30th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. B. M. Snedden, Q.C.) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– The honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) raised a matter of privilege yesterday. There were 2 parts. The first related to a speech made by the honourable member for St George (Mr Neil) during the adjournment debate on 6 April. The second related to a newspaper report of comments made by Mr Rofe, Q.C, in the Queanbeyan Court of Petty Sessions on Monday, 5 April. before Mr Leo, S.M. In relation to the first matter raised, I have carefully examined the speech by the honourable member for St George and have decided that there is no question of privilege involved. That speech amounted to a very vigorous rebuttal of some parts of the speech made by the honourable member for Hunter in the Grievance debate on Thursday, 1 April.
The second matter has occasioned me much greater difficulty. The matter arose out of a speech of the honourable member for Hunter in the Grievance debate on Thursday, 1 April. In the course of that speech, the honourable member for Hunter made allegations concerning the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Connolly), the Right Honourable Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), Mr Sankey who is the informant in a matter being heard by Mr Leo, S.M., in the Queanbeyan Court of Petty Sessions, Mr Leo, S.M., and Mr Rofe, Q.C, who appears as counsel for Mr Sankey before Mr Leo, S.M.
There was considerable coverage in the media of the speech made by the honourable member for Hunter. It seems a stage had been reached in the proceedings where the magistrate, Mr Leo, S.M., had listed the matter in his court for purposes which I will not pursue, but, suffice it to say that it was not for the purposes of hearing evidence. According to the newspaper report in the Canberra Times of 6 April, produced by the honourable member for Hunter as the basis of the second part of the matter of privilege, Mr Rofe, Q.C, during that session of the court, raised before the magistrate, apparently from the bar table, the matters which had been stated in the House by the honourable member for Hunter. Mr Rofe, Q.C. apparently made denials of the truth of statements made by the honourable member for Hunter relating to Mr Sankey, Mr Leo, S.M., and himself.
Freedom of speech in Parliament derives from the Ninth Article of the Bill of Rights. It states: ‘That the freedom of speech, and debates or proceedings in Parliament, ought not to be impeached or questioned in any court or place out of Parliament’. The limits of privilege today have been referred to by Lord Shawcross as ‘The underlying test in all cases being whether the right claimed as a privilege is one which is absolutely necessary for the due execution of the powers of Parliament’. ‘Parliamentary privilege’, says Erskine May, ‘is the sum of the peculiar rights enjoyed by each House collectively as a constituent part of the High Court of Parliament, and by Members of each House individually, without which they could not discharge their functions . . .’I assure the House that I will be determined to uphold the parliamentary privilege of any member to speak without fear or favour in this House.
There are many recorded cases where the issue of privilege has arisen in reference to proceedings before a court of law. In those recorded cases, the issue before the court amounted to whether the proceedings of the Parliament could be introduced as evidentiary material upon which the case could be decided. I have been unable to find any precedent which relates to the 2 specific differences in the present circumstances from the usual. I refer, firstly, to the fact that the matter complained of as a breach of privilege apparently was stated from the bar table and was not intended to be part of the evidentiary material; nor did the magistrate or any other person present raise the issue as to whether it was proper for that statement to be made by Mr Rofe, Q.C. Secondly, the honourable member for Hunter used the forum of the Parliament, with the parliamentary privilege attached to it, to state his beliefs Mr Rofe, Q.C. chose the forum of the Court of Petty Sessions to deny on his own behalf and on behalf of his client, Mr Sankeyand, incidentally, in relation to Mr Leo- the truth of the statements by the honourable member for Hunter which Mr Rofe, Q.C. stated to be false.
The privilege of Parliament does not preclude any person from denying the truth of allegations made against that person under parliamentary privilege. The question here is whether the denial by Mr Rofe, Q.C. in a court rendered it a breach of privilege. Blackstone, in his discussion of parliamentary privilege, uses the words, in relation to the proceedings of the House, that they should not be ‘examined, discussed or adjudged’; that is, that they ought not to be examined, discussed or adjudged elsewhere than in the House. Lord Denman C.J., in the case of Stockdale v. Hansard, uses the words ‘whatever is done within the walls of either assembly must pass without question in any other place’. In the same case Patteson J. said ‘that whatever is done or said in either House should not be liable to examination elsewhere’.
On the material provided to me, namely the report in the Canberra Times, the proceedings were not examined or adjudged elsewhere. In a sense they were discussed. But that discussion appears to have been no more than a denial of the allegations and the statement that they were false. I believe that to refer this matter to the Privileges Committee would not be in the interests of preserving the fundamentally important parliamentary privilege of all members of the House. However, I am not entitled to conclude the matter on that base. I can only conclude, it on the questions of whether there is a prima facie case and whether the matter was raised at the earliest opportunity.
I am not satisfied in this instance that a prima facie case exists. There was no attempt by the court to examine or adjudge the proceedings of the Parliament insofar as they were discussed. Apparently from the material before me, there was only a denial by Mr Rofe, Q.C. and his declaration of the falsity of the allegations. I do not find that it is a prima facie breach of privilege to have done that when there is no suggestion that what he said is intended or likely to form part of the evidentiary material on which the issue will be decided. The conduct of his court by Mr Leo is a matter which will be determined by the judicial process. Permission to introduce into the evidentiary material the proceedings of the House is for the House to decide.
This conclusion disposes of the question of precedence for the privilege matter over all other business of the House. I add, however, that I would have found that the matter was not entitled to precedence on the ground of it not being raised at the earliest opportunity. Nothing in what the honourable member for Hunter said amounted to sufficient explanation as to why the matter was raised on 7 April instead of 6 April. Accordingly, I decline to accord precedence to the matter of privilege raised by the honourable member for Hunter.
-Mr Speaker, I would like to move:
That the comments made in the Queanbeyan Court of Petty Sessions on Monday, 5 April, by Mr David Rofe, Q.C. be referred to the Committee of Privileges.
– The honourable gentleman is not entitled to move that motion. He will need to give notice of it.
-Well, I will give notice of it.
– 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 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 Jacobi and Mr Short. Petitions received.
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 Martin and Mr Antony Whitlam. Petitions 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 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,
Petition received. by Mr Connolly. Petition received.
University at Albury-Wodonga
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in the Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Myrtleford, Mt Beauty, Bright, Wandiligong, Wangaratta, Chiltern, Yarrawonga and Beechworth of Victoria, showeth:
That we request Parliament, to seriously re-consider its decision to shelve the plans of the ‘University at AlburyWodonga’ and proceed with plans for a ‘University at Albury-Wodonga ‘ as originally planned.
We feel that the building of a ‘University’ at AlburyWodonga is of great importance to country people throughout the North East of Victoria and Riverina area of New South Wales- for two reasons-
That ‘Tertiary Education’ facilities be available to country people within a reasonable distance of their homes-
That the building of the above mentioned university, should surely go hand in hand with decentralization, and in doing so, shall surely benefit many thousands of people over a fairly large area of both Victoria and New South Wales.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received. by Mr Holten Petition received.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That whereas from 1st October, the National Employment and Training System came into operation;
And that at that time the then Government Agreed that ‘widow pensioners and recipients of Supporting Mothers Benefit will be in no way disadvantaged . . . ‘ under the National Employment and Training Systems;
And that ‘for all trainees over 2 1 years and Junior trainees with dependants a full-time training allowance equivalent to the average adult male award wage, which will be adjusted quarterly- at the present time approximately $90 per week’, is to be provided;
And that there is strong objection to the reduction in training allowance to trainees under the National Employment and Training System, to be effective from 1st April, 1976, as this places these trainees at considerable financial disadvantage.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Members in the House assembled will take the most urgent steps to readjust the payments under the National. Employment and Training System so that they are equivalent to the average adult male award wage.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray,
Petition received. by Mr McLean. Petition received.
Immigration from Lebanon
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 tragic and bloody events that have taken place, and continue to do so in the country of our birth, bringing terrible hardship and suffering to a countless number of people, destruction of property causing mass displacement of Lebanese with great loss of life, leaving numberless widows and orphans.
We believe that the Australian Government ought to be more humanitarian in its approach to the plight of those who need to immigrate to Australia from Lebanon, and that they (the Lebanese) should be regarded as refugees and treated as such in the course of the processing of their applications for entry into Australia.
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government double the number of its immigration staff in Damascus, to that which was operating in Beirut in peace time; and apply the refugee provisions in its immigration policy.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray,
Petition received. by Mr Neil. Petition received.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned electors of the Division of McMillan respectfully showeth that:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House urge the Government to take the necessary action to ensure that the integrity and independence of the Australian Broadcasting Commission are maintained, no consideration is given to the placing of advertisements for products on the A.B.C. and a full time Chairman is appointed to the Commission immediately.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Simon. Petition received.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the citizens of Whyalla (electors of the Division of Grey) hereby respectfully showeth:
That we, the citizens of the City of Whyalla and representative of all sections of the community, appeal to the Australian Government to take urgent action to meet the present crisis which arises from the possible closure of the Shipbuilding Industry in Whyalla.
This threatens all sections of the City, commerce, business, social and industrial.
Unless immediate assistance is received by the people of Whyalla, massive unemployment and consequent destruction of commerce and industry will follow. The industry is of national importance for the Australian trade and commerce as an island exporting and importing nation. It is also an essential facility in the scheme of Australian security and defence.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that:
As a major contribution we urge the Government to alleviate the threat and facilitate the construction of two vessels now under order from the Australian National Line at Whyalla as an immediate contribution of assistance. We urge all members of Parliament to see the urgency of the situation and support this appeal.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray,
Petition received. by Mr Wallis. Petition received.
-Mr Speaker, with your guidance and assistance I should like to give notice of my intention to move:
That the comments made in the Queanbeyan Court of Petty Sessions on Monday 5 April by Mr David Rofe, Q.C, be referred to the Committee of Privileges.
– On a point of order, Mr Speaker, as you have ruled that this matter is not one on which there is prima facie evidence of a breach of privilege, I question whether a substantive motion of that nature can therefore go on the notice paper.
– Yes, notice -
– On the point of order, Mr Speaker, an honourable member has a right to move on any occasion and I think any spokesman in the House who seeks to deny that right is acting improperly.
– The matter raised by the Leader of the House on which I rule is that the honourable member for Hunter is entitled to give notice of his motion. A notice can be given by any honourable member at any time in relation to a matter of privilege. The decision of the Speaker relates to whether there is a prima facie case. If there is a prima facie case the matter of privilege may take precedence over all business of any kind until disposed of. So as a result of my decision, the matter has no precedence, but the honourable gentleman may give notice of his motion.
-I ask the Minister for Defence a question about the defence force retirement benefits scheme. It relates to a letter dated 31 March, a copy of which was sent to me. Can the Minister dispel or confirm the rumour that members of the defence forces will not be able in future to commute part of their pension after 20 years service as is now the case, but will have to fulfil the additional requirement of attaining the age of either 50 or 55 years? Will the Minister say whether or not it is the intention of the Government to make that change?
– I can give the honourable gentleman that assurance. I answered a question on this matter some two or three weeks ago and I observed on that occasion that I found myself distressed that this rumour had been circulated. Indeed, I think I was moved to say that if we had not been in Lent I would have resorted to munching the person who started the rumour. I appreciate the honourable gentleman’s interest in this matter. No proposal to alter that particular provision in any shape or form is before the Government. I know of no such proposal which is in a state of formulation.
-Has the Minister for Defence seen the Press report that claims that the Government has reneged on its promise to reintroduce the school cadet training system? Is there any justification for such a report?
– Yes, I have seen that report. I told the House a week ago that more than 1000 submissions relating to the restoration of the school cadets had been received. I also told the House that the processing of those submissions was taking longer than I had expected. We all are given to a number of frailties, and I suppose I have more than my fair share.
– But you enjoy them.
– But I am bound to say, as the Prime Minister has said, that I enjoy them. I also admit to that. Selfishness I try to eschew, but when it comes to people making a proposal and taking the view that their proposal is the only proposal to be considered, I regard that as blatant selfishness. In this instance many of the submissions that have been received have been interesting. They have called for a great deal of consideration. I told the House that it was my expectation that in the course of the next couple of weeks the Government would make a decision as to what form the restoration of the cadet corps would take. I would not seek to deceive the House in any shape or form. If I find that I am unable to meet that timetable I will come back and inform the House to that effect.
-I direct a question to the Prime Minister. During the last election campaign did the Prime Minister make an unqualified commitment to maintain the tax deductibility scheme on home mortgage interest rates as introduced by the Labor Government? Does he consider that the new proposals, which exclude all taxpayers other than first home owners in the first 5 years of their home purchase, is a repudiation of that commitment?
– What the Government has determined is not only consistent with the commitment given during the electon campaign but, in relation to the home savings grant, also goes beyond that commitment. The provision that has been decided upon by the Government and the Government parties to assist people in purchasing homes is far and away ahead of anything that has been seen hi this country previously. It will greatly assist home buyers. It will greatly assist young couples and single people in the purchase of a home. It is the most imaginative and enlightened policy in this way that this country has seen.
– I address a question to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. The Minister will be aware that in the Government’s efforts to assist Aborigines by way of housing provisions to assume their right to live as ordinary Australians in Australian communities, cases arise where, by the extreme anti-social behaviour of some Aborigines, considerable distress and hardship are suffered by neighbouring tenants. I ask the Minister whether his Department, when engaging in the commendable exercise of providing homes for Aboriginal people within existing white communities, makes every effort to acquaint the Aboriginal people involved as to their new responsibilitiesin particular, that, having taken up their right to live as ordinary Australians, failure to honour social and civic responsibilities towards their neighbours will expose them to penalties, as would be the case with respect to all other ordinary Australians.
-I thank the honourable gentleman for his question. It relates to a subject about which he has spoken to me before and on which we have had some correspondence. The primary obligation of the Commonwealth in this area of housing is to see that those Aboriginals who have not properly been housed before are now properly housed as a matter of national responsibility. Of course Aboriginals like all other people, must act in accord and in line with the norms of society. There is really no primary responsibility on the Commonwealth, apart from and distinct from that which is the responsibility of local government, State government, State government welfare agencies and the like, to do anything differently in respect of Aboriginals than it would do in respect of other members of the community who, by their anti-social misbehaviour, bring themselves into ill repute with their neighbours. So in this respect there should be no discrimination either for or against Aboriginals and those who misbehave in a way which upsets their neighbours should be treated in the same way as those whites who we know do misbehave. There are many occasions when they upset their neighbours and the community within which they live. There are programs within the welfare agencies of government and there are activities which local government can undertake to help Aboriginals who are housed under this national housing program embarked upon by this Government as it has been embarked upon by previous governments.
– My question is addressed to the Treasurer. What projections have been made to determine the number of taxpayers who will be deprived of the tax deductibility benefit on mortgage interest repayments as a result of the Government’s decision to confine this concession to repayments made in the first 5 years by first home buyers? Is it likely that over half a million taxpayers will lose the right of tax deduction on mortgage interest repayments? Does the Government anticipate a net saving in excess of $200m in the 3 years preceding payments under the home savings grant scheme by a denial of the tax concessions to existing eligible home buyers?
– I cannot understand the crocodile type tears allegedly wept by members of the Opposition concerning the Government’s recent package in relation to those people seeking homes and those who have homes and are paying interest at the present time. As the Prime Minister has made perfectly clear, the package which was recently brought down in another place by the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development is one which commends itself to the Australian electorate because of the overall benefits it provides. For the Opposition in this House to raise the question of housing reminds me that as a consequence of its policies when in government, because of inflation and because of industrial unrest in the housing industry generally, the Australian Labor Party -
– I raise a point of order. The honourable member for Scullin specifically asked for the number of people affected by the Government’s decision. The Minister has so far made no attempt whatsoever to answer the question. He has not kept his answer relevant to the question. I ask you, Mr Speaker, to rule that he should keep his answer relevant to the question.
– I do expect relevance. The question asks for a great deal of information. The question was in order. Likewise, the Minister is entitled to answer the question as he sees fit. I ask the Treasurer to keep his answer relevant to the question, which he has done up till now. The fact that the Minister does not answer the question in the way the questioner wants it answered does not make the answer out of order.
– As I was saying before the testy interjections- and I understand the sensitivity of honourable members opposite on this questionconsistent with the relevance of the question I simply want to remind the Opposition in this House that the totality of its policies in the housing field increasingly made this country a country of rent payers, not home purchasers and that is the simple fact. The former Government was discredited because of its housing policy.
– I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I refer again to the question of relevance that has been raised previously.
– Weren’t you here last year?
– Yes, I was here last year, and I would have given rulings on this sort of matter. The question was specific. It dealt, firstly, with whether projections had been made; secondly, with the number of taxpayers affected; and, thirdly, with the amount of tax concerned. So far no mention has been made of those 3 factors, and I submit to you, Mr Speaker, that the answer is not relevant, because of that.
-The honourable gentleman may .complain that he is not getting the answer he wants; but the purpose of question time is not for the Speaker to ensure that a member gets the answer he wants. The Minister is entitled to answer as he chooses.
– The honourable gentleman rightly reminded me that he was seeking projections. If one seeks projections, one obviously does so against the context of what has been. I simply say to the honourable gentleman that he and his colleagues sold out the home building industry in this country, and he knows it. They have no credibility on this subject. By way of quiet response, I reaffirm what the Prime Minister has said: The package which the Government has brought down is an attractive one for the home building industry. It will assist persons purchasing their own homes, and I believe that it has been well accepted by the great majority of Australians.
- Mr Speaker, could I seek your guidance? When I have asked a question such as this and not received a specific answer, may I then proceed to put the question on the notice paper?
-The honourable gentleman well knows that he may do that. If he does not know it, then I am very surprised at what he has been doing over the years he has been here.
– Can the Prime Minister say whether he intends to take part in the New South Wales election campaign? Have there been any events in recent days which have caused him to reconsider his attitude on this matter?
-Any events that have occurred have only made me more determined than ever to take part in the campaign at the invitation of the Premier of New South Wales. I am delighted to be able to accede to the warm request -
-Mr Speaker, I draw your attention to the fact that the right honourable gentleman is looking at a document of 2 pages. This is a case of ‘give us this day our daily Dorothy Dixer’.
-Order! The Leader of the Opposition is entitled to take a point of order, but only a point of order. He is not entitled to argue an issue that has no relationship to a point of order. Has he a point of order?
– By way of anticipation, you will -
-Order! The honourable gentleman is not entitled to anticipate.
– My point of order is this, Mr Speaker. You will remember that last week there were some discussions and submissions to you concerning the right under the Standing Orders of honourable gentlemen to have tabled documents from which Ministers are quoting, unless the Ministers can assert that those documents are confidential. You took the point that you had to accept a Minister’s answer as to whether he was looking at the document and whether it was a formal one or merely notes.
– I do not need to be reminded of what happened. I well remember what happened and the arguments and the ruling I gave. I now say to the honourable gentleman that if he wishes to pursue the procedure of asking for a document to be tabled he may do that after the answer is given.
- Mr Speaker, I was taking the point of order to facilitate your ruling on my request that the document from which the Prime Minister is quoting be tabled.
– I appreciate the help the honourable gentleman offers, but I am not in need of it.
– The Leader of the Opposition is showing an unusual sensitivity this morning. I suppose he had breakfast in Irak. (Opposition members interjecting.)
– The honourable gentlemen opposite do not like it very much, Mr Speaker. But it is quite plain that, as a result of that breakfast, the Leader of the Opposition in New South Wales, Mr Wran, does not want the honourable gentleman in his own home State during the election. That is all right. One would have thought that Mr Wran as Leader of the Opposition in New South Wales is entitled to keep the Whitlams out of New South Wales even though they live there. But apparently unasked, uninvited, the Leader of the Opposition here is going to take part in that particular election. I only hope that he does. My wishes in this matter are different from Mr Wran’s because Mr Wran wants to keep the honourable member out, as Mr Dunstan wanted to keep him out last year. I think honourable members will remember that. If I could just read the quotation -
– He is looking again, Mr Speaker.
– . . . which is the only part which is being read from this particular document. I should not like to quote Mr Dunstan falsely. Mr Dunstan said:
My Government is being smeared and it hurts. Our opponents want you to think we’re to blame for Canberra’s mistakes.
That was Mr Dunstan last year during the period of his State election. Mr Wran obviously has a unity ticket with Mr Dunstan, but he is obviously finding it harder to keep the Leader of the Opposition out of New South Wales. Mr Speaker, the point of the queston of course, was to indicate that these coalition Parties will be supporting the New South Wales Government very strongly in the forthcoming election. We are delighted to do so because of the warmth of the support and the common philosophical commitments that we have to the service of Australia.
- Mr Speaker, might I ask that the document be tabled? I want to see the full script.
– Did the Prime Minister read from the document?
-He said so.
- Mr Speaker, I table that part of the document which I read.
-Mr Speaker, I ask that the pristine document be tabled. I want to see the bits that he forgot to quote as well as those that he did quote. I want to see the whole quote- the full script.
-Order! The honourable gentleman is not entitled to make a speech. He has called for the tabling of the document. I have asked the Prime Minister whether he read from the document. The Prime Minister offered to table that part which he read. The remainder need not be tabled if the Prime Minister says that it is a confidential document. That is the ruling which I have given. I ask the Prime Minister: Is the document confidential?
-The other part of it is confidential, Mr Speaker.
-There is no need for the document to be tabled.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is an important point of order which arises from the rulings that have been given under standing order 32 1 which states:
A document relating to public affairs -
-Order! The honourable gentleman is not entitled to discuss a point of order on which I have ruled. The matter has departed. If the honourable gentleman has an attitude to the interpretation of the rule, as I know he does, then I invite him to write to me again and repeat his disagreement. But at this stage there is no point of order for him to argue.
– I bow to your guidance, Mr Speaker.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Speaker. I rose, Sir, before you had given your decision. I have already written to you not only about the standing order that has been referred to, but also about May’s Parliamentary Practice, 18th edition, which states at page 42 1:
The Speaker ruled that confidential documents -
This is of critical importance as you would know, Sir, because it is destructive of parliamentary government unless we observe this rule- or documents of a private nature passing between officers of a department and the department, cited in debate, are not necessarily laid on the table . . .
I went further and pointed out that either -
-I appreciate the point that the right honourable gentleman is making. The ruling I have given is in accordance with the point that the right honourable gentleman is trying to make.
– I was interrupted, sir. I could not hear what you said.
– I preface my question to the Treasurer by saying that he would be aware that in the last year of the McMahon Government $167m was made available to the States under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement and that over the last 2 years of the Whitlam Government the average amount for welfare housing was $375m. Is the Treasurer aware that the conditions laid down by the Government for a couple to qualify for a home savings grant and the depleted mortgage interest reduction scheme require a married couple seeking a first home to defer purchase for 3 years and by doing so to suffer a major loss because of the increased capital cost of the home over the saving period? Is he aware that they are paying rent at an average of $45 a week, particularly in Sydney and Melbourne?
-The honourable member is giving too much information in the question. Will he ask his question?
– Is he aware that they have to do this while saving $40 a week for the $2,000 handout? Will the Treasurer act to remove this discrimination against couples already married who require a home immediately- action which would stimulate a sagging home building industry now?
– The home building industry requires stimulation and this is a salutary but sad and lamentable comment upon the policies which the former Government employed when in office. I think the honourable member has a close understanding of the manner in which the former Government operated. He mentioned the figure of $375m and I assume he was referring to welfare housing. He also is aware of the figure for the preceding year. Consideration of the 2 figures provides a classic example of the stop-go policies adopted by the former Administration. I will not go on with that because I think the point is well taken. The honourable member asked me to consider a suggestion he put forward regarding an alleged area of discrimination and, responsibly, I will say that I will give it consideration.
-Has the Minister for Transport read of the claims by the Leader of the New South Wales Opposition that he has promised to raise about $60m through the sale of unused freeway land? Is he aware that it is proposed to use the proceeds to fund a 20 per cent cut in New South Wales transport fares? Does the Minister view this election promise seriously?
– I think the kindest thing that can be said about Mr Wran’s election policy promises on transport is that they are a fiddle, and, what is worse, they are a fiddle that involves Commonwealth money. Mr Wran proposes to abandon, in particular, the Manly- Warringah eastern distributor and the north-western freeway proposal. The New South Wales Government has deferred development of these freeways following the Urban Transport Advisory Committee report, but Mr Wran proposes to abandon them and sell the land that has been acquired for the construction of these freeways. What Mr Wran does not seem to know is that over the past two or three years the acquisitions were funded under the Roads Grants Act with Commonwealth moneys. If any money is to be gained by the sale of land along these proposed freeway routes the Commonwealth would expect that money to be either returned to the Commonwealth or reallocated under the Roads Grants Act. It would not be possible, under an Act of this Parliament, to have it applied to a cut in transport fares. I think in truth that Mr Wran has proved himself to be a reckless amateur in Commonwealth-State relations and he knows very little about them.
– I thought I might ask the Prime Minister a question without notice. It touches on the submission- I have not given him a copy of my question and I apologise for that- to the Remuneration Tribunal by the Deputy Prime Minister to the effect that the Government has inherited an inadequate salary scheme for Cabinet Ministers. I ask the Prime Minister whether the Deputy Prime Minister’s view represents Government policy. I ask whether, on the other hand, the Deputy Prime Minister’s submission was ‘misCHEEVious’ as that right honourable gentleman would say- or an example of monetary permissiveness within the totality of the Government’s fiscal strategy, as the Treasurer would put it.
-The honourable gentleman will ask his question.
-Yes. Does the Prime Minister himself intend to recommend to the Remuneration Tribunal that Cabinet Ministers should receive more ‘grandwahz’ salaries than other Ministers?
– The views that honourable members have put to the Remuneration Tribunal have been put in their own right and in their own way. I have not put any particular views to the Tribunal. I would be interested to know whether the Leader of the Opposition has.
- Mr Speaker, may I ask again, as I am entitled to ask under the Standing Orders, whether the Deputy Prime Minister’s statement represents Government policy?
-The honourable gentleman has asked his question. The Prime Minister is entitled to answer the question in any way that he decides.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. Could the Minister advise the House on the financial progress of the Australian Postal Commission’s courier service? In view of the Government’s policy of limiting the role of the public sector and assisting the private sector, how can he justify the involvement of the APC in this field? Will he consider whether there are areas of the APC’s operations which could be beneficially transferred to the private sector?
– The story of the courier service is not a very satisfying or happy one. First of all, it was decided by the former Postmaster-General, Senator Bishop, in late 1 974 to purchase 1 30 Leyland mini vans at a cost of about $2 14,000. Then there was a tremendous amount of administrative delay, and the service did not get moving until February 1976. This is another indication of about 18 months of bungling of administration of the previous Labor Government.
– That was caused by the Senate blocking financial measures.
– The facts speak for themselves. The vans were purchased in late 1974 but the service did not come into operation until early 1976. This is another example of administrative looseness which of course was so evident in many areas. Turning to the question of competition, the Government believes in competition. Our policy states quite clearly that we will encourage private enterprise into this area. I inform the honourable member that the Commission’s courier service has not achieved much of the market. In fact, it has achieved about 15 per cent of the market. It really has not detracted much from the share of the market held by private operators. I am really concerned that it is an area of unprofitability as far as the Commission is concerned.
– My question which I address to the Minister for Primary Industry concerns the current industrial dispute about the maximum size of wool bales. Is it a fact that wool sold in bales weighing between 180 kilograms and 204 kilograms accounts for only 8 per cent of the clip and that the average weight of wool bales is 149 kilograms? Is the Minister aware that the Federated Storeman and Packers Union of Australia, whilst demanding a maximum weight of 180 kilograms, has also offered to participate in discussions aimed at increasing the average bale weight? In view of the Minister’s expressed desire to see the weight of bales increased, is he prepared to convene a conference of all parties involved to discuss this matter?
-I am delighted to hear a positive suggestion from the Australian Labor Party with respect to a matter which is of tremendous significance to the whole of the Australian wool industry. To me the proposition about a conference seems to have considerable merit. If the honourable member can ensure that those who might come from the Federated Storemen and Packers Union of Australia would approach such a conference in a spirit of goodwill and common sense I would be only too prepared to take up his suggestion. However, I would like to discuss the technicalities of the proposition with my colleague the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. But I would certainly be prepared favourably to consider such a proposition.
– In view of the alleged truce in the Lebanon, is the Minister for Foreign Affairs considering re-establishing the Australian Embassy in Beirut?
– The tragedy in the Lebanon is revealed by the fact that in the past there has been more than one endeavour to reach a truce. On each occasion the truce has not held up for very long. While we hope that this truce will hold up, it is too early to judge. Therefore it is too early to permit the return to Lebanon of the staff of the Australian Embassy in Beirut who have been evacuated. A decision to send the staff back will be made as soon as the situation permits. I would want to be sure that any improvement in the situation is likely to be a permanent one, offering a real chance that the embassy could function both effectively and safely. My colleague the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs and I are in close touch on this matter.
I stress that I am very conscious of the need to look after Australian interests in Lebanon and to ensure that we do not by returning lift the hopes of and perhaps mislead those in the Lebanon who would wish to get out. We will arrange for the return to be carried out as soon as it is feasible. The lives of Australian officials are also important. They have been placed at too much risk in the past. I would want to be sure that this would not happen again. In short, therefore, at this stage the truce seems to me somewhat uneasy, there is no guarantee that our officers could work effectively and there is no guarantee that they could work safely. Therefore I believe it is too early to permit their return.
– I ask the Minister for Post and Telecommunications a question. What steps are being taken to restore telephone communication with the Lebanon? I ask the question because I believe it is some 10 days since telephone calls were last connected with the Lebanon through Zurich, Rome, New York or elsewhere. I also ask: How soon does he expect that it will be possible for Australians, including the tens of thousands of Lebanese in Australia, to use the telephone system to communicate with their relatives in the Lebanon?
-I am aware of the problems that have occurred. The Australian
Telecommunications Commission has been keeping this matter under close watch. Immediately after question time I will seek again the latest information. I have not had any advice from the Commission in the last day or two. I accept the significance of the question, and I will make certain that the Leader of the Opposition is fully informed.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. Is the Government concerned at the results of the latest survey of consumer attitudes conducted by the Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research at the University of Melbourne? In particular, has the Treasurer taken account of the view that comments about firm action to restrain the growth of government spending may have had an adverse effect on consumer confidence?
– My attention has been drawn to the statement by the Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research at the University of Melbourne. From my quick analysis of that statement, the recorded decline of 6 points in the composite index of consumer sentiment is, I believe- it is the view of the Government also- no cause for the sense of gloom which I have noted in one or two recent newspaper comments. In fact some 27 per cent of respondents, according to the composite index, expect good times in the year ahead. This figure should be compared with figures of 17 per cent and 19 per cent -
– Those doing the survey have not been around this place.
– I am talking about the record of the last Government. The figure of 27 per cent compares with figures of 17 per cent and 19 per cent recorded for the last 2 quarters of 1975. Only 34 per cent of the respondents expect bad times, compared with something like 55 per cent in the September quarter of last year. I reject any suggestion or assertion by the Institute that some comment on government policy intentions has had a depressing effect on confidence. The Government, and the Prime Minister in particular, recently have made it perfectly clear that so far as the forthcoming Budget is concerned consumers, and taxpayers generally, can look forward to major tax reforms of the types which have been foreshadowed. In relation to government expenditure, I believe that last December the Australian community voted strongly for a firm reduction in government spending. I remind the House that information gathered at the same time by the Roy Morgan Research Centre Pty
Ltd showed that a large majority of Australians favoured the strong measures being taken by the Government to reduce the excessive spending of the former Administration. In conclusion, I simply say that there is now every reason for consumers to be confident that Government policies will lead progressively to economic stability. As the Prime Minister has said recently, we want the consumers to get out into the market place and to buy.
-I ask the Minister for Health whether he is able to provide any information on whether a decision has been made or when a decision will be made to continue the national animal health laboratories project at Geelong.
– I cannot give any definite answer to that question, but I will make inquiries of my Department this afternoon and I hope to be able to provide an answer later in the day.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for the Northern Territory. He would be aware of the severe flooding which has occurred in the Northern Territory in recent years, especially in certain areas in the last few months. In some places the floods have reached unprecedented levels. Is the Minister aware of the extent of the damage in these Territory areas? If so, is the question of relief assistance for flood victims being considered by the Government? Will he give consideration to a rehabilitation plan for the residents of Daly Waters especially, who have suffered severely from the flooding I have mentioned?
- Mr Speaker, I will be referring to 2 documents. As members of the Opposition are such avid readers and desire good literature, at the end of my answer I will table the document that is not confidential. I appreciate the question asked by my colleague, that very forthright advocate and splendid member for the Northern Territory. I am aware of the recent severe floodings in the Northern Territory. One of the documents which I have is a flood report and a situation report, which reports are furnished to me daily by my Department. As the honourable member knows, my Department has been involved in a number of emergency evacuations during the current wet season. Flooding has been particularly severe in recent months; but one of the pleasing features is that on this occasion the damage and the hardship have been relatively slight, although, as the honourable member mentioned, there are instances of more severe damage. On the question of relief assistance, officers of my Department have had lengthy discussions with the Department of Social Security. I am anxious to ensure that eligible claims for financial assistance are determined as quickly as possible. I have instructed my Department to give every possible assistance to facilitate early consideration of any such claims.
– If the Minister wants to table a document, I am afraid that he will have either to ask leave or to wait until after question time.
– Will he table the whole of it?
-The Minister will have to wait until after question time when I call for the presentation of papers.
– Was I asked to table it?
– I think the Leader of the Opposition wants more tabled than the Minister is prepared to table. Therefore, I think he should wait until after question time.
-I am aware that there is a need to improve the television coverage in many parts of Australia, and particularly in some of the rural areas. This matter is constantly under review by me and by the Department. This is one of the reasons why I am encouraged to submit to the Government that there ought to be an inquiry. I believe that this will aid the development of planning of the whole broadcasting system. I accept that within the constraints of expenditure we should do all we can to facilitate the availability of television and broadcasting throughout the entire continent. As far as the particular areas mentioned by the honourable member, I shall look into those specifically and reply to him in detail about them.
-I ask the Treasurer a question. He will be aware that many invalid pensioners have been severely disadvantaged in recent years because nursing home fees in all cases other than those charged for intensive care, have not been available as tax deductions for those pensioners. In view of the great financial burden this places on many old people, can the Treasurer, as a member of a government genuinely concerned for the aged, make all genuine fees for nursing of the aged available as tax deductions?
– I appreciate the question asked by the honourable gentleman. His interest in the problems of the aged is well known. It is certainly shared by all members of this Government. In response to the honourable gentleman’s question I can say that the income tax law provides for the allowance of a rebate of tax in respect of payments made by a taxpayer to a public or private hospital. I understand it is the practice of the Commissioner of Taxation to accept that payments to an approved nursing home are in fact rebateable under this provision if the nursing home is capable of providing the intensive nursing care necessary to attract the higher Commonwealth benefits payable under the National Health Act. On the other hand, if only ordinary nursing home benefits are provided the nursing home is not regarded as falling within the category of a public or private hospital. I understand there has been no recent change in departmental practice in this matter. But if the honourable gentleman has any particular cases he wishes to raise I shall certainly have them examined by my officers and those of the responsible Minister. The question of allowing rebates for all payments to nursing homes would of course involve an amendment to the law. This matter will be noted for consideration in the next Cabinet discussions on the Budget. But I thank the honourable gentleman. I recognise again the interest which he has continued to show in the problems of the aged.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Speaker. I ask that the document from which the Treasurer read be tabled.
-Did the Treasurer read from a document?
-Is the document confidential? Mr LYNCH-Yes.it is.
-Has the Minister for the Northern Territory a document to be tabled?
– Not unless it is requested by the Opposition.
- Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. In reply to my question the Treasurer, (Mr Lynch) said that I was referring to the provision of $364m for welfare housing in this financial year, which is a reduction compared with the previous year. In my preface to the question to the Treasurer I said that in the last year of the McMahon Government $167m was made available for welfare housing under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement and that in the last 2 years of the Labor Government an average of $375m was made available. The Treasurer was aware that in the last month of the previous year, June 1975, a little more than $10m was made available to be spent in this financial year -
-Order! The honourable gentleman is now arguing the point.
– . . . which allowed an average of $375m in the last 2 financial years.
-Order! The honourable gentleman is now out of order.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) agreed to:
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday, 27 April at 2.13 p.m., unless Mr Speaker shall, by telegram or letter addressed to each member of the House, fix an earlier day of meeting.
Bill presented by Mr Young, and read a first time.
This is the most significant piece of legislation that has been introduced into this House in this Parliament. Although this Parliament has been sitting for 7 weeks no substantive legislation has been introduced and no attempt has been made to attack the problems existing in the community. It has now been considered by the Opposition to be its responsibility to bring forward what it considers to be a major reform. The Opposition is doing so for the third time in 3 years. This legislation was introduced twice during the period of the Whitlam Labor Government from 1972 to 1975. We again bring it forward in 1976. Unfortunately the attitude of the Government, as it is today, and the Opposition, as it was between 1972 and 1975, to the legislation has been completely negative. Every member of the Liberal Party of Australia and every member of the National Country Party of Australia in the House of Representatives voted against this legislation previously. Every member of the Liberal Party and every member of the Country Party in the Senate also voted against this legislation previously and subsequently defeated it. So the quite unsatisfactory electoral laws that we found when we took office in December 1972 remain with us today.
This Bill attempts in some major ways to reform the electoral laws as they pertain to electioneering in Australia. It would be one thing if, in presenting their views in opposition to this Bill, the Liberal and Country Parties would put forward some ideas that perhaps could be looked at about the ways in which these laws ought to be altered for the benefit of all future Australians and particularly the institution of Parliament. But unfortunately, as I have said, their attitude has been completely negative. They have no ideas about the ways in which these matters ought to be reformed. Because they have an enormous advantage in the collection of political donations they believe that the present system should not be interfered with. However in recent times we have seen all sorts of allegations being made about the ways in which individuals and political parties go about collecting funds. I make this point in all seriousness to all members of both Houses: We are now discussing this Bill and the reform of the electoral laws on the basis of the institution of Parliament and what it means to Australia, the role that is played by the political parties and to what extent we want this institution and those people who serve in it respected by the people of Australia. Whilst we continue with the laws as they exist at the moment there is going to be grave suspicion about the role that we play and the avenues that we might follow in reaching the parliaments of this country. This matter ought to be looked at very seriously because there is, as I have said, this very deep suspicion.
I do not want to heark back to past electoral campaigns, but we have seen an enormous escalation in the cost of conducting electoral campaigns in Australia. The cost has escalated to such an extent that it is now becoming almost impossible for the smaller political parties to compete with the 2 major political forces in this country. Perhaps that is something else that will have to be looked at. I will not restrict my remarks merely to the amendments that we are putting forward today because the dialogue and the debate on electoral laws is going on all round the world and this Parliament ought to be aware of the views that are being put forward in all the other parliaments- in the Congress of the United States of America, in the House of Commons in the United Kingdom and in the parliaments of Sweden, Finland and Norway. All these things are relevant to the laws that perhaps ought to exist in Australia.
In specific terms this Bill relates in the main to the limitation of electoral expenditure and to the public disclosure of the sources of funds made available to political parties and candidates. Included in the Bill are provisions which require the appointment of party agents by political parties and the registration thereof by the Chief Australian Electoral Officer. The Bill requires the maintenance of a register of party agents by the Chief Australian Electoral Officer. It requires lists of all party agents and official agents to be kept at electoral offices in each State and Territory.
The Bill requires the filing of returns relating to electoral expenditure by registered party agents and official agents with the Chief Australian Electoral Officer within 12 weeks after an election. It requires returns to be made open for public inspection. The Bill requires the certification of returns by a registered company auditor. It enables the reimbursement of auditors’ fees up to a limit of $200. It prohibits electoral expenditure by any person except a registered party agent or official agent without the prior written authority of the respective agent. It prohibits the making of gifts, including donations, to a party or candidate except with the written authority of the registered party agent or official agent of the candidate. It requires the disclosure of the particulars of all gifts, including all donations, made to political parties or candidates through or with the authority of the party agent or official agent.
The Bill limits the campaign expenditure of a political party, including electoral expenditure by a party’s candidates, in accordance with a specified formula. Under the formula the limit of the expenditure by a political party on a House of Representatives election held separately from a Senate election would be based on the amount of 7.5c for every person enrolled for the division or divisions contested- that is to say, approximately $600,000 would be available to a party today contesting all 127 electorates. In the case of a Senate election that is held alone the permissible expenditure of a political party would be substantially less. It would be based on the amount of 1.5 cents for every person enrolled for the State or States contested by that partythat is to say, an amount of about $125,000 on present enrolments for a party contesting the Senate election in all States. The limits of expenditure presently imposed on candidates also are being varied. For the election of a senator the proposed limit is an amount of 0.2c for every elector enrolled for the State concerned or $3,000, whichever is the greater. For the election of a member of the House of Representatives the proposed limit is an amount equal to 5c for every elector enrolled for the division contested- that is to say, $3,250 in respect of a division comprising 65 000 electors, or $2,500 in respect of a division comprising 50 000 electors. They are usually Country Party electorates. Having regard to the importance of enforing the observance of the proposed new expenditure provisions the Bill prescribes penalties of up to $10,000 in certain cases and up to $20,000 in other cases.
The matter of the way in which the political parties conduct their affairs is, as I have said, being scrutinised by parliaments all round the world. Many new formulas are coming forward as to the ways in which the public purse may be made available to political parties. I introduce this matter into this debate because it may just provoke some new thoughts from the Government benches about the ways in which these laws ought to be amended. As I have said, I do not want to dwell in the past. We have to look forward to the ways in which the parliaments of the future present themselves and the way in which to remove suspicions from the Parliament and from those people who serve in it. In Canada, for instance, the House Leader of the minority Liberal Government in 1 974 said that the legislation introduced in Canada gave Canada ‘one of the most democratic and open electoral systems in the world’. If no one among the ranks of the 3 opposition parties- Progressive Conservatives, the New Democrats and the Social Credit Party- disputed his claim it was perhaps because members of all the parties in the House of Commons in Canada finally had a finger in the outcome.
The legislation was introduced in June 1973. It soon found its way to the Commons Standing Committee on Privileges and Elections. Ideas for electoral reform had been under fairly regular study in Canada for nearly a decade, first by a royal commission and then by 3 parliamentary committees. There also had been an examination of the issues by academics and other interests, but the working politicians representing the four main Canadian political parties still found plenty of issues to settle in their committee deliberations. The Committee met on more than 50 occasions and considered nearly 150 amendments to the original Bill. Altogether more than 50 changes were incorporated. Letting democracy being the determining factor on every issue the Government made no attempt to revise changes to its original legislation made by the Committee on a majority vote. When the Bill finally came back to the Commons in January 1974 for approval, the Chairman indicated that the Government was content to accept the results of the Committee’s critical analysis. The chief spokesman for the official Opposition- the Progressive Conservatives- was Mr Terry O’Connor, the member for the Ontario riding of Halton. He pointed out one important change that the committee had made in the legislation. That was the provision that the disclosure of names and amounts of all donors to political parties and candidates must include governments. Governments through their publications, their facilities such as aircraft, automobiles, advertising and public service personnel could give useful help to election candidates. Mr O’Connor said:
As we are all aware, the use, usually surreptitiously and indirectly, by the Party in power of such readily available weaponry can provide a significant and unfair advantage during an election campaign.
In summing up his party’s position, Mr O’Connor saw the legislation as a chance to improve the public image of the politician and the political parties in Canada. The Bill takes large strides towards alleviating the long and deeply held public suspicion- in some cases in actuality- that politicians are crooked, that the system operates on the basis of patronage, of favours, of jobs and other amenities offered and granted in return for candidate and party funding.
The Bill would open up books and records of parties and individuals through tough auditing requirements and the requirement that sources of donations over $100 be disclosed. It will allow every Canadian the opportunity to look over the shoulders of the back-room boys as they go about their often misunderstood task of raising money necessary to convey the message of a party and its candidates. Long held suspicions will then either be confirmed or put to rest. He also noted that the legislation takes steps to reduce the escalating cost of elections by limiting the amounts that candidates and parties may spend on a campaign. A candidate is limited to $1 for each of the first 15 000 eligible voters in his electorate, 50c for each of the next 10 000 voters and 25c for each voter over 25 000. The spending by political parties is limited to 30c for each eligible voter in the country. Penalties for over-spending go as high as $25,000. The legislation also makes it a criminal offence to contribute to a party or a candidate except directly and requires that all campaign contributions exceeding $100 must be disclosed whether from the individuals, corporations, unions, other organisations, associations or governments. The Chairman of the Progressive Conservatives, Mr O’Connor, said:
Above all, these limitations will reduce the discriminatory effect of wealth on the system. The wealthy man or woman will not be permitted to spend his or her way into office, nor will he or she enjoy the substantial advantage that money formerly held over the less well-to-do candidate.
He noted that this end is further advanced by partial reimbursement to parties and candidates from the public treasury of the cost of the campaign. This applies to successful candidates and those receiving 20 per cent of the votes cast.
On the question of the allocation of public funds to political parties, I refer to the position in Sweden, the home of the people who have studied this question more closely than anybody else. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard the memo of the Swedish committee on the funding of political parties.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
ROYAL MINISTRY FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS
For free publication or background use
Memorandum, May 23, 1972, from the 1971 Committee to investigate support for political parties:
PUBLIC SUPPORT FOR POLITICAL PARTIES IN SWEDEN
In Sweden, political parties are provided with various forms of support from public funds. In 1965, parliament established an arrangement for providing national support for political parties which took effect starting in 1966. Present regulations provide for national support to parties that participated in the most recent parliamentary election and succeeded in winning seats. Annually, this support amounts to 70 000 SKr per seat. In order to participate in the distribution of parliament seats, the general rule is that a party must have received at least 4 per cent of all votes cast throughout the country (exactly 4 per cent of the votes cast entitles the party in question to 14 seats in parliament). However, parties receiving fewer votes are permitted to participate in the distribution of seats in constituencies where the party has captured at least 12 percent of the votes.
Each political party represented in parliament employs a special full-time staff that is placed at the disposal of the party’s parliamentary group. The chief tasks of such a staff are to provide the members of its parliamentary group with investigative and secretarial services and to maintain contact with the general public, national and municipal authorities, trade unions and other influential organisations. Starting in 1966, national funds were provided to defray party outlays for these parliamentary group staffs. Today, this staff support amounts to 3500 SKr annually for each seat held by the party or parties in power, and 5250 SKr for the opposition party or parties. The reason for the difference is that those in the opposition parties work under conditions different from those prevailing in the party or parties in power. During the 1971-72 fiscal year, 24.5 million SKr was allocated for national Support for political parties and somewhat more than 1 .5 million for staff support.
Sweden is divided into primary municipalities (cities and towns) and secondary municipalities (roughly equivalent to counties or provinces). In 1969 a special law was passed enabling primary and secondary municipalities to provide economic support for political parties which, during the period covered by such support, are represented in the municipal governing bodies. This law states that such municipal support for political parties shall consist of an equal amount for each seat in the municipal governing body held by the various parties during the period in question. By 1971, this type of support had been introduced in about nine-tenths of the more than 450 primary municipalities in Sweden and in all 24 secondary municipalities. During 1971 about 40m SKr were allocated for municipal support for political parties. The support given to political parties by the national and municipal governments thus totalled about 66m SKr during 1971.
In addition to the above forms of support, certain contributions from public funds are made to the young people’s and student associations run by the various political parties and, during election years, to defray ballot costs.
In June of 1971, a national governmental committee was established and given the task of investigating the support given to the political parties by the national and municipal governments. Members of this committee included representatives of all 5 parties holding seats in parliament: the Conservatives, the Center Party, the Liberals, the Social Democrats, and the Communists. This investigation was based on the principles presented below. Among these, items (a) through (d) were included in the directives issued to the committee; all of these 4 items already applied to the support being given to political parties by the national and municipal governments.
Support should be given only to parties which have significant support among the voters, as evidenced in general elections.
Support should be calculated in accordance with a certain plan, and should be allocated in accordance with fixed rules that eliminate the possibility of preferential treatment.
The amounts of support should be related to the relative strengths of the parties
There should be no public control over how this support is used.
Efforts should be made to provide maximum possible unity with regard to the scope and structuring of the various types of support.
On April 7, 1972, the committee decided unanimously to submit a proposal containing the following main points:
The proposals made by the committee conducting this investigation entail an increase in national party and staff support for political parties amounting to 12.75m SKr annually. This will bring the amount of support provided by the national government to about 39m SKr. Together with the municipal support for political parties amounting to 40m SKr this will provide support for political parties from both national and municipal governments that totals about 80m SKr annually. The principles of municipal self-government that prevail in Sweden require that the municipal support for political parties be undertaken voluntarily. As a result, the question of the scope of municipal support for political parties was not taken up by the committee.
The proposal of the committee has been sympathetically received in parliament as well as by the press. A bill on the basis of the proposal will be submitted to the fall session of parliament.
Carl-Einar Nordling Secretary of the 197 1 Committee to investigate support for political parties c/o Kungl. Bankinspektionen, Drottninggatan 50-52, Box 40024, Stockholm 40
– The Swedes have been funding political parties firstly through their youth organisations for some 15 years. They have set up, again the same as the Canadians, a parliamentary committee to look into the question of political funding. They did not talk just about campaigns. They talked about the operation and the recognition of political parties. We in Australia always seem to be reluctant to say that there are such things as political parties. They are not written into the laws anywhere. They are not recognised by the laws anywhere. The Swedes have taken the bull by the horns in recognising that their society depends very largely upon the success or otherwise of the operations of their political parties- not just their major political parties, but all political parties. In the case of the operations now in Sweden on the basis of that country’s parliamentary committee recommendations, for each member who is returned by a political party to the Swedish Parliament a sum of approximately $A1 6,000 is paid to that political party. Not only that, a total amount o $A4,500,000 was distributed among the political parties after the last Swedish election on the basis of the percentage vote that they had received at the previous 2 elections. So as to avoid the enormous fluctuation there might be in one election the Swedes based their donation from the public purse to the political parties on the basis of the results of the past 2 elections and a sum of $A4,500,000 was distributed in a population much lower than ours. What would be the position in Australia if we distributed funds on the basis of the 1975 election results? Again I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard Commonwealth Electoral Office figures for those elections.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
-If the Australian Government felt that the role of the political parties was important, if it felt we had once and for all to clear up all these suspicions and allegations that are held about the ways in which the political parties conduct their affairs, if we made available out of general revenue an amount of $ 10m to the political parties in Australia to conduct, not only their campaigns but also to cover some of their other back-up staff that are required, the distribution would be something like this: The Australian Labor Party, which received 42.8 per cent of the vote in 1975, would receive $4,300,000. The Liberal Party, which received 41.7 per cent of the vote, would receive $4,200,000. The National Country Party, with 1 1.2 per cent of the vote would receive $1,100,000. The Democratic Labor Party, with 1.3 per cent of the vote, would receive $130,000 and the Australia Party, with 0.4 per cent of the vote, would receive $40,000. Some people listening to this speech and some people who will read the Hansard record later will say that those are incredible sums of money, but let us look at the way in which people are now approaching political parties throughout the world. I want to refer to what Dick Leonard said in his book Paying for Party Politics. He said:
The consequences of the parties being ill-equipped to fulfil their necessary functions can easily be identified although it is difficult to measure them precisely. What can be asserted is that in large part it is not the members of political parties but the general public which suffers when they are not able to perform their role satisfactorily. The most immediate effect is that the parties cannot afford to employ sufficient staff and those who are on party payrolls tend to be underpaid, overworked and, with numerous individual exceptions, of poor calibre. Political parties which win power at general elections or in elections for county or district councils tend to take office with ill-thought out programs because their research capacity has not been sufficient to enable them to be properly prepared. The cost is seen in avoidable mistakes made by Ministers of every incoming government and inevitably in the fact that many Ministers are more dependent than they should be on civil servants for advice on policy decisions.
That is an observation he made in Europe and it could well be applied here. Yesterday I gave evidence before the Remuneration Tribunal on the question of staff facilities made available to shadow Ministers. The present system in this Parliament is to ensure that nothing upsets the status quo. How does a shadow Minister with no staff at all available to him, apart from the research staff of the Parliamentary Library, which I respect and for which I am very grateful, and a couple of stenographers shared amongst all of us on this side of the House, compete with a Minister with the back-up of thousands of public servants and a great number of personal staff? What we read into the examples set by the Swedes and some other countries is that they are not tying strings to this state political aid. In Sweden there is no preference for any political party, although the Social Democrats have been in power for more than 35 years. The legislation enacted by the Swedish Parliament gave no special benefits to the Social Democrats. It applied equally to all political parties, on the basis of their percentage vote at the previous 2 elections. It does not tie strings to the donations made to the political parties. So, all the parties in Sweden now have back-up staff for Ministers, shadow Ministers and members of parliament paid for out of the subsidy given to them by the state.
I ask honourable members opposite to analyse what that would mean in Australian parliaments; what it would mean first of all, to get down the limit of expenditure on campaign. We could have some rational political campaigning in Australia and get away from the humbug into which we are being dragged now. We should look at the lessons to be learnt from the political mistakes made in the United States in the Watergate affair, which always comes up in debates of this nature. Let us look to the future. Honourable members opposite might be critical of the amounts of money provided for in this Bill. If the amounts are inadequate, they should say so and seek to have them increased. I ask them not to reject the Bill out of hand merely because they believe that the amount of $3,250 should be $4,000 and not to reject it out of hand because they think that the state should not give money to political parties. That is happening all round the world. I ask honourable members opposite to note the countries that are subsidising political parties: Finland started in 1966, Norway in 1970, Sweden in 1965, Denmark in 1969, Quebec in 1963, West Germany in 1959, Austria in 1961, Italy in 1974 and Puerto Rico in 1957. Why should Australia wait to be last?
The honourable member for Holt (Mr Yates) has a grin on his face. Even now the House of Commons is awaiting a report from a committee set up by it to investigate the question of political funding. In the New Statesman of 12 March 1 976 it was reported that there can be no doubt that the report of that committee will be unanimous on the point that the public purse ought to be made available to a certain extent for all the political parties in Great Britain. So we can see what is happening in that country. We should not wait to be last; nor should we wait until something like Watergate happens in our country. What happened immediately after Watergate? Everyone went round looking for skeletons in the cupboards of every politician in the United States. Everyone was suspected of being involved in one way or another in the raising of funds for the Nixon campaign. Honourable members know what has happened in relation to political funding in the United States. In 1960 campaigns by the presidential candidates cost approximately $22m. In 1972 that amount had risen to $ 145m. If parliaments do not take action sooner or later, there will be no ceiling on campaign spending. All we will do is spread the time of the campaign from 3 weeks to 4 weeks and from 4 weeks to 5 weeks, and beneficiaries of that will not be the Australian public.
The Opposition is not putting forward a sophisticated case as to why people ought to vote for the Liberal Party or the Labor Party. We all saw the advertisements in the late 1950s and early 1960s by the Democratic Labor Party. They set the pace for what has now become the standard of political advertising. One would have to be an absolute moron to sit at home and watch the political advertising on television. Everything comes over in 15 seconds or 30 seconds. We supposedly are lifting our educational processes to a world standard, but we are asking people to make some of the most important decisions made in this country on the basis of a 30-second message on Channel 9. At least the Australian Broadcasting Commission, with the free time made available to the political parties, makes the parties say something substantial. Nothing can be said in 30 seconds, 60 seconds or 120 seconds; but something substantial can be said in 5 minutes. It may be that this Parliament should look also at the media laws affecting political campaigning. As politicians, why should we run away from our responsibility to ensure that people have all the facts before them before putting their ballot papers in the ballot box?
All the things of which I speak would assist greatly in increasing the awareness of the Australian electors and building a system which would be beyond suspicion. Not only are other countries moving to subsidise political parties, but nearly all of them are making political donors sign a public register so that everybody can see who makes political donations. There have been debates in this place during the past few weeks about donations that were made to the Liberal Party in 1951. That sort of thing would become irrelevant if we introduced these laws in Australia. Of course, members of the Liberal Party and the National Country Party said that those allegations were not true, and perhaps the Labor Party cannot prove them. Everybody in Australia believes that the major companies in this country contribute regularly, at every election, to the conservative forces; and, until such time as a register is made available for everybody in this country to look at, people will go on believing it. Not only do people believe that; they also believe that there must be some benefit to the companies in making those donations. We do not have a responsibility to the companies and the trade unions. The trade union movement is the only body in this country which makes its political donations public. The balance sheets of the unions show every donation that is made and every levy which is struck and whose proceeds might go to the Australian Labor Party or to any other political party that is to their liking.
Other countries are moving to block the loopholes. Look at the limits that have been imposed in the United States. That country has moved to ensure that the escalation in the cost of presidential candidates’ campaigns from $22m in 1 960 to $ 1 45m in 1 972 is stopped. It is moving to ensure that the major donations of people who have contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars out of their own pockets are stopped. The important people in American politics from now on will be those who can raise the $1,000 donation, which is the ceiling donation. As one American fund raiser has said, instead of having to eat and booze with the big donor, now the fund raisers have to go and talk with a lot of people. The campaigns will not run for 6 months; they will be running all the time. Ted Heath said, when opposing state subsidies to political parties, that it would be an anaesthetic to local organisation. I put forward the opposite point of view. Political parties might have to do much more work. We may be able to discourage the large donors in Australia, as has been done in the
United States, in such a way that we all will have to do more back at the grass roots level of politics.
That would be a good thing because in the social scale of Australian society politicians and parliaments are right down at the bottom. It is about time that parliaments and politicians made a stand on these questions, and this is one way in which we could do that. We could lift ourselves out of the murk into which we have got ourselves through continuing with these laws. The Government Parties think that great benefit is to be gained from continuing with these laws, but I ask them to consider seriously what I am putting. If they think that the provisions of this Bill are inadequate or if they have other ideas that they believe ought to be included in amending legislation, then by all means let us set up a committee and look at them. I can assure honourable members of one thing: If we set up a joint parliamentary committee there is no doubt about what the recommendation of that committee will be. Australia will fall into line with every other country.
With a subsidy from the state, we would discourage to the nth degree the people who have been making large political donations. Of course companies must bodgie their books. The large companies in Australia that make political donations never show those donations in their balance sheets. How does the money get out of the company into the funds of the political parties?
– What about the trade unions?
– The union donations appear in their balance sheets. I suggest to the honourable member that if he joined a farmers union he might find that it had the same sort of constitution.
– You want the government to bail you out.
– It is not a question of being bailed out; it is a question of having a commonsense approach to the role of political parties. If Government members want political parties in Australia to play the same role in the future as they have played in the past, if they want to ignore the threat of the mass media and the influence of television, radio and newspapers, and if they want the political parties to be looked upon in the future as they have been in the past, then they should continue with their old, stale ideas. But if Government members think that these laws need to be reformed, then we should set up a committee to investigate them and we should send the committee around the worldwith me as chairman. We would come back with a unanimous recommendation that political parties be funded out of general revenue- as they are in Sweden- for their staff, their newspapers, their youth organisations, and so on. We would get a much higher standard of politics, we would get far greater reform in this country, and we all would have more knowledge to assist in overcoming the problems that will face Australians in the future.
-Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion. The Bill which the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) has introduced is designed to bring clarity, honesty and a measure of elementary justice to the vexed question of the funding of election campaigns. For years this matter has been steeped in secrecy, hypocrisy and, not to put too fine a point on it, downright fraud. The law is archaic and like all archaic laws it is open to abuse. If politicians themselves have no respect for the electoral law how can the Australian people respect their politicians? When laws are abused or ignored by the people who make them, the whole democratic system is brought into disrepute. To some extent that has happened already. What is at stake is not merely the observance or otherwise of the law or even the good name of Australian politicians and political parties. What is at stake is the quality and reputation of Australian democracy.
We are dealing in this Bill with the capacity of citizens to stand for public office and the capacity of electors to choose among the issues and the candidates at elections. Recent events have given a new urgency and importance to this Bill. It is the same as the Bill twice introduced and debated last year. The Bill was twice passed by the House of Representatives. It was twice rejected in the Senate. It was debated at length in February last year in this House and in August last year. On the first occasion the opposition to the Bill was led by the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) who, I gather, will follow me now. In August the opposition to the Bill was led by the honourable member for Curtin (Mr Garland). Since those occasions a number of incidents have dramatised this issue. A Liberal Minister has been charged with bribery under the Electoral Act. Allegations have been made about the sources of Party funds. There have been disclosures of Liberal Party fund raising among British companies in the 1950s. An aura of scandal and malpractice has infected the whole discussion. It must be dispelled. Our proposals are designed to do just that.
The things that I have said about contributions to Party funds at home or abroad involve, as I have mentioned them so far, no breach of the law at all. There is no law covering those matters. But there are 2 particular abuses of the law as it stands. These abuses of the law are recognised in one case universally and in the other case by every member who has had anything to do in conducting a campaign on behalf of his Party in either the Federal or State sphere. The first abuse concerns the $500 limit on the expenditure by any candidate for the House of Representatives. A Bill was introduced in 197 1 by the then Minister for the Interior- the present Minister for Health (Mr Hunt)- proposing in effect that limitations on electoral expenditure be abandoned. The present limitation is, as everybody knows, absurd. Its absurdity has been amply, though indirectly, acknowledged by successive Attorneys-General and Ministers who are lawyers. Section 1 5 1 of the Electoral Act, as all of us know, requires honourable members to make a return- Form G- of election expenses incurred by them or by persons with their knowledge or their authority. This law is universally disobeyed. Many honourable members, including me, make no return on Form G because we regard the offence of not making a return as less heinous than the offence of making a false return. In my interpretation of the Act, it would not be possible for me to make an honest return within the law.
In 1970 the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) elicited the information that in the House of Representatives election in 1969 Liberal Attorney-General Hughes and former Liberal Attorneys-General Snedden and Bowen and the other Liberal lawyers in the Ministry who are now the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) and the Minister for Defence did not complete and file Form G.
– I never have.
-We are in complete agreement. I do not believe that in my electorate it would be possible to conduct a campaign even to print the how to vote cards for $500. In the Minister’s electorate, a fortiori, a very much greater sum would have to be spent. It would be impossible for me to conduct a minimal campaign. It would be impossible for the Minister to conduct a successful campaign if he or persons he authorised or persons he knew spent only $500.
– I refuse to perjure myself.
-That is my attitude. I have committed an offence, the Minister has committed an offence, by failing to make a return. As I said, I do not regard that offence as being as heinous as making a false return. So therefore I have done the same as the Minister: I have never made a return. I am not saying that the solution is as the present Minister for Health proposed when he was Minister for the Interior in 1971: Just to delete the qualification. There ought to be a limitation, but it ought to be a realistic and a contemporary limitation on the amount that can be spent in contesting a House of Representatives election. One should not be able to buy one’s way into Parliament.
The honourable member for Prospect has since elicited that the present Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott) did not complete Form G for his first election in 1974, but did so for the election last December. It later transpired that the Attorney-General deleted 2 words- about expenditure with his knowledge- from the form before he signed it. He solemnly and sincerely declared therefore that neither he nor any person with his authority had spent a cent on his campaign. I have a photostat of his return. Expenditure is as follows:
Paid, for printing, advertising, broadcasting and televising, publishing, issuing, distributing and displaying addresses, notices, posters, pamphlets, handbills and cards- Nil.
Paid for stationery, telephones, messages, postages and telegrams- Nil.
Paid for Committee rooms- Nil.
Paid for public meetings and places therefor- Nil.
Paid for scrutineers- Nil.
In addition to the foregoing, I am aware of the following disputed and unpaid claims, viz.:- Nil.
The Attorney-General is able to make that return because he has deleted from the solemn and sincere declaration that he makes that there was any expenditure with his knowledge. I would not want it thought that I am attacking the AttorneyGeneral on a triviality. His action has simply exposed the farce of the present law. By crossing out those 2 words ‘knowledge or’, he made use of a technical device to avoid acknowledging that the law is an ass. He was at least franker than some of his predecessors.
I mentioned that there was another abuse under the existing laws. It concerns advertising by Parties. Many companies tell political Parties that they can charge certain sums for election advertising to their advertising accounts with specified agencies. Agencies have arrangements whereby they can debit each other with such expenditure. In due course the companies inform the Commissioner of Taxation that they spent the money advertising their goods and services when in fact it was used to advertise a political Party. This practice is a fraud on the revenue. Campaign contributions are not allowable income tax deductions. There are at least a score of honourable members and honourable senators now sitting in this Parliament who were once Federal or State secretaries or presidents of their Parties, including every Party represented in this and previous Parliaments over the last decade, who are familiar with these practices. A president or secretary must know of this practice but there are scores, not just a score, of members in the 2 Houses who have been on Federal or State executives of their parties and have a very shrewd idea that this has been going on. We have all connived at a fraud on the revenue.
We also know that many multi-national companies instruct their advertising agencies in London or New York to credit their Australian subsidiaries, branches or head offices with amounts to be spent on behalf of a political party. It is not necessary for multi-national companies to give money directly to the Liberal Party or the National Country Party; it can be done by this backdoor method. It could be done by any party. A great number of us have a shrewd idea that this practice goes on. On 2 March I asked the Treasurer:
Has the Treasury inquired into the alleged practice of international advertising agencies receiving donations at their American or British headquarters for Australian political campaigns and keeping those donations overseas as instalments of the annual dividends due from their Australian subsidiaries? . . . may I ask the Treasurer, therefore, whether he will have the Treasury make inquiries into such practices on the pan of the international agencies employed by his own and other political parties in Australia.
The Treasurer said that he would give me a written reply. On 22 March he wrote, inter alia:
I have now been advised that the Treasury has no knowledge of allegations, and the Reserve Bank has no knowledge of transactions, of the type to which you referred.
All I can say is that this reveals a staggering innocence on the part of the Australian Taxation Office. The Taxation Office has a commendable record for pursuing tax defaulters. It is a very efficient and a very honourable service but one can only say that what has gone on for a long time to the knowledge of many honourable members and the suspicion of a very great number of other honourable members is unknown to the Taxation Office.
I have mentioned abuses of the law as it stands. The Bill that the honourable member for Port Adelaide has introduced would make proper provision for limiting election campaigns and a proper provision for disclosing contributions. It is ludicrous for the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) to pretend that the Liberal Party receives no money from overseas. We know the money comes in; we know how it comes in; we know how easily its sources can be concealed. It was foolish and ingenuous for him to claim, as he did on 27 February, that the Liberal Party did not accept overseas campaign contributions and that he never involved himself in fund raising activities. The Federal Secretary of the Liberal Party issued a prepared statement saying:
The Liberal Party has never sought and would not accept ‘ funds from overseas.
The gentleman who wrote that is skilled with words. It is significant that he did not say that the Liberal Party has not accepted funds from overseas. He did not say that the Liberal Party would not seek funds from overseas. He just said that it has never sought and would not accept funds from overseas- a careful choice of tenses. The assertions by the Prime Minister, which were off the cuff, and the deliberate prepared statement by the Federal Secretary of the Liberal Party, Mr Eggleton- I think he holds that office- are contradicted by documents produced in the Parliament. The present Prime Minister was deeply involved in fund raising last year. The former Minister for Administrative Services read to the House on 1 October a letter from a Liberal Party official seeking funds from sympathetic companies, and attached to that letter was a letter signed ‘Malcolm Fraser’ and addressed to that official. In other words, the present Prime Minister, as Leader of the Opposition, did not himself write to prospective benefactors; he wrote to the Party official who then wrote to the prospective benefactors enclosing a copy of Mr Fraser ‘s missive. How can the Prime Minister pretend that he never dirties his hands with fund raising? He sent the letter, he expected it to be used for funds raising and it was.
Only 3 weeks ago a statutory declaration was produced in this House from a man employed by Sir Robert Menzies and Sir Frank Packer to raise money, $lm at present values, for the Liberals from British companies for the election in 1951. In the recent orgy of allegation and speculation over foreign funds for Australian political parties, these were the only gifts for which documentary proof was offered. Mr John Keegan ‘s declaration revealed that all moneys raised for the Liberal Party in Britain were to be invested in a special trust account. We have never been told whether this account is still in existence. The inveterate Liberal spokesman, Mr David McNicoll, revealed in 1948 that Lord Casey had gone to England, and I quote Mr McNicoll, ‘to rustle up £100,000 from British businessmen’. In the later 1950s a Liberal Minister for Civil Aviation is believed to have received a very large sum for himself or his Party in consideration of orders for Electra aircraft which he had permitted and promoted. The sum is said to have been the commission on one of the 13 Electras ordered. If sums of this order were contemplated in those days one needs little imagination to appreciate the kind of money flowing into Liberal Party and National Country Party coffers in 1972, when Prime Minister McMahon had to be involved in fund raising, and in 1974 and in 1975.
Honourable members will recall that a letter was sent by the Leader of the National Country Party (Mr Anthony) to foreign mining companies before the 1974 election. The letter appealed for amounts of between $500 and $5,000 from 100 mining companies. Clearly, any Party seeking such gifts is thought by many to be under obligation to multi-national corporations and overseas interests. The fact is that no Party is exempt from the charge or, at best, the suspicion that overseas money finds its way into the Party ‘s coffers. One has only to note the recent series of questions about tobacco advertising on country radio stations or National Country Party radio stations. I am not so innocent as to think that the amount of tobacco advertising on 4KQ and 2KY is directed entirely to the public listening that those stations command.
The value of disclosure is not so much that improper or questionable gifts would be exposed but that they would be discouraged. No party would accept or contemplate gifts from anywhere but reputable sources. The stigma which now attaches to gifts of any sort to political parties would be removed. Reputable companies which might shrink from secret contributions might well contribute if the process were open and respectable. What possible objection can there be to full disclosure? The climate of unsavoury speculation and innuendo that surrounds this issue would be dispelled once and for all. What have the Liberals to fear? In February last year the honourable member for Moreton, and again in August last year the honourable member for Curtin, advanced the argument that to disclose the source of party funds would discourage companies and individuals from giving money. I do not imagine that this attitude was inspired by solicitude for the Labor Party. Mr Jim Carleton, New South Wales secretary of the Liberal Party, in the last few weeks, has been more frank as to the reason for Liberal opposition to this Bill when it came up in a distinct form in February and August last year and in a wider electoral Bill in the previous 2 years. The likelihood is that the disclosure of funds, rather than tending to dry them up, would tend to even them up. Companies which gave to one party would feel a little more constrained than at present to give an equal amount to the other side. By preserving secrecy we help preserve the present gross disparity in favour of the conservative parties.
Australia’s laws on political funds are more secretive, restrictive and archaic than those of most other democracies. My colleague the honourable member for Port Adelaide has mentioned what is happening in Scandinavia, North America and countries of Western Europe in general. The question of political funds in Australia is a difficult one for all parties and all members. The Opposition believes it is time we faced frankly the implications of the present law and the potential hazards and embarrassments contained in it. No party can be wholly blameless on this question. None has a monopoly of virtue or discretion. While the law is abused or flouted or ignored the way is open to scandal, disgrace and speculation. No party, no member, is immune to such risks. We do not want another Iraqi affair, another Garland affair, another Partridge affair, another Keegan affair. In the long run such incidents do not just damage individual reputations, they damage the party system and the whole fabric of Australian democracy.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the right honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– I claim that it is probable that I was misrepresented by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam). He said that I was involved in making arrangements for raising funds for the Liberal Party in 1972 and again in 1974 and 1975.
-I said 1972.
– If the honourable gentleman said that and that alone it is O.K. It was the next words in which I was interested. However, if he did not couple in his remarks 1974 and 1975 with 1972, 1 will have to sit down.
-No, I did not. I said only 1972.
– Thank you.
Leave granted for the debate to continue forthwith.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) will appreciate that despite some significant political differences between the two of us I have contrived to maintain a measure of admiration for the honourable gentleman. Indeed, on occasions I could describe it as a tender form of admiration for the honourable gentleman. I am bound to tell him that today he has earned in my regard a new ground upon which I can base my admiration. I can only say of the honourable gentleman- I say it without any warmth at all- that he would have probably the most splendidly developed hide in Australia. The honourable gentleman said that since this Bill was last before us there has been a number of incidents. That is perfectly true. All of us have become acquainted with Iraq and the geography of the country. The honourable gentleman went to breakfast. I went to breakfast. We all went to breakfast. We all are better informed. The honourable gentleman then had the hide to say that this Bill produces clarity upon the question of gifts.
– That’s not hide, that’s honesty.
– I will come to the honourable gentleman later on. I ask him not to encourage me to do so too quickly because it may be a matter of some regret to him when I come to his arguments. To come back to the Leader of the Opposition, I say this: Such is the nature of his hide that if one were to soak him in neatsfoot oil for a month he still would not be soft.
This is an incredible Bill. May I say for the Government that we do not adopt the attitude of complete rejection of the principle of adopting a moderate, sensible approach to the question of regulating donations to political parties. I state that as a broad principle. But does this Bill achieve that? I doubt it very much. The Bill does anything but bring clarity to the issue. I propose to go through some of the provisions of the Bill and invite my friend the Leader of the Opposition to reflect upon some of them with me. I am sure that the two of us will enjoy it immensely.
First of all, I come to what I regard and the Government regards as a very basic principle, that is whether or not governments should trench upon the rights of individuals to lend their support to political parties. It is all very fine for the honourable gentleman to toss that argument to one side as though there is no substance in it. I invite the honourable gentleman to reflect upon the principle that is involved. Under this Bill if it were enacted into law and became part of the Electoral Act, no person could make a gift of over $ 100 to a political party at election time unless the money was given to an agent and there was a disclosure. I thought that we always prided ourselves upon having an affection for democracy. Is the honourable gentleman serious when he says that this legislation does not trammel rights at all? Many people I know who support the Australian Labor Party as they support the Liberal Party give more than $100 to political parties. These people have a preference for anonymity. Does the honourable gentleman say that that right should be not merely ignored but torn up? That is the effect of the proposal under this Bill.
I put it to the honourable gentleman: It is a significant invasion of the rights of people to support political parties. There are other ways of testing this principle. What if a prominent citizen for some reason, perhaps because of the creation of some particular political issue, says: ‘I want to support this particular party on this occasion”? Is he not entitled to remain anonymous if he wishes? I invite the honourable gentleman to go back to the election of 1972 when many people supported his Party, probably for the first time. Many of them were anonymous in terms of the support which they gave to the Labor Party. In my view they were entitled to have their identity concealed if that were their wish.
Let me come to some of the provisions in the Bill. I am sure that the honourable gentleman will realise that it is not the simple issue that he has asserted. Under proposed new section 145 in the definition section of the Bill we find the following provision: ‘Electoral expenditure’ means expenditure for or in connexion with promotion or opposing, directly or indirectly, a party or the election of a candidate or candidates or of influencing, directly or indirectly, the voting at an election, but does not include-
Who determines whether something is being done indirectly? What sort of a forum is going to hear argument on the question? Then there follows this extraordinary provision:
What is meant by ‘reasonable personal living and travelling expenses’? Who determines that? I ask the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) to consider what is involved here. Is an agent, a person, a public official, entitled to come into the home of the honourable member for Port Adelaide and to say to him: ‘In my judgment you are not living in a reasonable fashion ‘?
– Too soft.
-This is so. I am indebted to the honourable member for Prospect. One may take as an example the Leader of the Opposition, who is disposed towards living in the sybaritic tradition, who may say: ‘Well, I regard all this as being quite reasonable’. But on the other hand one may find individuals with rugged backgrounds such as my friend the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) who would have a clear preference for the more rugged and more robust form of life. If the honourable member for Port Adelaide -
– I wasn’t listening. What did you say?
– To that extent my honourable friend is at an immense disadvantage. I seek to recapitulate the argument. I am turning the attention of the House to a consideration of what is meant by ‘reasonable living expenses’, and who is to determine it. I was asking how is the issue to be determined? If the official were to come into my home at, say, 2 o’clock in the morning, would that be a reasonable hour for him to find out whether I am living in a reasonable fashion? Under this Bill the official would be entitled to come in to my home at breakfast time, open the refrigerator, take one look at what is inside it and say: ‘Killen, because of all this meat in here, you are not living in a reasonable fashion’. If I pointed out to the official that the meat was not for me but for the Great Dane dog, under this Bill the onus of proof would be on the Great Dane dog and not upon me. Probably it would be difficult to find a Bill that has been drawn in a worse fashion than the Bill before us.
What about the running expenses of a party? One could well take the example that at other than election time a party may seek to use running expenses to cultivate public sentiment in a fashion that would in terms of an election outcome be substantial. Under this provision which relates to electoral expenditure such expenses are not covered.
I go on to some of the other provisions. The honourable member for Port Adelaide, in his Bill, has a provision that in the case of a Senate election a party may spend 1.5c by the relevant State factor. I take it that 1.5c is multiplied by the number of electors in the State. I want to ask the honourable gentleman this question, not in a captious or frivolous way: What is the virtue of 1.5c?
– Well, move an amendment. Make it 2c, 4c or 5c.
– The honourable gentleman is now teasing me. I enjoy it enormously. He said: ‘Well, move an amendment. Make it 2c, 4c or 5c’. What if that suggestion were to be taken seriously? What I am putting to the honourable gentleman is this: By what process has he decided that there is great virtue in having 1.5c as the amount to be spent? The amount to be spent at a House of Representatives election is 7.5c by the relevant division factor. I put this to the honourable gentleman: As a matter of plain, blunt common sense, it seems to be a decidedly unattractive way of meeting the problem as he identifies it.
There is provision in the Bill that agents are to be appointed. I hope all honourable members clearly understand that no money can be spent at an election unless the money is first of all given to the agent authorised by a person. No person may spend money unless he has the authority of the agent. All of this plainly predicates that Parkinson’s Law will be resorted to again. A whole bureaucracy to maintain and control the provisions of the Bill would need to be established. A whole paraphernalia would need to be created just for one purpose. I move on. If 3 months before the election date an honourable member gives anything to a club- a cup to a football club or a donation to a charity- that is an offence. How is it to be known when an election is to be held? We have lived in this place through uncertain days in the past. If an honourable member should make a donation to any charity he can be prosecuted under the provision. It is true that the Bill provides a defence to a prosecution for an offence against the sub-section that if the defendant proves that at the time he made the offer, promise or gift the date for the polling had not been fixed and he believed on reasonable grounds that that date would not be a date within a period of 3 months after the making of the offer, promise or gift. Big deal. First of all, the gift is made. There is an infringement against the section. A prosecution is launched. The onus of proof is on the defendant, not on the prosecuting authority. It never ceases to stagger me how the Labor Party, which has over a long period made clarion calls about the onus of proof and the need for it to remain where it is by tradition- it has been maintained there because of considerable sacrifice by many people- will quite wantonly abandon the position relating to where the onus of proof should lie.
To go on dealing with the other provisions in the Bill would be a rather tedious operation, but I invite all honourable gentlemen who may possibly be succumbing to the argument which was offered by the honourable member for Port Adelaide, in a very moderate fashion, to look at the provisions in this Bill. If they do they will come to the conclusion that the Bill is completely and utterly unworkable. I have adverted to the fact that it represents a substantial invasion of the rights of individuals. I have adverted to the fact that it would be possible for the provisions of the Bill, as it is now drawn, to be circumvented with very great ease. I want to give some further illustrations, if I may. What would be the case if an organisation such as the Institute of Public Affairs or a trade union such as the Waterside Workers’ Federation of Australia placed advertisements in newspapers or on television away from election time? I think some of the daily papers this week have had large display advertisements relating to particular political causes. I take the view- I would like to think that every honourable member takes the view- that those organisations have a perfect right to put such advertisements in newspapers and to take a particular attitude in relation to any contemporary event. Under this Bill, would they be caught? No, they would not. They are plainly advertisements directed towards cultivating a particular form of political support, encouraging a particular form of political sentiment. The honourable member for Port Adelaide dismissed that with a shrug and said: ‘It does not greatly matter’.
What is the position relating to what one may describe as non-financial assistance- the hundreds and hundreds of people with their various political allegiances who turn out on polling day? This is not caught up in the Bill. Yet this represents a very substantial form of support to any political party.
My major complaint about this Bill is that it is designed to give support to established political parties. We know that from time to time issues develop and political parties come into being. They may pass like the caravans on their way to Baghdad. Nevertheless, those people who feel warmly about issues are entitled to express their feelings. Under this Bill what encouragement would they get? The honourable member for Port Adelaide seems to think there is great virtue in the public purse supporting political parties. I fail to see any argument in support of the contention that political parties should be supported by the taxpayer. I think that for the taxpayer, a long suffering creature, to be asked to submit to a further burden is completely indefensible. I ask the honourable member for Port Adelaide to consider the consequences of introducing legislation of this nature. He is seeking to regulate and to control every aspect of political activity. I am sure I speak for all honourable gentlemen on this side of the House when I say that I find something utterly improper and quite unwholesome about governments seeking to regulate the activities of political parties in such a finite sense.
For the reasons which I have advanced the Government will not support the Bill. The Government does not set its face in some firm way against the principle which one may apprehend resides in the Bill. In other words, if a sensible, moderate approach could be made to this problem, the Government would certainly be prepared to consider it. We will not entertain a Bill of this character, which represents, on the one hand, a singular invasion of the rights of individuals and, on the other hand, the establishment of gross paraphernalia to police it, where the provisions are plainly in contrast to the genuine instinct of a democratic society. For these reasons the Government will not support the measure which the honourable gentleman has introduced.
– I would like to follow the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen). I have only a few minutes in which to speak, because of the allotment of time. I think some experience of fighting 5 general elections -
Motion (by Mr Scholes) agreed to:
That the question be now put. Question put:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker- Mr P. E. Lucock)
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I move:
1 ) A Standing Committee be appointed to:
The establishment of an expenditure committee marks an important step in the Government’s policy of strengthening the parliamentary system. It is fundamental to an effective system of representative government that the people’s representatives should be able adequately to supervise and review the activities of government administration. The Parliament should be able to subject policy, legislation and administration to close and effective scrutiny. During the last election campaign the Government stated its view that the capacity of Parliament, and particularly of this House, to scrutinise the estimates of expenditure should be improved. The absence of an effective mechanism for examining expenditure proposals may well have contributed to the enormous inefficiency and expenditure in the last 3 years.
The ultimate control of Parliament over the Executive is its control over, and scrutiny of, the expenditure of money. This is a fundamental principle of democracy which this Government recognises. It is a principle whose expression will be strengthened by the proposal for an expenditure committee. The proposal for an expenditure committee arises from a broader concern of the Government to improve the functioning of our political institutions.
Our historic plan to reform the federal system by increasing the financial independence of State and local government arises out of our deep concern at the growing centralisation of power in the Federal Government. Our reforms will make participation in government at State and Federal levels more effective. Our policy of tax indexation will once more mean that tax increases will have to be justified to the public, instead of simply taking place without debate as a result of inflation.
The expenditure committee will greatly improve the capacity of this house to scrutinize public expenditure and improve parliament’s capacity to act as an able and effective watchdog over the affairs of the Government. The work of such a committee will have an obvious value during a period when the Government is especially concerned to minimise waste and maximise efficiency in government expenditure. At the present time this House does not have adequate machinery to examine the crucial process of the formation of the Estimates.
It is not appropriate that existing detailed parliamentary scrutiny should be confined to the Senate Estimates committees and to a joint committeethe Public Accounts Committee. The Senate Estimates committees examine the Appropriation Bills but in a short time frame. The Public Accounts Committee operates within rather broadly defined terms of reference, but has a focus mainly on accounts or past expenditure. There is a need for greater in-depth examination of public expenditure in relation to effectiveness and economy in the delivery of given Government policy.
An expenditure committee of the House of Representatives would conduct its investigations throughout the year, not merely when the Estimates are before the House. It would therefore have an opportunity to explore more deeply selected areas of Government activity- particularly in relation to efficiency in the implementation or delivery of policy. Over a number of years an expenditure committee would add to knowledge and understanding within the Parliament in a way that has not been achieved by existing committees. The committee would not examine the Governments policies; it would rather be concerned to investigate economy and effectiveness in the implementation of such policies and matters related to the formation of estimates of expenditure.
It is not proposed at this stage to make any change in the charter of the Public Accounts Committee, though this would be kept under review as the expenditure committee developsrecognising that there is potential for overlap. The initial work of the expenditure committee will necessarily be of an exploratory nature. The committee might conduct its first examination in an area where greater support could be given in terms of data availability. The terms of reference for the committee are almost identical to those of the House of Commons Expenditure Committee. Close examination of the terms of reference of the Commons Committee led us to the view that those terms, based on the extensive experience of that chamber, well expressed the scope of matters the expenditure committee here might consider. It seems to us desirable to take advantage of this experience.
The committee’s terms of reference require it to consider any papers on public expenditure presented to this House and such of the Estimates as it sees fit to examine; to consider how, if at all, policies implied in the figures of expenditure and in the estimates may be carried out more economically; to examine the relationship between the costs and benefits of implementing Government programs; to inquire into and report an on any question in connection with public expenditure which is referred to it by this House. It is for the committee itself to decide the papers or aspects of papers which it. will examine in depth and the nature of its reports to the House, subject to the power of the House to direct its attention to particular matters.
In order to carry out detailed examination, it would probably seek to cover only a limited number of major areas of Government activities each year. It might take several years for the committee to be able to cover in its reports all areas of government activity. But the very fact of the existence of the committee and the lack of knowledge of the area which the committee will investigate next will have its own salutary effect. The committee would be expected to have due regard to the restraints on expenditure faced by parliamentary departments, particularly in relation to specialist staff.
The resolution in clause 2 includes the Chairman of the Joint Parliamentary Committee of Public Accounts as a member ex-officio of the expenditure committee, the chairman of the expenditure committee will be a member exofficio of the Joint Parliamentary Committee of Public Accounts. Of course the Public Accounts Committee Act will have to be amended to achieve that. The committee having resolved that it will inquire into a particular aspect, the committee or a sub-committee could request the department or departments and/or other Commonwealth bodies responsible to prepare for it a written submission in a form which it specifies. Where appropriate other bodies such as the Treasury and the Public Service Board might be asked to contribute written submissions. Further, the committee would of course be free to accept submissions from any source.
Under the terms of reference the committee can examine expenditure of all Commonwealth bodies including business undertakings. If circumstances arose it would be possible to exempt by resolution particular business or other bodies from examination. There will be occasions when programs being examined by the committee are delivered through State and /or Local Government or where the committee sees a need to consider the relationship between delivery of Commonwealth programs and of related State or Local Government programs.
Other than in exceptional circumstances the committee should operate within the framework of data and evidence drawn from the Commonwealth’s own administration. I propose to draw the attention of State Premiers to the establishment of the committee. If accepted, this resolution will provide for the re-establishment of the committee. I would hope that within the term of this Parliament its continuing existence will be assured by appropriate amendment of the Standing Orders. It should not be left to a decision of government at the beginning of each Parliament to determine whether a committee of this kind is reconstituted.
The Committee will of course control its own operations. During the course of these remarks I have made a number of suggestions concerning the way in which the committee might operate. Again not wishing to constrict the committee, I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard operational guidelines amplifying the Government’s views as to how it might seek to perform its important task.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
The Committee should take stated Government policies as given and confine its investigation to the effective and economical implementation of such policies and matters related to the formation of estimates of expenditure.
The Committee’s terms of reference require it to examine as it sees fit the estimates of expenditure and other papers relating to public expenditure presented to the House. Subject to the power of the House to direct its attention to particular matters, it is for the Committee to decide the papers or aspects of papers which it will examine in depth and the nature of its reports to the House. In order to carry out detailed examinations, it should generally seek to cover only a limited number of major areas of Government activities each year. It may take several years for the Committee to be able to cover in its reports all areas of Government activity.
The Committee should have regard to the work of the Joint Parliamentary Committee of Public Accounts and other Parliamentary Committees with a view to avoiding duplication. The Chairman of the Joint Parliamentary Committee of Public Accounts or his nominee (should the Chairman be a Senator) and the Chairman of the Expenditure Committee will be members ex-officio of each others committees.
The Committee’s work initially will necessarily be somewhat exploratory and its method of operation may need to be reviewed after it has gained reasonable experience. The Committee might conduct its first examination in an area where greater support can be given in terms of data availability.
The Committee should decide for itself the extent to which it will carry out its examinations sitting as a whole or through sub-committees. In due course it may wish to set up subcommittees with responsibilities in broad functional areas.
The Committee and its sub-committees should normally sit in open session. It will be open to the Committee and any sub-committees to choose to meet in private session where it judges the public interest is thus better served.
The Committee having resolved that it will inquire into a particular aspect, the Committee or a sub-committee could request the departments) and/or other Commonwealth bodies responsible to prepare for it a written submission in a form which it specifies. Where appropriate other bodies such as the Treasury and the Public Service Board might be asked to contribute written submissions also. The Committee would be free to accept submissions from any source.
Having obtained the necessary statements the Committee could proceed to receive evidence from representatives of the responsible department(s) and/or other Commonwealth bodies and such other persons as it deems appropriate. At these hearings official observers from the Treasury, Public Service Board and the Auditor-General’s Office may be in attendance to assist the Committee.
Although the Committee has been given the specific power to call for persons, it is expected that the Committee would normally accept the nominees of the Minister or the department or other Commonwealth body etc. concerned.
Consistent with Standing Order 348, reports from the Committee should be presented to the House by the Chairman and received by the House without debate and set aside for possible later consideration.
Government responses will be tabled promptly by the responsible Ministers.
Dependent upon the nature of reports, time may be set aside for their debate but it is expected that in general they would form the basis of better informed debate on the Appropriation Bills and related matters.
There will be occasions where programs being examined by the Committee are delivered through State and/or Local Governments or where the Committee sees the need to consider the relationship between delivery of Commonwealth programs and of related State or Local Government programs. Other than in exceptional circumstances, the Committee should operate within the framework of data and evidence drawn from the Commonwealth’s own administration.
– I thank the House. I emphasise that these guidelines are there as guidelines and it would be improper for them to be there as anything other than guidelines. They are intended to be helpful to the committee in its initial stages. I have no doubt that this reform in the procedures of the House will come to be seen as an important step in the historic reassertion by the ParliamentParliament in the broad context- of its right to control the Government’s expenditure. In recent times Parliament’s role has been challenged by attempts of the Executive to minimise parliamentary scrutiny of key expenditure proposals.
There should now fortunately be no doubt that the control of expenditure lies with the Parliament. That is the ultimate protection of our democratic system. If any administration seeks to avoid that control then the control of the Executive by the Parliament is itself destroyed. In this context the proposal to establish an expenditure committee is a significant reflection of current concerns and of past events. It marks the Government’s desire to undertake a program of constructive reform which will strengthen our democratic institutions and control by the people over the activities of government.
Debate (on motion by Mr Scholes) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 1.1 to 2.15 p.m.
– I move: Customs TariffProposals No. 7 ( 1 976 ).
The Customs Tariff Proposals I have just tabled relate to proposed alterations to the Customs Tariff 1 966- 1 974. The Proposals give effect to the Government’s decisions on recommendations made by the Industries Assistance Commission in its reports on Commercial Motor Vehicles, Parts and Accessories and Motor Vehicles- Import Restrictions.
The effect of the decision on commercial motor vehicles is that a rate of 25 per cent will apply to vehicles having a gross vehicle weight of 2.72 tonnes or more, except for assembled general purpose vehicles having a gross vehicle weight of 10.16 tonnes or more for which a rate of 22.5 per cent will apply. Commercial vehicles having a gross weight of less than 2.72 tonnes will be dutiable at 35 per cent if assembled or 25 per cent if unassembled. The new duties will operate from tomorrow.
The decision on motor vehicles-import restrictions provides for tariff quotas on unassembled passenger motor vehicles to cease on 1 January 1977 and for the long term rate of 35 per cent to become effective from that date. The present duties applicable to assembled passenger motor vehicles and the related quantitative restrictions will continue to apply. A comprehensive summary of the changes is now being circulated to honourable members. I commend the Proposals.
Debate (on motion by Mr Young) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 7 April, on motion by Mr Viner:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– When the debate on the States Grants (Schools) Bill, which relates to the allocation of funds of a considerable magnitude, was adjourned last evening I was discussing the fact that in this Bill the Australian Labor Party’s program is being endorsed by the present Government and saying that to that extent the Opposition supports the Bill. I did indicate, and I now repeat it, that in the course of the discussions on the Bill the Opposition will be seeking to move amendments to clauses 7 and 1 1. Those amendments have been circulated. In fact, they are in substitution of amendments that were previously circulated.
I recapitulate that this Bill provides for an expenditure of $476m over a wide variety of needs in both government and non-government schools in the secondary and primary fields. By looking at the reports of the Schools Commission one can find plenty of evidence to support the needs concept. In the debate last evening I was discussing the initial report of the Interim Committee for the Australian Schools Commissionthe Karmel Committee- which suggested that the Schools Commission ought to be established. I now say without any fear of contradiction that if the Australian Labor Party had not been successful in getting the legislation through the Parliament in 1973, despite the opposition at the time from the Liberal Party of Australia, we would not have been able to make any progress in assisting the States throughout Australia to develop effective programs for the assistance of children in schools.
As I have indicated, the Karmel Committee clearly highlighted the fact that in a large section of the Australian community the needs of the child are very great indeed. It is acknowledged that they cannot be met just by the sheer allocation of money. But without that allocation no start would have been made. During the course of the debate last evening I referred to the contents of the report in respect of the shocking conditions that exist in many schools. I believe that the period that has elapsed between the Karmel Committee making its report in 1973 and the present is too short a period to say that there could have been a substantial improvement, because the needs were so great. It follows that the State governments, in their wisdom or otherwise, never really allocated sufficient funds over the years to meet the needs of the child. Unless the needs of the child are met in the formative years that child is permanently penalised. The situation cannot be corrected later in life. Admittedly other factors, including the factors of poverty and of delinquent parents are involved, but it was clearly established by the Karmel Committee that the chance of obtaining equality was not there for a child who happened to live in a low socio-economic area. Australia prides itself on being a democratic nation where everybody has an equal opportunity. Honourable members will notice that in all of the Commission ‘s reports great emphasis is placed on the need to try- I emphasise the word ‘try’- to give to each child what is deemed to be an equal opportunity.
The present Bill goes somewhere along the road towards assisting in this long program. If honourable members look at the triennium report of the Schools Commission they will see that the Commission feels that it would not be able to meet the target dates, certainly until 1980 or 1982. What is worrying the Opposition at present and what obviously will be the subject of some discussion at the Committee stage of the debate on this Bill is that the Opposition senses in the Liberal Party’s philosophy a tendency to vacate the field of education. It certainly is prepared to make available a lump sum but it does not seem to want to do any more than just allocate it to the States. Perhaps its actions will be based on the specious argument that there is too much centralism. I want to put the converse situation. Unless there is some interest in this matter and unless there is a co-ordinating group, such as the Schools Commission, making an evaluation of the programs that we are financing we may well have a retardation of what has been hoped to be a great advance in education for the Australian youth.
Because of the peculiar problems in Australian politics, so diverse as they are throughout the nation, particularly in the State parliaments, it does not follow that the proper allocation of resources will be made in a State or within areas of a State. When one looks at what has happened and what is still the position regarding the great needs of children one sees that an efficient allocation of resources has never been made over the years. We may have a section in Australia agitating for the spending of more money out of scarce resources on the delinquent child, knowing full well that the statistics, the record and the knowledge is that it is too late to do so. The State governments are prone to talk about that and not to talk about the prevention of delinquency. I have raised that aspect in this context because if we have State governments emphasising matters in which they think they are most experienced and not having any other group of people, such as a Schools Commission, evaluating their programs we will find that they will be prone to think and say that their programs are right. I forcibly say that the Karmel Committee’s original report clearly showed that the programs of the States were not sufficient. It is known in the State parliaments that there can be very good schools and very poor ones. Politics certainly play a role in the allocation of resources. By the establishment of the Schools Commission we have been able to have an impartial body evaluate a program.
It is important that the national Parliament should always be informed about the progress made in the field of education because it is the front line of any national development of character and of a national development of technical advance. It guarantees that this nation can progress if we have effective educational programs. We know that there are great needs throughout the whole spectrum of education. One has only to look at this Bill and the large number of schedules in it to ascertain that. The schedules refer to subjects such as capital, recurrent programs, migrant education, disadvantaged schools, handicapped children, special schools, teacher education training in courses related thereto and the development of service activities. Virtually all these matters are of immense interest to the whole development of an effective educational program and this has not happened until recent years.
We repeat that this Bill allocates $476m in the 1976 calendar year but the 1972 education program commenced in that year to run for 5 years really involved an expenditure less than the amount allocated in this Bill for the 1976 year. This gives the honourable members an idea that even the thinking in 1 972 was so far behind what was deemed to be the needs concept. We have spent in the last 2 years some $750m- a very effective allocation of resources- but we do not want to see it all wasted on the basis that it may be thought that it will be just good enough to give a sum of money to the State governments. I can predict the Treasury line, irrespective of which party is in power. It is always prone to say: ‘Look, there are other priorities’. Certainly there are other priorities but they could not be any greater than this one. The Treasury line may be to say: ‘It may be more important not to allocate as much again’. There is thinking even amongst politicians that perhaps it is too much money and the taxpayers should not be asked to make this contribution. The Opposition puts this to the Government: If it vacates the field, as we think it might as a Liberal philosophy, and it then gets the support of the Treasury because it will be cheaper to do it anyway and because the Government is more prone to vacate the field, it will be to the great permanent disadvantage of the children now at Australian schools, and they are still in great need.
I spoke to a colleague of mine yesterday in an area in New South Wales where he has some responsibility to look at the needs of schools from a capital expenditure point of view. Under this very beneficial legislation some $3m is to be available for allocation with Treasury approval and he effectively says there is a $40m need now. He says that $40m is needed now in this field alone, in that small segment of education in that State. He said: ‘If you have a look around some of the school buildings you will see that they were built in the last century. The children are in conditions which certainly affect their chances of getting equality’. We know there are other schools which are first class. We applaud that and we do not want to detract from it, but we have made these points over a period of time. The point I am emphasising now is that in this legislation we see a concept that we will perhaps accede to a State Minister’s request for the reallocation of resources. We say this should not happen at all unless the Minister for Education in the Australian Government and this Parliament act in accordance with some advice of which this Parliament would be made aware. Accordingly we propose to move an amendment on the basis that if there is to be any reallocation of resources the Schools Commission ought to be consulted and that advice given to this Parliament so that the Parliament itself is able to continue to take part in the supervision of what are deemed to be essential activities in education.
A further amendment we propose to moveand it is in accordance with Liberal Party policy, or any party’s policy and indeed the recommendations of the Schools Commission- is that there should be some community involvement with a school. A school is not an institution limited by the walls or the fences. It is related to the life and the blood of the people in it and the parents of the children, the teachers and the community generally. They all could play an effective role. The Schools Commission did say there ought to be some reasonable amount apportioned where the teacher would have some encouragement to initiate programs and the community could be involved in them. I do not think any Australian would deny that this is an effective method of getting a community to be involved with its school. Speaking briefly about the child care program which concerns the pre-school area, there is no hope of running an effective program unless there is community involvement, particularly on the part of the parents. It follows, does it not, that this involvement should continue after preschool education? We propose to move to clause 1 1 an amendment which says again that after consultation with the Schools Commission the Commonwealth Minister may permit a specific amount from a schools allocation to be spent at the discretion of the school ‘s board. I think that is a worthwhile amendment. I will be surprised if the Government rejects it because in the concept of what we are talking about here we cannot run any worthwhile program without the support of the people and the community particularly who are urged to be involved in their schools.
My time in this debate has just about concluded. I want to repeat some of the points I made last evening. The schools program is an excellent one but still is in a great needs concept. The previous Labor Government was criticised on the basis that even under its tax concessional rebate system it was penalising parents. Last night I incorporated in Hansard with the permission of the House a table which clearly showed to anyone who looked at the new system introduced in the last Labor Budget, namely the tax rebate scheme, as against the old concessional scheme, that the new scheme was an effective rebate system which gave more to the parents who had the most children. I was able to show last evening that under the new scheme as against the old scheme for people on a taxable income of $8,000, with 2 dependent children under 16, there was a saving of $359. On an increasing graduated scale we could say that on a taxable income of, say, $14,000 and where there were 2 dependent children the saving amounted to $827. So we want to discount and reject the criticism that was made of us, particularly in the last elections, that we had introduced a scheme which was penalising people in the lower income tax brackets and the suggestion that it was valid criticism to say that the greater the number of children the heavier the penalty. I now say that those statistics I produced clearly prove that the suggestion was wrong and is without foundation. The statistics incorporated in yesterday’s Hansard clearly show that to be the position. I repeat, there is some validity in the Schools Commission recommendation that in an area where government or non-government schools can borrow money for capital projects they should be encouraged to do so because unless the money is spent now, the children in those schools will continue to suffer disadvantages. I would like to think the Government could do that. It would not involve the Government in budgetary expenditure. The guarantee only would be needed. If the guarantee were given it would be a stimulus to those schools and also to the industry. Accordingly, the Opposition will move amendments at the Committee stage, but in general we support the concept that the amount of money to be allocated under this legislation is in accordance with the Opposition’s program when in government.
-The Bill provides for the payment of grants to the States for government and non-government schools in the 1976 calendar year. It is in accord with the undertakings of the Government when it was in office during the caretaker period and it is in line with the provisions outlined by the Australian Schools Commission inquiry commissioned by the previous Labor Government. There is only one small deviation from the report of the Schools Commission and that relates to the special projects program. There is a small reduction in funding from $5.2m to $3.6m. It merely takes account of the fact that the projects are starting late and only a portion of the period will be left in which to complete them. Price levels will be supplemented in further amending legislation so that the real value of the grants is retained.
The Opposition proposes to move 2 amendments. In foreshadowing those amendments the shadow Minister for Education, the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen), spoke of a stupid society. He seemed to suggest that the stupidity that was in the Australian society stopped at Canberra. Certainly when one looks back on what has happened one sees that society makes mistakes and one might even on occasion judge society to be stupid, but Canberra has no immunity. We are no more likely to make wise decisions about education by confining those decisions to the central government than we are by making them nearer to the source of the problem, nearer to those being educated. The shadow Minister suggested that it was wrong just to give a sum of money to the States. I agree that that is less than we ought to do. Through a body such as the Schools Commission, we ought to advise on educational expenditure throughout the Commonwealth with a view to not duplicating assessment and research, with a view to maintaining a measure of equality between areas and between States, but certainly not in such a way that we stifle useful and helpful diversity.
The Karmel report proposed funds for the 1974 and 1975 calendar years and the funds were provided through the States Grants (Schools) Act 1973. The first report of the Schools Commission for the 1976-1978 triennium was rejected, as were the reports for the same period of the Universities Commission, the Commission on Technical and Further Education and the Commission on Advanced Education. I should like to discuss the reasons for the rejection of those reports. It has to be remembered that the reports were rejected by a Labor Government, the Government which set up the Schools Commission. Undoubtedly the Schools Commission is a useful body and has much to offer; yet its first report was rejected. I do not believe that it was rejected in order to spite the education authorities. I do not believe that the Labor Party wished to make that rejection. I believe that it had got itself into a position where it had to reject the report. It became a choice between one form of expenditure and another. Medibank was budgeted to cost $ 1,445m and health services were to rise by 1 16 per cent. The total education budget was $ 1,908m. One could argue reasonably that it became a choice between the Medibank proposal, to which the then Government was committed, and the proposals of the
Schools Commission and the other education commissions. Any government will be faced with a choice between priorities.
I want to quote 2 short statements from the Labor Treasurer’s Budget Speech to indicate to the House that the Labor Government realised that it was in a dilemma. The Labor Treasurer said:
It is not possible to provide more and more government services or transfer payments from the Budget without ultimately having to pay for them through cutting back aftertax earnings via increased taxes. It is not possible to get quarts out of pint pots.
Further on he said:
If Budget outlays this year were again to grow faster than total spending, a further decline in the private sector share of GDP would ensue. That would mean an accelerated decline in investment and productivity as well as a further contraction in job opportunities.
The importance of that statement in this context is its demonstration of the fact that the Labor Party- perhaps for reasons of its own making, but for whatever reasons- had run out of options.
I wish to consider the role of the education commissions in times when Budgets are more difficult. The Universities Commission worked well during the time then the economy was stable, when Federal Budgets were predictable, when they grew but grew steadily and quietly. The present coalition Government has inherited an impossible budgetary situation and, like the previous Government, it will face difficulties in doing all the things that it would like to do. In those circumstances, in what manner should commissions such as the Schools Commission, the Universities Commission, the other education commissions, and commissions and advisory bodies in other areas, make their reports to the Government? With what should they be charged? Firstly and clearly, I think they should report publicly, because that is the difference between those commissions and the departments, which very properly are the servants of the Minister and of the Government and which report privately to the Minister and to the Government. By the commissions reporting to the public through the Parliament, their reports are subject to the rigours of public evaluation. They will be assessed by other people who have expertise in the area of the reports. They will not be subject, as departmental advice is, to the entrenched policies of yesterday, departmental empire building or interdepartmental rivalry. They will cater also for the non-government sector and report in a way that is likely to be impartial as between the government sector and the non-government sector.
I know that the private sector of education is genuinely fearful that if the education commissions, particularly the Schools Commission, do not retain their independence and authority they will suffer. Such commissions must complement the bureaucracy, not do the bureaucracy’s job. If they do an administrative task, thenown independence will be suspect and they will have to defend past decisions, past policies and staff. In fact, their entire authority should rest upon public acceptance of their ability and integrity. If the Government rejects their advice it will be seen to do so and, quite properly, it will be called upon by the public to answer for its political decision. It may be a political decision that is taken quite properly, but it is also quite proper that the public- in this case that part of the public that is involved in education- should question the decision and ask for the reasons for which such an administrative decision was taken.
The authority of the advisory body lies in its reputation. That should not be sacrificed or put at risk. Appointees should represent a wide selection of the community, but in no way should they be regarded as representatives, let alone delegates, of sections of the community. They should be chosen for their expertise, their understanding and their ability. It is important that they have that standing, and that standing alone. The moment they speak for States, for unions or for a section of education they will prejudice the acceptance, if not the integrity, of their advice. As I have said already that advice must have standing; if it does not have standing, it is nothing. If a body is to report with a so-called table of needs, what it is doing in fact is making a judgment as to what is the proper break-up of a finite cake- for all cakes are finite. At any time a government will have just so much to spend, can only afford to tax so hard, can only run up deficits so big. So we will be making the choice between say defence and education, if the government says that so much should be spent on education. What we need is a process of reporting and advice that will not prejudice the Government’s ability to make any decisions but will advise within the area of competence of the advisory authority- the Schools Commission on schools, and on schools alone. Therefore the body is going to have to give its advice in such a way that the Government can draw a line at a certain point and say that it accepts, or conspicuously and publicly rejects, its priorities, and that that amount is how much we can allocate to schools. Or the commission must be advised beforehand what the Budget allocation will be. That, I suggest, will be very difficult particularly in times when it is difficult to control budgets, when inflation is high and when government expenditure is already over-committed. Or the advisory authority, the Commission, can bring in a draft report for discussion and, close to the Budget, can be advised on where it is to bring its final report, which will be published at the time of the Budget. However, that does not fit with the situation of annual or triennial funding which does not match financial year budgeting. I think that the best of the alternatives is charging the Commission with the task of bringing in a table of priorities so that governments, if they deviate from them, can be seen to deviate from them, but the integrity and the independence of the advice of the Commission will not be prejudiced.
-When the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) introduced this Bill he was gracious enough to say that of the $476m expenditure for schools $45m dated from the Liberal legislation of 1972 and $43 lm from the decisions of the Whitlam Government. That may be some indication in one year of the increase in expenditure that was put into education. The Minister, however, did make a remark to the effect that the Federal Minister for Education will consult with the States as to what constitutes a disadvantaged school. I only make a comment on this because the Minister apparently believed that he was saying something new. As Minister for Education in the Whitlam Government I could not have told honourable members what the disadvantaged schools of New South Wales or Victoria were. I might have guessed at them in my own State of Western Australia. Act No. 214 of 1973, the States Grants (Schools) Act, which passed the Senate only after a homeric struggle, with the Liberal Party voting against it at all stages, provides this definition: ‘Government disadvantaged school’ means a government primary school or, a government secondary school, in a State which the State Education Minister Tor the State informs the Minister, in writing, is a disadvantaged school, and which is declared by the Minister, in writing, to be a disadvantaged school for the purpose of this Act:
So necessarily the initiative under our legislation was coming from the State government. I should like to inform the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs that what he said is not new. It is the existing system.
It would be fair to say that the Commonwealth funding of schools administered a shock to the whole system. It brought in concepts that they ought to have had, for instance, that one of disadvantaged schools, but which they did not have. In the enrichment of education which ensued from this increased expenditure acknowledgements were always made by” the Catholic education authorities, and never acknowledgements made by the State education authorities, of the advance in their education which we know took place. I am going to suggest why. Before there was any Commonwealth interest in education whatsoever, before there was even a Commonwealth brass razoo given to universities, every educationalist who visited this country said that Australian education was the most bureaucratic and the most centralised and stifling bureaucracy they had seen in any comparable country in the world. The systems they were talking about were the State systems. With a gasp of relief, many of the State authorities switched the accusation onto the Commonwealth the moment we began to find significant money for their schools. I draw the attention of honourable members to the fact that although these slogans have been thrown around unchallenged the Commonwealth structure that was set up by us was neither bureaucratic nor centralised. The Schools Commission does not consist of Commonwealth bureaucrats. If Father Martin, the Director of Catholic Education in Victoria, had to give an objective assessment of the needs of State schools, he did so. He did so with independence, not as a Commonwealth employee instructed in the sense that Laurie Sheers could be instructed by his Minister in Victoria in the directions of the findings that he would make. The Schools Commission is not a bureaucratic body and it does not have a bureaucracy under it. The grants were made to the Catholic education authorities, to individual independent schools and to State education authorities. Although there were some specifications about a certain expenditure on disadvantaged schools and a certain expenditure on education of the handicapped, the vast bulk involved expenditure on which the States or the Catholic education authorities were free to decide. The result was something that had not happened before in the States. In Western Australia, as the honourable member who just spoke may well remember, a Country Party Minister for Education, Mr Lewis- I have always paid the highest tributes to him- with perhaps the best Director of Education that Australia has ever seen, the late Dr T. L. Robertson, objectively put educational facilities where there was a need. But everybody who knows anything about education knows that normal State procedure is for powerful political personalities to put the best and the most expensive high schools in their electorate, irrespective of whether there is the number of children there to justify them. The standard procedure of the States in areas of disadvantaged schools was to let them rot. There was no political backlash from this. In the poorer areas, where the poorer schools invariably are, there is not an articulate, critical population. They could be sold slogans such as ‘schooling is much better than when we went to school’, and that was good enough. The school could be a thoroughly disadvantaged school and there would be no political loss about it. In precisely the same way there was no political demand for, and no political kudos to be obtained, when we put every Aboriginal child in secondary education on a scholarship which might range from some $250 to $2,000 a year. There was no demand for that from the Aboriginal community, and in wide sections of the Aboriginal community among the parents there was no understanding of what was happening to their children. But when we have a body like the Schools Commission consisting of independent educationalists making assessments regardless of the political convenience of their political masterseither the Australian Minister for Education or the State Ministers- then there is an objective assessment of the needs in certain areas.
And do not be confused that you are running across the deepest convictions of the most articulate Australian parents. It is almost standard in Australia for a parent to regard education as a weapon of his child’s advantage- ‘I am a good parent if I fight for my child ‘s advantage over that of all other children’. This has led to the development of some of the finest independent schools in the country. It is there that a child gets an education which gives him an advantage over everybody else. But the nation has not got the slightest interest in such a concept. The nation has not got an interest in the concept of advantage for some children’s education; it has got an interest in the concept that education should be an instrument of every child’s dignity and advancement. That really is what the Schools Commission’s work was about. That is why, in the grants to the independent schools, where in 1972, at the secondary level only- I will not keep commenting on the primary level- there was a 68 per capita per secondary student a year to the wealthiest school, or the school with the highest resource level, and to the school with the lowest resource level in the independent structure a flat rate across the board, now in this legislation, which was our legislation, drafted by our government before it fell, the per capita basis ranges from 104 to 338 according to the school’s resource level. But do not think that large numbers of people love you for that.
Honourable members should remember the controversies of November and December 1973. The interesting fact which I found was that the 40 schools classified A out of the 9500 schools in the country could make more noise than the other 9460 schools put together because they had articulate parents who knew exactly what they wanted for their children and could argue for them. In fact, none of them lost but not all of them were ve.ry happy to see the chances of other children being brought up to their level. It ran across, for instance, the convictions of the Anglican Church, of which I am a member but which has made a slight amendment to the Gospel as far as its schools are concerned, so that it is as follows: ‘Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to those who can pay $2,000 a year’. The position in the Catholic schools, where they try to reach the poorest child, was that they had, of course, a very great burden of education, and they had not made an amendment to the Magnificat to this effect: ‘He has put down the mighty from their seat and exhalted the humble and meek; he has filled the hungry with good things and the rich have got the same amount in flat rate grants across the board’. This does not happen to be what the Magnificat said. Yet we found that in certain church sectors when we started to carry out the Magnificat in education people did not always appreciate it. They had slightly amended what the Blessed Virgin Mary said was God’s policy.
This legislation maintains for this year- and I hope we will always maintain it- what I will call indexation cost supplementation. The measure that the Labor Government brought in provided $462m and it is cost supplemented up to $476m. The introduction of indexation for universities, colleges of advanced education and schools by my Ministry was not popular with the Treasury. It made education a rather privileged sector, screened against changes in cost structures, and this was not altogether liked. However, it gave a good run to the children of the country. The States have not always wanted to reveal weaknesses and we had some amazing experiences. When we became the Government the Commonwealth expenditure on technical education in a triennium was $36m. In our triennium it became $171m, which was a considerable lift. But when the Richardson report was brought down and the authors wanted to illustrate it with photographs of the slums which many State technical colleges are, there was a rush to make sure that none of these photographs were published. Of course we did not flout the views of the States but I was given this interesting information: ‘If you publish that the Leader of the Opposition will get hold of it’. So we spent time concealing need because someone might have got a political discredit. It did not matter tuppence that a particular technical college was a danger to life in the event of fire- and this was established by some photographs showing great stores of paint at the only exit. If the Leader of the Opposition saw that photograph he might have said something about it- and that was far more important than having an objective report of the colossal needs of technical education!
The Schools Commission concept, or the Technical and Further Education Commission concept for that matter, of analysing needs cuts across this view and keeps the spotlight on educational needs. Of course, this becomes dreadfully expensive. In the 1971-72 biennium, before we became the Government, Commonwealth expenditure on schools outside the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory- I exclude those the whole time- was $U2m. It spent $41m on State schools and $71m on nongovernment schools. In the Karmel biennium of 1974-75 the expenditure was $784m. The $41m previously spent on State schools was multiplied by 13 or more and became $550m and the $71m on non-government schools was multiplied by more than 3 and became $234m. This $476m added to that $784m means that in this triennium, the Karmel triennium, Commonwealth expenditure on schools will be $ 1,260m. That represents a sixfold increase, at least in dollar terms, over the previous triennium, and in real terms a fivefold increase or slightly more. So with further indexation still to come- as the previous speaker, the honourable member for Moore (Mr Hyde), said, there will be supplementary legislation before this year is out- there has been a very great Commonwealth commitment to schools.
Honourable members need to understand some of the realities within the States because we are now getting a picture of the lovely unified States where everybody has the same idea and they are all marching to get the same policy from the Commonwealth. That is not so.
– I hope that the ‘hear hear’ gentleman some day has the experience of being on the Australian Education Council where one sits with the 6 States Ministers for Education. One finds very quickly that the Commonwealth’s position of requiring the States to maintain their efforts in education, then receiving the Commonwealth grant on top of it was, in fact, the State Education Ministers’ charter of emancipation from the Treasury. The Treasurer could not say to him: ‘Cut your additional expenditure’ when he could say: ‘Ah, but it is a condition of the Commonwealth grant still to come that we maintain our effort and then the Commonwealth expenditure comes in as an addition’. Obviously, that is the State Education Minister’s charter of independence from the State Treasurer and all the Education Ministers liked it. One learns that privately, of course, over the cups of coffee, not publicly at the meeting. They all liked it but there was an exception. I shall not name him but he had anticipations of being Premier at some stage.
– What stage?
– Which State?
– Well, his expectations have been achieved, I put it that way. He did not want this ear-marking of money for education because if he preferred to spend it on beef roads that was what he wanted to be able to do. He did not anticipate that he would still be the Education Minister battling against his Treasury. He anticipated that he would be Treasurer and Premier and that he would be making the decisions, and so any commitment or earmarking for education was not quite along his lines.
I urge the Minister to stand by certain things. I urge him to try to defend- he will find himself battling with the Commonwealth Treasury if he does- the question of indexing or maintaining cost supplementation. I urge him to defend not only in this legislation but elsewhere the principle of accessibility. So that we could make education accessible to children in remote areas we introduced the isolated children’s grants. So that we could make education accessible to the children of widows and others who are in 5th and 6th forms we introduced a special grant for children at those levels. The assistance should have been extended to 4th form students because this is the stage at which most children are compelled to leave school. At least more than 20 000 students received this grant on the basis of need to enable them to complete their secondary education.
In an attempt to try to make education accessible we extended the grants to all Aboriginal children in the secondary education areas. When children from Cambodia and South Vietnam were cut off from the sources of funds they were given isolated children’s grants, tertiary scholarships, post-graduate scholarships or various other forms of grant to meet their needs. The previous Government took this action to try to maintain the accessibility of education to people who were hit by economic or some other form of tragedy. I hope that the Minister will maintain this assistance.
Thirdly, I hope that the Minister will maintain the idea of weighted grants to enrich education in areas where there is the greatest need; for example, the establishment of a beautiful library in a Catholic school in a slum area. The Minister will not have to make the decision in respect of state schools because the State Minister will do that. But at least the Minister will be able to make a decision in respect of weighted grants for disadvantaged areas.
The last thing I want to say is that in the biennium before we came to office the all up expenditure by the Commonwealth on education for the handicapped was $5m. In the biennium just completed the all up expenditure on education for the handicapped- that is for research at universities and everywhere else- was $67m. This has made a very great difference to the qualifications of teachers who handle the problems of handicapped children and to the knowledge of where we are going. All these things have been long overdue additions to the structure of Australian education. By and large this is what this States Grants (Schools) Bill is about. I congratulate the Government for making the promise to continue the policy and for now carrying out that promise.
– I will be very brief because I know that the Government wants to deal with this Bill in the shortest possible time. I will restrict my remarks to just a few minutes. First of all, I want to accept on behalf of the Government the congratulations of the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) who has just resumed his seat. I think it would be only fair to acknowledge the contribution that the honourable member made to the development of education during the time that he was Minister for Education in the previous Government. I do not think that anybody ever doubted his concern for education. But I think that some would doubt the extent to which he was able to satisfy the demands that were made. I must confess that when I heard him say that during his term as Minister for Education, education was neither centralised nor bureaucratic I wondered whether I was hearing about some other education system that he had in mind, because it hardly seems to me to fit the picture of what we have been through. I should acknowledge that perhaps it was not the honourable member’s concept of what the position should be. I think it is fair to say that that was rather his performance. Maybe his hands were tied by his Party in that respect.
Both amendments which have been foreshadowed by the Opposition seem to place an emphasis on Canberra in the allocation of education expenditure. I do not see how we can possibly relate what is contained in the amendments to the remarks that were made today by the honourable member for Fremantle. The point is that the Labor Government introduced legislation that bound the States hand and foot in the allocation of money for education purposes. Perhaps no better example of this exists than the program for disadvantaged schools. There are some disadvantaged schools in the electorate of La Trobe. The money that has been spent on these schools in the last 3 years was determined in Canberra. Canberra determined what constituted a disadvantaged school. We in Victoria were obliged by the Federal Government at the time to take the names of 20 disadvantaged schools off the list. I would just pose the question: Who knows best whether a school is disadvantaged or not? If we on the ground in the electorates and in the States do not know I do not know who does. I just do not accept the proposition that we do not have the capacity to make determinations as to what is a disadvantaged school. This is one of those matters upon which special emphasis needs to be placed. I do not see why we need to be told by Canberra whether a school is disadvantaged or not. We know because we have lived with them.
The extraordinary thing was the way in which moneys were allocated and the procedures which had to be followed in the expenditure of those moneys. It is not an exaggeration to say that there were 16 different accounts through which money was funded to the States. If the money was not spent according to the allocation it actually was required to be paid back to Canberra. It is inevitable that problems will be encountered during the course of construction of certain buildings. Very often these problems cannot be foreseen when the building is started. It is absolutely essential that there is the capacity to transfer money or to transfer emphasis from one account to another in order to get the best utilisation of the public funds which are being spent. Surely that is a criterion upon which all governments need to exercise their discretion. Yet there was no provision for doing this. As a result many projects were tied hand and foot and the flexibility for people with local expertise to make on the spot judgments as to the best way of getting on with the job was in many cases averted.
It is interesting to see what has happened in regard to building costs in the last 3 years. I have had experience of some secondary schools that have been built in La Trobe. The average cost for the stage 1 development of a secondary high school of a standard design in Victoria has increased from about $286,000 to $700,000 in the last 3 years. I think it is probably one of the best indications of the situation which we face in catching up with school building programs. Just last week I was at St Joseph’s Regional College at Ferntree Gully which is providing a tremendous service to the parishioners in this part of my electorate. The capital expenditure requirement of this school to enable it to cater for the intake of students expected in 1977 is some $490,000-very little short of half a million dollars. It can expect to receive from this Bill probably no more than $140,000. In fact there is no guarantee that it will receive even that amount. This school is faced with a problem of financing a shortfall of about $400,000 to enable it to take in the student numbers expected next year. It does not pretend, nor do I, that it is servicing the full needs of its parishioners in that area. I mentioned that just to give to the House an indication of the dramatic increase in school building costs in the last 3 years. I think it is also a way of illustrating the determination of this Government to arrest the enormous inflationary spiral which we seem to have inherited.
Under this Bill we are allocating $476m compared with $465.2m announced by the previous Government during 1975. I am particularly pleased that the Bill reflects the Government’s intention to depart from the trend towards centralism in the administration of school spending, by requiring that the Commission consult the States and other authorities in preparing its report for the 1977-79 triennium. The Commission will be required to take into full account the priorities and the needs of the States in this regard. I am very pleased that in Victoria the Education Department has taken the necessary steps to decentralise the planning and other functional performances that are needed in the administration of school programs. I think Victoria is leading the field in the Commonwealth in this regard, although I would not put any parochial importance on that. I would like to think other States are doing as much. In fact, I would like to think they are ahead of Victoria in this regard. The role that regional sections of the Department and the parent bodies will be playing in the administration of their schools is, I think, a very exciting prospect and one which I think is very well received by the school communities generally and by the teacher bodies in Victoria.
I am required to be brief. I shall honour my commitment. I welcome this Bill. I presume the Opposition will not be proceeding with its proposed amendment because it has not moved that amendment. If it is moved we will give it the treatment it deserves because we are not in the business of government to centralise all power in Canberra. I think that is one of the distinctions which the Australian community will gather between this Government and the Government which preceded us.
– I do not wish to go over many of the aspects of this Bill which have been referred to by other speakers. I welcome this Bill and some of the changes in it which again have been mentioned by previous speakers. I remind the House that education as a Commonwealth commitment is very big business. It is 10 per cent of total Budget outlays. At the 1975-76 figure of $l,908m it is larger than the defence outlay and is nearly as large as the Medibank outlay, or what is predicted will shortly be the Medibank outlay. There has been a 3-fold increase in allocations to schools, as mentioned in the Budget Speech of the then Treasurer last year. I would like to quote 2 segments of that speech. He proudly referred to the fact that in the first full year of office of the previous Government expenditure on education almost doubled, and in the next year it almost doubled again. He further drew attention to this record spending when he said:
The remarkable quadrupling of the total education expenditure figures in just over 2 years has been only part of the record. Benefits in relation to the quality of education will continue to flow on a long term basis from the machinery we have established and the programs we have fostered.
I believe that education is not solely a function of pouring unlimited amounts of money into this sector. I cannot agree with the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) who referred to the increase in the money supply that has been made available for education as being the sole attribute of the program. Let us examine some of the claims in the Budget Speech last year. Rather succinctly, the then Treasurer said:
We have decided to abandon the triennial system and revert to an annual basis of funding.
I think that was a most unfortunate move. It exhibited a rather typical lack of consultation between the Government at that time and education authorities, schools, staffs, students and administrators. It was somewhat reminiscent of the decision taken by the Prime Minister at that time who decided suddenly that the Universities Commission and the Commission on Advanced Education would be amalgamated. I remember being at a conference shortly after that decision had been taken. One of the most surprised people at that conference, it appeared to me, was the then Minister for Education, the honourable member for Fremantle. This decision to abandon the triennial program, as my colleague the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Baillieu) pointed out, was an admission of the excessive program that the previous Government undertook, of the rapid inflation and of the problems that followed. That Government really said: ‘We cannot afford to undertake a 3-year commitment in such a large expenditure area’. This stop-start type of policy created enormous problems. Contracts had to be suspended. Planning and development, both for new buildings and new courses, was thrown into chaos.
I make a strong plea that we seriously consider at the earliest possible opportunity the restoration of triennial funding, bearing in mind the economic situation with which we must deal at the moment. The Treasurer at that time also mentioned the pronounced increases in expenditure on the school sector. It was certainly most welcome to see the amount of money made available, but it was not necessarily welcome to see how poorly it was managed. There was the centralist policy. We were bound up with red tape. We had to put on additional people, not only in the schools but also in the colleges, the universities and the State Public Service to record the statistics. We had duplication of effort. Unfortunately both proposed amendments to this Bill revert to that centralist policy which I think we should be very keen to avoid. One of the things that eventuated was the rigidity with which funds were administered and tied up. We had a ridiculous and anomalous situation in which 1 -teacher schools with 15 children could easily buy a 10-listening post audio-instruction unit, colour television monitors or closed circuit television when there was no money to install an extra toilet or to repair a leaking roof in a shelter shed. We had a situation in which we provided carpets to schools with no floors.
I applaud the flexibility in this Bill- the flexibility to move funds within States and between States and, most importantly, of being able to move funds from capital programs to recurrent programs. I think there have been many instances in which we have seen a great need to be able to do that. One of the problems that I think was engendered was that the parent and citizen associations of the schools were given no incentive to support and assist their schools because it was so easy to obtain money or equipment. In many cases the equipment was not needed or was unduly expensive. The associations would quite willingly and enthusiastically have found money for that equipment.
While I am referring to the subject of schools, I make the point that I was very pleased to see that the Schools Commission, in its triennial report for 1976-78, made considerable mention of the needs and demands of country education, particularly as they relate to the philosophy of equality of opportunity. The Commission recognised the disadvantages of travel and living in the country. It recognised that small country schools have particular problems and that the staff in those schools have problems, particularly with housing, isolation and often being inexperienced. It recognised many of the situations in country areas where achievement levels are low, tertiary entry rates are low and career opportunities and employment opportunities often restrict the aspirations of students.
I welcome the assistance which was given at that time- that assistance is being carried on by this Bill- particularly in such areas as the assistance for isolated children scheme, per capita grants and capital grants for teaching, library and laboratory facilities. But there is still a very serious problem in the non-government school sector, particularly in country areas. We must not forget that the non-government school sector accounts for 20 per cent of primary enrolments and 24 per cent of secondary enrolments. Many children in country areas have no option but to leave home to go to primary or secondary school. At the primary level they certainly receive some assistance with correspondence courses, but the situation becomes far more acute at the higher levels of secondary schooling. Students have the option of hostel accommodation, private lodging or boarding schools.
The problems of country boarding schools are acute indeed. The capacity of parents to pay fees has declined enormously with the economic decline, particularly in the beef and wool industries. There has been a colossal escalation in wages and salaries. In fact, many country schools have gone out of business and others will go out of business either because they have to price themselves out of business or because they cannot meet their debts. The result is that children leave school early and strike problems of unemployment or their parents are forced to move. In many cases families are split up. My parents-in- law were a good case in point. My mother-in-law had to leave her home for many years to live in a town so that the children could go to school daily. There are many situations like this, where parents even are living in caravans in order to allow their children to go to school.
I am not talking about the wealthy nongovernment schools. Incidentally, I am not too sure that there are any wealthy non-government schools left. Certainly some may have resources and bequests, but the recurrent or operating costs are becoming very high and these schools have no hidden support as many of the government schools have. For example, they do not have support for workers compensation or long service leave and they do not have government purchasing, insurance, printing and cleaning contracts. What is happening is that many of the nongovernment schools are dropping their boarding component. I believe that this has particularly severe implications for education in the country. The Catholic boarding schools also are facing an extremely acute situation. In my electorate is one of the many Marist Brothers colleges- the Red Bend College at Forbes. It draws students from Queensland right through to the Victorian border and out to Broken Hill and Tibooburra. I saw there recently that in a room measuring some 40 feet by 50 feet 37 third formers were accommodated in bunks. They had 4 wash basins, 2 showers, one toilet and one small area in which to look at a television set. In the corner was a tiny cubicle where one of the brothers slept. There are many situations like that in the country- particularly in the Catholic schools, which I think are in acute need of support. I would like to believe that the Government will give due recognition to the need for boarding and accommodation facilities when it next considers allocations for schools:
I would like to make some mention of teachers colleges. We have seen a major increase in the number of teachers being trained and coming on to the market. I welcome this. I also welcome the move to longer, more professional courses, particularly special teacher education courses. With some reservations, I welcome the increased pay and conditions which the teaching profession has been able to achieve. However, I have some serious doubts that the quality of teaching and the quality of education in our schools have improved. We have been inundated with a multitude of audiovisual gadgets which in some cases have contributed greatly to education and in other cases have not. School leavers appear to be no better off, if not worse off, in their command of language, literacy, numeracy, basic communication skills and basic skills in learning. We have the rather anomalous situation of colleges and universities providing remedial
English courses and bridging courses in communication and learning skills to try to make up the deficiency which apparently originates in our school system.
Professor Barcan from the Faculty of Education at the University of Newcastle, in a recent issue of Quadrant, expressed serious doubts that our educational standards in schools have increased. He ventured to suggest that they have declined. He also pointed out the large proportion of teachers with little experience and he pointed out certain aspects of dissatisfaction with the school system among members of the teaching profession. I cannot agree with some of the attitudes taken by the teaching profession. I believe that its members are doing a lot of damage to their professional image- an image of which I thought they should be proud- by their attitude, their dress, their approach to their students and their relationship with their students. It is a serious situation when the professionalism of teachers is being looked upon with severe doubt by the public at large. I do not believe that the public at large has had an increasing respect for the teaching profession as a result of either the previous Government’s policies or the vast amount of money that has been poured into education, and teacher education in particular. In fact one State Minister, a colleague of mine, tells me he regards his portfolio of education as being one of Minister for industrial relations.
The previous Government also was proud of its record in providing free tertiary education, abolishing fees and taking over the full financial responsibility for tertiary education. I believe that this action again has brought about an attitude that everything is on the government. There were inequalities of opportunity amongst tertiary students, and I believe that the schemes brought in did something to rectify that situation. But one of the problems which arose from them was that we saw a certain pampered elite of young people who believed that they could do anything they liked and who sought government handouts for everything. The students at the Riverina College of Advanced Education are on strike at the moment over travel allowances. Students are demanding free subscriptions to unions, student representative councils and even sports unions; they are requiring free child minding facilities; and so it goes on. I do not believe that it is healthy to engender this attitude either in school leavers or in people undertaking tertiary education when they are about to achieve a qualification which I regard as a privilege- I may be old fashioned- rather than as a sacrosanct right.
We have seen increased academic salaries. I agree that there are many dedicated, hard working people in the profession, both in schools and in tertiary institutions. However, there are many who are typical of the clock watchers, people who are not prepared to work after hours, people who are critics but not contributors and people who go down to the poisoned waterhole- the corner pub- and criticise the system, criticise other staff, criticise students and criticise the public, but never in my experience criticise themselves. Particularly in the tertiary area, exorbitant demands for wages and salaries have been made. People at the professorial level expect to be paid a base salary of $32,000 a year, and a lecturer- not even a senior lecturer- expects to be paid a salary of $20,000 a year. I know of many instances, as will other members, in which people holding professorial positions have minute departments, relatively small budgets, only a handful of postgraduate students, and they have not taught for years. I do not believe that the level of their responsibility, or their standing in the community for that matter, demands such a salary- a salary which, I might add, the Academic Salaries Tribunal saw fit not to grant. Salaries are in fact killing education at all levels. In universities and colleges salaries comprise 80 per cent to 85 per cent of the total recurrent budgets, and in schools some 90 per cent. In many schools, such as those disadvantaged schools in the country about which I was talking previously, salaries represent 95 per cent of their total recurrent budgets. Salaries and inflation are causing great strains on our educational system.
I support this Bill. It continues the program initiated by the previous Government. It provides some flexibility and transferability. It unties the grants which in many cases were stifling the State administrations. The Bill will make a start on reducing overlap and duplication. It also will make a start on restoring State rights and responsibilities. I agree with the provisions dealing with and the ideas behind community involvement, parental participation and a much closer identification with local issues and needs of schools. But in my opinion education funding is not a sacred cow. The education honeymoon and the open chequebook situation must be looked at very carefully. All sectors of education, whether they comprise administrators, staff, students or State governments for that matter, must act responsibly. They must contribute to the system and they must work towards a planned and rational development of education at all levels. I support the Bill.
– in reply- I thank honourable gentlemen who have participated in this debate for their contribution on what is a very important matter, namely, Commonwealth funding of education in Australia. We heard from a former Minister for Education, the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley), one who has had a long-standing, and in many respects a passionate interest in the educational welfare of Australian children. We all recognise his contribution to education in Australia and listen attentively to whatever he has to say. The honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen), in leading for the Opposition on this Bill, expressed a number of fears that were in his mind. I am quite sure that those who are aware of the Government’s commitment to education, particularly through the funding powers of the national Government, will know of the policy of the coalition parties which in quite unmistakable terms displays our commitment to education at the national level.
The honourable member Kingsford-Smith spoke of fear that the Government will vacate a real interest in the area and he spoke of the debate on centralism versus federalism. There is no doubt that the Government has a firm commitment to a true spirit of political federalism in Australia, given effect by a recognition of the role of the national Government through this Parliament and the role of State governments. So we do not make any apoligies for our policy of political federalism. But at the same time we are aware of our national responsibility in this great field of education and we will not shrink from giving effect to that responsibility. We have already given a public commitment to the continuation of the Schools Commission, for example, and that, of course, will be a vehicle through which the Federal Government may receive advice at a national level, crossing State boundaries, on educational needs throughout Australia. Of course this Government will rely on and seek the advice and the views of the Schools Commission in the years ahead.
The honourable member for Kingsford-Smith also spoke of a fear that was at least in his mind that the Government would reduce spending on education. I think the Government’s commitment to education can be seen in the way the Department of Education fared in the program of economic restraint instituted by the Government in its necessary efforts to take control of the deficit facing the Government which was expected to be between $4,500m and $5,000m. Nevertheless, whilst it can be fairly and properly said that we have a commitment to maintain a level of spending on education such as that which is to be implemented through this Bill, education must, as must all other areas of national government, participate in the exercise in national economic responsibility upon which this Government is embarked at present, because, unless we follow that through, education, no less than any other area of government spending, will suffer, because real value will not get out to the people who really count in education, and they are the children of Australia upon whom the nation will rely in the years to come.
The honourable member for Kingsford-Smith also stated that the Schools Commission should be consulted. He really need have no fear on that score. I feel that his remarks in that regard might well have been thrown into this debate with tongue in cheek. This Government has given no hint whatsoever that it will not consult the Schools Commission in its future programming and funding in education. I have commented on only some of the remarks made by the honourable gentleman to give some indication that any fears that he alone may have are really quite unfounded.
The honourable member for Fremantle asked for a commitment from this Government to pursue the 3 principles of which he spoke- indexing or cost supplementation to government and nongovernment schools, the principle of educational accessibility and the principle of weighted grants to disadvantaged schools. Of course the very fact that the funding provided for through this Bill gives effect to each of those principles indicates that the call by the honourable gentleman for a commitment by the Government to these 3 principles really need not have been asked for, because it is provided for in the Bill.
The honourable member for Fremantle also spoke of centralisation of education through the Commonwealth and sought to make the point that there had really been no move in that direction under the former Government and that in fact there was the necessity for the central Government here in Canberra to move into the field in order to reveal to the nation those weaknesses in State systems which the States systems had concealed. This Government has no hesitation in saying that the last thing it wants to see in education is the centralisation of education in Australia. We have given positive effect to that commitment to co-operative federalism in education as in other fields through this Bill and through remarks that I have already made in my second reading speech in introducing the Bill.
I shall give an example from this Bill of the spirit of co-operative federalism with which we approach education. I refer to the fact that discussions have been held with the State authorities and this Bill has been drafted to meet requirements of the State authorities which will give them flexibility in their operations. I refer particularly to the transferability provisions, the amalgamation of all capital components in the one schedule and the relaxing where possible of accountability requirements as examples of the flexibility given within this Bill to allow States and systems to determine their own priorities. It is important that the State and other educational systems should be given as wide a power as possible to determine their own priorities whilst we at the national level should look at national priorities and fund them accordingly.
I refer now to the contributions made to the debate by other honourable members. The honourable member for Moore (Mr Hyde), who has shown a keen interest in education ever since he became a member of this House, highlighted a fact that must be recognised by everyone in this field as in all other fields, that is, that the resources available to the Government are finite and hence priorities must be established within those finite resources with respect to education as well as in other fields. A contribution was made to the debate by the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Baillieu), who is a new member of this House. He is showing a special interest in education. The honourable member for Calare (Mr MacKenzie) pointed up what needs to be pointed up whenever the subject of education is debated in this House, that is, the special problems which face country areas and the difficulties which parents face in seeking the highest level of education for their children on the basis of equality with what is available and much more readily accessible to children in the metropolitan areas. I thank honourable members for their contributions to this debate. The honourable member for Kingsford-Smith has foreshadowed the moving of certain amendments. I can say now that the Government will be opposing those amendments, but I will be elaborating more particularly on them when they are presented at the Committee stage of the debate on this Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Clauses 1 to 6- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
In sub-clause (3) after ‘State’, second appearing, insert ‘but only after consultation with the Schools Commission and report to the Parliament,’.
Clause 7 is part of that section of the Bill which deals with general building and equipment grants. Honourable members will notice that sub-clause (3), which is the relevant provision, reads:
At any time, and from time to time, during the year to which this Act applies, but subject to sub-section (4), the Commonwealth Education Minister may, at the request of the State Education Minister for a State, direct that this Act has effect as if the amounts specified in . . . Schedule 1 . . . were so varied . . .
Why not take the advice of the Schools Commission in respect of the variation? It is quite clear that the Commonwealth Minister for Education would have taken the advice of the Schools Commission in respect of the allocation. The allocation is quite substantial. Schedule 1 indicates an allocation of some $229.7m for building and equipment projects and recurrent expenditure, but in this case we are dealing with the particular portion which relates to general building and equipment grants. I draw the attention of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) to his own remarks in replying to this debate. He said: ‘We emphasise that we will retain the Schools Commission. We emphasise that we will need its advice’.
I cannot understand why, as he has foreshadowed, the Government is now prepared to ignore the Commission when there is a request from a State Education Minister which may or may not be granted. If in the formality of things there is a request for a variation and the Commonwealth Education Minister wishes to grant it surely the Parliament is entitled to know that he has acted after seeking the advice of the Schools Commission. Are we to assume from the remarks made earlier in this debate this afternoon that members of the Government really think that the Schools Commission is a bureaucracy which should not exist? I just cannot see how they can justify that argument against even the wording of their own legislation. The Commonwealth Minister for Education may not decide to agree to a request. All we are saying in this case is that where he wishes to agree to a request he should consult with the Schools Commission. How can the Commission continue to feel that it is respected if in fact a request made by a State Minister for Education is granted by the Commonwealth Minister for Education without any consultation with the Commission, particularly if it is in respect of a project that the Commission would not have approved.
The members of the Commission happen to be 13 respectable citizens. They are not bureaucrats who are located in Canberra. I fail to understand how that nonsense originated. They happen to be associated with education, with State areas and with the needs of children. They have produced a very excellent report. I congratulate the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs for saying that he will continue to take their advice and that it is the Government’s policy to retain their services. Can honourable members imagine how the members of the Commission would feel upon hearing it said during this debate or reading in Hansard that our suggestion that they be consulted is not going to be accepted? Why should they not be consulted? Having been consulted in the initial stages in respect of the allocation surely they ought to be consulted as to the requirement or necessity for a reallocation. There is no restriction on the matter. They have only to be consulted and this Parliament needs only to be advised.
How does the Government reconcile its attitude to the rejection of this proposed amendment with the motion moved in this chamber today by no less a personage than the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) that provides for the setting up of a committee to review all expenditure. One of the terms of reference of this committee relates to expenditure which would come under this clause. We could have the ridiculous situation of a member of this Parliament standing up and suggesting that the proposed review committee- a committee of this Parliament- should have a look at the reallocation of expenditure and of that committee being entitled to say: ‘We can obtain no advice anywhere else. We will go and ask the
Schools Commission about the matter’. That situation could well arise now, even in the face of the Government’s argument.
Let me make it clear: The Opposition is interested only in the needs of children. If the allocation in the first place was a justifiable one why should it not be retained? If it was not a justifiable one why should it not be altered? In any event, why should this Parliament not be advised? From the point of view of open government, which is the very antithesis of bureaucracy, why should the Parliament not have a report on this matter? It would not delay the project. The amendment merely says that the direction shall be given only after consultation and report to the Parliament. The request, of course, would be granted by the Minister. Accordingly, I see no foundation for the rejection of the proposal. It is a very simple, straightforward amendment which is in line with any self respecting commission’s views as to what the Parliament would want. The wording of the legislation in this fashion could be interpreted as being a means of bypassing the Commission. That is the only reason why we want to correct the situation. The Minister has only to consult with the Commission, seek its advice and advise the Parliament, if that is the way it has to be. The Parliament is being advised in the first instance. The allocation has been the subject of debate here. Why should the Parliament not be advised of a reallocation within the ambit of the money available? Accordingly, the Opposition presses the amendment, regards it as being vital and is disturbed to think that it is going to be opposed.
-The amendment, as the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen) has said, is a simple one. The point is that it is unnecessary. There are several provisions in the Bill for the transfer of funds. In each case the Minister for Education would, as a matter of course, consult with the Schools Commission. Under clause 7 (5) of the Bill the Parliament will be informed as soon as practicable after the decision has been taken. If Parliament had to be informed before the decision was taken, and Parliament was not sitting, the delay would be inordinate.
– I was rather intrigued by the argument presented by the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen) in support of his amendment because he was arguing strenuously on a premise which is not denied, and that is that the Schools Commission ought to be consulted. The real question is whether an amendment of this kind is needed to the Bill and nothing that the honourable gentleman has said justifies the acceptance of the amendment. Let me explain it in this way to the Committee. The provision referred to in the amendment relates to the transfer of funds between recurrent and capital expenditure for government schools within a State. There are similar provisions elsewhere in the Bill, not only here but elsewhere, and no amendments are sought in respect of those, together with provision for the Minister to transfer funds from one State to another. The Bill does not refer in any of its substantive clauses to the Schools Commission since the Bill is concerned with the approval of grants which must be the responsibility of the Minister. So why does the Opposition seek to have included in this clause a reference to the Schools Commission when the Commission is not referred to elsewhere in the Bill?
In giving the approvals under this provision the Minister would, as a matter of course, seek information and advice from the Schools Commission in accordance with the Commission’s own charter as set out in the Schools Commission Act of 1 973. 1 do not really think that the honourable member believes that the Government would ignore the charter of the Schools Commission. The State Minister would have to provide reasons for any transfer of funds that he proposed and the Commonwealth Minister would need to be satisfied about the transfer before agreeing to it.
The second part of the amendment refers to a proposal for a report to Parliament in advance of any intended transfer of funds between recurrent and capital expenditure. There is, as the honourable member for Moore (Mr Hyde) pointed out, provision in clause 7 (5) of the Bill for Parliament to be informed ‘as soon as practicable’ after the Minister has decided on a transfer. To inform the Parliament in advance could give rise to delays, especially if Parliament is not sitting, and would not change the position in any material way. So there is no intention to withhold information from the Parliament. In fact, the intention to disclose government decisions through the Minister is already written into the Bill. For those reasons the Government does not propose to accept the amendment.
– Emphasis on this clause was highlighted by the fact that the initiation process comes from the request of the State Minister. In view of that position the Opposition felt that there had to be a safeguard that there would be at least consultation with the Schools Commission. It does not satisfy the position merely because clause 7(5) says that a statement setting out particulars of the direction would be given to the Parliament. What we are suggesting is that after consultation with the Schools Commission the Parliament would be advised as to the Commission’s report, not the direction of the Minister. Accordingly we press the amendment.
That the amendment (Mr Lionel Bowen’s) be agreed to.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman- Mr P. E. Lucock)
Question so resolved in the negative. Clause agreed to.
Clauses 8 to 10- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
– I move:
After sub-clause (2) paragraph (a) insert the following paragraph: ‘(aa) after consultation with the Schools Commission, the Commonwealth Education Minister may permit the allocation of a specific amount from a school’s allocation to be spent at the discretion of the school board; ‘.
This clause is contained in Part III, which refers to grants for recurrent expenditure. In a nutshell, what it means is that there should be some recognition of a fully developed community having an involvement with its schools. I understand that the legislation that my colleague the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) proposed to introduce had such a provision in it, but it was removed in the drafting of this Bill. Some weight is given to our submission if one looks at the report of the Schools Commission for the year 1976. At page 4, paragraph 2.3 states:
Through its recommendations, the Commission is seeking to move a greater range of decisions to the school community, where teachers, parents and students may participate in making them. The Commission sees influence over expenditure as a fundamental part of this process and believes that within systems the first steps should be taken to make some of the operating funds for schools available to those who work in them. Similarly development activities should be opened to parents as well as teachers. Wider participation in decision-making is also encouraged in recommendations about the participation of major ethnic groups in planning educational services for their children, in those recommendations related to Aboriginal education and in those concerned with operations of the Special Projects, Services and Development and Disadvantaged Schools Programs.
It is quite clear that what the Opposition is seeking here is that, again only after consultation, there be some recognition of what is needed for the stimulation of community involvement as part and parcel of an education program. That was first foreshadowed in the Karmel report. I draw the Minister’s attention to the paragraphs in that report headed ‘Community Involvement’, where Professor Karmel makes it clear that it is worth while. He states:
The Committee is neither able nor willing to be prescriptive about the forms which school-community relations should take, but values experimentation. Educationally, and from the point of view of efficient use of resources, it would make good sense to have the school as the nucleus of a community centre. Joint planning, and even conduct, of schools by educational, health, welfare, cultural and sporting agencies could provide additional facilities for the school, allow the community access to its resources, and thus generally increase its fruitfulness. In this way a link could be forged between school, family, peer group, and the society at large.
I will say no more, but I encourage the Government to change its mind and not to oppose this amendment.
-At first glance, this amendment must be worthy of consideration. I am quite sure that movements in this direction within government and non-government systems are important to enable school communities to develop greater commitment to education through more extensive control of their own affairs. But I put it to the Opposition that nothing in this Bill denies State governments the ability to do that now, or denies the ability of schools to spend through their approved bodies. I believe that many State governments are moving in that direction. In particular, the Victorian Government is moving in that direction, and we are aware of substantial movements in that area. This amendment seeks to direct State governments, and I think it would only compound the duplications and the inefficiencies that are obvious at present. It has been pointed out already that in some instances we have electronic equipment when pencils are needed and carpets when toilets are needed. I think the involvement of school communities in the administration and management of their education facilities is proceeding very favourably. There is no reason why this amendment should be accepted. It will not add anything to the continuation and development of this process.
– The Government cannot accept the amendment proposed. Let me say at the outset that that is not because the Government does not believe in community participation in school programs; in fact, far from it. I indicated quite clearly in my second reading speech, as recorded at page 1013 of Hansard, that there is a strong public commitment by the Government to community participation in school programs. So there is no question about that. In drafting the Bill the Government gave careful consideration to the question whether the Commonwealth should have the power to impose a legislative requirement that part of the general recurrent grants for government or non-government systemic schools should be made available to school community bodies. Indeed, that observation was made by the Schools Commission in its June 1975 report. It made the point that the devolution of decision making ‘should not be coerced through legislation’.
Although the amendment speaks of authorising the Minister to permit the allocation of a specific amount from a school’s allocation to be spent at the discretion of the School Board, because of the caveat presented by the Schools Commission, as I have already quoted, the Government considers that more thought needs to be given to the particular manner in which legislative approval of the process of community participation should be given effect. The Government reached the conclusion that it would not be appropriate in a standstill year of funding, which is what we have at the present time, where new initiatives were to be avoided, to introduce a provision whereby the Commonwealth could direct a State or non-government system to make funds available in such a way.
It is our intention to encourage as much decentralisation of decision making as possible, to permit maximum responsiveness and local involvement in education. We shall continue cooperative discussions with the States and nongovernment school systems on ways of increasing local decision making for schools. For these reasons the Government had the Bill drafted so that it would be quite open to a State or a nongovernment school system to use its own discretion in allowing funds to be allocated direct to school community bodies, but it would not be incumbent upon either to do so. In that respect, the Bill having been drawn in the way in which it has been in order to provide for that flexibility of decision making, the amendment proposed is unnecessary. As I pointed out, because the amendment is worded in such a way as to make it permissive rather than directive that certain funds be spent at the discretion of the school board, it would not add in any way to the capacity for community involvement that is already provided for in the Bill. Moreover, in the case of government schools, by not involving the State Minister in the arrangements the proposal would be offensive to State governments.
As a concrete indication of our interest in community involvement the Bill provides in clause 39, as I point out to the honourable member opposite who moved the amendment, under the definition of ‘approved development and service activities’, for the participation of parents and other members of the community in developmental programs. Finally, as a result of the interim financing arrangements that we have made with the States both they and the nongovernment school authorities have planned the expenditure of the whole of the funds to be made available. To introduce changes in the funding arrangements at this stage could be construed as a breach of faith. Therefore, as I have indicated, the Government cannot accept the amendment.
– I just wish to make the point that the report of the Schools Commission did emphasise the need for involvement, really of a substantive nature, not of a trivial nature. I think the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) has satisfied us as to the reason for the amendment not being accepted. It is not acceptable to State Education Ministers. This is the reason for the amendment. We have run ourselves into a position where an effective school with an effective community might have a program which would be acceptable to a schools commission but is going to be trampled underfoot because a particular State Minister does not agree with it. Accordingly, we intend to proceed with the amendment.
That the paragraph proposed to be inserted (Mr Lionel Bowen’s amendment) be inserted.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman- Mr P. E. Lucock)
Question so resolved in the negative. Clause agreed to.
Remainder of Bill- by leave- taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Viner)- by leave- read a third time.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate without amendment:
Nitrogenous Fertilizers Subsidy Amendment Bill 1 976.
Loans (Qantas Airways Ltd) Bill 1976.
Loans (Australian National Airlines Commission) Bill 1976.
Motion (by Mr Viner)- by leave- agreed to:
That Mr Innes be discharged from attendance on the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and that, in his place Mr Crean be appointed a member of the Committee.
Debate resumed from 16 March on motion by Mr Viner:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition does not oppose this Bill. The Bill was introduced in the Senate and passed through all its stages in that place with the support of the Opposition. It is a Bill which the Opposition Party would have introduced, and intended to introduce last year. We were hoping to have approved by the Parliament last year another Bill relating to long service leave entitlements which would have benefited teachers within the Commonwealth Teaching Service. That Bill, of course, was not passed and we have had no opportunity to introduce this particular piece of legislation.
The objects of the Bill are to make special long service leave provisions for those New South Wales- and South Australian teachers who were employed in the Australian Capital Territory and in the Northern Territory respectively in 1973 and who elected to join the Commonwealth Teaching Service before 1 January 1974. Apart from a number of other provisions the essential clause is clause 9 which guarantees preservation of long service leave conditions for New South Wales and South Australian teachers who were teaching in the Australian Capital Territory and in the Northern Territory in 1 973 and who elected to join the Teaching Service before 1 January 1974. The clause does not confer any eligibility for any improvements which might be brought about by changes in the State law which came into effect after the teachers concerned had joined the Teaching Service.
Whilst we do not oppose the Bill we do express regret that it can be now clearly indicated that the teachers joining the Commonwealth Teaching Service after January 1974 could be at a disadvantage. It is well known that in New South Wales, for example, the long service leave provisions are more generous than those obtaining in the Commonwealth Teaching Service. That being so, teachers may not be encouraged to join the service. To that extent the Bill is deficient, but we welcome the improvement by way of the legal changes now introduced.
-The Commonwealth Teaching Service BUI is a noncontentious measure with very few changes from the Bill proposed by the Labor Party when it was in government. One difference from that Bill is that we still refer to the Commonwealth Teaching Service whereas the former Government sought to refer to the Australian Teaching Service. It was an unnecessary complication. There are many Australian teaching services; there is one in every State. When one wishes to indicate the Commonwealth, the Federal organisation of Australia, one may as well refer to it as such. If one is referring to a body which is essentially Australian as opposed to one which is the province, business or function of some other country, one would refer to it as the Australian body; for example, the Australian armed Services. The word ‘Commonwealth’ is used in relation to the Commonwealth Teaching Service to ensure clarity. I will never understand the reason for the hang up that the previous Government had about calling every Commonwealth function an Australian function.
This Bill seeks to bring approximately 1100 members of the New South Wales Teaching Service who serve in the Australian Capital Territory under the terms of the Commonwealth long service leave provisions, providing they so wish. At the date when their furlough falls due they can choose whether they will take that furlough under the terms of the New South Wales provisions or the Commonwealth provisions. The New South Wales provisions stipulate 2 months furlough after 10 years of service and one month for every year thereafter. I believe that the Commonwealth provisions stipulate 3 months furlough after 10 years and I think 9 days- a much shorter period- for every year thereafter. This means that the teacher coming into the Service is in a position to take the best of 2 worlds. A teacher who has served for a period of less than 12 years would be better advised to choose the Commonwealth provisions. He will receive more long service leave if he opts to be treated under the Commonwealth provisions. On the other hand, if his long service leave has accrued over a period longer than 1 1 years he would be better advised to choose the New South Wales provisions. This places him in a very happy position. As I have said, it is a generous provision.
Teachers from the South Australian Teaching Service who teach in the Northern Territory- I understand that there are between 200 and 300 of them- are entitled to the benefits of much the same provisions under the South Australian legislation as under the Commonwealth legislation except that under the Commonwealth legislation pre-service training is not counted as service in assessing long service leave entitlements. Therefore they will be in the position of being able to opt for the better of the 2 provisions and I have no doubt that they will do so. Again these teachers are being treated quite generously.
The Bill also changes the definition of a teaching organisation in the Australian Capital Territory to bring technical teachers under the provision of the Commonwealth Teaching Service. Teachers who now teach at institutions staffed by the New South Wales Teaching Service will have the option of either joining the Commonwealth Teaching Service or transferring to the New South Wales Teaching Service and arranging to be transferred to some other teaching organisation outside of the Australian Capital Territory within the next year or so. I consider that these are quite generous provisions for the teachers concerned. I do not think that they are in any way contentious, and I commend the Bill.
-When I heard the speech of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) in introducing this Bill and read it afterwards I asked myself: ‘Where have I heard this glorious prose, these ringing periods, these majestic sentiments before?’ So I went back to the speech that I made when I introduced the Bill originally and found that it was exactly the same speech with one slight difference, which the honourable member for Moore (Mr Hyde) emphasised when he spoke a moment ago. I am glad therefore to see that trade union principles still exist in the Commonwealth Teaching Service structure and that nobody has gone to the trouble of writing a different speech for the new Minister, even if he happens to be of the opposite political party.
However, the word ‘Commonwealth’ has reappeared. I congratulate the Minister for restoring that socialistic and entirely revolutionary term which Queen Victoria fought so hard to ensure should not be in the Australian Constitution because it was redolent of Oliver Cromwell. Even Oliver himself had not much liked the word but it was pressed upon him by the levellers who had very much the same idea of monarchy as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) has of Sir John Kerr. They could prove their scriptural orthodoxy by pointing out that it occurs in St Paul’s Epistles to the Corinthians where he refers to the Commonwealth of Israel. Sir Robert Garran has revealed that the reason the word was adopted in Australia was that it came from the Epistles to the Corinthians. Anyway, ‘Commonwealth’ is a socialistic expression and that is why the levellers fastened on to it. The expression also has revolutionary overtones. It is an amusing paradox that ‘Commonwealth ‘happens to be a word. that the Leader of the Opposition dislikes, and therefore it was eliminated from much of our legislation. But in ideological terms one would have thought that the more radical party would go for the word ‘Commonwealth’, and that honourable gentlemen opposite would be strenuously trying to eliminate it.
Having said that, there is no need for me to go into details about the superannuation rights that have been adequately touched upon by the honourable member for Moore. The Commonwealth Teaching Service has certain important functions to perform. It still requires some dedicated persons to go to Papua New Guinea. I hope that it will still recruit people with a real sense of mission for that purpose to go into the secondary education structure of that country. The Service also requires in the Northern Territory teachers of very high quality, with similar dedication to deal with disadvantaged peopleespecially the Aboriginal sector of the community- and with perception and compassion to deal with children who suffer the disadvantages of isolation in the Northern Territory. It is an important teaching service.
In my time as Minister the Service recruited and retained many able teachers from South Australia to teach in the Northern Territory. Teachers have also been recruited from New South Wales and elsewhere to teach in the Australian Capital Territory. As the previous speaker said, the Bill is not in any way controversial, and we will not delay the Minister in getting his speedy passage of the Bill. In view of this the speeches will be short from this side of the House.
-In supporting the Bill I would like to refer to the remarks of the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley), a former Minister for Education, about the socialistic connotation of the words ‘common wealth’. I think what worried most of us about various aspects of measures introduced by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) when he was Prime Minister was the way in which those measures were introduced. We were worried about the way in which the previous Prime Minister imposed a national anthem on the country without taking any real notice of the feeling of the Australian people. I felt this way when the title of the Commonwealth Teaching Service was changed to the Australian Teaching Service. For that matter I felt the same way when the word ‘Commonwealth’ was changed to ‘Australian’ in the title of other bodies.
The present Prime Minister when he was Minister for Education- certainly he will correct me if I am wrong- had his Department do a lot of work in respect of the implementation of this teaching scheme in the Northern Territory. The Labor Party then came into office and implemented the scheme. Since then the scheme has gone from strength to strength.
Prior to 1972 the teaching staff at community schools in the Northern Territory was supplied by and administered by the South Australian Department of Education. Aboriginal schools were staffed by teachers who were under the control of the Aboriginal Education Division of the Department of the Interior. When the South Australian Government decided that after due notice it would withdraw its teachers from the Northern Territory, those teachers were given an option of returning to South Australia or of joining the newly formed Commonwealth Teaching Service. There was considerable concern among teachers at that time as to their future in a new service which really had not been tried out and which, they could see, was probably rather narrow in its avenues of promotion, and so on. Many good teachers returned to South Australia. I commend the ones who stayed and the ones who returned to the Territory. As the former Minister said, there were many with special qualities. I commend those who stayed and those who returned and joined the Commonwealth Teaching Service, which now embraces the teaching at all schools in the Northern Territory. In supporting this measure, I say that it is only right that teachers employed by the service should have similar long service leave provisions to the provisions which they had or to the provisions which their colleagues in various States have. It is hard enough to get people to live in these areas, very often in hard conditions. The standard of schools and the difficulties of handling pupils, whether they are Aboriginals or whites, in remote areas cannot be overlooked. Quite often the teachers face considerable hardship.
I would like to deal now with that part of the Bill which states that the Commissioner of the Teaching Service may make available teachers to technical colleges in the Australian Capital Territory. We have not any technical colleges in the Northern Territory. I know that the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick), on his way through the Territory on a recent visit, discussed the Katherine Rural College, which could be the nearest approach we have to anything that even resembles a technical college. I hope his departmental people who were with him and who showed a great knowledge and understanding of the problems, and have done so since, will give consideration to technical education in the Northern Territory, apart from the rural college. Their efforts were greatly appreciated by the people to whom they spoke in the Northern Territory. This technical knowledge will be needed. There is great scope for imparting these skills to Aboriginal and part Aboriginal students and even fully grown Aborigines. These teachers will be needed in the Territory in great numbers, I hope, once we turn the corner from this financial distress which was imposed upon us by the previous Government. I support the Bill. As the former Minister said, I hope it is given a speedy passage.
– in reply- It is obvious from what has been said by members of the Opposition and by those on the Government side who have spoken that this legislation must be a bench mark in by-partisanship, judging from the equal standpoint with which both sides have approached the legislation, to the point of presentation of the same second reading speech. I was very interested, as I am sure other members were, to hear the former Minister for Education, the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley). One thing which the honourable member indicated to the House- it really points up what many of us had observed before- is that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) is one of the great paradoxes of Australian political history. The honourable member for Fremantle gave us new insight and presented new dimensions into the quaintness of his leader’s socialism. It might well be said that the Leader of the Opposition as a student of history has much to learn from the honorable member for Fremantle. I was very interested in the remarks of the honourable member on this Bill and on the States Grants (Schools) Bill 1976. The honourable member for Fremantle referred to the education of Aboriginals. While he was speaking I had 2 ears on what the honourable member was saying and with my 2 eyes I was reading the Schools Commission report which is dated October 1 975. Paragraph 2.2 of that report states:
The Commission thus wishes the relate the financing of education directly to equality and quality. It reaffirms its belief that without a minimum level of competence a person bears a lifelong disability, not only in the achievement of self-fulfilment but in relation to effective participation in society.
I am quite sure the honourable member agrees with me when I say that that observation applies no less to Aboriginal members of the Australian community than it does to other members. I know from discussions I have had with the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) in my capacity as Minister for Aboriginal Affairs of the great interest which the Minister for Education has in the education of Aboriginal people. He will be taking initiatives for his part, to bring about the same belief which the Schools Commission has expressed in the section of the report which I have read.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Viner) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 1 April, on motion by Mr Nixon:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Roads Acts Amendment Bill is concerned primarily with an adjustment to the National Roads Act 1 974 and the Roads Grants Act 1 974 to allow for a cost of living adjustment since these Acts came into force. The Opposition does not oppose the Bill. However, reading between the lines of the second reading speech of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) one can see the first steps towards a renunciation by this conservative Government of its responsibility to ensure an adequately planned program of roads for the whole of Australia. This BUI purports to provide additional grants to the States of $64m for expenditure on roads in 1975-76. In fact, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has requested State Premiers to postpone claims of $20m of that amount until the next financial year.
Honourable members will recall that the previous Labor Government introduced a similar Bill on 30 October 1975 to appropriate an additional $64m of Australian Government funds for payment to the States in the 1975-76 fiscal year. That was to be matched by the States with an amount of $58m, making a total of $ 122m. That Bill lapsed when the Parliament was dissolved improperly on 1 1 November last. At the same time it was the intention of the Labor Government- steps had been put in train- to move quickly to introduce legislation to provide grants for the triennium following the expiry of the present legislation at the end of the 1976-77 financial year.
The previous Government was developing a system of co-operative planning between the Australian Government and the States with a view to initiating integrated transport legislation to cover Australian Government funding of a number of transport modes, including urban public transport and rail transport. When Labor came to office in 1972 transport generally had suffered 23 years of neglect and fragmentation. My colleague the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) was responsible for the amalgamation of the Department of Shipping and Transport and the Department of Civil Aviation into the present Department of Transport. Co-operative planning procedures with the States were established and, as I mentioned earlier, a continuing process was planned to integrate legislative grants across the various modes of transport. The first step- the integration of urban public transport and road grantswas being worked towards before 1 1 November last. That initiative lapsed with the change in government, and to date there has been no statement of policy on it by the coalition Government. The Opposition can only assume that it has been dropped.
The second step would have been the integration of legislative arrangements for roads, urban transport and rail transport. The previous Government was pursuing an objective of giving the States 18 months notice of intended legislative arrangements- so essential in making the necessary planning decisions. This Government has given no notice of its intentions or its future policy. It has been given no notice at all of its intentions on the size of impending grants for the 1977-80 triennium, the size and timing of the 1 976-77 escalation grant or whether in fact it will continue the practice of indexing grants in future years. When we consider that the long delay in dealing with the present Bill was the direct result of those now in government, it is reasonable to expect that the 1976-77 escalation grant will not be treated as an urgent matter. Having in mind that under the Fraser Government the rate of inflation is achieving new heights, when the escalation grant is eventually passed on to the States it will have lost much of its value.
The present Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon), then in Opposition, was critical of the amount to be paid to the States for roads in the current triennium when the Roads Grants Bill was debated in this House on 1 August 1974. As reported at page 990 of Hansard, he referred to fuel tax collections and said: . . . the Government, in the next 3 years, will spend only S3 per cent of the estimated $2, 1 32m it will collect in fuel taxes . . .
If he had been genuine in his complaints at that time, he would have taken the opportunity which this Bill provides to increase the funds to be given to the States for road purposes, but instead of increasing the amount payable to the States this conservative Government, obsessed with reducing the Budget deficit in a period of heavy unemployment, has asked the States to defer their claims for $20m of the $64m we are discussing until after 1 July. Not only are the States being asked to carry the burden of the $20m deferred claims, but complementary to that is the $18m which would be the States’ quota attaching to the $20 m in the current financial year. The Government’s request was not received generously by the State Premiers at the recent Premiers Conference- and understandably so.
– That is not true.
-It is true. The States had already committed their funds in anticipation of receiving the full amounts. With the high rate of inflation under the present Administration the States are not able to compensate from their own resources for any reduced level of assistance from the Australian Government. We have not been told what will happen if the States do not choose to defer $20m of their claims until after 1 July. This legislation purports to provide $64m for road purposes, not $44m. So it will be interesting to see what happens if the States claim their full entitlement under this legislation before 30 June.
The Minister said in his second reading speech that the additional $64m ‘represents a very substantial effort on the part of the Commonwealth Government’. In fact the additional grant of $64m was set out in the Hayden Budget Papers and was not a fresh initiative on the part of this Government, as it would have the public believe. What of 1976-77? One estimate was that the escalation grant for 1976-77 should be S235m. The Bureau of Roads report for 1975 has recommended a cost of living adjustment of $ 1 57m. Will this $157m be adjusted by the $20m deferral that the Government has requested from the States or will the full amount of $157m recommended by the Bureau of Roads be granted? Nothing had been heard yet from the Minister on this subject. This is the appropriate time for the Government to give a categorical assurance to the States that the full amount of $ 157m will be provided in 1976-77.
In the context of constant doomsday and horror budget forecasts from the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) it is unlikely that the States will receive the escalation grant that has been recommended by the Bureau of Roads. What this Government in its paranoid obsession with reducing Government expenditure seems to forget is the impact on the public sector of sharp cuts in government spending. Road maintenance and construction authorities are high employers of labour. A sharp cut in public expenditure will have a sharp impact on employment in the private sector. The consequence would be increased unemployment and a return to the old stop-go philosophy of the pre- 1 972 days.
The Minister referred in his second reading speech to amendments to the existing Acts to allow State governments more flexibility to transfer funds between road categories and between Acts. The previous Government had recognised the need for flexibility in administrative procedures and in the Bill of October 1975 moved to provide greater flexibility. Nevertheless, the Labor Government agreed with the Bureau of Roads on the need for the various categories of roads. Different types of roads serve different needs in the community. In the Bureau’s 1973 report it noted different areas of neglect for different types of roads. Solutions to these problems require considerable planning and the different problems require different solutions. For example, local government authorities need assistance for street reconstruction and street maintenance. The Bureau of Roads identified these areas of need and the then Australian Labor Government took the initiative to meet those needs. This Government, however, is planning to take the level of flexibility much further than the previous Government intended.
In a national approach to road planning, Australian Government priorities, State priorities and the national interest must be taken into consideration. It is quite clear that this Bill is the first step by the Government to abrogate all responsibility for road planning and road programming.
The inklings that have been let fall about federalism show that the Government intends to hand over responsibility for roads to the States. In an address to the Australian Ashphalt Conference on 1 February 1976, delivered by Mr Charles Halton on behalf of the Minister, in speaking about roads other than national roads, Mr Halton said:
The Government considers that these roads should remain the prime responsibility of the appropriate road authorities within each State. We will be aiming, through our Federalism policy, to co-operate with the States in providing the financial resources necessary to discharge their internal transport responsibilities.
The Prime Minister, on page 9 of his statement which was circulated to the Premiers Conference on 4 February 1 976, stated:
Secondly, there are some programs- or parts of programs- which represent areas of expenditure which clearly deserve continuing Commonwealth support but in which there is no obvious need that my Government can see for the Commonwealth to be involved in a specific way.
I underline the word ‘specific’. The statement continued:
These are matters in respect of which priorities should appropriately be left to the States and their authorities to determine.
In such cases, some form of absorption of specific purpose funds into general purpose funds would be appropriate.
This matter will be given the most careful examination in close consultation with the States. Without in any way wishing to prejudice the outcome of that examination, I mention the Sewerage Program and that portion of roads assistance which relates to minor local urban and rural roads as examples of the kind of program at which we are looking closely.
Both of these statements are ominous for the future of the present system of funding road construction and maintenance under the Roads Grants Act 1974. The Minister for Transport complains bitterly about what he sees as unwarranted control over road projects by the Australian Government. It is obvious where this Government’s federalism policy will lead us; it will lead us back to the days of the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act under which the States had complete say in the expenditure of Federal funds on roads. It is clear in which direction these funds are now to shift.
The Minister made a special point of mentioning that he will not require States to seek his approval for the construction of urban arterial roads and freeways financed wholly from their own funds. We, in government, recognised the problems that 23 years of Liberal-Country Party neglect in our major cities had caused. Environmental problems and traffic congestion, combined with totally inadequate public transport systems were killing our cities. On assuming office we immediately set about tackling these enormous problems. We recognised that inner city freeways would not solve the problems of our cities and that it was pointless bringing even more motor cars into the central business districts of our cities.
In 1972 Labor won office on a campaign of ‘save the capital cities’, and in 1974-75 voters assumed that this policy would be continued. But it is in precisely this area that the Minister clearly wishes to reverse the policy. I suppose it is not surprising that this anti-city pro-farmers government should seek to ensure that capital cities are not revived and that voters continue to be misled by the Government’s smoke-screen policies on the reallocation of Government expenditure. The Minister plans to leave the States to construct freeways at will to add further congestion and pollution to what is already an unbearable situation. The unco-ordinated construction of freeways and roads is not in Australia ‘s interests. If this is to be the practice the Government may as well disband the Department of Transport and the Bureau of Roads, introduce federalism tax sharing with all its complexities and confusion and leave roads and transport to the States.
It is no coincidence that the transport portfolio is in the hands of the National Country Party. The past speeches of the Minister for Transport indicate his preference for massive funds for rural roads at the expense of downgraded urban areas. Honourable members should look at the distribution of funds being provided in this Bill as compared with the distribution of funds in the original Bill introduced by the former Minister for Transport, the honourable member for Newcastle, on 30 October last year. A reference to the 2 tables of allocation of funds shows that the national highway programs, under this Bill, has been reduced by $8.1m. That amount has been transferred to the road grants section of the Bill. Within the schedules of the road grants section of the Bill we find that rural arterial and developmental roads expenditure has been increased by $6.93m and for rural local roads, particularly in Victoria, the State to which the Minister for Transport belongs, expenditure has increased by $6. 27m, the program for minor traffic improvement safety procedures has decreased by $2.1m, urban arterial roads total expenditure has been decreased by $0.59m, urban local roads expenditure has been decreased by $2. 69m and the allocation for beef roads has been deleted.
So one can see quite clearly from those figures that rural arterial development roads and rural local roads have benefited to the extent of more than $ 13m- the Minister smiles; I know he is happy about it- as compared with the schedule set out in the original Bill which came before this chamber last October. I hope to have more to say about the distribution of those funds during the Committee stages of the Bill.
The result of the amendments contained in this Bill will be virtually to make the Minister- I know he will like this title- the Australian dictator for road construction and maintenance. The transfer of funds between the National Roads Act and the Roads Grants Act that are sought by the States on the basis of relative priorities will require the concurrence of the Treasurer as well as the approval of the Minister. However, transfers within the Roads Grants Act sought by the States will require simply the approval of the Minister. That places him in a most powerful position to pork barrel the rural constituenciesa practice for which the National Country Party is justly famous. He will be able to return to that past practice of buying rural votes with road funds- a return to rural socialism and the handout mentality of pre- 1972 that resulted in our major national highway, the Hume Highway, being a virtual goat track after 23 years of conservative government.
– Look what happened during your 3 years in office.
– The barnyard has woken up at last. One might well ask: Why bother to have a roads policy and require road programs if the Minister has supreme power to juggle road grants without examination by the Parliament? That is the conundrum that future road users now face. But one thing is certain: If urban local roads and the national highways programs are to be reduced to provide greater than the Bureau of Roads recommendations for rural local and rural arterial roads, then additional human lives will be lost to pay for National Country Party pork barrelling. Whilst urban arterial and sub-arterial roads constitute only 2 per cent of all roads in Australia, they carry about 50 per cent of all road traffic. Safety designed roads, especially where the usage rate is high, mean fewer motor accidents and more human lives saved. The responsibility for safe roads where they are most needed, co-ordinated with an efficient public transport system, is in the hands of the Minister. I ask him to consider the human lives to be saved when he is tempted in the future to approve road grant transfers that cannot be justified on the basis of a proper set of road priorities. To return to the handout mentality of road funding is to court disaster for thousands of Australian families.
It is up to the Minister now to state clearly the Government’s policy on road funding as it is to be effected by the so-called policy of federalism. If the States are to be solely responsible for financing the construction and maintenance of those roads presently funded under the Roads Grants Act 1974 then the Minister should say so explicitly. If that is to be the case, to what purpose will the proceeds of the fuel tax be applied? It should be remembered that the Minister complained in 1974 that insufficient funds- only 53 per cent of fuel tax proceeds- would be available for roads in the current triennium. I asked the Minister this question a few weeks ago but could not get an answer. Does the Minister recall? The Minister nods.
What in fact would be achieved by handing over responsibility for roads to the States? That obviously is the import of the Minister’s speech delivered to the Australian Asphalt Conference last February. It would require that road funds would become part of general revenue grants to the States. These general revenue grants out of income taxation would need to be adjusted for the different needs of each State and the inability of the smaller States of Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania and Queensland to raise sufficient revenues from their own sources which will also be affected by the level of State income tax or super tax that they will be able to levy on State income earners. The Government would have to set up equalisation grants to adjust for these factors, and as time goes on these equalisation grants will have to be adjusted for changing circumstances. All this would require the setting up of an enormous bureaucracy to handle the Australian Government-State government financial arrangements.
The result of the federalism policy, if implemented, will be the replacement of the annual Premiers Conference wrangle over funds with an even more complicated annual wrangle over federal income tax rates and State super tax rates. It will then be up to the States to decide what share of the State funds will go to transport and roads and what share will go to health, education, legal services and so on. It will be the end of national co-ordination of road expenditure. Federalism spells chaos and confusion for the present co-ordinated national system of road programs and road funding. It is no wonder the Roads Division of the Department of Transport is confused and uncertain about its future under federalism.
In 1972 the Australian Labor Party inherited from the Minister and his colleagues a road and public transport system that had been shamefully neglected for 23 years. There were crowded and inadequate roads, goat track national highways and infrequent and expensive public transport. Urban communities desperately needed an efficient co-ordinated system of safe roads and clean, adequate public transport.
– What did you do in the 3 years you were in government?
– The Liberal and Country Parties had a quarter of a century in which to act. How much longer did they need? I am sorry to have awakened the honourable member again. The Labor Government acted promptly to satisfy those needs. The Bill of October 1975 proposed a loosening of the Australian Government’s control of road planning within the bounds of workability, not a wholesale sell-out of responsibility for roads to the States, as this Government seems to be intent on pursuing. The recent statements of the Prime Minister and the Minister for Transport appear to be the thin edge of the wedge of handing back to the States responsibility for their roads under the smokescreen of the government ‘s federalism policy and the reallocation of government expenditures. There is a real danger that the progress that has been made in developing a national coordinated system of roads linked with other modes of transport will be lost under the policies of this conservative Government. In short, if the policies that have been indicated by the Government are implemented, transport- public and private- in this country is headed for a massive deterioration.
– It is with great pleasure that I rise to support this Bill. For some time I have taken a great interest in the general field of transport economics. So this Bill is an area of particularly great interest to me. I represent the metropolitan electorate of Henty and the subject of roads and road transportation is to the people of the electorate a very important and significant subject.
-It is not ‘Child ‘s ‘ play.
-Henty is ‘ Child-less ‘ now; that is right. As the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) has already indicated, the Bill is in fact very similar to the one which was allowed to lapse last November immediately prior to the double dissolution. The main purpose of the Bill, as has been stated, is to provide an additional $64m in Commonwealth funds for road works. This has been found necessary to offset the effects of inflation over the last year, particularly as it has affected funds allocated under the National
Roads Act 1974 and the Road Grants Act 1974. The Bill in fact increases the existing appropriation for 1975-76 by 17.8 per cent. I particularly welcome the amount of $ 13.3m which has been allocated in this Bill in Victoria. I also welcome the substantial allocations that have been made to other States which also are faced with the problem of maintaining very extensive road systems. I refer particularly to New South Wales, which has been allocated $ 19.9m under this Bill, Queensland, which has been allocated $ 13.2m, South Australia, which has been allocated $5. 8m, and Western Australia, which has been allocated $8.8m. The Bill, I think, recognises the importance that this Government attaches to maintaining a proper national roads system. I would point out that this is being done at a time when it is being found necessary to cut back expenditure in many other areas. The Government has had to take this action as a result of the record of the previous Labor Administration which managed to leave this Government with the unenviable burden of somehow overcoming a deficit of $4, 700m.
In fact, the previous Government probably has been the only Government in Australia’s history which has behaved as if there were a Government money tree. From time to time, that Government would think up some bright idea, rush around to the back of the Government Mint and try to pick off a few ripe new dollar notes to pay for that idea. More recently, we have seen members of that former Government dash across to the Arabs to see whether they can find 30 pieces of silver in the sand dunes. This Government and the country as a whole are paying for the 3-year binge of extravagant spending on which the previous Government has taken us.
Nevertheless, as I said, because of the importance that this Government attaches to an adequate roads program, ways have been found not to reduce expenditure in this financial year in the manner that it has been found necessary to reduce expenditure in many other areas. I think this has been done for a number of reasons, all of which indicate the considerable importance which an adequate roads system will always have to a country such as Australia. One of the major reasons for maintaining road expenditure at its present level and in fact not subjecting it to the cuts which have been found necessary in other areas is that expenditure on roads is a very major part of the process which is necessary to create wealth through the construction of social overhead capital facilities. This is an integral and necessary part of the major task that we have ahead of us to achieve economic recovery.
Direct incentives to the economy along the lines of the investment allowance and other Government initiatives are very important and necessary. But, in the longer term, we must look also to the wealth creating effects of maintaining an adequate roads system and an adequate rail system as it is along these systems that goods produced by industry move between major centres of population and, of course, within those major centres of population. We are in the same situation in this country as any other nation that has the problem of very vast distances to overcome. Honourable members will find that this same situation pertains in countries such as Canada, the United States of America, the Soviet Union, China and India. In fact, economic historians generally judge that one of the greatest single contributions that the British colonial administration ever made to India in terms of social overhead capital construction was the very excellent rail and road system that it left behind.
I think that maintaining the present level of expenditure on roads and not subjecting that expenditure to cuts as are applied elsewhere is important for another reason, that expenditure on roads is very important for the movement of people in outer urban areas and in rural areas. In recent years, increasing attention has been attached to improving the general facilities of public transport, particularly rapid transit systems, such as rail systems, tramway systems and so on. We find that even such devices as monorail systems and other experiments along these lines, which have been carried out overseas, are discussed here also. These are all most admirable propositions but, unfortunately, the general work that has been done in this area and many of the improvements which have been carried out in it in recent times really apply to inner urban areas only.
There is a very good reason for this. To establish the permanent way necessary for an adequate rail system, tram system or whatever other rapid transit system one is talking about, one does need a very heavy concentration of population moving along a permanent way from one concentrated point to another. This situation does not exist in an outer urban area or in a rural area. In the outer urban areas such as the outer suburbs of Melbourne or Sydney the population is too dispersed and the movement patterns which a population sets when it travels are too varied to allow the extensive establishment of rapid transit facilities. So for these reasons in the outer urban areas and in the rural areas, road transportation, in terms of both the movement of people and the movement of goods, will always be very significant because public transport can never be the most efficient method of transporting people in these areas, with the exception possibly of bus routes to a particular point.
The final reason for maintaining the present level of road expenditure under this Bill is the very critical necessity of maintaining the present level of road repair and maintenance. Like other forms of expenditure in respect of repairs and maintenance in many other government areas it is possible to defer expenditure to a later time without incurring any real costs. For instance, it is often possible to defer the repainting of or repairs to Commonwealth buildings without seriously incurring additional costs in the future, except those which have been added by the effects of inflation. This is not the situation in respect of the repair and maintenance of roads, particularly a major urban road which is subject to very heavy traffic. Once that road starts to break up, unless you move in very quickly to undertake the necessary repairs and maintenance that road will deteriorate very, very rapidly. So any deferment of expenditure as far as the repair and maintenance of major roads is concerned, particularly major urban roads subject to heavy traffic, can be costly. (Quorum formed) Expenditure on the repair and maintenance that is found to be necessary to be carried out on major urban roads is not the type of expenditure that can be successfully deferred. The marginal cost which is incurred in deferring such expenditure is far greater than the marginal costs which will be incurred in deferring expenditure on repairs and maintenance in many other fields. For this reason I welcome the provisions of the Bill which relate to maintaining the level of road expenditure at the level which was decided on last year.
The Bill, of course, has several other purposes. One is to allow easier administration and to facilitate the transfer of funds between various road categories and between various Acts. In this matter we are in agreement with honourable gentlemen opposite. There is no dispute about these provisions of the Bill, so I will not spend much time on them. The other major aspect of the Bill is those provisions which relate to the return of autonomy to the States in respect of local urban road programs. I congratulate the Minister on the stand that he has taken in this area. As we ascertained from the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris), this part of the Bill has caused great distress to the Opposition, but I must say at this stage that it does not cause great distress to me. We on the Government side see this as an integral part of the steps that we are taking to restore co-operative federalism. The previous Labor Government, particularly in the area of road administration and in the whole of the transport area, used this activity of government as part of the fulfilment of all its centralist ambitions of gradually concentrating all power in the Federal capital of Canberra. Had the previous Minister for Transport been able to carry all his ambitions in this regard to their fullest extent eventually we would have found ourselves in a situation where every proposal for a new zebra crossing would have been brought here to Canberra for approval.
He came up with a number of other interesting proposals during the time he administered the portfolio of transport. He came up with the standard urban train, the standard urban bus and a number of other proposals, most of which were ridiculed by the State governments. I suggest that it would only have been a matter of time, had we allowed him to go on longer, before he would have come up with a standard urban nature strip and, if we had given him enough time, probably a standard urban garbage can into which we could have put all his proposals. We welcome the Bill as a very important part of the process by which we are returning real powers to the States. I support its provisions in their entirety.
– Superficially this Roads Acts Amendment Bill 1976 is the same as the Roads Acts Amendment Bill 1975 which was introduced by my Minister for Transport, the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones), on 30 October last. Each Bill provides for an additional $64m to be spent in this financial year to index the amount which was to be spent in this financial year under the National Roads Act 1974 and the Roads Grants Act 1974. This Bill, the Nixon Bill, like the Jones Bill of 30 October last year, seeks to index the amounts provided under the National Roads Act and the Roads Grants Act 1974 by 17.8 per cent. There the similarity between the Bills ends. I note that the second reading speech presented on behalf of the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) described this additional $64m as an additional grant not just once; but repeatedly. This of course is nonsense, as his colleagues in the non-Labor States were quick to point out to him at the Premiers Conference in February. The $64m additional grant was allocated in the Hayden Budget of August last year. It is the amount that appeared in the legislation introduced by my Minister, the honourable member for Newcastle, on 30 October last- legislation which was aborted with other pieces of legislation by the coup of 1 1
November. The Minister’s misleading description of the grants as ‘additional’ did not fool the Premiers. Sir Eric Willis, the short term Premier of New South Wales, said: ‘Please do not try to tell us that this is something in addition to what we have been expecting. We all took this into account in preparing our 1975 budgets.’ Sir Eric said bluntly to the Prime Minister: ‘It is not additional money’, to which the Prime Minister stoutly retorted: ‘Well, it was nearly a subtraction. ‘ How these Liberal leaders of government love each other. How co-operative they are. In real terms, this Bill is a subtraction. It takes away common sense and justice from the legislation my Minister introduced last year and replaces them with an irresponsible, pork barrel approach to a vital national problem.
It is not easy for any of us to discuss this Bill in a second reading debate. It has 8 new schedules. Each schedule mentions all or several of the States; each schedule has several columns. Furthermore, there are 2 schedules in the 1974 legislation which are having columns replaced by the present Bill. Accordingly, it is very difficult indeed in a speech in a second reading debate to make a clear, still less a simple, analysis of this Bill. The Bill is much more susceptible to discussion in committee. Therefore I will concentrate on one particular aspect which indicates the abdication of responsibility by the present Government. I will concentrate on the amendments which this Bill makes to the National Roads Act of 1974.
The Jones Bill of last October was to provide an additional $4,030,000 this financial year for the construction of national highways in New South Wales, and an amount of $2,560,000 for Victoria. The present Bill- the Nixon Bill- omits that amount. That means that there will be nearly $7m less for the construction of national highways in New South Wales and Victoria this financial year than there would have been under the Jones Bill of last October. In other words, no more money will be provided in this financial year for national highways in the 2 largest States than was forecast 2 years ago.
It will be remembered that the Acts which are being amended by this Bill were introduced in July 1974 and passed in August 1974. In fact they were to be introduced in April 1974, but their introduction was precluded by the double dissolution of 10 April 1974. In other words, this Bill ensures that no more money will be available for the construction of national highways in New South Wales and Victoria than was intended 2 years ago. In the meantime, inflation obviously has reduced the value of the sums anticipated 2 years ago. Not only that, but under the Nixon Bill Victoria will be denied $700,000 which was listed in the Jones Bill of last October for the maintenance of national highways in Victoria. Victoria also will be denied the sum of $840,000 which was provided in the Jones Bill of last October for the construction and maintenance of export roads and major commercial roads. I believe that this change in the Nixon Bill from what was in the Jones Bill has subverted completely the whole pattern of the legislation forecast in April 1 974 any passed in August 1 974.
The idea of national roads legislation has been canvassed for many years past. Its implementation represented nothing other than the carrying out of this Parliament’s obligation under the very first paragraph of section 5 1 of the Constitution, which states:
The Parliament shall have power to make laws . . . with respect to:
Trade and commerce with other countries, and among the States:
Every other federal system in the world has the national government- the Federal governmentbuilding and maintaining the national highways. The honourable member for Henty ( Mr Aldred ), who just resumed his seat, referred to India in this regard. Of course, it is still the case in India that the national government has this responsibility. It has been the case in Germany for 45 years now. It has been the case in the United States of America for the last 2 decades. It has been the case in Canada ever since the BritishNorth America Act was enacted in 1867. Until the 1974 legislation the Australian Federal Parliament, alone among the national parliaments of the federal systems of the world, had abdicated its responsibility to build national roads. The Nixon Bill goes back on the commitment made for the first time by this Parliament in the Jones legislation of 1974 which was to be indexed by the Jones Bill of October 1 975.
My colleague the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen), ever since he entered the Parliament more than 6 years ago, has pointed out the disproportionate number of accidents, injuries and deaths caused on what are now national highways. He pointed out that in the financial year 1970-71 on what are now national highways in New South Wales 254 people had been killed. Of course, there had been several thousand accidents and several thousand injuries. I would think that about a quarter of the number of people killed on New South Wales roads in that financial year were killed on what are now national highways. The honourable gentleman pointed out that these highways bear the greatest amount of traffic. The greatest number of vehicles per kilometre travels on what are now national highways in New South Wales. It is little wonder, then, that the Conn Committeethe House of Representatives Select Committee on Road Safety- in its report of 10 April 1974 expressed this belief:
Again, the Cohen Committee made this finding at that time:
Accordingly, my Minister had intended in that month to introduce, and did in fact on 18 July 1974 introduce the National Roads Bill. I will quote from his second reading speech. He said that the Government had decided to build interstate highways. He went on to say:
The Government has also decided that the national roads system should include roads or proposed roads which facilitate, or if built, would facilitate the development of trade and commerce with other countries and among the States.
When this Bill comes into operation it is my intention to declare as national highways a series of roads which would give effect to that system recommended on page 1S8 of the Bureau of Roads ‘ report on roads in Australia, 1 973.
He then mentions the roads. They are those which appear in the National Roads Act, Section 4.
– It all sounds a little ‘ grandwahz’.
– I appreciate that pronunciation coming from a man with so distinguished a Norman name as Baillieu. And that tribute is heartfelt coming from a person with so simple a Saxon name as my own.
My colleague, the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) had this to say of the national highways, that is, the inter-capital highways:
This system will directly serve over ISO towns with populations exceeding 2000 people and a total urban population of 9.5 million, or about 75 per cent of Australia ‘s population. In 1972 the system carried about 4000 million vehicle miles of travel.
Again he states:
The initial national highways which I propose to declare could take upward of about 10 years to develop to acceptable standards. The system comprises about 9800 miles of road. About 100 miles of these roads are divided highways. Nearly 6600 miles of roads have single carriageways with a sealed surface. The remaining 3 100 miles are unsealed.
I have quoted from the Cohen report- a bipartisan report of this Parliament.
– I have quoted unanimous findings and beliefs expressed by that Committee. I have quoted from the Bureau of Roads report for 1973. I have quoted from the initial legislation establishing the national roads system. It is very clear that the Nixon Bill subverts the whole intention of the national highway system. Instead of increasing the provision by 1 7.8 per cent, instead of indexing the 1 974 provision by increasing the sum by $23m, it will increase it by less than two-thirds of that- by $ 14.1m alone. This may be very attractive to advocates of State rights but it will appear anomalous and retrograde in the eyes of everbody concerned with the proper responsibility for public expenditure. The Australian Parliament provides about 40 per cent of the moneys spent on roads in any year. This Parliament has the responsibility to build and maintain roads with respect to trade and commerce with other countries and among the States. The present Government is abdicating that responsibility.
I mention in greater detail the question of safety on these roads. The Hume Highway is acknowledged by transport experts to be Australia’s most important road. It is, of course, the most important road in the southern hemisphere. It is also the most dangerous road in Australia. The New South Wales Government, for its part, has made it quite clear that the Hume Highway south of Goulburn simply does not rate in its priorities. The New South Wales Government received hundreds of millions of dollars under previous legislation and could never produce trafficable roads. The appalling state of the Hume Highway is brought out in 2 expert reports, one the result of a survey conducted by the National Roads and Motorists Association in February last year, and the other the 1 975 report on roads in Australia by the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads. The NRMA survey reveals an increase of 18.9 per cent in accidents on the Hume Highway between November 1971 and February 1 975. The report comments:
The overall figures reflect a worsening of statistics relating to accident and injury rates. The result is particularly disturbing when one considers the high accident fatality rates and only serves to highlight the urgent situation for the need to up-grade the highway in order to reduce the extremely high cost to society of accidents, death and injury.
The reason for this high accident rate becomes clear in the report of the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads: 93 per cent of the Hume Highway is below the design standards set by the Australian Roads Survey, and 79 per cent is classed as ‘deficient’. Only 195 kilometres of the 832 kilometres is divided road, which is considered essential for a highway of this nature. The NRMA report observes:
It is an appalling fact that 88 per cent of the highway in New South Wales is undivided, and that 44 per cent of the undivided highway has a lane width narrower than 3.7 metres.
By comparison, the Victorian section of the Hume has a constant width of 7.4 metres throughout its entire length. The NRMA notes: … the dilemma of the New South Wales highway is even worse as the narrow sections pass through very hilly country, e.g. the Tarcutta Range, and carry an increasing number of commercial vehicles.
The CBR report further reveals that at least 3 kilometres of the Hume Highway are cut for one or more days each year. The Hume Highway is the busiest highway, the most important highway in the southern hemisphere. At least 3 kilometres of it in New South Wales are impassable for one or more days each year. In those circumstances I do not believe that anybody can support the proposition in this Bill that the amount which New South Wales should receive for the construction of national highways, that is for the Hume Highway and the highway up to the Brisbane border, should be reduced by $4,030,000. This is not an extravagant expenditure. It is not a wasteful expenditure. It would have been indexing, by 17.8 per cent, the amount which was provided in the National Roads Act of August 1974. The need, if anything, is greater now. The highway is busier; it is worse; it is more dangerous; the money should be spent. This national highway system serves 75 per cent of the people of this country. It serves the great majority of the settlements in Australia of more than 2000 in population.
-Order ! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-We are dealing with the Roads Acts Amendment Bill which amends 2 Commonwealth Bills. As much as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) may wish to say that these amendments are subverting the pattern of the Jones legislation, as much as he would like to present that train of thought to the Parliament, I would like to throw back to him that the fact is that the people of Australia wish that type of legislation to be changed, and they indicated that at the election in December. The centralist thrust, the control from Canberra, denied in fact the proper decision making capacity to the States. The Leader of the Opposition wishes that capacity to continue. He does not wish to accept a responsibility.
I felt that in the Leader of the Opposition’s speech he was in some way endeavouring to enter into part of the discussion of the New South Wales election without actually having been invited to do so. Perhaps that was only a passing influence that I gathered from the overtones of what he said about the Hume Highway. The fact is that the people of Australia wish the Jones type of legislation to be changed. Honourable members can talk as much as they want about the Jones boy, what the Jones boy did and what the Jones boy controls. The people of the nation said that that was not for them. The people who know local conditions and State conditions wish to take charge of their own responsibilities.
If we look at cities and if we look at traffic patterns as a whole we realise, I am certain, that traffic congestion wastes our fuel, wastes our engines and wear out our transmissions but last and not least it strains our nerves and cuts into our leisure time. Engineers and economists have been making estimates of the actual cash costs caused by traffic congestion and they are alarming enough. When it comes to the non-cash but nevertheless very real costs imposed by driving fatigue and sacrifice of leisure, all estimates made hitherto have greatly erred on the cautious side. I believe we now have methods for valuing the economic loss they cause. It turns out to be far higher than was previously supposed. Information can be analysed to tell us how much cash the average motorist will sacrifice to save an hour’s driving time and some conclusive results have been obtained by Dr Thomas of the Stanford Research Institute in California.
The high valuation placed on saving travelling time again draws attention to the plight of public transport. In order to compete with the private car, public transport must offer savings not only in cash but also in time- that is, taking into account the time required to walk between home or destination and the nearest public transport stopping place. In fact public transport still successfully competes in only the few cases where it has been able to offer such time savings. Without these savings, public transport could not attract traffic back to it, even if the transport were provided free. In fact a recent questionnaire in Chicago showed that about half the journeys would still be made by private car even if public transport not only were provided free but also travellers were paid, in addition, a subsidy of 40c per journey. So indeed it is a great difficulty and there are no black and white answers in this area.
The motor car is not going to vanish. The need for freight and freight dispersal throughout this country is not going to vanish. Much as former Ministers, the Jones boy included, and the former Minister for Urban and Regional Development, the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren), may have wished the motor car to go off the face of Australia, that will not happen, it cannot happen and people cannot be paid to make it happen.
The Bill before us relates to 2 Acts- the National Roads Act and the Roads Grants Actand seeks to amend them in 2 major areas. The means by which funds were applied to national roads in the original Act have been changed in that the amount payable to each State for approved national highways has been adjusted so as to take in the total program this year for construction and maintenance. This Bill takes in the total amount in each area. I put to the House that this is significant, but the second major amending feature is even more significant. I believe it will promote efficiency and a flexibility within the scheme that was not previously available. Probably no other feature of this Bill is more important than the flexibility built into it.
There are other very important features that I will deal with later. But this flexibility will allow an efficiency which the Leader of the Opposition failed to see and failed to understand. He still wants things controlled from Canberra. I am afraid that the Leader of the Opposition in the State Parliament in New South Wales also wishes to see control remain in Canberra. He does not wish to accept responsibility as a future or embryonic Premier of that State. He would prefer somebody else in Canberra to make decisions for him- perhaps the Jones boy. The flexibility allowed in this legislation will allow States to construct or maintain national highways in such a way that they can apply the funds to the best use. It means that the States can construct or maintain roads so that they operate efficiently.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting I was dealing with the Roads Acts Amendment Bill which allows for a variation of previous roads Acts. It proposes that the sums allocated in particular to national roads should be lumped together; that is that the sum of $64m allocated under this Bill should be lumped together with the sums allocated under previous Bills. I am sure that if we could look into the hearts of honourable members opposite we would find that the Bill has the general acceptance of the entire House. This Bill provides flexibility to State governments to ensure a more efficient use of funds allocated for the construction and maintenance of national highways.
The second portion of the Bill deals with a more local issue, that is the former States grants which were allocated to special areas and special categories for road maintenance and construction. Some of the matters dealt with in the Bill are the construction and maintenance of rural local roads, minor traffic engineering and road safety improvements- the MITERS programconstruction of urban arterial roads and the construction of urban local roads. I believe that these programs were administered by the previous Government basically from Canberra. The present Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) is suggesting that the allocations should be decided by the Federal Government on the basis of the total allocation of funds for roads and that State Ministers should set their own priorities on the funding of special projects in their States. What we have seen in this legislation is something that is new in the federal context and in the LiberalNational Country Party policy on federalism. It gives back to the people who have their greatest capacity and knowledge for decision making their true role, and it will enable State governments to decide whether they will proceed with projects that are important to them or whether they will go on with programs that are important to local government.
I wish to draw the attention of the House to the Urban Transport Advisory Committee report to the Minister for Transport and Highways and the Minister for Planning and Environment in the New South Wales Government. The Committee completed its study in New South Wales and its findings will be the basis of funding in the future. It will be a matter of State governments using their expertise to assess the needs of the people within their States and then saying to Canberra: ‘These are the areas that are important. Please fund us on that basis’. There is an additional advantage and an additional attraction in this Bill, and I commend the Minister for being far sighted in respect of this legislation. It is a real innovation. It is something which has come in with the new Government and probably it is the most outstanding example, in legislative form, of the policy of the Government that took office on 13 December. I hear ‘Hear, hears ‘ coming from the House in support of the Minister for the way in which he has used his authority, for the co-operation that he has extended in his dealings with the State Ministers and for his understanding of State problems. I know he has many more such fine proposals which provide that revenue raised in Canberra will be reimbursed to the States in a way that will enable the most work to be done. People get the most value for the dollar that they pay in tax. It is idle to say that some bureaucratic process here in Canberra can make these sorts of decisions and then tie the States to those decisions.
But I return to the Urban Transport Advisory Committee study in New South Wales. I point out to honourable members that this study is based on New South Wales continuing to receive funds at the traditional level. There has been no consideration by the Committee of the need for additional funds for special capital projects. We have seen various proposals brought to this House in this respect. I believe that in the Parramatta area and in other areas of New South Wales study teams are looking at the possibility of improving the railway programs. I believe that the possibility of extending these programs to Kellyville and to Hoxton Park is being investigated at the moment. But a huge amount of funds will be needed for these high capital projects. This Committee which has been established in New South Wales takes no recognition in its planning of the possibility of such projects corning to fruition. It deals with what is available within the State. It is concerned with the upgrading of transport facilities so that they can be used in a better way. New South Wales is improving its rolling stock. One hundred carriages have been completed, tenders have been let for 50 more, and 100 more have been ordered.
The Urban Transport Advisory Committee has said in respect of the road situation: This is our program; our order of priorities for capital funds will be such and such. I am sure that the Minister for Transport, who is sitting at the table, will understand when the States come to him with special projects such as this and will not say that people must use public transport. He will not say that people must use roadways. He knows that the situation is not black and white. He knows that the people on the spot can make a far better assessment of what is most applicable and suitable in the circumstances.
Before the sitting was suspended we discussed the various details of the Bill. The plans that I outline for State and local government are quite new in that they allow not only flexibility between programs but flexibility within programs. As an example of flexibility between programs, New South Wales has decided that it will take up $450,000 as part of the minor traffic, engineering and road safety improvements program. No other State has opted to take advantage of the MITERS program. It is their right to make this decision. No doubt the problems of the huge urban areas has prompted the New South Wales State Government to say: ‘We need funds for these minor traffic improvements’. When I look down the list I see that other States have decided that their needs are in other areas. It is interesting to note, for example, that Victoria feels that the construction and maintenance of rural local roads is something of which that state is in sore need. It has made a free choice. As has been said here this evening, there has not been some intention here in Canberra to press any decision on that state in respect of this matter.
Political issues were raised in respect of this matter. The National Country Party of Australia was mentioned, I think falsely and inadvertently with a lack of understanding of the intentions of this Government. Victoria has decided that this financial year its important area of road works should be in the construction and maintenance of rural local roads. As I have said, that is its decision. Why would the Opposition deny it the opportunity of making that decision; why would it deny it that chance? The flexibility between programs allows States freedom to decide in what area they will apply for funds.
The Minister has been farsighted within the programs in that he has said to the States: ‘Look, if you cannot complete your construction program and you wish to apply those funds to maintenance we will not say here in Canberra that we will take those funds back if you do not fulfil the program that you have nominated ‘. The Minister has said to me: ‘You can seek to vary the application of those funds’. I think this allows flexibility which, in turn, leads to a greater efficiency of funds that are used on behalf of the taxpayer. I would like to feel- I am sure it is the Government’s intention- that local governments can apply for funds for the upgrading of roads which become a problem in their area. Some of these problems have arisen in my own electorate. Problems can arise when a road that has been basically an urban road becomes used more and more because of development, increased investment in and development of industries and by homes being built. The road is used more and more by residents and by industry. When a road is changing in character I would like to think that local governments have the opportunity to apply for funds for an upgrading of that sort of road. It perhaps could be a road that is reaching main road level or a trunk road level. Obviously in cases like that an application for Commonwealth funds is needed. At this stage, local government has to carry the full burden. I know that the Minister will turn his attention to these matters, in view of the enlightened legislation we have before us.
Being a resident of New South Wales, it is interesting to note that that State is in the process of an election at the moment. It is interesting to see that the Leader of the Opposition in New South Wales in not prepared, on behalf of the residents of that State, to get involved in this sort of co-operation with the Federal Government and is not prepared to seek the maximum for his State. It seems to me that he is not anxious to become involved in what we call co-operative federalism. If he were interested, he would be prepared to sit down with his colleagues from other States to discuss problems and be active on behalf of those people whom he claims he wishes to represent. I cannot find any indication that the present Leader of the Opposition in New South Wales has any desire to be active on behalf of the residents of that State. His actions deny it. He would say: ‘As long as Canberra keeps making the decisions I will be happy with that. I do not want to get down to the bargaining. I do not want to be effective in saying that this will be our share of income tax or this will be the way that we shall apply funds’. The present Leader of the Opposition in New South Wales is not prepared to get involved in those circumstances. I suggest to honourble members that he is not prepared to develop those techniques which indicate the difference between a politician and a statesman. No one could find a better-natured man than the Minister for Transport, who is sitting at the table. I think it is entirely regrettable that people from the States, particularly the Leader of the Opposition in New South Wales, cannot see what is being held out to them. I say this with sincerity: The prospects for the States at this stage are very great indeed. I know that so many of them have accepted what is an advantage and a challenge- a challenge to be the true representatives of their people.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I thank the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Cadman) for all the kind remarks he made about the transport policy of the Labor
Government. The progressive actions which he referred to were all taken by the Labor Government. As to the Bill to which the honourable member referred as such a marvellous piece of legislation in his view, I say to him: ‘Please go and read my Bill of October last year and you will find that it is almost identical’. The honourable member referred to the study into transport taking place in Sydney at the present time. It is investigating whether Parramatta should be the base of the railways. The Liberal Party has been in office in New South Wales for 1 1 years. It has not yet got around to assisting public transport. The Liberal and Country parties were in office here for 23 years and they did not do one thing in the whole of those 23 years to assist urban public transport. In less than 3 years, the Labor Government made money available to the State governments and entered into negotiations and agreements with them for a commitment of $208m, of which our commitment was $140m. How long was the present Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) the Minister? How long were the Liberal and Country parties in government? In 23 years they did nothing to assist the capital cities of Australia with their urban public transport problem.
Prior to the suspension of the sitting the honourable member for Mitchell referred in a sneering manner to the standard urban passenger train and to the standard bus. All I say to the honourable gentleman is this: For God’s sake learn a bit about transport before you ridicule the things which have been done. The manufacturers of railway rolling stock and the manufacturers of bus rolling stock will state that thousands of dollars per vehicle or per carriage could be saved as a result of standardisation. Those parliamentarians who are seeking to gain a political advantage are opposed to the proposition. Let me tell the honourable member that the people who knew what was going on, namely the technical advisers in the Department, gave wholehearted and 100 per cent support to what was going on. All I say to the honourable member is this: Please do not play politics on an issue that should be non-political- on an issue that affects the people of this country, in particular the people in the cities.
The honourable member for Mitchell said that in his electorate, which is one of the developing electorates of Sydney, industries develop because people go there to live. Roads that were once rural roads are now important urban roads. The councils cannot afford to finance the upgrading of those roads. I ask the honourable gentleman to look at one of the schedules in the Bill.
We realised that fact 3 years ago. Honourable members opposite have not yet got around to that They are just starting to advocate that. They do not know it is in the Bill. That is obvious from the stupid statements they are making tonight. We provided $4m out of the $64m for that type of road. The present Minister has cut back the $4m to $1,310,000. Why do not honourable members opposite understand what is in the Bill before they speak on it?
I have finished with the honourable member for Mitchell. I want to devote my time to what the Bill is all about. As honourable members would realise, it is an amendment of the 1974 Act. This Bill provides for an interchange of funds between the National Roads Act and the Roads Grants Act- for an interchange of funds between categories, something that has been taking place all the time. Unfortunately, in the original Act there was not the legal provision to do so. I congratulate the Minister and his Department for seeking to amend the Act so that the exchanges which took place prior to 1 1 November 1975 are validated by these amendments. It provides for that. It provides admittedly for less rigid programming, and takes into account $64m for an inflation adjustment. It is interesting to note that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Minister for Transport talked about how they had given $64m for roads. I draw the attention of all honourable members to the Hayden Budget. That $64m was in the Hayden Budget. In actual fact, what this Government has done and will be doing as the result of a policy decision, not by legislation, will be to restrict the States to spending only $44m of the $64m in this financial year. They will get $20m in the next financial year. This Government has actually cut back spending on roads by $20m in this financial year.
I am quite happy with the proposed amendments. I do not want to see the change that has taken place as far as the transfer of national highway funds is concerned. I shall deal with that matter in greater detail later on. The amount of $8,100,000 has been transferred from use on national highways to other categories of roads which are of much less importance. While I am prepared to agree that there can be a transfer of funds I totally oppose the proposition which the Minister is putting in the new schedules. The interchange of funds between categories has been taking place ever since the Act came into operation in July 1974. Ministers have come to the Australian Government and put forward propositions whereby funds could be changed from one category of road into another category of road. There is nothing new in that. This legislation validates something which has been going on for approximately the last 18 months. In relation to the submission of programs, admittedly the urban local councils were requested and required to put in programs. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the former Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren), had programs under way with local councils. He was dealing with them all the time and with urban improvement programs. So where there are urban improvement programs which take in roads, the whole thing fits into a pattern.
I draw the attention of the honourable member for Mitchell to the fact that the Government under the urban local roads section of this legislation will give every council in Newcastle, Sydney and Wollongong in New South Wales- that is the State from which the honourable member and I come- approximately equal amounts of money irrespective of their requirements. The developed councils will get the same as councils in the area which the honourable member for Mitchell represents. It is the outer sections of my electorate and the electorates in the western suburbs of Sydney and of Melbourne which will suffer as a result of this equalisation. Every one of them will get equal amounts. So I warn the honourable member about this matter. The reason we wanted programs was to make sure that the recommendations of the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads, which drew to our attention the serious problems and anomalies in the outer suburbs of the capital cities, would not be passed over by this equalisation system which gives everyone an equal share of the money.
I warn the members of the Liberal Party from the capital cities that the National Country Party is putting it over them once again. The tail is wagging the dog. Local government has not yet been asked to submit programs for rural local roads. When the proposition was put forward originally it was intended that the local councils would put in programs. They said: ‘Look, we are quite happy with the way the money is being allocated. Why can we not leave it alone?’. So an agreement with the State Ministers was that the rural local roads programs would not be submitted and that we would accept the program of funds which the councils put forward on a broad basis. That was acceptable. So that the Australian Department of Transport would know where it was going and what was happening with this money local councils were asked to submit at the end of each financial year a list of the works and their cost so that we would know where the money had been spent. I do not see that situation as standing over anyone or making things difficult as far as councils are concerned. We accepted the councils ‘ proposition.
As I said, the legislation is, in the main, almost identical with the legislation which was introduced in this place on 30 October 1975. Unfortunately, because of the coup on 11 November, it was not brought to fruition. I shall deal now with the policy decisions of the Minister that the States should not be required to submit their urban arterial roads programs. All I hope is that the States give the Minister for Transport more co-operation than they gave me. I did not receive much co-operation from the State Ministers, with one exception. Some were less co-operative than others.
– The Victorian Minister was the most unco-operative Minister with whom one could ever come in contact. Just because the Liberal Party in Victoria would not wear him as their Premier, he took it out on everyone else with whom he came in contact. Honourable members know whom I am talking about. Thank God, for the sake of politics and parliaments, that he decided to retire at the last election.
– Are you going to tell us what he said?
-I would sooner talk about roads than about him. The previous Government received no co-operation whatsoever from most of the State Ministers. The Premier of Queensland told deliberate untruths. He laid off thousands of men at the time of the 1974 State election there and said that it was as a result of not receiving sufficient money from the Australian Government for roads. In fact, the Australian Government increased its allocation to Queensland by some $12m; Queensland reduced its spending by $800,000 and then accused the Australian Government of not providing that State with sufficient money. At a meeting of the Local Government Association of Queensland in Brisbane on 14 March last year I was able to produce evidence which proved conclusively that the Queensland Government was lying when it said that it did not receive money from us and that it had to wait for money.
I am sorry that the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fife) is not in the chamber. He was one Minister whom I found quite reasonable and easy to get on with. In 1 973-74 New South Wales provided $124m for roads. In 1974-75 it increased that amount by $600,000. The Australian Government increased its allocation to
New South Wales by $18m. All that we heard from the Premier and the former Minister for Highways was that there was a shortage of funds for roads. I warn the Government that this is the type of thing State governments get up to when they are playing politics. They hid the fact that they reduced their allocations, or increased them by only minute amounts, when actually they were receiving substantial increases from the Australian Government. The States gave the Australian Government no credit whatsoever for that. I hope that the Minister for Transport gets a better deal from the State Ministers over his decision not to require them to submit programs for the spending of their money on urban arterial roads. I hope that they do not get up to their old caper of building freeways. If the Australian Government had not intervened 3 years ago, we would have seen Motorway 23 running through a beautiful park in Newcastle because the roadhappy, crazy Department of Main Roads showed no forward thinking and no real appreciation of the transport problem as a whole.
To some degree I can understand the attitudes of State Ministers, because for 23 years when the Liberal and Country Parties were in government they did not receive one cent for upgrading their urban public transport systems. Let me give honourable members the figures again. Agreement was reached by the Labor Government for a $208m program over 3 years, of which the Australian Government contributed $140m. So the States are now in a position in which they should be thinking of things other than roads. On this whole question of transport there has to be cooperation between the States and the Federal Government. Roads in Australia are financed by 3 groups. Roughly one-third is financed by local government, one-third by State governments and the other one-third by the Australian Government. Surely it is time that each of those 3 groups was in a position to spell out their requirements and priorities concerning what they want done.
I am pleased that the Minister has not deleted from the Act the requirement for the States to submit programs to him of the work that should be financed by Australian Government funds. I hope that he has seen what can be done and should be done with Australian funds in the development of roads throughout Australia. We are running out of time in this debate but I hope that in the Committee stage I shall be able to explain in greater detail my opposition to national roads and why the Government has cut down on what it is doing in this area. I hope that the Minister will be in a position to develop decent planning for national highways, rural arterial roads and urban arterial roads. I hope that he will not be using Australian Government funds to finance projects submitted to him by the Statesprojects such as the north-west distributor in Sydney, motorway 23 in Newcastle and the many other freeways throughout Australia. Reasonable thinking people can see the reasons for money not being provided for these types of roads. Planning in this direction is essential as far as we are concerned.
I was amused to note in the Minister’s speech his offer of co-operation to the States in urban public transport and in roads. All I suggest to the honourable gentleman is that he read my statement to the same Ministers which I made in August last year. I think that all that the Department did in producing the Minister’s statement was to change the name at the top of the speech which I delivered to the State Ministers on 29 August last year. He probably substituted the name Peter Nixon in lieu of Charlie Jones. In fact, the other day a friend of mine in the Department of Transport told me that they now call the Minister ‘Charlie Nixon’ within the Department. But the facts are that the statement which I delivered in Sydney on 29 August last year is not different from the statement which the Minister delivered to the Australian Transport Advisory Council in Melbourne last month. It is obvious that this Bill will perpetuate transport policies which have been introduced over the last 3 years. Mr Deputy Speaker, I have sought the Minister’s approval to incorporate a table in Hansard. I now seek leave to have that table incorporated.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. ( The document read as follows)-
– The table which I have incorporated in Hansard will come in handy when we come to the Committee stage in debating this Bill. It sets out the movement of funds from one category to another that has taken place. It is important that honourable members read it and see quite clearly what has taken place in terms of percentages under the old Commonwealth Aid Roads Act which ceased to be effective during the period 1971-72 to 1 973-74. Rural roads received 47 per cent of the total allocation and urban roads received 53 per cent. As far as we were concerned, the allocation for the 1 975-76 year- the year with which we are dealing now- was 60 per cent of the total allocation to rural roads and 40 per cent to urban roads. Under our Bill last year we were allocating 59.7 per cent of the $64m allocation to rural roads and 40.3 per cent to urban roads. I warn the Liberal Party members that the National Country Party is putting it over them again under this reallocation.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-The honourable member for Nev/castle (Mr Charles Jones) finished his contribution to the debate on this Roads Acts Amendment Bill with a warning to the Liberal Party. I think that, on looking at the results of the last election, we might pass that warning back to the honourable member and to his Party and warn them to see that the policies that they instituted over the last 3 years, which the honourable member so proudly mentioned tonight, are changed to enable them to have a little more strength in this House so that we will have some sort of an Opposition. Oppositions are good for the operation of democratic government. I am not going to mention the comments of the Labor Party spokesman for transport. They have been dealt with and, anyway, they are hardly worth worrying about.
I should like to comment on the remarks made by the 2 other Opposition speakers in the debate. Firstly, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) made a speech which was designed, as my friend the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Cadman) mentioned, to assist politically the Australian Labor Party in New South Wales. But of course the unfortunate fact is that the Leader of the Opposition is not welcome in New South Wales. So what he is doing on the side will be a mixed blessing for the leader of the Australian Labor Party in New South Wales. Of course he was also rejected by the Premier of South Australia. That has been noted. The State Labor leaders would prefer the Leader of the Opposition to keep away. The belting he got by the Premier of Queensland when he went there should keep him out of State politics anyway.
The honourable member for Newcastle again referred to the same old story of the track record of the Liberal-Country Party governments in our 23 years of office. The cold hard facts are that when the Labor Party came to office it inherited a soundly based economy. It had every opportunity to build on that. Because it brought in a Bill or two which added something- as a government in office has to do- it thought it was working wonders. If this Government had inherited an economy as sound as that inherited by the Labor Government we would be promoting policies of this Government to the advantage of the Australian community that would ensure the progress of Australia so much faster and better than at present. We are hamstrung by the inflationary trend that exists today, by all the factors that have contributed to those aspects of the national economy that prevent our Government from exercising its full capacity to implement the policies that it wants to implement. The first basic essential we have to achieve, for every reason- in this case for the construction of roads, since this Bill deals with roads- is the stabilisation of our economy. Our efforts to do this are the only reason why we are not able to do more than the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) has done already. With other honourable members I congratulate him on the work he has done as Minister for Transport and on this Bill.
The honourable member for Newcastle talked about the Hayden Budget and finished his remarks by saying: ‘Read my statement’. All I say is that if he was so good as a Minister it is a wonder he is sitting on the back bench where he is now and not up front. Apparently his own Party did not agree that he was doing the job that he claims he was doing so well here. Perhaps he is right and the Party is wrong. It is so often wrong that my conjecture could easily be right.
I am sure we all agree that road communications are a vital link in the commercial life of Australia and they are growing in importance as the pattern of road usage develops. That is a simple statement but it is very important when we are looking at funds that are provided for the development of the road system in Australia. Road communications are essential to enable us to realise fully the potential for development in many industries and for the transport of people and goods in many areas, particularly where alternative forms of transport are not available. So we welcome this Bill which provides another $64m for the various classifications of roads dealt with in the Bill.
The honourable member for Newcastle made some play on the value of roads in rural and farming areas. Every Australian recognises this. The agricultural and grazing industries depend heavily on good roads for the economic, speedy and efficient transport of food produced for the benefit of all Australians and indeed for people in many countries throughout the world. So it is important that we have these good roads to enable those people who have to accept world prices for products to cope with the continually rising costs they have to meet. We welcome the development of rural arterial roads and other rural roads which not only help those people but also through their production help the gross national product of Australia and our export income. Indeed, the standard of living in Australia is substantially assisted by hardworking highly efficient farmers and graziers in Australia who can stand comparison in efficiency with their counterparts anywhere else in the world. Many of them do not receive anything approaching reasonable financial returns for the effort they make and for the capital they invest. Let the honourable member for Newcastle, who claims that the Liberal and National Country Party Government is unduly assisting those people, ponder on that aspect and the very grave difficulties that those people find themselves in today. They deserve at least the assistance they receive from this Government. Indeed, they deserve more. We are a broadminded Party, despite criticisms that are made of us some times.
– You could have fooled me.
– The honourable member is easily fooled. The tourist industry is very valuable, and we welcome the development of roads to enable the development of the tourist industry. It is growing in importance and it is very dependent for its expansion and even for the maintenance of its present standards on the developent of roads and the maintenance of roads in good order. I need hardly add that manufacturing industry also has to depend on road transport for the carriage of manufactured goods and materials. Every section of the Australian community benefits from the development of a good road system. We are fortunate in having a Minister of the calibre of the present Minister- that has already been mentioned- in charge of this very important facet of Australian community life.
In common with my colleagues who have spoken already, I warmly welcome, for the reasons I have given and for many other reasons, the proposed legislation. I emphasise again that we welcome it across the board. Despite the unfounded observations of Opposition members who come into the chamber and go out again in a hurry, I welcome, with that broad national outlook which characterises members of my Party and members of the Government, the advances proposed for all the categories of roads mentioned in the Bill, including national highways, export roads, commercial roads, rural arterial roads, development roads, rural local roads, urban arterial roads and urban local roads. We welcome the finance being made available to all those categories of roads, and we are quite happy to see funds being provided. For long years now- I hope that the honourable member for Newcastle will listen to this- a foremost plank in the platform of my Party has been the balanced development of Australia; and that does not mean only the rural areas. However, it does mean that because we have a limited number of people in those areas it is sometimes more difficult to get the support in achieving our just desserts, as we have -
– The Labor Government gave to roads more money than the Liberal and National Country parties ever did.
– I do not know what the honourable member is saying. He should bring along figures with him some time. Another reason why this Bill is particularly welcome at the present time is that flood damage has been occasioned over large areas of Queensland of which it is my honour to represent portion, in the State of New South Wales and indeed in many other areas, no doubt. The problems of local government have been increased as a result of the flood damage that has been caused, and local government has very serious problems with which to deal.
I was interested to receive a screed from the Australian Council of Local Government Associations. That body is comprised of local government associations throughout Australia. It is interesting to note that in its screed it says the things that I had intended to say here, but I shall quote from its paper so that I will not be accused of presenting a biased and narrow point of view. That body embodies a large number of local government assications in Australia, as everyone who has taken any interest in local government at all would know. The paper states:
Local government is grappling with an excruciatingly painful dilemma; evermore comprehensive and sophisticated services are demanded of it, yet the means to pay for those services is proving evermore difficult to find.
That is the clear an unadulterated truth. The position in which local government finds itself today is that the rate burden has reached saturation point. Local governments are doing their best to provide funds for themselves through the avenues available to them. But it is just not enough. The paper continues:
Local government, provider of some of the most basic services to the community, should not have to depend for its finance on the vagaries of Federal-State politics, the waxing and waning of Federal-State relations, for it effectively to meet the expectations of the people who depend on it.
I go along with that. It continues:
Financial assistance for local government must be linked as an adequate percentage with a major revenue source, as it is to State Government.
At the last meeting of the South West Queensland Local Government Association that I attended I concentrated on this aspect. At that time what was termed the Stuckey report asked for 5 per cent of taxation returns to be provided to local government. In my view that would not have been too much. The Australian Council of Local Government Associations has continually requested such assistance. Perhaps the honourable member for Newcastle can tell me why the Labor Government did not provide for it in the 3 years in which it was in government and he was the Minister for Transport.
– Ask me the question again. I did not hear you.
– I will talk to the honourable member about the matter afterwards. I would love to educate him a bit. I do not mind talking to him. I do not think that he is a bad fellow, really, but he is a poor politician. That is all that is wrong with him.
I would like to help him if I could. The Australian Council of Local Government Associations has been very modest in its request at this time. It is asking, if my memory serves me right, for only 2 per cent of the income tax revenue. The Association is seeking from the Premiers Conference at least 2 per cent of the income tax revenue this coming financial year- and it deserves at least that. I strongly support that request of the Australian Council of Local Government Associations to the Premiers Conference. There is little doubt- I think this must be generally conceded; it could be a charge against the Government of which I was proud to be a supporter for a number of years- that of the 3 arms of government, that is, Federal, State and local government, local government is at the end of the line. Being at the end of the line, I believe that it has received the worst deal of the 3 arms of government. I think we should recognise that now. I hope that at the Premiers Conference which is just about to take place consideration will be given to the request by the Australian Council of Local Government Associations.
The Association makes the point- I had taken note of this matter before I received this screedthat there is an absolute necessity for a growth tax to be associated with local government finance. The $64m that is provided in this Bill will enable local government to cope to some extent with the inflationary trend that we are facing today. Leaving aside what the previous Government might have contributed towards the rate of inflation from which Australia is suffering today, the fact of the matter is that it is present. We know also that it is worldwide and that that has some bearing on the problems in Australia. But the soundness of the Australian economy was such that it should have been able to cope with the worldwide problem of inflation to a much greater extent than it has. If the previous Australian Government had adopted a sound financial policy we still may have had some problems with inflation but they would not have run to anything like the degree to which they are running at the present time.
Another point that I think is made in the screed to which I have referred and that I want to mention is the problem that confronts local government in addition to having to find finance for roads. This is what makes this Bill so very important. I welcome the provision of the amount of money that has been set aside, but I believe that the provision of a greater amount would be more appropriate. The point that I want to make in relation to the need for assistance to be given by this Government to local government concerns the amount of the interest on loans that is being added to the burdens of local government One of the initiatives that came from the Government of which I am a supporteronce again I accept responsibility for it, although I did not welcome it at the time- was the local ownership plan for aerodromes. I believe that this is one of the burdens that should be relieved. The fact of the matter is that the local government just cannot carry all the burdens.
– The present Government has not done anything about it in the 5 months in which it has been in office.
– The Government of which the honourable member for Newcastle was a member did not do anything about it in the 3 years in which it was in office. It is pretty hard to do everything in 5 months when one inherits a mess like the one that we inherited. It takes quite a long time to clean up before one can make a start and the bigger the mess the longer it takes to clean it up. We certainly faced a very serious problem in this respect. I have not been unfair about this matter. I said that we introduced it, that I did not welcome it and that the Labor Government carried it on. But local government has a terrific burden to carry. It is continually being asked to improve the standards of living in Australia by doing such things as providing sporting amenities and many other facilities. Swimming pools are being provided in comparatively small towns. Why should people in comparatively small towns not have such an amenity as a swimming pool? Why should they not have other amenities? Why should they not enjoy the standard of living that is provided in urban areas?
The burden on local authorities is such that they do need the funds provided in this Bill for that area of activity. All local governments will welcome the provisions of this Bill because it does spread the funds across a whole range of road categories. One aspect that we as a Party and I particularly want to emphasise is that we look forward to that balanced development. We look forward to a roads system which will improve as time goes on. We look forward to the maintenance of our extended roads system. The greater the mileage to be provided in this category, of course, the greater the maintenance problem that local authorities must face.
So, I urge the Government and the Minister for Transport to look very sympathetically at the claims of local government generally in this regard. I hope that the money that is to be provided by this legislation will assist local government to fulfil its role. It will need more than that, but this will help. This is one of the reasons why I welcome the legislation so much. The provisions of this Bill will help local government in the many aspects for which it is responsible. Let me mention one, although I could go on to mention a number.
One of the aspects of local government that is vitally important in smaller areas and which shows up more particularly in such areas is that a local government authority in such an area is often the largest employer of labour. Because of the stringency that has been imposed because of high costs and the difficulty that people have in finding rates to enable those high costs to be met, there must be a reduction in employment. This is tragic because the work that those local authorities are doing is vitally important to the progress and development of this country and to the standard of living of people in those communities as well as to the decentralised development of Australia in such areas, which is in the interests of all Australians.
Mr Deputy Speaker, I welcome the Bill. I trust that it will be the forerunner of many other efforts by the Federal Government to recognise the problems that we face in the present financial situation. The prime objective of this Government at this time is to try to get the economy back on an even keel. This is one area of activity where the whole of the community benefits substantially from the assistance provided.
Let me conclude on this note. I refer again to the appeal by the Australian Council of Local Government Associations which I hope will not go unheeded at the Premiers Conference tomorrow. I hope also that this Bill which we are discussing tonight will be an indication to that body that the Government is sympathetic to the needs of local authorities and understands the essential needs of the community at large with respect to road development. I quote again from the document prepared by the Australian Council of Local Government Associations. It states:
Failure to agree to this formula -
The Associations are referring to the provision of 2 per cent of income tax revenue this financial year to local government; I say that they are very modest in their request. I return to the quotation
Failure to agree to this formula, on the other hand, must have one or two equally unpleasant consequences: Either rates will have to be even higher or the essential services demanded of local government will have to be curtailed. Either way, the dissatisfaction thus created must find its way into the other tiers of government.
We as a Government will help ourselves if we do the right and reasonable thing in this respect. We must provide a reasonable share of the national finances for local government as this will be to the advantage of this Government and to the people of Australia as a whole.
-The House is debating a Bill which makes provision for financial assistance to the States for roads. The honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) devoted a great deal of his speech to local government. I wish to analyse the record of the conservative forces when in government in this country between 1 950 and 1 970 with respect to their assistance to local government. An examination of the internal debt of the Australian Government between those years shows that the interest burdenthe servicing debt- rose by 55 per cent. In fact, the debt itself remains static but because of an increase in interest rates it increased by some 55 per cent. During the period 1950 to 1970 the States’ debt increased 700 per cent. The local government debt increased by 2000 per cent and the semi-government authorities’ debt increased 2800 per cent.
I am a little wary when I hear ciriticisms from this Government which says that it has a new deal for local government. It put local government into bankruptcy. What did we do to try to assist local government? First of all, we introduced the Grants Commission. In its first year of the Commission’s operation we made available $57m in direct grants to local government with no strings attached. The local government authorities could spend the money as they saw fit. Many of them spent it on roads. In the next financial year we increased grants to $79m, an increase of over 40 per cent. That is not a bad record for a government over a period of 3 years in office in its endeavours to assist local government, and that was not the only way we assisted local government. We assisted local government in thirteen of the 70 regions throughout Australia. We moved progressively and we dealt with regions in respect of need through the area improvement program which was formerly administered by the Department of Urban and Regional Development. We introduced schemes such as the Regional Employment Development scheme which poured tens of millions of dollars -in fact over $ 100m- into local government to try to relieve the poverty brought about by former conservative governments of this country between 1949 and 1973. The honourable member for Maranoa said that you cannot solve problems in 5 months. You cannot solve a quagmire of neglect of local government that was created under the Menzies, Holt, Gorton and McMahon governments. In the 3 years that we were trying to overcome the problems we made a great deal of progress.
The Bill before the House relates to matters which were jointly administered by the former Minister for Transport and myself as the Minister for Urban and Regional Development. Urban arterial roads- the inner city freewayswere allowed to be built as monuments to the engineers of the State bureaucracy. The Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon), who is sitting at the table, knows that there was a great waste of expenditure on those urban arterial roads or what people call the inner city freeways. All over the world it has been proved that expenditure of this type was wasteful on economic, social and environmental aspects. In many cases the construction of these roads destroyed the inner city suburbs of our major cities, particularly Sydney and Melbourne. The States did this with Commonwealth Government money because there was no direction from the Australian Government as to the manner in which the money would be spent, even though the Government was responsible for the expenditure of the money.
I could deal with many other aspects. If ever there was a monument of mismanagement it is certainly the conservative governments that governed between 1949 and 1972. History will prove again- as the crisis that occurred in December 1972 can change governments- that in May 1974 the anti-government vote increased in Sydney and Melbourne because of the hysteria that was created by an economic slump which was affecting not only this country but all countries in the Western world. Electoral results, whether in New Zealand, Australia, France or West Germany, show a swing against the governments because the whole of the economic system of the western world is crumbling.
I want to make some general comments about the Bill before making some specific criticisms of its provisions. The first point that needs to be made is that the Government seems to have shifted its ground on road grants since the Premiers Conference earlier this year. At this meeting the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) and the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) suggested that a total of $64m would go to local government to meet its road needs. This was to be done on the basis of $44m this financial year and $20m next financial year. It was suggested strongly in the second reading speech presented on behalf of the Minister for Transport that all of the $64m would be paid in 1975-76.
The commitment made to local government at the Premiers Conference has been ignored. The second reading speech specifically states that the Government has accepted the request of the States. In turn the States have given assurances that they are able to provide properly for local government authorities. We have heard nothing from local government in this shift of direction. To my mind it is very doubtful whether this change would be acceptable to local government. It indicates a shift of resources from local government back to the States, which on past performance have not been ready to relieve the road problem of local government authorities. It makes a mockery of the Government ‘s expressed concern for local government and its pledge to give local government a new financial deal.
The second reading speech states that the Bill is similar in some respects to the Bill introduced last November which lapsed because of the Constitutional coup. In many ways it is similar, particularly in the total amount of money to be allocated. This point should be stressed because the Government has tried to gloss it over. This emerges quite clearly from the transcript of the Premiers Conference, which shows quite clearly that the Prime Minister had to be pinned down to concede that this was not a new allocation. There have been some important changes in the distribution of Federal money, and these point up important differences in philosophy between the Fraser Government and the Labor Government. In most cases the variations between the Fraser Government’s proposals and the Labor Government’s proposals are minor, and I will not discuss them.
There is one very important switch in the direction of funds, and I must draw attention to it. I refer particularly to Schedules 9 and 10 of the Bill. Schedule 9 shows that Victoria’s allocation for rural arterial roads and developmental roads is $2. 66m. This is $2. 12m more than the amount suggested by the Labor Government. Turning to Schedule 10, we find that Victoria has increased its allocation to rural local roads to $6. 65m, which is $5.36m more than the Labor Government proposed. In total, the Labor Government would have given $ 1.83m for rural roads in Victoria, and this Government has multiplied that amount by 500 per cent to $9.3 lm. At the same time, the total going to urban arterial and urban local roads in Victoria has been slashed from $7.37m to $3. 9m. That indicates the priorities of this Government. They give to the few instead of to the many. Eighty-five per cent of Australian people live in urban communities, but always in the past, under Conservative Governments, the rural areas, the sectional group which the Minister represents, take the cake and give the crumbs to the city dwellers. Liberal members should be ashamed of themselves because they do not have the gumption to understand the priorities that are involved.
The amount of $4.1m which the Labor Government allocated for national highways in New South Wales has been abolished. The $2. 56m allocated to Victoria has also gone, and of course the Hume Highway will get worse and worse because of that decision. In total, this represents a massive diversion of resources from urban to rural services. There is some evidence that the Minister for Transport has some doubt about switching the balance in this way. In his Press statement announcing the grants he suggested that dissatisfied urban councils should take up the matter with Mr Hamer. In short, he tried to wash his hands of the criticism from urban councils, which have been very badly treated by this allocation. The Labor Government last year was pressed strongly by urban councils for extra funds. We were as generous as we could be in the economic circumstances of the time. The proper balance between urban and rural needs has been completely destroyed by this unjustified switch in resources. At least it shows the priorities of the Fraser Government and of the Victorian Government. The States and the rural areas get the first and the biggest slice of the cake. Local government and urban councils are deprived of funds for essential services. If this is the new federalism, there is not much future for it.
The poor treatment given to local government also shows up in the New South Wales program. The Labor Government proposed an allocation of $2.8m for urban local roads in New South Wales. This decision was made after many local government authorities drew attention to the problems of the undeclared class 6 and class 7 urban roads. It was pointed out to the Labor Government that there were at least 500 miles of main roads which Federal and State governments should classify as urban local roads, in addition to the usual roads in that category. That is why we proposed a generous grant for those sorts of roads in New South Wales. Our allocation of $2.8m has been cut back to $0.58m. In effective terms, it has been wiped out completely. The balance has been transferred to urban arterial roads. Yet the States have assured the Minister that they will look after the needs of local government. I question that the record of this Fraser Government is any different from that of the conservative governments which deserted local government between 1949 and 1972. The example I have given shows just how false is this Government’s claim. The States are looking after the States, not local government. The Minister made much of the change in the Roads Grants Act, which he claimed gave greater power over the programs to the States and local government. In fact, the impact in the programs is not particularly significant.
We will not oppose giving control of details of the urban local roads programs and rural local roads programs back to the States and local government authorities. At the same time, we would insist that uniform guidelines be applied to the allocation of these funds. In particular, we are anxious to see that more of this money is directed to urban roads in provincial centres. All too often, the big cities and major towns in our rural areas miss out under these programs. An unjust share of these funds is spent on rural local roads outside the major provincial centres such as Wagga, Wangaratta, Toowoomba and scores of others. As a former State Minister for Transport, the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fife) should be well aware that the urban local roads within the Wagga area share very badly under this Act. Road services in these growing provincial centres must be protected. There should be guidelines for rural local roads like the guidelines that the Department of Urban and Regional Development produced for urban local roads.
The amendments to the Act also return to the States the right to approve the use of their own funds for urban arterial roads. I have already warned the Minister about the engineers in the New South Wales Department of Main Roads of whom the honourable member for Farrer was well aware. They wanted to build monuments or memorials to themselves. In fact, the roads they wanted to build are obsolete. They are economically unwise, environmentally unwise and socially unwise. This has become a less sensitive area because there are hopeful signs of change; but I say to the Minister that I have grave doubts, as there are still forces within the States which want to build those monuments- the inner city freeways- to these engineers. This is a subject that I have pressed for many years. I hope that there is a glimmer of a saner and more human approach to stop this stupid idea of creating inner city freeways which cost tens of millions and even hundreds of millions of dollars. It is far wiser to build a more efficient urban public transport system.
Much damage has been done already; but there is a chance that we can avoid the ravages of the freeways in inner urban areas in the years ahead. However, we must be on guard at all times. The main offenders in constructing radial freeways have been the New South Wales and Victorian governments. These are the only States that have the ability to finance the construction of freeways out of their own resources. But I warn the Minister to watch the cities of Perth and Brisbane in particular. They are not without criticism. The other States have to rely on the Federal Government for funds for urban arterial roads. There is a danger that the greater freedom for the States to switch funds from one class of road to another could be used to build up funds for more radial freeways. This is an area which needs to be watched very closely, particularly in New South Wales and Victoria. However, I am not excluding the other States.
Apart from these changes, it will be necessary for the Federal Government to obtain from the States programs for all sorts of roads. Despite the claim by the Minister, the requirements for submitting programs have not been changed in any way in respect of any major aspect. The Minister has a responsibility. He has put the States on trust in regard to inner urban freeways. I am asking him to keep a close watch on them because we do not want to see these monuments of despair created again.
-Firstly, I thank those honourable members who have contributed to the debate. Some interesting and rather varied speeches have been made by honourable members on both sides of the House. Perhaps I ought to deal with the remarks of the last speaker, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Uren), before referring to some of the other points that were raised. He made a rather curious speech in which he seemed to get his facts mixed somewhat. He stated as a positive fact that local government debt had increased by 2000 per cent over a number of years. I do not argue with that claim. He then talked about what a great thing the Labor Government had done by introducing the Grants Commission and giving local government $57m in the first year and $75m, I think, in the second year. What he did not tell us was that in the roads grants program the Labor Government took more money away from the local government area than the total amount of money it gave under the Grants Commission program. It was a confidence trick. The Labor Government came out with this brand new program of money for local government under the Grants Commission on the one hand and took more money out of the local government area from the roads grants program. One example of that is Victoria. In the last year of the program- 1972- during which I was Minister for Transport the local governments in Victoria got $ 16. lm. Three years later, under the Labor Government, that dropped to $4.7m. That was indicative of the approach taken by the Labor Government: Give on the one hand and take more away on the other.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the honourable member for Reid, like the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) when he spoke earlier, spent a lot of time explaining why the Labor Party lost the last election. I could not quite make out, sir, what that had to do with the Bill, but as you were kind enough to let them mention it you might let me have something to say about it.
-The Minister will be shown the same charity as the other speakers.
-Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. They both talked about the ‘coup’ of 11 November. What do they call the result of 13 December if they talk about the ‘coup’ on 11
November? The whole of the Labor Party is besotted with trouble over the result on 13 December. Honourable members opposite still do not understand why it was that the people of Australia in such large numbers turned them out. They are now a broken Party sitting opposite me here and are quite leaderless. They have a man besotted with this problem of a coup. They do not realise that the very core of this Bill is one of the reasons that the people turned against them on 13 December. The cold facts are that the people of Australia were sick of the centralised bureaucratic control instituted by my friend and colleague, the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) as he did in all of his approaches to all his legislation that came into this Parliament in the 3-year period. That was indicative of the whole of the Labor Party’s approach. Until honourable members opposite get it out of their system the people of Australia will never put them back in office again. The fact is that the people of Australia do not want this centralised bureaucratic control. I cannot understand why the Labor Party did not pick up the message from the many local government bodies or at Commonwealth-State ministerial meetings where State Ministers made the situation quite plain.
I was somewhat amused to hear the honourable member for Newcastle complaining about the lack of co-operation of State Ministers and the Australian Transport Advisory Council. It was not a case of lack of co-operation. The fact is, of course, that when the honourable member for Newcastle was Minister for Transport, he went to meetings and just dictated terms and conditions. He said: ‘Well, that is what you are going to do and that is all about it’. We have just heard the Deputy Leader of the Opposition telling us what he did about freeways and how he stopped all the freeway growth. He had no consultation with the States and none at all with local government. They had no right to give an opinion on the matter. All these so-called engineers he talked about lacked all the expertise in the world; all the skills lay in Canberra. They lay with the honourable member for Newcastle and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. They had all the skills and all the knowledge. That is the fundamental reason that the people of Australia threw the Labor Party out. The members of the Labor Party could not get into their thick skulls that there are other wisdoms besides wisdoms in Canberra. That finishes my remarks on the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. The rest of his speech was an ideological speech talking about the crumbling capitalist society, so I think the less said about that the better. Again on 13 December the people of Australia demonstrated that they are sick of the socialist, centralist system and that they would rather have the socalled decadent capitalist society by a mile. That is why there is a majority of fifty-five on this side of the House. Is that the right number?
– It is 91 to 36.
-The numbers are 91 to 36. Let me turn to the Leader of the Opposition. Both he and the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris), who led in this debate, seemed very concerned that out of this $64m I pulled some magician’s trick so that $20m will not be paid until after 1 July. They both tried to make something of it. I am glad that the honourable member for Newcastle knows enough about the Bill to realise that that was the wrong course to follow. If the honourable member for Shortland and the Leader of the Opposition had done any homework at all they would have seen that there is a carry-over every year in this program. Last year, under the administration of the honourable member for Newcastle, the carry-over was $10m. It varies from year to year. If honourable members read the minutes from the Premiers Conference they will see that there was no complaint at all from the Premier of South Australia about the approach that was taken, and he is a Labor Premier. There was no complaint at all from the Premier of Tasmania, and he is a Labor Premier. It is a figment to try to show that I have pulled some magician’s trick. The fact is that this Bill provides $64m for the State, and that $64m will be paid.
I thank the honourable member for Henty (Mr Aldred), the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Cadman) and the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) for their contributions. They made very constructive and useful contributions to the debate and demonstrated a much greater knowledge and perception of what this BUI is about than, I have to say, anybody from the Opposition did. The honourable member for Mitchell in particular picked on the core of the problem, that we are decentralising control from Canberra and allowing the local government authorities to be the judges of expenditure programs where works are to be carried out in their areas, and allowing the State governments to make judgments on programs where work is properly to be carried out in their areas. That is what government ought to be about. If we are to survive as a federalist system we have to give proper responsibilities to each area of government. I do not think that the honourable member for Newcastle, the honourable member for Shortland or either of the other Labor speakers have yet grasped that point. Until they do, as I said before, there is no way in the world that the people of Australia will accept them as an alternative government.
The Leader of the Opposition complained bitterly because the schedules show a difference of $4m in the New South Wales expenditure program for the Hume Highway under the Nixon BUI, as he described it, as against the Jones Bill. The Leader of the Opposition really ought to talk to the Premier of New South Wales or the State Minister for Transport in New South Wales. It was the State Minister for Transport who recommended this transfer of resources. He said to me that he did so because in the program of expenditure it is much more necessary to spend this money on the changed formula. The same thing happened in the other States. I accepted their argument because I am prepared to cooperate with the States and recognise that they are the constructing authorities. They know where the short-fall is much better than I do here in Canberra, and so I accepted their argument. Quite curiously, the honourable member for Newcastle said that all this BUI does is legalise what I was doing illegally or words to that effect. He said that these sorts of changes were going on anyway. In other words he was saying that transfers of funds were taking place illegally. I have not checked the accuracy of that statement but I am prepared to accept the honourable member’s word for it. But then he goes on to complain about the shifts in the schedules. He cannot have it both ways. He cannot complain and then agree to allowing it being done illegally
The Leader of the Opposition, when complaining about the transfer of the $4m from the national highways program in New South Wales, talked about how this would seriously affect the national highways program. That is nonsense. It will not seriously affect the national highways program at all. Let us get this in proper perspective. Under the total national highways program that State gets between 25 per cent and 30 per cent of the total road moneys for 16 300 kilometres of road. Honourable members should compare this with the 416 000 kilometres of other roads in Australia. Let us get it in perspective: Twenty-five per cent of the funds are provided for 16 000 kilometres of roads as against the rest of the funds which are allocated for 416 000 kilometres.
The national highways program is advancing very well. I am as conscious as anybody else of the need that the Leader of the Opposition talked about to update the Hume Highway. But I will not stand over State Ministers who are in charge of the construction of the highways and other roads in their States. I am not going to stand over them and tell them their business when they are able to make judgments from a point much closer to the people than I am here in Canberra. The previous Minister for Transport, the honourable member for Newcastle, declared the national highways system and funds will be allocated to it. I have permitted a transfer of funds from one section to another, but it is still within the ambit of the Commonwealth Minister to make sure that the total road funding for the national highway program is kept at a high level and in order to meet emergencies I will be prepared to co-operate at any time with the State Ministers to make sure that proper consideration is given to their needs.
The honourable member for Shortland raised a point about quotas. He made the great point that $20m will not be available, he says, until next year. I have explained this matter.
– I did not say that.
-Well, the honourable member asked the question.
– I did not say that.
– I am not sure what the honourable member said.
– I did not say that. I know that you are not sure because you were not listening.
– I am not sure what the honourable member said. Perhaps the honourable member will tell us again in the Committee stages of this debate. But I want to assure him about the quota system. If he had looked at the Act he would have seen that the States do not have to match their quota system until the end of the 3-year period. In addition, the $58.4m required under the quota system to be raised by the State does not have to be provided in an expenditure program in this financial year. If the honourable member had looked at the Act he would have seen this. The States do have to match the quota funds but they do not have to do so immediately. This was made quite clear at the Premiers Conference.
I want to make one other point. At the Australian Transport Advisory Committee meeting in Melbourne a few weeks ago this Bill, and the schedules attached to it, were greeted unanimously by the State Ministers as a major step forward. They spoke in glowing terms about the co-operation they were receiving from the Commonwealth Minister, following the speech I delivered to them on that occasion, as against the troubles they had had at previous ATAC meetings. I look forward to a long association with State Ministers knowing that there will be a much more co-operative approach rather than the dictatorial approach taken by my predecessor. I thank honourable members who contributed to the debate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
– I am concerned with clause 8 of this Bill under which it is proposed to deduct $8. 1 m from the funds allocated to the National Roads Act and to transfer those funds into the Roads Grants Act. The reason I am so concerned is that the Commonwealth is going to take money allocated to the most important roads in Australia and transfer it to roads of lesser importance. Many of those roads have half a dozen or maybe a dozen vehicles a day over them yet we have highways that affect the whole of this country. The national highways, for example, will connect 150 towns, each with a population exceeding 2000. These highways will connect 9.5 million people in urban settlements. As at 1972 figures they will accommodate 4000 million vehicle miles. The national highways system comprises some 9800 miles of roads and the tragedy is that only about 100 miles of those 9800 miles of road are divided carriageways. There are nearly 6600 miles of single carriage roadway, and about 3100 miles of roadway that is completely unsealed. Where is a lot of this single carriage roadway to be found? It is on the major national highways in this country. The roadway for roughly half the distance between Sydney and Newcastle, the most heavily trafficked section of national highway in Australia, is a 2-lane operation. The same could be said of the highway between Sydney and Melbourne. There are large stretches of 2-lane highway between Albury and Melbourne. Yet this Government has seen fit to cut back the allocation for these roads by $8.1m. The previous Government allocated $ 1 3.94m for road construction, and this Government has cut back that allocation to $7.35m
I do not think that honourable members should sit idly by and allow that to happen without taking the consequences into consideration. I have figures here which I have used on numerous occasions because they are figures which clearly explain the situation and nobody has yet challenged them. For example, the accident rate in 1970 on New South Wales rural highways was 3.2 accidents per million vehicle miles. Yet on the short section of highway between Sydney and Newcastle, better known as the Tollway, the accident rate was 1.4 accidents per million vehicle miles. On the Hume Highway in 1971-72 there were 838 accidents involving casualties. Most of these accidents resulted from failures in the planning of the road system- bad curves, bad hills and insufficient distance for motorists to see where they were going. One of my colleagues who drove from Sydney to Canberra on Monday night told me at lunch on Tuesday that he saw accidents involving 5 fatalities on the Hume Highway on Monday night.
I warn the Government that it is failing to accept its responsibility to lift highways, the most heavily trafficked roads in Australia, to such a standard that people will not lose their lives on them. Honourable members opposite will say that accidents will still happen because of driver failure. However, a lot of the faults of drivers are due to the faults of engineers and the engineers’ faults are due to government failure to accept responsibility to provide sufficient money for road construction. I warn honourable members, and I am interested to see a few honourable members from New South Wales in the chamber tonight, that at the present rate of expenditure, the Hume Highway will not be a minimum 4-lane roadway for another 120 years. That is how long people will have to wait to get a minimum 4-lane roadway. We saw an example of the very poor construction of the Hume Highway in 1974 when as a result of heavy rain the Hume Highway was almost impassable for a considerable distance south of the Collector turn-off. The road was just smashed to pieces. Together with members of the Department of Transport I went over a short section of the Hume Highway and saw what its condition was. The former Labor Government immediately provided some $3m for the maintenance and restoration of that section of the highway. On one occasion a truck driver said to me that he would have felt safer if he had been driving his truck through some of the ploughed-up paddocks rather than travelling along what is supposed to be the number one national highway in Australia.
As I have said, this is money that has been reallocated to roads of minor importance. The former Labor Government has been accused of having drained money away from rural local roads. Let us get the facts. The fact is that as a government we did just that, we did take money away from urban local roads. But when we did it we also took other matters into consideration. I have in my possession a table which I have not shown to the Minister so I will not seek his permission to have it incorporated in Hansard. This table gives figures in respect of all States except Victoria. Someone needled me a while ago about Victoria. In respect of this table, Victoria showed its usual co-operation. It was not prepared to make any information available in respect of what it spent on rural arterial roads, which are now national highways, the same as it would not give to the Minister for Transport, who is sitting at the table, the necessary information for the Bureau of Transport Economics to put together its report on urban public transport. The table discloses that in 1973-74, $65.4m was spent by New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania on rural arterial roads which are now national highways. We know that the Bureau of Roads made available certain information to the Department of Transport. I have this information which discloses that roughly half of that money was provided out of Commonwealth Aid Roads grants. So in actual fact half of that money as financed by the Australian Government.
We said time and again: ‘You no longer have the responsibility of providing this $65m for rural arterial roads because the whole of that cost is being financed. Use that money to fill the gap, the vacuum, which we created as far as rural local roads are concerned’. This is where the States used that money. This money should have been used on rural local roads. But the States did 2 things. Firstly they transferred some of it into their own arterial road program. Secondly, they did not increase their allocation for roads commensurate with the cost of living increases and the cost of road construction. So the States did not fill the vacuum which we created. They had the money to do it but they did not use that money for this purpose. I have quoted previously tonight, Mr Deputy Chairman -
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Giles)Order! The honourable gentleman’s time has expired.
– I want to refer briefly to clause 2 1 of the Bill which seeks to amend the principal Act by adding new schedules 9 and 10 which relate to rural arterial roads and developmental roads and rural local roads. I want to draw the attention of the Committee to the increases which, as I have stated, had occurred under this re-allocation. The increase in
New South Wales was $4m; in Victoria- the State from which the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) comes- it was $7.48m; in Queensland it was $ 1.61m; and in Western Australia it was $0. 1 1 m. This made a total increase of $ 1 3.2m in the allocation of grants for rural arterial roads and developmental roads and rural local roads.
It is all very well for the Minister for Transport to say there can be transfers and a topping off at the end of the year. As my colleague the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) said earlier, the essential point is that money has been taken out of the most important program at all- the national highways program. If one looks a bit closer at schedules 1 1 and 12 one will see that in New South Wales there was a transfer out of urban local roads away from local government, the area which the Minister professes he wants to assist but which he bankrupted in his earlier years of office. There was a transfer of $2.22m out of urban local roads into urban arterial roads. In Victoria there was a transfer out or urban arterial roads of $2.8 lm and in urban local roads a decrease of $57,000. The Minister told us about the Bill but at no stage did he offer an explanation upon which to place any credence in accounting for the transfers from rural arterial roads to rural local roads.
Clauses 6 and 16 of the Bill deal with provisions for transfers between Acts and transfers within Acts. I am at a loss to understand how to interpret these clauses, after listening to the Minister. This Bill is not an initiative of the present Government. But for the distribution of funds, as I understand it, the Bill is the same as that introduced in October last year. In his second reading speech the Minister mentioned the relationship of the flexibility within the Bill- the flexibility that was to be provided for transfers within the provisions of this Bill. The part of the Bill that worries me is the relationship of the present amendments to section 4 of the Roads Grants Act. The Minister has not mentioned this since his second reading speech. He virtually said that as far as the States and the urban arterial road construction are concerned they can do what they like. I draw the Committee’s attention to the fact that urban arterial roads are a major public investment. There is a major public investment in public transport. There is a major public investment in other modes of transport. It is all very well to sound off and make noises about centralism but there is a resonsibility to the community to co-ordinate the various modes of transport, to co-ordinate the various amounts and directions of public investment so that there is an efficient use of public funds and so that there is a conservation of public funds.
I think it is quite ridiculous for the Minister for Transport in the Australian Parliament to say: ‘All wisdom resides in the States. We are only a bunch of idiots here, more or less. Lay me down and tickle my tummy, you can have all the money you like and do what you like with it’. That is in essence what the Minister has said. We put into the legislation- it is our legislation which the Minister is administering- a plan that would result in a proper and responsible co-ordination of the various modes of public transport, a responsible investment of public funds in transport in all its modes and provisions for participation and consultation with the States. Over and over again we hear the statement: ‘But the States are the closest to the local scene. They know how to do best’. It is absolute nonsense. Ask any man who served in local government in New South Wales what he thinks of State bureaucracy in New South Wales, what he thinks of the expertise of the Department of Main Roads and what he thinks of the expertise of the Department of Local Government.
All wisdom does not reside in the States. I do not think this Parliament ought to be taking the view that all wisdom should be in Canberra or all the wisdom should be in one of the State capitals. The view we ought to be taking is that there is a need for co-ordination and there is a need for consultation. Rather than trying to build up one centre of bureaucracy against another, we ought to be trying to develop, promote, exchange and interchange views and expertise. There is expertise here in the Bureau of Roads which comes within the Australian Department of Transport. The Minister is very proud of his department. I was surprised tonight to hear some of his remarks. I know he is proud, as a person, of his department. There is expertise here that should be made available to the States. I hope it is and I understand that it is. Likewise, in some areas the State departments have something to offer. By welding the best of these together, we ought to be able to do the best possible with every dollar that is spent on transport, whether it is on ferries, roads or urban public transport.
If the Minister hopes that the result of this Bill will be virtually the handing over of responsibility to the States and the determination of priorities as they wish in the States, without regard to the other modes of transport and the other public funds involved, I suggest that the Minister is confessing his incompetence. If the Minister is genuine in what he is saying he ought to resign because there is no use for him or for the Department of Transport. His job ought to be that of co-ordinating. He ought to be the link between the States and the expertise in the Department. I find it difficult to accept his remark that all was lovey-dovey at the last Premiers Conference in relation to the $64m. He has referred to the minutes.
– That was an ATAC meeting.
-I am sorry, an ATAC meeting. The reports that I heard were different. Maybe the matter was discussed at a different place. Maybe it was not recorded in the minutes.
– Maybe they were distorted.
– They were factual. Your remarks would be distorted. The request for deferral of $20m did not get a happy reception. I do not know what has happened in relation to the next point which I wish to raise. Maybe the Minister will interject and give me the answer. If the garden is so lovely, if the State Transport Ministers are so happy about everything, can the Minister explain why within a few days of the announcement of the New South Wales election, which has ranked pretty strongly in the discussion tonight, the New South Wales Minister for Transport endeavoured to call off the scheduled Australian Transport Advisory Council meeting on 2 1 April? I do not know whether it is to be held. Is it on or is it off?
– I will answer you when you have finished your speech.
-Is it that difficult to answer?
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Giles)-The honourable member will address his remarks to the Chair.
-I should have asked the Minister through you, Mr Deputy Chairman. I am sorry I did not preface my question in that manner. I would like that question answered. If the relationship is so good, if the New South Wales Government is happy about the amount it is getting for roads, why did it want to defer the meeting of ATAC which was to be held in a few days’ time? We know that the New South Wales Government wanted to defer it because of the approaching election, because of the bad tidings and because of the cutbacks that are coming. The Minister has said that the State transport administrations are efficient, that they are the wise men, that they know best how to do things in relation to transport. They know so much about it in New South Wales that the anticipated loss for this year is $300m. I believe the Australian people can do without that kind of expertise. I have more confidence in the Minister’s Department.
– I should like to answer a couple of questions. There was talk about postponing the Australian Transport Advisory Council meeting on 21 April. The Minister for Transport in New South Wales sent telegrams to all State Ministers and to me, as the Federal Minister, suggesting that the meeting be postponed because he took the view, quite properly in my opinion, that it would be improper for him as a State Minister going into an election within a week to be at an ATAC meeting at which responsible decisions affecting his State had to be taken. He took the proper view, in my opinion. He sent telegrams to all State Ministers suggesting that the meeting be postponed. I concurred in that view. I could see that it could be an embarrassment for him to take decisions when he may not be Minister for Transport a week later. So we accepted that view, quite genuinely. The difficulty was that the Minister for Transport in South Australia promptly sent a telegram saying that the ATAC meeting could be held in South Australia, New South Wales could go hang and it need not bother to attend as far as he was concerned.
– He has not changed a bit.
– No, he has not changed a bit. There was a general talk between Ministers. We decided that issues of fundamental importance to the State would be raised and that the State Minister need not attend and deliberate on matters which might embarrass a new Minister. I am quite satisfied that the team led by the Premier, Sir Eric Willis, will win quite handsomely at the State election. I do not believe that Mr Bruxner who is the State Minister for Transport need be embarrassed for one moment. He is a proper gentleman and he expressed that point of view. That is why there was some talk of cancelling the meeting for 2 1 April. There was also talk of cancelling the meeting of Ministers responsible for ports and marine for the same reason. After all, unlike Ministers of the Labor Government which was in office for 3 years, Ministers of this Government do take a proper view of these things. The honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris) ought to recognise that. I was delighted to hear him say that there is a need for coordination and co-operation. That is a brand new approach by the Labor Party Opposition. If we had had a bit more of that over the past 3 years by the then Minister for Transport at
ATAC meetings the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) might still be sitting on this side of the chamber.
I warn the people of Australia that the colour of the animal has not changed. The honourable member for Shortland is realising something which the honourable member for Newcastle did not realise in 3 years and that is that what he has to do is to pretend that all is sweetness and light in co-operating with his State colleagues. He then might find himself as Minister for Transport some day. But I think one has to do more than that to demonstrate to the people of Australia that one is prepared to co-operate with the States and with local government. One cannot dictate to the States as did the Minister for Transport in the Labor Government. The honourable member knows that full well. He lost the co-operation of even the Labor Party State Ministers. I have heard some comments about ATAC meetings which went on over the 3 years which would make one ‘s hair curl.
– Not yours.
– No, not mine, I do not have enough to curl and not the honourable member for Melbourne either. But the hair of the honourable member for Shortland would curl at the stories of the dictatorial attitudes taken by the Commonwealth and by the Minister. This Bill has been so well received at the ATAC meeting because I am seen as a Minister who is prepared to co-operate. That is the difference between the Liberal and National Country Parties in Government and the Labor Party in Government. I do not think anything more need to be said. I move:
Question resolved in the affirmative. Original question resolved in the affirmative. Bill agreed to.
Mr CHARLES JONES (Newcastle) -I wish to make a personal explanation.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Giles)Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, by the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) when he said that at meetings of the Australian Transport Advisory Council I had been dictatorial and most uncooperative with other Ministers. I want the Minister to know that at the dinner after the Darwin meeting the then New South Wales Minister congratulated me on my even-handedness and excellent chairmanship.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Nixon)- by leave- read a third time.
Debate resumed from 30 March, on the following paper presented by Mr MacKellar:
Population Policy- Ministerial Statement, 30 March 1976- and on motion by Mr Newman:
That the House take note of the paper.
Suspension of Standing Orders
Motion (by Mr Nixon) agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the honourable member for Melbourne from speaking for a period not exceeding 28 minutes.
-At the outset I would like to say on behalf of Opposition members that we welcome the statement by the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) on this very important matter. Also we would like to acknowledge the work of the National Population Inquiry- the Borrie inquiry. That inquiry has laid down a basis and compiled statistical material which will be invaluable in future debates on this question. We believe that statement was not intended to go anywhere near as far as the Minister would desire. It does not deal seriously with the question of a population policy; nor does it go to the point of providing answers to our now outmoded attitude towards population policy in general, migration in particular and community relations in the true sense of the term. However, the statement opens up the whole question for debate. I trust that the ensuing debate at least will lead to consideration of vital questions of policy in the future and will lead, to some degree, to solutions to the problems which we will have to face in the short term and the long term in relation to population policy, immigration and community affairs.
There are a few matters to which I would like to refer and which in the main are not contained in the Minister’s statement. Firstly, I refer to the terminology which is used. I do not subscribe to it personally and I hope that in the future some consideration will be given to it. I suggest that the Minister should be careful about the terminology he uses. To whom do the words ‘migrant’ and ‘ethnic’ apply? In the statement the Minister says that 1.5 million persons in this country are migrants. I think it would be correct to say that 20 per cent of our population consists of people drawn from many overseas countries. When they take Australian citizenship they receive all the entitlements of natural born Australians and they should be designated as Australians of European origin, British origin or whatever. I am an Australian with a Welsh and Scottish background. I am very proud of that fact. I am the only Australian born member of my family. I believe that we should be referring to people as Australians. There may be some grins or sniggers from honourable members on the Government side, but this is a very serious matter and I believe it is a divisive matter.
I think that the Minister’s thesis that of the 3 population variables- fertility, mortality and external migration- external migration will continue to be the only major instrument available to government to influence the level and composition of our population is based to a large extent on the conclusions of the Borrie report, which says:
The likely effects of Government measures to encourage or discourage child-bearing cannot be anticipated until much more is known about the causes of fertility changes.
Taking the assumptions that can be gleaned from the Borrie report, one can question the effect of fertility decline. The Minister says that, in line with the pattern in most other industrialised, developed countries, for demographic purposes fertility is a measure of the actual numbers of children born, not the ability to bear children. He also says that immigration also has declined dramatically in recent times. As a consequence, the rate of increase in our population has dropped considerably.
What we must ask is whether the fertility and immigration slow-down is temporary. What are the economic factors which have contributed to the decreasing family size? Why is immigration more limited at the present time than it has been in the past? Although we can easily accept Professor Borrie ‘s figures in relation to the fertility projections, we need to be very careful in accepting these recommendations as an article of faith, for demographic changes also, as the Minister correctly points out, have enormous economic, social, political and industrial consequences. All tentative planning activities in the welfare field will be affected seriously by any definitive, comprehensive and authoritative statements concerning population projections. It would be absurd, for instance, to continue expanding the primary sector of education, creches and preschool centres, when the demand upon those facilities will vary greatly in the near future as a result of the ageing of the population.
Look at the relativity of fertility patterns. Firstly many eminent demographers would contend that the population size and the ultimate population size is only going to be of relative consideration- relative to the standards of living we want, relative to productivity, relative to what governments do to ensure the welfare of their citizens and relative to economic strategy in relation to unemployment and inflation. Secondly, the decline in fertility may be just a consequence of women delaying child bearing perhaps because of temporary economic circumstances, such as the difficulties that young couples have now in buying houses, particularly in the major metropolitan areas.
Thirdly, we need to take into account also in assessing this factor to what extent remarriage within the child bearing age represents child bearing by the people in question. Changes within the economic structure of society, particularly the access of females to higher education and to the job market, has had an impact upon fertility rates also. The cost of earnings foregone should a mother give up her job have concomitantly increased and the role of the career woman as opposed to the housewife has become increasingly attractive to the female section of the population. However, this may be only a temporary abberation in so far as it affects fertility rates.
If women could be assured of keeping their jobs and of not being relegated, by being married, to staying within the house and if they could be assured of re-entering the workforce once the children were of manageable age, this might affect dramatically attitudes towards procreation. Consequently the factors which determine fertility rates must be approached within the political and economic context in which the advanced industrial societies are operating. We should note that fertility rates and their decline are based to a large extent upon the experience of western society and are not necessarily representative of all industrialised society. This is particularly evident when one considers some of the demographic trends in countries such as the German Democratic Republic which has one of the most heavily industrialised bases in the world. This is because the attitude towards child bearing and reproduction is of such a different order from our own at the present time. The matter is worth at least some investigation and consideration.
Let us look at immigration. If we did accept the assumption of the Minister- I suggest at this point that the assumption is still very questionable indeed- that fertility rates are declining and will continue inevitably to decline and that the major way in which the Government can affect the composition of Australia’s population is through regulating the level and composition of immigration, a whole series of other factors needs to be taken into account. Firstly, the rationale that the Minister presents in terms of immigration is one largely of turning the tap on when we need them and turning the tap off when the economic circumstances do not permit their ready integration into the workforce. Since immigration levels are determined largely by government decision, predictions must be based on political forethought. It has been evident in recent years that economic, social and political conditions in Australia compared with those of the advanced western European countries, such as the Netherlands and West Germany, from which countries few people immigrate to Australia today, have necessitated our altering radically our sources for traditional emigration.
We should no longer be under the illusion that for Western Europeans- Britons and particularly people from countries such as West Germany and Holland- Australia represents a desirable place in which to live. The whole theme has changed. The association of countries in the European Economic Community is such that technicians and people trained at that level need not travel the long distance to Australia. They have easy access to job availability in the countries in that area. They can take advantage of the guest worker scheme. I do not subscribe to this scheme myself, but it is a fact that people travel within Europe in a whole range of jobs and they are within striking distance of their homelands.
We must remember that every human being has a sacred and an indissoluble attachment to the land which has given him his infant nurture. They feel, as I believe anyone else would feel, that they would rather work in close proximity of their homeland. If for some temporary period of time a person cannot find work in his own country he will not go the long distance to Australia. The fact of life is that that is correct. I was in Europe within the last 12 months. I made extensive inquiries and found that that is the case. People work near their homelands. The Labor initiatives in the social welfare field at one stage made Australia attractive to immigrants but the Government has now, I believe- I think we can be critical of this-attempted to dismantle the Labor initiatives in that social welfare area. Conditions in the countries which I have mentioned for the most part are better than in ours. That means that payments to people on social welfare in those countries are far in excess of what we can offer.
Australia’s capability of managing various levels of immigration in relation to overall population size to date has largely been determined by political economy factors, particularly the capacity of many industrialists to seek cheaper labour and bigger markets. Indeed, the Minister for Immigration, on page 9 of his statement stated:
Australia’s difficulties in defending itself during war and the need for manpower to encourage and support industrial and economic expansion combined to produce a national consensus that Australia needed a much larger population.
Yes, it may be true that there was a national consensus in 1945 upon immigration for those purposes. However, it does not necessarily mean that this consensus continues to exist today, nor that the rationale has any contemporary meaning. For instance, one of the major characteristics of Australia in terms of immigration is its highly industrialised nature and the roles that immigrants are expected to play within the work force.
When traditional British and Western European sources of immigration have declined Australia has had to recruit migrants from countries or areas within countries- for example, rural Greece and Yugoslavia- without the background, education and industrialisation necessary to produce well-trained manpower. This has gone on for some considerable time. I am not denying for one moment that there was little difference between a Labor government in the past and the present Government or little difference perhaps in the debate that ensued over the years over the source countries of our immigrants. But I pose the suggestion that in the contemporary sense that is not the case today. I think that the issues and the questions are quite different and I am sure that at this point the debate would be quite different.
The result of this immigration policy, sustained and continued by the Liberal and National Country Parties for something like 20 years, of the distribution of ethnic groups is very much now mirrored in terms of their distribution within occupations and the class nature of Australia. Since the 1950s and the beginning of the wave of southern European immigrationfirst it was the Italians and then later the Greeks- migrants have disproportionately entered the unskilled and semi-skilled manufacturing and construction jobs. Indeed, one might say that they have been allocated to the work that Australians find too unpleasant to do. In this regard I refer to a study made by Mr Steven
Staats, former consultant to the Social Welfare Commission, of the changing composition of the Australian workforce. In a paper delivered to the University of Toronto’s Political Economic Conference on 2 August 1974 he stated:
Immigration labour has provided a significant and growing proportion of the workforce and almost all Australian industries. It is particularly important for the manufacturing industries generally accounting for more than 30 per cent of the workforce in these industries while at much less significance are the primary industries. They provide at least a quarter of the workforce for the mining industry. Within manufacturing migrant labour has been crucial. It provided 49.48 per cent of the workforce for the clothing industries, 44.7 per cent for the textile industries, 40.6 per cent for the petroleum products industries, 40.3 per cent in other manufacturing industries.
These figures are derived from the Australian Bureau of Census reports 1944-1961 and 1966. Sir Neville Norman in a paper headed ‘Manufacturing Industry in Australia, Australian Industries Development Association, Sydney, 1971’ wrote:
There would have been a decline in numbers working in manufacturing by some 20 per cent in the absence of immigration. The vital contribution of migrant labour can be seen more clearly after considering the socio-economic distribution.
I again quote from what Mr Staats said:
From 1947-34 80 per cent of the increase in the male workforce and 60 per cent to 70 per cent of the female workforce consisted of migrants. Not only have migrants accounted for the entire increase of members of the workforce from 10 to 29 years of age in the period from 1947-1961 but they have also to a considerable extent replaced Australian-born workers of these ages.
Thus migrants rather than school leavers to date have been the main source for replenishment of young workers. This is particularly so in manual occupations, a growing proportion of which are held by migrant workers and a lessening proportion of which are held by Australian born workers. In 1961, 55.4 per cent of the migrant workforce was in manual occupations compared with only 40.5 per cent of the Australian bom workforce. That development has helped to exaggerate the illusion in the minds of younger Australian born workers that manual occupations are fading out, and clerical and professional jobs are swamping the workforce. According to a study undertaken in September 1 975 by what was then called the Department of Labor and Immigration entitled ‘Migrants in the Work Force’, the major occupation group in which migrants are employed is the broad and statistically unsatisfactory group of ‘tradesman, production process workers, labourers, etc’ which together contain 45 per cent of migrant workers compared with 29 per cent of Australian born workers.
The figures for married migrant women are particularly striking: 56 per cent of women born in Greece, 54 per cent born in Yugoslavia, and 45 per cent of those born in Italy who are in the workforce work as production or process workers. That compares with only 9 per cent of Australian born workers, 14 per cent of women born in the United Kingdom and Eire and 20 per cent of women born in the Netherlands or Germany. Professor Henderson has stated that in a random survey of 5824 income units 7.7 per cent of the total population was below the poverty line. It seems to me that the people who have come to this country as migrants have settled in an area of work in which, unless we do something about lifting their potential in the workforce, they are destined to remain, like a lot of the children who come from Greek families in my own electorate. The Minister might smile, but it is true. Because of the disadvantage they suffer they are destined to be on the end of a pick for the rest of their lives. They experienced difficulty in extracting themselves from the socioeconomic circumstances that prevail.
In so far as community tensions are concerned, the Minister contends that it is universally agreed that the immigration program has been of enormous benefit to Australia. He said that this is a tribute to our massive development potential and the good sense of Australian-born people and migrants in avoiding community tensions. Time is slipping away from me, but I think I should say that it seems to me that at this point in time community tensions are emerging. I think that this is something else to which we have to pay a lot of attention in the future. There are all sorts of reasons for it. For example, there are difficulties at the education level. There are insufficient people teaching the English language to migrants. The industrial dispute that evolved at the Ford Motor Company is an example of these tensions. In that dispute migrants were depicted as individuals who were taking action that was quite foreign to the Australian workforce. But all they were doing was fighting for better wages and conditions and showing their feelings about the way in which they had been discriminated against.
I turn now to the rationale for immigration. In his ministerial statement the Minister suggested that the Government should maintain its position as stated in a policy statement on immigration and ethnic affairs. He talked about immigration being an instrument of Australia’s population policies and of the broader national strategies and objectives to which those national policies are directed. I believe that this is a commitment to population growth with immigration as a prime factor in that growth. If we are going to do that surely there are bases and criteria that we ought to be looking at before we really decide on what we have to do. I shall mention just a few in the time that I have available to me.
I believe that need should be one of the most important factors when embarking upon any further immigration programs. Need should not be defined purely in terms of the economic needs of the imperatives of industry. It should be very much related also to the factors that govern the situation of people, of future Australians, who are already here. Family unity, growth centres, welfare and other requirements, representations on bodies that affect the welfare of their own future and representations throughout the occupational structures that give a voice to the individuals are some of the matters to which I make reference.
I would also like to make some comments very shortly about the structure of the Australian Population and Immigration Council which has been restructured in the terms outlined by the Minister in his statement. But before doing so I think I should mention one other aspect, that is, respect for the individual. If we are to have immigration programs we should have immigration programs that strive for respect, equity and fairness for the individual and that reflect as far as possible respect for and the diversity of values and life styles. This means that we do not wish to have migrants of any one national origin doing the most menial tasks that society has to offer. Respect and equity go to the point of having equal job opportunities. That can be realised only if there are equal opportunities in education. I would readily confess that what the Labor Government indulged in and failed to carry out was a restructuring or retraining of the work force in a real sense. More people generallymales and females- could have been trained or retrained to fit into technical occupations in the work force. If that policy had been carried out a decade or so ago the people who are now perforating menial tasks in the work force- in particular those in the migrant areas who are doing so because of the communications problemwould have had far more opportunities and there would not be the dirth of technical people in the work force that there is at the present moment.
Let me pay a little attention to the structure of the newly formed Australian Population and Immigration Council, to which I have made reference. I believe that it has been structured in such a way as to neglect to include people who ought to be consulted or who ought to be members of that Council so that it may work effectively. The Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs suggests that it is to be bipartisan. I can only agree with that objective. But how can it be bipartisan with the Minister acting as Chairman? The honourable member for Balaclava (Mr Macphee) and Senator Button were members of the previous Council. They are 2 individuals who have had vast experience in this field. It is an insult to the honourable member for Balaclava and Senator Button that they have been taken off that Council. That action does nothing for the Council itself.
If what the Minister seeks to achieve is an upper middle class Council, that is what he has done. The members of the new Council are not representative of those individuals who ought to be represented. I submit to the Minister that any realistically based assessment would require the type of review that was carried out in Canada. I acknowledge that the Minister talks about a Green Paper. As I understand it, for 12 months in his Department officers have been working on an inquiry of that type. They are carrying out that sort of operation. The Minister knows that there is experience in this area. I think we should take note of and be guided to some extent at least by the fact that a Green Paper was prepared in Canada. A Canadian migration population study led to the publication in 1975 of a Green Paper in that country on migration.
The Minister has compared the Canadian experience with ours. I agree that to some extent it is debatable whether we can reach the conclusions which are reached in the statement. I would submit once again that if the Minister is to endeavour to reach a realistically based Australian assessment of this whole subject a review would be required of all aspects of population policy. Final decisions on the matter ought to be based on individual briefs submitted to the Government and to the Council by the many individuals and organisations involved in this field. Perhaps the people who could comment most pertinently on this subject should participate in the development of such policies. Those who have undergone the experience should have that experience recognised by their inclusion on that advisory Council.
To set it up as the Minister has proposed is a retrograde step. If it is to be bipartisan, we need to have representation from the Opposition, as it was represented in the past. We should have people on it who have had experience and, more particularly, include people from the working class migrant area who have undergone the experiences to which I have made reference. I conclude by saying that I commend those propositions to the Minister who will have the cooperation of the Opposition in any work that is done.
– I share the views of the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes) in welcoming this statement. I believe that it is an excellent statement. I would wish however to repudiate one assertion by the honourable member to the effect that in this statement there is an assumption that we can turn the tap on and off according to economic circumstances. The position set out in this paper is just the opposite. Before we can get a rational policy of the sort to which the honourable member has referred, we need more data. That is one of the underlying themes, indeed the main underlying theme, in this statement by the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar). This is one of the statements on which we must commend the Minister most.
The Minister has said that at the moment he is considering further increases in the capacity of his Department to analyse data. That means not just domestically but to make comparative studies with comparable industrial economies. I would urge the Minister to extend strongly the facilities of his Department in this regard. I say that merely because of the fact that we do need information to have the rational policy to which the honourable member for Melbourne has referred. The work of the Australian Bureau of Statistics is well known and well respected, but we do need an analysis of more than just domestic statistics as illustrated by the closing remarks of the honourable member when he referred to Canada. I think he has made some valid points in terms of drawing a comparison between Canada and Australia. We cannot have those confident analyses unless we have further activity by the Department, so I hope that the Minister will see his way clear to extending those facilities.
The idea of a Green Paper to which the Minister has referred is also most important and will go a long way to achieving the objectives stated by the honourable member for Melbourne. It is the clear objective of this Government. It is the logical sequence of events after the Borrie report. There is a need for the Green Paper and subsequently, one would assume, for a White Paper. This should be obvious to anyone who has read the ministerial statement and anyone who purports to be interested in the development of
Australia should find this statement compulsory reading.
The statement points out, first of all, that like almost all industrial economies our fertility rates are declining. Secondly, likewise our migration rates are declining rapidly and have declined dramatically. Thirdly, our traditional sources of migrants have the same problem; that is, they are industrialised economies too and they are finding their fertility rates are declining. We are heading for a situation of zero population growth and in some measure we have reached that point. We have a chance of stabilising unless we find other sources. So we must ask: What other sources do we want? What levels of migrant intake do we require? The statement ably shows that we will become an ageing society without some migration. This will be all the more true with the trend to early retirement. There is a need for a national debate on informed data and the cost benefit analysis which was commissioned by the McMahon Government is still awaited. If that is not substantial when it comes more work will need to be done. We have had in the last 5 years in Australia a largely uninformed debate and this uninformed level of debate will continue until that cost benefit data is available.
Society has to balance in its consideration of these matters the cost of migration to meet demands for goods and services such as schools, hospitals, roads and so on and the contribution which our migrants make to industry and to investment flowing from the expansion of industry. We have at this time a problem of undercapacity in industry, a need for a building up of that capacity, a need for more overtime and a need for new investments. Society will therefore have to balance the question of whether we now require migrants in the short term in certain semi-skilled and unskilled areas and certain other skilled areas so that we can get the economy moving without their becoming factory fodder and without perpetuating the problems of factory fodder to which the honourable member for Melbourne rightly referred. That has to be balanced against the cost of new capital equipment which will so alter the nature of the system of work as to improve the quality of working life and make it more comparable than it now is to the quality of life outside the work place. The situation we now have with our declining fertility in migration rates is that we face a rundown of labour intensive industries. So we have to ask: Do we want more technology? Do we want more precision industries with a lower labour content, with higher skills or more capital? That, of course, raises many obvious questions too.
Questions such as those are bound up with the answers to questions about our national goals, and the Minister talks about finding population policies which are appropriate to the national objectives. Towards the end of his statement he implies that these national objectives relate to improving our standard of living and our quality of life. Thus, he observes, that if we were to have no real population increase we would adversely affect these aspirations because we would transfer resources away from education and investment in productive processes to services, both government and private, for an increasing population of retired persons. If Australia wishes to continue to increase its population in order to increase the standard of living of all, including the new arrivals, we need urgently the costbenefit data to which I refer. Only then can we determine the desirable level of migrants and the sources of migrants.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! It being 10.30 p.m., in accordance with the order of the House of 18 February I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
-On 8 April 1975, exactly a year ago and on 9 April 1975 the Consolidated Press organisation on behalf of the Bulletin ran a series of advertisements on Sydney television about a wine flagon and cask guide that was to appear in the next issue of the Bulletin of 12 April that year. As a result of this advertisement the increase in the circulation of the Bulletin was of the order of 28 per cent. The advertisement led people to believe that in the edition of 12 April there would be a comprehensive wine flagon and cask guide. In fact the people who bought the 12 April edition of the Bulletin found that it contained only a guide to white wine and not to red wine and that the guide to red wine was to follow in the next edition. Many people complained, and finally on 10 May 1975 the management of the Bulletin offered a refund on the 12 April issue and agreed to forward a free copy of the 19 April issue, which contained the second part of the so-called complete guide, to any person who felt misled by advertising in respect of the 12 April issue.
The matter ended up with the Trade Practices Commission for investigation under sections 53C and 79 of the Trade Practices Act, which sections deal with goods represented as having benefits they do not have. The Trade Practices Commission investigated this false advertising and found that amongst the evidence there was a letter from Mr John Singleton of the advertising agency for the Bulletin to his staff stating that there was no need to mention in the advertisements on television that only the first part of the wine guide was to be covered in the 12 April edition.
I believe the Attorney-General’s Department was consulted and that it gave an opinion that Consolidated Press had breached the Trade Practices Act. Further I believe that an opinion was sought from Mr D. G. McGregor, Q.C. and Mr J. G. Smythe, Q.C, who concurred that a prima facie case had been established. I believe the normal procedure that is followed before proceedings for prosecution are taken under this Act is for the Minister administering the Act, in this case the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard), to advise the AttorneyGeneral to proceed with the prosecution. I am informed that on the last day- that was yesterday, 7 April- on which, under the provisions of the Act, proceedings could have been instituted against Consolidated Press the Minister administering the Act, the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, despite opinions from the Attorney-General’s Department, Mr McGregor, Q.C, and Mr J. C. Smythe, Q.C sent a communication to the Trade Practices Commission vetoing any move to prosecute Consolidated Press and the Bulletin. Apparently this decision would have been communicated to the AttorneyGeneral and therefore no action would have been taken.
I ask the Minister 2 questions. Did the Commission recommend to the Minister that he consent to a prosecution? Did the Minister inform the Trade Practices Commission or the AttorneyGeneral ‘s Department yesterday afternoon, the last day available under the Act on which to institute prodeedings, that he was exercising his veto despite the advice tendered? If this is so, I think the Minister ought to explain his actions to the House. I may be misinformed, but the Minister should inform me of the true situation. I should like to make the point that constant charges have been made that the Minister has been somewhat more sympathetic than he should have been to companies or individuals which might have been prosecuted under this Act.
A number of cases have been instanced in the Press where the Minister has failed to abide by the spirit and letter of the Trade Practices Act and where he has used his discretion not to proceed with a prosecution. It seems to me that by this procedure there has been a constant whittling away of the spirit of the Trade Practices Act. If on this occasion there is a clear case of a recommendation from the Trade Practices Commission or from the Attorney-General’s Department, and if outside advice was taken and the Minister in fact did veto the prosecution of this case, I think he owes the House a quite definitive explanation. On face value, it would seem that this is another case of the Government failing to make companies and individuals accountable under the sections of the Act. The organisation involved is one sympathetic to the Government parties. Australian Consolidated Press, television Channel 9 in Sydney and the Bulletin are famously anti-Labor organisations. I do not make a charge, but I leave it for the Minister to explain whether some bias may have been executed in favour of these companies. I should like the Minister to respond tonight on this matter, if that is possible.
– I appreciate the moderation with which the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) has raised this matter. Given that on the basis of information that has obviously come into his possession he might have been tempted to act in a more cavalier fashion, I appreciate his moderation. I hope to give to the matter he raised the same degree of moderation and objectivity. Could I correct the honourable member on a number of matters of general principle relating to the Trade Practices Act. The Act is administered under the Administrative Arrangements Ordinance. With the exception of Part X and with the exception of certain sections dealing with legal aid and the appointment of personnel to the Trade Practices Tribunal, it is now administered by me.
This House presently has before it legislation giving effect to the transfer of responsibility from the Attorney-General to me. One of the responsibilities that I have under the Act relates to the question of whether consent shall be given to the institution of criminal proceedings- I stress ‘criminal proceedings’- regarding alleged breaches of the consumer practice provisions of the Trade Practices Act. That is a discretion which was inserted deliberately in the Act at the same time it was passed through this Parliament. It was inserted deliberately by the former Attorney-General, Senator Murphy, and from the time the Act came into operation that discretion has been administered having regard to policy considerations as well as legal considerations. It was not meant to be a provision whereby the Minister responsible for the Act in the previous Government- the AttorneyGeneral automatically consented to every submission. To use the word ‘veto’ in respect of the exercise of the discretion which is available under that Section of the Act is both to misunderstand the nature of the discretion that is available and also to misstate the circumstances in which the veto might be exercised.
During the course of his remarks the honourable member for Blaxland used the words: ‘This is yet another example of action by the Government to frustrate the intention of the Trade Practices Act’. The intention of the Trade Practices Act was to eliminate restrictive trade practices, to give protection to consumers so far as the provisions of the Act were concerned, and in appropriate cases to provide for criminal prosecution. I would be the last to deny that in certain cases it is appropriate that criminal proceedings should be taken. In other cases it is inappropriate that criminal proceedings should be taken. The matters which the honourable gentleman put to me tonight relate, as he alleges, to a particular case. The natural temptation for a person in my situation is to join issue with the honourable gentleman and to canvass the merits of that case and of the allegation that he makes. I would like to point out to the honourable gentleman that if that practice is adopted the merits of the exercise by a Minister of any discretion which involves the institution of criminal proceedings then become a matter for debate in the Parliament.
– That is not what I asked you.
-The honourable gentleman asked a series of questions and I am endeavouring to answer them. I have taken the view, on previous occasions when matters of this nature have been raised, that it is inappropriate to canvass the particulars of individual cases which might be presented to me for consent. On an earlier occasion, the honourable member for Petrie (Mr Hodges) asked me a question relating to certain allegations that appeared in a newspaper regarding the exercise of my discretion. On that occasion, I indicated that I was not prepared to canvass the merits of particular cases, although I was prepared to indicate that since I had assumed responsibility for this Act on certain occasions I had consented to the institution of criminal proceedings and on other occasions I had declined to consent to the institution of criminal proceedings.
The particular case that the honourable gentleman raises is, of course, for reasons which will be obvious to the House and which no doubt are obvious to the honourable gentleman who has raised it and other members of the Opposition, capable of having a certain political connotation. Questions are asked by the honourable member for Blaxland. He asks me whether I declined to give my consent to a particular prosecution. He names a company. I can inform the honourable gentleman that I did decline to give my consent to that prosecution. I did so because I believed that the circumstances of the case were inappropriate for the use of the criminal penalties provided by the Act. This is a discretion which is properly available to me. It is a discretion which on this occasion was exercised in good faith and with full knowledge that if the circumstances of the matter were ventilated- it is interesting to note that they have been ventilated a day after I made my decision on the case- it inevitably would lead to questions being asked in the political arena. Notwithstanding that, I took the view that in the circumstances of this case the institution of criminal proceedings was inappropriate. I stand by that decision and make no apology whatever for saying that that discretion was exercised in good faith. It was exercised in my belief that the criminal sanctions that are contained in the Trade Practices Act should not be used blindly as a blunt instrument to prosecute as many companies as can be prosecuted and that the criminal penalties should be used with discretion and with care, bearing in mind that they are extremely heavy penalties in the consumer protection area -
– Bearing in mind, for example, that they do not have any parallel in the United States of America on a federal level and that they should be used with discretion and with consideration -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! I remind the honourable member for Chifley that on the wall there is a clock with a timing light. If he keeps interjecting in such a manner, he will no longer be in this chamber.
– To the specific question raised by the honourable member for Blaxland the answer is yes, I did decline to give consent to this prosecution. I declined to give consent to this prosecution because I did not regard it as being an appropriate case for the giving of ministerial consent. In the process of answering that question, I would just like to make it perfectly clear that in so doing I was exercising a discretion which is properly available to me under the Act.
– What did the Commission say about this?
– If the honourable member for Grayndler will give me just a moment to finish my words, I remind him that it is a discretion which is given to me by, I believe, section 163 of the Act.
– That is right.
– It is a discretion which, since the establishment of this Act, has been exercised both in a policy context and in a legal context.
-What did the Commission recommend?
-Order! The honourable member for Grayndler will cease interjecting.
– The submissions that were placed before me from the Trade Practices Commission canvassed a number of matters. I am not prepared to go into all the particulars of this case. I have answered the question that is raised by the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating). The question he asked me is whether I declined to give my consent to this particular prosecution. I did decline to give my consent as I have on other occasions. Equally, I tell the honourable member for Blaxland that I have, as recently as tonight, indicated my consent for a particular prosecution regarding another matter and involving completely different circumstances. So in answer to the honourable gentleman, I did decline to give my consent on this particular occasion. I believe that in so doing I exercised the discretion that was properly available to me and that it was a correct decision on the merits of the case, taking into account the objectives of the Act and having regard to the fact that the discretion I had to exercise involved the application of extremely severe criminal sanctions in an area comparatively new so far as Australian commercial law was concerned. The offence allegedly involved occurred in April of last year.
There is one other matter I should like to clear up. The clear implication of the honourable member’s remarks is that I left it until the last day to indicate my decision. That is a complete distortion of the situation. I received the relevant submission only 2 days ago.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, may I ask the Minister whether he will table the relevant advice he received in this matter.
– I shall not, Mr Deputy Speaker.
-In the House last Thursday I referred to the curious story of Mr Danny Sankey, Mr David Rofe, Q.C. and Mr D’Arcy Leo, S.M.- the plaintiff, his counsel and the magistrate respectively in a vexatious political action being pursued in the Queanbeyan Court of Petty Sessions against the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam), 2 former Ministers and a Judge of the High Court. It seems that my remarks touched a sensitive nerve. Mr Rofe, Q.C. was quick to respond. So moved was he that he recklessly disregarded our parliamentary traditions.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order. May I have your guidance? Is the matter which the honourable member is discussing sub judice or not?
-In the sense that at the moment the honourable member for Hunter is referring to a speech which he made in this House last Thursday and to a matter which had been published relating to the remarks of the honourable member for Hunter, and considering also that the honourable member for Hunter raised the matter as a point of privilege in this House, and a decision was given, I suggest that at this moment the honourable member for Hunter is in order. However I might say to the honourable member for Hunter, as I said the other evening when he was making his speech, I should expect that from his experience he will not transgress the Standing Orders.
– Further to that point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker: By the rules of Erskine May, it is not admissible for this House to make any reference to any matter which is sub judice by the court and the honourable member -
– He is not talking about the case. He is talking about the clients.
– With respect to the honourable member, this is a serious matter. I only want to be quite certain that this House does not proceed any further in a discussion of this sort if there could be any possible doubt, if there is any question or any possibility that this matter is being considered by a court at this time. Whether the case is adjourned or not does not matter. The . question arises: Is the honourable member now discussing in the high court of Parliament something which is in the cognisance of another court?
– In regard to the point of order raised by the honourable member for Holt, the subject matter that the honourable member for Hunter is discussing is not sub judice, as the comments of the honourable member are not related in particular to the case before the court. I call the honourable member for Hunter.
-Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. In reference to Mr Rofe, Q.C, I said that so moved was he that he recklessly disregarded our parliamentary traditions and touched the boundaries of contempt of Parliament. Perhaps he should have considered -
– I take a point of order. The honourable member for Hunter has referred to statement by Mr Rofe, Q.C, in the Court in response to the honourable member’s disgraceful speech of last week. The honourable member -
– I rise to order. The honourable member while taking a point of order is not entitled to abuse another honourable member. He is canvassing and debating the honourable member’s speech. I point out, Mr Deputy Speaker, that Mr Speaker ruled- perhaps some of the honourable members opposite happened to listen to it this morning- that the remarks were not part of the court case concerned but were taken under other circumstances, and the ruling cannot be different.
-Order! In the first place I suggest that the House might come to order. The matter of a decision on the point of order and comment on it might be left until at least I have made a decision. I suggest to the honourable member for St George that he might consider the remarks made by Mr Speaker today and the point made, as mentioned by the honourable member for Corio, that the subject matter which is being discussed by the honourable member for Hunter is not related particularly to the case itself and has not been taken as evidence. Therefore, I rule again that the remarks of the honourable member for Hunter at the moment do not transgress against the Standing Orders. The only thing that concerns the Chair at the moment is whether the honourable member for Hunter transgressed against the Standing Orders.
– I raise a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. There is now a notice of motion to deal with the statements of Mr Rofe in the Court of Petty Sessions. That matter is a matter for debate and there cannot, in my submission, be anticipation of that by the honourable member for Hunter. The honourable member for Hunter is now directly referring to Mr Rofe’s statement. He is also, with respect, canvassing the ruling of Mr Speaker this morning when Mr Speaker held that there was no prima facie case of privilege in respect of those statements, and he is now seeking to reverse Mr Speaker’s ruling and anticipate his own notice of motion.
– Order! In regard to the point of order, if Mr Speaker ruled that there was no matter of privilege in the points raised by the honourable member for Hunter which related to the comments in the Court, I frankly cannot see how I now at this stage can rule out of order remarks that are being made by the honourable member for Hunter. I again say that there is no substance in the point of order and I call the honourable member for Hunter.
– I rise to order, Mr Deputy Speaker. In view of this situation, I beg leave to move that the question be now put.
-Order! I surmise that the honourable member for Holt is moving that the question- that is that the House do now adjourn- be put.
– No. I beg leave that the question be now put.
-The only question before the Chair at this moment is that the House do now adjourn. Therefore if the motion of the honourable member for Holt is that the question be now put it means that the honourable member is moving that the question- which is that the House do now adjourn- be put.
– In that case, I put the question:
That the question be now put.
– On a point of order, I submit that, under the rules of the House and under the sessional order, the motion is out of order.
– No. In response to the point of order - (Honourable members interjecting)
-Order! I think if all honourable members will at the moment cease to endeavour to show just how much knowledge they have in relation to the Standing Orders we might proceed more easily and quickly. The honourable member for Mackellar will resume his seat. I have not yet given a ruling on the point of order raised by the honourable member for Corio.
– I did not hear what the honourable member for Corio said. I want to hear his remarks.
-That is one of the reasons why I suggest the House come to order. Then we might hear what is happening. The point of order raised by the honourable member for Corio related to the sessional order which says ‘That the question is that the House do now adjourn, and it being 1 1 p.m. the House stands adjourned’. My assessment of the point of order raised by the honourable member would be that the question “That the question be now put ‘ takes precedence over even that sessional order. Therefore the question before the Chair at this moment is: ‘That the question be now put’. Those of that opinion say aye; to the contrary no. I think the ayes have it. A division is required and the House will divide. Ring the bells. (The bells being rung)
– But, do you want a division?
– No; the Minister -
- Mr Deputy Speaker, when a member of the front bench says that there should be no division do you intend to call a division?
– Could we ask that the question be put again?
-The Clerk points out to me that a request for a division has to be made by 2 people. I assessed that more than 2 voices called for a division and that it was required. I do not think I have ever been in the Chair when a member of the front bench has said something contrary to the wishes of the honourable members behind him. In the conditions prevailing at the moment I must rule that the division was requested when I said: ‘I think the ayes have it’. A division was then requested. I then said: ‘A division is required and the House will divide. Ring the bells’. I think we will proceed on that course.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, with your leave may I suggest that the division be called off?
-Is leave granted? Mr Scholes-Yes.
-Leave is granted. Honourable members will resume their seats and the House will come to order.
– I move:
– Honourable member’s have not yet returned to their places. I am waiting for honourable members to resume their seats before the House continues its business. I should make an explanation from the Chair. The division requested on the last vote was called off by leave at the request of the Leader of the
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 8 April 1976, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1976/19760408_reps_30_hor98/>.