30th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. B. M. Snedden, Q.C.) took the chair at 2.15 p.m., and read prayers.
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 Price Index months after goods and services have risen, and that many medications, formerly a pharmaceutical benefit, must now be paid for.
In addition, State Housing Authority waiting lists for low rental dwellings for pensioners become never less, and funeral costs increase ever greater.
Your petitioners call on the Australian Government as a matter of urgency to:
Adjust social security payments instantly and automatically on announcement of increases in the quarterly Consumer Price Index.
Restore pharmaceutical benefits deleted from the free list.
The State Grants (Dwellings for Pensioners) Act 1974, eroded by inflation, be updated and increased to overcome the back-log.
The funeral benefit be updated to 60 per cent of a reasonable funeral cost. This benefit, when introduced in 1943 at 200 shillings ($20.00), was seven times the pension at that time of 27 shillings ($2.70) per week, or more than twice the basic wage of 97 shillings ($9.70). by Mr Lynch, Mr MacKellar, Mr Staley, Mr Bradfield, Mr Garrick, Mr Groom, Dr Jenkins, Mr Les Johnson and Mr Neil.
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 Bryant, Mr Fry, Mr Garrick, Mr Les Johnson and Mr Morris.
To the Speaker and the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia and residents from overseas respectfully showeth that many Australian and residents from overseas are concerned at the announced consideration by the Commonwealth Government to introduce tertiary fees for overseas students. We your petitioners do therefore humbly pray that the Commonwealth Government:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Lionel Bowen and Dr Cass.
To the Speaker and the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia and residents from overseas respectfully showeth that many Australian and residents from overseas are concerned at the announced consideration by the Commonwealth Government to introduce tertiary fees for overseas students. We your petitioners do therefore humbly pray that the Commonwealth Government:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byMrScholes.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. We the undersigned, citizens of the Commonwealth by this our humble petition respectfully showeth:
That Medibank has proved to be the cheapest and most efficient means of bringing health care to Australian citizens. and that the citizens of Australia have received Medibank as a great and valued social reform.
That Medibank has proved itself to be a far superior system of health care than was offered by the private funds prior to July 1975.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will observe the promise made by the Prime Minister in his policy speech that ‘We will maintain Medibank and ensure the standard of health care does not decline’.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Dr Cass, Dr Jenkins and Mr Scholes.
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned electors of the Commonwealth respectfully showeth:
Whereas your petitioners respectfully request consideration be given to:
Both of the above being without the prerequisites of referral by a medical practitioner.
Therefore your petitioners pray your honourable House to legislate accommodation of these matters under the provisions of Federal law.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Killen and Mr Fif e.
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 those who have retired and those who are about to retire, are being severely and adversely affected by inflation and Australian economic circumstances.
The continuance of the means test on pensions causes undue hardship to them.
We call on the Government to immediately abolish the means test on all aged pensions.
To ensure a pension for all on retirement, and a guarantee that all Australian citizens will retire with dignity.
Acknowledge that a pension is a ‘ Right and not a Charity ‘.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Staley and Mr Hyde.
Petition 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 the Australian Government maintain the effective indexed value of education spending.
That the Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme be immediately increased and indexed as recommended by the 1975 Williams Committee.
That the Australian Government implement the 1975 reports of the Schools Commission and the Technical and Further Education Commission; and introduce a secondary students living allowance scheme with principles in line with those advocated for the Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme.
That the Australian Government implement 1975 reports of the Australian Universities Commission and the Commission on Advanced Education and re-establish the principle of triennial planning .
That the Australian Government maintain tertiary education free of tuition fees at all undergraduate and postgraduate levels, and that students similarly be permitted to undertake further degree courses without fees after an initial qualification.
That overseas students continue to begranted the opportunity of study without fees in all public Australian educational institutions.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Fry and Mr Antony Whitlam.
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 $2 1,000,000 and by the abolition of the Australian Development Assistance Agency. We, your petitioners, do therefore humbly pray that the Commonwealth Government
As a matter of urgency reverse the decision to cut the 1975-76 overseas development assistance vote so as to ensure that the full amount appropriated by Parliament for overseas development assistance be spent this financial year to send some of our more productive cows to the Indian subcontinent where they are urgently needed for milk production and breeding purposes. The needless slaughter of thousands of cattle throughout Australia each day is an international disaster and the Commonwealth Government is urged to take immediate action.
Such initiative by the Commonwealth Government would overnight restore confidence in the dairying industry and would provide an immediate market for many of our surplus cattle. 10 000 children die from malnutrition and its associated causes every day on the Indian sub-continent, mainly because there is nothing to replace the mother’s milk. On humanitarian grounds we urge the Commonwealth Government to send as many as possible of our more productive cows to help overcome this great human injustice.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Lynch.
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 present and past policies of whaling nations have caused the serious depletion of whale stocks.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House urge the Government to immediately implement a 10-year moratorium on whaling and that the responsibility for whales be removed from the Department of Primary Industry and given to the Department of the Environment, Housing and Community Development.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Sinclair.
To the honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that: The Australian Broadcasting Commission has rendered great service to the Australian public through the provision of high quality music, drama, education and current affairs programmes as well as sponsoring the presentation of excellent concerts.
The Australian Broadcasting Commission has encouraged the production of Austrlian programmes and has supported through employment a wide range of talented people.
Suggestions are being made by some people that the Australian Broadcasting Commission boost its revenue by accepting advertising but that this is anathema to the petitioners.
The Australian Broadcasting Commission should have its funds fully restored and its independence reaffirmed.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byMrStaley.
To The Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth: The urgent need for a community owned and operated public access radio broadcasting station to service the mid western suburbs of Sydney and in particular the municipalities of Ashfield, Burwood, Concord, Drummoyne and Strathfield.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled should grant a licence for this purpose to 2RDJ FM Community Radio.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Abel.
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 in contravention of a 1968 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. byMrBonnett.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of certain parents and teachers of Exeter District School respectfully showeth:
That the continuation of adequate funding is very necessary in the process of effective education and that although the infusion of federal money has improved this school, we are all very much aware of serious deficiencies in our children’s environment.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House urge the Government to make additional funds available for the improvement of educational facilities in Australia, and in particular those existing at the Exeter District School.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Burr.
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.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the plan to obliterate the traditional weights and measures of this country is causing and will cause widespread inconvenience, confusion, expense and distress.
That there is no certainty that any significant benefits or indeed any benefits at all will follow the use of the new weights and measures.
That the traditional weights and measures are eminently satisfactory.
Your petitioners therefore pray.
That the Metric Conversion Act be repealed, and that the Government take urgent steps to cause the traditional and familiar units to be restored to those areas where the greatest inconvenience and distress are occurring, that is to say, in meteorology, in road distances, in sport, in the building and allied trades, in the printing trade, and in retail trade.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Dr Jenkins.
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 many Australians are concerned at the announced decision by the Australian Government to reduce the 1975-76 Overseas Development Assistance vote by $2 1 million, and by the abolition of the Australian Development Assistance Agency. We your petitioners do therefore humbly pray that the Australian Government:
As a matter of urgency, reverse the decision to cut the 1975-76 Overseas Development Assistance vote, so as to ensure that the full amount appropriated by Parliament for
Overseas Development Assistance is spent this financial year to meet the pressing needs of those in the developing countries; reaffirms Australia’s commitment of Overseas Development Assistance being a minimum of 0.7 per cent of GNP, and establish a fully independent statutory authority to administer Australia’s official Overseas Development Assistance.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Connolly.
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 recent outbreak of racial riots and killings in South Africa. We your petitioners do therefore humbly pray that the Australian Government:
Call upon the South African Government to eliminate apartheid and racial discrimination; withdraw the Australian Trade Commissioners from South Africa, in accordance with UN resolution 341 1G (December 1975).
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Connolly.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth. That the undersigned persons believe that:
The $300 limit on income tax deductibility in respect of personal residential land and water rates is unrealistic and is a discriminatory income tax penalty.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will take steps to see that the aforesaid limitation is removed entirely or substantially increased.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Connolly.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. We the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia by this our humble petition respectfully showeth:
That the proposal to exclude all persons from the benefit of tax deductibility for mortgage interest rates other than first home buyers in their first five years of home purchase is a repudiation of the Government’s election undertaking to maintain the scheme.
That the effect of the proposal will cause hardship to many current beneficiaries of the scheme, in that existing benefits will terminate, thus putting housing loan repayments beyond reach.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray: that the Government reconsider its decision to drastically curtail the scheme; that the principles applying to the scheme as introduced by the Labor Government be maintained; and that benefits be upgraded by indexation to take account of the effects of inflation.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Fry.
Omega Station in Australia
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
That Omega is the only navigation system, whose signals can be used by submarines to determine their position when submerged.
That in particular the missiles-firing submarines of the U.S.A. can improve their destructive potential by using Omega signals.
That therefore an Omega station built in Australia would be listed for nuclear attack by any power, believing itself threatened by the U.S.A.
That such a station would therefore represent a further hindrance to the development of an independent and peaceful foreign policy for Australia and a new contribution to the threat of nuclear annihilation.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Australian Government will reject any proposal to build an Omega station on Australian soil.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Garrick.
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 Australian Medical Association and its affiliate, the Australian Association of Surgeons, intends entering into negotiations with the Hon. the Minister of State for Health, to alter the Health Insurance Act and regulations.
That such alterations as proposed are purely the wishes of a minority group seeking privileges in relation to the billing of patients, and particularly pensioners and less well off members of the Australian Community, which are detrimental to the spirit of the Act and contrary to the whole intention of the legislation.
That the Association of Surgeons has demonstrated by its refusal to treat pensioner patients in designated community and other hospitals providing beds under section 34 of the said Act, that its agitation against Medibank is purely the reaction of a selfish vested minority, and not in the best interests of the patients.
That the efforts by the Association of Surgeons to undermine Medibank by seeking to negotiate changes is the thin edge of the wedge to dismantle the Health Insurance Act altogether, an action which will not be tolerated by the Australian community in general and the pensioners, less privileged and disadvantaged members of society in particular.
Your petitioners therefore ask that the Australian Parliament refuse to countenance any changes to the Health Insurance Act, and particularly those sought by influential minority interests who have demonstrated particularly by their actions in refusing to co-operate in the treatment of pensioner patients in hospital, that they do not have the interests and and welfare of patients as their prime concern.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Hurford.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectively showeth: that the decision of the Government to introduce a 2.5 per cent levy on incomes to finance Medibank and to offer private health insurance as an alternative to Medibank.
Constitutes a repudiation of an election promise to retain Medibank.
Will place an unjust financial burden upon low and middle income earners.
Will force many people out of Medibank and create a double standard of health care in Australia.
Will destroy the principle of a comprehensive compulsory health insurance scheme for all Australians.
Your petitioners call upon the Australian Government to strengthen and extend the principles of Medibank as a comprehensive compulsory health insurance scheme covering all Australians, from General Revenue.
Provide equitable health care for all members of Australian society.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will every pray. byDr Jenkins.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the new Government during the recent election campaign, promised lower taxation and more money in people ‘s pockets.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray. That the House of Representatives will take immediate steps to prevent the introduction of Television and Radio licence fees, the imposition of a tax levy for Medibank and the introduction of higher charges for drugs dispensed under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Dr Klugman.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned members of Orange Field Naturalist and Conservation Society respectfully showeth that
There is a growing interest and concern in all sections of Australian society for the conservation of the environment, natural and man-made.
That there are also rapidly growing pressures by powerful forces tending towards the destruction of the Australian Heritage.
That it is therefore urgent to appoint the Australian Heritage Commission, which was approved by both sides of this Parliament and to give the Commission sufficient independent staff, resources and funds.
That Technical Assistance Grants and Administrative Support Grants to community organizations are needed to partially redress the gross imbalance in technical expertise and resources suffered by community groups in pressing the community’s case against the exploiter.
That a proper balance between the Governments programme of public austerity and the need for action in conservation would be a modest increase in the budget allocations in these areas over that of 1 975-76.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr MacKenzie.
Dockyards at Newcastle
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Newcastle respectfully showeth:
That shipbuilding and repairs play a vital role in the economic stability of the Newcastle region.
That a recent study by the Hunter Valley Research Foundation showed that 50 000 people were partially or wholly maintained by the State Dockyard.
That stability is at present in jeopardy, as a new ship order is required within the next few weeks if serious unemployment and hardship is to be avoided.
That the previous Government’s plan for the building of a graving dock in Newcastle should be continued as proper ship repair facilities are a vital factor in the maintenance of a viable shipbuilding industry.
That the Government’s election pledge to restore business and employment can be implemented in Newcastle if new orders and a graving dock are granted.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government place immediate orders with the Newcastle State Dockyard and implement the previous Government’s plan to build a graving dock in Newcastle.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Morris.
United Nations Conference on Trade and Development
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 that Australia take a strong role of leadership at the forthcoming United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.
We your petitioners do therefore humbly pray that the Australian Government instruct its delegation to the fourth session of UNCTAD:
To speak in support of the principle of an integrated program of commodities; to take part in follow up activities after the fourth session to help bring about the integrated program; to offer financial assistance for these activities; to give special consideration and attention to tea, bauxite, copra and other commodities of particular importance in our trade with the third world and the Pacific Islands in particular, and to work for the inclusion of these commodities in the program.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Neil.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
The purpose of this petition is to bring to your notice the mounting financial burden being thrust upon patients and or relatives of nursing home patients.
Fee levels are controlled by the Government but increases in Government subsidies have not been sufficient to cover the spiralling fees in nursing homes.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Government will consider its decision and take immediate steps to apply a major increase in patient subsidies and your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Wilson.
-Does the Treasurer consider that the present high level of unemployment and the predicted even higher levels are necessary in order to reduce the rate of inflation? If so, how much unemployment does he consider to be necessary to reduce the rate of inflation to the level of 8 per cent, which is the average for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries? If not, why has he not set a lower target for unemployment and used fiscal policies to achieve it?
– In response to what the honourable gentleman has sought, I certainly do not agree with any suggestion- I would reject itthat this Government has deliberately produced a Budget which, as part of its economic strategy, will lead to a higher level of unemployment in Australia. I repeat what I said in the House last week about the position. If the honourable gentleman turns to Statement No. 2 in the Budget Papers, he will find that the position is set out in very clear form. As I mentioned in the House last week, that statement gives forecasts of employment growth in 2 different ways. In the first form, it says that the average level of employment during 1976-77 as a whole is expected to be 1 per cent to 2 per cent greater than the average level of employment for 1975-76. Secondly, as the honourable gentleman should be very much aware, it says that employment during this financial year- that is, from June 1976 to June 1977- is expected to increase by more than 2 per cent. The labour force figure which is given in the document is given on one basis only.
That labour force figure over the year between June 1976 and June 1977 is expected to grow by 2 per cent at most. The labour force projection is comparable only to the employment projection that refers to more than 2 per cent. It is not comparable to the employment forecast that uses the figure of 1 to 2 per cent. In short, the only conclusion that can be drawn from Statement No. 2, which is prepared by the Treasury itself, is that there will be some small reduction in the level of unemployment by the end of 1976-77. I say to the honourable gentleman that he sheds crocodile tears in relation to the level of unemployment in this country. It is, after all, his Government which caused the level of unemployment. It is, after all, his Government which put the greatest number of Australians out of work for as long as I can recall since the Great Depression. The present Government recognises that the problem of unemployment is the problem of inflation. As economic recovery takes place and inflation is reduced during the year, there will of course be a growth in the labour market.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that the Premier of New South Wales has indicated his helplessness in preventing violent demonstrations at universities by suggesting that persons likely to be the subject of demonstrations should not visit universities? Does the Prime Minister consider that this, craven attitude is a ? roper one for any government to take? Does the rime Minister intend to continue to visit universities to exercise the right of free speech which he shares with all other Australians?
-Let me take the last part of the honourable gentleman’s question first. I do intend to continue to visit universities as and when I am asked. I will be. visiting Monash University some time shortly to finish the job that could not be finished yesterday because of certain hooligans on the campus. That has been discussed already with the Vice-Chancellor who agrees, as I would expect him to.
Opposition members- Oh!
– Honourable gentlemen find it strange, perhaps, that a vicechancellor should deplore violence on his own campus. It is equally surprising, I believe, that the Premier of New South Wales should take a course, or appear to take a course, that could give encouragement to demonstrators who would seek to deny free speech. Universities traditionally and classically are meant to be the homes of research, of freedom of expression, of free speech. Why is it then that universities occasionally become the main focal point of those who would seek to deny free speech? Those who are in universities and who take part in that contradictory approach should ask themselves what they want to do. There is a strange view also that law does not run on university campuses. It is a false view. It is not a view to which my Government will give any encouragement whatsoever.
There is a fringe element in the left wing of the university student movement, combined with some elements of the trade union movementparticularly the Builders Labourers Federationthat would seek to promote this kind of violence, this kind of disturbance. It is noteworthy that, so far as I am aware, nobody from the Australian Labor Party has condemned this kind of violence that seeks to deny free speech and seeks to do harm. It is time that members of the Australian Labor Party spoke against all violent demonstrations, no matter against whom they are directed. Of course, one of the reasons why there tends to be a greater degree of demonstration is the ineffectiveness of the Parliamentary Labor Party itself. Because of that’ ineffectiveness, people tend to look to other means. But in Australia there are plenty of ways in which people can express their own views without resorting to the kind of violence that has occurred. Students deplore it, for the greater part. It gives offence to the overwhelming majority of Australians. It will not be tolerated by the overwhelming majority of Australians.
– I call the Leader of the Opposition.
– I wonder why Gough is looking guilty.
– The honourable member will be leading demonstrations at his next nursing home, I guess.
-I ask the Treasurer the question which the honourable member for Adelaide asked him last Wednesday and which he did not then answer What is the explanation for the cut of $33m or 5.7 per cent in the allocation for unemployment and sickness benefits in this year’s Budget? Which department calculated this estimated decrease in expenditure and what was the basis of the calculation? Is the reduction due to the new policy that persons who have left school but cannot get jobs are not now to receive unemployment benefit for the period which elapses before the commencement of the next school or academic year?
-The figures would have been the subject of discussion between the appropriate government department and the Treasury. The figures in the Budget are utterly consistent with the figures which the Government has put down in relation to the projected growth of the labour force and the increase in employment which will take place during the year. As to the final part of the honourable gentleman’s question, I shall treat that as a question on notice and supply him with an answer in writing.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. Can the Minister give an indication of the Government’s proposed policy intentions towards the Tasmanian fruit industry, in particular the level of support that may be available for next season’s crop?
– Each of the Tasmanian members and senators, and indeed a number of mainland members who have fruit growers within their constituencies, have expressed concern that as early as possible there should be an announcement of stabilisation arrangements to apply for the next fruit season. As the spring nears obviously the necessity for spraying and preparations for fruit processing will require a financial commitment by growers. For many of them the returns over the last 2 seasons have been abysmal. Unfortunately, when the Tasmanian apple exports were opened up in Europe this year, because of a number of factors outside the control of the Tasmanian industry- needless to say- the fruit was not as attractive as it might have been. This and other factors have meant that the returns have not been really satisfactory.
I can understand the interest and desire of the honourable member to get an early answer to this question. At the moment before Cabinet there is a submission which I hope will result in an early announcement of the level of assistance and the manner in which the fruit industry is to be helped. I add that we have provided an extension of the tree pull scheme so that for those who feel that they are unable to operate satisfactorily on present levels of support, or who, because of costs or other production circumstances feel that they want to get out of the industry, funds are available to give them a reasonable option. The doubling of the means test is a worthwhile extension to which those fruit growers who are in financial difficulties might well turn. I thank the honourable member for his question and can assure him that the Government is worried about the position of fruit growers. It sees the fruit growing industry as one of the worst affected of all the primary industries at the moment.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. He would be aware that 40 per cent of unemployed are aged 20 years or less while only 12 per cent of the work force is in that age category. Is he aware that in metropolitan areas an average of 35 people are registered with the Commonwealth Employment Service for every job vacancy whereas in non-metropolitan areas the average is 600 to 1? Will the Minister give details of action the Government has taken to alleviate unemployment in this particular age group? Do these young people come into the group labelled by some Government members and their supporters as ‘dole bludgers*?
– I welcome the newfound interest of the honourable member and the Opposition in the problems of the young unemployed. In answering a question last week I pointed out that when the Australian Labor Party came to office the number of unemployed in Australia totalled 136 000. When it left office it totalled 328 000. 1 now point out that when the Labor Party came to office there were approximately 80 000 young people unemployed. When it left office there were 152 000 young people unemployed. So its record in relation to unemployment is consistent across the board. Nevertheless, if the honourable member had been giving more attention to some speeches on this topic that I have been making recently he would be more aware of the sorts of issues that he, quite properly, raises. The fact that I have been speaking about them for some months shows that the Government also is concerned about this problem.
The honourable member asked what steps the Government is taking to alleviate what is acknowledged as a very serious social problem for Australia and the young people concerned. One of the measures we have taken is to continue to support under the National Employment and Training Scheme the re-training program for apprentices whose indentures were in danger of termination because of the policies of the previous Government. The Government’s expenditure in the field of technical and further education has been showing a higher rate of increase than in any other field of education- universities, colleges of advanced education or school programs. I think from memory the increase has been something like 7Vi per cent, whereas the increase in other fields was about one-third of that figure.
At the moment a standing committee of the National Training Council, acting with the full support of my Department, is working towards the development of special programs under NEAT for unemployed youth. This question was also a matter of discussion when the Government held talks with the trade union movement and the employers during the winter recess. Continuing discussions will be held at departmental level.
That is the immediate situation in the context of youth unemployment. But there is, and has been for some time, an emerging longer term problem which is not confined to Australia. Despite my best endeavours I can find very little evidence to indicate that the previous Government made any attempt to come to grips with this situation. Indeed, it exacerbated the position. As I and other Ministers have continually pointed out, a problem in Australia is that people are pricing themselves out of the job market, and the level of wages of young people is now such as to discourage the employment of young people if older people with acquired skills can be obtained in the market place. As a direct result of the policies of the previous Government, employment prospects for young people have been put at risk. I have made one error, Mr Speaker. I found one single piece of evidence to indicate that the Labor Government had some appreciation of the problem to which reference was made. That was the establishment of a working party to examine the transition between secondary education and employment. I understand that the report of this working party is expected to be available soon and I and the Government will be examining it with great interest. Unlike our predecessors, we have taken note of the problem. I have already enumerated some of the actions we have taken.
-Order! The Minister has made this an extensive answer. Although I cannot require him to do so under the Standing Orders I ask him to bring his answer to a climax as early as possible.
- Mr Speaker, it would help us all if the Minister were to table the document.
– Order! The honourable member will resume his seat.
– Well, Mr Speaker -
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
– I conclude my answer by saying that we have taken note of this -
– I again take a point of order. The Minister is reading from a document. I ask only that he now table the document, so we can look at it.
-If that is what the honourable gentleman intended, he did not announce it. Is he calling for the tabling of a document?
– I am calling for the tabling of a document. I would much prefer to read the departmental document than to hear the Minister.
-Is the Minister reading from a document?
– No. I was quoting from notes. If it disturbs the honourable member, I am perfectly happy to leave them on my seat. I conclude by saying -
- Mr Speaker, I put it to you that you should not accept the assertion by the Minister. He was reading not from notes but from a typed document. It was certainly of more than one page. He turned the first page and was reading from the second page when my colleague asked that he table the document. Everybody in the chamber, everybody in the gallery could see that the Minister was reading from a document. He turned the pages of the document. It was not just notes. He was reading from at least 2 foolscap sheets of typescript.
– The Minister’s answer was much longer than a purely read answer would have been. I asked him whether he was reading. He told me that he was quoting from notes. I now put to him the question: Are they confidential?
– No, they are certainly not confidential.
-The Minister was quoting from a document. If it is not confidential I require him to table it.
– I would be perfectly happy to table it.
– The document will be tabled. I ask the Minister to table it.
– I conclude my answer by saying, if I may be permitted to finish -
-The Minister will need to table the document when called upon. Will he do so?
– Yes. The document from which I quoted is part of a longer document which has nothing to do with the question, and I will be tearing off that part. I want to make that clear.
-Certainly. The Minister will table the relevant document.
– What I was trying to get across was that the Government has taken note of the problem of the transition from education to employment and of the requirements of the Australian education system to ensure, as far as possible, that the very large sums spent on education are truly reflected in education to fit people for the sort of jobs that are available in Australia. I table the document.
-Is the Minister for Transport aware of the confusion existing in both Tasmania and South Australia over the transfer of the State railway services and the resultant low morale of railway employees? Can he assure the House that the transfer is going ahead and will be finalised at the earliest opportunity?
– Any doubts or confusion that may have arisen about the transfer of the railways came about because the Government sought to test the legal validity of the agreements, and quite rightly so when one looks at how the previous Prime Minister was taken to the cleaners by the South Australian Premier on the South Australian Agreement. I have let the House know a number of times my unhappiness about the way the Leader of the Opposition, when Prime Minister, dealt with the agreements. I will not go over that ground again. Suffice to say that we have had a check made of the agreements. On 11 August I put out a statement confirming that unfortunately the agreements are valid.
One other thing which is of interest has occurred. I was concerned that the South Australian Agreement gives the South Australian Minister for Railways power of veto after the transfer, when the Commonwealth gets control, of any action that the Commonwealth Minister might take. If the 2 Ministers cannot agree the matter is subject to arbitration. However, I am pleased to note that the Premier of South Australia has denied that there is any clause which gives the South Australian Minister power of veto. I welcome that statement. If we get into difficulties over arrangements in future it may well be that he will be happy for us to amend the Agreement if it seems necessary, seeing he has uttered those very important words. The Agreement is proceeding, as I said in my statement on 1 1 August, and the employees about whom the honourable member for Braddon is concerned can be reassured that just as soon as the Tasmanian Minister, the South Australian Minister and I can get around a table and settle one or two outstanding issues the transfer will be completed.
-Is the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs aware of the grave discontent in the Lebanese community in Australia arising from the lack of firm guidelines for the entry into Australia of relatives and friends who have had to flee the Lebanon because of the conflict in that country? Is he also aware of the accusations and complaints of favouritism towards certain sponsors, the long delays in processing applications, the heavy expense involved in maintaining applicants outside the Lebanon and inconsistency in granting approval for entry into Australia? If not, will he, firstly, undertake an immediate investigation to ascertain whether the accusations and complaints are true or false and, secondly, make an early and comprehensive statement to the House on the matter?
– As every honourable member knows, the situation in the Lebanon is such as would cause disquiet to all members of the Lebanese community in Australia and in fact to all members of the Australian community. I am aware that a great number of members of the Lebanese community are seeking to have reunited with them members of their families who can manage to get away from the Lebanon and reach Australian posts surrounding that country. Special arrangements have been operating since early March in relation to people leaving the Lebanon. At present the utmost priority is given to what are known as category A cases; that is, the parents, husbands, wives and dependent children of Australian residents. Their applications are being processed immediately, and in many cases they are being brought to Australia on the understanding that their health checks will be carried out immediately they arrive in Australia. So we are seeking to expedite the reuniting of immediate family members in this category. Normal migration cases also are being processed, and there is an additional category for compassionate cases. At present the level of applications is extremely high and the level of approvals is running at a yearly rate of about 4800. More than 800 compassionate cases alone have been approved since the end of March.
I am aware that stories about some malpractice in various places, in particular Cyprus, are circulating in the Lebanese community at the moment. They came to my attention last week and at the moment I am urgently investigating them. I note also that an advertisement has been placed by the Opposition spokesman on immigration in a newspaper called the Middle East News, in which he makes some assertions about the number of Lebanese in Australia.
– They are all true, too.
– The honourable member says that they are all true. In his advertisement he says that there are between 150 000 and 200 000 Lebanese in Australia. In fact the number is between 50 000 and 55 000. He says that the Australian Labor Party would bring at least 10 000 Lebanese to Australia. He does not say how these people would be chosen and under what conditions they would be brought here. What I am saying is that since the crisis in the Lebanon developed the Government has been in close and continuing consultation with leaders of the Lebanese community in Australia. The consultations are continuing, and we hope to be able to announce a special project within the next few days. The Government at all times has sought not to make political capital out of what is an extremely tragic situation. If the honourable member for Lang has any specific cases that he wishes to bring to my attention, I assure him that I will give them my close consideration.
-Has the attention of the Minister for Defence been drawn to the editorial in today’s Sydney Morning Herald in which certain claims are made with respect to expenditure on Service equipment this financial year? Are these claims well founded?
– My attention has been drawn to the editorial in today’s Sydney Morning Herald and I would observe that it is a very great pity that a newspaper which has had such a long and distinguished interest in the defence of this country should be so grossly in error. I would like to believe that the error was genuinely based and not related to anything splenetic, but the figures which are cited by the leader writer are not merely marginally false; they are utterly false. I say to the Leader of the Opposition: ‘I am putting on my glasses. I assure you that I am reading. ‘ The leader writer observed:
The Navy’s equipment budget has been increased to almost $90m mainly for the purchase of patrol frigates, an oceanographic ship and Oberon submarines.
The fact is that the Navy’s equipment budget for this year is $160m. The editorial is almost half correct. The Herald went on:
The Army’s allocation was increased to $45m.
The fact is that the Army’s allocation is $ 108m. Finally it said:
The Air Force got almost $76m, mainly for replacement Hercules aircraft and Orion long-range maritime patrol aircraft
The actual total for the year is $ 144m. The total for equipment proposed in the Budget for this year is $484m. The total offered by the Herald is $2 1 1 m. The leader writer went on to observe:
Virtually all of this list represents the commitments of the former Government.
The 2 Oberons were approved of in March 1970. The former Whitlam Government had not then tasted the fruits of office. The oceanographic ship was approved in 1970. The Nomad aircraft were approved in May 1 972. The first trials with the Leopard tank were approved in September 197 1 which, I believe, was during the term of office of my distinguished friend the honourable member for Kennedy. The Orion aircraft met with their first approval in March 1971 and the last Labor Government deferred that approval until 1973-74. The Rapier missile was first approved and developed in the early 1 960s.
– Are you reading now?
– Yes, I am reading. I am reading the honourable gentleman and I do not enjoy it in the least. I would like to say by way of conclusion that I do not object in the least to criticism regarding the Department of Defence. Indeed, it is my fond hope that this country will eventually reach that mature state where there will be a genuine bipartisan approach to defence problems but to use figures in such a mischievous way or- to put it in a generous and charitable fashion- to use them in an erroneous way, does not contribute towards that end.
– I ask the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs a question which concerns his Press statement of 2 1 May announcing that Australian residents can now sponsor the immigration of their parents even if the parents are not dependent upon them and are outside the acceptable occupational categories. I ask why this statement was telexed to most overseas posts but not to those covering the Lebanon and Cyprus- the very countries from which so many Australians residents are desperately anxious to bring their parents and who have not been able to do so since the parents are not dependent or highly skilled. What steps has his Department taken in the last 3 months to make these wider family reunion categories known in the Lebanon and Cyprus and to bring them to the attention of the Lebanese and Cypriot communities in Australia?
– I am not aware that telexes were not sent to the posts surrounding the Lebanon. I will check immediately after question time to see whether what the Leader of the Opposition says is correct. Let me assure the honourable gentleman and all honourable gentlemen that the criteria in relation to family reunion being applied throughout the world apply to parents, husbands and wives and dependent children of Lebanese residents of Australia.
-The attention of the Minister for Defence has no doubt been drawn to statements by the honourable member for Oxley claiming that the Prime Minister and the Minister for Defence had, for political purposes, accused Russia -
-Order! I remind the honourable member that he cannot ask a question about a matter which is not within the responsibility of the Minister. If the honourable gentleman rephrases his question I shall listen to it.
-Is it correct, as alleged by the honourable member for Oxley, that the Minister has asserted that we have only a 3-hour warning of a Soviet attack on Australia?
– I saw this report attributed to my friend the honourable member for Oxley and it filled me with a sense of dismay. To the best of my recollection I have never uttered a statement vaguely akin to the statement attributed to me by the honourable member for Oxley. I hope that on reflection, the honourable member will make proper amends.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Construction. Has the Minister’s Department indicated that it intends to place orders for the supply of carpets for Australian Government purposes during the next 2 years with a non-Australian company?
– A magic one.
-It may be magic but it will not employ any Australians. Is the Minister aware of the very serious position of the Australian carpet industry? If orders are to be placed outside Australia for the supply of carpet, can the Minister inform the House as to the reasons why Australian firms were not capable of providing, or were not given the opportunity to provide, the carpet.
– The manufacturing and retailing of carpets is a subject on which I did have an interest prior to becoming a Minister. I received a telegram from the honourable member for Corio on this matter yesterday. I have written to him today and he should receive that letter during the course of this afternoon. There is a problem in the carpet industry, as there are problems in some other industries, particularly in relation to imports from New Zealand which is the area in which I think the honourable member is interested. This matter is under close investigation by my Department. At this stage I am not able to give the honourable member a fuller answer than that. The position is made difficult by the arrangements we have with New Zealand. It is made doubly difficult by the fact that Australian manufacturers of carpets use mostly New Zealand wool. As I say, this matter is under investigation. As soon as there is a sensible answer I shall see that the honourable member receives it.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Health. Has the Government abandoned its commitment to the community health program? How will a reduction in expenditure on this program in 1 976-77 affect Victoria? Have there been any attempts to ensure that funds allocated in 1976-77 will maintain the existing and committed programs? Finally, is it intended that State governments have flexibility in applying their own and the Commonwealth’s resources in maintaining the community health program?
– I should like to make it very clear that the Government has in no way abandoned the community health program. Expenditure under the former Government’s program for 1975-76 was of the order of $54.3m. The allocation under the community health program this year will be $81m, $70m of which will be going to the States to assist in maintaining the existing level of activity. We have decided to make block grants to the States to enable them to operate with flexibility in respect of the projects that are in existence. Because of the representations I have had from the honourable member for McMillan and from some other Victorian members, I have asked officers of my Department to consult the Victorian authorities to ensure that no restrictions are imposed in Victoria that are not absolutely necessary. We do want to see the block grant that we have made to Victoria- I think it is of the order of $ 15.2m- applied in such a way that the community health program will be maintained at its present level. I know that in Victoria there is a campaign going on which is politically motivated, politically inspired and undoubtedly designed to panic the people of Victoria into believing that the Commonwealth Government, this Government, is abandoning the program. That is quite incorrect.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. Will he defer the signing of documents for the purchase of 4 Australian National Line and 2 BHP ships from Japan until the tabling of the Industries Assistance Commission report on the shipbuilding industry which is due, I understand, on 20 September?
– I am not quite sure what the precise timing is in relation to this matter, but I was sent a telegram, which I got shortly before question time, by the Premier of New South Wales, and I will be seeing him some time later this week. The best thing that the New South Wales Government and the South Australian Government can do is to put information in front of the Industries Assistance Commission in relation to the report that the Government has asked for. I hope that the Premiers of both those States will take that course and indicate in firm terms what they are prepared to do, if anything, to assist in their own areas of responsibility, and what they might also be able to do to assist if the present situation continues. I would like to repeat that the decision of the Government was nothing more than a continuation of the decision of the previous Administration, and it was the decision of the previous Administration which led to the present situation. What also ought to be indicated is that in the period of the previous Administration 7 ships ordered overseas could have been ordered in Australia but were not.
– Will you name them?
-The information can be provided. There were 4 large bulk carriers. They had been ordered.
– Can you name the ships?
-The previous Administration could have ordered additional ships in Australia. It could, perhaps, have taken much more vigorous action to support the shipbuilding industry. On the advice of the IAC it chose not to do so. We indicated our concern for this matter and the community’s concern by reference back to the IAC which at the same time was asking the IAC to -
– I raise a point of order.
– Another frivolous point of order.
– It is not very frivolous. The Prime Minister was simply asked whether he would delay signing documents until 21 September. Will he or will he not?
-Order! No point of order is involved.
– I have stated what has happened in relation to a telegram from the Premier of New South Wales which arrived before question time. I have no intention of responding to that telegram at question time.
– I raise a point of order. The Prime Minister made a statement that orders were placed overseas for 7 ships that could have been built in Australia.
-Order! There is no point of order involved.
– I ask the honourable gentleman to name the 7 ships because that is -
– There is no point of order involved. The honourable member will resume his seat.
– I raise a point of order. My question was short and specific. I asked the Prime Minister: Will he defer signing of the documents in respect of the 6 ships? I did not inquire, nor do I know, about a telegram from New South Wales.
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. I am aware of the question. The answer is relevant, therefore no point of order is involved.
– If I may say it, it would be possible to get more questions in question time if the Opposition did not take so many frivolous points that are not points of order. The honourable member for Shortland, I suspect, knows full well, because it was in this morning’s newspapers, that a request from the Premier of New South Wales in relation to this matter was being sent to me today. It arrived shortly before question time commenced. I shall look at that request in a proper manner and not reply to it during question time. Common courtesy to the Premier of New South Wales would demand that he get an answer to his request personally before he hears that answer broadcast over the air. The thing that hurts the Australian Labor Party in relation to these particular matters is that it is now coming to be widely understood that its policies have landed Newcastle and Whyalla in the very severe difficulties that they now face. I refer to the inflation and the wage escalation that occurred during its term in office. The Labor Party just cannot take it; it cannot face the facts of life and it cannot face the ruins of its administration.
– I rise on a point of order. I repeat, Mr Speaker, that the question I asked -
-Order! That is not a point of order. If the honourable member is merely repeating what he has already said, it is not a point of order. The member will resume his seat.
– I have not had an opportunity of putting my point of order, Mr Speaker. The Prime Minister’s answer is not relevant to the question.
-I call the honourable member for Phillip.
– I address my question to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. In view of recent reports of brutality and oppression in Uganda, will the Minister for Foreign Affairs express the Government’s concern at these apparent gross violations of human rights?
– I am aware that the honourable member spoke in this House last Tuesday night on this very matter. I took note of his address and, of course, of the remarks that were passed during the debate on the matter of public importance which took place in this House last Thursday morning. The Government has consistently deplored denials of civil liberties and violations of human rights wherever they have occurred, and it will continue to do so. I have noted with deep distress and grave concern the news reports coming out almost daily from Uganda. If even a number of those reports are true it is clear that the intrusions into civil liberties and the assaults upon human dignity and physical wellbeing are occurring regularly on a fairly large scale. These developments have provoked a number of countries, including both Western and African countries, to express thendisquiet about the situation. It is our earnest hope as a government that in the interests of peace, stability and, indeed, economic and social development in that country as well as in neighbouring countries this apparent campaign of brutality and repression will be checked and that the exercise of all basic human rights will be restored swiftly to all Ugandans.
I might add that it is incontestable that the impact of these occurrences falls heaviest on the people of Uganda, but they have also affected some Western perceptions of developments in other parts of Africa. Emotive and ill founded arguments based on the situation in Uganda have on occasions been applied indiscriminately to other countries in Africa to the detriment, I believe, of reasoned discussion and assessment of particular and different situations.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question. I want to make it plain that I am not asking him to anticipate the reply which he will give to the telegram sent by the Premier of New South Wales to him today. I ask the question in the light of the suggestion that he has now made that the Premiers of New South Wales and South Australia should have information concerning the shipbuilding industry put before the Industries Assistance Commission. I therefore ask him: If the Premiers of New South Wales and South Australia do put information before the IAC will he defer the conclusion of any contract to purchase vessels overseas until the Government receives and considers the report from the IAC?
– The substance of an answer to the question just asked by the Leader of the Opposition would at the same time be getting to the heart of the matter put to me by the Premier of New South Wales. I intend to reply to the Premier of New South Wales first. Having done that, I shall let the honourable gentleman know the nature of that reply. I am advised by my colleague, the Minister for Transport, if I may repeat the point, that in 1974 four large bulk carriers which were ordered largely from European yards could have been ordered in Australia but the Australian Labor Party did not order them in Australia. The policy that is being pursued at the moment does not deviate from the policy of the Australian Labor Party, not that there is anything particularly praiseworthy in its policy.
– That is a lie- what you are saying now.
-Order! The honourable member for Newcastle will withdraw that statement.
- Mr Speaker, I withdraw the statement. It was not possible in 1974 -
– … to build 2 ships of 120 000 tonnes or 1 40 000 tonnes.
-Order! The honourable gentleman knows very well the forms of the House. He is misusing them, and he knows that.
First of all, he used the term ‘a lie ‘ in a direct accusation. That is unparliamentary. I asked for it to be withdrawn. The honourable gentleman not only qualified the withdrawal but also continued with debate. I say to the honourable gentleman that if he insists on misusing the forms of the Mouse he will have to be dealt with according to the rules of the House. I now call upon the honourable gentleman to withdraw unqualifiedly the term ‘That is a lie ‘.
– I withdraw the term ‘That is a lie’. It is untrue.
-Order! The honourable gentleman is being deliberately provocative. I ask him to withdraw unqualifiedly.
– I withdraw the term “That is a lie’ -
– Unqualifiedly -
-The honourable gentleman will now resume his seat.
– For the information of honourable members I present a report by the Temporary Assistance Authority on ‘Thick Plywood (exceeding 5.5 mm in thickness)’.
– For the information of honourable members I present a report by the Industries Assistance Commission on ‘Petroleum and Mining Industries ‘.
– For the information of honourable members I present a report prepared by the Department of Transport entitled ‘The Transport (Planning and Research) Act 1974: report of progress to 31 December 1975’. Due to the limited numbers available, reference copies of this report have been placed in the Bills and Papers Office of the House of Representatives and the Parliamentary Library. The report was produced at the request of State authorities, and provides an example of the co-operation between State and Commonwealth which is being achieved under the Act.
For the information of honourable members I present a report by the Hospitals and Health Services Commission entitled ‘Rural Health in Australia’.
– Pursuant to section 35 of the Student Assistance Act 1973 I present the report on the operation of that Act in 1975.
– Pursuant to section 52 of the Commonwealth Teaching Service Act 1972-1976 I present the annual report on the operation of that Act for the year ended 3 1 December 1 975.
– Pursuant to section 15 of the Commission on Advanced Education Act 1971-1973, I present the report of the Commission on Advanced Education for the Triennium 1977-1979, together with a statement by the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) relating to that report.
-by leave-On 29 April 1976 the House saw fit to set up the Standing Committee on Expenditure. This interim report is to inform honourable members of the work of the Committee to date and the present position.
The establishment of the Committee is a recognition that the House was in danger of losing, through a process of default, its role of adequately scrutinising the purposes for which moneys are authorised by the House. This trend is notable in parliaments around the World. The primary work of the Committee in its early days, therefore, has been concerned with the establishment of procedures that would lead to the maximum effectiveness of the scrutinising work the Committee undertakes. In other words, the Committee was most concerned that it should establish sound working methods with a view to long term effectiveness.
In May and June 1976 the Committee held 5 in-camera hearings; with the Chairman of the Public Service Board, the Secretaries of the
Treasury and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, the Auditor-General and the Chairman of the Royal Commission on Australian Government Administration. These hearings proved useful in examining: Firstly, the practical effect of the Committee’s broad terms of reference; secondly, the various methods of proceeding and thirdly, discussing methods of choosing areas of inquiry. The Committee concluded that the general consensus was that ‘value for money’ considerations, including program effectiveness, should be the prime concern of the Committee.
In its May 1976 meetings the Committee agreed to seek comment from as wide a group as possible on the role and functions. Apart from parliamentary and government spheres, it has sought submissions from universities, colleges of advanced education and firms of management consultants and chartered accountants. A register of expert witnesses has been compiled from the replies received, which the Committee will use for its inquiries. The Committee has studied some of the work of the House of Commons Expenditure Committee of the United Kingdom. The terms of reference of our Committee draw heavily on those of the United Kingdom committee. I have written to the Chairman of that committee and an information link should be useful.
From all this and other work, which has included discussions with a number of persons of expert knowledge, the Committee has concluded that its role of scrutiny will lead it into 3 areas at present. The first is the managerial aspect of Parliamentary scrutiny which is a program by program examination and includes value for money considerations. There will be inquiries into particular government programs administered by public servants and other government employees, probably several at the one time conducted by two or three sub-committees. The subcommittees to be set up will not be, however, functional groupings as in the House of Commons.
The second area is that of broad based inquiries on or related to public expenditure. Such inquiries could, for example, deal with the need for the House to have public expenditure plans with wider time frames than at present because, after all, if parliaments are to be able to understand and influence the pattern of future public spending they need an opportunity to consider expenditure plans either while options remain open or before expenditure is too firmly committed. It is noted that the General Subcommittee of the House of Commons Expenditure Committee undertakes such inquiries. Further, it is perhaps a function which distinguishes an expenditure committee from an Estimates or public accounts committee. Such inquiries will probably be conducted by the Committee as a whole.
The third area deals with relatively minor inquiries; in many cases the minutiae of expenditure scrutiny. The Committee has set up a standing sub-committee consisting of myself, the Honourable F. Stewart, the Honourable W. Fife, Dr Jenkins and Mr Lusher and has already invited the public to make suggestions as to improvements in government efficiency. Where confidentiality is requested it will be strictly observed. This sub-committee is proceeding to examine the more worth while of such suggestions. Valuable information so received is being put to permanent heads of departments and authorities for reports. Where it is believed that correcting action should be taken it will be requested for quick resolution, or a full inquiry commenced.
To give effect to the first Committee function, namely program by program examination, the Committee commenced examining about a dozen areas for further inquiry on 6 and 7 July 1976. It sought further information on 2 programs. One is operated by the Department of Defence. The other involves that Department and the Departments of Foreign Affairs, Health, Immigration and Ethnic Affairs and Overseas Trade. If subsequent analysis shows a prima facie case for inquiry in either of these areas the Committee will proceed to public hearings. Some of the other areas are still under examination.
In selecting further cases for preliminary examination the Committee will, of course, draw on the Budget Estimates for 1976-77 which were presented to the House last week. The Committee is most interested in giving consideration to the executive inquiries into various aspects of efficiency, published information on the work of the Bland Committee and the recent report of the Royal Commission into Australian Government Administration.
The Committee has also made a start on the broad based inquiries. The whole of the Public Service Board appeared before the Committee on 2 and 3 August 1976 for discussions lasting 7 hours. Apart from continuing this inquiry, consideration is being given to more of this type of inquiry with other departments. Such inquiries are of the reconnaissance type and reports to the House may or may not result. They could, however, lead to further detailed examination and report.
Honourable members will see that this early development shows the Committee will have a different role to that of the Public Accounts Committee. At present and to give effect to clause 16 of the resolution of appointment the Committee liaises closely with the latter committee. The Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee is a member of the Committee and likewise the Chairman of the Committee is a member of the PAC. As it happens 2 other members are members of both Committees. There is so much government activity available for examination that all parliamentary committees should have no difficulty in avoiding duplication.
I am very pleased to inform the House that all members of the Committee are working together in a spirit of bipartisan co-operation. There is a determination to improve parliamentary scrutiny of public expenditure. Our concern lies mainly with administrative efficiency and we will be seeking to achieve a full appreciation of the institutional framework in which public servants operate. Some value judgments will have to be made. Thus our approach and our dealings with the Public Service will be reasonable- firm but fair.
The Committee will proceed in a calm and persistent manner to examine the matters or issues that come before it. It will of course be looking for cost savings. This will interest most honourable members because such savings can release resources for better uses. This in turn will benefit the community at large, whom we have been elected to serve.
– I have received a letter from the honourable member for Casey (Mr Falconer) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
This Parliament’s grave concern at the action of certain trade unions now disciplining or threatening to discipline union members who exercised their right to work in accordance with their awards on July 1 2, 1 976.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places. (More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places)
-A number of members of this House have had drawn to their attention instances in which certain trade unions are now disciplining union members who exercised their right to work on 12 July this year; that is, the day of the Medibank strike- the national stoppage. July 12 was the first occasion in Australia on which a national strike was called, and that strike was on a political issue. In recent years there has been a disturbing development in Australia of the use of the political strike. Let me differentiate the political strike from the industrial strike. An industrial strike is one in which the union has particular industrial objectives in mind for its members such as improved wages and conditions or the settling of some other dispute with an employer. A political strike is one in which the union uses the strike weapon to cause such dislocation to the economy or inconvenience to the population that the elected government is under great pressure to concede the political decision that the union is urging upon it.
No one in this Parliament would deny the right to strike on an industrial issue. We may as individuals criticise the way in which particular industrial disputes are conducted, but no one here would deny that a union member is entitled to withdraw his labour in pursuit of a legitimate industrial objective. I believe firmly in a strong industrially orientated union movement. Employees should have strong representation in any discussions about how the fruits of productivity should be carved up. I believe in people joining their unions and playing a part in them. A strong union movement is vital, in my view, to a healthy economy. But we on this side of the House believe that it is improper for a union to use its industrial muscle in pursuit of political ends, which are the legitimate responsibility of the elected members of this Parliament. To use industrial muscle for political ends is industrial blackmail.
Public opinion polls indicate that the people support this view. A recent gallup poll showed that 75 per cent of those polled disagreed with the national stoppage over Medibank, whatever might have been their personal views on the issue of Medibank itself. Even more significant for honourable members opposite is the result of a poll published in the Bulletin 2 months agowell before the Medibank strike. It showed that only 22 per cent of union members and 26 per cent of Australian Labor Party supporters approved of political strikes. Spokesmen for the ALP have been ambivalent, to say the least, in their statements on this matter. It is surprising, therefore, that the pressures inside the Australian
Council of Trade Unions were such that it supported a national strike on a political issue. The ACTU had never before supported a national strike. It had never before supported a political strike. Last month it showed its lack of judgment by supporting both at the one time. That lack of judgment is now being reflected by certain union bodies which are proceeding to discipline union members who exercised their right to work on 12 July. If there is a right to strike, surely there is also a right to work?
A good example of what has been happening can be seen in what occurred at the Ringwood Post Office, which is in my electorate. On 12 July, the day of the national stoppage, a number of Post Office employees at Ringwood reported for work as usual. The next day they were visited at the Ringwood Post Office by an official of the Australian Postal and Telecommunications Union, after someone had telephoned the union office to report that certain members of the union had not observed the strike. The union official told the postal employees concerned that they would be fined $20 for not striking the day before. I understand also that other employees of the Ringwood Post Office, those who observed the strike, were told not to speak to the employees who had turned up for work. In other words, they were to be sent to Coventry for their action. Fortunately most of the employees at the Ringwood Post Office were too sensible to indulge in such childish behaviour. These events were reported to me later that day, Tuesday 13 July. Subsequently, the employees concerned received a letter dated30 July from one F. J. Bourke, Victorian Branch Secretary of the APTU. I will read the text of that letter
As member Mr G. J. Britnell attached to Ringwood Post Office has charged you under Rule 36 of the official Rules and Constitution of the Australian Postal and Telecommunications Union, with failure to obey the Federal Executive direction to cease work for 24 hours, commencing with those shifts which start after 9 p.m. on Sunday 1 1 July 1976. The direction being publicised per medium of an APTU circular, signed by myself as Branch Secretary dated 7 July 1976 and widely distributed, I hereby inform you that the Victorian Branch State Executive requires your presence before them at 4 p.m. on Thursday 12 August 1 976 in order that they may hear the charge and determine appropriate action.
I draw to your attention that Rule56 provides that the hearing of a charge may proceed in the absence of the member charged.
As the union is obligated to pay your fares, a stamp addressed envelope is enclosed. Also, claim form for fares to attend hearing of charge. Such money will be forwarded on our receipt of your fare application.
I trust that you will be in attendance.
Yours fraternally F.J. BOURKE
Yours fraternally indeed! This letter, dated 30 July, is a form letter with names, times, etc. typed into gaps. Clearly, similar action has been taken against a number of unionists in various post offices. Since receiving this form letter a number of those involved in the Ringwood Post Office incident have received individually typed letters dated5 August 1976 charging them with failure to obey the Federal Executive direction to cease work for 24 hours on Wednesday, 16 June 1976- the day on which an earlier strike was held. It is interesting that the subsequent letters referring to an earlier strike day were sent after a union official had mentioned at the Ringwood Post Office that he knew that certain members of the union had gone to see the local Liberal member straight after the national stoppage. The second letter was sent indiscriminately. It was sent so indiscriminately that it was even sent to some members who had actually observed that earlier strike day. They had actually gone on strike on that day although they had not gone on strike on the day of the national stoppage. Clearly, this further action was the action of an over-zealous union official.
In looking at Rule 56 of the APTU rules one finds certain penalties listed. Rule 56 (v) states:
If the Federal Executive or State Executive finds the member guilty of the charge, it may:
Fine him a sum not exceeding $20;
Remove him from any office or position in the Union;
Expel him from membership of the Union -
This one will interest you, Mr Deputy Speaker-
The mind boggles. It continues:
Suspension from membership shall deprive him of the rights and benefits of membership, but shall not relieve him of the obligations of membership and shall not exceed six months for any one offence;
Impose no penalty.
Honourable members will no doubt recall that earlier in my remarks I said that those employees had already been told the day after the Medibank strike that they were to be fined $20. That figure is mentioned in the union rules. Such a statement the day after the Medibank strike indicates that the matter had been judged well in advance of the hearing before the branch executiveindeed, well before charges had even been laid against the members concerned.
I understand that the President of the ACTU, Mr Hawke, has stated publicly that he does not agree with unions taking action to fine their members in this way. The Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street), in an answer to a question in this House last Thursday, stated that he was hopeful that Mr Hawke and the ACTU will use their influence and good offices to get these unions to call off the action against their members. As far as I know, the action against union members is still proceeding. One would like to hope that Mr George Slater would use his influence in this matter. He is an official of the union which is fining the people to whom I have specifically drawn attention. He is also a member of the Australian Postal Commission, the employing body which provided work for its employees to perform on July 12. 1 think he is in an interesting position as a member of those 2 bodies. If this intimidatory action is not withdrawn I believe that there is a responsibility on the members of this Parliament to ensure that the Parliament has sufficient powers to make sure such action cannot take place.
There is a section in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act which, I believe, clearly states the intention of the Parliament. That section states: 188. (1) If any organisation or if the committee or a branch of an organisation, or the committee of a branch of an organisation, imposes or declares that it imposes, or that it intends to impose, a penalty, forfeiture or disability of any kind upon a member of the organisation by reason of the fact that the member has worked, is working or intends to work in accordance with the terms of an award, the organisation shall be guilty of an offence.
There are other sections of the Act, 138 and 140 as I recall, which contain similar references. I believe that the Government should investigate the possibility of applying those sections of the Act to the unions which persist with this sort of action. If the Act is not strong enough to deal with some cases, amending legislation should be introduced. I believe that 2 principles are at stake in this matter. One is the broad principle that the trade union movement should not use its industrial muscle to usurp the legitimate function of elected parliamentary representatives. The Australian people have made it quite clear that they agree with that principle. The other is that people have a right to work in accordance with thenaward, without fear of intimidation. There is a right to strike. Surely there is also a right to work.
Let me raise one interesting sidelight on this episode. It must be galling to those who are suffering a financial penalty for exercising their right to work to see others who went on strike making up their day’s pay by working overtime within the next few days- overtime necessitated by their absence from work. It rubs salt into the wounds of those who turned up for work. I believe that this Parliament should indicate its support for those who wish to exercise their right to work. This Parliament should not stand for industrial intimidation of individuals.
– There is no doubt in the mind of anybody who cares to think about the Medibank strike that it was as much an industrial strike as it was a political strike. For that reason I say quite categorically that I am fully in support of the action of the unions.
The Medibank strike was the most magnificent example of working class solidarity since the maritime strike of 1890. The Australian Council of Trade Unions Executive support for the strike was unanimous. Leaders, such as Edgar Williams, who had traditionally opposed use of the strike weapon throughout their industrial careers, responded quite magnificently to this call. The behaviour of the Executive Council of the AWU was impeccable. It sent instructions to every branch to direct branch officers to direct their members to cease work on the day of the Medibank strike. It was the first time since the great maritime strike that the Australian Workers Union leadership had thrown its weight behind a national strike. It was not the number of members who defied the ACTU call, but the number who loyally answered the call that made the Medibank strike the most significant industrial development in this country. The strike forced everybody to think about the mechanics of a national strike.
The last mentioned aspect- to make workers think about the mechanics of a national strike- is the one that will do most to change the course of history; because the strike showed up the strengths and the weaknesses of what was done in respect of the Medibank strike. One weakness was the breakdown of communication between the leadership of some unions and their rank and file. Some of those who worked now say that they would not have done so if they had been fully informed of the issue. They feel pretty ashamed of themselves now because of the way they scabbed on their mates during the Medibank strike.
Another great weakness was the action of some union officials in allowing the membership to defy the ACTU call-out, by having meetings of the rank and file to decide whether the rank and file would respond to a national call-out by the ACTU
I believe in participatory democracy in trade union affairs. I believe in giving the rank and file the right to ratify an industrial agreement, which sells their labour, before it is signed by a union official. I believe in the right of the rank and file to have a direct vote in the election of their executive officers. What is more, I was successful in piloting through the House of Representatives Bills which gave legislative force to all these basic principles of union democracy.
I distinguish between an ordinary industrial issue relating to wages or working conditions and a peak call for united action at a national level to remedy an industrial grievance caused by the political action of professional politicians.
Very shortly there will be one of the biggest news breaks of the year when the Department of Foreign Affairs leaks to the Press contacts which it apparently has that Dr Henry Kissinger has already made an official request to this Government to ban the export of uranium to Iran. What will this Government do? What does it propose to do if the unions decide that they will ban the export of uranium to all countries? Will the Government say: *No. We will send it to all countries except Iran because Dr Henry Kissinger has asked us to take that action’?
When the ballot box has proved to be a futility, as it did late in 1975, and when a political party seizes power by violating conventions and by lies and misrepresentation, and when it arrogantly and blatantly breaks its elections promises, which is what the Liberal and Country parties did in respect of Medibank, the majority of the Australian people, particularly the working class people in Australia, have every right to use the methods of passive resistance to manifest their anger and indignation at what has been done. The same action would be justified if organised labour found it necessary to paralyse industry in order to crush an uprising of the armed forces or an attempt by any other group to overthrow the Constitution by unlawful means. If such a thing should happen, labour would be engaged in the kind of emergency that would not permit the delay and possible dissension that could come from calling meetings of the rank and file. The officer-class of the trade union movement would have to give the orders, and the rank and file would have to obey them.
It is a measure of the hypocrisy of the opponents of labour who have so much to say about rank and file control that they are the ones who are now advocating the collegiate system for union elections which will deny to the rank and file a direct vote in the election of their full time officials.
Would these people suggest that before a military commander could give an order to attack, he would first be required to conduct a secret ballot of his rank and file? Does anyone believe that Lord Montgomery would have been able to win the battle of El Alamein if he had been first forced to conduct a ballot of those who were required to go over the top and risk their lives in a frontal attack on Rommel’s tanks? Labour must have the same kind of discipline if it is to save this country from the abuses of conservative politicians and their reactionary masters. I want to refer to Don Dunstan ‘s Chifley Memorial Lecture in which he said:
The forces of reaction have severely damaged the spirit of our democratic system- they have shown themselves to be totally unscrupulous, untruthful and unethical in their determination to impede the movement for reform in Australia.
I am by no means convinced that those forces would have accepted an Australian Labor Party victory at the last election. I am not prepared to reject the reports that this militant minority was actually planning to ask the CommanderinChief of the Armed Forces to take control of the Government by force if necessary. The New Guard is not dead in this country.
What happened in Chile and in Greece can happen here. No one is now so naive as to believe that the Central Intelligence Agency is not operating in this country. We know that it is. Once we reach the stage at which people lose respect for the Conventions that govern the relationship between the governed and those who govern we can say we are already on the high road to tearing up the Constitution en route to anarchy. In the event of a military coup in this country our only salvation would lie in the boundless power of labour unity.
Organised labour is more powerful than the apparatus of any state; but I repeat that labour must be organised, and it is not possible to do this other than through the trade union movement. Trade union leaders not only have a national obligation to protect their country from an attempted military coup but also have a class obligation to do so. They should make contingency plans now to thwart any such move by preparing for the use of planned industrial action. They should learn from the lessons of history that when expediency demands it the ruling classes will not worry about traditions, conventions or laws. These all can be changed. Those in the militant and privileged minority will not even worry about defending the Constitution once they find that it does not mean what they want it to mean. In order to ensure that it is always interpreted as having the meaning that suits their vested or sectional interests, they will see that appointments to the High Court of Australia are always carefully vetted. Only those who are wedded to the establishment and to the status quo will be allowed to be appointed.
If the unlawful seizure of power is to be prevented, we must look to the trade union movement. Given that there is a devolution of the unity displayed by our union leaders in the Medibank strike, the power of organised labour indeed will be boundless. The trade union movement has a bounden duty to work out in advance the steps that it must take to defend the Constitution.
In the event of an armed uprising or in the event of a group unlawfully seizing power or seeking to retain power, the trade union movement must be prepared to act instantly to stop the rebels in their tracks. The first step would be to restrict the generation of power to essential services and to cut it off altogether if the mutineers sought to use that power for purposes to assist the revolution. All transport would have to be halted, the wharves closed and all forms of communication denied to the insurgents. But, to succeed in an operation of this kind, trade unionists must distinguish between the ordinary employer and employee disputes affecting only a few unions at most and those issues that are national in character. In the latter case, it becomes a central requirement to success that those in the officer class give the orders and those in the rank and file loyally abide by those orders. There is no place for scabs in a situation of national crisis.
It suits the interests of foreign-owned multinational corporations to keep our working people divided into 303 separate organisations. It will be recalled that my Bill to make easier trade union amalgamation possible was rejected by the claqueurs of the ruling classes in this country.
The reason for the unity and strength of the West German trade union movement lies in the fact that there is a total of only 16 unions in a population of more than 60 million. One of those unions has more members than all of the 303 unions in Australia put together. A reason for the great strength of the trade union movement in Sweden is that the unions are bound together by the powerful LO Federation, which has the necessary clout to make binding decisions for all its affiliates.
That is what we need in this country- an ACTU that can speak with one voice for all its affiliates whenever a national issue such as Medibank arises. It will not come overnight, but it will come as surely as night follows day. The ACTU will generate the power to speak with one voice and to speak for all the unions that are affiliated with it. I am not proposing that the ACTU be given power to interfere with an affiliate’s domestic affairs; but on national issues it should have the same power as union federations in some other democracies have. There is an urgent need to strengthen the authority of the peak organisations. Ideally, the ACTU and the Australian Council of Salaried and Professional Associations should be amalgamated into one organisation; but, in any event, they should develop more authority than they now possess.
The Medibank issue proved that at the leadership level the ACTU and ACSPA were way out in front of some sections of the membership, whilst the National Civic Council leadership was not even prepared to lead from behind. The 2.5 per cent Medibank levy was an effective reduction in real wages, and no one can deny it. It was an industrial grievance brought about by the political action of the Fraser Government. The strike was political only in the sense that industrial action finally was deemed to be the only way by which the political cause of the grievance could be rectified. In spite of the media’s attempt to maximise the opposition to the strike and to minimise the support for the strike, the exercise was remarkably successful. Supporters of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) lost ten times more than those who answered the ACTU call. It is not the kind of futility that they will want repeated.
Union strategists now say that in the next national strike there should be a demand that the employers be required to pay for the time lost, with the sanction of no resumption against employers who do not meet the demand. In order to sustain employees -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– It would be difficult to imagine a matter of more important public concern than that which has been raised by the honourable member for Casey (Mr Falconer) today. It is a matter which should be of concern to each and every Australian. It is a matter which I know is coming increasingly to exercise the minds of a vast number of rank and file trade unionists. I have rarely, if ever, heard a speech so irrelevant to the real issue as the one we heard from the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) today.
In my electorate of Ballaarat, certain members of the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union have already been fined for working during the 4-hour Medibank stoppage on 30 June. It is possible that they will also be disciplined for working during the national stoppage on 12 July. I understand that other trade unionists in Ballarat are facing a similar situation. Let me describe to the House the circumstances surrounding the fine already imposed on these men. It illustrates the reason for what should be the grave concern of all Australians at the present industrial situation in this country. I am advised that early in June 1976 an AMWU notice was placed on the notice board at John Valves Pty Ltd, a major company in Ballarat and the largest valve maker in Australiaand an Australian-owned company. The notice said that there would be a State-wide stoppage over the Medibank issue on 16 June. At no time was any meeting held at John Valves to seek the view of AMWU workers about whether they wished to strike on that day. At 4 p.m. on IS June the AMWU shop steward in the pattern shop told his AMWU members that the proposed stoppage the following day would not now occur. Consequently, several men turned up for work on the sixteenth, only to be told that they were in fact to go on strike. Seven men decided individually to remain on the job.
On 24 June a meeting was held between the 7 men, the shop stewards and the AMWU organiser for the area. It was agreed that the organiser would call a meeting of all AMWU members employed by the company to discuss the Medibank issue. The 7 men agreed to abide by the majority decision of that meeting. Relying on the organiser’s promise to call such a meeting, the 7 men stopped work for 4 hours on 25 June. At a lunchtime meeting on 28 June, the organiser did not raise the Medibank issue as he had promised he would do. Instead, a vote was taken on a motion calling for a vote of confidence in the Trades Hall Council and for a request to stop work. The motion was defeated by at least a twothirds majority. The AMWU organiser refused to accept that decision. Eleven AMWU members worked at John Valves during the Victorian Medibank strike on 30 June. Subsequently they were fined the maximum of $20 permitted under AMWU rules. The fine was imposed by the Ballarat Branch of the AMWU after a 4 1/2-hour meeting. The men now have decided to appeal to the State Council of the AMWU. If their appeal is unsuccessful, they will take proceedings under the provisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act.
These men have been disciplined by their union for exercising their fundamental right- the right to work. They have been disciplined for working during a political strike. They have been disciplined by their union for working during a strike 2 days after a greater than two-thirds majority of members at a mass meeting at the plant had rejected the union organiser’s request to stop work. They have been disciplined for a matter which they claim does not fall within the disciplinary rules of their union.
There is no shadow of doubt that the vast majority of rank and file trade unionists in Australia are fed up with the growing militancy and increasing use of the strike tactic being employed in this country by a small core of extreme left wing union officials. These officials are costing their members hundreds of millions of dollars in lost wages each year. They are costing the nation millions of dollars in lost production each week. Through their disruptive tactics they are bringing this nation of ours to its knees. As a result they are also costing thousands of workers their jobs. How can we compete with the rest of the world, how can we maintain, let alone improve, our living standards if this disruption continues? How can we produce sufficient real wealth to enable us adequately to meet the needs of the aged, the sick and the young if this state of affairs continues? The simple answer is that we cannot.
But it is not just our economy or our social welfare programs that are at stake in this. There are other major issues. There is the issue of the role of responsible trade unionism in Australia. There is the issue of the basic rights of trade unionists. There is the issue of democracy- of our whole way of life as we have evolved it over generations.
People who speak against the extreme left of the union movement are not infrequently accused of union bashing. Speaking for myself, nothing could be further from the truth. There is a great need in Australia for a strong trade union movement. But the trade union movement cannot be strong if it is not at the same time responsible; if it does not take decisions which are in the interests of its members and of the community as a whole. (Quorum formed)
The overwhelming majority of trade unionists want to be responsible, but the extreme left is preventing them from exercising responsibility. Why should this be so? The answer is simple. It is because the extreme left wants to destroy the socio-economic system which operates in Australia. It says so publicly. What it does not say is what it proposes to put in its place. The left wing of the union movement is dominated by members of one or other of the 2 communist parties in Australia- in particular by Mr Laurie Carmichael, Mr John Halfpenny and Mr Pat Clancy. Between them, Mr Carmichael and Mr Halfpenny control the entire industrial strategy of the Communist Party of Australia. These gentlemen do not mince words. Mr Halfpenny is on record as saying that he sees political strikes as a way of bringing about direct confrontation between the trade union movement and governments, of whatever political persuasion.
Mr Pat Clancy, the president of the other communist party- the Socialist Party of Australiawho is also national secretary of the Building Workers’ Industrial Union and a member of the Australian Council of Trade Unions’ interstate executive, was reported in the communist Tribune on 9 June of this year as saying:
We must take part in political strikes to bring about a change in the political actions of the enemies of the working class.
Have honourable members ever heard more inflammatory- and archaic- rhetoric than that?
I said earlier that political strikes not only usurp the rights and responsibilities of individual trade union members, they also put democracy at risk. I am gravely concerned at the way in which the extreme left wing of the trade union movement is increasingly denying rank and file trade union members their basic rights as unionists. I am gravely concerned at the risks inherent in the present situation for the future of responsible trade unionism in Australia.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr Graham) put:
That the honourable member be granted an extension of time.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker- Mr P. E. Lucock)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
In other words, out with democracy through the ballot box and in with the political and other muscle of the extreme left.
In short, to quote Mr J. P. Maynes, the Federal President of the Federated Clerks Union, ‘what Mr Halfpenny, Mr Clancy and others are advocating is a brand of union fascism which leads to an indiscriminate use and abuse of union power’. That is a quote from the Federal President of one of the largest unions in this country. I would add that it also leads to an abuse of responsible rank and file trade unionists.
Mr Carmichael, Mr Halfpenny, Mr Clancy and their colleagues know full well that their views are out of line with those of the overwhelming majority of trade unionists. As far back as October 1971 a poll by the Melbourne Age showed that more than three in every four people agree that unions should leave politics to the political parties. This view was held by nearly seven out of ten Australian Labor Party supporters. Interestingly, this was at about the same time that Mr Hawke, the President of the ACTU, was telling the ACTU Congress that he would make no apology for the use of political strikes. The honourable member for Casey has referred to more recent polls which confirm the 1 97 1 poll.
Of course unions and their members have political views, and very rightly so. Of course unions must continue to have the right to strike as a last resort means of attempting to reasonably improve terms and conditions of employment. But unions should not have the power to strike for politically motivated purposes- purposes dictated by the whims and machinations of a small core of extremist union officials dedicated to the overthrow of law and order and of democratically elected government in this country.
This is a matter about which all parliamentary parties should be greatly concerned. Unfortunately, the silence of the existing Parliamentary Labor Party on this issue has been deafening. The Opposition stands condemned for its refusal to face this problem squarely. Perhaps it is because more than half of the Labor front bench in government was said to be members of the World Peace Council.
I appreciate that a solution to the problem is fraught with difficulty. There is the difficulty in defining a political strike. There is the difficulty in framing legislation which meets the problem without at the same time infringing the basic rights and freedoms of the trade union movement. Regardless of the difficulties a start must be made and it must be made soon. The Government and the trade union movement must sit down together and face the stark realities of the situation. The relevant sections of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act must be utilised and, if necessary, strengthened.
Ultimately, however, the real solution can lie only in the hands of rank and file trade unionists themselves. They must be more active within their unions. They must ensure that they vote at union elections and that they elect as their representatives responsible persons who have their real interests, and the interests of Australia, at heart. They must insist that they are not called out on political strikes simply because Mr Carmichael or Mr Halfpenny tells them to strike- the push-button strikes as Mr Laurie Short of the Federated Ironworkers Association of Australia has so aptly described them.
Unless these things are done, the disciplining and victimisation of rank and file trade unionists will continue and responsible trade unionism in Australia will be dealt a death blow.
-In the years that I have been a member of this House I have never heard so much humbug as in the debate that has taken place here today. The honourable member for Casey (Mr Falconer), in support of his proposition to the House, quoted from rules and said that they were restrictive. Let me quote from some rules.
Any member may be expelled or have his membership suspended for a prescribed period on the grounds that in the opinion of his branch, or of the State executive, or of the State council he has been guilty of disloyalty to the Party, its constitution or platform or of conduct gravely detrimental to the best interests of the Party.
The Party to which those rules apply is the Liberal Party of Australia. The honourable member for Ballaarat (Mr Short) would leave the House with the impression that the Laurie Carmichaels and the John Halfpennys of this world are the people responsible for strikes of the sort the honourable member mentioned. Both those persons are of course self-confessed members of the Communist Party of Australia. In an answer to a question in this House on 19 August the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) named unions in which there were these alleged difficulties. They included the Union of Postal Clerks and Telegraphists. I might interpolate to say that I am pleased that the honourable member for Ballaarat at least knows to which union the people in his area belong; it is a lot more than the honourable member for Casey knows because he cited the wrong union and he named the wrong union secretary. He said Mr Slater was the person involved. Actually it was a person named Mr Rowlands. The union involved is the Union of Postal Clerks and Telegraphists, not the Australian Postal Workers Union. So we have got that straight. I do not know that the Federal Secretary of the Vehicle Builders Employees Federation, Mr Townsend, would be terribly pleased if the honourable member advised him he was being led around by the nose by Mr Carmichael and Mr Halfpenny, any more than would, I believe the Federal Secretary of the Australian Workers Union, for example, a fine radical organisation in some areas, or the Federal Secretary of the Federated Ironworkers Association. Incidentally, I do not suppose you are related to the gentleman, are you? I heard the honourable member for Ballaarat mention Mr Short in his broad, sweeping allegation about the Carmichaels and Halfpennys of this world leading people around by the nose. The honourable member embraced all those people in that statement. Another fine gentleman, a bastion of the trade union movement, whom he used to firm up his case was one John Mayne, the Federal President of the Federated Clerks Union of Australia. The honourable member quoted him as saying that the actions in this area would lead towards fascism. I am not surprised at Mr Mayne saying that because he would be the closest exponent of fascism in this country that I have ever met.
Both the honourable member for Casey and the honourable member for Ballaarat have misrepresented the position. They have both claimed that it was entirely a political strike. They hang their hat on that one simply because it has been termed by the Press and by other people as a Medibank strike. Let us examine what it was all about. Through the actions of this Government the workers in this country were going to have their take-home pay reduced. They were going to have their take-home pay reduced by anything up to $6 or $10 a week because this Government decided to place a levy on them to pay for Medibank. If that is not an industrial matter, if the pay of workers is not an industrial matter so far as the unions are concernedneither of the previous speakers did explain to me how that can be termed a political matterthen I suppose all trade union matters are political, all matters that affect trade unionists are industrial. So there ought to be enough of that comment.
The honourable member for Ballaarat talked about people in his area being fined. They have been dealt with by the local branch, and I think he said that. A penalty of $20 has been imposed. It has not been paid; no attempt has been made to collect it. Why? Because there is an avenue open for an appeal to the State council. It will be heard there. As I understand it, it can hardly be termed a fine if no attempt has been made to collect it. There has been a penalty imposed, but no attempt has been made to collect the money. The 2 members on the Government side talk today of the strike being a political strike. I have been led to believe that in the area represented by the honourable member for Ballaarat the person representing these people is none other than the Honourable Murray Byrne, an ex-Liberal member of Parliament from Victoria. He has taken up the case. It has been raised only by the Liberals, yet it is always the trade union movement that is blamed for matters becoming political matters. If members of political parties are not political when they take up industrial issues then I think we are losing our sense of values.
If we are to talk about people standing over other people within organisations, it must be known in this House that in New South Wales the legal profession sat down as a body and threatened to destroy the future careers of young members of the legal profession in New South Wales if they had the temerity to join in demonstrations against the Governor-General. Can somebody explain to me the difference between that action and the action about which honourable members opposite are complaining, where a duly constituted body, an executive of a union, took action under the union’s rules? I remind honourable members opposite that the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act insists that all rules of all unions be vetted and ratified by the Registrar of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. So no union can write its own rules. Unions can only prepare the rules, and before they become law they must satisfy the Registrar. So do not leave the false impression with the people listening to this debate that unions write their own rules without restriction. They are vetted by a court, they are approved by a court, and that is stated quite clearly in the Act. All the rules having been ratified, the rules then provide that a union shall have a managing body, and due to the inability of members being able to take action and decide a question the managing body shall have the right to govern. That right was exercised in June and July of this year. Yet this Government denies unions the right to abide by their own rules.
As I said when I started this speech, this whole discussion is a lot of humbug. It has been built up around an attack on the trade union movement by people who stand up and in their first platitudes say ‘Oh, I believe that there ought to be a trade union movement’, and then proceed to destroy the reasons why there ought to be one. They would like tame-cat unions. They would like unions to do exactly what honourable members opposite in their own conservative way want done. They would stifle progressiveness wherever it arose. I can understand the reluctance of the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations to engage in this debate. He has got himself a couple of lightweight new boys to put up the proposition and he has very judiciously stayed away from the whole question. As I understand it, the honourable member for Casey does have a history in industrial relations. He was the secretary, as I understand it, to the Speaker when he was the Minister for Labor and National Service. He was also an industrial officer before becoming a member of this House. Prior to that he was. also an industrial officer to the managing director of one of the largest, in fact the largest, manufacturing concern in Australia. I suppose that with that sort of background in industrial relations he is well equipped for union bashing, he is well equipped to support scabs.
As I pointed out earlier, the whole area of Medibank is an area in which the take-home pay of workers is to be reduced. The Government has gone a step further because the unions then used initiative and approached companies on the question of assisting workers in paying the health insurance levy. Active steps were taken to deter companies from taking even that sort of action. ‘ So there is a definite attempt on the part of the Government to reduce the take-home pay of employees. When the employees stand up for their rights, their insistence that this should not happen, they then have to suffer a scurrilous attack in this House by 2 people who would not even know what a trade union movement is. Those 2 people gave their own impression of these things. They left the impression with everybody that the Carmichaels and the Halfpennys are running the trade union movement in this country. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. Every union is controlled by a committee of management and not just one person. That committee of management does not consist only of members of the Communist Party; it consists of members of all political parties, as honourable members opposite would know.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– I do. The honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson) claimed that I had been confused about some unions. Might I just mention to the House that I have in my hand letters from -
Motion (by Mr Nicholls) proposed:
That the honourable member for Casey be no longer heard.
-One of the privileges extended by the House is that an honourable member who claims to have been misrepresented may explain how he has been misrepresented. I suggest that in the circumstances the House should allow the honourable member for Casey to continue to explain how he has been misrepresented. I call the honourable member for Casey.
– I merely wanted to point out that the reference to the Australian Postal and Telecommunications Union -
– I have moved:
That the honourable member for Casey be not further heard.
Surely the Standing Orders must prevail. An honourable member has some right to expect, from the point of view of keeping strictly to the Standing Orders, that the Chair will put the motion to the House. The House itself will determine whether the honourable member will be heard.
– I pointed out to the honourable member for Bonython that the House extended to an honourable member the courtesy of making a personal explanation. What the honourable member for Bonython has now said is correct. Under the Standing Orders the question that an honourable member be no longer heard shall be put without debate. The honourable member for Bonython has now pressed his motion, and, according to the Standing Orders, that motion must be accepted by the Chair. I now put the question:’ ‘That the honourable member for Casey be no longer heard ‘.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Is the honourable gentleman’s motion to deny the free speech that some of -
– Oh, come on, Mr Deputy Speaker.
– I am extremely surprised that the honourable member for Port Adelaide should interject on such a matter.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker.
-Order! The Minister for Business and Consumer A/fairs is speaking at the moment on a point of order upon which the Chair has not made a decision.
– I raise the point that the Chair is debating rather than making a substantial -
-Order! The honourable member for Corio will resume his seat. I suggest that there is no substance in the point of order raised by the Minister in that it does not relate to the matter before the Chair. The question now before the House is: ‘That the honourable member for Casey be not further heard’.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker- Mr P. E. Lucock)
Question so resolved in the negative.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I claim to have been misrepresented. During the skirmish that took place prior to the division, the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard) made an accusation that I was joining in an exercise to restrict free speech. I want to make it perfectly clear that I believe in free speech and I do not really care what people in Australia say about the Governor-General.
-Order! The discussion is now concluded.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I seek leave to correct some information given in answer to a question last week on the same subject as the matter of public importance which has just been debated.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
Mr STREET (Corangamite-Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations)- I said on that occasion, in answer to that question, that the Federated Ironworkers Association or one of its branches was amongst the unions which had fined members as a consequence of working on the day of the Medibank strike. I am now informed that no such action was taken by any branch of the FLA over the Medibank strike.
– I move:
Customs TariffProposals No. 20 (1976).
The Customs TariffProposals I have just tabled relate to proposed alterations to the Customs Tariff Act 1966. Customs TariffProposals No. 20 (1976) give effect to the Government’s decision on recommendations made by the Temporary Assistance Authority in its report on thick plywood. The effect of the decision is that tariff quotas will apply to imports of plywood exceeding 5.5 mm and not exceeding 23 mm in thickness. A temporary additional duty of 50c per sq m for each one millimetre in thickness in excess of 5.5 mm will apply to imports of plywood in excess of quota. The new duties operate from tomorrow. A comprehensive summary of the changes is now being circulated to honourable members. I commend the proposals to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Young) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 4 June, on motion by Mr Ellicott
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Labor Government last year introduced a Bill in terms similar to those in the Bill now before the House. That Bill was the subject of discussion in the House. Relatively minor amendments were suggested at that time. Unfortunately the Bill foundered in the Senate. As a result of the double dissolution, that legislation was never passed by both Houses. The present legislation is in a similar vein to that proposed by the Labor Government at that time. Accordingly, the Opposition does not oppose this Bill. However, we will be moving 2 amendments. As to the first amendment, although it could be argued that the Bill already meets our objection, in the interests of clarity we are anxious to ensure that actions taken by the delegate of a Minister are encompassed within the powers of the Ombudsman and are not excluded pursuant to clause 5.
In regard to clause 2 1 we are anxious to ensure that the appointment of the Ombudsman in the first instance has the approval of both Houses of Parliament. The office of Ombudsman is of such importance that we feel that members of Parliament might wish to express a view about the nominee for that office. You will notice, Mr Deputy Speaker, that the Parliament certainly has power, pursuant to clause 28, to express a view as to the removal or otherwise of the Ombudsman. Accordingly, it seems appropriate that if we are to express a view as to the removal of an officer we might in the first instance express a view of the suitability of the appointment. I shall say no more on this at this stage, but I was of the impression, in view of the Committee debate that took place when our Bill was before the House, that the thinking of the then Opposition was of the same mould as that embodied in the amendment we are now proposing. In fairness to the present Government I should say that our Minister at that time thought that an amendment along these lines was not suitable. So I face that somewhat difficult position.
The Ombudsman BUI is a most important piece of legislation in relation to the real essence of what Parliament is all about. We, the representatives of the people, are here for review. The question of examination and crossexamination arises every day that Parliament sits. However there are a large number of functions which are exercised by administrative act where an injustice can be done to people or where people feel there is an injustice. This can be done by a non-event- that is, a delay or nothing being done at all- or it can be done by an interpretation which is deemed to create an injustice. So there has to be some neutral source whereby that sort of action can be the subject of review. As we know, ‘ombudsman’ is a quaint sort of title. It comes from the Danes way back. I am indebted to, I think, the present Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard) for explaining how it arose between parties fighting in the ancient Danish tribes. We do not need to go. any further into that except to say that unless we get some neutral avenue of having these matters investigated injustice could well be meted out to people.
The Ombudsman Bill is virtually to establish a judicial office to guarantee that complaints are investigated. It will guarantee that any complaint worthy of investigation is investigated and a report presented, to which Parliament should be privy in due course. Most of the States, if not all of them, have established ombudsmen and they are finding the creation of such office beneficial.
The Bill provides for 2 deputy ombudsmen to investigate actions by most Public Service departments and a wide range of government authorities, both statutory and otherwise. Some departments are excluded. Nevertheless the Commonwealth Police, the Australian Capital Territory Police and the Northern Territory Police are included within the ambit of the Ombudsman Bill. The functions of the Ombudsman are to investigate action relating to a matter of administration by a department either because a complaint is received or at the instigation of the ombudsman. Therefore, whether a complaint is made or not, the ombudsman has power to investigate these matters.
Clause 5 (3) sets out matters which the Ombudsman is not authorised to investigate. These include actions taken by Ministers. I know a fair body of opinion feels that the actions of Ministers ought to be the subject of investigation. Nevertheless, we take the same view as the Government in this instance. A Minister is always subject to review. He is subject to review in this House. It is appropriate that he have some degree of secrecy in the carrying out of his duties and that not all ministerial functions be investigated. What is deemed to be the real power of the nation is vested in the Executive which is pledged to certain responsibilities and is subject to an oath of allegiance and an oath of secrecy. We respect that position. Otherwise a Minister would not have any real protection. The Bill also excludes from investigation actions taken by courts or judges and actions relating to the conditions of employment of government employees, although questions about their appointment, such as an unfair examination, may still be investigated.
As has been said, the difficulty seems to be in deciding what constitutes a matter of administration. There can be difficulties as to what that really means. There will always be difficulties about that. Of course guidelines can be given but there can be difficulty in trying to interpret what is deemed to be an act of administration. It has been pointed out that, logically, if a Minister’s decisions are not examinable the departmental advice to him should not be either. The Bill excludes from examination by the Ombudsman decisions made by a Minister but not the advice given to him or actions taken in implementing his decision. Thus, a decision involving policy or administration is very important. It is not clear what course is open to the Ombudsman if, when he commences to investigate a complaint, he is told by the principal officer or Minister that the matter is one of policy and outside his jurisdiction. So there may be difficulties in this regard.
Complaints are to be made in writing with special procedures to protect people in custody. The Ombudsman, before he investigates, must inform the principal officer and responsible Minister. There are safeguards. Clause 9 (3) provides that some information and records have to be certified by the Attorney-General before they can be disclosed. If he certifies to the contrary, they cannot be examined. The grounds for such a decision include prejudice to the security or the defence of the Commonwealth, the disclosure of Cabinet deliberations and such like. However, in all cases where the Ombudsman may require the giving of information or the production of documents, sub-clauses (4) and (5) of clause 9 operate to prevent the withholding of information because of Public Service obligations of secrecy or on the grounds that it might be incriminating. But neither can the information be used against any person in any legal action other than one under clause 36 which makes it an offence to give false information, obstruct the Ombudsman and soon.
Clause 14 gives the Ombudsman power to go to departmental premises if he informs the principal officer before he does so. He may also inspect documents at the premises at a time arranged with the principal officer. This is in addition to his power to compel the production of documents. However, he is not able to go to certain specified defence establishments or areas without the consent in writing of the Minister concerned. There is also a provision for the Attorney-General to certify new places on defence grounds. At no place can he examine documents certified by the Attorney-General under clause 9 (3).
The Bill provides for reports to be made. Clause 1 5 sets out the circumstances in which the Ombudsman may make a report and the kinds of report he may make. Clause 15 (1) sets out the kinds of actions to which the section relates and includes actions wrong in law, actions in the exercise of a discretion where irrelevant considerations were taken into effect and actions that were unjust and oppressive. He may report that decisions should be varied or cancelled, that mitigating action be taken and that practices be changed. The Ombudsman gives a report to the department under the responsible Minister and may in doing so request the department to indicate what action will be taken. After a reasonable time if action is not taken clause 16 empowers him to inform the Prime Minister and clause 1 7 empowers him to report to Parliament. In both cases he is required to include any comment that the department may have made.
This is significant because it is important that the Parliament is informed. Of course there is an opportunity for the Minister and the Prime Mininster and the department to be informed, but there is an obligation also that the Parliament be informed and it follows that these reports will come to Parliament. That will guarantee that there will be no secrecy and that open government will really be effected in the sense that the legislation provides accordingly. There is some suggestion that because of the wording of the Bill there could be an opportunity for no report to be given but I think the Bill is quite clear arid I support the wording of it and certainly that interpretation of it.
Other measures in the Bill provide for remuneration and acting appointments and, as I mentioned before, removal from office. There are some changes from the 1975 Bill. They are not of any major significance and accordingly we have no objection to the legislation except in relation to the 2 matters which I mentioned, namely, an adequate definition of including actions of the delegate of a Minister and our strong suggestion that people who nominate for this office first be approved by both Houses of Parliament.
-The Ombudsman Bill establishes the Commonwealth Ombudsman. It is a Bill which I am pleased to see meets with the general support of the Opposition. It should also be supported by all outside the Parliament who are concerned with public administration in Australia and the scrutiny to which that public administration should be subjected. It is important in these days that there should be some means by which complaints which individual citizens have against governments can be properly examined and rectified if, on examination, some rectification appears necessary. The need for such a system seems to me, with respect, to increase day by day as government becomes larger, more involved, more expensive and more ubiquitous and which seeks to control almost every aspect of our lives. It is inevitable that as the size and complexity of government expands, so the number and complexity of complaints against governments will also increase. Accordingly, there is today more of a need for an ombudsman and a wide-ranging system of review of administrative decisions than there has ever been previously.
The functions of the Ombudsman will be, as has already been explained, to investigate allegations that are made by individuals against administrative discretion and the way in which it has been exercised, to ascertain whether an injustice has been done to the individual citizen and, if there is an injustice, to initiate steps that will result in rectifying it. There is no doubt that the appointment of the Commonwealth Ombudsman under this legislation is a substantial step towards ensuring that any Australian citizen who suffers an alleged injustice at the hands of the Federal Government or its agencies will have that alleged injustice investigated and, if an injustice is established, he will have it rectified. It is easy to point to specific provisions of this Bill and to argue that the Ombudsman should be given wider and more stringent powers. Those who argue along those lines may well have some merits on their side, but it is important to realise that an ombudsman is still comparatively new in the Australian experience. It is only sensible to see how the Ombudsman works in practice for some years so that the strengths and weaknesses of the office can be assessed. It is important, I believe, to establish the office of Commonwealth Ombudsman as soon as possible and in the manner set out in the Bill, to get it working, to study its operation in detail and then, on the basis of that experience, to implement whatever improvements are necessary to make the Ombudsman even more effective.
One may well ask what are the criteria that have to be satisfied to have an effective ombudsman. I believe that these criteria were adequately and accurately set out by the present Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard) when the Bill was last before this House on 4 June 1975. The Minister said, firstly, that the Ombudsman should be independent, secondly that he should be impartial, thirdly that he should have a thorough understanding of government, fourthly that he should be accessible, and, fifthly, that he should have powers to recommend and to publicise but not to overrule and to change. This Bill certainly meets those criteria which, as I say, are the essential criteria for an effective ombudsman.
The main structure of this Bill is to establish the office of Commonwealth Ombudsman and to declare that his functions are to investigate complaints made to him concerning action relating to matters of administration by departments or public authorities and to investigate administrative action taken by departments or public authorities. The Ombudsman will have a discretion not to investigate some complaints which could best be described as stale claims, frivolous or vexatious complaints and complaints where the complainant does not have a sufficient interest in the matter. The Ombudsman will be obliged to inform the Minister and the principal officer of the department or authority concerned that some action of the department or authority is to be investigated. The Ombudsman will have power to obtain information from such persons and to make such inquiry as he thinks fit. This is a valuable provision as it will enable the Ombudsman to find his own way, especially in the early stages of his work and to work with flexibility depending on the circumstances of each particular case and the circumstances of the department or authority where the alleged injustice took place.
The Ombudsman must have a degree of power to translate his investigations into actions if he discovers conduct that deserves some sort of censure or admonishment. Accordingly, in the first place, if he discovers that an officer has been guilty of a breach of duty or of misconduct he may bring it to the notice of the responsible officer or department. Subsequently, if the Ombudsman concludes that the action he is investigating is contrary to the law, unreasonable, unjust, oppressive, improperly discriminatory,, based on a mistake of law or fact, or just plain wrong, he is to report to the department or authority and may request it to report to him on action it proposes to take on the Ombudsman ‘s recommendation. If no action is taken on his recommendations the Ombudsman may inform the Prime Minister. The Ombudsman may take similar action if a discretionary power has been exercised for an improper purpose or on irrelevant grounds.
It may be argued that the Ombudsman will not have sufficient sanctions or power to rectify the injustices or administrative transgressions that he discovers and that this reporting process is a poor substitute for giving the Ombudsman executive power to rectify those injustices or transgressions. However, there are Several considerations which suggest that the powers given to the Ombudsman by the Bill are substantial. He will be obliged, in effect, to give the Minister or departmental head advance notice that trouble is brewing in his department. Clearly, some injustices calling for rectification will be rectified at this early stage. Further, the Ombudsman may make recommendations on rectifying objectionable decisions that he has discovered. It would be a bold Minister or permanent head or other official who did not give very serious consideration to such recommendations. The Ombudsman may then take it further and report to the Prime Minister- the final resort in the executive structure. If some proper rectification is not made by then the department or authority fully deserves the exposure to the public eye which it will receive when the Ombudsman exercises his ultimate power to report on the issue to the Parliament. He will have that power and no doubt he will use it in appropriate cases. The ultimate spotlight of exposure in the Parliament, and hence to the world at large, is a very powerful sanction which the Ombudsman will have. No doubt it is a power that he will use only as a last resort, but it is a very real power which bureaucrats know can be exercised, and it will act as a very powerful inducement to them to comply with the reasonable recommendations of the Ombudsman.
The Ombudsman also must report to the Parliament on his operations each year and may put in other reports for parts of the year. This will give him even further power to place the operations of government before the public scrutiny and report to the Parliament on how the system is working. It is quite likely that by these means most complaints investigated by the Ombudsman will be rectified in the course of the invesigation itself. This has been the experience in Sweden where ombudsmen have the ultimate power to engage in litigation to rectify wrongs which they discover. In fact that ultimate power is exercised very rarely. For instance, in 1966 the Swedish ombudsmen settled some 1700 cases and took legal proceedings in only 3 cases. Ninetenths of the complaints that they received proved to be quite unfounded or without any evidence at all. Likewise, I suggest it would be reasonable to expect in our case in Australia that most of the complaints discovered by the Ombudsman will be rectified in the course of his investigation or when he makes his recommendations.
It remains to be said that the Ombudsman will not stand alone, but that he is part of a trifurcated framework of review of administrative decisions. In the first place, the office of Ombudsman is one that will complement the Administrative Appeals Tribunal which allows for appeals against decisions of Ministers and officials in certain specified cases. The Tribunal has now been established and is in the early stages of operation. The third part of the review structure is carried out in the courts of law by means of the prerogative writs, the ancient writs of prohibition, certiorari, mandamus and quo warranto which draw on the inherent reserve power of justice which resides in the Crown.
These cumbersome procedures are groaning under the burden of being used for modern applications for which they are not intended, and never were intended and for which they certainly are not appropriate under modern conditions. It is no exaggeration to say that in most cases before the courts, when an application is made for one of the prerogative writs a great deal of the case is occupied by argument as to whether these ancient remedies can be granted at all in the case that is before the court, while the substantive merits or the justice or the substance of the case is deferred as almost an appendage for later argument. The prerogative writs are now under active review by the Attorney-General’s Department, and their reform will be a milestone in the establishment of a modern and practical method of reviewing administrative decisions in the courts. Accordingly, after the establishment of the Ombudsman and after the proper and detailed review of the prerogative writs there will be this threefold structure under which individuals’ complaints against any governments can properly be investigated. Firstly there will be the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, secondly the Ombudsman, and thirdly the prerogative writs.
There are 2 matters to which I wish to refer briefly, although both are important. First I wish to pay a tribute to the 2 distinguished committees chaired, respectively, by Sir John Kerr and Sir Henry Bland, whose research and recommendations led to the establishment of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, the Ombudsman and the review of the prerogative writs. Their recommendations will long be remembered as major reforms leading to the establishment of a practicable and workable system of supervision of government activities which can serve only to preserve and advance the rights and liberties of the individual citizen. The people of Australia owe far more to the work of these committees than they realise.
I now address a few remarks to the substance of the Opposition’s proposed amendments. Naturally the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott) will be examining them and will put the Government’s view on them at a later stage. It seems to me that they raise 2 matters of substance. Neither of the proposed amendments would rectify those matters of substance. The first proposed amendment provides that actions taken by delegates of a Minister will remain subject to the examination of the Ombudsman. There is no doubt that the exclusion from the powers of the Ombudsman of actions taken by a Minister may give rise to some difficulties. Individual members of this House will take up matters on behalf of their constituents. Those matters may be rejected by departments. Honourable members may then take the complaints to the Minister. The question arises whether, if the Minister also rejects the application, request or representation, the entire case is outside the examination of the Ombudsman. It could be argued that it is outside the examination of the Ombudsman for the reason that the final rejection by the Minister is an action taken by a Minister. Consequently it could be said that in such a case the Ombudsman has no jurisdiction. All I can say is that I think that is a problem about the precise limitations of the power of the Ombudsman. With respect, it seems to me that it is no clarification of the situation to say that actions taken by delegates of Ministers shall remain within the examination of the Ombudsman. All civil servants, all bureaucrats are to a greater or lesser extent delegates of a Minister. To include an amendment such as this proposed amendment would create the possibility of including within the jurisidiction of the Ombudsman almost every activity of government. I do not think that is the intention of the Opposition. I hope it is not. Certainly that intention is open on one construction of its first amendment.
I turn now to the second proposed amendment. The honourable member for KingsfordSmith (Mr Lionel Bowen) also said that when the Bill was before the House on the last occasion the coalition parties moved an amendment to the effect that both Houses of Parliament would have some direct say in the appointment of the Ombudsman. As I understand the position, the Opposition now seeks to move an amendment to the effect that the Ombudsman ‘shall be a person whose appointment has been recommended by resolutions of both Houses of the Parliament’. I say 2 things about the suggestion. The first is that the then Attorney-General, Mr Enderby, rejected a proposal that the Houses of Parliament have a direct say in the appointment of the Ombudsman. On 20 August 1 975 he said:
We suggest that the principle is quite wrong and that it would be quite unworkable.
At a later stage he showed why the principle would be wrong and unworkable. He said:
I suggest to the honourable member with the greatest respect that it would be asking too much of a Senate, an upper House divided as it is in certain times of a nation’s history and often under the control- if I may say this- of an alliance of influences with Opposition and Independent senators holding views which are not reflected in the House of Representatives. The appointment of such a serious or important position as ombudsman could become a plaything of party politics and could be abused. I do not want to turn the debate on this matter into a party harangue. I think that would be quite wrong. I invite honourable gentlemen to reflect on how such a situation could be abused by party politics in the other place. I put to the honourable gentlemen: What would happen if the House of Representatives took a view about candidate A and the Senate took a view different from that and put forward candidate B? How would that difference of opinion be resolved according to the amendment which the Opposition has proposed? It would be a deadlock and we would not have an ombudsman.
That is what the then Attorney-General said about the proposal that the Houses of Parliament have a direct say in the appointment of the Ombudsman. It seems very strange to me that the present Opposition can raise the argument which was argued against by the then AttorneyGeneral and which he destroyed, I would have thought, so persuasively.
There is a further and final objection to the Opposition’s proposed amendment, and that is that its proposal is not the proposal that was put by the present Government when it was in Opposition. The Labor Party’s proposal is that the appointee would be someone who has been recommended by resolutions of both Houses of the Parliament. Presumably the Governor-General or the Executive Government could not proceed to deal with the appointment of an Ombudsman until the matter had been raised in one of the Houses of Parliament, the other House of Parliament having approved the appointment, and a recommendation on the appointment having gone to the Executive Government. In other words, the proposed amendment looks to a situation in which the actual appointment is initiated in one or other Houses of Parliament and in which that recommendation is sanctioned by both Houses. Our proposal, when we were in Opposition, was quite different. We let the Executive Government make the initial appointment, which was then subject to approval by both Houses of the Parliament. With respect, to me it is quite inconceivable that the Opposition could now put forward the proposal which it does that the recommendation for the appointment of the Ombudsman be by both Houses of the Parliament when, in substance, that was what it argued against so persuasively when it was in government. I conclude by repeating the substantial point which I made at the beginning, and that is that this proposal for a Commonwealth Ombudsman is a very forward step and one which can help to guarantee the rights and liberties of the individual citizen in the continuing confrontation that the citizen has these days with government in all its ramifications.
-In order not to delay the House or to take up any more time than is probably necessary to make a number of points, it is my intention to give notice that during the Committee stage I will move the first amendment that has been circulated in the name of the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen). It relates to clause S. It states:
After sub-clause (2) insert the following sub-clause: ‘(2a) A reference in paragraph (2) (a) to action taken by a Minister does not include a reference to action taken by a delegate of a Minister. ‘
I will present my arguments in relation to that amendment now. The honourable member for Diamond Valley (Mr Brown) placed one construction on the amendment, but for the life of me I cannot see how that construction could be held to be the real meaning of it. Without being pedantic about the terminology, I think the amendment I have foreshadowed ought to be considered seriously by the Government as the implications are very serious, not necessarily to citizens in general but to migrants who are at risk. It is to migrants that what I have to say will be related.
I am pleased to see that this Government is adopting in a general sense the recommendations made as a result of the Labor Government’s initiatives. For many years the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) raised in this House the question of administrative discretions. His questions and the replies that were given to them stimulated discussion in this country and changed the pattern of thinking for all time. My colleague, the honourable member for KinsfordSmith has mentioned many of the questions of broad principle which arise on this Bill. All of us are conscious of the need to determine the limits of administrative discretion. All of us can recognise that decisions made on a political basis are not amenable to review by an official. But what is of great concern is the fact that many decisions purportedly made by Ministers are made in fact by officials. The pace of modern administration is such that in many cases the Minister becomes a mere figurehead, a busy parliamentarian faced with mountains of files which need signing. No matter how well officials may draft explanatory notes, the fact is that what is decided by officials becomes the final decision and Ministers are put in the unenviable position of defending an action which they have taken without realising the consequences.
Of course, this is not the case with decisions of great political consequence. I am not referring to them. I am sure that they are looked at carefully.
I shall not be concerned with them during the course of this debate. What I am concerned with is the way in which many decisions which vitally affect the people, decisions small in themselves, mount up to despotism. I am complaining about what the eminent English judge, Lord Hewitt, in 1934 called ‘The New Despotism’. Today I want to talk about this new despotism as it affects the operation of the Migration Act and as it affects the daily lives of the ethnic groups in our community. Let me quote, firstly, from page 1 7 of the final report of the Committee on Administrative Discretions, known as the Bland report. It states:
We were pleased to be told by the Department of Immigration that, subject to three provisos, it was not opposed to the concept of external review of administrative discretions under its legislation.
The first proviso was that the review should not be available to a person unless he is an Australian citizen or a resident of Australia admitted as a migrant, as distinct from a person in Australia under temporary permit or here without any entry permit. Those under temporary permit or those without any permit include students, alien entrepreneurs or employees, entertainers, ships’ deserters and visitors. Yet, said the Department, this should not preclude a citizen or a resident of Australia from seeking review of a decision about the entry or extension of a temporary stay of a spouse, minor child, fiance(e) or aged parent.
The second proviso concerned the character and manner of review of decisions relating to refusal of passports, citizenship and entry and re-entry, where the decision was based on security considerations. Here, the Department felt that the agreement of the Director-General of Security was required and that proper safeguards should be introduced to protect security (see paragraph 1 13 et seq of our Interim Report and paragraph 172 below). The third proviso was that any review process should not be entitled to question government policy. This presents no problem (see paragraph 183 below).
The report also states:
At our request, the Department reconsidered the question whether its first proviso referred to above might be qualified in relation to persons admitted under temporary permit who had been in Australia for a lengthy period. It felt unable to change its view. It told us of the problems presented in the U.S.A. and Canada where a review process exists and of its own experience of problems encountered under its administration. We remain unconvinced that a review process would not be desirable in respect of persons admitted under temporary permit who have been in Australia for a substantial period, say, 10 years. The reviewing authority would, of course, be required to accept any relevant government policy. Equally in our view, cases of persons granted visas overseas and refused an entry permit under section 6 of the Migration Act on arrival should be reviewable. For these two classes of cases, we feel the Ombudsman process would be appropriate.
In my view, that clearly spells out the Department’s attitude in many of these cases. The Bland Committee was meeting about the time of the deportation of one Ivusic a Croatian. Ivusic appealed to the courts, and the learned judge of the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court who heard the appeal found that much of the information given to the Minister of the day was unfair; that it was incorrect. Yet His Honour said that the facts were that Ivusic ‘s solicitor had written to the Minister and pointed out that those particulars were wrong. The deportee had had what the law calls a fair hearing under the rules of natural justice. The matter had been taken up with the Minister, and that had been regarded as an appeal on Ivusic ‘s behalf.
I do not want to traverse that ground again, but I am glad to see that in cases such as that there is now a right of appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. But who can appeal? Those who can appeal are persons who have committed certain crimes in Australia, and they can appeal only if they are permanent residents in Australia. Visitors or those here on temporary permits cannot appeal against deportation after crimes. Thus there is some general measure of justice for migrants who commit crimes. Who else may appeal? Section 14 of the Migration Act provides for the Minister to deport certain persons when he does not approve of their conduct. The section is surrounded with elaborate provisions for appeal. It has never been used. Who else may appeal? The answer to that, simply, is no one. The right of appeal extends to none of the thousands of ordinary migrants, only to the criminals in a certain class and those whose conduct the Minister decides is unbecoming. In those cases it is entirely up to the Minister. The right extends only to those who fall under section 14, a section which has never been used by any Minister, from any party. Why? It can only be because officials have advised Ministers not to act under this section, not to get into a position where their actions may be examined by reasonable men. The present Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) sometimes waxes indignant about an illegal immigrant; but his words are always in terms of disobedience to the Act, without any regard to any mitigating circumstances that may be involved. A very real fear is created in the minds of hundreds of thousands of decent, law abiding migrants that they- whoever ‘they’ might be- might get them and there is simply no appeal. Let us have an end to that situation. It may well be that acceptance of the amendment to which I have referred is the way out.
As I said, the Bland Committee reported that there was strong departmental opposition to a system of appeals for persons who were not already permanently resident in Australia; that is, no appeals for those contemplating coming to Australia or for those here illegally or on temporary visas. For the potential immigrant overseas, there are issues such as security clearances, criminal records and illnesses which might be such that they could not be brought into the open without revealing sources or causing unnecessary embarrassment. It can be argued that persons already here, whether illegally or on a temporary basis, should not have a right of appeal which would give them an advantage over the law abiding person who waits his turn in the queue.
In addition, the Canadian experience has been that an appeal system can be the cause of long delays. This argument was used by the Minister in a previous debate in this House. Those illegally in Canada who can delay their departure for long periods tend to have a stronger emotional claim to be allowed to remain in Canada. Nevertheless, an examination of the Migration Act indicates that the Migration Act, the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act and the Ombudsman Bill, taken together, leave many serious anomalies and put migrants into the hands of officials who can and do make arbitrary decisions. It is true that the Migration Act puts certain powers in the hands of the Minister, and particularly in the case of deportation orders which only the Minister can sign. But experience has shown that the Minister does follow the advice of his officials. The Act is so constructed that in many cases a deportation order is a mere formality which is difficult to dispute.
Nowhere does there appear to be a proper avenue for an appeal against a ministerial decision to be considered on its merits. For this reason there appears to be room for this Bill to be amended to make such an appeal system available to the genuine case, without importing the worst facets of the Canadian system. In other words, there ought to be room for an appeal system, based on fairness and justice, in all cases where the migrant is a permanent resident in Australia and in those cases where the illegal entrant or the migrant on a temporary visa has a material change in his circumstances since he first entered or decided to enter the country.
The Bland Committee was at pains to ensure that administrative decisions of officials were subject to review and yet left ministerial decisions, which were expressions of government policy, free from external pressures. But it noted that in some of the old Acts powers were given to Ministers which in modern Acts were given to officials, and noted that the legislation of these older Acts was undergoing change to bring it into line with the realities of everyday life. Although the Migration Act is dated 1958, it is actually a rehash of legislation going back to 1901. It reflects little credit on its authors for the precision of the drafting. It is a curious collection of past provisions which have been put together in a form which almost defies reading. In the way in which it sweeps up some and casts others aside, it fits the description given to another law, of resembling some antediluvian harvesting machine fashioned by generations of long dead craftsmen from materials not now in use and with tools only to be found in a science museum, hissing and wheezing steam at every joint and breathing clouds of smoke which frequently blind those nominally in charge of them.
– Are you talking on the Ombudsman Bill or about Puffing Billy?
-You would know all about Puffing Billy: He sits on your side of the House. In the meantime this Bill should be amended. There is no reason why administrative decisions, as opposed to political decisions, should not be examined by the Ombudsman. As there is not a great deal of time left to me I want to refer quickly to a couple of other matters. The Bland Committee report posed the following question:
Should decisions of Ministers be examinable under an Ombudsman-type process? We do not believe that policy decisions should be, whether they are in the positive and personal exercise of a discretionary power conferred by legislation or are by way of directions to officials (whatever the authority for giving these directions) as to how they should exercise their powers and functions (whether under delegations from the Minister or not).
Policy considerations constitute or are likely to constitute a large element in decisions or directions of Ministers. They may not be confined to matters within a Minister’s portfolio. They can, as well, be dictated or circumscribed by the availability of funds, which itself reflects policy factors of the highest order. There ought, for example, to be no scope for scrutiny of a failure to develop a program which Parliament has authorised, if the funds it has voted clearly restrict the kind of development a Minister or department may hopefully desire.
Next there is the question whether other decisions of Ministers should be examinable. There are 2 sides to the argument that such decisions should be examinable. But very briefly, they are these: On the one hand, whatever qualifications it might be argued are legitimately attachable in this modern age to the doctrine of ministerial responsibility, it is difficult to suggest that there should be any qualification in relation to a decision of the Minister himself. On the other hand, such are the pressures on the Parliament nowadays that the doctrine of ministerial responsibility can often be meaningless. Wherever the balance of the argument lies, straight away we come up against the problem of whether a decision relates to policy or administration. Our own experience leaves us doubting whether any defensible line of demarcation can be drawn between decisions of policy and of administration. If the decisions of Ministers are not examinable, the problem of attempting to distinguish policy from administrative decisions will not arise.
I have covered the general argument but, in conclusion I want to make one or two quick points. As already explained, decisions of Ministers are not examinable under the New Zealand, Western Australian and South Australian Acts. Whether this approach should be followed in our legislation or whether administrative decisions of Ministers should be examinable is essentially a matter of highest policy for determination by the Government. If the decision is that administrative decisions of Ministers should be examinable, this could be given effect to by a provision which gives the Ombudsman jurisdiction where a Minister consents. Such consent presumably would not be given where a Minister considered that a policy decision was involved. So there are and should be safeguards in the matter.
It is a high policy matter, as the report indicates. If it is, why has the Attorney-General not given the benefit of his views? One suspects that the problem is too difficult to face up to. Like other matters facing this Government, it has been swept under the carpet. The fact that one course has been taken in the States and another one in Britain indicates that there are equally valid grounds for either approach. I sincerely hope that the Attorney-General will tell us what they are. Finally, may I say to the Minister that I for one will be looking forward to the implementation of the third stage of the program- a revised system of examination by the courts. As things now stand, the courts can never decide matters of administrative law on their merits. They can deal only with obscure technical points. As one who has been and will continue to be directly involved in establishing the rights of migrants, I find the present situation exasperating. One matter which we will shortly be debating will clearly come to this point. I have no doubt that those lawyers in the House will certainly agree with that. It is long past the time when our court systems were overhauled in such a way that the ‘New Despotism’ is brought under control.
-I support this Bill as it follows a concept, nationally, which has been adopted by the majority of the States of Australia. It will give a balance at the Federal level to those additional rights which presently exist for citizens at the
State level. I am informed that it was Senator Kathy Martin, a fellow Queenslander, who brought this matter of the ombudsman first on to the Australian scene. In this matter we are doing nothing new except that the proposed ombudsman will be the first in the world to be established in a federal jurisdiction. The need today with the proliferation of services offered by governments and the numerical increase in size of the Public Service is greater than it has ever been. The habit of using the Public Service as a whipping post- in most cases unnecessarily and incorrectly- will have an alternative through the Federal ombudsman for correct and fair evaluation of the circumstances whenever a legitimate grievance is raised. The success of the Ombudsman in my own State of Queensland is sufficient for me to support this Bill and hope for a similar success through his Federal counterpart.
There is a need for complaints and grievances to be investigated by a properly appointed authority with powers to act, if only to relieve parliamentarians of this function. Too much of a parliamentarian’s time is being devoted to being an ombudsman for his constituents, with the risk that too little time is devoted to his main function of being a legislator. Not only is too much of our time given in this regard but also we do the job poorly. Ill-equipped in time, with no real powers of investigation, our role becomes a perfunctory one where we make the noises but do not really expect results. To investigate properly all grievances would require more time than that available to any one of us. The ombudsman will have the powers and the staff which will give the teeth to make effective legislation of this nature. Clause 5 to 14 of Part II set out the functions, powers and duties of the office. Powers to investigate complaints, to have information given in writing and to insist on production of documents will ensure that all matters can be thoroughly checked and reported upon.
The history of ombudsmen in various States of Australia indicates that, of the complaints investigated, only a small proportion result in fault being found within departments. This does not indicate that the ombudsman is ineffective. The fact that such an office functions with its various powers will operate as a discipline on the Public Service if only by the threat alone that the office and its powers exist. Judging by the State situations, I believe that an ombudsman has a greater effectiveness than to operate only as a deterrent. Irrespective of the outcome of any inquiry, this watchdog approach and oversight of the Public Service will be sufficient reason for creation of the office.
An example of the effectiveness of decisions made by ombudsmen is that given in the report to the Queensland Government upon the facts surrounding the attitude of the Aurukun people to the proposed mining venture. Such a decision could only be given by an impartial body, independent of government control and with full powers of investigation. If such a report can be given against the creator of the office itself, it serves as evidence of the high standard of performance that we can expect from our own ombudsman in the service of the citizens of Australia.
Clause 7 provides that complaints under this legislation shall be made in writing. This is an important requirement because having details in writing enables the ombudsman to ascertain whether a complaint is within his jurisdiction. If it is, appropriate action can be more effectively implemented. It is also a measure of the sincerity of a person laying a complaint if he or she does so in writing, giving full details. Section 6 gives a discretion not to investigate or to cease investigation of a complaint. This will reduce the number of complaints to be investigated to those that are genuine and sincere. I believe that the public will observe the intentions of the legislation by keeping the complaints to those of substance.
It is necessary for the public to realise that the office of ombudsman is not a complete end in itself. It is purely another piece of machinery to give justice to the ordinary citizen. One should not be too optimistic in the hope that the ombudsman will be the cure all for all matters in dispute. The exclusions of jurisdiction contained in sub-clause 2 of clause 5 indicate the other institutions and those other officers and arbitrators who assist in placing justice in the hands of the citizen. I see the introduction of an ombudsman as a further link forged for the rights of the individual and the citizen.
-A number of matters have been raised in connection with the Ombudsman Bill but the only matter I wish to raise concerns the impartiality of the office. If an ombudsman is to give decisions which will be acceptable to people who raise complaints against the Public Service- against the bureaucracy- I think it is important that the ombudsman be seen not to be in any way associated with the persons who have the right of decision and the responsibility for the actions of the bureaucracy or for Cabinet decisions. For that purpose the Opposition will be moving an amendment which is in line with, although not exactly similar to, one which was moved by the then Opposition when the Bill was before the Parliament on a previous occasion.
– In the same circumstances?
– I think similar circumstances prevailed. I think these circumstances show fairly clearly the need for this type of amendment. Governments, irrespective of who form them, tend to be jealous of their authority and very vigorously oppose any inroads into their authority, whether they be apparent or non-apparent. I believe that the person who is appointed to the office of ombudsman should be a person who is readily acceptable to all sides of the Parliament. He must have the confidence of all sections of the community. If the confidence does not exist, then the person concerned does not have the authority needed to perform the duties of his office. Whether the amendment is in the form previously suggested, whereby the appointment is made and then approved by both Houses of the Parliament, or whether it is recommended by both Houses of the Parliament is immaterial. I believe that we ought to have sufficient confidence in our parliamentary system to be sure that we will appoint a suitable person to review complaints against the methods of operation of the various arms of government. I think the fact that governments are not prepared to accept this particular form of appointment is an argument that- that form of appointment is desirable.
I do not intend to argue the matter at length. I hope that the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott), now that he is in government and in a position to implement what he suggested should be done on a previous occasion, will see the wisdom of his earlier remarks. There is an inconsistency on both sides of the Parliament but that does not make the proposal right or wrong. What is important is that the ombudsman should be seen to be a person who is acceptable to all sections of the Parliament and to all sections of the community. By accepting an amendment which gave the Parliament either the right to recommend the appointment as we are proposing, or the right to disapprove of an appointment, which I think would rarely be exercised provided a blatant political appointment were not made, we would be strengthening the office of ombudsman and dissociating that person from direct association in any way, even by appointment, from the Government. I think it is important that that not only be done but be seen to be done.
– in reply- I do not wish to take up the time of the House for too long. I think that the significance of this measure has been underlined by every speaker. The Government is very grateful for the way in which speakers have spoken constructively about this measure which, admittedly, is one of the most important measures with which this House will deal this year. It will have a longstanding effect on the relationship between the citizen and government. In the course of the past few months I have received some suggestions about the Ombudsman Bill some of which I shall not be adopting here. On the other hand, I just wish to say that shortly- the Government hopes to set up the Administrative Review Council. That is a body which will consist of public servants as well as the President of the Administrative Review Council, the Ombudsman when he is appointed and various other experts in this field. As the honourable member for Diamond Valley (Mr Brown) pointed out, it is very important that this type of legislation be subject to constant review. The Administrative Review Council will have before it from time to time suggestions for amendments. They will include any that I have not taken up on this occasion so that the Administrative Review Council can consider them.
A deal has been said about actions by Ministers. The honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes) referred to the immigration portfolio and the Immigration Act. Having been the Acting Minister for Immigration for 5 weeks, I can assure the honourable member that the Minister does not always follow the advice of officials. The honourable member should not assume that what he thinks is always so. I hope that Ministers exercise an independent discretion as they should do. As to the actions of Ministers, there are distinctions drawn- these have been mentionedbetween policy decisions and purely administrative decisions. The actions of Ministers are subject to review. With regard to policy, Ministers are questioned daily in this House. It is a very searching time for a Minister if the questions themselves are searching.
On the other hand, honourable members will recall the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, which was set up under the Appeals Act of last year, and enables Ministers’ discretions to be looked at in various fields. I am in the course of having my Department go through the regulations and other provisions of Commonwealth law to identify discretions of Ministers that may appropriately be the subject of review by that particular body. Quite apart from that, the discretions of Ministers have always been subject to judicial review under those long old writs to which the honourable member for Diamond Valley referred. Ministers are not immune from the courts. They are not immune from the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and they are certainly not immune from this Parliament. So Ministers are subject to scrutiny.
One amendment has been proposed- and I am inclined to look upon it favourably- in relation to the actions of delegates of Ministers. I will address the House, if I may, in relation to the proposed amendment concerning the appointment of the Ombudsman, which is a significant matter. Honourable members will notice that when this Bill came before the House last year the proposed amendment was: but shall not be appointed until each House of Parliament has approved of the proposed appointment.
The present proposal is: and shall be a person whose appointment has been recommended by resolutions of both Houses of Parliament.
So the proposals are quite different. In one case the Parliament would dictate. Under our proposal the Parliament would approve, which is quite a different situation. We were giving the Executive the power to chose with a right of veto in the Houses. The Opposition’s proposal is to give the Houses the right to choose. Quite apart from that, may I say that the previous AttorneyGeneral invited us to reflect. Honourable members will notice what he said on this matter. We did reflect on it and we have had the advice of the officials that he had behind him on that occasion.
Not only that, in this time of reflection we have changed our minds. Honourable members opposite will notice that the Bill put forward by the Labor Government provided that the Ombudsman would be, in effect, appointed for a long term- until 65 years of age- but he could be removed by an address from both Houses of Parliament for misconduct. That provision applies to judges. We have not done that. What we have done is to provide that an ombudsman must be appointed for not more than 7 years, so that he is subject to constant scrutiny. I think a persuasive argument in this area is that- if the Ombudsman had to be appointed by Parliament people may indeed be reluctant to offer themselves for appointment to the position. We are not used to this system in Australia and I think we need to consider the effect such a provision might have on suitable applicants. We do not, for instance, require our judges to be appointed or their appointment to be approved by Parliament. One might say: ‘If the appointment of the Ombudsman is to be handled in this way why do we not do the same with judges?’ The Auditor-General, for instance, is in a similar situation, although not quite the same, and of course he is appointed by the Executive. This is a very significant matter. The Government has given it close consideration and we have come to the view that we are not disposed to accept that foreshadowed amendment.
May I in conclusion say that this measure is one of a number. The fact that it is has already been mentioned. I am at the moment considering proposals for judicial review of administrative decisions which will simplify the procedures, but may I say that as part of that proposal there will be an administrative procedure part of the relevant Act which would be designed to apply basic rules of natural justice to all administrative tribunals so as to ensure that all Commonwealth tribunals see that people are treated fairly, that they get the opportunity to be heard, and so on. This would apply to any Commonwealth tribunal that was operating in that way. So there is a fourth arm to this reform of administrative review. I conclude, as I concluded my second reading speech, with the words ‘I commend this Bill to the House’.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 4- by leave- taken together.
-I would like to speak briefly to clause 4 because I feel it offers a great challenge to the Ombudsman who will ultimately be appointed and a challenge to the administration of this Bill when it becomes law, because as the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott) said in his second reading speech, this is the first time in a country with a federal system that an ombudsman has been appointed. There are problems with the size of Australia, with the geography of Australia. The last thing we want to do in this Bill is to add to the office of the Ombudsman a touch of Canberra centralism. The office is very much a personal one and we do not want to create the sorts of problems that the ombudsman is trying to solve. Will the ombudsman see every complaint? Will he travel around Australia? In the States of Australia and in New Zealand he can act personally and he can act consistently but in the Commonwealth environment can he see every report? He of course will have to delegate. Will he delegate to each and every State or will he delegate to others to deal with groups of government departments? He will have to be a very clever and astute person- and no doubt he will be- to organise the way in which he delegates because we will not want one set of precedents being created by a delegate in one State that is different from what is happening in another State. There is a great deal of challenge, as I have said, about this, and of course a great deal will depend upon the man who is ultimately appointed to the office.
– I would like to make some comments in relation to this legislation. It is, as has been pointed out by previous speakers, perhaps one of the most significant pieces of legislation, relevant to the administration of government, seen in this House for many years. In regard to clause 4 1 would just like to make the point that we are, as the honourable member for Diamond Valley (Mr Brown) so rightly pointed out, looking for a person to be the ombudsman who will be not only accessible but also able to recommend the rectification of injustices, be independent of government, be impartial and above all be able to understand government. Perhaps in many ways we are looking for quite a remarkable person, but nevertheless the people of Australia and this Parliament have every expectation that we shall find somebody who has these very rare qualities and who will be able to serve this Parliament and through it the Australian people. There is absolutely no doubt that many people today feel that they are ground down by the heel of bureaucracy to one degree or another, and whether this is justified or not the fact remains that it behoves this Parliament to ensure that the people of Australia are given every opportunity to assure themselves, as well as their peers, that they are in fact given a fair deal by all levels of government. Already we have seen in 5 States the establishment of an ombudsman. I am delighted to see that at last this Parliament has before it legislation of this type.
It is worth pointing out that the Law Reform Commission of New South Wales in its report which led up incidentally, to the establishment of the ombudsman in New South Wales pointed out that ‘the experience of other countries indicates that a report to an aggrieved person by a highly qualified and independent investigator, whether there is disclosure of administrative error or a conclusion that the complaint was illfounded, gives satisfaction’. It is important, as I have said, in this highly complex technological society that the rights of individuals be seen to be protected from the bureaucracy which people often feel they are incapable of opposing. To accomplish this task, however, the ombudsman must have the plenary power to have access to all matters, files and other evidence in relation to the complaint which he is supposed to investigate. The importance of this right of access cannot be over-stressed and I would hope that cognisance will be taken of the fact that only about 10 per cent to 15 per cent of complaints which have been examined by ombudsmen in other countries have in fact been shown to have very much substance. Nevertheless, the important point is not whether there is substance in the complaint but that the citizen must feel that there is redress against what is believed to be an unfair administrative action taken by the Public Service.
Clauses agreed to.
) The Ombudsman is not authorized to investigate:
After sub-clause (2) insert the following sub-clause: ‘(2a) A reference in paragraph (2 ) (a) to action taken by a Minister does not include a reference to action taken by a delegate of a Minister. ‘.
I have canvassed the reasons for moving that amendment. I do not desire to pursue them any further.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 6 to 1 3- by leave- taken together.
-I propose to move:
In clause IS (1) (a) (iii) omit the words ‘not being an Act’.
The omission of those words would enable the Ombudsman to comment on or recommend changes to Acts of Parliament if on investigation of complaints he experiences or discovers difficulties inherent in the legislation, or if he observes that it is not satisfactory in operation. It would appear that just as courts of law at the present time are able to criticise legislation which they find inadequate the Ombudsman ought also to be able to comment on Acts with which he is expected to deal but over which the Bill does not give him the right to comment.
-Order! I inform the honourable member for Bradfield that at the moment the question is: ‘That clauses 6 to 13 be agreed to’.
Clauses agreed to.
Clause 14 agreed to.
Clause 15 (Reports by Ombudsman).
-The effect of the amendment which I have already proposed to clause 15 will not allow the Ombudsman to -
– I think we were right the first time. The honourable member for Bradfield desires to move an amendment to delete subclause (4) from clause 14. 1 can only say to the honourable member that I am prepared to accede to that request if he proposes to move that amendment.
-I wish to move that amendment.
Clause 14- by leave- reconsidered.
– I move:
Omit sub-clause (4).
The deletion of sub-clause (4) will have the effect of enabling the Ombudsman to enter into any place- for example, a government departmentwithout having to give prior advice to the principal officer of the department. One would presume, of course, that in most cases it would be normal procedure for the Ombudsman to advise the secretary of a department of his intention to visit. Nevertheless, there is considerable advantage to be gained, in my view, by allowing the Ombudsman to have this freedom of movement so that departments would be kept on their toes. When questions of relevance were being considered the Ombudsman would be able to enter into a normal work type situation, and departments, if they were so disposed to do, would not have the opportunity of, shall we say, preparing the ground in advance.
– I want to raise only one question. When a Government member moves an amendment which quite obviously the Attorney-General has seen and agreed to, it makes it difficult for the Opposition when it has not had the opportunity to see that amendment. We do not intend to prevent the passage of the Bill at this stage, but I raise the matter because it could be that the amendment is quite controversial, and we have had no opportunity whatsoever to study its effect.
– I might say to the honourable member for Corio that the Chair had not seen the amendment either and was not aware of the situation. So the matter was made rather difficult even for the Chair to decide.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
1 ) Where, after an invesigation under this Act into action taken by a Department or prescribed authority has been completed, the Ombudsman is of the opinion-
was based either wholly or partly on a mistake of law or of fact; or
In clause 15(1 )(a)(iii) omit the words ‘, not being an Act, ‘.
I think the purpose of that amendment is selfevident and I have spoken to it previously.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Remainder of Bill- by leave- taken as a whole.
-On behalf of the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen) I wish to move an amendment to clause 2 1 which reads in part:
Add at the end of sub-clause ( 1 ) the words, ‘, and shall be a person whose appointment has been recommended by resolutions of both Houses of the Parliament’.
The Opposition would be quite happy to accept the other means of appointment which was outlined earlier by the Attorney-General, namely, that a recommendation may be approved by Parliament subsequently. I believe it is important for the sake of the appearance of the independence of the Ombudsman that Parliament be directly associated with both his appointment and his operations. The Bill requires that he shall report to Parliament. I hope the Attorney-General will consider this position and pay heed to his earlier remarks rather than the advice he received subsequently. I think it is important to the operation of the office that it appears to be totally divorced from the bureaucracy or the ministry. I do not exclude any particular ministry from that remark. I think the Ombudsman will indicate quite often that the problems brought to him by people are not within his jurisdiction or have been correctly processed. Unless there is an appearance of independence they will believe, I think unfortunately, that they have been subjected to bureaucratic pressure. I think that if the appointment were made by Parliament it would be a protection to the Ombudsman himself.
– For the reasons I have already given the House, the Government does not accede to that amendment.
Remainder of Bill agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report- by leave- adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Ellicot)- by leaveread a third time.
Sitting suspended from 6.5 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from 17 August, on motion by Mr Lynch:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I move:
That all the words after ‘that’ be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: the House condemns the Budget because-
it pursues a policy of unemployment as a weapon to reduce real wages and salaries; (b it abdicates federal government responsibilities and forces the State governments and local governments either to reduce their services or institute additional charges, or both;
it introduces an additional tax in the form of the Medibank levy, thus further reducing consumer spending;
it reduces the availability of services to the whole community but particularly to those most vulnerable to hardship notably aborigines, the unemployed and migrants, and
it fails to institute selective stimulatory expenditure to reduce unemployment and restore consumer confidence’.
The Australian people have now seen the first Budget of the men who rejected the last. The document presented to the Parliament last Tuesday is presumably their justification for all their actions of a year ago- the obstruction of the Hayden Budget and the destruction of the 30th Parliament. It is to be welcomed for one reason alone: The wreckers of 1975 at last have told us what they would do. We have seen their alternative; we can judge them for what they are worth. It is impossible to assess this Budget without recalling the record of its authors. For 4 weeks in 1975, during a critical period of economic difficulty, the authors of this Budget brought the Parliament to a standstill. The men who pose as responsible economic managers and supreme patriots took the nation to the brink of chaos while they blocked the chief instrument of national economic policy. Such are the credentials of the present Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and his Treasurer (Mr Lynch). Throughout the year they have tried to blame their predecessors for all Australia’s problems. They can do so no longer. This Budget is their answer. It is all their own work. The dishonesty, the heartlessness, the skinflint mentality, the deep social injustice which are the hallmarks of this Government will continue; but at least there can be no more excuses.
Judged solely as an economic document the Fraser Budget is irrelevant to the nation’s needs. Australia is in recession and the recession is deepening. This Budget, quite simply, does nothing about it. But it is worse than that. As a social document- as a statement of the Government’s priorities, a statement about the future and the character of our country and its people- the Budget is frightening. It serves notice to the world that one of the richest and most fortunate nations on earth cannot afford to give its people the minimum standards of health, housing, public transport, urban development and social amenities enjoyed by all the other advanced Western democracies, by all well-managed economies. The Fraser Government has declared not only that we cannot afford these things but also that the national government has no business to provide them. This Budget declares that the quality of our lives, the quality of our cities and towns, the quality of our social services, the humanity and efficiency of our public institutions- the things which enrich and beautify our surroundings and which alone can liberate our people from drabness, hardship and insecurity- are not the concern of the national government in command of the national economy. That is the message of the Fraser Budget.
If we first treat this Budget for its economic impact alone, we must compare its essentials with the Hayden Budget of a year ago. Compare the economic conditions then with those today. Under the Hayden Budget unemployment was falling. Today it is rising. Under the Hayden Budget inflation was falling. This Budget accepts a rate of inflation of 12 per cent. Under the Hayden Budget the incomes of Australians were protected against rises in the cost of living. Today there is little or no protection. Under the Hayden Budget there was a realistic balance between restraint on government expenditure and a necessary commitment to social reform. Under the Fraser Budget the public sector is marked for destruction. Under the Hayden Budget the States had ample and growing revenues to meet their responsibilities. Under the Fraser Budget, for all the bombast of the new federalism, they will be increasingly starved of funds. Under the Hayden Budget there were incentives and opportunities for consumer spending- then as now the key to economic recovery. Under the Fraser Budget consumers will have less in their pockets. Under the Hayden Budget Australia was moving slowly but steadily out of the worst recession the world had known for more than 40 years. Under the Fraser Budget the recession in Australia will be consciously and deliberately prolonged.
Where in this Budget is there any help- or even hope- for those who need it? Not even the Government’s traditional friends- objects of hypocritical lip service in recent years- receive any help from this Budget. Money is lavished on privileged sections of the business community, but industries like manufacturing, which depend most on consumer confidence, get nothing at all. The shipbuilding industry is to be dismantled. There is no help or hope for the building and construction industries, already depressed by the Government’s cuts in public works. There is a conspicuous neglect of the rural community. There is nothing for wage and salary earners but a prospect of wage restraint and a fall in living standards. There is nothing for the unemployed but continuing and lengthening dole queues. There is nothing for Australians in the outer suburbs and towns who lack the basic amenities of civilised societies- transport, sewerage, adequate roads, schools and health services. Our roads and highways- a disgrace by international standardswill get worse. Our bloated and inefficient cities will continue to sprawl unchecked. Land prices will go on soaring and social welfare and security programs like Medibank are under threat. The Prime Minister is on record as saying that life is not meant to be easy. With this Budget he is determined to prove himself right.
It is difficult to recall a Budget so nakedly preoccupied with material values. Anything that demands a measure of compassion or imagination is ignored, unless it costs next to nothing. The protection of the environment is downgraded. There is no concern for the special needs of women and children. Aborigines are relegated to their colonial status of outcasts unworthy of a government’s attention. The National Estate program, which aims to preserve all that is rare and beautiful in our wildlife and buildings and sacred places, is virtually abolished. I shall deal with these matters at more length, but the message is plain: Big business comes first in the Fraser Budget. People come last. The Prime Minister has tried to pretend that a few concessions to deserving groups- welcome as those are- make this a Budget of social reform. It is not. It is a Budget of big business, by big business, for big business. And even there its emphasis is misplaced and its economic strategy misguided.
The principle behind all the actions of this Government is that those most in need will get least and the wealthy will get most: ‘Unto everyone that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance ‘. It is the same with the business community as it is with everyone else. The wealthiest section of corporate enterprise- rnining- will get the greatest benefit from the Lynch Budget. The coal industry, which made profits of around $500m last year, will get a huge and totally pointless windfall from reduced export duties. There are gifts of tens of millions to the Utah corporation and other prosperous coal companies. The Government has already given $2 4m this year in investment allowances which have signally failed to stimulate investment. Shareholders are to be rewarded with further subsidised profits. There are generous tax loopholes for Pitt and Collins Street farmers. The Treasurer seems to believe that by throwing money to overseas companies and bolstering their profits he will stimulate economic recovery. It will not work. He will increase the profits of those companiesno doubt about that- but their interest in Australia will be merely as a source of profit. Their gain will be Australia’s loss.
On top of all this largesse to the wealthy, the Government’s frenetic appeals to wage earners to go out and spend have a hollow ring. A double burden is being foisted on the wage earner. He is being asked to tighten his belt and to accept lower wage rises, and he is being asked to spend his money on more goods. Liberal appeals to acquisitiveness always strike an ugly note, but in this case they make economic nonsense as well. It is one thing to spend money that we cannot afford; it is more difficult to spend money that we do not have. When will the Government realise that only by increasing real disposable incomes will we stimulate consumer spending? The Prime Minister cannot make up his mind whether saving or spending is the paramount virtue. In his speech on the Budget a year ago he extolled what he called ‘the incentive to work and to save’. Saving was the highest economic morality. He said of the Hayden Budget that it encouraged ‘living for today’. The Prime Minister now asks people to spend- to live for today. Living for today is just what the Treasurer ordered. Australians are told to spend their way back to prosperity by a Government that deliberately endangers their jobs, destroys Medibank, reduces their community services, takes cash from thenpockets and does everything possible to curb their wages.
The ostensible justification for all this muddle, this manifest self-contradiction, all this insensitivity, all these burdens on the Australian people- the justification of this Government’s whole economic strategy- is confined to a single word. Inflation. Reducing inflation is to be the sole objective of the nation’s economic strategy. It is not just one of a number of objectives and priorities- it is the only one. Unemployment does not matter; social welfare does not matter; depressed and needy industries do not matter. Only inflation matters. Yet what does the Budget say about inflation? It says that inflation will continue. The fact is that under the Labor Governmentthe Treasurer confirmed this in his speech- the rate of increase in the consumer price index declined by 0.8 per cent in the first half of 1975 and again by 0.8 per cent in the second half of 1975. It declined by a further 0.8 per cent in the first half of 1976. In other words, inflation has declined no more under this Government than it did in 2 successive half-years under Labor Budgets. The downward trend was already apparent. And if the trend had continued the increases in consumer prices in the coming financial year would be no more than 8.8 per cent. But the Budget admits the trend will not continue. The Budget envisages continuing inflation of 12 per cent in the year ahead. Certainly the admission is coyly phrased. The Treasurer refers in Statement No. 2 to a likely growth of 12 per cent in average weekly earnings and adds:
On that basis, the increase in the consumer price index . . . would seem likely to be of a similar order of magnitude.
That is how the Treasurer sheepishly puts it- ‘a similar order of magnitude’. Twelve per cent! And for this result- for an anticipated rate of inflation that will reverse all the trend of recent improvements- we are asked to accept all these social burdens and sacrifices. We are asked to make sacrifices which the Treasurer admits will not work.
When it comes to precise forecasts the Treasurer’s documents are extraordinarily vague. We pick our way through hesitations, qualifications, footnotes and missing figures- all helping to obscure the underlying meaning- the real message of stagnation. Statement No. 2 discusses the labour market. It does not say that employment is likely to grow by l.S per cent. It says that ‘growth appeares likely to be of the order of one to two per cent for the year as a whole’- but a ‘faster rate ‘ is possible ‘over the year’. ‘Over’ is emphasised. But it is not definite; it is only ‘implied’. I shall return to that puzzle in a moment. Here is another choice example. There is a table of payments to local government authorities. Footnotes inform us that in the areas of preschools and child care, the arts, sewerage and the National Estate, the departments and agencies concerned have ‘not been able to make estimates’. Even the aggregate figures of likely payments are described as ‘rough Commonwealth Treasury estimates’. Under the category of roads another footnote says: ‘It is not possible to show amounts under this heading. See text’. Under the aggregate total for 1976-77 there are 2 footnotes. One says these are ‘rough Commonwealth Treasury estimates’; the other that ‘payments for roads are not included- See footnote (c).’ Footnote (c) says: ‘It is not possible to show amounts under this heading.’ No wonder the Treasurer said in answer to me last Thursday that he did not want to be drawn into debate on these matters.
Far from stimulating the economy the Fraser Budget has merely stimulated the share market. The business concessions and handouts to miners were common knowledge 4 weeks ago. The important components of this Budget were revealed well in advance. No Budget has been more widely and accurately leaked to the Press. A speech prepared by the Minister Assisting the Treasurer (Mr Eric Robinson) and handed to the Press on 27 July stated that the Budget would contain concessions for the private sector. The cuts in growth centre expenditure were confidently forecast by the newspapers on 23 July. The on 26 July reported that the export levy on coal would be reduced. There were many other examples of well informed Press speculation but the concessions to the mining industry were more than that. They were predicted by the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) himself. In a speech to the Queensland National Party in Cairns on 30 July the Deputy Prime Minister referred to my Government’s decisions on the mining industry. He said:
Many of them concern taxation and related matters, which can really only be approached in the context of a Budget. The new Government has not yet brought down its first Budget. This will happen on the 17th of next month . . . We aim to bring in a Budget which will make a real contribution to an improvement in confidence, and I hope the mining industry will find itself able to share in that confidence.
It did indeed. Well before the Deputy Prime Minister confirmed the rumours of what the Budget contained speculators were making millions on share markets in Australia and overseas.
The Budget’s contempt for the unemployed is staggering. No one reading the Budget documents would guess that unemployment is the gravest social and economic problem in this country and is bound to get worse. There is no hint of a strategy to deal with unemployment. There are no short-term measures to relieve it; there is hardly any acknowledgement that the problem exists. There is certainly not a word of sympathy for the unemployed. They are still ‘dole bludgers’ in the mind of the Liberal Party. The Government hardly troubles to disguise that its policies will put more people out of work. Unemployment has become a deliberate objective. With masterful understatement last week the Treasurer declared:
There will be a gradual reduction in unemployment, although little of this reduction will be experienced during the course of this calendar year.
Little indeed! The Budget papers themselves say there will be ‘little if any’ improvement. In other words, unemployment will increase. The Treasurer has tried to obscure the lesson in his Budget documents and in his statements in this House, but he cannot hide the truth. The Treasurer estimates that employment will be l.S per cent higher this financial year while the workforce is expected to grow by up to 2 per cent. Whatever the effect of the Government’s present policies on unemployment- and they are bound to be disastrous- an increase is inevitable on the basis of the Government’s own analysis of the labour market. The Government is reducing its allocation for unemployment benefits by $33m. Why? Either it does not believe the universal predictions of worsening unemployment or it intends to reduce the dole or the number of those receiving it. Despite questioning in the House last week the Treasurer refused to say what unemployment was likely to be- even though he conceded he knew Treasury analysis and predictions. He withheld this information. We can only conclude that he did so because he knows that unemployment will grow, and the Treasury so analyses the position. He knows unemployment will get worse. It is intended to get worse. Life is not meant to be easy.
Whether the Treasurer admits it or not, the outlook for consumption and employment is bleak. Unemployment can be expected to rise substantially in the short term, with a resulting fall in consumer demand. Unfilled vacancies in seasonally adjusted terms dropped sharply between January and March this year. They have remained constant ever since. The prospect for those leaving school is just as sobering. Many students in times of high unemployment stay on at school because they know there is little prospect of work. But that cannot go on indefinitely. Sooner or later these students must come on the labour market. The impact of the Medibank levy and increased State taxes and charges and local government rates will reduce demand still more and lift unemployment further.
There is muddle and self-contradiction in every Government statement on the basic economic indicators. One minute the Liberals talk of an investment-led recovery, then increased consumption is the key. The Prime Minister stated in his policy speech in November that ‘a consumptionled revival would be fragile and shortlived’. Yet in his Budget Statement No. 2 last Tuesday the Treasurer said:
If consumption fails to grow there can be no recovery, simply because consumption is such a large part of total demand.
The Labor Party has put that view consistently. Is the Treasurer right or is the Prime Minister right? They cannot have it both ways. Presumably we are asked to believe that opposites cancel out, there will be no recovery at all.
There is confusion over anticipated growth rates. The Prime Minister in his policy speech promised a growth rate of 6 per cent to 7 per cent. The Treasurer’s Budget Paper No. 2 reduces this estimate to 4 per cent. The Treasurer admits on page 25 of Budget Paper No. 2: . . . domestic demand … is consistent with growth in gross non-farm product in real terms of about 4 per cent . . . This is not strong growth by the standards of previous recoveries . . .
By previous standards it is barely a recovery at all. In the Age on 13 August Mr Kenneth Davidson put the likely growth rate as low as 2.7 per cent; with the decline in farm output he could well be right. What the Treasurer is saying in the Budget documents is that anticipated growth will be little more than half what the Prime Minister promised, that inflation will continue at 12 per cent, and that unemployment will get worse. It is some recovery!
What then is the real motivation of this Budget- its real purpose? It lies in the personal obsessions of the Prime Minister. At the root of this Budget is an obsessive dislike of the public sector. No other explanation makes sense. The Budget is determined not just to retard or restrain public investment but to reverse it- to destroy the basis of the mixed economy, the foundation of prosperity in every comparable Western nation. The aversion to public spending is behind everything this Government does. It is keeping people out of jobs, because the Government will simply not spend public money on public works. It is holding back economic recovery. It is causing deliberate hardship as public spending programs are retrenched. It is behind the destruction of Medibank- the mulish determination to revive the multitude of private health funds when a single fund can do the job more cheaply, fairly, efficiently and honestly. It is behind the so-called new federalism- the attempt to shuffle off all national responsibilities and let the impoverished States take over our run-down community services.
The new federalism- the centrepiece of current Liberal dogma- is a shambles. Most of the States have already rejected it, and for a simple reason. Under the Fraser Government- and certainly under this Budget- they will be worse off than before. The Fraser Government’s objection to government spending is not confined to Federal or central government spending but to spending by the States and local government as well. It will not provide adequate services and programs itself and it will not allow the State governments and councils to do so. Labor provided substantial payments to the States in all of the 3 years we were in office- increases in payments to the States were 20 per cent in our first Budget, 50 per cent in the second, and 30 per cent in the third. The Fraser Budget provides an increase of 7.2 per cent, or on the best calculation 12.6 per cent, barely enough to maintain present inadequate standards. In fact the major States had already rejected the new federalism before the Budget was brought down. At an unprecedented joint Press conference on 16 July the
Premiers of New South Wales and Victoria, representing opposed political parties, sought an additional $74m in federal funds for this financial year. The Premier of Victoria stated, with some tact:
I don’t think Fraser federalism has been fully negotiated yet. What I would say is that the enlarged responsibilities restored to the States must be accompanied by sufficient financial resources to enable the job to be done.
Mr Hamer got his answer last Tuesday. He has predicted a harsh State budget for Victoria and disaster for the building industry- that was his word- if present policies continue. The Premier of New South Wales has said:
The so-called policy of giving States greater freedom to determine their own priorities is nothing less than a blatant lie. It is aimed solely at dumping costly projects into our laps and then allowing us to carry the brunt of the electors’ concern if we increase our taxes. The Fraser federalism policy has always been a sham, and this Budget proves it.
The heaviest retrenchments in federal outlays are in payments to the States. Funds for all capital works- schools, roads, hospitals, housing, sewerage- have been reduced by $127m. Funds for health alone have been reduced by $126m. The Commonwealth has welched on the Medibank hospital agreements and is manoeuvring to reduce the real value of its payments towards the operating costs of hospitals. Funds for building new hospitals are frozen. Funds for tuberculosis control will cease at the end of this year. Unemployment grants of $30m have ceased. Funds for Aboriginal housing have been reduced by $ 10m. There is no increase in welfare housing funds. Funds for growth centres will run out in a few months. Funds for area improvement in 13 local government regions have ceased. Funds for land development have been reduced by $2 9m. Funds for sewerage have been reduced by 70 per cent. Funds for the National Estate have ceased. There is no increase in funds for roads. No new programs for urban public transport have been approved. These are the reductions in grants by the Federal Government to the State governments. Funds for local government have been reduced by approximately $80m this year compared with last year, or $90m in real terms.
It is one thing to say that we cannot afford these expenditures now. What the Fraser Government is saying is that we can never afford them, and that handouts for business, for mining companies and superphosphate bounties are more important. The Hayden Budget last year was anything but profligate in sanctioning public expenditure. Government spending was pared to the bone, consistent with economic recovery. If the Government were genuinely concerned to cut public spending further why has it frittered away money in largesse to its friends and restored spending in areas that are manifestly trivial? Why is it proposing to spend $50m this financial year on the restored superphosphate bounty, from which the Prime Minister and half the Cabinet are personal beneficiaries? Why is it opening up costly new loopholes in the tax laws for Pitt Street and Collins Street farmers, again to the potential benefit of the Prime Minister and his colleagues? The cost of this extravaganceuseless to the vast majority of primary producers -is given as $2m this financial year, but it is certain to increase. What will be the cost of the Government’s window-dressing gesture in restoring school cadet corps- from which $ 12m was saved by my Government last year? Why is the Government handing $33m to wealthy coal companies in this year alone with a 25 per cent cut in the export tax? The Government has no idea of the ultimate cost of its handouts, concessions and allowances to business and multinational oil and mining companies. The cost of the tax concessions to mining companies is given as $60m in a full year. The cost of the investment allowances is given as $200m this year and $600m next year. The figure is no more than a guess; the concessions are open-ended. If we are to have cuts in spending at least let us have some rational priorities. Which is more important- the superphosphate bounty or money for. Aboriginals? Gifts to mining companies or money for urban transport? ‘ The Government will not admit that necessary public investment pays for itself in the long run. Consider its attitude to growth centres. The destruction of growth centre programs will be tragic in social terms and senseless in economic terms. It costs much less to settle a family in a planned growth centre than it does to provide the same roads, schools, housing, transport and sewerage in crowded or remote suburbs and towns. The ultimate cost to society is less. By scrapping Albury-Wodonga as a growth centre- to say nothing of the other centres- the Government is throwing money away. The commitment to Albury-Wodonga was made in January 1973 by the Premiers of New South Wales and Victoria and my own Government. It was embodied in a development corporation set up by the 3 governments. It was recommended by a body established by a Liberal Government- the McMahon Government- and headed by Australia’s leading planning consultant, Sir John Overall. The first annual report of the Cities Commission- a body derived from the National Urban and Regional
Development Authority established by the McMahon Government- stated in 1973:
If the cities of Australia continue to grow in their present way, the opportunity for the economic and social advancement of an increasing number of Australians will be severely curtailed. It is already apparent that sub-standard neighbourhoods are growing around the central cores of the major capital cities with many people living in conditions of poverty, poor housing, and a lack of social and recreational opportunities. Without positive Government intervention this urban decay will spread.
As a result of this Budget, the most successful and ambitious project for a new city ever attempted in Australia- the result of initiatives by 2 Federal governments, recommended by the best authorities, and supported by 3 governments from its inception- is to be virtually thrown away, and with it a public investment of more than $90m in Federal funds over the past 3 years. That is how the Fraser Government eliminates waste and extravagance.
For all its talk of waste and extravaganceoverutilisation’, ‘duplication’, ‘overlapping’ and so on- the Government has never produced an example of waste and extravagance that will bear examination. It cannot find one. The most recent attempt to do so concerned Aboriginals. The Budget is ruthless in its treatment of Aboriginals. My Government’s programs for the poorest, most deprived and most victimised people in Australia have been slaughtered with the same thoroughness once brought to bear against the Aboriginal people themselves. Expenditure in the Budget on Aboriginals is returned to pre- 1972 levels with an overall cut in real terms of 30 per cent. Any government that can budget for an 1 8 per cent reduction in health funds for people with the highest rate of infant mortality in the world is beneath contempt; but the tragic social implications of the Government’s policy are not all that concern us. I shall deal at some length with the Aboriginals because their treatment in this Budget perfectly illustrates the qualities of this Government- its dishonesty, its pitiless treatment of inarticulate and unorganised minorities, the underhand methods of the Prime Minister, his withholding of information, his abdication of the national Government’s responsibilities.
The treatment of Aboriginals is first of all a breach of election undertakings. It is the clearest and most blatant so far. The promise in this instance was given by the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott). In December 1975, as Liberal spokesman on Aboriginal affairs, the Attorney-General sent a telegram to Aboriginal leaders throughout Australia. I seek leave to incorporate the full document.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
Mr Bob Ellicott Liberal and Country Parry spokesman for Aboriginal affairs said today there would be no cuts in Aboriginal affairs Budget or in Aboriginal affairs programs. Funds will continue to be made available for housing, education, employment, health, legal aid etc. Pensions payable to Aboriginal people will not be cut and will rise automatically twice a year with cost of living increases. All available funds will be shared among Aboriginal communities on a fair and impartial basis. A Liberal National Country Party Government will support Aboriginal organisations such as the Aborigine Medical and Legal Services. It will hold an urgent inquiry into the role of the NACC to determine whether it can be given a more important role in Aboriginal affairs. Efforts will be made to increase the number of Aboriginal people involved in Aboriginal affairs. Employment and training schemes will be urgently investigated with aim of increasing job opportunities for Aborigines throughout Australia. Spread the word that there is absolutely no truth in Labor Party rumours about cuts in Aboriginal affairs Budget. Under a Liberal Country Party Government Aborigines will be better not worse off. Urge Aborigines to vote Liberal Country Party on 13 December. Full policy is following by mail. Best wishes.
-The most interesting parts of it read:
Mr Bob Ellicott Liberal and Country Party spokesman for Aboriginal Affairs said today there would be no cuts in Aboriginal Affairs Budget . . . Spread the word that there is absolutely no truth in Labor Party rumours about cuts in Aboriginal Affairs Budget. Under a Liberal Country Pan Government Aborigines will be better not worse off. Urge Aborigines to vote Liberal Country Party on 13 December. Bob Ellicott.
Again, the Liberal-National Country Parties’ policy statement on Aboriginal affairs in December 1975 listed four so-called ‘new initiatives’. The third was headed ‘Additional Funds’. After outlining the intention to establish an Aboriginals entitlement revenue account and an Aboriginals entitlement capital account, the policy document stated: … the accounts . . . will express both in name and in the magnitude of their resources our commitment to the view that the Aboriginal people are entitled to receive additional funds by reason of their past dispossession and dispersal.
So it comes down to this: The Attorney-General promised no reduction in funds and the Liberal policy speech promised an increase. What happened?
The Department of Aboriginal Affairs spent $ 139.5m last financial year. The appropriation proposed by the Government for this year is $11 1.3m. The funds sought for this year are therefore $28.2m less than those spent last year. Cuts of approximately $7m have also been made in the funding of the Department of Construction for Aboriginal education and health projects. The main cuts in the funding of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs cover grants-in-aid for housing, grants-in-aid for enterprises, land acquisition by the Aboriginal Land Fund Commission, and payments to or for the States. The housing cut is a massive reduction from the $ 19.3m expended last year to only $7.2m this year. Under my Government about 1 150 houses were provided last year. For the first time this was meeting the annual new demand and starting to whittle away the backlog. The total housing effort this year will be fewer than 500 houses. The backlog will again begin to grow. The cut for enterprises will be equally disastrous. It will jeopardise many of the ventures established on pastoral properties, in fishing, market gardening and the like. It will inevitably lead to unemployment of hundreds of Aboriginal workers at present employed on a continuing basis for the first time.
This is how the Fraser Government honours its promises. This is how it responds to the clearly expressed wish of the Australian people in 1967 that this Parliament should have responsibility for the welfare of the Aboriginal people. If it wants to abdicate its responsibilities it could at least get the States to do the job. The massive cut in payments to or for the States for Aboriginal purposes will mean heavy cuts in State sponsored Aboriginal projects as well. It is true that until 1967 the Constitution prevented this Parliament making laws or appropriations for people of the Aboriginal race in the States, but by an overwhelming majority in 1967 the Australian people determined that this should be a Federal responsibility. All this talk about federalism goes by the board in the light of the expressed will of the people 9 years ago on the question of Aborigines.
That is not the end of the story. Months before the cuts were confirmed in the Budget, the Prime Minister began to fabricate a justification for them. He leaked a document to the Press. The Prime Minister always condemns leaks by his colleagues, but he is adept at making them himself. On 18 May he entertained newspaper editors at the Lodge and justified the forthcoming cuts in the Aboriginal affairs budget by reading from what was described by the editors as a 2-page document. According to Press accounts, this document alleged that supervision by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs of the operations of Aboriginal housing associations was almost non-existent, that there was waste and extravagance, and that the housing associations at
Port Keats, Bathurst Island and Redfern had spent large sums for little result. The leaked reports were given prominence in the Press, particularly on the front page of the Sydney Daily Mirror on 20 May. The Prime Minister reiterated some of the allegations in his appearance on the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s Monday Conference on 24 May. The allegations were denied immediately by representatives of the 3 housing associations. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a letter to the Bulletin by Mr Hyacinth Tungutalum, M.L.A., of Bathurst Island.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
A savage libel
Your reference to the Bathurst Island housing program under the heading “Money misused on Aboriginal housing” is not only an outdated account of the program but is a savage libel against one of the most successful projects of its land yet undertaken.
Far from being a scandal, the program has been highly praised by such officials as the Major of Darwin, Dr Ella Stack. The progress is a source of great pride to the people of Bathurst Island, and an incentive to other Aboriginal communities.
It is true that about $800,000 has been spent on the program, but not to build five houses and partly complete another six. In the past year 30 houses, plus four staff houses, have been built. They contain three bedrooms and are cyclone proof, but still cost an average of only $25,000, more than $20,000 less than the new houses being built in Darwin.
You neared the truth in saying that they were to have been brick houses, but lapsed in saying they have turned out to be timber prefabs. To achieve an economic product the plans were altered to include two timber homes, as well as some brick and fibro homes. I reject any inference that my community has settled for some sort of shack. Unlike many homes built previously for Aboriginal communities, these homes have been built according to the choice of the Aborigines, and they are proud of their achievement, and happy to live in them.
Your premature publication of a confidential report may now cause suffering in Aboriginal communities by prompting a slackening of building activity through an ill-founded report.
It is a pity that the southern Press cannot get off the onetrack bandwagon on Aboriginal matters, and allow us the right to direct and judge our own progress.
-The 3 housing associations were in fact producing houses on a very competitive basis and, in the case of the Bathurst Island association, at a remarkably low cost per unit. It is reasonable to assume that the Prime Minister would have been made aware of these facts. Yet officially inspired denigration of the Aboriginal housing associations continued. On 12 June the Bulletin published an article by Mr
Peter Samuel about ‘stupendous waste and corruption’ and ‘gross negligence’ by the Department and ‘enormous misuse of taxpayers’ money’. These allegations were based on an alleged ‘preliminary and confidential report’ of the Hay Committee of Inquiry. The validity of the Bulletin article was promptly denied in a letter to the editor from the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) published in the Bulletin on 3 July. The Minister said that Mr Samuel’s article contained ‘many grossly misleading inferences and statements’, that Mr Hay’s report did not include the information attributed to it by Mr Samuel and that the allegations about the 3 housing associations were untrue. In an extraordinary footnote to the Minister’s letter, the editor of the Bulletin said:
Peter Samuel’s article was based entirely on a two-page report prepared for the Prime Minister. The senior official who provided it for the Bulletin on the authority of the Prime Minister said that the report was a preliminary extract from the full report on the administration of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs by Mr David Hay.
The Prime Minister was asked about his leaks in an interview published in the Canberra Times on 1 7 July. Mrs Gay Davidson asked him:
It was published recently that you had authorised the leaking of material from one department about, and to the detriment of, another. Is that true?
The Prime Minister replied:
Oh, there was some information in relation to housing, in Sydney, but I wouldn’t want to comment on where that information comes from. A number of matters were drawn to attention in a number of different ways. I think it’s widely recognised that there has been, in some aspects of Aboriginal housing, very expensive waste- large sums of money spent, but not many people housed as a result, and that’s a matter that we’re concerned to rectify. That’s one of the reasons why Mr Hay was asked to conduct his inquiry.
So, there we have the Prime Minister’s justification for his charges of waste and extravagance ‘I think it’s widely recognised’. That is what it all boils down to. No evidence is produced to support his statement. If the Prime Minister had any evidence he could have produced it and he would have been entitled to do so. Instead he had to fabricate evidence. He had to leak it in covert fashion to sympathetic journals. What a way to justify the Government’s budgetary policies- break your promises, leak phoney documents to the Press, and bleat about non-existent waste and extravagance. All this is done in order to abdicate responsibilities specifically conferred on the Federal Government by the Australian people. As for the report of the Hay Committee, presumably we are not going to see it. The only authoritative evidence on this matter is withheld from the public.
While the Budget takes $33m from Aborigines, it gives $50m in superphosphate bounties. But the treatment of Aborigines is only one test of the inhumanity and dishonesty of this Budget. It is the same story with women, children, migrants, pensioners- all disadvantaged people. Life was never meant to be easy for pensioners under the Liberals, but the Fraser Budget will make it harder. The Government’s claim that the increased expenditure on social security will improve social security benefits and welfare services is simply untrue. The increases in child endowment will be paid for by abolishing dependant tax rebates- that is, by a real increase in taxation. Pension increases indexed to the consumer price index provide no additional help for pensioners but simply maintain the old value of the pension. The Hayden Budget not only indexed and augmented the real value of pensions but also increased allowances. With one exception the Fraser Government has not increased any of these allowances, despite the fall in their real value. At least 60 per cent of supporting mothers, 30 per cent of widows and 40 per cent of invalid pensioners receive such supplementary benefits and need them to maintain their standard of living. The plight of supporting fathers is ignored, despite a recommendation of the Henderson poverty inquiry. Unemployed school leavers- the so-called dole-bludgers, victims of this Government’s economic policieshave had the real value of their benefits reduced.
The Budget shows a positive relish for kicking the underdog. Child care services for needy children and families will be curtailed. The Government had already reduced expenditure on child care by $9m in February and served notice that the Children’s Commission would be abolished. The Budget means a further reduction in child care services of 13 per cent in real terms. Funds for aged persons homes are cut by 45 per cent in real terms, despite a backlog of 25,000 homes for needy people. The amount saved on old people’s homes- $27.4m- is roughly what the Government has already spent this year on its ineffective investment allowances. Funds needed to give destitute and lonely men somewhere to lay their heads have been practically cut in half- a reduction of $1.6m. That is roughly what the Pitt Street farmers are budgeted to receive this year from their tax lurk. The Budget contains no funds for the social policy planning units established in the States to develop social welfare initiatives. It returns us to the old Liberal belief that social security means doling out money- and less money at that. We are seeing the end of all attempts to improve the nature and quality of social services, to meet unsuspected areas of need, to find new ways of helping people, and to find new ways of helping people to help themselves.
The Budget falls heavily on the hopes and opportunities of women. The Prime Minister’s view of women was given during the election campaign when he expressed the view that they might brighten up the Parliament. The Government’s view of women is expressed in this Budget. There are no funds to expand the child care program and to help women who have to work to make ends meet or to support husbands who have lost their jobs. Married women who want to train for better or more useful jobs have had their allowances under the National Employment and Training scheme reduced from $96 to $23 a week. Already the number of women in full-time training has more than halved- down from 5,244 in March last year to 2,18 1 in March this year. The Budget takes away all funds for women’s health centres and refuges for women who are desperate or abandoned. The future of these centres will depend on State governments. The Brisbane Women’s Centre is the first casualty in this area of the Government’s crusade against waste and extravagance. The Queensland Government has refused to fund it.
Life is not meant to be easy for the sick and infirm. Medibank is only one casualty of the Budget’s downgrading of health care. The Government has effectively frozen the development of health services in rural and urban areas and has reduced expenditure on health by $44m. At the same time it is budgeting $60m in a full year for its tax concessions to mining companies. Savings in health have been achieved by forcing 50 per cent or more of the population into private health insurance and abandoning Labor’s goal of ensuring equality of access to health services. The Fraser Government has allocated only $7 1.8m for community health facilities when $88m is needed to maintain current commitments. The program is being effectively dismantled.
Funds for school dental services are reduced in real terms. Funds for hospitals are frozen. The shortage of hospital beds in cities and country towns- especially Victoria- deprives millions of Australians of decent health facilities. Labor increased expenditure on hospital development by $77m to $I08m last year. The Fraser Government has allocated $108m again this year, but most of it is committed and makes no allowance for inflation. The building of hospitals in these areas will effectively cease.
Old people will find it harder and more costly to enter nursing homes. The Hayden Budget increased the value of nursing home benefits in November last to maintain the real value of this benefit. The Fraser Government will not increase the benefit despite the demand for nursing home beds and the widening gap between fees and the combined value of the old-age pension and nursing home benefits. Many old people will have to be accommodated in expensive hospital beds at a time when the Government is cutting back on hospitals as well. Nursing homes and public hospitals in Australia will continue to be scarce, expensive and dilapidated. The best health care will continue to be reserved for those who can afford it and who are lucky enough to live near it in the more affluent suburbs.
Life is not meant to be easy for migrants. They are among the poorest people and the least protected by the old system of health insurance. They will suffer most from the cuts in health services, the destruction of Medibank and the freezing of school dental services. Hospital building in areas with high migrant concentration will effectively cease. The child migrant education program has been absorbed into the Schools Commission for which there is no budgetary breakdown. Any increase in the adult migrant education program will be largely absorbed by the increase in the migrant intake, and the future of ethnic radio remains in doubt.
Life will not be easier for the farmer. For 3 years he has been the object of synthetic commiseration and breast-feeding from the Liberal and Country Parties. Not only does the Budget fail to alleviate the farmers’ problems; it practically ignores them. The new era for primary producers promised during the election has yet to dawn. Wherever the Budget makes a gesture to the rural community it is a development of a Labor policy. The increase in the wool floor price from 250c to 275c per kilo was announced earlier this year and continues a scheme introduced by Labor but at a marginally higher rate. With wool prices likely to improve the actual cost to the Government of this sample of its generosity will be nothing. In fact the Treasurer expects that the Australian Wool Corporation will repay loans to the industry of $240m funded under the Labor Government.
Carry-on finance for beef producers is another continuation of a Labor scheme. Last year Labor provided $ 1 9.6m in matching grants to the States to lend funds to beef producers at 4 per cent interest. All the Government has done is commit a maximum of $ 1 5m this year on a dollar for dollar basis with the States. As the earnings of most beef producers have worsened since this Government came to power its new allocation is miserly. Nothing was said in the Liberal-Country Party policy speeches about the removal of the nitrogenous fertilizer bounty, but a lot was said about other promises- a national rural bank, a scheme to lease farms to young farmers, longterm loans to fishermen, tax incentives, an animal quarantine station. None of these promises is mentioned in the Budget.
The same Liberal hypocrisy is apparent in the vote for defence. For 3 years the Liberals asserted that the Labor Government was running down our defences. In the Fraser Budget funds for defence have been effectively cut. Defence expenditure has fallen as a percentage of gross domestic product compared with the Hayden Budget despite a substantial increase in expenditure on capital equipment. Budget Paper No. 1 points out on page 3 that the expenditures on equipment ‘relate mainly to projects already committed ‘. A continuation of the Labor defence program would have involved an outlay of some $2,230m if last year’s estimates for expenditure on capital equipment had been fully expended. Budget Paper No. 2 discloses on page 5 1 a shortfall in actual expenditure on new equipment and stores of $23.4m, presumably a result of rescheduling payments. What would have happened if the Liberals had maintained Labor’s defence program at its existing rate? In that case, the defence estimates should have been of the order of. $2,250m. As it is, the manpower strengths of the armed forces have been frozen. A drop in the number of naval officers and junior recruits is proposed. There are severe cuts in advances to the States for housing servicemen. In last year’s Budget $40m was allocated for this item; the Government has kept expenditure to $34m. The construction of defence facilities has been effectively cut in real terms. If the Government sees a case for these cuts let it be honest and say so, let it admit it. Let it not pretend that defence will do better under this Government than before.
If the Government does little for the interests it considers deserving, how much greater is its neglect of the interests it has always downgraded. The real burden, the real vindictiveness, the most thoroughgoing contempt in this Budget is reserved for Labor’s programs for urban and regional development. It is partly because these programs were so distinctive a feature of Labor’s term that the Fraser Government is bent on destroying them; partly because their beneficiaries are not likely, in the short run, to be Liberal supporters. Yet in truth these programs are at the heart of our attempt to make the nation more modern, more congenial, more efficient, more competitive, more strong. I have mentioned growth centres in another context; our plans for urban and regional development embraced in the widest sense a whole range of policies for improving the environment, for improving roads, transport, the supply of land, sewerage and essential community services. All these programs are to be virtually destroyed.
It is disgraceful enough that the Liberals ignored these problems for 23 years. To abandon them now is to waste the enormous investment in money and energy made while Labor was in office. That is where the real waste and extravagance are found- in the destruction of a great national investment over 3 years. It is not my Government’s spending in these areas that constitutes waste; it is this Government’s failure to spend, its waste of money already spent. The real, built-in malignant waste in our society is in the time, money and human resources dissipated by sub-standard services and public amenities which no other affluent nation in the world will tolerate.
The high costs entailed in overgrown cities are beyond estimation. The longer we postpone essential services like sewerage the greater the ultimate cost and disruption of providing them. The longer we delay the building of necessary hospitals and health centres the greater the toll in sickness, rehabilitation and absenteeism. The longer it takes to get to work the higher the cost in industrial production and human efficiency. The more deprived and backward our cities and towns, the greater the rates of crime and mental illness. All this neglect and impoverishment diminishes the nation’s productivity, blunts its competitiveness as a trading nation and burdens its people with needless inconvenience and hardship far more drastically and far more expensively than industrial disputes.
No other country in the world has neglected these areas as wantonly as Australia. More than 85 per cent of Australians live in urban centres or towns with a thousand or more people. We are not dealing with a minority of people or a marginal problem or a passing fad. We are dealing with the conditions of life, work and travel for most Australians. No other federal nation- the United States, West Germany, Canada- is abandoning federal programs in order to reduce its federal deficit or deal with its economic problems. Every other country has had a recession; every other country has had high inflation; every other country has had a high deficit; every other country has had high unemployment. None of them has decided that the best way to reduce inflation and unemployment and end the recession is to attack the standards of its health services, transport, roads and civic amenities. What the Fraser Government is doing is making the recession- a recession prolonged by the Government ‘s own policies- an excuse for reducing living standards and pursuing an ideological crusade against public investment.
The Government’s cuts on public spending, which would normally be disclosed in the Budget, were announced with a flourish by the Treasurer on 20 May. The point of bringing the announcement forward was not to soften the impact of the Budget but ostensibly to give some early evidence of the Government’s determination to restore the economy. Twice this year, in February and in May, the Government has made dramatic and self-congratulatory announcements about spending cuts. It has fondly imagined that these would somehow impress the business community and get the economy moving. Of course they have not; the recession has got worse. Sluggish sales and idle factories are not caused by spending on roads and hospitals. Yet the Government goes ahead with its destructive retrenchments in the public sector. Funds for land commissions are practically wiped out, and with them the best hope of young Australians to buy housing land at reasonable prices. Funds for area improvement are scrapped. Funds for the States to house the neediest of our people are effectively cut by 13 per cent. Funds for sewerage are cut by 70 per cent. So it goes on.
Where in this Government is there any sense of urgency or concern for these national needs? In July 1974 the Minister for Transport in my Government estimated that it would take 10 years or more to develop our national highways to acceptable standards. The then Minister for Urban and Regional Development estimated in September 1974 that the sewerage backlog would take 8 years to overcome. How long does this Government believe it should take? Fifteen years, twenty years, fifty years?
The Treasurer made the following observation reported in the Sydney Morning Herald on Saturday:
More and more Australians are coming to understand that, one way or another, they must pay for the things they want.
Much can be said of that statement. It is not merely fatuous or banal in an obvious sense: it reveals the deep-dyed folly, the shortsightedness, the wrongheadedness of Liberal economic policy under this Government. The answer to it is this: More and more Australians are coming to understand that no matter how much they pay from their own pockets there are some things they cannot obtain for themselves. No matter how much a family pays it cannot buy a road, a school, a railway, a hospital, or a university. It cannot buy a decent environment. It cannot buy a playing field or a library or a national highway. Increasingly it cannot even buy a block of land. Yet these in truth are ‘the things they want’. This Government would have us believe that the sole test of our prosperity, the sole measure of our personal welfare and security, and the sole limit of our individual aspirations, is in having money in our pockets. Of course personal incomes are important, but no matter how much we have in our pockets we cannot buy the basic amenities that make for a secure and civilised life. Those are the things which increasingly this country is denying to its people; and they are the things which only governments can provide.
This Budget will make it harder for governments to provide them- not just now, not just this year, but for the future. The Fraser Government is weakening the means by which Australians can uplift their standards and the quality of their lives. This is a budget for social poverty. The man who has to travel 20 miles to get to work or to educate himself or to enjoy his leisure is the poorer for his isolation- poorer in the most literal sense by comparison with his fellows. The family that has no hospital in its neighbourhood, no sewer, no park, no university, is poorer than the family that has. As a nation we are all impoverished if these needs are not supplied. And the only way they can be supplied, the only way they have ever been supplied, in a nation with great disparities of wealth and distribution of population, is through the help of the Federal Government.
This principle was recognised in different degrees by all previous Liberal Governments- the Menzies Government, the Holt Government, the Gorton Government. The Fraser Government is the first government to overturn it- to reject a consensus in our national life which served the nation well for 30 years. The new federalism does not return us to the years before 1972 or even to the years of Sir Robert Menzies. It returns us to pre-war, to pre-federation years. The new federalism is in truth old federalismthe retreat from national responsibility, the retreat from nationhood itself.
We reject this Government’s philosophy for the private sector as we reject it for the public sector. In the private sector, the challenge for future governments is to restore employment and strengthen our industries in ways that are lasting and genuinely beneficial to society. We have to decide now what industries are worth keepingwhich ones are likely to be strong and productive in the years ahead. We have to identify the industries which offer most scope for employing our people and we have to build them up selectively with Government help.
That will be a task for the next Labor Government. It will require processing plants for our own minerals- not just to provide jobs but to augment the value of our mineral exports. Our future does not lie in protecting weak industries with higher tariffs but in encouraging industries for which there are continuing markets. And they are most likely to be industries based on our natural resources. Australia would be infinitely better served if half the money this Government is spending to encourage foreign companies to carry away our resources were spent on plants and factories to develop more resources in Australia. Throughout the sixties, investment was pumped fruitlessly into the production of goods which could only have been sold to Britain if she had been prevented from entering the Common Market. As recently as 1972 the Deputy Prime Minister was berating the British for going into Europe. Rather than blame the rest of the world for our problems, Australia must ensure that the resources worth developing and the industries worth keeping- the ones most likely to give secure employment and continuing prosperity to our people- are built up and strengthened, if necessary by government assistance or direct public investment.
Nothing I have said, nothing the Opposition advocates, denies the importance of our current economic problems. Ours is not a recipe for unlimited spending; it is a recipe for spending on the things that matter and for spending in ways that will help overcome our immediate difficulties. In present economic circumstances the public sector complements the private sector. We freely concede that recovery cannot proceed too rapidly. If that were to happen not the least of the problems we would face would be the kind of shortages correctly identified by the Treasurer. But the Budget is the wrong remedy for our current problems and the wrong remedy for our future needs. The severe cuts in the public sector do not amount to a blueprint for recovery. They are a design for stagnation. The whole thrust of this Budget strategy is to increase unemployment, sharply reduce disposable incomes and real incomes, and reduce community services. It will lead to nothing but a reduction in consumer activity and an undermining of general confidence and optimism in the community.
The central view of this Government, a view discredited elsewhere in the world, is that there is an inherent conflict between the public and private sectors. The Opposition rejects that view. We believe they must work together. In the thriving industrial democracies of the world the public and private sectors are more integrated than ever; more and more interdependent. The mixed economy is no longer challenged by those who would seriously attempt to ensure economic growth and social justice. The attempt to divide and rule society on the basis of conflict between the public and private sectors is rejected in other countries. It must be rejected in ours.
The Governments of the Federal Republic of Germany, of Japan, of Sweden, of Canada and of the United States have long since abandoned the notion that the national economy will inevitably be healthier to the extent that the private sector prevails as far as possible over everything else. Those governments ensure, not only that private enterprise prospers, but that individuals and families have a minimum standard of living and social welfare and that the private sector accepts its share of the cost of providing it. In the Federal Republic of Germany, where inflation has been held to 4 per cent now, public sector spending has risen during the last S years by an average of 5 per cent a year in real terms. The Japanese experience, characterised as an economic miracle, is marked by the most thorough interaction and co-operation between government and business. Public sector spending in Japan has continued to rise during the last 5 years by an average of 6Vi per cent a year in real terms. In Sweden the rise has been 4 per cent and in Canada 6 per cent. This Government is moving in the opposite direction.
We do not live in a land of milk and honey. We are not the lotus-land that a former Liberal Prime Minister described. We are no longer a particularly lucky country. Our living standards are falling; in important ways we are a less fortunate and prosperous society than other Western democracies whose national wealth and resources are incomparably less than ours. The effect of this Budget is to drive us further down the road of decline. And it will do so, not by depressing all our living standards equally, but by promoting a dual economy, a dual society, 2 nations- a minority of very rich, including a minority abroad who share in those riches, and a population at large for whom life is increasingly onerous, dreary and impoverished. We have seen the extreme consequences of this pattern in the diminishing group of countries where private capital still rules unchecked. In them the mixed economy no longer exists. The tiny minority of the very rich and the vast deprived majority of the people live in worlds apart. Public sector activity is inadequate. Governments are impotent. The interaction of the public and private sectors which has characterised the efforts and the success of the modern industrial democracies is not even attempted. This Budget puts Australia on that path.
There has never been a time when our isolation from the rest of the world carried with it more dangers, not from the imagined military threats which preoccupy and divide the Prime Minister and the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen), but from ignorance and insularity- a separation from the economic and social values which guide the free industrial nations of the northern hemisphere. This Budget- inadequate and misconceived as a response to our immediate problems, negative and destructive in its particular measures, class-ridden in the most profound sense- will drive us further apart from those nations where true progress and social justice are pursued. At this point in our history we can move forward with the advanced countries of the Western world in building a better and fuller life for our people, or we can drift into deeper stagnation, deeper poverty, deeper inequality and deprivation. The Budget has given us one course for our nation. The Labor Party and the Australian people will choose the other.
– Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment and reserve my right to speak later in the week.
-We have just listened to the first major policy speech in the House by the Labor Leader who led his Party to the greatest ever electoral disaster. After all that has happened tonight’s speech shows how little he has learned. Labor would do exactly the same again if elected to power. Tonight’s speech was very largely the same speech we heard in this House in 1970, in 1971 and in 1972. What was . the result of Labor’s 3 years in office? Did it help the weak? Did it increase employment? Did it build a stronger economy? Did it expand manufacturing industry, exports, mining or oil exploration? Did it help rural industry? What tears were shed tonight on behalf of the rural producers. The truth is that Labor has left Australia’s worst legacy of economic ills either negligently or deliberately, and its leader has made clear tonight it would do it again.
I just remind the House of a few statistics which are pertinent. Labor began its term in office with unemployment at 136 000 and ended with 328 000 unemployed. It began with an inflation rate of 4.5 per cent and ended with 14 per cent. That is the greatest rise since the Great Depression. Then we come to interest rates. As to the 10-year bond rate- these figures are from the Reserve Bank of Australia- Labor began with 5.8 per cent and ended with 10 per cent- a world record; the worst ever. Under Labor it has been made clear that spending would all go up again. It has been the same speech, calling for massive increases in expenditure. We have seen in the past the results of all that. Labor had its chance. What it needs are new policies and not old stale policies that cause distress and hardship to Australians. Australians are entitled to security.
The movement of this amendment by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) has become traditional. But this talks about pursuing a policy of unemployment. Who created the unemployment to which I have just referred? The amendment talks about abdicating Federal Government responsibility as though all government activity should be initiated here and none in the States. It talks about failing to institute selective, stimulatory expenditure to reduce unemployment- in other words, more gimmicks. Was it not the Labor Party shadow Treasurer who suggested in this House on 25 May that Labor would drop the investment allowance? There was no suggestion of that tonight, however. How about that for instituting collective stimulatory expenditure! What about the suggestion that the Government should drop sales tax by $500m? Did Labor do that when it was in office? Not a bit of it. The truth is that unemployment can be cured only by increasing the productive capacity of the country. The Leader of the Opposition assumes- and I believe this to be an important point- that increasing expenditure will increase employment, but may I remind him that in the Budget of last year expenditure was budgeted to rise 23 per cent and unemployment rose during that period. The truth is that the Government seeks to create more employment through expanding investment in the private sector of the community. It is quite wrong- and I believe the Leader of the Opposition knows it is wrong- to say that increasing unemployment is a deliberate policy of the Government or indeed that people on this side of the House are referring to all the unemployed as ‘dole bludgers’. I believe the truth is that Labor is basing its hopes on increased unemployment. Labor supporters want to see it because they believe that will give them an argument, an argument which at present they do not have because they are saddled with having caused this tremendous rise in unemployment, during their period in office, from 136 000 to 328 000. The Labor Leader said nothing tonight, I believe, in his lengthy address -
– Hear, hear!
– Well, generally too, I take the point of the honourable member, but I am speaking specifically about the deficit which the Government has repeatedly suggested is most important to our economic health and, of course, has sought to cut. What would be the result of Labor’s suggestion, of course, would be an enormous growth in the size of the deficit. It seems to me that the Leader of the Opposition has joined that school of economists- and there are somewho are suggesting that it does not matter how big that deficit is. May I remind the House that those members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development- the United States, Germany and Japan- which have largely cured their inflation or at any rate greatly reduced their rate of inflation have been pursuing the same policies that we are pursuing in this country, and indeed because they started the restraints some time ago, they have achieved low inflation rates already. But Labor is showing tonight that it is still spendthrift, wasteful, and reckless about spending, either because it cares nothing for or because it does not understand the effect that inflation has on the man in the street. It does not understand the need for a strong industry which in this country still provides employment for three-quarters of the Australian work force. A higher deficit would destroy all that. Furthermore, a high deficit means that the Government needs to raise more money. In doing that, of course, it is competing for funds and thus keeping up interest rates.
I said earlier that Labor’s record in relation to interest rates was extremely dismal. There was a rise in the long term bond rate from 5.8 per cent to 10 per cent in only 3 years. Of course, a large deficit leads to high interest rates; a low deficit, such as that for which the Government has budgeted, is a strong influence in achieving lower interest rates. Is that not important? Is not a lower interest rate a desirable thing, because it enables more consumer credit, it allows more people to buy their own home and, of course, it allows the private sector to invest more funds and to create more jobs? The report of the Reserve Bank of Australia, which came out last week, has done no good at all to the case of the Leader of the Opposition. Indeed, he has been severely hampered by the comments made by the Reserve Bank Board. May I remind honourable members that one of the members of that Board is a Mr Hawke, who, I understand, has some relationship with the Labor Party. He presumably endorses these remarks; he is a member of the Reserve Bank Board. Page 17 of the report states that the last quarter of 1975-76 saw a new firmness in the Government’s financial actions; the Board supports government restraint and absorption of excess liquidity. Page 37 of the report refers to a need for restraint. That is a pretty damning indictment of the approach of the former Government. Indeed, the Board rejects the notion that the Government could spend its way out of a recession with a larger deficit, which is the point I was just making, and points out the dangers to the exchange rate inherent in continued escalation of wages in line with prices.
An examination of the Labor Party’s record during its period in government reveals a long catalogue of economic difficulties, not to say disasters. I remind honourable members of the unprecedented transfer of resources from the private to the public sector and of the economic blunders of the 1973-74 Budget. At a time when dampeners should have been applied a huge spending program was introduced and an inflationary Budget was brought down. The pledge given in September 1973 in relation to interest rates was abandoned and a tremendous credit squeeze was put on the country. Honourable members will remember that a referendum was held on a wage-price freeze at the end of 1973. Fortunately it was defeated. It was just an economic gimmick. I remind honourable members of those extravagent outlays which we all came to recognise as a hallmark of Labor administration. As I have mentioned, there was unparalleled unemployment since the Great Depression. That was the fact of Labor Government.
The Leader of the Opposition spoke of an increase in income tax. An analysis of that makes the position clear. An examination of Statement No. 4 reveals that the increase in personal income tax is comprised practically wholly of these 3 items: A rise in the work force of VA. per cent; higher incomes of 12 per cent provided by the Conciliation and Arbitration Commissionthe honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) who is interjecting encouraged the Arbitration Commission on, a number of notable occasions to grant larger increases- and, of course, as is well known, a dramatic increase this year in child endowment rates in response to those many private welfare agencies which have been advocating that as the greatest area of need. Of course, the rebate for children is no longer taken into account as a deduction for taxation purposes, which has resulted in a swap around, if you like, of $700m. It is quite wrong to suggest that the rate of personal income tax has increased. Indeed, the Government has instituted tax indexation for the first time in our history; it has held the line against increases in income tax, because everybody knows that under the Labor Government income tax rates increased enormously as it allowed the inflation rate to take taxpayers into higher and higher income tax brackets. The Leader of the Opposition had little to say about indirect taxes. After all, it was his Government which increased indirect taxes enormously. This is the first Budget for many years which does not include increases in indirect taxes.
The Leader of the Opposition has suggested that the Budget is uncaring and that it hurts the weak. He used that sort of argument. What did the Labor Government do about implementing the recommendations of the Henderson Report?
-What the honourable gentleman says is quite right- nothing whatever. This Government, after being in office only a few months, has taken up one of the major recommendations of the Henderson report, namely that in relation to child endowment and the rental voucher system. It has really shown an interest in endeavouring to improve the lot of those who are genuinely disadvantaged. But the result of the Labor Parry’s policies, whatever the motive, was to reduce greatly the value of people’s earnings and savings, and that affected the whole community. It particularly affected the poor and those less able to force an increase in earnings, as can some of the militant trade union leaders. I say to the Opposition that the sort of eloquence that was put to us in past years by the Labor Party just cannot be accepted any more because of the results. The Labor Party’s efforts in endeavouring to raise expectations above the capacity to fulfil them has been exposed as false, because it distorted so much the position in relation to resources and caused hardship for many Australians. Indeed, I think that the whole approach this evening of the Leader of the Opposition was displayed by his demeanour and by the reaction of his own supporters, many of whom were absent from the chamber, asleep or talking among themselves. I was fascinated(Quorum formed) The honourable member for Port Adelaide only flatters me by interrupting my remarks by using the technicality of calling for a quorum. I was saying that we see in the speech of the Leader of the Opposition a desire to continue his extravagances of the past. The Government in its Budget has directed itself to the major issues facing the country today. I think it is notable that it has not resorted to the use of any gimmicks; there is no suggestion of wageprice freezes, Prices Justification Tribunals, social contracts, massive rent subsidies, food subsidies or industry subsidies, which have been tried in other countries and have failed. The Budget attacks the basic problem, namely inflation. Indeed, I question whether we should not come to a consideration of full abolition of the Prices Justification Tribunal, with its distortions and the massive paper work it requires from people. The unions have no confidence in it and I believe that they support it only for political purposes. It is clear from looking at the recent economic history of the OECD countries that they did not ever get to grips with anti-inflationary policies until they got their budgets and the monetary aspects of their economies under control. Once they did that, they made some impression on inflation. The Labor Party never had those things under control. In a short 8 months this Government is well on the way towards doing so.
The Leader of the Opposition showed again his lack of understanding of the policy of federalism. He made a number of mis-statements about it, which unfortunately I do not have time to take up. I point out that the States generally are getting an additional 24 per cent- a greater growth than the Commonwealth is giving to itself in its own Budget. Of course there will be mixed reactions to handouts to the States; there always have been. The Labor Prime Minister’s handouts were not greeted with cheers by all the States; nor would any Prime Minister’s be. The States have their own interests. Of course, the federalism policy is to maximise the States’ ability to carry out their own responsibilities and to share in the responsibility of accounting for the moneys involved. The States, like other sectors in the community, must share in the restraint necessary following 3 years of Labor high living.
The Budget has a number of notable points. Everybody has his own ideas about how the Budget ought to be improved in one way or another, but I believe that people in general know that what was in this Budget was necessary. Indeed, it was what the Fraser Government was elected to do. Let us consider how far reaching the Budget is. The tax indexation system, the lowering of the deficit, the holding of the public expenditure increase to the inflation rate in the interests of getting inflation down, the federalism aspects, the mining and other industry incentives for exploration and development which are to be renewed and which had been stopped, and the lack of increase in direct taxes- all these things will be of great benefit to this country. The Prime Minister stated this succinctly in an interview published in the Sydney Morning Herald in which he said: ‘For those who really want recovery it is virtually the only kind of Budget that is possible’. The Premier of New South Wales has seen the need to support it and he has proposed to do so. There are the beginnings of signs- stronger consumer preference, housing approvals up, stock inventories down, private investment up and indications of the savings ratio dropping- that the economy is on the way to recovery.
-Despite the generalised and slogan filled diatribe of the honourable member for Curtin (Mr Garland), I have absolutely no hesitation, in fact I act with the greatest fervour, in supporting the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam). The honourable member for Curtin raved about Labor’s years of reform but he substantiated nothing. I have no hesitation in supporting the statement by the Leader of the Opposition because this Budget is one of political conservatism, economic anachronism and bankruptcy, social heartlessness, elitism and cruelty. From the day this Government aborted our already conservative constitutional conventions so as to steal office, there has been no doubt that the Liberal-National Country Party alliance is one of political reactionaries; that the FraserAnthonyLynch triumvirate is the political wing of the capitalist class. This Budget proves beyond doubt that they are the political jack boot of big business, a jack boot that is mercilessly and successfully stamping into the dirt all who are without means. Their political leanings are not in doubt.
What I want to discuss tonight are the economic fallacies and social cruelty which go hand in glove with this reactionary Government’s political leanings. The absolute bankruptcy of the Lynch economic manifesto hardly needs any exposing because the Leader of the Opposition exposed it so adequately earlier this evening. In a time when he wants to stimulate business and thus the economy, the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) takes away from that sector the prospect of government contracts. While he is talking about consumer-led recovery, he deliberately eats great holes in real disposable income through the Arbitration Commission and health care costs. When only one area of the economy- government enterprise- can withstand the vicissitudes of the ill-fated and delicate notion of business confidence, he slashes it to the bone. It is clear that this man either talks with a forked tongue or is a simple-minded buffoon. Some of the Treasurer’s sentiments, or at least his words, may seem fine, but his actions belie them. I say to the Treasurer: ‘Beware of half truths, because you might have the wrong half.
Of course, we all expected a normal LiberalNational Country Party Budget- the usual cliches, the usual reactionary elitist stuff- but the Treasurer has gone further than this. In order to do so, he had to go back into time. I know that the grey men of the Treasury often are regarded as old and conservative, but surely we cannot blame them for the pre-Keynesian thinking that is so evident in this Budget. The Treasurer’s recent statements have all been to do with the need for a fillip to business and with the natural corollary that everyone else must tighten his belt. The simple facts are firstly, that the contractionary nature of the Budget will lead to vast unemployment because of the fall in aggregate demand, especially through a decline in consumer, government and business spending; and, secondly, that the whole rationale of the economic package does not attack the basic ills of the economy- that is, the structural imbalance caused by elements such as obsolescence, protection and multinational corporate activities. That the Treasurer’s thinking is positively archaic and pre-Keynesian is easily evidenced. The economic theories of J. M. Keynes may well be outdated, but it seems incredible that the man who controls the purse strings of this nation has chosen to ignore, fails to understand or is not acquainted with the thinking of the major economists who blow holes through the classical economic theories of the last century.
In 1936 Keynes argued in his General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money that the classical economics which had aided and abetted the world ‘s most severe depression simply stood in the way of, rather than explaining, the large scale unemployment and depression. These classical theories assumed that unemployment was voluntary; that people were unemployed because they demanded excessively high wages. In other words, these much discredited theorists used the phrases that have become hackneyed under our beloved Treasurer- the phraseology of the nineteenth century. Whether Keynes was arguing against the mindless utterances of Ricardo, Say, Adam Smith or Phillip Lynch, the fact is that unemployment exists not because of excessive demands for wages but because the demand for goods and services is too low. In other words, we have unemployment in this country because firms, people and now the Government are not demanding enough of the products that the labour force is capable of producing.
This raises 2 main issues: Firstly- this is a point with which I will deal more fully in this speech- that much of our production is irrelevant, unnecessary and wasteful; and, secondly, that the level of demand is way below the optimum. In such circumstances, it seems absurd that the Treasurer is taking steps to reduce aggregate demand rather than to give it the necessary boost. Although the honourable gentleman uses economic terms with gay abandon it seems that he has only the most meagre knowledge of them. For his benefit and that of his lackeys opposite I shall explain them in the most simple terms possible. Aggregate demand comprises consumer spending, private investment and public investment. Let us look at these in turn. Consumer spending must inevitably decline because of the inroads that have been made on personal disposable incomes. With 2 arbitration decisions denying proper wage adjustments and the added cost of health care the consumer’s purchasing power has taken a battering.
Despite the so-called ‘lollies’ to business, private investment must also inevitably decline for not only will there be a slackening of consumer demand as a result of falling incomes but also more importantly the loss of contracts, due to slashing of government current and fixed capital expenditure, will have far-reaching multiplier and accelerator effects throughout the economy, perhaps taking unemployment to the amazing, not to say frightening, level of 10 per cent in the new year. Surely this is simple enough for even the Treasurer to comprehend. More expenditure means more jobs. But of course I am overlooking one thing: The Treasurer does not care about unemployment. Unfortunately he does not understand that a fully employed labour force is an intrinsic part of economic prosperity. The fact is that investment or expenditure on investment goods like machines, factories and houses, has the multiplier effect of creating jobs both directly and indirectly. It can be private or public expenditure but it must be public or government initiated.
When there is a large shortfall of this sort of expenditure from the private sector the Government simply must invest in public works. To pull out so private enterprise may take up the slack assumes firstly that private enterprise will react; secondly, that it will react quickly enough and, thirdly, that it will react in areas beneficial to the nation. Even the most timid cynic would have to say that the amorphous, irrational and selfishly motivated group which we call ‘business’ cannot be relied upon for such purposes. The effect of reversing the Labor Government’s public spending initiatives at a time when other areas of aggregate demand are depressed is economic madness.
Look at the building industry in New South Wales, for example, where we have the deepest crisis seen for decades. Even the Executive Director of the New South Wales Master Builders Association has been forced to condemn the Government, describing its refusal to provide funds for building as ‘nothing short or reprehensible ‘. That is a hackneyed phrase of the Government. According to the Sydney Morning Herald of 3 August, Colin Bignall, President of the Building Trades Group of the New South Wales Labour Council, warned that the fall-off in trained workers would cause standards to fall and costs to rise in the next few years. He was commenting on Bureau of Statistics figures showing that the total workforce on New South Wales building sites had fallen from 58 506 in March 1971 to 38 502 in March this year. There is also a drastic and increasing shortage of building apprentices undergoing training. But still the Government slashes away because of its misguided obsession with public enterprise.
In all sorts of areas this Budget has overlooked the potential of government-led investment as a stimulant to economic activity. It has slashed the allocation for growth centres by 54.2 per cent, land councils by 53 per cent, sewerage by 56 per cent, old people’s homes by 29 per cent, housing by 6.7 per cent, the Area Improvement Program by 96 per cent and has ripped into areas like aviation, transport, shipping and tourism- all areas where government spending acts as a fillip to the private sector.
I turn now to the earlier point I made, that the Budget just does not come to terms with the basic ills of our economy. There are 3 closely related factors: Firstly, there is a fundamental structural imbalance which is the result of a misguided tariff structure and trade policy and adverse international price movements; secondly, the growth and influence of multinational firms; and, thirdly, associated with these 2 factors has been the development of technological growth and obsolescence. Evidence of these 3 forces is manifested in both primary and secondary industry in such non-linked activities as dairying and car manufacturing. Due to restrictions on the size of both the domestic and international markets neither of these industries should exist at their present size. But due to the ability of their various political pressure groups to persuade governments to maintain unrealistic tariff protection, sales tax and extensive subsidisation they have been encouraged to expand and develop expectations out of all proportion to economic reality. As a result they have been at once both the cause and the victims of a cost-price spiral which not only has inflationary implications for the economy as a whole but has also severely damaged their own economic viability. While this fundamental structural imbalance exists social value, which should be the key to production and efficiency tests, pales into insignificance.
The need to test efficiency in terms of social value is no new notion. In fact, like the Treasurer’s economic thinking, it gained currency before the great works of John Maynard Keynes. Such theorists as J. R. Eldridge made points in the 1920s that are relevant to our present situation. He was concerned that there could be no such thing as efficiency in anything which does not minister directly, constantly and effectively to the living needs of human beings. As was the case in the 1920s, the Treasurer should be addressing himself to questions such as: Why should a community possessed of abundant natural resources, which urgently needs commodities to satisfy the necessities of life, allow willing workers to become unemployed, to remain unemployed and to suffer all the horrors of privation, disease, degradation and human despair and death? If he were to look at such a question he would draw the inevitable conclusion that the cause is a basic and fundamental imbalance in the economy which he has so ineffectively tried to patch up.
With reference to the second factor I mentioned earlier, the growth and influence of multinational corporations since World War II, we can see the manifestation of Marx’s concentration and centralisation of capital. Fundamentally this has meant not only the growth of corporate states beyond the control of the nation state but also as seeing the ability of these firms to influence greatly governmental policy in their own favour. Inflationary consequences of the activities of multinationals in such areas as. currency, speculation, repatriation of profits, monopolistic price-fixing and demand manipulation are obvious. The third factor, technological obsolescence, is a little less tangible but nevertheless has had a considerable effect upon inflation and unemployment. A rapid growth of technology requires rapid adjustment of employees’ skills and the decline in the number of unskilled jobs has made the lot of the untrained worker much more difficult. When he loses his job he may well fail to find another, particularly if he is over 40 years old. No matter how well equipped one is at age 25, in another 20 years one is likely to be partially obsolete- unless one is a Liberal politician.
Many skills become completely outdated and unneeded. Similarly with capital development of Australian industry, much plant, equipment and methodology of production is obsolete. This has resulted in an excessively high cost structure by international standards and has clear inflationary consequences. The Australian economy is clearly in need of fundamental reorganisation. This may come in one of two ways: Either it will come as a direct result of government-initated reform of the economy or it will come as a result of an economic depression from which only the strong and the viable will emerge. Under the unenlightened administration of the present Government the first alternative seems out of the question. The second may become a reality, but what worries me is that the callous lack of concern shown for unemployment by this Government appears to me to mean that it is actually promoting such a situation.
Before concluding I must state the obvious to this House and to the electorate. Apart from the economic madness of this Budget, the social implications are of a most sinister kind. I believe that the attitudes of the Government to social deprivation and need can be summed up by looking at its priorities. In a year when the profits of Comalco Ltd doubled in 6 months that company becomes the recipient of tax concessions, whereas with one-third of all Australian Aborigines unemployed, the Budget allocation for Aborigines is cut by $33m. What sort of heartless men run this Government? Everyone knows that they are the representatives of capital, but are they completely devoid of a sense of social justice? How can the back bench members of the Government parties be so cynical and cold as to allow overseas aid to be cut, migrant education to be murdered, health care to be mutilated and schemes for the aged and the unemployed to be rendered almost useless? What an uncaring, elitist group they must be. Why is it that only one Government supporter has openly criticised the deal the Aborigines are getting? Does not one Government supporter have the guts to say that migrant kids have the right to be educated for more than the most menial tasks? What about the attack on pharmaceutical benefits and tuberculosis programs? This Government stands exposed as the most elitist, cruel and deludedly business oriented in our history. It has set this nation irretrievably on a path of economic ruination and social mutilation. Unsubstantiated waffling about economic responsibility and major social reform changes nothing. The Government is presiding over chaos and despair.
-The honourable member for Batman (Mr Garrick) finished his verbiage by saying that the Government is presiding over despair. At the outset, I agree with him; it is despair at the 3 years of government that were served up to us by the Administration of which he was part The amendment moved this evening by the caretaker Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) begins by stating:
The House condemns the Budget because-
I will not go into the ‘because’, but I think there is a song that goes: ‘We have heard it over and over and over again’. We heard it in the time leading up to 1972 -
– You cannot sing it.
– The honourable member cannot sing over there. He can do a lot of talking. We heard that phrase in 1972. On 2 December of that year the destruction that the policies of the Labor Party have caused started in Australia. I rise to support the Budget Speech by the Treasurer (Mr Lynch). I take the opportunity of congratulating him on giving the Australian people the first real chance in 3 years to see economic stability return to our great nation. During the past 3 years the former Labor Government produced 3 Treasurers, two of whom were sacked. One of these Treasurers did not even get to the barrier. That was the honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns). They gave us three of the most ill-conceived, anti-business, highly inflationary Budget disasters that this country has ever seen. The honourable member for Batman called the Liberal Government the jackboots of the business world. At least when we place our incentives in the right direction- the direction of the business community which employs 75 per cent of the work force- the unemployment created by honourable members opposite will be reduced. Members of the former Labor Government are the jackboots of the trade union movement and they are the ones who put such great emphasis on the public sector that it resulted in the almost total destruction of the private sector.
– Take you hands out of your pockets.
– I am sorry, I did not realise I was in school. I apologise to the honourable member. Fortunately the Australian people and free enterprise got a reprieve from the insanity of the former Administration. On 13 December last year they chucked the Labor Party well and truly out of office, and elected a Liberal-National Country Party Government with a mandate to get Australia back on to sound economic ground and to run the country as managers and not as amateurs. The economic measures announced by the Treasurer on 20 May this year, together with the steps taken in this Budget, will see a return to economic stability and a much needed growth in the private sector, resulting, I might add for the benefit of the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) who is trying to interject, in more job opportunities and thus a reduction in unemployment.
Opposition members interjecting-
– Let me in simple terms explain the main strategy of the Budget to honourable members opposite who are trying to interject. They might be interested in it. Firstly, it is designed to eradicate the terminal disease of inflation. Honourable members opposite might accept that. Secondly, it is designed to reduce government or public sector spending and give incentives to private enterprise to expand and to employ more people. Thirdly, it is designed to reduce the Government tax bite so as to strengthen company profitability, boost business confidence and reinforce wage restraint. Fourthly, the strategy of the Budget is designed to reduce the deficit and thus moderate the increase in the money supply. Finally, it is designed to continue the Government’s program and election commitment of social reform.
I now turn to a most important aspect of that strategy- the reduction in the rate of inflation. If honourable gentlemen opposite listen they may learn something, although I do not guarantee that they will. Inflation is a disease that continued to breed and increase under Labor’s socialist philosophy. The Opposition believed when it was in government, as it does now, that profit and free enterprise are evil words. It forgets that the revenues raised by governments from direct and indirect taxes in the private sector give governments the money needed to finance education, social welfare, health, roads, sewerage and so on. That is where the revenue comes from. It is not manufactured, although the Opposition with its multiplicity of Treasurers seemed to think that it was a question of turning the printing presses. I think it was called pump priming. Maybe after this evening’s effort by the caretaker Leader of the Opposition we could expect to see that happen again if the Labor Party were returned to office. What I have just said says nothing of the job opportunities that are created by private enterprise.
– You reckon this bloke is a oncer?
– I am not a oncer. The honourable member for Wills who interjects will find that I am a lifer. I assure him of that. Let me give a simple comparative example of what happened to the rate of inflation under Labor compared with what happened under the last LiberalCountry Party Government.
– It cannot be compared.
– My colleague says that it cannot be compared. Let me take the example of a Holden Kingswood sedan, the Australian car, the worker’s car-at least it was until Labor came to office. At 31 December 1969 the Australian worker’s car could be bought for $2,488. Then 3 years later, on 3 1 December 1972, it cost $2,985. Under the Liberal-Country Party Government, in 3 years there was an increase of 20 per cent in the price of the Holden Kingswood sedan. Let us now look at what happened under 3 years of Labor. At 31 December 1975 that same vehicle cost $4,573, a staggering increase of 53 per cent under Labor’s dynamic, tremendous economic management, What has happened to the price of petrol that we put into the Australian worker’s car? Using the average Adelaide price, the price of a gallon of super grade petrol cost 42c in December 1969 and 48.1c in December 1972, an increase of 1316 per cent. In December 1975 a gallon of super grade petrol cost 69.5 c, an increase of over 44 per cent.
– How much?
– I will repeat it for my colleague. In December 1975 a gallon of super grade petrol cost 69.5c, an increase of 44 per cent.
– What happened -
-The honourable member for Wills continues to interject. He probably drives a Mercedes and does not care about the price of petrol, but the Australian people do. When Labor took office in December 1972 the annual rate of inflation was 416 per cent, yet in the following years we saw staggering rates of inflation of 13.23 per cent in 1973, 16.25 per cent in 1974 and- wait for it- 14.05 per cent in 1975 when Labor went out of office. It is unbelievable but it is true. The money managers! These money managers are managers of disaster. We have had to sit here tonight and listen to the agonising whingeing and whining from the Opposition about the shortcomings and faults in this Government’s Budget. I say to honourable members opposite: ‘You had your chance, and you muffed it’. Whom does inflation hurt? It hurts those on fixed incomes.
– It hurts all of us.
– As my colleague says, it hurts all of us. As he will hear, it hurts more than just members of this House. It hurts superannuitants, pensioners, the retired, those fortunate enough to have some savings in the bank, the charities, the poor and the under-privileged.
– And your mother-in-law.
– It is a wonder the honourable member has a mother-in-law. It is a wonder he has not been disowned. It hurts the people about whom the Opposition purports to be concerned.
This Budget is designed to reduce inflation and to give help to those groups of people and enterprise which need it most. In simple terms, it is designed to help all Australians. We have heard honourable members opposite yahooing and making a lot of noise about unemployment. Well they might. They were the architects of the greatest unemployment this country has known since the Depression. They were the executioners, the prophets of doom. Now they show concern. What utter hypocrisy. They have not yet learnt that inflation and unemployment go hand in hand. When the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) was Treasurer he said he understood. I am sorry that the honourable member for Wills is leaving the chamber. I thought he might have been concerned. I assure him he can read it in Hansard tomorrow. When the honourable member for Oxley was Treasurer he said he understood what inflation was all about. Let me quote from his Budget Speech of 19 August 1975:
Our present level of unemployment is too high. If we fail to control inflation unemployment will get worse.
He failed, and dismally. (Quorum formed) I thank my colleague the honourable member for Sydney (Mr Les McMahon) for calling the quorum. I note that only two of his colleagues were present when he did so. I realise how important my speech is to the people of Australia. I note the number of my colleagues on the Government side. Inflation, unemployment and the things that concern the people of this country are insufficient to attract the attention of more than a handful of members of the Opposition. We on this side of the House are concerned, as the 1976-77 Budget shows. When I was interrupted I was quoting from the speech of the honourable member for Oxley when he was Treasurer last year. I again quote from that speech:
Today, it is inflation itself which is the central policy problem. More inflation simply leads to more unemployment.
The honourable member for Oxley is to be congratulated for having at least some understanding of the problem of inflation and its effect on unemployment and the living standard. His closing remarks in delivering the 1975-76 Budget Speech were:
If inflation is to be curbed -
Remember these words:
If inflation is to be curbed there are no soft options- only a choice between more or less difficult ones.
-Who said that?
– That was said by the former Treasurer, the honorourable member for Oxley. He continued:
For our part, our hope is that with a community appreciation of the need for restraint, we can make a real start on getting inflation under control and further raising living standards for everybody.
They are not the words of Government members today; they are the words of the Government of yesterday. Yet honourable members opposite would stand in this House tonight and condemn the Budget that has been presented. The ideals which were incorporated in the speech of the then Treasurer are incorporated in this document. We are concerned about inflation, and we are concerned about unemployment.
For our part, this Budget shows restraint. It is designed to reduce inflation to less than double figures, thus creating job opportunities. This Government has shown restraint in the Budget by increasing outlays by only 1 1.3 per cent when compared with the outlays for the previous year. We had the sordid story of increased outlays of 22 per cent and over 46 per cent in 1974. Notwithstanding the relatively small increase in this year’s Budget, it has given to the private sector incentives to invest, to expand and to employ as well as to retain reasonable profits. It places emphasis on those areas of social justice that are the most needy. It gives real increase in dollar terms in such priority areas as defence, which is up by 17.6 per cent, education, which is up by 15.3 per cent, and social security and welfare, which is up by 23.5 per cent. So the list goes on. We talk about local government. There is a $140m increase, an increase of 75 per cent when compared with the figure for 1975-76, for local government. As far as money for the States is concerned, is not $3, 176m an increase of 21 per cent on the figure for last year? I am sure that members of the Opposition are not so poor in their arithmetic as to make the mistakes that they made this evening. I would not suggest that they were stating untruths, because that would be unparliamentary. However, I suggest that they do their arithmetic all over again.
These increases in expenditure do not require any additional burden on the taxpayer for funding; quite the contrary. For the first time for many years there is no increase in either direct or indirect taxes. Members of the Opposition must have been quite shattered last Tuesday evening- I am quite sure they still have not recovered- when they realised that all their verbal garbage during recent months, particularly during the last election campaign, about cuts that the Liberals would make in pensions, education and social welfare- (Quorum formed). What a sham it is when the Opposition consistently calls quorums and only one, two or three of its members come into the chamber. Honourable members opposite do not even know the meaning of free speech. As I was saying before I was interrupted, the Opposition has not recovered yet from the stories it was telling about the cuts that would come in the Liberal Budget. Its diabolical stories concerning indirect tax increases which would come in this Budget and which would burden the public became so convincing that the Opposition almost had me believing them. It is a shattered and demoralised Opposition which sits behind a leader who is only wanning a seat for the leader of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Mr Hawke. It has no answer to this Government’s Budget and this Government’s economic strategy. The pathetic attempt by the Leader of the Opposition tonight -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drummond)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– It is unfortunate that honourable members opposite should so easily accept a Budget which will do so much damage to so many people.
– Tell us about how the pensioners are suffering.
-I suggest that the honourable member, who is out of his seat, find a seat somewhere in the House. He will not have one long if he supports this type of Budget. I wish to draw attention to some of the remarks which have been made around the country -
– I think I preferred Gough.
– I notice how well the honourable member is doing with respect to the gold subsidy! Let me point to the remarks made around the country by various members of the Government Parties and the platitudes we hear from them designed to pacify the people.
– Hawke might have your seat.
– He tried that once. He did not make it. Honourable members opposite have talked about the need for an increase in the skilled work force. I agree. But their Ministers have stated that they will be withdrawing assistance to apprentices. Their Ministers are saying that the States should increase payroll tax by one-half of one per cent, which has the same effect as increasing wages by one per cent as far as costs are concerned, to pay for apprenticeship training.
The Government has withdrawn support for the training of apprentices in general trades within its own instrumentalities. One Minister while overseas suggested that we would have to import tradesmen because we were not able to produce them in Australia. The facts are that the Government is not prepared to support the training of tradesmen and has curtailed substantially its own activities in this area at a time when juniors are readily available for such training. Recently in New South Wales applications were called by Telecom Australia for trainee technicians. For about 45 positions 2000 applications were received. The school which conducts the training is capable of taking in excess of 200; but the Government, of its own volition, decided this year on an 87 per cent cut in the intake of trainees. The Government also has cut back apprenticeship training within Telecom in Western Australia. So the blame for any crocodile tears about the lack of skilled tradesmen can be sheeted home directly to the present Government and its attitudes. This afternoon we heard from the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street). His title must be the greatest misnomer ever. It is a misnomer when a Minister whose major responsibility is to deprive people who are unable to find jobs of unemployment benefits calls himself a Minister for Employment. I suggest that this is something at which the House ought to look. If he called himself the Minister for Unemployment he might well be accurate. The only thing he is able to say is that if people were prepared to work for nothing there would be plenty of jobs. That is the end result of the Government’s policies.
The Treasurer (Mr Lynch) said in his Budget Speech that there had been no increase in indirect taxation. That was misleading the House. The charges which are to be levied under this year’s Budget to cover the cost of Medibank are direct and indirect taxes and cannot’ be classified otherwise.
– It is a good Medibank scheme, though, is it not?
-I do not think so. The costs of Medibank to the consumer will add up in 3 different ways to approximately $ 1,000m, either in the form of revenue received by the Treasury or in the form of income forgone by the community. Firstly, about $350m will be collected directly in the form of the Medibank levy. An equal amount will be paid to hospital benefits associations- and compulsorily paid. It will not be a freedom of choice operation. The free enterprise government is compelling people to move into the private insurance area.
– You can choose between Medibank and private insurance.
-It is still in the private insurance area. The other Government action in this area concerns tax concessions which previously applied to payments to hospital benefits associations. They are no longer available. The documents attached to the Budget show that in the last year mentioned, 1973-74, those concessions involved $35 1m in revenue forgone by the Treasury. So, in total $ 1,000m additional income which was not previously available will be available to the Treasury as a result of a Budget which the Treasurer says does not include increases in indirect taxation.
I want to deal specifically with some of the problem areas in which I believe the Government has deliberately failed to meet commitments it gave to the electorate. We have heard much talk about the size of the deficit. I notice that there is an argument about $ 1 ,000m, but the economists can argue that out. Possibly whoever wins will tell the Treasurer what the correct figure is. Certainly there is no magic amount of deficit which should or should not be achieved in one year. I suggest that at present the economy is more likely to require stimulus than a restriction in credit, which would appear to be the outcome of this Budget. The only areas in which the Government is seeking to provide direct stimulus are those which are most profitable and least likely to create employment opportunities. If the mining industry -
– The mining industry is a big employer of labour.
– No, it is not a big employer of labour, and it is not likely to be. Manufacturing industry is the only very substantial employer of labour, besides the tertiary areas, which the Government has decided will be reduced or almost completely cut out. Increased income from the mining industry has the effect of reducing the opportunities of manufacturing industry within Australia because of the pressure it brings through the balance of payments situation for an increase in the amount of imports allowed into Australia. I will refer to one particular industry. In the last 3 years in the motor car industry the balance of payments difference has gone from a deficit of $92m to a deficit of close to $500m as a result of the changed pattern of vehicles available on the Australian market- Australianmanufactured vehicles compared with imported vehicles.
I am seriously concerned at the Government’s cutbacks in programs which were designed to give some relief to those areas of Australia where normal employment balance is not able to be achieved. I talk of the provincial areas and country areas. In provincial areas it is not unusual for one or two industries, usually in the manual areas, to dominate the employment scene. There is almost always a deficit in employment for people in the clerical and administrative areas, especially for juniors. With the advent of increased education, job expectations in that area have grown but the job opportunities are available only in the capital cities, with the result that there is a buildup of pressure on young people to leave the provincial and country centres, to move into the cities, to leave their families and thus to be lost forever to those areas. This creates pressures on the communities in the capital cities which they are not capable of meeting. The urban sprawl of Melbourne and Sydney especially is evidence of that incapacity.
Programs, which were initiated by the previous Government and which have virtually been discontinued by this Government, to provide the amenities of life to people who have been forced into the capital cities and who are rearing families in those cities were stop gap measures which at best were unsatisfactory. The programs which existed and which were developing to provide employment opportunities in the areas where these young people were born and educated are a better and, in the long term, more useful purpose for expenditure of funds by government. In the Geelong area- the proposal to make it a growth centre has now been discontinued- a number of direct decisions were made to place in that vicinity government instrumentalities which would have provided employment opportunities and which would have developed other employment opportunities as a result of their placement in that area.
I mention the National Animal Health Laboratories, which have again been deferred. I am surprised that National Country Party members have not raised this matter in the House. The deferral means that primary industries, especially the beef industry, are placed at risk from exotic diseases. Our quarantine laws, especially in Western Australia, should be looked at seriously. The policing of those quarantine laws under the previous and present governments in that State is far from satisfactory. I would suggest before the honourable member for Perth (Mr McLean) shakes his head that he talks to his colleagues from Western Australia who will understand what I am talking about. If an outbreak of an exotic disease takes place it will cost those industries several thousand million dollars. We are delaying providing ourselves with protection against that sort of loss by deferring the commencement of the building of facilities to produce the necessary virus serums. It has been put off as a money saving measure. I believe that that is almost criminal in that it neglects the urgent need of Australia to be selfsufficient in virus serums to counteract any outbreak of exotic animal diseases. I do not believe that the amount of money involved- it would most likely represent about $ 10m or $ 12m in the first year- would be badly spent even if it were as insurance in that area.
The other areas are matters of decision by governments. The proposal to relocate Public Service departments outside the capital cities was one which was taken as part of a development program. I point out just how difficult it can be in a provincial area- I suggest that all provincial areas in Australia are similar to Geelong, the one I cite- for young people with some degree of education who are seeking employment. I also point out that these young people are those who are generally labelled dole bludgers, who on leaving school this year will be denied access to unemployment benefits for six to eight weeks.
– Do you call them dole bludgers?
-No, I do not. They are generally called dole bludgers by people who wish to absolve their consciences from responsibility or who wish to find an excuse for not caring about their problems and plight.
– Some of them are.
-The honourable member says: ‘Some of them are’. I am sure that he can find fewer of them than he suggests. I would strongly recommend to him that he go to one of the Department of Labor discussion groups for young people and see the psychological damage and the damage to the morale of these young people that that type of term creates.
– That term is not applied to those people.
-You cannot fire a shotgun into a crowd and then apologise to the people you hit on the basis that they were not the ones at whom you were aiming. The term is generally and widely applied and it is applied for malicious purposes. Those people who are operating in this field professionally know enough not to get caught and rarely get struck off the benefit lists because they understand the system and do not make the mistakes that are usually made by the people who are caught. I point out that most of those who get struck off are reinstated on appeal.
The position to which I draw attention is the position in Geelong. Honourable members might mention those who are not trying to get jobs. Let me point out what opportunity there is for those young people who are genuinely trying. In the Geelong employment district, which takes in most of the Corio and Corangamite electorates, the total number of junior males seeking employment is 1064 and the number of job vacancies registered is twenty. The number of junior females seeking employment is 1243 and the number of job vacancies registered is thirteen. More than 2000 persons are seeking 33 jobs. That is the order of the problem which exists in that area, part of which I represent. It is the order of the problem which exists in most provincial cities in Australia. It will not be cured by giving additional subsidies to mining companies such as Utah Development Company to export more coal, most likely at lower prices.
– You do not like them, do you?
-I do not like the use of resources for purposes such as that where people ‘s needs are real and are being denied.
– They are generating income.
-I suggest that the honourable gentleman knows very little about the generating of income. Not one job will be created this financial year as a result of that benefit in any of the areas about which I am talking.
– What about in the years to come?
-There may be a boom in the next election year in order to get the honourable member re-elected. That is probably the purpose of it. The money could be spent better- and less of it could be spent- to provide jobs immediately if the Government were so disposed. I draw the attention of the House to one or two other matters in the time available to me. Most honourable members will have received letters from preschool centres complaining about the reductions proposed and outlined in a letter from the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick), for financing the cost of staffing pre-school centres. Most honourable members will be in receipt of letters relating to the differential between the pensioner nursing home subsidy and the actual cost, which in Victoria is now about $30 a week and is about that amount in most States. At the current rate of increase it will reach $50 before the end of the financial year. Honourable members will be aware of the reductions which are taking place in the area of Aboriginal affairs. I am sure that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner), who is at the table, is well aware of them and of the problems they will create.
Council of Social Services of the Australian Capital Territory -Government Assistance for Sport- Temporary Assistance Authority: Light to Medium Trucks- Payments in Lieu of Long
-Order It being 10.30 p.m., in accordance with the order of the House of 18 February, I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
– I should like to respond to some comments made by my colleague, the honourable member for Canberra (Mr Haslem), last Thursday night during the adjournment debate regarding a Press release issued by the Council of the Social Services of the Australian Capital Territory. On that occasion the honourable member took strong exception to this statement. He referred to it as mischievous and partisan. I should like to challenge his view and suggest that the statement was quite truthful and very relevant. The people of Canberra have indeed been asked to pay their way. The honourable member for Canberra told only part of the story when he said that the Council had received a $7,000 increase under the Liberal Government. The fact is that the Council was completely excluded from any social security subsidy this year. Whereas last year it received $12,500, this year it received nothing. Therefore the $7,000 increase to which the honourable member referred is in fact a net decrease for the Council of $4,500. This sum, I might add, represents the wage of a secretary for the Council.
The honourable member referred to the 87.75 per cent increase in social welfare funding in the
Australian Capital Territory. I am sure that he knows as well as I do that most of this appropriation will be spent on rent subsidies which are the only relief from the hardship imposed on low income earners in the Australian Capital Territory by the Government’s policy of increasing rents on Government housing to market values. This is an initiative reserved by the Government exclusively for the people of Canberra. It has not been done in any other capital city of Australia. The planning of Canberra is obviously destined to wallow in indecision during the remainder of this Government’s reign as this year’s Budget restriction will, in the main, allow the National Capital Development Commission to finish current works only and gives no substantial funds for any new major projects. Unfortunate workers who have been caught in the collapse of the building and construction industry cannot leave and go elsewhere because the Government has placed its dead hand on the building and construction industry throughout the whole of Australia. Wherever these unfortunate people go, they will be classed as dole bludgers by Government supporters.
The whole emphasis in the Budget of course has been on wage restraint; not a word has been said about price restraint. It will be of no comfort to the housewives of Canberra who see the prices rising week by week on the shelves to see that the great retailers such as Coles and Woolworths have shown substantial profit increases in last year’s trading. No doubt their Canberra outlets contributed handsomely to these profits. Should the honourable member for Canberra and his colleagues be unaware of the effect the Government’s policies are having on the residents of Canberra, he may be interested to know that Lifeline, a community organisation well known throughout Australia, has had an increase of 2000 calls during the last 6 months. There are 2500 people in Canberra who earn under $80 a week and 500 of these are classified as very low income earners. These are the people who will pay an extra $30 a year for each of their children to travel by bus to school. This is another special for Canberra. These are the people for whom child care funds have been drastically cut. These are the people who face a minimum 2.5 per cent levy for health care after 1 October.
They are also the people whose Government housing loan repayments have been increased up to $27 a month. This is due to the Government’s arbitrarily increasing interest rates on existing loans to 914 per cent. When I checked round today to see what was happening in the States with regard to comparable rates, I found that in
New South Wales and Victoria they were 5.5 per cent and in South Australia they were 5.5 per cent or 614 per cent, subject to a means test. So here again we are getting special treatment from this Government. I was approached by a service club today which had been accumulating funds for several years for homes for aged people. It found out in the Budget that the Government is not prepared to contribute $1. The club cannot get on with the project although its share of the necessay money is available. The people of the Australian Capital Territory are being asked not only to pay their way but they are also being asked to help pay the way for the extravagant handouts to the mining companies, for the superphosphate bounty and for the increasing fees of the medical profession.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Honourable members will be aware that Australia’s failure at the recent Olympic Games to win more than her share of gold medals has prompted much discussion on the question of Government assistance to sport in Australia. I know that many members of this House from all parties share a mutual concern with regard to this question. I believe that our approach to the funding of sport should be at 2 levels. As the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Newman) said in his statement of 26 July:
Governments have to choose a middle road between helping the elite and helping the whole community to be engaged in physical activity.
The first level of assistance should be at a community development level. Facilities must be provided through the efforts of the Australian Government, State governments, local governments and private enterprise to allow all Australians to participate in the sport of their choice, both as a pastime and as a means of attaining physical fitness. This year we will spend many millions of dollars on providing health care facilities. Why not spend some of that money on encouraging Australians to keep fit? By this form of preventive medicine not only would we be reducing the chances of Australians becoming a nation prone to sickness, but we would also be countering such diseases of our society as chronic absenteeism from work.
Secondly, we should not ignore assistance to our sporting elite simply because people talk of the desire not to turn our top class athletes into robots. The provision of finances by governments to assist in providing international competition and technical expertise is simply the provision of a fair go for Australian sportsmen and sports women. Honourable members must never forget that every time an Australian sporting champion achieves international recognition, it encourages other young Australians to take up that particular sport and reduces the chances of the youth of this nation becoming a generation of armchair strategists and observers.
Finally, I should like to draw the attention of the House to the recently announced plans of the Returned Services League of Australia. It plans to set up an Anzac Olympic foundation to provide for the general promotion of the national fitness of the total population and also to provide scholarships for athletes and coaches to undertake overseas tours. The aims of this foundation would therefore encompass the 2 principles of assistance to sport to which I have just alluded. The savings to Federal and State governments by the work that this body can potentially carry out would be enormous. Most honourable members would be aware that donations presently are not tax deductible when made to sporting bodies. I believe that the Government should consider making an exception in a case such as this in order that the initial excellent response to the aims of this organisation can be facilitated at a practical level. If we can perpetuate the spirit of Anzac by encouraging national unity and pride in our physical fitness and international sporting achievements, we will have taken a giant step towards providing for its future.
– I wish to raise 2 specific matters which I hope the Ministers concerned will take into consideration. Unfortunately I have not notified the Ministers of my intention to raise these matters and one of them does not sit in this House. On 30 March this year the commercial vehicle plant was announced in this House. It was also announced that the matter of added protection for Australian manufacturers in the light to medium truck range would be referred to the Temporary Assistance Authority. As I understand it, that Authority was to provide emergency short term assistance to industries which were under threat. It is now some 5 months since that statement was made. The indication of referral was made by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and by the responsible Minister in a Press statement. Finality on whether or not a referral will be permitted has still not been reached. It would appear that if an emergency situation arises for an Australian industry then the period of time which elapses before a reference is made to the Temporary Assistance Authority could result in the industry being destroyed without any reference ever being made to the Authority. If the aim of the Authority is to provide emergency protection then I would respectfully suggest that the Minister might look at ways by which applications for assistance can be speeded up so that a decision can be made by the relevant tribunal. This present application is held up because of the number of people who are objecting to a reference. I think that should be decided at the tribunal level, not at the departmental level and I would ask the responsible Minister to see how quickly that matter can be resolved.
The other matter to which I want to refer briefly is the question of payment in lieu of long service leave accrued to a Commonwealth public servant’s dependants upon the death of the public servant. I understand that under the existing Commonwealth superannuation provisions the estate of a deceased person has no rights to the accrued long service leave payments as opposed to the situation of persons covered by private worker’s compensation. I have had drawn to my attention- I have not got details with me- a specific case in which a woman incurred debts on the understanding that the debts would be met by the Treasury out of payment in lieu of accrued long service leave following the death of her husband. The woman concerned has had her claims rejected by the Treasury on the basis of some decision which I understand was initiated last year, not this year. So I want to make it quite clear that I am raising without political malice what I consider to be an inequity. I would ask the Minister concerned to look at the long service leave provisions covering Commonwealth employees to ensure that persons who have established rights to benefits are entitled to have those rights met whether or not the person survives to collect them. If it is income earned or rights accrued then it must be the responsibility of the employer, in this case the Commonwealth, to meet its obligations. I raise this matter briefly and ask the Minister concerned to look at it.
– I want to draw the attention of the House to a matter of importance in my electorate. It relates to the activities of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation. The Corporation is going to establish its new Western Australian headquarters in the centre of the city of Perth at an estimated cost of some $ 10m. I am informed that only 2 firms have been invited to tender for this project, one a Sydney company and the other a Melbourne company, and that documents have in fact already been issued to these selected builders for pricing preparatory to further negotiations. These firms may have offices in Perth; I am not sure of that but I do not think that it is relevant to the principle that is involved in this matter.
I wish to express in the strongest terms possible my concern at the fact that a Government instrumentality has denied this opportunity to Western Australian firms especially at a time when there is very little construction activity of the size of the Corporation ‘s proposed new headquarters currently in prospect from Perth ‘s building industry. This is an affront to the very capable local building industry and in my opinion it is impossible for the industry to look to the future with confidence if Western Australian companies are to be denied the right to compete for major Government works in their own State. A number of companies in Western Australia have the capability to embark on a project of this size and I am informed they would be able to submit tenders at very short notice. If local builders were engaged in this project both the administration and management costs would be retained in Western Australia as would any profits which might accrue from this venture.
I do not want to speak at length on the economics of the matter. I would rather speak about the principle involved. I question firstly the principle of inviting selected firms to tender rather than permitting applications to be received from any companies in the industry from which a tender may be selected. Even if this is normal procedure- though I believe it is not without exception for large projects- I question the wisdom of a Government instrumentality following this principle. I also question the principle of confining the number of companies selected for the tender panel to three. I believe that this practice is often, although again not always, adopted for large projects. I feel that even this principle might be open to question when one considers the special position of a government instrumentality.
In my opinion the Commonwealth Banking Corporation’s tendering policies and those of similar government instrumentalities should be less secretive, should be standardised and should be seen to be implemented in a fair and responsible manner. They should be open to, and be able to withstand public scrutiny. Finally, although Western Australian owned companies may have been considered prior to tender invitations being forwarded by the Corporation, I believe the Corporation should, by virtue of being a government instrumentality, accept some obligation in this matter to invite tenders from Western Australian companies. I am not suggesting that it should select a Western Australian company to do the job but I do suggest that it should broaden its base of applicants and invite Western Australian companies to tender.
Whilst I do not want to impose on the autonomy granted to the Corporation by the Commonwealth Banks Act 1959-73, I believe that this autonomy carries a special responsibility which I feel is not fully commensurate with the present tendering policies in view of the principles I have already mentioned. I believe that the Corporation should acknowledge that this autonomy carries with it an obligation to give proper and fair regard to the community it serves, in all aspects of its operations, not just its banking aspects. Matters such as this throw into question the entire issue of the independence of the Corporation. I ask the Government to use its powers under the Act to ensure that the Corporation reviews its policies in this regard. I conclude by saying that I regret very much the decision taken by the Corporation. I ask that the Government express its concern in this matter and do all it can to persuade the Corporation to review its decision.
-The House may recall that on the last day of the last session of Parliament I endeavoured to speak on the attitude of the honourable member for MacKellar (Mr Wentworth) with regard the People’s Republic of China. I was gagged after speaking for about 20 seconds, because the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) was about to visit China. The reason why I wanted to draw attention to this matter was that because it is well known that the honourable member for MacKellar is a very well known and close confidant of the Prime Minister and is one of his closest advisers. It was rumoured at the time that he was to precede the Prime Minister to China to make advance arrangements for his reception. In fact, some cruel people- I do not subscribe to this view- say that he even engineered the Press leaks in Peking.
– That is right; I heard that
– I find it absolutely impossible to believe, but even the honourable member for Hunter had heard it. It is a general rumour around the place. Nevertheless, this attitude can be understood if one looks back a few years at the Hansard record. I think it is important that the People’s Republic of China should understand the attitude of supporters of the Government and the views that they have expressed in the past. In the days prior to the recognition of that country and prior to an exchange of ambassadors -
– Show their spots.
– That is right. Show thenspots. It is recorded in Hansard of 25 March 1965 that the honourable member for MacKellar had this to say:
I do not advocate and have never advocated war against the Chinese people. I do advocate the denuclearisation of Red China. It is only necessary to destroy a few factories if it is done in time. This weapon -
This refers to nuclear weapons- must be taken out of the hands of those who would destroy humanity if they can once get the nuclear capacity.
– Good God!
– I agree; it is unbelievable. The Chinese did not even have a nuclear weapon. The honourable member for Mackellar went on to say:
This must be done in time and, if it cannot be done by negotiation, force should be used- not a war, but in order to prevent war. It should be used to destroy the factories which are making nuclear material in China- not war with the Chinese people, not wholesale destruction in any way at all, but simply the removal from their hands of the weapons whereby humanity can be destroyed. This must be done in time.
They are the words of the honourable member for Mackellar. Again on 11 May 1966 he referred to the division between the Soviet Union and China. He had this to say on page 1722 of Hansard of 1 1 May 1966:
Are we to stand aside while these criminals, who, on the evidence of their Russian comrades, will not scruple to risk the death of half of mankind, obtain the weapons of destruction by which they can do it? I pose the question. I wonder whether we have the moral right to commit this sin of omission, to allow this thing to happen. Sins of omission are no better than sins of commission in this regard. If what the Russians say is true, the Hitler adventures and things of that description were mere child’s play where a few tens of millions of lives were at stake.
That statement was made by the honourable member for Mackellar on 1 1 May 1966. He went on in that vein quite a bit. At page 1723 of Hansard of 1 1 May 1966 he said this:
Why have they betrayed their own principles- the principles that led them to this traumatic split with Russia?
But the really important thing here is that the honourable member for Mackellar, who is a close associate of the Prime Minister and, as is very well known indeed, is a close adviser of the Prime Minister, had this to say about the People’s Republic of China. For that reason I think it can be understood that some people suspect that he might have been responsible for the leaks in Peking. I do not think so; I do not think it is correct. But when one reads statements such as these I think it is really understandable that people could get that idea. I think the more important thing is that the people of the People ‘s Republic of China should know and understand that that is the attitude of members of the Government.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, funnily enough- it is almost without precedent- the honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage) quoted me correctly. He quoted from Hansard. Indeed, I said those things, and I said them not without reason. I hope that they will prove to be untrue, but I am not by any means assured that they will prove to be untrue, nor do I think that the country can take any assurance that they are untrue. At the present moment there is a split between the two communist giants- the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and communist Red China. Both of those countries say of one another the things which I was saying in the House at the time when I made those remarks which the honourable member for Chifley quoted. Perhaps both of them are right.
– The Prime Minister is listening.
– I do not think we should worry about that vacuous clown- old rent-a-mouth from Chifley- because this is a matter of most serious import. We do not know at this moment who is going to use or refrain from using the nuclear weapons which certainly now exist in Chinese hands as we know they certainly exist in Russian hands. There is what is known as a balance of terror in the world. Neither side, whether it be in the cleavage between Russia and China or in the cleavage between the communists and the democratic world, dare resort to the kind of force that could destroy both it and the people it attacks. That is the state of the world now, and nothing that is said, even by that honourable and influential man, the honourable member for Chifley, is going to change that state. Ever since I have been in the House, and that is now some 25 years, I have endeavoured to awaken the conscience of the House and of the country to what is happening in the world.
– You wanted to drop a bomb on them.
– Do not think that you are safe. It would have been far better if the bomb had not been allowed to proliferate, but proliferate it has. The honourable member for Hunter (Mr James), who is now interjecting, and the honourable member for Chifley both stand, as I do and as every Australian does, as everybody in the world does, in the shadow of this danger. This dreadful thing has come to pass. It is unhappily the position that none of us is safe. None of us or our children will ever be safe. Any honourable member who thinks that his conscience is clear when he has mocked and laughed at anybody who tried to warn of what was to happen should think again. I for one have nothing whatsoever to unsay in regard to this matter. All I have been trying to do is ensure that we and our children and the rest of the world escape from the monstrous danger in which we stand today and in which we will stand for the rest of time unless somebody finds it in his heart to bring about the detonation of a bomb or, alternatively, unless a new way of thought envelops the whole of humanity.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-In the few minutes remaining before the House adjourns, let me condense what has been said in this House in the last 10 minutes. The honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage) alleged- and it was confessed to by the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth)- that in the mid-1960s the honourable member for Mackellar suggested to this House that nuclear bombs should be dropped on certain factories in mainland China.
– When China did not have nuclear bombs.
– Yes, when China did not have nuclear bombs.
– He did not say that.
– That is what he advocated in 1 965. He is correcting you, and he is man enough tonight to admit that he did say it. But the honourable member for Chifley was prevented from informing the House of what the honourable member for Mackellar had said prior to the departure of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) accompanied by the Minister for Foreign Affairs the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock), to be the guests of the Chinese. The Prime Minister was so concerned about the debate that has taken place in the last 10 minutes that he walked into the House and looked at the honourable member for Mackellar as if to say: ‘Be careful what you say’. But the honourable member for Mackellar is a man who is not easily frightened, and in his concluding remarks he said that he did say it. I believe that in his heart he regrets that he ever said it. He did not repeat it after he said it in this House. I was sitting in the Parliament on that night and I was appalled that the honourable member for Mackellar should suggest dropping nuclear weapons on certain factories in the People’s Republic of China. As far as I am concerned, the People’s Republic of China has vehemently declared to the world time and time again that she will never be the first to use nuclear weapons; that if nuclear weapons are used against her, she will retaliate, but she will never be the first to use them. If China were not sincere in that regard, she could have given nuclear weapons to North Vietnam -
-Order! It being 11 p.m., the House stands adjourned until 2. 15 p.m. tomorrow.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for National Resources, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
asked the Minister for National Resources, upon notice:
Has he any evidence of the major oil companies funding opposition to the use of alternative forms of fuel.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I have no evidence whatever that the major oil companies are involved in funding opposition to the use of alternative fuels. On the contrary the oil companies have shown great interest in extending their operations into the production of alternative fuels.
am asked the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Convention No. 23- Repatriation of Seamen 1926
S3- Officers’ Competency Certificates 1936 55- Shipowners’ Liability (Sick and Injured Seamen) 1936 56- Sickness Insurance (Sea) 1936* 58-Minimum Age (Sea) (Revised) 1936 68- Food and Catering (Ships’ Crews) 1946 69- Certification of Ships’ Cooks 1946 70- Social Security (Seafarers) 1946* 71- Seafarers Pensions 1946* 73- Medical Examination (Seafarers) 1946 74- Certification of Able Seamen 1946 91- Paid Vacations (Seafarers) (Revised) 1949 92- Accommodation of Crews (Revised) 1949 108- Seafarers’ Indentity Documents 1958 113- Medical Examination (Fishermen) 1959 114- Fishermen’s Articles of Agreement 1959 125- Fishermen’s Competency Certificates 1966 126- Accommodation of Crews (Fishermen) 1966 133- Accommodation of Crews (Supplementary Provisions) 1970 134- Prevention of Accidents (Seafarers) 1970
There are thus policy questions involved, and until these have been resolved it would not be appropriate to anticipate what particular legislative or administrative action may be necessary to enable Australia to ratify the instruments listed in 1 above.
I might add that when we were previously in office it was also envisaged that request and consent legislation would be introduced to remove restrictions imposed on State legislatures by sections 735 and 736 of the United Kingdom Merchant Shipping Act 1894. The honourable member will recall that in May 1973 he announced that this action would not be proceeded with.
am asked the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, upon notice:
What is the average cost of (a) acquiring and (b) developing blocks of home building land on which each State housing authority is at present building houses.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The information given in the answer has been provided by each State housing authority. The general comment is made that the costs of land and development depend on a number of factors including location and the time of acquisition and development.
New South Wales
Land at present being developed to provide housing for family applicants in the Sydney area is located at Airds, in the Campbelltown area approximately 50 kilometres from Sydney.
The costs involved are:
Costs on which average figures are based vary widely from time to time and place to place. Land currently being used may have been acquired recently or many years previously. Typical costs per block of land being built on are:
Melbourne Metropolitan area-
Blocks of developed land in the Brisbane metropolitan area and major provincial centres on which the Queensland Housing Commission is building houses range in cost from $5,000 to $6,500.
It is general policy for the Housing Trust to purchase land in advance of requirements and usually in broad acres. The typical cost of broad acres land in the metropolitan area on which the Trust is now building is as follows:
In country areas acquisition costs vary widely from area to area, ranging from about $10 per lot in Whyalla and Port Augusta West to about $800 in Mt Gambier. Development costs per lot in country areas average $4,200.
At the present time land purchased in broad acres costs:
In the Hobart metropolitan area average costs per block on which building is proceeding are:
In country areas, including Launceston and Burnie, average costs per block are:
asked the Minister for National Resources, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Australian equity required as provided for in the Government ‘s guidelines, the level of foreign equity in the company or companies participating in that project will be examined. Foreign portfolio investment in participating companies will be considered on the basis outlined in the statement of 28 May 1976 by the Treasurer and myself. In respect of the foreign investment aspects, proposals submitted to the Government for the development of uranium projects will be examined in the first instance by the Foreign Investment Review Board which is responsible for advising the Government on all foreign investment proposals. The Government will look to the Board to advise on whether the equity arrangements of each proposed project meet the Government’s guidelines. It would not be appropriate for me to speculate on the application of the Government’s guidelines to a particular case, until the Government had received the advice of the Board on the case.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Air Services to and from South Africa (Question No. 879)
am asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
What has been the outcome of the study which the Commonwealth Heads of Government decided in Jamaica in May 1975 that the Secretariat should make into the implications of nations imposing an embargo on air services to and from South Africa.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I am advised that the study referred to has not been completed.
Federal-State Ministerial Councils and their Advisory Committees (Question Na 483)
– The Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs has provided the following information, which is supplementary to that contained in his answer on 3 June 1976 (Hansard, pages 30 14-21) to Mr E. G. Whitlam:
Standing Committee on Agriculture- The composition of this committee includes the representatives of all the State departments responsible for agriculture.
Standing Committee on Fisheries- The composition of this committee includes the representatives of all the State departments responsible for fisheries.
Fisheries Council- The composition of this council includes the Minister for Science.
Housing Research Council Research Advisory CommitteeThe composition of this committee includes principal officers (or their nominees) of the Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development, the Experimental Building Station of the Department of Construction, the CSIRO Division of Building Research and each State housing authority.
Australian Water Resources Council- The composition of this council includes the Minister in each State primarily concerned with water resources, the Minister for the Northern Territory and the Minister for National Resources.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 24 August 1976, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1976/19760824_reps_30_hor100/>.