30th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. B. M. Snedden, Q.C.) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. 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 Armitage, Dr Cass, Mr Jacobi, Dr Klugman, Mr Les McMahon, Mr Martin, Mr Morris, Mr Nicholls, Mr Stewart and Mr Antony Whitlam.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House Of Representatives in Parliament assembled. We, the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth do humbly pray that the Commonwealth Government;
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr FitzPatrick, Mr Garrick, Dr Jenkins, Mr Keith Johnson, Mr Les Johnson, Mr Les McMahon and Mr Scholes.
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:
Whereas the Aurukun Associates Agreement Act was passed by the Queensland Government in contravention of a 968 agreement;
Whereas this Act conflicts seriously with Commonwealth Government Policy on Aboriginal Affairs and on Australian equity in multinational corporations working in Australia;
Your petitioners therefore note with appreciation the statements already made on the matter by Government members but humbly pray that the Commonwealth Government will also
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Viner, Mr Connolly and Mr Lucock. Petitions received.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That distress is being caused to social security recipients by the delay in adjusting pensions to the Consumer Prices Index months after prices of goods and services have risen, and that medications which were formerly pharmaceutical benefits must now be paid for.
Additionally, that State housing authorities’ waiting lists for low rental dwellings for pensioners grow ever longer, and the cost of funerals increase ever greater.
Your petitioners call on the Australian Government as a matter of urgency to adjust social security payments instantly and automatically when the quarterly Consumer Prices Index is announced.
Restore pharmaceutical benefits deleted from the free list.
Update the State Grants (Dwellings for Pensioners) Act of 1974, eroded by inflation, to increase grants to overcome the backlog.
Update Funeral Benefit to 60 per cent of reasonable cost of funeral. (This benefit was 200 shillings, 20 dollars, when introduced in 1943. It was seven times the 1943 pension of 27 shillings a week).
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Birney, Mr Martin and Mr Morris.
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 $21 million and by the abolition of the Australian Development Assistance Agency.
We your petitioners do therefore humbly pray that the Commonwealth Government:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Bonnett, Mr Brown, Mr Hodgman and MrScholes.
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:
There is a growing interest and concern in all sections of Australian society for the conservation of the environment, natural and man-made.
That there are years of neglect of the National Estate to be made up, and, therefore, a modest increase rather than a cut in expenditure should be made towards the conservation of our environment.
That the promotion of community involvement, cooperation and responsibility as expressed in the Liberal National Country Party policy, requires the funding of administrative units and provision of technical assistance grants to help redress the gross imbalance when confronting the developer.
That it is therefore urgent to appoint the Australian Heritage Commission, which was approved by both sides of this Parliament and to give the Commission sufficient independent staff, resources and funds.
That a proper balance between the Government’s program of public austerity and the need for action in conservation would be a modest increase in the budget allocations in these areas over that of 1975-76.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Chapman and Mr Groom.
A similar petition has been lodged by Mr Falconer.
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 public schools in the inner city of Sydney are in desperate need of special grants and provisions, viz.
The maintenance of current expenditure
The allocation of smaller classes
The absorption of unemployed teachers
The provision of more specialist teachers, such as bilingual and remedial teachers
The provision of special grants for disadvantaged schools
The provision of cash grants for aid and equipment, and the
Implementation of building programs to improve the deplorable conditions in these schools
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House urge the Government to ensure that Grants to Underprivileged Schools in the Sydney Inner City are retained.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Les McMahon and Mr Antony Whitlam.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Members in Parliament assembled will move to immediately revoke all whaling licences issued by the Australian Government and to reimpose a total ban on the importation of all whale produce.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byMrKillen.
To the Honourable the Speaker and the Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned students and staff at Christ College respectfully showeth:
That the Commonwealth Government Tertiary Educational Allowance Scheme be raised from $30 per week to $48 per week.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Treasurer, Mr Lynch will carry out this Petition.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Brown.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned residents of Quairading, Western Australia, respectfully showeth:
That the lack of telephone service in the Shire at night time is a matter of great concern.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House urge the Government to provide night telephone facilities to subscribers in the Shire of Quairading, Western Australia.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byMrBungey.
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 Capricornia respectfully showeth:
That the plan to obliterate the traditional weights and measures of this country is causing and will cause widespread inconvenience, confusion, expense and distress.
That there is no certainty that any significant benefits or indeed any benefits at all will follow the use of the new weights and measures.
That the traditional weights and measures are eminently satisfactory.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House take steps to repeal the Metric Conversion Act and restore the traditional and familiar weights and measures.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Carige.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will take no measures to interfere with the Schools Commission.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Dr Cass.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petitioners of various Divisions of South Australia, respectfully showeth:
That wetlands in the world are deminishing in area and quality through man’s activities.
That the wetlands of the Northern Territory are some of the most extensive in Australia.
That these areas are important, not only to migratory birds from overseas but provide an important refuge to birds from southern Australia, particularly in drought periods.
That the Australian Government is a signatory to the Con vention on Wetlands of International Importance, Especially as Waterfowl Habitat, and as such is obliged to consider any moves which might limit wetlands.
That some of these wetlands of Northern Australia, notably all those within the catchments of the East and South Alligator Rivers, should therefore be incorporated into a National Park.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House instruct its Standing Committee on the Environment to examine the boundaries of the proposed Kakadu National Park with a view to including the whole of the catchments of the East and South Alligator Rivers within the Park.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Chapman.
To the Honourable the Speaker and House of Representatives assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
We, your petitioners, therefore humbly pray that you will:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Connolly.
That the undersigned persons believe that the $300 limit on income tax deductibility in respect of personal residential land and water rates is unrealistic and is a discriminatory income tax penalty.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will take steps to see that the aforesaid limitation is removed entirely or substantially increased.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Connolly.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the existence of a system of double taxation of personal incomes whereby both the Australian Government and State Governments had the power to vary personal income taxes would mean that taxpayers who worked in more than one State in any year would:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that a system of double income tax on personal incomes be not reintroduced.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Morris.
Kangaroo Island: Accommodation for the Aged
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned residents of Kangaroo Island, S.A., respectfully showeth:
2 ) That toward this end the Hospital has had prepared:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House urge the Government to provide a Federal subsidy to enable hostel-type units to be erected for the benefit of the aged members of the Kangaroo Island community, South Australia.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Porter.
That we publicly oppose the public screening of obscene or depraved films, such as ‘The Story of O’, which portray either excessive violence, moral perversion, drug use or sadomasochism as normal or desirable behaviour.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will take immediate measures to ensure such films are not classified for screening anywhere in Australia.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Ian Robinson.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned students and staff of the University of Melbourne and the Melbourne State College respectfully showeth:
That the establishment of an educational F.M. radio station to serve the students and staff of the University of Melbourne and the Melbourne State College would be of benefit and importance to the members of that community.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Minister for Post and Telecommunications will offer a licence for this purpose under section 5 of the Wireless Telegraphy Act.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Shipton.
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 uranium found in vast quantities in Australia is the raw material for the nuclear fission reaction.
And whereas presently assured reserves of uranium in Australia represent a potential production of over 540 000 kilograms of Plutonium 239 if utilized in Light Water Reactors overseas.
And whereas the maximum permissible inhalation of Plutonium 239 is 0.00000025 gram.
And whereas Plutonium 239 is one of the most dangerous substances human society has ever created, causing mutations and cancers.
And whereas there are no methods of safely and absolutely confining Plutonium from the biosphere for the requisite quarter of a million years.
And whereas Plutonium coming in contact with the air forms an aerosol cloud of micron-sized particles, its most dangerous form.
And whereas the export of uranium may return to us an import of Plutonium particles dispersed in the global environment via the circulation of the atmosphere.
And whereas there are no sure safeguards against the military use of nuclear fission, and the nuclear proliferation represents a prime environmental threat to all forms of life on the only earth available to us.
And that it is therefore an act of self-preservation to demand a halt to all exports of uranium except for bio-medical uses.
Your petitioners humbly pray that the members, in the House assembled, will take the most urgent steps to ensure:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Thomson.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That Mr P. R. Sarkar (alias Shrii Shrii Amandamurti)Leader of Amanda Marga (a world-wide spiritual organisation) has been imprisoned unjustly by the Indian Government for over four years. During this time he has been subjected to inhumane treatment, and at least one attempt has been made on his life by the jail authorities. Furthermore, the Indian Government has spread malicious propaganda, in the form of internationally distributed booklets, suggesting that Mr Sarkar, and other members of his organisation, are guilty of criminal allegations which are still sub-judice.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled, should protest most strongly to the Indian Government, demanding humane treatment and justice for Mr Sarkar, and demanding that they withdraw their improper propaganda.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byDr J.F. Cairns.
– The Prime Minister has stated that the Government will abolish the Children’s Commission. Owing to the concern of many people, will he give an assurance that he will maintain the Labor Government’s policy of providing 75 per cent of recurrent costs for child care and family day care?
– The honourable gentleman should be aware that the greater part of the Commonwealth funds is going to pay the salaries of pre-school teachers. While there is a continuation of these programs and commitments in the forthcoming year, what we would want to do is to see that a greater part of Commonwealth funds goes to providing genuine child care for those in need- for single parent families who wish to be independent; who want to work and cannot work because they cannot get adequate child care facilities. There also is some indication that the funds spent so far have not been spent in areas of need but in some of the more affluent areas of Australian cities. That being so it does not indicate the sort of priorities we would want to pursue if the options were completely open to us.
– Is the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations aware of a situation in Western Australia where 8 plumbers have been suspended from their union for a period of 6 months? Is it true that the union also forced their employer to sack them because they are no longer union members? What can be done for people such as these men who have broken no law and whose only crime was that they wanted to work and who now are unemployed? What can be done to protect union members from the abuse of power by union officials?
– I am advised that the men referred to by the honourable member were employed by Steeldeck Industries ( WA) Pty Ltd in Western Australia and the offence which led to their suspension by the union is that they are alleged to have continued working while other members of the union were on strike. The company then sacked the 8 men, having been threatened with industrial action on all its projects around Australia. I have no doubt that the union movement is highly critical of people who work during a strike but I am dismayed at the action of the union officials which in this instance has meant that these men can no longer earn a living.
This raises the question whether the action by the union officials was in conformity with the rules of the organisation. I understand that the 8 men concerned have instituted proceedings in the Supreme Court of Western Australia and of course I will not comment on that matter. What I can say is that the union concerned- the Plumbers and Gasfitters Employees Union of Australia- is registered under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act and that Act does provide adequate protection for union members from abuse of power by union officials. By section 140 of that Act members are enabled to seek orders from the Australian Industrial Court that particular union rules are oppressive, unreasonable or unjust. By section 141 of the Act members are enabled to seek orders from the Industrial Court requiring observance of the rules by members and officials of the organisation. Applicants under either of these sections can apply to the Attorney-General for financial assistance to pursue their case.
– Has the Foreign Minister seen the reports of the Queensland Premier’s criticism of the Australian Government’s decision not to send a representative to the ‘People’s Assembly’ of East Timor? What is the attitude of the Australian Government to the Premier’s comments?
– I will answer the question. There is only one thing that I want to say about this. There is one government that makes Australia’s foreign policy. Our attitude to Timor has been enunciated clearly and with force on many occasions by the Foreign Minister. No other government has a role in formulating Australian foreign policy.
-My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. Firstly, does the Minister appreciate the confusion and concern caused to the whole wool industry by the inept determination of the wool reserve price level for the 1975-76 season by the former Labor Government? Secondly, can he give an assurance that the reserve price level for the 1976-77 wool selling season will be announced as soon as possible? Thirdly, will he ensure that the Government in setting the reserve price level will give serious attention to the valid and powerful argument advanced by the wool industry that the reserve price level should be lifted above the current 250c per kilo clean?
– With respect to the first part of the honourable gentleman’s question, it is only too true that it has taken the Australian Wool Corporation some time, after the interruption in the setting of the reserve price for the last wool selling season, to recover its credibility in the world wool and textile industries and among suppliers and customers of the wool trade. Fortunately it has been able to do so. Pan of the reason of course is the very significant backing that this Government has given to the Wool Corporation in its normal commercial functioning. The AWC itself and the Australian Wool Industry Conference have conferred with me with respect to the reserve price to operate for the next wool selling season. One part of the recommendation of the Australian Wool Corporation has already been implemented; that is, to give the Corporation the ability to pursue a pot-holding purchasing program within the auction system. It is obvious with the very considerable margins now prevailing between prices and the base set, particularly among the carding types of wool, that unless the AWC operates on a pot-holding basis there is likely to be a marked fluctuation within a sale day or within any selling period for similar types of wool; for the limit operated by the AWC in fact has been very significantly below the price that has been paid by the trade. That pot-holding activity has been functioning now for some weeks, I understand most effectively, and has helped to preserve the price for producers without generating undue instability or leading to the acquisition of unnecessary stocks of wool.
There are 2 other elements of the recommendation with respect to the reserve price. One is that there should be a move from the setting of a reserve price only with respect to 2 1 micron clean wool, for 2 1 micron clean wool represents a very small percentage of the Australian clip. The AWC believes that it will be far better if we speak of a reserve price with respect to the average price for clean wool. That will be the procedure followed in the future. Recommendations have been made to me with respect to the actual reserve price level of support. I have said to the AWC and the AWIC that I would take a recommendation to Government but that no announcement would be made until after the closure of this wool selling season. In the meantime, of course, the 250c minimum on 2 1 micron clean wool will continue to apply throughout the next wool selling season, a determination will be made on the limit to be recommended to the AWC by the Government, and an announcement will be made after the closure of this wool selling season which, of course, will be on 30 June. I hope an announcement will be made very shortly after that date.
-I direct a question to the Acting Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. Is it a fact that the Government is conducting a concentrated campaign designed to result in a higher proportion of Britons in the increased migrant intake quota? Are working visitors’ permits being issued in the United Kingdom? Will it be easier for Britons without relatives living in Australia or skills required in Australia to migrate to Australia than it is for citizens of other countries without relatives or skills to migrate to Australia? How would this accord with Australia’s non-discriminatory migration policy?
– The Government is not conducting any such campaign. The Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs is in the United Kingdom, I think, at the moment. Contrary to the suggestion in the question, he is there simply to indicate the Government’s intention- he will indicate this in other countries that he visits- that there will be an increase in the migration program in the next financial year from, I think, 50 000 to 70 000. Whilst he is there I am sure he will rectify an impression created during the term of the previous Government that people from the United Kingdom were not as welcome as they might otherwise have been. He will no doubt convey that. So far as I am aware no extra staff has been appointed and no special arrangements are being made in relation to the United Kingdom. The position simply is that the Minister will, I imagine, indicate the willingness of the Australian Government to receive immigrants from the United Kingdom as from other countries. In the ordinary course of events one can say, I believe, that those who come from the United Kingdom are, by dint of the content of the Australian population, likely to have those skills which are in demand under our present migration policy. Therefore one might expect that if Britons are told that they are welcome in Australia there will be increased applications from that quarter. They will be dealt with in the ordinary way, as will applications from people from other countries, in accordance with the guidelines laid down by the policy.
– Is the Minister for Post and Telecommunications aware that employees of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board have been confiscating radio transmitters in the outlying areas of central and northern Queensland? Those radio transmitters have been operating for many years as the only form of communication for people in remote areas. For many people these radio transmitters are the only form of contact with the outside world. They are even used by officials during times of crisis.
-Order! The honourable gentleman will come to his question.
-Yes, Mr Speaker. I ask the Minister. Why has the Department suddenly taken such a bureaucratic attitude by monitoring these activities and sending inspectors out to confiscate property, which action not only is causing great concern to these people but must be of enormous expense to the running of his Department? Furthermore I ask the Minister- this is important- to have this matter thoroughly examined. If these transmitters are considered illegal will he see that special by-laws are introduced so that people in the outback who cannot get telephone services and whose incomes at present are appalling will be allowed continue to operate?
– The honourable gentleman only just managed to avoid being ruled out of order. The question was clearly too long, but because of its importance to people in the circumstances which the honourable gentleman stated I allowed more latitude than I intend to allow in future.
– Let me say in answer to the honourable member for Kennedy that the officers of the Department were carrying out the law. I appreciate the need for communications in the remote, outback parts of Australia and the importance of these radio transmitters especially for the protection of property and life. As the honourable member knows, licences are issued for people to use these transmitters properly. In some cases they were operated illegally, without licences, and in other cases the operators did not conform to the requirements of the licence. Substantial information has gone to the honourable gentleman so that he can convey it to the people of his electorate. Where people abide by the rules they will be given every assistance by the Department in the communications network throughout his electorate.
– I desire to address a question to the Treasurer. Both he and the Deputy Prime Minister have foreshadowed changes in the Export Market Development Grants Act of 1974 and have forecast cuts in expenditure for 1976-77. Is the Minister aware that the thrust of the present scheme is to foster initiative by exporters in the development of new markets? It is not simply an export subsidy program and it is only of modest proportions. In view of the Treasurer’s stated intention to foster initiative and get the economy moving with as little Government intervention as possible, can he explain the logic of cutting this modest program?
-As the export development grants scheme comes within my portfolio it is possibly more appropriate that I reply to the honourable gentleman. In his economic statement the Treasurer mentioned that there would be some reductions in the appropriation of funds in this area, but the reductions will be relatively modest ones. There is to be a review of the whole scheme to ensure that the amount of money allocated is used as effectively as possible. The cut mentioned is in line with the general thrust of the Government’s policy to reduce expenditure wherever possible as part of its anti-inflation campaign. Those people who are involved with export industries must appreciate that any incentives that are given for exports will soon be eaten up unless we control inflation. The Government’s number one objective is to reduce inflation, otherwise no Australian export industries will be able to compete with those of other countries.
The Government recognises the great importance of our export industries and it has many schemes operating to give encouragement to those people who think they can sell goods overseas. The Trade Commissioner Service is being maintained at its present level, with little interference, because it is considered as extremely important in aiding people trying to sell their goods overseas. The Export Finance and Insurance Corporation- a Bill to amend the Act is before the House at the moment- is strengthening that scheme and giving added coverage to those people selling goods overseas. There are many schemes in operation to help the export industries. As soon as we can get the economy in a recovered state we will be giving further attention to expanding our efforts in this area.
– I direct my question to the Treasurer. When does the Government expect to make a decision on the Industries Assistance Commission’s recommendations relating to the gold mining industry? In the light of earlier discussions I have had with the Treasurer, can he indicate when a decision will be made on the nontaxability of gold mining profits?
– It is true that the honourable gentleman has made a series of representations to me concerning the matter to which he has drawn attention, as also has the honourable member for Kalgoorlie. I can appreciate the concern of both of those honourable gentleman in a matter which reflects the interests of their various constituents. I can say -
– You have broken your election promise already.
-The honourable gentleman’s Party has broken more promises than any other political party in the history of this country. In response to the question posed to me, as the honourable member has indicated, the matter has been the subject of an IAC report. It will shortly be before the Government. As soon as I am in a position to advise the honourable gentleman of the Government’s decision I shall certainly do so.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. In view of the avowed importance attached by the Government to relations with Australia’s neighbours, and in particular our nearest neighbours, will the Foreign Minister be attending the ministerial meeting of the Pacific Forum in Nauru next month? If he is not attending, did he previously plan to attend the meeting? Has he been informed that one of the principal agenda items is to be the alleged Soviet naval threat to the region? Has he been advised that it would be unwise to associate Australia publicly with the sabre rattling declarations on this subject made by the Prime Minister of New Zealand?
-What an extraordinary question.
-The honourable member need not add weight to it. The South Pacific Forum is going to be held later this year; as I recall, on approximately 26, 27 and 28 July. It so happens that at the present moment I plan to be with the Prime Minister in the United States at that period. It is quite clear that whoever framed the question for the honourable member totally ignored the fact that both the Prime Minister and I attended the South Pacific Forum meeting in Rotorua earlier this year. So we have already associated this Government directly and, through the Prime Minister, at the highest level with the aspirations of the countries that comprise the South Pacific Forum, it was at that meeting, of course, that the members of the South Pacific Forum accepted a change to a nuclear-free zone in the Pacific that had been advocated by some members before. It was a very realistic approach.
With regard to the forthcoming South Pacific Forum, it will be a matter for the Prime Minister to decide who leads the Australian delegation at ministerial level. It is not for me to interfere with his decision-making there. But quite clearly Australia will play an active part in this Forum. We are highly regarded as a major contributor to the programs of the South Pacific. As for the gratuitous remarks passed about other people’s expressions, all I would say to the honourable member is that before he asks questions in this sort of area he should check his background. Our standing is not only supremely high, it is endorsed by the attendance of the Prime Minister at the Forum earlier this year. I am sure that our contribution in July will indicate the underlying importance that Australia attaches to the Forum. I leave aside the gratuitous remarks passed about the New Zealand Prime Minister.
-Has the Prime Minister seen reported statements by the Queensland Premier that some of the funds allocated to defence should be made available for housing? Will this suggestion be considered?
– I think all honourable gentlemen know, and all Queenslanders know, that for 3 years defence expenditure was cut to the bone and beneath the bone by the previous Administration. What the Minister for Defence has announced, having won Government support- a remarkable effort, I think, in the present circumstances- for a significant increase in defence spending over the next 5 years is a realistic assessment of what this nation needs to spend on defence, having in mind our understanding of the world we live in. None of those funds will be diverted to any other purpose, no matter who advocates it.
– I ask the Treasurer a question. Does the Treasurer agree that the foreign investment guidelines are deficient in that there is no mechanism for the marshalling of capital in Australia for Australian companies, particularly for investment in long term resource projects? Will he announce specific criteria on which the Government will decide whether a project can go ahead with a predominance of foreign equity without adequate Australian participation? Will he clear up the Government’s policy?
– There is no need to clear up the policy. The matter was set down in a perfectly clear fashion by myself some weeks ago. It has also been the subject of comment in this House, indeed as late as yesterday, by my colleague the Deputy Prime Minister. Those who choose to read both the response by the Deputy Prime Minister and the original statement will find the policy has been set out in perfectly clear terms. I can say to the honourable member that we have set down a guideline of 50 per cent equity. We have also made it perfectly clear that if in the first instance that guideline is not achieved then the Government would be looking to a phasing-in objective for Australian equity participation of the 50 per cent. We have made it perfectly clear throughout the statement that the Government’s intention, of course, is to provide the maximum opportunity for Australians to participate in the development of our own natural resources, but at the same time -
– What are the criteria?
– The honourable member by interjection, as indeed by the purpose of his question, seeks to inject a sense of rigidity into this whole area which would be quite inconsistent with Australia’s interests and certainly the intentions of the Government. I go on to say and again emphasise the point that of course it is a policy which must be applied flexibly. It is precisely for that reason that, unlike the confusion which surrounded the policy which emanated from the former Government of this country, we have deliberately established a free enterprise board so that companies seeking to invest in Australia can talk to free enterprise men in their own language and the matter can be subject to recommendation to the Government. The policy is flexible. It does take account of Australia’s national interest. It recognises the need in this country for a continuing inflow of overseas capital. We welcome that because of the advantages which it will provide, and we would see overseas investment as a contributing factor to the recovery which is presently taking place in the Australian economy.
-My question is to the Minister for Primary Industry. Can the Minister inform the House when the Temporary Assistance Authority report on the Australian citrus industry will be completed?
– The citrus industry has been most concerned for quite a while about the level of imports, and as a result it contacted me to see whether some action could be taken to restrain imports. We have been looking into the circumstances of the imports. We have asked the various people concerned, both with importing and producing citrus products, to make recommendations to my Department. As a result I would hope within the next couple of days to be able to make an announcement as to whether there will be an inquiry and a reference through the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs to the Temporary Assistance Authority. At this stage there is no reference but I am told that, as a result of representations made by the Australian Citrus Growers Federation, the volume of imports has been reduced significantly and I would hope that as a result there might be a recognition of the very valid fears that most citrus growers have throughout Australia. The fears expressed by the honourable member for Riverina have been echoed by a number of honourable members on this side of the House, all of whom have expressed concern at yet another rural industry falling into a state of uneconomic operating conditions and yet prejudiced because of the high volume of imports coming largely from low labour cost countries.
– I ask a question of the Minister for Transport. Has the Government yet made decisions on the recommendations which Mr Nimmo made on 5 March in his report as royal commissioner inquiring into transport between Tasmania and the mainland? If so, when will the decisions be announced? If not, when does he expect that the Government will be making decisions on these recommendations?
– As a light aside may I say how delighted I am that the Leader of the Opposition is at last taking some interest in Tasmania’s problems. This is a question that has been vigorously represented to me by five able members on this side of the House- I might say, in truth, on a continuing basis.
– Name them.
-They are: The honourable member for Denison, the honourable member for Franklin, the honourable member for Wilmot, the honourable member for Braddon and the Minister for Repatriation, the honourable member for Bass.
– Who were they again?
-If anybody did not hear me, Sir, I shall repeat the names if necessary. I can say with truth and honesty that these honourable members have been into my office and into the Prime Minister’s office- and I hope into the Treasurer’s office- on a continuing basis wanting answers to the question of freight equalisation and about the Nimmo Commission. I did say that I would make a statement in the House on these matters before the Parliament rose for the winter recess, and I would have done so were the House to continue to sit next week. But all of a sudden everybody went very quiet in the Parliament and I find that this sessional period will end on Friday night. So it will be a matter for the Minister for Repatriation and the honourable members concerned and myself to decide how and when the appropriate announcement will be made. Having said all that, to come to the question of the Leader of the Opposition, I am able to say to him that the matter is before the Government. It will be considered, I think next week, and I shall be able to inform him publicly as to the result after that.
– Has the Prime Minister seen reports that the Victorian Premier has expressed concern that a proper balance should be maintained between restraint in Government spending and stability in four major fields of Government activity, namely, housing, sewerage, roads and urban transport? Can the Prime Minister outline in what way the Commonwealth Government has preserved a balance between the public and private sectors?
-The Commonwealth, in the statement delivered by the Treasurer, has certainly preserved balance. It has started the move to restore major confidence in the private sector by making it quite plain that this Government is not going to take, and continue to take, a larger share of resources from the taxpayers of Australia- resources that are needed to provide real, productive jobs throughout the Australian community. When one looks at the way in which Commonwealth programs need to be curtailed one has to examine the nature of the programs to see where it is reasonable to exercise greatest restraint. Nobody would suggest that there should be any reduction in age pensions for example. That is an area that must be protected, and has been protected, in accordance with our policy commitment. I think that is something that would be supported by all members of the House. Areas which would touch on the hardship of individuals ought to be protected, and have been protected. Areas that ought to provide opportunities for Australians so that they can advance their cause in life at a later date- such as in education- also ought to be protected to the maximum extent possible.
There will be real growth in the education areas despite the stringency of the current financial measures- maybe not as much real growth as some educationists would like, but still real growth. Therefore, this obviously brings into consideration some of the major programs which do not impinge on either of these areas if there is to be real restraint in the continuing demands of government. It is all the more important that there should be that restraint, when total gross domestic production in Australia was falling as it did as a result of the policies of our predecessors. The balance was made plain in the Treasurer’s statement. I would add that it is not only for the Commonwealth to preserve a balance; it is not only for the Commonwealth Government to preserve restraint.
If the House will bear with me for a moment I would like to give one or two figures. In the period from December 1972 to December 1975, the number of Commonwealth Government employees, excluding those in the defence Services, increased by 43 000 or 12. 1 per cent; the number of State Government employees increased by a greater proportion than that-by 83 000 or 12.5 per cent. The number of government employees in Victoria increased by 14. 1 per cent, which was more than the national average. If one looks at the total increase in Commonwealth and State outlays over that 3-year period one finds that Commonwealth Government outlays increased in 1972-73 by 11.2 per cent and State Government outlays increased by 12.8 per cent; in 1973-74 the Commonwealth’s outlays increased by 19.3 per cent and the States’ outlays increased by 19.2 per cent; and in 1974-75, when expenditure really went mad, outlays by the Commonwealth increased by 42 per cent and outlays by the States increased by 39.7 per cent.
Those figures indicate that over that 3-year period the number of State Government employees and State Government expenditure in fact grew at rates comparable with, and in some cases in excess of, those of the Commonwealth Government. The figures make it quite plain that there is a need for restraint, not only in Commonwealth Government expenditure but also in the operations of the States. It is not possible to encompass this tremendous growth in expenditure and growth in government bureaucracies in any organisation, private enterprise or government, without waste and extravagance. We found a great deal of extravagance occurring in the Commonwealth arena. I believe that as a result of the rapid growth in State outlays and State bureaucracies over the last 3 years the States also would be able to find areas in which they could preserve the essential services which they provide to their own people and at the same time relieve them of significant taxes.
-I ask the Minister for Post and Telecommunications: Is it anticipated that the Postal Commission will end the year with a surplus of between $ 10m and $14m arising from the increase in postal charges last year? Was that in line with the estimates of the Postal Commission given in assessing the increase in postal charges last year, but overridden by the Treasury? Is it intended that these surplus funds will be used for a reduction in postal charges in the coming year, or will they be used to offset subsidies which are at present financed by the Treasury for services in areas which the Postal Commission has indicated are uneconomic?
-I welcome the question from the honourable member for Corio. I think this is the first occasion on which he has taken the opportunity to direct a question to me concerning the Post and Telecommunications Department. I welcome the belated interest which he has decided to take in its affairs. I am not in a position to disclose to him the trading results of the Postal Commission. It is true that, because of substantial increases in charges through the range of services provided by the Commission, what was formerly a substantial deficit has become an operating surplus. The final figures will, of course, be made available a little later on in the year. The application of whatever surplus may appear will depend on the decision of the Government. No decision whatsoever has been taken.
The matter of future charges will be decided in the context of the overall situation when the Cabinet looks at this general question. All I want to indicate to the honourable member is that both Commissions have made every effort within their area of responsibility to reduce costs. I have every hope that we will be able to take some marketing initiatives in the next few months. The marketing initiatives we take will become available because of the interest Government supporters have taken in this matter and because of the substantial interest taken by the Government members’ committee and the Commissions. That interest shows the desirability of having people with business capacity serving on the Commissions and the desirability of my own consultation with them. If the honourable member possesses a little patience all will be made known to him in the fullness of time.
– I take a point of order. The Minister indicated that no questions had been asked of him. If he looks on the notice paper he will find quite a number.
-My question is to the Minister for Health. Is it a fact that the legislation establishing Medibank enables him to make regulations for those persons who transferred from private health funds to Medibank to have that service taken into account in the acquisition of Commonwealth long service leave rights? If so, when does the Minister intend to act under the power given to him by the Act.
– The answer to the first question is yes. The Government recognises the previous Government’s commitment to preserve trie existing long service leave rights of persons who were recruited from the private funds to the Health Insurance Commission. The drafting of regulations to give effect to this undertaking is receiving attention and I expect that this matter will be brought to finality at an early date.
-I direct a question to the Prime Minister. Yesterday, in reply to the honourable member for Grey, he stated that if the Australian shipbuilding industry were to continue receiving shipbuilding orders there would have to be a substantial increase in productivity. Is the right honourable gentleman aware that 5 busloads of shipbuilding workers are in Canberra today to press their claims for work and continued employment? Will he now spell out in detail what his Government has in mind when it uses the term ‘increased productivity’? Does this also mean that his Government is prepared to assist shipbuilders to modernise their yards which, in comparison with overseas yards, are in a very low state of productivity? Can he say when his Government proposes to hold discussions with the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the shipbuilders?
– I thought the honourable gentleman would have been aware that discussions with the Australian Council of Trade Unions had already been organised for next week. They were organised with the President of the ACTU, Mr Hawke, before he went to the International Labour Organisation meeting. Shipbuilding will be on the agenda.
The Government’s intention is quite plain. The differential in cost between shipbuilding in Australia and shipbuilding overseas, and the consequent burden on the taxpayers of Australia should be significantly reduced. The figure stands at about $10,000 a man. In other words, we need a greater degree of competition in this area. What has happened to the shipbuilding industry is a classic example of what happens in a country which has a government of total financial irresponsibility which by every act puts up costs within Australia to make Australia totally uncompetitive, not only in its own markets but also in the markets of the world. One of the problems with the shipbuilding industry, as I said yesterday, is that high costs flow through to nearly every other industry and area. If it is at all possible we want to preserve the shipbuilding industry. I have already indicated that. I can add only that I do not really believe that bringing 5 busloads of shipbuilders to Canberra will do much to increase productivity.
– I ask a question of the Minister for Transport in the hope of increasing everyone’s understanding of public relations. Has the new Labor Government in New South Wales upset proposals to provide federal finance to export roads in New South Wales by deferring indefinitely the Botany Bay port project? Does this threat of cancellation of the Botany Bay project create a serious risk that the Wollongong area may be subject to a massive rise in export traffic as Port Kembla is required to take up the slack? Will the Minister favourably consider transferring federal funds from Botany Bay to the Wollongong area which is now clearly being sold down the river by the New South Wales Labor Government?
– I am not sure what effect the decision taken by the New South Wales Government to postpone development at Botany Bay will have. I have not been told how long the proposed study will take, but certainly if it does take any time it will have a very serious effect on the operations of shipping companies in and out of Sydney Harbour. I think honourable members will be aware of the difficulties associated with environmental problems that the Australian National Line has run into with trucks carrying goods to and from Mort ‘s Dock.
Until the Premier of New South Wales makes the position clear we have put somewhat of a freeze on the expenditure of Commonwealth funds because we are not sure whether that expenditure is to continue. This comes to the nub of the honourable member’s question relating to particular funds that were supplied in respect of export roads in the Botany Bay area. The honourable member for Macarthur, along with one or two other members of the House, has been to see me on a number of occasions about the difficulties the roads in the Port Kembla area are having in carrying loads of coal from collieries. I am able to inform the honourable member that I have today approved an expenditure program- he will know the roads better than I do- in respect of that portion of main road 177 between its intersection with main road 610 and Bulli Pass, and trunk road 95 between its intersection with main road 610 and Mount Ousley road. These are significant export road grants for that area. I know that this expenditure will do a lot of relieve the congestion on the roads about which the honourable member has been concerned.
– For the information of honourable members I present the annual report of the Department of Foreign Affairs for 1975.
For the information of honourable members I present Part 1 of the final report of the National Superannuation Committee of Inquiry together with a statement by the Minister for Social Security relating to that report.
– For the information of honourable members I present the report of the Katherine Rural College Planning Committee. Due to the limited number available, reference copies of this report have been placed in the Bills and Papers Office of the House of Representatives and the Parliamentary Library.
– by leave- I should like to inform the House of measures the Government is taking in the area of the arts. The Government will be providing next year $33.8m exclusive of Australia Council administrative costs for support for the arts. I might add that those administrative costs last year were quite substantial. This continued high level of support emphasises the Government’s firm commitment to support and encourage the development of the arts throughout the Australian community.
In line with economies elsewhere we have aimed at eliminating unnecessary expenditure, but equally we have sought to ensure that no important or worthwhile programs suffer. Providing a national stimulus to the arts is in accordance with our philosophy of freedom of individual expression. We believe in freedom for artist and patron alike. For this reason we do not see the Government as the only or necessarily the major source of art patronage. Ideally, the arts through individual and community patronage should be self-supporting, but there are few if any places where this happens. Even in the United States, the Federal Government has in recent years had to play a part, and government support for the arts is an accepted fact in the cultural life of Western Europe.
It is one of the Commonwealth Government’s tasks to see how best the arts programs of all levels of Government in Australia might complement and support each other, to minimise duplication and overlap and to provide the greatest measure of fulfilment for artists and audiences. We believe a genuinely vigorous and stimulating artistic climate will emerge only when governments, individuals, private enterprises and corporations are actively and cooperatively offering decentralised and diversified patronage for the arts in our community. A diversity and plurality of support can only strengthen the arts to the general common good. Let me emphasise that our aim is to broaden support for the arts, to have more funds flowing from different sources. We are not seeking to find substitutes for Government assistance, but to expand on that necessary base.
In this connection, the Government is having examined the possibility of taxation concessions or other incentives for the arts, and ways and means of encouraging individual and private enterprise and corporate patronage. Internationally, the Government will continue to foster cultural exchanges. We will support programs to bring arts and artists from abroad. We will also support the promotion of Australian arts and artists overseas. Of the latter, one example among many is our program of activities in connection with the American Bicentennial Celebrations which includes the forthcoming tour of the Australian Ballet.
Turning to specific issues, in December last year we established the Administrative Review Committee to review government expenditure and recommend on ways of eliminating waste and duplication within and between departments and agencies, and between Commonwealth and State government bodies. As one of its first tasks the Committee undertook an examination of the operations of the Australia Council, the Film and Television School, and the Australian Film Commission. The Australia Council had itself recognised management and other organisational difficulties. It has separately commissioned an inquiry into its operations by McKinsey and Company Inc. Both this report and the Council’s views on it were available to the Committee. The Government has reached a number of decisions on the structure and future of its arts organisations.
The operations of the Australia Council and its expenditure on the arts have been reported on by the Auditor-General and the Public Accounts Committee. They have been the subject of questions in Parliament and debate in the media. The Council has attracted criticism, particularly from artists and the arts’ community, concerning extravagance and excessive administrative costs. The Administrative Review Committee, in its examination of the Council noted, among other things: Unsatisfactory arrangements between the Council and boards; high turn-over of members; excessive attention to the making of small grants- and at considerable cost; insufficient account was taken of blossoming State cultural authorities and their possible use as agents for the Council; enthusiastic arts amateurs and the dilettante seemed to receive more attention than was probably deserved.
The changes to be made are designed to correct identified problems and deficiencies, to make administrative and financial arrangements more efficient, to reduce administrative costs so that more funds will be available for the arts themselves, to enter on new and improved arrangements which might lead to greater involvement of State and local governments and other enterprises. The Australia Council Act is to be amended to give formally the Council the role of the Government’s advisory agency on all matters falling within the area of its responsibilities. The Council was not previously charged with this specific responsibility. Council control of the activities of the boards will be increased for reasons of administrative effectiveness, but not so as to interfere with essential flexibility for running day-to-day affairs. In future, boards will be responsible to the Council and function under its direction and guidelines. They will have clearly defined advisory and recommendatory roles, and such executive powers as the Council may delegate to them.
Changes are proposed to the structure and size of the Council and boards to increase effectiveness, generally reduce costs but at the same time, ensure continuity and diversity of advice. The Council will be reduced in size from a range of 1 8 to 24 members to a range of 1 5 to 1 9 members. Public Service members will be reduced from three to two. Two new positions will be created: One of Deputy Chairman of the Council, a part-time office, to assist the Chairman and generally facilitate the Council’s operations; one of General Manager, a full-time office, to be the chief executive of the Council. This will give greater weight to the chief executive office, and generally provide a better scheme of administrative responsibility. The office of General Manager will be a statutory one. The General Manager will be an ex-officio member of the Council. To reduce excessive turnover, the terms of appointment of Council and Board members will be extended from three to four years. Members’ appointments may be renewed for a further term of two years. After this reappointment would not be considered until two more years expired. The reason for the shorter terms in the original Act was to prevent the Australia Council from becoming fixed in one particular view or one particular pattern; but the general view has been expressed to me that the turnover has been too great and some greater continuity is required. The proposed amendments will achieve that.
The Australia Council’s film, radio and television responsibilities will be transferred to the Australian Film Commission. The Film, Radio and Television Board will be abolished. This change is being made on the basis of drawing all film and television activities together as a step in rationalisation, and so that creative film-makers might now link up with the mainstream of commercial film-making. The Government is determined that creative film-making will continue and that there will be no diminution in this effort. The Government believes that it will be more effective if it is undertaken by the one organisation. The number and responsibilities of the other boards will remain the same, despite recommendations that these boards should be reduced in number. Membership of the boards will be reduced from a range of 7 to 10, excepting Aboriginal Arts, which is 9 to 14 plus chairman, to a range of 5 to 7. Aboriginal Arts will be 7 to 9 plus chairman. As a further step to rationalise and reduce administration, the Council will assume responsibility for and administer the Australian Authors’ Fund activities presently with the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, and the Aboriginal arts activities presently with the Department of Aboriginal Affairs.
To increase the involvement of State, Territory and local governments, and other appropriate regional organisations, the Council will consult with appropriate authorities to begin a program of devolution of grant-giving activities. Community arts activities and small grants to individuals or groups are areas where the program of devolution might begin. In line with the Government’s view that the Council should retain overall responsibility for Commonwealth programs for the arts, funds involved in devolution will remain part of the Council’s budget and be channelled through it to the States and other bodies. In any programs of devolution the Council may specify the broad purposes for which the funds might be used. It may also expect reports from the grant-giving agencies on how moneys have been spent and on the operation of the programs. The pace and scope of the programs and transitional and other arrangements necessary will be matters for determination by the Council. In some States this process will be easier than in others because of the internal arrangements of the arts within particular States. The costs of many small individual grants programs have been out of proportion to the assistance offered. Accordingly, while I would expect the Council to continue to offer individual grants, and a significant number, I would hope that in future the emphasis would be on assisting the most talented with the highest promise of excellence.
The Council aims to widen involvement in the arts, and encourage more support from other areas. In line with this object the Council will be asked to seek to establish arrangements whereby support for national organisations- for example, the Arts Council of Australia, the Crafts Council of Australia- and performing arts companies in the States would be on a matching basis with either the organisations or the States. Matching arrangements should be a Council objective. It is not our intention, however, that it should be an inflexible rule which might impede the development of any arts activities. Precise matching arrangements would be a matter for determination by the Council, for negotiation by the Council with the bodies appropriately concerned. Training in the arts is essentially an educational matter. In future the Council will not engage in this activity. I have in mind in particular the National Insitute of Dramatic Art and the Australian Ballet School. It is proposed that in the future the appropriate Commonwealth and State education authorities should be responsible for these institutions.
After due consideration of all the issues, it has been decided that the Commonwealth Government will not provide direct or indirect assistance for capital arts projects outside of its responsibilities in Commonwealth Territories. The Government regards this as essentially a State function. There are other matters largely internal to the Council aimed at establishing improved criteria for grants, guidelines and controls, better administrative and financial arrangements, and reduced costs. I shall be taking these up with the Council.
The changes that are proposed should not be allowed to reflect on the greater part of the Council’s very fine work and its many excellent initiatives. The arts by their very nature are an area for controversy and differences of judgment and opinion. Criticisms need, therefore, to be kept in perspective. Among the many very worthy projects the Council has currently in hand is the proposed Chinese Archaeological Exhibition scheduled for early next year. This is almost certainly the most important exhibition ever to come to Australia, and is a landmark of its kind. I understand it will be one of the most valuable exhibitions ever to leave China.
Film and Television
The Government will continue to encourage film and television in partnership with the industry, the ultimate aim being self-sufficiency. Recent experience has made us all aware of the potential of our film and television industry and of the ready interest of Australian audiences. Once again the changes to be made are intended to rationalise and draw like activities together to make for more effective operation and the best use of available resources. In this area, the Government has taken the following decisions:
The Australian Film Commission will take over responsibility for independent radio and audio-visual production activities- areas largely neglected in the past.
The film, radio and television functions of the Australia Council will go to the Commission. A joint working party will be set up to effect the most satisfactory transfer and to ensure that proper account is taken of the interests of the staff involved.
The Commission will also take over the staff and resources of the Audio- Visual Branch of the Post and Telecommunications Department. These resources will complement and expand those of the Commission’s Film Australia Branch.
The Film and Television School will asume responsibility for training in radio and audiovisual communications- again, areas previously neglected.
Changes in both the Australia Council and the Australian Film Commission will involve amendments to legislation and these will be introduced as soon as practicable in the Budget session.
Australian National Gallery
The Government is committed to the concept of the National Gallery, and the broad objectives of the National Gallery Act passed by Parliament last year. The Act has been proclaimed with effect from 3 June 1976, and I am pleased to announce the appointment of the following members of the first permanent Council, each of whom will hold office for a term of 3 years: Mr Richard Crebbin (Chairman), Mr Fred Williams, Mr James T. Gleeson, A.M., Mr Murray Bail, Professor Patrick McCaughey, Miss Pamela Bell, Mr James 0. Fairfax, Mr David Wynn, Mr John D. Davies, and Mr Donald J. Munro, O.B.E. The Council will assume immediate responsibility for on-going arrangements and advice to the Government on all Gallery affairs. As I have stated elsewhere, we believe that the Gallery should hold the very finest work of Australian artists of all periods and we shall support the policy of giving priority to the acquisition of Australian art. This will not preclude the Gallery from acquiring important- works of art in other areas in which it has been specialising, and continuing to develop a national collection taking in the arts of other countries and cultures. In addition, we shall through the Australia Council seek to encourage more high quality exhibitions from abroad so that as many Australians as possible may see a greater number of the finest works of art from other regions and periods. I believe that the active pursuit of my Government’s aims towards the arts will be, ultimately, to the greater benefit of the whole Australian community.
The artistic area is and always has been a controversial one. It is probably not possible to please the total art community in any changes or any structural reorganisation that might be introduced by any government. I have already indicated that there had been significant criticisms of the Australia Council as it had operated. The Council itself had recognised a number of these and had taken steps to redress the imbalance. I believe the changes the Government is proposing represent a sensible advance on and modification of what was originally proposed; but I do not for a moment suggest that this is necessarily the last word in the nature of the reorganisation that should take place. As a result of further experience and involvement over the years no doubt further changes will become necessary at a later time. I present the following paper
The Arts- Ministerial Statement, 3 June 1976
-Is that course agreeable?
-That procedure will be followed.
-I ask for leave of the House to present the report of the Australian Parliamentary Delegation to Austria, Belgium, the European Communities, the European Parliament, Council of Europe, Federal Republic of Germany, Poland and the German Democratic Republic, between 9 and 28 June 1975.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave, is granted.
– I thank the House. I present the report. I apologise for the delay, but events prevented its being properly completed before this.
That grieveances be noted.
Mr GARRICK (Batman) < 1 1.41)- I rise today because of the appalling state of the rural sector in certain parts of this nation and, equally importantly, the ramifications of and the reasons for this plight. The problems are well known and have been well publicised. Even the capitalist Press has covered the waste of herding thousands of productive animals into trenches, then shooting and burying them. However, what the Press has failed to do and what this Government has failed to do is ask why this should happen. The answer is one word- capitalism. The system under which we live in this country cannot be influenced by the individual producer or by a simple demand and supply mechanism. Rather, for the farmers and the consumers of their products, economic decisions are made by the few. In this way the situation is no different to the situation in the mining and other industries of this nation.
I have a great deal of sympathy for the small farmer and for the one-man farm. The small farmer is the impotent sufferer of decisions handed down from above. He has no power to pass on his costs or minimise his losses. However, this is no new revelation. Liberal and National Country Party representatives of rural electorates have been aware of this for’ years. What have these representatives of the farmer done about it? What are they doing about the present crisis? The answer is nothing. That the small farmer is a real worker, often battling against huge odds, means little to these cynical wielders of power, these stooges of economic giants. In fact the Federal and State governments are setting about to rationalise the dairy industry by driving out thousands of small farmers- the old Liberal-Country Party trick that the small and weak must suffer so the already fat and ever greedy can benefit even further. Let me bury the myth that has been current for so long that those on the other side of the House have the interests of the small farmer at heart. The class and the system that those opposite represent care little or nothing for the battler on the land.
Federal and State Agriculture-Ministers meeting in Sydney decided to cut milk production drastically. They agreed to guidelines which would slash $100m from the gross value of milk production in the next year and which could push an extra 8000 out of the industry. In addition, Mr Hamer, the Victorian Premier, said that loans would be available only to farmers showing a strong asset structure and the ability to survive the current drought and disastrously low export prices for dairy products. The Australian claimed that if each Victorian applicant were granted the maximum loan from the $2m granted for farm reconstruction from Federal funds only 500 farmers would receive help. Clearly, in the present crisis, this means that a large proportion will go to the wall. In these circumstances the Fraser Government’s recent decision to grant unemployment benefits to impoverished farmers is meant mainly as a transition to forcing them out of farming altogether. This will leave the field free for the giant grazing companies and food corporations to control primary industry from top to bottom and to reap ever greater profits as food prices continue to soar.
Destruction of animals and other food, rising food prices for working people and a growing profit rip-off for the food monopolies are the realities of Australia and other industrialised capitalist societies today. Starvation, malnutrition and disease, while food production is artificially held back, are the realities of the semicolonial world. Only a complete socialist restructure on an international scale can change these basic realities and create a social order in which food is produced for need, not for profit. This whole vile business is clear evidence of how the obsolete capitalist system of production holds back human progress. There is mass destruction of food-producing animals while two-thirds of humanity suffers food scarcity, while hundreds of millions are starving, while butter, milk, cheese and meat prices are vastly inflated to the consumer. These facts merely serve notice that the system is not only defunct but immoral, inhuman and utterly comtemptible.
Where does the fault lie? Obviously it is with a small group of property owners, financiers, officials and politicians who rule our society and prop up the world-wide imperialist system which creates such inhuman conditions of starvation and plenty- over-production and underconsumption. Barry 0’Hagan. the Executive Officer of the Freedom From Hunger campaign, said:
It should be a day of national shame when a country like Australia destroys food but it happens all the time. Now it is cattle, but some months ago it was fruit and vegetables and earlier than that seafood. What is needed is concerted government action to supply structures so we can move food supplies abroad to where they are needed. It would be useless for us to buy the killed cattle and try to ship them abroad. The cost of transport, storage and freezing, then distribution at the other end, would be too much. What is needed is a world food bank, where such supplies could be stored for distribution.
Certainly O’Hagan’s idea of a world food bank is a good one. What prevents its establishment are precisely the operations of the international capitalist market, the giant food corporations and their governments which actually plan the restriction of world food supplies to guarantee super profits to big business.
The most important element to come out of this problem is the defenceless position in which small farmers are placed. It is with sympathy and not arrogance that I say to the farmers: ‘Wake up’. This Government and those whom it actually represents are doing and will do nothing for the farmers. It is time for unified action by farmerstime to sell, buy and distribute as cooperatives, time to crush the middleman who is crushing the farmers. It is only in this way that the rural sector will receive a fair return for its effort. Simultaneously the consumer will pay a fair price for food.
– I have the same number of farms in my electorate as the honourable member for Batman (Mr Garrick) has in his. I shall resist the temptation to reply to him, except to say that the serious problems of rural industry will not be solved by resort to harangues with outmoded rhetoric.
My grievance today relates to the plight of back benchers. I think it is a grievance which would be widely shared in this House. It concerns the decision-making process. I am concerned- I believe all persons in Australia should be concerned- at the way in which decisions are made and at the role of Parliament. We know that basically parliamentarians are held in contempt by the community. We know that jokes about politicians are made constantly at various clubs, smoke-nights and so forth. It ought to be a matter of some concern, not because we are thin skinned but because we are not taken seriously in the community. In the position which I previously occupied, whenever I was introduced as having that position people looked at me with what I thought was a certain exaggerated awe. Now, when I am introduced as a member of Parliament, I am greeted with a pretty rough sort of laugh. This is an experience which we all share.
It ought to be a matter of concern to the community that the media and spokesmen in the community find great glee in attacking politicians and laughing at them each time they want a salary increase or each time they receive an alleged perk. People say now that parliamentarians are amongst the most highly paid people in the community. So they should be. They are by no means overpaid when one considers the role which the community expects them to play. Indeed if one looks at the hourly remuneration one finds that parliamentarians are grossly underpaid. Few of us have time at home to do the handiwork that most people enjoy doing around the home, so we engage persons to do it on hourly rates far in excess of our remuneration.
My concern today is not about our remuneration, because we will always be told that it is not the right time for an increase in salary. My concern is about the resources which are available to back bench members of Parliament to assist Ministers better to query the advice they receive from public servants. This is important. If one looks at the Congress of the United States of America and at the facilities available to congressmen and senators, one realises that the situation here is absurd. No back benchers have secretarial assistance. We all sit here addressing envelopes and licking them. We do not have the facilities that ordinary clerical people would expect to have available to them. There is a problem with the complexities of modern government. No Minister can seriously be expected on his own to question all the recommendations put to him by his department. There is an important role for back benchers and back bench committees to assist the Minister in implementing the policies which were put to the electorate and upon which the Government is given a mandate.
There are problems where the non elected persons decide that they know best. I am not having a hate session about public servants but lex us face the human facts about the way the institution is structured. Public servants may well believe that they know what is best for Australia and what is the best use of taxpayers funds, but they are not facing the electorate. The parliamentarians still have that role. There are plenty of case studies available, as every member of this House would know, showing where bureaucrats’ policies rather than government policies have been adopted. Obstruction and undue complexities are placed in the way of Ministers in that when they ask for something to be done they are told that it cannot be done. I do not accuse all public servants of that. Of course, many of them are most conscientious in their approach to advising their Ministers and many of them follow the standard approach of saying: ‘Well, I believe, Mr Minister, that what you are doing is a very foolish thing, but if you must do a foolish thing at least do not do it in a foolish way. ‘ That is the proper role of public servants. But they get to the point of saying to the Minister. ‘It just cannot be done. This is the way to do it.’ When the policies put before the Minister are policies of other persons, the community ought to be concerned.
The back benchers simply do not have the resources to assist Ministers in testing the advice that they are given. Back bench committees are really only a source of gaining information after the event. I believe that back bench committees on both sides of the House have to think through their requirements and have to demand better clerical and research facilities so that they can make an input into the policies of the Government or the Opposition. The community really asks the impossible of its politicians. While despising them on the one hand, it still asks them to do a great many things. We have to be diplomats and social welfare workers, and of course we have to make a contribution to this chamber as well. It should be a matter of public concern. I am not whingeing about the responsibilities of our duties; I am whingeing about the frustrations put in the way of the performance of those duties.
This generation of parliamentarians must be given more resources or the decision making of this country will be firmly in the hands of second and third generation Canberra public servantspeople who do not have to face the electorate and who are never adequately accountable to the electorate. Again, I am not Public Service bashing. I have said that there are many public servants who genuinely try to make the best out of sometimes foolish policies, but there are others who clearly, for human reasons- for their own personal reasons- set out to make sure that their policies are the policies which are adopted. I am pleading for a better deal for those who have to face the electorate. In the past Ministers, ministries and governments have been too concerned about an adverse public response. Because of the contempt in which the community hold politicians, governments have been afraid that if they gave more resources to back benchers there would be a public outcry: ‘They are feathering their own nests’. The community cannot have it both ways. If it wants politicians to perform the tasks for which they are elected they must have the resources, and the media must stop carping about the so-called benefits and perks given to politicians to carry out their duties.
It is annoying to hear the Australian Broadcasting Commission and other news broadcasts reporting that committees are being set up to keep back benchers occupied, to keep them out of mischief. Do they think that we are sitting twiddling our thumbs when our offices are filled with people with genuine grievances and complaints? We are giving great” assistance to people. The Labor Government introduced the idea of a second person on the staff of back benchers. We now have 2 persons. I am sure that it is the experience of almost every member that they are both very busy indeed. We also know that the library facilities here are very good but we need time to make the maximum use of those facilities. We ought to have secretarial staff in Canberra. There ought to be more sensible procedures in the Parliament itself so that we can actually sit down and do something for a couple of hours at a time instead of racing in and out of the chamber because quorums and divisions are called. I have said this before and others have said similar things. It is a matter of concern that we have still taken no action to schedule divisions for a set time of day so that we can set about in committees and do things in a constructive fashion.
The sitting hours of Parliament are absurd. How can we make decisions sitting for a condensed period of about 72 hours in this building, from 8 a.m. to midnight? How can anybody expect sensible, balanced decisions to be made when everyone is on the point of dropping from exhaustion? This is not a sensible thing to do. The report of the Joint Committee on the Parliamentary Committee System will be debated, I trust, in the next session of Parliament. I hope that more back benchers will take the opportunity to make a contribution about their views on procedures, debates and expenditure to enable the Expenditure Committee better to make a more efficient and economic use of taxpayers’ funds.
– I must compliment the honourable member for Balaclava (Mr Macphee) on having the courage to bring up this matter in the Parliament. It is important for the public to be educated about the activities of parliamentarians and about what they receive in reimbursement. The Press finds this subject a good way by which to enter into a little bit of sensationalism. It is more and more important for honourable members to have the courage to speak out on these issues as the honourable member for Balaclava has done. If this does not happen Australia may become like some other countries such as France where government by bureaucracy becomes stronger, and government by the people’s representatives in the parliament becomes weaker. I compliment the honourable member for his remarks here this morning.
Today I wish to grieve about 2 matters. The first relates to the Westmead hospital in the outer western suburbs of Sydney. It is reported that, as a result of this Government’s expenditure cuts, there will be a downturn in the building activity on this new hospital project.
– This would be utterly tragic, as the honourable member for Hunter says. A survey conducted in 1969 showed that by 1980 there would be a 1200-bed shortage in the outer western suburbs of Sydney unless immediate action were taken to correct the position. For many years, we as a Labor Party and as a Labor Government, tried to press the New South Wales Liberal Government at the time to get on with the job at Westmead which is to be a major teaching hospital, a specialist hospital. Even though at one stage, I think in 1973-74, we allocated $4m for the project, there was no activity. Now the job is being proceeded with because it was threatened by the previous Labor Government that unless the State Government got on with the job we would build our own Australian Government hospital in that area. Information is now filtering through that because of cuts in allocations to the community health program by the Federal Government to the State, the Health Commission of New South Wales will be faced with the situation of having no alternative but to phase down the building activity on Westmead Hospital, yet it is an urgent work.
Month by month and year by year we are seeing throughout that area more and more private hospitals being built. They are mainly financed by the medical profession. They are private hospitals which have far higher fees than the public hospitals, and they do not have the necessary facilities, particularly for urgent cases. In other words, there is a transfer of resources from the public sector to the private sector. This is not in the interest of the people as a whole, and action should be taken to give the most urgent priority to the Westmead Hospital project. This comes into the field of this Federal Government which is responsible for allocating funds to the New South Wales Health Commission under the community health program. Unless action is taken by this Government to ensure that the funds are earmarked for this project this will have a very serious effect upon the most populous area in the whole of Australia. One forgets that about half the children of New South Wales are born in an area west of a line drawn north and south through Parramatta. I made a rough estimate yesterday. In 5 electorates out there in the west- Reid, Parramatta, Mitchell, Prospect and Chifley- there would be a good one million people living. I ask the Government therefore to give special consideration to this matter now in this forthcoming Budget period and to make sure that funds are earmarked so that the project as it is now being developed may continue in the interests of the health of the whole of that most populous region.
The other matter about which I have a grievance today relates to housing and to the fact that there is undoubtedly a recession- in fact, one could call it a depression- in the building industry. I am referring of course to the large scale unemployment in the building industry, once again particularly in the outer western suburbs of Sydney where there is a bigger concentration of building workers than in most other parts of Austalia. One could say that there has been an extraordinary disparity or discrepancy between figures relating to the building industry. For example, in April there was a 13 per cent increase, after seasonal adjustment, in private housing approvals, that is, approvals by local authorities. On the other hand, savings bank housing loan approvals were down 6.2 per cent in the March quarter on the 3 months to December and building society loans were down 34.4 per cent. These are approvals of finance. So we can see the discrepancy: On the one hand is what is being approved by local authorities for future building and on the other hand is the actual finance being made available by the various finance authorities. The finance available is showing a dramatic downturn. The reason for the downturn in finance approvals goes back to the Government’s decision to introduce the Australian savings bonds at 10V4 per cent interest. This brought about a dramatic withdrawal of finance from the building societies. The savings banks, because of the regulation which lays down that 50 per cent of their assets must be held in a specified form, in specified types of securities, cannot move into the vacuum left by the building societies to grant more approvals. This is quite a serious situation.
As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) pointed out last week, there has been a very great recession in the commercial building field. Without a doubt, it was over-inflated, it was overheated.
Far too many office blocks were going up. We had up to five or six years’ surplus in office accommodation. The Labor Government, seeing that this movement away from the commercial field was occurring, deliberately allocated grants of $ 150m to the banks and $50m to terminating societies so as to bring about a transfer of resources from the commercial field to the private home building field. This had its effect and the result was that there was an immediate upsurge in both approvals for finance and approvals for building. But all of these things have a delayed action effect. If we take action today in the building arena, it will take some considerable time before its effect is felt in the building industry itself. It will take up to six or nine months. Unless the Government takes urgent action now to overcome the growing unemployment in the building industry and what will become growing inactivity in the home building industry, then the industry is in for a very big depression indeed.
This is an essential policy issue and one which the Government obviously is not looking at properly. Obviously when it sets to and virtually cripples the building society movement through the Australian savings bonds without bringing about a re-allocation of resources into the savings banks which do so much home lending, then it is not tackling the job properly. I believe there is a need for the Government to take action immediately in 2 areas. First, the regulation should be altered to bring about a reduction in the 50 per cent ratio that savings banks have to maintain in specified securities so as to release more funds to the savings banks so as to offset the reduction in building society activity. Secondly I believe there should be an allocation of grants by the Federal Government to terminating societies and to the banks, just as the Labor Government did, so that the savings banks and the terminating societies can grant more home building approvals. Unless this action is taken there will be a major recession in the industry.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Last week I read the April-May issue of the Abolition of the Means Test News, which is the official organ of the Association for the Abolition of the Means Test Inc. I was surprised, and I think I was pleased as well, to find that the organisation’s Speakers Notes for the case against the means test consisted of verbatim extracts from the 1972 Cabinet submission which I had made when I was a Minister. It was on this basis that I was able to induce the McMahon Government, in its 1972 Budget, to pledge itself to the abolition of the means test for everybody after the age of 65 years by the end of the year 1975.
I must say that I was not only pleased but I was also flattered in a sense to find that these arguments which I had advanced as long ago as 1 972 were now being put forward by this institution as the Speakers Notes for the case against the means test. I believe that what I said then was correct and I hope that it will achieve through this organisation and elsewhere the widest dissemination.
The parts quoted from the Cabinet submissionand they are quoted verbatim- were not in any respect confidential. I seek leave therefore for the incorporation of this particular article in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
THE MEANS TEST ON AGE PENSIONS
As a general principle, people should be encouraged to make provision for themselves in their old age, and to avoid reliance upon Government assistance.
Nevertheless, it should be recognised that some old people, through circumstances beyond their control, have been unable to make adequate provision for themselves, and are entitled to Government assistance. Furthermore, it is generally agreed in civilised society that even those whose failure to make this provision has been due to their own improvidence should not be forced to live below a certain standard in their last years.
In Australia, the basic age pension rate makes no distinction between the worthy and the unworthy. The amount of the age pension is from time to time determined at some point substantially above a minimum level-a point which has not been immutably fixed, but has moved upward with changes in national productivity.
It should be recognised that the higher the basic pension, the less is the spur of want in persuading people to make provision for themselves: and it would seem essential that, in order to avoid the consequences which might flow from this, nobody should be discouraged from raising himself above the Australian basic pension level by his own current efforts or his own past thrift.
Thus three principles would appear to be fundamental in the evaluation of Means Test Policy-
All Government pensions reduce individual incentive towards thrift, self-help and self-reliance; but is generally conceded that no member of a civilised community, however unfortunate or improvident, should be reduced below the minimum level; and Governments (including the Australian Government) generally and quite rightly set the basic rate of pension substantially above this level.
The higher the Government pension above the minimum level, the more it acts as a disincentive.
The more the Means Test acts as an impediment to an individual raising himself by thrift or work above any given level of Government pension, the greater is the disincentive effect.
In Australia we impose a Means Test on age pensions which restricts them to those ‘in need’ and thus reduces our total budget outlay. This raises the inherent difficulty above described- the operation of a Means Test cannot avoid a ‘levelling’ effect, because it reduces the gap between the provident and the improvident and therefore lessens the incentive to make provision for oneself.
If pensions were included in the taxable income of those people whose incomes were high, and excluded from the taxable incomes of those people whose incomes were low, the revenue would be protected, equity would be maintained, and the principle of free enterprise would be preserved.
The arguments against the maintenance of the Means Test on age pensions may be summarised as follows-
Of the above ten arguments against the Means Test, the third has great weight. Sudden and enforced idleness at the age of 65 can be very harmful to a man, and lack of purpose is pathetically evident among many of the elderly, who still have their faculties and could be continuing to produce on a limited scale for their own benefit and for the benefit of the community.
Great weight may also have to be accorded to the tenth and last argument. The existence of the present Means Test is an effective bar to the adoption of any sensible scheme of National Superannuation.
– I thank the House. I would like to summarise the 10 arguments which I brought forward. I remind the House of them because I believe they are as valid today as they were then. I am only going to summarise them. I said that the arguments against the maintenance of the means test on age pensions may be summarised as follows:
The first is that the means test is inequitable. It deprives people of the benefit of their own thrift and efforts.
The second is that the administration of the means test involves anomalies, and this is particularly so when there is a cut-off point, as there is. We all know from our experience as members of Parliament how these anomalies arise.
The third is that the means test debars or discourages retired people from taking casual or part-time work if they want to do so. This is very often something that militates against their health and survival because nothing induces early death more than enforced retirement and idleness when people do not want it. I am not suggesting that retired people should in any sense be compelled to work. I would rather say that if they want to work part-time they should be given every opportunity to do so.
The fourth point I made was that people tend to arrange their affairs so as to escape the means test. This has undesirable effects.
The fifth point I made was that the nature of the means test distorts investment by inducing people to prefer ‘exempt’ assets and thus to undertake wasteful expenditure.
The sixth point I made was that the means test is an invitation to cheating and it puts a premium on underhand practices.
The seventh point was that the means test humiliates old people because those who administer it must of necessity pry into the private affairs of these people and in a sense it makes the age pension ‘odious ‘.
The eighth point was that the means test impedes socially desirable transfers of property from parents to children and penalises past transfers in a way that is sometimes inequitable.
The ninth point was that the application of the means test has become complex and it creates confusion and this creates resentments.
The tenth point was that the existence of the means test on the basic age pension makes it difficult to formulate a satisfactory scheme of national superannuation.
As I have said, none of this matter is confidential. I will look at the remainder of the submission to see whether it could conveniently be published without any breach of confidentiality. The material was not given by me to this organisation and in fact it has not been made available by me for publication. It has, I think, been made available to the National Superannuation Committee of Inquiry whose report was released to this House only a few days ago. I am glad to see that many of the things that I have advocated are advocated also in the report of this Committee. May I at this moment say to the House that there is a majority report as well as a minority report and that I would be in favour of the minority report of the Committee rather than the majority report. I do not think there should be a compulsory levy for a national superannuation scheme. I would rather incline therefore to the views put forward by Mr Hedley in the minority report, but in both the majority report and in the minority report there are included many things which I did in point of fact advocate and which I hope will eventually be adopted. I said in my 1972 Cabinet submission which was quoted:
The existence of the present means test is an effective bar to the adoption of any sensible scheme of national superannuation.
This is a view which has commended itself to the Committee of Inquiry whose report is now before us. Honourable members will see that both the majority report and the minority report adopt that principle.
So I am, as I said, surprised and pleased that this organisation has seen fit to publish some parts of the Cabinet submission on which I was able to induce the McMahon Government to adopt the principle of abolition of the means test for all over the age of 65 and to aim to make that effective by the end of 1 975.
Now I come to the present position, because 1975 is of course behind us and we are coming up to another Budget. I realise that the finances of the country were thrown into chaos by the previous Government and some things have happened which were not at the time of that submission then in contemplation, but I do not think those things should impair the abolition of the means test in the forthcoming Budget. I am quite clear and definite as to that.
I am not going to raise at this moment the differences between myself and the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) as to the nature of what he is pleased to call the deficit and which I do not think is properly a deficit at all, nor at present will I raise the importance of the so-called deficit in framing Treasury policy. In this it seems to me that the present Treasurer is falling into the same error as his predecessor, the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden), fell into when he presented his Budget. This is, therefore, a criticism which I am making on a bipartisan basis. I would hope that there would not be in the framing of the next Budget the same obsession with the deficit as seems to have been evidenced by the present Treasurer and by his immediate Labor predecessor. I hope that both will see what I describe as the error in their ways in this regard.
I would therefore press strongly that the Government does not forget that in 1972 the Liberal Party was able to promise abolition of the means test by the end of 1975 if it had then been elected. In the present circumstances, realising the effects of the financial damage which Labor caused in its 3 years in office, I would still hope that something effective would be done on the means test front when the Treasurer brings forward the Budget for this coming year.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-An old Labor politician told me when I first became a member of this place that you never praise your political opponents, but I have departed from that advice on several occasions and I depart from it again today. I want to congratulate the honourable member for Balaclava (Mr Macphee) on his expression of interest on behalf of back benchers in this grievance debate today. I want to congratulate the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) on his deep interest -
– The first time ever, Bert.
– I have congratulated him before both inside and outside the Parliament and also personally, but never when he has gone on with communist can-kicking, which I am going to deal with shortly. I congratulate the honourable member for Mackellar on his efforts to abolish the means test. He fought passionately and fervently in his own Party to achieve this when it was in office prior to the Whitlam Administration taking over. He was a strong and sincere advocate of the abolition of the means test. Unfortunately, his proposal to abolish it was not implemented during the term of office of his party. The Labor Party under the Whitlam leadership did take positive steps. The honourable member for Mackellar would concede that the means test has been abolished on age pensions for all people over 69 years of age. Had we remained in office I believe we would have carried out the wishes of the honourable member for Mackellar and we would have abolished the means test by the end of 1975 or by early this year for all persons over 65 years of age. It is true as the honourable member for Mackellar says that the means test is very embarrassing to people, it is confusing to people and it makes decent people tell untruths to the Department of Social Security, which results in investigations and increases the overhead costs of administering the means test. I hope that the honourable member for Mackellar will be able to persuade his Treasurer (Mr Lynch) to abolish the means test for all people over 65 years, for which he has fought for many years. I hope he achieves this in this year’s Budget.
I feel somewhat grieved at what I personally consider to be the unfair criticism of one of the world’s greatest powers and a friendly nation to Australia, a nation with which we exchange diplomatic relations. I refer to the Soviet Union. I agree entirely with the brilliant speech of my Leader on 1 June 1976 in his reply to the ministerial statement on foreign affairs by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). In his very worthy and intellectual remarks, as recorded at page 2745 of Hansard, the Leader of the Opposition said:
This phobia about Russian ships is presumably the justification for defence expenditure of $ 12,000m over the next 5 years-
He went on to say:
It is . . . resurgence of cold-war rhetoric and Communist can-kicking typified by the speech this evening.
There have already been 2 speakers- I understand there is to be another one- from the Government benches who have placed emphasis on the plight of the rural industry. Every member of this House is saddened by the plight of the rural industry. I want to interlock the plight of the rural industry with the Communist cankicking. I shall cite some figures of exports from Australia to the Soviet Union in recent years and the exports to Australia from the Soviet Unionthe country that was unjustifiably kicked about in the statement made to the Parliament by the Prime Minister. In 1970-71 Australia exported to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics $62.3m worth of goods and imported from the U.S.S.R. in the same year $2.2m worth of goods- a balance of trade in our favour of $60. lm. In 1971-72 the Soviet Union imported from Australia $82.8m worth of goods and we imported from the Soviet Union $1.8m worth of goods- a balance in our favour of $81m. I am pleased to see a prominent Newcastle businessman in the Parliament today. Although he is learned in politics he is somewhat astonished as I reveal the figures. In 1972-73 Australia exported to the Soviet Union $ 123.6m worth of goods and imported from the Soviet Union $2.9m worth of goods- a balance of trade in Australia’s favour of $ 120.7m. In 1973-74 Australia sold or exported to the Soviet Union $ 154.2m worth of goods and imported from the Soviet Union $5.8m worth of goods- a balance of trade in our favour of $148.4m. In 1974-75 $243m worth of Australian goods were exported to the Soviet Union and we imported from the Soviet Union $6.3 m worth of goods- a balance of trade in our favour of $236.7m.
I ask the Parliament and I ask honourable members: Is it fair to start this warmongering and unfair criticisms of the Soviet Union because she has put naval vessels in the international waters of the Indian Ocean? As I said earlier, we all agree that rural industry is in a tragic plight. I do not know how members of the National Country Party can join in this criticism. They must have felt embasrrassed to listen to the speech of the Prime Minister censuring the Soviet Union and its role in world affairs today. If the honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King) listens he may learn something. Only a few months ago the rural people of Australia and the beef producers who are in a tragic plight sold 40 000 tons of Australian frozen beef to the Soviet Union.
– No, get your figures right. We gave it away to them.
– This is how grateful honourable members opposite are. The Soviet Union paid for it but not at the price they wanted for it. It is better to give it away than to shoot the cattle, which farmers are doing in Victoria today.
– They were glad to get it.
-They were glad to get the trade, under the former Minister for Overseas Trade as he reminds the House. The farmers were glad to get this purchase of 40 000 tonnes of beef by the Soviet Union. They were disappointed when they did not get a follow-up order from the Soviet Union. These are facts which no honourable member can properly deny. It sincerely hurts me to hear unfair criticism of any country. At present the Soviet Union has one of its naval vessels in Portsmouth Harbour on a goodwill mission to our mother country, Great Britain. On the other hand the Prime Minister of Australia has launched this vicious and unfair criticism of the Soviet Union and has accused it of warmongering. That brings to my mind the tragic embarrassment that Anthony Eden- and the Soviet Union- in the late 1960s when 2 Russian naval vessels were visiting Britain on a goodwill mission with the Premier of the Soviet Union, Mr Bulganin, and a British skindiver was detected obviously interfering with the bottom of these Soviet warships. The late Commander -
Government supporters- Ha, ha.
– Honourable members opposite identified their own frailties when I mentioned ‘bottom’. I set that as a trap to see whether they would come in on it. The honourable members opposite look like three of them, too. The late Commander Buster Crabbe was involved. Sir Anthony Eden said- he did not support the action when it was disclosed- that it was virtually searching the pockets of one’s guests after inviting them to one’s home to a party. The Soviet Union is subjected to undue embarrassment by the West. Honourable members refrain from defending that country in this Parliament because they are afraid that they may be accused of being pro-communist or communist. 1 have never failed to defend any country here when I have heard unfair criticism of it. I am not a tide swimmer. I am not a fence sitter. I have said these things and it has never affected me in my electorate of Hunter because the people there like honesty and straight speaking. Apparently in the electorates of some honourable members the people do not like that. I will continue to say this.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-As this is the last opportunity that we have in a grievance debate to bring forward issues prior to the bringing down of the next Budget I take the opportunity this morning of raising a few matters that concern me greatly. I refer basically to what was once recognised as Australia’s greatest industry, the rural industry. It is rather interesting to follow my old friend, the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James), having heard what he had to say on this important question of primary industries. He made very little contribution other than to try to defend some cause in Russia. I am sure that those honourable members who are present and who listened to the honourable member for Batman (Mr Garrick) would agree with me that it is no wonder that primary industries certainly ran down in the last 3 years as a result of the lack of interest and knowledge of this industry in the members of the last Government. This is the main cause of the trouble in which they are today. The members of the last Government certainly hastened to disaster. Since the former Labor Government was removed from office I am sure that the new Government has received a lot of support from people in primary industry, agreeing that the Government is doing all it possibly can. At the same time members of the present Opposition have been so terribly critical.
Without going into a lot of detail I want to refer briefly to one or two matters. The Opposition was very upset because the Government tried to help primary industry with the reintroduction of a superphosphate bounty. That was one issue that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) could not get away from; he kept referring to the Government helping the big, successful primary producer. The knowledge of the then shadow Minister for Primary Industry, the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating), is anything but good, but admittedly he is learning. He too was very critical of the Government. The Opposition has been very critical of the dairy industry. Yet butter is one commodity whose price has not risen to any great extent when compared with other commodities. I think in the broad the price of butter today is double what it was 30 or 40 years ago. Yet the Opposition is not prepared to assist the dairy industry. It has been critical of the assistance the Government provided when it amended the meat export levy. Those are just some of the matters of which the Opposition has been critical.
Last year, many honourable members will recall, the then Government tried to reduce the guaranteed price of wool from 250c to 200c a kilo, but because of pressure from the industry it reluctantly retained the price of 250c.
I think the honourable member for Hunter made some reference to fuel equalisation. Who removed that? It was the then Labor Government. That shows the sort of interest it has in primary industries. It unfortunately has ignored the importance of commodity agreements. My friend, the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean), did have some sympathy in relation to commodity agreements when he was Minister, but he received very little support from his colleagues. Yesterday the Minister for Overseas Trade (Mr Anthony) referred to meat exports to the European Economic Community. Since then I have had an opportunity to look at some figures to see what has actually happened in relation to that trade. The honourable member for Hunter referred to a favourable balance of trade with Russia. In the year 1954-55 Australia had a successful balance of trade with the EEC countries. In that year our exports to those countries totalled US$920m and our imports totalled US$925m. So our imports and exports were almost balanced. But 10 years later our exports have risen by something like US$4 16m to US$ 1,336m, while our imports have increased by US$1,412m to US$2,387m. Broadly speaking, our balance of trade with the United States is holding its own much to the disappointment of some members of the Opposition. I believe that we are improving our trading relations with Japan. Again I would stress the importance of commodity agreements with that country, such as that which we have in relation to minerals.
Of course, our meat industry is in a disastrous situation. I wish to cite some figures brought out by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics which will give honourable members an indication of the reason that the price of meat is so terribly high today. Taking the last figure which is available to me, which is for June 1975, the average auction price paid to the beef producer was 32.9c per kilogram. The wholesale price was 61.5c and the retail price was 1 16c. If one looks at the marginsin other words, the profit- one sees that the primary producer received a total income of 32.9c per kilogram, or near enough to 33c. The wholesalers margin was 28.6c and the retailers margin was 54.5c. So it can be seen why we have fairly high meat prices and low returns to the producers. I think we could ask what other factors are reflected in the tremendous profit- or loss, as it were-on the one hand, and high costs, on the other hand to the meat producer.
Honourable members will be able to see in an answer provided by the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) which appears in yesterday’s Hansard that something like 31 meat companies in Victoria suffered strikes between 1 January 1975 and 1 July 1975.
– How long were those strikes?
– There were 31 strikes over a 6 months period. In answer to the interjection from my colleague, the honourable member for Capricornia, he will find that on average those strikes lasted for about 3 days. That makes a total of 93 days. If one works on the assumption that the number of employees involved was 500 to 1000, it works out that over that 6 months period- I remind the House that 1 am speaking of one State alone- roughly 1 400 000 man days were lost, in round figures. That is a lot of man days.
– That would be 1 1 million hours.
– My colleague from Capricornia is pretty bright. He has worked it out pretty hurriedly as being 1 1 million man hours, working on the basis of 1 400 000 eight-hour days. Is it any wonder that meat is expensive. One of the reasons I rose in my place today was to draw attention to some of the problems facing primary industry.
The honourable member for Batman was somewhat critical earlier this morning in relation to the slaughtering and the burying of large quantities of cattle. Anyone who takes that line is completely unaware of the situation. The honourable member does not seem to realise that because of the strikes to which I referred, because of industrial unrest, because of lack of production, it costs approximately $50 to have an animal slaughtered and made ready for sale in the butcher shop. I give that figure very much in the broad; do not quote me with any accuracy. The figure varies because of size, age and so on of the cattle. But, in the broad, it costs about $50 to get an animal to the butcher shop. If the butcher shop returns only $50 on that meat, it is obvious that the producer will not receive anything at all. If the return is less than $50- the honourable member for Batman does not seem to be aware of this because that type of cattle would produce less than $50 worth of meatthen the retailer or the wholesaler or the firms concerned would suffer a loss. So that is why we are in real strife.
If I had the time I could go on to make reference to many other issues which I believe are terribly important. I could refer to the way in which the previous Government affected primary producers as a whole. I could refer to such things as communications, transport, the way in which the previous Government increased postal charges from 10 cents to 18 cents, the way in which it established 2 commissions and the way in which it tried to convince people that it was doing so on an economical basis when it was doing so at the cost in those areas of general development. Many honourable members in all parties in this House are suffering indirectly as a result of those decisions.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Today I want to nail the broken promises of this present Liberal-National Country Party Government to sporting organisations and recreational organisations. Prior to the election in December last year organisations involved in sport, recreation and national fitness and the affairs of youth were given all sorts of assurances by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and other Ministers in this present Government which was then the caretaker Government. But I remind honourable members that between 1949 and 1972 when the previous Liberal-National Country Party Government had been in office no action at all, or very little action, had ever been taken to assist our amateur sporting organisations and our other voluntary sporting and recreational bodies. It was not until Labor became the Government in 1972 that we saw the establishment of a Department of Tourism and Recreation which was charged with the responsibility of doing something for those people in our community- young, middle-aged and old- who desired to participate in competitive sport or in some other field of recreational activity. For the first time in Australia’s history policies were initiated and introduced. This Government, prior to and even after the election, made all sorts of promises. On 17 December the then Minister for Tourism and Recreation, Senator Withers, made announcements of grants for sporting and recreational facilities throughout the length and breadth of Australia. I will come back to that point a little later.
On 1 1 March, at the opening of the Diamond Valley civic centre sporting complex, Senator Greenwood said:
II is an excellent example of federalism at work.
He went on to point out why that was so and said:
This appears to me to be an entirely responsible approach to the provision of community facilities having regard to the resources available and to the demands across the nation.
Further on in his speech he said:
National sporting associations have received considerable Government assistance over the past two or three years and very few Australians would begrudge them this help. It has been based generally on a $1 for $1 subsidy and the Commonwealth’s contribution has not really been all that large when one considers the tremendous amount of voluntary effort that is involved in running these groups.
Since those 2 statements we have seen the youth, sport and recreation sections hidden in the Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development. We have seen the staff employed in those sections reduced. We have seen programs introduced by the Labor Government decimated despite those assurances given by Senator Greenwood in March. On 19 March Senator Greenwood met a deputation representing over 50 sporting organisations. In his Press statement released on that date he said:
The Government is not abandoning its interest in and its commitment to sport.
He went on to say:
Directions may change and priorities may differ but the Government will continue to give careful consideration to the role and needs of sport. The provision of opportunities for sport, competitive recreation and purposeful use of leisure time are vitally important to our concept of community development.
Let us see what has happened. Assistance to sporting organisations has been reduced and, in some instances, completely withdrawn. Allocations for sporting and recreational facilities have been withdrawn or delayed. You, Mr Deputy Speaker, will be vitally interested in this because, prior to being sacked as Minister for Tourism and Recreation, I had prepared a list of allocations to be made. On 17 December the then Minister made the announcements. One of them was for the construction at Taree of an indoor sports centre, including a games room, toilet, showers, foyer, meeting room and kitchens, to the value of $120,000. No contract has yet been signed for that facility and no funds have been made available. In answer to Question No. 512 asked by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam), which appears on page 2692 of Hansard of 28 May, the Minister mentioned all the allocations that were announced on 17 December. There were 2 1 allocations in New South Wales. No contracts have been signed for twelve of those projects because the local government and sporting organisation bodies do not know what will happen in the future. For the . other 9 projects no funds have been made available to the local council or the sporting organisation concerned so that they can proceed with the development of these recreational and sporting facilities. All organisations, including local government, are now in a state of flux as to what will happen to them. They do not know whether the projects they have put before the Government will receive any assistance. They do not know whether the money made available for the assistance of sporting organisations will continue.
I made a speech during the adjournment debate last night in which I asked the Acting Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Newman) to see that the allocations of funds to sports, youth and recreational organisations are continued in the 1976-77 Budget. I doubt very much that this will happen because this Government -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! It is now 15 minutes to 1 o’clock. In accordance with standing order 106, the debate is interrupted.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill presented by Mr Ellicott, and read a first time.
– I move:
This is a Bill to amend the Marriage Act 1961-1973. In the last couple of years, most of the attention that has been given to the area of family law has concentrated on the new divorce, maintenance, custody and matrimonial property legislation contained in the Family Law Act, and on the new family courts which have been established under that Act. However, it is proper to acknowledge that many of the persons, both inside and outside Parliament, who expressed views both for and against the family law legislation were motivated by a- desire to preserve and protect the institution of marriage. The present Government shares entirely this desire, and the main provisions of this Bill have been included for no other purpose than that of underpinning marriage. The supporters of the Family Law Act saw it as upholding the institution of marriage by reducing the bitterness and humiliation in divorce and other matrimonial proceedings and by offering greater encouragement to parties to be reconciled or to terminate their relationship amicably through the use of marriage counselling.
This Bill seeks to uphold the institution of marriage by encouraging a greater awareness in persons of the nature, dimensions and responsibilities of marriage before they take the decisive step to enter into marriage. In other words, while the Family Law Act deals with cures, this Bill deals with prevention.
The Bill contains 4 measures aimed at encouraging stable marriages and discouraging the formation of hasty or ill-advised marriages. Of these measures, I would regard as the most farreaching the provisions in the Bill for the subsidising by the Government of pre-marital education programs. Honourable members will be aware that the Government already provides a substantial subsidy to approved voluntary organisations to offer marriage counselling. The amount for next year will be of the order of $1.9m. Marriage counselling is generally understood to mean the helping of individual spouses or individual married couples or, possibly, small groups of couples with their particular problems. However, the presentation of set programs or courses of pre-marital education that are not related to the particular circumstances of the persons attending them falls outside the concept of counselling. While the Government recognises, and will continue to support, the invaluable counselling work of both the approved counselling organisations and the family court counsellors, we feel that pre-marital education programs and courses can, if supported and made more widely available, also play an important part in helping to reduce marital instability. Accordingly, the Bill enables grants of money to be made to approved organisations for the conduct of pre-marital education programs. Voluntary organisations able and willing to conduct such programs can apply to the Attorney-General for approval. Marriage counselling organisations that are approved under the Family Law Act are deemed to be approved for the purposes of these amendments. In the same way as under the relevant provisions of the Family Law Act, the amendments provide for approved organisations to furnish annual financial statements and reports on their pre-marital education activities.
I am aware that already several organisations are conducting worthwhile pre-marital education programs. The making of grants under the amendments to organisations will necessarily depend on the availability of funds within the Government’s overall budgetary program. An important corollary to assisting the provision of pre-marital education is the need to increase public awareness of the existence of these programs. The assistance given to approved organisations will obviously extend to enabling them to advertise the courses. However, the Government has decided that an additional useful way of drawing the attention of engaged couples to the availability of these programs would be by requiring marriage celebrants to give couples information about the courses on receiving notice from them of the intended marriage.
This Bill therefore inserts a requirement in the Marriage Act for a celebrant to hand to the parties to an intended marriage a document, in a form to be prescribed, outlining the obligations and consequences of marriage and indicating the availability of both pre-marital education and marriage counselling. The information and advice contained in the document about the obligations and consequences would, of course, be of a practical and non-controversial nature. Honourable members may be assured that the views of marriage registering authorities and marriage counselling organisations would be obtained in the preparation of the document.
I have already indicated that the proposal to subsidise pre-marital education does not imply any diminution in the importance that, the Government attaches to individual marriage counselling. In fact, in recognition of the benefit that counselling might offer to persons contemplating marriage, the Government has decided that where a person under 18 has been refused parental consent to marry and wishes to apply to a magistrate for his consent instead, the person should first have to attend counselling with an approved marriage counselling organisation under the Family Law Act. Accordingly, the Bill provides that a magistrate is not to proceed with an application for his consent in place of parental consent unless a certificate is produced to him to the effect that the applicant has attended such counselling. Provision is included to enable the magistrate to dispense with the requirement if he is satisfied that counselling facilities are not reasonably available to the applicant.
Consistently with the policy of the Family Law Act towards the use of counselling, the Bill does not go to the extent of imposing a more general requirement of compulsory attendance at premarital education or counselling. I understand that it is the view of most marriage counselling experts that counselling or education is most likely to be effective where it is sought voluntarily.
These amendments also reflect the view of the Government that, in the case of young persons, there is still room for recognition of the value of parental views on their intended marriage. Only when a young person and his or her parent are unable to agree on the intended marriage is it felt that counselling should be made a condition of proceeding with that marriage.
A widely made suggestion for promoting marriage stability is that persons should be made to wait longer before being able to marry. I have received suggestions that persons should have to wait up to 12 months before being able to marry. Although the opinion of marriage counselling experts is somewhat divided on the value of long engagements, the Government saw merit in the proposal to extend the minimum period for giving notice of intended marriage beyond the existing period of 7 days. Proposals for substantial expansion of this period had to be weighed against the consideration that, in principle, arbitrary restrictions on a fundamental right such as the right to marry should not be lightly imposed. The Government decided that the best compromise would be to increase the minimum period of notice of intended marriage to 1 month, which is the period proposed in many of the suggestions received. I might add that the right to apply to a prescribed authority for a shortening of the minimum period for sufficient reason will remain unchanged in the Act.
I hope that the combination of the amendments to extend the period of notice of intended marriage and to require celebrants to hand the prescribed document to the parties on giving notice will encourage more engaged couples to consider the value of attending a pre-marital education course. Where an engaged couple are experiencing difficulties as they approach marriage, I hope that the information about marriage counselling contained in the document might encourage them, in the extra time they will have to wait before the marriage, to consider consulting a marriage counsellor about their difficulties.
The remainder of the provisions of this Bill are of a more technical or formal nature. The virtually obsolete action for breach of promise of marriage is abolished. The amendment preserves any pending action for breach of promise, and also preserves any right that a person would otherwise have had to recover gifts given in contemplation of marriage.
The provisions in the Family Law Act prescribing the circumstances in which a marriage is void are to be incorporated in the Marriage Act, where one would expect to find them. By a curious coincidence, on the 2 occasions when this
Parliament has approved major reforms of family law, the reform of the law of dissolution of marriage has preceded the reform of the law governing the formation of marriage. The Matrimonial Causes Act of 1959 preceded the Marriage Act of 196 1 and the Family Law Act of last year preceded this Bill. One consequence of this was that the void marriage provisions had to be included in the divorce legislation on both occasions. In rectifying this state of affairs and putting the void marriage provisions in the Marriage Act, some formal drafting changes have been made to what is a highly technical area of law. No changes of substance have, however, been made.
A number of provisions of the Bill provide for various functions now exercised under the Act by courts and judges or magistrates to be exercised by the family courts and judges of those courts respectively. By family courts I refer to both the Family Court of Australia and State family courts. The amendments would also enable proclamations to be made having the effect of making these functions exercisable exclusively by family courts and family court judges.
I have introduced this Bill at this late stage in the current sittings so that honourable members and other interested persons and bodies will have the opportunity, which I am sure they will use, of studying its provisions and making representations to me on them before debate is resumed in the next sittings. I feel sure that when they have studied the Bill they will recognise that the Government is making a very real attempt to try and bolster the institution of marriage by the only means that is really likely to work in the long run. This is neither prohibition nor compulsion, but persuasion and inducement to people to increase their self-awareness and awareness of each other when contemplating marriage, and thereby to make with more prudence and consideration what will be their most important decision. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Lionel Bowen) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Ellicott, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill is the first of a series of proposals the Government hopes to bring before the Parliament relating to the revision of the Judiciary Act.
It is the first step in a thorough revision of that Act and is concerned primarily with the question of relieving the High Court of some of the burden of its original and appellate jurisdiction. A number of the justices of the High Court have drawn attention in recent times to the need for some relief to be given. At the same time the amendments will, I believe, have the effect of strengthening State supreme courts by enabling them to handle cases involving federal jurisdiction which at present are dealt with by the High Court.
The High Court occupies a position of special importance under our constitutional framework. Not only is it the final interpreter of the Constitution, but it has a significant role as the court of appeal from State supreme courts and other federal courts. In this role, it has achieved recognition throughout the common law world as one of the great common law courts. It is vital to the working of the High Court that it should be left free to concentrate on constitutional issues and on the fundamental issues of law that come before it in the exercise of its appellate jurisdiction.
Before explaining the change that would be made by the Bill, it will be useful to explain, in general terms, the present sources of the High Court’s jurisdiction. It has an original jurisdiction, derived in 2 ways. One is directly from section 75 of the Constitution; the other from the power given to the Parliament by section 76 of the Constitution to confer original jurisdiction on the High Court. The matters specified in section 75 and in laws of the Parliament passed under section 76 together make up the content of federal jurisdiction.
The High Court has an appellate jurisdiction, conferred by section 73 of the Constitution. Section 73 provides for appeals to the High Court from State supreme courts, other State courts exercising federal jurisdiction and federal courts. The Parliament may prescribe exceptions to that appellate jurisdiction, and regulate its exercise.
The Judiciary Act provides, in general terms, for the appellate and original jurisdiction of the High Court and for the exercise of federal jurisdiction by State courts. In addition, particular Acts provide for the jurisdiction of the High Court, federal courts and State courts in particular matters. The scheme of the Judiciary Act is broadly as follows:
Section 35 of the Act deals with appeals from State supreme courts to the High Court. It provides for appeals as of right to the High Court in cases defined in terms of a money value of $3,000 and upwards, and in cases involving the status of persons under laws relating to aliens, marriage, divorce, bankruptcy and insolvency. In certain other cases, an appeal lies by leave of the High Court or the State supreme court concerned. Otherwise, an appeal lies only by special leave of the High Court. An appeal can at present lie as of right from a single judge of a Stale supreme court provided the test in section 35 is satisfied. Section 39 of the Act confers federal jurisdiction on State courts. It provides that no appeal lies to the Privy Council from a State court exercising federal jurisdiction. An appeal lies to the High Court from any State court exercising federal jurisdiction where an appeal would lie to the State supreme court and, in other cases, the High Court may grant special leave to appeal from a State court exercising federal jurisdiction.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– The High Court is empowered to order the removal into the High Court from a State court of any proceedings involving constitutional issues. Such an order is to be made as of course when sought by the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth or of a State. Where a constitutional issue before a State court involves an inter se question, it is automatically removed into the High Court. An inter se question is one involving the mutual limits of the constitutional power of the Commonwealth and the States. This provision was inserted in 1907 to prevent the Privy Council from dealing with constitutional questions of an inter se character. Appeals in constitutional matters can no longer be taken directly from State courts to the Privy Council. This position was finally established by the Judiciary Act 1968. Section 40A is therefore no longer necessary to meet its original purpose. Nor is section 3 8 a. Because section 40 a operates automatically in cases involving inter se questions it can cause inconvenience and sometimes can cause insignificant constitutional and other questions to be sent to the High Court. Under the present provisions the High Court may, on an application by a party to the proceedings, remit a matter before it to a State court for trial.
The principal changes the Bill would make to that scheme are as follows: The relatively low limit of the money value defining appeals as of right from State Supreme Courts to the High Court, $3,000, which was fixed in 1955 and the right of appeal from lower State courts exercising federal jurisdiction mean that matters of lesser significance can come before the High Court. The Bill proposes that the amount of $3,000 be increased to $20,000. An appeal as of right would not he from any State court other than the Full Court of the Supreme Court, nor would it lie as of right where the only ground of appeal is the quantum of damages in death or personal injury cases. In all other cases an appeal would be by special leave only. Special provisions relating to appeals in other Acts would not be affected.
The provisions of the Judiciary Act, sections 38a and 40 a, giving the High Court exclusive jurisdiction in matters involving inter se questions- except in criminal matters- and ensuring automatic removal of inter se questions from State courts into the High Court would be repealed. As I have said they were originally intended to ensure that these matters did not reach the Privy Council by appeal directly from State courts. This is not now possible, so that sections 38A and 40A may be repealed. The provisions for removal of constitutional issues to the be High Court by order of the High Court are to extended to federal and Territory courts as well as State courts. The Attorney-General of the Commonwealth and the States are to be given a right to intervene in proceedings in all courts involving constitutional issues. At present, an Attorney-General may intervene only by leave of the court. Provision is made for the court to award costs against the Commonwealth or a State intervening in proceedings under this power. This should protect litigants from having to pay increased costs as a result of intervention.
A new provision is to be inserted requiring notice to be given to the Attorneys-General of the Commonwealth and the States of proceedings involving constitutional issues in courts other than the High Court. A provision is included to enable the Commonwealth Attorney-General to compensate parties for any increased costs due to an adjournment of a case for the purpose of giving such notice. A new provision is to be inserted empowering the High Court to order removal into the High Court of a matter of federal jurisdiction from another court. This will enable important questions of federal law to be decided directly by the High Court without having to go through the trial in the other court and an appeal to the High Court.
The provision for remittal by the High Court of matters to State courts for trial is to be extended in 2 ways. The High Court is to be given power to remit a matter of its own motion. A matter may be remitted to a federal court or a Territory court as well as to a State court. A new provision is to be inserted giving a barrister or solicitor who is on the High Court Roll and entitled to practise in a federal court a right of audience in any State court exercising federal jurisdiction.
The general effect of the changes will be to provide some relief to the High Court, by restricting the appeals that come to it as of right and enabling it to remit to other courts for trial matters commenced in the original jurisdiction of the High Court. It will provide a firm and more appropriate framework within which the High Court and other courts can operate in the future. The changes will also enhance the jurisdiction of State courts, particularly the State Supreme Courts. The existing provisions forbidding State courts from dealing with inter se questions have operated to prevent State courts from making a substantial contribution to the interpretation of the Constitution, since most constitutional issues involve inter se questions. Furthermore, the provision that an appeal does not lie as of right to the High Court directly from a single judge of the State Supreme Court or from a lower court of a State will give greater authority to the State Full Courts and Courts of Appeal.
As honourable members will appreciate, the present Bill contains a number of significant and far reaching reforms to the Judiciary Act. They stem from work done by the Judiciary Act Review Committee which was established in 1968 and I would like to pay tribute to those who worked on that Committee. I propose to reconstitute it for the purpose of completing that review. The Bill is introduced at this time to allow ample opportunity for it to be studied by members of the Parliament, the States and the legal profession before debate on it resumes in the Budget sittings and the Government will be glad to consider representations that are made concerning its terms. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Lionel Bowen) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Viner, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill is basically the same as the one introduced by the previous Minister for Aboriginal Affairs late in the life of the previous Parliament but which lapsed as a result of the double dissolution of Parliament. The purpose and provisions of that Bill have been re-examined and the principles behind it accepted by the Government. Two particular amendments are proposed which I will mention later. The Bill is a tangible indication of this Government’s commitment to the principle that Aboriginals and Islanders should be as free as other Australians to determine their own future and to take their rightful place as citizens in the Australian community. In January 1972 the Right Honourable William McMahon announced his Government’s intention of introducing legislation for the incorporation of Aboriginal communities. This intention was given support by Mr Justice Woodward in the first report of the Aboriginal Land Rights Commission in 1973. In his report, the Commissioner pointed out that existing legal provisions in respect of incorporation were not adequate to meet the needs of the communities with which he had come into contact in the course of his inquiries.
Existing State and Territory legislation provides for a range of forms of incorporation for a variety of purposes- charitable, social, cultural and sporting organisations, companies, partnerships and other forms of business enterprise. The complexities of such matters are confusing enough to anyone but company lawyers; one can well imagine the bewilderment of Aboriginal elders in remote tradition-oriented communities, who simply want to get on with their own projects, when faced by the immense amount of documentation necessary to enable them to act as a legally recognised corporate body. But it is not only to eliminate these complexities that I am now introducing this Bill. Aboriginal communities have been obliged to learn to adopt nonAboriginal ways when it is necessary to meet Government and other requirements, and have already demonstrated, in the large number of incorporated communities and associations already in existence, their preparedness to do so.
What is so important about this measure is that it will recognise cultural differences between the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal societies and enable Aboriginal communities to develop legally recognisable bodies which reflect their own culture and do not require them to subjugate this culture to overriding Western European legal concepts. This is a very real manifestation of the growing recognition throughout Australia of the validity and strength of Aboriginal society -which, I might add, is clearly acknowledged in the policy of the Government Parties which recognises a special obligation ‘to provide opportunities for Aborigines to preserve their traditions, languages and customs from further encroachment and destruction where possible ‘.
The 2 distinct forms of corporate entity which may be established under the legislative processes provided by the Bill are Aboriginal councils, and Aboriginal associations. Councils are geographically-based bodies which may undertake a variety of functions on behalf of an Aboriginal community of the area, provided that these include the provision of at least one of the kinds of services listed in clause 11(3) such as housing, health, municipal and related services. By providing for the incorporation of councils, the legislation will allow Aboriginal communities to incorporate without requiring registration of community membership, as in the case of associations. A council is in the nature of a community corporation based on a local Aboriginal social structure serving the special interests of that community. Aboriginal Associations may be formed by a group of Aboriginals for any social or economic purpose, including the conduct of a business enterprise.
Aboriginal communities and organisations receiving grants from the Commonwealth are normally required to be incorporated so that they may be legally accountable and responsible for their actions. It is not intended that, with the bringing into force of this legislation, Aboriginal groups already incorporated will be required to incorporate under the new legislation, and such organisations may well wish to continue in their present form. The new legislation will, however, make it simpler for them to adopt structures relevant to their needs and will make it simpler for new organisations to incorporate in an appropriate manner. There is, however, no requirement that groups newly incorporating must do so under the new legislation: Some may well wish to incorporate under existing Commonwealth or State legislation, and they will be free to do so.
Concern has been expressed by some that there may be conflict where local governmenttype services are already being provided by an existing local government authority. Clause 30(1) specifically excludes Aboriginal councils from making by-laws inconsistent with existing laws in force in the area of the council. It will be necessary for any Council by-laws to be laid on the table of each chamber for 14 days, which is an addition made to the Bill introduced by the previous Government. The present Government considered it proper that these by-laws should be subject to the scrutiny of Parliament. I draw attention to the provisions of clauses 16 (3) and 17 (4) of the Bill. Honourable members will appreciate that in some remote areas of Australia local government authorities do not exist. However, these provisions will ensure that there will be no conflict between the establishment of an Aboriginal council in that area and any future proposals for the development of local government.
This Bill, though necessarily complex in part, has been made as straightforward as possible. Out of it will come a major benefit for Aboriginal communities and groups throughout Australia, enabling them to establish themselves as legally recognised bodies in a form and for purposes which are meaningful to them. It will also ensure that these bodies accept responsibility for their corporate actions. In the light of last year’s general consensus in the House as to the value of this legislation, I am confident it will now receive the support of honourable members and I commend the Bill to them.
Debate (on motion by Mr Young) adjourned.
– I move:
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969-1974, the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report: Construction of sleeping accommodation for 80 Women’s Royal Australian Army Corps personnel atPuckapuny al, Victoria.
The proposal will consist of accommodation buildings and a central recreation building. The recreation building will contain a lounge area, a kitchenette and a visitors’ room. The accommodnon buildings will contain groups of single bedrooms, with each group sharing toilet, shower, hair-washing, laundry and common-room facilities. The buildings will be of flat-type construction, having brick external walls, with timber window frames, carpeted concrete floors and metal deck roofs, with finishes and furniture appropriate to similar private sector accommodation. The faculty will conform to scales and standards of accommodation for the Services. The current limit of cost estimate is $900,000. Sketch plans for the proposal are being developed based on the description outlined, and these will be available for presentation to the Committee towards the end of June 1976. 1 table a location plan for the proposal.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 2 June, on motion by Mr Howard:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-I think it would be fair to say that on some issues of the tariff, both sides of this House have a similar approach. We differ on one fundamental aspect. We on the Opposition side of the House believe that there must be optimum use of Australia’s resources; that the optimum use can best be achieved by defining the key industries which this country must have, by making adequate provision for the phasing out of industries which are not required- a phasing out which will not disrupt the social fabric. I can only repeat what I have said many times before. Whenever there is a tariff change there must be adequate structural adjustment assistance. On the other hand, the Government is revealed as lurching from crisis to crisis, adopting an ad hoc approach and not following any practical guidelines. I can sympathise with the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard) for his task of trying to conform to the unqualified election campaign promise of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) to implement the recommendations of every Industries Assistance Commission report. There must be regard for special issues not raised in the IAC reports, and the hard political decisions that must be taken in respect of various industries. Apart from the bipartisan approach to some issues of the tariff, there remains the question of the administration of the various pieces of Customs legislation, and it is to that question that I want to turn today.
My concern is to restore to this House its rights, indeed its constitutional duty under section S3 of the Constitution, to initiate changes in the taxation laws. I have spoken before of the need for this House to debate tariff changes at the time that they have some relevance, not long after the event, when industry has adjusted to the new duties, when many overseas contracts have been signed, and when an amendment would simply disrupt business. I want to say a little more on this question when I refer to the report and the recommendations of the Joint Committee on the Parliamentary Committee System at the conclusion of what I say on the tariff. In the system of Gazette notices, tariff proposals not debated, and validation Bills, this House is putting itself in a position where it is helpless to amend anything that may have been done by officials.
I turn to some genuine questions which I have in regard to the various proposals in this Bill. I have asked questions before, each time a tariff matter had arisen, and each time the Minister has thanked the House for an interesting debate, and ignored the questions that have been posed. But I intend to try again, and see whether the Minister can give some answers to questions which we in this House are entitled to ask and have answered. His attitude is on a par with his remarks on the Customs Amendment Bill. In the debate on that Bill I spelt out at some length the recommendations of the Bland Committee about the need for appeal against arbitrary decisions on the value for duty. After beginning to accuse the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Antony Whitlam) and me of misleading the House, he backed away to suggest that there was a hint in our remarks that the Government had not given due consideration to the issue. Then he proposed, as recorded at page 2146 of Hansard to tell us that he understood- he used the word ‘understood’ at least twice- that there was an appeal, and that we should read the very Schedule in an Act to which we had been drawing his attention.
Let me deal now with the proposals which are validated by this Bill. The first Proposal, No. 7 of 8 April, deals with the motor industry, a subject to which I shall return later. Associated with it is Proposal No. 9 of 29 April. That latter proposal deals with motor vehicles which are more than 30 years old. They are now to be admitted free of duty. It is true that, in the tariff, antiques are admitted free of duty, but to be classed as an antique they must be more than 100 years old. I realise that the importation of vintage motor vehicles, which cannot reach that age, pose no threat to Australian industry. The Proposal therefore demonstrates the fact that duties of customs are designed for protection and not for the raising of revenue, for if they were so designed to collect revenue, these vehicles would be the very last item admitted free of duty. What does concern me is that here is a decision made in a vacuum. It is no secret that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) is an admirer of these vintage cars, and no doubt his influence played some part in dealing with the representations for their admission free of duty. He will no doubt benefit when next he imports such a vehicle. I am seeking the answer to why this principle cannot be extended to all second-hand goods which do not threaten Australian industries. The Proposal is an ad hoc decision, and I am looking to the
Minister to explain the principles behind it, and the further action he contemplates for similar goods. We must not forget that this change is one announced through the Press on a day that the House was sitting, not first announced in the House. I had raised before, the question of why changes were made by tariff proposal when substantive legislation could equally well be used, when there was no element of speculation involved.
Let me turn now to Proposal No. 8 of 29 April 1976. It adds further goods to the Schedule of the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement. That Agreement, according to the Minister’s conservative colleagues in New Zealand, is on the verge of collapse. There are other goods being added to the Schedule by Proposal No. 12, but luce this Proposal, I cannot identify what the goods are. It seems to me that this House deserves more information when goods are added to the Schedule, not a mere brushing aside of them, as in Proposal No. 12, as administrative changes.
The next proposal to be dealt with is No. 10 of 10 May 1976. It deals with the rate of duty on injection moulding machines. Those machines were subject to an inquiry by the Temporary Assistance Authority, who recommended temporary duties. As members may be aware, the temporary duties lapse 3 months after the Government receives the final report of the IAC on the goods in question. That final report is titled ‘Miscellaneous Industrial Machinery’, and is dated 30 December 1975. It was not until 29 April that it was tabled in the House, and then it was treated as a draft report; that is, no decisions would be taken on it until comments had been received. The period for comment has been extended because of the complex issues involved. What has happened? In a week when the Parliament was not sitting, it was necessary to introduce these new duties on injection moulding machines by a notice in the Gazette, followed by a proposal in this House. I have spoken before of the objections to the use of the Gazette to change duties; they were introduced with a promise to be used in an emergency only. Clearly there was an emergency here. The temporary duties were about to run out. What we nave not heard from the Government is what was in the report that took almost 4 months for it to be tabled and treated as a draft report. Certainly this was not an occasion when the Gazette notice should have been used, and I am still looking for the Minister to assure us that the procedure will be used only as it was intended to be used.
In proposal No. 12 of 10 May, I have a question which the Minister may be able to answer. The 2 IAC reports involved recommend minimum rates of duty for some goods, subject to our international trade treaty obligations. If I understand the proposal correctly, the rate placed on those goods is 5 per cent from all sources. Is this merely a device to raise revenue, some sort of token level of protection for the sake of industry, or is there some margin of preference retained by a duty of 5 per cent against all comers? The same proposal contains what are said to be administrative changes. One of them provides for the duty free admission of goods under by-law when scientific goods are subject to an agreement between this nation and another nation. What I am putting to the Minister is that such matters are properly the subject for debate in this House, not matters to be tucked away in supporting documents which must be carefully monitored. If our international obligations give rise to changes in the law, we should know about them. If our laws are to be changed at the behest of an international organisation, it is for this House to fulfil its constitutional duty in relation to the imposition of taxation, not to follow blindly international practice, or, as in the case of the mysterious protocol on value for duty, possible future international practice.
Proposal No. 12 of 27 May deals with sunglasses, optical frames, etc. The IAC report suggested that there would be no unemployment arising from its recommendations, although there might be a halt to planned expansion of Martin Wells Pty Ltd at St Marys in New South Wales. Members will be aware of what followed. The implementation of the report would have led to the dismissal ultimately of 400 workers, and we had deputations from both management and workers. At least the Government has accepted the fact that there will need to be a period of adjustment, and has phased the new recommended duties over a period of 3 years. Regretfully, it does nothing about the 400 workers, some of whom must be found other jobs as the industry phases out.
I return to Proposal No. 7 of 8 April which deals with the motor industry. In all the fine talk of this Government, we have yet to hear a firm statement about the fate of the 4-cylinder engine plant at Lonsdale. Senator Cotton seems to be putting out more and more Press reports, all of which merely put off the issue until a later date. It is time for this Government to come clean. It is time we heard what arrangements have been made to ensure that the plant will go ahead. It is also far beyond time when we should hear what the Government is doing about the abolition of the non-reversion rule for components. The abolition of that rule is bringing a serious problem to a head. I know that a committee has been formed to discuss the motor industry. My impression is that the message has not yet been received. The crisis is here and now, and the establishment of yet another committee will not solve it. What is needed is a firm announcement that the non-reversion rule will be maintained, at least until the new industry panel can make further recommendations. What is needed also is an announcement on the 4-cylinder engine plant before this House rises.
In the past, this House has neglected the opportunity to debate tariff measures. Those measures impinge on the whole structure of our industrial base and our skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled employment. I sincerely hope that members of the Parliament and observers of the parliamentary business will have noticed the vastly increased interest from this side of the House during the first session of this new Government in any alterations which take place in existing tariff.
The other matter I wish to raise is the recommendations of the Joint Committee on the Parliamentary Committee System. I draw the attention of members of the House to the specific recommendation of the Committee on the way in which tariff alterations, tariff proposals or IAC recommendations and reports ought to be dealt with by this Parliament. I ask for leave to have incorporated in Hansard paragraph 133 of that report, so members will be able to read the views presented to the Committee by the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly). I share his views, as do other members. We see a need for this Parliament to take a greater interest, in a more detailed way, in tariff issues. The mechanics of the Parliament lend themselves to our becoming vastly more knowledgeable on any alterations that are recommended either by the Government acting on an IAC report or on the IAC report itself.
-Is leave granted for paragraph 133 of the report to be incorporated in Hansard? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
Tariff proposals 133 The Committee has recommended that legislation committees should be constituted for each Bill. Accordingly it would be inconsistent and inappropriate to suggest a permanent legislation committee to consider tariff proposals. The alternative, to include consideration of tariff proposals and IAC reports within a system of standing subject matter committees has obvious merit. However, the Committee has concluded (see Chapter IV) that the House should not establish a system of permanent standing subject matter committees. It is preferable to appoint select committees to do specific jobs when necessary. In Chapter IV the Committee discusses the establishment of a business committee. This committee is to carry out a sifting process- reporting to the House on any matters which it thinks require select committee type consideration. It is proposed therefore that tariff proposals and IAC reports be included amongst the material sifted by the business committee.
– I support the Bill. My main purpose in entering the debate today is to raise in somewhat more general terms some of the issues surrounding the question of tariff policy in Australia. The area of tariff policy is one of the most important areas with which any government has to deal. The particular tariff policy adopted by a government can have a profound influence on the rate of growth of the economy, on the price which consumers pay for goods and services, on the distribution of the work force, on relative development of metropolitan and non-metropolitan areas, on our relations with other countries and, most importantly, on the standard of living of every Australian. Tariff policy cannot be looked at in isolation from other policies. It has a close and obvious inter-relationship with exchange rate policy. It is less frequently recognised by the general public, although nonetheless important for that, that tariff policy also has a close relationship with fiscal and monetary policy, employment policies, policies on rural industries and decentralisation and foreign policy. In other words, there are few more important issues which this House could discuss than the issue of tariffs.
For a country such as Australia, which has higher levels of tariff protection for industrial products than any other developed country, with the exception of New Zealand, it is regrettable that all too often in the past this House has neglected its responsibility to debate this issue as widely as possible. My colleague the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly)- I am delighted to see him in the chamber- has been almost a lone voice crying in the wilderness in his attempts to promote debate on the subject. That he has been relatively unsuccessful in this respect perhaps owes something to the fact that he is an extremely modest member. However, I am pleased that he will be speaking later in this debate.
As a member from an electorate which has an important manufacturing sector as well as an important rural sector, I am becoming increasingly concerned at the growth of expression in Australia of the view that what is good for the manufacturing sector is bad for the rural sector, and conversely. In my opinion, such a view is quite fallacious and shows little understanding of either the interrelationships between the 2 sectors or the simple economics of development. As well, it ignores much of the community not directly part of either sector. For example, it ignores the largest sectoral employer of labourthe tertiary sector- and all those persons not in the work force at all, particularly the aged. More important, however, is the simple fact that, if we want this nation of ours to develop its full potential and to generate the goods and services needed to accommodate the community’s increasingly rising and diversified material and other aspirations, we must utilise our resources in the most efficient manner compatible with our other policy objectives. Efficient resource usage is fundamental to the achievement of our overall objectives.
I do not believe that efficient resource usage can be achieved without the healthy development of all sectors- primary, secondary and tertiary. I stress both these considerations- namely, the objective of efficient resource utilisation and the fact that the community and the Government may also have other objectives which are not directly in harmony with the first objective, at least in other than the very long term. I have in mind here, for example- I use this example because it is of the greatest importance to my own electorate but one can think of many other examplesthe possible lack of full compatibility between the most efficient allocation of resources and the desirability of encouraging greater decentralisation in Australia. This need to accommodate different objectives has direct relevance to the question of tariff policy. It has relevance not only to what the overall thrust of tariff policies should be but as well to the rate at which tariffs should be altered over time and to the need or otherwise for adjustment assistance to complement changes in the levels of tariffs in different industries. Few people would disagree with the proposition that, given our less than limitless resources of land, labour and capital, we should concentrate our productive efforts in those areas in which we are most efficient. The question is: Which are those areas?
I believe that we can say without hesitation that we are a highly efficient producer of a range of rural products- notably, wheat, wool, beef and sugar. We are an efficient producer of a wide range of minerals. When we get to the manufacturing sector the position becomes much more clouded. Certainly we are an efficient producer of steel, but are we an efficient producer of motor vehicles, footwear, textiles, synthetic yarns and so on? This itself is too broad a question. Within the manufacturing sector and within particular industries in that sector there is evidence to indicate that we are an efficient producer. We would probably be a more efficient producer if we had greater industry rationalisation in certain areas. The important point is that at the end of the day all industries in all sectors are competing with each other for resources. It is not a simple question of manufacturing versus rural, or manufacturing versus mining. Indeed in many respects the most important competition for resources is between industries within the manufacturing sector. To argue for lower tariffs is not in itself simply to argue the case for the rural sector against the manufacturing sector, but rather it is to argue the case for policies to achieve the greatest efficiency within the manufacturing sector whilst recognising the problems that high tariffs pose for those areas of the economy that do not require protection.
It is not for government to provide the answers as to which manufacturing, rural or tertiary industries are efficient and which are not. However, it is the responsibility of government to help provide the economic environment in which the answers can be determined basically by the market place. This is one of the major philosophical differences between us on this side of the House and the Opposition. The Australian Labor Party believes that government can be sufficiently omniscient to predict the future with accuracy and therefore to be able to say to one industry or the other: ‘You should, or must, do this or do that.’ Experience around the world over very many years has proved that this fundamental premise of Labor’s is a fallacy. Government is as fallible- perhaps more fallible- in predicting the future course of supply and demand as anyone else. The truth is that, despite its imperfections- and it does have imperfections- the private enterprise market system is still the best determiner of the most efficient allocation of resources. Government has a major responsibility to ensure that the market system operates with the least degree of imperfection. Herein lies one of the inherent problems with tariffs.
Tariffs themselves tend to distort the market, particularly when, as we have in Australia, there is a wide range in the level of tariffs applying to different industries. This fact in itself is a compelling argument for the proposition that, the lower the level of tariffs, the less imperfect is the market system and therefore the better is the allocation of resources. That is a rather sweeping generalisation, of course, but it is not without truth for all that. Tariffs in Australia are only one of many imperfections in the market system which affect our allocation of resources. Differential indirect taxes are another. So also are the protective systems of other countries to which we export, or the systems in other countries which enable their exporters to compete with Australian exporters in third countries on unequal terms. All these and other factors need to be taken into account in framing our own policies, but they do not detract from the logic of the overall argument that lower rather than higher tariffs in Australia will lead to better utilisation of resources within Australia than would otherwise be the case.
The interrelationships between different sectors and between different industries within the same sector are extremely complex and deserve much closer research and study than we have given them in Australia in the past. I am pleased to see that the Industries Assistance Commission has studies along these lines under way. At the risk of over-simplification, however, one can say that high levels of staff protection act to the detriment of the more efficient primary, secondary and tertiary industries in the economy, through raising the overall cost structure, through diverting resources away from the more efficient industries and towards those that are protected, and through influencing exchange rate policy in a manner disadvantageous to export industries which in the main are those industries in which Australia has a comparative cost advantage.
However, whilst the overwhelming weight of economic argument is in favour of lower rather than higher tariffs, this does not mean that Australia should rush headlong down the path of rapidly and indiscriminately slashing tariffs. That is what the Whitlam Government did in 1973, with some pretty disastrous consequences. We must learn from that mistake.
The present tariff structure in Australia has been developed over a very long number of years. Australian industry has been structured around this. Industries are constantly having to cope with and adjust to changes imposed on them for many reasons, probably the most important of which are changing demand and changing technology. But industries require time to adjust to change. It makes little sense to force change at such a pace as to cause major dislocation. This is very important in the case of existing investment in particular industries. Potential new investment is highly mobile, but frequently, existing investment is not mobile other than over a period of time. The existing plant and equipment normally will have only limited alternative use. Particularly if the industry is in a nonmetropolitan area, the displaced labour force will have difficulty in easily finding alternative employment in the area. If people are forced to leave the area at short notice to find new work, and especially if they have to go to a metropolitan area for employment, then there are important and very considerable economic and, just as important, social costs incurred. I am therefore very strongly of the view that tariff changes should occur gradually. If the Government takes a decision that an industry is too high cost an industry and should not continue to be protected, then the reduction in protection should be phased in over a period sufficiently long to permit the resources in the industry to move to other industries with the minimum of economic and social disruption. If such an approach is not followed the costs resulting from the tariff reduction may very well outweigh the benefits. As with most things in life- economic and other- the rate of change rather than change itself is the most critical factor influencing the ability of the individual or the institution to cope with and adjust to the change without too severe debilitating effects.
It should also be recognised by governments that what is an acceptable rate of change in the area of tariff policy depends importantly on the general level of activity in the economy at any particular time. It also depends on the location of the industry affected and on the availability of adjustment assistance, both to the companies concerned and to their employees. I believe that the Government should pay increasing regard to the need for adjustment assistance if it is going to pursue policies- tariff or other-designed to increase the efficiency of resource utilisation in Australia. There is also a great need to devote more attention to training persons for new jobs in a world in which change is constantly being forced upon us.
I also believe that in framing its tariff policy towards a particular industry, government should pay more regard than it has tended to do in the past to the external costs involved in inducing change in the structure of the industry. For example, if an industry in a non-metropolitan area is forced to close down because of a tariff decision and the employees are forced to move to a metropolitan area to find alternative employment, there are definite costs involved in providing new housing in the metropolitan area and in the added pressure on existing services in the city concerned. These costs are difficult to quantify but they must not be ignored simply for that reason. Equally, account should be taken of the costs incurred by the whole community in which the industry operates. For example, the sudden closure of a major factory in my own electorate of Ballaarat would have significant adverse consequences for Ballaarat in terms of its effect on other supplier and servicing industries and on the tertiary sector of the city. The real and lasting consequences on the economy of Ballaarat must be taken into full account when the tariff decision is first being considered.
I make a plea to the Government to make its tariff policy intentions clearly known and at an early date. There is uncertainty in my own electorate as to what is the Government’s attitude, in actual practice, towards tariffs. A clear and early statement would be an important element in generating the greater degree of confidence within the private sector that the Government is seeking. In this connection I expect that the Government’s forthcoming White Paper on manufacturing industry will be of great significance. It is being produced at a time when we need to take a long and a hard look at the type of Australia we want over the remainder of this century and at the interrelationships between the different sectors of the economy. There is clear evidence pointing to the likelihood of a slowdown in the rate of population and an even more rapid reduction in the rate of growth of the work force. This is of the utmost importance for tariff policy since one of the major historic reasons for the protection we have provided to many manufacturing industries in the past was our wish to provide employment opportunities for a rapidly growing population.
Again, we have witnessed in Australia since the early 1960s a major transformation in the structure of our economy as a result of the development of our mineral wealth. We are now moving to the stage of greater exploitation of our energy minerals. We have seen m the past decade a dramatic change in our external relations, notably a major increase in our relationships with the countries of Asia, many of which wish to increase their trade with Australia. In the last 3 years we have witnessed a remarkable change in the operation of the international monetary system. We, along with most other developed countries, are in the midst of a fundamental reappraisal by the community of quality of life issues, of the appropriateness of the traditional work ethic and of the whole gamut of industrial relations. All these elements have a bearing on the tariff policies we should pursue and of course on many other policies as well. These policies will help to determine the Australia of the future, including the industrial structure and the role of manufacturing industry.
I should like to mention very briefly 2 other points. The first relates to one aspect of the Government’s proposed changes in regard to motor vehicles and commercial motor vehicles which were set out in the statement of the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard) in this place on 30 March 1976. The aspect I wish to deal with is that related to the reversion scheme as it is proposed to apply as from the end of 1 976. This has been debated previously but I wish to place on record my concern that the proposed abolition of the so-called reversion justification committee and the implementation in full of the reversion policy on 1 January 1977 could cause very severe difficulties for the automotive components industry in Australia. I have already discussed this matter with the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Senator Cotton) in another place and I know that it is being given most careful consideration. I would, however, urge the Government to review its proposals on this matter with a view to maintaining some form of regulatory or monitoring mechanism as the reversion policy is implemented and with a view to phasing in the reversion policy over an appropriate period rather than abruptly and in total from 1 January 1977. 1 also hope that there can be an early announcement of any review of the Government’s proposals in this area because pending review there is certainly a great deal of uncertainty in the industry and possible investment decisions where long lead times are involved are being frustrated at the moment.
Finally, I draw to the attention of the House the fact that earlier this week Mr Alf Rattigan retired as Chairman of the Industries Assistance Commission. Mr Rattigan has been one of Australia’s great public servants for many years. His 13-year period as chairman of the IAC and its predecessor, the Tariff Board, has been accompanied by a major development of the role and the stature of the IAC, and in this Mr Rattigan has made a fundamental contribution. I thank him for all he has done to assist the economic development of Australia. I wish him well in his retirement, if retirement is the right word. I rather suspect and certainly hope that his energies and abilities will be in heavy and continuing demand. At the same time I take this opportunity to offer Mr Rattigan ‘s successor at the IAC, Mr Bill McKinnon, my best wishes for a successful period of office. Mr McKinnon, too, has had a distinguished career in public service. I have been privileged to work closely with him in various capacities over a long period. He is a very able man and I am confident that he, like his predecessor, will make a significant contribution to the Australian economy in his onerous new position.
-A tariff debate always brings out new viewpoints and, within parties, even conflicting viewpoints. I listened with very great interest to the comments of the honourable member for Ballaarat (Mr Short). I represent the major centre of heavy industry in Australia. Tariffs are a matter of vital importance to us; so much so that recently it was necessary for certain action of a protective nature to be taken in respect of imports of black sheet steel. There is a good old saying that you never knock a doll over until you know what you are going to stand up in its place. That applies particularly to secondary industry. If we look at the Constitution we find that more attention is paid to the duties of customs and excise than to anything else. I think there are ten or eleven sections dealing with this matter. The protagonists for and against protection are still active through various pressure groups. But today the approach of any government ought to be conditioned by the realities of world trade. Let us be frank about it; world trade today is by no means bright. In some cases it is not flourishing, but sick. Whilst every nation today through the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and public protestations pays lip service to free trade, all are busily raising the tariff barriers just as high as they can possibly get them. The Labor Party is traditionally a protectionist party. That does not mean to say it is rabidly protectionist, but we start from one fundamental premise and it is this: That Australians who are enjoying Australian rates of pay or salary can well afford to buy the products of Australia’s secondary industry. There can, of course, be exceptions to that rule. Whilst no one would support in the long term what might be termed the feather-bedding of industries, by the same token we are a Party of long memories and long perspectives. We well remember the fall of Singapore and the fact that we were no longer under the protective aegis of the British Navy and that in fact we had to depend on our own strong right arm and the productivity of our secondary industries. For that reason there is a very real need in considering major tariff alterations to consider the defence potential that is involved.
We live in an age of steel and I represent a city of steel. Accordingly, whilst we do not normally ask for protection there are cases, particularly in respect of the smaller gauges of sheet steel products in which the labour content is so high, that we need protection. When it comes to the production of pig iron or the larger sections of steel, yes, we can certainly hold our own in world competition. Having said that, let it also be said that by no means all members of the Labor Party were, shall I say, enchanted with the acrosstheboard cuts There are certain fields, in particular the textile industry- and I have a major textile industry in my electorate- which suffered grievously. Nevertheless there is always a time to retrieve the mistakes that were made and those mistakes were made with due warning from those of us who had the appropriate experience.
For many years we as a Party were plagued by the textbook economists who chose to come over here from the Australian National University and from other universities and lecture us on all the” advantages of free trade. The honourable member for Ballaarat posed the very problem that I posed to some of these textbook economists. Whilst I am not averse to listen to the counsels of these people there is a time when hard common sense ought to prevail, and right now I do not see the need for any Australian secondary industry- this is a broad statement of policy-to be subjected to the impositions of the Industries Assistance Commission. It is a good time just to have a look at where we are running as a nation. Speaking from the top of my head I think that the export component of secondary industry is of the order of 20 per cent to 22 per cent, and it will be a problem to maintain that percentage in a world which is breaking up into protective blocs. There are of course the European Economic Community, the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance and the 2 Americas. Outside those there is the Third World and in the Pacific the only 2 major developed countries are Japan and Australia. There is a very real need for very close co-operation between those countries in terms of secondary industry. But above all we must consider our defence potential.
I have had the honour to sit in this House for over 13 years and to listen to some of the diatribes from the Government side on piddling matters, but when you come right down to the fundamentals it is our defence potential, our ability to stand as a nation, our ability to stand on our own feet and to rely upon our own ability and our own productivity, that is all-important. Australia to my knowledge is a nation which in raw resources lacks nothing with the possible exception of potash and sulphur. Beyond that I would say that we have every means of supplying not only our food requirements but also our energy requirements. In respect of energy, there has been a fetish for many years that everyone would use liquid hydrocarbons but the whole world has gone for a honeymoon with liquid hydrocarbons and the end is in sight. Despite all the propaganda that we see in the Press and its motivation, whether it is political or financial, the hard fact today is that life is an equation in hydrocarbons. They are transmutable; they are interchangeable. Whether they are solid, liquid, or gaseous they are all of equal importance and they are all equally available for the development of this country.
It will be the responsibility of this Government and its successor, which will be us again, to think in those term’s. Oil is available only off-shore and it is in remote areas. On the continental shelf there is very little. There is a lot of natural gas, but the oil is beyond. It is on the Exmouth plateau. It is in areas where deep-sea drilling will prevail. There we come to the cross-over point as to whether it is worth while to continue to look for oil there and to pay the cost involvedsomething to the order of $700m was the figure given to me just merely for exploration in the Exmouth Gulf- or whether the Government, forgetting politics, ought not to knuckle down to realities. We have in Australia excellent types of high volatile coal, which has as much as 7h per cent hydrogen and is ideally suitable for hydrogenation into liquid fuel.
For the future, despite the prodigality that there is in the United States and even in this country in the use of fuel and energy, we will have no alternative but to turn to that source. It is there. It is readily available and in Queensland particularly in the Darling Downs and in New South Wales in the Hunter Valley there are ideal coal types. If someone wants an alternative technology they should go down to the world ranking resources of the Latrobe Valley.
I am speaking only extemporaneously but I did want to make my contribution to this debate and to sound a note of warning because it is no good our being starry-eyed or woolly-minded. We are facing a pretty rough time today with a world divided into protective trading blocs. If we pursue the chimera, the will-o’-the-wisp of free trade- I know that there are free traders in the Government ranks and they will have their say whether it be in newspaper columns or elsewhere- and if Australia is to have any future at all because of its relative isolation in geographical terms it must be in terms of protected and sensibly protected secondary industry.
– I would like to say how glad I am to follow the honourable member for Ballaarat (Mr Short). I have been claiming both outside and inside this House that the new intake of members of Parliament is unusually intelligent and competent and the honourable member for Ballaarat has given us a demonstration of this today. He has the training and the intelligence to take a long, cool look at the tariff problem and he has shown his quality as indeed have many of my colleagues on this side of the House. I have not yet heard so much from the new intake of members on the other side, but no doubt we will hear them shortly. I used to be a loner, as you know Mr Speaker, in this lonely battle on tariffs but I now find that I am joined by a great many other much more intelligent and much younger people. I am glad to say to the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) that I agree utterly with his suggestion that there must be a better way of handling these tariff debates. Tariff matters should be discussed across a committee table, as I put forward in evidence to the Joint Committee on the Parliamentary Committee System. When one looks around and sees the disinterest in the House- I might say even when I am speakingone realises that we should be handling tariff matters better than this. Great advantages are given to particular companies. We ought to be examining tariff matters across a committee table.
In the remainder of my speech I wish to deal with only two matters. I shall not make this a full dress debate. I wish to deal with the- question of the subsidy equivalent that is inherent in tariff protection. I come to this matter easily because we are having a discussion inside and outside this House about the future of the shipbuilding industry. We are not rushing in to subsidise the shipbuilding industry because it is now clear that a price has to be paid. The protection to the shipbuilding industry is in the form of a bounty so the money comes from the taxpayer’s pockets so people are anxious about it and question it. We were told by a Minister in another place that it would cost about $13,000 for every man employed in building ships for the Australian shipbuilding industry to compete with overseas yards. So everybody says now that we must look at the question carefully. But no one worries about the subsidy equivalent of tariffs very much. Anybody who has done any economics at all will know that the subsidy equivalent that is inherent in tariff protection is a cost paid by exporters, not by anybody else.
Some people think it is paid by consumers, but it is not. If one looks at the case of the tariff on sheets one may ask how the exporter pays it. This is the way it works: The price of sheets is increased. The consumer price index goes up. The price of wages goes up and the cost is passed along until it comes to the exporter in the end. So the subsidy equivalent is something the exporter pays. Perhaps people want him to pay it. Perhaps no one thinks it matters. Perhaps the country decided long ago, as the honourable member for Berowra (Dr Edwards) said in the last debate on tariffs, that this is a decision that was made a long while ago and we have to continue down that road. That may be so. I am not arguing. All I am saying is that the subsidy equivalent is inherent in all tariff protection. If we get that fact into our heads it is a start towards understanding the problem. There is no such thing as a free feed. Tariff protection is paid for by the exporters in the end. Getting that clear in our minds has been a long and bitter battle from where I stand, but I think people are now understanding that there is no such thing as a free feed. Tariff protection is paid for by exporters in the end.
Let us look at the subsidy equivalent of simple things. In this legislation we are validating the Government’s actions on spectacle frames. Everybody would say: ‘That is simple. No one cares much about spectacle frames. They do not get built into the cost of shearing sheep or anything like that.’ However, the figures show that the subsidy equivalent for ophthalmic frames is $570,000. If one adds the cost of sunglass frames, mentioned by the Minister the other day, one arrives at a figure for subsidy equivalent of $ 1 m. Maybe that is worth while. My figures show that about $2,000 subsidy will be paid by the exporters for every person employed in the industry. Maybe that is worth while. I am just doing the measurement. It is an interesting kind of measurement when one realises that a $lm subsidy equivalent is paid for by exporters in relation to that simple action.
– I wish to inform the House that we have present in the galleries a party of members of the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha of India, led by Shri Om Mehta Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs. On behalf of the House I extend a very warm welcome to the members of the Indian Parliament and trust they will enjoy their stay in Australia. I am sure they will all understand how welcome they are in our country.
-Mr Speaker, I think your intervention was almost providential. I was about to move away from this subsidy equivalent question to the question of our trade with the less developed countries. For the benefit of my Indian colleagues I shall tell again the story that I have told in this House before. When I was in Bombay on one occasion I went to see a skim milk factory for which we had given a great deal of help to make available skim milk- ‘tone’ milk as it is called- in Bombay. At the end of the visit I asked: ‘Do you have any problems?’ The reply was: ‘Only one, Mr Kelly. We cannot get the foreign exchange to buy the skim milk powder we need’. I knew then that we had skim milk powder running out of our ears, as we have now. But people at the factory said that they could not get the skim milk powder. In the afternoon I went to a textile factory and had a look at its sheets. Afterwards I asked: ‘Have you any problems?’ The reply was: ‘Only one, Mr Kelly. We cannot get our sheets into Australia so that we can get foreign exchange’. The foreign exchange was required so that India could buy our skim milk powder. The honourable member for Cunningham speaks about standing on our own feet. Sometimes we are standing on other people’s feet. Let me illustrate it by the remarks of no less an authority than the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) speaking on Tuesday night with these unexceptional sentiments:
There is a great need in general for more practical recognition of the significance of international economic relations for the developing countries. More than any other single factor the developing countries need access for their products to the markets of developed countries which we believe would come to be reflected in more appropriate terms of trade for their exports.
Surely no one in this place is ignorant of the fact that this ever-widening gap will cause civilisation as we know it to go if we do not do one simple thing; that is, trade with the people who are trying to sell us things cheaply. We cannot brush the question aside, as it was brushed aside on our side today, by saying that things come from cheap labour countries. What kind of future for the world is there if that is the way our thinking runs? The Prime Minister spelled out the situation clearer than I have heard him do it before. We have a path to follow. I have heard the honourable member for Cunningham speak on this subject before. I understand his problem and I understand the problem of all the honourable members who speak for particular industries in their areas. But the honourable member for Cunningham, with his grasp of history, should remember one thing: What made the world war inevitable was the economic nationalism of the late 1930s. He says to us today: ‘We are going to go the same way again; we are going to go that pathway to inevitable doom to which economic nationalism always leads.
We have to recognise what we are doing and try to stop it. I do not pretend that it will be easy, perhaps not be as easy as maybe I have said in the past. The honourable member for Ballaarat said that violent action should not be taken in relation to some of the problems. I can see that on some occasions I have been rather too radical in my plea for lower tariffs. From now on we have to be a community that really faces up to the problems, and not just accede to the wishes of particular industries in particular areas. We should bear in mind the Prime Minister’s overwhelmingly serious warning that if we do not face up to these things we will deserve what we inevitably will get. The House must think about that much more than we ever have in the past.
– in reply- In replying to this debate I shall do what the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) has accused me of doing in other tariff debates, and that is thanking honourable members for the contributions they have made to the debate. I envy the simplicity with which my good friend and colleague, the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly) views the question of tariffs. I do not claim to bring to a consideration of tariff issues- I do not say this in any sarcastic sense, and I know my friend knows that I do not say it in that sense- the years of concentration and consideration that the honourable member for Wakefield has given to them both in government and in opposition. But in the short time that I have had ministerial responsibility for a large section of the tariff area, one thing has impressed itself upon me, and that is that one ought not to be too dogmatic and one ought not to be too doctrinaire when one talks about tariff matters.
I hope that when debates take place in this Parliament on tariff matters we can free ourselves from the rather old fashioned descriptions of free trade and protection. Indeed, it is not a simple matter. There are a number of indisputable areas. Of course, it is indisputable that Australia should develop sound international trading relations. Of course, it is indisputable that a nation as wealthy as Australia should be prepared to assist developing countries with their trade. That is a point of view which I have long accepted. It is a point of view that I was able to put m a valuable discussion that I had only last week with one of the larger industry associations of Australia, and a point of view which in general terms won acceptance from that group.
Having put that proposition, one can see that it is not a simple matter. It does not automatically follow that we must embark upon a policy of progressively and speedily lowering tariff levels in Australia. I am enchanted by the fact that in Opposition the Australian Labor Party has a new found fondness for the idea of debating tariff matters in this Parliament and of subjecting tariff proposals to parliamentary scrutiny. That enchantment becomes intrigue when I find that the second speaker in this debate on the Opposition side was none other than the former Minister for Minerals and Energy, the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor), who, when he was a Minister in the previous Government, was a past master of shutting out any parliamentary consideration of government policy measures. I find it very strange that the honourable member for Port Adelaide should stand up in this House and say that we must have more discussion on important tariff decisions when the most important tariff decision that has been taken in this country since the end of the Second World War- I refer to the decision which was taken in July 1973- was taken and announced during the winter recess of the Parliament during that year. It was done initially by Gazette notice, the very method that the honourable member for Port Adelaide has criticised. So the honourable member’s criticism of the machinery used by the Government to implement tariff decisions comes very strangely from a member of a Party which, when in office, really made it impossible for this Parliament to debate and to consider tariff matters. Of course there ought to be discussion. While I have responsibility for tariff matters in this House it will be my intention to facilitate as much as possible the sort of debate that has taken place today.
During the course of his remarks the honourable member for Port Adelaide raised a number of specific matters. In groping around for a few debating points the honourable member raised the issue of vintage cars. The Government has made a decision which simply says that any car that is over 30 years old will be treated for tariff purposes as a vintage car and is therefore admitted to the country free of duty. The honourable member for Port Adelaide admitted that it can hardly be argued that cars of that age represent damaging competition for the local industry, so he provides in his own words a logical justification for that decision.
He criticised the delay between the finalisation of the report on injection moulding machinery, which occurred in December of last year, and the tabling of that report. It is fair to say that a period of almost 6 months has elasped. It is also fair to say- the honourable member knows this- that when the present Government came into office there was a very substantial backlog of Industry Assistance Commission reports in respect of which the previous Government had made no decision. The honourable member also knows that the principal IAC report on the motor car industry was delivered, I think, in the middle of 1974 and that a period of some 18 months elapsed before it became necessary for the Government of the day, the then Whitlam Government, to send another reference to the IAC in effect to bring that report up to date. The honourable member knows very well that many of the bases upon which that report was written had been altered during that long period of delay.
I agree with the honourable member for Port Adelaide that unnecessary delay in making government decisions on IAC reports is a bad thing. It was for that reason that shortly after this Government came into office it determined a new procedure for dealing with IAC reports, which involved the introduction of a method of producing draft reports on which the Government and the IAC could obtain industry reaction. In addition, when final reports were brought down by the Industries Assistance Commission the Government would require its own officials to make a report on the recommendations of the IAC report within a period of 30 days. Some sections of industry have criticised the draft report procedure. I say to those who have criticised it, whether they be in industry or on the other side of the House, that it is part and parcel of an approach designed to speed up the process of government decision making on IAC reports. The Government asks that the new system be given an opportunity to operate, a chance to work itself out. The Government believes that in the long run the methods that it has introduced will improve the quality of decision making on IAC reports.
The honourable member for Ballaarat (Mr Short) and the honourable member for Port Adelaide raised the matter of the abolition of the reversion rules which are included in the motor vehicle plan announced by my colleague, the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Senator Cotton), at the end of March. I know that there has been considerable comment from sections of the component manufacturing industry. The Government is very well aware of the views that have been expressed by the component manufacturers regarding this section of the Government’s motor car plan. I think it is worth saying to the House that the decision taken by the Government regarding the reversion rules is part of an overall decision regarding the future of the motor vehicle industry. What is sometimes forgotten by those who criticise that section of the Government’s report is that under the motor vehicle plan the entry of the Japanese manufacturers into production in Australia means that, so far as the rules of the plan are concerned, they will be required over a period of years to increase progressively the local component of the motor vehicles that they manufacture in Australia. Similarly, existing manufacturers will be entitled over a period of years to reduce the element of local content from 95 per cent in some cases to 85 per cent. What is inherent in the decision taken by the Government about reversion control is that in the process of new entrants to the plan increasing their percentage of local content, as they are obliged to do under the rules, there will be a corresponding increase in demand on their part for locally sourced components.
The Government is very conscious of the concern felt by the component manufacturing industry. A large number of representations have been made, particularly to Senator Cotton who is the Minister responsible, and also to myself. We are listening to those representations. The honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) said that an announcement is needed before the Parliament rises. The honourable member sees everything in simple terms. He thinks the question of tariffs is very easy and that all one has to do is make rapid fire decisions. We had a good demonstration of how easy it was to make rapid fire decisions on tariff matters under the Whitlam Government. We all know how effective those rapid fire decisions- those kitchen cabinet decisions- were in the middle of 1 973. It is not an easy area or an area in which one should get carried away in dogma. The Government’s motor vehicle plan is an overall package. One section of it cannot be looked at in isolation from the others. If the honourable member for Port Adelaide is true to the criticism he made of the Government during his remarks he will recognise that there is an element of ad hockery in having given careful consideration to an overall plan for the motor vehicle industry and, within a matter of weeks of that plan being announced, altering sections of it. The Government is aware of the views of the component manufacturers. We are not utterly inflexible but we are saying that this is a part of the overall plan. There was a reason for the inclusion of the decision regarding the reversion rule. We believe that decision was reasonable and it is part of the overall plan.
-The Department made up your mind for you. You were not big enough to change the decision.
-I suggest that the Minister address his remarks through the Chair.
-I will be delighted to do so. There is just one other matter in the speech of the honourable member for Port Adelaide which I should like to take up. He referred to the comments on tariffs in the policy speech of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). He said- he will correct me if I misquote him- that the Prime Minister, during his policy speech, gave an unqualified assurance about implementation of Industries Assistance Commission reports. I have a copy of the section of the Prime Minister’s policy speech which dealt with tariffs. I think it is worth recalling to the House what the Prime Minister said on that particular occasion. He said:
We will give Australian industry the protection it needs. We would sooner have jobs than dogma. We will instruct the Industries Assistance Commission to take note of the Government’s policy. We will make Australian industry competitive again.
I think it ought to be said in this debate in response to those, both inside and outside this House, who have said that the Government has been silent on the question of general tariff policy that the Government has implemented all those sections of its pre-election policy statement on tariffs. Its pre-election policy statement on manufacturing industry and industrial policy contained a number of criteria and, as the honourable member for Port Adelaide and other honourable members opposite know, those criteria were the subject of a request sent by me to the Chairman of the Industries Assistance Commission some weeks ago. That request contained all the principles which had been enunciated in the Government’s pre-election policy statement on tariffs. In future, the IAC will, in accordance with my request, be required, not only in respect of future references but also in respect of references currently before it, to reflect the criteria contained in that policy statement in the reports it gives to the Government. That was the policy we laid down. It found wide acceptance throughout industry prior to the election. We have honoured that pre-election undertaking by giving those instructions and making that request to the Industries Assistance Commission.
In concluding my remarks on this debate, I should like particularly to thank the honourable member for Ballaarat (Mr Short) for the contribution he made to this debate. With respect to other honourable members who spoke during the debate, I think the honourable member for Ballaarat understood the difficulty of balancing competing interests and competing demands with respect to tariffs. He understands quite well that one cannot see the matter in black and white terms as the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor) did, although I could agree with much of what the honourable member for Cunningham said. In fact, I found one of his remarks quite amusing. He said, in effect, that there is an old saying that you never knock a doll over unless you know what takes its place. It is a great pity that he did not apply that policy to the mining industry when he was the Minister for Minerals and Energy because if ever a doll was knocked over by the action of a Government Minister when he was in office it was the mining industry at the hands of the former Minister for Minerals and Energy. To return to the honourable member for Ballaarat, I thought his contribution to this debate identified clearly in the minds of honourable members that this is an area where one cannot take a black and white position. Of course, one cannot give uncritical, unceasing and unvaried protection to all sectors of manufacturing industry but, equally, manufacturing industry has a right to survive in this country. This country requires strong manufacturing industry in a large number of significant areas of the Australian economy.
I even found myself in agreement with some of the remarks of the honourable member for Port Adelaide on this subject. One cannot consider this issue in black and white terms. On occasions, Australians, whether they are exporters or consumers, will have to pay for having industries which the great majority of the Australian people want and which it is in the national interest for us to have. But equally, we have to take account of our international trading obligations. We have an obligation as a relatively wealthy member of the world community to assist the developing countries with our international trade arrangements. Inevitably when one finishes a speech like that the risk is run that one will be accused of trying to be all things to all men.
– Hear, hear!
-No doubt the honourable member for Wakefield believes I am doing that. I say to him and to anybody else who feels that way that in many respects this is an area in which one has to try to do that because it cannot be looked at in simple black and white terms. Those who have tried to do so over the years have found, often to their political cost, that in relation to tariff policy the Australian community happens to be interested in jobs and in strong manufacturing industries. Equally, as a nation, I think the Australian people believe that Australia should be interested in having proper international trading relations and in playing its part in assisting developing countries.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Motion ( by Mr Howard) proposed:
That the Bill be now read a third time.
– I shall take only a couple of moments. I think 2 things are important. Firstly, the fact that the Minister is accepting and receiving representations on the non-reversion clause would indicate that the decision to abolish it was taken without proper consideration in the first place. I think this was done on the advice of the Public Service which was very anxious to get rid of the clause because it felt that it was a political rather than a Public Service responsibility to administer.
On Monday certain discussions took place in Canberra between representatives of local government bodies in the Geelong area, representatives of parties in the Victorian Parliament, including the State Minister responsible for this area and Senator Cotton. These discussions related to the specific problems of tooling and design in the manufacture of motor vehicles in Australia. It is not an occasion for taking action at his leisure because my understanding is that the decision on the design of 1979 models will be taken within the next 8 to 10 weeks, and once taken that decision will be final and the non-reversion clause in that area will not operate. As honourable members will have gathered, I am being facetious when I say this. More importantly, if an unfavourable decision is taken, about 3000 people will lose jobs in the Geelong area over a 3-year period. Such a decision will also most likely mean that a similar trend will be adopted by other companies. I know of one company that has already made an announcement in this regard, but that does not make it final. As I have said, if an unfavourable decision is taken there will be serious inroads into employment in this area.
The third and most likely the most important long-term effect will be that the design capacity of another industry will disappear. There has been an erosion of design and tooling capacity in Australia which will be of very serious consequence to any long-term development of industrial strength in Australia. I would suggest that there can be no industrial strength in a nation which does not have its own design capacity. This capacity has already gone substantially from the electronics industry. If decisions are taken not to proceed with any Australian design in the motor vehicle industry this capacity will then disappear from that area. I ask the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard ) whether discussions have taken place or are scheduled to take place on the representations made to Senator Cotton on this matter and when he will be in a position to give any indication of the result of those discussions.
– in reply- I do not think that the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) expects me to respond immediately to that question. I shall be talking to the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Senator Cotton) about the matter very shortly and I shall take into account everything that the honourable gentleman has said.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 19 May, on motion by Mr Adermann:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Northern Territory (Administration) Amendment Bill 1976 is designed for the progressive transfer of administrative responsibility to a Northern Territory executive. To this end the Bill establishes an Executive Council of the Northern Territory of Australia. The functions of this Executive are broadly related to matters arising under laws of the Territory, other than laws of the Commonwealth and matters to which the functions of a specified department of the Public Service of the Territory relate.
This measure flows from the recommendations of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Constitutional Development of the Northern Territory, known as the James Committee, which was chaired by the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James). The report recommended the steady devolution of executive autonomy for the Territory Assembly- a body which is now an elected body thanks to the initiative of the former Labor Government.
The Northern Territory is developing towards the stage where it is becoming a self-sustaining region, although at the moment it relies heavily upon Commonwealth spending. The mineral wealth of the Territory and the production faculties associated with these large deposits will require much more local scrutiny and management as resource projects move towards production. The Territory is rich in copper, bauxite, alumina, manganese and uranium, to name but a few metals, as well as oil and gas reserves particularly offshore.
Last year I had the pleasure of serving the people of the Northern Territory as Minister for Northern Australia and would probably have been introducing this legislation myself had the term of the Parliament not been cut short by the grab for power of the present Government- the former Opposition. The Minister for the Northern Territory (Mr Adermann) made reference in his second reading speech to the Labor Party’s initiative for a fully elected Legislative Assembly but went on to say: ‘The promises and assurances were speedily forgotten and the Assembly ignored . This is not true. At the time of the dismissal of the Labor Government I had advised the Cabinet secretariat to regard as active a Cabinet submission listed for Cabinet decision by my predecessor, the Honourable Rex Patterson. The former Minister’s officers would confirm this.
It was the clear intention of the former Labor Cabinet to agree to the submissions which would have commenced the steady devolution of executive power to the Legislative Assembly and its executive. Statements to this effect were also made by me during the election campaign. This move was in line with the Labor Party’s adoption of the spirit of the James Committee report for the transfer of executive functions. The Labor Party established the Legislative Assembly in the first place. The Whitlam Labor Government carried this concept further to a fully elected House. Despite 23 years in government, the previous Liberal and National Country Parties did nothing whatsoever to promote autonomy. As well as this, Labor passed legislation for the representation of the 2 Northern Territory senators in the Australian Senate despite opposition from the present coalition when in Opposition. Again no action was taken in this respect by our predecessors during their 23-year reign in national office.
The extravagant promises of statehood by the present Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) during the election campaign were a death-bed repentance for 23 years of Liberal Party and National Country Party inaction in the Territory. In the crucial early days of the 1975 election campaign the coalition was prepared to offer anything to keep its grip on the Northern Territory seat in the House of Representatives despite the fact that its promise was inconsistent with its past performance.
Let me turn now to the question of Government spending in the Territory and examine the Government’s bona fides. In the last round of Government expenditure cuts announced by the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) in his mini-Budget, one finds drastic cuts in Government programs. These include the reduction of spending by the Department of the Northern Territory by $5m this financial year; the deferral of uncommitted civil works projects totalling between $4m and $5m; the reduction in expenditure in the field of plant and equipment for transport and general services by $lm; the deferral of subsidies to the Darwin and Alice Springs City Corporations by the order of $ 1.1m; threatened increases in rates and taxes; threatened increases in the rentals of government houses in the Territory, and many more refusals on commitments to various major works programs. This is some program for a Government with the supposed interest of the Territory at heart! This is what we often hear from the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) in particular. Contrast this behaviour with the Labor Government’s spending during its tenure of office. The Labor Government made massive increases -
– I rise to a point of order. I might point out that the Bill before the House is the Northern Territory (Administration) Amendment Bill 1976 which needs to be passed through both Houses as quickly as possible so that it can benefit the Northern Territory. The former Minister, who is on his feet, is just delivering a political tirade against people who have represented the Northern Territory for far longer than he has.
-Would the honourable member come to his point of order. Is it that remarks of the honourable member for Blaxland are not in context?
-What he is talking about has nothing whatsoever to do with the Bill.
– I think there is probably some validity in the honourable member’s point of order. I wonder whether the honourable member for Blaxland can tie in his remarks to the Bill.
– The administration of this Bill does affect the total administration of the Territory as a devolution of Commonwealth responsibility and places certain functions in the hands of the Assembly. The performance of the Government in respect of spending is still crucial to the benefit of all territorians. The Labor Government made massive increases in expenditure in the Territory in all categories, especially in works, compared with the last Budget introduced by the Liberal-Country Party Government in 1972-73. Even a cursory look at the Territory would show very clear evidence of the Labor Party’s interest in it. There were new bridges being constructed over rivers, new schools, extensions to railway lines, extensions to power stations, upgrading of highways, upgrading of ancillary roads, improvement of educational facilities and, of course, the massive reconstruction arising from the Darwin cyclone. Could anyone ever imagine a Liberal-Country Party government providing $99.7m in a Budget year for an area affected by a natural disaster? On top of the $99m was $48. lm which was funded under the category of natural disaster relief for relief measures arising out of the devastation of cyclone Tracey. In every respect, though the Labor Party during its tenure of office did not have a representative as a member for the Northern Territory, it treated territorians more compassionately, more understandingly, than any government before it.
The present Government waffles along about such vague notions as statehood and dangles other carrots before the public. It now has to show that it has the same interest in the Territory as the Labor Party had while it was in government. As deeds speak louder than words the Government may show this interest with adequate funding of government functions and responsibilities in the region. The Labor Party not only does not oppose this legislation; it supports it. It supports it because it is in line with our general belief that there should be a much greater degree of autonomy and decision making in the Northern Territory. The Opposition takes this opportunity of wishing those members of the
Executive Council who will be burdened with these new responsibilities good fortune in the future and with it the degree of satisfaction which flows to all people dedicated to the service of the public.
– As I pointed out to the previous speaker, the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating), there is a limit on the time available in which to debate this BUI. Its passage is required urgently so that certain measures can continue. Therefore I shall keep my remarks as short as possible. I could not let the remarks of the honourable member for Blaxland, a former Minister for the Northern Territory even if for only a very brief period, pass by without making some comment on them. They were very misleading. He said that the Labor Party had initiated this Bill and had initiated the idea of giving certain responsibilities to the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. That is fair enough. I admit that the Labor Government did institute an election for a fully elected Legislative Assembly but then it sat down and did nothing during the next 12 months. It held no further talks. So the remarks of the former Minister about instituting this and that ring very hollow. The majority leader in the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly told me that apart from one or two initial discussions nothing whatsoever happened. The honourable member for Blaxland reeled off a string of things such as new buildings, schools, bridges and roads. The Labor Party claims that it built those things but probably every one of those projects was put through the Parliamentary Public Works Committee while the previous Liberal-Country Party Government was in office. The Labor Government, in its short time in office, devastated the Northern Territory. It attacked the primary industries- the mining industry and the cattle industry. It implemented the Coombs Report which has virtually brought much of private enterprise, the financial backbone of the Territory, to its knees.
The introduction of this Northern Territory (Administration) Amendment Bill is in line with Government policy to bring the Northern Territory to statehood. This would have happened had the previous policy of the Liberal and Country Parties been supported by the Labor Party. The former Minister blithely said that nothing had been done. In this place in October 1972 legislation for a form of government for the Northern Territory was introduced and had that policy been continued by the incoming Labor Government in 1972 that legislation would have been far ahead of this present legislation. That legislation provided a very sound basis from which to work and to build Northern Territory legislation responsibly. The Labor Government scrapped it without giving it a single thought.
This Bill amends the Northern Territory (Administration) Act of 1910-74 so that the first historic step can be taken and the Legislative Assembly can place its foot on the first rung of the ladder of constitutionally responsible legislative power. I compliment the present majority leader and executive members in the Legislative Assembly on their responsible attitude to the awkward situation in which they found themselves when elected to office, albeit with a 17 to nil majority over the Labor Party. Obviously the Labor Party wished them to wither on the vine because, as I have said before, nothing was implemented of the kind that is being implemented today and which has been discussed continually since this Government came to office. This Government has implemented to some extent the findings of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Northern Territory and has continued the consultation that was recommended in that Committee’s report. The Legislative Assembly has not withered on the vine.
Immediately after cyclone Tracy and from then on the executive members of the Legislative Assembly who live in Darwin put their shoulders to the wheel. Although they were not in any recognised positions they carried on with their responsibilities. They have done so right up until this time. They did so right through the withering period under Labor, as it might be called, and they have demonstrated that they are capable of assuming the responsibility of office, something which the Labor Government considered them incapable of doing. With this alteration to the Act the’y can now get their teeth into the job which they should have been allowed to commence a long time ago. There should still be the close co-operation and consultation that was recommended in the report. I hope it will go on- in fact I am sure it will continue because the Minister for the Northern Territory (Mr Adermann) has done just that by bringing this legislation before this House. I am sure that my colleague the Minister and the majority leader will continue following this first significant step. The Territory will move towards becoming a State, a part of Australia run by territorians. Those people are quite capable of doing it but they do need this transfer period.
There is one final point I wish to make. I urge the Government to give the majority leader and his executive the backing of suitable experienced civil servants to work on the transfer. They need sufficient staff so that the thing can be done properly. I know that certain numbers have been approved but I would think that in this very difficult and trying period over the next 5 years when they are moving towards statehood they certainly will need top class men standing behind the leader and the executive, apart from the ones in the Department of the Northern Territory who will be working to transfer these powers. The transfer can take place smoothly and the legislature can function properly when the Northern Territory has full responsibility. In my opinion there has been not enough evidence of this so far. It is very vital that this should be attended to. I wholeheartedly support the legislation. I commend the Minister and the Government on a very sincere and genuine effort, something which the Opposition said it was doing but of which there was no evidence. I wish the Bill good speed, both here and in another place. As I said before, its passage is urgent. I also wish the Legislative Assembly success under this legislation in the years to come.
Mr KEATING (Blaxland)-Mr Deputy Speaker, I claim to have been misrepresented. The honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) said that I had made no effort to speak to members of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly and that it was not my intention, when Minister for the Northern Territory, to introduce this legislation. That is not true. The Assembly was consulted. The Cabinet submission was prepared by Dr Patterson after consultation with the Assembly. I listed it for consideration again after a discussion with Dr Letts, the Majority Leader. He was aware of that, the Department of the Northern Territory was aware of that, and the honourable member for the Northern Territory was also aware of that.
– in reply- I thank both the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) and the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) for their contribution to the debate, and I thank the honourable member for Blaxland and the Opposition for their co-operation and assistance in getting this Bill through quickly, because we do want this Bill passed in both Houses before the Parliament adjourns for the winter recess. It will allow us to get on with the job we have in hand. The honourable member for Blaxland talked about the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) making an extravagant promise of statehood for the Northern Territory. That was a commitment.
This Bill shows our good faith in making that commitment. We are absolutely determined that the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly will have increasing autonomy and that the Territory will be taken forward to statehood, which it has long expected. I remind the honourable member that other States received statehood when they had a lot less population than the Northern Territory and when they were probably a long way behind the Territory in its present situation. The charge that the Government has cut spending in the Territory ignores the fact that the reduction about which the honourable member talked was in forward estimates. There will be a real increase in expenditure in 1976-77 on what was spent in 1975-76. It ill behoved the honourable member to say that no Liberal-Country Party Government would think of spending something like $92m on reconstruction following a national disaster. I remind him that in 1976-77 the Darwin Reconstruction Commission alone will get something like $139m. There will be $2 1.3m for housing in Darwin alone and $ 11.5m for the home loans trustee. I think that effectively answers the statement that the honourable member made.
I thank too the honourable member for the Northern Territory for his contribution. I recognise his constant advocacy for the Territory over a very long period. I think this Bill and the progress made along the path towards increasing autonomy are due very much to his persistent presentation of the needs of the Territory over a ong time in this place. Dr Letts the Majority Leader in the Legislative Assembly has had a long association with the Territory and has long sought autonomy for the Territory. I note that the honourable member for the Northern Territory said that the Assembly needs the backing of civil servants. This is long overdue and it is another thing on which we have already commenced work. I recognise that it is only a commencement in that the Territory now has an establishment. That is the beginning of the sort of picture that the honourable member for the Northern Territory was painting. I thank honourable members for their contribution and for their assistance in getting this legislation through the House.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Adermann) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 2 June, on motion by Mr Howard:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The opposition is not opposed to the Industrial Research and Development Incentives Bill. I join with previous Labor spokesmen responsible for this area over the years in giving support to the concept inherent in the BUI. There are just a couple of points I would like to make. Firstly, the Government’s cutting of funds during the transitional period from the general and selective grants to the commencement project grants will obviously mean a number of establishments missing out on funding that they may have validly expected to receive. I happen to be one of those people who believe- in spite of the arguments put forward by the Government that all public sector expenditure must be trimmed in order to bring down the rate of inflation- that cuts in money going into research projects ultimately mean greater expenditure at the end of the line. This, I am sure, will occur in industry as affected by this Bill, as it will similarly mean greater expenditure in health as a result of cuts in health research.
I see the validity of the restrictions placed on those eligible for future commencement grants and I see no need for making firms which have previously received amounts over $125,000 being eligible for another grant in this area. The system of project grants, will lend itself to perhaps the greatest collaboration between government and private enterprise that one can witness. In view of the very strong case that has been made repeatedly, not the least by an Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development survey, that we should not rely solely on overseas research in technology, it is obvious that our isolation demands a firm and continuing commitment to local research and development. It may mean, and I hope it does, greater expertise in the Department of Industry and Commerce in reviewing applications for project grants.
I support the flexibility given to the Minister in the Bill to waive the normal project limit.
In the creation of the Industrial Research and Development Incentives Board, I think a very strong case can be made out for a member of that
Board being selected from the trade union movement- in this case, possibly a member of the Association of Architects, Engineers, Surveyors and Draftsman of Australia. I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard a letter sent to the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Senator Cotton) on 27 February from Mr Ted Benjamin, Federal Secretary of AAESDA
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
This Association has been very active over recent months trying to protect the jobs of our members. We have appeared before the Industries Assistance Commission, had talks with the Metal Trades Industries Association, been to see A.P.S. Departments, lobbied Government, and so on.
Our objective is not just to save jobs for the present, but also to ensure that Australia has a secure industrial base for the future so that employees in our kind of occupation can look forward to the future with confidence.
To this end, we forwarded a submission to the Australian Government on February 27, 1976, asking the Government to give consideration to the views of this Association on behalf of the future security of employment of its members in industry.
We felt that the submission would be of interest to our members generally and therefore we have reproduced it in this pamphlet, together with the covering letter to the Minister.
Re Design, Research and Development in Australian Industry
It has been brought to our attention that you have invited submissions to you on the White Paper on the Manufacturing Industry and also that you have indicated that your Government will be announcing its attitude to the 85 per cent local content plan for the vehicle manufacturing industry by the end of March, 1976.
This Association, which has 24 000 members throughout Australia, has now been campaigning for many years to try and preserve Australia’s design, research and development expertise. Recent trends in centralisation by large overseas companies substantially increased the dangers of a large scale shut down in the amount of research and development work being undertaken by large companies in Australia. Such trends if continued will threaten Australia’s technological viability in the near future.
With this fact in mind we have attached two copies of a submission we have prepared on the demise of Australia’s design capacity and capability. We hope you will read it and And the views expressed to be of sufficient importance to grant us a conference on the matter. We feel such a conference would be helpful to you in drawing up plans in the future to protect and encourage Australia’s technological development.
Insofar as the vehicle manufacturing industry is concerned we would ask that you hear our views on the future of this industry. Some of our views are included in the attached document but we would like to expand on these views in a conference situation. We should mention that we are the second biggest union in the vehicle manufacturing industry with only the Vehicle Builders Employees’ Federation having a larger membership. Therefore, we can claim to have a substantial interest in the future of the industry.
We trust that your Government intends to approach the question of the reorganisation of the vehicle manufacturing industry in a fair-minded manner and that you are willing to listen to the views of the employees in the industry as well as the views of the employers, academics and others. Therefore, we earnestly request you to grant us the opportunity to talk with you on this matter.
In your Party’s ‘Employment and Industrial Relations Policy ‘ you state in pan that: ‘Effective communication, understanding and cooperation between Governments, employers and employees is fundamental to Australia ‘s development’.
We agree and therefore look forward to your reply granting us a conference with you on the matters raised in this letter.
The last twelve months have seen one of the sharpest declines in the employment of technical employees in Australia’s history. By technical employees we would be generally referring to classifications such as draughtsmen, production planners and technical employees performing either engineering or scientific functions. There is no doubt that a modern industrial country cannot function without such employees and that any country that allows their numbers to be severely eroded runs the risk of suffering a sharp decline in its technological expertise and, consequently, a sharp decline in its standard of living.
As an example of the work performed by such employees we list a brief description of the work performed by them in the vehicle industry in Appendix ‘A’.
The AAESDA which is the main union covering such employees in private industry, has the following number employed by vehicle manufacturers and assemblers:
These members in the vehicle manufacturing and assembling industry would be mainly employed by:
You will note from the work done by these employees and the list of people who employ them that the job opportunities for our members depends on a high level of local content of the car being produced in Australia. From the comparisons we have been able to make, we believe that the work of our members is very efficient. Indeed, we understand that Australian design costs are roughly two-thirds of what the same design would cost in the United States of America.
The situation we now find ourselves in is that the new local content plans will, by 1980, phase out Australian design contributions to the local industry because after 1980 we expect Australian manufacturers to be concentrating on cars like the Holden ‘Gemini’.
Also, since the 85 per cent local content envisages a phasing out of sheet metal design in Australia, we can expect a run down in demand for employees in basic product design and testing and in press tool design in Australia. (Refer to Appendix ‘C which will give you an indication of what we expect the run down from 95 per cent to 85 per cent local content to do to job opportunities for our members in the industry.)
It seems paradoxical that at the time we are concerned to improve the education system in Australia and expand the technical colleges, all with a view to producing more technically qualified people, we are, at the same time, embarking on a plan to eliminate the employment opportunities for these very same people. Local content plans based exclusively on tariffs means that we propose to have an Australian motor industry based primarily on unskilled labour, which relies on overseas expertise for the basic product design and testing. This run down of the skilled elements in the industry needs to be recognised as one of the major costs involved in the motor industry restructuring.
We believe it is essential to the future of Australia that this matter be highlighted and attempts made to quantify the costs.
We are unable to quantify the costs ourselves. However, we believe that the Government needs to examine this matter and endeavour to put a finger on it because it is, as we said, a matter of the greatest national importance. Perhaps we need subsidies to encourage manufacturers to use the design expertise that presently exists in Australia. We certainly need some positive Government action, not just to provide employment opportunities for those employees who have recently been put out of work, but also to provide additional job opportunities for the people we expect to graduate from technical college in the next five years.
We would hope that the Government is in a position to estimate how much it would cost Australia to make use of the skilled workers who are presently unemployed, who will become unemployed as a result of the new motor industry plans, and also those who will graduate from our technical colleges in the next five years.
If the percentage of vehicles sold in Australia continues to swing in favour of cars designed overseas, then there is no question but that there will be massive lay-offs of highly skilled employees in the vehicle manufacturing industry. During the last 12 months the following retrenchments have occurred:
Leyland-330 (240 technical, 90 supervisory); Chrysler-183 (146 technical, 37 supervisory); Ford-60 (all technical).
At this stage employees at General Motors have not been affected, but a swing to overseas design could well mean that General Motors would have substantial reductions. Presently, GMH employees approximately 1350 AAESDA members. If they were to source their sheet metal overseas, as we expect they will, then the numbers at General Motors will be reduced to about the same level as is presently employed by Chrysler, i.e., 460.
However, job loss does not stop at the vehicle manufacturing companies. Its effects are felt all the way down the line. For example, when Leyland were at their peak, they dealt with over 300 suppliers. Of these, approximately 120 could be described as technical suppliers. All of these 120 technical suppliers have been affected in some way by the collapse of Leyland and AAESDA members have suffered severe retrenchments running to an average of 10 per cent of the staff they employ.
We list a few of the major suppliers to Leyland whose technical employees have been laid off over the past 12 months’.
Australian National Industries (ANI); Bendix Technico Borg Warner; Pilkingtons W. C. Stevens; Smith Industries; T.R.W. Cam Gears.
The above description only deals with actual lay-offs. However, there have been thousands of other jobs eliminated by means of natural attrition.
The cumulative effect has been a body blow to Australian technical know-how and competence. Literally thousands of skilled technical positions have vanished in the last twelve months, probably never to reappear.
As an illustration of what could happen to the Australian technical work force should GMH source their design work overseas we list some of their current local suppliers in Appendix ‘B All of these companies currently employ technical labour.
In this field we would find the bulk of the employees would be employed by companies such asStandard Telephones and Cables Ltd.; Amalgamated Wireless (Australia) Ltd.; Philips Industries Ltd.; Plessey Australia Pty Ltd.
AAESDA has lost the following numbers of highly skilled technical employees through retrenchment at each of the above companies.
These retrenchments are a significant percentage of the number of technical employees employed by these companies.
The Aircraft Industry has been declining for a number of years. It now faces total collapse unless the Government takes action in the national interest. If the industry does collapse it could mean the total closure of Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation, Hawker de Havilland and the Government Aircraft Factory with the loss of thousands of technical jobs.
White Goods, etc.
The same gloomy picture is true of all other industries. Retrenchments by the Email Group, A. E. Goodwins, Clyde Industries, Babcock and Wilcox, Moulded Products, etc., would average 20 per cent.
Generally speaking we estimate that the unemployment rate amongst technical employees in private industry is running at twice the national average.
The whole situation could become completely intolerable if the Government does not seek to obtain an increased workload for the various Government factories who themselves employ thousands of technical employees. These areas cover such establishments as the Government Aircraft Factory, the Small Arms Factory, the Ammunition and Ordinance complexes in Victoria and New South Wales, and the Naval Dockyards, etc.
It is no use saying that a retrenched employee in one industry can find work in another industry even in a different city because the same gloomy situation applies throughout Australia.
Therefore, the expertise gained over many years is being dissipated. Such employees finish up in clerical jobs, back on the tools, on production lines or in dole queues.
Its also not much use just blaming the current economic situation. Certainly the current economic situation has worsened and aggravated the position. However, the real long term threat to technical employment in Australia lies elsewhere.
The main long term threat comes from the trend in recent years for design, research and development work to be centralised in a few elite centres in the U.S.A., Japan and Western Europe. This is a trend which has been accelerated by the policies of the multi-national companies and the lack of interest shown in the matter by Australian Governments over many years.
Australian design has never had tariff protection or any other form of protection for that matter. It has had to compete on its merits with overseas competition.
The time has now come to protect and encourage the growth of Australian design, research and development.
The recently released Jackson Report sought encouragement for research, innovations, design and craftsmanship. The Report asks foreign firms to have ‘Programs to undertake in Australia a reasonable proportion of work requiring professional and other advanced skills’.
In a submission to the Industries Assistance Commission Inquiry into Telecommunications Equipment, Mr C. Evans of the Department of Electrical Engineering of the University of Adelaide, calls for duty to be applied on designs and other intellectual property. He states:
The OECD Examiner’s Report on Science and Technology in Australia states that: ‘ Manufacturing industry employs 26 per cent of the labour force and contributes 28 per cent to the GNP, but accounts for only 20 per cent of Australia’s exports, which will consist mainly of agricultural and mining products, i.e. products which are particularly sensitive to fluctuations in world prices, while imports consist mainly of producer goods (machinery, equipment and semi-manufacture). This imbalance cannot long continue without compromising the rate of growth of the economy and a vigorous effort must be made to improve the competitive position of Australia’s manufacturers in overseas markets.
With regard to energy supplies, Australia’s situation seems to be particularly favourable compared with the situation of many other O.E.C.D. countries, but its economy is not protected from the repercussions which the energy crisis might produce on it directly, i.e. through the influence of rising energy costs on the economies of its trading partners, especially Japan, which alone takes 40 per cent of Australia ‘s exports. All these factors, be they permanent or temporary, call for a vigorous innovation effort by Australian industry and consequently for a research effort concentrating on cutting costs and on the specialities in which Australia may hope to win a place in overseas markets.
Some of this effort might well start by tackling the natural conditions and constraints inherent in the country, e.g. by improving long distance transport and communications, by increasing the use of dry process in industry, by processing raw materials on the spot, by developing oil extraction techniques for use on the high seas, and so on.
The above suggests that selective aid should be given to good enterprises to enable them to carry out good research projects in line with the product policies and growth strategies. Incentives to research should therefore depend on an overall assessment of an enterprise and in this connection the criteria for investment in research are not really different from those for investment in capital and manpower or for marketing policies.
To conclude this section on industrial research, the main impression gained was that Australia requires an industrial policy based on Government support at the strong points of Australia’s potential, i.e. support for those enterprises which show themselves able to find the right growth strategies and product policies to suit the resources and specialities within their reach. Research is only one factor in these strategies and policies, but it is a leading factor. The effectiveness of the Australian Government’s aid to industrial research will ultimately depend on its own ability to judge the chances of success of the overall policies followed by the enterprises which apply to it for finance.
An approach on these lines could do much to help Australian enterprises to compete with foreign industries in the domestic and overseas markets and assert Australia’s own innovation potential throughout the world. ‘
Surely we have established a prima facie case that this matter warrants attention and investigation now. Failure to do so will ultimately condemn Australia to being totally dependent on overseas technology thus ensuring a considerable drop in our standard of living.
Brief description of the jobs carried out by our members
Our members employed by vehicle manufacturing companies are classified in the awards as either draughtsmen, production planners, technical officers or supervisors. There are, of course, many levels of work .inside these generic classifications.
A full description of the multifarious jobs carried out by our members would run to many pages and therefore we only give examples of the jobs carried out below. It should also be appreciated that many jobs are not exclusive to one classification or the other and require a teamwork approach.
Our members are engaged on or have been engaged in:
Actual design of motor car body shape (both interior and exterior);
Design of at one time or another each and every mechanical part (engine, transmission, etc.);
Design of at one time or another fittings, accessories, etc. (e.g. heaters, screen wipers, etc);
Designing modifications, additions, etc., to vehicles;
Supply of data on ride and handling characteristics (e.g. suspensions);
Design of jigs and tools and dies needed for manufacture;
Establishing method of manufacture of mechanical vehicle components from engineering drawings;
Assistance with tryout of tools and equipment to obtain acceptable parts at the required production rate;
Industrial engineering including plant layout, time study, material handling, etc.;
Laboratory work including quality control;
General metallurgy for first production parts, production lines failures and reclarification;
General surveillance of vendor supplies;
General maintenance work;
Supervising functions involving all areas of plant operation;
Clay modelling; and so on.
Major suppliers to our motor industry who employ our members
Research and development on special projects such as emission controls.
Note: This list is neither exhaustive or comprehensive; it is representative only.
Expected effects of run down from 95 per cent to 85 per cent local content
If the proportion of design work to local content is to be kept the same or the local content plan as it was for the 95 per cent plan then the following drop in local design content could eventuate.
Major mechanical components such as engines, transmissions, front ends, steering, etc., could be wholly or partly designed overseas.
The design of jigs and fixtures for major assembly works could be done completely overseas, thus wiping out this type of work for our members in this field. This would have serious impact in South Australia where the labour situation for technical employees is already much tighter than it is in the eastern States.
Significantly erode the level of design and development work on press die and machine tools. This would again have an impact in South Australia as well as Victoria.
The whole of the body design of several models could be done overseas or the majority of body panels on all models could be designed overseas. This could have very serious effect on a plant as Fords in Geelong. The opportunities for technical employment in Geelong are already severely limited. Such a situation could seriously hamper any moves to create new and viable growth centre.
The elimination of special projects such as development of emission controls. Such projects are of future technological importance to Australia.
It should be noted, of course, that there is no inherent protection for Australian design or research in either the current 95 per cent plan or the proposed 85 per cent plan. Even under the current plan it is possible for a multinational vehicle manufacturing company to have a large proportion of its design work done overseas.
Apparently in all its deliberations the I.A.C. has not given any consideration to restrictions on the import of foreign design which could be efficiently carried out in Australia by Australians.
– AAESDA is very concerned about the demise of work available for its members. It could play an extremely important part in the role of the Board. It is in the interests of all members of the national Parliament to see that this legislation works successfully. It is, I believe, an improvisation on the legislation already in existence and the fact that some hundreds of companies were involved in successfully receiving assistance under the old Act augers well for the success of the new proposals. I reiterate that the Government should think seriously about its decision to cut expenditure in this area, as in the long term any cuts that take place in research eventually cost the community more than the saving which may show at book level.
– I certainly support the Bill. The Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard) said in his second reading speech that $104m had been paid out over the 9 years this legislation has been in operation. This works out to an average of $50,000 per company. That is not necessarily the best kind of help. It may be better to spread the money a bit more thinly and to give some of it to smaller firms.
– This system will do that, will it not?
– Yes, this system will do it. I have only one real worry about this legislation. As far as I can see from the second reading speech and the Bill, the people who will get the advantage of this legislation will be companies. Everything is expressed in terms of companies. This to me does not seem to be a wise restriction. A person or a partnership may be doing the same land of thing as a compay does. As I see it, under this legislation, a person would not fulfil the conditions.
– The Advisory Committee can make a recommendation to the Board.
– As I see the position, it cannot. A grant can be given only to companies. I may be wrong about this. I talked to the Minister for Industry and Commerce about it last night. I think there is something about the Bill we should look at in the future. The modern world seems to measure everything in large lumps. Individuals do not seem to matter. If you will excuse me, Mr Deputy Speaker, I will tell you a short story that illustrates this modern tendency. It is about a school teacher in the United States of America who was lecturing her class about the romantic life of the American Indian. At the end she said: ‘Has anybody got any Indian blood in their veins?’ Tommy put up his hand. She said: ‘How very interesting, Tommy. Which tribe?’ He said: ‘It wasn’t no tribe, Mum, it was just a wandering Indian’.
– I get it, Bert. Don’t worry.
– This is not an easy audience to which to tell jokes. The joke illustrates the tendency of the modern world to measure things in large lumps. Unless I am unwisely advised or I am wrong- I frequently am wrong- this legislation gives research grants to companies. I do not say that companies should not get the grants. I say that people also should get them, if they fit the other criteria. Quite exciting developments are being made not necessarily by companies but by people. A rather extraordinary person called Geary in Victoria is doing all kinds of exciting things, both with fodder conservation and wool harvesting techniques. As I understand this legislation, he would not be entitled to a research grant. If I am right- I hope I am wrong- I trust the Government will look at the matter. I do not think for one moment that the Government wanted to do anything as silly as exclusing people. I am certain the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) would support me and would be critical too if he thought the grants were not going to people as well as to companies. All I am asking is that the Minister have a very clear look at this matter while the machine is being set up. If the assistance is to be limited only to companies I think we are doing a great injustice to people.
– I associate my Party with this Bill. The Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard) should be congratulated wholeheartedly for the introduction of the Bill into the House. I was hoping that my speech would be a record short speech in such a debate. I must extend my time a fraction to endorse the remarks of the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young). I find myself very much in sympathy with his comments and his strong recommendation that we think again about the restriction of moneys to this area of activity in the community. Research and development are vital. I think the reports in the media this morning should be sufficient warning of the desperate need for research and development in industry in Australia. I think the words of the honourable member for Port Adelaide are timely. They should be taken note of. Whilst we recognise that the budgetary restrictions are such that there must be cutbacks, this is perhaps one area where we should think very deeply before we are forced into making severe restrictions. I support the Bill.
– in reply- I wish to reply to 2 points which were raised in the debate. I reply firstly to the point raised by the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly). I have discussed this matter with my colleague, the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Senator Cotton). He has indicated to me, as I understand he has indicated to the honourable member, that the point will be considered by the Minister and by the Government when the legislation is passed. I think it fair to say that this legislation is designed to provide support assistance to manufacturing and mining companies which carry out or intend to carry out systematic industrial research and development. While I share completely the view- I am sure all members of the Government share it- that there should be no discrimination against individuals, I think it is fair to say that there would be very few cases in which individuals who did not have the benefit of some corporate existence would want or qualify for this type of assistance. While I am sure the honourable member did not intend to imply this, I think it is fair to say that we can no longer equate a company with size, because the great majority of what we frequently refer to as small businesses in Australia are at present proprietary companies. There would be very few examples in the mining or manufacturing area of a small business that was other than a proprietary company.
– There are some.
-I agree with the honourable member for Wakefield; there are some. Because there are some and because it is probable that the legislation as presently drawn does not cover them, the Minister for Industry and Commerce has said that he will look at the matter. He asked me to assure the honourable member that that will be done.
The second comment I wish to make on what the honourable gentleman said is that there is, as I think he knows, a program of assistance to help Australian inventors. This is administered by an advisory committee which is responsible to the Minister for Industry and Commerce. Some of the people whom the honourable member has in mind would be entitled to assistance from that committee. I would not want the House to think that in drawing the legislation in its present form the Government had any intention of excluding individuals; rather the legislation was drawn on the not unreasonable assumption that it would normally be a company which would want and be entitled to this type of assistance.
The honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) and the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Sullivan) referred to the question of expenditure. I think the honourable member for Riverina recognised that in looking at this area in isolation reductions were unfortunate, but that in the sort of economic climate which we have at present we cannot look at individual areas in total isolation. I think it is fair to say that the level of assistance which will be provided is still very substantial, that the method by which it will be provided has been greatly improved by the new legislation and that the new legislation will- I think, and the Government strongly believes- lead to assistance being given to companies which have been able to demonstrate a skill in managing resources and an ability to evaluate an innovation policy. In other words, I think it will be efficient legislation and an effective use of the money made available for the scheme. I thank honourable members for the speedy passage that they are giving to the legislation, which will make it possible for the new scheme to come into operation, I understand, on 1 July.
Question resolved in the affirmative. Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Howard) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 19 May, on motion by Mr Viner:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-This Bill, the States Grants (Aboriginal Assistance) Bill, is a hardy perennial. It is certainly not without significance as it involves the expenditure of $40,790,000. It authorises the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) to make that amount of money available to the States for a range of very important services affecting the Aboriginal people. The money is allocated to the States for purposes of housing, health, education, employment, welfare, enterprises, management, public utilities and recreation. When these measures are before the House it is usual to cover a wide range of issues affecting Aboriginal people generally. It is appropriate now to talk about Aboriginal affairs because no other issue in Australia appears to be the subject of such violent assault, in terms of allocation of funds, by this Government. The Aboriginal people are extremely concerned about the slowing down and even the abandonment of many initiatives taken by the Labor Government. Within 6 months of taking office this Government has welshed on the firm and unequivocal commitments it made to the Aboriginal people and to the Australian people generally about Aboriginal affairs.
Let me say at the outset that this Bill is not opposed by the Opposition which, while in government, strongly supported Aboriginal assistance programs administered by the States and grasped the nettle, as it were, to initiate many far reaching proposals on its own account. Evidence of the support of the Labor Government is contained in the tables incorporated in Hansard in the second reading speech on the Bill by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs on 1 9 May last, and in far more comprehensive tables which presented to the House on 4 November last year when introducing a similar Bill. Those tables show the substantial increase in allocations made to the States while Labor was in office. I think that the figures tell the story. From an allocation level of $5.4m in 1969-70 we went to $7m in 1970-71 and to $9.2m in 1971-72. That was the stage when the Liberals left office. That figure was progressively increased when Labor came to office until in 1974-75 it reached a peak of $40.79m. which was the amount proposed for 1975-76. Of course I am talking only about appropriations to the States and not the total amount of money made available for Aboriginal purposes.
In this matter the Government has accepted the judgment of the former Government and of myself as the former Minister as the allocation to be made to the States this year is identical to that which I proposed in the States Grants (Aboriginal Assistance) Bill 1975 which was presented to the House on 22 October 1975. That Bill was one of the casualties of the coup de grace. It was not passed by either House when the Governor-General dissolved the Parliament on 1 1 November. In passing, let me mention that that matter in itself demonstrated the very great indifference which the Liberal and National Country Parties displayed at that time to the Australian people generally and to needy people in particular, since the failure to grant Supply caused disruption to many Aboriginal programs. There is a great deal of documentation to prove that. Obviously the Department of Aboriginal Affairs was not in a position to go on spending money as it would do in a normal situation. The situation was not normal and there was no certainty that there would be a flow of money. I see the Minister for the Northern Territory (Mr Adermann) sitting at the table. He would know about the need for forward planning in getting supplies and materials to the Northern Territory, getting them onto barges in order to travel long distances and avoiding the wet season.
The Bill was delayed and there was disruption. Now, 7 months afterwards, an almost identical Bill is before the House again. There are some fundamental differences between this Bill and the one which I introduced last year. The 1975 Bill was to represent a continuing legislative authority by which funds were to be made available to the States for the purpose of implementing programs of assistance to Aboriginal people. In other words, if the 1975 Bill had been passed into law it would have replaced the practice by which a States Grants (Aboriginal Assistance) Bill had to be introduced and passed by the Parliament each year. There would have been continuing legislative authority for payment to the States in any year of such amounts as were appropriated by Parliament for that purpose in that year. The present Minister was not then deeply involved with Aboriginal affairs and this matter could well have escaped him. Let me remind him of the comments I made when introducing the 1975 Bill following consultation with senior officers of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. I said on that occasion:
On the basis of advice from the then Attorney-General it has been the practice since 1968 to introduce each year during the Budget session the States Grants (Aboriginal Assistance) Bills for this purpose. Such Bills have been presented in accordance with section 96 of the Constitution and have contained conditions under which the Minister may release funds to the States and recover moneys not expended for the purpose for which they were provided.
Following upon comments made by the Auditor-General in his Special Report on the Administration of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, the method of appropriation of funds for State programs was changed in the financial year 1974-75; instead of the funds being provided from the Aboriginal Advancement Trust Account, as in previous years, States grants were appropriated under division 806 in Appropriation Act ( No. 2 ) of 1 974-75.
I also explained that the standing legislation which I was proposing would overcome a deficiency in the existing situation as there is at present no specific legislative authority in terms of section 96 of the Constitution for payment to the States during the Supply period, as the annual States Grants (Aboriginal Assistance) legislation had not been enacted in past years until after the introduction of the Budget.
I know that there is at least one redeeming feature of this legislation which has regard to the matter I have mentioned. I know also that this Bill authorises payment of $20,395,000-that is half the total year’s sum- for the 6 months commencing 1 July 1976. But I am not convinced that that covers the points of consternation which caused me, on the advice of my Department, to introduce that continuing authorising legislation. Perhaps the Minister will give the House the courtesy of a reply to these matters. Perhaps he will explain why this advice from the Department is not now to be acted upon and whether in these times when the discerning eye of the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott) is so sharply focussed on financial agreements with the States, as we have seen in respect of health matters, the Commonwealth stands vulnerable in any way so far as States grants for Aboriginal purposes are concerned.
There is considerable concern in the Australian community today about the Government’s entire approach to Aboriginal affairs, and about the sense of priorities involved in the allocation of funds for those purposes. In many ways the momentum achieved during the 3 years of Labor administration has waned. The LiberalCountry Party Administration that preceded the election of a Labor Government in 1972 had failed to grasp the opportunity and encouragement given it by the people in the 1967 referendum when, with an overwhelming voice, the people gave an imprimatur to the Australian Government to get on with the job of overcoming years and years of neglect and indifference.
From an expenditure level of only $30.9m for Aboriginal affairs as provided in the LiberalCountry Party Government Budget of 1971-72, Labor raised direct expenditure to $193m. Let me put the situation again: The allocation was raised from $30.9m under Liberal-Country Party Administration to $193m under the Labor Administration in the 1975-76 Budget. Nobody can cavil at the contention that Labor meant business about Aboriginal affairs. Expenditure had grown from $6 1.1 7m in 1972-73, to $1 17.4m in 1973-74, to $ 163.6m in 1974-75 then up to that record level of $193m. By now of course the present Government has cut the current financial year’s allocation of $193m by $7.3m.
To this time none of us know precisely what is involved in those cuts. Just before I came into the House I had the answer to a question I had placed on notice delivered to my office. I asked:
What are the details of Budget expenditure curtailments made through the Department of Aboriginal Affairs since 1 1 November 1975.
The cuts that are identified to date amount to $4.072m. Those cuts apply to a number of matters. I mention a few of the significant areas in terms of money and, indeed, importance. The allocation to the Aboriginal Land Fund Commission has been cut by $lm. I know that the waiting list for applications is enormous. The Commission would dearly like to have an increase rather than a substantial decrease in its allocations. Payments to the States with regard to Aboriginal affairs have been cut by $ 1.704m. The Aboriginal Advancement Trust Account, which is for miscellaneous purposes, has been cut by $978,000. Other areas affected are advertising, conferences, meetings, consultations, consultancies and support for ecological projects which involve employment opportunities for Aboriginal people in the far north and isolated regions of Australia and in the Torres Strait as well. Similarly the allocation for Aboriginal hostels has been cut even though there are great waiting lists of people seeking accommodation. The Architects Housing Panel allocation has also been cut as has the allocation for the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies. So we can see that over $4m of the $7.3m cut in this financial year is accounted for in some degree.
The Government has also announced its intention to slow down the program heavily through the next Federal Budget. Nobody knows the extent of the proposed program curtailment so every Aboriginal initiative, enterprise and government activity around Australia is in a state of suspense and anxiety. No forward planning is going on, whether it is in respect to the Aboriginal Legal Service or Aboriginal Medical Service or any one of the dozens if not hundreds of organisations that are valiantly trying to overcome the problems encountered by Aboriginal people. The Treasurer (Mr Lynch) has made it very clear in his speech on the economy on 20 May last that there are going to be hard times ahead for Aboriginal communities and organisations around Australia. He had several goes at this matter and devoted numerous paragraphs to it in his speech. He said that the aggregate amount to be provided for Aboriginal programs in 1976-77 will be significantly less than estimated expenditure in 1975-76 and substantially less than the forward estimates.
Such an attitude can only involve a blatant breach of faith in that the Liberal-National Country Party spokesman for Aboriginal Affairs during the last election, the present AttorneyGeneral telegraphed all Aboriginal communities with the unequivocal assurance that there would be no cuts in the Aboriginal affairs budget or in the Aboriginal affairs program if a LiberalNational Country Party government was elected to office. In that telegram, the Attorney-General, a man who ought to be pretty careful about saying what he means, told Aboriginal people to vote Liberal-National Country Party on 13 December. He claimed that Aborigines would be better off and not worse off. How can that be reconciled with the Treasurer’s statement and a subsequent Press release by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs in respect of the appointment of the Hay committee. It is obviously just a committee that is going to set the stage even further for even greater cuts.
It is true that at least in a number of instances other departments have had their expenditure allocations reduced. But the Department of Aboriginal Affairs is the most indifferently treated of all, in that expenditure reductions remain open-ended. We understand from the gossip that takes place around this place and from the leaks that occur that a further cut in the forthcoming Budget could amount to at least 15 per cent and probably 25 per cent. When we start to think of that in terms of actual cuts on the one hand and cuts in terms of inflation on the other we can see many Aboriginal programs being halved in their intensity, in their importance and in the work that goes on in respect of them. We are told that there are going to be savage cuts in the allocation for Aboriginal hostels and for many Aboriginal enterprises around Australia. The Aboriginal housing program is certain to top the casualty list. The allocation this year is to be cut from the high level of $35m earmarked in Labor’s last Budget and will be cut drastically again next August. Apparently expenditure of $ 14m will be maintained for the States’ Aboriginal housing program. The main onslaught will be directed against the Aboriginal housing associations for which some $2 1.8m has been earmarked in Labor’s Budget.
The present backlog of Aboriginal housing is, according to the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, in the vicinity of 8000 homes. I would not be surprised if the figure were close to double that. But if we average each house at $25,000, which would be an extremely conservative estimate having regard to the high costs prevailing in remote regions, the sum of $200m at existing cost levels would be needed to overcome this backlog in addition to meeting current and recurrent demand. Over 150 housing associations had been established throughout the period of Labor’s Administration. Many employed field officers, clerical staff, tradesmen and management personnel. Any wholesale disruption of this program which is based on the edifying principles of self-help and self-determination will cause widespread unemployment, disillusionment and resentment throughout Australia and especially throughout the Aboriginal communities.
You can dispense with the housing associations and derive some short term benefits by building houses in other ways. After all, prefabricated and module housing systems are readily available and some are already being used to good advantage. But it is important to provide Aboriginal people with the opportunity to take their own decisions as to the type of housing they want. The learning of construction and other skills is another important part of the housing associations’ programs. I readily acknowledge that there is a need for better guidelines to prevent the abuse and rip-offs which have occurred with some consulting arrangements. I can see that the Department is not adequately equipped to deal with the problem of running the housing associations. Other departments with expertise in housing and construction should be used to set the criteria for architectural and consultancy commissions. In many instances those departments could, to advantage, replace the consultancies altogether.
While Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and as a former Minister for Housing and Construction I was gravely concerned about the occasional instances of gross inefficiency, extravagance and inappropriate design and construction of some Aboriginal housing projects. Mistakes are still being made. There are some houses that have cost over $50,000, as the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) would know. There are some houses in isolated regions where the architect has gone mad with expensive free-standing roofs made with massive overscaled steel trusses and also other instances where there has been excessive use of plate glass picture windows which are often the first casualty in an Aboriginal community where broken glass can be seen all over the place. I have seen top quality bricks carted long distances to a housing project where the community has had every capacity to learn the skill of cement brick making.
There is considerable scope for improvement in the management of the Aboriginal housing program. Greater attention should be given to cost limits. Use of a range of proven house designs would reduce architectural costs and would establish limits in construction time, construction standards and unit expense. Aboriginal housing certainly has its problems, but it is also a story of great achievement. Many housing associations in cities, provincial towns and remote areas are highly competent and have successfully met the needs of their communities. The Apatulo Housing Industry, working out of Finke in the Northern Territory, is a fine example of Aboriginal enterprise. Many public servants, consultants, architects, tradesmen, missionaries and Aboriginal workers are making worthwhile contributions to the solution of Aboriginal housing problems. The Government’s task is to get value for money, but it can in no way justify this threatened curtailment of expenditure or the slowing down of the Aboriginal housing program. It is time the Minister cleared up the doubts and anxieties on the level of spending for Aboriginal housing. The Hay Committee will not find the solution to the problems that exist and it should not be used as an alibi for Budget pruning. It is also time for the Minister to come clean with the Parliament and tell us if there is to be any action to relieve the critical level of unemployment among Aboriginal people.
The Australian Council of Social Services, which represents 2000 voluntary organisations, says that Aboriginal unemployment has increased by 50 per cent since July last year. It says that it is difficult to know the real level because the activities of the Aboriginal employment section of the Commonwealth Employment Service continues to be curtailed. The Council says: ‘We may never know the real extent of Aboriginal employment’. While the general level of unemployment in Australia is around 4.4 per cent the Council says that there are now about 10 000 Aboriginal people out of work and indeed some of the officers of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs say that more than 50 per cent of the Aboriginal work forcemay be some 20 000 people- is unemployed and the position is getting worse each day. The only hope for these people under this Government is to be stigmatised as dole bludgers, that is, if they can survive the tortuous process of filling in the forms which in many instances they probably do not understand and complying with the new stringent eligibility tests. This is a human disaster. It can also be regarded as as type of genocide in that the Government is depriving half the Aboriginal people in this country of the opportunity to take a job. Abandonment of the Regional Employment Development program has set the seal of doom on many Aboriginal employment opportunities.
When does the Minister propose to implement the recommendations of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs concerning Aboriginal special works projects? That Committee called on the Government to make available the necessary funds to enable the scheme to be greatly expanded. Instead, it is being wound down. The Committee also recommended that the Department of Labor and Immigration, as it then was, should take over the scheme, that an Aboriginal employment section should be established in that Department, that the Public Service Board, Government departments and instrumentalities should actively recruit Aboriginals for employment and training and create as necessary special training positions. There are many Aboriginal people waiting for the employment opportunities which would follow implementation of that report which was made unanimously by the Standing Committee representing both sides of the political spectrum in this Parliament.
Savage spending cuts in the Northern Territory, as the Minister for the Northern Territory (Mr Adermann), who is at the table, would know, can only aggravate the position for the Aboriginal people. The deferment or cancellation of Government construction contracts, rail and road projects- the sorts of projects that Aboriginal people would work on- and many other Government commitments can only produce wholesale destitution for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people and wholesale resentment unless the Government acts and acts quickly. The situation is so serious with half the Aboriginal people out of work that I believe it calls for a ministerial statement even before the rising of the Parliament. The Minister should give urgent consideration to the possibility of allocating substantial funds for labour intensive programs to be administered by local government authorities.
While dealing with the work of the parliamentary Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, let me also ask the Minister whether he intends to give effect to that Committee ‘s recommendations on the conditions of the Yirrkala people. Similarly, is any attention being given to the Committee’s report and recommendations concerning Aboriginal health in Western Australia? Now that the Standing Committee is to study alcohol problems and the laws pertaining to alcohol, perhaps we can have some advice as to whether there is to be any implementation of the report of the inter-departmental committee on Aboriginal alcoholism.
Another matter giving concern is the Government’s vacillation about the role of the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee which was established by the Labor Administration and which comprises 41 elected representatives of Aboriginal electorates throughout Australia. The Minister would know that after direct negotiations with that Committee I had recommended approval of the NACC constitution and had undertaken to facilitate its effective role through the establishment of a secretariat, the institution of regional conferences and expansion of responsibility and decision making. All this is now in a state of suspense while the Hay Committee with its staff of six conducts its 4 months inquiry at an estimated cost of $53,000. Aboriginal people who have shown support for the role of the NACC by the high incidence of voluntary voting in the election of its members will relish its dismemberment or relegation no more than the Opposition does.
When will the Minister take positive action about discriminatory State policies and legislation? I know there has been co-operation from most States but in Queensland the situation is appalling. The Queensland Aurukun Associates Agreement Act, the Aborigines Act and the Torres Strait Islanders Act reek of paternalism and discrimination and stand in breach of United Nations and International Labour Organisation conventions. They are also in breach of the Australian Government’s Racial Discrimination Act and the Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islands Discriminatory Laws Act of 1975. Those Acts vest in the Queensland Director of Aboriginal and Island Affairs the powers of a dictator. He has the power to enter private homes. He can completely order and regulate the lives of the people by determining who may enter or leave a reserve. The permits are subject to summary revocation.
There are many things which need to be done. I remind the Minister of his obligation to institute far-reaching inquiries in respect of Aboriginal and police relations. The time for innocuous Press releases has ended. The Opposition will not stand idly by while the Aboriginal budget is slashed as it appears to be the intention of this Government so to do. We will represent the Aboriginal people in the hope that this Government will give the same kind of priority as was characterised by the administration of Aboriginal affairs during the period the Labor Government was in office.
– One would think that the former Minister, the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson), was a member of a Party which had had a successful policy with regard to Aborigines. He talks all the time of money. How did the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs before him describe the former Government’s policy on Aborigines? He described it as one of disaster; and disaster it was.
– That was the Labor Minister.
– Yes, a senator in another place. Another former Minister sitting here -
– A good one too.
-Probably better than some of those who followed him. He really had a great interest in and a great sympathy for the Aborigines, I know. But he did not understand the situation. I think he went into the field with money to burn, and the Aborigines are now suffering from this fault of the Labor Party of rushing in to change all and to try to fix the lot of the Aborigine by spending money, just money alone. Money is not everything. That was proved during the 3-year term of office of the previous Government. There was a lack of direction and a lack of purpose in the policy of the Party and among the Aborigines themselves. The Labor Party moved so fast in this field that it left the Aborigine absolutely flabbergasted. Now he has a feeling of expectancy. He expects to sit down and to get his ‘sit down’ money as the Aborigines call it. He expects to have trucks, cattle stations and other enterprises given to him. The Aborigine has not reached the stage, in many cases, of being responsible enough to handle the organising of these affairs. I notice that even the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) in his second reading speech said something about the taint of paternalism. I heard the honourable member for Hughes saying something about this despicable approach of paternalism towards Aborigines. If one speaks to the old men of the tribes out in the back country they will ask why the Labor Government did not stand alongside them as we stood alongside them in those horrible days of- in inverted commas ‘paternalism’. The whole development happened so fast that the Aborigines went from a society which was relying very heavily on the assistance and guidance of Europeans to a position where the Europeans were standing aside as advisers if requested. The old men today will tell you that it all happened too fast.
I know that the sentiments of the advisers were probably sound but their approaches were based on a complete and utter lack of knowledge of the Aboriginal people. Now we have a very long and slow way back to get into those people the idea that money does not grow on trees, that there is a hard time ahead. That hard time was caused by the Labor Party which wrecked the finances of this country. When we came to office we found nothing in the coffers. You just cannot run grandiose schemes without money. You cannot go on spending unchecked. This is one of the many departments in which the Labor Party just -
– Went berserk.
– Went berserk, as my colleague said, and spent money like water and promised it like it was going out of style. The Labor Party did the Aborigines a great disservice. I am not against this Bill at all; of course I am not. We must have money for the schemes, the ideas, the education, the housing, the health care- you name it- for the Aborigines, to bring Aborigines up to a standard whereby they can hold their heads high in the community. But we cannot achieve this by throwing things at them to such an extent that they do not understand it. In the country in which I live I see this all the time. Some city slicker who runs a rag store or something in a Sydney suburb is seeking to interject. Let him get out in the spinifex and sit down amongst the Aborigines and the people who live there as I have done repeatedly for years. Let him get back to his dude suit and the rest of it. He is no expert on Aborigines.
– At least I wear wool.
-Yes, and so do I.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The House will come to order or honourable members will be sitting outside, not necessarily under a spinifex tree.
– It is a spinifex bush.
-I tell my ignorant acquaintance from Adelaide that some of the spinifex bushes are as tall as trees and on some occasions you cannot drive over them with a 4-wheel drive vehicle. We have heard a certain amount of premeditated abuse of committees investigating whether Aborigines are getting real benefit from the money which has been appropriated on their behalf. Mr Hay, with 5 or 6 people on his committee, is investigating whether money is being spent correctly. I can well imagine that he should be looking into the expenses of such organisations as the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee. Members of the Opposition trumpet here about the good that organisation is doing the community.
This Government has been accused of wishing to abolish the NACC. The Minister has gone to the extent of saying in his second reading speech that that will not happen. But the NACC should be investigated thoroughly to see whether Aborigines are really gaining from it. Whereas there are 41 members of the NACC around Australia, the ones in the Northern Territory are not benefitting the Northern Territory because they hardly ever go away from the places where they live. For instance, the representative on Goulburn Island is seldom to be found anywhere else but on Goulburn Island. The member who used to be on Bathurst Island is not there now; the member is now from Wave Hill. He would not dare go on to Bathurst Island now. He would not even dare to go futher north than Katherine. Where is the representative at Papunya? He is not seen anywhere else but Papunya. I just mention three of them off the cuff. These are all men who are getting $9,000 a year. Something should be done whereby the Aboriginal community benefits from these organisations. We should not just pay fares for the representatives to come to Canberra and say: ‘This is great’ and return and sit back in their places and do nothing whatsoever.
– They do better than the Country Party members do for the farmers.
-The honourable member started this disastrous program for Aborigines, and the man who followed him in the portfolio admitted that it was disastrous. I am not saying these amounts of money should not be spent, but I mention the NACC, Aboriginal Legal Aid, the Central Australia Aboriginal Congress, the Alice Springs Aboriginal Institute and other organisations. It was said that there are hundreds of organisations thirstily waiting for funds. Someone must investigate how those funds are spent and on what they are spent, because one sees almost everyday items that could represent abuses of the use of finances that have been allocated. We hear about the waste in relation to housing and so on. I think it is in Tennant Creek that there are 2 half-built houses which have cost $88,000. 1 am not harping on that point. I think that at Nguiu on Bathurst Island there are 50 houses which were put in position by the people who are running that township. That was not any grandiose scheme.
– Good resourceful building.
– My answer to that interjection would be that it was good resourceful organisation by the Catholic mission which used to run Bathurst Island. I say that the money should be spent by all means but that value should be got for the money which is spent. Many Aboriginal institutions or Aboriginal services should be investigated to see whether the Aborigines themselves are receiving the proper benefit, that the money is going to their benefit.
I turn now to clause 3 of the Bill. We have in this Bill the same problem that we have had with almost every Aboriginal Bill which has come into this place since the Labor Party took office. I refer to the definition of ‘Aboriginal’. The Bill provides money for the organisation of Aboriginal affairs. I am not complaining about that. But the last Bill we debated in this place concerning Aborigines was the Aboriginal Land (Northern Territory) Bill which was produced by the Labor Government. We fought the definition of an Aborigine as set out in clause 3 of that Bill. I would still like to put it on record that we on this side of the House- or at least we who live in that part of Australia which I represent- say that that definition of an Aborigine is not fair and it is incorrect. That definition was originally bulldozed through by the Labor Party in spite of the objections by those people who live among Aborigines. I see that the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) is in the House. He expounded a reasonable definition of an Aborigine. I hope my protest is noted. Just because the Labor Party bulldozed through the Parliament a Bill on Aboriginal affairs containing this definition it appears to be now accepted as the definition of an Aborigine. It is utterly unsatisfactory. I leave it to the honourable member for Mackellar because he wrote a very sound definition of an Aborigine. I support the Bill but I really would like to know how the finances are used.
-When one listens to the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) one gets the feeling that Blue
Hills, having been discontinued on the Australian Broadcasting Commission radio stations, has moved to Alice Springs. It is the same old story ad nauseam: They are spending money on the Aboriginal people. Mind you, the honourable member is not against it, but he complains that one particular lot should not get it or that they are wasting it; some of them might e ven buy food with it; it might even be used for providing shelter for them.
Perhaps we might go over a little of the history for the honourable member. There are a number of honourable members in this place who do not happen to live under spinifex bushes but who do happen to have wandered around Australia and looked very closely at the country and talked to people very closely. I was the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs from the inception of the Labor Government in 1972. Until the introduction of the States Grants (Aboriginal Assistance) Bill which is before the House we have had pretty much a bipartisan policy. But none of us on this side of the House can listen to the denunciation of the programs introduced in the last 3 or 4 years, or see the consequent reduction in expenditure in Aboriginal Affairs which flows from this Bill, and let it pass unnoticed. Honourable members opposite talk about our disastrous programs. Occasionally they mention that so many houses have cost so much more money than they should have. Very rarely does one hear about a specific case; very rarely do they say in the House that a particular project was not necessary, that the money was all wasted. Very rarely do we find projects in relation to which one can say that. Of course there will be differences of opinion about what you should do and what you ought not to do. Of course value judgments are going to be made; sometimes they will not bring home the results that one wants. But extraordinary difficulties obtained when we entered into government. There was no operational department working; a section of a department handled Aboriginal affairs. In his 1974 report the Auditor-General -had this to say:
The inescapable conclusion is that from the outset the Department failed to oganise itself so as to control the expenditure of large amounts of public moneys according to the tenets traditionally aplicable. It is also apparent that the Department, while admittedly burdened with new initiatives which occupied the attention and energies of what it claims to be its inadequate, and in many cases, inexperienced staff, failed to take early and resolute action . . .
One of the great problems that will face any government when it attempts to take new initiatives in this country is the total inadequacy of the Public Service system to take up the challenge of creating new departments and new positions. It was one of the facts of life, unfortunately, that it took nearly 18 months to get people after the initiatives had been taken to create the positions. It was one of the oddities of Australian administration that within a few weeks of the Labor Government coming into office in December 1972 we were able to open an embassy in Peking but that it took 18 months or more to open an Aboriginal Affairs office in Brisbane. That is just one of the deficiencies of the Public Service system. I have no quarrel with the public servants, or with many of the aspects of the Public Service system, but the facts are that it is too inflexible when faced with new challenges. I hope that the various reports that are brought down by the various commissions will change that system. It affects my friends as it affected us.
I personally was well aware of the situation in relation to Aboriginal affairs. I knew that some portion of the grants that were made to organisations throughout the country might well be spent in a wasteful manner. I insisted from the very beginning that we pay our grants in small sums. We established an appropriate supervisory system. That took, I suppose, the best part of 2 years to implement. I know that my successor in office did say that our programs were a disaster. I challenge him to prove it also. I have listened to that criticism for long enough. I have waited for 3 years for the opportunity to stand up here and say- I am saying it quite emphatically now- that I deny the charges that have been laid against the former Government and its officers. I suggest to honourable members opposite -
-What about the turtles?
– I will talk about turtles in a moment too if that is what the honourable member wants. The facts are that hundreds of projects were embarked upon throughout Australia. Most of them were adequately serviced and adequately administered; some of them, of course, were not. Most of them were pursued to such an extent that errors of that sort were overcome. It became part of the theme, the mystique, of parliamentary debates to talk about the continual expenditure and wastage in these areas, as was the case in relation to everything else. Again and again one asks: Whereabouts has this occurred? Not too often does one come across specific instances. Honourable members can read the report of the Auditor-General which bears me out on that point.
The honourable member for the Northern Territory says that we were going too fast. I wonder whether the newer members in this Parliament have taken the trouble to assess what the situation is. It is true, of course, that we produced a feeling of expectancy among the Aboriginal people; and why not? In this country, which is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, one per cent of the population is living in the most miserable possible surroundings, and honourable members opposite know that full well. If voices had not been raised by honourable members on this side of the House, honourable members opposite would have remained silent continually in this place about Aboriginal affairs. I have watched honourable members opposite. I have listened to the honourable member for the Northern Territory complain that we are wasting money on the salaries of the people on the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee. He has suggested that they do not do their job. What use has he been to the people of the Northern Territory? He has supported every mischievous and malevolent policy of his Government during all the years he has been a member of this House. When he stands at the pearly gates and is asked what he did with his stewardship, what will he say? He will say: ‘I continually denounced the programs that were helping one-third of my constituents’. The same can be said of most Government supporters.
I see the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) sitting opposite. When the Labor Government launched a program to establish a hostel in his electorate he called a public meeting outside the hostel on a Saturday morning to stir the citizens to try to have the project stopped. I went there and addressed the people. They were good, solid and- to use a term in vogue in these days- articulate, middle-class people. They were the sort of people who get elected on Liberal tickets all around Australia. They hooted and booed. They comprised a group of the finest racists that could be found this side of Cape Town. They were all sponsored, helped and kicked along by the honourable member for Griffith. Fortunately that program has been successful and the honourable member will admit it.
The Aboriginal people of Australia are still in great need. This year it is proposed to spend about $190m on them. But what is that amount when spread over 1 IS 000 people scattered across the continent in 400 different communities? Their needs range right across the board. I instance employment. My friend, the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) cited statistics. We know that at least 10 000 Aborigines are unemployed. They are located in impossible places. What can be done with those who live at Papunya, which I have visited, or at Yuendumu?
Perhaps some honourable members do not know where the latter is situated. It is hundreds of miles out in the centre of Australia- perhaps 140 or 150 miles from Alice Springs. If these people are shifted, they are destroyed socially and psychologically. If they are not shifted, what can be done for them in a place like that? Perhaps factories of some sort might be started to provide them with some employment. But their living conditions are dreadful. Such conditions should not exist on this continent. We appreciate the sheer physical difficulties of overcoming the problem. But people in such localities are entitled to enjoy the advantages of living on this continent and being part of this nation as are the rest of us. The fact that we cannot resolve the social problems at Papunya is no disgrace to anybody.
I represent an electorate in which there are concentrations of migrant people. We have not resolved the problems of suburbia nor the problems involved with the relationship of new migrants in our communities. Even in the suburbs of Canberra social questions arise to which we cannot find answers. However, there is little excuse for not overcoming some of the physical disabilities that occur in some areas. I do not know the answer with respect to employment in such remote areas. People like me would be prepared to spend money to investigate and to experiment and to come under attack. I would not mind that so much and most honourable members would feel the same.
Health presents another problem. I invite honourable members to examine health statistics to determine whether money is being wasted and whether we should reduce our expenditure on Aboriginal affairs. The question of housing is enormously difficult to answer. We are not even sure what sort of housing should be provided in the outer areas for tribal people. I think it is sad that the architects panel, even if it has on occasions been a little way out with its approach, is probably having its life determined at this moment. The Labor Government was not the first to encounter difficulties with Aboriginal housing. I visited Roper River, I think it was, and found lying on the ground about 15 prefabricated houses which had been transported there. Those houses were feeding the white ants. The previous coalition government in this instance had encountered the same problems. How can we get consistent performance out of people who work in the Public Service hundreds of miles from the areas with which they are concerned? How do we break down traditional procedures which stop effective administrative action being taken to overcome deficiencies when people run out of simple things like nails? I suggest that honourable members might take a close look at the administrative systems with which this country is beset.
Recently I have noticed attacks on the Redfern housing project in Sydney. It may be that had the job been given to developers they could have pulled the houses down and done something more rapidly and effectively with the area, but the Redfern housing project was a piece of social therapy. I had been Minister for only a few days when I went to Sydney and discussed this project with the people concerned. They put a proposal to me. I do not have my records with me but about 41 houses were bought for about $10,000 each. I wonder what would be their capital value today? The people have been working on this project for 3 years rehabilitating the houses. It is true that other people could have been employed to do the job quicker. Money might have been saved and it might not but it ill becomes honourable members to talk about the cost of housing in these times when it is expensive to do even the smallest job in their own homes.
Education is another problem right across the board. Aboriginal communities have an immense number of needs. The Labor Government set out to overcome the problems. This, of course, meant the expenditure of money. Most of the Ministers in our Government knew what a shortage of money meant, personally and nationally. None of us set out to spend money as if it were going out of fashion. That suggestion has been one of the consistent libels levelled against our Administration during its 3 years in office. It is true that there will be differences of opinion about the abolition of university fees or the abolition of the means test for age pensions but this is mainly because the person expressing an opinion is not personally worried about such matters.
– Read what Daly says.
– I suggest that he should be more specific about what he is writing. Education and Aboriginal affairs were under constant attack when the Labor Government was in office. It would be incorrect to say that we had absolute support in Cabinet and in Caucus. At most times we did have such support for the initiatives we took. We lifted expenditure on Aboriginal Affairs from $61m to $98m to $ 158m to $192m. But what does that money represent? How many destroyers would it have bought? I suggest that before honourable members start being too critical of Aboriginal programs they should consider the basis of their constant attack. I do not say this about the honourable member for the Northern Territory but much criticism is based on a racist approach which says: ‘Look at them getting all that money’. I have talked to people in the Northern Territory about this attitude. I have sat around the table with them. They said: ‘Look at the Government wasting all that money on them’. I said to one person responsible for such comments: ‘Cut it out, Bill. How many millions did that beef road out to your property cost?’ There are not too many people in Australia who do not get subsidised for their operations at some stage of the game. Criticism is also based on ignorance. Who knows about Papunya, Yuendumu, Yarrabah or Wiluna? I think the reduction in expenditure on Aboriginal affairs comes ill at this time. On Tuesday last the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), in discussing the world situation, said:
Finally, the appalling widespread problems of poverty, hunger and disease are not only an affront to human dignity, but constantly threaten discord and conflict between nations.
I suggest that his remarks apply also within nations. He also said:
The developed countries are regrettably more interested in trade between themselves than they are in facilitating the progress of nations poorer than themselves.
That is vintage Fraser. He should look around this country as well before he starts reducing programs for Aborigines.
– Do you not agree with what he said?
– I do. The right honourable gentleman said that about distant problems but today we are discussing a program about which the Minister said we would achieve savings of about $3m in State grants. What do we mean by the words ‘achieve savings’? The Prime Minister talks about the need to do things afar off, and I agree with him. But he cuts down programs in this country. Who is going to go without? Will it be the sick? Will it be the health programs? We know what the Aboriginal health situation is. Will it be the homeless? We know what housing is like. Will it be the hungry? We know about malnutrition that is caused for all sorts of reasons. Will it be the unemployed? What is going to happen next? Honourable members might take a look at some of the projects that have been happening around the country. They might go and have a look at what has happened in the education area in respect of the bilingual and other programs. Thousands of young Aboriginal children have been able to attend schools which they have not been able to attend before.
Honourable members might take a look at the legal aid situation and what that has meant in the courts. It is unhappily true that even in this country the poor, the long-haired, the migrant, the Aboriginal are the people who get the worst deal from the police and the courts. I am pleased that the Minister is to take up the question of the relationship between the police and the Aboriginal people. Work on this problem was carried out for me back in 1973 by Mr Les Shilton who had been a member of the police force in Victoria and a member of the State parliament. However, his job was terminated not long after I became Minister for the Capital Territory. The present Minister for Aboriginal Affairs will probably find the beginnings of the report that he was going to produce somewhere in the records.
There is no doubt that there are tensions on both sides. But the legal aid system for Aboriginal people often had to rely upon folk who administratively were not all that reliable. I had my own difficulties with people in the Northern Territory and in Darwin in particular. But one has to weigh the disadvantages of being a Minister under attack in situations like that with the advantages to the Aboriginal people who are protected from going to gaol. I suggest that in this review and reassessment of programs the last thing we want to do now is to reduce those programs. There is enormous wealth in this country. I understand from figures released recently that Australian average weekly earnings are now about the highest in the world. There is no excuse then that some people should be deprived of their very subsistence.
I want to say a word or two about the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee, known as the NACC. I formed this organisation. We recognised the difficulties that would arise. We knew that Aboriginal people elected in circumstances such as that would not get off the ground and become the kind of formidable people that members of this Parliament become in dealing with authority. But that will happen in the next round, I should think. Their job was to be the communication system with the Minister. That is why we convened the first meeting. I suggest that the present Minister should look upon them that way- they are a separate line of communication to himself.
Another matter that I want to raise is the decision to abolish the trust fund. I do not think that is a sound administrative procedure. This is still an area in which there is need for a great deal of flexibility. If you make an arrangement that you want $20m for housing this year and instead you see a need for this money to be transferred to employment or in some other direction during the year you may be faced with the fact that this Parliament has appropriated the money for the particular purpose of housing. In these circumstances you come up against the inflexible systems that we have inherited. I suggest that if you do remove the trust fund you retain the greatest possible flexibility in the estimates.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant), made 2 vicious attacks, one on my friend and colleague the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) and one upon me. He asked what would happen when the honourable member for the Northern Territory knocked on the pearly gates and was asked to account for what he had done during his stay on this earth. A more immediate question which comes to my mind is what happened when the honourable member, a former Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, knocked on the door of Gough Whitlam, the then Prime Minister, and was asked to explain the way he had been running his Department because the Prime Minister then sacked him from his portfolio and brought him back to the Australian Capital Territory so that he could keep an eye on him as he was a dull failure in his previous portfolio.
– Order! I suggest to the honourable member for Griffith that he address the Chair. I have had nothing to do with the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. I suggest also that the honourable member moderate his references to the honourable member for Wills.
-Well, it is the second last day of the sitting, Sir. I was provoked by the honourable member, particularly by his description of me as a middle-class articulate racist. I do not recall you having drawn his attention to the need to be -
-Order! The honourable member for Griffith should listen to what was said. The honourable member for Wills said that there was a group of people who were middle-class articulate racists, not the honourable member for Griffith. The Chair, therefore, on that occasion did not ask for any withdrawal because there was no personal reference to a member.
– I am very pleased that he did not include me in that group. I see that the honourable member is shaking his head indicating that I was not included in that group. However, I feel it is rather sad that the honourable member condemned as middle-class articulate racists a lot of the people who live in the suburb of Hill End, which is in my electorate in Brisbane. It is even more an occasion for sorrow that he should attack people who are not here to stand and protect themselves.
I clearly recall the occasion of the meeting referred to by the honourable member. The electorate of Griffith was the first electorate in Australia in which one of the Aboriginal hostels was placed. I am the first to stand and praise the manner in which that hostel is administered. When the announcement was made that the old Baptist theological college was being purchased for use as a hostel and that seventy or eighty Aboriginal people would be living there, the people of my electorate simply wanted to know what was going on. At the time the previous Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, who was sacked by the previous Prime Minister, made utterances from as far away as Cairns saying that the people in my electorate were a pack of racists. It is no wonder he walked into a hostile atmosphere on the Saturday morning to which he referred when he came to Hill End in my electorate. If history has to be put straight, let it be done now. The people of Hill End regard the hostel today as part and parcel of their community. But it is very easy to understand that in those days there was a doubt as to exactly what was going to be done.
Opposition members speak of this Bill as if the Fraser Government is destroying what has been done for the Aboriginal people. I reject that claim out of hand. There is absolutely no doubt that there has been- I give the previous Government credit for this- a vast improvement in the expenditure for Aboriginal people. But we have reached the stage where it is time to stand and mark time and ask ourselves whether that money is being wisely expended. We have made a cut on this occasion of 8 per cent to 9 per cent in the money to be allocated for this particular purpose. But when we look at that in the context of overall expenditure cuts there is no doubting that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has done a sterling job- that is almost a pun because the honourable member represents the seat of Stirling in Western Australia- in ensuring that the rights and aspirations of the Aboriginal people are, as far as possible, met in the context of the current economic problems facing this nation. The cut has only been small. I am sure that with the leadership and the dedication of the Minister, the Aboriginal people will not be stepping backwards but rather will be going forward by virtue of the fact he will be ensuring and insisting that every dollar that is spent will bring the greatest benefit to these people.
One cannot simply measure the advancement that will be made in terms of dollars. Advancement also has to be measured in terms of administrative ability and ensuring that the dollars that are made available are best spent.
– And efficiency.
-And efficiency, as my friend from Barton interjects. I have watched the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs rise in the estimation of most honourable members in this Parliament by virtue of the dedication I mentioned a few moments ago. I believe that under his command there is absolutely nothing to worry about.
I assure the honourable member for Wills that it is not just honourable members on his side of the House who feel compassion for these people. We have read, just as he has read, of some 50 per cent of the Aboriginal people being unemployed at present. That causes us great concern also because there is nothing more destructive to a person than being thrown on the dole list. It is stimulating to be usefully employed and it is important to make people feel that they are part of our society. It is not the Liberal-Country Party Government which has created this vast pool of unemployment in this country. When our Government went out of power in 1972 fewer than 100 000 people were unemployed. When we regained power there were some 300 000 people unemployed. One of the regrettable features of unemployment is that it is the unskilled who suffer most. Many of the Aboriginal people are unskilled and it follows that they have been the greatest sufferers. Honourable members opposite should not parade themselves in this place as the champions of the depressed. They had the opportunity of doing something about this situation but they brought more havoc to this country than any government has brought to it in this nation’s history.
I do not wish to continue this debate because I promised the Minister that I would speak for only a short time, but things had to be said in his defence and in the defence of this Government. It is appropriate that I conclude where I commenced and remind people that the honourable member for Wills was the Minister who was sacked. He was one of the many Ministers sacked by the then Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, because it appeared to the Labor Prime Minister that while the then Minister had a big heart and a lot of ideas he was lacking in the essential ingredients required of a sensitive administrator.
– I refute the remarks of the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) in his attack on the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant). In the time I have been in this Parliament I do not think there has been a Minister, whether from this side of the House or the other side, who has displayed more compassion for and understanding of the Aboriginal people than did the honourable member for Wills. He has been a strong supporter of the Aboriginal people for many years. For as long as I can remember his name, he has been involved in the Aboriginal Advancement League. He has been its federal president and his record in the field of Aboriginal affairs is one of which anyone could be proud, and that is more than I can say for some other people in this House.
It is not the intention of the Labor Party to oppose this Bill, but we certainly reserve our right to criticise. Possibly our main criticism is that although we have not solved all the problems of the Aboriginal people the Government is now going to cut over $3m from the sum allocated for this purpose. While the Government is doing that I do not think it can honestly say that it is doing its utmost to try to solve the problems of these people.
I think I can speak a little of the Aboriginal people although I do not travel around the Northern Territory as much as the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder). The honourable member for the Northern Territory thinks that the only people with dark skin live in his electorate and that the only people with any knowledge of them or can speak with any authority on them come from his electorate. How wrong he is. There may be experts on Aboriginal matters living in the Northern Territory but probably the greatest number of racists in Australia are in the Northern Territory. That has been shown on quite a few occasions. The honourable member talked about his own area but I remember an occasion a few years back when I was standing outside the Alice Springs Hotel. He would know that hotel. I saw the paddy waggons driven up and the Aborigines moved out of the beer garden at the Alice Springs Hotel. I saw one of the most brutal acts I have ever seen in my life. Fists, boots and all were used when these people were picked up, put into the paddy waggon and taken away.
The honourable member for the Northern Territory also mentioned the Aboriginal Legal
Aid Office. I can remember what used to happen in my own area. Before Aborigines had the right to drink they would take a few flagons of wine with them into the scrub. The police would get wind of what was happening and would raid the area. Usually there would be 40 or 50 people there. The police would pick them up, take them in and charge them all with drunkenness. The same thing was happening in the Northern Territory. Despite this we hear condemnation of the Aboriginal legal rights organisation. At least now, because of the Aboriginal legal rights organisation, when an Aboriginal appears in court he is assured of getting just representation in the court and will not be charged with an offence of which they were not guilty, as used to happen time and again throughout Australia. Aborigines were charged by association in that they happened to be present when the police raided. They were charged with being drunk simply because there happened to be some flagons of wine or some other intoxicating drink there and off to the court they would be taken and given 10 days or 28 days, whatever it was.
I think the Labor Party can be proud of what it has done. I think that possibly the last Minister for Aboriginal Affairs in the previous LiberalCountry Party Government understood this particular problem and made moves to try to stop this unfair administration of justice. These things still go on but at least Aborigines can get the correct advice and so forth and can be represented in the courts by legal people.
I recall the last occasion on which the honourable member for the Northern Territory spoke of Aboriginal matters. He condemned the purchase of Kenmore Park Station. This cattle station is in the north-west of South Australia and abuts the north-west Aboriginal area. When the Labor Government was in power we purchased another cattle station in that area, Everard Park, which is in close proximity to Kenmore Park. At that time there were restrictions on the Aboriginal people moving around the area although they were all of the one tribal group. They set up a reserve called Indulkana. I have spoken of this in this House on a number of occasions. After a lot of hard negotiations, 12 square miles were cut out of that cattle station and sold on the condition that a dog-proof fence was put around the place and that the Aborigines did not take wood off the station. The sale of Kenmore Park Station with its close association with the Ernabella Presbyterian mission, the north-west Aboriginal area and the station the Labor Government had purchased at Mimili- Everard Park was renamed Mimili- was an opportunity to get this land for these people. It was not intended that it be run as a cattle station but if that could be done and it could be made to pay, well and good. These people live in a strong tribal area and the purchase of that cattle station allowed those people to stay on their own area. Honourable members opposite can talk about the waste of money if they like but I would not care if these people did not make a cent out of that station. The point is that it provided a tribal ground on which those people could move around and not feel that they were being hunted away by other people, usurpers, who came into that area.
So much for those things. Perhaps I can get back to the Bill. Progress in these matters certainly did not start with the Labor Party coming to office. The former Liberal Minister for Aboriginal Affairs started the States grants set-up relating to Aborigines. The LiberalCountry Party Government commenced this following the referendum in 1967. I think a very small amount, something in the vicinity of $Sm, was allocated after the referendum gave the Commonwealth Government the right to move into these matters. In the year that the Labor Government came to office the amount had increased from the initial allocation of $Sm in 1967 to $61,167,000 in 1972-73. This was when the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) was Minister. That was a big increase on what had been allocated in the past and we of the Opposition are not condemning that When the Labor Government came to power we did not condemn his program; we made sure that it was expanded. We had a Minister who was compassionate and who had been involved in this sphere for a long time. He knew what the problems were. Programs were stepped up in line with the Australian Labor Party’s declared policy. Expenditure in 1972-73 was $6 1 m, in 1 973-74 it was $98m, in 1 974-75 it was $158m, and in the 1975-76 Budget $192m was appropriated.
Let us look at the areas in which this money has been spent. I think we all realise that for many years up until the last few years nobody gave a damn about Aborigines. Nobody gave a damn about their education, their health or thenhousing. It is no good honourable members opposite trying to take me to task on these matters, because I live in a town that had a festering sore on its outskirts in the form of an Aboriginal settlement. That is all it could be called. It comprised humpies made out of flattened kerosene tins. It was a festering sore on the outskirts of a white society. I know that many people in the town closed their eyes. They were a bit like some people in the Northern Territory who do not want to see the unsavoury things so they close their eyes. Many people in my town closed their eyes, but the Aboriginal settlement remained a festering sore.
Since the institution of the Labor Party’s policies we have seen some improvements. We have certainly not gone as far as we would like to go. One of the areas of greatest concern is education. Ten years ago you would not have seen an Aboriginal child in the local high school. Today Aboriginal children are receiving a reasonable education. The Aboriginal housing problem certainly has not been overcome, but the Aborigines have set up one of those so-called shocking organisations- a housing society. That housing society is trying to purchase houses around the towns to house Aborigines in decent conditions. That is one of the things on which honourable members opposite say we have wasted money.
Let us look at unemployment among Aborigines. The honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) said that the Labor Government caused unemployment among Aborigines. What a laugh. Just before the Labor Party came into government nobody gave a damn about whether Aborigines were employed. At least the Labor Government provided finance to local government authorities and various organisations and set up special works projects to provide jobs for Aborigines. Whilst I do not have the figures with me, I know the amount outlayed in my area was considerable and certainly was helpful to the Aborigines who were able to get jobs. At least they could not be condemned as being layabouts. They took up regular employment. We went a long way towards providing Aborigines with an opportunity to take their rightful place in society. It is in these areas that we are now to see possible cutbacks. I know it was said that only $3m was involved. But this is a period when we all know the problems. I do not say we have solved the problems. We are a long way from solving them; but in a period when we are starting to scratch the surface and starting to make some progress there are to be cutbacks in the area of Aboriginal affairs under the guise of a general cutback in public expenditure. As a nation we can justifiably cut back in some areas; but if we are to cut back in this area in which Australia should be ashamed of its past we should be ashamed of our future too. An article in this morning’s Sydney Morning Herald stated that it is expected that funding on Aboriginal projects in the coming Budget will be cut back by 15 per cent. I do not know whether that is true; but if it is, again it is something in respect of which the Government should hang its head in shame.
Discrimination is probably one of the greatest hurdles with which Aboriginal people have to contend. No matter where they go, they strike discrimination. Because of their position in society, they are open to discriminatory treatment. This is one of the areas in which the European society- the white society- has to change its attitude, and change it quite dramatically. I live in a town that has a large Aboriginal population. Everybody in the town knows that I have supported Aborigines for a long time. So I am not worried about any white backlash. If there were any white backlash I would have copped it years ago, but I have not. I am pleased to know that in areas where the Aboriginal vote can be identified I win that vote. So I feel I have a special responsibility to put my point of view in standing up for those people.
I am a member of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs which is looking into alcoholism among Aborigines. We see instances of this around the towns in many areas. The hotel that the Aborigines frequent in Port Augusta where I live is right opposite my office, so I see what goes on. Unfortunately I say this about the town I live in- too many people judge the whole Aboriginal population by what they see at that one hotel. I have said to a few people: ‘Come with me and we will watch the high school coming out, or we will look at some people who are settling into the community quite well and have been accepted by their neighbours’. I am afraid our society does not do that. We pick the worst and say that it is a classic example of what the Aboriginal people are. We in the Opposition will play our part because we know that is not true. We cannot take the worst and say it is the average. This is where I think the white community has to change its attitudes. Until we do, the Aboriginal people will be able to get so far and no further. We are giving them greater education. Whilst we have not overcome all the problems we are at least making more facilities available to them.
Again I come back to the question of unemployment. If we are to give them an education but then close the doors of employment to them- we talk about black power- we will have problems in the future. Whilst we may get away with discrimination against Aborigines who lack education and unsophisticated Aborigines coming out of the bush, we cannot train them, educate them and throw them back on the scrap heap. If we do that we will be creating problems for the future. It is up to us as a Parliament and it is up to the Government and to the Australian Labor Party when it gets back into power to continue the programs that the Labor Government started. My colleague the honourable member for Wills had a great deal to do with putting these programs into effect. I am sure we can go a long way towards overcoming the problems, but if we start cutting back now when we can see the light at the end of the tunnel it will be an insult to the people. It will be a blot on our conscience and an action for which we will pay a price in the future.
– I hope that we will be approaching this matter not to criticise one side or the other but to try to do the best for the Aboriginal people. We have to admit that while there has been progress over the past six or seven years in some aspects, in other aspects there has been a retrogression, and certainly in the north and the centre of Australia things for the Aborigines are not as good now as they were a few years ago.
I am not just saying that the money that has been spent has been spent inefficiently. I am saying something worse. Some of it has been spent in a way which has done harm to the Aboriginal people. I think this question has to be looked at from the point of their advantage. We are failing in our training of Aboriginal people to do things for themselves, particularly in the housing and construction field. I know some people say that you cannot train an Aboriginal to be a builder. I do not believe this. I have been in the field with Aborigines. They are very ingenious people. They have a great facility with their hands. They are able to do things with material which perhaps we would not be able to do ourselves.
Let me recite to the House a little history. In western New South Wales artesian bores were put down before the end of last century. Many of them were put down by Aboriginal teams with Aboriginal foremen. This is history. So it is no use telling me that we cannot teach these people, that they are incapable of learning. The fault, I think, in recent years lies with us rather than with them. We have failed to teach them, for example, the building skills which they can, I am quite certain, acquire to do things for themselves. Let us do a little self-examination. In the past Aboriginals have been able to do things for themselves. It is much harder to use a percussion drill to put down a bore a couple of thousand feet than it is to build a house. They put down these bores. This is history. I believe we can do better. I hope we will.
The question is not just one of money. We should not be niggardly with money. We are not being niggardly with money. It is not just a question of doing more by spending more. It is also a question, the realities of which we must face, that in the last 5, 6 or 7 years some things for Aboriginals in the Northern Territory, for example, or the centre of Australia have not gone forward; they have gone backward. I think this may be due very largely to the fact that we have spent too much too quickly trying to change too quickly. Where we meant, with the best intentions, to do good, we have in some cases, not all, ended up doing harm to the Aboriginal people. It is not a case of our trying to salve our guilty consciences or anything like that. One thing we must keep in mind is that in this program we are not concerned with ourselves; we are concerned with the Aboriginal people, their interests and their advancement. To give a child too much money too quickly may not always be to its advantage. Perhaps we have been guilty in this regard, not through any lack of good intention but sometimes through lack of practical application, not knowing what we were doing and not knowing the consequences. I ask members of this House to go to the tribal areas in the centre of Australia, northern Queensland, northern Australia and the Northern Territory and look. They will see what I mean.
I wish to raise a minor matter. It refers to clause 3 of the Bill. I regard the definition as imprecise and tautologous. It states: ‘Aboriginals’ means persons who are-
It is simply that. What does that mean? It says that Aboriginals are Aboriginals. This begs all the questions. A member of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence can also be a member of the Privileges Committee, but a member of the Senate cannot be a member of the House of Representatives at the same time. Can a person be a member of 2 races at the same time? A person of total Aboriginal blood is an Aboriginal. A person of total European blood is a European. What about the person who is half of each? Perhaps he is of either race. What about the person who is one-sixteenth or onethirtysecond Aborigine? To which race does he belong, or does he belong to 2 races? Can a person belong to 2 races just as some persons can have dual nationality. These are quite important questions which are not dealt with in this clause. I believe that, not for the purposes of this Act but the the purposes of other Acts, we should be adding words which confine the definition to those people who claim to be Aboriginals and who are accepted as Aboriginals in the community with which they are associated. This, I think, is very important when we are talking of the Northern Territory, the north of Western Australia or the north of Queensland.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– in reply- I wish to reply shortly to those who have spoken in this debate, to thank them for their contributions and to comment briefly upon them. A number of speakers have pointed out the problems that are faced in administering programs in respect of Aboriginal affairs. They have quite rightly pointed to these problems and at what the Government has to do with respect to them. This is not a matter that should be underestimated, and certainly it has not been underestimated by the present Government. Some speakers on the Opposition side referred to cuts in programs relating to Aboriginal affairs. They mentioned a figure of $3m in savings in this year’s expenditure which was decided upon by the Government as soon as it came into office. It is proper to describe it as savings and not as direct cuts in funding for programs for which a commitment of funds had already been made.
Upon examination made within my Department it was found that there were areas where, on the very best analysis of the funding, funds would not have been expended and so, without any hardship caused to any programs, savings in the true sense could be made. Therefore there was no diminution in a real sense of what was intended to be done by the Government this financial year. In respect of next financial year and the statement in this House by the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) indicating the prospective budgetary position of the Government, my Department along with most other departments had to share the responsibility for the Government’s commitment to a reduction in the level of growth of Government expenditure. In my area as well as in all others it was appreciated that, if the economy of this country was to be brought under control, we all had to share in the responsibility and, in a sense, in the burden of getting control of public expenditure, bringing it into perspective and then, in a holding position this year, assessing what our current programs were and where we would be going in the year after that.
So when members of the Opposition and people outside this House speak of a dereliction of duty by the Government in supporting and funding programs of Aboriginal advancement, they really do not give a true account of the intentions of the Government. Those intentions can be stated shortly in this way: It has been said by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and it has been said by other members of the Government that the mere spending of money does not of itself bring real advantage to those who are disadvantaged. In these fields above all we must see that the money that is spent is put to work effectively and efficiently, because there is nothing worse than putting money in the hands of people and expecting them to respond when there is no underlying support given to them so that they can respond in a way which is of real value to them in a social sense and which in a financial sense shows that the Government has spent its money wisely and well.
When people within and outside Parliament speak of cuts in expenditure on Aboriginal affairs in the forthcoming year and say that the Government has done a terrible thing, they need to appreciate the purpose behind what the Government has done. As I have said, it is this: When money is spent it must be spent in a way in which the people who it is intended should receive it receive real value for money. One of the tasks that I set myself when I came into this position of responsibility in the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs was to go out into the field, meet the Aboriginal people, talk with them not to them, and in that way seek to understand not only their problems but also the way in which they see that their goals may be achieved, so that they may set their own priorities, so that they may have a sense of responsibility and so that they may have a sense of self reliance and self sufficiency. Many of them said to me very early in the piece that they felt that there were significant areas in which the money which was being provided by Government was not finding its way down to the people at the grass roots level. They were not receiving the real benefit of the money that Government was providing. Therefore this Government, with a sense of the importance of promoting programs of self management and self reliance for the Aboriginal people, realised that these programs must be coupled with a high level sense of financial discipline and financial efficiency so that the money would go to the places where there was greatest need and so that it could be seen in a real way that the people in those areas of greatest need were receiving the benefit of it.
When it came to looking at the prospective expenditure for the Department of Aboriginal Affairs in the year 1976-77 the Government determined that there should be in a number of areas a fundamental reappraisal of the direction in which Government programs were being taken and that, whilst that reappraisal was being carried on, the funds available in those areas should be held at a level which would enable basic programs to be continued- programs where there had been legal commitments- so that in an on-going sense funds would be continued in the area. The 2 areas directly affected were housing and Aboriginal enterprises. The area of housing comprises grants to the States for the provision of Aboriginal housing and the provision of direct grants to Aboriginal organisationsin this case to the Aboriginal housing associations. The Government required of me that I review these programs in the case of State grants to see that the funds being provided were going to those Aboriginals in the greatest need of housing. Whether it be in Western Australia, New South Wales or the Northern Territory, where there is a continuance of reserves and a low standard of housing and where the Aboriginals on those reserves live in an impoverished economic state, to the extent that housing is fundamental to raising the standard of living of those people and to giving them a new hope for their future and for the future of their children, the Government decided that a reappraisal of those housing programs was necessary. It was not with the intention of cutting back funds that in the long term will be available through State Government agencies, but in order to ensure that when the Commonwealth Government provides those funds they will be going to the areas of greatest need.
So that is what I and my Department are doing at present. In due course I shall be reporting to the Government. Likewise, in the area of Aboriginal housing associations, where money is provided directly to Aboriginal groups who have constituted themselves into housing associations, there have been criticisms from Aboriginals and from within government that money provided to these housing associations, not in all cases, but in some cases, is not producing the results that governments would want. At present I am conducting a reappraisal of these programs and specific projects funded directly to Aboriginal housing associations. While that reappraisal is going on, the Government has decided to limit the funds which are necessary in order to meet necessary legal commitments and in order to provide an on-going program for those housing associations which have a proven track record of success. Out of this will come a decision by government of the best way in which to support the principle of self-management to which the
Government is committed for Aboriginals and Aboriginal organisations and the methods of administration which will lead to financial efficiency and a sense of responsibility by those organisations provided with funds. That in turn will establish a foundation for future funding, future support on a long term basis, not on an ad hoc basis. No longer will associations be advised that they have a level of funding for a current year and subsequently be advised, with regrets, that that money will not be available. Funds will be provided on a continuing basis to those organisations which can show that they can produce the results for the Aboriginal people. That is what it is all about. It is not a deliberate action on the part of government to cut back any commitment to the Aboriginal people but to ensure that whatever funds are provided in the future will be provided in the right places and in the right way and will give to the Aboriginal people real value for the public funds that are committed by government.
The other significant area which is under reappraisal at the moment is that of Aboriginal enterprises. This covers activities such as pastoral properties, market garden activities to provide the nutritional needs of communities in the remoter parts of Australia and a variety of other enterprise activities of Aboriginal communities. It is considered by government, and quite rightly, that we need to look again at the purpose for which properties and activities such as this are undertaken and in order to determine the most effective ways in which government can support the Aboriginal people. I assure the Aboriginal people of Australia that that does not indicate in any. sense at all any lessening of concern by this Government for their advancement. In fact the statements that have been made already by me and by the Prime Minister concerning Aboriginal land rights indicate the commitment of this Government to significant reforms in Aboriginal affairs. That will have a marked impact on the attitudes of the Australian people to Aboriginal advancement as well as entrenching government activity, acknowledgement and recognition of the special interests of Aboriginals in Australia.
So whatever is done now in terms of reappraisal of current programs, of planning of future programs, there is one single objective, and that is the advancement of the Aboriginal people, not in the way of the past through the paternalism of governments but in the way of the future- through opportunity to individual Aboriginals and communities of Aboriginals to have a sense of self-determination, a motivation for selfmanagement and a realisation of self-sufficiency and self-reliance. We ask no more of the people of Australia who are not Aboriginals. Therefore we should set our sights, set our goals at providing the Aboriginal people who have been disadvantaged for so long with the same goals as all Australians set for themselves.
I welcome the contribution made by the honourable member for Grey (Mr Wallis) who pointed out quite rightly that so often people point to single instances. As he mentioned, if Aboriginals drink in a particular hotel and the people in a place like Port Augusta observe that, they may condemn all Aboriginals for what they see in that particular instance. I thank the honourable member for making the point that Aboriginals cannot be judged on a single instance of that kind. When that kind of point is made I think of recent headlines in my own State of Western Australia where the newspapers referred to brawls, not by Aboriginal Australians but by other Australians, at the Sunday sessions of metropolitan hotels. I ask myself: Are all Australians judged by the activities of those who cause trouble at a Sunday session in the local hotel? Of course the answer is that they are not. Likewise the success of government programs and the outlook of the Australian community towards Aboriginals will be exemplified by the occasions when people realise that Aboriginals must be judged by their conduct in the same way as other Australians are judged.
I thank the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) for his contribution and for pointing out that so often in this field the fault lies not in the Aboriginals but in us- the other Australians- and the attitudes that we have towards them. At least in recent years public attitudes have changed towards what must be done for and in respect of Aboriginals, not in any paternalistic sense whatsoever but in a way which recognises those people as having special and peculiar characteristics- people who have a culture of their own which needs to be recognised and given full value for its own particular attributes. This attitude has been adopted in the realisation that we ought not to treat their culture with disdain. If we seek to understand it and give full recognition to it within our community, then in this way we can seek to bring about fundamental social changes in what we as a government and as a people do in respect of Aborigines. That is the way of this Government. That is the way I would hope that my ministry will demonstrate to the Aboriginal people, and beyond them to all Australians, as the way in which we must treat these people who are our equals as citizens; people who have the same rights as you and I; people who deserve the same support as you and I, and because of their particular position in society people who must receive special treatment from Government.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
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.
-I seek leave of the House to present a copy of the transcript of public evidence taken before the Joint Committee on the Parliamentary Committee System in the 29th and 30th Parliaments.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-I present a copy of the transcript of public evidence taken before the Joint Committee on the Parliamentary Committee System in the 29th and 30th Parliaments and seek leave to make a short statement.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-I thank the House. I think I should explain the reason for tabling these transcripts of public evidence which the Committee has taken and authorised to be published. I do this not as a former chairman and then deputy chairman of the now defunct committee but as a private member who feels that this publicly available evidence should be drawn to the attention of the Parliament and its members.
When the report of the Joint Committee was tabled last week a limited number of copies was available for circulation to honourable senators and honourable members. There has been considerable discussion on the report, discussion which, I hope, in the future will be facilitated by a wide distribution of the report within the next 2 weeks and the availability of the transcript of evidence. Copies of the transcript are available from the Bills and Papers Office and from the Parliamentary Library. Only a limited number is available at present but copies will be circulated to every member prior to the resumption of the sittings in August when I believe the report will be debated. I have not asked leave to move for the printing of the report because I understand that this will involve considerable expenditure. I thank the House for leave to present this evidence which serves to remind it of the work done and the information that is available.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Bill presented by Mr Anthony, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to authorise financial assistance to the Queensland Government for flood mitigation works along the Proserpine River in North Queensland. Assistance for the project will be by way of a non-repayable grant of up to $374,400 over 4 years towards the cost of specified works commenced during the current financial year on a 40:40:20 basis of matching contributions- Commonwealth, State and Proserpine River Improvement Trust respectively. This formula for sharing the cost of flood mitigation works between the 3 tiers of Government is consistent with previous Commonwealth participation in similar projects in other States.
Honourable members will recall the disastrous floods in Queensland in January 1974. As a result, the Commonwealth invited Queensland to submit a State-wide plan of flood mitigation which could be considered as a basis for Commonwealth assistance. Proposals for flood mitigation works in the Brisbane area and along the Proserpine and Pioneer rivers in North Queensland were submitted by the Queensland Government for priority consideration. As a result, the Commonwealth has provided $2.65m to date towards the cost of works in the Brisbane area, and in 1974-75 the Commonwealth provided $120,000 for the restoration of flooddamaged levee banks along the Proserpine River.
Subsequently, a detailed investigation of the flooding problem along the Proserpine River confirmed the need for an improved system of levee banks to provide adequate protection to the town and surrounding canefields, and a comprehensive plan of flood mitigation was drawn up to provide protection against floods of up to a frequency of one year in ten. The previous Commonwealth Government offered to share the cost of implementing this plan on a 40:40:20 basis with the State and the River Improvement Trust respectively. The Bill now before the House relates to the decision of the present Government to confirm that offer.
The works to which Commonwealth assistance will apply are listed in the Schedule to the Bill. Briefly, they consist of: River improvement works- such as the removal of impediments to improve river flow; construction, reconstruction and re-alignment of levee banks; construction of spillways and other works to divert overbank flood flows; and road works to accommodate diversion structures. Surveys and design work of the structures have been almost completed and construction should be well under way during 1976-77
Proserpine has a very productive sugar industry and the flood mitigation works should enable the industry to exploit more fully the natural advantages of the region.
The flood mitigation works will considerably reduce flood damage to property and public infrastructure. They will also lessen the periodic disruption to normal activities in the region and attenuate the insecurity experienced by local residents during the wet season. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Keating) adjourned.
Debated resumed from 20 May, on motion by Mr Anthony:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Opposition is not opposed to this Bill. The overseas investment insurance scheme has had a good deal of success since its introduction in part in 1965. It can be seen from looking at a list of the countries now involved in this scheme and in which we have investment, the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation is playing an increasingly important role between our country and other developing countries. People would be surprised to learn that not only are underdeveloped countries involved but also some well developed countries now have money invested from this country and insurance cover under the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation Act. I seek leave to have a list of those countries incorporated in Hansard
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The list read as follows)-
Countries in respect of which overseas investment insurance cover has been taken out since 196S
Columbia, Dubai, Fiji, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Khemer Republic, Lebanon, Malaysia, Mozambique, New Caledonia, Panama, Peru, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, and Papua New Guinea.
-I refer to the first report of the Corporation because I want to make reference to the investment side of the Corporation’s work. The first report of the Corporation dated 30 June 1975 states at page 21:
The Corporation now insures 49 investments made by 36 firms in 1 7 countries. Of these, 9 investments were insured in the period under review. At 30 June 1975 the aggregate contingent liability stood at $63,832,249. Premium income received since the inception of the scheme in 1 966 amounted to $701,086 and, while no claims have yet been paid, 2 investments in the Khmer Republic may result in claims payments in the next financial year.
There have been, as shown by that report, very few problems associated with the operation of the Act when one considers the total insurance cover given. The only 2 recent problems concerned the change of power in both Chile and Cambodia. I support the intent of the Bill in allowing the Corporation to insure its own commercial account without that policy being approved by the Minister. This is very much in keeping with the sentiments that were expressed by the Deputy Prime Minister at the time, Dr J. F. Cairns, in 1974 when he introduced the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation Bill. He stated:
As with EPIC, the Government has been concerned to provide maximum autonomy for the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation consistent with the necessary measure of Government control over broad policy.
It is obvious that the Bill now before us concerning the Corporation will need continuing monitoring in relation to the role that it plays, and obviously amendments to the operations such as we have before us today will be coming before the Parliament continually until we have the perfect system. When one considers that 80 per cent of our total liability of investment insurance is in respect of the Association of South East Asian Nations countries, it reflects the importance of this instrument in the building of relationships between ourselves and our neighbours.
I hope to see in the future a steady growth, particularly in the investment area, for it is extremely important for us to play a role in seeing that the under-developed countries reach thenown economic independence. I cannot think, of any greater assistance we can offer to the countries involved than help of this kind with projects that can be undertaken with the benefit of experience gained in our well advanced technological industries. It has been a successful project, as I have said, and honourable members on both sides of the House can be well pleased with its operation. It adds a great deal of confidence to decisions that sometimes have to be made by some of our major industries and runs parallel with similar legislation which operates in other advanced countries.
– I wish to associate myself with the amendments to the EFIC legislation- this legislation is of considerable relevance to the future effectiveness of the Export Finance Insurance Corporation which has been operating since 1965, and has been of considerable advantage to Australian industry, and has had the support of all Governments during that period. EFIC then EPIC was introduced in 1965 to assist Australian manufacturers in the establishment of manufacturing facilities and overseas investments and to enable them to maintain and to expand their export markets. It is worth noting that Australia has been one of the leaders in this field. But it is also not irrelevant to point out that since we are one of the world ‘s 1 5 greatest trading nations it is obviously of considerable relevance to the future economic prosperity of our nation that we expand on every possible level the possibilities of trade throughout the world.
The overseas investment insurance scheme has implemented the policy, as I noted earlier, of successive Australian governments aimed specifically at encouraging direct Australian investment, essentially in developing countries and of course those in the South East Asian and Pacific regions. At present, for example, some 56 overseas investments are currently being covered by the corporation at a value of some $69m. It is worth noting that, following the change of government m Cambodia and the possible loss of the Australian milk plant in Phnom Penh, this will be the first time that the corporation has been requested to meet a major claim. In a sense that is a very good record, but it also suggests that the EFIC has been careful to ensure investments covered by its policies are in the national interest, at the same time not encouraging Australian business to take what the Corporation regards as unnecessary risks. It is worth while noting also that in recent months some 32 applications for investment insurance cover have been submitted. This is a clear indication that there is an increased usage of the scheme hopefully by small to medium as well as large business. Therefore it is not unreasonable to suggest that Australian industry, as it recovers from the depressed state in which it presently finds itself, as well as developing internally will be looking towards foreign markets for an expansion of its capacity.
The credit insurance policies which are covered by the EFIC essentially cover service policies, construction works policies and leasing policies. I wish to take a few moments of the time of the House to expand on these 3 categories because I think it is of extreme importance that the manufacturers and exporters of Australia are made aware of the considerable opportunities which are at present available to them. The service policies cover payments for technical and professional services, for patents, royalties and so forth; the construction works policies cover payments for sums due under construction contracts entered into overseas. These policies, for example, may cover the supply of goods and materials as well as the performance of services where both are specified in a contract. As to the third type of policies, namely leasing policies, these cover lessors of Australian equipment against failure or inability of overseas lessees to pay accounts due under leasing or hiring agreements. In other words, those 3 areas of policy cover most of the likely situations in which an Australian exporter may find himself placed.
The principal amendments, as already noted by the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) when he introduced this legislation, will empower the Corporation to enter into transactions for the more routine business on its commercial account in accordance with the policy approved by the Minister. The previous system was that all applications for policies had to be submitted to the Minister for his specific approval. It is not unreasonable to suggest- I am delighted that the Minister has accepted this advice- that it would be more sensible to apply the policy criteria on the basis of judgments which cover all reasonable expectations. Therefore, the policy approved by the Minister in relation to the EFIC amendments establishes guidelines which will be observed by the Corporation. The Corporation also has categories of investment which will be eligible for insurance which are in the nature of non-commercial risks against which investors overseas should be insured- such as warlike acts, confiscation, imposition of trade restrictions and buyer insolvency. Of course those applications which fall outside the scope of the approved guidelines will continue to be referred to the Minister for specific approval.
An additional amendment which has been proposed in this Bill is the provision of a definition of an overseas investment transaction. This is of considerable relevance in relation to insurance cover in particular because it will enable the cover to be broadened and will reflect more effectively the current commercial practices in this regard. It is also proposed to have 2 additional categories of investment, namely, guarantees of loans made to finance investment overseas, and secondly, investment transactions made through overseas affiliates. As far as Australia’s investment overseas is concerned, the latter is of particular relevance because although the Australian shareholder must have a majority interest, it will mean that investments entered into on the basis of a joint operation with a Hong Kong business or a Chinese business in, Singapore or Malaysia will be eligible for cover by the EFIC. Therefore, the possibilities of making reasonable insurance cover available on the terms which I have already noted should be of considerable assistance in the further development of the South-east Asian region. Of course, fundamentally the proposals are directed to facilitating our commercial relations with developing countries.
There is, however, a specific matter indirectly associated with this legislation which I hope the Government will be considering in the future; that is, of course, the question of insurance cover for performance bonds. This is in a sense related to the recent proposal of the Associated Chamber of Manufactures of Australia and various other manufacturing organisations for the establishment of what they call an Australian Overseas Projects Corporation. The basic objective of course is to enter into an arrangement with the Government by which Australian secondary industry- both manufacturers and those who wish to enter into contractual arrangements for the construction of capital works projects overseas- will be enabled to have reasonable cover. The present situation therefore is that adequate cover, in terms of performance bonding, does not exist.
I should explain for the benefit of the House the concept of performance bonds. They are financial guarantees ensuring that the project concerned is completed and that it meets contractual specifications. They are normally irrevocable and may be arranged through banks or insurance companies, and on occasions the bonds are open-ended to the extent that the buyer has considerable bargaining power. This is a very normal procedure in most European, and certainly North American, countries. There are, however, at the present time in Australia only 2 companies, both of which are, incidentally, foreign owned which arc prepared to enter into the performance bonding market. The importance of these bonds arises from the practice of making advance and progress payments for large construction projects, and these payments are clearly in the interests of the supplier; but buyers could hardly be expected to make them without some guarantee that the project will in fact be completed. Without performance bonds the suppliers would be able to enter into contracts which they may or may not be able to fulfil and still have the effective option of being able to get out if profitability expectations become adverse. The bonds ensure that the risks associated with large international projects in particular are borne by suppliers, at least to the extent specified in the contract. Because most Australian construction companies are short of capital and find difficulty in obtaining colateral security for bonding purposes.
I am particularly interested in performance bonding because over the years successive Australian governments have made considerable investments in organisations, such as the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development IBRD- the International Development Association- IDA- and the Asian Development Bank. All 3 organisations require various levels of performance bonding before they will be prepared to enter into contractual arrangements with overseas supplies of goods and services and especially for technological and capital skills, which is what we need to export from Australia at the present time. I would therefore suggest that the Government examine this matter without delay, because it would appear that when we are in a state of economic slump, as we are at the present time, especially in the construction industry, there is a considerable degree of logic in suggesting that a government should encourage alternative areas of activity, if not in Australia then at least overseas to utilise excess capacity in the industry. It is worth noting the fact that the contributions made by the developed world to those 3 international banking organisations have run into thousands of millions of dollars; and it is only fair that since Australia certainly pays its fair share we should also be in the position where our industrial base will at least be able to get into the market.
In purely financial terms, the evidence would suggest that we have not done too badly. For example, up to 3 1 December last year Australia contributed some $85.7m to the IBRD, and the Bank’s procurement in Australia for that period was some $69.7m mainly goods and services, not construction. In other words, we are a little behind but then procurement is more than 75 per cent of our contribution. We find a similar situation in relation to the International Development Association, the IDA. We have invested, again up to 31 December last year, some $48.5m, and we have received in Australia a procurement of some $57m. The Asian Development Bank, however, which is the organisation with which we must be most closely associated, does not have such a beneficial result. Our contributions, again up to December of last year, were some $40.9m, while the procurement in Australia was only $22m. It is worth noting that it was Japan that got the lion’s share, as far as the Asian Development Bank contracts are concerned.
I must emphasise, however, that our aid policies should not be directed specifically to our own advantage. Nevertheless, since these investments are being made overseas, and as these banks are going to issue contracts and tenders on the basis of their own criteria, which involve performance bonds, it is only reasonable to expect that the Australian Government should be m a position to enable Australian contractors and suppliers of goods and services to be covered by an adequate insurance bonding system. It is worth repeating that the performance bond system has been used throughout the world and has become of particular relevance to investments in the Middle East. It appears that the oil rich countries have suffered considerable losses due to the default of suppliers and to the fact that projects are not living up to their expectations. For that reason they are demanding more than ever before that those who wish to put in a bid for major capital works projects, such as the construction of hotels, harbours and other major facilities are required to lodge performance bonds. At the present time, because the EFIC is not able under its Act to give these bonds, Australian industry is not able to enter into a fair comparative position with competition in the United States, the European Economic Community and so on.
As I noted earlier, the EFIC does not provide cover for the loss of performance bonds, presumably on the grounds that the event leading to the loss is within the control of the supplier. However, recent experience suggests that that approach is no longer effective. Both Lloyds and various American insurance interests now offer cover for loss of performance bonds. With regard to the Middle East in particular, it has been suggested that a new element of risk is that it is sometimes difficult to obtain impartial contract arbitration when dealing with the Middle East countries. Therefore, the performance bonds are so open-ended that the balance has swung almost completely in the buyers’ favour. It is not easy to achieve a multi-million dollar contract when you are bidding against major Italian, French, British and German construction firms. If we are to give the Australian construction industry a chance to enter into this very lucrative market, then obviously it is our responsibility to ensure that it is given this form of cover.
Performance bonds are normally expressed as a percentage of the contract price and they vary greatly between countries, between projects and, of course, between suppliers. There are some general comments, however, which are relevant because I consider this matter to be of considerable importance. Where a subsidiary company is required to take out a bond, it is normal for a similar undertaking to be made by the parent company as well. In the Middle East, a typical bond would amount to 20 per cent or 25 per cent of the contract price. These can sometimes be called up ‘at will’ but are usually offset by advance payments. In South East Asia, on the other hand, performance bonds are somewhat smaller and normally in the region of 5 per cent to 10 per cent. One insurance company currently providing cover for loss of performance bonds, cites various prices between Malaysia and Laos, for example, and the variation is between 10 per cent and 20 per cent. The Asian Development Bank, which I noted earlier, and the World Bank frequently require considerable performance bonds. Unless a company is in a position to make it quite clear that those funds are available it simply will not be seriously considered for tendering.
The difficulty, therefore, is that not only do amendments have to be made in the legislation to cover this very real problem, but also the EFIC, which has proved itself to be a most efficient organisation, does perhaps run the risk over the next few years of expanding its area of operation to such an extent that it will lose its administrative economics of scale which it presently has between its executive and its operating capacity. I had the pleasure when I was in the Department of Foreign Affairs to be involved with the EFIC in making assessments of overseas investments. I must say that of all the statutory corporations with which I have dealt at various times, I was extremely impressed with the efficiency of that organisation. I sincerely hope that it will continue to grow and continue to give to the Australian industrial base the considerable assistance which it obviously needs.
There are in Australia, as I said earlier, only 2 companies which are prepared to enter into performance bonding. It is certainly relevant for the business community to be aware that there are some facilities available. But it is also of considerable importance that the rates which these companies charge are, in my opinion, prohibitive. Those charges are probably quite sufficient to force many companies not to tender seriously for very lucrative contracts abroad, bom from governments such as in Saudi Arabia, or through the international banking organisations which I have already mentioned. Therefore what we have to consider is how to overcome this
The legislation as it presently stands quite specifically states that the EFIC is not allowed to enter into competition with the private sector. I have no problem with that whatsoever. What I suggest, however, is that if the EFIC is going to consider performance bonding it should be in a position to guarantee those bonds so that the existing insurance industry, whether it be Australian owned or foreign owned is encouraged to offer reasonable rates so that the Australian construction industry can take the necessary insurance cover and tender for contracts. As I have said, at the present time very few Australian contractors have work overseas. The construction industry, insofar as it is capable of investing overseas and making serious attempts to obtain these large and lucrative contracts, can only be encouraged if we are able to give it the basic insurance cover which is available to its major competitors.
-This Bill represents an important step forward in the continuing development of Australia’s armoury for the earning of essential export income and overseas currency and for its efforts to contribute to the development of the industrial strength of its less developed neighbours. Honourable members would appreciate that it was some 20 years ago when a Liberal-National Country Party government established the Export Payments Insurance Corporation to assist Australian ex- porters to insure their overseas trade. Over the last 20 years the Corporation has expanded steadily. It is now one of the most respected organisations of its type in the world. In its earlier years it took on the more secure business, and over the time the Government has backed it with guarantees in the more difficult areas or non-commercial risk. Gradually the Corporation has matured and grown, and with wider claims experience and better knowledge of our markets it has been able to take on more and more of the risk.
The Export Finance and Insurance Corporation has acquired an enormous range of experience in this field and it is now the Government’s pleasure to show its trust and appreciation of the Corporation’s work by handing over even more responsibility to it. On outward appearances the Bill appears to be a mere machinery measure but in reality it is an indication to the Corporation and our investors that this Government has great faith in the management and skill of the Corporation. The present legislation requires that all applications for investment insurance be submitted to the Miniter for Overseas Trade for approval. The principal amendments proposed would empower the Corporation to transact the more routine business on its commercial account without the need to refer individual applications to the Minister for decision. And so it should be for a corporation of the standing and experience of EFIC. Naturally where applications fall outside the ambit of commercial risk and the Government has to accept liability the proposition is still to be looked at the by the Minister.
In passing I would say how pleased I am to see this measure and to be able to speak to it, for as a member of the Department of Trade and Industry in the mid-1960s I did a considerable amount of work on the initial introduction of the overseas investment insurance scheme. At that time Australia was the fourth country to establish such a scheme. For many years the Corporation merely acted as the Government’s agent for investment insurance. I commend the Opposition for its amending the scheme in 1974 when it allowed the Corporation to underwrite investment insurance along commercial lines on its own account but, of course, under the watchful eye of the Minister.
The role of Australia in the trade of the world is well established, so well established that it is no longer popular to speak on matters of export and export incentive. As the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) noted in his statement on the world situation, we are ranked fifteenth in the world as a trading nation. We have seen our exports change from a massive dependence on farm products to a mixture of farm products and manufacturing and now to massive mineral exports plus farm products and a still growing manufacturing effort. As one who worked for more than S years in the large and effective Department of Trade I feel some anger in seeing what the disgraceful mismanagement of our economy over the last 3 years has led to in the manufacturing area. The massive cost spiral has made it almost impossible for numbers of our manufacturers to sell competitively overseas. Hard won export markets have evaporated so quickly when they took so much painstaking effort to build. Because of the mismanagement of successive Labor Treasurers we are faced with quite extraordinary decisions in bringing our economy under control. It is with considerable anguish that I noted the ministerial announcement concerning the reduction in government expenditure on such essential programs as the export market development grants scheme. I was pleased, however, to see that economic measures have been designed to minimise the impact on the smaller exporters.
We have been forced to reduce expenditure on the encouragement of investment overseas by Australian corporations. Perhaps this is not so serious as increasingly our Australian companies are being forced to set up manufacturing facilities overseas because of the increased cost of production in Australia. Other essential programs which I note with anguish that have had to be ended or cut involve the consulting services feasibility study fund and a limitation on the funding of the export finance facility of EFIC. I hope that the Australian trading bank system will be able to pick up the slack.
I remember that as an officer of the Department of Trade and Industry in 1968 I was given the task of assisting in arranging National Export Week- a major joint effort between government and the private sector. At that time our balance of trade was in deficit. Our aim was to double Australia’s exports in 10 years, from $3 billion to $6 billion. It was a major promotion and, I believe, a successful promotion. It was a truly joint effort between the community and government. This rich and hard-working country attained the goal in only S years. I might add with some pride that this was achieved under a Liberal-Country Party government. Perhaps we did too well. In 1972 when the spendthrift came to power these hard-won earnings, which placed this country in one of the strongest positions it has ever had in the trading sense, were quickly squandered.
Much has been spoken in this chamber of the mismanagement of the domestic economy but a lot more should be said of what happened to the hard won and exemplary performance on visible trade items in our balance of trade. I trust that this relatively minor adjustment to our export armoury will encourage our business community to accept more readily the good sense of investing overseas and shows that it is in fact a normal commercial decision rather than some move shrouded in the mystery of government control and interference. I also trust it will encourage those who manage and work for the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation to understand the Government’s support for their work. I commend the Bill.
– I support this Bill for an Act to amend the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation Act of 1 974. 1 am fortunate to be following the honourable member for Canberra (Mr Haslem) who spent some time working in the Department of Trade and Industry and who has had considerable experience with this particular matter. We are fortunate to have him in this chamber to give an exposition of the workings of this organisation during his sojourn in that Department.
– He will be here for a long time.
– I am sure he will be. The business of the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation, known as EFIC, is the encouragement of trade and commerce with other countries. Its operations extend to the provision of various types of insurance to Australian exporters and investors, to the giving of guarantees to banks and other financial institutions and to the making of loans in support of particular classes of transactions. The Corporation is a business undertaking operating on commercial lines. It is required to pay its own way. Figures that I will give shortly will indicate that this has certainly been the case, because it has traded profitably. Its facilities supplement rather than compete with other insurance and banking institutions.
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the overseas investment insurance provisions of the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation Act of 1974. The amendments proposed do not involve any change in the Government’s policy concerning the overseas investment insurance scheme operated by EFIC. The amendments are essentially of an administrative character and are intended to streamline the administration of the scheme for the benefit of Australian investors in overseas countries. The scheme certainly has been of great benefit to our export industries, not only our great primary industries but also our secondary industries. It has been of benefit wherever there has been the need to insure a risk involved with the export of goods. The Bill includes additional categories of eligible investment in the definition of an ‘overseas investment transaction’ for the scheme. The Bill permits the provision of insurance for certain overseas investment transactions for which applications have been validly submitted or approved under the repealed Export Payments Insurance Corporation Act 1956-73 but which are currently ineligible for insurance cover under the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation Act 1974.
The overseas investment insurance scheme has been a useful means of implementing the policy of successive Australian governments of encouraging direct Australian investment in developing countries, particularly those developing countries in our region. The majority of investments insured under the scheme are in developing countries. In recent years the countries of the ASEAN group have been the most important locations for investment cover under this scheme. This point has already been mentioned by previous speakers on this Bill. It is in this area where the greatest risks lie and where the greatest investments have been made.
It is interesting to point out the historical background to this legislation. The scheme was established in 1965 and it provided insurance cover against non-commercial risks for investments by Australian manufacturers which maintained or expanded markets for Australian exports. Australia was the fourth country in the world to establish such a scheme. The scope of the scheme expanded in 1974 to provide cover for all direct investments overseas which assisted materially in the economic and social development of the host country and which it was in Australia’s national interest to insure.
I now turn to the role of the Corporation. The Corporation has acted merely as the Government’s agent for investment insurance until the amendment of the scheme in 1974. 1 mentioned this point a few moments ago. Since then the Corporation, now known as EFIC, has been permitted to underwrite investment insurance along commercial lines on its own account, but with all applications being referred to the Minister for approval. The Export Finance and Insurance Corporation Amendment Bill 1976- the legislation we are now discussing- will change this procedure by allowing the Corporation to insure on its own commercial account within a policy approved by the Minister without the need to seek ministerial approval for each individual transaction.
I would now like to say something about the type of risks that can be insured by EFIC. The Corporation can insure non-commercial risks such as expropriation, war damage and exchange transfer blockage. The Export Finance and Insurance Corporation Amendment Bill 1976 has provision for the Minister to approve other non-commercial risks to be specified by the Corporation. I now turn to the cover available under EFIC. The period of contracts extends from a minimum of 5 years to a maximum of 15 years. The maximum indemnity cover under this scheme is 90 per cent of any loss that may arise, that is, the investor is required to bear a minimum of 10 per cent of any loss involved. The premium rates are extremely favourable. The standard basic premium rate of 1 per cent- that is $1 per $100 of the value of investment insured- is charged irrespective of the country in which the investment is made. A concessional rate, being 80 per cent of the standard basic premium, is offered in respect of joint venture enterprises between Australian investors and nationals of the host country.
I think it is only appropriate that at this stage we should look at the business written by this scheme up to date. We find that over 200 policies for investment insurance have been written to date by the Corporation. It is worth noting that 165 of these policies are still current involving a maximum contingent liability of $68.5m; 138 are written on government account and represent a maximum contingent liability of $63.6m; and 27 policies have been written by the Corporation on its own account- that is, since 1 February 1975 when permitted by amendments to the legislationinvolving a maximum contingent liability of $4.9m. About 80 per cent of the total liability is in respect of investments in ASEAN countries. This fact has been emphasised by other honourable members who have taken part in the debate tonight. The ASEAN countries have been the main ones associated with this legislation with investments in Indonesia representing about 50 per cent of the total liability being predominant.
Let us look at the financial summary of EFIC since it has been established. It has a capital of some $8m, underwriting reserves of $9.4m, advances for export finance loans of $4m and other reserves of $4m making total reserves of $25.4m. The face value of insurance business to March 1976- this is the last date to which figures have been made available- is of the order of $ 1 ,46 1 m involving : contingent liabilities of $ 1,022m to the same period. Claims paid over a 9-month period during 1975-76 amounted to $1.5m of which recoveries amounted to $0.6m. I understand from a member of the department concerned that a loss of some $378,000 was sustained. I might add that when a loss is sustained under this scheme it is of a fairly substantial nature. The premium income over a period of 9 months for 1975-76 was $2.3m. It is pleasing to note that in the 1974-75 period the Corporation made a profit of $ 1.5m.
The Corporation has done a very good job for Australian exporters since it was established. It has helped overseas countries to purchase our products. It has also helped our exporters in that they know they can insure against any losses which may be involved owing to the factors that I have enumerated. I have much pleasure in supporting the legislation which I believe meets with the acclaim of all members on both sides of the House.
Question resolved in the affirmative. Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Staley) read a third time.
-I present the Fourth Report of the Publications Committee.
Report- by leave- adopted.
Debate resumed from 20 May, on motion by Mr MacKellar
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Bill before the House is to amend the existing Homes Savings Grant Act to give effect to some changes in the home savings grant scheme announced by Senator Greenwood on 31 March 1976. This Bill does not introduce the new scheme; it only widens the eligibility for a loan and the definition of dwelling in the existing legislation. As the Acting Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr MacKellar) said in his second reading speech:
Under the present scheme a person who builds a home on his parents’ rural property is ineligible Tor a home savings gram unless he has title to the land.
The amendments proposed in this Bill will do away with this requirement. They provide that a person has an approved interest in the land if he has contracted to build a dwelling on a rural property so long as he has the permission of the owner of that property to occupy the dwelling on completion. That is the main purpose of this Bill in regard to the widening of eligibility for a home savings grant.
The other major change in respect to eligibility concerns the expansion of grants under the existing home savings grant scheme to allow people who purchase a home from a State or Commonwealth housing authority also to be eligible for a grant. As the Minister said in his second reading speech, this is an anomalous situation which discriminates against people acquiring homes from the welfare housing authorities when people acquiring privately built homes with Commonwealth finance are not disqualified. This Bill also, as I said earlier, widens the definition of ‘construction of dwelling house’ to allow people who purchase a prefabricated home which is transported to a site to be eligible for the existing grant as well. The Bill also widens the mechanism of savings that are acceptable under the existing legislation. People will now be able to save with credit unions and reap whatever benefits the scheme can bring.
This is the purpose of the Bill and generally the Opposition supports these changes to the existing scheme. However, I personally, as well as my Party, disagree with the whole philosophy of this Bill and the scheme to allow people to receive assistance when they are building on land to which they have no title. This opens the way for the misuse of moneys available under the home savings grant scheme. Basically we find that there is an extremely difficult legal aspect to be considered. After all, we realise that when a person builds on a rural property, after gaining the permission of the owner- the owner might be that person’s parents- to occupy that dwelling, that person has no actual legal rights which will protect him in the long term. We realise that people on rural properties living under difficult circumstances want to improve the quality of their life. It is for that reason that the Opposition does not oppose this proposal although we see very delicate legal implications involved. I think that something should be built into this scheme to give those home owners some protection. I might say that the whole basis of the philosophy behind this home savings grant scheme always has been opposed by the Labor Party. We have always considered it to be a gimmick which does not in any way solve the housing problems in the long term. I will deal with some of those aspects later in this debate.
The Labor Party is strongly committed to the principle of home ownership. Most Australians want to own their own homes. A family earning an average income can improve the income at its disposal by as much as one-third through its lifetime by buying its own home. If a family cannot buy its own home the capital gains, rentals and tax concessions deriving from home ownership go to the landlord. The Labor Party does not accept that the existing home savings grant scheme, or the proposed new scheme which I will deal with later and to which this Bill really does not relate, can help the majority of Australians to achieve home ownership.
This Government does not recognise that housing is a key part of the Australian economy. After World War II there was a 20 year boom in the housing industry and the stock of homes owned by their occupiers steadily improved. It rose from about 50 per cent to more than 72 per cent of households. This was partly due to government policy, particularly the housing policies of the Chifley Government. It was also due to a favourable market for housing finance.
To take an example based on South Australian figures, in 1 966 a homeseeker could buy an average home for $ 10,000 on a deposit of $2, 100 and meet the required weekly repayments of about $13.50. In 1966 the average weekly earnings after tax were around $52 and repayments amounted to just over 25 per cent of income. On this basis a homeseeker who could save a deposit would get home finance and buy a home with very little difficulty. This is in complete contrast to the situation which now exists- 20 years of progress, in which home ownership rose from 52 per cent to 72 per cent of households and in which building costs declined in relative terms, have been followed by a slump in new home ownership. Owners occupying their own homes are now a declining percentage of all families. Fewer young families can afford to buy new homes. Public housing has fallen sharply as a percentage of total new housing.
– You tell us why.
– I will tell the honourable member why. Basically the major component in buying a home is the cost of the land. Land speculators, particularly in conservative States, have been permitted year after year to speculate on land costs. No State is worse than the State of Victoria which is controlled by the Hamer Government. That is the State from which the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Baillieu) comes. If one wants to examine the question of home ownership, and particularly the basic cost, the price of land, one should examine the situation in South Australia which co-operated with the Whitlam Labor Government. The South Australian Government set up a land commission and now the average cost of a block of land in that State is just under $6,000. In Melbourne, Victoria, the price of a block of land exceeds $12,000 or $13,000 and in Sydney it varies from $15,000 to $18,000. That represents what has been the role of the conservative forces. If one wants to refer to the real cost of a land and dwelling one cannot divorce the enormous increase in the cost of land. We should consider the cost of land between 1950 and 1970 when conservative governments, such as this present Government, were in power. Consider the cost of land and compare it with average weekly earnings. The cost of land actually rose 3 lA times faster than average weekly earnings. I point out that these statistics were taken from war service home records. They are the only records of the time, particularly for New South Wales.
Between 1970 and 1973 the price of land in the fringe areas of Sydney rose 5% times faster than average weekly earnings. Land speculation made some people wealthy, but it pushed up the cost of land and dwellings. I am not saying for one moment that a Labor government could solve the problems of housing in a short 3-year period, because it could not. There is no instant coffee solution to any urban problem. The Labor Government did build up enormous goodwill among people who benefited from welfare housing under the Commonwealth-States Housing Agreement. In the provision of cheaper housing for people earning up to 95 per cent of average weekly earnings we made great strides. In the last year of the McMahon Government $167m was made available in this area. Over the last 2 years of the Labor Government an average yearly amount of $375m was made available.
– Tell us about the Budget deficit.
– There was an enormous increase in the amount we made available but we solved the problem only for people earning up to 95 per cent of average weekly earnings. The biggest difficulty now is for those people earning between 95 per cent and 135 per cent of average weekly earnings. This measure will not solve their problem. Private investment in new housing for rental has fallen and demand pressures have forced rents up. Let me explain the example I gave earlier. In 1975 an average home was worth $3 1,700 and required a deposit of around $6,350, with repayments of $55 a week needed to meet normal mortgage requirements. After tax average weekly earnings in 1975 were around $123, and a person on average weekly earnings buying an average home was required to meet repayment amounting to 45 per cent of income. It is obvious that no lending institution would advance funds to a home seeker who had to devote such a high proportion of his income to repayments. What it meant was that houses were not built, they were not sold and jobs in the housing industry began declining. In this situation money piles up in the banks as people try to save to hedge against the risks of unemployment. As I have already pointed out, the main obstacle facing the home seeker today is not building up of enough savings for a deposit.
– That is what we are doing.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Armitage)Order! The honourable member for La Trobe and the honourable member for Petrie have been interjecting continually. They will cease interjecting.
-Today the deposit is not the major problem. Today, with a deposit, even an income earner getting average weekly earnings could not meet the repayments required. I said that the difficult area involved that group of people earning between 95 and 135 per cent of average weekly earnings- in other words, people earning about $200 a week. It does not matter what government is in power. Let me explain something to honourable members who say they are concerned about social problems. Under the McMahon Government money was made available under the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement at the long term bond rate, but under the Labor Government formula the interest was reduced to 4 per cent. In other words, the long term bond rate being approximately 10 per cent, we paid a subsidy of 6 per cent to the 2 major States of Victoria and New South Wales, which at that time had conservative governments. Because of pressure from the Treasury a proposal is to be put forward at the next Premiers Conference to return to the long term bond rate. That will mean that people renting housing commission homes will have to pay much higher rent.
– Tell us about the Priorities Review Staff report on housing.
-Order! I warn the honourable member for Petrie. I make it clear that I am in a difficult position being a member of the Opposition in the chair, but I will uphold the forms of this Parliament and if necessary will take the appropriate action. I warn honourable members to cease interjecting.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. I respect your desire to carry out your duties impartially, but I suggest that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is miles away from the Bill, which is the Homes Savings Grant Amendment Bill, and his provocation is inciting some of my colleagues. I respectfully suggest that you bring him back to the Bill before the House.
– I will be careful to make sure that all speakers refer to the provisions of the Bill. I ask the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to observe that point.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I respect your ruling and I will keep within it. In passing, before concluding my few remarks, let me say that if the interest rate on money advanced to the States is increased it will bring about a drastic situation. In 1966, with a deposit, an income earner getting average weekly earnings or less had an excellent chance of getting finance for a home. This is no longer the case. The basic problem is not the deposit gap but the repayment gap. Banks and building societies will not lend where the rate of repayment exceeds 25 to 30 per cent of earnings. I have already shown that a person on average weekly earnings today expects to devote around 45 per cent of take-home pay to meeting home repayments on an average home purchased in 1976. The changes in the existing homes savings grants scheme introduced by this Bill will not help overcome these basic problems. The existing scheme is ineffective and does not get to the core of the problem.
The new scheme will be ineffective because it will not solve the problem facing home seekers today. These amendments are just a political sop. The core of the problem today is the monthly repayment, not overcoming the deposit gap. Even for those who can get a loan today the repayment period is intolerably high. People blame high interest rates, but the problem is the rate of repayment on the whole period of the mortgage loan. With a high rate of inflation lenders want too much of the loan back in the early years. They want a high return in the early years to combat the erosion of inflation. This means that more and more people are being excluded from buying a home. They would have the means to make the repayments if the repayments could be spread evenly over the term of the loan. By raising interest rates lenders get more of their money back earlier in the life of the loan. These high early repayments fall harshly on the ordinary family. This creates a barrier which excludes more and more people from borrowing.
Entry to home ownership is quickly becoming restricted to 3 types of families- those who inherit money from their parents, the top 20 per cent of income earners or families with 2 incomes acceptable to lending institutions. This Bill does not assist any other groups in our community.
The new scheme, whenever it is introduced, will not assist people in these other groups to achieve home ownership. All the families, apart from the 3 groups which I mentioned, will miss out altogether. This applies to most Australian families. The new home savings grant scheme and the amendments to the existing scheme will do nothing to arrest the trend. If anything, they will intensify it.
We must look at the interrelated issues. I know that honourable members opposite say that all the problems of the housing industry occurred in the 3 years of the Labor Party Administration. All I say to those people is that if they stick thenheads in the sand like an ostrich, if they accept that proposition, they will not solve the problem confronting them. The Labor Government, more than any other government in the last 25 years, assisted people who received up to 95 per cent of the average weekly earnings. We did not meet the requirements of people beyond that group because there was a problem associated with those earnings between 95 per cent of average weekly earnings and 135 per cent of average weekly earnings. There were interrelated proposals that tried to overcome the situation. We tried to average out the interest over the period of the loan. Therefore in the last 6 months of our administration we put forward a deferred mortgage repayment scheme. A similar scheme has been in existence for many years in Britain. It means that in the early years a person has a smaller repayment, in latter years he has a higher repayment. We also sought to overcome the soaring prices of land. We developed a local growth centre program and a land commission program. I gave an example of what we were able to do in South Australia. We would have been able to do that with any State government which had been prepared to work with us.
There are other matters at which we looked. For instance, we introduced a tax deductibility scheme. People were allowed to use their interest payments as a tax deduction. The Government is winding down the tax deductibility scheme for mortgage repayments, which was introduced by the Labor Government. That scheme brought a measure of relief to those on lower and middle incomes. It eased the burden of the heavy repayments in the early years of the loan. Unfortunately we did not have the figures to make an assessment of the value of the scheme and how it helped the various wage earners. Let me quote Senator Greenwood. He estimated that the savings to the Government by cutting the scheme would be between $40m and $70m a year. Why did we introduce that scheme? We introduced it to protect -
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I point out to you that you have already asked the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to speak to the Homes Savings Grant Amendment Bill. I submit to you that he is again making an airy fairy speech on a subject about which he knows nothing and which has no reference to the Bill.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Armitage)The latter part of that statement has nothing to do with the point of order. The issue is a rather wide ranging one, but I think the Deputy Leader of the Opposition should keep his remarks relevant to the Bill.
– The issue in the home savings grant scheme is related to land and dwellings. There is no means test attached to it. It is interrelated with all aspects of dwellings. It is extremely difficult when dealing with the aspect of land and dwellings not to put things into boxes. I know that the conservative Government of this country wants to put things into little boxes. That has been the mentality of the conservative forces for a long time. We have tried to explain to people that, when dealing with housing or any related urban matter, the matters are interrelated. Therefore it was on that basis that I was making this speech.
I feel that the scheme is a gimmick. Even the new proposal, the $2,000 gimmick that was put at election time, will not be available to people until 1 January 1979. It will be eroded by inflation. The whole basis of the home savings grant scheme contradicts the monetary policy of the Government. It laughs at the Government’s policy. On the one hand the Government is trying to get people to spend their money, not put their money in the bank. On the other hand the Government has put forward this proposal to make sure that money is put in the bank, that savings are held and not circulated. The scheme is an encouragement to save. The Government cannot have its cake and eat it too. The real reason that the economy will not get off the ground is that people are insecure. They are putting their money in the bank. They are saving their money, not spending it. We need a stimulus to the economy. This scheme will not assist in any way.
-The matter under discussion this evening is an amendment to the Homes Savings Grant Act, believe it or not. The amendment covers various areas of the existing program, including the Government’s commitment to introduce a new home savings grant scheme, a program that will allow equity and pride in ownership and a possibility for young members of the community to purchase their first home. It seems to me that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Uren) has dealt with various areas of the housing industry in Australia today. I trust that under the circumstances some latitude will be allowed to speakers on both sides of the House. The proposition put forward by this amendment is to allow freedom to set aside finance to purchase one’s own home in areas that were not formerly applicable. It applies to people living in rural areas.
For some years it has been my concern that people living on their parents properties or favoured employees living on properties have not been entitled to the advantages of homes savings grants as they apply to city dwellers. It seems to me that under these circumstances there has been some discrimination against country dwellers. Formerly, unless title could be gained to the area of land on which the house was to be constructed there was no possibility that country dwellers could share in the homes savings grant scheme. This amendment will provide a freedom and a justice in the circumstances.
In addition, the amendment covers purchasers, whether they be young or middle-aged, purchasing their own home. They will now have the opportunity to participate in this program if they are purchasing through State or Commonwealth housing authorities. I put the proposition to the House and to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that when the final scheme comes into practice we will see a program that serves very well people purchasing their first homes; whether they be in the country or the city; whether it be through a Commonwealth or State program; whether they be immigrants or Australian born; whether they be young or middleaged. If it is their first home there will be equity and opportunity. That is what Australia has been looking forward to for 3 years- an opportunity for fairness; an opportunity to participate; an opportunity to involve people in establishing their first family home. I think that the proposition put by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition tonight has been an interesting academic exercise. To some extent I found it stimulating because the scope of his discussion has raised many issues, ones with which I hope I will have the opportunity to deal. But they were away from the concept of the Government-the proposition that the Government puts to the Parliament-that there should be fairness and equity in the opportunity to purchase one’s first home. This is the criteria for the establishment of stability. This is the criteria with which we found a family, with which we give the wage earner, the keeper of the family finances, a chance.
The various areas with which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has dealt encompass many of the programs. A few days ago he made a statement on heavy construction. The nonresidential area and the housing area have been mentioned tonight. I put to the House that this is irrelevant to the Bill but let me in passing refer to these matters as I feel that it will indulge the House and inform the House if I do so. The proposition that the heavy construction industry has problems contains some qualities of a realistic proposition. It would seem that the problems of heavy industry have been blamed on the Government. I put to the House that for 2 years I have received representations from this section of the building and construction industry stating that it has serious problems. Representatives of the earth moving business and the civil enginering business have said that they are in fear for their lives.
If one were to turn to the non-residential area of the construction industry one would have to look at the various figures and make a comparison from year to year between the States. One would have to take an aggregate figure right across the nation. For instance, if one were to look at the Victorian figures in the nonresidential area one would have to agree with the proposition that over the last 12 months the figures for approvals have indicated that there has been an increase in expectation- not necessarily an intention but a prospect and a confidenceof $20m. In New South Wales there is an increasing confidence in the non-residential area which rose from $27m in February this year to $5 1.2m in the month of April. In Queensland one would have to recognise that there has been an increase in expectation from $63.4m to $89.1m in the 12 months. This indicates a great confidence. It does not indicate a commitment but it indicates that those people who are concerned for the non-residential area are prepared to put their money where their mouths are.
Let us move now to the proposition put by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and let us look at the housing industry and the housing construction industry in Australia. Let us look at the ca- pacity of young people to construct their own homes, to purchase their own homes and to live within those homes. I refer the House to an article printed in the Australian Financial Review on Thursday, 27 May 1976. The article expresses some concern for the future of the building and construction areas in Australia. Let me draw to the attention of the House the key proposition in that article. The article refers to a survey conducted by Cordell Research and it states:
Commenting on the statistical situation, the Cordell analysis says: ‘The predicted low level of projects coming forward to a construction stage in the June quarter directly reflects the fall-off in developer confidence during 1974-75 when planning declined rapidly.
There was a fall in confidence which would not allow this nation to move forward. I do not wish to go back into history. I wish to indicate the Government’s concern for this area. Right throughout the nation with their best endeavours, people are trying to establish their own homes and to stabilise their future. It would seem from figures presented in the non-dwelling area that this may be happening.
I would like to qualify that statement by saying that within the State of New South Wales, and to some extent within the State of Queensland, there have been problems. Let us deal first of all with Queensland. I am confident that if he has the opportunity to express himself on this matter, the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) will do so forcefully, but I would like to say that in the dwelling area, if we compare the 12 months from April 1975 *o April 1976, we see that the status quo has just about been maintained. In April 1975, 1870 home units, whether they be cottages or units, were
Projected for the dwelling area in Queensland, his year we have seen the projection of 1 830- a difference of only 40 units. This has been despite the problems that the Queensland residents have had and despite the difficulties that the State Government has had with the permanent building societies. I put to the House that provided there was a stability and a continuation of responsible government in the State of Queensland this situation would improve, given a stability in Canberra and a dedication to the true objectives of the people of this nation, a dedication on behalf of the Queensland Government and an understanding of the objectives of the people of Queensland.
There are problems in New South Wales, for instance. If we take the aggregate figures it is terribly difficult to understand the reasons for these problems. If we weigh the problems of New South Wales against those of Victoria or South Australia or even against those of Western Australia we are forced to accept that there are different problems within New South Wales. In the speech of the previous speaker in this debate there was no constructive proposition, no indication where selectivity could be applied from this House, from the Commonwealth Government to one particular State. He based his whole argument on the proposition that stands today within the State of New South Wales. That is not a proposition for the Federal Government; it is a proposition of concern; it is a proposition where we must make every endeavour to take some action that will assist that particular State. But one cannot base one’s argument on so narrow a basis. It would seem to me that the proposition put forward by this Bill is part of a responsible action on the part of the Federal Government. It would seem that despite the action of the previous Government to solve the problem of welfare housing, that was impossible. It is 20 per cent of the whole area. For goodness sake, how do honourable members opposite expect us to solve the problem with a 20 per cent interest in the area. It is not possible, and they recognise that it is not possible. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition shakes his head. He knows it is impossible. It would seem that, with the stability of the nation, a capacity to buy, good management of the economy- and I know that the Deputy Whip agrees with me- if we follow through on this trend that is now showing some evidence of success we shall, through the various programs of the Government, such as the home savings grants scheme with which this Bill deals, we will provide a capacity and opportunity for all Australians to own their own homes. This is the objective of the present Government.
– I am surprised that the honourable gentleman who preceded me, the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Cadman), covered such a wide range when some of his colleagues were objecting to the very intelligent contribution made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren). It is obvious that we cannot separate home savings grant issues from the wide range of issues which affect the capacity of people to acquire a home. The honourable gentleman who preceded me has demonstrated that and has shown his colleagues that they were wrong in taking points of order. I am glad that the Chair has sensibly upheld the views that have been put. We have a thimble and pea form of legislation before the House at present. In fact, anything to do with the 1964 home savings grant concept can be regarded as a thimble and pea bit of legislation. It was an election gimmick designed to trap a small number of people into voting for the Liberal Party. I think it came in concurrently with the science block legislation for secondary schools.
This Government has always worked on percentages, and it cast a net to pick up one per cent or 2 per cent of young home owners and one per cent or 2 per cent of people who were interested in the tertiary and secondary education areas getting home science blocks. But the whole thrust of requirements in regard to housing and education were disregarded at that time for gimmicks. The same kind of philosphy is still being perpetuated. I frankly confess that the Opposition has never liked the home savings grant concept, for many reasons. Foremost among them is that it disregards priorities. This particular legislation is designed mainly as an election sop. It is especially designed to subsidise people who have saving capacity. Those subsidies are going to be given at the expense of people who have limited saving capacity or no saving capacity at all.
I do not intend to talk for a long time unless I am provoked. I told the Government Whip that I do not make deals. He wants some other Liberal members to be given the opportunity to speak. 1 am prepared to be co-operative but I shall not be provoked about this matter. In my view there are a few points that are worth making. One is that this legislation has the capacity to deal a very destructive blow at the home building industry. Built into this legislation is a content which will cause many people to defer entering into a contract to build or buy a home until 1 January 1977. If you were to meet the Master Builders Association, or the Housing Industry Association or the building unions, all of which groups I see from time to time and asked them: ‘What is the worst thing you can do for the housing industry? ‘ they would say: ‘Offer people an incentive to build a house, but instead of making it retrospective or current, put off the time at which they can qualify’. At this time there are many people who are tempted to enter into a contract to buy or build a house, but they know they would be disadvantaged if they did so. So the Government is doing a great harm to the building industry. I can understand that, because the Government does not understand the industry.
Let me just make another point. First of all, we have this brochure that has been produced and, I believe, has been introduced prematurely, since it applies to a scheme which has been foreshadowed and which is not the subject of any governmental legislation at this time. The requirements and the provisions are spelt out in this new brochure called The New Home Savings Grant Scheme: How you can qualify, dated April 1976. It has no legislative authority. It anticipates the approval of this Parliament, and in that sense it holds the Parliament in contempt. I wonder what the cost of the brochure is. I wonder how many thousands have been printed for distribution around the electorate. I wonder what the Auditor-General will say about this particular matter.
The Bill before us is extremely elementary; it does not do very much at all. This Bill is not about the new provisions which have been foreshadowed and which will become the subject of home savings grant legislation. Heaven knows why the Government brought this in at this time. It simply provides that some rural people who have been unable to subdivide large properties will now be able to enter into contracts to build or buy a home and so qualify for a home savings grant, even if they are not holding a title to the land. For what it is worth that is a commendable thing. I suppose it is of infinitesimal consequence. My recollection is that when I was Minister for Housing and Construction I might have had about 3 letters on that matter. But if that is the Govenent’s priority, all well and good. We do not quibble. It is probably a good thing to do but it is certainly not a priority thing to do.
The other thing is to extend the provisions of the home savings grant scheme to people who are buying a housing commission home.
– What is wrong with that?
-The honourable member for Mitchell says ‘What is wrong with it?’ Because the honourable member holds the seat of Mitchell in such a precarious way he likes to be a friend to all men and he wants to bestow these goodies on everybody. What is wrong with it? Nobody is saying anything is wrong with it but what we do say is that the people who are now going to benefit by this provision are already benefiting in many other ways and they are benefiting a way in which other people do not have the opportunity to benefit. For example, as a result of legislation which I introduced involving the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement these people are able to obtain homes with 4 per cent money. If I had not entered into that Agreement when I was the Minister, even in the face of opposition from the Liberal-Country Party Opposition and its contemporaries around the States, these people would not be able to get 4 per cent money. The money would be made available to the States at 1 per cent less than the bond rate. I am not sure of the level of the bond rate at the present time. It is probably in the vincinity of 9.6 per cent. So instead of paying 4 per cent interest in respect of Housing Commission loans the States would be paying 8.6 per cent. The rents people would be paying in respect of Housing Commission homes would be astronomical and of course the purchasing price of those homes would be well beyond the capacity of those people who are not allowed to earn more than 85 per cent of average weekly earnings in order to qualify for a grant.
I simply say to the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Cadman) who has probably never heard of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement that this is a benefit which is being given to people who already have a great benefit. These people are getting money at 4 per cent. They are getting the benefit of land acquired at low prices years before the house is built. So they are extremely advantaged people. There is nothing wrong with this. Iff fact, it is virtuous to give to those people that kind of benefit, but in giving this benefit it is being given at the expense of a lot of other people who are also in need of assistancethe kind of assistance which the Labor Government proposed should be facilitated by the Australian housing corporation which has been thrown out, abandoned and destroyed by this Government. That was the machinery and the process by which we were going to exercise flexibility and assist people to overcome the deposit gap, subsidise interest rates and matters of that kind. We are not opposed to the idea that the Government should extend the benefits of the homes savings grant scheme to include those people who are buying Housing Commission homes. We are not opposed to this as long as the Government understands that it will not be able to spread the wealth of money to many other needy people in the community.
Then there is a bit of pendanticism about credit union savings. People who save in this way will be eligible to attract the grant. Most of this form of saving is already allowed anyway. There is a little improvement in this area and we are not at variance with the Government on this. I think the final embellishment is that people can apply for the grant at any time rather than within the 12-month limit. So much for all that. It is not worth getting one’s blood pressure up about that.
There are just a couple of other points. One could make many points but I just want to say this. Despite what is said, this grant can be made available to people to finance a holiday home. In his second reading speech the Minister said that this could not happen, but if a person attracts a grant on the basis of savings under the Homes Savings Grant Act and it is the person’s first home, he can say that he intends to live in it. If he decides not to live in it and he wants it to be a holiday home, that is in fact what it can be. No one is going to take a grant back from a person. So long as the taxpayers know that this legislation makes it possible to get a very substantial grant of $2,000, that is all right. That is what this whole Bill is about. If a person can save $40 a week he can get this Government grant of $2,000 after 3 years. If a person cannot save $40 a week he does not get the grant. The amount of the grant depends on how much a person can save.
This legislation is going to help the rich. It is certainly money that is going to be taken away from the poor. All of us know- and the honourable members opposite will acknowledge thisthat when the August Budget is brought down the funds available for Housing Commissions are going to be slashed. Of course the Aboriginal housing funds which we talked about today are already being slashed. Funds for aged persons’ housing are being slashed. The appropriation for the defence homes saving scheme is being slashed. This is being done because the Government wants to give money to people who have the capacity to save $40 a week. Well, we cannot get too excited about all that. Despite what the Acting Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr MacKellar) said in the second reading speech, if a person attracts a grant for a home under the homes savings grant scheme and the home is for the purposes of rental or sale, provided the person has never had a home before he can go on to rent it or to sell it. Moreover, there is nothing at all to prevent a grant being made to young people or old people who have never saved anything in their lives. If a person wants to endow some of his children with some money and they put it in the bank they will be the lucky ones who will get $2,000- not the people who do not have rich parents or have non-affiuent parents such as I. If I wanted to squeeze my resources I could put in $6,000 in periodical contributions and then my kids could attract this grant.
It is a very unusual scheme that exists at the present time. There is to be no limit on the value of the home. A person may be so wealthy that he can go on to build a castle if he likes. He can pick the most expensive home in Rose Bay and he will attract the grant.
– Forty dollars a week.
-I do not think I have said one thing that is not factual. A person may have the capacity to pay for a home. He might not be in need of any subsidy at all. A person may have the purchase price of a home, but if he can show he has saved that amount in the correct 6-monthly apportionments he is going to get $2,000 paid to him by this Government and he can do what he likes with that $2,000. He can buy bis wife a fur coat or a diamond ring, or he can send her off to the Riviera. That happens to be the situation. It is the situation. Nobody need laugh about this. They are the facts of life. That might be all right in a lovely affluent country but gentlemen- and we only have gentlemen in this place at the moment- let me tell you that your sense of priorities is distorted and warped. You have little regard for the needy people in this community- the homeless people. The housing budget is being slashed. People who receive no more than 85 per cent of average weekly earnings, people who are completely dependent on the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement and on the Housing Commissions, or those who are getting no more than 95 per cent of average earnings, have to go along to the terminating building societies to get a loan at 5% per cent. The Government is now going to make heavy inroads into all that.
The Government is going to make this scheme possible- not the scheme before us but the one which is the subject of this illegal brochure, this Liberal propaganda which has been produced without legislative authorisation- by cutting into the mortgage interest tax deductibility scheme. The Government knows what we tried to do when we were in office. We said that there were 40 000 people benefiting under the homes savings grant scheme. Inflation came along. Honourable members opposite might say that the Labor Government caused it. It just happened. It happened all around the world. But the Labor Government which held office until 11 November last year said that in the face of inflation it was going to help people pay off their home loans and make it possible for them to get home loans by contributing to their repayment capacity by introducing a tax deductibility scheme on mortgage interest repayments. That was not going to involve just 40 000 people; it was going to involve over one million families in this country.
Now the Government has decided that it will cut into that scheme which gives people benefits up to $10 a week, that it will take it away from those people who are not paying for their first homes within the first 5 years of their loans. Honourable members opposite have to live with that and they have to live with their own consciences. They have what I would call a bastardised scheme in terms of priorities. I think they are intent on helping the rich and the privileged and the affluent and I think they are completely unmerciful from the standpoint of the needy people who would have benefited from the Housing Corporation and the Labor Government’s declared intention to help people to overcome the deposit gap and to help them with their repayments, to structure a tiered interest rate system in Australia. What they are virtually doing is abdicating from the field of housing and just helping the people who have not the capacity to help themselves. They are doing that at the expense of Joe Blow the boilermaker and the fitter and the nurse and the typist. They are helping their own and doing a great deal of damage to a lot of decent, ordinary taxpayers around Australia.
Following the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) is really quite an extraordinary task. I was moved to hear him say that the Australian Labor Party was going to do something about helping to bridge the deposit gap. I think I ought to make it clear to the House that the reason this Bill is before us tonight is that the previous Labor Government put through legislation to abolish the home savings grants. How can the honourable member stand up and say to us on the one hand that he is concerned with bridging the gap in the deposits when on the other hand the record of the previous Government shows that it took steps actually to throw this legislation out? Notwithstanding this, the honourable member for Hughes said that he was speaking strictly to the facts. He really has a most curious interpretation of what facts are. He said at one stage towards the end of his speech that people who wish to benefit under the home savings grants would be required to save $40 a week, otherwise they would not qualify. Has anybody ever heard such utter rubbish in all of his life? He went on to say, when he was at the height of his emotion, that a recipient of this money could get out and buy- I am quoting him exactly-‘ a diamond ring for his wife, or a fur coat for his daughter, or indeed, perhaps could send his girl friend across to the Riviera’. It is interesting to contemplate that sort of performance, but if anybody thinks he can use public money through the home savings grants for those purposes, he has a big surprise coming to him. The honourable member for Hughes is really in the world of fantasy when he tries to tell the House that that is what is going on.
I personally have been looking forward to the introduction of this piece of legislation ever since I was elected to Parliament. I welcome this Bill because it is a most significant step forward by the present Government to help people who are genuine home buyers. I recall that this was so much on my mind when I was elected to Parliament that the first letter I wrote to a Minister of the new Government was to Senator Greenwood to ask him to take steps to bring forward this legislation as soon as he possibly could. I know that he immediately set a task force to work within his Department to firm this legislation so that we could bring it before the House. This legislation puts thousands and thousands of Australians back on the road to home ownership once again. There is absolutely no question about thus. It does it in a way which improves the legislation which the previous Liberal-Country Party Government brought in, I think in 1 964.
It is an interesting fact- perhaps not everybody realises this; I do not think everybody in the Opposition realises this- that over 400 000 Australians have benefited from the home savings grants which the previous Liberal-Country Party Government brought in. That is an extraordinarily high figure. But of course what needs to be said in a debate of this nature is that the Liberal-National Country Party Government believes in home ownership for Australians. In fact, when we were last in office, before 1972, nearly 75 per cent of Australians either owned or were buying their own homes. Look at the figures. What happened in the 3 years while the Labor Government was in office? The figure fell below 60 per cent. I think there is one deduction we can draw from that: that the Australian Labor Party is just not interested in home ownership for Australians. It is interesting that the Opposition is so much against the home savings grants that it brought in the really big guns of the Opposition to speak against the legislation. It brought in the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Uren) and to supplement him, the former Minister for Housing and Construction in the previous Government. I do not know whether the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Antony Whitlam) will follow me in this debate, but I do not think he is interested in home ownership either. He is interested only in the technicalities of law.
Let us look at what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said in trying to criticise this legislation. He said that it was encouraging the people to save and he criticised it because of that. Does the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, speaking for the Opposition, think there is something sinister if an Australian wants to save? Is there something sinister about that? Is that something that has never been done before? It is on the record that the Government is anxious that Australians should maintain their normal spending patterns but to think that the Opposition should say to Australians: ‘You must not save. There is something wrong with that’. That is effectively what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said. Even if he is saying that, in the case of this legislation in terms of qualifying for the home savings grant he is simply wrong. He has not even read the Bill. He is living in another world. Apparently he does not realise that under this legislation, the improvement to the existing Act, it is possible for people who will qualify for the grant to put their savings in forms other than just cash in a bank account. In other words, what I am saying is that payments towards land or a home qualify as part of the saving which will make people eligible for the home savings grants. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition went on to say that the deposit gap is not the problem. I should like him to come to my electorate sometime and to have a little talk with me. I would take him around to some of the people in my area who are saving to buy a home. I should like him to have a little interview with them.
– He is remote from the people.
-He is remote for the people. I should like him to come to my electorate. I think the honourable member for St George would like him to go to his electorate, too.
– Let him come to my electorate.
– He could go to Bowman. He could go everywhere. He would learn by talking to the people that bridging the deposit gap for home buying today is about the single biggest problem that home buyers face.
– He may go on an overseas trip.
– He may go on an overseas trip. He would probably find that in most countries overseas people who want to build homes have better access to home building funds than people have in Australia at present. That is something on which we are going to act on and which we are going to rectify.
I am under some pressure not to speak for too long on this matter, despite the fact that I think it is a most significant piece of legislation, despite the fact that it is a piece of legislation that I have been looking forward to ever since I was elected to this House, despite the fact that I am interested to get back into my electorate next week and tell the people there about what they have been looking for. I have a file of letters from people in my electorate- the biggest single file that I have- from people who have been inquiring to me when the home savings grants legislation is going to go through. I am looking forward to getting back into my electorate next week and telling the people that at last that legislation is through. I will tell them that it is on the record, and I will also tell them that the Opposition in the Federal Parliament, to a man, is against this legislation.
– Even the honourable member for Corio is against it.
-Yes, I know that the honourable member for Corio is against it. The Opposition is against the legislation to such an extent that it brought in the big guns of the Opposition to speak against it. It could have gone only one man higher in the Opposition; it could have brought in the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) but he is attending to other business. So it brought in the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren), the single most articulate spokesman in the Opposition on homes savings, to speak on the legislation.
– You are repeating words over and over.
-Order! I do not think the honourable member needs any help.
– Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker; I do not need any help. A Bill of this nature means so much to so many people. I would like to tell the House what was being said in my electorate prior to the December election. As I moved around the electorate people came up to me in the street -
– They were shaking your hand.
– As the honourable member for Casey has said, they were shaking my hand. Some of the prettier ones greeted me in an even more friendly spirit than that. They asked me: ‘Mr Baillieu, can you assure me that the LiberalNational Country Party Government when elected will bring back the homes savings grant?’ Why did they ask that? The reason is that 400 000 Australians had benefited from it before that time. Their nextdoor neighbour had benefited from it; somebody up the street had benefited from it. The homes savings grant was really a radical reform which the LiberalNational Country Party Government brought in in 1964- What happened? In 1972 we lost office. In came the Australian Labor Party. What did it do? Its supporters got up in the Parliament and in effect said, in a way that they never did during the election campaign, or in the policy speech: ‘Home ownership is out; from now on Australia is going to be a nation of renters’. I invite honourable members to look at the speeches made by the honourable member for Reid, who is now the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, during the time he was Minister for Urban and Regional Development.
– That is too much punishment.
– Honourable members should look at some of them even if they cannot look at all of them. I particularly invite honourable members to look at the speeches in which he referred to home building matters. The thread that runs through all of those speeches is not home ownership but homes for rent. That is on the record for everybody to see. I invite any honourable member opposite to come to my electorate of La Trobe and debate with me and with the people in that electorate and around the Melbourne metropolitan area- indeed, anywhere in Australia- whether Australians want to buy their homes or whether Australians want to rent their homes from a government of any political colour.
In conclusion- there is one very articulate Opposition member to follow me in the debate- I want to place on the record this is big news for the people of the electorate of La Trobe. I have the greatest pleasure in supporting this legislation.
-The honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Baillieu) has just delivered a diatribe which I think he will regret when he reads his speech in Hansard tomorrow morning. I suggest that if the honourable member wants to attribute remarks to another honourable member of the Parliament he might quote some of those comments to which he is referring. The homes savings grant is a poor manner in which to promote home ownership.
– It is terrific.
– It is terrific for someone who wants political kudos and wants to fool the people without spending money. That is what the Government wants- political kudos without cost. To finance the reintroduction of the homes savings grant the Government will remove from the majority of Australians the ability to claim as a tax deduction their mortgage payments, which was a far more significant benefit. The honourable member spoke about 400 000 Australians benefiting from the proposal. One million Australians benefited in one year from the tax deductibility scheme which has just been removed as a benefit for people who are struggling to buy their own homes. The Government is suggesting that a $2,000 grant which will be made available after 3 years will be of greater benefit than the tax deductibility scheme which it has abolished.
– It helps you to get a home; the tax deductibility scheme did not help you to get a home.
-Either the honourable member is a fool or he wishes to mislead.
-I suggest to the honourable member for Corio, as I suggested to an honourable member earlier this afternoon, that he withdraw that remark.
-I withdraw the remark in deference to you, Mr Deputy Speaker. The facts of the matter are that the average price of a home increases at a far greater rate -
– Only after you got into government.
-In the period from 1970 to 1973 the average price of a home in Victoria rose by 75 percent.
-And from 1973 to 1976 it went up by 240 per cent.
-The honourable member is going backMr DEPUTY SPEAKER-Order! The honourable member for Corio is the member making the speech at the moment.
– You would not think so.
-I realise that, but the honourable member for Bendigo never makes a speech in the House on behalf of his electorate; and he does not sit in his proper place in the chamber. The honourable member suggests that the homes savings grant scheme is a better and more beneficial scheme than the income tax deductibility scheme. If honourable members opposite are prepared to tell the electors that a grant of $2,000 in 3 years time is a better proposition for those people buying a home than -
– Why do you not -
-Order! I call the honourable member for Bendigo to order.
-Even if a married couple were able to save $40 a week, with the $30 a week they pay in rent, they would be better to be paying off a home at the rate of that $70 a week now, because that home would be purchased at current prices and not at prices 75 per cent higher in 3 years time.
– Tell us about your interest rates.
– I suggest that interest rates have gone up and not down since the present Government came into office. The honourable member might be interested to know that. Honourable gentlemen opposite are looking for a cheap way in which to get kudos. They have cut out the scheme of home interest tax deductibility because it was too expensive.
– It meant nothing to low income earners; that is why.
– It meant as much to a low income earner who cannot save $40 a week anyhow. Let the honourable member find a low income earner who can save $40 a week and at the same time pay rent; to be eligible for the home savings grant they are not allowed to own a home while they are saving.
– You know little about the car industry and as much about housing.
-Order! The honourable member for Bendigo will not interject once more. I warn the honourable member for Bendigo.
-To suggest that low income earners are benefiting to a greater extent than others indicates no knowledge at all of the problems that low income earners have in saving. The Government is looking for an attractive, cheap alternative, and it has found it in the homes savings grant scheme; and it will support it by any means it can because it saves money by taking assistance from the vast majority of people who are paying off a home and struggling to meet high interest rates. The problem of interest rates is a real one and not anything to joke about. The Government is making people defer the purchase of a home to the loss of those people, because the $2,000 they obtain by way of grant and even the savings that they make will be dissipated by the increase in house prices during that 3-year period. They are the facts of the matter. I will not delay the House any further. I suggest that if Government members are honest with themselves they will know that they are encouraging people to lose money by saving over a period during which they would be better off making payments on a home.
Debate (on motion by Mr McVeigh) adjourned.
– It being 10.30 p.m., in accordance with the order of the House of 18 February 1976, 1 propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
– I should like to comment on some scathing remarks made last week by the honourable member for Swan (Mr Martyr) on the Australian Conservation Foundation. I am delighted to see him in the House. Although I can understand the reasons for his irritation with the Australian Conservation Foundation I should not like it to be thought that his views are the unanimous views of the Liberal Party. I certainly do not agree with him. It is vital that environmental and conservation issues be properly weighed in the making of decisions, whether by governments or by private developers. Some of the greatest acts of vandalism have been committed by governments. For too long in our history environmental issues were ignored and many of our greatest man made and natural assets have been destroyed. It is still going on. I instance the destruction of the socalled Paris end of Collins Street in Melbourne, although I am delighted that the Victorian Government has now stepped in.
– Who if the Premier of Victoria?
– Perhaps I should have said that I am delighted that the Premier has stepped in. Destruction is happening not only in cities. Vast areas of our rural countryside have been destroyed by ruthless over-grazing. But community attitudes are changing. People are now fighting against the wanton destruction and pollution of the environment, and fighting for the preservation of natural assets and beauty spots. The Australian Conservation Foundation with its 7 000 members is one of the bodies that has played a great role in educating the community on these issues. It deserves the gratitude of the community and of future generations for what it has achieved.
But there must be some balance. Protection of the environment normally involves an economic cost, at any rate in the short term. Environmental issues must be one of the factors considered in each decision, together with other factors such as the economic cost and community convenience. Each factor should have its proper weighting. None, except in most exceptional circumstances, should have a right of veto. This leads me to where I believe the Australian Conservation Foundation, no doubt with the best of motives, is in danger of being led astray. It has attempted in too many cases to give environmental issues an effective veto. This is as unbalanced and undesirable a situation in the opposite direction as it was when environmental issues were not considered at all. Two wrongs do not make a right.
Even more seriously, the Australian Conservation Foundation seems to have fallen into the trap of believing that the end justifies the means and in the process has gained itself some deplorable allies. The motives of the militant left wing unions are obvious. Most of their members have no interest in conservation. What their leaders want is a respectable cause which will create economic and industrial chaos- a fertile field for them to operate in. Through the Australian Conservation Foundation they have power without responsibility which, as Baldwin once said, has been the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages. The Australian Conservation Foundation must, in its own interests and in the interests of future generations, be very careful of its associates. He who sups with the Devil must use a long spoon. The Australian Conservation Foundation obviously believes that it is using the militant unions for its own ends, but in fact it is the other way round. A reputation for integrity, like morale in an army, is hard won but once lost is very hard to regain. That must be the crucial concern of the Australian Conservation Foundation. It is far too valuable an organisation to continue policies which risk losing the confidence of its most concerned supporters. Yet despite these defects the Foundation has done a magnificent job over the years. Its value to the community is enormous for present and future generations. I .am still proud to be a member of it.
Mr FitzPATRICK (Darling) (10.35)-In February this year I informed the House of the devastating flood which was passing through my electorate. On that occasion I expressed my appreciation of the fact that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) had been to the area to examine the effects of the flood. I was critical that he did not give me the opportunity to accompany him in the chartered plane. Following that visit the Prime Minister was good enough to come into the House and apologise for not inviting me. That apology did not go unnoticed in my electorate. Many people appreciated it. I emphasise that I am not here to praise the Prime Minister and I think it fair to say that he does not always act like that.
A lot of people might think that the flood has passed away but unfortunately it is still passing through my electorate. There are some grim stories to tell of what is happening at Menindee, Pooncarie and further downstream at Pomona. I am particularly concerned this evening to inform the House of what happened at Pomona on 1 1 May 1976. 1 was requested by the people of this very small settlement to visit it and view the flood situation. What I saw was very disturbing in some respects but in other respects it was most gratifying. It would have done members of Parliament good to have seen what I saw that evening. It was almost dark when I arrived but every able bodied man of that small settlement was out with graders and loaders building a levy bank around the settlement. These people did not wait for government assistance. They could see that not only their town but also the school and other places were in great danger of flooding.
A lot of people would not know what a flood is like as it approaches. It looks very peaceful. The water rises only slowly. As it is seen rising slowly one wonders whether the levy bank will hold it back. Someone more experienced will see water seeping through the levy bank in certain areas and will advise that more dirt be placed behind the levy bank or it will collapse. The scene is peaceful but there is 6 feet of water on the other side. On this occasion the river broke its banks about 30 miles upstream from Pomonia Strangely the water from the river did not enter Pomonia; the water came from the other side. By the time it reached the settlement it was also coming from the river. An old roadway was affected and it had to be blown up to let the water get back towards the river. Later in the evening the 2 levels of the water were reaching about the same level. It is very tragic to see this happening, but it was very gratifying to see that everyone in the town was being supported by the little Shire of Wentworth. That is not a very wealthy shire but it supplied what was needed in material, fuel and so on.
I have raised this matter tonight because the council already has suffered from a very severe bushfire which involved it in very large expense, to say nothing of the losses to the fruit settlements. I sent a wire to the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) and I am very grateful for his prompt action in replying to it. Because of his prompt action and the fact that everyone in the small township co-operated, there was very little damage. Unfortunately some of the blocks were in areas which had to be sacrificed for the construction of a levy bank. Of course, some blocks had to be sacrificed for levy banks to be built to stop the flood. It was a matter of judgment as to which blocks had to be sacrificed. One incident that occurred involved a man who had just come out of hospital. It was very pleasing to see that the first levy bank to be built was the one to protect this man’s block. It is good to hear about these things in this Parliament because, although the flood unfortunately was a tragic event, we are not always able to report that people have pulled together to protect their own livelihoods, government buildings and so on. I ask the Government to give every consideration to helping these people.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-I wish to make some observations about attitudes to the census which is going to be conducted in Australia shortly. There has been a great deal of Press comment on the census. There have been a great number of allegations that the questions in it constitute an invasion of privacy. I share many of the misgivings that people have expressed over the questions contained in the census. With that in mind I asked my research assistant and secretary to conduct a survey among some people in my electorate to try to find out what were the attitudes that were being reflected in the community. I am not going to suggest that the survey, of which I shall give some details, was conducted in a strictly scientific way.
One hundred people were interviewed in the Ringwood and Mitcham shopping centres, and some were contacted by telephone to try to broaden the sample. They were shown a list of new questions on the census form, which I suppose are sociological questions rather than traditional demographic questions which we are all used to. The people interviewed were firstly asked:
Regarding the new questions on the census form, do you regard these as an unwarranted invasion of your privacy?
Seventy-two out of the one hundred said yes, twenty-six said no, and two were not sure. The second question was:
Regarding these new questions, do you intend to answer them?
Fifty-four said no, that they had no intention of answering the questions, thirty-one said yes, and fifteen were not sure. Unsolicited remarks from those who were not sure included some doubts about the legitimacy of the question relating to mental health and doubts about the overall necessity of the census. Some people asked whether the information could not be derived from other sources anyway. Comments voluntarily made by those who considered the new questions were an unwarranted invasion of their privacy and who intended not to comply were along the following lines. Some said the new questions were unnecessary because the information was held elsewhere or because it could be gathered more effectively from other sources. Some said that the question on mental health was too subjective. One elderly working woman said that she would be quite happy to do time for non-compliance and have a holiday.
It is interesting to see that some of the people who said they would comply seemed to fall into particular categories. It did seem from the very limited information from the very limited number who were interviewed that a large proportion of those who said they would comply identified themselves as low income earners or people who were in receipt of welfare payments in some way, or could be in receipt of welfare payments, and who believed that the purpose of the census was to allow the Government to get better information on which to base policies which would be of help and assistance to them. That is a quite reasonable view. I just want to put that forward as perhaps suggesting that there might be some people in the community who have an abhorrence of the questions that are going to be asked and who as a group will not comply. One wonders about the validity of any results that will come out of it.
I am somewhat critical of the non-attempts that have been made to persuade the Australian people that the census is a desirable instrument or gathering information for Government policy making purposes. There does not seem to have been a great deal of effort to tell the people why a census is necessary. In these days when people are questioning privacy matters much more, when there is for example a reference to the Law Reform Commissioner on this very matter of privacy, I think a greater public relations effort would have been justified. I wonder whether we should not be looking at alternatives to the traditional census form, perhaps a sampling for the detailed information on a voluntary basis backed up by a brief demographic census. Perhaps there ought to be a separate slip for the name and address of the person answering the census put in one box and the census form in the other so that the identity of the person answering the question is separated from the information supplied. I believe that we have to think out this matter a great deal for future censuses, and I hope that we will learn from the experience of this coming census.
– There are many trouble spots in the world today, many of which are in the dire straits they are because of one political side using armed force, guerrilla action and /or infiltration for its own political ends. There are few, if any, countries in Africa which do not have a military government or a one-party virtual dictatorship sustained by armed force and which have not gained office by violence. Such a regime exists in Angola which is now under the political domination of the Marxist-Leninist Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola, known as MPLA. This Party came to power with the direct assistance of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and Cuba which organised some IS 000 Cuban troops to support the leftist takeover once again from the completely nonoperational Portugal.
Australia, standing where it does, surrounded by small emerging nations should support the quick intervention on such scenes as Angola- or East Timor- by a United Nations peacekeeping force. It is reported that Cuba will reduce its Angolan invasion force of 15 000 troops by 200 troops per week. So in 2 years time supposedly they will be all gone. But there is a report that there will be one hundred or so left behind after that time. This could create an irritation within that country, or any other country, and could tend to prevent free political determination. In all such circumstances Australia should, as Labor could and should have done in the case of East Timor, take immediate action to see that a United Nations peacekeeping force is put on the ground.
For the reasons that I have mentioned I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a petition signed by 35 members of the Federal Parliament which I propose to send to the Secretary-General of the United Nations. A similar petition is being brought before the Senate this evening.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
As members of the Australian Federal Parliament we urge the attention of the Security Council of the United Nations to the human suffering, massive loss of human life and damage to property that resulted from the U.S.S.R. and Cuban intervention in Angola, and to the continuing presence of Cuban troops in Angola.
We urge the Council to strongly affirm its opposition to intervention by outside forces in the internal affairs of the countries of southern Africa, and to seek from the Government of Angola an assurance that the foreign troops remaining in Angola will not be allowed to use Angola as a base from which to engage in military intervention in other countries in southern Africa.
-Last night I listened with some interest to the honourable member for Holt (Mr Yates) talking about the difficulties that Dandenong Hospital is experiencinga hospital where I delivered my first efforts in private obstetrics. It occurred to me that perhaps I should talk about a similar situation in my electorate, the Northcote Community Hospital, which is bursting at the seams and which carries the highest casualty load of any of the metropolitan hospitals. It can get no priority for expansion from the Victorian Government or assistance from the Federal Government. However, that is not my principal reason for speaking in this adjournment debate.
Recently there has been considerable Press discussion about the area of West Heidelberg which happens to be in the Scullin electorate and the Batman electorate. There have been some rather alarmist reports on the sort of conditions that pertain there. This report is 2 years old but today we see a greatly changed picture in what is available there. I want to use that example to urge that honourable members respect the program of community health and welfare centres started by Dr Everingham when he was Minister for Health in the last 2 Parliaments. West Heidelberg is a good example of the success of these community health and welfare centres. It is an area that had problems because low rent housing was made available en masse to many people after the Olympic Games.
When the opportunity was given to them to say what they wanted for medical treatment and social work and residents of the area, who apparently were downgraded in this report, actively formed their own committee, got expert advice and put up a case to the Federal Government under the community health and welfare centre scheme for such a centre. This enabled them to start originally in a couple of Housing Commission flats, with nurses and social workers who were able to visit homes, who were able to become involved with the community, a community which, despite what was said in that inquiry, was ready to be involved and was ready to play its part and help in the management of such a centre and use the facilities that were there.
Just across the creek from it is the East Preston area which has a similar make-up. There too, despite the fact that social workers and the like would say that this is an area of great deprivation and with not a great initiative, the residents took the opportunity to ask for and receive from the last Government an appropriate health and community welfare centre which they are helping to manage and which they are using. I think it is important when we get these alarmist reports about deprived suburbs we should lock at them and ask whether there are programs available which allow these people to determine what can be done to improve their lot. In the West Heidelberg area, which has been so alarmingly mentioned in recent days that people have shown that they are quite capable of using opportunities when they are given to them.
-We have not yet had an opportunity to debate in this place the transport problems confronting residents of the mainland of Tasmania and Bass Strait Islands, including King Island and Flinders Island. My understanding was that the critical issue would have been before the House by this stage, in the form either of legislation or some positive ministerial statement. All the available evidence clearly establishes that the high cost of shipping compared with road and rail transport constitutes a definite financial disability for Tasmanian industries and for the people of the State. Mr J. F. Nimmo, who conducted the commission of inquiry into transport to and from Tasmania, issued his report on 5 March 1 976. That is almost 3 months ago. There is widespread concern in Tasmania at the delay in introducing some form of transport cost assistance scheme. Whilst appreciating the complexity of the task of formulating a workable scheme I would be failing in my duty as the representative of the people of Braddon if I did not echo their concern over the delay. I trust the matter will be attended to at an early date, in addition to the general freight assistance schemes which have been promised. I now resume my seat in order to allow the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Goodluck) to make a speech.
– I thank the honourable member for Braddon (Mr Groom) and I will not take very long in order to allow the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Goodluck) to speak in this debate. I give notice as a result of representations received from 2 businesses within the Riverina that I have, unfortunately, to bring before the notice of honourable members of this House that I believe the International Harvester Company has not acted in good faith as far as these businesses are concerned. I believe that this is a thing that we must face because there is a way in which business must be done in country areas. I give notice that in the Budget session of the Parliament I intend to pursue this matter with tremendous vigour.
– I am prepared to defend the company.
-You had better get a good defence.
– I am moved to rise this evening by some remarks made by the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) who persists in the view that every supporter of a liberation movement in Africa is in some way supporting the communists. He instances the unfortunate example- unfortunate in every way- of Angola. The suggestion is made that Angola in some way is in the situation it is in because of Cuban intervention and Russian intervention. Angola is in the position it is in because the Portuguese occupation was countenanced for far too long by the whole of the Western world, particularly by its North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies who never applied any pressure to get it out of Angola and to see that there was some proper independent movement to take power in that country. Two or 3 years ago -
– But what about -
– If the honourable member for the Northern Territory keeps quiet he will learn something. Two or 3 years ago the rest of the world supporting the liberation of Angola, as surely as at that time the honourable member for the Northern Territory was supporting its enslavement by the Portuguese, recognised as the government- the government not only in exile but in liberated areas- the government of Holden Roberto of the FNLA. If the rest of the world had helped that government and had helped the Portuguese to get out of Africa, out of Angola, we would have had the FNLA ruling and not the MPLA. I am not here to prejudge the MPLA but it came to power in those circumstances because a government that could have been a viable government was not sup- ported by the rest of the world when it could ave been.
If the communists have achieved any degree of influence in Angola it is precisely because of the troglodyte views of the honourable member for the Northern Territory and the people who sit on the Government side in this Parliament. I am delighted to see that the grandoise pretensions of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) to become an Indian Ocean power now extend to the Atlantic Ocean as well. Those fantasies are very well placed when they spring from the minds of people like the honourable member for the Northern Territory. When we hear the ravings of people like this who have never stood up in this place once to demand majority rule for any enslaved nation in Africa it comes very poorly from their mouths to complain about communist influence. Do not say it to people in this side who fought for the freedom movements in Zimbabwe and Angola.
-My concern for the transport problems of Tasmania have been underlined by many concerned constituents.
– I rise to take a point of order.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! It being 1 1 p.m., the debate is interrupted. The House stands adjourned until 10 a.m. tomorrow.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice:
How many people are employed, and at what levels, in the scrutiny, payment and general administration of the entitlements of members of Parliament
– The Minister for Administrative Services has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
Responsibility for the scrutiny, payment and general administration of the entitlements of members of Parliament, including Ministers and Office-holders of the Opposition Party, is spread over a number of departments.
Within my own Department a number of officers in various Divisions and Branches is involved in these matters but relatively few are engaged fulltime on such functions.
As the honourable member is aware the entitlements of members of Parliament embrace a wide range of matters such as salary and allowances, provision of staff including payment of their salaries and allowances, accommodation, office furniture and equipment, office and residence telephones, newspapers, postage and car, rail and air transport.
Because of the diversity of these matters and the relatively small number of staff engaged exclusively or even principally in the scrutiny, payment and general administration of members’ entitlements, it is not practicable to give a meaningful answer to the honourable member’s question.
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice:
In the event of closure of the North Australia Railway, what courses are open to the Government to ensure that road transport freight charges would not become excessive due to the resulting monopoly of road transport in the surface transport of goods.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
At the present time ANR operates a co-ordinated rail/road service to Darwin with a road contractor providing the road link between Alice Springs and Larrimah. There is provision in the contract to extend the road link to Darwin. This through service provides effective competition to other road operators.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister, representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
– The Minister for Social Security has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
asked the Minister, representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
– The Minister for Social Security has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
(a) 1 Specialist (Woden Valley Hospital); 1 General Practitioner 4 Interns (Interns are not appointed to a specific Public Hospital).
am asked the Minister representing the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs, upon notice:
Will the Minister bring up to date the information given on 31 July, 3 October and 19 November 1974 (Hansard, pages 915, 2249 and 3731) on Federal-State ministerial councils and their advisory committees.
– The Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs has provided the following information for answer to the honourable member’s question:
Private Mail Bag Charge
-On 5 May 1976, the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) asked me the following question, without notice:
The Minister for Post and Telecommunications will be aware of the large increases inmost and telecommunications charges but I refer him to one in particular, the private mail bag charge which has gone up 100 per cent to $30. Is he aware that as a result of this, a large number of private mail bags have been cancelled and therefore there has been no worthwhile increase in total revenue to the Postal Commission and that largely there has been just a disadvantage to many former users?
As mail bags are provided by the users and are of advantage to postmasters and mailmen for sorting mail as well as being a protection for mail being delivered, will the Minister take this matter up with the Commission with a view to having the charge reduced to its former level of $15 which is quite high enough for this service?
The following is in answer to the honourable member’s question:
I am aware that some private bags have been cancelled.
The Postal Commission has been reconsidering the charges for private mail bag services and hopes to be in a position to announce some changes shortly.
asked the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice:
What are the details of Budget expenditure curtailments made through the Department of Aboriginal Affairs since 1 1 November 1975.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice:
What is the cost of the coats-of-arms for the new Law Courts building in Sydney.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I am informed that the amount is $135,000 for 62 coatsofarms 28 for the Commonwealth portion of the building and 34 for the State portion. In addition to appropriate coatsofarms at the main Commonwealth entrance and at the main State entrance, coats-of-arms are placed, as is customary, in each court room- 27 Commonwealth and 33 State. The Commonwealth’s share of the cost is $60,000 and the State’s share is $75,000.
asked the Minister for Overseas Trade, upon notice:
What action is being taken by his Department to increase the overseas sales of skim milk powder, and other dairy products.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Department of Overseas Trade is not a marketing organisation and responsibility for making sales of dairy products rests with exporters and the Australian Dairy Corporation. However, the Department of Overseas Trade provides a wide range of facilities and services to assist Australian exporters develop new markets and expand existing overseas outlets for their products.
These facilities include the Trade Commissioner service and the associated trade promotion and trade publicity activities of the Department. There are 58 Trade Commissioner Posts located in 46 countries and they are responsible for providing regular market intelligence reports, introducing Australian exporters to overseas importers and recommending and implementing a wide range of Australian promotion and publicity projects on a continuing basis. Early this year, at the request of the Australian Cheese
Manufacturers’ Federation, the Department obtained specific advice from Trade Commissioners at twenty overseas posts on the latest prospects for exports of Australian cheese.
The Department of Overseas Trade welcomes and actively encourages participation by dairy exporters and the Australian Dairy Corporation in the trade fairs and exhibitions, store promotions and other promotional ventures which it organises. Dairy products were featured prominently in the Tehran International Trade Fair in September 1975 and they will also be included in the Australian National Exhibition at Moscow in July this year. The industry was strongly represented in eight store promotions in Japan which were organised by the Department and involved 298 stores in Tokyo and Osaka.
The ADC has its own overseas representatives in Japan and in Europe/North America and is very active in its surveillance of world markets and of economic and other developments (particularly in the EEC, United States of America, Middle East, Japan) which could affect the marketing of Australian dairy products. There is very close cooperation, between these representatives and Australian Trade Commissioners. There is also close and constant liaison between executives of Asia Dairy Industries Ltd, which operates milk recombing plants in a number of countries, and the Trade Commissioners.
There are useful markets in Mexico and the South American countries, where imports depend on the purchasing policies of government-owned import agencies. These markets are under very close study by the Trade Commissioners and by the Australian Dairy Corporation which has made significant sales there, including some under long term supply arrangements.
In addition, continuing overseas promotional activities are taking place through the Overseas Trade Publicity Committee of which the Australian Dairy Corporation is a member. In 1975-76 the Government, through my Department, contributed $204,400 to the Corporation’s overseas promotional expenditure.
The major difficulties limiting export sales of Australian dairy products do not, however, relate to Australia’s image as a reliable, efficient supplier of high quality dairy products. Rather they arise from the domestic support arrangements, import policies and export subsidisation practices of certain countries.
The EEC’s surplus of skimmed milk powder and its subsidised exports of dairy products are major factors disrupting world markets. In addition, quota restrictions which are still maintained by the United States, limit our sales to that market to only token quantities of a small number of dairy products. Access into the Japanese market, which does offer prospects for long term growth, is restricted by import quotas, state trading arrangements and protective tariffs. Canada, which is a potentially valuable market, also restricts imports.
Every available opportunity is being taken, in both Ministerial and official discussions, to seek better access to these markets for Australian dairy products. In addition, the question is the subject of continuing discussions in international forums, especially in GATT. Australia has played a leading role in the Dairy Sub-Group of the Multilateral Trade Negotiations in order to underline the overriding importance to the dairy sector of the MTN objective of bringing about a liberalisation of world trade.
Bearing in mind the limited nature of the existing GATT arrangements on skimmed milk powder and milk fat and of the OECD Gentleman’s Agreement on Exports of Whole Milk Powder, Australian delegations to the ongoing MTN discussions have stressed the need for improved international dairy arrangements.
asked the Minister for Overseas Trade the following question, upon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
I refer the honourable member to the answer given by the Treasurer, in his reply to your similar question No. 526 asked of him. Compilation of the information would also require a major commitment of staff resources from my Department and I do not think that I would be justified in authorising the time and expense which would be involved in collating the information sought.
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Please see the answer by the Treasurer to Question No. 526.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– My Department has provided me with the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
Attorney-General: Meeting with Mr H. W. Fancher (Question No. 565)
am asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice:
When and where and in whose company has he, in his capacity as Attorney-General, met Mr H. Wiley Fancher, Jnr.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I met Mr Fancher on 15 January 1976. The meeting took place in Canberra. The Premier of Queensland, the UnderSecretary of the Queensland Premier’s Department, Professor D. P. O’Connell and the Secretary to my Department were also present.
asked the Minister for the Northern Territory, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Overseas Trade, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Department of Overseas Trade
Recruitment of staff is usually arranged by the Public Service Inspectors who supply staff as requested. There are no staff engaged in recruitment on a full time basis.
Occasionally when a special category of staff is sought e.g. an intake of Trainee Trade Commissioners a number of officers may be involved on a part time basis as part of their usual duties, not only in the administrative tasks of drafting advertisements, listing applications and arranging interviews but in the more important tasks of interviewing and selection. Direct recruitment is infrequent and for this reason it is difficult to be precise, however it is estimated that the equivalent of full time staff involved in such activity would be only of the order of some 200 man hours at an approximate cost of $ 1 500 per annum.
Export Finance and Insurance Corporation
1 ) No officer is engaged full time on recruitment duties. A number of officers is involved briefly when recruitment is necessary- approximately 4 or 5 employees are engaged per year.
Private employment agencies are sometimes usedmainly for typing staff.
$856 were paid to the Commercial Employees Agency in 1974-75 in relation to the engagement of 5 employees.
Enquiries for staff are sometimes placed with the Commonwealth Employment Service. No payment is required.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Construction, upon notice:
Department or such agencies in respect of their annual salaries.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 3 June 1976, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1976/19760603_reps_30_hor99/>.