30th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. B. M. Snedden, Q.C) took the chair at 2.15 p.m., and read prayers.
-Mr Speaker, I have written to you today on a question of privilege involving remarks made in the Queanbeyan Court of Petty Sessions last Monday by Mr David Rofe, Q.C. I am ready to speak to you, Sir, on that point of privilege as soon as I have your indulgence. However, first I wish to draw your attention to a related matter involving the question of privilege. I ask you, Mr Speaker: Have you read the speech made during the adjournment debate last night by the honourable member for St George (Mr Neil)? In brief I submit that the honourable member’s speech contained grave reflections against me which should have been the subject of a substantive motion on notice. Further, I submit that the honourable member imputes improper conduct to the Chair, first, by implying repeatedly that Mr Deputy Speaker should have ruled me out of order on the point of sub judice and other grounds when I spoke during a Grievance Debate on 1 April. Secondly, the honourable member reflected on the competence of the Chair with his repeated and intemperate assertions that my remarks themselves should be considered as a breach of privilege. I urge you, Mr Speaker, to examine the honourable member’s speech to satisfy yourself as to whether his remarks constitute a gross contempt of the forms of this House. His remarks commence on page 1399 and continue on 1400 of yesterday ‘s Hansard.
My point of privilege relates to remarks made in the Queanbeyan Court of Petty Sessions on Monday, 5 April, by Mr David Rofe, Q.C. Mr Rofe made extensive reference to a speech by me during the Grievance Debate in this House last Thursday, 1 April. Mr Rofe said the honourable member’s assertions were scurrilously and grossly false, disgraceful, and a misguided design to intimidate the court and the prosecution. He went on to say that the honourable member should withdraw his comments or have them considered by the Privileges Committee. These remarks are referred to on page 8 of the Canberra Times, of which I present a copy. In other words, he canvassed at some length a debate in this House. My argument is that a prima facie case of a breach of privilege exists against this Queen’s Counsel. I rely on the following authorities: First, Halsbury’s Laws of England, Volume 28, paragraph 899 at page 457-
– Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. There is a very important issue before the House. The issue is a question of privilege- as to whether the privilege of the Parliament has been transgressed and, further, as to whether one of its members has transgressed the privileges of the House. I ask honourable members to listen to the case being put by the honourable member who has raised the matter of privilege.
-Thank you, Mr Speaker. I rely first, as I said, on Halsbury’s Laws of England, Volume 28, paragraph 899 on page 457. It states:
Freedom of speech, debates and proceedings in Parliament ought not to be impeached or questioned in any Court or place out of Parliament.
You will be aware, Mr Speaker, that this is an ancient doctrine and one which has not been invoked in that form for many years. However, you will be aware too, that it is accepted practice that a party to a case in another court who wishes to make reference to or produce as evidence the proceedings of Parliament should first petition the House for permission to do so. Honourable members will recall that Mr Rofe’s own client did just that earlier this year.
I cite in this connection a case reported in Australian Senate Practice which involved an action brought against a member of the United Kingdom House of Commons in 1970 by the Church of Scientology. The presiding High Court judge ruled that if either of the parties wished they could petition the House for leave to canvass its proceedings. He said it was understood that such a petition would have to be followed by a motion, which might or might not be agreed to by the House.
Mr Speaker, I submit that Mr Rofe’s remarks constitute a serious reflection on me, the honourable member for Hunter, and they show a flagrant contempt for accepted courtesies and practice. I believe that this matter should be referred to the Privileges Committee.
-Standing order 96 states:
A matter of privilege at any time arising shall, until disposed of, or unless the debate on a motion thereon is adjourned, suspend the consideration and decision of every other question: Provided that precedence over other business shall not be given to any motion if, in the opinion of the Speaker, a prima facie case of breach of privilege has not been made out or the matter has not been raised at the earliest opportunity.
In accordance with the practice I will take into account the remarks of the honourable member for Hunter and decide whether there is a prime facie breach of privilege or alternatively whether the matter was raised at the earliest opportunity. In accordance with practice I will give my decision on that tomorrow.
– More recent information coming to hand, particularly as a result of an opinion of Sir Hartley Shawcross of the House of Commons supported by the Clerk of the House of Commons, is that that rule as to privilege does not apply in the House of Commons to criminal proceedings. I have the documents in my possession. May I please tender them to you while you are making up your mind?
– I will be grateful for any help that the right honourable member can give.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
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 Commonwealth 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 Commonwealth Government:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Peacock, Mr Donald Cameron, Mr Falconer, Mr Fry, Mr Jarman and Mr King.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament Assembled. We, the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia by this our humble Petition respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that milk substitutes be restored to the schedule of Pharmaceutical Benefits for children up to the age of six years as soon as possible.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Keith Johnson, Mr Les Johnson, Mr Morris, Mr Scholes and Mr Wallis.
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. Petition received.
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 requests that the government abolish the Commission for Community Relations and that such work as it may be doing be the function of the Department of Immigration.
Your petitioners respectfully assert that the very existence of the Commission for Community Relations tends to accentuate any disharmony among the large numbers of peoples, of different ethnic groups, who have migrated to this country during recent years.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will give full and serious consideration to their request, which is made by them in all sincerity in the hope of helping to maintain peaceful community life in this country.
And your petitioners in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Donald Cameron. Petition received.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth: That the undersigned persons believe that
The $300 limit on income tax deductibility in respect of personal residential land and water rates is unrealistic and is a discriminatory income tax penalty.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will take steps to see that the aforesaid limitation is removed entirely or substantially increased.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Connolly.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the aggression of Indonesia in East Timor is designed to deny the peoples of East Timor their independence and self determination. Indonesia is attempting to do this by smashing the Democratic Republic of East Timor (initiated by Fretilin), which is as attested to by Australian observers of all political persuasions the legitimate Government of East Timor.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will take immediate steps to bring about the wishes expressed in our petition that:
Australia withdraws all aid and trade to Indonesia until such time as Indonesia implements the United Nations General Assembly resolution calling for the withdrawal of all Indonesian armed forces from East Timor.
Australia recognise the Democratic Republic of East Timor.
A transmitting licence be granted to the Darwin radio operated by supporters of the Democratic Republic of East Timor.
A full investigation be held into the deaths of five Australian journalists who were killed by Indonesian forces whilst covering fighting between Fretilin and Indonesian led forces near Balibo, East Timor.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Fry.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth-
That the plan to obliterate the traditional weights and measures of this country is causing and will cause widespread inconvenience, confusion, expense and distress.
That there is no certainty that any significant benefits or indeed any benefits at all will follow the use of the new weights and measures.
That the traditional weights and measures are eminently satisfactory.
Your petitioners therefore pray:
That the Metric Conversion Act be repealed, and that the Government take urgent steps to cause the traditional and familiar units to be restored to those areas where the greatest inconvenience and distress are occurring, that is to say, in meteorology, in road distances, in sport, 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 Jarman.
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned member of The Blackburn and District Tree Preservation Society respectfully showeth that:
There is a growing interest and concern in all sections of Australian society for the conservation of the environment, natural and man-made.
That there are also rapidly growing pressures by powerful forces towards the destruction of the Australian heritage.
That it is therefore urgent to appoint the Australian Heritage Commission, which was approved by both sides of this Parliament and to give the Commission sufficient independent staff, resources and funds.
That Technical Assistance Grants and Administrative Support Grants to community organisations are needed to partially redress the gross imbalance in technical expertise and resources suffered by community groups in pressing the community’s case against the exploiter.
That a proper balance between the Governments program of public austerity and the need for action in conservation would be a modest increase in the budget allocations in these areas over that of 1 975-76.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Jarman.
Similar petitions from certain members of the Horsham Field Naturalists’ Club and the Newcastle Flora and Fauna Protection Society have been lodged by Mr King and Mr Lucock respectively.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of The Polish National Council in New South Wales respectfully showeth-
The attached Resolution adopted at the Public Meeting held on the 27th of March, 1976, at the Sydney Town Hall and signed by over 200 persons.
Adopted at the Public Meeting held on the 27th of March, 1 976, at the Sydney Town Hall, Sydney.
The Meeting, organized by the Polish National Committee in N.S.W., with the support of representatives of the Estonian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Byelorussian, Ukrainian, Rumanian, Czeckoslovakian and Hungarian free communities, resolved to:
The Soviet-Russian imperialism, which has forced upon the Central-Eastern European Countries communist dictatorship against the will of these Nations and thus embracing them in the Soviet-Russian colonial empire.
That the human and civil rights guaranteed by the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights be fully implemented in all Central-Eastern European Nations and in particular the rights to:
Freedom of opinion, conscience and religion;
Freedom of assembly, organization and the right to nominate and vote for their representatives according to the accepted democratic principles of free elections;
The right of self-determination for the Central-Eastern European Nations, the right to determine freely their political status and social and political structure.
The Meeting brings these demands to the urgent attention of the United Nations Organisation Committee on Decolonization through the Australian Ambassador to the United Nations Organization.
To the signatories of the ‘Memorandum of 59’- the Polish scholars, authors, artists, churchmen, lawyers, journalists as well as all others, who protested against the legalization of the Communist Party dictatorship and Poland’s increased political dependence on Soviet-Russia.
To the Australian Government, Federal and State Parliaments, Church leaders, all political parties, Trade Unions, public bodies and to all people of goodwill for a firm stand against Soviet Russia’s despotic, imperialistic and colonial system and pledge their support for the justice, freedom and respect for human rights for the Central Eastern European Nations.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that
The Resolution be brought to the attention of the Commonwealth of Australia Parliament and through the Australian Ambassador to the attention of the United Nations Organization Committee on Decolonization.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Wentworth.
– I give notice that on general business Thursday No. 1I shall move:
That a joint parliamentary committee be established to inquire into and report upon the provision of proportionate subsidies by the Australian government to political parties and candidates in federal election campaigns and the disclosure of the amount and nature of assistance by corporations and individuals to these parties and candidates.
-I address my question to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. The Minister will recall that the report of the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange cited at least one case of a financial journalist, who later became a partner in a stockbroking firm, who received a placement of shares in a private issue by a survey and mining company. He will recall also that the Committee’s report was extremely critical of that practice. What measures now exist or have been proposed to discourage the practice?
-Last week I issued a statement which indicated that I expected shortly to be in a position to make a submission to Cabinet on the appropriate role for the Commonwealth government in the corporate law and securities industry area generally. During the past 2 or 3 months I have had a number of informal and helpful discussions with State Ministers, the most recent of which took place in Hobart with the Tasmanian Attorney-General, Mr Miller. My Department has done a considerable amount of work on this subject. Cabinet will have a submission from me in the not too distant future. After Cabinet has considered the submission, the Government’s attitude in principle in this area will be enunciated. I should make 2 other comments: The Government will not proceed without full and formal discussion with the States, nor will any legislation that the Government proposes in this area be proceeded with without adequate consultation with those in the commercial community who might be obliged to comply with it.
– I preface my question to the Minister for Primary Industry by reminding honourable members of the drastic effects that the strike by storemen and packers is having on woolgrowers’ liquidity, on their ability to pay tax, interest and other commitments, on Australia’s export earnings and on the principles of wage indexation. The dispute is based reportedly on the following demands: A reduction in wool bale weights; an $11.50 weekly wage rise; a 35 hour working week in wool dumping areas; additional sick pay and -
-Order! The honourable gentleman is giving far too much information. If he does not ask his question I shall have to call him to order.
– My last point is that the storemen and packers are requiring an extra smoko each day. I ask: Have woolgrowers and wool marketing organisations expressed concern to the Minister about this strike? Does the Minister consider that the Minister for Agriculture in South Australia acted responsibly in advocating that woolgrowers and their organisations should strongly support the storemen and packers in their claims? Will the Australian Wool Commission or the Minister for Primary Industry intervene in this conflict to ensure that the future of the wool industry and its marketing system are not jeopardised?
-As my colleagues, the Treasurer and the Minister for Employment and
Industrial Relations remarked to the House yesterday, the consequences to which the honourable gentleman referred as a result of the storemen and packers dispute are certainly as serious as he has suggested. Indeed it is not only wool growers and wool buyers in Australia who are affected by the dispute. Throughout the world, in the wool trade, there is very marked concern. The Japanese Ambassador has conveyed to me the seriousness of the wool supply position as it affects the industry in his country. I have also had messages from a number of wool buyers representing the International Wool Textile Organisation in Europe and elsewhere in the world.
I understand that about 830 000 bales of wool have already been sold and cannot be shipped as a result of the dispute, while the sale of some 400 000 additional bales has also been prevented. This represents over one-quarter of our annual crip and a very substantial part- over one-eighth- of all the wool that enters into the world trade in wool in a year. There is no doubt that the whole of the wool industry is being very seriously prejudiced. I regard it as most unfortunate that a State Minister should have sought to intrude in the dispute at this stage. It is, however, to be hoped that discussions might still be undertaken between the principal parties concerned both on the industrial issues which are the significant cause of the dispute and also on what seems to be almost a by-product of the disputethe inevitable slowing down in the mechanisation of wool handling which will occur if the request for a reduction in maximum bale weights should be implemented. In many stores- Yennora, for example, where there is a $17m taxpayer investment on loan in order to facilitate mechanised handling- there is a national interest in ensuring that bale weights might even be increased. While there is a case in some areas where the character of the store or the nature of the handling involves a great deal of manpower input as distinct from mechanical input, which might be slightly different from the position at Yennora, there is certainly an overall case to suggest an increase in bale weights rather than a reduction.
The dispute at this stage is at a very delicate stage. I only hope that common sense will prevail and that those who are at the moment causing so much harm to wool growers and to the wool trade will realise that the whole of the future of their own employment and indeed the future of an industry which still contributes more than $ 1,000m to the Australian nation in the course of a year by way of overseas earnings are involved.
-Can the Prime Minister say, with respect to the Premiers’ Conference which is to be held later this week and which I understand is to discuss financial arrangements with the States, what protection will be available for the smaller States to ensure that under the new arrangement, their revenue position is guaranteed?
-The smaller States have been assured on a number of occasions that equalisation arrangements will apply quite categorically to make sure that they are not and cannot be disadvantaged as a result of the new federalism arrangements. That equalisation guarantee applies not only to the now through of the equalisation element that is in the present tax reimbursement formula, but also to the capacity to apply, if a State wishes to, to the Grants Commission for additional funds. There will also be arrangements which will give local government a guarantee of continuity of access to finance which it has not had before. I would not want the House to believe that the meeting to be held on Friday will bring to a conclusion all the matters under discussion. The federalism proposals that are being examined by the Premiers, myself, the Treasurer and other Ministers will take a great deal of working out.
There have been some very significant meetings between officials of the States and the Commonwealth. I pay credit to the officials for the work done and the progress made. In fact it is the officials’ report that we will be discussing with the Premiers on Friday. I expect that as a result of the meeting some matters will go back to the officers for further work and further report and that additional meetings will be required before the matters are brought to completion. Up to this stage there has been a high degree of cooperation between the States and the Commonwealth and a realisation by all parties that there needs to be a complete overhaul of financial relationships between the Commonwealth and the States and also between the Commonwealth and local government. I have no doubt that Premiers will vigorously protect their own positions and that smaller States will do likewise, but the guarantees that have been given concerning equalisation are absolute and categoric.
– I ask the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs a question supplementary to that asked him by the honourable member for Burke. I am particularly encouraged to ask the question by the fact that the Minister in his public statement a week ago pointed out that he was consulting his colleagues in the preparation of the legislation to which he referred in that statement and also in his answer today. Will he, in preparing his Cabinet submission on companies and the securities industry, take into account the criticisms made by his present colleague, the honourable member for Macarthur, about the report of and the evidence before the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange chaired by another of his colleagues? In particular, will he notice the criticism of his colleague, the honourable member for Macarthur, that the stockmarket was being subjected to a massive, unfair and malicious attack; that most of the damn fool investment decisions were made by people with no ability, no experience and no money; and that the Liberal Government of the day, 1971, was inept, shortsighted and incompetent in its response to the share market boom?
-I assure the Leader of the Opposition that in preparing my submission to Cabinet I shall take into account all matters that I honestly believe to be relevant in this field. In particular, I shall take into account the need to have uniformity and also the need to reach a legislative arrangement throughout the Commonwealth which takes account of the legitimate views that the States express on this matter.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. I refer to newspaper reports that the Commonwealth proposes negotiations to alter the border between Australia and Papua New Guinea. In the negotiations will the Prime Minister guarantee to do all in his power to ensure that Australian and Queensland State sovereignty are retained over the Torres Strait Islands, their people and the seas from which they draw their total livelihood? Secondly, does the Prime Minister see that section 123 of the Constitution governing alterations to State boundaries will in any way apply to the Commonwealth’s position in these negotiations?
-The honourable gentleman has referred to a complex matter in which, as he knows, his State, Papua New Guinea and Torres Strait Islanders all have a very real interest. The Commonwealth believes that it is important to resolve this matter with Papua New Guinea in particular. At the same time, in the process, it would want to be quite certain that it protected the rights of all Australians, obviously including the Torres Strait Islander-the right to their traditional way of life, to the islands that they inhabit, to the seas that they fish and to the way that they live. That is a very firm objective which this Government has. I suggest that the best way of making sure that the Tones Strait Islanders are able to pursue in perpetuity their traditional way of life, unhampered and unfettered, as they would want, for as long as they would want, is to make sure that the Commonwelth Government is enabled to come to a speedy resolution of this matter with Papua New Guinea.
An unsettled situation between Papua New Guinea and Australia will ultimately lead to a disturbance and lack of certainty for the future life of the Torres Strait Islanders. In wishing to come to a firm agreement with Papua New Guinea on these matters we have in mind not only concern for the continued, most useful and happly relationship between Papua New Guinea and Australia and for making sure there is .a resolution of the border issue but also our determination to make sure that the Torres Strait Islanders will be able to pursue their way of life, as they would want, in perpetuity. Achievement of the second aim, I suggest to this House, depends on our being able to come to a speedy resolution of the former. Therefore the 2 objectives are entirely compatible. I hope everyone with an interest in these matters will help us to pursue the objective speedily and to a satisfactory conclusion.
(Mr Armitage proceeding to address a question to Mr Speaker)
– I have not yet established the right which the honourable member is seeking to protect. It seems to me he wants to do something to the opposite. I call the honourable member for Chifley. (Mr Armitage continuing to address a question to Mr Speaker)
-Order! I do not know what the honourable member for Macarthur has said. How does the honourable gentleman found his question to me on the basis of what the honourable member for Macarthur has said? (Mr Armitage continuing to address a question to Mr Speaker)
– Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. I call the honourable member for Mallee.
– I take a point of order. Mr Speaker, you have not ruled.
– I am prepared to wait for 10 seconds while the honourable member for Prospect gives advice to the honourable member for Chifley
– That is not the point, Mr Speaker. You asked me to resume my seat. I assumed you were about to give a ruling on the issue. I resumed my seat. At that point you called another member to ask a question.
-That is correct, because the honourable member who was asking the question was out of order.
– Are you ruling that the question is out of order?
– I have ruled that it is out of order.
- Mr Speaker, will you give me your reasons why you have ruled that the question is out of order?
– The honourable gentleman asked me a question about an honourable member. The honourable gentleman paraded the question as one which was designed to protect the interests of honourable members. It was quite clear to me, on hearing the question, that it was an attack on the honourable member for Macarthur. I will not allow myself to be used for the purpose of asking questions that attack the integrity of any honourable member. If the honourable member for Chifley wants to attack any member of this House he will do so by substantive motion and not otherwise.
-My question is directed to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. The Minister will be aware of representations from honourable members who are concerned about the cost and quality, and often lack, of service by the Australian Postal Commission and the Australian Telecommunications Commission to rural Australia. This concern relates to the cost of telephone connections and rentals, private boxes and private mail bags and other inequalities, such as the extreme cost of telephone charges to the nearest medical and business centres. Mr Minister, as you have the responsibility for the scale of postal and -
– The honourable gentleman should be asking a question and not making a specific request or telling a Minister to do something.
-I am just about to ask it, Mr Speaker.
– If the honourable member does not ask his question I will rule him out of order.
-Will the Minister impress upon the commissions the effects of these inequalities with a view to having them corrected and so allow the commissions to operate as instruments of national development and service?
-The honourable member is of course aware, as is every other honourable member in this House, that the 2 commissions were formed by the previous Labor Administration and that they have to conduct their affairs in a businesslike manner. I will not take up the time of the House today in repeating what I have said before about the amount of capital involved in the commissions and the enormous amount of investment which has to come from within the commissions and from borrowings from the Government. Having said that, I repeat that I accept and everybody else accepts that the commissions have a social obligation to the Australian electorate generally. I certainly accept that within rural areas there is a tremendous number of problems that are the cause of the enormous communication costs in this large country. Of course I will impress upon the commissions their right role. I believe that they understand and accept it. Of course, any considerations of a tariff nature, as the honourable member well knows, will be given in a Budget context.
-I direct a question to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. I refer to the personal explanation made in the House on 18 March by the honourable member for Macarthur, who sought to draw a distinction between himself and the other 1 1 partners in the stockbroking firm Patrick Partners.
– I rise to a point of order, Mr Speaker. On a number of occasions you have ruled that where a person is specified in a question by his name or, in the instance of a member of the House, his occupancy of a particular seat within the House the question should be placed on notice. I suggest that this question falls within that category.
– I wish to speak to the point of order, Mr Speaker. It has been the practice for the name of an honourable member or of another person not to be used in a question without notice except where the use of that name is necessary to make the question intelligible. I believe that the question would be quite unintelligible if the name were not used.
– I accept the point made by the honourable member for Corio. I call upon the honourable member for Newcastle to proceed with the asking of his question.
-Mr Speaker, I had reached the point of saying that the honourable member for Macarthur sought to draw a distinction between himself and the other 1 1 partners in the failed stockbroking firm Patrick Partners by asserting that he had never been an owner or part owner of the firm and that he was a staff partner employed on a salary and had a fractional profit share. I ask the Minister. Does any existing or proposed legislation make any such distinction? Would it not be appropriate to note the distinction between partners when they sign underwriting agreements* for the flotation of companies? Is the Minister aware that, for example, the prospectuses -
– Order! The honourable member should not give- examples. He should proceed with the asking of the question. . Mr CHARLES JONES-Thank you, Mr Speaker. Is the Minister aware, that the prospectuses for Mogul Mining- NL and Jimberlana Minerals NL list the honourable member as a signatory along with and in the same manner as all the other partners of Patrick Partners?
– Order! The honourable gentleman is now out of order. The Minister has no responsibility whatever Sot what the honourable member for Macarthur may have done in relation to any prospectus. The earlier part of the honourable member’s question in which he inquired as to the state of the law now or whether the Minister intended that the law should be changed is in order. I call the Minister.
– I take a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is very clear that I have to give these examples because I wish io follow up what I have asked the Minister by putting this to him: Can people in the honourable member’s position be protected from having to share the liabilities of the owner partners? Before I can ask that question I have to be able to give the Minister the background to what I am seeking.
-Order! The honourable gentleman is a good advocate. I call the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs.
– The substantive law in Australia regarding partnerships is, as the honourable member for Newcastle would know, a matter for State governments and not for the Federal government. The question of the relationship between the honourable member for Macarthur and any other persons is a matter that will ultimately be resolved by courts of law and is not a matter upon which I think it is either relevant or appropriate for me to make a comment.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. Has there been a practice for many years of Prime Ministers providing letters of accreditation to persons travelling overseas? Have there been abuses of that privilege? Has the Prime Minister made any decisions to overcome such abuse?
-There was such a practice for many years. I understand that each document used to be hand signed but in more recent times so many documents have been issued to people travelling overseas that the signing Has been done by more modern processes. In many cases, in recent times anyway, I suspect that Prime Ministers have not been aware of the persons to whom the documents were being presented. The Leader of the Opposition, when he was in another capacity, may have had some reservations about the practice because he wrote, I think, to all honourable gentlemen. From the position that I was then in I indicated that I thought that the practice ought to continue. Having seen it operate more closely at hand, I am quite certain that the practice ought to cease, and it has ceased. In some sense I think its cessation may well save honourable members at odd times a certain degree of embarrassment because it was intended that they should vouch for people asking for such documents. It is widely known that the documents are available, and therefore honourable members are put in the position of having to say whether a constitutent is an honourable and worthy person to have such a document. It is not a very happy situation for a member of Parliament to have to say to his constituent that he is not an appropriate person to have such a document.
However, that is not the basic reason why I have decided that the practice ought to cease. I have been advised that one person, for a reason unknown to me, landed in gaol in an overseas country and used a letter of accreditation to avoid the payment of bail. I have also been advised that the documents have been used in relation to loan transactions and to establish business connections. Of that last example I have no doubt that the knowledge is complete and absolute. Any one of those 3 uses obviously is quite an improper use of the documents in question. I think it is a very bad practice to have a Prime Minister’s signature put on a document when he does not know the individual concerned. It is a practice which needed to be stopped. It has stopped.
- Mr Speaker, I am sure that I will be allowed to interpose here that it was because of the same doubts upon which the Prime Minister has now acted that early in 1973 and again in the middle of 1974 I wrote to all honourable members to inquire whether they believed that the issue of open letters of introduction from the Prime Minister should continue. I noticed that the number of those in favour was declining although there was still a majority in favour. I should like to say that I agree with the action the right honourable gentleman has taken.
– My question to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs arises from the distinction he made, in the answer he just gave, between partnership laws, which are a matter of State jurisdiction, and bankruptcy laws, which are a matter of Federal jurisdiction. The honourable gentleman will know that there is a dispute as to the membership or not of one of his colleagues in a company which is concerned under the Federal bankruptcy law. He might also know that quite recently the New South Wales Commissioner for Corporate Affairs certified that his colleague was still a member of that partnership. I therefore ask the Minister: Will he confer with his counterparts in the State governments to see what steps can be taken to allow the business names registries to take account of the difference between salaried and equity partners in, say, stockbroking firms- in other words to ensure that the Federal law and the State law make the same provision, if there should be provision at all, to distinguish between salaried and equity partners and their liabilities?
– I shall consider whether such an approach to my counterparts in the States would be appropriate and when I reach a decision on it I shall let the Leader of the Opposition know.
-Is the Minister for Transport aware of the need to develop within Western Australia an alternative international airport to Perth? Is the Minister aware of plans to develop this alternative airport at Kalgoorlie? Can he say when these plans will proceed?
-In 1973 a committee of Commonwealth and State officials was set up to investigate the airport requirements of Perth. Some time in 1974 or 1975, I think it was, the State officials on that Committee asked the joint committee whether it would investigate the Kalgoorlie airport requirements. This study has been going on in the last few months and I expect soon to receive a report in respect of Kalgoorlie ‘s domestic airport requirements, as distinct from any international prospect that might be in hand. Regarding the international aspect of the question, Kalgoorlie is being considered as an alternative for Perth in case of Perth airport being fogged out on some occasion or being closed because of some other difficulty of that nature. But it is not being considered as a site for a second international airport. I think I should make the distinction in case I raise the honourable member’s hopes too high.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. He is probably getting sick of questions by now. Is the Minister aware of the findings by the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange that a company by the name of Selected Mining Holdings Ltd- a company promoted by Patrick Partners by the way- in a period of 8 months reduced the $2m originally raised by way of shareholders’ capital to $300,000? What legislation exists, or if it does not exist is any legislation proposed, to give some sort of a fighting chance to hapless investors who subscribe to this type of venture?
– I am aware of the findings of the Senate Select Committee. I have indicated already, in answer to a question asked by the honourable member for Burke, what the current situation is regarding this Government’s attitude to Commonwealth involvement in this area generally. I think the honourable member for Banks would be aware that recently, in fact during the past 4 weeks, new and strengthened legislation in the securities area came into operation in 4 Australian States.
-Is the Minister for Repatriation aware of the statement which appeared in the Adelaide Sunday Mail last Sunday, 4 April, in which Mr Alex Hunter, National President of the Ex-Services Action Association, was reported to have alleged that civilians had received cosmetic surgery in Daw Park Repatriation Hospital? Hie article implied that those civilians had been given preference over entitled war and Service pensioners and that other urgent surgery had been delayed because of these operations. Is there any truth in these allegations?
– I am aware of the report in the newspaper and I am able to say that there is no truth in it. It was a mischievous and quite unfounded report. Hospital records at Daw Park over the past 15 months indicate that there have been 5 operations on female patients which could be described as cosmetic. These female patients were all dependants of deceased veterans and were entitled to free repatriaton medical treatment from the Department of Repatriation. The operations were recommended by specialist surgeons because they were medically desirable. No urgent operations were deferred and no routine operations were delayed. In short, I think Mr Hunter’s comments could only be described as ludicrous if he was alleging that unnecessary operations were being conducted at Daw Park. In fact I would go further: I think he was reflecting on the professional integrity of the medical practitioners involved.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. Does the report of the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange refer to a company called MTD Pty Ltd? Did this company extract considerable profits from company flotations? Was it used by its principals, the now defunct sharebroking firm of Patrick Partners, to make huge share trading profits from secret dealings which the report said were against the interests of the clients of Patrick Partners? What legislation exists or is proposed to prevent firms such as MTD being used in this way by their principals in future?
– It is some weeks since I last read sections of that report and I cannot honestly say from my own recollection whether it refers to the particular company named by the honourable member. The question of legislation already has been the subject of a number of questions earlier in question time. I have indicated already the attitude that the Government is taking currently in this area and I have nothing to add.
– Is the Minister for Health aware of a report in the Tasmanian newspapers at the weekend stating that the Tasmanian Minister for Health has advocated the banning of the advertising of alcohol on television as a follow up to the Government’s decision to ban cigarette advertising? Is the Minister considering further restrictions on commercial advertising? Does he feel that the decision to ban cigarette advertising will lead to pressure on the Government by interest groups in the community to ban the advertising of other products?
– The banning of advertising of alcohol on the electronic media is the subject of an inquiry being undertaken by a committee headed by Dr Woodruff. That committee of inquiry will be reporting to the Health Ministers conference to be held later this year.
-I direct my question to the Attorney-General. I preface the question by referring to the provisions of section 44 of the Constitution relating to bankruptcy and insolvency. Is the Attorney-General aware that on 19 March 1 1 members of the partnership of Patrick Partners signed a Deed of Arrangement pursuant to the provisions of the Bankruptcy Act providing for the repayment of sums of money amounting to approximately $860,000? Is the Attorney-General aware that the honourable member for Macarthur is named in the Schedule to that agreement as being a member of the firm? Is he further aware that the honourable member has agreed to pay certain substantial sums of money on the basis of forbearance to sue? Accordingly, pursuant to the provisions of section 44 of the Constitution, will the Attorney-General examine this particular agreement registered under the Bankruptcy Act to ascertain whether there has been any breach of the Constitution in respect of the honourable member’s ability to remain a member of this House?
-The question involves a request for a legal opinion. I have not ruled the question out of order- though I well might have done so- because I believe that in these circumstances it may be possible for a Minister to give an answer which does not involve giving a legal opinion. I will leave it to the Minister to decide whether or not he can answer without moving beyond the Standing Orders by giving a legal opinion.
-I am not aware of the facts that the honourable member has mentioned and therefore I am not able to give any legal opinion, even if I wished to, on the matters he raised.
-Has the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations heard the view attributed to the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions that he is satisfied with the present system of election of trade union leaders? Do not these leaders exercise immense political power over the community? What number and proportion of union members voted for the present leadership in, say, the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union?
– Yes, I agree that union leaders do exercise considerable power in the community. I think the House would agree that considerable power should carry with it an equal sense of responsibility which sometimes, I regret to say, is lacking. If the leader of the ACTU says that he is satisfied with the way in which all union elections are now conducted, it is quite clear that thousands of union members are not. Many union leaders are not. Mr Short has already indicated that. Mr Egan has indicated that. They have said that they strongly support the Government’s intention that in due course, after legislation has been discussed with the parties and introduced into this Parliament, elections for all officers in industrial organisations, whether of employers or employees, should be under the control of the Commonwealth Electoral Office. Indeed, I understand that in a recent opinion poll over 80 per cent of the people interviewed had that same opinion. No single issue was more widely discussed or debated during the recent election campaign, and it received the overwhelming endorsement of the electorate.
The honourable gentleman referred to the percentage of votes cast in certain elections. My information is that at the last election for the leadership of the union to which I think the honourable member referred- the AMWU, which has some 170 000 members- the leadership was elected on a vote of approximately 1.8 per cent of the membership of the union. The leader of the union now holds his office by a vote of 1 . 1 per cent of the membership of the union.
– Who is that?
– I understand that is Mr Scott. I am further informed that, as the House would know, under section 170 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act unions can request a ballot to be conducted by the Commonwealth Electoral Office at public expense and that the average percentage of votes cast in elections conducted under section 170 is of the order of 40 per cent.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. Is it a fact that on Monday of this week the Industrial Registrar convened a meeting of officials of unions which have not yet altered their rules to meet the statutory requirement that as from November of this year a full-time union officer entitled to vote as a member of the management committee of the organisation shall be directly elected by the membership of the union? If so, has he received a report that one of these officials, a senior officer of the Federated Clerks’ Union of Australia and a member of the National Civic Council, requested the Registrar to exempt his union from the requirements of the Act on the ground that the Government had given his organisation an undertaking that it proposed to amend the Act to remove the requirements for rank and file elections. Has the Government given such an undertaking?
-The honourable member for Hindmarsh refers, I think, to section 133 of the Act. The Government has received representations from the union movement and employer organisations expressing dissatisfaction with the present legislation. We have given an undertaking to employer organisations and the unions which have made representations on this point that in considering amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act we will take into account the representations they have made.
Normally such a matter would be put before the House as a substantive motion. In any event one would query whether this is the proper chamber in which such allegations should be pursued.
I seek your guidance, Mr Speaker, on the rulings which you might give in future when a series of questions of this type relating to an individual member are presented before the chamber. It is, of course, for the individual member to respond if he feels that he has in any way been misrepresented. But it seems to me, Mr Speaker, that the Standing Orders to some degree could protect honourable members from imputation by inference such as that made throughout question time today.
That is Patrick Partners-
I was, as has been frequently reported in the Press, a staff partner employed on a salary and having a fractional profit share.
Mr Speaker, the other matter I ask you to take into account is the fact that a week ago the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard) made a statement outside the House concerning legislation for which he would seek Cabinet’s approval dealing with companies and securities. My recollection is that all the questions that were directed to that Minister and a question that was directed to the Attorney-General bore upon the 2 matters which I have asked you to take into account, Mr Speaker. The honourable member for Macarthur has asserted or inferred that there is a difference in liability between a salaried partner and an equity partner in a partnership which fails. That is clearly a matter which would concern this Parliament and legislation brought before it by the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs or by the AttorneyGeneral. The liability of partners may well be covered by the legislation about which the Minister made a statement a week ago outside the House. The liability of partners may be covered by existing legislation of the Parliament, such as the Bankruptcy Act. In those circumstances, I put it that it is perfectly open and proper for membersin fact it would probably be the obligation of members- to ask questions concerning the rights of a member who raises this matter and concerning the nature or the cover of legislation which is already in existence or which is now proposed. In those circumstances I put it, and apparently in most cases you agreed, Mr Speaker, that it was proper and within Standing Orders to ask the questions that were put to the Ministers. The questions turned upon a matter of fact raised by an honourable member; they turned upon a matter of legislation for which the 2 Ministers to whom the questions were addressed are responsible or will be responsible.
The Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, Mr John Howard, said that he would shortly be in a position to present a submission to Federal Cabinet regarding the appropriate role for the Commonwealth in the Companies and Securities Industry area.
Mr Howard said this matter had received detailed attention from his Department since the election and that he was currently conducting informal discussions with relevant State Ministers. When these were completed, he would bring a submission to Cabinet.
The Minister said there was considerable support in the community for the development and maintenance of laws in the Corporate area having uniform application throughout Australia. He noted that although the Interstate Corporate Affairs Commission did not include South Australia, Tasmania or the Territories, its establishment was a significant step towards uniformity.
Mr Howard recalled that at the time the previous Parliament debated the Corporations and Securities Industry Bill the coalition parties expressed strong support for the concept of national regulation of the securities industry, although they had voiced many objections to the contents of that legislation.
He said that the whole issue raised significant matters of law and Commonwealth-State relations. For this reason he was consulting his colleagues, Senator Carrick, the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs and the Attorney-General, Mr R. J. Ellicott, Q.C.
The Minister emphasised that no Commonwealth action would be taken until there had been full and formal consultation with the States and that in addition any Commonwealth legislation which might be proposed would be the subject of thorough consultation with those in the commercial community likely to be affected by it.
-I am ready to rule on this point. Standing order 76 states:
All imputations of improper motives and all personal reflections on Members shall be considered highly disorderly.
And so they ought to be. I did not find in the series of questions imputations of improper motive. The questions were built around alleged facts that had occurred as distinct from imputing an improper motive, which must be in a contemporary or future sense. All personal reflections on members shall be considered highly disorderly. Except for two or perhaps three questions 1 did not decide that there was a personal reflection on the honourable member and therefore I did not rule those questions out of order on the ground that they were highly disorderly. I believe that it was a series of questions designed to fulfil a political purpose rather than to be an attack on the personal integrity of the honourable member for Macarthur; that is, those questions which I allowed to be asked and answered. I shall consider all future questions on the basis of the question as it exists. I will not fail to take notice of a run of questions, if that happens to be the purpose of either side of the House, and that could change my ruling. For the time being, I will rule on each question individually.
– For the information of honourable members I present a report by the Bureau of Transport Economics entitled Brisbane Airport: Economic Evaluation of Alternative Development Strategies. Due to the limited number available, a small number of distribution copies are available on request from the Bills and Papers Office. In addition, a number of reference copies have been placed in the Parliamentary Library.
- Mr Speaker, I seek leave to make a short statement in relation to the paper.
-The honourable member for Lilley asks leave of the House to make a short statement in relation to the paper presented by the Minister for Transport. Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-My statement on the paper presented by the Minister will be very short. I seek to make only 2 points. This is a report by the Bureau of Transport Economics in relation to the Brisbane airport. It ought to be appreciated that the economic hurdles and the economic considerations which have been developed in relation to the proposed construction of that airport have not been developed in relation to any other country or capital city airport in Australia. Such an investigation was not made in relation to Tullamarine nor was it made in relation to Sydney airport or other airports. I hope therefore that when this report is examined it will be realised that the analysis is completely unique. I hope that the anlyasis will not be used as a reason for not proceeding with the promises that were made in 1 97 1 -72.
The second point I make is that over the years the Commonwealth Government, in respect of its public works, has from time to time made an economic evaluation of other public works. I can think of 2 irrigation and dam projects which were the subject of economic investigation in the 1960s- the Ord River Dam and the Nogoa Dam. In spite of the fact that economic considerations of both those propositions and others indicated work ought not to proceed, the work ultimately did proceed for a whole host of other reasons. Therefore this report ought to be considered against the background of what has been the practice in this country with respect to airports and other public works. If an economic consideration, on whatever basis, is found to be such that the promises made in 1971-72 are not proceeded with, it ought to be realised by the people of Queensland that a barrier is being erected in respect of the proposed airport which has not been erected in terms of any other public work undertaken by the Commonwealth.
- Mr Speaker-
- Mr Speaker, I move that the House take note of the paper.
– Order! I have called the honourable member for Newcastle but the Leader of the House indicates that he would like to move a motion that the House take note of the paper. Does the honourable member for Newcastle concede the call to the Leader of the House?
– So long as I do not lose my right to reply to what the honourable member for Lilley has said, Mr Speaker.
– I thank the honourable member for Newcastle. There seem to be a number of members who wish to speak, Mr Speaker. I move:
– We have just listened to a very short address by the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns). Likewise, I should like to make a very brief statement on this particular subject. The honourable member for Lilley is trying to perpetuate the old system of political, not economic, decisions on the location of airports. If an economic evaluation had ever been conducted on Tullamarine Airport, the Taj Mahal that was built there would never have been built. The airline industry and the aircraft industry would not have been loaded with the exorbitant cost of that airport. A terminal was built in Sydney for which there was some justification. But the former Premier of Victoria, Sir Henry Bolte, put political pressure on the Prime Minister of the day, Sir Robert Gordon Menzies. In the construction of the Tullamarine airport, there were millions of dollars of unnecessary expenditure for an elaborate airport that even today, Sir Reginald Ansett has said on many occasions, is much too large, much too elaborate and it is one for which the airlines should not be expected to carry the cost.
We come back to the point: Are we going to go on having political decisions made on the construction of airports or are we going to determine what is required and then determine the economic evaluation of the airports? That is what was done in all sincerity, in all justice, with regard to the Brisbane Airport. The Government of honourable members opposite was in office for 23 years but it did nothing. The honourable member for Lilley, as a former Minister of a Liberal-Country Party Government, did nothing with regard to the Brisbane Airport. It got to the stage where the igloo, or the international terminal, got to the point where structurally the Department was advised that the terminal should not be occupied and that it should be evacuated when winds reached a certain velocity. That is the situation that applied under a LiberalCountry Party Government. I direct that statement, through you, Mr Speaker, to the honourable member for Lilley. His Government did nothing about the situation. The Labor Party in office did something about it. Today a reasonable type of international terminal is operating as a replacement for the igloo that honourable members opposite put up with for 23 years.
With regard to the economic evaluation of airports, let us look at the Launceston terminal. Launceston will never in a million years have sufficient throughput to justify the type of airport terminal that was built there. The same thing could be said about Perth in the early days. All of these airport terminals were built, not because there was a need for them, not because there was an economic justification for them, but purely and simply because they happened to be the home ports of Ministers. They happened to be in their electorates.
– They were glorifying themselves.
-That is right. As the honourable member for Banks says, the Ministers were glorifying themselves. They were providing facilities far in excess of the city’s requirement. The system which we as a Government introduced will provide reasonable investigation into these terminals. Nobody questions the integrity or the credibility of the Bureau of Transport Economics. If that body carries out an investigation into some transport matter and comes up with a decision and a recommendation, from my experience, there is not one government in Australia that would reject its report and recommendations. I give credit to the former Liberal-Country Party Government for having set up the Bureau. No government has ever rejected its report on the grounds that the findings were not factual and at no time has a government questioned the credibility of that organisation.
I can see the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) is just itching to speak. These people are interested only in the political side of the situation. If there is justification for this terminal to be built, then by all means the Bureau of Transport Economics’ report will bring that out. We want to get away from those home town decisions in which former LiberalCountry Party Ministers have indulged in providing elaborate terminals in the various cities that they come from and that cannot be justified on economic grounds. I hope that we do not have any more airports like Tullamarine and that we do not have any more airports like Launceston. In all probability, if there had been an economic evaluation of the Sydney terminal, a 13 000 foot runway would not have been constructed. I believe that the needs of the industry should be properly and economically evaluated by a suitable body such as the Bureau of Transport Economics which can come up with these decisions. Let us stop these people from playing politics and get away from these home town decisions by Ministers.
– After listening to the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones), the previous Minister for Transport, the reasons for the development of the new Brisbane Airport being ground to a halt are obvious. Not only did the Coombs taskforce recommend against it, but the then Minister was in Cabinet putting every stumbling block possible to prevent the scheme. Before I refer to the report brought in today, I want to make reference to the previous Minister’s shortsighted attitude towards Tullamarine. As a Queenslander I suppose I should say: ‘Well, we should have got a better airport before Victoria’. Mr Speaker, I was in Melbourne, your home city, on Sunday evening, 2 1 March and as I came out through Tullamarine, I saw the 12 bays of the
Ansett terminal completely used by aeroplanes. Eleven of the twelve bays of Trans Australia Airlines were packed. Tullamarine must surely be reaching a stage where it has to be expanded. Regrettably the previous Minister for Transport, the previous speaker, indicates a mind that is bogged down in the past and lacks the capacity to foresee growth and future use.
I suggest that this report has been hidden by the previous speaker while he was Minister for Transport. I have not had an opportunity to examine it properly, but I looked at the cover a moment ago and it showed that it was printed in July 1975. 1 have not had the opportunity to see the contents of the report.
- Mr Speaker, I rise to order. The honourable member for Griffith has said that the report was kept secret. The Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon), who is sitting at the table, has been in possession of that report for the whole period of his present ministry.
– There is no substance in the point of order.
-The point is that if the report became available last July the previous speaker had it suppressed for 5 months. This is only about the 6th or 7th sitting week of the new Parliament. I can only say that the people of Brisbane are lucky inasmuch as we had a change of Government because that report would never have been presented by the previous speaker. I recall on occasion after occasion in this House trying to extract from the then Minister some indication of when the report would be presented or printed. Obviously I was being given the turnaway because the report was ready about 8 months ago.
Queensland’s capital, Brisbane, has been subjected to a campaign of harrassment particularly by the previous Government. In 1973, the then Prime Minister, the now Leader of the Opposition, (Mr E. G. Whitlam), set up a taskforce under Dr Coombs to review the continuing expenditure policies of the previous Government which was the McMahon Government. Some 6 months later Dr Coombs suggested that a project that could be deferred to save the Labor Government money was the Brisbane airport. That was a major setback for Brisbane. When the Liberal Government went to the polls in 1972 it was committed to an immediate expenditure of $lm in 1973-74, $13m in 1974-75 and $18m in 1975-76. If we had continued in power after 1972 $32m would have been spent already. Following this year a total of $130m would have been spent to complete the project.
It is obvious from the verbiage of the honourable member for Newcastle that the Australian Labor Party is totally against Brisbane getting a new airport. This is in rather stark contrast to the bleatings- that is all they can be described ascoming from the State Labor Leader of the Opposition in Queensland, who the other day promised to make the new airport an issue in the forthcoming by-election for the seat of Clayfield. What an ironical comment when we learn from the presentation of this report and from what the honourable member for Newcastle said a few minutes ago that the Labor Government was totally against the new airport. He accused the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns), who I see is distressed by the outburst of the honourable member for Newcastle, of simply being political in his efforts to acquire this airport. I think it is a very sad indictment of the Newcastle prejudice which flows through the body of the honourable member. One only has to walk through the shipyards in Brisbane to find out what people think about the honourable member for Newcastle and his prejudice towards Newcastle. The honourable member for Bowman (Mr Jull), the honourable member for Brisbane (Mr Peter Johnson), the honourable member for Ryan (Mr Moore) and the honourable member for Petrie (Mr Hodges)- all the Brisbane members- are concerned about the new Brisbane airport, as were their Labor predecessors.
I look forward to an opportunity to study this report. I noticed from glancing at it a few minutes ago that there is some suggestion that the project can be completed for $38m less than what was proposed in 1971-72. The honourable member for Newcastle talked simply about an economic evaluation. As far as I am concerned, when it comes to dealing with people and the quality of their life there must be considerations other than economic considerations. I am not saying that political considerations should control the final decision. But as I have said in this House so often, the lives of people in the electorates of the honourable members I mentioned a few minutes ago are affected by aircraft noise. It is all right for the honourable member for Newcastle, who travels home to Newcastle in a oneengine tiger moth as old fashioned as his own approach to life, to disregard the impact on the lives of people made by the noise of modern jets. The quality of life is also a consideration.
I trust that the Queensland Ministers- the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Eric Robinson), the Minister for Defence (Mr
Killen) and the Minister for the Northern Territory (Mr Adermann)- as well as the Minister for Transport will recognise along with our National Country Party colleagues that this is a must and that all Queensland is for real in its wish to see a new realigned airport for Brisbane, a better quality of life and some prestige in the capital of the sunshine State, which presents a better way of life than almost everywhere else in this country. I hope that the Minister for Transport will tell us that he will disregard what the honourable member for Newcastle said and that those sections of the report which militate against Queensland will be disregarded in Cabinet. I hope that he will take a pro-Queensland, pro-Brisbane and a pro-people approach.
– The purpose of tabling the report of the Bureau of Transport Economics was to engender public debate. I did not expect such a spirited debate so soon. The honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) made one point that I think deserves an answer for the record. He said that no previous public works of the size envisaged in the reconstruction of the Brisbane airport had been subjected to an analysis by the Bureau of Transport Economics. That is so. Before 1970 we never had a Bureau of Transport Economics to study works of this nature. Whatever one might say about the BTE, the fact is- this is where I find myself in agreement for once with my predecessor, the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones)- that the BTE has been accepted very widely by all the State governments and their many public works authorities as being a very responsible body in the field of economic analysis. I confine my remarks to economic analysis. At this stage I shall not be drawn into the question of compassion for people living in residential areas around airports. I shall come back to that point later. This is the first major development project at an airport since the establishment of the BTE.
The honourable member for Newcastle delved into the realm of speculation. For him to assume that Tullamarine is not worthy of the investment made in it is to assume more than he knows. As I have said, the BTE was not in existence when the Tullamarine airport was built. It is not correct to assume that the Tullamarine airport is not worthy of every cent that was invested in it. If before the wild flights of inflation took hold of this country under the previous Administration the honourable member for Newcastle, as Minister, had made sure there were further public works programs at the Brisbane airport as proposed by a report which was brought down in 1972 and which he had in his hands, the Brisbane airport problem could well have been dealt with, settled and finally laid at rest. If he had gone ahead with the implementation of the 1972 report instead of listening to Dr Coombs, who brought down a lot of rubbish and helped throw the Labor Government out, not only would there have been a new airport in Brisbane but the honourable member for Newcastle might have found himself still Minister for Transport today. That would have been a sad thing. He delved into the realm of speculation far too much when he said Tullamarine was not worth the money invested in it.
The honourable member also made the wild claim that the Government when in office previously had done nothing about the Brisbane airport. I have just referred to the fact that in 1 972 a report was presented on the redevelopment of the airport and that his Government shelved the report and did nothing about it. We went as far as to get a report together in respect of the Brisbane airport, so it is unfair and untrue to say that we did nothing about it. The honourable member went so far into the field of fantasy as to claim that this form of investigation is something new; that the ALP invented it when it was in government. This is really a flight of fantasy. As Minister for Transport, I tabled BTE reports in 1972, long before the honourable member for Newcastle becomes a Minister of the Crown himself. I would like the record to be put straight.
The honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) displayed his usual fervour and great interest in this matter concerning Brisbane. I compliment him because he represents the views of the people who live in his electorate and he represents them very well. I have to say to him and to the honourable member for Lilley that as a Government, when decisions are taken in respect of the redevelopment of the Brisbane airport, we will of course take into account the very impassioned way in which they pleaded the cause of the people who live in the area. We are a government of compassion and we will have great regard for the representations that they nave made. We will of course take into account the comfort of the people residing in the area.
I am unable to give any assurances on when the redevelopment might take place, as distinct from what form the redevelopment might take. It is a matter for budget discussion. I have said this previously: Everybody in this House knows that because of the policies followed by our predecessors by which they spent all the money in the exchequer, and nearly led the country into bankruptcy, I am not able to give the sort of glib promises that I would like on redevelopment at the Brisbane Airport. When the appropriate economic time has arrived I will take into account the heavy representations made by the honourable member for Lilley and the honourable member for Griffith.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I desire to remind the House that the Address-in-Reply will be presented to His Excellency the Governor-General at Government House at 5.15 p.m. this afternoon. I shall be glad if the mover and seconder, together with other honourable members, will accompany me to present the Address.
– What time was that?
-The honourable gentleman is saying that with a note of irony. If he wishes to accompany me he will be welcome. He heard that the time was 5. 15 p.m.
– I have received a letter from the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion namely:
The need for the Parliament to make known its repugnance to the recent assault upon the few remaining freedoms of the Polish people, an assault which throws light on the international tactics of creeping Communism.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places. (More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places)
– I have great pleasure in speaking to this matter. I believe it is a matter of urgency, because this Parliament has not so far paid sufficient attention to matters of foreign affairs. I want to recite to the House some rather disagreeable facts. Last December the seventh general meeting of the Polish Communist Party demanded that changes be made to the Polish constitution. The so-called Polish Parliament in February obediently carried into effect the changes which had been proposed by the Communist Party. I will not summarise all of them. Let me remind the House of a few of them. Under the constitution a leading role was to be given to the Communist Party of Poland. That meant that Poland became formally as well as in fact a one-Party state. Secondly, the State Council of Poland, an arm of the
Executive Government, was given the function of interpreting the Polish constitution. This meant, in effect, that Rafferty’s rules would be observed in all constitutional measures in Poland and that the Polish people would be put formally as well as in fact under the complete domination of the Polish Communist Party.
Another change in the constitution was that the foreign policy of Poland for the future would be based on eternal friendship with the USSR. That meant that Poland was to become formally as well as in fact a merged satellite with the Soviet state. This is what happened to Poland. In form this was done internally by the Polish Communist Party, but actually it was done by the Soviet Communist Party which issues orders, and has for long issued orders, to its satellite Party in Poland. Now in law the Polish state which has for long been under Russian control and domination becomes formally almost one of the Soviet states. That is what happened in February.
We have not much to be proud of when we think of what we have done to Poland or failed to do to Poland. Poland has a long and unhappy history of partitions, going back for centuries. The poets have been much more conscious of the effect of these partitions than have other people in Europe. Honourable members might remember the line from Shelley:
And Freedom shrieked- as Kosciusko fell!
That was one of the many partitions of Poland a long time ago. We come now to recent history. In 1939 the Second World War started because Stalin made his infamous pact with Hitler which made Russia the ally of Nazi Germany. Between them they marched into Poland and partitioned it once again. The war started because we said we would opposse the parititioning of Poland. That was the cause of the War. The course of the war brought little comfort to the Polish people. Let me recite a few incidents. Do honourable members remember the murders in the Katyn Forest where the Russians murdered the officers of the Polish Army? Do honourable members remember the seige of Warsaw, when we quite shamefully abandoned the people of Warsaw to be engulfed by the Russians? Do honourable members remember the betrayal of Mikolajczyk and his fellow Ministers? These things are so shameful that we would do well to forget them. Yet they are part of the unhappy history of the temporarily conquered and subjugated Polish people who will rise again from this latest partition as they have arisen from so many in the course of history.
There has been in Poland since that time, 1945-46, a gradual subversion of democracy under the forms of democracy. We were persuaded, wrongfully, that the Russians would permit democracy to operate in Poland. We were told that the new Polish state would be autonomus and its Parliament would express the views of the Polish people. That is not so. From that time forward the presence of Soviet soldiers on Polish soil made it quite certain that there would be no freedom. These processes have continued. Part of the process is one instance which we have witnessed in the last 3 months- the taking over formally of a position in the Polish constitution which the Russian imperialists occupied for so long.
What has this to do with us? Why is this a matter of urgency for Australians? We are a long way away, even though so many of the Polish refugees from Imperialist communism have come to Australia and are now living among us as Australian citizens. There is more than that. We in Australia can never divorce ourselves from the rest of the world. The creeping communism of Russia is still edging forward, whether it is in the Indian Ocean or the Pacific Ocean, whether it is with the fleets around us, whether it is in the subversion in South East Asia or whether it is the way in which communism edges forward in Europe because we do not have the fortitude to stand up against what it is doing. It is all part of the same thing.
Of course, the Soviet Union will not face total war- none of us would want that to happenbecause, with the use of today’s weapons, little would be left of civilisation or, indeed, of humanity if such a thing were to occur. A cold war is going on instead. We will be fooling ourselves if we persuade ourselves that there has been any relaxation of this cold war. World war may be no longer conceivable- I do not think it is conceivablebut fringe wars are still possible. We have seen them not far from Australia- in South East Asia- only recently. We see them going on in Africa even today. Australia is in the same kind of fringe position. But, over and above this, in the main centres of power as well as in the fringe states there is the process of the subversion of the will to resist. We are being told lies about the freedoms in Russia. We are being told lies about how we have only to wait and the Russian totalitarianism will dissolve.
While we are not protecting ourselves in any way against communist political subversion here in Australia, the Russian masses are being welded and mobilised into a political striking force. This has gone on even at things like the
Helsinki conference of only a few months ago when we- when I say ‘we’ I mean our side, the West- were manoeuvred into conceding more and more of the Russian political position. In return we were going to be offered freedom of access to the Russian people and we were going to be offered freedom of emigration for the imprisoned peoples of Russia. We paid our price but the goods were not delivered. This is how it always goes on. One cannot trust the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union will never keep its word if it is to the advantage of communism that it should break it. We have been the mugs and we are still being the mugs in this regard.
What has happened in Poland in the last few months is part of this process. Because it is distant we believe that we can disregard it. No worse illusion could be embraced by us. So I say that it is important for this House to express its repugnance of what has happened in Poland because what has happened in Poland is part of a world process in which, like it or not, we are also involved. We are talking now not only about the freedom of Australia and the maintenance of the Australian democracy but also the security and integrity of the Australian continent. World history sweeps on and it will engulf those who make no efforts to withstand it.
-I will not take long. I am a little astonished at the selective indignation of the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) in this respect. Is there any real need to tell us what the situation is in central Europe and eastern Europe concerning civil rights and human rights? Of course not. But it would not be a bad idea if a person such as he were to stand up in this House and say something about the rights of human beings in Timor being trampled on. Why is he so silent on that? Why is he silent about Rhodesia? Why is he silent about South Africa?
– Why is he silent about Angola and the rest of them? It is one of the great misfortunes of this planet at the moment that of its 1 50 countries or thereabouts there is only a handful of them in which human rights and civil rights prosper, but they are being trampled on every day all round the world and not the least by people such as the honourable member for Mackellar and the kind of political party of which he is a member. Let us examine those strictures which he has passed upon the recent changes in the Polish constitution. I for one have always stood up in this place on behalf of people and their rights as individuals against the intransigence of the law and the law makers against conscription and such like and on behalf of the trampled peoples of the world. Let us examine what sort of political philosophy the honourable member for Mackellar supports and espouses in this place and elsewhere. Firstly, he says that the Communist Party in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics is attempting to create a one-party state. That is what he does every time an electoral Bill comes before this Parliament. He supports every electoral alteration which will make the continuation of his party in office absolute if possible and he associates himself continually with the most mischievous and malevolent gerrymandered of all time, the National Country Party of Australia, which has managed to make many parts of Australia one-party areas.
-What about the -
-The honourable member for Maranoa is a gentle soul. He is a Christian gentleman. If only he would look at his politics in the same way as he looks at the rest of humanity. The fact is, of course, that it is a piece of humbug for the honourable member to talk like this in this place unless he does it continually on all sorts of issues
Let us consider the subject of the State Council of Poland being given the right to interpret the constitution. On 13 December the honourable member finalised the action of 11 November when the whole Australian Constitution was torn up and handed over for interpretation to one man- an appointed official. He will go out to his residence this afternoon and pay his respects to him, instead of starting to look at the constitutional situation and seeing what has been imposed upon the Australian people. The honourable member talked about the foreign policy of Poland. I am like him in that I do not want to accept satellitism in any state. Of course, in the 26 years or thereabouts that he has been a member of this chamber he has attempted to make Australia a continuing and persistent doormat-type satellite of the United States of America. On every occasion he has tried to make this country a part of American foreign policy. Then he talks about the subversion of democracy. Since I have been in this Parliament the Liberal and Country Parties have done everything possible to subvert democracy. They have trampled on every possible civil right. Take a look at the Crimes Act that they passed about ten or eleven years ago. Take a look at the electoral system, which tries to make it impossible for the Australian Labor Party to win office. Take a look at the conscription system which they imposed upon the young men of Australia. Take a look at the penal clauses which they have imposed on the people through the industrial legislation.
I am like the honourable member for Mackellar, as are my colleagues on this side of the House, in that I despise the trampling of civil rights and human rights. We do not want it to happen to anyone in the world- Poles, Timorese, Rhodesians or anyone else. But I object to his taking up the time of the House in a situation such as this with such selective indignation. When he starts to speak for the people of the world who are being oppressed, irrespective of whether they are near to home or far away and regardless of who is doing it, we will have some respect for his arguments. I hope that before too much time elapses the Government will recognise its duties to the people of Timor and take up their case as vigorously as the honourable member’s heart bleeds for the people of Poland, who still have a long way to go in the present situation before they are as badly off as the people of East Timor.
-I am very proud to be associated with the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) in rising to speak to this matter of public importance. Let me say, with respect, that I am disappointed with the type of speech just made by the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant). I submit that it is cold comfort to the people of Poland and those descendants and relatives of the people of Poland who have chosen to live in Australia to hear the sort of speech which has just fallen from the lips of the honourable member for Wills. I am sufficient of an idealist to believe that where freedoms and basic human rights are threatened anywhere in the world it is the duty of those who support those basic freedoms and human rights to stand up in their defence. I have no qualms in saying that where those rights are threatened by totalitarian regimes, either of the right or of the left, in the northern hemisphere or in the southern hemisphere, I will do my bit.
– Tell us about Vietnam.
-The honourable member is in no position to comment on my activities in relation to Vietnam. He just does not know what he is talking about. The honourable member is a most extraordinary person. He has known me, I suppose, for about 8 weeks and he presumes to pre-judge what my attitude was on Vietnam. What a presumption! As long as he continues to act with such arrogance and is so presumptuous in manner he will remain on that side of the House for many years to come. I am proud to be associated with this matter of public importance. I only express regret in passing that it has not been taken up and supported by the honourable member for Wills and members of Her Majesty’s Opposition. What is wrong with the Opposition joining with us in a united front on this matter? The conclusion must be drawn that honourable members opposite either do not believe in what we are saying or they do believe in what we are saying but are frightened publicly to identify themselves with us.
What are we saying? We are expressing our extreme regret about actions which were taken in Poland on 10 February this year by the puppet Polish Parliament. I hope that 10 February 1976 will be remembered by all Australians who believe in freedom as a day of shame for international democracy, a day of the deprivation of the rights and liberties of the people of Poland, and a day of sadness for all who love freedom and all who believe that one day we will see a free Poland. I am one of those who believes that we will see it. The spirit of Poland emerges despite the crippling pressure that has been applied to those people. We have seen uprising of the workers- the very same people who are supposed to be represented by those people on the other side of the House, those who support the Labor Party, those who support the rights of the ordinary worker. We saw uprisings in 1956 and again in 1970. 1 would have thought that in 1976 members of the Australian Labor Party would be prepared to come out and say that this is one further assault on the rights and liberties of the workers in another country which we will not tolerate.
In 1975 in Australia we saw something occur which I believe was unique in the world. It was the movement amongst people of an expression of opinion which persuaded a major political party to the belief that one of the first things which it had to do upon gaining office was to reverse one of the most outrageous foreign affairs decisions ever made by a Prime Minister of this country. That decision was the decision made unilaterally, without the support of the Parliament, without discussion in the Parliament, and without the consent of the people of Australia, that the Australian Government, as it then was, would recognise Soviet sovereignity over the Baltic States. I was one of many people in this country who believed that to be the most disgraceful decision ever made in the field of public foreign affairs. I am delighted to say that within 3 days of our Government coming to office steps were commenced to correct that position, and before
Christmas that decision to grant de jure recognition to Soviet sovereignity over Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania was reversed. It is quite interesting to see that from that movement people right across the world are now saying: Should we accept as a fact of life a Russian domination of sovereign states and of individuals living in those sovereign states who have a basic human rightnot only right but also an entitlement- to the protection of international law?
The great hypocrisy of the decision of 10 February is that last year at the Helsinki Conference Poland was one of the 34 countries which .signed a solemn treaty ratifying the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. That so encouraged people in Poland to believe in freedom that Professor Edward Lipinski and a number of Polish intellectuals came out into the open and wrote a letter to the Speaker of the Polish Parliament. They were supported, incidentally, by some 300 other persons, mainly students, trade unionists and workers. In view of the declaration by Poland that it was ratifying the Universal Declaration of Human Rights at the conference in Helsinki they thought to themselves: ‘Here is a great chance. We have a conference of the Party coming up in December. We will put to it some simple little proposals about freedom of conscience and religious practice, freedom of the right to work, freedom to join trade unions, the freedom of trade unionists to strike, the freedom of trade unionists to publish periodicals and other work, freedom of learning, freedom to be free of religious persecution, freedom from being Debarred from public office because of religious beliefs’. All of these matters are set out in the letter which Professor Lipinski sent to the Speaker of the Parliament of the Polish Peoples Republic dated 5 December 1975. 1 seek leave to have that document incorporated in Hansard. It is only 2 pages in length but having it incorporated will certainly save some time in my endeavouring to read it and in endeavouring to appeciate my remarks. I seek the leave of the House to have it incorporated in Hansard.
– It is the normal practice for honourable members to show to us beforehand documents which they wish to have incorporated.
-Yes, I will certainly show it to the honourable member.
– It is usual for honourable members to show it to us before they start to speak. We cannot read it while the honourable member is seeking leave.
-The honourable member is taking up my time. The honourable member for Mackellar will take it down to him. I am sure that the honourable member for Corio would have been sent a copy of it anyway, seeing that it was circulated by the Federation of Polish Organisations of Victoria- and Corio, I believe, is still in Victoria. Similarly at about that time the Polish United Workers -Congress, which in fact is the Communist Party,- at its congress, instead of agreeing to those things which were being requested, decided that it would take the alternative course of not only denying those freedoms but also of taking away 3 basic rights which hitherto had been the entitlement of the people of Poland. The first is to write into the Polish Constitution that the Communist Party in essence is the only Party which will be permitted in that country. That is the long and the short of it. It is set down in black and; white.
What it wants to write into the Constitution amounts to a denial of the right of political association, of the formation of parties and of any real chance of an effective opposition in the Polish Parliament; secondly, the taking away of the rights of an independent and free Polish foreign policy by writing into the Constitution that, ipso facto, the foreign policy of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, will be, for all intents and purposes, the foreign policy of Poland; and, thirdly, by giving to an arm of the Executive, the State Council, an interpretive right- whatever the honourable member for Wills might say it is not the right of the Governor-General of Australia but in fact is the right of the High Court of Australia- to interpret the Constitution. In those 3 steps three basic rights were taken away. Yet another trio of nails was hammered into the coffin of freedom, in Poland. That produced a response from the. Government of the Polish Republic in exile in London on 1 5 January 1976. That protest, I believe, ought to be incorporated in the journals of this Parliament. Again, with the consent of the honourable member for Corio, who I think has seen a copy of this document, I seek leave to have it incorporated in Hansard. m
– I suggest that the honourable member carries out the normal courtesies next time. I will grant leave on this occasion, but before he makes a speech I think he -
-Qf course. I am doing, with respect, only what I have seen the honourable member do in the short time that I have been here. If the honourable member would prefer it I will show him the .document after I have concluded my speech, and he can indicate perhaps when he speaks whether leave is granted. I hope that the House will unite in supporting the sentiments of the terms of the matter of public importance brought forward by the honourable member for Mackellar. I hope that we will show to the world that as a Parliament we take the utmost exception to what has been done in Poland. I hope that by our actions other Parliaments will be encouraged to express similar views and that the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics will be told that what it has done has not met with the approval of the people of Australia and freedom loving people throughout the world. I support the terms of the matter which has been raised.
– I want to take a point of order.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Before the honourable member for Corio takes his point of order and before I call the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman), I indicate that I am under the impression at the moment that the honourable member for Denison did ask on 2 occasions to have documents incorporated in Hansard. Although there is nothing in the Standing Orders to this effect, it is the practice of the House that when an honourable member wants to incorporate something in Hansard he shows it to the person from whom he requests that permission on the opposite side of the table. I think that perhaps we can take it that the request of the honourable member to have these documents incorporated in Hansard has been granted on the understanding that the honourable member for Corio, as the person sitting at the table, will look at the material sought to be incorporated.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I was merely drawing the attention of the honourable member to the fact that it is customary before an honourable member speaks to show to the Opposition items intended to be incorporated.
– I am sorry. I did not realise that. I did not intend any discourtesy to the honourable member for Corio. I shall show the honourable member the other document.
– I have granted leave. I am being kind to a new boy.
-Leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
Polish Telegraphic Agency (Pat) 43 Eaton Place, London. SWIX 8 BX
London (Pat)- The Polish Telegraphic Agency publishes an appeal of the Government of the Polish Republic in connection with a letter of 59 intellectualists addressed to the President of the Polish Parliament (Seym) concerning the stuggle for the principles of freedom.
Poland is facing a great danger. According to information received by the Government of the Polish Republic in exile, the Warsaw regime intends to introduce in Poland the Soviet system of government. The changes are directed to the transformation of Poland into one of the Soviet republics and the introduction of a still more totalitarian system of the one communist party. The object of these changes is the constitutional sanction of the leading role of the communist party and Soviet Russia’s influence on the life of our nation. Not only is here the question of the democratic freedom involved, which as it is has already continuously been violated and trampled by the communist regime in Poland, but the intention is to destroy the desire for freedom and independence as well as the national spirit.
We appeal to all governments and citizens of the free world to strongly protest against this new suppression of the Polish nation.
to the Speaker of the Parliament of the Polish Peoples Republic
I am sending you a copy of a letter in connection with the proposed changes of the Constitution of the Polish Peoples Republic. The letter has been signed by 59 persons. I certify the authenticity of these signatures.
I have been authorised to inform you, Mister Speaker, that a separate letter about the same matter, signed by approximately 300 scientists, students and graduates of Polish universities shall be submitted.
With high regards and respects, (- ) Professor Dr. Edward Lipinski PhD.
P.S. Copies of the above mentioned letter have been sent to the State Council of the Polish Peoples Republic, Parliamentary Groups, and to the Secretariate of the Catholic Primate of Poland. ‘The guide lines for the 7th Congress of the Polish United Workers Party’ (Communist Party) include an announcement of a change of the Constitution. After the conference at Helsinki, where the Polish Government, together with governments of 34 other countries solemnly ratified the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we consider that the introduction of these basic liberties should open a new era in the history of nations and the life of individuals. Motivated by civic concern, we believe that the Constitution and the legislation based on it should guarantee, above all, the following liberties:
Freedom of conscience and religious practice
These liberties do not exist when people, admitting to their religious beliefs or declaring views different from those which are officially binding, are not admitted to the majority of executive positions in administration, public institutions, social organisations and economic management of the nation. Consequently, all citizens should have equal rights to all government positions regardless of their religious beliefs and political party membership. The only deciding factors should be qualifications, individual abilities and personal integrity. Also, all religious groups should have the freedom of religious practice and freedom to erect places of worship.
Freedom of work
These liberties do not exist when the State is the sole employer and the Trade Unions are subservient to the expediencies of the Party, which in practice is the governing body of the State. Under these conditions, as indicated by the experience of the years of 1956 and 1970, the attempts to defend the interests of workers brings the threat of bloodshed and may lead to serious disturbances. Consequently, the workers should have the freedom to choose their own union representatives independently of the State and the Party authorities. The right to strike should also be guaranteed.
Freedom of speech and information
When freedom of speech does not exist there is no scope for free development of the national culture. When all publications before going to print have to be submitted to State censorship, and printing houses as well as the mass media are controlled by the State, the citizens are unable to frame informed attitudes towards the decisions of the State authorities, and, on the other hand the State authorities do not know the attitude of the public towards their policies. Particularly dangerous consequences are obvious in literature and art, which, under these conditions do not fulfil their important social function. Consequently, trade unions as well as literary, religious and other bodies should be given the opportunity to produce publications and periodicals independently from the State. Consequently, preventive censorship should be abolished and violations of the press law should be prosecuted only by the due process of law.
Freedom of learning
There is no freedom of learning when the criteria for choice of staff in tertiary institutions and subjects of research are determined by the State authorities and have political character. Consequently, the autonomy of tertiary educational institutions should be re-established, and the autonomy of scientific circles should be ensured.
It is impossible to reconcile the existence of these basic freedoms with the proposed recognition of the leading role of one party only (Communist Party .int) in the system of government. Such constitutional affirmation would give to a political party an authority which rightly belongs to the government, without the attendant responsibility to, and control, by the people. Under these conditions the parliament cannot be considered as the supreme authority, the government is not the supreme executive and the courts are not independent. It should be ensured that all citizens have the right to nominate and elect their representatives in truly free elections. The independence of the courts from the executive should be ensured and the parliament should be the supreme legislative authority. We consider that the disregard of citizens freedoms may lead to the destruction of all community initiatives, the disintegration of social bonds, the gradual extinction of the national identity and to the severance of continuity of national traditions. This is a threat to the very existence of the nation.
-I would certainly agree with most of the substantive points that have been made by the two or three speakers who have spoken so far in this discussion. However, I should like to draw the attention of the House to much of the hypocrisy that is going on this afternoon. The matter proposed for discussion to my mind is hypocritical. I will deal with that in a minute. One of the reasons why freedom is in fact under threat not only in Poland but also in many other countries is exhibited by what is happening in this House this afternoon. We have had only one Minister at a time in the House throughout the discussion and he has been in the House because he is forced to be here. First it was the Minister for the Northern Territory (Mr Adermann) and now it is the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs ( Mr Viner). When the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) started to speak we had 7 Liberals and 3 members of the National Country Party in the chamber.
-That is not right.
– Yes, you were one of them.
– There were more than three.
-No, there were three. I counted them.
– I counted them too.
– There are only 2 members of the National Country Party here now so the number has not increased.
– There is one in the chair, if you are fair.
– I am sorry, I did miss the Deputy Speaker; I accept that. I think that the matter under discussion is an important issue and there ought to be discussions on questions of freedom because if Parliament means anything in Australia surely it means the existence of freedom and we ought to do as much as possible to encourage the existence of freedom in other countries. I think it is hypocritical to bring on this matter as one of public importance and as a matter of urgency because there is no great urgency about it. I am sure that the honourable member for Mackellar would agree with me, when he is not in one of his hypocritical moods, that there has been no practical freedom in Poland for many years now. In fact, Poland has had very little freedom in its whole history. There has certainly not been any since 1939 when the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and Hitler’s Germany divided Poland between them. There has not been any freedom. Any changes in the Polish Constitution are pure formalities and there has not been any significant change in the position in Poland. What happened in Poland is deplorable as is what happened in the Soviet Union and in satellite countries of the Soviet Union. What happened in a vast majority of countries on this earth is deplorable. As the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) pointed out, there are some ISO countries in the United Nations and I think about twenty three of them would get a clearance on any significant basis of having freedom of expression and civil liberties. We do not think about this enough. As I said a minute ago, the state of this House exhibits why freedom disappears in many countries. If a country is living next to a giant such as the Soviet Union it is even easier for freedom to disappear, as happened in the case of Poland.
The other point I want to make is that there is a certain amount of hypocrisy by this Government. The Soviet Union is an authoritarian and totalitarian country, but we have a distinction on the part of this Government between the Soviet Union and China. We criticise the Soviet Union and attempt to make friends with China. I do not know whether this is really a conscious attempt by our Department of Foreign Affairs or whether it is just a preference by the new Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) who has always been closer to the peasants and therefore prefers the Chinese regime to that of the Soviet Union. I do not know the reason for it. In case some honourable members think that I am alone in my suggestion in this regard, I should like to quote from the Bulletin of 3 April an article by Peter Samuel on foreign affairs. Peter Samuel has never been sympathetic to the Left anywhere in the world. I think he has been closely associated with the Democratic Labor Party. I think he has belonged to what I would call the more rational wing of the DLP. In this article he states:
No foreign government has been quite as lavish in its praise of the Fraser regime in Canberra as Peking. His government’s strong denunciation of Soviet and Cuban involvement in Angola, its support for the American build-up in the Indian Ocean and most lately the joint defence talks with New Zealand have received favourable publicity in the government-controlled Press in China. … the Peking People’s Daily wrote it up as most important and a ‘fully justified decision’ in response to ‘the serious Soviet threat’. It said: ‘The decision by Australia and New Zealand to strengthen joint defence is a most explicit reply to Soviet social imperialist expansion and threat in the Indian Ocean.’ ‘Mr Whitlam is a great showman, perhaps Mr Fraser is a great statesman’, said one Chinese diplomat in Canberra recently. For some it is merely an ironic reflection on changing times that Fraser should be more highly regarded in Peking than Whitlam. For others it is something of a worry that Fraser may go overboard in embracing the Chinese communists. Considerable importance is being attached to the Prime Minister’s intention to make Peking the first place for a formal State visit. He goes to China in mid-June. The same trip will see him visiting Tokyo, but Washington and European and South-East Asian capitals are only to be visited some time in the indefinite future.
I think that is an important point. He is prepared to go to China. He is completely out of touch with, the people of South-East Asia. I am sure other members of this House who have visited SouthEast Asia know what fear there is in South-East Asia of China. People of South-East Asia look to us for some leadership. What do we see? We see a Prime Minister who is crawling to the Chinese at present. The article continues:
The leading government backbencher on foreign affairs, Senator Peter Sim, is one of a group of government members expressing disquiet about the excessively pro-Chinese stance they see the government adopting. Sim says flatly he does not think Fraser should go to Peking at this stage. And, although they are not prepared to be quoted, others describe his plans as naive and dangerous for the government.
Obviously the honourable member for Mackellar is not one of those who consider that to be naive and dangerous. He apparently thinks it is all right to play footsie, or whatever the appropriate title is, with the Chinese regime. As far as I am concerned it is very difficult to make distinctions between totalitarian regimes. Those regimes are extreme totalitarian regimes as are many regimes in South America which are right wing or so-called right wing regimes. There are many regimes in Eastern Europe of the same type and of course there are now a number of regimes in Asia and Indo-China of this extreme kind, and China itself.
– In Africa.
– And in Africa there are extremely repressive regimes. I go back to the point that it is important that we do not take sides with any of those regimes against other regimes. I have reservations in my own mind about the sort of policy which we adopt on foreign affairs. I know that our own Government, the Labor Government, also adopted that sort of policy. The basic policy proposition in foreign affairs from all Australian governments seems to be that we recognise and imply, at least vaguely, support for governments because they are in charge of a particular country, no matter how they got there, no matter how they were imposed on that particular country. That applies to East Timor and Angola. I do not know which of the regimes in those 2 countries will be recognised first by Australia but I put it to honourable members that as the position stands at present neither of them should be recognised by this country. Thengovernments have been imposed by foreign troops. Foreign troops intervened in both cases, in one case Cuban troops and in the other case Indonesian troops, and repressed the local people and took from them the right to make a decision. We should not be on a bandwagon with countries which have no basic belief in democracy. We should not recognise the new regimes in those countries, support them and deal with them in every possible way simply because they control the capital cities and the majority of the population.
– What about the meeting in Townsville between Whitlam and Malik?
– The honourable member is also wrong there. There is a letter in the Bulletin today, which I suggest he should read, from Mr Woolcott, our Ambassador in Indonesia, who points out that Malik was not even in Townsville.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-I wish to make a personal explanation on a point of misrepresentation. The honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) was good enough to use a picturesque phrase a few moments ago and talk about my playing footsie with the Chinese etc. This is utterly and completely the opposite of the truth. I have always opposed Chinese communism just as much as I have opposed Russian communism. It is a matter of judgment but at the present moment I would think the Russians are more dangerous. I do not hold that as a matter of faith; they are both bad.
-Very briefly, I want to heartily support the sentiments expressed in the matter which the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) was sensible and courageous enough to bring before the House. I believe that the House owes him a debt of gratitude. I do not intend to speak for very long. I have been informed by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) that this debate is to conclude, on the instructions of the Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair) who is responsible for the conduct of the business of the House. I will respect his wishes. I just want to say, however, that this is such an important matter that I believe the House should have more time than it has had to discuss it. Not only should we raise this matter on behalf of the Polish people in Poland but we should raise it also on behalf of the expatriate Polish people wherever they are around the world but particularly those in Australia. I am sure we all have a great admiration for the historic achievements of the Polish people through the centuries. They have been subjected to tyrannical and dictatorial governments for hundreds of years and the Opposition speakers were quite right when they raised that point. Nevertheless, we are living in 1976 and this is the year that counts. Therefore, whilst I must respect the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and the program of the House and I am not able to elaborate on my thoughts on the subject before the House, I support the remarks of the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) and, of course, the honourable member for Mackellar.
I particularly support the incorporation in Hansard of the publications sent to us by the Federation of Polish Organisations of Victoria and also the sentiments expressed in the open letter written by 59 Polish intellectuals to the Speaker of the Parliament of the Polish People’s Republic. I had the privilege of visiting Poland for 5 days last year as a member of a delegation led by the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant). It was certainly a most enlightening experience. There is no doubt that the Polish people are under an iron handed Government which they have no hope whatsoever of changing. People in Australia must recognise this as a lesson for all of us and one to be constantly borne in mind. A similar thing could happen here in Australia. We could have an electoral system whereby we would not be able to change the government. There is no doubt that the Labor Party is aiming towards adopting such a system and of being in a position in government where it would be impossible for it to be defeated. This is the situation that exists in Poland.
Due to the timing of the business of the House I conclude my remarks by saying that every right thinking person who has any belief in democracy should take every opportunity to condemn communist ideology and communist practices around the world. I wish to emphasise a very important part of the matter raised by the honourable member for Mackellar. I refer to that part which says that the action in Poland is ‘an assault which throws light on’- and underlines and stresses- ‘the international tactics of creeping Communism.’ This incident should not be viewed in isolation. It is bad enough in isolation but it should be viewed as part of the worldwide picture and the worldwide insidious and often brutal tactics of the Communist ideologies and regimes.
Motion (by Mr Viner) agreed to:
That the business of the day be called on.
– Is it not normal in debates of this nature for there to be an equal number of speakers from either side? There have been 3 speakers from the Government side and only two from the Opposition side.
– It does not say so in the blue sheet.
Provided that, if no other Member rises to address the House, a Member who has already spoken to the motion may speak a second time for a period not exceeding 5 minutes’.
This matter concerns procedures for the conduct of the debate on the motion “That the House do now adjourn’. At the outset, on behalf of the Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair) I mention that credit is due to the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) for the proposition contained in this motion. As a result of the concern expressed by the honourable member that not enough time was available in the adjournment debate for a variety of speakers, the Leader of the House gave consideration to modifying the existing rules for that debate to allow more speakers. Limitations are inherent in a half hour being available for the adjournment debate when speakers from both sides each have 10 minutes. In addition, it is sometimes necessary for a Minister to answer immediately a matter raised by a private member and this. effectively cuts out the opportunity for other honourable members on both sides of the House to engage in further debate or to raise other matters. It is as a result of that consideration that the Government decided to move this motion. I emphasise that it is for a trial period from 27 April to 6 May. I think all honourable members, particularly back bench members, appreciate the importance to them of the adjournment debate in which they can bring before the notice of the House matters of importance to the nation, to them individually, and to their electorates. It is also an occasion when debate can be stimulated on a particular topic and an occasion when back bench members in particular from both sides of the House are able to participate in a free ranging debate and an exchange of ideas.
It is against that background that the Leader of the House gave notice of this motion which is for a trial period. It will be seen that the intention of the motion is to allow an honourable member to speak for 5 minutes in lieu of the 10 minutes that is presently allowed with no extension of time to be granted provided that if no other member rises to address the House a member who has already spoken to the motion that the House do now adjourn may speak a second time for a period not exceeding 5 minutes.
If I may foreshadow the next motion I intend to move, Notice of Motion No. 2, it provides that a Minister who may want to enter the debate because of what has been introduced by another member will wait until after private members have spoken and then speak after 1 1 p.m. for a period not exceeding 10 minutes. The intention, as honourable members will realise, is to provide more time and more opportunity for back bench members to utilise the adjournment debate to introduce matters that they consider to be important. I am sure all honourable members who have found the present time limitation quite a restriction on their own opportunities to participate in the adjournment debate will welcome this proposal which will certainly provide them with a much greater opportunity than they have hitherto had. I would hope against the background of what I have said and in the spirit of the trial period that is inherent in the motion that the Opposition will support the Government’s proposal. It may be thought by Opposition members that in some respects the motion will inhibit their opportunities to participate in the adjournment debate. Maybe Opposition members will think that this proposal will inhibit their opportunity to put Ministers on the mat or that it will give an advantage to a Minister in being able to come in at the end of an adjournment debate and speak for a period not exceeding 10 minutes, but I would hope that the Opposition will understand the spirit in which the change is being proposed.
The Government is quite prepared to look at the experience of this trial period. If it is found to be unworkable then we will not proceed with it, but if it is found that it has the general support of members on both sides of the House- I emphasise the words ‘on both sides of the House ‘-I think the House will find itself indebted to the initiative shown by the honourable member for Mackellar who first proposed this matter.
-The Opposition will not oppose this motion, but it will oppose the second proposition, Notice of Motion No. 2. The motion moved by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) is fairly obvious proof that when something is the same it is not the same. This proposition which is now on the Notice Paper was unsuccessfully proposed by me to the Standing Orders Committee in 1973 and a combination of present Government and present Opposition supporters voted in favour of a proposition which would have allowed honourable members to speak for 6 minutes as opposed to a period of S minutes with honourable members being permitted to speak a second time. Last year whilst I was Speaker of this House I wrote to both the Opposition Parties and the then Government Party because like the present Speaker I was dissatisfied with the manner in which the adjournment debate operated and also the restricted nature of only 3 speakers being able to speak for 10 minutes each on the adjournment debate and I asked whether they would agree to accept as a sessional order a 5- minute speaking period on the adjournment debate. Both of the present Government Parties responded in the negative. They said they were not prepared to give up their two 10-minute slots on the adjournment, which at that stage was being applied by the Chair. They were not prepared to accept a 5-minute speaking period. They wished to retain the 10-minute period. I think that was unfortunate because at that stage I think that proposition should have been adopted. We do not object to a trial period being undertaken now. It may be that honourable members will find that it is difficult to cope in the early stages with a 5-rninute speaking period, but it is my opinion that honourable members will learn that when they want to raise matters on an adjournment debate they will have to do a little more work so that they can put forward their views within a 5-minute period because most of the things that honourable members do wish to raise on the adjournment can be dealt with in a fairly short period.
As the Minister has already spoken to Notice of Motion No. 2 I also will speak to that proposition because it will save time. The Opposition is opposed to Notice of Motion No. 2 because I think firstly it will move away from what has become an established practice in the House of adjourning the House at 1 1 o’clock. Secondly, it provides that a Minister may enter the debate to answer matters raised in the debate. Under this proposition the Minister will be able to speak for a period not exceeding 10 minutes. Normally the
Minister would follow another Government member, but more importantly a Minister can enter the debate as a private member to debate a matter which may have been raised in the debate but which has nothing at all to do with his ministerial responsibilities in this House or the Minister he represents in this place. There is all the difference in the world in giving a Minister a right to answer a particular matter, such as the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) who may speak on the matter of immigration which is raised in the debate, and in providing for a Minister a period of 10 minutes in which to put on a political tirade against the Opposition or against someone else which normally would have been part of the adjournment debate.
The Opposition believes that we should not depart from the 1 1 o’clock rule. We feel that if a Minister has to enter the debate, then, as has happened in the past, he should enter as the last speaker on the Government side which would normally be a Minister. I am aware that the Government has the numbers to carry this second proposition but we will oppose it. If the Government decides that it will use its numbers to extend this proposal during or after the trial period I suggest that it may give consideration to providing protection for members of the Opposition by amending this proposition to restrict a Minister’s right of reply to certain matters. It can be done by writing appropriate words after the word ‘matters’ which appears in the foreshadowed motion. The Clerk will be able to tell the Minister what I propose. Real protection should be given to the Opposition. The Opposition has decided it is going to oppose Notice of Motion No. 2 and we will divide on it.
-I rise to support the Government’s proposal. I wish at the same time to explain the motion to the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) because he misunderstands, I believe, the importance of the introduction of the motion moved by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) and also Notice of Motion No. 2. The first point I want to make is that the Standing Orders under which we have been operating in the past naturally were introduced long before we had what we call our 11 o’clock rule. At that time honourable members could speak for 10 minutes on the adjournment debate which could go on virtually indefinitely, but since the 11 o’clock rule was introduced it automatically reduced the number of speakers to three, as was mentioned by the Minister. I think a 5-minute speaking period on the adjournment debate will in some instances be a little severe on members who wish to raise something of great importance rather than matters which are perhaps of a domestic nature. However, a 5-minute speaking period will give an opportunity to many more members in this place to be able to raise important questions.
I cannot quite go along with the honourable member for Corio who said that the Opposition is going to oppose Notice of Motion No. 2 which will enable a Minister to speak after 1 1 o’clock for a period not exceeding 10 minutes. I feel this proposal should be supported by the Opposition because its supporters know full well that it will give them the opportunity of being able to make full use of the time allocated for the adjournment debate.
In my experience over the years there have been many occasions when adjournment debates have not always confined to the old principle of a Government speaker to be followed by an Opposition speaker. There are occasions when a number of Opposition speakers will dominate the debate or when Government speakers will dominate the debate. Therefore I cannot understand why the honourable member for Corio opposes this motion. After all, I think it is in the interest of back benchers to have the opportunity to speak.
In the past, 3 members only have been able to speak on the adjournment assuming that they have all taken their full speaking time. If a Minister has wanted to answer some of the points made during the adjournment debate we have had a situation where only 2 honourable members have been able to speak. Such an arrangement is completely impractical. Therefore I think this is a good move. I emphasise that the move is being made on a trial basis. I appeal to Opposition members to allow the second motion to pass, as has been suggested by the Minister.
-I will be very brief. I think that the proposal to cut adjournment speeches to5 minutes is a good one. It will allow more honourable members to speak. If an honourable member has anything to say which is really of consequence and requires more than5 minutes I am sure that the good sense of the House will enable him to continue for another 5 minutes. This could be achieved by nobody else rising at the expiration of his time. I think this will happen because the House has a certain good sense in these matters.
I hope that the Opposition will not oppose the second motion which will be moved after this motion has been dealt with. Any amendment if required, could be made conveniently when the procedure comes up for confirmation after a short run of only 2 weeks to see how it works. The Minister, of course, will not abuse the position in the way suggested by the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes). If necessary we can conveniently amend the form of words later. Let us look at this arrangement for a fortnight to see how it works.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr Viner) proposed:
That, in lieu of the final proviso to the sessional order of 18 February 1976 relating to the adjournment of sittings, the following proviso be substituted:
Provided further that, if at 1 1.00 p.m. the question before the House is-
That the House do now adjourn- the Speaker shall interrupt the debate, at which time-
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker- Mr Lucock)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– The sitting is suspended until 8 p.m. to enable Mr Speaker accompanied by the mover and seconder and other honourable members to present the AddressinReply to His Excellency the Governor-General at Government House.
Sitting suspended from 4.58 to 8 p.m.
– I desire to inform the House that, accompanied by honourable members, I waited today upon His Excellency the GovernorGeneral at Government House, and presented to him the Address-in-Reply to His Excellency’s Speech on the Opening of the First Session of the Thirtieth Parliament, agreed to by the House on 30 March 1976.
His Excellency was pleased to make the following reply:
Thank you for your Address-in-Reply which you have just presented to me.
It will be my pleasure and my duty to convey to Her Majesty the Queen the message of loyalty from the House of Representatives, to which the Address gives expression.
Debate resumed from 6 April, on motion by Mr Howard:
That the House take note of the following paper Motor Vehicle Policy- Ministerial Statement, 30 March 1976. ( Quorum formed).
-Mr Speaker, I am at a bit of a disadvantage. I had a document which I wished to incorporate in Hansard. I showed it to the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) and he has insisted on reading it before agreeing to it being incorporated. I need the document to refresh my mind. I am at something of a disadvantage because of the action of the Minister. Mr Speaker, there is a lot of conversation coming from the Government side of the chamber. Do I have the floor?
– Yes. I think the House is behaving in a most unruly fashion. I was about to call it to order. I ask all honourable members to pay attention to the honourable member for Burke.
-Thank you, Mr Speaker. Were they to do that they would probably become more enlightened about the subject the House is discussing.
-Order! I called for order. That does not require comment from the honourable member for Burke. I call the honourable member for Burke to make his speech.
-I was thanking you, Mr Speaker. Yesterday, when speaking on this matter, I was drawing attention to some of the anomalies that to my mind seem to exist in the ministerial statement that the House is now debating. It almost provides for the existence of 5 manufacturers of motor cars in Australia although by all accounts we have a market for only 500 000 new units a year. The statement goes on to say that this cannot in any way be regarded as a very large run of vehicles. In yet another place it speaks about economies of scale being necessary for vehicles to be available at a lower price for consumers. I point out at this juncture that plants already in operation in Australia certainly are not manufacturing or assembling at their full capacity at the moment. The object of the statement clearly is to encourage and bolster components manufacturers in Australia but on examining it I see that it says in places that manufacturers will be free to source the extra 15 per cent of components from overseas. Therefore, the manufacturers of components will never know which components the manufacturers of motor cars will want to source overseas.
The whole point at issue is the present unemployment situation in Australia. If one cares to look at the situation one should take into account the expected reduction of employees in the motor car industry, the so-called baby boom of the 1950s which some 24 years later has resulted in people in their early 20s seeking employment, many of them now married, and the saturation of the market. There is a hiatus in employment and honourable members opposite call the people affected dole bludgers. To compound this problem the plan almost certainly will also mean that some tasks now performed in Australia will be performed outside Australia. This will add to the numbers unemployed. If new techniques of manufacture are developed which require fewer people to maintain the current rate of production even more people now employed will become redundant. Even worse, fewer job vacancies will exist to cater for a growing potential work force.
As I understand the report of the Industries Assistance Commission, scant attention was paid to this aspect of rationalising the motor car industry. The Government has not assisted in dispelling doubts on this feature of rationalisation. The Vehicle Builders Employees Federation raised these matters with the IAC in its submission. The union said it accepted its broader social responsibilities and that it is prepared to accept changes in the industry which provide national benefits provided only:
From this debate it is clear that this part of the submission at least received Utile attention. Restructuring of an industry must mean much more than just setting a percentage of local content and establishing plants for 4 cylinder engines and encouraging more manufacturers into the field. My criticism is that those workers who may be replaced or made redundant by the application of this pokey seem to have received no consideration. The ministerial statement makes no mention of how these people are to be retrained if necessary or, alternatively, where people who have acquired certain skills can be placed where those skills can be adequately used in the national interest. Part responsibility for this oversight must lie with the Industries Assistance Commission which has never been noted for its advice on what happens to displaced work people. In fact the cost of restructuring is never mentioned. If the cost is never mentioned, and obviously there is a cost, the community can never bear that cost. Such costs are always borne by the work force involved in the industry.
Perhaps the most important feature of restructuring any industry is what happens to the people who are involved. Everybody talks about industries becoming more efficient and becoming rationalised but nowhere do I find a document that talks about what will happen to the work people who are displaced because of the ration.alisation. Nowhere do I find any plan laid down to retrain these people to take other jobs and to enable them to engage in other industries. It seems to me that this is a very important matter. I seek leave, Mr Speaker, to incorporate in Hansard the submission by the Vehicle Builders Employees Federation of Australia to the IAC.
– I apologise. I was speaking to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs about this point. The Minister for Transport indicated to me that a request had been made by the honourable member for Burke for material to be incorporated in Hansard. I told him that it was a matter for him to decide whether leave would be granted but it was a matter for me to decide whether the document was too long to be incorporated. The honourable member is asking for leave to incorporate a document in Hansard. Leave is granted subject to consultation with the Hansard office in respect of the length of the document. (The document read as follows)-
It is more than two years since the Right Honourable, the Prime Minister, E. G. Whitlam, asked you to enquire into the Australian Motor Industry. In doing so, he specifically asked that you should have regard to the government’s desire-
The Government believes that these aims will be facilitated by substantial Australian participation, including equity, in the industry.
For the first time an Australian government had recognised that industrial relations, environment, safety and Australian participation, including equity, were properly matters for consideration in tariff deliberations. This was a new policy and enabled us to appear before you and state our views.
At the time, you will recall, we came before you and told you that we spoke on behalf of our members- not just as employees in the industry, but also as consumers and citizens. We told you we accepted our broader social responsibilities and we wanted an industry which was socially and environmentally sound and provided its consumers with cheap, effective and technically advanced transportation. In short, we said, we are prepared to accept changes in the industry which provide national benefits provided only
It is now clear to us that we are the only ones concerned with the interests of those most directly involved in the industry, that is, the employees, who are the ones most directly affected by changes to the industry. It is clear to us that the IAC does not accept the principle that the costs of restructuring an industry for the benefit of the community should be paid for in full by the community, because if you were, you would have been more concerned with detailing the costs of what you recommend.
In the whole two years that this industry has been under review nobody has yet indicated that they are aware of the costs involved in restructuring this industry. Nobody has indicated any concern with the thousands and thousands of workers whose jobs will disappear. There is no programme to compensate these workers. Yet these costs are quantifiable, the jobs are identifiable, still no one has attempted to give explicit expression to these dislocations.
On the industrial relations side, when we last appeared before you, we demonstrated to you that the industrial relations practices of the North American multinationals was one of confrontation rather than co-operation with the trade union movement. We showed you that they adopted practices in this country which were unacceptable even in their own country and indeed, illegal in the common market countries. We indicated to you that as regards industrial relations, the European companies of Volkswagen and Renault were much more constructive, creative and co-operative than were the North Americans. Indeed, in matters of job enlargement and worker participation, which fall under the broad heading of social engineering, it is clear that Renault and Volkswagen have much to offer Australia. These companies are the major companies in the common market, the biggest vehicle market in the world, and produce more cars in a few months than are produced in Australia in a few years. We recommended to you that you give proper regard to the role Volkswagen and Renault nave played in industrial relations in Australia and their willingness to use their European experience to contribute to the development of Australia’s social engineering. You accepted our views that industrial relations in the industry are bad (refer to pages 199-201 in your report). However, you ignored our recommendations. Indeed, your three pages on industrial relations, in your several hundred page report suggests to us that your knowledge of creative economically sound industrial relations progress in the industry is based on the public relations handouts from Volvo.
It may be that you do not believe that industrial relations is properly a matter for consideration in tariff deliberations. If this is the case, then you should say so, as one of the senior public servants advising the Prime Minister said when he told us that industrial relations was a matter for the Arbitration Commission and, as such, had nothing to do with tariff deliberations. We do not accept this view. Nor do our brother trade unions, nor does the Labor Party and nor does the Prime Minister, because, in bringing down the industry plans, the Prime Minister made specific provision for a tariff differential between CBU and CKD which would give Volkswagen and Renault at least, the opportunity to survive in Australia as employers of productive labour in the industry. We do not think the tariff differential between CBU and CKD is adequate, nevertheless, it marked a direct break with the policy of the previous Liberal-Country Party government whose tariff policy was designed specifically to get rid of the progressive industrial relations elements in the industry. This decision was argued on the shallow basis of principles, more appropriate to the narrow vested interests of the protectionists and the free traders of the nineteenth century than to the broader responsibilities of a modern, socially responsible government.
Of course, the policies of the previous Liberal-Country Party government were the policies of the North American multinationals. However, the government has changed and new policies have evolved. Nevertheless we note the North American multinationals are still peddling the same policies. We accept that the only thing the North American multinationals can be trusted with, is their own self interest. We understand this and accept it. However, it needs to be emphasised that they do not speak for our members, nor do they speak for the members of the other unions in the industry. At this enquiry, we and we alone speak for the employees. And we emphasise that we speak for them not just in their roles as employees but we also speak for them in their roles as consumers and taxpayers. With reference to the North Americans, Appendix A details the profit record of General Motors from 1949 to 1972.
No doubt you will have the same information for the other North American companies. We table this simply to make the point that these companies have done well in Australia and there does not seem to be any economic reason for the attitude they manifest towards the European companies who have contributed towards the progress of Australian social engineering and are willing to contribute further in this regard.
Since the government’s new motor industry plans have been published, we have concluded agreements with Renault and Volkswagen to draw on their European experience to introduce job enlargement and worker participation programs into the Australian motor industry. We expect these programs to be bitterly opposed by the North American multinationals but, in the light of the Prime Minister’s specific directions to you, we would not expect these programs to be frustrated by your recommendations. We make this point because we are concerned with the attitude of the IAC to industrial relations and worker participation matters and we refer not just to your report on the industry but also to the questionnaires you published for your current enquiry. We note there is a questionnaire for importers, there is a questionnaire for distributors and dealers and another one for manufacturers and assemblers. There is no questionnaire for any of the unions in the industry and further, none of the questions in your questionnaire indicate any concern with, or interest in industrial relations or worker participation matters. Yet, the Prime Minister specifically directed that you be concerned with these matters.
Let us look now at the position in which we find ourselves today. Plans have been published which are going to run the local content of the industry down to 85 per cent by 1980. Apart from the differential between CBU and CKD there is nothing in the plans which will improve industrial relations or promote worker participation. This is a serious omission. However, there is another omission so serious that we predict it will have disastrous industrial relations implications, and that is the omission of any program for adjustment assistance. In a nutshell, as representatives of the employees in the industry, we are being asked to accept new plans for the industry which will completely disrupt and reorganise the industry and we are being asked to accept these plans on the basis that our members bear the full costs of any benefits these new plans may bring to the consumer.
This proposition is utterly unacceptable to us. The motor industry overseas is just now recovering from a slump, the extent of which is indicated in our attachment ‘B’ which details the lay-offs throughout the world wide motor industry at the beginning of this year. We believe this slump is about to hit Australia and has been delayed only by the government’s sales tax actions earlier this year. And in this environment we are being asked to co-operate in plans which are not only going to close down the stamping operations in Australia in 1980, but which are going to commence closing down many suppliers in the industry at the end of this year. And we have been asked to do this on the basis that the benefits exceed the costs without anyone being able to tell us anything about the costs- except that our members are going to have to bear most of them. In fact, no one has yet told us what the benefits are-and we think we are entitled to know.
We would like to illustrate the extent of the problem we are faced with. In early 1980 we expect the stamping operations in Ford and General Motors and Chrysler to be phased out. This means that some 2700 people will be redundant in Geelong. This is half the Geelong workforce and includes all of the more skilled workers. Over 4600 jobs will be redundant in South Australia- 3400 at Woodville and over 1200 at Elizabeth. These also include all the more skilled workers in the South Australian motor industry.
Faced with this situation we wholeheartedly support the Government’s efforts to bring the Japanese into South Australia as manufacturers and employers of labour. They will go, part of the way at least, towards solving the huge unemployment problems in South Australia as well as solving some of our broader national trade problems with Japan. However, they will not solve all the problems in South Australia, they will not solve any of the problems in Geelong, nor indeed, will they or any of the other participants in the Government’s manufacturing plans, solve any of the problems facing the Australian steel industry when the Australian motor industry, in line with the Government’s plans, sources its stampings overseas and so deprives the Australian steel industry of its largest single customer for sheet metal. And we emphasise that we are being asked to accept this major reconstruction of the Australian motor industry on the basis that our members bear the full brunt of the costs- whatever they may be.
These plans involve a major reconstruction of the industry and yet there has been no attention given to the development of specific programs either to manage the reconstruction of the industry or to compensate our members and the members of the other trade unions for the costs involved in this reconstruction. In the face of the proposition that our members and the members of the other unions involved bear the brunt of the costs involved, we are opposed to any program which allows either CBU imports to increase or work presently sourced in Australia to be resourced overseas. We have, of course, at our disposal the ability to protect the jobs of our members through appropriate industrial action as have the other trade unions with members in the industry and in the suppliers to the industry. However, in the light of the present uncertain economic climate, with high unemployment in Australia and overseas and the ineffectiveness of tariffs in this era of floating exchange rates, we would expect the IAC to reject any propositions which would lead to a further deterioration of the industry- especially in the absence of any specific program to compensate our members for the costs involved.
We are not in a position to put forward specific recommendations to you because we are not privy to the information required to develop such recommendations. We can only say to you that we are faced with industry plans based on tariffs and import quotas which we assume nave been developed to provide some tangible benefits for the community. We are being asked to accept these plans on the basis that our members and the members of the other unions in the industry bear the full brunt of the costs involved.
Not only has no one quantified the benefits, no one, including yourself, quantified the costs.
We reiterate, we are prepared to co-operate in the implementation of plans which benefit the whole community provided only that we know what the costs are and the whole community is prepared to bear the burden of these costs. We are not prepared to co-operate on any other ground.
You and you alone are in a position to indicate what the benefits are and what the costs are. We believe you have a responsibility not just to us but to the whole community to indicate what these are. Then, and then alone, we will know whether your recommendations are socially responsible. Then, and then alone we will be in a position of being able to determine our attitude to the industry plans, including quotas.
In the meantime, our policy is that nothing should be done which will deprive more Australian workers of their employment. We recommend therefore, that every action be taken to hold things as they are until explicit expression is given to the benefits and costs inherent in the new plans.
As regards imports, this would mean the continuation of quotas and, if necessary, the reduction of quotas on CBU vehicles to protect the jobs of Australian workers.
-I thank the House. I take the point. I realise that in the past honourable members have attempted to have copious documents incorporated in Hansard. I appreciate the technical difficulties involved. I thank the House for permission to incorporate the document in Hansard provided it is technically possible to do so. It is important that this submission be recorded in Hansard, in my view, because never before have I seen a document that sets out so well and so capably the failure of and the vacuum that exists in all IAC, or in earlier times the Tariff Board as it was then known, considerations of restructuring of industry. This document will be of great value to the House because not only today but also as time goes on- and as part and parcel of the matter that this House debated quite recently- there will be a greater need in the future for the relocation of work people and for the retraining of work people to be taken into account when this House, and through it the Government of this country, endeavours to set down guidelines for manufacturing industries in this country.
It is very difficult, I suppose, to say that one entirely disagrees with the ministerial statement and I do not attempt to do that. There are of course some very good points in it. There are some points that have not been included. I have mentioned those. They worry me because Australian work people are involved and it is those people who seem to be the ones who are going to bear the cost of this plan. It is for those reasons that I have made my point. I am quite satisfied with that and I thank the House.
-The motor vehicle policy which was announced by the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard) in the House last week provides the opportunity for the motor vehicle manufacturing industry to operate on a rational and efficient basis in the future. As such it provides an important stimulus for that industry to recover from its current state of crisis. However, the present Government’s economic strategy is also of crucial importance to the future of motor vehicle manufacturing in Australia as it is of importance to the recovery to all industry in this country. Unless there is a revival of economic prosperity there will not be a revival of motor vehicle manufacturing. Costs of production in the industry must stabilise and consumer demand for the products of the industry must expand. So it is against this economic background that last week’s ministerial statement concerning the motor vehicle industry must be viewed.
Personally I am particularly pleased that the Government has endorsed the 85 per cent content plan. It was a policy which I advocated during my own election campaign in the electorate of Kingston. It was also a policy which I advocated some 5 weeks ago in my maiden speech in the House, and that was of course at a time when there was still some doubt as to which direction the Government would head in its policy decision. The adoption of this policy by the present Government also makes a mockery of the scare tactics which the honourable member for Kingsford -Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen) and the former honourable member for Kingston used during the election campaign when they indicated that our side of politics was hostile to the 85 per cent content plan.
A important feature of this policy is that it provides a rational balance. It provides on the one hand, a balance between the economic utilisation of resources and the need to serve the interests of consumers through lower prices and on the other hand, the need to maintain a viable motor manufacturing industry in Australia.
There is obviously a conflict between the 2 objectives of economic and efficient industry on the one hand and high Australian content on the other hand. Therefore the relaxation of local content which is embodied in this plan will allow Australian manufacturers to remain viable under acceptable levels of protection well into the future. The plan provides a flexibility in the sourcing of components and this will enable local manufacturers to become more competitive in relation to completely built up and completely knocked down imported units.
The previous 95 per cent content plan put the industry in a straitjacket and this was particularly so in relation to the sourcing of components which of course through the increased costs in that sphere meant that the increased costs were transmitted to the final product. This made the industry non-competitive. A return to that 95 per cent content plan would have destroyed motor vehicle manufacturing in Australia in the long term. I believe this plain fact ought to be recognised by those who have criticised the Government’s policy in the week since it was announced by the Minister. This criticism has been particularly evident among certain component manufacturers. They are of the mistaken view that their own welfare would be best served under a 95 per cent content plan. They seem to ignore the fact that under the 95 per cent content plan the market share for locally manufactured vehicles has fallen from 65 per cent in 197 1 to 54 per cent in 1975. And this has occurred despite a tariff rate of 45 percent. Manufacturers would be able to regain the previous market share they held under the 95 per cent content plan only if there were a massive increase in tariff protection above 45 per cent. This would be totally unacceptable to consumers and it would be sheer economic lunacy.
A reversion to the 95 per cent content plan under present levels of tariff protection would see local manufacturers hold a diminishing share of the market. Through that ever diminishing share it would result in their ultimate destruction. Therefore long term component manufacturers would be worse off under a return to the 95 per cent content plan than they will be under the 85 per cent plan envisaged by this Government. Because of this lower market share under the previous plan the demand for components would have shrunk accordingly. Therefore, I believe that the 85 per cent content plan is the best solution because, as I said previously, it does provide flexibility in the sourcing of components.
Component manufacturers will certainly lose a market for part of their products. They will lose a market for items which suffer a high cost disability in relation to overseas components. However, when that does occur it will enable vehicle manufacturers to maintain cost competitiveness. Therefore the local vehicle manufacturers will on that basis increase their overall market share and there will be an increased market for the still significant proportion of components which remain sourced in Australia. Also by ensuring the long term viability of motor manufacturing this will equally ensure the long term viability of component manufacturers. However, component manufacturers will have to survive on the basis of a more economic and narrower range of products. The key to the survival of component manufacturers will be component specialisation, not component diversification in which they are currently involved. This is what the Government’s policy provides for and it will particularly assist this by encouraging commonality of components between various motor vehicle manufacturers.
As well as looking at cost disadvantages which local motor vehicle manufacturers have faced I believe the Government should now look at the cost disadvantages which some component manufacturers are facing because of the high protection afforded to a number of raw materials. We can cite some examples of this. In 1975 Uniroyal was paying 50 per cent more for Australian synthetic rubber because of tariff protection than comparative manufacturers in the United States, Canada, Japan or Europe. Similarly last year- when Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd began to manufacture steel cords for use in steel radial tyres this cost Uniroyal $ 1 .75 per kilogram compared with $1.45 per kilogram which Uniroyal had previously paid for imported cords.
The 85 per cent content plan provides the opportunity for motor vehicle manufacturers to have this flexibility in the sourcing of components, but I believe the Government should look further and provide component manufacturers with a similar flexibility in the sourcing of raw materials. This would enable component manufacturers to maintain also cost competitiveness in relation to imported components.
This, of course, would be a most effective way of ensuring the long term viability of component manufacturers. It would be determined on the basis of economic utilisation of resources.
So the policy announced by the Government initiates changes in the motor vehicle manufacturing sector. I believe that we can perhaps go one step further and initiate further change in relation to component manufacture.
A particularly pleasing aspect of the policy is that it involves managed change. It plots the path to the ultimate goal of a more efficient and competitive industry with a minimum of disruption in the interim period. The other factor which particularly pleases me is that it is a plan for a decade. This, of course, is so important for manufacturing industry. It is important that they have a long term period in which they can engage in effective corporate planning. The policy also provides the opportunity and climate for the 4- cylinder engine plant to go ahead at Lonsdale under the Chrysler-Nissan-Toyota consortium.
– Where is Lonsdale?
– To ensure cost competitiveness in Australia we need one 4-cylinder engine plant.
– Order! The honourable member for Wakefield is interjecting. I know that he is trying to be helpful as he sees it.
-I do appreciate it, Mr Speaker.
– I would ask the honourable member for Wakefield to leave his congratulations until after the speech.
-Thank you, Mr Speaker. To ensure the cost competitiveness of engine manufacture we need one 4-cylinder plant because this plant could provide engines for all motor vehicles manufacturers. The consortium plan at the moment provides the opportunity for the cheapest engines to be produced. So the announced policy of the Federal Government provides the opportunity for this consortium to go ahead.
However, whether or not it will go ahead I believe depends to a large degree on the performance of the Dunstan State Labor Government. The Dunstan Government has something of a reputation for trendiness However, its reputation for attracting industrial development to South Australia is poor. This is particularly so when its period in office is compared with the previous long era of Liberal Government in that State. Many manufacturers in South Australia are becoming increasingly disenchanted with their prospects for profitable operation. Instead of expanding their operations in South Australia, many are moving their base of manufacture interstate. Sir Alwyn Barker, the Chairman of Uniroyal, at a recent annual general meeting of that company said:
The advantages of manufacturing in South Australia are becoming difficult to identify.
The reason for this disillusionment is becoming quite obvious. The cost of manufacture is increasing more rapidly in South Australia than in other States. Tins problem is directly attributable to the policies of the Dunstan Government. Trendiness may have a certain appeal but it does not provide the climate for employmentproviding industry to operate.
We can look at some examples of policies which are having a detrimental effect on industry in South Australia. The Workers Compensation Act which was introduced in 1973 provides for 100 per cent of average weekly earnings to be paid to workers absent under compensation. This compares with 85 per cent in other States. Since the Act was introduced claims have risen 1000 per cent, and this is particularly so in the metal trades industry. The result has been a massive increase in premiums. Workers compensation is no longer a minor expense item in a business operation. For every 6 employees in the building industry one extra wage has to be found to cover workers compensation premiums. In the engineering industry one extra wage has to be found for every 10 employees. Workers compensation payments rose by $ 14.9m last year, despite a fall off of some 3000 in industrial accidents. So this Act is particularly detrimental to South Australian business.
Labour costs in South Australia are now higher than in other States if payroll loadings are included. Some States have introduced some relief in respect of payroll tax, but not the South Australian Government. South Australia has higher factory registration charges. Furthermore, the industrial relations climate is deteriorating in that State, particularly in the metal trades industry which is so important to motor vehicle manufacture. The South Australian metal trades vote in the national metal trades wage campaign last year was the most militant in Australia. There is an increasing amount of time being lost in South Australian plants through industrial disputes. South Australia has lost its earlier advantages in relation to the cost of power and water. Excluding the cost of land, it now costs more to build a house in South Australia than elsewhere.
South Australia’s industrial development in the past was built on its low cost structure. Despite a lack of natural resources the State was able to import resources, manufacture them and export them to other States, and still undersell local products on interstate markets.
– We had Tom Playford then.
-That is right, as the honourable member for Wakefield so rightly reminds me. As a result of the deliberate policies of the Dunstan Government, South Australia is very quickly losing the advantages which are necessary if we are to maintain viability as a location manufacturing industry. This is particularly so as transport costs are rising rapidly. They now represent some three to four per cent of the total cost of production. Therefore a low cost structure is ever more essential. If this trend continues it will not be surprising if an alternative location is found for the 4-cylinder engine plant. In fact, it would not be surprising if the motor industry in toto withdrew from South Australia to greener pastures.
In summary, Mr Speaker, the motor vehicle policy which the Government has announced provides the opportunity for motor vehicle manufacturing to recover within the total context of the Government’s economic policies. Of course, what the Government is attempting to achieve is total economic recovery. The Government’s policy provides for managed change to make the motor vehicle industry more effective and more competitive in the long term. Additionally it provides the opportunity for the industry to revive in South Australia. I repeat that this will be contingent on the Dunstan Government becoming more aware of the basic needs of industry in that State, a low-cost environment for that industry to continue to prosper.
– This is one debate that one would not readily come into because the Government is anxious to proceed with its business. But the honourable member for Kingston (Mr Chapman) has done me the doubtful distinction of raising the matter of my contribution to the recent Federal election campaign in his electorate. Let me put on the record that that was very true. The speeches made at the time of the recent election, particularly those made in the electorate of Kingston, flowed directly from what was said by the present Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) as to how he favoured the plan of the Ford Motor Company of Australia Ltd in Geelong. In fact he made such speeches in this place when he was Leader of the Opposition and when the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) held the august position that you, Mr Speaker, now hold.
The point I want to make to the honourable member for Kingston is that he ought to be very careful with his criticism. He should have a look at the Hansard to see what his Prime Minister has been saying because the Prime Minister can be pinned to the words that he does not favour the present plan, and he never did. Why would the Prime Minister not favour Ford? After all, was it not a good political gimmick to try to win the seat of Corio on the basis that there was going to be massive unemployment in the Ford motor industry because of the motor vehicle plan that Labor put forward? Labor fairly and properly put forward a motor vehicle plan on the basis that South Australia should be given a reasonable industrial base. Honourable members know that Chrysler Australia Ltd will go to the wall unless there is some protection on the basis set out in the ministerial statement. I am delighted to see that the honourable member for Kingston got such support from the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly). I have never known such a protectionist as I have seen this evening.
– Order! The honourable gentleman is not entitled to make reflections on the honourable member.
-Thank you Mr Speaker. I was looking at the honourable member for Wakefield to compare him with what I saw when he appeared on the television program Monday Conference last Monday night. He did not seem to be the same sort of fellow then. The point of the whole plan is this: The Government at long last after a lot of pangs and after stewing over this matter for at least three to four months has come down with a momentous decision, despite the Prime Minister’s objection, that the Opposition’s plan is not a bad one after all. The 85 per cent content is a reasonable proposition, and that is where we start with this issue. There are 80 000 people employed in the car industry, and if the Government allows vehicles to be imported into this country there will be none of the 80 000 left. There has been a lot of pressure, a lot of agitation, not to allow the Japanese to manufacture here. But as everybody knows, unless we invite the Japanese to manufacture 4- cylinder engines in Australia they will continue to import them. They will jump over any tariff that is nominated. In fact, with a 45 per cent tariff the Japanese had taken 52 per cent of the 4- cylinder car market by December 1974 and the
Labor Government placed restrictions on them on the basis of protecting our local industry.
It is important that throughout Australia we get a viable manufacturing industry which is not limited to the motor vehicle industry but includes many other industries as well. I have been inundated with the sort of paraphernalia one gets from Muster or the Graziers Association saying that there is no point in having tariffs and asking why we do not just import goods that can be bought cheaper overseas. Friends of mine have said they have never been able to find where the savings are accumulated when cheap goods are imported. They can never find out where the savings have been banked. Can you imagine the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly) being delighted to get 50 Toyota vehicles instead of getting the cash equivalent? If everybody worked on that basis, one wonders what would happen to the manufacturing industry in this country.
The point I want to make now is that a number of criticisms have been made of this plan. There will be further retrenchments in the components industry because the Government has abolished the non-reversion clause. That is going to affect employment, and I would like to know the Government’s policy in relation to picking up the employees who will be displaced. It is also fairly relevant that the Japanese be encouraged to manufacture the 4-cylinder engine, and I think that it would have been of advantage to the industry to see some Australian Government participation. That would have provided some tangible evidence to the Japanese that at least the Government was interested in the project. Another matter I wish to raise is this: Why is it always assumed that the best cars are invented overseas and so nothing is done for Australian research? We have some very intelligent automotive engineers but they cannot get a backer. No government, even my own, was able to make available enough resources to assist the bright, intelligent engineers who had new designs for engines and completely new concepts.
We are always in the hands of the Japanese or the Americans. It is about time that we started to develop our own intelligence and our own research technique and started to build automobiles in this country which would be ahead of any others in the world and which could be exported. We could do that, but no facility has been found, certainly not through the Budget, to give that sort of support. It is important that Australia should recognise its own talents and not just assume that they are all on the farm, that they are all related to soil improvement or to trying to find a market for primary products. It is important that we look at what our own engineers and our own scientists are able to develop and promote them. There is much that should be done in the automobile industry.
I make this plea: It is important that we recognise the protection already given to the 2 big leaders here. When I was the Minister for Manufacturing Industry the figures I had showed clearly that Ford had received concessions and benefits and protection to the extent of $50m while members such as the honourable member for Wakefield were members of the government. General Motors-Holden’s received substantial protection to establish its industry. Is it not fair and reasonable that the Japanese should be given some incentive to build up because the other 2 manufacturers had all the advantages given to them? It is not fair to say to any government: ‘Unless you agree with the plan we put forward we will dismiss employees in the factories that we control.’ That is what was done in Corio, and that is what has been threatened in relation to the various assembly plants. In other words, the workers jobs are at stake. That is no way in which to run a government and to try to intimidate the trade union movement. If that ever happens again, it is important that the trade union movement takes some pretty direct action to guarantee that those sorts of stand-over tactics are not repeated.
It is important that we recognise that we are not really increasing the number of manufacturers. At present there are 3 manufacturers and 4 assemblers. When Toyota and Nissan enter the market there will be 5 manufacturers and 2 assemblers- that is 7 in all. That should be clearly understood. It also must be understood that there has been a fair amount of importing of steel. For example, Ford imports from Japan 50 per cent of all its sheet metal requirements, and 1 have not readily seen any price concession as a result. The great problem involved when we talk about low wage importations is that the price concession cannot be identified readily in the product that is marketed here. In other words, the market is always charged what it will bear and not so much what goods cost to produce. It is important that when these so-called free traders are let loose they identify what they are aiming at. The big issue involved in the importation of steel was that the Government had to protect steel industry to safeguard the jobs of the people at Lysaghts. If that had not been done the importation of steel would have affected them. Australia is in a world trading position where a country like Japan can destroy its markets. Tariffs will not stop them.
This is a feasible and reasonable plan, and on that basis I support it, as I always have done. I make the reservations that the abolition of the non-reversion factor will cause unemployment and that the tariff of 45 per cent will not be efficient in the sense of control. The Japanese will jump over the tariff as they have done before, and we will have to return to a quota system in the interim until such time as the Japanese can be encouraged to commence 4-cylinder engine production here. Certainly I lend my weight to the Minister’s hope that he might be able to convince General Motors-Holden’s that they should join in the consortium. That company’s advice to the Labor Government was that it would not do that, it would develop its own 4-cylinder engine and to some extent would try to create problems for any government which did not agree with that. I can understand the desire of private enterprise to see aggressive capitalism succeed, but we are trying to maintain the industry on a viable basis. That can be done in accordance with this plan. I wish it well and I hope that interference from others who are deemed to be free traders will not be excessive.
-The honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen) has suggested that General MotorsHolden’s will not co-operate with the Government and will take steps as a private enterprise industry not to do so. I find that remark extremely offensive and I hope that when he leaves the chamber the honourable member will be kind enough to come and talk to me about it.
– Why don ‘t you go to him?
– Does the honourable member have some observation to make from his bare benches?
– It is up to you. Why don’t you go to him?
-Order! The honourable member has not got the floor at this stage.
– I apologise to the learned former member of the New South Wales Police Force.
– And proud of it, too.
-I am delighted that anybody is proud of his service, wherever it was. If my remarks to the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith do not meet with his approval he will tell me. I repeat that I do not believe that General Motors-Holden’s will not co-operate with the Government or with the motor industry.
What is more, I am quite prepared to say that I do not believe it. Having said that, I should like to get on with the main part of my speech because we are dealing with the standard of living of a great number of people in Australia. Some people imagine that they are talking about one or two multi-national companies. Certainly they are talking about 2 very important companies. One is General Motors-Holden’s which employs in my area, with International Harvester, 4500 people. Add to that the list of all the component companies- the tyre manufacturing industry, Joseph Lucas (Australia) Pty Ltd, Video Instruments, Borg-Warner, United Bearings, Imperial Chemical Industries, the glass industry, Huckson’s Diecastings. and Wilmot Breeden. I would hesitate to calculate the number of people whose jobs we are discussing tonight. I am absolutely shattered to think that the members of the Labor Party and the trade unions do not have a single member present on their benches. ( Quorum formed)
I realise that there are now many people on the Opposition benches who are interested in a major industry which affects the future of Australia. I am glad that they have returned to the chamber. I see that there are only 3 Opposition members present but more will come in in a moment. I should like to base my observations today firstly on a telephone conversation with Mr Halfpenny, the Secretary of the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union and Mr Boswell, an organiser of the Australasian Society of Engineers who organises union work in the Dandenong area. I am not offering this House or the nation idle observations. I have spent considerable time in discussing the whole of the motor industry with the directors of General Motors-Holden’s Pty Ltd, Mr Teal and his co-directors and also Mr Stan Chapman, director of International Harvester Australia Ltd. In passing I should like to acknowledge the help I have received from Senator Cotton and Mr Woods and Mr McMahon of his Department.
I should like to make it quite clear that the majority of the economists in the world say that if they are examining the state of any nation, they take the motor industry as an indicator. I think the attendance of the Opposition here tonight is a disgrace and a discourtesy to anybody who works in the motor industry. I found last night’s debate somewhat depressing. It was somewhat like a funeral parlour at some moments, ready to promote the demise of our beloved Australian motor industry. There were certain intellectual tears from the Lady Balaclava and Lady Mavis Wakefield who advised us that we should not be prepared to accept the will and testament designed by Senator Cotton, Mr Woods and Mr McMahon but that we should all be free traders like ladies of easy virtue. I do not accept this in the motor industry. I must admit that I stand for the protection of the motor industry and for all those who work in it. If I take a pragmatic view, I hope the House will excuse me> I believe that the trade unions and the directors of the motor industry realise that our costs of production are now far too high and are our real worry.
Let me deal with the basic facts of life in the motor industry. The Australian domestic market is concentrated in Victoria and New South Wales. It can take up to only 600 000 cars in any one year. That is a minute market compared with the rest of the world, dealing with the motor industry. So we are dealing with a very small market indeed. The union leaders are therefore perfectly correct and also the speaker from the Opposition is correct when they say that the Government is correct to try to rationalise the motor industry but it must be very careful before it starts inviting other motor manufacturers to enter the market. I agree with the unions on this point because it is open to question whether it is possible to keep full employment for everybody if more motor manufacturers try to enter a field which is already diminishing. The motor manufacturing directors agree with me on this as well.
Tonight I should like to take a short look at the major motor manufacturing company- General Motors-Holden’s- which, of course, is an international company. It operates in Dandenong. I am always surprised that South Australia never wants to mention the work that GMH does in South Australia. What is the reason for South Australia failing to mention GMH every time in debate? South Australia does not want to tell the nation that GMH is the biggest employer in that area and that its work force is 10 000 at both Woodville and Elizabeth. What is wrong with that? May I put this as well: Without the pressings that come from South Australia, we certainly could not make much progress in Victoria. Let us deal now with the motor cars produced by GMH last year. The company’s total production was 190 447 out of which about 32 000 were exported. It was only through the stupidity of the Labor Party which cancelled the export incentive that all of that export work was almost ruined. The company used the export incentive money in order to enter the foreign market and this they now cannot do successfully.
Let us look at what GMH will be paying out to its component industries this year throughout
Australia. GMH will spend $3 50m on components and material. The Australian component industry will have the greatest possible share. In Australia alone 24 000 people are employed by GMH whose workers receive in wages $250m. I was surprised when I heard this figure: Last year GMH paid the Government $25. 6m by way of sales tax. This therefore now makes Australia the highest sales tax payer on motor vehicles in the world. Then I want to deal with the question of unemployment. What is the worry of the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron)?
– Does the House really want to know something about the basic problems involved in the motor industry?
-I should have thought that when the right honourable member for Lowe came down to visit us in Holt, he understood the enormous importance of both GMH and International Harvester. I am always sorry to hear -
-Order! The honourable member will address the Chair.
-Certainly, with respect, Mr Speaker. I was listening to an intervention by the right honourable member for Lowe who was only pointing out how relevant my remarks were both to GMH and International Harvester.
I should like to deal now with the question of International Harvester. International Harvester is a company which controls an asset of $34m in Australia and in Holt alone has a $ 10.5m plant. At the present moment it is working at only 65 per cent of its capacity. Quite regardless of that, it has put on an extra assembly line because it trusts and believes that the present report on the motor industry will help the nation. What, in fact, is the real problem of the motor truck industry? I feel that the tariff arrangements for it- I agree with the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) in this regard- are far too low. I do not see how Kenworth Motor Trucks Pty Ltd and other companies will be able to hold thenpercentage of the market. When I say ‘hold their percentage of the market’ I mean hold in employment the thousands of people dependent upon them unless this matter is looked at.
When I consider the whole problem of sales tax it occurs to me that it ought to be possible in the Budget or in the future for the Treasurer to consider using sales tax in some way to assist the motor manufacturing companies in Australia whose Australian motor components are of about 85 to 90 per cent? One of the good things that had been mentioned by the industrial leaders and the unions is the suggestion that sales tax be varied to assist the motor industry?
In conclusion I have one thing only to add. I think it is clear that the Australian motor industry and the motor assembly industry can have a sound future based on goodwill and cooperation and a desire to help the Australian consumer. In this the Australian trade union organisation, facing the closing half of this century, will be completely responsible for the employment of its members in that industry. The unions have to take exceptional care to be certain that their policies within the industry are in the interests of the Australian nation and all those who work in, belong to and take part in the motor industry of the nation.
– in reply- In closing the debate on this statement I express my thanks to those on both sides of the House who participated in the debate and to record the fact that there has been an extremely wide measure of support for the plans announced by the Government. That support is found not only in the Government’s ranks but also in the ranks of the Opposition and in a wide sector of the community. I record the appreciation of the Government for the contribution made to the development of the Government’s motor vehicle policy by my colleague the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Senator Cotton).
The Government’s proposals have 3 essential principles. The first is the maintenance of an 85 per cent local content plan calculated on a company average basis. Secondly, the Government has approved the entry of the Nissan and Toyota companies into the local content plan subject to satisfactory sourcing arrangements to be concluded. In this connection I remind the House that in the statement there was express reference to a conference to be attended and convened by the Minister for Industry and Commerce involving the 3 local participants and the 2 new entrants. The third element of the policy concerns the tariff arrangements. These ultimately involve a 45 per cent tariff on completely built-up vehicles and a 35 per cent tariff on completely knocked-down vehicles, operating on a trigger mechanism whereby those tariffs would apply once the share of imports exceeds 20 per cent.
I think that all honourable members who contributed to this debate recognise that in framing a policy in the motor vehicle industry the
Government has to achieve a balance between competing priorities. One of these priorities, of course, is to retain a viable local motor vehicle manufacturing industry, something to which we are very strongly committed. Secondly, we have to take account of the interests of consumers and the price they have to pay for vehicles. Thirdly, we have to take account of employment considerations. We have to adopt a policy which, whilst bringing about gradual changes and representing a retreat from the 95 per cent local content plan in the various low volume content plans of the 1960s, will achieve that change and that retreat in a way which is not disruptive to the industry. In the view of the Government, these proposals are the best method of achieving a balance. Nobody on the Government side asserts that they are perfect, but they are an honest endeavour by the Government to achieve a sensible balance between the competing elements.
The honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen), a former Minister for Manufacturing Industry, criticised the non-reversion decision. I point out to the honourable gentleman that this decision is a logical consequence of the scaling down of the present participants from 95 per cent to 85 per cent and correspondingly a phasing up by the new entrants, Nissan and Toyota, from the threshold levels of local content with which they will need to comply to the ultimate level of 85 per cent. The former Minister for Manufacturing Industry failed to understand that issue.
I refer to the very understandable interest taken by the honourable member for Holt (Mr Yates) in this matter. He referred to the position of International Harvester. I specifically refer the honourable gentleman to the concluding paragraphs of the statement which draw attention to the Temporary Assistance Authority machinery which was available to any sector of the industry which could substantiate on the basis of normal criteria a prima facie case for the need for additional temporary assistance. The only other comment I would make is that the report of the Industries Assistance Commission, which in large measure has been adopted by the Government for commercial vehicles, was deliberately designed to facilitate the expansion of International Harvester in the area of heavy commercial vehicles. The Government adopted in the main the recommendations of the Industries Assistance Commission in that area.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 1 April, on the following paper presented by Mr MacKellar:
Home Savings Grants- Ministerial Satement 31 March 1976 - and on motion by Mr Newman:
That the House take note of the paper.
-The Opposition strongly questions the assumption which underlies the extension of the home savings grants scheme. We say that this scheme is regressive. It involves the transfer of resources from the poor to the rich. Furthermore it will have at best only a marginal impact on the home building industry, which is now facing a gloomy future. We say that it will not achieve the aim claimed for itincreasing the stock of owner-occupied homes in Australia.
The Australian Labor Party is strongly committed to the principle of home ownership. Most Australians want to own their own homes. A family earning an average income can improve the income at its disposal by as much as one third during its lifetime by buying its own home. If a family cannot buy its own home, then capital gains, rentals and tax concessions derived from ownership go to the landlords.
The housing industry is also a key part of the Australian economy, as I stressed in the debate on the matter of public importance yesterday. After World War II there was a 20-year boom in the housing industry and the stocks of homes owned by their occupiers steadily improved. It rose from 50 per cent to more than 72 per cent of householders. This was partly due to Government policy, particularly the housing policy of the Chifley Government. It was also due to the favourable market for housing finance. To give an example based on the South Australian figures, in 1966 a home seeker could buy an average home for $10,000, on a deposit of $2,100 and a weekly repayment of about $13.50. With an after tax average weekly earning of $52, the repayment amounted to just over 25 per cent of income. On this basis, a home seeker who could save the deposit could get home finance and could buy a home with little difficulty: This is in complete contrast to the situation that now exists. Twenty years of progress during which time home ownership rose from 50 per cent to 72 per cent of householders and during which time building costs declined in relevant terms have been followed by a slump in new home ownership. Those who own their own homes are now a declining percentage of families. Fewer young families can afford to buy new homes.
Public housing has fallen sharply as a percentage of total new housing. Private investment in new housing for rental has fallen, and demand pressures have forced up rents. Slackness in the building industry has boosted unemployment figures. To extend the example I gave earlier, in 1975 an average home costing $31,700 required a deposit of about $6,350, with repayments of $55 a week. On an after tax average weekly earning of $123, repayments were 45 per cent of income. No lending institution would advance funds to a home seeker who had to devote such a high proportion of his income to repayments. The result is: No deal, no home built, no jobs, no stimulus to a sagging economy in which the building sector is a major force that can stimulate it. The money piles up in banks as people try to save more to hedge against the risk of unemployment.
This brings me to the major flaw in the new scheme. It completely contradicts the Government’s monetary policy. At a time when the Government is trying to spark consumer spending, there is no logic in putting up a scheme that will encourage greater savings. Savings are already at a record level. Yet the Government has not found a way to divert savings into workable home loans. Its policies have had the opposite effect. Through the new Australian security bonds it has diverted savings out of the building societies. This means that savings which would have gone into new home loans in the months ahead have been sterilised in a way which takes them out of the housing sector completely. The home building sector is already showing some signs of a downward turn after a lift in the last few months of the Whitlam Labor Government. This scheme will defer investment because decisions to buy homes will be put off until the full benefit of the savings grant can be realised. The end result must be that fewer homes will be built, and fewer building workers will be employed.
Another defect of this scheme is that it is directed to bridging the deposit gap, but this is no longer the major problem in buying a home. Until about 1966 the main obstacle facing the home seeker was building up enough savings for a deposit. With a deposit, even an income earner getting average weekly earnings or less had an excellent chance of getting finance for a home. Of course that was in the past. The first home savings grant scheme was introduced in 1964 to assist in overcoming the deposit gap. The same philosophy underlies this extended scheme. Now the basic problem is not the deposit gap but the repayment gap. Banks and building societies usually do not lend when the rate of repayment exceeds 25 per cent to 30 per cent of earnings. The example which I gave earlier shows that a person on average weekly earnings could expect to devote about 45 per cent of take home pay to home repayments. Even to those who can get loans, the repayment burden is intolerably high.
People blame high interest rates, but the problem is the whole rate of repayment required on a mortgage loan. With inflation, the lenders want too much back in the early years of the loan. They want a high return in the early years to beat the erosion of inflation. This means that more and more people are being excluded from buying a home, although they have the means to make repayments if the repayments could be spread evenly over the term of the loan. By raising interest rates lenders get more of their money back earlier in the life of the loan. These high early repayments fall harshly on the ordinary family. This creates a barrier which excludes more and more people from borrowing to buy a home or to construct a home. Entry to home ownership is quickly becoming restricted to three types of families- those who inherit money, the top 30 per cent of income earners and families with 2 incomes who are acceptable to the lending institutions. Other families are missing out altogether. This accounts for most Australian families.
The home savings grant does nothing to arrest this trend. If anything, the new scheme will intensify the trend. The Labor Government was conscious of the problem and was devising a scheme through the Australian Housing Corporation to start a deferred mortgage repayment scheme. What did this Government do? It destroyed and scrapped the Corporation. Our scheme would have reduced the interest burden and the level of repayments in the crucial early years of home loans. The present Government has indicated an interest in a scheme of a similar sort. It is impossible to understand why the home savings grant scheme has been given priority over the deferred mortgage repayment scheme. The home savings grant scheme has been devised to attack the deposit gap which is no longer they key problem. Even if the scheme removes the deposit gap completely, which is still doubtful, the problem of an income gap and a repayment gap remains. This scheme does not even start to come to grips with the major problems which should be the focus of our housing policy.
An even more basic flaw in the scheme is its lack of equity. It redistributes from the poor to the more fortunate in the community. These grants will be financed from revenue to which the poorer groups in the community contribute. These people will be denied assistance for housing because of their inability to save. It is a denial of justice to these poorer groups, younger people in particular, to hold out a reward for savings which they cannot make. They get no benefit, although they underwrite the cost of this scheme. Although these people can meet regular weekly repayments in most cases, they cannot make the regular savings required under the scheme. Quite plainly they are at a very serious disadvantage as a result of the scheme which imposes a weekly saving rate of about $40 if the full benefits are to be obtained.
The scheme provides a blatant subsidy for those whose capacity to save is above the average. It does nothing to provide homes for those whose capacity to save is below the average. Schemes of this sort perpetuate class differences and injustices in another way.
It has emerged clearly in recent years that the trend in home ownership is to larger houses. Since 1968 there has been a marked trend in private housing towards larger and more elaborate homes. This creates work for the home building industry, but it is clearly unjust. It means that the people who are well off are getting both the finance and the bricks and mortar that the poorer people cannot get. No one would claim that the ordinary income earners are demanding to have larger houses which they cannot afford. The Government is also winding down the tax deductibility for mortgage repayments that was introduced by the Labor Government. I was never a great admirer of this scheme, which is in many ways biased in favour of higher income earners. However, it has brought a measure of relief to those people in the lower and middle income group who have been burdened with heavy repayments in the early years of their loan terms.
Unfortunately we do not yet have the figures to make an assessment of the value of the scheme and how it has helped wage earners at various income levels. Senator Greenwood has estimated the saving to revenue by the cutting of the mortgage repayment scheme at between $40m and $70m a year. The home savings grant scheme will not reach full operation until 1979-80, when it is estimated to cost $90m a year. In the meantime the changes to the tax concession scheme will more than finance the home savings grant scheme. This could be justified if the home savings grant scheme were a scheme which came to grips with the serious defects in the present housing programs, but quite plainly it is not a better scheme. It is an inferior scheme in every way. It would have been a much more constructive approach if the Government had given priority to expanding the operations of the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation, as it has promised. Linked to a deferred mortgage repayment scheme, this would have provided a start to a national housing policy, which is urgently needed if we are to prevent chaos in the next few years.
Every year the goal of home ownership is receding for the hundreds of thousands of wage earners whose income is below the level of the average weekly earnings. I have publicly admitted that those people who have an income of between $95 and $135 a week are in a very difficult economic circumstance and were in a very difficult economic circumstance even under the Labor Government. That is why I advocated the implementation of a deferred mortgage repayment scheme. Even those who are in receipt of the average weekly earnings are hard pressed to get home finance. Demand pressures are forcing rental housing up at a time when the supply of new homes for renting is declining. The home savings grant scheme does not get to the heart of the housing problem. It is a costly gimmick which the Government has rushed into in defiance of its stated economic strategy.
-Order! The Deputy Leader of the Opposition’s time has expired.
– I was interested in the reference by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Uren) to his deferred mortgage repayment program. I heard it mentioned in private, but I do not think I heard it mentioned in the chamber. Certainly the people in Australia who are building homes never heard of it. They never saw any proposals that this program should come into effect. There was no detailed discussion on it. There was no solid proposal for people to purchase their homes under this scheme. Yet at the same time we had the then Government creating a nation of home renters. It appeared to the community that, instead of encouraging home ownership, the then Government was encouraging the nation to be a nation of home renters. It was putting the cost of housing out of the reach of the average individual and then renting it back to him under some government-based program.
I think the concept of this program needs to be put in the context of Liberal-National Country Party policy and the proposals that were put by our spokesmen before the election and in fact tied in to the Liberal-National Country Party’s policy on housing. The basic policy of the Liberal and National Country Parties is to recognise and carry out a program whereby people in Australia can own their own homes. This is the very keystone of our proposal for home ownership and home building in Australia. We have been assured by and have ascertained for ourselves from the previous program of home savings grants that in this way the cost of housing is reduced over the life span of the occupant and that it provides an absolute security of tenure.
A person who owns his own home and land is secure. There is no way in which he can be affected by the whims of government through housing commissions, housing corporations or any other mechanism that government may care to set up. In that way the raising of a family and the establishment of lives securely based in a family home comes about. The acquisition of a valuable asset does ensure this security. Not only does it ensure a security whereby people have a psychological outlook that is somewhat different because of that security but also it provides a value security, a financial security, a place that is one’s own, an asset that can be called on in times of dire circumstance. Anyone who travels around the nursing homes and the aged people’s homes of this country will see in them many people whose only asset that put them in a place where they could be cared for was their family home. The pride of ownership provides a personal incentive for property improvement. I think that one has only to drive the streets to have this become patently obvious.
Our basic policy objectives seek to ensure that every family in Australia is able to obtain adequate housing within its capacity to pay-and that is the key. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition raised some of the problems in home ownership and the acqusition of suitable accommodation, but I am afraid that the topic that he raised is the aftermath of a Labor Party program. It is the shambles that have been left behind. The problems that we are endeavouring to cope with and that we are successfully coping with are the problems that were created by its program. The encouragement of home ownership across the widest possible range of income groups, concentrating federal assistance in the areas of greatest need, is a policy objective that we seek and will achieve.
The current situation is a difficult one indeed. Over the last 3 years there has been a dramatic drop in the number of homes completed. We have seen the home completion rate dropping in the private sector at the rate of roughly 20 000 homes a year. Twenty thousand fewer families are able to live in their own homes each year.
– They would rather give them a tent.
– Perhaps, as the honourable member for Lilley has said, a tent, provided it was rented, may be more suitable accommodation. The Australian Housing Corporation was established to overcome this problem. It was a boost not to home ownership but to the provision of housing which people could never own. If the current year were to continue in the way in which it appeared that it would continue from December the difficulties would be extreme.
The new program replaces a program that was introduced in 1964 to help young married couples acquire their first home. By June 1975 more than 350 000 young couples had been able to take advantage of the home savings grant scheme. There were difficulties and shortcomings in that program. For example, to be eligible to receive its benefits one had to be a resident in Australia for at least 3 years, but that has been changed. Also one had to be married or widowed or divorced with dependent children. I think honourable members in this House will agree that they would like to see single honourable members of the House benefit by this program. The honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) could take advantage of the new program. The honourable member for Cook (Mr Dobie) is another person who could well take advantage of it. Those gentlemen, if I may use them as an example, could start saving over a period of 1 year or 2 years before they marry, or during their term of engagement or betrothal, as the case may be, to help establish the base that would make them eligible to take advantage of the program.
There is no age limit, so that should those honourable members pass that age of 36 years, which was the age limit under the old program, they would not be restricted. No person in the community would be restricted on an age basis. The means that people who decide to marry and to establish for the first time their own home upon reaching mature years can take advantage of the program. It means that people who have not been able, due to financial circumstances in the earlier part of their life, to take advantage of acquiring their own home will be able to take advantage of the program. Migrants who come to this country from overseas and who bring with them their life savings to invest in the new country in which they will be dwelling, raising their families and contributing so well to our community, will have those life savings considered as part of this program and gain additional finance to establish their home.
It is not possible in the climate of inflation to have a stable atmosphere for home building, and the recent 6.4 per cent wage indexation increase means that the cost of the average home has now risen by about $1,500. This Government has a 2-fold responsibility. It has a responsibility to present programs such as this, and at the same time it has a responsibility to contain inflation and to control the economic climate so that benefits from programs such as this can be properly achieved by individuals who are eligible to receive them. Under this program, if one saves $1,200 on a six-monthly basis, one can achieve over a year a benefit of $667, and in 2 years one can achieve a benefit of $1,333. In that way it is a grading-in program, so that provided that by 3 1 May this year people have their funds allocated and their savings invested in approved areas they can take part in the program. Approved areas, of course, are the traditional ones, such as the savings banks and fixed deposits with the trading banks, as well as including shares in or deposits with registered building or co-operative housing societies. They also include payments on the land on which the home is to be built, deposits paid on the acquisition of the home, or payments for the construction of the home.
It is an imaginative program and one which will provide many and far reaching benefits. The middle income earner, in the climate created by the previous Government, could not purchase his own home. The proposition is that in the days of the previous Government anybody earning less than $240 a week could not purchase his own home. That figure was produced by the Department at that time. One just had to line up the figures to see that a person’s average weekly earnings had to be more than $200 a week before he could hope to own his home. Under this program there is the possibility of many more people owning their own homes. In essence the program means that people have a purpose in saving and that their savings are not hived away in the hope that one day the person saving will achieve his deposit. People will know where they are going with their savings program and that they can achieve a home of their own. This program will mean that young people, migrantsthe whole community- will receive great benefit from the program provided that they are buying their first home. It means that eventually they will have their home to own.
– The ministerial statement which the House is debating announces the resurrection of the defunct home savings grant scheme which was, and apparently remains, the sum total of Liberal thinking on the needs of Australian home owners and home buyers. The Government’s determination to revive the scheme tells us much about its candour and much about its social priorities. It is one more breach of the Fraser Government’s election promises. It is one more example of the Fraser philosophy of handouts to the handful. The Government made few concrete undertakings in campaigning for election, but one of its promises was to retain the interest deductibility scheme on mortgage payments which had been introduced by my Government In a statement on housing issued jointly by the coalition parties during the campaign a specific promise was made. Under the heading ‘Retain Existing Programs’, the document read:
A Liberal and National Country Party Government will continue to support such programs as: . . . (c) The Tax Deductibility of Mortgage Interest.
Moreover, at a Press conference in Brisbane on 5 December the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) said: ‘The interest subsidies scheme continues’. Surely, even by the Prime Minister’s own standards of frankness and flexibility, those words amount to a commitment. The words are clear. A coalition government would maintain the scheme. It would not abolish it. It would not modify it. But that is exactly what the Government is now doing. Why could it not have said during the campaign, as it says now, that it could not maintain both schemes? What new evidence of cost or feasibility has come to light to alter the Government’s intentions and to invalidate a promise given only 4 months ago? It was a stupid, unnecessary, yet wholly typical deception. It will not be forgotten by the Australian people. It will not be forgotten by the thousands of Australians who will lose their tax benefits on their home mortgage payments.
The home interest tax deductibility scheme is to be modified in two fundamental ways- the deduction will apply only for the first 5 years of home ownership and it will apply only to the taxpayer’s first home. The most important feature of the scheme was that it was a progressive scheme- those on the lowest incomes received the greatest benefit. A person on an income of $4,000 or less received a deduction for the whole amount of his housing loan interest payments. Above $4,000 the deduction was reduced by 1 per cent for each $100 of the excess. Thus a person earning $6,000 received an 80 per cent deduction, a person earning $9,000 a 50 per cent deduction, and so on. Above $ 14,000 per annum no deduction was available. As long as the residence was the principal residence of the taxpayer the deduction applied. It did not have to be a new house. It did not have to be the taxpayer’s first house. Thus our scheme provided the greatest benefit to those most in need of it and it did so in a way which was effective and simple to administer. It provided substantial relief to lower income groups from the greatest financial burden they carry- the cost of housing their families.
The priorities of the Labor Government were to spread the benefit as widely as possible, in the interests of home owners and of the building sector, and to give the greatest benefit to those most in need. Contrast the priorities of the Fraser Government. The home savings grant will be available only on a person’s first house. This will not only restrict the class of persons eligible for the benefit but will immobilise the work force at a time of high unemployment and structural unemployment, and at a time when the Government has just adopted draconian guidelines for relocating the unemployed. Secondly, there will be no means test on the grant. This will mean that instead of being used for the largest grants to those most in need, limited Federal Government resources will be spread across the community regardless of need. Finally the maximum benefit will be available only to those who can save $40 per week. This will mean that the benefit will operate regressively- that the greatest benefits will flow to those least in need.
This scheme will do precisely what every other Fraser Government policy has done. It will take the benefit away from those most in need and it will give the greatest benefit to those who need it least. What comfort to the person earning $6,000 a year or $ 1 1 5 a week before tax to know that if he saves $40 a week for 3 years he will receive the maximum grant of $2,000. What a comfort to know that if he loses his job and is forced to move elsewhere to find a job he will not be eligible for the grant on any subsequent house he might buy. What a comfort to know that the person on $30,000 a year who can readily save $40 a week will be given $2,000 towards the cost of his swimming pool at the taxpayers’ expense. These are the priorities of the Fraser Government.
Benefit after benefit is squeezed from the needy under the guise of fiscal responsibility and is replaced by handouts for the handful. All the Fraser Government’s benefits have one thing in common- the biggest landowner, the highest income earner, the largest investor receives the greatest benefit. The handouts go to the handful of people already disproportionately favoured with the advantages of our society- to the strong, the comfortable, the secure, the well-housed, the prosperous and well-to-do.
We have heard a great deal about ‘fiscal irresponsibility’ and ‘monetary permissiveness’ from the Treasurer (Mr Lynch). He tells us he is going to put value back in the welfare dollar, whatever that may mean. To that end he and the Prime Minister are dismantling the ‘ grandwahz schemes of the former Labor Government. A ‘grandwahz’ scheme is apparently any scheme which seeks to ameliorate problems in the cities or to provide benefits to persons in need.
– ‘Grandiose ‘.
-That is how I would say it but in deference to the Prime Minister I use his Franglais. Housing has been a popular target for this demolition Government. The Australian Housing Corporation is to be abolished. That corporation was intended to assist those people unable to obtain finance from traditional sources by bridging the deposit gap and by introducing a scheme of deferred repayment mortgages. The direct beneficiaries would have been those people earning between 95 per cent and 135 per cent of average weekly earnings. The indirect beneficiary would have been the building sector. Now the building sector will not only lose the stimulus the activities of the Housing Corporation would have provided; it will also be squeezed by the effects of the home savings grants scheme.
My Government’s interest deductibility scheme had two great advantages- simplicity in administration and immediacy in impact. The new scheme will encourage delays in buying or building a house. The last quarter of 1975 saw evidence of a dramatic recovery in the building sector. That recovery reflected the housing policies of the Labor Government and the Hayden Budget’s general approach of balanced recovery. It is already evident that the recovery in the building sector is slowing. The building sector has always been the first to suffer from tight monetary policies. The Fraser Government’s savings bonds and the confusion in its monetary policies have already caused considerable damage to the economic recovery stimulated by the Hayden Budget. That damage has been compounded by the Prime Minister’s dire predictions of savage cuts in public sector activity in the next Budget. It will now be further compounded by delaying the decision to purchase homes for 3 years while struggling young couples scrape together enough money to qualify for the Fraser subsidy.
The first sector to suffer from these decisions will be the building sector, which is already suffering high rates of unemployment and a considerable idle capacity. The Federal Government claims that its first aim is to stimulate the private sector. Instead of waiting for its mythical investment-led recovery the Government would do better to return to the Hayden Budget’s strategy of maintaining a sufficient level of public sector activity to ensure balanced recovery whilst controlling inflation and reducing unemployment.
The public sector plays a most important role in the housing industry in Australia. The vast majority of home owners benefit directly or indirectly from public sector involvement in the financing of housing. Interest rates from banks, life assurance companies and building societies on housing loans are much lower than those pertaining to borrowings for other purposes. Terms of repayment for housing loans are much longer than the terms available for loans for other purposes. All of this is made possible because of Federal laws and Federal regulations governing the activities of financial institutions. Life assurance companies enjoy certain taxation benefits in return for making a fixed percentage of their loan funds available for housing. Savings banks enjoy Federal Government guarantees which enable them to provide loans at favourable rates. Private trading banks have been allowed to establish savings bank subsidiaries on the condition that a proportion of their deposits are made available for housing. Similarly, at the State level, public sector guarantees are provided for terminating building societies engaged in financing housing. In addition to these indirect forms of government assistance for housing there are the various forms of direct assistance. A significant number of Australians benefit from the activities of State housing commissions. Other Australians benefit from Defence Service Homes loans, and they would have benefited from the programs of the Australian Housing Corporation.
Thus, in a very real sense, if the Australian government squeezes the public sector it squeezes the housing sector. Australians already regard government involvement in housing as normal and necessary. They regarded Federal government involvement in war service homes as permissible, necessary even, between the 2 World Wars. They have regarded all other forms of Federal government involvement in housing finance as permissible and increasingly necessary over the last 30 years since the end of World War II. Yet the Fraser Government is seeking to cut down public sector involvement in this and other sectors of the Australian economy. Given the demands of modern society, the problems faced by Australians seeking to own their own homes and the state of the building industry, how long will it be before the Government explores ways of expanding public sector participation in the housing industry along the lines proposed by my Government?
The Australian Labor Party believes in a more equitable distribution of the wealth of our society. It believes that this can only be achieved through policies pursued by the Federal government. It believes that this redistribution is urgent if our society is to be truly just and truly equitable. In some areas, such as housing, the need is particularly pressing. There is a further need to stimulate a sector of the economy where employment levels are sensitive to economic fluctuations and whose activities can accelerate recovery in other economic sectors. The overall strategy of the Labor Government in housing was to achieve the twin objectives of benefiting home owners, particularly those most in need, and accelerating the recovery of the building industry. The effects were already being felt. Now from the wreckage of another of the Prime Minister’s election promises we have a policy which will retard both these objectives. The deception of the Fraser Government and the gross inequities of its housing policy deserve the strongest condemnation by the House.
– It is amazing what the winds of change deposit. I can recall that when I was elected to this chamber the now Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) was the Prime Minister of this country. In fairness to him, I can recall how I, a newlyelected member, was very impressed by his logical exposition and by the force of his arguments although I always seemed to disagree with the premise from which he started. I am disappointed, therefore, to note that someone whom I held in the highest esteem as a debater has come down in my opinion and, I suppose, in the opinion of the majority of members of this Parliament.
-My colleague the honourable member for Wimmera says: ‘Quite rapidly’. It is disappointing that someone who 3 years ago possessed quite a deal of talent now has absolutely no future because he is continually looking at the past. I say to the Leader of the Opposition that it would be better for him if he were constructive and blamed the proper person for the failure of the Labor Party’s initiatives. That, of course, would be himself, the Leader of that Party.
– I rise to take a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I draw your attention to the fact that the matter before us at present is the ministerial statement on the home savings grants. The honourable member for Darling Downs has been talking for at least 3 to 4 minutes and he has not mentioned once the matter that is before the Chair.
-Order! I uphold the point of order by the honourable member. I think it is about time that the honourable member for Darling Downs got close to the matter under debate.
-I want to reply to some of the statements by the Leader of the Opposition. I remind him that, in his attack on our policies, he failed to enumerate to the House the failures of his own Party in the housing field. I recall to his mind page 100 of the report by the Priorities Review Staff on housing. It was a report commissioned by his Government which suggested that there by an imputed rent value on home ownership. He did not remark on that initiative of his Party. He did not relate that some of the problems about which, at this late hour, he now expresses some concern- the lack of home ownership, the increase in building costs and the fall off in building activity- are due to the fact that inflation, under the impetus of his Government, increased to the rate of 20 per cent per annum, adding $ 100 a week to the cost of owning a home in Australia. He did not recall to the House the problems with defence forces home ownership under his stewardship. We know that people who applied for loans under that arrangement had to wait 1 1 months to get a loan. He did not recall that matter. He spoke about the Australian Housing Corporation which was allocated $30m in the last Budget. Most of that money was allocated for setting up a bureaucracy and an administrative concept that probably would not have built one home in the current financial year. He did not state that fact. He did not state that the Australian Housing Corporation was taking over some of the rights and privileges of the States. I am deeply upset therefore to find that a person who was excellent debater has now climbed down the ladder to the bottom rung. That is to be regretted.
In the area of housing policy most Australian people have indicated that they have one thing in common- a firm aspiration to be home owners. This aspiration is snared enthusiastically by all members of the Liberal Party and National Country Party coalition Government. Our policy on home ownership for all is anathema to the socialists. Their initiatives during their 3-year occupancy of the Treasury bench were to use housing as a leveller in society and to readjust the resources of this country by means of their housing policy. They used housing as a tool of trade to advance their socialistic philosophies. I therefore welcome this ministerial statement by the honourable member for Warringah (Mr Mackellar), the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, on home savings grants.
This statement is based on an assessment of the physical problems of housing, involving, firstly, an investigation of the size and nature of the need, judged in terms of the aspirations of all Australian people, after considering demographic factors, and then an assessment of the physical resources available to meet that need, such as materials, manpower, land, technology and organisation. It can be argued that we know too little about the means by which people finance their home purchases or the relationship between their incomes and the rents they pay, but we do know that the vast majority of Australian people, given the opportunity and the encouragement, will aim to be home owners. This is the thrust of this statement. The Government is both encouraging and making it possible for people to become home owners. We are replacing the landscape of housing despair under Labor with the bricks and mortar of real homes. This ministerial statement will bring enormous benefits. During the next 3 years I hope we will reach the full potential of home ownership for all Australians.
The cost of housing in recent years has been rising faster than the level of incomes. In addition, under the Labor Party we saw staggering increases in interest rates. Both increases have meant that in the initial years of paying off a housing loan it required a greater proportion of the family’s income than it did 10 years ago. For example, for the average one-income family in Sydney in early 1974, about 42 per cent of income was required to meet first year mortgage repayments as opposed to 3 1 per cent in 1 963. In Melbourne the comparable figures were 35 per cent and 24 per cent. Incomes, costs of the dwellings, equity, loan size and interest rates are all factors which affect the ability of individuals to buy housing. In the period from 1971 to 1974 house prices increased by 53 per cent. Average weekly wages increased by 49 per cent and loans required to purchase a home increased by 63 per cent.
It is interesting to record that a 1 per cent increase in interest rates on a loan of $15,000 over the usual period will add an extra $5 a week to the repayment of a housing loan. One must comment, therefore, in this debate on the initiative which was undertaken by the FraserAnthony Government soon after December of last year to decrease interest rates by 1 per cent This decision, taken with the whole package announced by the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, gives positive proof that we are concerned about the housing needs of the Australian people and that we totally oppose the philosophy of the Labor administration which said that the Australian people would have to get used to the idea of living in smaller homes. That is the type of crude shock treatment that we on this side of the House have always opposed. We were opposed and still are opposed to the policy of ‘by guess and by God’ adopted by the Labor Party in housing and, in effect, in all spheres of government activity. Under the Labor Party housing suffered from the policies of swashbuckling promoters and boomsters who believed that their claim to greatness would be that they were the last of the great spenders. We will restore both caution and sanity in all vital sectors of government.
No one will be impeded by this new scheme. The greatest help will be given to those who are in most need. People will be helped in the most vital and essential way by making it possible for them to obtain a deposit on their own homes. The tax deductibility scheme- I hope the Leader of the Opposition is listening- will continue for the first 5 years, thus allowing a breathing period for young couples who are under enormous pressures, in the economic sense, during the early years of married life when there is much to be bought and usually so little with which to purchase it. It is interesting to note that the average tax saving under the Labor Party’s tax deductibility scheme was $100 a year but it had abolished the home savings grant scheme. We will give a maximum grant of $2,000- equal to the average savings under Labor’s tax deductibility scheme for 20 years- to all people who have grasped the initiative and through the principle of regular saving have been able to save the maximum amount to attract the relevant government contribution. Young people no doubt will respond to the challenge thrown out to them. In the years when it is so very easy not to get value for their money they will be advantaged by the incentive that this statement gives them to save through the rewards which will automatically flow through from their determination to use every possible opportunity to save to fulfil the great ambition in their lives- home ownership.
The Minister must be complimented on the practical approach he has adopted. I refer particularly to the acceptable form of saving whereby payments on land on which the home is to be built are one of the forms to be accepted. Additionally, payments for the construction of the home are an allowable form of saving. Both these most desirable decisions encourage young people to plan for their future well ahead so that land can be purchased and buildings constructed as soon as possible. These are two vital considerations as far as costs are concerned in an inflationary era. With the mushroom growth of credit unions which are doing a wonderful job for people who invest in them, the Minister has adopted a sensible, practical business approach by removing the restrictions on credit unions and by extending the umbrella to cover all credit unions as being savings bodies in which deposits are accepted as qualifying under the provisions of the new arrangements.
The statement by the Minister has clarified a lot of issues and it is to be remarked that much tidying up has been achieved. All of us, as parliamentarians, have witnessed the heartfelt experience of young couples who have failed to receive the home savings grant because through no fault of their own but through escalating costs fuelled by the irresponsible fiscal policies of the then Labor Government they found that the final cost of their home exceeded the maximum amount which attracted the grant. The removal of the restriction on the amount of money is an excellent one because it does not differentiate between people who live in Sydney or Melbourne where land prices are high and those who live in country areas where a block of land can be bought much more cheaply. We are interested in all people, irrespective of whether they live in cities or rural areas. I ask the Minister in preparing the proposed legislation to give further consideration implementing a no-limit value for dwellings which have been constructed in recent times. Many people have been disadvantaged and I believe that any action which would make the nolimit value retrospective would have the support of all members of the national Parliament. Possibly one of the reasons the number of grants fell from 41000 in 1972-73 to 11000 in 1975-76 would be that the average home could not be constructed for under $22,500 if the cost of the land were included. I believe an excellent case can be made out for those people who in recent times have failed to obtain the home savings grant on account of inflation to be included in the new arrangements. I am fully aware of the Minister’s statement that the Government is not in a position to increase the value limit, but possibly a re-examination of the numbers involved would reveal that the cost would not involve a significant increase in Government expenditure.
This statement is a good statement. It is applicable to all sections of our society, from the young family to the older families, from single people to married people, and it is applicable to all permanent residents in Australia. 1 hope that it will give hope eternal to the 6490 families in Queensland who at present are homeless and are at present unable to obtain homes. Of these, 2328 are listed by the Queensland Housing Commission as living in tents, caravans and overcrowded housing. Whilst they possibly will not be in a position to benefit, at least by giving encouragement to others to save to purchase their own home the present rental accommodation crisis in all States will be somewhat relieved, thus allowing these homeless people the opportunity of living with a sense of decency and dignity. I am particularly pleased to compliment the Minister on extending the home savings grant scheme to people who live in rural areas. It is true that farmers’ sons and daughters who will be the best farmers of all because they know the land and love it have not had access to this scheme in a way which has been a practical approach. The Minister, by clarifying the rules and making it possible for people to live in a home which they have built on a block of land without having to pay legal fees, the costs involved in getting the land surveyed and the cost of the preparation of deeds, etc., will now be able to use the money that is not spent on unnecessary legal expenses to purchases amenities for their homes. I congratulate the Minister for extending that concession to rural people and people who are desirous of remaining on farms on which their parents reside.
We are honouring an election pledge and an election commitment. The Labor Opposition is being dealt a double-handed attack. We have exposed the Opposition’s cheap, flimsy approach to the housing needs of the Australian people. We have given the electors the opportunity to judge performance as against promises. We have delivered the goods. We mean what we say. No wonder we have established credibility. I think it ill becomes the ex-Prime Minister of this country to stand up in this national forum and challenge the credibility of the present Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) because in his statements prior to the election and since that time he has given full assurances that we would maintain the home savings grant scheme, and we have done this.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Last week the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) acting on behalf of the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Senator Greenwood) announced the intention of the Government to amend the home savings grant scheme. This followed, of course, a great deal of rancour and turmoil in the Cabinet. I am not sure who won but I understand there were very strong opponents to the proposal to expand the home savings grant scheme because it was not considered an equitable arrangement and for other reasons. Anyway, we now have this commitment and the Government has virtually announced its intention to use a blank cheque. It has no idea of the cost involved. We are going to have a widened scheme. What the electorate is going to learn very soon is that all that glitters is not gold. There are a lot of hidden traps in respect of this proposal because the funds involved, which my colleague the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren), estimates will be of $90m a year, will be made available for this purpose at the expense of other priority housing purposes. There is no doubt in the world about that. Honourable members opposite cannot have it both ways. It will be at the expense of public housing. Unquestionably that will be the case. It will be at the expense of the terminating building societies or the Home Builders Account as we call it in terms of the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement. That is the process by which people whose income does not exceed 95 per cent of average weekly earnings are given the opportunity of obtaining a housing loan at 5VS per cent. It will certainly be at the expense of tax deductibility allowances on housing mortgage interest rates for many thousands of Australians.
On 4 June last the Homes Savings Grant Act was amended. The purpose of the amendment was to give effect to the then Government’s decision to terminate the home savings grant scheme consequent upon the introduction of tax deductibility for mortgage interest rates on housing loans. I pointed out at that time when introducing the legislation that something like 40 000 people on average had been benefiting over the years from the home savings grant scheme. Actually, for the year 1974-75 the number of beneficiaries was in the vicinity of 20 000 and the amount involved in grants was $13m. We decided to substitute the home savings grant scheme for tax deductibility allowances which involved an expenditure of $ 130m and was likely to assist about 1 Vi million families. Right from its very inception, that is from 1964, the Labor Party opposed the home savings grant scheme. We regarded it as being inequitable in many, many ways. It was so complicated that many people, hundreds if not thousands, were robbed on the grounds of technicalities. To operate under the scheme one needed a Queen’s Counsel. In fact, the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) commented on one occasion that it had more strings than a parachute. All of us can probably identify hundreds of constituents who could not get into the action. The 3-year residential requirement excluded the most needy people and migrants. The age barrier also excluded many people. There were those like policemen, clergymen and people who were in the Services who by reason of their occupation could not settle down in any one place. They were excluded on the ground of an age barrier. Widows and single people were also excluded. Then there were valuation limits. It is impossible, of course, to get a sensible valuation limit around Australia because the value of land differs from one State to another, and that requirement was one of the major grounds of exclusions. Then there was this requirement to save for 3 years. There were very complicated technicalities about approved forms of savings. There was a premium, of course, on affluence and benefits were given mainly to those with a saving capacity. People who lacked affluence or a saving capacity did not get much advantage at all out of the scheme.
We now have a new scheme. It is designed to give $2,000 to people who can save $40 a week. Honourable gentlemen opposite are very enthusiastic about this proposition even though those people who are capable of saving $40 a week probably do not need any assistance to get a home. They have to save $6,000 in 3 years to get a grant of $2,000. It is amazing that the Government takes this view. The Government seems to believe that there is a need to provide an incentive to save. This seems to be quite contradictory to the Government’s monetary policy because I have heard from the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) and other honourable gentlemen that there is need these days to ensure that people spend. A massive indiscriminate handout is being given to people who do not need it. Often, of course, these people will get this benefit and will use it for purposes other than houses. There is nothing at all to stop people obtaining this $2,000 grant and going off to spend it on an expensive motor car, a caravan, a swimming pool, a speedboat, a fur coat or a diamond ring. If anybody can point out to me any provision in the proposed legislation which can prevent that from happening I will be very happy to be corrected. But the fact is that people will be able to get this grant whether they need it or not for housing purposes.
– They will be able to get a house.
-Order! I do not think that the honourable member has the floor at the moment.
– I suggest that interjections should cease.
-The next thing that is going to happen, of course, with this upgraded grant is what happened when the scheme was first introduced, that is, land and housing costs will simply rise to absorb the new benefit. Not only will this affect the people who will get the grant but it will affect the people who do not even apply for the grant or who are unsuccessful in their application. The worst feature, of course, is that there is a disincentive for people to get on with the business of signing a contract for a home because they are now going to start saving for the 3-year period. This will have a very serious retarding effect on the building industry. I believe we will find that thousands of people in Australia will be postponing their decision to buy or build a home. This will have extremely deleterious effects. Another feature of the scheme is that it is open to abuse. I suppose there are some honourable members opposite who are already licking their chops at the prospects of getting into the act, because any parent -
-Read the Bill.
-Will you curtail Ocker ‘s interruptions, Mr Deputy Speaker, so that I can make some coherent remarks? The legislation is open to abuse as any parent will be able to lend the $6,000 to a son or daughter, married or otherwise, who can go on to attract this $2,000 subsidy.
– What happens to tax savings now under the income tax deductibility scheme?
-The next feature of the situation -
– Order! The honourable member for Hughes will resume his seat. I think that interjections have gone a little too far. I think they can be intelligent, useful and so forth. If the honourable member for Hughes is being upset- and I would not have thought he would, because of his experience- I suggest that honourable members should retain their peace.
– Why are you so biased in your comments?
– The honourable member will withdraw that remark.
– Why do you not reprimand the interjectors instead of mentioning that the honourable member for Hughes is upset?
– The honourable member is arguing with the Chair. If he will kindly withdraw that remark the House will come to a better form of order.
– I am asking you to examine the comments you have made from the chair.
– In this case I will explain to the honourable member that I was under the impression that the debate was being conducted in a friendly and reasonable fashion. There was no viciousness that I could perceive, nor any real dire degree of interjection. If the honourable member takes that view, I apologise, as it was not my intention to create that impression. But will he in turn please withdraw the remarks that reflect on the Chair.
– I withdraw my remarks so that the honourable member for Hughes can proceed with his speech.
-The next thing that is apparent, of course, is that the Government has no idea of what this scheme is going to cost. The only indication we have had is an estimate that there can be an expenditure of $ 15m in 1976-77. But we have no genuine indication from the Government as to what will be involved in 1979-80 when the scheme gets into full operation.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) read to the House the policy speech of the present Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). I have it here. I have searched it very thoroughly and there is an indication that there is to be a new approach to the home savings grant scheme. But search as one might, it is impossible to find any hint at all that tax deductibility would be sabotaged. The fact of the matter is that the Minister for Construction (Mr McLeay), who was the shadow Minister for Housing, consistently during Labor’s period of office contended that there would be no watering down of the tax deductibility scheme. Yet we have this new situation which will disadvantage many many thousands of Australian families because the scheme is now to be limited to people who are making repayments in respect of their first home and only during the first 5 years of those repayments. I see the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr Ruddock) nodding his head as though that is a great idea.
The fact of the matter is that there are many people who are purchasing their second or third home who need the benefit of tax deductibility. Simply because one has been paying off a home for a period longer than 5 years does not necessarily mean that one does not need the benefits of tax deductibility because in many cases this is the time when young children are coming along and the like. I want the people in the electorate to know clearly that they have been misled in this matter and that there has been no mandate for the Government to sabotage tax deductibility. I want them to understand that thousands of families will be very adversely affected and will be losing tax deductibility benefits which in many cases would amount to $8 a week. That is the kind of consternation that this Government has created.
At the present time all taxpayers whose actual income is $4,000 or below are entitled to deduct 100 per cent of their interest repayments. The percentage of total interest payments which is deductible is reduced by one per cent for every $100 of income in excess of $4,000. In other words, an income of $4,000 or less attracts 100 per cent deductibility; $5,000 attracts 90 per cent; $6,000 attracts 80 per cent; and so it goes on. At $13,000 the deductibility is 10 per cent and at $14,000 it cuts out. The Australian Institute of Urban Studies in its report entitled Housing for Australia has roundly condemned this scheme. It states:
Despite its electoral popularity it is difficult to find things to say in favour of the home savings grant, especially if it is given as a reward for saving. This is, quite firmly, a regressive measure, a grant from the poor to the rich. The only form of grant of this nature which could conceivably be of social benefit would be one which assisted into the homeownership class that hypothetical marginal group to whom we have referred.
It goes on:
It is our view that the economic advantages of the scheme to encourage saving are so doubtful as not to justify the elaborate and rather costly machinery required to administer them.
There are many quotations which criticise the home savings grant scheme. I believe that the Government’s sense of priorities is lacking. But worst of all people are going to lose the benefit of tax deductibility.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I thank those honourable members who have taken part in the debate this evening. The House intends to move rapidly on to further business so I will confine my comments to a minimum. I should like to take up particularly the comments of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam). I was frankly fascinated by a man who came into the House this evening and talked at some length about economics, a man who for 3 years in this Parliament and in this country presided over, in fact could easily be described as one of the prime causes of, the highest inflation, the highest unemployment, the highest interest rates and the biggest deficit that this country has ever experienced. This man came into the House this evening and talked about economics. It was a salutary lesson to those who may have taken a passing interest in the events of the past 3 years to hear the Leader of the Opposition make those comments.
However, one of the things that I should point out to those who have taken part in this debate or who may read the results of the debate in Hansard is the comment made by the Leader of the Opposition in relation to the level of savings required in order to acquire the amount of money which is available to those who do take advantage of the home savings grants scheme. The assertion is that people will need to save at the rate of $40 a week to accumulate $6,000 in 3 years and qualify for a maximum grant of $2,000. On first hearing, that may seem an attractive criticism of the present scheme, but the facts are totally different from the assertion made by the Leader of the Opposition. May I point out to the House and to the people who will be reading the results of this debate that the 3-year saving requirement is a minimum. The intention of the scheme is to encourage saving over an extended period, ideally from the commencement of work after the completion of education. So it is not a 3-year period which is intended as the saving period for the scheme; in fact, the scheme is aimed at an extended period of saving and the 3-year saving requirement is a minimum.
I should like to say to those people who will be benefiting from the scheme that by saving $20 a week- I think that in these days of reasonable salary and wage rates $20 a week is not really a great deal- a person can accumulate over $3,000 in 3 years. Two people who save at that rate and then marry would be eligible for the maximum grant of $2,000 after only 3 years. So in fact 2 young people who save at the rate of $20 a week for 3 years will be eligible for the maximum grant of $2,000 after only 3 years. Individual savings of as little as $10 a week would amount to $3,000 in 6 years, so 2 people who save at that rate and then marry would qualify for a maximum grant after 6 years. Even at the saving rate of $10 a week, 2 people who were saving individually at that rate would qualify for the maximum amount of grant after only 6 years of saving.
As I have said, we do wish to get on with the remainder of the business for the day. I thank those honourable members who have taken part in the debate and I will convey to the Minister responsible for this aspect of policy the comments that have been raised. I should like to bring home to everybody that the assertion stated quite strongly this evening by the Leader of the Opposition that there is somehow a predilection, an emphasis, on those people who can save more is not the case. In fact, the scheme is clearly designed to help those people who have an inclination to own their own home and who have not only the inclination but the capacity to make some personal sacrifice in order to acquire it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
-I present the Second Report of the Publications Committee.
Report- by leave- adopted.
Debate resumed from 25 March on motion by Mr Viner:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The States Grants (Schools) Bill, as the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) stated, virtually encompasses the Labor Government’s program for schools. The period covered by this Bill is the calendar year 1976. As mentioned in earlier debates, this piece of legislation is supplementary to and indeed part of the 3 previous pieces of legislation which related to universities, colleges of advanced education and technical colleges. The Bill provides for substantial sums of money to be paid to the States for primary and secondary education. A total allocation of $476m is related to both capital expenditure and recurrent expenditure. It is significant to note that a report from the Schools Commission recommended the allocation of an amount of this nature. I might say that the amount has been improved in this Bill against the amount suggested by the Schools Commission. The Commission suggested the allocation of an amount of $465.2m and that has been increased to $476m.
I ask whether this legislation will achieve the type of accelerated progress that the Labor Government envisaged would occur when the national government decided to play its pan in assisting in the education of all children in Australia. If we were funding the programs of the McMahon Government in 1972 when the 5-year period which was initiated would still be running, it would be found that over that 5-year period under the old Liberal Government policy the capital expenditure was $2 15m and the recurrent expenditure was about $47m a year, a total of about $450m over the 5-year period. That indicates the significance of this Bill, which for this calendar year alone allocates $476m. I am advised that in 1974 and 1975 alone we spent $753m. That was allocated on a needs basis, which is an essential ingredient of the Labor Parry’s education platform. In fact, in 1974 an amount of $255m was provided and in 1975 an amount of $497m.
In considering this legislation, I want to say at the outset that, because it is the Labor Government’s legislation, the Opposition will not be opposing it in its essential terms, that is, in the allocation of $476m. However, there are 2 matters on which the Opposition proposes to move amendments. They relate to clauses 7 and 11, and I will mention them a little later. I think it is important to go back to what the Labor Government set out to achieve in establishing the Karmel Committee. The Government sought advice from experts such as Karmel as to the best way to assist education in Australia. I am particularly mindful of the fact that when we endeavoured to establish the Schools Commission in November or December 1973 we were opposed by then Opposition. The present Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) was the spokesman for education in this House and he opposed the establishment of the Schools Commission. He also opposed the needs concept, and perhaps he had some foresight because he said in December 1973 that it should not be assumed that the Government of the day would get the consent of the Senate for reallocation of monetary resources, particularly in education. Therefore it had better negotiate with the Senate. Luckily for the people of Australia and most fortunately for the children of Australia the Country Party saw the wisdom of the Labor Party’s case and joined forces with us to vote against the Liberal Party. That is how the Schools Commission was created. That is how the system of funding on a needs basis was created. I urge the National Country Party still to adhere to that position and not to have us slip back to the old Liberal Party concept that everybody is deemed to be equal and that therefore everybody is to get the same amount irrespective of needs.
Pages 16 to 18 of the Karmel Committee report show the great disparity from the point of view of equality of opportunity. We saw that most of the resources were going to the least percentage of people. We saw that there was a 4 to 1 ratio against those in greatest need and they were the greatest number. We saw that we do not necessarily have to adopt, for example, the United States system of spending ten times more on the education of the 10 per cent of its children on the top of the socio-economic scale than on the 10 per cent on the bottom of the scale. This was the problem in Australia. The tables on pages 1 7 and 1 8 clearly show that the children of the lower paid worker or the lower income family are not completing a secondary education and are certainly not even achieving entrance qualifications to the tertiary field. We have set out to try to rectify that sort of imbalance. I know that this particular piece of legislation will go a long way towards doing that.
We welcome the co-operation of the States. But we must say that a great problem has existed in Australia in education in schools when we look at page 46 of the Karmel report where we see the examples of what was happening and obviously still is happening because the monetary needs were so great that they could not possibly have been satisfied in the relatively short period since the Schools Commission was established. The report gives this example:
A school for deaf, blind and backward children, housed in old, gloomy, unattractive and unsuitable buildings, poorly equipped to cope with its special learning problems and having inadequate provision for parent counselling.
Another case cited is:
A special school for 60 mildly mentally retarded children, many of them having multiple handicaps, housed in a 100- year-old building, renovated in 1912 and minimally maintained in the unfulfilled expectation that pupil numbers in the area would fall. The toilet facilities were as old as the building … A speech thereapist visited the school for half a day weekly; there was no visiting teacher to assist deaf children; visits by psychologists were rare and there was no physical education teacher for the remedial physical assistance which many pupils required.
This was the Australian education of 1973- not so long ago. Another example given by the report is:
A Catholic boys ‘ secondary school where the desks had literally been salvaged from the junk-yard- rejects from government and more affluent non-government schools.
So we see this enormous disparity between schools as they existed. We see the disparity in this way:
A new government primary and infant school with an enrolment of nearly 900, with extensive grounds, open space style carpeted buildings, both primary and infant departments supplied with a piano, television, public address system and tape recorder as establishment grants from the Education Department.
That is excellent. Any child at that school is certainly entitled to get those fatalities but what about the child in the other schools? None of those facilities existed in the other schools I have mentioned. This was the great problem of education. It has been a great criticism of State Governments. Let us face it, Mr Deputy Speaker, you and I have been in a State Government and we know that it is often readily said that the best schools are in the area represented by the Minister for Education. If he is not running first, you can bet your life that the Premier is. That is what happens in many cases in the allocation of State resources. Admittedly, those resources are minimal. Admittedly they have to be spread too thinly. But it has often meant that the best schools were in areas that perhaps did not have the greatest need. Therefore there is an accountability requirement in this area as well. We welcome the fact that schools throughout Australia are obliged to do something about explaining to the national Parliament where funds have been spent.
So I think that what we are saying here is that we must not get away from the needs concept. We urge the National Country Party particularly to adhere to what it did- forcing education in 1 973, joining with the Labor Party in getting this Bill through. We do not accept the Fraser concept of education as announced and expressed here in voting, even in divisions, in 1973 because if that voting had been effective, there would not have been any Schools Commission and there would not have been this sort of funding.
There is another matter which is of some importance and of political significance. It was suggested that the recent improvement in the last Budget for concessional tax rebates was not as good as the old concessional tax deduction. I have here a statistical table prepared by the Parliamentary Library setting out on bases of gross incomes of $8,000, $10,000, $12,000 and $14,000 what would be the difference, when there are 2 children, 4 children or 6 children under 16 years of age, between the old concessional Liberal Party philosophy method of tax concession and the current method of tax rebate. I ask leave to have that table incorporated in Hansard.
- (Mr Ian Robinson)- Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. ( The table read as follows)-
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 7 April 1976, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1976/19760407_reps_30_hor98/>.