30th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. B. M. Snedden, Q.C.) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable, the Speaker, and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the 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 and Mr McVeigh.
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 Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That we condemn the invasion of the Democratic Republic of East Timor by Indonesia, the deaths of six Australian journalists in East Timor, and the stopping of a ship carrying humanitarian aid by the Australian Government;
And your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will:
Cease all military, economic and trade aid to Indonesia, will cease training officers of the Indonesian army will uphold any actions to remove the Indonesian presence from East Timor and further will:
Recognize the Democratic Republic of East Timor, assist volunteers to get humanitarian aid into territory held by the Democratic Republic of East Timor, will use ships, planes and forces of the Australian Government to deliver humanitarian aid to East Timor, will support the Democratic Republic of East Timor’s proposal of a neutral zone in East Timor and will hold a public enquiry into the circumstances and causes of the death of the Australian journalists.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray by Mr Garrick and Dr Jenkins.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australian 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 Adermann.
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 your Petitioners request that the Australian Government draws attention of the General Assembly of the U nitcd Nations to:
The recent constitutional changes, which limit the sovereignty of Poland and even further restrict civil liberties of its citizens.
This is contrary to democratic tradition which reserves this power for the courts of law.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byMr.Aldred.
To the Speaker and the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The Petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that many Australians are concerned at the announced decision by the Australian Government to reduce the 1975-76 Overseas Development Assistance vote by $21m, and by the abolition of the Australian Development Assistance Agency.
We your petitioners do therefore humbly pray that the Australian Government:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray by Mr Chipp.
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.
Australian Capital Territory: SelfGovernment
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:
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 Haslem.
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 fees, the imposition of a tax levy for Medibank and the introduction of higher charges for drugs dispensed under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray by Dr Klugman.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the existence of a system of double taxation of personal income whereby both the Australian Government and State Governments had the power to vary personal income taxes would mean that taxpayers who worked in more than one State in any year would:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that a system of double income tax on personal incomes be not reintroduced.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray by Mr Morris.
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 they believe that the seizure by the Australian Government of the radio used to maintain links between the Democratic Republic of East Timor and the rest of the world was an action which helped the invading forces from Indonesia to prevent the U.N. special envoy from meeting with the Government of the Democratic Republic of East Timor, and further was an action which lowered Australia’s standing at the United Nations as a supporter of the rights of small nations to their own self-determination, and your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Australian Government will return the seized radio immediately.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray by Mr Willis.
Omega Station in Australia
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Australian Government will reject any proposal to build an Omega station on Australian soil.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray by Mr Willis.
– I draw the attention of the Minister for Post and Telecommunications to a statement by the Leader of the Government in the Senate yesterday that the sooner the Australian Broadcasting Commission is cleaned up, the better. I ask the Minister whether this is the object of the inquiry which he told us, 2 days ago, he proposed to recommend that the Government institute?
-Senator Withers is a very valuable and capable colleague. He speaks with a bluntness which can be refreshing on occasions.
Mr E. G. WhitlamWould Hansard record the pause before the words ‘on occasions ‘?
– I will see whether it can be so recorded.
-I reassure the Leader of the Opposition that the recommendation I will be making to the Government will be based on statements I have made, fortified, more importantly, by those that the Prime Minister has made.
– I direct my question to the Prime Minister. Is he contemplating any further overseas visits this year? If so, what plans does he have to limit the extent and costs of his overseas travel in comparison with the practices of the former Government?
– It is sometimes necessary for Prime Ministers to travel overseas but certainly it is my wish to keep such visits to a minimum. There are some jobs and some responsibilities at home which are the first priority of a Prime Minister. In our Government we have a highly capable Minister for Foreign Affairs who will be undertaking the significant travelling overseas on many matters. As I said, it is necessary on some occasions for Prime Ministers to visit overseas but when that is done it will be done as economically as possible, in contrast to the kind of record achieved by my predecessor. It is a record that I have no particular wish to emulate. My predecessor, in a period of 3 years, was overseas on 14 occasions, which is not a bad record.
By midFebruary of 1974 he had been overseas for a total of 86 days whereas Parliament had sat for only 81 days. My predecessor was then ahead of the sitting time of the Parliament. By the end of January 1975 he had accumulated a total of 1 38 days overseas. Parliament was then ahead for it had sat on 143 days. But at the end of his term as Prime Minister, Parliament was a little more ahead. He had been overseas for 159 days and Parliament had sat for 212 days, so Parliament came out the victor on that count. He was out of the country three-quarters of a day for every day he spent in the Parliament. He was not away when Parliament was sitting but he thought that being overseas was nearly as important as the parliamentary sitting.
Highlights of his wanderings were a 35-day trip in 13 countries in December and January 1974 and 1975, accompanied by a modest party of 42 people. The Press were not included in that number. The cost to the taxpayers of that trip was $495,000. That cost includes the cost of aircraft and personal staff but excludes the cost of the accommodation of other officials who no doubt played a significant part in the overseas visit. Then there was a 19-day tour to 3 countries in April-May 1975. This was a more modest trip. There were only 33 people in the party and the cost was $281,000. There was a 14-day tour of 4 countries, which was more modest again, in September-October 1974. Sixteen people were involved and the cost was $147,000. Then there was a 23-day visit to 3 countries involving 21 people at a cost of $163,000; a 17-day visit to 6 countries in January-February 1974 involving 35 people and a cost of$129.000 and then a 12-day tour to only 2 countries involving 5 1 people and costing $95,000. The costs I have mentioned relate only to the former Prime Minister and his personal staff.
Most of the travel was done by charter through Qantas Airways Limited or by VIP aircraft. There were some exceptions such as when he thought it necessary to return to Australia to see the ruins following the Darwin cyclone before continuing his inspection of ruins overseas. The total cost of aircraft and personal staff was $ 1 ,520,000. That would have been enough to get the Australian Labor Party out of its election funds problem. It would have made it unnecessary for him to have breakfasts with wandering Iraqis of some vague description. It would have been enough for a down payment on a sculpture by an unknown sculptor in Greece which was intended to be purchased for $4m. It would have been enough to pay for more than another Blue Poles.
On my own visits overseas, commercial aircraft will be used as far as possible. The argument that Qantas cannot provide adequate security for a Prime Minister is a specious argument and false. The number of people travelling with me will be limited to a minimum. For example, on the forthcoming visit to China, for which very worthwhile arrangements have been made by the Chinese, about half the number of people who accompanied the former Prime Minister will be accompanying me. When it is not possible to avoid using chartered aircraft, as for instance for the trip from Tokyo to Peking, that will be done in a way that will mean minimum disruption to Qantas ‘s normal schedules. I will not be asking Qantas to go to the additional expense of partially repainting the aircraft just for my own convenience.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Education: Has he seen a report that the Government has imposed financial guidelines on the recommendations of the Universities Commission, the Schools Commission, the Commission for Technical and Further Education and the Commission on Advanced Education? Is the report correct and, if so, what are the guidelines? Does not this decision of the Government interfere with the independence of the 4 Commissions? Does the decision herald drastic cuts in education expenditure?
-I draw the honourable member’s attention to the fact that he spoke during the second reading debate last night on a number of Bills which I introduced on behalf of my colleague in another place, the Minister for Education. During that debate he raised the same question as he is now asking this morning. I draw his attention to pages 987 and 988 of Hansard where I answered completely on the spot, for his benefit, the question that he now asks this morning.
-Has the Attorney-General received a report from the Commonwealth Police regarding allegations suggesting breaches of the Banking (Foreign Exchange) Regulations? Can he inform the House as to the result of the police investigations?
– During last week I received the police report in this matter. The report is a lengthy document. It reveals that the inquiries by the police are incomplete. Attached to the report are a number of statements, including 2 statements which appear to have emanated from a Mr Fischer. These latter statements are conflicting. Mr Fischer’s present whereabouts is unknown to the police. Another possibly material witness, Mrs Fsicher up to the time of the report had not been prepared to be interviewed by the police. At this stage further inquiries would seem to depend on Mr Fischer being located and questioned about the matter. However, this is a matter for the police. The police inquiries to date have not produced sufficient evidence to justify any charge of a breach of federal law. I have decided that I should not table the police report itself. It includes statements which contain serious allegations against a number of individuals, and I do not think it would be in the interest of justice to table the report. Furthermore, as I have indicated, the inquiries are incomplete.
– I ask the Foreign Minister a question about the closing of Australia’s missions in Los Angeles, West Berlin, Bombay, Calcutta and Salonika. What savings will be made by these closures? Can he confirm that the lease on the consulate premises in Los Angeles has several years to run and that the breaking of that contract alone will cost the Australian taxpayer well over $ 1 m?
-I do not have all the details with me at the present moment. It is correct that there is a lease still running. It may not necessarily have to be broken as such. It is a matter to which I am giving further attention at present as a consequence of some discussions I had in Los Angeles en route to New York and Washington. I shall provide the Leader of the Opposition with further information as soon as I can get it.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister concerning the military funeral for Viscount Montgomery of Alamein. As a member of the Returned Services League and having served with the Eighth Army, may I inquire what steps the Prime Minister proposes to take to make certain that a detachment of the armed forces and the ex-service organisations are at Windsor for that service as a tribute not only to Viscount Montgomery but also to the families of those whose lives were lost in the last war?
– I am sure that all members of this House would mourn the death of Field Marshal Montgomery. He was a most distinguished soldier and a most distinguished citizen of this century. The free world owes him a debt. Not only in war but also in peace he was interesting, sometimes provocative but always had constructive views to put. The world is certainly much the poorer for his passing. Australia will be represented at the funeral by senior representatives of the Australian defence force in London. The party will be headed by Major General Graham, head of the Australian Defence Staff in London. I also intend to ask the
Returned Services League in Australia whether at the Government’s expense it would be happy to send either its President or Vice President to the United Kingdom for the funeral. Our ambassador in Stockholm, Mr Barnard, a former Deputy Prime Minister, as honourable members will know, and a former distinguished member of this House who has the respect of all members of this House, will also be asked to attend to represent Australia on this occasion.
– He served at Alamein.
-The Leader of the Opposition has just reminded me that Mr Barnard served at El Alamein under Field Marshal Montgomery, so it is all the more fitting that he represent Australia on this occasion.
-I ask the Attorney-General: Have any investigations been taking place at his instigation against Alexander Barton and his son for breaches of the foreign exchange regulations with a view to having them extradited to Australia on such a charge?
– I think on another occasion, in an equally refined voice, the honourable member asked me that question. I told him what had taken place till then. I indicated to him that if he had any information which might lead to the detection of a possible breach of those regulations I would cause it to be investigated.
– I will go there to interrogate him if you wish.
– If the honourable member is prepared to resign his seat and rejoin the New South Wales Police Force that may be able to be arranged. But if he supplies me with any information I shall certainly be prepared to consider it.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. Is it a fact that all States have agreed to place a ban on swill feeding for pigs? If the answer is yes, will the Minister consider placing a ban on the importation of foodstuffs from countries which have a history of foot and mouth disease?
-It is true that as a result of a decision of the Australian Agricultural Council all States have agreed to a ban on the swill feeding of pigs. There will be some consequential costs in the disposal of that refuse but because of the very real concern about the spread of various types of pig disease it has been felt necessary to impose the ban. In all States except Queensland and Tasmania legislation has already been introduced. I understand that in Western Australia and Victoria the legislation is to commence from 1 July and that in the other States it has commenced.
As to the second part of the honourable member’s question, very strict quarantine restraints are imposed through the administration of my colleague the Minister for Health on all imported foodstuffs. I sympathise with the reasons for his question. I can well understand the concern of primary producers at what they see as competition from imported foodstuffs displayed on shelves in supermarkets and retail stores generally and quite often seemingly coming into competition with their own products at times when their returns are low. Nonetheless I can assure him from the quarantine point of view that every measure is taken to ensure that there is no risk to any Australian consumer from the importation of any foodstuffs from any country. Indeed there are very few countries from which foodstuffs are imported.
-I direct a question to the Minister for Transport. Are many New South Wales local government bodies anxiously awaiting decisions on project applications submitted some months ago under the urban local roads program? Was approval given to the Victorian program on 26 February? Why has approval to New South Wales taken so long and when will it be given, or is this project the subject of review under the Government’s priority review program? Is it likely that the program will be curtailed or even eliminated?
– Let me make it quite clear that there will be no change to the level of the program. The program is being delayed because the New South Wales Government had sought to reallocate some of the funds for a variety of other projects within that program. There will be no further undue delay other than the time it takes for that matter to be cleared up with the New South Wales Government.
-I direct a question to the Prime Minister. Has the right honourable gentleman seen reports in today’s Australian Financial Review that General Motors-Holden’s Pty Ltd has given a wage increase of 8.5 per cent to a section of its employees and that this agreement is outside the wage indexation guidelines laid down by the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. Is it correct as reported that he is concerned by this agreement by General MotorsHolden’s with some of its employees, particularly as General Motors-Holden’s is seeking considerable support from the Government in the form of a return to a 95 per cent local content plan?
– The Full Bench of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission did overrule an earlier decision by Mr Commissioner Clarkson which concerned employees of General Motors-Holden’s Pty Ltd. The Full Bench indicated that it would be wrong in its view to adopt Commissioner Clarkson ‘s decision, which it found to be inconsistent with present wage fixing principles, as a basis for circumventing those principles by the recognition of an anomaly which has originated from that decision. Subsequently, I am advised, General Motors-Holden’s agreed to pay the increase in spite of the decision of the Full Bench.
Very often on this side of the House, and less often on the other side of the House, honourable members have exhorted members of the trade union movement to abide by the decisions of the Commission, particularly decisions of the Full Bench. It is equally important that corporations abide by the decisions of the Commission, especially the decisions of the Full Bench. It also ought to be noted that all companies have a responsibility to stick with the system of wage fixation. In this country it is not merely a question of the relationship between company and employees. There is an arbitration system, widely accepted and widely respected, and it will not continue to be held in that position if trade unions and corporations do not abide by its decisions.
I should add also that multi-national companies have a particular responsibility to abide by the system of the country in which they arc operating, especially a company that has had such advantages out of Australia- and especially such advantages out of the previous Administrationas were afforded not so long ago by special protection from which this company was a significant beneficiary. The responsibility is all the more important when that particular corporation is 100 per cent overseas owned and when its top management is not even Australian, but is somebody from overseas. General Motors claims to have lost export markets for Australian made vehicles as a result of inflation in this country and as a result of Australian made vehicles becoming non-competitive in markets overseas where formerly useful export markets were developing.
Therefore it is incumbent upon the company not only to look to its Australian operations but also to look to its obligations to the Australian community, where the company has been operating for a very large number of years. I believe that it is all the more important for the company to abide by the Commission’s decisions. The company cannot expect its attitude to be ignored in the consideration of future policy in relation to the motor industry.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. What steps will the Government take to protect the building industry from the effects of the monetary policies being followed by the Government, which already are having a marked effect on the availability of investment funds for that industry as a whole and the residential sector in particular?
– I do not accept the interpretation which the honourable gentleman has suggested in his question. I remind the House, and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in particular, that in introducing the Government’s monetary package I made it perfectly clear that that package was designed not to prejudice the capacity of the private sector to underwrite economic recovery at the present time. Nor was it designed to deny an adequate flow of funds through the building society movement or through the banking system. According to information available to me, new lending through the system- that is in relation to both banking institutions and permanent building societies- is continuing at a satisfactory level. I might say that in this very sensitive area of economic management there is a need for flexibility. I think that flexibility has been shown in the introduction of the Government’s monetary packages and in subsequent measures taken by it and will certainly continue to be reflected in actions which will be taken by the Government in the period ahead.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. Does the Minister expect that the proposed ban on cigarette advertising on television and radio will have a very damaging effect on the revenue of radio and television stations, particularly those outside the capital cities, even to the extent of running some stations into a loss situation? Has the Government any plans in view to replace this revenue?
-The radio and television industry has had 3 years notice of the intention to implement the phasing out of this portion of its revenue. My understanding is that most of the companies involved have so organised their revenue and their accounts as to make allowance for the phasing out in the expectation that it would be finalised this September. I am aware that in some country areas, particularly the outer country areas, there is a problem with profitability. The Government has no plans at all to replace the revenue, just as it would not have any plans to replace revenue when other businesses have to readjust to Government decisions.
-My question is directed to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. Is it a fact that over recent weeks employers in the metal trades industry have acknowledged the correctness of my May 1975 assertion that there is a case for catch-up claims in the metal industry? Is it a fact too that Mr Justice Moore has convened conferences and has been aware of salary increases to various employees in particular branches of the metal industry to give effect to the clear case and claim by the metal unions for a catch-up claim in wages?
-The honourable member will be aware that the metal industry is a very diverse one as well as being a large employer of labour. He will be aware also that Commissioner Heagney of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission is undertaking a review of all aspects of the metal trades industry. That inquiry has been going on for some time. I believe that when Commissioner Heagney reports on the metal industry and possible anomalies in the wages situation within it, the report will be very valuable and the Government will be examining it with great interest.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. Is he aware that employees in the Australian Telecommunications Commission cannot transfer to the Australian Postal Commission or vice versa and that in order to apply for a position in the other Commission a person must first submit his resignation to the respective Commission in which he is working? If this is correct, does the Minister agree with this provision? What action can he take to correct this apparent injustice? I further ask: Is the Minister aware that a request by me for an answer in regard to a specific problem was made some 5 weeks ago after representations were initiated in October 1975 and that to date no substantive reply has been received?
-I am not aware of all the conditions in regard to transfers between the 2 Commissions. My understanding is that an employee can transfer from one Commission to another without resigning. As to the second part of the question, I have looked at the correspondence to which the honourable member previously referred. It involves a person who wanted to transfer from a higher paid position to a lower paid position which required an examination. I must admit that it seems to be an anomaly that a person who wishes to transfer from a higher paid position has to undergo an examination before he can occupy a lower paid position. I looked at the file. I want the honourable member to know that the interest he has taken and I have taken in this has created a real interest in both the Commissions. The matter is now the subject of the closest scrutiny. I would think that some of the conditions might well be amended. I will do all that I can to ensure that this matter is examined fully in the very near future.
-In directing a question to the Minister for Primary Industry I refer the Minister to his speech to members of the Royal Exchange of Sydney. Does the Government intend to preclude the Industries Assistance Commission from inquiring into Government assistance to the rural sector? Is the Minister planning to return to the pre-December 1972 era when major decisions on financial support for farmers were argued and taken behind the closed door of Cabinet with political consideration as the main criterion? Is he aware that the Chief Executive Officer of the Graziers Association of New South Wales in a note to the newspapers flowing from the speech the Minister made to the Royal Exchange has criticised any attempt to destroy the independence of the IAC?
-I strongly defend the system which existed pre- 1972 in the degree to which it was able to help rural industries in spite of market exigencies and in complete contrast to the absolutely appalling lack of consideration demonstrated over the last 3 years. As to the future of references and the character of reference to the IAC, the Government’s position is quite clear. When addressing the Royal Exchange, however,
I adverted to what must be a continuing Government responsibility for the social impact of changed forms of assistance to the rural sector. For the moment, for example, as the honourable gentleman may be aware, in the manufactured milk sector there are quite serious economic and social difficulties that flow from the downturn in market opportunities for the sale of skim milk powder. In some communities, in northern Tasmania, for example, it seems that not only the dairy farmers will suffer as a result of the impossibility to negotiate sales but factories, dairy plants, butter plants and skim milk powder plants may be forced to close. As a result employment in those communities will be seriously prejudiced. Very large sums invested in those plants might be left to lie idle, with the complete impossibility of meeting capital repayments and interest charges on that investment. In terms of the family responsibilities, not only the men in those family groupings but their wives and children are likely to suffer.
All those are problems to which I feel the IAC is not always adequately equipped to address itself. Accordingly, in speaking on the problems of devising ways of giving future assistance to the rural sector, I suggested that it was necessary to find an adequate way to give public recognition of the social impact of change in economic opportunity for members of the rural community as well as economic factors on their own. It is in examining that total implication that the Government sees its responsibility. I believe it is necessary not only for economic fortunes of primary producers to be considered but for the whole of the social, geographic and development opportunity and contribution which they make to the national economy to be taken into account.
– Has the attention of the Minister Assisting the Treasurer been drawn to recent comments that age 60 contributors to the present superannuation scheme, particularly those with long service, will be forced under the new scheme to continue working to age 65 to qualify for a full pension? If so, are these age 60 contributors being disadvantaged by the proposed pension supplement arrangements?
- Mr Speaker -
-Is this a point of order?
– Yes. I draw your attention to a question on notice on the precise subject.
-What is the number of the question?
– I would say 148.
– It seems to me that the question on notice is a broad question and would cover the question which was put.
– I take a point of order. Mr Speaker, I ask you whether it is in order for the honourable gentleman to ask a question on a matter that is the subject of legislation currently before the House.
– Yes, it is quite in order to ask a question about legislation. The honourable member for Canberra will repeat his question. (Mr Haslem having repeated his question)
– The question is in order.
– The honourable member informed me of his intention to ask this question. Of course this whole matter of superannuation is very complex, and the reason we introduced this new scheme is to make the matter less complicated. When I hear comments such as those referred to by the honourable member for Canberra I think it is questionable whether the persons who make these comments have considered all the aspects.
- Mr Speaker, I raise a matter which refers to your ruling on whether we can ask a question about something that is before the House. The Standing Orders state that questions cannot anticipate discussion upon an order of the day.
-The honourable gentleman should have pursued the point when I made my ruling. The Minister has proceeded to answer the question. The question has been ruled in order.
- Mr Speaker surely in the course of -
-The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
– I am taking a valid point.
– I call the honourable member for Corio.
- Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order in the interests of consistency in the treatment of both sides of the House. Mr Speaker, when a question was asked of the honourable member for Port Adelaide you ruled that the answer to a question could not anticipate matter which would be raised during discussion on a Bill. I ask you whether the Minister is in order in doing exactly the same thing as the honourable member for Port Adelaide was refused permission to do.
-The point raised by the honourable member for Corio is valid. However, there is a distinction. I ruled the other day that a question asked of the honourable member for Port Adelaide was inviting anticipation of the second reading speech and the arguments and principles upon which the legislation proposed by the honourable gentleman would be introduced. The honourable member for Canberra specifically asked whether age 60 contributors to the Commonwealth superannuation scheme will be disadvantaged under new legislation. The legislation is before the House. It is quite clear for people to read. The second reading speech has been made. The honourable member for Canberra is seeking information about the legislation. The Minister Assisting the Treasurer can answer that question. If he goes beyond that he will be anticipating debate and will therefore be out of order.
-As I was saying, it is questionable whether persons who make such comments have considered all the aspects. It is true that in the new scheme the full government financed pension is not available until retirement at age 65, but for persons with long service that pension is higher than the maximum government financed element of the pension available under the present scheme. Most age 60 contributors to varying extents would have attained higher government financed pensions at age 60 under the present scheme if they maintained their age 60 unit contributions until their retirement. This, however, would leave them with a greatly diminished take home salary in the years immediately preceding their retirement. The special age 60 unit pension supplement in the new scheme gives value for age 60 contributions to date. If age 60 contributions have been completed or the person has reached 59’/6 years it will give full value for age 60 units. The supplement will not require members to continue to pay high age 60 contributions until retirement. Finally, the Australian Government Employees Combined Superannuation Co-ordinating Committee accepts the supplement formula as a reasonable basis for dealing with age 60 units.
-Did the Prime Minister in his electoral talk last weekend refer again to the possibility of introducing tax indexation? Docs he agree that the technical means of introducing tax indexation are not in any way difficult- the sums could be done on a pocket calculator? If so, why is he hedging on this issue? When will he say definitely whether tax indexation will be introduced or whether another election promise will be broken?
– The honourable gentleman shows a remarkable capacity. I am glad that he can use a pocket calculator. We have said on a number of occasions that the first steps of tax indexation will be introduced in the next Budget. That is an absolute commitment. I regret that the honourable gentleman finds it such unpalatable news. We know that his Government did not like the proposal because tax indexation is designed to make governments honest, and in the sense of taking funds away from taxpayers his Government was remarkably dishonest. I have indicated before that the famed tax reforms of the previous Treasurer resulted in an additional $2,600m being taken from the taxpayers of Australia. What kind of reform is that? The honourable gentleman really ought to do his homework a little better.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. He will be aware that on the last occasion but one when a vigorous monetary policy was pursued throughout Australia- I refer to the early 1960s- the effects of that policy fell rather unevenly on certain sectors of industry and on certain States of the Commonwealth. I ask the Prime Minister: What precautions or practices does he have in mind during the present vigorous pursuit of monetary policy to ensure that the effects of that policy do not fall unevenly on certain sectors of Australian industry and on certain States of the Commonwealth, especially New South Wales and Queensland?
– I think the honourable gentleman’s term ‘vigorous pursuit of monetary policy’ is something of an overstatement As a result of the policies of the previous Administration it was known that the money supply had been rising at a rate which was not consistent with any control of inflation, and steps have been taken by the present Administration- by the Treasurer and by this Government- to rectify that situation. It is the intention of the monetary authorities and of the Government to ensure that funds are made available on a continuing basis for productive and useful purposes. I think the term ‘vigorous pursuit of monetary policy’ is an overstatement, and I hope the honourable gentleman will accept that.
I believe that anyone would accept the proposition that there is a necessity to maintain an even balance in the economic circumstances throughout Australia, not only State to State but also industry to industry. But it is sometimes very difficult to achieve that objective. The honourable member’s own State, for example, has been particularly hit by the fall in beef prices. That flows through not only to the pastoral industry but also from the pastoral industry to meatworkers, factories and industries in Queensland. The honourable gentleman will also know that special measures have been taken by the Government to try to overcome the problems and to assist the industry in this present period of difficulty. The honourable gentleman directs his attention to a need to try to maintain equality in the circumstances between different industries and between the States to the maximum extent possible, and that is one point to which the Government gives continuing attention. Of course, the States also have recourse to other devices to equalise the opportunities within their own borders, such as through the Grants Commission and other means of that kind.
-Two days ago the Attorney-General gave a written reply to this question asked by the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith:
Can he say whether the Chief Justice sent a letter or letters to his fellow Justices of the High Court concerning consultations he had on the dismissal of the Whitlam Ministry on 11 November 1975?
The honourable gentleman answered: ‘No’. I now ask him whether he has asked the Chief Justice whether he sent such a letter or such letters. If he has not asked the Chief Justice, will he do so?
– The answer to the question is: No, I have not asked the Chief Justice, and I do not propose to ask the Chief Justice because I regard what passes between the judges of the court as being a matter for them.
-Has the Minister for Health read reports in a number of today’s newspapers to the effect that he was advocating the banning of cigarette advertising in all forms of the media and that that would be carried out in conjunction with State governments? Are these reports correct?
– At least 2 newspapers this morning reported that I was acting in the area of banning cigarette advertising outside the electronic media region. This was quite untrue. The Commonwealth has powers open to it to exercise a control over advertising on only the electronic media through the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. The States have powers to control other forms of advertising. It was for that reason that at the State Health Ministers’ Conference in May last year the State Ministers agreed to set up a joint working party to examine a code for uniform legislation to control cigarette advertising in other areas of jurisidiction. In replying to the honourable member for Wimmera I think I should quote what I said yesterday in order to put the record straight. Clearly at least 2 newspapers have misreported what I did say. In reply to a question yesterday I said:
At the State Health Ministers Conference last year it was agreed to work towards uniform legislation to control cigarette advertising in newspapers, magazines, handbills, pamphlets, leaflets, cinema slides, theatres and by any other means. I understand that the committee looking into this matter will be reporting to the Australian Health Ministers Conference in June this year on the progress it has made in achieving uniform legislation to cover the areas that are outside Commonwealth jurisdiction.
It is not for me to tell the States what they are to do in respect of this matter.
– My question, addressed to the Prime Minister, is supplementary to that asked by the honourable member for Lilley. What action is this Government going to take to overcome the problems in the home building sector in both Queensland and New South Wales caused by his Government’s monetary policy?
-The honourable member would well know that the problems in the home building industry stem very largely from the uneven financing by the previous Government, changing from great additions to funds in one year to significant cuts in the next.
– Pursuant to section 44 of the Australian Institute of Marine Science Act 1 972-73 1 present the annual report of the Council of the Institute of Marine Science for the year ended 30 June 1975.
– For the information of honourable members I present the report of the Commission of Inquiry into Transport to and from Tasmania. I seek leave to make a statement in connection with that report.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The report was presented to the Governor-General by Commissioner J. F. Nimmo, C.B.E., on 8 March. In broad terms the Commission’s report seeks to increase, for the State of Tasmania, the efficiency of shipping and associated services including port usage. It proposes the provision of direct financial assistance to those producers and persons who are disadvantaged because of Tasmania’s separation from the mainland.
Some of the major findings and recommendations are that:
– I rise to support the Minister for Transport. This matter is very important to Tasmania and I cannot hear what the Minister is saying because of the noise coming from the other side of the chamber.
-Order! The honourable member for Denison is entitled to hear. The noise is coming from all over the chamber, from both my right and my left. Some honourable members seem not to realise how loud their voices are. I ask the House to come to order and to listen to the statement by the Minister for Transport.
-This should be done in the interests of their own efficiency and to remove the unfair competition with private operators which currently occurs because of subsidisation.
Feasibility studies should be carried out as soon as possible of:
The report will be the subject of examination and appropriate consultation, after which the Government will be in a position to decide on the action to be taken on the Commission’s recommendations. Printing of bulk copies of the report will be completed in 3 weeks. In the meantime I table a summary of the principal findings and recommendations taken from Chapter 2 of the report. I ask that this extract be incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The summary read as follows)-
The Commission ‘s recommendations are brought together in this Chapter. They are preceded by a summary of the principal findings on which many of the recommendations have been based. 2.1 Summary of Principal Findings
The Commission’s Advisers, Canadian Pacific Consulting Services, commented favourably on the efficiency of the organisation and operations of the freight forwarders who arrange the door-to-door movement, and frequently the consolidation, of non-bulk goods between Tasmania and the Mainland. This is a very competitive business, and Mainland-based freight forwarders told the Commission that profits on their Tasmanian operations are relatively low. It was found that efficiency could be improved by reducing the variety of cargo units in use, and by speeding up the turnround of these units.
Road transport in Tasmania is efficiently organised to carry the goods moving interstate.
The efficiency of aspects of the administration and operation of some shipping and stevedoring services could be improved. Industrial stoppages have increased ship operating costs. It was widely accepted that Tasmanians suffer no appreciable financial disadvantage from the movement of goods in bulk by sea. The economic viability of privately owned shipping lines is being threatened by the subsidies being paid to the ANL and the TTC. The costs of operating the ANL’s passenger vessel the ‘Empress of Australia’ and the TTC’s ‘ Straitsman’ are so high as to suggest that these vessels are inefficient for the purposes to which they are being used. The shortest practicable sea route for moving persons between Victoria and northern Tasmania was found to be Westemport-Bumie. For goods, the shortest practicable route would seem to be Westernport-Devonport.
There has been some over-investment in berths and other facilities at some ports in Tasmania relative to the volume of non-bulk cargo expected to be moving through the ports for some years to come. Some berths have a very low utilisation. This has caused wharfage rates and other port charges in Tasmania to be amongst the highest in Australia. There has been a failure to co-ordinate the new investment proposals of the Tasmanian Marine Boards.
With existing vessels, and vessels on order, the most economic means of moving goods by sea between the mainland and places in northern and north-western Tasmania will he by the continued use of the pons of Bell Bay, Devonport and Burnie. The port of Hobart also has an essential role to play in the interstate movement of general cargo.
The services provided by the Tasmanian Railways to carry goods moving interstate were found to be less than efficient, due to the rundown state of the track, the continuing use of obsolete equipment and a failure to rationalise freight operations.
The Commission gained the impression that Tasmanian exporters who move their goods by air pay charges that are no higher, and probably lower, than the charges for moving similar goods by air over comparable distances on the mainland.
Investigation of the comparative economic cost of moving goods over various routes and by alternative transport modes between Hobart and Melbourne revealed that the direct sea movement was cheaper and more efficient than by a combined sea-road or sea-rail movement.
The Commission found that the average door-to-door charge in the March quarter 197S for the surface movement, north and south, of almost every non-bulk good between places in Tasmania and places on the mainland was higher than the charge for moving similar goods over comparable distances by road and rail on the mainland. Largely due to the freezing of A.N.L.’s charges for moving most general cargo northbound from Tasmania, the excess transport charges on imports were found to be higher than on exports. The excess transport charges for moving refrigerated cargoes from Tasmania were found to be significantly higher than the excess charges for moving most dry cargoes.
Some of the reasons why the charges for moving most goods between Tasmania and the mainland are higher than the comparable mainland charges were found to be: included in the charge for moving goods by sea arc the costs of two intermodal transfers at sea terminals which do not form pan of the direct road or rail linehaul on the mainland; the need for more consolidation when goods were moved by sea; the greater emphasis placed on the space occupied by low density cargo moved by sea in setting sea freight rates than in determining charges for the movement of similar goods by road or rail; and costs for the sea linehaul have been rising more rapidly than the costs for road and rail linehaul on the mainland.
The Commission found that many Tasmanian firms producing for export to the mainland were more concerned by the unreliability of the shipping services than by having to meet excess transport charges. However, it was only rarely that a Tasmanian firm said that transport charges were not a matter of concern.
The main advantages of locating in Tasmania mentioned by Tasmanian exporters were: a more stable workforce; relatively cheaper hydro-electric power; cheaper land for industrial and commercial purposes: an abundant supply of fresh water; and a very fertile soil with a more assured rainfall than on the mainland.
Disadvantages in relation to transport from locating in Tasmania were stated to include: the inherent unreliability of the shipping services due primarily to industrial stoppages, and the threat of industrial stoppages; the time taken to transport goods to the mainland, resulting in some loss of sales and reduced profits; excess transport charges for moving goods to the mainland and on imported raw materials; more damage to goods in transit when moved by sea than when moved by road or rail; and higher inventory costs in respect of both imported materials and finished products.
Firms, mainly subsidiaries of mainland producers, who had recently ceased producing in Tasmania and other firms who had been seriously considering producing in Tasmania, but had decided not to proceed, were almost unanimous in saying that the uncertainty of transport and excess transport charges were not the main reason for their decisions to withdraw or not to proceed.
Average retail prices in Hobart, Launceston, Devonport and Burnie are a few per cent higher than in Melbourne and Sydney.
Investigations carried out by the Commission brought to light that Tasmanian consumers and users of a wide range of items imported from the mainland, including most consumer goods, building materials and equipment, the smaller varieties of agricultural equipment, motor cars and some raw materials used in production obtained considerable relief from excess transport charges through the practice of most national manufacturers and distributors on the mainland of equalising the prices they charge for their goods delivered to Australian capital cities.
The Commission found widespread concern in Tasmania at the relatively high cost of sea and air passenger fares between Tasmania and the mainland. These fares are consistently higher than the fares for travelling over similar distances by road and rail on the mainland. 2.2 The Recommendations
The recommendations made in the report are set out below. Reference to detailed discussion in subsequent chapters is indicated in brackets. 2.2.1 Shipping
That ANL be asked to carry out as expeditiously as possible a study of- the cost of moving general cargo between a port in Westernport Bay and a wharf in Devonport in a Pure Ro-Ro vessel that completes the round trip in 24 hours as compared with the cost of moving the same cargo between Webb Dock and Devonport in a Searoader or the Melbourne Trader.
That, if the study reveals that a Pure Ro-Ro service between Westernport Bay and Devonport should be more efficient and cheaper, the Ministry of Transport be asked to carry out a study of relative cost of door-to-door movement of goods between places in Victoria and places in northern Tasmania over this route on its own wheels as compared with cargo boxes or on flats in Ro-Ro vessels from Webb Dock.
That, if the foregoing studies show that it would be more efficient and cheaper to move cargo by Pure Ro-Ro from Westernport than Ro-Ro from Webb Dock, consideration be given to the design, speed and capacity of a Pure Ro-Ro vessel suited to trans-Bass operations. (Chapter 6, Section 6.10.1)
That, if a fast cargo Pure Ro-Ro service is introduced between Melbourne and northern Tasmania, the Tasmanian terminal be located at Devonport. (Chapter 7, Section 7.9.4)
That an in-depth investigation be carried out into all aspects of the provision of a rail ferry service for the carriage of goods and livestock on Tasmanian rail wagons between Westernport Bay and Devonport. (Chapter 6. Section 6.10.3.)
That, if it is decided to introduce a rail ferry service between Westernport Bay and northern Tasmania, the Tasmanian terminal be located at Devonport. (Chapter 7. Section 7.9.4)
That the future sea passenger service between Tasmania and the mainland be provided by two vessels operating between Westernport Bay and Burnie. Features of the service would be: return crossing in 24 hours; daylight passenger service; and express cargo service by night. (Chapter 6. Section 6.10.4)
That, if a fast daylight passenger service and return cargo service by night is to be introduced between Westernport Bay and Burnie, consideration be given as to whether the Ocean Wharf at Burnie be upgraded. (Chapter 7, Section 7.9.4)
That ANL be permitted to undertake the booking of cargo carried in its vessels in the coastal shipping services, and he encouraged to do so. (Chapter 6, Section 6. 1 1 .2 )
That all replacement pallets for use in the Tasmanian trades be constructed on the 1 100mm x 1 100mm basis. (Chapter 4, Section 4.4)
That a meeting be convened of all interested parties to consider the practicability of establishing a pool of cargo units of standard size, and its contribution to improved efficiency. ( Chapter 4, Section 4.7 ) 2.2.2 Ports
That the Tasmanian Government be requested to consider setting up a central port authority to co-ordinate future port development. (Chapter 7, Section 7. 10.3 )
That the Tasmanian Government be requested to consider, in regard to the port of Stanley: that the Marine Boards of Burnie and Circular Head he amalgamated; and that the port of Stanley be closed to Ro-Ro vessels. (Chapter 7, Section 7.11) 2.2.3 Government Owned Services
That operators of Government owned services be required as quickly as practicable to charge economic freight rates. (Chapter II, Section 11.4)
That the level of charges for the rail movement in Tasmania of all goods moving interstate be increased to, at least, double its present level; or as an alternative
That interstate goods moved by rail between places south of parallel of latitude 42 degrees south, and Northern Tasmanian ports be made inelegible for the direct transport assistance proposed in Chapter I S. (Chapter 8, Section 8.7.3 )
That, until such time as a more efficient sea/passenger service is introduced for the Bass Strait crossing, the Commonwealth Government increase its subsidy to $2 million per annum on condition that: the Empress of Australia makes three return trips per week; and
ANL increase fares and charges to rates, which when account is taken of the subsidy, are economic. ( Chapter 16, Section 16.12) 2.2.4 Transport Assistance Schemes
That the Commonwealth Government offer direct financial assistance to Tasmanian consignors of most goods bought for use or exported for sale on the Mainland. The assistance would be confined to merchandise moving interstate from Tasmania by sea in Ro-Ro or conventional vessels or by air (i.e. it would not apply to the interstate movement of goods in bulk ships).
That the date of effect of the new scheme be in mid- 1976. (Chapter 15, Section 15.8)
That the level ofrates be reviewed either annually or biennially, possibly by the Interstate Commission. (Chapter 15, Section 15.14)
That the Commonwealth Government consider whether an offer of direct assistance should be made to Tasmanian consignors who ship their goods from Stanley to Melbourne if both the port of Stanley and the existing shipping service continue to be subsidised by the Tasmanian Government. (Chapter 7, Section 7. 1 1 )
That the Commonwealth Government offer assistance: in the case of air travel between Melbourne and Flinders Island- of the order of $10 on the single fare for an adult; in the case of air travel between Melbourne and King Island- of the order of $7.50 on the single fare for an adult, on condition that air fares to and from the Island charged by licensed operators be approved by the Commonwealth Government. (Chapter 17, Section 17.6.2)
That investigations be pursued forthwith, with a view to offering financial assistance to producers who use imported materials and equipment which are not price equalised by Mainland distributors. (Chapter 15, Section 15.8)
– A copy of the full report will be placed in the Parliamentary Library for study by honourable senators and honourable members.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
Debate (on motion by Mr Morris) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Ellicott, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to make the legislative provision necessary to enable a simplification to be effected in the method of citation of Commonwealth Acts that have been amended. Under the present system, when an Act is amended, it is given a new citation which includes a reference to the year in which the amendment is made. For example, when the Customs Act 1901-1973 was amended in 1974, it was given a new citation and became known at the Customs Act 1901-1974, and all references to that Act made in other Acts after 1974 would refer to it by this new doubleyear citation. Under the proposed new system, the original short title of an Act, for example ‘Customs Act 1901 ‘, will continue notwithstanding amendments of the Act, but, when used in other Acts, will be construed as including references to the original Act as amended or reenacted from time to time.
The present system was presumably intended to put people on notice that the Act in question has been amended and to indicate the year of the last amending Act. However its usefulness in this respect breaks down because references to Acts in other Acts and documents that are up to date references when made soon become out of date and can be positively misleading. The present system causes difficulties both for the practising legal profession and for the Parliamentary Counsel and other government lawyers. For example, it is not easy for a solicitor drafting a private document to ascertain quickly and with certainty the very latest citation of a Commonwealth Act and, if he uses an out of date citation, the interpretation of the document could be affected in a way that he does not intend. Similar difficulties can arise in respect of court documents. It is true that it is sometimes necessary to refer to an Act as amended and in force at a particular time. Under the new system this can be done by suitable words, for example, by referring to ‘ the Customs Act 1901, as in force as amended at the date of this agreement’. The profession in the two most populous States is already familiar, in dealing with State Acts, with the system now proposed for Commonwealth Acts. As I am proposing that the new system commence on 1 July 1976, the profession will have ample notice of the change.
I am satisfied that the new system will avoid technical problems in the Office of Parliamentary Counsel and will save a really substantial amount of checking work and risk of error in that Office and in the other legislative drafting and publications establishment in my Department. The technical problems can become acute when several Bills amending the one Act are before Parliament at the same time. The new system will also save a substantial amount of checking work on the part of the Clerk of this House and the Clerk of the Senate.
Double-year citations are not used in Canada, New Zealand or South Africa and are not generally used in the United Kingdom. In Australia they are not used in the legislation of New South Wales, Victoria or Tasmania. New South Wales did use double-year citations, but abandoned them in 1969. Double-year citations have never been used in the case of Commonwealth Statutory Rules. In the case of Northern Territory Ordinances, they were abandoned in 1972. As regards Australian Capital Territory Ordinances, I propose to approve a similar change in practice.
I would emphasise that, despite the change, every amending Act will continue to list in a footnote all the previous amending Acts, and that every reprint of an Act as amended will show the date as at which the reprint is prepared and will list all amending Acts in force up to that date. There are, of course, innumerable existing references in Acts to other Acts by the use of double-year citations. It is not proposed to alter these references except when the provisions in which they occur are being amended for other reasons, but the Bill before the House will ensure that these references will continue to be effective.
I turn now to the provisions of the Bill. Clause 4 will amend the Acts Interpretation Act so as to provide, in effect, that a reference in an Act to another Act by its original short title, for example ‘Customs Act 1901 ‘, is to be construed, except so far as the contrary intention appears, as including a reference to that other Act as amended or re-enacted from time to time. The provision also covers references to Acts by an altered short title, so as to take account of changes in the names of Acts, for example the change of name of the Australian Broadcasting Act to the Broadcasting and Television Act.
Under the present system, by virtue of the Amendments Incorporation Act, where an Act has been given a double-year citation, the short title of the amended Act is deemed to have been amended accordingly. The result is that at present the short titles of almost all amended Acts contain references to 2 years, for example, ‘ Customs Act 1 90 1 - 1 974 ‘. Clause 6 will bring the short titles into the new form by omitting the reference to the second year. A few short titles that contain the word ‘Acts’ are specially dealt with in the clause. Clause 5 will make consequential amendments to the Amendments Incorporation Act. These amendments are of a technical nature and are more suitable to be dealt with in the Committee stage of the Bill than at the second reading stage. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Lionel Bowen) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Howard, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Government believes in effective Trade Practices legislation. That has been stated time and time again. Free and fair competition is a basic tenet of a free enterprise economy. The complexities of the market place have required successive governments to produce complex legislation to maintain that free and fair competition. However, complex legislation must always be kept under close review to ensure that the legal requirements and procedures always work efficiently and equitably in the public interest. For this reason the Government is conducting a general review of the Trade Practices Act. That review is a matter of high priority in my portfolio. Details of that review will be made known very soon. In the meantime, there arc some parts of the Act which need changing immediately. This Trade Practices Amendment Bill makes those changes.
Firstly, the Bill amends the Trade Practices Act to make it clear that governments have the right to make public interest submissions to the Trade Practices Commission on authorisation applications under consideration by that body. The Commission will then be required by the existing provisions of the Act to consider those submissions together with all other submissions by interested parties. Both Federal and State governments will have the right to make such submissions. The position will then be analogous to wage determinations by the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. Secondly, the Bill deals with the relationship between the Trade Practices Act and the foreign takeovers legislation. The Trade Practices Act presently provides for special treatment of takeovers to which the Companies (Foreign Take-overs) Act 1972-1974 applies.
The Bill which I have now placed before this House discontinues that special treatment. It provides for all companies, whether domestic or foreign, to be subject to the same rules regarding the anti-competitive aspects of their takeover proposals. Foreign companies will be subject to additional requirements under the Companies (Foreign Take-overs) Act. The Government has taken this step because the previous arrangements for dealing with foreign takeovers gave foreign companies a favoured position under the
Trade Practices Act. As to their effect on competition, foreign takeovers appeared to be judged in the light of less strict criteria than domestic takeovers. Furthermore, the different requirements of the Companies (Foreign Takeovers) Act and the Trade Practices Act meant that foreign takeovers were not exposed to the same publicity as domestic takeovers. In many cases when a foreign and a domestic company were competing for the same target company, the differential treatment I have just mentioned handicapped the domestic company. That is, of course, incompatible with the policy of the Government towards foreign investment.
Thirdly, the Bill fills a gap in the present jurisdiction of the Industrial Court to deal with matters arising under the Trade Practices Act. For these matters, the Industrial Court is to be given the power to make declaratory judgments and to issue prerogative writs in the nature of prohibition, certiorari or mandamus. The difficulties caused by the omission of these powers became apparent early in the operation of the Trade Practices Act. Last year, actions seeking the making of a declaratory order were commenced in a State and a Territory Supreme Court. Those courts, or the High Court, then were the only courts with such jurisdiction. This is incongruous, since otherwise the focus of the Act is upon proceedings in the Industrial Court. The previous Government announced in July last year that it proposed to remedy this defect in the Act, but had not done so before the change of Government. The power of the Industrial Court to make these declaratory orders will not extend to the provisions of Divison 2 of Part V of the Act, which imply certain conditions and warranties into consumer transactions. Litigation relying upon these provisions was always intended to take place in courts other than the Industrial Court, and that position will not be altered.
The power to make declaratory orders will complement the existing procedures of the Act providing for clearance of certain restrictive trade practices. It will provide, in some cases, a procedure to obtain more certainty as to the operation of the Act. However, the exercise of the power will always be in the discretion of the court and will, of course, be subject to the restraints imposed by the constitutional requirements of the judicial power of the Commonwealth. Finally, the Bill makes certain other amendments to the Trade Practices Act, of a technical or consequential nature. I need not take up the time of the House describing all these matters. However, one matter cannot pass without comment. Most references in the Act to ‘the
Attorney-General’ are to be replaced by references to ‘the Minister’. This is, of course, a consequence of the present administrative arrangements of the Government.
The ministerial portfolio of Business and Consumer Affairs was created so that business regulation by the Federal Government could be co-ordinated and administered with a practical orientation. It seeks to avoid the costs and inefficiencies, both to business and to government, which flow from multiple government agencies operating independently of each other. The creation of this portfolio is, we believe, a real step forward in the administration of reasonable and practical business regulation. Honourable members will be aware that the pre-election policy statement of the coalition parties foreshadowed the elimination of the discretionary power now available to the Minister under section 90(9) of the Act to compel the Trade Practices Commission to authorise mergers. As also indicated in that pre-election statement, one of the items to be considered by the review is the operation of the provisions of the Act dealing with mergers. The Government intends that any amendments to the Act flowing from the general review are to be introduced during the Budget session this year. That will be the appropriate time to give attention to the implementation of our undertaking regarding the discretionary power under section 90. 1 commend this Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Young) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Howard, and read a first time.
– I move:
The Customs Tariff Amendment Bill 1976 now before the House proposes amendments to the Customs Tariff 1966-1974. The Bill, which contains 32 schedules, is necessary to enact tariff changes made since September 1974. All of the changes were incorporated in Customs Tariff Proposals Nos 1 to 6 1976 which I introduced into the Parliament earlier this session.
Honourable members will recall that at the time the proposals were introduced into the House I circulated a comprehensive summary in respect of each proposal which set out the nature of the changes in duty rates and the origin of each change. I have had prepared a consolidation of these summaries and copies may be obtained from the Bills and Papers Office. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Young) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Viner, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill provides for the payment of grants to the States for government and non-government schools in 1976. I recently foreshadowed the introduction of this Bill when introducing Bills relating to other sectors of education. The background to this Bill and aspects of it are common to the Bills introduced earlier for universities and colleges of advanced education.
In November of last year the Government, in its caretaker capacity, gave an undertaking to the States and non-government schools that financial assistance would be provided to institutions in 1976 on the basis announced by the previous Government. This Bill discharges that undertaking. It provides for programs estimated to cost $43 lm, which together with the funds that continue to be provided under the States Grants (Schools) Act passed by the Liberal-Country Party Government in 1972, make a total of $476m for the 1 976 calendar year. As part of the review of expenditure undertaken by the Government earlier this year, it was decided that because of the late start to the special projects program for 1976, it was doubtful whether all of the funds would be spent. Accordingly the sum available was reduced from $5.2m to $3.6m.
These grants are, in the main, expressed in June 1975 price levels and will be supplemented by amending legislation for subsequent movements in costs. The previous Government decided that the new triennium should be deferred for a year and that 1976 should be treated outside the normal triennial progression. This Bill gives effect to that decision.
The Government wants to make clear that the Bill now before the House is largely the product of decisions by the previous Government; future programs will be determined in the light of our appreciation of priorities affecting Australian schools. The Bill does however reflect our intention to depart from the recent trend towards centralism in the administration of schools. It is our aim to ensure, by consultation and co-operation with the States and other education authorities, that Commonwealth funds are made available in such a way as to reflect local priorities. To this end, the Schools Commission, in preparing its report to the Government for the proposed triennium 1977-79, has been consulting with the States and other authorities in order to take full account of the priorities and needs of the various education agencies.
The prorogation of Parliament in November 1975 made it impossible until now to introduce legislation to appropriate grants for 1976. To avoid impediments to the implementation of school programs pending passage of this Bill, special financial arrangements were made with the States by the caretaker Government. Accordingly, the Bill also provides for reimbursement of the States in respect of payments they have made under the special arrangements in the interim period.
As with the other education Bills I have already introduced, provision is made in this Bill for grants in relation to building and equipment projects to be met, if necessary, from the Loan Fund. There are to be 6 programs in 1976- general recurrent grants, disadvantaged schools, special education, services and development, special projects and capital grants.
It is the policy of this Government to establish as much flexibility and initiative as possible for systems and schools in using education grants. Decentralisation of decision-making is desirable to permit maximum responsiveness and local involvement in education. A capacity to re-order priorities as changing needs arise and to reallocate funds accordingly is an important characteristic of any organisation.
The Government supports increased autonomy in decision-making for all schools and greater involvement of the community associated with individual schools. We applaud the moves already made in this direction by some States and look forward to further development of this trend. We will continue co-operative discussions with systems on ways of increasing local decision-making for schools.
It has been possible to expand the definition of those who may participate in the in-service training and related activities to allow participation of parents and other citizens. The Government accepts that there will be a need for opportunities for many people to increase their knowledge and experience if there is to be genuine community participation and increased autonomy for schools, and hopes that funds will be used accordingly.
To give increased flexibility in the application of Commonwealth funds, the previous arrangements permitting transfer of funds have been extended and now allow for transfers of funds between elements of the capital program and other transfers between components within a specified program. Subject to agreement between the Commonwealth and the States, it is also possible that there be some reallocation between recurrent and capital funds and some reallocation between States.
There is a recognised need to inform this Parliament and the Australian people how moneys granted for education purposes are spent. This does not mean we need to have every small item of expenditure undertaken by States or by nongovernment schools reported. We do need, however, information which covers the main areas of expenditure and enables a proper assessment of progress made towards meeting the learning needs of children. Continuing assessment and evaluation of progress is essential to the proper determination of future levels and direction of funding. With this in mind, we have modified the accountability requirements so that States will report the major items of expenditure but will not have to provide reports in detail. Similarly, in the case of the non-government schools it it not our intent, under thus legislation, to call for accountability requirements beyond those which have been customary for some years.
I would also like to make it clear that the discretion which the Bill accords to the Commonwealth Minister in matters such as the declaration of disadvantaged schools and the classes of persons other than teachers who may take part in in-service training activities will be exercised in consultation with State Ministers. Following the application of grants under this legislation a report will be tabled in each House of the Parliament containing such information as is reasonable and practicable for the States to provide.
Debate (on motion by Mr Lionel Bowen) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Newman, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill represents the first step in the Government’s undertaking to increase social services pension and benefit rates under each 6 months in accordance with movements in the consumer price index. The main provisions of the Bill are as follows:
The proposed pension increases will flow on to recipients of sheltered employment allowances. Pensions and unemployment and sickness benefits were last increased in November 1975 when the Labor Government granted an increase based on the percentage increase in the consumer price index between the December quarter 1974 and the June quarter 1975. Labor then foreshadowed a further increase in the autumn of 1976 based on the increase in the CPI between the June and December quarters of 1975.
The increases now proposed honour the Liberal and National Country Party Government’s undertaking to maintain the real value of pensions by incorporating the full rise of 6.4 per cent in the CPI for the 6 months ended 3 1 December 1975. Contrary to some reports in the Press, pensioners will therefore receive the same percentage increase in their pensions as was recently granted to wage and salary earners. The proposed increases will be paid 6 months after the increases last granted by the Labor Governmentthat is, on 13 May for age invalid and wife’s pension, widow’s pension and supporting mother’s benefit. Increases in the rates of unemployment and sickness benefits will operate in respect of payments due on and after 1 May. While the figure for average weekly earnings for the December quarter 1975 is only an estimate, the indications are that seasonally adjusted for the June to December quarters it will increase by 6.2 per cent. The proposed pension and benefit increases are therefore keeping pace with movements in both the CPI and average weekly earnings.
Honourable members will recall that the Governor General in his Speech on 17 February said it is the Government’s immediate objective to bring inflation under control so that there can again be jobs for all who want to work. Unless inflation is brought under control there can be no genuine return to prosperity and no sound base for the Government to provide better and more effective assistance to the disadvantaged. In the meantime the Government is proceeding with a review of the income security system as a whole, including effectiveness of guaranteed minimum income proposals in overcoming poverty. In the course of this review a study will be made of all aspects of our pension and benefit programs with a view to ensuring that the amounts of pensions and benefits are determined and updated on a just and equitable basis.
I now give examples of some of the effects of the pension increases proposed in the Bill. The limits of income and property at which pensions cease to be payable will rise substantially. This will enable persons who are now excluded from pension entitlement to qualify for some payment for the first time. The limit of income which just precludes payment of a pension to a single person without children, and with no property affecting his pension, will be increased by twice the amount of the pension increase to $ 102.50 a week. If there is no other income, entitlement to some pension will remain until the value of that person’s assessable property for means test purposes reaches $53,700. For a married couple without children the equivalent limits of income and property will be $171.50 a week and $90,000 respectively.
A widow or supporting mother with one child and no property affecting her entitlement will qualify for some payment until her other income reaches $131.50 a week. Should her child be under 6 years of age or an invalid child requiring full time care the disqualifying limit will be $135.50 a week. Where there is no income affecting, a widow or supporting mother with one child may have property to the value of $59,460. If her child is under six or an invalid child requiring full time care she may have property to the value of $61,540 before entitlement is extinguished. There are various combinations of income and property between the figures I have quoted which will permit the payment of a full or part pension. It is anticipated that over 1.7 million social service pensioners and beneficiaries will benefit from the provisions in this Bill. The estimated cost of the proposals is $33m in 1975-76 and $2 17m in 1976-77. Increases in service pensions will involve an additional $2. 3m for 1975-76 and $l5.7m in 1976-77.
I now turn to the other provisions of this Bill. Honourable members will know that early this year the Government undertook a review of its spending programs in an endeavour to reduce administrative costs and government expenditure. A number of programs and items were reduced, deferred or abolished. One of the decisions taken by the Government was to abolish the funeral benefits scheme for pensioners; this will apply from the date of royal assent and involve a saving of $ 1.7m a year. Funeral benefits are payable at two rates-$20 and $40. The $20 benefit is payable to any person liable for the funeral costs of an age or invalid pensioner. The higher $40 benefit is payable to an age, invalid or widow pensioner, including a woman in receipt of supporting mother’s benefit, liable for the funeral costs of a spouse, a child or another pensioner. For these benefits the term pensioner means a person who is, or was, entitled to Commonwealth Government pensioner ‘fringe’ benefits; that is a person whose weekly income or means as assessed equivalent apart from his pension is less than $33 a week is single, or $57.50 if married. The number of funeral benefits granted during 1974-75 was 55 453. Of these, 27 351 were at $20 and 28 102 at $40.
The Government has decided that although the funeral benefit is to be abolished, the ‘double pension’ provisions will continue. The provisions enable the sum of the two pensions formerly payable to a married couple to be paid to the widow or widower for 12 weeks following the death of the pensioner spouse. This benefit was introduced in 1968. The purpose was to relieve the difficulty experienced by a surviving spouse in reducing household commitments and making the necessary readjustments following the loss of what could be nearly half the income previously coming into the home. In taking the decision on funeral benefits the Government was influenced by the fact that under the double pension provisions a surviving spouse may at present receive up to $25.75 a week over and above the pension ordinarily available to a widow or widower. This is the difference between the existing combined married rate of $64.50 and the single rate of $38.75 a week. Over a period of 12 weeks this extra payment amounts to $309. It might also be mentioned that the figure of $309 will rise to $327 when the increases proposed in the Bill come into operation. I might also point out that some 25 per cent of age pensioners are single and own their own homes. On the death of such pensioners, their estates would generally be sufficient to cover the funeral costs. In addition the $20 funeral benefit is often paid to people who are not pensioners and who may not be in need of this assistance.
Mr Deputy Speaker, the Bill contains two other provisions which I should mention. The Government is concerned that a few people, apparently encouraged by the administrative difficulties created for the Department of Social Security by the high level of unemployment, are attempting to defraud the Department by making multiple claims for unemployment benefit or drawing benefit while working. To discourage these practices the Bill proposes to increase the maximum penalty for offences against the Social Services Act from a fine of $100 to a fine of $500.
The final provision of the Bill follows from the Government’s decision to re-organise the National Employment and Training System. It is proposed to exclude as income for pension and unemployment and sickness benefit assessment purposes the training component of $23.40 a week and the living away from home allowance payable to full-time trainees under that system. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Keating) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Newman, and read a first time.
– I move:
The Bill amends the Repatriation Act and the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act. It gives effect to the Government’s proposals to update certain repatriation benefits in line with movements in the consumer price index. For some years, the main repatriation benefits have been increased twice a year and the policy of the Government to increase pensions twice a year in line with the consumer price index changes will ensure that repatriation pensioners are adequately compensated.
I shall now outline the specific increases proposed in the Bill. The rates of payment of the various pensions referred to are in weekly amounts. The special T & PI rate is payable to those veterans who, because of Service-related incapacity, are totally and permanently incapacitated to such an extent as to be precluded from earning other than a negligible percentage of a living wage. This rate is also payable to the Service blinded, to certain double amputees, to certain sufferers of pulmonary tuberculosis and to those temporarily totally incapacitated because of Service-related incapacity.
About 17 600 pensioners at present receive the special T & PI rate pension and will benefit from the Government’s proposal to increase it by $4.75 to $78.85, at an estimated cost of $627,000 for the remainder of this financial year and $4.067m for a full financial year.
The intermediate rate is at present paid to about 1850 veterans who, because of Servicerelated incapacity, are able to work only parttime or intermittently. The Bill provides for this rate to be increased by $3.25 to $54.30. The cost of the proposal is estimated at $48,000 for the remainder of this financial year and $3 1 3,000 for a full financial year.
About 180 000 veterans receive a general rate pension and will benefit from the proposal to increase this pension by $1.80 to $29.80. There will be proportionate increases for rates lower than 100 per cent. The cost of this proposal will be about $ 1.082m for the remainder of this financial year and $7.033m for a full year. These veterans, who have not received an increase since May 1975, are not necessarily prevented from engaging in employment, but their Servicerelated incapacities can, and in many cases do, restrict their earning capacity, as well as their full enjoyment of life. The war and defence widow’s pension rate is payable where a veteran’s death is related to his service or where he was, at the time of his death, receiving or would have been entitled to receive the special T & PI rate disability pension. There are about 50 000 widows at present receiving this pension. The Bill proposes an increase of $2.50 to $4 1 .25 in this rate of pension. The cost of this proposal is estimated at $ 1.003m for the remainder of this financial year and $6.520m for a full year.
Other repatriation pensioners who are to receive an increase are Service pensioners who will receive the same increases as have been announced for age and invalid pensioners under the Social Services Act- $2.50 a week for the single Service pensioner and $2.00 a week for each of a married couple. This will benefit 89 000 veterans and 40 000 wives of veterans, at a cost of $2.4 16m for the remainder of this year and $ 15.704m in a full year. It is proposed that the increased rates will apply from 6 May 1976.
This Bill is the first legislative initiative by this Government in the repatriation field. I can assure honourable members that it is the first of many. The Government now has before it for consideration the report of the independent inquiry into the repatriation system by Mr Justice Toose. It has requested the views of major ex-service organisations on the recommendations in that report and will be taking those views into account in arriving at its final decision on those matters. When applying the necessary financial restrictions which it had to face when coming into office, the Government made sure that there would be no reduction in or loss of benefits for disabled veterans and for the dependants of deceased veterans.
Since being appointed Minister, I have taken steps to study the repatriation system very closely. I have visited all branches of the Department and its various hospitals and institutions and have been impressed by the calibre and the sincerity of the staff, whose responsibility it is to deliver these repatriation services to veterans. The repatriation system has been endorsed consistently since World War I by successive governments of many shades of political opinion and has been progressively developed to the stage at which we see it today. This Bill reflects this Government’s endorsement of the system and reflects the Government’s belief that the main pensions and allowances should be kept under review to ensure that they do not fall by the wayside as a result of inflation. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Keating) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 4 March on motion by Mr Howard:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Mr Deputy Speaker, may I have the indulgence of the House to raise a point of procedure on this legislation. Before the debate is resumed on this Bill I would like to suggest that it may suit the convenience of the House to have a general debate covering this Bill and the Phosphate Fertilizers Bounty Amendment Bill as they are associated measures. Separate questions will, of course, be put on each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate. I suggest therefore, Mr Deputy Speaker, that you permit the subject matter of both Bills to be discussed in this debate.
-Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate concerning the 2 measures? There being no objection, I will allow that course to be followed.
-The purpose of the legislation is to reintroduce the phosphate fertiliser bounty for a period from 1 1 February 1976 to 30 June 1977. The Opposition opposes this legislation. The former Labor Government decided to remove the superphosphate bounty because the costs to revenue were more than could be justified in the light of the benefits flowing from the application of the subsidy. The cost to revenue in the first half of 1976 will be approximately $ 17.4m or $30m in a full year at present rates of usage. In the last full year of operation of the bounty the cost to revenue was $67m. The subsidy is an across-the-board type which fails to discriminate in favour of those most in need. Approximately 70 per cent of the subsidy goes to only 20 per cent of the farmers. The reintroduction of the subsidy at $11.81 per tonne, which is the dollar value of the subsidy fixed in 1969, represents now a much smaller proportion of the cost of superphosphate than it did then. In January 1970 the average bulk price of single superphosphate per tonne was $ 1 4.8 1 compared to a bounty of $1 1.81. By January 1975 the average bulk price of single supherphosphate per tonne was $54.45. Consequently this legislation to reintroduce the subsidy is only of token assistance, with the $11.81 representing something less than 20 per cent of the cost of superphosphate. Obviously it will have little effect upon usage rates, as the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) and the Government well know.
The reasons given by the Industries Assistance Commission at page 4 of the interim report of 3 1 July 1975 are weak and should give little comfort to those farmers who believe that the final report due in June this year will recommend the retention or even the upgrading of the bounty. Let mc quote a few lines from the Commission’s reasons:
On balance it would be reasonable to give using industries the benefit of the doubt pending completion of its inquiry. It does this notwithstanding its view that, at this stage of the inquiry, the assistance could be achieved at lower cost through more direct measures.
I shall be surprised if the final report does not recommend the discontinuation of the subsidy. and I shall be further surprised if the Government continues with the farce. Under Treasury pressure during Budget discussions it is highly likely that the Minister for Primary Industry, Mr Sinclair, and his leader, Mr Anthony, will cave in and drop the pretence altogether. If these Ministers were really interested in effective help for farmers they would be pursuing more substantial and progressive assistance schemes instead of hitching their wagons to this ineffective, discredited though nevertheless emotive subsidy.
The farce of this bounty is perhaps best illustrated by figures released recently by the South Australian Minister for Agriculture, Mr Brian Chatterton, M.L.A. They showed that of the 25 052 farmers receiving the subsidy in South Australia only $141.72 on average per head of subsidy went to 18 500 of these farmers. Forty farmers received an average of $8,857.50 per head. Ten received $17,715 per head, and 2 received $59,050 average per head. The 18 500 used only 12 tonnes of superphosphate on average, which is a different picture from the 40 tonnes on average spoken of in official Australian Government documents as an indication of the average usage in South Australia. Naturally government documents referring to average figures for usage rates in all the other States fail to take account of the fact that the majority of producers are receiving less than the average amount. Obviously those most able to afford superphosphate application will receive most of the bounty. Those who use the most in terms of tonnage receive a commensurate wad of subsidy at the public expense. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) is among those people receiving something like $9,500 per annum. He is receiving that for his properties in Victoria. Other Ministers in the Government are in a similar situation, much to their eternal discredit. Assistance to the needy is reduced by these people who vote themselves these large slabs of public funds by continuing this subsidy.
Commissioner Robinson, in his dissenting opinion in the IAC report, points out that the bounty is an inequitable and ineffective means of tackling the urgent and varied problems faced by many rural producers. He said, amongst other things:
Since the generalised nature of the bounty obscures the pattern of recipients it will also tend to obscure the legitimate claims of many farm sectors for immediate and effective assistance.
Of course members of the National Country Party and the Liberal Party care little of this. They are more interested in token panacea than they are in providing effective help for farmers in trouble.
The Australian Labor Party, in government, by contrast, did look at ways of trying to provide assistance by way of a superphosphate bounty to the many smaller producers who needed help. It did this by looking at a scheme to limit the tonnage which would be subsidised, to ensure that nearly all the funds went to the smaller farmers. It was advised, however, by the Department of Agriculture and the Bureau of Agricultural Economics- I quote directly from documents:
In the light of these considerations, the subsidy was removed and has now been reintroduced in only the most token way. Farm management adjustment changes that may have been affected since the termination of the bounty in 1974 will now be thrown completely out by this interim restoration. As Mr Robinson pointed out, a selective intensification of agricultural extension activity in the area of fertiliser application levels may be of more real assistance to a wider group of .farmers than would be a bounty based solely on fertiliser consumption. The bounty has no doubt contributed to wastage of superphosphate which could and should be corrected. The reintroduction of the superphosphate bounty by this legislation is a cynical attempt by the Government to appear genuinely interested in the plight of small needy farmers, when in fact this is not so. The legislation is regressive in its operation and is not deserving of support.
By contrast, the second Bill in this cognate debate, the Nitrogenous Fertiliser Subsidy Amendment Bill 1976, is in a different category. This Bill extends the nitrogenous fertiliser subsidy for a period of 12 months. The Bill does this so the Government, to paraphrase the words in the second reading speech of the Minister for Primary Industry, can have time to make up its mind. Obviously on this issue the Government does not have a policy. During the election campaign the Minister for Primary Industry said in unequivocal terms that the Government would continue the subsidy at its present level indefinitely. It does not honour that undertaking. It is now hanging fire for 12 months to decide whether to phase out the subsidy. So much for Country Party commitments. On the other hand, the Opposition supports the legislation to extend the subsidy, as it intended to do when in government. Dr Patterson, a former Labor Minister for Agriculture, had a submission before the Labor Cabinet to extend the subsidy at the time of the Government’s dismissal in November last year.
The Opposition believes that there is a distinction between the equity in the application of the nitrogenous substances bounty and that of the superphosphate bounty. While the superphosphate bounty applies a subsidy on the basis of tonnages, as the nitrogenous bounty does, the disparity in acreages spread for farms using superphosphate is far greater than in farms using nitrogen, such as in the sugar industry. While the South Australian figures demonstrate the disparity in tonnages and the inequity of the superphosphate bounty, the horticultural industries generally have more uniformity of farm acreages. In the sugar industry, where there is controlled planting, disparity in the size of farms is nowhere as great as it is in farming generally. This means that the farm average spread of nitrogen is nearer the spread on the majority of farms. There is quite a distinction between average spread and the spread on the majority of properties. Obviously the bounty is applied more fairly and equitably. Besides this, the total value of the subsidy is $12m per annum, where the superphosphate bounty is estimated, at current rates of usage, at $30m, though it was $67m in the last full year of the subsidy.
The reference to the IAC on manufactured nitrogenous substances was forwarded to the Commission by the former Prime Minister in June 1974. The Industries Assistance Commission was asked to report whether a subsidy should be available from the Australian Government and the amount, duration and consequences of the subsidy. The Commission pointed out at page 1 of its report that its analyses came largely under 3 headings. The first was the effect on the efficiency of resource use of continuing or terminating the subsidy. The second was the justification for the subsidy as a means of income support. The third was whether adjustment to change would be facilitated by the subsidy. While these criteria may be valid, the Opposition believes that other vital factors must be considerednamely, the equity in the application of the subsidy, as I have mentioned, and the desirability of maintaining the nitrogenous substances industry to ensure the continued growth of the sugar industry and other horticultural industries independent of supply fluctuations from the major nitrogenous substance exporting countries such as Japan and the United States.
Nitrogenous substances are the by-product of certain gases and substances. Natural gas, refined gas and naptha are used in the production of urea, sulphate of ammonia and aqua ammonia in an industry which exclusively caters for the horticultural industries. From the time of the introduction of the subsidy in 1966 there has been a significant change in the market situation in Australia, where the local industry now supplies most of the domestic requirements. By contrast, in 1966-67 imports made up the major share of domestic consumption. Obviously there has been an upgrading of local capacity since that time which should now not be put at risk.
Much of the local industry’s protection against dumped imports and genuine imports stems from the operations of the Nitrogenous Fertilizers Subsidy Act. Under the Act local producers are limited in the prices they can charge for these substances. The subsidy is then deducted by local producers from the prices charged to their customers. Subsidy is available on imports only if the local manufacturers arc not prepared to sell their products on terms equal to or as favourable as those which could be obtained on undumped imports.
So to use the Industry Assistance Commission’s own words; ‘if Australian manufacturers offer fertilisers equivalent to those imported at prices no higher than the prices of the undumped imported fertilisers, the purchaser pays less for local fertiliser than for imports by at least the amount of the subsidy’. Therefore the local industry is protected by the operation of this Subsidy Act, enabling it to satisfy most domestic requirements. If the subsidy were terminated presumably imports at undumped prices would eat into domestic production, leading to an eventual higher domestic price, making the local producer again less competitive, leading to a further diminution in domestic production. While the Commission argues that export markets would be available for any excess local producers may produce to keep their unit costs down- I am not convinced that imports are more than competitive with local produce in Australia- why should it follow that Australian exports could be competitive on export markets against undumped produce or indeed against dumped produce?
I believe the Opposition is on firm ground in arguing that the cessation of the nitrogenous subsidy would eventually lead to the elimination of the local nitrogen industry and would put the future of the Australian sugar industry and other horticultural industries at the whim and caprice of other major nitrogen exporting countries.
Japan and the United States could, if they wished, hold the Australian sugar industry to ransom. Towns like Cairns, Ingham, Innisfail, Tully, Mackay, Ayr and Bundaberg, could be in jeopardy if the Australian sugar industry was so affected. Besides this argument, there is the quite valid argument that although the subsidy costs revenue $12m, the savings in foreign exchange would be quite considerable and worth saving, let alone the foreign earnings raised from sugar production and wheat production. Also, if the Government were to drop the nitrogen subsidy and decide to protect the local nitrogen industry with a tariff, not only would farmers have to pay more for nitrogen but it would not be long before domestic prices nudged up just a little below the imported price plus tariff. Therefore, it would still be better to stay with the present bounty instead of instituting a specific scheme for the protection of the local nitrogen industry.
The Opposition accepts the Commission’s view on the maintenance of existing application rates. We believe its conclusions are quite correct. We agree with the Commission’s view that the subsidy is an inefficient means of basic income support. We do not demur from that. But these, as I said earlier, are not the only considerations. It is for the reasons I have outlined that on balance the Opposition must pass over the Commission’s view and opt for the maintenance of the subsidy. The Opposition supports this legislation and urges the Government to make up its mind on the issue. With such little resolve on the part of the Minister for Primary Industry and the Country Party, who could blame the Treasury for believing the subsidy should go in the next Budget.
-Listening to the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating), I think we are all well aware of the farce of the Australian Labor Party pretending to represent rural interests, because I think his speech today demonstrated very clearly that Party’s lack of interest and lack of appreciation of rural problems. The Phosphate Fertilizers Bounty Amendment Bill is based on an Industries Assistance Commission report tabled in January 1975. During the 11 months that the Labor Party remained in office after that time it refused to take any notice of the report or any action on it. It also ignored other reports. There was a lack of concern by the Labor Party for the rural sector. Not only the interim report on the superphosphate bounty but a number of other studies were put before the Labor Party, but it did not act on them. Let me mention several of them to point up the pretence and falsity of the remarks of the honourable member for Blaxland.
A report on assistance to new land farms in Western Australia was presented on 21 May 1975. No action was taken on that report by the Labor Government. Contrast that with the reply given by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) in this House yesterday that in the short time the Liberal and National Country Parties have been in government action has already been taken on certain aspects of that report. The difference is very clear. A report on the elimination of tuberculosis and brucellosis was presented on 10 April 1975. During the months subsequent to that absolutely no action was taken by the Labor Party on it. It is false for honourable members opposite to say that they seriously believe in action in this regard. All their words about observing Industries Assistance Commission recommendations have proved to be quite false. A report on rural income fluctuations came down at the end of June 1975. Again no action was taken by the Labor Party on it. I think the honourable member for Blaxland should be made to change his views that the Labor Party appreciates rural problems.
In fact, the whole term of the Labor Government proved quite conclusively that on the basis of bias and prejudice it was prepared to attack the rural sector and all people who live in country areas. It refused to take action on the beef industry. As I have shown, it used the IAC as a ‘too hard’ basket to avoid making decisions in the rural sector. Despite glowing promises concerning rural credit in 1972, no action was taken. There is a demonstrated need for action in that area. The fiasco with the reserve price for wool also gives an appreciation of the lack of concern by the Labor Party for the rural sector.
– Tell us what you are going to do with the reserve price. Do not just mouth platitudes.
– We have given a guarantee at the current rate, which you were not prepared to do. All you did was destroy any confidence in the industry by reducing the reserve price from 250c per kilo clean to 200c per kilo clean. If any other action could have reduced confidence in the wool industry more than the action taken by the Labor Party I would like to hear of it. Quite clearly, action has to be taken in the wool industry in u number of areas, particularly the level of the reserve price.
A number of other attacks were made on people in country areas through increased telephone charges, fuel costs, postage rates and so on. Overall the rural sector was very much damaged by the complete lack of economic management by the Labor Party. Now the honourable member for Blaxland is quite prepared to pretend that the Labor Government took an interest in agriculture. The very fact that he occupies the shadow portfolio that he does proves quite conclusively that the Labor Party has no genuine interest. The Labor Government was ready to attack the rural sector and use it as a means of paying for its extravagant policies elsewhere. However, as time went on it was not even prepared to try to account for its lavish policies or to pay for them. Too often it accepted at face value the policy outlined by its Prime Minister or the fatuous view taken by him that the rural sector had never had it so good. Nothing could be further from the truth. It was only too happy to impose a number of penalties on the rural sector. In the period from 1945-46 to 1973-74, in fact wheat growers subscribed to the home consumption price of wheat something like $409m- that is, the loss incurred by the growers in providing the home consumption price and subtracting the Commonwealth contribution to the wheat stabilisation scheme. We noted even in the wheat stabilisation Bills which came into the House several weeks ago that whilst the overseas price for wheat is some $120 per tonne the home consumption price is less than $100 per tonne; and that is a substantial contribution by wheat growers to a lower home consumption price for wheat.
The Labor Party goes along with the proposition that the rural sector is still prosperous. It refuses to face up to the true position of agriculture at this stage; that is, that whilst the sugar and grain industries are prosperous, there are a number of other areas, particularly the grazing and dairying areas as well as the fruit industries, which are in real difficulties. We have realised that action will be necessary in the future in relation to beef and wool. Even though the grain and sugar industries may be prosperous at this time, substantial cost pressures are building up in those industries and they will be affected.
One of the criticisms levelled against the Phosphate Fertilizers Bounty Amendment Bill, which deals with the superphosphate bounty, is that the benefit will not go to the people in need. If one analyses the categories of people to whom it will be going, one finds that roughly 66 per cent of the superphosphate is used in the pastoral industries, and the pastoral industries, both beef and wool, are in difficulties at this stage. In fact, less than 20 per cent of the superphosphate is used in the production of wheat. The dairying industry and other areas in substantial need also use some 20 per cent of the total production of superphosphate. In particular I should like to point out the position of new land farmers in Western Australia. There are some 3000 of these in Western Australia, constituting something like 15 per cent of the total farm population in Western Australia. The Industries Assistance Commission report on new land farms states:
The significance of the cost of fertiliser to new land farms was highlighted by the BAE which found from its case studies of new land farms in the southern areas of the Eastern region that fertiliser costs ‘represented 3S.6 per cent of total costs in 1966-67 and subsequently fell . . . to 27.7 per cent in 1972-73’.
In 1966-67 prices for superphosphate were very much lower than today. It then goes on to point out that as a basis of comparison established farms had costs representing some 13 per cent of total costs in relation to superphosphate. If we look at the whole situation of real farm incomethese figures are deflated by the consumer price index- we find that in 1975-76 real farm incomes are predicted to amount to $854m. That compares sadly with the figure of $ 1,367m in 1972-73 and $ 1,930m in 1973-74. The figure is even worse than the $925m for 1974-75. The reasons for that are clear. It can be attributed to rising prices and also falling markets in a number of areas.
Whilst farm costs were reasonably constant in the period from 1965-66 to 1971-72, they have almost doubled since then. In fact, some increases have been as high as 37 per cent per annum. It is clear that adjustment in agriculture is sadly needed and adjustment is needed in a number of other areas. In particular I refer to rural credit, in relation to which action has to be taken. This Government has pledged itself to take action in that area. The dairy industry obviously needs action to be taken in relation to it. That is an area which was completely ignored by the previous Government, but it is an area which will not be ignored by this Government. The fruit growing industry needs reconstruction and rebuilding in various ways, and that has to be effectively tackled by this Government. At least this Government has shown that it is ready to provide short term assistance to the beef industry.
Obviously many adjustments have to be made in relation to agriculture at this stage, and many of those adjustments will be very significant indeed. Agriculture throughout the years has shown a readiness to adjust and finance its adjustments from its own resources. However, the size of the adjustments necessary to cater for current prices and conditions are well beyond the resources of agriculture. There is a need for governments to come in, to plan and to help these adjustments to take place. Subsidies, such as the ones about which we are talking now, are temporary, and they buy time to allow the planning and the implementation of aid in order that agriculture can adjust to the conditions now pertaining. As I said, agriculture in the past has normally taken these functions of adjustment upon itself. They are too great today to be carried out without some help from the Government. I think 2 passages from the interim report on superphosphate of the Industries Assistance Commission are particularly relevant in this regard. The report states: … the Commission considers that the question of government assistance for the consumption of phosphatic fertilisers should be examined with respect to the effects on the efficiency of resource use, adjustment to change, and income transfers within the community. At this stage the Commission has not reached a conclusion concerning the desirability or otherwise of assistance for the consumption of phosphatic fertilisers in the longer term.
Later in its report the Commission says:
The Commission believes that problems of adjustment and welfare are, in general, best dealt with by specific measures rather than by input subsidies. Nevertheless, such subsidies can provide some benefits, and may be of considerable importance for some people.
Having regard to the recent developments in price relativities, the uncertainties to which they give rise, and their destabilising effects on incomes in several rural industries (including some which are relatively low-cost), the Commission will recommend restoration of the bounty which lapsed at the end of 1 974, as a short-term measure.
In effect that is exactly what the Government is doing by. means of this legislation. It is accepting the recommendations of the Industries Assistance Commission, which were rejected by the previous Government. By doing so the Government will’ allow a full report to be made and a decision to be taken in the light of that full report. That contrasts very drastically, as I said, with the measures adopted by and performance of the Labor Party in this regard.
There are a number of economic justifications for the levy. In particular I think we can argue that agriculture generally is a very lowly protected industry. The costs of adjustment for secondary industries are, to a large extent, insulated from adjustment pressures because of tariffs and tariff reviews. Such insulation does not apply to agriculture- In fact, agriculture has greater pressures and greater difficulties in adjustment because of the fact that there are a number of highly protected industries in Australia. In fact, tariff compensation was advocated in the Green Paper. As the authors of the Green Paper postulate, agriculture generally would desire lower tariff measures overall than the tariff support given to secondary industries, but that is hot always possible or desirable. Across the board cuts on tariffs, as were implemented by the Labor Government in combination with its other policies, showed that such measures are quite unrealistic. With that in mind, I think we are quite justified in pressing a case for tariff compensation. We want to see tariffs reduced at every level as soon as possible. But that is a long term and relatively big task. In fact, tariffs do maladjust resources; they direct resources from efficient industries, including agriculture, to the highly protected industries. Implicit in these things are costs imposed on the agricultural industry- costs in regard to labour, costs in regard to a number of inputs, and also costs in regard to the price that is being paid for capital and labour.
It can be argued also at this stage, I think, that the present rock phosphate prices are abnormally high and well above the long term trend. We have seen substantial increases in the rock phosphate price levels in recent years. More than half of Australia’s rock phosphate is priced at world levels, although the price of phosphate from some sources is based on cost of production. However, I think it will be agreed that there is some substance in the proposition that if the rock phosphate prices at the moment are well above the long term trend some help should be given to the consumers of it.
There are indications at this stage that world rock phosphate prices may be falling. This supports the view that present prices, are an aberration of the long term trend so far as prices are concerned. The Government gave aid to the beef industry on very much the same basis- that is that the current prices for beef are an aberration of the long term overall world price for beef and that we are going through a temporary recession. I think it can be well argued that the current prices for rock phosphate are temporarily high and that we can expect a levelling. In effect the subsidy will have some effect in helping during that period. In manufacturing industry short term disruption caused by imports is a common justification for increased assistance, even though the resource allocation arguments are seldom as powerful as they are for the rural export industries.
This debate also emphasises clearly the need for the development of the rock phosphate deposits at Duchess in Queensland. There are substantial difficulties involved in such development. We have substantial infrastructure costs to start with and these will place great demand on government and private enterprise. Substantial costs also are involved in upgrading the rock and in altering existing manufacturing plants so as to be able to use that rock. However, when we look at the general situation in Australia and our dependence on superphosphate it is quite clear that current sources are not inexhaustible and that we have to develop our own resources. It appears that the Duchess deposits can provide the answer. I welcome the indications by the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) that emphasis will be placed on the development of these deposits.
Let me emphasise, in closing, that these Bills are not welfare measures, an idea which the Labor Party chooses to promote. I think members of the Opposition have proved conclusively that they view them as welfare measures by referring to them in relation to limited tonnages. Those references indicate clearly that they regard them as welfare measures. In fact the minority report of the Industries Assistance Commission proves conclusively that in their opinion they are welfare measures. I want to quote the reference by the previous Minister for Agriculture, Senator Wriedt, to the Industries Assistance Commission. I shall quote from a Press statement of that time which states:
Senator Wriedt said that the Government had decided to allow the former bounty to lapse . . . The original objectives of the bounty were to encourage fertilizer use and to boost export income- these had been largely achieved. At the time the decision was made, the rural sector was generally buoyant and continued government assistance could hardly be justified when there were so many priority areas of public expenditure which had been neglected for years.
The Minister said that circumstances had changed markedly during 1 974 and there was now a case for consideration of the need for assistance for rural industries in the use of phosphatic fertilizers. Farmers have benefitted directly through Australia’s ability to obtain rock phosphate from Christmas Island at well below world parity, and Australian superphosphate is still priced below that in the United States. However, increased prices of raw materials, and freight have resulted in the Australian price rising by some $27 per tonne in the last six months.
Senator Wriedt said that it is relevant that the pastoral industries are the major users of phosphate fertilizer. Wool and meat prices had fallen drastically at the same time as costs had increased putting a severe squeeze on farmers’ incomes.
I unhesitatingly support both these Bills and recommend them to the House.
– I suppose honourable members on this side of the House should not be astounded at the Opposition’s attitude to one of the two Bills now before the House. All of us can remember the present Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard) introducing a Bill when we were on the Opposition side to restore the superphosphate subsidy to Australia’s rural industries. To the eternal shame of people like the previous honourable member for Wilmot the then Government voted against that measure. Since that time a report by the Industries Assistance Commission, which has been mentioned already in this debate but upon which I will not elaborate too much, recommended in, I think, September 1975 that the superphosphate bounty be restored. There were opposing views, such as the evidence of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics to the full IAC. Later on in this speech I intend to mention one or two of those arguments with which I personally cannot agree.
This morning I spoke to Professor Donald of the Waite Agricultural Research Institute because I remembered receiving a letter from him on this topic some 2 years ago. I no longer have the letter and I wanted to make sure I remembered the substance of it. The following information from Professor Donald might well be useful to the House in considering this matter. I hope it will convince the vast majority of honourable members, no matter what side of the political fence they are on, that there is a need for us to pass both these measures this afternoon.
– I am glad to hear that there are still some honourable members on your side who need convincing.
– First of all I want to refer to the technical aspect of this problem. Of all the continents in the world the one continent that is completely deficient or almost completely deficient, like the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman), of superphosphate is Australia. No other continent is so deficient in phosphates. That is a technical aspect which should be taken into account by all honourable members. If we are not to be parochial, if we look at Australian farms and do not give a damn whether we are considering 20 farmers, 20 000 farmers or 2 million farmers, there is no question that in this continent every incentive should be given to improving the health of our soil. For the sake of future generations every incentive should be provided in order to replace this deficiency.
Let us consider the culture that has grown up in Australia and that primarily has been responsible for the Australian rural community being able to meet the enormous freight disadvantages and the enormous cost disadvantages in terms of input, with a fairly highly protected manufacturing sector in this country, and still compete over the years on the export market. What is the principal reason for this? It is the culture we discovered and adopted, something in which the Waite Agricultural Research Institute in my own State of South Australia has played a very big part. I refer to the practice of growing legumes, such as subterranean clover, in the southern half of Australia and other legumes in the northern part of Australia in order to put nitrogen into the soil. How valuable is this to the interests of the nation? Upon this question hangs the attitude that honourable members should take in this debate.
It has been assessed that as of 3 years ago the amount of nitrogen replaced over the years by legumes in, principally, the southern areas of Australia has been worth $200m per annum to the nation at prices current at that time. That was the value three or four years ago of nitrogen fixed by the use of legumes in our agricultural culture. That culture has developed so that this country has been able to export competitively to other countries. We are not playing with a sum of money of anything like that amount today. We are playing with a very much smaller sum.
In the 10 years from 1940 to 1950 our average production of wheat worked out at 363 kilograms per hectare. In the 10 years from 1960 to 1970 the average yield was 1230 kilograms. This increase was due not only to the use of superphosphate but also to other factors such as improved varieties of wheat. However, the biggest single factor was the lay rotation of pastures, grasses and cropping. It gave a cheap source of nitrogen which made those crops grow and made those crops yield. I repeat those figures: By comparison, in the 1940s, the average production per hectare was 363 kilograms and during the 1960s it was 1230 kilograms. Now, anyone who quibbles about the use of the superphosphate bounty as an incentive, to encourage growers in the national interest to care for their soil, to care for the heritage that is Australia, I think quite frankly wants his head read.
I suppose that one can argue whether this is the proper method to adopt or indeed whether better methods can be adopted. From my experience on the land in years gone by I would doubt whether one can argue that this is so. But I am sure that honourable members opposite will so argue. I am sure that after lunch honourable members opposite will give all sorts of erudite views, heavy with emotion, not objective, and try to cash in, in the usual Labor Party method, in their pretence of dealing objectively with the Bill. In my view, it is very rarely that we have seen an objective attempt by them. I am sure that we will hear about big farms. Honourable members opposite will forget that 50 per cent of the farmers of Australia are now heavily in debt. I am quite sure that we will hear this. I am sure, because we can forecast their view, that they will continue to lose their own people who have any rural ingredient in their seats. It is not for me to say who was the best rural brain in the Opposition but many honourable members will realise to whom I am referring. The Opposition lost that honourable member and that seat- and it is not a seat in Queensland either- because of their own boneheaded obstinacy. They refuse to look facts in the face and are carried away by their own emotional hangups.
Let us have a look at some of the hangups. First, the majority of farmers are heavily in debt because of the previous 3 years under a Labor Government and that Government’s cheap attempt to buy political votes from city voters. The Labor Government thought it could get a reaction. The people of Australia are slightly more awake to this divide and rule mentality than the Labor Party reckoned on. Their hangup does not allow them to see the need of farmers to make a profit so that investment will continue to flow into rural areas so that plant can be updated, so that fanners will have some chance of dealing with the increased input costs- labour, plant, superphosphate and everything else. Their hangup does not allow them to see the need for a national, not a parochial, look at the problem. The fact that tariff compensation in some form will probably be needed in the future in order to allow exports in this area- a fact dealt with in their own Green Paper- has never been dealt with or seriously considered by members of the Labor Party. I seek leave of the House to incorporate in Hansard 2 tables which I have already shown to the Opposition spokesman on the front bench, dealing with currency changes overseas and the differentiations in input costs.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The tables read as follows)-
NOTE: the exchange rates on which these calculations arc based are the ‘market rate indications’ provided by the Reserve Bank, except in the case of the South African rand where a January 1972 to November 1975 change in the monthly average buying/selling rates has been used.
-The only point I think I have time to make in passing here is again that the figures are an indictment of the past 3 years’ rule by a Federal Labor Government. In the September quarter 1971, average earnings, based on the American dollar, were $101.70 in Australia and were $ 128.70 in America. Four years later for the September quarter 1975, the estimated earnings in United States currency were $203.44 in Australia and $ 166.74 in America. In that period of 4 years earnings in America went up by $38 and in Australia the figure was doubled to go up by $102. Much of the argument that should go on today, and as I have tried to imply so far through these few words I have had to say, is on the fact that most rural industries of major importance in the Australian sphere are export industries. If the cost of labour is purely the cost of labour that is reflected right through other inputs, whether it be superphosphate, whether it be plant to try to mechanise and whether it be transport or whether it be freight- I have not got those figures, but honourable members will be well aware of the impact- then we are penalising the very export industries that are essential to this country and which will be essential for many years to come. In fact, if these trends were allowed to continue, I think it is not a wild assertion to say that many country towns where the main local economy is the processing of local raw materials, would not be in existence in another five or six years. Some of the problems are not solely along the lines I am discussing. Take the canned fruit industry for a start where this competitive position that we were discussing has taken away all of the ability of Australian exports to compete on overseas markets to such a degree that we are now left with 60 per cent surplus fruit here because we cannot export it. That is boneheaded enough, but in many ways the answer is even more intricate than that.
I should like honourable members to look now at one part of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics submission to the Industries Assistance Commission inquiry recently. It said:
A feature of the recent ( 1975) cutback on superphosphate usage has been the differential response between cropping activities and grazing activities.
It goes on to argue, and to use the argument as evidence against a bounty to rural areas, by saying that the level of use of cropping variations has been maintained while its use on grazing properties has been substantially curtailed. The BAE implies that the principal factor concerned with this differential is due to the better financial returns experienced by the grains industry and its better cash now position. Unquestionably that is a factor- a big factor- but I should like to turn the Bureau’s own argument back against it in relation to this matter. I would use the same argument precisely to show that all but a few farmers today are literally unable to afford to purchase either superphosphate or nitrogen, and those who do are forced to do so on a purely maintenance dressing basis. One could argue from there whether this has done harm or not. Unfortunately statistics are now so out of date that although I have looked at the total indebtedness, industry by industry, I cannot get relevant facts. But as one who has grown prize winning pastures in South Australia in the past, I can assure the House that although the residual effect of superphosphate is a factor many farmers today are now realising that without any maintenance dressing- in other words by not using superphosphate at all over the last 2 years- great problems are starting to emerge. I refer to the fact that growth rates are not occurring in lambs and calves. I am referring to the fact that in spite of the best managerial considerations that can be applied, whole farms are overstocked. They arc overstocked not on past stock rates, but because the goodness is not in the feed that the cattle and sheep are getting. These statistics are not emerging. My practical observation points very heavily to this fact, which I am sure will be obvious in years to come.
While I am on that point, and in the minute left to me, let me just finish Professor Donald’s comments. He said that not only the southern section of Australia but Esperance, the 90-mile Desert, Townsville lucerne growing country, sections of the Top End of the Northern Territory are all vitally involved as regards efficient agriculture today in the use of superphosphate. That is another factor that must not be overlooked. There are areas of country -
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– Before lunch I made the point that nitrogenous fixing legumes in Australia currently produced approximately $250m worth of nitrogen to aid the high yield of pasture and crops. If any honourable members doubt the wisdom of the 2 measures before the House to provide bounties for both superphosphate and nitrogen, let them consider the brief duration of these 2 Bills- until the end of the year in the case of the Nitrogenous Fertilizers Subsidy Amendment Bill and until June 1977 in the case of the Phosphate Fertilizers Bounty Amendment Bill. Let those honourable members also consider the cost of alternative measures that have been suggested from time to time to help rural industries. I have in mind tariff compensation measures, further tax concessions, income averaging provisions and direct subsidies- Australia being the only industrialised nation today that does not adopt the latter- or even total reconstruction.
What is it that the Opposition wishes to achieve by opposing these measures? Does it wish to see the cost price squeeze that is so apparent in the rural community today and, say, reconstruction measures result in land holdings in Australia being owned by big farmers? One ponders where the logic of members of the Opposition will take them. Where is the farmers ‘ 6.4 per cent wage increase, such as was recently brought down in the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission for other workers? Today farmers receive only what is left after State and Federal governments take their taxation charges and measures. Their income is not increasing but decreasing. I except those in the cereal industry at present from those comments.
I finish as I started, namely by referring to Professor Donald of the Waite Institute. I paraphrase his remarks of some time ago on the bounty. He said: ‘Offhand, I cannot think of any incentive to the rural sector likely to return so much to the nation in both soil health for the future and in terms of straight economic return.’
Before this debate commenced I intended to spend most of my time speaking on the Nitrogenous Fertilizers Subsidy Amendment Bill. Having heard the Australian Labor Party in its short sighted fashion state that it intends to vote against the Phosphate Fertilizers Bounty Amendment Bill, I have naturally devoted my remarks to that Bill. I am disappointed at the attitude of the Opposition which I regard as extremely short sighted. I look forward in years to come not only to measures similar to these Bills but to other measures dealing with reconstruction that can aid efficient production in the Australian rural community.
– I rise to support the Nitrogenous Fertilizers Subsidy Amendment Bill and the Phosphate Fertilizers Bounty Amendment Bill, because they are most important Bills for my electors and for the whole nation. Of course there are general points that apply to both Bills. In the few words 1 have to say I intend to be slightly more specific and address myself mainly to the superphosphate Bill. Of course we know that the provisions of these bounties is a very emotional issue. It is one of those issues that tends to divide the city and the country. It is one of the issues that gets into the city newspapers regularly. I noticed that when it was announced two or three weeks ago that we would honour our commitment and bring in the superphosphate bounty again according to the Industries Assistance Commission report and continue the nitrogenous fertilizer subsidy, again according to the IAC report, there was a tremendous amount of damaging flak directed at our side of the Parliament.
I am pleased to know that on this occasion and in this debate Government supporters from city areas will support the Bill. I know that honourable members on both sides of the Parliament will be pleased to see that the division between the city and the country about which I have already spoken two or three times, is beginning to diminish. This is because of the efforts of a party such as mine which represents all Australians.
As a country member I of course wonder sometimes whether this superphosphate bounty is worth all the trouble. There is great derision about it from the other side of the House. Newspapers, as I have already said, play on the suggestion that people in the country might be getting a bit of money for something. For that reason I sometimes wonder whether from a political point of view we are making a questionable decision in bringing this legislation forward. Mr Deputy Speaker, I shall stay with reason and I shall plug away at informing the city dwellers as much as I can of the true facts of the matter.
I suppose one of the unfortunate words in the Phosphate Fertilizers Bounty Amendment Bill - the provision was introduced some time ago- is the word ‘bounty’. I know that we should be talking more in terms of the word ‘incentive’. There is an opinion held by many people in the cities who read their newspapers that the Government proposes to subsidise fully the cost of superphosphate and nitrogenous fertilisers. I think it is most important that we remind those people that what we are proposing to do goes only part of the way and on present costs will provide only about one-sixth or one-seventh of the cost of superphosphate. It is not a straight out handout so that farmers do not have to pay for what they buy; it is an incentive to them to use superphosphate and nitrogenous fertilisers because they are most important to our national heritage and our national estate.
Some farmers- I must admit that I have met two or three with such views in my electoratehave become rather cynical about these bounties. They look around and see the prices in the market place at the moment. It was said to me recently by one of them: ‘If we put more superphosphate on our pastures in this country at the moment all we would do is increase the herd. We would therefore lower the prices that we get in the market place even further and all we would do is give the consumers a subsidy and in fact the country people would only suffer more. ‘ I always say to them- I know this to be true- that that view can only be a short term one. In Australia with the sort of management that my Party can provide and with external influences levelling out as they always do in the medium and long term, there will be markets for our products and we would rue the day if our pastures and our agriculture were not brought forward by the correct application of fertilisers to the point where we can cope with those markets when they again arise.
In fact I am certain that there is a combination of factors that go against any arguments to the contrary and they confirm the conclusion that in Australia we need superphosphate and nitrogenous fertilisers and in fact we need them more than do most other countries. I do not believe that we need a rigorous cost benefit analysis to show this. I think that the factors are selfexplanatory. For a start, as the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) has already said, in Australia we have basic deficiencies in our soils. We are living on the oldest continent in the world and it is known that the level of phosphorous in the soil here is lower than that of any other continent. We know that this is a basic characteristic of this country that we have inherited. For that reason alone it would take a great deal of consideration from any government as to whether this basic national characteristic should, as government policy, be corrected.
Again we have the problem of very severe climatic conditions. We do not have very much arable land. As a percentage of our total country there is not very much land on which we can grow crops and for that matter on which we can graze herds and flocks in any numbers. If the governments that controlled the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers before the time of Christ had had access to supherphosphate and nitrogenous fertilisers the national estate of that part of the world would probably have survived. It is up to my Government and to any government of this country to see that our soil, which is the basis of our national estate, survives.
Some very cogent arguments have been put forward in the LAC report, by other bodies and by other honourable members who have already spoken about the question of the efficient use of resources. It is a fact that a relatively small amount of money outlayed in Australia on superphosphate in particular can increase significantly our production. This would be very cheap maintenance for a very efficient industry. We know that Australia, for instance, largely because of our pastoral improvement programs and because we have assiduously used superphosphate and other fertilisers, rates very highly in the world in terms of rural efficiency. Australia with something like 5 per cent of the work force engaged in primary production manages to produce enough food and enough wool not only to feed and cover ourselves but also to export as much as we use. Against that, Russia with 32 per cent of its people engaged in the same pursuits still cannot feed itself. I put to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, that the level of our use of superphosphate over the last few years when our level of primary production has increased so markedly is a major factor in our efficiency.
Australian farmers have been able to increase their results most rapidly because of the use of fertilisers. This again emphasises the point I am trying to make. In 1953 with a work force on the land of 430 000 people we were able to support 274 million equivalent units of stock. In 1973 with fewer than 300 000 people involved on the land we were able to build up that stock level to 483 million units. This was largely because of the policies of previous coalition governments that encouraged people to use superphosphate.
One of the points that the IAC did not bring out fully enough in its interim report, and which I hope that it looks towards more diligently when the full report comes out, is the question of the drought reserve. Australia has greatly fluctuating seasons. Our soil conditions are a legacy of our climate. If we do not make sure that we keep up the level of superphosphate in the high rainfall areas it can be shown that when the next big drought or any other large drought arrives in this country we will not have the capacity properly to recover. In the western division of New South Wales, for example, where superphosphate has never been used except in very small amounts, there has been a widely fluctuating level in the sheep flock. In 1890, for instance, there were 8.9 million sheep in the western division. In 1969 there were 7.9 million. In the intervening period there were wide fluctuations as the result of droughts. I believe that there is some correlation here between the almost zero level of superphosphate use and the results in other divisions of Australia in which a lot of superphosphate was used. I understand that on the tablelands of New South Wales, for instance, the sheep numbers increased in the same period between 1890 and 1969 from 7 million to 19 million. This division significantly is in an area in which superphosphate was used most effectively. There is a correlation between that level and the results. (Quorum formed) It was disgraceful to call for a quorum. It is disgraceful that the members of a major Australian party were not here to listen to what was being said about some of the most important legislation that has been before this House.
I believe I have advanced some very cogent arguments as to why superphosphate is a most important ingredient in our soils. The $64,000 question now is whether the Government is bound to ensure that the use of superphosphate is carried on. If we look at the justice of the present situation I believe that again the arguments are in our favour. In terms of welfare- and the Labor Party seems to use this area as its argument- I admit that we do not really have very much to say. At the moment people on the land are not making very much money. But in terms of national benefit the welfare argument probably would be better sorted out by the provision of other funds in other ways to the primary sector. The welfare factor does arise but it is not an important one from our point of view.
The fact is that it is very difficult now for the man on the land to afford to pay for his obligation to the national estate. This is one of the very strong reasons why we believe that the other precedents in this country- the precedents of transport subsidies to Tasmania, subsidies to air travellers, subsidies to students and subsidies to all sorts of groups-justify the payment of this subsidy in the short term to people on the land which will make sure that they keep up the level of superphosphate and nitrogenous fertilisers that our nation needs.
We have a very strong argument that the most efficient means of support for people on the land is in terms of superphosphate and that the Government owes this to the primary producer. The Government is quite used to paying for other people who get into trouble. As has been pointed out recently by the Industries Assistance Commission, the vehicle industry has been subsidised to the extent of $4,000 a year for each employee. This has been because of the cover of tariffs on that industry, and admittedly it is the tariff argument, which is a second best argument, that is also most cogent from the Government ‘s point of view.
I must emphasise that we are talking about the short to medium term. It is hoped that in the medium term primary production will obtain good returns. In the medium term, it is hoped that superphosphate prices will drop; and I note that by 1978 world production will exceed consumption by about 6 million tonnes per annum. That could mean that there will be a drop in price. This Bill honours one of the Government’s election pledges which in the short term, and that is what we are talking about, it is pleased to be able to introduce into this House. Honourable members on this side of the House see the problems of all of Australia. I contrast that with the attitude of the previous member for my electorate, who when given a chance to stand up for his electorate and vote for a continuation of the superphosphate bounty voted against it. The Government is reversing the Labor blunder. The man on the land is not looking for charity, despite what the newspapers often tell the people in the cities. Our soil is looking for welfare; our farmers are not. Our farmers are looking for recognition. Through its policies the Government recognises the pensioner, the consumer, the employee, the employer, the manufacturer and the farmer.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Before I call the Leader of the Opposition, might I point out to the House that during the calling of a quorum members are not supposed to move within the precincts of the chamber, apart from entering the chamber, going to their places and sitting down. If they move from one part of the chamber to another it is confusing in determining the presence of a quorum. I call the Leader of the Opposition.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, nothing demonstrates more clearly the moral bankruptcy and distorted priorities of the Fraser Government than the substance of the Phosphate Fertilizers Bounty Amendment Bill. It is the first and only election promise the Government has honoured to the letter. It has a higher priority in the legislative program than any other social assistance measure. Pension increases are being deferred; the superphosphate bounty is being restored. Such are the values of the Fraser Government. There could hardly be a better example of the Government’s grotesque sense of social justice. Here we have a Government whose actions and decisions across the whole range of social and economic policy are literally giving to the rich by taking from the poor. The Sheriff of Nottingham could not have done better. The superphosphate bounty makes nonsense of the Government’s own standards of economic logic and consistency. It is unjust, it is discriminatory, it is socially divisive. The cost of the measure will be something like $30m in a full year, and that is from a Government engaged in a holy war against waste and extravagance. The $30m squandered by this legislation is waste and extravagance with a vengeance. How could any government give a handout on this scale to a handful and expect people to take seriously its appeals for restraint?
What possible justification can there be for this measure? The Government has broken its promise to wage and salary earners by opposing indexation. It has extracted $29m from pensioners by deferring their rises. Only this week it announced a whole series of stringent penalties and humiliating conditions for those on the dole. It cries poverty to the Premiers. For the needy, for the sick, for the disadvantaged there is no money from this Government and no hope. For the community at large it is a time for austerity, for belt tightening, for hardship, for blood, sweat and tears. But for the wealthy grazier and the Pitt St and Collins St farmers who support this Government and who in large measure compose it, it is a time for generous handouts at public expense. Of course there is a case for measures of assistance to primary producers, particularly on welfare grounds. It is in the nature of primary production that at some seasons there is scarcely enough production, animals or crops to meet the local demand and at other seasons there is much more than local demand can ever absorb. The climate and overseas trade inevitably mean that sometimes there will be a shortage and sometimes there will be a surplus. But for those who are stricken, as inevitably so many are, by such fluctuations in demand or in production there arc more equitable methods of assistance than this.
This Bill is typical of all those measures of subsidy, assistance, allowance and deductions which were rampant in the 1950s and 1960s. Such measures are geared to the unit of production and the unit of consumption. That is, the person who consumes most, the person who produces most, is given the largest subsidy, the largest allowance, the largest assistance, the largest deduction. The family that consumes least, that produces least, that can consume least, that can produce least is given the smallest amount. Every unit attracts the same degree of benefit, and accordingly it is the converse of social justice. Those who need most receive least; those who need least receive most. We know who will be the beneficiaries of the superphosphate bounty. It will not be the small farmer or the man on the land in real need, whose problems my Government recognised and which this Government ignores.
The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) occasionally laments about the man in the small country town. The biggest beneficiaries from the restored bounty on superphosphate will be those who never live on the land and rarely see it- the Pitt Street and Collins Street farmers and the corporations, whether controlled in Australia or from overseas. The men who will benefit are the biggest farmers with the biggest properties.
– You have absolutely no idea.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! I would suggest that the honourable member for Hume keeps his remarks until such time as he makes his speech.
– The honourable member for Hume (Mr Lusher) must protest loudly and be seen to protest because he is one of those Country Party members who has never been a rural producer. This Bill is a capitulation to Country Party pressure and propaganda. In 23 years of political life I can think of no other measure enacted by this Parliament which has conferred a specific pecuniary benefit on half of the members of the Cabinet. Six Ministers in the Fraser Government will benefit from the restoration of the superphosphate bounty. We know from records already produced in the Parliament and never refuted or challenged that the Prime Minister received at least $5,000 from this subsidy in 1973. 1 say ‘at least’ because the average benefit in 1973 for the 472 farmers who received more than $5,000 at the taxpayers’ expense from this subsidy was $7,500. How much will the Prime Minister receive from the restored bounty? Let him declare his interest in this Bill. Let him enlighten the House and the people on how much he will gain.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Should the Chair allow the Leader of the Opposition to refer to the Prime Minister receiving these payments when he knows very well that it is untrue?
-Order! There is no point of order. The Chair has no way of knowing in a point of debate the facts of the statements being made.
– What I have said as regards the Prime Minister’s $5,000 benefit from the taxpayers through the superphosphate bounty in 1973 has been stated in both Houses over the last 2 years and has never been challenged, still less refuted, in that time. The Government that is now giving $30m to its wealthy friends is the Government that 6 weeks ago abolished funeral benefits for pensioners. The Government that is now giving a handout of $5,000 or more to the Prime Minister is the Government that abolished the $2 a day subsidy for private hospital patients. The Government that is now restoring a taxpayer subsidy for half the Cabinet is the Government that increased pharmaceutical benefit charges for the sick and deprived thousands of chronic sufferers of the drugs which their doctors prescribe. Among the victims of this particular exercise in callous penny-pinching are young children dependent on milk substitutes. I invite the Prime Minister to calculate how many cans of milk substitutes for young asthmatics and allergy victims could be purchased with his $5,000 or more a year benefit. The more one looks at the Government’s miserable economies, the reductions under the National Employment and Training scheme, the cutbacks under the child care program aimed at working mothers, the restrictions on the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the assault on Public Service employment, the more cynical and indefensible the superphosphate bounty is seen to be.
This is a government with one priority above all others: To look after the people who need help least and to hit hardest the people who need help most. The Government’s attacks on the poor, the sick and the needy are saving some $275m this financial year. The Government’s superphosphate handout, its investment allowances geared to the interests of the biggest companies, its company tax concessions, its abolition of the beef export levy will cost more than the Government will save. No government has managed with such spectacular success to combine social inequity and economic nonsense in one set of policies. The Prime Minister has a positive obsession with the notion of waste and extravagance under my Administration. The phrase is one of the most fatuous cliches which litter his increasingly tedious and illiterate publicutterances. On 17 March he spoke of the ‘waste and extravagance’ in the Australian Public Servicethe body referred to in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech as the ‘Federal bureaucracy’. On 16 March he referred to the ‘mad extravagance’ of Labor Government expenditure. He coined this profound diagnosis of Labor’s economic policies as ‘our predecessors made holes in everyone’s pocket’. On 3 March he said:
One of the great tragedies of the previous Administration was that it could never understand that its grandiose plans for spending money had to be paid for by someone.
Again on 1 8 March he said: . . . the previous Prime Minister and his Government made quite rapacious demands that additional funds be taken from taxpayers and corporations all around Australia so they could finance their own grandiose schemes of expenditure.
Such are the puerile jargon and disjointed trivia that passes for economic analysis by the present Prime Minister. Would any other head of Government in the world insult his audience with gibberish on this level? The Prime Minister’s statements are misleading, misconceived and mispronounced. The House will recall his celebrated pronouncement of 17 March that the Government believes in ‘broadening the depth of life right around Australia’. The only things this Government are broadening and deepening are the pockets of their own supporters. That is the purpose of this Bill.
The Country Party has been remarkably reticent on this measure. It has a lot to hide. Three of its Ministers in the Cabinet are beneficiaries of the superphosphate bounty. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair), who is the Leader of the House, announced on 25 November that the Government would restore the bounty. He is presumably the responsible Minister. Why did he not introduce the Bill on 4 March? Why was this embarrassing task left to a Liberal, the fledgling Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs? The Minister gave a second reading speech on the Bill which was remarkable for its emptiness and brevity. The bounty was a central issue of contention in the election campaign and throughout the whole of 1975 and most of 1974. One would have thought that a public subsidy to farmers and graziers worth $30m a year at a time of proclaimed financial stringency would have merited at least some decent attempt at public justification. The Government’s haste on this matter contrasts with its tardiness and evasion on other election promises. The Government could not even wait for the final report of the Industries Assistance Commission whose advice on this matter the Government purports to observe.
The bounty is blatantly at odds with the Government’s ostensible economic strategy. It cannot be justified in economic terms or even in limited agricultural terms. The IAC report provides at best a hesitant and qualified justification for the Government’s decision. In its interim report the IAC recommended only a temporary restoration of the bounty until the full inquiry was completed. We have yet to see the Commission’s final report. Even the limited recommendation in the interim report was supported by only two of the 3 commissioners. It was supported on the limited ground that the bounty would help farmers adjust to higher superphosphate prices and would provide some temporary welfare relief. All 3 commissioners agreed that the adjustment and welfare benefits of the bounty would be achieved by more direct measures at lower cost. The Government cannot see that welfare measures which assist those least in need are irrational and self-defeating. They encourage the production of commodities for which markets may be scarce. Under this legislation bounties will be paid to affluent wheat and sugar producers, whose present needs are much less than those of beef producers, and wool growers.
The Government has ignored the views of an assistant commissioner, Mr P. D. J. Robinson, and done its best to discredit the opinions and the motives of. the first and the only woman member of the Commission, Mrs Hylda Rolfe, who withdrew from the original inquiry on conscientious grounds. Mrs Rolfe held strong views on the effect of superphosphates on Australian soils. She took the proper and honest course of standing down from the hearings. For expressing her views publicly she was attacked in Parliament by the Leader of the National Country Party (Mr Anthony), who cast offensive aspersions on her objectivity. “ Mr Ian Robinson- Ha, ha!
-The gallant gentlemen in the Country Party are apparently endorsing their Leader’s conduct on this matter. They know quite well that Mrs Hylda Rolfe was a person well qualified in primary industry and employed by primary industry organisations as their prime adviser. My Government thought that she was well qualified to be one of the Commissioners of the IAC when its charter was extended to cover primary industry and then the lady is vilified by the Leader of the Country Party for expressing her views- views which were sought by primary industries and their organisations, views which were acknowledged when she was appointed to the IAC. Mr Robinson’s dissenting opinion in the interim report was a devastating indictment of the whole Country Party philosophy of regressive rural handouts. He made it clear that even a temporary bounty was a futile measure and in many ways more unjust than permanent assistance. Mr Robinson pointed out that a bounty was an inequitable and ineffective means of tackling the urgent problems faced by many rural producers. In his opinion he stated:
At the present on-farm cost of phosphate fertilizers, a restoration of the bounty at the old level (unchanged since 1969) is little more than token assistance to most individual recipients. The total charge on Treasury, at a time of budgetary restraint, will nevertheless be substantial. As an assistance measure, it therefore seems to embody the worst of 2 worlds. An interim bounty would have only limited coverage. Users who could not afford the new bounty-paid onfarm cost of $55-$60 per tonne for single superphosphate (and the corresponding prices for other phosphate fertilizers) would receive no benefit. Thus, the benefit would not accrue to all farmers who were formerly users of superphosphate and would be denied to those in the neediest financial circumstances . . .
A decision to make payment of the interim bounty retrospective to 1 January, as recommended, would reinforce the incidence with which its benefits fall to the better-off farmers. Those who could afford to buy superphosphate at the new prices for normal late summerautumn spreading will benefit; those who could not afford the new prices will miss out . . . Despite the Commission’s clear warnings, an interim bounty may raise unwarranted expectations among users that it will be continued. Where such expectations are not held, and financial resources are available, the interim bounty may stimulate the stockpiling of bountiable fertiliser. The distribution of the interim bounty would be random in that it would not accrue to identifiable industries, or regions, or explicit categories of need or efficiency . . . Since the generalised nature of the bounty obscures the pattern of recipients it will also tend to obscure the legitimate claims of many farm sectors for immediate and effective assistance. It could pre-empt recognition of the need for specific assistance.
The relationship of world market conditions to the prosperity of many Australian rural industries makes it difficult to assess the impact of an interim bounty on production and prices. But it is at least a possibility that by stimulating or maintaining production of commodities at present in over supply, the bounty could encourage the continuation of depressed market conditions.
I scarcely remember a more cogent or crushing statement by any member of the IAC. I have quoted Mr Robinson’s opinions at length because I believe it cannot be refuted. Many farmers would endorse Mr Robinson’s opinion. I commend it to the Government. The superphosphate bounty is not only indefensible in the broad social and economic context; it is inequitable and inefficient as a rural assistance measure. It is a perfect reflection of the philosophy of the Fraser Government. Let the Prime Minister and his colleagues, when they draw their subsidies from the public purse, reflect on the uses to which that money could be put in alleviating hardship and in improving the lives of less fortunate Australians.
-The Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) has come into the chamber this afternoon again clutching at straws. In the midst of all his own personal problems over his leadership, over the bankruptcy of his Party’s policy, philosophy and financial situation, I suppose, he has come in here and tried to build up his own confidence and his own position by clutching at what he regards as an indefensible action by this Government. The man comes into this chamber and talks about moral bankruptcy, distorted priority and- I quote him- a grotesque sense of social justice. He spoke of a waste and an extravagance to the extreme and a handout to the handful. This man is the past master of the handout. I say ‘past master’ with a great degree of confidence because there is absolutely no chance that the people of Australia will give him the opportunity of being the master again. Now, with his tail between his legs, he leaves the chamber.
For the duration of what is one of the most significant debates for a large section of the Australian community one member of the Australian Labor Party has been in the chamber, that member being, at the time the debate started, the Opposition spokesman on agricultural matters. The debate has progressed, and at this stage he is now the shadow Minister representing the shadow Minister in another place who, during the suspension of the sitting, was endorsed as the Opposition spokesman on agriculture. I refer to that man with a magnificent and unsurpassed knowledge of rural industries, Senator Gietzelt.
– Tell us it is not true.
– It is true. Senator Gietzelt, the fledgling member of the shadow Executive, has been given the significant responsibility of agriculture, which was beginning to be understood by the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating).
-Seeing that I am a farmer and you are not, how can you make that claim? You have never farmed in your life.
-I can make that claim. I will challenge you to a debate on these matters at an appropriate time. The former Prime Minister came into this chamber with a speech which had been prepared for him by somebody else on a subject that he does not understand. He had to have a quorum called to get one or two members of his Party into the House. He had the hide to come in here and accuse this Government of having distorted strategies and of making handouts. This man introduced the Regional Employment Development scheme and presided over the National Employment and Training scheme. This man presided over the greatest handouts to Aborigines that this country has seen. This man introduced more allowances, more schemes, more systems of getting something for nothing and gave away more free lunches than any other Prime Minister. This man presided over the increase of the deficit in this country to a figure of $4,500m in a year, and running higher. This man had the audacity to come into the House and tell us that the $30m, which is honouring an election promise, is a grotesque sense of social justice, that it represents moral bankruptcy and distorted priorities and that it is a waste and an extravagance.
I ask the Australian community to put this matter into some sort of perspective. Despite what the Leader of the Opposition might think, despite the fact that this man told us a couple of years ago that we had never had it so good, the rural industries, with the exception of a couple of sectors, are without doubt in one of the greatest depressions ever. They still represent the second largest force in the Australian economy, behind the great mining industries. By and large, 100 000 wool producers, a significant number of cattle producers, the fruit producers and the rice producers in the electorate of my colleague the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Sullivan ) are about to go out of business. Those who are in a reasonable financial position in the rural industries in Australia today are very few. We must bear in mind the policies which were introduced by the Government which was led by the honourable gentleman who has just spoken in the debate and who has since disappeared. The policies over which he presided did more than any other policies at any other time to cripple the industries that we are discussing today. This man reduced the assistance to the industries in one way or another from over $300m in a financial year to less than $30m in a financial year. That is his record against an industry which has done more than any other industry to make Australia the country over which he was able to preside and bleed for his own ends.
– Why not defend your own legislation?
– For the benefit of the honourable member for Blaxland, I think it is worth pointing out that it was demonstrated in the House this morning that the Leader of the Opposition was responsible for the expenditure of $1,520,000 in the last couple of years on his own overseas junkets. He had the hide to come in here and accuse us of extravagance. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) revealed yesterday that this man was responsible for the expenditure of $250,000 in one financial year on the maintenance of his 2 official residences. He comes in here and says that we have been extravagant and have our priorities wrong.
– I take a point of order. The subject matter of the debate is the reimposition of a bounty. Surely the remarks of the honourable member for Hume have nothing to do with the Bills before the House.
-I say to the honourable member for Blaxland that the remarks of the honourable member for Hume relate to the legislation as much as many other remarks by other speakers in this debate related to it. I suggest to the honourable member for Hume that he not develop the point for too long. At the moment his reference to the legislation is in order.
– I appreciate your opinion, Mr Deputy Speaker. We are discussing significant legislation. I want to be associated with it. The former Prime Minister on behalf of a bankrupt Party was the greatest champagne purchaser of all times. He was prepared out of public funds to subsidise the champagne industry.
– The French champagne industry too.
-That is right, but he is not prepared to support the greatest industries in Australia. The bankruptcy of the Opposition in rural matters is made perfectly clear by the fact that it has 3 speakers in this debate as against eleven from the Government side. It is important that the people of Australia and the Parliament understand the priorities of the Opposition. We all realise the actions it took when in government.
The Leader of the Opposition specifically said that it was the first time in history, as far as he was aware, that a specific benefit had been conferred upon 6 members of the Cabinet by a decision of the Government. The former Minister for Administrative Services, in the dying days of the Labor Government, changed the rules about who could have Commonwealth cars after they left the Parliament. This was for the benefit of a minority in the Labor Cabinet. We were forced to change the position in the interests of equity, justice and seeing that the Australian taxpayer’s dollar is spent in a proper manner.
The legislation is important. The industry to which it refers is important. The Leader of the Opposition showed arrogance in making the speech he made this afternoon. I suggest that his speech has done more for the continuation in office of the present Government than has any other single factor that he may have influenced or in which he had a part in recent years, including his original statement that farmers had never had it so good. I would have liked to give him an extension of time. I will ask Hansard whether it is possible for me to have a thousand copies of his speech for distribution in my part of the country, because I believe there is a responsibility on all of us to make sure that the people in the countryside understand and appreciate the Leader of the Opposition and the paltry numbers of supporters that he brings back into this chamber with him.
One of the major criticisms levelled at this legislation is that it will benefit the wealthy grazier and, to use the Leader of the Opposition s words, the Pitt and Collins Street farmers who make up the majority of the farming community. Certainly a benefit will accrue to graziers with larger properties but also an indisputable benefit will be given to virtually every producer in this country, because to some extent everybody uses superphosphate. That extent depends on the size of the investment. I think it should be understood by members of the Opposition that a man who gets $5,000 by way of subsidy first has to buy something like $30,000 worth of superphosphate. That superphosphate has a permanent benefit to the Australian soil and to productivity. It is ludicrous to say that a man with more acres making a bigger investment should not benefit. In my view there is no argument about it. A man with a small acreage buys a small amount of superphosphate, but he will get exactly the same percentage benefit as the man with more country buying more superphosphate.
It is specious to suggest that the legislation is being introduced in the interests of the big farmers, because everybody who uses superphosphate will benefit. This argument, of course, comes from the side of the House that says that Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd is terrible because it makes a couple of million dollars profit. Honourable members opposite never relate these things to the amount of investment involved. The fact that BHP makes about 0.06 per cent on its invested capital is not mentioned. If BHP were able to make a decent return on its capital its profit would be significantly higher. I trunk the same argument ought to be advanced in relation to superphosphate. Sure there are big fellows who will benefit, but they have enormous investments. They have multi-million dollar businesses, but they are making very small, if any, returns. Most are making a loss. I ask the honourable member for Darling (Mr FitzPatrick), if he wishes to enter the debate at a later stage, to talk to us about the broad acre western leases in his part of New South Wales. Sure some people have a lot of land, but they have to put out a lot of superphosphate, and they cannot afford to do it. These people are making a marginal profit if any profit at all. The Leader of the Opposition’s insult to the intelligence of this nation by saying that a man with a big property will get a big bounty is absurd.
The legislation is important. I have only one regret about it. I would have preferred the timing of its introduction to be a little different. I think we have honoured our promise. We have brought in the bounty as we said we would. It will have significant benefits for the Australian farming and cropping lands. There is no doubt that it is needed. Conditions in rural communities today are by and large disastrous. We all have a responsibility to understand and to do what we can as legislators for what are undoubtedly the important sectors of our economy.
The honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Sainsbury) made an intelligent contribution to this debate. He made a point that not many Australians understand. This Opposition which talks about priorities, subsidies and things of this nature, when in government, introduced arrangements under which there is a $4,000 subsidy for every man and woman working in the motor vehicle industry in Australia. I ask honourable members to relate the number of people involved in the rural industry, the production of rural industry and the miserable government support given to it to the handouts that became so prevalent under the Labor Government, which had no understanding of priorities, which thought that money was as much in over supply as wheat unfortunately was a couple of years ago, which thought that the solution to everything was to keep spending. The principal offender was the then Prime Minister, who for his own personal edification spent $1,520,000 travelling the world with his troop of journalists and offsiders and who spent $250,000 in one year running the 2 residences that he maintained. As has also been pointed out, he was giving serious consideration to establishing another residence for himself in Melbourne in case he -
-Order! I suggest that in the last 2Vi minutes available to the honourable member he return to the matter before the House.
-I respect your judgment, Mr Deputy Speaker. I am very pleased to be associated with this legislation. I believe it is most significant that after coming into office this Government spent the first few weeks in weeding out the obvious and apparent extravagances of the former Government. Having done that, it turned its attention to the areas of great need in our community. One of those areas of great need was found to be within rural industries. I am pleased that consideration was given to rural industries as a matter of priority. It is true that there is an on going review of other extravagances and that other decisions will be made in a range of areas. I should like to think that further consideration will be given to the rural industries, both in terms of priorities and in terms of the Government’s program.
It is significant, I believe- the people of the rural parts of Australia should be aware of this and should be grateful for the fact- that having first weeded out those obvious and important extravagances that were perpetrated by the former Administration, the Government, the Cabinet, then turned its attention to trying to do something for those areas of Australia most in need. I have no doubt whatsoever that this legislation will result in great benefit flowing to most of the people who are involved in the rural community and in the primary industries of Australia. There is no doubt that it will also be of benefit in terms of the national estate and in terms of the heritage of this country. I believe that those honourable members who argue in this place about overproduction are bringing forward false arguments. The way to solve these problems is not by cutting back on production, not by not using fertiliser, not by killing off herds, and not by doing things of that nature. What we in Australia have to do is to accept the challenge that we must find and develop markets for our produce and our products; and that is what we are about. We have to see that that is done because that is the answer. As a nation we have to utilise to the fullest what God had given us. We have got to produce as much as we can in the interests of the world, bearing in mind that literally millions of people are starving.
The introduction of the superphosphate bounty will help Australia and assist its producers in fulfilling Australia’s potential as an agriculture producing nation. It is then the responsibility of the Government to go out and sell that produce- 1 do not accept the argument that because there is over-production in some areas we should cut out these benefits.
– I support these fertiliser Bills because of the vital role they play in the survival of Australian agricultural and pastoral industries. I believe that anybody who looks at this matter as a whole would not think otherwise. Our farmers have had a bad couple of years. We depend upon them and we want them to survive and to be prosperous in the future. The soils of Australia lack phosphorous and their fertility depends very largely upon keeping up the supply of superphosphate. The supply does not have to be kept up every year because, as honourable members will know, the bank of superphosphate which remains in the ground has some effect on crops grown during seasons following its application. In Australia a great deal of superphosphate is expended on pastures and some on areas used to grow grain. For the world it is more important that superphosphate be looked upon as helping the grain production. The general rule of thumb is that one tonne of superphosphate produces 5 tonnes extra of grain, and that is one of the most important statistics that one has to keep in mind when looking at world food production.
I support this measure, but, for a reason which I shall give, I believe it is only a temporary measure. The reason is this: The supplies of phosphate rock upon which Australia is dependent are not very great and will not last for very long. We draw our phosphate rock from 3 sources- Nauru, Ocean Island and Christmas Island. The Ocean Island deposits are about worked out; there is not much more to come.
– Are there not some rich deposits in Queensland?
– I thank the honourable member; that is what I am going to talk about in a moment. The deposits at Nauru are being sold at world prices. All of those deposits are not available to Australia and they will not last for long. We draw our supplies from Christmas Island at production cost, but unhappily the available phosphate on Christmas Island is also fairly limited, and one would not think of it lasting more than 15 or at the most 20 years. Perhaps it will last rather less than that because as the Nauru sources dry up we will become more dependent on Christmas Island, as New Zealand also will be dependent. So it looks like a bleak future.
Unhappily we have to look elsewhere, but happily we have in Australia an alternative supply of phosphate rock from which superphosphate is manufactured. That is something with which I have been particularly concerned. Only about seven or eight weeks ago I was having a particular look at that field, which I believe is the key to the future of Australian agriculture. If we deal prudently and resolutely with the phosphate deposits in the Duchess and Mount Isa area then I believe that we will have for the Australian farmer for all the foreseeable future superphosphate at a price significantly below that at which it is available to other agriculturalists. It is one of the natural advantages which I believe will play a significant part in the future of the Australian farmer. I would say that every person who wants to see the Australian farmer become prosperous, not just for this year but over the decades to come, would think of this subsidy as being one which is necessary but temporary and would be turning his energies to the phosphate deposits in the Mount Isa area and using them as the basis for cheap superphosphate for the Australian farmer for the foreseeable future.
As honourable members would know, phosphate rock used to be fairly cheap. Then in about January 1974 a price hike started which was very much like the price hike on oil. In this case it came through the cartel in North Africa. The raising of the very significant North African price was followed by a similar raising of the price in Florida in America; and those are the main sources of world phosphate. Phosphate rock prices multiplied by four and were in the order of $60 and $70 a tonne. Recently they have fallen, and it is not quite clear at what level they stand now because discounts of various characters are being given. They are probably down in the order of $40 to $45 a tonne. For reasons which I will not have a chance to elaborate upon, because time will beat me, I believe that in the future demand will be such as to cause them to rise again. Although there is a the present moment a surplus of capacity in the world, the increase in the world population is such that phosphorous will be needed for food production. Although applications of superphosphate can be withheld for a year or two without significantly decreasing out-turn, it cannot be withheld for very long. I think the present excess of capacity is going to last only a few years and that then we will get high prices again.
I want to talk about the Duchess deposits and the Lady Annie deposits. One lies near Duchess, near Mount Isa, and the other is on the other side of Mount Isa. Their known reserves are something of the order of 2000 million tons and represent many hundred years of consumption in Australia. The grade of those deposits is about half that of the island deposits. I think it would be fair to say that in terms of island rock they are around the 1 100 million ton or 1200 million ton mark. But even that is a lot of phosphate and it will see out many generations. There is no reason to think that other phosphate will not be found eventually in Australia. Superphosphate from those deposits can be produced very cheaply. At Duchess there are some 30 million tons of what is known as shipping grade which can be used without beneficiation or treatment. The remainder will require treatment either by flotation or some other process.
The nub of the matter is that that rock has to be brought to the coast for shipping to the factories which make it into superphosphate for the Australian farmers. It is some 600 miles, or a little less, from Duchess to the coast at Townsville. This project will depend on rail freight. I have had a look at that railway. I took an opportunity to ride on the engine when I went there, and to talk to the engineers and the technical men at the top as well as the men working on the lines. That line as it is now will not carry a big volume of traffic. There is talk of bringing out a million tons a year. I suppose that amount could be brought over the line but it could not be done at a cheap cost.
If that volume of freight is to be carried over that line at a cheap cost we will have to do what has been done to the iron ore lines in Western Australia. We will have to build a decent line. I know that the Mount Isa line was rehabilitated a decade or so ago. In fact I was a member of the committee that looked at that matter at the time. What was done then for the transport of urea, about 500 000 tons a year in each direction, was quite inadequate for the bulk handling that is necessary if we are to have cheap freight and to use those phosphate deposits to sustain Australian farmers. In some places the line needs heavier rails and new culverts. Nearly all of it needs reballasting and there is a lot of resleepering to be done. It needs a different signalling system and new crossing loops. It needs new rolling stock. Some of that rolling stock is being built under an agreement made with Broken Hill South Ltd which is getting ready to work the deposits. In fact it is starting to work them now.
At Townsville 3 things have to be done. The railway line has to be deviated as it enters the town and a new bridge has to be built over the Ross River. Entry to the town now would be impossible for long trains. The third thing to be done is to rehabilitate the port. This program is essential for the prosperity of the Australian farmers and it will cost in the order of $ 100m, perhaps a little more, for the line and the rolling stock. This expenditure could be undertaken now and the results would be profitable and reproductive in every sense.
I am not opposing the present subsidy; I support it. But much more important than this subsidy for the future of the Australian farmers is the work on that line and the development of those deposits as quickly as possible. Freight need not be a big consideration. If we have a really efficient line, such as the iron ore lines in Western Australia, we can bring that phosphate rock from Duchess to Townsville at a cost of $4 or $5 a ton, and that is small potatoes when compared with the world price of phosphate today. I will not say what the costs of production are but they arc comparatively small because this is an open cut operation. Even if we have to beneficiate the rock, as we will have to do after the first 30 million tons or so of shipping grade arc exhausted, the costs will not be very great, although they will be appreciable. We will be able to deliver phosphate at Townsville at a quite reasonable cost.
I admit that shipping from Townsville under Australian conditions will be costly. We would have to consider the proper handling of bulk rock at Townsville in order to reduce these costs and to get the rock at the lowest possible price to the Australian factories where superphosphate is made. Surely it is not beyond our capacity to think of this as a co-ordinated operation. I believe that in practice the policy of the past Government, but not of this Government, has been wrong. We have been trying to throw all the costs on to the producing company. This docs not reduce the profits of the producing company because if it is to expand capital funds it puts up the price. It is reasonable for it to do so. However the consequence is that the whole process is slowed down because it is difficult for a producing company to find $100m, which eventually has to be found, for the upgrading of the line. Because the producing company has to of bear all the cost of the infrastructure we are slowing down the process of getting this project under way and ultimately increasing the price of superphosphate to Australian farmers. That is what we do not want to do. We want Australian farmers to have superphosphate available to them for the foreseeable future at a cost, on the farm, which is significantly below the cost of superphosphate on farms in other parts of the world. This is one of the ways in which the prosperity of Australian farmers can be permanently based.
I come back always to the first point: That whereas this subsidy, necessary as it is and supported as it is, is only a temporary measure because the phosphatic rock in the islands will not last for long, up near Mount Isa we have the mineral possibilities by means of which Australian farmers can have for the future a permanent price advantage over competing farmers in other parts of the world.
– What about the capital cost?
– I have said that for the railway, we need perhaps $100m, and for other capital costs, which properly fall on the company, perhaps another $70m or $80m. But I do not think that the company should be asked to bear the entire cost of the infrastructure. We are giving a subsidy on superphosphate; that is good and proper, but it would be much better if we could give a subsidy for the capital expenditure which would give permanently cheap phosphate rock for the future.
I see that my time is running out but I mention that in addition to what is given to the Australian farmer, there is enough rock there for us to go into the export business without in any way prejudicing the future of the Australian farmer. Naturally we would go into the export business at a world price. I have looked at this and I believe that there is a significant underestimate of the potential demand for superphosphate in South East Asia and round about. So far as is known- I emphasise those words- there is no comparable deposit available in this Pacific basin, and for that reason Australia will also have a world advantage.
I think there are basically 2 reasons why the demand for superphosphate in Asia is going to increase. The first is the increase in population, which is driving the farmers to the more marginal lands and to the use of the green revolution new grains which require more fertilisers. The second is the progressive abandonment by Asia of the practice of putting nightsoil back on the paddy fields which for milennia has been the way in which the soil’s fertility and phosphorous content has been maintained. So I believe that we are going to find not just a gradual increase in the Asian demand for phosphate rock, but a quantum jump. I believe that here Australia has a tremendous advantage and that the profits which can be derived from this can well be used to keep permanently cheap the supply of superphosphate to the Australian farmer in places where our soils need it predominantly. I wish I had the time to develop this theme further, but one of the things I hope to do in this Parliament is to follow this particular matter.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– It is with pleasure that I rise to speak in this debate in support of the Nitrogenous Fertilisers Subsidy Amendment Bill and the Phosphate Fertilisers Bounty Amendment Bill. I do so in the spirit mentioned by my colleague the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Sainsbury) who so well put the point of view that we on this side of the House govern in the national interest. We are a Party that represents all Australians. This superphosphate matter is a national issue. As I shall show, it is an issue that affects all Australians. As is well known, and as has been pointed out today, this country has deficiencies. As well as being deficient in a responsible, cohesive Opposition it is also deficient in phosphate and nitrogen.
When Batman arrived in the area where Melbourne now stands and when McMillan walked over the mountains into Gippsland, and the pioneers went into the hinterland they found natural pasture growing. There has been an agricultural revolution in this country by the addition of these fertilisers to the pastures. But the original kangaroo grasses and the original pasture that was here in these early days have now gone. To take away superphosphate, to take away these fertilisers from the pastures, will mean that they must ultimately revert perhaps to the original pastures or to some other form, and scientists and none of us really know what it will be like. I hope that more research will be done and debate will occur before this bounty expires so that we will have enough knowledge of what is really needed in this area. Much of rural production depends heavily on the use of phosphatic fertilisers, particularly the fertiliser, superphosphate, that we are talking about today. I ask the question: What does happen to the Australian rural economy without superphosphate?
The honourable member for Eden-Monaro also referred to the gulf between the city and the country. There is a divisiveness in our community today that is encouraged by the attitude of the Opposition, which breeds distrust between country and city communities. This is a matter of great regret to me personally as a person from the city, because it is only since the Industrial Revolution that most of us have been in the cities. It is only in this time that the nature of our society has changed. Every time I hear that great national song, Waltzing Matilda, I think that all Australians have a feeling of emotion and a feeling of nationhood and national pride when that song is sung in the cities or the country. It is a song about the country. It is a song about a swagman who sits by the billabong by a pond, and it is about a sheep. As I think about that national song I think: Well, if around that billabong the land did not have superphosphate fertiliser put on it, it would certainly be phosphate deficient. I think that is something all of us in the cities ought to remember, because in the cities we do depend on the country. In the morning the first thing we do is to have breakfast. The breakfast food comes from the country; the milk comes from the country; the sugar comes from the country; the meat we eat comes from the country. All these vital things in our lives, our very substance of living, come from the country and largely rely on fertiliser. We all have to eat. We all have this relationship with the country.
To listen to my friends opposite one would think that the only people who live in the country are wealthy farmers. I have news for them. There are not only farmers in the country, there are country towns and great provincial cities in Australia that depend on a vital and healthy rural economy. To knock ‘wealthy’ farmers is to miss the point completely. The wealthy farmers that the Opposition talks about have in large part disappeared because of the Opposition’s policies when in government. The larger a farm the larger the potential to make a large loss. Many of the large units of rural production in this country at the present time are making large losses. There are many small farms where there is poverty. The Henderson Committee report on poverty refers to rural poverty. In one case it referred to a dairy production area where one farmer with 5 dependent children claimed that his family had only fried onions to eat. He said that they did not eat meat except for pork bones.
There are many people in the farming sector in real need of welfare assistance. Whilst we do not say that these measures are welfare measures, they in part will put some confidence back on the one hand and on the other put some life back into the economy in a financial sense. When farmers purchase superphosphate they create jobs.
In one country town that I heard about a carrier who used to employ 12 people to distribute superphosphate fertiliser now employs only 4 people to distribute it. Farmers employ people. As I pointed out in my maiden speech in this House, the largest percentage of their business incomes goes firstly for the payment of wages and the purchase of materials and secondly in the payment of income tax. I have talked of poverty, amongst farmers and in the rural community. I shall quote from the Henderson report because I think we should understand the extent of rural poverty. The report stated:
Of the 399 000 income units in Australia with incomes, before housing costs, less than the poverty line, 142 000 were living in rural areas.
I turn now to the speeches against these measures made on behalf of the Opposition. Firstly, I refer to the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) who started eloquently by talking about moral bankruptcy. If anybody knows how to bankrupt the businesses of Australia he does. He did not give us any examples of the harm that he had done to both the farming and business communities. He forgets that farmers run businesses. Farmers arc businessmen. They are small businessmen in some parts and they are large businessmen in other parts. They are no different from businessmen in the cities in that regard. The whole attack of the Leader of the Opposition was a knock. All we heard was a great, eloquent speech of knockerism He criticised the majority report of the Industries Assistance Commission. He referred to the competent Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard) as a fledgling. He is some fledgling! We all know how high and well he is flying. When the Leader of the Opposition said that I thought how that honourable gentleman is like a lame duck flying around with a bit of shot in his wings from his own side of the House, looking around for a pond in which to settle finally when his Party has all its leadership problems sorted out. So much for his argument. We heard nothing new in it. The honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating), who I am pleased to say is in the House at present, made a better speech than his Leader did. I wish him well in the future in the leadership battle ahead.
– Don’t inflict that on me at this tender age.
-I thank him for his interjection.
– You might make a few enemies forme.
-The honourable member might need a few. He does not have many friends. He knocked the large farmers as is easy to do, and said that when the previous Government was in office it looked at a scheme to give superphosphate bounty assistance only to the small farmers of Australia but found that that would not work. Nowhere from the other side of the House did we hear a constructive point of view of what the Opposition would do. Did members of the Opposition tell us how they would solve the problems of rural welfare? Did they tell us how they would solve the immense rural problems of Australia which the present Government is tackling? No, in the debate on these Bills we have not heard one constructive point, nor in the few weeks that this Parliament has sat have we heard any constructive words on how to govern the country. All we hear are attacks on the Governor-General and the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). Members of the Opposition knock everything in sight. I can assure them that the people of Australia, like the people on this side of the House, are sick and tired of that.
I refer again to the speech of the honourable member for Blaxland. He said that he supported the Nitrogenous Fertilizers Subsidy Amendment Bill because, on balance, the nitrogen subsidy went to small farmers. Does that mean that he is against giving tariff assistance to the large manufacturing industries in Australia? We know how well the Opposition did when it was in government in bringing large and small manufacturing industry in city and country to its knees by reducing tariffs. But does his argument mean that no large industries in Australia- the steel industry and the car industry to name two- because they are large will not have any tariff protection, that the workers in those factories, the employees, all those Australians who are looking to this Government for assistance to get out of the economic mess caused by the previous Government, will not be assisted? I find complete inconsistency in his argument.
In the final minutes of my speech I should like to refer to the relationship between the problems of rural industry and the problems of manufacturing industry. Also, as I have said, the problems of poverty have to be looked at. I should like to quote from the Green Paper on Rural Policy in Australia which was a report to the former Prime Minister. I should like to use this to counter an argument put by the Leader of the Opposition a few minutes ago when he said that the rural industry was in large part cyclical and therefore it is silly to give superphosphate bounty assistance to that industry in times when there is perhaps overproduction. I believe that what I am about to read to the House completely counters that argument. The Green Paper states: . . . cyclical fluctuations in incomes of rural producers can be expected to recur . . . These not only have adverse effect on the welfare of rural producers, on their employees and on the rural people and institutions dependent on agricultural industries but they have adverse resource allocation effects. It would make good economic sense, on both efficiency and welfare grounds, to distribute these incomes more evenly over time. By analogy, a hypothetical distribution of compensatory assistance over time, to make it countercyclical, would consequently improve economic efficiency in the rural sector and would remove one area of potential conflict between economic efficiency and welfare.
I believe that the superphosphate Bill to which we are addressing our attention at present at least in part starts well on the way to doing that. We on this side of the House are interested in the people in the country, contrary to the views expressed by those opposite.
I refer finally to the relationship in the manufacturing sense between city and country. Initially the wealth of Australia and its cities came from the creation of wealth in the rural sector and the mining sector. We relied for years on our exports of rural products to develop this great land of ours. The tariff was originally designed to encourage employment in the manufacturing sector and to create wealth there and generally to transfer resources from the rural to the manufacturing sector. Therefore the tariff has a compensating effect because of the loss to the rural industries of elements of income that they would otherwise have earned. I think that in any proper debate on this subject we always have to remember that there is a relationship between the manufacturing sector, the primary industry sector and, as I have said, the welfare area of those in need in the country.
These measures are of an interim nature. I support the views of the honourable member for Mackellar who looks forward to the development of Australian deposits of phosphate rock. I look forward to an examination by the Government in the period that this bounty is in force until 30 June 1977 so that we can have a good look at what is happening in rural Australia, so that hopefully we can develop welfare policies to assist those in need in those areas and so that we can develop reconstruction policies in certain sections of the industry. We can have a complete look after the Industries Assistance Commission report is to hand to see where we are going in the development of this country. I am confident that at the end of the period the people of Australia will not be disappointed in our measures.
– It is always interesting in rural debates to hear the way in which supporters of the Government, particularly members of the National Country Party of Australia, continue to be in love with the myth that Australia continues to ride on the back of the rural producer. It is a myth and as I said last week there has been a consistent historical move away from the rural sector over a long time and this will continue to happen. But honourable members opposite seem to see this as a tragedy. They do not accept it as an historical fact. What they seem to be saying is that they would rather retain people in rural areas living in a state of poverty rather than see some of them move out and reconstruct their industries so that they can acquire a reasonable standard of living This is, of course, what it should be about. If people in the rural industries cannot be sustained in a viable situation the Government should be aiming in the long term to reconstruct them and to help them move out so that those remaining can acquire a reasonable standard of living. But a large number of Government speakers do not acknowledge this and persist to be infatuated with this agrarian myth that we still ride on the sheep’s back. I acknowledge that primary industry is still a tremendously important sector of our whole economy. I think everyone knows that something Uke 50 per cent of our export earnings come from primary industries. So it is in the national interest- not just in the interests of city or country people, but in the interests of the whole community- that this sector be sustained, but that it be sustained on a viable basis and that people in these industries are able to enjoy a reasonable standard of living.
The legislation before us is a typical example of the ad hoc or short term approach which the Government has to a particular rural problem. I have been waiting to hear a logical, rational or economic argument as to why the Australian community should subsidise superphosphate. I have not heard it because there is no rational argument. There is only the emotive argument that ‘We must keep people on the land’. There is really no good rational economic, social or welfare argument why we should subsidise the users of superphosphate any more than we should subsidise orchardists who use expensive chemicals or poultry farmers who have to purchase very expensive feed. Where is the argument? What is the difference? Why pick out a particular user of a particular product and say that product should be subsidised? There is no rational argument. We have not heard the argument because it docs not exist.
There is no clear objective in continuing the subsidy. The subsidy does not fit into any overall philosophy of reconstruction or making particular industries viable. It is just a straight out ad hoc, short term, political decision to win votes at a particular time. That is how it came about; that is how it has been sustained. The subsidy is opposed by many people. It is opposed by practically all expert opinion. The Industries Assistance Commission came out and argued very strongly against it. But not all members of the Commission had the courage of their convictions and some of them have gone along with granting the subsidy on a temporary basis. But the whole tenor of their argument is against it. The Bureau of Agricultural Economics has argued against it. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation has argued against it very strongly. Most of our leading agricultural economists have argued against it. Indeed many small producers have argued against it simply because they do not benefit at all. The subsidy is very regressive. The people who need it least are the people who benefit most, and this has been stated on many occasions on this side of the House.
The Government Green Paper which was produced last year- and most supporters of the Government acknowledge that it is an excellent document- argues very strongly against this sort of subsidy. The IAC report uses terms like: ‘We give the farmers the benefit of the doubt to justify a temporary extension of this subsidy’. The Commission refers to the subsidy being makeshift and short term measure. The only dissenter who had the courage of his convictions was Mr Robinson who comes out quite strongly and states the fact that the subsidy does not assist the right people, the people who need the assistance, and that it is a very costly subsidy to the Australian public. The IAC says that there should be specific measures to deal with specific problems and these sorts of subsidies are not the answer and do not fill that need.
The Green Paper draws attention to the conflict between the original aim, which seems to be to encourage the use of superphosphate, and the present aim, which seems to be to reduce the cost of production. What is the aim? It has not been stated. It is not stated in any of the Government ‘s policies. I suggest that the broad aim of all these measures should be to try to stabilise incomes based on needs and to try to cushion the cyclical effects of weather conditions which cause great variations in production or the cyclical effects of varying market values of the produce. But the subsidy is not related in any way to this objective. The bounty is not related to the ups and downs of primary producers’ incomes. It is not related to markets. It is just related to the use and it is very regressive.
Let us look at the overall criticism of the bounty. We have heard nothing to commend the bounty in terms of good sound argument. But there is a whole range of arguments which condemns this type of subsidy out of hand. The main criticism is that the subsidy is not related to needs. The biggest users, the people with the highest incomes, tend to get the greatest subsidy. The people who need it on the basis of income get the lowest subsidy. Many acknowledge that it adds very little real value to their incomes. The subsidy is not related to the different size of farms. It is the small farmer who gets the worst end of the stick. The subsidy is not related to the type of produce for which it is being used. The wheat farmer who is doing reasonably well gets just as much as the beef producer who is doing very badly. There is no relationship between what they are producing so where is the logic of it? There is no assessment of whether it is being used efficiently or inefficiently.
There is no protection against over-use. I do not think anyone would deny that many people who are referred to as Pitt Street farmers, or Duntroon farmers which I think is the new category, over-use superphosphate not on technical grounds but just as a means of saving on taxation and burying assets. No one would deny that. This practice has been going on for many years. There is no consideration as to whether there is a market for the type of produce that is being encouraged by the superphosphate bounty. There is no consideration whether we want more beef or less wheat. The bounty is given across the board. It is therefore completely non-selective and completely ineffective as a means of stabilising income or cushioning the ups and downs of the market or seasonal ups and downs. The proper planning of rural reconstruction and stability in the rural sector is based on those good solid principles which are spelled out in the Green Paper. In my experience, and I have said this before, farmers do not want handouts. The average farmer is not the sort of person who walks around with his hand out. Farmers want to stand on their own feet, but they want their operations to be soundly based and viable over a long period. They do not want to be dependent from year to year on handouts. We should aim at long term reconstruction and not at ad hoc short term handouts.
Let us consider what the experts in this field have to say. Dr Bruce Davidson, a lecturer in agricultural economics at Sydney University, at the end of last year said: . . . difficult to justify on the basis of welfare or efficiency. Biggest users … are farmers with largest areas of crops and pastures. They are high income earners (generally speaking) and are in least need of assistance. The bounty is non-selective and encourages production of products for which markets may not exist.
That was said by one of our leading agricultural economists. He is not a politician. The Primary Industry Newsletter, which is the primary producers’ mouthpiece, has stated:
The question is: If extension workers, economists and other advisers can show the financial and agronomic benefits of applying super, and farmers refuse or defer the advantages of that advice, why should they receive taxpayer support?
One of the industry’s own journalists said that. In other words, he said that the decision to use or not use superphosphate should not be made on the basis of whether a subsidy is paid. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, in a paper entitled Is top dressing worth the effort? stated:
Anybody about to stop topdressing should think very carefully about the effect this decision is likely to have on profits. He should not be swayed only by the latest rise in the price of fertiliser. If his stocking rate is high enough and his pasture responds to super, leaving it off could be an expensive mistake. A maintenance dose of 125 kg of superphosphate per ha costs about $9-$l I per ha. Depending on the enterprise this could return about $ 1 5 per ha- a profit of at least $4.
The CSIRO is saying that people would not stop using superphosphate just because there is no subsidy. It is not a vital factor in whether they use superphosphate. In the right circumstances, even without the subsidy, it could still pay to topdress with superphosphate, but the decision would be made after consideration of many other factors and not on a consideration of whether a subsidy is paid. Its use would depend on technical considerations. The farmer would have to consider such other alternatives as whether at a certain price another form of fertiliser might be more beneficial. He might want to use lime, gypsum or something like that for a particular purpose. He might consider that cultivation to renovate the pasture would have more value in terms of cost benefit. Those are the things which an expert farmer would have to weigh. I have no doubt that the honourable member for Angas (Mr
Giles), who has had considerable experience in this area, would agree that a decision on whether to use superphosphate does not depend on whether there is a subsidy. There are other considerations such as the amount of stock carried, the quality of pasture and the content of it, the sort of species it has on it and whether it is able to be watered. Those are all factors which have to be considered. Last but not least, of course, is the question of whether the product that the farmer is trying to produce can be sold.
The Opposition supports the Nitrogenous Fertilizers Subsidy Bill because it relates to a completely different set of circumstances. In no way can it be considered in the same light as the superphosphate subsidy. The Nitrogenous Fertilizers Subsidy Bill supports the Opposition’s philosophy that it is not against subsidies in a doctrinaire way. The Opposition considers that the question of subsidies should be judged on the merits of each individual case, and I would suggest that in this individual case there are very good grounds to support the subsidy. It is not a matter of being inconsistent. The Opposition is being consistent in being flexible and keeping an open mind on subsidies. Certainly we do not have a doctrinaire view that no subsidy should be supported. Certainly we do not take the doctrinaire view, which is adopted by some Government members, that all subsidies should be supported. We believe that they should be looked at on their merits.
Nitrogenous fertilisers are spread more evenly over the horticultural industries and there is not the great variation in extent of use that exists with superphosphate. Nitrogenous fertilisers are a very important element in the sugar industry, which is a stable industry, and they fit into it very well. Consideration also must be given to the need to sustain a local manufacturing industry for a particular product. If we did not have that industry we would become very dependent on overseas producers irrespective of whether we had nitrogenous fertilisers. I suggest that Australia is far too dependent on other nations in other areas, such as defence, and we should not become dependent on them for the supply of such scarce resources as nitrogenous fertilisers.
The other important element in the support of nitrogenous fertilisers is that there is a built-in incentive to keep down the cost of production. If the cost can be kept below a certain level the subsidy applies; if not, imports are able to come in and balance the supply-demand factor. It is because of that different situation that the Opposition supports the nitrogenous fertilisers bounty.
It is much more evenly spread. It supports industries that are stable and standing on their own feet, and there is an incentive to keep down the price, which the Opposition supports. Mr Deputy Speaker, it is interesting to note how many members on the Government side are interested in this debate.
– I do not think there is a Country Party member in here, is there?
– I think there is one Country Party member present. That is typical of the real interest the Country Party has in the problems of the farmers. It is interested in votes; it is not interested in the long term problems of the industry. The Country Party is consistent in its approach to all these problems. It is not prepared to grasp the nettle and restructure or reconstruct the industry or attempt a long term solution to the very real problems faced by rural industries. It is much more prepared to sustain people at a low level of income and leave them struggling along so that it can sustain the vision that we must not let anybody leave the rural industries or everybody will go to the cities and these industries will come to a standstill. People are infatuated with that idea and so they refuse to face up to the real long term problems. They refuse to accept the advice of our agricultural experts, of bodies such as the Industries Assistance Commission and CSIRO, and of agricultural economists, who are unanimous that there are no grounds whatsoever for the continuation of the superphosphate bounty. It is iniquitous, it is nonselective, it is unfair. It does not support the people who need support and it gives money to people who really do not need it.
The sort of money that is being spent could be used much more profitably in a reconstruction program in areas where the need is established. The $30m which the bounty will cost would go a long way towards reconstructing one and for all a particular section of the industry and enable it to be put on a viable basis so that people could operate at a reasonable level of income. Most farmers do not look to be wealthy. Farming is a way of life and farmers should be able to expect reasonable standards of income in line with the rest of the community. This is what reconstruction should be all about. It is the organisation of an industry so that due regard is given to the needs of the producers and also the needs of the consumers. But one should not be favoured at the expense of the other. That is the objective of the Opposition’s broad policy on rural matters. We want to see long-term reconstruction, not short-term ad hoc political decisions.
-The 2 Bills we are now debating have significance for a variety of reasons. Not the least of these is that they epitomise the differences and the philosophy and the practical approach to government between honourable members on this side of the House and our political opponents. The remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) in this debate were among the most hypocritical we have heard in this House, even from that honourable gentleman who is not exactly well known for his objectivity in debate.
The Leader of the Opposition today violently opposed the Phosphate Fertilizers Bounty Amendment Bill, yet it was his Government which in January 1975 referred to the Industries Assistance Commission the matter of Government assistance for the consumption of phosphatic fertilisers, including a request for an interim report on whether the present circumstances warranted interim assistance being accorded pending the receipt of the Commission’s full report. It is this issue that we are debating today, not the longer term issues affecting the industry.
The clear inference in the reference sent to the IAC in January 1975 was that there was a need for interim assistance, yet when the IAC recommended to this effect the Leader of the Opposition who was at that time the Prime Minister chose not to act on it, despite the fact that the present circumstances referred to in his Government’s reference to the IAC- increases in superphosphate costs, prices and other farm costs, reduced prices for wool and meat and the resultant squeeze on incomes in the pastoral industry- were even more serious when he received the report than they were when he referred the matter to the Commission in the first instance.
I thought that the honourable member for Fraser (Mr Fry) dealt with some issues in his speech which were of much more significance and better put together than those from other speakers from the other side today. It seems to me that what the honourable member for Fraser was doing in relation to this debate was confusing the longer term issues with those that are at present before the House because the 2 matters being debated are essentially interim measures. I also found it very difficult to understand the honourable member’s claim that the Opposition could support the nitrogenous fertilisers’ subsidy but at the same time oppose the phosphatic fertilisers bounty when the whole purpose of both measures before the House, as I have said, is to give a breathing space to the Government to enable it to consider the longer terms issues involved, both in terms of these products and the issues affecting the rural sector.
The present Opposition when in government set out on a deliberate and wilful policy of destruction of the rural sector. It adopted a sledge-hammer approach to the rural sector without any regard to the overall economic and social consequences either in total or as they related to individual industries. It cloaked this approach around the theme of economic rationality and efficiency. Its approach to economic management during its 3 years in office amply demonstrates how hypocritical is such a justification for its actions because in those 3 years the Labor Party showed complete and abject incompetence and inefficient economic management. The real facts of the matter are that the Labor Party is dogmatically anti-rural in its outlook. It seems to believe that rural producers are all millionaires living off the fat of the land whilst at the same time drawing vast amounts from the taxpayers through subsidies and the like. Nothing could be further from the truth. Of course there are many farmers and graziers who arc doing well. This country would be in an even more serious position if that were not so. But there are far more who are in a desperate financial position. One has only to look at the dairy industry, the horticultural industries and large sections of the beef industry, to name but a few. to recognise this fact. My colleague the honourable member for Higgins (Mr Shipton) elaborated on this earlier in his remarks.
In the 3 years of Labor Government the overall real income of farmers in this country fell by no less than some 50 per cent. In some industries the fall was even greater. In the dairy industry, for example, the decline was almost 70 per cent. Many of these farmers are in a situation of greater poverty than most other persons in Australia.
It is just not true to say as the Labor Party docs that this situation has arisen simply as a result of troubles on overseas markets. That has certainly been a factor. But a great, and significant factor as well has been the staggering increase in farm costs, which Labor presided over and in certain industries continued and record industrial unrest, particularly in the processing of farm products. The Fraser Government is committed to rectifying this situation.
One of the reasons for Labor’s callous disregard of the plight of many farmers in Australia seems to stem from its fundamental lack of understanding of the need for producerswhether they be in the rural or any other industryto have an adequate positive cash flow and a reasonable net income. The actions of the Labor Government between 1972 and 1975 seem almost to have been deliberately designed to make those 2 fundamental requirements unattainable for the private sector as a whole.
It is for these and other reasons I will come to later that I support the 2 Bills before the House. Both stem from reports of the Industries Assistance Commission- one an interim report on superphosphate and the other a final report on the nitrogenous fertilisers subsidy. The Commission is required to submit a final report by 3 1 July 1976 on whether the Government should continue to provide assistance for the consumption of phosphatic fertilisers.
In its interim report on superphosphate the Commission recommended as a short-term measure restoration of the bounty which lapsed at the end of 1 974 as a result of a decision by the Whitlam Government. The Commission emphasised that this recommendation should not be taken as necessarily indicative of the recommendations it will make in its final report. In its report on the nitrogenous fertilisers bounty the Commission recommended the phasing out of the existing subsidy over a 3-year period to the end of 1978. The Bills now before the House are in effect holding operations which will provide assistance to users of phosphatic and nitrogenous fertilisers until such time as the government has received the final superphosphate report and has had the opportunity to reach long-term decisions on the basis of that report and the report is has already received on nitrogenous fertilisers.
Both the IAC reports on which these 2 Bills are based are of profound significance for the future of the rural sector in Australia. They have a direct relationship to another IAC report tabled in this House last week on Rural Reconstruction. I hope and expect that when the Government reaches the stage of taking decisions on all 3 reports it will do so with an eye on the interrelationship between the three. There are other IAC reports in the pipeline and inputs to government from other sources which also are directly related. These reports have as their basic issue the question of the future of the rural sector in Australia and the extent, if any, to which that sector should be assisted from the public purse and, if so, how. They also deal fundamentally with the need for adjustment by various industries in the rural sector over time. These issues are not peculiar to the rural sector. All industries in all sectors of the economy face the need for adaptation and adjustment over time in the light of changing demand, changing technology and changing cost and price structures.
The rural sector is no stranger to change. Continually over many years it has had to cope with this problem and by and large it has done so very successfully. I believe, however, that adaptation to change is a much more difficult problem for the rural sector than for other sectors of the community.
The economic and social problems facing rural industries, particularly those in isolated areas, as so many of them are, are different from the problems facing, say, a manufacturing industry in a large city. The scope for switching resources from one activity to another in a rural area is much more limited than it is in an urban area. The main point I make in this respect today is that there is, in my view, a real need to recognise that desirable change can generally take place only at a slower rate in rural industries than it can in other industries. There may also be a greater need for direct assistance from government in helping rural industries to adjust to long term changes in economic conditions than there may be for non-rural industries, where resources tend to be more mobile and where the social consequences of change are less. I think that fur too often in the past this country has neglected the very real social costs involved in adjustment in non-metropolitan areas. I am delighted to see the increased attention that these areas are getting, both in this House and in other informed sectors of the community.
Decisions taken by the Government in respect of rural industries frequently have more fundamental long term and irreversible effects on not only those industries but also on the areas in which they are located. Those areas encompass a great deal of activities other than just the rural industries. They include the shopkeepers and the other support industries for the rural industries. The whole situation in many of these areas is a very complex and interrelated one. Therefore the breathing space that the Government has afforded itself through the 2 Bills, before taking long term decisions in relation to the consumption of phosphatic and nitrogenous fertilisersdecisions which will have important consequences for the future not only of the user rural industries but the communities which are based on them as well as the producer industries- is very much to be welcomed. It is also to be welcomed as a refreshing change from the shootfromthehip ad hoc approach of the Whitlam Government, an approach which very nearly brought this great nation, and the rural sector in particular, to ruin.
It would not be appropriate in this debate for me to go far into the substance of the question of long term assistance to the rural sector. These issues are fundamentally linked to those of tariff policy and to the whole issue of resource allocation in Australia. Let me content myself on this occasion by saying that in my view successive governments in the past have tended to adopt too piecemeal an approach to these matters. In framing policies in the area, say, of the superphosphate bounty, they have tended to look only at the industries using superphosphate, without paying sufficient regard to the relativity of those industries to other rural industries. I also wonder whether in the past we have been sufficiently selective in our examination of the implications even for the individual user industries, or whether we have paid sufficient regard to other possible means of assistance to producers in the industries most in need of assistance. It may be that some form of income support scheme would be preferable, both on economic and welfare grounds, to a subsidy on one input such as superphosphate. They are certainly matters which require the Government’s closest consideration in the months ahead.
We must look also at the whole question of how much output we want from the user industries. There is, in my view, little virtue- indeed, there is a real cost to the whole community- in being a major producer of goods for which there is an insufficient market at reasonable prices over the longer term. I will not pursue these matters further at this stage. I am confident that this Government will not fall into some of the errors of past governments in these respects. I urge that before these matters come before the House again as final decisions there be ample scope for wide ranging debate on the sorts of issues to which I have alluded today.
The measures before us today are only interim measures. At a time when farm incomes are severely depressed, when farmers are being desperately squeezed for cash in the pincer of low product prices and major cost increases- in that category the increase in costs to farmers of superphosphate in the last 2 years has been the highest of all increases- the callousness of the Opposition in opposing the holding operation of the Government, as outlined in these 2 Bills, is to me almost unbelievable. The measures will provide only relatively small relief for the beleagured rural sector. At this point even this small relief can be of critical importance to many producers. I wholeheartedly support the Bills. (Quorum formed).
Debate (on motion by Mr Bourchier) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 23 March, on motion by Mr Sainsbury:
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General be agreed to:
May it Please Your Excellency:
We, the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
Upon which Dr Jenkins had moved by way of amendment:
That the following words be added to the Address: ‘ .but note that:
the Speech makes no acknowledgement of the financial pre-eminence of the House of Representatives:
the Speech makes no reference to the need for action to ensure that there cannot be a recurrence of the Constitutional crisis which threatens the continuation of the Australian Parliamentary system, and
the proposals outlined in the Speech are so framed as to cause a major transfer of resources from middle and low income families to those on higher income levels’.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jarman)Before calling the honourable member for La Trobe, I advise the House that this is the honourable member’s maiden speech. I hope the House will hear him in the normal courteous way.
-Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. This is the resumption of the debate on the Address-in-Reply to the Governor-General’s Speech at the opening of the Thirtieth Parliament. It has been a long debate, and I have heard some excellent speeches from members of the Government team about the matters raised in the Governor-General’s Speech.
I am grateful that the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) will be following me in this debate. He is one of the big guns of the Fraser team and one of the hardest workers in this Parliament. He is not like the big guns of the Opposition Party who remind me so much of what every soldier knows- the bigger the gun, the bigger the bore.
Firstly, I wish to express the great pleasure it gives me to stand here today as the representative of some 90 000 voters of La Trobe and their dependants. I assure the residents of my electorate that I will fight for their interests at all times. I thank the many hundreds of people who worked so hard for my Party at the December election.
I am pleased to see so many members of the Opposition listening so attentively to what I have to say on this occasion. They represent a very different scene from that which we noticed earlier this afternoon when the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) was speaking. I have rid hesitation in rejecting the rather specious amendment the Opposition has moved and in supporting the motion relating to the Governor-General’s Speech. It is the blueprint outlining steps the Fraser Government will take to set Australians back on the road to the life of opportunity they deserve, and have a perfect right to expect.
I recommend that everyone compare the opening speech to this Parliament with that made just 3 years ago to the Twenty-eighth Parliament. At that time the Governor-General said:
My Government believes that its economic, trade development and industrial policies provide a basis for strong and continuing growth of Australian prosperity.
Later reference was made to: the clear failure of existing social and economic structures to meet the needs of modern society, particularly in relation to education, social security, health, industrial relations and urban and regional development.
Pious words indeed; yet this was the sort of irrational ambition shown at that time by the new Labor Government. It is easy to criticise the past, but here was an example of where the great socialist experiment of the last 3 years had its origins.
Does anyone still doubt the socialist ambition of the Australian Labor Party? Does anyone still doubt that Australians now understand that socialism has no future here? Consider for a moment these revealing words:
I have never anywhere, on any public platform, tried to walk away from the fact that I am a dedicated and convinced socialist.
I do not respect the integrity of anyone who tries to say that the Labor Party is not a socialist party, because that is what we are.
Can honourable members guess who said those words? Was it Laurie Carmichael? No. Was it Bill Hartley? No. It was the Federal President of the Australian Labor Party, the man destined to lead that Party in the not too distant future. It was Mr R. J. Hawke.
Mr predecessor in the seat of La Trobe was Mr Anthony Lamb, a man who worked in the previous 3-year period to represent the electorate. In his first speech reference was made to Parliament as an anachronistic gas chamber where politicians made wordy speeches, threw around inane interjections and manipulated parish pumps. There appears no clear evidence that these characteristics have disappeared today. He was a member of this House preoccupied with ‘a program designed to achieve basic changes in the administration and structure of Australian society’. Unlike him, I do not see a ‘clear failure of existing social and economic orders’ as the main problem facing this country, and this will become evident as debates on a range of subjects unfold in this House. At the poll declared in La Trobe last December he presented me with the member’s gold medallion, though he qualified it as being on loan. Honourable members may regard this as particularly charitable. We all know what these ALP loans are like. Even the temporary ones are for 20 years.
The Governor-General’s Speech makes it clear -
– You do not have the guts to support the amendment. Let us see you support the amendment.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jarman)Order! I remind the honourable member for Newcastle that it is the maiden speech of the honourable member for La Trobe. I ask that the honourable member for La Trobe be heard in silence.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, 1 apologise to you and to the honourable member for La Trobe. I was not aware that it was his maiden speech.
– Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I notice that the interjection came from the high priest of convention. The GovernorGeneral’s Speech makes it clear that the Government’s immediate objective is to bring inflation under control so that there can be jobs for all who want to work. Until then there will be no adequate employment opportunities, no soundly based return to prosperity.
The records of Hansard are full of speeches by new members preoccupied with these considerations, but it is a clear matter of fact that the predicament has never been more acute than when the Fraser Government was elected on 13 December last. Inflation rates of nearly 20 per cent and unemployment figures of 5 per cent were never dreamt of in 23 years of LiberalCountry Party Government; yet the Australian Labor Party achieved them in just 3 years. It took only 3 years to double national expenditure to some $2 1,000m, but are government services twice as generous as a result? There is no evidence of this in La Trobe. Anyway, how was the money for this expenditure raised by the Labor Government? It was raised by a form of secret tax- the insidious bite of the tax slug into earnings as they increased simply by inflation. Where this failed, it just printed more money, and still managed in 3 years to spend $8,000m more than was raised.
One of the most appalling features of inflation is that it strikes hardest at those least able to withstand it- the poor, the elderly, the invalid, those buying homes, those trying to get ahead in the world. They are the people- the good, sound Australian people- who turned to the Liberal and National Country Parties in 1975, and in few places was this turn more evident than in the electorate of La Trobe.
Of course today’s Opposition has no end of colourful, even romantic reasons for its demise. One of the most novel is intervention by the Central Intelligence Agency. The only CIA in my electorate stood for concerned intelligent Australians
Typical of Labor’s failure to understand the course on which it embarked in 1972 was the conclusion drawn at that time by the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis), who said:
Our program will clearly lead to the eventual abolition of poverty in our society and a more secure and just society for the vast majority of Australians.
Those were the words of 1972. What an example of the language of fantasy.
The objective may be fine and may even comply with the objectives sought by the Liberal and National Country Parties, but Australians now understand, in a lesson sound enough to last a generation, that the objective will not be achieved under the umbrella of the grand socialist design.
Australia’s history is characterised not by examples of people seeking more and more dependence on government but by people with the courage, the ambition and the common sense to improve their lot, and in so doing play their role in contributing to the national resource- the fund from which general standards in health, education, welfare and other avenues can be improved.
The Federal Government’s role is, in large part, to promote conditions under which individuals can again play their role. I am pleased that the Governor-General’s Speech makes this clear and states in unequivocal terms how it will be done.
Of particular interest to me are 2 special measures of reform that will have relevance to people of La Trobe. The first is tax indexation- a policy designed to protect the gains workers make in earnings from the pounding tax bites have made on those increases.
The second is our historic step of offering the principle of tax sharing to the States within the Commonwealth. Through this move State and local government will be offered direct access to a portion of personal income tax revenue. It is a move violently opposed by our opponents, who make no secret whatever of their scheme to abolish State governments and make Canberra the great centralised source of all power. Unfortunately the Labor Party still entertains the view put forward by Alfred Deakin, who looked forward to the time when:
The Commonwealth will have acquired a general control over the States, where every extension of political power will be made by its means and go to increase its relative superiority.
I can assure the House that our reform is widely supported in my electorate and provides the first real chance local councils will have to arrest the dramatic rate increases required to. provide local services. My concern is the enthusiasm with which the various States will take up this historic offer. I certainly cannot detect much enthusiasm from the State governments in Tasmania or South Australia. An independent observer might question the rationality of a position of one Parliament and government raising .the money and another Parliament and government spending it. This can too often lead to a great deal of irresponsibility by both the taxers and the spenders. What is clear is that we should not continue to muddle along in the way that has developed in recent years. The Commonwealth *s income tax monopoly ceased to depend on law of any kind many years ago. States have been deprived of that entitlement by measures of guile, force and at times something not much short of fraud.
Our policy, which is perfectly feasible, will restore adequate taxing powers to the States without rendering the Commonwealth impotent in the influence of overall economic considerations. This is not the first time a Liberal-Country Party government has made such an offer to the States. The Menzies Government tried it at a Premiers Conference in 1 95 1 , but the States failed to grasp the opportunity. A well known wit tried to summarise the position of State Premiers at that time when he wrote:
We thank you for the offer of the cow But we can’t milk and so we answer now We answer in a loud resounding chorus Please keep the cow and do the milking for us.
Within the La Trobe electorate are a great many small manufacturers who give local employment to thousands of residents. In the last 5 years these manufacturers have faced many problems, and the most critical of these problems is uncertainty. There is an urgent need for a broader, 10-year view of where we are seeking to go with manufacturing industry. There is a need for more participation between government, management and employees in decisions affecting manufacturing industry.
Senator Cotton has announced that he will introduce a White Paper on the future of manufacturing industry. We must re-establish national goals and give an indication of the future role of manufacturing. We seem to have lost earlier, widely accepted aims and ambitions in a flurry of talk about change. If industry is to have the confidence necessary to expand, and thereby to provide more job opportunities, then industry must be able to see its future and know that it has community support in the role it plays. Without confidence there will be less new investment, lower productive gains and fewer employment opportunities.
People employed in such industries as footwear and textiles are quite rightly demanding more say, more consultation, fewer rash changes in matters which so greatly affect their daily lives. It is not good enough to rely upon ‘Canberra knows best’ in such incredible schemes as the 25 per cent across the board tariff cuts.
The report of the Jackson Committee is one of the most significant contributions in a very long time. Whether it has found the right answers is debatable, but we must not lose sight of the objective. We have an enormous task before us if we are to put this country back on the rails again. The Governor-General’s Speech demonstrates to all how we will go about that task. I am pleased to be on the team.
I conclude by extending my congratulations to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, and through you, to Mr Speaker on your election to your respective offices. I thank honourable members for the courtesy extended to me.
Suspension of Standing Orders
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Treasurer speaking for a period not exceeding 30 minutes.
– In participating today in this debate on the
Address-in-Reply, I wish to take the opportunity of saying something about monetary conditions and prospects as the Government presently sees them. The broad basis of the Government’s economic policies was set out in my statement to the Parliament on the economy and economic policy on 4 March last. At that time I commented in part on the dangerous liquidity situation which the Government had inherited and the policies it had adopted to deal with that situation. Nonetheless there still appear to be some unwarranted misapprehensions and misunderstandings about monetary conditions and prospects.
In this statement I shall therefore spell out more specifically the Government’s view of recent and prospective developments in financial markets and explain more fully the nature of our monetary policies. In doing so I hope not only to provide, as clearly as is possible, the Government’s interpretation of what has already occurred but also to say something about the intent of our monetary policies during the period ahead. Consider at the outset the monetary scene which confronted the Government when it assumed office.
In brief: Calendar 1975 had seen a massive Budget deficit of $4.2 billion. Less than $500m, that is less than one-eighth of this huge injection of liquidity, was offset during 1975 by sales of government securities to the non-bank public. In consequence the volume of money had been increasing at annual rates in the vicinity of 20 per cent for more than a year while, over the same period, the economy had shown no growth whatsoever in terms of constant prices. In short, the Government inherited an economy which was being swamped by a flood of liquidity generated by an extravaganza of government spending. There can be no dispute about that.
At the end of 1975 banks and other financial institutions were, as a consequence, extremely liquid: For example, the average margin of free funds of the major trading banks over what was then the 18 per cent LGS requirement was as much as 10 percentage points. Savings bank deposits and funds held with permanent building societies grew massively by more than $3.4 billion, or 22 per cent, in 1975. In part this reflected the stagflation-induced tendency for consumers to save a higher proportion of their swollen money incomes.
The connections between financial conditions and economic conditions are, of course, complex. However, one does not have to take on some sort of rigidly ‘monetarist’ mantle to recognise the dangers that such a sustained and massive build-up in liquid assets pose for economic stability. The essential point is that the stock of liquid assets constitutes latent purchasing power, which can be quickly turned into actual purchases at any time and for any purpose, speculative or non-speculative. High rates of monetary growth pose such a threat even when economic activity is very slack. Moreover, inflation thrives on inflationary expectations, and inflationary expectations thrive in a permissive monetary environment.
To spell this out a little, if higher inflation is expected by those in a position to influence costs and prices they attempt to compensate for that and thus boost the actual inflation rate. Once such expectations are entrenched, they tend to become self fulfilling in this way. It is not just the rate of addition to monetary aggregates that matters; the inflationary danger is heightened when those additions are superimposed on a base that is already excessive. Again, these matters can hardly be in dispute.
It can be common ground also that, following the credit crunch of 1974, an easing of monetary conditions was appropriate. But having turned on the liquidity tap, the force and length of time for which the previous Government left it running was clearly excessive. If the situation had been allowed to continue as it was, then sooner rather than later there would have been pressures forcing through the relief valves of the economic system. The main such valve is higher inflation. Another is the balance of payments. It scarcely needs saying that a situation in which either of these consequences of excess liquidity pressures occurs is a situation in which action has been too long delayed.
At the end of 1975 the Government therefore faced the task of defusing the monetary timebomb. It acted on 2 fronts. First, we embarked upon the major task of hauling back the rate of growth of government expenditure. Not only is this task fundamental to our whole approach to and philosophy of government; it is also necessary in order to begin slowing down the flood of liquidity at this source- the Budget deficit. Our early actions on expenditures were valuable for the immediate savings they provided. Over and above that, they also clearly set the directions of our fiscal policy. They were meant to signal, and they did signal, that the spending extravaganza was over. However, seasonal factors apart, the Budget deficit was- and is - still running at a very high level even after these decisions. Moreover, the requirement to reduce the excessive existing level of liquidity was greater than could be achieved simply by slowing the rate at which additional funds were flowing into the economy. Some of the excess already in the system had to be drained off. During the period of drain- but only during that period- the monetary aggregates had to grow at rates well below desirable longer-run trend rates- or even, temporarily, to fall. This then was the background of the monetary measures announced on 22 January last.
Coupled with out expenditure control decisions those measures meant that, for the first time in a long while, fiscal and monetary policy were clearly beginning to work together. However, while the Government’s monetary policy may be accurately labelled as one of restraint, it should be clearly understood that it is restraint on excess liquidity, not restraint on private sector activity. On the contrary, the policy is directed to setting the appropriate monetary conditions which, by helping to moderate inflation, will foster sustainable economic recovery and private sector growth. The January measures were carefully designed therefore to take up excess private sector liquidity but not to an extent that would jeopardise economic recovery.
While immediate and continuing restraint on the monetary situation was required, the Government’s fundamental requirement remains that sufficient funds be available through the financial markets to underwrite private sector growth. The 22 January measures thus sought to control liquidity by selling more government bonds, especially to non-bank investors, and by reducing the margins of free liquidity in the banking system. The new Australian savings bonds, designed for particular appeal in the ‘household’ savings area, were a key ingredient in this approach. As is now well known, the measures have achieved a quick and substantial success. Over $l,100m has been subscribed to Commonwealth securities by nonbank investors since the measures were introduced. Series 1 of the Australian savings bonds attracted subscriptions of $751 m net, and series 2, which came on issue on 1 1 February, had raised $203m net to the end of last week, 1 9 March. Securities offered in the February cash loan raised $194m from non-bank investors, with subscriptions to the longer stocks being particularly noteworthy. The great bulk of this flow of liquidity out of the private sector took place a month or so ago- that is, in the first half of February. In terms of the future prospects for the monetary aggregates, it is, so to speak, liquidity under the bridge.
In keeping with the Government’s commitment to ensure adequate finance in the private sector, the measures have been administered flexibly. That will continue to be the case. For example, .following the outstanding success achieved by series 1 of the new savings bonds, the lower yielding series 2 was introduced on 1 1 February. As the figures quoted earlier demonstrate, this has attracted a steady though much reduced rate of subscription. Although the large transfer of funds to the Government which took place in February is only now starting to show up in the published statistics, the movement was quickly felt in financial markets. It is a matter of congratulations to their increasing sophistication that, generally speaking, markets met that withdrawal of funds without much strain. A rearrangement of portfolios of the magnitude that occurred between, and within, financial institutions could not be accomplished without some rate adjustments.
However, because of the very high levels of liquidity prevailing at the outset, these adjustments were minimal. Some private short-term interest rates- the most sensitive segment of the maturity spectrum- rose moderately; some subsequently dropped back. Some building societies, chiefly in States where the excessive supply of liquidity had previously been allowed to drive down deposit rates to rather finely-pitched levels, re-examined their positions and levelled rates up to those which had been prevailing elsewhere. Medium to long rates were not disturbed- in fact over the period some rates were reduced. For example, several finance companies lowered rates offered on debenture issues during February. New issue activity on behalf of the corporate sector continued unabated or, if anything, strengthened. Lending by the banking sector and its current capacity to lend have not been reduced. New lending through the trading bank system continue to run at established rates. There are no signs of those rates abating.
While the free liquidity of the trading banks was reduced by 5 per cent as a result of the increase in the LGS minimum agreed by the Reserve Bank and the trading banks, LGS ratios were on average, the same as the end of February as at the end of December. Sufficient funds are available for prospective requirements, including those for working capital.
One particular point of concern that has been expressed related to the impact of the measures on lending for housing. Let us look at the facts. Lending for housing grew extremely rapidly during 1975. In the first half of the year savings banks were dominant, while in the second half permanent building societies expanded their lending more rapidly. Lending for housing by the savings banks and the trading banks seems likely to continue at high levels. In some States permanent building societies, in adjusting to the funds flows associated with the initial introduction of Australian savings bonds, have temporarily curtailed their rates of new lending while they assess their position and rebuild liquidity. However, indications are that- settings aside disturbances in Queensland arising from quite different and unconnected causes- even in the areas initially most affected, permanents are again receiving net deposit inflows. In short, there is little reason to suppose that aggregate lending for housing will not continue at adequate rates. The Government will, of course, keep under constant notice the availability of finance for housing.
I make the, foregoing points of detail, some of them technical, because I wish strongly to rebut in this debate the alarmist cries of ‘credit squeeze’ which have been emanating from some quarters. There will be no ‘credit squeeze ‘ in any meaningful sense of that term, in the months ahead. Indeed it should be obvious from what I have said that the chief impact of the measures of 22 January has already been felt- and the necessary adjustments made.
– We do not believe this.
– The fall in the recorded statistics of the volume of money for February which those figures, when released, will show, is now past history, as is the Government of which the honourable member for Lang (Mr Stewart) was a member. The fall in fact occurred in the first half of that month. As already noted, subscriptions since mid February to series 2 Australian savings bonds have been moderate. In short, the measures were carefully designed and have had a measured and carefully monitored effect.
So much for the past; what now of the future? In thinking about the future, I believe 2 elements provide the key. Firstly, and most importantly, seasonal factors apart, the Budget remains in heavy deficit and is still pumping liquidity into the economy. Thus while some funds have been drained out of the system by virtue of the onceforall operation of early February, the remaining private sector stock of liquidity is quite high and apart from seasonal movements it is still growing. As indicated earlier, trading banks’ liquidity margins remain adequate to support new lending in accordance with the guidelines given earlier by the Reserve Bank. Under these guidelines, banks have been approving new overdrafts at the rate of some $90m a week. The guidelines are intended to avoid lending being too accommodating to inflationary demands but to leave banks with the capacity to provide adequate finance to assist recovery in economic activity. The stock of liquidity more generally remains high.
In saying this I am of course aware that we are approaching the usual seasonal run-down in financial markets in the June quarter. There need be no cause for concern in that. The markets have shown themselves to be fully capable of adjusting to seasonal flows in the past and there is no reason to doubt their capacity to do so on this occasion. If anyone has such doubts they should in any case be resolved by the second of the 2 key elements to which I earlier referrednamely, the Government’s commitment to the avoidance of any undue strain in markets at that time.
As far as the underlying trend rates of change in the money supply are concerned, I have already referred to the estimates in my statement on the economy of 4 March. While all such estimates necessarily must be subject to considerable uncertainty- they are the first estimates to be produced in this House for many years- our expectation as a Government is that over the six months ended June 1976, the volume of money broadly defined, M3, might rise in seasonally adjusted annual rate terms in the order of 1 1 per cent- 13 per cent. That estimate was given in the full knowledge of the large policy-induced funds drain in early February. Such an outcome would incidentally imply that the growth in the volume of money over 1975-76 as a whole would be around 15 per cent. It also implies of course that in seasonally adjusted terms the June quarter now ahead of us will show noticeably stronger growth in the volume of money than the March quarter which is now virtually behind us.
In terms of actual liquidity movements as distinct from the seasonally adjusted basis, the June quarter will see a run-down. However, the general liquidity situation will not become overly tight. In particular, banking policy will be administered to maintain a level of bank liquidity sufficient to enable banks to conduct their lending policy in accordance with Reserve Bank guidelines to which I referred earlier. Quite probably, as financial markets adjust into the trough, the more sensitive private short-term interest rates will show some temporary increase in the face of the seasonal increase in the demand for funds; indeed, there are already some signs of this. As that occurs it will represent no more than the normal market response and, given the underlying situation of the continuing additions to private sector liquidity from the budget deficit, would not carry implications for longer-term rates. The authorities will, of course, keep conditions under review in determining actions in relation to the banking system and in financial markets generally. For example, the Reserve Bank will, as normal, be conducting its operations in financial markets to smooth out any marked seasonality and other temporary irregularities.
Against the background objective of ensuring that sufficient funds are available to underwrite recovery of the private sector, it is the Government’s intention to avoid undue disturbance in financial markets beyond the normal seasonal range of fluctuation, with which they are able to cope. In short, there is no reason to suppose that the markets will not traverse the seasonal low as smoothly as they have generally done.
– Famous last words.
-Well, the honourable member was buried for his famous last words. The purpose for which I am in this Parliament is to be put on the record for my words right now, which is more than I can say for the former assistant to whichever Treasurer it might have been in recent years.
– There were three of them.
– I am always very conscious that in the past my function has had a very high mortality rate. The honourable gentleman is very much aware of that. As I have indicated, in seasonally adjusted terms the June quarter is likely to see resumed growth in the monetary aggregates. The passing of the seasonal trough means that in actual terms also the aggregates will begin growing again during June or, certainly, July.
What lies ahead for the period further beyond that? The Government will, of course, be budgeting for a much reduced rate of growth of expenditure and a much smaller deficit in 1976-77 than the Budget outcome now in prospect for 1975-76 inherited from our predecessors. Wc have however never suggested that in 1976-77 alone we can eliminate the deficit entirely, or even come close to that. In fact we already know that we face a very formidable task in cutting expenditures back by anything like the amount which would seem to be desirable. Thus, as the new financial year begins, our concern will relate not to problems of falling liquidity but to the continuing problem of ensuring that liquidity is adequate but does not again begin to grow excessively.
Looking further ahead into 1977, the chief task of government will be to ensure that expenditure and the deficit continue to move firmly on the desired course of restraint. In so far- but only in so far- as fiscal responsibility is restored in this way it will become possible to begin relaxing the stance of monetary policy. As the deficit is reduced the requirements of its financing will of course ease. That easing, when it can be brought about, will in turn provide desirable assistance to the private sector to expand investment and activity and take up resources released from the public sector as that is wound back. If, at the same time, as is the clear intent of Government policy, inflation rates have been lowered further, then progress may be possible towards reducing interest rates to the levels prevailing before the period of Labor mismanagement. That is our clear objective. There should be no illusion, however, that we can succeed in reining back inflation unless the liquidity situation can be first brought under control. Equally there can be no illusion that longer-term interest rates can be meaningfully lowered until inflation is brought down further.
Let me now sum up. When the first half of 1976 is behind us, what the financial aggregates will show is that through this Government’s action some of the dangerously excessive pool of liquidity has been drained off and that the growth in the monetary aggregates is at last becoming more appropriate to the requirements of sound economic policy. These objectives will, when achieved, assist in establishing the conditions necessary to rein in inflation while sustaining economic recovery. These are the objectives to which I believe we can all subscribe.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I, together with other honourable members, would like to congratulate you on your election to this position again. I ask you to convey to the Speaker the fact that I am very pleased that I had the honour of nominating him for the position of Speaker and to say- I am sure this feeling is shared by all honourable members- that I believe he is doing an astoundingly good job, as you are.
In one of my rare frivolous moods the other day I decided to write out a question to ask the Speaker, but I did not get round to it. Some of my colleagues back here on the back bench have been sorry that I did not. The question dealt with the incredibly small space we have between the front edges of our seats and the back edges of our desks. We should like you, Mr Deputy Speaker, to know that when we stand to address you we have to commit our bodies to the most extraordinary and impossible positions. If we wish to address you with a straight back we have to bend our knees. If we wish to address you with straight knees we have to bend our backs. To do this we must assume a posture in which none of us would like to be photographed. We have asked Mr Speaker privately whether he will get the genius who invented this exquisite form of torture to do something about it for all of us back here and he has very kindly agreed to do that.
I should like to commend the Government for the Governor-General’s Speech and its contents. Like everybody on this side of the House I am deeply conscious of the fantastic challenge ahead of the Government. I join with other back benchers in wishing the Government well in its tasks. I should like to say a few words about this Parliament before I proceed. At times the atmosphere in this chamber is eerie. I am not making u cheap political point now, but there are 2 members of the Opposition in the chamber. This is typical of the standard of debate and the atmosphere that is here. I am saddened by the fact that now there is virtually no Opposition in this chamber. That is bad for democracy and it is bad for this institution.
I miss the cut and thrust of debate that normally comes from an Opposition bench. I miss the vigorous and virile interjections that keep honourable members who speak on their toes. More particularly, I am sick to death of the obsession which the Leader of the Opposition ( Mr E. G. Whitlam) has- and unhappily other members of the Opposition have- about the Governor-General and past history. This Government has so many decisions to make and many big problems to tackle, and obviously it will not be right all the time. I would have thought that it is the incumbent duty of every member of the Parliament to be critical of the real issues and not to be a modern day Don Quixote chasing and spearing windmills. In fact I would say with all the kindness I have to the Leader of the Opposition and to other members of the Opposition that fanaticism is a very bad thing. In fact George Santayana once defined u fanatic as a person who redoubles his efforts long after he has forgotten his aim. One wonders sometimes whether that is not precisely the position into which the members of the Opposition have got themselves.
While I commend the Government for what is in the Governor-General’s Speech and wish it well and will support the main thrust of the Speech I should like to take it on myself, as I hope other members of the back bench will, if they feel the need, to be critical in a constructive way if I feel inclined so to do. I say that I will certainly do that. I notice that the Press has been asked to assume the role which the Opposition has vacated. I do not see why the Press should have a monopoly on that role. Since this Parliament has been sitting it has been the subject of charge and countercharge and of politicking which I have not seen since I have been in this Parliament. Sometimes sitting out here in the never-never I get a little despairing at what we are doing about the enormous problems of the nation.
I will speak on 2 main areas. One is a humanitarian issue concerning the amounts we give to international disaster assistance, and I should like to inject some new thoughts concerning the crisis in Timor. I refer to the last page of the Governor-General ‘s Speech where he said:
We have a unique opportunity to establish in Australia a truly liberal and humane society -
I looked at those words and as I read them just by coincidence on my table there was a list of Australian aid contributions to disaster areas over the past several years. I could not help thinking how hollow those words rang when I looked at our latest donation to a stricken people, namely, the Guatemalan people. We gave them, in that time of disaster, $50,000.
Before I speak on that matter, let me say on a philosophical note that I believe that there is a constant dilemma for members of this Parliament, no matter what political persuasion they have. Every decision we have to make concerning how we are to vote, how we are to speak and what we are to support or not to support involves a dilemma as to whether our actions and votes should be directed towards assisting Australian. per se or towards assisting the human race. As I have sat here over the years, I have found many times that there is a dilemma because on so many occasions when we vote to assist Australians in some area we do it to the detriment of other people of the human race. Undoubtedly, we must give Australians the priority because that is why we are elected; that is why we are here and it is our prime responsibility. I illustrate my point simply by referring to tariffs. Every time we vote for a high tariff to protect imports from some underdeveloped country- one can think of dozens of commodities such as textiles, sandshoes, tennis racquets, cricket bats, etc.- we are in fact depriving an Asian or several thousand Asians of a job. Every time we give massive increases in pensions and benefits under Medibank and other social welfare programswhich it is our bounden duty to do- we are in fact depriving ourselves of the capacity to help underdeveloped nations. Every currency movement which we vote for or support, every trade agreement which we vote for or support affects other human beings in other parts of the world who are not as fortunate as we are.
Our foreign affairs policy is determined essentially on a basis of self-interest. Sometimes it is directed so that we will not offend our neighbours, rather than looking at other people’s humanitarian interests. Of course, self-interest as a basic motivation for politicians can be defended because it is the basic reason for man forming himself into a society in the Stone Age. He did so to protect his own society from predators. I suggest that there is a danger that self-interest or even the mention of self-interest sometimes can completely exclude all rational and logical consideration of humanitarian factors. For example, the economy at the present time is in a chaoticcondition. Inflation, unemployment and a huge deficit are the major problems we face. These arc matters of self-interest to which we must direct our attention and which we must solve.
These matters can be used as a rationale for the pathetic donation of $50,000 which we recently gave to Guatemala, when we know that more than 18 000 people were killed, 62 000 people were injured and one million people were rendered homeless. While donations of this sort add marginally to the deficit, they have no inflationary effects whatsoever; nor do they worsen the local employment situation. I understand that the view of the Department of Foreign Affairs is that Guatemala is not in our sphere of interest and therefore a small amount of aid can be justified in the absence of self-interest. But this leads to a very curious view if it is thought through to a logical conclusion. What we say, if we accept the Department of Foreign Affairs view, is that a maimed child is of less concern to Australians if he or she is, by virtue of a gynaecological accident, conceived in Guatemala than is a child who is maimed in an earthquake and who was born in Indonesia or Malaysia which, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs, happen to be in our sphere of interest. I am not being party political about this, in criticising this Government for a $50,000 donation, because the history of such donations by the Australian Labor Party is equally as pathetic as ours. Wc should not be blaming the Cabinets which put these donations down or the Department of Foreign Affairs. If we have any conscience about this matter, we should be blaming ourselves us members of Parliament.
We have had from many Australians from time to time, and from me as much as anybody, curious expressions of self-righteousness and outrage in protest against an odd bit of bad language or sex when it appears on television and allegations that their good and decent standards or morality are being assailed but at the same time they allow such a pathetic gesture to a stricken people pass by with almost an air of gay nonchalance. They and we- the Parliamentgave $50,000 to Guatemala which has experienced one of the great tragedies of the decade. The Australian Labor Government gave $25,000 to Nicaragua where 10 000 human beings were killed or injured in an earthquake. We gave $23,000 to the Ethiopian nation when it was being devastated by famine. We gave $25,000 initially to Pakistan after 5000 people died and incredible human suffering occurred as a result of an earthquake. These gestures of compassion by this Parliament line up very strangely against the amount of $20m which Australians spent last Saturday on race horses. In the light of this the words of the Governor-General that we live in a liberal- and I note that the word ‘liberal’ is spelt with a small ‘1’- and humane society ring rather hollowly.
Another danger of self-interest is that the mere mention can exclude any other factors. We could allow ourselves to be led into a false argument in respect of Timor. If one wanted to put forward a hypothetical situation that it is to the advantage of” Australians and future Australians that Timor should be governed by a stable independent nation which is anti-communist and that would be good for Australians such an argument could be sustained. But the point I am making is that sometimes even the mention of self-interest leads us into conclusions which might well be false. One could also argue that President Suharto in his present situation might believe that an independent East Timor could lead to future dangers and future Russian or Chinese bases.
The hideous situation in which we find ourselves is that if we are motivated and guided by self-interest we will be tempted to deny freedom to 650 000 human beings who live in East Timor. We would do this despite the fact that 50 000 of the people of this country died gallantly and bravely fighting for Australia against the Japanese invasion in the last war. This is the dilemma in which we find ourselves. It is a dilemma at which we should look. Perhaps this matter of self-interest can best be summed up in a cable from Mr Richard Woolcott, the Australian Ambassador in Jakarta, which was leaked to the Press. An article which appeared in the Melbourne Age states:
Mr Woolcott says . . . that Australia must accept Indonesia’s incorporation of the colony and not take issue with Jakarta on issues of principle.
He says that Australia must now curb hostile attitudes towards Indonesia in order to preserve long-term relationships.
Then comes the crunch question: ‘It is a choice between what might be described us Wilsonian idealism and Kissingerian realism ‘, he says. ‘The former is more proper and principled but the longerterm national interests may be served by the latter-wc do not think Australia can have it both ways. ‘
There is, of course, truth in that. I do not blame Mr Woolcott for giving that advice to the Government although I certainly question his judgment. I certainly question his judgment even more when one reads further into the cable. The newspaper article quotes this section of the cable in the following terms: ‘Indonesia still wants to know whether, privately, we still sympathise with their objective (the incorporation of Timor), even if we cannot condone the means they have adopted of pursuing it’, . . .
This means simply that our Ambassador is recommending to the Government that we secretly approve Indonesia’s invasion of Timor and publicly condemn it, but not too loudly. I question the morality of the Age newspaper in publishing the cable, but on balance I believe that the newspaper had a public duty to do so. I hold the leaker of such a cable in absolute contempt. I have commended publicly the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) for rebuking the contents of this cable. I want to state that I believe that the stance taken by the Minister for Foreign Affairs in this matter of Timor has been absolutely impeccable. I wish I could say the same for the Leader of the Opposition because I think the truth is yet to come out about the infamous conversations he had with President Suharto and Mr Malik in Bali and north Queensland last year. The secrets discussed in those conversations have yet to come out.
I would like to know what Mr Woolcott means when he says that Indonesia still wants to know whether Australia is going to assume that posture. Strangely, none of the members of the Press have picked this up. Is Mr Woolcott saying that the Leader of the Opposition made a deal with the Indonesians and the Indonesians now want to know whether Australia will stick to that deal? My reading of those words in English would certainly mean that. I hope that we can make u judgment on that. The other reason why I question the judgment of Mr Woolcott is that in his cables he suggests that the war will be over soon and that Indonesia will occupy East Timor. I question that. I hope that we on this side of the House, particularly, do not get caught up in the kind of flap that came out of the Department of Foreign Affairs during the Vietnam war. I just hope that we realise that Fretilin has, according to my knowledge, a 12 months supply of arms at its disposal and that it is led and motivated in some areas by pro-communist leaders- leaders who have been trained in Peking and have been motivated by the thrust of communism.
I hope that whenever a debate on Timor is raised in this House by politicians, particularly on this side of the chamber, we do not immediately stamp the Fretilin movement as being entirely a communist movement and one that has got to be destroyed. I think that if we do that we will lose all sense of objectivity and perhaps fall into the same trap that we fell into when the Vietnam war was going on. My information is that although there is some communist infiltration into Fretilin it is, basically, a strong nationalistic movement comprising people who are determined to gain their independence in an ordinary democratic way.
I would like to think that in the future when we look at matters of self-interest, we do not simply say that if East Timor becomes independent it may do a deal with the Russians or with the Chinese and therefore we must support the Indonesians in their invasion with 12 000 troops. Let us not, as we did on some occasions during the Vietnam conflict when we shouted out slogans about domino theories and so on, be led by cliches espoused by members of either the extreme Left or the extreme Right. Let us all, as responsible members of Parliament, do our homework on this issue- the problems facing this country which is only one-and-a-half flying hours away from Australia. Let us have a debate on this question. Unhappily, most of the debate on this matter will take place between honourable members on this side of the House, some of whom have views opposed to mine. But I say in the name of Australia: If we are going to have debate between what is called the right wing and the left wing of the Liberals on this side of the House, let us have that debate without acrimony. Let us debate the matter frankly so that in the absence of an Opposition, we, as members of this Parliament can produce a reasonable policy.
-I rise to support the motion moved by the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Sainsbury) and seconded by the honourable member for Dawson (Mr Braithwaite). I do not believe that the amendment moved by the Opposition is even worthy of comment. But I believe that it is necessary not only for me but also for all honourable members -
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. There is not a Minister in the chamber. As the Minister for Post and Telecommunications is now in the chamber I call the honourable member for Riverina.
– I believe it is necessary, not only for me but also for all members of the Government, to express strong support for the Governor-General of Australia. I do so personally and I do so on behalf of the electors of Riverina. I condemn in the strongest possible words the actions taken by the Labor Party to denigrate the Governor-General of this country and the constitutional authority which he has. It seems to me that the Opposition has been seeking a scapegoat. The facts as revealed in the events which led up to the dismissal of the then Prime Minister and the Labor Government were not understood by the members of the Labor Party. Sir John Kerr’s role in the events preceding the actions taken on 1 1 November was a constitution role. His removal of the Prime Minister from office was a constitutional act, and that cannot be questioned. But now the Opposition has turned it into a personal vendetta. It has tried to make it appear that Sir John Kerr the man was wrong. The events prior to 1 1 November were no more than those things which lead to an accused being arraigned on a charge- the establishment of a prima facie case, if one likes. All those things brought about a political crisis in this country, not a constitutional crisis as the Opposition would have us believe.
Constitutionally, the Governor-General took the only action which he was entitled to take to break a political deadlock. He took that responsible action and he should not be condemned for it; he should be congratulated. What did he do? He merely said to the then Prime Minister and to the Labor Government that in the opinion of the people of this country the Labor Party should stand trial. It should go back before the jury, which was the electors of this country, and put its case. The Labor Party, in its opinion and in the opinion of the man, elected the greatest barrister this country had to put the case for the defence. In the weeks leading up to the actual election, that man decided that his sacking was wrong. In words which very few people can use effectively, he put his case to the people of this country. The jury listened to those words and on 1 3 December brought down its verdict. The great Labor Party was swept from office. It was swept from office because the case put forward by the defence was not good enough. Those are the simple facts of what happened after 1 1 November and prior to December 13.
It was then decided- and I speak now as do members of the Opposition- that there should be a search for a scapegoat. ‘We was robbed’, was the cry that went out. ‘It was all wrong. It was all a hideous mistake. This should not have occurred.’ It was decided that the Governor-General should be the scapegoat, and the Opposition, in order to bring that point forward, boycotted the opening of Parliament. What a pitiful demonstration of churlishness by surly schoolboys who have been found out. They would not move from one chamber across to another chamber to listen to the words of the Governor-General. I suppose it can be said that the Labor Party had decided to make a point, and the point was that if the Governor-General was present then it would be reasonable to boycott that particular function. At afternoon tea on the same day, in the presence of the Governor-General, did we find the boycott continued? No. We found that most members of the Opposition- not all members of the Oppositionwere present. It was quite apparent that it was time then to accept the handout.
– A free feed.
-Yes, a free feed, as the honourable member for Swan says. That was perhaps the greatest demonstration of gut politics seen in this country since Federation.
-Literally. What a sorry demonstration of an attempt to discredit the Governor-General of this country. It has continued, not only during the election campaign itself. Now in more recent times the attempts to discredit the Governor-General have meant that in public honourable members opposite must rally support for the cause. The Opposition has turned again to the same people who came on to the street prior to 13 December.
– The lunatic fringe.
– As my friend the honourable member for Lyne says, it was the lunatic fringe, the ratbag element, almost the worst element within this society. Strangely enough, the young members of our institutions of education are joining this fringe. As we saw last week in South Australia, sadly, those who at this stage are perhaps being educated at the expense of the taxpayer came out in support of a cause which must be condemned. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) in giving that style of leadership, particularly to these young people, should stand roundly condemned. The judgment of the people on 13 December still holds. One cannot fool the electors of this country. They stated quite clearly their support for what Sir John Kerr did, that the facts as put before them by the present Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the coalition parties were true and accurate, and they voted accordingly. The latest opinion poll shows that those same people still support the Government, the Prime Minister and Sir John Kerr. There is absolutely no reason for any member of the Opposition to continue on this present path. One could suggest that there may even be a more sinister purpose behind their actions. I hope that they will have the courage to come out and declare whether there is a more sinister purpose behind their actions.
These events must go down in the history of this country to be noted. It is interesting that the founding fathers- those men who drew up the Constitution of this country- saw the possibility of an occurrence which did occur and they wrote into that Constitution those things which would overcome it. That is exactly what took place at the end of last year. The fact that we now have a new Government, the fact that this country without a shot being fired, without tanks going on to the streets, has been able to change a government, proves that the Constitution is sound and it proves that the Constitution must not be changed. Despite the waitings of those who may have been beaten at the polls, I think that this is a very important point to remember.
I would like to go on to another point that has been made time and time again by members of the Opposition in relation to some of the actions taken by the current Government in matters pertaining to foreign countries. It appears that members of the Opposition are convinced that there is no Communist Party either within Australia or overseas. The honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) is either ignorant of the facts, an apologist for the Communist Party or he is a member of the Communist Party. Sooner or later he has to come forward and declare his hand. He has put forward on many occasions in this House that the final days of the involvement of the United States in Vietnam heralded an age of peace in that area, that the killing had stopped. In his words, ‘what government a country has is to be determined by the people of that country’. I only wish he would apply that proposition to his own country. Nevertheless, he has stated that now in South-East Asia we have an age of peace.
I think we have to look more closely at the events. The facts are that North Vietnam crushed South Vietnam with a military operation. The operation was directed from Hanoi and Hanoi itself is under the guidance of Moscow, and there is quite effectively in South Vietnam today a communist regime which is guided and led from Moscow. It is interesting to note that in the Khmer Republic on the very border of South Vietnam there is a communist regime which is guided and directed from Peking. In Laos at the present time China and Russia are vying for the final control of that country. In Thailand there are the attempts by the communists, mainly from China, to rid that country of the last units of the United States of America. The strategic influence in this area by a Western power has now gone, but in its place there are the two super communist powers vying for complete control. The two super communist powers involved do not, in the words of some, make the mistake of inviting the media. The struggle goes on and the killing goes on. But because members of the Opposition are not aware of the killing they assume it does not exist. They probably subscribe to the Asian motto: ‘If you feed the crocodile it will not devour you.’ They have pursued that policy in trying to curry favour with some of the nations in this region and, having established diplomatic relations, they have assumed that it would herald a new age of peace in this area.
I ask them to cast their minds back to the arrival of Dr Kissenger in Peking at the time of the bombings of North Vietnam. At the time of the bombings of North Vietnam by the United States of America Dr Kissinger arrived in Peking. As a result of that visit the President of the United States arrived in Peking and the world heralded Dr Kissinger as the greatest diplomat of all time and the President of the United States, President Nixon, as the greatest president of all time. The truth of the matter- the sad truth- is that it was Chairman Mao who arranged the meeting. It was Chairman Mao who decided that the Russian bear was growling at his front door and was about to pounce on him, so he had to make certain that his back-door was firmly shut. He invited the Americans to come to Peking. We herald the days of detente. Members of the Opposition say that is tremendous. We now have a great change in the attitude of the Chinese, yet Mao Tse-tung, the man who says that diplomacy comes from the barrel of a gun, has not retracted those words. I do not think he intends to. Whilst we have men in the Opposition who cannot see the facts as they exist, I am afraid that Chairman Mao will continue on the line that he chooses to follow and that we will have no particular influence on that line.
In South East Asia we have seen the entry of the Russians into the Indian Ocean and a tremendous increase in the size of the Russian Navy. Their influence is being felt more and more every day. The Russians intend to encircle China. These are the facts. Do we, sitting here on this southern island- all 14 million of us - believe that in a discussion between Chairman Mao and Mr Brezhnev, who represent almost half of the world’s population, we would have some say in the decisions made by them? What absolute stupidity. I say to honourable members: Look at the facts as they occur and as they exist today. Let us look at the events in Timor. Fretilin has been supported by the Chinese communists. We have not heard a word from Russia. Why has not Russia come out on the side of Fretilin? Opposition members say that they are not communists. But let me tell them and sound the warning now that Russia is interested in the bigger cherry. Russia is interested in getting an influence in Indonesia. I ask honourable members to look at the facts and to understand the facts. That is why Russia has made no comment about Timor. She understands full well that the Chinese are not welcome in Indonesia and they never will be. But members of the Opposition will not understand that. They will not understand it until it is too late. They will feed the crocodile for too long and then at his leisure he will devour them. It is time for honourable members opposite to stand in this chamber and say whether they are ignorant, or whether they understand these facts and agree with them or whether they are, in fact, members of the Communist Party and would like to sec this country fall to communism.
Whether honourable members opposite like to recognise the fact or not, this country has the ingredients that send nations to war. Nations do not go to war because of people. They go to war because they cannot feed people. They go to war because they need food, and this country has an abundance of food. They go to war because they need space and this country has an abundance of space. They go to war because they need mineral wealth and this country has an abundance of that. In the eyes of those people in the regions to our north, we are not doing that much about the food we have, the space we have or the minerals we have. Members of the Opposition think that we live in an era of peace, that we sit in a zone of peace and that we can be neutral in the events of the future. I say to them: Look at the facts and start to re-assess your position before it is too late.
Mr Speaker, I support the motion moved by the Government and I believe the amendment put forward by the Opposition is too spurious even to comment upon.
Sitting suspended from 5.54 to 8 p.m.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I draw your attention to the state of the House.
-A quorum has been called. Ring the bells.
The bells having rung.
-Order! I passed a remark from the Chair earlier this afternoon about members moving about in the chamber while the bells were being rung for a quorum. I wish honourable members would look at the Standing Orders and perhaps pay attention to some of them. (Quorum formed.) Before I call the honourable member for Henry, I remind the House that this is the honourable member’s maiden speech. I expect the usual courtesies to be extended to him.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, please accept my sincere congratulations on your elevation to the office you now hold. Would you convey my congratulations and those of the electors of Henty to Mr Speaker on his elevation to his high office. I can assure this House that the Speaker is held in high regard in my electorate of Henty which is a near neighbour of his electorate of Bruce. It is with great pride and humility that I stand here tonight to represent the people of Henty. Henty is a long established seat of this Parliament, having been created by the redistribution of 1912. In taking my place as the member for Henty I am conscious that I am treading in the footsteps of some very remarkable men who previously represented the seat. It is not possible to mention all of them, but I would like to say something about a few of the more outstanding men who have represented Henty.
Sir Henry Gullett, K.C.M.G., held the seat from 1925 until August 1940, when he met an untimely death in the aircraft crash at Canberra that killed 3 Cabinet Ministers and many other people. His sudden death robbed Australia of one of the most brilliant and popular politicians of the 1920s and 1930s. Sir Henry Gullett ‘s son, Joe Gullett, holder of the Military Cross, later represented Henty from 1946 to 1955 and proved to be one of the most colourful and entertaining members of this House at that time. He was Government Whip from 1950 to 1955 and later served as Australian Ambassador to Greece.
For 20 years, from 1955 onwards, Henty was represented by Max Fox, C.B.E. Max Fox, in addition to being the Government Whip for many years, was undoubtedly one of the best local members Henty has had. Max Fox will be long remembered in Henty for the help and kindness he extended to literally thousands of Henty constituents during his 20 years as the member.
The electorate of Henty is located in the southeastern suburbs of Melbourne, about 10 miles from the centre of the city. It is largely a very pleasant residential area and contains substantial elements of light manufacturing industry. These are located mainly in the south-east corner of the electorate, in the suburbs of Oakleigh, South Oakleigh, Huntingdale and North Bentleigh. Most of this light industry is made up of many small businesses. It will be the situation of these small manufacturing businesses that will occupy much of my attention tonight, along with that of small businesses in other sectors such us retailing and service industries.
Before coming to that, I feel that I should comment briefly on the local result of the recent State election in Victoria. As is now well known, the Victorian Premier, the Hon. Dick Hamer, and his excellent team achieved the massacre of the Australian Labor Party which is customary in Victoria. The Liberal Party members and candidates for all State seats within the Henty electorate had magnificent wins in the elections for both the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council. I warmly congratulate them all. I particularly congratulate my long-standing friend, the member for Oakleigh and Victorian Minister for Health, the Hon. Alan Scanlan, on successfully withstanding the main brunt of the attack against the Victorian Liberal Government. In the seat of Oakleigh, as in all the other State seats in Henty, the Labor Party was defeated yet again.
I also especially congratulate on his decisive victory my friend, the member for Glenhuntly and Victorian Minister of Labor, the Hon. Joe Rafferty, who has honoured this House with his presence tonight. I extend my congratulations also to the member for Malvern and Victorian Deputy Premier, the Hon. Lindsay Thompson, and the member for Bentleigh, Bob Suggett As honourable gentlemen in this House can observe, we have so many State Ministers within the Henty electorate that we are seriously thinking of setting up our own government. Tonight at dinner Mr Rafferty informed me that, of the 8 1 seats in the Victorian Legislative Assembly, 49 have been won by the Liberal Party, 22 by the Labor Party, 7 by the National Party and one by an Independent, and 2 seats are still in doubt. I interpret this devastating victory for the Liberal Party in Victoria as not only an endorsement of the policies of Mr Hamer but also a telling confirmation of the high confidence in our own Prime Minister. The Labor Party can take little joy from this result. In fact, the Labor Party in Henty and in Victoria at large is steadily moving to the situation of the Tasmanian Tiger or Loch Ness monster: It is much talked about, but as the years go by it is sighted less and less.
I return now to the matter I briefly introduced earlier in my speech. I refer to the situation of small business in Australia today. As I have stated, my electorate of Henty has numerous small businesses engaged in’ manufacturing, retailing and service industries. Those in the manufacturing area relate mainly to the production of clothing items, plastics, furniture and similar commodities. The presence of so many small businesses in Henty has enabled me to observe their problems at first hand and to gain a practical understanding of the significance of small business to the Australian economy. This understanding was further developed by the 2 years I spent as an economist with the Industries Assistance Commission. Much of my time with the Commission was spent in examining the problems of small business in various industries and in talking to the small businessmen who work in these industries.
These experiences have left me in no doubt as to the importance of small business to this country. Small business is also an expression of the essence of Liberal Party philosophy. It is the heart of a competitive and efficient free enterprise system. It is an integral part of our encouragement to each individual to develop his own talents to the fullest possible extent. It was these factors that caused the coalition Parties to place so much emphasis on the revival of small business during the Federal election campaign in November and December 1975.
Certain honourable gentlemen opposite, of course, would not share these views; nor, more significantly, would many of their colleagues in the industrial movement. The reason is simple. The small business firm, with its usually close relationship between management and labour, is a major obstacle to the growth of monopoly unionism. Furthermore, small or medium-size businesses have proved the most amenable to the successful experiments so far carried out with worker participation schemes. In Victoria Fletcher Jones and Staff Pty Ltd has been one of the more pre-eminent successes in this regard. Worker participation renders socialist economic theories even more redundant than they are now.
What attraction will socialist policies or grandiose proposals and back-door nationalisation hold for employees when they own part of the equity in their own firm and share in its profits? I suggest they will hold no attraction at all. Socialism in consequence has a bleak future.
It is appropriate at this point also to mention the precise contribution small business makes to the economic life of Australia. If we accept the definition of Professor Meredith of the University of New England that small business enterprises are those with fewer than 100 employees or in some areas of manufacturing up to 150 employees and which have their decisions made by only one or two owner-managers, 42 per cent of the total work force are employed in small business enterprises. In addition, 93 per cent of all factories in Australia may be classified as small business. The contribution of small business to production is also highly significant. It is estimated that in the manufacturing sector alone small establishments account for about 35 per cent of the value added.
Having established the significance small business has for this country, it is important now to consider the major problems small businesses currently face. Of course the previous Labor administration did all it could to remove the problem of small business. It helpfully endeavoured, during its 3-year period in office to stop small businessmen worrying about the problems of small business. This was achieved by the simple expedient of putting about 6000 small businesses into bankruptcy. Thousands more were forced into voluntary liquidation. No one will ever know exactly how many. This approach can best be described in these words: ‘How I learned to stop worrying about business and love the Labor Party’.
However, on a more serious level, the thousands of small business failures highlight one of the major problems of small business. That critical problem is a weakness of small businesses in difficult economic times because of their low capital reserves and their limited access to capital loans. For this reason the Victorian Liberal Government is to be commended for its recent policy intention to establish a small business corporation. This corporation will arrange government guarantees to lending institutions making loans to small businesses for approved purposes. It is to be hoped that other State governments take up this excellent proposition.
The second major problem confronting small business is the excessive burden of the present rate of company tax of 42 Vi per cent. Several provisions of the Income Tax Assessment Act also tend to act as a major disincentive to small business. Consideration should therefore be given to applying a sliding scale of taxation to small businesses. This could possibly start at 20 per cent for very small businesses and be progressively increased. We apply this principle to the income tax of individuals. I see no reason why it should not be applied to businesses also.
Other incentives include the decision of the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) to reduce the lower limit of eligibility for the investment allowance which is welcomed. The House will recall that the lower limit was reduced from $1,000 to a shaded in scale between $500 and $1,000. However, other taxation incentives could usefully be looked at when we return to a more favourable economic situation. High on the list of priorities in this regard will be the policy commitment of this Government to examine the retention of profits section, section 105B of the Income Tax Assessment Act. Consideration will also be given to lowering significantly the present mandatory distribution of 50 per cent of private company profit after taxation. This would allow reserves to be put aside for the replacement of plant and equipment and other purposes, as is already the case with public companies.
Another major problem confronting small businessmen is their need for expert advice in management techniques, particularly in the marketing and accounting aspects. Much of this need stems from the fact that many small businessmen are former tradesmen who have received no training in these areas- unlike, say, the executives of a larger corporation. The effect of these deficiencies is markedly evident. A survey of 2000 small business failures taken across Australia by the University of New South Wales gave the following alarming statistics: No less than 43 per cent failed through poor financial records alone; another 27 per cent failed because of inexperience in making management decisions.
The National Small Business Bureau which was set up by the previous Labor administration in 1975 is therefore to be commended as it was a step in the right direction to providing a necessary advice service to small businessmen. So the previous Government did do something right. The recent assurances given to me during question time by the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard) that the regional office facilities of the Bureau in the State capitals will be extended is also most welcome. Nevertheless, we must ensure that the activities of the
Commonwealth and the States in this sphere do not duplicate each other. There has been quite enough of that during the past 3 years.
The final issue that needs to be raised is the general question of governments being sensitive to the needs and aspirations of small businessmen. To this end the recent decisions of the Government to include small business representation on the economic consultative group and the committee reviewing the Restictive Trade Practices Act are eminently sensible and reasonable. Let it be urged that the practice be carried over to other appropriate bodies.
I trust that I have made the significance and the problems of small business more realistically apparent to the honourable gentlemen of this House. Small business has made a tremendous contribution to our economy in the past. With proper attention it can continue to provide much of the ingenuity, drive and flexibility so necessary to our sustained economic growth. In conclusion, I thank the House for the courtesies extended to me on this occasion. I support the motion moved by the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Sainsbury) in support of the Governor-General ‘s Speech.
– I have listened with considerable interest over the last few weeks to the debate on the Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the GovernorGeneral at the opening of the first session of the Thirtieth Parliament and on the amendment proposed thereto by the Opposition. It has been, of course, traditionally the stage on which many of the new honourable members have introduced matters of particular interest to them and taken the opportunity to advance argument on those issues. The Opposition, on the other hand, has been inclined to use the avenue as one for the expression of a deep resentment at what it considers to have been the mischief effected on it at a date not too far distant in the past. The historians undoubtedly will record or establish the precise chain of events over those traumatic months. I will not presume to predict the outcome of their inquiry.
Whilst the Opposition argues at this point that the murder has been done, it would appear that the electorate has not sighted a corpse nor had its nostrils assailed by the odour of decomposition. The result of the election clearly indicates that the electorate is of the mind that a murder has not been done. Unless it should be established that that is not the case, the role for this Government and the people of this country is to settle down and get on with the job. The role of the
Government is to bring to this country such government as will establish the conditions as are foreshadowed in the Speech by the Governor-General when he said:
The Government’s long term objective is to prevent the growth of centralised bureaucratic domination in Australia, the increasing dependence of individuals on the state. It is to encourage the development of an Australia in which people have maximum freedom and independence to achieve their own goals in life, in ways which they decide.
Quite clearly, that outlines precisely the objectives that motivate this Government. The undertaking to achieve that laudable state is a very challenging one. The Government has been required to embark upon economic programs which, by their very daring, hold some hazards for the Government as well as the people of Australia. The stringencies that are necessary bring with them some risks. It is not improper for honourable members- indeed it is an obligation on them- to examine closely the merits and demerits of the economic policies of the Government. It is proper because within the field of economics, where even the economists themselves disagree on the best course of action, there is always room for a complementary or opposing point of view. But the supporters of the Government demonstrate a solidarity in giving the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Cabinet the support they need in pursuing their objective. Time will reveal whether the Government is right in its assessments and judgments, and I dread the thought that the reverse might be the case. We will pursue with resolution and determination the objectives we set down for ourselves in the light of the best knowledge and information available to us. We will do so with a deep conviction of the moral issues inherent in our prime objective as laid out by the GovernorGeneral.
We must be careful in pursuit of these objectives that, in placing emphasis on the economic features, we do not engage in battle and win the battle to find that we are experiencing a Pyrrhic victory; that the cost of the battle is so great that the victory itself is of such doubtful value that we certainly will not be in a position again to engage in battle against forces that may assail this country, be they economic, physical or moral. I mean in particular that, in the process of bringing about in this country the economic state in which people may be able to prosper, live in contentment and be free from bureaucratic intervention and domination, we do not innocently do such injury to those essential to the redevelopment of this country that when that time comes we find ourselves substantially reduced in capacity. I have in mind the beef industry which presents a problem of great magnitude. The Government unquestionably demonstrates its appreciation of the problem and has sympathy with those people who are seriously afflicted. It grapples with the problem.
But the difficulties are enormous and we have an aversion perhaps to too great a government intervention to prop up any industry which in the long term may have a doubtful viability. I do not think anybody seriously questions the need for the beef industry, or for primary industries for that matter, in a world in which the population is estimated to double by the year 2000 and in which there is currently 3 weeks’ reserve of food. It seems intolerable that we should contemplate the abandonment of an industry or to consider it redundant, even though in the short term there may be some complications in relation to marketing outlets and over-supply or under-supply. We have an obligation to these people to see that while we bring about our economic measures, while we achieve our economic goals, they do not expire by the wayside. They are going to be needed to get this country moving again when the economic conditions are established to the extent that that becomes a feasibility. Our measures are of little value, of little point, if they produce a state in which these people meet their demise in the meantime.
The same can be said in relation to small businesses and modest industries. All of the people who are engaged in these activities and who are clinging by their fingernails, as it were, are limited in time. Time is the very essence of our exercise. The challenge to the Government is that, in the limited time available, it can at least sustain these industries and activities so that when the day comes to redevelop this country, to open up the wonderful bounty of this land, we have the wherewithal, the people, the expertise and the physical capacity to do the job. We witness the rather sad situation where, with a downturn in building and other activities there is a considerable reduction of apprenticeship utilisation. The opportunities for young people to adopt apprenticeships naturally suffer the depression that affects the parent industry. Craftsmen become fewer in numbers as the years go by. We have to be very careful in all we do that we do not totally eliminate these very valuable resources- man himself and his skills.
There is an inclination to be obsessed with the figures. The deficit hangs over us with all its enormity. It is rather a tragedy that the Government that has come in here with the confidence and expectation of the people should wear this deficit around its neck like an albatross. It is impeded from governing according to its own lights to bring to the people of Australia the benefits of its enlightened policies. It first is required to service this deficit which stands as a monument to or an indictment of the maladministration of our previous administration. I think it might well be argued that the deficit should be left there as an indictment of the previous administration and that this Government should introduce immediately, to the benefit of this country, those policies and measures which it would be free to apply if it did not feel enslaved to the deficit that it inherited.
In the primary industries we find ourselves in an increasing dilemma. Whilst we recognise the problems of the industries, in responding to the urgent need to get our economy in shape we are at risk that many of the young people in these industries are being denied the opportunity to remain in the industry or to establish themselves in primary industries. These young people will not wait. They are bound to engage themselves in some activity or other. If they cannot find a toehold- niche- in the rural scene they will be required to move to other areas and then in all probability they will never retrace their steps. They are young people with an admirable background in terms of appreciation of the subtleties of rural activity- all facets of the industry in which their parents have been engaged. But for the want of finance, both for capital and for servicing their borrowings at such high interest rates, the prospects of keeping them on the land are exceedingly remote. Notwithstanding our rural reconstruction schemes and similar aids which have been of some considerable value, a great number of young people, because of the sudden downturn in the beef industry, look like being lost to the country forever. These young people I suggest, are the most valuable people that we have in this country and once they have gone they will have gone forever.
The dairying industry is engaging the attention of the Government. I say without rancour that the tragedy of the dairying industry is that over a period of 20 to 25 years the industry has been done a mischief by its own organisations. Gentlemen of varying talents who have been well motivated but who have a very individual point of view have exerted undue influence from time to time within the industry’s organisations and seemingly incidentally have steered the organisations in a direction which does not serve the industry well. The industry now stands at the point of time where it has fast lost its options. Whereas years ago it may have chosen to adopt certain courses of action it now stands at a point where the action could be thrust upon it. I am quite sure that in the ensuing 12 months we will see some massive readjustments within the industry and I would hope even at this late hour that they may be voluntary rather than compulsory adjustments. Yet in view of section 92 of the constitution I can foresee a situation where the establishing marketing structures and equalisation schemes will be cast aside by a wild scramble for lucrative liquid milk markets in the various capitals and the States.
I should like to mention the Australian Postal Commission and the Australian Telecommunications Commission. Honourable members will recall that there was considerable debate on these matters in the Twenty-ninth Parliament but in general terms the commissions met with the approbation of both sides of the House, with some modest qualification. Parliament was presented with the recommendation of a committee especially established to investigate the merits and demerits of such a proposition. When the Vernon report came before the House and honourable members were influenced by its recommendations the Australian Postal Commission and the Australian Telecommunications Commission were established. At that time, without presuming ultimate judgment on the commissions, I stated in debate in the House that I thought the commissions would engage in what I describe as horizontal arabesque- a great deal of movement from side to side but no movement upward. I suggest that in the ensuing months that rather pessimistic forecast of the day seems to be coming to reality.
I would suggest, indeed I would argue, that it is the responsibility of this Parliament to attend to what might be described as the basic and fundamental requirements of this nation, and there is no greater requirement within that category than communications, whether postal, telephonic or what-have-you. With the benefit of hindsight, Parliament unquestionably has surrendered a lot of its autonomy, its competence and its authority in these matters to the commissions. The situation is that we have scarcely become accustomed to the increased postal rates and various other charges adjusted at the time of the last Budget, in 1975, before we arc threatened again with substantial increases. This is utterly intolerable and this Parliament finds itself in the position of having to require the commissions not to increase prices and make good their foregone revenue from Consolidated Revenue, yet it has no authority to direct the commissions to regulate their domestic affairs or to adjust their internal structures to effect any cost savings, if indeed that latitude exists. There are many people of the opinion that there is ample latitude within those commissions to effect substantial savings without having to pass into the final cost to the customer all the various machinations which seemed to appeal in the setting up of these commissions.
I am sure the time will come when Parliament will be required to reassert itself in these matters so that there is some hope for those people who live beyond the perimeter of the philosophy or the charter of the commissions- that the user must pay. In a country as vast as ours where distances are so great, where we are subject to the tyranny of distance, it is an utterly unacceptable proposition that the services of these 2 commissions should be operated on a user-pays basis. It is simply a euphemistic way of saying that people are going to go without if they do not live in a densely populated area. This can go on no longer.
There is one other matter, Mr Deputy Speaker, that concerns me greatly. It is the rather topical issue of natural disasters and an insurance scheme to offset the damage and mischief that results from these disasters. There seems to be popular acceptance of the notion that people who suffer an injury or loss in what might be described as a declared natural disaster area are entitled to public charity or to the public purse, through the established government. I, of course, in common with all people, have an instinctive sympathy for people who suffer some human hardship, immediate hardship, in those circumstances. There is a supposition that in the establishment of such an insurance scheme, regardless of where people live or regardless of the natural risks that they may be subject to, the taxpayers of Australia will be required to subsidise it. It is quite clear from established practice in such a scheme that if a personal individual disaster is not accompanied by a similar disaster to a number of other people in the same area, one does not qualify for any benefit from such a scheme. To simplify the matter, any person who is one of a thousand people who lose the roof from their home or suffer some similar misfortune will be the lucky one. But if a person suffers that injury or loss by himself he will miss out.
To put it in a nutshell, I suggest to the House that there is no greater disaster or hardship than that which befalls an individual, such as Farmer Brown or Shire Clerk Smith, who finds himself the sole victim of some meteorological or natural phenomenon. The loss is an individual one. It is a strange thing that if enough people are affected simultaneously they become the objects of public charity and government concern. Yet the individual, even though his individual loss and hardship is just as great, is treated with little concern, if any. Indeed, I suggest that possibly the only way for an individual to become newsworthy is to advertise the fact through the classified advertisements.
This Government has a job on its hands. Time alone will establish whether it will prove to be up to the job. But at this point of time it has the confidence of the people- a delicate thing and something that must be nurtured and not taken for granted. Without that confidence, every problem that the Government is confronted with will be magnified ten times. People must accept that we are entering a period of relative hardship where some sacrifices will be necessary. Our expectations of society have been elevated to a point of almost complete absurdity. We have to get back to reality and appreciate that it is axiomatic that it is impossible to get something for nothing. We have to work with the prospect of being adequately rewarded for our labours and discard the notion that we can secure the reward before we have laboured. I have much pleasure in supporting the motion.
Debate (on motion by Mr MacKellar) adjourned.
-I present the first report of the Publications Committee. Copies of the report have been circulated to honourable members in the chamber.
Report- by leave- adopted.
-We now speak on the cognate debate covering the Nitrogenous Fertilizers Subsidy Amendment Bill 1976 and the Phosphate Fertilizer Bounty Amendment Bill 1976. During the afternoon there have been a number of speakers, basically from our side of the Parliament. To me it has developed into a very interesting discussion. In summing up towards the end of this debate I find that there are 2 issues. The first one, which is pretty pronounced, is the lack of knowledge and lack of interest by members of the Opposition parties.
There have been 3 Opposition speakers. The honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating ). who sits on the front bench, led for the Opposition and proved beyond all doubt that he had little interest in the particular measures before the chamber. He could not decide what were the differences between the 2 Bills, so he came down on the side of supporting one and opposing the other. Yet both Bills have virtually the same purpose. He then went on to say that the Labor Party, when in government, was looking at ways and means of helping the industry, and particularly the small producer. He referred to the superphosphate bounty. Yet in this place, when Opposition members have an opportunity to do something for the primary industries of Australia, they decide that they are going to oppose the Bill. It just does not quite seem to weigh up with me.
An interesting point that has come to my notice is the interest shown by my colleagues in the Liberal Party. I note with great interest that a number of metropolitan members have supported this legislation. Normally one could expect country members to do so. It comes as a little surprise but, well, those of use who have followed the activities of that Party can understand it. Perhaps it was my colleague, the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Sullivan), who suggested that if the conservationists would only appreciate the true value of superphosphate for their cause, then it would not only be accepted by the Australian Labor Party but by the overwhelming majority of the people of Australia. I think there might be some truth in that.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) also entered this debate, and this of course was rather amusing because it is pretty obvious that he is still of the opinion that the rural industries are thriving. I do not wish to speak at any length at this stage on what he had to say. If I get time I shall say a little bit more about him later on. The honourable member for Fraser (Mr Fry), who has taken some interest in rural matters, spoke at quite some length and covered a lot of ground, but I believe that he was somewhat mixed up in his views on both Bills before the chamber. He made great criticism of the fact that there was only one National Country Party member who had spoken on the Bills. I think that in fairness the honourable for Fraser ought to be a little more sincere in his comments, because he must know that the legislation is still being discussed in the chamber. It is not a case of who speaks first, it is a case of who speaks in total- in other words, where we finish up when the debate is concluded. From the information that has been passed on to me by my Whip, there are quite a number of speakers from the Liberal Party, as well as the National Country Party. The only difference is that because of the time factor a number of interested National Country Party members who wanted to speak on this Bill were actually balloted out. In the Labor Party there were three speakers. The shadow Minister for Primary Industry, or the then shadow Minister- he was the shadow Minister for Primary Industry earlier today but I am told that he is no longer the shadow Minister for Primary Industry; perhaps one should congratulate the Leader of the Opposition for that-was the second speaker and, as I said, the honourable member for Fraser was the third speaker. Now, if that is all Opposition members can rake up, well there is very little future for them in getting into deep discussion on rural problems.
One of the things that the honourable member for Fraser did say was that he wanted to know what the need was for the introduction of this bounty.
– What will you get out of it? You ought to talk.
– Well now, here is an honourable member interjecting, wanting to know what I am going to get out of it. It would appear that this is not the first interjection we have had from the Labor Party along these lines and it would appear to me that this is the only thing that honourable members opposite could be interested in- self-interest first. As far as I am concerned, it matters not what I get out of it at all. I am the consumer of a certain quantity of superphosphate, but that has nothing to do with the Bill and I am absolutely disappointed and disgusted at the way the Opposition members continue to attack the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) on the grounds that he is getting some personal benefit from the bounty.
– Better than the pensioners’ funeral benefit.
– What these people overlook is the fact that the Prime Minister, in his interests in the development of Australia is putting a lot more into it than a lot of the people in the Opposition are.
I want to come back to what the member for Fraser had to say. I cannot spend too much time in answering some of these ridiculous interjections from the Opposition benches. I want to draw the honourable member’s attention to the need that he is crying out for. The beef industry depends on superphosphate as do the dairying industry and the fruit industry. These 3 industries would never be in a worse situation than they arc at this very time. These circumstances have been brought about broadly by decisions made in the last two or three years.
There is one industry that is a fairly substantial consumer of superphosphate. That is the grain industry. That industry is in a little more brighter situation than the 3 that I have just mentioned. I say to those who are critical of this industry because, on the surface, it would appear to be healthy, that really it is not booming. I ask honourable members to bear with me for a moment while I point out why in my opinion the wheat industry, like some of these other industries, is not booming and why therefore these industries do need some assistance.
In the year 1961-62 the home consumption price, which represents virtually the cost of production, was $ 1 .58 a bushel. In 1975-76 that consumption price had risen to $2.67 or $98 per tonne. The present export price is running at approximately $ 1 10 per tonne to $ 120 per tonne, or approaching $3 a bushel. Those figures do not include all the costs that are incurred and which must be deducted, such as freight.
One important aspect is that wheat is a semiperishable item only. Naturally, it is subject to great fluctuations in demand and therefore fluctuations in price. Here is the killer. Australia is not, in terms of world production, a large wheat producing country. We put out on average between 6.5 million tonnes and 11.5 million tonnes over the last 2 years. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics produces between 85 million tonnes and 1 10 million tonnes a year while the production by North America is between 55 million tonnes and 65 million tonnes. From those figures honourable members can see that, if any one of those three major producing countries has a very successful season, a large quantity of wheat will be available and the price will go down. If they have poor seasons, a shortage would occur and prices would rise.
The world wheat trade is approximately 65 million tonnes a year. That is not a very substantial figure. Honourable members can appreciate then that a 10 per cent increase in production can make the situation very different for this industry in Australia. I say to the honourable member for Fraser that although the wheat industry would appear on the surface to be thriving in actual fact, as I can prove to the honourable member if he studies the figures that I have provided, the industry balances on a razor’s edge.
With respect to the consumption of superphosphate, I point out that the wheat industry consumes only approximately 20 per cent of the superphosphate that is sold throughout Australia. The grazing industry is the largest consumer of superphosphate. The present situation that has developed with respect to the grazing industry is such that those in that industry arc in such a desperate plight that many of them cannot even afford to buy superphosphate. So, they are not in a position to be on the receiving end of this bounty. I would estimate that the grazing industry would consume 60 per cent to 65 per cent of superphosphate sold.
If honourable members look at page 33 of the report on superphosphate by the Industries Assistance Commission, they will see a most interesting article on the relationship of the price of superphosphate to 2 industries, namely, wheat and wool. It is pretty obvious that the honourable member for Fraser has not studied this report. Dividing the price of superphosphate by the price of wheat and taking 100 as the index for 1972, the index for 1976 is 144. On a similar calculation for wool, the index for 1976 is 326. In other words, the rate of increase in the price of superphosphate is more than 3 times the rate of increase in returns from wool. Unfortunately beef has not had a mention. I suppose it would be fair to say that a lot of beef is produced in Australia without the need for the use of superphosphate. Therefore, it would possibly be unfair to make a comparison because some bed’ herds need it, some do not. It is rather interesting if we look at this too. In the same base year, 1972, the price of superphosphate, in the broad, was about $15 per tonne. Today it is in excess of $60 per tonne. That is a 400 per cent rise. I am being very conservative when I say that the current price of beef in Australia today would be less than half of what it was in 1 972.
– That is very conservative.
– Yes, very conservative, as my friend from Darling Downs said. No doubt, to be more accurate, it would be down to about onethird. Let us say it is one-half. That is equivalent to a relative rise of 800 per cent. If my friend from Fraser wants more proof of the need for this legislation, I am afraid that he does not understand the industry and its problems at all. The honourable member for Eden-Monaro made a great contribution to this debate this afternoon. He also referred to the importance of superphosphate to Australia as a nation, particularly as an exporting nation. I agree entirely with his view that we have a responsibility as a world food producing nation. We hear from time to time that Australia is not doing enough to assist the developing countries, the countries which are in financial difficulties. Such claims continue. I suppose most members would be in the same position as I am. Rarely would a week or a fortnight go by without our hearing some comment about it.
What the Labor Party is doing is discouraging production to such a degree that we could find ourselves producing much less. Those people who do not understand the proper use of superphosphate would naturally not realise that it may take some years for the benefit of superphosphate to leach itself out of the soil. But once it is leached out it takes many, many years to get it back again. So whilst it may appear to be all right to cut down on the use of it, and you will get away with it for one year, two years or maybe three years, depending on your rainfall, if it does leach out completely then you are in trouble because it would cost ever so much more to get the soil back into the state it was in before you gave up using superphosphate. These are some of the reasons for the legislation and I point them out to the honourable member for Fraser and others who have shown little sympathy for the plight of the primary producer at the present time.
The former Prime Minister said that the legislation was discriminatory and that it was unjust. The money should have been used to provide ‘social justice’- I think they were the words he used. He repeated the old catchcry about the present Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) getting a benefit of $5,000, more or less at the cost of the smaller producer. He talked about a means test, as have other members of the Opposition, and asked why the Government should be assisting the bigger man, the vested interests and all these sorts of things. One of my colleagues, the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Sullivan) earlier in the afternoon referred to the fact that for every person employed in the motor industry there is a subsidy through protection of some $4,000. The honourable member who made the comment -
– He tells the truth.
– That is pretty right, too. He understands what he is talking about and he certainly does not play around with facts. I understand that protection for the chemical industry costs something like $4,500 per year for each worker in the industry. The honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) gave us a very interesting run down on the phosphate deposits at Duchess in Queensland. I go along with the honourable member for Mackellar. The only point is that at this juncture the cost might be beyond us. If we have eventually to develop that project, the small cost to the Treasury of $30m, which is the amount suggested for superphosphate bounty, may be chicken feed. But we may be compelled to do this. As I have said, I go along with the honourable member for Mackellar because I believe that this is something that we should investigate very quickly. Sooner or later we will have to do something about the matter.
I am reminded, too, after listening to the Leader of the Opposition, of the continual statements by the former member for Riverina- not the present one, but the former one; I want to make that clear- who kept harping on the question -
– What was his name?
– My colleague asks: ‘What was his name?’ He is well known by the name of Al Grassby. Of course, anyone with a knowledge of his understanding of rural industries will appreciate how he can get off the beam at times. Al Grassby kept harping on the proposition that the primary producer never got the money at all; that it all went into the industry. I am starting to wonder, because of the way he spoke this afternoon, whether the Leader of the Opposition has not been painted with the same brush. After all. it is very important that we protect a heritage that is so important to us.
I do not think there is any need for me to make any further comment as to the need to protect this industry. I conclude by reminding honourable members who are so critical of the introduction of the subsidy of the type of increases primary producers have had to pay in a very short time. In 1972, when the present Government Parties were in office, the average price of fertiliser at works was $15.18 a tonne. Then the price started to rise. When the Labor Government came to office we saw the increased cost of this, that and the other. In 1975 the price rose to $54.78 a tonne. This year it is $60-plus a tonne. Is anybody in the Labor Party prepared to accept that any individual, other than a primary producer, should be prepared to meet a four-fold increase in his costs in his industry in about 4 years? I hope that those people who are advocating limited quantities of fertiliser and a means test do likewise when they consider such things as the age pension. I do not see them suggesting that for one moment. They believe that we should not do away with the means test for the age pension, and this is an identical situation.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, it pleases me to enter into this debate and to support the measures taken by the Government in the Nitrogenous Fertilizers Subsidy Amendment Bill and the Phosphate Fertilizers Bounty Amendment Bill. It has been a very interesting debate up to date. Many constructive comments have been made from this side of the House. As pointed out by the last speaker, the honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King), there have been 3 speakers from the Opposition side of the House. The main thrust of their opposition to the second Bill- the Phosphate Fertilizers Bounty Amendment Billhas been that much of this bounty will go to the well-off in our community. They spent a lot of time on this, particularly the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam). Half of his speech was spent knocking the leaders in the pastoral and rural areas. Members of the Opposition describe these people as though they are picking up this bounty, as though it is money in the bank and they go straight off to the Gold Coast to spend it. To my mind, members of the Opposition do not seem to give one thought to what these people contribute to society. Let us face it, people in the rural industries are great contributors by way of the rates and taxes they pay to local government, by their support of their local towns, by their purchase of machinery by paying indirect taxes and one could go on.
The honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) said that 40 primary producers got $8,000 each from the subsidy, ten got $17,000 and two got $59,000 each. But has anyone given any consideration to what the top people in the rural industries pay directly in taxation? The latest figures I have are for 1972-73 and they have been compiled by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Library statistical service from individual taxation sheets. Not everyone involved in the rural industries is included in these sheets. For instance the sheets do not apply to companies involved in the rural area. In 1972-73 246 producers had a combined taxable income of$ 17,392,000.
– Were they primary producers?
-Yes. The sheet from which I am reading is set out in the following manner: The statistics for sheep grazing are set out in the first column; sheep-grain growing in the second column; fishing, hunting, trapping and forestry in the third column; and ‘other primary products’ in the fourth column. The sheet concerns only primary producers. The net tax that was paid by these 246 individual producers in 1972-73 was $10,137,000 or approximately $41,000 each. That was what the top 246 producers in Australia put directly into the government coffers. So it is not all one way. Even in this instance where a superphosphate bounty worth some $30m is to be paid to rural producers in Australia on an across the board basis, this amount is not so great when we consider the contribution which is being made by the top producers of Australia. One must remember that they are the people who are engaged basically in export industries. Surely, we rely and will continue to rely on the magnificent contribution that rural industries make to our export industries. That is what we are all about; we are a trading nation. I must say that the latest figures on our overseas trading position are far from good. In fact, if we were not getting considerable overseas investment into the country today we would be on the wrong side of the ledger. It is all right for the Labor Party, or people who wish to knock the rural industries, to say that the cost of supporting these industries is too high because our local conditions have basically forced them out of overseas markets. It is all right for them to say we do not need rural industries. It is true that one after another of our rural industries are getting into trouble and are not able to compete on the overseas markets. The point was made when we were discussing the canned fruit industries the other night that eventually we will have to contract the operations of our rural industries. But do not tell me that after a little while the people of Australia will not find out that they cannot cat iron ore.
There is no doubt that vast sections of our rural industries are in difficulties. I am not suggesting that after the last 3 years of Labor administration there are not other sections of the community in difficulties. We have had a number of reports from the Industries Assistance Commission which were commissioned by the Labor Government in the last few years. The IAC report on new land farmers is dated 21 May 1975. The report entitled ‘Rural Income FluctuationsCertain Taxation Measures’, is dated 30 June 1975.
More recently, the interim report on superphosphate was published on 31 July 1975, and the rural reconstruction report was published on 13 January 1976. If one reads these reports one will find that they back up what I have just said. They suggest that the rural industries are in difficulties and that certain measures should be taken to overcome those difficulties. The reports are sympathetic towards the rural industries. The reports published last year were not acted upon by the previous administration.
The report on rural reconstruction is a recent report and will, thank goodness, be taken into consideration by this administration. It is not only the reports that back up what I say. One only has to go out into the field to see what has happened to the beef industry, the dairy industry and the fruit industry. Very few sections of those rural industries are viable today. The grain industry is keeping its nose in front. Vast sections of the wool industry will become unviable if the latest demands of the unions in relation to the wages and conditions of shearers are implemented, or even if half of them are implemented. If one goes out into the field one finds what is happening in the rural industries. My own area- much of which has been developed in the last 20 years- carries a debt load that the older established areas in the eastern States do not carry. I know that because of rising costs and because of the debt load, a lot of people involved in the grain and wool industries are just about ready to fall apart. They will not be able to continue. It is a sad day when we see this happening to the rural industries in Australia.
– You will do all you can to help them.
-That is quite right. The rural industries of Australia did not wish this set of conditions upon themselves. Those involved in the rural industries are regarded and known as being the most efficient farmers in the world. That is an accident of fate to a degree because we operate in a dry land farming situation in Australia. Many of the big rural food and fibre producing countries have climatic conditions that are nowhere near as kind to the producer as are Australian conditions. Besides that, we have increased our efficiency dramatically during the last few years. We cannot really blame the producer for the conditions that prevail today. Perhaps the expectations of the Australian people of shorter working hours, more pay and a much bigger slice of the cake have forced up the whole cost structure.
The tariff situation in Australia initially was quite right and proper. Its purpose was to get our secondary industries off the ground so that we would have a manufacturing section within Australia. As the years have gone by, tariffs have increasingly gone up. The honourable member for Hume (Mr Lusher) today pointed out that the subsidy equivalent of protection in the motor car industry is $4,000 per employee per year. We have been engaged in the motor car industry for a number of years now but we seem to be getting worse instead of better at it. It is estimated that tariffs deprive the meat producers, the grain producers and the wool producers of Australia of $543m in revenue each year. I am not one of those people who want to bash the manufacturing area. I appreciate that people have to be employed and that this is a time of unemployment. But I would like to see more rapid consideration of our tariff situation, with a review conducted to investigate the idea of giving efficient industries, especially export industries, the opportunities they deserve. One must recognise though that if secondary industry in Australiathat includes our manufacturing industriesgets this type of support, it will act against the export industries. Basically, the export industries have to pick up the tab and they have to operate on world markets. One side of industry receives slender assistance from governments and the other side receives massive assistance. I want to see recognition of the fact that the export industries of Australia, and the rural industries are foremost amongst those -
– They represent 65 per cent.
– Yes, 65 percent. The rest of the community should recognise that the tariff structure is putting a burden upon the export industries. Circumstances in Australia today mitigate against rural industry, and in the short term that industry wants some type of assistance to survive, to enable it to be a contributor to the good life of Australians. It may be in another 2 years’ time, or whenever demand comes back. There should be an understanding of why rural industry should be assisted and assistance should be given willingly by the rest of the community.
Western Australia is one of the foremost users in Australia of superphosphate. By comparison with the rest of the continent it probably has a fairly small rural and agricultural area, but it uses about one third of the superphosphate that is used in Australia. We Western Australians have found it extremely difficult -
– It was probably uneconomic land you opened up.
– It was very economic land when it was opened up. It is only the increase in costs and tariffs and so on that has got is into trouble now. Before I leave this subject I should say that I recognise that world conditions are affecting our rural industries. I realise that the problem is not only internal. Ever since the world oil crisis came about we have had problems keeping our existing markets. Ever since the member countries of the European Economic Community put their heads together and produced mountains of butter one year and mountains of casein the next year and mountains of beef the following year, our trade has been disrupted. We do not seem to have developed the brains or ability to trade with the hungry people of the world. We still try to supply overglutted markets, and it concerns me greatly that we cannot find a method of trading with the hungry nations.
Statistics I saw recently indicate that it costs $200 billion to arm the world. That is a large sum of money- almost more than I can contemplatebut that is what it costs the whole world to arm itself. When one considers what Australia spends on defence, and what the Middle East countries or Britain or America or Russia spend on defence, one can understand why the amount spent on armaments in the world today would be $200 billion. If the world leaders had the brains and ability to put their heads together, they would require somewhere in the vicinity of $5 billion to make sure that the whole world was fed adequately. That is $5 billion against the $200 billion that is spent on armaments. I make that point as an aside. It is something that does concern me.
I said earlier that Western Australia relies heavily on superphosphate, but in the last 3 years the cost of superphosphate has risen from about $26 a ton to more than $60 a ton. As to the tariff situation in Western Australia 90 per cent of that State’s products are sold in fiercely competitive world markets, without a protective wall of tariffs. Basically Western Australia is a primary producing area. It has been said by the Opposition: ‘If it is too hot in the kitchen, get out. ‘ I do not believe that this country can survive or will ever be any good if it does not maintain a viable rural industry. In the future Australia will be one of the food and fibre bowls of the world.
Honourable members appreciate that the bounty we are debating today will be of only marginal assistance to the rural industries. It is a bounty that can be introduced quickly and, I believe, as fairly as any bounty can be introduced across the board. It will be of assistance to a great many producers within the country. It will give us time to investigate, to look at the reports that have been put before us by the Industries Assistance Commission and to get on with the job of proper planning and reconstruction of our industries if that is required.
One other thing that I would like to say before I conclude is that the increases in the cost of superphosphate have made or should make us have a very good look at the alternatives and investigate the use of other sources of phosphate such as basic slag, ground rock phosphate and phosphate rock with impurities in it unacceptable at the moment. At State and Federal levels more work must be done in assessing the needs of the soils. Many of our agricultural soils have a significantly high acid level measured as a pH factor and there is in these soils a rate of fixation. ‘Fixation’ is the term used when phosphate combines with iron or aluminium, is tied up or fixed and becomes unavailable as a plant food. Urgent research and practical field work should he undertaken to see that the high cost superphosphate is utilised. Continuing and urgent work should be carried out on soil needs an/or crop needs. Soil testing and research into soil testing should be greatly increased. It is more than a possibility that much of our superphosphate is wasted because the soil or the crop needs a trace element of some description or other rather than superphosphate. The possibilities and the depth of organic farming should be looked at. It is carried out successfully in many areas. The study of it should be more widely accepted. One hopes that research will be done and that a greater understanding will come about. I believe that the use of perennials should be encouraged. As honourable members know, they are deep rooted and bring up different trace elements from the depth.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
-Yes. In his excellent address the honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King) asked as a general question whether some member in the House had said that the workers involved in the vehicle industry had received $4,000 each year from the taxpayers. I intimated that I had made that comment and he gave me credit for it. It was not I; it was the honourable member for Hume (Mr Lusher) who made the statement and I claimed credit for it.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, at the outset I want to say what a great privilege it is to be able to speak in this debate. I say that not in a spirit of partisanship but in a spirit of support for the excellence of the debate from this side of the House and to add a little bit of fuel to the fire of complete rejection of the utter nonsense we have heard from those who sit opposite. I want to compliment the 2 previous speakers in this debate, the honourable member for Forrest (Mr Drummond) and the honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King). To both those gentlemen might I say what a great example they have been to the sycophants who sit opposite. Those two honourable members do not claim to have any degrees from universities or colleges of advanced education but they have proved by the excellence of their contribution in this debate that they both have the greatest degree of all- a degree in practical experience. They received that degree in practical experience from the greatest university of all- the university of living and practical hard work.
To both of those gentlemen I say congratulations on a job very well done, as indeed it was. They have participated in a debate which has dealt with fundamentals- fundamentals which strive to make available food at a reasonable price to Australian consumers- and the fundamentals of good husbandry and good agriculture. The honourable member for Forrest in his concluding remarks gave a wonderful exposition of the science of agriculture. I hope that those honourable members opposite who still think in some rather nebulous way that milk comes from out of a bottle have absorbed some of the practical wisdom that came from the honourable member for Forrest. Indeed, it is a great privilege to have the singular honour of being able to follow him in this debate and to build on the solid framework of sound common sense that he so excellently laid.
For the information of those who sit opposite, and in an earnest endeavour to help them to get their senses of priority somewhere on the right track, I believe that we are dealing with two very important matters in the science of agriculture. I refer to those essential elements of phosphates and nitrates. It is true that these elements are two of the major 4 elements which allow for plant growth. As the honourable member for Forrest said, there are the associated trace elements like boron, copper, magnesium, molybdenum, fluoride, zinc and sulphur, but there are these two items which are of vital importance in the promotion of plant life.
I want to re-endorse the statements that have been made both by city members and country members. It is indeed fortunate that in the new Parliament we have many excellent new members from the Liberal Party who, whilst representing city seats, have a deep personal appreciation of the wonderful part that agriculture plays in the life stream of Australia. These people pointed out that these bounties are not handouts to farmers as the people who sit opposite try to inculcate into the hearts and minds of the Australian people. These excellent debaters, full of logic and forthrightness, pointed out that these subsidies for phosphates and for nitrogen are consumer subsidies to enable the Australian people to have access to cheaper foodstuffs than they would have had otherwise. 1 believe it borders almost on a diabolical act when those who sit opposite endeavour to portray to the Australian people through this national Parliament that they are against the Australian people getting cheaper foodstuffs. We on our side of the House are fully aware of the great difficulties, the great sacrifices and the personal hardships that are faced by the people who live in cities. Of course, we are four square behind the proposition that they are entitled to foodstuffs at reasonable prices, foodstuffs that will allow them to live a meaningful existence in an economic climate of spiralling inflation.
Whilst acknowledging our full support for the proposition as explained by the Minister in his second reading speech, I believe that we should also be endeavouring to sow the seeds of further help in the vital area of trace elements. These contribute enormously to the cost of production of our various crops. We should be thinking about extending these benefits to the purchase of trace elements like zinc and copper. Those elements have transformed miles and miles of useless desert country into a productive food-bowl, not only for Australia but for a world which is starved of essential proteins and foodstuffs. 1 believe that the Opposition should be supporting that type of proposition and not adopting a completely negative and destructive attitude.
Mr Deputy Speaker, in this debate I want to further a point which has not been hammered. I believe that it should be mentioned because the provisions of these Bills are more or less of a temporary nature pending a further analysis and examination of the Industries Assistance Commission report on both these matters. The report on nitrogen- this is the one I want to associate my remarks with because the other area has been traversed -
– That report is a very important one.
-I am reminded by the member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett), who has great personal knowledge of the significance of nitrogen to the very fertile soils of the area that he represents so ably and well in this chamber, that the Industries Assistance Commission was asked to consider whether the Australian Government should pay a subsidy on manufactured nitrogenous substances used as a fertiliser. It is appropriate for us to spend a little time in examining that proposition. I submit that it is absolutely necessary because of the yo-yo attitude of the Opposition when it was unfortunately the Government of this country and adopted an attitude of destruction of rural industry, not being able to realise that the real wealth of Australia springs from the soil. Greater production does ensue from the application of fertilisers. Greater crops can be produced from any given area and in climates where the cost factor would otherwise sound the death knell of prosperity in the industry. We must at all times place due significance on the application of fertiliser. The application of nitrogen to the black soil plains of Queensland results in a return to the Treasury of $3.50 to $4 for each $1 of subsidy expended by the national Government. I repeat that for every $1 subsidy given on nitrogenous fertilisers in the cereal growing areas of Queensland an extra $3.50 to $4 is gathered in by the Taxation Office.
– What is your basis for saying that?
– A deep analysis by responsible men from Queensland in an application to the Industries Assistance Commission. It is an honest appreciation of the subject rather than a stupid remark by someone who would not know what he was talking about.
– I was reared on the land. I am a farmer at heart.
– You were not reared on the land; you were reared in muck. In Queensland the price of urea which contains 46 per cent nitrogen at the present time -
-If by any chance the honourable member is being personal I think he might withdraw the remark.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, far be it from me to be personal. I was talking about a certain type of agricultural land. In Queensland, urea, which is 46 per cent nitrogen, was attracting a subsidy of $36.22 per tonne; anhydrous ammonia, which is used in vast quantities in the cereal growing districts and which is 82.5 per cent nitrogen, was attracting a subsidy of $64.57 per tonne; and aqua ammonia, which is used in the cane country in the electorate of Capricornia, as the honourable member for Capricornia (Mr Carige) reminds me, in the electorate of Leichhardt and in the electorate of Dawson, and which is 20.5 per cent nitrogen, was attracting a subsidy of $16.14 per tonne. With the application of nitrogen to grain growing country every kilogram of nitrogen returns an extra 7 or 8 kilograms of grain.
– Better quality, too.
– The member for Maranoa says: ‘Better quality, too’. I thank him for giving me the lead. I will develop that point later. The response to nitrogen varies from crop to crop. In sorghum particularly there is a tremendous response. Scientists from the Queensland Department of Primary Industries and from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation found that there is a mutual beneficial relationship between the rhizobia and the inoculum associated with the injection of anhydrous ammonia and urea into the soil. It results in a remarkable yield increase, particularly in the summer grown crops of sorghum and corn. The honourable member for Maranoa referred to the improvement in quality. I want to say this: In a world which is short of protein it is remarkable that the discriminating buyers of wheat, in particular, will pay a premium for quality. Of course the quality of wheat is determined not only by the percentage of nitrogen in the grain but also by the quality of the gluten and the gliadin Both those qualities arc most desirable in overseas markets. Our high protein wheats are readily saleable because of their mixing ability and their ability to absorb water. Consequently more loaves of bread can be made from a given weight of grain. They are noted for their great ability to resist extension, which gives a fine loaf, and for their extensibility, which gives a loaf which rises well and that has great attraction to all housewives.
It is good to note that Queensland hard wheat, which is only about our fourth best grade of wheat, attracts a premium of about $10 per tonne over that attracted by the Australian standard white. It attracts a premium of $130.50 per tonne. Queensland prime hard 13 per cent attracts a total price of $21.50 per tonne over standard white. Some of this very good wheat is grown in the brigalow soils around Biloela which is represented by the honourable member for Capricornia, and in the Wandoan-Taroom brigalow soils, in the district represented by the honourable member for Maranoa. It brings a total price of $141.50 per tonne. Our best wheat, our No. 1 quality, which is equal to the best in the world, attracts a higher premium than the Manitobas and the best wheat from the Soviet Union. It attracts a total price, as reported in the Australian Financial Review of today, of $148 per tonne. I believe that particular attention must be given to a continuation of the nitrogenous fertiliser bounty, not only in the short term but also in the long term, for the black clay soils of the Darling Downs and other areas of Queensland. These black clay soils have an inherent ability to retain nitrogen for long periods of time. Unlike the shallow sandier soils in other areas of Australia, they make available nitrogen not only in the leaf stage of the plant but also in the later stages when the grain is actually being formed. This results in a harder type of grain which has a higher percentage of protein.
A further point in support of the continuation of the nitrogenous fertiliser bounty is that, when other States are going out of their wet period as the crop is ripening, Queensland with its unique climatic conditions is approaching summer, the season of predominant rainfall. The combination of available nitrogen in a readily assimilated form in the black clay soils and the rain makes for a top quality product. In the sugar industry much nitrogen is used because of the predictability of a return on any dollar spent on fertilisers. In the areas of high rainfall the farmer spends a lot of his available resources on the injection of nitrogen into the soil, usually in the form of aqua ammonia, fortified by the knowledge that given a reasonable season he will be reimbursed for the risks he has taken with the capital he has outlaid. In dry farming areas the farmer is more conscious of the cost factor and possibly does not use adequate amounts of nitrogen. The amount of nitrogen he uses usually is limited by the resources he has available.
We can use nitrogen very efficiently, but much research remains to be done. I pay tribute to many excellent officers in Queensland, such as Jack Littler, Owen Duncan and the late Jock Hart- men who became legends in their lifetime, men of practical experience like the honourable member for Forrest (Mr Drummond). They were able to harness the techniques of modern technology to the practical techniques of the good ploughmen. I pay tribute to them for the wonderful experimentation they have done in order to find the amounts of nitrogen which are applicable to certain types of soils containing different levels of moisture.
I conclude by saying that everything must be done to keep the cost of nitrogen as low as possible. In Queensland we have the various forms of nitrogen being produced basically from the natural gas fields at Roma and the refinery off-gas from the Ampol Petroleum Ltd refinery. There is a long term contract for the supply of natural gas from Roma, the contract specifying a constant price for the whole period of the contract. Unfortunately, because of the negative attitudes of the Labor Government during the past 3 years, with no encouragement being given to people to get out and take the risks in exploring the field for greater finds of natural gas, the supplies of this gas have been limited. The increase in the importation of fuels has led to a consequent increase in the cost of base items used in the manufacture of nitrogen. I hope that the present Government will give positive encouragement to people to get out and explore for natural gas which, in Queensland, is one of the basic ingredients in the manufacture of nitrogen.
Superphosphate has received excellent coverage in this debate, but I want to refer to one item that has not been mentioned. Others speakers in the debate, because of the wealth of information they had and their keenness to express their point of view, did not have time to paint the whole canvas, as it were. So I conclude on this note: By increasing the amount of superphosphate used -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Giles)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-I agree with the honourable member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh): The subject of superphosphate in specific terms had been handled very adequately in this debate so far. I rise to make a couple of points, particularly one affecting my electorate. There is in Macarthur a works producing lime. There are many soils in Australia which are highly acid, on which in fact superphosphate application is not necessarily useful. It would be unfortunate if anyone was encouraged to the view, because of bounties, that superphosphate should be spread around with the gay abandon with which various honourable members opposite handle the truth.
We should look in a longer range policy at establishing perhaps a more coherent view of what we should do to replenish the soil from which so much of our wealth emerges. I am a total supporter of the superphosphate bounty because I believe it encourages us to preserve the value of our greatest natural resource, the soil. I admit that there are additions to that resource emerging from the various kinds of fertiliser produced opposite, but far too often around Australia we have seen so much evidence of land that has been misused, of land that has not had its basic elements replaced following excessive use. We must ask ourselves: Why has this land been abused, particularly over the last 3 years? I submit that in the next few years we will be suffering the consequences of a failure by many people in rural areas to look after their land properly. The reasons for their failure are that they did not have the financial capacity to look after this basic resource, this vital backbone of Australia ‘s rural industries.
To speak disparagingly about measures aimed at preserving this resource, as members of the Australian Labor Party have done in this debate is, I believe, totally disgraceful and certainly fits into a pattern of political muck-raking and pointscoring to which I suppose we are all now accustomed from that one-third of the House. I cannot even refer to them as the other side. They do not even come near to filling the other side of the chamber, even if they all come into the chamber, which would be unusual. I suggest that the policy of any government should and must be to encourage farmers specifically to return the essential elements of the soil to the soil to keep it, in fact, as productive as possible. Induced and deliberate rural depression as a result of determined, positive policies of assault on the rural sector will have consequences for many years to come.
I welcome the superphosphate bounty but, as I said, I have some reservations because unfortunately it will take a while to catch up on the losses of the last three years of disaster. As I mentioned, in Macarthur we have a lime works and I am concerned by the extent to which we are encouraging the use of many other materials like lime in the proper preservation of our major resources, the land. I refer to the book entitled A Manual of Australian Agriculture, which was edited for the Australian Institute of Agricultural Science by Imre Molnar. At page 23 of that book, for the benefit of those students opposite who are interested in this subject, he said:
Lime-reverted super and super and lime mixtures have the inherent acidity of the super neutralised and solubility reduced, thus making it safe to sow at high application rates in contact with seed. A SO/SO mix of super and lime is commonly drilled at 2-5 cwt per acre with inoculated legume seeds in acid soils to promote Rhizobial nodulation Alternatively, special drills can be used to band the seed . . .
The point I am making is that it is a general view- a widely held view- that in acid soils, and there are many of them in Australia, there should be major encouragement for major applications of lime. I might say that the workers in a factory in Moss Vale, which is in the Macarthur electorate, would be overjoyed if that became a matter of concern to this or any other government. In other words, what I am suggesting is not that we have gone too far by restoring a bounty which in my view, frankly, is too small in view of the price rises in recent times but that we have not gone far enough in encouraging the preservation of a major natural resource.
Let me explain why it is so self evident that farmers, people on the land, cannot afford to preserve this basic resource, why they have tried to get by for a few years without putting back these essential elements. The facts, I am afraid, are rather depressing. Not only has the rural sector had to work harder and harder to get less and less returns but also the returns it has received have gone shorter and shorter distances in terms of what that money can do anyway. One can in fact see that from the booklet entitled National Agricultural Outlook Conference- The Farm Situation in Australia, which was presented to the Conference at its meeting in Canberra between 4 and 6 February. There is an interesting table on page 13 of this booklet. I seek leave to have the table incorporated in Hansard. I apologise for not having shown it to the Opposition beforehand.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The table read as follows)-
– One can see from this table, which is headed ‘Gross Value of Farm Production, Costs and Income’, that farm income in gross terms- the gross value of rural production has fallen quite considerably since 1973-74, despite the rate of inflation. The one thing that is rising in the rural sector is, of course, farm costs. They are roaring ahead. I want to draw attention now to the most crucial, the most depressing, part of this table. It demonstrates that in 1972-73 the real farm income- that is not taking into account inflation but seeing what that farm income really buys- totalled $1,367 billion. The estimate for the current year is now down to $854 billion. That represents a 37 per cent fall in real terms for farm income.
Honourable members opposite can revel in the success of the previous Administration. In 3 years it did a remarkable job in assisting in knocking down the amount of real farm income by more than one-third. No wonder the rural sector could not afford to maintain its natural and main resource- the land. But I point out to the House that while the policies of the gentlemen opposite were pushing down the value of rural production, were assisting in belting the man on the land and were assisting in discouraging him from putting value back into that land, the Labor Government was increasing the taxation on individuals by 60 per cent and it was, of course, increasing wages, salaries and supplements by 24 per cent. So there is an interesting change in attitude. On the one hand it belted the rural sectorbelted a major resource- but on the other hand of course it increased the goodies coming to Canberra for use as handouts so that it could, in fact, attempt to buy votes. How pleasant it was to find that the Australian people in December recognised that there was no point in receiving what was in fact counterfeit money- diminishing value money, bits of paper that were worthlessbecause in fact unless we have a thriving rural sector, a rural sector that is dynamic and going ahead, we cannot have a sound basis of prosperity in Australia.
Mr Deputy Speaker, I would submit to you also that one of the disasters facing the rural sector is that it has to work harder and harder, as I said earlier, to earn less and less. For example, even though in the current year real farm income is expected to drop from $924m to $854m, production is expected to rise considerably. That is dramatic evidence of how one sector of the economy has to work harder and harder to earn less and less while other sectors of the economy, represented and supported by the gentlemen opposite, must apparently get a special reward by getting paid more and more for doing less and less.
-Order! I would ask honourable members on my left to lower the level of their conversation. It is extremely difficult to hear the honourable member for Macarthur.
– I would imagine that the facts that I am presenting from the Government ‘s own statistical material, created, I might say, when those gentlemen were in power, would not interest honourable members opposite very much. I do not think that they are at all interested in facts about the rural sector, and I do not think that their lack of concern is expressed any more accurately than in their failure to pay any kind of attention to the matters raised by this side of the House in this debate.
– It is distasteful to them.
– Yes, exactly; I think it is distasteful to them and it is a pity some more of them did not spend a bit of time in a rural area and actually get up early in the morning and do a bit of hard work.
– As bad as the bulls.
– I think their main association with any bit of rural activity would probably be at the wrong end of the bull, anyway.
– I think the honourable member for Melbourne has been doing enough talking for a while to his colleagues.
– I beg your pardon, Mr Deputy Speaker, I will not encourage them in their bovine habits. Another point I wanted to make is that the report of the National Agricultural Outlook Conference makes this very serious point:
The prices of farm inputs in Australia increased markedly in 1974-75 in association with the relatively high rate of domestic inflation.
I wonder who caused that. I think we must have imported it or apparently someone left it to us, judging by what honourable members opposite say. The report continues:
This combined with an overall decrease in prices received, caused a sharp decline in farmers ‘ terms of trade ( the ratio of prices received to prices paid). This ratio declined by over 30 per cent in 1974-75. Consequently farm income fell and . . . was over 40 per cent lower than the previous season’s record. Farm input prices are continuing to rise this season although at a somewhat reduced rate.
This is the serious point:
In addition, farmers are continuing to reassess patterns of input usage and defer expenditure wherever possible.
That, I believe, is a serious and tragic proposition. If, as this report states, farmers defer expenditure wherever possible they would be deferring expenditure on such things as superphosphate. I believe it is vital that we counter this declining trend in farmers’ willingness and, indeed, capacity to regenerate their land. The report continues:
As a result, the increase in total farm costs in 1975-76 will be less than last season and could be as low as 6 per cent.
In case honourable members opposite get up later and say: ‘Look, you fellows were crying over nothing; farm costs only went up by 6 per cent this year’ I want to stress that they will be going up only by 6 per cent because farmers will be deferring expenditure that they should properly be making. I submit that expenditure on superphosphate is expenditure that they should be making. I welcome this Bill. I encourage farmers to take advantage of it. I do hope that at some time in the future the Government will be agreeable to taking what I think is the next proper step in this area. That is to increase the amount of money available for a superphosphate, and, indeed, a nitrogenous fertiliser bounty in order to increase the incentive to restore this basic resource. I hope the Government will also stimulate the usage of other elements that should be returned to the soil in order to keep this country a major and great primary producer.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise to speak in support of the Nitrogenous Fertilizers Subsidy Amendment Bill and the Phosphate Fertilizers Bounty Amendment Bill because of the continuing condemnation of the rural sector by those sitting opposite. I want to assure the House and the people of Australia that the people who live in the various metropolitan areas of the cities around Australia are united with the people who live and work in the country and rural areas. But continually the members in the Opposition seem to want to drive a wedge between the 2 peoples. They do not fully understand the plight of the rural people and it is certainly evident in this House.
It reminds me of a statement once made by an eminent speaker, who said: ‘If no changes are forthcoming things will remain exactly as they are’. The way things are going on the benches opposite, if the honourable members over there continue to talk about constitutional crises, if they continue to talk about violence which they bring up regularly, and if they continue to knock the farmer, I am afraid they certainly will stay exactly as they are, which is with very small numbers sitting over there on the Opposition benches. They are in tatters. They are in disarray and they are straining very hard to find what to knock next. They will not find anything concerning the present Government. It is difficult of course to sit here and listen to the same thing. It gets quite monotonous. How disappointed the 40-odd per cent of the Australian people must be who voted for the Labor Party. How they must feel.
Many members will be able to cast their mind back just a few years ago- I think 2 short yearswhen the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) made that staggering statement that farmers must wait on next year’s crop before they can buy their yachts. Yet only a short time after that remarkable statement, farmers have been walking off their properties to find work in the dues as labourers, unskilled factory workers, and to work at any job they can get to support their families and to help to maintain and service the debts that have been built up on their farms. It is a ridiculous situation. We had people on farms who supposedly were worth many thousands of dollars and now to use a term that is common amongst Australians, they are walking around with the seat out of their pants.
The honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Baume) who spoke before me in this debate mentioned a couple of books that he had with him. I forget their titles but it might be an idea to commend the reading of those books to the new shadow Minister for Agriculture in the Opposition. I believe he was appointed today. It might be a good idea for him to duck down to the Parliamentary Library and start to read those books. To return to the superphosphate bounty, we are talking about approximately $30m. I select that figure as the yearly average of what the bounty has cost the Government since 1963. In 1963 the bounty cost the governments 18.8m. By 1973, 10 years later, it had built up gradually to hit a peak of $67m. In 1974 it fell back to $23.9m. I admit that to some people that figure may sound rather large, but let us take it in context.
Let us consider that figure as a percentage of the value of our 1974-75 crop which was $2,265m. The money that has been expended on the bounty represents about 1 per cent of the value of that crop. The expenditure of that 1 per cent does not benefit only the rich, as the Opposition continually states. There are many hundreds of poor farmers for every rich farmer and there are thousands of people living in rural areas and working on farms whose wages are dependent on the farms continuing to operate. Without this bounty the unemployment in the rural sector would increase. It would continue to cause people to move to the metropolitan areas and we would have rising unemployment there.
Let us consider the value of the bounty to Australia. Let us consider the things it achieves, apart from the suggestion from the Opposition that it puts money in the pockets of the rich. As the honourable member for Macarthur and other honourable members have said before me, much of Australia’s arable land is unsuitable for primary production unless it is assisted with aids like superphosphate. Superphosphate greatly increases the productive area of land in Australia and that puts money into all pockets throughout the Australian community. If members of the Opposition do not believe what I say, let them think for one minute of what would happen if by some stroke of bad luck farmers stopped producing. It would be the people in the cities and the metropolitan areas who would be hurt first. They would not have their cereals for breakfast; they would not have their bread to eat. So we are considering a most important sector of the community. As I have said before, making sure that our farmers operate to their maximum extent plays a great part in creating employment in rural areas and plays a great part in our decentralisation policies. People are not going to move out of the metropolitan areas if there is no work for them to go to.
What about the value of our farm products as an export earner for Australia? Do members of the Opposition not think that everyone benefits from that? Of course they do. Our farm products contribute a staggering amount of money towards our export revenue and without this income Australia’s economy on an international basis would not be of the standing that it is today. I might add also that assistance such as the superphosphate bounty contributes greatly towards keeping domestic prices of wheat and other grains to a low level. It ensures that we do not pay too much for our packets of cereal which we eat of a morning and that we do not pay too much for our loaves of bread.
I was looking today at a report of the study carried out by the Industries Assistance Commission into the superphosphate bounty. The study was originated on 29 January last year when the present Opposition was in government. The Whitlam Government instituted the IAC inquiry to report on the superphosphate bounty. The report had to be tabled by 3 1 July last year, and it was. The Industries Assistance Commission recommended that the continuation of the consumption of phosphate fertilisers be assisted by restoration of the bounty previously payable. Yet, like Opposition members do in so many cases when they do not agree with a report they find an excuse not to take any notice of it. It is a bit like playing cricket: When you are given out and you do not want to go, you take your bat and ball and go home. That is the way the Opposition has treated the recommendation.
– We will have to nick-name you ‘chloroform’. You are putting us all to sleep.
– The honourable member for Blaxland might be asleep. We know his ability in agriculture.
– You are a real ripper, you are.
– I know that the honourable member is a real ripper. That is why his Party changes front bench members around all the time and why it keeps on having new shadow Ministers for Agriculture. The shadow Ministers have to swap around to learn a bit. I did want to rise as a person representing a metropolitan seat. As I said before, I think the only amount of superphosphate that the people of Barton use is the odd handful they throw on the lawn. But I felt that the opportunity could not pass by without bringing forward the fact that the people of Australia are united. The people in the metro.politan areas of the city are Australians, along with our fellow farmers from the rural areas.
– in reply- I would like to thank those people who have participated in the debate. I would like particularly to thank the many speakers on the Government side of the House who were prepared to argue so strongly for the propositions contained in this legislation. I think it is very interesting that in legislation such as this, which raises an issue that has almost become an article of faith for the Leader of the opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam), only two of his colleagues were prepared to contribute to the debate. It is inevitable that in a debate of this nature a certain amount of emotion will be generated.
The speech that was made by the Leader of the Opposition was a good illustration of the sort of emotion that is generated in a debate like this. He even advanced the fatuous proposition that there was something extraordinary about the fact that the legislation had not been moved by a member of the National Country Party. He wanted to know why the legislation had been moved by the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. It might be a matter of information for the Leader of the Opposition to know that the bounty happens to be paid under an Act which is administered by me and administered by my Department. There is no break with precedent for this legislation to be moved by the Minister who is responsible for customs and excise matters. There is nothing unusual about this. This was the pattern; this was the procedure and the situation in the previous Government.
So in bringing this debate to a conclusion, let us address ourselves to a few essential facts. The first essential fact to which we have to address ourselves is that when we look around Australia we see the economic wreckage after 3 years of Labor government. It is incontestable whether you reside in the city and represent a city electorate, whether you reside in and represent an outer metropolitan area or whether you reside in a rural ara, that the rural area of Australia has suffered most under the last 3 years of Labor government. That is an incontestable fact. That is not emotion; that is not humbug, but a fact. If honourable members opposite want proof of that fact, if they want the most vivid demonstration of ah of that fact, then they only have to look at the results of 13 December in the rural areas of Australia. The people who live in those areas, given the opportunity of saying what they thought of the treatment of rural industries in the rural areas of Australia by the Whitlam Government answered that question in no uncertain terms- so much so that it is absolutely impossible for the Opposition to find a front bench spokesman who represents rural interests to be its spokesman on rural matters. The Labor Party has made 2 attempts since it has been in opposition to find somebody to lead on rural matters. And who has it chosen? It has chosen the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) who represents an urban electorate in Sydney. And now the Opposition has chosen a senator who represents all those farmers who live in Sutherland Shire in the metropolitan area of Sydney. Now, is that not a remarkable commentary on the absolute poverty of rural support and rural understanding in Australia? It demonstrates once again just how out of touch the Australian Labor Party is with a significant area of this country. It also demonstrates again the extent to which the Labor Party tried to divide the city and the country in Australia to an extent that we have never had before.
One of the very bad legacies of 3 years of the Whitlam Government was the extent to which the city areas of Australia and the country areas of Australia were divided. For the first time in a long time the people who lived in the country areas of Australia genuinely felt, and they had good reason for genuinely feeling, that they were being neglected, that they were the poor relations of the Australian community. The Opposition does not like -
– Just do not run at the mouth. Defend your legislation. You never made a second reading speech.
-The Opposition does not like this being said. The Opposition does not like a few home truths about this legislation to be brought home.
-Order! The Minister will resume his seat. The honourable member for Blaxland has made his speech. The Minister has introduced his Bill and he is now winding up the debate. He is perfectly in order and I ask the honourable member for Blaxland to contain himself a little. I call the Minister.
– The honourable member for Blaxland asks me to defend the legislation. I ask the honourable member for Blaxland to defend what the Whitlam Government did to the rural industries of Australia during the 3 years that it was in government. When honourable members opposite can produce a cogent argument to justify what they did, to justify the attitude they took to those rural industries during the time that they were in government, then they can really talk about a serious debate on this issue.
So fact No. 1 that we have to face in this debate is that the rural areas of Australia suffered greatly under the Whitlam Government. They had reason to complain, and complain they did on 13 December. Fact No. 2 about the superphosphate bounty, is that what the Government has done is essentially to implement the recommendations of the Industries Assistance Commission. There is nothing magical about that. How many times have governments of both persuasions implemented recommendations of the Industries Assistance Commission which related to giving protection and help to manufacturing industry? They have done so many times, and they will go on doing that. Yet do we hear any complaints from sections of the community who now complain because the Government has implemented recommendations of the IAC relating to rural industry. Of course we do not hear those complaints. This decision of the Government arises out of a report of the IAC which was requested under reference set by the previous Government. Now that central fact seems to have been avoided by the Opposition during the whole course of this debate.
– Only 3 speakers from the Opposition took part.
– Only 3 Opposition speakers participated in the debate, as the honourable member for Hume reminds me. So intent on and so hung up by the question of the superphosphate bounty is the Opposition that it missed the simple, essential fact that this legislation results from a decision of the Government arising out of the recommendations of the Government’s independent advisory body which operates across the whole spectrum of Australian industry. For the information of Opposition members who are present in the chamber tonight the Industries Assistance Commission does not exist solely in order to make recommendation on assistance to the rural areas of Australia. The IAC is a body which gives independent across the board advice to all sectors of industry in Australia. In picking up those recommendations by the IAC the Government is not giving selective and preferential treatment to the rural sector of Australia. It is not giving to the rural sector advantage and preference over the manufacturing industry. It is doing nothing more than it would do if it picked up some recommendations from the IAC relating to manufacturing industry.
No argument has been advanced during this debate by the Opposition to justify the fervour with which the Leader of the Opposition attacked the legislation. He described it as morally indefensible. Now, apparently, it is morally indefensible for a government to adopt the recommendations of an independent advisory body which was established by legislation introduced and passed by the previous Government. On the next occasion when the Government adopts recommendations of the Industries Assistance Commission relating to manufacturing industry, I will be most interested to see whether the Leader of the Opposition is prepared to come into this place with the same moral fervour and to say that the Government’s action is morally bankrupt and economically indefensible. The fact of the matter is that the Leader of the Opposition has a blind spot with respect to the rural areas of Australia. I suggest that, in electoral terms, those in the rural areas of Australia have a massive blind spot so far as he is concerned. They will continue to have it until such time as the Opposition realises that the rural areas of Australia are in a condition of economic deprivation. Of course there are exceptions to that rule.
The incontestable fact is that the economic wreckage caused by the administration of the previous Government is to be found most spectacularly in the rural areas of Australia where it was most concentrated. No argument which has been advanced in this debate by the Leader.of the Opposition, the honourable member for Blaxland or the honourable member for Fraser (Mr Fry), can alter that fact. The honourable member for Blaxland and the honourable member for Fraser were the only 2 members of the Opposition who were interested enough to support the Leader of the Opposition in the debate. They were the only 2 members of the Opposition who were prepared to participate in the debate.
Nothing that any of those 3 honourable gentlemen said can alter the fact that the rural areas of Australia are in a serious economic plight.
This legislation, this measure by the Government picks up the recommendation of an independent advisory body on assistance to industry. There is nothing special about this action. There is nothing discriminatory about this legislation. We are merely implementing recommendations made as a result of a request made by the previous Government for a report on the superphosphate bounty. The arguments which have been advanced are without basis in fact and are founded upon the emotional hang-up that the Leader of the Opposition in particular has about this issue.
So, Mr Deputy Speaker, in thanking those who have participated in the debate I once again draw your attention and the attention of the House to the fact that, on an issue on which the Leader of the Opposition has campaigned so strongly and about which he said so much, the most salient and most telling point is that only 2 members of his Party were prepared to participate in the debate. Only 2 members of his Party were prepared to stand with him and to argue against this legislation. I think that fact says something for the strength of his own position in his own Party. I think that it says something for the interest of members of the Opposition in rural matters. I think that it says something for their understanding of the issues that are really involved in this legislation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
-The Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard) came into the chamber tonight and attacked the Opposition in a disgraceful way after not being able to defend his own legislation. He came in the House and introduced a piece of legislation with 1 5 lines of argument -
– A point of order. This is the Committee.
-Order! The honourable member for Hume has now been in the House long enough to know that if he wants to take a point of order he should rise to his feet and take it. Yesterday evening, on 3 occasions, he took points of order without getting to his feet. If the honourable member does not know how to take a point of order properly, he should not take a point of order at all.
– The Minister introduced this legislation with 15 lines in his speech. It lasted no more than 3 minutes. This is a piece of legislation which appropriates $30m of public funds to the rural sector of Australia. In the last full year of the operation of the scheme $67m was appropriated. Yet he came in here tonight with a fatuous, off the cuff, irresponsible speech, without any argument, just on cheap political grounds to try to score some points as a new Minister with a major piece of legislation. That was the only defence we heard from him. Just let us have a look at what this legislation does. The Opposition’s basic point has been that the extension of this subsidy does not help the people who most need help. We produced the South Australian figures. Of the 25 000 producers in South Australia 18 500 received less that $141 a year from the subsidy. They each used less that 12 tons of superphosphate. We know well, the Government knows well and the Minister knows well that most of the money- 70 per cent of the fundsgoes to 20 per cent of the producers. That is why we received this apology for a second reading speech. That is why the Minister is incapable of defending an indefensible piece of legislation. He tried to pour scorn upon the Opposition for raising genuine argument about the appropriation of $30m of taxpayers’ funds all because, he says, we are bound now to accept recommendations of the Industries Assistance Commission. Reports of the IAC are in fact recommendations to a government. They need not be accepted.
– Order! I suggest that the honourable member is going too wide in his comments. He should wait until we get to the second -
– We are dealing with the Nitrogenous Fertilizers Subsidy Amendment Bill. You are talking about the superphosphate Bill.
– It is a cognate debate.
– No, we had a cognate debate at the second reading stage, but in Committee there must be separate consideration.
– I thought we were dealing with the Phosphate Fertilizers Bounty Amendment Bill.
– No. Because we had a cognate debate at the second reading stage I was allowing the honourable member some time to make a brief comment.
– I will speak to this Bill, the Nitrogenous Fertilizers Subsidy Amendment Bill. The attack generally was made by the Government in respect of both pieces of legislation, not only the Phosphate Fertilizers Bounty Amendment Bill but also the Nitrogenous Fertilizers Subsidy Amendment Bill. The loose, empty charge is that the former Government was remiss in considering the plight of people in the countryside. But we should look at the historic legislation that that Government introduced for the first time ever, to provide a floor price plan for the major rural industry, wool. This cost in loans in the first year $350m. The present Government, when it was formerly a government, was not prepared to do this.
– I raise a point of order, Mr Chairman. We are not considering anything to do with the floor price scheme for wool that may or may not have been introduced. You have already made the point that we are speaking about the Nitrogenous Fertilizers Subsidy Amendment Bill in Committee. I think the honourable member ought to be required to keep to that.
-The honourable member for Hume is basically correct when he says that in Committee honourable members should speak to the Bill; but the normal practice, when a Bill is taken as a whole during the Committee stage, is to allow the first Opposition speaker, in particular, to go a little wide of the basic matters within the Bill. In those circumstances, as I have said, I think that the honourable member for Blaxland has been given the latitude that is normally extended. I think that perhaps more concentrated remarks upon the Bill would be appropriate.
– I could reserve my remarks and speak in the second reading debate on the next Bill when it is before us; but I will wind up on this point: The Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs came here with a shoddy speech to denigrate members of the Opposition. He was not prepared to make a second reading speech explaining or even defending his own legislation. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) did not even take part in the debate. Yet the Minister who is at the table has the hide and temerity to say to the Opposition that it is not interested in the legislation. The only cogent argument put in the debate today came from the Opposition; it did not come from the Government. We have heard cheap political argument from the Government because only cheap political argument can defend indefensible legislation.
- Mr Chairman, I raise a point of order. I suggest that the comments now being made by the honourable member for Blaxland are totally irrelevant to the Committee stage of the Bill. I therefore suggest that he direct his attention to the clauses of the Bill.
– The point of order raised by the Minister is similar to the point of order that was raised by the honourable member for Hume a couple of minutes ago. I pointed out in relation to that point of order that normally in the Committee stage of a Bill a certain courtesy or latitude is extended to the first speaker on the Opposition side. He is allowed to go a little wider than the narrowly related aspects of the Bill. The other point is that the honourable member is referring in a little too much detail to what was said in the second reading debate. I pointed this out to the honourable member for Blaxland and suggested that he might keep his remarks within the subject matter that is appropriate to the Committee stage.
– I am concerned to see the legislation go through tonight; so I will not continue my remarks. I just make this point: Ministers should not come into the Committee, chiding the Opposition, when they are not prepared to defend their legislation in the reply or in the second reading speech made when introducing the legislation.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Howard)- by leave read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 4 March on motion by Mr Howard:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the GovernorGeneral recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Howard) read a third time.
Rural Living in Australia-Timor-Law Reform Commission- Australian Capital Territory: Long Service Leave for Private Employees
Motion (by Mr Howard) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
-Mr Acting Speaker I rise to inform honourable members of some of the costs incurred by the younger generation in attempting to move on to the land in 1976.I give a case history of a young man in my electorate who wishes to be a farmer. This man wants to be a farmer; he makes no apologies for that. With the costs that are now facing him he will probably have to reconsider his decision and go to the city. This man is qualified, he is a professional man. He is in agricultural science and he desires to become a farmer. In a reasonably closely settled area he has builta house for his wife and himself. A child is expected. The house cost $20,000 to build and I think all honourable members would say that must be a very modest house to be built in the country at that cost.
Listen to these charges for services which he is now confronted with to turn that house into a home. A septic system will cost him approximately $600. To bring water from the river, no more than 250 metres away, will cost him $1,300. On top of that he is faced with the prospect of paying a bill of $2,800 to have electricity connected to the house, and it does not have to come very far. Here is the charge to have a telephone connected to his house. I point out that there is a PMG cable within 80 metres of his back door, and within that PMG cable there arc spare lines. He has been notified that the cost of installing a telephone in his residence will be $4,902. The total cost of services which today most people say are reasonable will be $9,700 for a $20,000 house. One-third of the total cost of his home is for services that most of us really do not think about when we build in an urban area.
If our young people who wish to take up farming are to be confronted with charges like this, there is not much hope for the rural industries because the average age of farmers, I am told, is now getting very much into the late 50s and unless we get younger people to go into the rural industry, it will collapse. The result of that collapse is perhaps too much even for us in this House to contemplate because this country, whether we like it or not, is tied to a prosperous rural industry and I do not think there has been any reasonable suggestion, certainly by any member of this House, for an alternative for this country. I suggest that we all take heed of those figures I have mentioned tonight because here is one of the real problems associated with farming in this country today. The debate which has just concluded successfully for the re-introduction of the fertiliser bounty is not of much value to young men like this if they cannot get themselves established on the land itself. I did not hear from the Opposition tonight any claim that superphosphate is not needed in Australia. The country has no alternative but to use it. It is unfortunate that the tag for superphosphate has gone to the agricultural Ministry.
-Order! The honourable member should not comment on a debate that took place in the House earlier in the day.
-I take your point, Mr Deputy Speaker. I think it would be fair to suggest that perhaps the provision of assistance to this industry in this manner in the future should be viewed in the national interest and not in the interests of farmers. In fact if it were viewed in the national interest the farmers could perhaps charge for spreading the stuff.
The other point I wish to make tonight concerns a warning in an article published in the Melbourne Herald. The article was written by Alexander Solzhenitsyn. He warned that the West is doomed. He says that the West is blinding itself to growing Soviet strength and that there now seemed little hope of avoiding global catastrophe. My friends in the Opposition will rise very quickly to point out that I am now to be branded a reactionary and that all of a sudden I have decided to resurrect the communist bogey. Well, if that tag is to be given to me- if I am a reactionary because I point out this growing menace- I wear it with pride. I only wish that honourable members opposite would declare themselves now so that I can declare them to the people of Australia, because it is long past the time that we listened -
– You have plenty of friends.
– I hear the honourable member for Melbourne- the alley cat of the back bench- interject. He is the man who decided to go down to the bottom of the muck bucket to bring up a complaint about the GovernorGeneral. He surprises me, because there is a great adage in this House, which is that if you throw some mud it is bound to bounce right back upon you.
– You are a past master at that.
-Yes, I accept that I am a past master at it. I will throw muck. I say to the honourable member for Melbourne: You threw some muck.
-Order! I think that if the honourable member addresses his remarks through the Chair it might help to keep order in the House.
-Yes, Mr Deputy Speaker. I have made the point fairly clearly that Solzhenitsyn is a recognised expert in this field. He witnessed the extermination, I think, of 95 million of his countrymen. He understands what freedom is. I think an obscure Frenchman once said: ‘Freedom is the luxury of the disciplined’. Every attempt has been made by the Labor Party when in Opposition and in Government to destroy the discipline of this society in Australia. The Opposition believes that under the heading of ‘freedom’, under the heading of ‘do your thing’, and with the self-actualisation of getting our youth to reject authority, to reject responsibility, to reject discipline, we will herald a new age of some form in this country. It is mischievous and dangerous. It can lead to only one result- the collapse of the community as wc know it. When that collapse takes place those from the extreme Left and the extreme Right will come forward very quickly to offer the people a new discipline.
There are those on the extreme Left who plot to bring about that situation in this country. Their fellow travellers- the front men, the apologists sitting on the Opposition benches nowstand up and scream ‘reactionary’ when one raises this point. They stand up and try to cloud the real issue. They try to make you appear as if you are something from the past. They try to tell us that the communist bogy does not exist. They tell us about the 1950s and the 1960s and about what happened in the Cold War. Well, the answer is pretty simple. In those days we were aware of the communist bogy. The result was that the communists did not make many inroads into the West. But now we have dropped our defences. Too many of us are listening to the call of reactionary. Too many of us have been blinded by those apologists and by the fellow travellers of the communists. I say to honourable members: Take heed now. This country should now take a closer look at itself and start to realise that if we do not take heed we will go under.
– My Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
-I do. About 15 minutes ago Mr Deputy Speaker Lucock pointed out to the House that on 3 occasions yesterday I had taken a point of order without having risen from my seat. My point of personal explanation is that on one occasion yesterday, which is recorded in Hansard at page 985, without rising from my seat I asked the Chair to protect me. I did not wish to take a point of order and it was only when Mr Deputy Speaker Martin did not ask for a withdrawal of words by an honourable member that I was required to stand and take a point of order.
– I think the honourable member has made his point. Might I just say in reply that I have heard the honourable member scream ‘Point of order’ while sitting in his place. That is not the polite way to deal with the Chair, and I think it is fair that the honourable member be asked to pay to the Chair the courtesy that it deserves.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order to support briefly my colleague the honourable member for Hume. Last night he was grievously assaulted and I make the point that in those circumstances he would have to be excused.
– Order! There is no point of order. I call the honourable member for Fraser.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to refer to a speech in the adjournment debate on Tuesday night made by the honourable member for Swan (Mr Martyr). My remarks would probably also apply to the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Sullivan). He would probably be disappointed if I did not include him in my remarks because his speech was almost as reactionary as that of the honourable member for Swan. On Tuesday night the honourable member for Swan made a very scurrilous and completely unwarranted attack on many of our voluntary aid bodies in Australia. He also attacked our leading churches. He attacked all those people who have taken a humanitarian interest in the Timor tragedy, and in doing so he defended the fascist actions of the Indonesian Government in its aggression in Portuguese East Timor. I find it very sad that an elected member of this House, representing the independent democratic people of Australia, should deny that same independence, that some democratic right, to our neighbours in Portuguese East Timor, which is only 300 miles from Darwin. Because their skins are a different colour, or for some other reason, he wants to deny them that right. He wants to deny them their independence. Independence is all right for the honourable member for Swan but not for them.
I found his remarks highly offensive and highly inaccurate. They were based on a complete misconception of the real tragedy of Timor. The honourable member displayed a frightening conservative bias and an irrational fear of something that he does not understand and does not even want to begin to understand. He referred to the Timor moratorium and he likened it to the Vietnam moratorium. I hope he is correct because with respect to Vietnam we saw a nonviolent moratorium which had the effect of ending a violent war that had gone on for 20 years. I hope that the Timor moratorium has the same effect, because that is the idea behind it. We want to end the bloodshed in Portuguese East Timor. It is not the fascist leaders who will end war, it is the ordinary people who get up and demonstrate that they do not want war. If we were in contact with the ordinary people in those countries these wars would not start. The honourable member for Swan never went to Timor. He based his judgments on the propaganda that poured out of Indonesia. He could have gone to Timor; other people went there.
– Order! Would the honourable member for Fraser resume his seat. Throughout the honourable member’s speech there has been a constant crossfire of comments and interjections. I think they could stop to the great advantage of the honourable member for Fraser, who is trying to make a hard-hitting adjournment speech.
– Some honourable members from this side of the House went to Timor to see for themselves what was going on because, quite obviously the people of Australia were being denied the real truth. Five Australian journalists were murdered by the Indonesian forces because the Indonesians did not want the truth to come out. There is no doubt about that. We went and saw it ourselves. We made an on the spot assessment. We did not sit back here and swallow the propaganda that has been dished out by Indonesia which honourable members opposite swallowed. It was not only honourable members on this side of the House who went to Timor; 2 members from the other side of the House went too. It might be a good idea if Government supporters discussed the Fretilin forces and the
Timor situation with Senator Neville Bonner who also went there and came back full of admiration for the Fretilin forces. He did not come back saying that they were all communists.
I can assure honourable members that the Fretilin organisation is a nationalist body which has the overwhelming support of the people; it is not a communist organisation. We went there on 2 occasions- not once- and we took particular care to try to establish connections with any communist party. We found no connection whatsoever. It is significant that, in all the months of fighting that has gone on there, the Fretilin forces have received no support from any outside body at all -communist or otherwise. The UDT forces- the right wing fascist forces- identified 15 people who had had some connection with some communist party as students back in Lisbon. When the UDT coup took place they murdered eleven of the fifteen. They murdered them because they considered them to have some connection with communism. I do not agree with the politics of the honourable member for Swan- I know he is a former Democratic Labor Party candidate- but that does not give me the right to liquidate him because I do not agree with him. But that is what the UDT forces did. They felt that because these people were supposed to be communists they had the right to kill them. They were not people, they were something else because they were communists.
The honourable member repeats all the old bogies about the Fretilin forces being communist dominated. There is no foundation for that whatsoever. If he talks to his colleagues who went there they will confirm that. Even traditionally right wing people like Michael Darby came back and said: ‘What utter nonsense. They are not communists; they are nationalist people who want their independence, and that is what it is all about.’ In his speech the honourable member also claimed that the Indonesians did not intervene until 7 December. The Indonesians were in action there when we were there in August, and everybody knows it. They are the people who killed the Australian journalists. Everybody acknowledges now that the Indonesian forces were there. Our own Foreign Affairs Department will acknowledge that. They knew all about it but the Press were not allowed to tell us. They were not allowed in there.
The honourable member for Swan said something about the Timor relief appeal. Let me tell you just what it is all about. Eight voluntary organisations launched a Timor relief appeal which was widely supported by the Australian public. They sent humanitarian aid in a ship which was checked by the Australian Government before it was loaded. It was checked during loading and before it sailed. All the goods were of a humanitarian nature. The organisations all worked in conjunction with the International Red Cross which was substantially backed by the Australian Government. These are the people whom the honourable member is labelling as communists or their fellow travellers. He slanders these people with his irrational paranoia about the communist hordes that are bearing down on us. What nonsense! He slanders the Australian Council for Overseas Aid and the Action for World Development Organisation just because they supported the Fretilin forces. In fact these people sent more aid to Indonesian Timor than they did to Portuguese East Timor. These people are not politicians; they are Christian people from all denominations who arc interested in fighting against injustice and in dispensing humanitarian aid.
The Timorese people have been subject to colonial denomination for 400 or 500 years and, just at the stage where they had a chance of breaking out of this domination and standing on their own feet, we see their great neighbour come in and crush them underfoot. We see them kill 50 000 to 60 000 defenceless women and children just because they did not agree with their philosophy and they claimed that it was a threat to their security. How could 500 000 half-starved people be a threat to the security of Indonesia with its 120 million people? How could that be? That is utter nonsense, and the honourable member knows it is nonsense. These people after 400 or 500 years of colonial domination have very little to show. They have no health services and practically no education. They have a 50 per cent rate of infant mortality, no roads, no communications, very little rural development and no industry. That is what colonialism had done to those people for 400 or 500 years. Yet the honourable member comes here and wants to defend another sort of colonialism from the Indonesians. The honourable member denies them the right to run their own affairs and the right to independence.
The provisional government which has been set up there by the Indonesians in no way represents the people of Portuguese East Timor. It represents the property holders, the plantation owners, the elitist group who have vested interests there. It represents people who have commercial ties with Indonesia or who have family ties with Indonesia. It has no interest in the Portuguese East Timor people. It is interested in protecting its capitalist interest in Portuguese
East Timor. The Fretilin organisation was supported by 90 per cent of the population when we were there on both occasions. Yet these are the people whom the honourable member denies the right of independence, and he had the audacity to support a fascist aggression, with no justificanon whatsoever, against the poor defenceless half-starved people.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I rise to draw to the attention of the House the need to refer an important matter of law reform to the Law Reform Commission. I shall be brief. Arising out of this example I shall be able to put to the House a demonstration of the dangerous philosophies of the Labor Party in relation to the individual in this society. If there is one threat in our society internally that we have to face it is the lack of freedom that is ever encroaching upon the individual because of big business, big trade unions and big government. The particular point is the need to ensure that in this country there is a proper remedy whereby people who, in a particular class, have suffered in general from some impediment of their rights are able to have an action brought on their behalf. At present there are a great many problems that prevent this from being done.
For example, if a whole host of people have an axle in a particular model of car that is deficient it is very often impossible for one person to pursue a case against the car manufacturer for reason of the expense involved and for other reasons, but if a representative action can be brought something can be done with backing from proper legal aid. The same applies to environmental issues in which there can be many disputes. The same would apply against trade unions which might blatantly be intimidating service station proprietors. No single individual may be able to bring an action, assuming the law entitles him to bring an action. The same may apply against the Government. If for example a person has not got his defence service home loan through, it may be possible to bring an action against the Government. People affected by a quarry that is being built around them should be able to have a representative action. This should also have the effect of allowing the legal profession to move further into the important areas of the law instead of some members of the profession confining themselves to rather lucrative hack-work areas.
I am speaking very briefly because the honourable member for Denison (Mr
Hodgman) wishes to raise an important matter, but the question to remember is this: Publicinterest litigation in this country cannot be brought with any reasonable degree of safety by the individual. In America Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of CiVil Procedure of 1966 coincided with the consumer boom when Ralph Nader started to develop a great body of actions in this regard. It can cover civil rights, environment, welfare, consumer protection, anti-trust, security law and the like. There are many pros; there are many cons. But the case is overwhelming for a reference to the Law Reform Commission. I understand, subject to correction, that in the Labor Party’s time the then Attorney-General would not refer this matter to the Law Reform Commission because the Department thought that embarrassing actions might be brought against the government. If departments are to have the say on these matters, we are coming to a very sad state of affairs. This House or the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott) should decide what matters go to the Law Reform Commission, not the bureaucrats because they are the people whom, one would hope, in some cases would be the target for the reform. The present Attorney-General, in keeping with his very astute and competent conduct of his office, is prepared in some circumstances, if the Government’s Law and Government Committee thinks it worth while, to refer matters to the Commission.
Before I finish my remarks, I want to point out that as well as any possible or potential external threat to this nation, there is the ever serious encroachment upon the freedom of individuals. I call upon Disraeli and Lenin for precedents. Disraeli said that the institutions of our society stand between the caprice of the politicians and the freedom of the people. The law is one of those important institutions. Lenin said that the citizen has 2 duties: one to defend the state and the other to defend himself from the State. We in the Liberal Party stand for citizens who will defend the state against any outside threat and citizens who are provided with the means to defend themselves from the ever increasing encroachments of the state. That is exactly the reverse of the Labor Party’s attitude over the last 3 years it has attempted to strip the citizen of his will to defend the state against any external threat and at the same time so encroached upon his freedom as to deprive him of his ability to defend himself from the state. We stand for those principles which I have outlined. I commend to the House for its earnest consideration the early reference to the Law Reform Commission of this very important matter.
-The honourable member for St George (Mr Neil) must be losing his sense of proportion. Is not the honourable member’s Government the government that will abolish legal aid so that the citizen cannot find any protection whatsoever against anybody, let alone against the state? I find it a little difficult to believe that my former parliamentary colleagues, Mr Justice Murphy and Mr Kep Enderby, were intimidated by their departments about anything. I agree with the honourable gentleman that the matter he has referred to ought to be taken to the appropriate authority.
I rise briefly to raise the matter of long service leave for private employees in the Australian Capital Territory. I move to do so because I understand that the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Staley) in conjunction with the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Senator Cotton) are taking this matter to Cabinet. The situation is that the only people in Australia who have no long service leave rights are private employees in the Australian Capital Territory. During the regime of the Labor Government we took steps to remedy this situation. The legislation was prepared. It passed through the Legislative Assembly and was given long and careful consideration. The documents were all signed. The Caucus agreed to it. Full consideration had been given to the matter at every level so that there would be no conflict with long service leave conditions in other parts of Australia. There is no excuse for any delay whatsoever. Shortly after the usurpation I put pen to paper and wrote to whatever Minister was acting by whatever writ was running for the moment and asked him to implement the scheme. He did not do so. Honourable members may be able to speak to the Ministers involved.
I remind the House that the situation is that the only people in Australia who have no long service leave entitlements are private employees in the Australian Capital Territory. The matter has been appropriately considered by the Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly. It was given long consideration by our industrial committee. All the documents were assigned. The Government should have proceeded with it. I hope that there will be no attempt whatsoever to water down the scheme. Long consideration was given to it. The Legislative Assembly took steps which made it not so much long service leave as short service leave. But in the end, by 1 1 November, all had been finalised and the matter was clear. I hope that honourable members opposite, particularly the honourable member for St George, interested as he is in the rights of citizens, will take up this matter with the 2 Ministers concerned. I am sorry that the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) now will not be able to discourse upon the nation’s affairs as the House adjourns at 1 1 o ‘clock.
– You would have supported me on this matter.
-That is all right. If the honourable member writes to me I shall consider the matter.
– Order! It being 1 1 p.m., the House stands adjourned until 2.15 p.m., on Tuesday next.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Upper Extremity (arm) prostheses - from 2 to 5 weeks; Lower Extremity (above and below knee) prostheses from 2 to 13 weeks.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, upon notice:
– The Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development has provided the. following answer to the honourable member’s question:
asked the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
In addition, the level of the tenders received by Australia Post for carriage of mail depends to a large extent on the volume of other business which can be combined with the mail run. Therefore, in cases where the volume of other business is low, the cost to Australia Post can be quite disproportionate to the amount of mail conveyed. In such circumstances. Australia Post often has no alternative but to reduce the frequency of the service or, in extreme cases, curtail the service pending receipt of a suitable offer.
Australia Post is very much aware of the importance of mail delivery services in country areas and will continue to endeavour to provide and maintain the highest practicable standard of mail service in all such areas.
am asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs; upon notice:
Can he say what is the (a) nature and (b) value of assistance which other governments have given to Guatemala following the natural disaster there.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Following the Guatemala earthquake, neighbours in North and South America quickly organised physical assistance.
The United States of America, whose assistance to date is valued in excess of US$3. 7m, supplied field hospitals (including staff), medical supplies, helicopters and ground transport, emergency water supply equipment, communications equipment, shelter and clothing, field kitchens and engineering support services.
Other countries of the region, namely Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama and Venezuela, gave medical supplies, a field hospital, medical teams, rescue teams, foodstuffs, communications equipment and personnel and civil defence experts. The cash value of this assistance has not yet been stated by the Governments concerned.
The nature and value of assistance, other than cash, supplied to date by other countries is as follows:
Cash contributions have been made to the United Nations Disaster Relief Organisation, the League of Red Cross Societies, the Guatemala Red Cross and directly to the Government of Guatemala as follows:
The Organisation of American States contributed US$1 50,000 whilst UNICEF also made a cash contribution of US$200,000.
asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
What was the total number of:
beef cattle, and
dairy cattle in Australia in each year since 1 969.
– The details requested by the honourable member are shown in the following table:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Representation in Singapore: Prime Minister’s Visits (Question No. 36)
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
March 1954,April 1 956Sir Alan Watt, C.B.E.
April 1956September 1957Mr R. L. Harry, C.B.E.
September-December 1957-Mr A H. Borthwick (Acting
Commissioner) December 1957-September 1960-Mr D. W. McNicol,
September-November 1960-Mr J. E. Ryan, O.B.E. (Acting Commissioner)
November 1960-September 1963-Mr G. A. Jockel C.B.E. (From January to April 1963 Mr W. K. Flanagan acted as Commissioner and from April to September 1963 Mr R. A. Woolcott did so.) September 1963-January 1964-Mr R. A. Woolcott (Actmg Deputy High Commissioner in Malaysia, resident in Singapore)
January 1964-August 1965-Mr W. B. Pritchett (Acting Deputy High Commissioner in Malaysia, resident in Singapore)
August 1965-March 1967-Mr W. B. Pritchett March 1967- June 1970-Mr A. R. Parsons June 1970-March 1974-MrN.F. Parkinson March 1 974-Mr R. N. Birch
Mr A. H. Borthwick; Ambassador, Vientiane Mr D. W. McNicol, C.B.E.; Deputy High Commissioner, London
Mr J. E. Ryan, O.B.E.Ambassador, Rome
Mr G. A. Jockel, C.B.E. Director, Joint Intelligence Organisation
Mr W. K. Flanagan- Assistant Secretary, Africa and Middle East Branch, Department of Foreign Affairs
Mr R. A. Woolcott. Ambassador, Jakarta
Mr W. B. Pritchett. First Assistant Secretary, Strategic & International Policy Division, Department of Defence
Mr A. R. Parsons High Commissioner, Kuala Lumpur
Mr N. F. Parkinson. Deputy Secretary, Department of Foreign Affairs
Mr R. N. Birch. High Commissioner, Singapore
Mr A. H. Borthwick. High Commissioner, Colombo Mr D. W. McNicol, C.B.E.; Ambassador, Pretoria Mr J. E. Ryan, O.B.E.; Ambassador, Rome Mr G. A. Jockel, C.B.E.; Director, Joint Intelligence Organisation
Mr W. K. Flanagan. Assistant Secretary, Africa and
Middle East Branch, Department of Foreign Affairs Mr R. A. Woolcott- Ambassador, Jakarta Mr W. B. Pritchett-First Assistant Secretary, Strategic &
International Policy Division, Department of Defence Mr A. R. Parsons- High Commissioner, Kuala Lumpur Mr N. F. Parkinson- Ambassador Designate, Washington Mr R. N. Birch- High Commissioner, Singapore
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 25 March 1976, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1976/19760325_reps_30_hor98/>.