30th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. B. M. Snedden, Q.C.) took the chair at 2.15 p.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives, in Parliament assembled. We, the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth do humbly pray that the Commonwealth Government:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Armitage, Dr Edwards, Mr Les Johnson, Dr Klugman, Mr Morris and Mr Antony Whitlam.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in the 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 ustralian Trader to the Tasmanian service.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Armitage, Mr Les McMahon, Mr Morris, Mr Stewart and Mr Antony Whitlam.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives, in Parliament assembled. We, the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth do humbly pray that the Commonwealth Government:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That whereas uranium found in vast quantities in Australia is the raw material for the nuclear fission reaction.
And whereas presently assured reserves of uranium in Australia represent a potential production of over 540 000 kilograms of Plutonium 239 if utilised in light water reactors overseas.
And whereas the maximum permissible inhalation of Plutonium 239 is 0.00000025 gram.
And whereas Plutonium 239 is one of the most dangerous substances human society has ever created, causing mutations and cancers.
And whereas there are no methods of safely and absolutely confining Plutonium from the biosphere for the requisite quarter of a million years.
And whereas Plutonium coming in contact with the air forms an aerosol cloud of micron-sized particles, its most dangerous form.
And whereas the export of urnaium 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 biomedical 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 Chipp and Mr Falconer.
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 Mr Falconer and Dr Jenkins.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. We the under- . signed citizens of the Commonwealth by this our humble petition respectfully showeth:
That Medibank has proved to be the cheapest and most efficient means of bringing health care to Australian citizens and that the citizens of Australia have received Medibank as a great and valued social reform.
That Medibank has proved itself to be a far superior system of health care than was offered by the private funds prior to July 1975.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will observe the promise made by the Prime Minister in his policy speech that ‘We will maintain Medibank and ensure the standard of health care does not decline ‘.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Dr Jenkins and Mr Lloyd.
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that; the Budget will increase unemployment to unprecedented and crisis proportions at a time when hundreds of thousands of Australians, especially school-leavers, young workers and apprentices, are without work; the Budget completes the dismantling of Medibank as a simple, effective universal health scheme, providing basic coverage for the total community; the Budget, by its heavy cuts in urban and transport programs, will worsen the quality of life available to many Australians; the Budget will compel State governments to reduce their services and increase charges; the Budget reduces spending on Aboriginal affairs by 30 per cent and returns expenditure on Aborigines to pre- 1972 days; the Budget seriously disadvantages migrant groups, most notably in employment and health, and leaves room for concern over the future of ethnic radio; the Budget, despite the government’s earlier rhetoric about defence threats to Australia, continues to hold the size of armed services at present levels; and the Budget, despite all the above, still cannot be expected to reduce Australia’s annual inflation rate below twelve per cent; Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the 1976 Budget be redrafted to provide for economic recovery within the guidelines laid down by the Australian Labor Government’s 1975 Budget.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Morris and Mr Antony Whitlam.
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:
Therefore your petitioners pray your Honourable House to legislate accommodation of these matters under the provisions of Federal law.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr McLeay.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned members of community organisations respectfully showeth:
There is a growing interest and concern in all sections of Australian society for the conservation of the environment, natural and man-made.
That there are also rapidly growing pressures by powerful forces tending towards the destruction of the Australian heritage.
That it is therefore urgent to appoint the Australian Heritage Commission, which was approved by both sides of this Parliament and to give the Commission sufficient independent staff, resources and funds.
That Technical Assistance Grants and Administrative Support Grants to community organisations are needed to partially redress the gross imbalance in technical expertise and resources suffered by community groups in pressing the community’s case against the exploiter.
That a proper balance between the Governments program of public austerity and the need for action in conservation would be a modest increase in the budget allocations in these areas over that of 1 975-76.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Chipp.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth: That the undersigned persons believe that:
The $300 limit on income tax deductibility in respect of personal residential land and water rates is unrealistic and is a discriminatory income tax penalty.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will take steps to see that the aforesaid limitation is removed entirely or substantially increased.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Connolly.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray:
That the government should reconsider its decision to cut the budgets of these institutions and immediately restore the grants to enable these institutions to continue their high standard of dedicated and unselfish care for the aged and infirm in the community.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Hodges.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representative in Parliament 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 Innes.
To the Speaker and the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that many Australians are concerned about the future of the Australian Assistance Plan.
We your petitioners do therefore humbly pray that the Commonwealth Government support the Australian Assistance Plan:
We believe the Australian Assistance Plan should continue because we believe the Australian Assistance Plan helps to make people self reliant and more aware of what they can do to help themselves. In this it is anti-bureaucratic and contrary to the idea of the welfare state which encourages dependence on Government.
We believe the Australian Assistance Plan should continue in such a way as to give all citizens the opportunity to participate through a Regional Council for Social Development in their region.
We believe the idea encompassed in the Australian Assistance Plan is an effective way for citizens to work cooperatively with all levels of Government.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Les McMahon.
Dockyards at Newcastle
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Newcastle respectfully showeth:
That shipbuilding and repairs play a vital role in the economic stability of the Newcastle region.
That a recent study by the Hunter Valley Research Foundation showed that 50 000 people were partially or wholly maintained by the State Dockyard.
That stability is at present in jeopardy, as a new ship order is required within the next few weeks if serious unemployment and hardship is to be avoided.
That the previous Government’s plan for the building of a graving dock in Newcastle should be continued as proper ship repair facilities are a vital factor in the maintenance of a viable shipbuilding industry.
That the Government’s election pledge to restore business and employment can be implemented in Newcastle if new orders and a graving dock are granted.
Your petitioners thereforehumbly 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.
Symphony Orchestra 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 the Hunter Valley Region respectfully showeth the lack of a resident professional symphony orchestra in Newcastle and surrounding areas, with consequent denial to the citizens of adequate provision of concerts, opera, ballet, school concerts, teaching of various orchestral instruments and career opportunities for young musicians.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that Parliament give due and early consideration to the provision of funds, in association with the N.S.W. State Government, Local Governments and the community of this region, for the establishment and maintenance of the Hunter Symphony Orchestra, consisting initially of 40 players, located in Newcastle and serving the cultural needs of the 500 000 inhabitants of the region, in accordance with the proposal and budget submitted to the Industries Assistance Commission.
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. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government take all necessary and urgent action to ensure the continuation of service from each of the Community Health Centres and make such finance available to allow the establishment of such Centres in permanent accommodation.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Simon.
– I inform the
House that the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, Mr Street, left Australia on 18 September to attend the Sixth Conference of Asian Labour Ministers which is being held in Teheran. He is expected to return to Australia on 30 September. During his absence the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, Mr Howard, will act as Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations and Minister Assisting me in Public Service matters and women’s affairs. I also inform the House that the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Peacock, will leave Australia today to attend the United Nations General Assembly in New York, and to visit Brussels and Jakarta where he will join me in my visit to Jakarta. He is expected to return on 1 1 October. During his absence the Minister for Primary Industry, Mr Sinclair, will act as Minister for Foreign Affairs.
– I inform the House that we have present in the Gallery delegates attending the Third Australasian Parliamentary Seminar. On behalf of the House I extend to the visitors a very warm welcome.
Honourable members- Hear, hear!
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. Is it true, as has been publicly reported, that in April this year the Minister for Foreign Affairs told the Indonesian Foreign Minister, Mr Malik, that Australia understood Indonesia’s position to be that Indonesia had to incorporate East Timor into Indonesia?
– I have nothing to add to the discussions that have been had about this matter on many occasions. The Minister for Foreign Affairs had stated the Government’s view clearly and plainly.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. Has the Prime Minister seen a Press report suggesting that the recent appointment of a Permanent Head to his Department was made on the basis of a short list of only one name? Did the Government follow its own guidelines in making this appointment?
– A committee of officials has been examining the Press statement containing the draft guidelines, which was issued before the election last year. Officials have made some recommendations to me concerning modifications to those guidelines. Those recommendations do not in any sense alter the substance of the guidelines. The Chairman of the Public Service Board has expressed concern about at least one newspaper report which stated that proper procedures were not followed in the recent appointment of my departmental head. The Chairman is very much of the view that proper procedures were followed. A number of names were considered and proper advice was taken. The Chairman of the Board wants it known that he is of the view that proper procedures were pursued and discussions with the
Chairman of the Board took place over a number of days.
– Can the document be tabled please?
-The honourable member for Port Adelaide has asked that the document be tabled. It must be tabled only if the right honourable gentleman was quoting from it. I did not observe the right honourable gentleman quoting from a document.
– I was not quoting from it. It is not a confidential document and I am not going to table it.
– I take a point of order. I understood you to say that you did not notice the Prime Minister reading from a document. I must say, with all respect, that that observation runs counter to my observation. The right honourable gentleman was, in fact, reading the document.
– If I were to assume that the right honourable gentleman was reading, I would then have to ask the right honourable gentleman whether it is a confidential document.
– I was not reading from the document. It is not a confidential document. If I was not reading from the document I cannot be required to table it.
– I shall accept what the right honourable gentleman has said.
-I do not think anybody else would.
-Order! I call upon the Leader of the Opposition to withdraw that remark.
– In obedience to you, I withdraw the remark.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Construction. Having regard to the very high incidence of unemployment among skilled tradesmen in the construction industry, what specific effort has the Minister’s Department made to ensure that a large proportion of these highly skilled tradesmen are not lost to the industry? Further, what efforts has the Government made to assist this vital and formerly viable industry to get out of the slump in which it now finds itself?
– I thank the honourable member for the question. I cannot agree with him that the building industry is in as bad a shape as he says it is in. This question gives me the opportunity to quote from the remarks of Mr J. E.
Donovan who is a chief economist of the management consultant firm of W. D. Scott and Company. Mr Donovan said as recently as last week, on 15 September that:
The recession is now fading.
He is reported to have said:
The building and construction industry should shortly see private sector demand for its services start to rise again after an almost unbroken 18 months of contraction.
I am prepared to table this document, Mr Speaker, if the honourable member would like me to do so. The report went on to say: . . . slump thinking was no longer appropriate to future planning.
The Federal Budget and surrounding strategy, he said, had more important indirect significance for the industry than direct benefit.
It is also a fact that building approvals are improving compared with this time last year, especially in New South Wales where the improvement is greater than the average. The amount of public work put out by the Commonwealth Government through all its departments is slightly higher than last year in the aggregate. At the moment, temporarily I believe, there is no building inflation whatsoever and in our view this is the best time to be letting contracts and the best time for the private sector to be investing in building. I think in the future we will look back to these days and say that this was the best time to invest. I hope that the private sector will invest. In fact, there is already evidence of large areas of private investment in the building industry, examples of which I could cite for the honourable gentleman. Perhaps after question time I should write a letter to the honourable gentleman giving details.
-My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. What is the attitude of the Government towards a proposal by the shadow Attorney-General that a government should seek to continue in office without Supply?
-Order! The honourable member will be out of order. The Prime Minister has no ministerial responsibility for the shadow Attorney-General.
-I will rephrase the question.
– I give the honourable member the opportunity to rephrase it.
-What is the attitude of the Government towards a proposal that a government should seek to continue in office without Supply? Does the Prime Minister agree that this is a defiance of the Constitution, the Parliament and the people?
-The statement by the shadow Attorney-General -
– I raise a point of order. Whilst I am flattered to be the subject of a question at question time, I made no such suggestion.
-There is no point of order. It is a statement of fact. It is not a point of order.
-There was a report in yesterday’s Australian of a statement by the shadow Attorney-General that a government ought to be able to continue in office even if it is being denied Supply by the Senate, which means being denied Supply by the Parliament. That is quite an extraordinary situation to be presented by a shadow Attorney-General. There is no difference under our Constitution or under the law, if the proper arrangements under the Constitution are used to deny Supply, whether that process takes place in one House or another. What the shadow Attorney-General was saying, in fact, was that not only ought a government to ignore the Parliament but also that it ought to control circumstances so that Executive Council would give no protection ultimately to the people of Australia; that it also would be run over and that presumably the High Court action, which would clearly declare the decision of the Government to be unlawful, would also be ignored. That is not a bad basketful for a shadow AttorneyGeneral to present. He is tearing up about threequarters of our Constitution in one statement. We would expect nothing else from a government led by a rabble such as we see sitting opposite us at the present time.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Health. As the family planning associations run out of funds for the operation of their clinics on 30 September -
Honourable members- We cannot hear.
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. There are complaints from around the House, especially from Ministers, that they cannot hear the question. I ask the honourable gentleman to repeat his question to the House and that honourable members remain silent while the question is being asked.
– As the family planning associations run out of funds for the operation of their clinics on 30 September, can the Minister for Health inform the House whether these groups will be funded after the end of this month? If so, what percentage of their operations will be funded federally and when will these groups be informed of the Government’s decision?
– The family planning program is intended to run until 30 September with the health program grants that have been made available to assist the family planning associations with their clinical activities. The Government has decided to maintain those health program grants until 30 June 1977. Those people who are privately insured for services will be charged a fee and will be able to claim on their various health insurance funds. Also, in this year’s Budget, we have set aside a sum of $750,000 to be made available to the States for their non-clinical expenditures. We are continuing discussions with the States as to how these funds should be spent in order to maintain the family planning program throughout Australia.
-I direct a question to the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs and refer to the problem of illegal entry into Australia by persons who have not obtained proper entry visas. Has there been abuse of transit facilities by travellers landing in Australia ostensibly on their way to a destination in another country? Has hardship resulted to persons who have been misled by travel agents and others perpetrating rackets both overseas and in Australia? Further, have there been difficulties resulting from persons over-staying and working on visitors visas, despite visitor status which expressly prohibits accepting work in this country?
-The Government has been concerned with abuses of the transit facilities offered to people landing in Australia on their way to a third country. Information came to us earlier this year which indicated that a scheme was being perpetrated, involving in that particular case nationals from India. It appeared that this scheme had been in operation for well over a year and a check of the records indicated that quite a proportion of people who did seek transit facilities in fact had not gone on to the third country. I am also concerned about the numbers of seamen deserters and overstayed visitors who are abusing their visitor visa entitlements. Honourable members will remember that earlier this year the steamer Australis was the vessel from which some 54 people decamped and sought to evade normal immigration controls. Since May of this year some 1 13 Indians have been arrested in various States of the Commonwealth, particularly Queensland, New South Wales and South Australia and also in an area within the honourable member’s own electorate.
Of those 113 the majority have since been deponed. Efforts are being made to overcome the situation which has been revealed.
I should make it clear that Indian nationals are not the only people involved in efforts to circumvent Australian immigration requirements. I believe it is totally unfair to those people seeking to enter Australia legally, that particular consideration should be given to these people who have sought to circumvent the normal regulations. The Government is pursuing a strong line in relation to people who do abuse transit facilities, who do desert ships and who do abuse visitor facilities.
-My question, which is directed to the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, arises from the continuing losses of life and property from earthquakes in the Friuli region of Italy. The Minister will remember saying after the first earthquakes in May that priority would be given to nominations of people from that region who had applied, or who thereafter applied to migrate to Australia. I ask: Is it a fact that such persons are now being informed by the Minister’s Department that their applications cannot be granted because of the unemployment in Australia? Is any priority being given to the victims of the Friuli earthquakes? In what respects are they receiving preference over applicants from areas which have not suffered natural disasters?
– Following the earthquake earlier this year, as the Leader of the Opposition has suggested, special priority was given to people from the Friuli region. Those applications already in the pipeline were given accelerated attention. Those people who applied and were within the normal migration criteria were accepted. In addition, those who could demonstrate special compassionate circumstances were also given special attention. Those special arrangements have continued to operate since the previous earthquake. Following the most recent earthquake, advice has been given to the authorities in Italy to maintain those special arrangements. My latest information, which I believe is dated 16 September, is that up until 16 September some 31 cases involving over 60 people had been accepted from this region. There is some indication that greater interest may be shown by people from the Friuli region as a result of the most recent earthquakes. I can assure the honourable member that the previous guidelines still apply.
– They are not being refused because of unemployment?
– The people who come within the normal migration criteria are being accepted. If they do not come within the normal migration criteria or cannot demonstrate particular compassionate circumstances, then they will not be acceptable.
– Does the Treasurer recall an earlier question from the honourable member for Sydney to the Minister for Construction regarding the state of activity in the building industry? Is it a fact that investment decisions which affect activity in the construction industry are made many months, even years ahead of construction actually commencing? Does it follow that the 1976 levels of building commencements have reflected the economic deprivation inflicted on this country by the previous Labor Government? Will the Treasurer again confirm that national recovery is now under way?
– I can certainly confirm for the honourable gentleman and the House that economic recovery is under way, although, as the Government has been frank in saying before, indicators of recovery are not without qualification. At this stage, as is the case in the recovery of any economy in the western world, the indicators are not unequivocal. As to the specifics of the honourable gentleman’s question the answers would be in the affirmative. The answer is yes to the first question. The answer is yes to the second question. This brings out the lag time between an actual decision to invest and putting people and buildings on the ground. In relation to the third facet of the honourable gentleman’s question, it is, of course, no more than a regrettable fact of life that the tragedies of the past 3 years are still reflected in many areas of activity throughout the country.
On the building and housing aspect, as my colleague the Minister for Construction has made clear, there is no reason to believe that aggregate rates of lending for housing will not continue at adequate levels. In the State of New South Wales, where there has been a sharper reflection of the problem of lack of confidence and, therefore, of recession, the approvals rate is picking up, as the Minister for Construction made clear. If one looks at commencements in New South Wales across the board, in terms of the official figures and the earlier warning signals which the Government received from its consulative machinery, building activity is seen to be picking up in that State.
The Government has no doubt that during the period ahead the housing industry will continue to grow strongly. Non-residential construction figures reflect the recession last year. As a recovery is now taking place, the non-residential building side is improving. The latest approvals figures are beginning to suggest that the trough in private activity may soon be reached. I mention to the House in passing that the value of private, non-residential approvals rose strongly in the June quarter to total $260m. This figure is $35m or 16 per cent higher than in the previous quarter and $69m or 30 per cent higher than in the June quarter of 1975. This was the fourth increase in the last 5 quarters. I conclude by saying that the Government has no doubt that recovery is taking place, although again I observe that the indicators are mixed in some sections of the economy.
-My question is without notice and is addressed to the Minister for Contraction. It is supplementary to that asked by the honourable member for Sydney. With regard to the massive fall-off in apprenticeship indentures in the construction industry, will the Minister tell the House of any effort he might be making to absorb apprentices in direct Government employment, in particular through his Department, which had the largest decrease in apprenticeship intake of any Federal Department in the last year.
– The Government acknowledges its obligation to train apprentices. The Government trains more apprentices than any other body. But it cannot undertake to train all apprentices. Some must be trained in the private sector. This matter is under examination and I hope to be able to make an announcement shortly.
-Is the Minister for Primary Industry aware of the adverse criticism by British fruit importers of the quality of 1976 season Tasmanian apples exported to the United Kingdom? Has the Minister received any advice from the Apple and Pear Corporation pertaining to this serious allegation? If it is true, what real assistance can be given by the Government, keeping in mind the Government’s firm commitment to a continuing Tasmanian apple and pear industry?
-I thank the honourable gentleman for this question. It is always of concern to the Government when Australia’s excellent exports are criticised for one reason or another. Immediately on reading comments in the Australian Press about the overseas criticism I asked my Department to examine the circumstances and to see whether the situation was in any way caused by a fault in the inspection services or whether there were other problems that might be corrected. I assure all honourable gentlemen that there is certainly no fault in the inspection services performed by officers of the Department of Primary Industry.
There have been problems. Some of them relate to storage in that the storage on wharves in Tasmanian ports is perhaps not as modern or adequate as it might be. Inspection is made on receipt into storage rather than before fruit is loaded out of storage onto ships. There is, secondly, the problem that the performance of the Tasmanian waterside workers has been abysmal. Generally the cost of handling commodities on Tasmanian wharves is as bad as it is anywhere else in Australia and that, of course, means that it is significantly worse than it is just about anywhere else in the world. That is nothing of which anybody should be proud. Because of that bad performance there has been some delay and some mishandling of the fruit.
The third factor is that some of the on-ship storage has not been as good as it might be. Some vessels are better suited to handling fruit than others and in some vessels deterioration has occurred because of the quality of the facilities on board. The fourth factor is that, unfortunately, the facilities in some Asian ports for the receipt of fruit are not as good as they might be. But overall I think that probably the principal reason was the character of the fruit this season. We are quite sure that if the seasonal conditions are as we expect them to be this year, in spite of the -
– Blame the Labor Government.
– Yes, most of the unfortunate things that have happened have happened because of the Labor Government. It seems to have caused this country to be in a worse economic mess than it should be. There is no doubt that it is one of the reasons that we are having difficulty in correcting the unemployment situation at the moment. So I am very glad for the honourable gentleman’s interjection. As far as the fruit industry is concerned, the policies that the Labor Government followed with respect to industrial conditions on the waterfront also contributed. But we are hopeful that the undoubted high quality of Australian fruit, including Tasmanian fruit, will emerge through the present criticism. It is certainly the intention of the officers of my Department to maintain the highest possible inspection standards in order to ensure that no future criticism- at least as far as we can permit- is justified.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer and is supplementary to the question asked of him by the honourable member for La Trobe. It is in regard to the non-dwelling construction industry. I ask: Did the Fraser Government cancel an $80m office construction program that was approved by the Whitlam Government which would have been of no cost to revenue for at least 2 years and which would have stimulated the construction industry in the capital cities and selected growth centres? Was this proposal accepted by all leaders of the construction industry? Have all sections of the industry protested to the Government about the cancellation of the program?
– As I understand the position, the response to what the honourable gentleman has sought is in the affirmative. Following a thorough-going review of government expenditure in prospect the Government decided, having regard to -
– I point out to the Treasurer that it would have been at no cost to the Government for 2 years and he knows it.
-The honourable gentleman fails to appreciate -
-Order! The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has asked his question. He was heard in silence. It is now for the Treasurer to respond in silence.
– I might say, Mr Speaker, without any offence to the Chair, that you do not make it very easy for me.
-The honourable gentleman may find that I am helping him.
– In response to the honourable gentleman’s question, yes, we did cancel the project. It is understood, of course, that there would not have been a requirement for a direct financial flow for a period, but I should have thought that the honourable gentleman, having regard to his years of experience in government administration, would recognise that if one is serious about the question of containing costs and running a tight Budget ship, one looks ahead, as in fact this Government has done by setting up special machinery to look beyond the particular year in which cash is required. It was the view of the Ministry when the matter was before it that the project was not justifiable, having regard to a proposal that had been put at an earlier stage, which I suspect was not viable- a characteristic of most of the projects that came before the Labor Administration. Of the honourable gentleman’s interest in non-residential building it is fair to say that he and his colleagues are responsible for the recession that took place in that area because of high labour costs, industrial unrest and problems of productivity in the industry at large. I reject the proposition which he sought to argue by way of inference. The project was correctly and properly cancelled on the decision of the Ministry. We certainly adhere to that view. In relation to non-residential building, let the honourable gentleman look in the mirror.
-Does the Prime Minister have any information indicating whether visits by nuclear-powered warships to Tasmania will be welcomed by the Government of that State and whether they are likely to take place without industrial unrest?
-Two or three days ago a telegram was sent to me. I should like to read part of it and have the rest incorporated in Hansard.
– Are you reading this time?
– I happen to be able to read. Perhaps the honourable gentleman cannot. The telegram sets out the decision of a stop work meeting on 17 September 1976 of all workers directly involved in the berthing operations and port servicing of vessels in the port of Hobart. In part, it says:
We are prepared to welcome visits of the U.S. and U.K. nuclear warships subject to the stringent safety precautions ordered by the environmental report . . . this meeting unaminously pledges full support to all union members in acting according to this decision taken by the rank and file workers of the port of Hobart . . . Delegates of Maritime and Harbour Trust Union Merchant Service Guild Seamans Union and Transport Workers Union.
That telegram says in very plain terms in the last part that these unions will stand by any trade unionist who may be penalised or sought to be penalised by any union other than his own in relation to nuclear ships visiting the port of Hobart. A copy of the telegram was sent to the Premier of Tasmania. As a result, the Premier of Tasmania issued a Press statement which, in part, states:
The Tasmanian Government has indicated that it would not object to the visit of United States nuclear-powered warships provided they are anchored in-stream in Hobart harbour . . .
The Premier said the State Government was satisfied that the inbuilt safety arrangements which were part of the design of the United States ships were such as to make the visit completely safe.
The Premier said that procedures used by the United States Navy in managing its radioactive wastes had always complied with the assurances given to host nations.
The Government believed that visits by the United States Navy would be a boon to Tasmanian business’ houses, and tourism ventures, providing a welcome boost to the economy. ‘If I believed there was a real risk I would forgo this’ the Premier said, ‘but I’m convinced that such visits should be encouraged ‘.
The Premier said he was aware the Hobart Marine Board was anxious to see visits by warships.
Hoban was fortunate to be able to provide such admirable facilities in the event of the visit materialising. He was confident that Tasmanian people would extend to servicemen the hospitality for which the Island was noted.
I am very grateful to the Tasmanian Premier for coming to that decision. I am also grateful for the decision of the trade unionists. Both decisions are highly responsible. They are not only in Tasmania’s interests but also in the nation’s interests.
– Does the right honourable gentleman wish to persist with the request for the telegram to be incorporated in Hansard?
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
Hobart Tas 224 3.32P Msgr
The Hon. M. Fraser Prime Minister
Parliament House, Canberra, A.C.T.
The following is the decision of a stop work meeting on 17 September 76 of all workers directly involved in the berthing operations and port servicing of vessels in the port of Hobart.
-Is the Attorney-General aware that his procrastination in making an announcement on the expansion or curtailment of the operations of the Australian Legal Aid Office is causing grave concern within the Legal Aid Office and amongst the legal fraternity? Is he also aware that the means test imposed by him on applicants for legal aid is so parsimonious that married pensioner couples owning their own home can be precluded from receiving legal aid? Will he give urgent consideration to increasing the income level to a more realistic amount and to making an announcement on the future of the Australian Legal Aid Office?
– There has been no procrastination on my part. I made it clear earlier this year that I would be discussing with the States the question of setting up legal aid commissions in every State. Those discussions have been going ahead and have proceeded to the point where at this stage my officers are discussing with various State Attorneys-General the basis upon which those legal aid commissions will be set up. The Australian Legal Aid Office will be absorbed into the commissions and the salaried officers will be absorbed into them, just as the Public Solicitor’s Office and perhaps in some States the Public Defender’s Office will also be absorbed. Because I have a more direct responsibility in the Territories, I have taken steps to try to overcome the problems that exist in the Territories due to the rush into this activity by the previous Government and the creation of complete misunderstanding with the legal profession. For instance, in the Australian Capital Territory the local legal profession is now assisting the Legal Aid Office with interviews with members of the public. Members of the profession go to the Office on a voluntary basis during the day for that purpose. A legal aid committee has also been established which has on it the Director of the Australian Legal Aid Office in the Australian Capital Territory as well as members of the legal profession. Those steps have been designed to harness the voluntary effort of the legal profession. I hope that the example will be followed in the Northern Territory, and indeed right around Australia.
If one looks at this year’s Budget one will find that the legal aid vote was increased by 23 per cent from $ 12.5m to $ 16.24m, which is a very large addition. Last financial year an amount of something like $5. 5m was paid to the legal profession for referral matters. It is estimated that this year the amount will be approximately $9.5m, which is a very substantial increase. The means test is constantly under review. I believe that it is basically consistent with giving assistance to those really in need, and I have asked my Department to bring any special cases to my attention. If such a case as the honourable gentleman has mentioned has occurred I will certainly look into it because if it is a case of real hardship it ought to be met. I would point out that anybody who goes into a Legal Aid Office does get advice, whatever his means. If that advice necessitates legal action, then of course the means test is applied. That means test has to be consistent with the commitment, and legal aid is being administered on that basis at the moment.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Overseas Trade. Is the Minister aware that an Australian company, in conjunction with the Iranian Government, has announced contracts to supply 75 000 tonnes of sheep carcasses to the Middle East over the next 5 years and a minimum of 3 million live wether sheep a year? Do these contracts indicate a substantial potential market for Australia’s primary produce in Iran and other Middle East countries?
– I did see a Press report in today’s Sydney Morning Herald which mentioned that the Meridian Livestock Company Pty Ltd had signed a contract, I think for 75 000 tonnes of sheep meat over the next 5 years. That is very pleasing. I am aware that other companies also have made deals with Middle East countries, including Iran, relating specifically to sheep meat. Those people are accustomed to eating sheep meat and with their living standards improving and with the availability of foreign exchange, they have the potential to go out and buy. They are looking to countries such as Australia as principal suppliers. The opportunities seem to be quite enormous for Australia to get access to those markets to sell both live sheep and sheep meats. However, if contracts are signed for live sheep, I hope we will not have unnecessary interference with the export of that type of meat as we have had in the past from some unions. It has jeopardised our reputation as being a reliable supplier. I think it is unfortunate if we cannot sell both livestock and meat in that market, which obviously is an enormous one.
-I ask a question of the Acting Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. In answer to a question I placed on notice about unratified International Labour Organisation conventions, the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations on the last sitting day told me that the Indigenous and Tribal Populations Convention, which is relevant to the land rights of Australian Aborigines, cannot yet be ratified by Australia because one State has not yet agreed. I ask the Minister which State is balking at that Convention? How soon does he expect to be able to ratify that Convention which was adopted as far back as 1957?
-I do not know. I shall find out and let the honourable gentleman know.
– My question, which is directed to the Treasurer, refers to the latest information concerning instalment credit for retail sales in Australia. Is the Minister aware that although there was little increase in the total credit available for retail sales in July the increase in the credit available for household and personal and whitegoods sales for the month of July was of the order of 8 per cent and for the year overall was of the order of 19.9 per cent? What significance does the Minister see in these details as they are related to total retail sales throughout the Commonwealth?
– Instalment credit figures for retail sales for July 1976 have just been published by the Statistician today. The figures indicate that total instalment credit for retail sales increased by 15.4 per cent for the 12 months to July and by 0.5 per cent during the month of July. Credit advanced for the purchase of motor vehicles certainly fell, by, I think, 3.4 per cent during the month. That would reflect the impact of the emission control legislation which applied as from 1 July. Further to the point of the honourable gentleman’s question, if the motor vehicle element is separated out, it is worth noting that credit advanced in the household and personal category rose by a very substantial 8.6 per cent during July compared with 0.4 per cent during the previous month. In fact, as the honourable gentleman has mentioned in his question, credit advanced in that category overall was at the rate of 19.9 per cent higher in July 1976 than it was in July of last year. In short, as a judgment point, I believe that the statistics do reflect increasing activity by consumers, and that certainly will be welcomed by the retailing industry.
-Has the Minister for Transport issued a financial directive to the Australian National Airlines Commission to budget for a 15 per cent dividend this financial year? Will that directive put financial pressure on Trans-Australia Airlines to increase air fares? How can a government which is allegedly trying to control inflation justify that directive when the directive of the former Minister for Transport was for an 8.5 per cent dividend? Was the Minister’s directive the result of pressure from Ansett Transport Industries Ltd and was the purpose of that pressure to allow that company to increase its profits? Does not the Minister consider that an 8.5 per cent dividend is fair and reasonable–
-Order! The honourable gentleman is now asking for an opinion. The earlier part of the question was in order. I call the Minister for Transport.
-To the second last part of the honourable member’s question, the answer is no. To the first part of the question the answer is yes. In respect of the other part of the question, the decision was taken by the Government as part of Budget policy.
– Is the Attorney-General aware that hundreds of thousands of pirate cassettes are being imported into the country to the financial detriment of Australian recording artists and reputable business houses? Are these cassettes a blatant breach of the Copyright Act? If so, what action is proposed to stamp out this practice which is fast developing into a million dollar industry?
– The question of pirate cassettes coming into the country was recently discussed at a copyright seminar which was run by the Government in conjunction with the industry and copyright owner representatives. It brought together delegates from all over Asia. This question is a matter of grave concern to copyright owners. It is estimated that something like $60m a year is lost in retail sales due to these infringing pirate cassettes coming into the country. You can see that it is a very significant matter. Under the Copyright Act civil proceedings can be taken to prevent the importation or sale of infringing copies. Also criminal proceedings can be taken and have been taken. In some cases large numbers of cassettes have been forfeited. In July, I understand, there was a case in which some 18 000 cassettes were forfeited. I also understand that recently there were proceedings instituted in which something like 60 000 pirate cassettes are the subject of possible forfeiture. Therefore so far as the enforcement of the criminal proceedings is concerned, that is being done. At the same time, honourable members may be aware of civil proceedings being taken by recording companies and copyright owners to stop these sales. The question of whether the penalties are sufficient is a matter which my Department has under review at the moment.
– I wish to take this opportunity to make a short personal explanation to the House relating to me. There was a report in the Melbourne Sun and the Sydney Sun yesterday. The Melbourne Sun article was headed ‘$500 off the Snedden menu’, and that of the Sydney Sun ‘Bill got no Party Aid!’. The newspaper articles contain very serious errors of fact. Firstly, I did go to Norway. There was a delegation of members of the Australian Parliament to Norway. There will be a delegation of members of the Norwegian Parliament to Australia next year. There was no request by me for $500. 1 am informed that the procedure followed by the Department of Administrative Services for the advancement of return of hospitality allowance provides for funds to be provided by the post to meet the cost of any proposed function or for the post to pick up the bill, and that this procedure is departed from only if there is no Australian representation in the country where a function is proposed. In the case of Norway, the accreditation to Norway is from the Ambassador to Sweden. My secretary has informed me that in the course of conversation with embassy officials in Stockholm concerning arrangements in Norway, he mentioned that I may have been required to return hospitality because I was a guest of the Norwegian Parliament. He asked the embassy whether , if this occurred, it would be possible to obtain funds. I am informed that a telex was sent without my knowledge from Stockholm to Australia. It was referred to the Minister for Administrative Services, and for reasons best known to that Minister, he declined. As to the particular items, two matters which concern me very greatly are these: If hospitality is extended to this Parliament, to members of this Parliament and to the Speaker of this Parliament, there ought to be an opportunity for response. There was one particular pan of the article in the Sydney Sun which I found objectionable. It read:
Bill Snedden has received a reminder of his boss’s belt tightening campaign . . . in Oslo, Norway.
I regard myself as an elected member of this House and my boss is the House, if I have a boss at all. I do not propose to proceed further with an analysis of the 2 articles. I found them wrong in fact. I find it surprising that this matter surfaced. There was no need for it to be known at all. I do not understand how it did become known. The fact that it did become known that my secretary had made a preliminary inquiry is a matter of public interest, as to which I would have been quite happy to answer any questions, but the manner in which it became known is, I think, a reflection not only on me but also on the Parliament.
-I claim to have been misrepresented on 2 occasions: Firstly, today in this Parliament by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and, secondly, yesterday in the Australian newspaper.
-Does the honourable member wish to make a personal explanation?
-Yes. Contrary to what was said today in the House, I made no claim that a Labor Government would continue to govern without Supply. I did say that section 53 of the Constitution did not give the Senate the power of rejection and that certainly it did not give it the power of amendment. Osborne v. Commonwealth, reported in 12 Commonwealth Law Reports at page 32 1 indicated that section 53 was not justiciable and, if it was justiciable, of course there would be no reason for a GovernorGeneral to intervene because the High Court had the power. Never at any stage did I suggest that a Labor government would continue to govern without Supply. What I did say was there was no need to receive the Senate’s approval as long as the Supply Bill was submitted for consideration of any suggestion or request the Senate wished to make.
So much for that matter. The second matter refers to an article in yesterday’s Australian in which I am reported in respect of what is deemed to be a Tasmanian precedent. I do not want to delay the House by indicating what the report says. I want to explain what it should have said.
– The honourable gentleman will be in order in saying what he said.
– I said:
In Tasmania in 1 9 1 4, the Liberal ministry was defeated on a no-confidence motion. They advised the Governor to dissolve, but their advice was not accepted. Instead, the Governor commissioned Mr Earle, the Labor leader, upon condition that an immediate dissolution take place. After being sworn in as Premier, Mr Earle refrained from advising a dissolution. Nevertheless, the Governor intervened . . . The Assembly immediately protested . . The Secretary of State ruled that the action of the Governor was opposed to constitutional practice. The Secretary of State’s communications laid down … the following propositions:
That a Governor cannot dissolve the legislature except on the advice of his Ministers.
That a Governor cannot impose a condition that the incoming Ministry advise a dissolution or indeed that they should tender any particular advice.
– (Moreton-Minister for Defence)- For the information of honourable members I present details of special Royal Australian Air Force flights for the period 1 June 1976 to 31 August 1976 together with supplementary details for the period 26 July 1975 to 17 August 1975. Due to the limited number available, reference copies of this document have been placed in the Bills and Papers Office and in the Parliamentary Library.
– For the information of honourable members I present the Industries Assistance Commission report on shipbuilding dated 20 September 1976.
– For the information of honourable members I present the report of the Department of Education for 1975.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
Loan Bill (No. 3) 1976.
Administrative Changes (Consequential Provisions) Bill 1976.
Aged Persons Hostels Amendment Bill 1 976.
Foreign Take-overs Amendment Bill 1 976.
Telecommunications Amendment Bill 1976.
– I have received a letter from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The Fraser Government’s connivance in New Zealand’s sporting contacts with racially selected South African sports teams.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places.
More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places-
– When the House met this afternoon, we were informed that the Foreign Minister (Mr Peacock) had left for meetings of the United Nations. He will arrive there under a cloud. Today, the Australian Government has been caught conniving with the New Zealand Government in flouting resolutions of many years standing as well as recently passed resolutions of the United Nations. This morning, Qantas Airways Ltd, the Australian Government international airline, brought to Perth the New Zealand Rugby Union team which had been engaging in contests with racially selected teams in South Africa. The Qantas aircraft brought the team on to Melbourne. In Melbourne, an aircraft of Air New Zealand, the New Zealand international airline, was waiting having brought enough fuel from New Zealand for a return flight to that country. Thus, the Fraser Government has lost no time in restoring the old racist overtones which for so long distinguished Australian foreign policy under the Liberals and tainted our reputation in the world. Until the end of 1972, on every racial issue Australia, New Zealand, Portugal and South Africa stood alone, sometimes beside France, the United States of America and the United Kingdom. But always, Australia, New Zealand, Portugal and South Africa stood together. Let there be no mistake; by giving transit rights to the New Zealand Rugby team, the Fraser Government is deliberately condoning sporting contacts with South Africa. It is giving succour to the contemptible South African regime. It is doing so in connivance with the New Zealand Government. The Government cannot slither away from its responsibility for what is happening today or from the consequences of its action today and in the preceding days in which it was preparing for this underhand and clandestine action. It not only is needlessly offending Australia’s neighbours; it is also needlessly embarrassing our allies, including its great and powerful ally, the United States of America. It is needlessly provoking prejudice and confrontation in Australian society. It is needlessly damaging Australia’s status and good name in the eyes of the civilised world.
The Government’s sense of timing in these matters is no less appalling than its actions. As long ago as January, the Fraser Government made it clear that it would do nothing to discourage private visits to South Africa by Australian sporting organisations. It did so during the visit of the Secretary General of the United Nations, Dr Waldheim, to this country. It has conferred its latest blessing on the forces of racial hatred and intolerance during a visit to southern Africa by the United States Secretary of State. For the past two weeks, Dr Kissinger has been working to avert racial conflict in Africa and impress upon the regime in Rhodesia and the Government in South Africa the need for toleration and respect for the rights of the African people. In all these efforts he has conveyed to the white minority governments of southern Africa the feelings of all people and nations of good will in the western world. He has embodied and represented the hopes, not only of the United States Government but also of all democratic governments for a relaxation of racial tensions. It must be obvious, even to the Liberals in Canberra, that the outcome of Dr Kissinger’s mission depended on a unanimity of purpose and a steadfast opposition to racism among America’s friends. The Fraser Government has responded to this critical challenge by undermining and compromising the objectives of the United States Administration and the steady and difficult progress to racial understanding which the whole world has fervently desired. The Fraser Government has now given its blessing to renewed sporting contacts between racially selected sporting teams. The test match between South Africa and New Zealand on Sunday was attended by Prime Ministers Vorster and Smith, the latter having broken off his conversations with Secretary Kissinger for the purpose. If any confirmation were needed of Secretary Kissinger’s attitude it was seen in his refusal to attend the match. His condemnation of racism in sport was demonstrated in striking and unmistakable fashion. The Sydney Morning Herald reported yesterday from Pretoria:
Dr Kissinger declined an invitation to the game because he felt he could not be seen sitting in a segregated football stadium. He spent the afternoon meeting black South African political leaders.
The Government’s connivance at racial sporting contacts has once again exposed the weakness and hypocrisy of the Australian Foreign Minister. The Government’s actions are all the more contemptible because they contradict the Government’s high sounding protestations. On 29 November last year, 2 weeks after this Government was installed in power, it correctly instructed the Australian delegation to support United Nations General Assembly resolution 341 1 condemning all forms of apartheid in sport. Whatever loopholes the Government may profess to find in this resolution, its general tenor was unmistakable. It bound all member nations ‘to refrain from all contacts with sports bodies established on the basis of apartheid or racially selected teams from South Africa’. It called on all governments further to exert all their influence to secure the full implementation of the Olympic principle, especially by the national and international sports bodies which have continued cooperation with South African sports bodies established on the basis of apartheid.
On 4 March, the Minister told the Parliament that in deciding what sporting contacts would be permitted with South Africa: the basic condition will be South Africa’s willingness and ability to move away from racial discrimination in sport. As the Prime Minister has indicated, we will apply the test of selection on a proper multi-racial basis.
What tests of selection were applied in giving transit to the New Zealand team? Two weeks ago, the Minister in answer to a question on notice from me, could not even say through what countries the New Zealand Rugby Union team had travelled to South Africa. He added:
There is reason to believe, however, that the team’s intinerary avoided Australia in response to publicly known Australian attitudes towards sporting contacts with South Africa.
This was not an off-the-cuff reply or a one-off reply because immediately after in the Hansard record we can see the answer that the Minister gave to the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) concerning a proposed visit by Australian police to South Africa. He said:
I have just learnt that South African Airways has available on request brochures advertising tours of South Africa on a package basis for members of the various police forces in Australia and their families.
The Foreign Minister continued:
The approval of the Australian Government for this exercise has neither been sought nor given. Needless to say, it must be a matter of serious concern to the Australian Government if such visits assume any official character and the Government would consider then what action it might be appropriate for it to take.
The moral authority of the Minister on these matters can now be seen. We can judge what influence the Minister has had in persuading the New Zealand team to avoid Australia on its return visit. The arrangements were being made presumably when the Minister gave these replies to the honourable member for Adelaide and myself. Not only has the team travelled through
Australia; it was also conveyed from Johannesberg to Perth and then to Melbourne by the Australian Government airline. It was there met by an Air New Zealand aircraft with sufficient fuel for a return flight having been brought from New Zealand.
The Minister acknowledges that ‘publicly known Australian attitudes’ are hostile to racially selected sporting teams, yet the Government itself flies in the face of these attitudes. It does so after the world has been outraged for weeks by the incidents in Soweto near Johannesburg. The outrage felt round the world about Sharpeville is nothing to the outrage now being felt everywhere as a result of Soweto. The Minister knows the feelings of decent Australians and the realities of world opinion on such visits, yet he does nothing to discourage them. All he has done is give proof of his own moral impotence. He has declared to the world not only the bankruptcy of Australian policy, but the weakness and irrelevance of the Minister responsible for discharging it.
We saw ample proof of the intensity of international feeling on this issue during the Olympic Games in July when the majority of African nations withdrew from the Games because of New Zealand’s participation. For millions of people in Africa the question of sporting contacts with South Africa is the acid test of Western sincerity on all racial questions. Sporting contacts are not just a symbol of a nation’s policy: They are the most striking and tangible proof of its good faith on the whole subject of racism. It was South Africa which brought racial politics into sport. The Liberals have never remotely understood the depth of revulsion to racism among African and Asian peoples and the threat it poses to peace and security in Africa and throughout the world. They have made no attempt to understand or respect the sensibilities of coloured peoples on racial issues. The tragic blindness of the present New Zealand Government- after all the progress made on this issue by its predecessorwent perilously close to wrecking the Olympic Games in Montreal. If Australia and New Zealand persist in these attitudes, not only will the 1978 Commonwealth Games in Edmonton and the 1982 Games in Brisbane be at risk, but we will be setting back the whole cause of racial tolerance in sport, culture, trade and international dealings everywhere. Australia will be exposed to the recrimination and illwill of a majority of the world ‘s people. If the Government can look no further than national self-interest alone, it must grasp the essential folly and danger of its present policies.
Among the first policy decisions announced by my Government in January 1973 was a ban on racially selected sports teams entering or travelling through Australia. That was a clear and unequivocal statement of national policy. It was applauded and welcomed throughout the world. It was presumably endorsed by the Liberals at the time. No one in Australia or abroad, apart from the Rhodesia lobby and a lunatic fringe of white supremacists, questioned that policy. In such matters there can be no half measures. There can be no gradations of emphasis or meaning. There can be no exceptions. We either allow these visits or we do not. Either we do all in our power to stop them or we do not. My Government took a stand on this issue; this Government is undoing it.
Let there be no cant from the Government about bringing politics into sport. My Government’s policies succeeded, after a generation of Liberal rule, in destroying this contentious and divisive issue in Australia. We took politics out of sport; the Fraser Government is now putting them back. It is deliberately reviving an issue that was dead and buried; and it is reviving it at the worst possible time for Australia, for Southern Africa and for the United Nations. Today the Foreign Minister is flying to the United Nations. Every honourable member will wish him success in his mission to the United Nations. Every member of this Parliament will trust that international goodwill for Australia survives this latest folly by Australia’s Federal Government. Our standing and goodwill will be sorely tested by what is happening today. African and Asian nations will remember the encouragement given to racial sporting visits by the McMahon Government in 1971. They will remember the offer by the McMahon Government to provide Royal Australian Air Force transport in Australia for the Springboks. They will remember the incitement to racial violence given by Mr Bjelke-Petersen in declaring a state of emergency. Nations in our region and around the world must have hoped and believed that those days were over. The Fraser Government has shown that they were wrong. Our equivocation, our weakness and our moral vacillation persist at a time when the world and our allies need steadiness and resolution and principle.
What principles are espoused by this Government? The Foreign Minister, in his speech on 4 March, said:
The Government is also opposed to racial discrimination in sport . . . our objective is not merely to express moral indignation but also to help end the discrimination . . . The Government also looks to Australian sports bodies to adopt an approach consistent with these principles.
Those words were a sham. The Government’s deeds have exposed the Government’s true nature- its blindness, its compromise, its folly, its intolerance. The tragedy of Soweto, like the tragedy of Sharpeville 16 years earlier, has shown the irrelevance and bankruptcy of Liberal policy. While other nations work for an end to racial conflict, the Fraser Government has taken a course that will give new encouragement to the racists and reactionaries in Africa, in Australia and around the world.
– I must say that in rising to reply to the speech by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) I am a bit nonplussed. I am surprised that we should be subjected to such an harangue- an harangue that is based on one simple argument that a Qantas aeroplane tran.sitted through Melbourne. I do not know whether I should be sad or angry that such a diatribe should be based on such flimsy evidence. But let us go through the facts and perhaps at the end of the speech we might probe why the Leader of the Opposition should have been motivated to bring on such a ridiculous debate in this place. Much was said about the policy of the Government, our general attitude towards sporting activities in South Africa and our relations with that country. Let me make it clear, as the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) has made it clear on many occasions in this place that in line with its general attitude towards the apartheid system, the Australian Government firmly opposes racial discrimination in sport. Let us be clear about that. In fact, our policy was fully outlined by the Minister for Foreign Affairs in a statement to the House I think on 4 March. I think the Leader of the Opposition referred to it but did not go through it in its entirety. To refresh the memories of honourable members, I repeat in its entirety what the Minister said:
The Government is also opposed to racial discrimination in sport. If our objective is not merely to express moral indignation but also to help end the discrimination, we have to consider how best this will be achieved. Is our objective better furthered by total boycott of sporting contact with South Africa or by permitting contacts subject to reasonable conditions which would encourage change? While we recognise that a case can be argued for a total boycott, this Government feels that the second approach will be more constructive.
I might say that this is in direct contrast with the sort of nonsense which the Leader of the Opposition has been talking about today. The Minister continued:
For this Government, the basic condition will be South Africa’s willingness and ability to move away from racial discrimination in sport. As the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has indicated, we will apply the test of selection on a roper multi-racial basis. As to Australian teams going to South Africa legally we cannot impose restrictions on Australians if they should decide to compete in South Africa. Australians travelling abroad are not subject to such restrictions on their activities and it would be contrary to our philosophy of liberal pluralism to attempt to alter this. At the same time, we would hope and expect that Australian sportsmen would note the Government’s views on multi-racial competition and would take these fully into account in any plans they may have to compete in South Africa. The Government also looks to Australian sports bodies to adopt an approach consistent with these principles.
I hope that makes our policy and attitude absolutely clear. But to spell it out just once more, I say clearly and unequivocally that this Government is totally opposed to the policy of apartheid. For the Opposition to suggest and for the Leader of the Opposition to suggest that there is any collusion between the Government and the New Zealand and South African authorities is absurd and patently obvious nonsense.
As to the movement of the All Black rugby team from South Africa, I point out that New Zealand Airlines do not fly to South Africa but Qantas Airways Limited does. The Whitlam Government did not direct Qantas to stop flying between Australia and South Africa nor has this Government taken such an unreasonable and silly step. The all Black team and their supporters arrived on normal Qantas flights today. There were no extra flights to carry the All Blacks. They were simply carried under normal commercial arrangements.
On 18 March 1976, Union Travel, a booking agent in New Zealand, booked 40 seats on a Qantas flight to South Africa. On 20 June 1976 it confirmed 37 seats and gave the names of the people travelling. On 27 August 1976, the South African Government cancelled the arrangements and on 3 September 1976 the bookings were reinstated. At no stage was a booking made for the All Blacks rugby team and a block booking of this nature was in no way unusual. Similar bookings have been made for various groups from many different countries. Qantas does not discriminate against types of people travelling with it commercially. As an instance of this, I point out that the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra travelled to Australia by Qantas, as did the Black Theatre of Prague. I note that the Opposition does not object to these groups travelling with Qantas. Qantas does not engage in any form of racism in its commercial dealings.
On its flight to South Africa, the New Zealand team flew Air New Zealand to Singapore, then Olympic Airways to Athens and South African
Airways to Johannesberg. As a matter of interest, the New Zealand team contained seven Maoris and one pan Samoan, all but one of whom played in tests in South Africa. So, I do not think there is any need to probe further the argument put by the Leader of the Opposition. As I said, this matter is predicated on the one issue, that is, the Qantas flight booked to provide passage, as I have already described, for the All Blacks through Melbourne. On the basis of that one flimsy fact we have had the diatribe that I mentioned at the beginning of my speech.
I am moved to ask: Why? Why should the Leader of the Opposition indulge in such antics in this place? I think it is worth while that we should probe the motives of this man. It is on this aspect that I will conclude. We have a situation here in which the Leader of the Opposition is literally clutching at any ideological straw to keep his name in front of his Party. I think that this is the only reason why he should bring such a matter forward for discussion. We all know that his leadership is only notional in this place; it is not real. We are all very keenly aware of that fact. Why else would he introduce this matter for discussion? In truth, the Leader of the Opposition can be described only as a broken man at the head of a broken Party. His position is made secure only by virtue of the fact that there is not one single alternative leader sitting on the Opposition benches. We know that the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions has been suggested as a leader, but he cannot get a guernsey. The honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) has also been mentioned as an alternative, but he is not only a reluctant bride but also a reluctant bridesmaid. He seems to want no position of authority in this place or in his party.
So, the once great leader remains a shattered shell. He was shattered, we all know, by the vote of the Australian people on 13 December last. I say that with regret because no man who had the stature which he did in December 1972 and- let us face it- carried it off for many months afterwards, should be reduced to his present stale. The point is that unfortunately- or, I suppose, for us, fortunately- he is a totally discredited figure, strutting on the political stage looking for any cause. He is no longer one who can pose as a person interested in freedom. The person responsible for recognising the brutal suppression of the Baltic states by the Soviet Union can in no sense be described as someone who is genuinely interested in freedom. Nor is a conviction for freedom consistent with the active involvement of the Leader of the Opposition in the disgraceful Iraqi bans affair about which so many words have been spoken in this place. The Leader of the Opposition is not concerned with freedom, only with certain freedoms. A man with his record should not moralise here, for his credibility has long since been destroyed. Nor should he make unsubstantiated allegations about Australia’s connivance with South Africa simply because he has a leadership problem. He is a leader in search of disciples to whom he can preach and moralise.
It is interesting that he should thunder about South Africa. In doing so, he cares not one jot about what his comments here today may have had on our relations with New Zealand. As I recall, he was the man who on many occasions affirmed Australia’s relationships with New Zealand. Not only did he affirm them; he also said he was dedicated to pursuing them. This week Australia and New Zealand are talking about their free trade agreement. Is this the time to be creating this sort of division? What does he hope to gain by his action? It can only cause uncertainty between Australia and New Zealand. But I suppose that does not really worry him very much. He has become an expert in causing uncertainty in Australia’s foreign relations. He has caused uncertainty between Australia and Indonesia and between Australia and Japan. Now he has embarked on a course which will certainly cause uncertainty between Australia and New Zealand.
Today we have witnessed the shadow, not the substance, of leadership. A real leader raising an issue of importance would ensure that the issue was important and relevant. There is no evidence that this is so. There has been scarcely any debate on the subject in Australia- nor should there be..The Leader of the Opposition is intent on creating division in Australia. Only by creating division can he ever hope to make a comeback and turn back the waters that swamped him in December of last year. Obviously this matter of public importance is yet another diversion to try to create further division within Australia and division between Australia and other countries, particularly New Zealand. It does not matter to him at all that this grandstanding will harm our relations with countries. When in office he wrecked the economy, threatened our relations with our allies and discredited the very process of government. As I said, it is truly sad that in Opposition he is pursuing the same tactics, tactics which seem to be motivated only by a death wish not only for his party but also for his country. There is nothing in his allegation. The Australian Government has not connived, in any sense whatsoever, as regards apartheid in sport. Our policy, as I made it apparent at the beginning of this speech, is manifestly clear. The claims by the Leader of the Opposition are manifestly false.
-Of so little importance does our conservative Government consider racist policies and the reputation of our nation amongst the vast majority of the world’s people that not only was the Foreign Minister (Mr Peacock) not present; the Acting Foreign Minister (Mr Sinclair) also failed to grace the chamber with his presence. I have just worked out that instead, from a pecking order of twenty-four, we have just heard from the 21st ranking Minister in the Government. That demonstrates the importance that the Government places on what is a most important issue.
Whilst the Australian Labor Party was in power there were no contacts between New Zealand and South Africa in sport just as there were no contacts between Australia and South Africa in sport. One reason for this, quite apart from the fact that there was a good Labor government in New Zealand, was the cost incurred in transporting sporting teams to South Africa. It is noted in relation to the last visit by the All Blacks to South Africa that the team did not travel through this country. It is extraordinary that the present Government has now allowed this to happen, as it is extraordinary also that it takes so little account of the importance of this issue that it serves up the 2 1st ranking member of the Ministry to speak for the Government on the issue. Once again a smokescreen tactic has been used. The 2 1 st ranking Minister has made a personal attack on the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) instead of devoting himself to the proper issues of the racist policies of South Africa and how they are fostered by sporting tours of that country.
I visited South Africa just over a year ago. I made sure that I did not have the normal white tour of that country. I met the oppressed in that tragic country. I attended the so-called treason trial of South African students in Pretoria. The crime of those students was that they had gathered together in a meeting to protest against the racist laws of their country. I visited good, courageous people- white, black and coloured- who had been house arrested, banned and oppressed. Some of them had spent long terms in prison, including imprisonment on Robin Island. I spoke to those political leaders who were free to speak. Of course, not all are free to speak. Nelson Mandela was in prison and I was unable to visit him. I visited a couple of incredibly poor black towns outside the white cities. They were inhuman places where the conditions were ghastly. I came out of South Africa far angrier than I went in.
My time is short. Let me quote from some cryptic notes I made in an aeroplane on coming away from that place. I noted how there is such a need for radical change among the vast majority of the white people in that country. I hope that change will come about peacefully. I noted how the Government uses ‘ferocious powers of executive action’. It has statutes like the Affected Organisation Act, the Unlawful Organisation Act and the Suppression of Communism Act. I noted how the security branch’s action in that country have caused some people to be charged and others to be detained for long periods of time and how still others have fled from South Africa. I noted how so many of those who have been detained are held incommunicado without any charges being laid against them. I noted how there are, however, splendid and courageous people in that country, particularly in its churches, who are fighting within that country against this police state. I mention in particular the Christian Institute, which has now been declared an affected organisation. I also mentioned in the cryptic notes the propaganda machine of the South African Broadcasting Commission. That is the sort of society that is defended by some of the more mindless supporters of the Government on an occasion such as this.
There is a strong contrast between Mr Vorster’s move towards detente abroad on the one hand and the lack of effort that he and his Nationalist Government have made towards detente at home. In fact, he has been exacerbating internal policies of detention and so on towards those people who are fighting against the oppression in that country. I came away from that country with this quotation:
A nation cannot be great when it is built on the misery of the vast majority of the people.
That is the situation in South Africa at the moment. My one dominant impression at the time was that there was need for radical change. My one dominant hope was for that change to be peaceful and not violent. This visit was before what happened in Angola. This visit was before the heightening of the tensions in Rhodesia. This visit was before the recent riots, with tragic loss of life, in Soweto, in Cape Town and in so many other black cities of that tragic country. This visit was before the vast majority of the white people in South Africa realised how close was violent change. But how many of them know it now? They are still being soothed by their Nationalist political leaders into believing that the riots are some communist plot and that the police will control them. So many whites in South Africa are living in a fool ‘s paradise.
There is but one hope for these tragic peopleblack and white- in South Africa if more violence is to be averted and that is that there be detente at home as well as abroad for them and that there be an incredibly radical change in the thinking of the overwhelming majority of white people into realising that a multi-racial society that is built on the principle of human dignity for all- black as well as white- is the only hope for their future. That is where we in this country can play a part.
There is a sporting culture in that country like there is in this country. I may have come away from that tragic country angry, but I was also proud of the actions taken in this country by progressive people- progressive Australians partly led by courageous South African refugees- in instituting sporting boycotts. They have had and are having a wonderful effect. These sporting boycotts have been the most successful means of slowly changing the thinking of some white South Africans. They have been most wonderful encouragement- a tonic- for those whites and blacks in that country who are working for that radical change peacefully. It was not comfortable to be a member of the Australian Labor Party in South Africa, but I was certainly proud to be one because of the actions of the Labor Government in Australia in instituting these boycotts and making the whites in South Africa stop and think about the issues I have outlined.
With all that we have in common- football, cricket and so on- this is the one way in which we have made whites stop and think. We are not bringing politics into sport. As the Leader of the Opposition has said, South Africa did that. It was the one which chose sporting teams on a racial basis- not us. We will agree to sporting contact again when they take politics out of sport by choosing their sporting teams on a non-racist basis and instituting other non-racist policies in that country.
If that attitude and those policies were the order of the day when I was in South Africa they are even more so today. The violence inside and outside the country has drawn to the attention of the whole world, including whites in South Africa, how close is the holocaust unless there is a radical change in the minds and hearts of white South Africans. It is our duty to help sympathetically to bring about this change. There is still a long way to go. No knowledgeable observer of sport in South Africa would pretend that there is non-racial sport there. There have been merely one or two gestures as a form of window dressing. I would like to quote from Hansard in South Africa what the South African Minister of Sport and Recreation still has to say about the subject, but as I am running out of time, I seek leave to have the quotation incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The quotation read as follows- ‘With regard to reports in the Press that the Transvaal or any other cricket union is contemplating the establishment of mixed club competitions, I now want to state by repetition clearly and frankly that such action will not be in accordance with Government policy and that violation and disregard of the policy of the Government will force us to regard it in a serious light, because it will not promote sport in S.A. ‘In a nutshell the policy of the Nationalist Government is one of multi-national development, that each nation practises and administers its sport separately on club level, provincial level and national level, as it has done in S.A. all the years. And that we then say to the sportsmen and to the world that we grant the opportunity to every sportsman and to every sportswoman, irrespective of race or colour or creed, to reach the highest rung, unrestricted, within his own national bounds. And further to grant every sportsman and woman in S.A., irrespective of colour, race, creed or whatever, the opportunity to compete with the sportsmen of other nations in S.A., and with the best sportsmen of any other country in the world.’
– I would also like to have incorporated in Hansard a letter from Mr Hassan Howa who is a friend of mine and who was formerly President of the South African Mixed Race Cricket Association.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The letter read as follows-
It is no doubt necessary at this stage to review the sports struggle of non-racial organisations, the chaos and misunderstandings which is caused by a very effective ‘fifth column’ and a very powerful propaganda machine, inter alia, all the newspapers in the country which are white owned although they have supplements for ethnic reading with a policy dictated by a white editor.
In such a review one has to keep in mind what South African White only sport organisations are trying to do at this stage-
In trying to review the position I feel I shall have to stick to cricket which I know best, of course, and I am sure your will be able to see the parallel in the other sports.
Although many attempts were made to intimidate or fool our players into playing against this side, players for the first time in the history of SACBOC in June of this year, unanimously refused to follow the dictates of the SACBOC president, Mr Varachia. to play against what they term a renegade side. Last June, as you know, the three cricket bodies in this country formed a committee named ‘the Committee of 9’ with terms of reference ‘to implement the playing of normal cricket at club level ‘. The word normal is now being used instead of multi-racial (?) or non-racial as these terms did tend to confuse people.
It must be quite evident that the International Wanderers under Ritchie Benaud had been invited to tour South Africa a long time ago but had stipulated that they would want to play against multi-racial (?) sides. The South African Cricket Association then hastily replied to an invitation from SACBOC for a summit meeting and established the Committee of 9;
This morning (Saturday, 27 March 1976) some players demonstrated at a SACBOC match at Stellenbosch with the result that-
The umpire walked off;
I need not remind you that by a strange coincidence (which I do not believe) the demonstration this morning had a precedent at Newlands just prior to the now cancelled South African tour to Australia.
This week notice was given in Parliament of an amendment to the reservations of separate amenities Act which would give the Minister of Community Development greater powers in the control of the provisions of the Act and which extends the criminal jurisdiction of the Magistrate’s Court in imposing the regulations of this Act and which would now extend the powers of the Act even to private sports fields, etc.
In view of this Bill how can anybody in his or her right mind believe that normal sports relationships will be implemented this year.
It is quite evident that the multi-racial (?) soccer and the invitation of a group of black athletes to South Africa is a plan to ensure that the All Black Rugby tour to South Africa will take place.
Do you still think that the New Zealand Prime Minister’s claim that to stop the All Black Tour to South Africa he is bringing politics into sports. In South Africa politics control sports.
-That letter and that quotation from the South African Hansard show what a tragic situation still exists in South Africa. Mr Hassan Howa concluded his letter by pointing out what an important issue was the New Zealand All Blacks rugby tour of South Africa. By this action today we have identified ourselves with that tour, to the embarrassment, as the Leader of the Opposition has shown, not only of ourselves but also of the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs at the United Nations.
– If there is one thing that is interesting about the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) it is that he can talk. He wants the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) to come home from overseas to listen to the diatribe that we have heard from honourable members opposite this afternoon. The Australian Labor Party has set out this afternoon to try to make us the champions of apartheid in the eyes of the intellectual Left, which is that Parry’s main support. It is an absolute red herring to try to brand honourable members on this side of the House as the people who want to support apartheid or the South African regime. I want the people of Australia who are listening to this debate to get it into their heads that the Labor Party, as evidenced in issues that it has brought up in the House lately, is trying all the time to throw crumbs to those of its intellectual Left and is not worried about the working people of Australia, who want it to get down to being a fair dinkum and reasonable Opposition in this Parliament.
The Labor Party has again raised this afternoon the issue of racially selected teams. I deplore the principle of selecting teams on a racial basis, as do all honourable members on this side of the House. The racist overtones that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) spoke about are not part of the policy of the Liberal Party of Australia. In contrast the Labor Party is a Party of double standards, as the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Newman) pointed out a few moments ago. The members of the Labor Party are the ones who condone racist policies in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. People in this country still remember that the Labor Party is the Party that commenced the so-called White Australia policy, the Party that made people frightened of having kanakas in this country and the Party that said that bringing in people with a different coloured skin would prejudice the precious jobs of white people. The roots of the Labor Party are in racism. Many of the elderly people in Australia do not forget that.
The attitude of the Labor Party towards Aborigines at this very moment smaks of double standards. We saw on Monday Conference last night the sort of stirring up that is going on by the intellectual Left with Aborigines. We can see from this and from the speeches that members of the Opposition have made in this House on the Budget that the Labor Party is still aiming at stirring up racial differences in this country. Who are honourable members opposite to try to set us up as the champions of apartheid?
The word ‘connivance’ is mentioned in the matter of public importance. It is said that the Australian Government is conniving with the New Zealand Government. Honourable members opposite are saying that we are in complicity with the New Zealand government. They are implying tacit acceptance of what the New Zealand rugby team has done. I would venture to say that not a single member on the Government side has said that the New Zealand people should send sporting teams away and play against teams in South Africa that are selected on a racial basis. There is not connivance on this side of the House. The accusation that there is connivance is an utter smear. It is the tactic of a party that has run out of backbone. Let us look at the record of the statements that have come from this side of the House. A statement from the Minister for Foreign Affairs reads:
In line with its general attitude towards the apartheid system, the Australian Government firmly opposes racial discrimination in sport. The maintenance of sporting contacts with South Africa will depend on that country’s willingness and ability to move away from racial discrimination in sport.
That is plain enough. Another statement by the Minister for Foreign Affairs on 4 March reads:
The Government is opposed to racial discrimination in sport. But if our objective is not merely to express moral indigation but to help end the discrimination, we have to consider how this will best be achieved. Is our objective better furthered by total boycott of sporting contact with South Africa or by permitting contact subject to reasonable conditions which would encourage change? While we recognise that a case can be argued for a total boycott, this Government feels that the second approach will be more constructive.
The attitude of the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) is as follows:
Sportsmen from South Africa will not be allowed to enter into this country if they represent sporting clubs whose membership reflects a policy of apartheid. In fact individual sportsmen may only be considered if they do not purport to represent South Africa or a specific club there whose membership reflects apartheid.
Our position is quite clear. We are as strongly opposed to apartheid as the responsible members, if there are any, in the Labor Party. Who are we to say that New Zealanders cannot pass through Australia? Do we want to stop them from going home? If we said they could not land at an Australian airport in a Qantas jet, do honourable members opposite think they would not be able to get home? Do they think that sort of gesture would make one jot of difference to the apartheid policy in South Africa? It would be a good thing for the Labor Party to remember that the New Zealanders have a very responsible attitude to racism. New Zealand is one country that may be pointed at as having genuine racial harmony. As the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development pointed out, there were 7 Maoris in the New Zealand rugby team that went to South Africa. I might just add that I would not have wanted to go with that team and play against the Springboks. The team had 7 Maoris. Does that indicate that the New Zealanders went to South Africa to encourage apartheid?
Who are we to ban next from landing at our airports? Are we to ban all New Zealanders because they come from a country that sent a sporting team to South Africa? Are we to ban all Russians because Russians have demonstrated over many years that they have a very solid racial prejudice against Jews? Are we to stop all Iraqis? Where will the members of the Labor Party who raise this issue stop? When will they start talking about ways of doing things? We do not want words on this issue, and we do not want selfrighteous indignation. We need action on racial harmony. We want quiet and human attitudes encouraged. The Labor Party might learn a great deal from recent events in Northern Ireland, where quietly and with genuine love and understanding the women of Northern Ireland have begun to tear up the attitudes of man against man in that country.
Accusing a party like the Liberal Party, which has a genuine abhorrence of apartheid, of being the champion of apartheid is an absolutely false, misleading and smearing method of going about business in this House. There was only one thing in the speech of the Leader of the Opposition that is worth supporting and that is his support for the efforts of Dr Kissinger in South Africa at the moment. I just wonder what Dr Kissinger thinks of the Leader of the Opposition. The only thing that the Leader of the Opposition said that is worth commenting on, apart from pointing out that his speech was a straight smear on the attitudes of the Liberal Party, is the reference to Dr Kissinger. The rest of the speech was based on the false premise that the Government is conniving in the support of apartheid. It was also based on the eagerness of the Labor Party to throw crumbs to an absolutely misguided intellectual Left which has little interest in the love and understanding between races that we on the Government side believe in and are working towards.
– The discussion is now concluded.
Debate resumed from 9 September, on motion by Mr Ellicott:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– This Bill is a further amendment of the family law legislation. As the House would be aware, in the debate on the original legislation there was a free vote. That is still the position on the Opposition side. I must indicate at the outset that a number of people, including those in the Opposition, feel that the proposal in clause 7 should not be approved. Under this proposal, for the first time in many years a fee will need to be paid on the filing of a petition for divorce. It is limited to that. It is recognised that it will not apply where legal aid is available and in certain other circumstances which may be subject to the discretion of the Registrar.
We feel that is a wrong concept because there is enough difficulty and enough friction between parties in matrimonial suits. The whole concept of the family law legislation was to get away from the question of costs and pecuniary penalties. Admittedly at this stage there is a $60 fee. We regard that as just the first step. Once a Treasury official sees he can get any form of tax, no matter how small, he is always anxious to escalate it rather rapidly. I can equate the situation to that applying to broadcasting and television licences. We know how the cost of those licences escalated because it was said that the Government needed more money. If we adopt the idea of the fee on the filing of a divorce petition we will never get anywhere in trying to reach the ideal situation under the family law legislation of reducing divorces, reducing friction and doing away with the hardship that is obviously caused by parties being unable to agree, particularly on matters related to the children. On that hypothesis, if we can reduce the divorce rate, we will reduce under this proposal the amount of money that is available for legal aid. I think that is wrong.
I have no particular disagreement with the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott) on how he is administering the family law legislation in respect of making legal aid available except in relation to the severe limitations on legal aid. We would like to see much more expansive legal aid. We feel that legal aid itself is in its infancy, but it has been stifled at this early stage because of Treasury influence. However, we think it is quite wrong to suggest that we need to get a further $2.8m under this proposal which will be available for legal aid. We do not think this money should be extracted from unfortunate couples who have been obliged to file a divorce petition. In our opinion, this is no way to approach the problem. The Treasury should make sufficient and adequate funds available to guarantee adequate legal aid. If the Opposition were responsible for legal aid, such aid would be available much more generously than it is now. It will be apparent following question time today that the Opposition believes the means test is far too stringent. As the honourable member for Lang (Mr Stewart) indicated, there could well be a situation where a pensioner couple were not able to get legal aid, and that seems to laugh in the face of need.
The Opposition is saying quite strongly that it opposes this provision in principle. We do not think it has any merit whatsoever. It is also quite wrong to suggest that this is one way of helping legal aid finance. Obviously the position must soon be reached where a legal aid commission will be established on a Federal basis. I think the States are prepared to do something about that but are frightened of the cost. If we delay the establishment of such a commission for much longer we will not get anywhere. I am mindful of the fact that prior to the presentation of this Budget the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott) said that he was limited to an amount of $lm a month for legal aid, which went nowhere towards meeting the need. Certainly that amount has escalated a little, although not enough, in this Budget. The Opposition believes that the imposition of this tax is contrary to the principles that were espoused in this House- on a free vote, I might add- at the time the earlier legislation was passed. At that time no suggestion was made by any member that there ought to be a filing fee. Accordingly, the Opposition opposes clause 7 and will move for its deletion.
I am a little happier about the other provisions of the Bill. The Attorney-General has suggested that clause 3 is necessary because of difficulty in the interpretation of ‘State wards’ and the question of their status under the Family Law Act. The Opposition agrees that it is important to give the Family Court as much jurisdiction as possible. We recognise the difficulties that now flow from the problems enunciated by the High Court in the decision in Farrelly v. Family. The Commonwealth does not really have the constitutional power to deal with ex-nuptual children and others, and that is certainly going to affect the efficacy of the family law jurisdication. Again, while agreeing with the inclusion of that provision in the Bill, might I cross swords with the Attorney-General on his concept that the best way to overcome the defect in the Constitution is to confer jurisdiction on the States in relation to this matter. I think it would be much more beneficial if we were to get the States to confer their jurisdiction on the Commonwealth, while creating State family courts as well. Under placitum 37 of the Constitution, there is power for this to be done. If the whole of the State jurisdiction were conferred upon the Commonwealth there would be no gap because the Family Court, with jurisdiction conferred in accordance with that placitum, would cover the whole field.
I think the Attorney-General is in error in suggesting that it is far better to give the jurisdiction to the States. The States could take the part of the jurisdiction which the Commonwealth has and continue to carry out the State jurisdiction which remains with them because of the decision in Farrelly v. Farrelly. We all know that because of the practices in the courts there could be six different interpretations under State laws and there could well be a fragmentation of the real definition of family law. In the view of the Opposition, it is important that there be one set of courts dealing with one problem. State instrumentalities could alter their laws from time to time and the Commonwealth could do nothing about it. We strongly urge the AttorneyGeneral to suggest to the various State AttornesGeneral that the State power be referred to the Commonwealth. I think the Attorney-General would find ready acceptance in 2 very important States, namely South Australia and New South Wales. Tasmania might well accede to such a request, but why should not all the States accede? In that way the whole ambit of custody and maintenance and exnuptual children could be covered. I noticed that in this House the other day the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) referred to the difficulties of adoptions arranged overseas and the need to have those adoptions recognised. That was one example of a Federal Minister being involved in the question of adoption. From an Australian point of view, I think it is fair and reasonable that there should be no State boundaries in relation to family law, including custody and maintenance. The law should apply to the whole nation. We are one people with one citizenship and we ought to have one family law. For that reason, I urge the Attorney to adopt a new approach and ask the State Attorneys-General to confer that power on the Australian Parliament. Of course, it could be referred only for as long as a State Parliament wished it, but I think that suggestion has more merit than the suggestion that the States do the work for the Commonwealth.
On the question of the machinery measures contained in the Bill, particularly as to the enforcement of orders, I wish to make some comments, and in this respect I am particularly beholden to a colleague in Victoria for giving me this information. I convey it to the AttorneyGeneral for his attention. My colleague states:
Problems have arisen in relation to enforcement of Orders pursuant to …. Sections 105-112 of the Act and Regulations 132-139 . . .
He continues: . . . No suitable person or body has been appointed under the Act to enforce Orders made by the Court.
Attempts have been made to enforce Orders, but these have been unsuccessful because:
In fact. Commonwealth Police have from time to time helped to enforce Orders for custody but it has proved impossible to get them to enforce Orders for non-payment of maintenance or Orders for property. . . . There is clearly an urgent need for some person or body to be appointed to enforce Orders of the Court for at present Orders for maintenance and property cannot be enforced. Perhaps a limited short term solution would be to appoint an official in each State to enforce Orders pursuant to regulation 1 35 of the Act.
Again he reminds us of the grave problem of finances:
A further problem being faced in Victoria is the lack of Judges and back up staff. At present the delay for a defended divorce is up to 2 years and it can be readily appreciated that such lengthy delays in the Court compound problems already existing between the parties.
I think that submission is self-explanatory, but it indicates clearly that we must be very much more attuned to the needs of people in the various parts of Australia. It indicates also the difficulty experienced in getting understanding of the concept of a new law. The concept of the Family Law Act is very good in relation to conciliation, the reduction of friction and the assistance of people in need.
The problem comes back to the fundamentals I have mentioned. There should be no paucity of legal aid; there should be no distinctions of jurisdiction between the States and the Commonwealth. It is most important that there is an ability to enforce an order across all State boundaries, irrespective of where that order has been sought, and if there is a gap in that respect, as has been suggested, I ask the Attorney-General to address his mind to it. I repeat what I said at the outset: The Bill as it is drawn meets with the approval of the Opposition, except for clause 7, the deletion of which we shall seek in the Committee stages.
-The Bill presently before the House is not complex. The clauses are few in number, and I intend to be brief in my comments on them. In essence, the legislation creates power to prescribe fees, payable on the filing of documents in the divorce jurisdiction, as well as creating a power to exempt persons from the payment of such fees. In addition, the Bill clarifies certain provisions of the principal Act- the Family Law Act- relating to maintenance and custody where the child or children concerned are in the care of State welfare authorities. I believe it is important for the public to realise that this legislation does not alter to any significant degree the fundamental principles of the Family Law Act. Those remain unaltered.
The principal Act was the result of many years of campaigning to make the law relating to marriage breakdown more realistic and more humane and to ensure that those made most vulnerable in a divorce situation, normally the wife and children, are absolutely and adequately protected. The principal Act, enacted last year, replaces the existing Australian laws of divorce and nullity of marriage and supersedes State and Territory laws of maintenance, custody and property relating to marriages and to the children of marriages. It creates the Family Court of Australia and provides for the establishment of State Family Courts. It provides counselling and advice services, not only to assist in reconciliation but also to help persons who are separated or divorced. It abandons the fault concept to a large degree and provides only one ground for divorce, namely the irretrievable breakdown of marriage based upon evidence of one year’s separation. I want to stress that these important provisions remain unaltered.
Let us look briefly at the fee situation which appears to be the only issue in contention in this place today. I cannot see how anyone could reasonably object to the payment of fees on the filing of divorce applications. Therefore I believe that the amendment should be accepted by all members of this Parliament. The amount of the fee, of course, is not specified in the Act itself. The Act merely creates the power to set a fee. All honourable members have an opportunity to scrutinise the regulations. The Government, of course, has announced that the fee will be $60 on the filing of each application after 1 October. No fees are payable on maintenance and custody applications as such or upon applications for ancillary relief. No fees are payable on affidavits and other documents that might be filed in the Family Court. I do not believe that the fee is excessive. It is in line with fees payable previouslyfees that were abolished in, I think, 1 973. If inflation is taken into account, I believe that the fee of $60 payable on the filing of an application is not excessive.
I want to make some other points to the House. Firstly, people who use the facilities of the Family Court- its staff, its buildings, its documents and forms, its equipment and servicesshould make some contribution to the costs which would otherwise be borne by the community at large. I am not suggesting that we should penalise those who have the misfortune to be involved in divorce suits; that certainly must not be the case. It is simply not the kind of essential service that should be totally free, totally subsidised by the public. Generally those people who use civil courts, who seek redress of one kind or another- for example, compensation or damages- must contribute towards the costs involved in the court proceedings. They must pay some fees. Filing fees are payable in almost all jurisdictions- in the local courts or magistrates’ courts, in the Supreme Court, in the High Court. In almost all other legal matters going before a court sitting in any type of jurisdiction fees are payable on applications, on affidavits and on notices of all kinds. If, for example, a person wants to collect a small debt, he must pay a fee on the summons. If a person wants to dispute or defend that debt then he must pay a fee on filing a defence or a notice of intention to defend. It is only right, therefore, that some fee should be payable in divorce cases as well. It is only an extension of the ‘user pays’ principle. But the once-only fee of $60 would certainly not cover the actual cost involved in court proceedings; nor would it cover the costs generally of the services that are provided. The actual cost, I believe, would be hundreds of dollars. So we are talking about an amout of $60, which might appear to be a large amount but which is a relative small contribution towards the actual cost.
People can be exempted from the payment of these fees under the legislation now before the House. There will be automatic exemption if the person qualifies, for legal aid. So again there is evidence that the Government is concerned about the needy and believes that the needy in the community must be assisted. The purpose of the fee, as has been stated by the AttorneyGeneral (Mr Ellicott), is to provide further funds to meet the rising costs of legal aid. Eighty per cent of Commonwealth funds for legal aid matters referred to private legal practitioners is in respect of matters arising under the Family Law Act. In this years Budget $20m has been allocated for legal aid; $9. 5m will go to the legal profession for services rendered in assisting people in need; 80 per cent of the $9.5m will therefore be for family law matters. The total expected to be derived from the fees that will be payable after 1 October is $2.8m. However, as was mentioned by the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen), $2. 8m against a total Budget allocation of $20m for legal aid indicates that not a great deal of money is involved in this.
I support the legislation. It is reasonable that fees be charged on divorce applications because, as I said, fees are paid in relation to almost all other jurisdictions. The proposed fee of $60 as a once-only fee on such applications in itself is not excessively high. The income received will enable the Commonwealth Government to continue to provide excellent legal aid services for those people in the community who are in need of such services.
Before concluding I want to mention briefly one matter which, although not directly on all fours with this particular Bill, nevertheless is, I believe, relevant on this occasion. Section 97 (3) of the principle Act provides, inter alia, that the Family Court shall proceed without undue formality. In many instances, the Court continues to be quite formal and, I believe, impersonal. The hearings are usually held in court rooms, with the judge sitting on the bench looking down on the parties and the witnesses. I believe that people are still overawed by the proceedings and the formality. I do not think the Family Court will fulfil its purpose or achieve the standing it will need to have to administer effectively the Family Law Act, and the family law jurisdiction, until it eliminates, as far as possible, legalism and formality from its proceedings. The public certainly wants less formality. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table from an English article titled Judicial Hearings of Undefended Divorce Petitions by Elizabeth Elston. The table is very short and I seek leave to have it incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The table read as follows-
– The table contains the results of interviews with 102 petitioners in England following the hearing of their divorce suits. They were asked to make suggestions on how to improve the system. Of the 102 people interviewed, 52 said that the hearings should be less formal, less like a court room; a further 38 said that the hearings should be private. So 52 out of 102 and 38 out of 102 made those suggestions; they are very significant percentages. Privacy and informality are two fundamental principles incorporated in our Family Law Act. I take this opportunity to remind those administering the courts of that fact.
-The Family Law Amendment Bill (No. 2), which is before the House, has this very simple title:
To amend the Family Law Act 1975.
I want to deal with some aspects of the operations of the Family Court since it commenced early in 1976. On 25 May 1976 I asked the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott) this question:
Has he received any reports from any source on the behaviour of certain judges of the Family Law Court? Is it open talk in legal circles that some judes are refusing to accept evidence, delivering homilies, castigating persons -
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. The honourable member for Lang has stated to the House that he is going to canvass aspects of the Act which are not being amended by the Bill before the House. I want to ask you whether it is in order for an honourable member to do that.
– Normally in a second reading debate an honourable member can refer to matters relating to the Bill in making a point in his speech. I suggest that perhaps the honourable member for Lang should be allowed to continue his remarks for a further period of time until he reaches the stage of developing his speech to such an extent that a judgment might be passed on the relevance to the legislation of what he is saying. I call the honourable member for Lang.
– I see that at least you have read the second reading speech and had a look at the Bill to amend the Act. This Bill provides for the charging of $60 for filing a petition. If a person has to pay $60 when filing a petition, he or she is entitled to expect that the Family Court of Australia will act in accordance with what is believed to be justice. This Bill also gives the AttorneyGeneral wide powers to make regulations. The Attorney-General has not spelt out in his Bill precisely in which direction he will make regulations or precisely what those regulations will be. The title says: ‘. . . to amend the Family Law Act 1975 ‘. I suggest it is a completely wide title and that I am entitled to talk on any topic which is dealt with in the Family Law Act 1975, or to talk about any action which has taken place in the Family Court. I do not question your decision. I do not intend to go to the barricades on it. The honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) delivered a quick punch and expects to escape without some reaction on my part. There is to be a free vote on this Bill. I am entitled to express an opinion. The opinions I express on this occasion are not all contentious. They are sentiments about which most members of this Parliament have received correspondence in the last week or so.
-Order! There is only one thing that I want to point out to the honourable member for Lang. I would not like him to devote his entire speech to the principal legislation. I anticipate that the honourable member will not do that, but in order to make his points on the amending Bill it will be necessary for him to refer to the principal Act. That is the comment I make in regard to the point of order raised by the honourable member for Griffith. Having regard to the experience the honourable member for Lang has had in this House I have no fear that he will transgress the Standing Orders.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, you show your long experience in the chair. I asked a question and I shall not quote it. Apparently that is the thing that is getting under the skin of the honourable member for Griffith. In that question I suggested that the Family Court was not acting in accordance with the Family Law Act. In answering that question, the Attorney-General talked about a High Court judgment having declared section 97 of the Family Law Act invalid. He was going to talk to the AttorneysGeneral of the States about it. He is making amendments to the Act. I want to ask whether the Attorney-General has come to any agreement with the Attorneys-General of the States about section 97 of the Act. The honourable member for Braddon (Mr Groom) spoke about hearings being in camera or in public. When the Attorney-General answered this question in May he said that he was inclined to believe that the Judge should be judged while the trial was on. He quoted from Bentham: . . . it keeps the judge himself, while trying, under trial.
I want to know how far the Attorney-General has gone in his consultations with the States about section 97 that was declared invalid. Again, I mention what the Attorney-General said in his answer. I do not mean section 121. 1 do not mean the publishing of the evidence that appears before the Court, but has it yet been decided whether the Family Courts are to hear their cases in camera or in public? When I asked that question I had one particular case in mind. I asked whether the Attorney-General would investigate that case. I understand that the case has been heard and I believe that although the case was dismissed the appellate judges made some quite castigating comments about their fellow judge.
I want to know whether the Family Court, where people are now having to pay $60 before they can file their petition and before they can go before the Court, is operating in the correct manner. I also quote from a statement received from a person whom I know well, who complains that the barrister who appeared for his wife in previous proceedings before a court was the judge who heard the case when it came before the Family Court. I appreciate that a number of Family Court judges were appointed from divorce practices and that it could easily happen that a barrister who has appeared in court against a person in a hearing could be sitting on the bench hearing that persons petition before the Family Court.
I raise these matters because I believe they are important. AH honourable members have received in the past few days comments about sections of the Act, and particularly comments from Queensland. The most quoted section which was referred to, possibly the only section, was section 75(1)(1). In the letters I received people were inclined to make disparaging remarks about the Prime Minister. I quote from section 75 (2) (1): … the need to protect the position of a woman who wishes only to continue her role as a wife and mother.
In cases cited people are complaining that the courts are inclined to lean over backwards to protect the woman and they are not taking a great deal of notice of whether the woman should have custody of the children.
Because of your Solomon-like decision, Mr Deputy Speaker, that I should not canvass the principal Act too widely, I will not quote from these letters. I merely suggest that honourable members should look at them. I am not upholding all the comments that have been made in these letters. The court is new; there is going to be a charge on petitioners before filing their petitions. There are going to be regulations made about the activities of the Family Court and I know that this is the second set of amendments which have been made to the Family Law Act since it came into operation this year. Surely this
House is the place where we should raise these matters when the Bill comes before us.
– I rise to make a point of order. Have you, Sir, ruled against the honourable member quoting one example. I did not gain that impression. I think there is a misunderstanding.
– I pointed out to the honourable member for Lang that it is not advisable for him to make his complete speech on the original legislation or on matters relating to the original legislation, but when an amending Bill is before the House, a member is allowed to mention relevant passages and factors within the principal Bill in the comments he makes on the amending legislation. Passing references should be brief and to the point. I have said this on a number of occasions.
– I ask the Attorney-General: Why has section 75 ( 1) (e) of the principal Act not been amended in this Bill? I base that question on a letter I have received. I will not quote the persons name or address. I think all members of Parliament have received a copy of it. It reads:
I note from an article in the daily newspaper that a Family Law Council is to be set up to review the Family Law Bill. As the article indicated that some members of Parliament would be part of this Council, you should be aware of the antagonism that has been created by Mr Fraser’s persona] amendment to the Family Law Bill, section 75 (2) (i) that permits excessive bias against men to be exercised by the Court.
I was an applicant for Dissolution of Marriage earlier this year . . ., having been forced to leave the marital home for health reasons by a wife who was addicted to drugs for over fifteen years.
Prior to the divorce action 1 had been seeing the children regularly and in my application I therefore applied for joint custody. My wife replied by filing an application for sole custody and at the same time sought additional maintenance.
At the divorce hearing, Mr Justice . . . granted the divorce. He indicated that my wife would be given sole custody of the children and adjourned the hearing for one month at which time he proposed to finalize this matter and determine maintenance, property settlement, etc.
Prior to the date set for the second hearing, my wife died. At the first hearing, the Court inferred that I was not a fit person to be given joint custody of the children; in sharp contrast, the Court, at the second hearing, was not the least interested in what had happened to the children, where and with whom they were now living.
This serves to demonstrate the double standard at present adopted by the Court- in the short space of one month, I changed (in the Court’s opinion) from an unfit parent to one whose custody was unquestioned.
I ask the Attorney-General to consider whether the Family Court is operating in the way this Parliament intended when the legislation was passed through the Houses. I ask him to keep the activities of the court under close scrutiny and review because there is no doubt that it is still having a lot of teething troubles.
– in reply- In answer to what the honourable member for Lang (Mr Stewart) has said, may I say that I am constantly keeping the Family Courts under surveillance. I use the word ‘surveillance’ because I have even been to the courts and sat at the back while cases have been heard so that I might observe how the Act is being administered by various judges- not to observe the judges themselves so much, but to see how the informality of the courts is working. The purpose in doing this was to ensure that what was intended in the legislation was taking place. In considering what the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen) said about fees and the payment of fees and also what was said by the honourable member for Braddon (Mr Groom) in relation to family courts, it is necessary to bear in mind that these courts are basically informal. I am satisfied that by and large the judges are exercising their jurisdiction in the way in which it was intended to be exercised.
The courts that have now been established on a more or less permanent basis- for instance those in South Australia and Parramatta- are courts which I would invite all honourable members to visit if they can to witness the degree of informality that is observable there. For instance, these courts have a child minding room where parents can leave their children while they are being counselled. The courts, of course, have facilities for counselling. The furnishings are of a contemporary nature. The surroundings are very pleasant. They are surroundings in which people would feel at home- I use the word ‘home’ advisedly- so that they may be able either to take counsel or alternatively to be dealt with in relation to these very personal affairs in a way which is calculated to arrive at conciliation and not bring them to the point of abuse as was often the case under the old procedure.
There have been cases involving one of the judges in relation to the conduct of proceedings. As I am answering points raised by the honourable member for Lang I may as well mention this. This involves to some degree a question of principle- that is, the nature of the proceedings before the court. There is one school of thought which has been upheld by the High Court, namely, that Family Court proceedings are adversary proceedings. In other words, they are proceedings between the parties and the judge should not descend too far into the arena. The judge concerned has taken a different view, namely, that these are not adversary proceedings and that he is there to try to facilitate matters between the parties, that this entitles him on occasions not to be too troubled about the order of calling witnesses in accordance with the adversary system, or at times about hearing submissions from counsel. In other words, it is a system which is more akin to the inquisitorial system, I think, in civil law countries. It is designed, as he sees it, to lead to a more conciliatory method of dealing with the particular’ problem confronting the Family Court. That was a disputed principle. I just want to say that it is not an attack on the personality or the quality of the judge. Of course the High Court has spoken and I would assume that the particular judge would take note of what the High Court has said.
In relation to the fees aspect of the Bill which the Opposition has indicated it will oppose, may I say that it is not unusual to charge court fees, as I think the honourable member for KingsfordSmith will agree. These court fees, as has been properly pointed out, are not charged against people who are legally assisted or to those who suffer special hardship. They are charged to people who are able to afford them. Under the Matrimonial Causes Act fees were charged in the Supreme Court. In current terms the fees then charged were more that the $60 we are proposing to impose. Not only that, as I have already indicated, services are provided by the court- and very satisfactory services. There is no reason in principle why people should not make some contribution for the services provided. This year the cost of running the Family Courts will be something over $llm. These fees will return something like only $2. 8m. As far as the provision of legal aid is concerned, this $2.8m will help provide legal aid. The concept of using fees to help provide legal aid was adopted in the New South Wales Supreme Court.
The whole idea of using court fees in this way is nothing new. It has been known before to the legal profession, to parliaments and to the administrators of courts. It is a means of enabling funds to be provided for legal aid and it is a good thing that people do make such a contribution. I have also indicated in the Parliament today that I am trying to get the legal profession to make a larger contribution to legal aid. As the honourable member for Braddon quite properly pointed out, $7.2m or 80 per cent of the estimated $9.5m that will be paid to the legal profession for legal aid services will relate to Family Court matters. That is no mean sum. It is a very large amount. No one can say that the Government’s proposed appropriation for Family Law legal aid is in any way trifling. It is being provided and we will continue to provide it.
The honourable member for Kingsford-Smith wants us to expand the activities of the Australian Legal Aid Office. Obviously if one analysed the establishment of the Office in the time of the previous Government one would find that if I may say so, it would not be a matter for great pride. I have had some months of struggle to get this thing on the rails. I came in at a time when there was division between the Legal Aid Office and the legal profession. I believe that now there is complete understanding. I came in at a time when there was still some sense of misunderstanding between the States and the Commonwealth in relation to the activities of the Legal Aid Office. I believe now that that misunderstanding has been pushed aside and we are sitting down to the task of setting up these Legal Aid Commissions. They will prevent confusion. In New South Wales, for example, people will not have to worry about whether they go to the New South Wales Law Society, to the public solicitor, to the public defender or to the Australian Legal Aid Office. I ask honourable members to imagine the confusion that that must provide for a member of the public in New South Wales and in other States where this sad situation prevails. People will know that there is one Legal Aid Office. When they go to that office, their matter, whether it comes under State law or Federal law, can be looked at for the purposes of determining whether it is a matter for legal aid and whether the means test applies. The Legal Aid Commissions will be set up in co-operation between the Commonwealth Government and the State governments. The Federal Government will con.tiue to fund legal aid through the Legal Aid Commissions. Those funds will be very substantial. The Commonwealth Attorney-General will continue to have a close and definite interest in the working of those Commissions. Let it not be said that we are in effect trifling with legal aid.
The honourable member for Kinsford-Smith also said something about State Family Courts. As he knows, and as I have reported to the Parliament, we are engaged in discussions with the States to set up these courts so that all law relating to the family can be dealt with in the one tribunal. His idea is to obtain a reference from the States. I am interested in getting a result now, not in 10 or 15 years time as I believe would be the case if I tried to get a reference from the States on this matter. If we are to have family law administered by one court, if matters such as arose from the case Farrelly v. Farrelly are to be dealt with, if matters such as property, apart from divorce, the custody of illegitimate children, applications for custody by in-laws of children of a marriage and applications for custody in relation to children who are only de facto children of a particular marriage- for instance, the child of one of the parties- are to be dealt with by the court the only way of doing it at the moment is by having State Family Courts. I am mildly optimistic that I will achieve this result. That will disappoint the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith and the Opposition, perhaps, but I propose to proceed along this path until I realise that I cannot succeed. At that stage, I may be forced to the desperate act of having to ask the States to refer power to the Commonwealth. But may I say that I am not very sanguine of receiving it with the result that some time later I may have to go back to the States again and ask them again whether they will have State Family Courts.
May I say also that State Family Courts avoid this problem of judges being appointed for life. At the moment, there are 23 judges appointed for life in the Family Court. I would hope that if the State Family Courts are set up, most of those judges would transfer to the State Family Courts in their State. I believe that that would happen. The State Family Court system would enable that to be done. The only thing that the State Attorneys-General put up against my idea is the proposition that in some way I am interfering in the appointment of their judges because under section 41 of the Family Law Act the Commonwealth Attorney-General has a right to veto. That is really no intrusion at all when we come to consider the fact that under the Family Law Act if a State Family Court is set up, the Commonwealth Government has to pay for the establishment and the maintenance of that court. Is it really very much to ask a State Attorney-General that he might say to the Commonwealth Attorney-General, ‘Do you approve of so and so?’ I apprehend that every judge who has been appointed so far would receive the imprimatur of the Attorney-General of the State in which he was appointed. I do not think that this would be a really troublesome point or that we would be finding it very difficult to find judges who were acceptable to exercise this jurisdiction.
So I say to the House that the question of State Family Courts is well and truly in mind, as is the improvement and surveillance of those courts, together with the matter of legal aid. I would say to the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith that I think the Opposition’s attitude on this question of fees is misguided. I do not think that it is anything more than an ideological approach to this matter. It does not hurt people to pay. The amount of $60 is not large. It will not prevent people from going to court. Indeed, it will be found that husbands and wives talk about costs and in any event, the amount will be paid by one or other or both of the parties.
One other matter that the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith mentioned was a report from Victoria on the court. If honourable members look at the Budget papers, they will see that approximately $4m is set aside, inter alia, for the enforcement of maintenance orders. The regulations that were prepared by Attorney-General Enderby and introduced last December created a situation in which it was impossible to have even a clerk of petty sessions to advise a person about the starting of proceedings for enforcement of a maintenance order. Honourable members will recall that earlier this year I removed that blockage by bringing in amended regulations. Since then from time to time there have been occasions when police or sheriffs have not enforced maintenance orders. As a result of those events, discussions have been taking place with the State Attorneys-General. There are discussions taking place in relation to Victoria at the moment. Those discussions are aimed at enabling sheriffs and bailiffs to be employed for the purpose of enforcing maintenance orders. Custody orders are enforced. Of course, some people, when they take out their custody orders, do not trouble to get a warrant. But if they go to the court and get a warrant under section 64 of the Family Law Act, I think they will find that the Commonwealth Police will execute the warrant. An experience of this was brought to my notice. I had to assist somebody over the weekend who was seeking to get the enforcement of a custody order in New South Wales which had been made in Queensland. That person had to go to a judge- pull him off a golf course, as it were, over the weekend- and get a warrant issued so that that order could be enforced. The Commonwealth Police were assisting in relation to that and that part of the enforcement is working. Basically, I am told that the enforcement of maintenance orders is working. Honourable members can be assured that the administration of the Act is receiving the daily attention of my Department and whenever problems arise they receive my attention.
The honourable member for Kingsford-Smith also mentioned a lack of judges in the court in Victoria. I apprehend that he must be referring to Supreme Court judges because he referred to a defended case. If, as I think the honourable member said, it is a defended divorce case, it would not be in the Family Court. The Victorian
Supreme Court no longer exercises jurisdiction in relation to family law matters except those that are remnants, as it were, from the previous period. Its jurisdiction under the Family Law Act was cut off on 1 June. So far as the Family Court in Victoria is concerned, at the moment that Court has, I think, 6 or 7 judges. I have in mind the appointment of further judges in the near future. Due to the heavy volume of work in Victoria earlier this year that Court does have an overload of work. I have to watch this point. I take the opportunity to tell honourable members that I also have to watch the point that the volume of applications for divorce does not fall and the Commonwealth is then left with an excess number of judges. That point has to be watched carefully because, as I said earlier, these judges, as honourable members well know, are appointed for life. Therefore I am watching those applications very carefully. I have to bring the judges on stream, as it were, with an appreciation of the likely continuation of this pressure on the Family Court. During some weeks in Victoria earlier this year- I think I referred honourable members to this matter previouslyapplications for divorce were running ahead of marriages. I think the average weekly marriage rate in Victoria was something like 580 and the divorce applications were up to 600. That shows that the rush on the court in Victoria was quite heavy earlier in the year. But we are watching that situation and, hopefully, when we get into new premises in the near future we will be able to accommodate further judges and any backlog that might be thought to be appearing now will disappear.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 6- by leave- taken together.
-I should like to support the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott), particularly in relation to clause 5 because that provides for a delegation to the State AttorneysGeneral and is a most important clause. It has been put in the Bill at the request of the Western Australian Government which suggested that as it had its own Family Court it should be possible to delegate powers. If other States were to adopt Family Courts, then a very great problem that is approaching would be overcome.
The honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen) said that the appropriate course was to seek a reference. I should like to point out that there are 3 ways in which the ‘ present looming and serious problem can be overcome: Firstly, the establishment of family courts; secondly, a reference of power from the States; and, thirdly, a referendum. The last two would not meet the urgency of the situation. The first one is the only way in which to get something done for litigants who are facing increasing delays. I am reliably informed that in Sydney cases are now being set down for May or June of next year and in Melbourne for August of next year. The problems arise from the fact that there is a lot of injunction work before the courts to deal with the cases where persons seek to have their spouse removed from the matrimonial home, there being now no immediate ground for divorce. In some cases where the parties have lived under the same roof, the courts are undertaking in accordance with the Act investigations as to whether or not there has been a real separation.
In the other situation that we have just heard mentioned- the cases that correspond to the previous position in New South Wales- there are also delays. Formerly in New South Wales the Infants Custody and Settlement Act was administered by the Equity Court in the appropriate cases and the Matrimonial Causes Act was administered in the Divorce Court. In 1970 the two were merged. The merger produced a very useful amelioration of the situation. But now, because the courts are split again, we have reverted to the pre- 1970 situation. We have part of the jurisdiction in the Commonwealth and pan in the States. It is an absurd situation. If it goes on much longer, we will have increasing delays and increasing prejudice to litigants. The area has become extremely confused. The State AttorneyGeneral, Mr Walker, has recently pointed out the seriousness of the problems that might arise in relation to the jurisdiction in this area.
If New South Wales, which has the largest proportion of the population of this country and the greatest number of divorce applications is to take a lead, it should take the lead of establishing a family court. There is no other practical way in which these problems can be overcome. I congratulate the Attorney-General for the steps he has taken and for the way in which he has said he will keep an eye on the review of the Act. But if nothing is done quickly so that the State courts can be operating with a single jurisdiction within about 12 months, I am of the view that we will have a bigger shemozzle on our hands than we had under the worst set of delays before this Act came into operation.
– I cannot afford to allow too much to go on in the sense of debate. The Attorney-General indicated quite clearly where he disagreed with me. The honourable member for St George (Mr Neil), who is a professional advocate, said that he could not see why I was pressing this point of view. This brings me to the point that we thought that the Family Law Act, which we all passed here, covered most of the matters about which we are now complaining. It is now right to say that the present situation is absurd. It flowed from a High Court decision as to our constitutional powers. The Attorney-General and I can argue about the matter. My very explicit submission was that he ask the State AttorneysGeneral, particularly those of New South Wales and South Australia, to refer the necessary power to the Australian Parliament. Surely he would be pleasantly surprised if they said yes. He has foreshadowed doom by saying that he did not think he would get an affirmative answer for 10 or IS years. I agree that if it takes that long I would not be pursuing the matter. But why not ask? It would solve all the problems we are discussing here.
Clauses agreed to.
Clause 7 (Regulations).
– In the second reading debate I foreshadowed that we would oppose this clause. I do not wish to delay the Committee as there are other important matters to discuss. I just wish to answer the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott), who said that we are a bit misguided about this matter. Again I repeat that we passed the Family Law Bill following the free debate in this Parliament. At that stage we had no intention that any fees should be levied. In fact they have not been levied for some years, even though it is admitted that fees are levied in respect of the filing of other documents. I appreciate that position, but what I am saying is that there is Treasury interference in what is virtually a social welfare matter. The Attorney-General would not suggest that fees be levied if there were an appeal against a pension refusal. He is not going to suggest that they be levied in a number of other matters, particularly administrative appeals and those matters that we now have on - the statute book. All I am saying here is that it is a Treasury interference which involves a $2.8m rake-off by way of tax.
I predict that next year it will be over $3m or $4m and the fees will be increased by regulation. Somewhere along the line somebody is going to say that this is outrageous. The fees are going to be so high that people are going to say that we have taken a wrong approach to the family law concept. To say that this $2. 8m goes into legal aid means that the Government is working on a turnover of 48 000 divorce petitions a year. Surely to goodness our concept should be to have that figure down to about 8 000. If we do that, the whole concept of the Treasury would fall flat because it would not have the funds to give us for legal aid. Admittedly, legal aid has been the poor child of all State and Australian governments. We have had to rely on interest from solicitors’ fidelity funds and odd grants given by the State governments. I fully concur in what the Attorney-General says: We need a complete system of legal aid. I know that the States and the Attorney-General are working towards it and that co-operation is excellent. We applaud it. Money is needed for it. But levying a tax on filing divorce applications is no way to get the money. For that reason we reject the clause.
That the clause be agreed to.
The Committee divided. (The Deputy Chairman-Mr G. O’H. Giles)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Ellicott)- by leaveread a third time.
-Pur- suant to statute I present the annual reports and financial statements of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation, the Commonwealth Trading Bank of Australia, the Commonwealth Savings Bank of Australia and the Commonwealth Development Bank of Australia, together with the Auditor-General’s reports thereon, for the year ended 30 June 1976.
Debate resumed from 16 September, 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’.
-The Budget allocation of $140m in untied grants to local government authorities is a significant reform for government in Australia. It demonstrates the implementation of the federalism policy of this Government. It will be seen as an historical devolution of power and not simply a funding mechanism for local government. Before the interruption of the debate last Thursday I was exploring the subject of local government and the role that it should play in the federal structure. How well equipped is local government to handle the added responsibility that will flow as a result of the devolution of power to which I have referred? The State governments and the local government authorities must grasp the concept of federalism and determine to what degree they wish to assist the communities within the areas of responsibility that will devolve upon them. The task will not be easy.
It will be recognised that there is an enormous diversity in the range of local government authorities in Australia. For example, one can contrast the city of Brisbane, which has a population of 712 500 to the 64 local authorities in Australia which have a population of less than 1000 each. Area also demonstrates this diversity. For example, in the 1971 census the smallest local government authority was the shire of Sandstone in Western Australia, which had a population of 121 and which covers a total area of 10 862 square miles. Further, there is a substantial difference between States in the levies or precepts imposed upon local government. For example in South Australia, under the terms of the Hospital Act, a maximum of 3 per cent of the rate revenue must be paid towards the administrative costs of government or government subsidised hospitals. In that State 12½ per cent of the expenditure of the Fire Brigades Board must be met by local government councils in establishing fire districts. In Tasmania under the terms of the Rural Fire Brigades Act, the local government authorities contribute 50 per cent of the cost of the operation of the Rural Fire Brigade, whereas municipalities in New South Wales contribute one-eighth of the estimated expenditure within the local government district. These variations between local government authorities in population, area and State government requirements are further exaggerated when one considers the varying standards of quality of administrators and councillors and the different areas of interest between authorities.
A great deal of work on the classification of the 880 local government authorities throughout Australia has been completed. The Grants Commission has developed an expertise on local government authorities to enable it to make equitable determinations between authorities. The development of the Statistical Information System by the Local Government Branch of the Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development, in co-operation with the Bureau of Statistics, will provide a data bank of information of benefit to researchers and people concerned with local government. But I would respectfully suggest that we have only seen the commencement of the compilation of knowledge that will enable Commonwealth, State, local government and community organisations to understand the role that each will play in the federal structure.
Evidence of the desire of the Commonwealth Government to include local government directly in the federal structure can be seen in the Government’s desire to establish the Council for Inter-governmental Relations. The Council will have on it representatives from Federal, State and local government and from the community. It is interesting to note that the Australian Council of Local Government Associations, representing all shire and municipal associations in Australia, has requested the Government to increase the local government representation on the council from three to six. The purpose of this request is to ensure that there is at least one local government appointee from each State. The Commonwealth Government has supported the increase but the Premiers are opposed to it. Accordingly the representation is likely to be 5 Federal representatives, 6 State representatives, 3 local government representatives and 5 community representatives. This has not been finalised. The Commonwealth Government will continue to urge the Premiers to increase local government representation on the Council.
I believe that we must go further. Professor Percy Harris has expressed the view that a prerequisite for giving local government a place in the federal system is the development of a professionally based and specialised Public Service involved solely in local government. In the Local Government branch of the Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development we see the nucleus for a specialised
Public Service. As the devolution of power from the Commonwealth to State and local government evolves we may well see the necessity to establish a separate Commonwealth department of local government.
Local government itself realises that it has a greater role to play in the government of this country. There has been a number of extensive inquiries over the past IS years in most Australian States. These include the Mohr Commission of Inquiry into Local Government in Victoria in 1962, the Barnett report in 1974 arising from the Committee of Inquiry into Local Government Areas and Administration in New South Wales, the Brettingham-Moore report of 1974 of the Municipal Commission of Tasmania, the first and second reports of the Royal Commission into Local Government Areas of 1974 in South Australia and 3 reports in Western Australia in 1968, 1972 and, finally, 1974 when the Royal Commission on Metropolitan and Municipal District Boundaries under the chairmanship of Mr Johnston returned its report.
The reforms that are described in those reports indicate the general concern of the State governments to improve local government. I would suggest, however, that the State governments generally have been slow in implementing reforms in the local government area. The reports from New South Wales, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania have indicated that existing local authorities should be amalgamated, thereby creating larger and, it is argued, more economical and better managed municipal districts. The reports also indicate a growing concern about the funding of local government services and the necessity to seek some source of income other than the traditional property rates. This was confirmed by the joint steering committee appointed by the Local Government Ministers Conference in its 1976 joint study of local government finances in Australia and New Zealand. This particular concern has been met in part by the terms of this Budget. Local government has been granted $140m in 1976-77. In 1977-78 and thereafter it will receive a fixed percentage of the personal income tax receipts.
The establishment in each State of Grants Commissions to make assessments of the percentage of the funds that will flow to local government from the personal income tax source will also build up a degree of expertise in relation to the facilities, services and inequalities between municipalities.
Mr Martin Rawlinson, in a paper published in Public Administration in December 1975, expressed the view that the most likely successful strategy for reform is one which results in the collaborative efforts of the 3 tiers of government and which offers local government strong incentive to reform rather than attempting to impose reform from above. Mr Rawlinson suggests that incentives could include the devolution of certain State and Federal functions to the local level and greater financial assistance to local authorities which are prepared to amalgamate and take on additional functions.
I do not believe that amalgamation ought to be a pre-requisite to any added responsibility granted to local government. It is clear from discussions that I have had with many of the councillors in the McMillan electorate and with representatives of the Municipal Association of Victoria that there is a belief that local government will take on greater responsibilities in the areas of social welfare and community planning provided it has the necessary financial resources properly to administer and implement such programs. The practical result is that the first of the untied grants amounting to $ 140m in this Budget will do little more than assist local government to cope with the enormous inflation rate which has nearly bankrupted many of the local government authorities around Australia. However, with the economy being controlled and with a fixed percentage of the personal income tax receipts going to local government, local authorities will be able to plan for the first time with the full knowledge that additional funds other than rate revenue will be available. This Budget recognises the innovation of the federalism policy as it enhances the role of local government in the federal structure. I support the Budget and reject the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam).
– The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) made several addresses at the weekend in which, quite properly, he referred to the Budget. He said in a speech last Saturday that there is and can be no divorce of economic and social objectives. He further said that the Budget is a document of major social importance. This is a view of the Budget to which every member on the Opposition side subscribes. Honourable members opposite, quite rightly, have concentrated to some extent on the economic objectives of the Budget. They have been unduly optimistic in their assessment of its chances of success. It is fair to look at both these elements- both the economic objectives and the social objectives.
Let us look first at the economic objectives. The overriding concern of the Government, as it articulates it, is the containment of inflation. That may be commendable enough, but the overriding fact of economic life since the Government assumed office, and it will be for the remainder of the financial year, is continuing unemployment. It is fair to look at what the Government’s projections are in this area and what it plans to do about unemployment. It is not a subject that any honourable member should seek to treat lightly or to use for his own narrow political advantage; yet I am afraid that is what the Prime Minister sought to do at the weekend. Instead of talking about plans to bring down unemployment, to put back into employment people who have been placed on the jobless list for the first time in their lives and to give some hope to young people who have left school this year or who will be leaving school at the end of the year, unfortunately he sought to gain narrow’ political advantage when, in one of his addresses at the weekend, he said:
It should be remembered that since the election there, New South Wales, which has only 36 per cent of the Australian labour force, has accounted for 64 per cent of the increase in Australia ‘s unemployment. Of the 46 000 people who have become unemployed in the last 4 months, 29 000 are in New South Wales alone- what a record for Mr Wran.
There is not a single honourable member opposite who honestly believes that the advent of the Labor Government in New South Wales has had one ounce of effect on the level of unemployment in that State. It is related to other identifiable factors. One of the Government’s prime supporters, the Sydney Morning Herald, commenting in its editorial of Saturday, 4 September, on this line which was put not only by the Prime Minister but also by Sir Eric Willis, one of the earliest adherents to the Prime Minister’s new federalism proposals, said:
The best suggestion Mr Fraser and Sir Eric Willis have come up with is the remarkably silly one that, in some miraculous way, all the damage has been done by Mr Wran in the last 4 months. The problem deserves more serious attention than that.
And so it does. The problem of unemployment, of course, is not one that has attracted the attention of those in the Opposition simply in the last month since the Budget was brought down. Members of the Opposition have been concerned about it right through the period that this Government has been in office. It has been concerned about the Government’s unwinding of the schemes that Labor, in government, had instituted to put people back into the labour force. It is quite extraordinary to see in the material put out by the Treasury the way in which in single phrases the Government dismisses the effect of the Regional Employment Development scheme and other such schemes- so called State labour-creating schemes. It is precisely those sorts of schemes that the Government ought to be looking at now. It is precisely those sorts of schemes that would give some hope of people once more being able to earn their own wages.
The Government’s strategy in relation to unemployment has been remarkably consistent. At the same time as it has accepted an increasing level of unemployment, it has gone out of its way to make the situation for those who are unfortunate enough to be unemployed particularly inconvenient. This has been done not through something that was announced in the Budget but through the Government’s announcement in March that those leaving school at the end of this year would not be eligible to receive unemployment benefits this year but would have to wait until at least February next year, when they otherwise would have been returning to school. It is about time that the Government and its advisers came out of their castles and realised that very many school leavers, even those leaving at the end of the school year, do not expect to be unemployed during the 3 months before the school year starts again. These kinds of savings are of the order of $33m. What a piddling amount. What an ordering of priorities.
There is every prospect of continuing high unemployment. The Government, which was keen to get power last year in such a discreditable way, would now do well to tell us what it proposes to do about unemployment. Every member of the Government parties who has spoken in this debate has spoken about the level of unemployment in December 1972 and in November 1975. Let us hear about their plans to reduce it now. The Government owes the people of Australia that, after having tried their patience and torn apart the fabric of this country last year in their desperate pursuit of power.
The Government also says that the Budget is posited upon a strong growth in consumer spending. This kind of reaction has not been evident. The contrary is true. This has become particularly evident in the last month. Industry stock buildup, which may have been a little evident earlier in the year, has now turned sour. Retail sales are down, and this is confirmed by every major retail group in Australia. The bulletin issued for this month by the Australian Industries Development Association is worthy of attention of honourable members. On page 2 it states:
Many people in the private sector are also delighted to see these figures representing the apparent slashing of the government sector. But less delight might be expressed when it is realised that the 75 per cent reduction in outlay growth has been accompanied by less than 30 per cent reduction in the inflation rate. So outlays of government in terms of bricks, mortar and jobs, have been cut back absolutely . . .
The strategy behind this Budget is a base electoral strategy. The purpose of the Prime Minister’s advisers is always the same. It is to persuade the Liberal Party, as witnessed in the speeches at the weekend, and its candidates in particular, that the country has at long last moved sharply to the right. Specifically, they seek to persuade them that, politically speaking, there are no poor, no aged, no sick, no Aborigines, no immigrants, no people seriously squeezed by inflation, not many for whom unemployment is a major issue, no one whose health, education, food, shelter, protection from economic abuse or exploitation, or even survival, depends on the services of Government. According to them, there are only indignant taxpayers deeply angered at the wilful idleness of the unemployed. That is the sophisticated policy of the Prime Minister and his advisers. It is a dishonest policy. It is worthy of our condemnation. The strategy of holding down wages by holding over unions and people in the work force the prospect of unemployment is a particularly sick policy, when many of the people whom it will affect most are school leavers who will go onto the labour market without having known what it is like to earn wages. This Government contemplates that prospect quite calmly.
The question of how to react to the inflation of the last few years is not an easy one to answer. It is not one for which any person on this side of the House has pretended to have a magic cure, but the suggestions put forward, particularly by the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) and the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis), have a great deal of worth. They at least recognise what might be done. They at least hold out some hope for the future. They indicate the role played by the Government in getting spending going again, in holding out prospects of employment to people and to contractors dependent upon government work. It is simply not good enough that the result of economic confusion, which has been a world wide phenomenon over the past several years, has been a division of political life between the conservatives, who prefer unemployment to inflation but do not say so publicly, and people in the Labor Party, some of whom might prefer inflation to unemployment but again do not say so. Obviously there is no political future for the
Labor Party in such debate because unemployment in the foreseeable future will hurt a small number of people a lot but inflation will hurt a larger number of people a little. That is the kind of base electoral strategy which is at the bottom of this Budget and that is why it deserves condemnation.
Turning now to the specific words of the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam), as I shall be the last Opposition speaker in this debate I should like to address myself to every individual element of that amendment. Firtly it states: the House condemns the Budget because-
By itself, that policy deserves condemnation. As an economic strategy it is so dubious that it has not been recognised by business, which has not responded in the last month and did not respond in the preceding months when the Government was flagging this strategy. Investment is not up; consumer spending is not up. Whatever social cost the Government is prepared to pay to witness this high unemployment has not been worth while and cannot possibly be worth while. The amendment continues:
There has been no more sorry spectacle than that of Government Ministers parading around the country trumpeting the virtues of the so-called new federalism- the Fraser federalism. People have woken up to it. New South Wales, the only State which has had the opportunity to vote on it, decisively rejected a Liberal-Country Party coalition that had fallen for this bait. People in New South Wales realised that national goalsetting should be done here in Canberra. They realised that moving for the short term to block grants is a way of removing from sight the kind of programs the grants were intended to fund. Such a move is intended to remove such programs from the national focus here in Canberra so that responsibility can be duck-shoved and pushed off.
Local government knows only too well the prevarications of this Government. Statistics about the amount of Federal money made available to local government are constantly distorted at Question Time by the Treasurer (Mr Lynch), who refers again and again to the general purpose non-tied grants given to local government but always overlooks the huge amount of money made available by the Labor Government to local government for specific purpose programs. Local government welcomed that money. It knows the difference. It knows it has been gulled. It knows that the considerably less than 1.3 per cent of personal income tax which will now be made available is significantly less than the amount made available to local government by Labor. It knows that this reduction will result in increased charges being imposed by local government authorities throughout Australia and/or the reduction of the services they have been able to provide. The amendment continues:
The House condemns the Budget because-
It introduces an additional tax in the form of the Medibank levy, thus further reducing consumer spending.
There has been no sorrier deception than that which was initiated on 20 May when the Government persisted in the view that somehow Medibank had survived. Medibank died. In its place is a mish-mash of health insurance which is to be supported for the less well off half of the community by a tax. It is a tax in the way it will be collected, it is a tax in the way it is assessed and where it is placed.
The inadequacies of the way in which the tax will be collected were traversed at some length last week. However, it bears repeating this week that, as every wage and salary earner in Australia struggles with the ridiculously complicated forms foisted upon them by this Government, they should know that this inconvenience and the extra cost to which they will be put after 1 October is a result of the Government’s inadequate performance in health insurance and the breaking of a specific election promise to maintain Medibank. The effect of the levy, the tax, is going to be quite disastrous on the consumer price index for the December quarter, and that too has in it the seeds of a disastrous policy of industrial relations. The Government has been dishonest about how it intends to argue that this segment of the consumer price index should be treated when the matter comes up for argument before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. Again, industrial relations will be made so much more difficult as part of a conscious policy of this Government. The amendment continues: the House condemns the Budget because-
Dealing with the first of those categories, it was nothing less than nauseating to see the Prime Minister travel to Wilcannia to open projects while in their own Party councils honourable members opposite have had to nod agreement at the expression of racist sentiment and, outrage at the expenditure of the Labor Government on these kinds of projects. In addition to that, we have seen in this Budget a massive cut of $30m-odd from the outlay for Aboriginal affairs. Again, that is simply a pursuit of the cynical electoral strategy I mentioned at the outset.
The position of the unemployed is terribly distressing, of course, particularly that of the young employed. Statistics are now establishing very clearly a profile of the sort of person registering for unemployment at the moment, and particularly over the last couple of months. He is a person who has never had an opportunity in his life to work for wages and who is less likely to have it as a direct result of the policies of this Government. In relation to migrants, their expectations in so many areas were raised during the 3 years of Labor Government. No longer were migrants to be treated as cannon fodder in factories. Instead, they were to be treated as persons who had come to Australia and were to be given every chance for both themselves and their children, who were born here and were being brought up here. The inequalities inherent in the system were to be smoothed out. Access and social communication were to be made so much easier. Novel experiments were tried. Ethnic radio was a particular experiment, and since the Budget we have seen a less than adequate response from the Government to the demands of the ethnic community- not the demands of interdepartmental committees and boffins in the broadcasting industry but demands of the ethnic communities, clearly articulated but never acknowledged by this Government. Finally the amendment states: the House condemns the Budget because-
There is nothing more absurd than Government Ministers running around this country urging business to invest when it is not prepared to make an investment itself in the future of the country, when it says that every dollar that will put someone to work is a good dollar, unless it is a dollar spent by the Government. That is plainly nonsense, and it is no surprise to those of us on this side of the House that business perceives it as such and clearly does not respond. Business is in a slump. The corporate managers of this country cannot be blamed for not responding to the Government’s electoral strategy. They see it quite clearly for what it is. Unless they are in one of the favoured sections such as coal mining, most businesses realise that the Government has cynically connived at a strategy of business recovery in 1978, an election year. Business has become much more sophisticated in analysing the plans of government, and it will not respond in this year to those kinds of plans.
The Budget deserves condemnation. The month that has passed since it was delivered has confirmed all the worst suspicions of the Labor Opposition. The figures produced in that time and the September statistics establish the clear strategy of the Government, not just at Budget time but also at the time of the statement of 20 May and earlier statements such as that made in March about the availability of the unemployment benefit and harder work tests. All these things have pointed up what is going to happen. There will be no revival of consumer confidence in this country while this Government remains in power.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I commend the Government for the Budget and I commend the Government for not increasing taxation. I am concerned about the situation, which seems to be becoming dominant in our economy, in which we have some unions whose main aims seem to be to work towards the destruction of our economy rather than towards its recovery. Undoubtedly one of the major factors causing inflation over the past few years has been what the economists describe as the cost-push theory. This is based on the fact that a number of unions have used their collective powers to enable them to obtain wages which they would not have been able to obtain in a perfectly competitive market. They were, of course, aided and abetted by the Labor Government, especially in the mad 1 974 calendar year when that Government openly supported wage increases far in excess of the productive capacity of this country.
However, I consider that the problems relating to the union structure in this country deserve further examination in order that we may get to the root cause of the problem. One area which I believe requires examination and rectification is the divergence of the aims and aspirations of trade union leaders from the aims of their members. I believe this is an extremely important factor to be considered when looking at the problem of inflation in this country. It is fair to say, I think, that the union is thought of as the embodiment of its individual employees and that the prime role of the union is undoubtedly the maximisation of wages and the improvement of working conditions for the employee. However, it we look to what are considered by some union leaders to be their aims, we see that these may in fact differ from the aims of their members, and thus the role of some of the unions similarly differs from the strategy which should properly and reasonably be followed by those unions.
What then are the motives of the union executive? He obviously looks to the security of the institution he represents. Secondly, he looks to the security he enjoys as an official in that institution and at the wage he might gain and maintain in that position. Thirdly, he looks to his position as being one in which he can actively promote his political objectives- although that of course does not apply to all union officials. If we consider the role of the union executive pursuing his own political objectives, we can see how often in recent times the union has been treated as a political institution guided by leaders whose aims are of a nature very different from those of the union members. Clear support for that argument is shown in the refusal of the members of many unions to support the Medibank strike, which was clearly a political strike. Prior to the Medibank strike I received numerous calls from unionists desiring to work during that strike. They rang asking for guidance as to how they could avoid the strike in relation to which they had had no opportunity to voice their opinions.
If we look to the figures, it is clear that there was enormous dissatisfaction with that political strike. In South Australia the State Bank of South Australia, the Tramway and Motor Omnibus Employees’ Union and the South Australian teachers were allowed to vote on the strike. They voted to work during the strike. In Western Australia approximately 9000 members of that States branch of the Transport Workers Union defied the Federal Transport Workers Union directive to strike. In the air services industry, the Professional Radio Employees Institute of Australasia directed that its flight service members perform normal duties during the strike. These are just a few of the examples of those who were given a chance to decide whether to be involved in a political strike voting against such a strike. In many cases those people who were not given the opportunity to vote defied their union executive and worked. How often do we see union executives making decisions and being too scared to put them to the vote of their union members. It appears that the Labor Party supports such a democracy where the individual has no right to choose for himself. Just as the union executives in the Medibank strike were out of touch with their members, so it was clearly shown at the last election that the Labor Party was out of touch with its electors.
I said earlier that I considered that political strikes, in which the aims of the leaders of some of the unions differ from those of their union members, constituted one of the factors hampering our efforts to beat inflation. Those unions decrease our production and cause a fall in our standard of living from the level at which it could have been. They are killing our ability to compete on the world market and they are giving Australia an extremely bad reputation with overseas investors.
Another example of the union executives aims differing from those of the membership can be seen in many of the demarcation disputes throughout Australia. Honourable members will recall that I have mentioned, amongst the factors motivating the union executive, his tendency to look to his security in the union he represents and also to the wage he might gain and maintain in that position. Clearly then it is to his advantage to maintain and increase the membership of his union. He can do that by encouraging nonunionists to join the union or by widening the base of his union to include- or steal- members from other unions. Of course, he will have to retain the members already in his own union. Thus we have often seen in-fighting between unions trying to enlarge their union’s work responsibilities and so increase their membership to the disadvantage of other unions.
Trade unions in Australia are diverse in character and range from the small local independent association to the large national organisations. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the annual trade union collections show that there were some 280 reporting unions at the end of 1975. A small number of the unions reported fewer than 20 members, whilst the largest reported more than 140 000 members. In 1975 there was a preponderance of comparatively small unions. Some 75 per cent of which had fewer than 5000 members. Most of the States provide for registration as part of their conciliation and arbitration legislation. Thus a number of unions are registered in the States, many of those unions being relatively small organisations operating only within their particular States. That, of course, has implications for amalgamations, and it indicates the prevalence of the traditional craft unions in Australia. Undoubtedly that has contributed to the incidence of inter-union demarcation problems. It is worth nothing that in Germany there are some 16 unions compared with our 280 unions.
Recently we have seen many instances of problems arising when a union is involved with another union in a demarcation dispute. The Daily Mirror of 7 September highlighted that point on page 3 when giving details of a factory that produced 200 caravans a week having to close because of a union demarcation dispute which had stranded materials on Sydney wharves. The managing director of the company involved said:
I regret having to stand down men with family commitments who want to work. But plywood, upholstery, stoves and refrigerators for caravans have been on the wharves for S weeks and we have run out of material. Hardship for industry and workers was being caused by a few union leaders who were hungry for power. The officials just don’t want to hear about workers who have been put out of thenjobs.
That was the result of the dispute between the New South Wales branch of the Transport Workers Union and the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia over who should handle large containers. That dispute had apparently tied up half of the cargo in Sydney. I have also been informed that as a result of that and other similar disputes in the Sydney waterfront area some 2000 containers were held up and that that was causing a world-wide shortage of containers. One can only imagine how that will enhance our standing with our fellow trading nations!
Perhaps the best example of the cost to production and the final cost to the worker caused by inter-demarcation disputes can be found in the shipbuilding industry. I understand that there are some 16 unions in the Whyalla shipyard. As I have said, that is about the same number of unions in the whole of Germany. Despite the huge cost increases incurred in demarcation disputes within that shipyard, the unions continue to bicker to the extent that now all the jobs of their members are at risk. How can the leaders of those unions say they have benefited their members by continual infighting, so that now all members risk losing their jobs? The farcical nature of the politicking which goes on with some of the unions involved in that industry was made amply clear when some of those unions sent members to protest in this House. They attempted to organise a plan whereby some members were to demonstrate wildly in order that they be arrested. This House will remember that the demonstration did take place and the union members were removed from the gallery. At the same time, the union executives in Adelaide were sending telegrams demanding the release of the arrested men. Of course, the men had not even been arrested. You might have thought that the union executive, before sending the telegrams, would at least have had the intelligence and foresight to inquire whether its plan to have people arrested as a political protest had worked.
Demarcation disputes are futile exercises. They are of little or no benefit to workers and they cause major disruptions to industries and others whose livelihood depends on their services. The answer, of course, to these demarcation disputes, which are strangling Australia’s life blood and throwing workers out of their jobs, is to have amalgamation of industry unions. I understand that it has been the policy of the Australian Council of Trade Unions since the 1920s to encourage amalgamation of industry unions. Again, it would seem that the self-centred and selfish aims of some of the union executives have counteracted this policy, and whilst a few amalgamations have taken place, it is obvious that the problem still remains. It is Liberal Party policy and ACTU policy to encourage amalgamation of industry unions in order to assist in avoiding this type of dispute.
It is quite clear that the English craft type of union from which our union organisations have descended, is not appropriate to the current Australian situation. I believe the advantages gained by the unionists forming membership of a larger industry union rather than a craft-based union would be enormous. A worker would have added security of employment within his trade or within related trades which would all be under the same union, so that if there was a recession in one area of the industry, the employee could move much more easily to another area within the same union. Similarly, the employer would have an easier task in having to deal with only the one union in his industry.
Demarcation disputes of themselves may not make up a large percentage of the total number of stoppages. However, when we continually have them in some specific areas, especially on or related to the waterfront, the results are devastating. Australia cannot afford this dislocation of the industrial system. It is worth noting that the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) agrees with this statement. When he was Minister for Labor in 1973 he said in this House, reported at page 1 426 of Hansard:
Demarcation disputes concerned with protecting the revenue and membership of a union threatened with loss of coverage by encroachments of other unions are a common occurrence in this country. Too much time is lost through disputes over which unions should handle a certain job. The mobility of trade union offiicials from office to office is sometimes restricted by rules which require officials to be drawn from amongst long-standing union members only.
It is these political and demarcation disputes which are impeding our economic recovery and our efforts to beat inflation. There are probably 2 main groups of people who cannot protect themselves from the ravages of inflation. They are the farmers and the superannuitants. Nearly all other groups have a remedy. The employee can go to his employer for a wage increase; the employer can go to the market with a price increase and most other groups can go to the government to demand their increases. However, the superannuitant and the farmer have no-one to whom they can turn. It is my duty to point out to the few unions which are causing the trouble in the Australian community at present that they are causing an enormous amount of pressure to be brought upon persons like me from those who have no such control over their income. The rural sector which is dependent upon world markets relies upon the support of the government to protect it. The rural sector has no Prices Justification Tribunal, nor is there any indexation of its income. There is no strong union to press for higher wages in that area. When these sectors are affected, as they have been by union disputes and especially demarcation disputes, after the huge loss of income they have suffered as a result of inflation, this burden is almost the last straw.
The Government has been coming under increasing pressure to legislate for the protection of these people. I expect this pressure to continue to increase if these thoughtless unions continue to increase their efforts to self-destruct. If the Government does legislate it will mean a loss of some of the freedom of the union movement. I, for one, would be most concerned at such a loss of freedom. However, it is getting to the stage where in the exercise of our responsibility to protect the Australian society from these unAustralian attacks from radical unions, we could well be forced into this position.
The easiest way to remedy the problem is in the hands of the unions. I call upon all union members to exercise their rights under the secret ballot legislation which we have implemented. I call upon the unionists not only to use their right to cast their vote but also to promote from among their ranks for executive positions unionists in whom they have faith and who will in their opinion, protect their interests, that is, the interests of the union members and not people who will merely use the executive position to promote their own interests to the detriment of the union movement as a whole.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
-Before the suspension of the sitting I was urging union members to take an active role in the election of officers in their own unions. If the Labor Party- the Opposition in this chamber- has the close affiliation with the union movement and the ability to get on with the union movement that it has tried to suggest in the past, although its record stands to damn that suggestion, it is in its interests to do all within its power to overcome the problem of the selfish union executives.
Let me quote the words of the South Australian Governor, Sir Mark Oliphant, who said at a Press Club luncheon I was at last week:
Within the capacity of industry to meet the costs, strikes for a better share in the profits from workers’ efforts are understandable.
But the exercise of such tactics in pursuit of political aims, or to increase the industrial muscle of a union, is unforgivable and quite contrary to the freedoms we cherish.
Withdrawal of labour from any enterprise, private or state, should be a weapon of last resort, not a flippant exercise of power, sometimes amounting to terrorism as blatant as that wielded by Hitler.
Australia cannot afford such terrorism and I call on all Australians to show the terrorists that they cannot hold this country to ransom. I support the Budget and I reject the Opposition amendment.
-This Budget is renowned for 2 things. The first is that it has to mend a financial situation which appeared to be beyond repair. The other quite remarkable thing about it is that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) and all those who were the loud voices prior to the election made one thing perfectly clear, that the Budget strategy- the planning- to mend this nation would take the term of 3 years. When one looks at an analysis of the arguments that were put forward as to how this should be done and examines the planning in its various segments one finds that this Government is well ahead in time. I want to make clear my own attitude, my own philosophy which is the philosophy of those who sit with me on this side of the House, that despite the shallow, puerile, hypocritical comments that we hear coming from people who profess to be Labor people, in terms of the old Labor Party they could not raise their heads.
What I want to point out and make perfectly clear is that while one solitary person remains unemployed other than through his own faultthrough misfortune, through circumstances beyond his control- I would safely wager that not one person on this side of the House would sleep comfortably at night. I believe that to be true. Hence it was so exasperating to hear someone like the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) say the other day that there was not one unionist on this side of the House. My goodness, from that moment onwards he fired off at man after man, people on this side who have had genuine union experience. The honourable member made a miscalculation. One of the terribly sad things about Australian Labor Party supporters is their constant miscalculation when it comes to evaluating the electorate. . Mr Les Johnson- You were in it for a long time.
– Exactly. When I was in the ALP it was a party of people who were dedicated; people who would be thrown out if they espoused the communist cause- not like you so called Labor people. You would not know what the Labor Party is. You would not have lasted 10 minutes in the Labor Party of the past. You have desecrated it. You have brought it down to the greatest ill repute of any party in the history of this nation, to such an extent that the Party was annihilated in the Northern Territory, the seat of Labor; it was annihilated in Broken Hill, the seat of Labor; and it was annihilated in the electorate of Kennedy. You remember the old slogan: ‘When all else is lost, we still have Kennedy’. You do not have Kennedy any more, and you are not likely to get it back.
The constant cry on which we base the whole of our strategy is inflation. If honourable members related inflation to all the circumstances surrounding the unemployment situation in this country they would realise that if tomorrow every person in this nation were employed and if inflation were allowed to continue the way it was going under the mismanagement of the people who now sit opposite, this strategy would all be utterly futile. I repeat that while one person is unemployed, no one who is a member of the 2 parties on my side of the House will rest well of a night.
There are a number of matters which one would wish to deal with on this unique occasion when honourable members are permitted to speak on all sorts of things in the Budget debate. I realise, of course, that this nation is attempting to do what a previous non-Labor Government attempted in the United Kingdom, but we are doing it much more successfully and for one very clear reason, that is, that when the Heath Government was elected it was elected with almost a 50/50 majority. It did not have a decisive majority and there was always in the minds of the people of the United Kingdom the doubt that that Government might last or it might not last. But in respect of Australia there was no doubt in the mind of any one Australian or any international political observer because when we went to the polls last December the people who now sit opposite were swept into political oblivion where they will remain ad infinitum. That is where they belong. So we find the Australian people suddenly fired with a new pride, a new enthusiasm. This can be found wherever one goes today.
We want a lot more done as soon as it can be done, but wherever one goes in this nation one finds that despite measures taken by the Government, unpopular though they be and perhaps inevitably creating unemployment in some quarters, the people of Australia will go along with this Government. Yet honourable members opposite condemn this Government for what it is doing. So there is a difference between the situation in Australia and what happened in the United Kingdom where a non-Labor Government went into office and went out of office just as promptly. There were 2 reasons for this. As I said, one was an indecisive victory, a very shallow victory, and the other was that anarchy was allowed to romp at large. There are anarchists in Britain and they thrive. Nothing very much is done to keep them in check, but the people of Australia have indicated very clearly they do not want anarchists in power in Australia.
There must be thousands of unionists who will no longer tolerate the domination of so-called labor men, men who are there to feather their own nests, men who thrive on the power that goes with their positions- power which would be dissipated if they were not able from time to time to call on their men to lay down their tools, to go home and face all the difficulties which come with an unwarranted strike. I will say this and say it decisively- and again I think I speak for most of the people on this side of the House- if there is a cause for social justice, if there is a cause that merits a strike I would be the first one to commend to the men that they go on strike. I have done so not less than a dozen times in my life. That is the situation. The difference was that anarchy took over in Great Britain, and unfortunately it still exists. But in Australia the people woke up to it before it really became rampant and destroyed the people who were creating this anarchy.
Notwithstanding the situation that does exist, notwithstanding the necessity for measures that have been proposed, there are a few matters on which I must dwell. The first that I must speak of is the beef industry. Admittedly there has been an extension of the assistance given by the Federal Government in conjunction with the States on a dollar for dollar basis.
If If my memory serves me correctly, I think that $6. 8m has been made available for this year 1976-77 as carry on finance. We have discussed the matter with the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair). We know that the Government is probing much deeper into the beef cattle industry. It is critically necessary that that be done.
Let me make one point perfectly clean Any assistance given to the beef cattle industry of this nation is not a handout. It is an investment in an industry which five or six year ago was earning more than the mining industry. It was the top industry of the nation. Assistance given will not be a handout. If an industry is fed the necessary fuel to let it carry on until it gets back to its previous prosperity, that represents an investment in the future of this nation. The point is that this has to be done if this industry is to survive. At the present time, the situation confronting many people in northern Australia involves bushfires which are sweeping that part of the country. The landholders have lost their fodder. Their land is no longer fit for grazing. Fortunately, however, most of them have been able to save their stock. One of the exigencies of being on the land is that from time to time an occupier must face up to the need for agistment. But the point here is that these people are in such a lamentable financial situation that they cannot even find the finance for the agistment of the stock. I use that purely as an example to illustrate just how difficult is the position.
One matter I would stress is the absolute necessity, and I would say the great urgency, for the Government to review the petroleum differential subsidy as soon as it is able to do so. Perhaps I use the word ‘subsidy’ not advisedly because I am quite confident that if the Government were to examine this matter from the point of view of arriving at some arrangements with petroleum distributors or the fuel distributors- it is not just a matter of petroleum- there should be without a great deal of negotiation some means whereby a very fractional additional payment could be made for fuel sold in the densely populated areas which would flatten out the price. At the moment, country people are paying $1 a gallon for petrol, and in the far outback areas of this nation, they are paying up to $1.20 a gallon for it. I do not think that people should pay that when they have to face up to every other difficulty country people must face and when those very same people are producing the great wealth of this nation. I refer immediately to the mining industry, the beef cattle industry and the wool industry as being among the industries which are adversely affected by the high price for fuel. I am not being parochial in this matter. People who are six miles or up to 20 miles from the coast are faced with a very much higher price for petrol. I believe this matter should be examined. It does not depend upon the restoration of the previous prosperity of this nation. I am not setting my remarks in the scenario of 1970 or 1971. This is something which I feel, upon examination, could be done here and now. When we achieve that result, I see no reason why this principle of differential subsidy could not be applied to other commodities.
Another matter which I think the Government should examine involves the creation of a small miners’ tribunal. This was advocated in our policy and I am confident from my discussions with the Minister for National Resources (Mr Anthony) on the matter that it will be attended to in the near future. However, I see some urgency in it because if one examines the whole spectrum of mining activities throughout the world, particularly in the United States of America, one finds that in the aggregate a great number of small mining leases are being operated. When I refer to small mining leases, I am not talking about the individual gouger. I think that the gouger himself would be the first to admit that it is extremely difficult for him to get off the ground these days. I am referring to the small companies that have resulted from the activities of the individual gouger. They should receive sufficient assistance to bring them into production. The aggregate of that production is a very substantial industry indeed as has been discovered in the United States. I look to the Government to carry into effect what was a plank in our platform, namely, the creation of a small miners’ tribunal- a special organisation to assist the small mining communities.
Another matter that affects people throughout Australia- people in areas away from the capital cities- is that it is becoming almost impossible for people to afford an air ticket. I am not referring so much to the Sydney-Melbourne route but more to the other air routes throughout Australia on which one of the great disadvantages is that most people cannot afford an air ticket, and economy class travel is not available. I would ask the Government to give some future to the commuter airlines. There are many such airlines serving the length and breadth of this nation. I notice that there are not many Labor Party members in the chamber tonight. I suppose that they are enjoying the hospitality at the reception tonight. Normally, honourable members opposite would interject from their places, screaming out about members of the National Country Party representing galahs and trees. Fortunately, they are not in the chamber tonight and we are not hearing that sort of interjection. But that is not what is involved. These commuter air services, or branch air services, are extremely important to our capital cities. They serve the arterial airlines which feed eventually into our capital cities. These airlines are getting to the point where they cannot carry on. Hence, I ask the Government, as soon as it is economically possible, to create with all urgency a situation in which the airlines may see that they have a stable future- not just a subsidy for 12 months and after that the end of the line or the end of a service that is helping to sustain industries which are critical for the future of this nation. That is one more point I would like put in the little black book by the Government. When it is able to do so, I hope that it will move very promptly to look at the matter.
Turning to the matter of water resources, it is pleasing to note that at a time when the Government has quite clearly indicated that it cannot become involved in grandiose schemes as it would wish to do in some cases, there is still an amount of $6.7m made available for water resources investigations and so on in the Budget. I am not being parochial when I speak of one particular project, the Lake Julius Dam in northwestern Queensland. That water supply project sustains the largest mining complex of its kind in the world- the Mount Isa operation. In addition, it will provide water for other projects which are beginning to emerge in that part of the world. Even with the new boost and the new morale that we have fostered in this industry, there is still a feeling of depression to such an extent that five or six days ago the President of Mount Isa Mines Limited, in addressing a meeting in Mount Isa pointed out very emphatically that Mount Isa Mines Limited was not intending to expand its operations in the near future or at any time in the foreseeable future. It must be depressing for Australia to know that its largest mining complex has reached the point where it cannot see any further room for expansion in the future. It becomes critically necessary that other mining leases, other operations and other potential Mount Isas should be given the encouragement to open up in areas where they presently exist. We know that in those areas there are leases which could be developed and opened up. But such developments would require water and plenty of it. That water can be provided and in turn it would provide an inflow of a huge volume of funds to the Treasury of this nation. This would be one more thing to be placed in the little black book. The Queensland Government was able to give hundreds of thousands of dollars to this project. I regret to say that so far no Federal government has given more than a substantial loan. That loan was given by the McMahon Government. Of course, the Labor Government gave us nothing and that was to be expected. I say to this Government that surely $ 1 m could be given to that project as soon as the Government is able to do so.
There is another consideration in regard to the further development of leases in the north-west and that is that the opening up of further leases in that area could well provide the lifeblood to sustain the area and give new hope to the area represented by my friend, who is making a tremendous impact as a politician. I refer to the honourable member for Capricornia (Mr Carige). No one has tried or has sapped the brains of everyone in this nation to such an extent to try to find an answer to the question of keeping the Mount Morgan mines a going proposition. That could be well and truly tied up with the sustaining of the economy of that water project in the north-west of Queensland. This Government has performed an almost unbelievable task in mending the ruins that were left by the Labor Government. Any person in this nation who has any sense of responsibility acknowledges this and goes along with the Government. Hence I have the utmost enthusiasm when I say I thoroughly support the Budget. I ask the people in this House- there does not seem to be anyone on the Labor side in the chamber, so I ask my Party- to send the Opposition’s amendment to where it belongs and that is, into the past.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! the honourable member’s time has expired.
– The mess left by the Labor Government was rather worse than anticipated, and nobody should expect it to be cleaned up overnight. Nevertheless the present pace of recovery is altogether too slow. It is only in the last few weeks that any real signs of economic revival have appeared, and even these are patchy and may be no more than seasonal.
Certainly the recovery is slower than the Government expected. For each of the last S months we have had Treasury predictions that the economy had bottomed and that the upswing was in progress, and each time so far the prediction has been falsified by the event. What has gone wrong? When the Government has such good intentions, why have things not turned out better?
It seems certain now that the Treasury has misread the economic climate, and has landed the Government with a policy which is altogether too restrictive. This is not the first time it has done so. Only last week the right honourable member for Lowe (Mr William McMahon) told the House of similar bad urgings from the Treasury in 1971, when he was Prime Minister; and I know from my own experience as a Minister during those years how superficial and misleading the Treasury advice often was. Some parts of the last Labor Treasurer’s Budget Speech in 1975 show how he, too, had fallen for the same unhelpful Treasury line.
This year the Treasury has urged upon the Government new and savage taxes such as television licences and a Medibank levy in excess of 3.5 per cent for example, which the Government has had the good sense to reject. But still the main Treasury line, which remains altogether too restrictive, and which strangles recovery in its cradle, has obtained too much acceptance.
One of the reasons for these Treasury blunders is that its economic intelligence is faulty. Too often- and this I know first hand from my own personal experience- it relies upon out-of-date statistics to evaluate current trends and shape future policy. This lag in thinking, the reliance upon past historical data, is one of the roots of our present troubles.
But it is not the only root, and it is certainly not the main root. Recently I have been appalled at the way in which our Treasury pundits, from their synthetic ivory bureaux, sneer at Keynesian concepts and use their sneers to justify an approach which is not just pre-Keynesian but positively antediluvian. It is even more appalling to observe how they have tricked their innocent and ignorant disciples into repeating their superficialities and promoting them as the latest enlightenment. Look how they regale us with the crudities of the Phillips curve, even if they clothe the curve decently in a dress of good intentions!
Let me list- in the time available to me I shall have no time to discuss- 6 cardinal errors in Treasury thinking which have contributed towards the present unacceptable economic stagnation.
First, the Treasury is obsessed by what it is pleased to call a ‘deficit’, but which really is not a deficit at all, but only that part of the capital works program which is not funded from the revenue surplus. Last year that mythical ‘deficit’ was more than covered by loan raisings on the market, and there is no reason to expect any different results this year. Because of its obsession with this mythical ‘deficit’ the Treasury has made it impossible for the Government to reduce taxes adequately as one means of strengthening incentive and of reducing production costs. This obsession has also inhibited a reasonable program of selected capital works, which would have stimulated the economy and provided the infrastructure for the expansion of private industry.
Furthermore, the misdescription of the capital program as a ‘deficit’ has somehow raised the impression that we were spending extravagantly and could not keep it up. Use of this emotive word has operated against the confidence which the Treasury alleges it needs to engender throughout the community, and has thus retarded recovery.
It was right to prune the extravagances of the Labor Budget, and action to reduce expenditure on current services has much to commend it. It is quite a different thing to apply that same principle to valuable capital works at a time when we have unused resources of men and materials, and when the revival of private enterprise can be so much helped by public expenditure upon things which are needed by the community or which would provide the infrastructure for future industrial ventures by the private sector.
Second, the Treasury has acquiesced in the maintenance of high interest rates, which in Australia are right out of line with the rates which private and commercial borrowers have to pay in most other parts of the world. It has covered up its inadequacies by the specious spiel that it has restricted public issues, which might ‘crowd out’ private raisings. But surely even the Treasury knows that quite effective instruments to combine reduced interest rates with a reasonable program to take up the economic slack lie in its hands- if only it would use them. Instead its policy is counterproductive, for we are given the egregious target of 12 per cent growth in the money supply for the year- a target which takes no account of the unpredictable changes which may take place in the velocity of money, as the public, the holders of bank balances, makes up its mind to spend or not to spend.
The 12 per cent target may well prove too low, or may well prove too high- it is the setting of a target without reference to possible changes in circulation which is so naive. The ability to increase the money supply until velocity builds up under its pressure, and to decrease supply when that greater velocity occurs, is at the heart of rational money management and is itself a potent weapon against high interest rates.
If the market knows that the Treasury is prepared to use its weapons against high interest rates, then that knowledge by itself will tend to drive interest rates down, without any use of the monetary weapons at all. Conversely, if the market knows that the Treasury has signalled its reluctance to punch in advance, the market will tend to harden its rates. This is the first occasion when such a policy has been publicly announced in a Budget Speech. Why close your optionseven tentatively?
Third, the Treasury’s approach to overseas transactions often appears to conform to the interests of international finance rather than to the interests of Australia. Acceptance of industrial stagnation involves a quite formidable growth in the deficit on our current account overseasa real deficit expected to approach $1.5 billion for 1976-77, and which may shoot ahead alarmingly in the first phase of any consumer recovery. With our overseas balances of some $2.5 billion, we could stave off things for a year or so, provided that there was no capital outflow, but in reality the Treasury policy has now made us suppliants for capital inflow.
Suppliants do not always get the best of international deals, and capital inflow eventually has got to be paid for. We should welcome overseas investment when it brings us access to new markets for our exports, or to technology otherwise unavailable, or where it has a defence significance. But, apart from this, we would have no need for overseas capital if our own exports were to expand as they should, and our own manufacturers were to use their idle plant to produce some of the things we now import.
Too bad if the Treasury brings the Australian economy to its knees, so that we have to depend on international capital to rescue us on its own terms! Too bad for us, that is; international capital would see the process in reverse. Treasury reluctance to face up to the need for immediate devaluation, to close the money gap between our costs and costs overseas- a gap far too wide to be closed by deflation- is part of the trouble.
Fourth, the Treasury has allowed itself to become over-obsessed with inflation as the sole economic ill. Sure, inflation is dangerous, but it is not the only danger and, in fact, can provide one of those cases where sometimes the doctors are more to be feared than the disease. The eighteenth century surgeon had one panacea- bleeding- which sometimes killed patients who would otherwise have recovered. Some of our twentieth century economists have one cure for our present economic troubles- restriction- and may sometimes do more harm than good.
It is not, however, this aspect of the Treasury’s inflation-fixation to which I direct attention, but rather to its misplaced confidence that, once it can stop inflation by its drastic measures, employment will automatically recover. Admittedly it is not entirely wrong, in that the consumer fears to spend under present uncertainties- - but it is fear of unemployment, not inflation, which deters consumption, and it is fear of recession, not inflation, which deters investment.
Expectation of inflation has, in fact, the opposite effect. It induces consumers to spend before the value of their money erodes, and it induces investors to buy their equipment before prices rise. Indeed it is rightly said that the real danger of inflation lies in the feed-back, the fever of overspending. Whatever the Australian economy is suffering from today it is certainly no such fever.
If we get our wish to end the expectation of inflation before the economy recovers, we may find the economy recedes still further, when whatever stimulus that comes from that expectation ceases to operate. It could be a monkey’s paw situation- where we get our wish and find that it brings consequences both unforeseen and undesired.
Fifth, the Treasury seems to be overconcerned with wage rates, and not sufficiently concerned with industrial disruption. Both these bear upon the cost of production, but the latter would now seem to be the more important. If we could end strikes which are planned to sabotage efficient production, even the present wage rates would become tolerable.
Let it be conceded that this is a mixed situation, where the Treasury is partly right. A certain degree of unemployment does make a man value his job, and does induce better industrial discipline. But the argument must not be pressed too hard. If unemployment is endemic it will be harder to get acceptance of the termination of unreasonable industrial practices, which are aimed at creating extra jobs, and which unreasonably inflate costs. In a progressive economic climate, where unemployment is no threat to those willing to work, this process of reducing industrial feather-bedding, while never easy, is at least easier.
Fear of unemployment may not be the only reason why jobs are valued; some are better paid than others, so that margins are an essential part of the industrial order. The current Treasury policy of plateau-indexation tends to reduce margins and therefore to erode industrial discipline. This negative effect, unimportant perhaps over the short run, may become eventually of predominant significance. The Treasury may defend plateau-indexation as an emergency measure- it would be nice if we could be sure that the longterm effect had not been overlooked.
The whole question of the relationship between wage rates on the one hand and production costs on the other is highly complex and cannot be argued here. All that can be said in the short time available to me is that the Treasury approach, concentrating as it does upon wage rates to the exclusion of other factors, seems to be over-simplistic, and that a better-balanced view is called for.
Sixth- and perhaps most importantly- there is the proposition, implicit in the whole Treasury approach, that a quick economic recovery is necessarily unsound, and that therefore slow recovery is preferable, because it is somehow inherently sounder. This I would consider to be the exact opposite of the truth.
A slow and drawn-out recovery is unsound because:
It leads to future distortion and inefficiency in industry. Plants get moth-balled, so that they are hard to start again and tend to be out of date when the time comes for them to reopen; the skilled labour force gets dispersedperhaps relocated hundreds of miles away under the new scheme- so that skilled men are no longer available when the economy recovers and they are wanted in their old industry. Thus the whole industrial machine gets out of balance, and recovery can even be impeded by shortages of critical materials at the time things start to improve.
It creates social tensions, and leaves a legacy of industrial bitterness, which left wing elements understandably exploit. A cohort of school leavers is introduced to idleness at its most impressionable age, and impressions thus gained are not only persistent but may also be infectious.
It involves a loss of production during the whole slack period. This loss- the years that the locust has eaten- is irretrievable, and may lead to increased imports as a substitute for the goods which should have been locally produced, or to decreased exports from the lack of the activity of export industries. So it may saddle the economy with an unnecessary overseas debt, which remains as a burden until repaid.
It tends to lock the economy into high future interest rates, because during the slack period long term loans will have been raised at high rates of interest.
Is there any point in deliberately subjecting a patient to a long and debilitating illness when a quicker cure is available? When cured, will he be stronger for the long sickness?
Australian wage costs- which arise from a combination of wage rates and industrial practicesare so far out of line with overseas wage costs that the gap cannot be bridged without some change in the terms of overseas trade. The best and fairest way to make this change is by a devaluation of the Australian dollar, and the sooner we face up to this devaluation the better. Otherwise we shall continue to lose export opportunities, and we may find ourselves overwhelmed by a flood of imports, which we should then have to stem by emergency tariffs and quotas before our international reserves run out. It would be foolish to defer action until our only recourse would be to bolster these reserves by overseas investment. If we find overseas investors, it would then only be on terms which would jeopardise our financial future.
In short, what is needed now is: First, tax reduction, especially directed toward cost reduction; second, a reasonable program of capital works, to be tapered off when the economy picks up; third, the prudent use of monetary mechanisms to reduce interest rates; fourth, a speedy devaluation of the dollar, to protect both exporters and home manufacturers.
The present Budget, well-intentioned though it is, envisages the continuation of a quite dangerous stagnation. If one of its by-products should turn out to be the loss of Government at the next election and the reinstatement of a Labor Party- a Party politically, socially and internationally disastrous- then indeed Australia would lose on all fronts. (Quorum formed.) We should remind ourselves in time that the road to socialism is paved with good intentions. It would be ironic if the road-builders were innocent but misguided anti-socialists.
Let us get some steerage way on the ship of State, and avoid these catastrophes. The Government’s intentions are excellent; all that is needed is a better way of putting them into practice.
-Earlier today we heard an excellent speech from the honourable member for McMillan (Mr Simon), who spoke about the Government’s federalism policy and in particular addressed his remarks to the subject of local government. Likewise I want to talk tonight about local government and the Government’s federalism policy.
With the implementation of Stage 1 of the federalism policy the States are to receive 33.6 per cent of the personal income tax collected. This amounts to some $3,7 16m, which represents an increase of 2 1 per cent or $643m. It has been estimated that the States will receive some $89m more than they would have received under the old formula. Loan Council funds are to increase by 5 per cent to some $ 1,356m. Specific purpose payments to the States under the Labor Government increased at a rapid rate. It is interesting to note that in 1974-75 the increase was 92 per cent and that in 1975-76 it amounted to 34 per cent. This year the increase will be 9 per cent. In total, payments to the States and local government will increase by 13 per cent and will amount to in excess of $9,000m.
The States will receive greater amounts in untied grants. It will be up to them to decide their own priorities and their own programs. I think it should be emphasised to the House that the States cannot have their cake and eat it too. They cannot get increased revenue from personal income tax revenue sharing and still expect substantial increases in the tied grants or section 96 grants as we know them. Let me quote an example.
The Queensland Minister for Local Government and Main Roads, Mr Hinze, has been bleating about a reduction in sewerage funds. It is true that expenditure under the national sewerage program has been reduced. In Queensland the figure has dropped from $ 14m to $ 1.3 m- a reduction of $ 12.7m. But I want to point out that a good portion of the money that has gone to local authorities has been repayable at the bond rate of interest. What Mr Hinze has omitted to tell the people is that the Grants Commission’s allocation of funds to the States has increased by 75 per cent from $80m to $ 140m and that it is all untied money and all non-repayable money. Queensland’s share has increased from $ 13.8m to $24.2m- a net gain of $10.4m- none of which has to be repaid and none of which is directed to any specific purpose.
Recent reports have stated that $4m is needed this financial year for the Brisbane City Council’s sewage treatment works at Luggage Point near the mouth of the Brisbane River. Brisbane, with two-fifths of the State’s population, can expect several million dollars in Grants Commission money. Application of the formula of 30 per cent on a population basis and 70 per cent on a needs basis means that the Brisbane City Council’s share should approach $10m. If the increase were applied to the sewage treatment works it would mean that the amount required for that works had been more than covered.
The State governments must be honest with their electors and inform them of the priority given to projects and not use the Commonwealth Government as a whipping-boy to cover up for their lack of honesty. It is easy to determine one ‘s priorities and then, when political pressure is applied as to why this project or that project is not being proceeded with, to claim that the Commonwealth Government will not provide adequate funds for it to be done. The day of reckoning has arrived for the States. They must tell their electors the truth and accept any odium that flows from their doing so. On the one hand the States are claiming that they are not receiving sufficient funds from the Commonwealth and on the other hand some are abolishing or contemplating the abolition of certain State taxes. I am no going to debate the merits or demerits of the taxes proposed to be abolished, but the States should be made aware that they cannot expect the Commonwealth Government to pick up the tab for their reduced revenue.
I turn now to the subject of local government. I want to pass a few comments about local government’s responsibilities and the assistance that it receives from the States. Now that the local authorities are to receive a regular share of personal income tax revenue it must not be assumed by them that they can shirk their responsibilities insofar as rate revenue is concerned and substitute in part their rate collections with the money received from the Commonwealth. Local government must carefully calculate the funds that it is to receive from traditional sources and ensure that its own revenue sources keep pace with inflation. No new moneys received must be considered to be in lieu of local government’s capacity to source funds. Local government must rid itself of the Cinderella syndrome or the child of the States syndrome that it has attached to itself in past decades. It has a great deal of autonomy. It is carrying out vital functions of government. Therefore it must look upon itself as being mature, responsible and a vibrant arm of the 3- tiered system of government.
Many councils, large and small, have not levied rates and charges at an adequate level in past years. Some have not provided the services that their neighbouring councils have provided and, as a result, have been able to keep rating down. Now they are faced with huge rate increases to bring their residents to an equal standard of living. The provision of sewerage facilities in my State of Queensland is a prime example. Those councils that forged ahead with sewering their cities and towns ten or fifteen years ago have an annual rate to cover their operations and repay interest and redemption on capital of perhaps $40 to $60. Tardy councils that are commencing schemes today are faced with annual rates per tenement of $ 100 to $ 120.
Whereas the local authorities must be kept honest and keep up their level of rating, they face an even bigger task maintaining their present level of assistance from the greedy States. It is incumbent upon the States to ensure that the levels of financial assistance to local authorities are not diminished now that they are sharing revenue with the Commonwealth. There will be a greater tendency for the States to say to the local authorities: ‘You are now on your own’. That is unacceptable to local government. It is my tip that local government is in for a torrid time if it does no exercise all the political influence and muscle it can muster on the States. I understand that there are already rumblings in some States that the levels of subsidies are to be reviewed.
An examination of Table 99 on page 123 of Budget Paper No. 7, which is a summary of the Commonwealth Government’s payments to or for local government authorities, shows that if the $94m for the Regional Employment and Development scheme were removed from last year’s figures, local government would be receiving an increase of $15m from $180m to $195m. In view of the fact that I have mentioned the RED scheme I should point out to the House that this scheme was abolished by the Labor Government. In fact, the Hayden Budget provided some $135m to finalise projects that had been commenced or were in the pipeline, but no new projects were to be commenced in the 1975-76 financial year. It was appallingly administered. When the Liberal Party came to power and the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) took over the responsibility, he was faced with one tremendous mess that the Labor Government had got the RED scheme into in its period of office.
Finally, I believe the Budget is a responsible Budget, coming in difficult times after 3 years of disastrous Labor rule. All taxes are iniquitous in the eyes of the people. The public wants taxes reduced or abolished on the one hand, but on the other hand it expects expenditure to be maintained or, preferably, increased. Indeed, the people expect the impossible.
– It is always a pleasure to listen to the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth), who is both outspoken and original, if sometimes a little old fashioned. I think he makes a great contribution to debates in this House. He puts forward points that should be debated, although on many issues, such as that on which he spoke tonight, I must disagree with him. Nevertheless he did what very few other honourable members have done, and that is actually discuss the motion before us and the amendment to it. I do not know whether the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) has received sufficient attention in this House. His amendment contains 5 points of criticism of the Budget. Three of them are patently false and the other two show a typical gross misunderstanding of economics and public administration. I direct the House’s attention to one of them- point (e)- in which the Leader of the Opposition criticised the Budget on the ground that it fails to institute selective stimulatory expenditure to reduce unemployment and restore consumer spending. As Leader of the Government, he tried this in 1 974. Up went inflation, and up went unemployment. He tried again in 1975. Up went unemployment still faster; up went inflation still faster. Yet it is quite obvious that he still has not learnt. I do not think he is capable of it.
I feel that it is a gross cheek- that is the only word one can use- to move a motion of this type in this House which knows him so well. Of course he has his own problems. There is the interesting thermal situation of being at once in the hot seat and keeping it warm for someone else. What is so depressing is his invincible ignorance of the fundamentals of economics and public administration. Admittedly, at times he speaks quite brilliantly on these subjects, but suddenly he says something which reveals that he has not the faintest, foggiest idea of what he is talking about. Like the thirteenth chime of the crazy clock, it casts doubt on all that has gone before.
One of his supporters, Mr Donald Home, who was not so much one-eyed as blind, wrote a book about him in which he made a number of flattering allusions, one of which said he had monarchial tendencies. He has. The monarchs that immediately come to mind are first of all the Bourbons, of whom it was well said: ‘They forgot nothing and learnt nothing’. Another one that really comes to mind is Alexander the Great. It will be remembered that Alexander the Great was reputed to have wept because he had no more worlds to conquer. I think the same situation applies to the Leader of the Opposition. Not content with the title of being clearly the more incompetent administrator ever to hold the office of Prime Minister, he is now seeking to achieve the title of being the most mischievous Leader of the Opposition. What he is trying to do is to talk down the Australian economy to make a self-fulfilling prophecy that things will get worse. What he would like- it is quite obvious he would like it- is to see more unemployment. He would like to see more inflation. He is in the sad position of the man who hates the Government more than he loves his country.
He is not alone in his gross ignorance of economics and the way the system of this country works. This ignorance is shared by most of the members of his party. Perhaps the most glaring area of complete ignorance is on the nature and value of profits. If there is one word that can get the Opposition benches baying, it is the word ‘profits’. Members of the Opposition do not understand what their value is. I admit they have had little experience of them because socialised industries do not normally make profits. The fact that they make losses is a sign not of their social merit but their administrative incompetence. Profits are fundamental to the working of any economy.
To go to the extreme from our system, I would like to tell the House something of what Professor Galbraith reported on a Chinese commune. A further distance from our system it would be difficult to imagine. Of the sales that the commune made, 6 per cent went in taxes, 25 to 30 per cent in the cost of new materials and one to 2 per cent in the cost of materials. The remaining 60 per cent, net profits, was divided, with 6 to 7 per cent going in capital accummulation and the rest being divided among the workers in the form of wages and profits. The way it is divided is interesting. The members of the commune have a daily scale of work value ranging from nought to 13 based on their skill, technique, physical strength, and work attitudewhether hard or lazy. Once a month each worker assesses at what point on the scale he should be placed and the other workers debate and reassess in the light of their experience where they think he should be placed. Their assessment is the one that counts. An examination of the system shows that it is fundamentally a system where profits are the motive force.
The same of course applies to Australia. Profits are fundamental and one destroys them at one’s peril. In our situation profits of course contribute very greatly to all aspects of our government expenditure and, through it, to areas such as health, education and social welfare. The profits of a company are taxed at more than 40 per cent, and the individual returns to shareholders are taxed again at rates that may arise to more than 50 per cent. Of the profits which are retained, at least half are invested, the investment being fundamentally in plant and equipment. Out of new plant and equipment come jobs. I have here a table of assessment of how much investment is necessary to create a new job. In the manufacturing industry it is over $20,000. In the motor vehicle industry it is over $20,000. In iron and steel it is over $40,000. In petroleum and refining it is over $80,000. In mining it is above $340,000 to create a single job. This comes partly from profits and partly from investment. Of course investment in turn depends on profits. So profits are the motive force of our system and of any system.
In case people think profits are too high, it is worth noting that at the moment the profits of manufacturing industry are about 8c in the dollar of sales. There is not much future in trying to keep down prices by squeezing profits. It only harms employment, job opportunities and the future of the country. Another point that must be made is that it is frequently thought that large companies are more profitable than small ones. This is not true. The misunderstanding comes from individuals confusing profits with profitability. The return on invested capital in large companies, on the average, is no higher than it is in the small. This ignorance of the nature of profits and their value is typical of the Opposition benches. It is reflected in the Opposition’s deplorable amendment. I hope this amendmentI am sure it will be- is rejected with overwhelming contempt because, as I said, it reveals invincible ignorance of economics and public administration. What we need in this House and this country is strong support for the Government in its long haul to get this country back on the rails and support for the difficult decisions that any government placed as we are must make. We must get this country back on the smooth economic path of low inflation, full employment and reasonable growth, which we enjoyed so long under previous Liberal governments.
-It has been said in social science, specifically economics, that the outstanding candidate for the world’s greatest invention is money. The world would never have progressed beyond primitive stages of economic and technological development were it not for the emergence of the universal medium of exchange. Without money the Industrial Revolution could not have occurred. Money facilitated the specialisation of production that transformed numerous simple barter societies into a complex integrated international market economy. It is about money that I want to say a few words tonight. Suggestions have been made that the Soviet Union is tending to move into the control of the world’s gold reserves and production. That strategy has been evidenced by a variety of moves by the Soviet Union aimed ultimately at reinstituting an international gold standard, with Russia itself as the major holder and producer of the metal and as the heir apparent to the United States as the monetary strong man of the world. Periodic statements over the years by Soviet spokesmen have said explicitly that their gold reserves and gold deposits were to become one of the main supports of the socialist world system in its historic struggle against world capitalism. The Kremlin has given high priority to the rapid development and expansion of new Soviet gold mine production capacity. In a recent address, the President of the Geological Association of Canada and a noted expert on Soviet matters, Mr Paul Cavanagh, predicted that Russian output of newly mined gold will continue to rise to surpass South Africa’s production in about 10 years.
The first option which faces the Soviet Union in moving towards a position of monopoly in the production of the world ‘s new gold would be the fall of Rhodesia, followed by the fall of South Africa, to Soviet controlled communists groups. This would give the Soviet control of 95 per cent of the world’s newly mined gold production. However, this wish is not likely to be realised because Rhodesia probably will not fall in the immediate future and South Africa is not likely to succumb to that sort of fate in the immediate term. The second option, and a much more likely one, is for the Soviet Union to try to disrupt the supply of gold production through the support of terrorist or guerrilla activities or to disrupt the exports of gold flowing from South Africa by means of border harassments and possibly through a sea lane blockade. I think that all these things are within the ambit of the Soviet’s capacity if it turned its mind to them. By first gaining a near monopoly on new supplies of gold and then by setting an official price in terms of roubles at a very high level, perhaps as high as $400 an ounce, the Russians could then make the rouble convertible for the other national monetary agents in the Soviet bloc and convertible generally to all nation Statecomers in the Western world. Thus the Soviet Union would achieve many of the same benefits which Britain first achieved during the 19th century, when it virtually controlled the world’s gold supply and which the United States achieved in the postWorld War I period up to the 1960s; that is, a continuous flow of real resources to those countries as others sought to exchange with them to possess the gold-convertible pounds and dollars and perhaps, in the future, roubles.
The Soviet Union and its satellite territories are presently indebted to Western financial institutions to the tune of around $35 billion, the major portion of that debt being owed by the Soviet Union. The expectation of much greater gold prices down the road probably encouraged an increased indebtedness to the West and is also probably one of the main reasons why the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics has sold substantially reduced amounts of its gold stockpile to the West during the past year. It has also been suggested that perhaps the Soviet Union is buying up the gold being sold by the International Monetary Fund. To institute a gold rouble standard, with its attendant benefits, is one of the few chances that the Kremlin has of remaining on its present course. The Soviet economic system is unworkable, and that becomes more evident every day. Its dilemma is that it must purchase massive quantities of food and technology from the West but, except for its gold supplies, it has very little to offer in exchange. It does not have the resources to develop its oil fields for surplus exportable oil. It is realistic to suggest that the USSR has two choices for economic survival. It can give its subjects freedom and move towards a capitalist economy which will increase production; or it can give the world a gold standard which will bring about the sort of results I spoke of before.
I think it is about time that we as a Government and as a Parliament gave some more thought to where these likely trends in the world might lead. If there is any truth in the sort of proposals I have outlined tonight to the House, then I think there is serious cause for concern for this economy and for other Western economies.
There is. probably an argument that our economy- the Reserve Bank, the Government itself- should be moving to increase Australia’s gold reserves by converting foreign currencies into gold. Most commentators take the view that the depressed market for gold, which certainly at the moment is an indisputable fact, is not a situation which will last for a great deal of time. A technical situation exists in the gold market, and it is quite likely that gold could go to new heights once the supply of gold on the market is removed. Australia must be aware of the trends taking place around the world. If Russia succeeds in establishing a gold-backed rouble, if Russia succeeds in either taking over or disrupting the supply of gold from South Africa, if Russia succeeds in becoming the dominant force in the world market for gold towards the end of the century, then it is going to be a whole new situation in terms of the world economy. There can be little doubt that if the rouble is backed by gold then the United States dollar and the present IMF-backed system of statutory deposit reserves will become virtually unworkable. There is no doubt that the nations of the world and the consumers of the world will always opt for the currency which has the most solid backing. If a currency is backed by gold, that is the currency which will be in demand throughout the money markets of the world.
I raise this matter tonight in the general context of the Budget debate because I think it is something to which we ought to be giving more thought. It is a question which tends to be relegated to the departments and to the Reserve Bank to consider and is not often raised in forums such as the Parliament. I think it is about time that we started to give more thought to it. I think it is about time that we had debates which are more oriented to this type of subject. There is a vast potential for effect upon our economy and upon our whole system if the world economy changes to the extent that it could change if the monetary backing for international trading agreements becomes a gold-backed rouble rather that the British pound, or more recently the American dollar- the backing which has existed since the time of the Industrial Revolution.
-I rise with pleasure tonight to support the Budget introduced by the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) and to reject completely the amendment moved by the Opposition, an amendment which, in the light of the performance of the Whitlam Government while in office, can be described in no other way than as hypocritical and designed to hoodwink the Australian people. The Australian people showed on 13 December that they will no longer be hoodwinked by the gentlemen opposite. The Budget debate is usually a constructive debate. It is customary for the Opposition, in presenting its case against the Budget, to present its alternative policy. Regrettably, such has not been the case during this Budget debate. I have read and reread the contributions made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam), by the shadow Treasurer, the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford), and by the 3 honourable members who held the position of Treasurer during the period of the Whitlam Government. The speech of the Leader of the Opposition not only was lacking in constructive comment but also was positively dangerous. It was a rehash of all of the things that Labor did whilst in office, all those things that led Australia to the brink of economic disaster. The Leader of the Opposition said, in effect, that he would do it all again. He has not learned, and he will never learn, that you cannot run an economy in the way in which he tried to ruin it and expect to survive. As the Melbourne Age editorial of 26 August so neatly put it:
The Leader of the Opposition did nothing but stroll down Memory Lane.
Perhaps that is understandable because he has nowhere else to go. To the dismay, though, I am sure, of all Australians, the honourable member for Adelaide, the shadow Treasurer, fared no better in this debate. The best he could manage was this cliche:
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.
Who was the honourable member for Adelaide trying to convert? It certainly was no one on this side of the House, because that is the whole thrust of the Government’s policy. The honourable member for Adelaide, however, is also blinkered, like his leader, from the actual experience of the 1973-75 period. That experience has shown that governments cannot spend wildly and indiscriminately as Labor did and still expect inflation to be contained and unemployment to be reduced. The contribution of the honourable member for Adelaide in this debate completely ignored the nexus which I think most economists in the Western world would now agree exists between inflation and unemployment.
The 3 former Labor Treasurers, I am afraid, performed no better. My friend, the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean), for whom I have great respect as a person but for whose economic expertise my respect must be somewhat less than fulsome, had this to say:
By and large, a Budget at best is a statement of projected receipts and expenditure.
A budget, I would say, is very much more than that. The honourable member for Melbourne Pons went on to say:
Candidly, I would not have thought it would matter a great deal if this Budget had a deficit of S3 billion instead of the projected $2.6 billion when one looks at some of the things that might have been done. Another S400m could have been spent on things plenty of people can think of or $400m less could be collected in taxes, which in some respects can have the same effect.
I have to say that if $400m here or there is not seen to be significant at this time, if the scope for tax reductions or the avoidance of tax increases is not important, no wonder the Labor Party in this Parliament stands indicted for its 3 years of economic chaos. However, to his credit the honourable member for Melbourne Ports did talk about the Budget. That is more than can be said for his successor as Treasurer, the honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns). His contribution consisted of nothing more than a Marxist expose of the class struggle. No wonder he was scheduled to speak at 10 o’clock at night. The honourable member for Lalor, who is the only Treasurer, to my knowledge, of this Parliament never to introduce a Budget, is 50 years out of date.
The contribution made by the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) was equally pathetic. He claimed that the Budget lacked integrity. What a laugh that is coming from a former Treasurer who, by sleight of hand and by misrepresentation, presided last year over a savage attack on the taxpayers of Australia in the name of reform. Not one Opposition spokesman in this debate has put forward one constructive alternative to the Government’s Budget strategy. Not one Opposition spokesman has mentioned those policy measures of the last 9 months which have done more to restore economic stability and to improve equity and welfare in Australia than any other government has achieved in a full term of office for very many years. I mention but a few of those measures. There was the introduction of full personal tax indexation, the new system of family allowances, the major increase in assistance to the aged and the handicapped, the automatic linking of pensions to changes in the consumer price index. These are great achievements, of lasting benefit to all Australians.
I have no doubt whatsoever that the thrust of the Budget is in the right direction. Time alone will tell whether it is successful in repairing the ravages of the previous Administration. If it does not, if there are not strong signs of recovery in the first half of the calendar year 1977, then the Government will obviously have to review the situation. But until such time it is incumbent upon all Australians to give the Budget a go, to work positively to ensure that it does work. That will require hard work and co-operation on all our parts. No Budget will work unless we all pull together, and that applies in the field of wages and prices and in the field of industrial relations, just as much as it does in the field of fiscal and monetary policy.
-The aim of the Budget is to put value back into the dollar. It is an old phrase and it is one that is real and meaningful to many of us. With value in the dollar much more can be achieved by individuals, by corporate bodies or by companies, and by all sections of the community. I think that if we use it in the context of government activity it can easily be explained in terms of the funds which flow to different areas of government activity. For instance, if a State government were to receive an increase of 20 per cent in its funding from the Federal Government and inflation were running at 16 per cent, it would have a net gain of 4 per cent. If, however, inflation were to run at a level of 12 per cent, then the net gain to the State would be 8 per cent; its actual increase has been doubled by decreasing inflation by a comparatively small amount. If you carry that supposition into the lives of individuals and families, the cost of day to day life must decrease and the net benefits to those families and individuals conversely increased.
The previous Government tried all sorts of methods of improving things for the economy and for the nation. Tonight Opposition members are speaking and have spoken of selective stimulation. The previous Government tried every other sort of stimulation, so I do not see why supporters of that Government should not talk about selective stimulation. It tried increasing the money supply; it tried printing money; it tried borrowing money; it tried saying that the problem was not there; it tried buying back the farm. I think it tried just about everything imaginable but the results were nothing marked, except double inflation and treble unemployment. It is extremely interesting to hear honourable members opposite offering comments of a very learned nature tonight following the presentation of our first Budget.
The reduction of inflation must be the primary objective of any government in Australia today. I think that if we were to look at the responsibilities at all levels of government, it must be conceded that an example set in the federal area could well start a recovery by restoring confidence amongst individuals. It would be interesting to follow this exercise into the area of local government and to examine local government funding and see what is happening and what could happen in that area. The Government this year has distributed $140m to local government in Australia via the States. These funds are to be distributed by State Grants Commissions or similar mechanisms within each State. New South Wales is the only State with an established Grants Commission and it is one that will be filling an interesting role, given guidance by the present New South Wales Government. The funds that will flow to New South Wales amount to $51m. This sum is to be divided amongst local government authorities in two parts: Part A is a per capita grant or a loaded per capita grant which comprises about 30 per cent of total funds and part B is to be established on a needs basis. Within New South Wales of the $51m available, $17m would be distributed on a per capita basis, but the New South Wales Government has agreed that there should be some loading of the per capita grants in that councils with a population density per square kilometre of 25 persons or more will receive $3.12 per capita and those councils with fewer than 25 persons per square kilometre will receive approximately $6 per capita. Part B of the program which is to be distributed on a needs basis will be distributed under a formula established by the New South Wales Grants Commission. It will be distributed in regard to needs revenue equalisation. Although the precise formula of this proportion of the allocation has not be finalised, the Hew South Wales Grants Commission has indicated it will take the following factors into account: The characteristics of population, population scatter, geography of the area, non-ratable areas, growth rates and other factors in a general heading which could perhaps be termed the general character of the local government authority.
The Commission has also indicated that those councils which have shown good management policies will not be penalised in the allocations, and that it will not be accepting submissions from regions now holding regional hearings in the manner of the previous Australian Government and the Australian Grants Commission. The Commission also intends to visit each council in the State every 3 years and it has established an open line of contact with the New
South Wales Local Government Association. An open invitation has been extended to all councils to make submissions or to inquire at any time as to the details of its program. If we are to become more specific in the application of these funds, and if we were to take 10 councils in the western suburbs of Sydney and look at the average receipt of funds over the past 3 years, we would find that they have gradually increased from a level of $4.9m in 1973-74 to $5.9m in 1974-75 and$6.4min 1975-76.
These figures are derived by adding those funds that have flowed from the Commonwealth Grants Commission, the area improvement program, the Capital Assistance to Leisure Facilities program and the tourism and recreation programs. If it is possible to calculate that area as 1 6 per cent of the population of New South Wales, it becomes readily apparent that the increase this year, depending on whether the New South Wales Government does decide on a fair formula, could be as high as $8m and could be as low as $7m which, comparing it with last year, could be an average increase for each council of $100,000. This is a practical exercise and one that I feel needs spelling out because talks of federalism, philosophies and policies that may sound somewhat remote can best be judged in the way in which they assist the bodies they are supposed to assist.
In the calculations that I have made in regard to particular councils it would seem that the situation that has been found by Victorian local authorities will be duplicated within New South Wales. A budget that sets out to achieve the welfare and the best objectives for the individual will be a budget which proves that at a government level the security of those individuals has best been effected. For some time the Australian community has been looking for security and a sense of well-being. I believe that the community is only beginning to feel that confidence. The activity within all walks of life has started to bubble and there has been a relaxation in that part of the community.
– Al Grassby is looking for you.
– Al Grassby can come and take me on any time he likes. I will wait for him. The well-being of the community is established by a sense of security. A sense of security is reflected in all walks of life. We are seeing that reflected now. We have seen something that is going to lead this nation over the next 3 to 5 years to a stable, advancing, achieving nation.
– I support the Bill and condemn the amendments. The Budget is not an end in itself. It is the beginning of the long haul back for the Australian nation and its people. Regrettably, the debate has been characterised by not the slightest degree of comprehension of the problems by the Opposition. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam’ made a speech which did not give any indication that he understood the problems of the day or the problems that have been caused by his Administration. I do not blame the Labor Party entirely for everything that is wrong with our present economy, but it is and it was a very serious complicating factor in our present decline. One of the serious problems is that Labor supporters do not seem to have understood. They do not repent, they do not regret what occurred, and the Budget speech of the Leader of the Opposition offered not one constructive suggestion. It was similar to his speech on the foreign policy statement by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) where, of all places we need a bipartisan policy, but he chose to adopt a divisive attitude towards such an important matter. It is a matter of great regret that the talents of the Leader of the Opposition seem to infatuate him rather than to humble him. He is a man who marches solely to the drum of his own ego and the sooner he is replaced by his own Party, the better for this nation.
He is out on a limb. The Reserve Bank has, in its report, recommended the Budget strategy and even the New South Wales Premier says that he will try to make it work. That is the proper approach in the national interest.
The Budget and the measures taken by this Government during the year can be seen in 3 main areas. Firstly, a target was set for the growth in the money supply- a courageous setting of a target, and that has been achieved. Secondly, there was an attempt and a successful attempt to reduce the massive deficit because throughout the Western world with the halting growth of national economies and the rapid expansion of government commitments in many areas, there has been a chronic budgetary deficit of massive sizes in many countries. This is a fiscal hangover, the consequences of which are a major handicap to economic revival and to the restraint of inflation.
It was absolutely vital that this Government tackle inflation as its first target and reduce the deficit. I do not think that the Keynesian approach would apply today because it is obvious that the author of that approach never anticipated in his time that we would have spending by governments on such a massive scale on welfare projects and other areas that might be for the good of the people but were not productive as such. The right honourable member for Lowe (Mr William McMahon) has pointed out quite properly in his speech that the importance of the deficit, if there be deficit financing, is that it should be to finance productive purposes and should be funded through open market operations. The nature of this Budget is one that corresponds to a great extent with that requirement and it avoids the wastage and the excessive expenditures of a different nature that were incurred by the last Government. The third area in which the Budget operates is to attack as best > as possible, as supplementary to this Government’s proposals for wage restraint, the area of cost. It does so by not increasing indirect taxes, which is a great boon to the average man, and it is in the context of our approaches to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to produce wage restraint. The plateau indexation decision is a very sound decision in the interests of this country.
Turning to the amendment, I might mention a few matters of fact which arise from this. The amendment talks about unemployment. In New South Wales there is a serious problem but this Government is not unaware of it. Indeed, we are passing through a stage in our history when we are probably entering a unique phase. There is a work force changing all the time. There are ‘safe’ areas of employment- persons who obtain and expect to receive inflationary wage rises- and there are ‘vulnerable’ areas of employment in which the jobs of other persons are put at jeopardy because of those wage rises. There are far too many people out of work, particularly among the young, but paradoxically there are employers who cannot get staff in certain areas. In my own electorate there is a shortage of second and third class machinists and even of tyre fitters. Nonetheless there are far too many people out of work. I appreciate that the average young person nowadays will work in a factory only for a certain period of time because neither he nor his parents in many cases want him to have grown up in our society with high expectations and go into a job that does not suit him. So people demand job satisfaction, and that is their entitlement.
The question is extremely complex. In some electorates unemployment has gone down. In some areas of Sydney, including my own electorate, it went down between 2 1 per cent and 24 per cent at 2 unemployment offices in the 12 months to 30 June this year. It has gone up slightly since although the figure is still better in respect of women than it is for men. Young persons are having tremendous difficulties. One of the problems is that there is not so much difference between the wages for older workers and wages for younger workers. I commend the Government strongly for its relocation assistance scheme and in particular for the emphasis it is placing- and I hope it will place much greater emphasis on this- on ‘on-the-job training’ through the National Employment and Training scheme. In August this year 3322 persons were undergoing in-plant or on-the-job training under the NEAT scheme- an increase as against May of 2088. For the 1975-76 financial year, out of a total expenditure of $40m on NEAT the amount of $4.2m was expended on this type of training. This should be accelerated. The amount should be increased. There should be a great campaign throughout the nation to acquaint employers on what is occurring and what the Government is doing. I sometimes think that as a government we do not put our best foot forward. We should emphasise the social benefits of our programs.
The next part of the amendment talks about Federal Government responsibility. Let me turn to what is happening in New South Wales. Unemployment is increasing against the national trend. That is undeniable. Business bashing has been indulged in by the new Government in that State and progress has been stopped on certain works. That Government has its reasons. I am not going to go into the merits of those works, but the Eastern Suburbs railways and other development projects have been stopped. There has been an increase in the number of industrial disputes owing to demarcations. There has been a lot of business bashing by Ministers. One of the things that I have found is that business is concerned about rent control threats, and prices commission threats. There is even a rumour going around that there is going to be a coordination tax in the New South Wales State Budget. There is a great feeling of apprehension. The New South Wales Budget is late. If there were any need to get something done it would be to bring down that Budget as soon as possible because it may well come down 3 weeks later than expected. If business is going to withhold decisions and withhold taking on people who are unemployed this will militate against school leavers. Every day is extremely important. The sooner the State Budget gets into gear- I do not know what they are doing; arguing amongst themselves- the sooner they get themselves into a position of bringing down some responsible decisions instead of concentrating on nude bathing and gambling the better off the State will be.
The third part of the amendment talks about taxes. We saw the greatest increase in taxes in our history under the last Government. The Hayden Budget was the harshest, the most unconscionable, the most conservative Budget in our history. It abandoned all pretext of reform and taxed the lower income earners most savagely. Pensioners and older income superannuitants in my area are writing to me every day. I have taken the matter up with the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) and other Ministers to try to get something done about this as soon as possible. Who brought in that Budget? It was the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden), the same man who said in the National Times recently that he was not doing very well in his law studies- I am not surprised- but he wanted to continue them because it was a disciplined pursuit and it would make his intellect a little sharper. I would say that he ought to apply sharper intellect to his economic theories.
-I ask the honourable member whether he would mind resuming his seat for a moment. The honourable member for Hughes has just come into the House. I noticed a little while ago a certain honourable senator come into the House and verbally or in some other way attract the attention of the honourable member for Hughes. I wonder whether the honourable member would mind passing on my compliments to that senator and say that any intrusion into the workings of this House by another House or by anyone from outside this House will not be tolerated?
- Mr Deputy Speaker, the honourable senator to whom you referred was able to attract my attention in the most unobtrusive manner and with very considerable deference to the traditions and procedures of this House.
– I am quite sure that is right. Perhaps the honourable member will explain to him that there are messengers for that purpose through whom he may attract the attention of an honourable member in this House if he so wishes.
– Dealing with the remaining pans of the amendment, they have completely neglected the tremendous reforms of this Government. Personal income tax indexation and the child endowment measures are indeed the greatest set of reforms in the history of this country. Indeed, as a family package we should really have called them ‘family bank’ to emphasise to the people exactly what has been done by this Government. The final part of the amendment refers to stimulatory expenditure which of course is economically unsound, but this Government, subsidiary to its strategy, is aware of the needs of the unemployed and it has taken the steps I have outlined and it will take further steps.
– Many of your colleagues have accepted our advice.
– It is useful and it is democratic to have critics in our Party and we value them. The Government takes notice of those critics and having the full range of their opinions it is still able to steel itself and carry out its strong and competent economic policies for the benefit of this nation. The Budget also provides money for defence and money to aid our foreign policy. Who would say- as the Labor Party says- that we should wait until we cower in the shadow of Mars before we reach to defend ourselves? For the first time the Services can see that they can plan 5 years ahead.
There is one matter I want to deal with briefly, and that is the shipbuilding industry. I just want to say this. In my own capacity as a member of a sub-committee of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence dealing with industrial back-up under the chairmanship of the honourable member for Isaacs (Mr Hamer) I have visited a number of shipyards. I just want to say that although I agree with today’s report by the Industries Assistance Commission that the level of assistance to the shipbuilding industry should not be changed, I think it is subject to criticism on 2 grounds. Firstly, it exceeds its terms of reference. Secondly, if it does not, it does not set out alternative courses of action that this Government could adopt. I for one would think there would be some resistance on this side of the House to a policy that would not properly take into account all the aspects of that industry, including defence, before the Government makes a decision, but I know that the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) has said that this is only one of the number of reports that will be taken into consideration and I am heartened by that. One possible course of action in Newcastle would be to enable the dockyards to continue for a period as a repair and overhaul facility on a low key until it can be recapitalised and rebuilt.
Let me say in conclusion that this country’s problems are not only economic but to a great extent they are psychological and institutional. The national strengths and vitality of the country depend upon the political stability, the institutions and values, the geographic strengths and weaknesses, the economy- especially national resources, industrial capacity and finance and the people, including their numbers, their location, character, morale, education, our scientific and technological base and, as the integrating factor, leadership. This Budget is a blueprint from which we can build this nation again under the leadership of this Government. Our young people will have the opportunity to contribute to that development. I therefore commend the Budget to the House.
-The Budget has been well received by the vast majority of Australians. It has been accorded approval by the man in the street, by most economists of any standing and by the private sector of Australia. Therefore, I consider it appropriate for me to congratulate the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) on the contents of his first Budget. I hope that it is the first of very many more that this Treasurer delivers. He should feel some considerable sense of satisfaction that the application, hard work and dedication which he has no doubt given to his awesome and onerous task has been rewarded by the general approval of the Australian community. Of course, there have been criticisms by various groups of people that they have not received enough finance for their own interests. This is to be expected. In some cases it could be said that certain groups have a duty to the people they represent to state their opinions that more of a share of the finance should have been allocated to those groups or to certain industries.
As a member of the National Country Party and therefore a member of the Party which has a specialist role in this Parliament to represent people who live outside Melbourne, Sydney and some other capital cities, I should have liked more assistance to have been given to industries and projects located outside those cities. It must be an objective of governments, with the Federal Government giving the lead, to slow down the population growth of our capital cities and to assist and speed up the economic and population growth of the rest of Australia. The National Country Party stands deeply committed to this objective and to the interests and welfare of all the people who live outside the capital citiesMelbourne and Sydney in particular. Of course, we stand for the interests of the whole of Australia and of all Australians. There is no clash between these statements. On the contrary, I believe that the fact that the National Country Party has this specialist role in the Parliament is in the best interest of all Australians.
I want to mention some specific problem areas which are affecting people in the Indi electorate and also in many other non-metropolitan electorates to a somewhat greater or lesser degree. The major matters to which I refer are as follows: Firstly, the very serious drought which is beginning to dominate a large and important productive area of Australia; secondly, the continuing low returns to the beef farmer; thirdly, the continuing low returns to the dairy farmer which, but for Federal Government assistance, would be considerably lower; fourthly, the deteriorating situation in the textile industry and the apparently disturbing attitude of certain people in important positions in this country to that industry and to some other important industries; fifthly, the Albury-Wodonga development; sixthly, the unwillingness of the State governments to accept that they have great authority and responsibilities to do more to help in most of the problem areas I have mentioned. Two other major matters hitting the people of Indi very hard and hitting all Australia hard are the high cost structure of the country and the associated actions of communist controlled unions which are dedicated to forcing up our cost structure all the time until they- that is the members of the Communist Party- attain their ultimate objective of wrecking our economy and destroying our society and freedoms.
It is impossible in this speech with the time I have available to me to deal with all the consequences and ramifications of the drought. There seems to me to be an appalling lack of planning for the next 6 months during which the drought could easily continue. I am aware that it could break tomorrow. But let us not forget that the drought extends from Western Australia, through South Australia, a large part of Victoria to southern New South Wales.
– And Tasmania.
– And Tasmania; I thank the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) for his interjection. I am aware that the drought could break tomorrow or next week. But even if this happens, it will be too late to provide feed in some areas, too late io plant crops in some areas, too late to grow hay in other areas. Different areas affected need different types of aid. There is no doubt that we could be heading for the worst drought in recorded history in the parts of Australia which I have mentioned. To illustrate the gravity of the situation, I inform the House that in my home town of Wangaratta, where the average rainfall is 26 inches a year and the lowest recorded rainfall in the 100 years of recorded history is 12 inches, we have had only 9 inches for the whole year. Therefore, we still are 3 inches short of the lowest ever recorded rainfall. I cite that as an illustration of the severity of the drought.
I suggest to the Government that action be taken immediately to set up an emergency body composed of representatives from the areas affected. Perhaps it could be confined to the areas that I have mentioned already. I know that the honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King), the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Sullivan), the honourable member for Denison and other honourable members from parties other than mine have been bringing the drought situation to the attention of the Government on regular occasions. But I suggest specifically that we set up an emergency body in case this drought continues for another 6 months which could easily be the case, as those of us who have lived in country areas for a long time well know. The emergency body should be constituted at Federal and State levels and, of course, at the primary producer organisation level. As we all know, the drought affects also the business people of the country areas. The emergency body should be charged with the urgent preparation of a series of contingency proposals which could be considered as appropriate and practical to be instituted to help offset the effects of the devastating drought.
Before I speak further about specific primary and secondary industry problems and in particular the high cost structure effect, I should like to quote briefly from an article in the Melbourne Age newspaper written by Mr Geoff Wilson and published last Friday, 17 September 1976. 1 congratulate Mr Wilson on the content and presentation of the article. I propose to seek leave to have it incorporated in the Hansard record. It is quite a lengthy article and I have already consulted with officers of Hansard and the honour’able member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) who is at the table. They have agreed that it can be incorporated in the Hansard record.
– Is it worth reading?
-The honourable member for Lang (Mr Stewart) asks whether it is worth reading. As I say, I congratulate the writer, Mr Geoff Wilson, on the content and presentation of this article. In my opinion it is one of the best articles I have ever seen written on the situation facing the primary producer in Australia and how his returns have declined. The writer deals with not only the high cost situation but shows also how returns to the primary producer have declined in relation to the retail value of the selling price of various primary products over the last few years.
I will give two or three examples. In 1970, 68 per cent of the price of a pound of butter went to the farmer. Last financial year, 1975-76, that had dropped to 40 per cent. The percentage of the retail price of cheese which went to the farmer in 1970-71 was 30 per cent. Last year, it dropped to 25 per cent. In 1973, 62.3 per cent of the retail price of a pound of beef went to the primary producer. In 1976, it had dropped to 37.2 per cent. In 1971, 20 per cent of the price of an unsliced loaf of bread went to the wheat grower. In 1976, his share of the price had dropped to 15 per cent. On top of the lower returns must be added the higher cost structure which the farmer has to bear to produce the goods I have mentioned. In my opinion, a man could make a very effective speech simply by quoting the whole of this article. But I content myself by citing these few figures from it and now ask for leave to have it incoroporated in Hansard.
- (Mr Ian Robinson)- Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
By Geoff Wilson
As any grain grower, meat producer, wool grower or dairyman will tell you (given half a chance) farming in the 1 970s is a treadmill. This article gives an analysis of the declining amount of the consumer’s dollar going to the farmer, and the repercussions of this trend.
The way the price of food is going up, farmers must be making a fortune.
The working mother who made this remark was thinking of how her family food bill had risen from $25 to $30 a week in the early 1 970s, to today ‘s budget of $50 or $60.
But the target for her anger should not have been the farmerthe fact is that he is producing more, individually, under increased cost of production stresses, and for a rapidly-declining share of the consumer dollar.
What the food buyer has been experiencing in the past two years has been:
Flow-on effects of increased transport and energy costs that began with Arab oil price hikes.
The explosion in Australian wages.
The cost of labor in food processing, transport and retailing has been burgeoning unmatched by corresponding improvements in productivity.
For some primary industries and individual businesses (particularly in meat retailing) this wage cancer is fast becoming a terminal disease.
The massive increase in transport and labor costs has rammed the costs of all primary produce sky-high at retail level. At the same time it has forced the farmer’s own costs so high he frequently has to replace hired labor with machines- but he still suffers.
The accompanying tables, exclusive to Business Age, clearly show why farmers are going broke.
In every commodity- we list all the major ones- the retail price has rocketed over the years. In every case its demonstrably not the farmer who’s received the benefit.
The farmer has received instead a rapidly diminishing share of the total retail price. In some cases his return is only one third of its level 20 years ago.
Worse, with labor and transport costs still rising inexorably, the trend shows no sign of being reversed.
It is a fact that most farmers over two decades have had to become more efficient by increasing their output. Indeed, by world standards Australian farmers appear highly efficient.
What has become high cost is the whole structure that farmers and the consumer had to support.
In general, it is the farmer who is getting the least, and the unionist who is getting the most- often grabbing it by forceful action with no consideration for the farmer and consumer.
Even the Government gets into the act.
Not only are farmers receiving a reduced proportion of the consumer dollar spent on food and fibre, but in some cases their buying power is less in terms of prices years ago.
This means that the wool grower earning 8 per cent of the value of a $50 suit in 1960 obtained $4 for the fibre content this is equivalent to $6.88.
Yet a 1976 survey by the Australian Wool Corporation found that although the price of the average suit is now around $145, the grower’s fibre price is a mere 2.3 per cent- $3.33. He is thus down to less than half of his return of 16 years ago.
The primary producer sees himself as one of the main victims of union militancy. He can see its effects in:
Rapidly increasing on-farm costs of all the goods and services he uses.
Accelerating costs of processing food and fibre and transporting it into the hands of the consumer or into the hold of a ship- thus reducing what people are prepared to pay him ‘at the farm gate’, or as a proportion of the retail price.
Let’s look at wages in a typical butcher’s shop, for example: It comprises more than a third of the reail cost of meat. When labor costs in the abattoir and transport components are added, at least half of the cost of meat today is in labor between farm gale and retail counter.
Mr Kevin Bowtell, managing director of Consolidated Meat Holdings, Wodonga, said: ‘In the past we sold meat in many world markets because we had a competitive product. Now that product is in the bracket marked “consumer price resistance “.’
He explained that soaring slaughtering costs were the reason: ‘In the four years from June, 1970, to June, 1974, killing and boning costs, together with associated labor charges, rose about 75 per cent. But in the next 12 months those same cost areas jumped by about 8 1 per cent, largely as a result of wage increases’.
Where before the cost of slaughter and wholesaling was met by the return on hides and offal, the meat processing industry now is an increasing charge on the consumer.
So bad is the labor cost problem that one reasonably large meat wholesaling company in Victoria is considering closing down to take up, as mainstream activities, interests it has been running as sidelines. That will further aggravate the meat producer’s position by taking a buyer out of the market.
Labor problems are extensive, too. The recent experience of a wool grower drives the point home. To save transport costs he carted his own wool to a Melbourne store.
On both of the two trips he took his truck was unloaded by an eight-man gang, two of whom did the work while the others observed. When asked why, the woolbroker had to admit buckling under to union featherbedding demands.
Because this woolgrower realises that brokers’ charges pass on such costs to all users of the auction system, he has abandoned it in favor of private selling of wool. Because he is a thinking, informed wool grower, he is now obtaining at least 10 per cent more for his wool- without the marketing headaches of the auction system.
Such stories travel fast on the bush telegraph and a definite hardening of attitude towards unions is noticeable. It is leading to a great deal of thinking about how to reduce dependency on labor from farm gate to customer.
It is also leading to a hardening of attitude towards politicians who appear to be applying brakes on issues (such as further wool marketing reform) when the accelerator pedal is needed to cut labor and the materials handling costs.
A logical question from this is: ‘Why can’t farmers put up their prices to maintain their positions- just as manufacturers put up prices or organised labor goes for higher wages?’
The reason is that the farmer generally is a price taker. He follows a boom and bust pattern of seasons, markets and international trading.
For too long, farmers feel they have been faced with only one alternative to rising costs and reduced returns- this being to produce more on the same overheads (which can often further erode returns).
And one school of thought gaining some ground is that farmers should deliberately produce less, so that consumers are forced to pay more- on the basis of supply and demand.
Probably the best answers to the problem lie in union restraint and co-operation, increased mechanisation from farm gate to customer, improved materials handling, some changes in stagnant marketing systems, and a sweeping away of the politics that hamstring action and dissipate enthusiasm.
-What has caused this reduction in income to which I refer? It is mainly a result of high labour costs between the farm gate and the customer. Briefly, I cite 3 examples. Firstly, meat processing charges have risen absolutely astronomically. The second example is the unloading of wool at the wool stores. A man took his wool to a store in Victoria. A gang of 8 men was there. Two worked and six looked on. He said it had to do with some agreement with the union and that they had to do it. The third example concerns a tanker driver who called at a dairy farm in which I have had an interest for the last 1 1 years. He called a few Sundays ago to pick up the milk. He told me he was being paid $56 for that one day’s work. Good luck to him if he can get it. I do not begrudge the man that money at all. But it cost his company $56 for him to pick up milk for that one day.
– How much does the dairy farmer get?
– The dairy farmer of course is showing a loss. The appalling position that we have got into with regard to costs is illustrated and amplified by the fact that our average wage in this country is nearly 30 per cent higher than the average wage in the United States of America, the worlds richest country. I feel that a great deal of the blame for this almost unbelievable situation rests squarely on the shoulders of the previous Labor Government.
I want to talk very briefly about some of the industries that are affected. There are some very serious problems in my electorate and they apply over the whole of Australia. After all, surely we are here to present the problems of the people we represent to the national Parliament of this country. Of course one could speak for 2 hours on the problems confronting the dairy industry. Drought is over-shadowing a great area of production in the dairy industry. A major problem is the skim milk powder stockpile overseas. Today there is a return of only 50c a pound for butter fat whereas 18 months ago it was 70c a pound. To an ordinary farm producing 30 000 pound of butter fat this means a difference of about $6,000 a year. What the dairy industry is saying to the Government- and I think it is a reasonable proposition- is that it wants the price of butter fat underwritten for a limited period at 55c a pound. The Government has done a great job in that it has underwritten the price of butter fat at 50c a pound, but I think that the dairy industry has a reasonable proposition in wanting 55c a pound. We have all been waiting on the report of the Industries Assistance Commission which was chaired by Sir John Crawford, The report has come out now and, as I heard the comments of leaders of the dairy industry on the radio on Friday, it has been well accepted by them. It is a good basis to work on. It does not recommend a minimum price for butter fat but as I told the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair), I certainly believe that 55c a pound could be underwritten.
Next we come to the beef industry. It has entered its third consecutive low price year. The Government has tried to help by loans at 4 per cent interest. However, in the past it has felt the eligibility criteria has been too tight and the upper limit has been too low. Some moves have been made to loosen the eligibility criteria and the amount available has been doubled. One could talk for a long time on the problem of the beef industry and once again the drought problem is involved. Once again, also, the beef industry’s problem has been caused by international markets, particularly the Common Market being closed to us for the last 3 years. If only we could get some good rains over a large part of Australia it would make a big difference to the price of beef. But at least some long term loans at a 4 per cent interest rate are available. I think it must be agreed that this is fairly reasonable.
I should like to pass very briefly to the textile industry. I could say a lot more than my time allows me but members are being asked to restrict their remarks as much as possible. In my opinion, the textile industry is a very important industry to Australia. I am very perturbed at the trend exhibiting itself in both the Wangaratta Woollen Mills and the Bruck mills in my home city of Wangaratta and in the textile industry generally. The textile industry has been a contentious industry for many years. A lot of academics and theoreticians have put forward all sorts of ideas and criticisms of the textile industry. The fact is that much of that criticism has been very uninformed and very inaccurate. The people who made the criticism have not done their research properly. In the textile industry the rot started in July 1973 when the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam), a great economist, reduced the tariffs across the board by 25 per cent in an arbitrary move and at the same time introduced policies which put the cost structure of this country up to very high levels. Then in February of 1974 the Labor Government abolished all of the import quotas on textiles and this aggravated the position still further.
The knitting apparel report which was presented by the Industries Assistance Commission in April of this year and accepted by the Government in June is causing me great concern. I urge the Government to keep a close watch on the effect of the increase in import quotas for garments and for knitted outer wear in particular. The effect of the LAC report is to permit an increase in import quotas. This is affecting the employment situation in my home town of Wangaratta and I do not like that one little bit. I think that the Government has to come out and say that we need a textile industry in this country. It upset me to see a report from a leaked departmental document in the Melbourne Sun on Saturday. Mr Laurie Oakes of the Melbourne Sun quoted from the leaked confidential report as follows:
Examples of industries which are particularly susceptible to further structural change are the automotive, electronic, whitegoods, shipbuilding, textiles, apparel, footwear and canned deciduous fruit industries.
If there are people in the Public Service thinking in that way, we had better have a closer look at their qualifications. What industries will be left in Australia if we rationalised those industries? I sound a warning to the Goverment not to be guided too much by theorists and academics who deal in unrealistic theories. What we have to have in this country are jobs for Australians. The rot was started by the Labor Government and I hope that people never forget it and that it is not forgotten, particularly, when the next general election comes along.
– I rise, not merely to support the Budget, but to congratulate most warmly the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) on this, the first of many Budgets he will introduce into this Parliament. This Budget is not merely a document of confidence; it is not merely a document of reform. I believe that this Budget is one of the greatest social justice pronouncements of our time. It is incredible that so much has been achieved in such a short time when one considers that barely 9 months ago this country was in a state of economic chaos- on the verge of bankruptcy- as the direct result of 3 years of mismanagement by the previous Adminisration The Treasurer has dealt with the situation in such a way that a deficit which stood last year at $3.58 billion has been reduced to a projected deficit of $2.6 billion this financial year. At the same time, he has been able to achieve the social reforms which hold a paramount place in this document. These achievements are a tribute, I believe, which are due to and should be accepted by the Treasurer and by the Cabinet which has supported him so wholeheartedly.
Before I deal with the Budget and what it does to enable Australia to continue successfully to march towards the 1980’s, may I refer very briefly to the scandalous and fraudulent document circulated under the name of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) in the form of his amendment to the second reading of Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 1976-77. If ever there was an indictment of a claim which is patently false and which should be thrown back in the faces of the accusers, it is to be found in what is contained in this palpably untrue and demonstrably unworthy amendment moved to the Budget. Let me take the paras one by one. It is contended by the accusers of the Governmentthose who are trying to talk down the economy and those who are seeking to denigrate what this Government has achieved in 9 short months in office- that:
Those accusers are the very same men who in 3 years in office practically trebled unemployment in this country. They created more hardship and more misery than Australia has seen since the Depression. Yet, these men have the temerity, the gall and the shamelessness to accuse this Government of creating unemployment and using it as an economic weapon. That allegation is thrown back in their faces. That allegation is nothing more or less than a bare-faced lie. It will be rejected with contempt by the people of Australia, especially those who were thrown out of their jobs as a direct result of the economic vandalism of the previous administration.
The second allegation made in the amendment is:
In total, this is another lie or, should I say, a series of lies or a chapter of falsehoods which again will be rejected by those who can recognise the truth. When such an allegation is made at a time when general revenue payments to the States have been increased by 20.3 per cent this year and when a small State such as Tasmania has received an increase in revenues of 20.8 per cent, representing an extra $3 8m this year and $4.5m more than would have been received, under the wretched Whitlam formula, as Secretary of the Liberal Party Federal Affairs Committee, I respond to the accusation from the Opposition that we are abdicating our policy on federalism by asserting that we are bringing the concept of federalism back to this country after 3 years of centralist, socialist tyranny.
Shortly, with the concurrence of my friend, the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford), I will seek leave to incorporate in Hansard the basic principles upon which our Government is restoring federalism to Australia today. I appeal to the honourable member for Adelaide, for whom I do have some time, to read this document and to recognise the principles. I believe it is a truism that the more centralist Australia becomes the greater the risk of a socialist takeover. I know the honourable member for Adelaide would not wish to be classified amongst those who wish either to centralise or to socialise this country. I ask for leave to have this document incorporated in Hansard.
- (Mr Ian Robinson)- Order! Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
The Liberal and National Country Parties view as the main objective of government the creation of a society and an environment in which individuals may best fulfil themselves.
If this is to be achieved, individuals must be free to participate fully in government and the forms of government must be decentralised to permit maximum response and involvement. Government must be brought as close as possible to the people.
Accordingly, the Liberal and National Country Parties wholly support the concept of Federalism in which there are three areas of government- Federal, Slate and local- and in which the powers and functions are distributed to achieve continuous response and to provide an effective barrier against centralist authoritarian control.
In a crowded world of massive and growing complexities of laws and regulations, individual freedom is increasingly threatened unless the nature and shape of our democratic institutions adapt themselves to provide safeguards.
Federalism, therefore, is not merely a structural concept. Its principal justification is a philosophical one. It aims to prevent dangerous concentration of power in a few hands. In so doing, it provides a guarantee of political and individual freedom.
The Liberal and National Country Parties are keen to accept the challenge to achieve major and continuing democratic reforms. We are heartened by the significant advances in effective decentralisation already achieved in countries such as Canada, West Germany and America where centralist philosophies have been rejected as dangerous, inefficient and divisive. We are hastened in our endeavours by the onrush of centralist legislation and decision-making of the Whitlam Government.
All experience, both in Australia and in other countries, underlines this vital principle:
If effective government, geared to the needs of the 1980s and beyond, is to be achieved . . . if the great issues of national and local concern such as education, health, social welfare, housing and urban development are to receive maximum intelligent attention … if all our resources including human talents and local knowledge are to be effectively harnessed … if innovation, diversity and imaginative reforms are to be encouraged . . . then we must restructure our forms and institutions of government and our attitudes of mind to achieve co-operation not conflict, partnership and not domination.
For true national concern to be achieved and maximised, it must be done through a partnership effort by all forms of government. Canberra should not meddle with power- hungry hands at levels where local knowledge and talents can perform so much better.
There is a need to redefine the functions of each form of government, particularly where such clear definition is possible. There is equally a need to cater for those many functions which overlap governments and which demand cooperation and goodwill.
What is needed is not merely a patching-up of the currently degenerated Federal system. We must recognise and provide for the growing demands of individuals and community groups to be heard and to participate meaningfully in the democratic process.
If government is to be effective, it must be accountable for its actions. It should raise the moneys which it spends.
A practical solution to effective and responsible government must incorporate the following principles:
The question of a major tax or taxes suitable for revenuesharing purposes will be under constant review.
At this moment, personal income tax is virtually selfselective.
The States will not be immutably tied to any one tax or taxes as their main source of revenue. As trends in taxation change, the States and, indeed, local authorities will be free to argue for appropriate changes.
We acknowledge the severity and distortion of existing income tax rates and are pledged to reform them. These reforms can be undertaken during the transition period and beyond without prejudice to the States.
The Liberal and National Country Parties, in co-operation with the States, will undertake a thorough survey of all existing forms of taxation and charges currently imposed throughout Australia, with a view to progressive reform and rationalisation.
The Liberal and National Country Parties propose to ensure the States permanent access to revenue-raising through personal income tax. In so doing, the existing rights of the less populous States will be fully protected. No State will be disadvantaged and the relative positions of the States will be preserved.
The Commonwealth will be the sole collecting agency. There will be a standard tax form, embracing uniform concessional allowances. Commonwealth and State taxes will be separately identified on one assessment so that the taxpayer can see the amount being levied by each form of government.
The new system is intended to ensure that the States will have substantially the financial capacity to meet their responsibilities.
In exercising their revenue raising powers the States will be expected to accept responsibility to work in parallel with and not in negation of the overall economic management policies of the Commonwealth.
A transition period will be provided, involving two main stages:
Stage I: A calculation will be made of the percentage which in the previous year general revenue grants to the States bore to total personal income tax collections in that year. That percentage will be used to ascertain the share of personal income tax to the States in Year 1, and will also take into account the transfer of such Section 96 grants as should be absorbed into this base figure. In so doing, the relativities of the equalisation grants to the less populous States will be preserved.
Stage II: In order to increase the budgetary independence, responsibility and flexibility of the States, it is proposed that as soon as possible each State government will have discretion to impose a surcharge or allow a rebate on the total personal income tax of that State.
The proposals allow the Commonwealth to maintain and pursue its role in economic management. A whole armoury of fiscal and monetary weapons is available to the government. It is generally accepted that the use of personal income tax for revenue-sharing purposes will not weaken the Commonwealth ‘s capacity.
Apart from overall tax reform, the Commonwealth will retain the right to alter Commonwealth income tax upwards or downwards by surcharge or rebate.
To ensure full understanding and effective co-operation, the Commonwealth will convene pre-Budget meetings of the Premiers’ Conference in addition to other regular meetings of that body.
The Liberal and National Country Parties also propose to earmark a fixed percentage of personal income tax for distribution through the States to local government. This percentage will be shown on the tax form.
The money is intended for two distinct purposes:
This will be a vital new reform for local government. Under these proposals, municipalities and shires will have revenues of known dimensions to assist forward budgetting. At the same time, they will have very much greater independence of action.
Artificial regions will NOT be forced on local authorities from Canberra. Local bodies will be free to establish formal or informal groupings from time to time for particular functional purposes, but regions will not be used by the Commonwealth as centralist instruments to by-pass the States, to amalgamate areas or to impose Commonwealth policies.
It is intended that the principle of equalisation and the current advantages accruing to the less populous States viz-a-viz New South Wales and Victoria shall be sustained at all stages.
The Grants Commission will be fully retained with regard to its existing State functions. However, the responsibilities for local government inquiries will be transferred to State Grants Commissions.
The Whitlam Government has used its powers under Section 96 of the Commonwealth Constitution to achieve its centralist goals. These grants now dominate State revenue.
The coalition parties are convinced that national objectives can be fully asserted and social reforms achieved and maintained with a more selective use of such grants and without heavy-handed interference and duplication of functions.
Many of the existing Section 96 grants are now part of well-established and universally accepted programmes within the States. The moneys for such programmes could be transferred to general purpose revenue reimbursement and ultimately absorbed in the States ‘ income tax revenue.
Under such circumstances, the programmes would continue in full without prejudice, A Liberal-National Country Party Federal Government would seek agreement from the States that this would be so, prior to making the transfer.
If a future initiative should prove necessary to maintain or to increase the program, the Government would retain the initiative to invoke an appropriate special purpose grant. We would use such grants, where necessary, to initiate programmes in agreed areas of national need, to encourage innovation and to meet specal situations.
A continuing review of all programmes would be maintained by the relevant Federal Minister and through him with the appropriate Council of Federal and State Ministers.
In suitable circumstances, the principle of block grants (which substantially increase the flexibility and initiative of the States) would be used.
By such techniques, true national concern and involvement can be achieved far more effectively than at present.
Indeed, Section 96 will be used as it was originally intended it should be used, namely to make grants to the States for special purposes and not to make inroads into the constitutional responsibilities of the States.
As a vital institution of co-operation within the various forms of government, we propose to establish a Council for Inter-government Relations.
This will be an independent statutory body of major status. Its membership will include nominees to Federal, State and local governments and also a number of citizens.
The Council will have wide-ranging advisory and investigatory powers. By reference from either Federal, State or local government, it will examine in depth the problems which emerge between the various branches of government and will consider the definition and rationalisation of functions.
Its recommendations and reports will be available to all areas of government.
With the removal of the revenue reimbursement battle the Premiers’ Conference will become a more realistic forum for general debate, particularly on broad economic matters and upon issues developed by the Council for Inter-government Relations.
One of the first acts of the new government would be to convene a Premiers’ Conference to discuss the implementation of the financial implications of this policy.
The appointment by the non-Labor State Governments of special Ministers for Federal Affairs is a clear recognition by those States of the mounting problems and conflicts within the Federal structure.
The establishment by the Federal Opposition of a Shadow Minister for Federalism and Inter-government Relations is a further acknowledgment of those trends and a practical desire to ensure a continuing mechanism for day-to-day cooperation and consultation.
The Liberal and National Country Parties propose to achieve greater co-operation, including the strengthening of the functions of the various Councils of Ministers and consultative bodies (e.g., Australian Agricultural Council, Australian Minerals Council, etc.).
Our aim will be to maintain and assert national concern and to stimulate initiative, while eliminating unnecessary overlapping, waste and interference.
– I am obliged to the honourable member for Adelaide for his fairness. The third proposition contained in the amendment is:
That is another lie. The Medibank levy is not and never can be fairly described as a tax. It is a fee for service. I say to honourable members opposite that through the deliberate confusion that they have tried to whip up in the Australian community they have done a great disservice to the very system which their Government introduced. They have demonstrated to the Australian community that they are more interested in political point scoring than making Medibank work. Medibank was a creature of the Whitlam Government. These honourable gentlemen, having used it for a political purpose on an earlier occasion are now seeking to destroy it by confusing the Australian public. I say that they have been shown up as frauds and hypocrites.
– Goodness! How do you walk straight?
-They are finding voice tonight, Mr Deputy Speaker. But the people outside this Parliament know them to be frauds, hypocrites and charlatans because they are trying to use Medibank for purely political purposes. We on this side of the House are concerned with the health not only of the Australian economy but also of Australians themselves.
I come to a further point in this amendment which is a shameful indictment of the Opposition. It alleges that the Budget:
That is exactly what the Labor Party did from 1972 to 1975 and it practically bankrupted Australia in the process. We are coming to understand that not only did the Labor Party fail to learn from its previous mistakes but also that its members are blatantly saying that if they are given the chance they will do the same again. The young children in my family tell me that there is a song on the hit parade entitled We Do It. I do not know quite what that means. But I know that the hit song of the Labor Party for 1976 according to the Leader of the Opposition is Hey, Let’s Do It Again. Let this be a warning to the people of Australia of what is in store for them if at some future time the Australian electorate decides to give the Labor Party another chance. Labor members behaved collectively like a group of defaulting solicitors, and the trust account of Australia was milked, and milked dry, not merely by negligence but, I suggest, by deliberate criminal irresponsibility. Now, when we are endeavouring to restore the economy and we are beginning to see the very first signs of this Government getting Australia back on to its feet, these people on the other side of the House still do not realise the enormity of their guilt and still say, in essence, that they would do it again.
Mr Deputy Speaker, I believe that this amendment should not have been moved. I do not believe that the few responsible members of the Opposition side, including the honourable member for Adelaide, really have their hearts in it when they are called upon to support the amendment contained in this patently false and wasteful document. What is contained in the amendment is so false that, frankly, I do not believe it to be worthy of further consideration.
I turn to the real document upon which Australia will be restored and upon which, under a Liberal-National Country Party Government, we will march into the 1980’s with a strong and prosperous economy. The achievement of so much in such a short time is an enormous tribute to the drive and enthusiasm of our Treasurer. I should mention one other, if I may be permitted to do so, for whom I have the most enormous respect; that is our Minister for Social Security, Senator Margaret Guilfoyle. As a result of the activity of the Treasurer and the Minister for Social Security, we have at last shown the pensioners of Australia that a Liberal-National Country Party Government not only will honour its promises but also will do more for them than Labor ever did. Can we remember back to those wonderful promises which were made in 1972 to the pensioners of Australia when a certain demagogue stood on the stage of the Blacktown Town Hall and promised them the world? But what did he do to them? The pensioners of Australia under the Whitlam Government were robbed and fleeced of millions of dollars because the promises made to them were not honoured and because -
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise to take a point of order. The honourable gentleman is making offensive remarks. I ask for their withdrawal.
– Order! Will the honourable gentleman state his point of order? r Mr Les Johnson- The honourable member has referred to pensioners. He ought to be prepared to acknowledge the fact that pensions were increased by 9 1 per cent -
-Order! The honourable member will state his point of order.
– My point of order is that the honourable member is telling untruths. He is making offensive remarks. I ask that he withdraw -
-Order! No point of order arises. The honourable member will resume his seat.
– I believe that my remarks are having some effect on honourable members opposite. Let me remind the House that it was a Labor government which for the first time in this country many years ago reduced pensions. Further, it was a Labor Government in 1973 which for the first time in this country decided that it would tax pensioners. The taxation of pensioners is the most cruel and hypocritical act perpetrated by any government in any civilised country anywhere in the world. I challenge the honourable member for Adelaide, who is trying to interject, to give me an example of a socialist government anywhere else in the world which has taxed pensioners. That is what the Labor Government did in its 1973-74 Budget. Worse still, that Government permitted inflation to spiral. It knew very well that as inflation increased day by day- it trebled under the Labor Government in 3 years- the people who suffered most were the low income earners and the pensioners. Honourable members opposite not only had no sympathy or care for them; they stood by and watched them being fleeced by inflation. The Labor Government robbed the pensioners of millions. I will go further; it permitted their benefits to be taken away.
– This is silly.
-The honourable member for Hughes can say that it is silly, but the pensioners did not think it was. When the Labor Government came into office 94 per cent of the pensioners in this country qualified for benefits under the pensioner medical service. They had pensioner medical cards. They received free treatment. As a direct result of the actions of honourable members opposite that was reduced from 94 per cent to 8 1 per cent when the Labor Government went out of office.
-What about Medibank? They all received treatment under Medibank.
-Let us talk about Medibank. Under Mr Hawke’s policy concerning Medibank, pensioners would be paying the levy. Under our policy they do not. I am very grateful to the honourable member for Adelaide for letting me say what I wanted to say on the subject of pensioners and Medibank. Under our policies over 850 000 pensioners in Australia will not have to pay a cent for full Medibank cover. Under Mr Hawke’s policies they would be paying a levy. I draw to the attention of honourable members opposite the fact that any pensioner in this country can earn an extra $35.50 a week without losing his entitlement to a pensioner medical service card and without having to pay a cent to Medibank. With the very kind assistance of the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) I now have the exact figures which will apply after 11 November. The Government thinks about pensioners all the time, not just during an election, like some honourable members opposite. From 11 November the situation will be as follows: Single means tested pensioners will be able to receive $70 a week by way of income without paying a cent for Medibank and married couples will be able to receive $1 18.50. Single pensioners without a means test will be able to receive $76.50 and a married couple without a means test will be able to receive $ 1 30.
I have spoken for longer than I should have, but we on this side of the House are endeavouring to make this debate a viable proposition. Honourable members opposite comprise such a decimated Opposition that they have not even been able to join issue with us in any proper or logical way. It has virtually not been a debate because honourable members opposite just have not been prepared to get up and tackle the real issues. I ask: Which honourable member opposite has been game enough to stand up and say that the new family allowances scheme is the greatest social justice move in this country in 75 years? Which honourable member opposite is prepared to stand up and say that it is a very good thing that this Government is bringing in automatic indexation of pensions? Honourable members opposite had 3 years in which to do it but they did not do it. Which honourable member opposite is prepared to stand up and say that the Government’s proposal to put up $225m for aged persons homes and hospitals over the next 3 years is a great social justice move? Honourable members opposite are exposed for what they are. They are hypocrites. They are clearly not prepared to give any credit to this Government.
Honourable members opposite arc not the ones who will decide who will govern this country after the next election. That will be done by the people outside. The people of Australia trust this Government because it is bringing back sound economic management to this country. It is a government of reform. It is a government that has a commitment to restore Australia to its once great position. This country was brought to its knees by the economic Goths and vandals opposite. Australia is rising again and will be a great country once again provided the people have the confidence, drive, enthusiasm and determination to get Australia back to where she was. The present Government has those qualities. I commend the present Government, I congratulate the Treasurer and I say that I am proud to be associated with the Budget, which is the first step on the road back to recovery in Australia.
-In rising to join in the Budget debate tonight I would like to talk firstly about the housing industry. I believe that there is a source for the provision of untold continuing finance for a certain section in Australia, that is, the low-income earners whose housing is being funded at the present time by what are commonly known throughout Australia as terminating building societies. At the present time the terminating building societies borrow money from the Federal and State governments- they are mainly funded by the Federal Government- over 30 years at 4Vi per cent or 5 per cent interest. That money is in turn loaned out over the same term- 30 years- at a marginally increased interest rate to cover expenses. The rate varies from State to State, but I think that it is between 6 per cent and 7 per cent.
I am suggesting that we should be now planning to introduce indexation of interest rates in relation to those terminating societies. As an example I cite the situation of a person who joined such a society, say, 15 years ago and purchased a house. At that time inflation was reasonably under control, due to good government. At that stage such a person could borrow up to 90 per cent of the cost of a home. The price of a house then was $10,000 or$12,000-a maximum of $15,000. Such a person could borrow that money and pay it back at a nominal interest rate of 6 per cent. In many cases the repayments worked out at between $10 and $15 a week. Everybody in this chamber would be well aware that that sort of repayment is today regarded as a ridiculously low amount. I am suggesting that the interest rate on that type of finance could be increased on an indexed basis. For example, if after 5 years there were to be an increase from the base rate of, say, 6 per cent and the rate of interest were gradually to rise over the next 10 years to a maximum of the current rate of interest, which is at present 1 1 per cent, it would mean that the person in the case I have cited probably would be paying no more than approximately $18 to $20 a week to cover the higher interest rate. That would be still a reasonable amount of money to be paying out.
What benefit would be derived from doing this? Firstly, it would allow the terminating building societies to borrow extra funds on the open market at the normal lending rates of interest and to relend that money. Because the people who had borrowed from the societies in years past were paying a higher rate of interest the societies would be able to counter the interest they were paying with the old loans and, together with the new loans, relend money at the initial rate of 5 per cent or 6 per cent. There would therefore be a continuing cycle of money being ploughed into the housing industry.
Let me instance what would happen in my area. It is only one area in the whole of Australia in which this sort of thing could happen. It could be duplicated everywhere that there are terminating building societies. There are four or five different societies in Bendigo. Each of them would have at least 10 to 12 loan programs running at the same time. No. 1, which was the first one, probably started many years ago. The people who obtained 30-year loans under it are probably half-way through paying them back. I am not suggesting that they should be automatically pushed right up to an 1 1 per cent rate of interest. I believe that this would be wrong and that it would be an injustice. But indexation should come in. Even with those people it should start now so that by the time they get towards the end of their repayments they would be in turn paying a slightly higher interest rate that would be equal to the current rate on borrowings.
When a person borrows money to buy his first home he usually borrows up to his neck to do so. That person cannot afford to be then paying a high interest rate. Over the years governments have, quite correctly, provided such funding through the co-operative or terminating societies. Incidentally, we on this side of the House have always tried to encourage home ownership. It is my firm belief that after 10 years the average borrower from these societies has his family well on the way and has met the early expenses of providing the furnishings and other amenities he may require for his home and that he then has to look forward in the remaining years only to paying off the balance of his initial debt. I believe that this is a fairly logical and simple scheme that will provide the housing industry in this country with a tremendous amount of ready money that will not cost the taxpayer or the government of the day anything. I notice that the Minister for Construction (Mr McLeay) is present. I am sure that he is taking it all in. It can be borrowed on the open market. It can be recirculated because the Government has loaned it initially for a 30 year term.
This scheme is worth considering. It is something in which the Federal Government should be joined by the State governments. They should be studying this. I know there will probably be some bugs in the whole idea- there always arebut it provides scope not for thousands but millions and millions of dollars to be reborrowed and put back into the housing industry. What better area is there for a financial organisation to lend its money than in the area of first mortgages on houses? There is none. It is a gilt-edged, government-guaranteed loan. The money can be used over and over again. This is something we must look at. I will be pressing the Minister and the Government to look at it because it is one more area in which we can take a giant step forward and provide a continuous stream of funding to make sure that the housing industry provides not only the necessary work for the members of that industry but also housing for people in the income bracket that has a ceiling of $ 160 a week. There are many people in this category who cannot borrow money through permanent building societies because they cannot afford the interest rates and the repayments. They cannot qualify for a housing commission home because they earn too much money. This group comprises the majority of would-be home builders. They are the young people who have steady jobs and who are able and want to build and buy their own homes. We must do something for them.
Another area that concerns me, and I am sure it concerns many others in this chamber, is Medibank. I have heard through the Press many criticisms from those opposite and their supporters of Medibank. It is said that the Government is destroying it. The critics always come up with the magnificent assertion that those in the lower income group will be subsidising and paying for those on the higher incomes. The honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford), the shadow Treasurer, would be expertly qualified to agree with me that the majority of the funding of Medibank will be from Consolidated Revenue. He knows that the person in the higher income tax bracket is paying a greater proportion to general revenue than the person in the lower income tax bracket. It does not take a mathematical genius to work that out. So it is not logical for those opposed to the alterations aimed at improving Medibank to say that the person in the lower income tax bracket, because he is paying the levy, is subsidising the person in the higher income tax bracket. I accept, and it must logically follow, that there has to be a point at which the Medibank levy cuts out. The person who earns an income above that ceiling is paying a greater amount of income tax towards the bulk revenue which will fund 75 per cent of the Medibank scheme. There is no argument on that. By allowing Medibank Private to come into operation we are allowing people like the eminent Mr Hawke, who was by his own admission -
– Who is he?
– He is a man who was trying to stand for a seat in Victoria. By his own admission he was insuring his family through a private society but has now joined Medibank Private. So where is the argument from those opposite? Here is a man in that higher income tax bracket about which they are always talking- a despised person with a high income- who realises he can join Medibank Private and get all the health cover he needs. I cannot see what those opposite have to talk about.
– He is accepting the Government’s Medibank scheme.
-Of course he is accepting the Government’s Medibank scheme. He is acknowledging that we have improved Medibank. I am sure that even that very careful man, the shadow Treasurer, would agree that Medibank was never free. It may have provided a nocharge service, but it was never free because the taxpayer was paying for the total cost of Medibank. We have started to provide a system of commonsense management for the whole Medibank scheme. Nothing is taken away from Medibank. All the facilities for public hospital treatment have been retained. To them have been added, to those who want it and who can afford to pay extra, provision for private or intermediate hospital treatment. Do not make any error and say that those who can afford extra cover have some precious advantage over those who cannot, because they are also subsidising heavily those receiving public ward treatment. They are subsidising them through their contribution to the 75 per cent of funds coming from general revenue. The Government has looked at Medibank and improved it. It has taken no services away. In fact, it has made sure that every person in Australia has, in accordance with his ability to pay, the right to have hospital treatment or medical treatment. We will continue to improve this scheme. The Minister so obviously has shown an ability to listen to argument and to make adjustments as and when necessary.
-In the very limited time at my disposal I want to draw the attention of the House to 2 significant aspects that arise out of the Budget. Firstly, I draw attention to the very forward looking and major changes that have been taken with regard to family allowances. This social reform is of very great significance. Families, particularly families with young children, have been and still are under immense pressure. That pressure, to some extent, is relieved by the innovation of the family allowances. This new scheme will place inD the hands of the mothers in the community some income over which they have complete and total discretion. It is a step that has been long needed. It is my hope that it is the beginning of further underpinning of the family.
It is the policy of the Government to recognise the family as the cohesive force in society, and the Government’s aim is to give recognition to the necessity of strengthening its influence. I think it is terribly important that the country develop a philosophy for the family. There are too many families in Australia who take the position of the family for granted. They are unaware that the family as they understand it is under threat. There is in the community a significant and vocal group which believes that the care of children from a very young age should be the primary responsibility of the state. There is, however, in the large silent majority of families a strongly held view that the primary care of young children should be given by their mother in a comfortable, secure family setting. This reform for family allowances will enable an increasing number of families to do just that. But I urge upon this House and upon those families which have that desire and aspiration to recognise that they must express their views, and express them publicly. There are those who would by guile and by the use of emotive argument seek by various devices to redirect the concern of the community in such a manner that substitute care becomes the inevitable and accepted thing for the community as a whole. One has only to read some of the literature that is available from time to time to discover that there are many who have an ideological commitment to changing the nature of society and replacing the normal family care of children with a substitute care- care by the state- of young children.
The family allowances that have been introduced will relieve to some extent the economic pressure on families that up until now have faced increasing difficulty in gaining sufficient resources to enable the mother to be the primary care giver of young children during the preschool years. Implicit in the question which I asked the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) a couple of weeks ago was the thrust of the argument I am now putting.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! It being 10.30 p.m., in accordance with the order of the House of 18 February, I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the negative.
– As I have said, there are many people in the community who would like to see the young children of this country become the primary responsibility of the State rather than being the primary responsiblity of their families. This Budget, containing as it does provision for the necessary funds to enable the new family allowances to continue to be paid, will assist those young families to meet the financial commitments involved in caring for young children.In a question I asked the Treasurer about a fortnight ago I urged upon him that when reviewing family allowances he do 2 things. Firstly, I asked that he maintain the real value of the family allowances that are now payable and, if possible, index them so that they rise in a regular fashion and so that young couples either raising a family or planning a family can do so in the knowledge that family allowances will provide in real terms a significant contribution to the family income. Further, I asked the Treasurer to look into the possibility of raising in real terms the family allowances payable to mothers with young children of pre-school age.
It is quite clear, if one studies the Borrie report, that a great majority of mothers of young children are at home caring for their children. It may be argued by some who would like to see substitute care provided for every child that the reason those mothers are at home is that they do not have child care centres where they can place their children. I think there is another interprettation of the facts; that is, that those mothers prefer to be at home with their children and need support services to enable them to continue to be the primary care givers for those children. Those support services include the provision of a higher family income to enable parents to provide for their families the standard of living the community has now come to expect. If it is possible when the children of a family are at school for the mother to work and she chooses to do so- and over 50 per cent of mothers in the community make that choice- then in those circumstances the family has 2 incomes, but families with young children are very often dependent on only one income.
There is an urgent need for careful examination of family incomes to ensure that families with young pre-school children have sufficient income. That income can be supplemented by the provision of substantially higher family allowances. Furthermore, such families need the support of a whole range of childhood services that are not based upon the idea of child care, which in the minds of so many people conjures up the idea of substitute care. This idea of substitute care is conjured up because within the community we have not identified clearly enough our philosophy for the family. As I said in my opening remarks, I urge upon all those who believe that the mother should be the primary care given for young children to say so. If there is developing in their areas a child care centre, they should go along to ensure that it develops upon the basis for which it is being established- to support the family. It is a support for the family, not a substitute for it. There are many who cite the single parent, the widow, the supporting mother as cases of need. They are cases of need. They are families of a particular type. They need support, but the type of support that they need is not the type of support that is needed or wanted by the great majority of 2-parent families.
I have placed considerable stress upon the need to provide added incomes for families with young children. The final point I make is that one method of providing that added income is to carry out a review of our tax structure- a review designed to show concern that people should be given an incentive to work and to earn more, and that a careful examination should be made of the possibility of looking at the position of the single income family with pre-school children to ensure that it is not disadvantaged when compared with the 2-income family which has the same income as the single income family. The comparative tax take from those families, which are equal in all respects, places the single income family at a considerable disadvantage. I think careful consideration should be given to the possibility of introducing in the case of the family with preschool children an optional income splitting system in the form of some concessional family tax that recognises the need of families with young children to have larger resources available to them than the present tax system allows.
Debate (on motion by Mr Shipton) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr McLeay) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
-I refer to the matter of juvenile unemployment, particularly in the western suburbs of Sydney. During another debate recently I pointed out that of the 7200 registered unemployed at the Commonwealth Employment Service offices at Blacktown, Mount Druitt and Penrith 45.1 per cent were juveniles. I read in the Age of 9 September about a number of back benchers on the Government side who supported the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, Mr Street, and the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) of course, when they opposed the proposition spearheaded by the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Went worth) that something should be done about juvenile unemployment. I am surprised at some of the names I read in the edition of the Age of 9 September.
– This was a leak.
– As the honourable member for Adelaide said, it was a leak from their party meeting. Apparently the story of the whole debate was leaked. The remarkable and most humourous thing was that the following week there was a leak about the leak. They objected to it having been leaked in the first place. The fact that they objected to it being leaked was also leaked, which made for quite a Gilbertian situation. Let us look at the names of some of the members involved. There was the honourable member for Evans, Mr Abel. Apparently he supported the Government in its attitude of not doing anything about an unemployment relief scheme for our youth, to get our youth back to work, as did the honourable member for Barton, Mr Bradfield. Then a Mr Rudd of New South Wales is mentioned. There is only one person from New South Wales with a name like that, and that is the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr Ruddock). What did he have to say? He said he told the members of a delegation who came to him complaining of not being able to find jobs to contact his office the next day. He said that no one had done so. Would anyone blame them? Honestly, who would want to go back to him? In view of the attitude he expressed in the caucus room, they knew that he did not have a sympathetic ear.
Then we find a very interesting article in yesterday’s Sydney Sun. It shows, for example, that in the Leichhardt Commonwealth Employment Service office there are 4082 registered unemployed, and 23.1 per cent of those are juveniles. That office, of course, would cover part of the electorate of the honourable member for Evans. In the Parramatta area we find that juvenile unemployment is shown to be 38.13 per cent. Frankly, as a member who represents an outer western electorate of Sydney, I am ashamed that any honourable member would pretend to be a representative of that western area and adopt the attitude that unemployment is not a serious problem in the western suburbs, and would go into his caucus room and support the Government in its attitude that it should not bring in a system of unemployment relief, particularly for our young people. That is a very essential job which has to be done. I do not think he helped his colleague in the adjoining electorate, the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Cadman). The electorate of the honourable member for Mitchell coven the area of Windsor, and I notice that the juvenile unemployment rate in that area is 42.56 per cent. In other words, 42.5 per cent of the young people in Windsor are out of work.
-He did not leak it, did he?
– No, I do not think he would have leaked it. I think the honourable member for Mitchell and the honourable member for Parramatta get on reasonably well. Nevertheless, it was leaked and the humourous part of it is that they then objected to the fact that it was leaked.
– I rise on a point of order. The honourable member for Sydney made an interjection in regard to the honourable member for Mitchell, accusing the honourable member for Mitchell of leaking something from the party room. I ask you, Mr Deputy Speaker, to ask the honourable member for Sydney to withdraw that false accusation.
-Order! There is no point of order involved. The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I wish to discuss the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Having been, if you like, a failed employee of the ABC, and having gone on to something better or worse- who knows what- I feel a continuing interest in the activities of the ABC. I am not what one would describe as an ABC basher. The point I wish to make about the ABC is that it does broadcast some programs which appear to have a one-eyed view. I do not object to those programs. All I ask is that the ABC perhaps consider opening the other eye at a different time.
In particular I want to refer to a matter which seriously affects my electorate, and it is related to the pulp and paper industry. The Shoalhaven paper mill which is located near Nowra is, of course, a major employer in the area and is now again operating full time, fortunately, after operating only part time for 2 years as a result of the tariff measures taken by honourable gentlemen opposite. Fortunately that paper mill is working but, nonetheless, it is now being subjected to a lot of propaganda which in fact is being disseminated by the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I have from the company that runs that paper mill a letter complaining about the unfair treatment that the pulp and paper industry has been getting. That company is an employer of many thousands of Australians. In particular the company says:
In recent months the management of APPM has become increasingly disturbed by the amount of time and scope given to anti-forest industry opinion- on radio and television- particularly in that given by the ABC, without compensatory attention to the views of the industry and the forest services. Even more disturbing has been the partisan approach of some ABC reporters and comperes.
In illustration of our complaint, I should like to draw 2 recent programs to your attention. They are:
The Science Show broadcast … on Saturday, 29 May, and
Lateline broadcast . . . on Tuesday, 13 July.
I must say that I am not opposed to the existence of Lateline. I think that its viewing audience, which is . less than 0.5 per cent, probably represents a reasonable assessment of its value. I do not seek equal time for people like the employers of labour in my electorate to defend the industry on Lateline. I would prefer them to do so on a program which people watch. It would be nice if they were given an opportunity to discuss their position at some time. The letter continues:
Five people were interviewed on these 2 programs. Without exception these programs were strongly opposed to the operations of forest industry. Between them more than 8000 words of attack on forest industry were broadcast with no attempt to provide a balanced viewpoint to include the other side of the story. Some of the statements made in those programs were seriously in error. For example, the Lateline compere, Bob Davis, told listeners that ‘there has been no significant public inquiry into forestry ever’. This is quite untrue. The facts are that there is, at present, a Senate inquiry proceeding into the effect of the woodchip industry, that the Mouse of Representatives held an inquiry into the softwood planting program last year and that the ALP Federal Government held an interdepartmental inquiry into the woodchip industry last year, too. These matters are wellpublicised knowledge.
In addition, the Australian Forestry Council authorised a forestry and wood-based industries development conference, which involved intensive study of the industry, between 1969 and 1974.
The facts are that there is continued and unfair attack on one industry which is a big employer in my area and also in Tasmania. I believe that the ABC should give equal opportunity to industries like this to state their position fairly. We are getting a very one-eyed view. There seems to be little reason why this industry, which was promised a fair go by the ABC when it complained and was promised a chance to state its case, should not be given that chance. That chance has not yet been given to it. I want to stress that when the people of Australia listen to programs which get stuck into industries like this they should recognise the employment consequences of damaging them and they should recognise how many people will be out of work in Australian industries if this kind of unfair and unreasonable attack is allowed to be continued so that it influences the people of Australia.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Tonight I want to discuss the Medibank muddle. I. am pleased to see the honourable member for Evans (Mr Abel) in the House as I want to refer to him in connection with the Medibank muddle. I have an article here from the Five Dock Recorder which is headed ‘Counter- Attack by ALP Branch’. Perhaps we should call in Sherlock Holmes or someone who knows about security as the issue concerns a petition presented a few weeks ago in which 500 names were involved but approximately 23 names appear on the petition. The little Australian Labor Party branch in the electorate of Evans was trying to find out where the other signatures were. They appear to have been lost. The honourable member for Evans stated that they are here somewhere, and that is why I am pleased to see that he is in the chamber.
The article is by a journalist who is probably not sympathetic towards the Labor Party. I notice that on the second page there is an advertisement for the honourable member for Evans, giving his telephone number. I imagine that if a person puts an advertisement in a newspaper he has a fair bit of say in it. The article says:
Five Dock branch of the Australian Labor Party slammed Federal Member for Evans, Mr John Abel, last week for criticism on its credibility.
Replying to remarks criticising the branch for its comments, President Steve Sillick said Mr Abel was attempting to hide his mistakes by making personal and emotional attacks on his critics. ‘The facts and Hansard clearly show that he has tried to mislead the public and is still trying to do so ‘, Mr Sillick said.
In the Australian Financial Review of 6 August Mr Abel is quoted as saying: . . . that he had just received a petition with 300 signatures supporting the Medibank changes. The petition was unsolicited.
He presented the petition on 19 August but 23 signatures were on the petition, not the 500 claimed originally. In the Financial Review of Friday, 6 August under headline ‘ Fraser ‘s Backbench A Little Edgy But Still Solid’, the following article appeared:
Most new backbench members of the Liberal-National Country Party Coalition are concerned about the confusion in the public mind over the Government’s Medibank proposals.
While many Government parliamentarians believe that the ‘communication gap ‘is a short term issue . . .
It is stated also in the Financial Review of that date:
Mr Abel (Lib. NSW) said that he has just received a petition with 500 signatures supporting the Medibank changes. The petition was unsolicited.
It has come to my notice that of the 23 signatories is one from Burwood, one from Punchbowl, one from Annandale, one from Balmain, one from Concord West, one from Randwick, one from McMahon’s Point- I do not live thereand one from Cremorne. It is said there could be eight from outside the electorate. Something should be done about such misleading statements. Perhaps the honourable member for Evans could explain the situation, because I will be sending the Hansard to the branch office. It is always looking for this information. I hope the honourable member will give me a satisfactory answer because he is not a bad type of bloke. When you meet people in this House you take a liking to most of them, but we of the Labor Party do not like lies.
– I really feel honoured. I am a very quiet, humble, unassuming man. I find it hard at times to find words that are appropriate to the occasion. Having been honoured this evening by the honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage) and the honourable member for Sydney (Mr Les McMahon) I think that speechless is a good way of describing how I feel. It was my intention this evening to speak about the socialist Left of the Labor Party but that will wait. It will be there tomorrow, the next day and forever more. However, as I have been turned on to another track, let me first dispose of the honourable member for Chifley.
– Would you dispose of him?
– No, because I am sure it would be unparliamentary to do so. This is a democracy. The institution of the Australian Parliament is held in high esteem throughout the world, as we heard the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) say tonight, yet members of the Opposition believe such things as leaks. Let us face it; they are experts at leaks. During their 3 years in government there were leaks such as we had never seen before. They were well and truly known as the ‘ great leaks ‘.
Let me turn to another subject. The unemployment of youth in this country is a real problem. The Labor Party created it. The honourable member for Chifley supported his Government’s plan to put young people on unemployment benefits. He lent his support in the Caucus room and in this House to that situation. Hansard will show that every honourable member opposite was party to the destruction of employment in this country. There is a problem and there will be a problem this Christmas. Let honourable gentlemen opposite stand and suggest that unemployment benefits should be paid to every school leaver the day he or she leaves school. Is that what he suggests? Is that the sociological problem he wants on his conscience? Does he suggest that the day a boy or girl leaves school he or she simply goes to the Commonwealth Employment Service and says: ‘Give me $40 a week unemployment benefit”? Do we want to put all the youth of this country onto the dole? Is that what the honourable member for Chifley wants? Does he want them to gather collectively and not to work? Does he not want the youth to have to search out some job during the Christmas holidays. I want to see all our school leavers in jobs. I want to be pan and parcel of seeing the youth employed. That is why I am proud to be a supporter of the Government which will see our youth employed.
I do not support the handing out of the dole. That is an atrocious word. Nevertheless, the Labor Party brought that word into being. I do not support the handing out of the dole to those who do not have to seek a job. I believe that the youth and the middle aged- those of this country who are of working age- at least have a responsibility to the Australian people to try to find gainful employment. If, having sought positions, they cannot find gainful employment then they should be paid unemployment benefits. Next time the honourable member gets a leak he should make sure and check it. I shall come to the remarks of the honourable member for Sydney (Mr Les McMahon) later this week.
In closing, I challenge the Opposition. I am prepared to employ one young person of school leaving age in my electorate for $50 a week. I know businessmen who are prepared to do the same thing. Will the trade unions allow me to do this? Will honourable members opposite stand tonight and join with me in issuing a challenge to the trade union movement to allow me to employ one school leaver during the 7 weeks Christmas break at $50 a week, irrespective of hours worked and conditions? I challenge honourable members to stand now. Not one honourable member opposite- the honourable member for Chifley, the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Antony Whitlam), the honourable member for Sydney- is prepared to stand, because they do not care about unemployment. They use unemployment as a political tool.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I rise to speak about a very serious matter. Earlier this evening the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) referred to the country’s being down on its knees. At that point I want to come in 4-square, chock-a-block, behind something the Governor-General had to say about the corruption of youth.
-Order! I hope that the honourable member is not going to refer to something which was said in debate this evening.
– Absolutely not, Mr Acting Speaker. I give you that assurance very expeditiously. In today’s Age there is a report about the Governor-General’s concern about the corruption of youth. He expressed this concern at the Returned Services League congress. For once every honourable member on this side agrees with what the Governor-General had to say. He talked about forces being highly organised, campaigning to convert students to political ideologies, forces at work in society today aimed directly at young people, a high degree of organisation in the proselytisation of the young. The guilty men opposite who are trying to interject know that the Governor-General has come out of his closet on this question of the corruption of youth. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott)- the giver of gratuitous advice last year- are now being shown up for what they were by the man they suborned. He has come out to say to them that no longer must their perversion of democracy, their corruption of youth -
- Mr Acting Speaker, I raise a point of order. I ask you whether, in your opinion, the honourable member for Grayndler in bis references to the Governor-General is contravening standing order 74.
-Order! I suggest to the honourable member for Higgins that at this point the honourable member for Grayndler has not yet transgressed the Standing Orders.
- Mr Acting Speaker, I raise a point of order. I seek the withdrawal of the word ‘suborned ‘ in relation to the Governor-General.
-This is a mere ruse. It is a very serious -
-Order! The time being 11 o’clock the debate is now concluded. The House stands adjourned until 2.15 p.m. tomorrow.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
As the honourable member implies, protein levels in flour may vary in different areas of Australia. I understand that, to achieve the minimum standard of 2.7 per cent nitrogen applicable to all protein increased bread, bakers use either premium protein increased flour or add wheat gluten.
In the case of cereal products such as bread, the protein content is calculated by multiplying the nitrogen content by 5.7. This test is the accepted scientific method of determination of protein content. For these reasons it is clear that the analytical specification referred to provides an effective method of assessment of the protein levels in bread.
In the United Kingdom the composition of bread containing milk solids is:
The composition of bread containing added protein in the U.K. is as follows:
It is understood that where a 6 per cent addition of non-fat milk solids is required there is a very limited production of such bread, attributable to the processing difficulties which are involved.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: (1), (2) and (4) Permanent quarantine officers at Gladstone are:
DrM. D. McGree
DrE. M. Richardson
Each of these doctors is a private practitioner. Dr J. A. McGree was injured in July, 1975 whilst boarding a ship in Gladstone port on quarantine duties. He is not yet able to resume the full duties of the position.
Temporary appointments are:
Mr A. I. Armstrong appointment expiring December 1976.
Mr C. H. Ballard appointment expiring December 1976.
Messrs Armstrong and Ballard are permanent officers of the Department of Health.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
(a) The West Indian dry wood termite is considered to be indigenous to the West Indies and the Caribbean and is now established in South and Central America, United States of America, Canada, China, Midway Island, Fiji, England, South Africa, Sierra Leone, New Caledonia, Easter Island and Queensland.
Khapra Beetle (Question No. 84S)
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
However, Khapra beetle was located in a number of consignments which had been delivered to consignee’s premises in Melbourne from cargo brought to Australia by the Catherine S.
Eleven separate consignments of the cargo of the Catherine 5 were examined on discharge in Melbourne prior to their delivery to consignees. No evidence of Khapra beetle was found during these examinations. Sixteen separate consignments from the ship had been inspected on discharge at Sydney, the vessel’s previous port of call, without detecting Khapra beetle.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
(a) The infestation was found following a report that insects had infected a consignment of cocoa butter to Red Tulip, Prahran.
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
First-class Air Travel (Question No. 866)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice:
– The Minister for Administrative Services has provided the following answer the the honourable member’s question: (1), (2) and (3) On 2 July 1976 my Department sent a telex to TAA, Ansett Airlines, East- West Airlines, Airlines of
New South Wales and MacRobertson Miller Airlines advising them of the Remuneration Tribunal’s Determination in respect of class of air travel for members of Parliament and their spouses.
As it was not possible to issue first class parliamentary travel warrants to members immediately, the airlines were requested to issue first class tickets where applicable on the existing warrants.
The Remuneration Tribunal made no determination or recommendation on the class of travel by senior public servants. The change in entitlements for some public servants followed a decision by the Government.
The Public Service Board did not inform either of the major airlines of the changed travel entitlements of some public servants nor did my Department. This accords with previous practice.
am asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
Can he say which countries have (a) signed and (b) ratified the treaties on nuclear tests and weapons and when have they done so.
– The information which the honourable member seeks is in lengthy tabular form and because of this has been made available at the Parliamentary Library.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
All the Governor-General’s visits listed in ( 1 ) above were approved in principle by Mr Whitlam when Prime Minister. The last visit was also approved by me when I became Prime Minister.
Married Women in Workforce (Question No. 918)
asked the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, upon notice:
What was the percentage of married women among employees in the Australian workforce in 1904, 1910, 1920, 1930, 1940, 1945, 1947, 1950 and in each year since 1950.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
No data are, in fact, available for the specific years mentioned in the honourable member’s question with the exception of 1947 and for each year since 1964. However, information is available from census data for the years 1911, 1921, 1933, 1947, 1954 and 1961; in addition, the Australian Statistician’s quarterly labour force survey provides relevant data for each year since 1964.
The following table sets out the percentage of married women among employed persons for the years most closely corresponding to the honourable member’s question. The number of employed persons includes those who are selfemployed since these cannot be separated for married women from 1964 onwards:
Table 1: Percentage of Married Women among Employed Persons in the Australian Workforce: 1911, 1921, 1933, 1947, 1954, 1961 and 1964 to 1975 inclusive.
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice:
What sum was paid under each category of the Tasmanian Freight Equalisation Scheme during July 1 976.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Payments paid under the Tasmanian Freight Equalisation Scheme for the period July 1 976 are set out below.
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable members ‘s question is as follows: ( 1 ), (2) and (3). I understand that the report referred to is presently being printed by the Australian Government Publishing Service. I anticipate receiving the report shortly and will then consider the question of tabling.
asked the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Electoral Division of Hughes, in fact, comprises part of the Employment Office areas of Caringbah and Wollongong and a minor part of the Goulburn area. At the end of July 1976 the numbers of persons registered as unemployed in the first two mentioned Employment Offices were as follows:
No information is available from CES statistics which relates to registered unemployment in manfacturing industry.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Education, upon notice:
– The Minister for Education has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
Press reports suggest that it is the specialist areas that are the main concern in Victoria at present. Sufficient data were not available for the Commonwealth’s report to consider the situation for specialist teachers for whom it is possible that shortages could still persist even if an overall surplus emerged.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The names of these nursing homes are:
National Health Act-
Eleanor Private Hospital, Heidelberg
Arlington Private Hospital, Thornbury
Chantee Nursing Home, Ivanhoe
Greenways Private Hospital, Northcote
Ivanhoe Private Hospital, Ivanhoe
Joycedale Private Hospital, Ivanhoe
Kenilworth Private Hospital, Ivanhoe
Rowena Private Hospital, Ivanhoe
St Aidan ‘s Private Hospital, Thornbury
St Mary’s Private Hospital, Ivanhoe
Wyuna Private Hospital, Northcote
Nursing HomesAssistance Act-
Little Sisters of the Poor, St Joseph ‘s Home, Northcote
asked the Minister for Overseas Trade, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
– The Minister for Social Security has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
Three partial censuses of accommodation used by homeless men in Sydney in 1971 and 1972 indicated that the homeless population in that city would be ‘around the 3000 mark’. Estimates of numbers of homeless men using central city community facilities in Melbourne were of the same order of magnitude. Similarly-researched information was not available for other Australian cities, but if the Sydney and Melbourne estimates were accurate and if numbers elsewhere are proportional to total population, the minimum total for Australian cities would be of the order of 10 000 persons using current facilities. These estimates are essentially point-in-time estimates and, since the population of homeless people is mobile geographically and to some extent socially, the numbers using the same facilities over longer periods of time would be much higher. Figures supplied to the Working Party by the Salvation Army indicated that in 1971 its main men’s institution in Melbourne had contact with5800 individual men. On the basis of this figure it was estimated that the total turnover of inner city agencies in Melbourne may be as high as 10 000 individual men per annum. Putting an upper limit on the total number of homeless people in Australia is difficult, but from the information available in 1973 the Working Party estimated that there was unlikely to be more than 25 000.
The Department of Social Security is planning to collect information throughout Australia on the numbers of homeless persons in need of assistance, as pan of an evaluation program. One of the difficulties, however, is that there is no clear and universally accepted definition of what constitutes homelessness.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
What recommendations has he made to the Health Commission to ensure that Medibank Private retains its competitive position especially if members are only covered for 35 days in any one year for hospital services.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Health Insurance Commission is a statutory authority empowered, under the Health Insurance Commission Act 1973 (as amended) to administer the standard Medibank scheme and additionally, to conduct private medical benefits funds and private hospital benefits funds in each State.
Accordingly I have not, nor will I, give Medibank instructions relating to the conduct of its private insurance business. The Commission, in exercising its function in relation to private insurance maintains competitiveness by virtue of market demands and preferences. Cost of premiums and benefits offered are but two of the factors which contributors will take into account. Other matters which will be considered -are standards of service, convenience of facilities, experience with other funds and recourse in the event of dispute.
Medibank was the first fund to announce its rates and benefits. Subsequently, variations offering greater benefits in all the higher hospital tables and in the rates of contribution in the Queensland Medibank (Private) Hospital TableShared Room, have been proposed.
The limitation of benefits to 35 days per person per year in hospital in a private room has been abolished and a full 365 days cover is now included in Medibank (Private) Hospital Benefits Table Two. However, Medibank, in common with other major funds, seeks to limit its liability under this table by not paying benefits in respect of hospital expenses relating to any chronic condition or any condition of which any symptoms or signs had manifested themselves prior to the date on which the contributor’s membership of the organisation commenced (i.e. pre-existing ailments). This does not apply to the case of a contributor or dependant who is pregnant or where a contributor transfers from another organisation and had been entitled to comparable benefits from that organisation.
I believe that in adopting rules similar to those in use by the other major health insurance funds on this aspect Medibank will retain its competitiveness in this respect.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
What steps does he propose to take to assist the 52 000 old people in private nursing homes and hospitals who now find that the Federal allowances are $45 per week less than the average fees charged.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The nursing home sector has not escaped the effects of Labor’s inflationary policies. The rates of nursing home benefits were increased by the Liberal-National Country Party by $9.45 a week in all States in February 1976. However, I am fully aware that, because of the inflation that the Government inherited, this has not been sufficient to ensure the measure of dignity and security for elderly people in nursing homes that I would wish.
Our Government has set up a committee to inquire into Federal programs for the care of the aged and the infirm. Particular emphasis will be directed to the position of nursing homes. I believe that the existence of the Committee of Inquiry into Care of the Aged and the Infirm is tangible evidence of the Government’s concern for the aged and sick aged in our society. The Committee comprises Mr Austin Holmes, Dr Sidney Sax, Mr Neil Hyden and Mr Keith Medbury.
The care of the aged and the infirm is a very complex area and the committee will be making its report as soon as possible. Of course I am deeply concerned at the problems being faced by patients in nursing homes and their relatives. However, the Government would wish to study the committee’s report and recommendations before finally deciding on what measures to adopt to assist nursing home patients further.
am asked the Minister representing the Minister for Education, upon notice:
What gains to revenue will be made during the year 1976-77 and in a full financial year by charging tuition fees to (a) persons who hold a first degree and are studying for second and higher degrees and (b) foreign students attending (i) universities, (ii) colleges of advanced education and (iii) technical and further education institutions (Hansard, 20 May 1976, page 2340 and 18 August 1976, page 348).
– The Minister for Education has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
Until the present investigation of student assistance, as mentioned by the Treasurer in the budget speech, is completed and decisions announced, no assumptions can be made about which of the categories of student referred to will be affected by any re-introduction of fees and from when the measure might apply. In any event, a number of detailed questions still under consideration could affect the extent of the savings to be expected from fee re-introduction.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice:
What part of the recent Determination of the Remuneration Tribunal gives a Member or Senator the right to seek and obtain travel and expense entitlements for an Electorate Secretary or Electorate Research Assistant when such Member or Senator becomes a Minister.
– The Minister for Administrative Services has provided me with the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
Companies (Foreign Take-overs) Act (Question No. 1062)
asked the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, upon notice:
Is it proposed to introduce legislation to complement the Companies (Foreign Take-overs) Act to protect minority
Australian shareholders in overseas-owned companies or enterprises.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
No such legislation is proposed at present.
asked the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:, ( 1 ), (2) and ( 3 ). Matters relating to Mr Ignazio Salemi are the subject of action before the High Court. In these circumstaces it would not be appropriate for me to comment at present.
Australian Assistance Plan
– On 7 September 1976 (Hansard, page 712) the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Baillieu) asked me a question without notice concerning the funding and administration of Australian Assistance Plan type programs.
In providing information on the honourable member’s question I stated that the grant of $140m to local government for 1976-77 was an increase of $75m over 1975-76. The correct figure is $60m; which represents an increase of 75 per cent over 1975-76.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 21 September 1976, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1976/19760921_reps_30_hor100/>.