30th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. B. M. Snedden, Q.C.) took the chair at 2.15 p.m., and read prayers.
-Yesterday the honourable member for Fraser (Mr Fry) raised a matter of privilege. He stated that he had been given information that he was being investigated by the Australian Criminal Intelligence Centre of the Commonwealth Police in relation to his involvement in the impending visit to Australia of 2 members of the Fretilin organisation. He also said that his telephone conversations may be monitored. The honourable member may feel aggrieved at the alleged actions of the police. That, however, is not the test to apply in determining an issue of a member’s privilege.
I have carefully examined the remarks of the honourable member. I do not find in his remarks any precise instance of where the performance of his duties in this House has been affected. Accordingly, I inform the House that, in my opinion, no prima facie case of breach of privilege has been made out by the honourable member and that, therefore, the matter should not have precedence over other business. He may of course submit a notice of motion in the usual manner if he so desires.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the three service cadet forces have great value in the development of the youth of Australia.
That the disbanding of the cadet forces will disperse accumulated expertise and interest of those involved, and in some cases negate the efforts of many people over many years.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will reconsider its decision and that the Government will reinstate the cadet forces.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Bonnett and Mr McVeigh.
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 urge the Government to investigate the function of the RAAF Air Training Corps with a view to extending its facilities rather than depleting them altogether.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Hurford.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the plan to obliterate the traditional weights and measures of this country is causing and will cause widespread inconvenience, confusion, expense and distress.
That there is no certainty that any significant benefits or indeed any benefits at all will follow the use of the new weights and measures.
That the traditional weights and measures are eminently satisfactory.
Your petitioners therefore pray: That the Metric Conversion Act be repealed, and that the Government take urgent steps to cause the traditional and familiar units to be restored to those areas where the greatest inconvenience and distress are occurring, that is to say, in meteorology, in road distances, in sport, in the building and allied trades, in the printing trade, and in retail trade.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Street and Mr Nixon.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of Danny Sankey of 18 Village Lower Road, Vaucluse in the State of New South Wales, Solicitor, respectfully sheweth
Constitution the Minister for Minerals and Energy be authorised to borrow for temporary purposes a sumin the currency of the United States of America not exceeding the equivalent of $4,000m and to determine on behalf of Australia the terms and conditions of the borrowing.
Your petitioner therefore humbly prays that your honourable house will:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byMrEMcott.
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 Parliament ensure that appropriate action be taken to protect the rights of the citizens of Nhulunbuy, Northern Territory in relevant legislation before Australian Parliament in relation to Aboriginal Land Bill (Northern Territory) 1975.
That the Standing Committee for Aboriginal Affairs be delegated to discuss the contents of the Bill and more particularly the following Clauses appertaining to:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Calder.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners believe that the potential area for dispute under a personal income tax system partially under the control of the Australian Government and partially under the control of the State Governments is quite wide. Examples of probable areas of dispute include:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that powers to vary income tax will not be given to State Governments.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Dr Cass.
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 in 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 Petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth-
That the new Government during the recent election campaign, promised lower taxation and more money in people’s pockets.
Your petitioners therefore humbly prayThat the House of Representatives will take immediate steps to prevent the introduction of Television and Radio licence fees, the imposition of a tax levy for Medibank and the introduction of higher charges for drugs dispensed under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Dr Klugman.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the existence of a system of double taxation of personal incomes whereby both the Australian Government and State Governments had the power to vary personal income taxes would mean that taxpayers who worked in more than one State in any year would-
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that a system of double income tax on personal incomes be not reintroduced.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Morris.
-I direct my question to the Prime Minister and refer to his transfer of ministerial responsibility for the Trade Practices Commission from the Attorney-General. Do many business proposals such as mergers and takeovers create a conflict of interest in that there are advantages to individuals yet disadvantages to the community? Does the Prime Minister know that certain business interests have sought ministerial assistance both for and against investigation by the Trade Practices Commission? In that respect I cite the resisted takeover bid for Mercantile Mutual Assurance Company Limited by the Australian Guarantee Corporation Limited. Is the Prime Minister aware that the Attorney-General’s Department advised that no investigation was warranted in that case without referring the matter to the members of the Commission? In order to restore authority and autonomy to the Commission, will the Prime Minister reconsider his decision and give back to the Commission its role of judicial impartiality under the direction and responsibility of the AttorneyGeneral as provided in the Trade Practices Act?
-The transfer of responsibility for the Trade Practices Commission has not altered in any way the statute under which the Commission operates. Therefore it will operate under the same statute and for the same purposes as it did under the previous Administration. However, I would say that in respect of some of the measures undertaken by the previous Administration there was a degree of harassment of businesses which is, in no small measure, responsible for pan of the unemployment that now exists in Australia.
-My question is directed to the Treasurer who will be aware of the concern of Australian small businesses that the proposed investment allowance will not apply to items of plant and equipment costing less than $1,000. Has the Treasurer given full consideration to the point of view of small business and is the Government prepared to reconsider its decision in this matter?
– It is true that since the broad details of the investment allowance were announced by me on 26 January a wide series of representations have been received by the Government from industry and commerce, in particular from that sector with which the honourable member is concerned, namely, the small business sector. Many of these representations have been directed towards the $ 1 ,000 limit and have suggested that the Government reduce that to a level which would provide a greater opportunity for the small business sector to effectively participate in the overall investment program. Consideration has been given to the matter and I can report to the House that certain adjustments have been made. Instead of excluding the first $1,000 of the cost of any individual item, individual items costing $500 or less will now be excluded from the allowance. The 40 per cent investment allowance will apply in full to the entire cost of individual items costing $1,000 or more, and there will be a shading in range for items costing between $500 and $1,000. The Government’s decision should add to confidence in the business community, particularly in the small business area. I should also mention to the House that it will be done without cost to this current Budget, and therefore will not add to the size of the present deficit.
-My question is directed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. In any discussions at the United Nations on the situation in East Timor, will he give an assurance that Australia will press and urge for the full and absolute selfdetermination of the people of East Timor and demand the withdrawal of all Indonesian forces from East Timor?
-Not only will we do that, we have done that. What we have done stands in marked contrast to what was done by previous administrations. When we were the caretaker Government we sought to co-sponsor a resolution before the United Nations General Assembly. We ended up supporting a resolution which among other things called for the withdrawal of troops, a cessation of hostilities, an act of selfdetermination to be implemented and a resumption of humanitarian aid. Beyond voting for that resolution in the General Assembly, we also sought a voice in the Security Council and put again our views. We have restated them privately and publicly. That is the Government’s policy. It will continue to be the Government’s policy when there is the opportunity, for example, to raise the matter in the United Nations again. I would assume that when Mr Winspeare’s report is tabled by the SecretaryGeneral there will be a further opportunity for Australia to seek a voice in the Security Council. The honourable member can be assured that that policy will be restated, in the light, of course, of whatever recommendations Mr Winspeare makes.
-I ask a question of the Minister for Transport. What precautions exist at Australian airports to prevent foreign nationals arriving armed with automatic weapons and carrying large amounts of foreign currency? Did 2 Iraqis arrive at Sydney Airport on 8 December so armed? Finally, what action will the Minister take to ensure that that does not happen again?
– The scrutiny that takes place in respect of passengers to Australia usually takes place at an outgoing port. If 2 gentlemen arrived at Sydney Airport carrying automatic pistols and a large amount of money, presumably they got through the outgoing port without undergoing the normal scrutiny- that is, if they were carrying a normal passport. If by chance they were carrying a diplomatic passport it may well be that they were not required to face the scrutiny encountered by the ordinary passenger. In such a case they would be able, I suppose, to wear the sidearms in the usual fashion and to board the plane flashing their diplomatic passports and carrying a large amount of money in a bag. So far as their arrival at this end of the trip is concerned, those persons carrying diplomatic passports are extended the normal courtesies; that is, they are sometimes not subjected to a rigorous scrutiny as might an ordinary passenger. Therefore I suppose if these so called gentlemen of whom the honourable member speaks- I do not know to whom he is referring- were carrying diplomatic passports it may well be that the normal scrutinies which apply to normal passport carriers were not extended, and again therefore they would get through our normal stringent Customs procedures.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. Has he announced cuts in overseas multilateral aid programs of $ 12m, in bilateral aid of $3.2m and in food aid of $5.3m? How do these cuts reduce the rate of growth of the money supply or affect domestic demand pressure within Australia? Is this their purpose? If not, what is their purpose? Is this not a callous disregard of the pressing needs of people in underdeveloped countries in order to satisfy a false doctrine?
-I will take the question. I can broadly confirm the figures given by the honourable member. Of course, in alleging that they are cuts, the honourable member refers solely to this financial year in which an endeavour was made to reduce expenditure. Many of the items, particularly those commitments we have made to multilateral agencies, will be paid in the forthcoming financial year and should have no effect on the operations of those institutions, many of which operate on a calendar year basis for thenfinancial year. Our accounting year being from 1 July to 30 June, this ought not affect them. The honourable member will also recall that in the Hayden Budget the percentage of aid in relation to the gross national product was reduced, as I recall and as I am advised, from approximately 0.56 per cent to 0.53 per cent. I understand these deferrals will bring about a reduction to 0.52 per cent.
The Government applauds and supports the aim of moving to 0.7 per cent of the gross national product as an aid target. Indeed, I think an examination of the contributions made by previous Liberal-Country Party governments will give every indication of our earnest endeavours to increase Australia’s aid contribution. It is interesting to note that if one looks at the performances of Australian governments in aid programs as a percentage of the gross national product, particularly on a calendar year basis- which is the normal international comparison that is used- one sees that the lowest figure that has been given by an Australian government in many years was in 1973 when the percentage was only 0.44 of the gross national product. So perhaps the honourable member who asked the question ought to have a discussion with a Treasurer in the previous Government, bear in mind the performance of his own Party in power and take note of our aim to work towards 0.7 per cent and to ensure that we hold to the principle of meeting needs. We will implement a policy on that basis.
-Is the Minister for Primary Industry aware that widespread flooding and the consequent transport dislocations are not allowing Queensland meat producers and meat works to share in shipments of beef to the United States of America? Will the Minister have discussions with the Australian Meat Board to ensure that Queensland and other flood affected States are reserved a share of this market over the remaining months bearing in mind that 2 1 400 tonnes of meat are already in bond from oversupply last year and good sales have already been made? Is the Minister in a position to advise what the United States quotas for 1976 are? If not, when does he expect to be in such a position?
– I think every member of this House is only too well aware of the disastrous results of floods not only in Queensland but also in north-west New South Wales. Indeed, the Prime Minister has made a statement to this House of the degree to which and the manner in which the Commonwealth Government will be prepared to assist State governments in helping those who are affected by the floods. Because of the relative forces of supply and demand there has been a very significant shipment of meats to the United States market in the first quarter of this year and as a result northern works are concerned lest the percentage of meat already sold affects in any way their ability to sell into the United States market. This matter, together with the question of any change in diversification entitlement, is predominantly a matter for the Australian Meat Board. I understand that the Meat Board is meeting this week to consider whether there should be any changes in diversification entitlements. As to the overall question of what the allocation of meat entitlement in shipments to the United States might be this year, this matter is still under very close consideration and consultation with the United States authorities.
It is our hope that the United States will appreciate the degree to which our particular character of export meat does not compete with the meat which its own producers significantly supply to its domestic market, and will be prepared to allot to Australia, which has always been the major exporter to the United States, a reasonable quota which will give Australian producers, whether they are in northern Australia, Queensland or elsewhere, a reasonable opportunity to offset the fairly disastrous marketing circumstances which prevailed during the previous Government’s regime.
. Mr E. G. WHITLAM- I direct my question to the Foreign Minister. The Minister will recall that he told me yesterday that the purpose of the Lugarno conference ‘is to investigate proposals for the restriction or prohibition of a range of conventional weapons including incendiary weapons’. He said that ‘Australian experts at the conference are participating in efforts to achieve realistic and practical proposals’. Will the Minister confirm that a document recently sent by his Department to Australian missions abroad stated that Ministers had directed that, pending a decision on the attitude which the present Government may wish to take on Australia’s 1973 statement, the delegation at Lugarno should not participate actively in the debate on proposed prohibition of napalm type weapons? You will notice, Mr Speaker, that I emphasise his answer that we are participating and the Department’s advice that we should not participate. I therefore ask: What is the explanation for the difference between the Minister’s public statement and the Department’s private advice last week? Is it a fact, as his Department’s document stated, that the Department of Defence now wishes to keep open the option of acquiring napalm type weapons?
-In answer to the Leader of the Opposition’s question, may I first say that what he referred to as private advice by the Department last week is incorrect. I reiterate what I said yesterday. The Government’s policy has not changed since the November 1973 statement of the previous Government. That very statement as quoted by the Leader of the Opposition yesterday, was:
Australia does not possess aerial or mechanised napalm type weapons and does not intend to acquire them.
That statement still stands as Government policy. Mention has been made in today’s Press, and now by the Leader of the Opposition, of an extract from a document issued before a governmental decision. That document was dated 29 January. It was not dated last week. It was a departmental document. Ministers and not departments determine policy, and Ministers accordingly determined that there was to be no change in the policy enunciated by the previous Government. That remains the position. As to the future, the very statement itself covers that position. It endorses the Leader of the Opposition’s own statement of 1973 that:
Australia does not possess aerial or mechanised napalm type weapons and does not intend to acquire them.
That, succinctly stated, is Government policy, and is binding on departments and officials.
-Could the Prime Minister inform the House whether 2 officials of the Government of Iraq visited Australia in December ostensibly for the purpose of establishing a consulate for Iraq? What were the circumstances and the result of that visit?
– I have been advised by the Department of Foreign Affairs that 2 Iraqi officials arrived in Sydney on 8 December and spent 2 days in Australia. The advice I have from the Department of Foreign Affairs is as follows: . . . On 2 December, our Embassy . . .
This is in the words of the Department- … in Tokyo, informed us by cable of a proposed visit to Australia by two Iraqi Foreign Ministry officials, Mr Farooq Abdulla Yehya and Mr A. Ghafil Jassim These are probably . . .
They also possess an alias- . . . Farack Abdulla Yehya and Yassim Al-Tikriti.
One of the declared objects of the visit was to discuss the establishment of an Iraqi Consulate-General in Sydney. We sent a reply to Tokyo giving instructions about visa issue and indicating that we would welcome the visit.
The ‘we’ again refers to the Department. Tokyo comes into this particular matter because the Iraqi Ambassador to Tokyo is also accredited to Australia. The advice from the Department goes on:
The two Iraqi officials arrived in Sydney on 8 December and were met by a Foreign Affairs representative. They were also met by an Australian businessman, Mr H. Fischer, and during their stay in Australia-
I am advised by the Department they were guests of Mr Reuben Scarf in Sydney. The advice continues:
No contact was made by the visitors with this Department or our Sydney office.
On 9 December the Sydney office telephoned them at the home of Mr Scarf. Neither official spoke good English. Mr Fischer, who was also present at Scarf’s home, was asked whether the visitors had come to Australia on official business. It was explained that the Iraqi Embassy in Tokyo had sought our assistance in facilitating their entry into Australia, and had advised that they might wish to discuss the establishment of a consular mission in Australia.
Mr Fischer told us ‘Us’ is again the Department- that all matters pertaining to consular relations and establishment of consular missions were in the hands of the Egyptian Embassy. There were no proposals for the visitors to discuss such matters with the Australian authorities. ( We -
That is still the Department- subsequently discovered that on arrival, they had described the purpose of their visit as ‘ visiting relatives ‘. )
According to advice -
Again quoting the Department- from the Egyptian Embassy they were intending to depart Australia for Hong Kong and Tokyo on 10 December 1975.
Honourable members will note that there appears to be some inconsistency about the reasons for the visit. Visas were requested on the basis of setting up a consular mission but on arrival here the Iraqis said that the purpose was simply ‘visiting relatives’. As a result of these inconsistencies I have asked that inquiries be made about the visit.
– The Minister for Transport will be aware of yesterday’s decision of the New South Wales Cabinet to adopt the Urban Transport Advisory Committee’s report for the expenditure of $150m on transport systems in New South Wales over the next 5 years. What discussions have taken place between this Government and the New South Wales Government on the proposed expenditure? What undertakings have been given by this Government to provide financial assistance? Will the $150m be additional to the untied grants to be given to New South Wales under this Government’s socalled federalism policy? Finally, does this mean that in line with its federalism policy this Government in time will hand to the State its right to collect excise on motor fuel?
– The honourable member has asked a number of questions. Any proposals by the New South Wales Government to alter its urban public transport program will, of course, get sympathetic consideration by my Department and by myself as Minister. I have not seen the report referred to by the honourable member but I have seen earlier Press reports speculating on proposals by the New South Wales Department of Transport relating to urban public transport. All I can say to assist the honourable member is that I will give sympathy to any suggestion that comes from New South Wales in terms of the present program being worked out by New South Wales and the Commonwealth. Insofar as extra financial assistance is concerned, I have to say that any such proposal would need to await the Federal Budget, and it is not looking very prosperous at that.
– What about the excise on motor vehicles?
– I missed that part of the honourable member’s question. I am sorry.
-The honourable gentleman has been called and the question has been answered. If the honourable member wants to pursue the matter he should put a question on the notice paper.
-I ask the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs whether his attention has been drawn to a leading newspaper article claiming that consumer protection actions have been stalled. Are the statements true, and what is the
Minister’s attitude towards consumer protection prosecutions?
-My attention has been drawn to an article in today’s Financial Review dealing with prosecutions on consumer protection matters under the Trade Practices Act. The article contains 3 wild and inaccurate statements. Firstly, it is alleged that I refused to consent to the prosecution of a tyre company. I have never been asked by the Trade Practices Commission to give such consent in respect of a tyre company. Secondly, it is alleged that I refused to consent to the prosecution of a medical insurance fund. Again I have never been asked by the Commission to give my consent to such a prosecution. Thirdy it is alleged that there are a number of consumer protection cases in the pipeline awaiting my consent. The situation is that since I assumed Ministerial responsibility for the Trade Practices Act I have been asked to give consent on 6 occasions. On 2 occasions I have given that consent. On 2 occasions I have declined to give that consent. In respect of those two decisions I received no representations from any of the parties involved. On one occasion a prosecution was put to me on the eve of the expiry of the limitation period, in circumstances in which it was impossible to make a rational decision in the time available. I will make a decision in respect of the final case when the submission has been put to me in a more detailed form. My attitude generally to prosecutions on consumer protection matters is that my consent will be given, and given freely, in appropriate cases.
– I ask the Minister for Defence a question. Was the document by the Department of Foreign Affairs of 29 January last, which the Foreign Minister has just confirmed, accurate in stating that the Department of Defence at that time wished to keep open the option of acquiring napalm-type weapons and read Australia’s 1973 statement as not closing off that option?
– There is no proposal by the Department of Defence to acquire any of the weapons to which the honourable gentleman has referred.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Posts and Telecommunications. I am rather concerned at the long time which is elapsing between the application for and the installation of private telephones. Will he have investigations made within the Department about the situation in regard to materials and equipment? Will he have discussions with Australian Telecommunications Commission officials to make sure that the ultimate responsibility and authority are still retained by this Parliament?
– My understanding from the Australian Telecommunications Commission is that it has improved the time lag between the application for and the installation of telephones, more so in the capital cities than in the country areas. I will have discussions with the Commission. Honourable members will recall that the setting up of the Australian Postal Commission and the Australian Telecommunications Commission was a decision of the previous Government. We had some reservations. The commissions have been operating only since last July. It is a question of giving them time to see how they operate. From my discussions with them I believe they are making very valiant attempts to improve the service. I will certainly make the inquiries that the honourable gentleman has asked me to make. With regard to Parliament being informed, irrespective of whether we have a commission, we cannot ignore our responsibility to the Australian electorate. While the commissions are basically designed on business efficiency lines there is a social as well as an economic requirement of them. That will be watched. I have asked the commissions to keep me fully informed. I am certain the Parliament will keep the nation fully informed.
– I ask the Minister for Defence a further question. I wish the honourable gentleman to understand that I am not asserting that his Department has proposals to acquire napalm-type weapons. In fact the Department of Foreign Affairs document to which I have been referring expressly states that the Department has no current plans to do so. I ask the honourable gentleman whether the document was accurate in stating that the Department of Defence at that time wished to keep open the option of acquiring such weapons and read Australia’s 1973 declaration as not closing off that option.
– I am under no misapprehension at all as to the nature of the information which the honourable gentleman is seeking. The reply given by my colleague the Minister for Foreign Affairs yesterday was, in my respectful judgment, an immaculate reply. It was an accurate reply. His reply today, I believe, conformed to the description I have just given. It is an argument which- my friend will understand the language-I adopt in its entirety.
– Does the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs know of any person or organisation giving advice to illegal immigrants not to come forward and seek permanent resident status during the current amnesty as this would lead to deportation? If he does will he advise the House who is responsible and the purpose which anyone could have for giving such dastardly advice?
– I have heard reports of people and organisations who have cautioned those migrants who come within the terms of the amnesty recently announced by the Government not to come forward to take advantage of the offer. In fact in this House only yesterday the honourable member for Burke said that he had so advised a number of people in his constituency. When the amnesty began the honourable member for Melbourne also advised some of the people in his constituency to, in his words, ‘hold off’. There have been reports that certain trade union organisations as well have said that people who come within the ambit of the amnesty should go to their trade union before they go to the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs.
Anybody or any organisation advising people coming within the terms of the amnesty to be cautious of it, or not to take up the offer, will have that advice on their conscience for the rest of their lives. An opportunity is being given to people to come forward and to regularise their status in Australia so that they can live a full and complete life, and in the fullness of time become citizens of Australia with all the rights and privileges that that involves. As I have said, in my view people who advise others not to take advantage of the amnesty are guilty of a very gross dereliction of duty. I would advise everyone who knows of any person who comes within the ambit of the amnesty to make sure that that person is advised to take advantage of it as quickly as possible.
– I wish to ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development. In view of the public controversy concerning the Concorde supersonic transport aircraft, the availability of the draft environmental impact statement prepared by the United Kingdom Government and the British Aircraft Corporation, and the claim in the report by the Environment Protection Authority of Victoria that the area of Melbourne affected by the excessive noise of Concorde will be far greater than that affected by the Boeing 707, the noisiest of the present aircraft, and the Authority’s assertion that the introduction of Concorde into service at Melbourne airport is contrary to its noise control policy, will the Minister inform the House whether and when a public hearing will be held under the terms of the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act?
– The honourable member for Maribyrnong will know that, following the publication of the draft environmental impact study by British Airways, submissions were invited to be lodged with my colleague the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development. The closing date for submissions was 6 February. My colleague informs me that he is making a judgment on those submissions and a decision will be made by the Government on whether a public inquiry is therefore required. The matters brought forward by the honourable member, of course, will be considered in that judgment.
-Mr Speaker, pursuant to standing order 143 and in view of the notice given by the honourable member for Port Adelaide for General Business Thursday No. 1, 1 wish to ask the honourable member for Port Adelaide a question. I refer to reports that the Leader of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party attempted to borrow or beg $500,000 from Arab sources to finance either the Federal Labor campaign or to augment his personal slush funds. Will the honourable member indicate whether his Bill envisages that such attempts should be reported and disclosed? If this is so, will he prove his sincerity by pressing the Leader of the Opposition to reveal fully all aspects of this sordid affair? Furthermore, will he fully reveal any association that he personally had in such activities?
– I thank the honourable member for Canning for placing me in the history books by putting a question to me, as he may under Standing Orders. My views on political donations are well known. I suspect that I have spoken on the subject in this House on more occasions than most honourable members opposite. They may not be here long enough to make many speeches. The question of political donations was incorporated in a Bill which the former Labor Government presented twice to this House and which was passed twice by this House during its period of office between 1972 and 1975. The Bill, which provided that all political parties were to make public any donations to campaign funds, was twice rejected by the Liberal and National Country Parties in the Senate. During the debates on that Bill I expressed the opinion that the Bill did not go far enough. My own personal view is that there should be no such thing as a private donation to political parties. Political party campaign funds should be augmented out of the general revenue and the amount of funds should be based upon the percentage vote gained -
– From overseas governments.
-It should be based on the percentage vote of each political party at the previous election.
– You are a trick, Tony. You should be on the stage.
– The honourable member for Chisholm is very good and he has a couple of followers on the back benches. Not only have I spoken on these matters more than any other member in this House but also I have been involved as campaign director in more campaigns than anybody else in this House. I know all the things that the Liberal and Country Parties get up to. I know all the allegations that can be made. Whilst today honourable members opposite may laugh at the Australian Labor Party because of allegations that have been made by the Prime Minister’s friends in the Australian, one of these days we will see in Australia an expose of political funding similar to that which takes place in other parts of the world. Mr kodama of Japan received $7m from Lockheed Aircraft Corporation to support the Liberal Party. Money has poured into the Italian Christian Democratic Party. All these things will come to fruition in Australia unless the Liberal and Country Parties agree to the ideas that have been incorporated in the Bill presented by the Australian Labor Party to make all donations public.
– In response to the Treasurer’s kind invitation last week to raise questions on bond market activity, I ask him: Is it a fact that published information released by the Government shows that cash subscriptions to government bonds and loans and proposed and effected Budget cuts total $ 1,300m so far this calendar year and total $2,700m so far this fiscal year? Is it a fact that the latter figure of $2,700m is about two-thirds of the domestic deficit when there is more than a third of the fiscal year to go? Is it a fact that the rate of increase in money supply for the December quarter, broadly defined as M3, fell dramatically to 12 per cent from a rate of about 20 per cent which had been fairly consistent for some time before? Finally, in view of the concern that bond market activity and other monetary and fiscal measures may well be cutting back dramatically the rate of increase in the money supply at this time and the concern felt especially in the business community, will the Treasurer be good enough to indicate to this House the rate of increase in the money supply expected for this quarter and the target which he has set for this fiscal year?
– The honourable gentleman asked a series of quite detailed questions, some of which I could not hear from the front bench on this side of the House. The honourable gentleman will recall stating, as he was reported, that ‘the Federal Government’s new economic package is an appropriate measure at this point. In the last election campaign I said several times that the Australian Labor Party was considering a package which was very similar. The package provided for a drop in interest rates and other measures to soak up excess liquidity. If I understand the honourable gentleman, he is now seeking to condemn a policy which a few weeks ago he was prepared to applaud. He must be very much aware that one of the principal economic strategies adopted by the present Administration is to soak up the excess liquidity which was deliberately generated as a part of the inflationinducing policies pursued by him and his Australian Labor Party colleagues. At all times we have made it perfectly clear that we will not allow a reduction in the overall rate of monetary aggregates to be taken to a point where it will interfere with the capacity of the private sector to underwrite the recovery. I can assure the honourable gentleman that consistent with this Government’s economic management capacity we are effectively monitoring the impact of the savings bonds and other measures which have been brought down in the package and that they will not interfere with the private sector as the honourable gentleman has in fact implied.
So far as the growth in monetary aggregates is concerned, the honourable gentleman will certainly recall that he was at great pains during his period in government never to reveal that information but I will take his question on board and consider whether he should now have the opportunity to learn from this Government that which he consistently denied to us.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Transport. It concerns the added costs to freights on goods to the Northern Territory which cannot now be carried by rail owing to washaways and floods. Cement prices have risen alarmingly since the rail stoppages. Will the Minister confer with the Minister for Defence, who has recently announced a scaling down of operations at Woomera, in order to seek an arrangement whereby road transport may pass northwards from Pimba to the Mount Eba woolshed, via the rocket range instead of the longer journey via Kingoonya, thus saving a considerable distance in travel? Will he also confer with the South Australian Minister for Transport to seek a temporary easing of the load limits between Port Augusta and Pimba during this and any future Commonwealth railways crisis on the central Australian railway system?
– I share the honourable gentleman’s concern over the increased costs being forced on the residents of the Northern Territory because of the washout of the railways system. Certainly I will confer with my colleague the Minister for Defence to ascertain whether it is at all possible to allow transports to use the route the honourable member suggests. I will also confer with the Minister for Transport in South Australia to ascertain whether the loads can be increased for transports travelling on the road through South Australia to the Northern Territory. I will let the honourable member know what comes out of my consultations.
– I ask the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations a question. I remind him that today is the seventh anniversary of the judgment in the Moore and Doyle case in which the Industrial Court drew the attention of the then Attorney-General to the urgent need, as it stated, for a system of trade union organisation which would enable the one body to represent in terms of legal personalities, structure and organisation its relevant members in both Federal and State arbitration systems. I ask: Has he been in touch with any of his New
South. Wales, Queensland or Western Australian counterparts- they being the States where the system of compulsory arbitration obtains and the States which have not passed the necessary legislation- to ascertain whether they will now sponsor the necessary legislation in their parliaments to carry out a system which 7 years ago was already being said to be urgent?
– The Leader of the Opposition draws attention to what he rightly identifies as a long standing problem in Australian industrial relations. I do not intend to go over the old history there. The Leader of the Opposition also will be aware that under his Government Mr Justice Sweeney carried out an investigation and subsequently made a report suggesting certain measures which could be taken and which would at least in part help to overcome the problem. Subsequently legislation was introduced into this Parliament which so far as the Commonwealth was able to legislate went in line with what Mr Justice Sweeney recommended. However, the successful implementation of the federal legislation does depend on complementary or similar legislation being enacted by State governments with industrial jurisdictions. To date the governments named by the Leader of the Opposition have not responded in a way which indicates that they are prepared to pass this legislation. However it is a matter which is raised at almost every conference of Ministers for Labour.
– Have you raised it yourself?
– I have not raised it since I became Minister but the matter is one of some concern and I shall be looking at ways to deal so far as is possible with the problem posed by Moore v. Doyle with State Ministers.
-Is the Minister for Foreign Affairs aware that, under the supposed cost-cutting program, the previous Administration stopped the posting of Australian passports by registered and certified post? Does the Minister know that passports are being lost and mislaid after being posted at the ordinary postal rate of 18c? Will the Minister give an undertaking that in future provision will be made for passports to be posted under certified mail, which will be an added cost to the Department?
– The Minister ought to be able to afford it. He has just doubled the cost of passports.
– You would know all about money, but I would keep quiet about it if I were you.
As the honourable member has said, prior to August 1975 passports were forwarded to applicants by registered mail, if they so wished. The increase in postal charges from August 1975 meant, as I understand it, that the cost for dispatch by registered mail increased from $1.12 to $2.36. Funds were not made available to the Department of Foreign Affairs to meet that increase. Therefore it was decided, as I understand it, to discontinue the service, and from 1 8 August last year an applicant for a passport was given the option either to have the passport sent by first-class mail or to collect the passport at the issuing office. It was then decided earlier this month that passport officers should also be permitted to hand over passports to travel agents provided the latter produced written authorisations from their clients.
The question of giving applicants another alternative, that is, to pay for dispatch by registered mail themselves, was examined. This study showed that the extra work load involved in handling payments of a sum such as $2.36 for each passport would have necessitated an increase in staff that was outside the Department’s staffing ceiling. Finally, the number of passports reported as having gone astray in the mail from 18 August last year, when this change was made, until mid-February had totalled 34 out of approximately 60 000 that had been sent by mail during the period. Whilst numerically insignificant it is still a matter of inconvenience to those Australians involved and is therefore a matter of regret for the Government.
-My question is directed to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. Has he seen the report in today’s Sydney Morning Herald that the Industrial Court declined on procedural grounds to entertain an pplication by a journalist for an injunction under the Trade Practices Act to restrain Nationwide News Pty Ltd from engaging in misleading or deceptive conduct? In view of the immense practical difficulties experienced by individual citizens in exercising their rights under the Act without expensive legal costs, and in the light of his assertion this afternoon that he is willing to institute proceedings under the Act, will he ask for a report on newspaper companies which mislead the general public with bogus claims of exclusive stories, particularly disgraceful pieces on Her Royal Highness The Princess Margaret, or are the activities of the Murdoch empire, no matter how revolting and how distasteful, completely off limits to his Department?
– I must correct the honourable gentleman’s understanding of my earlier answer. I did not say that I was prepared myself to take proceedings under the Act. I said that in appropriate cases my consent to prosecutions would be given. My attention has riot been drawn to the particular article to which the honourable gentleman refers but I will have the matter that he raises investigated.
– For the information of honourable members I present a report by the Maritime Industry Commission of Inquiry entitled The Adequacy of Australia’s Ports.
– Pursuant to -
-Order! The level of conversation in the chamber is far too high. It is quite apparent that honourable members are not paying attention to the proceedings of the House. I have called the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations and he is presenting papers.
-Pursuant to section 12D, subsection 5 of the Remuneration Tribunals Act 1973-1975, I present a copy of a document entitled Academic Salaries Tribunal Determination and Report- February J 976.
– Pursuant to section 7, sub-section 7 of the Remuneration Tribunals Act 1973-1975 I present a copy of a determination of the Remuneration Tribunal relating to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, the Administrative Review Council, the National Superannuation Committee of Inquiry, the Commonwealth Commission of Inquiry into Poverty and the Australian Dairy Corporation. The determination, dated 29 October 1975, sets remuneration for offices for which the Tribunal had not previously made determinations.
– For the information of honourable members I present a report by the Industries Assistance Commission on dyeline base paper dated 1 8 June 1 975.
– Pursuant to section 24(4) of the Metric Conversion Act 1970-1973 I present the fifth annual report of the Metric Conversion Board for the year ended 30 June 1975 together with a statement by the Minister for Science relating to that report.
– Pursuant to paragraph 11 of the Third Schedule of the Airlines Agreements Act 1952-1973 I present the annual financial report relating to the operation of air services by Ansett Transport Industries for the year ended 28 June 1975.
- Mr Speaker -
-The honourable member for Shortland is standing but I have asked the Minister to present all four of his reports.
– I was about to seek leave to move that the House take note of that paper.
– I would suggest that the honourable gentleman confer with the honourable member for Corio who has the management of the Opposition’s affairs in this House and who could then discuss it with the Leader of the House.
– Pursuant to section 40 (3) of the Australian National Airlines Act 1945-1975 I present the annual report of Trans-Australia Airlines for the year ended 30 June 1975, together with financial statements and the report of the Auditor-General on those statements.
– For the information of honourable members I present a report by the Bureau of Transport Economics entitled Port Pirie: Economic Evaluation of Harbour Improvements. Due to the limited number available reference copies of this report have been placed in the Parliamentary Library.
– For the information of honourable members I present the Report on Roads in Australia 1975 and I ask for leave to make a short statement on that report.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-Section 14a of the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads Act 1 964 imposes on the Bureau of Roads the duty of investigating and from time to time reporting to the Minister for Transport on matters relating to roads or road transport for the purpose of assisting the Commonwealth Government in its consideration of grants of financial assistance to the States in connection with roads or road transport. The 1975 report, which I am now tabling, is the latest in a series of reports prepared by the Bureau in compliance with this requirement. By way of background, I should refer in particular to the 1969 Report on Roads in Australia and to the 1973 Report on Roads in Australia. Both of those reports were prepared by the Bureau to set out the results of the Bureau’s researches into road needs in Australia. Both reports included the Bureau’s recommendations with regard to levels of road funding generally and the level of assistance which the Bureau felt should be made available by the then Commonwealth Government. As I am sure honourable members are aware, the information and analytical background provided by the Bureau was part of the material available to be taken into account in the preparation of the 1969 Commonwealth Aid Roads Act and the current roads legislation introduced in 1974. The current roads legislationthat is, the National Roads Act and the Roads Grants Act- appropriates funds to be made available to the States for road works for the 3 financial years from July 1974 to June 1977.
This latest report by the Bureau deals with the 5-year period 1976-77 to 1980-81. The Bureau’s findings will, of course, be taken into account in considering government policy with regard to future road arrangements. However, I must stress to honourable members that this is only an advisory report. It is a large report and relates to a number of complex areas and issues. It will therefore require some considerable time to examine the report properly. I must emphasise that at this stage the Government has not had the opportunity to examine the report in any detail. The Government has taken no decisions on the acceptability or otherwise of the Bureau ‘s recommendations. I must at the same time commend the Bureau and its staff on the high level of expertise and knowledge which is evident from even a cursory look at the report. One of my priority tasks will be to study the report in detail. In the meantime, I have arranged for reference copies of the report to be placed in the Parliamentary Library. I regret that we will be unable, because of financial stringency, to make individual copies available.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
-The Opposition welcomes the tabling of this, the third Report on Roads in Australia 1975 prepared by the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads. The existing legislation for the allocation of moneys for road construction- that is, the National Roads Act and the Roads Grants Act- covers the triennium to June 1977. Like the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) I have not had the opportunity to see the report. The Bureau’s functions are an integral part of the planning and financing of an adequate national highway system in Australia and adequate intrastate and urban roads. At this stage the importance of the Bureau’s recommendations in future road planning and financing cannot be gauged because of the lack of information on the Government’s federalism policy on State grants. If, as is to be expected under this Government’s policies, States are to be given completely untied grants in respect of road construction, then obviously the importance of the Bureau of Roads as a national planner of road systems must diminish. Likewise it can be expected that the national co-ordination of priorities for roads will also diminish.
The Minister has stated that because of financial stringency copies of the Bureau’s report will not be available to members of the Parliament. It is indeed a strange set of financial priorities that this Government has set if members are to be denied ready access to the Bureau’s report but funds are available to pay a superphosphate bounty to farmer members of the Cabinet. The report is vital to the future road development of this nation and, as such, copies should be made available to each member of the Parliament. Its unavailability except in the Library can be interpreted only as another step in the return to secretive and closed government.
Motion (by Mr Ruddock) proposed:
That the debate be now adjourned.
-Order! The question is: ‘That the debate be now adjourned and that the adjourned debate be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting’. Those of that opinion say aye, to the contrary no. I think the ayes have it.
– I wish to oppose the motion. The noes have it.
– I think the ayes have it. Is a division required?
– Yes. Am I not entitled to oppose the motion?
-The House will divide. Ring the bells.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Rt Hon. B. M. Snedden)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I seek leave of the House to move a motion that the House take note of the report on Ansett Transport Industries Ltd which was one of the papers tabled earlier by the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) and in relation to which, I understand, the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris) sought to have that motion moved.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) agreed to:
That the House take note of the paper.
Debate (on motion by Mr Morris) adjourned.
-Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
-Yes, by the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. During an answer that he gave in respect of the amnesty applying to illegal immigrants he alleged among other things that I had advised potential applicants for the amnesty to hold off. The facts are that a number of leaders of ethnic communities and other individuals who would come within the ambit of the amnesty had approached me on the basis that they mistrusted the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs as well as the Government at large. They believed that the terms of the amnesty were vague and sought my advice as to what they should do in all the circumstances. I advised them that I would be putting certain questions to the Minister in an endeavour to have the amnesty clarified. In the course of the last 2 days I have duly done this. I am sorry to say that whilst some of the questions were answered, questions on certain aspects of the amnesty which were put to me by ethnic group leaders and individuals concerned have not been answered. I sincerely hope and trust that in future the Minister will accommodate that request.
– by leave- My visit to Japan covered 9 days, from 5 to 13 February 1976. During that period I met with the Prime Minister, Mr Miki the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Fukuda, the Minister for International Trade and Industry, Mr Komoto the Minister for Agriculture and Forestry, Mr Abe, and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Miyazawa Other meetings were held with Government agencies, important gatherings of businessmen and several of Japan’s large trading companies.
The purpose of my visit was to explain the broad policies of the Australian Government to Japanese Ministers, officials and businessmen. It was not my intention to negotiate on specific issues, such as access to the Japanese market for particular agricultural products, or the terms of the contracts on which supplies of Australia’s natural resources will be made available to Japan.
My main objective was to remove any uncertainties Japan might have had about Australia’s overseas trading policies and to ensure that trading relations with our most important trading partner are put on the best possible basis. In this context, I discussed both access for, and supply of, all our exports to Japan.
As might be expected, the greatest attention was given to the recent development of Australia’s mineral resources, including our capacity to supply large quantities of basic raw materials to Japan in the future. Nevertheless, every opportunity was taken to stress the importance with which the Australian Government regards access into Japan for our agricultural commodities, which still make up about half of our total exports to Japan.
Discussions on minerals covered a wide range of subjects including coking coal and steaming coal, iron ore, uranium, liquid natural gas, liquid petroleum gas, salt and bauxite- alumina. A common thread running through these discussions was the question of the Government’s policies on the application of export controls to mineral exports. On this question of export controls, I provided the strongest assurance of Australia’s capacity, willingness and intention to provide, at fair and reasonable market prices, the minerals and energy resources Japan needs from Australia. I said that the Australian Government, like the Japanese Government, is committed to the private enterprise system. This means that the Government will be looking primarily to the private sector, in both Australia and Japan, to seek out trading opportunities, to find new resources, to marshal capital, to develop projects and their infrastructures and to negotiate and carry out contracts. However, I made it clear that it would be wrong to interpret this policy of the Australian Government as indicating a lack of interest in the activities of the private sector. If the Government sees the private sector acting in a way which it believes is not in the national interest of Australia it will act in an appropriate way. For example, if we believe that commercial arrangements made or being contemplated by Australian or Japanese interests, or any other country, are unsatisfactory from the point of view of Australia’s total interest we will not hesitate to step in. I said that the existing export control arrangements in relation to mineral exports will be retained. While we will be looking primarily to the private sector to carry on commercial negotiations and to make and perform the practical arrangements of our trade we will exercise surveillance over those activities and, if it should prove necessary, we will act to ensure that those activities do not prejudice Australia’s interests. The Government will not, however, act capriciously.
I held detailed discussions with the management of the Japanese steel industry, which is Australia’s most important customer for iron ore and coal. There is no doubt that the Japanese steel industry, like the world steel industry generally, has gone through a difficult period because of the reduced activity in steel-using industries, particularly in Japan where 70 per cent of Japan’s steel products are consumed. Japan’s export markets for basic steel products and steelusing manufactured products, on which the profitability of the industry depends so heavily, have also been subdued. The result has been a reduction in Japan’s production level to some 100 million tonnes of crude steel this year compared with an output of about 120 million tonnes 2 years ago. However, 1976, mainly in the latter half, is viewed as a year of recovery, with Japanese steel production expected to increase by 5 per cent to 10 per cent, with the prospects for 1977 being even better. The continuallyexpanding blast furnace construction programs being undertaken by the Japanese steel nulls is strong evidence that they are confident of the long term future of this industry. I was given a detailed statement of the construction program which indicates that the production capacity of the Japanese steel industry will exceed 150 million tonnes by 1980. This committed expenditure program reassured me of Japan’s capacity to absorb increasing tonnages of iron ore and coal from new projects in Australia.
Perhaps the issue which recurred most frequently in my discussions was Japanese concern about the future availability of coking coal to match Japan’s planned steel production program. In discussions at both Government and industry level emphasis was placed on the Australian Government’s attitude towards the development of new coking coal projects. I advised the Japanese that the Australian Government was keen to see these projects proceed subject only to the Government’s equity requirements being met and a market for the coal being demonstrated. I said that I wanted an assurance that there would be a capacity to take the increasing production that would come from the development of new Australian mines and I stressed that I did not want to see a situation where large-scale projects were being developed only to jeopardize existing coal-mining operations in Australia. As I have mentioned, the information subsequently provided to me during the visit assured me that the capacity will be there.
With regard to short-term considerations, the question of cutbacks in the import of coal was mentioned. Despite the long term prospects for coal, Japan does have an immediate problem in the current depressed state of the steel industry. I was very pleased to hear the steel mills reaffirm the undertaking given last July by Mr Inayama, Chairman of Nippon Steel, on behalf of the steel mills, that if there were any reduction in the manufacture of steel in Japan the Japanese would not reduce annual purchases committed under long term contracts of coking coal from Australia. With iron ore, it is expected that imports from Australia in the 12 months from
April 1976 should remain at least at about the same level as in the preceding 12 months. I made public my view that because of the nature, size and importance of our iron ore trade with Japan the position of the Australian iron ore suppliers should be given particular attention in times of reduction in the manufacture of steel. I added that I would look to the Japanese mills to ensure that at least minimum contract tonnages are accepted.
In the longer term, good opportunities exist to expand further our iron ore exports to Japan. It is necessary to recognize, however, that the iron ore market will continue to be very competitive, with the Japanese having already contracted ahead for a considerable proportion of their expected requirements. I suggested to both the Japanese Government and the steel industry that it would be to their economic advantage to purchase more of their iron ore requirements from Australia. I said that as the Japanese mills were prepared to take an increasing proportion of their future coal imports from Australia I should like to see the iron ore import ratio increase in harmony. I said that there were a number of additional iron ore projects in Western Australia which were ready to be brought into production but that this would depend on assured outlets for their output.
In discussions with the Electric Power Development Company and with Mr Komoto the Minister for International Trade and Industry , it was clear that Japan has a real interest, following the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries’ oil price increase, in importing significant tonnages of steaming coal for electricity generation. Mr Komoto indicated the possibility that imports could grow to up to 15 million tonnes per annum and that he saw Australia as a major source of supply. I indicated to the Japanese the mutual advantage to Japan and Australia of both steaming coal and coking coal projects developing together to meet Japan’s requirements. In respect of both coal and iron ore, the Japanese expressed a keen interest in having a small equity interest in new projects. I assured them that investment which conformed with the Government’s policy on foreign ownership would certainly be welcomed, particularly in the case of Japan because of its position as our major customer for many of our raw materials.
The Japanese Government recently announced a national energy policy aimed at reducing Japan’s very heavy dependence on oil and increasing significantly the share of nuclear energy and LNG in total energy consumption. I explained to Japanese Ministers and leaders of the nuclear industry that Australia is very conscious of its responsibilities to other countries less well endowed with energy resources and that, subject to the Government’s consideration of the report of the Ranger Uranium Environmental Enquiry, safeguards and other relevant Government policies, our very large resources of uranium would be a source for Japan of large and reliable supplies of this commodity. For their part, Japanese Ministers and industry leaders expressed the hope that Australia would become a major long term supplier of this vital energy resource to Japan. The Japanese shared my concern that uranium development be managed in a highly responsible fashion commensurate with the unique status of this material, and that it is in the mutual interest of producing and consuming countries alike that development and marketing be orderly.
The Japanese made it clear that their concern is not for immediate supplies, since they have already secured the bulk of their requirements of uranium until 1985. The desire is to be able to look with confidence to Australia as a major source of supply in the period after 1985. As regards the joint Japan/Australia uranium enrichment study agreed in November 1974, we confirmed that this should proceed. I told the Japanese Ministers and industry leaders that the Government would wish to see honoured those contracts for supply of uranium entered into prior to December 1972 and confirmed by the previous Government. I made the point that I would not want to see discrimination in regard to prices and related contractual conditions against Australian companies vis a vis other suppliers in a similar situation. Subject to satisfactory commercial renegotiation of previously approved contracts, I said that, where necessary, arrangements would be made with Australian companies for access to the Government’s uranium stockpile to meet early deliveries under those contracts.
As regards foreign investment, I cautioned that the Government must have special regard to this matter and that guidelines in regard to foreign investment in Australian uranium exploration and development would be announced shortly.
A question repeatedly raised by the Japanese at both government and industry level was the prospects of availability of LNG from Australia. Mr Komoto the Minister for International Trade and Industry, indicated that Japan’s present sources of imports clearly were going to fall short of Japan’s needs in the 1980s and that he felt there was an urgent need to develop the northwest shelf. Japan’s main concern on LNG was Australia’s attitude towards its export. I described the efforts we were making- in full cooperation with the Western Australian Government and the operating company- to reach an early decision on the various options open to us. I assured the Japanese that Australia looks to meeting some of their requirements from this project and would give most favourable consideration to some Japanese equity in the project if further overseas equity funds were required.
Japan repeated its concern about the measures Australia had taken to restrain certain imports, including our restrictions on imports of motor vehicles. I explained that the temporary import restraints had proved necessary because of serious disruption and severe unemployment caused by a flood of imports into Australia. I further explained that the measures were temporary and that they would be removed or relaxed when conditions permitted.
With regard to the difficulties in the way of our exports of agricultural products to Japan. I expressed to the Minister for Agriculture and Forestry, Mr Abe, our desire to see such imports placed on a predictable basis. I was assured by Mr Abe that the Japanese Government would make every effort to put beef imports on a more planned basis and to make longer term quota announcements than has been the case in recent times. Following my discussions with Mr Abe I am hopeful that, as from the commencement of the new fiscal year next April, the Japanese Government will issue beef import quotas on a 6 monthly basis.
I also stressed the importance of chilled beef to Australia. Mr Abe explained to me that, while Japan’s beef imports have recently been mainly of frozen beef, the Japanese Government will seek to increase the proportion of chilled beef in its import requirements. Before I left Japan, it was announced that a further 12 000 tonnes of chilled beef would be imported through to the. end of May this year. This will bring Japan’s imports of chilled beef to about 20 000 tonnes out of a total of 75 000 tonnes since the reopening of the import market last June. I took the opportunity to raise the question of the dominance of the Japanese Livestock Industry Promotion Corporation in the beef trade, and suggested that private trading concerns should be given greater opportunity to participate.
As for the longer term, I formed the impression that Japan will need to import considerably more beef from Australia than is reflected in Japanese official forecasts of domestic production and consumption. I am also convinced that the Japanese consumer wants Australian chilled beef and that the demand for it will grow.
Apart from beef, I spoke with Mr Abe about a number of other Japanese import barriers, many of which are long standing. These barriers include obstacles to our exports of butter, cheese, milk powder, fruits. In particular, I stressed the need for more predictability in our trade in dairy products and our desire to open up a market for apples and oranges in Japan. With regard to wool I was given an optimistic forecast by the Japanese wool textile industry for demand in the months ahead. In discussions about the Government’s intentions concerning the reserve price, I pointed out that 250c was the absolute minimum which would enable the Australian industry to remain viable and a stable supplier of wool.
I discussed with Mr Komoto the future of the Commerce Agreement between Japan and Australia which was signed in 1957 and last amended in 1963. It was recognised that the agreement had served both countries well in the past, but that with the passage of time it had become out of date, Mr Komoto agreed that we should take a fresh look at the agreement to ensure that it provides the best possible framework within which to develop future trade between Japan and Australia.
I was able to inform Japanese ministers that the Australian Government appreciated the Japanese Government’s desire for early conclusion of a basic treaty of friendship and cooperation and that we would do our best to meet that desire. I was also able to refer to the decision by the Government to proceed with legislation for the establishment of the Australia-Japan Foundation. During my visit, instruments of ratification to the Australia/Japan Cultural Agreement were exchanged with Japan.
I consider that the purpose of my visit was achieved. While it was too early to give full details of policies yet to be considered by the Government, the broad intent of our policies was explained and appreciated. The stage has now been set for the further development of economic relations to the mutual benefit of both countries.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) agreed to:
That the House take note of the paper.
Debate resumed from 19 February on motion by Mr Hunt:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Opposition, whilst agreeing with the bulk of the Bill, regrets the necessity to oppose it nonetheless because of a number of clauses it contains. I will not dwell on the points with which we agree because they are largely machinery matters and items that we anticipated would be necessary. In fact I think we tried to put some of them in the Act. I regret to say that whilst the present Government parties, the Liberal and National Country parties, were in Opposition their members opposed these items, namely, clause 4 and clause 7. 1 do not want to dwell for long on this matter and will deal simply with the few items to which we intend to object. If there were the time and inclination we would suggest to the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) that in our view the wisest thing would be to withdraw the Bill and re-draft it in order to cope with the objections we seek to discuss.
The first objection relates to clause 12, which seeks to increase to $2 the general patient contribution for pharmaceutical benefits and to remove the concession for subsidised health benefit plan beneficiaries. In simple terms it means that for reasons of economy, etc., while in government we increased the patient contribution for pharmaceutical benefits from $1 to $1.50. We did that in the last Budget.That was in the middle of last year. A patient saw a doctor, got a prescription and went to the chemist. The charge had been $1. We increased it to $1.50. Already the Government is seeking to increase it from $1.50 to $2.
– You are well supported. You have lost all your troops.
– I am not interested in support or lack of support from my troops. I am interested in discussing the issue which may, if you listen; be constructive even to members of the National Country Party.
Medibank seeks to make medical treatment freely available to all sections of the community, irrespective of their financial capacity to pay. The community has recognised that. The LiberalAustralian Country Party Government has recognised that. With all its huffing and puffing about opposing the legislation when we sought to introduce it in the first place, during the election campaign and since then the Liberal Party has indicated quite firmly that it intends to maintain Medibank. We may quibble about how well the Liberal Party will maintain Medibank, but it has accepted the principle. We believe that the community deserves the right to get the medical treatment it requires, irrespective of the financial resources of the individual patient. To put it another way, one does not deserve to be ill, so why should one be punished by having to pay for medical treatment? One presumably does not choose to be ill. Therefore, when one is sick, in our view, one is entitled to receive medical treatment. If one accepts that principle, clearly the imposition of an ever increasing charge for the drugs prescribed by a doctor to treat the illness for which one went to the doctor is in conflict with the basic principle enunciated in relation to Medibank.
I confess that we on this side of the House have not been without guilt either. We sought to continue the principle of charging a fee. We had a lengthy discussion about whether it should be raised from $ 1 to $ 1 .50. 1 feel that in view of the ever-persisting pressure to increase the cost of drugs the time has come when the Government should give consideration to overcoming this further financial obstacle to the sick in the community receiving medical care. It happens to be the Liberal Party now. If we were in government I feel it would have been time for us to give the same consideration to the matter. There is not much point someone on a low income going to see a doctor, because Medibank allows him to do so free of charge, and then get a prescription which will amount to a $2 bill if he cannot afford that. That aspect comes into the question because the following clauses, clauses 13 and 14, making consequential amendments to sections 87 and 99, remove the right which up until now has prevailed for people registered under the subsidised health benefits plan to receive their pharmaceutical benefits at a reduced charge. For some time it had been 50c. We increased it to 75c. Perhaps that was a mistake. We certainly did it. Now, in one fell swoop, the Government is seeking to abolish the whole concession so that the people which even this Government conceded required special help, hence the subsidised health benefits plan, will now be expected to pay the full sum for their prescriptions.
Once again we think it would be not unreasonable to withdraw the Bill or to take out those parts and rethink this matter so that the concession could remain. I think the whole community accepted the principle of a concession to people on lower incomes, to people on social security benefits of various sorts or to migrants after the first two or three months of their arrival in the country- I forget the period, but it is not very relevant. It applied to the short period after migrants arrived and were necessarily settling in and getting themselves a job. It was thought that if they became sick and required drugs they should be able to get them at a concessional rate. The Bill abolishes all those concessions. For these reasons we feel constrained to oppose the legislation. If the Minister withdrew it and redrafted it so that those controversial parts were removed we would certainly support the remainder. We certainly agree with the proposition that the overall subsidised health benefit plan should be abolished, because clearly its purpose is superseded by the implementation of Medibank which provides the medical care, without cost to people who could not afford it, that that plan sought to provide. I think that summarises the attitude of the Labor Party on this matter. We agree with many of the machinery matters, but we object to and will vote against the propositions which seek to raise the fee for prescriptions from $1.50 to $2 and the proposition that people in economic need should be denied the privilege which they have had up to now of getting their prescriptions for 75c. We object to their having to pay $2.
– I address my remarks to two parts of the Bill. The first is the part which abolishes subsidised health benefits. The second is the part that deals with the patient contribution increase from $1.50 to $2 for each item under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme. I wish to make some general comments later about that scheme as a whole. The subsidised health benefits plan, or SHB as it is commonly referred to, was instituted with a three-fold purpose, I believe. Firstly it was to assist with enrolment fees for medical services with a voluntary health insurance fund. Secondly it was to assist in a similar manner with enrolment fees for public ward hospital treatment with a voluntary health insurance fund. Thirdly it was to defray the cost of certain drugs and medicinal preparations under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme. Certain persons were eligible to receive such benefits. For the information of the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Dr Cass), it was for migrants in the first 2 months after their arrival in Australia. It was also for those in receipt of unemployment, sickness and special benefits and for certain low income families. One might generally put them into the group of disadvantaged people in our community.
The Commonwealth was actually enrolling these eligible persons with a voluntary health insurance fund during the period of their eligibility and was providing them with a certificate of entitlement from the Department of Social Security to allow them to receive pharmaceutical benefits items at half the cost to the general public. These people were notified in various ways. Migrant groups were advised through native language pamphlets or through embassies. They applied to the Department of Social Security. Unemployment and sickness benefit recipients and special benefit recipients were notified and were issued with a certificate by the Department of Social Security when they were awarded a benefit. Low income groups were informed by publicity campaigns, by the voluntary health insurance funds, by Commonwealth Employment Service officers and by social workers. Unfortunately the subsidised health benefit plan did not work as it was originally intended, when introducing this scheme in 1970 the then Minister for Health, Dr A. J. Forbes, stated that it was to be available to an estimated 100 000 families or 300 000 individuals. There was an extension in June 1970 to provide for a further 84 000 families or over 250 000 individuals to be catered for under the scheme. But unfortunately, as the 1974-75 annual report of the Department of Social Security indicates, the scheme was not working very well because only about one-third of those eligible were actually participating in it.
The Minister made reference in his second reading speech to the fact that Medibank renders the subsidised health benefits plan as it relates to hospital and medical benefits redundant. I think no one could dispute this point. He made the comment that for pharmaceutical benefit: purposes the scheme was no longer justified and made the point that the value of the benefits payable amounted to only $700,000 per annum although the scheme cost $1.3m per annum to administer. I am curious about this matter. I know that the Minister, who is a good Minister, will no doubt look into the other administrative costs within his Department. I would be interested to know how the $1.3m was assessed. Clearly it would not be an easy matter to pull ‘out the figure of $ 1.3m as the cost of administering this subsidised health benefits plan. If this figure is correct surely this will be the cue for the Minister to look into other areas of his Department as no doubt he is already doing.
In effect the Bill says that all people now will pay $2 per item for a pharmaceutical benefit prescription. This proposal is unfortunate for people on low incomes, recipients of unemployment and sickness benefits and new migrants. I will concede that under Medibank people treated as outpatients in .public hospitals get free pharmaceuticals but they have to see a doctor at that hospital and, of course, have the dispensing done at that hospital pharmacy. The objection I raise is that there will be a loss of freedom of choice for the individual. People must, of course, attend a public hospital and receive the pharmaceuticals from that public hospital. It is regrettable that such an arrangement must come about in the free enterprise system that we support. I would say in a mild way that it is a backward step, albeit a small one.
I want to direct my main comments to the increase of the patient contribution from $ 1 .50 to $2 per item. This is the amendment of greatest consequence in the Bill. I think it is necessary first of all to research the scheme. If one does this I think that one will find that the original concept is being lost at the moment. I think that the honourable member for Maribyrnong made reference to this. But the fact is- and the honourable member admits this- that the previous Labor Government of which he was a member also increased the charge from $1 to $1.50 per item. It is my contention that patients will avoid this scheme. In many instances they will avoid getting the necessary health care, particularly those families in the low income and disadvantaged area that I mentioned earlier. Surely the scheme is not serving the purpose that it should if people deprive themselves of proper health care because the cost is too great.
If we look at the period between the birth of the scheme in the 1940s and November 1959 we find that no charge was made at all during this time for a general benefit. At the end of 1959 legislation was introduced to, provide for a charge of 5s per item. I think that I should emphasise that at the same time the scheme was considerably widened to provide many more drugs and medicinal preparations to the public and, of course, that meant a greater and better scheme for the general public. I guess the reason for the patient contribution being required was the escalating costs. No doubt this motivated the previous Government to increase the contribution from $ 1 to $ 1 .50 as is the case now when it is proposed to increase contribution from $1.50 to $2.
The introduction of the 50c charge was strongly opposed by the Labor Opposition of the day. This opposition was re-stated in the 1963 policy speech of Mr Calwell who was then the Leader of the Opposition. I remind the honourable member for Maribyrnong, who is the shadow Minister for Health, of this point. The patient contribution was increased by 100 per cent to $1 in September 1971. It was then, of course, increased by a further 50 per cent to $1.50 only 6 months ago in September 1975. I want to relate the patient contributions to the cost per item. I think it is very important to look at this relationship since the inception of the scheme. Prior to 1959 there was a nil contribution by the public. In 1959-60 there was an average item cost of $1.86 and 50c or 27 per cent of that was covered by the patient contribution. In 1971-72, the average cost per item was $2.45 and the public was then required to pay $ 1 or some 41 per cent of that cost. In 1974-75 the average cost was $2.85 with the patient contributing $1.50 or 53 per cent of the cost per item. Although the average cost at the moment is $3.05, the deletion of certain items obviously will mean that the average cost will go up. I estimate that the average cost will be in the vicinity of $3.25. It is proposed that the patient will pay $2 or 62 per cent of that amount. So the patient’s contribution has gone from nil to some twothirds of the average cost of an item.
I think that the whole concept of the scheme has been changed. It is time that the scheme was overhauled. Of course, no charge has been made in respect of pensioners in the Bill we are considering. But one might surely ask: Where is this scheme heading? I firmly believe that a patient contribution is essential. Any service that is provided free at the point of delivery will be abused. I think that there are certain aspects of Medibank, such as bulk billing, that at the moment are causing the scheme to be grossly abused. Therefore I am strongly in favour of a patient contribution at the point of delivery. But what of the low income earner? What of the family with one or more members suffering from chronic illness? I have seen such families as no doubt has the honourable member for Maribyrnong. I refer to people with two or three children who suffer from, say, asthma. Medibank takes care of the doctor’s fee. If the doctor bulk bills, of course, the patient can visit the doctor as often as he or she likes at no cost. But if the doctor does not bulk bill the patient has to bear something of the order of $ 1 a visit. For example, take the case of a family which has 2 children suffering from a chronic illness. The visit to the doctor costs nothing or perhaps $2. Their doctor might prescribe an antihistamine, an antibiotic, a decongestant mixture and perhaps a spray for an asthmatic patient. Therefore the visit involves 4 items for each patient. The family with such patients would be required to purchase 8 items at $2 a time. As a result the family has to pay $16. Such a charge is beyond the means of many families. The supply of” these preparations may run out in a week or 10 days and the patient is required to go back to his chemist for a repeat. Therefore a family could be up for another $10 to $12 in a week to 10 da) s’ time.
It is all very well for the bureaucrats to say that the doctor has an authority that he can call on, that he can apply for an authority to prescribe an amount of the drug for the patient, that the patient is entitled to a month’s supply and 2 repeats. But the hard, cold facts of the matter are that in many instances doctors do not apply for the authority. I have known doctors to tell the patient: ‘Go and talk to your chemist about it or go and talk to someone in the department’. This is the attitude taken not by all but by some of the medicos who will not take the time to apply for the authorities for these special patients. There is a problem. What is its solution? I believe that far too many ad hoc decisions are being taken and too many ad hoc measures are being introduced. Surely the aim of the Government is a saving in cost. Whereas the cost is important, the health and the welfare of the nation are of paramount importance.
The pharmaceutical benefits scheme should be totally overhauled. I suggest that the Government work with the Pharmacy Guild of Australia. After all it comprises the people who are in close contact with the public and is administering the scheme at the patient level. The Pharmacy Guild has men and women with great expertise in this field who could combine with the Government and officials of the Department of Health as a working party on restructuring the scheme. The Guild is an untapped source of information. It is a respectable body of people. Its members are people of integrity and of considerable professional capacity. I propose for the Minister’s consideration, and I hope for the consideration of the suggested working party- I have discussed this type of proposal with a number of medicos- a division of the scheme. There could be a section, as there is now, for pensioners, who would not be charged; another section for children and people who are plagued by a chronic illness; then perhaps a further section for the ordinary people. In the main, the ordinary people perhaps can afford a greater contribution than those disadvantaged groups I mentioned previously.
The increasing cost of the scheme is obviously worrying the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt), the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) and the Government. No doubt it was of great concern to the previous Labor Administration. Of course, one has to expect a cost increase with this scheme. After all, one can attribute the increased cost to greater usage of the scheme, a widening choice of drugs on the list of benefits, inflation continually pushing prices higher and higher and, of course, population growth. At the moment, chemists are most unhappy with the remuneration they are receiving for their services. The Minister has informed me that a conference between the Minister, his departmental officers and representatives of the Pharmacy Guild is planned for March. The pharmacists are surely entitled, as is any section in our community, to a fair fee for service. I do not believe they are getting it. I do not believe thay have been getting it for a long time.
An inquiry commenced in 1972, when the Liberal and Country Parties were in government- Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson was Minister for Health- into the earnings, costs and profits of pharmacists. The results of that inquiry were tabled in the Senate last June. The Joint Committee on Pharmaceutical Benefits Pricing Arrangements, which conducted the inquiry, comprised 4 representatives of the Government and 4 representatives of the Pharmacy Guild plus Sir Walter Scott as the independent chairman. It deliberated for many months, but the chairman’s recommendations were not adhered to by our predecessors in government. It was quite clearly claimed that any dispute as a result of the findings of that Committee was to be put to arbitration and that the result of the arbitration was to be binding on both parties. I believe that the Pharmacy Guild is prepared to go to arbitration on the matter in dispute. I hope the Government will see fit to do likewise.
The Labor Government refused to accept the findings of the committee of inquiry and paid, I think, 1 lc retrospective fee increase per item for 1973- 74 instead of 32c, and 22c increase instead of 47c per item for 1974-75. 1 believe that something like $43 m is still owing to pharmacists throughout this country for the 1973-74 and 1974- 75 financial years. It is the duty of this Government to open negotiations with the Pharmacy Guild in an endeavour to resolve this matter of fair remuneration for service. Whatever is resolved on the issue of the $43m owing to pharmacists, at least a new fee basis should be established for the next and ensuing years with provision for updating of the fees. There should surely be no repetition of the fee fiasco that we have seen over many years now.
I implore the Minister to study the Scott report and to investigate it, particularly the reference to economic and uneconomic pharmacies. If all the uneconomic pharmacies are phased out there will be countless thousands of Australians without a pharmaceutical service in their area. I think the Minister is well aware of the situation in his own expansive electorate of Gwydir. Hundreds of people in smaller towns will be disadvantaged. I have with me a letter written by Mr Rushbrooke of Moree, which is in the Minister’s electorate, concerning a pharmacy at Collarenebri, a pleasant township of some 1000 people which is outside the Minister’s electorate. I understand that Collarenebri was devastated by floods in recent times and is still in difficult circumstances at the moment. Mr Rushbrooke is a part owner of Dash’s Pharmacy in Moree. He cannot sell the pharmacy. Obviously it is not viable. It is one of the uneconomic pharmacies. What of the 1000 people in the township and the people living around the town? Mr Rushbrooke wrote:
I wish to stress that I am not in any way seeking to improve my own position, if the shop had to be closed I could merely transfer the stock to Moree and suffer no financial loss myself.
However, I am concerned for the population of Collarenebri who would be severely disadvantaged by such a move.
If a subsidy could be paid by the Federal Government to isolated pharmacists in towns like Collarenebri then perhaps more pharmacists would be willing to give it a try.
This is a prime illustration of an uneconomic pharmacy giving a vital service to a country town. It is interesting to note that doctors received increases of 1 80 per cent in their fees for pensioners from 1960 to 1974.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-I support the remarks of the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Dr Cass), who is the shadow Minister for Health. I will not go over the ground which he has covered but I would like to make a couple of comments on what the honourable member for Petrie (Mr Hodges) said and then put my own views to the Minister, who is new to his Department and I hope, still receptive to views even if they come from the Opposition side. I will concentrate on the question of pharmaceutical benefits. The honourable member for Petrie opposed most of the suggested amendments to the National Health Bill. I join with him in some of his opposition but I am in 2 minds about the whole thing and I would like to raise the matter with him. Perhaps the Minister will consider my comments when next the question of pharmaceutical benefits has to be considered or when a reference has to be given to the appropriate committee which decides what substances should be on the pharmaceutical benefits list for non-pensioners. The Government in its policy speech, or at least in the speech delivered last week by the Governor-General, emphasised- I spoke about this yesterday in the debate on the Address-in-Reply- that if there is a certain amount of money to spend and there is a shortage of money, as at present, the Government should concentrate on those in real need. I completely agree with that. I think that in this matter the Government is not concentrating on that aspect of real need.
I am referring now to the abolition of the subsidised health benefits plan for the purposes of the pharmaceutical benefits. Admittedly the figures cited by the Minister- I cannot check on them- disclose that it costs $1.3m a year to administer the system compared with a value of benefits amounting to $700,000. Obviously this seems wrong. At the same time there is the point that a charge of $2 per necessary prescription- I emphasise the word ‘necessary’- for a person who would have qualified for a benefit of 50c is a significant amount of money. It may not mean much to us and it may not mean much to a person even on average weekly earnings, but to those people in real need it does mean a lot. A person on unemployment benefits, a person with a few kids who have a tendency to contract respiratory tract infections or asthma, is in a position where every time he goes to a doctor he gets a number of prescriptions. He gets tablets and medicines. He may get three or four prescriptions per patient, in which case we are talking about $6 or $8 that these people have to pay instead of $1.50.
Some way ought to be found to enable them to get it at no cost, or very cheaply. The honourable member for Petrie criticised the proposition that these people were forced to go to outpatient departments at hospitals to get medicine free. I think it is in some ways worse than that. I have no strong views about them going to outpatients departments at hospitals.
They may for medical reasons be better off going there than going to see a doctor privately, in any case, but the difficulty is that many of them are not aware of the fact that they can get a prescription at the outpatients department of a local hospital at no cost or for a nominal charge.
We are talking in this debate about saving a total of $2m, $700,000 being the actual value of benefits and an amount of $ 1.3m being involved in the administration of the system. I have opened the current edition of the book Pharmaceutical Benefits for December 1975 at page 86. I will just read out the prices of substances that we are now talking about. They relate to the value of the maximum quantity dispensed. It is a good page from my point of view. My point does in fact apply to quite a number of pages in this book. The prices shown are: $2.15; $2.17; $2.17; $2.84; $1.97; $1.97; $1.71; $1.96 and $1.97. It can be seen that they are all about the $2 mark. In relation to some substances on the list, there is obviously no point in having them on the socalled free medicine list for other people, apart from pensioners who will be getting them at no cost, because the benefit people will be getting is of the order of 15c, 17c or 84c. In some cases there is no benefit at all. Yet the cost of administering the benefit for those substances must be much more than that per prescription. There ought to be some instruction- I do not know whether an instruction can be given- or some suggestion to the committee advising the Minister possibly to put substances of that sort on a restricted basis for pensioners only so that the patient is not kidded into believing that he is getting free medicine.
There is a second point about that and a tendency by doctors that I want to refer to. The page I referred to in this book is not just an arbitrary one. Let me refer to the next page. I will read out the prices for these substances. Bear in mind that the price refers always to the maximum quantity dispensed. The prices are: $1.91; $1.97; $2.03; $2.09; $2.15; $2.21; $2.24; $2.32; $2.37; $2.45; $ 1 .96 and $ 1 .84. A person has to pay $2 anyway. The fact is that he will be paying $2 instead of $2.2 1. 1 am sure that the cost to the chemist plus the cost to the Department must be greater than 2 lc. The chemist will have to wait a month or so to get his 21c, having collected $2 from the patient. So it seems hardly worth while having these substances on the list.
Coming back to the other point that I feel very strongly about, people who have been here before this session know my views on excessive treatment by medical practitioners. This applies not only to surgery matters, which I often talk about, but also to this question of prescriptions. There is a tendency on the part of doctors to write out prescriptions for substances which are on the free list much more frequently than is really necessary. This is an important point to remember. There is a tendency- I am sure I did it myself when I was in medical practice- to write out 2 prescriptions when one would have been enough or sometimes give 2 prescriptions when none was necessary because the doctor vaguely says to the patient: ‘ Well, it is on the free list anyway ‘. But, firstly, it is not on the free list as far as the country is concerned and, secondly, it is not on the free list or anywhere near the free list as far as the patient is concerned because he is paying $2 for it. So I think it is important for us to think about what kind of substances should be on the pharmaceutical benefits list. Is it worth while having on the list all these other substances which are very close to the $2 mark. There are some below the $2 mark and I assume they will be eliminated anyway. Is it worth while keeping on the list the ones just above the $2 mark?
The only argument that I can see against that proposition is that the Department of Health has been extremely efficient in keeping down the cost of pharmaceutical substances that are on this list. It has strong bargaining power because there is a great attraction for the pharmaceutical manufacturer to get his product on this list because the doctor has this book in front of him and he is much more likely to prescribe something that is in this book than something that is not in the book. Therefore there will be a risk or a danger in removing some of the substances which at present are held at, let us say, $2.17 in that when that pressure on the manufacturer and on the chemist is removed the patient will not be charged $2.17; he will have to pay over the $3 mark, or even higher, because there will be no restriction, I assume. There is no price control. It is purely competitive and the competition is not that great among substances which are not on the pharmaceutical benefits list.
I hope the Minister treats this in the spirit in which I am putting it and that he looks at the list. It is terribly important that nobody in this country is denied medical treatment that he, she or the child needs, for financial reasons only. That is terribly important. It is also important that we do not waste money and, possibly even worse than that, treat people with medicines which are unnecessary and are probably even harmful in many cases when given to the patient. This is one way in which the Government can intervene. It does not intervene directly, but it does in effect intervene by making certain things less attractive to the doctor, to the pharmacist and to the patient at large. As the honourable member for Maribyrnong pointed out, we shall be opposing only 2 sections of this Bill. We support the rest of the legislation.
-I rise briefly in this debate to lend the support of the National Country Party to the program outlined by the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt). At the outset it is pertinent to recall what the Minister said in his second reading speech. I believe that we of the National Country Party and the Liberal Party should be able to look forward to the support of the Australian Labor Party on the thrust that was contained in the opening remarks of the Minister. The Minister was quite explicit in his remarks wherein he stated that the objective of these amendments is primarily to ease the pressing economic situation which the Government inherited from the Labor Party last December. It is therefore necessary to let the Australian people know that one of the principal reasons for the 50c increase in patient contributions to pharmaceutical benefits was the financial insanity of the previous occupiers of the Treasury bench. The necessity for the increase is regretted but, left with a heritage of irresponsibility, the Government finds it absolutely necessary to prune expenditure where it is able to be pruned.
The increase of 50c takes into account the ability of people to pay and the wish of the Government to exercise economic restraint. Whilst we all deplore the need to increase the contribution, in the light of the tremendous increases in the average adult wage over the past 3 years I believe that the increased contribution will not be an undue burden or a great hardship. It is true that people who require regular prescriptions and who need many different types of drugs will find the sum total oppressive but by and large the majority of Australians do not spend unlimited money on drugs unless it is necessary. Of course, certain people are exceptions to that statement.
I want to refer to a comment made by the honourable member for Petrie (Mr Hodges). Those of us who were fortunate enough to listen to his address certainly learnt a lot about the problems of the pharmaceutical profession. Indeed this debate has certainly been improved by airing the problems of the pharmaceutical profession in this public forum. It is also worthy of note that the present Minister for Health, unlike previous Ministers for Health, has seen fit to have had a detailed study made of the position of pharmacists. I understand from correspondence I have had with him- I know that he has corresponded with many other honourable members from both sides of the House- that he plans to meet representatives of the pharmaceutical profession in the near future, to listen to their point of view. Those of us who know his great application and dedication to a particular task will realise that he will be only too pleased, if he is convinced of the merit of their representations, to make sure that those representations are considered in a spirit of help and compromise so that, as the honourable member for Petrie said, pharmacists who have not had an increase and who are faced with updated costs in the highly inflationary spiral will have some incentive to continue in their chosen way of life.
Previous speakers from the Opposition side have made much play of the withdrawal of the subsidised health benefits plan. I believe that it is absolutely essential to consider the subsidised health benefits plan in the overall health and social security strategy of the present Government. It appears to me to be quite inappropriate in an overall package to retain small isolated areas of benefits when the costs of administration exceed the benefits that are gained. Let us look at some of the points that have been raised. People who were unemployed found that by the time the necessary procedures were completed they were back at work. It seems to me to be an eminently practical argument to advance that when there are outpatients’ clinics at hospitals people who are unemployed and who have nothing else to do all day should be asked to go to the local hospital to obtain their free prescriptions and medicines. Time is not an essential and vital part of their existence. I believe that the Minister, in advancing that argument in his second reading speech, has shown himself to be a realist. He realises that people who are unemployed have time on their hands and consequently can go and collect their free hospital prescriptions. The Government is not making these essential drugs and prescriptions unavailable to them; it is just providing a different situation.
As has been mentioned, migrants were covered for only 2 months anyway. I understand that the time factor involved in the administration often meant that they were no longer legally entitled to free prescriptions. Therefore I make the simple statement that the purpose of this Bill is to tidy up bad housekeeping by the previous Administration. We heard much chatter about what the Labor Government was doing in health and social security matters but one of the first acts of the new Minister was to get out the broom and sweep up the untidy house which the Australian Labor Party left.
It is worth pointing out that the benefits are still available to repatriation and other pensioners. I want to take the opportunity in this debate to lay to rest once and for all some of the deliberate untruths and mischievous lies which the
Labor Party seems intent on spreading throughout the length and breadth of Australia concerning the Government’s attitude towards pensioners. The Liberal-National Country Party Government is a most humane government which is determined that the pensioners- the trail-blazers and pathfinders of yesteryear- will live in dignity. It believes that these people have a right to expect from society a contribution in return for their magnificent self-sacrifice and example over so many years.
-Order! I ask the honourable member to resume his seat for a minute. I let his remark about deliberate lies go past, wrongly, while I checked the Standing Orders. I suggest that deliberate dishonesty as applied to a party is unparliamentary. I call the honourable member for Darling Downs.
– Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for drawing that matter to my attention. I was unaware of it but I thank you for your great courtesy and thought. I want to make the point that the pensioners of Australia can be assured that under this legislation they will not be missing out on anything at all and that they will be a lot better off under this Government because it will control inflation. Their dollar- the Government intends to increase the pension twice a year anyway- will go a lot further.
I deal now with the third point in the Bill, the tidying up of the hospital section of the National Health Act which is contained in Part V. Obviously this should have been dealt with when the previous legislation was introduced. That is indicative of the patchwork quilt attitude of the then Minister. The Australian Government will now reinburse to the States and hospitals the sum of $16 a day under this legislation whereas previously $2 a day was reimbursed under subsection 46 ( 1 ) of the Act in respect of patients who were contributors to a registered hospital benefits organisation. If this amendment had not been brought forward by the Minister the Australian Government would have had to pay $ 1 8 a day in respect of such people. Additionally, the sum of 80c a day for uninsured patients in approved hospitals will no longer be paid because Medibank has taken over responsibility for these payments.
For the sake of those people who for their own reasons desire to continue as members of medical benefits funds I hope that the Minister will be able to give added publicity to the fact that now it will be necessary for these people, if they wish to have the same amount of financial cover, to increase their contributions to their medical benefits fund and so avoid the situation where people go into hospital and then unfortunately find that they are not covered for the amount which they thought they would be covered for and have to pay the extra $2 a day themselves.
It is appropriate to point out the savings to the Federal and State Governments under the proposals outlined in this Bill. The savings are estimated to be $ 12m in a full year to the Australian Government and $5m in a full year to the State Governments by virtue of the fact that payments will be made in accordance with a particular formula. All in all, on behalf of the National Country Party I advise that we fully support the thrust and aims of this legislation. We regret that the necessity was forced upon us to take this action basically because of the inability of the previous Administration to introduce good legislation through being very slap-happy in its attitude and its inability to control the Australian economy. As a result we have found it most necessary to save money where we believe it can be saved and in this instance we are taking action largely because the benefits are not consistent with the high cost of administering the present scheme.
-First of all I would like to thank the speakers who have taken part in this debate for the constructive contributions they have made to it. The honourable member for Maribyrnong (Dr Cass) appealed to the Government to withdraw and redraft this legislation in the light of his Party’s opposition to clause 12 of the Bill which provides for an increase of 50c in the patient contribution under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme and the removal of the 75c concession for those on subsidised benefits. Of course, this will not apply to eligible pensioners. However, since this measure is one of the results of the general economic review undertaken by this Government we are unable to do what the honourable member suggests. The Government has announced that savings of $24m will be made in this pharmaceutical contribution area and of about $14m in the pharmaceutical benefits area. So the Government is unable at the present time to give consideration to that proposition.
As I said in my second reading speech, in the present economic situation the Government has found it necessary to consider all available means of reducing government expenditure. This Bill sets out to amend the National Health Act to implement certain decisions taken after the Government’s review of expenditure in the public sector, and the provisions in the Bill were broadly announced on 4 and 6 February. No Minister likes to put forward as his first piece of legislation a Bill imposing additional charges on people but, as I said earlier, this Bill results from the problem which the Government has inherited. We were facing an overall deficit of $4,700m and the Government in its wisdom sought to review spending in the public sector in all departments. As a consequence this legislation is before us.
The other purpose of the legislation is to remove certain redundant provisions of the National Health Act, and I refer principally to the payment of 80c a day in respect of uninsured patients in approved hospitals, the $5 a day payable in respect of pensioners in public hospitals and the $2 a day payable in cases where the hospital does not raise a charge for a patient. The total cost of those 3 items in a full year is somewhere between $54,000 and $60,000. Of course there is then the administrative problem created by leaving such redundant provisions in legislation. The honourable member for Petrie (Mr Hodges) made a very valuable contribution to the debate and I have noted the views that he has outlined. He mentioned the free issue of pharmaceutical lines at the outpatients’ departments in public hospitals. As he probably knows, this provision is cost-shared with the States under the hospitals’ Medibank agreements with the States, and the Medibank Review Committee will be looking at the area that the honourable member has mentioned in carrying out a comprehensive review of the operations of Medibank. He also mentioned pharmacists and I know that as a pharmacist he has a very special knowledge of this area. He acknowledged that I will be conferring with the Pharmacy Guild of Australia on 10 and 1 1 March, a 2-day meeting to discuss an agenda of matters with the Guild, particularly the outstanding matters that have been concerning the Guild membership for some time.
I thank the honourable member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh) for his contribution and his compliments to me. He argued strongly for the deletion of the subsidised items under the pharmaceutical benefits plan and I think he was on sound ground because of the anomaly that would have existed had we left the situation as it was. I want to relate in more detail to the House why the Government felt it necessary to remove this provision. The subsidised health benefits plan was introduced on 1 January 1970 to provide free hospital and medical insurance to people who would suffer hardship in the payment of contributions. These people include those on unemployment, sickness or special benefits paid under the Social Services Act, migrants during their first 2 months in Australia and families on low incomes. Assessment of eligibility under the subsidised health benefits plan and the issue of SHB entitlement certificates are carried out by the Department of Social Security, not the Department of Health, in respect of all these groups with the exception of migrants whose certificates are issued by the Department of Immigration.
The $1.3m cost of administering the subsidised health benefits plan is met by the Department of Social Security which carries out assessments of the beneficiaries and issues the SHB certificates. Although the $1.3m administrative costs could be justified if the administrative machinery was required for the full range of benefits which were previously provided under the full SHB plan which, prior to Medibank, included medical and hospital benefits, they cannot now be justified in respect of the patient contribution concession on pharmaceutical benefits alone. The amount of $ 1.3m would be sufficiently accurate as these costs can be identified with the Department of Social Security.
There is another reason why it was felt necessary that this situation should be covered. There are some basic shortcomings in the present subsidised health benefits plan. For example, in many cases the entitlement for benefits is not clear cut at the time at which the application for benefits under the plan is made and there can be consequent delays in finalising the assessment and issue of a subsidised health benefits certificate. In some cases, especially for unemployment and sickness beneficiaries, this has resulted in beneficiaries receiving their entitlement certificates very late in the eligibility period and even after the expiration of the eligibility period. Hence the patient is not able to avail himself of the reduced patient contribution concession for pharmaceutical benefits at the time he most needs it. I think most of us who have been in the House for some time have had representations made to us by people in our electorates who have complained of that very fact. There are no provisions in the National Health Act for retrospective adjustments of the patient contribution to be made, nor is it considered to be practical to incorporate such provisions in the legislation.
The details of the number of prescriptions for each of the last 3 years for the SHB beneficiaries and the estimate for the 1 975-76 year prior to the proposed amendments are as follows: 1972-73, 448 000; 1973-74, 595 000; 1974-75, 883 000; and the estimate for this year is about 920 000. When that figure is compared with the current total annual prescription volume, which is in excess of 100 million, it can be seen that the number of SHB prescriptions is not as important as it might appear to be on the surface, although in four or five years the number of prescriptions in that area has doubled.
The honourable member for Petrie I think also suggested that there should be a review of the whole pharmaceutical benefits scheme. I think it is necessary to understand that the present pharmaceutical benefits scheme is costing the Australian taxpayer and the Australian Government $250m. The cost has risen to that figure quite alarmingly, in my view, in the last five or six years. One would be inclined to think that the doctors and the patients are having a rattling good time dispensing pills. If we look at the total cost of the scheme at present and consider that the patients themselves will be contributing $2 towards the cost of a prescription, I think we can see that the time has come when there is a need for a review of the whole plan. I want to assure the honourable member for Petrie that I have already put in process a departmental review to examine the whole area and to provide policy options to the Government.
It appears to me that no one section of the community is happy with the pharmaceutical benefits plan. I have just mentioned the rising public expenditure involved in it. The pharmacists are not happy with their dispensing fees. The pharmaceutical manufacturing companies are not happy with the prices that the Department establishes for the items on the list. But in my view the Government has to adopt a basic position, and that is to ensure, firstly, that the system provides drugs essential to life and the welfare of every person regardless of his financial position, secondly, that pharmaceutical items are of the highest quality- I am sure that the Department of Health has done a tremendous job in that area- thirdly, that they are available at a reasonable price- nobody can claim that the Department of Health has not done a good job in that area- and, fourthly, there is also the necessity for the maintenance of a viable pharmaceutical manufacturing industry which has sufficient resources to carry out research and to keep pace with the needs of the community. In that context I would hope that in the not too distant future the Industries Assistance Commission will be bringing down its report on the pharmaceutical manufacturing industry. It is against that background that I hope that the review will be conducted. The honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) mentioned the danger of overprescribing by doctors and the danger of over use of drugs by patients. He also pointed to the problem that could occur if the list is shortened too much. That could result in increased costs of items that are not on the list but which are probably necessary for general health care. I believe that all factors need to be taken into account in looking at the alternatives that will be available to the Government in relation to the pharmaceutical benefits plan. I just want to make it clear that the Government has to proceed with this legislation. I repeat that it is a product of the general review that was undertaken by the Government a few weeks ago when it was found necessary to consider all available means of reducing government expenditure. I want to make it clear once again that it will not affect eligible pensioners, that is those holding a pensioners medical benefits entitlement card. They will not be charged for their pharmaceutical benefits, and there will be no charge for repatriation prescriptions. I think that point needs to be made very clear.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker-Mr G. O’H. Giles)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 1 1- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 12 to 14- by leave- taken together.
-These are the specific measures for which we sought the cooperation of the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) in withdrawing from the Bill; we agree with the bulk of the Bill. I should like to make a couple of comments because of some of the remarks that were made after I spoke previously. I offer one tip to the Government apropos the cost of drugs and the claim by the pharmaceutical companies that they are having a very hard financial time. It strikes me that it would be tactically unwise for the Government to sell the drug company that was purchased during the term of the Labor Government. The point of the exercise was not to produce all the drugs that the country wants and put every other drug company out of business any more than the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories have done that in the area in which it has expertise. But the point is that it will permit the Department of Health to better advise the Government on the real cost of pharmaceuticals in this country. We found, and I am sure the Government will find the same, that it was exceedingly difficult to find out the real cost to the drug firms. So that is a tip which has nothing specific to do with these clauses other than it relates in the long term to the cost of drugs to the Australian community. Again we wish to emphasise that we too were troubled by these particular proposals. I do not know how we would have decided the issue, but we wish to register our objection to increasing the charge to patients who go to see a doctor, get medical treatment for nothing or next to nothing, depending on whether the doctor bulk bills and does not get his rebate or so on. But for all practical purposes Medibank has removed the bugbear of medical costs- then we burden patients as was very eloquently illustrated by an honourable member from the Minister’s own side of the chamber- the honourable member for Petrie (Mr Hodges). He beautifully illustrated the burden which can finish up being placed on the patient.
Much has been made of the enormous increase in the cost of drugs to the community and the increasing number of prescriptions written by doctors. We talk about over-usage, but I would like to make the point that patients cannot overuse the system; it is the doctors, because patients cannot write their own prescriptions. If there are too many prescriptions it is because doctors are choosing to write them. Again if one looks basically at the whole question of medical care and what we are seeking to do, accepting the way in which the Minister and the honourable member for Petrie put the case, I think, they would concede the principle that anyone who is ill should have a right to medical care irrespective of capacity to pay. That being the case, I think that for too long we have separated medical care in terms of the doctor’s treatment or consultation from the drugs which are an integral part of the treatment. If we accept the proposition that through Medibank the Government in essence bears the burden of the medical fee and collects the funds to pay the doctors via taxation of one sort or another, or a levy, if the Government so chooses, then why not accept the same principle for pharmaceutical benefits? In other words, let us stop the false division. Let us consider it all as medical treatment. Let us find the extra funds that are necessary to pay for the drugs in the same way as we find the money to pay the doctors for the treatment they provide because in essence the drugs are still treatment provided by doctors. The actual material is supplied by chemists and pharmaceutical firms, but the treatment still depends on the doctor. In that sense I think the Government would be wise to reassess the whole scheme. Any alternative which seeks to impose some sort of restraint on patients using drugs is going to fail because it is not up to the patients; it is up to the doctors.
I suggest that if honourable members are interested they might read some articles which appeared in the New York Times recently which discussed the rip-off in medical services and fees paid by the community, and, I might suggest, inadequate standards of medical care. All these issues were discussed in the New York Times early this year, in some depth and, I suggest, with some anger. It discussed the way the medical profession itself is more often than we have ever cared to admit in the past, responsible for these gross abuses in the system. I think that these are the sorts of things the Government’s review needs to look towards. I am sure that if we were still in government we would have the same difficulty that the present Government is encounteringthe cry of abuse of the system of Medibank itself, of over-treatment and so on. Sure, the patient decides to go to the doctor, and it may well be that in many cases the doctor decides that the patient has not got anything physically wrong with him; the problem is that he is neurotic. But that is still an illness. I am neurotic and I bet that the Minister is too. There are occasions when you feel that you are ill and you want and seek medical advice. You are reassured that you are not going to drop dead tomorrow, that you have not got cancer of the lung, and that it is really just a cold. That is the reassurance you deserve and that is a legitimate function that the doctor is performing. All of us, including doctors, are in that position.
For these reasons I hesitate to suggest that patients institute unnecessary medical care. My point is, and I think this is borne out by those articles in the New York Times, that once the patient gets to the doctor there is then a danger on the whole fee for service concept that doctors may institute unnecessary medical treatment. They may get the patient to come back more frequently than is required. In a way, the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) conceded this sort of point himself. He said that at times he felt that he had over-prescribed. That is the point I wish to make. I think the fee for service concept is the motivation behind this overusage by doctors. Maybe we are entering into a deeper philosophical argument and we can pursue it some other time; but I am sure we need to assess these things when we look into the cost of the pharmaceutical benefits scheme. I think it ought to be abolished. I think it ought to be seen as part of medical treatment. Then we face up to the problem of how to ensure that there is no over-usage of the medical services- doctors’ treatment, drugs and incidentally also hospital beds. How do we stop it? I suggest that we do not have to look to socialist countries but to good old capitalist America to find the answer to that sort of assessment of how medical services are used and abused.
There are beautiful studies to show that again the fee for service concept is the bugbear. Comparisons were made in America of patients treated by doctors on a fee for service basis and patients treated by doctors on a salaried basis. The quality of medical care is at least as good if the doctor is on a salary, and there is some evidence that it may even be better. Yet when the doctor is on a salary, dramatic reductions in bed usage, operation rates and drug prescribing are found. That is a long dissertation telling the Government how to suck eggs, but nevertheless I hope that in its review it will take these things into account. We wish to divide on this issue because we wish to make the point quite strongly that the approach that the Government is now taking- just bumping up the fees, just increasing the amount the patient has to pay, particularly those in the community who cannot afford it, the ones who were on the scheme the Government itself introduced to subsidise these people- is a mistake. We agree that there ought to be a review.
-Briefly I want to take up the points made by the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Dr Cass). I agree with a lot of the comments he made, but at one stage he suggested that a patient cannot overuse the scheme and that it is the doctor who is responsible. Largely that is correct, but a vicious circle is set up within the medical profession. If a patient goes to one medico and does not get what he considers to be adequate treatment- some patients look for abundant treatment; that is the category into which I would put it- he goes to another medico until he does get it. This definitely is the fault of the medical profession. We find also that certain patients force themselves on the medical profession with constant visits to a doctor. The fact that the service is free at the point of delivery encourages many patients to go back to their doctor. It is a difficult problem. I do not know the answer but certainly it is a matter which wants looking at very closely.
– Once again the Government will not accept the Opposition’s suggestion, but I take note of the points that the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Dr Cass) made. He suggested ways in which improvements should be made to the pharmaceutical benefits scheme. If he is interested in making a written submission to me on the matter I will be very pleased to look at his contribution in the course of a review. However, the Government cannot accept the Opposition’s proposal. I understand that there is to be a division on this matter so I will let it rest.
That the clauses be agreed to.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman- Mr Lucock)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Remainder of Bill- by leave- taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Hunt)- by leave- read a third time.
Debate resumed from 19 February on motion by Mr Ellicott
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– May I have the indulgence of the House to raise a point of procedure on this legislation? Before the debate is resumed on this Bill I would like to suggest that it may suit the convenience of the House to have a general debate covering this Bill and the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill as they are related measures. Separate questions will, of course, be put on each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate. I suggest therefore, Mr Speaker, that you permit the subject matter of both Bills to be discussed in this debate.
-Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering the 2 measures? I will allow that course to be followed.
– The Opposition supports the Bills and wishes them a speedy passage. The Bills are, with a couple of quite small differences, the same as Bills which I introduced on 8 October last. The second reading speech, with 2 relatively minor omissions, is the same as the one I made on that date. The Bills were passed without opposition by this House before the end of last October. At that time a third Bill, the Telephone Communications (Interception) Bill, was necessary to carry out the policy of my Government that security matters should all be co-ordinated under the authority of the Prime Minister. The present Government has not taken the same attitude, at all events to this stage. I apprehend that Mr Justice Hope will be making recommendations on this matter pursuant to his royal commission into the intelligence and security services of the Australian Government. If he did make such a recommendation it would be open to the Government to bring in that third Bill. All I need say at this stage is that it seemed in many quarters, conspicuously from the Melbourne Age, to have the support of persons who had thought about these matters.
The only significant omission from the second reading speech which the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott) made compared with the one I made on 8 October last was this phrase:
It is appropriate that this very important position . . .
That is, the head of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation- 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.
The present Government has made no such statement. While my faith in appointments from the judiciary has been shaken in other contexts, I continue to believe that it is important for the head of ASIO to be a judge. The first head of ASIO was a judge. The activities of organisations such as ASIO have been the focus of a great deal of public attention in recent years, both at home and abroad. My Government responded to public interest in Australian security activities by appointing Mr Justice Hope to conduct the royal commission which I have mentioned. That report and the appointment of Mr Justice A. E. Woodward, O.B.E., as Director-General will do much, I believe, to reassure the public that the excesses of similar agencies abroad will not be experienced in Australia.
Clause 4 of the Bill amends section 6 of the principal Act to ensure, inter alia, that the appointment of a judge as Director does not affect his rights and privileges as the holder of his judicial office. It provides that for all purposes his service as a Director shall be taken to be service as the holder of his office as a judge. I have, somewhat to my surprise, had expressed to me qualms that this might enable a judge who was appointed as head of ASIO to exercise more extensive powers than those which could be exercised by a head of ASIO who was not a judge. It has been mentioned to me that a judge, for example, has the power to issue search warrants. Although the High Court of Australia has made clear in the Boilermakers’ Case and elsewhere that there must be clear separation between the exercise of judicial and executive functions, it has never expressly decided whether one person may exercise both sorts of functions in different capacities. Whatever may be the outcome of a High Court case posing this problem, there can be no doubt, under the law as at present interpreted, that the 2 functions cannot be exercised by the same person acting in the one capacity. The office of head of ASIO is an executive office. The purpose of this legislation is to enable a judge to be appointed to that office, to bring his experience to the post and to retain his prestige as a judge. It is not intended that in any action he takes as head of ASIO he should exercise any additional authority that he would have when he is acting as a judge.
I mentioned that there were a couple of differences in the texts of the Bills. The first one concerns the retention of the title DirectorGeneral for the head of ASIO instead of changing the title to Director, as was the case in the Bills that the House passed last October. As I explained in my second reading speech then, the title was changed in our Bill to accord with my Government’s decision 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. That, we felt, was a sensible policy, giving greater clarity to our structure of government. My attention was first directed to it when I looked at the draft of the Australian National Gallery Bill. The post provided for in that Bill was Director-General of the national gallery. I thought this was a bit pretentious because the head of the National Gallery in London has never been more than a director, the head of the National Gallery in Washington has never been more than a director. I thought we were promoting ourselves a bit excessively by saying that the head of the Australian National Gallery should be a director-general. I notice, of course, at the same time that the head of the Australian National Library is a director-general. There were no other persons employed in the Gallery or in the Library who had the title of director.
– What about the AttorneyGeneral?
-The term ‘AttorneyGeneral’ is a traditional one- one of great prestige for centuries in English law- as is the term ‘Solicitor-General’. They are used for the very specific purpose of showing that they are not just attorneys of solicitors. According to population in the particular jurisdiction, there would be scores, hundreds or even thousands of solicitors and attorneys. There can be no dispute that the Attorney-General is not just another attorney, that the Solicitor-General is not just another solicitor.
When in this Parliament, we pass laws concerning repatriation or social security, one would concede that it is appropriate to use the term ‘Director-General’ because there is a well known public office in each State capital headed by a director. There may be directors in ASIO but they are not public figures so known. A great number of people do not know who the Director-General of ASIO is; still fewer would know the titles of any other persons in the organisation. I just mention this point. It is not a matter of great moment. The head of ASIO has always been called, since it was a statutory office, the Director-General. I would have thought that it was more appropriate to use ‘Director’.
There is another small matter which I would like to raise and will occur in all legislation, I apprehend, in this Parliament. It is the enactment clause. In the legislation of this Parliament at the outset of Federation the enactment clause read as follows:
Be it enacted by the King’s Most Excellent Majesty the Senate and the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia as follows:
No commas are used in the form I have read. By the end of 1972 the formula had been changed to read:
Be it enacted by the Queen’s Most Excellent Majesty, the Senate, and the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia as follows:
I must confess that I am baffled at the significance of the omission and later insertion of the commas.
The present Bill, the first one to be debated in this new Parliament, has an enactment clause in these terms:
Be it enacted by the Queen, and the Senate and House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia, as follows:
Here again I am not aware of the significance of the commas being used. It may be that having a comma after ‘Queen’ is to avoid the solecism of describing Her Majesty as ‘Queen of the Commonwealth of Australia’. We know, of course, that the High Court unanimously gave short shrift to any such description in the case where it determined there was no such person as ‘Queen of Queensland’, still less ‘Queen of the State of Queensland’. Her Majesty is ‘Queen of Australia’.
I would apprehend that the change in this case is to introduce the term ‘Commonwealth’ in our legislation and this is said, I understand, to be in deference to the feelings of the States. The fact is that only one of the State parliaments uses the term ‘the State of in its enactment clauses in its legislation, and that is South Australia. In every other State the legislature in its Bills, in its Acts, describes itself as the Legislative Council and Legislative Assembly or House of Assembly of New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania. In fact I believe, as was made plain in an answer in the Senate on 1 3 May last, that none of the States, for instance, use the word ‘State’ in their parliamentary notice papers or their journals or their Hansards. I only mention the matter because I am certain the Attorney would be disappointed if I had not noticed it.
My general attitude to the use of the term ‘Commonwealth’ is that I believe there are many bodies, many functions, which use the term ‘Commonwealth’ now in the sense of ‘Commonwealth of Nations’. I believe the Commonwealth of Nations is a very valuable organisation and I do not really believe that using the word ‘Commonwealth’ as is now to be the custom does other than confuse people. We all know of the Commonwealth Games, Commonwealth law conferences, the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and so on, which all have to do with the Commonwealth of Nations. In New Zealand and in Canada the term ‘Dominion’ has long since been dropped. Similarly in the Australian States it is very rarely that one finds the word ‘State’ used in any of their official documents.
Mr Speaker, I conclude by referring to a policy which my Government followed. As you would know, when you were Leader of the Opposition we informed you of all the major policy matters and appointments in the security field. You will remember that before Mr Justice Hope was appointed as Royal Commissioner into the intelligence and security services of the Australian Government I had let you see the terms of reference. I had offered you the text of the notes which were to be given to His Honour, and all this before the Executive Council had in fact determined the matter.
– That is my recollection.
-Mr Speaker, I can assure you that later when there were changes in the head of some of the security organisations, such as the appointment of Mr Justice Woodward himself, your successor, the present Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), was similarly informed. I believe this policy is important if we in the Parliament and if the public in general are to have informed debate on those issues which fall within the security and intelligence field and if we are to avoid overreaction on security issues based on partial information. I trust this policy will be confirmed by the present Government.
-I understand that the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Bill is not contentious and I think it is being supported by the Opposition, give or take a comma or two. The Bui does bring up, though, some fairly fundamental points. The purpose of the Bill is to make it practicable for a judge to be appointed as Director-General. I think we should look at the sort of organisation of which he is to be Director-General and whether it is appropriate for a judge of a Commonwealth court, who will return to that function, to be the head of it. The problems created by a security service are some of the most difficult to be faced in any democratic society. One has to balance the needs of individual liberty against the needs of society as a whole. The gravest danger we face is that such a body will be used under secret political control. We must see that our system is proof against this type of control.
What is ASIO for? To use an English expression, it is for the defence of the realm. We must defend our realm against extremists of the left and the right. At the moment, the main threat comes from the left. That does not mean to say that the Organisation should not be structured so that it is ready to defend the realm against extremists of any sort. It should not be interested in private conduct, business affairs or political opinions unless those political opinions lead people to attempt to overthrow the Government by unlawful means. This, of course, brings up a difficulty because surveillance of some marginal activities is required in order to determine whether political organisations are seeking to use lawful or unlawful means to overthrow a government. Nevertheless, this is one of the problems we have to face. General Wolfe once said that war is an option of difficulties. I say that security is an even greater option of difficulties.
Another thing a security service must do is screen individuals who have access to our own or other nations’ secrets. This is particularly important because if other nations are not satisfied that the people who have access to their secrets are adequately screened we will not receive those secrets and we will be the losers. I would, however, like to see a system in which people whose promotions or careers are interrupted by adverse security assessments are notified of them and given a chance to appeal. Perhaps this is where having a judge as Director-General of ASIO would be particularly appropriate. I do not think it will ever be possible to have a person who has been accused and notified confront his accusers for obvious reasons of effective administration of our security service. Excepting that, I think he should be notified and have a proper right of appeal if his career is being adversely affected. We have not yet been able to do this.
We have set up a security organisation under a Director-General, a statutory authority who under legislation is as independent- I hope he is as independent- as the Auditor-General or the Commissioner of Taxation. These are 3 great independent statutory authorities. I am quite sure that if the Treasurer of this country sent to the Commissioner of Taxation for an individual’s income tax records he would receive an answer from the Commissioner no doubt very politely worded but the sense of which would accord with the phrase coined by the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) a few days ago in this House. In other words, he would be told that he could not have those records. Independence from direct political control is vital for the Director-General of security. Under the Australian Security Intelligence Organization Act he is obliged to advise Ministers where he, the Director-General, is satisfied that it is necessary and desirable to do so in respect of matters relevant to security. He has a responsibility to advise but he decides whether it is necessary or desirable to do so. ASIO is an intelligence organisation without executive power. The responsibility for security within a government department when it is advised by the DirectorGeneral of ASIO, rests with the department. The responsibility for law enforcement rests with the police. It is important that this independence be preserved. Regrettably in recent years it has not been preserved. It is vital that the Organisation should be independent from secret political control because this is the key to the rights of the individual.
Unfortunately, the conditions of the appointment of the Director-General of ASIO appointed in 1970 contained an expression that ‘misconduct included . . . failure to comply with any lawful direction given by the AttorneyGeneral regarding the Organisation’. That was interpreted, wrongly in my view, to mean the Attorney-General could give instructions about security matters to the Director-General. I do not believe that he can or should have been able to do so because the only lawful orders he can give would have to be authorised by the Australian Security Intelligence Organization Act or another Act of Parliament. The Australian Security Intelligence Organization Act gives no such power to the Attorney-General. This unfortunate wording in the conditions of service of the Director-General appointed in 1970 were used by former Senator Murphy as the authority for his most regrettable raid on ASIO and other activities of a similar nature by the former Labor Government.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting I had pointed out that the clear intention of this House in the Australian Security Intelligence Organization Act was to make the DirectorGeneral of Security an independent statutory authority free from any direct political control, but perhaps an unfortunate form of words in his conditions of employment had enabled 2 successive Labor Attorneys-General, the former Senator Murphy and Mr Enderby, to use that form of words in order to bring the DirectorGeneral under direct political control. This was a most regrettable step in the development of our security organisation. I would like to draw the attention of the Opositon to the fact that the predecessors of those 2 former AttorneysGeneral were rather wiser. The late Dr Evatt in commenting on the role of the Director-General of Security in September 1949 said: . . . the Director-General of Security is free from ministerial direction.
The then Prime Minister, Mr Chifley, said: . . . the Director-General has been given complete authority on security matters and I do not propose to interfere with him in the discharge of his functions.
I believe it is most important for the individual liberties of us all that the Director-General of security should be free from direct political control. If we are going to give an individual such power, some principles must be followed in the selection of an individual for this role. The first and most obvious is that the Director-General must be a highly respected public figure. What sort of respected figure have we in mind? The Opposition clearly thinks a judge should be appointed to this position. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) has said before- he repeated it in this debate- that his view is that the position should be filled by a judge and that in the Labor Party’s view this position should in future always be filled by a person holding judicial office. He said that the Labor Party holds strongly to this view. I must say that I strongly disagree with this view.
I would like to put the reasons why I feel that way, but first let me point out that there is no criticism of Mr Justice Woodward in anything I say. He is a man of the highest distinction and reputation. He, I think, is entirely suitable for the job, but I do not agree with the concept that the job of Director-General of ASIO should always be held by a judicial officer. The reason for this is that the Director-General of ASIO works in a highly specialised field, and there are 2 aspects to it. The first is the protection of the rights of the individual. There is no doubt at all that a distinguished judge would be extremely valuable in ensuring that the Organisation followed the due processes of law. It is worth pointing out though that the due processes of law are not necessarily the same as individual liberty. Some of the worst crimes in our history- we of all nations should know this- were committed in the name of the law, nevertheless this is an area in which I have no doubt a distinguished jurist would be most effective. But that is not all or even the most important part of the job of Director-General of ASIO. He is administering a complex and highly specialised organisation and this is a role in which the Director-General must be closely involved, to ensure that the Organisation is not diverted from its proper role and to ensure that no improper practices creep in.
There has been one occasion previously when a judge was the Director-General of ASIO. He was the first Director-General. He was a distinguished judge, but I think it is no secret that he was very little involved with the day to day operations of the Organisation. In my view the administration of ASIO during those years suffered from a lack of direction and control at the top and a number of highly undesirable practices crept in over those years through that lack of control. We must be quite sure that the man we appoint as Director-General of ASIO is capable of controlling and directing its organisation in detail. If we appoint a suitable man who may or may not hold judicial office we must see that he meets these requirements. But there must also be some external controls. For reasons I have already advanced to the House I am very strongly opposed to those controls being ministerial under the aegis of the Government because this brings out the opportunity for secret political directives being given to ASIO and ASIO being exploited for improper political motives. This is a danger we have gone through over the last 3 year. There may be other controls. i think we should look very carefully at whether it is possible to have bi-partisan control from this House with a small number of members monitoring the activities of ASIO. This is possible and it could be done. There are dangers, of course, as one has seen in the recent attempts to control intelligence organisations in America which although they have revealed some things that perhaps should have been revealed, they have also done immense harm to other countries. Someone pointed out the other day that Senator Church who is heading one of these investigations had done more harm to democracies in 2 weeks than the Central Intelligence Agency had done in 20 years. If we set up an organisation in this House to monitor ASIO we must ensure that we do it in a sensible way and that we do not do harm to and hamper the purpose for which the Organisation is set up.
There is another control I think we should have. I believe that the Director-General of ASIO is in such an important position that he must have a fixed term of office non-renewable. I would say that after 5 years or perhaps longer the appointment of Director-General of ASIO should lapse and a new person should be appointed. If this Organisation is running properly I do not think that we would want to leave one person in control for too long. We must never in this country have someone get into the position of J. Edgar Hoover who has now been revealed to have had some very unfortunate influences on American policy. He reached a situation where he had so much information about senior people in the American Government that he was virtually unsackable President Lyndon Johnson who had an earthy turn of phrase was once asked why he did not sack J. Edgar Hoover. He replied ‘Sack Hoover! I could not do that. I would rather that man inside my tent spitting out than outside spitting in’, or words to that effect. We must never allow a Director-General of ASIO to reach that position. Perhaps the answer is, as I have said, to have a fixed term non-renewable. On the whole we have to rely on the integrity and independence of a Director-General of ASIO. His independence is or should be guaranteed by the Act which sets out his independence in the clearest possible terms. I would like an assurance from the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott) that this independence so clearly laid down by this House will not be abridged by secret terms and conditions of appointment because the independence of the Director-General of ASIO isperhaps paradoxically- the key to our individual rights and liberty.
– I do not oppose the legislation but I would like to make a couple of comments, one exactly the same as I made last year when a similar Bill was introduced in the House and one amending that because in fact some of my criticism has now been noted. I do not kid myself that that is the reason the change has been made, but I would like to read to the House the first paragraph of my speech last year on 1 6 October. I said:
I refer to the transfer of control of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation to the office of Prime Minister. I put on record my reservations about a Premier or a Prime Minister being in charge of any police force. This is a point that I have made before and which the Council for Civil Liberties has also made before. I remind honourable members of what happened in New South Wales in the 1950s when the control of the police force was transferred from the Minister in charge of that force to the Premier. The difficulty that arose was that criticism of the Premier is regarded as involving a question of no confidence.
I think that ASIO ought to be prepared to take criticism. It is a very powerful organisation. It can be a most unpleasant organisation with which to have dealings. I think that it is necessary. It is extremely important that, in a political sense, criticisms of ASIO are not treated necessarily as being attacks on the Government. The organisation can be wrong. There is no necessity for the whole of the weight of a government to be used to defend ASIO or a police force against what may be legitimate criticism, as happened in New South Wales.
I am pleased to hear that control of ASIO is to be transferred back from the Prime Minister to the Attorney-General. As I pointed out, governments are more prepared to accept as wrong something under the control of the AttorneyGeneral or any other Minister, and it is not seen as a reflection on the whole government. For some ridiculous reason, criticism of anything for which the Prime Minister of the day is responsible is taken to be a vote of no confidence in the whole government. That leads to the defence of what would most often be an indefensible proposition. A government will defend a police force, or in this case the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, just because it comes under the control of the Prime Minister. If it is admitted that something is wrong then it is admitted that the Prime Minister himself is wrong.
I listened to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) this afternoon. I could not quite catch whether he said that he expected Mr Justice Hope in his report to recommend that ASIO be placed under the responsibility of the Prime Minister. I would be sorry if that were the case. I would also be surprised. Mr Justice Hope was president of the Council for Civil Liberties for many years while I was its treasurer. I remember that, certainly as far as New South Wales was concerned, we both felt very strongly that the control of the police force should not be in the Premier’s Department.
My next point concerns clause 4 of the Bill. Proposed new section 6A reads in part: . . . other rights or privileges as the holder of his office as a Judge and, for all purposes, his service as Director-General shall be taken to be service as the holder of his office as a Judge.
Here again the difficulty relates to the Standing Orders of this House. Standing order 75 provides that honourable members may not criticise members of the judiciary unless a special motion of disapproval is moved. If this Bill were interpreted narrowly an honourable member could not criticise the head of ASIO in that capacity, in the same way that allegedly he cannot criticise other judges or Governors-General. A certain amount of latitude is allowed, I realise. But if the Government- the party with the numbers in the House- insisted on it, I presume that it could prevent criticism. I can see these difficulties arising. I hope that I will never see a situation in this House where we cannot criticise the head of ASIO. That person is a public servant in the sense that he runs a department.
I am perfectly happy to see that he does not lose any of his privileges as a judge- his financial privileges and his seniority. If that were the case judges would not accept the appointment. But I do not think that a judge should bring with him his privilege as a judge whereby honourable members are unable to criticise him, because he would not be acting in a judicial capacity when he was acting as head of ASIO. Criticism ought to be allowed to be directed at him as it is at other public servants. I hope that the new Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott) will in his reply or at some time during the debate- if not during this debate then after he has thought about itgive some assurance that the Government does not see proposed the new section 6a of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization Bill as preventing criticism of the holder of the position of Director-General because of his judicial background.
– I welcome the constructive debate that has taken place on this Bill which is not opposed by the Opposition. I would particularly like to commend the honourable member for Isaacs (Mr Hamer) on his most thoughtful contribution. I am sure that all other honourable members were impressed, as I was, with his depth of knowledge on this topic and with his constructive suggestions on the Bill generally. I was particularly impressed with his comments about the type of person who should be appointed to the role of DirectorGeneral. As one who has had some legal training and who is still entitled to call himself a solicitor, I would not seek to retain the provision that the Director-General must always be a judge or a legal officer. In my view it would be most undesirable to limit to one particular class the persons who could be appointed. The types of persons suitable for appointment must always be as large as possible and the number of people from whom the Government can choose must be as large as possible. Circumstances can change. Whilst a judge may be the suitable person now, there may not be a suitable judge offering at some time in the future. This Bill has been amended to provide, contrary to the wishes of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam), that the person appointed may be a judge. That is a very desirable amendment and one which I support.
I would also like to commend the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) on his constructive comments in this debate. I hope that I am not treading on any corns that may emerge later when I say that I was particularly pleased by his suggestion that the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation should not be under the control of the Prime Minister. I am pleased that responsibility for the Organisation will rest with the Attorney-General who has responsibilities in other fields which sometimes require him as the Government’s principal law officer to take an approach different from that of the Government. I think that someone who has to act in that way is better suited to be directly responsibile for the administration of ASIO. Therefore in making those comments there may be 2 Judases- one on each side of the House- if it is ever envisaged that control of ASIO shall be taken from the Attorney-General. I found it difficult to relate the honourable members comments about a police force to a security organisation. I would not in any way like to endorse his overall comments that the role of a security organisation is similar to the role of a police force. Whilst I think that it is better to have the matter in the hands of the Attorney-General because of his particular responsibility to the Parliament, I do not accept the reasoning of the honourable member for Prospect who compared the role of a directorgeneral of a security force to the role of the head of a police force. The example he gave related to New South Wales.
When the Leader of the Opposition spoke on this Bill he referred to some of the titles. I feel that he was giving vent to some of his own views on titles. That is one of the matters that brought the former Government into a great deal of disrespect in the eyes of the Australian people. It was always seeking to change titles. It was doing so in this particular Bill amongst others. There may have been good reason for trying to standardise titles but the cost to the Australian people of the continuous seeking to rename authorities and to bring about new titles for organisations was tremendous. For instance, if one went around buildings in the Australian Capital Territory one would find drill holes in walls where signs had been removed and replaced by new signs. In being critical of the capacity of the former Government to change titles I would also be critical of my Government if we were seeking to go around and change them back for the sake of changing them back.
It is clearly the case here that to want to change the title from ‘Director-General’ to ‘Director’ would be embarking upon this task of changing the title simply for the sake of changing it. Be that as it may, some reference also was made to the reinsertion in the enactment clause of the term ‘the Commonwealth of. I am pleased at this reinsertion. One of the factors we had to live with under the former Government was that it always wanted to call itself the Australian Government as though it was the only government of Australia. I never heard anybody, even on the other side of the House, suggest that the United States of America ought to change its name or suggest that in some way it was not a country which was made up of a number of States that had brought themselves together into a form of federation. The United States of America is proud of its name and I am proud of the name ‘Commonwealth of Australia’ for the same reason, because it signifies the unity that was brought about when various States were prepared to give up part of their separate privileges and rights to bring about a unified country. It is part of our heritage and the title, the name, is part of our heritage and it ought to be seen that way, particularly as nobody was prepared to go to the trouble of putting to the Australian people that we ought to change the title as it is known in the Constitution.
The Constitution calls us the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia. An important point is that nobody at any time has suggested that there ought to be a referendum to change that name. The Australian people were never asked. When I looked at these titles which were being foisted on us and then looked at one of the Bills of the former Government in preparation for this debate tonight, there it was. There appeared the words: ‘Be- it enacted by the Queen, the Senate and the House of Representatives of Australia’, and that is not the title by which we are known in the Constitution. The title clearly is as it is shown at the commencement of this Bill: ‘Be it enacted by the Queen, and the Senate and House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia’. I welcome those changes.
Finally, I am pleased that this debate had the constructive comments we heard from the honourable member for Isaacs, (Mr Hamer), because there has been a great deal of denigration of security organisations throughout the world. I believe that the world has been done a disservice by the people of the United States of America in the way in which their parliamentarians have played the role of the devil’s advocate in relation to their own security organisations which have been brought into considerable disrepute. They are not trusted at home and it is unlikely they will be trusted abroad. I have not seen in what has been revealed circumstances that really would lead me to have substantive doubts about their capacity as security organisations but I do have doubts about their capacity as organisations to function well in the defence of the free world.
I am pleased that in this debate we have not heard the denigration of our security organisations but have seen demonstrated a preparedness on both sides to discuss the appointment of a judicial officer who will become the head of our organisation, a man who was appointed at the first instance by our opponents, the former Government, and in whose appointment we concur and are now proceeding with. He is a man in whom we can have trust- obviously we have because we are proceeding with the appointmentand he is one in whom the Opposition can have trust. I believe this is important because the security organisation works in our own interests as a country and it will work in our own and our best interests only if it has the confidence of the Australian people and if we can allow it to continue to function without it having to reveal what it is doing and the way in which it is undertaking its task, so destroying its capacity to undertake that task properly and in our own interests.
– in reply- Most, if not all, of the points that could have been made in this debate have been made. However, I think I owe it to honourable members to say something about the points that have been made and also to say how appreciative I am to hear such a constructive debate. A great deal has been said about the appointment of a judge as the Director-General of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. I think it is clear enough that a judge can perform this service and the Government whilst it was in Opposition acceded to the idea that Mr
Justice Woodward should become the DirectorGeneral of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. That appointment is shortly to be confirmed and the purpose of this legislation is to enable that to go ahead. Obviously the personality of the person is tremendously important. The Government, as did the previous Government, has confidence in the capacity of Mr Justice Woodward to bring to bear in this organisation those attributes which are obviously necessary. They are not always attributes which are essential to the judicial function. This position requires a great deal of practical common sense and a great administrative capacity. These are gifts which His Honour has demonstrated he has in the experience that I think all of us have had with him.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) said somebody was troubled that the wording of the relevant clause in this Bill might lead one to the view that he is still a judge and therefore in a position of conflict because he was exercising his function as a judge by retaining his style and title and status as a judge and also exercising ministerial and administrative functions. I think that the Leader of the Opposition stood that point up to knock it over because clearly, although His Honour retains his status as a judge, what he will be doing here is what the Act tells him he has to do, namely, to administer the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. There can be no question of his exercising a judicial function. A point was made- I think by the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) who spoke last for the Opposition- about whether the fact that he was a judge might prevent this chamber under standing order 75 from criticising him in a proper way for what he did in his capacity because he was a judge. I would not think that it would have that effect at all. It seems to me that he would be occupying the position as Director-General albiet retaining his status as a judge and he would be open to whatever proper criticism could be brought to bear on the performance of that function.
The Leader of the Opposition also drew attention to the fact that this Bill is different from the Bill that his Government introduced because it was not introduced in a context where the organisation was going to be subject to the control of the Prime Minister. It is the view of the Government that the administrative control of ASIO is properly left with the Attorney-General and not properly with the Prime Minister. It is an organisation which requires consideration from time to time. It is, as I hope to indicate in a moment, independent. It was intended to be independent, and it is truly independent. But there has to be some form of ministerial responsibility in relation to it, held by some person who is aware to some degree of what is transpiring in the organisation. I think it is true that when the organisation was set up in 1949 that was intended when Mr Chifley, the then Prime Minister, said:
The service will function under the administrative control of the Attorney-General’s Department, but the head of the service will have direct access to me on all matters of moment affecting security that he thinks should be considered by the Government, or on behalf of the Government.
That view was adopted, of course, by Sir Robert Menzies in 1956 when he introduced the legislation which is being amended. He said this:
The Attorney-General is the Minister ordinarily responsible for the security service, and he will administer the Act. The Director-General, however, has, and has had, from the inauguration of the service in 1949, direct access to the Prime Minister in security matters affecting the Government as a whole.
The Bill makes no attempt to specify the manner in which, or the degree to which, ministerial authority should be exercised in relation to the service. It is clearly impossible, and in any event undesirable, for a Minister to exercise in this field the same degree of supervision and authority that he exercises in his own department.
There I think Sir Robert was underlining another fact which has to be taken into account.
In the legislation the independence of the organisation is, I think, guaranteed. That is what the honourable member for Isaacs (Mr Hamer) was no doubt referring to when he was expressing concern that this organisation remain independent. Section 5 of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization Act- I shall refer only to the parts that are relevant- states:
1 ) The functions of the Organization are-
In other words, the functions of the organisation are indeed circumscribed by the Act which sets it up. The reason Sir Robert Menzies said: ‘It is clearly impossible, and in any event undesirable, for a Minister to exercise in this field the same degree of supervision and authority that he exercises in his own department’, is no doubt in part attributable to the fact that the DirectorGeneral’s independence is guaranteed by the Act itself. The Minister who is administering the Act clearly enough has a function. He ought to know in broad terms what is going on. In the past there have been conditions of service which have subjected the Director-General to lawful directions given by the Attorney-General. I think it is unfortunate that in the past that provision may have been used for actions which were not within the terms of that clause. However, the fact is that the clause is saying no more than that the Attorney-General, as the person administering the Act, may find it necessary from time to time- I am speaking of hypothetical situations- to say to the Director-General: ‘You are clearly not in this particular matter acting within your functions’. It would be a lawful direction if the Attorney-General were to say to the Director-General: ‘You must keep within your functions’. That in effect is the sort of circumstance to which that type of provision is directed. It is not adding to the provisions of the Act. It is not intended to make the Director-General subject to political direction at all. It is simply, as it were, a provision designed to ensure- I am referring again to the given hypothetical circumstancesthat the security organisation stays within its brief. That is the purpose of such a provision. I personally do not see it as a measure which intrudes upon the independence of the organisation or which offends in the respect in which the honourable member for Isaacs indicated.
– Can the Attorney-General direct the organisation?
– There is no power in the Attorney-General to direct the organisation. Certain staff member are dealt with by the Act and the Secretary of the Attorney-General’s Department has a function to play in relation to them. Nowhere in the Act is the AttorneyGeneralindeed, he is not mentioned in the Act- expressly given power to direct the organisation. His relationship to this particular Act comes from the Administrative Arrangements Order. Because he is the Minister nominated he is the person who has the general supervision of the Act. No power of direction is given at all. Of course, in hypothetical circumstances- this is the important thing- if the organisation is clearly going outside its brief the Minister responsible should see it as his function to say to the organisation: ‘Keep within the brief. That is the sort of purpose to which the clause referred to by my friend, the honourable member for Isaacs, is directed.
The Leader of the Opposition raised some semantic problems. First of all, he was troubled about the use of the term ‘Director-General’. He said that the term ‘Director-General’ would be used in cases where there were directors in every State. The fact is that there are regional directors of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation in every State, and so in a real sense he proves the point that we are taking. Why change the name? It is very appropriate to call him Director-General. He has been so called since 1949. Mr Chifley called him Director-General; we propose to continue to call him DirectorGeneral.
The next semantic problem which the Leader of the Opposition had- it is one which one might expect him to raise- was in relation to the enacting words in the Bill:
Be it enacted by the Queen, and the Senate and House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia . . .
He was troubled by the comma. Let me assure him that the comma was put in in case it be thought that we were referring to the Queen of the Commonwealth of Australia. We did not want to offend him in particular, because it will be recalled that in the Royal Style and Titles Act 1973, on which I was pleased to advise him at the time, the form of the royal style and titles was:
Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God Queen of Australia . . .
There he has it- ‘Queen of Australia’. The reason that the comma is inserted is simply to avoid confusion.
And why shouldn’t we call this place the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia? It happens to be a legal document. It is an Act of Parliament and it is appropriate to refer to the body politic- the Commonwealth of Australia. That is what we set up in 1900, that is what we have, and that is what we are going to have for a very long time- the Commonwealth of Australia. Nobody in the Opposition, except he takes to the streets with force, is likely to bring about the disintegration of this body politic called the Commonwealth of Australia. We might as well settle down to the fact that we have it and retain the name as a reminder. Once we forgot that we are a federation we will forget our responsibilities as members in this House and as members of the Australian community. If we do not make the federation work soon in a real sense the whole of this country’s fabric will be undermined. There are some people who think that it is a choice between centralism and State rights. That is not the choice at all; the choice in Australia is whether the federation survives as a federation on the one hand or, on the other, whether we have a series of nation states. That is the choice and none other. When we settle down to that fact this country of ours will go ahead. That is why the policy of co-operative federalism is so significant and important to us.
I refer to some of the concluding points of the honourable member for Isaacs. I think I have dealt with the independence of the office as he was asserting it. The honourable member suggested that the Director-General should hold the office for a fixed term which is nonrenewable. He also said that controls should be bipartisan and that it is essential to rely on the independence of the office. Of course the honourable member is quite entitled to make these points, and he did make them with great force. There may be something to be said for the view that there should be a new broom in the Organisation every five or seven years. No doubt that is a matter to which the present Government will give some attention. At the moment I just do not quite follow the idea of bipartisan control. I do not see how, with ministerial responsibility as it is in our situation in the Australian Parliament, we would be able properly to run an Australian Security Intelligence Organisation except in the way that it is run at the moment in its relationship with the Parliament. Somebody has to be responsible. There has to be a responsible Minister.
I say with respect that the idea of bipartisan control is somewhat academic. I think that in the situation in which we find ourselves a government which is responsible for the security of the country must have responsibility for the security organisation. In exercising that responsibility the Government must recognise that a security organisation must not descend into the political arena. I think that has been recognised since the Organisation was established in 1949. It was recognised during the period of the previous coalition governments. Most of the time, but not all of the time, it was recognised by the previous Labor Government. But one thing is essential, and that is that the Government have control of and be responsible for its own Security Organisation because it alone can guarantee what other honourable members and I have referred to as the necessary element, namely, the independence of the Organisation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Ellicott) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 19 February on motion by Mr Ellicott:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Ellicott) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 24 February, on motion byMr Sainsbury:
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General be agreed to:
May it Please Your Excellency:
We, the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
-Mr Speaker, if I may be quite plain, forthright and direct I should like to congratulate you on your appointment to the office which you have now attained. We hope that you will fulfil the functions of that office as efficiently as you have done since the day that you were appointed. We are certain that you will and we are also quite certain that you will retain your position in that office for as long as you may desire. Of course that in no way foreshadows your own future, wherever it may happen to lead you.
I am delighted to be able to speak on the Address-in-Reply to the Governor-General’s Speech. But before I say the few words which need to be said, as an honourable member who has been here for a number of years I must say that one cannot help but be impressed and rather daunted and overcome with the quality of the speeches and the contributions that have been made by the new members of this House. I do not think that I have ever heard contributions made by new members in this place of as high a quality as we have heard and witnessed over recent days. They must give great cause for satisfaction to the Government and they must also give great cause for concern and despair to what has quite clearly become a shattered Opposition- a remnant of itself.
As I look around and see honourable members on the Government side representing electorates that have never been represented by us since
Federation or since the electorates were formed, I can only reflect on the causes of the shattering events of 13 December. In fact on that day the Opposition was defeated for a number of reasons upon which I will not pass judgment. I shall merely quote from what one of the former Government’s friends had to say about it. The friends of the previous Government, the leadership of the Australian Metalworkers Union, contributed this gem towards the end of January this year on the Government that was. Perhaps it explains why the divisions this afternoon in this House had more than 80 honourable members on one side of the chamber and about 34 or 35 honourable members voting for the Opposition. The Amalgamated Metalworkers Union leadership stated:
When the Governor-General sacked the Prime Minister and the Government on November 1 1 , the public saw this as a relief of their fears and confirmation that the Government was something from grossly inefficient to crook.
That is a simple Australian term and it is obvious that for deep philosophical and for social reasons as well as for profoundly felt economic reasons the electorate felt that there was no distinction to be made between being grossly inefficient and crook. So the electorate made its decision and it returned people to this side of the chamber. Why did it occur in another sense? I merely want to concentrate on some of the economic reasons, the ones that have been felt by the community. To be truthful, the previous Government was caught, at the time of an election, in an economic trough. Whether the previous Government was going down further into the trough or whether it was coming out of it, it was caught in the trough. It was defeated at that election because the principal weapon which governments have in this country was lost- the power of timing. It was the power of timing which saved Liberal-Country Party governments over the previous 23 years when they were in power. The Labor Government lost that weapon. That, above all, is the reason for the electorate making the judgment that it made.
What are some of the more personal reasons? I do not intend to pursue a discussion on the Constitution or a discussion as to the rights of governments or lower houses under the Constitution; I intend to deal with what I believe is the one overriding, pervasive requirement imposed on governments in this place. That requirement is the obligation- I believe the electorate and the Australian people in general feel this way also -on governments, when elected, to maintain full employment. That above all, is the reason for the people making their decision at the last election.
They may have had a variety of other reasons, but that poisoned the well. As to why they felt so deeply as to the loss of the obligation to have full employment, I shall read 2 sentences from the obligation which governments undertook over 30 years ago in this place- to maintain conditions whereby the Australian people could have work and could have jobs if they decided to want work and decided to want a job.
I refer, as I have done previously, to the White Paper on full employment. It sets out the economic and, above all, the social obligation which governments have undertaken freely in Australia since 30 May 1945. This document sets forth boldly and unequivocally the Government’s intention to secure full employment for the people of Australia. It outlines the method by which the Government proposes to achieve this aim. There is no allowance for excuse, there is no allowance for the proposition that unemployment will be brought in by Arabs or Iraqis or anyone from overseas. The obligation is taken domestically within Australia by those who have charge of economic affairs in Australia, to maintain full employment. Full employment had not been maintained. The words which were enunciated on those occasions by a Labor Government were said very confidently and they were true. In introducing this paper, the Minister said:
I believe that this White Paper constitutes a charter for a new social order . . . The world is well on the way to the acceptance of this profound truth, that the welfare of all the people in all lands depends primarily on full employment.
That charter for a new social order represented a contract. That contract had been broken and it was in the light of the breaking of that contract that the people made the decision they did. Stripped of all the constitutional requirements, stripped of all the clever terminology that lawyers produce- I say that as I look at the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr Ruddock)- that is the way that millions of Australians understood the situation. It is with a degree of sadness that one has to reflect upon that fact.
I produce just one figure to illustrate the circumstances in which the election was held. I refer to the obligation of full employment during the term of the previous Government and in the month immediately after the election. I return to what happened in January when we still lived in the shadow of what occurred under nearly 3 years of the previous Government. In January 284 000 people were out of work. That is just a figure I know, but it is more important for another reason. Of those people out of work in January, over 80 per cent- eight out of ten- were in a state of such prolonged unemployment that they had to receive the dole. That is the highest proportion ever measured of people who have been out of work or who have had to receive the dole. It is the highest proportion since this kind of information came to hand. So the people of Australia made their judgment. They made it because they felt the Government was crook. But above all they made the judgment because they felt that there was that obligation to provide jobs for Australians who wanted to work, who were willing to work, who were not psychologically unprepared to work and who wanted to have the independence of people able to support themselves. So on this occasion- it may be rare- I happen to agree with the leadership of the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union.
But there is another way in which this matter should be considered and it touches the very basis of society itself. Why should one concentrate on this matter of full employment? Does it really matter much? Perhaps it is not sufficiently appreciated that the great work on full employment in our kind of society was written during World War II. The honourable member who will follow me in this debate will know this so very well. Lord Beveridge’s work on full employment was entitled Full Employment in a Free Society. What comes out over and over again in that proposition as it was to be applied to the United Kingdom and as it has been subsequently applied to Australia, is that it is impossible to have full employment with freedom in a society unless there is a confidently expanding private enterprise sector. Those two propositions come face to face- the requirement of full employment and the requirement of private enterprise to enable freedom to be exercised in the attainment of full employment.
I divert for one moment to explain that proposition. There are countries which have full employment. There are countries behind the Iron Curtain which boast proudly that they do not have unemployment like Western societies. They boast that they have full employment for their people. There is a degree of conscription of labour. This happens in all such nations and because of their nature they attain that position. But the characteristic which we have for Australia, and which was the background of the 1945 promise, was that full employment could exist only in a confidently expanding private enterprise economy. It was because those conditions did not exist that there was a greater imposition of government upon the community, and the basic social conditions for the upholding of the basic social contract which Australians know and which they want to attain were not being attained. Let me take this issue a little further. It is all right to talk about these matters theoretically and it may impress some people to talk about them theoretically -
– It is not impressing us.
-Of course the honourable member for Melbourne would not be impressed. Since he has been associated with the Victorian Labor Party it has been responsible not only for causing trouble in his own organisation, but also for returning a consistent minority of his own people to this Parliament.
– Give us some policy.
-I will give you some policy.
– Tell us what you will do.
-If the honourable member remains in Opposition over the years he will be able to enjoy what we will be doing. It is full employment in a free society that is appropriate. It is full employment in a free society that ought to be attained. But there cannot be a free society unless, in the words of the present Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), ‘households are able basically to make their own decisions’. It is the power of the purse as well as the economic power which can prevent Australian households making those decisions. If we look at households and the way by which governments have impressed in a quite remarkable way their own impression upon the activity of households, we see that the power of the purse has been used to deprive those basic units of our society of their own freedom. Let me propose one or two more figures because they are important. Let us go back to the days of Chifley. Of every $ 1 that was earned and went into an Australian household in the days after World War II- they were difficult days- there was surrendered by way of payments to public authorities in one form or another, such as taxation, both direct and indirect; fees; fines and so on, between 26c and 28c. That position persisted over the years until the advent of the previous Labor Government. This is why people felt that they wanted tax indexation.
– Tell us about the last days.
-In the last days of the previous Government, not 26c or 28c was being surrendered from each household dollar but just on 35c was being surrendered to the Government. So the weight of the public purse, the weight of the finance that had to be surrendered from each earned dollar to government in one form or another caused the Australian people to say: ‘No, we are not going to persist in this kind of situation’. The other side of that equation is significant. It was said that those cents were taken out of the dollar and money was given back to the people in the form of pensions, payments, repatriation, family allowances and so on so that they could spend it. Nothing of the kind. Over 25 years ago between 6c and 6 1/2c were given back to people to spend as they desired. In the last days of the previous Government only 7!£c were given back. Here we have a double shuffle. An extra 9c were taken out of each earned household dollar- the 9c were not taken out only by the previous Government, by the way- and only l!£c were given back. Without making those kinds of calculations and that precise kind of determination people felt that that was no good, that that was inefficient, that that was crook, and feeling those things they said: ‘No’.
We say that the principal requirements of this Government that has just been elected are twofold. The first requirement is to return to the basic promise made over 30 years ago, and to remember that in keeping that promise it is not just full employment that is required; it is full employment in a society which is able to determine its own affairs, and full employment for housholds which are able, to the maximum extent possible, to determine their own affairs. That is what we are talking about and that is why during the last election we came, in a social sense, to a turning point in Australian life. Two different philosophies were interposed, juxtaposed, and the Australian electorate was asked to examine both of them.
It is obvious that the Labor Government was following the philosophy of its Prime Minister so it took those resources and returned such a small proportion of what it took from each person. That is why propositions such as tax indexation are so important, and that is why I regard propositions such as wage indexation as so important, but that view may not be held so universally. I read just one sentence from a speech by the former Prime Minister to exemplify the kind of society represented by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) for so long as he can speak for it. He had this to say in the Chifley Memorial Lecture:
The quality of life depends less on the things which individuals obtain for themselves and can purchase for themselves from their personal incomes and depends more on the things which the community provides for all its members from the combined resources of the community.
There you have a recipe for the substitution of community control for personal control and it is put into a clear philosophical context. In case one thought that was not the real purport of what the former Prime Minister had to say, he also said this:
In the Australian context, this means that the community, through the national government, must finance them or they will not be financed at all.
It comes down to a different view of the nature of man in our society, and of the nature of the household in our society. This Government therefore has one overall and abiding task: It is to remember those promises of 30 years ago; it is to recollect that those promises can be sustained only in the kind of society foreshadowed in the White Paper; it is to remember that people want to have, to the maximum extent possible, control of those affairs and that above all, the benefits of a society which has obtained some degree of economic equilibrium, ought to be distributed as far as possible, as widely as possible and with the maximum amount of equity. They are the two different social philosophies involved in Australian life today and they are the principles upon which this Government will stand during the years that it will be here and, I presume, Mr Speaker, if I may return to the point at which I began, during the years that you will grace your office.
-The honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) has said that the Fraser Government is going to go back 30 years. A great many people in Australia feared very much, when that Government was elected, that it was going to go back much further than 30 years, perhaps well into the 1 9th century. I accept the assurance of the honourable member that the Fraser Government will be going back only 30 years to just after World War II. I know the importance of the concept of full employment to the honourable member for Lilley and many other people. I realise that he is thinking of it in the terms of William, Lord Beveridge, who was the advocate of full employment 30 years ago. I would rather say that full employment as Western society has known it for 30 years is extremely unlikely to occur again. Rather than have a government saying that its purpose is to re-establish full employment we ought to have a government that is more inclined to say: ‘For very identifiable reasons there is going to be a lot more unemployment now and in the future than in the past, and it will be much more sensible to design policies to make unemployment acceptable rather than to have unemployment constantly used as the strongest weapon against policies of growth, as it has been in recent times’.
The honourable member for Lilley was very keen to say that it was the Australian Labor Party Government that had broken the contract of full employment. Surely he has not failed to notice that in every country similar to Australia in the last three or four years the contract of full employment has been broken. In every country, I think without exception- West Germany was an exception for a little while- unemployment is higher than it is in Australia. and especially higher if we allow for the greater quantity of unemployment that is measured in Australia. The contract of full employment has been broken in every capitalist country in the last three or four years, significantly so. It is likely to continue to be broken in every capitalist country. Therefore I think it probably is very wise, in the interests of the people, that for political reasons governments like this one should not be claiming that they are going to bring back full employment. If we measure it in terms of what we have been used to measuring it in the past, of 1 per cent or 2 per cent, or less than 2 per cent, it is extremely unlikely that will be done.
Perhaps it is of equal importance to look at inflation. Inflation and its consequences are the main economic and political problem in Australia today. So far it has not been possible to reduce inflation rapidly, because of the consequences of a high level of unemployment and a low output for a . very long time- a loss of perhaps $10,000m of output a year for much more than a year. The costs of this are far higher than any government in a country such as this has so far been prepared to face. For those who are not much worried by loss of jobs, this loss of profit, income and money will be so worrying, I should think, as to prevent even a Fraser government looking back 30 years or, as some of us suspect, looking back to the 19th century. It would be impossible for even a Fraser government to go that far. We will leave open our judgment on that until the next Budget, because it might try the application of conventional economic theory between now and the next Budget.
So that we do not miss the views that people around the world have on the application of conventional economic theory, I shall quote some. In my view, analysis and policy about inflation are today inadequate, misleading and contradictory. They are as inadequate, misleading and contradictory now about inflation as they were about depression 40 years ago. I am not the only one to hold that opinion. Geoffrey Barraclough has written a series of articles in the New York Review of books in the last 12 months. They are a review of practically everything that has been written around the world on this subject, most of it quite unfamiliar in Australia. In the last page of one article in the series Barraclough sums up the views of those he has been reviewing when he states:
What is clear, in any case, is that there is no solution within the existing system.
There he is talking about inflation. That view is quite commonly held in other parts of the world. The economic theories that we have and use today about inflation are economic theories that have come from theoretical thinking about a world which no longer exists- a world of small scale enterprise, a world of pure or perfect competition. The theories of John Maynard Keynes are not any different from that. Keynes brought about what is called the Keynesian revolution in 1935 by pointing out that in that system the equilibrium of full employment was only an accidential equilibrium. The equilibrium might be considerably below full employment. Therefore certain policies ought to be followed to raise that equilibrium to full employment. When that had been done Keynes, more than any one else, said: ‘Now having got there the conventional theory becomes completely applicable’. That is not so. Increasingly over the last 60 or 70 years, that competitive system, if it ever existed, has disappeared.
Now we have enormous national corporations and enormous multi-national corporations. In Australia less than 3 per cent of those corporations control 50 per cent of employment, income and output. Three out of every 100 control more than 50 per cent. Not only do we have those enormous national and multi-national corporations that dominate the economy but also we have extremely powerful unions which have grown to allow the worker to obtain his share of income that that system generates. If the trade unions had not grown and become militant and strong in those circumstances- they could because there was something like full employment- the workers’ standard would have declined. So we have powerful business corporations and powerful unions. In addition we have a powerful Public Service. So we have three enormous power blocs in the modern society. We do not have a competitive system from which the economic theory was designed. We have something totally different. So the economic theory that has been designed for that system is no longer appropriate for it.
Economics today is inadequate and contradictory about inflation because it is concerned only with income and employment in what is assumed to be a competitive system. It is not competitive. The analysis deals with the propensity to consume, the marginal efficiency of capital and the rate of interest. Everything else is taken as given in this enormously powerful economic system. Policy derived from this analysis is mainly relevant to a condition of much less than full employment and suggests, as policy measures, an increase in the propensity to consume and a low rate of interest. This is the policy prescription when there is less than full employment. When there is less than full employment of plant and machines, what then? Although we have a significant amount of unemployment of men and women- 4 per cent or 5 per cent- is it realised that we have a significant amount of unemployment of machines in Australia today? It is between 10 per cent and 15 per cent. In the manufacturing sector it is 20 per cent or 30 per cent. If one has to increase the propensity to consume and has to reduce the rate of interest when one has unemployment of men, what does one do when one has unemployment of machines? Does one reduce the propensity to consume? Does one increase the rate of interest? That is what the conventional theory tells one. I think that is what the Government is getting ready to do- to reduce the propensity to consume.
It is all right for the honourable member for Lilley to talk about indexation of wages, but what chance does indexation of wages have in Australian today? It has Buckley’s chance. It is all right for him to talk about indexation of taxation, but the few dollars that the Government will put into indexation of taxation in the coming Budget will not be worth noticing. The Government will not be increasing the propensity to consume; it will be reducing that propensity. I fail to see how it can reduce the rate of interest. So I think that whatever way we look at the matter, Barraclough ‘s conclusion is right. In this kind of system there is no solution. Keynes went further than this. There are sections of the General Theory of employment, interest and money that are never read in the universities because they are not algebraic. A simple non-algebraic reading of the General Theory reveals Keynes’ belief that in conditions of full employment the marginal efficiency of capital would so decline that it would lead to the euthanasia of the rentier- the money lender. He has never been more powerful than he is today. The money lender can borrow at 14 per cent and lend at a profit. There has been no euthanasia of the rentier in the modern full employment society. Keynes said:
A comprehensive socialisation of investment will prove the only means of securing an approximation of full employment.
That is at page 375 of General Theory. At page 320 Keynes wrote:
In conditions of laissez faire … I conclude that the duty of ordering the current volume of investment cannot safely be left in private hands.
He did not foreshadow how these results could be brought about, but the great prophet of the contemporary economic theory which the Treasury and the Reserve Bank of Australia want to apply and which this Govenmet therefore eventually will apply realised that the laissez faire theory was not appropriate in the circumstances. Something was necessary to order the current volume of investment. Whatever way we look at progress in this respect, it means we must think of a system that has three great power blocs- the private corporations, national and international, the powerful unions and the powerful Public Service. In some ways some planning has to come about, but that is extremely far off in Australia. To show that the thinking in other places is in terms such as this I would like to read the last paragraph of Barraclough’s series of articles in the New York Review of books. He said that there must be some basic change somewhere in the system. He said:
What it will be; how far it will depart from the present system, no one can predict. On the whole, I would agree with Heilbroner that the most likely outcome is the ‘transformation of “private” capitalism into planned “state” capitalism.’ This, he says, is already ‘partially realised’ in Japan. It was also pretty effectively realised by Hitler- and, the historian with a longer memory might add, in the Byzantine Empire. What we can see, in any case, is that neocapitalism, with its pretensions to have found the answer to Marx, was the expression of a temporary situation, borne along not by its own dynamic but by the upwards wave of the economic cycle; but the vision of a society dedicated to welfare, not to power and profit- the only vision that makes sense in today ‘s circumstances- still eludes us, and will do so until another crisis, even more crippling than the crisis that is brewing today, brings home to the whole world the perils it faces.
What I suggest is that thinking in terms of a competitive economy, in terms of laissez-faire, in terms of freedom- freedom of enterprise, competition and so on- we are missing the whole significance of the trend that is going on before our eyes. The Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott) talked about centralism as though there was some special danger in power to Canberra against the federal system, as though that were the threat to freedom. That is not the threat to freedom.
– Of course it is.
-Well, it is a threat to freedom. I agree with the honourable member there.
But it is not the threat to freedom. I am no advocate of power to Canberra. I do not think power to Bourke Street or to Macquarie Street or any other place is much better. But I do not think power here to Canberra is any good. That is a threat to freedom but it is not the threat to freedom. The threat to freedom lies in the 3 powerful complexes that are developing, the complexes of the multi-national and national corporations, of the powerful trade unions and the powerful State bureaucracy whether it be in Canberra, Melbourne, Sydney or anywhere else. I should also mention the complex of the media that serves the essence of that. That is where the threat to freedom is. If honourable gentlemen do not realise that they are missing the whole point.
– If you diffuse power you are not concentrating it.
– There is no chance to react against that. Honourable members opposite should not think there has been any change in the power situation just because there has been a change of government. They will be just as much the victims of that as anyone else is. They will find that out during the course of the next year or two. They will be as much the victims of the economic problems that arise out of this system as we were. The problems that we found in Australia were not the problems of the Australian Labor Government. They were the problems of the system, a system that is the same in every other country. All around the world there is unemployment and inflation, the same sort of power structure everywhere producing the same kind of results.
I think that honourable members opposite have to be a little more radical in their thinking about this matter. When I see the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) standing up answering questions with that polished Chamber of Commerce confidence of his I feel regretful that he is not able to look at it a little more critically than that because he will come an awful cropper if that is the way he is going to continue looking at this system. I am saying this partly because there is not much of this view in Australia and I think that it is wise to have such a view. One finds it in other countries.
The conventional methods of Western governments for managing their economies are inadequate, contradictory and dangerous. Many people in other countries realise that but few do here. Little new thinking is being done in the universities here. People like Professor Wheelwright in Sydney who are capable of doing this can never get a chair. Professor Wheelwright has been passed over for 1 1 years.
– What about Knopfelmacher?
– Little, of course, is done in the Public Service. I think that Knopfelmacher is more capable of thinking of this than is the honourable member, with all due respect to the honourable member and to Knopfelmacher. In the business community very little is done in this respect. I want to conclude simply by mentioning that recently in Australia 2 people in the business community put forward some ideas that I think were extremely interesting. One was Mr Louis Kelso of the United States of America and the other was Mr Shann Turnbull, the son of former Senator Turnbull, who wrote the book entitled ‘Democratising The Wealth of Nations’. What these 2 people really have to say, in brief, is that all our thinking economic and otherwise is in terms of income but none of it is in terms of capital or wealth.
Turnbull believes, of course correctly, that there can be a greater generation of income by far on the side of capital or wealth than there can be on the other side but that we never think about this aspect. He also believes that until we begin to think about it we will not solve the problems of dealing with inflation or the problems of welfare because there is a jack-up on welfare. People will not pay taxes for this purpose. Until we begin to look at the significance of the capital structure, as I have been saying during the course of this speech, there is little hope for any kind of solution. I do not know whether that solution will be particularly good, but there is no reason why there cannot be some further development in that direction.
I think a trade union movement tied to capital and thinking more and more in terms of money is not going to be a better trade union movement. But I know that the Australian people are so intent upon money and so keen upon what is called ‘the smell of money’ that that is likely to be the direction in which we are to go. I would suggest therefore that it is worth looking at the work of people like Kelso and Turnbull to see what the possibilities are in this direction. Finally, if we think exclusively or mainly in terms of conventional economic theory we will continue to be misled and the result will be dangerous.
-It is an honour and a privilege to follow the honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns). I can remember the days when he lectured me at Melbourne University on economic history, about the trade union movement and the industrial revolution. Although our views are politically apart I have a great respect for his sincerity. I have a great respect for what he has contributed to his party, even though again I do not agree with its views. I think it is a great pity to see the honourable member sitting on the back benches today when his party needs him so greatly. I think that most of us in this House would agree with that. I hope the day has not come when he thinks that he is a has-been as perhaps some people unkindly and unjustly would say. I hope that the honourable member will remember that he has a lot to contribute to his party, to this Parliament and to this country even though I may disagree with him on many of the aspects of what he would put forward.
On the night of the last election on 13 December I think that the honourable member for Lalor made a very clear point when he bitterly pointed out that historically the Labor movement had not found much success in Australia. At the election of 1 3 December last we witnessed the people of Australia remove from office a discredited Whitlam Labor Government and saw installed the present Liberal-National Country Party Government with the greatest majority that any Australian Government has enjoyed since Federation. One could be forgiven for believing that following this defeat the Australian Labor Party would have become a little bit introspective, that it would have closely scrutinised itself and its policies and perhaps tried to discern where it went wrong. One would have thought that speaker after speaker on the Opposition side would have grasped the opportunity in the Address-in-Reply debate to look to the future, as perhaps the honourable member for Lalor did, and to put forward constructive policies for their party in the future. But on the whole they have not done so. Most speakers on the Opposition side instead of looking to the future have harked back to the past. However, it is necessary that their arguments do not go unanswered.
It is obvious that as 1975 drew to a close a vast majority of the Australian people wanted to be rid of the Whitlam Labor Government before it did more and perhaps lasting and irreparable damage to the country’s economy. This statement stands proven by the massive anti-Labor vote on 1 3 December.
The Liberal and National Country Parties acted rightly in responding to the wish of the Australian people. This, after all, is what democracy is all about. Yet the former Prime Minister, now the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G.
Whitlam), tried to prevent the people from saying through the ballot-box whether they wanted a change of government. As I have said, in the event they showed that they did. The only means open to the then Opposition to allow the people to express an opinion was for the Senate to deny Supply, which is legally within its powers as laid down in the Australian Constitution. As honourable members well know, section 1 of the Constitution provides that the legislative power of the Commonwealth shall be vested in the Federal Parliament which shall consist of the Queen, a Senate and a House of Representatives, to be called the Parliament or the Parliament of the Commonwealth. The former Prime Minister is on record as having said on more than one occasion in this House that a government which is denied finance should go to the people. In fact, he and his Party endeavoured to force a former Liberal-Country Party government to an election on these very grounds not so very long ago. The only reason they failed was that they are not very good at counting numbers and on that occasion they did not get the numbers. However, they tried.
In the weeks prior to 1 1 November the then Prime Minister realised that because of his Government’s blunders it would face certain defeat at an election. He therefore decided to pull every card out of the pack to prevent the people from expressing their view through the ballot box. He refuted his earlier arguments in this House. There was, he loudly proclaimed, no need to call a general election. In fact, he said, he would refuse to do so. No doubt believing that if one repeats something often enough the people will believe it, he kept referring to the House of Representatives as the people’s house as if the Senate was in some way an appointed chamber just as is the House of Lords in the United Kingdom. This, of course, as honourable members well know, is not the case. In Australia the Senate is a democratically elected House, elected by the same people who elect the House of Representatives. The Senate is elected on a basis of proportional representation whereas the House of Representatives is elected on an electorate basis. They are both elected, as I have said, by the same people. They are both people ‘s Houses. Under the Constitution they, together with the Queen, make up the Parliament of the Commonwealth.
Faced with a deadlock between the 2 Houses of Parliament the Governor-General took the only course open to him. He acted, as indeed he was required to act under the Constitution, to resolve the deadlock. The Labor Prime Minister had stated he would not call an election. The Governor-General took the only course open to him. He appointed a caretaker government and a caretaker Prime Minister charged with the sole duty of calling an election and allowing the people of Australia quite rightly to decide the issue once and for all and for themselves. It should be placed on record that had he not acted when he did an election would not have been possible before Christmas and many public servants and others would have remained unpaid. Perhaps this is what the former Prime Minister wanted, expecting perhaps a political backlash against his opponents. He is on record as having called the action of the Governor-General undemocratic. Sir, I ask you: How can anyone claim that asking the people to place a ballotpaper in a ballot-box to say whom they wish to govern’ their country can ever be called undemocratic? It is only when people are prevented from voting that democracy is endangered. The attempt of the former Prime Minister to prevent the Australian people from voting was an undemocratic action.
Unable to accept the resounding verdict of the people on 13 December, Labor members have spent their time in this House, particularly in this debate, clutching at straws. Because the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation has been linked to some purported overseas scandal they have maintained that Lockheed must have had something to do with Labor’s defeat. When some probable Labor sympathiser in the Australian Broadcasting Commission unearthed a report last week that the Central Intelligence Agency was involved in the dismissal of the Whitlam Government some Labor members clambered onto that band-wagon. Apparently they never bothered to inquire into the source of the report which was a little-known, and even less respected, I might add, New York weekly Village Voice, a paper which has been described as ‘a scurrilous off-beat news sheet catering for leftwing trendies’.
– How do you’ spell ‘sheet’?
– I thank the honourable member for that remark. Nor did Labor members bother to find out that the author of the article was an Australian journalist who is a cardcarrying communist. They clutched on this story to absolve themselves from any blame for defeat. On the strength of this report Labor members in this House have called for a royal commission, with all the expense that that would involve, into the CIA’s so-called part in the fall of the Whitlam Government. Let there be no mistake: The Whitlam Government fell, not through any surreptitious plot, but because of its own bungling and incompetence. We all know that. Even the Labor members themselves must realise it.
– Of course they realise that.
– It fell because in only 3 years it had virtually brought Australia to its knees. I agree with the honourable member for North Sydney when he said that of course they realise that. Of course they do and they did at the time.
As the honourable member for Lalor bitterly pointed out on the night of the election, historically the Labor movement has not found much success in Australia. Is it any wonder when Labor governs as the Whitlam Labor Government did during the past 3 years? There is a saying which we have heard many times that people in glass houses should not throw bricks. The Labor Party should be wary where it throws its bricks when it starts talking about Lockheed and CIA and telling the fanciful stories it has been coming up with in this House and elsewhere. Let us just look at today’s newspapers. Let me quote from tonight’s Sydney Sun. Under the headline ‘Labor Leaders ask Gough what’s going on?’ it states:
The ALP is demanding an explanation from Mr Whitlam about an alleged promise of $500,000 for its campaign funds from militant Arab sources. “*~
Mr Whitlam is the only Party official who would know all the details of secret donations offers at election time.
Mr Whitlam refused to comment today on allegations that the left-wing Iraqi Government had promised the loan.
The Melboune Sun today said:
Whitlam Sensation. Row over Arab $500,000.
It was referring to an offer to pay for the Labor Party’s campaign expenses. One wonders what the Iraqis were getting out of this. It went on:
It is believed the massive Arab campaign gift was to be ‘laundered’ before being passed on to the ALP through a Sydney businessman.
Labor sources said last night the US$500,000 campaign gift was to be ‘without strings .
But they described the decision to accept it as ‘a major error of judgment’.
Who made that major of error judgment? I ask the Labor Party members sitting in this House tonight. The Sun continued:
Disclosure that the ALP was thinking of accepting Arab money will also undermine Mr Whitlam ‘s claim that the ALP ‘s Middle East policy is ‘ even-handed ‘.
Mr Hawke, a strong Israel supporter, is reported to have been furious when he heard of the proposed gift.
In tonight’s Melbourne Herald the front page headline is: $500,000 Stir: ALP set for big row.
The ensuing article states:
The Federal Opposition Leader, Mr Whitlam, today faces the most serious questioning of his leadership of the Labor Party since its defeat in December.
As well he should, I might add.
The article continued:
With allegations that there was a plan for the ALP to accept $US500,000 in a secret campaign gift from Arab sources, Mr Whitlam faced an angry but disbelieving Caucus meeting in Parliament House.
He refused to discuss the allegations before Caucus met.
Mr Whitlam spent the morning alone in his Parliament House office, preparing his answer to the allegations.
This evening ‘s Melbourne Herald editorial says:
Oh, no- not again?
No doubt it had in mind, of course, the Khemlani affair. The editorial reads:
If the allegations that have emerged sensationally after the secret meeting of Federal ALP officers in Melbourne last Sunday week are correct, Labor will have suffered a relapse into the malady of which it manifested such distressing symptoms during the loans affair, a proclivity to make an incredibly stupid and wrong decision, and an inability to avoid being found out.
In conclusion I would say this: It has been said that the people get the sort of government they deserve. I do not believe that they got the government they deserved in 1972. 1 think that in 1972 they were conned by a massive public relations campaign. I believe that on 13 December last they got a government which will set Australia back on the rails and that is essentially, I think, what all Australians want. When we come to the elections in 1978 I believe that the Australian people will re-elect the Fraser Liberal-Country Party Government to keep Australia that way. Australia’s experiment with socialism has been proven a failure.
-I recall that yesterday at question time when the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) sought an inquiry into the amount of money that had been received by a senior Cabinet Minister from the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation the Speaker said that accusations of that type had to be dealt with in a substantive motion. Tonight we have heard the honourable member for Deakin (Mr Jarman) quote from various newspapers making shocking accusations against the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam). Over the last few months members of the former Opposition made accusations not only against the then Prime Minister but also against senior Ministers over the Khemlani affair. Members of the Liberal Party of Australia and the National Country Party travelled overseas to try to rake up some evidence to prove that there was something in the arrangement to obtain loans from Arab countries. Now we are having a rehash of the situation. We are no longer the Government. We are now the Opposition. I suggest to all honourable members opposite that they should recognise that this country is already heading towards an unemployment figure of between 500 000 and 750 000 people. I suggest that the new members in particular should look at the policies that are now being enunciated by their dictator, by their Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser)- their Leader who will not allow his Ministers even to make a Press statement unless he clears it first. If we are worried about Australia then surely it is time that we should realise that in respect of these unsubstantiated allegations and the loan affair not a tittle of evidence could be produced despite desperate efforts to do so.
I have already conveyed my congratulations personally to the Speaker and to the Chairman of Committees. I now do so publicly. I convey my congratulations to. those new members who have made their maiden speeches. I feel they will find their next speech and all those after much more difficult to make than they found the first one. I express my regret that at the election in 1975 I lost so many good friends and colleagues from my Party. To those honourable members who took their place I merely say that I hope they can take as much interest in their electorates and do as good a job as my colleagues did. They were dedicated members of Parliament. They were dedicated to their constituency, but unfortunately in this game of politics there can be only one winner. The honourable member for Cook smiles and nods.
– He knows.
-He knows. Might I say that Mr Ray Thorburn is already on the track ready to recover the seat of Cook at the next election. I have noted that some of the new members in their maiden speeches have made extremely outlandish comments. They have been conservative in the extreme. May I suggest to them all that this is the year 1976, not the year 1900. The horse and buggy days have gone. The old conservatism no longer prevails. Unless you keep pace with the young, Australia is not going to progress and develop. I say to those who have already made their speeches- I know that generally they were talking to the people in their electorates: Let us see if you can bring your ideas up to date and think generally of the nation and all the problems that we have, I admit that the problems that we have in Australia are very small compared with the problems that exist in other nations. I have no intention of regurgitating the happenings of October-November last year except to say that no matter from which angle they are examined the decision given by Sir John Kerr was, to say the least, most peculiar. It will be argued in legal and political circles for many years, but for certain a similar peculiar decision will never again be made.
The next subject I wish to raise is not one that I enjoy raising but I raise it because during the election campaign the Liberal Party’s slogan was ‘Turn on the Lights’. I was approached on 23 December by a Mr Arthur Launt the proprietor of Mobile Kitchens, Villawood, who showed me the following telegram which was addressed to Malcolm Fraser, Parliament House, Canberra:
Lang candidate unable to meet caterer’s account $1,685.86 for last Saturday evening’s celebrations. Please advise within 4 hours otherwise district court action and Press advised. Get some lights on.
The telegram was signed ‘Arthur Launt’. After sending the telegram Mr Launt received a cheque dated 19 December 1975 for $817.36 signed by the Liberal candidate ‘For and on behalf of Northfield Real Estate (Mortdale Pty Limited). Mr Launt saw me on 23 December and I sent the following telegram to the Prime Minister.
Have received a complaint from Arthur Launt, proprietor Mobile Kitchens, regarding outstanding payment for Liberal Party function arranged by my opponent in the Lang Electorate . . . Understand Mr Launt has already contacted you personally. Would be pleased if you would arrange for an amount of $868.50 to be transmitted to Mr Launt immediately.
I have received no reply to that telegram and I understand that Mr Launt has had no reply to his telegrams.
– It must have been a good party. How much did it cost?
-Some $1,685.86. On 13 January 1976 the following notice appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald in the Company Notices column:
In the Supreme Court of New South Wales, Equity No. 325 1975 Northfield Real Estate (Mortdale) Pty Ltd, and in the matter of the Companies Act of 1961, notice is hereby given that a meeting of creditors will be held at the offices of the Liquidator, 105 Pitt Street, Sydney, on the 21st day of January, 1976, at 2.30 o’clock in the afternoon. To entitle a creditor to vote thereat, his proof must be lodged with the undersigned not later than 9 o’clock in the forenoon of the 21st day of January, 1976. Proxies to be used at the meeting must be lodged with the undersigned at 105 Pitt Street, Sydney, in the State of New South Wales, not later than 9 0 ‘clock in the forenoon of the 2 1 st of January, 1976. 1 understand that there was an earlier petition against the candidate. That was made in September 1974 but was not proceeded with.
The latest in this saga of the election debt of my Liberal opponent in the amount of $868.50 is that on 17 February 1976 a letter setting out in chronological order the arrangements made for the catering was delivered to the Liberal candidate. Let me quote from that letter:
Tuesday, 16 December, I saw Mr Gadsden to work out accounts. Dockets were produced for all costs agreed to by him. Account, as attached, was submitted to you.
Wednesday, 17 December, I saw Jack Gadsden in the morning and he said he would have to see you regarding payment. At approximately 3 p.m. I called at the Campaign Office and saw you and Mr Gadsden. You said you were not happy with the account as it exceeded the original quote and you could only manage to pay $ 1,200. You and Mr Gadsden then had an argument over campaign funds and the payment of local newspaper accounts.
Thursday, 18 December, Mr Gadsden told me he was too busy to discuss the matter and I then forwarded a telegram to Mr Malcolm Fraser . . .
Friday, 19 December, at 5.30 p.m. pan payment of the account was received when you gave me your personal cheque for $817.36. My bank manager expressed doubt regarding the cheque.
Monday, 22 December, Mr Gadsden said the cheque I received on Friday would be all I would get as there was no money left. He said I could summons him if I liked but he had the best lawyers in Australia and as he was only on the dole, I would not have much hope of getting the amount outstanding.
One of the famous phrases that is being used by Liberal and National Country Party members at the moment is ‘dole bludgers’. I raise the matter only because the proprietor of Mobile Kitchens has been at me consistently to do something about it. He has contacted the Prime Minister, I contacted the Prime Minister, and the account is still not paid. I merely ask now: How many other Liberal candidates have outstanding election debts, and what is the supposedly high principled Liberal Party prepared to do about this amount which is owed to the proprietor of Mobile Kitchens?
I now wish to register a very firm complaint about the abolition of the Department of Tourism and Recreation. The only substantive statement that I can find by the Liberal Party on the Department of Community Development- it is now administered by Senator Greenwood who is the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development- was issued on 10 May 1974 by the then Leader of the Opposition, Mr Snedden. The media release said:
In the belief that governments should assist individuals in the community in the pursuit of their own excellence we will be increasing grants to small groups, to amateur associations, local clubs and sporting bodies. We believe this is very important.
It went on to say:
The Department will promote and encourage cultural, social, recreational and sporting activities within the community. It will provide opportunity for people to enjoy the improved standards of living as the potential for them is achieved.
Further on it said:
Through the Department of Community Development and in association with States and local government a Liberal-Country Party government will actively promote the arts, tourism, recreation and sport and many other social activities which enrich communities.
It concluded by saying:
In relation to sport this Department will promote activity at all levels. Not only will it promote international teams but it will provide incentives and initiatives for the large number of smaller organisations catering for specialised choices throughout the community.
That is just one other Liberal Party election pledge that has been broken since 1 3 December.
People in the community have not recognised the necessity for promoting our tourism industry and our recreational activities. The present Government has demolished the Department of Tourism and Recreation. It has put tourism under the control of the Minister for Industry and Commerce, Senator Cotton, and it has put sport, recreation and physical fitness under the Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development, administered by Senator Greenwood.
I would like to cite .some figures concerning tourism in Australia and its importance to our economy. It is estimated that the Australian travel industry generates some $3,000m a year, or 8 per cent of gross national income. It employs an estimated 10 per cent of the work force; contributes substantially to State, Commonwealth and local revenues; stimulates the economies of rural areas; and in 1974 earned approximately $200m in foreign exchange. Expenditure by Australians on tourism overseas amounted to approximately $360m in 1974. Tourism is a great employer of female labour. It is also a decentralised, smokeless industry. In their maiden speeches a number of new members have talked about tourism in their own electorates, yet this Government is prepared to put the tourist industry in Australia back into the doldrums again. It is time that the whole community recognised the strife in which the tourist accommodation industry in Australia finds itself at the moment. I, as Minister for Tourism and Recreation, arranged for a special investigation of the tourist accommodation industry by the Industries Assistance Commission. The report was received by the Government on 2 December 1975. It still has not been tabled and no decision has been taken.
The accommodation industry in Australia now is in a desperate state. Most of our major chains have dismissed night porters, porters, cancelled room service and weekend meals to cut costs. In 1974 one chain proprietor sold 8 properties and reduced head office staff from 35 to 14. 1 appreciate that the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Eric Robinson) who is at the table comes from a tourist area. While he was a member of the Opposition he spoke on tourism at every available opportunity. He said that tourism was an industry that should be fostered, developed and assisted. I ask him to use his good offices now that he is a Minister to see that some of those things he wanted me to do but which I could not get done in 3 years will be done. I ask that the Press release from Mr Speaker, then the Leader of the Opposition, of 10 May 1974 be incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
In the belief that Governments should assist individuals in the community in the pursuit of their own excellence we will be increasing grants to small groups, to amateur associations, local clubs and sporting bodies. We believe this is very important. Liberalism rates highly the value of the contribution of these local community activities to a fuller, richer community life. This will be one objective of a Department of Community Development to be established by the new Government. It will be a focus for the fostering of individual development and opportunity which is central to the Liberal ideal.
It has been a long-term personal objective of mine to see a Department which has as its broad function the establishment and maintenance of productive communication between community and Government.
The Department will promote and encourage cultural, social, recreational and sporting activities within the community. It will provide opportunity for people to enjoy the improved standards of living as the potential for them is achieved. Individual choice differs widely. The Department of Community Development will reflect this diversity and cater for it. The Department will have a number of functions which collectively are significant in the social development of the community. Through the Department of Community Development and in association with States and local government a Liberal/Country Party Government will actively promote the arts, tourism, recreation and sport and many other social activities which enrich communities. We will also legislate to establish the Australian Council for the Arts as a statutory corporation. Among its objectives will be to encourage Australian artists to live and work in Australia, to develop a distinctive Australian identity through the arts and to preserve Australia’s cultural and historical value through the arts. It will have a charter to vigorously promote the development of Australian artistic expression and appreciation.
We will support recreational facilities at all levels.
For children we will provide opportunities by helping to develop a comprehensive modern playground program and continue aid for after-school and holiday activities. The Department of Community Development will assist overall in the development of community centres and in the maintenance of public parklands.
In its responsibility for tourism the Department will consult with the industry and other areas of Government to enlarge and broaden the tourist potential of this country.
We will continue to encourage the ordered development of resort centre and convention facilities throughout Australia in a manner which harmonises with the preservation of Australia’s unique flora and fauna. In association with other Government bodies we will promote a uniform code for travel agencies and other tourist operators in order to achieve our objectives of having a strong viable industry attracting overseas visitors.
In relation to sport this Department will promote activity at all levels. Not only will it promote international teams but it will provide incentives and initiatives for the large number of smaller organisations catering for specialised choices throughout the community.
I regret that I do not have time to talk about recreation, sport and physical fitness because about 20 per cent of the population indulges in competitive recreation of some sort. That again has been disregarded by this Government. It is time that we recognised -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drummond)
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I would like to add my congratulations to those you have received and also to record my congratulations to Mr Speaker and echo the sentiments expressed by other honourable members who have congratulated Mr Speaker. I would like also to presume to congratulate the new members on their maiden speeches. As a still new member myself I found them enjoyable and stimulating. Unlike the honourable member for Lang (Mr Stewart) who has just resumed his seat, I did not find them overwhelmingly conservative. I find that a rather amusing statement from the honourable member because I doubt that there is a more conservative member in either chamber of this Parliament than the honourable member for Lang.
Turning to the Governor-General’s Speech, there has been a series of assertions made by the Opposition that under this Government the poor, the sick, the aged and all those whom we may describe as socially and economically disadvantaged will be hard done by and will suffer. That assertion, wild and general as it is, is not justified either by the Governor-General’s Speech or by the speeches made by private members, many of whom made their maiden speeches, who have preceded me in this debate. I cite as one example the honourable member for McMillan (Mr Simon), and there are others who have given what in any circumstances could be regarded only as highly enlightened speeches. In the Governor-General’s Speech His Excellency said: … the Government will place great emphasis on directing welfare assistance to those in real need. Unless there is a concentration on those in real need, schemes of assistance do not provide maximum possible assistance to the disadvantaged and become excessively costly. The Government does not believe that the poor and disadvantaged can be best helped by increasing the dependence of everyone on what the Government chooses to provide.
My Government believes that adequate opportunities for the disadvantaged as well as the most rapid improvement in social service provision, are dependent on people being free and encouraged to achieve their best. The disadvantaged must be helped in ways which leave them the maximum independence.
This dignified self-help, which is a most important key to the philosophy of the Government Parties, is a matter which the Opposition spokesmen still have not understood. They have not understood the lesson from their period in government that unbridled and unlimited public spending which has the effect of making everyone dependent on the Government is not the way in which to achieve economic growth in order to achieve social improvements. One would have thought that by now some of the lessons of the old fashioned, outmoded welfare state paternalism would have got through to the Opposition, especially as the Wilson Labour Government has clearly learnt this lesson and is carrying out a very stringent program of across-the-board cuts.
We believe in a redistribution of wealth and income and it may always be a matter of debate, even debate within the Government parties, as to whether such a redistribution is proceeding as far as it ought. It has always been a debate in the Australian Labor Party between the left, the centre and the right, but we believe in it. We also believe in growth, but not growth of an unlimited kind. This Speech is filled with caveats upon growth in keeping with the aspirations of an industrial community like ours in the last quarter of the 20th century. The references to the environment and other matters to which Labor has subscribed and in which we share with it in aspiration but differ from it in technique, is clear evidence of the fact that we want growth and want to assist the underprivileged and disadvantaged with maximum freedom for them, maximum freedom of choice and maximum human dignity.
Once again I refer to 2 other extracts from the Governor-General’s Speech which illustrate our philosophy. I do this at some length because the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) last night was at pains to point out that the Speech only referred to 4 Bills. What a contrast there is there. There is not a massive legislative program but a philosophy which is capable of implementation over the term of office. There is no need for hasty judgment about what the Government has done in a period of weeks. This Government has not set out to do things in a period of weeks. It has set out to do things in a period of years, and do them it will. This is the philosophy that will guide it. In his Speech the Governor-General said:
Action to restore Australia’s economic well being and decentralise Government decision making is essential to the Government’s ability to provide better and more effective assistance to the disadvantaged. The Government will not permit economic recovery to take place at the expense of those who are less well off.
There is a clear commitment. There is a clear pledge by this Government, and if this Govern. ment fails to honour this pledge it deserves to be flung out of office in the same way as the Labor Party was dismissed. The Governor-General also said:
It is believed by the Government that voluntary welfare organisations are a critically important part of the Australian welfare system. Accordingly, financial assistance to them will continue. In addition, the Government will assist voluntary bodies by placing public service resources at their disposal through improving opportunities for transferability of staff between the Government and the non-government sector.
The Leader of the Opposition said that we have talked about only 4 Bills and the honourable member for Lang who just resumed his seat said that we are breaking all kinds of promises. Here is the clearest and most far-reaching kind of concept which has so far been ignored by the Opposition, the transferability of staff between the government and the non-government sector, especially in the social welfare area. It is a most important concept. For a government which some people call reactionary, this Speech contains many enlightened sentiments. For example, there is copious reference to the role of women- a role to which certain elements of the Labor movement have given lip service and against which others have worked quite strongly. Despite what the honourable member for Lang said, there is a clear and cogent policy in relation to the arts. There is in this document a clear policy statement in relation to ethnic groups which all previous governments have ignored. There is certainly a clear and workable commitment to the environment and there is, of course, a most important provision regarding the right of privacy.
The Government is also accused by some of union bashing. It is becoming rather tiresome. It is almost as tiresome as the discussion on constitutional rights. If one reads this document and if one reads the Press statements and other statements of Ministers in this Government one can find no justification for that assertion in relation to union bashing. This document reaffirms the Government’s commitment to the trade union training program. That- is not a matter of party political dispute between us. The trade union training program is essential for a better understanding by rank and file trade unionists and by trade union official of the way in which the economy functions; it is essential to a better understanding of how to manage the affairs of their unions, which is a business when all is said and done. It provides them with a better appreciation of how to present their claims and, of course, helps them better to communicate with their members and with the employers. If one listens to some of the loose talk from the left or the right in our community, one hears irresponsible and stupid suggestions about a confrontation between this Government and the trade union movement. That, of course, is in very sharp contrast to the sentiments expressed by members of the Government.
Again, if I may cite a maiden speech, the speech of the honourable member for Casey (Mr Falconer) was quite distinguished for its moderation, enlightenment and tolerance, and it is by no means unique as a speech delivered from this side of the House. In fact, again it provides an interesting contrast for students of political science to compare some of the speeches of members of the Opposition, some of whom are former trade union officials, with speeches of the kind to which I have referred. Let me say most firmly that those people who talk of confrontation, whether they be of the left or of the right, do so heedless of the consequences to our entire society. I am confident that the trade union leaders and this Government will respect the role which each of them has and will not allow extremism to dictate the terms in Australia.
I would like to refer to another matter which flows through this document and other statements of government policy, and that is the question of federalism. As we are constantly reminded, we have a fairly rigid Constitution. It may not be the kind of Constitution which we would write if we were writing it today. However, it is difficult to change, and we do have a federal system. If we were writing it again today I think we would still structure a federal system, even if we were to draw the regional boundaries differently. Our Constitution has important checks and balances, and these have been demonstrated in recent times. There are many faults to which one can point in relation to the way in which the system works, but that is the system we have and we have got to make the most of it. The policy of this Government is aimed at doing precisely that.
I must say that as a private member I see some difficulties arising in implementing that policy. I believe that the Government must be wary of any notion that there is some sort of panacea for many of the problems which were identified most sharply under the Labor Government. But it is important that we make the States accountable for their actions. It is important that income tax be the means whereby the States have a source of income which they can spend in accordance with the dictates of their electorates. With active Opposition leaders in the States they should be able to make the State governments work more effectively without the need to come annually to Canberra begging for more money without fully accepting the responsibility of spending it and, above all, of raising it. When we implement that policy we shall certainly have to be careful to transfer responsibilities gradually, to transfer functions and to co-ordinate the functions as they are transferred.
I do not doubt that there will be a strong temptation to hand over some of the too-hard baskets to the States and say: ‘There you are, you have got your money; go ahead’. I think that is one of the things which the Government will certainly have to watch. There will have to be coordination at all stages, otherwise the phrase ‘cooperative federalism’ which is being used will be a meaningless one. There must be in so many areas an overseeing role taken by the Federal Government or a body representing the 7 governments so that the States, although working independently and answerable to their own constituencies, are in fact working to nationally agreed goals and guidelines.
Another matter which is raised in the Governor-General’s Speech concerns foreign aid and foreign affairs. It is regrettable that in the course of making expenditure savings the Government has found it necessary to make cuts in foreign aid. The Governor-General’s Speech refers in particular to Papua New Guinea. I believe it to be of the utmost importance that we continue our aid to and trade with Papua New Guinea at the highest possible level. Papua New Guinea has the best government it can possibly have at the present, and I am afraid to say that if that government were not in power Papua New Guinea could only have a government infinitely worse, with no prospect for a long time of getting a better one. It is imperative that the Australian people, regardless of which government is in power, acknowledge the need for the government to give urgent and generous assistance in many forms to Papua New Guinea, and to give that assistance now, otherwise we might find ourselves expending all sorts of large sums of money in regrettable episodes in an effort to retrieve a situation which could develop from our failure to support the present Papua New Guinea Government.
Certainly one of the most important areas is trade. Another relates to fisheries, in relation to which there is an area of difference between the 2 governments in terms of the waters and the fishing rights which are claimed. Above all, there is the intractable problem of the border in the Torres Strait. If Australia and Papua New Guinea cannot resolve that problem there is little hope for mankind, because if ever there were 2 nations with an historical affinity, they are the two. The Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) has demonstrated in this House a clear grasp of the situation, and it is certainly imperative that he be able to implement our policy with the co-operation, to the extent necessary, of the State of Queensland. There is no doubt that it is a matter of top priority to the Parliament of Papua New Guinea. It is not something which can be traded off simply by making further grants of aid. I mentioned that matter because one hears from time to time of certain officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs, as distinct from the Minister, who are under the delusion that Papua New Guinea politicians can be bought off with more money and that they will drop their border claims. That certainly is not so.
In the last minutes of my address I would like to turn to the matter mentioned in the closing stages of the Governor-General ‘s Speech, and that is the matter of law reform. The Speech specifically refers to the law of privacy, but there is one other matter on which I wish to touch. The Labor Government appointed the Royal Commission into Human Relationships. In my opinion that is a very important royal commission. Its report will come to this Parliament and hopefully will be acted upon. One matter which came before the Twenty-eighth Parliament by way of resolution of the House and which has not yet been acted upon is the resolution of this House recommending the decriminalization of homosexual acts by consenting males in private.
The Governor-General’s Speech is quite properly silent on that subject because that is a matter of individual vote. However, it is important that this Parliament deals with what was resolved 2
Parliaments ago. I understand that the AttorneyGeneral (Mr Ellicott) has the matter under consideration. If in fact no Bill emanates from the Attorney-General I for one will be prepared to sponsor such a Bill. The reason for my mentioning that matter at this stage is that, while controversial, it is another way in which honourable members will be able to advance their views because of what the Governor-General has mentioned in 2 particular passages in his Speech. I shall quote from the beginning and from the end of his Speech. At the beginning he says:
It is to encourage the development of an Australia in which people have maximum freedom and independence to achieve their goals in life, in ways which they decide.
In the closing paragraphs of his Speech the Governor-General said:
We have a unique opportunity to establish in Australia a truly liberal and humane society-
All Government supporters are committed to the establishment of a truly liberal and humane society and if we continue to aim for that we will not go far wrong.
Debate (on motion by Mr Fry) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr Street) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise to speak at this time because of a deep concern with the obvious large number of examples of sinister malpractice during the last federal election campaign. The examples of contravention of section 156 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act are too many for any member of Parliament to ignore. I am, of course, referring to that section of the Act which says in part:
Any person who gives or takes any valuable consideration, advantage, recompense, reward, or benefit, for or on account of any such candidature, withdrawal or vote shall be guilty of bribery.
I do not want to labour unnecessarily the case of the former Minister for Post and Telecommunications nor to prejudge him. However, I feel that in the face of other evidence of similar cases the Government and the relevant Minister are not treating the matter with due zeal. Why, in fact, are the Commonwealth Police looking only -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! I hope the honourable member for Batman is not referring to the case that at the present stage is before the court.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, if that were the case I have already done it but I assure you I am not referring to that case. If you allow me to go on I think you will understand that that is not my intention. It is certainly not my intention this evening, Mr Deputy Speaker, as you will hear as I proceed. Why in fact are the Commonwealth Police looking only at one case, that of the honourable member for Curtin (Mr Garland) and Mr George Branson and not at others- for instance the allegations made by the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) or the honourable member for Banks (Mr Martin), and after I conclude my opening remarks- the events in my own electorate of Batman?
Obviously one reason is that there is clear evidence that something fishy went on in the Australian Capital Territory. However, this is now a matter for the courts. But whatever the reason, Sir, it is not good enough. My good friend, the honourable member for Robertson, has made in this House similar grave charges in relation to his own electorate. He, as I, would not do this lightly. Why, then, has it been overlooked that he has indicated that no fewer than 4 men were asked to oppose him and to direct their preferences to the Liberal candidate? Why is the word of no less a figure than the Deputy Shire President of the Gosford Shire Council not heeded? He claims that he was offered expenses to run for election, and it was he who claims that three others were approached. One, a Mr Smith, did run and directed his preferences to the Conservative candidate. Why are there no investigations to uncover how his expensive campaign was funded? The same thing happened to my colleague, the honourable member for Banks. Will there be an investigation into the Independent candidate in his electorate, one Denise Merle Arrow, who had the advantage of having her name on top of the ballot paper? Will there be any study made of where her finances came from and which Party workers handed out her how-to-vote cards? I am sure the honourable member for Banks would welcome such an investigation.
But now, Mr Deputy Speaker, my chief concern is the election campaign in Batman, my own electorate. Captain Sam Benson, a highly regarded and very successful former representative for Batman, and in fact my predecessor, I am led to believe was offered $5,000 to run as an Independent and to direct his preferences to the Liberals. It was not only unlikely that he would do this as an ex-Australian Labor Party member but also unlikely that he would accept a bribe.
Furthermore, as many will know, my electorate came under notice for the fairly stormy reception it gave to the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) on his brief and premeditated, violencepromoting visit to the Northcote Town Hall during the campaign. After that meeting the Prime Minister referred to the demonstrators as ‘mindless thugs’ and condemned the violence. I am opposed to violence myself but now I have a little more thuggery and violence to bring to the attention of this House. It is to do with not only bribes but also a death threat. In addition, it does not emanate from the perceptive Labor supporters who turned out to repel Mr Fraser. It involves his own supposedly charming, benign, non-violent supporters- blue rinses and all!
After realising that Sam Benson was moral and not able to be bought in the battle for Batman some of the locals thought they would try the ethnic groups. An Italian girl who lives in the electorate and works in a factory there was offered $50 and a week’s leave on full pay. Her part of the bargain was to encourage her ghastly ALP supporting family to take down their pro- Labor signs and to vote for the Liberal candidate. Needless to say, she refused the offer, showing the customary integrity and honesty of Labor-minded people. Avarice, it would seem, is the province of the Conservatives. However, this knockback did not quash the diminutive but sturdy Liberals in Batman. In fact, after recent events one wonders what would. Money not proving to be the answer, they turned to violence. Strangely, this ‘mindless thuggery’ coincided with the visit of the Prime Minister to Batman. On 10 December a closed meeting of Liberals was held at the Northcote Town Hall, admission to which was by entree card only. After this meeting I was sought out by a petrified Italian gentleman who owns a shop in Northcote and who makes no secret of his support for the ALP. This man, who is getting well on in years, had received a death threat written in Italian. But, more importantly, it was written on the back of an entree card to Mr Fraser ‘s meeting. It seems that this gentleman had committed the terrible sin of putting an ALP poster in the window of his shop. The note read, and I quote as roughly translated:
Watch for the bomb, you Italian bastard- you die soon.
– Well, this is to be seen, because having regard to gentlemen such as you, who voted to send 500 kids to die in Vietnam, you would have no conscience about seeing an ALP man killed. Mr Deputy Speaker, these are the tactics of a Party which claims to abhor violence. So, not counting the cases in other electorates- only three of which are public knowledge- in my own electorate there was: Firstly the offer of money to a prospective Independent candidate if he would direct his preferences to the Liberals; secondly, there was the offer of money and a holiday in return for retraction of a family’s political affiliations; and thirdly, when all else failed there was the ultimate weapon, a death threat to an old man who unashamedly supports my return to this Parliament.
If the claims by the honourable member for Robertson or the honourable member for Banks are not enough for the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott) to set investigations moving, surely these added examples of malpractice in my own electorate demand attention. It is hard in this day and age, when tradition and principle are trampled on with wanton aggression, to place much faith in democratic forms and rules. However, where there are cases of contravention of not only the rules of the game but also the Commonwealth Electoral Act then the readymade machinery must be swung into action. The Attorney-General must stop his hedging and shelving to save the necks of his own Party members and supporters. To make an example of one isolated case is not good enough. I call on the Minister to have not only the guts but also the moral fibre to set the Commonwealth Police on to these matters of grave import and wide concern.
-Methinks the honourable member for Batman (Mr Garrick) bleats too much. He would be better off if he gave up living in the past and thought about the disreputable state into which his own Party has sunk. Of all the things that I have heard in my life, and I am afraid that I have heard plenty, I ask you, Mr Deputy Speaker, does this sound to you like a genuine Liberal: ‘Watch out for the bomb. You die soon.’ Those words were composed by either a New Australian or the honourable member for Batman because nobody else could be quite so illiterate.
– I have had more death threats than you.
-I think that is true. The honourable member for Macarthur is known for telling the truth.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, if the honourable member doubts what I said he might -
– Why are you on your feet?
– Because the Deputy Speaker allows me to be. The honourable member for Angas should ask the CIB at Northcote and he will get all the evidence.
– If the honourable member for Batman has any evidence, I hope that rather than blab, bleat and moan in this House, he makes use of it. There is a normal process of law. He has not told us what he has done about it. I return to what I was saying. I regard it as a concoction of the imagination of the honourable member for Batman. What we make of it is anybody’s guess. However he has introduced something about which I think is worthy to remind this House. It must be several years now since I last did so. The history of political confrontation in this country is studded with the bullying tactics of members of his Party, not of the Liberal Party. But one thing sticks in my gill more than anything else, and it is because I happen to know well the man concerned. He is a decent, respected person rather like the previous member for Batman. He was a merchant skipper. In the days when Batman was well represented, because that man dared to reply to a letter from a left-wing maritime unionist in the Adelaide Advertiser, he has had his roof peppered with stones nearly every night. For 3 years that man had ghost knockings on his door. He was victimised by political bigots, most of whom, it seems to me, always seem to exist in the Party of the honourable member for Batman. How often has the honourable member ever seen a political meeting broken up by Liberals? I ask the honourable member to give me one instance. For every one the honourable member can concoct, I can give him 100 examples of bullying tactics by members of his own Party who try to influence votes and refuse people the right of free speech in the community in general. So he should scuttle out the door because that is about the merit of the argument he brought forward in this House tonight. But enough of his nonsense.
I rose to speak for a few minutes tonight to explain to the House some of the terrible happenings that are going on at present in my State of South Australia. Honourable members will be well aware that millions of dollars of taxpayers’ funds are being found today to amalgamate uneconomic holdings in the dairy industry and rural industries generally. They are taxation funds from hard working people of this nation. Quite properly the last Labor Government found these funds to try to produce viable farms in rural areas beset by increased prices and costs, particularly as a result of the last 3 years of complete mismanagement of the economy. We all accept that this is a desirable process which was followed properly by the last Government and in some instances- I think in most instances- was instigated by our Party when we were formerly in government. I do not think that anyone objects to the scheme. But people in my State are starting to object. In States like Victoria I understand that land tax on rural enterprises is almost nonexistent except on properties of very high acreages or on high income producing country. What the Premier of South Australia is doing at present- I ask honourable members to bear in mind that we hear nothing but good every now and again about the Premier of South Australiais hitting every viable farming unit in the State so hard with land tax that he is forcing the disruption of economic areas and turning them into a series of uneconomic areas.
It would pay honourable members to stop and think about this situation. We are using taxpayers’ moneys to amalgamate areas and to produce viable farming areas. In South Australiathis may apply to other States for all I know; I know very little about Tasmania- owners of say 1200 acres in 30 inch rainfall areas of the Adelaide Hills are being forced to sell out because of land tax. I can think of one instance to emphasise my point. A very efficient farmer in the electorate of my friend, the honourable member for Barker (Mr Porter), happens to have his 1200 acre holding in 5 separate titles. Each of the separate titles is attracting close to $3,000 State land tax. The Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) might well look surprised. This man has 5 separate titles for a total area of about 1200 to 1400 acres and is paying close to $3,000 a block. Because of the new method of bringing land tax to bear on land, he is being forced to sell. Surely this is a national problem. We have a State Government so stupid that it is destroying an economic area while we try federally to do everything we can to try to. bring viability to farming. That State Government is destroying that holding. The area is being subdivided into 180 acre blocks that are non-viable and the national government or some other agency using taxpayers’ funds will have to come to the rescue of those people who are silly enough to purchase these blocks and subsidise them if these areas are to be maintained. People have been forced into this situation by poor State government policies. This is a matter which needs serious consideration. People should know that this sort of thing is happening.
I turn now to another matter which is outside the area I have just discussed. I refer to a pyramid of country industries. I think of a typical cooperative cannery. I select a co-operative because it pays no income tax. Its taxation is entirely a matter for the State. This pyramid employs 100 people and is now paying about 200,000 in workers’ compensation and more than $100,000 to the State of South Australia in payroll tax. South Australia is one of the 2 States in the Commonwealth levying the highest rate of payroll tax at this stage. This pyramid has 2 ancillary industries, one making cans and the other making cartons. All the workmen in the factory are paid. The cans are ordered and produced and the work is all paid for. The cartons are ordered, produced, manufactured and sold and the workmen are paid. The workmen- 100 of them- in this big pyramid are paid. The poor devil who produces the raw material on which the whole of this pyramid is based- it might well be not quite as bad at Leeton- has received 50 per cent of last year’s Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee payment on his crop. In these days of increasing costs, how on earth can the producer, with his responsibility for great wealth in that local community, expect to exist and provide the raw material for a wasteful government dedicated to destroying industries in country areas and around good, worthwhile country towns? That is the second point I make tonight. I hope that some of the words might strike home to some of the spokesmen on the Opposition side.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.40 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 25 February 1976, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1976/19760225_reps_30_hor98/>.