and you have to go right out deep into the ocean to find it. But we have only just scratched the surface. Look at the United States which is of a similar size and of similar geology. It has an enormous amount of drilling going on every day and is discovering new wells, both for oil and natural gas, on shore. We know that we have at least 4 wells today which are not commercial propositions at the present price but which would be commercial at lower prices than this country is paying to import oil from the Arabs. What a ludicrous situation. We will pay the Arabs money that we will not pay the Australians. We could save on exchange and also produce a good deal more employmentgoodness knows we need it at the present moment.
What an absolute tragedy this Minister has been. As a result of his being Minister we find the Melbourne Stock Exchange index of all oil and gas stocks has gone down 50 per cent and the Stock Exchange index of all mining stocks has gone down 40 per cent. The extraordinary thing is that he says he is doing this to make our resources available to Australians. But if we look at the latest figures available, and unfortunately they are not nearly as recent as I should like, we see that there is no doubt whatsoever that whilst overseas direct investment in Australian mining industry was going down- it dropped from 44 per cent to 37 per cent, in other words it dropped 7 per cent between 1968 and 1972- it has gone up since. Yet here is the Minister saying that he is buying back the farm.
We are lucky that the situation is coming to an end. The Whitlam Government is running out and so is the Minister. I understand that the Minister was born in January 1 907, which makes him almost 69 years old. I understand also that the Australian Labor Party in New South Wales does not accept nominations from someone who is 67 years old. AU I can say is: Thank God that will be the end of this Minister. Six nuclear bombs dropped on the mining industry of Australia could not have done as much damage as this Minister has done.
-There is no question that this Government’s minerals and energy policy has been an area of great contention. It has been a controversial subject since this Government came to power. I do not think that anybody should deny that. I would not deny that and I am sure the Minister would not deny that. The reason for this is that important issues are at stake when one is trying to resolve the important questions that surround this field. For his part, the Minister has been the prime mover in turning round the POliCy which existed for far too long in Australia. The Minister has shown some novel concerns for the exploitation of minerals and energy. He has shown a concern for local ownership. He has shown a concern for the satisfaction of local needs.
– Why has overseas ownership gone up?
– We hear a voice from the past from an honourable member who is about to retire from this Parliament, and a good job too. The Minister is concerned about the satisfaction of local needs. He is concerned about the rational use of our resources, especially some of the most valuable resources in the world todaythe energy resources. He is also concerned to protect Australia from the exploitation of foreign powers. That, in the field of energy resources exploitation, is extremely important as it probably holds the key to the progress of the world. The Minister also shows a concern, which is unique in this hurley burley of mining and so on, for the interests of Aboriginal land rights. He shows concern also for the environment. It is because he shows these new concerns in an atmosphere in which people were unused to having concerns for these matters that he has run into so much opposition. He also ran into opposition because he put his finger on the jackpot, on the area of wealth in Australia which was being mindlessly exploited largely by interests foreign to this country. That is why there is so much squealing- because he has really identified an area of importance to Australia and he has decided to do something about it in Australia ‘s interests.
For its part the Opposition stands for the untrammelled interests of private operators, and largely foreign private operators, which are against the interests of Australia and Australians The odd thing is that the Opposition falls happily into liaison with the Liberal State governments of Australia. They stand cheek together by jowlthe Liberal State governments and the Liberal Opposition in this Parliament- to protect the interests of foreign powers, of foreign corporations and to limit the interests of Australians and Australia. That is the real kernel of the battle that has been going on in the High Court of Australia; that is, the States have been standing up not for the interests of Australia or of the people of their States but for the interests of those people who currently hold the wealth in minerals and energy resources and they clearly are not the Australian people.
Nothing demonstrates this more clearly than the attitudes of the Opposition and the State governments to the policy on the export of natural gas from the North-West Shelf. Several spokesmen from the Opposition and from the Liberal State governments have been advocating, in line with the Woodside-Burmah consortium, the export of natural gas. On 7 February this year the Leader of the National Country Party of Australia Mr Anthony, speaking as the Opposition spokesman in this area said: … I believe there should be controlled export of natural gas at least in the initial stages.
On 19 June this year the honourable member for Stirling, Mr Viner, was reported in the WestAustralian as saying:
There is enough now for the Pilbara, Penh and export.
Of course Woodside-Burmah is interested in export because the prices which prevail on the world market are higher than the prices which it would receive for the natural gas in Australia That is because the Minister is concerned to see that the people of Australia are not exploited in terms of the development of the resources which they fundamentally own.
The Opposition and the Liberal State governments are ganging up together with WoodsideBurmah against the interests of Australia. The High Court challenge is essentially preventing the Australian Government from getting on with the job. This frustration has been brought about by the tactics of the States, particularly led and cajoled by the Liberal States. It is not only that the States have been prepared to go to the High Court and delay the development of the Northwest Shelf. The Western Australian Government has also been prepared to abrogate the law and its responsibilities in other ways. The Liberal State Government in Western Australia has been prepared to tear up the 1967 Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act. It has been prepared to reissue licences to the Woodside-Burmah consortium and to other interests in Western Australia operating off the North- West Shelf despite the fact that that Act requires that there should be co-operation and consultation between the State and Federal governments. The Western Aus.tralian Government has illegally, and immorally in my view, recently extended licences for a period of up to 5 years.
That is not the only way in which it is prepared to tear up agreements and Acts of Parliament On 19 June the Premier of Western Australia was reported to have said that he would unilaterally go ahead with the operations on the North- West Shelf and that he would negotiate directly with the Woodside-Burmah consortium to get the project moving. So off he flew to London to talk to the principals of that consortium. He quickly came home with his tail between his legs because he found when he got there that the Woodside-Burmah people were realists. He discovered that the Woodside- Burmah consortium was ready to go ahead with the Australian Government and was quite happy to co-operate with the Australian Government. He realised that the Woodside-Burmah consortium recognised the reality that the Australian Government would be awarded the case in the High Court and would be granted sovereignty over the submerged lands. The consortium also realised that it was in the interests of the Burmah oil company, which has interests in more than one State, to deal with one national government and not a hotchpotch of various State governments. The Premier came sulking back into Western Australia and completely changed his tune. Instead of bravely going it alone he said in a whimper that he hoped the Australian Government would come to the Party and would cooperate with the Woodside-Burmah consortium. That is exactly what the Minister has been doing and what he wanted to do. That is what the Minister was frustrated in bringing about because of the actions of the Opposition and of the Liberal State governments.
The Western Australian Government is not prepared just to tear up existing laws; it is prepared to re-write laws in a way which completely prevents the rational and sensible exploitation of our mineral resources. In the proposed Mining Act, which is now before the Western Australian Parliament, is a provision which will allow the Western Australian Government to revoke the licences of licence holders who enter into agreements with foreign corporations or foreign governments and allow those foreign corporations or governments to take up more than 15 per cent of the voting capital of the company holding the licence. What is the reason behind all this? In some circumstances one would think such a provision unexceptional. But the proposed Act goes further and says, in section 119, that the Australian Government is a foreign power. So the real reason behind this provision in the Bill is to prevent companies and corporations from entering into any arrangement with the Australian Government for fear that they might have their licences revoked. This is a simple extension of the threats which the Premier made to private companies on 18 November 1974 when he said that if any company co-operated with or sought the assistance of the Australian Government it would put in jeopardy the continuation of its licence.
If one wants an example of the way in which a stupid government can frustrate development one has only to look at the example of Endeavour Oil NL which in the light of this hokey pokey and dithering around and threat and counter threat by the State Government abandoned its project. This is the great record of the Western Australian State Government which is supposed to stand up for the interests of development. But in fact it works against the interests of Australians
-Order! The honourable gentleman’s time has expired.
- Mr Chairman, as you have been here for some years now you will know that it is not often that I rise to speak on this subject. The recent Budget carried a provision whereby the price of oil was to be increased by approximately $2 a barrel. This has meant to the Australian motorist or oU consumer an increase of approximately 7c a gallon in the price of petrol. One of the great problems as I see it is that the Government is being shortsighted in its increase in that it is motivated simply by the desire to raise revenue. As I said, I am not one who speaks frequently on this subject. A recent visit overseas during the latter part of July and early August brought home to me the message that Australians at present are very lucky. In Europe and the United Kingdom people pay anything between $A1.30 to $A1.50 for one gallon of petrol and yet here in Australia despite the fact that the Governmentwhether the previous Government or this Government- has desired to take a bigger slice, a bigger percentage, the price per gallon is almost half that paid in European countries.
During my trip I visited Stavanger on the western coast of Norway. Stavanger, like Aberdeen in Scotland, is a centre where large off-shore oU drills and rigs are constructed and towed out into the North Sea. During my visit I went to both places. I stayed 5 days in Stavanger and I talked with many people in the industry. In fact I was taken out onto one of the rigs which was in the course of being constructed. I learned that Australia is being held in ridicule in the minds of the people deeply involved in the exploration of oU throughout the world. I can understand the aspirations and hopes of the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) in his desire to buy back the farm and to get complete control by Australians of fuels and minerals existing either on-shore or off-shore. I believe that the Minister has been totally unrealistic in his approach. The somewhat abusive performances in which he has indulged in this Parliament in more recent times are an indication that he is realising that he has been boxed into a corner. We simply cannot do this alone. If we believe that we can we will find that in Australia the price of fuel will increase to such an extent that it will exceed even the price that people in some parts of Europe have to pay.
The Government’s attitude in taking away tax concessions from people who ploughed in money and risked it in oU and mineral exploration was one of the earliest signs that the Australian Government, which was elected in 1972, did not have its feet on the ground. In 1969, only 6 years ago, some 323 wildcat and development wells were drilled in Australia. The Government has turned off the tap of incentive and encouragement so that in this calendar year less than 50 wells will be drilled. In the year just past we paid $720m to exporters of petroleum fuels. If we do not get off our seats and get going in a few short years the figure will be up to more than $2,000m. In drilling for oil in Australia we have had a success rate of approximately one in 35 drillings. In gas we have had a success rate of one in approximately 2Vi drillings. The world rate for gas is one in 24 drillings. Therefore we do better than the world average in the exploration for gas. In oU the world rate is one in 7.6 drillings. So in oU discovery we are 5 times unluckier than the world average. Despite these handicaps the Minister for Minerals and Energy feels that we can pursue a pOliCY of total independence and to hell with the rest of the world.
In some 70 years we have managed to drill just over 1,100 holes in the ground in the search for gas and oU. As I said at the outset, I do not claim to be a specialist in this field. The cost involved in every metre drilled is so high that we are very dependent on expertise and capital from overseas. I would like to leave an example with Government members. I refer to something which I saw with my own eyes. Norway, a socialist country whose government likes to be in on the act, insists on having a 50 per cent share of control of what is being done off that country’s shore and, with aU the hope in the world, still has great difficulty scraping up its 50 per cent to contribute towards either the exploration for or the extraction of the oil which has been discovered. There is a message there. As proud as we might be and as independent as we might feel that we wish to be, there is simply no going it alone. If a well is discovered on-shore tomorrow it takes at least 4 years to reach production. If it is discovered offshore it takes 5 years to reach production.
One of the regrettable features is that if there had to be an increase in the price for each barrel of petrol in this country, surely the money obtained would have been better directed to the explorers and producers to give them an incentive to get on with the search for fuel in Australia on-shore and off-shore. We have aU been told, even by the previous speaker from the Government side, the honourable member for Tangney (Mr Dawkins), that our resources Will run out in about 10 years time if we do not start to find something for ourselves. People point to the use of coal in the future. Surely the use of fossils is simply a temporary measure and the real job for Australia is to get on with exploration. To ensure that this is done people need incentive, and it is certainly not being given today.
Motion (by Mr Nicholls) agreed to:
That the question be now put. Proposed expenditure agreed to. Progress reported.
-I bring up the 9th report from the Publications Committee sitting in conference with the Publications Committee of the Senate. Copies of the report have been circulated to honourable members in the chamber.
Report- by leave- agreed to.
Debate resumed from 5 June on motion by Dr Patterson:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-Mr Speaker, may I have the indulgence of the House to raise a point of procedure on this legislation. Before the debate is resumed on this Bill, the Apple and Pear Levy Bill, I would like to suggest that it may suit the convenience of the House to have a general debate covering this Bm the Apple and Pear Levy Collection Bill and the Australian Apple and Pear Corporation Bill as they are related matters. Of course, separate questions Will be put on each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate. I suggest therefore that you permit the subject matter of the 3 Bills to be discussed in this debate.
-Is it the wish of the House to follow this course? There being no objection, it is so ordered.
– There are a range of matters I wish to cover in this second reading debate with respect to apples and pears. It is a subject which to many would seem to be more pertinent to the kitchen table and to be accepted without really knowing just where the fruit comes from. In some quarters it is thought that money grows on trees. Sometimes it has perhaps been true of the fruit industry. If it were true, it is no longer. These 3 Bins cover the actual implementation of the levy proposals which will enable the recently established Australian Apple and Pear Corporation to have some sinew. The Apple and Pear Corporation and the levy are only part of an overall Aus.tralian effort to try to help fruit producers in what is an extraordinary difficult period. I think that it is worth mentioning that the Bureau of Agriculture Economics has recently assessed the average income of a number of producers in different States. In Tasmania, the incomes are assessed as low as $800 per annum, in Queensland at $2,000 per annum, and in some other States they rise to $7,000 to $8,000 per annum. The point I wanted to make at the beginning in relation to the levy is that it concerns me that we are discussing this legislation before there are any apple and pear stabilisation proposals before the Parliament Producers of apples and pears are suffering firstly from the escalation of costs which is particularly pertinent to all people, but more so to those in agriculture. Secondly, they are suffering because, in the ambit of the producing circumstances of different States, some are particularly disadvantaged. Thirdly, they are suffering because in the changing market circumstances there is no longer a market- certainly not a viable market- for those fruits which many growers produced.
It might be thought that immediately I point the finger at the Government and say that it is all the Government’s fault. For once it is not all the Government’s fault, but there are significant areas in which the Government has been deficient. I wish to refer to them. Equally, I think that we need to recognise that there are other areas in which, although it is not the Government’s fault, there are things which the Government should do and is not doing. First, let me talk about apple and pear stabilisation. As in so many other areas, there is a reference before the Industries Assistance Commission dealing with this area. But this Government is not taking decisions in areas where it is difficult. This Government, in referring matters to the IAC, receives reports from the Commission and sits on the reports that are difficult, particularly if the report embodies recommendations pertaining to the rural sector. Those who are particularly concerned are denied help. It worries me that we still have to await the report of the IAC on apple and pear stabilisation. As a result, tonight we are talking about levying an additional charge for a forward period on an industry which still awaits the recommendation of the IAC on the sort of stabilisation proposals that will pertain during a significant part of the period during which that levy will apply.
The first of my concerns affecting the Government is that the Government cannot sit back and expect the industry to be levied, particularly in circumstances in which it is grievously affected economically and expect the Apple and Pear Corporation to be adequately financed if it does not know what sort of future it is to be offered. In my view, there is an urgency for the IAC report to be completed and for a decision to be reached on it. It is a pity that that point could not have been reached before this legislation was introduced.
The second point I want to make is that I am most concerned that this legislation fails to consider some of the very extraordinarily difficult circumstances that affect, for example, producers in Tasmania. I mentioned in opening my remarks the projected economic receipts for apple growers in what was once known as the Apple Isle. Tasmania is going through an extraordinarily difficult time. For that most of the blame lies on the failure of those who are, or were, its parliamentary representatives. Thank God the election in the electorate of Bass has brought recent changes. Equally, the blame for the failure lies in the fact that there have been marketing difficulties. Competition between the agents who were acting on behalf of the growers was such that the growers found themselves and their returns significantly disadvantaged in comparison with their New Zealand competitors. There were, including my time as Minister for Primary Industry, some significant changes that helped reduce that difference.
But secondly and significantly they have been affected by freight increases. Today the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) gave us some indication that we are likely to have little alleviation of the escalation of freight charges while he and his colleagues remain in Government. Freight charges seriously prejudice the survival of the apple industry in Tasmania. The projected net farm incomes of $800 for apple growers in that State are as much the product of high freight charges and serious disadvantages for the Tasmanian fruit growers as they are of any other factor.
– Where are the Tasmanian members?
-Typically, they are not in the House. I do not really think that the Labor representatives from Tasmania have very much concern about the matter. Indeed, they will not have the responsibility for long. So perhaps their lack of concern is understandable. The second point I wanted to make is that the apple industry in Tasmania is in a very critical position. My colleague, the honourable member for Bass (Mr Newman) rightly shows the concern that he has, in the very short time that he has sat as a member of this House, by being present in the House during this debate. There are problems for growers in the Huon Valley, for example. I mentioned earlier today in another context that part of my concern is that there is no money available for dairy reconstruction. It has been mentioned to me that one of the possible alternatives for the apple growers and growers of other fruits in the Huon Valley is dairy production. I am disappointed that there are not adequate funds for dairy reconstruction. I am disappointed that in producing the Apple and Pear Levy Bill we impose a charge upon growers without alternatives for those who will find it almost impossible to pay the charge being presented to us. But it will be said by the Minister- indeed, it is contained in his second reading speech- that the Government has provision for exemptions. I want to talk about this remission of liability to pay levy provision which is contained in clause 6 of the Collection BUI. But I do want to say on that second major point made in the second reading debate that I am particularly concerned about the position of Huon apple growers.
The third point is that growers from the Huon valley are not the only growers concerned. Problems are being faced by growers in my own area as well as in the granite belt in southern Queensland and in the area represented by the honourable member for Hume (Mr Lusher) who has often told me of the problems down around Tumut. They are also being experienced in areas of Western Australia where the granny smith growers are concerned and even in the Goulburn Valley where production is high but costs are causing very real problems to some of the canneries and to some of those others who are, in volume, high producers but are finding the costs are making life difficult. It worries me that this legislation has been introduced as an allembracing legislation supposedly covering in one form aU States and all conditions.
I want to highlight our particular concern in the Bill. We are concerned that there should be a levy. Bearing in mind that the 2 Bills have the support of the Australian Apple and Pear Growers Association we felt that it was not appropriate for us to move an amendment. I have several messages from the Association which are in response to concern that has emerged from Queensland growers in particular at what they see as the disadvantageous position in which they will be placed because of the application of the levy. But bearing in mind the support of the Association we do not propose to move an amendment to the Bill.
However, I do have some serious reservations which I want to express to the House and some undertakings which I subsequently want to give. The purpose of the levy Bill is to raise funds to finance the activities of the Australian Apple and Pear Corporation. These funds are to be raised by way of levy from the apple and pear growers. The levy is to be paid on a weighted formula taking into account the number of bearing fruit trees on a farm on a per hectare basis. The formula set for the levy favours orchards densely planted. The sparsely planted orchard attracts a greater commitment to pay levy. Thus we could have the paradoxial situation of 2 orchards equal in area side by side and the sparsely planted orchard attracting more by way of levy even though the sparsely planted orchard may produce a fraction of the apples and pears of the densely planted orchard. So orchards lying side by side appear under the circumstances of this legislation as though they might be seriously disadvantaged simply by the application of the levy.
– What would the honourable gentleman do?
-I will explain what I would do. I am glad that the Minister for Northern Australia (Dr Patterson) has raised this point. I think it is very important that we examine the circumstances in which the levy will be applied. I am disappointed that it has not been possible to devise a formula on a production basis as was originally proposed. I believe that now there is a remission proposal and I want to talk about that in a moment. I believe that this matter needs to be looked at again to ensure that the disadvantages that appear as a result of the formula that is now to be applied do not further disadvantage particular growers.
A disproportionate tax rate cannot be struck on production because of the Privy Council’s ruling, I am told, in the McMahon case of 1949. Naturally enough the producers in Queensland feel aggrieved as indeed do some producers in New South Wales who it seems Will have to bear disproportionately heavy levy costs. The Queensland apple producer has to pay 280 per cent more levy per bushel than his Tasmanian counterpart. The Queensland pear producer has to pay 340 per cent more levy per bushel than his Victorian counterpart. No wonder the Queensland producer feels aggrieved.
It is true that the Bills have an escape clausethe remission clause of which I spoke. But it is important to consider that the levy is an added tax on producers and it seems that the remission may come only after the levy itself has been paid. I think it is valid to ask: Can the producers afford the levy at all? I submit that the application of the levy will force many apple producers out of production. Unfortunately, in circumstances where the tree pull scheme is withering I doubt whether those apple producers are going to be able adequately to get out of the industry without creating problems of disease because of orchards whichs are left or problems which arise because there is no way that they can leave their farms to go into some alternative occupation.
In 1972-73, as I mentioned earlier, it was estimated that the net farm income of the Tasmanian Huon Valley was $850. Although the tree pull scheme has eliminated to some extent some of the more depressed Huon Valley growers, as it has in other areas of Australia, unfortunately a low net farm income seems to be endemic throughout the fruit producers in Australia. It is one of the most disadvantaged industries of aU. A fair way in my view to collect the tax would be for the levy to be set on the amount of apples and pears sold off the farm. We are not for one moment suggesting that just a production levy would be an alternative. I believe that if it were to be set at all it would have to be on a production-sales basis. I see no reason why one cannot rely on an assessment in the same way as one relies on assessments in many other areas. After aU, there are ways by which, without significant police administrative inter.ventionary processes the Government can check the honesty and the integrity of the returns that are submitted. However, the inspectorial requirements to collect such a tax if the tax were to be in that form could be excessive.
The amount of fruit sold off the farm rather than through formal market channels does vary significantly from one fruit producing area to another. I am told that 70 per cent and more of the fruit grown in Kentucky, which is in my electorate of New England and which is a very significant fruit producing area, is sold from roadside stalls and direct to the shops and wholesale markets. But let us look back to the formula on which the tax would be based. The point that I made about sparsely planted orchards being discriminated against is a valid argument. The apple orchardists in Queensland and New South
Wales have much more sparsely planted orchards than orchards in some of the other States, particularly in Victoria. Yet I would suggest that irrespective of the degree of the density of trees per hectare there are other criteria of the efficiency and profitability of the orchard. Much depends on soil type, climate and area of production. I think it needs to be recognised that we do need diversity in the formulation of agricultural policy; that there is a multiplicity of alternate domestic and foreign markets which Aus.tralian producers serve. We do not seek universal or even identical forms of production as we move from State to State.
The Department of Agriculture calculations made and given to the Australian Apple and Pear Growers Association this week show that the Queensland producers will indeed be the most heavily hit by the application of the levy as it is now submitted. I seek leave to incorporate 2 tables in Hansard. These tables are taken from a submission that has been given to me by the Aus.tralian Apple and Pear Growers Association dated 2 September 1975.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
– These tables demonstrate the average area of bearing apples and pears and the maximum levy liabiliTy at $30 per hectare. The second table shows apples and pears produced and sold in varying hectares in bushels and the rate per bushel at a levy of $30 per hectare. If one looks at the table one sees in assessing the average area of bearing apple and pear trees in Queensland at 14.4 to the hectare and the maximum levy liability of $30 per hectare, taking into account the present proposals for remission, it is likely that in Queensland the charge per hectare can be up to $432; while in South Australia assessing production from an average of 7.5 hectares of bearing apple and pear trees, the levy will be only $224. Similarly, if we look at the rate of levy we find it Will be at a rate of 6.8c for pears and 6.5c for apples in Queensland ranging down to 2.3c for apples in Tasmania and 2.6c for pears in South Australia
The point I seek to make from reference to those tables is that there are very marked discrepancies State by State. In the application of the levy there is a constitutional responsibility on which Queensland producers have a legal opinion which suggests that the whole form of this levy might be as a result invalid. There is a constitutional responsibility that there should be an equality of levy liability. The taxation between areas and individuals in an area should not place a different incidence on one State or one producer to another. Yet it would seem that that Will be the product of this legislation. These tables show that Queensland producers of apples and pears can expect to pay on a per bushel basis significantly more than producers in other States. This assertion is borne out to some extent by the Henderson Committee of Inquiry into rural poverty which flagged the fresh fruit industry as having serious social and economic poverty problems. That is not to say that all apple and pear producers are poor, but certainly within the industry there is a substantial poverty problem and the impact of this levy could accentuate this problem.
Production and marketing costs and inflation within the industry are eroding the ability of producers to capitalise on their market opportunities. This is compounded in States such as Tasmania where varietal problems have meant that old and traditional markets, together with the application of the common agricultural pOliCy of the European Economic Community and competition from South Africa and other competitors, have made sales far more difficult. The scheme of remissions under clause 6 of the Apple and Pear Levy Collection Bm seem to provide an answer, but I raise the matter of the liability because it seems to me important that the remissions if they are to be applied, are not applied in such a way that there is a continuity of difference and distinction between the States. There is a suggestion that in order to reduce the liability of Queensland producers, the liability of producers throughout Australia should be reduced under a set formula. I hope that the Government will give an assurance that such a remission will be provided so that discrimination against certain producers, particularly those in the granite belt, might be eliminated.
However, it must not be overlooked in the application of the levy and in the policy of the Corporation that in Queensland there is a Committee of Direction of Fruit Marketing to which there is also a levy payable by producers in that State. I think that where there is a body such as the COD, it is necessary for this Government to try to help the Corporation, for all its independent statutory responsibilities, to ensure that there is no overlapping in the task that each is undertaking and to ensure that through direct representation of the Queensland producers on the Corporation there may be an ability to overlap the two, in other words to integrate rather than to provide a duplication of functions. I am sure that in some of the functions of the COD there is room for quite a significant integration. If there is no integration Queensland producers will have to pay two levies for much the same result. The Corporation might well agree to finance some of the activities of the COD in relation to marketing and promotion. It might decide as a result that the COD could pass to the Corporation some of those functions which it now finds necessary to pursue.
The assessment of a levy per farm will require a financial commitment which might detract from the overall attractiveness of the establishment of the Corporation. If this happens and the Corporation fails, the marketing efforts, critical though they are at the moment, are likely to be further aggravated. There are very real problems in the application of the levy because of the difficulties of fallen fruit, hail-struck fruit, weather-damaged fruit and so on. When the sales tax exemption existed for soft drink manufacturers there was an opportunity for this hail damaged fruit to be otherwise used. Unfortunately, one of the Government’s decisions, as a product of the Coombs report, in the 1973-74 Budget was to significantly terminate the alternate market available for this type of fruit. Although assistance has been offered in some ways, such as through the tree-pull scheme, this assistance has not provided a reasonable alternative to the market that existed through the application of that sales tax concession.
So now we have a combination of problems, problems that first of all pertain to the difficulties that the application of the levy imposes in itself and, secondly, problems which severely distinguish producers in one State from producers in others. In Opposition we have seriously considered moving an amendment which would require a change in the levy collection formula to a system which related to a production sales basis. We felt that to do so in Opposition was not a practical alternative. I therefore ask the Minister seriously to consider disabilities as they occur amongst producers in several States, to examine the degree to which the clause 6 remission of liability to pay the levy can be provided, and to ensure that if there are gross inequities they be examined not in some areas but as the scheme itself is applied. I formally give an undertaking to the House that in Government the Opposition Parties will do just that, for we recognise the problems that the officers within the Australian Department of Agriculture have had in trying to devise a formula which is practical and equitable.
Equally it should be said that in this area as in so many others the Government seems to have come to the industry and said: ‘We are not prepared to provide significant assistance’. The industry, as with most primary producing industries, has been prepared to bear to the maximum its responsibilities for undertaking the overall task of marketing its product. However, the Government fails to recognise the serious position in which many producers find themselves and fails to recognise that, given the swings of the pendulum, of seasons and markets to which I referred earlier today, it has a responsibility not just to wash its hands of the industry but to provide a fundamental undertaking to assist when those disabilities occur. I am apprehensive that in the application of this levy, the levy is being set not because the Corporation has said: ‘We feel we are financially viable, sound and are confident in our future ‘, but because the Corporation has been told by the Government: ‘Unless you are prepared to provide the money you will not have any sinew with which to operate’. I am disappointed that that attitude should be taken by the Government because I see this industry as one which has not only an economic but also a social importance.
As I explained before, these 3 Bills would have been better presented to the Parliament after the Industries Assistance Commission’s report on the continuation of the apple and pear stabilisation scheme has been submitted, considered and implemented. I believe that at that stage it might have been practical for producers to undertake to make this sort of contribution, but at the moment the very critical economic plight that many find themselves in places even the further responsibility which the levy represents almost beyond their capacity. I think it is a great pity that the Government was not prepared in those circumstances to come along and say: ‘Until we can give you an undertaking for the future ‘-it is not prepared to give it now-‘ we will ensure that you have funds with which to operate until such stage as there is a guarantee of the sort of minimal stabilisation which we are prepared to finance’. I do not know the degree to which funds will be provided to this Corporation from the rural credit section of the Reserve Bank. However, it would seem to me that in marketing, now that the Corporation has been created, this is one way by which significant moneys can be made available to producers to keep them functioning.
The Apple and Pear Levy Bill, of course, does not cover all the marketing difficulties; it essentially relates to finance which is why I speak of rural credits. But let me assure the House that in the application of the levy, and in consideration of State variances to which mention has been made, there needs to be an acknowledgement of the quite extraordinary difficulties which, for example, the granny smith growers in Western Australia have and the problems they have had in trying to enter the Japanese market, problems which to date remain unresolved, I understand. It is not just a matter of the Japanese saying they are apprehensive of fruit fly for it seems to me that that is essentially a political argument. It is in that area that we then turn to the overseas marketing effort and the overseas negotiating effort of Ministers and the Government generally. I believe that there are very critical marketing problems State by State, area by area. Although the Opposition is not going to oppose the levy, we seriously ask the Government to examine its application and its impact. We ask it to introduce at the earliest possible moment a forward apple and pear stabilisation scheme. Without that the producers themselves Will be unable to provide the levy and the levy BUI itself will be inoperative. I ask finally that it consider sympathetically the use of clause 6, the remission clause. If the gross iniquities that the Queensland producers in particular claim will result from the legislation do in fact result, I hope that the remission clause is used to resolve them.
-I believe that the Opposition case has been so very well canvassed by the honourable member for New England, Deputy Leader of the National Country Party (Mr Sinclair), tonight that it does not leave a great deal to be said. I endorse his remarks and wish to add something about the Western Australian scene. There is no doubt that it has been extraordinarily difficult for the Government to come up with a levy scheme to finance the Apple and Pear Corporation that is equitable between the States, considering the problems of Queensland and the problems of Tasmania. There is no doubt in my mind that if a levy could have been raised on production it would have been the fair way. The difficulties of such a system have been ably pointed out by the honourable member for New England. He referred to the tremendous amount of fruit that is sold by the side of the road and the difficulties of trying to account for the production. It is not very difficult to try to account for the acreage that is used.
To my mind this is a very trying time. I find that every time I am speaking in this House I am saying what a very trying time it is for one industry or another connected with the rural scene, but there is no doubt that it is a very difficult time for the fruit industry, particularly the apple industry of Australia. We have lost some of our traditional markets and Western Australia is trying to get into the Japanese market. There are problems with freight but the main problems are connected with getting into overseas markets or maintaining overseas markets. These problems today are almost insurmountable.
I endorse the comments of the honourable member for New England about the levy. I am concerned about the way it is going to work. I ask the Government to keep an eye on it and not to let it go on if gross iniquities develop or even if they exist from the start. I believe the Apple and Pear Corporation is an organisation that is more than necessary within Australia today. I think that in Western Australia there is a general acceptance that we need such an organisation to handle all the marketing and do the things which it has been set up to do. If I may mention my own State, there is in Western Australia a divided view about the Corporation. I flag a warning to the Corporation and also to the Government that the growers in Western Australia Will be particularly interested to see that the Corporation performs as intended and that the levies raised and the moneys spent in the manner they are going to be spent are of benefit to the whole Australian industry and the growers in Western Australia
Western Australia is a very significant apple producer. Many times it gets overlooked in the general context of things because Tasmania has always been known as the Apple Isle. In 1971 Western Australia exported 1 876 000 bushels of apples as against total Australian exports of 7 881 000 bushels. At that time Tasmania exported 4 775 000 bushels. In 1975 there has been a significant drop in the overall figure. The figure for total exports in 1975 is 4 600 000 bushels. Western Australia had a far bigger percentage than it had in 1971. It exported 1 300 000 bushels. At the same time Tasmania’s exports dropped to 2 800 000 bushels from 4 775 000 bushels. So Western Australia besides being a significant producer of export fruit, has maintained its export production far better than any other State and far better than the Commonwealth as a whole.
Because it is the way of Western Australians Western Australian producers have been extremely generous to the rest of the Commonwealth. They do not mind entering into a corporation that is going to benefit the whole of the Commonwealth. If the State had a very good growers’ organisation and it decided to do so, it could handle its own exports and not be part of the whole Australian scene. Western Australia is much closer to traditional markets. It would not be in the position of having to subsidise to a degree the exports of the eastern States. It is so much closer to Singapore and the other markets that are opening up in the Middle East. If we crack the Japanese market, once again Western Australia is so much closer to that market. Western Australians have an extraordinary generosity. We endeavour in the wheat scene and in the minerals scene to share our wealth with the rest of the Commonwealth and without too much complaint.
I raise with the Minister for Northern Australia (Dr Patterson) the question of what is going to happen with the stabilisation scheme and the export scene. Last year the Government made a significant contribution to the apple and pear industry. I appreciate that the Government has asked the Industries Assistance Commission to make a report on the industry. But when the industry is experiencing reasonably difficult times I believe that the Government should not wait for the report before making a decision about a stabilisation scheme for the coming season. It is getting to the stage- I am sure the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie) would back me up in this- when some of our growers are right on the border line between being able to produce profitably and not being able to do so. At the moment they are still in a position to make a decision whether they will go to the expense of carrying out all their normal operations of pruning, cultivating and spraying. All these normal things represent a big outlay for them. On the other hand if there is going to be no stabilisation scheme or no assistance this year for the apple industry they may say: ‘We must close the shop up. We Will not do anything. We will just get what we can off the trees and make a quid that way’.
– The Government has to continue the present stabilisation scheme for at least another year to give time for the new one to be considered.
-That is very well said. I do not really see how the Government can argue against this premise: It is an industry that is down, it is an industry that has had assistance, it is an industry for which one would expect the Industries Assistance Commission would come up with a reasonable suggestion for government assistance. In the interim surely it is not unreasonable to expect the Government to make a decision shortly. There is not a lot of money involved. This industry provides a lot of labour. Over the years it has provided and still provides export earnings. It is an industry that helps with the wealth of our nation. I make that plea to the Minister in all sincerity. The fact is that in many areas right throughout the Commonwealth- particularly in Tasmania- it would not be unreasonable to ask the Federal Government to look at ways and means of assisting the Apple and Pear Corporation with its financing this year. In the 5 years I have mentioned there has been a significant drop in the export of apples. Obviously we are dealing with an industry which is in trouble. So for the very humane reason of ensuring that people are assisted out of the industry in a dignified manner, if they must leave the industry, it is not beyond my comprehension to imagine the Federal Government assisting with financing the Corporation this year.
-These Bills establish the funding and methods of funding for the Australian Apple and Pear Corporation. The function of the Corporation is to oversee the export of apples and pears from Australia. It has a further function that applies within the country- the rationalisation by cooperation between the States in the marketing of apple and pear crops so that a balance can be struck and so that perhaps the Tasmanian crop can be marketed in a regular pattern on the Aus.tralian mainland if the export market is not up to expectations. It could also apply itself to the problems of the times of marketing different varieties of apples, particularly the marketing of the Queensland crop on the southern markets. The Bills supply the funds for the Corporation, and the basis of that funding is incorporated in the Apple and Pear Levy BUI. As expressed in the Bill, the proposals are that the levy shall not exceed $3 for every one-tenth of leviable land or $30 per hectare. The ability to collect those funds is provided for in the Bill. The minimum area to which this Bill will apply is an area of land not less than one-tenth of a hectare or an area on which there are not more than 25 productive trees.
The second Bill- the Apple and Pear Levy Collection Bill- contains a remission clause which allows growers, in circumstances prescribed in the Bill, to apply to the Minister in writing for a grant of remission under the section and by reason of circumstance, whether it be by hail, poor season, unmarketable crops or low production per hectare- as in the case perhaps of Queensland or Tasmania- to request the Minister to consider a special case for them. I trust that in the funding of the Corporation and its establishment- because it is a fact- we will not see the growth of a bureacracy. The Corporation has the capacity to collect in this first year and from the funding, if applied at a moderate level, something like $lm. All growers of apples and pears in this country would strongly resist the Corporation if it proved to be a bureaucracy- if it proved to be a body standing over them, making decisions for them in which they had.no say and in which there were no visible results.
I would like to suggest to those members of the Corporation who have a concern for these hard pressed industries that they be on their mettle that they delve deeply into the possibilities of establishing and holding export markets, that they be concerned for the orderly marketing of the Australian crop within this country and that they do not establish themselves in the eyes of the average apple or pear grower as a bureaucracy. There is much that they can do. I would resist strongly their being over funded in such a way that the staff would build up and that flamboyant schemes would be instigated which would yield Utile result. Part of the record of the marketing of Australian primary industry is such that it is either totally disorderly or organised to such a fine degree and in such great detail that the benefits shown by the application of funds from growers are negligible. I trust that the Apple and Pear Corporation Will show within a very short time a yield far in excess of the levies collected and that those benefits in each and every year Will be positively demonstrable.
The capacity of growers to pay the levies as outlined if they were to be levied at a maximum capacity could be questioned. The Henderson report certainly indicates that many growers in this area are under great stress. I suggest to the Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wriedt) in this regard that he should not throw the levy completely at the industry and at the people involved. Here is an effort by the industry to establish something which it feels can be of benefit to it. It would be most unfortunate indeed if the establishment of that body were to bring about the ruin of the industry. Growers in Queensland find themselves at a disadvantage by coming into this program, but by goodwill and with a sense of unity and co-operation they Will come in. I am told that they will come in, that they will co-operate and endeavour to make the scheme work. The situation in Tasmania must be the despair of every honourable member who represents Tasmanians. The breaking down and the loss of export markets and the change in varietal preference for Tasmanian apples have meant that growers are facing very great difficulties in that State. I trust that the Corporation will consider this particular case in detail and with sympathy.
There are a number of industries of this type within Australia. Some have schemes that they have produced themselves and which have been adopted. Others have no schemes and in some cases there is great disorder within the market, but not through the fault of the people involved in that industry. In 1975 Australia must have a tremendous number of confused and bewildered people. I must say that I have a number of such people in my electorate. A very important reason for this sad state of affairs is that in the region which I represent efficient industries have been developed which supply vital foods to Australian people. These industries are not controlled by the suspect multi-national corporations. They are owned and operated by dedicated, hardworking Australians who believe that they have products which the Australian people really want. They also believe that by hard work and intelligent investment they should receive just reward for their work. I bring to the notice of the House the particular circumstances of the apple industry and of the citrus industry, which are fighting for their lives and also the problems not only of the mushroom industry, the vegetable industry and the potato industry but also, outside the horticultural field but Still within primary industry, the fishing industry. All of these are small industries. It is up to the Government to show that it does understand them and not to push their needs to one side. If it decides to rationalise or to phase out these industries, it must make sufficient provision and proper plans for the people involved in them.
-First, I register my protest at the short amount of time provided to the House in which to debate these Bills which deal with a very important industry. An hour has been provided. The leading speaker for the Opposition is entitled to 30 minutes and subsequent speakers may take 20 minutes each, if they care to exercise their right to speak for that period. The time allowed for this debate is quite inadequate. I was a bit disappointed- I do not know the reason for it- that no speaker from the Government side was listed.
– That is because I stood down to allow you to speak.
-The honourable member for Wilmot says that he is standing down to allow me to speak. At the same time, he should have ensured that the Government allowed sufficient time to permit other honourable members and himself to speak in this debate. In the few minutes available to me, may I say that the Opposition has given a great deal of consideration to these Bills. My colleagues who have spoken and other members of the Opposition parties have met together on a number of occasions to try to work out something that would be of benefit to the industry and in which all States could join with the object of establishing a worthwhile Apple and Pear Corporation to operate in the interests of the industry. There is no doubt that growers in Queensland have been and are still very concerned about the problems that confront them. Fortunately, the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair), who is the Deputy Leader of the National Country Party, on behalf of the Opposition covered most of the ground that I would have covered. I will have to limit my remarks to allow the Minister for Northern Australia (Dr Patterson) to have a minute or two in which to say a few words. Queensland apple growers in particular were so concerned- this was mentioned before but I wish to repeat itthat they obtained legal advice as to whether they could opt out of the Corporation. They are still unhappy but, when a final analysis is taken, it may be that they will be able to join in as they are anxious to do. That point was made by the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Cadman) in his speech.
I completely reject the charge of inefficiency made by some people against Queensland growers because their acreage production is lower than is production in some other States. Queensland growers are fully utilising the present potential of their areas and, quite naturally enough, are willing and indeed eager to adopt measures which are suitable to their locality and which would improve acreage production, if it can be done on an economic basis.
It is indeed a matter of very great concern that I must restrict my remarks so that these Bills may be passed this evening. I have said that I will do this, but I do so very reluctantly indeed. These Bills have not been debated to the extent that they should have been debated. Let me refer to the fact that my colleagues, the honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd) and the honourable member for Hume (Mr Lusher), both of whom were listed to speak in this debate have not been given the opportunity, because of the time factor, to take part in it. If we had not agreed to this procedure, debate on the Bills would have been cut off. We have tried to do the best that we could in the time available to us. This sort of behaviour is indicative of the attitude of the Government to primary industry as a whole. It is no wonder that Labor members representing primary industry areas were not anxious to be heard. I am sure that they would not have had much to say to the credit of their Government in relation to its total attitude towards primary industry. Now I will allow the Minister for Northern Australia a minute or two to reply to the second reading debate. I assure you, Mr Speaker, that it is with great reluctance that I resume my seat now.
– in reply- The main point of substance made by the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair) and other honourable members who have spoken tonight was in respect of the application of the levy according to the formula in this legislation. They claim that it would cause some discrimination, some inequity or uneven incidence in the application of the levy to the States, particularly with respect to Queensland. Clause 6 ( 1 ) of the Apple and Pear Levy Collection BUI 1975 provides that the Minister or a person authorised by the Minister may remit the whole, or part, of the levy: … by reason of special circumstances relating to the production of apples or pears on particular leviable land.
A remission by an authorised person shall not exceed $5,000.
I can give an assurance- that is what I have been asked to do- that the Minister for Agriculture Will certainly administer this legislation when it is enacted with full justice and will take into account the provisions of clause 6(1). The Government is aware of the survey made by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics relating to the years 1971-72 and 1972-73. A levy of $30 per hectare of bearing apple and pear trees would have an uneven incidence between States particularly as it affects Queensland growers because of low yields per hectare and, consequently, the low volume of fruit sold per hectare. A remission system that limited the incidence of levy to 5c per bushel of apples and pears produced and sold from leviable land would have the following advantages: It would reduce the average Queensland commercial apple and pear grower levy liability from $30 per hectare to approximately $23 per hectare, a reduction of about $100 a farm. Such a remission system would substantially meet the problems of individual orchardists in all States whose income from leviable area is affected because of low yields or seriously affected by natural disaster or by difficulties in marketing production.
Of course, the 5c a bushel limitation imposed on the incidence of the levy relates to an overall levy of $30 per hectare, which is the maximum permissible rate. If the overall rate of levy is fixed at a level below $30 per hectare there would be a proportionate reduction in the remission level of 5c a bushel. In the instance of a very severe natural disaster where the remission as proposed may be insufficient, applications for remission by levy payers in those circumstances will be looked at on the basis of the case put forward. For the purposes of administration, the remission would generally be available subject to the above criterion to growers with an minimum leviable area of one hectare. That is what I can say in answer to the main point made about the remission. I can assure honourable members that the Minister for Agriculture will administer that section of the Act, when the Bill is enacted, along the lines that I have explained.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Dr Patterson) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 5 June on motion by Dr Patterson:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Dr Patterson) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 5 June on motion by Dr Patterson:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Dr Patterson) read a third time.
-I have received advice from the Prime Minister that he has nominated Mr Young to be a member of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Mr Berinson.
Unemployment Statistics- AboriginesFreedom
-Order! It being 10.30 p.m., in accordance with the Order of the House I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
-In the short time that I have been a member of this House I have always been impressed by the honesty and the integrity of its members. I think these are among the ideals that have to be upheld. It is extremely important that this honesty is carried through all the activities that take place in this Parliament. But I want to draw the attention of the House tonight to what I believe is a deliberate attempt by 2 Ministers to mislead this Parliament.
– Shame !
– It is a shame. I refer first of all to a question that was answered on 19 May by the then Minister for Labor and Immigration, the Hon. Clyde Cameron, which was asked by the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis). Today in this House a question was asked by the honourable member for Gellibrand of the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Riordan), representing the Minister for Labor and Immigration, which was almost word for word the question asked by the honourable member for Gellibrand on 19 May of the then Minister for Labor and Immigration. The question was along the lines of comparing the figures of the Australian Bureau of Statistics with those supplied by the Commonwealth Employment Service in relation to unemployment. I want first of all to quote from Hansard of 9 September a question that was asked by Senator Everett of the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Senator James McClelland). The question read as follows
I direct my question to the Minister for Labor and Immigration. In the light of the latest unemployment figures, what levels of unemployment does the Minister anticipate over the rest of this financial year?
The answer given by Senator James McClelland was as follows
My Department has prepared for me some estimates of unemployment for the coming year, and I underline that they are only estimates. In particular, I think we have to be conscious of the fact that a record number of school leaversapproaching, it is estimated, a quarter of a million- will come on to the labour market by next January. The best estimate that the Department is able to give, and of course it is nothing in which we take any pleasure, is that actual unemployed, including school leavers, who register for unemployment, could approach 400 000 members of the labour force in 1976.
The Minister goes on and on in his answer but that is aU I wish to quote. Now, it seems to me that this was an honest answer. There was no suggestion that the Minister was endeavouring to hide the truth. He claimed that the figures were estimates and that they were supplied by his Department. I want to prove to the House just how cunningly conceived has been the trickery entered into by the Minister for Housing and Construction in his methods of deceiving this Parliament in relation to the method of recording the figures he quoted to this Parliament today. It was the same trickery that was indulged in by the former Minister for Labor and Immigration, the Hon. Clyde Cameron. The Minister stated today in answer to a question: . . . the Commonwealth Employment Service figures do not purport to show the number of people actually out of work. They show the number of persons who are registered for employment, and there can be a significant difference between the 2 figures. There is no reason why a person who is employed cannot register in order to seek another job. He breaks no law. It is not illegal for him to register in this way.
These were the words of the Minister for Housing and Construction. Sure, he is correct in saying that the individual breaks no law. But what I want to do now is to quote from the document which is put out monthly by the Department of Labor and Immigration, titled ‘Monthly Review of the Employment Situation ‘.
– It is a very good document too.
– It is a good document, as the honourable member for Lilley reminds me. Definitions appear in each edition of this monthly journal and the definition of ‘Unemployed persons’ is as follows
Unemployed persons comprise all persons who were still registered with the Commonwealth Employment Service (CES) at the Friday nearest the end of the month, who claimed when registering that they were not employed, and who were seeking full-time employment, i.e. 35 hours or more per week. They include persons referred to employers but whose employment was still unconfirmed, and persons who had recently obtained employment without notifying the CES. All recipients of unemployment benefit are included.
I want to emphasise this definition of ‘Unemployed persons’, particularly the part that refers to those ‘who claimed when registering that they were not employed ‘. We can go back to when the Liberal-Country Party was in government and the figures may have fluctuated from perhaps 60 000 to 120 000 unemployed. Surely if the figure was inflated in those days it is inflated in the same way today. What I am extremely upset about on this occasion, as I was on 19 May when the former Minister for Labor and Immigration gave almost the same answer to a question asked by the same honourable member, is that Parliament was not told of the unpublished lists that the Commonwealth Employment Service held. I believe that these lists are generally known as ‘seekers after improved jobs’ lists. There are thousands of these people employed.
It is true, no doubt, that a small percentage of people will register as unemployed who in actual fact have a job at the time. But the point is that the Minister, in answer to the question today- as was the case when the same question was answered by the former Minister on 19 Maymade no reference to these lists of seekers after improved jobs. Surely there is a discrepancy between those registered and those who are in receipt of unemployment benefits- and there are a variety of reasons for this. Sufficient income may be coming into the home to make the person ineligible for unemployment benefits, or perhaps there are those who are out of work but have not registered for unemployment benefits because for various reasons they may not wish to receive those benefits. There could be various reasons for this. Sometimes the pride of people will not allow them to receive unemployment benefits.
I want to make it clear here and now that it is my opinion that the staff of the Commonwealth Employment Service are extremely competent, alert and experienced. They do a lot of work in the field. They are concerned at the high level of unemployment and at the high level of unemployment benefits that are paid out in this country today. I understand that they question applicants at length so that they do not register people and hand out unemployment benefits lightly. If the system of registering needs examining I suggest to the Government that it look into the matter thoroughly. It should not deceive this Parliament and this country as to the true figures of unemployment in this nation today.
I want to mention briefly the cost of these benefits to the nation because this is also important. Today countless millions of dollars are being paid out in unemployment benefits. I suggest to the Minister that instead of endeavouring to deceive the Parliament he and his Department should crack down on those who are receiving unemployment benefits illegally. Let those who genuinely need unemployment benefits receive them. The main point I wish to emphasise tonight is that, in my opinion, the Parliament has been deliberately misled. It was misled on 19 May and it has been misled again today. The Parliament has been deceived. Surely the Parliament must be told the truth in all these matters. The Ministers concerned are to be condemned for this action. The document that is prepared by the Department of Labor and Immigration month after month makes quite clear those who claimed when registering that they were unemployed. It is there in black and white for the whole nation to see. Yet we have these Dorothy Dix questions put up in a matter of 6 months and answers given in the same manner by 2 different Ministers. I believe that these Ministers should be censured for their actions. If there are anomalies in the system of registering, the system should be overhauled. I maintain that above aU honesty must be maintained in this Parliament If the Government has shortcomings, as we know it has, it must fact the facts of the matter. It must admit failure and admit that the figures that are given in these documents produced monthly are in actual fact correct.
– I shall be very brief. The honourable member for Petrie (Mr Hodges) obviously believes that he has found some discrepancy, that there has been some misleading of the Parliament. He is wrong. The only attempt to mislead the Parliament has been his effort tonight. If he looks at what I said this morning, if my recollection of it is correct, he wm see that I made it clear that where the Department ascertains that persons were employed those persons are not included in the numbers shown as persons looking for employment. I believe I made that clear; my recollection is that I did make it clear. The fact of the matter is that the government which the honourable member purports to support, that is the government of the category A school boys in exile who would dearly love to get back into office, during its reign of office let the country down badly and nowhere in a more serious sense than in the provision of adequate labour statistics. Australian labour statistics have the reputation, correctly earned, of being amongst the worst in the world. Honourable members may say -
– That does not say much for your administration.
-Do not talk such utter rot and nonsense. Try to act a Utile more intelligently The fact is that since this Government has been in power there has been proposed to be established and has been commenced to be organised a Bureau of Labour Economics which should make a significant contribution in regard to the establishment of proper labour statistics. It is no use honourable gentlemen opposite trying to quibble about it, the fact is that the Bureau of Statistics conducts a survey consistent with international standards. That survey is conducted only on a quarterly basis now. When the previous Government was in office it was conducted at greater intervals on a much more irregular basis. That survey indicated that last May 56 000 fewer persons were unemployed than were shown as being persons seeking employment in the Commonwealth Employment Service figures. Those are the undeniable facts. The honourable member for Petrie can try to find, if he likes, some great international conspiracy in which the Department of Labor in the United States, the Government of the United Kingdom and most governments of Western Europe are all engaged to mislead their respective parliaments
– Why do you not question your officers on the matter?
– My dear ignorant friend, the officers of the Department of Labor and
Immigration for some time now have been consistently asking the Australian Bureau of Statistics to undertake a monthly survey of employment because they, like I, recognise the deficiency in the present figures. The only persons who will not see that deficiency are those who either do not want to see it or those who are too dumb to see it.
– Why are you not doing something about it?
– We are doing something about it. If you would listen for a moment you would find out. Neither the previous Minister for Labor and Immigration, Mr Clyde Cameron, nor I, are guilty of attempting to mislead this Parliament. There has been no misleading. In fact we have been frank and clear about the matter. There is no question of trickery. There is no cunningly conceived plot.
– Why do you not do something about it?
-Order! The honourable member has spoken in the debate.
– And he was heard in silence on this side. But of course he cannot take it. He is like a lot of other people around this place. They love to dish it out. They love to find a conspiracy and when their error is explained and their proposition is shown to be stupid they react rather vigorously.
There is really nothing to answer. There has been no misleading of the Parliament. All of the facts were put before the Parliament this morning. It was made clear that persons who the Department knew to be employed were not counted. As I said this morning, with the pressure on officers of the Department with the staff ceilings which were imposed by the Government it is no longer possible with the same regularity as was previously the case to clear out the names of persons not in receipt of unemployment benefits. Those are the facts. There is no suggestion of any lack of effort by officers of the Department. The fact is that with the introduction of the National Employment and Training scheme, the Regional Employment Development scheme and other manpower planning schemes their volume of work has increased enormously. I stand by what I said this morning. What I said this morning was the fact, and I defy the honourable gentleman to put up any reasonable proposition to show that it is not. If he believes that I have attempted to mislead this Parliament he has the remedy and he should put up or do the other thing.
-In speaking of the facts given this morning and the unkind suggestion made by the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Riordan) that the proposition put by honourable member for Petrie (Mr Hodges) was stupid, I point out that those employment statistic gathering methods were the same methods which provided a lower level ->( unemployment for previous governments. However much the Minister condemns the statistical methods, and I will come to that in a moment, he cannot in any way reflect on the change that those statistical methods produce. They are the same methods. The fact is that unemployment has gone through the roof. This morning I think the Minister said something he did not intend, and at the time I wrote down what he said. He referred to the current circumstances that rendered those employment statistics inadequate and he blamed the previous Government for not foreseeing those circumstances. The change in circumstances is the unparalleled levels of unemployment that his Government has thrust upon this country. So much for that.
I wish to speak briefly about a matter that has been concerning me for some time. One of the most difficult problems of any country is the problem of catering adequately and fairly for its minority population. Australia ‘s problem is no less than that of most other countries. I think that we have been perhaps less successful than most. In spite of continued efforts, our Aboriginal population is in a worse condition today than it has ever been. The difficulties appear to be more intractable. I wish the House to consider what is a relatively minor change of attitude that I hope might bring about some improvement. Quite a lot of initiative has been taken at the broad policy level, and at the International Labour Organisation convention level. We have dealt with basic principles. We have talked of things such as fundamental equality, which has resulted in equal pay and in liquor rights, things which have had some benefits and some costs. We have a National Aboriginal Consultative Committee dealing at the top level, and that is good. We have representation in the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, in royal commissions and so on.
All those things are good, and I am not condemning them. What I am saying is that they are not tackling the root problem, the problem that is close to the Aboriginals on the farms, in the country towns and around the fringes of the city- the problem of the man who must come to respect himself, to stand up and see that he is counted as an individual. After all, no one can do that for him. We have accepted the principle of positive discrimination in favour of these people, and I applaud that. We have laid down certain rules governing that positive discriminationbroad rules, the rule of law in general. As a rule there would be no firmer defender of the rule of law than I would be. However, I think here we may have a case for considering an exception and substituting in fact more of the rule of man. In this area of positive discrimination alone it is necessary not only that these people feel that they are being fairly treated but also it is essential that they succeed in what they are doing.
It is no favour to the Aboriginal people or for that matter to any disadvantaged group to have responsibility thrust upon them that they do not successfully carry. Therefore I am suggesting that those people administering the funds and the projects nearest to where they are taking place be given a great deal more flexibility. I am aware of the costs. Inevitably there will be some inequities. There will be some mismanagement and some misuse of power. That always happens when the rule of man is substituted for the rule of law. On the other hand this will give the opportunity to those people who are on site and who are in contact with these people whom we are trying to advantage to make decisions that are conditioned by real local knowledge and therefore give those people who are involved in the projects a greater chance of actually fighting through to the top. This will be called paternalism. In a way it is. There are costs in paternalism. If one does not give responsibility people do not learn responsibility. I am well aware of that, but if people are given a responsibility that cannot be carried, they do not learn responsibility either. Responsibility has to be given in such measure that it can be managed.
We are not going too well in this area. I should like to see a limited area of responsibility pushed to the more senior administrators and then to the more junior administrators and on down the line so that they can control the funding of Aboriginal projects and the management of Aboriginal projects. Many of these people exercising this control I hope would be Aborigines and, as the time went on, more would be Aborigines. Instead of having one broad rule or a series of broad rules covering a situation that is just far too diverse to be encompassed by broad rules, we would have decisions taken locally and we would accept the inequities that would result between areas and between projects and trade that off against a greater chance of success within individual projects. Above all else these people need to succeed. It would be worth some costs in other matters to give them a greater chance of success.
One group in my own electorate runs a fairly exclusive old boys Aboriginal club. It is fairly restrictive in regard to those Aborigines who can take part in the enterprise. Frankly I welcome this. It needs to succeed. The group should not take on any additional hazards. I urge this minor change of attitude upon the Government and in fact upon all people who deal with Aborigines and with any weak minority groups within the community, because success is so important to those groups.
-In the few minutes available to me this evening I want to say something about the concept of freedom as advanced by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser) or rather, as I prefer to term it, more Fraser foolishness. In his address to the National Press Club on 31 July 1975 the Leader of the Opposition said:
Liberals believe that maximum freedom from dictation and regulation is essential to self respect and self fulfilment. Without freedom there is no self respect. They want freedom to strive and freedom to achieve and to seek excellencefreedom to be different and freedom to conform.
He went on to state the proposition that ‘men gain faith in themselves and their capacities through achieving through their own efforts’ and to this end his first action if ever he were to assume government would be to ‘restore the rewards and reverse the penalties on excellence, achievement and enterprise’.
It is interesting to note that ‘excellence’ is the goal for which we are all to strive and for which some are to be rewarded. It might be thought that the achievement of excellence would be sufficient reward in itself, but the excellence to which the Leader of the Opposition refers appears to be that of making large sums of money because the rewards are to involve being allowed to keep as much of it as possible. Once that is understood, it appears that excellence is not a subjective but an objective standard, capable of being achieved by only a very few and capable of being ascertained only by a comparison with the financial achievements of others. It is not related to effort, because one man with advantages and privileges may excel with little effort or be born into a position of excellence, while another may strive and do his best and know that he has not excelled because others are richer than he is. It is a concept that has nothing to do with self-respect because it makes a man look outside himself and assess his achievements by reference to the standards of others, whereas true self-respect involves knowing one’s own potential and living up to it. It is also a dangerous concept because it encourages those who do succeed to believe that those who fail are inferior. Surely it is this sort of attitude that enables the Leader of the Opposition to describe people on unemployment benefits as ‘those who do not care to work’. This hardly demonstrates ‘a compassionate concern for those in need ‘ and it is not conducive to self-respect for those who, due to initial deprivation, do not make the grade.
In case the amount of effort involved for most people in achieving excellence appears to be too dreary, the Leader of the Opposition throws in the exciting alternative concept of ‘a life in which people are free to make their own fives, to experiment, to risk, to adventure’. This is another dangerous concept because it is glamorous and suggests to people whose lives are boring and full of drudgery that in some way things might be changed; they, too, might sail around the world, or give away their medical practice and invest their savings in an avocado farm. Perhaps we may look forward to a return to the mining boom. The Leader of the Opposition does not specify the risks or adventures he has in mind. To the great majority of Australians the chance to take risks is meaningless.
Coupled with the achievement of excellence by the efforts of the individual comes a promise to reduce the amount of regulation imposed on individuals by the Australian Government. In a speech made at a dinner for the honourable member for North Sydney (Mr Graham) on 18 June 1975, the Leader of the Opposition spoke of .the ‘increasing control over the nation’s life, over the life of people, by civil servants, by government appointees and by politicians’. It seems that the control to which he most objects is that of taxation, because this restricts the freedom of the individual to spend the income he or she earns. This, he says, is a basic freedom without which other freedoms, such as freedom of speech, association and so on, are meaningless. If individuals do not have freedom to control thenown lives they do not have self-respect and they do not have dignity. It is true that individuals in Australia are, to a very large extent, not free to control their own lives. There are controls, both direct and indirect, which hinder individuals in doing what they choose and in obtaining their desires. Many of the direct controls are imposed by governments; the indirect controls are provided by the circumstances in which they find themselves. The controls imposed by governments are supposed to be imposed equally on all; the controls of circumstance apply most strongly to those who are already disadvantaged or deprived. It is only the controls imposed by governments that the Leader of the Opposition believes should be relaxed. In particular, the relaxation is to be made in the taxation laws which are to provide funds to assist people whose lives are indirectly controlled by their disadvantages. Taxation laws are, apparently, not conducive to self-respect or human dignity.
An individual becomes subject to control soon after birth, when the event is required to be registered, and remains so until his death, which also must be registered. The concepts of freedom, human dignity and self-respect are apparently new-found ones for the Leader of the Opposition. On analysis it would seem that the only freedom in which the Leader of the Opposition is really interested is that of retaining control over one’s own income. A person on an inadequate income may have freedom of choice to send his children to the best schools or to choose the best doctor, but he will find those freedoms meaningless. To a person who is worried about his next meal, the right to vote may be irrelevant. Yet efforts to ensure that all Australians are in a position to enjoy the freedoms we value are described by the Leader of the Opposition as ‘enforced equality’. The young Australians of this nation might well remember the bitter experience of the 1960s, when the Leader of the Opposition was the Minister for Defence and his concept of freedom was the right to be conscripted and sent off to fight in a tragic, useless political war to salve the political consciences of supporters abroad and supporters who profited from that political war.
-Order! It being 1 1 p.m., the House stands adjourned until Tuesday, 30 September, at 2.15 p.m., unless Mr Speaker shall, by telegram or letter addressed to each member, fix an earlier day of meeting.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circul
asked the Leader of the House, upon notice:
On how many occasions was-
b) the guillotine, and
the automatic adjournment at 1 1 p.m. used during each of the years 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973 and 1974.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I refer the honourable member to the Votes and Proceedings of the House of Representatives issued daily from which this information is readily available.
Answers to Questions on Notice (Question No. 1295)
asked the Leader of the House, upon notice:
1 ) What was the number of questions on notice-
What was the average delay in providing answers in each of the same years.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The information sought is very detailed and the necessary statistics are not readily available. I refer the honourable member to the Notice Paper and the Hansards for the period.
Parliamentary Procedures and Answers to Questions on Notice (Question No. 2660)
asked the Leader of the House, upon notice:
When will he answer my question No. 1295 that was placed on the Notice Paper on 15 October 1974 and was unanswered by 23 May 1975.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I refer the honourable member to my reply to Questions Nos 1294 and 1295.
Financial Assistance by the Department of Minerals and Energy (Question No. 2677)
asked the Minister for Minerals and Energy, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Financial Assistance by the Department of Minerals and Energy (Question No. 2762)
asked the Minister for Minerals and Energy, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
1974- 75 $6,000.
Advertising by the Department of Overseas Trade (Question No. 2862)
asked the Minister for Overseas Trade the following question, on notice:
-The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
Trade promotion advertising in Australia; Product group advertising overseas; Trade co-operative advertising overseas; Support advertising for trade displays overseas; Advertising for trade missions; Advertising staff vacancies;
Advertising Revaluation Adjustment Assistance scheme;
Advertising Export Market Development Grants scheme;
Advertising variations to products covered by the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement.
DC3 Aircraft (Question No. 2887)
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Dr H. C. Coombs (Chairman)
Emeritus Professor W. E. H. Stanner (Member)
Mr B. G. Dexter (Executive Member)
Mr Dexter is the Permanent Head of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. He receives no remuneration in respect of his role as Executive Member of the Council.
asked the Minister for Urban and Regional Development, upon notice:
I refer the honourable member to the reply, given by the Prime Minister to Question No. 2586, which appeared in Hansard (page 3545) on 5 June 1975.
asked the Minister for Urban and Regional Development, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I refer the honourable member to the reply, given by the Prime Minister to Question No. 2789 which appeared in Hansard (page 3546) on 5 June 1975.
asked the Minister for Tourism and Recreation, upon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
In addition, some provision was made to cover the situation where a sports association wished to bring an eminent coach or some highly qualified athletes to Australia.
The conditions under which these subsidies were paid were consistent with those applied to other sections of the assistance program, i.e. proposals were accepted only from approved national sporting associations for bona fide visits. Grants made in 1973-74 were listed in the Department’s ‘ Review of Activities ‘.
In 1974-75 the bulk of these requests was met under the expanded assistance program which now includes assistance for coaching programs conducted by national associations.
Advertising by the Department of Tourism and Recreation (Question No. 2876)
asked the Minister for Tourism and Recreation, upon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
It should be noted that funds in other items of this Department’s appropriation have, in the past, been expended on advertising. However, it is impractical to isolate the purely advertising component from total expenditure.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 11 September 1975, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1975/19750911_reps_29_hor96/>.