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 undersigned cititzens of Australia respectfully showeth that the establishment of an Australian Government Insurance Office will:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives rejects completely the Australian Government Insurance Office Bill 1975.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Connolly.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of 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 certain citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that your Honourable House will withdraw its confidence from the present Prime Minister, in order that there may be a speedy election and that the people of Australia may be given their proper opportunity to pass judgment on the Government respon- . sible for the present level of unemployment and other national losses.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byMrErwin.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That whereas the natural environment of Fraser Island is so outstanding that it should be identified as part of the World Natural Heritage, and whereas the Island should be conserved for the enjoyment of this and future generations,
Your petitioners humbly pray that the members, in the House assembled, will take the most urgent steps to ensure:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Kerin.
To the Honourable the Speaker and House of Representatives assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
We, your petitioners, therefore humbly pray that you will:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Kerin.
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 implementation of the Report on Housing by the Priorities Review Staff will not ensure that the Australian community can secure living accommodation of its own choosing appropriate to its needs; that many of the proposals positively discriminate against home ownership; that the proposals if implemented would not encourage thrift and initiative but would further advance the philosophy of dependence upon the Government for basic services; that the proposals are more concerned with redistribution of income than providing accommodation for the Australian community.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House will request the Government to take no further measures which will make home ownership unattractive to those who have a home and unachievable for those who have not.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr McLeay.
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 humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That Medibank should not be forced upon an unwilling Australian people;
That taxpayers money should not be used to mount an unprecedented propaganda campaign to sell Medibank to the people;
That any system of comprehensive health care in Australia should not be based upon salaried general practitioner or specialist services or allocated hospital staff as proposed by Medibank but upon the principle of freedom of choice of Doctor at the surgery andin the hospital;
That private hospitals should be supported and maintained as a viable independent and necessary part of a national health service.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Viner.
– My question, directed to the Treasurer, refers to the somewhat superficial analysis of the Mathews Committee report by the Taxation Office. When answering questions in the House yesterday was he aware of and what credence did he place upon the facts that a former Deputy Commissioner for Taxation was a member of the Mathews Committee, which was chosen by the Labor Party, and that he was an officer of great competency and integrity; that one of the members of the technically authoritative Sandilands Committee in the United Kingdom, which completely endorsed the relevant parts of the Mathews Committee report, was a very senior member of the present Inland Revenue Depart; and that the Mathews Committee report itself analyses and answers, particularly in the appendices, each of the statements in the Taxation Paper? In order to test his knowledge and degree of understanding could he let me know which of the analytical appendices in the Mathews report he personally disagrees with and how many he agrees with?
– I am not aware that a member of the Sandilands Committee has been in communication with someone, perhaps the right honourable gentleman who asks the question.
Perhaps it was a response to a rather rash approach that he might have made to the member as he has to other people he has met in his career. I have a copy of the Sandilands report with me and although I have not had a chance to consider it fully I am intrigued by page 3 of the report which states in part:
However, we have not had the time or the resources to research into all the practical implications of introducing such a system -
That is, current cost accounting- and we assumed it was not the intention that we should do so.
That seems a rather curious conclusion. The right honourable member may well be aware that the Sandilands Committee has recommended a royal commission before any definitive action is taken by a government So there is a long way to go. As far as this Government is concerned, I do not want to be placed in the position where some sort of heated debate arises and people are forced to take firm and dogmatic decisions in opposition to each other. All I have said is that on the basis of the assessments which have been made so far, and consistent with statements I made in the Budget Speech in this House, it seems that there is room for a great deal more consideration of some of the complex issues which arise in the recommendations of the Mathews report. It is the intention of the Government to address itself to those issues. I suggested that it would be helpful if the Opposition cared to do that also. Finally, I would not care to hear anyone from the Opposition, least of all the right honourable gentleman, moralise by implication about the obligation of a government in response to the findings of any committee. I have a clear recollection of what happened to the Vernon Committee and its report.
– I preface my question to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs by referring to the allegations which were made last weekend by the Premier of Queensland relating to the activities of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs in relation to the Torres Strait Islands. Has the Minister yet received a report from his Department about those allegations?
-I have received a report. It established that the Premier has made allegations which represent, in most cases, either half truths or non-truths. It is an amazing situation. The Premier has gone up to the Islands and has made a lot of contentions in connection with matters which arose out of initiatives which were taken by my predecessor who proposed to facilitate a number of self-help projects over 14 of the Islands involving an expenditure of approximately $ lm. The Premier has made allegations that equipment has been off-loaded in the wrong places. Some of those allegations are true. Weather conditions prevented equipment from being landed in the right place so it was offloaded for trans-shipment. He has contended that cement has been left to waste on Saibai Island whereas in fact it was off-loaded on Dauan Island and was covered effectively to protect it from the weather. He has made allegations that a vessel chartered by the Department, the Miss Doreen, was not utilised. In fact it was chartered by a co-operative and it has been used almost continuously. He has made complaints about the hovercraft to the effect that it is hardly effective whereas there have been only 2 cancellations of that hovercraft in respect of 400 hours of operation. There are many other matters which cannot stand up to examination. I believe the Premier should apologise to the Torres Strait Islanders on whom he has reflected.
– I take a point of order. In view of the nature of this reply I ask the Minister to make a statement after question time. It is obviously a prepared answer if it is presented to the House in that form instead of a response to a question without notice.
-The question was in order and the Minister is in order in answering it.
-What has been Australia ‘s far north has been the Premier ‘s deep south. He likes to keep it that way and he appears to resent the presence there of the Australian Government which, for the first time in the history of the Torres Strait Islanders, is encouraging initiative, autonomy and independence. The Premier even told the Islanders who asked for assistance in respect of some of these transport matters: ‘Why do you not get your transport where you get your money?’ that does not appear to be a very co-operative attitude in the matter of helping these people.
The Queensland Premier has not made all the disclosures which could be made about disasters in the Torres Strait Islands. For example, I am given to understand that the Queensland Department of Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement and Fisheries, hired a barge to carry a bulldozer worth $80,000 to one of the Torres Strait Islands. That barge was registered for work in the Thursday Island harbour. Yet it was taken past that harbour into hazardous waters. The barge capsized en route and dumped this expensive bulldozer worth $80,000 into deep water. It has not been recovered up to this very day. The poor unfortunate crew of, I think, 4 persons with 3 passengers lived on lemonade and beer salvaged from the submerged’ cabin of the upturned barge by making regular dives. Now there is an inquiry into this matter by the harbourmaster of Thursday Island -
– Order! I think that the answer by the Minister is becoming extraordinarily long.
-It seems to me that there are many disclosures which could be made about the Torres Strait Islands. If there were a thorough inquiry into the administration of the Islands I think there would be a lot of egg left on the face of the Queensland Premier.
– I ask the Prime Minister the following questions: Is there any authority outstanding for any money lender, intermediary or agent to raise a loan for the Australian Government? If so, what are the details? Are any of his senior Ministers presently involved in major overseas loan raisings?
-I direct my question to the Minister for Administrative Services. Is it a fact that negotiations took place with the Tonkin Labor Government regarding the implementation of joint electoral rolls for Western Australia? Is it a fact also that the Court Liberal-Country Party Government has refused to complete the agreement? If so, what are its reasons for this action.
– I anticipated that an important question like this might be asked. I have been able to ascertain that certain negotiations were entered into in regard to this matter. I will explain it in full to the honourable member. The Australian Government did approach the Tonkin Government regarding the implementation of joint electoral rolls for Western Australia. On 6 December 1972 a joint report was submitted by the Commonwealth Electoral Officer for Western Australia and the State Chief Electoral Officer indicating the feasibility of such an arrangement. On 17 October 1973, the arrangement was signed by His Excellency the LieutenantGovernor of Western Australia and forwarded to the State Chief Electoral Officer for Western Australia. On 6 November 1973 the arrangement was signed by His Excellency The Governor-General. On 22 November 1973 the
State Chief Electoral Officer for Western Australia advised that the Attorney-General had decided that the fixing of a date for implementation of the joint rolls arrangement be deferred . until amending legislation to the State Electoral Act was passed. This was expected to be in August 1974. On 30 March 1974 the Western Australian State elections resulted in a change of Government.
On 3 1 July 1974 Mr T. D. Evans asked the following question in the Legislative Assembly of Western Australia:
Mr 0”Neil, the Minister representing the Minister for Justice, replied:
The matter is still under consideration.
On 12 November 1974 verbal advice was received from the Australian Electoral Officer for Western Australia that the matter was still under consideration. On 14 November 1974, Mr B. T. Burke asked the following question in the Legislative Assembly of Western Australia:
Mr 0’Neil the Minister representing the Minister for Justice, replied:
On 7 October 1975 verbal inquiries were made of the State Chief Electoral Officer for Western Australia. He has informed me that so far as he is aware there has been no change in the attitude of the Government of Western Australia towards the implementation of the joint rolls arrangement. Although the formal document for inaugurating the joint rolls arrangement was signed by the Lieutenant-Governor on behalf of Western Australia and the Governor-General on behalf of Australia it cannot be implemented until the State enacts certain legislation. It appears that the present Western Australian Government has gone cold on the scheme, but it is difficult to understand why this should be so bearing in mind that not only would it provide a better roll for State purposes but it would also save the State some thousands of dollars annually. I think the only reason can be that this action is part of a Western Australian Government attempt to gerrymander the boundaries of Western Australian State electorates which it is in the process of doing at this time at the dictates, as usual, of the infamous negotiators of false boundaries, the Country Party in Western Australia.
- Mr Speaker, I ask that the paper from which the Minister has been reading be tabled.
– There has been a request that the paper from which the Minister quoted be tabled.
– It is confidential.
-The Minister says it is confidential.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question. Has he yet confirmed with the honourable member for Henty or the Minister for Minerals and Energy statements of fact which the chairman of XL Petroleum Pty Ltd has made to the Opposition and which are reported in the Australian Financial Review this morning? Has the Prime Minister confirmed that the Chairman of XL Petroleum asked the honourable member for Henty to deliver personally his letter which stated that ACTU-Solo Enterprises Pty Ltd was buying its crude for an enormous premium? Has he confirmed the fact that after delivering the letter personally the reply of the honourable member for Henty to the chairman of XL Petroleum, who claims he has a witness, was to the effect that unfortunately the Minister cannot do anything about the approval of the sale because there have already been other deals at a premium? There is a precedent for transactions at prices higher than the Government approved price.
Mr WHITLAM I have not seen the article.
-Is the Minister for Health aware that tobacco manufacturers are diverting promotional expenditure into sponsorship and other forms of advertising to avoid the intent of restrictions on television and radio advertising of tobacco products? Is it still intended totally to prohibit electronic media advertising of tobacco products in September next year? If so, what can the Minister do to prevent companies from flouting the spirit of the restrictions?
– I am not aware of the intentions of the tobacco companies but I know from what has happened overseas that when broadcasting advertising has been banned they have channelled vast resources into advertising in colour magazines, on billboards, in cinemas and other areas and I have no doubt that would happen to some extent at least in this country when we impose our ban, as we have promised, in September next year. The States have agreed on very limited restraints, I should say, on the promotion of smoking. They have agreed that they will move to have a warning incorporated in all forms of advertising by the same date- September next year. I should have hoped they would agree to something with a little more bite. However, let us not get things out of perspective. If all tobacco advertising were banned immediately it would not restrain the tendency for increased consumption of tobacco. The Soviet Union, Sweden and other countries have had complete bans on all forms of tobacco advertising but have still suffered from an increase in consumption. Obviously what has to happen is that we have to give smoking an image which makes it repulsive.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he will reaffirm his confidence in the administration of his portfolio by the Minister for Minerals and Energy.
-Certainly I will. I do not quite understand what the honourable gentleman is driving at in these questions. I noted that he did not speak yesterday on a matter referring to the Royal Commission on Petroleum. The Right Honourable Leader of the National Country Party will not say outside the House- even on television- the things that he says in the House. I reiterate what I said - (Honourable members interjecting)
-Order! The Prime Minister will resume his seat. If honourable gentlemen want question time to continue they will behave themselves. I will not have members of the Opposition and front bench members of the Government shouting across the chamber while a Minister is trying to answer a question or while a member is trying to ask one. If it happens again I will terminate question time.
– I reiterate what I said last week: A royal commissioner has inquired into these matters. The royal commissioner was appointed a judge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales 20 years ago.
– By a Labor government.
– An honourable member interjects: ‘By a Labor Government’. He was appointed by a Labor government. He has also had the confidence of successive governments, as has been shown by the fact that he has been asked to undertake, for non-Labor governments, inquiries such as royal commissions and committees of inquiry. He was not a member of the
Australian Labor Party at any time in his career as far as I know. Mr Speaker, I believe that interjections like that, since they are heard by a number of people, have to be answered. They are completely unworthy suggestions. If any honourable member believes that the judge in question is unfit to carry out this royal commission, procedures are open to the House to express that view. But it is quite improper by way of interjections or insinuations in questions to cast reflections on the judge. After all, the judge. cannot answer. He can deal only with matters which come before him as a judge or as a royal commissioner. The matters which have been said in this House by the Leader of the Opposition, the Leader of the National Country Party and various other worthies could all be put before the royal commission.
– They were before the royal commission.
-The honourable and learned member for Wentworth interjected. I have no doubt that if he sought to appear before the royal commission he would be heard by the royal commission, and that would seem to be the proper course for him to take if he has matters relevant to the terms of reference of the royal commission. The Government asked the royal commissioner to inquire into this specific matter. The persons concerned were represented by counsel. There could scarcely be a judge with more experience in ascertaining and interpreting matters of fact. In those circumstances I believe, as I said last week, that it is completely unworthy for honourable members- in some cases learned members- to be casting aspersions on the findings of the royal commission. The Leader of the Opposition is pursuing this line. He has not sought by himself or by counsel to put any facts before the royal commissioner. The royal commission is still sitting. It is open for him to put any new facts or arguments before the royal commission. I invite him to do so.
– I address my question to the Treasurer. In view of the Senate’s rejection of the Australian Government Insurance Corporation Bill and particularly the national interest provision which would extend insurance cover to people in those areas subject to the devastation of natural disasters, I ask the Minister: Can he indicate what action the Government now intends to take to set up a natural disaster insurance commission or scheme? The Minister will appreciate that such coverage is a matter of urgency:
– The Treasury has been working on proposals in this area for some time. The matters are quite complex and involve detailed research and consideration. We have received submissions from the industry and we have appreciated the communications we have had with various representatives of the industry. I hope that we will be in a position soon to make a statement on this proposal. I ought to observe’ for the record the very helpful points of view which the honourable member who asked this question has submitted to me, to my predecessors and to the Treasury from time to time on this subject.
-I preface my question to the Prime Minister by saying that the Prime Minister has been quite emphatic today and on several other occasions concerning his acceptance of the findings of the Royal Commission concerning the alleged deception of the Government by ACTU-Solo Enterprises Pty Ltd. Is the Prime Minister equally emphatic in accepting the Commission ‘s view that- to quote from the report- ‘it would be inequitable and unjust to companies that have abided by the Government policy that ACTU-Solo should, as a result of misrepresentation and deceit, acquire any right to further allocations ‘ of crude oil?
– I made it plain last week that I accept the Commission’s findings. I can only reiterate that.
-Can the Attorney-General advise the House when the Legal Aid Bill will be brought on for debate in the House and the Senate? When can honourable members be confident that the Australian Legal Aid Office will be able to operate as an independent statutory body?
– I understand the honourable member’s concern. I hope the Bill will be again brought before the House in the very near future but one has to take account of what I understand was a Press statement put out yesterday from the Opposition parties to the effect that they were going to move to defer consideration of the Bill when it does reappear in the House and in the Senate. One can only deplore such a decision. Debate on the Bill was commenced here about 2 months ago.
– Four months ago.
– I am corrected; it was 4 months ago. Surely that is much more time than is normally required for adequate consideration of a Bill. The fact is that the Opposition parties do not believe in legal aid. There is plenty of record and plenty of evidence of that fact. The Opposition spokesman on matters affecting the Department of the Attorney-General, Senator Greenwood, is on record as having said that he opposes in principle the Australian Legal Aid Office. That means he opposes legal aid. The Victorian Attorney-General, a prominent member of the Liberal Party, also is on record as having said that he opposes in principle the Australian Legal Aid Office. Wherever one looks one sees confirmation of that same fact. The Opposition parties do not want legal aid facilities extended to people in need. Further confirmation, if it were necessary, can be obtained from other facts.
If one looks back to the last year of the Liberal-Country Party Government, 1972, one finds that not only was there no such thing, no such concept, no such idea as an Australian Legal Aid Office- there certainly were not 30 offices such as now operate around the countrybut the sum total of its expenditure on the subject of legal aid to the Australian States was in the neighbourhood, from memory, of only $300,000- a token sum. It is laughable when one thinks of the nature of the problem- of the extent of the need. This Government allocated in the recent Budget in excess of $ 16m to meet the need that the Opposition parties assess at something like $300,000. 1 put to the House that that is the best evidence of the priority, the low priority, the absence of priority that the Opposition parties give to legal aid. The best evidence of this lack of priority falls from the lips of the Leader of the Opposition himself who said a little while ago in one of his early contributions, if one can call it that, to the Budget debate that a LiberalNational Country Party Government in future would dismantle the Australian Legal Aid Office. The public should be left in no sense of uncertainty about the intentions of the Opposition parties in regard to legal aid in Australia. There is certainty and it is that they do not believe in it.
– I ask the Prime Minister: Since he is so determined to support in full all the findings of the Royal Commissioner into petroleum, Mr Justice Collins, why has his Government so far ignored the finding of the Royal Commission that a second refinery should be built in the Sydney area at Kurnell and why has he allowed the Minister for Minerals and Energy to pursue an entirely alternative and different proposal?
-The matter is under active consideration.
– Can the Treasurer advise when the statement on financial transactions for the month and quarter of September will be released? Is he in a position to give some indication of what the statement will reflect?
-The statement on the financial transactions for September should be released early this afternoon. The statement will show a deficit of $8 16m. I hope I can forestall the usual foolishness that we have each month when this statement is released, displayed -
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Treasurer has just indicated in his response that a statement is to be released this afternoon. Again, this is a matter which surely should be presented to this Parliament as a ministerial statement and not in response to a question without notice.
– Order! The Minister is entitled to answer the question asked.
-I am afraid that it is not a statement of that nature; it is a statistical statement. If the honourable member ever bothered to read such statements he would be aware of this. Obviously he has not listened to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition try to make fallacious points on this subject at the end of each month. I do not blame him for not listening. But in any case, in an effort to forestall the usual sort of foolishness which we see displayed by the Opposition I should like to point out that the statement will indicate that although the September quarter is completed and the figures are related for that quarter in the statement, less than a quarter of budgeted outlays for the year were spent in the September quarter and less than one-sixth of the budgeted receipts have been received for the September quarter. Overall, the picture is consistent with the seasonal pattern of budget accounts.
For instance, the September quarter deficit as a proportion of total deficit is 0.7 per cent. Last year the figure was abnormally low at 0.4 per cent. But in 1973-74 the proportion was 3.4 per cent; in 1972-73, 1.1 percent; in 1971-72, 5.1 per cent; in 1970-71, 43.2 per cent; in 1969-70, 1.4 percent; in 1968-69, 1.5 percent; in 1967-68 and 1966-67, 0.9 per cent; and in 1965-66, 1.4 per cent. That is, the situation is not abnormal and indeed with the exception of last year represents the lowest level, in the terms in which I am quoting, for a decade. I think what must also be borne in mind is that receipts are down because of a delay in collections of coal export duty and crude petroleum excise. In consequence the October receipts will be boosted by more than $100m. In the current quarter nearly $500m will be collected as company tax collections.
I am indicating these figures to show the unevenness with which the fiscal transactions proceed in the course of the year, and therefore the complete crudity and stupidity of Opposition statements based on a simple multiplication of either a monthly figure by twelve or a quarterly figure by four- a calculation which produces a completely unsubstantiable result. But perhaps the most welcome result which is showing up at present, indicating that we are having a significant success in a very difficult economic situation in managing the economy, is that the rate of increase in average weekly earnings is falling back at this stage to a much lower level than we had projected when we prepared the Budget. We prepared the Budget on projections of a 22 per cent increase in average weekly earnings..In fact average weekly earnings are now increasing at a rate of 17 per cent a year; that is, they are increasing at a rate 5 percentage points down on what we had anticipated when the Budget was drawn together. That is a very welcome result and indicated that success is being achieved.
We are holding our expenditure level pretty much as we had projected and in turn, because the increase in average weekly earnings is falling, receipts too will be falling. I am not guaranteeing that we will continue to have the success. There is a long way to go yet; there is a difficult haul still in front of this country in restoring economic health, but if that projection continues and if we have even more success on the wage front, and this will reflect itself in the cost front generally and overall in a more successful economic result than we had predicted when we pulled the Budget together, the deficit will be larger than we had anticipated when we put the Budget together. But that would be a totally welcome result and consistent with a much healthier objective being achieved in economic management. I quote from a Budget statement.
-Order! The Minister’s answer is getting extraordinarily long.
– I will conclude on this. I quote from a Budget statement to indicate that this is a well recognised principle. The quote is:
Should average earnings rise less than assumed, taxation revenue would be less than estimated and the Budget deficit would be greater. It would not follow, however, that the Budget objective of maintaining an environment conducive to balanced economic growth would be adversely affected by such a development. On the contrary, such a result would be more likely to serve the broad economic purposes to which Budget policy is directed.
The source of that is page 40 of the statements attached to the 1969-70 Budget Speech. Similar comments were made in the 1970-71, 1971-72 and 1972-73 budgets at pages 4, 5, 11 and 10 respectively. I hope that kills the fallacious nonsense that we hear from the Opposition from time to time on this matter.
– My question is directed to the Attorney-General. I refer him to the third report of the Royal Commission on Petroleum. I also refer him to the answers given by the Prime Minister that the Government accepts the findings of that Commission. I ask the AttorneyGeneral: Has he considered that report? I also ask: Has he, pursuant to his undoubted responsibility, set in train a consideration of whether criminal proceedings should be taken against Mr Souter and other persons involved in the deal discussed in that report?
– I can simply answer the question this way: The report is still under consideration.
– Does the Minister for Administrative Services propose to introduce legislation during the present session to provide for public disclosure of the source of campaign funds by political parties in Australia?
– Legislation providing for the disclosure of campaign funds by individuals and political parties has twice been introduced to this House and another place and rejected on both occasions, despite the fact that the previous Leader of the Opposition indicated that the Opposition would support it. The need for this legislation has since become more apparent, particularly this week when we have seen the Leader of the National Country Party of Australia, the lackey of the oil interests of this country, acting as a paid mercenary in this Parliament for oil interests because of the funds that have been provided to members of this Party. Everybody knows he speaks in this Parliament from briefs presented to him by the oil interests because they are putting in huge amounts of funds to defeat this Government.
The Leader of the National Country Party is acting in this Parliament as a Charlie McCarthy for the oil interests simply because he and his Party are paid by the oil companies to bring into this Parliament the oil companies’ case to defeat this Government if they possibly can. We find also that the Liberal Party is now getting into the scene. We find that the oil companies have the Leader of the Opposition speaking for them today in the Parliament. They have even paid the gentleman who was not going to take a brief to get on the front bench of the Opposition. He is asking the Attorney-General questions today. Every honourable member opposite today is so working in this Parliament, and they have to because the oil interests have put in huge funds and are calling the tune in this Parliament.
– They are the oil outlets.
– They are the oil outlets, I am told. Is there any better reason why the public should know who is putting the funds into the Liberal Party? Why should the public not know that in the unlikely event that that collection of individuals opposite get into government they would be speaking on this side simply because they were paid by the oil companies? Is it any wonder that they do not want people to know where their funds are coming from? I say to the honourable member who asked me this question: I will give serious consideration to introducing this legislation.
- Mr Speaker, what the Minister is saying is quite offensive to myself and a number of other members in the Opposition. I would ask the Minister to withdraw the remarks he has made in relation to the oil industry. What he misunderstood is that we have been speaking in defence of Harold Souter, whom the Prime Minister and the Government are trying to hang.
-Order! The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat. The Minister will withdraw the direct reference to members of this House being paid by persons to act for them.
- Mr Speaker, in view of my respect for you I will do so. But if honourable members opposite do not want to be placed in this category, I suggest that their parties do not take any more money from the oil companies. That is the best way to get out of the situation.
- Mr Speaker, I would have thought that the Minister should make an unqualified withdrawal. I do not believe that he did.
-Order! The Minister withdrew. We have had complaints in recent days from the Opposition about a temporary chairman asking for a further form of withdrawal which was considered to be an over action by the Chair. I think a withdrawal is a withdrawal. I accept the Minister’s remarks as an unqualified withdrawal.
- Mr Speaker, I ask for a withdrawal too. The Leader of the Opposition said that I and members of the Government were trying to hang Harold Souter. I ask that that allegation be withdrawn.
– I did not hear the allegation but I ask that it be withdrawn.
- Mr Speaker, I withdraw the remark. The -
-Order! The honourable gentleman is not entitled to comment on the withdrawal. He has withdrawn the remark and will resume his seat.
- Mr Speaker, I ask for an unqualified withdrawal from the Minister for Administrative Services. A reflection on me that I was paid because of my position as a barrister is a very gross insinuation. To suggest that I would come into this House as a paid voice is a very serious reflection. I ask for an unqualified withdrawal of what the Minister said. It is absolutely baseless and it is not good enough for the Minister to say that out of deference to you he withdraws. In my case I certainly insist that he make an unqualified withdrawal.
-Order! Mr Minister, the honourable member for Wentworth has asked for a withdrawal and I think that he is entitled to it.
- Mr Speaker, I say to the honourable member -
Opposition members- Withdraw!
-Someone will withdraw if he does not remain silent.
- Mr Speaker, I withdraw the statement but I wish to make a personal explanation, too.
-The honourable member will resume his seat.
– The honourable member -
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat.
– The honourable member ought to -
- Mr Speaker, I have not finished my reply.
-You have now.
-I direct my question to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. Why is it that the equipment offloaded on the wrong islands in the
Torres Strait is still on the wrong islands, 6 months after its misdelivery? Is the hovercraft again currently out of operation? Why did the Minister brief the media this week that Dr Coombs visited the Torres Strait Islands without his sanction in late September when a senior officer, in fact the Queensland Director of the Australian Department of Aboriginal Affairs, accompanied him on his visit? Is the Government going to pay the account still outstanding for the dinner tendered his predecessor as Minister for Aboriginal Affairs? Will he, finally, instigate a full and open inquiry into the administration of his Department in the Torres Strait Islands and table a report for debate in this Parliament?
– The transhipment of equipment is taking place at a rate at which weather conditions and other circumstances permit. We would be greatly assisted in these endeavours if we were able to obtain the support of the Queensland Government which has predominated in the field of transport and communications in the Torres Strait Islands up to this point of time. The ‘honourable gentleman asked me about Dr Coombs. It is not appropriate for me to answer a question of that kind because Dr Coombs was not acting for me alone in matters concerning the border issues affecting Papua New Guinea and Australia. It is more appropriate, of course, to direct questions of that kind to the Prime Minister. So far as an investigation is concerned, there are continual reviews of the Department’s activities in the Torres Strait Islands. They are of a contemporary nature and not of a long standing nature as have been the activities of die Queensland Government. I think it is significant to say that they are attracting warm approval from the Islanders and especially the Island chairmen who have made statements to the effect that for the first time in the history of the Torres Strait the people there are now being treated with respect and with dignity. They are appearing to give warmhearted support to the initiatives taken by the Australian Government to catalyse autonomous activities by corporate bodies of Torres Strait Islanders.
– Will the Prime Minister assure the House and the nation that the Australian Government will press ahead with its antiinflation program despite the serious damage being done to public confidence and our system of constitutional government by election uncertainty? Is it a fact that the war on inflation requires the united effort of employers, employees and governments at all levels both State and Federal?
-The fight against inflation involves several components. There are fiscal components which depend on government initiative and the passage of legislation in Parliament; there are monetary components which depend on consultations between the Government and the Reserve Bank and the banking system in general; and there are income components which in this country depend principally on representations to and appearances before arbitration tribunals.
I take the last first. The Australian Government has to a remarkable extent, secured the cooperation of the State governments- Labor, Liberal and Country Party- in supporting its case for wage indexation before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. It will be remembered that earlier most State governments opposed the case for indexation when it was first supported by my Government. At the last hearings every State government rallied to support the Australian Government. Furthermore in earlier proceedings a great number of employer organisations opposed the case for indexation. On the last occasion several employer organisations supported the case for indexation. I think I mentioned earlier that the right honourable and learned member for Bruce appeared for one of them.
There can be no question that as regards the incomes ingredient in the battle against inflation the Australian Government has met with very great success. The consequences of this were mentioned by my colleague the Treasurer in answer to an earlier question. The Treasurer, I and a couple of other senior Ministers in the last week have had the regular monthly review of the monetary situation with the Reserve Bank and with heads of appropriate Federal departments. The fiscal process is still in train. I hope that the Australian Parliament will support the Australian Government in its fiscal measures to fight inflation.
-Pursuant to section 34 of the Services Trust Fund Act 1 947-50 1 present the report by the trustees of the Services Canteens Trust Fund for the calendar year 1974 together with financial statements and the report of the Auditor-General on those statements.
– I present for the information of honourable members the report of the Industries Assistance Commission on aluminium and articles thereof.
-Mr Speaker, my attention has been drawn to several paragraphs in today’s Australian Financial Review. I should like to tell the House that I could not have spoken in such terms as I am not really quite so familiar with aspects of the oil industry to have spoken that way. I am also not aware of any alleged precedent set by this Government on sales. I have taken letters from Mr Sykes to the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) and to other Ministers on many occasions during a period of 18 months. While I was aware of the contents of some of the letters, many of them were hand-written and very difficult to decipher. I certainly refute the suggestion that I could be aware of the contents of all of them.
- Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation. Yesterday the Minister for Health (Dr Everingham) when replying to a Dorothy Dix question from the honourable member for Evans (Mr Mulder) claimed that the information I gave the House on Thursday night concerning Australian Capital Territory hospitals was incorrect. The Minister is incorrect. In the House on Thursday night I referred to figures from the Minister’s own departmental estimates, division 327, which showed quite clearly that the Department’s contribution to the Canberra Hospital will be reduced from $10,570,000 to $7,660,000 and to the Woden Valley Hospital from $7,443,700 to $6,056,000. 1 acknowledged that the estimates stated that this was because of Medibank funding of 50 per cent of the total costs. The Minister stated in the House yesterday that the Budget allocation for the 2 hospitals had increased by 28 per cent. The Minister should check whether his figure relates to all ACT health expenditure, including Medibank, which comes from another department, and not to the hospitals. Alternatively he should instruct his department -
-Order! The honourable gentleman is debating the question.
– The serious misrepresentation concerns another matter which is the number of resident medical officers in the 2 hospitals. In my speech on Thursday night I said that it was hoped to recruit 37 resident medical officers in the ACT hospitals for the commencement of 1975 but only 29 were initially recruited and appointed. In May the Canberra Hospitals Board sought the Minister’s permission which was forthcoming, for the Canberra and Woden Valley hospitals to increase the resident medical officer establishment by nine for 1976 to a total of forty-eight. Staff ceilings have been invoked since then which has prevented the recruitment and appointment for 1976 of any number of resident medical officers in excess of those on strength on 1 July 1975. Those staff ceilings apply equally to interns and registrars.
-Order! The honourable member is again debating the question. The matters he is raising should properly be raised under standing order 66 during the time of the debate because they may be misrepresentations of what he has said but they are not personal misrepresentations.
– Can I make the point about what he did say which was incorrect? I think it is important on the question of figures.
-The honourable gentleman is not citing a case of personal misrepresentation but misrepresentation of his speech. That is covered by a different standing order and I do not think it is appropriate for a personal explanation. Otherwise we will be reopening debates after question time every day. I ask the honourable gentleman to resume his seat.
– Except there were certain personal imputations made to me at that time.
-The honourable gentleman has had ample opportunity to get to those and he has not done so.
-I take the point that his figure of seventy is completely wrong on his own definition because his own definition -
-Order! I ask the honourable gentleman to resume his seat.
Bill returned from the Senate without requests.
– I have received a letter from the honourable member for Petrie (Mr Hodges) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The lack of employment opportunities for school leavers and others seeking to enter the work force at the end of 1 975.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places. (More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places)
-In dealing with this matter of public importance on the lack of employment opportunities for school leavers and others seeking to enter the work force at the end of 1975 I want to highlight the graveness of the problem and the importance of providing for our younger generations. I want to point to the situation that existed when the Labor Government took office, and then to look at the causes of the problem and some of the solutions which should be adopted. One of the gravest problems facing the nation today, although it tends to become caught up in and overshadowed by the bigger issues of high inflation, industrial unrest, the economic crisis and high unemployment, of which it is a part, is the plight facing young school leavers and others- seeking to enter the work force for the first time. Government members can say what they like. They can bleat until the cows come home as far as I am concerned. But the lack of employment opportunities is largely, and indeed almost entirely, caused by the policies of this Government and the drastic changes instituted by this Government. Now, in mentioning school leavers and others, I refer to the problem of young people from technical colleges, colleges of advanced education and universities. It is a grave problem and the gravity of the problem cannot be assessed in the short term because it is in the long term, I believe, that this nation may feel the full effects of the fact that there are very few job opportunities available for school leavers today. If we all address ourselves to the problem and look back to when we were at this age, this difficult stage in life, when we had to make a decision as to what we would do, we can all recall our first job, be it a part time job or a full time job. The change from school life or college life to the work force is a major change to say the least. I feel for these people today as they are pushed from place to place, business house to business house, and factory to factory, in their efforts to find employment. Their confidence will surely be shattered and one wonders just what deep adverse psychological effects this experience may have on them in the future. They certainly are facing a difficult period because job opportunities are just not available. They will have a confused state of mind, no security, a sense of not being wanted and in many instances they will turn to crime and to drugs. It is all right for the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Riordan) to look startled but this in actual fact will be the situation.
I want to point up the importance of providing for the younger generation. I refer to Plato, the Greek philosopher who in about the year 400 BC made reference to the younger generation. The philosophy is as valid today as it was in 400 BC. He made the comment that so long as the younger generation is and continues to be well brought up the ship of state will have a fair voyage; otherwise the consequences are better left unsaid. That philosophy was right then and it is right now. These young people are our adults of tomorrow.
I maintain that our social structure depends largely on our family life. Our society must be laid on good foundations. If members of the Labor Government would only go out into their electorates and talk to the parents of these people, to the headmasters and principals of the high schools, and find out their feelings, they would realise the concern that exists in our community today. I want them to talk to these people. These are the people- the teachers and the headmasters- who help to mould the future of our young people. If Government members would only do this, I believe, they would put a greater effort into finding a means of alleviating this difficult situation of finding jobs for young people.
There is a great amount of work done by officers of the Commonwealth Employment Service in association with Rotary clubs, Lions clubs and Apex clubs. Service clubs generally have been active in finding job opportunities. Various courses are carried out. But there is no point in having courses for young people if there are no jobs for them to go to at a later date. If honourable members examine the situation when the Labor Party took office they will find that there were about 100 000 registered as unemployed. We were told by the present Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), the Leader of the Opposition of the day, that we could not live with 100 000 out of work. We were told that we could not live with an inflation rate of approximately 4.5 per cent. It was not long before our unemployment figure had reached 150 000. The number of unemployed rose to 200 000 and since January it has not been below 230 000. The Government said we could not live with an unemployment figure of 100 000 and we could not live with an inflation rate of 4.5 per cent. The level of inflation rose to 10 per cent within months and is currently running at 17 per cent, but probably a more accurate figure would be 20 per cent. We were told that inflation was imported. I wonder how inflation was imported into this nation. If we look at the Australian nation today we find that even if the rest of the world was not operating we would probably be as self-supporting and as well off as any other nation. Business confidence was good when this Government took office. Expansion programs were going on. Job opportunities for school leavers were quite plentiful.
I quote from the introductory remarks to the policy speech of the then Leader of the Opposition, Mr Gough Whitlam, during the 1 972 Federal election campaign. Just listen to these hollow words:
Do you believe that Australia can afford another 3 years like the last 20 months?
Are you prepared to maintain at the head of your affairs a coalition which has lurched into crisis after crisis, embarrassment piled on embarrassment week after week?
Will you accept another 3 years of waiting for next week’s crisis, next week’s blunder?
Will you again entrust the nation’s economy to the men who deliberately, but needlessly, created Australia’s worst unemployment for 10 years?
Or to the same men who have presided over the worst inflation for 20 years?
-Who said that?
– That was said by the then Leader of the Opposition, the Honourable Gough Whitlam in 1972. This Government has presided over the worst inflation, the worst unemployment, the worst industrial strife and the worst economic crisis this nation has known since Federation. These are the big issues, much talked about issues, but tucked away we have a problem which is not highlighted, not cared about, by this Government- the problem of school leavers looking for work. This Government has presided over the worst situation in relation to the lack of job opportunities for school leavers ever known in our history. Our school leavers’ plight is the by-product of the mismanagement of this nation’s affairs by this Government. I use the word ‘by-product’ in its worst sense, as one might use it in terms of noxious waste from a manufacturing industry. It is unfortunate that the by-product of this Government is that today we have so many school leavers in our community looking for jobs.
I turn to a question in relation to the latest unemployment figures that was asked in the Senate by Senator Everett on 9 September and answered by Senator James McClelland, the Minister for Labor and Immigration. The Minister answered:
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.
He went on to elaborate that statement. Two hundred and fifty thousand school leavers are to be plunged onto the labour market in a matter of months. We hear of Government restrictions on the growth of the Public Service, and of course this will mean there will be fewer opportunities for employment. Those who are now back at school total quite a number, I believe. I do not know whether the figures are available but many young people who finished their education at the end of 1974 were forced to go back to school in the 1975 school year. What will the figure be in 1976 for those who cannot obtain satisfactory employment at the end of this year? Our high schools and our colleges are going to be crowded out. According to the available figures, there were 9335 registered school leavers in August this year and in September this number had dropped by only 900 to 8466.
– They do not care.
-They do not care, as the honourable member for Lilley says. If we look at the number of job vacancies we find that it also is down. In his Budget Speech the Treasurer (Mr Hayden) mentioned that the Government refused to increase the dole for 16 to 18-year- olds. The Government is trying to force young people out to work. This is obvious, but what are these people to do when there are no jobs to go to? I would like the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Riordan), who is sitting at the table, to answer that question. The intent, of course, is to try to force these people out to work. Perhaps $36 for a single person is sufficient to live on and therefore, the Government says, it will not increase the benefits and so encourage people to be bludgers all their lives. Where do these people go when there are no jobs? I suggest that we should apply the remedy at the root cause rather than adopt measures such as those taken by the Treasurer.
I look next at the cause of the problems. I believe that basically the policies of this Government have caused the situation which exists. The Prices Justification Tribunal is squeezing companies for profits, which means that there is less expansion by companies. The repercussions are quite widespread. If companies do not expand, job opportunities of course are not available. Drastic changes from the promotion of a free enterprise system, such as we had under 23 years of Liberal-Country Party government, have been implemented far too quickly by this Government. I liken this to a person buying a thriving business and then closing the front door and putting a sign on it directing all the customers into the side street or around to the side lane. This is exactly what this Government has done. Another measure that has caused problems and reduced the number of job opportunities is the drying up of overseas capital by the restrictions that this Government has placed on the inflow of such capital to help develop this nation. The great taxation grab which this Government has indulged in is also a matter for concern. There is no incentive these days for people to save to expand and spend their money. The strangulation of the mining industry and oil exploration companies has had a very profound effect on the number of available job opportunities.
What are the solutions? I believe that there must be restraint by the unions. There must be wage restraint. I think the statement made by a former Treasurer, the Honourable Frank Crean- I do not know whether he was the second or third last Treasurer- that one man’s pay increase would be another man’s job is quite true. The trade unions must show greater restraint than they are showing. It is of no use this Government trying to dissociate itself from the trade union movement. It is pandering to the trade union movement and at the moment is in a dreadful bind. This Government is synonymous with the trade unions, and we all know the way in which they are ruining this country today. There must be genuine efforts to stimulate business activity in this country. It is of no use this Government talking about stimulating the private sector of the economy; there have to be genuine efforts. No businessman in this country, be he large or small, is going to respond to a government that on the one hand says it is interested in private enterprise and on the other hand shows duplicity at every turn. This Government must put money back into people’s pockets. This is a further solution to the problem. The people of this nation should not be subjected to such a heavy tax burden, a burden that is placed on them by a government that is hell bent on social reform. I hope that the Minister for Housing and Construction will reply to this point because if he considers that the social problems that are being created by the lack of job opportunities today, particularly for young people, are not important then I would like him to say so.
There must be an abandonment of a number of the new social reforms proposed by this
Government. This Government is caught in a vicious circle. It wants to reform, yet in doing so it wants more taxation. The prosperity of this nation cannot be sectionalised. The greatest good for the greatest number must prevail. School leavers are not interested in political infighting, fine rhetoric or the playing of politics in any shape or form. They want jobs and they want security.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Anybody who listened to the speech of the honourable member for Petrie (Mr Hodges) must feel some sadness and disappointment. The real difficulty of the Opposition is that it is engaged in an action which is unfortunately a combination of cynicism and irresponsibility. I was disappointed this morning that the Opposition did not take a more positive, more intelligent and more reasoned approach to this subject. When I first saw the matter of public importance listed I thought that the Opposition might put forward some sensible, intelligible suggestions in the national interest to assist in what is a real and crucial social and economic problem. My disappointment is immense. I am bitterly disappointed that the Opposition’s so-called shadow Minister for Labor, the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street), who sits opposite me does not agree with what I am saying. Unfortunately, therefore, I will have to lump him in with my remarks about the Opposition’s approach. Frankly, I thought that he had more to him. I hope that he will not persist with this line.
The Opposition has raised this matter of public importance. One would expect that at least something would have been said in a positive and progressive manner. What sort of proposition is put forward? We heard quotations from Plato from the year 400 B.C. I do not have the unemployment figures for that time.
– Did you not like the quotation?
-Yes, but I note that it was used in the context of trying to denigrate youth, as certain people in every generation denigrate their youth. The honourable member is no exception. I say that there is nothing wrong with the youth of Australia today. Honourable members opposite will never get over the shock to their system when this Government gave 18- year-olds the right to vote. They will never recover from it.
The honourable member for Petrie talked about the worst inflation, the worst economic conditions, the worst industrial disputation and the worst unemployment since Federation. What utter garbage! There is no other way to describe that statement. Where has the honourable member been? Does he not know what happened in the Depression? Does he not know of the great industrial disputes of the past? Does he not know what happened in the 1920s, in 1949 or in the early 1950s? Does he not know about the inflation of the 1950s? Does he not know about the great industrial disputes of the 1920s? Of course there is bad inflation. Of course there is bad unemployment. But when the honourable member makes such a ludicrous, broad, sweeping statement he merely displays a degree of ignorance that is unaccountable in a member of Parliament.
This Government will use every effort and will strain every muscle to eliminate unemployment: It is a cardinal plank of the policy of the Australian Labor Parry that it shall not have unemployment. The Government will use every effort to avoid it. It must be recognised by every reasonable person that our trading partnersthose who have a similar economic system to ours and those who do not- are suffering from the same sort of pressure of inflation and unemployment at this time. The national interest is not served by this cynical attempt to ride to power on the backs of the unemployed. I wish that some of those who hold senior offices in the Opposition understood personally what unemployment was all about. It is all right to talk about it from a lofty height, from the intellectual safety of the ivory tower, from the background of the silver spoon. Those who understand the difficulties and the trauma of unemployment would never tolerate it as a deliberate policy. The Government accepts that the present position is intolerable. It will be doing everything possible to eliminate it with the shortest possible delay.
But some of the suggestions which are made from time to time are so economically unsound that not only would they not assist the current position but they would also positively worsen it. Some of these sorts of speeches made in this Parliament tend to undermine the confidence of the Australian community in the economy, thus making the situation worse. The honourable member for Petrie suggested that the Government’s attitude has prevented people from saving. For goodness sake, savings bank deposits are skyrocketing at the present time. They are now in excess of $ 14,000m. Our problem is not that people will not save; one of our problems is that people are saving too much because they are listening to those who preach the gospel of despair and doom and they are scared to spend. This situation has been encouraged deliberately by some irresponsible and cynical sections of the Opposition- the desperadoes for power.
The labour force in Australia between November 1972 and May 1975 has increased by 4 1/2 per cent- not decreased. At the end of May there were almost 260 000 more people in the labour force than there were at the end of November 1972. Let me remind the honourable member for Petrie that at the end of 1971 and early in 1972 some 65 000 school leavers were looking for work. But I did not hear him or his Party expressing this grave concern then. In fact they did nothing.
– We got them back to work.
– In a moment we will come to how you did that. We expect that about 250 000 school leavers will be coming on to the labour force at the end of this year. The Department expects that about 80 000 of them will be registered with the Commonwealth Employment Service as unemployed. We are not suggesting that there will be a rapid absorption, because of the slow pick-up that is presently occurring in the economy. One of the great problems of unemployment to which I have referred in the past and which members of the Opposition do not wish to face, is that at any time when all of the unskilled labour of this country is employed there is an acute shortage of skilled labour. When there is not an acute shortage of skilled labour and when there is a balance between the vacancies and the jobs available there is acute unemployment among the unskilled labour. That is a legacy of the Liberal years of neglect. Like it or not, those are the facts. The Opposition might as well face up to the situation because it will not be allowed to forget it.
What this Government has done in the meantime has been to endorse such things as the national apprenticeship assistance scheme, which was introduced by this Government in 1973 and which has been a significant and substantial encouragement to employers to train young people. Under the National Employment and Training scheme for non-apprenticeship employment a subsidy is payable to employers to encourage them actively to train people with inplant training. It would do Opposition members much more credit if they were prepared to use their energies and efforts to highlight and publicise these schemes and to advise those in the labour force and the employers that these schemes are available. They should be encouraging people to know about them. They should be encouraging people to use them rather than discouraging them. Every time they make a speech, members of the Opposition attempt to undermine confidence in order to bring about a failure so that they can gain some cynical political advantage.
In 1975-76 the Australian Government will be spending $40m in these various forms of assistance for training. This will make for a more flexible labour force which can be better utilised in Australian industry and commerce, thus overcoming the great deficiencies and difficulties that come from unemployment. The honourable member for Corangamite recently made a statement about the Commonwealth Employment Service. Let me say to him: Yes, the Commonwealth Employment Service is visiting schools. He seems to think there is something sinister in that. What the departmental officers are saying is that school leavers should seek the assistance of the Commonwealth Employment Service as soon as possible to advise what they should do. The careers reference centre caters for some 300 000 people every year.
-We set it up.
-The Opposition parties did set it up and I congratulate them on at least taking that faltering step but they need not have kept it such a secret. They never advertised that service. They hardly told a soul about -it; we have. We have extended it and last year about 300 000 people went to see it. We are not saying to young people that they should go down and get on the dole, as was implied in the statement of the honourable member.
– That has been said.
-We are not saying that. We are advising them of their rights. The situation is that on the one hand some members of the Opposition say that all youths who are not working are sponging on the rest of the community while on the other hand others are saying that we should not be encouraging them to get- out to work. I do not know what it is that members of the Opposition are trying to achieve.
The other thing that this Government is trying to do is to extend the Employment Service and to ascertain what vacancies exist for school leavers, particularly those with the necessary skills. For those who cannot find employment, for those who are unable to obtain reasonable employment, this Government has increased substantially the unemployment benefits payable in order to reduce the disadvantage and the suffering. No monetary payment will ever overcome the indignity, the mental trauma and the suffering of a person who genuinely wants a job and cannot get it.
– We agree with you.
-I am pleased to know that the honourable member agrees. I am pleased to know that he will stop this garbage can treatment of young people who have not got employment. Referring further to the field of training, under the student assistance schemes in 1971-72 the total expenditure by the previous Government was $32.7m but this year under this Government it will be $95.25m. In the field of student enrolments, 14.6 per cent of the population between 17 and 22 years was enrolled in 1971 and 18.1 per cent was enrolled in 1974, an increase from 1 93 000 to 250 000. In the last 8 years of LiberalCountry Party administration in this country the Government spent $77m on technical and further education.
– We got them jobs.
– In the period from 1973-74 to 1975-76 the amount being spent is $151.7m. The honourable member for Corangamite interjected and said that the previous Government got them jobs. That is part of our problem. It got them jobs all right but it did not encourage people to acquire the skills that this country needs. It just threw them into dead-end jobs. It did not matter what it was. The Government at that time was concerned about factory fodder. We are concerned about human development. That is the difference. Honourable members opposite are concerned only about providing labour for the mills. We are concerned about providing labour for those industries which are essential to Australia’s long term advantage -
– There will not be many left.
– … . and ensuring that the individual citizen can obtain those skills that he wishes to obtain. The honourable member for Corangamite says that there will not be many left. That is the sort of irresponsible cynicism that he should be ashamed to utter. What he is trying to do is to talk down this economy further. As a prospective responsible Minister he should be using his best efforts to increase confidence and to get factories re-opened and expanded. Instead of that all that the Opposition is trying to do is to run down the economy. This cynical and irresponsible act is a cruel attempt to exploit the plight of the unemployed in this country. I only wish that some honourable member opposite had had some first hand knowledge of unemployment. Some honourable members opposite certainly will have it before too long because when the Australian people next get their chance to speak I think there will be one or two honourable members opposite who will not be around this place.
-From the rantings and the antics of the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Riordan), who has just resumed his seat, it would appear that he is one of the old Labor spruikers. I rise in support of my colleague the honourable member for Petrie (Mr Hodges) in this debate on this matter of public importance- the lack of employment opportunities for school leavers and others seeking to enter the work force at the end of 1975. Bringing on this debate is no act of cynicism on our part, as it was described by the Minister. The Minister said he was disappointed because we of the Opposition are not going to tell him how to run this country. You cannot teach an old dog new tricks. In the 10 minutes that I have in which to speak I will not have time to present all my facts of criticism, let alone get his Government off the hook. When the people put us into government we will fix the situation with positive and progressive policies.
This Government has proved beyond doubt that it is an unemployment party. The school leavers are witnesses to a government that has wrecked the Australian economy and has refused to accept the guidelines of successful predecessors in government. When this socialist Labor Government came to office in 1972 the unemployment level was running at about 80 000 to 100 000.
– What is it now?
-It is about 300 000. Inflation was running at about 4.5 per cent. In less than 3 years unemployment has more than trebled and inflation has multiplied 5 times at least.
– Five times?
-Yes, in fact exactly 5 times. Where do the school leavers fit into this picture? I am afraid that it is a very sorry story we have to tell. It is a story which proves that this socialist Government, like all socialist governments, does not care. Should any honourable member want to challenge that statement, let me qualify what I am saying. By its record the Whitlam Government has proved that its socialist policies have been deliberately designed to create within our communities a dependence upon government. What better way to create that dependency than to kill initiative. Let us consider how it set about killing initiative. The Government allowed inflation to escalate with drastic consequences to private enterprise but with beneficial results for the
Government in that it was able to supplement its handout policies. The Government allowed, aided and abetted the unions to make increasing demands for higher and higher wages and shorter working hours. It lifted the tariff barriers with devastating results for the textile industries. How the hell could the private enterprise industries survive under such a government-backed onslaught?
This has created no opportunities for school leavers to become absorbed into the Australian work force. Again the aim appears to be to give the school leaver very little choice but plenty of opportunity to educate himself or herself for a future of dependency on government. Because of a lack of job opportunities, particularly in the country centres, and the Government’s desire to kill private enterprise the apprenticeship position is now in grave jeopardy. Apprenticeship opportunities are now denied to school leavers. Surviving private industry, particularly in the country areas, which employs about 70 per cent of the work force cannot offer apprenticeships because it is now working with skeleton staffs. The activities of private industry in the field of research and experiment in order to promote opportunities for further industrial development have ceased. The future of school leavers looks very gloomy indeed. They can show some initiative in learning how to live idle lives. An apprentice has an opportunity to learn about the retraining scheme or how to apply for the dole. If that is not killing a race of intelligent youth, I do not know what is.
This Government certainly has proved that it is an unemployment party. It has pursued a policy of deliberately putting people out of work. This Government does not care. The Minister for Labor and Immigration (Senator James McClelland) clearly does not care. He has not given a positive reply, except to say no, to any problem or anomaly caused by the mistakes of his Department. I could illustrate the situation by referring to a couple of glaring cases which I have taken to him in recent times. As soon as he won the top position on the New South Wales ballot paper he dropped all interest in the political consequences of unemployment.
– He cares only for himself.
-That is right, top of the list. It would appear that he used the knife on the Budget expenditure to behead the school leavers in the work force. He is not worried about the difficulties of the school leaver. As a Minister in a government of what has been termed ‘the unemployment Party’ he is maintaining the consistency of his Government which has succeeded in putting out of work- in seasonally adjusted terms- 300 000 people, which is over 5 per cent of the Australian work force. The Government has withdrawn the Regional Employment Development scheme when unemployment is the highest since the 1930s depression. The cutting back of expenditure in the Budget has attacked only the work force. Has the Government run out of money? Has it gone broke? What a cruel, callous government, a government that can accept the fact that nearly 400 000 school leavers will be on the labour market in 10 weeks and face the prospect of unemployment? The Government is saying to the school leavers, the university graduates and the technical institute graduates: ‘We are not going to alter our Budget strategy. We know that there will be 400 000 or more people out of work in January or February. We are not going to restore the RED scheme. We believe we are right You can all go to hell’. What a shocking indictment against the Australian Labor Party, a party that has always claimed to represent the worker, a party that claims to care for the average little man.
The Budget will not restore confidence in the private sector, the sector that employs oyer 70 per cent of the working people. It is now a well known fact that the Labor Government’s Budget has also sown the seeds of destruction for thousands of small businessmen, farmers and others involved in small industries throughout Australia. They are the little people whom the ALP once cared about but is now destroying. There is no section more seriously hurt than the small business sector which is fully Australian owned, which employs fewer than 100 people in each business and which will go to the wall under this Government and its Budget. As my colleagues alongside me say, this is deliberate. The shattering results of a recent survey show that two-thirds of the businesses are in danger of collapse and bankruptcy in the next 12 months.. If these projections are correct somewhere between 20 per cent and 30 per cent of the Australian work force are about to face unemployment. If the survey is only half right there will be a 10 per cent to 15 per cent unemployment level, which represents a shocking and horrible indictment of the Labor Party’s pursuit of its doctrinaire socialist philosophy.
Since this Government has been in power more than 3000 of these small businesses have already gone broke and thousands are hanging on by their fingernails hoping for a change of government so that the private sector can again begin to plan with confidence. What hope has the school leaver in the work force in this predicament? I suggest that it is worth repeating what the Prime Minister said when he was the Leader of the Opposition, when he was leading that great Party of his to the 1 972 election:
Do you believe that Australia can afford another 3 years like the last 20 months? Are you prepared to maintain at the head of your affairs a coalition which has lurched into crisis after crisis, embarrassment piled upon embarrassment week after week? Will you accept another 3 years of waiting for next week’s crisis, next week’s blunder? Will you again entrust the nation’s economy to the men who deliberately, but needlessly, created Australia’s worst unemployment for 10 years? Or to the same men who have presided over the worst inflation for 20 years?
If the position at that time was the worst for 10 years, it has been multiplied more than threefold since this Government took power.
-Who said that?
-The Prime Minister said that and that is an indictment on any Prime Minister and any Labor government.
– I suppose I should be getting used to it but one is continually amazed at the sheer gall of the Opposition in debates such as this. Members of the Opposition will say anything at all to make political points. Probably the best example we have seen for some time is the -
– You are a hypocrite.
- Mr Deputy Speaker -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Martin)Order! I heard that remark. The honourable member for Curtin called the honourable member for Gellibrand a hypocrite. I ask him to withdraw the remark.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I withdraw it. The honourable member said that of me not long ago.
– I was not in the chair.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I ask you to be fairer in your adjudication and to consider whether that was not partisanship.
-The honourable member for Curtin is suggesting that I am unfair in the chair. I suggest he withdraw that suggestion, otherwise I will have no alternative but to name him.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I ask you whether you would consider the position. I take it from what you said that you are maintaining that that was fairness.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order.
– But I take your advice, Mr Deputy Speaker, and I withdraw any imputation on the Chair, as indeed I must.
- Mr Deputy Speaker -
-Order! The honourable member for Curtin has withdrawn the remark.
– Before I was so rudely interrupted I was about to say that the honourable member for Petrie (Mr Hodges) is probably the best example we have had for some time of the sheer gall of the Opposition in making political points and outrageous statements. The Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Riordan) picked up a couple of them and I wish to refer to two others. The honourable member for Petrie said that Government restrictions on the growth of the Public Service would not assist school leavers. His own leader the Opposition Leader (Mr Malcolm Fraser) said in the Budget debate that if he were Prime Minister of Australia at this time there would not only be restrictions on Public Service growth; there would be no growth at all. Here is the Opposition trying to make a point about our restriction on growth of1½ per cent when in fact it is the Opposition policy to have no growth whatever of the Public Service. Four thousand people who will get jobs in the Public Service as a result of our allowance of1½ per cent growth would not get those jobs if the Opposition were in government. So that is just a part of the example of the sheer cynicism of the Opposition ‘s attitudes in debates of this sort.
The honourable member also deplored the fact that there was no increase in unemployment benefits to 16 to 18-year olds. Does that mean in fact that the Opposition supports an increase in unemployment benefits for 16 to 18-year olds? How does that fit with its policy of cut backs across the board on all sorts of items? How does that fit with its policy of cutting back Government expenditure by at least $ 1,000m? Would the Opposition increase social welfare payments as well? We have not heard that claim before but it would be interesting to add to the enormous list of other things which the Opposition has mentioned from time to time but of which it does not take account of in its Budget strategy. Not only does the Opposition make these outrageous statements; it also makes no allowance for the fact that what is happening in Australia is happening all across the world.
– Change the record.
– I shall quote a couple of points. I suggest the honourable member might pay some attention. If he looks at the publication of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Economic Outlook- I am sure he has never heard of it before- for July this year, at page 9 he will see this statement:
Unemployment is now at its highest post-war level in many OECD countries.
In other words, what is happening here is happening in many other countries. If he looks at page 5 he will see this statement:
Total recorded unemployment in the area -
That is, in the OECD countries- is now about15 million, double the level at the last business cycle peak and equivalent to over5½ per cent of the civilian labour force.
I suggest he think about that. If he turns to page 11 he will see this statement:
The present recession in OECD countries is the most serious since the war. It is remarkable not only for its length and depth- a third consecutive half-year of negative growth has now been recorded for the area as a whole- but also for its widespread nature: virtually every OECD country grew by less than its medium-term average rate in 1 974 -
I especially draw his attention to the next statement- and no economy -
In the Western developed world- is expected to take up slack in 1 975.
So the fact that we are notlikely to have a reduction in unemployment until next year is not a situation which is occurring only in Australia; it is happening in every other country in the Western developed world. They all have high unemployment. None of them are expected to have a reduction in unemployment before 1976. But is any concession made to that by Opposition speakers in this debate or in any other debate? No, not one ounce of it. Members of the Opposition are sheer political -
– They are sheer political humbugs for not making that kind of concession. It is also of interest, or course, that the Opposition’s policy would in fact exacerbate unemployment.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I ask for that remark to be withdrawn.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MartinOrder! The honourable member for Curtin has taken exception to the use by the honourable member for Gellibrand of the word ‘ humbugs ‘.
– It was not used against any particular member, Sir; it was a general statement against the Opposition.
– For the sake of peace and quiet, I suggest that the honourable member should withdraw.
– I withdraw the comment.
– I raise a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. It has always been laid down by previous Speakers that unless a comment is directed particularly to one person it is quite in order. So you are out of order.
– I think the honourable member for Curtin was taking exception on the grounds that possibly the honourable member for Gellibrand referred to him as a humbug.
– No, he said ‘they’. It has been ruled previously that if it applies to specific people, even though more than one, the point of order should still be upheld.
– The remark has been withdrawn.
– I was trying to make the point that the Opposition’s policy would exacerbate unemployment in any case. This is something for which members of the Opposition do not make any allowance, and understandably so. They have talked in their Budget strategy about the need for a cutback in government expenditure by $ 1,000m. If one looks at the kinds of areas where they have suggested there should be a cutback, it would obviously mean higher unemployment right now. If the Opposition were the Government now there would be zero Public Service growth. I have referred to that matter. There is no joy for the school leaver there.
They have also suggested that there should be a substantial cutback in capital works programs, in government offices, in growth centres and in the National Capital Development Commission. The non-dwelling building industry is at the moment dependent on government expenditure. If there were a substantial cutback in this area there would be a great increase in unemployment in the non-dwelling building industry. There would be a lot of building workers, architects, engineers and so on out of work. It would also have secondary effects on the building materials industry; so there would be much more unemployment there. None of this of course would be assisting school leavers.
This is only the peak of the iceberg, because members of the Opposition have also suggested in various ways that there should be other increases in expenditure such as the increase in the superphosphate bounty, assistance to beef growers, increases in defence expenditure, etc. This would involve further cutbacks in other areas which are employment creating. If it involved further cutbacks in capital works, then that would certainly be important. If it involved further cutbacks in areas like education and social welfare, this would mean there would be more unemployment in those areas as well.
The Opposition’s policy is quite clearly one which would lead to a substantial increase in unemployment in the immediate term. It is no counteracting argument to say that the Opposition ‘s proposed tax cuts would stimulate expenditure and therefore stimulate employment. If it did have such an effect it would be lagged. That could only happen after some period of time had elapsed in which there had been an increase in demand and employers had responded to that increase in demand by increasing production and then, having used up their current employees by increasing overtime to some extent, starting to put on more workers. So the employment effects would obviously be lagged and not felt until well into next year if any tax cuts were made now.
That assumes even that there would be a stimulation from tax cuts, and that is by no means certain. In other countries which have adopted a tax cut approach it has been found that there has been a big increase in savings; much of the increase in personal disposable income which has come from the tax cuts has gone into savings and not into spending. West Germany has found that this has happened, as has the United States of America. So to cut taxes now would by no means necessarily create increased demand for goods and therefore increased employment. It could well be that the use of this policy would just see higher savings and, because it involves a cutback in government expenditure, certainly would create a much higher level of unemployment right now in various areas I have mentioned.
Finally, they make no allowance for the fact that the economy is on the upswing at the moment. The trend is only very tentative but it is there. The publication of production statistics by the Statistician in August gives seasonally adjusted figures for 12 basic items. Ten of those showed a substantial increase in August. So there are some indicators that the economy is starting to move upwards. We do not expect that there will be a substantial recovery in terms of employment until next year, but in that respect we are no different from any other country. If we try to stimulate further production right now by tax cuts or increased government expenditure it would possibly lead to higher inflation rather than increased employment.
– The discussion is now concluded.
– I inform the House that we have present in the gallery this morning a parliamentary delegation from Brazil lead by Deputy Mario Mondino. On behalf of the House I extend to the delegation an extremely warm welcome.
Honourable members- Hear, hear!
Bill presented by Mr Whitlam and read a first time.
Immediately following the introduction of this Bill, I shall be introducing Bills to amend the Telephonic Communications (Interception) Act 1960-1975 and the Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904-1975. The subject matter of the 3 Bills is related and I propose to refer to all 3 of them in this speech.
Honourable members will know that on 26 September I announced that the Government had decided to appoint Mr Justice A. E. Woodward, O.B.E., to be the head of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. He is to take up his new duties on 24 November 1975 and it is intended that the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Bill will come into effect on that day. In announcing Mr Justice Woodward ‘s appointment, I said that it is appropriate that this very important position should be filled by a judge and that in the Government’s view this position should in future always be filled by a person holding judicial office. The Government holds strongly to this view.
Arising from the Government’s decision to appoint a judge to head the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, this Bill ensures that such an appointment of a judge does not affect his tenure of office as a judge, or the salary, allowances and other rights and privileges that he has by virtue of his judicial office. Service of a judge in this position is to count as judicial service for all purposes. There is no such provision in the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act as it now stands and what the Government is proposing is in line with similar provisions which have been passed by this Parliament on other occasions. Section 13 of the Law Reform Commission Act 1973, for example, enables a judge to be appointed as a commissioner and retain his judicial status and the rights which attach to that status. Further, I remind honourable members that while he was a justice of the High Court of Australia, Sir Owen Dixon, who later became Chief Justice, was appointed Australian Minister to the United States in 1942 and the Judiciary (Diplomatic Representation) Act 1 942 was passed to enable him to hold that office in addition to his judicial office.
The Bill provides for the official title of the head of ASIO to be changed from ‘DirectorGeneral’ to ‘Director’. In November last year, the Government agreed that, in Australian Government Organisations, the title ‘Director’ should ordinarily be used in preference to ‘Director-General’ except in the case of organisations with significant state offices headed by ‘Directors’. Expression has been given to this policy in other legislation- for example in the course of the passage of the Australian Development Assistance Agency Bill through this House in December 1974 the title ‘Director-General’ wherever appearing was changed to ‘Director’. This was agreed without division.
A judge appointed as Director is to receive such additional salary and annual allowance as are necessary to bring his salary and annual allowance to the level payable to the Chief Judge of the Australian Industrial Court. Mr Justice Woodward now receives such additional remuneration by virtue of his office as President of the Trade Practices Tribunal. Provision is made for the salary of the Director to be determined by the Remuneration Tribunal in the situation where the Director is not a judge. In accordance with the policy of the Government, the opportunity is being taken to change references to ‘the Commonwealth’ in the existing Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act and the Telephonic Communications (Interception) Act to ‘Australia ‘ or ‘Australian ‘.
The second Bill, the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill (No. 2), provides for an increase of one in the number of judges in the Australian Industrial Court so that the Court will consist of a Chief Judge and ten other judges. This will allow the court to operate at its full strength during the period of Mr Justice Woodward’s appointment with ASIO, which is for 7 years.
The third Bill, the Telephonic Communications (Interception) Bill, provides for the Prime Minister in future to be responsible for the issue of warrants to authorise the interception of telephonic communications. The provisions relating to the issue of warrants are found in sections 6 to 12 of the existing legislation. This change is proposed following the revised administrative arrangements order made on 26 September whereby the administration of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act was transferred to the Prime Minister. The Attorney-General will remain responsible for the administration of the other sections of the Telephonic Communications (Interception) Act and for the prosecution of offences under the Act. Secondly, the Bill provides for consequential amendments of the principal Act arising from the change in title of the head of ASIO. I commend the Bills to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Street) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Whitlam and read a first time.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
I commend it to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Street) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Whitlam and read a first time.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
I commend it to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Street) 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 proposed new complex for the Antarctic Division headquarters and for the Hobart regional laboratory of the Australian Government Analytical Laboratories, Kingston, Tasmania.
The proposal involves the construction of 8 separate structures, seven of which will be occupied by the Antarctic Division and which will provide accommodation for offices, display and conference areas, laboratories, workshops and stores while the remaining one will contain separate offices and laboratories for the Hobart regional laboratory of the Australian Government Analytical Laboratories. The buildings will be constructed with reinforced concrete columns and floors and pre-cast concrete wall panels. The roof will be of galvanised steel decking, suitably insulated, and windows will be of tinted glass in aluminium frames. Air conditioning will be provided to all occupied areas in the laboratories, administrative buildings and instrument workshop. The estimated cost of the proposed work is $7m at September 1975 prices. I table plans of the proposed work.
– I support the motion moved by the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Riordan) that this project be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works. The Antarctic Division was created in 1948 within the Department of External Affairs. It was later transferred to the Department of Supply. When the present Government came into office and the Department of Science was created, the Division was incorporated within that Department. In 1972, the previous Government decided to move the Cosmic Ray Section of the Antarctic Division from Hobart to Melbourne where all the other sections have been located. At the time I raised the matter with the then Minister for Supply, Mr Garland, and asked him if the Cosmic Ray Section could be kept in Hobart. I suggested that the location of the whole Division should be in Hobart. His reply was that it would not be possible. During the 1972 election campaign, I promised to work for the transfer of the Antarctic Division to Hobart. The idea was received enthusiastically in Tasmania. As soon as Mr Morrison was appointed Minister for Science, I started the campaign to have the Division moved to Hobart. During 1973 I made a series of submissions to the Minister and convinced him of the feasibility and desirability of the move. Finally in January 1974, Cabinet approved the transfer. The Antarctic Division began preparing the preliminary design brief which was completed in June 1974. The then Department of Services and Property began a search for a suitable site and Kingston which is just outside of
Hobart was selected in May 1974. The purchase of the site was completed in October that year. Following that, preparation of the draft environmental impact statement was begun by the Department of Science and was published in February this year. Public comments were sought. The final environmental impact statement was begun in March 1975 and cleared by the then Department of Environment and Conservation in May 1975. The project was then referred to Cabinet which has approved its inclusion in design list C which allows the Department of Housing and Construction to prepare sketch plans, limit of cost estimate and documentary evidence for the Public Works Committee. The Department of Science, as the client Department, has also prepared evidence.
That having been completed and the Treasurer having approved the limit of cost estimate, the Minister for Housing and Construction has today moved the referral of the project to the Public Works Committee. There now must be public notice given notifying of public hearings and calling for evidence. I understand that the Public Works Committee will be able to hold its hearings in Hobart in the first week of November. I hope that interested persons in Hobart will examine sketch plans and the model of the project which I believe is available. It is my hope that the Public Works Committee will be able to report to the Parliament before the end of November and that the Parliament will approve the project so that the Department of Housing and Construction can forge ahead with the task of detailed contract documentation, with tenders being called and construction commencing by half way through next year.
Some people have been frustrated at the time taken by all these necessary preliminaries of last year and this year. But it is a major project- a multi-million dollar project- and there has to be careful preparation for such a major expenditure of the taxpayers’ money. The original proposal has been expanded and the project not to be just the headquarters of the Antarctic Division, but the Department of Science and Consumer Affairs complex. As the Minister said in his motion, it is a multi-building development for the Antarctic Division and also for the Australian Government Analytical Laboratories. The function of the Laboratories has been expanded by the Government’s greater involvement in consumer affairs, apart from a generally greater demand for analytical services. The new procedures for environmental impact statements also added to the lead time but were an essential part of government policy in the public interest.
I should now like to turn briefly to the reasons for siting the Antarctic Division headquarters in Hobart. Tasmania has had a relatively low level of Australian Government departmental spending because of the concentration of activities of the Government in Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne. My wish was to have any appropriate activities located in Tasmania to go some way towards correcting the imbalance and to provide the substantial spin-off benefits for the city of Hobart and the State of Tasmania. The Antarctic Division represents a most appropriate activity to establish in Hobart for a variety of reasons, including the proximity of Hobart to the Antarctic and its good port facilities. The Division’s activities at present are dispersed over six locations, five of which are in various parts of Melbourne. They do not provide suitable accommodation, as they are inconvenient, inefficient and lead to low morale of the staff of the Division. This proposal will provide a permanent headquarters, bringing together into one location, all the Australian based activities of the Division, leading to a more effective operation. There will be mutual benefits for both Hobart and the Antarctic Division. To save the time of the House, I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard my statement of 25 January 1974, commenting on the announcement of the Government’s plans. The honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street) has already given his consent for which I thank him.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
Press Statement 25 January 1974
JOHN COATES’ COMMENTS ON ANTARCTIC DIVISION MOVE
One thing about this decision that particularly pleases me is that it shows that a back-bencher with an idea can see the results of that idea benefit his own electorate.
The decision will be a great boost to Hobart and Tasmania as a whole- it will produce major spin-off benefits for Hobart such as in the provision of supplies and in the encouragement of service industries.
The establishment of an industry- for that is what it isgenerates a great deal of economic activity. It is not just the expenditure of 3 million dollars on a building, it is the generation of a whole new range of economic activities that will benefit everyone in the community. For the city of Hobart to have a well-respected organisation as this will add a new dimension to the identity of Tasmania and this will have a particular spin-off in the tourist industry. The city and the Division will soon become identified with each other. I know that this has happened in Christchurch; where the American Antarctic effort is based.
This move will inevitably mean increased job opportunities in Tasmania, particularly in the technological and professional areas. We lose too many of our trained young people because of insufficient openings for them at present. I hope that the establishment of the Antarctic Division in Hobart will be the first of several moves of this kind which will provide openings for our qualified people.
The move will be of particular benefit to the University of Tasmania, particularly in the fields of physics, biology, geology and medicine. Most of these Departments already have some interest in Antarctic research.
To have Hobart as the Australian National Antarctic Research Expedition (ANARE) base will be of significant benefit to the port of Hobart. ‘
I see major advantages for the Division in the move. The status of the Division would be acknowledged much more in Hobart than in Melbourne. The Division will share the mutual benefit of being associated with the University of Tasmania. There would be a more specific relationship than is possible with much larger institutions which have many other outside contacts.
There may be initially minor disadvantages for the Antarctic Division in such things as the supply of some technical equipment but I believe that this disadvantage is marginal and hopefully will even lead to the development of a local electronics industry. Many of the existing personnel will have to transfer to Hobart but this will be a gradual move and is inevitable in the establishment of any Commonwealth activity in Hobart. To argue against the move on these grounds would be to argue against any increase in Commonwealth spending in the city.
I know that this decision will create a great deal of interest in the community and I have had talks with the Minister with a view to seeing that the Tasmanian people are properly informed in the progressive development of this move.
I have said all along that it is neither necessary nor desirable for Commonwealth activities to be centred in Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne. Decentralised location of Australian Government departments is in the national interest and in the interests of the development of our smaller cities. During the election campaign I drew attention to the failure of the previous government to provide significant Commonwealth spending in this state. I promised at that time to do all I could to change the policy. It is personally gratifying to see the Labor Government’s commitment to the concept of regional development beginning to take effect in Tasmania. During 1972, before the election, I proposed to the then Government that the Antarctic Division be moved to Hobart in the interests of Tasmania. The Minister for Supply, Mr Garland, under whose department the Division was then located, was opposed to such a move. In fact, the previous Government proposed to move the Cosmic Ray section that has been in Hobart for many years away from Hobart to Melbourne.
I was very pleased, at the time that I made my proposal public, that the now Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, took up the idea with enthusiasm. As soon as the new Government was elected I sent a telegram to the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Barnard, asking him to delay the planned move of the Cosmic Ray section of the Division from Hobart to Melbourne pending examination of my proposal that the whole Division be located in Hobart. Mr Barnard agreed and since then I have been pushing the idea with the Government. I knew several months ago that I had convinced the Minister for Science, Mr Morrison, of the advantages of the move and finally this week Federal Cabinet considered Mr Morrison’s submission and endorsed it.
– I should like to pay tribute in particular to the former Minister for Science, Mr Morrison, for taking up my idea. I also thank him and the present Minister for Science and Consumer Affairs (Mr Clyde Cameron) and the former and present Ministers for Housing and Construction for their help and co-operation in this project. I mention the work of the staff of the Division and its Director, Dr Garrod, the Department of Science and Consumer Affairs and the Department of Housing and Construction. I trust that there will continue to be good cooperation and the minimum of delay in the remaining stages of preparation for what is to me, and I hope for the design team and the Division, an exciting project. I commend this reference to the Public Works Committee to the House.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969-1974, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and on which the committee has duly reported to Parliament: Second three-year program of improvement and maintenance of the Stuart and Barkly Highways in the Northern Territory.
The proposal is the second 3-year program for the highways and includes approximately 325 kilometres of pavement strengthening and widening, approximately 235 kilometres of road realignment and the construction of 14 bridges, besides routine maintenance and pavement resealing. The estimated cost of the proposed work is $34.6m. The Committee in recommending the construction of these works has concluded that: (i) The Stuart and Barkly Highways form the main road links within the Northern Territory and its continued development is dependent on the provision of adequate transport facilities; (ii) the upgrading in accordance with the national highways standards is justified and will increase road safety; (iii) the works will reduce the prolonged transport delays now experienced in each wet season; and (iv) the economic and social benefits which the proposed improvements will provide to the Northern Territory community are considered to outweigh any possible adverse environmental effects. Upon the concurrence of the House in this motion detailed planning can proceed in accordance with the recommendations of the Committee.
– I am glad to see that this program has been brought before the House. I urge its implementation with great speed because not only do the roads need resurfacing, repairing and maintaining but also the road construction workforce in the Northern Territory is in dire straits. If work is not brought forward very soon many of the contractors will have to let their plant, equipment and men leave the Territory. This would be a bad thing to happen. The contractors would have to start getting organised again. I notice in the program a recommendation that the roads be rebuilt to a width of 7.4 metres which is 22 feet or thereabouts. At present they are 12 feet wide. Many years ago I recommended to the then Government and the Director of Works in Darwinwho is still there, thank goodness, because he happens to be a very keen road builder- that the cost of maintaining these narrow bitumen roads is very often in excess of the original construction cost of a road of suitable width in the first place. Very often when driving on these narrow roads one meets a heavy transport or a cattle transport and has to get off on to the shoulder. I have measured the shoulders on some of these roads and found a drop of between 8 to 10 inches. It is very dangerous indeed. In fact I have buckled a couple of wheels in one hit trying to avoid a transport which has been coming from Mt Isa.
I think the work will be most welcome and I know the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Riordan) will endeavour to get the planning through as soon as possible. I notice that the road, because of its realignment, will miss Pine Creek. I think this is a pity. I know that in the interests of straightening and realigning the road in order to cut out some of the sharp curves Pine Creek has to be bypassed. Pine Creek, a small hamlet, is liable to suffer very much from the road not passing its door. If the program cannot be altered and the road bypasses Pine Creek and leaves it completely out of sight behind a hill, I would ask the planners to see that there is suitable sign posting and an off-shoot road into the township of Pine Creek.
Finally, I notice that for each of the next 3 years an amount of about $ 11.6m will be expended in maintaining and improving these roads. I question whether this amount will be enough if the present inflation rate continues. I ask the Minister to look at that aspect. I hope that the amount will not be inflexible because in another 3 years if the inflation rate continues as at present the work will not be able to be carried out. Of course this depends on who is in government. I commend the motion.
– I certainly support the remarks of the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) in regard to this motion. I suppose that nobody would know more practically than he would about these roads. I think that the points he made are very valid. I do not intend detaining the House for more than a minute or so. I hope that some consideration might be given to a road connection from Alice Springs to Broken Hill. This is perhaps the big defect in the whole of the roads system. One can come to the Stuart Highway from Mt Isa but to come to the highway from Sydney or Melbourne is not so easy or convenient. It seems to me- and I know something of this area myself- that the most important link to think of now is from the point where the road meets the South Australian border across to Broken Hill. From Broken Hill there are already tarred roads to both Melbourne and to Sydney. The link would cross the road from Adelaide northwards through Port Augusta, which portion is not completely sealed yet, to Marree. I believe this section reasonably soon could be quite easily sealed. This would give us from Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney a link into Alice Springs and therefore a feed-in to the Northern Territory. I hope at some future time to say something in more detail about this suggestion, but at present I simply content myself with supporting the remarks made by the honourable member for the Northern Territory and commending to the Government the possibility of investigating further the link from Broken Hill to Alice Springs.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
Excise Tariff Bill 1975.
Railways Agreement (South Australia) Bill 1973.
Consideration resumed from 7 October.
Department of Science and Consumer Affairs
Proposed expenditure, $ 1 39,20 1 , 000.
-Unions and individual wage earners have fought for years to increase their earnings so that they might improve their standard of living. But what is more money if people cannot get value for money? They are sold shoddy goods. Working people are now concentrating on getting more value for money rather than simply getting more money. Consumer power is increasing due to individuals like Ralph Nader and voluntary organisations. About 30 voluntary associations in Australia are concerned with consumer affairs. They have recently formed themselves into the Australian Federated Consumers Organisation. It takes courage and money to fight for the rights of consumers. They get value for money only when they get what they think they are buying. Most people are unaware of those associations. They alone bear the load. State governments have partly taken up the responsibility and have been persuaded to set up consumer protection bureaus and tribunals led by officials who publish hard-hitting reports naming enterprises against which complaints are being made and substantiated.
The field of consumer protection is wide and covers, amongst other things, product information, safety standards, misleading or false representations, product quality, selling systems, liability for unsolicited goods and credit transactions. For instance, the Victorian Government, to support the consumers, has set up a consumer affairs bureau, which was established in November 1970, a small claims tribunal, a director of consumer affairs to advise the Minister and a 10 member consumer affairs council.
Despite the action taken complaints from consumers continue. I shall give a few examples to the House. The bulk of complaints to the badly under-staffed consumer affairs bureau in Victoriathese are the latest figures- indicate a dramatic upsurge in complaints in recent months. Since its inception more than 4 years ago it has received 23 000 complaints and this year it expects to get 10 000 complaints, about 840 a month, mostly about cars, buildings, electrical appliances, repairs and servicing and clothing. Other complaints concern advertising, floor con.verings, furniture, footwear, dry cleaning, laundering, hiring, insurance finance, education, health and fitness, packaging, dangerous and hazardous products, door sales, mail order sales, prices and professional services.
Despite the efforts of the States- they will continue no doubt- the Federal Government now wishes to establish a consumer protection authority to supplement the work of the State governments and voluntary bodies. There is a case perhaps to be argued that consumer interests can best be looked after by the consumers themselves. The private bodies, which led the way with dedication, persistence and meagre resources, embody to perfection the essential characteristics of the movement. They represent the consumers and they are totally independent.
They know exactly what is needed and how to get tt. The Consumers Association in Britain and the Consumer Federation of America are just 2 examples of private groups which have been successful. The proposed authority will have to work closely with those voluntary groups.
It could also be argued that the function of governments should perhaps be confined to the making of laws to protect the consumer and to providing tribunals for the adjudication of complaints and for the enforcement of standards against offenders for whom warnings and reason have been ineffective. The government role could also include financial assistance for private consumer groups, which are by definition non profit-making and rely on yearly subscriptions for their income. We believe that various powers and machinery covering consumer and trading standards and practices at the federal level should come under one umbrella while complementing the work of the States and supporting consumer groups.
Consumer protection falls roughly into 2 areas- preventing complaints by establishing standards and educating the buyer and using moral persuasion. If consumer advice and education are to be of value to the consumer they must be readily available, free and relevant. The Minister for Science and Consumer Affairs (Mr Clyde Cameron) has been overseas and no doubt will borrow heavily from overseas experience and will adapt the Swedish idea of establishing store front advice centres. The Swedes found that most consumer protection activity centred too much on helping the upper middle class rather than the disadvantaged or low income groups. They said that too much advice was being given about refrigerators, television sets and similar items, which are bought once or twice in a lifetime, and not enough about day to day items such as meat, vegetables and other foodstuffs. The shop front centre would get through to people such as pensioners who are unable to do comparative shopping because they cannot get around like other people. Sixty such shop front centres operate successfully in the United Kingdom. The centres could give out leaflets on specific products or booklets which are more comprehensive, similar to the magazine Choice produced by a voluntary organisation in Australia. That sort of thing operates in Germany.
The second section of consumer protection is mainly that of redressing complaints through sanctions, publicity or legal means. The proposed authority would take over the responsibility for administering section 5 of the Trade
Practices Act which is based on the corporation’s power. But it will rely on State co-operation when dealing with other than companies. The Opposition claims that our proposals have been prepared in haste. On its definition and record haste involves something which is achieved in less than 23 years of office. That is not good enough for the consumer.
We have had the idea of consumer protection in our party platform for some years. There is draft legislation backed by much local and overseas experience. I believe the charge of too much haste is merely a delaying tactic. The Opposition claims that the proposed authority would be unnecessary and that the functions could be carried out by the Trade Practices Commission. The scientific and legal standards of fair market practices are, as the honourable member for Bennelong (Mr Howard) said, clearly and closely associated with each other as they are in the United Kingdom and the United States. It is simply that the Opposition believes the Trade Practices Act is sufficient whereby the Commission looks after competition policy and consumer protection as part of an integrated approach towards corporate market behaviour.
We need to ask whether the one instrumentality can administer such disparate functions as the full regulation of the market place and the setting of standards for health, safety and other requirements. We believe associated matters must be administered by the same body if full benefit is to be obtained by the consumer. It is better that the proposed consumer affairs body should be operating at the public level than that the Trade Practices Commission, submerged in economic and market problems, should carry out the responsibility. The proposed authority would be ably backed by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, the Australian Government Analytical Laboratories and the Australian Standards Association, although the Australian Standards Association is concerned mainly with technical standards. It is timely to mention one of its initiatives which has borne fruit recently. The Australian Standards Association urged a ban on the manufacture of all flammable fabrics. This matter arose a few years ago when the Australian Consumers Association made the same point. Now it appears that children’s nightwear made of flammable fabric will be banned in Australia and governments are expected soon to ban all clothing made of flammable material. The Victorian Minister has said that all States had backed the move and that Victoria would introduce legislation effective from the first of next month and other States would soon follow. We see here a concerted effort from voluntary organisations and State bodies backed by the Australian Standards Association.
Where does the Opposition stand? It has said that it wants to delay the legislation for a couple of months, but it will not actually oppose it. Now the honourable member for Bennelong has said that the Minister for Science and Consumer Affairs should delay the proposed consumer protection Bill to enable further consideration of the Government’s proposals by interested parties. Why does the Opposition want the delay? Is it against consumer protection? I believe it is because it is wedded to and obsessed with the profit motive at all costs- what the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp) has called ‘the great rip-ofT.
As the honourable member for Bennelong has said, the proposed consumer protection authority will not work if it concentrates solely on the buyer and not on the seller and if it seeks to protect the buyer without regard for the rights of the seller. Vendors must see the benefits flowing from an Australian consumer protection authority. Responsible manufacturers will benefit from a tightening up of regulations, laws and supervision of standards because their competition from manufacturers of shoddy and cheap goods will be less. Manufacturers can produce in confidence knowing the standards that they must meet. Favourable publicity and recommendation would be given to the best quality goods. That is why I believe this Parliament and this Government should effectively enter the field of protecting consumer interests.
– I listened with interest to the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Lamb) and, strange as it may seem, I agree with him on some aspects. But his speech deteriorated as he went along and some of his comments towards the end were very illogical. I thought it was a good thing for the Government that he had only 10 minutes to speak. The reason I have said that is that the honourable member for La Trobe said that the previous Government took 23 years to do very little in the way of consumer protection.
-The advice of the honourable member for Prospect would not be worth anything either, so he can keep it to himself. He will be considered wiser if he does.
The important point with respect to the period of 23 years in which the previous Government was in office is that the consumer was protected constantly by the stability of the Australian economy which guaranteed the consumer a constant price. The consumer could purchase goods with any savings that he made without the effects of the tragedy of the rate of inflation which currently is eroding the value of savings of people in our community and affecting more adversely those with less worldly goods than others. The effects of inflation fall more heavily on the lower income class than on other classes.
Another of the comments by the honourable member for La Trobe of which I make some criticism is his claim that the Opposition apparently supported the profit motive at all costs. My reply to the honourable member is that the Government seems to have adopted a policy of no profit for private industry at any cost. But this has been at the cost of unemployment and inflation. That is the very decided difference between the policy of the Government and the policy of the Opposition.
– At the cost of the destruction of the economy of the country.
-As my friend from Lyne says, it is at the cost of the destruction of the economy. He is quite right.
-Order! I would suggest that the honourable member disregard all disorderly interjections.
-Thank you, Mr Chairman. I appreciate your comment. I understand your problem as I have been in the chair myself. We in the National Country Party and the Liberal Party are nothing if not completely fair to everybody. I agree with the honourable member for La Trobe that private groups have done a very good job with respect to consumer protection. I, too, would like to see those groups given encouragement. Generally speaking, they are nonprofit making organisations. I pay my tribute to them.
One must give most serious consideration to the effect that consumer protection activities may have- that costs get out of hand. If there is one thing which this Government is noted for, it is that it has allowed cost to get out of hand in every field. As an example of how this can happen in the area of consumer protection, I will quote from an article written recently and which refers to the situation in America:
Consumerism does not come cheaply. In fact, Americans are just beginning to realise what it can add to the cost of a product and to inflation.
For instance, the cost of supporting all the Federal regulatory agencies created to monitor consumerism, anti-pollution and so on works out at an average of US$2,000 a year for each American family.
Those figures are frightening. Knowing the propensity of this Government with respect to costs and the way in which it handles its departments, I am very much afraid that the cost of consumer protection could get out of hand if it is not watched carefully. I wish the Minister for Science and Consumer Affairs (Mr Clyde Cameron) well in his new portfolio. I suggest to him that he look at the cost of .consumer protection pretty carefully and that he take on board what I have said and what the honourable member for La Trobe has said when giving consideration to the assistance and encouragement that might be able to be given to the private groups that are so worthy of commendation for their work in consumer protection.
I turn to the section of the estimates dealing with Science. I wish to refer to the work that is done by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. The CSIRO has a worldwide reputation and deservedly so. This was mentioned by the honourable member for McPherson (Mr Eric Robinson). It has been my privilege to work with some of the very dedicated experts of the CSIRO in what is now the Division of Wildlife Research but which was the Division of Wildlife Survey. Let me make this point in connection with the work that the CSIRO has done. The CSIRO is a very big organisation. Approximately 7100 people are on its staff. It has more than 100 laboratories and some 37 research divisions. I am aggrieved because the work of these dedicated scientists is not fully availed of as their recommendations are not always implemented by the Government to the extent that they should be.
One classic example concerns the former Division of Wildlife Survey, now the Division of Wildlife Research. I refer to the report that it made on the controlled harvesting of kangaroos. In the life of the previous Government a select committee of this House- the House of Representatives Select Committee on Wildlife Conservation- investigated that aspect as part of its terms of reference. In the period that the present Government has been in office it has ignored the recommendations of CSIRO scientists backed up by the fauna authorities of Queensland. No doubt exists that if the Government had taken notice of what the CSIRO experts and the Queensland wildlife experts said in this respect we would have a more sensible approach to the matter. This is an example of what should be done to examine very carefully expert advice that is tendered.
If expert advice is not accepted from a body such as the CSIRO, a responsibility rests clearly on the Government to demonstrate why it has not accepted the advice given. Very often the Government would not be able to do that. But it goes blindly on. Amongst other people, a representative of this Government encouraged the American authorities to refuse to import kangaroo skins to the United States of America. This meant that a great deal of employment was lost where that employment was sadly needed. The benefit to country towns which would have resulted from the continuing export of those skins was lost because of the delay.
Another angle with which I wish to deal quickly is the amount of scientific research that goes into horticulture. State and Commonwealth authorities work in this area also. Legislation was recently passed through this chamber to establish the Apple and Pear Corporation which will undertake research work. In Queensland the Committee of Direction on Fruit Marketing does similar work. I hope that the activities of those 2 bodies will not overlap. My concern is that the benefits of this research in that industry will not be able to be utilised by fruit growers whose viability will be affected by the cost of supporting not only the Apple and Pear Corporation but also the COD.
I hope that the Government will take some cognisance of this aspect and will note the heavy burden that will be imposed on these people in relation to the net returns that they receive. It has been estimated in Queensland- the position is even worse in Tasmania- that the figure is approximately $2,000. I am told that in many instances some $500 will be paid to the new Apple and Pear Corporation. The contribution to the COD is a couple of hundred dollars. That amount is likely to rise, even to double. How can these fruit growers be expected to carry on and to make use of the scientific advantages which are obtained for them? We must examine very closely the utilisation of scientific discoveries to ensure that people are in a position to take advantage of them.
We must look at the cost of consumer affairs activities. I do not wish my earlier comments about the American situation, when I mentioned pollution, to be construed as meaning that we are against consumer protection and also against pollution control. Such a view would be entirely wrong. All I am suggesting is that a very careful watch be maintained on the expenditure in these very important and necessary aspects of Government activity to ensure that people receive the full benefit from them without the need to pay unduly for those advantages.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation of which I am a member is conducting an inquiry at present into packaging. Whilst in no way desiring to preempt the findings of that inquiry I wish to draw the attention of the Committee of the Whole to the consumer problems of paper packaging. The paper packaging industry imposes significant costs on the consumer without providing any significant services in return. These costs exist visibly at the retail level and also during production and disposal. At present the consumer is obliged to bear these costs. The impact upon our society of the packaging industry can fairly readily be measured. Australia’s main producer and supplier, Australian Paper Manufacturers Ltd, valued its turnover in paper packaging for 1974 at $800m. At the consumer level it has been estimated to cost the average family $700 each year. At the distribution level, just one of our supermarket chains- Safeways- disposes of 270 000 of the large brown paper bags used for carrying goods from the check-out to the car each week at an annual cost of $ 13m. This cost is also passed on to the consumer.
The basic trend in the packaging industry is towards the introduction of disposable packages for all goods. This was one of the conclusions of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on the Environment and Conservation in its report last December on beverage containers. That statement is equally applicable to paper packaging. Where once a chemist dispensed medicine in the patient’s own bottle, he now deals only in extensively packaged products, sometimes involving 8 different layers. This is said to be for our protection and convenience. One wonders, however, whether it improves the medical quality of any of these products. These extra costs provide an essentially useless and a largely undesired service, but they are not confined only to the retail level. They are equally evident at the production level.
Last year the forestry industries of Australia analysed and projected developments to the year 2010. In what they called the Forwood report a massive expansion in forestry yield was predicted in the next 35 years. Also a significant restructuring of all forestry production was outlined. In simple terms, forestry products can be divided into roundwood which is fine quality timber processed for construction, and pulpwood, which is used mainly for the production of paper and packaging materials. The Forwood report predicts pulpwood yield in the next 35 years to increase by 7 times, from one-fifth of the industry to over half. This means that the industry intends to step up the production of pulp paper for packaging at the expense of high quality construction timbers. The forestry industry has calculated that it is more lucrative to supply the demands of paper packaging than to produce fine quality roundwood for construction timbers. This was stated in official Forestry and Timber Bureau leaflet No. 109 of 1967.
By allowing profit to become the deciding factor, our forestry cycle is being radically modified. Pines are replacing gums. The alteration in our forestry cycle is such a massive operation that its consequences as a whole are not yet fully understood or controlled. For example, one area in Victoria- the Toronga Plateau in Gippslandstill stands barren from failure to regenerate pines successfully after a widespread clearfelling operation of the indigenous gums in order to supply industry’s demands for packaging pulp for paper bags. The Toronga Plateau was similarly desecrated in the early 1950s.
The same projects are also being undertaken but on a far larger scale in many parts of Australia, particularly the Eden area of New South Wales. At Eden whole forests and mountain ranges have been clear-felled. Extensive erosion has begun and the ecological system has been so radically altered that even fish in the adjoining Pacific Ocean have died, migrated or changed in species. The future existence of our forests is being jeopardised by excessive disturbance and ill-considered exploitation, and all this will have been brought about for the sake of a demand for paper bags. The forestry report estimated that per capita consumption of packaging paper is one-twentieth of a tonne a year. Amazing though that may seem, it further estimates that this consumption will double within 25 years. This expansion of the packaging industry is not only major in its impact on the comsumer and the environment, but also it would appear to be almost out of control.
The disposal of this enormous quantity of packaging paper provides considerable problems and expense. Even with improved methods of recycling waste paper it is predicted as likely that by 2010 that 65 per cent of packaging still will be burned, dumped or left lying about. In the terms of 2.4 million tonnes of packaging to be produced annually at that time, the wastage problem will be massive. At present, $100m is spent through our rates on disposal of waste. Rates must treble in 30 years to cope with the new disposal problem. It is asserted by representatives of the packaging industry that they cater for the demands of the consumer. It can, however, be argued that in reality the consumer has not been provided with a real choice, and that these disposable products are very heavily promoted. In large supermarket chain stores, the consumer’s choice is becoming increasingly limited to non-returnable items. This is the conclusion of the Standing Committee, to which I referred earlier and on which I was a member, in reference to the beverage packaging industry.
This is the predicament facing the consumer. He is obliged to pay for ever-increasing amounts of packaging which inevitably surrounds the goods that he wants. This packaging is expensive, largely useless, and highly wasteful of resources. It jeopardises our forestry and our environment, and it presents massive disposal problems. It is my hope that the government in co-operation with the States will create initiatives in this area. It is time for the introduction of some form of control. Without restraint, the defects of today’s packaging and forestry industries will be doubled within this generation. This initiative can be directed most positively towards investigating alternative materials for use where a genuine packaging need exists, such as roundwood, aluminium and even plastic with an emphasis upon returnability, not disposability. I place these facts before the Minister for Science and Consumer Affairs (Mr Clyde Cameron) on behalf of the Australian consumer. The consumer is paying heavily for the present packaging of goods and so too is our environment.
– I would like to make 2 points only and to make them very briefly. The first is in relation to scientific programs in general. It is false economy to cut these back and to believe that you can make heavy cuts in research allocations and still maintain the integrity and progress of the system. I know that in the estimates for the Department of Science and Consumer Affairs those cuts do not appear to be very substantial. There may be insufficient allowance for the rise in prices. I note, for example- I am now speaking not of research but of administration- that the proposed amount for postal and telephone expenditure in the Department seems to be grossly underestimated if what was spent last year is any criterion. I understand that in the Senate Estimates Committee hearing it has been found out that the estimates which are before us are in some respects grossly underestimated. However, I make this observation in passing because my main point is one which is not, I think, concerned so much with these estimates as with research co-ordinated with these estimates but taking place outside them in universities where the slash has really caused tremendous economic loss and has been most ill-advised.
Having said that, I want to come to one thing which is of less consequence but still not entirely without consequence, that is, the position on the Ord River and the scientific back-up for what is going on on the Ord River. The Ord River scheme has in summary been rather a disaster. This area has the best source of water, I think, in the whole of Australia and most of it is going to waste because of the failure of the agricultural schemes. There have been 2 reasons for this, I think. The first is that there was an unscientific and undue reliance upon pesticides which had the effect of destroying the natural predators of the harmful insects and therefore ultimately multiplying the insects and the damage they did. The cotton program on the Ord has been wiped out through this reliance on pesticides, which was counter-productive in the long run because of the lack of understanding of what was involved. Not only did this scientific boo-boo wipe out the cotton venture on the Ord but it also had the effect of increasing the insect troubles in other crops. The scheme very largely came to a halt.
This year there has been a much reduced application of pesticides and a reliance on more selective types of pesticides. The result has been that the overall productivity of the area has increased immensely. There are still some great problems in regard to the depredations by birds. The magpie geese, even the brolga, and other birds are doing a great deal of damage and the scheme is in the doldrums. Tens of millions of dollars- maybe many tens of millions of dollars -worth of productivity is being lost every year through lack of proper knowledge of what to do. As the Minister for Science and Consumer Affairs (Mr Clyde Cameron) will very well know, there is a research station on the Ord. This is the point I come to- that the research station over recent years has not had the feed-in of resources and manpower which it should have had. It is very false economy to think that by cutting down a few tens of thousands of dollars a year on a research station one can save anything when by so doing one is losing tens of millions of dollars worth of productivity. This is what has happened on the Ord.
I still believe in the potential of the Ord, but there has been a monumental boo-boo. It should not have happened. The water resources are there. I believe that the soil resources are there. But gross errors have been made in what crops to grow there, how to grow them and how to protect them. Of course I am not suggesting for one moment that everything must succeed at the first attempt. I know that in a venture like this trial and error are necessary. But what I am saying is that in this kind of situation we should be speeding up the scientific backup of the trial and error performances. What has been happening there- I do not think that it is the fault of the people on the ground; the fault is more that they have not had the backup- has been really rather shocking. Owing to a lack of resources in investigating new crops, in investigating ways of protecting existing crops and in investigating ways in which to minimise the harmful effect of the overapplication of pesticides, there has been a shortfall in all these investigations. In order to save a few tens of thousands of dollars a year we have been losing in productivity tens of millions of dollars every year. I am sure that the Ord scheme can be made a success. Unhappily, up to date its record is one of failure. That should not be the case. When we have this very big investmentwe have a very big investment in the water supply and in the other facilities there- it is really false economy to cut down, as we have cut down, on the scientific investigations to make things right. Any person who wants to economise on his motor car by not putting oil into the engine is bound to come a cropper, and that is what has happened to us on the Ord. I ask the Minister to see that this does not continue.
– I would like to thank honourable members from both sides of the chamber who have spoken in this debate for the constructive manner in which they have approached the subject. All of them have made thoughtful contributions. All the contributions made will be studied carefully by me. Where they call for a reply, a letter will be sent to each speaker to indicate my response to their remarks. However, I begin by paying a tribute to the Department of Science and Consumer Affairs. I am pleased to note that not one speaker in this debate saw fit to level any criticism against the Department or indeed against me as the Minister. I am not infallible. If I make a mistake it will be a genuine error of judgment. No one can be blamed for making an error of judgment. But so far I have not even been criticised for that. I want to make a passing reference to some disparaging remarks, which I do not intend to repeat, which have been made against th». administration of my Department by source that have not raised their voice, I am glad to say during the debate last night and today.
I put on record that I am very proud of my Department. It is an extremely good Department, run by dedicated officers. I know those at the top and I have had more to do with them than with those lower down. The head of the Department, Sir Hugh Ennor, is an excellent Australian citizen with a first class record in science. He is a scientist of some eminence in his own right. He has the active backing and dedicated support of men like the First Assistant Secretary, Mr Jack Lonergan, Mr Paul Free and a whole bracket of people immediately beneath them and no doubt further down the line too, who are really dedicated to the work they are doing. They work efficiently and with great speed. They are courteous. They are at all times aware of the position that a Minister holds within the Department. They tender advice fearlessly. They accept the Minister’s judgment graciously. If a Minister’s judgment does not accord with their own judgment not only do they accept it but they also then do everything that is humanly and physically possible to make a success of the Minister’s judgment. No public servant can do more than that. This is the Westminster system in its finest tradition. I put on record that I am extremely proud of my Department and of the officers in it.
I am proud too of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, as everyone in Australia must be who understands the work which it is doing. It is an organisation that brings pride to Australians travelling overseas. No matter in what country one may have discussions about scientific affairs, one will always find someone who will be loud in his praise for the CSIRO. It is a scientific organisation of world class now. It must give every Australian abroad a great sense of pride to know that something belonging to Australia is so eminently regarded overseas.
I took note of the remarks of the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) about the Ord River scheme. I do not want to raise the question of who introduced the scheme or who was responsible for it- whether it was this party or some other party. History will answer that. I was impressed by what he said. However, it is fair that I should make the point first of all that the CSIRO was not consulted about the advisability of starting the Ord scheme. I think it was a political judgment made by politicians rather than by scientists. Again I say no more about that matter. We have it and we ought to try to make it work, if it is possible to do so. The CSIRO did not go into the Ord area on a full time basis until 1 July 1974. 1 will look at the complaints made by the honourable member about there not being enough manpower or resource feed-in to the station there. If an honest assessment of the situation leads me to support the view that the honourable member has put I will give directions that more manpower and resource feed-in be provided for the Ord River station.
As I am speaking officers of my Department and of the CSIRO are making notes of what I say. They will know from what I have said that I want them to examine this matter. I want them to give me an honest, unbiased and rational answer to all the criticisms and comment made by all honourable members on both sides of the chamber and in due course I will have letters prepared and signed for dispatch to each honourable member who has raised a matter of substance in this debate.
The honourable gentleman talked about pesticides and I am concerned about this matter. I am not sure that the Americans are not right in completely banning DDT, as they have done except in very special circumstances. I know that if one bans DDT one sometimes is forced to fall back on alternatives that are even more devastating. But I am convinced that there is a reckless misuse of DDT. It is being used in areas where it ought not be used and my present intention is to pursue the policy of being generally against its use that I have already indicated to my Department and to the CSIRO but if its use is to continue it must continue only on a very strictly controlled basis. For example, we cannot lose a whole crop of a particular vegetable or cereal just because we have some fixation about DDT. If there is nothing else for it we must measure the cost of allowing the crop to be destroyed or breaking our fixation on DDT. However, the Americans have got along fairly well without it. Some honourable members might recall reading a marvellous book, Silent Spring, many years ago about the use of DDT in killing pests in forests adjoining a river. The water became contaminated. Eventually the DDT destroyed all the salmon which provided a very important industry, perhaps one even more important than the trees which the DDT was used to save. It may be that it is an over simplification of the question of pesticides to look at the solution in Silent Spring but it does call for something to be done and I intend to do it. I thank the honourable member for making a passing reference to it.
The honourable member for McPherson (Mr Eric Robinson) made a very thoughtful contribution, in my view, to this debate. I am pleased to hear that both the honourable member for Bennelong (Mr Howard) and the honourable member for McPherson have responded to the spirit of the decision taken by me that each of them is to have access to the Department and to departmental officers, subject to proper controls. For instance, they would not expect to have access to Cabinet documents or to documents held by the Department that represented the growing stages of a policy in formation. They are entitled to the maximum amount of information consistent with a government’s right to make its policy decisions in a normal atmosphere. They have availed themselves of it. My Department has indicated a willingness to go on helping them as much as possible. If at any time they wish to have a file and they care to name it even that file will be made available to them if upon my prior perusal of it there is nothing in it of a highly confidential nature. They can look at the file in my office should they call for it. No one could make a more generous offer. I do not mind letting people who behave and react responsibly, as these 2 gentlemen have done already, have that kind of concession. It could not be granted to irresponsible people. However while responsible people are holding positions of shadow ministers for respective portfolios I think a Minister ought to feel no reason for not letting them have full support.
I am sorry that the Science Advisory Council was abolished and that so much time elapsed before something was set up in its place. I do not know enough about the original Science Advisory Council to know whether it was equipped to do the job. Perhaps there was a case for its abolition but there was no case for allowing so much time to go by before a better equipped body was put in its place. We now have the Australian Science and Technological Council established on an interim basis and shortly I will be introducing a Bill to give it the status of legislation so that it will be a permanent feature of government, whether the Liberal Party or the Labor Party is in office. I expect that there will be no opposition to that body being established on a permanent basis.
There is a need, as the honourable gentleman said, for community involvement in science. Our community does not know enough about science. If it knew more it would become enmeshed in its ramifications just as much as I have. I have said ad nauseam that I never wanted to be Minister for Science. I had no interest, or thought I had no interest, in science and I was certain that nobody would find a way of generating an interest in science on my part. However, thanks mainly to the Department which patiently persisted in persuading me that it was an exciting aspect of life, I am now as excited about science as any scientist possibly could be. If it is possible to turn Clyde Cameron into an excited advocate for science it is possible to turn anyone else in the street, wherever the town may be, into having the same attitude. Science is an exciting thing. The whole community must become more involved. Politicians have to be made responsive to sensible public involvement in science so that they can be made to respond to demands by the public. If this had been the case there would not have been an Ord River. There would not have been some of the other decisions taken by politicians had the community known enough about science to have made an intelligent response to demands by scientists for various assistance and for various projects.
Accessibility of information, said the honourable member for McPherson, is absolutely vital. I agree with him. I am doing all I can in making information available to all who care to read it. I have instructed my Department that trade unions, consumer groups, academics and everybody else who can be persuaded to take an interest in science should be given copies of speeches I make. Those speeches are noted for one thing: There is practically no party political content in them. They purely contain appeals to the public to involve themselves more deeply in science.
The honourable gentleman made some reference to 2 Ministers controlling the CSIRO. Four divisions covering energy, solar research and mineral research have been given to the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) and the balance, some 32 divisions, remain with me. There is a very sensible agreement between me and my colleague and between the respective permanent heads. The matter now has been settled on a sensible basis. I think that providing sensible Ministers and sensible permanent heads continue to reign in respective areas there will be no problem. The Australian Research Grants Committee was mentioned by the honourable member. I am glad that he did this also because it is something that I wish to say more about later.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
-I have just suffered a rather severe shock. The Leader of the House (Mr Daly) told me that if I do not shut up he will gag me and if anybody wants to hear me I ought to call a meeting outside. I shall probably have to do that if I want to deal with all the matters that have to be dealt with. The Australian Research Grants Committee is a matter I want to touch on briefly. This question has been resolved, I think.
The vice-chancellors of the universities have agreed to consider a proposal that was put to them by the Chairman of the ARGC and if this proposal is accepted we will overcome the problem in the calendar year, which is the year on which they work, by bringing into the second half of the calendar year a forward payment from the first half of the financial year covered by the 1976-77 Budget. The honourable member for McPherson spoke about astronomy and marine science. I think it is a very nice choice to have to make as to whether preference ought to be given to one over the other. My own tentative position is that if we have to choose between the two, oceanography is more important than astronomy. They are both important but if I were forced to make a decision on one only, because of financial stringency, I should select marine science.
I turn now to social sciences. I could not agree more with what was said. Social sciences will play a more important role as the years go by. I had a long talk with the director of the Moscow University while I was in Moscow. He told me that the Soviet Union has recognised that the changing pattern of human behaviour is such that a great deal more attention will need to be paid to the social sciences than we now pay. Other people with whom I have discussed the question of social sciences say: ‘Of course behavioural sciences and the study of that aspect of science that is wrapped up with the changing patterns of human behaviour under stress need to be given higher priority than we now give them. Even if we make only relatively short term .projections of social science needs for, say, fifteen or ten years time, we have to start thinking about training people in this field now because the first crop of social scientists will not be ready for reaping until some 10 years after the students make the decision to enter the sciences. ‘ Others will say that instead of training social scientists to manage the crazy rat race into which the world’s present civilisation is developing, we ought to be studying what the rat race is all about to try to prevent the rat race so that we do not need the social scientists to make it possible for us to cope with the madness of the present pace of life but that we slow down the pace of living. Again, they are decisions that have to be taken by people better qualified than I am and they are matters which the Australian Science and Technology Council could more properly take on board and, I would hope, will take on board.
Reverting to the question of astronomy versus oceanography, I can tell the Committee that I have already asked ASTEC to take this matter under its wing and to give a report on which field ought to have top priority and, having decided which should have top priority, then decide how much ought to be set aside for the one chosen for top priority. The honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) made a comment that I thought worthy of mentioning. He suggested that there ought to be some integration between legal aid services and consumer protection. I must confess that I see a lot of merit in this suggestion. I have talked to the Attorney-General (Mr Enderby) about it already. I hope he has an open mind on it, although I think he would rather see the consumer protection activities transferred to the Legal Aid Office than vice versa. I do not think it is necessarily obligatory to do either. I think that each shop front premises that are there for the advice of consumers on protection matters could also have one or two legal officersperhaps one would be enough- to act as referral officers on points of inquiry that come before them.
The honourable member for Bennelong did not like the idea- I hope this is only a tentative position on his part- of having the integration of the various activities of consumer protection under the one authority. I think he made the point- I hope I have correctly recorded what he said- that he did not think that we could marrythese were not exactly his words but the substance of what he said- product safety with market regulation. He said something to that effect, anyhow. I have taken a great deal of trouble to study what is happening in other parts of the world. Ironically enough, nowhere in the world and nowhere in Australia have governments, until very recently, done much about consumer protection. Yet as a political instrument consumer protection has enormous potential for any human being who is interested in getting votes. Why such people have only just realised that it is a matter of tremendous political mileage is beyond me, although I must confess that I did not realise the potential that lies in consumer protection either, and I have spent all my life working out how to get political votes.
There is not any doubt that there is tremendous latent interest in consumer protection. The public all around the Western world is now demanding that governments do something about it. Governments that fail to do something about it do so at their peril. The Australian States have only relatively recently come into the field and in that way they are no different from other countries around the world. I have had 2 trips around the world since I became the Minister responsible for consumer protection and I have seen what happens in the North American continent and what has happened in Europe. I am convinced now that integration of these things is absolutely essential if we are to get the best possible results.
In the United Kingdom there is a considerable amount of integration, certainly more than in the United States. In Sweden the integration is virtually complete. The greater the integration the greater is the protection that can be given. In the United States where there is, as the honourable member correctly said, a great fragmentation of consumer protection activities, I talked to Chairman Simpson of the consumer protection authority there and I asked him what was the reason for the fragmentation that has occurred in the United States. He told me that it was the inevitable result of congressional wrangling which goes on under the United States system. He said: If you are only starting afresh then take my advice and do not ever let yourself get into the position that we are in. Try to have an authority that is completely integrated so that it can set the product safety standards, so that it can control the advertising side of the thing and so that it can have market regulation, because otherwise you will run into the same enormous problem as we have. Each of our five or six separate entities works as a law unto itself. If one chooses to disregard the other four or five entities represented in total consumer protection it can do so and consumer protection becomes very difficult, if not impossible’. I had with me Sir Hugh Ennor when this conversation took place.
– A good man.
-He is a good man, an extremely good man. Sir Hugh Ennor was present during that conversation with Chairman Simpson and as we left that meeting Sir Hugh said to me: ‘Minister, I could not agree more with the remarks made by Chairman Simpson today’. He said: ‘We must have an integrated system. We would be mad if we allowed ourselves to get into the position the United States has got into’. There is a great deal of value in a consultative approach. I take it that the honourable member for Bennelong was talking about the need for consultation between the Federal and the State governments. I would like to incorporate in Hansard with the leave of the Committee a statement showing the expressions of support or, if not support, then expressions of desire from the State governments to be involved in the Commonwealth activities in consumer protection, expressions of support and a desire for involvement from various consumer organisations, a list of expressions of support or, if not support, then expressions of a desire to become involved from private industry, and discussions that have been held between me and representatives of various other organisations, including the Chamber of Manufactures and a whole variety of other people. I ask for leave to have that incorporated m Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
Representatives of 44 Consumer Groups in Sydney on 1 August 1975. A.C.S.P.A. a.c.o.s.s.(S.A. Branch).
-The reason why I incorporated that material was to answer the suggestion- it was no more than a suggestion- of the honourable gentleman because it could be implied from what he said that there had not been proper consultation with industry. There has been consultation with industry. I have talked with representatives of the Chamber of Manufactures. Only last week I had a long talk with representatives of General MotorsHolden’s Pty Ltd who came to see me. They complained that under the present system each of the States has its standards and General Motors has to make its cars according to the Victorian standard, which is not the same as the standards fixed by some of the other State governments. The gentleman who saw me- I forget his name- told me that he welcomed national standards. He said: ‘Manufacturers cannot operate if there are going to be 7 different standards. We want national standards that can be enforced by a central body so that we can gear up our tool making and gear up our production line knowing that we are not running counter to some State law that was made after we had set our standards’.
That is the benefit of Australian consumer protection at the Federal level. We have the power to set national standards which every manufacturer knows will be then accepted and will override any State standards that are either greater or less than those standards. If the standards are less than a standard in one State or if the Federal Government were not to fix standards, then we would be in the position of manufacturers being at the mercy of the less reputable manufacturers who have no regard for standards at all and who undercut sensible, decent manufacturers who want to supply good durable goods because their competitors are doing the thing they would not like to do. I had a letter from Philips a little while ago saying: ‘We are trying to produce dimmer switches. We have one that prevents the radioactive propagation’- I think that is what it said’which can affect very badly the reception of FM tuners and can affect colour television, but if the Federal Government is not going to make our competitors of the cheap ineffective and quite dangerous articles comply with some national standard soon we will have to reduce the level of our dimmer switches to the level of our competitors in order to sell them at the same price’. That is an easily understood position.
I want to co-operate with the States. The State governments have written to me saying that in the field of, for example, the consumer protection magazine which we will be publishing towards the end of the year, they wish to cooperate with us. They would like us to have their material; they would like us to give them our material. Where we have shop front premises and they have shop front premises in the same city we will let them use our material and gladly distribute their material, because it is not possible for the Australian Consumers Association, the State governments and the Australian Government combined to test all the wide range of consumer products that are on the market. Provided we do not overlap our activities then we all can do a good job in our respective fields. I have told the ACA people who publish Choice that we will let them know a year in advance, and keep notifying them a year in advance, of the kinds of things we are going to test. They are going to let us have a year’s notice in advance of all their testing programs so that we will not be testing the same things as they test. I am prepared to do the same thing with the State governments. Only in this way, by co-operation and by the co-ordination of our efforts, can we get the best possible results from what we are all seeking to do.
It is true, as the honourable member for Bennelong says, that the Australian Parliament has not got the legislative powers to deal with some of the aspects of consumer protection now in the hands of the States. The Trade Practices Act allows us to deal with corporations, but it does not allow us to deal with individuals who take down consumers. We have to rely on the States.
– Trade unions?
– I do not know about trade unions. I am surprised at the honourable gentleman. It is a political red herring to talk about trade unions at a time when we are trying to get some form of protection to help the ordinary consumer. The Leader of the House (Mr Daly) is indicating to me that I should wind off, but I am going to keep on for a little bit longer. Unless he physically attacks me I am afraid I will have to keep going. Unfortunately, because of the honourable gentleman’s state of mind on the matter, I have to be very brief. I do not want to see consumer protection remain, as I think it is now, the play thing of the affluent middle class. The honourable member for Bennelong is to be commended for taking the same point of view. They cannot look after themselves completely, but they are better able to look after themselves than are the pensioners, the migrants, the illiterate people, the undereducated and people with poor incomes. When we put out our magazine we will have reprints of the pages showing the results of testing and they will be provided free of charge to these underprivileged people from our shop front premises.
– In different languages?
– In different languagesGreek and Italian. We would like to include more ethnic groups but they are the 2 biggest ethnic groups in the community. For a start we will have to be content with covering those people only. It is true that 99.9 per cent of all voters have a far greater interest in consumer protection than they have in protecting the people who cheat the consumers. Of the 7.5 million voters in Australia 99 per cent, as I say, are more concerned to see us do something to help protect consumers than to help protect the people who want to cheat the consumers.
This Bill has not been prepared in haste, as has been suggested. The decision to begin preparation of the Bill was taken more than 8 months ago. When I became the Minister in June there was a completed draft of the first run of the BUI. Since then we have worked constantly on it, as the honourable member for Bennelong might have suspected. Her Honour, Justice Gaudron, who will be chairman of the consumer protection authority, has been co-operating with us. She is an excellent choice. It cannot be said that we have worked in haste. We have put a lot of work into this Bill. It will be one of the very best Bills ever brought into the Parliament. It is a very well drafted Bill and we are very proud of it. I am sure nobody will be able to pick many holes in it.
I have to conclude now because the Leader of the House is looking at me, or I can feel him looking at me. The honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) made a thoughtful contribution that deserves comment too. It is true that consumerism, as he called it- a term I do not like- can add costs to prices. It can add them in 2 ways. If you set standards that are unnecessarily high, for instance, a standard requiring that all bathroom furnishings shall be plated with 23 carat gold, you would be imposing an unnecessary standard on consumers and an unnecessary cost. That is a silly thing. It could also be bad if we had an unnecessary level of people attending to consumer protection- if we had a whole army of bureaucrats, to use a popular term, administering the organisation. We do not intend to do that. I have told my people that the shop front premises, which will be the main public window of our activities, are to be manned by people no higher than class 4. I think a class 4 position is plenty high enough. They would have clerical assistants to help them. They would be good, presentable people who know how to handle the public, who look good, who are intelligent and who are willing to dedicate themselves to the job. I do not expect that the shop front premises in the capital cities will have more than 2 people in them, at the beginning at any rate. As more work calls for more people, we will employ them. But I anticipate that there will only be 2 people involved at the beginning.
All told, we do not expect more than about 50 people to be employed by the Australian Consumer Protection Authority central authority. We will be taking over something like 35 people who now administer Part V of the Trade Practices Act which we will take over. But that gives a total of only 85 for the whole of Australia. So it will not be a great big Frankenstein monster. I am very careful about that because I know that the Opposition and the public will condemn ACPA if it falls for the three card trick of filling itself up with unnecessary bodies. We will not allow it. My permanent head knows that that is my view and moreover it is his own view.
-Finish off, Clyde.
– Did you hear that?
-Yes, I did. I should like to thank the Committee for the attentive hearing it has given me. I should like to thank the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) too for the way in which he extended my time. I only hope that when we come to the Consumer Protection Bill we will be able to deal with some of the matters I had to leave unsaid.
Proposed expenditure agreed to.
Department of the Media
Proposed expenditure, $137,575,000
-We are debating the estimates of a Department which we on this side of the chamber believe should not exist. Whilst I personally have some regard for the Minister for the Media (Dr Cass)- I am sure it gives him great pleasure to be the Minister for the Department of the Media- I can see no good reason for the continuation of the Department. In fact I can see a great number of reasons why it should be abolished forthwith. The expenditure under the estimates that we are considering today is a very great extravagance. For instance, over $ 137m is being expended by the Department this year. For comparison’s sake, I point out that that is $55m more than the allocation for the Department of Manufacturing Industry. Yet if we look at the plight of manufacturing industry and of small business throughout Australia which in many instances need a great deal of financial help, and of course better policies, we can see that this is an unjustifiable expenditure of money and an amount which could be much better spent. The money goes to the Australian Government Publishing Service, the Australian Office of Information, and the
Australian Broadcasting Commission, amongst others.
Before referring to the detailed expenditure, I should like to draw to the attention of the Committee the comments of a Washington legal expert, Mr Marcus Cohen, who said earlier this year. … the mere existence of a Media Department was alarming because of the potential for abuse of power.
I think this matter concerns a great number of Australians throughout the country at present. The mere fact that we have a Department of the Media gives rise to the suspicion that the Government is turning it into a department of propaganda. Unfortunately there are some aspects of the behaviour of the Department which would give rise to some concern along these lines.
The history of the Department has been ‘ a most unhappy one. The first Minister was involved in a rather unsatisfactory affair, known as the Valenti letters. Mr Valenti, the head of the Motion Picture Export Association of America, was asked in a letter by the then Minister for the Media who the Minister should consider appointing to the Australian Film Board. This achieved some notoriety at the time and was made more unfortunate by the fact that a request for a job for the Minister’s daughter was included in part of the correspondence.
Since that time we have had the resignation of Mr Philip Adams as Chairman of the Film Board. We have had protests and unemployment within the television industry. We have had a delay in public broadcasting and community access radio. This delay really has not been explained away in any valid sense. There has been no regard given to the advice of the experts in the media field. I instance particularly the advice of Dr Peter Pockley. When access broadcasting or public broadcasting was introduced last year, Dr Pockley said that no clear guidelines had been established and that more time was required before this form of broadcasting could be put into effective use. I believe that the points system introduced by the previous Minister has been a total failure. There is no doubt that many members of the Australian television industry have pointed this out. The idea of the points system was to improve the lot of those people involved in the Australian television industry, particularly the actors and the writers. But I believe it has been shown to be a total failure. The first Minister for the Media has been described by Philip Adams as the biggest ministerial disaster in the Labor Government. Of course the Minister had a lot of competition for’ that title. But, as I said, the history of the Department has been a most unhappy one.
Then of course we had the present Minister’s accession to the position. He came into this area with a blaze of triumph by suspending the licence of a Hobart media outlet. I believe that any objective assessment of the reasons for this suspension would show that the offence that was allege’d to have been committed, or which was in fact committed, was of & very minor nature. I believe that the suspension was an attempt by the Minister to demonstrate his power. If he wished to do this, I believe he could have chosen a far more effective way of doing it rather than using his muscle on this particular media outlet. There has been an uproar within the written media due to the attempts of the Minister to start a media council and particularly a Press council. Some people have suggested that this is a clear indication of a government intention to control the freedom of the Press. If this is the case and if this suspicion can be sustained, then of course all those doubts, all those worries about the ministry becoming a propaganda machine would be seen to be justified.
I should like to spend a little more time on ethnic radio because this is a subject which has created a great deal of interest within the ethnic communities right throughout Australia. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind about the need for an ethnic radio broadcasting system. For people who may have some doubts on this score, I shall cite some relevant figures in relation to the matter. In Sydney there are about 295 000 people who would be very interested in and who would benefit by the introduction of such a radio. In Melbourne there would be 374 000 people; Adelaide 96 000; Perth 64 000 and Wollongong 17 000. These figures do not include the people of ethnic background in Brisbane and Hobart. The Government has promised a great deal in relation to ethnic radio, but as in so many other areas, the performance has fallen far short of the promise. Only $100,000 has .been appropriated for ethnic radio. We have people involved in the continuation of the ethnic radio experiment literally being paid a pittance for putting on programs which require a great deal of detailed research, and in many cases, many hours of hard and diligent work.
We find a situation developing where the Department of the Media has been moving into this area of ethnic radio broadcasting to the extent that a great number of people within the ethnic communities are very concerned that they- that is the people of the ethnic communities- will not have control over their own medium. They are concerned that they will not have access to it and will not have the rights that they believe they should have in relation to the control of programs, the decision as to what should be put on, how it should be put on and who should put it on. I believe there is a case, as I have said, for a clear decision to be made in favour of ethnic radio. The Government is to be commended for initiation of the experiment with radio 2EA in Sydney and radio 3EA in Melbourne. However the Government has not made the decision. It did form the Bayutti Committee to inquire into all aspects of ethnic radio broadcasting. That Committee I believe has reported to the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). As far as I know the Prime Minister has not brought the report into the House. I believe he should bring that report into the House as soon as possible. I believe that that report will show a real need within the ethnic community for an ethnic broadcasting station in order that so many aspects of life in Australia can be more adequately explained to people of ethnic background particularly those people who do not speak the English language.
I believe it is important to people who have arrived in Australia that they retain some sense of identity, retain some sense of bilingualism and that they should have the aspects of cultural shock diminished. One of the most effective ways that this can be done is by the establishment of an ethnic radio broadcasting system. How should it be done? I wait anxiously to view and consider the Bayutti report. I believe that the delay in the presentation of that report- in no way the fault of its Chairman- is unacceptable. I believe that the report should be brought in and discussed in this House at the first available opportunity. Significant numbers of Australians are disadvantaged at present in their early life in Australia simply because they do not have access to programs in their own language, programs to which they can relate and programs that would help them in their integration into the total Australian society.
-I want to make a few general observations on the estimates for the Department of the Media, but firstly let me take up one or two of the points mentioned by the honourable member for Warringah (Mr MacKellar). I take his last observationon ethnic radio- first. I draw the honourable member’s attention to the Press release of the Minister for the Media (Dr Cass) of 1 October. The honourable member has quite rightly and very generously paid tribute to the Government for the activity in the ethnic radio field. We too share his concern in the observations that he made. We have transferred that concern to action. It is interesting to read the statistics issued by the Minister. No doubt the honourable member has a copy of the Press release. I draw the honourable member’s attention to the fact that every Turk in Sydney at some time listened to radio station 2EA, 98 per cent of Greeks had listened to it and 52 per cent of Italians had listened to it. The figures in MelbourneI will not go through them all- are very much the same. In fact it could be said in the general sense that there has been almost a 100 per cent total ethnic community involvement in this experiment. I hope that this sort of participation will continue because I agree with the honourable member’s sentiments.
– The honourable member -
-The honourable member was heard in silence; I hope he will pay me the same courtesy. I hope that this participation will continue and that there will be no diminution of interest in this ethnic radio experiment. No doubt some mistakes will be made. I think that can be anticipated and is understandable. Nonetheless the experiment is off the ground. If those early figures I have quoted are any indication I think the experiment looks like being successful.
The honourable member referred also to his doubts about the establishment of the Department of the Media. In fact I think he said he would have it abolished. This is a fascinating observation. I am glad that he has come clean at last because his former Leader, the right honourable member for Bruce (Mr Snedden), made the same observation before he was deposed by the right honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser). I have yet to hear the present incumbent in the leadership office express any opinion as to whether he would abolish the Department. No doubt we can look forward to an answer from the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) who I notice has now joined the triumvirate of Opposition spokesmen on the media. It is a fascinating and complex situation to have 3 Opposition spokesmen for media activities.
In speaking to these estimates I want to make a few observations. I think the Department of the Media’s annual report for 1974-75 very succinctly introduced some of the responsibilities of the Department. I think what is very important about the establishment of the Department of the Media- of course one must confess straight away that one would not be entirely happy with all of the activities- is that it is an entirely new and vast concept. Nonetheless the Government has taken the bit between its teeth and established this Department with the best will in the world to bring together a very diverse and complicated industry. I think one of the advantages of having the Department of the Media is that there is a voice in Cabinet for the first time to explain at that level the difficulties and the intricacies of the media. I think this has never been fully understood by members of the Opposition and I think it is a point to which they might well give some attention.
The honourable member for Warringah also pointed out the activities of the publication and inquiry mobile centres which have been established for the first time. I do not think anybody would really seriously complain about this branch of activity by the Department of the Media. I think a lot of honourable members have tended to disregard for too long the importance of transmitting and communicating to the public outside what we say and do in this Parliament. Any activity that allows the general public, the voter outside, to have an appreciation of what this Parliament might be doing can only be recognised as a step in the right direction. I merely make that point because I think it is an interesting innovation and one that is certainly long overdue. The sales of publications have been very satisfactory indeed. It is true that the Department has not had an easy passage since its establishment. It has, as I said earlier, provided a voice in Cabinet for this very diverse and complicated industry.
I want now to make a few observations on the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The Commission constantly and consistently comes under attack from those people who do not particularly like what it is doing. I suggest to honourable members, and particularly to the honourable member for Gippsland, that if they lay down the sorts of guidelines that have been postulated in this place from time to time and have the media reflecting and reporting what they think it ought to reflect and report they will be in the greatest difficulty in the world. I was reading a review of a book this morning by a former colleague of mine Robin Day. He had some interesting observations to make about public affairs and news programs generally. I find myself in common agreement with some of the observations that he made. I think it is fair to say that there is increasing pressure on commentators and interviewers to compress into the shortest possible time the greatest possible argument. I do not think this is physically possible and I do not think it is intellectually possible. One of the things that concerns me- having had some experience in this sphere of the activities of the media- is that I have always thought and always transmitted as far as I was capable of physically and intellectually that the proper thing was to be pertinent but never impertinent. I detect today this manifestation of impertinence creeping into so many areas of public affairs programs. I do not think it is the right of the interviewer ever to make an interviewee feel somewhat insignificant. I must confess that at times from my own observations I get the distinct impression that the interviewers feel that the people being interviewed are quite idiotic and incapable of an articulate or coherent statement.
I was interested the other day to read some of the observations of the General Manager of the ABC Mr Talbot Duckmanton dealing particularly with news. I agree with some of the observations he made. I will quote from an article in the Age which reported part of his speech. He said:
We have lost some diversity of opinion because for various reasons, but again primarily economic, there are now fewer truly international news gathering agencies.
He went on to say:
It is partly because of the concentration of international news agency services in so few hands that the ABC has its own correspondents in a number of countries.
I could not agree more with the General Manager of the ABC. I think it is very dangerous in our society to have this concentration of media power in too few hands. There is a perfect and classic example of what I am saying in this country at the moment. There is not enough diversity of communication and news gathering resources. I am saying that there is too much power in too few hands. Do not let any honourable member ever underestimate the impactive power of the media, particularly television, in moulding public opinion. That is one of the reasons why I would observe that the Department of the Media has a very great responsibility in this area to see that people are not being brain-washed and to see that all shades of political and community opinion are heard and are seen to be heard. I think that is tremendously important in a domestic parliamentary system.
I know that great advocates say that for economic reasons we ought to have fewer newspapers, fewer television stations and fewer radio stations. I concede that this whole operation is very expensive but I do not think that that ought always to be the first criterion. I think it is tremendously important to have a diversification of opinion so that we can get the corporate view which will benefit the greatest number of people in our society. I regret that we have only 10 minutes each to speak in this estimate debate because I could go on for some time. There are a lot of other things I wish to say about this area, but time is running out. I commend the new Minister for the Media for the energy and great understanding which he has brought to a very difficult portfolio in so short a time. I assure him that he has my full support in a very difficult and sensitive area which deals with public opinion.
– It sounds strange to hear the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Sherry) talking about too much power being in too few hands in the media when his Government introduced the charges to force the small newspapers, radio stations and television stations right out of business. Increased postal, communication and landline charges very seriously affect the viability of those organisations. I want to focus public attention on what I believe to be a subterfuge upon which the Whitlam Labor Government has embarked. I refer to the vaguely labelled Australian Government Liaison Service. The public might be excused for not realising how much a sinister activity can be hidden behind that apparently unimaginative title.
Whilst the public might be excused, there are some who cannot be excused for lack of knowledge on this matter. For example, the working journalists who service this Press Gallery must see a real and unfair threat to their jobs and to their role in this place. I cannot excuse the Public Service journalists section of the Canberra Branch of the Australian Journalists Association. I cannot excuse those in the Public Service who are charged with safeguarding the integrity of the Australian Information Service. I cannot excuse any media source which accepts and publishes articles from the AGLS which are blatant political propaganda, for such media are forfeiting the very freedoms which newspapers and free peoples have guarded so jealously for centuries.
As I understand the matter, a Cabinet decision was taken in December to set up the AGLS to ‘facilitate the distribution of Government information of a factual nature of a non-partisan kind’ to the country and suburban Press. Any study of the telexes shows that a number of articles which were sent out are both partisan and political. Why has the Government found it necessary or desirable to set up such machinery? Is it saying that 120 or more journalists in the Gallery are not able to cope with their jobs? Is it because the Government has sympathy for the losing battle which country newspapers and radio stations are fighting in the face of prohibitive mail, telephone and landline imposts meted out by this so-called benevolent Government? Not likely. Does the Government claim that the media is not giving it a fair go? That may be its assessment, but if that is the real answer, its socialist answer must be to control what is published. What other explanation is possible?
In socialist regimes the world over the prime requisite for controlling a populace is to control freedom of drought, speech, action and religion. The way to do that is to control the mass media, by abolishing the free Press, by setting up government newspapers and radio stations, by censorship and even by gaoling and deporting newspaper men and women as has happened in India. Because of the system to which Dr J. F. Cairns often refers this Government has to find a way to live with the free Press just as it has to live with a free enterprise society, although that may irk the Government. Labor’s stated objective is to change Australia from a capitalist, free enterprise, democratic society to a socialist state.
How then can anyone believe that there can be any free enterprise in a socialist society and least of all but most importantly a free Press? Wherever socialism or communism take over the Press and radio become state controlled. Wherever there is a coup one of the first objectives is to take over the mass communication media. Wherever a junta falls foul of the people it imposes censorship or closes down the free Press. Conquer the free Press and you conquer the people. Whether people believe the worst of Labor’s intentions concerning control of the Press, whether any allegations or criticisms which I make are 100 per cent right or whether the people within the news industry are convinced that there is real risk, no government so accused can be given the benefit of any doubt in the matter of freedom. If we err at all in this matter of Press freedom it must be on the side of over-caution and over-suspicion.
There are now between 800 and 1000 speech writers, researchers, public relations experts and journalists employed by the Government or by government authorities. The Government is bleeding the heart of the news industry by taking some of its most senior and experienced men and women. As journalists become more and more dependent on the Government for employment and as the mass media employs fewer and fewer journalists because of cost pressures causing closures and economies, the classic socialist climate is reached and the balance of journalistic employment begins to transfer from the private to the public sector. Labor has inflicted heavy financial imposts on the media in the very areas where it is most vulnerable- post and telecommunications charges. Anything which it does is unlikely to be in the interests of the Press itself.
In the matter of the Australian Government Liaison Service I want to make my position clear. I am not now criticising the left wing bias in a government instrumentality. I am not now criticising the inflated ministerial staff syndrome of the Whitlam Government. I am not now criticising its jobs for the boys policy. I am seeking to sound a solemn warning to the people of Australia and to the people within the media industry, which they will ignore at their own and their country’s peril, that one of the fundamental principles of freedom has been breached. Perhaps the Whitlam Government has decided to be less subtle or someone had goofed because it has now clearly over-stepped the dividing line between a legitimate information adjunct of government and political propaganda. Its objective, not its objectivity, is showing. It has finally ensured that Public Service journalists now tie their careers to the government of the day just as do Ministers’ Press secretaries and other personal staff.
I have no doubt about the Whitlam Government ‘s commitment to control the media through station licensing, Australian Broadcasting Control Board edicts, trade practices and monopoly legislation, Party ownership of shares, infiltration of the media by its own faithful, misuse of the Australian Broadcasting Commission network and the forcing of newspapers and stations out of business through selective taxes and charges. That it should seek to create a special elite of Public Service journalists has its precedent in other socialist countries. If this Government has its way there will ultimately be no free Press to nationalise. It could claim yet another first- a new formula for nationalising the mass media and how to take away a people’s freedom without their knowing it.
-Mr Chairman, after listening to the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon), I can only repeat the remark of my colleague, the honourable member for Denison (Mr Coates) that it is incredible that a man who was a senior Minister in an earlier Government should put forward the thoughts that the honourable member has just expressed in this place. It is incredible that he should suggest that, because the cost of providing landlines and telephone charges to country newspapers has increased, that increase should not be passed on to the users of those services. What he does not say is that, in the main, the services in which he is interested are not those of the main provincial newspapers. I did not hear the honourable member mention the name of a major provincial newspaper. He spoke always of country newspapers. In many cases, they are giveaways, the over-the-fence newspapers, the free weeklies, the free sheets, which are really only propaganda sheets for the National Country Party.
The honourable member for Gippsland seriously puts the proposition to this chamber and to the people of Australia that the taxpayer should subsidise his propaganda. Is that proposal any different from what he is accusing the Department of the Media of doing? This is the very thing of which he accuses the Minister for the Media. The only difference is that the honourable member for Gippsland wants to do this in a little more secretive and roundabout way. He has managed to get away with it for a long time secretively. It is becoming clear and it is proper that those involved should bear their share of the costs for the services provided by the taxpayer which they utilise.
I think I should refer back to the editorial in the Catholic Weekly a few weeks ago. That editorial said:
What is the alternative to the Whitlam Government- that same seedy bunch of incompetents that were rejected by the people in 1972 and 1974?
I note that the honourable member for Gippsland smiles in agreement with me. I thank him for his agreement.
He spoke about a police state. That is what he and his National Country Party colleagues would have in this country. The task that they are about in dismembering our federation can have one result only, that is, serious and irretrievable damage to our constitutional system and to our nation. The only alternative is something about which I read in an article on federalism some time ago. The view was expressed that the policy of the National Country Party towards federalism was really one seeking the creation of a series of farmers’ republics. I think that puts the position very nicely. The result would be a series of farmers ‘ republics each going its own way. Is that not really what Opposition members are saying here at present?
-Order! I would remind the honourable member for Shortland that the estimates before the Committee are for the Department of the Media. He can make passing reference to some matters, but he is prolonging it a bit.
-With the greatest of respect, Dr Jenkins, I was making a comparison with the proposition put by the honourable member for Gippsland, stating the alternatives and what the honourable member was really aiming at. The Opposition said that the Department of the Media should not exist. I have noticed recently that the Opposition is utilising the services of the Australian Government Liaison Service in the printing of Opposition Press releases. I have not heard- I have been watching and listening for several weeks now- any speaker on the other side raise this matter. Apparently it is OK to use taxpayers’ money to distribute their Press releases. I was certain that this would be the first matter mentioned either at question time or by the speaker who led for the Opposition in this estimates debate. Opposition members criticise the Department of the Media, but they utilise its services.
After all, is not the principle that the public ought to be entitled to have information on all points of view? Is that not what the Department of the Media is all about? Is not the purpose of the Press to see that the public has full information about what is happening? The entitlement that the Opposition has now is something that it never gave to the previous Opposition; it is something to which it has not objected when it receives it.
In considering the estimates of the Department of the Media, the Opposition should have drawn a proper parallel between the cost to the Australian taxpayer of the Department of the Media and the services that it provides, and the cost of the department of propaganda that operates from the Premier’s Department in Queensland. That is the best propaganda machine in Australia. Members of the National Country Party do not do the public of Queensland a service when they fail to acknowledge that that is the best propaganda service in Australia. It has no comparison. The taxpayers of Queensland pay for all its activities. Information is fed straight out of the Premier’s office in Queensland.
In this context, I mention the situation that is developing in New South Wales. The Premier of New South Wales, a disciple of the Queensland Premier, is in the process of establishing a similar operation in New South Wales. Again, the Opposition does not make reference to that fact. To be fair and reasonable and to act in the best interests of the taxpayer, one surely would have to draw a comparison between the cost of the department of propaganda in Queensland, which federal Opposition members in Queensland are utilising themselves, I would imagine, the cost of the services provided in New South Wales, and the cost of running the Australian Department of the Media. The Australian people are entitled to the fullest information and they are not getting the fullest information from the media of this country.
Over and over again, there are outcries against the Press. Yet a ludicrous situation arose a few weeks ago following what I thought were the most lukewarm proposals put forward by the Minister for the Media (Dr Cass) for the establishment of a press council. The basis for such a council has support from the community as a whole. People are sick and tired of reading in one newspaper that 54 people were injured in an incident, of seeing in another paper that 3 1 people were hurt in that same incident, and of reading in another paper that no-one was injured in that incident. There is nothing more disturbing for people in a suburb than to read that there has been an accident or disaster of some sort as a result of which several deaths have occurred in that suburb and then to read in a later edition of the same newspaper that the report is changed to one death or no deaths. Depending on the newspaper, one can get a different set of statistics.
The Press has a responsibility to report accurately. The public is not receiving accurate reporting. One would have thought that the Opposition would support the Government’s proposition fully and that the newspaper proprietors also would give full support to the proposition. The strange aspect is that the AJC- no, I mean the AJA; the newspaper barons are connected with the AJC and that is how I came to draw the connection- was in full support of the establishment of a Press council.
– That is not what -
– Is the honourable member a member of the AJC? I know that he is a member of the’ Australia Club. One would have thought that with the Australian Journalists Association supporting the proposal there would have been an opportunity at least for the people of Australia to have some sort of a discussion on it instead of being subjected to scathing editorial after scathing editorial condemning what was, in my view, most lukewarm proposals. There should have been some sort of responsible and truthful reporting. Let us leave aside the politics involved and the slants of the various newspaper proprietors. We should have been able to consider the facts and to have accurate newspaper reporting. The newspaper barons ought to remember one fact, that is, that you can fool some of the people some of the time but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time, as the newspaper barons are attempting to do.
Ultimately, this system will change by itself, one way or another, and the community will get an accurate and comprehensive reporting coverage. It is not getting that now. If honourable members talk to media men and to reporters in this Parliament, they will know that those persons have all had their winges to every member in this chamber. They have complained that the story that has appeared in the newspaper is not the story that they submitted. They say that they are not responsible for what is published and that the story published certainly was not the story that they filed. Such claims are only a condemnation of the newspaper hierarchy itself.
Let us look at the structure of the newspaper industry. I draw attention to the monopoly strength of the John Fairfax organisation, the Melbourne Herald group, Mr Murdoch, what is left is the legacy of Sir Frank Packer, the newspaper knight, and Sir Reginald Ansett. Between them, those people and organisations control our newspapers and feed us the diet that they choose. The honourable member for Gippsland mentioned what is printed in other countries such as socialist countries. He drew a very good parallel in my view with communist countries and the forced diet that is fed to people of those countries through the media. That diet is little different from the forced diet that is fed to the people of this nation by the 4 newspaper barons.
– Have you been there and had a look?
– One does not have to go there. He can read about it in the Parliamentary Library. He can save himself a trip and he can save the taxpayers some money. If we look at what is published here and compare it with what is published in other countries, we find that the same slant is present. When we talk about freedom of the Press, we talk of freedom of the Press in Australia for those 4 newspaper barons to print what they want to print.
The Australian people do not have freedom of access to information on the events which are occurring in Australia. Let me follow that point through. Newspaper proprietors in Australia forbid members of their staff to speak on Australian Broadcasting Commission programs. Ranged against the monolith of the media in this country is solely the ABC. Time does not enable me to expand more on that aspect. The ABC is the only source of access to some type of factual and impartial information that people in Australia have. If the ABC did not exist, the Press in this country would be no different whatsoever in quality of reporting from the Press in communist and socialist countries, as described by the previous speaker.
– I support the estimates for the Department of the Media. Funds totalling $137,575,000 are provided. Almost $125m is to go to the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. Both of the amounts that I have mentioned are higher than the sums appropriated and expended by the Department and those authorities last financial year. At a time when the constant call is for restraint, why should proposed expenditure by the Department of the Media be increased? I would like to answer that question in 2 ways. First, the allocation this financial year is actually only 12 per cent higher than the expenditure last financial year. Considering the overall rise of 22 per cent in Government spending this financial year, the allocation to the Department of the Media is not as large a rise as it appears at first sight. In fact the increase probably will be less than the inflation rate during the present financial year. Secondly, it must be acknowledged that in this Department there is much more at stake than simply how much money the Treasurer (Mr Hayden) or the Senate will let it have. I refer to statements made by the Opposition, and repeated by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in his reply to the Budget, that the Department of the Media would be abolished.
In his ramblings on 26 August the Leader of the Opposition included amongst the potentially defunct bodies of the Labor Government such pinnacles of that Government ‘s achievements as the Prices Justification Tribunal and the Australian Legal Aid Office. Honourable members might note that on the one hand this would destroy one of the most important bulwarks against inflation at this time and, on the other hand, it would destroy a body which on the latest indications of the opinion polls has the support of the community at the phenomenal level of 95 per cent. The Department of the Media would then be in an august group and, in the event of its demise, it would be one of the chief witnesses to the Opposition’s own blundering.
As a general statement it is true to say that the Department forms an umbrella for a complex of bodies, commissions and boards which formerly existed separately under a number of different departments. I might add that the functions of these bodies existed under the last Government. So the Opposition in saying what it has said is not being quite as straightforward as it hoped to appear to be. It has 2 alternatives. One is to abolish the Department and thereby fire all the staff that the Department employs together with all the staff of its commissions, including the Australian Broadcasting Commission. This would save the Government over $137m in proposed expenditure under this Bill alone, which is a considerable amount of money. The other alternative is to return the commissions and boards which were in existence when Labor came to power to their former departments and to lay off the extra staff put on since then plus one superfluous Minister. This would save about $4m. At the same time the electorate would be told. The Government of the day would just parade its virtue and proclaim the keeping of its promises. What a slim sham of a plan this is. I am sure the second alternative is the one which the Opposition proposes to take. How on earth could the Opposition abolish the ABC, the Government Publishing Service or the Government Information Service? One has only to ask these questions to see how ludicrous the Opposition’s proposals are and then we can see plainly the second alternative is the one that the Opposition plans to adopt.
I wish to bring to the attention of the Committee what the critics have said about the expansion of the ABC in radio broadcasting. These critics have been petty but persistent and one has only to think how successful the rock station 2JJ in Sydney has been to realise that the reason for the criticism is the ability of the ABC to compete successfully in many activities with the commercial stations. Labor’s expansion into the areas of community access radio and ethnic radio as well as frequency modulation stations has generally been well received. Previous speakers in this debate have spoken about ethnic radio. I should like to compliment the people who work in this field in Sydney, especially James Bieutie, the Reverend Turner and those people who play a role in this field in my electorate in Fivedock. The broadcasts are transmitted throughout Ashfield. I know that many in the ethnic communities, such as children in the playgrounds, listen to these broadcasts and that in particular the older people listen to the music and news broadcasts.
I would like to talk also about community radio stations. On 15 October there will be a community meeting in my electorate in the Burwood Central Library for the purpose of setting up a 2R.DJ./FM radio steering committee. Community access radio stations have taken on in Sydney and, I believe, all over Australia. It is good to see people all over Australia, especially in my electorate, trying to set up these stations to gain access to radio.
Recently the Minister for the Media (Dr Cass) and the people of Australia were given ample evidence of how dangerous this Department appears to some sections of the community. I refer to the furore over the discussion paper on a proposal to establish a voluntary Press council. From the reaction to this proposal it seems evident that the Press fears not only the Parliament and the public but also its own peers, since the emphasis was on setting up a voluntary council. The childishness of the Press was evident in the ascription to the Minister of the name ‘Dr Goebbels’. In speaking about the proposed Press council I should like to refer to an article in the Sydney Sun on 19 September 1975. It is headed ‘The Star is Shot Down’. A similar article to this was printed on the front page of other Sydney newspapers. The report from New York says that an Australian newspaper baron was ‘today lambasted for publishing articles which had “no basis of fact whatsoever” ‘. The article read:
The National News Council ruled against . . . paper for printing erroneous stories about the purported separation of Princess Grace and Prince Rainier of Monaco.
The Council, a privately funded but influential news monitoring organisation, upheld a complaint by Consul Francis Cresci, of Monaco.
The article reported that the paper ‘according to the Council finding, had “cloaked its source with anonymity” ‘. The article continued:
The newspapers’ editors had been remiss in failing to report letters in which Princess Grace and her brother John Kelly, of Philadelphia, had refuted the articles, the Council said.
The Minister has proposed such a council be set up in Australia. One talks about the freedom of the Press, yet in America and in England when articles like this are printed the publishers can be taken before a council and dealt with accordingly. It is wrong that the Press barons of Australia can print whatever they like, wherever they like, however they like, and get away with it without having to face anybody. I believe that the Minister was right when he suggested -
– He suggested a commission.
– It was suggested to him. He brought it before the people. I believe it is proper to have such an organisation. A similar organisation exists in Great Britain and also in New York. I would like to see such a body in Australia. We would the be able to have a better reporting service from our newspapers.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Keith Johnson)- Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I would just like to make 3 short points. First, I think we had better have a look at the acceleration in the flood of paper that comes out of Government departments. Much of this is selfadulatory. It does not really add to any information and it has quite monstrously grown over the last two or three years. I think the Committee might well measure it almost by the weight of paper that comes out from Government departments, and might well look at the quality of it. Very often it is pure nonsense. Honourable members will know how the desks in their rooms are cluttered by the floods of stuff that come in and which are of such a character that you cannot really separate the grain from the chaff. I do not say that there should be no government publicationsin fact I say the opposite. But it seems to me that if we were to be a bit more selective about the quality of the things we publish they would have a greater impact. The pure volume of the material that is distributed often is enough to destroy its effect. Against that may I say that I hope that something further can be done to assist the circulation of Hansard from this Parliament. Honourable members have complained that the Press does not always report what is said with accuracy. The columns of the Press would become cluttered if they had to include everything that was said in the Parliament. But Hansard is a true record. This is a non-Party matter because it affects all Parties. It would be desirable for Hansard to be more widely disseminated. I have said 2 things which may seem to be a little contradictory, but if one analyses them one will find that they are not.
The next point I make is that I have some doubt about the desirability of concentrating everything in a single Department of the Media. One of the ways of achieving freedom of expression is to have a lot of people who have power to publish without restriction on their opinion. The Government’s machine is a very heavy machine. The mere weight of the material being published is evidence of that. Even if it were not as economical it would still be better morally if we did not have a single Department of the Media but if we allowed this material to be disseminated more widely. Perhaps there would not be the same efficiency but it would not be subject to the same kind of totalitarian danger. However well intentioned the Minister may be personally, there is always a danger that the concentration of this power will lead to its abuse.
Remember the old phrase Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?- ‘Who will look after the guards themselves?’ That is something which even the Minister, well intentioned though he may be, should keep in mind.
I refer now to broadcasting and television. I hope that the restraints which, for decency’s sake, have been placed on the commercial stations will be applied to the Australian Broadcasting Commission and its subsidiaries. Recently there have been quite gross transgressions. The one that is receiving the most attention, I suppose, is one of the worst. That was a broadcast in relation to pederasty. It is no use saying that these matters are in the public interest. The point is that by broadcasting these things they are given greater emphasis, and the very ills that are talked about are exacerbated. I will not go into the details of that particular program. By going into the details I myself would be exacerbating the damage that has been done. That was an abominable program- I use the word ‘abominable’ in the very strictest sense- which was directed to doing moral damage. I am sure that it did moral damage. The pretence that it was a discussion on a matter of public interest is too transparent to be maintained. The Government which permitted this program should be thoroughly ashamed of itself and the organisation that broadcast it should be thoroughly ashamed of itself.
I come now to a subject which, although true, perhaps will not receive as much credit as it should receive. We know that amongst our communist enemies there is a concerted plot to deprave and cause disruption. It comes through trade unions, which here have disruptive strikes which of course are not permitted in the communist countries. It comes through moral laxity, which is encouraged by communists but not permitted sometimes in communist countries. It comes through the drugs which are coming into Australia and other places through communist influences and through communist channels. There can be no doubt of that. This is part of a world conspiracy. There are too many communists in the ABC. It is time they were rooted out and exposed. Until we can get rid of them we will not get rid of the kind of deliberate moral pollution that is being spread through certain parts -not all parts-of the ABC. I say that the Government should be thoroughly ashamed of itself for allowing this to continue.
-I was just thinking that I would be able to agree with almost everything that the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) said but he then went on to make his last few points. I agree that as members of Parliament we face the problem of paper warfare with which it is extremely hard to cope. I. would certainly support him in any move for the wider dissemination of Hansard. But once the honourable member got on to his pet subject of communists he seemed to lose all sight of fact and entered the world of fantasy in which he lives at times. If he could name all these communists we would be interested to hear who they are.
In considering the estimates for the Department of the Media it is essential to realise that its proper function is the wider dissemination of accurate information and the promotion of more effective communication between all sections of opinion, particularly from those who have never before had a voice in the community. It is no exaggeration to say that one of our major obstacles today is the problem of communication The challenge we face is to find the means to solve it. The prophets of future shock, like Dr Paul Ehrlich, have warned us that our survival depends on decisions and actions taken now. These people see the population explosion, diminishing food, resources, the destruction of our environment and thermo-nuclear annihilation as the most immediate threats to our continued existence on this planet. Whilst not in the least under-estimating the gravity of those problems, I place alongside them the breakdown in communication between man and man.
I emphasise that the solution of. the problems of communication depends on a continuing flow of reliable and accurate information so that all people can understand and recognise the problems of others. It is ironic that in this latter part of the twentieth century, when we have at our disposal the modern marvels of radio, television and satellites circling the globe to carry messages to all parts of the world, at- the .same time we have the most serious breakdown in communication in our history. It is of more than passing interest to note that the Department of the Media is high on the Opposition’s list of priorities of departments to be axed .if and when honourable members opposite come to power. Why should this be so? Are they afraid of the free flow of information between the Government and the people? Do they see a better informed electoratea more politically aware public-as a threat to their existence as a government?-This is part of the answer but only part. One only has to glance at the excellent booklet published by the Planning and Research Section of the Department of the Media called A Study of Interlocking Patterns of Ownership and Control in Australian
Media Industries to find the rest of the answer. This most revealing publication shows that the very people who own and control the major outlets of newspapers and radio and television stations, and their biggest shareholders, are the same people whose interests are represented in this Parliament by the Opposition.
Why should the Opposition be concerned about a Department of the Media disseminating accurate information when it has an active and partisan ally controlling the media to disseminate its policies and propaganda? At this point I want to correct a popular misconception about these newspaper barons. They are not, as is popularly supposed, in the business to disseminate facts. They are, like all other manufacturers in our society, in the business to make money. A government dedicated to the preservation of a profit motivated society is considerably more, to their liking than one that seeks to give social and economic justice to all its people. Unlike other manufacturers the product that these Press barons sell has a unique quality and that is the quality to influence people’s minds in one way or another. When we consider that this unique and tremendous power is in the hands of 3 main groups in this country it becomes more and more obvious that a Department of the Media dedicated to encouraging the communication and dissemination of a wide variety of opinions is essential to our democratic way of life.
What about the freedom of the Press that we hear so much about? That call has a somewhat shallow ring if honourable members cast their minds back several weeks ago when the Minister for the Media (Dr Cass) issued this discussion paper that has been referred to- and it was only a discussion paper- on the possibility of establishing a Press council. The owners of the mass media’ reacted so violently to this suggestion, even likening the Minister for the Media to the Nazi propaganda Minister Dr Goebbels, that their very reaction was a clear indication within itself that as things are now we have little freedom of the Press but rather a jealously guarded privilege of a few people to influence public opinion. In passing I might add that a Press Council, a voluntary organisation of newspaper proprietors, has been operating successfully in the United Kingdom for some years, without interference from the government and controlled by the people who own the media. Yet even the suggestion that a similar Press council might be a subject for discussion in Australia was greeted with outraged cries of limitations on the freedom of the Press. So the freedom of the Press in Australia boils down to a monopoly of a few people having the freedom to disseminate news- I make a clear distinction between news and information- the freedom to print only the news that they want to print and, where necessary, to ignore or to suppress other relevant information. This monopoly of news and the rigid limitations it imposes on the general public’s access to opinions other than those disseminated by the mass media gives us not only the right but also the responsibility to encourage and stimulate any other medium which will give the public a choice of views on any.subject. The Minister is to be congratulated on the way he has encouraged access radio and ethnic radio.
– He is a good Minister.
-He is. He is a fine Minister. I agree with the honourable member for Hunter. It is an essential ingredient of our democracy, particularly a democracy which has become a multi-racial society, that migrant groups should not only be able to communicate among themselves but have the means to tell us of their, problems. The honourable member for Franklin (Mr Sherry) pointed out the very high proportion of ethnic groups that are able to listen to their own broadcasts. It is equally important that the deprived and inarticulate in bur community should have a voice to make their needs known. The efforts of the Minister and the plans for the future to ensure an adequate say for all in how our country is to be run are to be highly commended. If, as the Opposition wishes, the Department of the Media were to be disbanded, these voices would be stifled and our society would be so much the poorer.
It is my considered belief that all opinions, no matter whether they come from the extreme right or the extreme left- I ask the honourable member for Mackellar to note that; whether they come from the extreme right or the extreme lefthave the right to be expressed and listened to. We should not seek to inhibit the right of people to express their views, whether in newspapers, on radio or on television, no matter how unconventional, no matter how undemocratic, no matter how much they oppose or offend our established beliefs and customs. If we do not have enough faith in the good commonsense of our people, if we are not firmly enough convinced that our democratic way of life can withstand attacks from the more extremist positions, then we are standing on extremely shaky ground. Actually the contrary is the case. The very clash of opinions, the continuing dialogue and communication between people of differing beliefs, can serve only to strengthen the way of life we cherish.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Keith Johnson)- I call the honourable member for La Trobe.
-I do not wish to-
– Surely the call should be given to this side.
- Mr Chairman-
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! I remind the Committee who is in charge of this debate. I have called the honourable member for La Trobe.
– I take a point of order.
- Mr Chairman.
– I take a point of order.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Honourable members will resume their seats.
– I take a point of order.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- I call the honourable member for Mackellar.
- Mr Deputy Chairman, with all due deference to you, it is customary-
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- The honourable member will resume his seat. No point of order is involved. There is nothing in the Standing Orders to suggest that members should be called from one side or the other. The honourable member will resume his seat.
Motion (by Mr Bourchier) put:
That the question be now put.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- The question is that the question be now put. Those of that opinion say aye; to the contrary no.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- I think the noes have it. I call the honourable member for La Trobe.
– I do not wish to join the fight between the 2” competing Opposition spokesmen for the Media, the honourable member for Warringah (Mr MacKellar) or the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon), and I do not wish to discount the number of communists in the Australian Broadcasting Commission mentioned by the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth). I wish to direct my time in this debate to the quality of television reception in some areas of Australia. The Minister for the Media (Dr Cass) has made public the report on cable television services in Australia. The report refers in particular to the urgent need to remedy some deficiencies in the reception of programs of existing television stations, particularly in urban areas and especially in Sydney, and for which cable networks are a solution. There are other places, such as the hilly areas on the periphery of large capital cities, and Warburton in my electorate is an example.
In that report CATV refers to a cable television system designed to distribute only the programs of local television stations. Cable television, on the other hand, is the use of wide band cable for the distribution of program material additional to that from local television stations. CATV provides an alternative to transmission from a transmitting or translator station as a means of distributing television programs to viewers and has some advantages over radiated services. Cable systems have a potential to provide a great variety of television-type services of an entertainment, service, educational and business nature. A single cable can provide simultaneously a considerable number of different programs and/or services. The advantages of cable television are enormous and it is this range of uses which has brought the Minister and the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) to demand the re-examination of that report. The Government has referred the report back to the Broadcasting Control Board and the Commission for further information on its sociological and financial implications. It would be wasteful to implement a system that ignored all the future possibilities on a cost benefit basis.
Currently 98 per cent of the population are capable of receiving good television reception. However, there are pockets of inadequate reception in built up areas within generally authorised areas of television coverage. Warburton, for instance, is less than 80 kilometres from the Melbourne General Post Office and only 48 kilometres from the transmitting towers on Mount Dandenong. In fact, some areas of Warburton are in a direct line from the television transmission. There are 1400 to 1500 people there but about 200 homes are receiving no adequate television reception. It is about them that I am concerned. Television reception generally is mixed but poor or non-existent for these people. The local people have not been idle in trying to get better services. Booster systems have been tried but they have not proved to be satisfactory. People are promised that for $500 they can be provided better television reception but persons who pay this amount find that the money has been wasted.
In nearby Marysville another 400 to 500 people are waiting for developments in
Warburton so that they can take advantage of this important communication. One community organisation, the Warburton Advancement League, has also been quite active. Its campaign was formed 7 years ago and since then it has invited technicians from the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to Warburton to inspect the area. The people have been advised that the only satisfactory system would be a community antenna system using cables to the various houses. Already a suitable site has been found and approved by the State Electricity Commission of Victoria and by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. The advantages of such a system to Warburton would not be just to home television viewers. For instance, it is not understood that the schools there do not receive good television reception and the education of the children consequently suffers. There are 3 primary schools in the area. There are 127 children in the State primary school, 92 to 100 at St Joseph’s and 100 to 1 50 in the Seventh Day Adventist Primary school- a total of about 350 children in primary schools suffering in their education because they cannot get satisfactory television reception.
Warburton is known as a tourist resort. Yet its potential is severely restricted because people are not attracted where they cannot get television during the night hours after having experienced the joys of the bush around that area. It seems unbelievable that it is almost 47 years since Baird discovered television, 19 years since television was introduced into Australia, 14 years since legislation was enacted in Australia to allow the establishment of cable television here and yet Warburton has unsatisfactory television reception, despite 8 years or so of activities by residents and the Warburton Advancement League. There is growing pressure to provide better television reception especially now that colour television is available. I earnestly bring the Minister’s attention to recommendation No. 5 in the report on cable television. I must quote it:
Cable networks for the distribution of local television programs may be provided for local community groups, at thenown expense, where such provision would upgrade reception earlier than the planned provision by the Government of the necessary cable facilities. Such privately funded networks would normally be provided by the APO. However, because of the need to set priorities within the limit of available resources, the ABCB with the agreement of the APO may authorise them to be provided privately. All privately funded networks shall be subject to take-over by the Government at an appropriate time with suitable compensation from Broadcasting and Television appropriations.
There must be priorities. That is understood. But it will be several years before the 20 000 to 40 000 households in Australia will be provided with cable television at a cost of between $6m and $12m. I am talking, for television in Warburton, of something around $40,000 at the most, which the people are prepared to put up themselves. The cost of planning, installation and maintenance is to be borne later by the Australian Postal Commission.
Here we have a possibility of the residents setting it up and being later compensated by the Commission. I point out that in Warburton much of the work has been done, and 200 residents have already paid $10 each into a trust fund and they are prepared to pay up to $200 each before negotiations really begin. Perhaps a loan could be arranged by the Minister, or some other special financial scheme could be implemented so that television can be provided to Warburton as soon as possible. Warburton is an important environmental area. A television cable system would enable it to do away with the unsightly roof antennas for each house and still provide a better service. So I recommend to the Minister that he give serious consideration to recommendation No. 5 and give an early indication to the people of Warburton that they will not be passed by as they were for so many years by the previous Government.
-Thank you, Mr Deputy Chairman, for deigning to look this way this time. I am indeed appreciative of it.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Keith Johnson)- Order! The honourable member will withdraw that remark. It is a reflection on the Chair.
-If it is a reflection on the Chair I withdraw it, Mr Deputy Chairman, but twice we did not get the call.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! The honourable member for Bendigo may continue.
– Thank you, Mr Deputy Chairman. Speaking to the estimates for the Department of the Media, I find that it is difficult to accept the words from the members of the Australian Labor Party, the Government side, saying how open minded they are in their approach to the media. One has only to look at what we have witnessed on television and in the Press over the last 12 months to realise that this Government is using the media for all that it is worth to promote its socialist ideals. I wonder what would happen should an election soon be at hand. How far would the Government really extend itself to use the media. to its own gain? The Minister for the Media (Dr Cass) who is at the table, looked up at me when I made the point that the Government is using the media to spread the Government’s socialist ideals and the Government’s policies and as a means of advancing the party platform and policies. Honourable members should just have a look at a little brochure called Housing Under Labor which was distributed. It was basically designed to show what the Government had done in housing, but the Government could not resist the opportunity to present in that document a purely political stance by commenting on the Opposition’s attitude and making typically political electioneering statements in the brochure. It was designed to embarrass the Opposition and to be used purely as a policy advancing basis for the Government.
There are many such brochures around. The Minister cannot deny that that is the purpose of the brochure because it is quite clear in black and white. This is the type of thing that this Government has been doing with the Media funds. We realise that the Government is prepared to spend millions on the Australian Broadcasting Commission. We see the tendency for the Government to exploit the media- under direction no doubt- for its own use. I cannot speak too strongly against this type of practice.
I approached the previous Minister for the Media several times and I think I approached the present Minister for the Media once on the matter of trying to establish a relay station in the Seymour district to enable the country people located around that area to obtain a variety of viewing apart from the Australian Broadcasting Commission station. I have met with absolute frustration and no response. The Minister drops his lip as much to say: ‘Oh, we do not do that’. We do not have the relay station so obviously the Government is not prepared to let the proposal go through. It will not cost the Government anything. The private enterprise that the Government hates so much is prepared to pay for it. The Government is prepared to spend millions of dollars on the ABC at the drop of a hat to do anything, to set up relay stations or whatever it likes so that the Government can get its own format of the media across to the public. But when the private enterprise that the Government detests so much wants to try to present something to the people in the remoter areas the Government resists it. I am talking now of a chain of stations that provide at present under the private enterprise system, ranging from Mildura, Swan Hill and Bendigo to Gippsland, a good range of commercial programs. There are relay stations in that area to provide the alternative ABC station. So there is no doubt that there is a variety there. Yet the same opportunity is not given to the people in the Seymour district to get better viewing. I am not saying that they cannot receive these stations. The Minister knows better and I am not suggesting that at all. But the reception from them is very poor. The Minister or his predecessor claimed that tests were made which showed that people in the area were getting adequate reception. That is taking notice of people who sit down and take notes of figures, who have not experienced or tried to sit at a television set and see the actual reception under all conditions. People at Seymour have asked me repeatedly to try to obtain the granting of this relay station for their benefit.
The request has not come totally from the private enterprise people who want to put it in; it has come from the people of Seymour who are not getting the reception they want. We often listen in this chamber to statements that private enterprise, the big boys in business, are running the country. For goodness sake, if they are doing that, why can they not do things that are quite positive? Why can they not be allowed to put up a relay station to enable the people in the more remote areas to receive the rights that those in the city areas already have?
I do not want to speak long, and I do not intend to speak long on this subject, because I believe that most of the things that need to be said have been said. I am concerned for this particular area. I have asked many times. It is becoming extremely frustrating to try to get some assistance. We get fobbed off all the time with the information that tests have been made and there is adequate reception. There is adequate reception for the ABC perhaps but not for the commercial stations. I would ask the Minister to give this matter his particular attention. At the same time, now that he is in the chair as Minister for the Media, perhaps he might see in future that brochures presented under the auspices of his Department confine themselves to promoting the Government’s work and do not try to denigrate the Opposition and so become political brochures.
Dr CASS (Maribyrnong- Minister for the
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Keith Johnson)- The honourable member for Mackellar will not interrupt. I have called the Minister.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! The honourable member will withdraw that remark.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- The honourable member for Gwydir will withdraw the remark. It is a reflection on the Chair.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Thank you.
– I shall speak only for a short time. I shall just go seriatim through the things honourable members have raised. The honourable member for Warringah (Mr MacKellar) commented that the Hobart television station I suspended was harshly done by. He used words to the effect that I could have dealt with the situation in a more effective way. Sadly, the reality is that I could not. The Broadcasting and Television Act specifies that the only form of punishment, if you like, for breaking the rules and regulations consists of suspension of up to a week. Quite frankly, I think that is nonsense. In fact, I am not altogether sure that I feel that the breach of the Act was of that significance either. I have some doubts about whether these sorts of controls are worth having. However, the Act is there. It is not the Government’s Act. It is an Act which the previous Liberal Government accepted and worked under for many years. That Government could have changed it if it thought it was unreasonable.
It is the duty of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, not the Government, to draw the Minister’s attention to excessive periods of advertising or failures to observe the required conditions. The Control Board drew to the attention of the previous Minister such a case involving the Hobart station and he did what was reasonable at the time. He asked for an explanation from the station and got an assurance that it would not happen again. The station faithfully promised that it would not happen again, and within 5 months it had happened again. What was I supposed to do? I even discussed the matter with the manager from the station. I could have ignored it, but that would have made a farce of the whole Act. I think the Act probably is a farce.
We discussed the possibility of the station itself voluntarily deciding not to show any advertising for that period or, alternatively, if it had to screen advertisements because it did not want to lose faith with its advertisers, agreeing to donate the funds to some charity it could choose itself. I did not even want to have a hand in that. I would have happily accepted that. However, I understand that when it filtered through to the rest of the commercial stations that that is what the Hobart station was considering it was leaned upon and told not to do it, with the result that I had no alternative. I could have suspended the station for a whole week. I just flicked it with a feather duster for a few hours. I am quite happy to consider any submissions from the commercial stations suggesting that this sort of regulation could be changed to make it more reasonable in their eyes. I am on their side.
I shall not deal with the Press council controversy because I think honourable members on my own side discussed it during the course of the debate. Of course there is a need for ethnic radio. A complaint was made that we had allotted only $100,000 in this area. That is an interim sum, pending formulation of policy on the whole question of community broadcasting. It is all very well to say that the Government has not done anything about it. The Liberal Party was in government for 23 years. In all that time there were significant numbers of migrants in this country. The former Government chose to do nothing at all about ethnic radio. The present Government has moved quickly, although it does not mean that we have a well denned policy. It is just like mothers’ milk; everybody accepts that it is a good idea. But no one has yet worked out how it can or should be done. We have a working party working on this question. Hopefully I will be receiving a report from it very shortly, and then we will be able to formulate policy for discussion in this Parliament and outside it. I intend to have the working party ‘s paper distributed to anybody interested in the community before we discuss it to try to evolve a rational system which will permit not just ethnic radio but all community and access radio to be established in the country, because that is the point of the exercise. The Bayutti report on ethnic radio is available. I announced that last week. I have not tabled it in the House for the very simple reason that at this stage we do not have enough copies printed, but it is available for honourable members if they wish to see it. If there is a big enough demand, of course, we will run off copies. It is not true to say that it has not been made available, because it has.
The honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) complained about the Australian Government Liaison Service and the number of people it employs. All twelve of them are terribly busy distributing handouts of information from the Parliament, including Press handouts from the Opposition. I might point out that the propaganda machine, the Australian Government Liaison Service, employs 12 journalists. I am informed that Mr Lewis employs 14 journalists in his media centre, and I understand that Mr
Bjelke-Petersen employs more. So it seems we are running a very poor third in that race to try to brainwash the community. Anyhow, my own views of the functions of this service are that they are not to brainwash but to ensure that the information from the Parliament is freely available. I know we have a lot of journalists in the Parliamentary Press Gallery, but they select news in terms of its value to the needs of their newspapers. That does not necessarily mean that a lot of the material from this Parliament gets out, because the journalists make a valued judgment that as far as their paper is concerned certain information is not newsworthy enough. But that does not mean that various minority groups of all sorts in the community are not going to be interested in a lot of the material which is not published. That is the job of the Liaison Service. In fact, it is overwhelmed with inquiries from people seeking information, usually about the sorts of things that do not get into the newspapers. That is its prime function.
The honourable member suggested that the socialist answer is to control everything that is published. I wish he would talk to his colleague, the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth), who complained about the bulk of material that is going out and suggested that there ought to be a bit more co-ordination and control. Ironically enough the honourable member for Mackellar answered himself a bit later. He first of all complained about the mass of material which goes out, incidentally, not from the Department of the Media but from the various departments, keeping the community informed. I take it that that is what the honourable member wants. He does not want just the socialist point of view but he wants the departmental point of view as well in their reports which are usually tabled in this Parliament. The honourable member complained about the bulk of the material and suggested that it ought to be coordinated and that it ought to be more selective. That was the general tenor of his comment. He said there ought to be some selection. I pose the question: Who ought to do the selecting? Who is going to be the selector? Needless to say, having criticised us in this way, the honourable member for Mackellar then proceeded later on to complain that the Department of the Media may get a stranglehold on things. He said that it may be more inefficient to allow a wider cross-section of the Government to distribute the material but it would ensure that it would not all be collected in one hand. He himself commented: ‘Who will be the guardian of the guardians?’ That is the answer to his own criticism earlier on. I suggest that the Opposition is quite confused.
The line we are taking in the Department of the Media is not to throttle, censor or inhibit in any way the expression of views. That is the reason why honourable members opposite presumably are unhappy about the ABC- because we are indicating that we do not intend to curtail the discussion on any sort of controversial issue or unpopular issue as long as it is considered by some people in the community that it ought to be aired and discussed, and ridiculed if that is what most people feel ought to happen to it. I am not even suggesting the way in which it should be dealt with. But I refuse and this Government refuses to be a judge of what is right and wrong in terms of community opinion. The community itself must make up its own mind. The only way to permit that is to allow free ventilation of all these controversial, seemingly unpopular views. Put them; have people answer them; have arguments about them and let the community itself ultimately make its own decision.
As for the nonsense about how much money the Liberal Party would save if it were in government by abolishing the Department of the Media, I think it is being terribly hypocritical. The bulk of the services in that vote of $ 137m cover the Australian Broadcasting Commission, the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, the Australian Government Publishing Service, the Australian Office of Information and what we now call the publication inquiry centres which were previously the bookshops. All of these things were in existence while honourable members opposite were in government. They were maintained by honourable members opposite. I would not think that we have changed them very much qualitatively and not much quantitatively. There has been a need to increase some of them; we have tried to do this but I hope not excessively. So it is pure humbug to suggest that money would be saved by abolishing the Department of the Media. Honourable members opposite would have something like $3m which is the administrative cost of the Department itself, leaving aside all those other functions. I think honourable members opposite should stop deluding themselves and trying to confuse the rest of the community.
Proposed expenditure agreed to.
Proposed expenditure, $22,927,000.
-This is the first time that we have dealt with the estimates of the Postmaster-General’s Department since we turned the activities of the Department over to 2 commissions- the Australian Postal Commission and the Australian Telecommunications Commission. I think it proper at this time that the Committee should study the initial impact which the transfer of these roles to the 2 commissions has had. I have to say that if Leilani were to start in the Melbourne Cup and to get off to as bad a start as these commissions have got off to, not even Andrew Peacock would believe she could win.
The simple fact is that one could not say with any pride that the Australian Postal Commission or the Australian Telecommunications Commission has got off to a good start. In the opinion of the people, they seem to have grown into some sort of monster. I think on their first day of operation the first thing they did was to take a large increase in staff. They certainly took a large increase in pay for doing what is said to be the very same work they were doing previously, with the same responsibility and the same work load for less pay. It is a bit hard for the people of Australia to follow. I hope that the Minister for Manufacturing Industry (Mr Lionel Bowen) might be able to tell us why it was found necessary to have this great jump in pay and staff. I know it has been said that the Commissions had to take over the role of the Public Service Board. That was one of the reasons why they had to take on so many highly classified executives. But if the Minister tells me that the executive staff of the Telecommunications Commission had to be increased by 40 or 21 per cent because of the job that the Public Service Board used to do, I think that we ought to have an inquiry into the Public Service Board. Furthermore, as I understand it the number of second division officers in the Postal Commission increased from 45 to 52. As I say, all these things were done at a very great cost.
Then came the second shock- increased charges. I know that the Government is responsible for the high rate of inflation and the failure to control the economy. We all know that the Government is a failure and, Mr Deputy Chairman, I think that even you will agree with that. The Government has not been able to control the economy and therefore organisations such as the Postal Commission are put in the embarrassing position of finding themselves unable to make their way. The people of Australia were shocked and stunned by the savagery of the increases. Australians now have the privilege of having the highest postal rates in the world. If that is something for the Postal Commission to crow about in its first year of operation, it is in for a long hard run. The simple fact which ought to be brought home to the people of Australia is that since Labor came to government- since, Mr Deputy Chairman, your government came to office- postage stamps have gone up from 7c to 18c. Mr Deputy Chairman, if you, sitting in that chair could be proud of that fact, I would be amazed. As we know, it is cheaper to bulk post 25 letters to New Zealand and have them airmailed separately back to Australia. The cost per letter is 12c and a person saves 6c on each. So what does the Postal Commission decide to do? It decides to ban that practice. I understand that people who were in the television programs, Division 4 and Callan who cannot find employment are getting jobs as sleuths, going around the countryside to make sure that private enterprise does not cheat on the Australian Postal Commission by using the New Zealand service.
I cannot let the Australian Telecommunications Commission off either. The cost of telephone calls has risen from 6c to 9c. I think, Mr Deputy Chairman, in the time of your Government, in a mere 3 years, the cost of private telephone calls has risen from 4.5c to 9c.
– A sorry record.
– It is a pretty sorry record for any government in 3 years. I know you will agree with me, Mr Deputy Chairman.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Keith Johnson)- Order! I have been very tolerant with the honourable member for Gippsland who in my view has come very close to insulting the Chair. I am not in a position to enter into debate with the honourable member and I would be pleased if he would treat the Chair in an impartial manner.
-Sir, that is exactly what I am doing. I am recognising the integrity of your position and, indeed, the integrity of you as a person privately: I know you will agree with me as does the Minister that it is a shocking record for any government to have. In 3 years postage stamps have risen in price from 7c to 18c and telephone calls have risen from 4.5c to 9c.
– A record.
– An unequalled record in the world. They are the highest postal rates in the world. Of course the Minister has a right to be proud of it. The 3 things that the Government has a right to be proud of are the high rate of unemployment, the high rate of postage stamps and the high rate of inflation. But of course the Government’s real failure arises from the fact that we specifically amended the Act when it was in the Senate so that if the Government was concerned about the inflationary effect which high increased postal and telecommunication charges would have, by subvention, it could lower the charges. Instead of allowing the postage rate to go to 18c, by subvention, the Government could have lowered the charges. It deliberately did not do so. It deliberately allowed the postal rate to go to 18c. In all its Budget thoughts, it deliberately allowed the cost of telephone calls to go to 9c. The Government had no thought for the poor people they are supposed to represent, who might use these services. It gave no thought to the plight of the pensioners and other people who want to post a letter- who want to write to mother or to grandmother.
– It is insensitive.
– The Government is quite insensitive to the real problems of the people of Australia. It has demonstrated this. There is no clearer demonstration of the stupidity and the failure of a government than we are seeing now. The fact is that we have now created 2 giant monopolies but no competition is allowed. A person cannot even carry a bag of somebody else’s mail from Melbourne to Sydney and distribute it because if he does, he will be fined. This practice is outside the Act. So there is no real test of the efficiency of either of these organisations. They may have within their own system some organisation and methods management scheme where they have a look at themselves in the mirror and say: ‘Yes, we are very bright and we are very efficient’. They might have that scheme but they have not to face the cold hard real world of competition. So the people of Australia are never going to know whether their postal services are efficient or otherwise or whether or not their telecommunications systems are as efficient as they ought to be because there’ is no competition. I know that the Minister, being a socialist, would not like any free enterprise to be involved in this operation. But let me just remind him that even General M’otors-Holden’s Pty Ltd, that great American multi-national that the Minister and his Government dislike so much, has to suffer the competition of the Ford Motor Company of Australia Ltd and others. I think the cold winds of competition might do the Australian Postal Commission and the Australian Telecommunications Commission some good.
I see at page 4 of the Chairman’s statement regarding the new postal charges that on a turn over of about $500m the Commission anticipates a profit of $300,000. With an inflation rate running at 17 per cent or 22 per cent what will the postal charge be next year? It has gone from 10c to 1 8c this year. What will it be with a 1 7 per cent inflation rate next year? I forecast that if this Government is allowed to stay in office a stamp will cost 24c next year. There is no way of avoiding it, unless the Postal Commission is not telling us the truth in the first instance. It may have a great deal of fat which it has not told us about. If the Postal Commission is being truthful stamps will cost 24c next year. This is a serious matter and something about which the people of Australia ought to be concerned.
I am also concerned that in their bid to make savings both the Telecommunications Commission and the Postal Commission will go as they usually do and raid the countryside and cut down services to people in remote areas. It is far too easy to say that those services are too expensive and that they will be cut without recognising that people require them. If ever one section of the community needs services it is those people living way out in isolated areas in the country. I remind the Chairman of the Postal Commission of his own words. He said:
I hope people will remember that our primary objective is the provision of a better service to the community.
He goes on asking for co-operation and everything else. He will get co-operation all right, but I warn the Chairman of the Postal Commission and the Chairman of the Telecommunications Commission that in the months ahead the Opposition will be watching very closely the activities of those Commissions. If they do not function as they ought to function, if they do not provide the services they ought to provide, if they do not look like being efficient and if their services are too dear we will review the whole situation.
-In speaking to the estimates for the Postmaster-General’s Department I first of all draw attention to the great disadvantage that people suffer in those areas where services are not as frequent as they ought to be. Because of that I feel that the Postal Commission should be given the opportunity to provide a service. I think it is entirely wrong that the Postal Commission should be required to find its own working expenses and at the same time find 50 per cent of its capital. The conditions under which the Postal Commission works under this Government are such that it is not able to do anything other than to impose excessive charges. The responsibility does not rest on the operation of the Commission, although it has been criticised, and rightly so, because of its top heaviness and the number of top positions that have been created. The Commission is not given an opportunity by this Government to operate in a manner which will allow it to provide the national service that the Postal Commission should provide.
The important point relates to the provision of a service while the economy is being watched. These services are justified from a national point of view. If we are to have what is required in this and in the other countries- a national network of services- in fairness to the Commission and in fairness to the old Postmaster-General’s Department there should have been a Treasury subvention to allow the department to provide those services which in themselves are uneconomic but which are desirable and necessary from a national and a developmental point of view. The trouble that this country is running into has been accentuated by the incompetence of the Government insofar as the economy generally is concerned.
The people about whom I have talked live in areas where there is a need for Australia as a nation to exploit the natural resources. The people living in those areas are among the most underprivileged in the nation. They will be even more underprivileged if in fact these services are curtailed because of the conditions under which the Postal Commission or the Telecommunications Commission operate. Because of the reduction in and the elimination of postal services the people will be deprived of their franchise- they will not be able to vote. This situation has arisen because of the economic conditions under which the Postal Commission operates. I hope that members in this Parliament who represent country areas will take up the cudgels on behalf of country people. I regret to say that this does not always happen. The Government is protected by people who represent the type of people I represent in the far western areas of my electorate. Australians generally should feel deeply indebted to those people who are prepared to live where the cost of living is highest and where the services provided by the Government are the very lowest. The people are there doing a national job. If some Australians are not prepared to live in those areas, other people might be looking with envious eyes to be given the opportunity to do so. Those people perhaps would find an excuse, based on international attitudes, to do so. This is something of which the national Parliament should take cognisance.
I say that at least the services that were provided back in the horse and buggy days should be continued. In some instances they are not being continued; they are being cut out by this type of operation. The Government is trying to provide an economic service in an area where one cannot be provided and it is trying to provide a national network of communication. It is trying to achieve the impossible and in the meantime is burdening the whole of the Australian community in an unreasonable manner. As I said before there have been drastic reductions in postal services. Even if there were no other changes the drastic reduction of polling places and the threatened further reduction of others will alter the franchise situation. I hope the Government will look at this matter in relation to the postal services that are being provided. Is the Government intending to disfranchise these people by reducing the allowable time for the receipt of postal votes, and by the reduction and discontinuance of postal services?
It is not only in those areas that mail services are being reduced. I am inundated with requests to try to have services retained in almost every area. There is great difficulty in retaining services. They have been shortened and reduced in frequency. Every effort has been made. I pay tribute to the District Postal Manager in my electorate for his efforts in constantly travelling throughout that area in an endeavour to maintain these services. The Government intends cutting out the Roma postal district. The District Postal Manager has done his very best within the limits prescribed. These mail services are being curtailed and reduced even in more closely settled areas.
I also raise the matter of radio reception. Surely in these days everyone is entitled to decent radio reception at the very least but it is not being provided in many of the western areas. Provision of adequate radio reception has become stagnant. The Minister for Manufacturing Industry (Mr Lionel Bowen) who is at the table is quite competent to take me to task as he has done, very unjustly I would say, on many occasions. He will probably say that we did not do anything for 23 years. The parrot cry of the Government is: What did you do? Why did you not do something when you were in power? The Government apparently thinks that although things were continued at a certain level they must stop there because we did not do more in those 23 years. We did not do everything in those 23 years that the Government should have been doing in the last 3 years that it has been in office. The Government has been stagnant in providing services to many areas of Australia.
The same thing applies to telecommunications. The same Minister criticised me for a speech that I made in this House for being, as he put it, instrumental in having a telephone service provided for some very deserving people. He appeared almost staggered at the cost and he seemed to blame me for it. The fact is that the Department required a certain standard of communication; it was not me; it was not even my own party. It was the Department. My party accepted the need for a high standard of communication. If there are to be effective subscriber trunk dialling services there must be high standards. It was not the Government that desired this high standard. The Minister says that country people must not be given the services because they cost too much. Apparently we should all live in the coastal areas and neglect the inland. Apparently we should not provide those people with services. The Government says that anybody who gets any sort of service from this Government should pay for its total cost.
Is that the sort of philosophy that will develop this nation? Is that the sort of philosophy that will make the nation great? Is that the sort of philosophy that will allow us to utilise resources throughout this great Commonwealth of ours?. It is a short sighted policy. It is a policy which is completely reprehensible. That word describes the policy very well and I hope that some notice will be taken of its reprehensibility. When we were in office we recognised the great problems confronting people with regard to telephonic communications. We were prepared to allow them up to 15 miles of free line. That service is going to cost them more than $5,000 now. The Minister has said that we must not provide that service because it is too costly and we must provide more telephones in the cities, where people do not have a need for them, for the same amount of money. No consideration is given to the national need. No consideration is given to the circumstances surrounding the conditions of those people. It does not matter whether there is a snake bite, a bushfire or an accident; as far as this Government is concerned those people will suffer. It is no wonder that the Government is losing the support of the people in those areas and it is no wonder that it is losing support for many other reasons, throughout this nation.
I hope that the Minister and the Government will look at the criteria under which the Commissions operate to enable them to provide a service for the community at large, even at some cost. The work that is being done in many areas throughout the Commonwealth is such that the community at large should be prepared at least to contribute something to help the people who live in such circumstances which are conditions under which many people in this country, in fact the majority of people, I believe, would not be prepared to live. Let us try to keep them there and have a reasonable balance. They do not want everything. They just want reasonable treatment and they are not getting it from this Government.
-I wish to raise 4 matters in the debate on the estimates for the Postmaster-General’s Department this afternoon. Initially I wish to speak about the effect of the heavily increased postal rates on the earnings of charities in the coming year. The whole community is extremely grateful for the work of numerous charities throughout Australia and the fact that those charities exist saves the Australian taxpayer a great deal of money. If those organisations were not doing the work that they are doing the cost to the individual taxpayer to provide additional revenue for governments to do that work would be immense. The Labor Government seems to be dedicated to the objective of putting those charities out of business, particularly the charities which rely very heavily on sales of Christmas cards to make their money.
I know that the rate of postage of Christmas cards has been reduced from 1 8c to 1 5c, but I believe that the law of diminishing returns will be operating very significantly in terms of the numbers of Christmas cards which people will buy or sell. I know that a great number of my acquaintances have simply refused to consider sending out Christmas cards. They did not send out Christmas cards last year and they certainly will not send out Christmas cards this year. That is simply because of the immense cost of posting the cards. They are quite happy to buy the cards to support the charities but the prohibitive cost of mailing cards has meant that they have made the decision not to proceed with what was a time honoured practice of sending Christmas cards and, in the process, supporting worthwhile charities.
Some charities are not totally dependent upon the sale of Christmas cards for their income, but others are totally dependent, as far as I can gather, on the sale of Christmas cards. One group which I regard as worthy of the highest form of praise is the foot and mouth artists. I put myself in the position of a person who has lost the use of an arm or both arms and I imagine the immense amount of concentration and the tremendous effort that would be required to paint pictures with one’s toes or by holding the paint brush in one’s teeth. I believe the efforts involved in that say a tremendous amount for the courage of individuals, for people who are endeavouring not to be a burden on the community and who are endeavouring to make use of the skills which they possess to overcome frightful difficulties. One of the ways in which they do it is by selling
Christmas cards and by reproducing paintings which they have painted by using the feet or by holding the brushes in the mouth.
The savage increase in postal charges will virtually mean that that organisation faces an almost possible task in carrying on. Charities do much good throughout the community and save the Australian taxpayer an enormous amount of money. They involve a great number of people in doing worthwhile work and in bringing a great deal of help and succour to the unfortunate members of our community. It is a very great pity that the Australian Government has seen fit to support increases in postal charges to the extent to which they have been supported. Those increases will virtually bring to a standstill the income which would have been derived from the sale of Christmas cards. Rather than just reducing the amount by a token 3c I believe the Government should look again at the decision of the Australian Postal Commission to reduce the charge by only that amount. I believe it could be reduced by a significantly greater amount and if it were so reduced it would be a very worthwhile action on behalf of the Government. I urge the responsible Minister to see whether he can bring this about.
Other people who are affected very greatly by the increased postal charges are those on fixed incomes. I refer to age and invalid pensioners. I have a number of people who fall into that category in my electorate, as have most other honourable members. I am sure that my experience has been repeated for other honourable members. A number of communications have been brought to me- not posted to me- by people complaining that one of the things to which they really look forward, communication with their friends and acquaintances, will be made that much more expensive by increases in charges for telephone calls and in postal charges. Those people do not have a great deal to look forward to. They depend a great deal upon the communications they have with their friends and acquaintances.
– How many letters do they write a year?
– Is the honourable member suggesting that they should not have the opportunity to write letters and to make telephone calls? That is the sort of level of feeling that government supporters have for the unfortunate members of our community- the people on fixed incomes, the people for whom they are supposed to have some regard and the people whom they are supposed to represent. It is no wonder the
Government is losing so many seats in Tasmania. I believe the Government should look at a scheme whereby people who are on fixed incomes, who do not have the financial resources to meet the heavily increased charges, could have some concessions.
Another area I should like to bring up is the telephone rentals which are charged to surf clubs. I mentioned this matter last year and nothing was done about it. Everybody acknowledges the enormous contribution which surf clubs make towards safety on the beaches and towards making Australia, in the eyes of the world, a safe place to swim and to surf. Such clubs have brought great credit on themselves and on the country. The members of the clubs are volunteers. They spend a large proportion of their time looking after other people and they find it extremely difficult to make ends meet. I acknowledge that the Australian Government has contributed an amount of money to the surf lifesaving movement, but it would be a small matter for the telephone rentals which are presently being charged to the surf clubs to be waived. After all, there are not so many surf clubs in Australia. The amount of money which is raised from the rentals would not be significant in the overall Budget. Yet the effect on individual surf clubs would be very significant. It would assist these clubs a great deal. I believe that it would be a most worthwhile gesture for this Government to make towards acknowledging the efforts and the contributions that members of surf clubs do make to the total Australian community.
It is absolutely necessary for surf clubs to have telephones. It is not a matter on which these clubs have a choice on the need for a telephone. Obviously if they are to be involved in rescue operations they must have telephones so that they can get in touch with hospitals or the relatives of people rescued or make other necessary calls. Obviously it is important- indeed vital- for these clubs to have telephones. I believe, as I said, that it would be a significant contribution- and an important acknowledgment of the role of surf clubs- by this Government if telephone rentals charged to surf clubs could be waived. This action would not cost the Government very much. The effect on the surf clubs would be great. I believe that the whole community would benefit from such action.
Finally, I make my perennial plea: Could we have more details, more action or at least some acknowledgment of what is happening in relation to the acquisition by Australia of satellite communications? I have been pursuing this matter virtually since I entered the Parliament. We get promises every year about what is going on. I would bring again before the Committee, the people and the relevant Minister the very real contribution that I believe the acquisition of satellite communications could make to the total communications network offered to the Australian people.
– I wish to speak to the estimates for the Postmaster-General’s Department. A great deal of criticism has come from the increase in postal rates and telephone charges. The Royal Commission headed by Sir John Vernon which inquired into the Australian Post Office recommended that the activities of the Postmaster-General’s Department be split into 2 sections, one dealing with telecommunications and the other with postal services. One of the responsibilities of those 2 bodies was to put their operations on a sound financial basis. Although the telecommunications operations previously may have been able to operate in this way, certainly the postal operations did not. How long were the Australian people to continue to subsidise the postal services to the extent that they did? This was probably one of the questions which exercised the mind of that Royal Commission. We all regret that these increased charges have been imposed. We would hope that these charges will enable the 2 commissions to achieve a sound financial footing and that they will be able to carry on future operations without any excessive increases in service charges.
One matter that I would like to mention which has not been mentioned in this debate but to which reference has been made on a number of occasions- I think it was mentioned in the discussions on the estimates of the Department of the Media- is the increased costs in respect of country newspapers. I do not know what has happened in country areas from which other honourable members come. Let me explain what has occurred in my electorate. There were 9 country newspapers there. One at Woomera was run by the Department of Defence, so I will ignore it. The other 8 newspapers are now run by 2 groups whereas previously they were printed in the areas in which they were distributed. Any newspaper printed in an outside area was posted to its subscribers.
With the advent of offset printing machines and other new techniques, introduced by these groups, one group now owns four and possibly five of the newspapers in my electorate while the other group owns at least 2 of those newspapers. Previously one of the newspapers was printed in a small town in which it was distributed. That town is many miles distant from the town in which that newspaper is now printed. Because that newspaper is now printed so far away, it is posted and its distribution over the long distance involved must be undertaken by and is the responsibility of the postal service. Difficulty arises because the Post Office becomes the distributor of the newspaper printed outside the area to which it is delivered. This is a bit rough as the distance is quite great. When we speak about country newspapers, we must look at the whole situation to find out what is a fair proposition.
Mention has been made in the current debate of telephone connections. I know that in 1 970-7 1 the former Government did propose a scheme by which it would provide free of charge the first 15 miles of a telephone line. To my way of thinking, that was an airy-fairy proposition. My view was verified by officers of the Postmaster-General’s Department, as it then was. All that this proposal did was to encourage people to seek to have telephones connected. Previously, because of the distance involved, they had no intention of seeking a telephone service. But because of the new factors involved- because they thought that the Government would provide 15 miles of telephone free- they decided that they would apply for a telephone service. The figures that I was able to obtain from the Department revealed that it would have cost about $10,000 to provide 10 miles to 15 miles of telephone line free of charge.
I agree that a need exists for these services. I represent a large electorate. I had referred to me a terrific number of problems which were related to the old Postmaster-General’s Department. I can appreciate the problems and difficulties of communication experienced by people in these areas. But I do not think anybody can say that a government is harsh if it breaks down a subsidy of that order. When this Government came to office, it had a look at this scheme. There was a problem in my own electorate. When I checked I found that the number of rural telephone connections made in one year was thirty-four. Honourable members can appreciate the number of people who applied to take advantage of the free 15 miles of telephone line. These people had to wait a considerable period. When I checked a few years ago I found that the then Department was talking of these people obtaining their connections in 1976 or 1 977.
When it came to office, the present Government took action which was more realistic. It said that it would provide the first 8 kilometres of telephone line free of charge. The figures which I have been given show that the cost of providing that reduced distance of telephone line is $2,560 a kilometre. I think that that is not a bad form of assistance to be given by the Government in providing country telephone services. I know that there are people who are outside the 8-kilometre limit. But is it fair to ask the Government to provide the additional line required? I do not know. I leave that matter to the judgment of others. But I do believe that we would be tying up resources if expenditure were directed to an activity such as this. The actual cost, even today, of providing country telephone services is subsidised to the extent of 8 kilometres of telephone line provided free of charge. The figures with which I have been provided show a subsidy of $320 a kilometre. Eight kilometres of telephone line will be provided free. Honourable members can work out the total cost in each case for themselves.
With the provision of more automatic telephone exchanges in country areas have come increased complaints about costs. Under the old manual system, a telephone line could be run along a fence or through trees. The cost of establishing an automatic telephone service is pretty considerable as first class lines are required. I do not claim to be an expert in this field. But I am informed that, if one line comes down in an automatic telephone exchange system, this can put the whole of that exchange out of service, so the line must be in first class order.
When we are considering the subject of costs, we must look at the cost of establishing some of these country telephone exchanges. I sympathise with the people who live in these areas but the costs involved in providing these services must be realised. I remember that about 18 months ago I had some figures taken out about the cost of automatic telephone exchanges established in my electorate. One of those- a small country automatic exchange for 22 subscribers- cost $73,000. The establishment of the exchange in that specific area cost an additional $3,300 per subscriber. It is all right to say what we should do for people in these country areas. I think that I appreciate the needs of people in these electorates more than do members of the National Country Party who are trying to interject I appreciate the problems that people living in these areas face, but at the same time we cannot ignore the cost that is involved in establishing these facilities. We would certainly hope that as a result of improvements in technology coming on the market the costs of providing communications to people in these areas will be reduced. I would hope that the adoption of improvements in technology of this type will be not too far away so that we may bring to the people who live in these areas the benefits of modern day living for their enjoyment.
One honourable member mentioned the bulk mailing of postal items to New Zealand and the saving in charges that could be achieved. I wonder whether the people who take this action are the same people who use courier services in Sydney and Melbourne and whether they would provide such services in some areas of the outbackfor instance, to some stations in my electoratewhere there would be no profit whatsoever in providing runs through those stations. No profit would be made from them but there has to be some balancing. You can run letters around the heart of Melbourne or Sydney at a pretty cheap rate but you cannot run them around the countryside at the same cost. I think the last place where we will ever see private courier services is the outback country areas.
My time in this debate is just about up, but there is one thing which I do wish to raise and I hope that the Minister for Manufacturing Industry (Mr Lionel Bowen) will take it up with the Postmaster-General (Senator Bishop). I have raised it with him before. It is something that is causing concern in my electorate. Emergency fire fighting services are established throughout country areas, and they operate on a voluntary basis. In most cases they receive some State government subsidies but they raise money from their own activities to provide their own equipment and so on. Up to date it appears as though part of their telephone concessions will be removed. I ask the Minister, when reporting back to the Postmaster-General, to raise the question of telephone concessions that did apply to emergency fire fighting services in South Australia. I do not doubt that this applies to services in the other States too. I think these services should have these telephone concessions restored. If not, I ask that the needs of these services be referred to other Government departments, if necessary, such as the Department of Environment, which possibly could ascertain whether they could give some assistance to these services. As far as I know these services will lose some of their telephone concessions and I ask that this request be considered.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Mr Chairman -
Motion ( by Mr Nicholls ) put:
That the question be now put.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman-Dr H. A. Jenkins)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Proposed expenditure agreed to.
Proposed expenditure, $ 1,7 10,952,000
– I will not delay the Committee long because I know that other honourable members want to speak. The simple fact is that members of the Parliament have been deprived of participating in any sustained debate on defence for approximately 3 years. I think it is disgraceful, as the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett) will agree, that honourable members with an interest in defence matters are not given an opportunity to participate in a sustained debate. It is a clear indication of the curious,lackadaisical- one could indeed say indifferent- approach of the Government to defence matters, that for nearly 3 years there has not been an opportunity for members of the Parliament to take part in a defence debate. I do not know why this should be.
I have always found the Minister for Defence (Mr Morrison) and his predecessor to be courteous and to show a respect for Parliament. It staggers me to find that the honourable gentleman will not facilitate at least a day’s debate on defence in this Parliament. When the Minister put down his statement on defence a few weeks ago there were 2 speakers. The Minister spoke and I spoke. I am quite sure that I could encourage from the honourable gentleman a sense of reluctance- a sense of regret- that that is the case. I appeal to the Minister even at this late stage to facilitate a debate on the Defence Report which he tabled in the Parliament yesterday. That would provide a most welcome opportunity for honourable members on both sides to debate the matter.
This afternoon when I launched the Opposition’s defence policy I made the observation- I made it with complete genuineness- that I hoped in my lifetime to see developed in this country a bi-partisan approach to defence matters. I believe that that should be the objective to which we strive. But as things stand at the moment we are a long day’s march from attaining that objective. One of the reasons that we are a distance from that attainment is that there is so little parliamentary debate on defence matters. If Parliament does not set an example what hope is there in the country? The character of defence debate throughout the country has not been distinguished necessarily for the indifference or the rationality of approach- indeed, quite to the contrary. A great deal of our debate on defence in this country proceeds from slogan uses, slogan shoutings and the resort to shibboleths. I hope that the Minister is prepared to make that concession and to agree with me that that is the case.
The Minister will have an opportunity to make some observations during the course of this Committee debate. I understand that it is to be terminated at about 6 o’clock, so we have barely another hour in which to provide honourable members with an opportunity to debate the Defence estimates. When I look at another place and see the leisurely approach with which the Senate proceeds with its consideration of the Estimates and I compare it with the way in which this chamber proceeds with its consideration of the Estimates I apprehend a sense of shame. It is literally impossible for honourable members on both sides of the chamber who have an interest in defence matters to debate the Estimates as such. When I first came into the Parliament Estimates debates proceded on the basis that a person pointed to some particular item in the Estimates and asked why it was that that amount was so and so and ‘What has been done about this?’ But as things stand now we have reached the stage where the 10-minute speeches are virtually, as I confess now, in the character of speeches to the second reading of a Bill. This is a very grave pity. Why should the House of Representatives, which I regard as being the principal House of the Parliament- governments are formed here and governments are broken here- see its authority diminished by not dealing with the Estimates in a proper fashion?
Having said that, I have time to raise but one matter with the Minister and that concerns the position regarding the guided missile frigatesformerly called patrol frigates- from the United States of America. The Minister, in some of his public comments, and his predecessor have in a very real sense conveyed the impression to the country that firm orders have been placed for these ships.
– I am delighted to get an indication from the Minister that that is not the case, but I can recall language used by his predecessor to this effect: These ships will become available before the present destroyer escorts are phased out in the 1 980s. There is nothing tentative about that language at all. That language was used by Mr Barnard on several occasions in this chamber.
When one looks at the option agreement one finds that it is an agreement from which the Government could resile with virtually no excuse at its command. For example, if the Government takes the view that the cost of the patrol frigate is too excessive, it simply says ‘No, we will not pay that sum of money’ and it can get out of it irrespective of whether or not there is a reasonable argument at the disposal of the Government. If fewer than 12 of the ships are built, the Government can say: ‘No, we will not take up the option’. The most extraordinary ground of all upon which the Government may excuse itself from the commitment pursuant to the agreement is if, during the trials of the patrol frigate, the Government takes the view that it does not measure up to what the Government requires the Government simply says: ‘It does not satisfy us.’ As I read the agreement, there is no obligation to state any objective criteria.
The equipment position of the Royal Australian Navy by the middle of the 1980s will be not merely critical, it will be very grave. I hope that the Minister will take the earliest opportunity to tell this Parliament exactly what the Government’s intentions are with respect to the patrol frigate. Surely by now the Government is in a position to indicate its intention. If it decides not to go ahead to purchase the patrol frigate the position will be critical. It will be grave. But beyond that, the Department of Defence would then be faced with the difficulty and the task of seeking to get access to comparable equipment, and that will not be very easy. It is all very fine for people to say that ships of type 42 or the Spruance class are available. The simple fact is that the weapons systems are different, and the infrastructure needed for the back up raises very difficult problems. I appeal to the Minister to indicate to the Committee at the earliest opportunity exactly what the Government’s intentions are in this field.
Beyond that I appeal to the Minister on a personal basis to seek to secure a sustained debate on defence in this Parliament in the very near future so as to give honourable gentlemen on both sides of the chamber an opportunity to take part. No party in this country has a monopoly on patriotism. I have sat in this Parliament with some honourable gentlemen opposite for nearly 20 years. I disagree with their political attitudes. I understand that on occasions they complain about some of mine. But their attitude towards the welfare of this country and mine are I hope in a state of utter coincidence. So I appeal to the Minister. If he can secure from the Leader of the
House (Mr Daly) at least a day’s debate on defence this will earn him the gratitude of the Opposition.
– I am very happy to respond to the one substantive point raised by the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) in his address. It concerns the arrangements this Government has entered into for the patrol frigates. I direct the attention of the honourable member for Moreton and members opposite to the Defence Report 1975 which I tabled yesterday.
– I have read it.
-If the honourable member had read it he would know that the answer to the query he raised- (Quorum formed) The honourable member for Moreton has pointed out that he has read the report. In those circumstances I find it rather extraordinary that he asked the question. I refer him to page 23 of the report. I will read it carefully. It states:
Final commitment by the Australian Government to proceed with the guided-missile frigate project will not be made until early 1976 and is dependant, among other things, on the results of a US Government review of the construction program. In the meantime development in the US is proceeding satisfactorily, particularly at the land-based test site where test and evaluation programs are being conducted for the major combat systems. Requests for tender proposals for USN guided-missile frigate and the RAN ships were issued concurrently to US shipbuilders in April 1 975.
This is a process which I wish the honourable member’s Party had adopted in relation to the purchase of the Fill aircraft. The arrangement we are undertaking is a process of negotiation and consultation. We are seeking to ensure that the specifications of the ship will meet the requirements of the US Navy and that there will be a cost projection that is meaningful and not an open ended commitment. The measures we have adopted in our approach to the proposals for the purchase of a guided missile frigate are the sort of negotiations, the sort of steps, that should have been undertaken by the Liberal-Country Party government when it embarked on the Fill project. I would like, in this sense of harmony that is prevailing with the honourable member for Moreton this afternoon -
-I started it.
-I point out that the honourable member for Moreton did start it. I would like to congratulate the honourable member and the Liberal and National Country Parties for the defence policy issued this afternoon. In fact, on behalf of the Australian Government and the Australian Labor Party I welcome the new defence policy of the Opposition. It is refreshing to note that for the first time the Liberal Party and the National Country Party have adopted the main tenets of the Australian Labor Parry’s defence policy. It is very refreshing not only for this Parliament but for the whole of Australia to recognise that for the first time the Liberal Party and the National Country Party have adopted a defence policy that is based upon a sober and realistic assessment of the requirements of Australia. Not one word remains of the old outmoded and futile concept of forward defence. I congratulate the honourable member for Moreton for having orchestrated this statement through the various committees of the Liberal Party and the National Country Party. Throughout the statement there is no mention of the notions of forward defence that ended so disastrously with our involvement in Vietnam. The whole concept and orientation of the policy of the Liberal Party and the National Country Party is now firmly aligned with the concept that the Labor Party sought to introduce for many years and which it has now introduced- the notion of Continental Defence.
The Liberal Party now is also much more realistic. It is no longer involving itself in wild, woolly and emotional concepts and statements about threats. There can be threats to any country. What is important is that people such as members of the Houses of this Parliament should look at possible threats in a realistic and sober manner. As the honourable member for Moreton pointed out, and as is stated in the second sentence of the statement issued today by the Liberal Party and the National Country Party, there is no clearly identifiable threat. With that we concur and in fact that proposition is contained in the report I tabled in the House only yesterday. Both the Government and the Opposition recognise that threats can arise. It is very necessary for any Minister for Defence, for any government, to maintain a continuous review of the strategic environment and the strategic situation so that any threats that do emerge can be monitored in terms of lead times and warning times.
I believe that in this respect both the Opposition and the Government are now in harmony. I also find another thing very refreshing. Earlier this year when we introduced the Defence Force Re-Organisation Bill the Liberal and National Country Parties in this place and another place opposed the legislation. So it is with a sense of delight, because I believe it is a very sensible proposal, that I see that the Opposition has said in its manifesto:
We believe, however, that a single department coordinating and directing defence activities, will best promote efficient and economic defence planning and operations.
We wholeheartedly concur. I only wish that a few weeks ago the Liberal and National Country Parties had not wasted so much of the time of this House and had passed that legislation without the opposition that they then expressed. It seems to me also that over the last 2 days the Liberal Party and the National Country Party have had time to reflect on the unjustifiable expense from the defence viewpoint of maintaining the school cadets, and it is the defence viewpoint we are arguing about. I understood, but perhaps I was misled or misinformed, that the honourable member for Moreton had asserted in the debate the other day that the Opposition parties would reinstate the cadets. What we now find in this defence policy issued by the Opposition is that it will provide some sort of assistance to schools that maintain cadet units. This is a long way from the earlier proposition and I seek clarification. The proposition clearly stated the other day was that the Liberal Party and the National Country Party would reinstate the school cadet system. What they say now is that they will continue to encourage schools maintaining cadet training programs and review training methods.
– Your dialectics are showing.
– My dialectics are showing that yours are patently false because the proposition is not one -
– You are not -
-If the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Bourchier) wishes to state the views of the Liberal Party and the National Country Party, and their policies, I would be very delighted to hear them. I presume that the honourable member for Bendigo was involved in the debate that resulted in the approval of this policy being released and he made his observations. But as I said, from the viewpoint of the military advisers on Australian defence to any government the advice was loud and clear that in terms of defence spending the expenditure of $1 1.5m on school cadets was not justified. It now seems that on reflection the Liberal and National Country Parties have accepted that proposition. It is also interesting that the Opposition has moved away from that rather facile concept of devoting a fixed percentage of the gross domestic product to defence. I wish to quote the views, with which I agree, expressed by the honorable member for Moreton in the manifesto of the Liberal and National Country Parties. Anybody who has ever been involved in the administration of defence would agree with these views. He states:
Undertakings to spend a fixed percentage of gross domestic product upon defence can give rise to significant difficulties.
The Opposition then goes on to point out what these difficulties are. Again the Opposition is realistic. In conclusion, I believe that the people of Australia will welcome the defence policy of the Liberal and National Country Parties. I certainly welcome it. I think that this Committee will welcome it. It is the very first time that the Liberal and National Country Parties have moved away from slogans and into the realms of realism, carefully assessed the defence problems confronting Australia and accepted the policies of the Australian Labor Party in defence. I believe that this is a great day. I congratulate the members of the Liberal and National Country Parties on the adoption of the report of the honorable member for Moreton.
-Just referring for a moment to the speech of the Minister for Defence (Mr Morrison), if he thinks that we have adopted the Australian Labor Party’s policy on defence he flatters himself considerably. I am pleased that the Minister mentioned school cadets in his speech. My allotment of time in this debate will be confined to that portion of the defence allocation where the Government intends to reduce expenditure as from 1 January next year. No doubt the Government has considered this in its estimates but what I wish to point out is the value of what the Government will be losing compared to the money that it hopes to save. It was, I think, on 28 August this year that the Government made an announcement in this chamber through the Minister for Defence that, without exaggeration, sent shock waves through a large section of our community and brought immediate discredit upon itself, the depth of which, regardless of what the Minister says, is still being determined. The Minister announced that the Government had decided to disband the Army Cadet Corps in December 1975. Since then we have seen the announcement that the Air Training Corps and the Naval Cadets are also to be disbanded.
What the Government hopes to save by doing away with our cadet training system is a very small drop in the defence finance bucket and the matter is worthy of reconsideration. For instance, it would be interesting to know what the Government hopes to save by disbanding the Naval Cadets. I am under the impression that the majority of units are fostered by the Navy League, and the cost of the salaries for instructional staff would be minimal. In fact, I should like to know whether it is possible to disband the Naval Cadets without legislation to do so. Still, that is something for the Minister to worry about. The Minister stated that he fully appreciated that the abolition of the cadet scheme which has been in existence for over 100 years would come as a disappointment to many of the boys concerned, their parents and their schools. I inform the Minister that this would be the classic understatement of the year. In one blind swipe the Government has killed a tradition established and respected in this country for over a century. I will not accept the reasoning that times have changed and the need for such a system of training is not warranted. Times have changed- there is no doubt about that- but the requirement for such a system of training, especially in this age in which we are living, when the need to mould our younger generation in sound moral and physical principles is becoming greater, is of the utmost importance.
Over the period of time since the school cadets were established I doubt whether one would find many men who had undergone that training who would not admit that it had been of value to them. The Minister mentioned the disappointment of the cadets, the parents and the schools concerned. But for his information I inform him that these are not the only people who have expressed disappointment. Many, many people who have no connection whatsoever with the cadet training system have expressed dismay and disappointment that such a decision was made. Communities are proud of their school cadets. The training is recognised as not being a completely military activity but, to quote one newspaper, it is regarded as a youth activity with a military flavour.
– What is wrong with the boy scouts?
-That is all we will have left if the honourable members opposite keep going. The Minister expressed the view that this decision would be accepted by those who are genuinely concerned with the need to protect our national interests by ensuring that defence resources are not used for activities which do not contribute to our defence capability. Does he mean by this that those who would maintain our cadet scheme are not genuine in their concern for our defence interests or is he referring only to the number of Australian Labor Party supporters who place national defence in a very low priority in the scheme of things? And how does he arrive at the conclusion that these activities have not contributed to our defence capabilities? Over many years our Citizen Military Forces have contained a high percentage of members who, at the conclusion of their cadet training and after leaving school, have enlisted in the citizen forces because of the interest engendered in military activities by cadet training. If he cares to study the intakes of personnel at Duntroon, Point Cook and Flinders, he will find that a worthwhile percentage of those personnel received from their cadet training their initial inclination to choose the Services as their careers.
The Minister stated that he made this decision on the recommendation of the Department of Defence, which assured him that the cost effectiveness of the school cadet scheme could not be justified. My answer to that is that if this Government had given the defence of this country the priority thinking it should have given, if it had maintained its promise during the 1972 election campaign that the defence allocation would be nothing less than 3.5 per cent of the gross national product and if it had ensured that the Services were not scratching at the bottom of the bin for funds, I am positive that the recommendations that he states have been made would not have been made and our cadet system would have been maintained.
This leads me to the statement by the Minister that the 330 regular Army personnel directly concerned with the training of our Army cadets will be free to engage in other military activities when this scheme is abandoned. I do not know for sure how much the Minister knows about the value of the work performed by the instructors of the Army, Navy and Air Force cadets. At a guess, I would say not very much. For many years I have had the opportunity to study their work. The value of their teachings went far beyond that of any military significance. They taught these lads the principle of leadership, the value of discipline, the ability to work as a team, the capacity to give and to take orders and above all the principles of self-respect, dignity, loyalty and pride which are associated with personal and material maintenance and the membership of a worthwhile organisation.
These men are respected by the cadets who seek the advice of their instructors both on and off the parade ground on all sorts of matters. This is one aspect- a very important aspect- of cadet training which will be lost when the scheme is abandoned and which the innovation of adventure clubs will never replace despite the Minister’s assertion that it will. I wonder whether the Minister is aware of the duties performed by these cadets and the worthwhile part they play in community activities. Because of the time factor I cite the activities of just one army cadet unit in a year. The school cadet band is part of the Anzac Day march and services each year. It also features in the activities of the annual show. They provide the catafalque guard at the Cathedral each ANZAC day morning. They provide services, activities and expeditions for members of the Duke of Edinburgh scheme and can boast of many successes in this area. During the national canoeing championships held in the north earlier this year this cadet unit installed, serviced, manned and dismantled the communications system that was so much a part of the championships and helped considerably in their success.
Apart from community activities, the individual acquires the ability to read a map, use a compass, is taught survival, the proper care and cleaning of weapons, and one very important thing- respect for and common sense in the use of weapons. Several of the senior members of this unit, who will be leaving school at the end of this year, are already contemplating the Army as a career. Two of them have already gone through the introductory stages for acceptance to the Royal Military College at Duntroon. This is only one unit and a brief summary of one year’s activities. This worthwhile scheme is something this Government wishes to destroy because it says it is too costly. As I mentioned earlier, if the Government had allocated sufficient finance for the maintenance of our defence Services from the time it took office there would have been no talk of disbanding the school cadet system. I suggest to the Minister that this decision is worthy of reconsideration before it is too late. If the Government continues with its decision, it must stand condemned for it. As one of the larger daily newspapers has put it bluntly, regardless of what the Minister for Defence may do he will always be remembered as the Minister who killed our cadet training system, and in so doing also destroyed a great Australian institution and tradition that has existed for over a century.
– I am afraid that today we saw that General Killen was caught with his pants down. I suppose that is understandable because today he introduced a reprehensible report. He came into the Parliament saying that there is no opportunity to debate defence and that the Government had been lackadaisical. He came in without a note. He did not even come in with the defence estimates. He gave us an example of how an erudite man can fill out a few minutes talking about something about which he knows very little. I understand that on the Opposition side there are at least 2 infantry commanders now. I hope they can do a little bit better on defence.
The No. 1 speaker from the Opposition team was the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett). He went on mainly about the Army Cadet Corps. We are talking about some $10m in a Budget of $ 1,800m. It is fair enough for him to put emphasise on that part if he feels very strongly about the cadet question, but what we are talking about is defence and that is what the advice of the Chief of the Defence Force Staff is all about. Let us just look at the involvement of Service personnel with respect to our cadets. Cadet training has involved 330 soldiers in the Army and 121 people in the Navy and the Air Force.
- Mr Chairman, I draw your attention to the state of the Committee.
– Why don’t you shut up, you poofter?
-A quorum is required. Ring the bells. (The bells being rung)
– You come over here, you little wop, and I will fix you up. You are not even game to come across here, you little rat.
– A quorum is now present. Before I call the honourable member for Macarthur I have a matter to deal with. When the quorum was called the honourable member for Kingston referred to the honourable member for Bendigo as a poofter. That term is offensive. I ask the honourable member for Kingston to withdraw it.
– I withdraw.
– While the quorum was being formed the honourable member for Bendigo referred to the honourable member for Kingston as a little wop and as a rat. Both those terms are offensive and I ask for his withdrawal.
– I withdraw.
– Before I was interrupted by the heterosexual member for Bendigo I was speaking about the cost of the Cadet Corps to the Department of Defence. I was pointing out the involvement of Service personnel. It consists of 330 soldiers and 120 people from the Navy and the Air Force. For comparison purposes, there are 560 men in an Army training battalion. That is the significance of the number of people tied up with respect to cadet training. The Opposition’s defence policy outlined today does not say that the Opposition, if in government, will reintroduce cadets. Between 1949 and 1972 the past Government spent a total of $125m on cadets. That money is present day terms would have bought 12 Hercules transport aircraft, 10 Sea King or cargo helicopters and about 3000 light Army trucks or an entire squadron of long range maritime patrol aircraft.
What we are talking about is defence. The Minister for Defence (Mr Morrison) was a little bit too kind to the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen). I accept that his paper is an attempt for a bipartisan policy. I accept that the philosophy and thinking behind it have come up to something approaching this century. At least for the first time we see some elements of erudition, some, elements of relevant thinking in the defence area, but what we got in the honourable member’s defence policy released today was loosely argued and to my mind represented an ad hoc grab-bag of popular academic and eclectic themes stolen equally from the Government and from the academics. It was a parade of platitudes. I would like to go through it item by item. On page 3 it talks about the strategic position. It states:
Self-reliance must be directed towards meeting possible threats.
That is a sentence by itself and is meaningless because it is not spread out. It then sets out the main contingencies. The first one is: guerrilla or terrorist violence;
Again I do not know what the honourable member is referring to. Is he suggesting that the armed forces in Australia should take over from the police? Is he hinting at the Irish Republican Army in Australia? Then he set out the third and fourth threats. The third one is: pressures resulting from competition between the super powers -
The fourth one is: a decline or shift in the current global situation.
Bob O’Neill from the Institute of Strategic Studies has expressed these sorts of contingencies in a proper fashion. The honourable member has not pointed out where our defence situation is relevant and where the defence situation spoken about in his paper is relevant to what he is trying to get at. Many parts of the paper we have no argument with, but there is one area on which I would like to spend the rest of my meagre times, that is, the problem of the amount of money going into capital equipment.
There has been a lot of criticism within the Government of the amount that the Government has been spending on new equipment. On page 8 of his paper the honourable member for Moreton says:
Decisions taken today, therefore, may not be reflected to any significant extent in actual budgetary costs for several years.
What he is pointing out is that you simply cannot come into government and immediately buy a lot of equipment. The Defence Report shows that defence expenditure devoted to capital equipment fell between 1967-68 and 1974-75 mainly as a result of a lack of sound new equipment decisions during the first 5 years of that period. The figures with respect to new equipment orders announced by the Minister in each of the financial years going back to 1969-70 are as follows: In 1969-70, $50.5m worth of new equipment was ordered; in 1970-71, that is after the 1969 election, $150.8m worth was ordered; in 1971-72 it dropped to $25m; in 1972-73 it dropped to $85m; in 1973-74 it was $95m; last year it was $330m; and this year it is $290m. This is not expenditure in a fiscal year. It represents new equipment orders announced by the Minister in the years in question. From page 78 onwards in the explanatory notes for the estimates for the Department of Defence, is itemised very clearly some $293m worth of new equipment orders for this year. In the years 1971-1972 and 1972-73, the Government was faced with the necessity to pay for equipment already ordered. But the key point which I wish to make and which I am glad the honourable member for Moreton has con-, ceded, is that we simply cannot go into government and immediately buy a lot of equipment.
What I would praise in this Budget is that we do see an increase in the amount of equipment being ordered. We know that there are a lot of studies going on in this area and that there are a lot of other commitments. For example, very little publicity has been given to the decision to buy Rapier type missiles for the Army. I think the present estimates for the Department of Defence show some $38m for the purchase of these missiles. But the amount being spent overall on this is some $50m for some 25 complexes of missiles and I think some 118 missiles themselves. There has been little publicity given to that. Yet the honourable member for Moreton seems to think that a Liberal-National Country Party Government would have to undertake a full assessment of the adequacy of Army fire power. We are quite happy to go along with that. But when he says that the Labor Government has induced an equipment crisis within the Services, I think that is just simply nonsense.
-I wish to consider the banishment of the cadet corps and remarks of the Minister for Defence (Mr Morrison) about the cost of the cadet corps. The Minister’s advisers tell us that the cost is $ 11.5m a year. The cadet corps engender an interest in the Army. As we have been told this afternoon, cadet corps officers, noncommissioned officers and other ranks tend to go into the Army. At this time when the average strength of the infantry battalion is standing at about 500 as against the 900 it should be, I think that any means of engendering interest in the Army would be grabbed at by the Minister and the Labor Government. I say this in spite of the apparent increase in the number of men joining the Army. I should like to know why battalion strengths are down.
Before speaking to the estimates, I should like to thank the 3 Services- this is mentioned in the Defence report, and I have thanked them previously in personal letters to commanders- for their tremendous effort during the Darwin cyclone Tracy catastrophe. All Services and all ranks really did a fantastic job. In this report it appears that the Government is convinced that the stability chances of the world are high. I should just Like to know what sort of Army intelligence or foreign affairs intelligence or both, is operating when this sort of report came out yesterday. In this morning’s Press we read of Government policy and on this afternoon’s news, we hear that Indonesia has invaded Timor. I do not know whether it is right or wrong. I heard that the report was later denied by Jakarta. But some of the Indonesian troops were identified by their uniforms and weapons. What sort of an intelligence system have we? This place is only a few hundreds of miles away from Darwin which should be one of our northernmost defence bases but really is not despite the fact that it has the potential to be one. Is the Government just ignoring the situation in Timor? Is it putting its head in the sand or has it just no intelligence services?
The defence report does not consider that Australia faces any military threat. We have heard this before. We have seen communist interests jump from Portugal to Timor. We have seen them jump from Portugal to Africa. These things just happen at the flick of a finger. I should like to know what preparedness is being organised by Australia. What action is the Australian Government, this Labor Government which has tacitly supported Fretilin ever since that particular fracas has been ensuing, going to take? I have heard it said by the Fretilin men themselves that they have both types of communists in their ranks. Now I suppose they are being whitewashed by this Government and probably parts of the media because it is obvious that this is what is happening. That is what the Fretilin men have said; I have heard them say it. They come to Darwin and stay regularly so I would have a fair idea. I want to know what the Government is doing about it. Does the Government care who governs in Timor? Does the Government know of any training assistance that Fretilin received from left-wing supporters outside the country? I think it should know these things. It should also know whether Portuguese arms were supplied to Fretelin. Does the Government know that the Australian rations and medical supplies which were taken to Timor in the early periods of that rather disastrous confrontation were going only to Fretilin supporters?
– What would you do about it?
– I want to know what the Government is doing about it. I heard the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) say in this chamber that we were sending significant supplies to Timor. Whether that is happening now I do not know. Not long ago those supplies were going only to Fretilin supporters while non-Fretilin supporters were starving in compounds and gaols. That is a fact. Now we hear of the possibility of armed intervention by Indonesia. Whether it is true or not we will probably not know until later in the day. I know that it has been denied in Jakarta but today is only the day after we read about it in the newspapers. We read in the defence report that there is no possible danger- that we are living in a world of peace and that the prospects of direct strategic pressure against Australian interests by a major power remains remote.
What do we know of the happenings in Timor? I am saying these things because Timor is only a few hundred miles off-shore of northern Australia. As far as I know, this Government has displayed no real interest in the situation. Even if Indonesia has taken over Timor or will take the place over, it could be a bombshell bursting right on our front door. Why do we not know something about the situation? Why would Indonesia have not told Australia about its plans as to what it is going to do in Timor? I ask: Why not? The answer could well be that Indonesia has no confidence in Australia. I think this is a pity because we should be developing this confidence with our closest and greatest neighbour to the north.
With regard to the defence of northern Australia, what is being thought of with regard to the port facility in Darwin? Only the other day I was pleased to see HMAS Vampire and HMAS Vendetta alongside the wharf. I do not know whether they have left. I know that HMAS Swan turned up and HMAS Vendetta left. But it showed the people of the north that we do have some ships. It is fairly obvious that we do not have the ability to turn them around, to keep them in action up there and to keep submarines in action. Because this base is so much closer to where the action is I am urging the Government to do something about it.
Mention is made in the report of the Sir Bedivere class of general purpose ship. I take it that this type of ship will be able to land men and tanks anywhere around Australia. When is that ship to come off the stocks? In the meantime how does equipment such as logistic supplies or whatever find its way from down south to any northern area that may have to be defended? What sort of carriers have we got for the Leopard tank? Have we a tank carrier that is capable of carrying the Leopard tank over even a bitumen road? These are things I want to know because they are so relevant to the defence of northern Australia. Right at this very minute we do not know what is happening a couple of hundred miles across the water. I think we should be gearing our defences to defend the north. I do not think that very much in the Defence estimates indicates that this Government is interested in that area.
– I can see some of the problems that my learned colleague the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) has in trying to gain acceptance certainly of those parts of his report which are realistic and sensible. The honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) again has catalogued the extraordinary reactions based on fears and misconceptions of what constitutes strategic assessment. Is he really saying that what may be happening in Timor constitutes a direct threat to Australia? Is he saying that Indonesia is about to attack -
– I am not saying this at all.
-I am delighted that the honourable member for the Northern Territory does not go quite as far as I suspected he may have. I am sure the honourable member for Moreton would agree with me that if one responds to fears that are unfounded or to fears that do not occupy a place in our assessment of what affects Australia the end result is a gross distortion of our defence preparedness- of the ordering of equipment, of strategy and tactics and of the doctrine of our armed Services. What we are concerned about is realistic assessments of the sort of threats that may affect Australia and its environment. That statement has been made by the Labor Party many times and I think it comes through in the statement put out by the honourable member for Moreton. That is the whole purpose and planning that we are undertaking.
The honourable member for the Northern Territory again took up the cudgels on behalf of the cadet corps. I want to repeat and to make very explicit the position that anybody occupying the portfolio of Minister for Defence has to take in ensuring that every defence dollar of the taxpayers ‘ money is used in the most efficient way. That position must be defined in terms of the defence preparedness of Australia. Let me repeatbecause it does not seem to get through least of all to the newspapers- the advice that I received from the Defence Force Development Committee, which is the most authoritative source of advice available to any Minister for Defence. The Committee said ‘abolition of the school cadets would have no adverse effects on capabilities but would release service manpower for other purposes’. The Chief of the General Staff and the Military Board said ‘the cost and effectiveness of cadet training cannot be justified from the viewpoint of its contribution to the defence of Australia’. This advice comes from men who not only have experience but also have served many governments. It is advice that any Minister for Defence must certainly take note of. If any Minister for Defence happens to disagree with it he has to have very good reasons for doing so. Certainly on the basis of the advice that I received from the military advisers in conjunction with reading the evidence contained in the body of the Millar report- I will observe that the most extraordinary part of that report is that the conclusion ran completely contrary to the evidence that was contained in the report- the decision was clear cut.
As I say, today is a remarkable day in this Parliament for discussions on defence. We no longer have to contend with these wild assertions, this pandering to fears. As far as the honourable member for Moreton is concerned, and it would seem by the time members of his Party have thoroughly digested the Liberal-National Country Party’s manifesto on defence that they will agree, we have reached a position where in the essential features of our defence, in terms of abandoning the futile concept of forward defence, in terms of concentrating our attention on the defence preparedness of continental Australia and in terms of providing for the type of equipment needed not only to maintain our forces but also to develop their expertise and their know-how, there is now a consensus of views and agreement. As I said, I am delighted that members of the Opposition have changed their attitude on a number of very basic issues quite radically over the last couple of weeks. I refer to their attitude to the reorganisation of the Department of Defence and the cadet corps. I believe that in this debate we have reached a position where the 3 major parties in this Parliament are agreeing on the fundamentals. I think this is a great advance and one which we should all welcome, because the Opposition- the Liberal and National Country Parties- after many years of following a defence policy that was disastrous for Australia has now seen the light.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- I call the honourable member for Forrest.
Motion (by Mr Nicholls) put:
That the question be now put.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman- Dr H. A. Jenkins)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Proposed expenditure agreed to.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
Proposed expenditure, $ 1 1 4,248,000.
-Mr Chairman, the proposed expenditure for the Department of Urban and Regional Development is a substantial sum of money. In seeking a vote of this magnitude the Government is allocating substantial resources to this Department. It is not only the size of this resource allocation which is important. It is also the type of programs supported by the Department and the distribution of available funds between them. In the introduction to Budget Paper No. 9 the Minister said:
What the Government does affects where we live and how we live.
With this I agree. I would place greater emphasis, however, on the fact that the effects of Government action are not only short term but also medium and long term. The Minister has claimed that the Government has ‘sought to blend new initiatives with a conscious effort to do the customary things better’. I think it is clear that the Government has done the customary things very badly. Its overall responsibility for economic management is to manage the economy. The responsibility that flows from becoming involved in urban and regional issues is not discharged in an economic management sense by limiting involvement to the planning and allocation of resources required for the large expenditure programs of the States. If, as a result of bad economic management, there is a failure to achieve national economic goals, urban efficiency and equity cannot be achieved.
Labor’s failure to keep inflation under control, its failure to maintain full employment and its failure to sustain economic growth are already having very serious effects on where we live and how we live. The consequences of. these lost opportunities will become clear as and when a more capable government embarks upon the task of cleaning up the economic mess created by the Labor Government. While inflation persists, first time home buyers will find increasing difficulty in purchasing their own homes and those wanting rental accommodation will have increasing difficulty in finding accommodation at rents they can afford. The rate of progress in the improvement of the urban environment will be drastically slowed down. The real purchasing power of savings declines and higher interest rates on mortgage finance increases the deposit gap. Unemployment at the levels brought about by the actions of Labor will result in the persistent and further emergence of urban poverty and a slowing of programs needed to extend urban areas to meet current demands and those designed to improve existing urban areas. The slower growth in the economy obviously affects the pattern of urban development to the disadvantage of those whose needs are greatest.
As pointed out by the Department, it is capital programs which have to bear a considerable portion of the need for Budget restraint. Where this means a slowing in the rate of improvement in the existing stock of housing and urban amenities it is a price which the community must bear as a consequence of Labor’s economic mismanagement. Where it results in the growth of the housing stock and essential urban amenities falling below genuine community needs, as is now occurring, the Government that brought such a situation about deserves the most severe censure.
The 1 974 Budget paper on urban and regional development stresses the importance of indicating present expectations of future expenditures because it rightly pointed out:
Policies for urban and regional development involve continuity of effort far beyond the limits of any one financial year.
Though at the time it heavily qualified its forward estimates a forecast was given that the implications of the 1974-75 programs were that a 47 per cent increase, in real terms, of allocations for those programs was estimated for 1974-75. The Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) indicated in an overoptimistic way in an answer to a question that I posed to him in the last session an expectation of achieving something close to that level of increase. In this year’s Budget, the programs have been revised. The ultimate achievement has been deferred. Annual expenditures have been rearranged. The forecast upward movement because of changing prices has not been realised. That in all the circumstances the cutbacks were necessary is not in dispute. What I do criticise, and criticise most strongly, is, firstly, that the circumstances exist at all, and, secondly, that policies which involve a continuity of effort far beyond the limits of one fiscal year were not more accurately programmed.
I illustrate by turning for a few moments to the question of sewerage programs. Whether those programs were designed to overcome backlogs or to ensure an adequate supply of serviced land, they cannot go on in an efficient and effective way if they are organised on a stop-go basis. Those responsible for planning those programs no doubt read last year’s Budget paper on urban affairs. They no doubt read all the qualifications that the Minister or the Department placed in making the estimates. They could be forgiven for having expected that some effort had been made in calculating an accurate forecast of the resources that would be available in the development of the nation’s sewerage program. The planning and preparation of such works involves long lead times. The funding of these programs on an annual basis is both inadequate and often results in wasteful expenditure of resources. All too often we hear of the consequence of the ‘30 June syndrome’ where money is available prior to that date, must be spent before that date, and very often is spent in a way which costs the Australian taxpayer considerably more to achieve improvement in the standards of the urban infrastructure than would otherwise be the case if a longer term program had been in operation. It is acknowledged -
– You are completely wrong on that.
– In some instances in the Land Commissions area there are clear indications where, as a result of the need to make hasty purchase, adequate opportunity to negotiate prices down to the appropriate level may not have been achieved. I return to the question of sewerage. It is acknowledged that these programs may sometimes be used to stimulate employment and must be so used. It should be possible for a Government providing substantial funds for sewerage works to indicate on a long term basis the amount of real resources that will be available on an in-any-event basis while giving some guide of upper and lower limits of the range of possibilities in the event of accelerated resources being available because it is needed to stimulate employment. It is important that such optional programs should, where possible, be in the area of backlog work rather than in the provision of services to meet the current need for serviced land. I would conclude by emphasising this point. It is my deep concern that very often the cutbacks are on the building up on the new infrastructure to provide the opportunities for the newly forming families to be able to purchase serviced land at a price they can afford. All too often it is those programs at the fringe which are cut back while the rest of the community goes on upgrading the services that are available to it and the young families pay the price of having to live in inadequate accommodation because they are unable to afford to purchase their own home, unable to realise the dream of home ownership?
-The honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson) made little reference to the activities of the Department of Urban and Regional Development other than in a derogatory fashion. He mentioned that the estimates were of considerable magnitude. They need to be because of the long neglect of local government and the urban infrastructure that he mentioned during the long 23 years of LiberalCountry Party administration. The Government which he supported, under its scale of priorities, had millions of dollars to spend on killing innocent women and children and young Australians in a political war but it did not have any funds at all for national sewerage programs, for housing programs, for cities, for highways or for regional groupings.
I think that is enough consideration to give to the comment of the honourable member. It is worth mentioning, though, that under its policy a Liberal-National Country party government would abolish the Department of Urban and Regional Development. So the very thing that he is now complaining has not enough funds in this Budget would be the program that the Party which he supports, if it ever came to office, would abolish. I do not know how he can mount a case in support of additional funds when the policy he supports would lead to the abolition of this Department, but no doubt while abolishing the Department his Party would restore the superphosphate bounty to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser). The $5,000 that he got could have been put to much better use than pasture improvement.
The single most important responsibility that any government has is to plan. Proper planning with due regard to all human factors and environmental factors will result in sensible balanced development; efficient utilisation of our natural resources; gradual creation of a better life style; preservation of the desirable features of our natural environment; and the restoration and preservation of our national heritage. The initiative of the Australian Government in creating the Department of Urban and Regional Development and its associated units has provided the mechanisms for national planning for the future. The Department, on its formation, faced a tremendous backlog because of the dereliction of responsibility by successive Liberal-Country Party governments over a quarter of a century.
In speaking in support of the estimates for this Department I want to concentrate on the assistance that has been given to local government and the growth of regionalism. In the Hunter region, which embraces the electorates of my colleagues the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones), the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James), the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen), the honourable member for Lyne (Mr Lucock) and the honourable member for Paterson (Mr O’Keefe), regionalism is developing strongly. Largely through its early recognition in the Hunter the concept of regions as geographical entities unified by physical, human and economic bonds is gaining wide acceptance in Australia as a workable basis for planning development and allocating resources according to priorities. It is at the regional level that problems determining national prosperity can be clearly identified and tackled. In the long term economic growth is dependent upon the integrated efforts of the regions and their ability to sustain productivity, recognise and exploit opportunities and attract investment. The pattern of human activities in the region has evolved from the need to utilise resources, to produce benefits and incomes and standards of Living.
The hub of the Hunter region is the port of Newcastle, the second largest port in the nation. The economic output of the region is of major national significance and deserves to receive greater national recognition. Almost every type of primary, secondary and tertiary activity is represented in the region and constitute a major contribution to the Australian economy. (Quorum formed) I shall refrain from calling the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Bourchier), who drew attention to the state of the Committee, a wop and a rat.
– You are.
- Mr Chairman, I ask that that remark be withdrawn.
-I did not hear it.
– The honourable member for Riverina said that I was. I find that remark offensive and I ask that it be withdrawn.
– I am sorry, I did not hear the remark.
-I shall not call the honourable member for Riverina a wop and a rat. He can draw his own conclusions, as can other honourable members. Co-operative federalism as promoted by this Government entails the joint co-operation of the 3 levels of governmentFederal, State and local. Despite the actions of those opposite who seek to dismember our nation and return to the colonial days with each State following its own economic path, remarkable progress towards regionalism has been made by the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) and his Department. That people in local government embrace regionalism goes without asking. The State Ministers themselves are coming to recognise the value to the community of implementing and administering their programs on a regional basis. In New South Wales I mentioned just 3 areas of activity- the New South Wales Health Commission, the New South Wales Department of Decentralisation and Development and the New South Wales Planning and Environment Commission. The dangers of centralism exist really in the centres of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane to a far worse degree than anywhere else in Australia.
The evidence of that was shown in the very strongly supported move in northern New South Wales a few years ago to secede from the State of New South Wales and create a new State of New England with Newcastle as the capital. The interesting thing about that was that the move was generated mainly from the electorate of New England, a Country Party electorate, as a reaction against the Sydney bureaucracy and centralism. At the referendum conducted on the question at the time, secession was heavily supported by the areas to the north of Newcastlethe Country Party areas. If Newcastle had supported secession, the referendum would have been carried and we could have had a new farmers’ republic or a series of farmers’ republics, which is the policy of the National Country Party. It must be clearly noted that the move against Sydney centralism came not from the Australian Labor Party but from the supporters of the Country Party.
– From whom did you find that out?
-I am just stating the facts. The electoral records in New South Wales will show that what I state is the truth. The facts are that there is a steady move towards regionalism despite the misrepresentation of our opponents, and it will increase because the community at large realises that it is going to get a better spread of financial resources, a more efficient utilisation of taxpayers’ and ratepayers’ dollars and a better standard of living under a regional approach to planning and development than they have achieved under State capital centralism and bureaucracies. Why, I heard only yesterday- I will not name the member in this case- that there is a move afoot to have north Queensland secede from the Brisbane bureaucracy. I was told that the main wealth of Queensland comes from the northern half of the State and that the people were sick to death of a Premier using their money to electioneer around the length and breadth of Australia instead of getting to grips with the problems of north Queensland which after all is where the money comes from. And with a centralist, reactionary Premier like the one they have could you blame them?
The most encouraging development in regionalisation in New South Wales is the acceptance by the New South Wales Government of the benefits to be gained by bringing its regional advisory councils closer to our regional organisations as set up by the Minister for Urban and Regional Development. No doubt this is due in part to the progressive approach of the New South Wales Minister for Decentralisation and Development, Mr Bruxner, and it is to be hoped that integration will eventually be achieved. I know that there are some local government representatives within regional groupings who mistakenly see regional organisations and regional advisory councils as some kind of takeover of their council powers. This is not the case, and I appeal to those representatives to look at the broader regional approach in seeking a solution to community problems and planning. Because regionalism is designed to reinforce and unite local government it is a tool that they should use to increase the strength of local government in its dealings with State and Federal governments. Councils should see the regional concept for its real democratic value- an opportunity for local government to make its own decisions on a local level, an opportunity to solve local problems-
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-In discussing the estimates for the Department or Urban and Regional Development I would like firstly to consider a few of the remarks of the previous speaker, the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris). When referring to the disbandment by the Opposition of the Department of Urban and Regional Development the honourable member failed to recognise that the Opposition has the same concern for problems of urban areas and regions. We choose to do things in a different way. We choose to administer the Department in a different way. When one looks at the contents of Budget Paper No. 9 one sees the vast area of activity covered by the Department of Urban and Regional Development. I will read some of the headings: Urban expansion and redevelopment, urban services, transport in urban areas, housing, the urban and regional environment, community and regional services, and the location of Australian Government activities. That huge area is covered by the monolithic Department. It deals with many different facets of human activity and endeavour.
I fail to see how such a giant organisation can deal effectively with the matters with which it claims it can deal. It is not possible to administer a department of that size, which covers such diverse areas, in an efficient or effective manner. The Opposition feels that some of the objectives and areas dealt with by the Department are important and should be looked at nationally. Under the circumstances it would be far better if the people in the areas involved, the people concerned about their way of life and their future way of life, were closely involved in decision making. The decision making should somehow be connected to electoral representation, preferably at local government or State government level. The objectives of the Department are good but we disagree with the administration and the way of achieving them. I have mentioned the wide extent and rapid growth of the Department.
I turn now to the areas that come within the Minister’s portfolio. He took on the urban transport area first, then housing, then the national heritage- that was another one along the way- and finally Australian Government activities connected with buildings and services. I give full credit to the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren). I consider that in his modus operandi he has been most successful. But I would suggest to him in a friendly way that this may not be a good thing. Whether he is the most competent Minister to deal with these areas is a question for the Government. But I feel that overall it is too big and too diverse an area for him to administer really effectively. Recently I read with interest his comments on housing. I think that he may be more perceptive than the present Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Riordan) who does not seem to understand the great difficulties facing people trying to build homes.
However, I pass to a practical demonstration of regionalism in the style in which I would like to see it applying right across the country. About 12 months ago I raised in this chamber with the Minister the problems of the Parramatta River and the likely flooding of the city of Parramatta. I drew to the Minister’s attention the fact that the tributaries of this river were building up quickly because the urban land was being sealed for roadways and houses, increasing the water height in the city of Parramatta. At that time I wrote to the Minister. I raised the matter in the House. I also wrote to the New South Wales Premier and sought the active assistance of the Parramatta Council, as did my friend the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr Ruddock). As things worked out, this is a classic example of regionalism working properly. The Minister for Urban and Regional Development said: ‘Yes, that seems fine. I will think about it’. The Premier of New South Wales offered men but not finance. He offered men from the Water Conservation and Irrigation Commission and men from the Department of Public Works. Of course local government was seriously affected and wished to become involved. The Minister for Urban and Regional Development then said: ‘I would like to appoint the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation to conduct the survey and I will give to that area, by way of an area improvement grant, $5,000 for that survey to be carried out’. The survey has been completed. I wish to thank the Minister’s staff for letting me have a copy of it to peruse.
Now comes the important stage of a detailed study of this area. The people who will have to be involved are 3 local government bodies, the State Government and the Federal Government. This is regionalism in its true sense. It is not a matter of forcing artificial areas around local government and saying: ‘Ten of you will get together. Those will be the boundaries because they are easy to administer that way. ‘ We see a particular circumstance for a particular problem. I think that that is excellent and that is the way that the concept of regionalism must work. I am unconvinced about the artificial boundaries. I can see the advantages of administration. I can see also the disadvantages of having a fourth tier of unelected government. I can see many disadvantages, but local governments traditionally have tended to get together and I think that this should be encouraged. It must be on their terms, not on our terms in Canberra. If they have a problem and if it is recognised by them, by the State government and by the national Government, the 3 levels of government should get together to solve the problem. Where is the expertise coming from? Where are the funds coming from? How will we solve that problem?
I also bring to the Minister’s notice the fact that flexibility is what is needed in this area. I think that the example which I have used is a fine one. I think that the Minister’s understanding of the need for a multi-regional approach in this case is a fine one, if we can have a team of management from the 3 levels dealing with a detailed survey so that conclusions are arrived at in a sensible, constructive way, using the skills and expertise available. I would like the Minister to comment on the fact that in Budget Paper No. 9 the total amount of area improvement assistance is shown as $ 17.5m but in the Treasurer’s Budget Speech it is given as $ 14.5m.
– You can take mine as correct.
– I will take the Minister’s estimate- it has been done before- and we will see how it works out. The last year has been one of great instability for local government. I refer to the comments of the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson) who said that there is an incapacity to plan. This is a serious shortcoming from which all governments, particularly State and local governments, suffer at the moment. With the current rate of inflation and state of the economy things can change very quickly. Local government has no concept of what it is in for next year. Many local governments within my electorate planned and indeed implemented rate increases from 25 per cent up to 45 per cent- one of them was up to 65 per cent- which encouraged some of them to feel that they would be received better by the Grants Commission if they did so. I will not argue that case here. They have put an impost on the people of the area in order to hold the situation. Assistance through the area improvement program and the Grants Commission is unknown. It is extremely difficult to budget and to be constructive in their approach if they do not know what is coming next year.
The Liberal and National Country Parties’ policy overcomes these problems. We say that there must be an ability to budget. There must be an ability to know what is ahead. A 3-year program gives local government bodies and State governments an ability to see what is before them so that they can plan and so that they know what is coming, so that the ratepayers and taxpayers can make an assessment of their future. The great tragedy of this Government, as I see it, is the psychological instability that it has brought to the community. People will not spend; they will not plan for their future. They will save their money because they are afraid of what is around the corner. That is the tragedy of this Government.
-The honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Cadman) highlighted in his speech the contradiction that exists in the Opposition’s approach to the problems which the Department of Urban and Regional Development was designed to resolve. He complained about the wide scope of the Department and in the final stage of his speech he complained about the lack of planning at local government level. I agree with him about the lack of planning at local government level but the wide scope of the Department, one of the most successful creations of the Labor Government, is involved in this planning enterprise. It is a question of allocating resources in the most efficient way for the people of the communities in this country. If we are to do that then clearly we are dealing with a wide-ranging area involving transport, housing, the environment, a sensitivity towards our heritage, and so on. I could produce a long list of resources which need to be seen as a whole and allocated as a whole if we are to optimise the satisfaction of the communities which all form part of our country. If the Department of Urban and Regional Development is to involve itself in resources allocation, clearly it must have a wide ranging view of the entire social scene. I believe that this Department not only does that but it is based on a foundation which is solid and secure, the foundation fundamentally being that the people of those communities should make their own decisions.
It is interesting to note that for all that the Liberal and National Country Parties say about centralisation and how opposed they are to it in their much trumpeted policy on their attitude to State and local governments, they will give State governments the opportunity to exercise .discretion in revenue raising but absolutely no discretion to local government. It was this Government that for the first time gave local government independence in revenue raising opportunities and decision making. We look in vain in the Liberal Party policy for the same sense of independence being given to local government.
I want to quote from page 14 of the report of the Department of Urban and Regional Development for 1973-74, its second annual report. It states:
Regions should also provide a means of decentralising decision-making, of increasing the access of community groups and interested citizens to decision-making, and of providing useful information gathering and disseminating units. . . .
Regionalism is not to be confused with centralism. If the regional headquarters of Federal and State agencies can be located in a common centre for each region, the activity thus generated could provide a boost to urban opportunities and improve conditions, both directly and through its stimulus to the private sector. It would consequently have a decentralising rather than a centralising effect.
Everything that the Department of Urban and Regional Development has done in respect of regions has had that simple effect- decentralisation rather than centralisation. In my electorate of Eden-Monaro, which embraces very diverse community groups, I have found that the activities of the Department have been extremely welcome to the communities. In particular, the area improvement plan which is operating in the south-east region of New South Wales has been a great stimulus for local government and the communities in my electorate. One of the great difficulties that any member for an electorate such as mine confronts is the idea, often expressed by small communities, that their objective is to become a self-contained economy. That is an unrealisable objective. It is impossible for us to diversify a population of 50 people to the point where they can become a selfcontained economy. Obviously their future rests in identifying the role they can play in the total region of which they are a part.
The area improvement plan has gone a long way to helping the local government authorities in my region to identify themselves as part of the region, as part of an exciting region. It is a region which, after many years of neglect and after many years during which local government has been deprived of resources, has not been able to maximise the opportunities that nature has bestowed on it. I want to quote one or two examples. Queanbeyan, one of the fastest-growing cities in Australia, has been deprived of all sorts of community facilities. It has been deprived of the normal beautification aspects of a city which grow with a city that has a much slower rate of development. Under the area improvement plan it has been possible to provide Queanbeyan with a youth facility. That city of 22 000 people has had no youth facility. The area improvement plan, in conjunction with the Young Men’s Christian Association, has made a major contribution to the youth of Queanbeyan.
I could refer to flood mitigation which is a major issue throughout a region like the southeast region of New South Wales of which EdenMonaro forms a major part. I could refer to the libraries which have introduced major innovations. The introduction of cassette tapes has transformed the attitude of children towards libraries. The public library, as we knew it too often in small country towns, was in a small obscure corner and was a dusty, dirty institution which showed more signs of neglect than intellectual endeavour. Under the area improvement plan it has been possible to place libraries in the middle of the main streets and to provide them with new books and with new cassette tapes. They have been transformed into exciting places for the children, the youth and the parents in these towns to visit. They are becoming community centres and places where people can exchange ideas.
I could refer to town improvement, drainage, tree planting and so on. I could list relatively small expenditures so far as the totality of expenditure is concerned but they are expenditures on community facilities recognised as being necessary not by this Government, not by the State Government, but by the people of the towns and communities concerned. This Government has acknowledged that the need exists and for the first time those people have been able to use resources to satisfy those needs.
For my own part the area improvement plan has been an outstanding success in the electorate of Eden-Monaro. Its flexibility has enabled it to meet real community needs. In fact it typifies the spirit which pervades the entire Department. The idea has been that the communities should be consulted and that resources allocation should be geared towards the needs that the communities identify. I defy anybody to go into my electorate and find an answer contrary to the one I have sketched for honourable members. As the Federal member for the area I have deliberately kept away from the decision making process, believing that the spirit of the whole operation was that local community groups ought to make their own decisions. I was there to facilitate their decisions, the people having established their priorities. I believe that is the spirit in which the area improvement plan has been initiated. It certainly is the spirit I have adopted in my electorate.
I want to refer to another very exciting area covered by the Department of Urban and Regional Development- the concept of the national estate. Already in my electorate, a small part of the geography of Australia, we see the effect of the national estate on towns like Tilba Tilba. In that community I have 2 very illustrious members of my electorate, people whom honourable members of this House would remember. They are Mr Jeff Bate and Dame Zara Bate. They are very important citizens in the town of Tilba Tilba. The national estate has recognised the unique value of Tilba Tilba and its illustrious residents and we have enshrined them forever in history. We also have in that electorate houses and buildings of major historical interest which have been endowed by the national estate.
– Through this Minister.
– Indeed, through this Minister and his imagination and the support he receives from his Department, a department fashioned by him and the Labor Government, a department which has captured the imagination of the people in my electorate and, I am sure, right throughout this nation with such activities as the area improvement plan, the preservation of the National Estate, the sewerage programs- one could list them all. Indeed, it has made a major effort in resource allocation to optimise satisfaction for the communities of this country.
-The estimates for the Department of Urban and Regional Development which we are considering are of considerable importance because of the clear indication of the Government’s failure and of the particular failure of the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) to achieve any worthwhile decentralised development. This is evident from the detail of the content of the utterances by the Minister and in particular it is reiterated tonight by those who have spoken from the Government side. For example, the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Whan) spoke with great eulogy about the area improvement development in certain parts of his electorate. I just pose the question: Was this development a contributing factor to the downturn in the economy of those areas? Of course it was, because the wrong thing was done first. We are not opposed to the proposals of the kind that have been referred to. The National Estate aspect, areas improvement programs of the sort that has been described, the project in Tilba Tilba which was referred to, for example, are worthy objectives indeed.
– What about sewerage, drainage, growth centres and land commissions?
Mr IAN ROBINSON The Minister refers to sewerage and drainage. I remind the Minister that in the normal course of events, had this Government been supporting the State governments in a financial arrangement of the kind that ought to apply in this day and age and having regard to the present economic situation, these works would be being undertaken and some slack would be taken up in the present unemployment problems because the program would be one designed to be productive, to be effective and not to be simply the result of the ego of the Minister and a centralised department.
In the short time at my disposal, I want to refer to some of the salient features of the failure of the Government in matters related to decentralised development. First of all, we have seen a policy implementation, admitted by the Minister and the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) as a conscious decision of the Government in office, to apply all its resources to growth centres. Of course the emphasis has been on planning, land acquisition and all of those things. But no emphasis at all has been on encouragement of industry, on the promotion of productivity or on the creation of employment. If ever there were evidence of an abject failure we have it today in this community of ours in the Australian scene, a failure that is a reflection on everyone concerned with the activities of this so-called Department of Urban and Regional Development. There has not been development, there has not been growth and there has not been a fundamental approach that accords with the problems of this day and age. What we want to see is the introduction of a sensible program, of something that would create effective, balanced development, that would give job opportunities, that would give growth outside the metropolitan areas and that at the same time would take account in a sensible and practical way of these everyday needs of water, sewerage and the like.
This can effectively be done and can be done in a practical manner. But all we have at the moment is a hotchpotch of over-administration and under-planning, if one can call it that, and the product of a socialist ideology gone mad to the extent that the expenditure has been channelled into huge land acquisition propositions in some areas with a complete failure to go ahead in others. For example, in the Bathurst-Orange area we find that a great number of landholders do not know where they stand. An area of 20 000 acres of farm land involving 42 families is in doubt. These people are concerned to know what their position will be. They approached the Minister in May last. They have had no real answer to their problem. More than a year ago, when the economy trended in the disastrous direction in which it has now gone, the Minister could have changed his plans to accord with what would produce an effective result in the administration of his Department. He failed completely to do that.
We on this side of the chamber believe that the welfare of all sections of the community is important. We believe that grandiose plans of the sort that this Department has created are an abject failure. Perhaps in the long term they could be useful, but at half the cost and with a more effective approach. What do we see today? Nothing at all related to the encouragement of private enterprise, private capital or private investment. Until this is achieved growth centres will be a failure. The attempt to prop them up, which we have seen in the last few weeks, by trying to direct public servants to move from one place to another -
– But you did that. You sent the public servants from Melbourne to Canberra.
– The Minister said that for 23 years we failed completely. Now he is wanting to justify one of his own actions by admitting that perhaps something was achieved. But if the Minister looks at the real story of the transfer of public servants from Melbourne to Canberra he will find that it was done on a very different basis from what the Minister is proposing today. I suggest he check and look at the record so that he might have better luck in terms of today’s propositions. However, I do not want to be diverted from the main point of the question. The latest addition to the conglomerate of urban and regional affairs is the Australian Housing Corporation. What do we find in this move? A move to take funds away from the existing terminating building societies, no doubt in order to implement yet another of the Minister’s great schemes to force things onto people rather than to have an accord with what might be a practical proposition in a commercial sense.
I suggest that the Minister might have a second look at that proposal. If he has enough failures on his plate he might follow the fate of some of his fellow front benchers who came in with such enthusiasm. We grant that he has enthusiasm and drive, but with tremendous energy being directed very much in the wrong direction. The Opposition believes that there are things that can be effectively done in the interests of the objectives that have been stated. We certainly do not quarrel with the objectives of establishing growth centres; the manner of implementing the program we do quarrel with. We certainly quarrel with the Minister in regard to his stated policy of establishing growth centres and doing nothing else for decentralised development.
He admitted in this House within the last 3 weeks that he and the Prime Minister are firmly committed to a policy of establishing growth centres located on main transport links between capital cities. In saying this he spelt out clearly that no one else will be considered and no other area, regardless of whether there is justification, will be given assistance. There will be no encouragement to industry. This whole plan is based purely on this one socialistic approach. I think the Minister criticised the Opposition by saying that prior to the advent of this approach the previous Government had been shooting from the hip. It had been doing a pretty good job. Take the record of the Liberal-Country Party administration. With the population growth in this countryof course, there are certain disabilities in regard to the trends and where those trends move to- before the economic crisis that this Government created, we were getting some evenness in the non-metropolitan growth in New South Wales. The Minister well knows the figures. I challenge him to give evidence as to why that growth has suddenly slowed to a halt and why he is doing nothing to overcome that basic problem. The answer lies in the fact that he has turned in the opposite direction and in so doing has undermined the whole basis of practical decentralised development in this country and particularly in the State of New South Wales. I am sure that if this Department is allowed to grow as it has- the estimate which we are now considering provides for obvious further administrative growth- we will see a worsening of this unfortunate trend and certainly a complete failure on the part of the Department to achieve decentralised development.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drury)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– It is fascinating to see speakers on the Opposition side now converted to the cause of overcoming the problems of urban development and decentralisation. In the light of their record in government, what they say now is very interesting. They never did anything when they were in government, with one exception for which I give them credit. The only decentralisation success seen in Australia since Federation is right here in Canberra. Great credit goes to Sir Robert Menzies, who in 1953 decided that Canberra was going to be the administrative capital and he moved government departments here. As a result we have the only new big city in Australia with a population approaching 200 000 people. I give credit for that, but in every other field nothing has happened.
The reason is very simple. For years honourable members opposite paid lip service to decentralisation. Country Party politicians, with due respect, were the worst at it. For years they paid lip service to every little village that they were in favour of developing in the name of decentralisation. Nothing ever happened. Of course nothing could happen because the whole economic history of the world is such that since the Industrial Revolution the move has been to the cities. As we have moved from a highly agricultural society into an urban industrial society the numbers of people in the country have declined and dim.nished to a great degree. There is nothing very much that one can do about it. It is a myth that we can take people back to the village farm and have hundreds of thousands of small tenant farmers. It is rubbish.
As I said before, it is a fact of life that people want to live in cities. They want to live there because of the advantages that cities give thememployment opportunities, business opportunities, education, sport, culture, recreation, and so one could go on. This is what attracts people to cities, and there is nothing we can do to stop it. What we can do is what the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) and this Government are trying to do. We can try to create cities, as we are doing, in attractive environments and attractive locations. We can stop our existing cities developing into megalopolises and great conurbations and we can contain them by directing growth into new cities such as AlburyWodonga, Bathurst-Orange and Monarto, or we can contain and plan the growth on the outer urban fringes of the existing cities such as in the south-west sector and in Gosford-Wyong.
A better example of why we cannot make decentralisation work by sending people out to the country is the sort of trouble the Government is having now with the people it is trying to get to move to Albury-Wodonga, which is a very attractive place. It is just hopeless. People say: ‘Decentralisation is a great thing. We have to decentralise’. When asked where they would like to go they say: ‘No, not me- him. He has got to go and live in a country town’. That is the fact of life and we have to live with it. As soon as politicians, all of us, all over the world stop yacking about how we are going to get Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd to
Gulargambone and stop trying to build up the myth that this is what is going to happen, the sooner we will get some honest thinking in politics.
I want to deal with the problem in my own area of Gosford-Wyong. In the original negotiations between the Australian Government and the New South Wales Government the GosfordWyong area was set aside as a growth centre. It is recognised that this is an area where many thousands of people live and want to live. It is a great retirement area and is handy to the 2 big cities of Sydney and Newcastle. We managed to reach agreement with the State Government on Albury-Wodonga, Bathurst-Orange and the south-west sector, but unfortunately no agreement has been reached with the New South Wales Government with respect to GosfordWyong. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a letter and documents from the Minister so that there will be on the record details of the negotiations that have gone on since 5 December 1972, with the latest position having been reached on 8 August 1975. These documents show how this Govenment and the Minister have attempted to get some negotiating basis on Gosford-Wyong.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Is leave granted for the incorporation in Hansard? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
I received your telegram concerning Gosford/Wyong on 26 August 1975 and have enclosed a summary of negotiations between the Australian Government and the New South Wales Government since December 1972 concerning the Gosford/Wyong Growth Centre.
In 1973-74 the Australian Government set aside $3.0 Million for Gosford/Wyong in anticipation of reaching agreement with the New South Wales Government on the planning and development of the growth centre. As you know agreement was not reached. Negotiations continued for some time until December 1974 when it was agreed to defer future negotiations until the New South Wales Government investigated various alternative planning and development proposals including the Gosford and Wyong Shires’ public and private investment consortium proposal.
The Development Corporation of New South Wales is undertaking the’ consortium ‘ investigation and as yet has not completed its task. Sir John Fuller has indicated that, only after its report has been considered by the New South Wales Cabinet will discussions on Gosford/Wyong recommence.
As a growth area Gosford/Wyong is important in our Government’s urban and regional program because of its relationship to Sydney and the Lower Hunter Region. Like you I am anxious to see some progress being made towards developing Gosford/Wyong as a growth area and this is why I have been urging Sir John Fuller towards renewing Government negotiations.
In pre-budget discussions, Cabinet made it clear that no funds would be provided for programs of urban development where agreements had not been reached with States. For this reason no allocation was made for Gosford/Wyong.
Yours fraternally, (Tom Uren)
5 December 1 972- Meeting between Sir John Overall and Mr Cutler, Deputy Premier re a study being made of the Gosford/Wyong area. 23 July 1973-Meeting with State Government officials to discuss constitution and operation of bodies to co-ordinate development in the Campbelltown/Holroyd/Appin area and Gosford/Wyong. 23 October 1973-Letter from Prime Minister to Premier setting out points of agreement agreed at a meeting between Sir John Fuller and Mr Uren re growth centres. 12 February 1 974- Letter from Prime Minister to Premier re growth centres. 18 July 1974-Reply from Premier to Prime Minister speaking generally of growth centres. The Premier suggested further consideration and negotiation to take place at senior officer level with a view to negotiating without prejudice the detailed terms for joint arrangements and for concurrent financial agreements. 26 August 1974- Meeting between Australian Government officials and NSW State Government officials. NSW did not agree to recommendations of the Else-Mitchell Report. 17 September 1974-Letter from Prime Minister to Premier outlining financial assistance to the State for 1974-75. 24 September 1974-Letters from Mr Uren to Mr Bruxner and Sir John Fuller referring to Prime Minister’s letter to Premier of 17 September. Letter to Sir John Fuller outlines financial assistance to growth centres. Purpose of letter to Mr Bruxner was to establish a continuing basis for negotiation between the two Governments with respect to the program of financial assistance associated with the Land Commission program. 22 October 1974- Meeting between Australian Government officials and NSW State Government officials. State Government officials advised that they were not in a position to indicate whether the State Government would proceed with Gosford/Wyong as a growth centre. Detailed submissions are to be made to the State Government before any firm action can be undertaken. 30 October 1974- Meeting between Australian Government officials and NSW State Government officials. 12 December 1974- Ministerial Conference agreed to defer arrangements for Gosford/Wyong pending an investigation by NSW on how the growth area may be handled. It was also agreed that in the meantime officers of the NSW
Planning and Environment Commission and Cities Commission were to inspect the sub-region to identify land appropriate for acquisition for conservation purposes. 20 February 1975- Ministerial Conference did not receive a report on Gosford/Wyong. 8 July 1975-Mr Uren wrote to Sir John Fuller, NSW Minister for Planning and Environment, suggesting that both Governments resume discussions on the possibility of joint arrangements for planning and developing Gosford/Wyong. 8 August 1975- Sir John Fuller replied to Mr Uren’s letter of 8 July 1975 explaining that the NSW investigation of the various planning alternatives is still in progress and is currently considering the Gosford and Wyong Shire’s proposal for a consortium of private and public investment interests undertaking the planning and development of the region. Discussions between Governments will be renewed after the NSW Cabinet has considered the planning and development alternatives for Gosford/Wyong.
– There has not been any lack of attempt by this Government to get the New South Wales Government to agree to the terms and conditions. The State Government is very happy for us to give it $ 100m and for it to put in roads, water, sewerage, drainage, schools, and so on and so forth, and build a nice new city in the north; but then it wants to let the people who now own the land to sub-divide it and flog it off. If ever there were a golden handshake par excellence that would be it. It wants the Australian Government to spend the money on the land of sub-dividers and developers so that they can make a million quid. To put it in colloquial terms, not on your Nellie, if I have anything to do with it. I am perfectly happy if the New South Wales Government wants to develop the land, build the roads, schools and hospitals, but let it put the taxpayers’ money in and then it can rake off the profits, but not our money and its profits. The point that the letter and the chronological List of negotiations brings out is that the Minister has done everything possible to get the New South Wales Government to the negotiating table to work out conditions. We believe that land which is purchased by the Australian Government and which is developed with Australian Government funding, if it is residential, should be sold to the people who buy it at cost or a little above cost, or if it is commercial or industrial, it should be leasehold and owned by the planning authority, the development corporation, which would be known as the GosfordWyong Development Corporation, so that some of the profits that are earned on this land will come back to the people who provide the tax.
The latest development in the negotiations as set out in the incorporated documents is as follows:
Sir John Fuller replied to Mr Uren’s letter of 8 July 1975 explaining that the New South Wales investigation of the various planning alternatives is still in progress and is currently considering the Gosford and Wyong Shire’s proposal for a consortium of private and public investment interests undertaking the planning and development of the region.
So if anybody has frustrated this program it has been the New South Wales Government because of its interest in private developers. I know for a fact that my opponent in the last election campaign got 90 per cent of his funds from the real estate developers, that they poured money into his coffers in a $25,000 to $30,000 campaign against me. We know that this money is going into the State Liberal coffers, and that is why this private developers corporation is being promoted. It is a scandal. It is a disgrace and it ought to be exposed.
– That would be almost graft, would it not?
– In my view it is graft, and I have stated: this over and over again. Finally, let me say that I hope that something can be worked out because I am very keen that this area should be developed and that Gosford- Wyong should not just become another Parramatta, Auburn, Westmead string of urban towns following one into the other. I would like the Minister to consider the fact that the people of the GosfordWyong area are suffering because of the dog in the manger attitude and what I believe to be the corrupt policies of the New South Wales Government. They are not eligible for area improvement grants because the area is part of a growth centre. They are not getting growth centre funds because they cannot get agreement. It is a Catch 22 situation. I think that something ought to be said, finally to the State Government. We may go on for years negotiating. I believe that in the meantime the Gosford- Wyong area has a claim to area improvement funds. I ask the Minister to give this matter consideration because we could lose out interminably. I say thank God for the regional employment development scheme which was able to give us some funds to do tilings in this area.
-In entering this debate, I hope that the new found king of the Cabinet, the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) does not think that I have lost my sting. I can assure him that I have not. Because my address tonight is what one might term ‘low key’, it does not mean to say that 1 believe that there is no criticism necessary. The 2 matters I wish to raise are in connection with the national estate. I also wish to talk a little about the cost of serviced land. In relation to the national estate, I believe a serious problem could arise for a local authority following the acceptance of a submission for the acquiring of a property under this scheme. I have no quarrel with the scheme and its objectives or the fact that it provides for acquisition or restoration and preservation of historic buildings and land acquisition for conservation purposes for national parks, etc.
I wish to instance a hypothetical case where a local authority has applied for funds and of course prior to applying would obtain a valuation of the property. It would be normal for a local authority to obtain 2 valuations- perhaps one from its State Valuer General and the other from a private valuer. So the local authority has funds in hand from the national estate fund and the project has been accepted. The authority then finds that it has an unwilling seller on its hands. The local authority, of course, has the powers of resumption and resumption proceedings are instigated. Eventually the property falls into the hands of the local authority. There is only one step further and that is the determination of the compensation. This goes to court and it could well be that the court would provide far greater compensation to the owner of the property than had originally been envisaged.
Let me cite an example. A local authority has $50,000 in hand; it obtains a couple of valuations and the top valuation is covered by this $50,000. It then finds that the court judgment requires the local authority to pay out $ 100,000 or perhaps even $200,000. I ask the Minister whether he would explain to honourable members in these circumstances how the local council bridges the gap between the amount that has been received and the amount of compensation that the court has decreed to be paid to the owner. I think it would be agreed that the local authority is the level of government that is least able to meet such a large increase as this. So what safeguards are there for councils? Are they to be left holding the baby?
My next point concerns the cost of serviced land. I think that one should first of all endeavour to define what serviced land is. As far as I am concerned, it is land with certain improvements that have been made by way of provision of services such as water supply, sewerage, electricity, roads and drainage. It is also what one might term in a fuller sense, ‘land where transport is available and where facilities such as schools, shops and neighbouring parks are in reasonable proximity’. It is land zoned under a town planning scheme in an urban area and residentially is usually categorised into high density, medium density and low density. Low density land is frequently referred to as ‘residential ordinary land’. Allotments in this residential ordinary land which provides by far the greatest number of single unit dwellings for our urban communities, may be as small as 16 perches or perhaps as large as an acre or even larger.
Before looking a little further at the cost of serviced land and how the costs have escalated, I want to examine in more detail the way in which in recent years serviced land has been developed and how local authorities have had to apply certain subdivisional conditions. If honourable members look back at the position as it was around the middle of this century, they will find that local authorities were unable to impose the conditions that they would have liked. They have been left a legacy of many COStlY headaches. Following subdivision approval in those days, it was necessary only for the owner to engage a surveyor who would draw up a plan and put in some property pegs. That was about where the matter was allowed to rest. So it was left to the local council to provide a tremendous backlog of services such as water and sewerage, the sealing of dusty streets, solving drainage problems and providing electricity. The position improved as regulations changed and local authorities were allowed to impose greater conditions. Of course with these conditions came a greater cost being passed on to the consumer.
So the situation has evolved now where in my opinion the pendulum has swung too far. The cost of services is so great that the finished piece of land has become too expensive for the user. In the last 10 years, demands by local authorities have become too stringent, forcing the cost of serviced land to such heights that it is now out of the reach of thousands of Australians. Local authorities are able to require subdividers to contribute to head works and trunk mains of water supply and sewerage works. The imposition of conditions such as the undergrounding of electricity supply and the requirement that child care and pre-school facilities also be provided have become a great burden for those buying the finished block of land. Many developers are borrowing funds at interest rates of between 16 per cent and 20 per cent in order to carry out these works. The servicing of the loans is adding greatly to the cost. With inflation running at 20 per cent and the extra conditions of subdivision being imposed, it is not surprising that in Sydney land prices rose from around $7,000 in 1970 to approximately $12,000 in 1975. But the cost of services rose by 108 per cent in that period from $2,700 to $5,600. In Melbourne the cost of services rose from $1,600 per allotment in 1970 to $6,000 in 1975. In Brisbane the cost of services showed an increase from $1,400 in 1972 to $4,500 in 1975. So there has been a shift of the traditional public cost from the public sector to the private sector. The cost originally was borne by the local authority- that is the government authority- but it has now been shifted from the public sector to the private sector. It can easily be seen that with this shift in this traditional costthe public cost component in land prices- from the public sector to the private sector serviced land prices to the consumer have escalated out of the reach of many people. But I do not believe that the matter should move back to the local authority; I believe that the burden should be shared by the 3 levels of government- local, state and federal. I believe that the user of the land must obtain some relief, otherwise only the middle and upper class income families will be able to afford a block of land and eventually to build a home on it. To relieve the burden on the purchaser or user, the local authority must not suffer unduly. The extra cost must be shared by governments at all levels. The provision of capital cost services at government interest rates, approximately 10 per cent, would help immensely. I say finally that governments must somehow subsidise land prices or fewer and fewer people will become home owners in the future.
– I do not think that the honourable member for Petrie (Mr Hodges) has really given a great deal of credit to the Government and its policies which have stopped the land price spiral of 1972 and prior to that date. The fact is that the price of land was rising at an extraordinary rate prior to that time. The policy of this Government has halted that spiral. Of course development costs have risen. The honourable member for Petrie seems to be particularly concerned with development problems in that respect. But I do not think that he has sat down and really compared the land prices of 1972 and early 1973 with those of the present day. If he did compare them in the metropolitan area of Sydney, he would find that there is an actual reduction in land prices. Despite any movement in prices generally, land is not as dear as it was in 1972 and the early part of 1973 when we were getting over the very difficult period of the maladministration of the previous Government.
The policies of this Government are working and they are having an effect upon land prices. They are making it easier for young people to get land on which to build houses. Today in the western suburbs of Sydney- I refer to Schofields, Quakers Hill, Blacktown, Doonside and other areas- one will see quite a big rebuilding boom. The reason for it is that the land is a lot cheaper now than it was when this Government came to office. I think members of the Opposition ought to give a little credit for a little foresight by the Government in the policies it introduced. The policies might have been a little difficult to introduce. They took a lot of courage, but at least they have had an impact. They have made land cheaper for the younger people today.
However the major matter I wish to speak on tonight is one of the finest initiatives of this Government- the urban improvement programs. These programs have been quite remarkable. They are a first. I am glad to hear members of the Opposition now supporting them. The programs did not exist when their party was in power. For 23 years their party, when in government, could not take the initiative to introduce these types of programs. I can recall, as can the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren); a meeting in Parramatta in 1969 when the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) who was then Leader of the Opposition met representatives of various councils in the western suburbs of Sydney. As the Minister will recall a program was laid down and a policy was decided upon on that day. As time went on that policy was steadily improved. No such policy existed prior to that day. Since then the policy has become a reality and has done a great deal for various parts of Australia, not the least being the outer western suburbs of Sydney.
I represent an electorate in the western suburbs- an area which particularly needed assistance. The area had been seriously neglected by successive Federal and State Liberal governments. Those governments put massive housing commission complexes out there. In Mount Druitt alone 1 1 000 units- that is houses or flats -were built. In Lalor Park and Seven Hills 3500 units were built. Somewhere between 7000 and 8000 were built in the Green Valley area. Those governments dumped houses in those areas and put people in them but did nothing about providing the people with the various services such as community centres, playing fields, swimming pools and all the necessities that go to make a reasonable standard of life and a reasonable quality of life. Yet as I say those governments put the houses there but did nothing else.
The concept of the present Government’s policy was formulated in 1969 in Parramatta. The honourable member for Parramatta (Mr Ruddock) was still a boy and did not even know the policy had been formulated at the time. He was still listening to daddy; still sitting at daddy’s feet. The facts are that that policy was initiated and it has been highly successful. I thank the Minister for Urban and Regional Development for some of the initiatives carried out in my electorate under the area improvement program. We have, for a start, Alpha Park which will be the first decent park Blacktown has ever had. We also have the Mount Druitt library.
– What about the Budget deficit?
– I will come to that in a moment and to the honourable member’s party’s policy on it. The honourable member should wait and not get too excited. I will come to that in a moment and to Mr Fraser’s statement on the Budget and to what it will mean. It will mean an end to the area improvement programs. We also have the Mount Druitt town centre landscaping, the Mount Druitt town centre swimming pool and the oval complex at Grantham Heights- one of the finest complexes ever seen. This is one of the first two pilot projects for the area improvement program. The other is in the western suburbs of Melbourne. Now, of course, the honourable member for Petrie wants to know about the program. I will give him the news. The whole program is now in jeopardy. I quote from the words in the so-called alternative Budget proposal of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser). He said that there would be special economies on urban rehabilitation and area improvement programs. In all the discussion and all the criticisms which members of the Opposition make to these programs- they say that they want to improve them- they all have their tongue in their cheek. In actual fact their Leader has stated explicitly that he will make special economies on urban rehabilitation and area improvement programs. This means the phasing out of those programs. This means that the honourable member for Parramattaand honourable members who sit in similar electorateswho has received great benefit from the programs and the policies of the Minister for Urban and Regional Development will have his head cut off by his own Leader. That is the situation which honourable members opposite have to face up to. It is time they got into their Caucus room and tried to tell their Leader to adopt more commonsense policies.
– Talk about the federalism policy.
– When we are debating other estimates at other times I will talk of the tax programs of the Leader of the Opposition. I will talk of doubling tax- giving the States the right to levy income tax. Do honourable members opposite want to go back to that system which existed before the last war when States levied taxes and when the people of the Australian Capital Territory paid less tax than people in other States?
– You do not know -
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drury)Order! The honourable member for Petrie will cease interjecting.
– Of course the honourable member for Petrie is the man who made me speak out of order and to deal with matters not concerned with this portfolio. What will be the effect upon employment in these regions if the policy of the Leader of the Opposition becomes a reality? Less funds will be put into the areas. Less funds will be circulating in the area. There will be less employment in the area. I also ask: What will be the position of local government? Local government has had to bear the whole crunch of the policies of State governments- governments like the one to which the father of the honourable member for Parramatta belongs. I refer to the State Liberal Minister in the Lewis Liberal Government. That Government has refused consistently year after year to provide for the necessary facilities in those areas. This means that local government councils have had to bear the brunt of this lack of financial ability to carry out the necessary works. We have been doing something for local government. We have been giving them a chance and giving them a go. We have been ploughing funds into area improvement programs, into the Regional Employment Development scheme, into the programs of the Minister for Tourism and Recreation (Mr Stewart) and of course have given capital assistance through the Grants Commission. All this has meant great assistance to local government. The policies of the Leader of the Opposition mean that this assistance will be phased out and that the financial problems of local government in these new developing areas will be greatly increased.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-In speaking to the estimates for the Department of Urban and Regional Development I confine my remarks to the problems of financing the defence service homes loan scheme- problems which this Government appears to be experiencing and which should not have happened. I know this is a comparatively new responsibility for the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren), but the responsibility is nevertheless his.
In April-May of this year the Government introduced Appropriation Bill (No. 6) which, among other items, included a sum of $ 15m to be supplied to meet the Government’s commitment under the Defence Service Homes Act. In speaking to that Bill I mentioned that the sum was completely insufficient to meet requirements and that this lack of foresight on the part of the Minister would create nothing but hardship for a great number of applicants. On 22 April this year in reply to a question from the honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay) regarding the administrative delays in completing payments for approved applicants the responsible Minister went into a great song and dance act about how the $1 15m which had been made available for the defence service homes scheme had been expended due to the Government’s improvements to the scheme and that it was requesting $ 1 5m to meet any delays in payments.
I have no quarrel with the measures which the Government introduced to improve the scheme. In my opinion they were worth while and necessary. But I questioned whether the amount of $15m was sufficient, as the Minister claimed, to make the scheme operative in an effective way. He stated in his answer that it was possible that a continued demand on the scheme could raise further problems and that the Government would have to face up to that situation if it arose. To me that was an admission that the Government was applying a bandaid dressing to a problem which was becoming increasingly obvious and that it was a hasty patchwork decision to get it over the immediate hump in the road with no regard whatsoever for future hazards. It has become perfectly clear that what I predicted was correct: The amount of $15m was entirely inadequate.
The Budget allocation now shows a complete disregard for this problem. We are now faced with the mess of hundreds of applicants for defence service home loans being left completely out on a limb, embarrassed and frustrated, with no prospect of the situation improving in less than 12 months. I think the attitude which the Government displays towards ex-servicemen and servicemen in general is indicative of its feelings in this direction. It could not care less. As a consequence some applicants are facing extreme financial hardship and others have become so disgusted that they have given up the idea of owning their own home through the scheme and are still being forced to pay for rented accommodation, which is a complete contradiction of the purpose of the Act. The opportunity for those people who are eligible under the Act to apply for and to receive a defence service homes loan is a right under law which was made by previous Parliaments and upheld by this Parliament. There is a moral issue involved as well as an obligation on the part of this Government to fulfil that right.
It is not good enough for the Government to say that it will grant approval for approved applicants to obtain bridging finance until such time as it can pick up the tab. During that period, when they have to pay the excessive interest rates on bridging finance, extreme financial difficulties are being experienced by a number of ex-service personnel who entered the scheme in good faith and with a complete trust in the Government’s integrity. That trust has been completely betrayed. I could cite many examples of that betrayal but to present an idea of what I mean I shall cite the following cases in which approval to build has been granted with instructions to proceed with the building. The dwellings were completed in June, the applicants are still waiting to occupy the dwellings and the builders are still waiting for their money. Those people have been informed that no money is available to meet the commitment. I ask in all sincerity: How long can this shocking state of affairs be tolerated?
On 14 May, in reply to a question from the honourable member for Ryan (Mr Drury), the Minister who was then in charge of the defence service homes scheme stated that some May and June cases which were due for settlement in those months would be deferred until after 30 June and that others which were due for settlement then could not be effected until July. That appears to be a completely misleading statement because the cases which I have mentioned which were to be finalised in June have been told that no money is available. It is all very well for the previous Minister to state at that time that he regretted the inconvenience and the hardship which had been caused. That is an easy apology to make, but how does he feel now that the results of his maladministration of the scheme have made the situation more serious as far as approved applicants are concerned? Because of the change in portfolios he may feel immune to any criticism. But how does the Minister who is presently responsible for the defence service homes scheme feel about this matter? Is he satisfied with the situation as it is? Is he happy about the fact that the Government cannot meet its obligations regarding defence service homes loans?
The expression of regret for inconvenience and hardship will not be accepted in this instance and it is no use whatsoever to claim that the Government will meet its obligations regarding moneys in ten or twelve months time. It would be interesting to know whether the present Minister considers the inclusion of defence service homes loans in his area of responsibility as only a very minor responsibility of his portfolio, considering the Minister’s preoccupation with his ultraexpensive dream of growth centres such as Albury-Wodonga, Bathurst-Orange and a couple more. I would say that that is so. If that is so, I inform the Minister that his priorities are out of keeping with reality. It would be very nice and no doubt very comforting to think that some growth centre in future may be named Urenville but in the meantime, while that dream is being pursued, hundreds of ex-servicemen and their families are being forced to accept financial hardship because of this Government’s lack of foresight and its maladministration affecting the defence service homes loans scheme.
I have nothing but the greatest praise for the departmental officers who are engaged in attempting to sort out the mess and to satisfy indignant and very worried applicants. I am in close touch with them all the time and, believe me, they are very worried. The Government should not have placed them in that position. It must be humiliating and embarrassing for those officers to try to explain away the Government’s failure in this area. I speak of those people who deal directly with the applicants and the public, the servicemen themselves. It may be a fine legal point to claim that the Government has not abandoned its commitments to defence service homes loans applicants but will meet its commitments some time in the future. The all important word is ‘when’.
I think in those cases in which approval to build has been given, in which the dwellings have been completed and in which the Government’s financial obligation has not been met there is a case of misrepresentation and false pretences for the Government to answer. The Government’s administration of the defence service homes loans scheme has been clumsy and inadequate and I suggest that it move at all possible speed to correct the latest injustice which it has inflicted on the approved applicants before the situation and the Government’s credibility and integrity deteriorate even further.
– I have enjoyed this debate very much. I think the part which I have enjoyed most was the contribution of the last honourable member. To me Urenville sounded delightful. I regret to inform the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr
Uren) that one of the residual powers of the Government of New South Wales is exercised through the Geographical Names Board which does not permit the naming of such places after living persons.
My remarks will be brief because tonight I intend to address myself to only one topic and not to try to canvass the field as many honourable members have done, including the honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage) whose speech I have heard many times without the references to my boyhood.
It is a pity, I believe, that honourable members such as the honourable member for Chifley cannot look at urban and regional development in relation to the management of the economy, the state of the nation and responsibility. I think it is important to look at our capacity to be able to pay for things and to do what we like to do. I have a shopping list as long as my arm, as most honourable members have, but we have to look at the capacity of the nation to pay. I understand that one of the matters for which we have to pay is the proposal to develop in Parramatta a government centre. In the estimates that I have seen for the civil works program there is some reference to the development in Parramatta. Unfortunately I have found little which will clarify the Government’s program to me. I enter this debate to invite the Minister to explain the Government’s program to me and to other people who are interested in this important development.
The civil works program envisaged that the Parramatta office development would cost $47m. That was in the proposed new works for New South Wales. But when I looked in the summary to find out the amount of money that was likely to be spent on proposed new works in the year 1975-76, it seemed to me that only $2,871,000 would be spent. This seems to be a very small sum considering the large number of developments that come under the heading ‘Proposed New Works’. I dare say that that amount would have to be shared among many developments. The observation I draw is that very little money is intended to be spent this year. If it is the intention of the Government that the money that is being spent on the site at the moment- namely, for fencing the site- is all that is to be spent, I would be very disappointed. This site at the moment is one of the few sites that provides large scale parking facilities in the Parramatta community. The great fear exists that with the closure of that site chaos will occur on the streets of our district. While one might be prepared to accept some degree of dislocation if the development were to proceed promptly, I would submit that such dislocation would not be warranted if the expenditure is to be only $ 1 00,000 or so to erect a Cyclone wire fence around the site. I said that my comments would be brief. But I do ask that some clarification be given to this matter. I have searched the Budget papers. I have read all the documents that I can find on this aspect, including the Civil Works Program and the statement on urban and regional development. I found that those documents were couched in generalities when I was looking for detail.
The other matter that I would raise, if the Minister for Urban and Regional Development has the time to deal with it, is the progress on the Parramatta railway project, which is referred to at page 48 in his paper on urban and regional development. Because the details of that project, in common with the Parramatta office development, are couched in generalities no one would know what form of progress we were likely to see and what sort of route one would expect the railway to follow, if it is to be built. What sort of priorities would be effected? When are we to expect some relief from such a proposal? To me, it is important if we are to continue to avoid solving the parking problems, for some rational alternatives in the form of public transport to be advanced, on which decisions should be reached quickly.
– I thank honourable members for their contributions to the debate on the estimates on the Department of Urban and Regional Development. I particularly thank my colleagues, the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris), the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Whan),’ the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen), and the honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage), and honourable members on the Opposition side who have spoken in this debate. I will try to deal with their comments in detail. Let me state clearly that the Department of Urban and Regional Development is a major policy department of the Australian Government. It was set up to deal with the wide ambit of urban and regional affairs, both directly and indirectly, including the living conditions of people residing in cities and regional centres. We believe that the first principle in that respect is that everything is interconnected. I remind the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Cadman) that no longer can we allocate these various aspects to little boxes. We must consider the wide ramifications involved. That is why the responsibility was given to my Department.
In the 23 years that the parties now in Opposition were the Government, they always looked at the economy from a macro aspect, broad brush approach. The never looked at the question in the micro aspects of the economy. That is why those people who live on the fringe of the areas which the honourable member for Mitchell represents, particularly in the western region of Sydney, have suffered so badly over the years. That is why flooding occurs in the Parramatta River particularly at Toongabbie Creek. No real thought was put into that aspect. That is why over-development occurred in those areas. That is how the placement of industry occurred around Parramatta, Granville, Ermington and Silverwater. No attention was paid to the draught of air which came down from the mountains into the Parramatta Valley, some 17 miles wide and some 300 to 400 feet deep, which brought smog to that area and which finished up over Sydney itself. No reason was sought why pollution of the Parramatta River occurred. The Department of Urban and Regional Development is trying to look at these problems and to study the interrelationship of these aspects.
The responsibility given to the Department of Urban and Regional Development under the policies of the Australian Government is to deal with these broad problems. For instance, it has the responsibility of looking at the question of urban land for young people. The cost of this land has skyrocketed out of all proportion. The Department is giving attention to urban land, residential properties and the difficulty for young people to obtain a block of land. Another difficulty considered concerns open space land. The honourable member for Mitchell knows of the exploitation of the lower Blue Mountains area, which should be familiar to him. If it had not been for the Australian Government stepping in to assist the State Government and the local government authority, that area would have been exploited and destroyed. I move from that area to districts such as the Mornington Peninsula or the Dandenongs where the same exploitation occurred. Not one penny was made available or spent by the former Government which Opposition members represent in the 23 years of its management to assist in co-operation with State and local governments in an effort to save those open space areas.
I turn to the question of sewerage programs. In 1970, one in every 6 families in Sydney lived in an unsewered area. Every second family in Perth was living in an unsewered area. We found that more than $3,000m would be required on present day costs to sewer those cities. This Government has moved into areas such as Glebe, Wooloomooloo and Emerald Hill where urban rehabilitation was required.
One honourable member opposite talked about co-operation. What was the situation at Wooloomooloo? There was a grandiose scheme proposed by the Askin Government of New South Wales in which land developers speculated to build up and exploit that basin at Wooloomooloo. Where 7000 people used to live, now only 700 people live. High rise buildings were proposed. The government of the day wanted to build a skyscraper that would house some 15 000 Commonwealth public servants and cost between $50m and $60m to build. That proposal has been found to be utterly stupid. An approach was made not by this Government but by the Sydney City Council of the day. To its credit, the State Planning Authority of the New South Wales Government came to the Australian Government and said: ‘We want to cooperate with you’. So, in a tripartiate agreement we came together as a task force and we were able to save that place. We determined that it would cost at least $17m in grant money, which would be non-repayable and interest free, to acquire and rehabilitate this land that had been acquired by the land speculators, that had been owned by the Australian Government and had a value of some Slim. We took this action to rehabilitate the inner Sydney suburb of Wooloomooloo so that the urban community of 7000 people could be rehabilitated back into that area.
In respect of the church land in the Glebe area, if we had not stepped in many hundreds of people on low incomes would have been exploited and moved out of this area by land developers, because the Church of England would have sold the land on the open market. We moved in to rehabilitate the area. We also looked at the situation in Melbourne. We were able to save the historic area of Emerald Hill. What about the rehabilitation of the inner city areas? What does the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser) say about this? He says that the Opposition would make special economies in urban rehabilitation and area improvement programs. We know what the urban area improvement programs would do to the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr Ruddock) and the honourable member for Mitchell. They know how much these programs would assist them, but their so-called Leader has said that his Party in Government would make special economies. What does ‘special economies’ mean?
It means a cutback on urban rehabilitation. That is what the Leader of the Opposition would do in government. I hope that the honourable member for Mitchell will tell the people in his electorate because I will certainly remind them and the honourable member for Parramatta and the honourable member for Mitchell, the 2 young aspiring radicals of the Liberal Party, that the gallant leader of the Liberal Party will make special economies by cutting back on assistance to local government in areas.
My Department will look not only at urban rehabilitation but also into the question of growth centres. The honourable member for Cowper (Mr Ian Robinson) spoke about growth centres. Let me refer to what the Leader of the Opposition had to say about growth centres in his speech on the Budget. He said: ‘We would have to suspend the growth centre expenditure’. What does this mean? The honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt), who used to be the Minister responsible for the National Capital Development Commission, the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) and the Leader of the National Country Party (Mr Anthony), who used to administer the National Capital Development Commission, would know that if you suspend expenditure on a growth centre like Canberra, Albury-Wodonga, Bathurst-Orange, Geelong or the south-western corridor, the effects of the suspension would be magnified in several years time. I wish that some adviser would tell the Leader of the Opposition the real facts about urban development, because it is a long chain. It takes time. It has a long pipeline in which the development occurs. If you interfere with development projects along that curve, the effects will carry into the years ahead. The honourable member for Cowper talked about stop and go. What utter stupidity it is for a man with his mentality to talk like that. It may be that he just does not really understand the situation.
We are proposing growth centres because we believe they are a rational alternative to the madness of over-centralisation such as exists in Sydney and Melbourne. We have argued that we should rationalise the development of Sydney and Melbourne and selected growth centres. We have not put all our eggs into the one basket. It has also been the responsibility of my Department to stop the over-centralisation of Sydney. Instead of building our office centres in areas like
Woolloomooloo and the central business districts of Sydney we intend to build them in areas such as Parramatta.
– But you are putting a big building in the middle of Parramatta.
– I have said very clearly that the reason why we are building at Parramatta is a simple one. We will build at Parramatta, at Liverpool, at Campbelltown and at Penrith in the Sydney area. In the Melbourne area we will be building at places such as Ringwood, the Dandenongs, Sunshine and Watsonia. Honourable members opposite should listen to this. This action is being taken in dialogue, discussion and agreement with both the New South Wales Government and the Victorian Government. This action has been taken for one reason alone, that is, that we want to make sure that a city is a rational city and not an over-centralised city like Sydney where over-centralisation was caused by the development of buildings in the inner city area, at North Sydney, The Rocks, Woolloomooloo and Kings Cross. Former governments permitted this over-centralisation to develop. We want to develop rationally those sub-metropolitan centres that I have mentioned so that job opportunities will be available in those areas and so that we can achieve a rational public transport system. We want to upgrade the public transport system so that people will move both ways at the same time and will not all leave at the same time in the morning and all go home at the same time at night. The transport system should not be geared to peak hours, geared to the central business district, but to enable people to move in a rational manner. We want to gear and develop our major cities in a rational way instead of the irrational laissez /aire way that occurred under the former Government. We want to develop those cities rationally.
In addition, in the spirit of co-operation between State and local governments we are developing a growth centre in the south western sector of Sydney stretching between Liverpool and Campbelltown and taking in the major centres of Camden and Appin. This is a cooperative effort with the New South Wales conservative government. It is only an Administration such as this Government has that has been able to work co-operatively with the States which has enabled this to be done.
Mention has been made of the National Estate. I repeat that in talking on this subject everything is interconnected and you just cannot put things into boxes any longer. So those things that were created by man or by nature, that were unique or beautiful and should be preserved for posterity, we are trying to preserve. If it is an old building of some historical significance, we want to try to retain it for posterity. The honourable member for Parramatta should be aware of the bulldozer mentality that existed in Parramatta, a place which is the cradle of our nation. Buildings that were over 100 years old were bulldozed to the ground and monstrosities of flats were erected in their place. These are the sorts of things that we are trying to stop. As I said, we are trying to preserve those things created by nature, which are beautiful or of some significance, such as landscapes and the escarpment of the Blue Mountains. The honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) has spoken about these things with some emotion for a long time and he has spoken to me personally. I know that he would like to see the Blue Mountains national park extended. But what was he able to contribute towards extending the Blue Mountains national park in all the time that he was a member of the conservative government? How much money did former governments spend on the development of the Blue Mountains national park in 23 years? Not one penny! The Government of which I am a member has certainly made a contribution by acquiring large tracts of land in the escarpment of the Blue Mountains. The Government will continue to do this. This is one of the practical things which this Government is doing.
The Department of Urban and Regional Development has also been indirectly involved with the Department of Transport in the planning of urban public transport. It is involved particularly with urban arterial roads and urban local roads under the Commonwealth Roads Agreement. Recently the Department of Urban and Regional Development took over the administration of the Housing Corporation which deals with defence service homes. I will reply to certain comments made by the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett) in a moment. The Department has also inherited from the former Department of Services and Propertyits name has been changed to the Department of Administrative Services- responsibility for Australian Government property. It will be responsible for 1400 properties throughout Australia. Decisions on the development and use of those properties will be made by Commonwealth, State and local governments. I would like to see this done in a spirit of co-operation because if we are to solve urban problems this can be done only by co-operation between the 3 levels of government, with community groups and with the people themselves. No one has a mortgage over the solution to the problems of urban affairs. No more can the Australian Government, a State government or a local government do things in isolation. For that reason we have genuinely tried to achieve cooperation.
In conclusion I want to reply to the honourable member for Herbert who raised the question of defence service homes. I want to deal with this matter in a rational way. The Opposition is concerned about the Budget deficit which is approximately $2,800m. Last year’s deficit was $2,500m. So this is a fairly neutral Budget. If honourable members opposite want to cut programs still further they will create further unemployment. I was a member of the Expenditure Review Committee which helped to frame the Budget. My Department was very concerned that, if the deficit rose above $2,800m, the long term bond rate might rise by at least 2 per cent, and some people thought that it could even rise by 3 per cent. So we had to look at all the programs on a broad basis. I knew that defence service homes would be coming under my direct responsibility so we kept the expenditure at the level of $ 122.5m.
It was decided that those people who applied for defence service homes after 31 July would have to wait 1 1 months, except in cases of hardship. If we had decided to give the full amount immediately to the applicants for defence service homes it would have been necessary to allocate a further $50m to wipe out the 1 1 months waiting time. People would have said that if it was good enough to make a further $50m available for that purpose it would be good enough to make further commitments elsewhere, and we would have had a much higher deficit. We had to assume that interest rates, which are now taking a downward turn, would start to rise. The people who are now on the waiting list would have been paying interest at 3% per cent. In other words, they would be subsidised by 6lA per cent by the Australian Government for the first $12,000 and by 2% per cent for the further $3,000. If that had occurred, those people outside the defence service homes scheme may have had to pay much more for their home loans. They would have had to pay much higher interest rates, and they are paying high enough interest rates now.
I understand that other honourable members wish to speak in this debate so I will conclude by saying that the Department of Urban and Regional Development has been a success story, irrespective of what honourable members opposite say. The officers of my Department are co-operative, prompt and polite. There is cooperation between the officers and members of this Parliament irrespective of their political party. I want that state of affairs to continue. I have encouraged the senior officers of my Department to talk to the Opposition’s spokesmen. Those spokesmen have right of access to senior officers of my Department. I want them to have a complete relationship with the Department because I believe that the Department will make a real impact on the development of urban and regional communities, which was not achieved when the Opposition was in power.
– I always listen with some sadness to the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren). One feels that he is good natured and sincere however wrong-headed he may be. It is a little saddening for the Committee to hear this and to realise it. He spoke of the Blue Mountains national park and was good enough to mention me in connection with it. I hope that we will see some action in this matter. I believe that it is important for Sydney that the Blue Mountains national park be extended. The Minister said that it has been left to this Government to do it and that nothing happened during the 23 years of Liberal Government. This is, or should be, a State matter but what has happened under this Government is that raging inflation has put State budgets in a strait-jacket and the States are being left in the position where they cannot carry out their proper responsibilities. I think it is a concerted plan. The Government puts the States in financial difficulties then takes it upon itself to carry out functions which belong to the States. It comes to their rescue, as it were, and then gives itself a pat on the back for so doing.
Yes, I do want the Blue Mountains national park extended. I believe, however, that it is the proper function of the State, not the Commonwealth but in view of the fact that the Commonwealth has put the State in this kind of financial strait-jacket it may have to do something about it.
-The honourable member for Wilmot is part of the socialist machine which is cramping the States and creating a financial position under which functions must be transferred from the State governments to the Government here in Canberra.
The other thing I wanted to say is of a more serious nature. The Minister’s plans are badly based. His schemes are badly based because they are premised on a degree of growth which simply is not occurring and is not likely to occur in the Australian population. Professor Borrie brought down a report some time ago which shocked people because it indicated that between now and the end of the century there was unlikely to be more than 2 million people added to our population. I am afraid Professor Borrie was over-optimistic. At the time he wrote he did not realise what was going to happen to our population increase as a result of the policies of the present Labor Government.
– Order! The level of conservation on the front bench is rather high and I am having difficulty in hearing the honourable member for Mackellar.
– I can understand the conclave going on over there. This question of the growth of the Australian population is a very serious one. In recent months the number of births in Australia has declined quite catastrophically. This comes about from decisions made some 9 or 10 months previously. The real decline dates almost exactly from June 1974 when the repressive policies of this Government and the disastrous consequences of its economic misconduct started to have their impact on the Australian people. We used to talk about people from behind the Iron Curtain voting with their feet; the Australian people have voted in their beds against the Australian Government. We can see from this tremendous fall in the birth rate, which started from decisions taken in about June 1974, what the Australian people have suffered under the economic policies of this Australian Government. The facts and figures are perfectly plain for those who want to look at them.
– I do not want to look at them.
– I know that the honourable member for Franklin does not want to look at them. I know that these statistics and facts are very uncomfortable for Government supporters.
I want to go a little further. In addition the Government has turned off the immigration tap in a quite unconscionable way. It has brought tremendous hardship to families who want to bring their relatives here to join them. In my own electorate I have had case after case where somebody has not been allowed to bring out a brother or a sister to join the family. This is inhumane but in addition it is one of the factors spragging the growth of the Australian population. This is important in the context in which we are talking tonight.
The whole of the Minister’s growth plans are nonsense because they are posited on a growth in the Australian population which is not occurring and which is not likely to occur. Hundreds of millions of dollars are being wasted on grandiose plans which can never come to fruition for the simple reason that the people for whom these programs are being devised will not be in Australia in the foreseeable future. This is the major fault in the Government’s plans and in the Minister’s plans which we have heard talked about with such sincerity and bumbling inefficiency tonight. Frankly, if I may say so, I would regard the Minister as the Norman Gunston of this Parliament. He has that transparent belief in his own perspicacity, a belief not always justified by the events.
In all seriousness, unless something is done about the growth of the Australian population the grandiose plans which the Minister has outlined to us tonight will be nonsense because the people to inhabit these great projected growth centres will not be here in Australia.
Proposed expenditure agreed to.
Remainder of Bill- by leave- taken as a whole.
– I move:
After clause 7 add the following new clause:
This Act has effect subject to section5 of the Loan Act 1975.’.
The amendment has been circulated in my name. This is a machinery measure and follows a Bill for an Act I introduced to Parliament a little earlier. It makes provision for expenditure for defence purposes to be covered by the Loan Act 1975. This is a practice which has been followed on a number of occasions by a series of previous governments from time to time. The last occasion was in Appropriation Act (No. 3) of 1974-75. Rather than delay the Committee any further, in view of the fact that I have discussed the purposes of this in the second reading stage of the Bill for the Loan Act 1 975,I propose to leave the matter rest there. It is a machinery matter.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Remainder of Bill, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report- by leave- adopted.
Motion (by Mr Hayden)- by leave- put:
That the Bill be now read a third time.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Hon. G. G. D. Scholes)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
APPROPRIATION BILL (No. 2) 1975-76 Second Reading
Debate resumed from 19 August on motion by Mr Hayden:
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.
Motion ( by Mr Hayden) put:
That the Bill be now read a third time.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Hon. G. G. D. Scholes)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Mr Daly) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
-In Victoria today there has been a strike by members of the Federated Cold Storage Union employed at dairy factories throughout the State. The stoppage is in support of union claims for increased wages made on Victorian product manufacturers. The effects of this stoppage upon the incomes of the State dairy farmers are disastrous. Conservative estimates are that one million gallons of whole milk valued at $500,000 was today poured down the drains throughout the State. The situation has obviously varied from factory to factory, depending on the capacity of the farm or factory storage and the attitude of employees at individual factories to the recommendations of their union. I personally am aware that the Kraft factory at Leitchville in my electorate has not been able to receive milk today, costing the suppliers $40,000 in income.
Dairy producers cannot absorb these losses. Already they are stretched to their economic limits. They are having great difficulty operating in a climate of high production costs and living under the threat of a substantial price drop for their products. For instance, 12 months ago skim milk powder was bringing $400 per tonne on the export market. Today the price is $250. Twelve months ago on the home market skim milk powder was bringing $500. Today it is bringing only $400 per tonne. Also, over 10 000 tonnes of cheese has been imported into this country from various sources but primarily from the Continent. This is being dumped on the home market. The outcome of this is a 2c per lb butterfat drop to our producers. Last year over 3000 dairy farmers left the industry. If this trend continues and is compounded by anarchy by unions with no thought for the industry then this trend will accelerate. Within 4 years it is almost certain that Australia will of necessity be forced to import dairy products to meet our home demands. If this happens, of course, the consumer will be paying very much more for a product of a poorer quality.
This dispute today is totally unnecessary and is typical of the organised industrial strife that is wrecking a stable economy and tearing down this nation’s confidence and social structure. The union’s claims went before an arbitrator last Wednesday and were denied. There was no way in which excessive claims could have been afforded by the industry or that the principles of wage indexation guidelines could have been adhered to if these increases had been granted.
The Secretary of the Federated Cold Storage Union is Mr Pat Gallagher, the same Mr Gallagher who was appointed by Senator Wriedt to the Australian Dairy Corporation. Here we have a member of the dairy industry body doing everything possible to disrupt and destroy the viability of dairy farmers and manufacturers and ultimately the jobs of all those employees in the manufacturing side of this industry. It is also interesting to note that another unionist, Mr Carr of the Furniture Trade Employees Union, was foremost in the recent opposition to an approach by the dairy industry for a product price rise.
I believe that Senator Wriedt, if he is concerned about bis responsibility in the administration of his portfolio, if he does intend to represent those following agricultural pursuits, should immediately investigate the action of Mr Gallagher in this strike and give a report to this Parliament. Dairy farmers throughout this nation cannot be expected to tolerate in the membership of their corporation a union representative who is intent upon effecting industrial strife that will affect the livelihood of dairy farmers and their families.
There is one further point I wish to make on this issue. Should this strike continue either in part or on a State-wide basis, or should it only prove to be the beginning of periodic industrial action within the industry, I am concerned about the possibility of violence. Today my office in my electorate and my office here in Canberra have been inundated with calls from desperate dairy farmers concerned not just with a total loss of a day’s income and work but also with the future prospects offered them in their industry. They are stretched to their financial capacity. Recent huge increases in water charges, in transport costs, in workers compensation and in power costs are creating additional pressures. Further deliberate union action cannot be tolerated. Milk cannot be stored. The regular and continuous manufacturing process is vital to cope with dairy produce and to ensure regular income receipts to producers. On this occasion the strike was only for 24 hours but the difficulties encountered were immense. Naturally, conditions varied from one area to another. Some factories were able to get the milk from the farms and store it during the 24 hours. We hope that when the strike stops at midnight tonight further deliveries will take place. But as I have mentioned, in other areas storage was not available and the milk had to be dumped.
This Government must exert some form of control over the union’s leaders who must show restraint. I am sure, by the attitude of most employees in the dairy processing and manufacturing industries today, that they wish to continue working. But the possibility of black bans on workers or on factories was a natural deterrent to employees worried about the increasing unemployment situation. Primary producers cannot be expected to stand by and watch while outside forces and influences destroy the viability of their industries, especially when a member of their own dairy corporation, a man wearing 2 hats, is the prime mover in the industrial problems threatening their industry.
– I think that honourable members will have looked at the report of the Auditor-General, particularly at page 92 where the Auditor-General speaks of the expenditure under the invalidated Petroleum and Minerals Authority Act 1973. It will be remembered that this Act came into operation on 14 August 1974. The High Court declared it invalid on 24 June 1975. I quote from the Auditor-General ‘s report which states:
Subsequently, in a legal advising given to the Department of Minerals and Energy the Attorney-General’s Department stated, among other things, that since there never was, in point of law, at any stage in 1974-75 a Petroleum and Minerals Authority Act, no moneys were lawfully available for payment under Division 890-5 of Appropriation Act (No. 2) 1974-75. The advising also stated that the beneficial ownership, if not the legal ownership, of the moneys in the form which they now take belong to the Consolidated Revenue Fund.
The Auditor-General points out that $50m was transferred from Consolidated Revenue to the Petroleum and Minerals Authority. Of that amount, some $18m was repaid when the Act was declared invalid.The Auditor-General notes that some $6m was spent on operations from 14 August 1974 to 24 June 1975. This leaves something like $25m unaccounted for. The report does not disclose where that $25m went. I suppose it was paid out for something or other. The point is that this was irregular. Maybe it was done in good faith but there was a serious financial irregularity. I asked a question on notice in regard to this matter of the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor). The reply is in today’s Hansard. I shall read part of my question:
I think that honourable members will realise that this is a very proper question to be directed to the Minister in relation to expenditure which, even though it might have been made in good faith, was nevertheless illegal and improper. The Minister’s reply to that question was:
This is almost without precedent. Here, when moneys have been improperly expended, the Minister in charge refuses point blank to say what they have been expended on. The Parliament is not to be allowed to know how this $50m has been spent. One cannot tell and the Minister refuses to tell. This is absolutely intolerable. It is an infringement of the rights of this House.
When money has been spent in this way, against the law, even if it has been done in good faith, this House has a right and a duty to discover what the money was spent on. Why does the Minister endeavour to hide behind this wall of silence? The answer may well be in section 42 of the Audit Act which provides that the AuditorGeneral should surcharge any person responsible for a wrongful payment and should make him personally Liable to repay money which has been wrongfully expended. I think we would all say that it is reasonable to suppose that the AuditorGeneral would use his powers to remit, as he is entitled to do under the Act, any such surcharge arising out of expenditure made before 24 June 1975- the date on which the High Court declared the Act invalid. After all, even if the payments were unlawful- as they were- they might have been made in good faith under the Act which was believed to be lawful. I would not expect a surcharge to be maintained on the Minister. It had to be made but it should not be maintained in respect of any expenditure made before 24 June 1975. But what about the expenditure, if any, made after that date?
We know that one expenditure was made after that date, because the Auditor-General’s report said so. It says:
Funds were provided from Advance to the Treasurer on 30 June 1975 to enable payment of $566,427 to be made in 1974-75 to Delhi International Oil Corporation in respect of a commitment entered into prior to the High Court decision …
That may be, but have other moneys been unlawfully expended since that date? Surely before that money was paid or at any rate as soon as possible after it had been paid, this House should have been advised and a special Act of indemnity should have been passed through this House. What has been done may be in accordance with the forms of accounting; I do not know. But it is ethically improper that it should have been done without this House being notified.
I ask now what other payments have been made under this Act or as a consequence of arrangements made under this Act since 24 June 1 975 when the High Court declared the Act to be invalid? There has been a monstrous cover-up in the Minister’s refusal to divulge any information about these unlawful payments- both those made before 24 June 1975 about which we are entitled to know although not about the surcharge- and any that may have been made later. I know that there has been one made but I do not know any others. It is not unreasonable to suppose that this monstrous cover-up, this improper cover-up, is designed to protect some people and perhaps even to protect the Minister from personal liability to make restitution by surcharge. In all of this there has been a serious infringement of the rights of the House. We have a right to know what has happened to money which we have voted or which we may be called upon to vote. In order to follow the matter further, I have put a further question on notice to the Minister. Honourable members can read it in the notice paper today.
– The Minister for Minerals and Energy. I expect an answer to this question before the House meets on Thursday week, 16 October. That is a fair time to give. If I do not receive a satisfactory answer to this question by that date, I shall have to consider what, remedies are available against this reprehensible ministerial cover-up. I want to know and I will demand that that question be satisfactorily and properly answered.
-The issue I raise this evening is simply a matter of good manners. The decision to disband the cadet corps has annoyed a lot of people in the Australian community. It has annoyed particularly the boys that form these cadet units. A few of these boys in Western Australia saw fit to endeavour to put their case both to the Minister for Defence (Mr Morrison) and to the public. They contacted the Minister, they contacted the media and, of course, because they were holding a demonstration and the law in Western Australia requires it, they contacted the police. A lot of silly things have been said such as: ‘How did the police know?’ Of course the police knew about the demonstration because the boys told the police before the event, as the law requires, that they were going to hold the demonstration.
I wish to discuss the Minister’s attitude to these boys when they called upon him. The matter received some publicity in the papers under headlines like: ‘Morrison canes cadet protestors’ and ‘Morrison gives cadets a dressing down.’ In the first place the Minister is reported as having been some 7 minutes late for the appointment. I have some sympathy with Ministers and I realise they are under a lot of pressure. But they also have staff. Someone could have seen the boys on time and explained why the Minister was unable to turn up for what was, after all, his first appointment of the morning. Secondly, these boys were dressed down for wearing their uniforms. Surely this is an unnecessary discourtesy to a group of boys who were appealing to a Minister of the Crown. There is an awful difference of status. It is surely unnecessary for a Minister of the Crown to dress boys down for wearing their uniform- an act incidentally that they regarded as a mark of respect. While he was talking to these boys the Minister got up and walked out. The Minister has had plenty of time to deny these charges. In fact he had plenty of opportunity that day. The fact is that that conduct was the height of bad manners. These boys were entitled to be heard but above all surely ordinary gentlemanly manners would expect that this Minister of the Crown would hear these boys out.
I suggest that what went wrong was that the Minister was piqued. He had been on a tour of inspection throughout quite a portion of Western Australia viewing various defence installations. Because of the cadet training issue these boys had stolen his media space. He was annoyed about it. I cannot know this for sure but that is probably the kindest interpretation to place upon the matter. The net result was that in speaking to the media afterwards the Minister tried to salvage what grounds he could and accused these boys of being manipulated by a public relations organisation. That is a lot of nonsense. Mr Varney, who was with the boys, does work for a public relations organisation. That is quite true. He is also an officer of the Wesley College Cadet Corps. That is his connection with those boys. I am assured by him- and I approached him- that he received no briefing. He was not asked to do a job nor of course was he paid for doing a job. He knew some of the boys and they asked odd questions that any young man might ask of any adult. This was a simple case of young citizens of this country seeking to be heard on something about which they felt very deeply.
-I will be very brief, Mr Speaker.
– Short, you mean.
– Yes. The honourable member is a clever man. He should have been in vaudeville. I make one brief comment about the speech of the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Fisher). If the details he stated are correct I agree entirely with his sentiments. I congratulate him on the way he presented his speech to the House.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.45 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
What was the cost of the tax deductibility of mortgage interest for the year 1974-75.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Statistics of amounts allowed as deductions for housing loan interest in income tax returns for the year ended 30 June 1975 are not yet available. The estimated cost of allowing deductions for housing loan interest in the 1974-75 income yearis$l25m.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
What is the estimate of the increase in income tax collection for each 0.5 per cent increase in average weekly earnings beyond the forecast 22 per cent during 1 975-76.
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
If average earnings were to increase during 1975-76 by more than the 22 per cent increase used for the purposes of the Budget estimate, estimated PA YE income tax collections would increase by about $70m for each additional 0.5 per cent by which the increase in average earnings exceeded 22 per cent, assuming, of course, no change in the assumption regarding levels of employment.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
Would the Minister answer my letter dated 15 May 1975.
– The Minister for Social Security has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
A reply has been forwarded to the honourable member.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I should point out again that the matters which appear to concern the honourable member have been adequately covered by the Foreign Minister’s answers and statements in the Senate in August and September last year and my own answers to him on 12 February 1975 (Hansard p. 230), 6 March 1975 (Hansard p. 1244), 5 June 1975 (Hansard p. 3546) and 28 August 1975 (Hansard pp 807-8). The Minister’s wisdom and humanity and the honourable member’s folly and cynicism last year are attested by the fact that Mr Ermolenko is now happily living and employed in Australia, as are his parents as well.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
– The Minister for Social Security has provided the following answer to the right honourable member’s question:
I refer the right honourable member to the reply provided by the Prime Minister to question No. 3110.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
Are any members of his Ministry members of the World Peace Council; if so, which ones.
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
I do not know if any are. I am not.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
– The Minister for Foreign Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
I answered this letter on 24 October 1974 and in my answer drew the writer’s attention to my answers to questions in the Senate during the week ending 16 August 1974 and my remarks during the Senate debate on 18 September 1 974.I also sent the wnter a copy of my press statement of 1 5 August 1974.
As pointed out by the Prime Minister in his answer to the honourable member’s question No. 3072 on the same subject, the matters raised have already been adequately covered by my answers and statements and by the Prime Minister’s own answers to the honourable member’s questions on 12 February, 6 March, 5 June and 28 August this year.
Department of the Treasury: Advertising Budget (Question No. 2861)
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question as as follows:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 8 October 1975, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1975/19751008_reps_29_hor97/>.