30th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. B. M. Snedden, Q.C.) took the chair at 2.15 p.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to inform the House that we have present in the gallery His Excellency Shaikh Khalifa bin Sulman al Khalifa, Prime Minister of Bahrain, and members of his party. On behalf of the House, I extend to these visitors a very warm welcome.
Honourable members- Hear, hear!
– 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 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 Australian Trader to the Tasmanian service.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Armitage, Mr Les McMahon, Mr Martin, Mr Morris and Mr Antony Whitlam.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. We the undersigned, citizens of the Commonwealth by this our humble petition respectfully showeth:
That Medibank has proved to be the cheapest and most efficient means of bringing health care to Australian citizens and that the citizens of Australia have received Medibank as a great and valued social reform.
That Medibank has proved itself to be a far superior system of health care than was offered by the private funds prior to July 1975.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will observe the promise made by the Prime Minister in his policy speech that ‘We will maintain Medibank and ensure the standard of health care does not decline’.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Dr J. F. Cairns, Mr Crean, Mr Falconer and Mr Garrick.
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.S 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 Crean, Mr Falconer, Mr Garrick and Dr Jenkins.
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 Dr Klugman, Mr Antony Whitlam and Mr Young.
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 urge that:
The Government use the vacant places in the commercial day care centres by subsidizing parents in need, giving them their democratic right to freedom of choice.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Haslem.
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 urge that:
There be continuing and expanding support for child care of all forms with particular emphasis on the needs of children whose parents either work or are furthering their education.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Jacobi.
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 insurance 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 the 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 percent; 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 1 975 Budget. And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Morris and Mr Antony Whitlam.
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 objection to the Metric system and request the Government to restore the Imperial system.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Thomson and Mr Wentworth.
To the honourable Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned electors of the Commonwealth respectfully showeth:
Whereas your petitioners respectfully request consideration be given to:
Both of the above being without the prerequisite of referral by a medical practitioner.
Therefore your petitioners pray your honourable House to legislate accommodation of these matters under the provisions of Federal law.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr McLeay.
To the honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives of Australia in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth respectfully showeth:
That we support the concept of the optional scheme of health coverage for all Australians in which they can choose to participate in either private medical funds or the Medibank scheme.
We believe that if Australia’s private health funds are abolished a fundamental right of all Australians would be removed.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Abel.
To the honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House take action-
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Armitage.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth: That the undersigned persons believe that:
The $300 limit on income tax deductibility in respect of personal residential land and water rates is unrealistic and is a discriminatory income tax penalty.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will take steps to see that the aforesaid limitation is removed entirely or substantially increased.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Connolly.
To the honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That whereas an amnesty was announced for all illegal migrants and that whereas Mr Iganzio 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 honourable the Speaker and members ofthe House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Australian Government will undertake.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Jacobi.
To the honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Whereas the Aurukun Associates Agreement Act was passed in contravention of a 1 968 agreement:
Whereas this Act conflicts seriously with the Commonwealth Government Policy on Aboriginal Affairs and on Australian equity in multinational corporations working in Australia:
Your petitioners therefore note with appreciation the statements already made on the matter by Government members but humbly pray that the Commonwealth Government will also:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Kelly.
To the honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens respectfully showeth:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Dr Kingman.
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.
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 Les McMahon.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of the undersigned citizensof Australia respectfully showeth:
We the undersigned are concerned that the present Federal Government has restored neither the petrol subsidy nor the air subsidy to country residents.
Before the last Federal election the present Member for
Leichhardt (Mr Thomson) said that a National-Liberal Party coalition government would recognise the needs of country people.
We were assured that if a coalition government was elected then both subsidies would be restored. SO far nothing Has been done to redress the Situation and we are concerned that the understanding we wire given could be no more than just another hollow election promise.
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House urge the Governmentto restore the petrol subsidy and the air subsidy for country people.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byMrThomson.
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 that50 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 arc granted.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government place immediate orders with the Newcastle State Dockyard and implement the previous Government’s plan to build a graving dock in Newcastle.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Morris.
– I give notice that, on general business Thursday No. 8,I shall move:
1 ) That the House takes note of the Industries Assistance Commission Report on Shipbuilding, dated 20 September 1 976, and in particular notes:
-I direct a question to the Prime Minister.
-The Prime Minister is not in the chamber at the moment. I shall call the honourable member for Hughes later unless he wishes to redirect his question.
-I shall address it to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications.
– Ask the Deputy Prime Minister.
-The Deputy Prime Minister would not know anything about this matter.
-Order! The honourable gentleman will withdraw that comment.
-Has the -
-Order! The honourable gentleman will withdraw that comment.
-I withdraw, Mr Speaker. Has the Minister seen reports that the Australian Broadcasting Commission is to be drastically restructured, that it is to be placed under the control of a new supervisory authority and that the Commission is to be reduced from 9 members to 5 members? Can the Minister assure the House that there is no substance to these reports and that even this Government does not intend to mutilate the national broadcasting system or deprive the ABC of its independence and integrity?
-I have seen reports. They are but speculation and I am not going to contribute to that speculation, nor indeed react to it. The facts are that there has been an inquiry into the broadcasting system. It has been going on now for a number of months. A report reached my hands a couple of days ago. It is a very lengthy report; I think about 600 submissions form the basis of it. I intend to study it in the next week or two and then to make a submission to the Cabinet. The Cabinet will decide on any restructuring or alteration that may or may not take place.
I add that the report is concerned with the overall structure and the system of broadcasting. The broadcasting industry consists of a lot more than the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The ABC is a very important and integral part of the broadcasting system. Finally, I repeat what the Prime Minister has said and I have said on a number of occasions, that is, that the integrity and the independence of the ABC are not under threat, that they are not at risk.
-Can the Prime Minister say whether the Government has made a decision to maintain a separate Department of Repatriation? Does the Government intend to make any changes in the responsibilities of that Department?
-When speaking at the National Congress of the Returned Services League earlier this week I said that the Government would maintain a separate Department of Repatriation and the Repatriation Commission. During the last two or three days the Government has examined the broad thrust of one of the recommendations of Mr Justice Toose who also recommended that a separate repatriation system be maintained. Not only will the Government implement that recommendation, but responsibility for defence service homes and for the War Graves Commission will lie with the Department of Repatriation as soon as the Administrative Arrangements Order can be changed appropriately. In addition, the Government is accepting the recommendation of Mr Justice Toose, which is also a recommendation of the Returned Services League and of the Australian Services Council, that despite the very long-standing tradition the name of the Department of Repatriation ought to be changed to the Department of Veterans Affairs. Again, this will occur as soon as the necessary changes to the Administrative Arrangements Order can be made. Responsibility for the Australian Housing Corporation, which the Government decided to abolish, will lie with the new Department of Veterans Affairs until the Corporation has, in fact, been abolished after the legislation has been passed by this House. Senator Durack will be the first Minister for Veterans Affairs and the Secretary of the Department of Repatriation will become the Secretary of the new Department.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. Given the interdependence of countries in today’s world, the importance therefore of the presidential elections in the United States of America and the evident interest amongst Australians in the forthcoming American elections, will the Minister take steps to encourage the Australian Broadcasting Commission and/or the commercial television companies to acquire and transmit in Australia the forthcoming television debates between President Ford and Mr Carter?
-I can well understand that the debates between President Ford and Mr Carter will be of enormous interest to the world, including Australia. The question of programming within the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the commercial networks is a matter for them; but I certainly shall do all I can to encourage an acceptance of the suggestion that the honourable member makes in his question. I think that it would be a good idea and that it would be helpful to Australians generally.
– I direct a question to the Treasurer. In view of the visit to this country of the Prime Minister of Bahrain, the importance of that country’s off-shore banking operations and the fact that Australia is interested in international exchange, will the Treasurer have discussions with representatives of the Government of Bahrain while they are here?
– All Australians welcome very much the fact that the Prime Minister of Bahrain is not only in this country but also in this chamber at this time. His visit is strongly endorsed by members of all parties. I am looking forward to the opportunity to have discussions with him later today.
-Has the attention of the Minister for National Resources been drawn to a statement in the Farmers Weekly of 16 September 1976, over the signature ‘Your Favourite Nephew, Doug Anthony’, that an extra $100m has been provided this year for local government use on roads? The statement claims that one might even admit, if pressed hard enough, that on the few occasions he has shown himself to be their friend -
– Order! The honourable gentleman is being argumentative in his question. Will he ask his question?
– I shall conclude the question, Mr Speaker. The statement claims that on a few occasions he has shown himself to be their friend rather than the dreadful enemy he was said to be. Will the Minister advise the House of the source and the application of the extra $ 100m allegedly provided to local government for use on roads this year, and under which Appropriation Acts the funds were made available?
– I call the Minister for Transport.
– The honourable member for Shortland lacks one thing -
– I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question was directed specifically to a statement attributed to the Deputy Prime Minister. The question does not come within the portfolio of the Minister for Transport.
-The members of the Ministry are entitled to answer questions as they see fit. If they decide that a Minister, other than the one to whom the question is directed, is better equipped to answer the question, that is in order.
- Mr Speaker -
– I call the Deputy Prime Minister.
– In the interests of keeping peace in this House, I am quite pleased to answer the question. The article to which the honourable member has referred suggested that there will be an increase of $ 100m.
– It says that it has been given.
-That is right, $100m will be given to local government authorities this year for roads. If the honourable member had done his homework properly he would have found that something like $64m is to be given in the first half of this year and $30m-odd is to be given in the second half of this year. If he adds those amounts together he will find that they come to about $ 100m.
– My question is addressed to the Acting Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. In view of the public concern about unemployment and the Government’s success in preventing a further decline in the work force, will the Government indicate what positive initiatives it intends to take in regard to employment potential and training? Despite the previous Government’s complete lack of success with respect to or concern for the young people who are now unemployed, will this Government -
-Order! The honourable member is now being argumentative. I request him to ask his question.
-Will this Government be taking positive initiatives or will it be as complacent as the previous Government?
-I thank the honourable member for Mitchell for asking that question.
The Government is concerned about the level of unemployment among young people. The Government announced this morning a number of initiatives in this area that it believes will make a significant contribution towards the amelioration of the problems experienced by this section of the community. Of particular importance is the special initiative announced by the Government in respect of the residual group of unemployed school leavers- numbering some 12 000- carried over from those who left school at the end of last year. The purpose of this special initiative, which is an extension of the existing National Employment and Training scheme, is to give a special incentive to employers to take into employment people aged between IS and 19 years who left school during the preceding 12 months and who have been registered with the Commonwealth Employment Service for not less than a total of 6 months during that period of 12 months. The subsidy rate which will apply to those employers for the period of 6 months which is the initial duration of the scheme, it being -
– I rise to a point of order, Mr Speaker. My point of order is that the Acting Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations is using question time to make a statement on a subject on which he says there has been an announcement by the Government this morning. We would be quite happy to have that statement made in the Parliament at a later stage, but question time should not be used by the Government for the making of statements.
-Order! The honourable member for Port Adelaide will resume his seat. There is no substance in the point of order.
-For the further information of the honourable member for Port Adelaide, details of this scheme were put on the record at a Press briefing immediately after the conclusion of our Party meeting this morning. They are also the subject of Press statements which will be released this afternoon. It is no wonder that the honourable member for Port Adelaide, who claims to be such a champion of the unfortunate in this community, should seek to interrupt a Minister giving details of a scheme that is designed to help the youth unemployed in Australia.
– I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I wish to make the point that the Opposition has certain rights and privileges in the Parliament and that, as a matter of courtesy, all statements should be made in the Parliament first and not outside it.
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. That is not a point of order. The point that has been made relates to a matter of parliamentary procedure, but it is not a point of order.
– Let the Hansard record show that on 2 occasions within 2 minutes front bench members of the Opposition tried to prevent a Minister from giving details of a scheme that is designed to help the unemployed of Australia. The main thrust of this scheme is to give special assistance to the group of young unemployed carried over from the 1975 school year. It is a scheme which has been introduced for a trial period of 6 months. Its operation will be closely monitored during that period and will be the subject of review at the end of January 1 977.
As many honourable gentlemen will be aware, the Government has also announced a number of changes to the conditions applying to the existing NEAT scheme. These include significant increases of an average of 30 per cent in adult allowances. It is intended to relate the allowances in future to adult male award wages. The living away from home allowance will increase from $25 to $32.50. There will be an expansion of the part time training scheme. This will be of particular assistance to married women who wish to undertake training, particularly married women in the low income groups who have a desire to undertake training but would like to relate that desire to their family responsibilities. The Government has determined that the most effective way of doing this will be to expand the opportunities for part time training. All in all, I believe that the decisions announced by the Government are important initiatives. They will give incentive to employers to engage school leavers who have been out of work for a long time. The Government believes that they will make a significant contribution to ameliorating a special aspect of the unemployment problem.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral: To what extent would existing Federal legislation prevail over any State legislative or administrative action -
-Order! I interrupt the honourable gentleman. I ask him to resume his seat for a moment. Under the Standing Orders a Minister may not be asked for a legal opinion. So far as the honourable gentleman has proceeded his question would imply that he is requesting a legal opinion. If he proceeds on that basis I shall have to rule him out of order. If he asks for a statement of fact or about an intention to operate on a factual situation he will be in order.
- Mr Speaker, on that point, with respect, the Attorney-General on previous occasions has said that he does not seek to avail himself of the standing order which would preclude the giving of legal opinions in answer to questions without notice. I should not have thought that the honourable gentleman in this case would have been surprised by the question.
– I shall allow the honourable gentleman to continue with the question, but the Standing Orders are quite clear. If the request is for a legal opinion it is out of order.
– I shall rephrase the question.
- Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The Standing Orders belong to the Parliament. It is not at the discretion of any Minister or at the suggestion of any Leader of the Opposition whether they will be observed.
– I thank the honourable gentleman for the assistance, but I shall manage by myself.
– I put the question this way: Has the Attorney-General considered the extent to which existing Federal legislation would prevail over any State legislative or administrative action which purported to fix a minimum price for commodities?
– The answer to the question is no.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. Has the Government carried out a review of the student allowance scheme, or tertiary education assistance scheme, as it is known? If so, when will the results of this review be announced?
MALCOLM FRASER- It was announced several weeks ago that the Government was carrying out such a review; that we would be getting a report from officials; that there were in fact a significant number of Commonwealth scholarship schemes or student assistance schemes, and that we wanted to see whether there was any possibility of rationalisation and simplification in an area that had grown in which one scheme was not necessarily related to another and which had become complex and difficult to understand. A report on these matters is currently before the Government. I should also like to pass an observation about an alleged strike which has been called for 30 September amongst students around Australia.
– It is still on.
– It will only harm the students and the institutions to which they belong. For Opposition members to say that it is still on, as a matter of pride as though they support it, is again a matter of utmost irresponsibility. One would have expected something better from them. A strike can achieve nothing. It can only hurt students, especially those doing the last year of their courses who would presumably be preparing for examinations. The great bulk of the students know quite well that the Government will be announcing decisions in relation to this matter once it has been properly considered. The great bulk of students also know that the allowances which are operating throughout this year are allowances set by the great Opposition itself. As a result of financial incompetence and bungling, it was the Labor Party which left those allowances where they were and which established a level of allowance not consistent with changes in the cost of living as a result of its incompetence, as a result of its inflation. All Opposition members know that these allowances were set in the last Budget which Labor announced. The strike will not inconvenience members of the public. It is not going to harm anyone except those involved in it. It is not going to change the decisions or the intentions of the Government. I think that those considering taking part in such a stopwork protest, to the extent that it is a stopwork protest, should consider again.
– My question is addressed to the Treasurer and refers to some confusion caused by alterations with regard to Medibank. Will the Treasurer inform the House why the Medibank levy exemption forms make provision for exemption from the Medibank levy for a working wife whose husband purchases private health insurance at the family rate, but make no provision for exemption from the levy if her husband pays the Medibank levy at the family rate? Is this omission a calculated attempt by the Government to make the administrative arrangements for married levy payers as complicated as possible in order to force them into private health insurance?
– The position certainly is contrary to what the honourable member suggested in the final part of his question.
– Read your letter in the paper.
– If honourable gentlemen do not wish to listen, I will put the answer in writing.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Overseas Trade and Minister for National Resources. Is the Minister aware of an announcement that an Australian company has won a contract to prospect for uranium in Iran? Can the Minister give the House details of this matter?
– I saw an announcement a couple of days ago and was informed that the Peko-Wallsend group received a contract with the Iranian Atomic Energy Commission to search for uranium in Iran. I think it is a great tribute that we do have the expertise among our mining companies in Australia to meet international competition for these sorts of contracts. As to the details, I believe that they are confidential. It is interesting to note that a Nomad aircraft will be used to do most of the aerial survey work, which will be a good opportunity to demonstrate the versatility of this Australian-manufactured plane. It is a matter of considerable interest that, whether or not Australia goes ahead with the development of uranium, there are countries around the world which are keen to look for uranium and possibly will find it and develop it. Whether or not Australia goes ahead, those countries certainly will proceed. There could be circumstances in which Australian companies actually were invited to go and help in the development of uranium in those countries. Returning to the honourable member’s initial question, I am very pleased that Australian companies can win such contracts and make a contribution to the development of other countries around the world.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation. Has the Minister for Repatriation stated that the changes to the provision of pharmaceutical services for repatriation patients will not disadvantage those patients? If that is so, how does the Minister explain that with an increase in the cost of drugs of 10 per cent to 15 per cent, as shown on page 24 of the Department’s statement of receipts and expenditure, there will be a decrease of $3. 3m- about 1 1 per cent- in estimated expenditure on pharmaceutical services prescribed by local medical officers, as shown on page 34 of the same statement?
– I shall give an answer to the honourable member’s question. If it is not entirely accurate, I shall correct it immediately I discover those respects in which it is not accurate. As I understand the position, the Minister now has decided that pharmaceutical benefits for repatriation beneficiaries will be restricted to the national health pharmaceutical list. So that is an area in which a saving would occur in the first instance. However, I go on to say that the Minister has made it very clear -
– A fine way of treating veterans.
-Nobody will be disadvantaged. The honourable member should listen for a moment and let me make this point: For those people who require drugs and other aids outside that list, local medical officers or specialists will be able to prescribe the item, the drug, or whatever it may be, as long as they have the permission of the deputy commissioner in the State concerned.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Overseas Trade. Is the Government aware of the serious fall in sugar prices? What action can the Government take, particularly in relation to securing more reasonable returns from the overseas market for that sugar not covered by long term contracts?
– The Government is aware of the low price of sugar. Last Friday the international price of sugar on the London market hit £stg1 12 a ton, which is the lowest price since 1973 and which is about one-fifth of the price during the boom period of 1 974. So there is some reason for concern in the sugar industry about the prevailing price. Fortunately the sugar industry in recent years has been negotiating a number of long term contracts which contain pricing provisions. That gives a degree of stability to the price that producers will obtain for their exports of sugar. But 70 per cent of our sugar production is solo overseas and much of it still goes on to the free world market. The Government is very keen to promote and to sponsor commodity agreements. Australia has an outstanding record as far as sugar is concerned. I was involved with the 1968 sugar agreement which led to stability in the industry, following a period of about 5 or 6 years of depressed prices. However, that agreement is not operative at the moment. Moves now are being made to revive that agreement. The International Sugar Council will be holding meetings either next month or in November, and my Department will be taking part in those meetings. The whole idea is to work up an agenda for an international conference to take place in April or May of next year with the prospect of reviving an international agreement. I believe that in view of the low world price for sugar there should be a good deal of support for that by other sugar producing countries.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, is supplementary to that asked by the honourable member for Prospect and is concerned with the sell-out of the ex-servicemen of this country by the Fraser Government -
-Order! The honourable gentleman is taking liberties with the Standing Orders in making that comment. He knows very well that he is not entitled to make that sort of imputation. The question ordinarily would be ruled out of order for that reason, but I shall allow the honourable gentleman to proceed with his question if he does not make any further imputation.
– Is it a fact that the Minister and his colleague, the Minister for Defence, have recommended to the Government that the interest rate on defence service home loans rise from 3% per cent to one per cent below the long term bond rate?
– I take up the imputation first of all. There is no policy of this Government that will disadvantage any repatriation beneficiary. I made it quite clear in answer to the honourable member for Prospect that if any repatriation beneficiary needs a drug outside the list he shall have it if his local medical officer recommends it. As to the second part of the question, the answer is no.
-I ask the Prime Minister a question concerning the report on shipbuilding by the Industries Assistance Commission tabled in this House yesterday. Is this report the final word on the subject or will the Government be taking any other matters into account before making a statement about the future of the industry? I would be particularly interested to know whether the Australian Council of Trade Unions has reacted to the Prime Minister’s offer to place 2 orders for Australian National Line ships at Whyalla and Newcastle if certain conditions are met, and whether the Prime Minister considers Mr Wran’s statements or actions have been helpful in regard to his offer.
-That approach was made in Mr Wran ‘s presence. He undertook to convey it to the unions concerned. Mr Wran, having done that, seemed to withdraw from Newcastle to Sydney and not really want to have much more to do about it, other than trying to get the matter transferred to the auspices of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. Mr Hawke, the President of the ACTU rang me at one stage and the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations has replied to that call suggesting that proposals should be put in writing and advising the ACTU that we had proposed to New South Wales and to South Australia that a joint working party of Commonwealth and State officials should be established to examine not the report itself but the impact of the report on Newcastle and on Whyalla and that those matters should be set in train. It was felt that the ACTU should have the advice and knowledge of what was in the Industries Assistance Commission report and then put in writing whatever matters it wanted to put to us.
We have not heard in any substantive sense from the Premier of New South Wales who still seems to be seeking not only to grandstand on one element in relation to this matter but in terms of any real responsibility in relation to it he rather appears also to want to stand on the sidelines. This seems odd, as the dockyard is his own dockyard. It seems odd since he took tenders for a floating dock from Germany and Japan, as I am advised, but did not bother to get tenders from his own dockyard.
– is that so?
– I am advised that it is so. In case any honourable members did not hear me I repeat that Mr Wran, who is desperate for work for his own New South Wales State Dockyard, sought tenders from Germany and Japan for a floating dock but did not seek tenders from his own State-owned dockyard. Under those circumstances one might wonder in what direction Mr Wran is really seeking to move concerning his own dockyard. He is certainly not exhibiting any real sense of responsibility for it in matters which are under his particular control. The Commonwealth officials are meeting today to study this report. We have said to New South Wales and South Australia that we would want the joint working party I mentioned to meet to advise government as soon as possible. One would have thought that the States concerned would be forthcoming and say, ‘Let us get to work so that the governments can be advised.’
What do we get? We get reluctance and opposition by both Premiers to the working parry’s visiting Newcastle or Whyalla.
Why do not the New South Wales and South Australian Premiers want a working party to visit Newcastle and Whyalla? Why should the Premiers object to that? Should the working party be expected to take its advice in a vacuum and not to relate it to the areas that are being affected by the Industries Assistance Commission report? I hope that Mr Wran and Mr Dunstan will remove their objection to the working party’s visit to the areas concerned. I hope that the working party will be able to examine the matter quickly. I do not believe that at this stage, apart from making Press statements, Mr Wran has been constructive or as helpful as he might otherwise have been. He said various things to the Press yesterday, published this morning, knowing quite well that this working party is proposed, and knowing quite well that Commonwealth officials are ready and waiting to meet with his officers. We should get the result of that report. I would not expect any decisions to be made on this particular matter for a few weeks because the report of the working party will have to be studied, together with the impact on the areas concerned.
– I ask a question of the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. Now that ethnic radio is to become a responsibility of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, will the cost of its operation be charged against the appropriation for the ABC in the Budget or will there be an additional appropriation for the ABC to permit it to fulfil this additional responsibility? In either case, what amount will be available for ethnic radio in this financial year?
-Additional funds will be made available to the Australian Broadcasting Commission for this year. The amount has not yet been finalised because it will depend on what is needed. The amount will be determined in consultation amongst the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, myself and the Treasurer, before going to Cabinet. As the honourable member is aware ethnic radio will be part of the Australian Broadcasting Commission in a similar way to Radio Australia. The allocation of funds in subsequent Budgets will be simply a part of the allocation for the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Environment, Housing and
Community Development. I refer to an article in today’s Australian Financial Review written by the Minister for Planning in the South Australian Parliament. It details raw land costs supposedly inaccurately stated by the Minister. The writer also suggests that the Minister’s inaccuracies prompted an article by a Christopher Jay which is also claimed to be inaccurate. I ask the Ministen Did he mislead Parliament as suggested in the article? Will he inform the House whether the article by Christopher Jay is correct?
-The article by Mr Hudson refers to a question put on notice by the Leader of the Opposition. I think it was question No. 825. It asked:
What is the average cost of (a ) acquiring and ( b) developing blocks of home building land on which each State housing authority is at present building houses.
The answer I gave to that question was entirely accurate. The information was provided by the relevant housing authorities of all the States. It was passed on without change to the honourable member. There can be no question of my having misled the House. Of course, these costs should have not been used as a base for generalising about relative cost levels and movements in land markets in the various metropolitan areas. To illustrate, I point to the figures given for South Australia. They were provided by Mr Alec Ramsay, General Manager of the South Australian Housing Trust. They related, as required by the question, to the land on which the South Australian Housing Trust is at present building houses. Mr Ramsay has informed my Department that the cost given for the metropolitan area referred to only one estate. This was the North Haven estate in the Adelaide metropolitan area. Mr Ramsay points out that this estate is in an area in which land costs are relatively high in relation to the total metropolitan scene. Clearly, it is not prudent to base generalisations concerning metropolitan land costs on the sample of one area. For the information of the House I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table showing data collected by my Department in July-August 1976 on current and just finalised private and public sector subdivisions in the various capital cities.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
– I emphasise to the House that even these figures should be treated with some caution as they are based on a limited sample, present a picture at a particular point in time and are simple averages which are not weighted in any way to reflect the diversity of costs within any given metropolitan area. In conclusion, I note that there appears to have been some confusion in Mr Hudson’s Ministry as my Department is quite unaware of any approach from the South Australian Land Commission requesting amplification of my reply.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. With reference to his statement last week regarding his placement of 6 young unemployed people, is it a fact (a) that only one of them had ever been registered with the Commonwealth Employment Service and that he had refused repeatedly to go to Melbourne for work; (b) that two of them did not ever take up their jobs; (c) that one lasted for only 2 days; and (d) that they were placed at the Nylex factory which had no vacancies registered with the Commonwealth Employment Service? Is the Prime Minister aware of large scale discontent and anger within the Commonwealth Employment Service at what is regarded as his bombastic and misleading statement?
– I have nothing to add to what has been said. I made no formal statement, in any case.
– Has the Minister for Transport seen reports from the New South Wales Minister for Transport claiming that the Federal Government had withdrawn Federal funds from the proposed extension of the East Hills railway to Glenfield and from the building of the Campbelltown railway station in my electorate? Could he say whether those reports are correct? Could he tell the House which government in fact decided not to proceed with those projects?
– The simple fact is that funds are made available for urban transport programs in New South Wales, along with other States. In this particular case, the New South Wales Minister has a responsibility to put to me those projects for which he would like funds placed. In respect of the specific items raised by the honourable member, I have to say to him that the New South Wales Minister for Transport, Mr Cox, to my knowledge has never placed these items before me as projects to be undertaken in New South Wales. If Mr Cox is complaining because these projects are not being developed, it is simply because he obviously does not rate them high enough in his own priorities. It is quite within his capacity to reassess the priorities that have been laid down and to seek a reallocation of the funds. If Mr Cox wants these projects to proceed, all he has to do is to write to me and say that they are now in his list of priorities.
-My question is directed to the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. I refer the honourable gentleman to the statement in the annual report of the Department of Social Security, tabled in the House yesterday, that there is an extensive waiting list of voluntary agencies seeking financial assistance under the migrant social worker grant-in-aid scheme. In view of the fact that five of the limited number of positions available under this scheme have never been filled by the Fraser Government and the fact that at least double that number of such positions are now vacant, will he express to the Minister for Social Security the concern of the ethnically-based voluntary organisations about the Government’s casual approach and urge her to cut the waiting list which she has extended so unecessarily? Further, will he urge the same Minister to ensure that the appointment of welfare officers by such organisations, as is proposed in the same annual report, is funded by the Government in addition to, and not in lieu of, assistance under the existing migrant social worker grantinaid scheme?
-The Minister for Social Security and I are in close consultation about those matters of mutual concern. I have been speaking with the Minister about the matters referred to by the honourable gentleman. The Government will make an announcement in due course.
-I direct a question to the Minister for Health. At what stage will a self-employed person be required to pay the 2Vi per cent Medibank levy to the Taxation Office where a decision is taken not to insure privately?
– A self-employed person, including a farmer, who chooses not to insure privately and thus would normally be a Medibank levy payer, will be assessed for the purposes of the Medibank levy no earlier than the end of March 1977. The balance of the tax payable for 1975-76 is due at that time. At that time, of course, he will receive an assessment for the balance of the tax for 1975-76, that is, any amount over the previous provisional tax payment. He will also receive the assessment for the Medibank levy for 1976-77 and will be assessed for provisional tax at the same time.
While I am on my feet, I should like to say what I have said to a number of people in my own electorate. I believe that most farmers whose family incomes are likely to be below $10,500 will be far better off paying the Medibank levy and taking out hospital-only insurance if they wish to insure for doctor of choice. It is only when the income of a person, for instance in New South Wales, is over $10,500 that he would cover himself for full medical and hospital cover, that is, if he wanted the doctor of his choice in a hospital. So I think that the majority of people who are self-employed, including farmers in the electorate of Mallee, would be far better ofT agreeing to pay the 2V4 per cent levy and taking out hospital-only insurance. In some years, of course, farmers do not have incomes and in those years they will be paying no Medibank levy. They would then be covered for medical expenses receivable from Medibank and would recover benefits for shared room accommodation or private room accommodation with hospital-only insurance.
-Did the Treasurer yesterday clutch at the totally inadequate straw of July instalment credit figures to seek support for his economic policies?
-Order! The honourable gentleman is not entitled to put his question in that argumentative form. I shall give him the opportunity to rephrase his question. It he persists, I shall rule him out of order.
Government supporters interjecting-
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. There is too much interjection from the Government side. I shall call on the honourable member for Adelaide to ask his question in silence. If the question is out of order I shall so rule it.
-Are the August new motor vehicle registration figures which were published today and the July owner occupation housing finance figures also published today better indicators of the health of our economy? Will he tell me how I can talk up the economy in the light of these facts other than by continuing to advocate alternative policies?
-Whether the honourable gentleman talks up or talks down is a matter for his own consideration. I should have preferred the honourable gentleman to be fair and to say, as the Government has been prepared to indicate on a number of occasions, that necessarily at this stage of economic recovery, whether here or in any other country in the Western world, the indicators are mixed; they are not all pointing the same way. We have made that perfectly clear, and I take this opportunity to re-emphasise that point.
With regard to the 2 indicators which the honourable member has pointed to today, it is the Government’s belief that there is no reason to assume that aggregate rates of housing will not continue at adequate levels during the period ahead. It is true that lending for the purchase of dwellings eased in the month of July, on an actual rather than a seasonal basis. I can tell the honourable gentleman- but I will need to check this after question time- that just before coming into the chamber I was handed a note from one of my financial advisers outside government who had assessed the question of lending statistics for housing. The advice I received on that point, and again I emphasise it is subject to check, is that the apparent- I underline the word ‘apparent’- fall in July is not of significant account in itself because of the nature of these statistics. The advice that I am receiving outside government from the Reserve Bank is that the trend in housing lending by the banks has been steady over the course of the past few months.
There was certainly a fall in the number of motor vehicle registrations in July for the reasons that my colleague the Minister for Industry and Commerce, Senator Cotton, has made clear in another place. That fall continued into August. I refer the honourable gentleman to the factors that I have made clear in his House previously. These are the emission control regulations and motor vehicle price increases. If the honourable gentleman really seeks forward information he should talk to the industry. Industry leaders with whom I have spoken directly as late as yesterday are confident of a pickup during the period ahead. The amount of investment which has gone into the automotive industry would certainly make clear the confidence of the industry over the longer haul. I am informed that motor vehicle sales for September have certainly strengthened and, of course, this will show up in the official statistics. I had hoped that rather than seizing or clutching a figure here or there, the honourable gentleman would have looked at the aggregates that have been brought down and the figures which are contained in the national accounts.
If the honourable gentleman looks at the figures for the gross domestic product- constant prices, seasonally adjusted- he will find that it rose by 3.4 per cent in the half-year to June after a fall of 1.4 per cent in the half-year to December. I believe that the figure for the June quarter, as illustrated in the national accounts, shows that the recovery has been consolidating. But rather than adopt the approach that the Opposition has adopted in this House, which is utterly destructive- unprepared to put forward a detailed alternative propositionMr Hurford- That is not true.
– The Leader of the Opposition, transient as he may be in this House, spoke for a very long period from a speech covering 38 pages, but did not have one single positive suggestion to put forward. I am reminded of what the Labor Premier of New South Wales said recently when he indicated that whatever reservations he may have about the Budget that was introduced, it behoved all Australians to get behind it. I suggest that the honourable gentleman might do likewise.
– Pursuant to section 33 of the Australian National University Act 1946 I present the report of the Council of the Australian National University for the calendar year 1 975.
Pursuant to section 36 of the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation Act 1970 I present the annual report of the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation for the year ended 30 June 1976.
For the information of honourable members I present the annual report of the DirectorGeneral of Health for the year ended 30 June 1976.
Pursuant to section 148 of the Social Services Act 1947 I present the annual report of the Department of Social Security for the year ended 30 June 1976.
-Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented?
-Yes, viciously so. My attention has been drawn to mischievous statements made by the honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage) last night.
-Order! The honourable gentleman will be out of order if he proceeds in that manner. He is entitled to state the misrepresentation and the correction.
-The honourable member’s remarks are recorded on page 1265 of yesterday’s Hansard. His allegations about what I have said are as untrue, being based upon inaccurate and unattributed reports, as reports that he stripped naked in the Labor Party Caucus meeting today. He states that I do not see unemployment as a serious problem in the western suburbs of Sydney. Mr Speaker, I have been concerned at the high levels of unemployment in the western suburbs which have existed since 1974, and which the honourable member for Chifley has only recently discovered, now that it suits his political purposes.
-Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, I do. What I quoted in the Parliament last night was a report from the Age dated 9 September in respect of a matter brought up in the Caucus of the Liberal Party of Australia by the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) on the subject of the unemployment of youth in particular and unemployment generally, which said that several back bench members of Parliament, including Mr Abel of New South Wales, Mr Bradfield of New South Wales and Mr Rudd of New South Wales- we can only assume that that was meant to be Mr Ruddock- had supported the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street). I then quoted what he said.
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. The honourable member for Parramatta, in accordance with the Standing Orders, has said that he was misrepresented. He has endeavoured to correct the situation. The honourable member for Chifley is now establishing the reason why he made a particular statement.
– That is right.
-That is not a ground for claiming misrepresentation and the honourable gentleman is out of order in proceeding in that respect.
– I rise to a point of order, Mr Speaker. The point of order is that, in making his personal explanation, the honourable member for Parramatta reflected upon my credibility in drawing attention to the statements made. He has in effect endeavoured to deny the statements in the Press and to imply that I have deliberately misrepresented him. I am endeavouring to establish the basis upon which I made those statements and I think that I should have the right to do so in protection of my own position.
-The honourable gentleman has done that.
Discussion of Matter of Public Importance Mr SPEAKER- I have received a letter from the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The Government’s breach of its obligations to the States of New South Wales and Victoria with respect to AlburyWodonga.
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-
-The AlburyWodonga Development Corporation was a major achievement of the Whitlam Labor Government. That achievement is now under threat. It is the Opposition’s opinion and, I understand, the opinion of the governments of New South Wales and Victoria that the Australian Government is in breach of its legal obligations in respect of the Albury-Wodonga Development Corporation. This Government once again has not followed procedures that have been laid down by statute. This Government once again has shown that its federalism policy is a sham. This Government has shown beyond all doubt that it has no policy for decentralisation; rather that it continues to encourage overcentralisation, particularly in the cities of Sydney and Melbourne.
We are not making these charges lightly. We are making them because the Australian Labor Party believes that the governments of both New South Wales and Victoria and the people of Albury-Wodonga as well as the residents of our major cities of Sydney and Melbourne have been dealt a severe blow by this Government’s highhanded and deliberate action in ignoring the provisions of the Albury-Wodonga Development Agreement. This Agreement is embodied in Acts of this Parliament and the parliaments of New South Wales and Victoria. Those Acts are the Albury-Wodonga Development Act of 1973, the Albury-Wodonga Development Act of 1974 in New South Wales and the Albury-Wodonga Agreement Act of 1973 in Victoria. It was the intention of the 3 governments, as expressed in the preamble to the Agreement, that ‘a development corporation will, by developing a growth complex, create a city with a high quality environment, properly planned and properly developed, having full regard to human requirements and the involvement of the public’. It was intended to provide a viable alternative to the chaos of overcentralised Sydney and Melbourne.
But what is the intention of the Fraser Government? It has refused to give anything but token support to the growth centre. Token support is the first nail in the coffin of this selected growth centre. There has to be a real Australian Government commitment and there has not been that commitment. The Fraser Government has ignored the wishes of its State counterparts and the people of the area to continue with the growth centre concept and it has ignored its legal obligations. How can the people have any faith in such a Government? Token support was not what the Liberal and National Country Parties promised prior to 13 December. The obligations of the Australian Government in regard to Albury-Wodonga are quite specific. They are clearly set out in the Agreement that has been ignored by the Fraser Government.
Let me summarise quickly what the Fraser Government has done in breach of this Agreement and how it is trying to force the States of New South Wales and Victoria into accepting a token commitment from the Federal Government. The Australian Government has a clear obligation under the Agreement to ensure that the Development Corporation can carry out its functions in accordance with the development plan. To do this the Government has to provide all the funds needed by the Corporation. It has not done that. It has appropriated only enough funds to enable firm contractual commitments that existed at the end of the last financial year to be met.
The Development Corporation has an obligation under the Agreement to prepare a 5-year plan each year for consideration by the Ministerial Council. The plan has been prepared but not presented. The Government should have convened a Ministerial Council meeting to consider this plan. That has not been done. The Ministerial Council, after consideration of the plan, is then required to forward it to the 3 governments. That has not been done. The 3 governments should then consult to determine the money required to meet the proposals agreed to in the first year of that plan. That has not been done. Because those things have not been done the decision reached by the Fraser Government on the amount of funds to be allocated to AlburyWodonga in 1976-77 is not in accordance with the terms of the Agreement. This reminds me of the attitude of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) towards the State Premiers at this year’s Loan Council of ‘take it or leave it but let us not discuss it’. That is the Fraser Government’s new federalism policy.
On those facts there has been a clear breach of the Agreement by the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth is unilaterally attempting to force the States to accept those breaches of the Agreement by providing funds which are much less than those required to carry out the second year of the 5-year plan put to the Ministerial Council and the States in 1975-76. No Ministerial Council meeting was held to consider a 5-year plan, but a meeting was held in August of this year. At that meeting the Commonwealth Minister, again in breach of the Agreement, laid down the law- the Fraser Government’s dictum -for a reduced level of Commonwealth involvement in Albury-Wodonga.
The Minister told the States that only funds to provide for a minimum viable program would be provided. That was the Minister’s fall back position. He did in fact initially demand that the States match the Commonwealth’s contribution to the Corporation. The State governments and the States refused. The States understand the Agreement and its ramifications. They knew that this was contrary to clause 9 (8) of the AlburyWodonga Agreement. The Minister for State Development and Decentralisation in Victoria, Mr Crozier, was upset to say the least. He said:
I believe the Commonwealth is breaking both the AlburyWodonga Agreement and the side letters which accompanied it.
He also said that the Federal Government was disregarding official Liberal Party policy on regional development. He went on to say:
Victoria will seek a legal opinion from the State AttorneyGeneral.
Does this mean that Victoria will take the Commonwealth to court? What an achievement for the first 10 months of the Fraser Government’s new federalism. The New South Wales Government is also taking similar action. Its Crown Solicitor has been asked to prepare an opinion on the issue.
Mr Crozier mentioned the side letters which contained a statement of principles and policies to be observed by the 3 governments. These side letters are a clear statement of intent and are morally binding. The side letters contain a statement that the Australian Government undertakes to make available the funds necessary to acquire land needed for development purposes in the financial year which is relevant to the development plan. This requirement has been ignored. At present 500 land holders in the designated area are in grave financial difficulties because of the Commonwealth’s refusal to provide funds to the State corporations for land acquisition. What sort of trust and goodwill is being built by such treatment of individuals? The Labor Government was trying to overcome any problem of this kind in the Albury-Wodonga area. It was trying to build goodwill with the land owners and to ensure that they would not have to suffer the harsh treatment they have suffered since the Fraser Government came into being. The Labor Government recognised this problem. It was its intention to complete all land acquisitions within the first 5 years. This can no longer happen because of the Fraser Government’s refusal to honour the Agreement and the side letters.
The Fraser Government has blatantly ignored its legal obligations and it has blatantly ignored the wishes of the States. It ignores the fact that the States are financially weaker than the Commonwealth, and it ignores the concept of cooperation among all levels of government. The Fraser Government has destroyed the spirit of goodwill which existed between the Labor Government and the governments of New South Wales and Victoria in regard to urban and regional development. It has destroyed cooperative federalism and replaced it with distrust and doubt. The result of the Fraser Government’s lack of policy and its failure to honour the conditions of the Agreement are already having a harsh effect on the regions economy. Construction firms are leaving because they have no faith in the Fraser Government’s commitment to Albury-Wodonga. The boost to the region’s economy by the original decision to declare Albury-Wodonga a growth centre is well documented but not known or understood by many on the Government side. The boost occurred because both public and private sector funds have been heavily invested in the area, but this investment has now practically stopped because of the Fraser Government’s deliberate actions. In 3 years the Labor Government’s commitment to Albury-Wodonga was $90m. The Fraser Government has appropriated $15m this year- a token, gesture only.
The 2 State governments have already invested heavily and their forward planning envisages the investment of a further $ 1 5 1 m in the centre during the next 5 years on the provision of State-type services such as hospitals, housing, schools and other basic community services. The States’ commitment to this project should not be ignored. I challenge the Minister to tell us how a
Fraser Government federalism policy which simply closes off borders and stops intergovernmental co-operation can succeed and how the problems of our cities can be overcome when the Federal Government divorces itself from the problems of our cities.
The latest figures available show that in the 2-year period from 1973 to 1975 the rate of increase in private investment in AlburyWodonga was 62 per cent as opposed to a national average of 17.3 per cent. At the same time private employment increased at a rate much higher than the national average. In the last 6 months of 1975, when the national rate of growth in private employment was minus 2 per cent, Albury-Wodonga was improving at the rate of plus 7.5 per cent. But now the economy of the district is stagnating because of the Government’s failure to follow the conditions of the Agreement, by its failure to give a genuine commitment to the centre, by its failure to develop a decentralisation policy, and by its failure to provide sufficient funds for the program to continue in viable form.
Let me give some details of the economics of public investment. What are the issues involved? What are the costs to settle people in the outer suburbs of Sydney or Melbourne compared with Albury-Wodonga or other growth centres? The current cost to the public sector to settle one extra person in Sydney is around $17,000, according to State agencies. By comparison, the amount of public investment required to settle one person in Albury-Wodonga is only $13,500. In Canberra the amount is $13,000. On top of this, a resident in Sydney, on a conservative estimate, has to spend between $500 and $700 more a year on transport than a resident of Canberra. AlburyWodonga would be similar to Canberra.
What is the situation regarding land prices? The prices outside Sydney and Melbourne at least give some hope to young people that they can acquire a block of land. The average price of land in the outer suburbs of Melbourne is $16,750. In the outer suburbs of Sydney it is $18,500. In Albury-Wodonga it is between $5,000 and $6,800. In Canberra it is between $6,500 and $8,000. Land and home are becoming an impossible dream for so many young people in Sydney and Melbourne. Of course, one of the basic proposals of the Labor Party was to try to make land available in areas such as Albury-Wodonga, Bathurst-Orange, Geelong and Canberra by the development of growth centres.
If the Albury-Wodonga Corporation is not given a full commitment by the Fraser Government decentralisation will be destroyed for all time. Over centralisation of Sydney and Melbourne will accelerate the chaotic proportions. I call on the Fraser Government to reverse its policy and to stand by the Whitlam Labor Government’s commitment to Albury-Wodonga and give a real commitment to this growth centre.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Uren) has been at it again making irresponsible, wild statements. He has made them before. On other occasions he has said that the Government has not spent a penny on Glebe. On yet other occasions he has said that we sabotaged the Woolloomooloo project. All these allegations are false. They are as false as his speech here today. He has claimed that the Government has destroyed the growth centres program and breached its obligations under the AlburyWodonga Agreement. These claims are as inaccurate and irresponsible as others I have just mentioned. The Opposition’s wild allegations will do nothing to help growth centres in general or Albury-Wodonga in particular. This debate manufactures a crisis where none exists. It will do nothing but harm the confidence, about which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition talked so merrily, of the public in the future of AlburyWodonga and it will certainly strain relations between the Commonwealth and the States.
I state categorically that it is not true that the Federal Government has decided to opt out of the Albury-Wodonga growth centre. The Federal Government has not breached its agreement with the States of Victoria and New South Wales in respect of Albury-Wodonga. The reverse is true. As recently as 1 1 August I emphasised to my colleagues on the Albury-Wodonga Ministerial Council- a meeting about which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition spoke- that the Commonwealth was examining its position and its obligations under that Agreement. I did not say we had washed our hands of AlburyWodonga. It is a pity that the honourable gentleman did not read the joint statement issued by the Council after that meeting.
What is the Opposition really complaining about today? It is complaining that the Government has taken a responsible attitude to reviewing its urban and regional programs, appropriations for which grew under the Labor Government from about $107m in 1973-74 to about $297m in 1975-76. This was an increase of 178 per cent in 3 years. The review has been thorough and time-consuming. I make no apology for that. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition spoke about the cities; he spoke about decentralisation. Let us examine that a little further. I think it is a great pity that members of the present Opposition- the honourable gentleman in particular- did not take a similarly responsible attitude, about which I have just been talking, to the assessment of the need for and level of government spending when they were sitting on the treasury bench. If his Government had done that, we would not now be facing the worst economic crisis this country has seen since the Depression. It is this economic crisis which has caused the problems for young people in the cities. It is this economic crisis which has provided the high inflation rates, the structural land problems and so on about which the honourable gentleman was talking. Let me remind honourable members opposite that this Government inherited record levels of inflation and unemployment. It faced a swollen public sector which had grown at a rate the economy could not afford. The Labor Government never faced the fact that there was a limit to resources- the honourable member for Reid in particular never faced that fact- and that not all that is desirable can be achieved immediately. Governments must face up to hard decisions in the allocation of resources between competing desirable objectives.
It was against that background that the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) announced on 20 May that although many of the programs in urban affairs and decentralisation had desirable aimsthere was no argument about that- there was a very great need to examine thoroughly an area in which expenditure had grown so rapidly and in which the Commonwealth had encroached so quickly into a realm which traditionally and rightly belonged to the States. I remind honourable members opposite that this review covered areas wider than just the growth centres program. It covered the full spectrum of Federal Government involvement in urban programs. It covered an area in which there are difficult problems in the appropriate relations between spheres of Government. It covered an area in which there has been an explosive growth in public spending. I say again that the Government has absolutely no reason to apologise for ensuring that it takes time to get the right answers. The Government will announce its policy when it is convinced that it has determined the best way in which the Commonwealth can support decentralisation, and not before. The policy will be announced in the near future.
Let me turn now to Albury-Wodonga. Why did the Government wish to review this program? The Commonwealth Government already has made a massive contribution to this city. Since 1973-74 it has made $78.2m available to the States for development in Albury-Wodonga. Most of this money has been spent on a massive program of land acquisition. An amount of $60m, or three-quarters of the funds available, has been spent on land acquisition- not, I emphasise, on development on the ground. I do not blame the Development Corporation for that. It is the responsibility, I suppose, of the Ministerial Council. It is the particular responsibility of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. Approximately 50 000 hectares of rural land was designated for purchase in June 1974 and about half of that vast area has now been acquired. The target population for this growth centre is approximately 300 000 people. If one assumes a very conservative estimate, that gives a density of 25 persons per hectare, making appropriate allowances for areas of sensitive environmental and recreational significance. The purchase of some 50 000 hectares is an extravagance which this community cannot afford.
There is a clear need to relate these massive expenditures on land to the real requirement for urban development. This is an issue which I will raise with my ministerial partners on the AlburyWodonga Ministerial Council at the next meeting. Let me point out that the interest bill on the land acquired so far is approximately $6m per annum and will continue to grow cumulatively. The draft development program for AlburyWodonga called for a further $65m to be spent on land acquisition in the next 5 years alone, and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is proud of that. This is an activity that does not produce goods. In that sense, it is inflationary in its effects. It is just an injection of liquidity into the economy. Some of the land to be acquired under the previous Government’s plans would not have been used for about 30 years. Some of it would never have been used at all. Quite apart from the expenditure, I point also to the effect that the threat of acquisition has had on the lives of those property owners about whom the honourable member spoke. They have no certainty about the future. They cannot sell their land. They cannot carry out the investments necessary to maintain its productivity. That is another issue that I will discuss with my ministerial colleagues in the States.
There is also a need to re-examine the role of the local community and the private sector. The
Government is not convinced that enough attention has been given to developing techniques specifically designed to stimulate private sector financial involvement in the development process, thus reducing the call on the public purse. These matters currently are receiving attention. The private sector will develop confidence in this centre- not on the sort of terms about which the honourable gentleman talked in his speech, but when it is convinced that it is receiving sound guidance from the policy making body, namely, the Ministerial Council. We intend to make sure that that is exactly what it will get. Again I do not mean that as any criticism of the Development Corporation. If Albury-Wodonga is to succeed, the Corporation must be given every encouragement to involve private enterprise, its energies, its skills and its finance. This is one area in which I believe we require careful study before the Commonwealth endorses the previous Government’s open-ended luxurious commitments. I will be raising those issues, too, with the Ministerial Council when next it meets.
Private sector confidence is not helped by the false cries manufactured by the honourable gentleman in the debate today purely for political purposes. This Government places great emphasis on the role of local communities and local government. Again this is an area that any responsible review of the previous Government’s policies would have to canvass. I have demonstrated why a responsible government, finding itself faced with the open-ended commitments entered into by the previous Government- encouraged by the honourable gentleman from Reid- and finding a situation requiring tight fiscal restraint on the part of the public sector, would wish to review the program. I have indicated also the complexity of the issues involved. Surely in these circumstances thoroughness is not a vice.
What of the Opposition’s claims that the Government has breached the Albury-Wodonga Agreement? They are just not supportable. I will set out the facts: Firstly, the Government approved the financial program for 1975-76. Secondly, as early as 20 May the Government announced that it would meet the contractual commitments of the Development Corporation, and to that end, as the honourable member for Reid well knows, the Commonwealth announced in the Budget that $ 10.5m would be made available. Thirdly, I met with the relevant State Ministers in Melbourne on 11 August to open discussions on the 1975-76 program and the future funding of the centre. The Opposition has made much of the suggestion that I demanded of my State counterparts that their governments make a contribution to the future funding of Albury-Wodonga. There was no demand; let me make that clear. I made a request because the project would be put on a sounder footing if all 3 governments made a contribution to the funding of the Development Corporation. All spheres of government need to assess their expenditures carefully. That will best be achieved if all the governments have a direct financial stake in the Corporation. Only in that way will all the governments have an incentive to ensure fiscal responsibility.
What was in the request that was a breach of the Agreement? There was no demand that the States match the Commonwealth, or else. I did not lay down the law. I did not demand that they arrange matching funds. If the Commonwealth was not genuine in its examination of the Agreement, I could have claimed very easily that the Commonwealth had made a generous offer to the States and they had rejected it and that a Commonwealth withdrawal from this area was justified because the States clearly did not grant it sufficiently high priority to spend their own funds. The factual situation, of course, is that the States indicated that, while they were not in a position this financial year to help, they were prepared to enter into discussions on arrangements for next year. The Commonwealth has made it clear that the examination is continuing. It is patently misleading to suggest that that is in breach of the Agreement. The programs being discussed by the officials will be the subject of inter-government discussion. Of course, the Albury-Wodonga Area Development Agreement is not fixed for eternity in its current form. That would not reflect the nature of agreements between governments. It would not reflect the nature of legislation. If the partners to the Agreement get together over the next 6 to 9 months and agree that alternative funding arrangements are appropriate, legislative action may be required to change the Agreement. Is the Opposition really suggesting that governments should not take action to improve existing legislation when experience has demonstrated that it needs to be modified?
I have pointed out already that the Government indicated that it would provide $ 10.5m to meet contractual agreements. In fact, the Budget seeks an appropriation of $ 15m. That additional $4.5 m allows further time to all governments concerned to discuss, without prejudice, future funding arrangements, including the level to be funded by the Commonwealth for the current financial year. Clearly a program does not involve only money; it must provide the firm guidelines within which the Development Corporation can proceed in a responsible and efficient manner. These guidelines must be provided by the Ministerial Council as a whole. Obviously the guidelines would need to include future land purchase policies, measures aimed at the maintenance of private sector confidence and, all importantly, a greater degree of private sector involvement in the development process.
I am convinced that the growth centre would be on a much sounder footing if the previous Government had been more concerned about efficiency and proper management and marketing techniques and less concerned with ideology, particularly in the area of land tenure. The previous Government insisted that industrial land be made available almost totally on leasehold tenure and also insisted on a number of covenants on freehold for residential uses. That caused the corporation difficulty in marketing its existing estates. The corporation recommended to Ministers that industrialists be given the choice of leasehold or freehold and that a number of residential covenants be dropped. Those recommendations were sound managerial advice; they took account of the marketplace and the needs and aspirations of the private sector. In determining future land purchase policies within the context of our examination, I am sure that my State colleagues and I will be concerned to give serious consideration to any cases of real hardship that have arisen as a consequence of the need to review the spending priorities of the previous Government.
I conclude by reiterating that the Commonwealth has not decided to opt out of the AlburyWodonga agreement. It will meet the contractual commitments of the corporation. It will meet with Ministers next month to discuss where we go from here and what program we are going to adopt. The arguments put forward by the Opposition are quite groundless.
-The Fraser Government is notorious for its many broken promises affecting the lives and welfare of the Australian people. Now it is repudiating solemn and legal undertakings given by the last Australian Government to 3 State governments. Just as it tore up the rules and rode roughshod over the Constitution to gain office, this discredited coalition is now thumbing its nose at the time-honoured tradition of integrity which the Commonwealth has always exercised in its relations with the States.
The growth centres of Albury-Wodonga, Macarthur, Bathurst-Orange and Monarto are major Budget casualties and seem destined to become the ghost centres of the 1980s and beyond. Launched with enthusiasm by a Federal Labor Government in 1974 with the full cooperation and support of the States concernedthe then Liberal-governed States of Victoria and New South Wales- the growth centre program attracted a Budget allocation in 1974-75 of $64.7m. In 1975-76, the allocation was increased to $72. lm. Now the Budget has been slashed from an actual expenditure level of $72.1 m last year to $33m, a drop of $39.1m. That in itself, in my view, demonstrates the insincerity of the present Government’s concern with growth centres. Albury-Wodonga gets only $15m; Bathurst-Orange and Macarthur, which is the development in the western suburbs of Sydney, receive a paltry $2m each, which is barely enought to meet essential, unavoidable legal commitments.
There can be no doubt about the sincerity of the 3 governments which entered into the Albury-Wodonga agreement. Those 3 governments were consulted about land acquisition. The critical comments made by the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Newman) cannot be directed just at the former Federal Labor Government; he is obviously taking to task State governments of his own political persuasions which acquiesced in the land acquisition program at AlburyWodonga which he has so trenchantly attacked and criticised. The only government to be uncertain and undecided, the only government to violate and to repudiate is the Fraser Government. Indecision in this matter is sheer destruction; not to decide is to decide, for only a short period of financial malnutrition will seal the fate of Albury-Wodonga for all time and the growth centre concept for Albury-Wodonga and other parts of Australia for years and years to come.
The Minister has to answer this question: Does the agreement still exist? If it does, does he acknowledge that it cannot be ignored and conveniently put aside? He also has to indicate whether he is prepared to table the report which is the product of the review that has been under way so that there can be proper public dialogue about this matter. It cannot be pushed into a closet because there are many people affected by it, and I will tell him about that in a moment.
The Mayor of Albury, the former political neuter in this Parliament, Alderman Bunton, has demonstrated his concern at the denial of obligation that this Government has exercised. He has led to Canberra protest delegations of 50-odd businessmen. During a telephone conversation that I had today with businessmen in that growth city I was told that Borg-Warner (Aust) Ltd, transmission manufacturer, might have to retrench workers heavily unless it gets a decision about the growth centre in the near future. Maybe that firm will have to close down altogether. The book publishing firm, Collins Book Publishers, is sick of waiting and has already gone off to some other town. A.R.C. Engineering is looking at the prospects of buying a site for a factory to accommodate 80 employees. That company will soon sell if it gets no satisfaction. The Blue Circle cement company is delaying its expansion program. The Emoleum company, which is involved in road and pavement surfacing, has picked a site to lease but it is not prepared to go ahead with construction of plant unless it gets the green light from the Government. A. R. Turner (NZ) Pty Ltd, after a couple of years of negotiation, has also established that there is no hope, and it has packed its bags and gone on. Modules of Australia and New Zealand, which is one of the most progressive housing concept companies, is not prepared to take the plunge in the present situation.
Already so many public enterprises have been put at risk. After all, there is no certainty that the construction of the university will go ahead. The same position applies in relation to the tertiary conglomerate, whatever form it is going to take. Previously some 3500 students were to be accommodated in the tertiary complex, and it was to employ 700 staff. What then has happened to the Road Safety and Standards Authority? That was to involve a $10m project in which were to be accommodated, in the long term, some 200 people. The Government has abandoned that project. The development of the Commonwealth Centre was deferred. The plans to establish there the Australian Housing Corporation are to be or have been abandoned. Some 80 workers were to go to that area because of that project alone. I see that on 10 August the Chairman of the Corporation, Mr Craig, predicted that 400 people could soon lose jobs if the program is not supported.
Of course, it was the intention of the former Labor Government to encourage that growth centre by transferring 90 people from the Taxation Office to Albury-Wodonga. The Trade Union Training College has also virtually come to a standstill. I believe that it was to accommodate 60 people. The Transport Accident Investigating Authority was to accommodate 120 people in the short term and 200 people in the longer term. The Australian Heritage Commission was to employ 35 people. The Health Insurance Commission was to employ 200 people. The Schools Commission was to employ 184 people, and so the list goes on. The other areas of government affected were the Department of Urban and Regional Development, the Curriculum Development Centre, the Bureau of Environmental Studies and the Bureau of Meteorology. Now nobody knows what is going to happen in respect of these public instrumentalities. What did the President of the AlburyWodonga Businessmens’ Association, Mr Wallace, say just the other day? He said:
We are being torpedoed by government inactivity.
Private enterprise has invested and stands to lose millions of dollars unless the politicians do their part. But we are concerned also as employers for the future and welfare of our employees and our own children. The project has proved its success and its economic viability. The indecision just does not make sense.
The Victorian Minister for State Development and Decentralisation, Mr Crozier, made his cryptic comments:
If the Commonwealth does not come up with another $I5m before the end of the financial year the future of Albury-Wodonga will definitely be in doubt- and there’s nothing Victoria or New South Wales can do about it.
In a similar strain, as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Uren) has mentioned, he has indicated his interest in testing the matter from a legal standpoint. The Minister for Decentralisation in New South Wales, Mr Day said: . . . the Federal Government had ‘put the hard word’ on the States but the States could not accept extra financial responsibilities without getting extra financial resources. I hope Albury-Wodonga is not a dead duck, but it is no good talking about private enterprise taking over unless governments show the way.
The Corporation’s Deputy Chairman, Mr Les Muir, pointed out that any money to be made available for land buying would be minimal. About 50 families in Albury-Wodonga had contracts with the Corporation to buy their holdings. Some of the contracts were 2 years old and the contracts could not be fulfilled because of cash shortage. There has been a betrayal on the part of this Government. The former Leader of the Opposition warmly welcomed the growth centre proposal when the Bill was before this Parliament. He said- and I am referring to the present Speaker.
I welcome all 4 of these Bills. They will be supported by the Opposition. The initiatives in these Bills set out to relieve the pressures of the ever sprawling maritime connavations We must assist this process in several ways. The whole concept implicit in these Bills . . .
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-This debate will do nothing to enhance confidence in AlburyWodonga. It is politically mischievous on the part of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Uren) and on the part of the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) who have taken part on this debate on behalf of the Opposition this afternoon. It is designed to confuse the situation further and as a result of this added confusion it will destroy confidence in the area of Albury-Wodonga. I deplore the activity of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the honourable member for Hughes in acting in this way. To suggest, as did the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, that the Liberal and National Country Parties do not have a policy on decentralisation is rubbish. The Liberal and Country Parties have a considerable history of interest in decentralisation. The Commonwealth-State Committee which reported on decentralisation in 1972 before the Deputy Leader of the Opposition’s Government came into office was established as a Commonwealth initiative, and the Government of the day, the Liberal-National Country Party Government established the national urban and regional development authority. The new Government subsequently introduced an ambitious growth centre program. In a statement on 20 May 1 976, referring to this program, the Treasurer announced:
Although the activities carried out under many of these programs are desirable, the programs do involve large and continuing expenditures.
The Treasurer went on to announce the establishment of an interdepartmental committee to review this and other urban and regional programs. The Minister (Mr Newman) referred to this this afternoon.
There are a number of strands to the consideration of decentralisation issues. A review of decentralisation policy would necessarily cover the future of the growth centres program; assistance for other country centres; the provision of Commonwealth and State services in nonmetropolitan areas, including the investigation of the concept of identifying regional centres for the focus of the provision of a range of Government services such as social security, taxation and the Commonwealth Employment Service. Any Commonwealth policy must be consistent with federalism and the responsibilities that this Government has under other spheres throughout the government administration of this country.
To suggest, as did the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, that this Government has breached its obligations to the States is humbug.
I was surprised this afternoon to hear the honourable member for Hughes make a comment in relation to the establishment of a university in Albury-Wodonga, because it was only in August 1975 that the Australian Universities Commission was instructed by the then Minister for Education, (Mr Beazley), that all new initiatives involving financial assistance for universities should be deferred. The honourable member for Hughes also referred to the possibility of transferring departments to Albury-Wodonga. He implied that this was a broken promise on the part of this Government. I want to remind the House that at the last election the Government gave a clear undertaking that the compulsory transfer out of Canberra proposed by the previous Whitlam Government would not proceed. I understand that that undertaking stands. The Government saw no need to transfer staff compulsorily out of Canberra. Clearly it would not be responsible to undertake a transfer program in advance of major decisions on the nature of our decentralisation programs.
The Albury-Wodonga development agreement requires that the 3 Governments approve each year a 5-year development plan for the development of growth centres. The Minister has said that this plan is well advanced and all that is required is for the Commonwealth to determine, in conjunction with the Victorian and New South Wales governments, a program for 1976-77. Whatever funding arrangements are agreed between governments for the ensuing 4 years, I am sure that the development plan can be approved, which reflects the intention of governments to review the basis on which the project is presently financed. The Opposition suggestion that the Government is in breach of the existing agreement is totally irresponsible. Its action in bringing on this debate today will have the effect of adding to uncertainty and further dampening the confidence of private investors.
The honourable member for Hughes referred to the irresponsible statement that was made by the Victorian Opposition Leader, Mr Holding, when he suggested that the Victorian Government take the Commonwealth Government to the High Court over the Commonwealth action in relation to the Albury-Wodonga area development agreement. This is not the way for Federal-State negotiations to be conducted, nor is it the way in which a proper federalism policy can be implemented. Together with other honourable members in this House- indeed with the Minister- I regret the delay that has taken place but I emphasise that it has been a necessary delay. As the member for the area that embraces Albury, I would prefer that the Government take its time to get the right answers rather than hasten and have Albury-Wodonga suffer in the long term. Destructive debate of this kind initiated by the Opposition will not help the situation.
Let us look quickly at the history of the establishment of this growth centre. The Minister has referred this afternoon to the fact that no less than $60m, approximately three-quarters of all the funds allocated for Albury-Wodonga, has been invested in land at the direction of the former Minister, the now Deputy Leader of the Opposition. Some of this land will never be used. Other land will not be used in the lifetime of the youngest member of this House of Representatives. He opposed freehold land for industrial development. When the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was the Minister in charge of this project he was responsible for placing the dead hand of socialism on it. He has a hate for freehold land. His decision and the decision of the then Government not to permit freehold land to be made available to industrialists did more to drive industrialists out of the Albury-Wodonga area than any other single decision of happening. That situation has been corrected under the present Government.
We want to see more private enterprise activity in Albury-Wodonga. There is no need for everything to be done by the Government. It is not desirable that everything be done by the Government. This Government, through the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development in his position as Chairman of the Ministerial Council on the Development of Albury-Wodonga, will encourage private industry to develop and private enterprise generally to be active in the Albury-Wodonga area. In this way confidence will be built up. I have no doubt that the negotiations which are taking place now between the Commonwealth and the States will resolve in the interests of Albury-Wodonga. I believe that it is in the long term interests of Albury-Wodonga to have the 3 governments- that is, the Commonwealth, Victorian and New South Wales governmentsfirmly committed to funding the on-going programs. Anyone who stands up in this place or elsewhere and attacks the Commonwealth Government for its efforts in trying to bring the 3 governments together as funding agents for the Albury-Wodonga Development Corporation is not acting in the best interests of the AlburyWodonga growth centre.
-The time for the discussion has now concluded.
-Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. The honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fife) said that I hated freehold land. That statement is completely false. The situation is that in January 1973 there was agreement in principle between the 2 Premiers and the Prime Minister that all land in the designated area would be freehold, except in exceptional circumstances. As Minister I instituted the Commission of Inquiry into Land Tenures under the chairmanship of Mr Justice Else-Mitchell. The Commission brought down its report and stated that residential land should be freehold, except that the development rights should always be retained by the developing or State authority, and that industrial land should remain leasehold at all times. In fact, I was able to amend the Albury-Wodonga Agreement in October 1973, and the principles set out in the Else-Mitchell report were written into the charter of the Albury-Wodonga Development Corporation.
Suspension of Standing Orders Mr YOUNG (Port Adelaide) (4.9)-I move:
-Order! The honourable gentleman will need to put his motion in writing and sign it.
-I have done that now, Mr Speaker. In moving that motion I point out that the Opposition has no desire to see a repetition of the problems with which we were confronted last Thursday.
– That was your fault.
– I will take a lot of convincing about that.
-Order! The honourable gentleman will address the Chair, and the honourable member for New England will not interject.
– The reason why we should have this debate forthwith is, first and foremost, to give the people concerned in Whyalla and Newcastle some idea of the Government’s thinking as to the future of the shipbuilding industry. We are critical of the fact that the report on the shipbuilding industry was tabled in the House yesterday without any sign or motivation from the Government as to the future of the industry. Apart from some statements that the Government would not make any firm plans on the future of the industry until such time as it had talked to the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the State governments, the Government has left up in the air the people who work in the industry and their dependants. It seems a little extraordinary to us that today the Prime Minister (Mr Malcom Fraser) took the opportunity during question time to be critical of the role of the Premier of New South Wales in particular, but it was left to a back bencher -
-Order! The honourable gentleman is now debating the issue. He must confine himself to the reasons why the Standing Orders should be suspended.
-Mr Speaker, this is one of the reasons. Had the Prime Minister or a member of the Government with responsibilities in this area given any indication that the matter would come before the House later today or tomorrow, the Opposition would have welcomed the move to provide that opportunity to debate the issue. The report is of major concern to many people around this country. We were bewildered by the fact that it was left to a back bencher on the Government side to raise the issue.
The manner in which the issue is raised casts doubt upon the Government’s motives. The back bench member, the honourable member for St George (Mr Neil) has given notice of a motion for General Business Thursday No. 8. According to the program which is now before the Parliament, that is likely to be in late February or early March 1977. It seems very unlikely that the Government could expect the Opposition, acting on behalf of the people of Newcastle and Whyalla, to allow the Parliament to sit idly by and ignore the ramifications and the impact of the Industries Assistance Commission report on the shipbuilding industry. It is for that reason that we believe that it is in the interests of all concerned for the matter to be brought before the Parliament forthwith.
-Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders on this basis: It is very important that a matter of this nature be discussed as quickly as possible. There have been protest meetings throughout Australia in relation to the shipbuilding industry, in which many people are employed. Representations have been made to the Government, which then decided to seek what might be termed an immediate opinion from the Industries Assistance Commission. This opinion or report was tabled. In accordance with what my colleague the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) has said, the notice of motion given today will not enable a debate on the report for some considerable time. The fact that it is for General Business Thursday No. 8 means that the matter is not likely to be debated this year. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) was asked today what was the attitude of the Government. He indicated that there was some chance or prospect for this industry in the event of co-operation from the State governments. Obviously, the honourable member for St George (Mr Neil) is concerned, because he has raised this matter and stated virtually that he agrees to some extent with what the IAC report indicates but he is concerned about the State governments.
This is a matter of national importance. We should debate it as quickly and as expeditiously as possible. We have all the necessary information about what is wrong. We need to debate and to decide in this House what can be done to protect the jobs of thousands of people not only in Newcastle but also in Whyalla. Obviously this is a matter of the utmost public importance. If the Parliament does not discuss it now, then certainly the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd, the Australian National Line and others will proceed to order overseas. This could well mean that the shipbuilding industry in Whyalla and Newcastle would become defunct before this House had a chance to discuss the matter. I can think of no more important matter that should be discussed. We are a little dismayed to think that the Government will not allow us to discuss ministerial statements. Such statements are made outside the House. Today we invited the Government to discuss a statement, but that was not done. I know that a point of order is not involved, Mr Speaker, but I think that it is discourteous to the Parliament when the national business can be discussed in the Press and not in the Parliament. The Industries Assistance Commission report is available for discussion.
– What happened when you were in government?
-We never interfered with the Grievance Day debate, which is a real issue.
-Order! The honourable member will confine his remarks to the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders which is before the House.
-What happened when we were in government was never the same as what is happening here today. A back bench member on the Government side thought it important enough to raise the matter of the shipbuilding industry, even though he represents the electorate of St George which is perhaps a little wide of the most affected shipbuilding areas. However, he thought it important enough to raise it on General Business day. The Opposition want to guarantee that the matter is discussed forthwith. Accordingly, I support the motion moved by my colleague for the suspension of Standing Orders.
– I do not think that there is any need for the motion to suspend Standing Orders to be carried. Indeed, I am quite amazed at the method adopted by the Opposition in trying to move for the suspension of Standing Orders at this time. The reason the Government does not believe there to be a need to suspend Standing Orders- we have made this quite plain and the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) referred to this when he made his remarks- is because the Industries Assistance Commission report has come to the Government. We have done the proper thing and tabled that report instantly so that it can be made available not only to the Parliament but also to everybody outside the Parliament. I have said publicly, and the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has confirmed it, that we are awaiting proposals from the Australian Council of Trade Unions before the Government takes any further decision on the issue. So we are a long way from facing the necessity to suspend the parliamentary business to discuss a matter in relation to which there is yet further information to come to the Government for consideration. We are some weeks away from a decision on the matter. The IAC has confirmed a situation that was adopted by the previous Government, namely, that a 35 per cent subsidy be paid in relation to shipbuilding in Australia and that there be no extra subsidy paid. That previous decision was accepted by the Labor Government and therefore is no more than Labor policy. But the Opposition now seeks to move for the suspension of Standing Orders to debate a question when all the information is not yet to hand. I think that this move is more political than anything else at this point in time. It seems to me also that the Opposition is doing its best to try to shift its stance on the matter from where it has been for the last 3 years in order to gain some cheap political advantage. I think that a decision to suspend the Standing Orders ought to be seen against that background more than anything else.
I recognise that the findings of the IAC are of great consequence. I have been at pains to say so both inside and outside the Parliament. The media recognise that a great flow-on could emerge from the IAC report if it is adopted, but we are not at the point of making a decision on the adoption of the report, for the reasons I have stated. Therefore, it would seem to me to be unnecessary to suspend Standing Orders for the purposes outlined. I know that the honourable member for Grey (Mr Wallis) who represents Whyalla and the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) would be naturally concerned about the IAC report. But the fact remains- I repeat- that the IAC in this report has only confirmed what it stated in its earlier report to the Parliament and to the Government of the day. I repeat also that the Government of the day- that is, the present Opposition for which the honourable member for Port Adelaide now sees himself as a spokesman- accepted the IAC report.
– That was the Labor Government.
– Yes, it was the Labor Government. It seems to me that this proposal now to suspend our Standing Orders is slightly political rather than designed to help those engaged in the industry. The Government recognises that great social consequences are involved in the acceptance of the IAC report. We have said so publicly. We have sought to set up a working committee with the Government of New South Wales and the Government of South Australia. Before the IAC report was presented, we sought to set up a working party of Commonwealth and State officials to deal with the substance of the IAC report when it came to hand. I confess some amazement that the Premier of New South Wales has been reluctant to join in with the working party committee. One would have thought that he would have joined in with some speed and resolution.
-Order! I think that the honourable gentleman is passing beyond the relevance of the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders.
- Mr Speaker, I will come back to where I started. For all the reasons I have put, I submit that there is absolutely no need and no purpose served for the Parliament to suspend Standing Orders today to discuss this matter. I suspect very much the motive of the Opposition for moving the motion at this time.
-I rise to support the motion moved by the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) for the suspension of Standing Orders to debate the matter placed before the House today by the honourable member for St George (Mr Neil). I think that the concern that exists in both Newcastle and Whyalla about the effects of this Industries Assistance Commission report must be realised. It is all right for the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) to say that the contents of this report are the same as those which the Australian Labor Party accepted when in government. Things have changed dramatically in the last 3 years in the shipbuilding industry. They have changed dramatically since the presentation of the 1 97 1 Tariff Board report. I think that to make the comparison that the Minister made is very unfair. We have to take into account -
-Order! The honourable gentleman is now debating the issue. He must make his remarks relevant to the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders so that the debate can take place now.
-Because of the effects of the matters mentioned in this report- the human and regional relations problems that will be created by the adoption of its recommendations I feel that the House should treat it as a matter of urgency and debate it forthwith. While referring to the human problems that are mentioned in the report, I point out that Whyalla has a large migrant population. There is a lack of alternative employment in that area and many people are purchasing their own homes. All these sorts of human problems will be encountered if the recommendations in the report are accepted. Because of this, I feel that the people have a right to know just what the Government’s intentions are.
The Government says that it is waiting until everybody has had a chance to examine the report before it brings down a decision on the matter. I think that it has been thrashed around long enough. We first heard talk of what could happen to the industry earlier this year. There have been deputations and discussions. The subject was referred to the IAC. During this time there has been a cloud hanging over the industry. There has been a grave worry for the people of Newcastle and Whyalla. As Whyalla lies within the electorate of Grey which I represent, I have a particular concern for it because the people look to me to speak for them in this matter. Because of these factors, I feel it is essential that the House cany this motion and that the matter be discussed forthwith so that some concrete proposal can be put forward. I support the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders.
– The Government opposes this motion to suspend Standing Orders. The abject failure of the economic policies of the previous Labor Government, the belated recognition by a few members of the Australian Labor Party that the policies it pursued now need to be reviewed urgently and the resulting motion for the suspension of Standing Orders to discuss this matter -
– What has this got to do with the motion to suspend Standing Orders?
-It has quite a deal to do with the motion. These factors represent one of the tragedies of the present Opposition. There is no reason to suspend Standing Orders. There is every reason for a positive debate to be undertaken on the substance of the Industries Assistance Commission report. There is every reason for those who are immediately involved within the trade union movement and State governments to make some comment upon the report. If that is done, a proper debate can take place in the Parliament.
The motion to suspend Standing Orders at this time is designed only to enable the honourable member who raised the matter initially and other members of the Opposition to air their lack of knowledge of the consequences of the economic policies of the Labor Government of which they were members. The problem is that if we suspend Standing Orders and have an immediate substantive debate on the question of shipbuilding, all that will be revealed once again is that the economic policies that the Labor Party in government pursued are likely to destroy every productive industry. The consequences of having an immediate debate now, and if we were to suspend Standing Orders for that purpose, would not be to provide a resolution of the problem. The resolution of the problem is what we are concerned with.
The procedures which my colleague, the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon), has outlined will enable us to try to consider effectively and adequately whether or not the trade union movement will consider the proposition which has been put to it by the Federal Government and whether those who are working in the various shipyards around Australia, particularly those in
Whyalla and Newcastle, are prepared to accept the obligation of working at a certain wage rate and without industrial disputation. If we do not know whether or not they are prepared to do so, there is no basis for our discussing this matter immediately. Indeed the whole of the consequence of the Labor Government program was to destroy the viability of industries like the shipbuilding industry. To debate the matter now with those who are supposedly Labor’s adherents within the trade union movement and who are not being allowed to express a view as to whether they are now prepared to accept their responsibilities would be pointless.
We are seeking to have matters of this very significant economic order examined in a rational way. The Industries Assistance Commission has presented a report. Quite correctly the matter has now been thrown open for public discussion. We do not want to pre-empt public discussion; that presumably is part of the objective of the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young). He seeks not to enable discussion at a due and proper time. I commend the honourable member for St George (Mr Neil). He has demonstrated a due and proper concern for the way in which the substantive issues can be properly considered, how the social consequences might be assessed properly, and how the economic results of disastrous industrial disputation of wage rates which are out of keeping with productivity can all be related within the context of an IAC consideration of the public at large. To suspend the Standing Orders will not achieve a rational assessment of this matter today. To suspend Standing Orders will only ensure that once again we will hear of the disastrous consequences of the economic policies of the Labor Party in government. There is no doubt that this is a motion devised purely on political grounds. There is no concern for the people of Whyalla; there is no concern for the people of Newcastle. There is only a concern to make, in this Parliament, political moment of a matter that is of tremendous social and economic consequence. Therefore the Government is totally opposed to the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders for this purpose. I move:
Question resolved in the affirmative. Original question putThat the motion (Mr Young’s) for the suspension of Standing Orders be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Rt Hon. B. M. Snedden, Q.C.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
APPROPRIATION BILL (No. 1) 1976-77 Second Reading (Budget Debate)
Debate resumed from 21 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-
– On 17 August the Parliament resumed and on that night the Federal Treasurer (Mr Lynch) presented the Budget for 1976-77. Mr Speaker, I seek leave for my colleague the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard) to present Customs Tariff Proposals
– Will the Leader of the House move the adjournment of the debate and ask for leave to continue his remarks?
I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move: Customs Tariff Proposals No. 2 1 ( 1 976 ).
In so doing I apologise to the House for not being present a few moments ago and thank you,
Mr Speaker, and the House for its courtesy. The Customs Tariff Proposals I have just tabled relate to proposed alterations to the Customs Tariff Act 1966. Customs Tariff Proposals No. 21 (1976) give effect to the Government’s decision on recommendations made by the Industries Assistance Commission in its report on telecommunications equipment. The effect of the decision is that a rate of duty of 30 per cent will apply to imports of transmitting and broadcasting equipment and telephone and telegraph equipment. In making a decision to accept this rate of duty the Government has accepted the recommendations of the Industries Assistance Commission. This rate is essentially a rationalisation of the duties currently applying. The new duties will operate from tomorrow. A comprehensive summary of the changes is now being circulated to honourable members. I commend the Proposals to the House.
-I wish to address myself very briefly to the Tariff Proposals now before the House. I rise on behalf of the Opposition not to lay objections to the report but to make a couple of points which I hope the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard) will note. Firstly, I ask that the Minister confer with his colleague, the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Senator Cotton), regarding the question of meetings of the Industry Council of the electronics industry. I understand that it has not met as yet. This debate presents an opportunity to raise this question because a meeting of that Council may help in some ways to overcome the lack of confidence that has existed within the industry.
The second point I wish to make is that when the draft report system was announced by the Minister, I was quite critical of it. It seemed to me to be an unnecessary interference with the operations of the IAC. I am not altogether convinced that the system will ultimately prove to be a good system on all counts. But, nonetheless, there can be no doubt that in this instance there has been a marked change between the draft and the final report. That comes about as a result of the representations made by all the people involved in the industry. So I just make those 2 points pertaining to these Tariff Proposals.
Debate (on motion by Mr Kelly) adjourned.
-I present the sixth report of the Publications Committee.
Report- by leave- adopted.
APPROPRIATION BILL (No. 1) 1976-77 Second Reading (Budget Debate)
– As I commenced to say a few moments ago, it was on the evening of the resumption of Parliament more than a month ago now that the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) first presented the Budget Speech for 1 976-77, together with the relevant papers. Since that time many new honourable members from both sides of the House have stated their philosophy and made an assessment of where they saw the financial affairs of the nation going. To each of them I would like to extend my congratulations. Significantly, over the period since the presentation of the Budget there have been a good many who have assessed the economic strategies that have been implemented by the Government in the Budget and there have been those who have been trying to assess the degree to which those strategies are going to enable an improvement to take place in the national economy over the course of the following year.
Let me again assert- I know that a number of my colleagues have already presented this assertion, but I think that it is worth repeating as it is relevant to this debate- that this is in fact the third major redirection of the economy that we have embarked upon since taking over the purse strings from the Labor Government. The statistics in every sector have shown a significant downturn following the 3 years of Labor government. For those who fall within my ministerial bailiwick in particular- those in the rural sectorthings never looked worse than they did at the end of 3 years of Labor government, which is in marked contrast to the situation in 1973 when the then Prime Minister and present Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) was able to front a group of rural producers and say: ‘You have never had things so good ‘.
T think that it is worth while having a look at this Budget in relation to what the Labor Government failed to achieve in comparison with the 3 successive moves that we have undertaken. Even in the 8 months that have elapsed since the change of government there has been a significant reorientation of the Australian people away from the public sector and towards confidence in the private sector, but there are still the uncertainties that, of course, are the reasons for our introducing a number of continued stimuli in those sectors in which they are needed.
The principal purpose of each of the 3 major economic packages presented by the Government has been, first of all, to overcome the direction of excess budgetary spending to the government sector from the private sector. In this Budget we can see a series of moves that are deliberately intended to try to inject confidence into the business community and the individual. Each proposal from the personal indexation measures through to the modification of the divisional 7 tax on proprietary companies and the adjustment of inflation accounting is directed towards giving people confidence again and giving them an opportunity to re-invest. Similarly, the range of proposals which has been implemented in this Budget in relation to the rural sector is part of a continuing series of moves that are designed to give confidence once again to the people in the rural sector. Each one of our objectives has been significantly designed to try to ensure that we can give people the opportunity to spend their own funds on their own behalf.
We have endeavoured to provide a program that will overcome the hiatus in the principal sector of employment in our community. The employment situation has been referred to by a number of spokesmen for the Opposition on the Budget. Many honourable members opposite have spoken outside the Parliament on it. Even the Opposition’s amendment to the motion for the second reading of the Budget refers to unemployment. It quite fascinates me that honourable members opposite still fail to realise that the principal employer in the Australian community is the private sector. What this Budget seeks to do, what we were seeking to do in our earlier economic moves and what we will continue to seek to do is to give confidence to those private employers. There is no better way by which to overcome the problem of unemployment. Certainly specific incentives can be provided to stimulate private employment. The measures that were the subject of a question in the House today that was responded to by my colleague the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard) indicate yet another move. There has been some modification of the National Employment and Training scheme. There has been some modification to stimulate the employment of school leavers. Those are the sorts of things that we will continue to do. But what the Budget seeks to do is to try to reset the economic climate.
I think that it is necessary for the people of Australia to realise that in that sort of package one is not going to achieve everything overnight. As one wanders around one finds that many people are beginning to say: ‘We thought the employment situation would be already significantly better. We are getting a bit worried about the statistics’. I can assure them that the Government is also worried. But the fact that the Government is worried does not mean that its Budget strategy is not correct. Indeed, the very purpose of what the Government has done has been to get money back into the pockets of individual. People need to recognise the degree to which things have run down over the course of the last few years. It is because things have run down so much that the lead time that is inevitably pan and parcel of any major economic move by a government is so long in this instance.
One has only to look at where some of the products taken into consideration in relation to the consumer price index figures have gone to appreciate the point I am making. Look at what has happened to the average weekly earnings and consider what effect that must have had on the people who must be the concern of this community. The average weekly earnings rose by something like 195.68 per cent, using the March figure, in a comparison between 1965-66 and 1 975-76. In other words, the rise is not far off 200 per cent. Over the same period the consumer price index increases represented something just short of a 100 per cent increase- a 98.46 per cent increase. The biggest percentage increase in each of those areas of increase has occurred over the last 3 years. Whatever industry one is concerned with, it is important to realise that that is the basic parameter within which the Government has had to tackle the economy.
There are a few areas in my own sector about which I want to make a few comments. I want to identify them because I think that many people fail to realise the sort of traumas that the Labor Government’s economic policies have caused in the rural sector. The most significant of them all is the product of those statistics that I have just read out, that is, the rise in the average weekly earnings, which have increasingly risen at such an accelerating rate over the last decade that they have reached the point where they have risen by nearly 200 per cent. The principal burden of people in the rural community is the mark-up value between the farm gate and the customer. The killing charges, the handling charges, the freight charges and all the inputs that go into getting a leg of lamb into a butcher’s shop or that go into getting beef, pork, poultry from the farm to the housewife are the things that have risen at a disproportionate rate to the price received by farmers. The returns of farmers have declined to the point where at the present price of money- at present interest ratesanybody who invests in the land could be said almost to need his head read. Yet agriculture, in spite of all the vicissitudes of the economic climate determined by the Labor Government and all the problems of seasons, still contributes about 50 per cent of our export earnings.
This is critically important to where Australia goes from here. What we have sought to do in the Budget is provide a number of direct stimuli to the rural sector. But we have said that the Budget is not the only thing that we are going to do for the rural sector. Earlier in the debate on the Budget I heard a few nonsensical remarks about the reduction in the amount of money being allocated to the rural sector in this Budget. It has been said that this Budget could therefore be read as being an anti-rural Budget. What arrant nonsense. Indeed, the principal reason for the reduction in funds in the Budget is because wool prices happen to have come good and because we believe that it is preferable that funds for the financing of the stockpile of the Australian Wool Corporation be raised through the private sector instead of coming from the Budget. The result is that that principal area of cost that is something that was really quite ephemeral in terms of the real return to the farmers is not now in the Budget but comes where it should be, that is, by order of ordinary borrowings.
They were borrowings before and commercial rates of interest were paid on them when the Labor Government provided for them in its Budgets. Honourable members should not for one moment think that they were a concession. Those funds are now being provided privately outside the Budget. We expect the wool market significantly to improve this year because of the policy implemented by this Government and because of the underwriting of a reserve price not just for one season but for 2 seasons as well as because of the injection of confidence into the buying sector of the industry, which means that the Budget this year has not been required to provide for the spending of the same amount of money on the stockpiling of wool for the Wool Corporation. It means that, overall, funds have declined; but the direction of expenditure towards the rural sector, picking up each of the sensitive areas, has not declined.
As I have said, it is about a month after the Budget. We have not stopped short at the Budget in providing funds for the rural sector. Let me identify several areas where further consideration is now well and truly under way and where further problems emerge. The first is drought. Tragically, much of Southern Australia is seriously affected by drought. I know that many people in some pans of Victoria believe it to be the worst drought they have experienced. I was at a very large meeting convened by my colleague the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Sullivan) in Deniliquin on Monday night. There some 200 people outlined quite dramatically the effect on the pastoral industry, on the wheat grower, on the rice grower and on everybody else in that part of New South Wales of drought, the lack of drought assistance and the problems drought causes for them. What we have said is that we have provided a fairly generous range of approved areas of assistance which the States themselves must implement. We have said that we are prepared to consider any other proposals expeditiously. We have constituted a committee that will look at any proposals. Indeed, it is now looking at a few new proposals that have come forward.
Specifically, we have set out a range of proposals to the States, some of which we think they should implement and some of which they have not yet been prepared to adopt. Let me give an idea of one of them. I have mentioned the problems of high interest rates and the difficulty of borrowing. In States such as Victoria, where many dairymen are finding market problems and drought an impossible combination, there is still no low interest money provided by way of drought alleviation; yet this is one of the areas that have been approved already. We believe that there is a reason, at a time when drought affects a person’s normal capacity to borrow funds in order to operate his farm, to provide low interest money in order that he may operate. So, the first of those extensions of the Budget lies in the area of drought.
The second one, and one that is equally important, emerges from discussions that were conducted in Canberra last Friday when Ministers responsible for rural reconstruction considered the Industries Assistance Commission recommendations in this area and went off to consider the way by which, after 1 January, a new rural reconstruction scheme should be extended. If honourable members refer to the Budget they will see that in fact we have provided funds for rural reconstruction until 31 December 1976. That does not mean that we are to cut out rural reconstruction. Indeed, last Friday’s discussions demonstrate how wrong that assumption would be. What it demonstrates is that we are prepared to reassess the whole of the basis on which the rural community needs to be helped. We are doing it in conjunction with the State governments. I believe that out of our discussions and out of the recommendations that flow from a consideration of the IAC report on rural reconstruction we will devise a better scheme than the one that exists now. For those people who, tragically, find the combination of seasons and market decline impossible, I believe that this new rural reconstruction scheme, which probably will pick up the present dairy adjustment proposals, the fruit assistance schemes and the beef assistance schemes- it will put everything into one scheme- will be a worthwhile extension.
– You are more sympathetic in that area than in shipbuilding.
-I am delighted to hear the honourable gentleman at least interject. I do not know that his comment was particularly relevant. I am delighted to hear him mention shipbuilding, because it gives me a chance to talk about that too. One of the real problems of the rural sector is that it is very heavily dependent on exports. For a long time it has been bearing the burden of assisting those involved in shipbuilding while those whom the honourable gentleman represents have engaged in totally irresponsible industrial action that ground the shipbuilding works in Brisbane to a halt. Evans Deakin and Co. Pty Ltd had a very good shipbuilding prospect, but continuing industrial problems, urged, agitated and supported by members of the Australian Labor Party, meant that that company no longer could continue to operate profitably.
What happens as a result of the Labor Party’s economic policies is that, firstly, an impossible burden is created for export industries such as those about which I am talking and, secondly, it becomes impossible for the employer to provide jobs. If anybody is to blame for high unemployment in this country it is the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young); it is the members of the Labor Ministry of the last 3 years; and it is the economic policies of the Labor Government that destroyed profitability. To hear some honourable gentlemen opposite talk in this House one would think that ‘profit’ was a dirty word; one would think that there was something wrong with somebody having enough capability to earn a bit of money so that he can pay a few employees. The whole of the concept needs to be put into perspective. It is absolutely impossible for jobs to be generated in Australia while profits are not earned by those who are creating jobs. The illustration of the shipbuilding industry is a very good one. In that industry higher and higher wages are making it impossible for the export industries to support the level of assistance given to shipbuilding, and they are making it absolutely impossible for the employer to provide employment. This is a tragedy. This is one of the circumstances that we have sought to correct in our economic tactics within this Budget.
We see the budgetary approach as being designed to alleviate distress wherever it might be. We have not drawn a halt there. I have mentioned that already we have turned to 2 additional areas of assistance in the rural sector. One relates to drought and the other to rural reconstruction. We have another major area in the dairy industry. It is an extraordinarily difficult task, but one of the benefits of the present climate within the dairy industry is that at least the dairymen now are coming together and recognising the extraordinary problems of contracting markets overseas. As a government, we accept that we have to provide help for them. We have provided interim assistance, which is referred to in the Budget, until 3 1 December; but we are not saying that that is all we are doing for them. We are saying that we are prepared to review, in the light of the IAC recommendations and projections of the volume of production in the light of the drought, the level of assistance we are giving them. We have said also that we are prepared to develop as soon as possible long term means of providing for a continuing dairy industry in this country.
It is imperative that the people, looking not just at the Budget but also at those extensions of it, realise several things: The first is that the tactic within the Budget is to provide a redistribution of money. We are trying to get money away from the public sector and back to the taxpayer. We are trying to provide onsets where there are industries in particular difficulties. The mining industry is supported by a program of incentives. We have removed some of the more penal burdens that the Labor Government imposed upon it. We have provided an offset against rural fluctuations. The income equalisation deposit scheme is an example of that. It has been backdated to cover income earned in 1975-76. A farmer who had a high income in that year can put money into IEDs so that he will be able to withdraw it if at some time, such as this year, it should be that because of drought or other seasonal circumstances he is unable to meet his normal outgoings. As a result, he will be able to even out his tax burden. Within the Budget we have set down a strategy which is intentionally set upon trying to contain inflation. We have followed a program which puts money back into the pockets of every citizen, not just the employer. At the same time we have maintained an overall program of social welfare. We have made adjustments in the Medibank program which I am quite certain every member of the Australian community will be a lot better for.
My colleague the honourable member for Capricornia (Mr Carige) has reminded me that I should say something about one other sector that comes under my responsibility- the beef industry. In talking about the rural sector I have not said a great deal about the beef producers; but within this Budget there are provisions to help the cattlemen. We are looking now at a new constitution for the Australian Meat Board. We are extremely worried about the way in which the United States of America seems to be changing its access opportunities for beef, sugar and other commodities. We are determined to help the beef producers. I know that the honourable member for Capricornia and other honourable members who have beef producers in their areas are worried about the suvival of those beef producers. So is the Government. The Budget is designed to help each one of those involved in rural industry. It is designed to put Australia back on the rails. The suggestions that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) has made in his amendment are completely contrary to that intention. The Opposition still seems to believe that spending money will cure the economic ills of this community. That is arrant nonsense. This Budget is part of a continuing Government program to restore employment, to contain inflation and to make every producing sector of this community worth while again. It is only by doing that that we will have any chance of again putting Australia back on the path of prosperity and affluence. I commend the Budget to this House.
– The original question was that the Bill be now read a second time, to which the Leader of the Opposition moved an amendment that all words after ‘that’ be omitted with a view to substituting other words. The immediate question is that the words proposed to be omitted stand part of the question. Those of that opinion say ‘aye’, to the contrary ‘no’. I think the ayes have it.
Opposition members- The noes have it. Mr SPEAKER-Is a division required? Opposition members- A division is required. Mr SPEAKER-The House will divide. The bells having been rungMr SPEAKER- While the tellers are taking up their positions, I point out that the Prime Minister is in the chamber but I do not see the Leader of the Opposition. If the Prime Minister wishes to retire I would be pleased to give him leave.
-For 2 days I have been told, Mr Speaker, that the Leader of the Opposition would be voting on the Budget. It has always been my intention to vote on the Budget, and if Opposition members who are here have no objection I will vote. There are not very many of them, I know, but I am surprised that the Leader of the Opposition is not here.
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr E. G. Whitlam’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Rt Hon. B. M. Snedden, Q.C.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative. Original question resolved in the affirmative. Bill read a second time.
-In accordance with standing order 226, the Committee will first consider Schedule 2 of the Bill.
– May I suggest that it might suit the convenience of the Committee to consider the items of proposed expenditure in the order and grouping shown in the schedule which has been circulated to honourable members. Consideration of the items in groups of departments has met the convenience of the Committee in past years. I take the opportunity to indicate to the House that the proposed order of consideration of the Departments’ estimates has been discussed with the Opposition, which has raised no objection. The Schedule reads as follows:
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, and Department of Administrative Services together
Department of the Treasury, and Advance to the Treasurer together
Department of Foreign Affairs
Department of Health, Department of Repatriation, and Department of Social Security together
Department of Aboriginal Affairs
Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs
Department of the Capital Territory, and Department of the Northern Territory together
Department of National Resources, and Department of Overseas Trade together
Department of Industry and Commerce, and Department of Business and Consumer Affairs together
Department of Primary Industry
Department of Transport
Department of Education
Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development, and Department of Construction together
Department of Employment and Industrial Relations
Department of Science
Postal and Telecommunications Department
Attorney-General ‘s Department
Department of Defence
-Is it the wish of the Committee to consider the items of proposed expenditure in the order suggested by the Leader of the House? There being no objection, that course will be followed.
Proposed expenditure, $ 1 3,229,000.
– There would be no more important part of the Estimates than those concerned with the Parliament itself. In the course of the few minutes available to me I wish to emphasise the Opposition’s concern at what is happening to the institution of Parliament, particularly as we have known it for many years, because of the now excessive influence of party politics in the Senate. From the Estimates you will notice, Mr Chairman, that there is provision for a substantial allocation of money to the Senate. We do not find mentioned in these Estimates the amount of money that the taxpayer has had to provide for the waging of 2 double dissolutions within 2 years caused by the intrusion of power by the Senate. We are at a crisis stage in democracy in Australia because of the out of balance situation that has developed between the House of Representatives and the Senate. As I have indicated already, there have been injections of power from the Senate which have seriously affected the economy of this country, the future of this country, and the opportunity for any government reasonably to expect that it would remain in office for any period of time when it did not have a Senate majority.
I draw your attention, Mr Chairman, to the precedent situation which has developed over a period of 75 years. We are able to point to the precedent set as far back as 1914 when a Labor dominated Senate wanted something done which was contrary to what the then House of Representatives wanted. Of course, its request was refused by the Governor-General, as it should have been. When virtually the same situation was repeated in 1918, the request of the Senate was again refused by the same GovernorGeneral who at that stage had had the advantage of experience. In 1931 the Senate was suggesting that the Governor-General refuse to approve regulations that had been introduced into the House. The Governor-General declined that request on the basis that he was always obliged to follow the advice of his Ministers and not that of the Senate.
So you can see, Mr Chairman, how the situation has seriously and rapidly deteriorated in recent years, because in 1974 when the Labor Government was in office and it put its Supply legislation before the Senate, as it is obliged to do pursuant to the Constitution, Senator Withers said in the Senate: ‘I do not intend to deal with this matter until such time as you, the House of Representatives, submit yourself to an election ‘. In other words, the Senate on that occasion determined what it wanted the House of Representatives to do. It indicated that until the House of Representatives was subject to the will of the Senate there would be no Supply. As you would know, and as we all know, if Supply is not granted nothing but chaos can be caused in this country. That was the first unfortunate precedent to be created. I think Australia is going to pay the penalty for many years to come.
It was not the intention of the Constitutioncertainly not the intention of section 53 of the Constitution- that that should occur. Let me remind the House that in the 1 89 1 draft of the Constitution the word ‘reject’ was proposed to be inserted in section 53; that is, the Senate may have the power of rejection. The wisdom of our forefathers decreed that that word should be deleted, as it was. We should still abide by that wisdom, because as we all know both Houses of Parliament cannot have equal powers in relation to financial matters. It is quite a travesty of justice for everybody to assume now that there must be a power of rejection by implication. It cannot be. What I am putting to you, Mr Chairman, is this: Section 53 of the Constitution states that except in the case of Appropriation Bills the powers of both Houses are equal; but the Senate cannot even amend Appropriation Bills. Is it not contrary to logic to suggest that the Senate can reject Appropriation Bills, because that rejection in itself becomes the amendment in toto, and we are dealing with annual Appropriation Bills.
We see again the spurious reasons given for rejection if we look at the threat made last year when again our Supply Bills were before the Senate for approval. One should not use the word ‘approval’; they were before the Senate for what we might call notification. In my view, they do not need approval. But in that case again messages were sent back to us from the Senate clearly indicating that the Senate had powers to deal with this matter and saying, for the sake of the record but obviously quite erroneously, that if there is a deadlock between the Houses it can be resolved pursuant to section 57 of the Constitution. That could not have been done when dealing with Supply. The time factor is also involved. If we may say so, His Excellency the Governor-General took the same view. He said that section 57 was not appropriate.
Nevertheless this country was placed in jeopardy. Is it any wonder that business confidence slumped? Is it any wonder that we have massive unemployment? Is it any wonder that people were fearful of what was going to happen to their savings when the Parliament itself could not approve the ordinary annual appropriations? There was a sense of crisis, a sense of drama. What were the reasons given for the Senate taking the action it did? That action was taken on the basis of some political judgment of the situation and not at all on the merits of the annual appropriation, not on the basis of the matters that we are all discussing here today, namely whether the amount of money was sufficient or otherwise.
– Are you going to get on to it?
-I thank the honourable member for the interjection, because it highlights the point that if the Government does not get on to the issue of the power of the Senate we are wasting our time talking about matters here. The Senate decided to get on to it on the basis that there was inflation, that there was unemployment, that there was a lack of confidence. Does the Government think that it has improved since that time? I want the Government to get on to it on a national basis. J refer to what our forefathers did when drafting the Constitution which worked for 75 years. On the basis of the Constitution we are able to say that we in the House of Representatives certainly have the power to submit annual Appropriation Bills but you, the Senate, irrespective of your party political complexion, have no power to reject those Bills, because once you do that you have failed in your task. But worse still, on each of the occasions on which the Senate refused to deal with Appropriation Bills- I have mentioned both OI those occasions- it abdicated its responsibility: it ran away from the fact that it was duty bound to look at the Appropriation Bills.
In both cases it refused to do that. It said: ‘For other reasons, we arc not going to deal with these matters now’. That means, of course, that the Senate has excessive power, that it is a superior House, which is quite contrary to the actual situation. It means that in future whenever the majority Party in the Senate is of a political complexion different from that of the majority Party in the House of Representatives the Parliament can face a double dissolution at least once a year, if not twice. It would not be a double dissolution but a single dissolution, because the Senate will be saying: ‘You, the House of Representatives, must go to the people’. How ridiculous it is. Our criticism of the present Government is that it used its Party position in the Senate to force that decision. The Senate was not acting as a House of review; it was not a watch dog of the States. A faction of the Liberal-National Country Parties in the Senate decided in the Party room to bring down the Government of the day. It did it in such a fashion that the Australian people are thoroughly confused as to what the situation is.
– They were not confused on 13 December.
-I shall answer that interjection. We did not discuss Supply on 13 December; Supply was granted. The very thing that the Senate refused to accede to had to be granted.
Government members interjecting-
-Obviously 1 am upsetting some honourable members opposite. From the point of view of what is going to happen in this country, we have got to get an effective management position between the House of Representatives and the Senate. I move:
I seek the adoption of this amendment as an indication of the opinion of this Committee that the Government parties, when in opposition, misused the role of the Senate.
– I am opposed to the amendment and in support of the estimates. I think it is appropriate at the Constitutional Convention for persons to give their views on the matter raised by the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen). I intend to confine my remarks to matters related to the estimates, although not particularly to the details of the estimates as they are in this Budget. Probably, like all estimates of expenditure they could be questioned in terms of a cost-benefit analysis. I wish to deal with the estimates of expenditure on the basis of what they do not contain rather than what they do contain. As they stand, they represent approximately $ 1 per head of population in Australia. No doubt that is an adequate basis for a continuation of the operation of this Parliament in this building, but they are quite inadequate for the requirements of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia in the last quarter of the 20th century.
Parliament House itself is quite inadequate for the needs of the institution of parliament. When this building was built for the Parliament in 1927, the number of members was far fewer, the population was far less, and the staff of the House itself and of the Ministers was much smaller in number. We are now in impossibly cramped conditions. Members complain about this in these estimates debates year after year. Visitors to Kings Hall or to the exterior of the building find it a most attractive building, but those of us who have to work here, with the poor heating and the stale air that circulates, find it extremely intolerable to work effectively in it. As the population grows and as the requirements of parliamentarians grow, clearly more staff will be needed and we will have an even more cramped situation.
A new parliament house has been talked of for an eternity, so it seems. Action is needed now. Any action which is planned now will not be a cost to revenue during the current economic recession. If we are not to get another building for 1 5 years, then at least we should have a building at the rear of this building. Any further procrastination will make our task more difficult when it comes to performing our work as members of Parliament. This building should be made more functional. A new building at the back could contain the staff of the House and the staff of Ministers, except those members of staff who have to be close to the chambers. It would never be wasted, because Canberra will always need to have buildings of that sort and office space of that sort. Even if a new parliament house were built later and the present building were converted to a conference centre, the building would not be wasted. More procrastination will only create more impediments to members of Parliament doing their work.
Of course, members of Parliament are scoffed at by some people who do not think we are trying to do a job at all. Occasionally one reads editorials and columns in newspapers along those lines. There was a quite notorious column in the Australian not long ago- the day after the presentation of the Budget, as I recall. But, worse than that, there are so-called political scientists who seem to be reconciled to the fact that the country is being run by non-elected people, people who have the best will in the world but who nevertheless are in the senior ranks of the Public Service. The so-called political scientists ought to be concerned at this trend; so should the historians be concerned at this trend. Historians who understand the evolution of the supremacy of the Parliament over taxation, expenditure and administration generally should be concerned at the handicaps placed in the way of the elected members in examining the administration of this country. Members need to be supported by adequate staff when it comes to their assisting Ministers in querying the advice they receive from public servants- not because that advice is deliberately misleading, but because the advice is human and is not subject to any accountability other than to the Parliament.
In this regard I must praise the Library staff of the Parliament, the staff of the Clerk and, above all, Mr Gordon Pike and his staff for their transport service. All of these things make it easier for members of the Parliament to do their job. I think it is time that praise was given for the work which they all do. Even though the Parliamentary Library does a wonderful job in assisting members with research, each member ought to have a staff member based in Parliament House or in an annexe to Parliament House to assist him on the spot to make better use of the research facilities which are available in the Library. That is not to say that we do not need 2 members of staff in our own electorates, because clearly we do. The local work is increasing rapidly, as is revealed by the Royal Commission into Australian Government Administration in its report, where a section is devoted to the growth of that kind of work. A possible avenue of increase in work of that sort is foreshadowed in the report of the Royal Commission.
The United States Congress has coped with this. It has provided appropriate facilities. But the House of Commons still lags a long way behind. Indeed, the privileges won by the House of Commons were often won in spite of itself. I think that in Australia we are facing the same problem. The House of Commons now is running the risk of squandering many of the privileges it has won, because of the inability of members of Parliament there to scrutinise adequately the advice of the administration in Whitehall, members of Parliament in Britain certainly have to grapple more with that situation, and so do we in Australia. The cheese-paring attitude towards the requirements of parliamentarians was vividly illustrated yesterday in remarks made by Mr Speaker in the House. I think we all share the concern which he felt regarding the institution. It is in the same spirit that I make these remarks.
The business of government is the biggest business in Australia. The methods of this business have changed, as have the methods of all other businesses; but the procedures of the Parliament and other people’s perception of the roles of members of parliament has not changed as rapidly and has not kept up to date. When it comes to debating this problem, we all should be grateful for the work of the so-called Committee on Committees which presented a report in May this year and which did some excellent work in mapping out a program for future activity to cure the kind of problem to which I am referring. If time permits, I will come back to some of the points that Committee raised.
I wish to refer to the establishment of the Expenditure Committee, which recognises some of the problems to which I have referred. One implication in the establishment of the Expenditure Committee recognises that the detail of expenditure is a task which should not involve party issues. Policy is excluded from the work of the Expenditure Committee. Consequently we all can sit on that Committee as members of the Parliament. It has been very noticeable in the functioning of that Committee so far that party issues have never intruded. This is a very important step in the right direction. It is important that this Parliament has delegated to the Expenditure Committee the right to examine expert witnesses, to scrutinise documents and to report back to the House, where its report can be debated. It is very important that that not be seen to replace the estimates debates on the Budget. Clearly there is still a very important role for private members in expressing important views which otherwise they cannot express easily in other debates. But it is important to realise that it was necessary to delegate that role to a committee. Again, the appointment of the Expenditure Committee is implicit recognition of the fact that the execution of policies is the job of public servants and that therefore they should be answerable for their administrative decisions. Again, that was a point made by the Royal Commission into Australian Government Administration.
The recognition of this fact places the concept of ministerial responsibility in a more realistic perspective. There is a particular responsibility for policy decisions and for those administrative decisions expressly authorised by the Minister, but other administrative decisions lie with the public servants who make them. Additionally, this Parliament will need to improve its scrutiny of administrative acts which do not involve the expenditure of money. We have seen the passage of the Ombudsman Bill and the establishment of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, and the Senate has scrutiny over regulations and other statutory instruments. It is important that the Parliament ensure that it satisfactorily examines statutory instruments, because they are designed to carry out the purposes of the statute. It will have to consider whether they carry out the purposes of the statute in the most equitable way and with the minimum inconvenience to citizens compatible with the purposes of the statute.
– I support the amendment moved by my colleague, the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen). I listened with interest to the comments of the honourable member for Balaclava (Mr Macphee). I remind him that today there is a very substantial downgrading of the functions of Parliament. As a matter of fact, many of its functions are being usurped by the media, by the electronic media and the Press. I have had 26 years experience as a parliamentarian and my blood runs cold when I see interviewers asking questions for the specific purpose of chopping at a parliamentarian and the parliamentarian being foolish enough to downgrade himself and his responsibilities. Today matters are being discussed by the media which ought properly first to be announced and discussed here. In the centuries to come historians will say that two of the outstanding characteristics of this era were the parliamentary institution and the role of the English language as the only substitute for a universal tongue among mankind.
In regard to the amendment, I agree with the remarks of the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith. Parliament is under the gravest threat since Federation. Let us look at the basis of parliamentary representation. A party with 43 per cent of the total vote of the people finishes up with 28 per cent of the representation here. In other words, the basis of representation in the party which is here is an excrescence in a parliamentary democracy in terms of numbers. The fundamental issue is a simple and longstanding one. It is the question of the power of the purse residing in the House of Commons or in the House of Representatives. As the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith has said, we have had 2 examples of its abuse and perversion by the Senate. In Great Britain this matter was thrashed out in about the year 1642 when Charles I came into the House of Commons with a detachment of military and demanded money. Ever since then the king and his representatives have been specifically denied access to the House of Commons. The matter finally emerged in statutory form in 1911 in the United Kingdom. Yesterday we had the spectacle of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) stating in Parliament-again he was dealing with comments made by the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith- that a High Court action could clearly declare to be unlawful the decision of an Australian Government which had voted itself Supply to continue in office. I thought the issue was decided over 340 years ago.
The instrument for the destruction of the power of the House of Commons- the power over the purse- is the very instrument, the Constitution compromise, by which the disparate States of Australia reluctantly, grudgingly and with the greatest possible caution finally agreed to federation. I refer to the Senate and its function. Of course, we have the spectacle where a State with 15 times the population of another State has an equivalent number of members in the Senate by way of representation. Worse than that, need I remind honourable members of the 2 scandalous appointments to fill casual vacancies which occurred in relation to the Senate? For the first time, we saw the breaking of a gentlemen’s convention which had been honoured by the States and in the Federal Parliament by which representatives from the same parties were appointed to fill a casual vacancy. Shame on the Governments which broke that convention. Where else but in the English speaking world would we see restrictions such as those which are still found in sections 58 and 59 of the Constitution? It is worth while reminding honourable members about those sections because of the situation where, when a proposed law is presented to the Governor-General for the Queen’s assent, he can declare according to his discretion that he assents in the Queen’s name, that he withholds assent or that he reserves the law for the Queen ‘s pleasure.
The honourable member for Kingsford-Smith has asked: Unless the Constitution is altered what will be the position when, for the first time, the majority in the Senate come from a different political persuasion to that of the Government in the House of Representatives? Can we imagine the deliberate involvement of the GovernorGeneral in politics and, vicariously, the involvement of the monarchy itself? This is a matter for regret because, in common with other honourable members, I took an oath of allegiance to Her Majesty. I do not do those things very lightly. I ask honourable members to imagine the situation which can arise where assent is withheld or, even worse, where the Governor-General has the power to return to this House or to another place a proposed law which has been presented to him with suggested amendments. I thought the functions of a viceroy disappeared with the partition of India nearly 30 years ago. But today we have a viceroy, not a Governor-General, exercising supervisory powers which might have been appropriate to an immature, emerging nation but not to a mature, independent nation which chooses to share a monarch with the United Kingdom.
The Queen accepts the title of Queen of Australia and we respect her for it. She guarantees the Queen’s peace. She is the titular and respected head of the Commonwealth which some historians have chosen to identify as being a crowned republic. But whatever form our nation takes, it is one we understand. It seems to suit our instincts for parliamentary democracy. The result of all this is that we will have in February of next year a royal visit. The Queen and her Consort will be welcomed. Now the criticism of her representative in Australia is leaving the streets and going into a grand debate at public meetings. That is the proper place for such a matter. The issue is still- no member of the Opposition can burke or deny it- the right of the House of Commons or of the House of Representatives to have the power of the purse, to vote money, to spend money, to impose and to collect taxes. That is in section 53 of the Constitution, the opinion of the Governor-General and of the Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia notwithstanding.
The debate will continue because we have an archaic Constitution which belongs to another age. The High Court- let us be quite frank about it- has deliberately had to strain the meaning of the English language to the limit to make sure that the Australian nation could grow in strength and function. Unless we are freed from those constraints which were put there by timid men with parochial interests, Australia will never fully function effectively as a social and economic unit. I say that not in any spirit of political partisanship but because it is vitally necessary that there be some amendments. Those amendments must be put to the people and supported by both parties. Grave economic and social damage has been done. In conclusion I state that those who live by the sword will perish by it. The threat is there. Let honourable members mark it well. When there is a change of government or if there is a change of representation in the Senate alone, there will be further trouble. There can be double dissolutions at least once every year or even more often. There can be forced dissolution of the lower House to again go to the people, citing the precedent of 1 1 November of last year.
-The Governor-General ‘s action of dismissing the Whitlam Labor Government was right, proper and constitutional and of that there can be no doubt. Nor can there be any doubt that in its honest times the Australian Labor Party approved of that action. It was only a year or so before the 1972 election that the Leader of the Australian Labor Party in this House and the Leader of the Australian Labor Party in the Senate both threatened to use all their powers to do exactly that. They said that this was the right thing to do, that they had a right to use the powers of the Senate to bring down a government and cause an election. They said this. This was their interpretation of the Constitution in their honest times. Now the members of the Australian Labor Party whip themselves into some synthetic fury for party purposes. I say this to them: They are doing a grave disservice to Australia because they are supporting a thesis which in their hearts they know is unsupportable. They are putting forward a proposition and trying to stir up trouble in the most irresponsible way.
Having said that, may I say this also: It was only a chance, in a way, that at the last double dissolution the Governor-General was able to act in that manner, because there were the ingredients of a double dissolution, irrespective of any question of Supply. That may not always occur. I do think, without in any way impugning what the Governor-General did because I support it 100 per cent, that it would be desirable to amend the Constitution so as to provide that under these circumstances there should always be a double dissolution. I think also that it would be a good thing to amend the Constitution so that under these circumstances there must be a double dissolution. The Senate does not act irresponsibly. If it is itself at risk, if all its members have to face the people, it will not act irresponsibly. There is nothing undemocratic in any way in calling for an election when one of the Houses of Parliament, properly and in accordance with the Constitution, believes that the Government should obtain a new mandate for what it is doing. There is nothing improper or undemocratic about that. It is for these purposes that I have drawn and will present to the Parliament, I hope in the course of the next few weeks, a private member’s Bill to amend the Constitution so as to provide that there should be an automatic double dissolution when the Senate rejects Supply and at the same time to provide that there shall not be this situation in which the Senate can send one House to the people without itself going to the people. Let me make these constitutional points quite clear. I shall hope to do so again when I present a Bill to the House for this purpose in the course of the next few weeks. It is drawn. It has been printed. It is ready for presentation at this present moment.
Let me turn to another constitutional point. It arises from an incident yesterday. I think that we were all shocked to hear what had happened to Mr Speaker in respect of a certain proposal that he had made which had been arbitrarily turned down by a Minister. I now put a constitutional point which I have put before as a member of the Library Committee of this House and which I believe is a proper constitutional point. Section 56 of the Constitution states:
A vote, resolution, or proposed law for the appropriation of revenue or moneys shall not be passed unless the purpose of the appropriation has in the same session been recommended by message of the Governor-General to the House . . .
This is written into the Constitution. But I ask: For this purpose, who is the proper adviser to the Governor-General? The proper adviser to the Governor-General for this purpose- an appropriation for the purposes of the Parliament- is not any Minister. The proper adviser to the Governor-General is the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President of the Senate. I have no doubt of that whatsoever. I am sorry that over the past 70 years this Parliament has been in operation our Presidents and Speakers have not stood up for their rights. But these are their rights. This Parliament is independent of the Ministry and it is an impertinence for a Minister to think that he can dictate to or in any way control this Parliament. This Parliament- this is fundamental to all democracy- is over and above the Ministers. It has been a perversion of the proper rule of law that over the past 70 years or so the advisers to the Governor-General for the purposes of making an appropriation for the Parliament have been Ministers and not Mr Speaker and the President.
We go through the ritual at the beginning of a session of Parliament of presenting a Bill- it may be the Acts Interpretation Act or something like that- which is supposed to be a gesture of defiance of the Crown. This is its ritual purpose. But we have made the ritual a farce because the ritual is carried out by none other than a servant of the Crown- a Minister in this Parliament. This makes nonsense of what should have been and could be a meaningful ritual. Let me come back to this quite important constitutional point: I believe that the position in which Mr Speaker or Mr President was put is utterly and completely indefensible. We, as members of this House, or the members of the Senate should not allow the Speaker or the President to be put in this kind of position. In the Table of Precedence, the Speaker and the President have high places and they are entitled to them. The office of Speaker of this House is no small office. It is not inferior to the office of Minister. The Speaker of this House and the President of the Senate, within the appropriations that have been made by this House or the Senate on the advice, recommendation, or message of the Governor-General and for which they are the proper advisers, should be beholden to nobody. They are the servants of this House and of nobody else in their office. I put it to the House as a matter of quite high constitutional importance that what has happened to Mr Speaker- he recounted it to the House yesterdayshould never have been allowed to happen. It was a piece of utter impertinence by a Minister unless there were no monies appropriated by this House. If there were no monies appropriated by this House, then obviously Mr Speaker has no monies that he can draw upon. But I put it to the House that when we are looking to these parliamentary appropriations we should do so in terms of section 56 of the Constitution, the terms of which are repeated in standing order 292 of this House. We should receive the GovernorGeneral’s message, but that message should be framed on the advice of Mr Speaker. Of course, it is then up to the House either to accept or to reject the message that has been given to it. I ask, Mr Speaker, that you should assert your rights in this respect.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Giles)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I support the amendment moved by the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bo wen). We have just listened to the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth). I have been in the Parliament for 23 years now and sometimes I have had the pleasure of listening to him and at other times I have had the annoyance of listening to him. I find that sometimes he argues rationally and that other times he argues irrationally. Tonight he has both annoyed me and convinced me that he is arguing irrationally.
In the second part of his speech, he talked about the authority of the Speaker of this Parliament. He forgot to remind the House that on 1 1 November this House passed a resolution. The Speaker of this House tried to get an audience with the Governor-General and it was refused. In the first part of his speech he talked about the Senate refusing Supply. At no stage up to the dismissal of the Labor Government had the Senate refused Supply. The Senate delayed Supply.
– The Senate did not refuse Supply.
-Of course the Senate did not refuse Supply. The Governor-General made a decision without the other half of this Parliament ever having that decision for or against passing Supply put before it. Is it any wonder that honourable members on this side of the chamber now move against the Senate. I move against it on a number of grounds. I so move because it has fundamentally been Labor policy for a number of years. I quote from the Australian Labor Party Platform Constitution and Rules as approved by the Thirty-First National Conference, Terrigal, 1975, which under the heading Constitutional Matters states in clause 2: 2. (a) Amendment to the Australian Constitution-
Since 1970 the Senate has been making inroads into the authority of this, the major House of Parliament in Australia. In 1970 we had the majority in the Senate. I do not suggest that we are not without our sins in the situation that has developed.
When it came to 1972 and the first Labor Government for 23 years, the Senate started to usurp the authority of this House in a way that was undemocratic and unprincipalled and with improper motives. In 3 years the Senate demonstrated that it was prepared to be instructed by the then Leader of the Opposition in this House, contrary to the wishes of the elected Government represented in this House. There was no doubt in the world that from the time we were elected the Opposition’s majority in the Senate was going to be used to frustrate the policies that had been approved by the people in December 1972.
I shall not go into the details of what happened between December 1972 and December 1975 except to say that on numerous occasions items of legislation that had been passed by this, the elected House, were refused a passage by the Senate. After a period of only 1 5 months it became necessary for the Labor Government to seek a double dissolution. Even after the people of Australia had re-elected the Labor Government, the Senate, with the majority of members representing parties that were the minority in this House, continued to frustrate our legislation. Two non-Labor Premiers, contrary to tradition over the years, took the opportunity to replace 2 former Labor senators with non-Labor representatives. It was a definite, inspired and conspired attempt to give further numbers to non-Labor forces in the Senate.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
-Before the suspension of the sitting I was talking about the undemocratic, unprincipled and sometimes conspiratorial actions which the previous Opposition in the Senate took in an effort to frustrate the then Labor Administration. The previous Senate Opposition had forced an election in May 1974. It had forced the first Joint Sitting of the 2 Houses of Parliament. That Joint Sitting was held in order to allow the Labor Government to have legislation passed through the Parliament. After the presentation of the Budget in August 1 975 the then Opposition in the Senate really adopted high powered frustrating tactics. It decided to delay the passing of Supply so that the whole of the administration of Australia would be curtailed because the then Government would run out of funds in certain areas. Instead of the Senate having a vote to decide whether the then 60 senators were of the opinion that Supply should not be allowed, the then Opposition in the Senate used a tactic merely to delay the passing of Supply.
At no stage until after the dismissal of the former Government did the senators, who are representatives of the States, not representatives of any political party in the true sense of the term, have a vote to ascertain the opinion of the Senate on the question of the passing of Supply. Then, out of the blue, one man- a man who was not elected to his position and who, as far as I know, has never run in an election in his life; if he has run in any, he has not won any- made a decision to dismiss the duly elected Government of Australia which had faced the people in December 1972 and May 1974. The actions of the Senate had caused a constitutional crisis and one man made a decision to dismiss the duly elected Government. That decision, which was made by one man as a result of the frustrating and undemocratic tactics of the then Opposition in the Senate, is still causing disquiet and conflict in the community.
The Opposition has moved an amendment which seeks a reduction in the appropriation for the Senate because the Opposition believes that what happened, particularly from the presentation of the Budget in 1975 until 1 1 November 1975, almost spelt the death knell of democracy in Australia. It is the policy of the Australian Labor Party to abolish the Senate. There is talk by the Government of holding a referendum either later this year or early next year. I ask that the Government consider making one of the questions in a referendum whether the people of Australia want the Senate to continue to operate. Honourable members will see from what I have said that my motto is: ‘Sack the Senate ‘.
-After listening to the honourable member for Lang (Mr Stewart) I am reminded of an occasion a few years ago when a candidate stood for election to an upper House and his policy was to do away with that section of the Parliament. I believe that this is a hypocritical type of argument which the Australian Labor Party continues to advance. It is a case of saying: ‘If we cannot get our way, we will make sure that the system is altered ‘.
– But the Australian people made up their minds.
– Of course the Australian people made up their minds on this question on 13 December last. I do not wish to spend too much of my time in answering the remarks of the previous speaker or, for that matter, of any of the other Opposition speakers. I will do so only if I have time after completing the other remarks that I wish to make.
This evening I want to speak for a few minutes on the estimates of the Parliament. Like a few other members in this place, I have been here for a fair while and I have seen many changes. Of course, some have been good and some not so good. I suppose that when one looks at the present Opposition one could say that maybe that is part of the good. When I look around and count honourable members opposite I note that only six or seven of them were here when I first entered the Parliament.
– That is as far as you can count.
– If I cannot count beyond seven, no doubt after the next election I will not need to count to seven because there will be very few of those members left.
The aspect to which I wish to refer concerns the changes that have taken place since I first entered the Parliament. The sitting hours and the sitting days are illustrations of this. Over the years we have seen many changes. I can recall the time when Parliament used to sit ungodly hours, right through till daylight the next morning. Possibly I can give credit to the present Opposition for the present situation. When it was in government, it did away with extended sitting hours and now the Parliament rises at a reasonable hour. When I say ‘a reasonable hour’ I mean 1 1 o’clock at night. Honourable members will be aware that many people outside the Parliament do not seem to appreciate the fact that the average member of Parliament arrives in this place around 8.30 a.m. or 9 a.m. and certainly does not leave here- unless he goes without leave- before 1 1 p.m. I have seen changes in the pattern of sitting days from time to time. We used to sit on Mondays and Fridays. But it is obvious to me that only one pattern of sitting days will operate successfully over a period of time, and that is for us to sit on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. I am mindful, of course, that members have responsibilities in their electorates and that they must have an occasional week off to attend to those responsibilities.
It is rather interesting to note the views of the people who visit the place in the galleries. In the last 12 months or so, because of better communications there has been a large increase in the number of visitors to this place. On checking a few minutes ago I found that in 1974 there were about 35 328 visitors to this place, and a year later that figure had jumped to 62 272 visitors. It is rather interesting to hear their comments on the Parliament. Not all these comments are complimentary. I believe that their comments would not have been complimentary if they had had the opportunity to voice their opinion on the sittings of last Thursday. I would like to congratulate the Speaker on trying to bring decorum back into this House- something that has been missing in recent years. I wish him well and I will give him all the support I possibly can.
– He has great problems on one side of the House.
– He might have great problems on one side of the House; nevertheless, we have to support him wherever we possibly can. I compliment him, and I compliment the Chairman of Committees who, I believe, did a magnificent job under the conditions prevailing last Thursday. I also compliment the Deputy Chairmen of Committees. Last week we had a situation in which there were 18 or 19 divisions in one day. This, to my mind is a complete waste of valuable time when one considers that it takes 9 or 10 minutes to conduct a division, it is pretty easy to see that this Parliament wasted literally 2]A hours of very valuable time last Thursday. I do not blame the people who complained on that occasion. They came to see the Parliament in operation; but what did they see? They saw members of the Opposition preventing the Government from trying to govern.
– Yes, it was frustrating. The work load of individual members on both sides of the Parliament, whether they be back benchers or Ministers, has increased considerably over recent years. If this work load continues to increase, I believe that it will be very difficult for any government, whatever its political colour may be, to govern effectively. It appears to me that there are 2 great problems. One has been brought about by lack of time and the other by overwork. There are 2 things that we can do to try to overcome our difficulties. We have had the staff in our electorate offices increased. That, of course, has been absolutely necessary because of the increased workload. The quantity of mail being received is literally doubling every year. It is only a matter of time before members of Parliament will not be able to keep up with it.
If we could only prevent the wasting of time on divisions the situation would be improved considerably. I have heard it said that any improvement is going to be costly. What could be more costly than having the Parliament wasting Vh hours in a single day dividing on this, that and the other. I suggest that we should look very closely at the situation in other Parliaments throughout the world- there are plenty of them to examine- and bring in an electronic device for casting a vote. We should be looking in particular at a system of casting votes which takes 2 minutes rather than 10 minutes. That could be done very easily. All that we would have to have is an electronic device that has a key and various digits for indicating that one is voting for or against a proposition or is refraining from voting. That could be done very simply indeed.
– Who will have the key?
– If the member of the Opposition who interjected with a question like that cannot trust his colleagues it is his concern. I have no worries about honourable members on this side of the chamber. The communications system inside this Parliament has not kept pace with the communications system outside of it. The message is getting through to the people per medium of television and so on about some of the things that are going on- so much so that the people are in turn becoming a little more keener to find out what is going on in relation to legislation. That is one of the reasons why our workload has increased. I am not complaining about that. It can be rightly said that if one cannot keep up with one’s work one should get out and let someone else do the job. But I am not speaking as an individual member of Parliament; I am speaking for the whole of the Parliament. Any honourable member who does not believe that the workload has increased and is getting beyond him is in turn not doing the job. The workload of the members of the Ministry immediately comes to mind. I am reminded of the workload of the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen), who is sitting at the table. As ordinary back bench members of Parliament find great difficulty in keeping up with the workload, I often wonder how a Minister keeps up with it. I suppose it is not unusual for Ministers to work 12, 14, 16 or even 18 hours a day up to 7 days a week trying to keep up with their work and trying to perform their duties. Is that good for the legislative process? I believe that members of Parliament are sent to this place basically to legislate in the interests of the constituents that they represent. We are not sent here as ombudsmen, although that appears to be the thinking of some people. It is about time we had a very close look at this matter with the idea of trying to improve the situation.
I come back to the point on which I started. It is a case either of improving the situation by increasing the size of staff or, if honourable members want to take it further and say that one cannot be responsible for one’s staff, of this Parliament itself sooner or later having to be increased numerically. I was interested to hear the honourable member for Balaclava (Mr Macphee) say late this afternoon that it is about time we got on with the job of building a new Parliament House. I assure anybody who thinks that I or any other honourable member wants a new Parliament House for his own convenience that not many of us will see a new Parliament House as a member of Parliament because it will take many years to plan and construct let alone become operative. I would have liked to have made a comment about the remarks made by the Opposition concerning the Governor-General, but time will not allow me to do so.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-The Opposition has moved an amendment concerning the estimates before the chamber. That was done for a very good reason. I support the amendment that has been moved. I would like to take up the point raised by the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth). I think that it gets to the nub of what Parliament is all about. There have been too many instances since 13 December of last year when the Government has adopted the attitude that it owns the Parliament and that the Parliament somehow or other is the private domain of the Government- the Government, of course, being the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and his Ministers. I think that it ought to be said in this place, and said as frequently as possible, that the Parliament is not the private domain of the Government; rather it is a forum for public debate. In that sense the Parliament belongs to the people.
The honourable member for Mackellar endeavoured to establish that the champions, if you like, of the Parliament are the Presiding Officers- the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President of the Senate. The honourable member cited as an example the dreadful and in my view- he disagrees with me in this respect- most unconstitutional action that was taken on 1 1 November of last year. Lest the argument put by the honourable member for Mackellar is correct, I would like to recall to the House the events of 1 1 November of last year, as recorded at page 293 1 of Hansard of that day. It may not be clear in the minds of some people, particularly those honourable members opposite who, it seems to me, like to justify the action that was taken because it moved them back onto the government benches. I would like to refresh their minds as to the events of that day. When the House resumed after the luncheon adjournment we were informed by Mr Malcolm Fraser, who was then the Leader of the Opposition, that the Governor-General had asked him to form a government. The House then carried a want of confidence motion in the so-called Fraser Government. At 3 o’clock the honourable member for Werriwa, Mr E. G. Whitlam moved:
That this House expresses its want of confidence in the Prime Minister and requests Mr Speaker forthwith to advise His Excellency the Governor-General to call the honourable member for Werriwa to form a government.
The proposition was duly put that the question be now put. That proposition was carried. The original question was then put and carried. In other words, the House then agreed that the Speaker should convey a message to the GovernorGeneral. I remind honourable members that it was at 3 o’clock in the afternoon that the House agreed that the Speaker should convey that message to the Governor-General. The Governor-General, with no consideration for the rights of the members of this chamber and with no consideration for the rights of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, who, the honourable member for Mackellar has convinced us, is the champion of the rights of this chamber, refused to see the Speaker.
– I rise to a point of order.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN -Order! A point of order has been raised. The honourable member for Burke will resume his seat.
-He is again eating up my time. He does this consistently.
– Firstly, Mr Deputy Chairman, I believe that the honourable member for Burke has made a derogatory statement concerning the Governor-General that should be withdrawn. Secondly, this is the first occasion on which I have ever bothered to stand against the honourable member. This is the only time that he has spoken intelligently enough for me to understand him.
-If the honourable member for Bendigo cares to stand against me in Burke next time I will fix him right up.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! I have not called the honourable member for Burke yet. The honourable member for Bendigo has raised a point of order. As I see it there has been no reflection in this case. It was probably unnecessary for the honourable member for Bendigo to add certain remarks to his point of order. I call the honourable member for Burke.
-Thank you, Mr Deputy Chairman. That happened at 3 o’clock in the afternoon. The House adjourned at 3.15 p.m. after having given a clear instruction to the Speaker to speak to the Governor-General. With clear discourtesy, the Governor-General declined to see the Speaker, even though the Speaker was directed by the members of this chamber to see the Governor-General. At some time before 5.30 in the afternoon the GovernorGeneral took the decision that the Parliament would be dissolved and his Secretry came to Parliament House and took the necessary action of sticking a notice onto the front door with a bit of sticky tape and reading a proclamation from the front steps. If the Governor-General really believed as the honourable member for Mackellar believes and as I believe, that discourtesy would not have been shown and perhaps the end result would have been different.
This brings me to the point that this Parliament is not accepted as an institution even by those who sit in it. A degrading incident occurred the other day. The Speaker of the House of Representatives, an important person, wished to entertain people in a Scandinavian country. A request was made to the Government for $500 so that he could do so, and it was denied. This Parliament is not the prerogative of the Prime Minister and his Ministers. I put the point that in fact there ought to be a separate Department of the Parliament administered by the Speaker and the President conjointly. It would have nothing to do with government. A separate appropriation ought to be made simply for the running of this Parliament as the Presiding Officers believe it should be run.
– Who would be in charge?
-The honourable member asks who would be in charge. I wish he would listen. I just said the Presiding Officers would be in charge. The actions of 1 1 November clearly took Australia along the first tottering steps to its destiny- a republic and not an appendage to a monarchy overseas. I come to the most important point. I am not ashamed but quite prepared to say without any blushes that there is need for a new parliament house.
– Hear, hear!
-We are in agreement. That is lovely. We will start from that point. I have had the honour of taking through this Parliament a private member’s Bill establishing the site for a new and permanent Parliament House on Capital Hill. Since that time precious little has been done. The Labor Government set up a committee on the new and permanent Parliament House. A great deal of work was done by that committee and some progress was being made before the dastardly action of 1 1 November last. The new Government, to its credit- it is not often I give it creditdid re-establish the committee. It met once. In the last 8 or 9 months, it has met only once.
– Were you on it?
-If the honourable member would care to read through Hansard he would find who is on it. The matter rests with the Presiding Officers. I am surprised that those 2 honourable gentlemen are not more diligent in their actions in having more frequent meetings of the committee and making more information available so that this temporary building- it was temporary when it was constructed- can be rebuilt. I am a bit more optimistic than the honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King). I would like to see a new parliament house built within a short space of time.
– How long?
-I would say 10 years. That would allow time for the planning and the necessary funding of such a project. Unless that is done this building will drop right round the ears of everybody who inhabits it or we will have a conglomerate hotch-potch of offices continually being added at the back of the building. The building is landlocked.
– Broom cupboards.
-The honourable member refers to broom cupboards. I happen to occupy one of those as an office. There are not too many left. Unless urgent action is taken now- I believe that the matter rests with the Presiding Officer- the project of a new and permanent parliament house will still be debated in this chamber 25 years from now. That would be a tragedy.
Mr DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Giles)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Mr WENTWORTH (Mackellar)-Mr Deputy Chairman, I wish to make a personal explanation.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– I have been misrepresented. I am afraid the honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson) has misrepresented me, no doubt innocently. I know he is not very quick on the uptake. Let me put the matter to him. First, I have at no time agreed with his version of the events as he gave them. Secondly, I have not tried to say anything about the Parliament as a whole. I have endeavoured to say that the rights of the House of Representatives should be protected in the same way as the rights of the Senate should be protected. I have not tried in any sense to set the House of Representatives against the Senate. To suggest that I have is a gross misrepresentation. I am sure the honourable member did it innocently, because he is a little slow on the uptake in relation to what I said.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! The honourable member has made his personal explanation.
– I would like to say something about the accusation by the Opposition that the Government, when in Opposition last year, misused the role of the Senate. I want to do this because I think it might be known by a lot of honourable members that, as a member of the House of Representatives, I have been concerned about the developing balance of power between the 2 Houses. The danger is not that which was claimed by the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen)- that the result would be a lot more elections. That is not really the danger at all. Elections are forced by an upper House only if the Government is completely discredited, as the Labor Government was in 1975. The danger is more serious. It is that governments, knowing the threat of an imminent election or believing there was a threat of an imminent election, would always be reluctant to take hard but necessary measures which are the secret of good government. That is the real danger of having this balance of power between the 2 Houses.
If I had my way the ideal Senate would have powers something like the House of Lords was given by the Parliament Act of 191 1- that is, no power over money Bills and limited power of delay over other Bills. That is not the situation. The Senate was deliberately given wide and sweeping powers by the authors of the Constitution. There is no doubt whatever that the Senate’s use of those powers would be upheld by the High Court. This is a situation we must understand, accept and adjust to. We must not go through the measures, such as the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith was doing, of grossly distorting the history and wording of section 53 of the Constitution. That section, giving the Senate explicit power to reject Bills, was in the Constitution of 1891 and was in the Constitution most of the time in 1898. It was removed at the last minute as a drafting amendment by the drafting committee and accepted without debate by the Constitutional Convention on the understanding that no substantial alterations had been made to any section. Therefore, so far as the Convention was concerned and so far as the High Court is concerned, the Senate has an unequivocal role to reject or delay any legislation as it chooses. Whether it it wise to do so is a matter that has to be considered at the time.
I was attracted by the arguments of the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) about constitutional amendments, because it is a fact that as the Constitution was written the Senate effectively has more power than the House of Representatives. It can force the lower House to an election, whereas the lower House cannot force the Senate to an election unless there are grounds for a double dissolution; and that does not make the Senate the equal of the House of Representatives as the Constitution intends it to be. The reason that it got into the Constitution was that the Constitutional Convention never debated the possibility of the ordinary annual services of the government being rejected by the Upper House. Historically, up to that time the only disputes over Supply had arisen when the lower House endeavoured to tack some other measure on to the Supply or Budget Bill. Great care was taken to forbid that explicitly in the Constitution. The Constitutional Convention did not debate the other possibility because at that stage it had not occurred. People in a convention such as that are naturally bound by the history of what has happened, and very few men, such as Deakin, can see what might happen in the future.
I now turn to some rather unfortunate remarks about the Governor-General. The Constitution has to be looked at in the light of the time it was framed and the constitutional understandings of the time. As our Constitution is written, the Governor-General is an essential umpire, an essential defender of the powers of this chamber and this Parliament against the Executive. Removal of the powers of the Governor-General would remove the vital balancing factor between the Parliament and the Executive, and that is a thing we should all remember. Those who would like to destroy the power of the GovernorGeneral should realise that in destroying that power they are destroying themselves. If we are thinking of constitutional amendments we should look very carefully at the provision that gives the Prime Minister power to dismiss the Governor-General. This is outrageous power. If the umpire makes a decision the Prime Minister does not like, the Prime Minister effectively has power to remove the umpire. I invite honourable members to consider what a cricket match would be like if the batsmen had that power.
I should like now to turn to some remarks made by members of the Opposition about the convention of replacing senators with members of their own Party. I invite them to read the wording of the convention put forward by Mr Odgers, the Clerk of the Senate, in his book Australian Senate Practice. He said that since 1949, when proportional representation was introduced, the convention has been that the senator who is being replaced should be replaced by a member of his own Party. Look what happened in Queensland. The Queensland Government asked the Labor Party to nominate 3 people acceptable to that Party from whom the Queensland Government, using its undoubted constitutional power, would make a selection. What did the Labor Party do? It refused to nominate a panel of three, and then cried ‘Foul’.
– Rubbish! They nominated one.
– The Queensland Government -
– They nominated one and, quite properly, the Queensland Government asked them to nominate three.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! The honourable member for Scullin has yet to make his speech. The honourable member for Burke has made his speech. They might give the honourable member for Isaacs an opportunity to make his.
– I repeat: The convention is that a senator replacing a senator who has been removed or who has died is to be a member of the Party from which the senator came. By asking the Labor Party to nominate 3 people from whom the Queensland Government would exercise its undoubted constitutional power to make the selection, the Government of Queensland was following that convention exactly and the Labor Party, refusing to co-operate, brought the thing down on its own head.
Finally, I turn to the question of the muddled arguments of the Opposition. One of the great difficulties that I felt the Labor Party had in the last election was that it was trying to explain how in some way it was undemocratic to have an election. Ultimately, the people decide. What happened in 1975 was that the people decided, and they decided urgently that they wanted a change of government.
-In speaking to the appropriations for the Parliament, I want to spend most of my time discussing the way the Estimates are actually presented to the Committee. I am going to make a 3-sentence remark on the amendment moved by my colleague, the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen). I endorse the amendment. I believe that the attitude of the Government that the end justifies the means and that the matter is over and we should forget it is wrong. I think the Opposition is right to express its abhorrence of what occurred, on its own behalf and on behalf of a lot of Australians. Having said that, I wish now to deal with the question of the form in which the Estimates are presented to the Committee. During my membership of both this Parliament and the Victorian Parliament I have tried to show an interest in the working of parliamentary committees and in the procedures of the Parliament and the Committees of the Whole in the Parliament itself. Parliament has recognised that there should be financial oversight of the Executive. The Public Accounts Committee has existed in this place for many years to serve in an auditing function. More recently, the formation of the Expenditure Committee indicated that Parliament felt it should look at other areas. Yet when dealing with Appropriation Bills, when the House goes into Committee to discuss the Estimates department by department, I feel that the form of presentation does not allow the more detailed examination of the Estimates that it should allow. The debate tends to become a general debate.
In 1 97 1 1 had the opportunity in Ottawa to talk to officials about the Canadian approach to estimates, and I received copies of the form taken by the Estimates. In the middle of last year I had the opportunity to follow the matter up with the Joint Committee on the Parliamentary Committee System. In mentioning the Canadian system, I might comment that there is one undesirable aspect of their examination of the Estimates. The Estimates are referred to committees for examination and, if a committee has not reported by a certain date, the Estimates are deemed to have been examined and reported upon. I do not think we should copy that system exactly. However, there is a provision in Canada for the Opposition, when examining the Estimates, to nominate for substantial debate a couple of the major heads of the Estimates. In our own Parliament the Government does negotiate but tends to fix time limits for the estimates of the various departments and for what it considers to be the major debate. Under the Canadian system, there is an opportunity for the Opposition to specify for debate a couple of the heads of Estimates.
Then there is the question of the form of presentation of the Estimates. Unfortunately, the foreword to the Canadian Estimates occupies about 414 pages and I do not want to try the tolerance of the Committee by suggesting that it be incorporated in Hansard. But honourable members who care to read that foreword will find that the Canadian Government radically changed the presentation of the Estimates in about 1970 or 1971. Their presentation is a budgeting by programs. Paragraph 4 of the foreword comments:
The decision of the Government of Canada to adopt a system of budgeting by programs, a ‘Planning, Programming, Budgeting System’, with its emphasis on defining program objectives and showing the full costs for each program, was also a determining factor.
In other words, it is a determining factor in the way the Estimates are presented to Parliament. Other details show that, by giving the program and activities tables, they were able to identify the objects of expenditure under a number of standard headings- personnel, transportation and communications, information, professional and special services, rentals and so on. There are 12 heads in all. This allows the member reading the Estimates presented in that form to identify readily how the estimate of the department for that program is made up and to offer constructive comment on the balance within that appropriation for the particular department. After all, that is what we are all about in this Committee debate on the Estimates. We are trying to probe how the money is being applied, the method by which it is being applied, and the various factors that go to make up the cause for the expenditure. In the Canadian system, the table is clearly made out and a commentary is inserted after the table. The ordinary back bench member of the Parliament, by turning to the program, has pretty ready access to the details of the program and can, by his experience and his knowledge of what is going on, make a meaningful contribution to the free and detailed debate in the Committee stage.
I am not suggesting that that is the only way in which Estimates could be presented to this Committee, but I believe that there are a number of advantages in that system. We as a Parliament have shown our concern by appointing committees for the general examination of past expenditure in the form of public accounts and for all aspects of expenditure generally by the recent appointment of the -Expenditure Committee. I think the Expenditure Committee would be helped by this form of presentation of Estimates. But having shown that interest I think we ought to look at the Canadian system and at systems that are used in other parliaments in order to design a new form of presentation for this Parliament. I suggest that under its committee system this Parliament could well appoint a short term select committee to investigate the presentation of the Budget and the Estimates and to report back to the Parliament. I think it should be a committee which is separate from the Public Accounts Committee and from the Expenditure Committee, because those committees, I suggest, already have inbuilt views because of the nature of their activities. While joint committees of the Parliament are always most difficult to administer, the occasion of the presentation of the Budget is perhaps one in relation to which the Senate, whose appropriation we want to reduce, should be invited to join with the House in discussions so that it has the opportunity to provide in the consideration of the Estimates any useful information it may have gained from its experience of Estimates Committees. Having had a shot on the amendment for a start, I trust that I have added, by way of my suggestion with regard to the Estimates, something which honourable members will consider with a view to improving the debate in Committee in the future.
– It is rather usual for members of the Parliament not really to discuss the actual expenditure set aside for the various departments when considering the Estimates in Committee. It is ironic that we all seek opportunities to examine government expenditure; yet rarely do we take advantage of the opportunities that are presented to us. We use the occasion of the consideration of the Estimates each year more in the manner of a Grievance Day debate or an adjournment debate.
One or two honourable members have alluded to the construction of a new parliament house. I wish very briefly to add my support to their appeal that we get on with the job. It is well known that from the day the green light is given some 10 years will elapse before a new parliament house is completed. All of those people who are familiar with the surrounds of the present Parliament House, which in 1927 was opened as a temporary parliament house, will know that the present building has grave inadequacies. I have been in this place for 10 years now and I have sat here year in and year out hearing pleas for the construction of a new parliament house. Committees are set up and committees report, but nothing is ever done. We all recall that the National Capital Development Commission set about constructing a ring road around Capital Hill. It was suggested then that because that ring road existed the Capital Hill site was unsuitable. Those honourable members who travel past the Prime Minister’s Lodge in getting to and from Parliament House know that half of that ring road has been blocked off by logs placed across the road. That huge expenditure of money appears to have gone for naught.
In considering the estimates for the Parliament we are discussing an amendment moved on behalf of the Australian Labor Party by the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen). That amendment asks the Government to reduce the appropriation, which amounts to some $ 13m, by $10 as a token of contempt for the way in which the present Government allegedly used the Senate last year. Basically I share the view held by the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen), namely that the Senate should not be the House which controls money matters. However, occasions do arise when it should, and one such occasion arose towards the end of last year when the Senate stepped in and said: ‘Let the people decide’. The bitterness of which we see evidence from honourable members opposite is not motivated by the fact that the Australian public voted them back in such numbers that they could fit into a medium sized surf boat; rather their anger is motivated by the fact that they appointed their friend, Sir John Kerr, as Australia’s Governor-General and that, in their eyes, he did the dirty on them. I will never forget how the then recently sacked Prime
Minister, who is now the Leader of the Opposition, walked out on to the steps of Parliament House and said to those who waited for his every word: ‘God save the Queen, but nobody will save the Governor-General ‘. One month and 2 days later nobody appeared to be ready to save the ex-Prime Minister. He limped back to Canberra with a most depleted group of supporters.
We look back at those times and recall that the Governor-General was forced to sack or be sacked. When I say ‘sack or be sacked’, I refer to the fact that he concluded that he had a duty to perform. If he had talked to the then Prime Minister about what he had in mind he would have been sacked. So, it is obvious that some changes are necessary in the manner of the appointment and dismissal of a Governor-General. Perhaps a Governor-General should be protected, as are other people in various occupations throughout this country, by a provision that, say, three or six months notice be given of his dismissal to ensure that the situation which confronted our present Governor-General is never repeated. Members of the present Opposition speak as though the Governor-General acted with a sense of glee. I am quite certain that the Governor-General would have had many sleepness nights before he decided that, by virtue of this nation’s Constitution, he had no option but to do what he did. Nobody who has any sense would suggest that he relished and enjoyed saying to the then Prime Minister: ‘I have to step in. I have to dismiss you. I am going to commission the Leader of the Opposition as the nation’s Prime Minister’. Ever since this new Parliament met we have heard speech after speech made by Opposition members about that event. We have witnessed such petty displays as when they boycotted various functions at which the Governor-General would be present. They have seemed to harp and harp on that particular subject. I do not suggest that, because the Australian public voted in such large numbers to remove the Labor Party from government or to endorse the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) as Prime Minister, that in itself served to vindicate the decision which the Governor-General took. We all know that there are times when governments are unpopular and that if governments could be forced to face the people at such a time they might lose the election.
The mechanism of this nation’s Constitution is such that if a government cannot get Supply it must go to the people. The Constitution clearly sets out also that this country shall be governed under a 2-House parliamentary system. In its
Constitution and policies the Labor Party advocates the abolition of the Senate. Members of the Labor Party do not simply advocate that policy in words; they carry out that idea in their very thoughts in this place. As far as they are concerned, the Senate does not exist. They regard it as a total effrontery that the Senate should interfere with decisions that are made in this chamber. I assure honourable members that there would not have been an Australian Parliament if the fathers of our Constitution had not agreed to a 2-House parliamentary system, with the second House ensuring that the rights of the small States are protected. I come from a small State, namely, the State of Queensland. It is a very proud State and a State which is advancing vigorously. I do not necessarily agree with everything that is done in that State, but I agree with most things that are done there. As one who comes from a small State, I am thankful that we have a Senate whose job is to protect the rights of the people in the State from whence I come.
In conclusion, I would like to add to the comments made by the honourable member for Isaacs (Mr Hamer) when he referred to the appointment of Senator Field to the Senate. I do not like seeing people of another party sent here in replacement. Senator Field is one who came to this Parliament. The Labor Party bought trouble for itself. Let us not forget the Gair affair when the now Opposition was half smart, when it sent Senator Gair off to Dublin in an effort to gain another vacancy in a Senate election in Queensland. The then Government was simply being paid back for its half smartness.
-Mr Deputy Chairman-
Motion (by Mr Bourchier) put:
That the question be now put.
The Committee divided. (The Deputy Chairman-Mr G. O’H. Giles)
Question so resolved in the affirmative. Question put:
That the amendment be agreed to.
The Committee divided. (The Deputy Chairman-Mr G. O’H. Giles)
Question so resolved in the negative. Proposed expenditure agreed to.
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet
Proposed expenditure. $83,429,000.
Department of Administrative Services
Proposed expenditure, $239,997,000.
-The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet has included in its appropriation the amount of $15,885,000 for the Public Service Board under division 516. It is to this division that I relate a few remarks. Since the House last debated the Estimates we have had tabled the report of the Royal Commission on Australian Government Administration, the Coombs Commission report. I believe the document is a magnificent one. I pay tribute to all those responsible. I hope that many, it not all, of its recommendations will see the light of day and will not be pigeonholed. I draw attention to the ideas which have been promoted in the field of formulating economic policy. We desperately need new institutions. The present ones are inadequate. The next Australian Labor Party government which will take over in 1 978 will establish those new institutions.
For 24 years of the past 27 years we have suffered a conservative government which has worshipped at the shrine of the market, which has paid lipservice to the decisions of the market place- those decisions, it says, being the correct ones- and which has intervened only reluctantly and spasmodically, and therefore inconsistently and unsatisfactorily, in the market place. Because of this we have an administration- we call it a bureaucracy when we want to be unkindwhich in its more powerful areas is completely market oriented or market blinkered. The conservatives of this country in the Liberal Party and the National Country Party and, frankly, the most senior administrators in the Department of the Treasury and other powerful departments, believe that policy should be formulated only for the short term. They believe that the long and medium terms are only a series of short terms.
We in the Australian Labor Party, in common with all social democrats or democratic socialistsindeed, in common with many conservatives, too, in other parts of the world- reject that concept. We believe that policy should bear in mind and be directed at the medium and long term as well as the short term. We deplore the fact that we do not have the institutions in this country and in our national government to ensure that policies are so directed. We made a start in this area during our short period in government by setting up the Priorities Review Staff which has now, I understand, been absorbed in or lost in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet- the estimates for which we are now debating- which is acting as a task force in a typically Liberal way by directing its attention to the latest policy crisis area which arises- ad hoc-ism stop-and-go-ism.
I repeat that the next Australian Labor Party government will ensure that there is a senior economic ministry devoted to medium and long term planning. Our Estimates will include provision for this. This has been part of the Labor Party’s economic platform for some years. The clause could be altered at our Federal Conference in July of next year but the spirit of the words in the Federal Conference platform will be the same as they are in the present Federal
Conference platform. This is nothing new. I am forever granting interviews to overseas financial journalists, public servants or politicians who are interested in the financial sphere and who cannot understand why we now have no set of national objectives in this country.
Even some conservative governments have the necessary institutions, plans and objectives. The Liberal Democratic Government of Japan comes readily to mind. Prime Minister Miki has beside him, as his 2 most senior Ministers, 2 economic Ministers. On one side he has Mr Fukuda, his deputy Prime Minister and Chairman of the Japanese Economic Planning Agency, charged with the medium and long term economic considerations. On the other side he has Mr Ohira, the Minister for Finance- the equivalent of our Treasurer- charged with the task of ensuring to the greatest extent possible short term economic equilibrium. It is 2 economic Ministers such as this that we should have here in Australia. I notice that I am quoted in one newspaper today as being in favour of having 2 Treasurers. Although the article is accurate in every other respect, it is not accurate in that respect. I have never mentioned 2 Treasurers. But I repeat that there should be 2 senior economic Ministers, one looking at the medium and long terms and one looking at the short term.
My Party is considering further details of this concept or proposal in 2 separate committees right now. One committee is the Federal Executive Economic Committee which will be making recommendations to the next Federal Conference of the Australian Labor Party to be held in Perth in July of next year. The other committee is the parliamentary Labor Party or Caucus Committee which is looking at the structure of national government departments and statutory authorities in 1978 or before, when we next take over as the national government. We have many proposals to consider. Should we accept the Coombs Royal Commission recommendation for DINDEC- the Department of Industry and the Economy- plus the Economic Consultative Council suggested by that Royal Commission? Perhaps we should be looking at a department, statutory authority or agency of economic planning. The word ‘planning’ may conjure up too wrong a concept. It conjures up, in some minds, images of directives, bureaucracy and red tape, when all we have in mind, of course, is trying to achieve an indicative plan which is a consensus document. Therefore, would it better called a department, agency or statutory authority of economic objectives? These are the sorts of things that are under active consideration in the progressive party of this country, the Australian Labor Party.
But the need is clear. We must have a wide range of people, such as there was on the Jackson Committee- people from the private sector, from the State governments, from the unions and from academia- going out to the country, receiving submissions about what should be our national objectives and making recommendations to the government. When the elected Cabinet agrees on those recommendations- it is that elected Ministry which must have the final say- those plans about growth rates must be converted into energy needs, manpower needs, immigration needs and education needs in order to make decisions on what should be the key industries, decisions on the protection of full employment in this country and decisions in many other related areas. Of course, the indicative plans- the objectiveswill be altered often. It is impossible to foretell all that is around the corner. For instance, who foretold the upward hike in oil prices imposed by the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries? Changes in circumstances mean changes in plans. What is important in plans- these objectives- is that we have thought through the relationship.
We know, if our elected government decides on a 4 per cent growth rate, what this means in terms of energy needs, in terms of allocation of resources to the various areas in our economy and so on. If circumstances mean that the growth rate will be 6 per cent instead of 4 per cent, we know that we have to upgrade our energy plans, our housing needs and so on. Another vital advantage is that the private sector and the State governments have some guidelines on which to base their policies. At the moment they have none. The plans are there to be changed when circumstances change. But this does not make them any less useful. Because the objectives have been recommended, under this outline which I have given to the Committee and to the Government, by a wide ranging group and represent a consensus decision, there is a real hope of this being adhered to and being achieved, which is always a worry in a fragmented federalist country such as ours, with the State governments and private sectors to consider.
Frankly, we do not have a hope of this being instituted under this conservative Government which we are all suffering at the present time; but the Australian Labor Party is offering this to Australia at the next national election. It is our best hope of overcoming the adverse effects of the trade cycle which is inherent in this mixed economy, this capitalist system, in which we live. It is our best hope of achieving full employment. It is our best hope of not allowing ourselves to fall into a situation such as the one facing us now, in which we have not made a decision upon whether we should have a shipbuilding industry and in which we have a Government which may allow 7000 workers and their families to be added to the list of unemployed people. Until we have these objectives, we will not be able to adopt those other admirable recommendations of the Coombs Royal Commission- recommendations such as 3 years forward estimating -
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-A little publicised aspect of the work of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet is the duty of co-ordinating government administration and relations and communications with State governments. It is therefore appropriate, in the consideration of this section of the Estimates, that some remarks be directed to the question of communication between the Commonwealth Government and the State governments and, in particular, to the implementation in the first 9 months of our term in office of the new federalism policy.
One goes back to 9 July 1900 to discover that Queen Victoria, with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal and the Commons, enacted the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act. Under the Act, on 1 January 1901 the Commonwealth of Australia came into being. It was the intention of the founding fathers that we were to have a federal system of government to guide this country into the twentieth century. Regrettably, the well intentioned desires of the founding fathers were frustrated considerably by governments, both Liberal and Labor, over the last 30-odd years by an increasing grabbing of power, if I may use that expression, to Canberra at the expense of the States. More and more we saw the decisions affecting the lives of every day Australians being made in Canberra, in many instances distant from and ignorant of the wishes of the persons those decisions were most likely to affect.
I believe that one of the great hallmarks of the Liberal Party of Australia in the late 1960s and the early 1970s, culminating in our federalism policy, was a recognition of the dangers of centralism and a total recognition that centralised government distant from the people was not government of the people and was not in the interests of the country. Therefore, it was with some enthusiasm that in 1 974 the Party set about preparing for the eventual return to government and for the re-establishment of federalism in this country. What has been achieved in the last 9 months is nothing short of a miracle. I believe that we should appreciate from the outset that what we have done is not only to restore the federal system of government to this country but also to build into that system bulwarks which will prevent Australians from ever again being subjected to the 3 years of centralist tyranny which they suffered under the Whitlam Government from 1972 to 1975. Honourable members who are interested in the basic principles of the federalism policy will find that they have been incorporated in yesterday’s Hansard record at pages 1257 to 1259.
I come more directly to the point of what, in fact, is involved, what are the concepts and what has been the application of those concepts since we came to power. Federalism is not just a matter of fiscal relations; it is not just a matter of cash. It is a question of division and sharing of responsibilities for the better government of the people of Australia. Last Sunday, in this city, the Premier of Western Australia, Sir Charles Court, made what I consider to be a profound contribution to discussion on this question when he drew attention to the fact that far too frequently people were inclined to measure federalism in terms of dollars and cents. He said that insufficient attention was being given to the division of powers and responsibilities as between the States. The former Prime Minister, the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) has openly stated for many years his belief that Australia would be better governed by one centralist government operating from Canberra in conjunction with a number of regional organisations which would involve amalgamation of local government units right across the country.
– He was a dictator, too!
-That is right. At the moment we have 950-odd local government organisations throughout Australia. I believe that the former Prime Minister had in mind something of the order of 90 regions. He went on record many years ago in a Chifley Memorial Lecture in Melbourne as saying that the best service the State governments could perform would be to vote themselves out of office. Let there be no misunderstanding; the Leader of the Opposition has openly stated his view. I believe it is fair to say that that view is shared by the overwhelming majority of members of his Party. Only tonight we heard the honourable member for Lang (Mr Stewart) repeating in this House that it is his belief that the Senate should be abolished, and I have no doubt this too is shared by the majority of the members of the Opposition.
– Hear, hear!
-My good friend, the honourable member for Grayndler, makes the point again. Let there be no misunderstanding; let the people of Australia know exactly where each Party stands. Members of Her Majesty’s Opposition are saying quite clearly and categorically that they believe in centralist government and the abolition of the Senate. We are saying quite clearly and categorically that we believe in a system of federalism, a sharing of responsibilities and powers between the Commonwealth and the States. We believe that the Senate is essential to the protection of the States and in particular to the protection of the smaller States.
I turn now to the fiscal aspects. It is somewhat significant that whilst there was a certain amount of squealing and wailing in the Labor camp a few weeks ago and predictions of gloom as to how bad things were going to be for the States under the federalism policy, the Budget Papers and the figures which have now become available make it clear how generous this Government has been to the States. They reveal that the Government does not simply pay lip service to the principle but is giving the States the financial wherewithal to enable them to do things which are best for Tasmanians, Victorians and Queenslanders in the States, not as a result of decisions which are made in Canberra. I draw attention to the fact that this year, although we are going through a period of economic recession and despite the fact that the Government inherited a situation of economic chaos from the previous Administration, general revenue funds to the States have been increased by 20.3 per cent. A massive sum of $3,743.2m is being paid to the States.
There has been some complaint with respect to the specific purpose funds. I believe that the Parliament ought to note that the Commonwealth is making available to the States payments of a revenue nature amounting to $2,484m, an increase of 3 1.3 per cent. So that in the 2 major items- general revenue funds and specific purpose funds of a revenue nature- there are increases of 20.3 per cent on the one hand and 31.3 per cent on the other hand. Whereas the previous Government taxed and taxed until the public bled, we at least are giving back to the public a fair share of the tax and are giving the
States the right to spend those moneys which are raised not in Canberra but right around Australia. The States are able to spend those moneys in the ways that are best for the people of those States.
I draw attention to the fact that, in relation to general revenue assistance, a total of $3,7 16m- a record allocation from Canberra- has been paid back to the States. That represents 33.6 per cent of the personal income tax revenue raised in the Commonwealth of Australia for this financial year. The anticipated amount to be raised is $1 1,060m, and of that amount 33.6 per cent is being paid directly to the States to enable the Premiers and the Parliaments of those States to spend it in the interests of the residents of those States.
I have taken a little time on this point because it absolutely galls me to hear people criticising our federalism policy. A couple of Labor Premiers have been critical of it, although I must be fair to Mr Dunstan because he has not been critical of our federalism policy. However, the Tasmanian Premier was. It is very pleasing to see that some members of the Tasmanian Parliament- and I imagine of the South Australian Parliament which has a Labor government and, I am certain, some members of the New South Wales Parliament-are starting to realise how generous this federalism policy is and how it is giving back to the States the real power to govern properly the people who have the honour to live therein.
I think this matter was well summed up by a member of the Legislative Council of Tasmania last night, as reported in today’s Press. The member for Queenborough made the following comments:
The State has never been more wealthy and I wonder how, with all the money about, anyone in the Government can get up and belly-ache about a lack of funds from the Commonwealth.
I believe that on a fair reading of the Budget Papers we are practising what we have preached, that we are putting reality into our commitment to restore federalism to this country. I trust that at the end of our term of office, when we come to the next general election, the people of Australia will say: ‘At least we have had a government in power which was prepared to give practical effect to the Constitution of this country and to give back to the States and local government the right and the power to make decisions which strictly should be made in their own areas ‘.
-I rise tonight to speak on the estimates for the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and the Department of Administrative Services. I refer to the cutbacks by the Government in the Library services which highlight the false economy and the book burning approach of this Government’s political, economic bankruptcy. We as politicians, and particularly back benchers, ought to be angered at this because the Library service is one service upon which we rely for our research material. The cutbacks amount to nothing more than petty cash. My attention was drawn to the cutbacks by an article that appeared in the Australian Financial Review of 1 1 August and which was written by Richard Ackland. I do not consider that I will get any mileage out of that learned journalist; I suppose the only thing I will get out of the Australian Financial Review will be a notice in the obituary column. But I commend the article to all honourable members, particularly back benchers. I do not know whether the interview took place with the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers)- by the look of the article I could well understand that it did- or with the head librarian. The article reads:
That tight cluster of scholars and researchers which forms the Commonwealth Parliamentary Library and operates down in the bowels of Parliament House is facing its toughest session in memory.
Starved of funds, strapped for staff and capital equipment and with a doubling of its workload as a result of the army of research officers attached to the backbench, the Library will have a harrowing four months.
In an effort to cope with the load it has already decided to cut a number of its traditional services, such as the range of newspapers it clips daily for members, transcripts of news and current affairs broadcasts . . .
On top of the current information services provided by the highly competent staff there are also the research and analysis teams that provide papers and speeches for backbenchers.
Some of the Library research unit estimate that their work load has increased by two-thirds since the advent of the backbench research staff, with no appreciable increase in the Library’s human or material resources.
The Library’s problems are not helped by Ministers, who still insist on using its facilities despite the fact that they have enormous departments to undertake these tasks.
The Prime Minister himself continues to use the Library despite the fact that he now has a huge team of public servants in his Department.
He has a bigger entourage than the Caliph of the Hindu Kush the only difference is that the latter was more competent. To compound the situation the Governor-General, Sir John Kerr, has been using the services of the Library and adding to the strain on its limited resources. I might say, insofar as the Governor-General is concerned -
– He ought to broaden his reading.
– I think he would have been far wiser if he had taken solace in the research department of the Parliament Library and the Solicitor-General, rather than in the Chief Justice of the High Court. The constitutional question comes in under the estimates for the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. There is no doubt at all that this goverment prostituted the Constitution, debased the conventions upon which the Constitution operates and it used the Constitution for no other reason than to accomplish its deplorable, Tory, political machinations.
I find it very odd when Government supporters say that we have created a monster, because on 3 occasions I have spoken in this chamber on this question of the synchronisation of elections of both Houses of this Parliament. Government supporters opposed this question on 3 occasions. Now we find the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) is addressing law councils throughout this country and requesting a referendum on the question of the synchronisation of elections of both Houses. I wonder why?
– He must have believed you.
– I think he most probably did, and I am very grateful that he has done so. Could it be rather that at long last he has woken up to the fact that the 3 Labor State governments may decide to use their prerogative, when it suits them, to hold elections for the Senate in those 3 States? I suggest to honourable members opposite that they should sit down and seriously look at what they have created. This is the reason why I assume the Prime Minister is very concerned that there be a synchronisation of elections of both Houses, rather than the matter being left to the manipulations of State Premiers who have the total right to bring out the Senate when they choose. I return to the question of cutbacks in the services provided by the Parliament library. The thing that worries me is the cutback in the alert services. The article continues:
The ‘alert’ service which notifies members of new publications in areas where they have expressed an interest is to be abolished.
The provision of transcripts of current affairs programs is to be cut . . .
Lateline and Perspective will be cut out altogether.
The article concludes with a very telling peroration. This is the aspect that concerns me. It states:
The most consistent users of the library’s services, particularly the research service, are of course the back benchers, and in particular the Opposition back benchers.
Clearly, any diminution in the Parliamentary Library’s resources is designed to hit the Opposition hardest.
I wonder why? The other matter which concerns me is a circular distributed by the head librarian dated 14 September. The circular makes 3 observations. It states:
In keeping with the Government’s philosophy- which has the support of the Presiding Officers . . .
Indeed we may soon be expected to provide a better service with fewer staff resources. . . . I want each officer to whom this minute is addressed to consider and report to me . . .
What concerns me as a back bencher is that I was not consulted on this matter. The service provided by the Parliamentary Library is an integral part of my structure as a politician. If members of Parliament are to be effective and efficient, particularly in Opposition, we require and we have to rely on the services of the Library for much of the material that we receive. I suppose I have as wide a range of interest as most members of this Parliament. I have no doubt that all members of Parliament regard the Library service as an excellent service. The members of the staff of the Library are competent and first class. There are many areas of interest which I want updated constantly. These areas include oil, coal, hyro.carbons energy -
– Yes, uranium. Another area in which I have a vital interest as a member and want to be effective is that of insurance lawwhether it is general insurance, life insurance, natural disaster insurance or brokers’ legislation. The other area in which I have a vital interest and in which honourable members on both sides of the House should be interested concerns corporations and securities. If ever there was a need for national legislation in this country it is in both these areas. It never fails to amaze me that Liberals, either in this chamber or in State parliaments, seem to have a vested interest in the protection of corporate spivs or corporate manipulators or people who fraudulently manipulate corporate affairs. Members of Parliament, particularly back benchers, will become effective only if they have the right of access to the competent research staff in the Parliamentary Library. I deplore the fact that a government could be so niggardly as to carve off what amounts to no more than petty cash. Every back bencher in this Parliament should stand up and condemn the whittling away, the strangulation of the one resource that makes him an effective and efficient politician.
– I wish to raise a couple of matters in the estimates for the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and the Department of Administrative Service. Firstly, I refer to the allocation for the Remuneration Tribunal which is to be increased from $134,000 to $162,000. We know that the tribunal is headed by 3 highly competent people who determine the rights not only of parliamentarians but also of academics and members of so many other sections of our community. I wish to refer to the support staff of the tribunal and to what I regard as the total inadequacy, inefficiency and inability of the members of that staff. Of late we have noticed that after the tribunal has come to a conclusion and made a finding the members of the support staff have the job of preparing a report to present to the Parliament. But I am seeing and feeling, as other members of this chamber are doing, the ramifications of the carelessness of the members of the support staff of the tribunal in the preparation of reports. I do not say that they are making intentional errors, but errors are being made. Because of the carelessness which these people are displaying members of Parliament are losing certain conditions which have existed for years to enable us carefully to carry out our duties as members of Parliament.
Frankly, I do not believe it is good enough that we should increase from $134,000 to $162,000 the appropriation for the salaries of these people in the secretariat of the tribunal when they are putting in such a mediocre performance. I do not normally stand in this Parliament and attack public servants who do not have an opportunity to defend themselves, but if these people are accidentally to attack the conditions which have had to be fought for to enable us to work effectively, I believe it is good enough for me to voice my opinion here. I conclude my remarks on this point by saying to these people: ‘Put your minds to it, be more careful and earn the money that you are being paid, because if you are hurting members of Parliament by your carelessness no doubt other sections of the community also are suffering’.
Next I refer to the allocation of almost $26m for the Commonwealth Police. This allocation is being increased from almost $22m. Much of this money no doubt will be set aside to protect the Parliament and the Governor-General because of the still simmering fever which has been whipped up by honourable members opposite. At every opportunity that is presented to them, including tonight, they give the GovernorGeneral another bash. They kick him in the backside, stir up their supporters and keep the pot boiling. On every occasion when the GovernorGeneral goes somewhere, particularly in the Australian Capital Territory, a huge number of Commonwealth Police are required to protect him from the violence which is displayed by some of the supporters of honourable members opposite. Of course, the provision of this increased allocation of $3m for the Commonwealth Police does not give a true picture of the additional expenditure incurred in protecting the Governor-General because in the States the State governments are involved in additional costs in protecting him. I suggest that the continuing wailing and antics of the Opposition are costing this country a great deal of money in providing protection for the Governor-General and others associated with him.
In the 5 minutes of speaking time remaining to me I wish to discuss the Commonwealth Electoral Act. If ever there is an Act of this Parliament which needs amending it is that Act.
– Are you going to tell us about postal voting?
-The honourable member for Prospect recalls the numerous speeches that I have made in this chamber about postal voting. Never in the life of this nation has there been a greater crusader for the cleaning up of the electoral system of this nation than the likes of myself. I have been persistent and consistent in ensuring that the evils that have crept into the operation of the Act are eliminated and in ensuring that we have pure and clean democracy. I suppose that some might say that it is a reflection upon my ability to persuade others that after 10 years the provisions of the Act in relation to postal voting are still as they were a decade ago when I first arrived in this place. But let it not be thought that I have forgotten about this matter and let it not be thought that my persistence has been eroded or has been confronted with resistance because I am as determined as ever.
We are now back in government and have in the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers) a Minister who is very conscious of the need to ensure that there are no loopholes of which people can take advantage. I hope the Minister will be prepared to alter the postal voting system. As this country requires people compulsorily to vote under the threat of a fine I really believe that the Commonwealth or the Electoral Office has an obligation to provide a voting system that makes it easy for the aged, sick and infirm and for those who live in remote pans of our country to vote. I believe, as I have stated in this House before, that a register should be kept of those persons who are aged and infirm and that at the time of every federal election it should be obligatory upon the Electoral Office to send them application forms that require simply a signature and that remind those persons that if they make a false declaration they may be confronted with a penalty. We know the rorts that go on with postal voting. We know how the system can be worked. We all know that.
– You would know better than most of us.
– I thought I heard somebody speak. Let him be not the one to cast the first stone. I have a file in my cupboard about the way in which the honourable member for Chifley gathers postal votes.
– He is not worth keeping a file on.
-Irrespective of that I do have one on the honourable member for Chifley. In conclusion I say that I do hope that the Government will come to grips with the problem and provide a new system that ensures that the shenanigans that go on in relation to postal voting are removed. In Queensland postal voting represents perhaps 3 per cent or 4 per cent of the total State vote. We all know that many seats could change hands if that percentage of the postal votes were manipulated. I am quite certain that some postal voting is manipulated. I admit that I have a system concerning postal voting but it is a legitimate system that works within the framework of the Act. I had to devise that system to survive. Honourable members opposite were certainly doing their level best to work the system to their advantage and I had to take steps to protect myself. All I ask for is a fair go and a fair share of the votes, which is at least 50 per cent plus one.
-I will not detain the chamber for very long tonight. I want to deal basically with one particular point, but in passing I would like to support the remarks made by my colleague the honourable member for Hawker (Mr Jacobi) when speaking about library facilities for members of Parliament, particularly back bench members of Parliament. I have no complaints personally about the Parliamentary Library. I receive excellent service there. I served on the Library Committee during the last Parliament, which, as honourable members opposite will recall, was when the Australian Labor Party was in office. I would like to point out that I have adopted a consistent approach on the matter. Even though the Ministers then were from my side of the chamber I repeatedly reiterated that preference as far as library services are concerned should be given to back bench members of Parliament and not to Ministers and office holders. Ministers and office holders do in fact have extra facilities that they can take advantage of. For example, Ministers can use the facilities of their departments and they have a large staff. I think that it is important to bring about some equilibrium between the Executive and the rest of the Parliament and that those facilities that are available are the best that can possibly be made available for back bench members of Parliament. Honourable members opposite often talk about the need for equilibrium between the Executive and others. I think that they should try to exert what influence they can in this respect.
I wish to deal basically with the Department of Administrative Services. One of the functions it performs, as the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) has just pointed out, is the administration of the Commonwealth Electoral Office. I would like to congratulate the federal conference, council or whatever it is called of the Liberal Party of Australia for having appointed a committee which apparently has recommended that a 20 per cent variation between electorates should not be introduced. That is the sort of proposition that the National Country Party of Australia is continually pushing. Let us hope that the members of the Liberal Party will show some guts in the Party room when the time comes for them to make a decision on this matter and will stand up to the blackmailing tactics of their coalition partners.
Upon reading the explanatory notes on the estimates for the Department of Administrative Services I found that the Liberal Party has in fact carried out another election promise which was not mentioned in the document that was produced by it and the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) the other day. Honourable members may recall the Liberal Party’s slogan about turning on the lights that swept Australia towards the end of last year. If one looks at page 67 of the explanatory notes one will in fact find that the cost of electricity for government offices this year is expected to increase by over $500,000. That, of course, is as much turning on of lights as will be taking place. That provision for the expenditure of an additional $5 17,000 on electricity is what the Liberal Party has done in fulfilment of one of its election promises.
– To offset the intellectual darkness.
-That is right. In the amount of speaking time remaining to me or whatever I want to take of it I want to address myself to a point that does not affect me personally. I hope that honourable members opposite will take some notice of it, even though it affects mainly honourable members formerly from this side of the chamber- former members of Parliament. I refer to severance travel. It does not affect me personally because, firstly, I am still a member of this chamber; secondly, I suppose I am likely to be a member of this chamber for some time; and, thirdly, even if I were defeated or resigned from this House I am one of those who hate flying and I would not take advantage of the travel facilities that would be available to me after I left this chamber, as I do not take advantage of them now. I do not have the actual report of the Remuneration Tribunal concerning severance travel in front of me, but honourable members may recall that basically it says that people who have served a certain number of years or a certain number of Parliaments should be entitled to what is called severance travel. It does not matter what period of time is involved. Let us assume it made the correct suggestion that after so many years they should be entitled to one year of free air travel so they can re-establsih themselves in their previous occupations. That is probably a reasonable proposition for people who leave this Parliament. A large number of Labor people left this Parliament at the end of last year, as honourable members are aware. I suppose that after future elections the same might apply to other members of this chamber on the Government side.
The Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers) has ruled, probably correctly in the sense of the legal position, that the Remuneration Tribunal report cannot apply to anybody except present members of Parliament. In other words, it does not apply to people who were defeated in the last election. This to me becomes a Catch 22 situation because there will always be a new Remuneration Tribunal report setting out what facilities and what benefits members should get. That report will come out after people have left Parliament because they have retired or been defeated. Therefore these people will never be able to take advantage of that report. I would like the Minister to look sympathetically at this position and to review it because it strikes me as being extremely unfair. For example, the honourable member for Phillip (Mr Birney), who allegedly will not be here for ever, is entitled at present to certain benefits under the latest Remuneration Tribunal report when he leaves this Parliament. On the 30 June after he has left the Parliament a new Remuneration Tribunal report will come out and it will be said by the Minister that it does not apply to the former member for Phillip. Therefore he will not be entitled to anything that it provides. It just strikes me as being ridiculous.
I conclude on another point arising out of the Remuneration Tribunal’s report. The Tribunal has granted members certain benefits and taken away other benefits. One of the benefits it has taken away is free telephone calls from members’ own homes. Only 85 per cent of them will now be free of charge. I suppose it could be argued that that is reasonable. But I note on page 255 the explanatory notes for the Senate Estimates Committee dealing with the Department of Administrative Services, in commenting on division 1 40.2.0 1 , state in paragraph ( f ):
Other expenditure includes a provision Tor the cost of Federal Members Authority Cards . . . and although telephone costs have increased it is anticipated that there will be a small reduction in the use of these cards during 1 976-77.
Let me assure the Minister that this obviously will not happen. I am sure that other members are doing what I am doing. Since I now have to pay 15 per cent of the cost of trunk line calls I have started to use my FMA card again when I ring from home. When I have to make interstate parliamentary calls I am not prepared to pay towards the cost of them. Therefore the number of FMA calls will increase quite significantly in the current year. It must increase. Therefore the estimate that the amount for FMA cards will decrease, to my mind, does not take the true position into account.
– I want to say a few words tonight about the National Library. In the estimates which the Committee is now considering for the Department of Administrative Services are the proposed appropriations for the National Library. Within the National Library funds have been made available for the publication of books and work that the Library considers worthy of publication. About the turn of the century a Dr Gabriel came to the town of Gundagai in my electorate. In spite of all the redistributions that have taken place between 1900 and today Gundagai was then and is now within the electorate of Hume.
– It is the dog.
-The dog is still there. The dog has survived plebiscites and the suggestions that he be removed to other parts of the district. Honourable members will be pleased to hear that he still sits at the 5-mile location. Dr Gabriel came to Gundagai late in the 1800s and set up practice in that town. As well as being a doctor he was a photographer. Apparently at that time many doctors took an interest in photographyunlike the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman), I imagine.
– He has other hobbies.
-I am sure he has. Doctors at that time took an interest in photography because of the connection between photography and some aspects of the medical profession. Dr Gabriel was certainly no exception. During and between the periods he spent at the hospital and in running his practice he found time to take literally hundreds and hundreds of photographs of the people of Gundagai, locations in and around Gundagai and buildings in and around the town. Over twenty or thirty years he built up quite a collection of photographs of the area. In due course he died.
– That happens to most of us.
– As the honourable member for Lang says, it does happen to most of us. Dr Gabriel died about 1925 or 1927. His photographic work went into storage and was not discovered until recently. I was rather hoping that this debate might have been broadcast tonight.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Armitage)Order! The honourable member’s wishful thinking has nothing to do with the debate.
– I am entitled to make the comment because the comments I am making about Gundagai and the National Library would be of interest to the nation and listening audience at large. I am only regretful that this debate happened to come on at a time when proceedings were not being broadcast. A large number of the photographic plates that were taken by Dr Gabriel were turned up in recent years in an old building which was taken over by an accountant in Gundagai and others were turned up a few years ago by another person in Gundagai. Both these people recognised the importance of a photographic collection of this type and they decided, I think quite generously, to donate the photographs they had found to the National Library. It is about that matter that I am really speaking tonight.
The National Library for its part was pleased to receive a collection of such a high quality and which was so representative of life in a country town at the turn of the century. It went to the trouble of running offprints from the negatives. There are a couple of thousand of them in total. It used a collection of them on a calendar a couple of years ago. That calendar attracted a great deal of interest. The Library then decided that it would be a worthwhile project to pursue further usage of the prints that had been taken from Dr Gabriel’s negatives and to publish a book which might be of wide interest amongst Australians and also overseas. It asked a visiting lecturer from the University of Exeter who was at the Australian National University at the time to make a selection from the photographs in the collection. About 120 of them were included in the book, which has now been published by the National Library under the title The Gundagai Album. I had the pleasure of launching the book in Gundagai a couple of weeks ago.
The book is of great historic value. As I said earlier, it depicts in great detail the way life was lived and the conditions under which people worked and enjoyed themselves about 75 years ago. I think it is a tribute to the National Library that it has the foresight to use works and collections which are made available to it by citizens of Australia or which it acquires by a number of means. The Gundagai collection is of great historic interest because of the detail it contains and the broad ranging nature of the collection. It already has been the subject of study by people who are producing historical films and television documentaries or series concerning the period in which the photographs were taken. It is of interest to them because of the costuming, the decor of the houses, the types of vehicles and things of that nature, which are shown in great detail.
It is my purpose tonight to draw to the attention of the Committee under this section of the Estimates this activity of the National Library. I commend the Library on having the foresight, the wisdom and the preparedness to enter into this field and to make available to interested people inside and outside Australia a collection as noteworthy as the Gabriel collection. I think it is worth noting that Dr Gabriel has been recognised by historians and by people who have a knowledge of and interest in photography as being one of Australia’s premier early photographers. The Director of the Museum of Modern Art in New York has expressed great interest in and admiration for the work of this gentleman of days gone by. The Department of Foreign Affairs is giving consideration to the inclusion of some enlargements from the collection in one of the travelling exhibitions that the Department undertakes under its cultural exchange program. The National Library certainly is playing its part in bringing to the notice of Australians things which are of great value, particularly at a time when there is a great revival of interest in things of the past.
I suggest to honourable members that they avail themselves of the opportunity to look at this book. Not only does it give an indication of how things were 75 years ago in one of the premier districts of our nation; it also is what I would describe as a charming and delightful book. It is not unlike a book launched by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) in the not too distant past, in that it is a book which anybody could take proudly into his home and have no fear of his children thumbing through the pages and being confronted with pornography and things of that nature. I think that all Australians should be grateful to the National Library for having produced this book.
-In these Estimates, the proposed expenditure for the Department of Administrative Services is $83. 7m. Included in that amount is a vote of $7.24m for the Australian Electoral Office. I take this opportunity to contend that Australia is in urgent need of electoral reform. With the imminence of a redistribution of boundaries, it is appropriate to draw attention to the very serious anomalies now existing under the Electoral Act. The boundaries of electoral divisions for the House of Representatives are in urgent need of revision, and in my view that revision should be proceeded with on the basis of a 10 per cent margin above and below the quota, as the law now provides, rather than the 20 per cent disparity over and above the quota which has always been supported by the Liberal and National Country Parties. The Opposition, of course, stands for the one man one vote principle, with votes of equal value. It stands for that principle now and always has done so. Only by the process of a Joint Sitting following a double dissolution of both Houses of Parliament was this debauchery of democratic processes reefed away from its protagonists- the coalition parties. They had been defeated in the House of Representatives and then they used their brutal majority in the Senate to defeat the legislation providing for one man one vote. At the moment our Electoral Act provides for only a 10 per cent margin above and below the quota. There are indications that honourable members opposite still harbour the reprehensible idea of reverting to the old system. If the Country Party tail wags the Liberal Party dog, that certainly will eventuate. Together, of course, the coalition parties have the numbers to do whatever they want. In the 1975 House of Representatives election the Liberal Party won 3 248 000 votes, or 42 per cent of the total. That gave it 68 seats. The
Australian Labor Party commanded more supporta total of 3 3 13 000 votes, or 42.8 per cent of the votes. Actually, the Labor Party won 64 868 more votes than the Liberal Party, but it won only 36 seats- not 68 seats, as the Liberal Party got. On the other hand, the National Country Party won only 853 943 votes, or 1 1 per cent of the total. Yet with the reduced quota in the country areas it won 23 seats.
If nothing else, those figures demonstate the electoral inequality of our present voting system. If the Labor Party could gain a parliamentary seat with the same number of votes as are sufficient for the Liberal and National Country Parties to gain a seat, the composition of this chamber would be very different.
– You are always whingeing.
-And the honourable member for Hume would not be here. Taking the total number of votes for the Australian Labor Party and dividing it by the votes per seat for the Liberal Party, the Australian Labor Party today would hold 68 seats in the House- not 36 seats, as it does. That would be the position if the same number of votes were required to elect a Labor man as are required to elect a Liberal man. On the other hand, if one takes the National Country Party situation I can well understand why the honourable member for Hume wants to try to sit me down- one finds this incredible position: Dividing the total ALP vote by the number of votes required to elect a National Country Party candidate, Labor would have not 36 members but 89 members in the House at the present time.
Such a system, of course, makes a mockery of the one man one vote principle. I can well understand the reason why we always get this incessant hostility, this protest, from the honourable gentlemen who are so advantaged by such an inequitable and unjust system. Members of the Country Party want to perpetuate the system; but now there are indications that the Liberal Party is developing a more reasonable attitude, and the poor old Country Party might be out on its own on this matter. The net result will be a loss of seats. It should stir the animosity and hostility of every decent citizen who believes in equality and basic electoral justice. Countries fight wars over far less important matters than this. This is the system which the National Country Party is pledged to uphold and to which it seeks to revert for the purpose of the next general election. In essence, this is what the figures mean: Labor, which polled more votes than any other party, gained 3 314 000 votes, or 42.8 per cent of the total. For each of the 36 seats that it won, it had to get 92 027 votes. The Liberal Party with fewer overall votes- that is, with 3 248 136 votes or 42 per cent of the total- had to get only 47 766 votes per seat. Just let me remind the House again of the difference. Labor had to get 92 027 votes to win a seat and the Liberal Party had to get 47 766 votes.
– About half.
-As the honourable member for Melbourne Ports says, the Liberals had to get about half of the votes that the Labor Party had to get. The National Country Party got only 853 943 votes, or 1 1 per cent of the total, and it had to win only 37 128 votes per seat. So that demonstrates in a nutshell- I know this is heavy stuff at this time of the night- the irregularities that have been perpetuated for so long. Who can justify that in the Queensland seat of McPherson, for example, the number of eligible voters at the last election stood at 102 175, while in the Queensland seat of Maranoa enrolments stood at 46 433? In Victoria, while the Prime Minister’s electorate of Wannon has increased its number of voters by only 6655 since 1968- that is the date of the last redistributionto 54 583, the electorate of Diamond Valley has grown by 41 151 voters to 91 818 enrolments at the time of the last election. So there you have the situation. That demonstrates the incredible disparities. At the date of the last election enrolments in the New South Wales seat of Mitchell stood at 87 326, while the enrolments for the New South Wales seat of Darling stood at 47 979. So there is example after example which one could cite. In Victoria, for example, Diamond Valley had 91 818 enrolments compared with 50 208 enrolments in another Victorian seat of Wimmera. So the situation is that some electorates have grown by as much as 54 000 voters since the last redistribution of boundaries.
I conclude by simply saying that a redistribution of boundaries ought to be held every 3 years unless the changes in population do not warrant it. I understand that the present Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers) is advocating such a course. I think I can confidently anticipate the attitude of the Australian Labor Party to such a proposal. Regardless of the fact that it might emanate in legislative form from the Liberal Party, such a principle would, I am confident, gain the endorsement of the Labor Party. I hope the Liberals will have the guts to stand up to the debauched crowd which for so long has contaminated the electoral system.
– It was not my intention at all to speak on the estimates for the Department of Administrative Services until the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les
Johnson) tried, in my mind and in the minds of many members on this side of the Parliament, to confuse the people in such a way, no doubt, as to convince them that the Labor Party should not be in Opposition and that it was really entitled to more representation in this House. However, there are one or two things that the honourable member for Hughes was inclined to overlook. Very early in his address he made some reference to the principle of one vote one value. Then he went on to talk about how the Liberal Party got so many votes, and how it got a bigger proportion of the seats than it was entitled to as compared with the Labor Party.
That is a lot of claptrap. The honourable member for Hughes knows it and the House knows it. But it is good propaganda as far as the honourable member for Hughes and some of his colleagues are concerned. What he did not mention is that the National Country Party and the Liberal Party did not contest every seat in Australia as did the Australian Labor Party. The Australian Labor Party got every possible vote by contesting every seat in Australia, whereas the Liberal Party and the National Country Party contested only a limited number of seats. No doubt if the National Country Party had contested as many seats as did the Labor Party it only stands to reason that its vote- I think he said 800 000 votes- would naturally be increased. The reason why the National Country Party does not contest every seat is simply that it works very closely with the Liberal Party. No doubt those 2 parties do not want to split their forces. Consequently in adding up the figures, the honourable member for Hughes should add together the votes polled by the National Country Party and the Liberal Party. When one talks of one vote one value that exercise has the result of sounding good, but what does the principle of one vote one value really mean?
– It means that you cannot count the sheep.
– The honourable member for Lang says it means that you cannot count the sheep. The honourable member raises a very important point. 1 invite him to go out to some of the country electorates and talk in that same vein. I invite the honourable member of Hughes to go out to some of the country electorates and talk in a vein similar to that in which he was talking tonight. The simple fact is that he just does not appreciate that there are more problems in country electorates than there are even around Sydney. I think that the honourable members should remember that there are 2 ways in which you can go about achieving fair representation. I think it is well that we should give every consideration to the individual constituent. The honourable member for Hughes forgets that angle. I do not know the number of voters in his electorate; I have not bothered to go into the figures. Evidently he has gone to a lot of trouble to find out that sort of information to pass on to the Committee this evening. No doubt his electorate would comprise an area of only a few square miles, and I suppose it would be possible for every one of his constituents to telephone him and pay only the local call fee.
– You are wrong again.
– I am wrong. Evidently a few of his constituents have to pay the trunk call fee, but only a very small percentage of them would have to do that to ring his office, unless it is located outside the electorate. It may be that his office is not located within the electorate; I do not know. In many country electorates, I suppose the reverse is the situation. Very few constituents can ring their local federal member- it does not matter whether he belongs to the Liberal, Labor or National Country Party- for the local call fee. Is that equal representation? Is that fair? Does that give constituents in country electorates the same opportunity as constituents in metropolitan areas? look at the size of the electorate of the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly).
I recall not so long ago the then Minister for Administrative Services, Mr Daly, making a decision to wipe out a few polling booths. He decided to close any polling booth at which fewer than 100 people voted. I remember the honourable member for Wakefield, who at that time was sitting in Opposition, making the suggestion that the Minister’s decision would disfranchise the people of Oodnadatta. You say: ‘Oh well, the Minister at the time, Mr Daly, suggested that they cast a postal vote’. That shows how knowledgeable the then Minister was, because the simple fact is that Oodnadatta was located in such a situation that it was impossible for a constituent in the electorate of the honourable member for Wakefield to cast his vote before polling day, because once nominations had closed all of those individuals living in and around Oodnadatta would have to make an application for a postal vote, send it off to the Returning officer, get the postal voting form back, and then return that to the Electoral Officer. That is the type of representation that honourable members such as the honourable member for Hughes would like to present to the Parliament.
– Personal visits to the electoral office.
– As far as personal visits to the electoral office are concerned, I suppose it would be fair to say that the constituents of most members of the Labor Party who talk in a vein similar to that of the honourable member for Hughes can jump on a tram or train and be at the electoral office in a matter of a few minutes. My electorate is far from being one of the biggest electorates in Australia but I have constituents living over 200 miles from the electorate office. No doubt the member for Riverina (Mr Sullivan) and the member for Hume (Mr Lusher) have electors even further away. The member for Grey (Mr Wallis) and the member for Darling (Mr FitzPatrick) are very quiet in this debate because they no doubt have similar thoughts to mine. They are not speaking because they know that they would be overridden by the majority of members of their Party.
– I rise to a point of order. I find offensive the remarks the honourable member is making in respect of the honourable member for Grey who is, along with colleagues of the honourable member for Wimmera, representing this Parliament at a conference in London. I think it is only fair that he should be asked to qualify his remarks or to withdraw them completely. I am sorry. I mean his remarks in respect of the honourable member for Darling.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Giles)There is no point of order. The honourable member for Grey was mentioned. He is right behind the honourable member.
– I think the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Sullivan) has the answer: Perhaps carrots are needed. I can see the honourable member for Grey sitting there now. I do not know why, but he is not on the Speaker’s list and no doubt he does not intend to say anything. I raise this question because I believe that the people outside this place must know the true situation and not a very distorted one introduced by the member for Hughes. The honourable member for Hughes is a former Minister and ought to know better. He is not a bad sort of fellow but when it comes to electoral matters, he has very little sympathy for anybody other than those living in the metropolitan area. I recall that not so very long ago the Labor Party, when in government, tried its utmost to alter the Electoral Act to such a form that there would have been the biggest gerrymander that we have ever seen in the Parliament in Canberra. The Opposition would like to reduce the tolerance from 20 per cent down to 10 per cent. This is rather interesting because the Opposition would like to see this 10 per cent tolerance applied in such a fashion that country electorates like Grey, Wakefield, Maranoa and Riverina would be 10 per cent above the quota because the trend of the population is away from them. This is brought out by the concentration -
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-In these days of economic stringency when we hear so much from the Government about the need to curb expenses and have greater efficiency in the Public Service and in private industry I want to try to ensure that a large sum of money spent over the last 2 years into the Royal Commission on Australian Government Administration is not wasted and that some of the recommendations made by that Royal Commission will be implemented and will be implemented as quickly as possible. Honourable members might recall that in June 1974 the Royal Commission on Australian Government Administration was established. It was allowed to continue its work after the present Government was elected.
The report was tabled in Parliament on 18 August. The report and attachments consist of 483 pages and the report contains 337 recommendations. There are also volumes 1 to 4 of appendices and the total report consists of 2261 pages. It is the first comprehensive inquiry into Australian Government administration that has been made for over 50 years. It was a costly inquiry and was long overdue. It has met with the general approval of the community and of the Australian Public Service. White Collar, which is the official journal of the New South Wales Branch of the Administrative and Clerical Officers Association of the Commonwealth Public Service, in its August 1976 issue refers to the Royal Commission report and its notable recommendations in these terms:
A number of important recommendations could be and should be implemented forthwith. The report should be seen as a serious attempt, following a lengthy inquiry, to come to grips with the problems besetting the APS, to remedy its failings and provide a blueprint for its future development. It is a document of substance which should provide the basis for all-round improvement in Australian Public Service.
It is now up to the Federal Government to act upon the progressive recommendations of the report. To date, the Fraser Government, with its cheese-paring policies, its restrictions on service development and imposition of staff ceilings, has shown much more inclination to hamper and restrict the Australian Public Service.
I suggest that as the public servants themselves consider that the report contains recommendations that are notable, progressive and capable of immediate implementation, something should be done about it We talk of efficiency. We talk of economy, so let us see the Government act fairly swiftly on this report.
The report in recommendation 335 makes certain suggestions on how it should be dealt with by the Government. The report is well worth reading, although, as I said, it totals 226 1 pages. The bulk of it is devoted to consideration of methods of making the administration more responsible, more accountable, more flexible and more efficient. The report sees all this being achieved in 5 major ways. They are (a) forward Estimates; (b) delegation of authority from the co-ordinating authorities- Treasury, Public Service Board- to the departments; (c) delegations within departments as well as giving decision makers the scope to act entrepreneurially; (d) efficiency audits by the departments themselves and by the Auditor-General; (e) examination of such audits by a parliamentary committee on administrative efficiency.
I am suggesting that this report should not be pigeonholed as the Vernon Report was pigeonholed in the Menzies days and as the Jackson Report seems to have been pigeonholed in present days. In an economic situation wherein it is necessary to have the most efficient Public Service possible and to have the money spent in the administration of that Service spent in the best possible way, this report should be taken into consideration by the Government immediately.
I mentioned the recommendation of the Commission on procedure for implementing its report. It is set out in recommendation 337. It suggests that the Cabinet approve in principle the main recommendations of the report; that the attention of Ministers and departments be drawn to this direction which is one that the Cabinet would give; that the Prime Minister nominate a committee of Ministers presided over by a member of Cabinet to expedite the reforms; that the Prime Minister nominate a senior officer of departmental head status to act full time as executive officer of the ministerial committee; and that this officer be supported by a small secretariat in the department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. The report goes on to recommend: that the ministerial committee and its executive officer be authorised
The time is close to 10.30 so I emphasise the fact that this report which has cost so much and has had 2 years spent in framing it, which has had outside advisers and inside advisers giving evidence to it, is much too worthy a report to be pigeonholed.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! It being 10.30 p.m., in accordance with the order of the House of 1 8 February I shall report progress.
– In accordance with the order of the House of 18 February I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
– I wish to spend a few minutes of the adjournment debate in describing what has occurred in South Australia in the past few years. I am prompted to do this because last Friday night I went to a remarkable birthday party. Just as I was congratulating the Premier on his fiftieth birthday, I was confronted with the sight of the former Premier, Sir Thomas Playford, who was also there. The honourable member for Wakefield had better sit down, and I will tell him the second part. I thought it was rather extraordinary that these 2 people should come together at such a function. This prompts me to relate to the Parliament what has occurred on the issue upon which, I suspect, those men had their most bitter fights. That is the matter of representation in the South Australian Parliament.
For over 30 years in South Australia we suffered not a gerrymander but what was termed a playmander, in that 2 representatives from the country had to be elected for every representative from the city. We had a House of Assembly of 39 members, twenty-six being from the country and thirteen from the city, with 66 per cent of the people living in the city of Adelaide. That was the situation right up until 1965 and, in fact, after Labor was elected in 1965. The first transformation of the electoral system took place after great pressure from the Labor Party but under the Government which was led by Premier Steele Hall. The tolerance between the city and country electorates was narrowed dramatically. The point I make to honourable members is that in South Australia we now have what I consider to be the very best electoral system applying in Australia. It is based on one vote one value.
– It needs 54 per cent -
-Before the juniors of the Liberal Party get too excited about what I have to say, I point out that on all occasions throughout all the years when we were being charged with trying to bring in a system which would favour Labor, that is one vote one value, the people in the country, in onslaughts against the Labor Party, were led to believe that in some way country people would be deprived of their right to electoral representation and to have their influence felt in the Parliament of South Australia. When the commissioners, who no longer are responsible to the Parliament but whose decisions can be appealed against only in the courts, brought in their report some weeks ago based on one vote one value, they wiped out 5 country seats and they made one country electorate almost two-thirds of the size of the State; but the Liberal Party did not appeal. The significant factor is the transformation which has taken place in South Australia. There has been an acceptance by both major political parties of a proper electoral system. Of course, the significance of this is that members of the Liberal Party here ought to be looking at what their colleagues have done and accepted in South Australia. Those colleagues know that when they have the majority of votes in South Australia in the future they will be the government.
The commissioners no longer will be subject to the manipulation of Parliament. In spite of all the fears which over the years were driven into country people, we now find that the House of Assembly is to be elected on the basis of one vote one value. This is in spite of the charge or allegation that it will take 54 per cent of the vote to have the Liberal Country League elected. I ask: Why did not the Liberal Party appeal? It did not appeal against the new boundaries. In the upper house the transformation in South Australia has been even more radical. As my friend the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) who served in that austere chamber will appreciate, for over 100 years the ratio of Liberal members to Labor members was 16:4. Now the total State is one electorate and there will be proportional representation with optional preferential voting. One could not get a more democratic set-up than we have in South Australia. To those honourable members on the Government side who are serving their first term here I say: ‘For God ‘s sake, do not let those honourable members in the National Country Party corner get on top of you this time’.
– I am sorry that this will not be a very happy occasion. I am prompted to speak briefly about the adverse criticism which has been levelled against Tasmanian apples exported to the United Kingdom in the 1976 season. The orchardists in Tasmania are at their wits end. They are demoralised and uncertain about the future and, in point of fact, are being kicked again where it hurts. Tasmania needs a continuing fruit industry. To console those orchardists to a certain degree, I reassure them that they have the full support of all Tasmanian Liberal Party politicians and, hopefully, of all Tasmanian Labor Party politicians in order to ensure that they are given the greatest assistance possible for the forthcoming season. The limited support scheme of the Federal and State governments for this season’s crop cannot be regarded as having any degree of permanency. For this reason alone it is imperative, if the industry is to have any future, that marketing arrangements and quality control be first rate.
If all the words spoken about the need for a national marketing authority could be translated into action, perhaps the future of the industry would be much brighter; but the tortuous history of such moves, including interstate and even intrastate jealousies and the procrastination of politicians, including myself, does not augur well for the establishment of a cohesive marketing set-up. The apple tree frequently figures in mystic literature as the tree of life. In fairy tales the apple appears as the source of immortal youth. With 40 per cent of the trees pulled out since the introduction of the tree-pull scheme, one is apt to become extremely cynical of such romantic sentiments. Economists are funny people. They have always been regarded with suspicion by the man on the land. It cannot be explained, but there is something inherently dangerous about a breed of theorists who come a-preaching to the gentry. When one thinks of Tasmania one does not think of me; one automatically thinks of apples. The Tasmanian apple growers are the best and finest in the world. The orchardists are hard-working and efficient.
-On 15 September, during the adjournment debate, the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Baume) spent his 5 minutes attacking the Kindergarten Union of New South Wales. He referred to letters he had received from the Kindergarten Union and from supporting pre-school centres. He made the point that he was opposed to generalised help for people but he was very keen on selective help. As he put it:
I asked the Kindergarten Union of New South Wales whether it thought it was reasonable that the subsidy should remain as it was- in other words, with 70 per cent of the subsidy going to people who were evidently not in need. I also asked the Union whether it would favour a situation in which the needy benefited from welfare payments and whether welfare should be redirected to the needy.
The honourable member said that he had asked those questions about a month before but that he had not received a reply. I should like to incorporate in Hansard a letter that I received from the Kindergarten Union of New South Wales which is dated 3 August 1976. It is from one of the kindergartens which serves my area, although it is situated in the electorate of Mitchell. However, the people concerned knew that I would be more sympathetic to them. Mr Speaker, I ask for leave to incorporate the letter in the Hansard record.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The letter read as follows-
Dr R. E. Klugman, M.P., 93 O’Neill Street, Guildford, N.S.W. 2 161
Dear Dr Klugman,
In a Press Release in the Sydney Morning Herald on 26 July 1976, it stated that the Federal Government will cut funds for Pre-Schools and it is likely the money will go to increase aid for more needy children. Mrs Marie Coleman, Director for the Federal Office of Child Care, said that underprivileged children were receiving little help and she felt they were the group most in need of Government assistance, but we feel that we are well and truly rilling an essential community need with our Centre and Centres such as ours.
The word ‘needy’ can be interpreted in so many different ways, and we feel most definitely our Centre caters for some of these children- such as children with a minor handicap, speech problems, emotional problems etc. and if these children do not get this help from Centres such as ours, providing Sessional care, there is nowhere else for these children to go, as there are no other organisations to cater for such specific problems, thus meaning our children are deprived of Pre-School education and care.
According to the Government, bulk of Sessional PreSchools are in middle and upper-class areas, but in fact this is not so, as done on a ‘needs’ basis in areas rated l-S, the figure of the Kindergarten Union clearly states as below:
As you can see from these figures, this certainly does not substantiate the Government’s claim and we feel Sessional Pre-Schools play an extremely vital role in the community and there is a definite need for such Pre-Schools, but without continued Government funding it will become financially impossible to run these Centres.
We have 120 children enrolled at our Centre at present and we have 200 names on our Waiting List and these people want Sessional Pre-School, not full day care for their children, but they and many thousands more children in the future will be deprived of this, if the Government funding is to cease or decrease, as it will put the fees well and truly out of the reach of the people in our community, as the estimated parent contribution without the Government Grants would be approximately $3-$3.50 per hour, and as you can see, this is a completely unrealistic figure that could not be met by families, and here the Government will be affecting the group they most want to help- the needy children.
Our present rate of contribution, with the 75 per cent subsidy is 40c per hour and salaries form about 80 per cent of Branch expenditure only. The State subsidy varies from 17.18 per cent to 12.48 per cent of the salary of a trained Teacher, depending on her seniority and 16.45 per cent of the salary of the untrained Helper.
The Kindergarten Union has 78 affiliated Centres and cares for 6082 children which include-
We therefore urge you to please speak on our behalf as voters, and press for the retention of present subsidy levels and for the subsidy basis to be stabilised on a three-year term, thus enabling realistic budgeting and planning to be made. We are asking you to please consider this very carefully for the children now attending these Centres and for the many thousands who may be deprived of such a valuable community service in the future.
Br KLUGMAN- I was impressed by the arguments put forward by these people. I met with them and I asked them for more specific details about the particular kindergarten- the Westmead Pre-School Centre. The Kindergarten Union of New South Wales sent me a further letter dated 25 August 1976 giving specific examples of the kind of children attending the pre-school centre. I again ask for leave to have this letter incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
Westmead Pre-school Centre 16 Hawkesbury Road
DrR. E. Klugman, M.P., 93 O’Neill Street,
Following our discussion with you at our recent meeting, we would like to present some facts and figures that are relevant to our own Centre.
Our Centre caters for 120 children per week, many of whom have special needs, including the following:
Single parents- 4
Children in danger of neglect or battery- 4
Migrant children with language difficulties- 5
Full-time working Mothers- 4
Part-time working Mothers- 20
Children needing specific attention for some emotional, social or physical problem- 26
These problems range from epilepsy and visually handicapped to speech problems and children needing help to become an active member of the group. These numbers are similar each year.
Our Teachers have a close working relationship with such referral agencies as the Child Guidance Clinics, Wisteria House, The Royal Blind Society, Autistic Centre and Camperdown Childrens’ Hospital.
Because of the Government Subsidy, we are able to offer women on a Widow, Invalid or Supporting Mother’s Pension, a 50 per cent reduction in fees and in one case we have been able to waive fees completely. Should the Subsidy be reduced by even the smallest amount, thus increasing the parent contribution, this service would no longer be available, thus excluding from Pre-School education, the children the Government claim they most wish to help and this will make Pre-School education available only to the wealthy.
Our Centre is used for various Outside Activities, including First Aid Classes, Adult Discussion Groups, Yoga Classes, Handicraft Demonstrations and Classes, Playgroup, and the Centre has been offered to SPELD and we have been approached by the Wentworthville Community Hospital to use the Centre for Ante-Natal Classes.
We feel very strongly that there is a great need for Sessional Pre-School, as there are many Mothers who do not wish to work and choose to stay at home with their children in these formative years and they do not want full day care, they want their children to have the opportunity to mix with others of their own age, to have an environment where the children can develop their social, emotional and physical skills at their own pace and the parents themselves can be actively involved in the running of the Centre.
We therefore hope this information may help you if you could speak on our behalf please, to retain the present subsidy level, as our fees at present are based on 40c per hour, making it $60 per term for some families and should the Subsidy be reduced by any amount, the fees will rise accordingly and this will exclude the most needy from the PreSchool Education programme.
– I would be more impressed by the honourable member for Macarthur ‘s attack on the parents in his electorate who are trying to send their children to the kindergartens if he were more consistent. I can see some argument in favour of selectivity against generalised help for people. But the honourable member for Macarthur does not show the same selectivity when he supports superphosphate bounties. He does not show the same selectivity when he supports the abolition of the coal export bounty. The superphosphate bounty will cost the Federal Government $60m this year. There are at least a significant number of people receiving that bounty who do not need it.
The important point there is not one of investment. It is a question of whether there should be help on a selective basis. Turning to the coal export levy, $ 120m will be collected in a full year from coal exports. There may well be some firms or coal mines which will have difficulty in paying that levy. But what do we see? We see the Federal Government taking the first steps towards abolishing and actually promising the abolition of that coal levy. The Utah mining corporation, for example, will benefit to the extent of $7m to $10m this year through the abolition of that levy.
– How much will the Treasury benefit?
– I know that the honourable member for La Trobe shares the views of the honourable member for Macarthur that all the subsidies should go to the people who receive the superphosphate bounty and to all the people who will pay the reduced coal export levy. There must be a large number of people in the electorate of La Trobe who will benefit by the reintroduction of the superphosphate bounty and from the reduction of the coal export levy. I am interested to hear that the honourable member for La Trobe is not interested in pre-school centres and that he shares the view of the honourable member for Macarthur. I hope that the electors of Macarthur and La Trobe read the remarks of the honourable member for Macarthur. I hope they read the attacks he made upon them and see where the selectivity comes in. This Government is not prepared to help people to send their children to pre-schools but it is prepared to help overseas coal companies and the Prime Minister ( Mr Malcolm Fraser) who receives a subsidy of some $5,000 from the superphosphate bounty.
– I wish to draw the attention of honourable members to the fact that Bally Australia Pty Ltd, a manufacturer of poker machines, recently brought an action in the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court which resulted in a judgment to the effect that the Poker Machine Licensing Board of the Australian Capital Territory has no power to control the makes of poker machines bought for Australian Capital Territory clubs. I would like to remind honourable members that the Bally organisation was the subject of an inquiry in New South Wales into allegations of organised crime in clubs in which a royal commissioner, Mr Justice Moffitt, was specifically asked in term 3 of the reference to inquire whether:
Matters disclosed in the course or the inquiry into terms I and 2 provide sufficient reason to determine that the Bally Corporation of America or its subsidiary Bally Australia Pty Ltd by its continued future operations in New South Wales, offers a risk of infiltration of organised crime into or in relation to clubs referred to in term 1.
Mr Justice Moffitt’s report was published in August 1974. He devoted part VII of his report- 43 pages- to term 3. It constitutes a damning expose of the methods employed by the Bally organisation. I quote a single example from paragraph 3 12. It reads as follows:
To give another example, great suspicion rests upon the introduction of Bally poker machines into the Blacktown Workers Club and the employment of Sloan, its president, by Bally ‘s distributor. The president of the club became a Bally representative for reward. This was one of the few cases where books referred to a ‘commission’. There was a claim it was a Christmas bonus, but this is unlikely. This entry, which was seen by the police inquiry, seems to have been lost along the way and reported in a more innocuous way than it deserved. The dealings of Lambert and the employment by him of and the payments to Sloan point strongly to this being a device to place the large number of Bally machines in the club.
Mr Speaker, I believe that honourable members should read Mr Justice Moffitt’s report, and particularly part VII. I also seek leave to have paragraph 316 of that report incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
QUANTIFICATION OF THE ‘RISK’ CONCERNING BALLY OPERATIONS
316.1 have earlier indicated that my function is to determine whether there is a ‘risk’ falling within Term 3 and in the process of so deciding, to define the risk, and that it is the Government’s function to decide what action, if any, it proposes to take to meet that risk (See PP. 223, 255-6). That risk can only be appreciated by those who have to consider what should be done concerning this risk by a close study of my report, particularly upon Term 3. Any summary of the risk cannot be a substitute for any appreciation based on that study. Having made that observation, let me say that the situation is a deceptive one, as anyone who studies the infiltration of organised crime of the affiliation of organised crime with legitimate business, will realise. It is a situation where external appearances, aided by highly paid experts and supported by wealthy and apparently respectable businessmen, will be prone to be disarming, as it is in most of the parallel cases in America and as no doubt, for example, it was in the Colony Club London.
I have come to the conclusion there is a real and very material risk that the Bally operation, if continued here, will in time be a vehicle, in which and, alongside which, organised crime will infiltrate or further infiltrate club operations in New South Wales in some way. I use the words ‘in time’, because this very report is likely for a time to produce its own results. If the risk becomes the fact, there will probably be little legally admissable evidence of its operation. It is highly likely that after a period, if not prevented by some positive action. Bally, by legitimate means, but backed by its enormous wealth, will attempt to monopolise the poker machine industry. It is possible it may buy out its opponents. It is possible it will capture the market by other means. If this occurs, because takeovers are refused or prevented, there is a substantial risk that high pressure and organised crime methods will be resorted to. It should be recalled its Australian opponents are also opponents to a degree overseas.
It is quite possible pressures will be attempted to be applied in various quarters to extend the legalisation of poker machines elsewhere in Australia and on a wider basis in New South Wales. There is a risk that, by lawful, indirect or unlawful means, it will press its avowed policy of entering the more lucrative field of operation or leasing of machines. It is close now to a world monopoly except for Australian and United Kingdom manufacturers and perhaps Sega of Japan, all of which are small, as compared with the giant size of Bally. If it gained a monopoly or near monopoly in Australia and had such or near such on a world basis in the galloping way, its quoted accounts show, then it can be well imagined that pressures could be exerted on clubs and governments, dependent upon poker machine profits and taxes, to lease or share in the operation of machines. Compulsive leasing by some overseas organisations, with desired patented equipment, is already a known business pattern. Upon a leasing scheme, as in S. E. Asia, the rent could be adjusted in effect to take a selected share of the profit of operation.
The Bally progress, it seems, probably backed and aided by organised crime, has been fantastic (P. 302). In summary from their accounts it appears or can be inferred that in ten years $1 invested has become $1,000. In ten years the men who put in $25,000 and others are millionaires twenty to fifty times over. In one year overseas profit has jumped from twenty-five to fifty-one million. I think the analysis I have made of the multiple connections of Bally with criminals or their associates in their operations all around the world, makes it likely that crime and high pressure methods, unwanted in this country, have aided this march to financial domination of the industry. Their ambitions to induce legalisation of poker machine gambling in more and more areas, their anticipation of this and of their move into the lucrative fields of operation, is apparent from reading their own documents, which are exhibits or retained as marked for identification with the inquiry records.
The view, I have formed as to the risk, can best be expressed by saying that, as a result of my careful consideration of all the material before me, it appears that some clubs are so vulnerable and the history of Bally has been such, and the removal or organised crime from casinos (Las Vegas) and clubs (England) once there, has been so near to impossible, that any takeover by and any expansion of Bally would constitute a risk of the type referred to, which cannot afford to be taken and, further, without embarking upon practicalities and other possible problems that, as a mere statement of the risk, it is too great to have the Bally organisation trading here at all.
– His conclusions were set out in this paragraph and he summed them up by saying:
I have come to the conclusion that there is a real and very material risk that the Bally operation, if continued here, will in time be a vehicle, in which and, alongside which, organised crime will infiltrate or further infiltrate club operation in in New South Wales.
He went on to say:
Any takeover by and any expansion of Bally would constitute a risk … as a mere statement of the risk, it is too great to have the Bally organisation trading here at all.
The Moffitt report is not out of date. On 9 September this year, the Australian Financial Review quoted a report from the Wall Street Journal to the effect that the Nevada Gaming Control Board had accepted a settlement under which Sam W. Klein, a vice-president, director and major shareholder of Bally Manufacturing Co., agreed to step down from his corporate post, sell his stocks in Chicago based Bally and pay a $50,000 fine. The Nevada Gaming Control Board had demanded that Mr Klein answer charges that he had been seen in Florida in the company of a reputed New Jersey mobster, Jerry Catena. Klein and Catena both figure prominently in Mr Justice Moffitt ‘s report. Mr Speaker, this Parliament has a responsibility for the national capital which it must not ignore. Assurances have been given by previous Ministers for the Capital Territory that proper control would be exercised over the introduction of poker machines. I ask the present Minister- I have asked him also outside the House- to amend the Poker Machine Control Ordinance so that the Poker Machine Licensing Board has unquestioned power to determine the make and conditions of the purchase of poker machines to be used in clubs in the A.C.T.
-I know that the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr Ruddock) will be disappointed tonight to know that I am not really going to talk about him. He has been sitting in the House for an hour or so wondering and waiting to hear what we were going to say about him. But the facts are, as everybody knows, that what the Melbourne Age said about him on 9 September is correct. It is all down the corridors. His own party room knows what has been stated to be true and the members of the Press gallery know that it was straight reporting- straight down the line. So tonight we will not go further into the matter, although we may have to do so later.
The matter I wish to talk about concerns an invitation that I received from the Schofields flying club. It stated that on Sunday, 26 September, there would be a massive air pageant to be known as Schofields air spectacular and that the attendance is expected to be between 20 000 people and 30 000 people. Anybody who knows the little Schofields aerodrome- that is HMAS Nirimba- would ask, ‘How could 20 000 people to 30 000 people fit into that area to start with?’. Naturally, I scratched my head and thought that I had better look into the matter. I had heard rumours before that the Liberal- National Country Party Government wanted to upgrade Schofields aerodrome for use for commercial traffic, to make it another Bankstown aerodrome. So immediately I wrote to the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon). I said that an invitation had been issued to him- this is what this correspondence said- and that he had accepted. He replied that he had found that he had another invitation, or words to that effect, and that he could not attend this air spectacular. When I wrote to him, I said:
Would you please advise me whether this means that your Department has plans to extend the use of Schofields Aerodrome for commercial and private light plane traffic and, if so, the extent of the expansion to be approved?
As I said earlier, he replied that he could not attend. This is what he said:
Unfortunately, because of prior commitments, I will not be able to be present at the pageant and I have advised the organisers to that effect.
In response to your request for advice as to whether my Department has any plans to expand the use of Schofields Aerodrome by general aviation, I can inform you that this matter is receiving the joint consideration of my colleague the Minister for Defence -
Here comes the Minister for Defence again - and myself. Consequently I am not yet in position to provide you with any meaningful advice as to what extent, if any, general aviation activities at Schofields Aerodrome might be increased at that aerodrome.
In other words, the Government is once again considering using the Schofields Aerodrome for general light aircraft traffic. It is considering making it another Bankstown Aerodrome such as the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) has to put up with. It is near the whole of the Blacktown area, the whole of the Mount Druitt area, the whole of the Riverstone area, the Seven Hills area and Lalor Park. It would even affect the electorate of the honourable member for Parramatta. I think he ought to be on his feet here tonight supporting me in my protest against such a proposal by the Minister for Transport and the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen).
I believe that we should receive from the 2 Ministers concerned, both of whom sit in this
House, a fundamental undertaking that in no circumstances will Schofields Aerodrome be upgraded for use by commercial traffic beyond the reasonable and low tone traffic it is used for today.
Following the remarks of the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young), I rise to defend democracy. The honourable member is not in the chamber at the moment. In his remarks, the honourable member for Port Adelaide again raised the old furphy of the so called ‘Playmander ‘ which was alleged to have kept the Playford Government in office in South Australia for so long. In fact, recent accurate analyses of voting figures show quite clearly that only twice in its record period of office of 32 years was the Playford Government elected with a minority of votes. It was the marvellous performance of the Playford Government which kept it in office over those many years. The South Australian people have been conned in the last decade or so by the Australian Labor Party and by ALP-leaning academics, one of whom I understand is to be the next member for Bonython. These people say that the Playford Government was kept in office with a minority of votes. That was not the case as has been shown by those voting analyses.
The honourable member for Port Adelaide put forward the view that one vote one value means equal numbers of voters in each electorate. This is absolute nonsense. What one vote one value means is that government should change hands when one party achieves 50 per cent or more of the vote on a 2-party preferred vote basis. That is the essential criterion for determining one vote one value. The party with 50 per cent or more of the vote on a two party preferred vote basis should be the government. This is not the case in South Australia under the current electoral set-up. It will certainly be even worse under the proposed redistribution. At the State election last year the Labor Party gained office with less than 50 per cent of the vote while the Liberal Party had more than 50 per cent of the vote.
– You have to get 54 per cent in New South Wales.
– Under this new redistribution the Liberal Party will have to attain 54 per cent of the votes to obtain office in South Australia at the next State election. Fifty-four per cent! What a ‘Donnymander’ that is! The Liberal Party has not appealed against this redistribution because it can appeal only within the terms of reference provided by the South Australian Government. The ‘Donnymander’ is contained in those very terms of reference; so there is no value in appealing against that redistribution. Unless you take account of the demographic structure of Adelaide, particularly the Adelaide suburbs and the distribution of voting patterns, you cannot have a one vote one value voting system in South Australia. So purely within the terms of reference given by the South Australian Government to the Electoral Commission, the Labor Party came up with a clear ‘Donnymander’ in its redistribution. Unless the 50 per cent pivot point is taken into account there will be no future for democracy in that State. The Labor Party will remain in office with 46 per cent of the vote.
Despite that ‘Donnymander’ people are beginning to wake up to our Premier. They are realising that his apparent trendiness is not building the sort of society they want in South Australia. It is not providing for their needs and it is not providing jobs. Because of the policies pursued by the Dunstan Government, South Australia is stagnating more than any other State in the Commonwealth. South Australia has lost its advantages in terms of cost of production which it had over many other States for many years. Despite the fact that the Liberal Party needs 54 per cent of the vote, it will attain 54 per cent at the next election and will throw the Labor Party out of office.
– When one considers the situation in the State of Victoria, it is rather curious to see Government supporters rise in this House and proclaim their abhorrence of gerrymanders or ‘Donnymanders’ as they call them. I join issue with the honourable member for Kingston (Mr Chapman) who said that South Australia was a stagnating State. For his information- I know that he lives there and that for him the situation is very curious, but he ought to know better than anybody else that South Australia is looked upon as the most progressive State in the whole of Australia. Apart from New South Wales and Tasmania, it certainly has the most progressive State government in the whole of Australia. If honourable members opposite want to have a look at gerrymanders they ought to look at the experts. If they want to look at the experts they ought to go north and have a look at a fellow in Queensland who is running his State with 29 per cent of the popular vote.
- Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Is it in order for the honourable member for Burke to attack a man who is not here tonight to defend himself?
-If there was a point of order I could not hear it.
-It is very curious that when one starts to make an assault on the Premier of Queensland the person who springs to his defence is the honourable member for Griffith. I assure the honourable member for Kingston that if he really wants to look at gerrymanders there are places other than South Australia that he ought to look at. If we have a situation of one vote one value, as in South Australia, I very much doubt that that could be called a gerrymander. I have in mind the State of Victoria. There we are back to the Playford situation of the State being divided into 2 sections, with the people who represent the metropolitan areas having a larger number of people in their electorates than those who live in country areas. That sort of situation brings about the state of affairs that existed in South Australia for such a long time under the conservative rule of Sir Thomas Playford.
The whole purpose of Parliament is that as nearly as practicable the people in the Parliament should represent equal numbers of people in their electorates. That is a simple proposition. For the information of the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman), who is leaving the chamber, I point out that I have some 93 000 people in my electorate. That makes my electorate almost twice the size of the division of Wimmera. That does not disturb me because I have always felt that one member of the Labor Party was worth 2 members of the National Country Party. The people who live in my electorate, through no fault of their own and even though they are excellently represented, suffer a disadvantage.
-Order! It being 1 1 p.m., the debate is interrupted. The House stands adjourned until 10.30 a.m. tomorrow.
House adjourned at 1 1 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:
Quarantine arrangements ensure that any dog released in Australia which originated in a rabies infected country has been free of rabies for a period immediately prior to release which is in excess of the incubation period of the disease.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The voluntary code in Australia differs from the alcoholic drink provisions of the United Kingdom statutory Independent Broadcasting Authority Code of Advertising Standards and Practice in the following ways:
Normally they should not be portrayed in such an advertisement in Australia either. Certain exceptions are possible e.g. where the background in a scene is not under the control of the advertiser. However the exception is valid only if it is clear that the children are not drinking alcoholic beverages;
viii) under the United Kingdom code no liquor advertisement may publicise a competition. The Australian code does not refer to this matter.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
and (2) Printing of the Health Department publication How to choose the health insurance cover that’s right for you is now under way in six languages- Greek, Italian, Spanish, Turkish, Arabic and Serbo-Croat- and distribution will commence shortly. The printing program has been governed by the availability of competent translators, and earlier completion was not possible.
am asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
am asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
When did the Commonwealth Banking Corporation provide the Parliamentary Library with the publication Housing in Australia which he mentioned in his answer of 25 August 1976 (Hansard, page 595) to question No. 824 which I placed on notice on 3 June 1976.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Managing Director of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation has informed me that the publication Housing in Australia is issued by the Commonwealth Savings Bank in March, June, September and December each year and that the June 1976 issue, which I mentioned in my answer to question No. 824, was despatched to reach the Parliamentary Library early that month.
am 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:
(The amounts marked* are tentative, as sketch plans have not yet been finalised).
(a) None of the new accommodation projects had been completed by 30 June 1 975.
that can be approved in 1976-77 will be limited to the amount of any savings that can be effected within approved commitment limits as the financial year progresses.
When the Homeless Persons Assistance Act was introduced in 1974, it was indicated that the major provisions were to remain in force until December 1977, during which time the program was to be subject to a thorough and continuous review. The scope, value “and standards of the accommodation and services provided are being monitored and an assessment of that total program will be made in the course of the current financial year so that, in the light of experience with its operation, a policy more effective in meeting the needs of homeless people can be devised and incorporated in legislation.
asked the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, upon notice:
– The following answer to the honourable member’s question has been provided:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
With reference to the figure of $720m mentioned on the third last line of page 128 of 1976-77 Budget Paper No. I.
on what date or dates did these transactions take place, and what was their amount on each date; and
did the Commonwealth Bank suggest to the Treasury that the Bank’s trading portfolio should be supplemented in this way; if so, on what date was the suggestion made.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The transactions were effected at prevailing market prices, and resulted in net receipts to the Government totalling $720m. These net receipts were used to cancel Treasury Bonds ($95m), and to cancel and redeem Treasury Notes ($625m).
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
As the Australian Government has drawn $309m under the compensatory financing facility of the International Monetary Fund to assist countries whose dependence on primary industry exports results in fluctuating balance of payment problems, will the Government in turn assist those primary producers upon which the Government based its successful application, by providing an equivalent amount of loans at a similar concessional interest rate.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
An IMF member’s eligibility to make a drawing under the compensatory financing facility is determined with respect to a shortfall in its total export earnings and not simply with respect to the proceed from the export of primary products. Drawings from the IMF, including those under the compensatory financing facility, form part of a country’s overall management of its external economic policy .and bear no relationship to proposals such as the provision of concessional finance to primary producers.
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice:
Did the States vote unanimously at a recent meeting of the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General in rejecting the Australian Government’s proposal that the States should take over the running of the Australian Legal Aid Office.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
No. The Government’s proposals for establishing State and Territory Legal Aid Commissions in conjunction with a Commonwealth monitoring and advisory Commission are the subject of continuing discussions between State AttorneysGeneral and me and between our officers.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Funds are required in 1976-77 to cover the cost of design and manufacture of the initial supply of insignia, the holding of investitures for the first four honours lists, and the salaries of staff in the honours secretariat. Little expenditure was incurred in these areas in 1 975-76.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 22 September 1976, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1976/19760922_reps_30_hor100/>.