30th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. B. M. Snedden, Q.C.) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That whereas an amnesty was announced for all illegal migrants and that whereas Mr Ignazio Salemi an applicant for amnesty has been denied amnesty.
Your petitioners humbly pray that the members in the House assembled, will take the most urgent steps, to ensure:
That as Mr Salemi fulfils all the publicly announced criteria for amnesty he is permitted to remain in Australia as a resident.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Bryant, Mr Crean, Mr Hayden, Mr Innes, Dr Jenkins and Mr Keith Johnson.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
That the decision to withdraw the Australian Trader from the Tasmanian service
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will move to restore the A Australian Trader to the Tasmanian service.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Armitage, Mr Les McMahon, Mr Martin, Mr Morris and Mr Antony Whitlam.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That distress is being caused to social security recipients by the delay in adjusting pensions to the Consumer Prices Index months after the prices of goods and services have risen, and that medications which were formerly pharmaceutical benefits must now be paid for.
Additionally, that State housing authorities’ waiting lists for low rental dwellings for pensioners grow ever longer, and the cost of funerals increase ever greater.
Your petitioners call on the Australian Government as a matter of urgency to:
Adjust social security payments instantly and automatically when the quarterly Consumer Prices Index is announced.
Restore pharmaceutical benefits deleted from the free list.
Update the State Grants (Dwellings for Pensioners) Act of 1 974, eroded by inflation, to increase grants to overcome the backlog.
Update funeral benefit to 60 per cent of reasonable cost of funeral. (This benefit was 200 shillings, 20 dollars, when introduced in 1943. It was seven times the 1943 pension of 27 shillings a week.)
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Bradfield, Mr Jarman and Mr Les Johnson.
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:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Beazley and Mr Morris. Petitions received.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House will urge the Government to retain at least the original Medibank scheme.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Beazley and Dr Richardson.
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 prerequisite 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 Dr J. F. Cairns and Mr Lusher.
To the honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. We, the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia by this our humble petition respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Hurford and Mr Les Johnson.
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 since the Australian Assistance Plan is making it possible for citizens to help themselves, thereby ensuring best possible use of limited Government resources, as shown by the fact that over 200 community projects have been initiated or funded through the AAP in the Outer Eastern Region.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament will take immediate steps to continue the Australian Assistance Plan as recommended in the Report tabled by the Honourable the Minister for Social Services, Senator Margaret Guilfoyle in Parliament on the 4 March 1976.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Jarman and Mr Willis.
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 Mr Keith Johnson and Mr Yates.
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 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 mean’s test on pensions causes undue hardship to them.
We call on the Government to immediately abolish the mean’s 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. byMrBeazley.
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 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 assembled. The humble undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That whereas uranium found in vast quantities in Australia is the Raw material for the nuclear fission reaction.
And whereas presently assured reserves of uranium in Australia represent a potential production of over 540 000 kilograms of Plutonium 239 if utilised in Light Water Reactors overseas.
And whereas the Maximum Permissible Inhalation of Plutonium 239 is 0.00000025 gram.
And wheres Plutonium 239 is one of the most dangerous substances human society has ever created, causing mutations and cancers.
And whereas there are no methods of safely and absolutely confining Plutonium from the biosphere for the requisite quarter of a million years.
And whereas Plutonium coming in contact with the air forms an aerosol cloud of micron-sized panicles, its most dangerous form.
And whereas the export of uranium may return to us an import of Plutonium particles dispersed in the global environment via the circulation of the atmosphere.
And whereas there are no sure safeguards against the military use of nuclear fission and the nuclear proliferation represents a prime environmental threat to all forms of life on the only earth available to us.
And that it is therefore an act of self-preservation to demand a halt to all exports of uranium except for bio-medical uses.
Your petitioners humbly pray that the members, in the House assembled, will take the most urgent steps to ensure:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Falconer.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That more cycleways should be provided in Australia;
That facilities for cycle sport should be available in every municipality;
That driver education programs should be undertaken to make drivers aware of cyclists ‘ rights on the road.
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House urge the Government to make more provision for bicycles and to institute a driver education program on the rights of cyclists.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Fry.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. We, the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia by this our humble petition respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that milk substitutes be restored to the schedule of Pharmaceutical Benefits for children up to the age of six years as soon as possible.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Les Johnson.
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 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-
Your petitioners call upon the Australian Government.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Dr Jenkins.
Dockyards in 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 cut unemployment 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.
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 Morris.
– Has the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations honoured his undertaking made to me on 20 May last to make officers of his Department available to the program for unemployed self-help in my electorate of Batman? Will the Minister inform me of any assistance which he has offered or intends to offer to this worthwhile organisation as it is fighting for existence?
-I remember the question asked by the honourable member in the last sittings of Parliament. At that time I gave an undertaking that what assistance could be given through the Department would be given. I asked the Department to follow up that undertaking. If that has not been done I would appreciate it if the honourable member would give me details after question time and I will see that it is done.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Now that the righting has died down in East Timor has the Government remained concerned about the human suffering and disruption to the lives of the people in that country? If so, what has the Government done or what does it intend to do to help alleviate that suffering?
– I would say at the outset that repeatedly the Government has expressed its regret about the loss of life and human suffering which resulted from the fighting in East Timor. This Government has been in the forefront of governments from most countries offering humanitarian help and assistance. We have consistently supported the activities of the International Committee of the Red Cross. We have expressed our disappointment that the ICRC activities came to an end. They came to an end when about three-quarters of the original Australian pledge of $250,000 had been spent. We have since indicated to the ICRC that we would be prepared to provide a further $250,000 if its activities in the area were renewed. However, it seems unlikely that in the near future the ICRC will be able to resume its activities in Timor. Nevertheless, the Government continues to be concerned to find ways of extending humanitarian aid to Timor. To that end, the Government has been in contact with the Indonesian Red Cross, which is conducting relief programs in East Timor, to explore the possibility of Australia making a contribution to such programs. The Indonesian Red Cross has indicated that it is prepared to assist with the channelling of such aid into East Timor. It is hoped that it will be possible to make an announcement on the details of any such arrangements in the near future.
– I ask the Minister for Health: What amount of reserves are at present held by registered medical benefits and hospital benefits organisations? The honourable gentleman will know that, under the legislaton, the permanent head of his Department is required as soon as practicable after the end of each financial year to furnish to him a report on the operations of the registered organisations during that year. I ask him: Has he yet received the reports for the years ended 30 June last year and 30 June this year? The former one should certainly have been received by now, according to previous practice. If he has received either of these reports, when will he table it? If he has not received it, when does he expect it? I also ask him how far he has proceeded in honouring his undertaking to my colleague the honourable member for Prospect on 20 May last year that he would consider the possibility of introducing legislation to ensure that contributors to the funds have a democratic right to elect directors of the funds.
– Before I call the Minister for Health, I point out to the Leader of the Opposition that the inclusion of a number of questions in a so-called single question may make it difficult for the Minister to give an answer to all the questions. I make that point because questions without notice can require very long answers. A Minister is invited to give a very long answer if in the one question there are 3 separate questions, even if they are connected.
-They are all related.
-They are all related questions; nevertheless they are separate questions. I call the Minister for Health.
-I could ask the Leader of the Opposition to put the question on notice, particularly the detailed sections of it. From memory, the health funds have reserves of the order of $ 1 75m. As soon as the reports for the year ended 30 June this year come to hand I will certainly have them published.
-What about the legislation?
– In regard to the last part of the question, inquiries and investigations are still going on interdepartmentally.
-Can the Prime Minister advise the House of the present situation regarding Aboriginal unemployment?
-Steps have been taken by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs to make sure that the measures presently being implemented do not add to Aboriginal unemployment pending the review of the various programs that is being undertaken as a matter of urgency at the present time. I believe that this certainly will hold the situation until the Government is in a position to make additional funds available as a result of that review. I would like to give some information in which I think the House might be interested. Available statistics show that unemployment amongst Aborigines more than doubled between December 1 972 and November 1975. One of the greatest harms done by the policies of the previous administration was to increase Aboriginal unemployment very greatly, just as the previous administration increased, because of the foolishness of its policies, unemployment right throughout Australia. In November 1972 about 3700 Aborigines were unemployed; in December 1975 there were 9900 Aborigines unemployed as a direct result of the spending programs and the irresponsibility of the policies of the Australian Labor Party.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Speaker. The right honourable gentleman knows full well that that simply is not true.
-There is no substance in the point of order. The honourable member for Wills will resume his seat.
-The Aboriginal population was just one more victim of the incompetence displayed during the Whitlam years. It was just one more victim of the totally false policy that all problems could be solved merely by scattering money around like chaff without looking to see where the money was going or whether or not it was being spent with effect. In addition, it ought to be noted that our Government has already taken very significant action to assist Aboriginal people, especially those in greatest need. The family allowance scheme which has been introduced provides $16m directly to Aboriginal families, to be spent at their discretion and as they wish, thus giving them an independence which was never dreamt of by the Australian Labor Party. The Labor Party believed that it knew best what everyone else ought to do with his life. The Government’s family allowance scheme is putting spendable income directly into the hands and in the charge of Aboriginal families. Other action will be taken by this Government when we have the result of the review to which I referred earlier. All the funds that we spend will be spent to effect and to the advantage of the Aborigines; they will not be used to increase Aboriginal unemployment which the Whitlam administration did with such great disgrace to itself.
– My question, which is directed to the Prime Minister, arises from the questions which he had directed to him yesterday and again today. He is obviously stung by the breaches of promise that he made at the end of last year and which were made by his spokesmen at the end of last year.
-Order! The honourable gentleman will ask his question. He is not entitled to argue or debate as a preface to a question.
– I ask the honourable gentleman whether he will now table the report which his Government sought from Mr David Hay. Reference having been made to the report in the Treasurer’s Budget Speech, and also excerpts from the report now being pretty consistently leaked to the Press, I ask him: What reason is there now for continuing to suppress this report? I also ask: Will he now give all members the advantage of seeing that 2-page, I think it was, report which he showed to newspaper editors at the Lodge on 18 May and which was the subject of articles in the Daily Mirror and the Bulletin later that month and which the Canberra Times has revealed -
-Order! The honourable gentleman will ask his question.
-Mr Speaker, I am identifying the particular leak that the Prime Minister was responsible for on this occasion.
-Order! If the honourable gentleman does not ask his question I will most regrettably have to rule him out of order.
-Oh well, all right.
– I call the Prime Minister.
-The honourable gentleman is in good form this morning. We all know that the honourable gentleman does not like it very much when he is not loved. We all know that when he was in the United Kingdom recently he said that he was more loved in Opposition than he had ever been in Government. As Sir John Egerton testifies, as Mr Hawke testifies, as many of his colleagues, such as the honourable member for Fremantle, testify, they all love him so greatly -
Opposition Members- Who loves you?
-Order! The House will come to order. I require the Prime Minister to answer the question in a manner relevant to the question.
-The remarks the honourable gentleman made about the Lodge were totally false- not uncharacteristic of him. The Government has not yet considered -
-Mr Speaker -
-The Prime Minister will resume his seat. I call the Leader of the Opposition.
-Mr Speaker, I believe that in accordance with the firm hand you are exercising over us all this morning, you would require the Prime Minister to withdraw that aspersion.
-Does the honourable member feel offended by the remark?
– I ask the Prime Minister to withdraw the remark.
- Mr Speaker, I am very happy to withdraw it, but at the same time may I seek your guidance?
– We will have one thing at a time. Does the right honourable gentleman withdraw?
-I withdraw the remark, Mr Speaker.
– Very well. Now I am prepared to give my guidance.
- Mr Speaker, if an honourable member of this House says something that is not true, what parliamentary terms can be used to make it plain to the House that it is untrue? I just used the words ‘totally false9. I would have thought those words were parliamentary.
– The honourable gentleman is entitled to make a personal explanation at the earliest opportunity. It has been a practice of the House which is unparliamentary but nevertheless is followed- I am talking now in order to allow some tempers to cool- to interject to say that something is untrue. I often fail to take any action about such an interjection, but I do not encourage interjections. If honourable gentlemen wish to make an explanation as to an untruth, they can do so immediately after question time. I call the Prime Minister.
– The remarks that the Leader of the Opposition made concerning the Lodge were highly inaccurate. They are not uncharacteristic of the remarks he makes in this place. The Government has not yet completed its review -
-Mr Speaker -
-Order! The Prime Minister will resume his seat. I call the Leader of the Opposition.
-Mr Speaker, I take the point that in deference to your admonition to me when I was asking the question I did not proceed with the reference to the Canberra Times. I had already given a reference to the Bulletin. Each of those journals had stated that at the Lodge the Prime Minister had given editors a 2-page document on Aboriginal housing.
- Mr Speaker, on a point of order -
– The Leader of the House will resume his seat. A point of order is being taken.
- Mr Speaker, it is a point of order on a point of order and therefore I suggest it is in order.
-The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
-Mr Speaker, I believe that if in deference to your wishes I do not cite my authority it surely should not be open to anybody then to dispute the accuracy of my assertion. I was giving the basis for my assertion. I did not give it fully because you did not wish me to proceed. If I then have not proceeded to give the basis of my assertion, you should not allow a Minister to state that there was no basis for my assertion. I was going to give it; you did not want me to and therefore I did not.
– I sought to take a point of order because the point of order to which the Leader of the Opposition was addressing himself was more relevant to a matter of personal explanation and not to a point of order. I therefore sought to suggest that action in this regard should be taken at the appropriate time after question time rather than during question time. I do not want to speak to the alleged point of order to which the Leader of the Opposition was addressing himself. I suggest, Sir, that the contribution just made by the Leader of the Opposition should be left until the appropriate time after questions so that the business of the House, which at the moment is questions without notice, can proceed.
– I call the Prime Minister to complete his answer.
– The remarks that were made in relation to the Lodge, whatever the authority, were not correct, and that stands as a firm and quite unequivocal statement. So far as the Hay report is concerned, the Government has not yet completed its action in regard to this report. There are other reviews to which I have referred on a number of occasions in this House and we will be reporting as a result of those reviews and as a result of that what additional funds will be required as soon as we are in a position to do so. At that time we will take a decision as to whether the Hay report should be published. I should also remind the honourable gentleman that it is a normal practice of government that reports of an interdepartmental nature of this kind to governments be not published. I do not state this categorically in relation to the Hay report; I am merely stating a general attitude. Also, because of its relevance to these matters, I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard a list of the monthly unemployment figures for Aborigines which indicate how Aboriginal unemployment rose month by month during the Whitlam years.
-Is leave granted?
-Leave is not granted.
– I table the paper, Mr Speaker.
-If you like to bring it up to date, that is fine.
– It is up to date.
– I will not permit debate across the table over the matter. Leave was sought and leave was refused. The Prime Minister is entitled to table the document without leave if he wishes and he has done so.
– I address my question to the Attorney-General. I refer the honourable gentleman to the continuing saga of the Barton case. Whilst appreciating that the Government has spent thousands of dollars and has launched unsuccessful extradition proceedings in Paraguay in an endeavour to secure the return to Australia for trial of this man and his son, I ask the Attorney-General whether every possible avenue in this regard has been exhausted?
-Honourable members will recall that during the term of the Labor Government proceedings were instituted in Paraguay in order to secure the return of the Bartons. I think it started with Attorney-General Murphy and went on to Attorney-General Enderby. There was an application before a judge which was refused. The application went on appeal to another judge of a court of appeal and that was refused. Then on a date which I hesitate to mention, namely 1 1 November last year, there was an appeal to the Supreme Court of Paraguay. That appeal was heard. The Supreme Court of Paraguay gave judgment on 24 February this year rejecting the appeal. On or about 19 May this year an application was made to the court in Paraguay, seeking what is called rectification of the original documents- a procedure that was advised to the Australian Government for the purpose of trying ultimately to obtain the return of the Bartons. That application for rectification came before a judge. It was rejected on 30 June last, I think it was. There is an appeal against that and that appeal hopefully will come on for hearing soon. I simply want to reiterate that the present Government has been constantly attempting, as indeed was the previous Government, to obtain the return of the Bartons to Australia. That endeavour will continue until the processes of law in Paraguay have been exhausted or other processes of law which are within the competence of the Australian Government to take have been exhausted.
-My question is addressed to the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development. What effect has the continuing reduction of the staff ceiling of the Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development had on that Department’s ability to carry out its functions properly? In particular, have the most recent staff reductions affected the ability of the Department to administer government programs properly? Will the staff cuts inhibit in any way the Department’s capacity to administer in the future the Government’s responsibilities in fields such as the environment?
– I thank the honourable member for that question. The Department has grown out of three of the former Administration’s departments: The Department of the Environment and Conservation, the Department of Urban and Regional Development and the recreation wing of the Department of Recreation and Tourism. In putting them together we obviously had some room to rationalise the staff. So we now have a much more composite group operating in the new Department. I think the Prime Minister in a speech on 2 June made very clear where this Government stands in matters of the environment, the protection of the National Estate and the prospering of urban and regional affairs. I can assure the honourable member that the functions of this Department have in no way been debilitated by the reorganisation. In fact, the rationalisation will make it a much more effective department. The role of this Department in prospering the responsibilities that we now have is dynamic and will remain so. I hope that within the next 2 or 3 months, when reviews which are now being made of various aspects of our responsibilities are completed, very good and dynamic policies will be produced.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Primary Industry. An organisation known as For Those Who Have Less has suggested that Australia should send productive cows to the Indian sub-continent. In view of the tragic waste of livestock under the planned but necessary kill programs now being undertaken or proposed in the States in order to reduce herd numbers, will the Minister examine this suggestion with a view to implementing such a scheme?
-As the Minister for Foreign Affairs remarked on my rising, there obviously is interest in trying to maintain as great a pattern of overseas aid as we can and it is a matter of coordinating the sort of aid that we provide with the requests of the countries which are to be the recipients. It has always seemed to me that it is unfortunate, at a time when we have a surplus of foodstuff of one sort or another in Australia, that we have not been able to help those who in so many countries tragically are undernourished. There are still many people in the world who have an inadequate intake of protein, while in the cattle industry in terms of meat and in terms of dairy products we have a surfeit. We have endeavoured to find ways by which we might be able to extend the opportunities for providing canned meat, dried meat or some other meat alternative or meat substitute as a part of our foreign aid program. There are difficulties in doing so. Nonetheless I would commend the organisation to which the honourable gentleman’s question referred. Indeed a former distinguished member of this House, Mr Len Reid, is one of the principals of that organisation. He, in my opinion, has done a great deal in helping to improve the quality of cattle in India as a result of his personal efforts and those with whom he is associated. I think we all fundamentally support the general task that has been undertaken by this organisation. However, whether it is practical to take up the suggestion in the honourable gentleman ‘s question is a matter which depends on the preparedness of recipient countries to express an acceptance of aid in that form. It seems to me that having a cattle kill program or a livestock kill program is tragic if the cattle being killed are suitable for aid purposes as the honourable gentleman suggests. Of course in many instances they are too shelly, too debilitated or in circumstances in which they would not be suitable. In those circumstances it seems that there is no alternative but that they be slaughtered in the paddock. It is tragic, moreover, that the high cost of moving livestock, as well as the condition of the livestock, often makes that sort of aid program impossible. However, I take note of the honourable gentleman’s request and assure him that it has my personal sympathy. Whether it is practical might be another issue.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Construction. I preface my question by stating: Budget Statement No. 2 states that ‘since the slump in non-dwelling construction investment has been relatively great, the outlook may still imply a fall for 1976-77 as a whole,’ while on Thursday last the Minister for Construction said that the construction industry will benefit significantly from this year’s Budget. I ask: Does the Minister still claim that the nonresidential sector of the building and construction industry will benefit when in cash terms a minimum expenditure increase of $74m is needed- not $21m- to maintain the Government’s civil works program at the same level as in 1975-76 in real terms? Is the Minister aware that total payments to the States and Loan Council borrowings have been reduced in real terms? In what way will this industry benefit when these conditions prevail?
– There is a considerable amount of information and a series of questions in that so-called question from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. I think that what he is saying is that this year the Government will not be spending as much as last year on Commonwealth works, having regard to inflation. The honourable gentleman acknowledges that is really what it is all about. The position is that this year the Commonwealth Government will be spending $2 1.4m more than last year on Commonwealth works. At this moment there is no building cost inflation at all in the nonresidential construction industry. Tenders being received are lower than the estimates by my Department, so there is really no inflation rate in building costs at all at the moment. There seems to be a general confidence in builders and people engaged in the heavy industries. In fact I have some reports of large companies such as Costain Australia Ltd, Colonial Sugar Refining Co. Ltd and brickworks- a whole range of large companies. These have turned in good reports for the last financial year. They have indicated that in their view the Commonwealth Government’s policies will be excellent for this year and into the long term. In fact there is a problem which is exacerbated by people like the Deputy Leader of the Opposition who always refer back to 1973. 1 put it to him and to the House that that is not the best year with which to make a comparison. That was a boom year. The situation that arose in that year could not continue. As a result of what happened in that year we now have more vacant office accommodation in this country, particularly in Sydney and Melbourne, than one could poke a stick at. The policy of the previous Government was to continue to build office accommodation for government offices, which was really quite ridiculous. At the moment, it is possible to lease office accommodation for $6 or $7 a square foot. If we had continued with the previous Government’s policy the leasing of office accommodation would be costing about $15 a square foot. I will carefully examine the question when I get a copy of it. It will be a pleasure to deal with it. In my view, the industry itself now believes that the policies we are pursuing will get it out of its problems. We cannot ever consider that we should continue in a situation where there is a lot of fat which is non-productive.
– Will the Minister for Primary Industry inform the House what progress has been made in the formulation of a new meat board? Further, will the Minister tell the House what steps he has taken regarding the unbelievable and seemingly biased policy of the Australian Meat Exporters Federal Council to oppose any increase in the number of livestock exported at a time when there is a huge surplus of cattle in Australia?
– The Australian Meat Board has laboured under extraordinary difficulties during the last couple of years. Many of the reasons for the very marked drop in price returns to cattlemen flow from overseas countries imposing barriers against the import of Australian livestock, and we have little control over that matter. Since our election to government, we certainly have made considerable political and ministerial endeavours to overcome this problem. Throughout the period of the downturn in beef prices there has been considerable criticism of the Board. Some of it is justified but much of it, I believe, is unjustified. But because there are problems in ensuring that the Board adequately represents all those diverse sections of the meat industry, it seems reasonable to look at the adequacy of the Board’s present constitution and perhaps extend it and redefine it. Therefore, I am circulating a possible draft constitution of a new Australian meat and livestock corporation in respect of which I would hope all sections of industry- producers, consumers, and meat exporters-will submit their observations and comments to the Government. Then the Government can then decide whether there should be changes in the Australian Meat Board as now constituted, and what those changes should be.
Turning to the second part of the honourable gentleman’s question, I regard it as most unfortunate that both meat exporters and the Australian Meat Industry Employees Union object to unrestricted livestock exports. It seems to me that obviously we have an interest in maximising meat exports, but equally, we have an interest in maximising livestock exports, particularly when they are non-substitutable. There are many markets in the world where, because of the tropical conditions and the inadequacy of refrigeration, it is impossible to sell Australian meat to the consumer in anything like a reasonable palatable condition. To those markets livestock exports are a quite valid and sensible alternative.
In other areas, the very nature of Australia’s terrain has meant that access to abattoirs is not as it might be. In northern Australia many cattle which would easily meet the requirements of importers around the world cannot be killed at this stage but they could be exported as livestock. For that reason I believe that Australians should have the maximum opportunity to sell livestock if it is possible to sell them at a profit and to return some proceeds to sorely beleaguered cattlemen. For that reason we have sought to ensure consultation between those interested in livestock exports. I hope that neither at the meat export level nor at the union level will there be objection to reasonable sales which are distinctly to the advantage of cattlemen and which will enhance their returns and, I believe, be in the long term interests of Australian exporters.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Defence been drawn to reports that more than 50 specialist shipbuilders at the marine division of Hawker De Havilland Australia Pty Ltd at Bankstown face the prospect of unemployment in October because of a tangle of red tape in Canberra? Is it a fact that an order for 15 work boats for the Royal Australian Navy which would enable production at the plant to continue has become so enmeshed in Treasury procedures that the company will have no alternative but to dismiss its staff? Can the Minister give an assurance that he will help to untangle the red tape and save the jobs of the 50 skilled operators?
– I can assure my honourable friend that neither by practice nor inclination do I tolerate red tape. The tender for these work boats must be by public tender, and I cannot give him an undertaking that any one company will receive the tender. I will make such inquiries as are appropriate of my colleague the Treasurer and see that the honourable gentleman receives information on the question.
-I ask the Prime Minister whether he has seen reports that Monash University does not wish him to return to the University to complete the task that he was prevented from performing on Monday. Has the University expressed that view to the Prime Minister? If so, what steps can be taken by the Government to prevent a situation in which an elected person, or a non-elected person for that matter, who is the target of minority interests is not free to move around the country without bearing the brunt of violent disturbances?
-Adequate steps will be taken on any future occasion involving any person, whether it is the Governor-General, me, the Minister for Education or even the Leader of the Opposition. The reports which I also have seen this morning are not correct. There is an arrangement with the ViceChancellor that at an appropriate time- no date has been fixed- I will visit this centre as I have a particular interest in it not only in respect of the opening function but also in its purpose. The Vice-Chancellor is travelling today and cannot be contacted, but the Information Officer, Mr Keith Bennetts, has assured my staff that he said that no arrangements had been made for me to visit Monash on Friday which, of course, is accurate. He also described the reports as wholly improper and mischievous in the extreme. They were inaccurate and did not depict the position or the relationship with the University over this matter.
-My question to the Prime Minister concerns the citizen of Australia and Western Australia who describes himself as Prince Leonard and who, this week, was received by the Premier of Queensland. Is the Prime Minister aware that this gentleman has distributed photostats of a letter which he himself sent to Prince Leonard, Administrator, Hutt River Province, via Western Australia, with the salutation ‘Dear Prince Leonard ‘; photostats of a letter which the Deputy Prime Minister sent to him with the same address; and photostats of a letter which the Minister for Transport addressed to Prince Leonard, Sovereign, Hutt River Province, with the salutation ‘My Dear Prince Leonard’? Mr Speaker, might I have leave to have incorporated in Hansard the photostats which were sent to me?
-Is leave granted?
– I ask the Prime Minister -
-Order! I call upon the Leader of the House. Is leave granted for the incorporation?
-Leave is not granted.
Opposition Members- The Prime Minister said ‘Yes’.
-I did not say ‘ Yes ‘.
– Who is running the show?
-Order! The honourble member for Adelaide is not running the show. He will remain silent. I look to the Leader of the House, who has said ‘No ‘. So leave is not granted. I have listened carefully to the question being asked by the Leader of the Opposition. So far he has not transgressed the standing order which requires that any question which reflects on the character of a named person should be put on the notice paper. He is aware of that standing order. I call upon him to resume asking his question.
- Mr Speaker, in fact I was very deferential to His Highness. I ask the Prime Minister whether he will state the present official attitude towards the pretentions of this gentleman who frequently writes to official bodies within Australia and also abroad.
– Before I call on the Prime Minister to answer, let me remind the House that the Standing Orders provide that a question asking for declaration of policy is out of order. Therefore the Prime Minister may treat this matter as a policy matter and reply at a later time or, if he wishes to do so, he may reply now. I call the Prime Minister.
– I will treat it really as a factual matter. I am glad to see that my Ministers observe courtesy in their correspondence. Courtesy is something of which there is not an adequate supply in Australia. Sometimes there is not an adequate supply of courtesy in this Parliament. I have been advised that this personage will be visiting Canberra very shortly and wants arrangements to be made for him to be officially received. The Leader of the Opposition may well wish to receive him. I do not know; he can make his own judgment about that. But I assure him that the principality of Hutt is the only principality in which he will have any opportunity in the future to have any influence. Ministers have been advised by my office that no arrangements should be made. I do not believe that any Ministers should see Prince Leonard, Mr Casley or whatever people like to call him. In previous correspondence, which I think the Leader of the Opposition did not ask to be tabled- I am drawing on my memory now- I have made it plain that there is no recognition of any of the activities of the people of the Hutt
River Province by this Government. The Province is obviously part of Western Australia and nothing but. It does seem to be a very good tourist attraction.
-I direct my question to the Attorney-General. Firstly, in what circumstances do State governments have the authority to issue off-shore exploration permits? Secondly, has the Western Australian Government been acting within the law by recently issuing such permits under the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act 1967 as a designated authority? Finally, is it a fact that the High Court decision on the Seas and Submerged Lands Act repudiated State sovereignty offshore?
– The word ‘sovereignty’ needs to be understood. The High Court has held that sovereignty over the territorial sea, the continental shelf and the seabed of the territorial sea attaches to the Commonwealth as was asserted in the Seas and Submerged Lands Act. At the same time the High Court has said that the States have power to pass laws for the peace, order and good government of the States which operate beyond low water mark and therefore in the territorial sea and perhaps beyond, depending on whether they are for the peace, order and good government of the State. The attitude of the Australian Government, of course, has been that the High Court decision has determined the question of sovereignty in relation to the offshore areas. The honourable member’s question seeks an expression of opinion. I am prepared to indicate that I have taken the view that, although there may be some doubt as to the validity of the State Acts, the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act of the Commonwealth remains valid and that permits that are granted pursuant to it by State Ministers- who are the designated authority under that Act- are valid. I simply express that point of view. Those permits and licences relate only to petroleum. Obviously they do not relate to other minerals. There is no Commonwealth law in relation to them. That matter depends on the validity of the mines legislation of the various States which would authorise the grant of licences or permits offshore.
– I ask the Minister for Defence whether he has noted that Budget Statement No. 4 indicates that the increase in appropriations for salaries and allowances over actual outlays in the previous year for the armed Services is: Navy 7 per cent, Army 7 per cent and Air Force 5 per cent. Has he also noted that the Budget projects average earnings as increasing by 12 per cent this year? Does this mean that the Government intends to make it clear to members of the armed services that life is not meant to be made easy for them under the Lynch Budget?
– In reply to the honourable gentleman all I can say, by way of brevity, is that the conclusion he has drawn is based on completely false premises.
– I should inform the Prime Minister that the Leader of the Opposition has told me that he wishes to make a personal explanation. I draw the Prime Minister’s attention to that fact. I now call the Leader of the Opposition.
– I said during question time that a 2-page document on Aboriginal housing was shown by the Prime Minister to editors of newspapers at the Lodge. I was incorrect. It was shown by the Prime Minister to the editors in his office, before they went to the Lodge.
-Pursuant to section 18 of the National Debt Sinking Fund Act 1966 1 present the annual report on the operations of the National Debt Commission for the year ended 30 June 1 976.
– For the information of honourable members I present the report of the Australian delegation to the 30th session of the United Nations General Assembly held in New York during the period 16 September 1975 to 17 December 1975.
For the information of honourable members I present the report of the Indicative Planning Council for the Housing Industry for the years 1 976-77 to 1 978-79 inclusive.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) agreed to:
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday, 7 September next, at 2.15 p.m., unless Mr Speaker, or, in the absence from Australia of Mr Speaker, the Chairman of Committees, shall by telegram or letter addressed to each member of the House, fix an alternative day of meeting.
-In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969-1974, I present the report relating to the following proposed work:
Development of Navy supply centre and Army workshop facility at defence establishment, Zetland, New South Wales.
Ordered that the report be printed.
Inquiry into Government Transport Undertakings- Federalism- Shipyard Industry -Commonwealth /State Financial Relations- Health Services in Division of Burke- Tourist Industry in Queensland-Australian War Memorial- Maternity Leave Payments- Taxation: Payments to Thalidomide Victims- Living Standards in Rural Areas- Barton Companies
That grievances be noted.
– I wish to bring the attention of the Parliament this morning to the appointment of a secret inquiry into government transport undertakings, which was announced by the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) on 13 June, a few days after the winter recess began. I now have before me the secret terms of reference, of which we learned something later from the Australian Financial Review on 29 June. I have obtained the Minister’s permission to have those terms of reference incorporated in Hansard, and I seek leave to do so.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. ( The document read as follows)-
To inquire into and report to the Minister for Transport upon the business activities and form of management of Qantas Airways Limited, the Australian National Airlines Commission, the Australian National Railways Commission and the Australian Shipping Commission, and in particular-
And, without restricting the scope of the inquiry, to give particular attention to the following matters:
– The blanket terms of reference provide a privileged opportunity for selected clients and competitors of the publicly owned enterprises- the Australian Shipping Commission, Trans-Australia Airlines and the Australian National Railways- to conduct a secret witch hunt into the affairs, accounts and operations of the enterprises. The composition of the membership of the committee represents an incestuous relationship and constitutes a public scandal. The purposes of the inquiry are obviously to give the Broken Hill Pty Ltd and Brambles Holdings Ltd, both of which are transport operators, an insight into the affairs of their competitors and also to bring up a report which would appear to justify government action in carving up the activities of TAA, the Australian National Railways, the Australian National Line and Qantas Airways Ltd. They are the only conclusions to be drawn, otherwise the inquiry would be public and the committee would have adequate industry and community representation in its membership. Term of reference 2(e) reads: such other specific issues as are referred by the Minister for Transport
That provides a blank cheque for the committee to look at whatever accounts and activities of the publicly owned enterprises the managing director of BHP would like to look at. Let us examine the membership of the committee. I will not go into the subject of the allowances which the Remuneration Tribunal has recommended be paid to the members of the committee. I assume that the payments which are to be made will be in addition to the fees and salaries received from the large number of companies on which these people are represented. The first member of the committee, James Charles McNeill, is managing director of BHP, and Australian Iron and Steel, and a director of Australian Wire Industry, BHP Nominees Pty Ltd, Dampier Mining, Hematite
Petroleum Pty Ltd, Tasmanian Electro Metallurgical Co Pty Ltd, BHP-GKN Holdings Ltd and Newman Mining Co. Pty Ltd. He is chairman of Queensland Coal Mining Co. Ltd, and a member of the Manufacturing Industries Advisory Council.
The next member of the committee is Mr War.wich Holcroft. I am quoting my information from Who’s Who. He is the chief executive and director of Brambles Industries Ltd, a director of Brambles Holdings Ltd, Brambles Brinks Ltd, Brambles Burrett of New Zealand, and he was chairman of the Transport Industries Advisory Council in Melbourne. The subsidiaries of Brambles, of which he is a director, are BramblesRuys Pty Ltd- that is an aircraft forwarder and customs shipping agents and it engages in bond warehousing- Port Jackson and Manly Steamship Co. Ltd, Brambles Holdings Ltd, J. Fenwick and Co. Pty Ltd, Vaughan Transport (Aust.) Pty Ltd, Brambles Brinks Ltd, as so on. They also include Brechnett Pty Ltd, which is a company half owned by Brambles and half owned by Heckett Engineering of Pennsylvania which engages in slag reclamation.
The next member of the committee is Mr K. C. Keown, who is the auditor for BHP. It is very interesting to note that when the setting up of this committee was announced the Minister made no mention whatsoever of the relationship between these 3 men. Here we have 3 men who represent enterprises in competition with, as clients of, and suppliers to, publicly owned transport enterprises, inquiring in secret, bringing up a secret report and operating on a secret blanket reference. The report will never be tabled in this Parliament, and the relationship of the members of the inquiry, one to the other, has not been disclosed to this Parliament by the Minister. Mr Keown must have an interest in BHP; he is the company’s auditor. Brambles have always had a long relationship with BHP.
The Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd is a customer and a client of almost all of the government transport undertakings. All 3 members of the committee are associated with corporations that have major dealings with government transport undertakings. The Australian National Line has 4 ships working full time transporting BHP ore production amounting to about 4 million tonnes per annum. Two other vessels were occupied transporting steel coil between Port Kembla and Westernport for John Lysaght (Aust.) Ltd which is 50 per cent owned by BHP. BHP spends in excess of $lm per annum with the Australian National Railways for the carriage of steel from Whyalla to Western Australia and to eastern
States and from Kwinana to Adelaide. In 1975-76 Australian National Railways purchased over $4m worth of steel rails and ancillary railway equipment from BHP. I understand that Brambles spends over $500,000 a year with Australian National Railways for the consignment of truck loads of goods by rail. From time to time the ANL uses tugs that are operated by Brambles. Brambles has had a long and close relationship with BHP extending over many years. That company does most of BHP’s internal cartage at Newcastle. The magnitude of the transactions involved and the close competitorclient relationship between the firms represented on the committee and the Government transport undertakings being examined destroy any semblance of impartiality on the part of committee members. There is a clear and direct conflict of interest. The Minister should dismiss the committee or order a public inquiry.
The sinister aspects of the inquiry are that it is secret and its terms of reference are secret. It gives the opportunity for publicly owned enterprises to be delved into by their competitors. The committee’s report will be secret. If there is a need to examine government transport undertakings then it could be done publicly, honourably and above board in several other ways. First it could be done through the InterState Commission, the legislation for which this Government refuses to proclaim and which would be the ideal body to carry that out. Secondly it could be carried out by the Expenditure Committee announced with great acclaim by the Government in the first session of Parliament and from which we heard the report by the Chairman yesterday. It is another ideal body which has responsibility for the statutory authorities of this country. It could be carried out by the Public Accounts Committee or by the Auditor-General through whom these statutory authorities already report. Finally, it could be carried out by a select parliamentary committee which could be set up for the purpose of looking at government transport undertakings and the role they play. This committee will be guilty of deliberate waste and extravagance if it insists on nit-picking in respect of public transport enterprises when 350 000 Australians are jobless and another 150 000 will join them before next February because of the deliberate policies of this Government. It is an indictment of the Government. But another organisation ought to be concerned in relation to this issue and that is, the Australian Shareholders Association. I note that the past president of that organisation is now the president of the New South Wales branch of the Liberal Party. I ask this Association to take some interest in the activities of this inquiry, to take some interest in the role being played by Mr McNeill, Mr Holcroft and Mr Keown. Their first responsibilities are to the shareholders of the companies they represent, not to the Government Minister- and certainly not to an inquiry held in secret. Aim No. 1 of the Australian Shareholders Association is to promote and protect the interests of all shareholders, debentures and noteholders. The Association certainly is not doing so in this case. It has an excellent opportunity to ask Mr McNeill how he can reconcile his primary responsibility to the shareholders of BHP with the task that has been given to him by the Minister for Transport. Another aim of the Association is to campaign continually for improvements in management standards and business ethics and to call for stronger restrictions on such matters as insider trading. I put it to the Parliament that here is a very clear case for consideration of business ethics and insider trading. (An incident having occurred in the gallery)
-Order! Remove that man.
– The matters to which I have been referring ought to be brought to the attention of the Australian Shareholders Association. They ought to be brought to the attention of the Parliament. The Minister should act to bring the inquiry to a halt and at the same time should look at the role of BHP which is trying to circumvent its responsibility to its shareholders. (The disturbance continuing in the gallery)
-Order! The House will take little notice of this disturbance and wait until it subsides. The House will then continue in order. (Extension of time granted)
– The other matter to which I wish to refer is the role of BHP in this inquiry and the role of BHP in the shipbuilding industry. There is a direct relationship between the fact that this committee was appointed in June with secret terms of reference and the inquiry being conducted in secret. In early March, the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Senator Cotton) met a deputation from shipyard unions, which I accompanied, to talk about the shipbuilding industry. The Minister told us at the time that the Government was examining the subject. In February BHP also made a submission- a secret submission it turned out- to the Government. Over the months that followed nothing was said.
No public statement was made by BHP, least of all by its managing director who was chairman of a committee appointed to look into the Australian National Line- a major client to purchase new ships, a major client in the operation of our shipping industry. The chairman of BHP said nothing about that company’s secret submission to the Government and nor did the Government say anything. Again it took the Australian Financial Review to bring to light the fact that BHP had put in a submission which, in effect, asked the Government to dump the shipbuilding industry, asked the Government to give BHP the opportunity to take short term advantage of the record depression that exists in world shipbuilding yards and which followed the energy crisis in 1973. That submission, hidden by BHP, was there all the time, while delegations were being met by Ministers of this Government, while representations were being received and meetings were being held by unions associated with the industry and while anxiety and heartbreak was developing for the tens of thousands of people who will be affected when the shipyards are closed down. We are not talking about the 6000 people directly employed in the yards. We are talking about over 18 000, or 24 000 in total, directly associated with the industry. We are also talking about their dependants. So we can think in terms of SO 000 to 60 000 Australians who will be directly affected, who will be looking to this Government in the next few months for some means in which to meet their house payments, for some means to meet their food bills, for some means to pay their Medibank payments- the new Medibank tax that has been -
– They will be short of the money.
– They will be short of money because the honourable member’s Government will not give them the opportunity to earn, and you and your colleagues should be ashamed of yourselves for it. This Government is deliberately following a policy of creating massive unemployment in its political vendetta against sections of the trade union movement. This Government is deliberately setting out to put at least 500 000 Australians out of work by February next year. That is this Government’s objective. Honourable members opposite should be honest about it. We have enough of the secrecy surrounding the shipbuilding industry. We have had enough of secrecy in the conduct of inquiries. We have had enough of big business running this Government. I thought that all those back benchers I am looking at were going to stand up and take part in Government, but they have been manipulated like little puppets because James McNeill has more say than any ten of them put together or, to phrase it more correctly, any 10 members of the Government. This Government has to turn its face the other way and recognise the needs of the Australian people. The Government should show some compassion and concern for the people and do something to help those families which will need income to meet their commitments and to live in the next few months after its destructive policy of putting people out of work is implemented.
-Order! Before I call the honourable member for Denison I remind the gallery and honourable members that any interference with the business of the House will not be tolerated in this place.
– I believe that the people of Australia should be fully aware of the shameful hypocrisy of the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris) and members of the Australian Labor Party who are trying to blame this Government for implementing a policy which was their creation. I want to say to the dockyard workers of Australia that there are backbench members of this Government who are sympathetic to their point of view. I also want them to know that the Labor Party is making cheap political capital out of them because it was that Party when in government which brought in the present shipbuilding policy; it was that Government which placed orders with overseas shipbuilding companies over the last 3 years. If that Government had been more concerned for the dockyard workers the industry would not be in the position it is in today.
I do not want in any way to dignify the arguments put forward by the honourable member for Shortland. I did not intend to speak on this subject. In fact I believe that yesterday the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) completely demolished the Labor Party’s campaign of cant and hypocrisy in trying to blame us for what is happening in the Australian shipyard industry today.
I rise to speak on the question of federalism because that is a question which I believe is deliberately distorted by those who want to see a return in this country to the centralist type of government that Australia endured over the 3 years from 1972 to 1975.
– It wrecked shipbuilding.
– Frankly, it had a part in the destruction of Australian industry and productivity including the shipbuilding industry.
When I speak of federalism I speak as one committed to it, not frightened of it. I speak of it as a dynamic policy which is good for the States and Australia and good for the men and women of this country.
I think it is about time certain leaders of the Labor Party got their facts right before they go out into the public arena and endeavour to distort and corrupt the public interpretation of federalism. I adopt with respect the statement that federalism makes possible the most effective devolution of power and the most effective responses by governments to peoples’ needs. I would remind all honourable members on whichever side of the House they sit that federalism is not merely a structural concept. Its principal justification is in fact a philosophical one. It means better government by governments with the people, not distant from them as the Labor Government was from 1972 to 1975. It means government which does not ignore the wishes of the people in dockyard areas or any other part of Australia. It means government which is close to the people.
I am absolutely appalled that statements should be made such as were made yesterday by Senator Wriedt, the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, that it was the desire of the present Federal Government- I will quote him verbatimto destroy State and local governments because of its antagonism towards the public sector’. It is almost beyond comprehension that a national leader should make such an irresponsible and inaccurate statement. I am appalled that such a statement should come from a man who represents my State because the whole thrust of our policy is to let the State governments and local governments play their true role under the Federal system. We do not believe that all wisdom resides in Canberra. We do not believe that decisions made in Canberra are the only correct decisions. We believe in government by the people and for the people and that can only be close government under a Federal system.
Stage 1 of the new federal policy is the Budget. Again we have the Jeremiahs and the Jonahs emerging from their corners. The Premier of Tasmania described the Budget in gloomy terms and used negative, destructive and pessimistic criticism. Compare his attitude with that of Mr Wran, the Premier of New South Wales, who said: ‘We must give it a go for the sake of Australia. ‘ Let me remind honourable members what Mr Wran said and I publicly congratulate him for doing so. A newspaper article written on this subject stated:
The Labor Premier of New South Wales, Mr Wran, last night urged people to support the Lynch Budget ‘for the good of Australia. ‘ ‘I’m prepared to give the Budget a go,’ he said after a meeting of his Cabinet. ‘I hope everyone will join together to get this country back on its feet ‘
These were not only wise words from Mr Wran but a recognition that this country was down and out, flat on its back after 3 years of Whitlam administration. Therefore I suggest that we should adopt a co-operative and optimistic attitude. I deplore the remarks that were made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) the other night in his speech on the Budget. What a pessimistic and gloomy performance that was. I suggest that honourable members would be far better equipped to tackle the problems of this country if we said that we are going to get people back into the work force, we are going to improve productivity and we are going to beat inflation. But as I said last night there are some people on the other side of the chamber who simply want to see inflation go up, who want to see dockyard workers out of employment, because this stirs up political trouble and they believe they can make cheap political capital out of it. I condemn those who use the present situation in Australian shipyards for cheap political purposes. I condemn them for treating with such contempt the men and women who will be put out of work largely as a result of the policies which the Labor Party itself introduced.
I would like to make one final comment on this matter. I acknowledge that we do not have a shipyard industry in Tasmania. However, I recognise that the shipyard industry of this country is a critical one and is of particular concern with regard to defence. I want to say to the people who are concerned in this industry: Do not hesitate to contact Government backbenchers; do not hesitate to put your point of view because unlike the people on the other side of the chamber who have made political capital out of you today, we will be prepared to listen and if we can do anything to assist we most certainly will.
I want to deal with only one other matter. I believe that I should raise this matter particularly in view of the visit to Canberra this afternoon of Mr Neilson, the Premier of Tasmania. My comments relate to a newspaper article which appeared in the Hobart Mercury on Tuesday last. The newspaper carried an article written by Mr Wayne Crawford who in my opinion is one of the fairest and finest political journalists in this country. Mr Crawford contended in his article that as a result of the cash flow from the Commonwealth to the States this year Tasmania appeared in his opinion to fare worse than other States in the distribution of Federal Government finances. I want to say with respect that I must refute Mr Crawford’s contentions, and I do so in this place only because I have a very high regard for him and it would not be correct simply to let the matter pass without making some appropriate comment on the article.
In the first instance I want to suggest that Mr Crawford has not stated the full picture and certainly some of his statistics are inaccurate or incomplete. Every State in Australia under our new federalism policy this year is receiving an increase of over 20 per cent in general revenues, and that is better than the States would have received under the Whitlam formula as it applied last year. Firstly, I draw to public attention the fact that Tasmania is receiving an increase in general revenues of 20.8 per cent which is above the national average of 20.3 per cent and not, as Mr Crawford suggested, below the national average.
Secondly, I draw attention to the fact that Tasmania ‘s total allocation of Commonwealth payments is almost exactly the same in percentage terms for 1976-77 as it was in 1975-76. The figures speak for themselves. The total in 1976-76 was $4 16.5m and it rose to $444. in 1976-77. This represents 4.8 per cent of the national cake compared with Tasmania’s population of 3.1 per cent of the total Australian population and Tasmania’s contribution of only 2.6 per cent of income tax collections.
Thirdly, the article in my opinion was inaccurate in that it failed to take into account the magnificent $20m freight equalisation scheme and other direct payments to Tasmania which were not included in volume No. 7 of the Budget papers. On the question of specific purpose grants, the fact that Tasmania received its Medibank payments earlier than other States and that in addition Tasmania had a higher proportion of Regional Employment Development scheme money than any other State greatly affected the 1976-77 figures. If these nonrecurrent unemployment relief grants are taken into account Tasmania’s overall increase in total funds in the Budget amounts to 1 1.3 per cent and in respect of the increase in specific purpose funds the true increase is 4.8 per cent. I believe that all the States have done exceptionally well in their increase in general revenue grants, and that Tasmania is well above the national average in this field.
-Order The honourable member’s time has expired.
– It is always interesting to sit here and witness the shedding of crocodile tears by the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman). In the short time that he has been in this House and the short time that he will be in it before the next elections, he has become quite well known and will continue to be quite well known for the fact that he weeps and wails and apologises for everything; he has never stood up and accepted responsibility for any decision that the Government has taken.
He put forward a specious argument on the question of the shipbuilding industry. This crazy argument has been put forward by other members of the Liberal Party, namely, that it was following Labor Party policy. That does not bind the members of the Liberal Party. They are the people who took the action. It might have been spoken about previously, but the action was taken by the Liberal Party. He cannot apologise for that. He ought to stand up, be honest and say that it is true that the Liberal Party took the action. It seems to me that other Labor Party policies were not followed by the Government. Why has it suddenly picked on one, the policy on the shipbuilding industry? Furthermore, circumstances were somewhat different at an earlier time from what they are now. The yards are short of work; they are looking for work. Let us look at the sum of money that is actually involved. To build those bulk carriers in Australia would cost $20m per ship, less a subsidy of $7m on each ship. To have them built where they are being built is costing a total of $40m for the 4 ships. That is half the price of building them in Australia. But what are we talking about? We are talking about $20m, and that is all. In the Budget there was $60m which went straight into the pockets of mining companies in Western Australia as a direct subsidy; yet the present Government will not put up $20m to subsidise the shipbuilding industry in Australia and keep men in work. All that the Government does is to subsidise workers in other countries- in this case, Japan. That ought to be said and ought to be understood. People should not go around this country making statements that are so blatantly false.
The honourable member for Denison also spoke of the local government position. He did not tell us the whole story there either. He trotted out a set of statistics about money that was to be paid to the States. He did not bother to tell us that no money is being paid to Victoria this year for its sewerage program. He did not tell us that no such money is being paid to New South Wales either. He did not tell us of all the ancillary payments made by the previous Labor Government to the States for State and local government purposes that are not being made this year. It is about time- I agree with his words herethat a little honesty was introduced into the situation.
But I did not get up to talk about that. What I really want to talk about, apart from the points that I have already outlined, relates to my electorate. I am well known for not being parochial. I have always been regarded as being of statesmanlike stature in this House. But today I feel very competent to raise the matter of the lack of health services in Broadmeadows and Sunbury, both of which are suburbs located within the Federal division of Burke. In both those areas the previous Government raised with the local people the question of building community health centres. This matter was attractive to the local people. They formed committees of citizens in the area and set about doing the planning that was necessary, on the basis of an undertaking from the Australian Government that if the plans were approved funds would be made available. Land was purchased in both areas, Sunbury and Broadmeadows, and the committees set about their task of planning the community health centres. They not only planned the buildings which are essential and engaged architects to do the drawings but also formulated on the best advice available to them ideas on the sorts of health services that would be needed in these very large areas.
I point out that the electorate of Burke- one of the best represented electorates in Australia- extends across the north-western part of Melbourne, the outer suburbs. It is acknowledged by all the statistic-keeping authorities to be the most rapidly growing sector of the metropolis. In about 9 years’ time, by the year 1985, the population of that area will well exceed a quarter of a million people and will be nearer to 300 000 people. It is rapidly developing towards that very large number of people. The health services and other services in the area badly need to be planned and to have funds put into them to upgrade the area and to keep pace with the rapidly increasing population. The community health care services and community health centres go part of the way towards providing some of those services.
The schools and all other facilities, including sewerage programs, are lagging. There is no major hospital in that area. There is no hospital planned by the Victorian Government. The Victorian Hospitals and Charities Commission has said that the priorities lie in other areas of Melbourne; when pressed on that question the Commission concedes that it would change its priorities if funds were available. It acknowledges that there is a need for a hospital in that area. However, the State Government cannot provide the funds; and the Government that can provide the funds- the Australian Government- will not do so. The thing that has disturbed the people in that area is that now they have been advised by the Hospitals and Charities Commission that funds will not be made available for the construction of the buildings and for the engagement of staff; in fact, staff ceilings have been applied to the full-time people already working in the community health centre. They are overstaffed; they have more people working for them than the ceiling allows.
This is a growing need. It is a service that is growing. It is embryonic at the moment. As it grows, of necessity it will need people. Yet the Government has placed a staff ceiling that means that no more people will be employed. I suppose that is fair enough because it has not provided any funds to put up the buildings. Therefore the matter has reached a complete impasse. Nothing will be done. All the planning that has gone into it for some 3 years has come to nought. The land is owned. One can understand the anger of the people in the area. It is a large area, as I mentioned. Of course there are doctors practising in the area. Again the statistics tell us that there are fewer doctors per thousand head of population in that area than there are in other parts of the metropolis. The area is not even properly served by doctors who practise curative medicine rather than preventive medicine. They do not have the time to inquire into the community to find out what ills are really affecting the community, whether they be physical or mental.
There is no facility which provides for research into community health. The people in the area are just having bandaids stuck on them. Nobody is finding out the socio-economic reasons for the ills that are befalling them; nobody is having a look at the incidence of alcoholism or the psychiatric problems that exist in the area. If somebody does not look at them and gauge the depth of them, there is no way in which a service can be provided to prevent illnesses or to cure illnesses which already exist. The doctors are relying on people coming to them from the community. There is no facility to take health care to the people in the area. The community health centre would do that. It would make provision for health care to be taken to the people. Any reasonable person knows that not everybody knows when he has an illness. He may know when he has a serious illness, but he may not know when he has an affliction or problem which may cause other problems in the community. These things have to be ferreted out. They have to be known about before remedial action can be taken. There are no facilities in the area to do this. Imagine a group of people which is larger than the population of the city of Canberra- in fact, half as big again as the population within the environs of Canberra- and which has no community health service and no public hospital. None of those facilities is available in that area.
The present Government could not care less. The previous Government made an attempt to help. It offered to build a hospital there when the Victorian Government decided that it was not going to build hospitals. The Victorian Government gave in and then built a hospital somewhere else. The whole area is without services. That is a blatant indictment of the present Government. The present Government will do nothing to plan for that area. It has absolutely cut off funds for that area. It has left everybody who has been involved in the planning high and dry. Nobody is quite sure where he is going. I am hopeful that the Government will take some note of what I have said today, look at this very important area of Melbourne- I guess it is only representative of other areas- look at the lack of services in the area, do some planning and make available funds to provide the services.
– Last week during a debate in the House I mentioned the particular problems that were facing the tourist industry in the Point Lookout, North Stradbroke Island area of the electorate of Bowman. At that stage I had little time to express the fears that I have for the tourist industry, not only in my own electorate or in my own State but indeed throughout Australia. Since then, with the help of the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) and the honourable member for Evans (Mr Abel), I have undertaken quite a deal of work in this regard. I was pleased yesterday to see that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) now recognises the problems that exist here and has ordered that a committee be established to investigate the problems of the tourist industry in Australia and the structure of Qantas Airways Ltd.
I feel it is essential that the people of Australia and indeed the members of this House know exactly what the situation is in the industry at the moment. Australia has in fact suffered a decline in tourism growth during the last few years and many of our tourist resorts and organisations allied with the tourist industry now find themselves in dire straits. Despite the fact that Australians have an ever increasing leisure time available to them the industry is going backwards. Tourism is very important commercially. Ten per cent of our national work force is directly employed in travel, accommodation, catering and entertainment
In 1974 the industry earned $187m in foreign exchange. It achieved gross sales to the order of $3,000m in that same year. An efficient and progressive tourist industry offers Australians a wide range of opportunities for their leisure time. There are a number of reasons why the tourist industry in Australia is finding itself in the trouble it is in now. This coming year there will be a tourism deficit of about $285m. This situation has occurred because of the opportunity for Australians to travel overseas. They will be travelling this year at a record level. It would seem from forward estimates that they will be spending in the vicinity of $ 162m abroad. The tourist drain accounts for almost 10 per cent of the nation’s invisible payouts. The actual outflow of tourist dollars is probably underestimated in the travel section of our balance of payments figures because it does not include spending by Australians on air and ship fares paid to the foreignowned carriers. Because of the service that foreign-owned carriers are now providing there is a real tendency for Australians not to fly with our own national airline. Obviously one has only to look at the service that is provided on the ground by our national airline to see why people are tending to move towards the overseas carriers.
We can do a number of things for the tourist industry. We can try to make it more attractive to holiday here in Australia. There have been suggestions that holidays spent here become tax deductible. The Government could give all sorts of guarantees to investors in the Australian tourist industry. It could apply a system of double tax deductibility to the industry on all its promotional costs in attracting people from overseas. We could apply the 40 per cent investment allowance to all new tourist investment. It would seem that it will be hard to discourage Australians from travelling abroad. The opportunities are still there at reasonable rates because of the highly developed nature of the overseas tourist industry and the assistance that governments overseas have given to help their own tourist organisations. So if we are not going to stop this drain of Australians overseas we have to start looking at bringing tourists here.
I notice that in the 1976 Budget Papers an amount of only $3m is provided by the Australian Tourist Commission to encourage overseas visitors to travel to and within Australia. This is not a lot of money when one considers the markets that have to be covered and the cost of promotions within those markets. The real fact of the situation is that at the moment it is just too expensive for most tourists from overseas countries firstly to come to Australia and secondly to travel around inside Australia. This is discouraging them. Two prime markets at which we should be looking at the moment are Japan and America. Indeed, this is where I hope the investigations into the Qantas fare structure and the protection of Qantas will be looked at very seriously indeed. At the moment the standard fare on the Sydney-Tokyo run is in the vicinity of $1,300. There is no excursion fare between Australia and Japan. Yet an Australian can buy a ticket and fly to London via Tokyo for $1,004 return and have a stopover in Tokyo as well. This situation seems to me to be quite ludicrous, in as much as we are the only International Air Transport Association conference nation in the world where off line airline carriers cannot participate in a fare which is available to on line carriers. I believe this must be changed. At the moment the excursion fare applies only to specific points. These points are cities that are served by Qantas and/or its pool partners with the exception of Tel Aviv and Damascus. That means that people from some of the big travelling nations such as Scandinavia, Switzerland and indeed the Eastern bloc countries, cannot have the availability of excursion fares to Australia. Prior to 1 December 1974 excursion fares on the 45 to 180 day line applied to all points in Europe. Of course this has ceased and it has cut off quite a large potential market.
We have to look at the Qantas-IATA cartel situation if we are to attract foreign visitors. At the moment we have situations in which jumbo charter flights loaded with tourists from Japan are flying every week to places like Fiji. There are cheap excursion fares from Japan to Honolulu and to the west coast of America. German organisations are setting up big charter flights into Bangkok and Bali but because of the structure we have here, with the protection that we have here, those tourists cannot make that extra step to come into Australia and bring in that extra foreign capital.
Inflation and the exchange rates are not helping the situation either. But the industry in
Australia has a lot to contribute by way of self help. Frankly, a lot of our tourist attractions do not provide accommodation of a standard that would be acceptable to a lot of these world travellers. Some of the Barrier Reef islands are an example of this. Within Australia there will have to be more packaging of holiday tours. We have seen the result of one organisation- the Pioneer coach system- which has introduced its Aussie pass which provides cheap travel around Australia. This is the type of thing that many more of our tourist operators will have to provide.
I believe that the operators must also become involved with community groups such as unions to provide these package tours at cheaper rates within Australia. The industry is suffering at the moment from an unemployment rate which is 20 per cent higher than the average for all industries. Increasing penalty payments, high wages and the introduction of equal pay have all helped along with inflation to lead to the higher tariffs and fewer job opportunities within the industry. For example, one can acquire a top quality room in a Singapore hotel for about $8 a night and in Honolulu for about $14 a night. To gain the same standard in Australia it costs at least $20 a night. The people employed within the industry have to look to themselves as well to try to stem this tendency. The manager of one Brisbane hotel told me that he would like to close the doors at lunchtime on Saturday and re-open again at 9 o ‘clock on Monday morning because it is not possible for him to operate profitably during the weekend because of this wage structure. Perhaps the people employed within the industry could consider working a 5 -day week over any span of days so as not to attract the huge weekend penalty rates to help to stabilise the industry.
We as a Government must play our part as well. We must assist in a positive way. Over the years there has been little in the way of cooperation between the industry and government. There should be co-operation between Federal, State and local government and tourist organisations. This is an industry that can provide real economic benefit to Australia. It is an industry that needs our help and we must very soon look to providing that help if the industry is to survive in a viable form. Therefore I welcome the appointment of the committee mentioned by the Prime Minister to look into the problems of the tourist industry in Australia. I trust that it will conduct a real and meaningful examination of the situation that exists regarding the protectionist attitude towards Qantas on fares into Australia. Australia needs overseas tourists. We need them soon because, as I said the other night, if we do not get them here soon the whole tourist industry will come to one big grinding halt.
– I do not want to speak about the shipbuilding industry, which is of great immediate concern because of the prospect of causing unemployment to thousands and thousands of Australians, but about a matter which I think should concern all Australians and particularly all members of the Parliament; that is, the problems and the future of the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. I am concerned that the Government’s misguided economic policy, especially in relation to public service ceilings, could possible result in some long-term damage to the War Memorial, which has become an invaluable part of our national heritage. The Australian War Memorial is one of the great war memorials and museums of the world. Tens of thousands of Australians visit the Memorial each year and hundreds of overseas visitors are lavish in their praise of its theme, its contents and its displays. Some honourable members will recall the visit we had last year from the Canadian Parliamentary delegation. This well-travelled group of people volunteered to me that one of the most impressive things which they had seen in the whole of their travels, and certainly in Australia, was their visit to the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. Many of these visitors stressed the great emotional impact which the display had made on them and all of those to whom I spoke were unanimous that they had seen nothing to compare with the quality of the display in any part of the world in which they had travelled.
It has deservedly earned the admiration of both Australian and overseas visitors for 2 particular reasons. First, I think a very important aspect of the Memorial is that it does not glorify war. Its theme very much is the tragedy, the pity and the sacrifice of war. It graphically portrays the utter futility of war. It is first and foremost a memorial to the tens of thousands of Australians who have paid the supreme sacrifice for their country. It is thus fittingly the scene of the national Anzac Day and Remembrance Day ceremonies. Secondly, it is not only a great memorial but also a great institution because of its holdings. It is a museum, an art gallery and a library. As a military museum with 40 000 war relics, it ranks among the great military museums of the world. Its art collection is, I am told, superior in terms of quantity and quality, to any like institution in the world. As a library, it houses the largest collection of military history and science material in the country and this collection ranks also as one of the world’s major collections.
Finally, all historians are aware that the Australian War Memorial is charged with the responsibility of producing the official histories of Australia at war. The 2 official histories of Australia in World Wars I and II are among the finest military histories ever produced. In the 1975-76 Budget, the appropriation for the War Memorial was almost $850,000. This year the appropriation is just over $lm. Whilst we applaud this marginal increase, unfortunately it does not provide for additional specialist staff and, in particular, for badly needed conservation and curatorial staff. I understand there is currently a request for 12 more staff at the museum and I would urge the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers) and the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) to consider this request sympathetically as a matter of priority. Until 1968 there was no conservation staff at all at the War Memorial. Since that time there has been only a token staff consisting of one trained conservator plus one paid staff member and one volunteer, with no hope of increased staff for the advancement of this particularly important area. On the curatorial staff there are only 2 curators, one in art and the other in relics. In order to maintain its high standards, the War Museum clearly needs more money, particularly for specialist staffing.
I should like to refer to a recent conference at the Australian National University on the conservation of cultural materials. Eminent authorities including the Head of the scientific department of the National Gallery in London declared that Australia had an opportunity to establish a system of conserving its cultural and historical materials that could be looked on as a model for the rest of the world. In relation to his own country, he said that the whole thing has grown up haphazardly. Let us learn from the experience of other countries and adequately finance the protection of our national heritage.
One of the most serious problems facing the War Memorial is that of the conservation of the valuable relics it holds. This particularly is the case in the area of textile material, paper, and oil paintings. Conservation work has been carried out only on a very minor scale, mainly because the Memorial has only one trained conservator. At this time it should also be noted that there are few facilities for the training of qualified people to assure the preservation of cultural materials in Australia. The vast majority of people employed in this work are either from other countries or have received their training in other countries.
In addition, proper storage facilities for priceless relics and valuable paintings are entirely lacking. What is urgently required is adequate storage facilities with proper temperature and humidity controls, because it must be remembered that the War Memorial can display only a fraction of its extensive collection at one time, and needs periodically to rotate and replace display material. If proper storage facilities are not quickly provided, millions of dollars worth of damage could be done to certain items.
At the conference to which I previously referred at the Australian National University, it was also noted by Australian authorities that ministerial support generally has been lacking for the preservation of historical and cultural material in Australia. Dr Pearson, of the conservation laboratory in Western Australia, was emphatic in stating the need for immediate steps to ensure preventative conservation in order to halt the deterioration of irreplaceable cultural materials in Australia. There is not time to delineate all the areas which require attention at the War Memorial. It is sufficient to say that the small and extremely dedicated staff works under severe difficulties. It is a great tribute to the Director and his staff that the War Memorial functions as well as it does. However, a modern museum must move with the times. It must have a staff of education officers to cope with the ever increasing demands of the many students on its facilities. It must have a bigger library staff and adequate reading facilities for research workers and authors.
The Board of Trustees is gravely concerned about these problems. The hard-working staff is concerned, and the Government should be concerned about the future of this great national Memorial. The Australian War Memorial, standing at the foot of Mount Ainslie and facing Parliament House, commemorates the achievements and sacrifices of Australians at war. It was one of the first permanent public buildings in this city. This fact in itself is an indication of an important priority. We see it every day, but let us not take it for granted. Let us give serious thought to its needs. It would be a great betrayal of the memory of those men and women it commemorates if it were not to be adequately financed and staffed to cope with expanding needs and demands. It would indeed be a tragedy and a betrayal to future generations of Australians if we were to allow this unique feature of our national heritage to become run down and permanently damaged merely through the blind adherence of the
Government to some sterile and doubtful theory about inflation and unemployment. The previous Government was seriously considering the problems of the War Memorial, after many years of neglect by conservative governments but was not given the opportunity to get its improvement plans under way. I appeal to the present Government to give top priority to the consideration of the urgent needs of the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.
– My grievance is expressed on behalf of the great majority of pregnant women in Australia who do not receive paid maternity leave or its equivalent. More than 60 per cent of the married women in Australia are not in the work force and, therefore, are not entitled to any payment other than the $30 social security maternity payment which all pregnant women receive. One can query the term ‘leave’ for these people. Furthermore, of the 40 per cent of these women in the work force, the majority are in the private sector. According to the Parliamentary Research Service, as at June 1976 little or no provision existed for paid maternity leave for these people. However, it will probably be gradually extended to them because of the pacesetter role of the Commonwealth Public Service.
The provision of maternity leave to Commonwealth public servants is covered by the Maternity Leave (Australian Government Employees) Act 1973 which, for the financial year 1974-75, cost the Australian taxpayers $7m. This Act provides 12 weeks maternity leave on full pay and 52 weeks total absence for each confinement. Many of these women are second income earners in the family. State Public Service conditions vary. According to the Parliamentary Research Service, New South Wales provides 4 weeks paid leave; Victoria provides 3 months paid leave; and other States provide leave without pay.
I should like to refer to the leave provision in other countries. In New Zealand, for example, there is 6 months leave without pay and in Britain there is 3 months paid leave and 3 months leave without pay. In Discussion Paper No. 3 Sexism in the Public Service for the Royal Commission into Government Administration, it was stated that maternity leave provisions are generous by international standards. It was referring to the Commonwealth Public Service. One could equally add ‘by Australian standards’. I am in favour of leave for pregnant women in the work force. I am in favour of no discrimination against pregnant women over employment or promotion. More particularly, I am in favour of maternity leave in some form for all pregnant women in Australia and still more in favour of a financial arrangement to cover all pregnant women, not just the fortunate minority in the Commonwealth Public Service. I recommend the provision of leave without pay for pregnant women in the work force. That can include a paternity leave provision and the provision of a social security payment for all pregnant women and fathers-to-be. This will provide social justice for all pregnant women in Australia. I am thinking of social justice for certain groups in particular. They are the women who can never join the salaried work force for a variety of reasons. The first is the self-employed group who work just as hard as, or a damn sight harder than, those in the salaried work force, such as the wives in small business, corner stores, wives of tradesmen, farmers, etc. The second group is those to whom employment will never be available. The third group consists of those who have a family responsibility. If one considers the provision of this leave, it actually discriminates against a pregnant woman with a number of children compared with one who has a small number of children because the first woman has less opportunity to get back into the work force. The final group is the unmarried mothers who can receive only the social security entitlement.
I believe that on behalf of these women we should call a halt to the scandals that are developing in this practice. I refer to this morning’s Melbourne Age, in which there is an article headed:
Academics ride the learning boom in the new cloisters of paradise.
A section of that article states:
Take leave conditions, for example.
The Prahran College of Advanced Education says in its college regulations that maternity leave is ‘at least 24 weeks’ on full pay. This is exactly double the Federal public service standard- which is itself way in advance of private-sector conditions.
The cost of Prahran ‘s maternity leave to taxpayers would be equivalent to a grant of around $6,000 to the mother. The mother would normally be a second income-earner within the family.
By contrast, if you are a destitute unmarried mother, the same Federal paymaster will award you a princely grant of $30 to cover birth expenses, and a pension of $4 1 a week for 1 8 weeks- grand total of $768.
The Prahran regulations also suggest that the half-year’s maternity leave generates a claim for 2 weeks’ annual recreation leave and one month’s study leave (which accrues at the rate of two months annually).
Further on the article states:
Prahran College also offers its proud fathers two weeks’ paternity leave on full pay. Again, double the Federal public service provisions. And whereas the Federal regulations require the one week’s leave to be taken within six weeks of the birth, Prahran lets daddy take it within 6 months of the birth.
The research service also refers to the generous provisions in our tertiary institutions generally for paid maternity leave. I refer to an article in the Adelaide Advertiser, of 12 June which is headed:
Maternity leave ‘a year, mostly paid ‘.
Four women employed by Telecom Australia in Adelaide have each been given 12 months maternity and other leave and for much of the time they are being paid.
The article refers to 2 cases which I will quote:
The clerk, who went on leave on May 18, received the statutory three months maternity leave on full pay, six months sick leave on full pay and two months recreation leave with full pay.
The rest of the time was special leave without pay.
An accounting machinist, who went on leave on April 19, received the full three months maternity leave pay plus three months sick leave on full pay and six months sick leave on half pay.
The four letters were signed ‘ for Chief Manager ‘.
Senator Jessop, when referring to these points, stated in the Adelaide Advertiser of the same day that he knew of a woman public servant who received 14 months maternity leave on full pay. She had received about $9,900 for the time she was off work. I believe there should be a requirement in all these leave provisions for a return to work, within a reasonable period, by a person receiving the benefit if that person is to be eligible for full payment. I know that there will have to be safeguards for special groups such as the unmarried mothers and deserted wives, but some awards embody those provisions already. To do so would safeguard against the growing practice of school teachers who have no thought of returning to the work force, taking leave. This prevents their replacement in that school with another school teacher and generally upsets the school ‘s education program.
I appeal to certain women’s organisations and public service groups to look beyond their narrow borders and see the unfair discrimination against the vast majority of pregnant women in Australia before they push for any further maternity, paternity or parental leave conditions. I appeal to the Government to consider seriously the .replacement of paid maternity leave for the fortunate few in certain categories of employment with a benefit for all pregnant women.
– I want to discuss the Government’s decision to tax the incomes which thalidomide children obtain from their investment trust funds. On 24 June this year, Mr Justice Cantor in the New South Wales Supreme Court directed that $2.25m be paid into the Thalidomide Foundation for approximately 25 children. Two days afterwards the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) announced the payment of a lump sum of $150 000 to the Thalidomide Foundation which will act as a trustee for thalidomide afflicted children in respect of whom settlements have been made. In his announcement the Treasurer admitted that the Chairman of the Foundation, Sir Kenneth Anderson, had sought exemption from income tax for the income derived from investment of the sums paid in settlement. He described the Government’s decision as a gesture of sympathy with the children and their parents and warned that the grant should not be seen as a precedent. The House now knows that the so-called gesture of sympathy is nothing more than a sleight of hand. In fact, there are many people in the community, including my own Illawarra thalidomide children’s group, who regard it as a gigantic swindle. Of course this great human tragedy is a precedent. The Treasurer need not be inhibited about that in any way. It is regarded as a precedent in every country where children have been affected. The problem can be regarded as totally unique in terms of history and if it ever recurred it would, and should, receive every sympathy and consideration.
My own view is that the Treasurer’s decision cuts across the spirit of international goodwill which, apart from the Australian Government’s attitude, has universally applied to the future well-being of these unfortunate victims. The Australian Government has now earned the unique distinction of being the first government in the world to tax the compensation paid to child victims of thalidomide. It has welshed on its obligations. It has actually gone to the trouble of repudiating an undertaking given by the previous Labor Government to exempt from tax the income earned from the thalidomide victims’ trust fund. On 12 November 1974 the then Treasurer, Mr Crean, told Parliament that he had every sympathy with this case and undertook to receive a deputation from the trust and to refer the matter to his Department for urgent attention. Mr Crean had told the Parliament earlier, on 22 October 1974, that lump sum compensation payments were not liable to tax but regular weekly payments were. He added that it was a law inherited from the past but if it were necessary to make some change to it in order that these payments would be exempt from taxation if they were subject to taxation, he gave the assurance that the matter would be looked at. He hoped all sections would co-operate in the passage of any necessary legislation.
Subsequently, draft legislation was prepared to enable the then Treasurer, the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden), to amend the taxation laws to exempt income earned in 1974-75 and subsequently by the Foundation. Now this Government has put all that aside. Instead, Australian thalidomide victims will have to pay up to 30 per cent tax on the compensation awarded to them. In total, the Thalidomide Foundation is expected to pay $8 14,000 in tax over the next 12 years. This estimate is based on a settlement figure of $2. 7m made in respect of 34 children in total at an average tax for each child of 25.14 per cent. In cases involving limbless children, where the effects of thalidomide were more severe, the tax will rise to as high as 3 1 per cent on 1975-76 taxation figures.
This scandalous decision to subject the settlement income to tax comes as a serious setback for the families of these children, who for some 15 years have suffered anxiety and uncertainty in the protracted negotiations and legal actions aimed at securing compensation. In a nutshell, the Treasurer’s decision means that the Government makes a grant of $150,000 but reaps $814,000 in tax over the next 12 years from the thalidomide victims. Even the $150,000 grant will be subject to tax, and the added income which investment of this amount generates will help to bring each of the beneficiaries on to an even higher tax scale. The Treasurer should know the level of settlement was determined in consideration of its expected immunity from taxation. In other words, these children, who in many instances are grotesquely deformed and unable to earn a living, would have sought and won even greater awards if this change of policy could have been anticipated.
I noted in an article in the Australian newspaper of 6 July some comments attributed to the Chairman of the Foundation, Sir Kenneth Anderson. The article stated that Sir Kenneth Anderson was delighted with the Government grant of $150,000 made in lieu of granting an earlier plea to make compensation settlements to the beneficiaries tax free. I very much doubt that that is the situation. I feel that Sir Kenneth Anderson was misrepresented. I know that he had put strongly, on behalf of the affected families and children, the case for total tax exemption. I also know that many of the families with whom the group which operates out of my electorate has an association regard the new attitude, as expressed by the Treasurer recently, as being totally unacceptable. I am very pleased to see the strong, forthright and unequivocal attitude taken by various sections of the media in respect of this matter. I noted the attitude of the Age newspaper, as expressed in its editorial on 7 July this year. It said:
We find the Federal Government’s decision to impose tax on income from the trust fund of Australia ‘s thalidomide victims a glaring example of insensitivity. It thrusts outrage upon the victims of a human tragedy that even in the best of circumstances can never have a truly happy ending . . . It surrenders compassion to bureaucratic rigidity . . . The future security of Australia’s thalidomide children is not an issue that should vary with the political complexion of the Government.
It also states:
Further, it must be pointed out that the parents have never sought a blanket exemption from tax; only until each victim is 25 … the Government in fairness should have made clear its intention to tax much earlier. This undoubtedly would have led to revised claims in those cases which only recently have been settled.
As I said, there are many other editorials, particularly from the Age and the Australian, along these lines. The comments made by the Treasurer yesterday are unsatisfactory, although he indicated that he would re-examine the question. He said:
What the Government is intent on doing is to provide the best benefit to the victims of the drug thalidomide but at the same time not to create problems in relation to other crippled and handicapped children of whom there are a large number throughout the country.
As I have said, the fact is that this is a unique situation calling for unique treatment. I believe that there is no substitute for the unequivocal commitment made by the Labor Government to exempt totally from taxation payments made in respect of these children.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I suggest that the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) was attempting to make political capital out of a deep human tragedy. I remind him that this Government has done more for handicapped children than has any other government since Federation. Today we have had people from the shipbuilding industry in and around this place. These men plainly have a genuine grievance. Their jobs are threatened, and we all must be concerned about their plight; but there are other people in the community with similar problems. In the time available to me I wish to draw to the attention of honourable members, the public generally and even the shipbuilding people of the serious disadvantages being suffered by people living in country areas.
There exists in these areas an economic and social crisis of considerable magnitude. We, as members of the national Parliament, must understand the problems and take urgent action to overcome them. According to the Henderson Commission of Inquiry into Poverty, 20 to 30 per cent of all primary producers are living below the poverty line. In the financial year 1974-75 approximately one-fifth of farmers had incomes of $1,000 or less. This is below the annual income of people receiving unemployment benefits. I am speaking now of people who work full time- up to 80 hours a week- with help from members of their families, for a miserable return of $1,000 or less. For many farmers last year’s return was lower than for the previous year. The latest Bureau of Agricultural Economics figures indicate that many dairy farmers in particular had a negative income return for the last financial year; that is, they had no income at all and in fact lost money. Farmers are becoming angry, and really we cannot blame them for that.
This crisis has gone beyond the point where it can be classified as an industrial problem. It is a grave personal, human problem. Hundreds of thousands of Australians are barely existing. Mothers cannot buy groceries, shoes, school uniforms and basic family needs. Not only farmers are suffering, but also people employed by farmers, farm labourers, shopkeepers, small business people in country towns, and indeed all the residents of these areas and their families. The tragic plight of country people is of great concern to me as a Tasmanian, because in Tasmania a higher proportion of the population resides in rural areas- 26 per cent, compared with 14 per cent in Australia as a whole. Incomes are pathetically low; yet costs of all the daily requirements, including of course the cost of transport and communications, are considerably higher than for people living in the city areas.
The crisis cannot be seen simply in economic terms. The social disadvantages are enormous. A special study conducted by Mr Neville Behrens of the Education Department of Tasmania will be of considerable interest to honourable members. I take this opportunity to thank Mr Behrens for his courtesy in sending me a copy of his report. I congratulate him on the quality of that report. The study focuses on the inequalities in schooling between country children and city children and between socially advantaged and disadvantaged children. It reveals most dramatically the inequality which exists, and in particular the poor deal country children in Tasmania are getting at present. A table at page 39 of the report shows that 1 7 per cent of children in urban areas reach grade 1 1, whilst only 9 per cent of country children attain that standard. Further, 13 per cent of children from urban areas reach grade 12 but only 6 per cent of country children reach that level. That is less than half the city figure. So an increase in the size of a population centre is associated with an increased opportunity for higher education. I seek leave to incorporate a table in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave granted. (The table read as follows)-
-I refer also to a report entitled Rural Health in Australia prepared by the Hospitals and Health Services Commission which was only recently published. This report makes it clear that many people living in country areas do not obtain adequate health care. There is a shortage of doctors, dentists and other health services and personnel. Even when adequate care might be available at a provincial centre access may be impeded by lack of public transport or poor roads. The economic and social disadvantages suffered by country people are to be deplored. We have a national responsibility to these people. Their great problems have been neglected for too long by both State and Federal governments. The main thrust of Australian Labor Party policy was towards improving conditions in the great cities. Country people were the main victims of Labor’s economic mismanagement and doctrinaire social experiment. I believe that the direction has changed, because the present Federal Government accepts the concept of the equality of opportunity for everyone regardless of where they reside. However, this change of direction must be accelerated. I strongly recommend to all honourable members the 2 reports to which I have referred because they so clearly identify these injustices which now exist.
- Mr Deputy Speaker -
-Order! I now call the honourable member for Hunter.
-! was galloping before you could girth me, Mr Deputy Speaker. I was really very happy to read in the newspapers and to hear the honourable member for Phillip (Mr Birney) this morning revive the matter of Alexander Barton, the greatest spiv in Australia’s history, who misappropriated or embezzled about $33m from Australian shareholders and who is now living in extreme luxury in Paraguay. Despite the fact that I have been criticised in this Parliament before by honourable members opposite for using my parliamentary privilege, on no occasion have I abused parliamentary privilege and regretted it- and I do have a conscience. Information has come to me this morning that Alexander Barton has told certain people in Paraguay that $300,000 in cash was transferred from the Bartons in Paraguay to Australia in recent times. I am wondering whether the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott), with the mighty resources at his disposal per medium of the Commonwealth Police and other avenues could find out who received that $300,000 which I believe was sent from Paraguay to Australia.
I wonder whether it was received by Mr Gruzman, the barrister who showed unprecedented interest for an eminent criminal lawyer and left this country and went to Latin America to give advice to the Bartons soon after they were detected there. The Minister for Defence (Mr Killen), who is sitting in the chamber, is a trained and, I understand, successful criminal lawyer. One could not imagine him leaving the country and going overseas to give advice. There are lawyers in other countries through whom the business is usually done.
I regret to learn that the man, Bela Csidei, who was mentioned in a derogatory fashion in today’s Sydney Morning Herald and yesterday’s Sydney Sun, was possibly a front man for certain prominent businessmen in Sydney. One whose name is mentioned- I hope that it is not true but it was mentioned in one of the newspapers and I understand that the information is pretty authenticwas Sir Peter Abeles, a man who has gained the respect of all sections of society. Now that this matter has boiled over his name is being tarnished by his association with the Bartons. I understand that the name of Sir Arthur George, the man who became prominent for promoting in Australia my favourite sport- soccer- is being bandied about in Sydney as being associated with some of these crook companies by which the Bartons got away with millions of dollars. I hope that Sir Arthur George and Sir Peter Abeles will clear their names if they can because they are men who enjoy the respect of all sections of the community.
In conclusion, I repeat that I hope that the Attorney-General can find out who received the $300,000. If Mr Gruzman received it I hope that he will be frank and honest and will come forward because the man who always admits his errors or shortcomings gains more respect from society than by hiding and ultimately being found out. Time will not permit me to say anything further as I understand that the time for this debate has expired.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill presented by Mr Killen, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
One could simply recite of this Bill that it is a Bill to amend the Royal Australian Air Force Veterans’ Residences Act of 1953 and leave the matter there, but it would seem to me to do our history and to do people who served in this Parliament an immense disservice if such a perfunctory observation were made of what is a very minor amending Bill and a very interesting one. I suppose that one could say that the principal purpose of the Bill is to omit from the principal Act in the definition of an eligible person the word ‘male ‘ and to add the following paragraph: a former member of the Royal Australian Air Force Nursing Service or of the Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force - and leave the matter at that. But I hope that it will not be to the distress of the House if I do not do that.
This Bill is probably one of the most unique that the Parliament has considered, not that it is unique in the sense that at long last we recognise the fact that the women who served in the armed Services now have access to the advantages offered by a trust fund, although it has taken a long time for us mere males to emancipate ourselves in that sense. In all probability this Bill affords an opportunity to reflect a little on the past and, as I said in my opening, to reflect a little on some of the men who served in this Parliament. The Bill has its origin as far back as the 14th century. It may seem strange to talk about the Royal Australian Air Force and to talk about the 14th century in the same voice but in point of fact that is the case. This trust fund was a fund which was developed from prize money. Prize money had its origin in the capture of ships during times of war, in the sale of ships and in the sale of what was carried in the ships. One of our oldest courts- old in terms of our Anglo Saxon world- was the Prize Court which drew its jurisdiction from the Admiralty Court.
At the end of World War II there was a considerable amount of prize money to be distributed. In 1 945 the United Kingdom said to the then dominions that a share of that prize money would be available for those who had served in the navies and in the air forces. Not surprisingly, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer- as all chancellors of the exchequer are inclined to do- was looking for money and he said that this would be the last distribution of prize money ever to be made, but in the meantime two-thirds of it would be made available to the navies and air forces of the Empire and Commonwealth, and one-third would go to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. As a consequence, £249,000 was given to the Royal Australian Navy by way of prize money to be distributed among the members who had served with that force, and £229,000 was given to the Royal Australian Air Force for distribution.
The question of the distribution of that money was put before the consideration of the then Government in 1950, and was placed in the hands of a very distinguished former and late member of this Parliament, Sir Thomas White, who was a former member for Balaclava. It is interesting to reflect on the fact that Sir Thomas White as a young captain had been shot down and was a prisoner of war of the Turks. He wrote a book of his experiences called Guests of the Unspeakable, which provided an interesting touch to history. The last chapter in that book is called The Home Trail, and one of the last sentences in that book is to this effect: We escaped that we may serve again. I hope that his family would not think it an impertinence on my part to say that that could well have been a motto for that very distinguished airman and parliamentarian, because he did serve again. When he was Minister for Air in 1 950 he suggested that the prize money allocated to the Royal Australian Air Force should be used for the construction of a residence or residences for former members of the Royal Australian Air Force who found themselves in necessitous circumstances. That proposal was taken up 3 years later by the present right honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon) who was then Minister for the Navy and Minister for Air. He faced the difficulty that there would be little virtue served in distributing the money to the individual members of the RAAF- the 183 000 members who had served- and he decided that it would be far better to respond to the suggestion made by Sir Thomas White that residences be constructed. So that was the purpose of the Bill introduced in 1953.
It is further interesting to go back and note those who spoke in the debate. They were 5 men who had a lifelong interest in the welfare of exservicemen. The right honourable member for Lowe was followed in the debate by the former member for Lalor, Mr Reg Pollard, with whom many of us have had the pleasure of sitting in this House. Then spoke Mr Charles William Jackson Falkinder, who was a very distinguished airman and a personal friend of many of us. Then spoke the late Mr Drakeford, then the late Air ViceMarshal Bostock, and finally Sir Keith Wilson, the then member for Sturt. One of the suggestions which all the speakers made was that the widows and children of those who served should also have the opportunity to take advantage of the funds made available under the Bill, or the Act as it now is. So the scheme was put under way, and today we are now seeing that scheme take on the character which was suggested many years ago by those who spoke in the debate on the original Bill.
I would like to think that honourable gentlemen may see in this Bill an opportunity to recall those who served, with very great distinction, on both sides of this Parliament. This Bill will enable former members of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force and former members of the Royal Australian Nursing Service who are in necessitous circumstances to receive assistance pursuant to the provisions of the Act. I commend the Bill to the House.
– I would like to compliment the Minister for Defence on the statement he has just given the House. He listed a long and distinguished line of titled gentlemen. -
-May I be clear? Does the honourable member intend to adjourn the debate or to speak in the debate?
– I will adjourn the debate in a moment, Mr Deputy Speaker, I want to observe merely that even corporals have their time. I move:
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill presented by Mr Ellicott, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill does not evoke the same colourful language or anecdote as did the Bill just introduced by the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen). The purpose of this Bill is to amend a substantial number of Acts-sixty-six in all, involving some 270 individual amendments- so as to bring up to date references in the Acts to Ministers, departments and permanent heads and other officers. The substantial re-organisation of departments effected by this Government when it came to office in December made inappropriate many existing references and a great number were out of date due to re-organisations that took place during the Labor Government’s period in office. While orders under section 19b of the Acts Interpretation Act have been made from time to time to ‘translate’ references to Ministers, departments and permanent heads, the statute book has become scattered with references that do not accurately state the present position. I am sure honourable members will agree that it is in the public interest that the statute law should, as far as practicable, show on its face the correct designations of Ministers, departments and officers.
A comprehensive order under section 19b of the Acts Interpretation Act was made on 22 December 1975 to cover, so far as practicable, the changes that the Government desired to achieve and an amending order was made on 25 February. But there were references that could not be changed by such an order; for example, references to the Attorney-General in legislation like the Patents Act and the Commonwealth Police Act, the administration of which was transferred under the new administrative arrangements to other Ministers. The changes could not be made because the office of Attorney-General continued in existence and section 19b only authorises orders to change references where the office no longer exists or its name is changed. While section 19 of the Acts Interpretation Act enabled those other Ministers to exercise the relevant statutory powers, they have had to do so acting for and on behalf of the Attorney-General pending amendment of the relevant provisions of the particular Acts. The Schedule to the Bill includes such amendments.
There were also other references where some doubts have been felt as to the effectiveness of the section 19b orders and in all the circumstances it was thought desirable, in bringing forward this legislation, to take the opportunity of bringing up to date all the references in Acts to Ministers, departments or officers that have become superseded by reason of changes in the structure of government. There are a few particular amendments to which I think specific mention might briefly be made. These are cases where the opportunity has been taken, with the concurrence of the departments concerned, to make some amendments which go a little further than the statute law revision and validation aspects with which the Bill is primarily concerned.
Firstly, in relation to the Continental Shelf (Living Natural Resources) Act, the Bill places the statutory powers conferred by the Act in the hands of the Minister for Primary Industry and the Secretary to his Department, rather than in that Minister and the Minister having responsibility for external Territories, as in the past. It is proposed, however, that Ministers administering Territories will be consulted in exercising those statutory powers in relation to the various Territories and delegations given to Territory officers where appropriate. A similar situation will exist in respect of the Fisheries Act as proposed to be amended by the Bill.
Secondly, the opportunity has been taken to omit section 32 of the Science and Industry Research Act which would have merely required the Minister for Science to give his approval to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation exercising any power or function exclusively affecting Norfolk Island but after consultation with the Minister administering that Territory. The section is of little practical application and the Ministers concerned have agreed that the continuance of the section is unnecessary and that ad hoc consultation between Ministers will adequately achieve its objective. Extraneous references to the Territory of Papua New Guinea have also been removed from some provisions. Some other minor amendments of an up-dating nature have also been included.
The opportunity has been taken where it could conveniently be done to change some specific references to a more general form so as to avoid the need for any future referential or legislative changes upon a change in the administration of the Act or in the designation of the Minister or other relevant office. I mention by way of example the changes in the Bankruptcy Act from the Attorney-General to ‘the Minister’, which will embrace the Minister for the time being administering the Act, whoever that might be. I also mention the changes in the National Health Act to substitute ‘the Permanent Head’ for ‘the Director-General of Health’. Again, in the Patents Act, the administration of which has now passed to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, the provision made in section 129 of the Act for the vesting of rights in respect of certain inventions and patents in the AttorneyGeneral has been changed so that the rights will be vested in the Commonwealth, thus avoiding any need for change in the future should ministerial responsibility for the Act change.
The amendments made by the legislation are expressed- with a few necessary exceptions- to have come into operation on 22 December 1975, the date of the section 19b order to which I have referred. This retrospectivity, while avoiding any possibility of challenge to anything done in reliance on that order, is expressed not to affect anything done that was lawful when it was done, for example, an action by a Minister acting for and on behalf of the Attorney-General in pursuance of section 19 of the Acts Interpretation Act, in cases where under the Bill the reference to the Attorney-General will have become a reference to some other Minister.
Some corresponding ‘cleaning up’ will be necessary in respect of regulations and ordinances. These are in hand and will be proceeded with as soon as the present Bill is assented to. I am sure honourable members will agree that the amendments proposed to be made by the Bill are desirable. I hope that the House will give the Bill a speedy passage. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Lionel Bowen) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 1.1 to 2.15 p.m.
Bill presented by Mr Eric Robinson and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
As announced by the Government in May and restated by the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) in his
Budget Speech, the Australian Telecommunications Commission will seek part of the funds it requires for capital investment this year from the domestic loan market. The purpose of the amendments in the Bill now before the House is to facilitate the approach by the Commission to the loan market for this purpose. In 1976-77 the Telecommunications Commission has an approved capital expenditure program of $9 10m. These funds will be spent in renewing, as appropriate, the equipment which provides almost four million services to customers connected to the telecommunications networks, in providing for the increased services required by those customers, and in connections for new customers requiring service. A capital investment of this order is necessary if the Commission is to meet the reasonable demands of the community for modern telecommunications services and our network is to be up-graded to take advantage of the latest technological developments.
Annual borrowings of the Commission have reached a very substantial figure in terms of the Commonwealth Budget and, in the Government’s view, it is appropriate that the Commission should seek a portion of these funds this year from the capital market as an alternative to direct funding from the Budget. Of the total capital investment proposed this year, the Commission will provide approximately 54 per cent from its internal sources, including provision for depreciation of assets, a budgeted trading surplus, and funds retained to meet its future liabilities for furlough payments to staff. The provision in the Budget for Commonwealth advances to the Commission of $2 15m will provide 24 per cent of its capital requirements. Proposed borrowings from the domestic loan market$200m will provide a further 22 per cent of the total capital program. The Commission will be seeking funds on the loan market in accordance with terms and conditions approved by the Loan Council for semi-government authorities. It will be competing with other semi-government authorities for subscribers to its securities.
The Commission itself is exempt from taxation under any Commonwealth, State or Territory law, but subscribers to Commission securities could be made liable to pay stamp duty under State or Territory legislation, and transfers of Commission securities would be dutiable under existing legislation in some States. Securities issued by State authorities, being exempt from such duty, could prove more attractive to some investors than Commission securities, and the financial advisers to the Commission believe that the borrowing potential of the Commission would be markedly reduced if State authorities continued to have the advantage of exemption of securities from stamp duty.
One of the principal purposes of this Bill is to exempt transactions involving Commission securities from State stamp duty. Other clauses of the Bill would give a specific authority for the Commission to issue securities, with the Commonwealth guaranteeing the repayment of the amounts so borrowed and the payment of interest on those borrowings. Clause 1 of the Bill is the usual formal provision regarding the tide of the amending Act. Clause 2 provides that the amending Act will be deemed to come into operation on 15 September 1976, which is the date approved by the Loan Council for the Commission to open its loan. Clause 3 substitutes the words ‘the Commonwealth’ for the word ‘Australia’ in section 72 of the principal Act which concerns borrowings by the Commission.
Sub-clause (b) inserts a new sub-section in section 72 to provide that a borrowing by the Commission may be by the issue of prescribed securities. The securities which it is intended to so prescribe would include registered stock, registered debentures and bonds, and bonds and debentures transferable by delivery. Sub-clause (c) inserts a further sub-section in section 72 to provide that, where the Commission borrows money under that section by the issue of prescribed securities, the repayment by the Commission of the amounts borrowed and the payment of interest due on such borrowings is guaranteed by the Commonwealth.
Clause 4 substitutes the words ‘the Commonwealth’ for the word ‘Australia’ in section 80 of the principal Act which exempts the Commission from taxation. The clause further proposes the addition of a new sub-section to section 80 to provide that stamp duty or any similar tax is not payable under a Commonwealth, State or Territory law in respect of:
I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Scholes) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Newman, and read a first time.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of the States Grants (Housing Assistance) Bill (No. 2) 1976 is to authorise the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) to advance to the States this financial year the sum of $375m for welfare housing in accordance with the provisions of the 1973-74 Housing Agreement. This amount will be distributed among the States as follows:
This is $ 10.4m more than was made available in 1975-76 and is 70 per cent higher than the level of advances in 1973-74, the first year of operation of the Agreement.
The advances are repayable over a period of 53 years; they bear interest at the rate of 4 per cent per annum in respect of advances allocated to the State housing authorities and 4Vi per cent per annum in respect of advances allocated to the Home Builders’ Accounts of the States. The apportionment of the allocations between the State Housing Authority and the Home Builders’ Account for each State is as determined by the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development after consultation with the housing Minister of the State concerned.
Despite the importance of expenditure restraint in the Government’s overall economic strategy, we have maintained the level of advances at the very high figure of the last 2 years. The 1976-77 advances are high in real terms compared with earlier years when the States themselves allocated welfare housing funds from their overall loan council works-housing program. In 1971-72 and 1972-73 the aggregate borrowings by the States for housing purposes were $ 1 6 1.5m and $ 1 63.2m respectively.
The States have also gained from the 1973-74 Housing Agreement in ways that are not apparent in these figures. Under the Agreement the low interest rates payable by the States on the advances are fixed. At the time the Agreement was negotiated the States were intended to receive an interest concession of 2 per cent to 2.5 per cent on their welfare housing funds because the long-term bond rate was then 6.5 per cent. This in itself was significantly more generous than any previous financial arrangements for welfare housing. There has since been a significant upward trend in interest rates. By 1 July 1974 the long-term bond rate had increased to 9.5 per cent; it is currently 10.2 per cent. The Commonwealth has borne the entire increased cost of the loan funds from which the welfare housing advances are made. The level of interest rate concessions on welfare housing funds to States is currently about 6 per cent.
The level of real assistance for the States’ welfare housing programs has therefore increased considerably as the interest concession has become greater. Moreover, all States are expected to have available greatly increased amounts of general purpose recurrent and capital funds in 1976-77 under the new tax-sharing arrangements and Loan Council programs compared with 1975-76; the estimated increase in the general purpose funds is 16.5 per cent. By contrast, the Commonwealth’s own outlays in 1976-77, including payments to the States, will increase by a substantially smaller percentage. These figures represent real growth for the States. Any State, of course, is free to devote any part of these funds it wishes to housing purposes to supplement the specific advance it will be receiving from the Commonwealth.
The volume of outstanding work on State housing authority accounts at the end of 1975-76 was lower than it has been for many years. The reason for this is clear. The rapid acceleration of advances by the previous Commonwealth Administration had encouraged the States to commence large numbers of dwellings in 1974- 75. The levelling out of advances in the 1975- 76 Budget meant, for most States, that a disproportionate amount of 1975-76 advances was required to complete the dwellings already under construction at the time, leading in turn to fewer commencments in 1975-76 and a relatively low volume of work outstanding at the end of the year.
We believe that the only sensible course, particularly within the present objectives of budgetary policy generally, is to seek to restore activity in the welfare housing area to an even keel. At the level of advances determined for 1976-77 we expect that the States will be able to undertake significantly more commencements than in 1975- 76 and still have more work in the pipeline at the end of 1 976-77 than 12 months previously.
The welfare housing sector is a small but important part of the total housing sector; in recent years government dwelling construction has amounted to something like 12 per cent of total dwelling construction. Overall dwelling construction activity expanded rapidly in the second half of 1975. The outlook is for activity to continue for a while at about the same level as in the first half of 1976-that is 33 000-34 000 commencements per quarter- and then to resume moderate sustainable expansion into 1977 and beyond. The recent slowing in the rate of expansion in most States has come at a time when the strong growth of 1975 needed to taper off to avoid a rekindling of inflationary pressures in this industry. A clear lesson from the past is the susceptibility of house and land prices to rapid and overextended increases in activity.
Nevertheless, there are still areas of underutilised capacity in the industry, particularly in New South Wales and, to a lesser extent, in Queensland. Premiers and housing Ministers of those, and other, States have called for larger welfare housing advances than this Bill provides for. In the Commonwealth’s view, large advances for welfare housing are not the way to ensure a robust housing industry. That will be best achieved by bringing down the rate of inflation, and in consequence interest rates, and by fostering recovery in the private sector- objectives to which the Government’s economic strategy is specifically directed.
The Bill also authorises the Treasurer to pay to the States in the first 6 months of 1977-78 the sum of $ 187.5m, which is half the allocation for 1976- 77. This amount will be distributed on the same basis as the advances for the current year. In other words, the Treasurer will be authorised to continue payments to the States for welfare housing in the period from 1 July 1977 until an appropriation measure for 1977-78 is passed by the Parliament.
Authority is also provided to the Treasurer to borrow the monies necessary for making the advances to the States under the Bill. The repayable interest bearing advances will, as circumstances dictate, be made either from the Consolidated Revenue Fund or the Loan Fund and will be on the terms and conditions set out in the 1973-74 Housing Agreement. Provision is made for any payments out of the Consolidated Revenue
Fund for this purpose to be reimbursed in due course from the Loan Fund, when the Treasurer considers this appropriate. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Connor) adjourned.
APPROPRIATION BILL (No. 1) 1976-77 Second Reading (Budget Debate)
Debate resumed from 25 August, on motion by Mr Lynch:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Mr E. G. Whitlam had moved by way of amendment:
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;
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’.
Mr CARIGE (Capricornia) (2.31 ^Honourable members will recall that last night I said that the beef industry in Central Queensland is now adversely affected. I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard a table which I have drawn up on this subject.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The table read as follows)-
-The table clearly indicates that the incomes of central Queensland beef producers fell during last year while there has been an increase in the quantity of beef produced from 116 700 tonnes to 140 000 tonnes. The table further shows that producers’ returns fell from $92.7m in 1974 to $44.3m in 1975. In simple terms the dollar injection into the central Queensland region from beef producers has been halved. In other words, this means a drop of $50m in revenue to producers which could well mean a drop of $ 1 50m in national revenue.
I would like to highlight a few other areas of hardship being faced by beef producers in my area. On a recent tour through some Brigalow grazing areas all members of the Government Parties Rural Committee who accompanied me and the honourable member for Dawson (Mr Braithwaite) were absolutely amazed at the conditions under which many of our producers are now forced to live. Tin sheds with earthen floors and so on all to frequently serve as barns and living quarters and in fact take on the role of house and storage area. The run down state of properties is very apparent and will become even worse unless some form of assistance is granted in the very near future.
The average debt of producers is in the order of $132,000 per property. It is apparent that this debt is increasing at approximately $1,100 a month. Communications, both postal and telecommunications, are very poor. In fact one lady on a property had a miscarriage and because no telephones were available within many miles she was unable to receive assistance for some 3 days. We met a gentleman who had been bitten by a snake. Because of the lack of communications the only avenue left open to him was to pray that the snake was not venomous. He is still alive so that proves either the power of prayer or the fact that the snake was not a venomous type.
All of us in central Queensland are not only concerned about the plight of the primary producers and their families. We are also concerned about the 1900 other people who are engaged in the processing area. I would like to move on to the relief granted to the business area in the Budget. The Budget has given an enormous lift to the small business area by introducing a new set of guidelines with regard to stock valuations plus the new rule which will apply under Division 7. This will allow more profit to be retained for use in and further expansion of businesses.
Honourable members opposite have gone to great pains to explain how wrong the Government is to reduce the coal export levy. The honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) spoke at some length about the mining industry. He laboured the point. I can assure him that the mining industry is very important to us in central Queensland. I would like to correct him when he says that the mining industry is not a major employer. The fact is that in central Queensland alone there are some 5600 people engaged in the major mining industry, plus 1300 people engaged at the Queensland Alumina Ltd plant at Gladstone. The figure would be much higher if one were to include areas such as transport and so on. Within the coal mining area there has been an increase in employment of almost 1000 persons during the past 12 to 15 months. If we include the small mining ventures, that number is increased by an additional 600 persons. It is very clear that mining has played and is playing a major role in supporting central Queensland and should not be dismissed only as a minor industry.
The honourable member for Corio also spoke about the proposition that some States might increase payroll tax. I beg to inform him that the Queensland Government currently is looking at reducing payroll tax. If one looks at this on top of the abolition of death duties, it clearly indicates that the honourable member once again has been led up the garden path. There has been quite a deal of criticism in relation to road grants. The point here is that in Queensland, along with all other States, the allocation has been increased. If one looks at this in the same light as the increase to local authorities, it in fact means that there has been a substantial increase in this area.
In the area of social services the Government has introduced measures which far surpass any benefits introduced by the Australian Labor Party. The Government has increased the handicapped children’s benefit for children in institutions from $3.50 to $5 per day and has made provision for an expenditure of some $121m over a 3-year period. Additionally, the handicapped children’s allowance will be increased from $10 to $15. This will be welcomed by the parents of more than 19 000 handicapped children. This allowance is not taxable and is designed to assist with the education, training and general welfare of all handicapped children. The allocation for the rehabilitation service for the treatment and training of disabled persons has been increased from $1 1.6m to $ 13.735m. For accommodation for the aged a sum of $45m has been allocated this year. It is proposed to increase this by a further $ 1 80m over the next 3 years. Honourable members opposite would be well aware that during the last year of their term in government they completely withheld any payments in this regard. Personal care subsidy is another example of the Government’s concern for our disadvantaged people. The Government has established a committee of senior officials to inquire into the various programs which are in operation todayassistance for homeless people, home care services and the delivered meals service. This further highlights our care for people. In the area of children’s services the Government has provided $73. 3m, which is over $9m more than was provided previously.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam). I address my comments to the Budget and the overall economic strategy, because the Government tells us that together they make up a comprehensive program to combat inflation. Together this year they will bring inflation down from 13 to 12 per cent. It is enlightening, Mr Speaker, to have the Budget before us. It gives us all a clearer indication of what this Government’s priorities are. We have known for some time what this conservative Government is against. This became apparent very early in the piece. Despite a pre-election commitment to wage indexation, we know that it is against any rise in real wages. We knew that it was against the current level of the standard of living of the vast majority of the people of Australia. We knew of its opposition to Medibank and we knew of its opposition to public sector involvement in the provision of services which improve the quality of life. This Government is opposed to the idea of the ‘social wage’. It says that it is against inflation, but expects a fall of only one per cent, from 13 to 12 per cent, in this financial year. Thus Budget has been useful only to show us more clearly what the Government is for. Of course, we could see that it was for profits and for a shift out of wages to profits. It is for the fall in the real wage. Now we know beyond all doubt what it is for. It is for the return to the old days of the concentration of economic power and spending power in the hands of the rich, the big and those born to rule.
We have heard a lot about confidence, which this Budget is supposed to be for. But it cannot be ‘consumer confidence’ they are after. The Government surely does not believe that wage earners will become ‘confident consumers’ because the inflation rate might go down by one percentage point, while their real wages and job prospects are both declining. Business confidence looks a little shaky too. It is not the general run of businessmen who get joy out of having the Government assault their workers and consumers. The Budget shows clearly where the Government is boosting confidence; it is in the oil and mining industries. It is the big companiesAustralian and foreign- engaged in the mining industries which are the No. 1 beneficiaries, almost the only beneficiaries, of this Budget. And so now we know what this Government is really for; what its main strategy for recovery is. It is for a foreign investment-led recovery with activity centering around the mining industry. A general recovery is being held back. When everything has been wound down and has cooled off, the mining sector will emerge as more dominant than it has ever been in the Australian economy.
The mining sector will be the new big customer in the economy, at least for the time the projects are getting under way. After that stage it becomes a leech, draining our wealth while putting nothing back in. Now that its strategy has become clear, more of the actions of this deceitful government can be explained. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) and the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) told us that they were not international tourists. Now we know what they are; they are international salesmen. They have personally let it be known in most of the major cities of the world that Australia is up for sale. The Foreign Investment Review Board also has been turned into an agency for soliciting foreign investment. Two of its three members currently are overseas drumming up business.
This Government may be for big business, but my concern, and the concern of the Labor Party, is for the ordinary people. The Government’s only concern for the people is that the people may find out the true implications of its actions. It has put in considerable effort to diffuse the reaction of the people, to disguise the extent to which the Budget and the overall strategy reduce their position in the Australian community. It is playing cat and mouse games with the people, while all the time it is undermining their standard of living.
With the bogus newspaper reports the Government created fears about new measures that the Budget would bring- rumours of increased taxes on beer, cigarettes and petroland so manipulated a feeling of relief amongst the people when the Budget contents became known. But we know of course that the Budget did not give relief. The Budget gives nothing to the besieged wage and salary earners. Tax indexation was not devised to assist the worker; it was devised to assist the employers by reducing the workers’ claims on the employers for the maintenance of real wages. Indeed, the things that appear to be given are a sham. The increased child endowment is all but balanced by an increase in personal taxation due to the abolition of the rebates for dependent children. Gains from tax indexation are eaten away by the regressive tax on Medibank.
I turn now to the longer term structural implications of this package for the people. The Budget sets about in a deliberate way to destroy the public good that a responsible, humane public sector can provide for all the people. The Labor Government’s programs for health, Medibank, education and the cities were programs that contributed to the total wellbeing of the vast majority of the people. The people paid for them and the result was the provision of the services that could not be provided at an economical cost on an individual basis. But now as a part of its overall strategy of aggression against the majority or the ordinary people this Government has removed ‘public goods’ from the people. Within 8 months this conservative Government has virtually destroyed all programs that sought to improve the urban environment of our major cities and to relieve the pressures on cities by developing regional growth centres. These were major reforms but they are being destroyed.
If this Government succeeds in destroying Albury-Wodonga, it will destroy decentralisation for all time. Its policies will continue to create over-centralisation and the chaos and human suffering that over-centralisation has created in many parts of Sydney and Melbourne. The urban and regional development policies of the Labor Government were aimed at reversing the many years of neglect and making positive, structural improvement. The main beneficiaries of these programs were the lower two-thirds of the population who had not been accustomed to receiving benefits in terms of improvements in their quality of life, by the provision of ‘public goods’. The Labor Party believes that the public sector has a role to play in the provision of public goods. Now its initiatives in that direction are being destroyed, because this government’s conservative ideology says so. Now, if people do not want to see the population density of their areas become high, or if they want their area to have a sewerage service, a park or better roads, they are expected by this Government somehow to arrange for these things themselves.
This same ideology is arrogant, and antiworker. It dictates that in the present circumstances unemployment should rise and that the public sector should play no positive role in providing employment. This Government is going about creating unemployment in an attempt to tame the workers. Of course, I am disappointed and angry that the urban and regional programs are being destroyed. But I am even more concerned for the situation that has been imposed by this Government on all working people and their families. The structural implications of this Budget and the overall strategy are much greater than the destruction of that part of Government activity that directly improved the quality of life in our cities. For the longer term the prospects of the vast majority for employment and economic security are poor. The long term prospects for a return to full employment in Australia are poor.
Last Monday’s newspapers reported a fall of 60 000 in those employed in the metal industry in 2 years; yet at the same time 2 multinational companies exported S000 jobs to Singapore. Also, advances in technology mean fewer people are required to produce greater output. Yet this Government does nothing to come to terms with the fact that in the future workers will have a great deal more difficulty rinding employment. When it sees jobs exported, when it exports those jobs itself- as is the case with the recent shipbuilding decision- it reverts to its typical antiworker attitude and to disguise this the Government blames the Australian workers for this situation. The ruling economic forces and their conservative Government are eager to play their part in the international capitalist system. There is quite a lot in it for them. But they expect Australian workers to drop their wages back to competitive levels. They say that unless the Australian workers are prepared to accept the same wage as a Japanese worker or a Singapore worker on an assembly line, they deserve to lose their jobs; they have priced themselves out of the market. Now, with the present Government strategy of turning Australia into a quarry, the problems of the long-term employment situation will be compounded.
It is not in the interests of the working people of Australia, or of the business people who rely on them as customers, to turn this country into a quarry. The mining industry involves only low levels of processing. There is a low labour content. Apart from this the multinationals will not allow too high a level of processing in the same country as the mineral deposits. They prefer to have the operations spread around the world because then the whole industry can be more easily controlled. The trend now is to locate the more labour intensive processing in low income countries. For example, when the Australian Labor Party was in office Comalco Ltd and Conzinc Rio Tinto of Australia proposed to take bauxite to the Philippines rather than keep it in Australia for processing.
There will not be many jobs coming as a result of the Government share in the profits of mining projects. This Government has virtually given away all the revenue; it has told the companies to keep it for their own purposes. And besides, this Government is against the public sector providing jobs. Also, the growth of the mining industry, and exports of minerals will mean the erosion of Australia’s manufacturing industry. This happens because when export earnings are high the major trading partners exert pressure to raise our imports in the name of trade balance. None of the major buyers of minerals from Australia is going to tolerate unfavourable trade balances for too long. Imports will have to rise in line with exports. And these imports will be imports of foreign manufactured goods. The cost of the growth of the mining industry will be the destruction of the domestic manufacturing industry. We will trade a low employment, high profit industry for our more labour intensive manufacturing industry; the workers will be even further disenfranchised; and Australia will be even more dependent on other economies.
I mentioned earlier the deceit of this Government in manipulating public attitudes on the Budget. I now provide another example of its deception. In support of its strategy for reducing inflation the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) in his Budget Speech used selections from an Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development communique. He quoted the OECD concern about inflation and the danger of new inflationary pressure emerging as recovery gets under way. But we need to look at what else the OECD had to say. What did the OECD identify as the most dangerous sources of inflationary pressure? It identified profit margins, rising commodity prices and a profitable inventory boom, particularly from speculation in basic commodities. These danger zones are precisely the areas this Government is fostering with its economic strategy. At no time did the OECD say that this inflationary pressure arises because workers’ real wages are maintained. At no time did it endorse this Government’s basic anti-inflation strategy, its heavy handed anti-worker strategy of a rapid reduction in real wages and a sharp increase in unemployment.
The present Australian Government is the only government in an industrialised country that has chosen, at this stage of the protracted world-wide recession, to mount an all out assault on the workers. It is the only government that has chosen aggression against its workers as its basic strategy for the reduction in the inflation rate. Most enlightened governments have recognised that the ills of the system are not the fault of the workers and have taken measures to assist the workers in the short and longer run. Workers, treated with this regard, have made concessions in a spirit of true compromise. But in Australia the Government does not seek compromise, it seeks confrontation. The Treasurer’s reference to the OECD not only provides another example of his tendency to deception but also shows that this Government’s strategy to control inflation is dangerously in error.
I end with a prediction. I predict that the strategy of the Government will fail- probably in time for the 1978 elections, but certainly in the longer term. We will not see sustained recovery in consumption and investment. We will not see a fall in the inflation rate. We will probably see increases in interest rates if the Treasurer’s expectations about the money supply eventuate. The Government itself is preparing for this. It has its tracks covered. It is ready for failure. It has already sowed the seeds of its explanation of the failure. When inflation continues it will point to any rise in wages above a total freeze as the cause. When recovery does not come and the workers are taking action to oppose the heavy handed policies against them, the lack of union co-operation will be given as the reason for the failure of the recovery.
This Government cannot face reality. It has never taken the blame for its own mistakes. It has always had a scapegoat. This time the scapegoat is going to be the unions. The conservatives during their long career in manipulation of the people devised the tactic of using a bogy. I have been in this House for many years and I have seen that manipulation. We all remember the ugly campaigns of kicking the communist can. We all remember the references to the downward thrust of communism and to the question of where we draw the line. We always will remember that approach which was taken by the conservative forces to throw fear into the Australian people. Their new bogy is the unions. Already, they are building up that bogy. But the ‘Reds under the beds’ could not fight back. The workers of Australia can. The Government is unnecessarily creating a situation of heightened confrontation in Australia. It has turned on the vast majority of ordinary people. It has become the government for big business and not the government for the people. It cannot expect the people to tolerate this situation. The people will defend their rights against this Government. I ask the House to reject this Budget.
– It is fascinating to listen to a man who looks like a heavyweight but who sounds like a lightweight. I can only presume that as a result of too many political fights- no doubt with some dirty in-fighting in the party room- there is a degree of political punchiness about the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) who has just resumed his seat.
– I take a point of order on this bumptious young man who does not have a very honourable background.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! I suggest that the honourable member should take his point of order without debating an issue that is not concerned with his point of order.
– I object to the word ‘dirty’. If he does not withdraw it, Mr Deputy Speaker, you will find unfortunate actions coming from me. I object to it very much and I seek its withdrawal.
-Order! If the honourable member for Macarthur used the word ‘dirty’ in relation to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition I suggest that he withdraw it.
– I presume that the honourable member misunderstood what I said. If he feels that I was referring to him when I used the word ‘dirty’, I will withdraw it. In fact, what I said was: ‘dirty in-fighting in the party room’. If he assures me and the House that all the in-fighting in his party room is as clean as the driven slush I am prepared to accept it. I do not know to which corner the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has retired- I presume it is the red one.
Both the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition have made speeches in this debate that contained not one word which was constructive or which pointed Australia on the recovery road. After the 3 budgets which were introduced by the Labor Government, which produced Australia’s highest level of unemployment and destroyed the industrial capacity of large sections of this nation, one would have thought that at last some recognition of error or of what perhaps should be done would come from both the
Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. At least their colleagues in various Iron Curtain countries have enjoyed beating their breasts and revealing their errors. I had hoped that this debate would have provided an opportunity for something positive to come from the remnants of the party opposite that brought us into economic disaster. That opportunity has been missed by both the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
I do not wish to proceed with a dialogue of the obvious mistakes and disasters for which honourable members opposite were responsible. However. I note that the residents of my electorate are overjoyed at the election result, particularly having regard to the remarks by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition about the textile industry. I remind him of the fact that so many textile factories in the electorate of Macarthur have closed down in the last 3 years because of his unthought-out, ludicrous and unresearched 25 per cent tariff cut. This gave the residents in the Nowra area of my electorate the privilege of working part time in the paper mills for almost 2 years. The people in my electorate have a great feeling of gratitude towards the party of which the honourable member for Reid is the Deputy Leader every time they are forced to go to pick up their dole cheque. They know this situation has arisen as a result of the deliberate and determined policies of honourable members opposite.
I should like to make an examination of the realities of this Budget. It is extraordinary that the response from honourable members opposite has been that this is a rich man’s Budget and is aimed at increasing unemployment in the hope of getting some kind of economic recovery. I stress that it is clear and incontrovertible that the overall Budget strategy is not to do either of those alleged propositions. In fact, if honourable members opposite are prepared to read what the Treasury itself says about this Budget- I am referring not to what the Treasurer said in what honourable gentlemen opposite might regard as a political speech but to what the Treasury itself says in its economic analysis of the consequence of this Budget- they will see something that curiously enough the economic Press of this nation does not appear to be capable of reading and, as yet, none of the honourable members opposite seem capable of reading. The Press and honourable members opposite talk about lower wages and about how the Government is deliberately setting out to knock the worker. But they have not read page 26 of the Treasury statement. They have not seen the reference to the benefits of the projected changes in personal taxes- in other words the biggest tax concession ever granted in the history of this nation. That is what tax indexation really means. It means a benefit of $ 1,050m in one year alone, apart from the continuing benefit in future years. The Treasury refers to projected changes in personal taxes as cash benefits.
I wonder whether gentlemen opposite recognise the value of the new family allowance scheme. It is a much more significant benefit than the benefit paid when they were in government. The family allowance has now become a significant element in family incomes. So obsessed with old style, out of date, economic propositions are members opposite that they have not recognised that wages make up only one part of the family income. What the worker has to spend and what is available to him and his family are the keys. One cannot talk about wages alone at a time when people have had the biggest ever tax concession and the mothers of this nation have received the biggest ever increase in their capacity to spend.
– The benefit of the new family allowance scheme is more than offset by the lost taxation deduction.
-The fact that the honourable member for Corio is interjecting such nonsense from a place that is not his own seat shows, I suppose, a degree of recognition of something.
– I know more about it than you do.
– Perhaps someone can point him to his seat I suggest that members of the Opposition have failed to recognise that the key is how much the worker and his family have to spend. Of course, they are not interested in the facts, but the facts are that both average and aggregate real, disposable, household incomes will increase at a faster rate than previously. Have we heard that from the gentlemen of the Opposition? All we have heard is their ranting about no increase in wages, when we have these offsetting factorsmassively increased benefits, particularly to the women of this nation, and a dramatic reduction in tax rates. Yet members of the Opposition are harping about wages which is one element of what the worker ends up getting in his pocket. The workers of Australia will be better off as a result of this Budget. More of them will be employed as a result of this Budget. Is it not curious that the gentlemen opposite who continue to rant and rave about how this Budget will bring greater unemployment do not in fact -
– Tell us who pays the Medibank levy?
-I am glad that the honourable member for Corio has resumed a more appropriate seat. I trust he occupies that seat after the temporary Leader of the Opposition eventually goes to that greater place. I suggest that if the honourable member is really as concerned as he sounds in his repeated interjections, he looks at tax revenues. That situation is very simple indeed. In fact, the Medibank levy is included in the total of tax revenues. This is the record of the honourable member’s Party. I will tell him the facts. I know he does not want to hear them as he is interjecting so consistently that it is hard to hear. The Labor Government’s tax revenues- in other words, the extent to which Labor ripped off the worker- doubled in only 3 years. There was an average rise of over 25 per cent a year in tax revenues. I assure honourable members opposite that the population of Australia and the work force of Australia did not rise by 25 per cent a year, but tax revenues certainly did. This was despite the fact that there were immense losses to tax revenues because of the huge unemployment the Labor Party’s policies managed to generate. Twenty-five per cent was the average rate of increase in tax revenues in the 3 Labor budgets. Money was ripped out of the workers’ pockets because the Labor Party concentrated on wages alone and not what people really had in their hip pockets. I will dramatise this average rise of 25 per cent by mentioning the fact that the present Government has reduced the total rise in taxation revenue this year to 1 8.5 per cent.
– What is the rise in payasyouearn tax?
– It is very kind of the honourable member to remind me about it. He will recall that the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden), whom I am glad to see in the House, proposed, in his Budget, to increase workers’ PA YE tax by 44 per cent. Yet he expected that workers’ wages would go up by about 22 per cent, roughly half as much. He wanted to increase the tax at double the rate by which workers ‘ salaries were going up. This is the Party which pretends to be working for the best interests of the worker. That is ludicrous. It astounds me that honourable members opposite could turn their faces away from the facts.
The next ludicrous proposition being put by so many members opposite is that we are helping big business at the expense of the pensioners. If gentlemen opposite were capable of turning to page 109 of the Budget statement they would be well aware that big business gets exactly nothing this year out of this Budget- not a thing. The only benefit to the corporate sector which emerges this year is $32m which is going towards the removal of the unjust coal levy.
– Does the honourable member for Hunter believe that the coal levy applying equally to underground mines- which employ workers in his electorate and mine, though at least the people in my electorate have the good sense to vote Liberal- and to open-cut mines is just? He must be aware that underground mines have a much higher expense rate. He is entitled to his belief. I believe the removal of that levy is vital. I welcome it and the mine workers in the electorate of Macarthur welcome it. If the mine workers in the electorate of Hunter welcome its removal perhaps at the next election they will vote in a different way, not for the man who supported its introduction.
I want to stress that the Budget endeavours to encourage the private sector. I stress also that there are no transfer payments from the poor to the rich. This year’s Budget- the facts dramatically show this- attempts to revive the private sector. It is vital to our Budget strategy that this happen. It is vital that the pool of national wealth which is generated by an active private enterprise sector be filled again. That pool of wealth was allowed to run out by the gentlemen opposite who kept on spending far more than the nation was generating. In fact, their activities were such that in one year the proportion of the national product spent by government rose from 25 per cent to 30 per cent. I am glad the honourable member for Oxley is in the House at the moment because, in his Budget last year, he sought to increase the share of the gross domestic product taken by private enterprise. The fact that he failed, I believe, was inevitable as he could not get any other measures through his Party room either. But he regarded a 30 per cent rate of government involvement in the GDP as a level which did not give private enterprise a fair enough go and he sought to increase the share of the private enterprise sector.
In our Budget government spending- 30 per cent- is still at the level which the honourable member for Oxley wanted to change, not upwards but downwards. As a result of his failure to change the level, the proportion of the GDP that government spending took last year was 31.4 per cent. In other words, that sector of the economy which does not produce wealth but tends to consume it took an increasing proportion of this nation’s capacity to refill the pool from which welfare payments must be drawn. Unless we have a prosperous nation, we cannot afford the levels of welfare that honourable gentlemen opposite, in many cases quite rightly, sought to achieve. I am not objecting to what their objectives were in that area, but I object violently to the way they were prepared to strive to attain those objectives and to hell with the rest of Australia, to hell with people’s jobs, to hell with private enterprise and to hell with our economic future. We are picking up the pieces as a result of their attitude.
What I want to stress is that I will agree with honourable members opposite that there are some deficiencies in this Budget; there are some things that I would like to have seen. I would like to have seen, for example, the cut-off level for entitlement to a pensioner medical card indexed, particularly now that the card plays such an important role after a very wise decision that holders of pensioner medical cards will not have to pay the Medibank levy. I stress to the Labor Party that it was its inflationary policies which brought about a disastrous situation for holders of pensioner medical cards. In 1972, when the previous Liberal-Country Party Government was in power, 94 per cent of pensioners in Australia held pensioner medical cards. The latest figures I have show that in June of last year that proportion had fallen to 81.2 per cent. As a result of Labor’s inflationary policies, pensioners who received superannuation income, for example, were pushed over the cut-off level, not because they got any more real money but simply because inflation meant that their money was worth less and less. They got increases to offset that inflation, just increased bits of paper; but because the pensioner medical card cut-off level was not indexed Labor’s inflation meant that as at June last year only 8 1 per cent of pensioners held a card- by now the situation probably is much worse- compared with 94 per cent in 1972. In other words, the Labor Party’s policy robbed 210 000 Australian pensioners of their pensioner medical cards. This was a disgraceful piece of activity. I would be interested to know whether the Labor Party believes that those people should have been robbed of their cards. I presume that the figure now would be about 250 000. Of course, at that stage we heard from one of the Labor Treasurers that he thought inflation was good if it saved someone’s job. What about saving the pensioner medical cards of a quarter of a million Australians?
The other thing I would like to have seen, I must admit, is more specific assistance to the housing industry, especially in my electorate and particularly in Wollongong. Most of that city is represented by the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor). A small portion of it is in my electorate. I also would like to have seen the tax changes that will apply to companies apply only if companies report their profits in the adjusted way. I believe it is essential to make companies realise that effectively they are overstating their profits and that the new tax changes we are introducing will apply only if they report their profits in the adjusted way.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-I take it that the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Baume) demonstrates the finest flowering of the capitalist spirit; that his enunciations here this afternoon flow very greatly from his antecedents. He was talking nonsense. First of all, let us consider the situation of the average working person in Australia in the years 1972 to 1975. As I will demonstrate directly, his or her living standard changed dramatically. There was a transfer of wealth from the business and corporate sector to the private individual and the household. That was one of the social aims of the Australian Labor Party, and we are prepared to fight to retain it.
The honourable member said that the changes in the tax system will produce enormous benefits, particularly I suppose for the extra 100 000 people who are likely to be put out of work as a result of the Budget. He used the words ‘given projected changes in the tax level’. One of the lessons of the last few years is that it is very difficult to predict the level of tax changes and so on. If inflation slows down, which the Government says is its objective, and if wages stop rising, as the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) continues to demand, then of course taxation will become less and less and the deficit will increase. As far as I could tell, the honourable member was overlooking some of the fate of his own electorate. I take it that the electors will not overlook him when the next turn to vote comes around. As I understand the figures that have been given to me, in the last Labor Budget there were to be substantial grants for various areas in his electorate. A total of about $ 15.3m was to be allocated for various developments to be undertaken by the South Western Sector Development Authority. In this Budget the allocation has been reduced to something like $2m. That will have a disastrous effect upon the area. Unfortunately, it is 2 1/2 years after the act before the disaster can be sheeted home to the man partially responsible for it. The Budget will have serious effects on local employment.
The honourable member for Macarthur also said that the Labor Government was spending more than it was generating. Exactly what did he mean by that?
– Eight thousand million dollars.
-Eight thousand million dollars of what? The honourable member who interjectshe is a descendant from a long line of capitalists, as I understand it- at least ought to learn arithmetic. I am talking about the usage of the words ‘spending more than it was generating’. In what way was there more money around than there were things to buy at the end of 1975? Of course, the statement by the honourable member for Macarthur is just part of the misuse of words which is part of the whole political philosophy of honourable members opposite.
The honourable member for Macarthur said that the Labor Government destroyed the industrial capacity of the country. I will give him a few figures directly to show that that is not the case. Is there anything one cannot buy in the shops these days? Is there anything that is not being manufactured in sufficient quantities? There is very little that one cannot buy. If there is anything, it is not apparent in the places I frequent. The honourable member talked about ‘the old style economic concepts of the Labor Party’. I do not know what he would call his concepts. They seem to be the final products of the Flat Earth Society. There seem to be a stack of pre.Copernicans opposite. Honourable members opposite have not yet learnt that the world is round. They are still afraid they will fall off if they try any new ventures.
The thing that bothers me about the whole debate on the economy is the intellectual sterility of it. The Government is cloaking a failure to understand 1976 in a cloud of jargon. I speak in this area as what might be termed an economic agnostic. Having looked at all the philosophies and theories that have been espoused, I do not believe that any of them will work. Let us look at the Government’s strategies as announced by the Treasurer. First of all, he said that the Government would control inflation by controlling the money supply. That is a deep-seated conviction. It is right through the system. He has been talking like that since he set his sights on getting on to the treasury bench again 3 years or so ago. He will achieve some of his objectives by forcing down the level of real wages. He will transfer activity from the public sector to the private sector.
The Treasurer had something to say about the role of the deficit. Honourable members opposite seem to have replaced the communists under their beds with the noughts in the deficit. These points are arguable. It is possible that the measures the Treasurer has outlined will work. I do not believe they will. I stand here as the complete pessimist, without any reservations at all about the policies that are being pursued. I can see- I guess that the Treasurer would acknowledge that this is the case- that the complementary results will be a reduction in the living standard of the average Australian worker. That must flow from a reduction in real wages. There will be a depression in the general quality of life because a reduction in expenditure in the public sector naturally must affect the quality of one’s life. If we continue the way we are, having no faith in the private sector’s ability to take up the surplus human beings who are around the system now, I suggest that there will be redundancy of human beings. We on the Opposition side hold strongly to the belief that the Whole Budget document is a prescription for social division and social deprivation. I mention, for instance, the reduction in finance for areas such as migrant education, urban development and Aboriginal development programs.
I think that I ought to deal for a moment with what one might call .T ……1.-1,.-.’ the fine flowing eloquence of our colleague the Treasurer. I quote these remarks to save honourable members opposite having to look them up. He said:
Recovery is now getting under way.
Where is the evidence for that? Is there a reduction in unemployment. That does not seem to be so. Is there an increase in the opportunities for employment? There does not seem to be any increase. It is not shown by the figures. The figures may well lie, but I doubt it. I think that this is just simply the use of words to try to confuse the community. The honourable member for Macarthur followed in the Treasurer’s footsteps with a speech full of equally specious cliches. The Treasurer said:
The private sector is growing again and confidence is gradually returning.
Where is the evidence of that? He said that he is going to rebuild confidence further. I am utterly and unreservedly pessimistic about what the Government calls confidence in this context. The facts, as I see them, are that Australian productivity has now outrun Australia’s consumption capacity. There is very little opportunity for Australia to. export manufactured goods. The number of people in the work force required to produce the goods and services we need will diminish further and further.
– Take your dark glasses off.
– I do not have dark glasses on. Actually, it would be a good idea to wear them, considering the view I have from this side of the House. As most honourable members will know during the recess a number of us visited a large number of factories. As a member of the Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee’s sub-committee on defence industry, I spent about 20 days altogether visiting factories. In every factory we visited, even in the much criticised shipbuilding works, we found that there has been a reduction in the amount of labour required to produce the same goods. There is no doubt about that. It is inevitable that every dollar invested in the manufacturing industry will enable the owner and the manufacturer to employ less and less labour to produce the same amount of goods. Honourable members would be well aware of that. One can visit any factory and see that this is so. For instance, in the Government clothing factory in my own electorate there is a magnificent machine. It is computer-operated and it cuts out 100 layers of cloth in 14 different patterns once it has been set under way. One small factory I visited had a new milling machine. The man working the machine now produces 5 times as much as he did a couple of years ago. There is no future in the industry. Let me continue with the remarks of the Treasurer. He said:
It is a Budget for confidence- it is also a Budget for reform.
I wonder what is the philosophy behind this one:
The share of company profits in national income- one of the flywheels of our whole economic system- remained depressed at around three-quarters of its long run norm.
If the Government adopted that philosophy it would still be burning witches. If 20 years ago the normal percentage of profits was 15 per cent or 16 per cent and the Government must maintain it because that was the case 30 or 40 years ago, it would never change anything. In the 3 years in which Labor was in government there was a change of emphasis from profits to wages and salaries. I think that that was a substantial piece of social progress which every Australian ought to applaud. I suppose one of the advantages of this Budget is that at least it demonstrates the totally different philosophy of both sides of the House. The Treasurer had this to say:
Initial measures to control government expenditures were taken.
I am not sure why people talk like that. There is no difficulty in controlling government expenditure. Most of us here would admit that government expenditure is satisfactorily controlled. It is the decisions about the direction of it about which we may argue. The honourable member for Macarthur and all honourable members opposite have denounced the previous Government for its expenditure on government projects and in the public sector. I and the rest of us on this side of the House continually have to stir the citizens of this country to realise and recognise the fundamental importance of the Government’s role in Australian society.
We have a mixed economy. The role of the Government is fundamental to the Australian economy. First of all governments are our biggest customers. Governments are responsible for the infrastructure upon which industry depends. They supply, control and develop transport systems; they lay down airfields; they rehabilitate railway systems; they build power lines and supply the water, gas and all communications on which everybody depends. It seems to me that there is a fundamental fallacy in attempting to divide the Government and the private sector in this way. Each is important. Some areas of government are productive and some provide services, just as in private industry a lot of services may not necessarily be productive immediately, but they are all part of the society in which we live. I regard the attacks upon government expenditure over the last 3 years as having a great potential for disaster in this community. All these things- the roads outside, the water coming through the taps, the quality of communications systems including the telephone- are as important to our standard of living as are the carpets on the floor. They cannot be divided up that way.
There is no possibility of private industry supplying all those things which are fundamental to the development of Australian industry, such as communications, water, power and transport. I believe that this is the fundamental fallacy in the economic philosophy of honourable members opposite. I think it is the greatest weakness of the Budget We can make decisions one way or another about whether the pension ought to be at level A or level B. We can make decisions about whether we should support this or that public project. But once we start to reduce the capacity of the public sector to service the rest of the community we reduce our capacity to recover from anything. Let me remind people what are the facts of life. Last night I heard the honourable member for Ryan (Mr Moore) talking about the extraordinary difficulties that flowed to people as a result of the increase in prices with wages not keeping level with them. That is true enough. As I understand it, average weekly earnings in Australia are now amongst the highest in the world. Lots of people say that this is pricing us out of business. It is my firm conviction that there is not much business to be done outside Australia in the manufacturing area.
Let me cite a few figures which I worked out last December. I do not think that there has been any great change in their relativity since then. In 1972 for average weekly earnings one could buy 170 lb of butter and in 1975, 210 lb; in 1972 one could buy 900 lb of sugar and in 1975, 1200 lb. For such things as meat there has been a significant difference. In 1972 one could buy 163 lb of lamb as against 209 lb in 1975. One could buy 1700 bricks in 1972 and 1900 in 1975. There have been a few changes in the costs of motor cars. In December 1972 it took a person 24 weeks to earn enough to buy a Mini Minor. Last year in December it took 20 weeks of work. There has been a substantial change in the standard of living of the average Australian person. Recently I spoke to a person who sold motor vehicles in a country town. He told me that in the previous 12 months he had sold 22 vehicles, I think it was, only one of which was bought on hire purchase or finance of any sort. Five or six years ago all but one would have been bought on hire purchase or finance of some sort. . The same situation applies to such things as colour television sets. How did the swing towards the purchase of colour television sets happen? It was possibly because of good salesmanship and so on, but I think basically it was because people had the money to buy colour television sets. There was a substantial transfer of wealth to the people who produce such articles- the wage and salary earners of Australia. I think it is regressive in the extreme even to attempt to reverse the process. If it is necessary to do something to encourage business to put profits back into investment programs, there must be other ways of achieving that end. It may well be that company tax, which I think makes up $2,000m-odd of government revenue at the moment, may be one area in which that can be done. Then, of course, all sorts of adjustments would flow through the system.
I am the first to recognise the difficulties that flow from the change in the Australian society, the change in the economy, the change in the world at large. Last year I went to Europe as part of a parliamentary delegation. Europe is facing problems similar to those faced by us. It uses different techniques in trying to overcome those problems but, until the drought hit it, there was over most of Europe a surplus of primary production; its manufacturing capacity was starting again to outrun its needs. That will be one of the features of society; we must face it. We will probably have to face all kinds of changes in what constitutes a working week and the length of a person’s working life and we may have to adjust to the position of people leaving the work force for a time and then re-entering it later. Surely that is apparent enough. Surely enough things have been written in recent years for us to realise that the old prescription will not work.
I have here many figures which demonstrate Australia’s enormous productive capacity. They relate to our great production per head of population in wheat, rice, oats, and even oranges and apples. But in such things as minerals and so on, our productive capacity per head of population is much greater than that of any other country. We in this Parliament, operating as the Government of Australia, have at our disposal greater potential wealth per head of population than has any other country. It is there in the ground and on the ground. We have one of the most stable societies in the world. We have a good administration system. We have a rather complicated constitutional system, of course. I am convinced that, given that wit and the wisdom, we can resolve the problems because we have behind us more resources than have most other people in the world.
The great regret I have about this Budget, apart from the fact that it was introduced by honourable members opposite, is that in fact it is irrelevant. It is an anachronism. I suggest that honourable members opposite should have a good look at the theory that the money supply has a great deal to do with the annual inflation rate. The figures I have in front of me have not been extracted to the extent that I can seek to have them incorporated in Hansard. I have just a moment or two of my time left in which to say something about them. Over many years in a large number of countries the correlation between the inflation rate and the percentage change in the volume of money has been by no means absolute. I suggest that honourable members should ask the Parliamentary Library for the figures which substantiate that statement.
- (Mr Ian Robinson) -Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-I speak in support of this first Budget to be introduced since the disastrous term of office on the treasury bench of the Australian Labor Party. This first Lynch Budget, or Fraser Budget as it might be called, is a genuine and sincere effort on behalf of this Government to roll back a very heavy stone which the Labor Government rolled on top of the Australian people, Australian private enterprise- business, large and small- and primary and secondary industry. Also underneath that tremendous weight is Australia’s future as a credible nation and the freedom of Australian citizens, especially those living outside the city and suburban areas of the great southern capitals.
-Forgotten by Labor.
– Yes, what my colleague says is correct. I have heard my colleagues in this place say that while Labor was in office the term ‘Australia’ meant only the capital cities. I support the Budget. Although much effort, sacrifice, courage and goodwill are needed to bring Australia and its economy back on to the rails, back into a sound position, I am sure that it will occur. The Budget has given Australians the chance to roll off that colossal stone, that tremendous weight, that was put on us all, whether we live in the southern cities, in the outback, in the provincial cities or anywhere else in Australia. The Labor Government was trying to convert this country with a socialist doctrine, but thank heavens it was prevented from so doing. I reject the amendment moved to the Budget by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam), which reads: . . . ‘the House condemns the Budget because-
For heaven’s sake, what happened while Labor was in office? One would have thought, from the way in which it was carrying on, that the Australian economy was rollicking along at a great old rate, but in actual fact it was not; it was on the rocks; it had foundered. The rate of inflation rose during Labor’s term of office from 4.5 per cent to, I am led to believe, 14 per cent. I think it probably rose to a higher level than that, but we will be conservative. The number of unemployed increased from 123 000, which was the level at which unemployment stood when Labor came to office, to 238 000.
– Shame on them.
-Yes, shocking. Interest rates increased to a world record of 10 per cent. These figures make sheer nonsense of the speech made by the Leader of the Labor Party and the amendment which he moved. Yet in the face of that disastrous speech made by the Labor leader- I do not know who dreamed it up for him- the amendment which he moved goes on to state:
When in office the Labor Government endeavoured to centralise in Canberra under its control all these instrumentalities, whether State or local. So that deals with the second part of the amendment. It is just complete nonsense. It was a case of centralism versus federalism. Paragraph (c) of the amendment reads: it introduces an additional tax in the form of the Medibank levy, thus further reducing consumer spending;
What about Labor’s free medical scheme, which was probably the platform on which it gained office in 1972? It was a gigantic take. In order to fund it taxpayers were to pay 2.5 per cent of their taxable income. Now it has to be paid for. There are no free meals to be had anywhere in the world today, except for the very poor, and we should be helping those people. We could help them in the manner which was suggested during question time, and that is by sending some of our livestock overseas, if that is possible.
– They are vegetarians.
– Not every poor and starving person overseas is a vegetarian.
– Most of them are in India.
– I did not mention India; just wake up. The Medibank charges are for service, and yet the Labor Government was whipping up dissent and objections all over the countryside against a medical service which, had it been allowed to continue in the way in which it stood, would have broken Australia and the citizens of Australia know that it would have broken Australia. They need only look at the example of Canada; the Canadian Government had to withdraw its medical scheme. How is the health scheme going in the United Kingdom? Yet the Labor Government was going to thrust its scheme upon the Australian people and Australia would have had to find the money to fund it. When we say that the scheme should be paid for, the Labor Party says no, it does not agree with that. The amendment further states:
Let us look at the situation with regard to Aborigines. In 3 years Labor’s policies did more to upset Aborigines than did any other policies instituted by any government in Australia. Labor’s policy on Aborigines- this was admitted by the Labor Minister for Aboriginal Affairswas a disaster and was seen to be a disaster. Speaking as one who comes from the Northern Territory and who had lived there for 30-odd years, I know just how disastrous it was. The effects of it are still being felt today. The Labor Leader devoted 2V4 pages of his speech to the position of Aborigines. I do not quite know what that meant in time, but that is quite a lot of space in Hansard. I do not think he had very much else to speak about, and that is why he picked on Aboriginal affairs. I find that strange because the 3 Labor Ministers for Aboriginal Affairs and the policies they introduced regarding Aboriginal affairs have done more to destroy the Aboriginal race than anything else that has ever been introduced.
– He is trying to make political capital out of the Aborigines.
– Yes, I am certain of that. I may have more to say about that later. The amendment also states:
What did the Labor Government do when it was in office? It attacked private enterprise in every possible way. It instituted so many of the recommendations of the Coombs report that it staggered private enterprise; it staggered the mining industry, the pastoral industry and small businessmen. There was tremendous strife in Kalgoorlie in the gold mining industry. I should like to thank this present Government for the action it took recently in reviewing the Industries Assistance Commission’s recommendation for the removal of the gold mining subsidy.
– Kalgoorlie has a good member.
-Yes, I am certain of that He is in the House at the moment too. He made a tremendous effort on Kalgoorlie ‘s behalf. He and some of his colleagues, including me, made representations on the matter. During Labor’s term of office, many businesses went to the wall. At the top of the list was Mainline. It was criticised for over-expending itself, overexpanding itself and so on. But one business after the other went out of operation.
Let me return to my part of the world. The Frances Creek iron mining company was the reason why the northern Australian railway line from Pine Creek to Darwin was upgraded to the extent of $2m. What did the Labor Government do? It sent the Frances Creek iron mining company to the wall for the sake of $300,000 in freight cost recovery. It put out of action a mining company that was exporting around 8 million tonnes of iron ore a year. The Labor Government also tied up all the north Australian railway line rolling stock- $ 1 5m to $20m-worth of it.
– It tied up all the ships.
– Yes and, as I say, that is the kind of thing this amendment is condemning this Budget for failing to do. The Labor Government destroyed private enterprise and business. This Budget should be given a go. The Premier of New South Wales said he would give it a go, as I think, did the Premier of South Australia but not so the Leader of the Opposition. When he delivered his speech, his own side took no notice of him. He practised his rhetoric and made noises, but he put up no counter-proposals as to how this country’s economy could be put back on the rails. When the Labor Government was in office, it bashed every company, every private owner that it possibly could. This is why I totally reject the Labor Leader’s ultra-shallow amendment. His speech, from the point of view of an alternative economic program, was just a cipher. We are used to this rhetoric. No doubt we will hear from the other member of the family shortly. But never before have we heard such an empty, straw-grasping, niggling speech or seen such a stark exposure of the Leader of the Opposition’s failure to grasp the economic situation and his failure to lead as was evident in his speech. That is where he failed. He did not lead his own Party; he did not lead Australia and he did not lead the nation. Everyone else was to blame when his Party’s policies proved a shambles and Australia was going on the rocks.
I should just like to mention some of the things that he had to say about Aboriginal affairs because I am led to believe that the honourable gentleman is going to visit the Northern Territory this weekend. I am certain that he will be blaming the present Government for all the troubles and all the cuts in Aboriginal expenditure in the Budget. He seems to have missed this point in the Budget Speech:
Although this expenditure is $33m less than expenditure in 1 975-76, spending on many programs is being maintained at about the same levels as last year.
The Treasurer’s remarks with regard to new programs were what the Leader of the Opposition was trumpeting about. He read a letter from Mr Hyacinth Tungutalum from Ngmiu on Bathurst Island. He read it in support of his argument that there had been a leak from the Hay report which was investigating expenditures on housing committees and other instrumentalities which are supposed to be assisting Aborigines. But the Leader of the Opposition did not take any notice of the Treasurer’s remarks. The Treasurer said:
In the case of some programs- such as grants to Aboriginal Housing Associations- the provisions in the Budget are to cover outstanding firm commitments pending further reviews of the objectives, priorities and past administration of those programs.
In the light of those reviews additional funds will be provided.
The Treasurer said that on Budget night. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has reiterated it since. Yet we have the Leader of the Opposition skating along, taking no notice of the facts. He produced this letter written by Hyacinth Tungutalum saying, and quite rightly so, that the housing association of Ngmiu on Bathurst Island belies the action which has been taken by the Government to have a review of such things as housing associations. Mr Tungutalum said that $800,000 had been spent on the program and that in the past year, 30 houses- and I have an idea it was 51- had been built. That is good going in anybody’s language. I have been to Bathurst Island recently and have looked at the houses. The program is a great credit to the Bathurst Islanders. The Leader of the Opposition produced this letter to try to justify his own maladministration because there are many other places at which housing associations might have spent $300,000 without erecting a single house. I know of a case in which $288,000 has been spent and where there is one house half finished- it partly blew down- and another a quarter finished. These are the things which the Hay report is investigating. The report has been much maligned although no one knows anything about it. It is a report to the Government which will see that the money that is voted for Aborigines goes wholly to them so that they will get the greatest advantage. That is what this Government is all about. Money is not the answer to Aboriginal affairs. We need people with knowledge, experience and sympathy to assist Aborigines and to see that the money is spent in the right way.
I hope that the Leader of the Opposition will check on some of the housing associations and pastoral properties when he is in Central Australia or thereabouts this weekend because places such as Kenmore Park, Everard Park, Willowra and Kildurk have been bought at tremendous expense. I know that there is a great need for rural reconstruction whether it be in respect of Aboriginal owned stations or European owned stations. I only hope that there will be assistance for rural reconstruction and that the stations that have been bought on behalf of the Aboriginal people will receive the sort of benefit received by other stations. But let us face it, the Aboriginal stations must be viable propositions. Station after station cannot be allowed to run down and not produce.
I do not have the time to deal with the many other matters to which I would like to refer. I will endeavour to deal with those matters when we are debating the Estimates. However, I was glad to see that it was announced in the Budget that work on the Tarcoola-Alice Springs railway line would be continued. No doubt there will be some criticism of the fact that a committee is to study whether the specifications of the work being done are correct. I hope this will not in any way delay construction of the line. Construction would have been some hundreds of miles further ahead than it is had it not been for the Labor Government’s quibbling about the line for 2 years prior to its commencement.
I hope this Budget will be effective in restoring confidence in the primary industries and in particular the mining industry. It was said in a leading daily this week that Australia’s future development, Australia’s wealth, the money that we get to spend on all of the other items contained in the Budget whether they be welfare, education or whatever else, comes from the pastoral and mining industries. I hope that the gold subsidy review will lead to sympathetic treatment of the problems of primary industry and to the come-back which is necessary. Primary industries, especially those in Central Australia, took a thrashing from the implementation of the Coombs report that wiped out the petroleum equalisation scheme and as a result brought some of the primary industries to their knees. I hope that the rest of Australia gets behind this Budget.
-Order The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Firstly, I would like to correct one matter, namely a statement made by the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Baume) when he spoke about an hour ago in the debate. The honourable gentleman is well known for his expertise in the health field. We understand that earlier in the year he was an adviser in respect of a pamphlet which was drawn up to explain the Government’s changes to Medibank and health insurance, a pamphlet which proved so inaccurate that it was quite useless when it went public. The honourable member made a statement with regard to pensioner medical cards. He stated that the decision to withdraw pensioner medical cards from persons who had a part pension entitlement because their incomes went over the means tested limit when pensions were increased was an act of the Labor Government. If the honourable member had any knowledge of that health service he would know that the level at which pensioner medical cards were obtainable was a matter of agreement between the Government and the Australian Medical Association, which is the representative of the doctors. It was the doctors who enforced this limit. They said that they would not treat everyone who was entitled to some portion of a pension but set certain limits on the people they would treat. The pensioner medical cards had to be withdrawn to honour that agreement. So much for that argument.
Before addressing myself to the general theme of the Budget I would like to make some comment on this area of parliamentary discussion which in my view is open to a great deal of reform. Apart from members from both sides of this place who make the leading speeches on the Budget it is impossible for the ordinary member, because of time limits, to make a meaningful comment on the details of the Treasurer’s Budget Speech and, of course, the vast field which a Budget covers. This difficulty is accentuated in this year’s Budget debate by the fact that the Budget must be considered in conjunction with the mini-Budget of May and in particular the various guidelines that were laid down in that financial statement of May. It may be said that further opportunities for debate are given when we consider the Estimates. But this has led to the Estimates debate being a mere extension of the general Budget debate when properly it should be an examination of the Estimates with particular attention to details.
In particular the Budget debate should explain to honourable members and to the general public what the Budget is all about. It seems to me that under proper circumstances the section of the Budget Speech of the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) headed ‘Economic Strategy and the Budget’ should be the area in which most time is devoted. But the procedure of the House does not allow us to do this in a detailed manner. For example, earlier in this debate I listened to the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean), who is a distinguished member in financial matters, start to develop the theme of examining the economic strategy of the Budget. However, he was unable to do so in a comprehensive manner because of the limits we impose. I suggest that at some time in the future the House should apply itself to considering an improvement in procedures. After all, the Parliament should be a microcosm of the people it represents.
There are very few professional, although many amateur, economists in the Parliament. I find most members as confused about economic strategy as the public is bemused.
– Oh, not true.
-I am quite willing, if the honourable member for Darling Downs finds that remark offensive, to withdraw it in his case. The honourable member’s economic expertise and his expertise in most matters are well known to us all. The debate should elucidate the Budget not only for the members of this place but for the community as a whole.
I do not know how the Treasurer can find public satisfaction with the Budget, as he asserted in answer to a question asked yesterday. I find a lot of confusion about it in the community; but perhaps the Treasurer sees a different public from the one we see. Perhaps the public to him constitutes the entrepreneurs who, by their control of capital and investment, manipulate the employment, and lack of it, of human beings in the community, apply pressure to governments, require subsidies and bounties to keep them going, defraud members of the community- all in the name of free enterprise and profit- and who can manipulate and destroy small businesses by controlling supplies, applying pressures and so on. These persons, of course, are respectable and do not attract the condemnation and ire that are applied to persons who gather to demonstrate in order to press their point of view and to show their needs. The Government indeed has variable standards of respectability.
I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam). The Government hopes, by repetition of the cries that all public enterprise is bad, that increased unemployment is the most suitable tool to control inflation and that all ills arise from the acts of the previous Labor Government, all of whose acts were bad, to convince itself and others that these are articles of faith and fact which are quite irrefutable. What nonsense! I. retreat from none of the programs that the Labor Party introduced when in government. They all fulfilled a need.
– What about the economic program?
– The economic program is mentioned. As my colleague the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) pointed out, the purchasing power of the average wage was increased in that time, despite all the doom that is cried by honourable members opposite. Let me remind present Government members of the years preceding 1972 when Australians became frustrated and impatient with the lack of roads, schools, hospitals, sewerage, environmental protection, health care and so on, the dilatory approach to those in receipt of or needing social services and the neglect of the Aboriginal people, which was so bad that when employment figures are quoted now they are inaccurate because at that stage there was no recording of them, or a poor recording of them and lack of attention to them.
The Labor Government was elected to correct that situation. Despite persistent obstruction, it started to do so. A period of world-wide recession and high inflation started about that time. In Australia it appeared to be accentuated by the necessarily raised public expenditure. None of the present Government spokesmen has given real arguments for their claim that the programs that we introduced were unnecessary and wasteful. They do not identify any of them. In fact, in his speech the Treasurer, in dealing with the economic strategy, states basic assumptions without validating arguments. Honourable members quote from various of the Budget Papers. It seems to me that many definite assertions and assumptions are being made, whereas if one reads the papers one sees that there are lots of let-outs. For instance, in Budget Statement No. 2, page 24, the first paragraph, the first sentence is a let-out. It reads:
It first needs to be said that no one can accurately foretell the path which the economy will follow.
The Statement goes on to say:
The following description of the possible path of the economy over 1976-77 may then, indeed will, prove to be incorrect in detail if not, hopefully in the broad.
What a glorious let-out to all those firm assertions that are made! The Treasurer speaks of this year’s ministerial council meeting of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the agreement there on economic strategy which has as its basic premise the view that: … the steady economic growth needed to restore full employment and satisfy rising economic and social aspirations will not prove sustainable unless all Member countries make further progress towards eradicating inflation.
I do not know that anyone disagrees with the basic premise in the capitalist countries that inflation is the prime target. If we accept that it is the main target, we also have to accept the Treasurer’s statement when he quotes from the communique ‘. . . because of the virulence of recent inflationary experience’ and we also have to accept that that refers to all countries in the Western world, not just Australia. That invalidates many of the assumptions made. Let me exemplify that. Last weekend’s National Times contained an analysis of the Budget. Significant with regard to the basic assumptions was this statement, which was posed as a question:
There is an underlying theme in the Budget that recovery cannot occur until the profit share of the cake returns to more normal levels. Is there anything to this notion?
The reply was:
In fact the major reason for the current discrepancy between the present and historical levels of the profit share is precisely the recession. If recovery were to occur, business would find that its share of the cake closely resembled past levels.
It went on with expansion of that statement. It seems to me that this is a chicken or egg first situation. On what basis does the Treasurer assert that the profit share must be raised before recovery occurs, when there is that conflicting view? He postulates it as an article of faith and does not argue it. However, I do not wish to proceed further on that general examination, because there is a more specific matter with which I want to deal.
The Government has put forward the argument that we must have increased productive capacity. Some of us would say that the increased productive capacity can be obtained by using our own present productive capacity potential; that it is being utilised to far less than the full extent. Whichever argument is correct, we need skilled workers now and we will need them in the future. The real reason for failure to progress in a number of areas will be the fact that within 3 to 5 years we are going to experience a crippling shortage of skilled workers. This is not just a political party point of view, it is the view of both employer and employee organisations, of teachers and of the Technical and Further Education Commission itself. I refer to the Technical and Further Education Commission report for the triennium 1977-79 at page xxiii.
Government supporters- We believe you.
– I am going to emphasise it to honourable members opposite. The report says:
Australia does not possess sufficient skilled manpowereven during the current economic recession which is characterised by high unemployment. This national problem is aggravated by a fall in the numbers of skilled immigrants and too few Australians undergoing skill training.
Time prevents me from quoting all of the next paragraph, part of which says:
There exists an imbalance in the allocation of resources in the post-school sector which is the result of past policies of both Commonwealth and State Governments.
We are not talking just about the immediate past. The Labor Government made a start in this area. The Kangan report was produced. A start was made. Honourable members on the Government side say that we spent too much. This was in fact an area in which we spent too little. They cannot have it both ways. I think we started too slowly. One of the problems that arises with the program being put forward by the present Government is that insufficient increase has been made in this area. The Commission comments that a triennial program based on the growth rates for Commonwealth grants of 5 per cent for 1978 and 1979 which was laid down in the guidelines of May will fail to take account of increased enrolments during the triennium. The Commission points out all the things that will now from that, with the lack of skilled persons. It has been commented on at State level. I thought that the Director of Technical Education in Victoria, Mr Watts, at the recent TAFE conference in Melbourne put it pretty well when he said:
Metaphorically the story is one of ‘Cinderella’ returning from the richness of the ball of expectations to the rags of midnight reality. Literally the proposed grants for 1977-79 period are bitterly disappointing and are only sufficient to ensure a stunted rather than a reasonably healthy development of technical education.
-Tell us how to fix it.
– One thing is for sure; we will not fix this problem without additional expenditure and facilities. We cannot dodge this. One of the fears is that unless we act in this area not only will we be short of skilled workers but also there will be pressures to have in-service vocational training, which is not desirable in training properly skilled workers due to the effect on productivity. There are so many variables in this area that have not been thought of. Other factors come into it.
This Government has indulged in a prime display of Public Service bashing. This will affect the career opportunities offered by the Public Service for white collar workers. The service industries, banking and finance will not take the extra unemployed. This lack of opportunity and added unemployment will lead to lack of opportunities in the blue collar field. It is really pretty useless to tell school leavers to go back to school for another year until things get better. After all, the Government is talking of an educational expenditure with about a 2 per cent real growth, which will be neutralised in part just by keeping kids at school longer. We have to bear in mind other factors as well. We have to remember developmental programs that were started and the finance that is necessary for them in the tertiary institutions; the problem of the incremental creep whereby as people go up the ladder the 2 per cent real additional expenditure is reduced. The Government forgot the Kangan report which said that vocational training should be accessible to all and that it should not only help individuals but also produce skilled persons. To me, that whole concept is dead. Under the programs that are put forward in this Budget it is not possible to achieve these aims. So while we are talking about stimulating industry and productivity one fact comes from this Budget- we are going to have a shortage of skilled labour.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. Before I call the honourable member for Macquarie I remind the House that this will be the honourable member’s maiden speech. I hope that the courtesies of the House will be extended to him on this occasion, if never again.
– I was elected to this Parliament on 13 December 1975 to be only the second non-Labor member for Macquarie since 1906. Since 1940 Macquarie has been well served by 2 Labor representatives in the persons of the late Ben Chifley, a former Prime Minister, and for the past quarter of a century by Mr Tony Luchetti. I pay tribute today in this House to the former member and his wife for the manner in which they served the people in the electorate of Macquarie. Tony Luchetti had a tremendous personal following and I know it would be the wish of all in this House today who have known and been associated with Tony Luchetti and May Luchetti that they have a happy, long and healthy retirement.
The electorate of Macquarie, which I now have the honour to represent in this House of Representatives, is an important part of Australia. It embraces the near metropolitan city of Penrith in the east, through the magnificent Blue Mountains to the cities of Lithgow and Bathurst in the west, on the northern side the areas of Rylstone and Kandos and to Oberon on the southern side- a large electorate comprising 80 217 electors. The electorate of Macquarie is expanding. The enrolment figure on 25 October 1969 was 57 823. It has increased to the December figure, as I mentioned, of 80 217 and Macquarie is now one of the largest electorates in New South Wales.
Having been involved in local government for more than 30 years both as a servant and an alderman it is natural that to me one of the many highlights of this Budget is the recognition by our Government of the needs of local government in the new federalism policy. Local government in
Australia will receive grants to the States of $140m- an increase of $60m or 75 per cent over the previous Labor Government’s allocation. New South Wales is to receive $5 1.3m which is to be allocated to local government by that State’s Grants Commission. I trust that the New South Wales Government, in deciding upon the formula for distribution will see that country councils, particularly the all-purpose councils which also control water and sewerage services, will not be penalised and metropolitan councils, whose main function is of a general nature, will not receive more than their share.
The former Government gave direct grants to local government but these grants were decided by a commission in Canberra and were given for specific purposes. In assessing the grants the Grants Commission did not take into consideration whether a council was rating to the maximum to provide modern amenities for its ratepayers. Under the former Labor Government’s system a council could do nothing, keep its rates low, and get as much as a progressive council which was getting things done and rating the ratepayers to the maximum. The councils receiving the grants now given will be free to decide as to how they are to be used. There will be no strings attached. I hope that the councils will use the money granted to keep their rates to a reasonable level.
Not far from the scene and closely associated with local government is the policy of the Government in respect of growth centres, a concept with which I fully agree and which is so fully tied to decentralisation of industry. Without decentralisation of industry there can be no growth centres. I deplore the fact that not enough effort is being given by growth centre corporations to attracting new industries to their areas. I am naturally pleased that in the Budget the Government has provided allocations to growth centres to enable the corporations to carry on whilst awaiting the report from the interdepartmental committee which has been formed by our Government to report on all growth centres. Whilst the initial grant in the Budget for the Bathurst-Orange Corporation is shown as $2m in fact a further sum of $1.3 5m has been given for capitalised interest on the previous advances to that Corporation. It must be remembered that interest on advances from the Commonwealth for growth centres are deferred for 10 years, thus enabling the authorities to employ funds in their operations they would otherwise have to pay out as interest.
As a member of the Government Parties ‘ committee on growth centres I have had the opportunity to visit with other members of that committee not only Bathurst-Orange but also Albury-Wodonga and the McArthur growth centre complexes. I genuinely believe that the Bathurst-Orange Corporation, within the time of its operation and within its fund allocation, has done an outstanding job. The basic aim of growth centres is to provide restraint on the growth of major cities of the Commonwealth by stimulating development in selected decentralised areas. The vital part in the development of growth centres is to have industries where people can work.
In Macarthur, where large amounts of money had already been spent, we find that the population of one centre alone grew at the rate of 10 000 in 1 975 and another increase of 10 000 in the population is projected for 1976, but there is not enough industry to cater for the increases in population. In fact, I am told that 80 per cent of all workers still commute daily to the Sydney metropolitan area. This is not decentralisation in the true sense but rather an expansion of the metropolis which decentralisation was supposed to hold in check.
I commend the Bathurst City Council- particularly the Mayor, Alderman John Matthewsfor its activity in obtaining and endeavouring to obtain new industry for Bathurst. Industry is the centre pin from which a successful decentralisation policy must result. It is the duty of all growth centre corporations to extend their activity in this direction. It is also the responsibility of government- whether it be State or Federal- to take the lead and give incentives to industry to establish in country areas. These incentives could take such a form as concessions in income tax, payroll tax, telephone or freight. However, I express concern at the enormous cost of administering growth centres. Too much emphasis has been placed on activities which, I believe, are not and should not be the direct responsibility of growth centre corporations. These matters should be left to traditional government authorities and private enterprise. For example, I draw attention to the appointment of social workers, the erection of houses and units and- if reported correctly in the Press- the erection of youth centres to accommodate youngsters awaiting court appearances. These are matters in which growth centre corporations are becoming involved, and they appear to be duplicating the responsibility of other government agencies.
The Budget reduction in the coal export levy by 25 per cent from $6.50 to $4.50 a tonne for high quality coal and from $2 to $1.50 a tonne for some lower grade coal is to be commended. The proposal that expenditure on port development will now become an allowable deduction is also to be commended. Both of these measures will assist in the future development and security of the coal mining industry. This industry within the electorate of Macquarie is one industry which is of paramount importance not only to the electorate but also to Australia as a whole. I have the greatest respect for the coal miners. My early life was associated with the industry- my late father was a coalminer. Over the years I have watched the amazing change in the conditions of work resulting from mechanisation and, of course, the improvement in the return to the worker and the mine owner which mechanisation has brought. Whilst the western miners of New South Wales have the highest rate of output per man now in Australia, I exhort the rank and file unionists to take a keen interest in the federation and the unions’ policies to ensure that equity and common sense prevails at all times.
In 1971 on my return from overseas with the New South Wales trade mission on which I represented the western coal mining industry, I reported that I felt that there was a wonderful opportunity to export western steaming coal, provided prices could be maintained and increases in costs kept to a reasonable minimum. Early in February 1976 I was challenged by the western district mining unions to state my position in regard to our Government’s stand against full wage indexation- at that time, a proposed increase of 6.4 per cent in wages. I accepted that challenge and here today I endorse that stand.
I repeat here and now: Inflation will not be beaten unless wages are restrained. If wages are restrained, price restraint will follow, as will increased job opportunities and a reduction in interest charges. Somebody had to make the move and this Government did just that. In fact, it is now interesting to hear the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Mr Hawke- who also is the head of the Labor Party- and the New South Wales Premier, Mr Wran, exhorting the same theme of wages restraint. I believe that the majority of the rank and file of the mining unions agree with this concept but, unfortunately, they are being led by certain union leaders for their own particular political gains. Notwithstanding the present conditions prevailing in the industry- namely, growing employment and I emphasise ‘growing employment’, 5 weeks holiday leave each year, which is 4 weeks annual leave plus 1 week of grouped statutory holidays at Easter, 13 weeks long service leave after 8 years work, 10 days sick pay each year, average production bonus paid for holidays, paid sick days, and compensation up to 6 months- the mining union leaders are still reckless in pursuit of a still bigger share of the cake. Indeed, in some sections of the industry men are now earning up to $30,000 a year. It is not uncommon for mine employees to earn in excess of $20,000 per annumn. I ask honourable members to compare this income with the mere pittance being paid to retired mine workers who do not receive the benefit of this now prosperous industry and who are restricted in receiving social service benefits and local government rate concessions. The conditions of the mine worker has improved but the industry is being recklessly frustrated by unnecessary and costly strikes. The conditions and the continuity of employment of the worker is, therefore, also threatened.
I should like to detail a few instances which are prejudicing our competitiveness on overseas markets. In June, fitters at the Balmain coal loader banned overtime in support of their union’s national claims for better conditions. The result was that the loader worked only 5 days a week. During the past few months the crane drivers have been staging one-day strikes. Only today in the Sydney Morning Herald I read an article which stated that 8 ships were waiting in Sydney harbour and Port Kembla harbour to load coal as a 10-week series of rolling strikes by crane operators ends this morning. The Firemen and Deckhands Union has given constant trouble in its militancy and caused stoppages for reasons as wide ranging as Medibank, the environment, higher wages, sympathy with the teachers ‘ strike and the refusal to handle French ships, following the French nuclear tests. Then we have had railway stoppages caused by strikes by the Australian Railways Union and the Australian Federated Union of Locomotive Enginemen. When these stoppages occur, nothing moves and coal is stockpiled on the mine properties. As recently as 1 1.50 a.m. on 6 August, the members of the Federated Engine Drivers and Firemen’s Association walked off the job at Port Kembla, leaving a ship partly loaded with coal at the wharf. Another firm had 19 trains programmed for delivery to the loader between midnight on 6 August and midnight on 8 August as part load for another vessel that was to have loaded the following week. The result was that the trains were cancelled and not only was the ship in question delayed but the ships which were to have loaded in the following week were further delayed because of the inability to stockpile at the wharf.
In passing, it is worthy to note that due to a variety of strikes and industrial disputes, many hundreds of thousands of dollars are paid each year for demurrage on ships waiting to be loaded. This is a disturbing and very dangerous position for the coal mining industry, particularly the western coalfields. I should like to refer to the demurrage charges. The strike to which I referred cost the coal exporters between $5,000 to $ 10,000 a day in charges for the ships while they were in the harbours. This union manoeuvre is rather typical of what is happening at all ports. All coalfields, including the western field, are dependent upon ready access and availability of port facilities. Many disputes seem to be evaluated by trade union officials- if in fact they bother to evaluate them- in selfish and domestic terms. No one seems to look at these wholesale stoppages in terms of the enormous damage done to the economy and, in fact, to the positive erosion of the standard of living of everyone in this country. I do not believe for one minute that the vast majority of the men employed in the industry desire to be involved in useless stoppages.
From what I have said, let it not be misconstrued that I am anti-coalminer. Indeed, the reverse is the position. I am endeavouring to assist coalminers, and one of the avenues open to me is to ventilate in this Parliament some of the real problems that exist in the industry today. I want to ensure the highest standards of pay and conditions for the mine worker. This can be achieved only by co-operation between the various mining unions and the coal owners. To this end, all parties involved can be assured of my continued interest, co-operation and support because I do not want to see the coal mining industry finish up like the ship building industry. No Budget of the Federal Government, including the Budget now before the House, can be successful unless it has the support of the Australian people. It was Spurgeon in the late 1800s who said:
Nowadays compromise and indifference rule supreme and instead of solid grit we have putty or wax.
How true this statement is today, because the greatest danger to the security of our country, both internally and externally, is the apathy of many Australians. If more members of trade unions attended their meetings it would reduce the opportunity for well organised minority groups to manipulate the majority of the members. Probably less than 5 per cent of union members attend their union meetings, thus allowing the militants to increase their penetration and control of the trade union movement. If Australian people remain indifferent and ill-informed of what is happening at home and abroad, the time will surely come when our life and our country will be taken from us. This will be because of our own apathy and stupidity.
We talk a lot about left wingers, communists, militants and moderates. I will talk for a short while, with extreme simplicity, about Australians. Let us be Australians first and let us have a national union of the Australian people. The dictionary definition of ‘union’ is ‘united’, ‘agreeing together for mutual benefit’, ‘the unity of solidarity produced by this’. In a list of words synonymous with the word ‘union’ is the word ‘harmony’ which is a very pleasant word. Add the word ‘trade’ and we have ‘trade union’- a movement which, undoubtedly, since its inception, has done a tremendous amount of good and obtained many benefits for its members. But have the unions now become largely counter productive? Certainly, they are counter productive in the context of Australian unity, mutual benefit and harmony. They are certainly counter productive in the search for national productivity. We are non-competitive in a world which is becoming smaller. Therefore, isolation is just not on. Perhaps we could look at the trade union leaders who exist in a very competitive atmosphere and who are subjected to a fair amount of publicity in the media. Is this competition between union leaders the real motivation behind our shocking strike history? Are they saying in effect: ‘This I have done for my members, now you beat that, mate’? Is this the yardstick, not whether wages and conditions are really in question? What about pride in the job and dignity? Do these considerations come to the fore or have we developed a handout society, ‘the world owes me a living’ attitude? On a continuing basis the attitude is: How can we get something for nothing? Have we lost the meaning of the word ‘ work ‘?
Our problems by world standards should be very small. We have only some 13 500 000 people. We do not have the population problems of, say, the United States, the United Kingdom, India and Japan. Surely 13 500 000 people can be motivated and can pull together with a sense of national pride to develop this lucky country and make Australia a place of which we can once again be proud. Let us re-establish confidence and stability for a much needed recovery which has started to happen under this Government. Let us all lift our standards higher and let us aim higher in harmony together as Australian people.
Mr Whitlam, in his rather remarkable heyday, tried to tell us the story that all the inflation, instability and unrest were common to all the Western democracies; therefore, Australia was nothing out of the ordinary- a remarkable outlook from the then Prime Minister. Instead of shrugging his shoulders and pronouncing: ‘It is inevitable ‘ he should have been doing something about it. I believe that, under this Government, we are on the road to recovery and the Budget now before the House will accelerate that recovery. In conclusion, I pay full tribute to our Prime Minister, Mr Malcolm Fraser, and his wife for their leadership. They have my loyalty in the difficult times which we have encountered and will encounter unless we defeat inflation. I pledge myself to continue to work for all the electors of Macquarie and look forward with keen anticipation to serving the Parliament of Australia for many years to come.
-I congratulate the honourable member for Macquarie (Mr Gillard) on his maiden speech. I am sad to think that he joins the long list of union bashers that now occupy the government benches.
– Where is your elephant?
– The Treasurer would not have enough brains to give himself a headache. He will go the way of all the fold who will sit on that side of the House for a very short space of time. I rise to support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam). Before moving into the area of my special concern, immigration and ethnic affairs, I shall make a number of general remarks about the Budget. The first point is that this is not a budget. It is not an economic document; it is a political one. This Budget will do nothing to solve the economic problems facing Australia. It will do nothing to boost business confidence or increase consumer spending. For the first time since 1951-52 government spending will fall behind the rate of inflation. This Government had the opportunity in its Budget to stimulate the economy. Government spending in non-inflationary areas such as capital works, roads, housing, sewerage and construction generally would have had the effect of stimulating the economy and reducing unemployment.
The Budget will have one sure result- a massive increase in unemployment. The immediate impact of the Budget will be another 60 000 unemployed. Its long term effects will be a level of unemployment the like of which we have not seen since the Second World War. The reality is that unless the Fraser Government reverses its strategy, the unemployment level by the end of the financial year could be as high as 700 000. Seven hundred thousand people will be out of work. They will be forced to live on the dole, with their hopes crushed, and their pride and self-respect under attack. The whole strategy of the Budget is an attack on the wage earner. It will have the effect of reducing real wages by as much as $15 a week. The aim of this Budget is transparent. It is to create a massive pool of unemployed, to force down living standards and to attempt to crack the back of the trade union movement in order to force the lower income earners into submission. It does nothing for the economy. Its concern is not economic; it is based on a narrow reactionary view of the role of government.
Under the Labor Government positive efforts were made to solve the community problems. Under the Whitlam Government for the first time there was a government responsive to the needs of the community. Children in deprived areas like my electorate of Melbourne for the first time had a government that cared about their educational needs. For the first time, Federal spending on education was based on need.
– The honourable member for Higgins can say ‘rubbish’. He is a member of the House of Representatives Select Committee on Specific Learning Difficulties. He should stand up in this House and tell the truth about schools like St Brigid’s and others. He should now be supporting my contention. For the first time, schools in the inner city and industrial areas received special funding to rectify the years of neglect of the Liberal-Country Party Government. Children in these areas could share the benefits of our educational system. No longer were they treated as second class citizens, fit only for the most menial, lowest paid jobs in the community.
This Budget spells the end to all that. Already the Fraser Government has indicated that it intends to downgrade the role of the Schools Commission in determining education funding priority. It intends to hand responsibility back to State government’s which have indicated, over and over again, their indifference to the needs of children in disadvantaged areas. Under Labor, working mothers found for the first time a government that regarded children as a right. Local communities were encouraged by the Whitlam Government to set up community health centres geared to their needs. Urban and regional development programs brought parks and recreational facilities to the industrial wastelands of the inner and western suburbs of Melbourne. Under Labor, for the first time, the aspirations, needs and rights of the ethnic communities were recognised. The Budget spells an end to all that. It signifies an attempt to crush the hope and destroy the newly awakened involvement of the community. It spells a return to the philosophy of government indifference in the face of community need- a return to a system of government which is cold, distant and irrelevant.
The Budget puts paid to the hopes of education equality and the chance of a better environment in my own area of Melbourne. It is a kick in the teeth for all those groups of concerned people, the people who set up the child minding collectives, the members of the residents associations, the people working in the area of social welfare, the Aboriginal groups with their legal and medical services and their housing projects. In the area of Areyonga -
– Do you believe this?
-I believe it all right. The people in the Areyonga community outside Alice Springs believe it. Mr Derek, the Council President, and Mr Mantjakura, the Council VicePresident, have written to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner). I ask for leave to have their letter incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
Areyonga via Alice Springs Radio Telephone 457 5 August 1976
We are writing to you on behalf of the Areyonga Council and on behalf of the whole Areyonga community. The reason for this letter is that we are very concerned about the low level of funding which both the Council and the Housing Association will probably be receiving this financial year.
Earlier this year we submitted a budget request for 1976-77 for $290,658 to cover wages, operating costs, tools and equipment, materials and new capital items. Although we expected that this figure would be reduced, we are angry that we have been told that we will get only $162,000. This amount is less than our allocation for 197S-76 ($174,000) and does not even cover our proposed wages bill for 1976-77. We may now have to sack some of our workers, when we were hoping to be able to employ extra workers.
If your policy really is to promote aboriginal ‘selfmanagement’ and ‘self-sufficiency’ (see your Aboriginal Affairs Policy statement), we would expect your Department to support the Council with adequate funding.
We know that everyone is asking you for money, but we want you to think about this letter.
We are sending a copy of this letter to Mr Ted Innes, because we were telling him about these things when he was at Areyonga this week and he knows that we are worried about the lack of money for our community.
Mr Ted Innes, MHR, Parliament House, Canberra A.C.T. Senator Keeffe, Parliament House, Canberra A.C.T. Assistant Director, Department of Aboriginal Affairs, Alice Springs N.T.
– Among other things, that letter refers to the fact that a Budget allocation of $290,658 was requested to cover wages, operating costs, tools and equipment, materials and new capital items for the Areyonga community. In the 1975-76 Budget the community received the princely sum of $174,000. Recently I visited the community. I guarantee that not one back bencher opposite would know that it existed, let alone know of its needs and requirements in the areas of education and housing. The Budget is a kick in the guts to these people. If anybody doubts that, let him go and talk to the people concerned.
In the area of my portfolio, immigration and ethnic affairs, the cuts are particularly savage. The Budget once more relegates our ethnic groups to the role of factory fodder. Overall, the ethnic groups have been especially affected by the destruction of the Australian Assistance Plan. The community health programs, the community information bureaus, the welfare rights and the area improvement programs all directly affect our ethnic communities. All these programs take into account ethnic group needs. All these programs encourage ethnic groups to take the initiative. All these programs have been hit by the Budget.
Let us look at child and adult migrant education. There has been an attempt by Government spokesmen to deny that there has been a cut in this area, but the reality is that there has been a cut in real terms of 2 per cent. Spending has increased from $28.7m to $30.6m- an increase that does not match the 12 per cent inflation rate. In the area of adult migrant funding there has been an increase from $8.2m to $9.1m. Once again the increase does not take into account the effects of inflation. The cut in real terms is 3 per cent, despite the fact that the Government intends to increase the migrant intake quota for this year by 40 per cent. In other words, the Government effectively is decreasing spending on adult migrant education while increasing the need. The very real need for adult migrant education programs is shown by the fact that only 4 per cent of the adult nonEnglishspeaking migrants benefit from English language classes. Thousands of migrant workers, because of their poor command of the English language, are condemned to the lowest paid and most menial jobs, and this Budget does nothing to rectify the situation. It reduces the chances of adult migrants receiving special English language education. In Victoria alone the Department of Education estimates that there are 85 000 migrant children who need special help with English but who are being given no assistance whatsoever. Yet this Budget cuts spending on migrant education by 2 per cent.
One of the most widely welcomed and accepted initiatives of the Labor Government was the introduction of ethnic radio. This Budget allocates $105,000 to ethnic radio. These funds will last until the end of September 1976. What a magnificent effort! I remember all the hypocrisy of the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) when the scheme was about to be continued. I wonder what he will say to the ethnic groups now. The Budget Papers blandly note that after September 1976 ‘it is intended that plans will be announced for longer term ethnic broadcasting’. What is that intended to mean? If the Government intends to put an end to ethnic radio, why does it not have the guts to say so? Already there are indications that the Government intends to abolish ethnic radio. A Sydney journalist, Peter Durisch writing in the Inside Column in the Sydney Morning Herald of 3 July, quotes what he calls a senior Government source as saying:
The whole thing is a can of worms. It doesn’t help assimilation. I wish we ‘d never heard of it.
I challenge this Government to give a clear and unequivocal assurance that ethnic radio will continue but it does not agree with that sort of philosiphy. Its actions tend to say the opposite. Another area of particular importance is the area of community health services. Here, for the first time, members of our ethnic communities could receive medical advice in their own language. These community health centres became focal points for ethnic community incentives. The allocation in this Budget is $88m.
– If the honourable member for Riverina can read I will give him a copy of the document. This is an effective cut in last year’s allocation of 17.7 per cent. This cut will have the effect of dismantling the community health program. Once again our ethnic groups are amongst the first to surfer from this Government’s policy of indifference and neglect.
– Stop reading.
– It is better to be able to read. If the honourable member for Holt went back and looked after his bees he would be far more effective than he is in this House. In the area of hospital development programs there has been an effective cut of 12 per cent. This means that disadvantaged areas, areas with the poorest facilities and the fewest hospital beds, will continue to be discriminated against. Once again these are precisely the areas of the highest ethnic group concentration. I have already referred to the Australian Assistance Plan. Under the regional councils set up under the Australian Assistance Plan special ethnic group initiated projects were funded. Ethnic liaison officers were appointed. For the first time the voice of our ethnic communities could be heard in the community. Funds for the Australian Assistance Plan have been cut from $7m to $5m. Sufficient funds will be made available to wind up its operations but the Australian Assistance Plan will cease to exist after 30 June next year.
In the area of legal aid, another area of special concern for ethnic groups since the Australian Legal Aid Office recognised a special responsibility to assist migrants with legal difficulties, the program is again being effectively dismantled. There is no allowance for new offices, no allowance for new salaried staff, and insufficient funds to employ lawyers given the demand for legal aid. Once again the ethnic community is being discriminated against. Once again the migrant, the person with a poor command of English, will be wide open to exploitation. He will be left without assistance to try to grapple with a confusing and complex legal system. The Australian Legal Aid Office offered to many migrants the only hope of justice, the only protection of their rights as citizens. This Budget will destroy the legal aid offered to the ethnic communities by the former Labor Government.
– Not true; deliberately untrue.
-I suggest that the honourable member for Denison wait to make his speech when he is called upon during this Budget debate.
– He opens his mouth -
– In the area of child care, another area of vital concern to our ethnic groups, the cut has been savage. There has been an effective cut of 1.4 per cent. Once again, no new projects will be approved. While in government we made every effort to ensure that there were effective and efficient translation services at every level. The Labor Government recognised the difficulties experienced by those with a poor grasp of the English language in dealing with government departments. Any honourable member who has the responsibility of migrants in his electorate must acknowledge that fact. I am sure that the honourable member for Holt (Mr Yates), in the time when he is not looking after his bees, must have at least one or two people in that situation.
The Budget allocates $63,000 for translating and interpreter services, a reduction of 59 per cent on last year’s allocation of $153,000. 1 hope that the bee-keeper will take this up with the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). When inflation is taken into account the effective reduction is a massive 71 per cent. If we needed proof of this Government’s attitude to the needs of ethnic groups, here it is. There has been a cut in the area of translating services of 71 per cent. In other words, this Government just does not care. This Government is not prepared to recognise the right of ethnic communities to expect that government services will be geared to their needs. This Government has no sympathy for the plight of the individual living in a strange new country, unable to express himself or herself in the English language. I refer honourable members opposite to the project carried out by a group of migrant women in Victoria. Once again, if honourable members opposite have any reasonable attitude at all they will take into account how vital are the translation services to the migrant women who are under pressure of massive exploitation in this country.
The Government is determined to relegate migrants, in particular migrant women, to the role of factory fodder, to the role of second class citizens unable to communicate their needs, unable to demand their rights. I challenge the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs to defend the cuts to translation and interpreter services- not to me but to the ethnic communities in our country. The need for translating services is desperate. If this Government were really concerned to help our ethnic communities it would have increased the allocation for these services and not cut it by 71 percent.
In an earlier speech in this House, on 6 May, I drew attention to the fact that this Government had effectively prevented the Commissioner for Community Relations from carrying out his functions in the way in which the Act demands. The Budget confirms my assertion. It freezes the staff in Commissioner Grassby’s office who serve the people. There are 10 people to serve the whole of Australia. What a joke! The staff freeze makes a mockery of the Racial Discrimination Act of 1975. It is literally impossible for them to carry out the charter of that Act. At the present level the staff can deal with, and only in a limited way, direct complaints concerning specific instances of discrimination. When the office of Commissioner for Community Relations was established it was envisaged that it would play a vital role in the community, that it would deal not only with specific complaints of instances of discrimination but also would actively initiate programs to rid our country of discrimination and racist attitudes. As a result of the Budget, this educational program will have to be abandoned. The Budget reduces Commissioner Grassby’s office to a token gesture, a farce. It also underlies the hypocrisy of the Minister who, when the Racial Discrimination Bill was debated -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! That is the second time the honourable member for Melbourne has used the word ‘hypocrisy’.
– I withdraw it. It underlines the total disregard of the Minister who, when the Racial Discrimination Bill was debated on 8 April 1975, went to great pains to emphasise the importance of balancing the educational and punitive elements of the Act and stressed the need for education programs in the community. What a farce! It just goes the way of all the other programs envisaged and it highlights the weakness of the Government’s argument.
Since this Government came to power all the programs initiated by the Australian Labor Party Government have gone down the drain one by one. The people are learning to their cost that what was said in December was true. This Budget will lower the living standards of the vast majority of Australians. It will usher in a massive credit squeeze. It will lower real wages. It will create massive unemployment. It will not solve the problems of the economy; it will make them worse. It is a Budget that misleads every single Australian. It is a recipe for disaster.
Motion (by Mr Peacock)- by leave- agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Prime Minister and the honourable member for Adelaide each speaking on the Budget for a period not exceeding 35 minutes.
– I would like to congratulate the honourable member for Macquarie (Mr Gillard) who made his maiden speech earlier this afternoon. He stressed the importance of all Australians working together to restore prosperity and he stressed the importance of his own electorate, in a worth while and constructive manner. He made it plain that the Budget deserves the backing of all Australians. His was a constructive, positive speech, unlike the one that we have just heard, which does not deserve much further comment.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) delivered the Australian Labor Party’s response to the Budget on Tuesday. His speech displayed the same frame of mind, the same disregard for reality that so damaged Australia during Labor’s 3 years of government. As most economic commentators have said, he is living in the past. I regret to say that he was not in top form. I regret to say it because he has told everyone that he gets terribly distressed when people say that he is not. Unfortunately it must be said that he was not. But one has to admit that he has raised self deception to an art form.
The Leader of the Opposition claimed that under Labor the rate of unemployment was falling- this from a man whose Government trebled the rate of unemployment in one year. He claimed that under Labor the rate of inflation was falling- this from a man whose Government, in its 3 years in office, trebled the rate of inflation. He claimed that under Labor the incomes of Australians were protected against rises in the cost of living- this from the Leader of a Government whose excesses destroyed the savings of tens of thousands of retired people and whose inflation harmed the weak, the poor and the aged most of all. He claimed that under the Labor Government there was restraint in government expenditure. What restraint? That was from a man whose Budgets increased government expenditure by 115 per cent and whose accumulated Budget deficits during his period in office approached $ 6,000m.
In just 3 years his Government reduced one of the world’s most prosperous nations to one in deep recession and stagnation. There was no section of the Australian community that escaped unscathed from his plans for Australia’s future. And the Leader of the Opposition is unrepentant. He told us on Tuesday that he would do it again if he had the chance. He will not get it. The people of Australia will not have him. Bob Hawke at least knows it. Still I am sure that he is taking some comfort from the fact that, as he said in London, he is more loved as Leader of the Opposition than he ever was as Prime Minister.
I think that this is true insofar as the Australian people are concerned. Never before in Australian history has a Leader of the Opposition been chosen by such a massive landslide. I should add that his own Party probably loves him as much in Opposition as it did in government. The irrepressible Mr Hawke, kindly Kim Beazley, Sir John Egerton have all expressed their feelings clearly and unmistakably. Sir John Egerton has said:
I could never trust Whitlam again nor could Australia.
Kim Beazley has said:
I would resign if I was in his position.
Mr Hawke has said:
The ALP doesn’t belong to Whitlam . . . Whitlam seems to think he has an inherent right derived from God to make a decision to put the Party in such a dangerous situation.
Oh, how they love him! I do not want to mislead the House. I am not going to accuse the Leader of the Opposition of putting forward an economic policy. To do so would be quite unfair because, as he has said, he is not much interested in economics. Luckily for Australia this Government is interested.
We have put forward a clear and consistent economic strategy. The Budget we have put forward combines economic responsibility with social reforms in the best sense. It is a Budget for people because it will continue to move Australia out of the economic decline caused by the Labor Party. Our central concern has been to attack inflation, because this is the only way that sound growth can be restored and employment opportunities expanded. No aspect of the Budget demonstrates our concern for people more than the attack on inflation. Unless inflation is seen to be coming under control, there will be no increase in confidence in Australia’s future, no increased investment, no sustainable increase in consumption and no sustainable increase in employment.
The Leader of the Opposition has understood nothing. He cannot see that in the present circumstances inflation and unemployment are inextricably linked. He cannot understand that there cannot be any sustained improvement in the unemployment situation until inflation begins to be curbed and inflationary expectations are dispelled. His third Treasurer- it was his third Treasurer in 3 years- understood this last year. In the Budget Speech last year he said: . . . inflation is this nation’s most menacing enemy . . . if we fail to control inflation, unemployment will get worse.
This has now been forgotten by the Leader of the Opposition. The present Government has also recognised that excessive wage increases are damaging Australia’s economic prospects. As the first of Labor’s ephemeral Treasurers finally acknowledged, ‘One man’s pay packet is another man’s job’. Even the present Leader of the Opposition once- fleetingly- on 25 January 1975 grasped this point. He said:
Simply the fact is, that for every excessive increase in incomes, the job of another man is taken.
He soon lost his grip of this unpleasant fact, and returned to his manner of shuffling money around like chaff. This Government recognises the unpopular but inescapable fact that in present circumstances, rising wage costs add to unemployment. We have put it to the Arbitration Commission and to the Australian community. We submitted before the Arbitration Commission that full wage indexation locks the economy into double digit inflation. The consequence of full wage indexation is to prevent sustained economic recovery or a return to full employment. The Commission is beginning to accept this. Increasingly, trade union members are beginning to accept this.
There is a growing recognition that excessive wage increases are not only illusory but damaging to the Australian economy and to the interests of all Australians. The trade union movement has a vital role in determing whether the economic recovery continues and employment opportunities expand. Those few militant officials who inflict senseless strikes on the community are undermining recovery and restricting job opportunities. They are imposing hardship on all Australians in an effort to advance their own interests. Strikes, such as the container dispute involving rolling strikes by several unions on the waterfront, the 48-hour State Electricity Commission strike in Victoria, and the Medibank strike, have cost Australia millions of dollars in lost production, lost wages and lost jobs. It is estimated that the SEC strike will cost Australia $70m in lost production and $12m in lost wages and 300 000 employees will be stood down. It is estimated that the Medibank national strike cost Australia $100m in lost wages and $300m in lost production. They have harmed all Australians; they have harmed the unemployed most of all.
The Leader of the Opposition has understood nothing; he persists with the virulent antibusiness mentality which his party translated into policy when in government, and which has been continued in the ranks of the Labor Party by the absent successor to the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor). This irrational dislike for business was one of the factors which undermined business confidence and investment. It is no accident that private fixed investment in 1975-76 was 10 per cent less in real terms than in 1973-74. It is no accident that in the Labor years the private sector- which usually employs 75 per cent of the workforce- took up none of the increase in the workforce. It is no accident that under Labor billions of dollars of minerals and energy projects were deferred. When he attacks business and business profits, the Leader of the Opposition is attacking jobs. He is attacking the hundreds of thousands of small businesses which suffered disastrously under his policies and which this Government- in this Budget- has moved decisively to help.
Our decision to ease the distribution requirements for private companies will be a significant assistance to many small businesses. Our decisions on trading stock valuation adjustment will, for the first time, put a brake on the erosion of the capital base of private enterprise- erosion by inflation. The incentives we have given to mining and oil exploration will get these vital industries moving again- as they were before growth was halted by the doctrinaire approach of the Labor Party. By attacking inflation and by offering industry tax incentives, this Government has shown that it wishes to re-establish a vigorous and prosperous business sector. Only if there is business recovery will there be national prosperity and employment for all who want to work. The private sector employs three-quarters of the workforce- Australia needs a vigorous private sector if more job opportunities are to be created. New investment must take place to forestall supply bottlenecks as the economy gathers momentum. New investment in the private sector and the increased productivity will make a major contribution to raising the living standards of all Australians and make it possible for us to do what we would want to do for those in need.
The Opposition would obviously have budgeted for a much larger increase in outlays and a much larger deficit. The Leader of the Opposition has shown that his only strategy is to spend- not his own money but that belonging to other people. He has learnt nothing. He does not understand that his approach simply leads to more inflation and more unemployment. He has an insatiable desire, an obsession, to throw money at problems. This is an approach which not only undermines the economy but also exacerbates the problems the expenditure purports to solve. He has tried that approach. He has failed. In Australia and overseas the lesson is clear. Governments cannot spend their way out of recession when inflation is running as it has been recently as caused by the Labor Party. Attempts to do so are apt to lead, perhaps after a short burst of activity, to a deepening of the recession and a worsening of unemployment.
There can be no better demonstration of the inappropriateness of the traditional pump priming approach in periods of rapid inflation than to look at Labor’s record. In 1974-75 Budget expenditures increased by 46 per cent and the deficit rose by almost $2,300m. In 1975-76 there was a further increase in expenditure of 23 per cent and the deficit rose by a further $ 1,000m to $3,585m. This would have been much greater if it had not been for the measures we took. Over this period prices increased by more than 30 per cent. Yet over this same period of massive government spending there was negligible growth in real output and unemployment increased, as a direct result of Labor’s policies, by over 200 000. What pride can Labor have in that record?
I turn to the matter of unemployment. Opposition spokesmen have tried to create the impression that the Budget will give rise to a massive increase in unemployment. Figures of 500 000 unemployed by the end of the year have been wildly spoken of. What hypocrisy from the men who made unemployment a major problem in Australia for the first time since the depression of the thirties. As part of this reckless and mischievous campaign some people have even gone so far as to assert that the Budget documents themselves imply a rise in unemployment over the course of this year. Neither Statement No. 2 attached to the Budget Speech nor any other document implies an increase in the level of unemployment over the course of this year.
As the Treasurer has made plain, with employment growth expected to be more than 2 per cent and the labour force growth 2 per cent at the most, the statement in fact foreshadows some reduction in the level of unemployment during the course of this year as a whole. The Leader of the Opposition and others have taken out and dusted down the worn out slogan that this Government is not interested in reducing the level of unemployment; that, indeed, it is deliberately maintaining a so-called pool of unemployment as a means of inducing wage restraint on the part of the trade union movement. It is argued that by curtailing the rate of growth of budgetary spending the Government will deprive the private sector of much-needed demand for its output. This demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of the Government’s economic strategy.
Neither I, the Treasurer, nor any other Minister has suggested that curtailing the rate of growth in government spending will not have some short-term impact on those parts of the private sector previously supplying that government demand. But what those who argue along those lines conveniently overlook is that that is only part of the picture. The curtailment of spending has enabled the Government to take a number of measures which will provide a direct boost to private sector activity. These have included tax cuts for both businesses and individuals. What the Labor Party cannot comprehend is the effect of these measures on consumer and business confidence which is growing because of the belief that this Government will successfully combat inflation and get the economy moving again and because of the belief that we will do what we say we will do.
These boosts to the private sector will mean that far from causing a reduction in employment opportunities the Budget will result overall in an expansion of such opportunities. The expansion will be sustainable, not a short-term and unsustainable one which results from attacking the symptoms of the problem rather than the cause. To say that a Budget that seeks to rein back inflation is designed to create unemployment is simply to fail to recognise that unless inflation is reined back there can be no sustained reduction in unemployment.
The other ground for charging the Government with attempting to maintain a pool of unemployed is that the call for a reduction in real wages until the present wage-profit imbalance is rectified will lead to reduced spending by consumers and, in turn, lower production and employment opportunities. Thus the Leader of the Opposition criticises the Government for attempting to curb excessive wage increases. In a Whitlamesque economic analysis he argues that only if real disposable incomes are increased will consumer spending be increased. Here again, there is a failure both to understand quite basic economic propositions and, clearly, to learn anything from past events. It should be clear by now from experience in Australia and overseas that in present inflationary circumstances one does not boost consumption merely by increasing wages. In the present inflationary situation wage increases are likely to have the opposite effect. They fuel inflation, increase unemployment and reduce spending.
In 1974 between the March and December quarters, real average earnings increased by 10 per cent. Inflation increased by 13 per cent and consumption went up by less than one per cent. Those figures show how false the Labor Leader’s theories are. The wage increases accelerated inflation. Accelerating inflation increased uncertainty and insecurity amongst consumers. Consumers accordingly spent less. Employers were forced to lay off workers. Employment fell, and unemployment rose. This strengthened the vicious circle and as a result savings tended to rise further. Only in recent months has consumption increased as wage restraint has given people more confidence that inflation can be reduced.
This Government is greatly concerned at the high level of unemployment- unemployment we inherited from those who now sit opposite. Our policies will, in time, lead to a sustainable reduciton in the number of unemployed. What the Leader of the Opposition refuses to concede, if indeed he realises it, is that it will be impossible to rectify overnight the grave damage done to the economy by his Government.
The nature of economies is such that, unfortunately, there is no such thing as a ‘quick fix’. As we have said all along, the job ahead of us will take time. The key to how quickly we progress depends on what happens to inflation in the period ahead. It used to be that the Leader of the Opposition sought scapegoats for Labor’s disasters. We can remember 2 Labor Treasurers, a couple of Deputy Leaders in his Government, and a number of other people, overseas eventsall scapegoats for every disaster that befell his
Government. Now he denies that there ever were disasters- or scandals, I suppose. Rather than honestly evaluating their real performance in the past and supporting a co-ordinated approach to restoring confidence, activity and jobs, Labor persists with distorting the past and falsifying the present. The Labor Party’s approach is calculated to delay recovery and the creation of jobs for those they belatedly profess to care for.
The Leader of the Opposition seeks to deny that recovery is under way. Recent events strengthen the Government’s view that recovery is proceeding. In particular, national accounts estimates for the June quarter have become available since the Budget. Among other things, these show that gross non-farm product rose again in real terms in the June quarter following an increase of 3.2 per cent in the March quarter; non-farm product in the first half of 1976 was more than 3 per cent above its level in the preceding half year. More importantly, the sources of growth in the June quarter indicate that the recovery has been consolidating. Whereas the March quarter increase in non-farm product stemmed largely from a turn-around in stocks, the June quarter increase reflected strengthening private final demand. Private consumption expenditure is estimated to have increased by 2.7 per cent in the June quarter following very sluggish behaviour during the preceding 3 quarters. Investment in dwellings continues at a healthy rate. Investment in plant and equipment consolidated the strong rise recorded in the March quarter. In addition, exports have continued to grow to record levels. We have all seen reports of new plans to invest in Australia- in the motor industry, the coal industry and a number of other different industries- totalling hundreds of millions of dollars. That indicates renewed confidence throughout the total Australian community. But what was happening last year? Businesses were contracting. They were cancelling plans for investment. It is the decisions and actions of this Government that have turned around that process and which now hold out a much brighter future than was ever possible under Labor. But the Opposition does not want to be confused with any of these facts.
Some people have expressed disappointment that the Budget, for them, lacked excitement although conceding that it was proper and responsible. It is true that by the standards of recent years this Budget lacks the element of theatre so characteristic of the Leader of the Opposition. An increase of only 1 1 per cent in the rate at which this Government proposes to spend other peoples money in the year ahead has a certain lack of panache compared to the 46 per cent increase of only 2 years ago, or even the 23 per cent increase of last year. The proposed deficit of only $2,600m shows, in the minds of some, a certain lack of imagination compared with the prospective figure of about $4,500m or more with which we were confronted at the time when we took office. It is true that by contrast with, say, last year we have not sought to levy an additional $750m’s worth of indirect taxes. In fact, we have taken -
– But you have increased direct taxes by $750m.
-The honourable gentleman who interjects is as ignorant as his Leader. He knows quite well that by tax indexation $ 1,100m less has been collected than would have been the case under the previous Administration. He knows also -
– You have increased indirect taxes -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! I make to the honourable member for Prospect the same suggestion that I made to the honourable member for Denison. I suggest that he waits until such stage as he is making a speech to the House before he speaks.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, there is a certain advantage in the honourable member’s interjections. They allow everyone in the House and everyone who is listening to the parliamentary broadcast to hear exactly what he is made of. People will not be encouraged by the result. In fact, we have taken the very dull course -
– You are just a liar or you do not understand your own Budget.
-Order! The honourable member for Prospect will withdraw that remark.
– I will withdraw it.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, if I may repeat it, we have taken the very dull course of not raising any major tax at all. This is just one aspect of the Budget’s concern for people. Anyone in touch with what is happening in Australia will know that taxation has become a major problem for individuals, families and business. This Government is committed as we have already demonstrated, to a continuing program of major tax reform. We have introduced full indexation of personal income taxes. As the Treasurer said, we have done this in 6 months when we said originally that we would implement this within 3 years. We have begun the implementation of reforms in the area of business taxation. That will be continued vigorously. Our concern in this area is not a passing one only for this Budget. The reforms already introduced by this Government extend far beyond the vital area of taxation. We have had particular regard to the damage the Whitlam policies did to the weakest sections of the Australian community. Our approach has been to concentrate increasingly assistance on those most in need. The family allowance scheme has been the greatest single reform since Federation to assist families in poverty. It provides $16m or more quite directly to the families of Aborigines in a way which makes certain that the funds get to them and are not frittered away along the line before they ever reach the Aboriginal communities and the Aboriginal people themselves. I pointed out this morning at question time how it was the Whitlam policies over 3 years of Labor government that trebled Aboriginal unemployment rates when the Whitlam Government claimed to be helping them. That is just another example of the way in which spending more and more money irresponsibly does not provide a solution to grave and serious social as well as economic problems. Pensions and benefit adjustments for inflation will now be automatic. A more equitable income test has been introduced for pensions instead of the income plus property test which posed grave injustices for many people.
Medibank has been reformed to contain costs and provide choice. A new home savings grant scheme that goes far beyond that which we actually promised in our policy speech has been introduced. Real expenditure on education programs has been increased. Funding for universities and education programs has been restored on a rolling triennial basis, having been broken and destroyed last year because of the financial incompetence of the Australia Labor Party. An imaginative experimental scheme to provide greater housing choice to those on low incomes will be undertaken, as has been announced. The handicapped children’s allowances have been increased by 40 per cent to 50 per cent and this has been made possible by economies in other areas. There is a large scale $225m program to build homes for the aged, and there will be more activity in that area over the next few months than ever before in Australia’s history. There is a $12Im program to assist handicapped people. Beyond these measures we have acted to end once and for all the drift of all power to the Federal government by our historic federalism reforms.
The Leader of the Opposition simply does not understand that a nation is weakened, not strengthened, by a central government that seeks to dictate in every area of national life. Australians are facing an enormous challenge. The Whitlam Government’s policies for the public sector set back the chance of building a decent life for all Australians by years and he set that back for the Aboriginal people more than for any other group in Australia. Myth was more important than reality; words took the place of action; posturing for the hard slogging work of providing effective government. But oh, nobody in this House can posture better! Not only did government fail to achieve its objectives under Labor, it positively hindered individual Australians from achieving theirs. Families struggled to afford a place to live, to meet the rising costs of education, to find and keep a job, to afford the prices at the supermarket and to protect the value of their savings.
This Government is not ambiguous about the role of the public sector. An effective public sector is an essential condition for the building of the kind of country where every Australian- rich and poor- can live with dignity and self-respect. An effective public sector is one which encourages productivity and investment, which encourages enterprise to increase the nation’s wealth, and expand opportunities. An effective public sector is one which gives taxpayers value for the money they are required to spend on it. An effective public sector is one which can devise programs that work, and enables Australians to be more effective in achieving their goals and meeting their needs. An effective public sector is one which acts to improve the position of the poor and the disadvantaged- not to undermine it, as Professor Henderson has indicated the rabid expenditure of past years had done to important groups of poor people in the Australian community. An effective public sector must expand people’s capacities, not trample them underfoot.
Of course, government expenditure on roads, transport, education and hospitals is vital. This is trite and obvious. It is not some profound new discovery of the Leader of the Opposition. It was not even new in 1972 years before that. All Aus.tralians are agreed on this. Unquestionably as a result of the last 3 years some worthwhile programs have had to be curtailed. There is much more that can, should and will be done in many areas of need. For Labor, however, constant reiteration of need in these areas, about which there is no argument, has become a substitute for facing up to the really difficult questions. Responsible government must have the courage to set priorities, to choose- to tell people frankly and openly what is possible and what is not.
The Leader of the Opposition acknowledged in passing that private incomes were important. He does not see- or does not care- that an excessive tax burden not only erodes incentives but also makes Australian families increasingly dependent upon what politicians choose to provide. The simple fact is that he prefers his plans to theirs. Australians had to surrender their priorities to his. That is not our conception. The sad fact- the tragic fact- is that both government programs and the hopes, expectations and plans of individuals have had to be curtailed because our national resources had actually been diminishing rather than expanding over the Labor years because for 3 years we had a government which had neither the common sense nor the courage to set up and keep responsible priorities.
This Budget has been a reforming document which will set Australia firmly towards prosperity. It provides jobs, restrains taxes, encourages enterprise and helps and shows concern for those in need in a way in which the massive spending of Labor never did because it did not understand the harm that would come from its excesses. It is the kind of Budget which, as many commentators have recognised, Australians voted for last December. It is the kind of Budget that Will help build the kind of Australia we all want to see.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, Mr Deputy Speaker. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) claimed, in his speech, that income tax was to be reduced. I called him a liar and withdrew my remark at your request. May I quote from page 143 -
– I suggest to the honourable member for Prospect that that matter is more a debatable point than a personal misrepresentation. Perhaps this is one of the difficulties, but if in the House a difference of opinion is claimed to be a personal misrepresentation we would be hearing personal explanations almost constantly during debates. I think that the point raised by the honourable member for Prospect is more a matter of opinion than a misrepresentation.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, the Prime Minister made a remark to the effect that my interjection claiming that taxation had gone up by $ 1,775m showed, firstly, that I was ignorant and, secondly, what I was made of. I do not quite understand what he meant by the latter. I wish to show by quoting one sentence from the speech of the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) last Tuesday that I was right and the Prime Minister was wrong. May I just quote one sentence?
-No. I suggest to the honourable member for Prospect that the comment I made previously on this matter still stands, that is, that this is a matter of opinion rather than a matter of personal misrepresentation?
– I disagree with you. It is a matter of fact, surely. Anybody can look at the figures.
-It does not please me to say that we have just heard a mean, pretentious, misleading and, to a large extent, irrelevant speech from the present Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). It was mean because it spent the first 5 minutes in nothing more or less than a personal diatribe against the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). I call the speech pretentious because it came from a man who started off his speech giving credit to the honourable member for Macquarie (Mr Gillard) for calling for unity in this country. It came from a man- a Prime Minister- who at question time talked about courtesy in this House. Because the speech was pretentious and misleading in so many ways.
The honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) has just pointed out one of the ways -the comments about personal taxation receipts. Of course, the point that the honourable member for Prospect made is perfectly valid. The taxation receipts of this country, as shown by the Budget documents, will increase by 24 per cent in the 1976-77 financial year and the pay-as-you-earn receipts will be particularly large. All of this is due not just to the elimination of the taxation rebate for families, which has caused hardship for many families. It is a fact that the taxation receipts have gone up enormously. The tax indexation is not based on the consumer price index increase; it is adjusted for increases in indirect taxes. This is another misleading area which has not been pointed out to the people of this country hitherto and of which one is unaware unless one delves into some obscure parts of the Budget documents.
The speech is misleading for more reasons than that. It is misleading most of all because, 9Vi months after the Liberal and National Country Parties took over the government of the country, it seeks to persuade the Australian people that the sorts of problems that we have in this country are not world problems. I throw at the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) the words uttered by the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) in London as recently as 12 August, when he was speaking to businessmen in a country which is going through similar problems, just as he spoke to businessmen in Europe. He could not get away with the sort of speech, misleading the Australian people, that we have heard from the Prime Minister tonight. Here is what the Deputy Prime Minister said to London businessmen:
Since I last visited London as a member of the Australian Government in 1972, several political and economic events of importance to both our countries have occurred. Britain is now firmly established as a member of the European Communities. The world economy has been shaken by the energy crisis, inflation and severe recession, and both our economies have suffered as a result- more so than most other developed countries.
They are the words of the Deputy Prime Minister, being truthful when he was with men who understand that what we have been suffering from in this country is a world phenomenon. Yet, not only were the people at the last Federal election misled into believing that the people who are now in control would manage our economy better, but in speeches such as the one to which we have just had the misfortune to listen to in this House tonight, they are still seeking to mislead the Australian people in the same way.
The speech also was misleading in talking about recovery and confidence. I quote some of the headlines that have appeared in newspapers since the Treasurer made his Budget Speech last Tuesday week: ‘Retailers see no recovery’; ‘Sharp fall in vehicle sales’; and ‘Budget strategy tottering’- that is because it is built on false premises. Let me quote from one of the best known economic commentators in our country:
Fresh information now casts doubt daily on the foundations the Federal Government used to decide its Budget strategy.
On Monday, car registration figures showed a sharp downturn- sharper than might have been expected. Yesterday-
This was written on Wednesday; so that refers to Tuesday- industrial production figures for July showed a slump. A Business Age survey showed the retailing industry in the doldrums and that car sales have shown no sign of recovery.
The Bureau of Statistics figures showed only 10 of the 32 basic items of production increased after seasonal adjustment in the 3 months to July compared with the previous 3 months.
That is not just me talking; that is quoting responsible commentators on the state of our economy. Yet we have continuing deception in the speech we have just heard. When I get to my prepared speech in a moment, I will show the deception in the Budget Speech itself about recovery and confidence. What recovery? What confidence? At the best, we can say it is equivocal.
Also the Government misleads and talks about reform. I think the best we can say about the personal diatribe inflicted on us by the Prime Minister just now is that at least he did not try to continue to pretend that this is the Budget of reform. At least the Government has learned how hollow that claim is. As to unemployment figures, we now have had 9 months of this Government. What is the result? We have larger unemployment in seasonal terms now than we had 9 months ago when the Liberal and National Country Parties took over the government of this country. This is the only country in the world, that I know of, that has larger unemployment now than 9 months ago; yet still, 9 months after they took over, the Prime Minister of this country rises in this House in a Budget debate and seeks to persuade the Australian people and to mislead the Australian people into believing that the Government’s strategy is working. Of course it is not working. Of course it is built on false assumptions, as I will show when I come to the main burden of my speech. I said that the speech we have just heard was irrelevant, and it is irrelevant for a number of reasons. It is irrelevant because most of it was devoted to the fact that the Labor Party does not consider inflation to be a problem. Of course, the Labor Party considers inflation to be a problem, and it has an alternative strategy to attack inflation. The Labor Party is not prepared to see the real wages and salaries of this country reduced for the sake of curing inflation when there are alternative ways, as in our strategy.
– Tell us about it.
– I will tell the House in time what the alternative strategy is, but my first task is to put into its proper context the speech of the Prime Minister. I repeat that that context is of a mean, pretentious, misleading and irrelevant speech, and I have been going through the reasons why that is so. The speech contained nothing about the effect of the Budget on the States, Medibank or indirect charges. We have to wait now for the State Budgets to see the effect of this Budget on the States. The Australian Budget is either going to reduce the services to the Australian people that are normally given by the States or it is going to force the States to increase their charges. Either way, it is totally unsatisfactory and totally unnecessary, as the House will find when the alternative economic strategy is outlined. I think that is enough for the speech of the Prime Minister. I trust that no one in this country will take that speech seriously.
Last Tuesday night the Leader of the Opposition, in an excellent speech well received in areas which matter to us, ably moved an amendment condemning this Budget in terms which I believe have not received sufficient attention. Here they are:
The House condemns the Budget because-
it pursues a policy of unemployment as a weapon to reduce real wages and salaries;
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.
I had the privilege of seconding the amendment on that night, and I now enter the debate to support it.
My Leader condemned the Budget document as an economic document as well as a social document. Naturally, as the Labor Opposition’s spokesman on Treasury matters- as shadow Treasurer- it is my purpose to concentrate in the brief 20 minutes left to me on the Budget as an economic document. The circumstances in which the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) has prepared his first Budget are difficult- extremely difficult. We realise that the world economic situation, as I said earlier and as I quoted the Deputy Prime Minister as saying, has mainly caused this situation. Unemployment is high and rising. Prices are increasing at a socially disturbing rate. Output is growing slowly. And there are, as usual, innumerable competing demands for government funds. The Liberal-National Country Party Government has selected one of a number of possible strategies and has applied it consistently. Consistency has been its only possible virtue. I wish for Australia’s sake it had been less virtuous, less consistent, and had in this Budget altered course from the dangerous path on which it has placed our country. I believe that economic developments during the next year will show the Budget to be grossly inadequate. The coalition Parties at election time claimed- we now see it was a false claim- to be good economic managers. Their record in their first 8 months is abysmal. Our economic problems have worsened. And their first Budget is simplistic- an over.simplfication of our problems and the cures for those problems.
The Treasurer says that the single important economic problem facing Australia is inflation. He argues that inflation leads to low investment, high personal savings and therefore low spending and unemployment. But these are oversimplified, partial explanations. For it is also true that low investment is a result of low profits caused by inadequate demand- inadequate spending. High personal savings result largerly from people’s fear of unemployment- not from fear of inflation but of unemployment. Low spending by households is caused partly by the large number of the workforce who are unemployed. It is obvious that our economic problems are complex; they have many causes. It is disastrous for us to be too simplistic.
The Government shows no signs of recognising these realities. It is simply foolish to diagnose one cause for all economic problems when there are many. It is equally foolish to set one preeminent target for economic policy. For concentration on one aim will lead to the creation of further distortions in the economy. This is what is happening now. In order to reduce the rate of inflation the Government is increasing unemployment, retarding economic growth, increasing inequalities in income and entrenching structural imbalances. In other words, the Treasurer has taken an extreme position: ‘Reduce inflation regardless of the cost’ he says. What Australia requires is a more mature, integrated approach to economic policy in which all aims have a place. Effective economic policy must aim not only at reducing inflation but also at reducing unemployment, increasing the rate of economic growth, reducing inequalities in income and maintaining balance of payments equilibrium.
The Prime Minister apparently recognised at least the need for an economic growth target at the time of his election policy speech last year for he said then that a growth rate of 6 per cent to 7 per cent was quite feasible. It is disappointing and unnecessary that such a target was not one of the aims of this Budget. It is another example of a deception perpetrated on the Australian people at the last election. The coalition’s extremely distorted economic aims are apparently a product of its conservative ideology. This ideology is riddled with contradictions. My Leader ably outlined the social implications of its mutilation of the public sector in his speech last Tuesday.
Let me state some economic implications. The Government argues that the size of the public sector should be reduced so that the private sector can expand. Yet the most important single influence on the private sector is the level of government spending. It says that government spending should be reduced. Yet productive capacity remains unused and skilled people remain idle. It plans that unemployment must be allowed to remain high, yet Australian unemployment benefits are kept low and manpower policies are abandoned. The Government deliberately allows unemployment to remain high, yet forces people to go through demeaning and complex procedures to obtain unemployment benefits. For some reason it is implied that the unemployed are morally responsible for their position, when in fact the Government has large responsibility for the number of jobless today. The Government asserts that inflation is our principal problem, yet the operations of the Prices Justification Tribunal are criticised by this Government. If inflation is our major problem, why was the Medibank levy introduced, effectively increasing both marginal tax rates and the consumer price index, and creating further rounds of cost and price increases?
The Treasurer has claimed that the Government’s policies have been consistent- and I have agreed with him. It is true that there has been rigidity in the obsession with inflation, and a fixation on the size of the deficit. But frankly there have also been minor marginal changes of approach. I wish the changes had been greater. The coalition’s strategy- if I may outline one of the changes- during the first few months of office was to rely on an investment-led recovery. It soon realised however that businessmen would not invest until spending began to rise. So the Prime Minister urged people to spend, and the Treasurer made a major economic statement on 20 May, said to be aimed at stimulating confidence. These policies too have been ineffective, for consumer confidence has fallen since May. Why do the Government parties not recognise fully their grave error and scrap the expensive and wasteful and only marginally beneficial investment allowance, thus freeing funds for more worthwhile purposes. Meanwhile, factory production, as measured both by the Australian Bureau of Statistics and by the ANZ index, is falling. Unemployment continues to grow- to 5.2 per cent of the workforce at present in seasonally adjusted terms. Private sector building approvals fell in June. The much publicised build-up of stocks in the March quarter was reversed in the June quarter when total stocks fell by $ 1 86m.
Furthermore, motor vehicle sales fell sharply in July. The estimated change from the previous quarter of real seasonally adjusted gross domestic product fell from 3.6 per cent in the March quarter to 0.6 per cent in the June quarter. These figures show that some of the major forces for economic recovery were having a contractionary influence in the months preceding the Budget. They were conveniently not mentioned in the Budget Speech. They were conveniently not mentioned by the Prime Minister in the speech he made prior to my speech now. A quite inadequate picture of the state of the economy was presented by the Treasurer on Budget night. In fact in this area, as in many others, the Budget Speech was deceptive.
Despite the dismal picture, the Treasurer has continued to claim that Australia is in the same position as the large member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. He over-simplifies this comparison in the same way as he over-simplifies his description of the causes of economic problems and the strategy he uses to deal with them. In comparing Australia with other OECD countries he neglects the fact that economic cycles in Australia conventionally lag behind cycles in the industrialised countries in the northern hemisphere. He overlooks that, because of delays to recovery in Australia caused by his Government’s policies, the lags are increasing. Most of the other OECD countries are in a different place on the recovery curve. They are higher up than we are. Their recovery started earlier than ours. For the most part, their policies now are not appropriate to our country. The Treasurer wastes his time making assertions about the OECD such as the ones he included in his Budget Speech. For example, in the United States in 1975 government expenditure was the only substantial expansionary influence on the economy, increasing by 1.3 per cent while gross domestic product declined by 2 per cent. In 1975 government spending is expected to increase faster, by 2.5 per cent, while gross domestic product is forecast to grow by 7 per cent. This is important because the United States is the country where recovery in the world picture is commencing first. In Japan this pattern is even clearer. In 1976 government consumption rose by 6.8 per cent and public investment by 13.4 per cent, while gross domestic product grew by only 2.2 per cent In 1976 public spending is expected to grow by between 4 per cent and 5 per cent and gross domestic product by 6 per cent to 8 per cent. The public sector was also the most expansionary influence in the United Kingdom and West Germany during the trough of the recession and during the recovery. Governments in these countries actively used public sector spending to lift their economies out of recession. Yet the Treasurer and the Government we are suffering at the moment apparently consider they are adopting the same strategy as other OECD countries. They are not. We are cutting government spending at a time when these countries have clearly used government spending to come out of the recessionary trough. It is absurd to make the claims that the Treasurer has made.
He is not comparing like with like. This Budget envisages a fall in total real outlays, whereas in each of the four large economies mentioned, real government spending is expected to continue to increase. The Treasurer apparently notes that most OECD countries have rates of inflation which are too high and then generalises the broad recommendations which are made for this group of countries in aggregate to the substantially different Australian economy. This is another example of the Treasurer’s over.simplifications. It is another deception.
The Government’s approach to the labour market is naive too. It says that reducing real wages relative to productivity would reduce the rate of growth of prices. Of course it would, but people cannot be treated as if they are goods. Men of dignity will not be manouvered by Machiavellian manipulators in Canberra who have no intellectual or emotional understanding of their position. Indexation introduced order and dependable justice to wage setting. As long as employees were able to anticipate that they would be compensated for price rises, the major cause for disputes was eliminated from industrial relations. As we all know, the Liberal Party promised during the election campaign to retain indexation and then broke this promise as soon as it took office. The Government has tried persistently to break the system despite the fact that it is working effectively.
It is true that the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission increased real wages and salaries much faster than productivity in 1974, and that this increased labour costs per unit of output. Wage earners have now, of course, adjusted their living standards to this income position. The answer is not dictatorially to attempt to impose real wage cuts on employees, but to accept that re-adjustment from this distortion will take time, and to allow the recovery of economic activity and improvements in technique and management steadily to increase labour productivity. Conservative politicians and remote administrators may be unhappy with the slowness of that process, but surely it is a more humane strategy, and one less fraught with the danger of breakdown. There are grave dangers for our nation if we return to the law of the jungle in wage and salary determinations- dangers of more strikes, not less, of greater losses of production and productivity. Economic management must take account of human and institutional realities. The labour market is not the same as a commodity market.
The Government is treating wage earners like school boys, saying that the wickedness of a large real wage increase in 1974 must be punished by lower wages and high unemployment now. Only when real wages have fallen, says our schoolmaster Prime Minister, will punishment be withdrawn and unemployment be allowed to decrease. And so the least well-off are forced to suffer. Why did the Government not sustain the beginnings of an offer of a social contract which tax indexation and the family allowance schemes provided, and attempt to collaborate with the unions in maintaining the social wage and achieving industrial peace? I will tell the House why. It is because of its conservative ideology, of its other policies, of the violent way honourable members opposite won government. There is no way now of their winning a satisfactory concensus with the industrial movement of our community. Only Labor can achieve this.
It is impossible for the unions to co-operate with a government that does not keep its word- a government which not only attempts to force wages down but also slowly reduces services or introduces charges such as the Medibank levy for existing services. The Medibank tax reduces the real wages, so the decision to impose it is a legitimate cause for industrial disputes. A subtle and gradual approach would have been more effective in the long run. The bludgeoning LiberalNational Country Party Government approach to wages and the unions is consistent with the manner in which the Prime Minister obtained leadership of his Party and the style he used to force an election. I pledge myself to build more and more bridges with all levels of the trade union movement- not just summit conferences between Australian Council of Trade Unions executives and Federal Cabinets but real communications with Trades Hall delegates, with those at shop steward level. Our economy will require social contracts at various stages in the trade cycle progress. There must be real communication and real understanding. I repeat: Only Labor can achieve this.
Sitting suspended from 5.58 to 8 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting I was outlining, in support of the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition, the disaster of the economic strategy of the Liberal-National Country Party Government of concentrating only on inflation and neglecting unemployment. I explained how the Government’s wages policy was wrong. I explained how the effect of the Budget was for unemployment to continue at the present totally unsatisfactory rate and for inflation hardly to reduce, if at all. I now continue with some arguments in support of this thesis.
I turn to some other factors determining recovery. Receipts from personal income tax are expected to increase by 25 per cent compared with a 12 per cent increase in average weekly earnings and a one per cent to 2 per cent increase in employment. Part of this difference is due to the abolition of the rebates for dependent children, but even excluding the additional receipts from this charge, the increase in net PAYE is 17.3 per cent. So personal income tax receipts rise about 4 per cent faster than the national wage bill, reducing personal disposable income at a time when, for recovery, we need increased personal disposable income. This will be another factor delaying economic recovery.
The changes to company tax arrangments will certainly shift resources towards company profits and thereby encourage business. But are they likely to be cost effective? This we cannot evaluate because the Government has not published sufficient information. I wonder why? The most costly innovation, in terms of revenue forgone, is the trading stock valuation adjustment arising from the Mathews proposals. This change has much to commend it. There is no doubt that firms were and are facing grave liquidity problems in times of rapid inflation, because they have had to pay tax on ‘paper’ profits on inventories. They cannot convert these paper profits into real profits by liquidating the inventories because they need stocks to remain in business. So this measure will be a help. However, the commitment is open ended. Apparently the Treasury was unable to estimate the cost in 1977-78. It seems likely, though, that this change will involve at least the estimated loss of revenue next year which would have accrued this year, namely, $3 50m and therefore it will restrict Budget options in the future.
Highly competent economists are divided about the usefulness of this scheme. For it dis.criminates inequitably between various industries and is administratively complex. In Opposition I am unable to obtain all the facts I require to make a final judgment, but I suspect that the Government would have been wiser to take the reported advice of the Treasury and use the much simpler means of encouraging business, namely, by reducing company tax rates. I know this does not help those who are paying tax on losses rather than on profits, but there are grave anomalies in the scheme announced by the Government. We will look with great care at the legislation when it is brought in.
In the case of the changes in mining tax, the recommendations of the Industries Assistance Commission in its report on the petroleum and mining industries, which were reported to the Government on 28 May 1976 and which by convention should have been published quicklywhich under the Labor Government would have been published quickly-were released only last Tuesday. Is this because the expert advice of the IAC was not accepted by the Government? Reducing the write off paid for capital spending on mining and petroleum projects from 25 years to 5 years gives greater concessions to the mining industry than to any other industry. The IAC does not consider this necessary to encourage mining development. This decision illustrates yet again the deviation from sound economic policies which the Government’s ideology is causing. Thoroughly researched and carefully prepared advice from the most competent public sector sources is rejected in favour of largesse based on prejudice. The strange aspect of the seemingly excessive encouragement being given to the mining industry is that it comes on top of 3 years of increasing mining investment. For despite what the coalition spokesman say, mining investment collapsed under the McMahon Government and then increased steadily throughout the 3 years of Labor Government. It was only at the end of last year and at the beginning of this year that mining investment declined again. It is ironic that a Liberal-National Country Party Government has to give such an over generous tax concession to reverse this trend again.
Government outlays have been constrained by an inadequate conception of the role of the public sector in effectively providing services to the whole community and contributing to the growth of productivity in the private sector by improvements to infrastructure. If instead a strategy of stimulating a faster rate of economic growth had been adopted, higher tax revenue would have been received from the higher national income. People in this country, misled by our opponents, seen to forget the addition to productivity of improved roads and such infrastructure which can be given only by government. The coalition Government’s spending cuts have had their greatest impact on the building and construction industry, for it is easier to defer or cancel capital works than it is to retrench staff. The result has been that employment in the building and construction industry fell by nearly 50 000, or 11 per cent, between May 1975 and May 1976. Yet knowing this, and knowing that unemployment in the construction industry is particularly severe in New South Wales and Queensland, the Government has sharply reduced funds for capital works in money terms, leave alone in real terms. This does not make economic sense. Public sector capital expenditure on buildings and construction has a greater impact on income growth than any other category of government spending. The so-called multiplier effect of spending on buildings and construction is higher than for all other types of government outlays. The combined factors of severe unemployment and under-utilisation of construction industry capacity and the depressed state of the economy suggest clearly that selective stimulation should have been given to this industry, particularly in the most depressed regions. I repeat that improvements in infrastructure such as roads, transport facilities, water and power supplies, not only improve services available to the community but also increase the efficiency of the private sector- a result at present forgotten by the Government. The cost effectiveness of such outlays would have been high.
The Budget does not contain one program to support what the Prime Minister chooses to call ‘the genuinely unemployed’. Why is there no manpower pOliCy involving, for example, an expanded retraining scheme? In fact, we find that those sections of the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations are being retrenched rather than increased in number. The young unemployed in particular constitute not only a grave social problem for us aU to cure but also a serious economic problem. As soon as the upturn in the world trade cycle reaches us and our economy recovers, which it will in spite of the foolish economic mistakes of the coalition Government, those young skilled workers will be badly needed. Public funds should be spent now on the training of the young unemployed. The Budget neglects the underprivileged and the people who need encouragement. Spending on Aborigines is decimated; real overseas aid falls to a lower proportion of national income than that which has applied for over 10 years; the real value of family allowances is already falling; a decision about student allowances is still deferred. The Leader of the Opposition outlined these social tragedies in impressive detail in his speech last Tuesday night.
I will sum up the Opposition’s attitude to this Budget as an economic document. We believe it is built on a false assumption. Recovery is not yet assuredly under way. It needs to be nurtured. The aim must be to unlock the key to consumer confidence. We reject the notion that neglecting unemployment and concentrating on inflation is that key. We assert that modest, selective, stimulatory expenditure in areas where there are unemployed men and women and idle materials and reducing charges such as the Medibank tax are not only beneficial in themselves but they are also the key to consumer confidence, consumer spending, business investment and thus, modest, slow but sure recovery. We believe that government spending and revenue forgone on these policies can be financed by scrapping the investment allowance and the other more extravagant business subsidies and by a modest increase in the deficit which would not either force up interest rates or lead to an over-large growth in the money supply. We applaud the setting of targets for the money supply but will watch carefully the application of monetary policies and their effect.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I ask for leave to continue my remarks.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection leave is granted.
– I thank the House. I will not transgress its time for more than 2 minutes. Economic recovery itself would generate taxation revenue which would reduce the deficit. It would also constitute the greatest bonus for business. We support those modest measures which help the private sector with its grave liquidity problems. At the same time we believe such recovery handled by a humane and sensitive government, one not dedicated to destroying the public sector, would set the scene for meaningful communications and agreements with the industrial movement of this country to ensure growth without inflation. Only with such a social contractin such an atmosphere- would we ensure that we do not riccochet back into ever higher inflation with yet more unemployment. Let us remember, however, that restraint must apply not only to wage and salary earners but also to all who fix prices.
The Prime Minister has called this a ‘people’s Budget’. That can only be true if by ‘people’ he means employed, white Australian, adult males. It is not a Budget for the overwhelming majority of people of this country. Because there were no immediate increases in the price of cigarettes, beer and petrol, they may not realise it yet. But they will realise it. They will understand when the Medibank tax hits them on 1 October. They will understand when there is no adequate improvement in the rate of unemployment or in the rate of reduction of inflation over the next 12 months. Rather than turning on the lights, as the Liberal Party’s election slogan offered, this Budget dims the lights- in fact, it smashes many light globes- which were guiding the way to economic recovery and it shuts off the light of hope for humane government. The amendment should be supported by this House as it will be and would be by the nation.
– I support the Budget. In view of what we have just heard- and the lights are still on- I would not mind donating 2 minutes of my debating time to the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) because the more time he devotes to the Budget the better it is for our side. He has not convinced anybody of anything.
The essential strategy of our Budget is correct. Let us not forget- and it does not matter how many times we say it- that the basic problem in Australia today is still high inflation. That cannot be said too often. Unless we beat inflation it will beat us. The experiences of the German Weimar Republic after the First World War should always be remembered. Certainly many other industrial democracies had dreadful inflation problems at the time but none had an inflation rate as high as Germany and this, coupled with other serious problems, produced a Hitler. So inflation is the real enemy and we are holding it by holding money supply amongst other things. Certainly unemployment is a problem but to call for higher Government spending- and surely this is the essence of everything that has been said by the Opposition during the course of this debate- simply means bigger debts, full wage indexation and devaluation, for it will amount to much the same thing, of the Australian dollar. This will not help our problems. Those who call for these actions do not seem to realise that what they are calling for will bring about precisely the opposite effect to that which they seek. In other words, such measures will increase unemployment.
This is the experience of Great Britain. Huge government spending in Great Britain in socialist welfare experimentation and interference in supply and demand through buying into industry have left huge deficits and enormous industrial losses. These actions have led to mammoth unemployment of approximately 2 million people, if the latest figures are true. I think the Australian newspaper, with which I do not always agree, summed up the situation pretty well on Tuesday of this week, It said:
For almost 2 years Britain has been stagnant. Almost nothing it produced was salable on the world market and it had to borrow to stay afloat
The point all Australians must understand is that at present the Government and the rest of the nation are holding a thin tenuous line between maintaining our high standard of living and collapse. This is not an exaggeration. Look at Britain. It did not hold this line. It tried to improve real living standards at a time when productivity and production were dropping, and for this failure the people of Britain paid a very high price.
Let us turn for a moment to the Leader of the Opposition and his very few followers. They were bored when he spoke on the Budget; they snored as the unfortunate honourable gentleman delivered his diatribe. One newspaper actually said that he ‘attacked’. I think this dignifies the blast of hot wind that swept around the chamber for over an hour the other evening. The Leader of the Opposition proved as good a Treasurer as the several people he tried in that office and found wanting while in government. I just begin to wonder what is happening now in the Opposition. Already he has been through one shadow Treasurer and he is fast breaking the heart of the honourable member for Adelaide. I just wonder whether he ought to give the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) a try, mainly because the Leader of the Opposition and the honourable member for Hindmarsh seem to be such firm friends and that is always a great basis for success in the Australian Labor Party. The Sydney Morning Herald summed up the contribution by the Leader of the Opposition perhaps rather better than I can. I think it is worth quoting. It said:
The great weakness of Mr Whitlam ‘s speech was its failure to recognise that the Budget tried to do what the coalition was elected to do: fix up the economy; cut Government spending; reduce taxes. Mr Fraser was elected with this charterabhorrent though it may be to many- largely in reaction to Mr Whitlam ‘s own excesses. The Labor Party must learn that, while various sections of the community will happily urge it to spend more and more on this or that worthy cause, the great majority of the public is just not prepared to pay for it. It will pay neither through increased taxes nor increased inflation and unemployment, caused by deficits too great to fund.
Those words are really worth recording in Hansard. Now I turn to the unfortunate shadow Treasurer, who repeated the sad story of his Leader. It would be difficult to sum up everything that he said, but it seems to me that if we neglect the semantics, of which there was a fairly large quantity, he tried to make the same point as was made during the election campaign by the Opposition over and over again, and that is that the high rate of inflation in Australia today is due entirely to world conditions- in short, that inflation has been imported to Australia. This is impossible. The only import commodity which could cause inflation in this country would be oil. The Opposition knows as well as I do that we are more than 70 per cent self-sufficient in oil. So, how the devil were we able to import inflation to this country? It is all very well to try to blame world conditions.
The Prime Minister made this point earlier, and made it better than I can. The Opposition is looking for scapegoats. It has looked for scapegoats all the time. There just are not any. It is the Opposition’s own fault. When in government it started the wage hike. It set the pace by using the Public Service as the lead dog. Now we have this terrible problem out of which we are trying to dig ourselves. The honourable member for Adelaide and his Leader do not seem to understand the fundamental fact that governments consume wealth rather than generate it. The Treasurer is completely right when he says that governments themselves cannot generate resources; they can only distribute them. Honourable members opposite might not like it, but that is a fact. There must be an acceptance by the community of the need to work together if living standards are to improve. The way forward is to generate more production, and this means, in essence, getting the nation back to work. For the Government’s part this means establishing a climate in which there is incentive and reward for achievement. That certainly is one of the essential points of this Budget.
We have heard much of the theory and practice of the economics behind the Budget. We have examined the strategy of the Budget and we have examined the tactics. Both sides have had a pretty solid chop at it. One of the most important things we must ask ourselves, even the gentlemen on the opposite side, is: What does the Budget do in my electorate? I know that honourable members opposite will go about their electorates blaming the Government and looking for the scapegoats about whom we have heard so much so far but there are some things that even they will be able to tell the people in their electorates. We on this side certainly will be going back to our electorates and saying things like this: ‘We know that we have to put the Budget into the whole context and we know that the Budget has not been designed individually or tailored for particular electorates. But we have to look at the whole country and there are different situations in some electorates’.
– Particularly in the Swan electorate.
– I do not think so and I think I will be able to demonstrate that to the honourable member for Adelaide. I said in my first speech in this place that I did not have to go to the doors of the people in my electorate and tell them about the problem of inflation. They knew about it and they wanted someone to do something about it. It was quite obvious that the people on the other side in this place were not capable of doing anything about it. That is why they sit where they are today. That is why I am here and that is why they are there in such small numbers.
– They needed a martyr.
– I have heard that one before. I suppose my name lends itself to that sort of thing. All I can say to my friend and colleague, the honourable member for Barton, is that I am willing to shed blood if my blood fertilises the ground and truth springs up. The important thing that will impress people in the Swan electorate is that they will be able to see that we have held the line on inflation. We know that it was running at about 17& per cent or thereabouts when we came to office. I think it is well known that today it is somewhere down around 12 per cent. I do not think that that can be denied by any standard of measurement. In simple terms, what does this mean? It means that out of every dollar of disposable income there is Sc more in the hands of everybody in my electorate and in the hands of everybody in the electorates of Opposition members. People in my electorate will be able to see that family allowances are going directly to mothers, that this money is not being stacked up by greedy governments and handed back as deductions without interest to taxpayers.
– Do you have a vested interest in this matter?
-Yes. And I must correct the incorrect impression of my colleague behind me, the honourable member for Perth. I have only 7 children, not 13. People in the Swan electorate also will be able to see that income tax has not been increased but is now indexed. This again means that greedy governments will not be able to rip off the public, particularly in the Swan electorate, as they did in previous years and as the previous Government did. Electors in Swan will be able to see that there are no price increases for those very simple pleasures that most of them enjoy, the pleasures of tobacco and liquor. They also will be able to see quite clearly that the help we have given to the States and to local government in accordance with our federalism doctrine will keep up and improve local necessities. Their health will not suffer because their revised Medibank plans will cater for them.
The electors want to share in this cost; they do not want it for nothing. It was quite plain to me when I went around the doors during the election campaign- and I have been around a few times since then- that people understood that they cannot get things for nothing. They understand that they have to pay. They understand that somewhere along the line the money is going to come out of the taxes in some way or another and they would rather have lower taxes, and I emphasise that point to the Treasury. That is something to which the electors of Swan and every other electorate in Australia are looking forward in time to come. They do understand, however, that there is nothing to be had in this world for nothing and they are quite prepared to pay a reasonable amount for a reasonable service. I think that the moment they are satisfied that we are trying to do the best we can with the monster we inherited.
On the same basis, I believe that my electors are completely satisfied that education is being well served by the Government and that it will not suffer fundamentally. My electors know that Labor’s persecution of private industry, in which most of them work, could not go on, for if it did their jobs would disappear. That is another fact of life, whether one likes it or not. Most of the people in my electorate, and I think that this applies to most of the people in the electorates of every other honourable member, are employed by private industry. If a government persecutes them, takes away the profit motive and brings the manufacturing industry almost to the brink of despair the jobs of the electors will disappear.
I am sure that my electors applaud the effort that is being made to revive the mining industry which is a most important basic industry in the State from which I come and which has tremendous flow-on effects in my electorate. The pensioners of Swan will benefit because pensions and benefits are to be tied to movements of the consumer price index. The first pay in November will show an increase of $2.25 a week in the standard rate of pension and $4 a week in the combined rate. Much the same applies to the old Diggers who live in Swan. There are quite a number of them there. They are not being overlooked in the Budget. I am very proud to announce support for two particular projects in my electorate for handicapped people. It will be good news for them. I know that they have been waiting for it for a while. At East Victoria Park, a suburb in my electorate, the Slow Learning Children’s Group of Western Australia will receive $320,000 for capital and $24,000 for equipment. This is for the construction of a new activity therapy centre to obviate overcrowding at the organisation’s existing centres. Approximately 100 handicapped persons are involved. The Government is also giving some help to the Civilian Maimed and Limbless Association of Western Australia at Victoria Park for rental of additional premises to provide sheltered employment and to obviate overcrowding in existing premises. Six handicapped persons are involved.
These are the things that are being done by this so-called hardhearted, mean, tight-fisted Government. Amidst all the difficulties confronting us at the moment, the ordinary people of this country are not being neglected. These are just some of the features of the Budget which affect the electorate of Swan and I am sure that they affect other electorates as well. I am pleased about this because so many of these things were discussed at the door during my election campaign. In my first speech in this House I told honourable members what people had told me and what they expected us to do. This is one of the reasons why I am proud of the Budget. I am glad to be able to speak about it. I know that my electors will welcome what I have done to help matters along a little bit, and I am sure that that goes for every member of my Party. However, nothing is perfect. Compared to the socialist manifestos of the immediately previous Treasurers, the Budget is a real paragon of virtue. It seems to me that the indexation system may have long term difficulties in that it locks into the economy the presumption that inflation will always be with us. One of the problems that I see with inflation is that, should there be a fall in the CPI- this is what we are aiming for- then we have the problem of reducing everything locked in. This may have grave industrial consequences. However, if the indexation system is to be adhered to then it should also apply to family allowances, that most important measure to which the Government attended early in May.
On this matter I have one or two suggestions to make based mainly on work done by the Associated Chambers of Manufactures in their submission to the Government. They are as concerned as we all are about our low population level. They believe that a significant improvement in the fertility rate could be induced by an improved social benefits scheme for women with children. Specifically they suggest that women leaving work to have families should be paid a benefit for the period during which they are caring for their family. In circumstances where the children of the family are cared for at home and are not forcing governments to provide child care faculties by way of creches and pre-schools, a differential payment might be considered to take care of the different circumstances applying in family care. It has been suggested that the allowance might be paid initially for a period during which the mother has a child under 5 years of age and is not in employment.
It is interesting that the Associated Chambers of Manufactures of Australia should say that. It is also interesting that an article in a permanent building society’s magazine expressed concern about the same subject, namely the problem of the working mother and the need for us to increase the population.
– You have done your job.
– The honourable member is not helping me very much. We have the desire to encourage a population growth, which is so necessary. I think that we also all have a desire to implement the idea that the best place for a mother is in the home and not at work.
– We do not all have 7 children.
– The honourable member will find that there are great benefits to be derived by him if he does. The honourable member should look at the Budget and calculate just how profitable it could be for him. It is interesting to find that Meredith Evans, whom I have quoted previously in this House and whose views are basically different from my own, made the point in a recent article that a guaranteed income scheme is designed, amongst other things, to redistribute income vertically towards families in poverty and that the introduction of a guaranteed income scheme could lead to many wives in low income households ceasing to work. I regard that as a most important matter. I hope that the
Government will take it up. I think it is something this country will need in the future. It is one of the things that, if implemented, will probably help to solve the unemployment problem as well because the unemployment figures no doubt include quite a number of married women who have no desire to work. If we were to make provision to help them to stay at home it would be a worthwhile gesture that would help Australia and help the economy.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable members time has expired.
-I listened intently to the speech of the honourable member for Swan (Mr Martyr). He followed a theme similar to that followed by other honourable members on the Government side of the House. Lang Hancock, who is responsible for his induction into this Parliament, undoubtedly would have been very proud of the honourable member if he had listened to his speech tonight. I have no doubt that the honourable member is an honourable man as far as being loyal to those who put him here is concerned, and that he will always be honourable to Lang Hancock and Lang Hancock will never be able to find any fault with what he says in this Parliament.
– I rise to a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. My point of order is that the Budget is the subject of this debate, and I understand that an honourable member’s remarks should be relevant to the subject of a debate.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)There is no substance to the point of order.
– I have exposed a weakness that I did not know the honourable member had. The truth hurts. However, he is a personable fellow and I look forward to enjoying his company here until the next election. He will suffer his demise at that election only because he is politically misguided.
I come to my contribution to the debate on this obnoxious document called the Budget. In my view, and in the view of honourable members of this side of the House, it is a document that has been cunningly conceived. It is a deceptive document. It purports to ease and, in some cases, to rectify Australia’s economic ills, to reduce the rate of inflation, to lower the level of unemployment and, overall, to bring about greater stability in the economy. The honourable member for Swan, in his unknowledgeable fairness, said something about inflation and chaotic unemployment in West Germany. I thought he would have attributed that to Mr E. G. Whitlam too, but he was not so foolish.
We on this side of the House believe that this document will not achieve the objectives that the Fraser Government pretends that it will. On the contrary, it will contribute to greater unemployment and further industrial chaos. The Government wants to curb wages and allow the manufacturer to sell his goods at the highest procurable price. The Tories in this Parliament, led by Mr Fraser and Mr Anthony, have opposed any endeavours by the Labor Party to introduce effective national price control laws. Therefore, the worker today, who is not illiterate, as are the workers in many of the banana republics in Brazil, Latin America and some parts of Asia, is insisting on the highest price for his labour, just as the manufacturer insists on the highest price for his goods.
The Budget will retard economic recovery. According to what we have been told in the Budget, total outlays will increase by 11 per cent, whereas an increase of 12 per cent is expected in the rate of inflation. Real government spending will fall. Yet honourable members opposite say: ‘Turn on the lights’. The lights have been turned out completely since they achieved office in December by falsity and subterfuge. Total receipts are expected to increase by 19 per cent, compared with a growth in the economy of about 4 per cent. Receipts from personal income tax are expected to increase by 25 per cent, compared with an increase of 12 per cent in average weekly earnings. Rather than reducing income tax, the Fraser-Lynch administration is sharply increasing the proportion of income which people will pay in tax. Total spending by governments will be curbed below possible and desirable levels. How will that stimulate the economy? Honourable members opposite constantly blame the Whitlam administration for the present state of the economy, but the public is no longer falling for that argument. That is why a Labor Government was elected to power in New South Wales. Business confidence will be undermined. The States have to bear the brunt of Commonwealth expenditure cuts. Grants, in many areas, have been slashed. State income taxes are now inevitable. Labor provided for substantial payments to the States in the 3 years that it was in office. It increased its payments to the States by 20 per cent in 1973-74, by 50 per cent in 1974-75 and by 30 per cent in 1975-76.
What does the Lynch Budget mean to the States? The Budget will have disastrous consequences for the States. Payments to the States will be less than 90 per cent of what was provided previously, which will cause a combination of unemployment, increased rates and charges, and a reduction in services. Most States will be in trouble before the end of this financial year. The Government has made savage slashes in this area because of its attitude towards reducing inflation and unemployment. In my personal view the Budget Speech of the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) was misleading. Payments to State and local governments, after repayments of loans have been deducted, amount to $9,077m, which is a net increase of 7 per cent The Treasurer’s claim about a higher percentage is based on his treating previous unemployment relief schemes, for which the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) and the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) were principally responsible- I refer to unemployment relief schemes such as the Regional Employment Development scheme which the Australian people have applauded so much- as if they did not exist.
The Government has made adjustments to the earlier figures in relation to hospital payments. The Commonwealth has broken the Medibank hospital agreement and will reduce payments for the operation of hospitals. There is no provision to increase those funds which go to build hospitals. Funds for tuberculosis control will cease at the end of this year. Unemployment grants to the extent of $30m have ceased. Funds for Aborigines- mainly for Aboriginal housinghave been reduced by $10m, or $52m overall. Yet the Australian people voted approximately 9 to 1 in favour of uplifting the conditions of Aborigines. That vote was taken prior to 1970, before many honourable members now on the Government side were in this House. The Government is revoking the overwhelming opinion of the Australian people. It is cutting back on finance made available to Aborigines.
There is to be no increase in funds for welfare housing. Growth centres, such as those at Albury-Wodonga, Bathurst-Orange and Campbelltown, will run out of funds in a few months. The payment of funds for area improvement programs in 13 local government areas has ceased.
– Funds for the tuckshop?
-I understand the honourable member still has his play lunch money. He is getting a reputation for meanness among honourable members around the House. Funds for sewerage have been reduced by $63m. 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. Funds for dairy adjustment have been reduced by $5m. I do not know how the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair) will sell that phase of the Budget to his cow-cocky friends in the New England area.
– What about the superphosphate bounty?
– The honourable member knows all about that. That is why he is advocating the promotion of the dung beetle. You know what the dung beetle lives on, do you not?
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! It might be an idea if the honourable member for Wimmera ceases interjecting and if the honourable member for Hunter continues his speech, using the notes which he has in front of him.
– Funds for local government have been reduced by approximately $80m. Expenditure in education has been maintained in most areas but this has not allowed for any growth cuts which have been made to student assistance or to Aboriginal and migrant education. The Whitlam Government doubled expenditure on education in its first year, it doubled it again in the second year and maintained the amount in real terms in its third year. These are some of the things which the present Government has undone because it is on the side of powerful monopolies, big business and multi-national companies. I shall say something shortly about multi-national companies. An honourable member on the Government side of the House, I think the honourable member for Capricornia (Mr Carige), praised the development of the coal industry in central Queensland. But he gave a one-sided version of the situation. In this Budget the Government has introduced measures to reduce the coal levy. I believe that in many cases it could have been justifiably maintained.
– Do you not believe in it?
– I shall prove to the honourable member that I do not believe in the abolition of the coal levy if he will listen to me and be fair to me. I do not want to be discourteous and insult him because he is only a young man in the place. But if he keeps on he will ask for it and he will get it. The Government has robbed Medibank to subsidise the likes of Utah Development Co., a multi-national company, to the extent that from 31 October 1974 to 31 October 1975 Utah earned a clear-cut profit of $100m. Thiess Peabody Mitsui Coal Pty Ltd has had taken off the levy which the Labor Party imposed of $6 a ton for export coal. The Government has imposed medical costs on the unfortunate pensioners who get a bit of superannuation in order to subsidise the likes of Utah.
If I am permitted to develop my argument I shall prove to everyone in the House the unfairness of the Government in this way and also in relation to the fertiliser subsidy. The Government has deprived the pensioners of rights they had under the Whitlam Labor administration. The Government has been taking off the poor and giving to the rich. This is in conflict with every tenet of religious belief to which one may subscribe. In the calendar year ending December 197S the Thiess Peabody Mitsui company earnt $9.6m in clear-cut profit. To a lesser extent the Bellambi Coal Co. Ltd, Kembla Coal and Coke Pty Ltd, Huntley Colliery Pty Ltd, and Clutha Development Ltd are more modest in their profits. It is anticipated that they will earn $500,000 in the calendar year. In reducing the coal levy the Government is giving millions of dollars to these rich multi-national coal exporters. It is giving them the benefit of $33m and allowing small wage earners or pensioners with small superannuation payments to pay a minimum of $5 as the Medibank levy which this Government is imposing.
In a full year the Government will save $37m for the rich multi-nationals. We know what the multi-nationals have done in Latin America. I have been there. We know what they have done in Chile and we know what they are about to do in Brazil as Brazilian minerals are developed. The coal levy would have cost $1 12m in a full year and that is what the Government has returned to the rich coal owners. Two very intelligent research officers have investigated the effects in Queensland of the multi-nationals and of their long time pal Joh Bjelke-Petersen, the peanut king from Kingaroy. I quote from a report by these 2 research officers which cites some views of Mr Lang Hancock, the man who sponsored the candidature of the honourable member for Swan for this Parliament, in connection with Theiss Peabody Mitsui which is now taking some of our coal and has been doing so for some years. The report states:
The increasing appetite of Japan now for control of our raw materials prompted millionaire Western Australia minerals tycoon, Lang Hancock to say in October 1971: ‘Japan wants increasing equity in Australian mining operations, a captive source of supply. They want to own some of the minerals, and they’ll use anything to get it . . .’
Those are the remarks of an out and out antiLabor man who I understand is a very loyal friend of the honourable member for Swan. One time it was the practice of certain countries to invade with its troops a country with rich resources, like Australia, and take it over, but no longer is that practice followed. They now raid the target country with their money and take it over economically. I can remember my dear old father telling me at one time- and this quotation has been given previously in this Parliamentthat Baron Rothschild, one of the early international bankers said approximately 50 years ago: ‘Give me control of a country’s economy and I care not who makes its laws’. That is as relevant today as it was 50 years ago when uttered by Baron Rothschild.
– Whitlam tried that.
– No, we tried to curb the power of the multi-nationals. We have been accused in this debate today of persecuting private enterprise. We never persecuted private enterprise. We were trying to get justice for the Australian people, to ensure that they got a proper equity out of God-given assets like bauxite, coal and iron ore. That is what we were after. Neither Lang Hancock nor the multi-nationals ever created bauxite or iron ore. If there is a man above- and you believe there is, Mr Deputy Speaker- then these assets are God-given. No individual should reap rich profits and be able to have mink coats, servants and Mercedes and Rolls Royce cars at the expense of the worker who helps him produce that wealth.
– What about Barton?
-Is Barton a mate of yours? I would not be surprised. Barton said at one time that he was an out-and-out Liberal. He said he was being persecuted. Let me tell the Parliament what is going on in central Queensland. So much for the applause this afternoon by the honourable member for Capricornia. Mr Justice Gallagher investigated the living conditions of the working class people, the miners, at Blackwater. The report to which I referred earlier states:
In 1963, evidence of the living conditions for Theiss Peabody Mitsui mineworkers and their families at Moura appalled Judge Gallagher. He described the conditions as being ‘nauseating, revolting and degrading. ‘ That exposure, which followed a strike by the Moura workers, forced some action to rectify the worst of the conditions.
Moura Homes have been built by the Housing Commission, with the company paying for some of them and contributing towards the cost of sewerage and other services.
Let me quote what the Miners’ Federation and Mr Justice Gallagher went on to say. Mr Deputy Speaker, you as a man of God and a Christian must appreciate the words, even though you support a political party that invariably allows these conditions to continue. The report states:
In the case taken in April 1963 by the Miners’ Federation against Thiess-Peabody-Mitsui over living and other conditions at Moura, the Coal Industry Tribunal (Judge Gallagher) paid a warm tribute to the miners’ women folk there.
Evidence in the case, which followed a strike by the Moura workers, had revealed that workers and their families were subjected by the company to conditions which Judge Gallagher described as ‘nauseating, revolting and degrading’.
Mr Justice Gallagher went on to refer to 2 miners wives who had given evidence. They were Mrs Judith Martin who had 6 children and Mrs Rosemary Window who had 5 children. Mr Justice Gallagher said:
Despite the conditions under which they had to live, the 2 women have not lost their dignity and they have not lost any element of femine refinement. They are a tribute to what an Australian woman will do in bringing up her family.
This is the opinion of a non-political man. I notice that the honourable member for Holt (Mr Yates) is in the chamber. He knows the conditions in which the British miners lived. I had hoped that time would permit me to develop my argument a little further. Next week I am going back to Wales where my grandfather was born. I am going back to Tredegar. This is where the Welsh miners developed their religion and thenunions.
– Why not stay there.
– Yes. It is a pity that the honourable member would not go there also. I would not inflict him on Wales. He has not an ounce of decency or political ideology in him. I am going back to Wales to revere the principles I was brought up to believe in and on which I will never rat.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, out of courtesy to Wales I would like to move that the honourable member’s time be extended.
-Order! I call the honourable member for Bowman.
-The honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) is certainly regarded as the veritable fountain of knowledge.
– The seeker of fame.
– Although the waters flow freely from that fountain, they are often a little muddied. The honourable member presented a most entertaining exercise for us tonight. It may not have been the greatest study in economic diplomacy or economic management. But it was certainly most enjoyable. We are here to talk about the 1976 Budget. The 1976 Budget can possibly be best summed up with the words of the editorial in the Australian Financial Review of 18 August. It stated:
It is the type of Budget the Australian electorate voted in favour of 9 months ago … it is probably the Budget which Labor’s last Treasurer would have liked to bring down.
The editorial also said that it was the strategy which was the best one for Australia at the moment and, if persevered with in an intelligent and non-dogmatic fashion, would see Australia on the mend. That is really our prime objective at the moment, namely, to get Australia moving again.
There are some aspects of the Budget that I would like to look at tonight. One particular aspect which pleases me is the improvement in the division 7 taxation situation. This is a tax which I believe for so long has been quite discriminatory. Small business is, after all, the very backbone of our economic situation and it is most pleasing to me to see that the Government does attach such importance to the spirit of free enterprise which small business symbolises. The increase of one-fifth of the amount of after tax income which a private company can retain without incurring division 7 tax must be welcomed by all. The fact that no change is being made to the 10 per cent retention allowance for property income or to the rule that there be no retention allowance for dividends that one private company receives from another is worthy of note. The small business world has certainly been under great pressure during the last three or four years. It is an area that we must help because our economy and so many job opportunities depend on small business, ranging from the owner operated corner store through to small companies.
Australians themselves identify with those who, by their own efforts and hard work, seek to improve their position in life. This spirit of enterprise and individualism does offer the best opportunity to the individual to be master of his own destiny and to reap the reward of achievement. Small business manifests the competitiveness so essential to our free enterprise society. It provides jobs and security for almost half of the Australian workforce. Initiative, good service, dependability and expertise are the common threads that form our small enterprises. We must support those whose work life is involved in small business. Sustained growth is essential to the national economic, industrial and social well being of the country.
There are aspects of small business that still need a great deal of work, research and assistance, and I would hope that through the coming years, this Government will move to help the small businessman more and more. We can help in education- we can encourage trade, professional and educational organisations and institutions to become actively involved in assisting persons to acquire managerial and other skills. We can encourage and support specialised management training programs. This is an interesting aspect because for many years, virtually nothing has been done in Australia. Admittedly governments are now taking an interest in this type of help for small business. We do have a report to the standing committee of industry Ministers on Commonwealth and State programs, of assistance to small business and it is most pleasing to know that the Government in Queensland now is finally establishing a small business bureau. Until now so much of the training and help and assistance for small business has had to come from outside individuals and private organisations.
I would like to pay tribute during this Budget speech to the effort that has been made by Professor Geoffrey Meredith and his Department of Accounting and Financial Management at the University of New England. For many years now, he has been working hard to assist small business. For many years he has been putting forward the case for small business adviser consultant training and organising of program units. It would seem that there will be further help corning from the various Commonwealth and State governments, and I would urge them to get this program under way just as soon as they possibly can. Governments can help by offering advice, assistance and suitable courses of study in model accounting and costing systems to those who are contemplating an entry into the small business sector. They can encourage too the proper research to ascertain educational and other means and to make that information available to the people who need it throughout the country.
Some of our State governments are now encouraging publications and other ways of assisting small business. Once again, to a great degree over the last few years, this has been left to people like Professor Geoffrey Meredith. Governments can encourage suitable bodies to establish counselling services staffed by persons having acquired expertise to advise on technological improvements and the modernisation of business practices and techniques and they can undertake promotional programs designed to encourage small businesses to fully utilise these self help schemes.
As I said earlier this Budget is making positive moves to ease the financial pressure on small business. There are other ways that we can help in a real financial way. We could make loans available at reasonable interest rates. We can guarantee loans in the private sector to be approved for small businesses. What I would like to see is the establishment of a fund to promote continuing research into the problems and development of small businesses. I would like to see the provision of subsidies to approved small business associations to help them to get these schemes under way. We could also undertake financial assistance to trades, professional and other educational journals conveying this small business information.
But all businesses, large and small, certainly will welcome the moves in the direction of the valuation of trading stock. In this highly inflationary situation that we have been experiencing in Australia firms have had some quite serious problems financing the rapidly growing costs of their level of trading stock, and they have had problems too with financing the soaring costs of replacing their plant and equipment when depreciation allowances for taxation purposes were based on previous costs. It is good to see that the views stated by the Matthews Committee are starting to be implemented. It is a substantial step that the Government has taken in this system of trading stock valuation adjustments. Let us hope that it is persevered with so the Government can continue to offer this means of getting our industries stabilised once again.
The moves to assist the mining, oil and coal industries certainly have been welcomed by those industries and should be welcomed by the community at large. The resulting trading frenzy on the floors of the stock exchanges around Australia indicates what a welcome move this has been. In my State of Queensland the moves to enable the coal industry to reduce the coal export duty have been welcomed. Queenslanders, and indeed this Government, have regarded this as a most inappropriate form of taxation. It is good therefore that the duty from non-coking coal and coking coals will be reduced by some 25 per cent from $6 to $4.50 per tonne and from $2 to $1.50 per tonne this year. The reduction of the coal export levy is going to mean a difference for a number of the smaller companies in Queensland and some in New South Wales in that they will make a profit for the coining year rather than a loss. It is a great incentive, too, for companies to undertake new projects. The burden has been eased and I am sure that these moves and other moves to come in this direction will be of great assistance in opening up new projects in some of the more remote areas of Australia, in providing employment opportunities, and in stimulating other sections of industry in the provision of equipment for these new enterprises.
Also, the crude oil levy will assist many of our oil exploration companies who have been experiencing costs that have been so high that they have made the commercial production from new oil discoveries a most unattractive investment proposition. It is good that the oil industry is now free of the production excise in any new discoveries that may be made. Once again, the results on the floor of the stock exchanges indicate what a welcome move this has been.
The Government this year will be spending a massive 25 per cent of its total outlay in social security and welfare. The new family allowances will assist some 300 000 low income families with in excess of 800 000 children involved. It has been a most beneficial and welcome move. This was a priority for the well being of the low income areas of our society, and it is making a great contribution to the stability of these families. I have a number of depressed areas in my electorate of Bowman and I know from speaking with many of my constituents what a welcome move the introduction of these vastly increased family allowances has been.
The move to assist handicapped people in this Budget is another initiative that should be more than welcomed. I am pleased to be associated with a Budget that does give such a high priority to the provision of adequate facilities and care for handicapped people. The provision and operation of sheltered workshops and therapy units in the training centres is vitally needed throughout our community. An amount of $30m has been provided for these continuing commitments and for new projects. I was pleased to see, too, that in the year 1977-78 the total amount will be increased. Not only will we be providing for the continuing commitments but yet another $10m will be provided for new projects. In 1978-79 that sum will be doubled to $20m, in addition to the continuing commitment. It is an area in which we should be vitally involved. Over the next 3 years $225m is to be provided for the accommodation of 15 000 aged people, and that is another move that will be welcomed by the community.
The Government has always said that it is committed to protecting pensioners against inflation and it has honoured that commitment. Pensions will be tied automatically to any movements in the consumer price index. Now there will be 2 six-monthly increases- in November and in May. Moves and statements have been made by many pensioner organisations within the community that I represent to pressure for quarterly increases in the various pension services. I realise that the Minister is looking at the situation and one would hope that when the economic situation does settle down this could become a further measure of assistance. As far as age pensions are concerned, the move to abolish the property component from 1 1 November this year and to replace the existing means test with a test on income only is a welcome one. The special clause which will ensure that no existing pensioner will suffer a reduction in pension as a result of that change is a good move too.
In Australia at the moment there are some 1 183 000 age pensioners and this number, I understand, will increase by some 27 000 during the coming 12 months. It is a big commitment that we have given to the age pensioners. It is a commitment that will ensure that their pension has real spending power. More importantly, once inflation is reduced those who have saved for their retirement will be protected. The thrust of the Budget is the reduction of the inflation rate. This, coupled with the incentives offered to business, will get Australia back on its feet economically and enable it to provide the employment so very urgently needed in our community today. I commend the Bill.
-I rise to support the amendment. The Opposition’s attitude to this miserly Budget is well set out in the opening paragraphs of the speech make by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) last Tuesday night, which read, in part:
The Australian people have now seen the first Budget of the men who rejected the last . . .The wreckers of 1975 at last have told us what they would do . . . 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 . . . the Budget is frightening … It is a Budget of big business, by big business, for big business.
Where in the Budget is there any help for those in most need? Great play is made on the Government ‘s rise in child endowment -
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Is it in order for one of the Clerks to encourage members to interject by smiling each time an interjection is made across the table?
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! There is no substance in the point of order.
– He should be impartial. He should not be encouraging members on the other side to interject by grinning at them.
-Order! I suggest that the honourable member for Hindmarsh perhaps is looking in the wrong direction.
– Great play is made on the Government’s rise in child endowment last month; but surely that has been destroyed by the cut in wages as a result of the elimination of tax rebates in respect of children. Where is the extra money that the ordinary householder will have to spare? Income tax indexation was to be the injection necessary for increased spending, but this again is destroyed by the matching weight of the new Medibank levy.
As I understand it, an opinion poll taken since the Budget was presented gave support to this Tory Budget. Obviously, to arrive at such a consensusI have this on very good authority- the poll was taken in such deprived areas as Hawthorn, Vaucluse, Darling Point, Toorak and Burnside! There is no doubt at all that it was taken also throughout the business community and the major mining companies. I will bet that the pollsters of these savage cuts in socially necessary areas consulted neither the people responsible for the administration nor the recipients in those areas and those needy people throughout the community who have to rely on the one avenue to sustain a reasonable standard of living. The Age sets out very vividly where this government’s cuts have been so savage. There were 32 departments. Let me quote some of the cuts: Aboriginal programs $33m; growth centres $39m; land councils $28m; sewerage $63m; migrant education $llm; Medibank hospital benefits $118m; unemployment benefits $34m; Regional Employment Development scheme $153m; area improvement $15m; shipping $46m; uranium exploration $9m; shipbuilding $16m; export incentives $5 5m; and natural disaster payments $37m. This Government is very long on promises and platitudes but very short on cash to honour them.
Not only has the Budget discriminated against the poor but it has put out very large doses to private industry and major corporations, particularly mining corporations. If there is anything that is a stark reality in the Budget it is the discrimination by this Government in favour of large mining corporations against small Australian companies. This again was set out quite well by the Leader of the Opposition last Tuesday night. He said:
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.
Of course, the Government conducts an inquiry if it wants to cut money off programs for Aborigines, but it does not do that when it wants to grant concessions or largesse to mining companies. The Leader of the Opposition continued:
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.
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 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 . . . 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.
I have spoken on this matter on numerous occasions in this House and I intend tonight to repeat my views. The world scramble for rapidly dwindling natural resources is one area which no government can afford to ignore. To do so would be to place at risk its people’s future security and prosperity. It is in this area that the Budget is a disaster and it is in this area that this Government, after 23 consecutive years in government, is as barren as the Sahara Desert. If one looks at the implications of this Budget for the mining industry, for many big largely foreign-owned mining companies the Budget was another windfall on top of the huge profit increases in recent years. For instance, last year the coking coal industry netted $500m in profits, and sections of it, particularly in Queensland, are in a healthy financial position even with the full coal levy. Because of the Budget decisions, coal companies which are already making large profits from established mines will be treated in exactly the same way as companies trying to establish new mines. Established companies will reap a bonanza from the removal of the coal levy.
For small Australian exploration companies the Budget does absolutely nothing. The Government has failed to distinguish the exploration side of the mineral industry from the development side. There are 2 types of exploration companies- those that are divisions or subsidiaries of mine operators funded by income from current mining activities, and those which are funded by the Australian public. Mining skills are not related to exploration, and public funded explorers technically lack nothing which is available to divisions of mining operators, yet Government policy clearly discriminates against them. It is almost as though the Federal Government had accepted the view that the large mineral groups should be encouraged at the expense of the small miner. As to the emphasis on mineral development rather than exploration, the words of the managing director of North Flinders Mines Ltd, Mr G. H. Stewart, put it very aptly:
The Government has got its policy back to front.
Let me return to the question of resources. The fact that the Budget reduces the national return on its resources, particularly as far as the reduction of the coal levy is concerned, is made even worse by its attitude to foreign investment. The Government is approving developments of resource projects, apparently regardless of the level of Australian equity, and there ought to be a full scale debate in the Parliament on that issue. While other governments throughout the world are moving to gain a greater share of benefits from their resources, this Tory government is moving in the opposite direction.
Let us consider the lack of planning in resource development, and if ever there was an area in which this Government stood indicted it is this one. Perhaps the worst aspect of Government policy for the mining industry is that the Government has no plans for the future. It has disregarded the quantity of resources which should be exported and the degree of processing which should be carried out within Australia. The Government has no policy to prevent ^discriminate increases in the number of new projects. We could have over-production, particularly in iron ore and coal, which could place
Australia in a critical over-supply position in world demand terms, and once again these industries would be at the mercy of overseas buyers. Expansion of resource projects without new markets surely will lead to lower prices. In addition, there is no provision for the future resource demands of Australia. The Government has revived the proposition of its former Tory governments that Australia should be one vast quarry for the world. There is no attempt to ensure that the maximum value is derived from mineral exploitation.
From the point of view of the short term maximum profit for the individual company, maximum profit is achieved by extracting the resource and selling it in the raw or unprocessed form. From the national viewpoint maximum benefit is achieved through processing natural resources to the maximum extent. Continued export of raw materials ultimately reacts to the disadvantage of Australia and these resources are not infinite in extent. An example, perhaps relevant to the present policy decisions, is the case of iron ore being exported from Western Australia. While iron ore is sold for about $20 a tonne steel billet costs around $150 to $200 a tonne. From a raw material source of about $40 to $50 a tonne of steel billet produced the return to Australia ought to be enormous. The Government has a duty to ensure maximum added value on our resources at all levels.
I take the example of mineral sands. For many years Australia had a world monopoly on mineral sands, particularly rutile. If we consider the value per tonne in terms of the contained titanium oxide, ilmenite has a raw mineral price of $ 1 5 a tonne and the price per tonne of ilmenite is $29. Pigment fetches $650 a tonne. There is a yield of more than $100 a tonne profit for pigment from ilmenite. As I understand it, only one company, Western Titanium NL, has a small plant to upgrade to ilmenite and 2 small plants in Western Australia and Tasmania purely for the local market. We have an obligation to maximise on that item rather than selling it out in its raw unprocessed form. I turn now to uranium. If we produce 10 000 tonnes a year, at a conservative figure of $20 lb. we ought to get a return of about $440m. But if we fail to double its value by enriching it we loose around $8 12m a year. I would not put the figure as high as that, but processing could yield a mark up figure of 60 per cent to 70 per cent on the base figure for oxide.
While this conservative Government in Australia ignores the need for a comprehensive national policy on mineral development the Canadian Government has been moving in this direction since 1970. Like Australia it faces enormous problems because it is caught with a federated system. Canada, unlike Australia, has made more than significant progress in tackling this problem. The reasons behind Canada’s review of its mineral policy are the same problems that Australia faces, and they are: The effect changes in global economic conditions can have on the mineral industry and on the economic wellbeing of the nation; the close relationship of the mineral industry to many economic and social problems, such as the rate and direction of economic development; the adequacy of supply to the domestic markets; environmental control; foreign ownership content; taxation; resource adequacy; and the role of multinational corporations. At least Canada since 1970 has implemented a national mineral policy review consisting of 5 phases by which it has at long last a balanced national mineral policy. The first 2 phases have been completed and the third phase of the program was under way when I was in Canada only 2 months ago. It consisted of an in depth study into IS crucial commodity resources within Canada. The basic goal of the Canadian mineral policy is summarised in these words:
A national mineral policy must obtain optimum benefit for Canada from present and future use of minerals.
If one looks at the Australian policy in contrast it could be well described as producing optimum benefit for a few foreign companies with no regard to the future use of minerals at all. Four options have been enunciated in Canada which illustrate clearly the deficiencies in the Australian policy. They are: Firstly, to continue to encourage maximum mineral production; secondly, to encourage economic diversification through increased mineral processing and mineral based manufacturing; thirdly, to obtain the highest possible net financial returns to Canadians from minerals and, fourthly, to conserve mineral resources for long-term domestic requirements.
The -Government of Canada, through the respective State Ministers, if you like, has issued a publication titled ‘Towards a Mineral Policy of Canada’. Three statements in this publication illustrate the requirements of such a mineral policy. The first is to the effect that, whatever direction mineral policy may take in the future, the first consideration must be to ensure an adequate supply of materials, whether from domestic or foreign sources. The second stated objective is to promote, encourage and increase Canadian ownership, control and participation with emphasis on the development of Canadian firms. The third requirement is that mineral policy should first seek, wherever possible, to increase diversification and growth of national and regional economies based on minerals. This would include not only increased mineral processing but also more mineral based manufacturing prior to export and strengthen ties with other sectors of the economy.
It can be seen that the dilemma which Canada faced over the last 5 years is facing this country. We attempted for three solid years to get a balanced national policy both in terms of minerals and of the exploitation of our fuel reserves, but every time we attempted that we were blocked in this House both legislatively and constitutionally. Canada is in an identical situation to Australia, that is, that fuel reserves are rapidly running down and Canada faces a shortfall over the next decade.
The Australian Government- there is no question of this at all- is unwilling or incapable of even discussing energy or minerals policies with the Australian States. While Canada has taken steps to resolve the complex and vexatious issue of Federal versus provincial taxation, the 1976 Australian Budget obviously provokes the issue. In his speech the Treasurer hints at looming conflict with the States should they re-impose the coal levy. The tax changes in the 197S Canadian Budget represent a practical way of acknowledging provincial resource levies and of taking them into account up to some reasonable limit in determining Federal taxable income while hopefully providing the provinces with scope for adjusting their own taxes. At least, federalism has a positive meaning somewhere in the world.
The Canadian experience in formulating a national minerals policy has shown the way to this country. Unfortunately for Canada, slack policies in the past have resulted in a degree of foreign control of industry much higher in Canada than in any other industrialised country. It has also suffered indiscriminate exploitation of its non-renewable reserves for minimal return to the nation. Australia is still in the fortunate position of being able to learn from the experiences of other countries like Canada. I simply ask the Government: Must our resource situation reach crisis point before we learn the lesson that natural resources require national management if we are to achieve maximum national benefit? I support the amendment.
-I rise to support the Budget presented by the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) and to reject the amendment to the Budget moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam). The speech by the honourable member for Hawker (Mr Jacobi) confirms that the Labor Opposition has no real alternative budgetary strategy of its own. In fact, we on this side of the House found the most important aspect of the honourable member’s speech to be his advocacy of uranium sales overseas because he did say that we should enrich uranium in Australia before selling it overseas. The basic assumption behind that statement is that we should in fact be selling our uranium overseas. Perhaps he should speak to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Uren) just to confirm that that is an official attitude. We on this side of the House would be interested in some clarification on that point. We, of course, take the attitude that we will not make a final decision before the Fox Inquiry has reported, but the honourable member for Hawker has committed himself on the matter at this stage.
– I support it, yes I do.
– The honourable member for Hawker supports it. He confirms that and we are grateful to him for doing so. The shadow Treasurer, the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford), spoke earlier in the evening. His comments on the Budget were as negative and as erroneous as those of the Leader of the Opposition earlier in the week. The Labor Party’s grand economic design apparently is to rest on the abolition of the investment allowance as well as other business incentives and to use the resultant savings for so-called selective stimulatory expenditure, as he called it. In other words, the Labor Party believes that incentives for investment in employment producing plant and equipment should be abolished in favour of funds for make-work schemes. The honourable member for Adelaide also advocated a modest increase in the deficit to underwrite a higher level of government spending. Such a policy could lead only to higher interest rates or, alternatively, add to inflationary pressures. The Labor Party has once again demonstrated that it has no answers to Australia’s economic difficulties and that it has learnt nothing from its past mistakes. Having spent its way into economic problems it can now only advocate that we should try to spend our way out of them.
The shadow Treasurer made a number of comments which indicated further the Opposition’s shallow attitude to the Budget. He alleged that the new stock valuation proposal would discriminate in favour of some companies. I point out to the House that the stock valuation proposals will, in fact, correct a discrimination against some companies. Inflation discriminates against certain companies- manufacturers and others who have to carry high levels of stocks.
Inflation positively discriminates against them. The measure announced by the Treasurer, therefore, will not be discriminatory in itself but it will correct an existing discrimination brought about by high levels of inflation.
We on this side of the House also take the view that tax indexation is a necessary reform in circumstances of inflation. Tax indexation keeps governments honest. It makes sure that if governments want to raise additional taxes they have to legislate to raise those taxes. They do not gain a windfall in taxation receipts merely by the effect of increases in money wages pushing people into higher taxation schedules. Tax indexation ensures that governments have to legislate in order to put people into higher tax schedules. The new family allowances constitute a major social reform which the Opposition has still not recognised. Professor Henderson has noted that there are many low income families with children who constitute a major proportion of the poor in this country. The best way to assist them in most instances is to put money into the hands of the mothers of those families. There have been too many occasions on which efforts to assist the poor in the community, and low income families in particular, have resulted in additional salaries being paid to middle income professionals. The new family allowance is a measure which will ensure that those who need the assistance will get it in the most direct way.
This evening I particularly want to speak about education. The Budget which is before the House restores real money growth in education along with, of course, the re-introduction of the principle of triennial planning in education. I mention in particular the increases in expenditure that have been made in the technical and further education area. The Budget indicates that there will be a VA per cent increase in expenditurethat is, a real increase in expenditure- on technical and further education in the next year. The Technical and Further Education Commission has been told that it can plan on a basis of a minimum increase of 5 per cent per annum in real terms in the succeeding 2 years. I emphasise ‘a minimum increase’ because we hope that as the economy recovers we will in fact be able to allow a greater increase than that. I believe that this is one of the most important areas of education. I agree with some of the comments made earlier by the honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins) that a great deal more needs to be done in this area of education. The 7 1/2 per cent increase in real terms which I mentioned is the greatest increase out of all the increases for the various educational commissions, but one must admit that the technical and further education area is starting from a lower base and needs that greater increase in order to catch up.
I put to the House that many people in universities and colleges of advanced education may actually find more satisfaction and courses that suit them better in technical and further education institutions. Let me indicate some of the costs involved in supporting people at universities and colleges of advanced education. I have some figures here for universities. Admittedly they are rather out of date but they are the most recent I could obtain in the short while I was able to look through the Parliamentary Library with the assistance of the research staff. I have an article by C. Selby-Smith printed in The Australian University, volume 11, No. 2 of September 1973, entitled ‘Faculty Costs in Australian Universities’. A survey was taken of 10 faculties at 5 universities. The survey showed that the total cost in 1 969 of keeping one student in the veterinary science faculty was $4,374 per annum. That figure included capital and recurrent expenditure and was the highest figure out of the 10 faculties. The figure went down to as low as $1,334 an economics student per annum. Some figures compiled by B. R. Williams in 1973 were published in 1975 again in The Australian University. They indicated that the total recurrent costs, that is, without capital expenditure added, for a veterinary science student was $5,676 per annum and for a law student it was $1,109 per annum. They are very high levels of expenditure.
I suggest that if there are people at universities doing courses for reasons other than vocationalperhaps they are doing them for the social intercourse which university study allows; perhaps for the opportunity to get out of the house and to catch up on some things that they might have missed out on in their earlier life- we have to question whether this level of expenditure per student can really be justified and whether we can continue to support the high levels of increases in expenditure on universities and colleges of advanced education that have been occurring in recent years.
I believe the institutions involved with technical and further education have a very great role to play. I think that that is being recognised more and more. I notice, for example, reports in recent weeks that the Victorian Government will investigate bringing Victoria’s universities, tertiary colleges and teacher training institutions under the control of one new statutory body. In particular a great deal of criticism has been levelled at the duplication in colleges of advanced education and in colleges of the Victorian Institute of Colleges. The suggestion has been raised that these bodies should be brought under the one controlling authority. This has led to some further comment along the same lines in a letter to the editor in the Age on 31 July. Dr Bob Bessant, senior lecturer at the School of Education at La Trobe University, had this to say:
SIR,- It is to be hoped that the proposed inquiry into tertiary education in Victoria will not be confined to the problems created by the absorption of the State colleges within the Victorian Institute of Colleges and the establishment of a statutory committee to co-ordinate tertiary education in Victoria.
In recent years similar inquiries in other States and at the Federal level have all studiously avoided any examination of the functioning of the universities.
One gets the distinct impression that these institutions at the top of the tertiary status stakes have been carefully protected from public scrutiny while the spotlight has been turned on the colleges.
Later on he said:
Universities should not escape from critical scrutiny. ‘Accountability ‘ is a dirty word in our universities, but it is one of those facts of life that university finance comes directly out of Treasury funds and out of the taxpayer’s pocket.
I give those examples to indicate that there has been a growing debate on the sort of expenditure in some post-secondary areas of education. Technical and further education, however, has been operating on a shoestring budget. There have been some major increases in expenditure but, by and large, I suggest that the institutions involved in technical and further education have been operating economically, have been making maximum use of community resources and have been providing courses that meet community and individual needs. I was therefore interested to note that the Australian Education Council which met in Cairns in July 1 976 said:
Council is concerned at the difficulties being faced in providing funds to cope with the demands of technical and further education. These include the maintenance of programs commenced as a result of Commonwealth initiatives. The Council pressed strongly for a higher level of funding by the Commonwealth Government.
Although there has been a large increase in expenditure on technical and further education, we have a body of Ministers urging that there be further increases.
I give the example of the Box Hill Technical College. It is not completely within my electorate. In fact, it is based in the neighbouring electorate of Deakin, but it probably takes as many, or even more, students from my electorate as it does from the electorate of Deakin. Box Hill Technical College which operates at 4 locations in Box Hill, with an annex in Mitcham, makes maximum use of its facilities. It conducts courses at all hours to meet the convenience of a wide range of people, whether they be working people or housewives who want to pick up a few extra subjects. It evolves courses that are of interest and of use to people. If people have difficulty because of a lack of education in reading and writing in their earlier life, they run adult literacy programs in order to equip people to undertake various certificate level courses which the college offers. I believe that this is very desirable.
In urging that we ought to give continued and further attention to the area of technical and further education I think we have to avoid some of the mistakes that have been made in universities and advanced education. We must avoid making institutions offering these types of courses entirely dependent on government financing in a way that allows them to lose touch with the community. While it is regrettable that many technical and further educational institutions have been operating on a shoestring budget, this has a major compensating feature. It requires them to keep in touch with the community because they cannot survive without community and industry support. They must find out what companies in their areas want and the sorts of skills they need and provide courses accordingly. They must rely greatly on the goodwill of the community from which they draw their students. Therefore, it means they have to maintain relevance in all that they do. This is a desirable feature which we must work to retain in technical and further education in this country. I applaud the increases in this area of the Budget and I hope we will be giving further attention to this area in future budgets.
-On 28 August 1974, 1 gave an address to the National Press Club in Canberra. That speech proved to be rather more prophetic than I expected. I said then:
The action of the Senate in cutting off the supply of money to the Government earlier in the year established a dangerous precedent that will invite future Opposition majorities in the Senate to strike down the elected Government at any time they choose. Properly elected governments planning a 3-year program will in future always be confronted with the knowledge that when an unpopular but proper measure is just beginning to produce the desired results, the Opposition could suddenly attempt to cash in on temporary public hostility to grab the reins of Government The behaviour of the present Opposition Parties proves beyond doubt that they have no respect for the institution of Parliament or of the right of the people who elected the Government
In August 1975, just one year later, the Opposition Parties were doing the very thing again that I in that address complained of and warned about. They not only had increased their obstruction of vital Government legislation in the Senate but also were actually planning their tactics then to refuse supply for the second time in 18 months. This time they had the active support of the Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia, a man who had been an Attorney-General in a Liberal Government.
To act in the manner he chose, Sir Garfield Barwick had to ditch the convention that the Chief Justice of the High Court must not give secret advice to the Governor-General on a matter calling for an interpretation of the Constitution which could involve political partisanship. Commenting on Sir Garfield’s action, Premier Don Dunstan in his very excellent Chifley Memorial Lecture in July this year said:
The advice which Sir John Kerr sought from the Chief Justice should never have been tendered because it was political in content and purpose. It went completely against the judicial convention that the Australian High Court has no advisory role, and certainly no single justice of the Court should tender advice on a matter which may come before the Court. But Sir Garfield did and his advice was contrary to that of the principal law officers of the Crown, but Sir John accepted Sir Garfield’s version which quite dogmatically asserted the proposition that a government in order to govern must have the confidence and support of both Houses in a Westminster system. Again he draws a distinction from Westminster which is quite specious, that the House of Lords is appointed and the Senate elected.
Mr Dunstan concluded:
Presumably his advice would then apply to the South Australian Parliament but not to that of New South Wales.
Although Sir Garfield’s opinion is based upon the premise that a government without supply must resign, he is reported in the Press as having told pressmen after his recent performance at the National Press Club in Canberra that if he had been Governor-General he would have sacked the Labor Government in September last year. That was a month before the Senate decided to defer the passage of the Supply Bill. It was an extraordinary statement to say the very least and one which will bear considerable examination.
Sir Garfield’s statement may be pregnant with meaning because it so happens that it was in September, the month in which Sir Garfield said he would have sacked the then Prime Minister, that Opposition spokesmen began publicly calling for an election. In fact the present Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) is reported in the Age of 1 3 September last year as saying what should happen if supply was cut off by a house of parliament with constitutional power to do so. The test is power; that is all. The test is not whether it is right, but whether they have the power to do something wrong; and, if they have the power to do something wrong, then why not do it if it helps them in their immediate aims? The then Leader of the Opposition said that the Prime Minister would have the bounden duty to seek an election.
Then, I think we have to concede, with an exceptional insight into the thoughts of the Chief Justice, he said that if the then Prime Minister did not seek an election ‘it could establish the circumstances where the Governor-General under section 61 of the Constitution would feel impelled to withdraw the Prime Minister’s commission’. I had good reason to know that he was citing the wrong section. It was section 64, not section 61. The powers of this section are indeed very wide. In my case it enabled the GovernorGeneral to dispense with the principles of natural justice and to dismiss me without a reason and without giving me an opportunity to be heard. Is it not an extraordinary coincidence that, while Sir Garfield Barwick was walking around the High Court wishing that he had the power to sack the then Prime Minister in September last, the present Prime Minister had already worked out the precise legal formula which the Governor-General and the Chief Justice were to endorse exactly 8 weeks later?
It will be noted that the present Prime Minister’s simple justification for what was done was that the Governor-General had the power to dismiss the Prime Minister. He was not concerned with whether the exercise of the power was proper. In substance, the Chief Justice had told the Governor-General that he had the power to trample on yet another convention and, having that power, he should use it. The convention that the Queen or her representative shall act according to the advice of her Ministers was -
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. I have been sitting here reading standing order 75. 1 think the honourable member for Hindmarsh has been running close to the line of breaching that -
- (Mr Ian Robinson)- Order! Would the honourable member please state his point of order?
– My point of order is that in relation to the Chief Justice, a member of the Judiciary, the honourable member used words such as ‘trampling on’, and generally, I believe, breached standing order 75 by using offensive words. I ask you to rule accordingly, Mr Deputy Speaker.
-Standing order 75 says that no member may use offensive words against either House of Parliament or any member thereof. I did not hear the words expressed by the honourable member for Hindmarsh, and accordingly I cannot uphold the point of order; but I will listen carefully from here on.
-The convention that the Queen or her representative shall act according to the advice of her Ministers was a convention that had been observed strictly by the Sovereign for well over a century in all countries in which the Westminster system operated. There is, however, one difference between the Australian Constitution and the United Kingdom convention. In the United Kingdom the Queen is bound by the advice of her Prime Minister; but in Australia the Governor-General is bound only by the advice of the Federal Executive Council.
The Australian Prime Minister has no special powers under the Constitution. He is not even recognised under the Constitution. He is just another Minister. It is the Executive Council, not the Prime Minister, that in Australia has the power to advise the Governor-General. The Prime Minister has no authority to give advice to the Governor-General unless that advice has been endorsed by a meeting of the Executive Council. That meeting may consist of only 2 Ministers, although on matters relating to policy, certain appointments, certain important transactions and decisions and the dismissal of Ministers the Governor-General, in my view, should always insist that the advice be tendered by a meeting of the Executive Council fully summoned and not by one or two of his Ministers.
In the case of the dissolution of the retiring half of the Senate the Prime Minister had been authorised by a meeting of the Cabinet, fully summoned, and the Caucus of the ruling Party had authorised him to advise the GovernorGeneral to call an election for the retiring half of the Senate. But in any event the question of whether or not the Governor-General should disregard the Prime Minister’s advice was determined not solely by propriety but by the Chief Justice asking whether the Governor-General had the power, firstly, to reject the advice of his chief Minister; secondly, to remove him from office; thirdly, to commission the minority leader in the Parliament to form a new government; fourthly, to dissolve the House of Representatives because of the Senate ‘s failure to grant Supply; and fifthly, then to dissolve the Senate itself for twice rejecting 2 1 Bills passed by the House of Representatives. So I agree with what has been said about the need to circumscribe the powers of the Governor-General. The events of 1 1 November last year did more damage and more to damage the institution of Parliament, and did more to destroy the social system under which we live than anything that can ever be done by demonstrators or anything that demonstrators have ever done.
The Press will deplore the threat which demonstrations constitute to the present system. I invite honourable members to look at the leading article in the Advertiser about a week ago. But the Press deliberately ignores the fact that the system already has suffered almost irreparable damage at the hands of those who constitute the ruling class and those who serve the ruling class- the Governor-General, the Chief Justice, the Liberal Party, the National Country Party and the Press. Those are the elements really responsible for the violence done to our conventions that prop up the Constitution. It is not only the Governor-General whose powers need to be circumscribed. The powers of the Prime Minister also are far too wide. In between elections in Australia we find that there is in some respects very little difference from Stalin’s Russia or Hitler’s Germany
The Prime Minister cannot send his opponents to the gas ovens or to the salt mines in Siberia but for most intents and purposes an Australian Prime Minister can be just as much a dictator as were Franco, Hitler and Stalin. Australians will not tolerate one-man government in their country. Don Dunstan and Neville Wran proved that parliamentary democracy works better by consensus than by one-man dictatorship. Dunstan and Wran have never found it necessary to abuse their power by manipulation of their prime ministerial prerogatives or by their manipulation of Cabinet agendas. Neither has seen the need to form secret caves or to aid the media in undermining the position of a Cabinet colleague. Both understand that the elementary rule of party politics is that loyalty begets loyalty and that respect begets respect. The present Prime Minister would do well to try to emulate the fine democratic examples set by Don Dunstan and Neville Wran.
This brings me to yet another of the present Prime Minister’s broken promises. I refer to his undertaking that decisions and announcements relating to government policy would not be taken except by full Cabinet. It was an important undertaking and one which should have been made mandatory upon all Prime Ministersremembering that the Prime Minister has no constitutional power himself to recommend anything- by the Governor-General’s insisting that recommendations by the federal Executive Council relating to such matters should be adopted at a meeting of the Council fully summoned for that purpose. There is plenty of evidence to show that the present Prime Minister is interfering in the portfolios of other Ministers. I am convinced that it was he who forced the redundancy of at least one departmental secretary. I am certain in my own mind that he is announcing policies publicly and altering administrative arrangements without the knowledge or approval of the appropriate Ministers and without the approval of Cabinet.
By his very nature the present Prime Minister is aloof and authoritarian. Even his height, his good looks and proud bearing make him look arrogant. He is an only son of a fairly well-to-do family. It is true that he has one sister, but I think that his parents must have spoilt him and made him more selfish, more self-centred and even more ruthless than he might have been if he had belonged to an ordinary working class family. I have no proof that the present Prime Minister is a megalomaniac but he does display all the symptoms of egocentricity.
- (Mr Ian Robinson)- Order! The honourable member may not reflect on another member in that way. He knows that.
-Very well. I can say this, that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) accurately divined the Prime Minister’s shortcomings when he told colleagues that his arrogance would beat him at the election. The Leader of the Opposition was also right last year when he said that a key part of Labor’s election campaign would be to alienate the then caretaker Prime Minister from the city voters by portraying him as an elitist, which of course he is. Another equally discerning politician, Mr B. A. Santamaria, probably came even closer to the truth when he predicted to a closed meeting of the Booksellers’ Club in Melbourne a few months ago that the present Prime Minister’s Achilles heel would be his failure to understand the intricacies of trade union power. He expressed the view that a confrontation between the present Prime Minister and organised labour may be inevitable. He said that if this does occur the present Prime Minister, Malcolm Fraser, could lose the leadership.
There will be a confrontation between this Government and the trade union movement for the good and sufficient reason that the living standards of trade unionists are declining as each quarter’s adjustment goes by. Strict wage guidelines designed to fatten those who are already too fat and to reduce living standards of those whose wage levels have never been enough to meet normal needs are one of the causes of the present trouble on the industrial front and one of the reasons which will lead to the confrontation which Mr Santamaria predicted. Between September 1973 and September 1974 the share of the gross domestic product going to labour increased by the massive amount of 6.2 per cent. Nothing like it has ever been seen before. The Australian Labor Government then decided that the time had come when the trade union movement should be allowed to consolidate those gains. The formula that we put forward was deliberately designed to do that and to ensure that there would be no reduction in living standards or that nothing would be done or be permitted to be done to take away the gains that had been made. The present policies represent a deliberate policy by the Treasury to create unemployment. It is an historic fact that governments always lose favour in periods of high unemployment. The Liberal Government was beaten in 1929. The Labor Government was beaten in 1931.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-I rise to support the Budget brought down by the Government. In my parliamentary career I have never known of a Budget brought down by any government in this country that has not been criticised. This Budget, which is designed to control inflation, has been received extremely well across Australia. This afternoon the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford), who is the shadow Treasurer, waved a lot of papers condemning the Budget. I can just as easily wave a lot of papers praising the Budget. I have no doubt that the Budget will achieve results. They will not come about immediately, but they will certainly come about in the next 6 months. The Budget has my full support and that of my colleagues.
The Budget outlays in 1976-77 have been estimated to total $24 billion, which represents an increase of 1 1.3 per cent over the actual outlays in 1975-76. The increase in 1975-76 was almost 23 per cent and in the year before that it was 46 per cent. So although the total amount of the Budget has been increased, it has been increased only at the rate of 1 1.3 per cent. The outlays in the last 4 Budgets have been $12 billion, $16 billion, $21 billion and this one of $24 billion. When one looks at the Budget Papers one finds that the main items of expenditure are education $2,204m, which represents an increase of 15.3 per cent on the 1975-76 expenditure; social services $6, 187m, which represents 25 per cent of the total outlay; defence $2, 178m; and payments to the States during 1976-77 of $3,7 16m, which is 21 per cent more than the payments in 1975-76. The expenditure on health is to be $2,908m. Of course, the greatest part of the expenditure in this field is to be on Medibank, which has been estimated to cost $1,61 2m. When it was first mentioned in this House it was to cost something like $309m in its first year of operation and more subsequently. The expenditure is now to be to the order of $1,6 12m. Payments to the States for housing are to total $375m, which represents an increase of $ 10.4m on last year’s payments.
It has been mentioned by various speakers on this side of the chamber that one of the greatest achievements in the social security field has been the introduction of the family allowances scheme. This scheme will be of great benefit to families throughout the nation. Indeed, the family life of this country is one of the most important aspects to consider. Encouragement is being given to families. The social security and welfare provisions in the Budget follow the major restructuring and improvement of the family allowances scheme. The rates of the family allowances have been substantially increased, as has been announced, but I think it is worth my while reading repeating them tonight. The rate for the first child is $3.50 a week; for the second child $5 a week; for the third child $6 a week; for the fourth child $6 a week; for the fifth child $7 a week; for the sixth child $7 a week; and for the seventh and later children $7 a week. An allowance of $5 has been provided for children in institutions. Most of us have institutions in our electorate in which children without a mother or father are cared for. This increase will be of assistance to the institutions caring for those children. That the Government is one that has regard for the social welfare of the nation has been proved by the legislation that it intends to bring down and that has been provided for in the Budget.
Honourable members opposite have endeavoured to criticise the level of unemployment, which is running at a very high rate at the moment. It must be remembered that when we took office from the Australian Labor Party we were faced with increasing unemployment. At the present time 270 286 people are unemployed, which represents 4.4 per cent of the Auistralian work force. We have to make every effort to arrest this increase in unemployment. However, I would challenge those figures. I am in favour of the proposition getting people back to work and of creating job opportunities, but I feel sure that if these figures were properly examined we would find that many of those people who are registered as unemployed in fact have 2 jobs. Indeed, I could give many instances throughout my own area of men working in one industry during the day and working as barmen in various clubs at night.
– Scabbing on their mates.
– That is right. I very much query those figures. I think that if that factor were taken into consideration the figures for unemployment would be considerably lower. The Opposition, in summing up the economic statistics, has painted a picture of gloom. The Treasury sets out quite clearly in its latest paper its summary of the economic statistics. It believes that the only thing that militates against the present economic situation is unemployment. It says that real consumer demand has continued to grow; dwelling approvals increased in June and a further small decline in private approvals was more than offset by a lift in government approvals; the value of non-residential building approvals regained in the June quarter the dollar level of a year ago; private approvals were substantially higher; monetary conditions eased in July and there were record subscriptions to the July loans; the number of unemployed registered increased again in July; and exports reached a new record level in July. So much for the economic situation as it is set out by the Treasury, which is non-political. So the figures can most certainly be relied upon.
The great rural industries of Australia are having tremendous problems in getting their produce away from the various ports around Australia. That is seriously affecting our great wool industry which, depressed though it is and with prices being as low as they are, had, up to 31 May, brought into this country $846m. Wheat had brought in $838m, and meat had brought in $557m. What do we find? When we try to get these valuable Australian exports away we find that the unions which control the shipping at our various seaports go out on strike. We have to pay demurrage, and we lose markets and lose business because of the action of the unions. Only a week ago a question was addressed to the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) concerning the problems being experienced by our agricultural exporters at the various ports. This is what he had to say in reply: . . . since 1 May there have been 83 days lost in Melbourne -
This is related to the loading of meat only- 1 1 days lost in Brisbane and 30 days lost in Sydney, due to industrial disputes.
What the trade union leaders who lead these strikes do not seem to understand is that they are threatening the jobs of many of their fellow workers throughout the community. It really is a disgrace that so many stoppages have occurred and have affected the carriage of meat at a time when the meat industry is going through a difficult period. It is essential that the trade union movement in this country gets some sanity amongst its leadership so that we can get on with the job of exporting our great primary products.
A lot has been said in this debate about the coal levy. I represent an electorate in the Hunter Valley area which is steeped in the coal industry. There are mines right through that valley. When the Labor Government brought in a tax of $6 per tonne on top quality coal and $2 per tonne on lower grade quality coal it put a dampener on the industry in that valley. Some of the mines which were producing the lower type of coal practically went out of business because of the levy of $2 per tonne which was placed on the lower grade coal. The reduction of that levy by this Government to $4.50 per tonne for top quality coal and $ 1 .50 per tonne for lower quality coal has given a boost to the coal mining industry in Australia. The industry brings in a huge revenue to the country as do our great primary industries. Up until 3 1 Maythe date to which the latest figures are availablecoal had brought in to Australia $822m. The reduction in the export levy has given the coal industry a shot in the arm. It will be of benefit to Australia and to the work force. It will provide more employment. It will get rid of a lot of the unemployment which we inherited when we took over from the former government.
– More profits.
– We cannot live without profits. What is wrong with profits? The honourable member likes profits.
– Read that pamphlet.
– I have read a lot of things, but I believe in profit. The electorate of the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) adjoins my electorate. We are good mates. We are both interested in the development of the coal mining industry. Local government will get a shot in the arm despite what opponents say. The sum of $140m will be sent out across Australia to local government. This amount will be distributed by the departments of local government in the various States which best know the needs of the local government councils in those States. This money should be made available to the shire or town clerks prior to their budgetary considerations. This has never happened before. I know that the
Commonwealth Grants Commission has handed out grants to local government and various State commissions have handed out grants but the local government bodies concerned have never known what amount they were likely to get. Under this system they will know the amount of money they will get. The shire and town clerks will be able to work out their budgets accordingly.
A while ago I mentioned housing. This is an important matter in this country. I am pleased to see that this Government has made available $375m to the States under the home ownership program. I am a great supporter of the home ownership program because the money is made available by the Federal Government to the States for allocation to low income earners at 5 per cent interest. Any young married couple who are successful in getting a home ownership loan under this scheme have every opportunity of meeting the payments and of becoming home owners. I know the honourable member for Cowper (Mr Ian Robinson), who is in the Chair, has a new scheme under way. I hope the new scheme will be successful and will help to overcome the housing shortage in this country which the previous Government did nothing about. This year in overseas aid $400m has been allocated. This is a 14.6 per cent increase on the 1975-76 amount. We are receiving criticism from organisations that we are not making sufficient money available under the overseas aid program. We are. The amount has increased by 14.6 per cent and as mentioned in the House by me during the adjournment debate the other night, a considerable portion of these funds should be spent on meat protein.
– Dung meat.
-No, never mind about dung meat. This is fair dinkum meat full of protein. This will help us get rid of the large cattle numbers in Australia.
The Government’s policy in regard to the mining industry will revitalise that industry. As a member of the Government members Trade and Resources Committee, I had the pleasure a few weeks ago of visiting the great mining projects in Australia. We visited the enterprises of the Kambalda nickel company and the Alcoa aluminium company.
– An excellent committee.
– As my colleague said, it was an excellent committee. They were a good lot of fellows on it and we learnt a lot on that trip. We learnt that unemployment in Australia could be considerably reduced if our young people would go to Western Australia and work in the mining industry where conditions are excellent. Pay is more than adequate. People usually work for five or six weeks, get a bank balance of $600 or $700 and then clear out. Most of the rnining companies that we visited had a turnover of anything from 120 per cent to 150 per cent per annum. The Government’s policy, as announced in the Budget, will certainly give an impetus to the mining industry in this country. Under the former Labor Government, the mining companies never knew where they stood from day to day. But our policy as enunciated in the Budget will be a shot in the arm to the mining industry right across the board. It will affect coal mining, gold mining, aluminium, uranium, bauxite and iron. Our rnining POliCY will be of great benefit to this nation. We were greatly impressed on that tour by the mining companies’ acknowledgment of their responsibilities to restore the land to its natural condition after the minerals had been removed. At the Alcoa venture at Pinjara, for instance, we found that as the bauxite was gouged out of the ground bulldozers were filling in the hole. That company had a special division for the planting of trees. So the ecologists have nothing to fear from the mining companies in Australia. They are responsible people who are restoring the earth to its natural state.
– Kicking in to campaign funds.
– I suppose they would have to kick in to Labor campaign funds, otherwise the unions would strike on them and we would all be in trouble. I refer now to our great rural industries. The cattle industry in Australia is in serious trouble. We know what is going on in Victoria. Unfortunately with the drought there farmers are killing beasts because they have not got the fodder with which to feed them. This is indeed a tragedy. It has been mentioned in this House that possibly some of the cattle now being killed off could be made available to the organisation known as ‘For Those Who Have Less’. Mr Len Reid who sat in this chamber is the main proponent of this proposition. In answer to a question today, the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) undertook to have this matter investigated. This could be a way of getting our cattle out of the country and of helping undernourished nations.
This Government has also helped the great wool industry of this country. I cited figures earlier in my speech which indicated that although wool has been a depressed commodity -the price has been down- this Government has had faith in wool. Our Minister for Primary
Industry has been able to raise the floor price from 206c a kilo to 234c a kilo for the 1 976 selling season. As I indicated earlier, even at depressed prices, as at 31 March wool had brought into Australia $846m in export income. So this is an industry that we cannot allow to fail. We have to give it support and our Minister for Primary Industry, backed by the Government, has done just that. It has given faith to Australian woolgrowers. We have also given assistance to the dairy industry. The Minister for Primary Industry, through the Government, has been able to increase the guaranteed price for powdered milk to $300 a ton. It has been a pleasure for me to take part in this debate and to support the Budget.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Debate (on motion by Mr Willis) adjourned.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Motion (by Mr Newman) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
-There are a few comments that I wish to make about a matter that has received a great deal of attention today. I refer to the shipbuilding industry.
Government supporters- Oh, no!
– It is honourable members opposite who are starting to get worried about this matter. Before I deal with that matter, I wish to make a few comments about what was said yesterday by some honourable members opposite. In particular, my feelings were rather hurt by what was said by the honourable member for Higgins (Mr Shipton) to the effect that I had to be virtually dragged here yesterday to speak in the debate on the Australian Shipbuilding Industry and that eventually I did so very reluctantly. In fact, it was almost a case of the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) and I coming to blows because one of us had to stand down in the debate. However, as the Government relented and allowed 3 speakers from the Opposition, we both had a go. However, I do feel that the honourable member was being a little unjust to the Opposition in relation to that point. During the last session of the Parliament I raised this very question during the Grievance debate. The shipbuilding industry was the subject of a number of questions I put -
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise to take a point of order. I seek your guidance as to whether the honourable member is acting within the Standing Orders in raising this matter on the adjournment debate tonight.
-No point of order arises. The honourable member has a perfect right to raise in this debate a matter concerning something that was said about him as a member of the House. I call the honourable member for Grey.
-I refer also to another matter that was raised yesterday by a member of the Liberal Party sub-committee concerned with transport matters, that is, industrial disputes at Whyalla. In the course of his remarks, the honourable member for Evans (Mr Abel) cited some figures concerning labour disputes in the Whyalla shipyards. He said:
In 1972, the last year of office of the former LiberalCountry Party Government, there was a loss of 3.7 per cent of working days available. In 1973, the first year under the Labor Government, the figure increased to 6.71 per cent. In 1974 it was 7.88 per cent. In 1975, the year that the policy that gave such a tremendous boost to the industry was brought down, the one that is being condemned now, it rose to 12.43 per cent in the Whyalla shipyards.
I have had an opportunity to check out these figures. I have come up with some figures which are quite different from the ones cited by the honourable member yesterday. I do not know whence he obtained his figures. However, I will cite the figures that I have. There are 2 years in which the man hours lost are high. However, perhaps I can give some percentages. From November 1970 to November 1971 the man hours lost in the Whyalla shipyards was 43 hours per worker. That works out to approximately 2.4 per cent of the available work time. From November 1971 to November 1972, there were 28 man hours lost per worker, or approximately 1.5 per cent. From November 1 972 to November 1 973- the year in which there was a big disputethere were 74 man hours lost per worker which is 4. 1 per cent. From November 1 973 to November 1974- again at the end of 1973 there was a major dispute- 1 10 man hours per worker were lost equalling a loss of 6. 1 per cent of the available work time.
During the period November 1974 to November 1975, 34 man hours were lost per worker, representing an average of 1.9 per cent of the available work time. From November 1975 until July 1976, 8 man hours per worker were lost. That is not a full year period, but on [>resent indications the percentage of work time lost would be about 1 per cent. Honourable members can see that the figures cited by the honourable member for Evans last night are completely wrong. If honourable members wish to check the source of my information, I inform them that the figures were taken out by the Statistics Group of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Library and are based on figures that are kept in relation to industrial disputes. I feel that those figures knock the bunkum that the honourable member for Evans tried to put over last night concerning the level of industrial disputes that occur at the Whyalla shipyards.
In the few minutes I have left in which to speak, I wish to refer to another matter. A few weeks ago the Leader of the Opposition in the South Australian Parliament came to Whyalla, which is in my electorate. He issued a statement as to how he would fight like hell for the Whyalla shipyards. I issued a counter statement in which I said: ‘If you want a fight like hell get to Canberra post haste and fight your Liberal Party and Country Party colleagues ‘.
We have heard the story about someone coming in like a lion and going out like a lamb. An article in today’s Adelaide Advertiser stated:
The Leader of the South Australian Opposition (Dr Tonkin) said last night he was satisfied the Federal Government could not give the shipbuilding industry any more money.
This is another example of the lion and the lamb, of people who always have so much to say. I am sorry that my time is running out. However, I want to point out what the present Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) had to say when he was in Opposition about what he considered to be the future of the Australian shipbuilding industry.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I have spoken twice in the House on road safety. The last occasion on which I spoke I drew attention to the alarming statistics in Australia at the moment which indicate that 10 people are being killed on the roads every day. Last year approximately 90 000 people were injured, some extremely badly. I also drew attention to the fact that -
– Would the honourable member tell me -
-I think this is a very important matter. I would appreciate it if the honourable member would give me 3 or 4 minutes in which to express the seriousness of this situation. On the last occasion I spoke I said that probably when your daughter or my daughter or your son or my son attains the age of sixteen the first thing they will want to do is to obtain a driver’s licence.
I was appalled to read an article which appeared in a large daily newspaper. The article indicated to me quite clearly that we as a Parliament must study very carefully the road safety laws in Australia, particularly the loopholes in the laws which can be responsible for the death of young people on our roads. The article concerned the inquiry into a death of a young boy aged sixteen. It stated:
The Coroner . . . yesterday expressed concern that there appeared to be loopholes in the law which allowed cars which were ‘written off the road ‘ to be re-registered, and sold without repairs being made.
It seems appalling that in the year 1976 this situation should occur in a very large city in Australia. The article continued:
Following the smash, the car was inspected, and it was found that standard coil springs had been refitted before it was sold. A nut had sheered off the upper control arm, and allowed the wheels to fold under. Both front shock absorbers had been ‘ broken for some time ‘.
Had the shock absorbers not been broken, the wheels would not have folded under as far as they did, he said.
He said he considered the car to be unroadworthy because of the poor condition of the front suspension, worn bushes, broken shock absorbers, a loose wheel cone, oversize tyres, and a modified steering wheel.
This is an extremely serious situation which may have caused the death of a young boy aged 16 years. Since I have been in Parliament I have been most pleased with the co-operation I have received from the House of Representatives Committee on Road Safety. This Committee seems to be working in harmony and for the betterment of Australia particularly in this serious area.
-Since the beginning of the year I have been a member of the House of Representatives Select Committee on Specific Learning Difficulties. The Committee has been looking at young people who have just finished school and who apparently are not able to reach certain literary and mathematical standards which are required to enable them to play their role in our society.
I was interested to read what was said by the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Sainsbury) during the adjournment debate last night. I read recently in another publication that the honourable gentleman was an engineer before he came into this House. The person whom one would expect to have some mathematical ability apparently has none.
– He has a slide rule at home.
– Maybe he used a calculator or slide rule but he did not have it with him yesterday. Alternatively, he came into this House for the very reason that he was unable to do his mathematics. When speaking during the adjournment debate last night he referred to the effect of the exchange of tax rebates in respect of children for the new higher family allowances and he gave some peculiar figures. He admitted that families were 80c worse off with one child, then he said that they would be 30c better off with 2 children, and so on. Honourable members who are interested might like to read his comments which appear at page 93 of yesterday’s Hansard.
I shall try to explain very simply to the honourable member for Eden-Monaro- it is only a matter of simple addition and a little subtractionjust where he went wrong. The tax rebate for children last year was $200 for each child. This year with indexation it was proposed that it would be $226 for each child. The Treasurer (Mr Lynch) in his statement of 22 May referred to that. In fact, he quoted the figure of $226 to cover such things as a zone allowance for living in certain areas of this country. So the tax rebate that has been abolished was $226 per annum. That is exactly 4.35 a week. If the Government had not introduced its new child endowment scheme and abolished the tax rebate, a family with one child could have claimed $4.35 a week as a tax rebate plus 50c for the first child, making a total of $4.85 a week. Now a family with one child will receive child endowment at the rate of $3.50 a week, a loss of $1.35 a week. I think the honourable member for Eden-Monaro should be able to follow the figures for one child.
Under the previous arrangement, the calculation for a family with 2 children was twice the $4.35 a week tax rebate, which equals $8.70, plus one lot of child endowment at 50c a week and another at $1 a week, totalling $10.20 a week. Now, under the new system, the child endowment rate is $3.50 for the first child and $5 for the second child, totalling $8.50. This represents a loss, under the new system, of $1.70 a week for a family with 2 children. Under the previous system a family with 3 children would have received 3 times the $4.35 a week tax rebate, which equals $13.05, plus the total child endowment to which they would have been entitled of $3.50 a week, making a total amount of $16.55. Under the new system a family with 3 children will receive $14.50 a week, a loss of $2.05c. Hopefully the honourable member for Eden-Monaro could make the appropriate calculations for families with 4, 5 and 6 children but I shall give him the figures for a family with 4 children. Under the previous system 4 times the $4.35 a week tax rebate would equal $17.40, which with the child endowment entitlement added would amount to $23.15 a week. The new child endowment rate for such a family is $20.50 a week, which represents a loss of $2.65 a week.
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I want to talk about the shipbuilding industry in Western Australia. Shipbuilding is very much in the news at the moment. In my electorate there is a flourishing $15m a year shipbuilding industry which, directly and indirectly. employs 4000 Western Australians and does not request an increase in the Government subsidy for its survival. The bulk of vessels built are steel prawning trawlers for the northern Australian waters. The shipbuilding industry in Western Australia, and indeed myself, are concerned about a proposal that Australian entry to the northern Australian fishing area should be restricted and closed to additional vessels. The Western Australian shipbuilding industry is dependent upon these fishing grounds and upon their continued expansion. This area has always been completely free for any Australian to enter and to fish in, in the best traditions of free enterprise.
Lately there has been a great deal of pressure to restrict Australian entry into the Gulf of Carpentaria. On 19 July and 20 July 1976 a meeting called by the Northern Fishing Committee was held in Cairns. Representatives of the fishing industry were present. Unfortunately almost all the people selected to attend this meeting had a strong vested interest in closing the area and they certainly did not represent the views of a crosssection of the industry. Among other things decided at this meeting was that a recommendation should be made to the Standing Committee on Fisheries to limit entry to the area to vessels that commenced operation in the area before 15 May 1975 and to permit no more vessels to enter the area for 3 years. It was implied this was the recommendation of the large majority of the northern fisheries trawler operators. This is not true. At a meeting of the Northern Territory Branch of the Australian Fishing Industry Council, held in Darwin on 4 June 1976 and attended by the majority of trawler operators in the area, the following resolution was passed unanimously:
That, if licence limitation is necessary, a forward date be set of, say, 24 months for review and decision.
Members of the Northern Territory Branch of the Australian Fishing Industry Council represent by far the largest capital investment in the northern fishing zone. Therefore this unanimous recommendation should have a very strong influence on any decision. In short, it is clear that a very large section of the industry, if not the majority, is absolutely against licensed restriction for at least another 2 years. The major reason put forward for the closure of the northern Australia fishing area is that government and industry are concerned about the economic management of the fleets. The implication is that the Minister for Primary Industry should close the area because industry is not capable of managing its own affairs.
It is my view that the only valid reason for closing certain areas of fishing grounds to private enterprise is that there is a danger of over-fishing. In a report prepared in 1970, Mr Kirkegaard Chief Inspector of the Northern Territory Department of Fisheries, stated:
Only 20 per cent of the available grounds are being worked.
At present there are fewer vessels working the area than there were in 1970. Therefore it must be assumed that less than 20 per cent of the grounds are being worked. In addition, the Fisheries Division of the CSIRO has stated categorically that there is absolutely no biological reason why the area should be closed to additional vessels.
The only reason left for limiting entry to the area is the so-called overall economic management reason, which probably is based on the Copes Report of December 1975, which was prepared by Professor Copes from Canada for the previous Federal Government. This report recommends that steps be taken for what is an interesting study in reconstruction but hardly a foundation for a healthy free enterprise industry. In the report, at page 119, Professor Copes recommends as a first measure that in 1976 licences to fish for prawns in the Gulf of Carpentaria be restricted to vessels that can prove to have participated in that fishery during the high season of 1975. It should be noted that the meeting of the Northern Territory Branch of the Australian Fishing Industry Council held on 4 June 1976 carried a motion that the Copes Report was unacceptable as a basis for reference for Northern Territory management policy. The vote was eight to three. If the northern Australian fishing area were restricted to vessels operating in the area as at 15 May 1975, the effect on the shipbuilding industry in Western Australia would be disastrous. It would affect about $6 million worth of work on vessels now under construction in Western Australia and render them almost without value because there would be no alternative areas in which they could operate. It is obvious that such a situation would be financially crippling not only to the fishing companies but also to the Cockburn Sound based shipbuilding industry if the Gulf was closed with retrospectively, as recommended in the Copes report.
-This evening I want to say something about this Government of hate, a Government dedicated to vengeance and determined to continue the campaign of divisiveness and deceit it initiated when in Opposition. It is led by a man skilled in these arts, a Prime Minister with a unique record of having destroyed two of his Party’s leaders, a man who has never had to work for a wage in his life and a man who preaches to the 350 000 people presently unemployed: ‘Life is not meant to be easy; life is meant to be tough’. That is cold comfort to the half million Australians who will be out of work by the beginning of 1977 and to the 50 000 Australians who face disaster as a result of his decision to close the Australian shipbuilding industry.
In spite of its all time record of repudiated election promises, this Government and those who sit opposite, including all the oncers who hope to be twicers- they can all smile; it Will be a little different later- have been consistent in the one thing that they did not put to the community last year, and that is their absolute determination to reduce living standards, to cut real wages and to expand unemployment. The Government hopes to force a reduction in real wages by greatly expanding the pool of unemployed. The closure of the shipyards is simply the first step. It is part of a much broader plan. Let those honourable members opposite, who interject so freely with smiles on their faces and think it is a funny matter, go to the housewives in Newcastle who will have trouble meeting their house payments. I can assure honourable members opposite that it is not funny. It is your decision, and each of you who sits opposite represents the most callous Government that has ever held office in this country. Honourable members opposite laugh and enjoy themselves in creating hardship and despair for hundreds of thousands of Australians. It is ironical that the $40m granted to the Utah Corporation by way of tax concessions is about the amount that the shipyards need now by way of subsidy to maintain and revitalise the industry, an industry which went without a policy from 1960 to 1972 while the Liberal-Country Party slumbered on.
What we are seeing today is really an enactment of vengeance by this Government and those who support it against certain sections of the trade union movement. It is a political vendetta designed to divide the trade union movement, designed to put people outside the gate in the hope that there will be enough people outside the gate so that when wages are cut they will have to take them. Shades of Rothbury in the 1930s! Back to the dirty thirties; back to the hungry thirties. Now this Government is creating the hungry seventies. It is doing this deliberately. This Government is a government for big business, dedicated to big business and directed by big business. The massive back bench opposite smiles and thinks it is all so humourous. It smiles and it jumps when BHP and Utah and all the foreign multi-nationals pull the strings. The massive back bench opposite, composed of relatively young Australians, I am sorry to say, is devoid of compassion for working Australians, devoid of compassion for unemployed Australians, and rendered impotent by the faceless men of big business who orchestrate those who sit opposite.
This Government misled Australia last year about Loan Council negotiations. Is it not strange that tonight the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) said: ‘We cannot sign these contracts for the ships from Japan because we have not yet got permission from the Loan Council. We did not bother to get permission before we sent the General Manager of ANL to Japan. ‘ That is hard to take.
– You went around the Loan Council in your drab loan deals.
– Honourable members opposite laugh. They laugh at the people who are presently unemployed and at the 150 000 they are going to be put out of work. They should go outside this place and laugh at those people to their faces. Honourable members opposite represent a Party which lives on divisiveness, which created hatred amongst the community and which is deliberately provoking violence in the community. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Governor-General daily make statements that are inflammatory and that can be interpreted only as a deliberate provocation of the extreme elements in the community. Think about the bus loads of NCP and League of Rights supporters who travelled around Queensland during the last election campaign breaking up public meetings.
– Who employed them?
-The National Country Party employed them. Ask anybody in Queensland.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-In 1972 the McMahon Government announced a program of continuing review by the Tariff Board of those industries of highest cost, that is, those industries receiving the highest levels of protection. The announcement was made by the then Minister for Trade and Industry, the Right Honourable J. D. Anthony. The Minister later announced a speeding up of the inquiry and an expansion of the Tariff Board to handle the work load. It was realised that there were substantial costs associated with high protection which were borne by the whole community and disproportionate costs borne by sections of it. The Tariff Board then announced a program going through to 1978 for conduct of that review. I remember well the criticism levelled at the Prime Minister, Mr McMahon, by people employed in export industries who felt that the review should be conducted more quickly. In the main, that criticism was made by people who did not appreciate the shortage of suitable men to conduct the inquiries or the time that each inquiry inevitably must take. However, the criticism did reflect the pressing need felt by those people. Those manufacturers who depend on imports as part of their end product must have felt a similar urgency.
For some years the program proceeded more or less on schedule. However, it is now slipping behind and these references have not yet been dealt with: No. 20, jewellery and silverware, due in October 1975; No. 21, nuts, bolts, screws and rivets, due in October 1975; No. 22, cans and canisters, due in October 1975; No. 23, furniture, due in December 1975; No. 24, fabricated metal products, due in January 1 976; and No. 26, paper products, due in May 1976. The Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard) has promised the President of the Australian Woolgrowers and Graziers Council, Mr E. P. S. Roberts ‘That the tariff review should generally continue in accordance with the published program’. I congratulate him for that. I also congratulate the Government for a passage in its submission to the national wage case. I quote from page 63. It reads:
Higher tariffs of course do not overcome the underlying problems of Australia’s poor competitive showing. In a very real sense, indeed, they exacerbate the general problem, because higher tariffs tend to raise the prices of the affected imports and of the local product afforded additional protection. Whatever the higher tariff may do for the individual industry concerned, therefore, it results in pushing up the general price level; and when wages are further adjusted for price rises all industries find their costs rising.
I congratulate the Government for making that statement.
– Which government?
– This Government. So it does not sound as though the Government is likely to be influenced unduly by the submission from the Metal Trades Industry Association which asks that the review of its industry be delayed by 2 years. Why does it ask? Because it will be too busy recovering from the slump to attend the inquiry- an inquiry announced as to timing in 1972. It is one thing for a government to reject the advice of its advisory bodies- in this case the Industries Assistance Commission. The bodies are advisory and have no executive powers of their own. Governments must consider matters of wider significance than those covered by the expert body; but it is quite another not to make the reference which seeks those facts and arguments. It is ridiculous for the MTIA to ask for it. Inquiry into high protection industries is necessary to provide the knowledge with which to make rational decisions and the program should proceed as planned and as promised.
-I want to bring to the notice of the House facts with which I do not think any fair minded Australian would agree. A prominent member of the Liberal Party was before the Central Court of Petty Sessions in Sydney on Thursday 29 July on conspiracy charges involving $344,362 -
– How much?
– An amount of $344,362, allegedly milked from a mining company. The person was Ann Elaine Kent, 37, of Glendalough, Perth, a secretary to a Federal member of Parliament who is not a bad fellow, as far as I know; he is only politically misguided. The woman charged was a Liberal Party candidate in the Western Australian State elections in 1 974.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker.
– Here he goes again. He hates the truth, this young lawyer. He likes to suppress the truth.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, the honourable member for Melbourne has been speaking regularly whilst not in his seat.
– Sabre rattler.
– And he is still speaking while not in his seat. He is out of order. Mr Deputy Speaker, he has been speaking regularly and is still speaking while not in his place.
-(Mr Lucock) -That is not a point of order.
– As I said, the woman charged was a candidate for the Liberal Party in the Western Australian State elections in 1974. She was before the Central Court of Petty Sessions before Mr Berman, SM. With another Perth man and a Sydney man Mrs Kent was charged with conspiring illegally to extract $344,362 from the assets of the former mining ‘boom’ company of Kimberley Mineral Holding Limited during the mineral boom. Mr Berman allowed the 3 defendants bail of $1,000 each until the case comes before the Central Criminal Court. Although the case had been proceeding for nearly one month in Sydney’s major court of petty sessions hardly a word has appeared in the metropolitan Press. No mention has been made of the fact that the woman facing the charges is a former Liberal candidate and is currently on the staff of a Liberal member of the House of Representatives.
In March 1974, Mrs Kent, under her single name of Ann Cameron stood as an endorsed Liberal candidate for the West Australian Upper House seat of North East Metropolitan Province, but lost narrowly to the sitting Labor member.
Her campaign was notable for its expensive publicity centred on the theme: ‘You, the public, be the judge ‘.
Over the past month in Number 3 Court, Central, Mr Berman has been the judge in the charges brought by the Corporate Affairs Commission against Mrs Kent and William Herbert Harding, of Ida Street, Mosman, Sydney, and Robert Rutherford McEwan, of Mt Lawley, Perth.
Mr J. T. Hiatt, QC, for the N.S.W. Corporate Affairs Commissioner Mr F. J. Ryan, found the case so complex that he drew a diagram to explain how the money allegedly was siphoned off from the assets of Kimberley Mineral Holdings Ltd.
Mr Hiatt claimed Mrs Kent and the other persons charged used a company named Dominance with a paid capital of only $ 1 .25 to gam control of Kimberley, which was sitting on $50,000 in cash after the collapse of the 1969-70 mining boom.
Kimberley was one of the so-called ‘high fliers’ on the Sydney Stock Exchange during the boom.
Mr Hiatt also alleged the three charged used Kimberley ‘s own money to pay $344,362 to buy out the 44 per cent controlling interest held by property developer Mr Harry Oscar Triguboff, and his associates.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Last Monday at Monash University one of the ugliest demonstrations in Australia’s political history occurred. A mob of some 1000 people, thought to comprise students and certain left-wing unionists, took specific action to interrupt the function that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) as leader of the country had attended Monash to perform. It was for the very humanitarian purpose of opening a resource of national significance. It was significant that the violent demonstration took place at a university because that is the one place in the country which has hitherto been recognised as the bastion of free speech. Professor Ronald Taft described the incident as the most shocking demonstration he had ever seen. In addition, Professor Scott added that it was an untidy and unruly scene. In fact it was the worst incident since the unruly Northcote demonstration in the electorate of Batman prior to last December’s election which won the Liberal Party tens of thousands of votes.
It is significant that both the academics I mentioned condemned the violence of the mob in the strongest possible terms. One of the strangest features I have noted in the time that has elapsed since that event is that neither the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam), the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Uren), nor any member of the Opposition has seen fit to condemn the incident. Not even the sanctimonious and pious Bob Hawke has had anything to say about it. Not even the Deputy Leader of the Opposition- a man who prides himself on his peaceful outlook- has had one word to say in respect of it. In fact, the silence from the Opposition has been deafening.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. The honourable member is misrepresenting members on this side of the House. I, for one, made it very clear last night on television that the Labor Party did not support violence in any shape or form whatsoever against any political figure in this country.
– I call the honourable member for La Trobe.
– I think it is more than strange. I think it is actually sinister especially in respect of the Leader of the Opposition because the newspapers have been asking for comments from these Labor Leaders, and in this respect I do not regard the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) as a leader. Maybe ‘leaders’ is too generous a term. The Melbourne Herald reported last Tuesday:
Opposition Leader has nothing to say.
The Leader of the Opposition specifically rejected the chance to put his view and his
Party’s view on mob violence. What can we conclude about this apparent failure to do an obvious public duty? Trie Leader of the Opposition and members of the Opposition either are prisoners of the left wing strong men who are intent on wrecking this country or they condone the incidents that took place. Possibly the more logical conclusion we could draw is that they are in both those categories. Members of the Labor Party are indicted by their silence, by their complete lack of respect and by their tolerance or in fact the condoning of this violence. The nation expects at least a semblance of public leadership from these men. This is their darkest hour.
It thought it was most significant that the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris) saw fit to refer to the Loan Council. Fortunately, this country remembers the respect that the previous Government had for the Loan Council, when it took off and decided to bypass the accepted practice- it avoided the Loan Counciland go to the bazaars of the Middle East to raise $4,000m for goodness knows what. Finally, honourable members opposite told us it was for ‘temporary purposes’. Has anybody ever heard such a sanctimonious effort as that made by the honourable member for Shortland who tried to tell this House that he had respect for the Loan Council?
– I am disappointed that the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Baillieu) has left the chamber. What I have to say is relevant both to what the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) had to say and to what we have just heard. The honourable member for Hunter referred to the subject of the Press and to the fact that the metropolitan Press seems to be extremely selective in its coverage of news involving the employees of politicians who are members of this House. That does not come as a surprise to those of us on this side of the House. During adjournment debates it is quite easy for honourable members on both sides of the House to draw attention to the shortcomings of the Press- either the metropolitan media or the local newspapers, some of which we have never heard of up till now and will never hear of in the future. So often during the adjournment debates in this session honourable members have deprecated the Press for its shortcomings, and I think that I should take this opportunity to draw attention to a splendid piece of journalism in a Melbourne metropolitan newspaper. It puts together very well words that I can easily adopt and address to the situation which has been spoken about so poorly and so shabbily by the honourable member for
La Trobe. He attempted to extract political advantage out of a very unfortunate situation. The honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) made it quite clear yesterday, as did the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) on national television tonight, that no member of the Labor Party applauds physical violence. Let us examine this in context. In the Melbourne Age today Claude Forell- his voice which will not be silenced by the Press barons- referred to this matter. I will read selective passages of his article and, at the end of the week, I will send copies to the constituents of honourable members opposite. When speaking about the kind of behaviour that the honourable member for La Trobe has been engaging in, Claude Forell said:
It is deceptively easy to dismiss and deplore the anti-Kerr and anti-Fraser demonstrations as manifestations of a few loutish malcontents incited by sinister and subversive forces.
He goes on to put that in context and states further: . . . many people have again come to feel that they are the unfair losers in a struggle between opposing classes of society, ‘ them and us ‘. ‘They- the rulers and the interests behind them- have regained power not only by capitalising on the mistakes of the Labour Government, but by systematically twisting the democratic processes to their own ends.
I interpolate here to say that that applies very strongly to the honourable member for St George (Mr Neil). The article states further:
Now they are deliberately depressing the real living standards and limiting the opportunities of ordinary people by maintaining high unemployment, holding back wages and cutting back public services and welfare while enhancing the profits of big business.
What recourse have these people who feel cheated by those able to exploit the system? To be allowed to cast a vote whenever those who manipulate the levers of power find it convenient to spring an election seems little more than a sop.
He concludes, talking about the man who is the benefactor of this centre at Monash University which, contrary to the impression that certain Government supporters are seeking to create -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! It being 1 1 p.m. the debate is interrupted. Does the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs require the debate to be extended?
( 1 1.0)- I require the debate to be extended. I would like to respond to 2 matters raised during the adjournment debate. Firstly I will quickly respond to the matter raised by my colleague the honourable member for Moore (Mr Hyde). The honourable member shares, with a number of people on both sides of the House, a deep and continuing interest in the question of the levels of tariff protection afforded Australian industries. The subject of the honourable member’s speech tonight was the tariff review program. The Government in March or April of this year expressed the view that the tariff review program should continue. It expressed the view that it was desirable in the interests of having an equitable application of tariff protection in Australia that a systematic review of tariffs be carried out. There are in fact 3 groups of tariff references left which have to be transmitted to the Industries Assistance Commission. When transmitted they will complete the tariff review program that was initiated by the McMahon Government in 1972.
It is true, as the honourable member for Moore pointed out- it has become a matter of public record- that the Government has received representations from the Metal Trades Industries Association to defer the transmission of one reference. I inform the honourable member for Moore that as indicated during a televised program on Sunday night by my colleague the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Senator Cotton) the representations made to the Government by the Metal Trades Industries Association are under consideration. I equally assure the honourable member that the arguments he advanced during the course of his remarks on this subject will be taken into account by the Government when reaching a decision on this representation. The other matter to which I would like to respond relates to the remarks of the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Antony Whitlam).
– I raise a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. The remarks of the Minister on this subject contravene the sessional order. The sessional order was agreed to on the basis that Ministers are given time to respond to specific matters which arise in the course of their portfolio responsibilities. This matter does not come within that category. It is a general political matter which is not within the specific portfolio of the Minister.
-The sessional order states:
The Minister may require that the debate be extended until 11.10 p.m. to enable Ministers to speak in reply to matters raised in the preceding adjournment debate.
It does not say anything in relation to departments. I would rule that to enable Ministers to speak in reply to matters raised must -
- Mr Deputy Speaker, the clear understanding of this extension beyong the normal hours of the business of the House is that Ministers should be allowed to respond on matters that fall within their departmental responsibilitites or their responsibilities to this House. If the extra time is allowed for Ministers to participate in general debate they are given a privilege as ordinary members of the House which is not available to other members of the House. I think the Opposition has raised this matter before. We have been given to understand that our interpretation is the correct one. We have forgone moving an amendment on that basis. If it is ruled that the Minister has the right to enter into general debate at a time when no member has the opportunity to respond, an unfair advantage is given to a Minister and a private member is disadvantaged.
– Speaking to the point of order. Mr Deputy Speaker, I submit that you must be guided by the terms of the sessional order in question. The understanding of the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) might be helpful in allowing you to reach a decision. Surely you must pay regard to the terms of the sessional order. I find it rather surprising that before I had even indicated the subject matter of my response to the honourable member for Grayndler a point of order should be taken. I think it is fair that any response by a Minister in these circumstances should be limited to canvassing matters raised by private members. To that extent I agree with the honourable member for Corio. To say that the sessional order means that a Minister cannot respond to items raised by private members during the course of the debate, particularly when may of the matters raised are in the nature of general political criticisms, either of the Government or the Opposition and general political attacks on the Government is incorrect. It is the responsibility of the Minister at the table, if he thinks it appropriate, to respond to these comments.
-The terms of the resolution agreed to by this House allow the Minister to speak on any subject that was raised during the preceding adjournment debate.
– I take a point of order. That may be the wording of the sessional order, but there is a clear understanding -
– The honourable gentleman is now questioning your ruling, Mr Deputy Speaker.
– The honourable member cannot take a point of order while I am taking one .
-The honourable member for Blaxland is questioning the ruling which I have given. The Chair must rule according to the resolution which has been agreed to by the House. The Minister’s time has expired, in the sense that a Minister has only 5 minutes in which to reply. On the other hand, I think that in the circumstances if no other Minister rises the Minister must be called a second time.
Motion (by Mr Scholes) put:
That the Minister be not further heard.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker-Mr P. E. Lucock)
Question so resolved in the negative.
House adjourned at 11.19 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Telecom Australia’s records show a very high level of acceptance of STD with multi-metering and that the incidence of metered call charge queries was higher in past years than at present. Currently slightly less than 1 per cent of accounts issued are queried in relation to metered calls. Having regard to this, and the cost of introducing automatic message accounting, the Commission does not consider that a high priority can be given to this work.
Of interest, perhaps, are proposals in relation to international subscriber dialling. Because many overseas calls are over longer distances and can involve relatively high costs, ISD is being restricted at this stage to those subscribers who request the facility knowing that the charging will be on the basis of multi-metering. However, with the high growth rate of international traffic, longer term economics and customer convenience both require the widespread availability and acceptance of ISD. Accordingly, a program of equipment modifications to enable automatic message accounting for international calls only has been planned and the first such facility will be available in 1978. It will be extended over the following 5 years. The scope and cost of such a program is, of course, very much less than would be required in relation to automatic message accounting on calls within Australia, which is a longer term program under study in Telecom.
asked the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, upon notice:
– The following answer to the honourable member’s question replaces the answer published in Hansard on 18 August 1976:
I am not able to give the precise numbers of trainees who were students at tertiary institutions. However, the vast majority of trainees undergoing formal courses of training under NEAT would be doing so at a post-secondary level.
The following table details the number of trainees in the different categories of training as at 1 March and 1 April.
Complete statistics as to the number of persons who have left the NEAT scheme or who did not commence training although approved to do so since April 1976 are not available. A study of the effect of the revised full-time allowance, which came into full effect on 1 April 1976, indicated that 180 full-time trainees withdrew from training during the month of April and 26 persons failed to commence full-time training although approved to do so. Of the 180 who withdrew from training 8 1 were males and 99 were females.
An examination of the cases of the 30 full-time trainees who withrew from training in Victoria during April resulted in the estimate of $138,000 as the amount which had been paid by way of allowances for their training up to the time when they withdrew.
Between 1 March and 30 June 1976 4 432 persons applied for NEAT; of these 2 494 were males and 1 958 females. In the same period 2 422 persons were approved for training; of these 1 479 were males and 943 females.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
1 ) What was the total cost of the pharmaceutical benefits scheme giving the separate cost of-
What are the (a) estimated costs for the year 1975-76 and (b) actual expenditures during the first 6 months of the year 1 975-76 in respect of the same items.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: (l)and(2)(a)and(b)-
(c), (d) and (h)-
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 26 August 1976, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1976/19760826_reps_30_hor100/>.