30th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. B. M. Snedden, Q.C.) took the chair at 2.15 p.m. and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable the Speaker, and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the 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 Braithwaite, Mr Carige and Mr McVeigh.
Petition to the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of electors of the Division of Leichhardt respectfully showeth that both the School Cadets and the Naval, Army and Air Cadets provide character building and disciplinary training for the future citizens of this Commonwealth.
The Cadets also provide some basic team training for our youngsters which must be considered to be valuable in these times of vandalism and drug taking. The estimated cost of the Cadets is only a fraction of the cost to our community (i.e. the Australian Community) from vandalism and drug problems.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the government will immediately rescind its intention to disband the Cadets.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Thomson.
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Your petitioners therefore pray: that the Metric Conversion Act be repealed, and that the Government take urgent steps to cause the traditional and familiar units to be restored to those areas where the greatest inconvenience and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 Carige and Mr Thomson.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned members of the New South Wales Environment Centre Management Committee respectfully showeth that: there is a growing interest and concern in all sections of Australian society for the conservation of the environment, natural and man-made.
That there are also rapidly growing pressures by powerful forces tending towards the destruction of the Australian heritage.
That it is therefore urgent to appoint the Australian Heritage Commission, which was approved by both sides of this Parliament and to give the Commission sufficient independent staff, resources and funds.
That Technical Assistance Grants and Administrative Support Grants to community organizations are needed to partially redress the gross imbalance in technical expertise and resources suffered by community groups in pressing the community’s case against the exploiter.
That a proper balance between the Governments programme of public austerity and the need for action in conservation would be a modest increase in the budget allocations in these areas over that of 1975/76.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Connolly.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth: That the undersigned persons believe that:
The $300 limit on income tax deductibility in respect of personal residential land and water rates is unrealistic and is a discriminatory income tax penalty.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will take steps to see that the aforesaid limitation is removed entirely or substantially increased.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Connolly.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned residents of the Australian Capital Territory respectfully showeth:
That Australian citizens are already governed to an excessive extent, and to introduce machinery to provide selfgovernment for the Australian Capital Territory would exacerbate this situation.
That the cost of providing self-government for the Australian Capital Territory willhave to be borne by residents of the Australian Capital Territory, and that self-government should not be instituted without consulting by means of a referendum those who will have to bear the cost.
That any provision of self-government would be meaningless unless it received popular support from the residents of the Australian Capital Territory, and the measure of the extent of this popular support could be best obtained by means of a referendum.
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House urge the Government not to proceed with the introduction of self-government for the Australian Capital Territory until the residents of the Australian Capital Territory are consulted, by means of a referendum, on the issue.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Fry.
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 pray that the House of Representatives will take immediate steps to prevent the introduction of Television and Radio licence tees, 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. byDrKlugman.
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: be faced with complicated variations in his or her personal income taxes between States; and find that real after-tax wages for the same job would vary from State to State even when gross wages were advertised as being the same; and require citizens to maintain records of income earned in each State.
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.
- Mr Speaker, my question is directed to you and it concerns the rights of members of the Parliament. I refer to recent reports that some members of this House have been threatened with withdrawal of party endorsement, even expulsion and denial of the use of certain facilities of the parliamentary building if they convey certain information to the Press or the public. Mr Speaker, do such threats constitute an attempt to intimidate members of this House in the performance of their parliamentary and public duties?
– Do you mean you cannot even go to the toilet?
-It probably applies to the honourable member. Are not such threats a serious infringement of the rights and privileges of members of this House? What action can you take, Sir, to protect the rights and privileges of the members of this House from intimidation by the Prime Minister?
– Members represent electorates. They come here in that capacity. It is true, as we all know, that they receive party endorsement. What happens within party endorsement is a matter for the parties themselves. It is not an issue of privilege. If the honourable gentleman wishes to raise a matter of privilege which relates to the carrying out of the duties of members in the House he is free to do so in the proper way, but I do not appreciate the attempt to involve the Speaker in political matters.
– I address my question to the Treasurer and I remind him of his generous offer prior to the last federal election to meet with leaders of the wine and brandy industry after the new year primarily to discuss the subject of section 3 1 A stock valuations. Has the interchange of view that has occurred been useful? Has an inspection of the various views by different departments yet been completed? When will the Government be in a position to report on its findings? Finally, has or has not the delay been caused by the fact that other areas besides the prime problem of section 3 1 A stock valuationssuch as brandy- have been included in the discussions?
– For as long as I can recall my association with the honourable gentleman he has played the keenest and most active part in representing the interests of wine growers in his electorate and in the State of South Australia, which is more than I can say for the honourable member for Port Adelaide who is incessantly interjecting. I can say to the honourable member for Angas that the discussions with the industry which I guaranteed would take place in the early days after the election of the new LiberalNational Country Party coalition government have taken place. I have had detailed discussions with all sections of the industry, particularly with the Australian Wine and Brandy Council and also the Australian Wine Board. Those discussions have centred on the question of section 31A stock valuations. As the honourable gentleman has implied in his question, the discussions have also taken into account the levy of excise on brandy and the general state of the industry. At the present time I have before me a number of reports from appropriate departments. They will require consultation with my colleague the Minister for Primary Industry. I might say also that the general problems experienced by the industry will need to be considered by Government in the context of the advantages which will flow through to this and other industries by indexation and in the context of the Government’s intentions in relation to division 7. 1 hope to be in a position shortly to advise the honourable gentleman of the progress position and of what action the Government intends to take.
– Has the Minister for Primary Industry considered the various plans put forward to the Government to solve the problems of the dairy industry? Is the Minister aware of the serious plight of many dairy farmers supplying manufactured milk and of the support of these farmers for the Australian Dairy Corporation’s proposals? Does the Minister support those proposals? When will he announce new arrangements for the establishment of prices paid to dairy farmers for their products?
-I am delighted that the honourable gentleman realises how critical the future appears to most dairy farmers now. The bleakness of their present prospects unfortunately relates greatly to the inadequacies of the previous Administration. Whilst the honourable member for Blaxland had little responsibility for them I know that, as a member of the party then in government, he must accept some responsibility for them. The Australian Dairy Corporation has produced a plan. Unfortunately within the industry there are many factions. This has led to some dissent as to whether that particular plan is the correct way of solving the problems of the industry. A good many other organisations have also produced plans, none of which are acceptable to the whole industry. So the industry is certainly divided, and that has created difficulties.
There are 2 responsibilities at the State level. I think that every member of this chamber is aware that, within States and between States, there are tremendous pressures and difficulties in the dairy industry. As I mentioned in reply to a question yesterday, it is not just a matter of economics. The social problems, the effect on families, the effect on children and the effect on country communities are becoming quite serious. The Government is urgently examining a number of proposals that have been put forward. I hope that, in conjunction with the States, the Government will be in a position in the next few weeks to announce some basis by which assistance can be given to alleviate the present critical difficulties.
– My question to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations is supplementary to the question asked of him several weeks ago by the Leader of the Opposition, rather predictably on the seventh anniversary of the Moore v. Doyle decision. Is the Minister aware that following amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act last year people have been enrolled in a number of federal unions for whom those unions can obtain no award or determination or make no representation to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. As the Minister, I am sure, would agree with me that this is quite an absurd and unjust situation I put -
-Order! The honourable member will not make a speech. He will seek information by questioning.
– The question is in the next 5 words.
– It had better be.
-Will the Minister seek to do all he can as quickly as possible to rectify that situation?
-Yes, I do remember the question which was asked by the Leader of the Opposition in relation to the Moore v. Doyle question. At the time I indicated that I would be prepared to take up with my State colleagues, the State Ministers for Labor, the question of how the very difficult problem might be tackled. In my answer to the Leader of the Opposition I indicated that whereas some legislation had been passed by this Parliament the indications were that there was no likelihood of the introduction of complementary legislation by certain State Parliaments which was required to make the federal legislation effective. We therefore have to look at the question again to try to find some way around this particularly difficult problem, and I am starting work on that now. In relation to the particular question asked by the honourable member, I am aware that certain unions and their officials have been placed in a very difficult position by the current situation.
– The people they are enrolling.
-Yes, the people who are being enrolled in this situation are put in a difficult position. I can point to no chance, I think, of an early solution, but in view of the fact that the legislation as at present constituted shows Utile signs of resolving the problem I am anxious to look at it again to see whether a fresh approach may bring a more profitable and worthwhile result.
– My question is directed to the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Public Service Matters. What were the reasons behind the Government’s decision to abandon the proposed transfer of certain sections of the Australian Public Service to regional growth centres such as Albury-Wodonga, Bathurst-Orange, Geelong and Macarthur?
-The honourable gentleman will understand that as a result of decisions that the Government has taken concerning the size of the Public Service and statutory authorities there will be some 17 000 people fewer on the Commonwealth’s payroll than would have been the case if decisions of the previous Administration had remained in force. Obviously that number is considerable and it gives an indication of the extent of the waste and extravagance which existed under the previous Administration and not insignificantly in the department of the honourable member who has asked the question. That department had grown at an enormous rate and was one which could never be administered with any degree of efficiency at all. Under all these circumstances quite obviously the sorts of matters which the honourable member had in mind would need some re-examination.
-My question is directed to the Minister for Health. Has he received representations from pharmaceutical companies and pharmacists regarding the deletion of items from the Schedule of Pharmaceutical Benefits as from 1 April 1976? If so, is it a fact that when such items are included in the Schedule, the producing companies and pharmacists are expected to have ample supplies available for prescription throughout Australia? Does the Minister agree that one month’s notice of deletions from the Schedule will cause severe loss both to producing companies and pharmacists? If the Minister is unable to extend the present period of notice will he assure the House that he will endeavour to give more adequate notice should further deletions be necessary?
– It is true that I have had a number of representations from pharmaceutical companies and pharmacists concerning the deletion of items from the Schedule of Pharmaceutical Benefits as from 1 April 1976. Although there are no formal arrangements applying particular requirements to stocks of drugs to be available it is expected that the pharmaceutical companies and pharmacists should have adequate supplies. Indeed, it is in their own interests to have adequate stocks to meet demands. The pharmaceutical benefits pricing arrangements for chemists are based on chemists having on average about one month’s stock of these items. I regret that the short notice has, in fact, caused some degree of hardship in the short term to some manufacturers. In most instances the pharmacists should experience a lesser problem of excess stocks as a little more than a month’s advance notice was available to them.
For practical purposes it was not possible to give more than a month’s notice to the pharmaceutical manufacturers in view of the fact that the Government had to take decisions to reduce public expenditure at a time of very serious difficulties within the economy- difficulties that it inherited from the former Government. Immediate action was needed to meet the Government’s required savings. It was not possible therefore to delay implementation of the changes on this occasion but I assure the honourable member and the House that every effort will be made to give more notice on any future occasion if that is practicable. I should like the honourable member and the pharmaceutical manufacturing industry to know that the Government is concerned for the welfare of that industry. The Department of Health is not directly responsible for the viability of the pharmaceutical manufacturing industry. The Department of Industry and Commerce has a responsibility in this area. In view of the difficulties being experienced I have asked that the Industries Assistance Commission expedite its report on its investigation, which has been going on for some considerable time, into the viability of the whole of the pharmaceutical manufacturing industry.
– I ask the Acting Foreign Minister a question. The honourable gentleman will be aware of the support by Commonwealth Heads of Government over the last 10 years for sanctions against Rhodesia in an effort to bring about independence on the basis of majority rule and of their unanimous support at their meeting in Jamaica last May for providing financial assistance to the new government of Mozambique in applying sanctions. Has Mozamique sought compensation for the loss of trade revenue caused by her total trade blockade of Rhodesia? If so, what assistance has Australia decided to provide.
-It is true, as the Leader of the Opposition suggested, that Commonwealth Heads of Government have consistently adopted a position regarding sanctions against Rhodesia. That attitude is one which the Government led by the honourable gentleman pursued. It is one which has not been changed since the change of Administration on 13 December. As to the substance of the suggestions regarding Mozambique following the closure of the borders, as the honourable gentleman would know there have been a number of approaches made through the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the Commonwealth Secretary-General about the manner in which assistance could be provided. At this stage no approach has been made to the Australian Government. If an approach is made it will be made through either of those Secretaries-General and will be considered at the appropriate time.
– Is the Attorney-General aware that there is only one Family Court register for the whole of Queensland? Will the Minister give consideration to the establishment of at least 2 more registers outside Brisbane, in particular to the siting of a register in the central district of the Queensland Supreme Court?
– The question of additional registries in Queensland is under consideration. There is a proposal, which I hope will come into effect shortly, for a registry to be located at Townsville. There is a suggestion for one at Rockhampton, but I do not see that coming into effect in the immediate future.
– I preface my question, which is addressed to the Minister for Transport, by stating that I am sure the Minister will be aware that since the introduction of seat belt legislation in Australia, 80 per cent of vehicle users are wearing seat belts but that the 20 per cent that are not wearing seat belts are involved in 80 per cent of the deaths and injuries in road accidents. I ask: Why has the Australian Government, through the Australian Design Rule Committee, rejected the new passive restraint seat belt in the Volkswagen Golf which ensures that everybody who sits in the vehicle is wearing a seat belt?
– In the past 5 years since the introduction of seat belt legislation throughout Australia there has been a reduction of about 13 per cent in road deaths. Most students of this question attribute that reduction to the introduction of seat belt legislation. So it has been one of the most progressive steps in car safety in any country. It is one in which the Victorian Government can take some pride because it was the first government to introduce such legislation. I cannot answer the particular question raised by the honourable member. I do not know the answer. I will find out.
-My question is directed to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. In view of the fact that the Australian Telecommunications Commission is reported to be making a substantial profit in this financial year and in view of the high cost of telephone connections in many country areas and of the general high cost of making telephone calls in country areas, will the Minister consider reducing the inordinate burden on country subscribers? Will he place this matter before the Telecommunications Commission for its investigation and action?
– The Australian Telecommunications Commission is required to have sufficient revenues available to pay operating costs, depreciation, superannuation and long service leave provisions and interest. It is important that those revenues be sufficient because, as the honourable member will be aware, 50 per cent of the capital requirement of the Commission must be found internally. If it is not found internally there are problems under the Act. The balance must be found from borrowings from the Treasury which attract interest at the bond rate. It has been mentioned that there could be substantial profit by Telecom. Perhaps a better choice of words would have been a surplus of income over expenditure. ‘Profit’ in this context should not be used in the same way as we would use ‘profit’ in another context. There is $153m expected to be made this year. That represents 4 per cent on the capital investment of over $4,000m. So we are talking about a 4 per cent return on investment. If the surplus is less the alternative is to say that we will not spend as much money, we will not have as much capital requirement. That would mean lesser services which I do not think would be acceptable to any of us. The other alternative is to increase borrowings, which means increased interest, which must in the end mean increased charges. The only thing left to consider is some subsidy from the Consolidated Revenue Fund which, of course, brings it into a budgetary situation. All I can say in answer to the honourable member is that I am aware there is a social content. I am aware there are enormous costs involved, and I am aware of the burden that they place on country subscribers. I shall certainly take up with the Commission the matters the honourable member has raised.
-I ask the Treasurer a question about net borrowing by the Government from the banks in 1974 and 1975. Has the Treasurer seen figures which show that in 1974 net government borrowing from the Central Bank was $832m but from the trading banks was minus $77m, yet in 1975 net borrowing from the Cental Bank was minus $167m and from the trading banks $ 1,442m? Will the Treasurer say something about the differences in cost to the Government in borrowing from the Central Bank as against the trading banks? Who makes these decisions about the distribution of borrowing or the allocation of borrowing between the 2 kinds of banks to bring about such a dramatic change as the figures indicate? What effects would the change in that allocation have upon the money supply?
– The honourable gentleman asks a very technical question. I appreciate the reasons that the question has been posed to me as Treasurer. As to one of the points that the honourable gentleman queried- the question of authority- it would be my understanding that such decisions as those to which the honourable gentleman has referred, as I can quickly recollect, would be taken by the Treasurer in consultation with Treasury officers. I do not recollect, as a matter of impromptu response, the figures to which the honourable gentleman has referred. I do not want the honourable gentleman to understand by that that I query those figures. However, if I take the honourable gentleman’s central point, he is referring to the financing of the deficit. If that is the nub of the question I think it is fair to say, looking first at the financial year 1974-75, that the House will be very much aware that the excess of government spending over government receipts- in other words, the deficit- does result in excess liquidity in the economy. It is only to the extent to which the increase in the deficit is offset by the sale of government securities to the non-bank public that there is therefore no increase in the volume of money.
The figures for 1974-75, which I happen to have before me as a matter of normal briefing in this House, indicate that there was then a deficit of $2,567m. Only about one-quarter of the deficit, or about $5 80m, was in fact offset by the sale of securities to the non-bank public. The balance of the deficit in that year was financed, in the view of myself as Treasurer and in the view of this Government, via the printing presses; in other words, the creation of new money by the process of the printing press. The same situationI shall provide the honourable gentleman with figures in writing so as not to be tedious to the House- applied last year. I think the point that ought to be made here is that the former Administration followed a policy of absolute indulgence so far as money supply is concerned, a permissiveness which has given this Government a monetary time bomb inheritence. This is certainly not a policy which we intend to pursue.
– I ask the Treasurer this question: Is it correct that the Whitlam Government indicated to the giant Pirelli international company that permission would be given to enter the cable manufacturing industry in Australia? Is that decision by the previous Government quite contradictory of the guidelines on overseas ownership professed by that Government? Would the Pirelli proposal qualify under conditions relating to overseas ownership as stated in the present Government’s policy?
– It is true, as the honourable gentleman, has suggested, that the former Labor Administration some time ago- I think it was about six or seven months ago- gave Pirelli, a major international cable manufacturing company, the right to enter Australia. As I recall the matter this was done on the authority of the Minister assisting the Treasurer, not the Treasurer. He took advice from the normal interdepartmental committee at the time. That decision, according to the former Administration, would have been taken in accordance with its guidelines. In this answer I do not want to argue the rights or wrongs of the matter. The decision was taken by the former Administration, not by this coalition Government. So far as the hypothetical situation of a decision under our own guidelines is concerned, I would mention that these guidelines will be subject to clear enunciation in -
– You have swallowed a dictionary.
– I think that if the honourable member swallowed one it might help his indigestion. As for our policy, consistent with the practices of open government and with providing this Parliament with the capacity to act as a normal parliamentary forum, a detailed statement on overseas investment will be made by me, I would expect, during the next two or three weeks.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. Why were the altered procedures relating to the releases of Industries Assistance Commission reports not announced in this Parliament where they could be debated properly? Under the new procedures announced by him through the media, what protection is there for consumers and the industries from incomplete information going before Cabinet when vital decisions affecting savings, investments and employment are made?
-The method of announcing this decision was chosen not with any purpose of avoiding parliamentary debate. There will be adequate opportunities for debate because of an indication given to the House by the honourable member for Port Adelaide regarding debates on tariff proposals. There will be adequate opportunities for this Parliament to debate tariff matters generally and for members of the Opposition to debate them. The new procedures for handling LAC reports are designed not to limit the opportunity for consumer and business groups to present their views to the Government but rather to facilitate them. With the introduction of a procedure for draft reports it will be possible, when the draft reports are published, for business, consumers and other interested organisations to put their views not only to the IAC and thereby have them taken into account when the final report of the IAC is delivered to the Government but also to make them known to the Government at an earlier date, and in particular to relevant industry Ministers. Far from these procedures shutting off the opportunity for comment and participation, the Government believes they will facilitate that. It also believes that the new procedures will advance the rate of Government decisions on IAC reports.
– My question, addressed to the Prime Minister, relates to the critical situation in rural Australia. Will the Prime Minister advise the House of the consequences which will flow from the disintegration of communities and major industrial undertakings dependent on the rural sector? I refer in particular to the beef and dairy industries. Will the Prime Minister assure the House that the Government will take urgent steps to stop this rural, economic and social revolution?
-The Government is very concerned about the position of a number of rural industries that have been in very great difficulty for a number of reasons. It might not hurt to recount one or two of those reasons, such as the inflation promoted by the policies of the previous Administration and the destruction of markets overseas promoted by the resource policies of the previous Administration. These things, coupled with other difficult trading circumstances, had added very greatly to the problems in the beef industry. We remember also the occasion when the previous Administration quite deliberately sought to undermine stability in the marketing of the Australian wool clip by reducing -
Opposition members- Oh!
-Oh, yes, by reducing the reserve price from 250 cents to 200 cents a kilo in a deliberate attempt to destroy confidence in that industry. Within minutes of that decision having been made there were cables from all round the world asking what the position was going to be. It was tragic that that decision was taken at that time when there had been a marked degree of confidence in the industry, with the Australian Wool Corporation having to buy less and less of the clip and at the same time with overseas consumers believing that the
Australian Government would stand behind the Corporation in a solid and significant manner. Of course the Government has already taken a number of decisions. We made it quite plain before the election and since that the decision to support the marketing of the wool clip at the present price will apply not only for this season but also for next season. As my colleague the Minister for Primary Industry has announced, a number of Industries Assistance Commission reports have been acted upon- reports which had been just put aside by the previous Administration because they concerned rural industries, which the previous Government was not concerned about at all. We remember the famous statement of the Leader of the Opposition when he said, not far from the honourable gentleman’s electorate, that primary producers had never had it so good.
The dairy industry at the moment is facing quite acute problems and the Minister for Primary Industry has already indicated that he has these particular matters and submissions from the industry under the most active and urgent consideration. We are concerned for the prosperity of all people in this country- people who live in the great cities, people in country towns, people who live on the farms. The previous Administration was not concerned for people who live in country towns and on the farms. We are concerned for and will promote policies that will advance the balanced development of Australia. The people for whom the honourable gentleman has expressed a particular concern will certainly not be left out of consideration in the policies of this Government. He has shown a particular concern which is welcomed in this House. It is interesting to note that the Leader of the Opposition and those few who sit behind him after his magnificent leadership think that the concern and plight and difficulties of industries in distress are matters for jocularity and humour. In future elections the people of Australia will treat them in the same way as they did on 13 December last. Long may this great Leader of the Opposition survive because the longer he survives the fewer the numbers of the Opposition will be election after election.
-Is the Minister for Primary Industry aware of substantial delays in the time between sale of wool at auction and payment to growers? If he is so aware, can he inform the House what role the Government can play and has played in resolving the disputes between unions and wool brokers which appear to be the cause of the delay? If there is no quick solution to the problem will the Government consider favourably adjustments to income tax arrangements and financial help towards personal sustenance for those growers who cannot pay their income tax and household expenses until payment for their wool is received?
-As the Prime Minister has just demonstrated, our Government is most concerned about the plight of people in rural communities. However, it is unfortunate that neither those who are members of the Australian Labor Party in this Parliament nor those who are members of some of the trade unions and who nominally are the supporters of that Party are concerned about those problems outside. Indeed, many of the problems in the wool industry to which the honourable gentleman refers relate specifically to a fact- that the members of the Storemen amd Packers Union are not prepared at this moment to maintain an obligation which they voluntarily entered into as to maximum woolpack weights. As a result it is true that payments to many growers have been seriously delayed. These growers are prejudiced because of the inflationary policies pursued by the previous Administration. It is equally true that, because of the delay in sales, it is possible that there may be a carry-over of wool at the end of this wool selling season, again with a possible added cost to the Australian Wool Corporation. All this is not encouraging production nor is it encouraging a return to profitability in those areas. Accordingly at this stage it is difficult to see in what way one can persuade the members of the Storemen and Packers Union to accept the responsibilities that they voluntarily entered into. I believe that they should comply with their own original arrangements.
– They all got sacked.
-I am glad to hear the intervention of the honourable member for Port Adelaide because I suspect that even he does not realise that the members of that union entered into these arrangements completely voluntarily; they knew the consequences. In spite of the fact that quite a significant amount of machinery is available to handle these packs, they are saying that the packs still need to be manhandled. I believe that there is a responsibility on these men, the members of this union, to return to work and avoid the costs which are now flowing through to the wool growers as a result of their wool not being sold, which is to the prejudice and detriment of the whole Australian community.
– The Minister for Transport should recall that 4 years ago his Department’s attention was drawn to the strictures made by Sir Henry Bland about the excessive rail freights charged on commodities carried between the Riverina and Victoria, such as grains, fertilisers, ores, coal, fresh fruit and vegetables. Since this is an issue which falls particularly within the jurisdiction of the Inter-State Commission under the Constitution and is one of the matters which was regarded as urgently requiring the Commission’s attention when the Parliament was recently discussing the Inter-State Commission Bill, I ask the Minister: How soon does he expect to proclaim the legislation, to appoint the Commission’s members and to direct the Commission to investigate this serious and continuing problem in interstate transport?
– I am aware that the Leader of the Opposition raises a serious matter when he talks about the increasing freight rates and the difficulties they cause for exporters and consumers alike. I am also aware that in the past 3 years the policies of the Labor Government were policies that engendered greater difficulty for those sections of the community concerned than at any time in Australia’s history. If it had not been for the stupidity of the Leader of the Opposition and the team behind him when they were Ministers -
-Order! The word ‘stupidity’ is an unparliamentary expression. I ask the honourable gentleman to withdraw it.
-I withdraw, Sir.
– It is in keeping with his own mentality.
-Order! I ask the honourable member for Port Adelaide to withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw, Mr Speaker.
-If it had not been for the foolishness of the Leader of the Opposition and the team that sat behind him and the policies that they followed, then of course the difficulties that I am facing in the new administration would be much less. It is a fact -
– Do you think this is impressing anybody?
-Order! The Minister will resume his seat. The honourable member for Adelaide and the honourable member for Port Adelaide who are sitting next to each other have been interjecting constantly. I ask them to cease. I call the Minister for Transport.
– It is a fact that during the course of the last Administration a Bill to introduce the Inter-State Commission came in. Thanks to the strength of the Senate we were able to amend that Bill and make it a reasonable Bill. I shall not go over the history of that other than to say that the legislation has not been proclaimed. I do not intend at the moment to proclaim it. Consideration will be given by the Government to proclamation when a number of other inquiries, such as the Henry Bland inquiry into Public Service matters generally and the Nimmo Committee report for which I have been waiting, are settled. There are enough commissions and committees of inquiry set up by the previous Administration that have not yet concluded to cloud the issues of the day for a while yet.
– I ask the Minister for Transport a supplementary question. The honourable gentleman will notice that I asked a question about a report which Sir Henry Bland made over 4 years ago to the Victorian Government about the disparity between freight rates between the Riverina and Victoria and freight rates within Victoria and freight rates within New South Wales. In other words, Sir Henry Bland was pointing out how, under the Minister’s former administration, people had to pay very much more for interstate traffic by rail than they did for traffic over the same distance by railways in either of the adjacent States. I therefore ask: Can the Minister suggest any way other than by implementing the Inter-State Commission Act, which the Parliament has passed, to bring to an end this problem which has been about for very many years and which is still a burden?
– Yes, I can give the Leader of the Opposition an answer to the question. What I have proposed to do- it is being done at the moment- is to formalise the meeting of Commissioners of Railways so that they as a body can make the necessary freight adjustments that they see fit between one rail system and another, between one State and another and between one set of people and another. One of the great problems that the Leader of the Opposition and the previous Administration could not solve was this very problem. I know the Leader of the Opposition believes the Inter-State Commission will solve all these problems. Time will tell. We will wait and see about that. At the moment I am formalising the meeting between Commissioners of
Railways, who have the proper commercial responsibilities for their own undertakings, so that they can look at these very questions and come up with sensible answers.
– My question to the Treasurer follows the answer given to the honourable member for Deakin about Pirelli International. Is the Treasurer aware that the curious decision by the Whitlam Government to which the honourable member referred poses a very real threat to an Australian owned manufacturer at Lilydale, which is in the electorate of La Trobe? In view of this threat to employment and as the Industries Assistance Commission has been required to report on the local cable manufacturing industry, will the Treasurer insist that the commencement of operations in Australia by Pirelli should not proceed pending the report from the IAC?
– The honourable gentleman has had sustained discussions with me in relation to this matter. I must first of all report, because I think it is fair to his constituents and the company upon whose behalf he is making these representations, that the points he has put to me could not have been put to me as Treasurer in a stronger or more compelling manner.
– A kiss of death.
– I say to the honourable member for Shortland that my colleague from La Trobe shows more interest in the employment situation in his electorate than did his predecessor. I make that comment in a muted fashion in passing. I come to the hard news for the honourable gentleman. Whilst I understand his position, I hope he understands mine. I shall make the position clear. I would have hoped that honourable gentlemen opposite might be interested because the Labor Government 6 to 8 months ago took its decision on Pirelli on a basis which was best known to it. That decision having been taken, the company having acted in good faith and having undertaken a number of commitments, it is the view of the Government that the matter should not be subject to revision at this stage and that the company should not be informed that it should cease its operations. Although we are taking the opportunity, as the House would expect us responsibly to do, to remind the company that an IAC inquiry is in train at present- the company should obviously bear that in mind in relation to its own commercial operations- we do not believe that in good faith, notwithstanding the force of what the honourable gentleman has put to me, the Government should say no.
– My question, which is directed to the Prime Minister, is supplementary to the question asked by the honourable member for McMillan. Is the right honourable gentleman aware that as a result of the negative policies of successive conservative governments between 1949 and 1972 the rural population of Australia fell from 3 1 per cent of Australia’s population in 1949 to 14.7 per cent in 1970? Does his Government now intend to scuttle the selected growth centre policy, which would try to stem this population drift from rural Australia back to the major capital cities, particularly Sydney and Melbourne?
-The honourable gentleman is persistent in his efforts to confuse what has happened in Australia and what his Government was seeking to do about it.
– Crocodile tears.
– All right, but that is just the way he is and I suppose this House has to put up with it. I do not know whether his figures are right but let us give him the credit for accuracy and assume that they are. There was not a great deal of industrialisation in 1949 when the Liberal-Country Party coalition Government took charge of this nation’s affairs. The industrial base of Australia at that time was small. The immigration program that had been started a few years earlier by the right honourable Arthur Calwell, a former most distinguished member of this Parliament, had not yet had an opportunity to flow through to strengthen the industrial base in many parts of Australia. The figures that the honourable gentleman indicated depict a growth in the industrial base of Australia, a growth in the strength of Australia, a broadening in the depth of culture in Australia as people from other lands came to make their homes here. To relate those circumstances to a diminution of what was happening in country areas was quite false and quite wrong. The honourable gentleman ought to use the statistics accurately to show what they mean and not to show some other thing which is in large measure a fabrication of his own mind.
The honourable gentleman also asked questions about growth centres. He ought to understand that we are concerned about balanced development across a wide spectrum of Australia, not merely in one, two, three or four centres. In an examination of these matters by the present Government we would be seeking to do what we can to get behind and support those in many different parts of Australia who would seek to promote their own centres and areas by attracting businesses and industries to towns which might have populations of 10 000 or IS 000 people. The honourable gentleman shakes his head because he does not believe in that sort of thing. He does not believe in broadening the depth of life right around Australia. All he believes in is one or two centres chosen for particular purposes by himself and others and putting all government funds that might be available into those areas at very great cost, at the same time neglecting all other areas of rural Australia. That is not our philosophy; that is not our approach. I must give some credit, however to the honourable gentleman for his persistence in these matters.
– For the information of honourable members I present the annual report of the Australian Fire Board for the year 1974-75.
– For the information of honourable members I present reports by the Industries Assistance Commission on sheets and plates of iron or steel-import restrictions; and precision ground steel ball bearingstariff quota.
– For the information of honourable members I present the report of the Committee on Post-Secondary Education in Tasmania, together with a statement by the Minister for Education relating to that report.
Report of Australian Delegation
-I ask leave of the House to present the report of the Australian Delegation to the 62nd Inter-Parliamentary Union Conference held at London between 4 and 12 September 1975, to move that the paper be printed and to make a short statement in connection with the conference.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I present the report and move:
That the paper be printed.
On behalf of the members of the delegation I record our congratulations to the host group for the outstanding organisation of the conference. All delegates were most impressed with the efficiency, the good taste and the kindness displayed in all aspects of the arrangements.
The opening ceremony took place in Westminster Hall in the presence of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh. Her Majesty, in declaring the conference open, welcomed all delegates to London and to Westminster Hall, the birthplace of British parliamentary institutions. Speeches of welcome were also made by the Prime Minister and the president of the British group, the Right Honourable Harold Wilson and the president of the Inter-Parliamentary Council, Dr G. S. Dhillon of India.
Sixty-seven national groups were represented at the conference by 503 members of parliament accompanied by 269 advisers and 338 wives and members of families- 1110 people altogether. The conference was held at the Royal Festival Hall, where all the facilities provided for delegates were of the highest order and standard. An Australian reception was held on the evening of 8 September at Australia House. The delegation expresses its thanks to Sir John and Lady Bunting for graciously agreeing to act as joint hosts with Mr and Mrs Collard and with my wife and myself, and to those members of the High Commission staff who were so helpful in making all the necessary arrangements to ensure the success of the function. We are particularly indebted to Mr David Tilford for his unfailing assistance during our stay in London and to Mr Peter Bassett, who acted as our adviser, for his courteous and able counselling.
Finally, I wish to thank all members of the Australian delegation- Senator William Brown, Senator Thomas Drake-Brockman, Mr Geoffrey Giles, Mr Chris Hurford, Mr John Kerin and Mr Phillip Ruddock- for their kind co-operation and assistance throughout the conference.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I have received a letter from the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The Government’s failure to announce a policy on growth centres.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places. (More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places)-
-The subject matter of this debate is of considerable importance to a number of areas in Australia. The prime aim of the debate is to obtain some indication of policy from the Government on this particular problem. It is a problem for my electorate; it is a problem for the AlburyWodonga area; it is a problem for the BathurstOrange area; it is a problem for Monarto. It is a matter in which clarity is of the utmost importance and in relation to which, unfortunately, only vague references to proposed policies exist. Today at question time we heard the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) say that he supported a policy of promotion of total growth in nonurban areas. This was the policy of the former Liberal-Country Party Government and it was for a long period the policy of at least the Victorian State Government. The record of achievement of this policy is practically nil. It is in fact an excuse for doing nothing. If we seek to slow down the growth of urban areas and move or hold the population growth outside the metropolitan areas, it is necessary to make a concentrated effort to provide for people the range of facilities that they require.
The growth centre concept is, in my opinion, better than the former policies whereby promotion of development was on an ad hoc basis without real relevance to the total needs of any given community. I represent the second biggest city in Victoria, one which has and has had for a long time a natural growth factor greater than that of any other centre of any size in that State and certainly greater in percentage than the Melbourne urban area. Those who represent areas further afield in the State would say it is an annex of the Melbourne metropolitan area. Certainly no one who lives in Geelong would agree with that.
In the period since it was decided that Geelong would become an area for the promotion of growth based on the need to slow down the concentration of population in one urban area in the State- a proposition which was agreed to both by the State and the Commonwealth governments and which could not have been arrived at without the decision of the State Governmentthere have been some delays, I think unfortunate delays, while the nature of the Geelong Regional
Authority Bill was discussed in the Victorian Parliament. It was there for something in excess of 2 years. Largely the delays were caused by planning matters and how planning proposals were written into the Bill. Unfortunately in the Geelong area there is a serious problem of blurring at the fringes between existing planning legislation and the operation of the existing planning authority, which was set up in 1969 and which operates on the basis of delegates from local government bodies in the area making planning decisions, and proposals for a growth centre. Even now very serious political infighting is taking place in the Geelong area based on decisions of the Geelong Regional Planning Authority which had nothing to do in its concept or its setting up with the Geelong growth centre proposals. The need for a decision is urgent. The Geelong Regional Authority Bill has been passed. The Victorian Government is in the process of establishing the Authority with a fairly substantial- I suppose ‘bureaucracy’ is the word that is in current use- body of experts and other people taking control of what was to be and is a growth centre proposal.
A number of important decisions were taken by the former Government to provide what is the most essential thing of any provincial city- that is, balance in employment opportunities. I have heard the Prime Minister say here that Geelong ‘s employment problems are the problems of the car industry or the textile industry. There are areas in which a lot of employment is available and in which reductions in employment cause serious hardship. They are not industries which have a continuing problem within an area such as Geelong or any other provincial city. The Geelong Regional Planning Authority did in fact as part of the lead up to the establishment of growth centres commission surveys on employment patterns. If anyone takes the trouble to examine employment patterns in any provincial city of any size it will be found that an almost exact pattern exists. There are normally fairly substantial secondary industries and jobs available for persons up to the skilled tradesman level. There are jobs for females in the textile and similar types of industries. The industries vary but they are similar. There are few jobs available for those people who take advantage of the advances in education that have occurred and who seek employment to fit the training which they have obtained. In provincial cities and country towns that does not exist.
The proposals which were put forward first for Geelong and for other cities designated as growth centres would have provided a stimulus for employment in what is termed the tertiary areas. The proposals in respect of the National Biological Standards Laboratory and the National Animal Research Laboratories, which are currently deferred, not cancelled- I would imagine the former has been cancelled- and the proposal to relocate part of the Public Service in a number of areas outside the central city areas of our capital cities were decisions which would have had the effect of promoting and solving to a large extent the problems of imbalance of employment in those centres where they were to be located. I think it is unfortunate that the Prime Minister for one- I would hope not other responsible Government Ministers- believes that long term employment problems in areas such as Geelong can be solved by the propping up or by the protection or over-protection of existing industries. They are extremely important to the area and I have expressed this opinion ever since I have been a member of this Parliament. I do not minimise for one minute the damage that will be done to Geelong if, for instance, the Ford Motor Co. of Australia Ltd were to run into difficulties, but the long term prospects for employment for a substantial portion of the population requires the promotion of industries which will not come to the area of their own volition. It is, first of all, fashionable- I do not know whether it is economic- and it is certainly the policy of this Government if the statements of the Minister for Construction (Mr McLeay) in this place are to be taken as Government policy, to place all facilities possible in the centre of the capital cities. I do not believe that is in the national interest and I do not believe it is good policy planning.
The placement or relocation of public servants in areas such as Geelong and in other areas it is proposed to allocate them would have had in the long term a number of advantages. Firstly, it would have taken those public servants within the central urban area of the city of Melbourne where they add daily to the traffic congestion, where they generate traffic which creates a demand for additional freeways because Victoria does not have like every other capital city a decent public transport system. The State government has withdrawn funds for expenditure in this field over a number of years, thus running down the public transport services. That is another area in which the present Government is about to withdraw its support.
The growth centre concept was one of a number of possible solutions. It was the best one offering and I believe it is the best one offering at the present time for real effect. The alternative is to put another ring around Melbourne and another ring around Sydney which would squeeze up the prices of land and other commodities which are required for urban living and urban employment in those capital cities. If what the Prime Minister has said here today is the policy of the present Government then the present Government has no policy at all. We will continue to hear a great fanfare when a small industry opens in a capital city. We will hear statistics quoted regularly about the large number of industries which are being established but we will continue to see every qualified young person who lives in a non-metropolitan area being forced to leave his or her family and home to enter the capital cities in order to seek employment. The drift to the cities is something which, most likely, no one can stop, but it is possible by reasonable planning and by a reasonable approach to minimise it and to reduce problems in our major cities.
If we exercise what the Minister for Construction (Mr McLeay) described as a freedom of choice- that is, for the employee to choose to work in the centre of the city where the Government tells him he has to work, which is the freedom of choice he has at the moment- we also compel that person to spend half of his working day getting to and from his place of employment in the most frustrating and demoralising circumstances. Some people might be lucky enough to have adequate public transport available but the majority of areas where young people are building houses in the capital cities today do not have public transport. They do not have decent roads and eventually bottle-necks develop in inner suburban streets where freeway construction would destroy the homes and facilities but where the lack of freeways destroys the whole of the urban area in which people live. That is the difference between taking positive action to move people out of the capital cities, encouraging them to stay where they are, or of generating growth in areas such as those which were designated growth centres.
It is not true to say that the growth centres were exclusively the choice of a Labor government. They were certainly proposed at a federal level and they were accepted at a State level. Some of them may well have been proposed at a State level. Co-operation with the State governments was absolutely essential. As far as I am aware, the State governments concerned have reached the situation where they are prepared to co-operate. There are always problems with something new. One of the problems I mentioned earlier was the mix-up between the planning- which was able to get off the round because there were funds available for it and without money planning cannot exist- and the concept of the growth centre proposals which, most likely, absorbed planning but were not necessarily part of the planning process which had already been started under different legislation and in different circumstances.
Finally, within 3 years- despite the considerable delay which had the effect of losing money appropriated- a lot of progress was made with regard to Geelong. After 2 years of delay the Bill passed through the Victorian Parliament late last year. The authority is in the process of being established. It requires co-operation and an undertaking from the Federal Government that it still supports the project. I believe it requires a recommitment of those projects which were committed and have now been withdrawn and will be replaced elsewhere, probably to the detriment of the nation as a whole. It requires the Government to accept a responsibility as a national government rather than being inward-looking and parochial and avoiding responsibility.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I have listened with a great deal of interest to the case put by the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes). I recall that he started off by saying that this area of interest is of considerable importance to the future organisation and distribution of population in Australia and the future way of life of a great number of Australians. I agree with him on this point. He went on to say that the growth centre concept, as developed by the previous Labor Administration, would do a great deal to ease pressures in the cities. He developed that theme to some extent. He also mentioned in passing the population growth. It was a very brief reference and I am sorry that he did not give it more attention because I believe that this is one of the crucial points in any consideration of any growth centre program or decentralisation program whether it is called a growth centre program or not. It seems to me to be axiomatic that when we are considering a program such as the one put forward by the honourable member, involving the expenditure of a great amount of money obtained both from the taxpayer and also from investment by private industry, we should consider the likely results of the anticipated population growth both in extent and nature. I will deal with that a little more in the later stages of my reply to the honourable member.
Naturally enough, he spent a great proportion of his speech dealing with the problems of Geelong, and well he might in view of the result that he achieved in the recent federal election for his own seat. That was spectacular for the length of time taken before the final result was announced. I guess it is merely coincidence that he has raised this matter shortly before the Victorian State elections later this month.
I point out to the honourable member that in the 1975-76 Budget the then Labor Government did not make any allocation for Geelong. I hasten to add, though, that consideration was to be given to an allocation following the passage of the Geelong legislation through the Victorian Parliament and the reaching of an intergovernmental agreement with Victoria. I am informed that the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren), who was the Minister at that stage, advised the Victorian Minister that following the successful passage of that legislation and the agreement, funds to the extent of about $500,000 would be made available. As the honourable member for Corio pointed out, the Geelong legislation has been passed by the Victorian Parliament and Victoria is in the process of making appointments to the authority and is also advertising for staff. But given the present situation, it is unlikely that the Geelong Regional Authority will be operational for some months yet, and as a consequence of that the demand for funds in the remainder of the 1975-76 financial year is likely to be reasonably minimal and perhaps could quite easily be met by the Victorian Government itself. Whilst the honourable member pointed out that funds had not been allocated I think that if he looks at the situation in regard to the funds needed he will admit that the amount of funds needed in the rest of this financial year is fairly minimal and could easily be provided by the Victorian State Government. In the 1973-74 Budget $3m was allocated to Geelong, and that was not taken up. In the 1974-75 Budget $20m was allocated to Geelong, and that was not taken up.
Naturally enough, the honourable member in his address to the House supported the growth centre concept as developed by the Australian Labor Party, the implementation of which was started by the then Minister, the honourable member for Reid. I would like to go into this matter a little further because it should not be imagined that the concept of decentralisation or of growth centres, to use the current phrase, was developed solely by the ALP. It certainly was not. In fact the moves made by the ALP Administration followed, to a certain extent, the initial moves made by the previous LiberalCountry Party Government. I would like to point out to members of the House, in case there be some misapprehension on this point, that this Government has honoured all its commitments to provide financial assistance for programs agreed with the States for the 1975-76 financial year. This applies to Albury-Wodonga, BathurstOrange and the Sydney south-west sector. As a consequence of the honouring of these commitments the relevant States have been able to proceed with the planned programs without interruption. So it is quite wrong for anyone to suggest that the actions of the present Federal Government have in any way inhibited the States in the development of their programs in relation to these centres. The actual development of the program followed the establishment of the National Urban and Regional Development Advisory Committee by the previous Liberal-Country Party Government before the Labor Party came to power in 1972.
One should always bear in mind that any growth centre program will make enormous demands upon national resources both in the public sector and in the private sector. I use the word ‘enormous’ quite legitimately, I believe, and quite deliberately. Everyone is very much aware that the previous Government spent money like it was going out of style. As a consequence the Federal Government is now facing the largest deficit that certainly I can recall in the history of Australia. The previous Government had a propensity to try to achieve too much too soon. I believe that many members of the Australian Labor Party have made that self-criticism. We do not want to fall into the same trap of acting before having thought through the difficulties associated with the implementation of any program, particularly one which creates such enormous demands upon national resources. As a result of the previous Government’s extravagancesthis has been reiterated- the present Government has been forced into the position of undertaking a complete review of its expenditure programs in an endeavour to achieve savings. Obviously the amount of projected expenditure in the growth centre area was very large, and obviously there had to be a review. There has to be a review of proposed expenditure in this area.
This action is necessary because of the expected high Budget deficit and the consequent adverse effects upon the national economy which would inevitably arise in the absence of corrective action. I am sorry the honourable member for Corio is leaving the chamber. He introduced this matter of public importance. His departure seems to suggest that he has not the interest which he at first professed. I make this point clear to all honourable members: The Government is aware of the desirability of an early policy decision on growth centres. Again I must make the point that many complex issues are involved in the commitment to the program. They must be resolved before the necessary commitment of resources can be made to programs which go into the long term. Here I would like to refer to the Borrie Committee report which I do not believe was taken sufficiently into account by the previous Minister or his Department when they were drawing certain conclusions about the feasibility of their growth centre program. In any long term development of this nature, dependent as it is upon certain assumptions of the size, nature, composition of the Australian population in the medium and long term, obviously we must take into consideration the results of detailed investigation, as presented in the Borrie Committee report.
I would not be at all surprised to learn- I would like confirmation from the honourable member for Reid- that the original growth centre concept was based upon a projected population in Australia of over 20 million by the year 2000. The most plausible assumption set out in the Borrie Committee report is that the net immigration intake will be approximately 50 000 a year and that the replacement rate of natural population will be approximately one. If we look at what is happening in relation to the population growth in Australia at the moment we find that the net immigration intake is significantly lower than the 50 000 postulated by Professor Borrie, and the net replacement rate is significantly lower than one. Even with a 50 000 net immigration intake and a replacement rate of one, the population of Australia by the year 2000 would be approximately 17.6 million, which is significantly less than the 20 million plus envisaged when the original growth centre concepts were being drawn up and plans were being made.
We are not sure that the previous Government paid sufficient regard to the cost effectiveness of its consultations and activities with the States in implementing the programs. We believe that we should be greatly concerned with evaluating how financial assistance and other expenditures can go further in helping to achieve social and economic objectives in regional development. I am quite certain that the honourable member for Corio and myself would be in agreement about the achievements that we are hoping to gain in social and economic objectives in regional development. It is the question of how we go about them where we may differ. From our review of the expenditure programs in the urban field it appears that, given the competition which we have for scarce national resources, the previous Government concentrated too much on the provisions of assistance for land purchase well ahead of need. It seeems obvious to the present Government that the emphasis should change to developmental works. If that occurred, it would be consistent with our aim of providing a boost to the private sector and of providing employment. We need to marry the interests of the Government and of the private sector in the economy if we are to achieve what all of us hope to achieve, and that is desirable social and economic objectives in regional development.
We believe the previous Government was too concerned with having all development carried out by the public sector, to the detriment of growth and employment in the private sector. I think this is demonstrated by the fact that we had the highest unemployment in the history of Australia since the Great Depression, brought about as a consequence of the policies pursued by the previous Labor Administration. Therefore this Government, before it can make a decision, must examine the means by which the role of the private sector can be expanded significantly in growth centres. Therefore I think it should be obvious to all members that the issues which I have canvassed in this debate are very complex ones. We believe it would be irresponsible of this Government to embark on a program which involves public sector expenditure of many billions of dollars, not just millions, over the next 20 years or so before such issues are resolved. A decision needs to be taken. It will be taken. That decision should not be and will not be taken lightly or without due consideration of all the factors involved.
-I want to analyse 2 aspects with which the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) dealt. I want to talk to him and to his bureaucrats who, I hope, will advise him more wisely in future. Firstly, I want to deal with the statement made by the Minister ‘that the Government does not want to act before it has thought the matter through.’ The Menzies conservative Government was elected in 1949 and it was not until 1972 that they started a decentralisation policy, the setting up the National Urban and Regional Development Authority 2 weeks before it was defeated in 1972. It was such a dynamic government that it took almost 23 years to think that matter through.
I address myself to the Minister and the bureaucrats who wrote his speech. When they are dealing with the Borrie report I ask them to refer to my Walter Burley Griffin memorial speech of 1972 and other speeches which I made before then in which I dealt with the question of population growth. During the 23 years of conservative administration there was a 1.8 per cent growth in population. When introducing the National Urban and Regional Development Authority Bill into the House the then Prime Minister, Mr McMahon, said in his second reading speech that it was estimated that by the year 2000 Australia would have a population of 22m. But even in the speech which I made in that debate, or for that matter in the earlier Walter Burley Griffin memorial speech, I argued against that proposition. I argued that we should work towards a population growth of something like 1.1 per cent, which would mean that instead of having a population of 22 million or 23 million by the year 2000, we would have a population of 17.3m.
Why did we argue in that way? We said, first of all, that we had to control population to improve living conditions in our urban communities. We said that we should have a selected growth centre policy. The best performance on decentralisation policy was in Britain, which reduced the growth rate in the major cities by at least a million between the end of the war to the early 1970s. If that had been done here we would have been able to slow down the growth rate of our cities by at least one million. We said that if our growth rate continued at 1.8 per cent we would have to get one million people out of our cities by means of our decentralisation policy, and we would have had to absorb the other 9 million people in our capital cities, and most of those would have been living in Sydney and Melbourne. We said that a policy of a 1.8 per cent population growth would be madness. We argued rationally that what we should do was to get at least one million people out of our cities and then the problem of the other 3.3m- one million and 3.3 million added to our present population of 13m makes up the 17.3 million to which I referred earlier- would have been a lesser one. We could have done something for our major capital cities. The reason I have been so much a decentralist and the reason we support a selected decentralisation policy is because of the over-centralisation of New South Wales in Sydney and of Victoria in Melbourne.
The Government which now occupies the treasury bench argues about the misallocation of resources in the public sector by a Labor Government, but it ignores the fact that between 1960 and 1972 private investors and insurance companies were allowed to build a glut of office accommodation in the central business districts of Sydney and Melbourne. Investments in such projects increased from $1 12m in 1960 to more than $ 1 ,200m in 1 972. We argued that that overcentralisation which had existed under the previous Government had to stop and that the only alternative was selected growth centres. We know that it is very difficult to deal with the proposition of selected growth centres. The Federal Treasury is and has been totally opposed to that concept because it believes in laissez faire economics and consists of macro-economic minded people.
I draw the attention of all Government advisers, both Treasury and others, to the reply given today by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) to a question asked of him during question time. He said that he does not want selected growth centres, that he does not want just to pick a few centres. He said that he wanted scatter-gun decentralisation, that he wanted decentralisation to every country town to which all of our resources can be spread. We have so many resources that the Government can spread them all over the country! That is a fallacy. That was the stupid policy which was adopted by the New South Wales and Victorian governments. They had to abandon that policy and they co-operated with us in supporting a policy of selected decentralisation.
Why did they do that? The major enemy of decentralisation is transportation. Therefore when we in the Labor Government looked at decentralisation we said that our selected growth centres had to be developed on a major transportation corridor. I believe that the major transportation corridor in this country is that which runs from Newcastle to Sydney, Canberra, AlburyWodonga, Melbourne and Geelong. That is where the Government should put its resources. It has only limited resources and it has to make sure that it uses those resources with great wisdom. It is in that major transportation corridor that we should have made our major investment. The New South Wales Government said independently that the Bathurst-Orange district should be developed. We supported that proposal because the Bathurst-Orange area is on a major transportation corridor, although it was not the major transportation corridor priority. One of the growth centres on the corridor which we had in mind is Macarthur, which is about 35 miles south-west and on the fringe of Sydney.
Another growth centre is Canberra, which is the major growth centre of this nation. Then there is Albury- Wodonga and, of course, Geelong which is at the other end of the corridor.
We have to try to integrate our transportation investment with our growth centres. We wanted to slow up the growth rate in the major cities. We wanted to give the young people of this nation a fair go in purchasing a block of land, so that they did not have to pay up to $20,000 for a block of land in the western suburbs of Sydney, 25 miles from the central business district, or $18,000 for a block of land in Melbourne. Land in AlburyWodonga will be selling for between $7,000 and $7,500 at the most. Consequently our young people will have a fair go. We wanted to give them a decent way of life with improved educational, recreational and cultural facilities as well as provide job satisfaction through the provision of diverse job opportunities. In order to get these growth centres off the ground we knew that we had to create a stimulus, and that stimulus was to transfer Commonwealth public servants to Albury- Wodonga and to other growth centres. Every year the Public Service needs at least an extra 500 000 square feet of office space. So in order to upgrade the standard of the Public Service we need each year another half a million square feet of office space. It was felt that it was better to locate that Public Service office space in the selected growth centres rather than in the central business districts of Sydney and Melbourne thus adding to the over-centralisation which has been created for so long by the conservative governments of this country.
If honourable members want to examine the real meaning of economic investment they should look at the work carried out by the Department of Urban and Regional Development. When it was first set up it had some of the best economic minds looking at the macro aspect of the economy. Budget Paper No. 9, prepared by officers of the Department of Urban and Regional Development examines investment in detail and deals with the economy in micro as well as macro aspects. It should be examined by all honourable members. If the Government destroys that system it is destroying something worth while. It will succumb to the broad brush approach or the macro aspect of the laissez faire economists in the Treasury.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-In my speech during the debate on the AddressinReply, my maiden speech, I mentioned my serious concern about the imbalance of population and productivity in Australia, one of the most centralised countries of the world. I mentioned some facts and figures. For example, in New South Wales over 60 per cent of the population is concentrated in Sydney and over 80 per cent in concentrated in the 3 major metropolitan areas on the coast. Furthermore I mentioned that over 95 per cent of the increase in population is occurring in those burgeoning and increasingly undesirable centres of population. Those areas also are the centre of productivity.
I think we well realise that we need a balanced program of decentralisation and development, not only in our outer metropolitan areas but in our country areas as well. I remind members of the the Opposition that it was the New South Wales Government and its Department of Decentralisation and Development which brought forward many welcome initiatives, most successful initiatives in the field of decentralisation. They were brought forward under a LiberalCountry Party Coalition Government. Victoria also has a very sound record in developing a decentralisation program.
This subject needs to be approached on 3 fronts. We should not concentrate solely and completely on growth centres. Firstly, we should maintain or, in some cases, restore equilibrium to country centres and towns which are declining in population and productivity. Secondly, we must rationalise the administration of government through a program of regionalisation such as has happened most successfully in New South Wales in many areas of administration such as education. Thirdly there is the creation of growth centres, the theory being that where we have a substantial input of funds we develop rapidly to a situation of self-generating growth. We are faced with the problems that the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) pointed out, problems of keeping young people in country towns and cities, of providing realistic employment opportunities, of transport, of communications and of post secondary education facilities. Decentralisation must be effective in order to alleviate these problems.
However, I believe it is unwise to consider growth centres as the sole linchpin of our decentralisation effort. Looking at the estimates of the former Department of Urban and Regional Development for 1975-76, 1 think it is significant to realise the massive increase in public expenditure on urban and regional development. Between 1972-73 and 1975-76 it increased from $143m to $730m and most of that increase was on urban development, urban renewal, urban sewerage and water, urban housing and things like the National Estate. Of that $730m only $50m went to growth centres that were not on the seaboard- Albury-Wodonga, BathurstOrange and Monarto in South Australia. The Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Senator Greenwood) should look very seriously at the expenditure commitments that may be entered into on such a long term basis if we try to follow through the pattern of the expenditure proposals of the previous Government.
Under the previous Government we saw excesses of spending on a multitude of feasibility studies and surveys; we saw a lack of consultation with people who were to be directly affected by growth centre proposals; we saw enormous increases in commitments on land purchases, as was just mentioned by the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar). We had a multitude of planners’ dreams and consultants springing up from all over the place, and we had a bureaucratic expansion of commissions and authorities. I note that the honourable member for Corio referred to the Geelong Regional Development Authority as a substantial bureaucracy, or what would become a substantial bureaucracy.
One of the things that concerns me about growth centre programs is the enormous cost of administering them and the rapid increase in bureaucratic empires that are associated with them. Under the previous Government we saw situations which were quite unusual and quite anomalous. On the one hand the previous Government would establish a commission such as the Cities Commission and then would find that it was not working correctly and would have to dismantle it, as was done with other commissions. We have seen some debacles associated with growth centre programs. I refer directly to the new city of Monarto which was ill-judged, ill-timed and illconceived. A large area of land was purchased and subsequently the scheme turned out to be a white elephant because the only way it could be populated was by the coercion of public servants. As a result I believe that Monarto is a monument to the hasty and ill-conceived programs of growth centre development upon which the previous Government embarked.
This Government is committed to decentralisation but I believe it must be approached responsibly and cautiously. The Government should make sure that it is convinced that particular projects will have a realistic cost benefit result and that we will not squander public resources which we can ill afford at this time because of the economic situation we have inherited from the previous Government. I believe we must still consider the concepts of dispersed decentralisation as against solely selective decentralisation. I have seen many small factories in small country towns operating in a very viable fashion and making a substantial contribution to the economy of those towns. The Opposition, when in government, lost sight of the main secret of success in decentralisation. The most successful decentralisation ventures result from close cooperation between local government, farsighted, aggressive and innovative local government, and private industry, associated with a certain input from the public sector through sensible and rational loan support.
We must create the right sort of environment for private industry to see a future in decentralisation, in setting up industries in country areas as well as in outer metropolitan areas. The last 3 years have not been conducive in any way whatsoever to providing those conditions to make private industry look at the possibilities of decentralising their operations. I object strongly to the idea that the only way in which we can decentralise is to create artificial very costly new cities, cities in which we are not sure that people will want to live, and which can be populated only by the forced relocation of public servants. I do not necessarily want to see mini-Canberras springing up all over this great country of ours.
Growth centres are only part of our decentralisation policy. We are committed to decentralisation but it is important to see growth centres in an overall perspective. We must be very careful to make sure that projects and programs are justifiable, can be supported and are definitely conducive to an effective co-operation and close relationships between the public sector, local government, private industry and individuals. That is the only way in which effective decentralisation is going to be achieved in this country.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The discussion is now concluded.
Debate resumed from 16 March, on motion by Mr Malcolm Fraser:
That a Joint Committee be appointed to inquire into, report on and make recommendations for-
-The Joint Committee on Committees for the Parliament is one on which I had the privilege of being the first chairman. Because of other events I ceased to be Chairman early in its life. My colleague and your predecessor, Mr Deputy Speaker, the honourable member for Scullin, Dr Harry Jenkins, was Chairman of that Committee at the time of the dissolution of the Parliament. The Committee carried out what I think was a very thorough examination of parliamentary committee systems and the existing and former committee systems which have been used by this Parliament. It was a joint committee and one on which a considerable amount of parliamentary experience existed. It was one of the few committees of this Parliament which had the opportunity to visit other countries in order to advance its work. It studied committee operations in both Canada and the United Kingdom, which have parliaments which we would look on as being comparable to our own.
I think it is unfortunate that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in his speech yesterday tended to pre-empt the decisions of the Committee. Some public statements which have been made also have tended to have that effect. I am not sure that I shall agree with the Committee’s findings when they come down. Most honourable members will have their own ideas. But the Committee will recommend what is a consensus of a group of members of both Houses who have had the opportunity to take evidence in the broad, to examine in detail and to bring forward to this House and the Senate recommendations on a committee structure which will fulfil the needs of this House and the Senate now and in the future.
I do not intend to try to forecast what type of committee system should be applied. What I do say is that when the report is presented I believe a number of things will be required. The first is that the recommendations of the Committee should be given a real opportunity by an extensive trial in the form in which the Committee brings them in. The other important aspect, I believe, is that the committees, if they are to function, will require the necessary back-up staff and facilities in order to make them viable.
The Prime Minister in his speech mentioned 2 things which are in contradiction. Firstly, he said that Estimates committees or expenditure committees should be established. Then he said that they should operate within existing staff ceilings. If that type of committee is to be established and it is expected that the committee will bring forward to the Parliament recommendations or findings which will stand up to examination and criticism, which are well based and have been arrived at as a result of a proper investigative progress, the committee quite obviously will require expert staff in the areas of expenditure in order to service the members of that committee. That cannot be done within the existing staff ceilings of the committee office of either House or the Joint House Department, which has a limited committee arrangement.
One of the areas where I would agree with the Prime Minister- I most likely would not agree with what he proposes on it and I do not think the Clerk or most likely a number of other people agree with me- is on the method by which the business of the House should be conducted. It is my belief that if committees are to be effective the means by which the business of the House can be conducted have to be evolved. A single line of business will not give this Parliament the necessary time to conduct the range of business which is desirable. I believe there are means available for this. I put my submissions before the Committee and I know that the Prime Minister did also. I read the evidence of his submissions. On the answers he gave to questions, I do not think he read mine. He certainly did not. If committees are to be effective they have to have places and times to meet which do not conflict with the meetings of the Parliament and the Parliament has to be able to deal with its own business without undue and impossible restriction. I think one of the problems which confronted the previous Parliament was its inability to cope with the business which the Government of the day required to be dealt with. I think there are means- as I said, I made my submissions on them- by which the time it takes to deal with the business of the House can be minimised without reducing the amount of time which honourable members have available to them for consideration of that business.
There is one other matter which I should like to put before the House on this question and that is the importance of this Committee bringing down a report fairly quickly. I know that last year the previous Committee had reached a stage of being in final considerations. I hope that the Committee is able to proceed from that point to a resolution of its recommendations and does not have to go back into the area of hearing evidence. I suppose what I am saying is that I hope the personnel of the Committee is substantially that which considered the evidence last year and substantially able to put together the recommendations which will come before this House. I think it would be a tragedy- in parliamentary life it is quite likely- if those members who visited the House of Commons in London and the House of Commons in Ottawa to study their committee systems and who have submitted a preliminary report were not to offer themselves to participate in the drafting of the final report. I think the investment that the Parliament made in providing for those members the information which I am sure they have would be wasted if they did not participate in the final drafting of the report. The Opposition supports the establishment of the Committee and hopes that the Committee’s work can be completed without haste but with some speed.
– I do not propose to take much of the House ‘s time. Having been a member of joint parliamentary committees for some 4 years or so and not having had the advantage of sitting in this place during the past 3 years when these matters were discussed, I should like at this time to add my support to the concept of Estimates committees and to endorse the hopes of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) for the establishment of such committees before the start of the winter recess. I do not agree with the previous speaker, the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes). I believe that probably enough work has gone into the question. But I should like just to mention one or two points that should be discussed in this House. No doubt members of the previous Committee went into great consideration of and deliberations on the terms of reference that they intended to put before the House for approval. However, I reemphasise and believe all of us in this House should re-emphasise the need for care to avoid possible conflict in the terms of reference for the already established committees and those that will apply for the new Estimates committees.
Many of my colleagues, some of whom are sitting in the House today, have told me that the Public Accounts Committee, for example, has little relevance because it deals with past events and spends little time in determining what format should be considered when administering the public finances of the Commonwealth. Of course there is truth in this. I would commend to the Joint Committee on Committees for the Parliament that consideration be given to maintaining the Public Accounts Committee and that the PAC should remain non-controversial in the Party political sense. There is a good example to follow in the British and Indian practices whereby the public accounts committees, after putting their reports to their respective parliaments, have a significant annual debate wherein trends in public finance are discussed in detail.
One of the problems of this House has always been that when matters of public finance are brought before it no real or meaningful debate takes place. No principles are established; no interest is shown. I think it is true for students of public and political science in this country to say that truly the Federal Parliament has absolutely no idea of how it is going to control public finance. So I believe that there should be considerable readjustment of the functions of the Public Accounts Committee if the Parliament is to agree to the establishment of a joint parliamentary estimates committee or, as is now being spoken of, the establishment of an estimates committee in the House of Representatives. Older members of the House will be aware of my keen concern, when Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, to strengthen and streamline its operations. I am very pleased to say that such changes did take place under the fine leadership and chairmanship of the honourable member for North Sydney (Mr Graham). I compliment him and the members of those two joint parliamentary committees for the vital and important role that they played in the development of financial control coming from this House.
– Nicely said.
– Thank you. Time does not permit a full discussion of technical matters now. The Prime Minister in his speech in this House yesterday has shown himself to be very much aware of the need for ‘improved financial scrutiny of the departments of the Executive ‘. I support that idea. I believe that the creation of an estimates committee of the House of Representatives will achieve just this. However, I believe it is fair to raise the question of whether an estimates committee can or should consider matters before they reach the House. It is important that any estimates committee in acting as a watchdog of proposed expenditure does not supplant the responsibility of the executive government. I beseech the Joint Committee on the Parliamentary
Committee System to be cognisant of this fundamental factor and that lessons be learnt from the British system and the errors and trauma that Britain has lived through during the past 50 years in trying to establish a competent system of expenditure committees.
I trust that the Joint Committee on the Parliamentary Committee System will also be aware of the need to be aware that the system of committees for each House being considered for our Commonwealth Parliament, though working under the traditions of the Westminster system and its general practice, is more akin to the United States system where independent committees from each of the Senate and the House of Representatives of that country run in parallel activity. The role of the Executive of this Parliament, as it is compared with the role of the executive government in the United States, must be clearly established in respect of the workings of any proposed estimates committees of this House which will run in parallel activity with the estimates committees of the Senate. I rather suspect that as yet such a clear definition has not been established. However, despite the many difficulties that I see I am sure that they can be overcome. I trust that at the least the report of the Joint Committee on Committees of the Parliament will be debated in full by this House on a strictly non-party basis. This is surely important enough to go beyond the bounds of party policy or loyalty, because surely the very future of parliamentary government in this country is at stake. Though that may sound dramatic, I put it to honourable members that perhaps this is as fundamental a change in parliamentary government in the federal system as we have seen for over 50 years. It is important that when the report of this Committee is tabled it is considered and that those of us on either side of the House will not be restricted by any party affiliations in our attitudes towards it.
In conclusion, I strongly support the previous speaker in his claims about and comments on the staffing of the committees. For this new system of committees to work the staffing of committees must be senior and numerically sufficient to establish and maintain the standards that the new system will bring to this Parliament House. I should like to talk for a very much longer time on this matter. I envy those who have had the opportunity to appear before the previous committee. However, I sincerely trust that when the report is brought down here and a decision is made by the Parliament- not by the Governmenta full debate will be allowed and will ensue.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 16 March, on motion by Mr Sinclair:
1 ) That a Joint Committee be appointed to consider and report on-
House of Representatives, to appoint persons with specialist knowledge for the purposes of the committee.
-The Opposition supports the motion. In all material respects it is in the same terms as the motion I moved on 15 March 1973. It took a long timemany battles- to achieve the terms of the motion of March 1973. I in particular had to speak on behalf of the Australian Labor Party on the necessary ingredients for a motion setting up this joint committee, on 14 March 1962, 22 April 1964 and 4 May 1967. The essence of the attitude for which I contended on all those occasions was that parliamentary committees should in fact be true instruments of the Parliament, that their inquiries should not be restricted only to what the Government might regard as proper subjects for their attention and that their proceedings should not be characterised by an unnecessary emphasis on secrecy. I am naturally delighted that the present Government has so fully and promptly endorsed the terms which at last I was able to achieve as the charter of this committee 3 years ago.
-I have pleasure in speaking in support of this motion moved by the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) in this House yesterday. Having served on the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence in the previous Parliament, but regrettably being unable to do so on this occasion as I am also a member of another Parliamentary committee, I would like to make some remarks on the substance of this Committee and compare its great expectations with the work it has in fact performed. With regret I say that in the last Parliament, in my opinion this Committee was not a great success. There were a number of reasons for this. The chairman after some delay entered the Ministry. The Omega question which was passed to the Committee for consideration took an inordinate time to reach fruition. There were certain difficulties in the ranks of the Government as to what views it should adopt to the whole question of Omega, but finally, after considerable effort over some 3 years, the report was tabled in this House. I hope that with the effluxion of time the new Committee will not have to go through the same difficulties as did its predecessor.
I am of the view that this Committee is probably one of the most important joint committees of this Parliament. It is essential that not only should the Australian people be aware and kept informed of the world around us and the circumstances, which change daily, but that the men and women who are elected to this Parliament with the fundamental responsibility of leading the Australian people and of setting a standard of excellence and an appreciaton of the problems which this nation must face, should ensure that this Committee has indeed a real role to perform. In saying that, I believe it is not sufficient that members should attend meetings and simply sit there as if in some debating club listening to a guest speaker. Regrettably this is one of the ways in which the time of many of the meetings was in fact spent. I submit that this Committee requires to go beyond that.
The terms upon which it has been established make it quite clear that the Committee has every opportunity if it wishes to take them to cover subjects referred to it by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Government and the Parliament, and of course subjects which it may decide for itself. There is no doubt that the fields in which this new Committee should be concentrating its deliberations are prolific. It includes the whole question of Australia’s relations with Indonesia, recent events in Timor, events in Africa, Australia’s relations with Japan, which were the subject of a very excellent report a number of years ago. Above all, of course, consideration needs to be given to the whole question of defence. This subject will be covered by the honourable member for St George (Mr Neil). In the foreign affairs field Australia has perhaps always seen the future, at least since the Second World War, through less than rose tinted glasses. Threats will be made upon this nation because of our wealth, our geographical isolation and because of our small population- facts with which we have to live. The responsibility of this Parliament, and certainly of a committee of this Parliament, is to look ahead, to plan for the future, to see what should be done, and to make suggestions to this Parliament on how it believes various problems should be considered.
Perhaps one of the greatest difficulties we are going to face- it is becoming a major international problem today- is resource utilisation and the distribution of the resources between the rich and the poor countries. The discussions which are currently taking place in the United Nations on the Law of the Sea represent only one facet of a mammoth problem of how, in a world the size of ours, with a burgeoning population in the less developed countries, it is possible to divide our wealth so that all humanity can gain a reasonable standard of living.
Perhaps such concepts of idealism are somewhat out of place today. Nevertheless the fact remains that small countries in terms of population, such as Australia, cannot expect to hold complete sovereignty over a fairly substantial proportion of the world’s known resources and reserves indefinitely. It is going to be difficult for us to readjust, but readjust we must, because if we fail to do so undoubtedly pressures are going to be brought upon us in the not so distant future to force Australia to reconsider the division of its resources for the benefit of others. I would suggest that not only must we be prepared for this situation but also we must make sure that in the years ahead we will be able to show the world that as a resource-rich country we are prepared to share and to play our full part in overcoming this very major problem.
Some 30 years ago much was said about the world passing into a new phase of internationalism. It was said that national boundaries were out of date, that flags were out of date. Perhaps it was in this rather euphoric state that the United Nations was born. The United Nations was not born simply out of euphoria but out of a very real belief that unless nations were prepared to work together to solve their common difficulties and to appreciate the problems of each country, ultimately the world would head nowhere except towards future calamities and war. No government today can regard the future with equanimity- certainly no parliament of a democratic country such as Australia, with its enormous potential to give not only to its own people but also to the world and especially to South East Asia the area which is of such vital importance to the future of our own nation.
It is for these reasons above all that I urge the members of this new Committee, when it is formed, to approach their work with a degree of urgency. I honestly believe that time is not on our side. We are not prepared, nor should we be, to listen to the dictates of others unless we are prepared to apply a true concept of sovereignty to stand up in the world ‘s forums to make our point of view heard, and above all to be sure we have right on our side.
-I used to think that the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) was the master of cliches in this House, but obviously he must defer to the honourable member for
Bradfield (Mr Connolly). I join with other honourable members in supporting the reconstitution of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence. I would like to defend the previous Committee against some of the charges made by the honourable member for Bradfield before he started on his cliches about world government, etc. He attacked the Australian Labor Party because the members it appointed to the Committee when it was in government disagreed on the defence significance of the Omega base and the control of it. A committee should consist of people who are prepared to listen to the arguments without adhering to a particular point of view which is allegedly Liberal or Labor.
– You did.
– All the people on your side, let us face it, voted one way. At least the Labor members did not vote as one. They listened to the argument and the discussion. It is depressing that the Labor Party has the reputation, I admit, for being much tougher on its members, for insisting on unanimity, for exercising much more discipline. This is not true. The Labor Party consists of people who have a basic philosophy in common. The basic philosophy can be defined in all kinds of ways. My own view is that we believe in social justice, whatever that may mean. I accept that this is a vague term, but basically we believe that people ought to be able, by intelligent, rational discussion, to make it possible for everybody in this community to get a decent go at what is available in the community. That does not mean that we all have to agree on every point of foreign policy. It does not mean that we have to agree on every point of defence. It does not mean that we have to agree completely as to what is the best committee system in this House. I just hope that at least some of the huge number of honourable members in this House- many of them are new members- realise that everything that is right and correct has not been said yet.
If honourable members opposite look at things and investigate things they may form an opinion different from that of their leader, their Minister for Foreign Affairs or their Minister for Defence. If they make an assumption, as many people in this country tend to do, that there ought to be a common foreign policy between the two main sides in the political scene in Australia I do not personally make that assumptionthen surely there are going to be disagreements inside the parties on just what it is; otherwise it means just nothing. I think that a committee is worth while only if there is a fair bit of discussion, if new issues are raised, if it interviews and cross-examines people who have represented Australia overseas in all kinds of countries, and if it tries to find out in detail what they have done. You, Mr Deputy Speaker, have been a member of the Committee at least for the last 3 years or so. I am sure that you found the meetings most interesting when there was continuing disagreement possibly on both sides. There was no fixed line; members of the Committee actually tried to find out what the truth was.
I would like to make one final point because I do not want to detain the House any longer. Specific issues were referred to the Committee. One issue was Omega and the other was the question of dual nationality which affects many citizens in this country at the present time. Dual nationality is one of the bugbears of many people who have migrated to this country. People of Yugoslav, Italian, Greek or whatever origin have become naturalised Australians and consider themselves to be Australians. One of the difficulties that arises is that many of these people get into difficulties when they go back to their country of origin for a visit or for some longer period of time. They can be called up for military service or they can be involved in taxation troubles. Some of them are not allowed to leave the country. This does not happen only in countries behind the Iron Curtain, although we experience greater problems with those countries because we have more difficulty in dealing with them. This situation also exists in countries such as France and Italy.
A sub-committee was set up to try to deal with the problems of dual nationality. There are quite important issues about which Australia has to make up its mind. For instance, it has to determine what kind of pressures we should exert on other countries and whether we want single nationality or dual nationality. There are people in this country who prefer dual nationality. People in this category include artists and even rugby league footballers, and I understand that the honourable member for St George (Mr Neil), who represents a Rugby League district, is to follow me in this debate. This question is important to footballers who play football in Britain for half of the year and football in Australia for the other half. These footballers are in favour of dual nationality. They want to be British when they play in England and Australian when they play here. This question also is important to artists who want to belong to the equivalent of Actors Equity overseas. These artists want to be able to appear on radio, television and the stage in the United Kingdom, the United States or wherever their country of origin may be. However, they also want to retain their Australian nationality and insist on being able to work over here. These are important issues.
I was Chairman of the sub-committee and 1 must admit that I have less sympathy for people wanting dual nationality in these circumstances, although I can understand their difficulty. My own view is that the sympathy ought to be given to people who are involved in political difficulties because of dual nationality- the people who cannot go back to countries behind the Iron Curtain, the people who cannot go back to other countries because of certain political difficulties that are put in their way by totalitarian regimes in those countries.
– South Africa.
-Ex-Greek citizens in Australia experienced great difficulties when they went back to Greece until about a year ago because at that time the country was in the hands of a military fascist dictatorship. These people who were Australian citizens experienced great difficulties. I do not want to canvass this whole issue but I do think that this is a terribly important one and that a party line should not be taken on it. We have to sit down, discuss this matter and try to find out what ought to be done and what can be done for the benefit of the maximum number of naturalised Australians living in this country at the present time.
-I rise to support the motion, particularly in view of what has happened in this country in the past 3 years. There has been demonstrated a very great need for the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence because aside from one or two statements in the last Parliament there was not one day’s debate on the topic of defence from the time that the Australian Labor Party came into office in 1 972 until this date, and that is a national disgrace. The need for this committee is therefore seen.
I think that Mr Barnard, the former Minister for Defence, would have hoped that there would have been more public discussion on defence because on 23 April 1975, referring to matters of real national importance, he said:
Such public discussion of government policies is welcome to this Government, both as a contribution to the solution of national problems, and as a means of revitalising the democratic processes which are so important to us.
I am not competent to talk about what happened in the last Committee because I was not a member of this place at that time, but I am very seriously concerned to hear what has been said. I do not know why the Labor Party downgraded the defence of this nation so drastically in 3 years. Perhaps some well-meaning Fabians believe that we should spend the money on welfare and other matters. Good luck to them. But why could they not come out and be honest about it and say: ‘Get rid of defence entirely and spend it where in conscience we believe it should go’. Perhaps there are other persons much further to the Left who really have an underlying interest in seeing that this country is in fact defenceless. We have reached a very critical situation.
Let me say this as to the question of threat or no threat: Members of this Parliament should be responsible, in the interests of their constituents, in adopting if anything a slightly pessimistic as against a ridiculously optimistic attitude towards the future. There may or may not be a threat. One cannot discount the possibility of a threat. If there may be a threat we have to ensure that this nation is properly defended. If there is no threat at the present time we are extremely lucky. We must use this excellent opportunity to put our house in order so that if the time arises when a threat is upon us we will not be seen to be doubly guilty for having failed to discharge our duty to the Australian people while the boat was not rocking but while we were waiting for it to start to rock.
Over 10 years ago my predecessor, Mr Len Bosman, referred with great foresight in his maiden speech to the events in Africa. He said, without quoting the exact words:
Within about 10 years or so we are going to have a very serious problem of subversion on the African continent.
We have far more than subversion right now; we have direct invasion brilliantly executed by the Russians and Cubans to outflank the Western world and to attain their aims of an excellent strategic position in Africa. We have seen a most skilled and capable defeat of the Western world. I do not know whether the Labor Party welcomed this. We have heard very little condemnation of it. We have heard very little, if any, condemnation from honourable members on the Labor side of the House. I do not know under whose influence in their mind they come. Maybe it is the Iraqis; maybe the Russians. But certainly they do not seem to care about what is happening on the opposite side of the ocean that borders our western shores.
Might I be sufficiently presumptious to suggest a short list of headings which could be considered by the Committee in open discussions in the hope of developing a bipartisan policy on the defence of this country. The first subject for discussion should be a short strategic assessment because there is a need nowadays to define clearly the meaning of the term ‘defence of Australia’. We should also consider what is the aim of that term. Next there should be a consideration of manpower, equipment and training priorities in the context of the present Budget and of an increased or decreased Budget. Very importantly there should next be an assessment of a defence force structure in the context of both those budget aspects. There should be an assessment of capabilities of the defence force structure. Further, there should be a detailed consideration of all the Services to ensure that any proposed plan will work on the ground where the soldiers are, on the sea and in the air. There should also be a consideration of industrial back-up. At some time the nuclear question will have to be considered. Although this is entirely a matter of government policy there should be some consideration of these aspects. There should be public awareness because the public has been lulled into a false sense of security.
Many people of this country genuinely believe that Australia is not capable of being defended conventionally, so they say: ‘Well, why worry?’ It is possible to prepare sound, sensible, conventional plans for the defence of this country against, at the worst, an invasion, against an incursion into our shipping areas, against offshore installations or other facilities in the local region. Such plans would not involve excessive costs and would be capable of assessment by the Australian people as worthwhile. I do not know the cost but honourable members should ask themselves what would be the cost to the economy of a one-day blockade of our shipping routes? What would it cost if this happened for a month? What would be the cost of dealing with some incursion in the north west shelf area? What would be the cost of dealing with large scale smuggling or any other form of pseudo military or criminal activity which got out of hand? These costs, often to be weighed against our economy, must be considered when considering defence matters. If the public are made aware of these matters properly they will understand that it is necessary not only in the interests of our skins but in the interests of our pocketsthat seems to be the dominant consideration nowadays- that we have a proper defence policy.
The Committee might make some contribution to preparing an ambitious outline plan for the defence of Australia, as defined, in the hope that perhaps in the near future a White Paper will be presented to the Parliament and we will have a few days’ solid debate on it. The techniques ought to be clear. There ought to be the submission of written ideas, interviewing of persons, cross-examination- I agree with the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) on that- and visits to establishments. Honourable members should visit the establishments in order to raise morale, to make the soldier feel again that he is wanted. The first and foremost thing to be done is to fix up morale. Recently I went back to my old battalion. Of course, the morale there is high.
– The University Regiment?
– The Fifth Battalion Royal Australian Regiment. Can one find any radios in the armoured personnel carriers? In the near future they are supposed to form part of an armoured brigade. One cannot. Honourable members will find all around Australia complaints from soldiers who have been confined to barracks by the Australian Labor Party. They have been given good wages, but what can they do with them? What is the use of sitting on your backside at Holsworthy with $ 150 in your pocket and nowhere to go, no petrol to get out the front gate, no training time and no opportunity to get out and do your job? Honourable members will find a lack of replacement parts for vehicles in Queensland. At one barracks in Queensland it is said that the officer in charge of a particular unit is raffling a tray of meat to raise money to buy equipment so that the lawns around the place can be mowed properly. At Lavarack Barracks in Queensland it is said that there are no 9.6 size boots left and none in sight. What are things coming to when the stage is reached when they cannot even keep the pantry full? It is alleged that absenteeism is high. Training has been stopped in many areas throughout Australia. Many personnel have had ridiculous rules applied to them. There are officers who have not reported for duty in Queensland for some months because they are confined to movement by bus and not by air, according to some bureaucrat. The roads have been impassable for months, so some company sits waiting to do a bit of training and Captain So and So does not turn up because the cost cuts imposed by the Labor Party are still hitting him.
In the last few years there have been very significant cancellations of exercises and training time. The first thing to do is to get these people going again. I am picking only one or two examples out of the short list to which I have just referred. Let me give just one example which highlights the seriousness of the situation- industrial backup. I have recently been in correspondence with the president of one of the largest electronics firms in Australia and one of the largest in the world.
– Did he kick in?
– No. I have had no communication in respect of anything other than a parliamentary duty. In response to my letter he writes:
I would like to start my comments by referring to the third paragraph of your letter in which you say that the electronics industry has been going through a depressed period and may not be able to provide essential industrial techniques or equipment in the regrettable event of mobilisation. This statement is indeed quite correct . . . I cannot but say in the most simple manner that all 3 parts of the electronics industry are under severe pressure, are rapidly disintegrating and are virtually in the process of disappearing from the Australian scene, perhaps with the exception of some screw driver activities which are nothing but putting some preassembled bits and pieces together in a wooden cabinet.
That is an example of how the Labor Party’s tariff policy is killing one of the most important industries in this country, an industry which cannot be put on its feet again in 5 minutes flat if anything happens. I know that we need to have a committee that can discuss matters in detail and throw things around, but it must get on with a lot of hard work. I appreciate the honourable member’s remarks about trying to find the truth, but the first casualty in war is often the truth. Often one does not have time to sit down and find out academically what is the truth and who is right or wrong when one is confronted with a very serious situation.
The first casualties will never be members of this House. We sit here on plush leather and fine grain oak, far removed from the people who face hardships, nights out, the sea and the air in our interests. We tend to forget all about them completely and about their wives and families. In view of the disgraceful lack of debate in this Parliament in the last 3 years the formation of this Committee is long overdue. The Committee must initiate inquiries and bring matters to the Parliament. Somehow within the next 3 years, before the boat starts rocking, we must get some semblance of a rational defence plan into the public mind and into action in Australia.
-The honourable member for St George (Mr Neil) stirred up a reasonable number of dragons in his speech. I was starting to feel a bit terrified as I envisaged the enormous number of people who are going to swoop down on us. I should think that one of the reasons that the morale of the defence forces has slipped a bit is the nonsense talked by people like the honourable member. The suggestion that defence has been totally neglected is utter rubbish. I suggest that the honourable member looks at Jane’s Aircraft, Jane’s Fighting Ships and other books and he will see the strength of our defence, relative to our population, compared with the strengths around the world. The facts are that the manpower situation in the Australian armed forces is adequate for the present needs and any potential threats. The re-equipment policy has been moving along. Of course it is all conditional upon the wonderful obsession with not increasing the deficit.
The remarkable feature of the honourable member’s speech was his demand that the Government increase public expenditure at a time when it is saying that all expenditure has to be transferred to private enterprise. The honourable member cannot have it both ways. He must start to look at the leadership coming from his side of the House. For instance, the $60m expenditure on the superphosphate bounty may well have raised the morale of the troops if it had been made available for more equipment and training. I sympathise with servicemen who have inadequate training equipment. I sympathise with them for having inadequate resources at their disposal for proper manoeuvres. I believe that this is one of the matters which the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence will have to consider but I deny the continuous assertion that the previous Government- actually I mean ‘the Government’ and not the usurping operators who are there now- neglected defence. There has been an enormous change in our defence attitude and structures since we inherited the situation when troops were involved in Vietnam. I am glad that the Committee will have the opportunity to discuss these matters.
The honourable member raised several other matters, including the situation in Africa. Africa was ripe for some kind of subversion. I hold the same view as the honourable member, and I expect that it is universal in this Parliament, that the intrusion of Cubans and Russians in Africa is regrettable. It is regrettable that the regimes there have taken so long to see the facts of life, as is happening in Rhodesia. I do not think honourable members opposite have anything to write home about. They would not even offer the resources of Australia to assist the United Nation’s representative to visit Timor.
I rose to speak about 2 matters associated with the Committee. I was a member of this Committee before 1972. 1 suggest that in considering committees of this nature we must attend to several matters if the committees are to work effectively. Our colleague the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Connolly) raised the general question of listening at great length, probably dozing at the end of the table, while we hear reports. I think committees must give more time to deliberation and less to listening. We must restructure our attitudes on committees in some way or another. The committees represent the alternative policy creation system of the parliamentary or representative, system. More and more work ought to be put to the parliamentary committees as a countervailing influence to the general bureaucratic system from which so much of our policy making is inclined to flow.
Therefore, 2 points are important in the structuring of committees, and this applies to all of them. The first is the staffing of committees. I was a Minister for 3 years. During that time we increased the staffing available to Ministers and I would suggest that honourable members opposite have done themselves a disservice by reducing ministerial staffs. It is part of the countervailing system in a democracy that Ministers who are arms of the Parliament have adequate resources at their disposal for influence, for study and all the rest. I make this as a definite assertion as one who has been in this Parliament for a long time and as one who has had the experience of being a Minister. Then I look at the relationship between a Minister’s capacity to handle matters and a committee’s capacity to handle matters. I think it comes down to the resources placed at your disposal. The Chairman and the members of a committee have to have at their disposal the same quality of resources that is available to Ministers. That has something to do with staffing and other resources.
The other point I would make is that committees should have a budget of their own, particularly a committee such as the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence. There is no doubt that during the period of the committee’s work it will wish to travel overseas. The Committee will apply to the Minister for permission to do this. The Minister, of course, will be looking at his own budget. The parliamentary system will not work unless our committee system has a budget of its own. It would not be difficult to say: ‘What will be involved? Will it amount to $20,000, $30,000, $40,000 or $50,000?’ The committee would be responsible for its expenditure.
One of the quirks of the parliamentary system is how people are suddenly responsible when they become Ministers and they are suddenly irresponsible when they are no longer Ministers. Every one of us is a potential Minister and exMinister. Every one of us has the same capacity of intellect and so on whether we are on the back bench or whether for the time being we sit on the front bench, and we are capable of making decisions of that kind. There are 2 factors in an effective working committee system. One is the need to have available adequate resources and staffing, and the other is the necessity for an independent budgetary arrangement. I responded to the remarks of the honourable member for St George because he did raise matters that were slightly controversial, and in fact he was subject to and needed pretty consistent correction.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 16 March, on motion by Mr Nixon:
That a Standing Committee be appointed to inquire into and report on-
-The Opposition supports the motion for the reestablishment of the Standing Committee on Road Safety. I do not want to dwell at length on the motion but rather to refer to the able chairmanship of the former Committee by my colleague, the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen), and the outstanding work that Committee did. It developed for itself over the years a reputation for quality of report, for incisiveness and for an investigatory attitude. I am rather saddened that the Government has seen fit under the smokescreen heading of costcutting programs not to proceed with the establishment of the Road Safety and Standards Authority.
What we are seeing at the present time in this country is not a cost-cutting program but rather a redirection program, a rearrangement of priorities. This Government claims to believe in the delegation of power but its actions belie its words in this instance. I refer to the Road Safety and Standards Authority because yesterday the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) went to some length in speaking to the motion to point out the Government’s position and its reasons for not proceeding with the original decision. The Government’s action in not proceeding with the incorporation of the separate authority is, I think, very retrograde. We have heard to date that within the Department of Transport there are to be cuts involving $ 1 3m, but of that amount items involving $8.75m have not yet been specified. We in the Opposition are unable to get information on what those items are. The decision not to proceed with the proposed Road Safety and Standards Authority which was to have been established at Albury-Wodonga is, in the belief of the Opposition, another attack on the decentralisation program that was followed by the previous Government. The wind-down which obviously will occur in Albury-Wodonga as a result of that decision will have a detrimental impact upon that growth centre. The $ 10m to $1 lm that was to be invested in that development, the population movement and employment opportunities that would have been created in the Albury-Wodonga growth centre complex would have been an addition to the activities in that region of which Albury-Wodonga would have been the centre.
When we look at the priorities, when we see the reintroduction of the superphosphate bounty and the reintroduction of the various other rural pay-offs to sectional rural interests- to corporate rural concerns, not to needy individual farmersand when we see the abolition now of the proposed establishment of a separate Road Safety and Standards Authority, I do not think it is too harsh to say that some of those transfers and some of those alterations and priorities are going to be paid for in human lives. I am rather disappointed with the Minister because when this legislation was introduced in March 1975 he was one of those foremost in support of the establishment of the Authority. I would like to look back to some of the comments that he, as the honourable member for Gippsland, made in this chamber on 15 April. I refer to pages 1631 and 1632 of Hansard. He took the credit at the time for being responsible for the expert group on road safety that brought down the recommendation for the establishment of a separate authority. At that time he said:
I tabled that report in this Parliament in October 1972, and the Government of the day accepted the findings and announced, in November 1972, its decision to set up a national office on road safety.
He went on to say:
Undoubtedly, this is a proud day for those men, when this Authority is now finally getting under way.
I am delighted that the Bill has the support of the Parliament and indeed, of the House of Representatives Select Committee -
He went on to mention the horrific dimensions of death on the roads and to congratulate Commonwealth and State Ministers who comprise the Australian Transport Advisory Council, to which he referred again in his speech yesterday. Very explicitly he said in April 1975, as recorded on page 1632 of Hansard:
This Bill is welcomed by the Opposition.
The Opposition welcomes and supports the Bill.
Having said all of those things plus many other things one would have thought that when this authority was on the way to being establishedthe legislation was through both Houses of the Parliament and it had the combined support of both Houses of the Parliament- if there was to be a suggestion from any direction that costs be curtailed and the authority not proceed as a separate authority independent from the Department of Transport, independent from the bureaucracy, the Minister would have fought tooth and nail to ensure that the Authority was maintained as an independent operation. However, it seems from the statements the Minister has made in recent weeks that he acquiesced in the decision which, in effect, is to risk human lives to obtain a few miserable dollars to reallocate financial advantages to his Party’s backers.
There has been a significant downturn in the loss of life on our roads in the last 5 years. Much has been done in that past 5 years- much as a result of the work of this Committee- but there is much more to be done. If the Road Safety and Standards Authority had been established as a separate authority and had been working in harness with the other research committees and with the proposed Standing Committee, the subject of this motion, then I am certain that the road toll could have been reduced still further. Obviously additional lives are going to be lost in the next 3 years because the Authority has not been established. As I said earlier, we are now seeing a strange set of priorities being implemented under the smokescreen of a cost saving program. It is a strange set of priorities for a government to be able to find $ 1 1 m- and that was in its election campaign policy- to restore the school cadet service but seek to make a petty reduction in expenditure by eliminating the road safety standards authority at the expense of human life. I note that in paragraph (5) of the motion relating to the establishment of a joint committee to inquire into the system of committees for the Parliament it is proposed that the deputy chairman should be a member of the Opposition. In the motion we are now considering there is no such provision. I suggest to the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) that this may well be something that could be applied because from my experience of working on the committees, the sharing of the chairmanship and deputy chairmanship is a good thing for the functioning of the committees. It enables greater involvement and it helps to give a more bipartisan approach to the inquiries and projects that come before a committee. The Opposition supports the motion.
– I rise to support the motion by the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) to establish a standing committee on road safety. The committee has in its terms of reference 4 main headings: Firstly, to inquire into the main causes of the road toll; secondly, to investigate the most effective means of achieving greater road safety; thirdly, to look at the particular aspects of the problem to which all concerned could advantageously direct their efforts and, finally, to try to assess the economic cost to the community of road accidents in Australia. In view of a reply that the Minister gave to me yesterday I am almost tempted to try to have the safety of hang gliders included in the terms of reference. It seems that they are not to be regarded as aircraft but perhaps since they spent more time on the ground they could be regarded as land vehicles! However, I will not try to do that.
I note that the second paragraph of the motion specifies that the committee should recognise the responsibility of the States in matters of road safety and seek their co-operation in all relevant aspects. That is, of course, an important clause because matters relating to road safety are matters basically within the powers of the States. However, it is increasingly the case that there is a national responsibility in that our transport system is becoming more national in character and there needs to be a great degree of co-operation, co-ordination and, in many respects, standardisation between the States and the Territories of the Commonwealth. A committee established by the national Parliament can have a valuable role to play, I believe, in several important respects. The first one, of course, is to look at the matter of standardisation between the States on road signs and traffic regulations which, as I have already said, is a matter or more importance since we are evolving an increasingly national transport system.
Secondly, I believe that such a committee can play a valuable role in evaluating the legislative initiatives which have taken place in various States to see whether they ought to be implemented in other States. I instance the Victorian seat belts legislation of 1970 which at that stage was a very controversial piece of legislation. It was hotly debated in the community and indeed within the Victorian Liberal Government itself. That legislation has now been accepted as a standard for other States, and many overseas countries are sending people to Victoria to see how that legislation is operating. Various items of breathalyser legislation have been tried, or at least mooted, in various States. These have been accompanied by controversy as to their effectiveness and as to the degree to which the legislation infringes on personal liberties. It is one of those important matters where the needs of road safety have to be balanced against infringement of personal liberties. I believe that by looking at the effect of various initiatives in various States one can come to a view as to what is an appropriate measure to be introduced in other States. There have been either enacted or mooted other pieces of legislation relating to spot checks for the roadworthiness of cars, driver training systems and road design features. All these should be evaluated so that there can be a proper exchange of views throughout the Australian communities and to ensure that the initiative started in one State is not limited to that State.
That leads me to the third major point I want to make; that is, a parliamentary committee of this type can play a great role in the promotion of public debate. Some matters concerning road safety are matters that can be dealt with by legislation. A great many matters are subjects that really are not appropriate for legislation but are appropriate for public education, debate and a greater public understanding. For example, if we look at the public’s attitude to the drunken driver on the road quite often there is some attitude in the community that such a person is regarded as a cause of mirth- “Look at old Fred getting behind the wheel of his car and winding away along the road”- whereas it ought to be a subject which causes great concern in people and which causes them to put some social pressure on other people not to behave in that way. Secondly, the seat belts legislation in Victoria can be enforced by the police force to a certain extent but to a very large extent it can be implemented properly only if there is a general acceptance on the part of the public that seat belts ought to be worn. In this important respect there is a need for the creation of public debate and a public awareness of a problem. The final example I give in this respect is the need to make certain motor vehicle design features more acceptable. Certain design features could be put on motor vehicles which I believe would make them much safer, but in many respects they would destroy what people now refer to as the aesthetic qualities of motor vehicles and people would be inclined not to buy vehicles with those sorts of features. A greater public debate on this sort of matter could achieve an acceptance of necessary design features.
The road toll in Australia is presently running at an annual rate of more than 3 500 deaths and about 90 000 injuries. If similar numbers were killed or injured in a war there would be mass demonstrations. If such numbers were killed or injured in earthquakes, cyclones or some other form of natural disaster it would be a matter for an urgent relief program. Road accidents, however, tend to be a privately felt loss rather than a matter provoking public outrage. Even if the committee does not bring down reports, and of course it will, it is a valuable committee to have merely to provoke the sort of discussion which is needed. The mere fact of people giving evidence and obtaining publicity for that evidence is valuable. The knowledge that members of Parliament are inquiring into problems forces people to take notice of those problems.
I believe also that it is an appropriate matter on which to have a parliamentary committee because road safety is not really a matter of party political debate. There are not great conflicts of Party philosophy. Therefore it is a subject in respect of which members from both sides of the House can play an important role and can come to a large measure of agreement without any substantial conflict of Party philosophy. I recall that at the time of the introduction of the seat belt legislation in Victoria, in 1970, there was more disagreement within my Party on that subject, in terms of the balance between safety and individually liberties, than there was between the parties. This is the type of issue that we find in road safety. I understand that before the dissolution of the last Parliament the previous Committee had partially written a report on vehicle design. One of the main jobs of the newly constituted Committee will be to continue that work and to bring that report to completion. I believe that that alone is enough to justify the formation of this Committee. Therefore I support the motion.
– I have mixed feelings about the motion. I shall be supporting it, as my Party is, but I have mixed feelings about the setting up of the Standing Committee on Road Safety once again. The previous Committee, of which I was Chairman for the past 3 years, brought down a number of recommendations in the 2 reports that it made to this Parliament. The first report was the more significant, I believe, in terms of the impact it would have had on road safety in Australia. That was in 1973. The report was titled ROAD SAFETY. A National Authority. The Constitutional Position. Statistical Needs. It must be realised that we proposed a national road safety and standards authority. After some to-ing and fro-ing the Australian Labor Party Government set up the National Authority on Road Safety and Standards. It was just getting going in AlburyWodonga. One of the first cuts by the present Government was the abolition of that Authority. I have seen some remarks by the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) that the whole staff was from the Department of Transport and that they will still be doing the same job. That is a load of nonsense. The basis of the Road Safety and Standards Authority was that it should be independent of government. It could analyse data. It could look at the road safety situation. It could look at vehicle standards. It could carry out its own research and experimentation without interference from industry and without pressures being exerted on governments. It could bring down recommendations and could report to this Parliament. Then the Government would have to bear the responsibility of making a decision upon the recommendations. Now the Authority is back in the Department. It is subject to pressures to which it would not have been subject if it had been independent.
I do not want to see a Committee set up as something to keep Liberal Party and National Country Party back benchers busy or keep them off the back of Cabinet. I hope the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr Ruddock) is a member of the Committee because he was an excellent member of the previous Committee. I hope he feels, as I do, that this is not something to keep members opposite from stirring up trouble. The previous Committee’s major recommendation has been ignored by the present Government. The unanimous recommendation of all Liberal, Country Party and Labor members was that the Standards Authority be set up. If the members of the Committee are to make reports and work their butts off over the next 2 years so that the Government can just keep its back benchers off its back I do not want to have anything to do with that Committee. The reports must be considered, and the recommendations of this Committee, as far as practicable, must be put into practice. It should not simply be something to keep Liberal and Country Party back benchers from being a nuisance to Cabinet.
– The Committee would not be getting any money if it was not worthwhile.
– That money is peanuts compared to the sort of money we are talking about, and you well know it. The previous Committee, of which the honourable member for Parramatta was a member, was the hardest working committee in the whole of the Parliament. I say that without fear of contradiction. I would hope to get considerable support from the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter), if he were here, and from the honourable member for Parramatta. It was the hardest working committee. I will give some evidence. It had 27 public hearings since it presented its first report. It took 5000 pages of evidence. It had 126 witnesses. It did an exceptionally good job. Tragically, from my view, we were not able to present our third report, which was to have been on automobiles. Our first report was ROAD SAFETY. A National Authority. The Constitutional Position. Statistical Needs. We had completed the second report which was Roads and Their Environment. We were about to complete our third report, on automobiles. Because of the enormously wide field that automobiles covered, we were proposing to deal with buses, trucks, and bikes in this year, 1976, and after that to go on to the behavioural side of the road safety problem which, up to that point, we had not dealt with except in a superficial way at the beginning when the Committee ‘s Chairman was Mr Fox.
I want to make sure this Committee is not just a sop and that the Government is not saying that it is in favour of road safety as it is in favour of motherhood, the Easter bunny and all those nice things, simply because it sounds good. We want action on road safety like the sort of action we got as a result of the work of the previous Committee. The Government took notice of our recommendations. When the Government was dismissed we had compiled, for our proposed report, all our previous recommendations and the action taken on them by the Government. I was very delighted to note that of about 30 or 40 recommendations- I forget the exact numberaction had been taken on about three-quarters of them. We had a very good result. We were still pressing for a result on those things on which we had not achieved a result. One of those things was our concern that the Postmaster-General’s Department, as it then was, had not taken notice of the recommendation regarding telegraph poles. They constitute one of the most dangerous time bombs in road safety. The way they are placed motorists can wrap themselves around those poles at any time. That is something upon which we had not been able to get the previous Government to act. The very fact that the Committee was in existence enabled it to achieve results. The Committee got a tremendous amount of publicity. The public, the Press and the other media are interested in road safety. They do not know much about it. Often their views on what ought to be done are very superficial and rather childish in many ways. Nevertheless, the public is interested. The honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) and the honourable member for Parramatta will recall the publicity we got when we went to various States. Melbourne in particular always took enormous interest. When we went to Perth and Adelaide the Press, the radio and television gave us a very wide coverage.
Recently I was speaking to a top official in the road safety field. I said: ‘Over the past three or four years what progress has been made?’ He said: ‘Significant progress has been made’. I said: ‘To what do you mainly put it down?’ He said: ‘Apart from seat belt legislation, the activities of the national Committee’. I said: ‘Thank you. You flatter me. I did not think we had that impact’. He said: ‘You do not realise what you have done. The glare of publicity is placed on State officials, bureaucrats and public servants in the various departments. They had the fear of God in them when they had to appear before the Committee and face the grilling of members such as the honourable member for Parramatta and others. They found themselves really getting into a nervous sweat weeks before they had to appear before the Committee. They would go to their departments and Ministers to make sure that the things that you would be asking them had been done before you asked about them. They did not want the whole of the media looking at them and saying: “Look at these deficiencies” ‘. We were able to expose deficiencies by virtue of our having a public hearing and by having public servants from a wide range of departments appear before us. That road safety official believed that that was one of the great things which the previous Committee was able to achieve.
– While the honourable member for Robertson is pausing, I remind him that we are discussing the pros and cons of the formation of this Committee. I recognise his interest in the previous Committee, which he chaired. I think I have been very lenient. I think it would be helpful if he would periodically tie in his remarks to the subject we are debating.
-I am referring to the reconstitution of this Committee. As far as I know, everything to which I have referred so far has been related to the previous Committee and to the hope that the Committee we are now setting up will do the same thing. I thought that my remarks were very relevant, but I shall try to be more to the point. I would like to draw attention to one clause in the motion, which states:
That the committee recognise the responsibility of the States in these matters and seek their co-operation in all relevant aspects.
I have no squabble with that; I never have had. There has been some view expressed that we are a centralist party, that we want to control everything. That is a load of nonsense. There is a very clearly denned role for all levels of government in relation to road safety, as long as we recognise what the States can do, what the national government can do and what local government can do. Incidentally, local government has done damn all over the years in the area of road safety and it is appallingly ignorant of what is needed, particularly in relation to the designing of new communities in urban areas. Local government is abominably ignorant of what needs to be done and it has been the creator of some of the most horrible road hazards. I am looking at the honourable member for Petrie (Mr Hodges) because I know that he was a local government man and always lauds the virtues of local government. I can assure the House that in this area local government has been grossly deficient, mostly because of its inability to have the technical expertise available to it.
Nevertheless, the area which I see primarily as a national responsibility- this is mentioned in our first report-is the collection of data. One of the deficiencies which I have found throughout my involvement in road safety has been the appalling lack of data to enable people to do proper research. We dealt with that matter at great length in our first report. The second thing, which the honourable member for Casey (Mr Falconer) mentioned, is the very important area of safety design standards. There has been an enormous improvement in that area over the last 10 years. At times we hear cries from the industry that we are producing the best car. The other day I talked to Dr Seiffert who is the Chief Engineer of Volkswagen and who came to see me in Sydney during his recent visit from Germany. I said to him: ‘Industry often says that we are doing the best we can, but what a difference there is from a safety design point of view between the car of today, 1976, and the car of 1966. They were time bombs. There is still room for enormous improvement, but compared to the car of 10 years ago the changes are immense. However you would have to line them up one beside the other to see that difference ‘.
I believe that only a national government can do anything in that area, because we cannot have 6 States setting different safety standards. The industry itself wants only one standard. Our reports contain plenty of evidence of industry leaders saying: ‘We want you to set a standard and we want it applicable to all the States’. Brian Inglis of the Ford Motor Company has said that his company is terrified about the pollution rules. South Australia has a rule different from that applying in New South Wales. The company has to produce a different car for each State because different pollution standards apply in the different States. That remark is not specifically related to road safety but it is in the same area. It is a terribly important point. Industry wants the one standard to apply in all States in this area. The only way that that can be done is at a national level by the Commonwealth Government.
We want to stop the duplication that is going on in research. Somebody in Brisbane could be working on some aspect of a vehicle and some bloke in South Australia could be doing the same thing; they do not even know what is going on. Some areas of research are not being touched at all. That sort of thing has to be ended. One of the things that the Road Safety and Standards Authority could have done was to stop the duplication in research.
I would like to conclude by getting back to the question of government involvement and any fear by the Liberal and Country Parties that we were a centralist government determined to control everything. I draw the attention of the House to the evidence given to us by Toyota. I do not have the exact words with me, but its representative said that the only way in which the people of Australia and the people of the rest of the world will get safer vehicles is for governments to set safety standards. Toyota’s representative said that in a highly competitive industry, which the motor industry is, it cannot on its own spend $300 or $400-or maybe only $50; small amounts- on some aspects of road safety because if its competitors do not have to do the same thing it Will not remain competitive. The representatives of Toyota, which is one of the biggest companies in the world, said that the only way in which we will get safer vehicles- and we want them- is for governments to push the industry and keep on pushing it to make a safety car. We got a different sort of story from General
Motors and, to a lesser extent, from the Ford Motor Company. But one big multinational company has come out and made that statement, and I only hope that the recommendations brought down by the Committee will get the support of the Government.
Irrespective of political prejudices or party affiliations- I am sure that anyone else who was a member of the former Committee who speaks in this debate will agree with me- we achieved tremendous agreement on everything. There was never any matter on which we disagreed in our report. There was always 100 per cent unanimity. The great benefit of committees is that they enable us to sort out our differences and find a common area of agreement. We were able to do that. I only hope that when the new Committee makes recommendations the Government does not just treat them as a sop and a means of doing some flag waving about road safety. I hope that it does something about the recommendations and does not do what it has done in the past. I say to the honourable member for Cowper (Mr Ian Robinson) who is trying to interject that my Government did an enormous amount. If the honourable member had been in the chamber earlier he would have heard what I had to say.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 16 March, on motion by Mr MacKellar
That a Standing Committee be appointed to inquire into and report on-
– It gives me a great deal of pleasure to support the motion for the re-forming of the Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation. I use the word ‘re-forming’ because paragraph 18 of the motion specifies that the evidence and records of the Committee which was operating during the last 2 Parliaments would be available to the new Committee during the term of this Parliament. I was the original Chairman of the former Committee. I chaired it for most of the last 2 Parliaments until I was forced to resign when I spent a brief term as Chairman of Committees. Chairing that Committee was one of the most satisfying aspects of my parliamentary work. The Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) who moved the motion mentioned that it arose out of the recommendation of the Select Committee on Wildlife Conservation. The Minister himself was a member of that Committee, and he knows the work that was done. All parties realise that the recommendation of the Select Committee on Wildlife Conservation for the setting up of a standing committee on environmental matters was a sensible one, and so everyone co-operated in the setting up of that committee.
I share something of the enthusiasm for the Environmental Committee that my colleague, the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen), has for the Standing Committee on Road Safety. I might try to contradict his remarks about his committee being the most hardworking one. I feel that perhaps this Committee was just as hardworking, if not more so. Something which honourable members will have to realise is related to a previous motion in regard to the Joint Committee on the Parliamentary Committee System. There is sound evidence to show that members of Parliament are inclined to put more time and effort into committees such as this one, which deal with areas of special interest, because they are new, they are exciting and they evoke public interest; but they are not necessarily related to the legislative process. I have some reservations about an examination of a proper committee system for this Parliament, because it may be that regrettably many of these special interest committees will have to be limited. There are areas in the proceedings of Parliament, such as legislation committees, Bills committees, expenditure committees and so on, which, if we copy the style which is used in overseas parliaments or adapt them to local conditions, will reduce the opportunities for standing committees or select committees of this type simply because there is such a wide range of interesting subjects that we would all like to examine. However, there are not enough of us in the Parliament, nor is there the time, to be able to do it. It may be that the Committee on Environment and Conservation will have to be one of those which disappears into a more general committee.
I would point out that the terms of reference, specifically paragraph 1(a), will allow the Committee to initiate inquiries as of right. The Committee can choose areas for investigation and inquiry and it means that the field is wide open. I am glad that the motion contains that provision. While I accept that matters may well be referred to the Committee by the responsible Minister or by resolution of the House, I believe such committees ought to have this degree of flexibility and independence in choosing some of the subjects that they wish to have before them.
One of the interesting features of the history of this Committee has been its ability to remain independent of the relevant department. While the Committee enjoyed good relations with that Department and received the maximum assistance from it, it could never have been said to have been a tool of the Department, conducting such inquiries and making such findings as that Department desired. It has been truly a parliamentary committee investigating matters which it felt were proper for the Parliament to be informed about.
I could not leave that matter without paying a tribute to the co-operation of the first Minister responsible and who was associated with this Committee. I refer to the honourable member for Maribyrnong, the honourable Moss Cass. When the Committee was first formed he talked to us about subjects that we might look at. He showed his interest at every stage of our examinations. He was most helpful and did not attempt to interfere. The Committee went ahead with a number of inquiries and concentrated on objective examination. So many environmental matters in the community today are judged on a subjective basis, on the emotion that they are able to raise, rather than on an objective balance of opinions and facts and working out what is the best for the present and for the future in our community.
Here again I must pay a tribute to the members who served on that Committee, some of whom are still with us. I see the honourable member for Cowper (Mr Ian Robinson) and the honourable member for Petrie (Mr Hodges). One of its former members, Mr Kerin, the former honourable member for Macarthur, was sitting in the gallery a short time ago. I do not want to list all the members of that Committee but I want to say that they showed a great aptitude for their task. They settled down and talked not on a party basis but on the basis of the problem placed before them. They tossed around the various arguments and in every case, helped by a very good staff, came up with balanced opinions on those matters. If the same atmosphere continues in the new Committee it can but be of benefit with its reports to the Parliament.
Such a committee highlights the importance of public participation in parliamentary committee hearings. One of the striking features of environmental and conservation matters is the large number of people and organisations in the community with a point of view to put forward. Some of those points of view may seem foolish and some may seem extreme but it is important that the individual or group in the community has the opportunity to discuss them at a public hearing, to put forward its arguments and to allow itself to be questioned about them. This was one of the most important features of the previous Committee.
One matter that concerns me is how Parliament should follow up reports of this nature. I remember the first report of the Committee which was presented in the 28th Parliament and which dealt with the pressure of tourists on park areas, particularly Ayers Rock. I have made constant inquiries over the last 3 years to see what activity has taken place. A great deal of planning has been done and suggestions put forward but in the 3 years since the presentation of that report the tourist pressures on Ayers Rock have increased and the damage has increased. Time is very short if we are not to suffer permanent depredation of the environment there. That inquiry revealed general principles which should have applied to other areas. It might be noted that during those 3 years the Government was formed by the Party to which I belong but I think there was some delay in dealing with that matter. I fear that the present Government will believe that the present financial stringencies are too great to deal with environmental matters such as these. If this Government is carried away by that argument permanent damage will be done for generations to come.
Another matter which came before the previous Committee was the forestry agreement which is to terminate shortly. I believe the report of that Committee should provide a basis for a sensible renewal of the agreement. Many other things were dealt with, including waste disposal and wildlife problems. An interesting report which we now should be able to present deals with the question of residential development pressures on areas of high scenic amenity near the cities. A particular case study was done in the Dandenongs area and a unanimous report was ready for presentation, I believe, just before the dissolution of the last Parliament. It was not presented. I hope that we will soon see that report reviewed and presented to Parliament because it again relates to an urgent subject.
Matters such as fauna trafficking, bird smuggling and so on have been highlighted in the Press over the last couple of years. Such smuggling is a multi-million dollar industry. The previous Committee was able to examine this matter not only from the environmental point of view but to consider whether in some way we could prevent the criminal associations that go along with it. There is no doubt that simple bird smuggling is tied in with far more dangerous activities such as the smuggling of drugs and other rather more vicious criminal activities.
In all these matters we must pay regard to our responsibility to the States, as is set out in this motion for the appointment of this Committee. Some States were most co-operative from the beginning of these inquiries but others have been highly suspicious of any examination by a committee of this Parliament. Only by the objectivity of the reports produced have we gained grudging acceptance in those areas. I hope that this Committee of this new Parliament will receive a much freer run in that way and greater cooperation in areas where there was not cooperation before.
Debate (on motion by Mr Hodges) adjourned.
– For the information of honourable members I present an agreement between Australia and the Kingdom of the Netherlands for the avoidance of double taxation and the prevention of fiscal evasion with respect to taxes on income. I seek leave to make a short statement in connection with the agreement.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I rise to inform the House that a double taxation agreement with the Netherlands was signed in Canberra today. Copies are being made available to honourable members. Before speaking briefly about the contents of the agreement I point out that the fact of its being signed does not complete the action necessary to give it the force of law in Australia. For this purpose legislation will be necessary and a Bill will be brought before the House as soon as practicable. Members will then have an opportunity to debate the scope and effects of the agreement.
The agreement is, in all important substantial matters, along the lines of Australia’s other modern double taxation agreements with the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Japan and West Germany. I mention also that the agreement is the same agreement the settlement of which by officials was announced by the former Treasurer on 21 October 1975. The agreement provides for a limit on the rate of tax which the country of source may impose on certain items of income derived by a resident of the other country. This feature applies generally to dividends, interest and royalties, with the limits of tax being 15 per cent on dividends and 10 per cent on interest and royalties. Certain types of income may be taxed in full by the country in which the income has its source. Income dealt with in this manner in the agreement includes income from real property, including income from the exploitation of natural resources, and income derived by public entertainers. Except in relation to some visits of short duration, income from employment may be taxed in full by the country in which the employment is exercised. Business profits are taxable in the country of source if they are attributable to a ‘permanent establishment’, that is, a substantial business presence, which the recipient has in that country.
Other types of income may be taxed only by the country of residence of the recipient. Items falling within this category include shipping and aircraft profits derived from international operations, most pensions and annuities, and remuneration derived by teachers and professors during visits of up to 2 years duration to the other country. Other provisions in the agreement are in customary form. For example, there are provisions for exchange of information between the taxation authorities of the 2 countries, and procedures for the relief of double taxation arising where income may, under the agreement, be taxed by both countries.
When the agreement has been given the force of law in both countries it will have effect as regards withholding tax as from 1 July 1975, and as regards tax by assessment from 1 July 1975 in Australia and from 1 January 1975 in the Netherlands. Before concluding, may I say that the Government is pleased that the negotiations with the Netherlands have culminated in this agreement. We take the view that it will be beneficial to Australia and will further promote the growth of harmonious relations between Australia and the Netherlands.
Motion (by Mr Howard) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
-I intend to speak for only a few minutes. On behalf of the Opposition I welcome this statement and the news of the signing of this double tax agreement with the Netherlands today. It is natural that more and more countries which have increasing economic relationships with Australia should want to enter into double tax agreements with our country. We welcome the Netherlands into this fold. As the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) has said, we already have modern double tax agreements with the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Japan and West Germany. Using my memory of the days when I studied and practised taxation law, I thought we also had a double tax agreement with the United States of America and possibly with Canada too. I am surprised that the United States was not mentioned in that context. Perhaps the reason is that we do not have a modern double tax agreement with the United States. Perhaps one is being prepared right now in that regard.
One factor which definitely has to be borne in mind is that these agreements, if I understand the position correctly, are very much in favour of the citizens and corporations of the investor country. The country in which the investment is being made loses revenue. There is little doubt that the agreements with the United Kingdom, Japan and West Germany- I exclude New Zealand from this- and now this agreement with the Netherlands, are very much for the benefit of investors in those other countries at the expense of tax revenue being received into the Australian Treasury. Those countries have many more citizens and corporations investing in our country than we have Australian citizens and companies - investing in those countries. The mitigating factor is, of course, that the eased administration and the simpler taxation factors resulting from such a double tax agreement such as the one with the Netherlands may lead to increased investment in Australia and therefore would not lead to any reduction in the tax revenue for our Treasury overall.
This must lead us to the question: Do we want this investment? The answer to this in my view, with qualifications, is yes we do want the investment. Ours is a developing country. We cannot generate all the savings we require within our own country. What we need so desperately and have needed for so long are proper guidelines relating to that foreign investment. It would seem that the Liberal and National Country Parties have now at last learned the errors of their ways. They have realised that they allowed much unnecessary investment in Australia in the 1 950s and 1960s by foreign investors and have accepted the general foreign investment principles laid down by the Australian Labor Party and indeed instituted in the guidelines brought in by the Australian Labor Government.
In these circumstances one cannot object to a double tax agreement with the Netherlands such as this one announced by the Treasurer today. As the Treasurer has said, a Bill will be brought before this House later and I have no doubt that that is when we will talk on this subject again rather than on the motion to note this paper. This measure was originally entered into by the former Treasurer of the Australian Labor Government on 21 October 1975. Therefore it is no surprise that I welcome it on behalf of the Labor Opposition and welcome the news of the signing of this agreement today.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– It gives me a deal of pleasure to support the honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins) in this debate on the establishment of a Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation. I think it is only fitting that the national Parliament should take a deep interest in matters affecting our environment. As the Parliament is concerned with matters for the overall benefit of the nation as a whole, I hope that the House will unanimously support this motion. It is my firm belief that our environment and its conservation should be the concern of all. I know that in this Government Ministers of the Crown are very much aware of the problems with which they are confronted when it comes to implementation of a project and in the normal course of their duties. There are various agencies throughout the State governments for the control of our environment and its conservation. Indeed, we have a number of voluntary organisations which some people refer to as pressure groups. I believe that in the main these groups do an excellent job in our communities and keep a watchful eye on these very important matters of conservation and environment.
It may come as a shock to a number of honourable members, but I also am aware that mining companies are extremely careful these days, no doubt as a result of having had certain matters brought to their attention in the past by governments and conservation groups. They are also extremely interested in the environment, even more so than most people in our communities would give them credit for. Some of the States have legislation requiring local authorities to demand environmental impact studies to be carried out. From these studies environmental impact statements are prepared. These are mainly concerned with large projects, subdivisional developments in local authorities’ areas. I believe that that sort of control is essential because in the past we have been rather lax in this regard.
I served for a few months in the Twenty-ninth Parliament when the honourable member for Scullin, whom we heard previously in this debate, was a chairman of the Committee. The last chairman of the Committee in the previous Parliament was the defeated former Labor member for La Trobe, Mr Lamb. I believe that the subjects that were selected by the then Minister for Environment and Conservation and discussed at some length by the Committee were of extreme importance to the nation. The wide application of the matters that are put forward for consideration by this Committee are, I believe, very important. We should not be parochial but, if possible, should look at matters that affect the whole of the nation.
– Airport noise.
– Airport noise, as mentioned by the honourable member for Griffith, is of course important to him and indeed to the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) in Queensland. It also affects a number of other electorates, more particularly in our capital cities. Noise pollution should be considered. Other than that, subjects that are of some national significance to our nation include the Great Barrier Reef, which extends only off the Queensland coast but is of national importance indeed. In the electorate of the honourable member for Wide Bay (Mr Millar) we have the Fraser Island issue which is really a hot potato in that area.
I should like to refer briefly to the 1 9 clauses in the motion. The most important is clause No. 1 . This tells us the purpose of the establishment of this Committee. The clause thereafter- possibly it was one that was mentioned by the honourable member for Scullin- is clause No. 2 which refers specifically to the co-operation of the States. The honourable member for Scullin made some mention of some State governments being highly suspicious when it came to co-operation. I was not serving on this Committee for the length of time that the honourable member for Scullin was. I can only say that in my association with the Committee it appeared to me as though the States were co-operating to the fullest. I agree with the honourable member for Scullin that it is important that our State governments assist this Standing Committee to the fullest, because the matters that are discussed often overlap into State areas of responsibility.
The previous committees that were referred to by other speakers were first appointed in May 1973 in the Twenty-eighth Parliament. Of course this Committee continued in the Twenty-ninth Parliament. I believe it has been a productive committee. Along with the honourable member for Scullin I take to task the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) in that he claimed that the Standing Committee on Road Safety was the hardest working committee. I do not think that there should be any competition in this but rather that all committees should do their utmost to produce results for this Parliament and of course for the benefit of the people of this nation. One of the areas that were researched and investigated by the previous committees was the operation of the Softwood Forestry Agreements Act of 1967-72. This research entailed looking at the destruction of our fauna and flora and the need for softwood plantings as weighed against the damage to fauna and flora. It entailed looking at the types of soil that were tilled for the production of softwoods.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting for dinner I was pointing out to the House some of the inquiries that had been conducted by the Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation in the 28th and the 29th Parliaments. I move on to the inquiry which was conducted into development pressures on Jervis Bay. A very valuable inquiry was also held into land use pressures, that is, subdivisional development, on the outskirts of some of our major cities. Another very important inquiry was conducted into Christmas Island. In October 1974 there was released a report entitled ‘The Conservation of Endangered Species on Christmas Island’. It looked at mining, flora and fauna. A report on the impact of freeways on our environment was another important report put out by the previous Committee. One of the most interesting though when I came to the membership of the committee in 1975 was that on trafficking in fauna. A number of interesting matters was uncovered, including the fact that there were endangered species throughout Australia. It highlighted problems that I believe made the community aware of what was going on in relation to fauna trafficking. The transport not only interstate but also overseas of reptiles and birds was rife. The inquiry uncovered the fact that a multi-million dollar business was being carried on.
An inquiry which was mooted by the Committee but which at the dissolution of the Parliament had not been undertaken was an inquiry into off-road vehicles. It was to be concerned basically with the use of beach buggies and trail bikes. I think most honourable members will realise the problems that are associated with the pastimes or sports, as some people like to refer to them, involving both these vehicles. We have thousands of beach buggies and trail bikes in our communities today. They damage sand dunes, parks and reserves. Another inquiry was into the environmental impact of mining. Most of us are aware that open-cut mining is being carried on throughout this country and is a great problem to many State governments. They naturally want to tap the resources but of course are faced with the problems of restoration in areas where open-cut mining is carried on. Of course sand mining comes to mind with most people, but perhaps it is not of as great a consequence as the general open-cut mining. So we have to look at restoration methods and revegetation in certain areas, particularly where there has been sand mining. I believe that the mining companies have been made well aware of the problems that are associated with mining and are prepared to cooperate with governments, provided of course that governments insist that proper restoration of mined areas is undertaken.
I referred earlier to Fraser Island in the electorate of Wide Bay. I know that the honourable member for Wide Bay is deeply concerned about the problem affecting Fraser Island. No doubt many honourable members have journeyed to Fraser Island and viewed the natural beauty of that island and also realised the great wealth that lies in its mineral sands. As a member of the previous Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation I say to honourable members that sitting on the committee was an education that should not be taken lightly by honourable members. I think all members of committees realise the valuable contribution that is made by all the committees, be they standing committees or joint committees, to the running of this Parliament.
Finally, I refer to some of the extreme views that are taken by people in relation to conservation. I would consider myself to be a moderate. I take issue with the hard line conservationists, many of whom I believe, had they arrived in this country when it was in its natural state, would have us all today living in bark huts. It is true that many people would not have us touch a tree, mine any of our natural resources or indeed till the soil for food. I think that most important in relation to our environment is ourselves as human beings. I believe that I take a rational approach. I adopt what I consider to be sensible measures. I realise that there has been considerable despoilment of our natural environment and that man has interfered with and endangered many species of plant, bird and animal life. Despite this, man is still the most important thing on the face of this earth. We have polluted our creeks, rivers and oceans. We have polluted our air, not only with noise, which was referred to earlier in this debate by the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron), but also with our factories. This of course is regrettable. But we have made great strides in the past 15 or 20 years in the abatement of this pollution. Man through his lack of discipline, one should say through his ignorance, and through his greed has caused a great deal of this pollution. Our health, which is surely of paramount importance to all of us, has been seriously impaired by pollution, particularly air pollution. I strongly support the establishment of this Committee and ask the House unanimously to support its establishment.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 16 March, on motion by Mr Viner:
1 ) That a Select Committee be appointed:
-The Opposition supports the proposal to set up once again the Select Committee on Specific Learning Difficulties. A select committee inquiring into the subject of specific learning difficulties was set up during the life of the previous Parliament. It is true that an enormous amount of work was done on the matter and that the committee was nearing a stage where a report could have been presented to the Parliament. Naturally enough the new Committee will be given access to the documentation and transcripts of evidence taken by the previous committee. So far as I was concerned it was a pleasure to serve on the previous committee, in sharp distinction I suppose from serving on some of the committees that were mentioned earlier today. For example, on the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence a Party position was taken. In all honesty I would have to say that the honourable members who were on the previous Select Committee on Specific Learning Difficulties from either side of the House co-operated. Apparently this was in sharp distinction from the attitude taken by members of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, whose appointment we debated here this afternoon.
If we are to entertain the committee system and if there are issues on which there is common ground, why waste the time of this Parliament? Why waste the time of each other? Why have people rotting on the back benches when their application to a particular issue and their experience and expertise can be applied in reaching a decision on a matter about which we are on common ground? Surely we are not that far apart on issues of social justice that measures which are the basis of the setting up of the Committee cannot be given priority.
Notwithstanding the fact that the previous Committee was nearing the conclusion of its work, I am looking forward to participating in the preparation of the final report which was to have been tabled at the latest on 25 August 1 976. In this respect I would like to suggest that the Committee be set up as quickly as possible. I think that the Committee should comprise honourable members who will apply themselves to the task of looking at the reams of evidence that have been given by the people who have appeared before the previous Committee. I am pleased to say that the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) has indicated to me that he would be only too happy to serve on the Committee and assist in the preparation of that vital report to this Parliament.
– But not on the front bench.
-He might not be on the front bench. I think that the honourable member has made a rather indiscreet comment. I think the exMinister for Education has served this Parliament worthily and well and it ill becomes the honourable member to make such a remark. The honourable member for Fremantle has a wealth of experience and I am sure his dedication to the preparation of this report would be welcomed by members on the Government benches who have served on the Committee and who would like to see the best report made in the interests of the people concerned.
I would like to suggest that every effort should be made to get the Committee operating as soon as possible. It is surely the obligation of the Opposition to nominate to the Committee people who are able to do effective work on the Committee. I think that our objective ought to be to make the report available very much earlier than 25 August. This means that the report should be tabled either in full or in part at an earlier date. I believe that either short-term or long-term recommendations ought to be made available to the Government when it is considering allocations in the forthcoming Budget. The Government can consider this very important subject and make its allocations accordingly. I acknowledge that a lot of work will be involved if we are to report by the due date which will be after the Budget is presented. I do not say this in any derogatory sense, but the implementation of any recommendation could be delayed by virtue of the fact that money would not be available from the Budget. Therefore I think that some considerations should be given to the presentation of an earlier report, either in part or in toto, depending on our capacity to reach our final conclusions, so that the Government can give due and proper consideration to this important matter when considering what might be allocated in the Budget.
There has been much argument about the terms of reference of the Committee. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) outlined in detail in a document covering 3 pages the terms of reference of the Committee which are in line with the terms of reference of the previous Committee. The terms of reference are long and involved. If the Committee were finally to reduce the problem down to fine detail and comes up with a definition that merely fits the whole stream of words that are used in the terms of reference it would seem to me that the Committee would have failed. I think that surely such a conclusion would not be in the minds of the vast majority of the people who have served on the Committee.
As I have pointed out, I think that the report should be framed in 2 parts. Surely there should be short-term and long-term recommendations. I do not think that we should be tied in with the fine definition of the SPELD operation. I think that we should be looking further afield. I think that the Committee in itself has to determine guidelines for the future in many other directions. The socio-economic effects on the capacity of people to fully produce what they are capable of should be considered and ultimately reported on. Then the Parliament can determine by legislation or other means measures to assist people in those difficult situations.
I would like to say once again that I think the ambit of the report and the recommendations flowing from it in the short term should not be held up because if they are they will not be able to be considered in the Budget context. Perhaps we should apply ourselves to presenting an interim report to allow the Government to determine what it may or should consider up to that point.
I would like to pay a tribute to the members of the previous Committee, namely the honourable members for Mitchell (Mr Cadman), Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh), Moore (Mr Hyde) who took the place of the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson). In particular I would like to pay a tribute to our absent brethren who are no longer with us. I am sure that other members of the previous Committee on the other side of the House would agree with me that Dr Gun, the previous member for Kingston, Mr Oldmeadow, the previous member for Holt, and in particular Mr Race Mathews, the previous member for Casey, who was Chairman of the Committee, all worked laboriously in an effort to do what they could. Reams of evidence were taken and their efforts and dedication surely ought to be noted in Hansard. The staff of the Committee, namely Miss Jill Scheetz, Dr John Elkins, Dr Maggs and Mr Nairn at all times worked very hard and were able to service the Committee. In passing I would like to suggest that a committee can work efficiently only if there is efficient staff behind it.
If you want to crucify a committee at birth you simply cut off its funds. I put it to the Government once again that on the one hand it is talking about a very serious matter when it speaks in terms of committees; on the other hand when it talks about curtailing the servicing of committees it is wasting the time of committees if it does not provide the wherewithal for them to operate in an efficient manner.
I would also indicate that the people who have given evidence- the parents in the community, representatives from education departments in each of the States and representatives from the
Australian Broadcasting Commission- all cooperated to endeavour to put forward their expertise. In our examination of the situation at large these people produced their material, they showed what the whole subject meant and what they were doing in educating or endeavouring to educate children and adults. The staff of the Australian Broadcasting Commission has been criticised along with the staff of a lot of other similar organisations, but the co-operation that the Committee has received from the ABC in respect of this matter has been nonpareil. We should not be supercritical of the ABC. This is an area that should be investigated, particularly in the short term. The honourable member for Moore smiles.
It seems to me that in this area funds could be made available so that something can be done in a practical sense. I am talking in shorthand because reams of material have been put before the Committee. I sincerely hope and trust that it can be included in the report. Notwithstanding the complexities of the subject, all members of the Committee pulled their weight. It was a cooperative effort. We can all be very proud of the work that we have done so far. I sincerely hope and trust that those honourable members who will serve on the Committee in the near future will associate themselves with the report, which will be a manifestation of the work that has been carried out. I am very confident that the quality of the report will reflect the effort that has been made by everybody concerned. I put it to Government representatives that, when the report is being finalised, the Committee’s lifeblood should not be choked off. The Committee should be given the finance to carry out in the short term the recommendations that I am sure will follow. Members of the Committee should apply themselves to their work in a broad sense, not be frightened by the terms of reference, and see what can be done to assist the people who have specific learning difficulties. I may have been one myself. This could be a case history. 1 am sure if the new members of the Committee have the dedication of purpose that has been shown so far we will succeed in producing a very fine report.
-Tonight we are debating the appointment of the House of Representatives Select Committee on Specific Learning Difficulties. The honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes) has outlined broadly the co-operative nature of this Committee in the past. It was established by a motion of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) in June 1 974 and agreed to by the Prime Minister ( Mr E.
The Committee has conducted public hearings in all capital cities and in Canberra. A vast volume of evidence has been taken under oath, amounting to something like 250 submissions plus various other documents, publications, booklets and papers. Evidence has been given by a large number of people from all walks of lifeteachers, parents, representatives of colleges of advanced education and universities, doctors and psychologists. What became apparent to us quickly was that learning difficulties do not affect just children or young children; they can affect people all through life. We received evidence that some adults have suffered seriously from a lack of understanding by parents or teachers that they were suffering from some shortcomings and they have gone through life impaired and incapacitated, sometimes in a major way, through not having their particular problem diagnosed at an early stage.
The terms of reference and scope of the Committee are wide. They place on the Committee a responsibility to inquire into the incidence of specific learning difficulties throughout Australia, to examine measures that are being taken at the present time to overcome these difficulties- the Committee will be reporting on the success of present measures- and to examine the public awareness and knowledge of learning difficulties and the awareness in the medical, health, teaching and social welfare areas. Evidence has been drawn from all these areas and the Committee has confined its activity basically to the terms of reference. But the Committee has also seen the need on occasions to go outside its terms of reference and to look at the socially deprived, Aborigines and migrants to see whether their background and the difficulties they face in a new community or a strange society prevent them from coping with the learning process. No doubt the report, when presented, will cover some of these areas.
A great deal of interest has been shown in this Committee. There was some concern on the change of government that the Committee might not continue. I am pleased and proud to find that it will be continued because it would have been a shame if it had been disbanded after doing so much work. It will not be long- 25 August at the latest- before the final report is required. Members of the community- special interest groups, educators and medical people- right throughout the country have a vital concern in the nature of the work being undertaken by the Committee. I would like to compliment the Government on the decision to re-establish this Committee, as I compliment the previous Government for instigating it. As I mentioned earlier the wide range of matters that have been investigated basically revolve around the acquisition of literacy and numeracy- the basic skills of survival for the human. It is not possible, for instance, to acquire a driving licence unless one has a certain level of proficiency in reading. One must be able to read to answer questions and to read road signs. Some people find difficulty in coping with that small level of skill. It has been put to the Committee that these people, through being unable to cope with the learning process and because a social stigma is attached to their very simple learning problem, are the types who are encouraged to take into their own hands motor vehicles or other things that are not rightly theirs.
The survival skills that also spring readily to mind are the capacity to operate a bank account or cheque account and the ability to enter into a hire purchase agreement. Many honourable members may regret having that capacity but the terms and details of a hire purchase agreement must be understood, as must insurance agreements be understood. This has been the basicwork of the Committee. It has looked at matters such as the curricula of schools, colleges and universities. It has examined teaching techniques and the application of the concept into a form that is coded by the human mind and then decoded in an active role on paper or in selfexpression by way of speech. The Committee has looked at remedial teaching and at the capacity for severely handicapped or slightly handicapped children to be taught and encouraged to play a fuller role. It has looked at the difficulties of remedial teachers, the effectiveness of their programs and whether they are starting to understand the complicated nature of a learning difficulty. It seems that learning difficulties vary from child to child and there is no ready answer in any area. Committee members spoke to doctors who also pointed out to us the problems of physical impairment, including matters such as minimal brain dysfunction and neurological causes. Solutions are not easy in those areas. I have already mentioned social impairments that can markedly retard the progress of learning. The assistance given by our advisers on the former Committee was very great. They were very skilled in assisting us. They came from universities, one in Sydney and one in Brisbane. Their great skill and knowledge were applied to the subject that we had in hand, leaving behind the bias of their academic course of training.
When the report is completed it will be sought by people at all levels who are interested in this area. It will be sought by educators and by people in schools. It will be sought by Departments of Education, by Commonwealth departments, by people employing, by people conducting remedial courses. It will be sought by people who are training in technical colleges on how specific learning difficulties can be assessed, on what exactly is the situation in Australia and what assistance is available. I would like to suggest to the honourable member for Melbourne that it is not just behoven on us to present this report to this House and expect the results to flow solely from this place or this Parliament. I would like to suggest that the results of the inquiry and the findings of the Committee will be looked at, delved into and examined by people right across the nation at all different levels, not just here in this ethereal city of Canberra because if it is confined here I think we have failed in what we have set out to do. I think that we set out to demonstrate that the criterion of teaching must be for each individual to achieve as near to his potential as is his capacity to do so.
– I enter this debate briefly Firstly, I want to correct my good friend the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Cadman) who stated that there were 2 remaining original members of the Committee. I would remind him that I too am an original member. Principally I want to support the sentiments of the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes) and to be associated with his generous remarks about the 3 former members of the Committee in the person of Dr Gun, Mr Mathews and Mr Oldmeadow. I pay tribute to them for being part of what I term was a real cooperative effort, a co-operative effort which was the more rewarding because the people who were associated with the Committee were dedicated and were concerned that after an analysis of the position something should be done to rectify the situation. It is good to see that the Committee has not been thrown into the trash bin of history. It is one initiative that has been retained. It is interesting to recall that the former Committee took evidence all over Australia. Some of the evidence was given by professional people, but the striking point was that the bulk of evidence was given by people who were interested in the problem of specific learning difficulties and who showed their interest by doing a great amount of research and by being concerned enough to come along and to talk to people about their ideals, their aims and their objectives.
I believe that the problem of specific learning difficulties is one which has been underestimated in our community and the facts and figures that were given to us indicated that for far too long we had neglected this vital area. I recall at one of the meetings of the former Committee the honourable member for Melbourne, on account of his association with various ethnic groups, brought to the knowledge of the Committee the very serious problems which arose among ethnicgroups afflicted with this problem of specificlearning difficulties. Due to efforts such as those of the honourable member much was done to highlight the problem. I share the view of the honourable member for Melbourne that the previous Committee’s report should be presented as soon as possible even if it is an interim report rather than having its presentation delayed until the final report is ready, because unless we start to move to solve this problem there will be a vast number of people who will not have the advantage of modern techniques and modern policies that are adopted to overcome the present problems which are great. They are problems of literacy and numeracy. We were advised of grown men and women who were unable to read even the simplest sign board, who did not know where they were going or how to get somewhere. Those of us who have little difficulty in doing those things cannot realise the traumas that arc associated with that affliction.
I conclude by saying that I hope that the new Committee will display the same amount of infectious enthusiasm as did the previous Committee and that it will receive the same cooperation from all sectors of the community in helping to brighten the day for many boys, girls, men and women who otherwise would have a vast world of knowledge not available to them.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 16 March, on motion by Mr Viner:
That a Standing Committee be appointed to inquire into, take evidence and report on:
-The Opposition supports the motion that the Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island People be appointed for the purpose of specialising in matters relating to the lives of the Aboriginal people and the people of the Torres Strait Islands. I think it would be understood the Opposition would support this measure because on coming into office after 1972 the Labor Party provided for such a committee which has since gone on to operate in a very effective and productive way. It is a highly specialised area of endeavour and I believe I should pay some tribute to those honourable members who worked in such a dedicated way and who have left the Committee by virtue of electoral fortunes or misfortunes.
I do not suppose there is any area where one could single out people for such an unrewarding area of devotion as Aboriginal affairs. You can work your guts out, but the Australian society being as racist as it is, there is not always a bonus for the people who so engage themselves. Gareth Clayton, the former honourable member for Isaacs, Fred Collard, Kalgoorlie, and John Dawkins, Tangey, are no longer members in this place nor is Manfred Cross who probably should have been mentioned first of all because he was the Chairman of the former Committee and had given many many years of devoted service to it and the affairs of the Aboriginal people generally. Ray Thorburn, the former honourable member for Cook, had also been deeply involved. The Parliament may not even know at this point the extent to which the Parliament and the people are in debt to these devoted people because Aboriginal affairs are of such a nature that whereas we live with them lightly and easily, the eyes of the world descend on us very heavily and it is an area about which we still have extreme vulnerability. The more important issue, of course, is that there are still great areas of deprivation that need a great deal more attention than we have ever afforded to them up to this point of time. I concur with most, if not all, of what the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr
Viner) said when he proposed the establishment of this standing committee to specialise in the affairs of Aboriginal people and the Tones Strait islanders. I hope it will be a bipartisan committee, as he said. The 1967 referendum certainly gave, on behalf of the Australian people, an imprimatur to any Australian government to grasp the nettle. It took a long time- from 1967 to 1972- before things started to move but after the 1972 election the Labor Government accepted in terms of that referendum decision that it had in fact paramount responsibility, and for the first time in the history of this nation a Department of Aboriginal Affairs was established.
The committee which preceded the one which is now proposed did some good work. As Minister for Aboriginal Affairs for some 6 months I was in a position to see this good work and I especially recognise the intense application that the Committee gave to the problems of the Yirrkala people in their great struggle to orient to the coming of the 20th century to their region, and to the discovery of bauxite. Many enormous sociological problems relate to that matter and the report about the Yirrkala people of the Northern Territory is of extreme significance. Another report concerned the health of a number of Aboriginal communities in Western Australia in far distant, isolated and remote places. I read that report with great interest. Indeed, on several occasions I found myself extremely fortified by the reaction of the members of that committee who applied themselves assiduously to the problems they were able to identify there.
Sometimes, when one has responsibility for remote communities like those in Western Australia, one has concern about decisions made. I can think of many occasions when I have dropped down in an Air Force plane at such locations and have left behind some largesse or benefit, and I have flown off wondering whether I had done the right thing or whether I had really undermined the ordinary evolvement of those people. I remember the people at the Giles weather station. We landed there and talked to them, through an interpreter of course, out in the desert. These people had just struck camp instead of pursuing their nomadic trends, and in a mood of benevolence, not even generosity, we decided to leave 30 tents there. When we finally got in the aeroplane, having decided to leave 30 tents, to sink a bore and to put a few buildings there, we wondered whether we had ruined the lives of these people or emancipated them by having taken away their nomadic traits. It is an enormous responsibility for anyone who dares to descend into the lives of these people who came here 30 000 years ago. That report from the previous committee about the isolated Western Australian communities was highly regarded by me as it would be by any Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and certainly by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs.
Then there was the special works projects report. It is not generally known that the Regional Employment Development scheme was preceded by an initiative on the part of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs which provided special works programs for Aboriginal people. Expenditure on these programs reached $ 14.6m in the last year and the evaluation of them done by the committee was of great value. The committee was speculating whether these special projects were for blacks or for whites, whether they were to embellish the country communities in which so many of the activities took place, or whether they were in fact designed to leave an enduring benefit for Aboriginal people in terms of acquired skills. I remember going to open Australia’s biggest stockyard, which was built by the Aboriginal people, and being accused by the Aboriginal people that the whites had manipulated this for the simple purpose of deriving great benefit in Walgett, and that all they really got from it was a few people who had learned a bit about welding but who were not qualified welders and as a result probably could not get a job.
The committee will report on the present circumstances of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people, the effect of policies and programs on them and such other matters as are referred to it. Eight honourable members will take on this eccentricity with the prospects of electoral disaster as a result of their dedication to this great social obligation in Australia. I would cheerfully volunteer for such a role as I have a great deal of respect for Aboriginal people. I am concerned about paragraph (2) of this motion. It reads:
That the committee recognise the responsibility of the States in these matters and seek their co-operation in all relevant aspects.
I am mindful of the fact that at a meeting in April 1973- this may have been when my colleague, the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) was Minister- Australian Government and State government Ministers responsible for Aboriginal affairs, constituted as the Australian Aboriginal Affairs Council, the then Prime Minister announced that the Australian Government intended to assume full responsibility for policy in Aboriginal affairs and to take the necessary legislative action. The Council discussed the stance of each of the States. I summarise the situation. South Australia was the first State to respond to the overtures of the Commonwealth and to hand over policy formulation and major responsibility to the Australian Government. Western Australia followed, Victoria came after that and then New South Wales. But the State that never acquiesced of course was the State of Queensland. It stands out on its own in such a way as to severely prejudice the well being of the Aboriginal people of that State. I wonder why paragraph (2)- that the Commonwealth should recognise the responsibility of the States- is emphasised to the extent that it is in the proposal before the House at present. It seems to me that there is a tendency on behalf of the present Government to get out from under to far too great an extent. We should go on grasping the nettle as we have done in the past.
I give elementary evidence of that in terms of money. Although money alone does not solve the Aboriginal problem it is evidence of good faith in this matter as it is in so many others. Our predecessors expended something like $30m on Aboriginal affairs. In the 1975-76 Budget of the Labor Government, thrown out of office as a result of the coup d’etat on 1 1 November 1975, not $30m but $192m was allocated. We ought not to be slipping out from under. I think that this paragraph should be carefully examined and I should like to spend more time on it. The committee has a great deal to do in relating to the many instrumentalities which are concerned with specialised problems about aboriginal affairsthe Aboriginal Lands Commission, the Aboriginal Loans Commission, Aboriginal hostels, and the Aboriginal housing panel, applied ecology, the Aboriginal Arts Board and many others. In recent days I have read about the dilemma that the new Minister has with the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee. It is important to mention this because the Committee which is to be appointed will obviously have to refer to the NACC, which Aboriginal people regard as the body through which the Aboriginal voice is heard. Before I left that ministry I told members of the National Aboriginal Consultative Council that I was not satisfied with what they were doing; I understood their growing pains; I was prepared to facilitate their continuation; I was prepared to establish a secretariat; I was prepared to fund them; I was prepared to assist and support them. The present Minister has gone very close to jettisoning them. He has referred the matter to a very vague committee of inquiry which will work out their future. The extent to which the Aboriginal people will have a say is a very dubious measure. It is important for the incoming Committee to have a very close look at the question whether there should be a National Aboriginal Consultative Council.
I am concerned about the appointment of the David Hay Committee, which the Minister announced a short time ago. Instead of putting very great dependence on and deference to the work of the incoming Committee he has appointed a man called Hay. Whence he has come is unknown to me, anyway, and maybe to other members. He will inquire into an enormous variety of matters concerning Aboriginal people and the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. It almost makes the proposed Committee subjective, servile and extremely secondary. So I do not agree with that proposition either.
I wonder why South Sea Islanders are not being considered in the purview of this Committee’s work. There are some 30 000 South Sea Islanders who have great affinities with the indigenes of this country. The Islanders have similar problems with which they have to live. An enormous range of issues leaves answers to be found in respect of the indigenous people of this country to whom all Australians have an obligation. I hope that the Committee will serve and advance their needs.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I welcome the establishment of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs. I welcome the opportunity to follow the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson), the former Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, in what has unfortunately become a debate. One of the matters mentioned by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner), when he moved for the establishment of this Committee, was the general co-operation that was evidenced by members on this side of the House with members opposite when they were in government in this area and in relation to the problems that Aboriginal people and Island people suffer. All members who sat on the former Committee endeavoured in every way to offer advice in a co-operative spirit and to come to grips with those problems. We recognised that they were not easily surmountable. This is the reason for the establishment once again of a committee. I do not mean to be unkind to the former Minister, but I regret very much the way in which he skated over the contributions of people such as the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth), a former Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, who had ministerial responsibility under former governments of our persuasion.
– I talked only about Committee members as a whole.
– You said, quite unkindly I believe, that the only time attention was given to these matters after the 1967 referendum was when your Party came to office.
– He did not say that.
-You can read Hansard tomorrow. It may refresh your memory. That was the nature of his comments. Too often members opposite try to depict that they are the only people who have any concern, any compassion. I reject entirely that point of view. It was unkind of the honourable member for Hughes not to draw attention to the work of members on this side. He singled out the honourable member for Mackellar who has given service not only on the Committee but also in a ministry.
– I think the easy passage of the referendum shows how much the public believed the subject had been neglected up to that point.
-I would not accept that statement. Let us look at the unkind comments made by a gentleman who, I would have thought, would have made a more constructive speech on this important question. He drew some observations out of paragraph 2. He said that we should be suspicious in some way of a paragraph which reads:
That the committee recognise the responsibility of the States in these matters and seek their co-operation in all relevant aspects.
It is a fact that in areas which have no relationship to Aboriginal Affairs but which impinge upon the welfare of Aboriginal people States have responsibilities. We have seen this already in the action of the Queensland Government in the area of mining. Obviously a committee and a government must seek the co-operation of those who have responsibilities. That paragraph was not seeking to divest this Parliament or the parties represented in it of their responsibilities to the Aboriginal people, but it was an injunction to those who have responsibility to involve those who have responsibilities in other areas which are not directly related but which are certainly related. I think he was a little unkind in his reference to the amount of money that was made available and in his statement that it was of such great importance. In many respects money has been the kernel of much of the complaint that Aboriginal people have about their present condition. I refer particularly to one of the problems that was mentioned in each of the Committee’s reports. That was the problem of alcoholism. Nobody can deny that there is a problem. I submit that it relates very much to extravagance in terms of the amount of money that finds its way into the hands of people who have not yet learnt exactly how we use it and how it ought to be used responsibly. I believe that there can be better ways of ensuring that the same amount of money can be used to get to the core of the problems.
I became a member of the Committee shortly after I was elected a member of this House. I did not find its work in any way unrewarding, and I submit that none of the members who sat on the Committee found its work in any way unrewarding. They may have been unrewarded by the Australian people for their services in this area. I do not propose to comment on the other reasons why they may have been unrewarded last December. There was one member of the former Parliament whom the honourable member for Hughes overlooked. That was the former member for Tangney, Mr Dawkins. He was a member of this Committee during the last Parliament. He gave a great deal of his time and effort to it. I wish to pay tribute to the work of Manfred Cross, the former member for Brisbane, as I believe, as would all members who had the privilege of serving with him, he had a tremendous interest in the welfare of Aboriginal people. He brought all his skills and ingenuity to bear in trying to assist them. He was served ably by the honourable member for Mackellar, Mr Wentworth, as Deputy Chairman, who worked, in my view, with the same devotion and the same dedication to a cause which none of us would deny is worthy of our every effort.
I mention also the members referred to by the former Minister. I would like to mention them by name, if I may. They were Gareth Clayton, the former member for Isaacs; Mr Collard, the former member for Kalgoorlie; and Mr Thorburn, the former member for Cook. In the time during which I served on the Committee I found each of those gentlemen to be genuine in the way in which they approached these particular problems and in the effort that they put into their work on the Committee. I do not want to make any comment about the reasons they are not in the Parliament now, but it certainly is not because of any lack of devotion to the cause which we all served that they are no longer here. I would encourage honourable members on this side of the House not to believe that service on committees of this type will necessarily lead to a fate similar to that experienced by those honourable members who now have to be replaced.
I would like also to commend the work on committees of the present Minister for Health (Mr Hunt), the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Fisher) and the honourable member for Deakin (Mr Jarman). Each of those gentlemen has put into this cause that same effort which we all believe should be put into it by honourable members if we are to come to grips with the real problems that face Aboriginal people. The reports that we brought down before the Parliament were not our only contribution to the welfare of the Aboriginal people. To the credit of the Ministers who sat on this side of the chamber in the former Government and who had responsibility in the area of Aboriginal affairs and in the area of urban and regional development, as it then was, I am pleased to record the pleasure that members of the Committee felt in receiving some advance notice so that they had an opportunity to discuss with Ministers Bills, as they then were, on such matters as Aboriginal land rights and the National Estate, which had particular interest to the Aboriginal people and which related to their own national heritage, which is of the utmost importance.
Honourable members have had pointed out to them the reports that were brought forward. The inquiries into each of the matters that had been referred to the Aboriginal Affairs Committee had been completed, and the studies that were commenced were completed to the obvious satisfaction of the Ministers who were then responsible. There were no particular tasks which the Committee had before it at the time when the Parliament was dissolved. However, I know that the members who served on that Committee were very anxious to come to grips with the problems of health and the problems in the education area which the Aboriginal people faced. We wanted to look at particular areas in Australia where we know that problems of great magnitude exist. The country areas of New South Wales and the Northern Territory in particular were those areas which members on the Committee singled out.
The report on the inquiry into the present conditions of the Yirrkala people was one which the Committee had already started when I joined it in 1973. 1 believe that that report was one of a continuing interest to parliamentarians. The inquiry was commenced in 1963 and was a longstanding commitment of members of Parliament to the welfare of people who were affected by mining development. That is a problem which will not in any way diminish. I believe that whoever serves on the new Committee ought to be well aware of the report into the conditions of the Yirrkala people and ought to be prepared to undertake similar examinations in relation to further developments that might take place in the mining area which may impinge upon Aboriginal communities.
As I mentioned before, even in that report particular attention was paid to the problems that liquor created even in that locality. I refer honourable members to recommendation No. 14 which stated that the Liquor Ordinance should be amended to allow the prohibition of bottle sales after certain hours in areas where it is deemed necessary. In our later reports which followed the inquiry into Aboriginal health and related matters in the south-west of Western Australia similar recommendations were made in relation to this problem of alcohol. The matter of alcoholism received some six specific recommendations. In addition we looked particularly at the questions of housing, education, recreation and health.
The report in which I was particularly interested was the one referred to by the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) and which was concerned with Aboriginal unemployment and the special works projects. It was probably the shortest of the reports prepared by the Committee but it was one into which a great deal of time was put in its preparation. I had a great personal commitment to the special works projects and what we were trying to achieve. I think that all honourable members ought to acknowledgeit was one of the matters that I pointed out very strongly- that although we preached to local government, to State governments and to private enterprise that they ought to take on Aboriginal people and train them and bring them to the skills that might equip them to take other positions in the community in which they live, it was genuinely recognised that in areas in which the Commonwealth had responsibility in rural communities no real effort was being made to involve it in projects similar to the special works projects. Even the Commonwealth Employment Service, which had a responsibility to find jobs and to create special works projects for the Aboriginal people did not employ Aborigines in its office employed on a form of special works projects, training them to take up positions in that area. Similarly the Postal Commission, as it is now called- it was formerly the PostmasterGeneral’s Department- which is active in all communities, did not seek to take on and train any Aboriginal people. Special emphasis was placed in the report on the need for the Public Service Board to give attention to that matter and for Australian Government instrumentalities actively to recruit Aborigines for employment and to create positions for them. This is an important Committee. It is one from which I look forward to seeing many reports.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-The first point I want to make is related to the actual work of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island People and the powers that it has. The original Committee was formed in 1973. The motion setting up the original Committee was in these terms:
In other words, the Committee had the right to generate its own investigations. I think that is a very important power which all parliamentary committees should have. Unfortunately the tendency with our committees is always to restrict them to the first terms of reference and matters referred to them by the Minister. In this case the motion states:
That a Standing Committee be appointed to inquire into, take evidence and report on:
I hope that that will allow the Committee to act with the same flexibility and freedom as did the previous Committee. As the Minister responsible for the creation of the original Committee in 1973, and having a feeling about the way in which this Parliament ought to work and about its freedom to operate without duress or restrictions imposed by the Executive and the ministry, I wrote that particular clause into the motion myself. I hope therefore that we are able to have that principle established.
The honourable member for Parramatta (Mr Ruddock) made several points which may well be answered without undue heat from this side of the House. As I understood it, my colleague, the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson), was not in any way being derogatory or denigrating the work of the non-defeated members of the former Committee by not mentioning them. In other words, he was paying a tribute to those people who are not here to look after themselves. I refer to Messrs Cross, Clayton, Collard, Dawkins and Thorburn.
– You missed Mr Dawkins.
-No. I looked it up and made a list of them. Fortunately the honourable member for Parramatta carried it on. We in this House at least can pay them the compliment of getting their record on the record. No one is going to detract in any way from the work that the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) did at various times. He carried on originally in what might be called an inclement environment among members on the other side of the House. That was before the arrival on the scene of the honourable member for Parramatta. As for the capacity of the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt) when he was Minister, occasionally he performed correctly when he got the correct advice. Occasionally he was unable to beat the system. Each person contributed in his own way. We on this side of the House would say that we brought a dramatic new impetus to the system but nobody can put the clock back. Some of our creations will make the system different but no matter what difficulty is created there is an improvement in some way or another.
I take issue with the honourable member for Parramatta on this obsession, if that is not too harsh a word in such a friendly and courteous debate as we are having tonight, over alcoholism. I happen to be a reasonably dedicated wowser. I do not drink the stuff but I do not mind other people drinking it. They pay taxes and that makes life better for the people generally. The fact is that we are not going to reduce alcoholism by the perpetuation of poverty. Alcoholism in Aboriginal communities was not created by extravagance, by the flow of funds that occurred over the last 3 years. It is an unfortunate characteristic of all societies but unfortunately it is more characteristic in poverty stricken societies. The honourable member can rest assured that those of us on this side of the House who are concerned with this field will do everything in our power to try to find answers to this question.
There are one or two other matters that I wish to mention. I hope nothing will be done to interfere with the development of the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee. My colleague the honourable member for Hughes mentioned that he was disappointed, or something of that order, with some of its work. Is this not so with all representative bodies? There are 42 per cent of the people of Australia deeply disappointed with the work of this Government.
– I still was prepared to back the NACC
– I am not saying that the honourable member was not prepared to do that. I just want to make sure that people on the Government side are aware that representative institutions have these difficulties. When that body was created a great deal of thought was given to how we would define the boundaries of electorates and how its members would be elected. There may well be different ways and better ways in which to make its members representative. One of its contributions is to provide, and to continue as, a voice for the Aboriginal people.
The honourable member for Parramatta made some points at the end of his address which ought to be amplified. It is unfortunately and sadly true that in the field of Aboriginal affairs no authorities perform. Local government does not take roads out to the reserves or to where the Aborigines live- not universally anyway. It would be well worth while looking at the 400 communities in Australia where Aboriginal people live. The Telecommunications Commission does not put telephones out there. The health services are not quite as expansive and the education systems do not work quite as well. This is no reflection on any political party; it is endemic. I suppose it is almost epidemic throughout the continent but it is slowly changing. One of the duties of this Committee will be to stir up the authorities and to ensure that this situation changes enough so that we do not have to make this complaint continuously any more. This is a reasonably bipartisan area and there always will be differences between us. There will be some of us who think that we are going too slowly and there will be some who will have different objectives. However, the Committee is part of our bipartisan system by which we can develop this area. There still are some great battles to be fought, particularly on the question of land rights, mining developments and so on. I hope that the Committee gets the full support of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) and that he makes sure that he places no restriction upon the use of its powers to travel, to examine and to report without inhibitions.
– Naturally I support the re-appointment of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs although I hasten to add that I have never served on it. The reason for that is that there was another committee which virtually duplicated the movements of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, and that was the Committee on the Constitutional Development of the Northern Territory. I was a member of the Committee on the Constitutional Development of the Northern Territory and I used to find that both bodies were operating in the same area, covering a sixth of Australia, at the same time. I could not be on both Committees. It is possible that I will be elected to the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs in this occasion. Before saying anything more I would like to pay a tribute to the members of the former Committee for their conscientious approach to Aboriginal problems not only in the Northern Territory but all over Australia. Its chairman and deputy chairman were men of outstanding ability and sincerity and they were backed completely by the members of the Committee.
I would like to refer to some of the things said by the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson), a former Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. We are not having a general debate on Aboriginal affairs, although one seems to have been developing. We are endeavouring to keep heat out of this issue. The honourable member for Wills, one of the former Ministers who now sits on the Opposition benches, may remember that when he assumed the mantle of Minister for Aboriginal Affairs I said to him that I hoped there would be no politics in Aboriginal affairs. I said that as a result of experience gained from living with these people for 35 years. I am somewhat shattered by what has been happening through the years and I only hope that this new Committee, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner), and honourable members on both sides see their way clear to keeping politics out of Aboriginal affairs because politics certainly do not do anything for the Aborigines. In fact politics virtually are killing them. We can see what has happened under the self-determination policy which was brought in by the Labor Party. A former Minister declared that self determination was a disaster. It is a disaster and it will continue to be so while such a policy is espoused. That is as might be and I hope that this Committee will enter the field with enthusiasm and interest and not try to play politics.
The honourable member for Hughes brought up the subject of finance and mentioned $30m as against $192m. I think the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr Ruddock) said that money is not everything and it certainly is not everything in the field of Aboriginal affairs. While I am on my feet I would question some of the purchases being made with this money. I do not know whether the money is being spent in a sincere endeavour to help Aborigines but in a most misguided way the Government is spending $500,000 to buy a cattle station. The Aborigines do not know what they are going to do with it. The Government is to buy several places although the owners do not wish to sell them or the people on them do not wish them to be sold. However for some reason or other financial interests are pressing the sales. This sort of thing and the spending of that son of money are not doing the Aborigines the slightest good. They have not yet learned how to run these vast areas on their own without assistance from Europeans. I can quote what Vincent Lingiari and Mick Rangiari said at Wave Hill when the Gurindji cattle company was created and 1250 square miles of land were handed to them. The general idea was that it would be an Aboriginal cattle station with no white man on it. I went to one of them- I cannot remember whether it was Vincent or Mick- and was told: ‘If we get into trouble we will ask Ralph’. Who was Ralph? Ralph was the white manager of Wave Hill.
-Not Ralph Hunt?
-Not Ralph Hunt, no, Ralph Hayes, a very able stockman who speaks the language, who has lived with those people for years, who has their trust. These are the sort of people we should be looking at, not spending millions of dollars to show what we have done. We want to find people who are prepared to spend their time and their experience helping Aborigines. This Committee should be looking towards that sort of thing and I hope it will be. The honourable member for Hughes said that he had never heard of a Mr Hay. A Mr Hay happens to be a soldier who fought and was decorated, I think, in New Guinea. He was an administrator of that area and Secretary of the former Department of External Territories. The former Minister should investigate the situation if he thinks Mr Hay does not know anything about native affairs. He has lived with these people for years.
– Tell us something about the drinking problem.
– As I said, I support the establishment of the Committee. I should like to emphasise that this is a non-political Committee. I have served on various committees that have travelled in the Northern Territory, one of which was chaired by the honourable member who interjected. Many of his party members played politics on it, virtually all the time.
– Not me.
-We hope that that will not happen on this occasion but that the Committee will find a real opinion about Aborigines; that it will speak to these people themselves. We hear of telegrams coming from the northern land council and the central land council and people purporting to be spokesmen for Aborigines. But if one speaks to the Aborigines themselves, underneath this very thin veneer of representation, some of which might be here tomorrow, one will find that they do not think that way. One will find that, for instance, they reject the Aboriginal lands Bill because it in no way has anything whatsoever to do with their historic ownership of the land which has nothing to do with politics. If you read Strehlow, Albrecht and Stolle and these people who have lived and spent their lives with the Aborigines and speak their language, you will find that that is what they will say. That is why we in the Northern Territory and we who have some knowledge and experience of Aborigines say: Do not force that Bill through the House without referring it to the people concerned. I mean especially the Aborigines. Professor Strehlow can name the owner of every piece of land in central Australia. Did the former Minister do that? Did the Committee do that? Did they speak to Pastor Albrecht who was born and bred in the area and who lived at Hermannsburg, who speaks the language, whose father was there before him? No they did not.
This is the sort of thing that I think this Committee should be doing. If one is to talk about land rights or Aborigines, go and speak to the people who know something about them. Do not listen to some set-up as there was in Alice Springs last Saturday virtually by people who are funded by this Government, the Aboriginal Legal Aid Service, the northern Australian Aboriginal congress representatives and the central Australian Aboriginal congress leaders. They had four or five hundred people in the centre of Alice Springs who had been carted in from areas 150 or 160 miles away. At whose expense? We do not know. The Aborigines were standing bewildered in the streets. They did not know what it was all about. Yet if I went to El Papa, which is just alongside the Macdonnell Range in Alice Springs, and talked to those people they would tell me something about it. Yet there was a mass demonstration in the streets producing a pseudoopinion on Aboriginal affairs.
I hope that this Committee will be able to see through that sort of thing and will be able to listen to Aborigines whether they be in the Northern Territory, where we say an Aborigine is a different person to one covered by the definition of ‘Aboriginal ‘-quite wrongly- in the Bill produced by the Australian Labor Party. We say that the Committee has to go and listen to them. But it should also listen to those other Aborigines in other parts of Australia. We should certainly do that. But we should remember that those in the Northern Territory, where we have the greatest percentage of real Aborigines, do not accept the domination of these people from the south, whether they claim to be Aborigines or not. This
Committee has to find out those things. If it does not, if it cannot apply that knowledge, it will be worthless.
This Committee should co-operate fully- I am speaking about the Northern Territory againwith the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. There is tremendous pressure from outside the Territory and from some of the advisers and would-be experts on Aboriginal affairs, to see that the Bills for Aboriginal land rights or whatever are not referred to the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. We in the Territory say that the Bills should pass through the Assembly. But the Assembly has not yet been granted any constitutional responsibility. Let us face it: The Assembly had been elected for 13 months during the term of the Labor Government and it did not give the Assembly constitutional responsibility either.
There are men in the Territory who have lived in this area who are experts on Aboriginal affairs. There is a former director of the Northern Territory branch who would know more than almost the whole Department put together as it stands now. That man is there and so are various other people all the way down. He has been sitting there not being used and the experience that he has was ignored by the Labor Government. We have that sort of man in the Territory. We have men who have lived there for 20 or 30 years. I hope that we will use their sort of experience. The people who must be consulted by any committee dealing with Aborigines are the people who live in the area, whether they are black or white or part coloured. That is what was not happening during the last 3 years. No one was consulted to any degree.
I hope that we can turn the tables on that situation in this Committee. As I said when I started my speech if I can help in a non-political way to help the Aborigines and the people who live in those areas to live together, I feel that I will be doing some sort of a job for Australia and for the Aborigines. I hope that this Committee will work towards giving the Aborigines a greater say and greater responsibility. But I do not think that we should be trying to force it on them, to thrust it on them. That is one of the problems which have occurred as a result of the self-determination policy. If we are to serve Aborigines to any extent we have to reverse that policy and we have to be rid of the people who espouse it.
-I have listened to this debate, which has gone on much longer than I should have thought it would. I take my text from the previous speaker who suggested that politics should be kept out of Aboriginal affairs. I would put the proposition the opposite way: Aboriginal affairs should be kept out of politics. I think that, unfortunately increasingly, it is the opposite that will happen. I suppose that the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) has more Aborigines or Aboriginals- I am never too sure of the terminology- in his electorate than anybody else. I have probably fewer in my electorate than anyone else. But I believe that basically every Australian should hold his head in shame at the way in which this matter has been treated. I sometimes despair of what the solution will be. I have travelled in the electorate of the honourable member for the Northern Territory from time to time. I have travelled in the electorate of Kalgoorlie. I must say that when I went to places like Derby and Broome the attitude of the white community in those towns to the non-white community was almost like apartheid.
We have all this business about land rights and so on. I have not yet read Professor Blainey ‘s latest book about Australian pre-history, but I have read reviews of it. He estimates that the maximum Aboriginal population was never any more than three hundred thousand. These days, when we take into account the full bloods and pan blood Aborigines and so on the figure is something like that again. It is a serious problem for Australia. On one occasion when I was Treasurer I examined the total amount that was being expended on dealing with this problem. It amounted to several thousand dollars per head of the people. I say with all respect that I do not think that we are getting value for the money nor is the money being disposed of in the most sensible ways. I hope that, as the honourable gentleman says, politics will be kept out of this matter. Surely one of the best ways of seeing that politics is kept out is to have a joint committee from both sides of the Parliament. At least one cannot be unaware of the powerful economic forces that are now in operation in some of the areas that are supposed to be the land areas of the Aboriginal population and the problems such as whether we will take uranium, whether we will take bauxite, whether we will take some other minerals without consideration for the rights of these people. I think that my friend knows that there are some difficulties involved with regard to that.
– They are not as difficult as some of you people make out.
– I do not think that it is as easy as you suggest.
-I did not suggest it.
-Well you did not, but you did suggest difficulty. I would take you up and say that it is not easy and that surely the approach cannot be a paternal one any more. I must say that when I was in the honourable member’s part of the world some years ago, there was a disposition to say: ‘If only you southerners would keep out of the area we would solve the problems ourselves’.
– Hear, hear!
– I am surprised that the honourable member should take that attitude. I thought that he was formerly a principal of a college of advanced education. I would say that it is unadvanced education to think that in 1976 we can have a paternalistic approach to this problem. We on this side of the House take the view that irrespective of where people are born, irrespective of the circumstances in which they are born, they are people; they are individuals who have a vote, who have a right, and the right cannot be exercised paternally any more. I do not want to be hostile in this debate but I suggest that this committee, when it is established, has to do a lot more hard thinking, has to have a much more humanitarian approach and has to be more realistic in 1976, given that Australia can be a beleaguered place so far as some other parts of the world are concerned. I hope that this committee, when it is appointed, will get down to hard work instead of, as I think in the past, too many platitudes.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 16 March, on motion by Mr Staley:
1 ) That a Joint Committee be appointed to-
-The reestablishment of the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory has become vitally important because of the way in which Canberra is being treated by the present Government at the present moment. The facts are that Canberra is a special case. We set out to examine the question of the government of this city. We have recommendations before us flowing from the previous Committee. I believe that there is a strong case for a much greater study in depth of what government is about and how we are to govern an area such as this. There are very great areas of advantage to the rest of Australia by extending the form of government that was being developed here- the total integration of governmental systems. We still have some steps to take in this city towards integration so that the health services, the education services and general government run in a totally co-ordinated way.
I am not an advocate of a completely centralised situation, especially since the change in the dictatorship in the place has produced a change of personnel and so on. But the facts are that as one saw this place operating over the 2 years of my ministry here, and compared it with the situation that applies in places such as the suburbs I represent in Melbourne, one could only wish that one were able to transfer the capacity to organise the social affairs and the other matters in the area to places such as Brunswick and Coburg to their advantage. Over the rest of Australia there is an enormous authority which cannot be co-ordinated, which do not even know one another and which sometimes are totally irresponsible. I instance institutions like the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works. In this city, because housing, transport, land etc., are under the same authority, you can start to develop co-ordinated attitudes. I have an attitude to the development of self-government in this city which does not flow from an attitude towards structured institutions. I believe that we were taking the steps that were necessary towards the creation of an appropriate governmental system here. The Legislative Assembly was continuously asking for its powers to be defined. My own attitude to that was that it was an act of folly to attempt to define powers in a modern Australian situation. We are inflicted with a Constitution which I think was a creditable and notable feat of creation in the 1890s but which now, because of the restrictions imposed by its very terminology, inhibits all development, that in fact government should evolve. I believe that the participatory system we were developing, and which I presume we will continue to develop here, in other areas is of vital importance.
I take issue with the current Government over the attack it has launched upon the living standards of the people of Canberra. I do not know whether the citizens of this city have yet done a proper evaluation of the cost of the honourable member for Canberra (Mr Haslem) and his colleague in the other place. One of the first things that happened in Canberra under the current Government was that the price of land was increased. The Government could not justify that in any way. The land system had been developed over some years. The previous Government rescued it from the Gorton aberration of auction. We placed a pricing system upon it which I did not find totally satisfactory- I think the top prices were too high- but nobody had come up with a formula to prevent people who bought the land gaining by its capital appreciation. The facts are that under the previous Government the price at which land was sold gave an adequate return on the public investment. I do not think governments should ask for any more. For a government to become a trader and exploiter of land is wrong. I do not believe that the community has any right to exploit the citizen. I do not believe that the citizen has any right to take a capital gain out of the community’s works. I place this before the Minister for the Capital Territory as one of the real social, ethical challenges we face in this area.
I must say that I do not think the previous Government had arrived at a totally effective formula for selling land but at least the attempt to equate the price of land with some set of values so that people could walk into an office and buy it off the hook, to use an expression, without let or hindrance was a big improvement on the auction system. I regret the reintroduction of the auction system. There is no greater aberration inside the capitalist system than auction systems. We have been battling for years to rescue wool growers from that eccentricity by having to support it to the limit but now the Government has again inflicted it on the people of Canberra.
What else has the Government managed to achieve in the last few months? I think somebody called the previous Minister for the Capital Territory Cyclone Robbie, no doubt for the destruction he wrought. He is probably being adequately served by his successor. Drivers licences and motor registration fees have gone up. The bus services upon which the previous Government lavished an enormous capital investment in an effort to establish a public transport system which would eventually attract people is now being completely destroyed. Nobody has satisfactorily designed a public transport system which will attract people from their motor vehicles in a city such as Canberra where everything conspires against that objective. The present Government will not do it by reducing the bus services.
– You did it in the past.
– We reduced the bus services last October and November because the other House of this Parliament had set out to sabotage the parliamentary system to prevent our getting certain funds. When I was Minister for the Capital Territory I had a conference with some of my colleagues who did not hold the same totally friendly attitude to the citizens of this city as I did- that is the then Minister for Transport, the then Treasurer, who had the normal attitude of Treasurers to citizens in these matters, and the then Minister for Urban and Regional Developmenton a package deal by which we would lump together receipts from road users, particularly the money from motor registration fees, bus fares and parking meters, for use in the transport system. That is on the records somewhere as an agreement or an attitude, but I think it is a question to which we all could turn our minds. My view is that over and above certain expenditure, rationally some of the excess funds gained from motor registration fees could be put into the general transport system.
The construction industry is starting to feel the cold winds in Canberra. I think the government conveyancing office has been abandoned altogether. If it has not, it is under sentence of death. Retrenchments are starting to inflict themselves upon the community, and the availability of Commissioner for Housing loans has been reduced. I do not think any of this was necessary. It is the product of an archaic, outmoded, anachronistic, theoretical view of economics. There is no doubt in my mind that the course upon which the Government has embarked in Canberra is an example of what is happening in the rest of Australia where it cannot be so easily seen. I know that the Minister lives in a totally authoritarian system in which he will do what the Cabinet says. I do not know who tells Cabinet, but I guess its instructions come from some remote caucus which decides these matters. The facts are that the principal and first victims of this Government have been the citizens of Canberra. All I can say is that I regret that it has happened to the people who had the good sense to vote for my friend, the honourable member for Fraser (Mr Fry). All the villainies ought to be inflicted upon those people who were so ill serviced intellectually as to send to this place our friend, the present honourable member for Canberra. He must be about the most expensive citizen that this House has acquired. One of these days I will work out for the people of Canberra just how much he has cost them.
– I am indeed pleased to support the setting up of the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory once again. I am pleased also to follow such an accomplished speaker and a man who has been such an eminent Minister for the Capital Territory as the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant). It is very pleasing at this time of night to hear such a marvellous bedtime story. On the general committee system I make just one point: The Government I support, as we all know, is not given to drowning the nation in paper work. As distinct from the former Government, we have cut down drastically on committees and commissions. I read as obligatory bedtime reading recently a book by the honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns) in which he went against most of his principles and said that collectivism breeds bureaucracy.
– Did the book give you nightmares?
-No, I did not have any nightmares. He is such a nice man. I was very interested to read this because it seems to me that the number of committees and commissions that were set up and were running at the time we took office was enough to make the mind boggle. One thing I can assure the House is that our Government will be setting up only committees of substance, and I believe that the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory is such a committee.
This Committee is obviously set up for one prime reason- the Australian Capital Territory happens to contain the capital of Australia. From that point of view, it is the property of all Australians and therefore, this Parliament must of necessity play some sort of watchdog role in the development of that capital. Whereas in other towns right across the Commonwealth our Government would always support the point of view that it is the responsibility of the people in those towns to make their own plans within of course the bounds of regulations by statutory authorities, in the case of Canberra it must be largely the responsibility of the people of Australia as a whole to ensure that the development is reasoned and effective. Again this Committee will be a watchdog, as it always has been, to advise the Minister for the Capital Territory so that those reasonable methods of development are adopted.
The terms of reference of the Committee are set out in 2 clauses, one of which notes that the
Committee can report on the modification of plans for Canberra. Of course this is an ongoing obligation. Canberra is now a burgeoning city, far greater than Walter Burley Griffin ever dreamed of. I must admit though that the city is a credit to those who have planned it since his demise and since his plan ran out in geographical terms. But it has to be admitted that the city is not without problems, despite the fact that our planners always have been of the very top rank. The problem in respect of the Black Mountain tower is probably one created largely because we have a technology different from that which existed in the days of Walter Burley Griffin. The tower has created all sorts of contention in the population. The problem of building a new parliament house, if that ever occurs, will take a great deal of sorting out and it will not be long tonight before my able colleague the honourable member for Evans (Mr Abel) speaks on that matter. The present problem in respect of the Burley Griffin Memorial is exercising the minds of the newspaper editors in this city. It should be pointed out that Burley Griffin stated explicitly that he did not want his mountains disturbed. If the memorial does go ahead I hope that he in his grave will not be too offended.
Apart from the physical matters of the city of Canberra and matters of planning, the Joint Committee also has a brief to examine and report on other matters as are referred to it by the Minister for the Capital Territory or either House of the Parliament. Those other matters are many. The previous Committee dealt at length with the Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly. One of its recommendations in 1974 was that self-government would be granted to the Australian Capital Territory community. That is still a point of contention. But obviously we are moving some way towards that objective.
The previous Committee also made recommendations about a great number of other things. It made recommendations on the National Capital Development Commission, the means of education in Canberra, the health system, housing and construction, and other, functions. I would hope that the Committee which we are seeking to establish will look at all those things. Hopefully it will look at a few other matters within the boundaries of the Australian Capital Territory.
One of the things that exercise my mind a great deal is the level of construction activity in the Australian Capital Territory at the moment. As is well known, construction activity ran down towards the end of last year. It went through one of those situations to which the building industry is prone, that is, a bust after a very solid boom. One of the matters that I hope the Minister will refer to the* Committee is an investigation of the problem of boom and bust in the building industry of Canberra because in boom times it is terribly difficult for people in the building industry to make a profit. It is terribly difficult for tradesmen to make a profit because of over-demand. In bust times it is also terribly difficult for tradesmen and other people in the building industry to make a profit.
I hope also that the Committee will be able to look at a problem that I have come across in the last couple of weeks, namely, that of marauding dingoes from the southern parts of the Australian Capital Territory. I have been told that since the Labor Government came to power 3 years ago the dingo population in the Australian Capital Territory has increased dramatically. I hope that in the interests of my constituents who live just outside the southern border of the Australian Capital Territory we can be rid of the dingoes completely and forever.
Apart from the effects that the policies of the Government can have on the Australian Capital Territory I am bound to mention the effects that they can have on the surrounding areas. I have a vested interest in this problem because I am the member for Eden-Monaro. Last year the NCDC put forward a plan to extend the borders of the Australian Capital Territory. That scheme was published, in my view, in a very peremptory fashion. It created a great deal of trouble in my electorate in that people were subject to a great deal of uncertainty as to whether they should get out, whether they would get a reasonable recompense for their land and whether towns would be built right next to their properties. Certainly there was a great deal of speculation. There was money-making by the wrong people. This scheme, of course, was put forward despite the view of a previous Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory, chaired I believe by Mr Daly, which said that Canberra should have a population of not more than half a million people.
The people of Eden-Monaro could never see the point of expanding the area of the Australian Capital Territory. We could -never see the point in the refusal by the previous Government to speak on the problem around the table with the New South Wales Government. The refusal was given on very tenuous grounds, but it was nevertheless a very firm refusal to give evidence to a New South Wales inquiry. After all, the land that the NCDC was talking about acquiring was in New South Wales. Certainly consultation is required on matters such as this. I can guarantee that consultation will always be available with my Government.
I should mention also that population growth within the boundaries of Canberra has great implications for the surrounding region. The land use planning in the surrounding areas will depend greatly on policies for Canberra. Of course the surrounding towns such as Goulburn, Queanbeyan, Gunning and Yass will benefit at times and at other times will suffer because of the growth of the population of Canberra. Personally I want to see that that growth is carried out in an orderly fashion with the right sort of advice that I hope this Committee will always be able to give.
The surrounding region has a great deal of interplay with the Australian Capital Territory in terms of consumption items in the Australian Capital Territory. At this stage I want to mention to the House- I forewarn the House that I will be speaking about this matter later- that a great deal of milk consumed in the Australian Capital Territory comes from Bega which is in my electorate. I would just like to point out that it is the top quality milk in Australia. At the moment Bega supplies about 40 per cent of the Canberra market. Because of the implications to the Bega people and to the overall milk industry in Australia I want to see that the people of Bega get a fair share of the Canberra market.
Canberra is one of the finest cities in the world. It is a city of very little visual pollution. The work of the previous instrumentalities which contributed to building up this city was excellent and it is vital that this work should be continued. This Committee will be an important contributor to that continuance.
– I shall be very brief. I want to make a couple of points which are.very important to new members of the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory. I had the privilege of working on the previous Committee last year. I just want to make the point that this year’s Committee should be seen as working in a quite different environment from that in which Committees have worked in the past. This is mainly due, of course, to the advent of self-government in the Australian Capital Territory. The Committee will be charged with a task of working out new relationships with the Legislative Assembly. It will be charged also with working out new relationships with the National Capital Development Commission, if that instrumentality survives- and of course it may not do so. Further, it will be charged with working out new relationships with the Department of the Capital Territory and with the Minister for the Capital Territory.
With the. advent of self-government, of course, there will be many areas of planning in Canberra that should not involve the Committee at all and should not in fact involve the Parliament. I think that the members of the Committee should be able to see Canberra as having 3 distinct rolesits role as the seat of government and the home of the national Parliament, its role as the national capital, which is a very different role, and its role as a community of 200 000 Australian citizens who until recently have been discriminated against in terms of representation. Fortunately now they have much more representation than they previously enjoyed. I hope that all the members who represent the Australian Capital Territory- the 2 members in the House of Representatives and the two in the Senatewill be members of this Committee. That will make the Committee much more relevant to the people of Canberra than it has been in the past.
Many members of Parliament have served the Committee very well but unfortunately they did not have a very close knowledge of Canberra. They came from the States. They did good work, but they were not able to give the same service to the Committee as can be given by people who live in Canberra. There are many members in both Houses who lay down the law about Canberra, who say all sorts of things about it but who know very little about Canberra outside the area between the airport and Parliament House. If some of them were taken out to Tuggeranong or to “the back of Belconnen they would not be able to find their way back to the centre of Canberra unless the Captain Cook memorial water jet was turned on. That is about how much they know about Canberra.
The role of the Committee will be terribly important. Domestic issues such as how we look after our dogs, during what hours we drink and whether we have nude bathing are matters for the Legislative Assembly and this Parliament should not be concerned with them in any way at all, any more than the members of this Parliament are concerned with those sorts of matters which are the responsibility of State parliaments. We do not have a State parliament here. If the Legislative Assembly is given its proper role it will in many respects take over the role of a State government, although of course the Australian Capital Territory will not be a sovereign State. This Parliament will have the power of veto, as it should have. But these domestic matters should be the concern of the people of Canberra who are mature people and who should not be treated as second rate citizens.
It is very important that this Committee should not be just a listening committee whose members sit down and listen to the very rational arguments of the National Capital Development Commission or any other planning body. The NCDC is very adept at putting rational arguments. I am not saying that it is not always right. Usually it is but sometimes it is wrong and sometimes grievously wrong. It is up to this Committee to be very perceptive and inquisitive and to explore in detail and not just listen to the arguments in the conference room and around the table. The members should go out and have a look at the problems on the ground. The tragic event of the flooding in the Woden Valley which resulted in the drowning of 6 people not long ago resulted from a planning blunder. It is possible that if the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory had done a little more perceptive work and looked at the situation a little more closely this tragedy may have been, avoided. Members of the Committee should go out and look at the planning concepts that the NCDC puts up to them in the new areas such as Tuggeranong.
There are many very important problems with which the Committee will no doubt deal. The Committee must try to be involved and to avoid the grave mistakes and planning errors that have been made in the past. I refer to such grave planning errors as the lack of social planning and the lack of recreational facilities and amenities for people in the new suburbs, particularly in Belconnen. There we have seen planning gone mad. The role of this Committee should be to act as a watchdog to see that there is a proper balance of planning in the overall development of Canberra. There should be adequate provision for public transport. In the past there have been grave inadequacies and we are paying for them now. Some of them have been the result of political decisions and not just of the decisions of the planners. It is worth while noting that it took the Australian Labor Party Government 3 years to build up sufficient numbers of buses to do the job of transport in Canberra but now the buses are lying idle because the Government does not see fit to employ enough drivers to keep them on the road. That is the fact of the situation.
The Labor Government passed the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Bill which provided for the management of the Gudgenby Park. I hope that the gazettal of the park is still going forward and that money will be available to provide the staff to maintain that park. It is not there for just the Canberra people. Over a million visitors come to Canberra every year, and this is about the last recreational area available to the people of Canberra and the people of Australia in the Australian Capital Territory. Another important aspect of planning to which the Committee should give some thought or in which it should try to become involved is the need to integrate our public recreational facilities and our educational facilities so that we do not lock up our school facilities at half past three and thus prevent the public from using them. If we have a heated pool it should be planned in such a way that it can be used by the school during the day and then by the community. These things have not been done in the past. They are pretty fundamental things. This Committee should be alert to see that they are done in the future. I think that the Committee ‘s main object will be to see that there is no turning back of the clock in Canberra, or that the clock is not turned back further, so that the quality of life is not lowered any more than it has been lowered during the 3 months reign of this new Government. I hope that the Committee will be effective in thisrespect.
In conclusion I must pay a tribute to the late Chairman of the Committee, Senator Bert Milliner. Bert was one of those people who did not just sit around the conference table. He went out on the job and had a look at the problems confronting Canberra. He went to a great deal of trouble at the expense of his own time in a very conscientious way to serve that Committee. I have no doubt that the work which he put into, that Committee to some extent brought about his early passing. I can assure everybody that Bert Milliner served that Committee in a most commendable way and the people of Canberra are very grateful for what he did for the Committee.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 16 March, on motion by Mr Staley
That the committee also consider and report on matters coming within the terms of section S of the Parliament Act 1 974 as may be referred to it-
Six Senators, three of whom shall be nominated by the Leader of the Government in the Senate, and three by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate.
Parliament House and matters incidental thereto direct to the National Capital Development Commission as the Authority responsible to Parliament to undertake or arrange for the planning, design and construction of the new and permanent Parliament House.
-The Joint Standing Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House was one of the latest committees set up in the former Parliament. It has fairly extensive responsibilities with relation to Parliament House and the area in which the House is to be located. In any proposal to construct a new Parliament House it is the representative as a client of both Houses of this Parliament. The task which the Committee has to undertake immediately is the planning of the requirements of a new Parliament House. This work has already been done on one occasion by a former committee, so that the requirements really have to be updated to be put into a brief on which design work for a new Parliament House to be built on Capital Hill can commence.
What I would say about the work of this Committee and the remarks made by the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Staley) when introducing the motion is that unless the work of this Committee goes forward at a regular pace and is not backed away from, as has happened so often in the past, we will run into a situation in the not too distant future in which major rebuilding of this building will become necessary. In my opinion that would be uneconomic and a waste of public funds. It could become necessary purely because no one is prepared to accept the political odium of spending money on providing a home for the national Parliament. Regrettably this building has in my opinion, passed the time of its useful life. It certainly does not, either in its basic design or in any extensions that are made have the capacity to house members and staff for another 20 years and that is the sort of timetable we are looking at unless this Committee goes ahead fairly continuously with the work with which it is charged.
This building is made up of a fairly extensive series of additions each one made in an effort to meet the pressure of a particular time. Usually the extensions were finished 5 years after the assessments were made and therefore the building has never been capable of supporting the national Parliament properly. It certainly is not capable of supporting and providing the facilities that the Parliament is entitled to at the moment. I invite honourable members to look at any part of this building except the coat of white paint on the front of the building when it is fresh. One of the problems that we face is that the building looks very nice from a distance and in photographs but very few people inspect it, except for Kings Hall or both chambers. Certainly those people who work in the building are a minority, and a very substantial minority, and those who are the decision makers work in conditions that are considerably better than the conditions provided for the majority of the occupants.
Just look at any part of this building. The Press Gallery is a fire trap. It should not be occupied in its present condition. I do not suggest that someone should strike a match up there. If someone did there would be a tragedy in this building of a magnitude that would make world headlines because the building is not safe. Let me refer to the bottom parts of this building. I remind honourable members that because the Parliament is in a unique position it is exempt from the sort of requirements which are normally put on public buildings. The lower parts of this building are equally unserviceable. The building lacks proper storage space. It lacks proper accommodation for the members who work in it. Staff facilities are a total disgrace to the national Parliament. The facilities in the dining areas of this Parliament are equally poor and if this place were other than the national Parliament the government of the day would introduce laws which would prevent the
Elace from operating. I say this advisedly in the knowledge that for at least 12 months I had the responsibility for this building. The problem that we face is that this is always the last priority for the expenditure of funds. I do not care which Party is in office. Even though honourable members opposite say that the Labor Party spent money like water, I can assure the House that there was not a drop spilled in this building. It is not a satisfactory building for the national parliament
The Committee which we are appointing has an urgent task to set down the guidelines for those who will prepare a design brief and those who are in government at the time when that design brief is finally prepared have a responsibility not only to the members of Parliament but to the nation itself to provide a parliament house which can serve the nation properly and which can provide those faculties which a parliament should have and facilities to enable those people charged with the responsibilities of running the country to work effectively. In 1976 it is a disgrace that members of this Parliament do not have sufficient space in which to accommodate themselves. They share rooms. There is certainly no way in which proper staffing could be provided to members in this building unless the people who are put on the staff are prepared to work in the trees outside the building because there is no room inside it for any additional people.
I do not want to extend my speech much beyond what I have said, but I think that sometimes someone should honestly say exactly what does exist and in this sense no one can say I am playing politics. This is a matter with which every member of this Parliament ought to be concerned because the work output and the value of the work output, not only of the members but also of the people who work in the building and are more disadvantaged than the members because they have to work here all the time, must be affected by the unsatisfactory nature of the building. The Parliamentary Library is cramped. It is divided. Half its services are outside the building. The committee secretariats and the backup staffs of the Parliament are outside the building. They are housed in accommodation which is of such a nature that anyone who wanted to make any alterations would have to get out the business directory of Australia, go through it from A to Z and get approval from everyone on the list. There are some 7 authorities to be contacted before a leak in the roof of the Hotel Canberra can be mended. I hope that the Minister for the Capital Territory has not been through that exercise yet. Before the Treasury is contacted I think there are 5 separate authorities which have to give approval to mend the roof. Some of the major facilities of the Parliament are housed in the Hotel Canberra. I think I have spoken long enough to make the point that I was trying to make. This Committee has a job to do. Not only has it a job to do, but when it has done it someone has to accept the responsibility of carrying through its recommendations.
– I feel it is unique that I can follow the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) in a debate and say that I agree with everything that he has said. I have been doing some research and as a new member, not knowing too much about the siting of the new and permanent parliament house, I found that the proposal originated back in 1965 when the then Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, initiated a joint committee to inquire into certain aspects of a new and permanent parliament house. In 1927 a temporary structure- this structure was put up. There were 6 alterations. They occurred in 1947, 1958, 1964, 1970, 1972 and 1973. Here we are 49 years later still in temporary premises. I agree with the honourable member for Corio that it is nice as a new member to come into this building and find the difficulties associated with being part of the largest business in Australia- that of government. I refer to the inadequacies of office space. The honourable member referred to the staffing position. It was frightening to me to find a broom cupboard converted into a member’s office. I was fortunate that it was not my office. Yet we are expected as members of this Parliament, irrespective of the side of the House on which we sit, to perform our duties under those conditions. I have noted that the National Capital Development Commission prepared a report in May 1973 and at that stage it was foreshadowed that the new and permanent parliament house, once a site had been settled on- that is the other problem; where to put it- would cost $75m. I would suggest to honourable members that today we would be looking at no less than $150m and even to construct the first stage we would be looking to June 1977 as a commencement date and at 1979 as the date for the completion of the first stage. Subsequent to that time the NCDC, in August 1974, released a report. I would like to quote from that report of Commissioner A. J. Powell. It reads:
The Commission has for several years been expressing concern at the lack of a decision by the Parliament on a site for the Permanent House. It has been faced with a steadily growing need to provide additional accommodation in the provisional building for the numerous activities associated with the functioning of Parliament, and each year the task becomes more difficult and more costly. The existing House is spatially inadequate, functionally inefficient, and mechanically obsolete. The scope for further extensions to the present building is virtually exhausted.
If there is a considerable increase in the next 15 years in the membership of this House, to say nothing of staff, to say nothing of radio, television and committee rooms, to say nothing of the dining room and the staff associated with the full administration of the national Parliament, to say nothing of the Library and the research facilities, I suggest with respect that we will be using skyhooks. We would not have to worry about broom cupboards or offices.
Out of the report in August 1974 came the rather startling fact that the construction period was 15 years and cost was not even a factor. We are looking at an unknown cost as the honourable member for Corio stated. We are looking at the possibility of an unknown figure. If we looked at a structure of this magnitude in 15 years’ time we could be looking at a cost of $ 1,000m. We could borrow that sum. The proposed committee will undertake research and will completely review the March 1970 report to this House by the Joint Committee on a New and Permanent Parliament House. I think it is fair to assume that if this Committee is to be functional it must at the outset go into its initial committee meeting with the belief that its decisions and recommendations will be received well in this place and that this House will consider improving working conditions for the benefit of us all.
I suggest that if some members of the Australian public who say that we have it easy could see the conditions we have to work in they perhaps would give us a little more support. I feel, and I am sure that the Committee will feel in its deliberations, that cost will be the deciding factor and not the conditions or the objective of getting a more suitable place in which to work. This is our second home. I did not think I would find a second home with such conditions but it is the second home of each and every one of us. This committee will be charged with the responsibility of ensuring that all honourable members and honourable senators from both sides and all employees attached to this place at some stage in the not too distant future have reasonable conditions. We do not seek luxurious working conditions; we seek reasonable conditions. I am pleased to support the motion.
– I join this debate for one principal reason. I am not sure whether the honourable member for Evans (Mr Abel), who preceded me in this debate, is aware that in fact a site for the new and permanent Parliament House has been established by Act of this Parliament- in fact by a private member’s Bill which I had the honour to introduce into this House- and the site within the parliamentary triangle is on Capital Hill, the hill behind the hill behind this building. The map attached to that Act defines the area over which the Parliament has absolute control. No works of any significance can be carried out in that area without the approval of the Parliament. The committee that existed prior to the dissolution of the Parliament on 1 1 November last year had, in fact, started to meet on this question. It met within the National Capital Development Commission, it canvassed various propositions and it had a display in the corridors of this building to give an indication of the style of building which it was envisaged would be erected.
That brings me to an important point. It has always been my view that we cannot enlarge this building and say that it is our new Parliament House. Whilst this building now serves a purpose for the meetings of the Parliament there is no guarantee that it will do so as the Parliament may function in the future. I remind the House that we are not looking 10, 15, 20 or 30 years ahead and if the Parliament is wise on this issue it will try to project its thinking quite a few years into the future and envisage the sort of Parliament we may have at that time. Even now, due to the political accident that occurred on 13 December, this chamber does not accommodate all Government supporters on the Government side of the chamber. It does not even accommodate all members of the principal Government party. I notice that 4 seats have been placed in what used to be a Speaker’s gallery to accommodate honourable members because the chamber is not large enough.
Two things could happen in the future. One is that the membership of the Parliament may not increase dramatically in size. That could come about by each member representing a greater number of people in the future. But if honourable members are to represent 66 000 people, whom they now represent on average, as the population rises so will the population in this chamber increase. Certain constitutional difficulties are involved because this chamber just cannot keep on increasing by one or two members at a time. If there is to be any increase in this chamber there must of necessity be movement in the Senate and, under the Constitution, an increase in the number of senators will be reflected in the membership of this House. So we are not really talking about an increase of two or three members in this place; we are really talking about an increase of 24 members or perhaps even as many as forty-eight. That is the sort of movement that could occur. Not all of the 127 members of the House of Representatives who occupy this building can be accommodated in the offices on the House of Representatives side. Some of them, in fact, have their offices tucked away far from this chamber in a corner on the Senate side.
The honourable member for Evans mentioned office accommodation. As one who has worked in a fairly large office and has had faculties and research staff available to me, my belief, in coming to this place to find myself locked into a small room, is that Rasputin, the rascally monk, vacated it because it did not suit him. All of these factors add up, but I do not think they are as important as the facilities available for the staff in the building. Honourable members are inclined to be a bit selfish in this regard, but great concern must be had for the people who work here. The conditions under which they work are appalling. If they were working under such conditions in private industry or in private commercial enterprise 1 can assure honourable members that their industrial representatives would find that they were working in breach of every industrial award in this country. For that reason alone I think that such conditions are an indictment of this Parliament.
It is never popular to build public buildings. The figure proposed from somebody’s head for the cost of the new Parliament House has escalated from something like $75m to 51,000m. I would not presume to say how much the building will cost because there is a time schedule of something like 10 years on its construction and that does not include its design. But for the sake of argument the building could be funded by an annual allocation of $ 10m to $ 15m which, if wisely invested over that period, would keep pace with inflation and would still retain its worth when the building was to be erected. All of these things could be done but if this Parliament is not courageous and prepared to grasp the nettle on the issue and decide that all of the things that have been said about this building- that it is structurally unsound and that it is unsuitable for people to be working in- are correct it will regret it. Not only will those on the other side who occupy their seats now, temporarily until the next election, regret it but also those who follow them will regret it. For those reasons I support the setting up of the proposed committee.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! It now being 10.30 p.m., in accordance with the order of the House of 1 8 February 1 976, I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
– I request that the question be put forthwith without debate.
Question resolved in the negative.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Pharmaceutical Benefits-Rates on Government Property -Medibank -Political Party Funds
Motion (by Mr Howard) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
-The matter I want to raise concerns the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) and an announcement he made about amendments to the pharmaceutical benefits list in Press release No. 16 of 1976. It concerns particularly children who have a protein need for a dairy milk substitute by virtue of their asthmatic and respiratory problems. The Minister said in his Press statement that the Government aimed to cut the cost of pharmaceutical benefits by $7m this financial year and by $34m in a full year. He indicated that the bulk of that would be taken up by the increase in the prescription charge from $1.50 to $2. In addition, a considerable range of benefits was to be removed from the pharmaceutical benefits list. He indicated that they included preparations used for the relief of common stomach ailments and antihistamines used for the treatment of allergies. I think those 2 categories comprise some 40 products. He referred also to the removal of other preparations used for the treatment of angina attacks. Then he mentioned laxatives which are to be available only for paraplegics and quadriplegics.
Finally he came to this point:
Reduction is to be made in the age limit from 6 years to 1 8 months for patients who are eligible to receive cows milk substitutes (goats milk, soya formula and Nutramigen as a pharmaceutical benefit.
This announcement has caused widespread consternation to a large number of people in my electorate. My interests were sparked by a doctor whom I met socially. He told me that he had 20 families affected by this decision. He told me of many other doctors who were vitally concerned. He asked me to take an interest in the matter and I have applied myself to it. As a result, a number of doctors and pharmacists have prepared a petition which was lodged in the Parliament this week. Similar petitions are now in circulation in a number of electorates. The petition states, in summary form:
That reduction of the age limit from 6 years to 18 months for patients eligible to receive cows milk substitutes as a pharmaceutical benefit under the schedules of the National Health Act will cause serious financial hardship to many families;
That children allergic to cows milk and other dairy products who often include asthmatics and sufferers of respiratory complaints depend on Soya Bean milk such as Isomil or Prosobee as a main source of protein;
That the Government’s action is responsible for a 100 per cent increase in the cost of milk substitutes frequently involving parents in expenditure of $10 per week to sustain desirable protein intake for an affected child.
My inquiries have revealed the extent to which people are affected by this benefit. I have talked privately to the Minister for Health and I am glad to acknowledge the genuine interest that he has displayed in this matter. I have told my constituents that I believe he is capable of redressing this great injustice which has been done to many families. I know he has received advice from the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee. It is his obligation to receive that advice. It is not necessarily his obligation to act on that advice. A certain course of action is open to him now that he has received the advice and acted upon it. I believe he should apply himself to this matter assiduously because the health of a large number of extremely unfortunate children is at stake. The Minister is in a position to do something about this problem. Up to December 1975 some 32 290 prescriptions were issued for children in New South Wales affected by this matter. In Australia up to December 1 975 some 53 845 prescriptions were issued. The amount involved in the issuing of these prescriptions was $250,772. So one can see it is not an isolated matter to which I am referring; it is a hard core of cases comprising a considerable number of children who have these asthmatic and respiratory problems. I have a letter from a lady who sums up the situation very well. She wants to draw the Minister’s attention to these facts:
Therefore by disallowing the subsidy to these children parents will be forced to:
She said some rude things about the Government, which I will not repeat at present. Another lady, who has asked to be mentioned, is Mrs Rattenbury She has been referred to the media about this matter. She is the recipient of a deserted wife’s pension. She has 2 children. Her income is $49 a week. The milk substitute now costs $10 for a weekly supply of 8 tins which, with an additional cost of $20 for special food plus special soap and essential cotton clothing for this child, represents, as anybody would acknowledge, an impossible financial burden. I now have a large number of cases concerned with this matter and I am prepared to give the
Minister the details of them. I have already given him the details of some. One is a lady who has 3 children. In this case her 3 children, all take Isomil, the Soya Bean milk substitute, instead of cows milk to which they are highly allergic. Their ages are 5 years and twins of 18 months. The Minister’s action has reduced the eligible age from 6 years to 18 months, so this lady’s 3 children are affected. Between them they take up to 3 cans of Isomil a day, which will involve an increase in price of $8 a week from 1 April. All of the children suffer from bronchitis and are markedly better when taking Isomil rather than cows milk.
I am not just talking about emotional mothers. I am talking about dedicated doctors; I am talking about conservative doctors; I am talking about radical doctors; I am talking about doctors in my electorate with whom I have a personal relationship. To a man so far they have expressed their grave concern about the Government’s action in relation to this matter, as have done people who are associated with the Asthmatic Association and as have done lots of pharmacists. A large number of people throughout Sydney have responded to an article which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald in respect of my interests in this matter. I believe it is extremely important. If the Government wants to pare down its expenditure, the last thing to do is to make a victim of unfortunate kids who are going to have a tough job of making it anyway, whether or not they have a milk substitute. I would not dare to express the views that some of my constituents have expressed, namely that there is a National Country Party interest in this. The cows milk factor is so infinitesimal from the standpoint of income for the dairy farmers that I believe it is a matter of an academic factor gone mad in the Advisory Committee. I ask the Minister to apply himself to this matter.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– First of all I should like to make it quite clear to the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) that the decision taken by the Government has nothing to do with the problems of the dairy industry or with the New South Wales milk zone. The honourable member might be interested to know that his complaint originates from a recommendation made by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee in October last year during the dying days of the Administration of the Labor Government. The Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee is an expert body. It is a statutory body of specialists which has been established to advise the Minister of the day on what items should be added to or deleted from the pharmaceutical benefits list. It is true that as the Minister for Health I approved the recommendation of the statutory body in good faith. The honourable member for Hughes and other honourable members of this House have brought to my attention some concern among those parents who have been using the substitute milk product for children who have been suffering from various forms of allergies. The reduction in the eligibility age of the children from 6 years to 18 months has been made in accordance with the recommendation to which I have just referred.
The Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee is a statutory body which was established to advise the Minister for Health on matters concerning the listing of products on the pharmaceutical benefits list. The Committee believes that cows milk substitutes are being used unnecessarily by many children and that, with few exceptions, after the age of 18 months milk substitutes no longer form an essential part of the child’s diet. The Committee considers that alternative sources of protein are available to children over 18 months of age, and that was the Committee’s recommendation. The Committee was also concerned that 80 per cent of the milk substitute was in fact being used in New South Wales, which indicated in its thinking an overusage of the substitute.
I thank the honourable member for bringing this matter to my attention and for the effort that he is making on behalf of some of his constituents and some members of the medical profession in his own area who have been concerned about it. I invite him and other honourable members to forward to me these views and these complaints, and I shall ensure that they are transmitted to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee. I have also requested the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee to discuss its recommendations on cows milk substitutes with the appropriate specialist bodies when it meets them in May.
Under the present listing arrangements, parents can, up until 3 1 March, obtain sufficient repeats to enable them to have on hand a 6- months’ supply of milk substitute, during which time there will be a complete review by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee in the light of the concern that is being expressed. I think that is the fairest thing that I can do. As the Minister for Health I have no power whatsoever to replace or to put on the pharmaceutical benefits list any item whatsoever. I have power, if it is recommended to me by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee, to delete an item , but I have no power whatsoever to restore an item after the recommendation has been approved by me. I gave approval in good faith following the recommendation from the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee which met in October last year, which was during the term of the Labor Government; and it probably made its recommendations also in good faith.
– Can you refer it back to the Committee?
-I can refer it, and I shall be referring the complaints and the concern that the honourable member has expressed on behalf of his constituents and which other honourable members on both sides of the House have also expressed. I think that is the fairest and the kindest thing I can do in trying to satisfy the degree of concern which has become apparent as the result of that recommendation and my approval of it
-I would like to raise 2 issues quickly. One of them in fact is related to health. I do not know whether the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) is about to leave the chamber, but I would like to deal with the other matter first because it is related to a more specific problem, namely, the rating of Crown land. It is not a new problem, obviously, but it is a problem which affects municipalities and shires throughout the whole of Australia. I shall be dealing specifically with the problem as it affects the Penrith municipality because it has a high percentage of land occupied by government establishments However, obviously there are other Australian municipalities in a similar position. In the case of the Penrith municipality, there are almost 9 square miles or 2232 hectares of land within the City of Penrith which are owned by the Commonwealth Government. It is estimated that the rate loss on that land is currently running at some $ 1 50,000 yearly.
The municipalities in which there are Commonwealth establishments are disadvantaged because roads and other services still have to be provided to cope with whatever needs the establishments generate. The contributions which the Commonwealth pays to offset these services are usually paid only on the site value of occupied cottages or leased land; they do not pay for the unoccupied area. The total amount of these contributions, which are made in the form of ex gratia payments in lieu of rates, are estimated in the case of Penrith to have totalled no more than $8,000 in 1976; that is, $8,000 instead of $150,000. The situation in Penrith is even more perplexing because in the City of Penrith there are a further 1092 hectares, which is about 4 square miles, of land owned by the Housing Commission of New South Wales. This land is lying dormant and undeveloped and, therefore, is non-ratable. Penrith is also facing an estimated rate loss of a further $150,000 on the land recently resumed by the Housing Commission of New South Wales. Up until the last year or so before the land was resumed Penrith Council was receiving rates on almost all of that land. Its complaint with the Housing Commission is that it will be many years before some of that land is developed and therefore becomes ratable. If one adds to the Commonwealth and Housing Commission ownerships all the land owned by the State Government and other State instrumentalities, such as the Planning and Environment Commission, which land is non-ratable, one sees that in the case of Penrith there is a further rate loss of an estimated $ 190,737.
I will not go into great detail as to the specific areas of the large Commonwealth establishments in the area, but some of them are quite significant. There is the Navy establishment, the Central Ammunition Depot, a Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation establishment, a signals depot, a Royal Australian Air Force area and an Army Engineers stores depot. Large amounts of money are being lost by the Penrith Council and by other councils, of course, because of these establishments. What they are asking is whether in the light of the current review of Commonwealth-State financial relationships and the funding of grants to local government, the question will be reconsidered and whether it is possible that full rates will be paid on Crown land. If we add to that land the areas which are non-ratable because they are owned by religious or charitable institutions we can see that the Penrith Council is losing a large amount of money. This applies also, of course, to other councils. The local residents have to pay much more than a fair share in rates to keep the Penrith Council facilities operating.
The second point I would like quickly to refer to the Minister for Health is one I have raised before. I notice that there is an article along these lines in today’s Bulletin. I refer to excessive payments to medical practitioners in country areas working in certain country hospitals where the fee for service has been introduced. Probably this is happening in the sort of area represented by the Minister. This has become a big rip-off for medical practitioners: I do not expect the Minister to do anything about it because probably they put in a fair bit towards his election expenses. The Minister should look at this matter not from a personal point of view but from the point of view of Medibank and the saving of money for the Government. This is an important issue. Standard ward patients used to be treated in hospitals by what were called honorary medical officers. They received no payment at all. As the Minister probably knows, under Medibank it was proposed that these doctors would be paid on a sessional basis. However, the doctors refused to accept that and in some country hospitals in New South Wales the fee for service was introduced. The Bulletin refers today to what was said by Dr William Barclay of the New South Wales Health Commission. Dr Barclay was quoted as having said: ‘In a large number of hospitals the cost of providing the medical services is consistent with international experience, it was what we expected on the basis of figures we had from New Zealand and Canada, but in some country hospitals, especially where there are relatively few doctors for the population, the costs seem to be very high. We are making a critical examination of them. ‘
The article continued and said:
The trouble seems to stem from the fee-for-service system for paying doctors in those country town hospitals that don’t have the employed medical staff to cope with the work. The local doctor in those towns comes in and charges the hospital (and so Medibank and the State) standard medical fees on a patient-by-patient basis. This appears to have led to massive overcharging in a number of towns, and in the west of New South Wales there are stories of doctors more than quadrupling their incomes since Medibank funding began- and much of this income leap comes from hospital work.
The Bulletin went on to say:
The irony of this is that the AMA wants to introduce the fee-for-service system into all hospitals, city and country. They are philosophically committed to it, and in the few country towns of New South Wales that don’t have a feeforservice hospital system already (they pay their doctors per session) doctors are taking industrial action to have it introduced.
There appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald earlier this year a report of a meeting between Mr Healey, the New South Wales Minister for Health, and the Commonwealth Minister for Health, Mr Hunt. Obviously the report was based on a Press release, apparently from Mr Healey. This newspaper report stated:
Mr Hunt was told that the New South Wales Government was disturbed by the high cost of the fee-for-service payments operating in the country and the fact that some doctors were possibly abusing the system.
Honourable members should note this statement:
Mr Healey said he knew of one doctor who claimed $3,000 for treating nine hospital patients, eight of whom were geriatrics, in a single month. ‘That makes an income of $36,000 a year before he looks at a private patient ‘, he said
– Members of your profession would not do that, would they?
-The point I am making is terribly important. The Medibank Review Committee is to report to the Commonwealth Minister for Health. When the Minister discusses this matter with the State Health Commissions and the State Ministers for Health he should tell them that he is aware of the fact that even though doctors claim that fee-for-service- certainly surgeons in Victoria have claimed this in the past- does not cost any more than sessional fees, this is not true. I will not go into the details now as I do not have sufficient time. It is impossible for them to carry out the work on that basis.
It is important to remember one point, otherwise it might seem unfair to the doctors. Until Medibank was introduced they did all this work for nothing. They did it in an honorary capacity. Now they are being offered sessional fees of something of the order of $80 for a 3-hour session instead of nothing. They are not satisfied with that and want a much larger amount. The New South Wales Government has estimated that the extra cost for public patients of introducing fee-for-service instead of sessional payments would be an extra $150m in one year in that State alone. A government which is trying to restrain expenditure must be very conscious of this when dealing with the medical profession and State Departments of Health.
– I read with interest in today’s Press remarks attributed to the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young). They referred to the sources of political funds. The best that that honourable member could come up with was some sort of tatty document making allegations against the Liberal Party about alleged events some 25 years ago. If my memory serves me right it was something in excess of a quarter of a century ago. One wonders whether the honourable member would have seen fit to introduce into this Parliament a private member’s Bill if the Iraqi connection had not been blown sky high by the Press. I say that advisedly. One must look at the sequence of events.
The matter I have referred to obviously was put in train in 1975, somewhere in or about the month of December or even prior thereto. A Bill was introduced into this Parliament designed to enforce disclosure of the source of Party funds.
That Bill was rejected in the Senate. This proposition is nothing new. A casual reader of the journals of the media could easily be led down the wrong path into believing that this was something novel on the part of the honourable member. It is nothing of the sort. It is the old thimble and pea trick all over again. If this matter had never seen the light of day there is no way in the world that the Bill mentioned by the honourable member for Port Adelaide would have come into this Parliament. There would have been a smokescreen over it. Today’s attempt in the media is nothing more nor less than a grandiose grand-standing attempt by the honourable member to cover up this whole murky, miserable, rotten transaction. It is true that funds are donated to political parties from time to time. We all know that the unions fund the Labor Party. The Party also has freehold properties which can be mortgaged and it has radio stations from which funds can be obtained.
– It has hotels.
– It has hotels and motels anything you like. The Labor Party says that it has disclosed its funds, which is no news at all, and then asks: ‘What about yours?’ Surely to goodness the rights to privacy of the individual donors must enter into the arrangement. If organisations were forced to disclose the sources of those funds one can imagine the rampant action that would be taken against them by left wing dominated unions. I am not talking about the good and true rank and file members of those unions but about their militant leaders who care nothing about the general good of the people in those unions. One can imagine, after the Governor-General had taken certain action -
-Order! It being 1 1 p.m., the House stands adjourned until 10.30 a.m. tomorrow.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for National Resources, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Dr D. F. McMichael (Chairman). Former Secretary, Department of Environment
Mr T. A. Mackintosh. Chief Commissioner, Water Conservation and Irrigation Commission, New South Wales
Mr W. E. Bromfield. Deputy Chairman, State Rivers and Water Supply Commission, Victoria
Mr R. J. Shannon. Director, Engineering Services, Engineering and Water Supply Department, South Australia.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice:
– The Minister for Administrative Services has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Act. If necessary, standard questionnaires are prepared under direction of the Deputy Commissioner of a State or Territory to meet the circumstances arising in that State or Territory. While such questionnaires are usually comprehensive they are checked by senior and responsible officers as to the relevance of the questions asked in resolving the issues to be determined.
asked the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
It is estimated that over a full year this extra training capacity could amount to an additional 3000 training places given the present allocation of funds to the scheme and the present pattern of training.
Trainees who have an entitlement to a pension, for example, widows, will be able to elect to receive whichever is the greater, the pension or the basic NEAT allowance. In either case, the training component under NEAT will also be paid.
The total allowance is subject to income tax.
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
Is real farm income for 1975-76, based on the same Consumer Price Index on which 3 million Australian workers were recently granted a 6.4 per cent pay increase, likely to be the lowest since 1 970-7 1 ; if so, what are the reasons.
– The answer to the honourable member ‘s question is as follows:
The following table shows the value of rural production, farm costs, farm income and real farm income since 1 970-7 1 .
Sources: Australian Bureau of Statistics and Bureau of Agricultural Economics.
It should be noted that the figures shown for 1973-76 are as presently estimated by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics; actual figures for that year will depend on price and seasonal developments over the year.
The recent decline in real farm income reflects generally rising costs in the rural sector and lower prices received for some major commodities in recent years.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 17 March 1976, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1976/19760317_reps_30_hor98/>.